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20 August 2012


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Len Clift

I do like Mr and Mrs Beaver. Following a dangerous, right living Creator seems so Jesus. I'll just pick up my cross and follow him up Golgotha. Was it a Tolkein character who said something like 'No change of success, almost certain death, what are we waiting for'.
Theology seems a good sounding board to know if I have got it all somewhere close to right. Maybe we should bear in mind that when God was trying to build a perfect society in the OT his prophet where always hammering on about justice being more important than religion. Jesus spent a lot of his time debating with theologians and religious leaders who couldn't get their heads around this. Or have I got it wrong and need to go on another journey with the Beavers.

David Kerrigan

You and Ruth done plenty of travelling in recent years Len, and I suspect most of it has been a la Beavers! Keep it up!

angela foster

would you elaborate a bit about what you learnt about faith from ephesians? Agree with all that you say about theology, how it can stifle and how we need to keep exploring. If we stand on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ; father, son and spirit, we shouldn't be afraid to let go when we need to and welcome the mystery!

David Kerrigan

Angela, my growing up years were in the Catholic church and we were taught to believe that our relationship with God was in many ways merit-based. That evening conversation round the kitchen table, with two friends from Poynton Baptist Church where we were becoming members, was almost ended when I said that I was so excited about my faith now that my only fear was that I would now lose it - a characteristically Catholic obsession!

These friends sat down again and opened their bibles and took me to Ephesians 2:8-9 where it states that the salvation is a gift from God - grace, or unmerited favour - "not by works so that no-one can boast". That's the first part - salvation is God's work of grace in us. Ephesians 1:13-14 adds to this and makes explicit that the seal of our faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit who is 'a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance'.

The importance of this for me is not personal assurance, as important as that is. But from that flows what I see as God's gracious disposition towards all peoples. It may be Muslims who go through many religious practices to gain merit; Hindus who go through so many rituals to appease the gods, or unchurched westerners who don't feel good enough to go to church or come to God.

I see God as slow to judge but rich in mercy - and so believe that the mission of the church should be similarly characterised. Instead we so often get obsessed with things that we say are not barriers to faith but they feel like barriers to faith to the people concerned.

And back to the main message above, grace should also characterise our approach to theological exploration. So often any departure from perceived orthodoxy, or the risk of it, is considered suspect or even condemned. Look at the appalling responses to Steve Chalke a few years ago. I think God takes pleasure in our theological explorations - as parents delight in their inquisitive children.

Account Deleted

Great reading - I love that definition of God (not safe, but good). It's encouraging to be reminded of it here.

One of my recent reflections coming back to Thailand after a few months in the UK is how risk aversion (on many levels) can suffocate churches - and how refreshing/challenging it is to be among Christians who live with an uncomfortably high level of risk (from our perspective!) - on a daily basis.

I heard someone say recently that, after many years of ministry experience, they are now 'more sure of less things'. I guess that, as a 'sound' theological statement, you don't get much deeper or more meaningful than 'God is good' - I'd like that to be one of the things I'm becoming more sure of.
I'm interested in Jesus' take on goodness in Mark 10:18 -

"Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone."

I think I read in one of Rob Bell's books - 'God has spoken, and the rest is commentary.' I like that!

angela foster

Drat, just composed a response and it disappeared after I pressed 'post'!

here goes, see if I can remember...

Thanks, lots of interesting things from this; a lecturer at the nazarene college whom I respect said "salvation is not something to be held or lost, it is a daily relationship of obedience." I do know a few people who have lost their faith/belief, so I'm not sure where this puts those who feel that relationship has disappeared. The same lecturer said that in talking about whether we can lose our faith/salvation we are perhaps asking the wrong question, but not sure what that meant.

By salvation I read, not 'going to heaven when we die' but bringing God's kingdom to earth, new creation beginning that will be brought to completion here on earth, and somehow that is personal and cosmic and inclusive.

I like "Peanuts' but the above cartoon leaves me feeling a bit cold as I recognise it as a response in some circles given to close discussion and claim authority. I agree with what you say about the place for sound theology, but it can stifle and distort the message of scripture and exclude people from the discussion.

good stuff, we're off to greenbelt tomorrow, N. T. Wright being top of my list of talks!

David Kerrigan

Pete - the 'more sure of less things' can sound negative to some people but to me it's probably a helpful summary. See if this makes sense: when I was a new Christians lets say I thought of God as (random number) 100 and I thought I knew 30% (equally random but hopelessly naive number)! But it felt good.

As I've grown older, read, thought, talked, listened, reflected, doubted, written, preached, studied etc I now know God to be, lets say, at least 10,000 and my knowledge, lets say 510. So, I know more than I did - that's for sure. But I know far less about God than I thought I knew when I was a younger Christian. That's how we can say we know less about more but still have grown in our faith.

Incidentally, the 'gap' in my knowledge (which of course isn't 10,000 minus 510, its infinite) is not at all daunting. Its where mystery fits in - and when the next edition of Catalyst comes out in a couple of weeks, we'll have more to day about that!

Sorry I missed you on HA - tried to call you at Liz's parents in the couple of days before you left but no-one was in. Weak excuse but I tried :-)

David Kerrigan

Angela - you quote someone as saying "salvation is not something to be held or lost, it is a daily relationship of obedience" - well, maybe I could agree with that if I knew exactly what it meant. It sounds like your salvation is OK as long as you're obedient, in which case I absolutely wouldn't agree. That's wouldn't be how a loving parent would relate to their kids, and the bible speaks of our new relationship as one of adoption. So for me, salvation is secure.

That doesn't mean that I believe the only ones who will experience salvation are those who have made some kind of classical evangelical commitment. But it does mean that someone whose faith in God is real, that's it, forever.

Like you I don't feel 100% comfortable with the 'salvation means me going to heaven' perspective, though salvation absolutely has a personal dimension - see Romans 5:8. But if we limit God's work in Christ to me and my personal destination, that's too ego-centric and frankly, too small. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the 'cosmos' that he gave his only son..." So 'God in Christ' was way bigger than my personal destiny, bigger than the destiny of Christians, bigger than the (nonetheless important) question of what happens to people when they die.

But one thing's for sure - whatever it was that Christ was redeeming, it's done, complete, irrevocable. The Kingdom of God is the foretaste - the main banquet awaits. That's what I take from Ephesians. That's my anchor.

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