Archive for March, 2008

Use your gifts.

Posted: March 14, 2008 in Theo/Philo

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James reminds us in James chapter 4 verse 6, that ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’. Pride comes in two flavours –the puffed up –self proclamation of achievement or ownership, an orgy of arrogant self importance and then there’s the less obvious less extravagant pride which denies; it denies our value before God, calling God a liar and stops us accepting compliments from others, making men out to be mistaken.

The Uriah Heap stance of wringing hands and bowing acceptance of our lot ,not wishing to trouble others or offend. The type of pride that tries to closely resemble Humility yet is nothing like it.

Reading the Telegraph this morning, there is an article about a new TV adaption of the Passion to be shown on BBC 1 on Sunday .In the article the actor playing Jesus Joseph Mawle describes what it is like to play this person, what caught the interest of the Telegraph Writer Cassandra Jardine was that Joseph had to deal with being both dyslexic and deaf,these ‘thorns in the flesh’ may  propell us towards God, Mawle provides the antidote to pride:

Jardine writes, quoting Mawle:“…As I learnt more about Jesus, I found he had a more positive message: use your gifts” That thought gave him Joseph Mawle courage, but still he was often so nervous that he turned for help to David Oyewolo, who played Henry VI  for the RSC and is Joseph of Arimathea in The Passion . “He’s straight down the line religious and that was very calming. I was getting mixed up with words and so I asked him what it meant to be humble. He said, ‘It means asking for help’.” Mawle’s humility turned out to be his best qualification for the part.’

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Andrew Fellows (English L’abri) my brief notes on his –‘The future of Christianity in Europe’ lecture Europe as part of western Christianity no longer represents the future of Christianity –that now lies elsewhere-we in Europe are in a desperate situation.
Psalm 11 1-3: In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.

2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.

3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do
?

When the foundations are being destroyed what can the righteous do?

King David is being tempted to hide, the real world is dangerous, just bring a few souls into the kingdom and keep our collective heads down –this is the temptation of the European church today as we become more and more ‘the beleaguered church’.Europe is now being referred to by those outside of Europe as the Dark Continent – a term once used to describe India in the 18th century by European Christians!

The draft constitution of Europe was refused and voted down –the draft constitution was devoid of all references to Christianity in Europe –described by some as a Christophobic constitution, the commitment was to secularism and saw Christianity as the problem.Why? Fellows considers that two vacuums existing today in Europe:

  1. The decline of ALL European populations –‘demographic suicide’ –Niall Ferguson described this as ‘The greatest suicidal reduction in European population since the black death’. Financial incentives are being rolled out to encourage a third child. The outworking of this is an increasing aging populations coupled with a lack of economic growth. Why aren’t we concerned –this is the sign of a declining civilisation. There is a lack of forward thinking, a lack of vision for the future. There is a turning inwards a narcissistic tendency. What is going to fill the demographic vacuum of Europe?

  1. There is an ideological vacuum-which ideology will fill the vacuum?

The Europe we are seeing is committed to exclusive Humanism –excluding all transcendent reference points-Christianity is seen as an obstacle to a peaceful Europe –Christianity is a problem-beyond that we have a collective amnesia about the Christian foundations of Europe –we are pretending that they do not exist.

The ideology that supports Europe currently has an anti-ideology. We look back at our recent history –which has had the most devastating impact for Europe, leading to an attitude where there’s a neutrality of all worldviews-‘Never again!’ Perhaps Europe’s recent past has brought us to the point of fear in regard to worldviews.

The worthy goals of Europe are tolerance and freedom as part of the EU constitution –that’s excellent –but with an anti-worldview stance there is no basis for this commitment other than a pragmatic one. The foundation is not there, we need reasons for freedom and tolerance.

 Within Christianity there is a basis for these ideas of Europe.Freedom is about choice –the exercise of the will –self expression –freedom is reduced to individual choice, very Nietzsche, the will to power that creates the self-Freedom is no longer related to anything outside of our selves.

 There is a loss of universals-the idea is that we gain more freedom the more we strip away these worldviews such as Christianity. From a Christian perspective Freedom has to be FOR SOMETHING –freedom includes a historical memory and moral imagination as well as choices. We must have freedom and responsibility.The Christian worldview provides a basis for the public square and continues to provide a foundation for modern Europe. 4 foundational pillars from Christianity:

1. The reality of the trinity, the principle of the one and the many: The Lord our God the Lord is one –as a unity God exists as three persons with unique roles and functions –also displaying diversity. The reality of the trinity guards against 2 movements: a. An emphasis on unity to the exclusion of diversity-if we allow unity to dominate we lean towards a totalitarian state. When unity becomes everything the individual looses everything. The other extreme is an emphasis on diversity to the exclusion of unity and here the individual becomes all there is, there is nothing bigger or any collective to belong to no health democracy can exist in that situation. A Trinitarian confederation of states would be loose association, allowing diversity and unity.

b. The reality of the creation order –our universe is not accidental or random but is purposeful and personal –the creator is dynamically involved in the unfolding of creation and we are part of a dynamic partnership ( A dance –a conversation –not coercion on the part of the creator , not the use of force –this represents a model for European civilisation) with God in ruling over creation.

  1. The Imago Dei (image of God) Human beings created in the image of God-that is the foundation and basis of Human dignity-the individual has sacred value. This is the basis for a tolerant and free Europe –because we carry the image of God. We should resist brutal regimes where ever we find them, because of the Imago Dei.

  1. The reality of a moral universe– the creator is a moral being there is a right and a wrong –these rights and wrongs are a reflection of what God is. The moral value has a transcendent character because it represents God character. It stands outside of people.

These four pillars built the basis of Europe. The state is there to support and protect which is why a limited state is a Christian ideal. Andrew Fellows talks about the Volunteer sector as an expression of the Imago Dei –in post Communistic Russia the voluntary sector is only just beginning –the state is not meant to be the sole arbiter of care we are citizens within a civic society.

Will Europe return to its foundations?

Who will help us?