Sunday, October 29, 2017

To go, or not to go?

This morning: will I go to church or not?

For: I treasure Christian company; hearing the Bible read, corporate prayer, singing, the sermon.

Against:
  • doubled up songs: stand to sing two often banal songs (although sometimes we have classic or re-worked hymns with words that contain thoughts...scripture...theology)
  • folksy compere who thinks we are at the village fair 50 years ago
  • hardly any prayer, and that sometimes people from the congregation who pop up...OK in concept but too much pregnant pause, and the same contenders are at it each time
  • an attenuated Bible reading. Tokanistic
  • having the 'chat to your neighbour' session that too short to be meaningful and too long to be not embarassing as we search for small talk to fill the unknown duration
  • looking at the bare and ill considered (design by not thinking) front of the auditorium with bits and pieces of stuff just thrown together, left there for no reason...hardly part of praising God, to which we were encourged in recent sermons...one dopey vase with domestic scale flowers, one vase stand from a previous generation just standing over to one side, an unfinished home handyman cover to the baptistry, a dull end wall with a projection screen on it, like this is a class room (and even they are more interesting these days), a clutter of musical instruments to one side including an old boxy electronic organ, a little back room upright bar piano of which we only see the ugly framing and a few music stands, a sound desk conspicuous at the front of the seating and large enough to run a TV station -- all yuck.

Its like we have a half-baked 'seeker sensitive service', but no seekers.

When I was a 'seeker' I went to St James, King Street in Sydney where there was depth of effort, art, beauty, tradition, and enjoyment of the scriptures, prayer and music, people were respected by this, and the surroundings were from the mind of one of Australia's most significant early architects. It said to me that this people were serious about enjoying every dimension of being Christian.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Heaven (not a place where nothing ever happens, contra the Talking Heads)

The sermon made the mistake that the popular misconception of Christian ambitions makes. Thinking its about heaven (well, we got past that to recognise that its not 'getting into heaven, but getting heaven into us' that's God's plan, cute saying but wrong in detail.

The kingdom of God's consumation is the new heavens and new earth. The new creation. That's our ambition, and God's.

God's plan

On the table in our foyer at church this morning I saw a leaflet entitled 'God's plan to end slavery begins with you'.

Not sure if this type of manipulation is crass or blasphenous.

Sure, slavery is evil, but 'God's plan...starts with you'? How presumtuous. Maybe God's plan to eliminate slavery doesn't start with you at all, but with someone else.

Let's be exuberant

Today, sermon on praise; Psalm 145 to be precise.

We were told a few good things. One that sticks in my mind is that praise is exuberance of delight in God.

So, I reflected on my experience of other church types, bearing in mind our church's disdain for 'performance' or anything like it. Thus we decend to the insulting depths of ill-considered folksiness.

Formal liturgy with everything being done as well as is practical, rehearsed, effort applied, thought through...is a means of exuberant praise.

Preparing for a service without distractions (crying kids, expressive congregations, happiness AOK, of course), acting like adults in the planning and order goes to an exuberant service with the result that all feel good.

And lastly, my eyes wondered to the offensive unadorned back of the upright piano...a slab of small Bosendorfer (such as a model 200, for instance) would be truly exuberant compared to the banal, which is very much unexuberant.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Our theatre of the absurd

The theatre of the absurd is no longer the fashion it was once, but it is still around:

Reading Schaeffer: The God Who Is There. (Crossway Complete Works)

p 164

FS lists the brokenness of man as: man separated [himself] from God, man separated from himself [no longer an integrated being], man separated from himself [no longer in integrated community], and “Fourthly, man was separated from nature”.

I came to a halt with the fourth separation. The word ‘nature’ suggests an independent ‘natural’ reality. But, not so. The non-human world is not ‘nature’, with its hint of autonomy from the creative acts of God, but The Creation, fallen as it is, due to the first separation. This makes the pain of our position even more sharp: we separated ourselves from God and as a result...we are separated from his creation which we were to be stewards of and live in in enjoyment and God’s company.

But FS goes on to some great analysis.

Page 168-9

“The beginning is simply that God exists and that He is the personal-infinite God. Our generation longs for the reality of personality, but cannot find it. But Christianity says personality is valid because personality has not just appeared in the universe, but rather is rooted in the personal God who has always been.”

Page 183

“...The heart of the rebellion of Satan and man was the desire to be autonomous; and accepting the Christian faith robs us not of our existence, not of our worth (it gives us our worth), but it  robs us completely of being autonomous. We did not make ourselves, we are not a product of chance.”

The final sentence caps it all very well.

The alternative to being made and that through the purposeful love of the infinite-personal God is the ironic ‘autonomy’ of chance where purpose is absent, and we live a perceived absurdity of being people full or purpose and intent, and indeed, love, but in a universe, a reality, we imagine has none of this as basic. This man looks back to his roots in meaningless (purposeless) chance and sees a black absence of personality, love and purpose.

To joint the two, as both implied and express theistic evolution does, for example, compounds the absurdity and evacuates the gospel of credibility. It would tell us that God 'used' purposelessness/chance on purpose, to produce a world of purposeful beings (in his image) that gave no evidence of his purpose! More than absurd because it destroys the fellowship of beings founded in the creation as described in Genesis 1 where God's acts and our being share contiguous objective space-time causality as persons in communion.

"The beginning"

is simply that God exists and that he is the personal-infinite God."

Schaeffer goes on to say:

Our generation longs for the reality of personality, but it cannot find it. But Christianity says personality is valid because personality has not just appeared in the universe, but rather is rooted in the personal God who has always been.

The God Who Is There: near the start of the last sub-section of section 6, chapter 1.

Barth

Nice to have quotes from great theologians at church.

Barth featured this week, with this quote thrown up on the screen:

‘The goal of creation, and at the same time the beginning of all that follows, is the event of God’s Sabbath rest and Sabbath joy, in which man, too, has been summoned to participate.  It is the event of divine rest in the face of the cosmos completed with the creation of man – a rest which takes precedence over all of man’s eagerness and zeal to enter upon his task.  Man is created to participate in this rest.’ Karl Barth, Dogmatics III/I, 98.

It reads so well; but I know that Barth meant by this some world other than the one we are in. For him the creation account is a 'story' not a description of events in our objective and causally contiguous space-time.

The worry with his view is that he must go elsewhere to ground (as we say these days) his theology. That makes it someone else's ground, and not the one revealed by the Holy Spirit and where God's fellowship with us is shown and defined.

The 'ground' in the Bible is the action of a purposeful God who brings about results by his will ('speaking').

This set aside, where to we go for truth about our relationship with God and his creating us for fellowship if the only information we have from God (and repeated, tellingly in Barth's context) in Exodus 31:17. God speaking! is set aside? Trouble?

The trouble: we reject an account reflective of, demonstrating and defining purposeful will, and default to the only modern alternative: impersonal and purposeless chance.

Reality is either one or the other. Barth has to choose. He choose wrong.