- John Cheever, The Journals of John Cheever
- Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
- Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country
- Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale
- Henri JM Nouwen, The Wounded Healer
- John Flavel, Keeping the Heart
- Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is too Important to Define Who We Are
- Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable: reflections on friendship, sex and survival
- Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City
- Robert A Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol.4: The Passage of Power
Monday, 31 December 2012
As ever, in no particular order (although if there was a No.1 it would be the Wallace Stegner):
Sunday, 30 December 2012
'The pain of your loneliness may be rooted in your deepest vocation. You might find that your loneliness is linked to your call to live completely for God. Thus your loneliness may be revealed to you as the other side of your unique gift. Once you can experience in your innermost being the truth of this you may find your loneliness not only tolerable but even fruitful. What seemed primarily painful may then become a feeling that, though painful, opens for you the way to an even deeper knowledge of God's love.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, p.31.
'Think about yourself as a little seed plated in rich soil. All you have to do is stay there and trust that the soil contains everything you need to grow. This growth takes place even when you do not feel it. Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, p.27.
'The love that came to you in particular human friendships and that awakened your dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved was real and authentic. It does not have to be denied as dangerous and idolatrous. A love that comes to you through human beings is true, God-given love and needs to be celebrated as such. When human friendships prove to be unlivable because you demand that your friends love you in ways that are beyond human capacity, you do not have to deny the reality of the love you received. When you try and die to that love in order to find God's love you are doing something God does not want. The task is not to die to life-giving relationships but to realise that the love you received in them is part of a greater love.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, p.24.
'No one person can fulfil all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love.'
Henri JM Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom, p.7.
Saturday, 29 December 2012
'...although the cliche says that power always corrupts, what is seldom said, but what is equally true, is that power always reveals. When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary: to hide traits that might make others reluctant to give him power, to hide also what he wants to do with that power; if men recognized the traits or realized the aims, they might refuse to give him what he wants. But as a man obtains more power, camouflage is less necessary. The curtain begins to rise. The revealing begins.'
Robert A Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4: The Passage of Power, p.xiv.
Friday, 21 December 2012
'Meditation is looking at the Word of God like a thirsty tree looks at water. This shows us that meditation goes beyond the intellectual. It is spiritually "tasting" Scripture - delighting in it, sensing its sweetness, thanking and praising God for what you see. It is also spiritually "digesting" Scripture - applying it, thinking about how it affects you, describes you, and guides you in the most practical way. It is also drawing strength from the Scripture - letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are.'
Timothy Keller, Prayer: The Leader's Guide, p.70.
Thursday, 20 December 2012
'Just as a sleeping child can be in her mother's arms and not consciously be aware of the mother's loving presence, so God's presence and love are realities that are not limited to our conscious awareness.'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, p.127.
'Words alone without Spirit can dry us up; Spirit alone without the words of Scripture (and the fellowship of the church), can blow us up; but with Word and Spirit in proper balance, we can grow up in our knowledge and experience of the loving presence of God.'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, p.99.
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
'...focus on the three persons of the Trinity, persons eternally and essentially connected in holy, loving relationships, can help us to stand against the individualism of our culture and Lone Ranger styles of ministry in the church. I have been saved by grace alone, but I have not been saved alone or to be alone; we have been saved for community, for communion and union with God and for communion with the body of Christ.'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, p.88.
'There is no inherent reason that a piece of paper printed by the U.S. Treasury with the picture of Abraham Lincoln on it should be worth five dollars - but once created and defined as such by competent authority it really is five dollars, at least in a certain context: within the boundaries of the United States.
...When God, the ultimate competent authority, says in his Word, the Bible, that in the context of the church and of Christian faith, my baptism counts as my being united with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom 6:4), then it is really so: I really have died and risen with Christ. Because of my God-declared union with Christ, I indeed truly have a new identity...'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, p.84.
'Salvation is the fuller and more biblical sense is sharing in ever deepening measure in the life of the triune God: participating in and enjoying, by and in the Holy Spirit, Jesus' joyous experience of his Father's love. Our experience of salvation is one of being "invited into the circle" of the love, joy and peace that the Father, Son and Spirit have enjoyed amongst themselves from all eternity.'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, p.54.
'...the reader of the Bible comes to the text not as a stranger to Christ - who is the central subject of all Scripture - but as one who is actually connected to Christ by the Holy Spirit, as one who is really in the real presence of the risen Lord in the prayerful reading of Scripture. Meditating on Scripture can and should be a real-time experience of communion with the living Christ.'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God, p.48.
'The best image of the "ordinary supernatural" presence of the Holy Spirit is that of the gentle, quiet dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River, empowering him for ministry and communicating to him as beloved Son the love of the Father - not an explosive stick of dynamite that can "explode" in churches! We do receive energy and power with the Spirit, but this power is constructive, not destructive. God wants churches to grow up - not to blow up!'
John Jefferson Davis, Meditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction, p.38.
'My beloved, when the Scriptures seem to strike one against the other, understand that the cause for this is the darkness of our understanding, and that there is not, in reality, a single inconsistency in the Holy Scriptures; and the only thing for us to do (whenever we find anything obscure) is to run to the Lord for heavenly light; for the same Spirit that wrote the Word is the only One who can open up the Word which He Himself have to His Church as a pillar of fire and of cloud to lead her unto life.'
William Williams, The Experience Meeting, p.47.
'Is their love increasing toward the church? Do they sympathise more with her in all her trials; have they a less censorious spirit towards those who fall; have they greater compassion for all, feeling the troubles and afflictions of others as though they were suffering them themselves?'
William Williams, The Experience Meeting, p.40.
'...the good catechizer perceives what particular sin it is that keeps the man away from God; he can seek out those dark dens, where lurk sin and Satan, fleshly lusts and the lust of the world and its idols. In the same way as a fisherman knows where the fish are, and the mole-catcher the runs of the moles, and the fowler where to find the patridge, so does the expert catechizer recognize the secret ways of the temptations of the world and of the flesh, and know all the twist and turns of human nature; the difference between the stirrings of grace and the strirrings of nature, between true repentance and fits of melancholy, or the state of unhappiness that overtakes us at times in this world. As Sir Isaac Newton, with a few round and triangular figures, comprehends all the circuits of the stars and planets, so the good catchechizer, with a word or two that he gets from the lips of a simple man, comes to an exact understanding of the sate of that man's heart...'
William Williams, The Experience Meeting, p.32.
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
'This poor specimen (carrying his poisonous foods around with him) is upset by any disappointment, offended at every slight, displeased at every poor reception and difficult to please in any way - there is hardly food, drink, fire in the grate, or bed that will please him. He will grumble, condemn, criticize and trample people underfoot because he cannot get enough love, generosity and courtesy for himself. He wants to be fetched and carried, to be made much of and cherished - in a word, he wants the preacher to be worshipped rather than the God whom he preaches.'
William Willams, The Experience Meeting, p.29.
'As is the custom with girls, when they are dressing and adorning themselves, to look at each other's clothes in case there shall be any untidy or unsuitable thing, or something not in keeping with the other garments, so the Church of God, she who has descended from heaven like a bride adorned for her husband, is to look each member at the life and behaviour of the others, for fear that anyone might have formed a bosom friendship with an ungodly world...'
William Willams, The Experience Meeting, p.15.
'For people to keep away from each other in the same church (when there is every opportunity for meeting frequently) engenders a lack of love and extreme coldness; and Satan never seeks a better method of kindling these things just mentioned than to get us to neglect this fellowship with one another. The gardener has only to neglect visit his garden, and to refrain from weeding it, and it will be overrun with weeds in a few weeks; and the church of God need only keep at a distance the one from the other, and lack of love will grow like a root, and from it will come every sorry, miserable branch, and none can destroy it save God alone. But on the other hand, what love, what concord, what good intentions, what security and what protection there is a for the members of a church who do not neglect the gathering of themselves together!'
William Williams, The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, p.14.
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
'The extent of our sacrifice coupled with the depth of our joy displays the worth we put on the reward of God. Loss and suffering, joyfully accepted for the kingdom of God, show the supremacy of God's glory more clearly in the world than worhsip and prayer.'
John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! p.256.
Monday, 3 December 2012
Sunday, 2 December 2012
Saturday, 1 December 2012
'...a place is not a place until people have been born in it, have grown up in it, lived in it, known it, died in it - have both experienced and shaped it, as individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities, over more than one generation. Some are born in their place, some find it, some realize after long searching that the place they left is the one they have been searching for. But whatever their relation to it, it is made a place only by slow accrual, like a coral reef.'
Wallace Stegner, 'The Sense of Place' in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, p.201.
'We are creatures shaped by our experiences; we like what we know, more often than we know what we like.'
Wallace Stegner, 'Thoughts in a Dry Land' in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, p.53.
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
'We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. You are undressed and given a prisoner's suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has not renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.'
Richard Wurmbrand in John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, p.101.
Monday, 26 November 2012
'The Holy Spirit...makes the church both an organism and an organization - a cauldron of spontaneously generated spiritual life and ministry, as well as an ordered, structured community with rules and authority. If God only gave gifts to all believers and did not call anyone into a place of authority, the church would only be an organic, spontaneous movement with virtually no institutional structure. If he only gave gifts to "special officers" - ordained ministers - then the church would be exclusively a top-down, command-and-conmtrol institution. But God's Spirit creates both the general and special office - and so we speak of the ardour of the Spirit (creating the movement) and the order of the Spirit (creating the institution). This dynamic balance of the Spirit's work is what makes the church (in human terms) sustainable.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.347.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
'Age and experience have not made me a Nestor qualified to tell others about how to live their lives. I feel more like more like Theodore Dreiser, who confessed that he would depart from life more bewildered than he had arrived in it. Instead of being embittered, or stoical, or calm, or resigned, or any of the standard things that a long life might have made me, I confess that I am often simply lost, as much in need of comfort, understanding, forgiveness, uncritical love - the things you used to give me - as I ever was at five, or ten.'
Wallace Stenger, 'Letter, Much Too Late' in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West, p.22.
Friday, 23 November 2012
'The question for the church is this: If we believe that Jesus is Lord in every area of life, how do we train our people in the practice of that lordship? In general, this practice has to arise out of intentional learning communities that bring together three different groups of people: (1) older accomplished Christians in a field, (2) younger arriving Christians in a field, and (3) teachers knowledgable in the Bible, theology and church history. These three groups work together to ensure that the right questions are being addressed and to forge answers to those questions that are both biblical and practical.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.333.
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
'Life is war. That's not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try and make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts for the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of God advances in the world.'
John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, p.65.
'The liberating fact is that the message we take to the frontiers is that people everywhere should seek their own best interest. We are summoning people to God. And those who come say, "In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Ps. 16:11). God glorifies himself among the nations with the command, "Delight yourself in the LORD!"(Ps. 37:4). His first and greatest requirement of all men everywhere is that they repent from seeking their joy in other things and begin to see it only in him.'
John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, p.56.
'The difference between the true God and the gods of the nations is that the true God carries and the other gods must be carried. God serves; they must be served. God glorifies his might by showing mercy. They glorify theirs by gathering slaves.'
John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, p.56.
Monday, 19 November 2012
'The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.'
Bruce Waltke in Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.323.
'....community is best understood as the way we are to do all that Christ told us to do in the world. Community is more than just the preaching of the gospel: it is itself a declaration and expression of the gospel. It is the demonstration of the good news of freedom in Christ through the evident display our transformed character and our life together. It is itself part of the good news, for the good news is this: This is what Christ has won for you on the cross - a new life together with the people of God. Once you were alienated from others, but now you have been brought near.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.320.
'Our natural condition under sin is to be "glory empty" - starved for significance, honor, and a sense of worth. Sin makes us feel superior and overconfident (because we are trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are significant) and inferior and underconfident (because at a deep level we feel guilty and insecure). Some people's glory emptiness primarily takes the form of bravado and evident pride; for others, it takes the form of self-deprectaion and self-loating. Most of us are wracked by both impulses. Either way, until the gospel changes us, we will use people in relationships. We do not work for the sake of the work, we do not relate for the sake of the person. Rather, we work and relkate to bolster our own self-image - to derive it, essentially from others.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.318.
'The real secret of fruitful and effective mission in the world is the quality of our community. Exceptional character in individuals cannot prove the reality of Christianity. Atheism, as well as many other religions, can also produce individual heroes of unusual moral greatness. Though such individuals may inspire us, it is all too easy to conclude that these individuals are just that - extraordinary heroes who have set unattainable standards for the rest of us. What atheism and other religions cannot produce is the kind of loving community that the gospel produces. In fact, Jesus states that our deep unity is the way the world will know that the Father sent him and has loved us even as the Father has loved him (John 17:23). Jesus says that the main way people will believe that Christains have found the love of God is by seeing the quality of their life together in community.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.311.
Friday, 16 November 2012
'Because the gospel not only converts nonbelievers but also builds up believers, the church should not have to choose evangelism over discipleship. Because the gospel is presented to the world not only through word but also through deed and community, we should not choose between teaching and carrying out practical ministry to address people's needs. Because the gospel renews not only individuals but also communities and culture, the church should disciple its people to seek personal conversion, deep Christian community, social justice, and cultural renewal in the city. These ministry areas should not be seen as independent or optional but as interdependent and fully biblical.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.291.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
'I believe the single most important way for pastors or church leaders to turn passive laypeople into courageous and gracious lay ministers is through their own evident godliness. A pastor should be marked by humility, love, joy, and wisdom that is visible and attracts people to trust and learn from them. As a pastor, you may not be the best preacher, but if you are filled with God's love, joy, and wisdom, you won't be boring! You may not be the most skillful organizer or charismatic leader, but if your holiness is evident, people will follow you. This means, at the very least, that a dynamic, disciplined, and rich prayer life is not only important in the abstract and personal sense; it my be the most practical thing you can do for your ministry.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.288.
'To be missional today requires that lay Christians be equipped by their churches to do three things: (1) to be a verbal witness to the gospel in their webs of relationships, (2) to love their neighbors and do justice within their neighborhoods and city, and (3) to integrate their faith with their work in order to engage culture through their vocations.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.272.
Monday, 12 November 2012
'In Christendom, you could afford to train people solely in prayer, Bible study, and evangelism - skills for their private lives - because they were not facing radically non-Christian values in their public lives. In a missional church, all people need theological education to "think Christianly" about everything and to act with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know which cultural practices reflect common grace and should be embraced, which are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected and which practices can be adapted or revised.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.260.
'...the church is too deeply shaped by the sprit of the age, in both its conservative and liberal forms. In its liberal form, it has bought uncritically into a secular account of things, de-supernaturalizing the gospel so that the Spirit's work is seen mainly in secular movements of liberation, thus turning the liberal mainline churches into little more than social service centers where the language of secular rights activists reigns. In its conservative form, it has bought uncritically into the idea of religion as fufillment of individual consumer needs, thus turning the conservative church into something like felt-need shopping centers where the language of modern therapy and marketing reigns. People see Christ as a way to self-fulfillment and prosperity, not as a model for radical service to others. Both wings of the Christian church are, then, captive to the reigning idols of Western culture. They are failing to challenge these idols in their preaching and practice.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.255.
Thursday, 8 November 2012
'This biblical understanding of our falleness - cursed yet still sustained by non-salvific grace - is crucial for relating Christ to culture. The world is inherently good and sustained by common grace - yet it is cursed. Christians are redeemed and saved - yet they are still filled with remaining sin. The battle line between God and idols not only runs through the world; it runs through the heart of every believer. So the work and cultural productions of Christians and non-Christians will have both idolatrous and God-honoring elements in them. Cultural products should not be judged as "good if Christians made them" and "bad if non-Christians made them." Each should be evaluated on its own merits as to whether it serves God or an idol.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.227.
Wednesday, 7 November 2012
'I have had homosexual friends, both men and women, tell me that one of the the factors that made homosexual love attractive to them was how much easier it was than dealing with someone of a different sex. I have no doubt this is true. A person of one's sex is not as likely to have as much Otherness to embrace. But God's plan for married couples involves embracing the otherness to make us unified, and that can only happen between a man and a woman. Even at the atomic level, all the universe is held together by the attraction of positive and negative forces. The embrace of the Other, as it turns out, really is what makes the world go around.'
Kathy Keller in Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.182.
Thursday, 1 November 2012
'...be very careful to think about your audience's premises. Don't assume, for example, that everyone listening trusts the Bible. So when you make a point from the Bible, it will help to show that some other trusted authority (such as empirical science) agrees with the Bible. Use it to promote trust in the Bible, saying something like, "See, the Bible was telling us centuries ago what science now confirms." That will help convince your hearers of that point so you can move on. By the end of the sermon, of course, you will be appealing only to God's Word, but in the early stages of the sermon you invite non-believers along by showing respect for their doubts about the Bible's reliability.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.177.
'...we will...meet a lot of people who hold to other religions or to no religion who are wiser, kinder and more thoughtful than we are, because even after growth in grace, many Christians are weaker people than many non-Christians. When this surprises you, reflect on it. If the gospel of grace is true, why would we think that Christians are a better kind of person than non-Christians? These living examples of common grace may begin to show us that even though we intellectually understand the doctrine of justification by faith alone, functionally we continue to assume that salvation is by moral goodness and works.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.168.
Wednesday, 31 October 2012
'It is not surprising...that after children leave home, many marriages fall apart. Why? Because while the parents treated their relationship with their children as a covenant relationship - performing the actions of love until their feelings strengthened - they treated their marriages as a consumer relationship and withdrew their actions of love when they weren't having the feelings. As a result, after two decades, their marriages were empty while their love for their children remained strong.'
Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.108.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
'To be a Christian means to live one's own identity in the face of others in such a way that one joins inseperably the belief in the truth of one's own convictions with a respect for the convictions of others. The softness which should characterize the very being of Christians - I am tempted to call it "ontic gentleness" - must not be given up even when we are (from our own perspective) persuaded that others are either wrong or evil. To give up the softness of our difference would be to sacrifice our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.'
Miroslav Volf, Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter. Available at: http://www.yale.edu/faith/resources/x_volf_difference.html
Monday, 29 October 2012
'In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.'
David Foster Wallace in Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.127.
Sunday, 28 October 2012
‘He’s gone to the place our sorrows lead to at their worst: guilt’s dead-end, panic’s no-exit loop, despair’s junk-yard where everything is busted. There’s nothing to keep him company there but the light he’s always felt shining beneath things. But the light is going. He’s so deep down now in the geology of woe, so buried beneath the mountain’s weight of it, that the pressure is squeezing out his feeling for the light. There’s nothing left of it for him but a speck, a pinpoint the world grinds in on itself, a dot dimming as the strata of the dark are piled heavier and heavier on it. And then it goes out. Of course it does. Love can’t repair death. Death is stronger than love. We all know that. But Yeshua didn’t until now. This is the first time in his entire life he’s ever felt alone. Now there is no love song. There is no kind father. There is just a man on a cross, dying in pain; a foolish man who chose to give up life and breath to be a carcass on a pole. The yellow walls of Jerusalem blur with Yeshua’s tears, and he opens his mouth and howls the news – new only to him – that we are abandoned in a dark place where help never comes.’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.147.
‘We too will need sometimes to be met on the road by a love that never shudders at the state we’re in, never hesitates to check what it can bear, but only cries: this is my son, who was lost and is found.’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.132.
‘The moral scandal of evolution is not that it contradicts some sweet old myth about God knitting the coats for the little lambkins: it’s that it works by, works through, would not work without, continuous suffering. Suffering is not incidental to evolution. Suffering is the method. The world wobbles onward, you might say, on a trackway paved with little bones. But that understates the issue. There is no trackway – there’s just the way the world happens to go, lurching one way, lurching the other. The whole landscape is little bones.’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.92.
‘...as well as backing the existence of roses and kittens, the God of everything must sustain tapeworms, necrotising bacteria that reduce flesh to a puddle of pus, and parasitic wasps as they eat their way out of their hosts. Any cell that divides in any organism must be doing so in the radiance of the universal attention. Our judgements of beauty and utility and desirability are beside the point. Crocuses multiply, and so do anthrax spores, and the God of everything smiles on all alike. The same has to be true of all the acts and events of human energy everywhere, continuously. The God of everything must be equally present for everything. You name it. He is exactly as present in a room in a failing strip-mall where a malfunctioning fluorescent tube is jittering out headache for all onlookers as He is in a cathedral. He pays equal attention to the individual way each of the billion separate pebbles lie on a pebble beach. And on all the other beaches. He knows and sustains the exact placement of every single molecule of frozen carbon dioxide in the northern polar cap of Mars. And of every other molecule of every other planet, around every other star. The lot. For every unselected speck of existence, patient shining.’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.81.
‘I myself am a Christian and not a Muslim or a Buddhist for a mixture of two different kinds of reasons; as an outcome of both kinds of process. On the passive side, Christianity was the religion of my childhood. It’s the ancient religion, for something like forty generations, of the place I come from. It’s the matrix of my culture. But it’s also something that I came back to, freely as an adult, after twenty-odd years of atheism, because piece by piece I have found that it answers my need, and corresponds to emotional reality for me. I also find that the elaborated structure of meaning it builds, the story it tells, explains that reality more justly, more profoundly, more scrupulously and plausibly than any of the alternatives. (Am I sure I’m right? Of course not. Don’t you get bored with asking that question?).’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.75.
‘So of all things Christianity isn’t supposed to be about gathering up the good people (shiny! happy! squeaky clean!) and excluding the bad people (frightening! alien! repulsive!) for the very simple reason that there aren’t any good people. Not that can securely be designated as such. It can’t be circling the wagons of virtue out in the suburbs and keeping the inner city at bay. This, I realise, goes flat contrary to the present predominant image of it as something existing in prissy, fastidious little enclaves, far from life’s messier zones and inclined to get all “judgemental” about them. Again, of course there are Christians like that: see under HPfFfU. The religion certainly can slip into being a club or a cosy affinity group or a wall against the world. But it isn’t supposed to be. What it’s supposed to be is a league of the guilty. Not all guilty of the same things, or in the same way, or to the same degree, but enough for us to recognize each other.’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.47.
‘Christianity...does something different. It makes frankly impossible demands. Instead of asking for specific actions, it offers general but lunatic principles. It thinks you should give your possession away, refuse to defend yourself, love strangers as much as your family, behave as if there’s no tomorrow. These principles do not amount to a sustainable programme. They deliberately ignore the question of how they could possibly be maintained. They ask you to manifest in your ordinary life a drastically uncalculating, unprotected generosity. And that’s not all. Christianity also makes what you mean all –important. You could pauperise yourself, get slapped silly without fighting back, care for lepers and laugh all day long in the face of the futures markets, and it still wouldn’t count, if you did it for the wrong reasons. Not only is Christianity insanely perfectionist in its few positive recommendations, it’s also insanely perfectionist about motive. It won’t accept generosity performed for the sake of self-interest as generosity. It says that unless altruism is altruism all the way down, it doesn’t count as altruism at all.
So far, thrillingly impractical. But now notice the consequence of having an ideal of behaviour not sized for human lives: everyone fails. Really everyone. No-one only means well, no one means well all of the time. Looked at from this perspective, human beings all exhibit different varieties of fuck–up. And suddenly in its utter lack of realism Christianity becomes very realistic indeed, intelligently resigned to our vast array of imperfections, and much more interested in what we can do to live with them than it laws designed to keep them segregated.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.45.
‘Everybody knows, then, that “sin” basically means “indulgence” or “enjoyable naughtiness.” If you were worried, you’d use a different word or phrase. You’d talk about “eating disorders” or “addictions”; you’d go to another vocabulary cloud altogether. The result is that when you come across someone trying to use “sin” in its old sense, you may know perfectly well in theory that they must mean something which isn’t principally chocolately, and yet the modern mood music of the word is so insistent that it’s hard to hear anything else except an invocation of a trivially naughty pleasure. And if someone talks, gravely and earnestly, about what a sorrowful burden one of these is, the result will be to make that speaker seem swiftly much, much more alarming than the thing they’ve got worked up about. For which would seem to you to be the biggest problem, the biggest threat to human happiness: a plate or pralines, or a killjoy religious fanatic denouncing them?’Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense, p.26.
‘”I think you look what a man I once knew called ‘a God-struggler.’ I can’t tell you why I think it, but I do, and what you say about getting your satisfaction out of wanting things made me sure of it. You see the only ‘thing’ that a human being can go on wanting all their life and be satisfied with just wanting, is God."
“I don’t like the idea of wanting God,” said Margaret decidedly.
Lady Challis laughed.
“My poor dear, that won’t help or make any difference. Have you read The Hound of Heaven?"
“Yes. To me it seems technically beautiful but emotionally it doesn’t mean a thing.”
“I wouldn’t let that worry you. There’s plenty of time.”’Stella Gibbons, Westwood, p.446.
‘Most of Mr Challis’s troubles could have been traced to his thirst for perfection; he was no maker-do with what God provides; he must have perfection and here for once (he told himself with beating heart), perfection was.’
Stella Gibbons, Westwood, p.160.
Stella Gibbons, Westwood, p.160.
‘...some matters are better dealt with through narrative and imagination than through attempts at systematizing; a conclusion that shouldn’t surprise any reader of Holy Scripture.’
Rowan Williams, The Lion’s World: Journey into the heart of Narnia, p.6.
Rowan Williams, The Lion’s World: Journey into the heart of Narnia, p.6.
Friday, 19 October 2012
'Every human culture is an extremely complex mixture of brilliant truth, marred half-truths, and overt resistance to the truth. Every culture will have some idolatrous discourse within it. And yet every culture will have some witness to God's truth in it. God gives out good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill completely without regard for merit. He casts them across a culture, like seed, in order to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world. Without this understanding of culture, Christians will tend to think they can live self-sufficiently, isolated from and unblessed by the contributions of those in the world. Without an appreciation for God's garcious display of his wisdom in the broader culture, Christains may struggle to understand why non-Christians often exceed Christians in moral practice, wisdom, and skill. The doctrine of sin means that as believers we are never as good as our right worldview should make us. At the same time our doctrine of our creation in the image of God, and an understanding of common grace, remind us that nonbelievers are never as flawed as their false worldview should make them.
This suggests that our stance toward every human culture should be one of critical enjoyment and an appropriate wariness.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.109.
Thursday, 18 October 2012
'Contextualization is not - as is often argued - "giving people what they want to hear." Rather, it is giving people the Bible's answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even in they reject them.
Sound contextualisation means translating and adapting the communication and ministry of the gospel to a particular culture withour compromising the essence and particularities of the gospel.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.89.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
'The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises, and does not rest...To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time that you must do it again.'
Bruce Thieleman in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry for the Success Syndrome, p.183.
'It may be light work to you men of genius and learning; but to me it is life and death work. Often have I thought that I would rather take a whipping with a cat-o'-nine-tails than preach again.'
Charles Spurgeon in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, p.182.
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
'There are, in the end, only two questions to ask as we read the Bible: Is it about me? Or is it about Jesus? In other words, is the Bible basically about what I must do or about what he has done?'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.78.
'Jesus was so holy that he had to die for us; nothing could satisfy his holy and righteous nature. But he was so loving that he was glad to die for us; nothing less would satisfy his desire to have us as his people.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.77.
Monday, 15 October 2012
'Christians typically identify two ways to respond to God: follow him and do his will, or reject him and do your own thing. Ultimately this is true, but there are actually two ways to reject God that must be distinguished from one another. You can reject God by rejecting his law and living any way you see fit. And you can can also reject God by embracing and obeying God's law so as to earn your salvation. The problem is that people who belong in this last group - who reject the gospel in favor of moralism - look as if they are trying to do God's will. Consequently, there are not just two ways to respond to God but three: irreligion, religion, and the gospel.'Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.63.
Friday, 12 October 2012
'The power of the gospel comes in two movements. The first says, "I am more siunful and flawed that I ever dared believe," but then quickly follows with, "I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope." The former outflanks antinomianism, while the latter staves off legalism. One of the greatest challenges is to be vigilant in both directions at once. Whenever we find ourselves fighting against one of these errors, it is extraordinarily easy to combat it by slipping into the other. Here's a test: if you think one of these errors is much more dangerous than the other, you are probably partially participating in the one you fear less.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.48.
'The gospel is not just the ABC's but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians, and then Christians mature by trying hard to live accordiung to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then are are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.48.
Thursday, 11 October 2012
'A good sermon is a profoundly interesting event because it is one of the few occasions – rarer by the day perhaps - when someone speaks as honestly and seriously as he can to people who listen in good faith. A rare moment!'Marilynne Robinson on BBC Radio 4's Bookclub, 11th October 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01n60lt
'The gospel is not everything, yet in the final analysis it cannot be tamed into a simple formula with a number of points that must be recited to everyone, in every time and place. There is an irreducable complexity to the gospel. I do not mean that the gospel can't be presented simply and even very briefly. Paul himself does so on numerous occasions (e.g., Rom 10:9). The gospel is a clear and present word, but it is not a simplistic word...I want to resist the impulse, mainly among conservative evangelicals, toward creating a single, one-size fits all gospel presentation that should be used everywhere, that servesd as a test of orthodoxy.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.39.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
'God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.'
Oswald Chmabers in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry form the Success Syndrome, p.134.
'I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it were ever possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mubo-jumbo, as Aldous Huxley envisaged in in Brave New World, the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable.'
Malcolm Muggeridge in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberting Ministry for the Success Syndrome, p.121.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
'Often we say, "Well, I'm not very religious, but I'm a good person - and that is what is most important." But is it? Imagine a woman - a poor widow - with an only son. She teaches him how she wants him to live - to always tell the truth, to work hard, and to help the poor. She makes very little money, but with her meager savings she is able to put him through college. Imagine that when he graduates, he hardly ever speaks to her again. He occasionally sends a Christmas card, but he doesn't visit her; he won't answer her phone calls or letters; he doesn't speak to her. But he lives just as she taught him - honestly, industriously and charitably. Would we say this was acceptable? Of course not! Wouldn't we say that by living a "good life" but neglecting a relationship with the one to whom he owed everything he was doing something condemnable? In the same way, if God created us and we owe him everything and we do not live for him but we "live a good life," it is not enough. We owe him a debt that must be paid.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.34.
'Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship...is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough...Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you...Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need even more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidous things about these forms of worship is...they're unconscious. They are default settings.'
David Foster Wallace in Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.34.
'God saves sinners. God - the triune Jehovah Father, Son and Spirit, three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to acheive the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and the Son by renewing. Saves - does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, acheives and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners - men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God's will or better their spiritual lot.'
JI Packer in Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, p.30.
Monday, 8 October 2012
Sunday, 7 October 2012
'We need not, and cannot, add to what Jesus has done. We do not need, and are not able, to do anything more to have a cleansed consience. Imagine going in to a famous art gallery wth a child's paintbrush and paints in your coat pocket. You stand before some great work of art by Rubens or Michaelangelo, quietly get out your paintbrush and - when the attendants are not watching - start adding your own touches of paint. When challenged, you say, "Well, it's a lovely painting. But I thought it had a few parts missing. So I was touching it up. I hope that's OK." No, it is not OK. You are ruining it! In the same way, I cannot add anything to Jesus' completed work of redemption on the cross, without taking away from its value.'
Christopher Ash, Pure Joy, p.139.
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
'Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to minister. Pray, therefore, my dear brother, pray, pray, pray.'
Edward Payson in Kent & Barbara Huges, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, p.78.
'What if the main object in God's idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need - the need of himslef? What if the good of all our smaller and lower needs lies in this, that they help drive us to God?
Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other needs; prayer is the beginning of that communion.'
George Macdonald in Kent & Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, p.72.
'What you believe about Jesus is everything. If you believe that his Creator of everything, every cosmic speck across trillions of light years of trackless space, the Creator of the textures and shapes and colors that dazzle our eyes; if you believe that he is the Sustainer of all creation, the force presently holding the atoms of your body and this universe together, and that without him all would dissolve; if you believe that he is the goal of everyuthing, that all creation is moving toward him; if you further believe that this God is the lover of your soul - then you believe in the God that "is," you believe that the God of the Holy Scriptures exists.'
Kent & Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry for n the Success Sydrome, p.68.
Friday, 28 September 2012
'The great task of awakening people's conscience is a mark of authentic Christian ministry. When pastors and ministers teach and preach without awakening the conscience of their hearers, there is something badly wrong.'
Christopher Ash, Pure Joy, p.91.
'Suppose I hold a glass of water and I jog it. Water spills out, and you ask me, "Why did water spill out?" The instinctive answer is to say, "Water came out because you jogged it." But there is another correct answer, which is to say, "Water came out because water was what was inside the glass. If there hadn't been water in the glass in the first place, no water would ever have come out of the glass." Sure, it came out because it was jogged. But water came out because water was inside.'
Christopher Ash, Pure Joy, p.86.
'An awakened conscience does much more than show me that a particular action was (or would be) wrong; it shows me that I myself, as a whole person, am under the just judgment of God.'
Christopher Ash, Pure Joy: Rediscover Your Conscience, p.82.
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
'How odd it is that most people approach the spiritual journey with far less preparation than they would approach a prospective cross-country road trip. They plan their careers, the size of their family and their retirement but they give little or no thought to who they want to become spiritually. They let their souls be formed by the random course of life, taking no thought to exercise influence over the process.
If the person with an unplanned spiritual life comes into contact with others whose spiritual lives are relatively mature, the person may grow in a healthy direction. I have known people who are morally good despite their lack of attention to their own spiritual growth. Generally I find that they are only one or two generations removed from someone who did pay attention to sin and righteousness.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.212.
'...for most people in our culture anonymity is the default condition: community is an option. People in cities and suburbs have to choose to be in a community. They have to find one or start one and actively seek to be part of it. If things don't go well in that community, they can always leave it and start a new one without even changing jobs or houses.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.168.
'God wants to be the God of those who are perpetually discontented. We aren't called to be cynical or negative or distrustful, but God does call us to be discontented.
The idea of perpetual discontent flies in the face of everything that our culture tells us about happiness. It challenges the notion that happiness is even something worth pursuing. In some ways Hebrews 11 praises the saints of history for their discipline in staying unhappy. They could have settled in a comfortable place, but they did not settle; they kept going.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.145.
'One way to say it is that depression, rage, and other problematic emotions are always caused by sin; however, the sin is not necessarily that of the individual. Our bodies, designed by God in God's likeness, experience crippling fear, depressoion or rgae because they inhabit a sinful world. My own sin may cause me to become depressed, but so may the ways in which I am sinned against. To make it even more complicated, my depression may be caused by a combination of my own sin, the sins which have been committed against me and the general sin of a fallen world which gave me faulty genes.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.129.
Monday, 24 September 2012
'When we encounter God we experience the bipolar ambivalence of shame at our sin coupled with unbridled joy at God's forgiveness. I do not trust my own or other's religious experiences if they are characterized by only one of the two poles. I can be wrong, but I have known too many believers who are crippled by guilt and shame and unable or unwilling to receive God's grace. Likewise I have heard too many descriptions of worship or prayer encounters that were only pleasurable with no corresponding experience of being "undone" by the overshadowing presence of God's holiness.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.71.
Sunday, 23 September 2012
'There was no pretense between us, no simulation, no dishonorable flattery, no unbecoming harshness, no evasion, no concealment, but everything open and above board; for I deemed my heart in a fashion his, and his mine, and he felt in like manner toward me.'
Aelred of Rievaulx in Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.246.
'Families and marriages fail too often because they are trying to answer too many human needs. A spouse is required to be a lover, a friend, a mother, a father, a soulmate, a co-worker, and so on. Few people can be all these things for one person. And when demands are set too high, disappointment can only follow. If husbands and wives have deeper and stronger friendships outside the marital unit, the marriage has more space to breathe and fewer burdens to bear.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.234.
'...the trajectory of a homosexual life often places, in a way unique to itself, a focus on friendship that many heterosexuals, to their great loss, never quite attain. In fact, I think the primary distinction between homosexuals and heterosexuals in our society is not that they are attracted to different genders, and certainly not that their sexual lives and needs are radically different from each other. It is that homosexuals, by default as much as anything else, have managed to sustain a society of friendship that is, for the most part, unequalled by almost any other part of society. Heterosexual women have long sustained it, of course, when their familial responsibilities have not overwhelmed them. But heterosexual men, to their great spiritual and emotional impoverishment, have for far too long let it pass them by.'
Andrew Sullivam, Love Undetectable, p.230.
'The sin of lust has its root in the belief that God's law is not enough to satisfy our longing for intimacy. We suspect that God is unfairly withholding from us something that we ned. Both the Old and New Testaments use the metaphor of marriage to symbolise our relationship with God. Our sexual drive reflects our inherent desire to be reunited with God. When we pervert and misdirect that desire, we are unfaithful to God, just as Jesus said that a married person who allows lust to thrive in the heart is unfaithful to his or her spouse.
Many single men and women imagine that after they are married they will no longer struggle with lust, only to find that after marriage that the struggle continues. Even the most satisfying marital relationship does not completely fill the void that each of us has at our core. Marriage was not meant to satisfy our need for God, only to reflect it. A happy marriage is a tremendous blessing, but inly after we abandon the illusion that it will satisfy all our needs.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.47.
Friday, 21 September 2012
'...friendship delivers what love promises but fails to provide. The contrasts between the two are, in fact, many, and largely damning to love's reputation. Where love is swift, for example, friendship is slow. Love comes quickly, as the song has it, but friendship ripens with time. If love is at its most perfect in its infancy, friendship is more treasured as the years go by.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.202.
'The Christian churches, which once widely taught the primacy of caritas to eros, and held out the virtue of friendship as equal to the benefit of conjugal love, are our culture's primary and obsessive propagandist's for the marital unit and its capacity to resolve all human ills and satisfy all human needs. Far from seeing divorce and abortion and sexual disease as reasons to question our society's apotheosis of eros, these churches see them merely as opportunities to intensify the idolatry of eros properly conducted and achieved.'
Andrew Sulivan, Love Undetectable, p.199.
'...of all our relationships, friendship is the most common and the most natural. In its universality, it even trumps family. Many of us fail to marry, and many more have no children; others never know their mother or father, and plenty have no siblings. But any human being who has ever lived for any time has had a friend. It is a relatiuonship available to and availed by all of us. It is at once the most particular and most universal relationship there is.
And yet we hardlyt talk about it. What we know most intimately in practice, we flee from in the abstract.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.176.
'Just as stargazer cleans and calibrates a telepscope before looking at the sky, the person seeking to know truth must begin with self-knowledge. The same distortions that affect our view of ourselves and of our world also affects our view of God. I doubt God's goodness because I know that I and those around me are not completely good. I suspect God might enjoy making me squirm because I am capable of enjoying the same kind of power. I suspect that God is distant and unaffected by my pain because I have experienced that from others. Until I become familiar with the distortions of my own perceptions, I cannot even hope to understand God.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.22.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
'...the complexity of the roots of homosexuality, the fact that it may be a condition both imposed upon and created by homosexuals themselves, means that it cannot simply be debated like the color of a person's hair. Gay people would doubtless like the hair analogy to be accurate, because it would enable them to avoid the wrenching and often painful self-analysis they would otherwise have to embark upon. But alas it isn't. And pain is, still, an ineluctable part of the examined homosexual life.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetected, p.164.
'Homosexuality is not, in the usual sense of the word, normal. But nor is is, from a pyschoanalytic context, necessarily abnormal. It is different. Because, in all likelihood, of a genetic disposition and a unique set of early environmental influences, some boys and girls grow up to become emotionally attracted to people of their own gender. It doesn't happen very often, and when it does, it is subject to a unique confluence of emotional, psychological circumstances that make very homosexual child as different from his peers as every heterosexual child. Although a war has been waged over this somewhat banal conclusion, it is difficult, it seems to come to any other. We don't yet know the precise contours of this journey, but we know roughly where it goes.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.164.
'...the more powerful we become, the more we should seek our oppportunities for anonymity and invisibility. Just as the only real antidote to the temptations of money is lavish generosity, so the only real antitidote to the temptations of pwer is choosing to spend our power in the opposite of the way the world encourages us to spend it: not on getting closer to the sources of additional power or on securing our round-the-clock snese of comfort and control, but spend it on getting closer to the relatively powerless.'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.228.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
'In the paradox of Jesus Christ - Yeshua from Nazareth, anointed One of history - the paradox of God's cultural agenda is summed up most perfectly and completely. God is for the poor - the oppressed, the widow and the orphan - and he is for humanity in our collective poverty, our ultinate powerlessness in the face of sin and death. But he makes known his redemptive purposes for us through both the powerless and the powerful, using both to accomplish his purposes. When God acts in culture, he uses both the powerful and the powerless alongside one another rather than using one against the other. To mobilize the powerful against the powerless would simply confirm "the way of the world." But to bring them into partnership is the true sign of God's paradoxical and grateful intervention into the human story.'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.209.
Monday, 17 September 2012
Saturday, 15 September 2012
'When you begin to see homosexuality not as some bizarre and willful attempt to practice a specific sexual act, but as a deep and complex part of a human person, a person who needs as much love and as much divine love as any other human person, then it becomes clear how it is, in fact, impossible to hate the "sin" and love the "sinner." Or how the very formulation is, in fact, a way of denigrating homosexual people, denying their humanity, erasing their integrity. It is as if we were to say that we loved Jews, so long as they never went to a synagogue; or that we welcomed immigrants, so long as they never tried to learn English. It is a rejection masquerading as an acceptance, and it perpetuates, in the guise of alleviating, the very ethical conflict from which homosexuals are doggedly trying to escape.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.50.
'With regard to homosexuality, I inherited no moral and religious teaching that could guide me to success or failure. In my adolescence and young adulthood, the teaching of the Church was merely a silence, an increasingly hollow denial even of the existence of homosexuals, let alone a credible ethical guide to how they should lead their lives. It is still true that in over thirty years of weekly churchgoing, I have never heard a homily that attempted to explain how a gay man should live, or how his sexuality should be expressed. I have heard nothing but a vast and endless and embarrassed silence, an awkward unexpressed desire for the simple nonexistence of such people, for their absence from the moral and physical universe, for a word or a phrase, like "objective disorder," that could simply abolish the problem they represented and the diverse humanity they symbolized. The teaching I inherited was a teaching that, in the best of all possible worlds, I simply would not exist. And it was hard to disobey this; since it was not an order, it was merely a wish.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.42.
'"Martha, Martha," I don't think Jesus ever speaks to anyone else in the Gospels that way. "Martha, Martha." He repeats her name twice, exasperated but loving, admonitory but intimate. It's one of those many details that convince me so much of the Gospels is true, the kind of intimate, intensely personal way of speaking, a detail that would never have been invented by someone trying to bludgeon the reader into some didactic lesson, the kind of address that a real person once used for a real person he loved, as much as for her faults as in spite of them. "Martha, Martha." "Andrew, Andrew." It is not the tone simply of love; it is the tone of friendship, an unmistakable tone, a tone that I did not only recognize but suddenly, breathtakingly, knew.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable: reflections on friendship, sex and survival, p.31.
Friday, 14 September 2012
'I wonder what we Christians are know for in the world outside our churches. Are we known as critics, consumers, copiers, condemners of culture? I'm afraid so. Why aren't we known as cultivators - people who tend and nourish what is best in human culture, who do hard and painstaking work to preserve the best of what people before us have done? Why aren't we known as creators - people who dare to think and do something that has never been done or thought before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful?'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.97.
Wednesday, 12 September 2012
'The language of worldview tends to imply, to paraphrase the Catholic writer Richard Rohr, that we can think ourselves into new ways of behaving. But that is not the way that culture works. Culture helps us behave ourselves into new ways of thinking. The risk of thinking "worldviewishly" is that we will start to think that the best way to change culture is to analyse it. We will start worldview academies, host worldview seminars, write worldview books. These may have some real value if they help us understand the horizons that our culture shapes, but they cannot substitute for the creation of real cultural goods. And they will subtly tend to produce philosphers rather than plumbers, abstract thinkers rather than artists and artisans. They can create a cultural niche in which "worldview thinkers" are privilege while other kinds of culture makers are shunted aside.But culture is not changed simply by thinking.'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.64.
'...any change that will profoudly move the horizons of possibilty and impossibility will almost always, by definition, take lots of time. The bigger the change we hope for, the longer we must be willing to invest, work and wait for it.'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.56.
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Monday, 10 September 2012
'Celibacy is surely a strenuous spiritual path, but today the cost of celibacy is unreasonably and unecessarily high. When it comes to moral teachings about sex outside of marriage, we isolate sexual pleasure from all the other good things that are connected to sexual relationships. People are commanded to abstain from sexual and intimacy, but no one addresses how abstention may also limit the person's access to family, touch, children, financial stability and so on. It's hard to be a celibate person in an unchaste church whose broader context is an unchaste society. In striving for moral virtue, the celibate also bears the church's collective sin of failing, in a highly sexualized social context, to make a counterculture in which celibacy is plausible.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.132.
'...cliebacy is rendered nonsense in the literal definition of the word: nonsense is a communication that does not carry meaning in a particular context. From the perspective of dominant cultural values, it's difficult to understand the logic of sexual holiness: That desire warrants discipline and care, not fulfillment and affirmation. That celibacy can nurture human flourishing, but even when it doesn't, it's still an honourable choice.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The end of Sexual Identity, p.128.
'Irrespective of the integrity or maturity of the person practicing it, celibacy carries opposite potentials: it can be a burden that results in depression and personal harm, or a spiritual practice that brings intimacy and human flourishing.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.126.
Friday, 7 September 2012
'The idol of sexual fulfillment has two faces: One face says that each person has the right to be sexually satisfied and that having sex is a necessary part of happy, mature adulthood (or even adolescence). The second face is a Christian one that says the reward for premarital sexual virtue is great marital sex. When I was growing up, sexual ethics was all stick and no carrot: we were told to abstain from premarital sex because of the parental and divine punishment that would ensue. Today the stick is still there, but there's also a carrot: the less you sin before marriage, the hotter the sex after marriage.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.112.
'Heterosexuality is a concept that is barely a hundred years old, and its meaning has changed even in that brief time. Today it is a concept that breeds hierarchy, moral superiority and inauthenticity, and is not a good enough value to prize, seek after and organize life around. Thus, the end of sexual identity is the beginning of discernment.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.107.
Thursday, 6 September 2012
'The Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, "God accepts you just as Christ is. God has 'contraconditional' love for you." Christ bears the curse you deserve. Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness. Christ reigns in power, making you the Father's child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accepts me "as I am." He accepts me "as I am in Jesus Christ." The center of gravity is different. The true Gosple does not allow God's love to be sucked into the vortex of the soul's lust for acceptability and worth in and of itself. Rather, it radically decenters people - what the Bible calls "fear of the Lord" and "faith" - to look outside themselves.'
David Powlison, 'Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair"', p.49.
'The Bible - the voice of the Maker of humankind, in other words! - speaks to the same set of issues with a uniquely unified vision. There is no question that we are morally responsible: our works or fruit count. There is no question that fruit comes from an inner root to which we are often blind. "Idols of the heart," "desires of the flesh," "fear of man," "love of money," "chasing after..," "earthly minded," "pride," and a host of other word pictures capture well the biblical view of inner drives experienced as deceptively self-evident needs or goals. There is also no question that we are powerfully constrained by social forces around us. The "world," "Vanity Fair," "the counsel of the wicked," "false prophets," "temptation and trial," and the like capture something of the influences upon us. Other people model and purvey false laws or false standards, things which misdefine value and stigma, blessedness and accursedness, the way of life, and the way of death. They sin against us. God quite comfortably juxtaposes these three simple which tend to fly apart in human formulations. I am responsibel for my sins: "Johnny is a bad boy." My will is in bondage: "Johnny can't help it." I am deceived and led by others: "Johnny got in with a bad crowd."'
David Powlison, 'Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair"' in The Journal of Biblical Counselling (Winter 1995), p.38.
Tuesday, 4 September 2012
'The "end" of a holy life is to be like Christ. When it comes to sexual holiness, however, the end is often misperceived as a life station (heterosexual marriage) instead of a quality of life (Christlikeness).'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.87.
'When distorted, holiness is used as a synonym for morality, when really it's about being more and more in love with God and with humanity. In the area of sexuality, specifically, sexual morality too easily becomes an idol, whether it's premarital virginity, marital chastity or heterosexuality. People follow hard after it, measure their worth by it and are sometimes devastated whe they offend it. Moreover, Christians teach others to measure their worth by morality rather than by their belovedness. When sexual morality is elevated to an idolatrous place, it diminishes people's sense of being loved and being able to love, instead of being put in its place by love.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.83.
'For any given person in any given season of life, various elements of sexuality or clusters of elements may be placid, others active, and others troubled or even tormented. Viewed from the sexual identity perspective, a Christian "heterosexual" may seem to have godly sexuality. When thair sexuality is unpacked, however, there may be important areas for healing and growth. The blanket statement that "heterosexuality is good" may even hinder this person from facing sexual struggles. On the flip side, in conservative settings a Christian "homosexual" may be written off as a sinful or defective, though this person may have the maturity and health in their sexuality that could benefit others.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.82.
Monday, 3 September 2012
'Christainity too often offers a "one-size-fits-all" condemnation of homosexuality. It's no surprise that such ethereal ethics, mismatched with the culture into which they speak, are poorly accepted. Telling same-sex attracted people to just stop sinning sexually often doesn't even make sense; it's like a missionary preaching in English to a non-English speaking group, doggedly refusing to use the local language. Doing theology and ethics without consideration for social construction is not only inaccurate, it is destructive. It hurts sexual minorities who are already discrinimated against, and its hurts heterosexual Christians by supporting their collective delusion of moral superiority. Christians sometimes rush to make ethical judgments about elements of the world, too quickly assuming that something like sexual identity is fixed, inborn and present in Bible times in the same ways it's present today. Considering the social construction of sexual identity challenges those assumptioons and changes our picture of sexuality.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.75.
'The concept "homosexual" really functions as a category of negation, containing all who are not heterosexual. The label tells us virtually nothing about an individual other than the single fact that she or he is not heterosexual. It doesn't make sense to lump diverse individuals together as "homosexuals" and then claim the Bible has a single message of condemnation that covers each of their situations; doing so reduces the complexity of a human life to a single abominable term. By condemining homsexuality with such vehemence, Christians have arguably contributed to the cementing of sexual desire as central to human identity.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.70.
Sunday, 2 September 2012
'Whether it's between siblings in a family or believers in a church or other gatherings of Christians, tension exists between the gospel message of authenticity, humility and honest revelation of self in community, and the cultural reality of heterosexuality as a club with strict membership requirements. The cultural reality limits people's ability to be real with each other and creates huge barriers to addressing issues relating to same-sex desire or practice. When it comes to talking about sex at church, honesty can carry dire consequences. A person may be shamed, silenced, gosspied about, harrassed or harmed, and his or her basic human identity may be changed in the eyes of others. Thus, the problem with heterosexuality, for Christians, is that it sabotages our intentions to know and be known by others.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.50.
'Contemporary Christain dialogue about sexuality is limited because it is framed by contemporary Western notions of sexual identity. It seems virtually impossible to find fresh ways to move forward when our imaginations are bound by the culture that shaped them. For example, Christians often become absorbed in either afforming or negating the morality of same-sex sex and related issues such as the ordination of gay and lesbians and same-sex marriage. While these issues certainly are important, we must also address the underlying problem that drives these disputes. These "fixed position" debates are binary: first, framing the issue in terms of homosexuality and heterosexuality, and then asking for only affirmation or negation of same-sex sex, without more complex dialogue about human sexuality and Christian discipleship.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.26.
Saturday, 1 September 2012
'Niceness is not a Biblical virtue; in fact, I consider it a vice. Nice Christians pretend things are fine when they're not, say one thing and do another, and avoid difficult conversations. Niceness is rampant among Christians and it does damage. The real virtues of our faith such as honesty, love, discipleship, repentance and reconciliation require looking life full in the face and speaking the truth in love as best as we can.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity, p.19.
'On the one hand, sex is a really big deal. It's essential for human reproduction and important for intimacy and relationship between lovers. It is also a source of great happiness and profound disappointment. Whether a person is sexually active or not, sexuality generates energy, creativity and beauty. It's a gift from God that we're invited to receive and enjoy.
Instead of enjoying sex as a good gift, however, Christinas sometimes repress their sexual desires in an attempt to avoid sin or even try to ignore their sexuality altogether. Such Christians counter an oversexualized culture with an undersexualized spirituality. This distortion of purity depicts the good Christian as a disembodied spirit floating through this world on the way to heaven and portrays sex as something dangerous and dirty that ought to be kep in a darkened corner of life. Even when a person marries and sex suddenly becomes good and blessed, it is still kept in a corner, deemed to be a private and morally dangerous area. This approach is an accident waiting to happen: what is repressed reappears, often in troubled from. Sex is a big deal and it deserves to be released from its darkened corner.
But, on the other hand, sex is not a big deal, or at least not in the way we're led to believe. On a personal level, we're told that our inner sexual feelings are the measure of our true selves - that by knowing, exploring and expressing our sexual desires, we become our real selves. Efforts to discipline or redirect sexual feelings for the sake of a greater cause may be seen as foolish or even dehumanizing. In the global economy sex is bought and sold, and is used to sell things, to gain happiness, to be beautiful and to achieve social status. When such a big deal is made of it, sex becomes an idol, offering identity and purpose to individuals and economic growth and international notoriety to nations. Sex is not such a big deal and deserves to be dethroned.'
Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are, p.12.