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.


'What do we tell our friends? We tell them everything. And we are not afraid of embarrassing ourselves or boring each other.'
Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable, p.216.


'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.


'Sin involves directing something good toward a use that violates God's purpose for it.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins, p.27.

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.


'Faith means stepping onto the path that looks so much like it goes in the wrong direction.'
Michael Mangis, Signature Sins: Taming Our Wayward Hearts, p.20.

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


'...the Psalms spur us to know and obey God in the trenches of life.'
David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes, p.142.

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


'...the glorious impossible...'
Madeleine L'Engle in Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.176.

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.


'...evangelicalism...still produces better art critics than artists...'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.87.


'...if we seek to change culture, we will have to create something new, something that will persuade our neighbours to set aside some existing set of cultural goods for our new proposal.'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p.67.

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


'Culture is what we make of the world.'
Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Rediscovering Our Creative Calling, p.23.

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.