What is the opposite of faith? – Kim Fabricius

Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost (text: Mark 4:35-41)     Martin-Luther-1526-1

What is the opposite of faith?

Let’s start with the Protestant no-no: works. We are justified, put right with God not by works but by faith, faith alone – sola fide – isn’t that, as Luther put it, the doctrine by which the church stands or falls? And wouldn’t Calvin and Wesley agree? Well, yes, but … Luther was citing Paul, but during the last half century – through a better understanding of the thought-world of first century Judaism – it’s now become pretty clear that what Paul meant by “works” and what Luther meant by “works” are not identical.

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Propositions on Christian Theology: A Pilgrim Walks the Plank

Brilliant, pithy reading from a United Reformed Church minister in England.

That is all.

In this little book, a kind of contemporary enchiridion, Kim Fabricius engages some of the main themes of Christian theology in prose, poetry, and song (his own hymImagens). It does not aim to be systematic or comprehensive; rather it goes straight to the main contested areas in the church today, the red-button issues in doctrine, spirituality, culture, ethics, and politics. Fabricius’s imaginative vision and lively conversational style moving freely between the interrogative and the polemical, the playful and the profound invite us all to the vertiginous experience of faith. The book’s concise format and no-nonsense approach make it a perfect guide for inquiring Christians as well as committed disciples and an ideal discussion-starter for both church groups and college classes. The author’s passionate commitment to a self-critical faith is a provocative invitation to religion’s cultured despisers to join him if they dare on the plank.

For a sneak peak web version try Ben Myer’s blog


Kindness – Stephen Fry

Kindness - Stephen Fry

The Inclusive God

For some, Christianity needs to be sharply distinguished from ‘natural’ human insights and from alternative religious views. The uniqueness of God’s revelation, culminating in the highly specific incarnation of God in one human individual, has to be preserved at all costs. Otherwise, it is argued, Christianity becomes subservient to the shifting, self-interested and corrupt flux of human cultures. In Christ alone there is salvation.

This position – Christianity verses all other beliefs – is tempting. It heightens the emotional drama of conversion, and helps to give a strong grounding to individual and community identity. The problem is that this comes at a price: the price of denying or restricting God’s presence in creation. It becomes easy to forget that God’s first and highest gift – of existence itself – is a universal one. There is no warrant for claiming that this gift is entirely destroyed or withdrawn. What theologians sometimes call ‘general’ revelation is not of a wholly different and inferior kind from the ‘special’ revelation of distinctive Christian teaching.

God’s encounter with us comes in and through the history of a people, the changing community of church, the fragile matter of the sacraments, the voice of preaching which is always finding new dialects and accents. ‘Special’ revelation is rooted in the original gift of creation, and always mediated through our embodied, imperfect, contextualized modes of human communication.

Surely this is unavoidable if we claim to believe in the Word made flesh, the incarnation of God’s encounter with us in Christ? God does not suddenly set aside time, language, matter and change, in order to speak with a voice of timeless, immediate and self-evident certainty. God does not abolish the created world to to transport eternal truths directly into our souls. Christian revelation is fleshly, particular and always inviting new interpretation, new responses, new ways of proclamation. Our grasp of revelation is always limited. How else could it be if we are to preserve God’s transcendence and the dignity of God’s creation? That does not lessen its challenge, because only as incarnate truth can it touch and transform peoples lives with an otherness which is not of our making.

The Inclusive God. Reclaiming Theology for an Inclusive Church. 

Steven Shakespeare and Hugh Rayment Pickard.pg 46-47  2006 Canterbury Press.

Simply Jesus: An Interview with N.T. Wright

“But just to say it now, I think for many ordinary Christians in the Western world it would have been quite sufficient if Jesus of Nazareth had been born of a virgin and died on a cross some years later and never done anything at all, except probably lived a blameless life, in between whiles. So if that is so, and I think that does describes the faith of many people I know, then there’s a big vacuum in the middle, and you look at Matthew and Mark, Luke and John and you think, “Well, if that is so why did they bother to say all that stuff?” And then people say, “Oh, well Jesus was just teaching us about how to go to heaven” or “He was just teaching us the true moral code” or “He was giving us a great example of how we should live our lives” or something like that.

And I want to say, those in a sense are alright as far as they go, but they’re just scratching the surface, or to change the metaphor, they’re just wandering around in the foothills when there’s an enormous great mountain to be climbed and the mountain is the Kingdom of God.

That Jesus is launching this project, which God has had up his sleeve all these years – to rescue and renew the whole world and human beings with it. And unless we read the gospels like that, then we are just missing out what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are trying to tell us. The joke about this is that some of the people who got this most wrong are the people who proclaim loudly that they are the “biblical” ones. And yet here are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and they’ve often almost entirely ignored them. So many people have come to the New Testament looking for theories about how we get saved and so naturally they go to Paul—Hebrews or whatever. Now, in a sense that’s fine, but if your theories about how we get saved manage to ignore the great bulk of the four gospels then clearly, as a biblical theologian, something has gone very radically wrong. But on the positive side this is a project about learning to look hard at the Jesus that the Bible actually gives us as opposed to the rather thin and shrunken Jesus that many of our traditions, including sadly, those that call themselves biblical, have given us.”

Taken from the Hillhurst Review.



The Beatbox Nativity

The Beatbox Nativity is a video written and produced by vicar and beatboxer Gavin Tyte (aka TyTe).


The Myth of Progress

A friend recently lent me Tom Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” after a discussion about the second coming. A good read for a biblical understanding of heaven/the afterlife/the christian biblical hope of resurrection and the new heaven and the new earth.

Must admit I got sidetracked by the bishop’s comments on what he calls “The Myth of Progress”.

He defines it as:

“The idea that the human project, and indeed the cosmic project, could and would continue to grow and develop, producing unlimited human improvement and marching towards a Utopia, goes back to the Renaissance and was given its decisive push by the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment.

The full flowering of this belief took place in Europe in the nineteenth century, when the combination of scientific and economic advances on the one hand, and democratic freedoms and wider education on the other, produced a strong sense that history was accelerating towards a wonderful goal.

El Dorado was just round the corner, the millennium in which the world would live at peace. Prosperity would spread out from enlightened Europe and America, and embrace the world.

…liberal modernism has supposed that the world can become everything we could want it to be by working a bit harder [and better education] and helping forward the great march into the glorious future.” (pg 94-95)

“The real problem with the myth of progress is, as I just hinted, is that it cannot deal with evil. …..It cannot develop a strategy which addresses the severe problems of evil in the world. This is why all the evolutionary optimism of the last two hundred years remains helpless before world war, drug crime, Auschwitz, apartheid, child pornography and the other interesting sidelines that evolution has thrown up for our entertainment in the twentieth century.

We not only can’t explain them, given the myth of progress; we can’t eradicate them. Marx’s own agenda, not to explain the world but to change it, remains unfulfilled.” (pg 97)

“There is no observable reason, in science, philosophy, art or anywhere else to suppose that if we simply plough ahead with the Enlightenment dream these glitches will be ironed out and we’ll get to Utopia eventually.” (pg 98)

Where to from here?

The Bishop implies something like the purpose of politics is  to recognise and contain human destructiveness.  Utopia (through man’s efforts) ain’t gonna happen.

The biggest argument of his book ( I think. I must admit I haven’t read it cover to cover – the table of contents is so good it’s easy to skip to the bits you’re interested in) is that it is God that will act to bring in the new creation: a new heaven and a new earth.  He claims this is the biblical hope.  And I think he has a point.

In the meantime, we work  for the Kingdom of God. We do not bring it about. Subtle but important distinction? Raises ye old faith vs works false dichotomy?