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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Brown, F (1971) Faith without Religion .SCM 

The time for theorizing is long past. I myself know too much theory, and find theology perhaps too fascinating. There was a time when I thought that such knowledge, presented as articles of faith or authoritative statements of Christian dogma, was enough if argued persuasively, to lead a man into the kingdom of God. I had the answer that people needed. My responsibility was simply to tell them about it. But when I did, their response was not one of interest…. They were either patronizing or indifferent, or a bit of both. Pp11

The greatest single barrier to making the Christian gospel intelligible to secular man is the devout obscurantism of orthodox believers who, never having tried themselves, appear to imagine that they alone posses all the answers, that is, all the permitted answers. I am heartily weary of cosy critics who never venture beyond their own position of supposed theological safety, who spend all their time with like-minded believers, who shout a lot about evangelism but know nothing of seeking to present the evangel to ‘outsiders’ as distinct from fringe members of the church, and yet who loudly condemn their brothers in Christ who in wrestling with problems of communication sometime deviate from time-honoured ideas and terminology. 11-12

‘Sound’ = hygienic or life giving. Pp20

God’s ambition for man is his complete independence. Why? Because freedom is essential to maturity. Without it man cannot fulfil his potential, become the person God intended. This means that until man has outgrown his dependence upon God he cannot know God in the ideal way God planned. He can know him as grovelling penitent or impoverished pauper, even as grateful child… 109

God or the ‘hidden Christ;’ or Ultimate Reality is encountered in certain experiences which stir us to the depths of our being and sometimes make a permanent impact upon our thinking and living. The experiences vary considerably, but they have in common the ability to evoke reverence and awe. 137

For too long the church has busied herself with making converts and forgotten that her first concern is with making people... the church's interest is life, not dogma; helping people to live, not stamping them as accredited believers; showing them the way of fulfilment, not pretending that because of their theology Christians alone are fulfilled. 149

The real evangelist today is no longer the man who gives out tracts, speks at open-air meetings ad takes every opportunity of 'speaking a word for Jesus'. Such methods served in the past and still meet the needs of a few people, but for the most part they appear to be inefectual. The CHrisian evangelist with secular society is more likely to be seen at the trade union meeting than the prayer meeting or choir practice 149-150

The spirit of evangelism is dedicated, as we have seen, to making men whole, a different matter entirely from shouting biblical and other hard-worn phrases at reluctant hearers in the name of leading thm to a confession of evangelical faith. 150


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Jamieson, A. (2008). Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Carlisle: Paternoster. 

St Teresa suggest that the stages of prayer are like different methods of watering the garden.

It seems to me the garden can be watered in four ways. You may draw water from a well (which is for us a lot of work). Or you may get it by means of a water wheel and aqueducts in such a way that it is obtained by turning the crank of the water wheel. (I have drawn it this way sometimes - the method involves less work than the other, and you get more water.) Or it may flow from a river or a stream. (The garden is watered much better by this means because the ground is more fully soaked, and there is no need to water so frequently - much less work for the gardener.) Or the water may be provided by a great deal of rain. (For the Lord waters the garden without any work on our part-and this way is incomparably better than all the others mentioned.) pp18

Individual’s sense of dissatisfaction …. Includes a very strong sense of two or more of the following.

Disenchantment: this is the sense of not enjoying activities of faith that have previously been very personally rewarding.
Disillusionment: this is the sense that for different reasons they feel let down , sad, perhaps cynical, and often quite destructive in their view of their faith, the faith of others and, maybe, church.
Disengagement: this is the sense that they feel they are no longer connected, interested or involved in what is going on in the church, its structures and its direction, or within the church community.
Disidentification: this is the sense that they no longer identify with the church, the activities, the worship and the people there and begin to observe as an outsider would.
Disorientation: this is the sense that they don’t know where they belong any more. This is often coupled with a sense of having lost their bearings, their anchor, and, perhaps, even their identity pp22

The days are just beginning. Before you emerge into the light again you will be stripped to the core. You will rage and scream at God. You will retreat into a cocoon of sorrow and breathe in slow motion. The colour will drain from the sky, the meaning from life. As a plough tears through hard earth, your heart will be broken up. You will make friends with pain, nursing it as the child of grief. Utter emptiness fills the earth, and the valley appears to contain nothing but the echo of your own cry. Surely God has left you. The road which seemed to be leading somewhere has become a dead end. A mocking maze with no exit.
Then one morning in the distant future, you wake and hear a bird singing ….

Riddell, M. (2002:43). Godzone: A Guide for Travels of the Soul. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press.

Palmer, P. (1999). Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
5 common monsters of the dark

1)Insecurity and self-worth that seeks to validate itself by external successes, possessions and confirmations

2) Life is a battle and there are inevitable winners and losers. The world is full of scarcity rather than the abundant provision of God. Choice is not competitive but compassionate. 47

3) Functioonal atheism – the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us. – if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who must make it happen

4) Fear of the chaos of life. Rather than attempting to palan and control our lives and faith to protect ourselves fronm chaso, we need to leave room for it; we even need to invite chaso, for it is out of chaos tha the spirit creates.

5) Our denial of death itself. – learning to unplug life support for our insecurities not wanting something to die on our watch – organisations, programmes societal structures, projects.

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure has become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-far-protection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades ... sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into the darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: 'You are accepted. You are accepted by that which is greater than you ... simply accept that you are accepted! If that happens, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed ... and nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance. Paul Tillich pp58

Each time these groups met, certain guidelines were established to protect the space:

• We are not trying to produce one answer that everyone must adhere to.
• There is freedom for differing views and opinions and we ask for respect for those, no matter how different or heretical they might sound.
• We ask for respect and space for each person who comes and for their opinions.
• We cannot 'fix it' for people who come.
• Because this is a conversation, we ask that each person speaks relatively briefly.
• We have no neat 'tie-up' at the end.
• We let God defend God. pp 64

As we live the way we were designed to live, we thrive. This is what we were meant o do. What initially seemed awkward very quickly becomes graceful. We can become an 'instrumentum conjunctum cum deo': an instrument shaped to the contours of the hand of God. This is the ultimate purpose of teh transformative faith journey. 78

there are a number of ways to describe the transforming nature of Christian faith. But for many people, the heart of adult faith development is expressed in an invitation to move beyond pre-critical expressions of Christian faith, through a darknight type experience, and into a post-critical faith. Of course, different theorists and writers have explained this in different ways. The French Philosopher Paul Ricoeur described it as the move from a naivete of faith through a desert of criticism and into a second naivete of faith. Professor James Fowler speaks of a move from a conventional faith into a period of faith dislocation and self-focused exploration towards a paradoxical and mystical understanding of faith embraced with deep integrity. Briege O'Hare, an Irish contemplative, speaks of the transition from certainty to searching and on to intimacy.2 Walter Brueggemann also describes a threefold movement in the prayers of the psalms from orientation to disorientation and on to reorientation. 95

Continuing with an oversimplification of this journey through darkness, I want to describe ten characteristics of the journey.

• It is the journey from faith understood in black and white, right and wrong, true and false dichotomies into the hyper-critical focus on the greys of life and faith. In this hyper-critical phase the black and whites are rejected in favour of a celebration of the greys of theology, morality and ethics. The move beyond hyper-critical faith to a post-critical faith involves the embracing of the black and whites and the greys with equal respect.

• It is a journey from dependence into a hyper-independence that shuns the influence of others, towards a growing interdependence that can be characterized by humility, vulnerability and deep connection.

• It is a journey from uncritical and tacit acceptance of answers into a mindset full of doubt, questions and critiques and on to an embracing of mystery, of paradox and a childlike delight and wonder.

• It is a journey from doing (being God's servant), into personal failure and acceptance of incapacity and on to a deep sense of God's delight and acceptance of who we are as God's friends. We are people who can simply be.

• It is a journey from living a role or roles into a period of self-identity formation and on to a new giving of self for others.

• It is a journey from trusting in, and being strengthened by, external authorities (e.g. church leaders, the Bible, etc.) into an internally based authority that is willing to be responsible for one's own faith, beliefs and life decisions and on to a growing acceptance and integration of both internal and external voices.

• It is a journey from an effortful faith to a doubtful faith and on to a restful and thoughtful faith.

• It is the journey from a faith like Martha's, which is troubled by many things and worried about all that has to be done, into a faith like Mary's, which is able to choose the one thing that is necessary, and on still further into a faith that expresses both Mary's heart and Martha's hands.

• It is a journey from a faith that needs mentors, leaders and disciplers to lean on, into a faith that is encouraged by those who sponsor and support the individual's own exploration and on into a faith that draws on others as co-discerners in the will and leading of God.

• It is a journey of faith from external truth, towards a growing trust in self-truth and on to an embracing of communal truth, symbolic truth and paradoxical truth. 96-97

Fowler suggests that each stage of faith is marked by change in each of eth following areas

The way the person thinks and undersatnds their faith
The degree to which they are able to appreciate another person's point of view
The way they arrive at moral judgements and decisions
The way and extent to which they draw boundaries around their faith community
The way they relate to external 'authorities' and their truth claims
The way they form their world view
The way they understand and respond to symbols and metaphors

Isaiah 45:3

Increasingly, we are seeing the churches in the west entering a new exile and darkness. The settled period of Christendom is crumbling and, with it, the structures and ways of church and the forms of faith that the Christendom model of church espoused. In our postmodern and post-Christendom contexts there appears to be a renewed focus from church leaders on theological conservatism and ecclesiological control. Put simply, church leaderships are circling the wagons against an increasingly chaotic and everchanging culture. 107

In the language of phases of faith, many church structures are strongly focusing on pre-critical faith expressions. They are encouraged to do this because this is the phase in which many people, especially young adults, come to faith. It is a style of church that can grow quickly as they can provide clear answers and beliefs, quick fixes to problems and a ready sense of belonging. But as denominations and churches increasingly focus on this phase of Christian faith, people who are moving beyond it into a critical phase of faith - a phase of faith characterized by questions, doubts, personal suffering and difficulty - find there is no room for them. Put simplistically, it is like a church saying we will focus on caterpillars. This is where the most growth is seen and where there is a correlation between the energy we put in and the growth we see. For caterpillars don't tend to wander far from their host plant and they are keen to consume: unlike the next stage, which is cocooned and individualistic. People in this chrysalis phase of faith do not need or want the faith diet that theologically and ecclesiologically conservative churches provide. And even more threatening is the faith equivalent of the butterfly phase: when people move quickly and easily between many Christian groups, are responsive to wider agendas than our own and don't have the same allegiance to a single church. 107


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