True or just plausible?

Several times over the years I have had the experience of leaving church and feeling utterly bewildered that not everyone in my town is a Christian. On these occasions the experience has been so positive, the communication so compelling, the congregation so engaged and the stories of personal transformation and healing so remarkable that it has involved a sort of feeling like that of a culture shock to return back to secular Britain. What I've come to see however is that this sort of experience isn't the exclusive reserve of churches. As I've left the cinema after a particularly moving experience, when the theatre show ends or as the crowd's passion at the football stadium takes over I find myself feeling something similar. It's a feeling of 'I must spend more time here.' or 'these people have the answer to help resolve life's tensions.' It's more that just something associated with groups coming together too. A vibrant party of impressiv

I Can Understand Why My Parents Aren't Christians, I Don't Blame Them

For the non-resident reader who did not experience the lates 1960s and 1970s in Britains, it is hard to convey how [the] self-appointed religious leaders were reduced to abject mockery in the press and daily culture. Liberal Christians as much as secular people parodied and joked about them, not mainly in a malicious way... but in a form of affectionate contempt, but contempt nonetheless. As a 'non-resident reader' who didn't experience the 60s and 70s Callum Brown's detailed history was an amazing eye-opener. It gave me a deeper sense of what formed the nonreligious mind of my parents, growing up as they did in the 60s and 70s. I was given an insight into what they were up against when it came to even trying to consider the Ultimate claims made by Christianity.  A striking image from the era was of Vernon Mitchell in the dressing room of strip club talking to the performers (above). His job was to visit the clubs, watch the shows and decide which bits should and should

The Christian Way - Part 2

"When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die."  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Being a Christian requires every part of a man, so much so that it appears to onlookers like a death. And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”   Jesus answered,  “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.   And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’   The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”   And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.   And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole b

The Christian Way - Part 1

" But what would I do? " " What do you mean?" "If I became a Christian, what would that look like for me at 9am on Monday morning, or when I wake up tomorrow, what practical difference would it make? You say 'trust in Jesus', or 'believe' like it's something I can just do, but what does the doing of it look like? Pray? I can pray, I can say the words, I've spoken them out before addressed to a so called God but what difference did it make? I'm not trying to sound facetious, I'm trying to understand. Tell me what to DO. " This statement and these questions made by a materialist friend of mine has stayed with me. It's an honest question. In a world of techniques and discipline, with the Whim Hoff Method and the Seven Pillars, and the Eightfold Path and Mindfulness, what is the Christian way? Moral reform often seems to be the answer people expect to hear. Evidence that a person has embarked on the Christian way is, that t

Two Kinds of New Normal

There are two kinds of new normal. There's the one that arrives in fanfare and is announced by everyone, often ushered in by a crisis; no one can miss this new normal. All eyes are fully open to the changes we must now get used to; perspex screens, masks and social distancing. There is another kind of new normal however that is much more subtle, it happens gradually over time like the boiling of a pot or the flavouring of a dinner. No one announces its arrival and once it's here no one really notices it as 'new' at all but only as what 'is' since we can't imagine or conceive of a world in which this normal doesn't exist. These new normals are deadly and without canaries to warn us they'll end up killing us and dismantling our social structures.  This thought occurred to me recently when reading Glynn Harrison's excellent book 'A Better Story' in it he points to many of the effects of the Sexual Revolution on society. The promise of the re

Doing is believing: the real reason why Covid-19 presents the biggest threat to the church for a generation

'Seeing is believing' goes the adage, but I don't think it's true. Anyone who says 'I'd believe if only I saw...' isn't to be believed; they understand neither themselves nor the nature of their beliefs. At first seeing may well lead to believing but only until believing becomes unpopular (socially or personally) and then suddenly (as if by magic) our sight is called in for questioning; excuses are made and belief will slip out the back door of doubt claiming 'I lost faith.' The question is, do we lose it or just stop it? Belief is less linked to sight than people realise and is instead linked more to our actions and our affiliations. On the one hand we believe what we repeatedly do and we do whatever we intuitively want to do; and what we want , is the result of our conditioning and our culture. On the other hand we believe what the communities we're part of make attractive for us to believe. We believe whatever our society has ma

On love, bows and arrows

The strength and effectiveness of an act can be measured by the degree to which love was the motivating factor. An arrow can be fired from a bow without much tension in the bowstring but its potency and impact will be limited. A man can do the right thing without much desire, perhaps out of a sense of duty but without proper motivation its impact will be limited. Love sees the person in front of you and desires their good even at its own expense; love motivates a man to risk reputation, or to risk rejection and the degree to which love is the motivation the man's risk will be worthwhile or not. The seed once planted, flowers eventually. Knowing I am loved is the key to how I live. I can live my life in such a way that I am craning for validation, or I can live my life from the position of already being validated and approved. The same act can be noxious or sweet according to the driving force behind it. In Christianity I see that it's not just an act but it's intentio