Monthly Archives: November 2010

What do we want? (reflecting on a sufi prayer)



Sufi Comics: Imam Ali's Prayer

I was reading a blog by a sufi muslim, and found this prayer which made me think:

O My Lord,
if I worship You from fear of Hell, burn me in Hell;
and if I worship You from hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your own sake,
do not withhold from me Your Eternal Beauty.

~ Rabia

I have no intent to convert myself or anyone to sufi islam, but I think we all need to reflect upon this prayer, and we all should investigate our heart. For this is a serious matter!

We should also question the way we communicatie Christ to the world. Like the saying says ‘what we win them with, we win them to’. If we ‘win people to Christ’ with flashy videos and rock’n roll, will they stay in our church if we cut down on the electricity?

If we win people to Christ because He is the way to not go to hell, do we really bring them to Christ? Or would they pragmatically choose any other way to get out of hell?? Would we bring animal sacrifices or buy indulgences if they were convinced that was the way out of hell, or do we follow Jesus for who He is?

It’s not up to me to judge anyones intentions or faith, but we all know God sees the heart… Accepting Jesus to get something (like a free ‘get out of hell’ card) and not because of Jesus Himself. If we don’t really love God but just want to ‘get out of hell’ we still won’t have much fun in heaven, because it’s being with God for all eternity. There’s no point in believing in God if what we want is not God, we cannot use God to get something else. There’s no point in following Jesus if what we want is not Jesus, and there’s no Christianity without Him at all.

Christianity revolves around Christ. God incarnate who became one of us and shared in our humanity, even til death, and who conquered death and evil in the resurrection. And he calls us to follow, to bring His Kingdom, and says the gates of hell will not prevail against us, His Church.

So what do we want?
Do we want Jesus?
Let’s go for it then, brothers and sisters!

Let us pray

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as in heaven

Amen

Bram

musical interlude


This is so beautiful. Psalm 117/118 in the orthodox liturgy. I can’t stop listening to this!

enjoy

Bram

Reclaiming supernaturalism III: Andrew Jones and exorcism


I’ve been writing about the problems some postmodern expressions of Christianity seem to have with the supernatural earlier (see reclaiming supernaturalism 1 and 2) and I’m reminded of the topic now Andrew Jones, the tall skinny kiwi, is blogging about exorcism.

On the lighter side, I must confess that I at first misread the title of his post, and thought it would be about exorcising baptist and catholic demons, which would’ve been a bit surreal and even more freaky I guess… [I once had a muslim tell me that djinns can have the same religions as humans, so you have muslim and christian and jewish djinns, so why not baptist and catholic demons...]

Andrew, who has been travelling around the world meeting all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, has seen way too much of supernatural activity to ever deny the existence of ‘demons’ who influence people. It’s a luxury of our sleepy Western church that’s lulled into materialistic oblivion to be able to deny such a thing I guess, and it’s very comfortable, since it feels very safe to have a worldview without all of these complications.

But my limited experience with those things, about which I won’t elaborate here, has taught me 2 things:

  1. the standard evangelical demonology might not be completely accurate, but there is something that can’t be denied and that is affraid of the name of Jesus, how weird such a thing may sound even to the more modern materialistic liberal part of myself that feels comfortable in not having to think outside of the boxes of this world.
  2. I’m not at all prepared to have such an encounter.

I know that this kind of things will be easily explained away as psychological disease, and whatever more, but there’s more than meets the eye, and it is not at all either/or, it can be very well an both/and situation. There is the danger to over-spiritualise everything and see demons and devils where they are not, like some Christians tend to do, but we have to be open and not explain it away if we bump on it.

I also tend to think that some ‘powers’ are less personal than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re less dangerous. Even if ‘mammon’ would be totally not personal, it’s still a strong power that enslaves people, and destroys the planet.

(I still need to read Walter Wink, anyone who wants to buy me his powers trilogy? And anyone has some amount of time in a box to share?)

Another problem is the unbalanced way some charismatics and other weird people seem to handle all of the supernatural, which has done a lot of work to discredit all of it, and makes it look all fake.

But it’s a subject we need to take serious, like Andrew Jones says in his post:

I think that a vigorous study of the Scriptures on how to deal with the demonic should be an integral part of any ministerial training, especially cross-cultural and global missions training. Otherwise we might sending out an army of spiritual wimps into an arena where they will get their ass kicked.

Right now I don’t have much ‘demonology’, except that I know there is something, and that we better take it serious, but that we need to take even more serious the fact that Christ is stronger. Christus Victor!!!

And then there’s the discussion -mainly semantic- about if Christians can be possesed or not. Possesed may be too strong a word, but surely they can be influenced. A theology about such things is not a question of theory we can make out of vague bible verse interpretations, we also have to look at the real world. And it’s true that Christians can be totally distracted by some kind of ‘religious spirit’, and that there can be an active oppressive power present in that. Or, like Mike Morell says in the comments on andrews blog, if you do consider ‘Religion’ one of the oppressive Powers, and Christendom as a particularly nasty manifestation of said Power…well, it makes sense.

It’s a topic I don’t know much about, and that I’m affraid of, also because it’s very ridicule to even believe in it in this world. And still….

shalom

Bram

 

cD klaT: suseJ kaerF


When I posted this video on facebook, with a christian rock classic played backwards, several people liked it much better than the original song:

I must say, you get a totally brandnew song in this way, a very interesting composition even, and a cool atmosphere and it sounds like if it’s been sung in  a mixture of swedish and japanese.

I didn’t find any satanic messages though, so it’s no real rock’n roll!!!

peace

Bram

(and to those who don’t know the song Jesus Freak by DC Talk, if you really want to know how it sounds it’s also somewhere on youtube…)

bible/qur’an and minority/majority positions of our religion


Matt Stone on glocal Christianity has quoted me on his blog as saying the following  on facebook:

I have read the entire Qur’an and can find no guidance in it on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find no guidance in it on how Christians should live as a majority.

Now this is not at all something I said myself, but something I quoted from an article I had just posted from Philip Yancey on Christianity today that can be found here. So these weren’t not my own words, but actually the quote is not from Philip Yancey either, but these words were told him by  a not further identified  muslim who told him this.

Which makes it a lot more interesting, in my opinion, if these are the words not of a Christian, like me or Mr. Yancey, but by a muslim.

I must say that I didn’t read the whole qor’an myself (and I guess wouldn’t understand itat all like a muslim would if I did, since I do not understand the old arabic langguage with its related concepts and paradigm) but what I know from Islam is indeed that they do not separate ‘mosque and state’ and their perspective of ‘Dar-el-Islaam’ seems to strive towards a dominant islamic society. We can also see in the history of Islam that they did take over the Arabian peninsula and the surrounding world to make them dominantly islamic, where (even if examples of the opposite and Christian domination indeed do abound) it’s much more common for Christians to just ‘infiltrate’ a culture and bring the good news, sometimes to the poorest and most downtrodden who don’t mean anything in a society. Like the garbage Christians in egypt or like Jacky Pullinger going to the dirtiets criminal city to bring the good news to the most hopeless of all…

what I did read is the NT, and some bits of the oldest church fathers, and they start from a minority position, and instead of wanting everybody to become Christians the christians of the first centuries actually made it very hard to join them.(Which changed around the time of Constantine, and the rest is history…) But that’s not how we do know Christianity from our history lessons, we do know it from the empires and Christian abuse of power, which goes straight against the words of the New testament itself, even of Christ Himself…

If a muslim is able to see this in the NT, why aren’t so much christians able to see the evident?

shalom

Bram

 

Rethinking my childhood atonement theory


When I was thinking about the whole discussion about the ‘how’ of the atonement Jesus brings the cross (I’ve written about the subject earlier in this recent post, and here, and here) I suddenly realised at last that my first basic understanding of it, like I had from my childhood on, was neither penal substitution -Jesus took the punishment for our sins in our place- nor exactly the Christus Victor/ramsom version -Jesus handing himself over to evil/death, which could not take Him, and thereby having victory over it-. It was something even simpler, and now I wonder how I could have not seen that in all these theological discussions my basic version that I have found evindent from my childhood on is rarely adressed.

Surely, the ransom motif in the narnia story has always impressed and inspired me, already as a child. And I must have picked up penal substitution somewhere, maybe in my teenage years, but none of those has actually been my primary understanding of the atonement Jesus brought on the cross, though it’s much closer to Christus victor. It might be more a form of scapegoating though, but I’m not that familiar with that methaphor.

The explanation of how I understood the atonement, as a kid in the pentecostel church, is very simple: Jesus just took all the sins of the whole world on the cross, and also all sickness, curse and death, all our guilt and shame, and carried it for us on the cross, he just took it all in our place. And ‘our’ here is all the people in history, before Jesus, in His time, and after Him. It’s that simple. He just took all of it on Himself, and got killed by it and so destroyed it, but resurrected…

I still kinda like this idea when I think of it. Technically it’s a very primitive form of substitutionary atonement, but not penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) at all. Jesus, the lamb of God, carries the sins of the world himself, not a punisment for them. It differs from the Christus victor and Ransom idea because evil is not explicitly personal here, though it’s much closer to it than PSA. For me it’s very basic and logical, but since I’ve not seen the atonement explained like this in most discussions, I wonder if I’m missing something…

The dangers that can come with this way of thinking are clearly manifested in some pentecostel and charismatic circles: Jesus did that for us, and now we just can claim to be free from sin, pain, sickness, whatever, because Jesus fixed that for us by dying. So you get the whole health and wealth stuff, and the ‘name it an claim it’ nonsense.

Now I know thos story is way too incomplete, so I want to propose some additions/correctives to add to this basic understanding, borrowed from different traditions:

  1. The resurrection, or maybe even the eastern orthodox emphasis on The resurrected Christ: This whole story does not make sense unless we make sense of the resurrection, in which we as christians do share… We do share in the resurrection, and as Paul says, without the resurrection our whole faith is meaningless…
  2. the whole narrative of the bible, starting from genesis 1 to revelation 21-22, and not just from genesis 3 to some assorted romans verses… Humans as ‘imago dei’, or cracked eikon in popular postmodern evangelical lingo, and Jesus who takes all the cracks to deal with them himself in our place so we can be restored as imago dei…
  3. The trinitarian emphasis. The atonement on the cross cannot be only Jesus and the Father… The outpouring of the Spirit of all flesh, as prophecied by Joel and actualised on the day of pentecost, has to be part of this story somehow.
  4. Perichoresis, or the trinitarian dance of the Father, Son and Spirit, in which we as humans get our place again, which we lost in the Eden story is also part of the atonement…
  5. The Kingdom narrative which Jesus Himself called the gospel or good news, the reinforecement of the Reign of God… This is not completed yet, so we also need the vineyard emphasis on ‘already and not yet': If we look at reality, it is not true that once we become a Christian we stop experiencing sin, sickness, evil, and death. So we have to think of it in ‘already and not yet’ terms. We could also use the D-day/V-day motif from a more cosmic warfare model here.
  6. The discipleship emphasis: We are to follow Jesus; also in this aspect. We are to carry the evil of the world for others, even to death. His example is one of a reconciled life, or how one looks in this fallen world… We don’t have 4 books called the gospels without a reason…

So what do you think? What do I miss here? Is it helpful in any way? Are there terms in technical lingo that I should know to work this out further?

Shalom

Bram

notes

  1. I don’t believe that the gospel can be reduced to any atonement theory at all, not PSA, nor Christus Victor nor the story that I’ve laid out here… So I’m affraid I have to disagree with all those who claim that the penal substitution is the heart of the gospel. Since that theory did not even exist for the first one and a half or so millenium (read the interesting article by Derek Flood in reaction to those who claim to read PSA into the writings of the church fathers)
  2. this is just a basic draft, made in some hours, it’s not comprehensive in any way. I’m just trying to sort out the atonement starting from what I believed as a kid, and not from the theology books…

Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher and cultural critic, on the collapse of society and the failure of capitalism.


See a very interesting interview with philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the English Al-Jazeera on the end of the world as we know it, the end of capitalism and democracy, and bio-genetics:

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2010/11/201011111191189923.html

I think the subjects he’s bringing up are not te be avoided. But it’s all so hard to look those monsters in the eyes when they are ready to devour them while we deny their very existence.

what do you think?

shalom

Bram