Monthly Archives: January 2011

Harry Potter & Hermione on St-Paul and the defeat of death


(Yes, this is indeed a post about Harry Potter and Hermione discussing a bible verse!)

***warning: there could be spoilers following here about the end of ‘Harry Potter and the deathly hallows’. ***

I’ve been thinking lately about one of the 2 bible verses used in Harry Potter and the deathly hallows. Both of them are used on gravestones in Godrics Hollow, Harry and Hermione are running for Voldemorts death eaters and looking for a clue in  the village where both his parents and the family of Dumbledore have lived.

Those well versed in the bible will recognise the words on the grave of Harry’s parents as those of St-Paul in I Corinthians 15:26.

(the other bible verse is from Jesus in Matthew 6:21: ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ on the grave of dumbledore’s family)

So let’s go to the Harry Potter scene:

Harry read the words slowly, as though he would have only one chance to take in their meaning, and he read the last of them out aloud.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” A horrible thought came to him, and with it a kind of panic.’Isn’ that a death eater idea? Why is that here?’
‘It doesn’t mean defeating death the way the death eaters mean it, Harry.’ said Hermione, het vioce gentle. ‘It means… you know, living beyond death, living after death.’ (HP&TDH, 268-269)

what’s so interesting here? The first thing Harry thinks of when reading these words is the philosophies of Voldemorts death eaters. It’s true thatVoldemort surely wants to destroy death. He uses all kinds of black magic, in which he himself even kills and destroys other people, to make sure that he’s not going to die, and it is clear that he does this because he is scared of death. (Something we see in our culture as well…) Trying to conquer death by all means possible, because we’re scared of it. Trying to master death, but it won’t work. It didn’t work with Voldemort and his black magic, and it doesn’t work at all with our science and technology either, whatever we try. Death is an inevitable part of life in this world, that we can not just ignore… Nor magic nor science and technology (two things closer to each other than we’d suspect, but that’s another subject) will help us to ‘destroy’ death in this way, and if they would, we’d be off much worse.

Hermione is more sensible. Why in the world would anyone write a slogan of dark wizzards on the grave of Harry’s parents anyway? ‘It’s about living beyong death, living after death.’ Now those are clearly 2 different things. Living after death is not only something that’s somewhere in the background assumed by Rowling in the Harry Potter books, but foremost something we as Christians do believe in. even though I’m not too sure about the ways some people talk about ‘heaven’, which are not at all compatible with the biblical idea of the resurrection of the death at the judgement and the new heaven and the new earth. But then we are talking about after this world, or at least after the renewal of this world.

But let’s go further with the first idea, and the r-word. Living beyond death, or resurrection. Even in the Harry Potter book we see such a thing, when Voldemort tries to kill Harry, which does not work, Harry does in some kind of way come back from the death he had accepted. The death he is willing to die to save his friends and the whole society of wizzards.

But here we see the paradox of Christus Victor. The grain of wheat has to die before the plant can grow and bear fruit. Jesus had to die, to give Himself up completely, to be able to resurrect in a new resurrection body and defeat the powers of evil. We even see this in all the Harry Potter books: Harry’s mothers sacrifice protects him against Voldemort. The one who wants to conquer death by killing even more, bringing even more death, the one who does not understand love, sacrifice and anything meaningful, which will be his end.

Our human ways of trying to not have to deal with death are in the end even more destructive. The way of Jesus is different: giving our lives, sacrificing ourselves, so death loses its power and we share in the life of the resurrection.

We are called to take up our own cross and follow Him. We are called to die to ourselves. The so-called prayer of St-Francis (which is most probably not from Francis of Assisi) says it like this:

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

so what do you all think about death as the last enemy to be destroyed?

shalom

Bram

 

 

C.S. Lewis on the resurrection as true mythology


I thought that this might be kind of relevant in the light of the discussions about truth and myth in the last post. Thaks to Matt Stone, from whose blog I stole this quote…

Now as myth transcends thought, incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying God without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other is.

[C. S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact,” in The Grand Miracle and Other Selected Essays on Theology and Ethics from God in The Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (New York: Ballantine, 1970), pp. 38-42 (41-42).]

The emmancipation of myth as a truer form of truth, and Truth beyond theory…


So here we go again with my weird rants, that might irritate some people.

Jason Coker on the pastoralia blog has a very interesting post called ‘the Lords prayer as a political manifesto‘. It’s about a very important subject that I’m struggling with myself at the moment, but I’m not going to repeat his point, you’ll have to read it for yourself (you really should!)

What I want to discuss is (in my opinion) probably one of his most controversial paragraphs up to date, at least from a more or less evangelical point of view.

It’s time to grow up. As long as the religious concept of evil remains limited to the personification of a mythical creature and our ability to imagine better possibilities remains limited to a mythical place, we will be forever relegated to the individualized realm of dualistic pietism.

We must follow Christ and the prophets in moving beyond our childish metaphors and concretely name evil for what it really is – starvation, exploitation, exclusion, vengeance, violence, and the like – so we can name goodness for what it really is: equality, provision, peace, and so forth.

My first reaction is one of protest. Calling satan a mythical creature and heaven a mythical place at first sounds like some kind of liberal theology that tries to do away with all things supernatural. But maybe that’s just how my modern bias tends to read it.

The use of the word ‘mythical’ here is interesting, because in a modern discourse its use would mean something negative. But that’s not the case, as Jason makes clear in the comments in an answer to his use on the ‘m-word':

Well that’s a big question, but a fair one since I’m the one that dropped the m-word. I have no problem with the idea of realms of existence beyond our field of perception. Such a thing has already been demonstrated in theory by physicists.

However, I think we actually know almost nothing about that sort of reality. Moreover, I think the Bible communicates about those realities along the continuum of myth and folklore – which is not a bad thing, in my opinion, as long as you don’t confuse myth and folklore with objective facts. In other words, I think those stories represent real knowledge…just not the kind of knowledge we wanted it to be in the Modern age.

Especially with the note of Jamie Arpin-Ricci that “mythical” does not equal “fictional” and that Something can be mythical and still be true, I think this is a very important discussion. Tolkien and Lewis already spoke of Jesus as ‘true myth’, but I think it’s time to stop the pejorative use of words like myth, or even fable. (And I’m also talking here to people who use ‘myth’ as a synonym for ‘lie’ as Greg Boyd does in book titles as ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ and ‘the myth of a Christian religion’)

We cannot describe everything in modern categories of scientific knowledge… The fact is, that some of the most important things are far beyond fact and measurement. Creation, atonement, the nature of God, the nature of evil and the powers, the Kingdom in its full realisation/heaven, the final judgement, etc… are all things that are too big too describe with our language and the concepts we know from this world. We need to use methaphor and -yes- myth, because our modern conceptions of absolute truth are inaccurate. This is where Derrida and the medieval mystics meet: language nor science could ever descibe those things. Not because they’re not true, but because they’re more true than our so-called ‘scientific’ knowledge…

So all our methaphors fail. All our ways of decribing and imagining fail too, and indeed, if we think that our litteralised methaphorical stories about satan and heaven are all there is to say, we miss a lot. We cannot speak about these things with more scientifically accurate precision than my pet mice can speak about the openoffice program I’m using.

So what I’m advocating is the opposite of the modern ‘liberal’ idea that discards anything that’s non-scientific. Myth, methaphor and parable are the only ways to speak about the things that are most real! And still it’s not at all about speaking of those things, but about living the Life, and letting Christ transform us. Knowledge, be it scientific or mythologic, is not what saves us, except when we are gnostics maybe, but in reality it can only describe things.

If all we have is a faith in theory, we only have faith in theory, and are left with nothing. I am reminded here of the words of a bend from Antwerp called ‘think of one’ who sing ‘tzen gien fabels ginen thejorie’ (‘it’s no fable, and no theory’) in our beautiful dialect, which in turn reminds me of the working class people I’ve worked with. They used the word theory in a pejorative way, and did not believe that anything mattered that could not be used practically… If we don’t have the life of the resurrection in us, what use is there in all our theology?

So myth can be the only way to communicate something that’s truer than any scientific language can contain, and yet truth that’s not incarnated into our lives is not of worth…

Does any of this make sense?

Shalom

Bram

on Sodomites, (false) prophets, and dying birds…


I was kinda bewildered with a statement that a friend of mine quoted from someone elses facebookstatus, asking for my opinion:

God gives up a man or a state when she makes laws to accommodate sodomites

My first reaction was that I didn’t agree with the use of the word ‘sodomites’. The sin of sodom in genesis is not about what we would call homosexuality, but about a breaking of the guest right with a gang rape. Ezekiel even has something different: This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ez 16:43) So using the word sodomite for homosexual is very unbiblical, even if it might be traditional.

(or should the sodomites in the saying be seen as those who don’t aid the poor and needy? even then I don’t think God gives people up. I hope so, I’m not always too good at it either…)

My second reaction was where this way of thinking comes from. I have no clue why God would be concerned with giving up states for ‘accomodating sodomites’, interpreted as giving rights to homosexuals I guess, when there’s actually not much about this subject in the bible (our way of thinking about sexual orientation is not that old). Should He not then react much harder to the things the bible is clear about? There’s a lot of warning from the prophets about oppressing the poor and other unjust violence, or for the worship of idols.

I also would say that God is more concerned about His Kingdom that comes among His children instead of being pre-occupied with the Kingdoms of this world. God cares about His Children inside an evil empire, be it the Roman or American or European one, more than He expects the empire to be Christian…

The weird thing about this saying is that I had just some minutes before had seen something similar on the dutch satiric Christian site goedgelovig.nl, from the ‘prophet’ Cindy Jacobs. I must confess I was just baffled by this little video.

Maybe I’ve been out of the hypercharismatic stuff for too long. Or maybe I should take some LSD to be able to understand the logic of this weird conspiracy theory stuff about how the repeal of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy in the American army would lead to birds falling from the sky. But I don’t think that’d be worth the effort.

If God would kill birds for giving gays the right to serve in the army, then what kind of animals does God kill for the crimes against humanity the army commits outside of American soil? Or for the way the army even destroys its own people, when more American soldiers die of suicide than in battle! Would He kill raccoons for the worship of the powers of dollar, capitalism and consumerism? Would He have killed most of the buffalo’s for the way the natives of the continent have been treated? I don’t think so. So what kind of creature is dying for all those poor that are uncared for? What kind of creature is dying for all the lies and propaganda on your TV, the internet and other media ?

Wait, maybe the dying of animals in the gulf of Mexico is the price for the government allowing multinationals to have their evil way not caring for anything but their profit? Okay, maybe nature is telling us something when birds are falling from the sky: maybe some evil circumstances that are unhindered by the government are destroying creation! Or am I getting too logical and outside the realm of homophobic conspiracy theories?

The thing that bothers me most is that she is considered to be a ‘prophet’.  I do consider myself as a charismatic Christian, and I do believe in prophecy, and I do believe God does speak to us today in many way. But we also should test everything… And still there’s a lot of stuff in some ‘prophetic’ circles that in no way seems nor biblical, nor supported by common sense to me. And I’m not just talking about all the times or the coming back of Jesus or some great revival was predicted, sometimes even predicted with a date…

I wonder what would happen if false prophets would get stoned, like in the old days. But they seem too stoned already…

One more question: if this unbiblical unchristlike nonsense is not of God, what are those so-called ‘prophets’ channeling then?

Should I be scared?

Maybe it’s better to stay close to Jesus, and pray:

Oh Spirit of Wisdom
shine Your light
and lead us in the way
of Jesus Christ the Master
who gave His Life
to defeat death
so that we can live
the Life of the resurrection
Father, Let Your Kingdom come
and Your will be done
here on earth as in heaven
let us not be concerned with the kingdoms of the world
but with the transnational church,
that transcends all of our human borders, Your bride
Jesus, transform us
renew our minds
to Your Love
In the name of Father, son and Spirit
Amen

Shalom

Bram

grace vs Gods commandments…


(This post was originally a facebook note. The comments on facebook are interesting to do something with, so expect a ‘part II’ when I find the time. And if you’d like to be updated about this blog, you can follow it on facebook also)

Now to go on with an important subject in Christianity: grace vs Gods commandments…

Let’s start with a quote from Scot McKnight (from a blog article on the 10 commandmenst: http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/01/18/the-lord-alone-2/#more-12945)

What does it mean to be saved? to be redeemed? to be ransomed? It means to be a person who lives out that salvation, that redemption and that ransom by making God the Lord alone. It means obedience to the God who sets us free.
The biggest mistake of Christians today is to make obedience legalism and to think that God’s commands are somehow an inferior form of religion or spirituality. The second mistake when it comes to the Ten Commandments is to fail to see how they flow out of redemption and don’t stand alone as if they are arbitrary commands. The third mistake is to think they are only for the ancient world, or for Israel, and have nothing to do with gospel.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about when I hear some ‘grace’ preachers, and those who make a big opposition between ‘law’ and ‘grace’. Surely legalism is a big problem, and following laws will not save us. The fist law explicitly states that it’s about our heart anyway, not about following regulations (‘love the Lord, ect etc)

But somewhere among the line we swing too far to the opposite side if we want to abolish all law and put Jesus against it. Thereis something very twisted about the hyper-reformation that does not only believe that we are saved by faith not works, but also makes all kinds of good works suspect. Something is very wrong here! Jeremiah speaks about a new law written in our hearts, and paul speaks about fulfilling all of the law if we love our neigbor as ourselves.

The ten commandments are not evil. If God’d make a heaven with people who would break those commandments, it’d not be heaven at all, but a broken world like ours. So I agree with professor McKnight here: we live out our salvation, and that means obedience. Not obedience to get saved, but when we get tranformed by God we will not want anything else than living in His will.

There is no opposition between faith and works, and between grace and law. By faith we learn to trust Him, and follow Him. By grace we’ll learn how to live in His will. We do not get saved to just sit on our ass being saved, but as a part of a new creation, one that is different from the fallen world.

whadyathink?

shalom

Bram

Copyrighting Truth is theft and a crime against humanity!


edit: since my post initially wasn’t that clear about what I meant, I expanded it heavily, the new part is put in [ ]-brackets…
edit2: thanks to Stefania for assisting me in the tracking down and removal of a whole truckload of typo’s…

The title already says it all, and I don’t mean to attack anyone, but it makes me wonder about our whole religious publishing and music industry:

Copyrighting Truth is theft and a crime against humanity!

Any Truth that gives life cannot be our own property, but should be shared with all of humanity! Every grain of truth we stumble upon is not our invention, but something the Almighty has given us. To not give it away freely is to steal from those who need it as much as we do!

Jesus tells his disciples to bring the Kingdom of God:

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Mat 10:7-8)

What shall we think then of all our religious publishing?

So how can we as Christians put a copyright on anything that proclaims the Kingdom of God? How can we claim to own Truth about the Kingdom of God, and only give it to those who pay? Do we then follow Jesus more, or Mammon, the false God of the dire money?

Isn’t this blasphemy? All Truth belongs to God! Shouldn’t it be given freely?

Or don’t we believe in the importance of the religous messages that we sell? All those Christian books that promise new insight in the bible, new truths about God and how to live our life to the fullest, and yadda yadda yadda. If it’s true that we have this information, is it Christlike to charge money for it??

Or don’t we really believe in the importance and trancendence of what we have to tell, and treat it like any other information that can be told. Do we believe that God is more important than the things of this fallen human society, or do we believe that Mammon and the ways of this world which are imprisoned by that false God are more real than the gospel we write about, than the Truth we proclaim, than the Kingdom of God? I would say that

All Truth that matters belongs to God and is not ours to make money of, but ours to share in all possible ways to those who are spiritually starving in this postmodern world!

[So what do I mean? I did say 'Truth' should not be copyrighted. I don't say our books are the perfect incarnation of Truth. I may not be a big fan of copyrights the way they exist in this world, but when you write down your own story, it's evident that you are the owner of that story, and no-one else should be using it as a product to make money of behind your back, that's just fair.

One of the things I was thinking about when writing this post is a story I once read about Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code, being sued by some guy who claimed that Dan Brown had stolen his theories about I think Jesus and Mary Magdalene living in France. Now, let's assume for a moment that this story is true... (it's not) Then the guy claims to be the owner of the truth about Jesus. We have a serious problem if the Truth would be owned by someone, and it would be even worse if that guy doesn't even care about truth, but sees it as a product to be bought and sold.

Like I said, if it is Truth, it is of God. It cannot be owned or controlled by us, and our motivation should be to share it with everybody.

So if you as a Christian have something that (you believe) has the power to bring people closer to God, you should make that available for all. That does not mean you can't make money for a living selling your books, but if you really believe in the power of what you have to give, and then make people buy your book, and workbook, and series of teaching DVD's, and put copyright notices on all of them with warnings that violators will be prosecuted by federal law and stuff, something does not at all fly well with me. If your stuff is that good and essential and life-transforming and yadda yadda, and you're only willing to give it to those who pay you, you're robbing people and ripping of God. And the result is more like some kind of scientology-light than the Kingdom of God...

So make your books, sell them, make it available, but if you really believe that you have something that's important for everybody, you will not only sell it, but also prompt people to share it. You will applaud it if someone else finds a new way of commnucating what you were sharing building on your work.

Because in the end; the Truth in there is not ours, it's God's! We, and our works, are just vessels, jars of clay in, and the treasure inside of us is much more than Mammon. ]

What say you?

shalom

Bram

Brambonius’ blog in english now on facebook


I have made a facebookpage for this blog here.

You’re all allowed to like it and to contribute to the conversations.

I have no idea at all if this is a good idea or not, but we’ll see

goodnight

Bram