Sunday, 25 May 2008


May 26th to August 16th, 2008
Do write letters, postcards.. anything.
I promise to write back.

Phil Jackson
c/o L'Abri Fellowship,
The Manor House,
Liss, Hants
GU33 6HF.
United Kingdom

Thursday, 15 May 2008

is everything spiritual?

So we just enjoyed a bit of RB on a Wednesday night, complete with Rabbinic thoughts, quarks, comical banter, wow-science and fashionable black and white attire. I would highly recommend the dvd, it's entertaining, it's inspiring, and it goes some way to healing the science-faith divide, the dualistic view of the world that so impoverishes the science and the faith communities.

However, the DVD left me confused on some central points, and I should like to post some genuine questions regarding the jumps Rob makes and the way that he leaves it.

- Essentially, our post-match centred on the cross and sin questions, not simply where was sin in the presentation, but how would it have fitted into the presentation, had we had an extra whiteboard panel at the end, could we and would we have presented a fallen dimension to this world view presented. Rob presents a view of the world sufficient to live by, a certain way of viewing the world and that seemed to be redemptive in itself and I couldn't really gather what is so special about Christianity as the spiritual message would affirm all religions, or at least Judaism. As I understand his argument the essential problem is that of philosophical materialism, the 'two-dimensional' view of the world. Is then sin's essence the denying of the all-is-spiritual-ness of reality? Genuine question. Which then follows to the cross, what does the cross offer and can we construct it as atonement for this sin?

- Is everything spiritual? I didn't feel I got an answer. Meh.. I was entertained by the show (entertainment being our supra-ideology of all such discourse :-P), I felt left wanting, in terms of a defense of the main assertion. What then is physical? Is nothing is physical, we are all made out of strings, which are mysterious, therefore spiritual.. Is everything divine? Is everything spirit? Rob is accused of being pantheist, which is blogospheric hyperbole, yet, he leaves himself open to these accusations by not quite coming into land as it were..

- Then, lastly, I wonder who is the target audience.. Christians? Given that the audience is American, perhaps there is a certain presumed literacy of sin etc, and that the primary aim is to address certain internal misconstructions, chiefly the christianised dualistic view of spiritual stuff.. Meh.. If this were simply a presentation on the cosmological apologetic or a science-and-faith-compliment-each-other presentation, I would not feel such a need to insert sin or redemption into the program, however, given that he offers such redemptive conclusions, diy-the-kingdom, recognise-the-spiritual-nature-of-things-and-then, I feel like he is offering a more final world-view, in which sin is denied by omission. And now I feel like I am Bell-bashing like every other blog out there, honestly I'm not, I find his vision for Christianity compelling and vital, but I am hesitant to jump in with abandon before I can reconcile this broad vision for kingdom thinking with one that offers deep life confidence in experienced grace grounded in history, one which recognises the exclusive claims of Jesus, and one that I would suffer and die for.

Thoughts anyone else?

Sunday, 4 May 2008


- So following a to-and-fro about brokenness.. it's a dangerous thing to pray for. I think it was Will (van der Hart - St Mary’s) who, sharing a picture of a barrel with its tap barely dripping, first started my own exploration of a breaking and reshaping prayer. Prayer that practical clutter, lifestyle clutter, value-system clutter, relational clutter, fears and anxieties clutter would, as filtering and diluting constructs, be broken off and out of the barrel of my being that the dripping tap might become a gushing torrent.
- Following this, the ‘negative turn’ points made in Don Miller’s talk on Story, that it is never in the happy moments that the protagonist is really changed, but rather in the narratives in popular culture and in scripture, it is at those points of brokenness that character is formed and change happens.
- Then perhaps Mosaic church ideas, (which for a little while I thought referred to Moses.. apparently not) of broken vessels formed together into a beautiful image.
- And then this season of suffering teachings, JP etc..

I rather feel I’ve fought God for two years and I’m going to walk with that limp for the rest of my life. But some potential directions for this mode or prayer emerge as:
- brokeness that brings one to the end of oneself to find you only have God.
- and so a suffering that reveals one's Christ-treasuringedness.
- brokenness that makes impossible arrogance and self-righteousness.
- a humbling realisation of one's fallenness, creatureliness and weakness.
- brokenness in order to know that he makes us whole, he holds us together.

Following all of this, I think another conclusion, born out of conversation relating to suffering, is the imperative to fast, which is not so much to will suffering, and certainly not for its own sake or as proof of anything, but rather to examine those points at which one can and does buy one's way out of suffering. Fast Everything. Why limit it to fasting food? Fast your house for a week, fast conversation, your phone, your kids.. One at a time, but all things which otherwise inform you identity and comfort, all things over which you have some sense of entitlement.. And beyond the practical cushions, which suppress physical discomfort.. all the means of emotionally making oneself unavailable for pain might also be fasted.

The next logical step, which becomes somewhat contentious, is the hair shirt and the cilice. Which apparently Mother Theresa and St Francis, amongst other popular heroes were not averse to... Which begs questions regarding the nature of self-harm, character formation and religious devotion.. 1 Corinthians 9:27 etc..!) The nature of self-harm thoughts anyone?

Anyways, that is the trajectory of thought, between the housemates and myself, exploring breaking and suffering. That brokenness is not abstract, nor necessarily passively arrived at; it will change you, it should glorify God and I think in an age of super-abundance, rich-christians, and the veneration of comfort at the expense of social/environmental justice, I might do well to pray for a little bit of brokenness and explore a little bit of fasting.

A Franciscan benediction
This Franciscan benediction came up on the blogs and I thought to share it. It is more a prayer that God would give us secondary discomfort that might be directed into channels for empathy and into motivation for social action, which is a valid prayer to keep us from comfortable apathy, but is it a prayer for brokenness? Might a prayer for more profound brokenness leave the 'purpose' of the pain in God's hands?

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbours who are poor.


- I am captivated by community. I have written elsewhere, I think genuine Christian community offers something unique, I think community is not an optional extra for Christians, I would affirm, up to a point, that 'local church is the hope for the world' (Hybels), I find in architectural discourse the sheer confusion regarding the nature of 'community' cries out for a Christ figure to cornerstone their vainly hopeful 'community centres' etc. Within a Christian understanding, all relationships have a third party, (Mat18:20, Ecc4:8-12, Jam5:16 etc), every Christian is obligated to show grace to others (Rom1:14), each understands suffering, discomfort within a god-glorifying narrative (Rom8:18 etc) and no Christian need rely on another human for identity and affirmation etc etc…

- Community and unity are not exactly the same, I hope I can share some of my thoughts that I have had grappling with what community is, to maybe lend something to the unity question. I'm not in Cambridge I haven't even read, From Cambridge to the World, my understandings of things there are largely second hand, and they continue to baffle me, this issue of unity in cambridge, whose christian union historically and now makes disunity something of an art form, and it deeply pains me.

- Unity is not some pedantic legalistic end in itself - it is to the glory of God, and is arguably *the* outworking of an obedience of faith which is the (1John) third affirmation/assurance of the truth we hold to. Being one, being united, is the substance of Christian living, paralleled perhaps to marriage as a picture of God and the church. Disunity is to lie about God's character and to make Jesus out to be a liar.

- Out of that we might say unity is not a resting state or default, it needs to be *done*, we derive a theology of the trinity out of what we see Jesus do, and the way that he related to his father.. This Trinitarian God we say we believe in is attested to in the Father's love and Jesus' obedience, and this we know through his suffering, he was 'slaughtered' as a some measure of level of that radical obedience. If this is the measure of loving unity Jesus prays for, should we as a church of a city then be willing to die for one another?

- Disunity, even non-community, is not a neutral position, nor one in which the work of the enemy is absent. Jesus' prayer is also for the protection of his followers, as there are forces at work to divide, precisely because a unity of Christian believers would speak more gloriously of God. And so in this way the already proactive nature of movement towards unity, must also be combined with a conception of it as a spiritual battle.

- Unity is not abstract, you do not sign a DB that includes a unity clause, it is lived daily, it involves suffering. And God is glorified by community in tangible way, it is a manner of being in the world, which will moderate the fruitfulness of a group. Acts2:42-47 they ate together.. and the Lord added daily to their number. There is a danger here in citing this passge that it becomes a prosperity/numbers game, and that unity becomes a point scoring rote of works to appease God and glorify man. And while it is clearly not this in my own my mind, I'm not entirely sure I convey it. Anybody? God gives us the gospel to bring us to him and his glory, but also to bring us together, that he might be glorified. Making the two one (eph2:15 - stop me if I am misusing this..)

- Unity is expressed in community in practical ways, eating together, car-sharing, accountability, living together.. and through the lens of the environment, you use less resources, less oil, less green-field development.. I'm off on a tangent maybe.. these things glorify God? And also the accountability thing I touched on in the porn post, in relation to and Lauren Winner's Real Sex… Community is the context for discipleship, which is a framework for holiness and holiness brings God glory? Life lived radically together catalyses holiness? Not sure.. Soundbites soundbites..

- Is the problem of unity born out of the bounded set nature of doctrinal basis unity, rather than the centred set nature of the centrality-of-the-cross aim of these things in the first place?

- I'm confused myself as to how I would delimit the gospel, what is it and where does it go. There is scope, even while keeping the cross central, for disunity coming out of different takes on what is the gospel, what does Christian life then consist in, what does one do between new-birth and death? A problem of a reductionistic gospel is that it sees unity as neither a means nor an end to any biblically mandated effect. There is also a problem with a individualistic gospel, which emphasises *my* relationship with god, *my* salvation, *my* buddy Jesus.. maybe a corporate notion of salvation needs to be emphasized.. bible on that anyone?

- The bible talks in terms of a church in a place, the church in Ephesus etc, imagining this today, the church in Nottingham, am I being unrealistic? I'd love to see that sort of unity, (not at the expense of diversity in form and style between groups) but it is a paradigm shift away from this present understanding.. perhaps hope08 will effect a move this way. Word Alive I thought began to show a way forward for unity, with New Frontiers, Soul Survivor and the Conservative brigade all on one stage.

- There was an interesting note about fellowship by don carson at nwa, where he noted regarding 1Jn1:3 - "(approx)'Fellowship has become a plastic term based on who it is with: 'Christians', rather than the nature of the friendship, but in the original it was more like a business partnership, hands-in, buying into an enterprise" The uniqueness of Christian relationships speaks of the gospel to which they hold and the mission with which they have been commissioned. Jesus' (Jn13:35) prayer for his followers that - be known by their love for one another and the Jn17:21-23 purpose clause that the world might know and believe, makes the unity imperative and purposiveness abundantly clear.

- One lunchtime at nwa the question was amusingly raised of how much the education of all the wordalivers cost (our guess ~£140m) - the overwhelming majority being white-middle-class, almost exclusively university-educated and a significant proportion privately-schooled. I'm not making this a case against private education here at all (saved for another post..), but more observing the way we tend to clique on social grounds, become theologised in the tradition of that social clique and then conflate the two... I wonder if there is an element of this in the CICCU/Fusion thing, not necessarily in terms of race or class, but perhaps something of preserving social or stylistic tradition on 'theological' grounds… What are the demographic differences statistically between average Fusion members and CICCUers? Perhaps this is irrelevant.

- - "Q and A John Piper and Matt Chandler" (at about 47:00ish) they discuss intentional methods of promoting racial diversity in churches. The divide we agonise over is not racial but we are similarly impoverished in each camp if there are sociologically based camps and a trajectory towards cliquism.

- The repainting seminar illustrated the way damage is being done by those who would label 'spirit'/'bible' Christians, rather than by those who plod along in their own varying degrees of emphasis. This then drifts into questions about the validity para-church and the damage of non-intergenerational unity etc.. How many of you pray with your parents? And how do we avoid generational ghettoes? Enough…

How to unity
- It was interesting to see the efforts in Oxford, Vaughn Roberts and Charlie Cleverly swapping churches to preach for a Sunday in the other's church - Ebbes/Aldates, which represent conservative and charismatic ends of the spectrum there.
- Eat together.. a hospitality imperative..
- Gandhi's hungerstrike
over Indian/Pakistani disunity during Indian independence. I don't know much about Gandhi, I watched the film of his life a couple of weeks ago and I don't know how much of it is mythologised, but he certainly seemed to grasp aspects of Jesus teaching in a compelling way, in the power of a man unafraid to die and in the dignity of human life and in the desire that men be reconciled to one another.. Even if it is exaggerated or falsified, the film made for me a striking parable.
- Battle at the level of treasuring Christ.

- I would place unity really quite high on a list of emphases, unity being the embodiment of love, where love covers over a multitude of sins. (Prov 10:12, 1Pet4: 8)

Col3:12-15 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Rom5:5-6 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

1Jn3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

1Jn4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot] love God whom he has not seen.
"…'revival' amongst 'believers' is not conversion, rather, it could be said to be a change of attitude towards a more outward-looking life concerned with the happiness-of-others, their joy, their fullness of life, and this would form community, this would form church, in place of doctrinal debate and denominational feuding would come a preoccupation with the wellbeing of people outside and inside the church…"

Friday, 2 May 2008

photography and mks

N started this, noting both P and myself were photographers of a sort and both or us MKs, were the two connected? What takes place in the photographic event? What lies at the root of the impulse to take photos? Why in some so much more than others?


Firstly, the question, ‘Why MKs particularly take photos’ is made difficult as the motives and influences are essentially subconscious. I don't have any grand assessment of the psychology of it all, there has never been a moment when photography was made a necessity. Neither do I have so deep a self knowledge as to be able to point to distinct photographic roots, rather as people ask me what boarding school is like.. I've never known anything different to compare it to.

Secondly, (lest my blog actually become about me..) I am strictly only tenuously an MK, and to be a ‘photographer‘ in an age when everyone is a photographer is indirectly to make an assertion regarding the quality (or perhaps quantity) of the work. Conceding that I have hobbied and worked at some small length within photography, I shall offer these thoughts.

One might cite some roots for MKs’ interest in photography in a need to capture a fleeting moments, being somehow more aware of the transient nature of place. Just as we more broadly as a society increasingly move between moments rather than living in them, and so try the more to capture those moments.

Photography can serve to distance one from reality; as an essentially private activity in a public space, perhaps it parallels the ambiguous private/public nature of a boarding school adolescence maybe. As a defence mechanism photography puts a lens between you and the object, for the insecure Phil who doesn't belong to this country.

The imaginative side could be attributed to a TV-less, make-up-your-own-games life at Chefoo, the beauty of life in the jungle. Art born out of longing? I don't know. That will pretentiously be how it should go down in my memoirs.


Some time ago I read Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’, I grabbed her quote below off a review online, but it provoked me to think, perhaps, although I can’t recall all the details of the book, that reading it may have informed the sceptical view I take of contemporary visual culture. She goes on in the rest of the book to paint photography as less innocent than simply capturing images, and ultimately to be destructive (?).. Anyways, this quote bears something on the MK question:

"The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. ... [Taking pictures] gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on. The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic--Germans, Japanese, and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun."


I am provoked to think by aspects of my character that I see in others who have not come through the UK school system, and this question brings to mind TSP and OP, both internationally educated and both photographers.. and the various chinese photographers I’ve known at school in the uk.. Thoughts anyone?

I would wonder also, whether there was a theological aspect to it, beyond these motives to take photos, rather that what we read as ‘good’ photography lies in notions of eternal truth beyond the self, notions MKs may have had affirmed in ways suppressed by a more secular education system. Here I fear I overstep the mark, the question of good, beautiful photography demands another post.

[(ps.) - since writing I discussed the question with my mum, and she suggested that it was inherited.. whether this means perhaps that those photographically inclined are those more likely to go abroad and take their children with them, or by virtue of the nature of mission in our age, those called abroad in this fashion will be equipped and motivated to document travel. perhaps the whole thing is genetic, perhaps a meme.. can memes be recessive? can you have carriers of a photographic gene who don't also suffer from this affliction...]


The desiringgod blog has been thinking about photography recently:

why go in pairs?

Luke 10:1-3, Mark 6:7
Google gave me all manner of pages offering an answer to why women go to the bathroom in pairs.. a related but tangential question. Why two disciples? Why not three or even twenty-three?

It was interesting to pray on the streets in Cambridge, and the different dynamic that a group of three has to a group of two, in terms of presence and in terms of indecision. Clearly two, practically and biblically (Luke7:19, Deut. 27:6) appears to be better than one, but than three, is this simply for efficiency, if two can do more efficiently what three would do, in terms of proselytising-per-capita, then send out in twos. I think the go out in pairs thing is interesting, anyone got bible on why not three? Also why 12 disciples and why 72, beyond bible maths metaphors and Israel analogies, are there practical extrapolations for discipleship? And why bring a stick, some of the commentators suggest for protection. Anyone?

I think that Peter is absolutely right to encourage us all in this, I would be interested to know how it has come about that it should seem a new or profound idea to propose it, and how this prophetic (test it) notion for Cambridge and elsewhere, reflects a lack of attention to this model and what the root of this lack is.


Go in Pairs - Shane Claiborne - “(approx) It keeps you accountable, it keeps your feet on the ground. Community is good at lowering the mountains and lifting the valleys. Travelling in pairs affects the way you share a story. A big part of going out in pairs in being submitted to other people.”

Go in Pairs - That each one might have a helper, a counsellor and a sympathizer. (?ref)

Go in Pairs - Augustine - “living together with others is necessary for the cultivation of spiritual formation."

Go in Pairs - It is impossible to practice love in isolation. (?ref)


Luke 10:1-3 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves

Mark 6:7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Ecc 4:8-12 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless— a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Thursday, August 24 - a passage to India

don carson on john17:20-23

I want to share with you a bit on Don Carson’s commentary on John’s Gospel, as relates to John17, the passage of the moment for a few of us. I hope this is not very very illegal… for those of you who read the bible :P this commentary is excellent do go out and get one. I’ve bolded the bits that struck me, and particularly “the unity is meant to be observable” building to the conclusion “It is hard to imagine a more compelling evangelistic appeal”..

John 17v20-21
This extension to those who will believe through the witness of the original disciples assumes that their witness will in some measure prove effective. What Jesus prays for these believers-to-be is that 'all of them may be one' (v21) – a petition whose significance is further unpacked is the remaining clauses of the verse. This is not simply a 'unity of love'. It is a unity predicated on adherence to the revelation the Father mediated to the first disciples through his Son, the revelation they accepted (vv6-8) and then passed on ('those who will believe in me through their message' v20). It is analogous to the oneness Jesus enjoys with his father, here fleshed out in the words 'just as you are in me and I am in you'. The Father is actually in the Son, so much so that we can be told that it is the Father who is performing the Son's works (14:10); yet the Son is in the Father, not only in dependence upon and obedience to him, but his agent in creation (1:2-3) and his wholly concurring Son in the redemption and preservation of those the father had given him (e.g. 6:37-40, 17:16, 19) The Father and the Son are distinguishable (the pre-incarnate Word is 'with' God, 1:1; the Son prays to his Father; the Father commissions and sends, while the Son obeys), yet they are one.

Similarly, the believers, still distinct, are to be one in purpose, in love, in action undertaken with and for one another, in joint submission to the revelation received. More: Jesus prays to his Father that these disciples may 'also be in us', probably alluding to the 'union' language of the vine metaphor (ch15). They are 'in' the Father and his Son, so identified with God and dependent upon him for life and fruitfulness, that they themselves become the locus of the Father's life and work 'in them' (14:12, 15:7). All of this is to the end 'that the world may believe that you have sent me'. As the display of genuine love amongst the believers attests that they are Jesus' disciples (13:34-5), so this display of unity is so compelling, so unworldly, that their witness as to who Jesus is becomes explainable only if Jesus truly is the revealer whom the Father has sent.

Although the unity envisaged in this chapter is not institutional, this purpose clause at the end of v21 shows beyond possibility of doubt that the unity is meant to be observable. It is not achieved by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator, but by common adherence to the apostolic gospel, by love that is joyfully self-sacrificing, by undaunted commitment to the shared goals of the mission with which Jesus' followers have been charged, by self-conscious dependence on God himself for life and fruitfulness. It is a unity necessarily present, at least in nuce, amongst genuine believers; it is a unity that must be brought to perfection (v23)

John 17v22
The nature of the unity is further unpacked. The 'glory' (1:4) that the Father gave the Son he has transmitted to his followers. Exactly what is meant by these clauses is much disputed. Some tie this glory to that for which Jesus prays in 17:1,5, but this makes v22 necessarily anachronistic. On the whole, it seems best not to take 'them' as a reference to the original disciple alone, but as a reference to all disciples, including those who will (later) believe through the witness of Jesus' first followers. If so, Jesus has given his 'glory' to them in the sense that he has brought to completion his revelatory task (if as in v4-5 and repeatedly throughout the chapter, he may be permitted to speak proleptically and thus include his climatic cross-work). 'Glory' commonly refers to the manifestation of God's character or person in a revelatory context; Jesus has mediated the glory of God, personally to his first followers and through them to those who believe on account of their message. And he has done all of this 'that they may be one as we are one'.

John 17v23
Some measure of unity is the disciples is assumed, but Jesus prays that they may be 'brought to complete unity', sharing richly in both the unity of purpose and the wealth of love that tie the Father and the Son together. The purpose, as in v21, is 'to let the world know that you sent me', to which is now added the further goal, 'that you ... have loved them even as you have loved me'. The thought is breathtakingly extravagant. The unity of the disciples, as it approaches the perfection that is its goal (tetelimenoi – the use of this verb in 4:34, 5:36, 17:4) serves not only to convince many in the world that Christ is indeed the supreme locus of divine revelation as Christians claim ('that you have sent me'), but that Christians themselves have been caught up into the love of the Father for the Son, secure and content and fulfilled because loved by the Almighty himself (Eph3:17-19), with the same love he reserves for his Son. It is hard to imagine a more compelling evangelistic appeal.

John Commentary: - includes this quote in the pages available online

Other Don Carson Bits:

other books


So, Word Alive, it was some little time ago now, despite it being the source and subject of the largest part of conversations since, I have not blogged it.

There was, it seems, quite a band of bloggers at the event, for those of you who missed it:

The Piper talks are available and highly recommended at:

God is so good. What are the slim chances of being in the one 'impact-group' led by the one l'abri worker at this 5000 strong conference, I don't know about thunder claps, pathetic fallacy or whether in the eschatological scheme things there will be thunder in the new heavens.. but this was a moment of clarity like nothing else.

The conference slammed me on a number of things, quite aside from god giving me a light to see by for the next few months by godincidencing this l'abris chap out of nowhere. Nic puts the week as an "interesting, hard, weepy, angry, mind-turned-inside-out-stretched-into-bizarre-and-terrifying-new-places kind of week" Yes, no, absolutely.. I am wrestling with this gospel, with integrated spirituality, with rich Christians in an age of poverty, with defining ourselves by what we are not, and with the community:optional Christianity… the conference by its very medium and by its white-middleclass-ness and by the things (discourse on the environment etc) notable by their absence did more to stir these issues than settle them. The roots in the platonic dualism of the misunderstood gospel were opened up in the disintegrated/integrated seminar.. this I need to work through

Positively I took away so much encouragement in a Christ-centred, bible-saturated faith. Old people, wisdom and history and confident scholarship are things lacking in the circles I have moved in.

- Suffering -

There is a theme, that now seems to have run in my life for several weeks, to include Fletch at CICCU on James 1, and St Barnabas on Lamentations that is that we must suffer, and be fully present in our sufferings.. but at the conference I saw suffering in a new way, beyond giving an apologetic response to 'why suffering?' but that suffering is such a potent witness, although to say witness gives it an agenda, suffering well should be the substance and fibre of a Christian.. I want to want it.

And it is a theology to die for, without punning, everyone and anyone 'believes' in Jesus.. so the crucial difference is if we are joyful to suffer unto death and still *believe* in and treasure Jesus above all, and the construction through which we frame and speak of this rather than that, simplistically speaking is theology.. And this is central in my plea that everyone hear and inwardly digest the notion of 'treasuring Christ', and this is *the* point that most Piprian preaching boils down to, and it is different in its substance to vast swathes of other preaching and it offers deep hope.

- John piper in the flesh -

How is John Piper in the flesh Peter asks.. this week was funny, frequently breakfast banter relayed a Carson or a piper eating Shreddies or doing normal things etc.. the comedy of Christian celebrity culture.. I’m formulating a blog post 'heresies, hoodies and heroes..' which variously seemed to be the subject of many conversations at word alive. Christian book-signings, bizarre, please someone give me a verse on it… but yes John Piper in the flesh, if you get a chance, do, he has such a grasp on the wonder of the gospel, and such a gift for presenting it, and in the flesh (?beyond the audio recordings) he has such expression and presence in the way he is totally captured and driven by the glory, sufficiency, supremacy and everything of Jesus, it inspired me and evoked a hunger to develop in myself such a richly biblical, verse by verse understanding of Christ; in interview he is humble, self-effacing, and gently wise. James and I are working through his Romans series, its like getting to a main course having been fed starter preaching for years.. however, even given all of this, book-signings are still weird. really.

The repainting the faith seminar wound me up, essentially it was unnecessary and divisive presentation, which seemed to rub salt in the wound of Christian disunity on campus. With all the good intentions of wishing to obviate disunity by drawing out offending doctrines and theological trajectories in Velvet Elvis etc, I felt they left me confused and ill-equipped to truly answer the questions that divide us, that is to say, (in part) what is the gospel, and what is its social dimension. I am afraid for those who perhaps have not been a part of fusion etc, that the seminar will have deepened their suspicion of these who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Having said that, the dialogue, and tentative desire to understand the other, needs to be affirmed and I am keen to be a part of moves towards deep unity, perhaps the seminar grated with me, simply because it is the single issue I wrestle with most.

Bloggers were cautioned in the Ovey 'Humanity' seminars regarding the taming of the tongue, in the light of 1 Peter 2:22-23, I have fallen short of this (even in the above paragraph..) On a related note, I don’t how if you caught this brief note by Piper, it is a similar challenge, to a Christ-questioning blogs like this which tries so hard to appear clever:

John Piper wrote @ April 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm Tell them that it takes relentless intentionality to keep a Christ-exalting blog from become a clever blog. The temptation to entertain is almost irresistible. JP