Wednesday, 29 June 2016

texting romans four

Law conversion. 07729056452

Rm4v1-2 The meaning of 'but not before God' seems ambiguous in every translation I've looked at. Of course, the whole deal here is that we're not put right by works but by faith, & so we have no reason to boast at all. But the wording here seems to imply that even if we were put right by works, we still wouldn't be able to boast before God, even if we could before others - for the capacity to do works is itself a gift from God. Breathing, thinking, reasoning, responding - all grace. Grace all.

Rm4v3-4 For all I've done.. God owes me nothing. There is no cake-or-death, just death. Christianity is not a meritocracy of the moral, it is not a star chart for good behaviour. Religione is wage slavery as a total worldview, a striver's charter, an infinitely precarious sense of self built on imaginary entitlement. Everything I've ever done is tainted. All my doing is doodoo Ph3v8 Is64v4. So, deedless and undone, unwaged and bankrupt, I throw myself on God's gift economy, and that which he gives on account of who I am-in-Christ, despite everything I've done.

Rm4v5-6 I'm struggling with Paul today. I'm lagging behind because his turn of phrase is confusing and annoying me. I'm glad he quotes the psalter; that's all I've got today, and I can pray it with Paul, & with David, in truth. Thank God for Psalm 32: // v7 You, God, are my hiding place...v11 be glad & rejoice because of what the Lord has done.//

Rm4v7-8 "Blessed" is a construction in the passive-voice, a done-to state, the well-done-good-and-faithful-servant, ultimately, is more like a steak is well-done. You are blessed, you are well-done, because your sins are covered and your sins are not counted.  "Covered", epikaluptó ~ used only here, it means covered, or even over-covered, epi-covered. Compare Mt10v26 'there is nothing kekaluptó that won't be apokaluptó' ..except for our epikaluptó sins. "Counted", logizomai ~ our sin problem, from a logistical nightmare to a logic gate scandal. Paul uses this accountancy principle, this counter argument, if you will, the same word, throughout Rm4: v3 counted as righteous, v9 not counted as gift, v8 not count sin, v9 v10 faith was counted, v22 v23 v24 count count count.. Like the memories in Inside Out, strung on an abacus, then emptied into a cosmic memory dump, into God's great forgettery. And you get Christ's credit.

Ah. The beauties of whatsapp. And Inside Out. And grace grace grace grace. Made me think of this...

Rm4v9-10 God is always beyond the boundary. God is always prior to the act. God is always Othering the powerful. And I want to be where God is. Help me to mean it, God, let my world be taken apart, that I would be where God is. (We pray with fear & trembling)

Rm4v11-12 "Sign" ~ that is, a signifier of a signified. A sign is *about* something, it is a transparent artifact of language that casts the mind's eye beyond the item at hand, it is both-and the present and the potential, it is both-and the as-is and the as-if, circumcision's main substance is subjunctive in its symbolic function describing another reality ~ as opposed to circumcision being superstitiously in-itself valuable or in-itself virtuous. Christianity is full of such signs: baptism, communion, marriage,invaluable language assets speaking of a reality beyond themself and speaking that reality into being by being so spoken. "Seal" (Es8v8, Gn41v42 etc) ~ you brand that which you already own, you offer your signature when the detail of the deal is already done. "Father" ~ Signage is but the documenting, and sealing is only the ratifying, of Abraham's faith, and it is this faith which is the qualification for his fatherhood. Does understanding faithers as fathers, suggest Christianity positively as a faith-triarchy? Are some fathers more father than others? Does this help deepen an understanding of a savourable qualitative fathers-heart? How can I better be a spiritual father in this tradition, with this inheritance?

Rm4v13-14 Paul invites us to examine Gen15 - Abraham's faith as a pattern for our own. There are many striking things about A's conversation with God here: the way that he v8 asks questions while v9-10 responding with sacrifice, that he hears God v12-16 speaking terror, yet v18 covenanting in the midst of it. But the thing that strikes me most is that God's first command is 'do not be afraid', God's first promise here is to be Abraham's shield. Faith like Abe's knows first that it is safe in the world. That is the v6 trust that pleases God. Don't be afraid, do not be afraid.

Rm4v15-16 Paul doesn't mention 'law' (nomos) until Rm2. As if, in an approximately chronological argument, there are God's invisible qualities (aorata) Rm1v20, and God's righteous judgement (dikaiōma) Rm1v32, which give individuals a sense of conscience and consequence, but then, into the room God sends Mrs Law, a utopian herald of his radical Kingdom's future perfect community. She sets up a curious triangle out of any already fraught dyad, she is a know-it-all, backseat-driving gooseberry. Mrs Law is a Third, and as such presents herself for cooption in the staging of our competitive comparative structures ~ shame, pride, etc. Paul says, v16, "where there is no law there is no transgression" - which makes a different claim to the sin established in Rm1. Law is the descriptive roadmap of where we are going, an impossible social blueprint for God's new society.
Consider cannabis (by way of happily extra-biblical analogy not an argument for ethics of legalisation) Consider the way the drug's relative legality changes your heart, and your sense of righteousness, and how Law's peculiar lawness creates a world of triangular meta-transgressions: ~ To the extent that you pharisee believe Mrs Law is on your prohibitionist side, law itself increases self-righteousness, which self-reinforces self-justifying self-understanding. ~ To the extent that you pothead understand yourself to have fallen foul of Mrs Law's grand plan, then law increases shame/despair: you are outnumbered by the pharisee and Mrs Law, and so despair's learnt helplessness gives rise to a vindictive nothing-to-lose rebelliousness. In both cases sin increases Rm5v20. But.

Rm4v17 Thinking about inheritance today with Løgstrup's emphasis on life as gift, thankful for biological & spiritual parents stretching back to Abraham as part of the gift. Various attempts to secularise 'life as gift' here, & I'm struck by how this is maybe just about possible for the creation & sustainance of life...but not resurrection. Life can't resurrect itself, only God can give life to the dead.

Rm4v18 Hope against hope, what a strange phrase. I've had various conversations about hope in the last week or so, in the midst of various chaos. Hope against hope = true hope against false hope, where false hope is escapist denial or vague optimism, both of which are simply the other side of the coin of despair. True hope, via ruin, emerges from the ashes of false hope. Hk3v16-19.

Rm4v19-20 Hope. 1Pt3v15: Do you have an answer for the Hope that you have?  Can you explain and describe Hope? Hb11v1: Do you have assurance of things hoped for? Can you defend and advocate Hope?
- Hope speaks to us, that still small voice, that voice of one calling in the wilderness, that sheep-whisperer's tone.
- We speak to Hope, we go into our room and close the door and pray, we bellow full throated lament from the mountains, we dialogue with the Almighty.
- We speak of Hope, that hypothesis, that Kingdom Come, that but-if-not, we go out to the highways and hedges inviting all to Hope.
And Faith? Faith is participation in Hope.
- Faith is living a future reality within the present, placing breakable objects within our realm of the seen onto a table in the realm of the unseen.
- Faith is a visible praxis of pointing to God, it is a risk-taking exercise in active anticipation, a Doing of a life in the light of new information.
- Faith is infectiously imaginative culture-making, bringing the art of the possible urgently into the actual, bringing the impossible into the realm of the very real, catalysing an apetite for ludricous things.
Abraham grew in faith. Such do I want for you: increasingly more more-than in your sense of today.

Rm4v21-22 Being fully persuaded. Hard verses for us doubt-filled. This is the only place this plērophero is used. It's easy to read as one-dimensional: belief as binary, as on or off - on means a pass, off means a fail. But a short meditation on the word itself brings out more nuance. Definition: 'to bring full measure, to carry out fully, to discharge completely, to be fully established in a matter of certainty, to be fully convinced, assured.' There is something active & ongoing in this word, it doesn't start from certainty but moves towards it. It can be a prayer - persuade me oh God, assure me fully, that I might understand righteousness.

Rm4v23-24 Death, so magnificent, so completely awesome, just so full, and man so small. Perennially, I am swept up in death's cult, enamoured at the sheer sublime totality of death's figure, a muscular stallion shimmering in the blackest black, there is a harrowing thrill in being reverberated by death's deafening tornado, there is comfort in the clutch of the dragon's infinitely vice-like grip. This is the most authentic submission to the most powerful and finally ultimate force in the universe. All other objects of devotion, all other artifacts of culture, all other points of reference, are shallow diversions, escapist candyfloss veils over ultimate reality. Those who peddle lives less than this, fritter frothy poodle pop parades floating down anaesthetic rivers of glibly translucent mediocrity. Come, be towards death, come bow before it and relish the raw intensity and screaming certainty of the melancholic totality. Death, for being the ultimate experience, for having the last word, is the basis for authentic living. Unless there is something more ultimate. Unless another word has the last say.

Rm4v25 'FOR our sins...FOR our justification' (NIV)? Prepositions and theology. The meanings of these 'for's blurs into confusion. The GNB is more precise here: BECAUSE of our sins...IN ORDER TO put us right with God.' The clarity helps remind us that it is actually not Christ's death alone that puts us right with God, but his resurrection. The resurrection is not an add-on to atonement, it is its substance. In death Christ comes into the human order of things, & in his resurrection we are brought into the Christ order of things. order to: from death to life.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

CROWDED HOUSE: Crowdsourcing a manifesto for new housing architecture.

At last year’s general election, throughout the Mayoral contest in May, at the current Venice Biennale, and in a growing clamour of publications, there is a prominent consensus that the dysfunction in the production of homes in the UK constitutes a “Housing Crisis”; crises even.

Both the new built supply and the maintained existing stock of homes available for rent or sale are made at the wrong quantity, in the wrong quality, at the wrong size, in the wrong place, for the wrong price.

The consequences of this constricted supply of suitable, affordable accommodation are far-reaching, most measurably visible in rising street homelessness, the spread of hidden homelessness and the impact of acute overcrowding. Less obvious, but anecdotally pervasive, are the effects on the health of individuals and on the stability of communities, whose limited housing options dictate they must travel further to work longer for less, divesting relationships and deferring life events such as marriage and children, further education and retirement. The total system is out of kilter and the price of this is largely being paid by the most vulnerable.

There are those in a blooming generation rent, the ‘precariat’ some have called it, who are suffocated by the costs and the risks at play in the roulette of a private rented sector. A swathe of Gen Y are strenuously funding repayments to a previous generation's mortgage on a buy-to-let nest egg, eking out of a cramped cell at a tube's end only just in reach of their fledgling vocation and miles from their thinly spread support community.

Then, there are those council tenants left high and dry as the welfare state ebbs to a low tide: long-term pillars of local communities who are learning new insecurities amongst failing foundations, shattered from living inside a political football, impersonally cooped in a statistical diagram of policy-makers' expedience.

And, as much deserving of our concern, those aging empty nesters, vilified as the 'have's, who prudently steward their tax-efficient asset, alone, damned by their inheritors if they down-size, damned by society if they don’t. Condemned to a protracted old-age in mono-generational care communities at the gated periphery of national consciousness.

There is hope, however.

Our ambition, in an event calling architects to think theologically about housing, is motivated, in part, by a sense of the vast untapped playground of the imagination which could be plugged into the practice of church, the formation of a parish and the aesthetics of social action. At the same time, Crowded House is motivated, in part, by a dissatisfaction with the often cynical architectural rhetoric around the housing crisis. Declaring a “Housing Crisis” must be done with a precision in our language and with humble responsibility for our own part in the problem and with a grave commitment to play our part in its resolution.

It is easy, and very tempting, for me, to consider the crisis furiously as a tragic inevitability, and to convene events around burning Thatcherite effigies to vent impotent anger at the ruin of social equality. Such housing crisis brigades rally around a brand of righteously indignant cynicism, enjoining the faithful to manage the world’s misbehaviour by cajoling housebuilders to mere minimum standards, and understanding the shortfall in housing production through a fearful and disempowering worldview of cosmic scarcity.

Christianity believes in abundance, provision, generosity and hospitality, Christianity believes God is such and that God is one who interferes in life as such, Christianity is preoccupied by the good and the excellent, it thinks on these things and seeks first that Kingdom.

Now, the housing predicament is serious, and more than an unfortunate glitch in the market, it is a culpable injustice which some speakers at the event will helpfully bring clearer definition to. However, I would like to invite the start of the discussion to begin by seeking-first that ultimate destination, the world we all want, a world of human flourishing immersed in the hedonism of urban vitality. Christians are in this game for the joy, the very real pleasure of pouring out perfume, of stories to tell, of all creation swept up in the unfolding wonder of colour and delight, divine order and glorious serendipity.

Crowded House, today, seeks to better understand the housing crisis as theological and as architectural: believing that there is a theology to good architecture, and there is an architecture to good theology.

Good theology, which clearly, precisely, passionately, outlines a worldview that  springs from the person, character and teaching of Jesus Christ. That is a personal universe, in which an infinitely perfect God, out of love elects to get amongst the grit of the world’s suffering, and long labour with his creation to redeem and resurrect those dead, broken and forgotten places. There is an architecture which speaks that declares such a God to exist, being built on such self-giving foundations

Good architecture, noble, effervescent, intuitive, humane, serving and securing human need and human pleasure, a built environment tailored to cultivate civic relational flourishing, perfecting its setting within nature, crystalising its context within history, great architecture has a theology which undergirds it, a praxis of belief, a supernatural substructure which makes it possible, and which makes it imperative.

That is architecture and theology in the abstract. Into this, we bring three very practical questions regarding the question of home, the institution of the church, and the profession of the architect. Through the presentations, walking tour, workshop and informal discussions through the day, we want to invite you to read these questions onto one another.

Of home. What is a home? An investment, a feeling, an artefact, a memory, a technological solution to the problem of shelter, a middle-class privilege at another’s expense, a crucible of trauma, an object of desire. What is a home’s source? What is a home’s excellence? Where does the resource for that come from?

Of the church. What is church? This network of geographic nodes, a diffuse arrangement of fragile relationships, the sum of its landed assets, the steeples, peoples, hierarchies and schisms, soup kitchens and fancy dress? What is the church for? How can the practice of church, and the transformation of its architectural accessories, affect the cities it finds itself in?

Of the architectural profession.What is it? An over-educated clique of naive privilege, an over-worked cohort of tireless optimists, a racket of abstract thinkers, a servant-hearted brood of problem-solvers, a cult of art for art’s sake? Why did you get into it? How do you thrive at your work? What value does an architect bring? How can the particular gifts of the craft be integrated into an often skeptical church?

These questions have been asked before and timely answers have been found, and around us there are architectural practitioners, church leaders and housing policy advocates. During the day we’ll hear more from Housing Justice about the causes of the problem, and we’ll see stories from projects including flats over a rebuilt sanctuary, homeless accommodation on church land, historical solutions in Octavia Hill’s housing, and conceptual experiments in self-build.

To conclude, I do want the informal network of ‘Christians for Architecture’ to be more than the sum of its parts, and to multiply intelligent and joined-up efforts to engage the whole body of the church in building a more just and delightful city. To this end, it is not enough to be only compassionate for those suffering bad housing, and to provide mere pain relief, patching up gaps, catching those who fall out of a cruel system.  It is not enough to be only outraged at the corrupt, divisive, self-interested ways housing is administrated and to campaign to regulate and legislate justice. It is not enough, and it is not sustainable, it is not finally effective to be only caring for and critical of the existing, Christians must create the new culture. It will not do to leave this structuring work to the market or to politicians, Christians need to be the architects, in every sense, of a better city, engineers of different way of dwelling with a different infrastructure, looking to God as the beginning and end of all emotional, spiritual, financial, sociopolitical resource to bridge protectionist divides, to heal homes, to restore imaginations, to recolour a world with the expectations of nobler and better things.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Friday, 24 June 2016

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Monday, 20 June 2016

Monday, 13 June 2016

texting romans three

Short falls every other morning. 07729056452

Rm3v1-2 The very words of God. I'm struck by the spaciousness evoked in me by the use of 'words' in the plural here. The oft used phrase used by Christians 'we're going to look at The Word' is a turn of phrase that has always jarred a little. Some possible reasons for this: (i) it jargonises and hence runs the risk of alienating those 'not in the know', (ii) it runs the risk of confusing scripture with Christ himself. Christ Jesus is The Word of God, the logos theos, Jn1v1. The Bible is not the Word of God but the words of God, (iii) How wide-open-space does the plural become, it seems to acknowledge the trinitarian multiplicity of many-words in divine dialogue, and the fact that God continues to speak, God heart is the revelation of Godself with words and more words, to his children. The Bible itself is like this, a multiplicity & a conversation within itself. We are apt to totalise it, to reduce it to one thing, because it's easier, tidier, more efficient to do so. But to be entrusted with the very words of God is to treasure them all in symphony.

Rm3v3-4 In the reality that is fractal, the Christ event is perennial, constantly a baton to be dropped between generations, a word to be lost in translation. Your Christian upbringing was Jewish. What advantage was it? Great in every respect, but.

Rm3v5-6 We love to fetishise our brokenness...'Welcome to my broken, messy glorious life' and a thousand other slightly inane equivalents strapline the Christian blogs aplenty (plus shiny smiley photo) that I am quite apt to digest as though it were real life. 'Brokenness' and 'darkness' are used unto death. Not to despise anyone's attempt to live faith in the public sphere, I do not know how to do it either, but I must remind myself that brokenness is to be loved, not to celebrated.

Rm3v7-8 God loves sinners. God seems to especially disproportionately offensively unjustly love sinners 1Co1v27 Mk2v16.. In the story of the prodigal son, the moral of the tale is: live fast, reckless, loose and shameless, so that God will come looking for you, reward you, kill the fatted calf for you Lk15v23. No? Where does a grasp of grace go awry? Something in me enjoys to be this surrealised consequentialist, competing in a rhetorical race for the bottom, freeloading on the blind watchmaker's cosmic slot machine. Freeloading is a phenomena that makes sense in a context of scarcity. Scarcity is a false premise.

Rm3v9-10 A bit like 2v1, God is in the habit of smashing every bit of self-righteousness we might indulge. Maybe true prayer and fasting is participation in pulling away this carpet from under us, a labour, through vertigo, to surrender all self-image. Help me to pray oh Lord.

Rm3v11-12 Paul collages a theology of total depravity using only soundbites from the Jewish Psalm book. Could he do such from our hymnal? My underdeveloped sense of the breadth and depth of my own corruption steers and is steered by selective song selection. So, sing forgotten songs, and liturgies of repentance and lament. Know, that through negligence, through weakness, through my own deliberate fault, I do bad things, I do wrongly, because I understand wrongly v11 and so desire wrongly v11 (and sing wrongly). Then, with better epistemelogical humility, know Jesus as the only sufficient subject for new desires, the only credible author of new understanding, and the uniquely capable engineer of a renewed heart and mind.

Rm3v13-14 Their throats are open graves. Interesting re our conversation on Saturday on venting vs bitching. What is an open grave? There's a death metaphor here of course, the way that words can be life-denying in all kinds of ways, but there's more to the metaphor . An open grave is an exposure of death, an active disregard for the health of others, a decomposing, contagious body left to rot, exposing the whole social environment to decay and disease. Words, like dead bodies, need to be appropriately contained. An open grave is also a hazard for others insofar as it can be easy to fall into, to find oneself down in the depths in a fumbling uncautious instant. An open grave further does not dignify death. Things do die. Things fall apart. But words, as graves, can either honour the personhood of those involved, or not. Words can dignify the reality of brokenness, or treat it cheaply. A prayer: may our words today be well-contained, transparently marked, and deeply dignifying.

Rm3v15-16 Footloose to bad blood. In this cascade of criticism cataloguing the complicity of various body parts in the enterprise of evil, 'feet' shed blood. Isaiah thought so Is59v7, Solomon thought so Pr1v16. Swift feet, like some Wile E. Coyote, speeding to mischief, why do I? My appetite for evil is not only pervasive, thorough, total and determined, it is also speedy, impatient, restless and always first on the scene. My speedy sins are sins of omission muchly, swift sins of neglect, expedient half-finished half-truths, I'm quick to quit, and in so fleeing I leave a world to bleed.

Rm3v17-18 The way of peace. I only made the connection for the first time in last night's meeting that the reason we 'share the peace' as part of the ritual of communion is because of the command to leave our offering at the altar and to make peace with brother & sister before bringing it to God. In communion we make peace by confessing and repenting of our sins before God, & also by intentionally blessing those with whom we do life, namely those who grieve us, & those whom we grieve. The fact I had always categorised this as an inexplicable Anglican quirk is telling, as is the way I enact this ritual, awkwardly, ironically, always slightly looking over their shoulder rather than into their face. God, in the reality of true grievances, we want to walk in the way of peace.

Rm3v19-20 Law, what is it good for? Say it again y'all. The re-emphasis is needed, again and again. Because this is not how we are taught to understand Law. Contrary to my every striving religiouse inclination, God's Law is not prescriptive, it is descriptive. God's perfect holy Law is not a kit of moral parts, it's not a road map to a good-enough threshold, it is an equation detailing an orb of mathematical infinity laser cut into a vacuum.

Rm3v21-22 Apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known. Christ is apart from the law. The law might point to Christ, & Christ might motivate us to keep the law for the right reasons, but insofar as God is made known to us Christ and the law are completely different categories. Often in thinking of Christ as the fulfilment of the law I think of Christ as like the law but just a bit more. And soteriological models that only focus on penal substitution picture Christ as simply returning us to a model of law. But Christ is a whole new dimension, a 3D of God where before we only had 2D. Like a helicopter lifting us of train tracks, to borrow an image. This is good news, for the law brings with it anxiety, Christ brings a wide open space. A completely different way of knowing God, which has always been true. So I want to understand Christ, where I doubt, I want the bigger dimension.

Rm3v23 Fall short. Did you ever play Prince of Persia? An 8-bit oblique isometric universe of swords, potions, gates, intrigue and the seeds of my architectural imagination. Certain jumps could be landed, certain jumps could be caught if made well timed from a running start, but fall short and you plummet through screen after screen of vertical scrolling. and That visceral sensation of free-falling, that lurch in your stomach as the plane hits a front of low pressure, that cold creeping sense of falling behind with your repayments, slipping under into a murky subterreanean world of bottomless debt, guilt and shame. I fall short and keep on falling, screaming to a terminal velocity, being resigned towards death, and as we fall together everything in the cabin becomes relatively weightless.

Rm3v24 But you haven't fallen short. You haven't fallen short. He out-ran you to the bottom. You haven't fallen short.

Rm3v25-26 I struggle with prolific & throwaway references to 'the blood', perhaps in a similar way to use of 'the word'. Partly because it's become Christian jargonised and its meaning becomes lost, it's nuances blunted. We don't believe that Jesus' actual blood was some kind of magic potion, we don't believe in blood sacrifice...the death and resurrection of Jesus precisely overcomes the sacrificial system, it tells us that there is no superstitous quasi-quantitative transactioning of guilt for grace. Grace blows apart the whole system. Paul knows this when he tells us shortly that what it is to be a Christian is to die with Christ and to be raised to life again Rm6v4-7. An entirely different process. Let us take care with Paul's phrases, therefore, so ensure that we don't turn them back into law, striving or superstition.

Rm3v27-28 What then becomes of my-tits-are-more-feminist-than-your-tits? It is excluded. There is no comparative praise left, as there are no fractions of infinity. Don't wanna black-or-white you, but such is the law of faith, all a bit all-or-nothing. Terrifying, but that Jesus paid it all for nothing. While owing him everything, I can pay him nothing, but he still thinks I'm worth something. Boast in that. And speak that infinite-valuation over every soul who thinks their value exists as a vague shade of grey of on a sliding scale of one-up-man-ship notches.

Rm3v29-30 Of course He is. Of course God is God of Jews and Gentiles. Of course all true worship is of the One God. Of course all truth is God's truth, what other kind could it be? There is rest to be found in the logic of the infinite. There is no place on earth I can go, no person I can encounter, no dilemma too complex, that God is not already there and involved, the creator, sustainer, source. Breathe deeply: of course of course of course.

Rm3v31 More raw jaw on the law from Pau'? But much needed, because I resist the law, just as much as I fall from faith, perpetually. Paul is doing battle with my fundamental rationalisations, my deep system presuppositions, my reality structuring assumption which renders an infinite-personal-God as an oxymoronic dichotomy. God is just-and-merciful as he is infinite-and-personal: like an idiosyncratic circle? Yes. Perfect as a hovering white platonic cube in the void, and yet curiously besotted with Sarah, peculiarly empathetically morphable to her own unique brand of sinful disfigurement. And my experience of God as such is no particulate glitch or granular anomaly, no perceptual quirk in the continuum, God in his Godness has fashioned a universe which both-and conforms to mechanically just laws whilst being entirely satisfied and remedied through personal faith.