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- Page 6

  • I Need a Bigger Brain

    This is my conclusion every time I read another book or encounter another idea!  This week having managed to maintain the new regime, and enjoying it, is no exception.  I read stuff on spirituality and it sparks ideas on historiography; I read a book on historical methods and postmodernity and neurons start firing to remind of stuff by Paul Fiddes and Walter Wink.  Every answer conceals a dozen questions and the whole of a conceiveable eternity would be too short to work through them all (yes, I know, a conceiveable eternity would not be eternity).

    In Spirituality and Theology, I have just read the chapter on Julian of Norwich and realise how partial/distorted a presentation of her I gleaned from my spirituality courses.  Women mystics always did my head in with their endless headaches and illogical approach, but here I found a more helpful look at some of Julian's writings.  In particular, her reference to God as Mother; part of her expression of trinity as 'Father, Mother, Lord.'  It is not that God is 'like a mother', more that our experience of 'mother' is a reflection of that aspect of God's Godness (btw, I invented the word Godness, even if anyone else did before me!).  Although our experience of the earthly points us towards God, it is actually the reflection of God that we see.  Does this make sense to anyone else?  I see echoes of it in one the funeral prayers in the Baptist Brick (Gathering for Worship, great book but too big to fit in your pocket/bag) which says 'We thank you for the ways in which N’s life has shown us your goodness, mercy and love.'  I have used this prayer for some time and can now do so with new insight.

    My research is trying to look at Baptists thinking about change (even if I feel I am being pushed/pulled/coerced into other directions) and my reading about historiogrpahy/historical method has kind of touched on some of this - though what follows may be incoherent!  Historical method/historiography has changed over time, as have the ways in in which people think, but I think my overarching question 'how does studying the past affect present and future' remains valid, i.e. by studying how people in the past approached change, in so far as it is possible to reconstruct this, what lessons can be learned that can affect our present and shape our future?  Although history (both as recorded and as understood) is itself a subject of change, it remains an agent of change.  Maybe I have too many variables here, but in the search for truth, a provisional, demonstrable and defensible argument may be the best that is achieveable and presents a 'practical realist' (thanks Appleby et al, Telling the Turth about History) response drawing on the strengths of the 'modern'/'scientific' methods of the past and the 'post-modern'/'contextual' insights of the present.

    One interesting challenge, I think, is that a lot of church and Christian history is written in an 'Enlightenment' fashion, i.e. the God-factor is omitted in the quest for objectivity.  In a so-called Postmodern age, is there now permission to write this back in, albeit in a more tentative, provisional way that might have been done when Queen Elizabeth I allegedly saw the hand of God defeating the Spanish Armada?


    Please God, can I have a bigger brain - or at least a processor upgrade on the one I have?

    No my child, my strength is made perfect in weakness, the one you have will do fine.


    Ah well, plod on!

  • Is Postmodernism actually Modern?

    OK, so you need to understand the language games to make sense of this question (post modern) but I think it is a fair question to ask.

    Having (finally) found a real attempt by a serious writer to explain what they understand by both Modernism and Post-modernism, I am left with the question of whether the latter is really an example of the former.  If modernity sought absolutes and was the product of a white, male-dominated, Euro-centric context, then Postmodernism is actually thoroughly modern, isn't it?  Its overarching absolute is that there is no absolute and most of its thinkers, seemingly, are French men.

    OK, so this is over simplistic but the slide from modernity to post-modernity, like that from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment is exactly that - a slide not a sudden paradigm shift.  As a child of modernity, post modernity carries with it the taint of its forebears and expresses itself through the very structures and norms it resents.  The way it is described and critiqued (is that subtly different from problematised, a, seemingly, Postmodern word?) in the book I'm reading leaves me thinking that it is as yet in a kind of 'adolesence' where it is more concerned at kicking against its forebears than becoming a self-reflective 'adult.'  Again, I'm sure this is over simplified and next week I'll read something that answers my questions - we'll see.

  • Ancient Post-Modernity

    A definition:

    'In those days Israel had no king: everyone did as they saw fit' (Judges 21:25)


    A comment:

    'What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun' (Ecclesiastes 1: 9)


    On Deconstruction and langauge games

    'In the begining was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God' (John 1:1)


    I wish I could claim originality for any/all of this but I can't!  The first quote emerges from flicking through chapter titles in a book on the quest for objectivity in historiography and then thinking, hmm, I wonder how many readers will know that is from the Bible, let alone where.  The other two are my own connections - but given that almost every time I get a new insight I read about it soon afterwards I'm sure that Ecclesiastes 1:9 holds here too.

  • Is this true?

    In Spirutality and Theology on page 67 the author refers to the work of a Canadian philosophical theologian called Bernard Lonergan and says this: -

    'Lonergan's language frequently sounds empirical.  This may be explained by Lonergan's mathematical and scientific background - unusual in a theologian'


    People often make this assertion about a perceived 'unusualness' that a person trained (and in my case also an experienced practitioner) in maths/science/engineering would have an interest in theology and/or be called to ordained ministry.  But is it true?  My college principle was trained as a theoretical physicist before stuying theology, other college principles I know of include at least three others with backgrounds in physical sciences and several fellow students had qualifications in scientific fields.  Maybe the overall proportion is small, or maybe the assertion is flawed. 

    Given that both the 'history of history' and the 'history of theology' stuff I've read in the last couple days refers to a 'scientific approach' within both fields, I'd have thought it entirely feasible that people with a scientific background could/would also make reasonable theologians (not that Sheldrake says they can't, merely that they are unusual) or historians - or even both.

  • Bad Theology - Naughty Theologian

    Today I saw this sign in the window of a nearby church



    Come and Find Jesus

    Here in 2007

    I know what they mean, I really do, but it isn't what it says.  So where was he last year?  And where will he go next?  Is he hiding in the church or is he there to sign books/photos?  Sorry, I am very naughty.

    At its least awful, it reminds me of the orignal 'Spot the Dog' book Where's Spot?  So, where's Jesus?  Well depending on your theology you could come up with a lot of answers but here're a few...


    • Is he in the pulpit?
    • Is he in the baptistry/font?
    • Is he under the communion table/behind the altar?
    • Is he in the flower-ladies' cupboard?
    • Is he in the boiler room?
    • Is he in the vestry?
    • Is he under the pews/chairs?
    • Is he with the hymnbooks/data-projector/OHP slides?
    • Is he in the Bible rack?  No, but you're getting warmer!
    • No! here he is...


    • Is he at the parish church?
    • Is he at tte Baptist church?
    • Is he at the Methodist church
    • Is he at the etc etc church?
    • No!  Here he is at our church


    • Is he in the supermarket?
    • Is he in the pub?
    • Is he dancing in the street?
    • Is he dancing on suspicion's graveyard?
    • No, no, no.  Here he is at 10 a.m. every Sunday.

    Naughty theologian, daring to mess with people's posters.

    Look out for thunder bolts hitting my PC/desk/head - or yours if having read this far you are adding your own ideas.