In my previous post, I started a short series on ‘missional lifestyle’, and set out a basic framework for discussing what that might look like. But before I jump into the details, I thought I ought to write a second ground-clearing post—this time focusing on the relationship between lifestyle and legalism.
Michael Clark, Australian cricket team vice captain, recently confounded his critics by scoring a career-best 168 in a test match against New Zealand. He had every excuse not to. Before the match, he’d had a week that had included a broken engagement to a celebrity model, a dash across the ditch, time away from training, public accusations of lack of focus and commitment, and intense media scrutiny because of it all. But contrary to his detractors’ doubts, it seems that Michael Clark has got mental toughness!
I’m told ‘mental toughness’ is something that frequently appears as a goal of military training. That’s no surprise; we don’t want those defending the nation to wither at the first sign of difficulty or opposition. There’s an equivalent in the world of parenting and education that parenting gurus and school advertisements call ‘resilience’—the emotional ‘surefootedness’ to survive failure and disappointment that parents want instilled in their children to equip them for life.
These Saturday posts are looking at past Briefing articles on ethics, infertility and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in anticipation of the subject of the next issue of The Briefing. First, we grappled with Michael Hill’s question of how much (and whether) humans should meddle with God’s creation. Then Kirsten Birkett showed us what happens when science and technology, ethics and morality, and human rights rub up against one another. This week, Andrew Cameron deconstructs some of the rhetoric surrounding the 2002 debate in Australia about when life begins:
It’s time for some free association. I’ll give you a word. Close you eyes and tell me what springs to mind. Ready?
What did you come up with? Kids? Caring? Apple pie? I’m pretty sure none of you came up with the word ‘salvation’! But in the Bible, motherhood and salvation go hand in hand.
David McKay has raised two important issues about the idea of an impassible God that, I think, would naturally occur to many people confronted with the idea. And so we’re going to bump one of Martin Shields’s excellent concerns out in order to highlight another excellent issue raised by David:
One question I have is about the incarnation and exaltation of Jesus. I understand that one of the wonderful benefits of Jesus’ incarnation and exaltation is that God became Man and that Jesus remains forever an exalted Man. He is God but he is truly human. One of the things I take from Hebrews is that we have a great high priest who is a perfect man who is interceding for us. It is nice to know that he had the experience of being a man like us. He suffered and was tempted like us, but he was triumphant over all this suffering and temptation. He never sinned.
But I would have thought that it is important to know that he still feels for us now as an exalted Man. Has he retreated from sharing truly in our experiences and become impassible again? The more I think about it, the more this doctrine makes God to be cold and unfeeling.
On a church camp recently (not our own church, but another one), I had the chance to take part in a discussion with a group of women about what a ‘missional lifestyle’ might look like for us in our various life situations. (My husband Dave was involved in a parallel discussion with the men.)
Stimulated by that discussion and a few of the loose ends left over at the end of it, I thought I might turn my thoughts into a short series of blog posts on the subject. I’ll do my best to write in a way that isn’t fixated on the things that are particular to my own situation. Instead, as far as possible, I’ll try and think the issues through in a way that opens up the conversation to other people in different life circumstances. But if the examples along the way tend to be a bit ‘mums-y’ at times, I hope you’ll understand and forgive!!
The basic framework for the conversation at the camp went like this:
If you’ve just joined us, this next lot of Saturday posts will focus on the thorny landscape of ethics, infertility and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in keeping with the subject of the next issue of The Briefing. Last week, Michael Hill worked through the question of how much (and whether) humans should meddle with God’s creation. This week, Kirsten Birkett looks at what happens when science and technology, ethics and morality, and human rights rub up against one another:
Martin Shields’s second point is, in my view, the most important of all. He argues that God is no Humpty Dumpty from Through the Looking Glass:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
(Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Macmillan, London, 1871, chapter 6.)
Most of us agree with Alice that large anthropomorphic eggs sitting on walls don’t get to use words with completely different meanings. Words mean what they mean. And that’s Martin Shields’s second great concern:
Ben Hunter, plumber
Ben Hunter is a plumber. More precisely, he’s husband to Charlotte, father to Josiah, Lydia and Nathanael, a graduate of Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC), a most-of-the-time plumber and a part-time TAFE chaplain. (In Australia, ‘TAFE’ stands for Technical and Further Education, and TAFE colleges provide a wide range of vocational tertiary education courses.) (more…)
The Holy Spirit
Sinclair B Ferguson
Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, 1996. 288pp.
“Why are you scared of the Holy Spirit?”
“The Trinity you believe in is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Bible!” (more…)
What could be stranger than stranger evangelism?
‘Stranger evangelism’ is a misnomer. Forget the comparative; we should use the superlative instead, for isn’t it the strangest evangelism?
Martin Shields offered a series of very thoughtful concerns in response to the last post in my series on impassibility. In the process, he raised a bunch of key issues to do with how we read the Bible. His concerns are profoundly important questions that affect far more than the issue of impassibility. So I’m going to offer in these four posts what I think is at stake in Martin Shields’s concerns and why I disagree with him in the hope that the debate might stimulate all of us forward as we live in the knowledge of God.
In some missiological circles, if ‘evangelism’ is a ‘boo word’, then ‘interfaith dialogue’ is a ‘hooray word’. Evangelism is so one-way, so high-and-mighty, so two centuries ago. Interfaith dialogue doesn’t assume one ‘faith’ is better or more enlightened than another; nor does it mean that one is telling the other, for it is an attempt at a two-way mutual sharing, and its aim of ‘mutual understanding’ sounds so much better than the ‘conversion’ of another.
I guess Elijah’s encounter on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal wouldn’t be a ‘prooftext’ for such dialogues, nor would Jesus’ uncomfortable words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
Is it possible to be focused too on the cross of Christ?