Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Isn't the Bible unreliable and irrelevant?

I gave one of the lunchtime talks on behalf of the Evangelical Christian Union at Exeter University today. These are public events, with food, a talk and Q&A.

The talk is a mix of Ian McEwan's melancholy stories, John Gray and Brian Cox on the story of progress, the speeding neutrino moment, a smattering of manuscript evidence, an introduction to Luke's gospel, and a bit of the parable of the sons.

Download mp3 including the Q&A (40mins) 

I was basically pleased with how it went, feedback was positive and the four questions asked were good questions. I went in with a bit too much material and full-notes which I dipped in and out of - less would have been more helpful. Live and learn. Hopefully I can use a version of this again at other CUs in the South West this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Sub-Atomic Particle That Was Caught Speeding (or, what could convince Philip Pullman to believe in God)

BBC takes five minutes with Philip Pullman in which he speaks of his love of storytelling and plot - which I love, life is a story. We all have a story to make sense of life's big questions - about how we got here, about what (if anything) is wrong with the world, about how to fix things, about where we're going... What's your story?

Ian McEwan gives Bryony Tallis a tragic story that she wants to give a haappy ending, but can just make up a story. Facts and evidence matter. And experience.

Pullman admits that it's not a rational argument that could convince him to believe in God but rather a direct experience (which suggests its his experience of a lack of experience of God that means he doesn't believe) - experience drives so much of what we believe!... and of the stories we love.

 Meanwhile, four minutes with Brian Cox on the particles that might have been caught speeding: Brian Cox on the possible rewriting of a century of physics. I'm guessing we'll find that there was an error in the experiment but it's worth checking it out. What if something happens that doesn't fit with what we know? What can we do... check the evidence thoroughly but also be prepared to see our world turned upside down. What if people met a man who had died and now appeared to be alive? What if the evidence stacked up and you had to re-write the story you previously had? Would you investigate the evidence for yourself?. What might you uncover?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spirit Break Out and 10000 Reasons

This week I've been enjoying the recent worship albums from Matt Redman and Worship Central. The roots of both albums are the youthful Spirit-filled life of Soul Survivor church and festivals, though both are now more directly connected to Holy Trinity Brompton or it's Brighton church plant St Peters. This is what comes out of the Church of England at it's best.

We've been using some of the Redman songs in church and last week at UCCF Forum, and I'm taken by them - songs like Bless the Lord O My Soul (or, 10000 reasons) are melodic worship songs that allow the heart to be lifted, and Here For You is the heart's cry to meet with God. I also love We could change the world - what if the gospel is as good as it seems...

Spirit Break Out has a slightly different feel - it's a more edgy live album, and features several different lead musicians from the Worship Central collective - and even a bit of Graham Kendrick's Shine Jesus Shine turned into a rap by Myles Dhillon - a welcome revival of his great lyrics that call for the Spirit to blaze in our hearts and our nation. Songs like Ben Cantelon's Saviour of the World are great expressions of the greatness of Jesus, and the title track gives words and music to express my desires.

Personally I'm still waiting for the next Matt Giles album but in the mean time these two offer some great new songs about the old old story. They serve the church because the people of the Triune God are a singing people.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You're Welcome

Why is the church in China growing? The BBC report:
"But in church people feel warm, they feel welcome… they feel people really love them so they really want to join the community, a lot of people come for this."
Of course the church grows because the Triune God builds it, but the least you can expect if that's happening is a relaxed and warm welcome. Jesus is friendly and the church imperfectly reflects that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins?

I'm intruiged by Richard Dawkins new teenager-targetted 273 page book (released Sept 15th) which attempts to dispel the beautiful myths that humanity loves - aka the world's religions. Evolution he says is "more poetic than the bible" (so much for it being science then....)

Jeremy Paxman interviews him (from about 37mins onward) on Newsnight. He's persuaded that evolution tells a better story than the old stories we love... I'd have loved to have seen him debate with JRR Tolkein on Fairy Stories. He admits to being affected by Genesis, but wont believe its true... because only "stupid and ignorant people" would believe it... instead he says, believe the better story of science.

The best story should win - and will win - and shouldn't just be the best story but the truest story too - he's right about that. Now we can talk about both the quality of our explanatory stories and the evidence for them.

Further Reading: The Magic of Reality - Richard Dawkins - Amazon 
On Fairy Stories - JRR Tolkein - PDF

ps: the bit when you ask in your book where did the light come from before the sun in Genesis 1.... Richard, that'll be Jesus.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Transformission 2011 - a chat with Mike Reeves

Last week at Forum 2011 I had a chat with Mike Reeves about Transformission 2011, a free one day conference happening on Saturday 22nd October at Belmont Chapel, Exeter, 10.30-4.30pm. Targetted as a launch to a year of united student mission but open to the wider church. No booking required.
Shot on the campsite, hence the chatter and wind noise. Unedited.

Monday, September 05, 2011

#FORUM2011: Leaders in Mission

 Today 121 students, six staff and seven Relay from the South West will join with around 900 others at this year's FORUM conference. This is a leaders conference for students, to equip them for mission. A leader in that case isn't someone who has a "job" in a Christian Union but someone who is on mission, influencing others, leading the line to win students to Jesus and see the local churches built.

You'll be able to follow along at #forum2011 and UCCF on Facebook where I'd expect an outpouring of social media. I'm camping so subject to getting access to enough power I'll tweet along.

Teaching will be delivered by CU staff - I'm co-leading a track with Jo Larcombe and Cat Caird on Being Disciples of our Transforming God which will be an adventure into espousal and adoption theology applied to our lives and mission. Worship will be led by Canterbury CU Staff / City Church Canterbury worship leader Olly Knight. And we'll be joined by guest speakers Mark Meynell and Becky Pippert. I'm looking forward to catching up with Adrian Holloway who'll be a guest during the week ahead of his involvement in student mission this term.

I'm looking forward to praying for the spread of the good news about Jesus. I'm looking forward to everything about it. This will be my 12th time at Forum and I love the way it's shaped students lives, launches us into effective mission in Freshers week and beyond. I love that some CU's send 20-30 students along to catch the vision.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Plentiful: The Taste of the Gospel

Something about tight-fistedness, smallness, monotony, lack of progress, lack and loss of life grates against us. It feels out of place. Not proof in themselves of how things are meant to be, but a hint engraved on our hearts that this world isn't meant for frustration.

The story validated by the historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus is different. Tracking backwards it says the Triune God created a world in which there is fruitfulness and multiplication, in which emptiness is filled by beings who will spread outwards. The love of the generous Father is like this. A fountain of life, flowed from the hills of Eden and from the heart of the Father to his Son and to the world. He gives his son, and he gives the Spirit. He gives and goes on giving.

When people curve in on themselves he comes out to them, and keeps on coming. And when he wins their hearts he turns them inside out so they cease to overflow with sewage and begin to overflow with spirit-filled life. When invitations are refused the word goes out to the highways and byways, always reaching, always drawing, always inviting, always embracing. In love he stands waiting and looking for the irreligious and climbs the hillside to plead with the religious - longing to embrace them that they might enjoy his joy. The love of God overflows and overflows.

His ways are not neat and calculated, his steadfast love is not dispassionate and measured, the gospel is not a mathematical formula to fix things. His salvation is not merely a functional rescue but relational welcome. Salvation is not a pill or a pass or pattern for living that he gives us, for he gives us himself. To know, and to know more. To fill us and fill us more. When we speak of the gospel we mean the news which needs words yet struggles to find words wonderful enough to express the heart of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Plentiful is an adjective meaning existing or yielding great quantities; abundant: as in 'the wine is plentiful'. A gospel word.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
Psalm 130:7