Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blessed be the name...

YHWH and the LORD: does God have a name?
When you read the Bible, you might have noticed that in the Old Testament many versions put 'the LORD' at some points and 'the Lord' at others. Why is this?

It is a deliberate choice made by the translators, and reflects a different Hebrew word behind each option. In fact, where it says 'LORD', the Hebrew has the name of Israel's God: 'Yahweh'. Since Hebrew used to be written without vowels, the name is actually written just 'Yhwh' (sometimes people write it like this: YHWH), and 'Yahweh' is a best-guess for how it might have been said.

However, sometime along the track,* pious Israelites, who read the ten commandments and so knew that they shouldn't take God's name in vain, decided that the best way to avoid committing this sin was to never say the name (Yhwh) aloud at all.* That way, they could be sure that they would never misuse it (I don't think this move is either necessary nor sufficient, but I respect their reverence). So, instead of saying 'Yahweh' (or however they used to pronounce it), they would substitute the Hebrew word 'Adonai' (which means 'lord'),* or sometimes* 'Hashem' (which just means 'the name').
* I've generalised a little for simplicity; see here for a fuller explanation.

In later centuries, when they started adding vowels to written Hebrew, instead of adding 'a' and 'e' to YHWH (so that it read 'Yahweh'), they added the vowels from 'Adonai' (i.e. 'a', 'o' and 'a') in order to remind themselves that when they came across this word, they should say 'Adonai' (with the vowels) rather than 'Yahweh' (reading the consonants).

Incidentally, this why some people speak about God’s name as ‘Jehovah’, but you won’t find it in any modern translation. Sometimes the Hebrew letter yod is transliterated with a ‘j’ rather than a ‘y’, and sometimes the Hebrew letter waw is transliterated with a ‘v’ rather than a ‘w’. Thus, YHWH becomes JHVH. Then, when you add in the vowels from 'Adonai', you get JeHoVaH! So ‘Jehovah’ is a made-up name, a mistake made by those who didn’t realise that the vowels had been substituted. It would be a little like taking the vowels from 'Jesus' and putting them into the word 'God' to end up with ‘Gedu’.

Next: what happens in the New Testament?
Ten points for picking which church door is pictured. Five more for which passage is quoted.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Life is an old man carrying flowers on his head,

young death sits in a café
smiling, a piece of money held between
his thumb and first finger

(i say "will he buy flowers" to you
and "Death is young
life wears velour trousers
life totters, life has a beard" i

say to you who are silent. - "Do you see
Life? he is there and here,
or that, or this
or nothing or an old man 3 thirds
asleep, on his head
flowers, always crying
to nobody something about les
roses les bluets
will He buy?
Les belles bottes - oh hear
, pas chères")

and my love slowly answered I think so. But
I think I see someone else

there is a lady, whose name is Afterwards
she is sitting beside young death, is slender;
likes flowers.

- e. e. cummings

Rubble is the future

"Rubble is the future. Because everything that is, passes. There is a wonderful chapter in Isaiah that says: grass will grow over your cities. This sentence has always fascinated me, even as a child. This poetry the fact that you see both things at the same time. Isaiah sees the city and the different layers over it, the grass, and then another city, the grass and then another city again."

- Anselm Kiefer, 2005

Is it still wasting time...

...on the internet if you're sick and 'relaxing' in order to get well?
Some silly & serious links for those short on internet material
Boxlogies continues some fine insights, criticisms and suggestions about Middle East politics.
• The new CASE magazine came out this week. Had a couple of great reviews...
Chris fails to self-censor, tries to offend Lutherans and ends up tango uniform. On a less frivolous note, I'm looking forward to the rest of his series on The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism.
• R.I.P. Pluto, unless Rick Warren gets his way... (H/t Alastair and Ben).
• Speaking of Alastair, here's his thoughts on why non-conformist evangelicals often don't like Anglicans (warning: written with the zeal of a convert).
• And speaking of Ben, don't forget that his thoroughly stimulating Theology for Beginners series continues (he's up to #9).
• Phillip Adams has an interesting take on Australian politics, and recognises along the way that neither side of politics has a monopoly on Christianity. I tried to make a similar point back here and generated my highest ever number of responses.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The end of grace IV

The ultimate goal: the Father
I spoke at the start of this series about the end or goal of grace for humanity as a society liberated from fear, suffering and death, a city of creative possibilities.

But there is so much more to this perfection of humanity; there is the Father.

Christ is the centre of Christian thought (despite a previous whimsical post), because (as David rightly pointed out), all things are through him and for him and in him all things hold together. Or as Paul puts it elsewhere, it is through Christ that all things came and through him we live. Christology is centre, but the goal, the direction, the world's true telos is found in theology proper, in the Father: from whom all things came and for whom we live.

Christ's life, death and resurrection are rightly the centre of our knowledge of God, the centre of our hope, but even these were ultimately for the glory of God the Father. This gospel story, summarised in the phrase 'Jesus Christ is Lord', has a final chapter in which Jesus hands the kingdom back to the Father.

This end of grace ensures that grace doesn't end. There is always more to come...
Important discussion in comments. Ten points for naming the town in this pic.
Series: I; II; III; IV.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The end of grace III

The graciously delayed end
I've been posting recently on grace and eschatology, or rather, grace in eschatology, or perhaps, eschatology as grace.

God takes his time with us. He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence. At least from our perspective, there seems to be a chronic postponement or delay in God's decision to call a halt to the ongoing catastrophe of life ruled by death. However, this pause is actually itself motivated by grace. Strangely, while the end will be the culmination of God's free action to defeat evil and reclaim his world, that he doesn't make it happen now is also a gift. The temporal 'gap' between rebellion and its consequences might make rebels bold. The causal 'gap' (or at least inadequacy of correspondence) between those who perpetrate destruction and those who suffer as a result might lead to the prosperity of the wicked and the pain of the (relatively) innocent. But God's patience is motivated by his desire for human repentence. While the victim cries for justice, God commits their cause temporarily to fallible and provisional human courts - courts which not only often fail, but always must fail to provide the infinite justice that grief demands. This too is gracious: avoiding the destruction of society in a mounting storm of reprisals, a multiplying echo-chamber of vengeance. Abel's blood cries from the ground, but God graciously marks Cain to prevent human attempts at pre-empting final justice.

Final judgement delayed speaks of mercy; the guilty may turn aside from their fatal path and live. Provisional human judgements upon wrongdoing are a partial and often bitter gift. But the open question of the when of divine justice grates those who have received injustices. Mercifully pausing for the sake of the guilty, graciously providing for the continuance of human society despite grievances that threaten to tear it decisively apart, God reminds us that the victim is not the only party in need. The wrongdoer is threatened by internal disintegration, social recrimination, and divine wrath. Their plight is dire indeed, and without the merciful space afforded by divine delay and the limits set upon human retribution, the self-destructive logic of their acts would itself bring about a catastrophic end.

Yet where is God's grace for the victims? How long will they have to wait for their day of vindication? Sorrowful concern for the sinner comes after righteous indignation for the sinned against. What gift does God have for them? How is the gospel good news for the poor and oppressed? The blood of Abel still cries, as does the shed blood of all the martyrs, innocents and wronged: 'how long, O Lord?'

But there is a better word than the blood of Abel. The cry of those faithfully leaving room for God's vengeance is not forgotten. But it is not answered on its own terms either. The sprinkled blood of Christ is a better word than the victim's cry for vengeance. God's justice involves not simple and immediate retribution, but a gracious sacrifice made on behalf of wrongdoers. For God's desire is that none should perish. He asks the victims to relinquish their demands, or at least to let them be transformed in the light of divine wisdom. He asks for trust: that his dealing with wrongdoers will satisfy the wronged.

Does he then go easy on the perpetrator while asking the victim to lower her expectations? Must she exchange her thirst for retribution and accept God's reforming work in the criminal instead? A partial answer is that the wrongdoer does not avoid death through repentence, but accepts co-crucifixion with Christ. But this is not the full answer. God's eschatological justice has arrived and been executed upon Calvary, but it remains hidden - as Christ is hidden. In Christ, God has begun graciously satisfying both victim and offender.

But grace is not over yet. There is more yet to come...
Series: I; II; III; IV.

Moltmann: Resurrection and life now

The resurrection hope makes people ready to live their lives in love wholly, and to say a full and entire Yes to a life that leads to death. It does not withdraw the human soul from bodily, sensory life; it ensouls this life with unending joy. In expectation of the resurrection of the dead, the person who hopes casts away the soul's protective cloak in which the wounded heart has wrapped itself, so as not to let anything more come near it. We throw ourselves into this life and empty ourselves into the deadly realm of non-identity by virtue of the hope that God will find us in death, and will raise us and gather us.

- Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God, 66

Ten points for which Sydney suburb this pic was taken in.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Eschatology and the One Ring

I've always suspected that eschatology (or here or here) is a little like the One Ring of theology...

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the new light bind them

... or not?

(H/T Daniel at Sibboleth for sparking this thought). NB: important discussion in comments.

"Two men went up to the temple..."

"Two men went up to the temple to pray. The first was a Pharisee, and the second a publican. And the publican stood up and prayed like this: O God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are: two-faced, holier-than-thou, proud, arrogant, self-righteous, or even as this Pharisee. And the Pharisee would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast and said: Lord, have mercy on me, a hypocrite."

-N. T. Wright, Small Faith—Great God, 1978. H/T Alastair.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Unexpected windfall

Thanks to Ben for his generosity and for being clever enough to have a similar sense of humour.

PS His series on 'Theology for Beginners' is also progressing nicely and looks set to become a very useful little resource.

The end of grace II

The Trinitarian foundations of an eschatology of grace.
After a pause, I return to my theme of grace in the end. I began with some thoughts on the end as a free gift for humanity. Of course, despite - or actually, because of - their eschatological theme, these thoughts are intended as reflections upon the way, not as pronouncements from the end.

What is grace? Not a thing, but a reason, a motivation, a desire. Or perhaps, the lack of a reason. That the end is all of grace means that it is brought about by the free act of God. Divine freedom is not conditioned or constrained by anything outside the love of Father : Son : Spirit.

So perhaps better than grace as lack of reason, is grace as superabundance of reason, but reasons located within the Trinitarian life. A free gift does not arise from fear. God's grace is not driven, a chasing after. God's acts towards us are free because of the overflowing joyful love of the Father for the Son, Son for Spirit, Spirit for Father - and back again: 'You are my Son, the beloved; in you I am well pleased.' The Father's affirmation of the Son as he begins his task of restoring and renewing the world is thus the basis for Christian hope. At the same point, the Spirit rests upon the Christ in bodily form as a dove as an indication of the unity of the Trinity in this task, bound together not by the world's need, but in common love, fellowship, koinonia. The Father's work undertaken by Christ in the Spirit is therefore gracious, arising from the very identity of God, not through an external constraint or debt owed to his creatures.

And the corollary is that the Son delights to do his Father's work:

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and revealed them to infants: yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father; or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'

- Luke 10.21-22

The closed circle of divine knowledge in which only the Father knows the Son and the Son the Father is the basis for all human knowledge of God. Who Jesus is and what he does are closed to those who don't know the Father. Who God is and what he does is closed to those who don't know the Son. It is only by an initiative from the divine side, from inside the circle, that we can know anything at all. This is why our hope is based on divine grace. Without the final startling exception (and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him) we would remain ignorant of God and his promises.

Since it was not our goodness or need or failure to disqualify ourselves that resulted in God's action, we need have no fear that humanity can thwart God's intentions. Indeed, the very point at which the powers of humanity against God were at their strongest was the very point at which God achieved the centre of his purpose (Acts 2.23): what we intended for evil, God nonetheless used for good (cf. Gen 50.20).

God's love for the world, the love that resulted in his sending his Son so that whoever believes may have the life of God's coming age (John 3.16), is not based on the worth of the world, but on the faithfulness and joy found within the fulness of Father : Son : Spirit. And that love is never exhausted.

Grace is not over yet. There is more to come...
Eight points for the first to link to another shot of this cross.
Series: I; II; III; IV.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Jessica!

My beautiful wife turns a year older today.

Feel free to share your thoughts on or for the birthday girl in comments.
And, of course, ten points for the location of each photo.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

O'Donovan: Resurrection and renewal

Wonderful O'Donovan quote
"It might have been possible, we could say, before Christ rose from the dead, for someone to wonder whether creation was a lost cause. If the creature consistently acted to uncreate itself, and with itself to uncreate the rest of creation, did this not mean that God's handiwork was flawed beyond hope of repair? It might have been possible before Christ rose from the dead to answer in good faith, Yes. Before God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope that we call 'gnostic', the hope for redemption from creation rather than for the redemption of creation, might have appeared to be the only possible hope. 'But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead...'. That fact rules out those other possibilities, for in the second Adam the first is rescued. The deviance of his will, its fateful leaning towards death, has not been allowed to uncreate what God created.
"The resurrection carries with it the promise that 'all shall be made alive'. The raising of Christ is representative, not in the way that a symbol is representative, expressing a reality which has an independent and prior standing, but in the way that a national leader is representative when he brings about for the whole of his people whatever it is, war or peace, that he effects on their behalf. And so this central proclamation directs us back also to the message of the incarnation, by which we learn how, through a unique presence of God to his creation, the whole created order is taken up into the fate of this particular representative man at this particular moment of history, on whose fate turns the redemption of all. And it directs us forward to the end of history when that particular and representative fate is universalized in the resurrection of mankind [sic] from the dead. 'Each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ'. The sign that God has stood by his created order implies that this order, with mankind [sic] in its proper place within it, is to be totally restored at the last."

- Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order, 14-15.

Usually, my quotes come with a caveat, but not this one. This expresses very much where I presently stand. The picture is from a hill to the south overlooking Firenze.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The end of grace I

The end is a free gift for humanityPrologue: from garden to garden city
The Bible ends with a vision of a city: a glorious picture of human relationships and interdependence, of action and rest, of productive peace between difference, of 'healing for the nations'. A huge city filled with life. This is not a city that relies upon exploiting the surrounding countryside, pushing the land to produce more than it is able to sustain: this city exports life-giving fruit twelve months a year. This is not a city that needs to huddle together for fear of the extremes of nature, nor one threatened by invasion. It is not fractured with internal division, nor oppressed by monotonal uniformity.

Is this the original utopia? No, because this end is 'of grace' - not that grace comes to an end, but that this end is the result of God's free gift. Just as Jesus was 'of Nazareth' and Saul was 'of Tarsus', so this end is 'of grace'. This city is not built with human hands, is not a realised utopian vision of human progress. It comes down from heaven, signifying the divine origin of its establishment and the source of its life.

There is another famous city at the other end of the Bible: Babel. In it human hubris reaches for the heights. Its skyscraping was not for maximising office space, but for forging a link between earth and the heavens from the human side upwards. Ever since, urban development has been an ambivalent achievement: drawing people together, increasing possibilities, maximising human creative and productive potential; yet also dislocating communities, atomising individuals, disintegrating ecosystems. The cities of the world are at once humanity's greatest achievements and our most painful failures.

John's vision of the end is all about grace. It is achieved not by human effort but is a gift from the riches of divine love. It does not come with the achievements of the powerful, nor will it be hindered by the failures of the weak. It is an environment for humans, and for a large and complex human society. For it is the fulfilment of the central thread and hope of the biblical narrative: the divine promise 'I will be with you.' The city is a picture of the final result of God's action: not that we depart to live with him, but that he comes to dwell with us, in our kind of space, though one that he himself has supplied.

This is the start of the end of grace. There is more to come...
Ten points for picking the location from which this pic was taken.
Series: I; II; III; IV.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Grace in the end

Eschatology is founded upon and directed towards God's grace revealed and promised in Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

This has been my basic assumption and message in the blog thus far (particularly those key posts marked with an asterix down on the right). After receiving some helpful critical feedback about my tone, direction and focus, I would like to commit afresh to posts that:

Focus on an eschatology of grace
While not exclusively eschatological, or even exclusively theological, I'd like this to be the integrating theme.

Are exegetically engaged and engaging
As Barth's final advice to his students so memorably put it, exegesis is the heartbeat of theology. While not every claim needs to have all its working shown, I apologise if I've succumbed too often to the temptation of unexplained theological shorthands. I read a good analogy last night: slogans and shorthands are briefcases into which a whole theological narrative can be packed for convenient travel. But the point is to unpack it when you arrive, rather than engage in a squabble where each sides hits the other over the head with a briefcase.

Contain exegesis of my assmptions as well as Scripture
Similarly, I apologise if I haven't always been as transparent about my own working assumptions as I could have been. We can never escape having them, and must always struggle to articulate and remain conscious of them. Revisable and provisional, they remain an enabling condition of all communication and living.

Include more links between posts
Since reading a blog is the reverse of reading a book (thanks Adrian), it is possible to have a reading experience in which one arrives at conclusions without consciousness of the arguments on which they are founded. If you are new to reading blogs, be gracious, extending charitable assumptions towards the blogger that somewhere, somehow this crazy point might already be explained (or shown to be satirical!). And I'll try to do my part.

Are constructive as well as critical
It's easy to take pot shots from the sidelines, harder to suggest an alternative. Again, apologies if you feel I've been indulgent in this respect. Time to stick my neck out a little more; feel free to have a swing (esp if you'll then take your turn on the block!).

• Occasionally involve kite-flying, satire and links
Not every link is an endorsement; some are there for illustration or opposition rather than support. Not every post is to be taken as a monological declaration of truth. While I'm writing on the 'final' things, this blog is certainly not a final word. Come and join the conversation. I won't bite (unless requested).

Often have pictures
They seem to be popular. And hey, they're often the best thing about my posts. Ten points for the location above.

Are gracious in tone and manner, as well as content
I like those bumper stickers that say 'My driving is on display; please call XYZ if you would like to comment.' Consider yourselves invited to comment not only on what I post, but how I post it.

One of the things I like most about John Piper is the title of one of his books: The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace. The future of grace: that's where we'll be headed for the next little while. Feel free to join me.
Ten points for naming the city in the pic above.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

News from around the globe/corner

Some links and personal updates
NT scholar and blogger Ben Witherington has seen a movie and written a review that does (at much greater length) what I've been hinting at over the last few weeks: draw links between eschatology and attitudes to the environment.

Geoff has started a new blog, with a great post on new beginnings.

Nic got published in SMH Good Weekend.

I've recently realised that there are a whole host of MTC bloggers:
Faculty: MPJ, Thommo*.
4th yr: Paget*, Geoff, Mandy
3rd yr: Seamus, Bec, David, Mark, Naomi, Marty*, Russ*.
2nd yr: Ben, Dani, Gavin.
1st yr: Ang, Ben, Craig, Josh, Rebekah.
Let me know of any more!
*P-plate bloggers: will they put in the hours to get their licence?

The overplayed rivalry between USyd and UNSW (and between EU and CBS) has been ignored in the latest move from CBS, inviting Robert Forsyth and Ian Powell to speak at their current mission.

New CASE site. CASE = Centre for Apologetics Study and Education. I'll be giving a couple of lectures over the next few weeks at a CASE course called "Christianity and Contemporary Thought". All welcome: Tuesdays 5-6pm New College UNSW, by donation.

Ben is starting a series on Theology for Beginners. He's just posted his 21-part outline.

Annette has arrived in Freiburg, the eco-city.** To celebrate, she's started a new blog for Freiburger photos.

**From Wikipedia: Freiburg is known as an "eco-city". In recent years it has attracted solar industries and research; the Greens have a stronghold here (the strongest in any major German city; up to 25% of the votes city-wide, in some neighbourhoods they reached 40% or more; figures from the 2002 national elections). The newly built neighbourhoods of Vauban and Rieselfeld were developed and built accordingly to the idea of sustainability. The citizens of Freiburg are known in Germany for their love of cycling and recycling. ...
In June 1992, the Freiburg city council adopted a resolution to the effect that it would only permit construction of "low energy buildings" on municipal land. All new housing must comply with the low energy guidelines. Low energy housing uses solar power passively as well as actively. In addition to solar panels and collectors on the roof, providing electricity and hot water, many passive features use the sun’s energy to regulate the temperature of the rooms.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Secular authorities

How are Christians to think of 'secular' authorities?
In a comment from a recent post about political authorities, Matheson asked: what does it mean for our attitude towards participation (which Drew encourages us to take up responsibly) that these are merely secular authorities, in the sense that they are of this "age"?

This, of course, was a leading question.

Secular is derived from the Latin secularis, which is from seculum, meaning 'age or generation'. It was a term used by the medieval church to denote what belonged to the sphere of the 'world', or at least of the world of this age, as opposed to what pertained to the age to come. Thus, by calling political authorities 'secular', this was not primarily a way of designating a 'separation between church and state' (though this idea is thoroughly rooted in Christian conceptions of authority, despite its frequent misunderstanding and abuse in much contemporary debate).* Instead, such authorities are secular because their authority is temporally limited. Their existence will continue prior to the eschatological victory of Christ in which he will 'destroy every ruler and every authority and power' before handing the kingdom over to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15.24). Thus the primary Christian stance towards secular political authorities is freedom, knowing that they are passing away, that their authority is limited and temporary. The primary political duty of the church is to bear witness to the coming rule of Christ, reminding governments that their role has a use by date and that they are not to pretend otherwise by setting themselves up as absolute authorities. Within this freedom, the Christian is liberated for joyful obedience to these provisional structures while awaiting the resurrection of the dead and with it, the destruction of the ultimate resort of every tyrant: death.
* See Oliver O'Donovan The Desire of the Nations (and presumably also The Ways of Judgment) for this argument. Indeed this post is a brief summary of one thread in his thought, as Matheson was well aware when he made the comment.Since Matheson's comment sparked this post, I thought his smiling face should end it. Five points for the first to name the thing behind Matheson. Ten points for the institution in the first shot that is being turned into a mere silhouette by the rising Son. (Yes, groan all you like; I know you're sitting there wishing you'd said it first. And yes, I know the sun is actually setting - poetic licence).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Even Homer hugs trees now

Check it out. (H/T Matheson)

I particularly liked this:
I would enjoy watching dazed stockbrokers and ad men clawing at the dirt for edible roots. I'd remind them that they'd been warned of their folly, right here on the BBC website.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lewis on the body

"And what, you ask, does it matter? Do not such ideas only excite us and distract us from the more immediate and more certain things, the love of God and our neighbours, the bearing of the daily cross? If you find that they so distract you, think of them no more. I most fully allow that it is of more importance for you or me today to refrain from one sneer or to extend one charitable thought to an enemy than to know all that angels and archangels know about the mysteries of the New Creation [...]. Yet I will not admit that the things we have been discussing for the last few pages are of no importance for the practice of the Christian life. For I suspect that our conception of Heaven as merely a state of mind is not unconnected with the fact that the specifically Christian virtue of Hope has in our time grown so languid. Where our fathers, peering into the future, saw gleams of gold, we see only the mist, white featureless, cold and never moving.

"The thought at the back of all this negative spirituality is really one forbidden to Christian. They, of all men, must not conceive spiritual joy and worth as things that need to be rescued or tenderly protected from time and place and matter and the senses. Their God is the God of corn and oil and wine. He is the glad Creator. He has become Himself incarnate. The sacraments have been instituted…. After that we cannot really be in doubt of His intentions. To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth is we cannot be trusted even with the that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may someday be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else – since He has retained His own charger – should we accompany Him?"

- C. S. Lewis, Miracles, 171-72.

Despite frequent platonic tendencies elsewhere, in this passage Lewis manages to keep resurrection at the centre of Christian hope, and thus allows the gospel to provide the controlling categories of eschatology, rather than the Augustinian time/eternity split he commonly uses.

Did you know?

The ingredients of an average US caesar salad travel about 3,700 km (2,300 miles for pre-moderns).

You are more likely to die from a meteorite strike than in a plane crash.

Poor countries account for only 0.4 per cent of world trade. Since 1980 their share has halved.

Israel is the fifth largest military power in the world.

Bishop too king? Putting nominators to work

A thought on Anglican HR
Thanks to Dave for this thought.

Anglican churches in Sydney have a complex and fascinating system for replacing rectors (senior ministers/senior pastors/priest in charge/etc). I'm not sure how similar/different it might be elsewhere; I'd love to hear. As part of this process, each year the vestry meeting (=AGM) elects around five people to be 'nominators' for the year. This means that they are entrusted with the weighty task of doing nothing all year. Nothing, that is, unless the rector leaves/dies/commits gross sin. If the parish is thus left without senior leadership, then this group starts looking for a replacement. They have a very busy and weighty job of selecting, interviewing, and making recommendations to the Archbishop (there is then a further complicated process in which both the Diocese and the parish have a significant say. As I understand it, this is significantly different to many Anglican dioceses in which the bishop is king). Anyway, much as I'd love to hear reflections on/experiences of this process (or those within other systems), my main point is that nominators don't do anything for years at a time (one Sydney parish had an incumbent for 36 years recently: a long time between drinks for the nominators...).

But, what if... rectors were to make use of nominators at other times? In particular, whenever there is a new staff appointment to be made, the rector could use the nominators as a consultation panel, or to do the legwork, or to run the interviews, or all of these and more. I'm a big fan of consultative leadership. I also like the fact that the rector has tenure in a parish and can't easily be dismissed at the whim of a congregation. The ideal is for rector and congregation to build a relationship of trust in which the rector can lead by invitation and example, by exhortation and consultation, rather than decree. This is all fairly obvious, and indeed, it might be that most parishes already do something like this (if so, let me know). In any case, perhaps making use of nominators in this way (as the trusted elected representatives of the parish) would be a simple but effective way of demonstrating and building trust, of training nominators through letting them cut their teeth on smaller decisions, and of ensuring that new appointments fit not only the rector, but also the congregation(s).

PS This post is no criticism of any recent staff appointments at church. It arose from observing the bun-rush for parish jobs amongst fourth years at college at the moment and reflecting upon the variety of processes found amongst parishes.
Ten points for naming the Sydney church in the pic.