My name is Tim… and I am wee – some might say “tiny” even; ‘Tiny Tim’, if you will. On every other day of the year this would be a wholly unremarkable observation. One day a year, however, it becomes a powerful message, for it
Suffering and sorrow are not in themselves evils… rather, they are the consequence and the response to evil.
It is therefore beside the point to call God unloving or evil for allowing suffering, as if this made him the architect of evil. Suffering/sorrow and evil, while interrelating realities, are not the same reality; to say that
At least for homosexuals who don’t believe in God, the critical concern in their contact with Christians who hold to a conservative theology (ie. who don’t believe that same-sex desire/intercourse is part of God’s original plan for creation) is not the question of whether their homosexuality will send them to hell.
Think about it: if they don’t believe that God, heaven or hell exist, then this particular question can’t be a ‘real’ concern that grinds against them and causes their hackles to rise whenever they meet a Christian believer.
No, the real concern (at least in most cases) is surely:
Death is never something to be made light of.
Even – perhaps especially – when an ‘opponent’ of yours dies, it is right to honour their memory. In life, someone may have taken on the role of persistent sparring partner or even sworn enemy but in death they are always your fellow human being.
Less than two years ago I had the honour of watching Christopher Hitchens dismantle a rather bumbling Catholic philosopher at a debate in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. At the book-signing afterwards, I brushed past him as he passed by me on a quest for a glass of whiskey; his cancer diagnosis
My devotion to Steve Jobs and all things Apple is well known amongst my friends, family and acquaintances; call it an overflowing of enthusiasm, call it a an character flaw, call it disturbing cultish behaviour, it has been an ever-present part of my life for as long as I remember.
I would like to believe, however, that my devotion, while at times excessive, disturbing and verging on the idolatrous, is not ‘completely’ blind. Take for instance last week’s article in the New Yorker on Apple’s new HQ in Cupertino. It doesn’t take a genius to observe that both in terms of size and design, the whole project smacks of hubris. This hubris of course is built into the company’s self-image at the deepest level, from the allusion to Adam and Eve’s original sin in the logo to the incessant repetition of “i” and “me” in all of their products. There is not even any attempt to disguise it through some sort of illuminati-style symbolism.
Yet this latest plan takes this ostensibly ‘playful’ sales pitch to a slightly more sinister place. One of the
Some stories are as devastating as they are hopeful.
Take the story of Nico, the prisoner endowed with an unspeakably beautiful voice. Every year he appears before the board of the prison and sings for them yet all they can do is
The freedom of the human will “is” a reality… but it is always relative to the domain in which the human subject resides. Thus a sinful human can only choose from amongst a variety of sinful options, for these are the only ones his dominus (the devil) offers. This is why regeneration (the enlightening and animating work of the Holy Spirit) must precede faith in Jesus. (Col 1:13; 2 Cor 4:6; Isa 9:2; Gen 1:3)
Everyone knows that in real life fairy-tales and politics don’t mix… recent events in the UK notwithstanding. But they should.
To understand why, we need to start a bit further back – with anthropology. Reformed theology regards the Bible’s teaching on anthropology as being reducible to the following idea: since the Fall of humankind into sin, the power of “contrary choice” (the ability to choose between ethically righteous and ethically sinful options) has been taken away and replaced with “alternative choice” (the ability to choose among various sinful ethical options).
This reality is made manifest through our politics.
There is a gospel according to Tim. It is might speak about a Christ and his death on a cross for my sake, but it flows from a God created in my image, who conforms to my own sinful likes and dislikes, my flawed personality and my pride-ridden insecurities… and if you follow it, it will send you straight to hell.
There is also a gospel according to (insert your name here). It too will probably speak of a Christ and his death on a cross for your sake, but it will look different to the gospel of Tim. Let’s say that due to my personality, I am the kind of guy who
Jesus speaks of a basic principle that works in people’s lives:
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt 23:12)
What is he saying here? Simply this – that a false reckoning of oneself (arrogance) leads to humiliation, whereas a right reckoning of oneself (humility) leads to dignity and honour.
This is one of the most primitive truths of the Bible; indeed, when we view it in light of the cross of Christ, it stands as the most fundamental principle of the universe.
Before we get there, however, just to point out the universality of this principle, let us consider
I took my dream and spade in hand
I ventured out into the land
To plant it in a special hole
To shore the breaches in my soul
Alas the tree when autumn came
Did no fruit yield of worthy name
Such lifeless buds and bitter taste
Did prompt to burn it down post haste
I savoured thus the burning smells
Of erstwhile idols sent to hell
Now onwards hence I could proceed
With plans afoot for fresh new seeds
The plant which grew up from the ash
Of dreams which had all burned and crashed
Did please indeed, yet for a while
For soon I had no cause to smile
It grew and grew and blocked the light
And turned into a ghastly sight
It drew me up into its arms
And lured me near with deadly charms
The danger I did fail to sense
Until the foliage was so dense
That no way out was to be seen
And none drew near to hear my screams.
Entrenched was I in endless night
With no recourse to change my plight
I served my dreams, those dev’lish thoughts
Which made my paths of no import
Then grazed my ear a foreign sound
A tortured scream though much profound
And at its noise my dreams did fade
As light my darkness now unmade
And in its place a tree of light
Which scattered sweetness o’er the blight
This tree is life and joy and peace
The balm to make the nightmares cease
The seed a man whose dreams were pure
Who did not choose to stay secure
But took my shame and fell to earth
And rose again to give new birth
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do If with His love He befriend thee.
Running, always running
Towards an unlocked gate
Turning, always turning
In trying to thwart my fate
Hiding, always hiding
From monsters in my head
Crying, always crying
To drown this sense of dread
In a recent survey conducted in the Law/Economics/Politics Faculty of the University of Athens, an overwhelming majority of students declared that, for them, the greatest value of all was “freedom”.
The immediate difficulty that arises from such a conclusion is the fact that freedom is such a broad term
(To be sung to the melody of “When I Survey”/«Προσβλέπον τον σκληρόν σταυρόν»)
More than the hairs upon my head,
The sinful ways in which I tread
Yet still your mercy never fails;
Your steadfast love, it still prevails.
The piercing of your only Son,
Who not one sin had ever done,
Is life to me; the guilty free;
The righteous stricken on that tree.
I look to self and fain would weep
At my disgrace; it runs so deep.
I look to Christ and praise your name,
For he has covered all my shame.
Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. (Jesus in John 16:7-8)
Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, it is highly likely that you have been puzzled about the role and significance (if any) of the Holy Spirit in your life