Monday, 7 April 2014

Have to take a break

Various pressures mean that I have to take a break from blogging at the moment. Hope that you'll stay connected as I hope to be back before too long, with more on new approaches to the Bible.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Faithfulness and Freedom: Divine Drama and Pilgrim Improvisation

In my last post I ended with the increasingly popular insight about regarding the Bible as a great Drama in which God's purposes are being gradually unfolded, acted out in history. A Drama which we get to enter into and play a part. One of the most popular advocates of this way of viewing how we we live under the authority of Scripture (as opposed to it as a rule book, blueprint or big book of answers) is N T (Tom) Wright. He speaks of the Five-Act Model (as in a Shakespearean play) and suggests that the 5 Acts are: Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus and Church. Others have suggested modifications to this but my main concern is with how we relate the Drama so far (recorded in Scripture) to how we live out the Drama now. And with how we live out this Drama not only  in the light of what has gone before, but also in the light of the final scene, the ultimate end of God's story. Doing this is a better way of understanding how we live under Scripture's authority.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A Big Story Told Through Many Stories

I said in the last post that I now try to primarily engage with the Bible as God's Big Story (as well as a Sacred Place where we experience transforming encounters with God). This is not new, and right across the Christian theological spectrum there has been an emphasis on the narrative nature of the Bible for many years now. But people put this observation to varying uses and still end up with very different views of the Bible and of what they think it teaches. I also don't think what has taken place in academic and more reflective parts of the Church has always connected with popular Christianity at the grassroots, especially among pentecostal-charismatics. We have tended to concentrate on the Bible as a 'sacred place' of encounter; and then used it as a book of answers, a rule book, or blueprint when we wanted to argue the case for our beliefs and assumptions. Having said that, in the best sermons I have heard, the preachers have actually

Friday, 28 February 2014

Exploring New Approaches to Scripture

Most of my previous posts on this blog have been what some have called 'theological throat-clearing'. That is, they have been about explaining where I am coming from, why I am writing these posts and making some introductory points. It is now time I got on with saying something about specific and substantive issues and subjects. I am starting with the Bible.

In my last post, I said that one of the main safeguards for avoiding pitfalls, as we freely explore new theological perspectives, is 'staying rooted in the Story of Scripture but being willing to review how we have understood it'. The issue of what we understand about the Bible, how it is authoritative and how we are meant to read and engage with it is, for me, one of the most pressing, exciting and challenging issues on the theological landscape today. It is also the one that has been central and instrumental in my own journey as I

Friday, 14 February 2014

Theological and Spiritual Freedom

It will be obvious from previous posts that I believe part of being a pilgrim on the journey of discovery involves a large degree of theological freedom. That is, it means being willing to explore different perspectives and not to be locked into the accepted orthodoxy of your group or tradition. Being free to question, challenge, explore. Such freedom is not without its dangers or challenges. Freedom is dangerous in many ways - witness the aftermath of the Arab spring, for example. It can be tempting to want to retreat to the 'safety' of theological dictatorship or conformity - believing what we are told or what everyone else believes, without question. But I believe the value of freedom is such that it is worth learning and attempting to negotiate its challenges and pitfalls (and there are many) in order to enjoy it - that's true of social, political, spiritual or intellectual freedom.

Monday, 3 February 2014

What Do I Mean By Pilgrim Theology? Part 2

I gave a slightly rambling explanation of what I mean by pilgrim theology in my last post by explaining how some recent reading and thinking (and perhaps some older but latent attitudes) have moved me in this direction. In this briefer post (hopefully) I want to try and capture it in a more vivid way.

In doing so I will use a contrast that I used at the end of an earlier post, critical of fundamentalist trends, and that is implicit in the review of Bauman's book referred to in my last post. It is the contrast between the Fortress and the Pilgrim's Path.
[I acknowledge that this involves some caricature - I exaggerate to make the point - and please realise that I am using it to identify certain trends, currents and attitudes; and not to attack or criticise any particular group. I am also aware that there are other models that can be used to speak about our relationship to truth, e.g. witnessing, proclaiming, being transformed by etc. In this blog, I am focusing on how we think about truth, i.e. do our theology].

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What Do I Mean By Pilgrim Theology? Part 1

In the strap-line beneath the blog title above, I have indicated that these posts are intended to be personal reflections on pentecostalism and pilgrim theology. So what do I mean by pilgrim theology?

First of all let me say that I was using this term before I came across a quite new handbook of Christian doctrine called  A Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton. Although in browsing this book and knowing the 'stable' that Horton comes from, I suspect that I will disagree with him on quite a number of things, I do appreciate two emphases he highlights in his introduction. One is the communal and historically-aware nature of theology:
'To study theology involves entering a long, on-going conversation, one that we did not begin'
The idea of theology being a journey that has gone on for centuries and that must involve engaging with

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Two Areas of Concern

When I first tried writing an ultimately un-posted critique of my pentecostal-charismatic experience, I realised that my frustrations, concerns and criticisms fell into roughly two broad areas. The first is what some refer to as revivalism, and for the second I use the admittedly complex catch-all term, fundamentalism. It is the second of these that I am most concerned with in my present theological pilgrimage, but let me first say a little about the first as I will no doubt return to it from time to time also.


By using revivalism in a critical way, I am decidedly not criticising belief in revivals (as sovereign moves of God) or commitment to spiritual vitality and an experiential-emotional dimension to our faith (as opposed to

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Place of Critical Reflection in Pilgrimage

apologize for being so slow in starting to post here again. I have struggled to get back to this 'theological blog' after my 'fast' as quickly as I intended partly because of the busyness of the season and partly because I have been unsure exactly what step to take next. Having been clear in my last post on what I can celebrate from my pentecostal heritage, I actually wrote a long post on some of my frustrations, concerns and criticisms of it (theological and practical), but felt it was in danger of being too negative. It could almost seem that what I had given with one hand I was taking a way with the other (so I didn't post it). Then I thought more about my hesitancy.

I recognise that there is a challenge and a tension between honouring our heritage and idolising it. When I began to shift in some of my perspectives and beliefs a few years back, I remember praying to God to help

Monday, 11 November 2013

Celebrating My Heritage

My plan is to use this blog partly to engage in personal critical reflection on pentecostalism (note: critical here does not mean only saying bad things!). I intend as well to explore some theological paths that have perhaps been avoided by popular pentecostal thinking, (perhaps partly because it has been hijacked by fundamentalism). But before I set out to do that, I think it is important for me to highlight some of the things that I would want to affirm and celebrate about my pentecostal heritage. That's what this post is about (and then at the end I explain why there have been two posts so close together, and offer an apology for a bit of a false start).

Firstly, let me say that I recognise that there are many forms and expressions of the pentecostal movement and this is just my perspective on the part of it that I have experienced (see here for the first post on a series