When I went to Bible college, we were taught about a variety of theological viewpoints, with the implication that you would pick the one you liked the look of, since, you know, we’re all Protestants and so there’s nobody to tell you which one you should choose. (Although we will happily treat you like a heretic if you choose the wrong one.) And in terms of learning to work in multi-denominational teams and whatnot, that was all very useful to help us understand each other and, hopefully, not treat each other too much like heretics.
But we were also taught about contextualization and about presenting the Gospel in ways that make the most sense to the recipient, and so now when I come back to this idea of choosing which theological camp you belong to, I can’t help thinking, “Do I only get to choose one?” Read more about Can we be theological chameleons?
A funny thing happened last week. One of the communities that we’re part of here, a deaf signing group, went on an outing. The plan was to visit a deaf school, walk from there down the hill through a temple to view the autumn leaves, and catch the bus home from the bottom of the hill. Because of having Caitlin with us, we came by car, which messed everyone up. (Rule one of Japan: Don’t be different.) So the group leader, being a good Japanese leader and so knowing that the most important thing is to keep the group together, did something very clever. Read more about A sign that divides
Something in the newspaper the other day got me thinking about apologetics and the tradition of Christian debating. The more I think about it, the more I think that Tertullian was right: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” It seems to me that Christian apologetics is a losing proposition, for several reasons. (Some of which I’ve written about before.)
I don’t tend to go in for apologetics per se because if you’re trying to convince someone of the reasonableness of your position, you’re already on the back foot. It’s basically like trying to convince people that you’re sane - if they don’t think you are, arguments won’t help. But there is another aspect about the way that most proponents today go about apologetics that makes me think that they’re doing it wrong, wrong, wrong. Read more about Apologetics these days
It’s now clear that we live in the proverbial interesting times.
Long-established dictatorships in the Middle East crumbled within a matter of months in the face of mass non-violent assembly - although nobody is yet sure quite what happens next. That doesn’t happen all the time. Entire European economies are failing in slow motion. Tens of thousands of people are currently right now in protest at… well, basically at the whole way Western society works. Sure, that happened to some degree with the student protests in the 1960s, but this is global. The relationships and even the rules of international diplomacy are being rewritten as a result of a small bunch of volunteers who believe that information wants to be free, and they’re not alone in that belief.
Each of those is a once-in-a-generation thing, and they’re all happening at once. I think all this means that we’re sitting on an inflection point, the kind of thing that keeps the history books interesting. Read more about Interesting times
Many of my friends are also missionaries, and missionaries tend to communicate with each other and with their friends “back home” by sending out newsletters. You know like those “family news” letters that people put in with their Christmas cards, the ones you never read or regret it when you do? Those. I feel like I ought to care about what these people are doing, especially if they’re my friends, and yet I end up binning most of these newsletters either totally or partially unread.
Now there could be several reasons for this. It could be because I’m a cold, uncaring person with a miniscule attention span. I am willing to give that possibility a lot of thought. But I think there are other potential reasons that aren’t due to my own narcissism: Read more about Why I didn't read your newsletter
There’s a famous Japanese joke called Zenzai Kousha - the Red Bean Soup Public Corporation. It’s a satire of Japanese bureaucracy: A man sees a sign on the street saying “try our sweet bean soup!” So he goes in, and has to stand in line for an interview where they take his name, address, age, occupation, how often he has a bath (“Twice.” “A day?” “A year.”) and so on.
Finally he gets given a form that he has to take to the accounts desk and pay 100 yen document preparation fee. At which point he has to have a health check. (“On the eighth floor.” “Is there an elevator?” “That wouldn’t be very healthy.”) He gets to the eighth floor, and the doctor’s office is closed for lunch. When he finally sees the doctor, the doctor gives him a form which he has to take to the accounts desk and pay 100 yen document preparation fee. Next he has to get a certificate of permission for the use of fire in cooking. And so it goes on. Eventually, after crossing the town to get to the Red Bean Soup Public Corporation Annex, he gets his sweet bean soup, and it’s not even sweet - of course not, says the waitress, we’re a public corporation; we’ve already sucked all the goodness out of it.
Man, that final pun is totally impossible to translate.
Anyway, let’s change the subject, and talk about church planting in Japan. Read more about Bean Soup, Inc
Just got a bunch of my books back from being in storage for two years and then shipped away for scanning, and I came across this interesting quote in one of them:
While we were in the UK, we were part of one of the Church of England’s Fresh Expressions communities. Fresh Expressions is basically the CoE does emerging church. A few people have asked me if I would write up my thoughts on that time. I think now after a few months away I probably have a little bit of critical distance to be able to sit back and do that.
But not very much critical distance; writing about a community of people that you know and love is really fraught. My intention here is to think about what it meant to be church together, and not to call out anyone for anything in particular. So I’m going to file all the names and numbers off this post, because even if the principals involved may recognise themselves, I don’t think it’s fair if Google picks anyone up. Read more about Reflections on an emerging church
A while back I wrote a rant in response to Paul Eshleman’s truly extraordinary paper for the Lausanne one-way “conversation”, which I softened up for academic publication and then promptly did nothing with. Now the time seems right to dust it off, convert it back into rant format and post it here. Read more about Rethinking people groups