Damn, I missed it again! Yesterday was the feast day of St Nikolai Kasatkin, Enlightener of Japan, one of the most important unsung figures of Japanese missiology.
Look, I realise this might be seen as trying to provoke a reaction. I'm not. I've just had three thoughts hit me at once, and found a common strand in them.
While I'm being contentious, here's something I've been thinking about for a couple of days as a result of a Usenet discussion. What is a Christian? I've come to believe that's actually the wrong question. It is, to be sure, only a very recent question, one which has occupied only the past, say, 10% of the Church's life, and so, since it's very new, and since it's a wildly different category of question to the ones we're used to answering, as a Church we don't really have a very good answer yet. The answers that we do have seem to start “someone who accepts” or “someone who believes”, which rather reduces Christianity to a set of dogma, a bunch of formal propositions to be accepted. This doesn't look anything like the informal way in which Jesus banded his followers together, and how they continued to operate after he ascended. (Perhaps a better definition, if we have to have one, would start “someone who has been transformed” or “someone who has been met”. But we like verifiability, so that probably wouldn't fly.)
We speak of the Gospel as “good news”. Luke's Gospel is particularly known as “good news to the poor”. But if the Gospel is good news to the poor, is it not also bad news to the rich? The other day I was reading the Magnificat, and that day I went for a walk into Chalfont St Peter, a nearby village which must be one of the most wealthy areas in the country. I couldn't help thinking how difficult it must be to be a Christian there. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Not difficult. Impossible.
I was going to rant and rave about how Bible software like Logos and Accordance makes you pay huge amounts of money for public domain texts. I imagine to replicate my Sword library of Bible texts and commentaries would cost me over $500 with either of those two solutions, which is a shame, because I got all that for free. But, just for once, before ranting, I thought I'd check out why it is this way. I wrote to Logos and Accordance to ask why they charged so much for free stuff. Accordance wrote back; Logos did not reply.
Hermeneutics - how we know what something means - is a subject that gave me a lot of frustration at Bible college, and continues to plague me. Hermeneutics classes generated far more heat than light; I came away at the end of the course not with answers but with a better class of questions. You go around and around in circles: How are we supposed to read the Bible, and who says? How do we determine the interpretation of a difficult verse, and who has the final say? Read more about Warning: Hermeneutics may cause World War III
I came across an idea when I was at mission HQ which seems enticing; that Christian witness should not just transform lives but have a transformative effect on society as a whole. Crime rates would fall, marriages would stay together, education would improve, all because there were active Christians witnessing in the area. It’s a good idea, but with the new nenkan coming out, I decided to do a little bit of thinking. Read more about Transformational Evangelism
Here's a fun news article:
Well, of last year, really. But it's something that I keep getting drawn back to. Martin and Hazel are doing great stuff in Argentina, and thinking hard too. This is a part of one of their blog posts that really spoke to me: