The daily ‘quiet time’ (I don’t like the phrase; I’m not sure why – something from childhood) is the centrepiece of evangelical spirituality, and surely a source of much guilt. It’s hard to do. The Bible is hard to read afresh; prayers sometimes fall so flat.
I’ve been glad in recent times to find a few things which have worked for me.
1. Take Our Moments and Our Days is an Anabaptist prayer book. It’s designed for use in corporate worship, but is of value to the individual to read to themselves. It’s a wonderful combination of liturgy and Anabaptist themes. Each liturgy has a call to praise, a call to discipleship, and a call to intercession. I don’t have a Kindle, but bought the Kindle edition and read it on the Kindle for PC program. Sometimes it feels too much to try to do in a morning devotion, but I have been blessed by it.
2. Thank you, Methodist Church in Britain, for ‘A Word in Time Bible Study‘ online resource. Each day brings a good portion of scripture to read, with commentary and some questions to ponder. (You can even answer the questions in the comments section, but that doesn’t often happen.) There is also a daily prayer on the site, which for me is a good prompt to prayer. (I wish there was a stronger Methodist presence in Australia. We would be the richer for a good dose of Wesleyanism; I’m not convinced the influence comes through the Uniting Church. It would make for a stronger advocacy of a more Arminian approach to theology, for one thing.)
3. I’ve just discovered the Ancient-Future Bible Study Series, which has actually been around a couple of years. It takes its name from the late Robert Webber’s ‘ancient-future’ approach to Christianity, drawing on the wisdom of the early church – in this case, a lectio-divina approach to reading the Bible. I’m only two chapters into the book on Abraham, but so far I have found it very spiritually enriching. It’s built on some well-handled commentary; I’m glad it combines a contextual reading of the Bible with a spiritual one. It is available as an ebook, but I wouldn’t recommend that, as writing down answers in the space under each question is surely central.
Finally finished the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand e-journal, On The Road, issue 54, “Jesus is the centre of our faith”, three months late but here at last. It’s a mix of the scholarly, the personal, and poetry. You can now choose from the traditional PDF version, or – as a trial – flowing text ebook versions from one of these links:
Some quotes as an entree:
“I suspect she just can’t be bothered with all my pharisaic like theological gymnastics just to get to a position to which she already knows in her heart to be true. She knows it to be true because she’s spent a life time trying to be like Jesus, rather than me who has spent a life time trying to wrestle with scripture.”
- Chris Summerfield
“There were many tragedies in the 20th century. Among the least spectacular but most significant was that we picked at the threads of our relationships so much, that we unravelled the entire fabric of many of our communities – and now find ourselves without the support we need from our human safety nets.”
- Dave Andrews
You can subscribe for free by emailing me – nathanhobby at gmail.com.
You probably already know this, but in case you don’t, I’m the editor of On The Road, the journal of the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand. I was so encouraged to have an article written about our journal by John D. Roth (editor of Mennonite Quarterly Review and professor of history at Goshen) on Mennonite World Review. John writes, generously: “I am struck by the way On the Road helps to create a sense of community for its widely scattered subscribers and by the freshness that an ecumenical perspective can bring to Anabaptist themes.”
It comes out four times a year in digital format and you can subscribe for free by emailing me – nathanhobby at gmail.com. Past issues are here.
So many friends have lost their faith that ‘deconversion’ is an issue of existential importance to me. I came across this interesting (unfinished?) series on it by Bradley Wright et al. These scholars examined fifty deconversion stories on a website of ex-Christians, and looked for patterns and convergences in the self-descriptions of why people had left their faith.
They found a lot of the subjects emphasising intellectual problems with Christianity – from the genocide of Noah’s flood to the unfairness of hell. (I suspect that this would not hold true for a more representative and less computer-savvy, wordy sample.) Another common theme was God failing them – not answering prayers, not being true to his promises, not being apparent in any real way. The third main theme was other Christians responding tritely to their doubts. That makes me angry – I can imagine what they’re talking about. Believers who cannot appreciate the problems with Christianity have no business being unsympathetic or dismissive of their brothers and sisters who can. Ironically, so many evangelicals, particularly, would be dismissive of doubt in their zeal to not allow in a sliver of unbelief – and yet this response has only pushed doubters further out of the fold.
The academic article is available free from the Journal of Religion and Society.
It’s my theory that this study misses the silent majority of deconverters, who would not be able to articulate their drift from Christianity so clearly and for whom social factors are just as important: teenagers not fitting into their church youth group; adults finding churches to be uniformly disappointing.
Some time ago, I wrote briefly on Yoder’s misconduct; now I’ve just been reading Andy Alexis-Baker’s recent treatment. As interesting as his balanced article is the massive conversation in the comments.
In this talk broadcast on Radio National on Good Friday, Norman Swan was interviewing the chief rabbi of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks in front of an Australian Jewish audience. It was a wide-ranging conversation, returning often to questions of science and religion, but with Sacks pursuing numerous fascinating byways.
He talks about how the finely-tuned universe and the existence of life were so unlikely that they made God’s existence probable. Stephen Hawking tries to explain the finely-tuned universe by theorising that there must be an infinite number of universes, and we just happen to be in the one where random processes gave us advanced life. Ockam’s Razor requires we go with the simpler explanation, that the universe is divinely designed.
He talks of how Hebrew is a language without vowels, and thus words can only be discerned in their context as the reader supplies the vowels. It gives rise to a more creative, religious way of thinking, a meaning-giving way of thinking, as opposed to Greek, the first language to include vowels.
On the question of other religions, Sacks goes to the story of Pharaoh’s daughter who saved and adopted Moses. In his words, she is to the Hebrews like Hitler’s daughter; certainly no Hebrew, and yet she is saved. For him, the Jewish religion has always been inclusive and God has always been including people of other religions. He uses the analogy of a pair of trousers – singular at the top (God) and plural at the bottom where the legs go in (believers).
I found him stimulating yet comforting, a wise man.
Filed under atheism, links
I just added links to the blogs of two regular commentators on An Anabaptist in Perth:
- Fellow Perth Anabaptist, John Arthur – who has been prolific in recent times! - http://creativelovetheism.wordpress.com.
- Trinity Theological College lecturer Marty Foord – http://martyfoordsblog.blogspot.com.
I’ve just listened to an interesting program from two Sundays ago on Radio National’s Spirit of Things. The Spirit of Things often seems disconnected from the evangelical/pentecostal world, and it was good to see this intelligent engagement with it. It starts out with an excellent critique of the megachurch phenomenon by Marion Maddox, including its fixation on wealth, its individualism and its many backdoors of people leaving disillusioned. (There I am cheering Marion on.) But then there’s a twist, with an articulate defence of the movement by Jacquie Grey, ‘young’ (was Rachael Kohn being condescending or complimentary?) academic dean and OT lecturer at what was Southern Cross College but is now named after some star. I’m not a convert, but Jacquie responded very well to what she must have known what was not going to be the most sympathetic interview, recognising the movement’s shortcomings and its shifts and attempts to address these problems. (Nothing is more gracious, in my opinion, than recognising your own shortcomings. It’s something I’ve never heard one or two evangelical movements do.)
It bugs me how influential megachurches are on the wider evangelical movement. It is now almost compulsory to aspire toward being a megachurch, at least from what I’ve heard about Baptist churches in my neck of the woods.
Megachurches are antithetical to Anabaptism, that’s for sure. Anabaptists hate crowds, for a start. (Tongue in cheek, I offer this facetious comment in lieu of a full blown discussion, as I’m not up to it right now.)
Back on my ANZAC Day post, there was some discussion in the comments about the early church and war. I haven’t done much reading on this, but The Mennonite has a good introductory article by David Brattston, putting forward the case for a strong witness against participation in the army by Christians in the first three centuries.