Picture Alive

I read the May issue of Evangelicals Now last night. On the back page, in a report on the Word Alive Conference, it says,

Since the Proclamation Trust has withdrawn from Word Alive, some things have changed. The celebrations have become much more ‘Spring Harvest’ in their style. And some people were concerned about the weird practice of providing artists to sketch any vision or picture they received during the service. Word alive has become somewhat of a mixed bag…

I wouldn’t like anyone to draw what I’m thinking about this…

Picture Alive

Half-wit for Christ

I understand that for a regular preacher there is a temptation to become frustrated at the lack of change observed in the congregation following his preaching. A fruit of this frustration is a tendency to begin to moralize. He begins to preach sermons heavy in application.

I found a copy of The Craft of Sermon Illustration by W. E. Sangster in the secondhand box at St. John’s College library this morning. It only cost 30p. “Worth a punt.”, I thought.

I have had a quick skim through. On page 88, he says,

We have laid it down as a rule that an illustration cannot be a good illustration if it needs to have its point laboured. Even children have long since rebelled against sententious moralizing. They become restless the moment the unskilful speaker begins ‘applying’ his tale.

We have pointed out that with the exceptions of the Parable of the Sower, and the wheat and the tares, Jesus never applied his parables – and even then he did so only at the disciples’ request.

He said, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.’

That was all! It was all there, if you had a modicum of spiritual discernment to take it: tale and truth together.

That is not to say that a man may not give the point of his illustration a couple of hammer strokes when he has made it. Indeed, he would be wise to do so. But only a half-wit would confuse that with moralizing and it should be done with clean chiselled phrases which can be driven swiftly and sharply in.

Good stuff. Chiselled phrases. Interesting image.

Nor does he mince his words. Half-wit indeed.

Half-wit for Christ

Ron the Racist?

The has been a lot of talk about Ron Atkinson’s outburst against Marcel Desailly a couple of days ago. Was he racist? After all, he has done so much for black footballers in the UK. Does one slip of the tongue nullify all that?

A couple of years ago I came read an email on a Christian email discussion group which had a big impact on me, so I kept it. The writer is a US lawyer with a teaching ministry in his Reformed Baptist church. I quote parts of it below. (I have kept it anonymous, and edited it slightly for clarity.) As you will see, he has had to think deeply about the nature of racism:

I was raised in the segregated American South. I grew up in a completely racist culture (as the term is defined). I was taught from birth to believe that the mere fact of being white made me superior to blacks. Much of my family still believes this. So, for me, racism is not an academic question, but an issue of life, that I have had to address in some detail. In this respect, I would also say that racism is a much more complex matter than is normally believed.

In our times, “racism” is almost always (and carelessly) identified as “hatred”, but it is not. A man may believe himself to be superior to another man because of his race, and yet not hate the other man. I know this because it was true in the world I grew up in. I was never taught to hate blacks. Never did my family say “hateful” things about blacks. I was never taught to be cruel to them or to desire that bad things happen to them. I never hated blacks. In fact, there was no emotion involved in the racism around me at all (that I knew of).

Now, hatred often coexists with racism, but it is not necessarily the same. Many missionaries in the 1800’s had concepts that we would consider racist, yet they worked diligently to help and serve the people whom they considered inferior. Many Southern churches that were segregated by race in the US spent huge amounts of money supporting hospitals and missionaries in Africa. They did not “hate” blacks, they simply held racist thoughts about them. Abraham Lincoln believed blacks were inferior, but he cared a great deal about them.

I like to draw a distinction between the two because racism can exist without hatred, and hatred without racism. For example, I was taught to hate the Soviet Union, but I was never taught that the Soviet people were inferior by race. I was taught to think blacks were inferior by race, but never held any hatred for them.

So, back to Ron Atkinson. Does saying “nigger” make him a racist? Perhaps not. Does doing much for black players make him a non-racist? Not necessarily. As the above quote shows, racism is more complex, deeper and more pervasive than we probably realise. Ron may deserve a metaphorical stoning, but who is going to chuck the first rock?

Ron the Racist?

New vs. Old

Some time ago I changed my gas supplier. New company, new contract, new price, new direct debit, new statements, new helpline number etc.

But, same underlying trust, same underlying integrity, same underlying governing laws, (i.e. same principles of conduct in supply and payment), same commodity supplied.

The current arrangement is new, and yet old. The old contract is obsolete. The new is in place. But, both were founded on lasting principles which are neither new nor obsolete.

So, how ‘new’ is the New Covenant?

New vs. Old

Entertainment Centre

Iconoblog reminds me of an occasion in Germany 19 years ago. I was a PhD student staying in Mainz, Germany for a few months, working at Johannes-Guttenburg University in their elektronen-beschleuniger (electron accelerator).

One lunchtime, while walking through the campus, I came across a crowd gathered and some loud music playing. I realized that there was some mime artists working to the music. This was not the Marcel Marceu kind – you know – black cat suit, white face, pretending to be stuck behind glass. This was quite serious stuff. In fact, it didn’t take long before I realized that this was a Christian student group acting out the crucifixion story.

I found it quite powerful. I have seen lots of Christian drama since, but nothing has stuck in my mind quite so much as this. The combination of atmospheric music, slow motion skillful mime, portraying physical suffering was particularly gripping. The large crowd was gripped too. You could see them hooked.

Then it finished, the artists moved to one side and a guy got up and started speaking, obviously a student. He didn’t have a great voice or charismatic personality. But as far as I could tell from my pidjin-German he was attempting to preach the gospel.

The crowd scattered, almost instantly. They had enjoyed the drama, but come to the presentation of the truths the drama introduced and the people would not have it.

We can’t get past this kind of problem. No matter how we try and make the gospel attractive, hearers at some point must come face to face with straight, challenging, threatening, life changing, sharp, pointy, uncomfortable gospel truth. No one is in the kingdom because they found it was an entertainment centre.

Entertainment Centre