MEATY QUOTE TO PONDER: “When human freedom is not received as divine gift, only meaningful in a web of relationships and responsibilities, it will always oscillate between godlike pretension and nihilistic denial.”
Vinoth Ramachandra is an Anglican lay theologian from Sri Lanka. He has a PhD in nuclear engineering and combines multiple disciplines and interests. He is a fascinating writer and this book covers a wide array of territory, hence this blog will cover just one chapter as an example.
The overall project of this book is to unveil several global myths, ways of seeing our world. As Vinoth himself says: “Myths are an intrinsic part of human existence. They give meaning to our lives…Global capitalism, Marxism, behaviourism, evolutionism, social contract theories, all represent particular ways of seeing that employ metaphors and symbols embedded within an overarching story of the human condition.” Ramachandra insists that Christianity theology is not just beliefs but rather a way of seeing, “of dwelling in a particular language, that language arose out of specific historical events that both constitute us as the ekklesia (church) of Christ and call forth characteristic social practices such as thanksgiving, forgiving, exposing evil, truth-telling, welcoming the broken and the hopeless, and bearing testimony to grace.” This book unveils the way in which many global myths are simply taken for granted. It shows the way in which Christian community can offer an alternative and hopeful story in light of the many stories our contemporary society values. (more…)
I have been at countless Christian conferences to listen to a hero deliver stories of their latest exploits and adventures in the name of Jesus. Often I have been encouraged and helpfully challenged to follow Jesus more closely. Other times I have felt a deep pang of guilt and frustration that in the midst of my very ordinary and mundane life I struggle to follow Jesus, let alone being a radical who is sold out for God. The dark side to the heroism of radical and extreme stories of faith is that they distort the gospel by making it all depend on us and not God’s grace at work. Horton’s book aims to point us to Jesus especially at work in our everyday reality.
The central contrast that Horton makes is between what he calls the radical and restless and the ordinary and content. The first half of the book is about the radical and the restless and the second is about being ordinary and content. He writes from an American perspective but for us in NZ many of the critiques and insights ring true. (more…)
“In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.”
This is a book about Sabbath – the command that the people of God rest by setting aside a day to recognize that life is a gift. In our hurried, fast paced and anxious world this is a timely book that invites us to give up our false gods and put our trust in the God who creates and the God who liberates the enslaved.
“When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.” Bonhoeffer cuts through our idealism when it comes to community life. It isn’t all hugs and holy kisses but rather a messy, difficult, and yes beautiful thing to do life together. In a world where community has become a buzzword this is a classic and refreshing book on what it means to live with others in genuine Christian community.
(First published in 1939 in German and uses gender exclusive language.)
Bonhoeffer affirms the wonder of Christian community saying “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” The reason that this is so is because Christian community is grounded in relationship with Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer argues that Christian community is not an ideal but rather divine reality. It is not a human reality, but rather a spiritual reality. Bonhoeffer can therefore say: “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”
All Christian community is formed through and in Jesus Christ. “We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ”
This leads Bonhoeffer to be critical of any human dreams of community that get in the way. “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”