Saturday, October 23, 2021

The scaredy church!

During the corona circus here in Australia we have seen the church in almost all its local and denominational manifestations play the 'scaredy-cat'

1. Reaction to the rules.

I don't think any of the conspicuous Christians fought publically for reasonable approaches to meeting together or singing.

The basic precaution would have been: if you are over 65 and have medical risks, stay away, or, perhaps sit at the rear with plenty of separation. Wear a mask and a face shield, don't touch anything.

If you are unwell with a respiratory illness or symptoms, or signs, stay away.

Then, arrange the meeting space for distancing. 

It might also have been good to apply pressure for transparency in the data, presumptions and 'models' the public servants (politicians and officials) and their advisors used. Good science thrives on transparency.

2. Activity under the rules.

In my state, the rules provided plenty of lee-way for continued mission work (I mean work in pursuit of the church's universal mission to make disciples). Clergy could visit people. So, in this emergency, organise three visits a day 5 days each week: 15 people a week, and obviously 60 people a month. That should work for most churches (on average 1 clergy for 60 people in most church groups).

More latterly, 'compassionate' visits were allowed. So, 'senior' church volunteers; wardens, deacons, elders, home group convenors could be 'badged' as pastoral visitors and conduct visits, wearing all the masks and face visors you like, but at least conducting visits and keeping people on an even-keep socially and mentally.

One local church had youth group workers encouraged to exercise with their group members, which was a great thing.

2. Resumption.

Churches should have opened up to in-person services as soon as they were allowed; but most seem to be cautiously tip-toeing to that objective. The 'scaredy-cat' church at work.

We are allowed to have 10 people singing. Opportunity to have 10 people on the stage/at the front singing. Rotate the people for each song so everyone who wants gets a turn at singing!

We are allowed to have up to 20 people at a private home, if they are vaxed. It was previously a smaller number, but either way, organise groups to meet in  the homes of elders/clergy/deacons/wardens/group conductors, etc. Start these groups pronto so people can be in fellowship and read the Bible and pray together.

4. Outreach?

The most creative outreach activity I witnessed was by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Not even Christian, but they found ways to go: letters and cold phone calls to firstly chat and secondly invite to an on-line 'conference' following which other phone calls for chat, and making contacts for 'pairs' exercise.

For single dwellers, offer a 'partner' for visits (allowed by rules) if they didn't have one.

There, just scratching the surface, and creative  people would have cooked up even more options. But I saw basically no options. Just cowering in fear as though this life was all we had.

Islamic terrorists will blow them selves up in pursuit of their mission, because they are not afraid of death. Christians, evidently, are.

What a witness to the world! All we've showed is that we have nothing to offer.

First, read the Bible

Going on from a previous post on the need for biblical literacy, I was thinking about how we induct 'volunteers' into church service roles.

But, then I thought of various other scenarios: attending a bible/theological college, undertaking a 'gap year' ministry activity, etc.

A pre-condition for all of them should be: read the Bible from cover to cover.

People would quake at the prospect, because we've reduced Bible reading to small snippets for devotional or didactic purposes. Scripture Union notes were the worst offender in my experience. They should have started each book's reading cycle with a direction to read the entire book, ideally twice. Once fast, once slowly, and preferably in different translations. It would only be the longest books that would present a challenge for most.

But for formal study or roles, everyone should have a baseline of familiarity with the Bible.

If anyone complained, my retort would be: put aside your social media, you YouTube/TV watching, your novel reading (?), your too frequent coffee and shopping expeditions, and spend an hour or so each evening for at least 5 a week, reading the Bible.

For church volunteers make it an 18 month program, but for young people particularly, three months should do it.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Ideas that have invaded the church

In a history of philosophy course, just finishing the unit on Aristotle, I was asked about philosophical ideas that have influenced the church.

This is part of my answer:

The dominating cultural and intellectual influence of 'grand theory evolution' pervades the church and does much to both define its thinking and undermine its mission. At base, evolution is the story that creation is only material and came about purely by unplanned material interactions. Personhood (including God's) is based on material. and god is within the material world.

But the scriptures have it differently​. God is distinct from and logically prior to the material world. Personhood (God-in-three-persons' personhood - -intended plural possessive) is before the material world and produced it as the place were we would commune with and worship him and reflect into his creation God, our creator.

Evolution, even if formally rejected by the church, is accepted with its broad denial of the veracity of the days of creation and the very carefully set out 'chronogenealogies' that together put creation into our flow of history. Importantly for the context of the incarnation and the God who is near, they connect us to the Word and actions of a proximate God, rather than the distal god of theistic evolution and theistic materialism (the long age idea) that drive god into a deist absence or a panentheist invisibility.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Being a disciple

Jen Wilkin on making disciples. An important part of this is to study and know the Bible.

In summary:

Have curricula for different levels: new believers (or even the 'I'm just interested' - could be part of a community service offering), more experienced believers, really experienced believers. Her church also has an extension program that gives college credits: or it can be done as an auditor for 1/5 the fee.

Involve the learner:

  1. self study of the passage
  2. discuss with a facilitated group impressions of the passage
  3. lecture with following discussion from a trained Bible teacher

Make Bible learning an essential part of your church Sunday program, maybe with a repeat session through the week.

The SPAACE acronym:

  1. Structure: design environments that honour the commitment and are predictable and ordered.
  2. Predictable: calendar follows the rhythm of people's lives - same every year.
  3. Accountability: participants expectation to prepare, attend and participate. Facilitators/convenors follow-up to make it work, and to be 'made' to work themselves. No pedantic 'checks' on people. Classes charged to lift the bar, with 'skin in the game'. People don't commit to free things.
  4. Accessibility: content and process attuned to the audience (year 8 reading level). No 'big' words, or technical theological words that are unexplained. Scholarships for those who cannot afford the fee. Provide child care to remove the challenge for mothers (and fathers). Lower the bar on participation, rise the bar when you are there.
  5. Community: encourage, make 'space' for people to get to know each other and build trust. These are 'mid-sized' environments. Bigger than small groups, smaller than general gatherings. But learning is the main aim.
  6. Excellence: we do what we say we'll do; we gather 'feedback' from participants. If it is new, be consistent, but minimize change for the first two years.

Similar structure probably needed for apologetics, communicating the faith and general theology.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Kreeft on books

Mr YouTube suggested I watch Peter Kreeft on the 10 books to read (before dying). Naturally he went on to more than 10, lots more.

I watched the video and noted the books.Then, in the comments I saw that others had done similarly.

I'll repeat them here for convenience, but Brandon Vogt captured them all. (I've marked those I've read <


    The Confessions by St. Augustine (Frank Sheed translation) <

    A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken


    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky <

    Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis <


    A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt

    Our Town by Thornton Wilder


    The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

    The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis <

Supernatural Fantasy

    The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis <

    The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis <

Science Fiction

    A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley <


    The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence <

    The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux


    Pensées by Blaise Pascal

    The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis <

Classic Philosophy

    Apology of Socrates by Plato

    The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius <

Popular Philosophy

    St. Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton

    Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton <


    The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton <

    Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness by Warren Carroll


    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis <

    Summa Theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas


    Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton

    The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot

Bonus Book Recommendations


    The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

    Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis <


    A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens <


    Hamlet by William Shakespeare


    The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Supernatural Fantasy

    Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams

Science Fiction

    The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury <


    Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade


    Miracles by C.S. Lewis <

Classic Philosophy

    Republic by Plato <

Popular Philosophy

    Ethics by Aristotle <


    City of God by St. Augustine <

    The Formation of Christendom by Christopher Dawson

    The Dividing of Christendom by Christopher Dawson


    Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West


    The Dream of Gerontius by John Henry Newman