Category Archives: theology

essay (again)

IMG_5553I have to admit, study is a struggle this semester, primarily because there is just so much going on at the moment.  Between now and Christmas we have an interstate wedding, a 4 year old’s birthday, in-laws move to the country, sister moves back to Vic (from the NT), a family camp, kinder duties and activities, a dance concert, book club, church, and… and… and… ! And study!  I really just need to focus and as a dear friend says, ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.  My major essay this semester will look at the following question:

This essay will explore both the Reformation and the post Reformation experience of mission in the light of the new paradigm that came with the Reformation.

Hmm…if anyone has any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to comment!


Llull

I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that I may have actually evolved a little in regards to study.  This semester we have to post one of our essays on-line for the rest of the class and open it up for discussion/thoughts/questions/ideas.  Previously I would have dreaded this, felt nauseated by the concept and avoided it to the last possible moment.  However I posted an essay on Friday (The Life and Ministry of Ramon Llull) and am actually quite disappointed that only 1 classmate has responded (as yet).  I am quite keen to hear people’s thoughts and am looking forward to their input. 

Why the change in attitude? I am still self-conscious about how and what I write and get quite anxious when people read my work.  So why the change?

I am not sure exactly why but I think part of it lies in the essay topic, and part of it lies in realising the wealth of experience and knowledge the people I study with have.   

I had not heard of Ramon Llull up until I had to write this essay, he is quite the enigma in Christian history.  Researching his life and ministry was fascinating.  Llull was a prolific writer whose abilities stretched to many genres.  There is no complete catalogue of Llull’s writing however there is over 280 titles recorded ranging from poetry, songs, autobiographies, doctrinal thesis, books and letters.  Llull’s most renowned work was a method he developed called Ars generalis ultima, The Ultimate General Art, which was essentially a debating tool to be used for converting Muslims to Christianity.  The document was a theological reference by which a reader could introduce an argument or question about the Christian faith and then be directed to the appropriate page to find the answer.  Llull’s methodology and style was revolutionary as it developed the notion of applying logic to science or philosophy, or any number of other disciplines, to demonstrate the truth of the Christian God.  I think I am excited to share a little bit of Ramon Llull’s life with people and am keen to hear how, or if, they found him as interesting as I did (I hope so!).

Once again I also find myself in a class full of interesting and intelligent people who I am growing in respect for.  It is lovely to journey with a group of people who are committed to the process and to learning.  Slightly intimidating, but mostly lovely!


notes

I spoke at church (Ranges Community Church) this morning about a topic I am attempting to learn more about and integrate into my life – care of creation.  Particularly apt because today was National Tree Planting Day.  The following is some of my sermon notes (requested by Scott).  Somehow I also managed to find a way to use a Dora the Explorer DVD – that’s what happens when you spend most of your time with a 2 year old and a 3 year old!

The prevailing understanding of biblical texts and Christian traditions has been defined by its concentration on the relationship between humanity and God.  As a result there has been little attention to the environment in which this relationship takes place.  A close look at Scripture reveals that the natural world is also in relationship with God and must be included in a discussion of discipleship and God’s salvation purposes.

We need to think of the earth as God sees the earth.

It becomes increasingly clear that the Scriptures demonstrate God as being intimately involved in the natural world.

All of God’s creation is important to Him, down to the last sparrow and blade of grass.  The story of mankind in the bible begins in a garden and ends in a restored garden.  The first commission to God’s people is found in the opening chapters of Genesis to be caretakers of creation. 

There are lots of moments when God commits and recommits himself to creation and the redemption of creation and caring for the environment.

The Green Bible.  There are 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love in Scripture.  There is, however, over 1000 that refer to earth or creation.

Within the covenant found in Genesis 9 and because of this covenant we realise that God thinks that creation is important.  We realise how precious God considers life to be – all life – and how much God treasures his creation of earth. 

There can be no doubt that God is concerned with, involved with, and places value on creation.  All living creatures have inherent value for they have been created by God.

The bible clearly teaches that non-human creation has intrinsic value simply because it was created by God, not due to its usability or subservience to humans.  God loves the world (John 3:16). 

The non-human elements have value because the Creator of the cosmos deems them necessary for life.  God’s concern embraces not only individual men, women and children, but also the physical and biological environment which sustain their lives, and the social, economic, political and intellectual structures that shape the forms of their existence.

Creation care, in practical terms, includes making lifestyle decisions that do not put unnecessary demands on the environment and working towards renewing and respecting the earth.  Creation care theology recognises that Christ’s redemption reaches to all of creation and that God is intimately involved in the earth.

Finished by looking at my ‘Personal Theology of Care of Creation’ that I had to write for a class last semester which can be found here https://measuredwords2.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/oops/.


toothfairy

The ridiculous tooth has gone and that’s really all I wish to say about that, but I did have an interesting moment while waiting for the dentist to pull the thing out. 

The dentist put the injection’s in to deaden my gum and he had to use quite a bit.    In fact so much that I actually felt the anesthetic moving through my face and into my eye which resulted in loosing the sight in my right eye.  

I had a little panic.   

The dentist sat me up in the chair and explained that the injections deaden the nerves and can sometimes reach the eye – but not to worry, my eye sight would return in 20 minutes or so (!).  He said he would be back in a minute when the anesthetic had worked, and he left me alone for a while. 

So while I was sitting there, by myself, waiting for my eyesight to return and for the dentist to return to pull out my tooth, having a little panic, I started to pray.  And the prayer sounded something like this…’Please give me peace, please let the tooth come out easily, please let this be quick….’ and repeat. 

…And then I thought, ‘why does this get to be easier for me than anyone else?  God doesn’t love me more than anyone else.’   

My assumption was that because I am a Christian that I should have it a bit easier and that Jesus would come and make the process less painful.  …because I am a Christian… 

I may acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and choose to align myself with him, but that doesn’t mean he loves me more than someone who doesn’t.  And if in the process of aligning myself with Christ means that I give a degree of authority to the Gospels than I am left with no doubts that Christ’s face is forever facing those who don’t know him.  As is his love. 

There seems to be a very fine balance in Scripture between God’s blessing for those who acknowledge him and the responsibility that comes with that relationship.  And there is an inordinate number of Scriptures which proclaims God’s focus on the lost, the broken, those who don’t know him.  I don’t want my faith to be about pressing a button (ie. saying the right words) and expecting a big old bucket of blessing (or peace, or grace, or painlessness) to come down from on high.  It has to be more than that. 

The prayer that followed, while still waiting for the dentist, was something like this, ‘This sucks, lets get it over with, I know You’re here’.


done and dusted

Those of you who have had to contend with my complaining about study this semester deserve medals.  Sadly I don’t have any medals – but I do have cupcakes if that will suffice!  Thank you my gracious friends – I truly am grateful for your support.  

The big essay is done and dusted.  I am quite happy with it actually.  Despite my big ‘opps’ moment of getting dates mixed up, I have loved this subject and the challenge’s it has provided.  I have learnt so much more than I imagined I would.  This subject was previously so foreign and I have had to really push myself to research and comprehend much of the required reading.  I love that process and particularly when the outcome is more than an essay; my theology has been radically transformed over the last 6 months. So I thought I should post a couple of snippets (at my discretion!) from the essay, they will obviously be my favourite bits!

Quick note 1: I have discovered a new (new to me) brilliant thinker, scholar, theologian named Willis Jenkins. I have become quite the fan of his work. He is worth reading if you are at all interested in care of creation theology (particularly his recent article in International Bulletin of Missionary Research is excellent).        

Quick note 2: I am really keen to explore the idea of salvation stories (see below) and the way in which we (Western, Anglo-Saxon, middle class people), and other cultures, not only tell the story of salvation, but what we decide comes under the umbrella of salvation.  Something to keep pondering and work on I think.

Little reminder of the essay questions:

How does a ‘care for creation’ theology fit into a missiological context?  Discuss this relationship between ecology and the theology of salvation, taking into consideration how this affects the mission of the local church.

Couple of snippets:

The present struggle for the church is to displace humans from the centre of soteriology and instead take a careful and original look at salvation to deal with the problems of the environment (Jenkins, 2003:401, 402).  As Willis Jenkins suggests, more than ‘green-washing the church’ needs to occur if there is going to be an appropriate and biblical response to the current environmental crisis (Jenkins, 2003:403).  Jurgen Moltman, like Jenkins, suggests that the church’s salvation stories need to be reconstructed to introduce and implement a care of creation theology (Jenkins, 2003:403; Moltmann, 2000:110).  It will only be as the environment takes it place alongside humanity as having redemption qualities that care of creation will become an essential part of the church’s mission. 

The current environmental crisis leaves the church with a multitude of pertinent questions which will form and define the church’s ecclesiology, soteriology, missiology, and care of creation theology and praxis.  Missiology is more than a framework to validate care of creation; caring for creation has missiological implications and purposes.  Not simply because God has deemed creation to be part of Christ’s redemption, but because the degradation of the earth contributes to the degradation of the poor and powerless.  God has proclaimed that creation matters and that his redemption reaches to the created order. 

Whether or not the church can begin to make a connection between salvation and creation will radically change the way the world views the church, but more importantly, it will also determine the church’s mission to the world.

The local church finds itself in more than an ecological crisis; essentially it is also confronting a new and serious theological crisis.  The manner in which the church addresses the sociological and ecological place it finds itself will determine their way forward.


divine interconnectedness

It has been confronting working through some of these issues of God’s view of creation and His intimate involvement with the earth.  No doubt my thoughts and theology have been radically challenged and have evolved accordingly.  However the ‘real life’ challenge has been in regards to my youngest daughter and her struggle with a multitude of health issues. The current challenge my little darling is facing is in regards to severe eczema. You don’t ever want to hear ‘that’s the worst I’ve ever seen’ from any doctor, but that’s what we keep hearing.  It has been so bad that her right eye has been partially closed due to swelling and eczema on the eye lid. 

It is distressing for her and heartbreaking for me/us. 

The doctors have put her on a range of drugs and steroids in the form of drops, creams, liquids and tablets.  It makes no sense to me to be exposing her to chemicals and drugs when her immune system is obviously struggling and reacting, but we didn’t feel like we had many options. 

So we decided take her back to a Naturopath who we have had great success with previously.  The Naturopath recommended a homeopathic remedy, a natural cream and a natural pro-biotic to boost her immune system.  

Within 24 hours of starting the natural/homeopathic remedies we saw a marked improvement. In fact it was almost shocking how quickly we saw an improvement.  And within a week you could barely see any sign of eczema.  It has been extraordinary.  We are relieved and grateful.    

For some reason the use of herbs and natural ingredients worked with our girl. 

Surely this reflects God’s involvement in the world and his desire for humanity to work with and for the earth as opposed to exploiting it.  I am challenged by the idea that there is a profound interconnectedness between humanity and the earth.  While homeopathic medicine may not be to everyone’s liking (that’s fine) it does raise questions as to how God created the world and perhaps there is the possibility that we were designed to work much more ‘with’ creation than against it or in authority over it?

I think it’s worth my time considering some of these things.  There is theological implications to a ‘divine interconnectedness’ that I find exciting and possibly revolutionary.


oops

I thought I had a big essay due in today, but I got my dates totally mixed up and in fact I had a smaller assessment due in.  The assessment was to write a ‘Personal Theology of Care of Creation’ in 500 words.  I actually enjoyed doing this, I liked thinking it through and deciphering what I considered essential enough to be apart of a statement of my personal theology.   Because I had only limited time to do this in (my fault) it feels a little bit like a work in progress, but I think all theology (or understanding thereof) is a work in progress to some degree or another.  So this is it…

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.   

 (Colossians 1: 15-20, The Message) 

 

Personal Theology of Care of Creation

I recognise and acknowledge God as the Creator. God has a constant and intimate involvement with the earth (Psalm 104).  God has concern for all creation and has made a lasting covenant with the whole earth (Gen. 9:9-17). God loves the world (John 3:16-17).

All living creatures have inherent value for they have been created by God.

My concern for the environment is founded on my relationship with God the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of the earth and His mandate to humanity to care for creation (Gen 2:15; Psalm 24:1-2).

I believe that a biblical understanding of care of creation leads to an active involvement regarding environmental concerns.

Sin has damaged not only the relationship between humanity and non-human creation, but has injured creation itself (Romans 8:19-23).

The bible describes God’s plan of salvation to include the whole of creation, not humanity alone.  Christ will return to restore the whole of creation to God (Col 1:20).  Salvation includes the social, political, economic and ecological state of the earth. 

Through the Holy Spirit we are ambassadors of Christ’s redemption to all of creation.

Care of creation has its foundation in soteriology, which clearly proclaims Christs cosmic salvation work on the cross.

Considering the Scriptures, I believe that Christ’s universal work of redemption affirms that any care of creation activity has salvation consequences. 

I believe humanity is the imago Dei and therefore God’s ‘vice-regents’ on earth to care and nurture the earth as God does (Gen. 1:27).

I believe stewardship is the responsibility to care for the world wisely and conscientiously (Gen 1:26-30). Stewardship is a response to the biblical mandate to care for, cultivate and govern the earth on behalf of God.   

Humanity is not the pivotal focus of creation: God the Creator is.  All creation, including humanity, is called to worship the Creator (Psalm 148). 

The current environmental crisis suggests that Christianity has neglected their stewardship role, partly due to an anthropocentric reading of the Scriptures and understanding of salvation.  We have wrongfully assumed that creation exists for our own consumption rather than for God’s glory.

I believe Christians must repent of neglecting our biblical mandate to care for the earth.

I believe that Christian mission must declare and acknowledge God’s cosmic salvation purposes. 

We must care about environmental issues because we are called to love our neighbours and to protect and care for the poor and oppressed (Matt. 7:12, Matt. 22:34-40, Matt. 25:31-46).

I believe in proactively supporting fair-trade and environmental sustainable products and resources. 

I believe in using my ‘vote’ to influence governing bodies to address poverty and injustice, and to implement environmentally sustainable policies.

I believe that reconciliation is central to the call of the church and this must include the relationship of humanity with the non-human creation.

Care of creation must become central to Christian identity and experience, and ecclesial practise.

The current environmental crisis may require local church’s to change the manner and content of their salvation stories to include the biblical mandate to care for the earth.  Christians have a mission to the earth. 

The church must move away from consumerism and be an example of sustainability and environmental concern.