Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Book of Eli

Having to work through my paper based journal (for my Liturgical Scrap book) I came across my write up of the Book of Eli. So I thought I would post it as I want to try and keep these resources togther.

  *****SPOILER ALERT*******

An interesting film which starts after the apocalypse, we are drawn into a back story as Eli walks alone along the road, encountering inhospitable terrain and violence.

As he travels he believes firstly he is called by God to take the book to a safe place and that God will protect him. In the back story we find out all Bibles have been burned during the war, and this maybe the only copy left.
  •  What does this say about God?
That God has a message for mankind and he has given them a second chance. In a slight twist when the Bible is printed (it is the first book off the press) it is put on a shelf next to other religious books including the Koran & the Torah, this seems to suggest a pluralistic approach to religion.

When he is asked what he has learned from reading the Bible, Eli says:
"To do to others as you want them to do to you"
 Gary Oldman (plays Carneige) always plays slightly unhinged villians and this one is no exception:
Carneige: "God is good"
Eli: "All the time"
C: "Some of the time" He then shoots Eli in the chest and says:
C: "Where is your God now?"
 Carneige wants the Bible to be able to control people.

  •  About man?

That man returned to chaos when given a second chance, that in rebuilding society it will be a multi faith as well as intellectual but those who are iliterate are abused by those with intelligence and power, there was no hospitality without a catch. Not exactly utopia.

  • God's nature?
God seems to be in the background, protecting his servant by sending Solara and later him getting to Alcatraz with the book, but God is not meek and mild.

Worth having a look at, I think it is better than the road.

Nottingham's greatest?

I am sitting in NOTT's library, they have a vote running on the greatest person to have come from Nottingham. Having spent what seems like a lifetime reading and writing my essay on the reforms of Edward VIth and the CHurch of England, I am a little disheartened that Cranmer doesn't get a mention. Still, William Booth does make the list, if you live in Nottingham please vote for someone who actually did something other than strutted their stuff...PLEASE!!!!!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Sci-Fi service

For those with a passion for Sci-Fi here is a service that Avril Hannah-Jones put together. Very creative:

 Who says liturgy has to be boring?

ps Firefly is still the best Sci Fi series for ages!

Faith Based Facilitation

I have put a link to the Salvation Army's booklet on Faith Based Facilitation FBF-Booklet.pdf (application/pdf Object):, which is an adaption of the pastoral cycle. For my current assignment I am writing a reflective piece on my Liturgical Scrapbook, I have been using Bonhoeffer's Spiritual Care lectures and Karl Barth's window and skylight illustration (from Evangelical Theology) to try and develop a means of reflection which I can really engage with.

Starting with Bonhoeffer's lectures (Looking forward to the Works version as part of the Finkenwalde Collection, St John's copy is very well thumbed):
Spiritual Care (pastoral care as taught at St John's) should involve an open Bible and Prayer. This is before, during and after all pastoral care. Reading Bonhoeffer's lectures the priority he places on Pastoral Care is that people should be confronted with Jesus, as this is the only way people will be set free and have life in its fullness. Which is why prayer is so important! For all the times I open my mouth and share the good news there are times when I don't find words adequate (I am thinking of Hospital Chaplaincy as a recent experience of this). So what I intend to take away from Bonhoeffer is:
  • Setting out in Prayer, being in Prayer and ending in Prayer
  • Having an open Bible
  • Bringing people/situations to Jesus (not quite sure how to word this bit)
From Barth he says all theology should be done in prayer (correct me if I have misunderstood).

But theological work does not merely begin with prayer and is not merely accompanied by it; in its totality it is peculiar and characteristic of theology that it can be performed only in the act of prayer (K. Barth, Evangelical Theology).

My father in law lent me Evangelical Theology and I really enjoyed it, parts of it reminded me of A little excercise for young theologians by Helmut Thielicke. Once I am back at college I will quote the window and skylight illustration which I think applies also to intercession. I have a book budget currently (which I hopelessly overspend on) so once the summer comes I will purchase my own copy of it.

Finally I had a conversation at the Bonhoeffer Conference with Prof Bernd Wannenwetsch (University of Oxford), we were discussing confrontation that we are not meant to be confrontational in our pastoral endeavours but at times we will need to confront and this needs discernment. The situation we discussed was Paul's letter to the Corinthians (He is writing a commentary on it) as a pastoral letter, which probably wasn't the first one written to the Corinthians, was it written because no one had confronted them at an earlier point which now led to the situation being so out of hand?

So to all the above in prayer we need to ask for discernement: 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to be build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
(Ecc. 3.1-8 [KJV])

From Barth and Bonhoeffer I want to become a prayerful reflective pastor with an open Bible and an open heart and mind to discern what it is He is saying in each encounter, that people may meet with Jesus.
Simple then!

Monday, 25 April 2011


I am currently looking at the Salvation Army's Faith-Based Faciliation. Which, once I have fully got my head around it,  I will post. In the meantime here is S.A.L.T which is one part of the process:

They have developed four important things to remember when they visit a home or community- Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn & Transfer.

"In other words, encourage people to talk (stimulate), listen to and value their perspective and resources (appreciate), learn from their experience, situation and ideas (learn), capture their learning and share it with people in other communities (transfer)."

I think it is a great little tool for any form of facilitating the Salvation Army have been using it as a tool to develop understanding and deepen relationships. My experience of facilitiation is pretty poor for the most part, it is often about someone getting me to the end of the material prepared or to come round to their way (the companies)of thinking.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Timeline Project

I forgot to post this on my Blog before going to the US. It is a brilliant quick introduction to Bonhoeffer by Dr Tom Greggs. St John's (The college I attend) has a whole series of introductions to theologians which are really helpful. Take a look:

Watch out for Matthew Kirkpatrick's Grove introduction to Bonhoeffer.

What a day..

I was thinking about the crucifixion yesterday, and my thoughts turned to what the disciples thought after the crucifixion had happened. Jn 20, Mk 16, Lk 24 reminds us they were "at home" and "behind locked doors" some "were on the road", others "rested". We  know they were afraid, but we don't really know all the emotions they went through on that Saturday.

So I thought a little about it and would suggest that it is probably impossible to do justice to it but I put myself in their shoes for a few minutes:
I felt betrayed and alone, who else could know what I felt?
I saw them kill him, his image now forever marred in my mind, I remembered his body broken and his blood out poured, in that dry and dusty place as people just passed by. I failed him, I did not stand by his side, I fell asleep in the garden, I could only watch from a distance as they crucified my Lord. I felt small and guilty, it felt hopeless, ashamed I heard my mocking voice call out among the scoffers...

I can only reflect on Holy Week and Easter post Resurrection Sunday, knowing He rose again and is alive and reigns with Him...

But I know something of the doubts and frustration living in expectation and crying out from my very soul "Marantha" Lord Come. Railing against injustice and selfishness which so often is a mark of the world in which we live and sometimes the darkness seems overwhelming. Tomorrow is a new day and we shall rise with him.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A brief introduction to Bonhoeffer's writing

For anyone new to Bonhoeffer I think this is a helpful article from Christianity but it is dated 01/10/1991, since then the excellent Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series has been published with the last 3 volumes soon to be with us, please ignore the old publications and pay the price for the new editions the English translation is far better, I listened to a massive debate on translational problems by Bernd Wannenwetsch and others.

This is the link to the article. 

Phrases like cheap grace, costly grace, and religionless Christianity are common coin, because they come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s two best-known books, The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison.
But what about the rest of Bonhoeffer’s writings, now being republished in sixteen volumes in German? What else might today’s reader find stimulating and helpful?
Here are brief introductions to Bonhoeffer’s books, including many that deserve to be more widely known.
  • The Communion of Saints (1927)
His first two works, both academic dissertations, lay the foundations of his theology. Because of their technical character, they will never become bestsellers, but readers with specialized interests in theology, sociology, and philosophy are urged to tackle them.
In The Communion of Saints (Harper & Row, 1963)—which Karl Barth called “a theological miracle”—Bonhoeffer explores what it means to say that the church is “Christ existing as community.” To Bonhoeffer, the church is simultaneously:
  1. a reality of revelation, established in Christ, and 
  2. a human, social community amenable to sociological analysis. But not any sociology will do. In fact, one of the aims of this ambitious book, completed at age 21, is to articulate a “Christian social philosophy.”
For Bonhoeffer, all Christian doctrines have a “social intention” as well as a meaning for individuals. This book explores the social intention of the Christian doctrines of person, creation, sin, and revelation. Especially important is his view that individuals represent, and bear ethical responsibility for, their various communities: family, ethnic group, nation, and church. This belief undergirded his commitment to the Confessing Church and the resistance movement.
  • Act and Being (1930)
Act and Being (Harper & Row, 1962) qualified Bonhoeffer as a university lecturer. A tour de force, this most difficult and most ignored work of Bonhoeffer shows that the theologian is a sophisticated philosophical thinker. In it, he explores the subjects of his first book, but in dialogue with two major philosophical traditions—idealistic philosophies, and philosophies of being.
Above all, Bonhoeffer wants to show that philosophical systems presuppose particular views of human nature. And he engages the problem of the modern person who tries to reach self-understanding apart from God—a problem that was part of his own spiritual struggle. In contrast, he writes, a Christian self-understanding comes from hearing the Word of God.
Full of intellectual and personal passion, the book also yields some beautiful theological passages. “God is not free from human beings but free for us,” he writes. Christ is the Word of God’s freedom. Here is the deepest root of the famous phrase in Bonhoeffer’s later prison letters—the Christian life as “being for others.”
  • Creation and Fall (1932–33)
In the winter of 1932–33, Bonhoeffer gave lectures at the University of Berlin on the theological interpretation of the Genesis creation stories. These were published as Creation and Fall (Macmillan, 1966, now issued together with Temptation). This book is the most accessible entry into Bonhoeffer’s early theology. Many basic ideas from his two dissertations were presented here in a form that undergraduates could grasp.
In a meditation on the first three chapters of Genesis, Bonhoeffer asks this question: What do we learn if we read Genesis neither from the perspective of Darwin, nor from the perspective of creationists, but from the New Testament perspective of Christ? Bonhoeffer argues that being created in the image of God means we are created to live in co-humanity, as expressed in the relation of man and woman. God has covenanted to be free for us, so we reflect God’s freedom in being free for others. “Freedom is not a quality of a person, nor is it an ability, capacity, or attribute.… Freedom is not a possession, a thing, or an object. Freedom is a relationship and nothing else—a relationship, indeed, between two persons.”
Bonhoeffer further understands from creation that human beings are both spirit and body. “Flight from the body is as much flight from humanity as is flight from the spirit.” Here is a strong corrective to any unbiblical spirituality, important for a whole range of ethical issues from ecology to sexuality.
  • Christ the Center (1933)
Hitler became chancellor in January, 1933, and Bonhoeffer’s lectures that summer were his last at the university. His subject was Christology. Carefully reconstructed from sets of student notes, these lectures were published as Christ the Center (Harper & Row, rev. translation, 1978).
Bonhoeffer insists that Jesus Christ is God “for me.” He is present in Word, sacrament, and congregation. But this Christ who is present in the most personal way is also Mediator of all human existence, of history, and of nature.
Bonhoeffer also saw Christ as mediator of the political history of the state. Bonhoeffer’s reflections on false messiahs was a direct challenge to Hitler. His meditation on Jesus, the humiliated and crucified Messiah, was a call to himself to walk the way of the cross, to take up political resistance for the sake of a better state more truly reflecting God’s rule.
  • The Cost of Discipleship (1937)
  • Life Together (1938)
Bonhoeffer’s next major work was The Cost of Discipleship (in German, simply Nachfolge, “following after”; English translation, Macmillan, 1963). This extended meditation on the Sermon on the Mount reflects his commitment to personal discipleship. It also captures the struggle of Christians in Germany to remain faithful, rather than become followers of a religion that legitimized Hitler.
In Life Together (Harper & Row, 1954), written the following year, Bonhoeffer theologically interprets the daily life of the seminary he directed. “The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes,” he writes “the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.”
  • Ethics (1943)
Ethics, on which Bonhoeffer worked from 1940 to 1943, was intended to be a magnum opus. But it was never finished.
Bonhoeffer composed its manuscripts during the time of his political resistance activity. Portions were even temporarily confiscated by the Gestapo when he was arrested and imprisoned in April 1943. Thus, questions remain about how the manuscripts are to be ordered. The second English edition (Macmillan, 1965) rearranges the order of the manuscripts; the new German edition will present yet a third arrangement. But such technical problems are for scholars to worry about. The reader looking for insights on living the Christian life will find plenty.
To begin with, Bonhoeffer repudiates the idea that Christian ethics is concerned with the knowledge of good and evil. One must reject the questions “How can I be good?” and “How can I do good?” and instead ask “the utterly and totally different question, ‘What is the will of God?’ ” The God who is incarnate, crucified, and resurrected in Jesus Christ is the ultimate reality. Thus, Bonhoeffer argues, Christian ethics is about the formation of human life into the form of Christ.
For Bonhoeffer, Christians do not live in a separate divine, holy, and supernatural sphere. Rather, they must seek and do God’s will in the natural, historical, public world—in work, marriage, government, and church. As a theologian involved in political resistance against tyranny, Bonhoeffer asked, What does it mean to act responsibly for nation and church? A free and responsible life, he concluded, means acting on behalf of others, in accordance with reality, and being willing to accept guilt. In other words, doing the will of God is finally rooted only in the grace of God.
  • Fiction from Prison (1944)
In his first year in prison, Bonhoeffer tried to take stock of his life with attempts at a play and a novel. These were published as Fiction from Prison (Fortress, 1981).
This highly autobiographical book gives an intimate glimpse into the Bonhoeffer family. It expresses through characters and conversation some of Bonhoeffer’s most distinctive theological ideas.
  • Letters and Papers from Prison (1944)
Anyone who has not read Letters and Papers from Prison (Macmillan, 1972) has an intellectual feast in store. The book electrified theological debate in this century.
These letters ask the provocative question: Who is Jesus Christ for modern people who have “come of age” and outgrown religion? What may sound like the much-dreaded “secular humanism” is, on the contrary, a profoundly Christocentric theology of the cross.
If that sounds paradoxical, begin with the letter of July 21, 1944, the day following the failed assassination attempt on Hitler. Bonhoeffer wrote that “the church is the church only when it exists for others.… The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving.” In a letter of August 21, he wrote, “If we are to learn what God promises, and what he fulfills, we must persevere in quiet meditation on the life, sayings, deeds, sufferings, and death of Jesus.”
  • Other Writings
Finally, several works contain shorter writings of Bonhoeffer. Their titles are self-explanatory:
Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible (Augsburg, 1970)
Prayers from Prison (Fortress, 1978)
Spiritual Care (Fortress, 1985)
Meditating on the Word (Cowley, 1986).

[I have added the following link to the Bonhoeffer Works series]

A message to the English Church...

During the Bonhoeffer Conference I had the privilege of talking to Dr Clifford Green over lunch and I asked him what could the English Church learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

He replied by saying that the church needs to follow Jesus Christ but realised that was a little vague, so he expanded these are his three points:
  1. The Church needs to know what it exists for.
  2. The Church needs to take seriously the sermon on the mount and that faith is the flip side of obedience.
  3. The Church needs to live discipleship out daily
I think that all three of these points are challenging, I am particularly struck by the first one. I am thinking this through.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

16th Century and the Church of England

Thought I would post a quote from the often marginalised Martin Bucer:

"This is how we can faithfully serve the Lord: we should in an orderly manner elect and install ministers from every level of society. The aim is to have those who are trusted and loved by all, who are also gifted and zealous for this ministry and for true pastoral care...that way the five tasks of pastoral care will be performed: to seek and to find all the lost; to bring back those that are scattered; to heal the wounded: to strengthen the sickly; to protect the healthy and to put them to pasture" From Bucer's True Pastoral Care Summary.

Food for thought.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Easter art

A few years back when I was helping with IN:spire we did some Easter Art this was one of the pieces I did, they were better than me but it was great to do. I will try and find the rest of the pieces we did. It was my attempt to do stations of the cross by doing the art as we went along.

The ones below were done by IN:spire, the two on black backgrounds were really big


This is my first post following on from the "New Conversations on Bonhoeffer's Theology" the graduate conference I attend at Notre Dame, Indiana:

I was nervous going along to a conference full of Ph.D. students and leading academics on Bonhoeffer; it was something I needn't have feared. All the people I met were friendly and what really impressed me is both the access to the keynote speakers and the way they each took time to talk with everyone. The quality of key notes and papers was a great mix.

I would be lying if I said I understood everything (I struggled a little with Philosophy), I was not overwhelmed. Instead I found it inspired me to read more and I enjoyed comparing Bonhoeffer's work with:

Bultmann, Heidiegger, Rahner, Rosenzweiz, Foucalt, Dilthey, Lacoste among others. 

But more than anything else it was the ethics section which really inspired me. This wasn't what I was expecting but maybe it confirms the direction I am planning on taking my dissertation. I seriously had to keep my hands in my pockets and not buy a shed load of books (I only bought 3). 

Bernd Wannerwetsch's keynote on Disability was great (I will post on some of the individual papers and keynotes later). Christiane Tietz on  'Bonhoeffer on the Ontological Structure of the Church' helped me join a few dots in my head and Robin Loven closed the conference with a rallying cry to join the 'New Conspiracy'.

It was well worth travelling all the way across the pond.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Love Wins

On my facebook page I have written:

 "I want Christians to be know for who they stand for rather than what they stand against".

I think that has to be true for any thing I write on my blog. I am not going to quote extensively from Rob Bell's book, or to either hero worship or denounce him as a heretic (which is far too frequently used as a term for someone who doesn't agree with 'my' theology rather than having any foundation). Instead I hope the following may be helpful:

This is the 5th Rob Bell book I have read, I really enjoyed the first one Velvet Elvis and have found Drops like Stars an Interesting exploration of suffering (along with Trystan's book). With Rob Bell you know what you are going to get. Someone who is great at creatively looking at a subject and asking questions of the well trodden paths. This is true of this book too.

I am always interested in finding ways of exploring faith which are neither passive or of the ready meal variety. So firstly, this is not a theological work of great depth which takes a lot of time to read; I think I read it pretty much over a week. Secondly, it would aid you greatly in your reading to use a good translation of the Bible preferably a study version to aid with cross references, you do not have to agree with everything he writes (which is a good thing to bear in mind in any reading). Finally he does not really develop his questions, which can lead the reader with more questions than they started with.

He covers such a breadth of areas, heaven, hell, salvation, love etc. That no one single part has great depth but is dealt with in broad brush strokes. What the book has done for me is challenged me to read further around these subjects, especially in the places I disagree with him, it is essential in my mind that we allow ourselves to be challenged to at least think about the questions he raises. I recommend it (I enjoyed reading it as a distraction from 16th Century English Church history). Though as with anything we read think about what you are reading.