So I’m studying for yet another exam. Religion education.

One of my probable exam questions will be: “explain the hindu conception(s) of God”. The lecturers have been pretty clear about their liberal views, so I’m pretty certain about what they want. The broader and more inclusive the answer the better. My answer should be something like:

“Hindu conceptions of God are incredibly diverse and enigmatic. Elements of pantheism, panentheism, polytheism and monotheism are evident…”

This would be followed by long explanations which I wont bother you with, except to make some observations about the nature of ‘holy’ texts:

The Upanishads depict God in Pantheistic terms in a few places:
“Now if a man worships another deity, thinking that the deity is one and he another, he does not know.”

Panentheistic:
“He who is this (Brahman) in man and he who is that (Brahman) in the sun, both are one.”

Then, in the Bhagavad Gita, we have statements strangely similar to the sort of ‘jealous’ monotheistic God expressed in the Judeo-Christian traditions:
“Give up then thy earthly duties, surrender thyself to me only.”

Finally, especially in the rural areas of India, there are many hindu devotees who jealously worship only their own deity among all those they recognise in the hindu pantheon. Theological and apologetic approaches to explaining the relationship between the deities and Deity itself matter very little to them.

Now, all this is very interesting from an external reference point. I’m sure my lecturers will be very happy with the breadth of my conceptualization of hinduism… I’m not so sure that practicing hindus would be so enthusiastic.

Which brings me to my point:

If I asked a hindu student to have a quick, inclusive study of Christianity, using only the biblical text, what would they come up with to answer the question: “How do Christians understand God?”

The answer to this question might make proponents of evangelical conceptualizations of biblical sufficiency a little uncomfortable.

Here’s what I think: I love the bible. I believe that the bible is inspired by God… But I’m starting to doubt that the bible is sufficient to bring us to knowledge of the full story of God’s story. Christ is the one who reveals God to mankind. Only a personal disciple-relationship with Christ can bring us into a meaningful knowledge of God. He is God’s Word to humankind. The life, words, and continuing ministry of Christ is the foundation of the church. Not the Bible.

So I am forced into a holiday for a couple of days. Public servants are striking and that means that if I go to work I could be beaten up, even though I work at a private school that has nothing to do with the strike. There are threats of violence. There are tense confrontations. There are postponed cricket matches… and other more serious problems related to the education system.

Meanwhile, for the last two days, the local hospital has been virtually deserted. In spite of promises that the strike would not cause effects that constitute a direct threat to life, my mother in law and wife were on their own for most of the day trying to help a young pregnant woman through a difficult birth. I thank God that a local doctor was able to get into the hospital to perform an emergency c-section. If not, this strike may have cost the woman and her baby their young lives. From what I’ve heard, they would have formed a small part of a big statistic.

Casualties of war.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government (except for all the others!)

We all respect the democratic rights of the workers to demostrate and strike when they feel they are being abused by their employees. This is democracy, and like any form of government, it isn’t perfect. People are dieing.

I believe in a Kingdom. Not one made up of harp-playing, cloud-squatting, “nice people”. I believe in a Kingdom which compels people to show their faith in practical ways in serving their communities. The love of Christ compels us.

I criticise the church a lot in this blog, and with good reason. We get it wrong so often. But today, in my little town, if it had not been for the church of Jesus Christ, many people would have gone hungry, or gotten infection, or died without much-needed medication, or (at very least) felt unloved and unwanted and abandoned by a society in which ubuntu seems to be a moral ethic that gets switched on and off at will.

As I walked into the maternity ward this morning, I came across a teenage boy who couldn’t figure out what the large silver thing on wheels was in front of him (it was a food trolley) and whether he should clean it or not. He had spent the last two days helping out at the hospital. He did so even though he didn’t know anybody there, he had no expertise (obviously), received no reward, and was in very real danger of violence erupting if the strikers arrived unexpectedly. Why did he and many others like him do it?

The love of Christ compels them.

Lord Jesus, help us to be more like this and less like the idiots we so often are.

Recently people have been talking a lot about Anne Rice, noted vampire expert and converted then deconverted Christian author. Her public announcement that she is “quiting Christianity” was taken personally by many modern pharisees and church watch dogs.

To be fair, many called for restraint and described the event as an “opportunity” for the church to reveal what we’re made of. Would we crucify her? No, we must pray for her as a prodigal daughter!

Why did she do it?

Well, in her own words, she couldn’t be “anti-gay and anti-feminist” any more. Me neither. She said that she still loved Christ, but not Chrisitianity. Well… sometimes… me too. Let’s just be honest and call the church what it is: a bunch of bigotted, hurting, power-hungry, guilt-ridden pharisees, desperately trying to work out what Jesus did for us and what we should be doing in response. Mostly we get it wrong. This is not new.

The Church got it wrong when they tried Luther for publishing his 95 theses in 1517.
The Church got it wrong when they insisted that Galileo recant on his stance on geocentricism in 1633.
The Church got it wrong when they called Darwin the antichrist in 1859 (some continue to do so!).
The Church got it wrong when they declared the great commission a job well-done in the 70’s (much to the chagrine of Mr Billy Graham and the framers of the Lausanne Covenant).

Anne Rice is not a prodigal. The Church is. Her Facebook declaration of independence from the Church SHOULD be taken personally. She has insulted us. And she is right. And we should applaud her for her bravery.

These little revolutions are the substance of church history. In ten years, we may look back at the dear lady and say thank you for calling us on our crap. Like Darwin. And Luther. And Billy Graham.

So I’m getting a head start: Thanks.

I like Moses.

Many Christians are not particularly interested in this great Patriarch (because, let’s face it, he’s just not our guy). We like to create a hard line in the sand between the law (and Moses) on the one side, and faith (and Jesus) on the other side. But I think that’s a bum rap. Moses displayed amazing faith. In fact, I think he displays exactly the kind of faith that teachers need. The kind of brave faith that inspires.

First there was the burning bush. Now, apart from the obvious possibility that everyone who heard the story recounted (including Moses himself) would very likely have assumed it was the result of mild sunstoke combined with the inhilation of too much ‘sheep gas’ (methane being known to do all sorts of terrible things to the brain as well as the atmosphere), a bush burning in the wilderness is hardly everyone’s image of Deity. I mean, if God had appeared in a burning pillar of fire (wait… didn’t that happen later?) or even a burning baobab, that might have been a little more convincing, but a burning bush is not so amazing is it? And yet, off goes Moses, back to the country he had fled from in terror years earlier… following a burning bush.

Then there was the burning mountain. It must have been quite incredible. Certainly impressive enough to scare the idolotry out of the Israelites (no wait…?!). The people were so terrified that they begged Moses to speak to God on their behalves. At this point I would have looked up at the pyrotechnic peak and replied: “…sod off!” But Moses, man of great faith that he was, terrified as he was, climbed the Mountain and met with God. Well… strictly speaking, he met with God’s back. Apparently God’s front is a bit deadly to the uninitiated, so God hid Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered the cleft with his Great Hand, and then passed by, removing the obstructing limb in time for Moses to glimpse him leaving. Having climbed the fiery mountain and survived the near death encounter with God’s back, I think it’s safe to say that if I was Moses, I would have more than enough stories to tell my grandchildren. But not Moses…

Because, then we have the burning heart. Amazingly, Moses not only doesn’t stop associating with Burning Manifestations, he actively seeks them out (or rather, he seeks Him out). The Glory of God comes to settle in the Israelite camp and Moses makes a habit of meeting with God (in the aptly named ‘Tent of Meeting’) for the rest of his life. He spends so much time in the presence of our fiery Diety that his face acquires a distinct glow, which Moses has to cover with a veil so as not to freak the rest of the camp out. Moses face is burning.

But what about the burning heart? Well, actually, that belonged to Joshua rather than Moses. You see, Joshua used to sit quietly in the corner whenever Moses and God had their smokey pow-wows. He never said anything. He never voiced an opinion. He just sat quietly. Burning in his heart to have what Moses had: a face to face friendship with God. And God saw Joshua sitting in the corner. He saw his burning heart. And that’s why God chose Joshua as Moses’ replacement when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. He saw what Moses’ faith had inspired in Joshua.

And that’s why I like Moses so much. He spent his whole life actively and publicly seeking after God, and in doing so, inspired Joshua to do the same. As a teacher I think we can learn a lot from Moses about faith and discipleship.

I go through a tattoo phase every now and then. So far I’ve been lucky enough not to have allowed a temporary feeling to become a permanent regret because these phases never last long enough. This is probably a good thing, as I am the kind of guy who once adamently informed his girlfriend (and thankfully now, lovely wife) that I would name our firstborn girl ‘East’ and our firstborn boy ‘North’. Agonizing.

So anyway… my current urge is to have a sort of Mt. Rushmore done on my shoulder and back with the faces of four thinkers who have influenced me the most. I might work a quote or two into the art as well… It has probably been done before, but I’ve never seen it.

My question for you is this:

If you had to have the words and faces of four great thinkers permanently engraved on your body, who and what would you choose, and why?

About Me

Ecstatically married to Leane. Studying Theology and Teaching. Working as a worship leader, teacher, coach, guitar teacher. Living in the Mighty City of Mkondo in the sunny province of Mpumalanga, in the blessed country of South Africa.

Favourite Thoughts – Outbox

Religion is to be defended - not by putting to death - but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. - Lactantius (c.304-313).
What is essential Christianity? From first to last it is scandal, the divine scandal. Every time someone risks scandal of high order there is joy in heaven. - Soren Keirkegaard.
Where there are two Christians, there are three opinions... [Actually a Jewish saying, but at least as true for Christians]

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