Monday, 30 September 2013

Intentions

I intend to write more soon, or move/start a new blog specifically for theological thoughts. I haven't decided yet nor had the time to do either!

Links will be posted if the latter is decided.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

What is time?

timestream
Is this what "time" looks like?
Can anyone actually answer the question of "what IS time?"

Is it, like some imply, a metaphysical reality - a "place" that we are "in" and God is "out" of? Or something else entirely?

Or is it merely just the measurement of events and moments in a way that makes sense to us so that we can plan and do things with some kind of order and structure?

If it's the latter, then time is only an illusion. We aren't "moving" through time, it only appears that way because of how we perceive the world, history and the future.
In reality, we are all just in a fixed point of moments that we comprehend and experience in our minds. Our bodies, our cells, deteriorate and fail and we get "old", yet we haven't really moved anywhere in time, we've just essentially, "broken down".

If time is viewed like this, then God being "in" or "out" of time can make more sense because God doesn't age or brake down, so the illusion continues due to our perspective.

But if it's the former idea, and "time" is a metaphysical place that we reside in, and it is also something that has points we move to and from, and is also, in theory, possible to travel within by jumping to a farther or previous point - then God being "in" or "out" of time makes sense in a literal way, but what does it really mean?
It's this idea that brings about the weird theologies that we can pray today for a past event and God can intervene because he is "out" of time and can go to that point and do something.

Now, does God 'jump' around in this place called "time"? Can he go to the future and see what will happen, or go to the past and intervene in order to affect the future?

Or does he just experience and have what we humans only have too: this moment. To act, to affect the course of our day, lives, futures? Only with more insight, wisdom and foresight than we could possibly know and have?

I propose that time is an illusion, it's not "real", or at the very least then, time is completely relative and not what we imagine it is as a fixed line of points from A to B where God can jump in and out of and affect the past or future before we "get there".

The past is just memories, the future only possibilities. All we really have is right now.


Update (27th March): After having this as a discussion on Facebook, I'm adding some further thoughts and/or clarification below to follow on from above.



In the case that Time exists as a fundamental aspect of all matter, then surely the "time" that is real, and the "time" that we often describe and think of, especially in theological matters, are two different things? At least, that's how it appears in conversation with people sometimes.

At the very least then, Time is completely relative and not what we imagine it is as a fixed line of points from A to B where God can jump in and out of and affect the past or future before we "get there".

Whenever I speak to people about this or people mention God is "in time" or "out" of time, their understanding almost seems like time looks like the blue tunnel from Doctor Who that we're all just zipping through and God just pops in at the right point and then pops back out to eternity, as though they are two separate places or worlds. This is more the illusion if time that I speak of; the idea of time like a road we travel along, which from the little I do understand about time in a physics sense, this isn't the right way of thinking about it.

I don't deny the fact that things (and us/our consciousness) had a beginning point and will eventually have an end point somewhere - I am really questioning the way we measure those two points. Yes, things have duration, they have some order and structure. This happens, then that, then the other. They may happen quickly or take long. "Time" in this sense it just a name for the measuring of the duration of these events and is generally the type of time of which I was speaking.

This type of time is just an illusion as it is a man-made structure. Things and events happen to us and around us, and we measure how long it takes and call it "time" - but is this real time? Is this the 4th dimension? Is this the time that God is either in or out of - a sort of giant cosmological calendar and clock that ticks forward from Gen 1:1 to the end of days (and also something that God can skip around within to any point he wishes)?

I would say no, but also "yes" to an extent in the sense that he appears so because of our perception of time in this way.

I think the verse that says "a day is like a thousand years" is probably as close as we can get to understanding God's timelessness because it basically tells us that time is completely relative. We can experience this to a degree ourselves when time "drags" when we're bored and it can feel like a hour has passed within only 5 minutes of a clock, or vice versa when we're having fun. Time in the dimensional sense I view as more fluid than a fixed line or speed.

But when I hear people talk or preach on God and time, the dimensional time doesn't seem to be the type they are envisioning, at least, that's not the way it's ever come across to me. It's always felt more like they see time as a big clock or calendar of events that God can sit back from and look at it all in real-time and pick and choose which moment to appear in, either past, present or future (especially when I've heard such teaching like I mentioned before about praying for intervention in past events).

From the discussion I was involved with, someone stated this:
"And I'll go so far as to say, that the Bible implicitly teaches that we are synchronized with the durative experience of God."
I can agree with this. I don't believe that God is, or can be, at any other point in time than which we are currently at right now. He may well be able to know all the events of the general past, plus our personal past experiences with a perfection we could only dream of. I'd say the same for the future possibilities of the world and our lives on a personal level, to the extent that God can orchestrate certain things to happen due to his foreknowledge of possible outcomes etc. by intervening at the right moment - not by "time-travelling" to a future or past point to change something.

Concerning the teachings and views I've heard about God and time, which I mentioned earlier, I'm not sure anyone has ever cited Scripture, except maybe that a "day is like a thousand years" to "prove" that God is outside of time with no other explanation. I know I've not cited anything really for what I'm saying here, but I'm not interested in making a doctrine, just rather pointing out the fallacies of this idea about God jumping around time, and how it isn't consistent with logic or anything we know about metaphysical time as a dimension, as the ideas seem to be based on a linear view that "time" is a big clock/calendar.

It's not always been in sermons per se either, but rather that this seems to be the general thoughts and beliefs about God that I've noticed when people speak or explain certain things that relate to time and God. Somewhere along the way in general church-peoples theology, this idea of a "time-travelling God" has crept in somehow (along with other strange ideas that I disagree with - but that's another topic for another post!) which I think is dangerous to the extent that it creates and leads to other false and flawed doctrines on prayer and intercession. 
Prayer is for now, not later. There's no praying in the present for yesterdays events (unless it's repentance of course), the urgency of our prayers should be because we believe God will hear and make a difference by our petitioning. These time-travelling sci-fi doctrines will make the people of God lazy and lax in their prayers as though they can pray tomorrow for something yesterday and still expect God's intervention.

This isn't a sci-fi film.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Digging through ancient texts

The Orthodox and Catholics have all the books from the Septuagint, which is what most of the early Christians would have known regarding the Old Testament. Those "extra" books that Protestants call the Deuterocanonical books (or that the general laypeople often refer to as 'The Apocrypha'), they're just part of the Old Testament the same as the more familiar OT books.

During the Reformation in the 16th century, Luther decided to remove these books (and planned to remove some New Testament books too) as he believed they weren't canonical and cited Jerome as his authority to make this decision. It was Jerome who, in the 5th century, distinguished between the Hebrew and Greek Old Testaments and said (quite controversially in his day) that those not found in the Hebrew version, were not canonical.

Other Christian writings were in some local canons of the New Testament, such as the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas and writings of Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius. While they didn't end up being in the canon as we know it today, I think that everyone ought to read them, even if it's just once to see what the early church was reading and saying to each other after the Apostles were gone, or at the end of their era.

And this is what started my 'journey' into the older texts. I knew Catholics had "extra" books, but I never really understood why. I also knew the Reformation had something to do with it. So I began to research and, as stated above, I found that Luther removed some books from the OT and also wanted to remove some NT books as well.
This led me to a question: How, and on whose authority, did Luther just change the Bible? And why was it accepted? 
I know that Luther cited Jerome as an authority (and from what I understand so far about Jerome's reasoning against the Deuterocanonical books, I disagree with his decision), but is that enough to change the accepted canon? Could I, or indeed any Christian, cite another person from church history who opposed Jerome, as an authority to put the books back? Or remove others?
It all just seems like an endless spiral into chaos.

From here I've read many things and have been looking at the formation of the Canon, inspiration if scripture, how these things were decided and what the early church practice was in these matters.
I don't really have a conclusive answer to any of this yet, except that I don't believe that canon is (or should?) ever be completely closed. From my understanding so far, it would appear that the canonical lists were set as guidelines of what had been approved by the wider Church so that Christian communities could know what to use for teaching the basics of The Faith and to also guard against heresies, while at the same time still being "allowed" to use any other books/letters they had which were either unique or popular to that area or community.

I still have plenty more to read and study. At the moment I'm just reading through as many of these old texts as I can. I read the Apocalypse of Peter recently - that'll keep you awake at night! It was accepted at one point, kinda glad it's not now or we'd have some really freaky Hell doctrines (if we don't already). Think Dante's Inferno - this apocalypse was an influence for that!

I am intending to write more about these ancient texts as I go through them and my thoughts, as I journey closer towards understanding how we got to where we are today with the Bible and the Church.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Book review on Rob Bell's “Love Wins”

This book was quite openly condemned by some prominent Christian leaders when the book was first announced back around Spring 2011, mainly mainly accusing Bell of being a universalist and denying the existence of hell.

Lots of leaders formed opinions about the book and thus lots and laypeople took on various opinions as their own without much insight or research. The problem was that these leaders hadn't even READ the book! It wasn't released yet at the time. They decided their opinions based on the blurb and promo video which posed provocative questions about the doctrine of hell.

The book starts up asking lots of questions concerning salvation and how are you “attain” it and the consequences if you don't – while the same time pointing out the flaws in modern theology and general beliefs held by many in the Church today.

He then presents a lot more question to get you thinking and quotes Jesus' words, and a few other scriptures, which leads to more questions. Therein lies the purpose of this book – not for Rob to push you to believe what he does, but to get you to question and really think about the things we say we believe.

Bell then moves on to heaven. Unless you've really studied the Bible on Heaven, this chapter will likely smash a lot of cultural ideas you hold without you really realising it – the same can be said about the the chapter after which deals with hell.

Prepare for an eye-opener, and a lot of "Gospel Truth" that has somehow got lost, changed, misrepresented and mixed up in Medieval tradition and imagery over the last few centuries.

Anyone who is aware of the controversy that was/is surrounding this book and who heard that that Rob Bell "doesn't believe in hell" can rest assured that this isn't the case.

To quote the book, Bell writes:
"There is a hell now, and there is a hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously." (pg. 79)
It's not only that he believes in hell "later" (i.e. after death), but also that because of our freedom of will in this life we can, and do, create hell on earth through our actions and sins.

Likewise, we can also create heaven on earth in the same way. This is what Jesus referred to when he prayed "Your will be done on earth as in heaven" – bringing the kingdom of God to the here and now.

The book then continues on from what is explained in these chapters to explore the rest of our theology and doctrines on salvation, the cross and the hereafter, often taking our contemporary doctrines (which aren't always as scripturally based as we may think) to their sometimes extreme logical conclusions; which often shows up the absurdities in them that we can overlook.

The book ends by examining the Good News, explaining that "it's better" than we first imagine; that God has done so much more through Jesus on the cross than we can comprehend at times – God's reconciliation is, literally, awesome and that ultimately, one way or another, love wins.

Whatever your thoughts or opinions on Rob Bell, whatever your beliefs about heaven, hell and everything in between, I highly recommend this book. Go in without an agenda – read it with an open mind and a willingness to learn and let the Spirit guide you.

You may not come out agreeing with everything written, but if you at least question and think about your views on hell and who goes there and, more importantly, why you think that – then I believe this book has served purpose.




Five stars – Well-written, easy to read and a thought-provoking book that everyone who takes Jesus' Gospel seriously should read at least once.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

So I'm reading that controversial book.

UPDATE (March 2013) - I finally did the rest of the review on this book... even if it is two years later! Better late than never, right? Go and read it now!

Love Wins by Rob Bell
I ordered this a while ago and had been waiting in anticipation for it to arrive. "Love Wins: A book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived" by Rob Bell has been causing quite a stir on the interwebs various corners. I'm sure it's not new news to anyone who listens and watches these things that a few major church leaders quite openly condemned this book and its author because of its subject - before it had even been released and read!


Anyway, old news. What I want to talk about is what I have read so far. Right now I am half way through the book and still I'm not really sure what the controversy is about. All the nay-sayers were ranting about Rob Bell now being a "universalist" and that he'd thrown out hell and all that. Well I just read the chapter on hell and here's a quote from it:
"There is hell now, and there is hell later, and Jesus teaches us to take both seriously." (pg. 79)
So... where's the controversy? In that he says all the injustice, pain, torment, hate, tears, and death that we experience now in this lifetime is just as equal to hell being now as hell being a future place of such things? That when we give up all things good, humane, decent, moral, divine, that we have in some form or other just created a type of hell on earth scenario for people to live in?

I don't really see anything so controversial about that.

Jesus calls us to do the opposite of these things in the here and now - to bring justice, righteousness, peace, love, morality and goodness to this world now in the form of the Good News, as bringing the Kingdom of God to people around us right now in our very actions. Our actions bring a little bit of heaven and its principles and realities to this reality in this time.
Is it then so hard to think that the opposite can be true? That a little bit of "hell" can be brought to this present reality by our actions that remove those Kingdom principles?

Take a look at the world around us and ask yourself that question.


I'll write more once I've finished the book.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Another Shameless Plug

I'll cut to the chase:

My brand new, very first publication, The Three, is now available on Amazon for Kindle!

You can get it here (a free sample is also available): (or go to the US Kindle store: http://amzn.to/fFrqBG)

Now to fill this blog out with something else to make it seem like its not all about plugging my new eBook: a little background.
I've been writing stories pretty much all my life. I like to tell stories. When I was really young I'd write small stories and make little "books". That developed into comics and for many years I would draw a comic series that I began in about 1997 and continued until early 2000's, which I then turned into three PC RPG/Adventure games.
Then in 2005 I wrote this story (The Three) for an online short story competition - and came in first place! In 2007 I wrote another for another competition called Message in a Bottle which came in 2nd place. In 2009 I wrote another story, called 'Love, Ire and Alcohol'... and as I write this I'm seeing a pattern emerge of when I seem to write! Especially as the latest story (called 'Obsession') I am currently half-way through writing is being written in 2011!
Of course, all of these will be available on Amazon Kindle store. 'The Three', and 'Message in a Bottle' (the coming next story) have and are being re-edited and re-written in places as they were originally done with competition word-limit restrictions, so now I'm releasing them to the public I thought I'd take the opportunity to expand on the stories where I couldn't before.

So there you have it, a little background about me and my writing!

Shameless Plug

"The Three" - Available soon on Kindle



"Moving to a sleepy village in Cornwall was meant to be a nice new start for Katie. That was until a rainy day changed everything in a single moment, making her life change in ways she could never have anticipated. Now with secrets about the world around her being revealed, how will Katie cope with all the new information? Life would never be the same again."

Short Story: Action & Adventure, Fantasy - 6684 words.