"I can resist anything except temptation" Oscar Wilde

Just what is meant by temptation? Wikipedia suggests that it is a harmful act that looks appealing to an individual. It is usually used to describe acts with negative connotations and as such, tends to lead a person to regret such actions. Temptation also describes the coaxing or inducing a person into committing a negative act. In advertising, temptation is a theme common to many marketing and advertising techniques to make products more attractive for purchase by consumers. Temptation is also used in a loose sense to describe actions which indicate a lack of self control and as something that allures, excites, and seduces someone.

It has been argued that temptation in itself is not wrong or harmful and that only when consented to does the enticement to wrong become harmful. Former President Jimmy Carter once remarked that he had ‘lusted in his heart’. Was this an example of internal temptation even though he did not act? Can temptation have a positive purpose? For example, can it show and prove our own weaknesses on the one hand, and on the other hand humble us and to make us more understanding and compassionate toward others? Does it strengthen virtue in any way, as a storm might strengthen an oak tree?

What are your reflections on Temptation?

February, 28, 2007

Music and Worship

The London Times of February 10, 2007 published an article entitled:

Churches must ask why the English Hymnal is out of tune


The article states in part: “In December, the tercentenary of Charles Wesley’s birth will be marked by a series of events around the world. His chief legacy is as arguably the greatest hymn writer in the English language. Anyone who has heard Christmas carols sung in the high street is likely to recognize Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. In the 18th century the hymn was an effective means to engage popular culture. Hymns enabled writers to express their religious convictions in ways that could be readily owned by the poor. When a cantor gave out words line by line, even the illiterate could join in. The ways hymn writers interpreted biblical stories through personal religious experience made the hymn — hard as this may be to grasp now — a highly subversive cultural innovation. By the second half of the 20th century, British Christians were waking up to the possibility that hymns had become alien to those they were trying to attract to services. Whatever the merits of the hymn had been, plugging the Church into popular culture was no longer one of them and hymns were more likely to estrange than engage visitors.

Many attempts have followed to reinvigorate traditions of singing in worship. Electric bands are replacing pipe organs; worship songs and choruses are replacing 18th and 19th-century hymns; and computerised projection screens are beginning to replace hymn books. A number of very fine songs and hymns have been added by contemporary writers to the diet of English-speaking churches. Yet the question grows daily more pressing: is the era of the congregational singing of hymns — and songs — ending as a fruitful part of Christian life and worship? If the answer to that question is “yes”, it challenges most acutely those churches that rely more heavily on hymns as a vehicle for theological teaching than on liturgy. And even if the answer is “no”, Charles Wesley’s tercentenary ought to occasion some soul searching within the churches about the continuing role of a medium of which he was an undisputed master.”

What are your thoughts about music in the worship life of your church? What changes would you like to see and why?

February, 28, 2007

No Discernible Purpose?

In his book 'Looking in the Distance' Richard Holloway quotes Nietzsche as saying:

"Becoming aims at nothing and achieves nothing."

Holloway comments: "The paradox is that, being gifted and afflicted with consciousness, we pay close attention to the universe, even though it is uninterested in us. We are creatures with a passion for discovering the meaning of things who find ourselves in a universe without any discernible purpose".

Do you agree with Holloway that the universe is without a discernible purpose?

February, 26, 2007

The Heart of Christianity

What does it mean to be a Christian?

In his book ‘The Heart of Christianity’, Marcus Borg argues that a literal interpretation of the bible leads to an unpersuasive view of Christianity while a metaphorical interpretation leads to a view that satisfies both the head and the heart.

One reviewer of Borg’s book wrote: “It was good for me to read this book to get a better understanding of how a liberal Christian might view the Bible, and it gave me a respect for their viewpoint, but still it's not something I can agree with. For example, the author appears to not believe the miracles in the Bible really happened, such as Jesus turning the water into wine. He instead reads a metaphorical meaning into it (as do other liberals who cannot accept Biblical miracles as literal). Borg claims that when we read the Bible as a literal document, we miss the metaphorical meaning (the meaning for life). The metaphorical interpretation he gave for the water into wine story was rich in meaning, and I think he has a valid point that we may miss such rich meanings by only reading them as a literal reporting of events, but I don't think it has to be either/or; we can believe the miracles happened as stated, and learn to read the metaphorical meanings from them also”.

Another reviewer wrote: “Christianity without relying on the Bible is like basketball without the ball. Borg's book misnamed "The Heart of Christianity" is not about Christianity at all. To further the basketball analogy, Mr. Borg walked onto the court one day and decided to substitute the basketball for a ball that he made up. His ball looks like a somewhat larger golf ball. Because his ball is different and it is impossible to play basketball with it, he invents his own rules. He then continues to call his game "basketball" even though what he is doing has nothing to do with basketball except that he is using the same court”.

What are your thoughts?

February, 26, 2007