The apprentice

I love reading testimonies from people who have come to faith in Christ and I am always struck by the diversity of these experiences. As a scientist, the stories that involve a sceptic weighing up the evidence for/against Jesus being the Son of God and coming down in favour, are those that resonate most with me.

Whilst there is a lot of commonality with my own experience, one of the joys of being a Christian is knowing that we have a personal relationship with God and that God makes His presence known to each of us in different ways, as the variation in testimonies bears out.

One of the common threads in all these experiences appears to be that much of our life is an apprenticeship, so that when the invitation from God comes for us to know Him, we might accept and make the most of that opportunity. For me, that apprenticeship was through the study of science, interrogating evidence and in logical reasoning. For C.S. Lewis, it was via the study of ethics and philosophy and his path to enlightenment was via reasoning about universal morality.

In this respect, God reveals Himself to be the perfect teacher: building on what we already know; meeting us where we are; and inspiring us to dig that little bit deeper in our search for truth.

As disciples of Christ, that apprenticeship continues for the rest of our lives – indeed, we would argue that this apprenticeship is the very purpose of life.

Music Recommendation, 23rd Jan

Here is a simple song which invites us to look at our human failings, through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus offers us a more peaceful way of living, and He rose above human insecurities to set us all free. Most of all, it speaks simply of the deep love He has for each one of us, which covers all of our daily sins. What do you see when you look at the Cross?

Music Recommendation,12th Jan

Sanctus Real: Whatever You’re Doing

This week my recommended track is by Sanctus Real. They sing the lyrics from the heart, and I think the words describe where we all find ourselves when we contemplate  changing our lives to walk a more Christian walk.  We don’t always understand it, but we just have to go with the flow sometimes.  This can be a very personal anthem – I hope you find it cathartic.

Recommended reads

Here’s a list of books I really recommend you read, whether you are looking to build your faith or understand the arguments and beliefs that you may wish to refute:

1) Well, the bible obviously, but if you are starting out then Mark’s gospel is the most accessible and Acts is the story of what happened immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection … and if you want to refute Christianity then hold your nose and read them anyway to find out what outrageous things we Christians believe!

2) Josh McDowell’s “Evidence that demands a verdict” is the Christian apologist’s handbook and well worth having on every thinking Christian’s bookshelf … and again, if you want to argue against Christianity these are the arguments you need to engage with – so read it, build up your case and let’s have a chat about it …

3) Lee Strobel’s “The case for Christ” is the story of a journalist who goes out to demolish the outrageous claims of Christianity, but ends up believing them.

4) C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and “Surprised by Joy”. The former is Lewis’ case for Christianity and is a rewritten compilation of his series of radio broadcasts on the subject; the latter is Lewis’ autobiography detailing his conversion to Christianity. Now I can’t say I personally agree with Lewis’ argument for Christianity, starting from the basis of universal morality, but as one of the foremost Christian apologists of the 20th century his works are full of fascinating discussions and insights.

5) Charles Pellegrino’s “Return to Sodom and Gomorrah” is an agnostic archaeologist’s take on the scientific evidence regarding the events recorded in the bible’s earliest histories.

I hope you enjoy them and feel free to add any suggestions you may have!

Would the real God please stand up

One of the arguments that is much abused by both sides of the Christian debate is what Richard Dawkins would term “The argument from personal incredulity” – it usually starts with the phrase “I can’t believe that the true God would …” or something to that effect.

My usual response is “No, I don’t believe in your god either”. Frankly, the God I believe in isn’t so easily defined by human expectations and is certainly not constrained by human imagination!

So next time you find yourself saying “If God exists then He would never stand by while this tragedy happened” or “Everything in the bible must be true because God would never let His Word be corrupted by human hands” remember that God doesn’t need to measure up to your yardstick – He is His own ultimate measure of perfection, for which I am truly thankful.

Debates

This category is to discuss and debate issues about Christianity, including historical evidence, theology, ethics and daily Christian life.  I would be delighted to see some genuine debate here, but we can do this whilst being respectful of each others’ views!

One obvious rule springs to mind: any argument that could be used equally validly by either side of the debate probably contributes nothing and so should be avoided.  I am thinking in particular of arguments that run “if you disagree with me then you either haven’t looked at the facts or are in denial”.  For debate to have any meaning whatsoever we need to allow that people can review the same data and draw different conclusions!

New beginnings (Gospelaires edition)

Tonight I am due to lead the prayers at Gospelaires, so I have reworked my reflection this morning:

With the beginning of a New Year I wanted to take the opportunity to think about New Beginnings.  Many people across the world will be yearning for a new start to some aspect of their life, making New Year’s resolutions – breaking New Year’s resolutions.  Many resolutions will be focused on self-improvement: eat less; drink less; exercise more – gym owners up and down the country will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of new customers who will hand over their bank details and never set foot again in the gym.  Other resolutions will be focusing on relationships with others: spending more time with partners; family; mending fences with neighbours.

As Christians, through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are given a new start every day for no other reason than God’s outrageous grace and unending love for us.  But Paul reminds us that this “wipe-the-slate-clean” is not an excuse to continue in our old sinful ways – it is a once in a lifetime invitation to walk with God.  Unlike New Year’s resolutions, it is not about what we want to do, or promising to do a few things we can – God wants no less than the whole of our lives; he demands that we do ALL we can to live the life He intends for us.

In thinking about new beginnings, I was reminded of a poem that really spoke to me a few years ago when I was in quite a difficult place: I had a young family; my wife had serious post-natal depression that was completely debilitating and one of the few pleasures we were able to share was reading poetry together.  Mary Oliver’s “The Journey” spoke to both of us very powerfully:

New beginnings

With the beginning of a new year comes the desire of many people to make a fresh start in some aspect of their lives.  Some resolutions focus on self-improvement e.g. losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption, reading more, whilst others focus on our relationship with others e.g. spending more time with a partner or one’s family.

My encouragement for everyone in the new year would be to seek the truth, whatever that may be and wherever that may lead.

For Christians that truth is in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection represents the ultimate in wiping the slate clean, so that we can begin a new life with God.

I wish you all an enlightening and fulfilling 2013.

Welcome to xianity.me

Hi!

It’s good to see you here on xianity.me.  The aim of this site is to record reflections on what Christianity means to each of us, so please feel free to contribute.  At present the site is just starting so please bear with me as I kick it into shape.

Ultimately, my vision is that the site will contain testimonies from Christians and non-Christians, reflections from me, as well as a space to debate issues around Christianity.  I want to promote intelligent thoughtful debate, so whilst you are free to disagree with me and others who may contribute to this blog, please do so respectfully!

Finally, I know some readers will dislike the use of xianity rather than Christianity so here are a few points to pre-empt those comments:

1.  This was the highest level and most appropriate domain name I could find.
2.  The great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis uses “xianity” in place of “Christianity” in his personal letters.
3.  It’s shorter and quirky so might be just the thing for the web.
4.  At the very least the word “Christ” is replaced by an “x” symbolising the empty cross.

I hope you find your relationship with xianity.me to be interesting, thought-provoking and spiritually stimulating.

With love and best wishes in Christ,

Barrie.