Archive for December, 2010

The Politics of Jesus – 2

Some quotes from The Politics of Jesus for you. A few of them are by a guy called Berkhof (i think it is the guy I’ve linked to) who I’d never heard of but I like what he said. with regards to the “powers” of the world.

the cross has disarmed them; wherever it is preached, the unmasking and disarming of the powers takes place

More Berkhof

all resistance and every attack against the gods of this age will be unfruitful, unless the church herself is resistance and attack, unless she demonstrates in her life and fellowship how men can live freed from the powers

And now Yoder himself with the best one:

the very existence of the church is its primary task…the church does not attack the powers; this christ has done. The church concentrates on not being seduced by them. By existing the church demonstrates that their rebellion has been vanquished.

So what of a civil rights movement in the 60s led by a man with Christ’s victory at the fore front of his mind. What of a movement against slavery?

Both of these now have support of the church as a good thing even though the church was complici for years in their perpetuation

Is it that only when the church is what it should be – a place that has the lordship of Jesus lived out – that individuals are called to challenge the power.

Perhaps it is this:

A church that lives under the lordship of Jesus would be full of all nations and all races

A church that lives under the lordship of Jesus would have members who refuse to keep slaves.



Learn to live with what you are – 4

I’m not so much scared that theology will lead me to do things I know in my heart are wrong. Apart from the ones I’m already complicity in a modern health service that occasionally and even frequently struggles to give its patients dignity.

The Spirit does not just guide choices but makes us into people who make right choices.

It’s more that I struggle to fill in the theological gap between what I practise (and believe to be the best thing most of the time) and what I can articulate.


Love song for ya

Was at a cracker wedding yesterday and the crazy preacher people were on about Song of Songs and it reminded me of this visualised literal reading of it.

Suffering Presence – 1

I should have read this book sooner I know. Those who were at MCC’s forum a few weeks ago will remember me proposing exactly the question Hauerwas makes here (on the first page)




we may be able to keep an extremely premature child alive, but should we, since the very means to sustain may also injure

Me and Stanley – we’re like that (makes crossed fingers sign…)


Google Body

Was initially all excited about this till I managed to find an inaccuracy in about 2 minutes.

If you’re not bothered whether the hypoglossal nerve goes lateral or medial to the origin of the occipital artery then don’t worry about my foibles.

[note you’ll need the beta of chrome to view it]


Learn to live with what you are – 3

I’ve talked about the image of God a lot in these few posts. Though I’m still not sure quite that means. It is definitely something of significance just not clear what.

Yes we bear the image of God.

But we are broken images.

Does this then confuse our talk about being in the image of God?

Which bits of our humanity are fallen and which are in the image of God?

We tend to talk of sin and death when we talk of how the fall has affected humanity so do we view those who are considered to be in poor health to be less in the image of God? Do they reveal less of God’s image to us?

So the question is not just what does it mean to be made in the image of God but also what does it mean to be a broken image?

Learn to live with what you are – 2

As a follow on from the recent post, let me try to simplify where I’m at, or at least my confusion.

Perhaps using the example of a severely ill infant is too rare and specific a case to be useful in articulating a theology of medicine. My bigger interest lies in how we treat the frail elderly and care for people who may or may not be dying sooner than others.

Death is our enemy and a horrid thing, but it is not medicines job (and definitely not in our capability) to eradicate death. That is guaranteed elsewhere.


If it is so that the severely ill infant of the last post – who by all appearances seems to be dying – should continue to be resuscitated and treated aggressively because they bear God’s image then it surely follows that we should continue to resuscitate the frail elderly with severe pneumonia (who will almost always have lost capacity to decide for themselves due to their acute illness).

My reaction to the severely ill infant is to aggressively resuscitate but to the elderly patient with severe pneumonia my reaction is to not aggressively resuscitate. I seem to be following a different ethic in each of those situations.

i find these two points that to be in conflict:

1) it is a good thing that you exist. You are in God’s image. Your existence blesses mine

2) it is good that you are not suffering. It is good a thing that you are not in pain

I cannot bring about 1) without going against 2) and I cannot pursue 2) without struggling to maintain 1)

Without bringing in harm/benefit ratios and a generalized utilitarian ethic I find it impossible to resolve them, though I am well aware I may be missing some fundamental point.

And I don’t mean to say that considering harm and benefit in the decision making process is necessarily a bad thing I just feel it dangerous to give them primacy.

There is no doubt a logical fallacy somewhere in there so help me out.

Thoughts people?


One line review: The Penguin History of the World

A book with such an ambitious task can only fail to achieve what one might expect of it – to summarize (the summary): a whole lot of people got born and died and a whole lot of people did horrid things to each other along the way.


Learn to live with what you are – 1

In Church we have this little meeting sometimes on a Sunday night called Forum. We sit in the office and drink dodgy coffee and try to work out some theological topic relevant to the contemporary world.

A few weeks ago, I led a discussion about end of life and theological implications following on from our involvment with modern medicine. This blog summarises a lot of my take on it.

Last night myself and Mrs Steffi Knorn were leading one on the interaction of ethics, theology and modern medicine in issues pertaining to the beginning of life.

What follows is not exactly the minutes of the meeting, more like how the discussion flowed from my point of view and my reactions to it. Be aware that it contains some very distinct Christian assumptions about image bearing, and protection of the powerless and voiceless in society.

Bottom line we seem pretty bewildered and confused on the whole thing. On a spectrum from where we believe life begins to what we do with extremely tiny premature babies we struggled to articulate an ethic or theology that was somewhat separate from what modern medical ethics tells us to do.

We retreat to defining what is good based on a balance of harms and benefits with a presumption that survival is the positive outcome to be chased and disability (in the case of extreme pre-term births) is a negative thing that sways us against active treatment.

When it comes to defining when life begins most of our discussions resolved around various different scientifically defined points. When I think of where life begins it takes me a while to realise that this is a poor question when it is abstracted from a theology of relationship, image bearing, sex and community.

I struggle to know what it means to care for an extremely low birth weight 24 week gestation infant. I struggle to know if active and invasive intervention is the best way to love them and honour their image-bearingness.

200 years ago an extremely low-birth weight infant was fairly easy to care for. You kept them warm and the you buried them.

We now find oursleves in a bit of a different situation.

The question I find myself asking is that if we can do something why should we do something?

Followed to its logical conclusion this is kind of a scary question, cause it throws virtually all medical interventions in the air.

Hargaden’s point (which he was making up as he went so see it as that, rather than a finely tuned postion) was this (forgive me if I make a hames of it) – if we accept that all life is holy (which is the orthodox Catholic positon as I understand it) then life is inherently good and worth preserving. Therefore we should fight to preserve life. This has particular relevance for the powerless and voiceless (infants and those with severe disabilities) because if we acknowledge their lives as holy then we have a duty to protect their lives as no one else will. There is a risk that the powerless are silenced by the powerful and wiped from the earth. It is our repsonsibility to fight on behlaf of the powerless.

Follow this out and it seems that if life is holy then the right thing to do is to fight to preserve it, aggressively if necessary.

The situation for those with a voice is somewhat different as they are able to acknowledge and choose that their lives are not of ultimate value and therefore they can choose to forgo life-saving treatment.

It is at this point that I struggle.

I find it hard that an ethic that is designed to protect the powerless results in us causing pain and suffering.

It breaks the golden rule (do onto others as…) or Kant’s categorical imperative. If i was a 25 week premie with massive IVH (bleed into the brain) and bilateral pneumos (punctured lungs on both sides) and florid sepsis (an overwhelming infection) and had already failed multiple treatments I would not want further life-preserving treatment. This would be my choice.

So this ethic seems to need refinement. We cannot fight to preserve life out of fear (a reasonable fear) that we will silence the powerless, because in preserving life we will end up doing violence to them.

Indeed perhaps the whole problem with this, why we find it so hard is because we don’t really know what life is for.

We reach for medicine as the framework to answer these questions by because we have no better answers.

Medicine will at least give us some kind of an answer (though we still find it hard to swallow) that life is most flourishing when we are conscious, without pain, autonomous, and have many years before us.

This question will remain unanswerable in the church till we become a people with an alternative definition that values and understands all the image bearers that this world is peopled with.

Comments, criticims and rants welcome.

Get real get right

As the church should we:

A) seek to know the right thing to do


B) be formed into a people of character who do the right thing

Or maybe they’re the same thing.

(if there’s anything life has taught me is that difficult questions are best answered using simplistic binary variables…)



And yet more…

Following on from transfarmer’s post I found this today reading. While not exactly on the topic it did remind me of her “Bob the builders”.

Christians rightly desire to do great things in service to God and in service to the world. But too often, Christians think that such service must insure the desired outcome. We simply do not believe that we can risk fishing for a fish with a coin in its mouth

Christian discipleship entails our trusting that God has given and will continue to give all that we need to be faithful.

Commentary on Matthew

Stanley Hauerwas

[Fish with the coin in its mouth found here]

Anyone guess what I’m listening to?

Fascinating painting if you follow the Wikipedia link

One more drifter in the snow

So given the day off, we figured we should do something with it.

What started off as a rather lame Barney snowman:

Turned into something a whole lot cooler:

Though it took a while:

Afternoon very well spent.

Snow Day

We’re not really up to coping with the snow and the ice are we?

TCD (where I work) is closed tomorrow because of the snow. The North Americans I teach are all a bit bemused that the whole country shuts down at the hint of chilly weather. If you were from Canada or Minnesota you’d probably understand.

But for me it means a “snow day”. And it couldn’t come at a better time.

Tired, full of mucous and looking not sure which way is up.

While I’ve not been exactly busy in work, we seem to have managed to cram every other moment of our lives with something or other.

We have had people staying with us in our humble abode for the past 6 weekends in a row. While a lot of fun, this was perhaps not the best idea in the world.

Not for a raging introvert like me.

Now I know I can hold a conversation with the best of them, and I know that I have even been known to enjoy other people’s company but gees it is kind of hard work.

I suppose this is what I’m realising. That my life has changed. That I have changed.

Anyone, even me, could see this coming. I changed jobs, changed countries, got married, and made a whole bunch of new friends a big part of my life.

Yet I’m still coming to terms with it. Also hardly a surprise.

I’m noticing patterns at least. That I’m better when I’ve had the time on my own to figure this out. Even when my lovely wife knows it days before I do.

Here’s to the snow



December 2010