An Open Letter to Critics (especially Mr Adam Postans)

Ok, so it’s been a very long while … but I’ve been prompted to return to the world of blogging in response to the following article …

http://entertainment.uk.msn.com/socialvoices/why-miranda-is-overrated-as-a-programme

To those who have not read the article, Mr Adam Postans argues that “Miranda” is not particularly funny, original and does not deserve the ratings that it is currently getting.  Furthermore, several of the comments posted after the article declare, quite definitively, that “Miranda” is not funny …

Now, in the interests of fairness I have to say that I have quite enjoyed watching “Miranda”, though I haven’t enjoyed the most recent series nearly as much as the first two.  I also slightly hesitate to write this post, as I know that I have been guilty of doing exactly what I am about to criticise … please trust me, that in these instances, I hold myself completely to account and am wholly criticising my own behaviour when I have been guilty of the “critical spirit” that seems to pervade the mass sharing of opinion that is the Internet …

It’s this stance that says “My taste is right and good” (Mr Postans even claims that if you agree with his taste in comedy, then you have exquisite taste) “but if you disagree with me, then you have no taste”.  It’s the firm opinion that says that this comedy “is not funny” or this kind of music “is a load of rubbish.”

Now, this is not to say that I don’t think people should have opinions – I certainly do!  There are kinds of films (rom-coms), TV (reality shows) and music (rap, Hip-hop, R’n’b, cheesy, Boy-band, X Factor contestants) that I frankly can’t stand and would have to be dragged to watch/listen to kicking and screaming.  But I understand that other people genuinely enjoy these things, even though I really don’t.  And that’s ok, because some things in life really are just a subjective choice.  I think especially music and comedy are very personal tastes … and you can’t always explain why you like what you like, or why certain things make you laugh – they just do

Of course “Miranda” is not the cleverest comedy out there, it’s not really deep, intelligent and subtle … but it’s not trying to be any of those things.  It’s just trying to entertain and make people laugh … which it seems to be very successful at doing.  As far as I’m aware, no one is forced against their will to watch “Miranda”, unless there has been a spate of unreported “comedy- jackings” recently.  Therefore the millions of people sitting down to watch this show are choosing to do so, perhaps because they enjoy it and do find it funny.

It’s therefore staggering that Mr Postans claims; “For a television show so derivative and unoriginal, it certainly doesn’t warrant the ratings it receives.”  I’m sorry, Adam, but clearly it does warrant the ratings it receives – as all those people are choosing to watch it because they find it entertaining/funny/enjoyable.  You may not understand why they make the choice, but the fact of the matter is that they are doing … Perhaps it’s because some people don’t mind if a show is unoriginal and derivative, if it is funny and makes them laugh.

It seems that Mr Postans has confused comedy with NASA or a scientific research lab – it is their job to discover something new or ground breaking – to pioneer new territory or uncover something previously unknown.  The job of comedy is to entertain and make us laugh – if that’s with the same old formulas, then so be it … If it happens to be a new brand of comedy that makes us laugh, all power to that … but the core virtue of comedy comes in making people laugh, not necessarily in the art of discovery.  And at the end of the day, I understand that most modern TVs come with the very useful function of on/off power … if you don’t like it then don’t watch it!  But don’t snipe and sneer at something because it doesn’t meet your own very personal tastes.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that your own personal tastes are somehow superior to other people’s … that’s a mistake I’ve been all too guilty of – and I’m sure I will continue to be, because I’m imperfect.  Too many critics act as though their opinion is inherently more valuable than that of other less qualified people.  It may be that as a critic you can render your opinion in more sophisticated and well crafted language than most other people.  It may be that as a critic you have watched more TV/films or listened to more music than most other people and so have a greater frame of reference when comparing the product in front of you.  But this self-elevation, whereby I’m tempted to effectively sit in judgement, not just on the artistic offerings of the world, but on the opinions of those who enjoy them, is nothing short of self-justifying pride and personal elitism.  It says that my taste is good, my standards are right and my choices are uniquely discerning and impeccable.

All the while, we look down on those who just don’t measure up to our own personal high standards and dismiss them as simpletons/unintelligent/sheep/no taste/chavs …  And this is the particular culture amongst critics that I would like to challenge.  The “Dismissive Culture” which immediately renders so many things as sub-standard.  The sitting in austere judgement on films, books, TV, music, food, art – things made to be enjoyed and appreciated … so often lambasted by the critics for not living up to the hopelessly high expectations that only they seem to expect …  Many critics often act as though they are a representative of the people – trying on our behalf and letting us know if it’s worth our time, effort and money.  And yet, how often are the critics out of step with the people?  How many films have been a critical success but a commercial flop and vice versa … ?

How many critics have actually offered up something themselves?  How many have contributed positively to the process?

So, Mr Postans, you may not enjoy “Miranda”.  It may not make you laugh or fit with your idea of a good comedy, which is fine.  You are perfectly entitled not to enjoy it.  But before declaring so definitively, so authoritatively that this show (that is enjoyed by millions and millions of people) is overrated and does not deserve to get the number of viewers that it does … ask yourself this … Is it not enough that some people do genuinely think it’s funny?  Is it not enough, that some people can enjoy it?  Is there not value in a show that seems to entertain so many people and bring them back week by week of their own free choice?  Does comedy always need to be pioneering and groundbreaking?  Can it not just be funny?  Are critics so blinded by a superior sense of their own impeccable taste that they are completely incapable of seeing things from anyone else’s point of view?

I find it so surprising that so many critics seem to lack an awareness that preferences in entertainment are deeply personal and often unexplainable.  I don’t always know why I like what I like – sometimes I just do.  The fact that critics so often seem to try and define “good taste” and standards of excellence, usually in terms of themselves, leads me to the conclusion … Critics are so often overrated.

Outmanoeuvred. Outplayed. Out.

Germany 4 – England 1

I’m not going to offer a match report as there are plenty of these knocking around.  Neither am I going to provide an inquest as there are many a talented and knowledgeable football commentators more capable of this than myself.  I should also make clear that I think the Germans fully deserved their victory regardless of any decisions that went against England.  Given England’s own decision making during the match, I think there’s only so much that you can question the match officials.  However the game has left me with a long list of questions, which I would like to share.  If anyone can offer answers, then you’ve probably got a good chance of being the next England coach …

In no particular order …

– Why did no one want John Terry’s shirt at the end of the match?

– Was it an act of prophecy that the match was followed by “Antiques Roadshow” on BBC1?

– Who had a worse game – the England defense or the referee and linesman? (I suspect the England defence for conceding 4 goals they shouldn’t have while the referee failed to give 1 goal he should have given)

– Who has kidnapped the real Wayne Rooney?

– Why did Steven Gerrard think he was Roberto Carlos and kept wanting to smash the ball in with a 30 yard screamer?

– How come England only did marginally better than Australia against Germany? (They lost 4-0, we lost 4-1 … they only had 10 men for most of the game)

– Why didn’t the linesman go to Specsavers?

– Why couldn’t we have scored another goal against Slovenia thus topped the group and had a much easier route to the semi-finals? (where we would have been trounced by Brazil or Netherlands!)

– Was it deja vu or did we concede the same goal 4 times?

– Where did John Terry go?

– Why was Matthew Upson (West Ham, nearly relegated) our next choice central defender ahead of Michael Dawson (Tottenham, qualified for Champions League)?

– Given the above, why was Upson the only player who could score yesterday? (Excusing Mr Lampard, of course)

– Given the above why was Upson (West Ham, nearly relegated) so much better than John Terry (Chelsea, Champions)?

– How come the worst players at this World Cup are supposedly some of the best (Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Barry)?

– How come the goalkeeper (who we were all worried about before the World Cup began) turned out to be our best player?

– Did we even have a marking tactic?

– Why oh why oh why could we not have beaten USA or Algeria?

– How many of these players will (thankfully) have retired by 2014?

– Is there any chance we could kidnap the following German players and pass them off as the following England players?
Ozil (Lampard)
Mueller (Gerrard)
Schweinsteiger (Beckham)
Lahm (Phil Neville)
Klose (Peter Crouch – he might need some stilts)

Easter and the Christ

“Penal substitutionary atonement” … There’s a phrase to get a party started, if ever there was one! In all seriousness, though it is an idea that’s causing a lot of controversy and debate in theological circles at the moment. Without wanting to patronise anyone, I thought I’d better explain. Penal substitutionary atonement (as I understand it) is the idea that Christ died on the cross, taking the place and punishment earned by sinful mankind. As Jesus hung on the cross, God the Father poured out on Jesus all his wrath and anger at man’s sinful rebellion – Jesus, being perfect and sinless was able to take the punishment on himself, thus meaning that God could still be just (because sin has still been punished) and yet graciously forgive those in rebellion against him.

For many, this whole idea of God being angry, of punishing his beloved son, of pouring out his wrath – it all paints an uncomfortable and disturbing picture of God – often being compared to an angry and vengeful tyrant with no hint of compassion or love. One writer has even called this understanding of the cross as being equal to an act of cosmic child abuse and not consistent with the Bible’s clear teaching that God is love. (1 John 4:8)

But how did the Christ himself understand the meaning and significance of his death?

It’s hard to read the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry without realising that the crucifixion did not come as a surprise to him. Jesus is well aware that this is where he is heading, and while the prospect of a gruesome death is not one he looks forward to, nevertheless he goes to it willingly. In Gethsemane we see the torment and anguish he goes through in anticipation of what he is to face (Matt 26:36-46). He pleads with God that if there is any other way, that he might be spared. And yet he goes, he does not resist arrest (Matt 26:47-56), he does not speak up in his own defence during the farce of his trial (Matt 26:57-66), he does not plead mercy from Pilate (Matt 27:11-14), he does not give an impassioned plea to the crowds to choose him ahead of Barabbas the criminal. (Matt 27:15-26) The Christ is not a passive agent, he goes to his death willingly. But why? What did Jesus understand that it was going to achieve?

I think we get a massive clue from two things: The Meal and The Cry.

The Meal

The night before he was crucified, Jesus sits down to dinner with his friends. Given that he knew what was going to happen, it would be far too easy to view this just as a poignant goodbye to those who had been closest to him for the last few years. But the occasion itself and Jesus’ actions through the course of the meal make this an almost impossible situation.

The meal itself was the Passover Meal, the occasion celebrated by the Jews ever since the first Passover in Egypt several thousand years earlier. In the first few chapters of Exodus, we find that God’s people were in brutal slavery under a tyrannical Pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 1-3). Pharaoh had set himself up against God and refused to let the Israelites go, instead seeking to make their lives worse and worse. God in turn had clearly demonstrated himself to be the true living God through a series of devastating plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptian people. (Exodus 5-10) After Pharaoh’s constant refusal to heed God’s warnings and submit to his Lord and Creator, God brings a final plague on Egypt. God would pass in judgement through Egypt and all the first-born sons would die. (Exodus 11)

However God makes special provision for the people of Israel – they are to take a perfect unblemished Lamb, kill it and paint the blood on their doorposts. This was because, if left to themselves, the sinful people of Israel would be just as much deserving of God’s judgement as the Egyptians. So, a perfect lamb dies in their place and they are marked out by the blood. When God comes in judgement on Egypt, he passes over the houses marked with blood and those inside are mercifully saved. (Exodus 12)

The Passover was a massively significant event in Israel’s history and a major celebration on the Jewish calendar. Exodus 12:13 explains quite explicitly what’s going on – what was to be remembered  “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”  It was the blood of the lamb that rescued the Israelites from destruction at the hands of an awesome and holy God – because that destruction has already fallen on the lamb.  So when Jesus takes the bread and breaks it, and takes the cup of wine – he is taking ordinary parts of the Passover meal.

And yet the words he says as he does these things, shows that Jesus is not just wanting his disciples to remember the Passover in Egypt but to look to a new Passover that is imminent.  “This is my body broken for you”, “this is my blood shed for you”. (Matt 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20)  Coming the day before his death on the cross, can this be anything other than Jesus telling his disciples that he is the Passover Lamb? He is the perfect sinless Lamb who is killed and his blood shed so that God’s people can be rescued and spared from his right judgement.  This seems to be the understanding of the apostles and the early church – Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:7 “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 

As Jesus prepares to go to the cross, he is demonstrating that he is about to lay down his life.  Christ is to bear God’s judgement, the Lord’s just punishment for sin, that his people might be rescued and be brought back into right relationship with their God and creator.

In fact, the Passover was just one of many reminders to God’s people of their need for a substitute.  In Leviticus 16 we get the description of the Day of Atonement, an annual event for Israel in which sacrifices were made in place of a sinful people.  One goat was killed in place of the people because of their sin (Lev 16:16) and the blood sprinkled around the Mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (The symbolic dwelling place of God among his people)  The sins of the people would then be confessed over another goat before it was sent out of the camp to die in the wilderness.  This was to symbolise the two-fold nature of the sacrifice – one goat suffered the death that sinful humans deserve for their rebellion against the living God – the goat takes the punishment instead.  The other goat removes the sin of the people, removing the barrier that cuts them off from a holy and awesome God.

The Christ knows that this is God’s will “Yet your will be done!” (Matt 26:42), he knows that through the evil, treachery and injustice committed by the authorities around him, that behind the whole thing lies a greater sovereign authority whose will is the most gloriously amazing plan of rescue and salvation. 

Jesus is no passive victim – he knows this is the good and loving will of his Father and so in obedience and humility, he willingly submits himself to a gruesome death on a Roman cross (see Philippians 2:5-11) … he offers himself as the perfect Passover Lamb, the one who turns away God’s right anger at sinful humanity.  As Jesus’ body is broken, the relationship between rebellious mankind and God is healed.  As Jesus’ blood is spilled, God showers his people with his undeserved love and mercy, his grace.  This is a plan conceived and brought about by the loving Father God and the gloriously willing and obedient Son, so that the people he lovingly created might be restored to a right relationship with him.  As Jesus celebrates the Passover Meal, he points his disciples and us to the fact that He is in fact the Passover Lamb – that they are about the witness the Ultimate Passover, where a perfect and Holy God will come in judgement and yet pass over his people because a lamb without blemish has taken their place.  The Meal shows us that Jesus was a willing, humble and obedient sacrifice, who lovingly and self-sacrificially takes God’s wrath on himself, so that we might approach God and call him our loving Heavenly Father.

The Cry 

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ”  (Matt 27:45-46)

It’s midday on the Day of Preparation for the Sabbath and an execution is taking place outside of the city walls, just a few days after the Passover festival.  Crucifixions usually drew a crowd, but they weren’t exactly an uncommon sight in Roman-occupied Judea.  This one, however had aroused a lot of interest.  Not so much for the criminals but for the man on the middle cross.  Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter turned itinerant preacher and miracle worker, who had made some pretty bold claims, rubbed the religious authorities up the wrong way and was often seen associating with the dregs of society. 

An eerie darkness had descended and the few remaining of the Nazarene’s followers huddled together weeping desperately.  The soldiers called back and forth and the crowd hurled abuse at the criminals, and even at the carpenter.  Cruel taunts and insults spewed forth and yet the man on the middle cross remained quiet.  It seemed an eternity had passed and the crowd was beginning to tire, when Jesus called out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He wasn’t the only one there asking that question.  His followers no doubt were stunned that a man of such peace and love, a man who spoke with such great authority, who performed miracles and who forgave sins, who welcomed children, tax collectors and prostitutes and who challenged the self-righteous, pious and religious … that God could be allowing this to happen to him.  The religious authorities must have been quite satisfied – the man who they had condemned as a blasphemer, an impostor and a heretic just hours before – was now admitting defeat, he was now resigned to the fact that God had abandoned him – surely a glorious confirmation of their unpopular verdict.

However, it was only the man on the cross who fully understood these words.  Yes God had forsaken him – the darkness was a clear sign of God’s judgement. The cry of anguish is one not borne out of pain or physical torment, but out of the fact that Jesus was cut off from God.  God the Father and God the Son who have related to one another with perfect love and harmony in all eternity, are now cut off.  God turns his face from his dear beloved Son, and for the first time in history Jesus, the perfect man, knows what it is to be at odds with the almighty Lord God.

As a Father does not delight in punishing and rebuking a disobedient child, God the Father takes no sadistic pleasure in pouring out his wrath – especially because this is the dear Son who he loves.  And yet, rather than punish the children who have rebelled against their Creator and Heavenly Father, God the Son who never rebelled offers himself in our place.  He submits to receiving the punishment that we were due, even though he was perfect.  He is willing to be forsaken for us even though he had never forsaken God himself.

The cry that goes up from the cross is one of wrenching emotional torment – a dearly beloved Son separated from his loving Father.  Jesus understood that he was being forsaken by God as he hung on the cross … He understood he was the perfect and ultimate Passover Lamb.  He went to the cross sacrificially, willingly and obediently.  But why?

The questions about penal substitutionary atonement and comments about “cosmic child abuse” do raise the genuine question – How can a loving God act like this?  People are absolutely right to assert that God islove.  That’s how he describes himself in his Word.  But does that negate what else the Bible tells us about the nature and character of God?  God is also good, he is just, he loves right and hates evil.  People are right to assert that a lot of things are achieved in Jesus’ death on the cross – victory over evil, God’s salvation act of gathering a new covenant people for himself, Jesus’ ultimate act of self-sacrifice, humility and servant-hood – after all it’s the single most important event of the Bible.

Many participants of the debate seem to want the different understandings of God’s character and purposes to be mutually exclusive.  If the Bible tells us that God is love, and tells us that God punished sin in Jesus on the cross, then it’s mischievous to try and play the two ideas off against each other.  Often I think it’s because we can’t really be bothered to work hard, to pray for wisdom and understanding on how these things work together.  We get lazy and it becomes easier to discredit and ignore Biblical teachings we don’t understand or don’t find particularly comfortable.

What seems hardest to comprehend in this particular controversy, is this.  The very idea that God is love is followed by a clear explanation of how God shows his love;  1 John 4:8 tells us clearly that God is love – it is in his very being, it defines him. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Therefore, if God is love then whatever God does must always be loving.  But 1 John 4 doesn’t stop there – in verses 9-11 John explains exactly what the love of God looks like

“9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

So far from being contradictory doctrines, “God is love” and “God punishes Jesus on the cross” actually support one another – God the Father and God the Son clearly demonstrate their love of sinful mankind in sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice.  Penal substitutionary atonement does not undermine but rather it massively underlines the fact that God is love.

As a doctrine, it’s always likely to make us feel uncomfortable as it makes us realise the impact, the seriousness, the offensiveness of our sin against God.  It reminds us that because of our horrific rebellion against the one who created, blessed and sustains us, the perfectly innocent Jesus had to suffer an appalling and excruciating death, and to be cut off from God so we could be rescued and redeemed.  It’s not the most flattering thing for our inflated human egos, but then we like to think we’re not that bad really. 

But is it not encouraging to know that God is so incredibly loving, that the extent of his love is so great that even though we spurned him and turned our backs, that he should give of himself so graciously and generously?  That while we were his enemies, that Jesus should come and willingly die in our place so we could not just be called friends of God, but be welcomed into his family?  That God the Father should be willing to do this even though it meant the pain and anguish of punishing his innocent and dearly beloved Son on the cross?  That God the Son should be willing to do this even though it meant being cut off and forsaken by his Father and beaten, broken, nailed, pierced and crucified?  Is that not love of the greatest kind?  And if God loves us enough to do that, can we not have complete confidence that he will keep us, that he will love us and remain faithful to his promises for all eternity?

The authors of “Pierced for our Transgressions”, a recent work on this very subject (very highly recommended) have given their book the sub-title Re-discovering the Glory of Penal Substitution.  I think this is absolutely right – this should be a teaching that causes us to rejoice and give thanks to God, not to argue and fall out about it.  It’s an amazing thing that God has done on the cross, and something that should be a source of praise and thanksgiving.

However, in the reality of our churches and theological circles, it seems to be an idea under great attack.  To my mind, it is the clear understanding of Jesus Christ himself and the overt teaching of the Scriptures, that a loving God punishes his willing Son in place of us, that we might be a rescued and redeemed people who recognise God as Lord and King and seek to honour him in everything.  As John says in 1 John 4:

 7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  

Progress Report

Hello avid blog readers!!!  (That’s if you haven’t all completely given up and stopped bothering to check back for new posts!)

Anyway, this is just to say that the first installment of my article(s!) on Easter and my long ago promised reflections … well, I’ve started writing it – more than started, but not yet finished.  I hope to have it posted up sometime this week!  Mmm … specific!  Seriously, though – it should be soon but I wouldn’t hold your breath (cos it won’t be in the next few minutes!)

Anyway, more generally in my world … Recovery from the hernia op is still taking much longer than I hoped.  I returned to work for a few 1/2 days last week – which was quite tiring but a good thing to do … a small but significant amount of progress!  Everyone at work was very friendly, welcoming and concerned … and I’m hoping by the end of this week I’ll be back to working full days, but we’ll just have to see!

Watch this space …

Herniatic!

So, after just over a 6 month wait I finally had my hernia operation on Tuesday.  I walked in feeling fit and well and shuffled out feeling a bit like an frail elderly man making his way, almost tortoise like over to the taxi rank.  I am reliably informed that if I hadn’t have had the operation, something very nasty and unpleasant could have happened to me.

Anyway, I am now on a 2-3 week break from work as I recover from the surgery.  At the moment it’s not the most pleasant time as I’m in some pain or discomfort (especially when moving about) and still quite lethargic from the general anaesthetic.  However, I am getting to see lots of Gail (which is amazing!) and sit around watching TV and playing video games.  I have yet to attempt a musical instrument since the op, but I’m definitely yearning for it.  It’s also dawning on me that I have several things to be getting on with, which I probably could conceivably work on during my long lay-off.  I have a seminar to prepare on “Relating to God” for the Kids camp in Sibford as well as preparing several Bible studies as well.  I’m speaking at church at the end of July on Matthew 5:13-16, and I’m wanting to do some work on several songs.

Several weeks ago I met up with an established and published Christian songwriter to get some feedback on some of my songs.  It was very positive in all, with lots of fair and objective constructive criticism – now I just need to go back to the drawing board with a few songs and try to make them as good as they can be.  In general, he seemed to think they had some potential, so watch this space!  I’m also hoping to get some songs recorded over the summer – I have a number of friends at church who do that sort of thing as part of their studies and are amply (!) equipped.

Almost 2 weeks ago I had my belated birthday party (due to extreme busyness around the time of my actual birthday).  My brother and sister-in-law came and brought Grace, my now 2 month old niece.  She had grown quite a lot and was also considerably more awake than the last time I’d seen her.  They seem to be adjusting to family life very well – and I’m pretty excited (still) about being an uncle.  Lots of people came later on and the weather even managed to hold off long enough for a viable BBQ!  In my bid to not be stressed and do too much organising, I’d kind of vaguely asked people to bring meat and stuff – in the end we had way too much food and I spent a very cheap week eating up burgers and sausages in abundance.  Not that I’m complaining … 

It was a really good party with lots of good friends just enjoying spending time together and relaxing.  It was a shame I couldn’t have had my family and all my friends from Manchester, Colchester and Cheadle to celebrate being 25, but these things happen … Plus I think it could have been a little bit squashed!  I hope to get down to Cheadle in the next few weeks – recovery permitting … and maybe even swinging down Colchester way for a bit of a hello to all the people who still can’t seem to escape the clutches of North Essex!

The same weekend, on the Sunday night myself and Tom (my housemate) went to see the Manic Street Preachers at the Apollo in Manchester.  Despite being a bit disappointed with the new album “Send Away the Tigers” on the first hearing, it has been growing on me a lot – and hearing a number of the songs live was incredible.  The Manics appear to be back to creating epic anthems with lush soaring choruses – and James Dean Bradfield really gets to sing his socks off, which is always good!  The gig itself was phenomenal – for a band edging towards their 40s there was so much energy and excitement – the best rapport with the fans that I think I’ve ever seen from them, and just a really high quality and tight set with a good mix of new material and the stunning back catalogue that have made the Manics by far and away my favourite band.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves and I certainly did.   They even played “Sleepflower”, the first track from their second album that has one of the best ever guitar riffs – but not a song usually part of their live set.  It was an incredible gig from an unbelievably good band … and apparently there are some more dates being announced for the end of the year!

All in all, an eventful few weeks and while I may not be incredibly active for the next fortnight, this may allow me some time to blog a bit more – and even post some of my Easter reflections eventually!

Muchly muchly busy!!!

So, a little while ago I promised a series of reflections on Easter and the Cross.  I obviously need to be a little more careful what I promise in the future!  I am still planning to do a series and the first article is in progress – please be patient with me!

I have had an incredibly busy few weeks including organising and playing for the wedding of some good friends from church, becoming an uncle for the very first time, a training weekend for our Summer Kids Camp, an upcoming weekend in the Peak District, a 25th birthday and much excessive busyness at work!

My birthday last week was very nice (Thursday 26th – belated cards and presents are still welcome :P), even if I was working.  I brought in lots of cake which I enjoyed with all my lovely colleagues – some of them then treated me to a free Subway lunch … which was nice!  And they say there’s no such thing!  I then went out for dinner with Gail, and having abandoned the plan to try and find a good Italian in Manchester (there are some but they are very expensive!) we found ourselves (!) in the Sangam – the finest Curry establishment on Rusholme’s Curry Mile.  We had a very nice meal and a really nice evening in all.  As a bonus I was off work on Friday so I didn’t need to hurry home to bed which was good …  I even managed a lie-in till 11am the next day – the first time in months!!!

Anyway, please hold tight – I promise that my reflections on Easter and the cross are on the way … That’s if you care at all!

Easter Reflections

Last week I had some unexpected holiday sprung on me, which was really nice – I had nothing planned and nowhere in particular to go … this meant lots of lie-ins (in theory), some PS2 games, lots of music, lots of quality time spent with a certain person 🙂 and lots of time to think.

On Good Friday I went to “An Hour at the cross” service at Holy Trinity Platt, the big evangelical C of E church round the corner from my house and it really got me thinking (!) about how much there is to the Cross of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection.  Christians so often casually throw out “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” or a similar line, which makes it sound like a perfectly normal and every day event. 

It’s also a subject at the centre of a fierce theological debate at the moment.  Steve Chalke and Jeffrey John have quite publicly rejected the idea of “penal substitionary atonement” that is, that Jesus was punished by God on the cross for humanity’s sin.  Chalke even compares such an idea to being “cosmic child abuse” in his book The Lost Message of Jesus.  Responses have come thick and fast from Ben Cooper’s  Just Love which argues that a loving and just God must punish sin and a new book Pierced for our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey and Andrew Sach (not Manuel from Fawlty Towers).

To my mind, the Chalke/John position is thoroughly untenable and inconsistent with Biblical teaching.  John has even gone as far as to question the mental stability of the Psalmist in some of his writings.  But more on this later …

This, incidentally is why I have been boycotting Spring Harvest over the last few years.  That the Leadership of Spring Harvest has comprehensively failed to admonish and hold Chalke to account for his teaching error and instead shown their approval for his teaching by allowing him to remain on the leadership of the event, this is neither loving to Chalke (not encouraging him to see and correct his error) nor to those who will be taught falsehood as a result of his position in Spring Harvest.

The break away of UCCF, Keswick and the Word Alive week, is therefore sadly inevitable and necessary.  It will be seen, and no doubt spun by some that it’s the cranky conservative evangelicals getting a bit too up themselves about nothing – but if we don’t see the importance and relevance of what Christ achieved at the cross as central to the Christian message, then it really shows how lost we are. 

 I hope in the next few days to post a series of reflections on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which I hope will prove helpful, interesting and encourage some more thinking and careful Bible study on the subject!