Monday, November 27, 2006

Tariq Ramadan

A few weeks ago, I went to hear prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan speak on "The Future of Islam in the West". These are some of my quick reflections.

TR drew a strong distinction between the central tenets of Islam and certian cultural expressions of them. He said that faithfulness to the central tenets was what mattered from a muslim point of view, however that might be culturally expressed.

He then said that many of the problems with Islam in the West are because many of the muslims here are trying to use cultural expressions of Islam from their previous cultures (e.g. traditional Pakistani culture) in the West, rather than the longer and more difficult process of finding a Western cultural expression of Islam.

There was also a fair bit of stuff about using the central tenets of Islam to critique cultures, both in the West and in countries more used to Islam.

There were too many silly or boring (from my point of view) questions, so I didn't get a chance to ask mine. However, it seems to me that his arguments have some interesting consequences...

Firstly, he was careful not to criticise anyone's cultural expression of Islam. So if someone's cultural expression is to blow up anyone who disagrees with Muhammed, I'm not at all convinced he'd criticise them for that.

Secondly, and more seriously from a logical point of view, he didn't define how to tell the central issues apart from the cultural issues. The Qur'an clearly contains what he would say are both cultural and central, and it's hard to see why he'd put eating pork as something that is absolutely forbidden, but shaving as something only culturally forbidden (which I think he does).

This is also interesting because it kind of parallels some questions in Christianity, especially with regard to interpreting the Old Testament laws. Except there I think it's easier, and it's pretty obvious that the Bible says we should love our enemies rather than killing them.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I've got loads on interesting stuff to post about Islam, but I've just got back, have quite a bit of Greek to do for tomorrow and am off to Liverpool for the weekend. So I might post it next week sometime.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Suspicious-Looking Device

Dave Walker, in his blog, drew my attention to the Suspicious Looking Device, which seems very cool.

The only function of the Suspicious Looking device is to appear as suspicious as possible

And while on the subject of Dave Walker's blog, here's one of his excellent cartoons.

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Are Evangelicals Semi-Marcionite?

The Marcionites were a group of heretics in the early church, who followed a guy called Marcion. Basically, he said that the God of the Old Testament was evil and different from the God of the New Testament. He did that by deciding that a lot of what we call the Bible wasn't actually the Bible. He ditched the whole Old Testament and large chunks of the New, including most of the gospels, and even bits of the ones he kept.

I think there's a danger that evangelicals do that today in a sense. Not that we say the God of the Old Testament is evil or anything, but that we ditch far too much of the Bible.

In far too many churches, the Old Testament is rarely read or preached, and large chunks of the New are ignored. Here's what's left in, give or take a bit...

  • Genesis 12, 2 Samuel 7
  • a few Psalms
  • Isaiah 6, 9, 53, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 37, Daniel 1-3, 6
  • Jesus' birth narratives from Matthew and Luke, crucifixion and resurrection narratives from all four gospels
  • The Sermon on the Mount and Great Commission from Matthew
  • Mark
  • parables from Luke
  • most of the "I am" sayings from John, and some bits about the Holy Spirit
  • a few bits of Acts, but by no means all of it
  • Romans - 2 Timothy, but with a few gaps (Romans 9,11; much of 2 Corinthians; 2 Thessalonians)
  • A few bits of Hebrews

If you don't believe me, what I've mentioned there is probably under 1/4 of the Bible. What proportion of the sermons and Bible studies at your church over the last year have been on it?

Of course, it's not just the evangelicals who do this. The Anglo-Catholics tend to preach on the gospels, and not much else.

But if we believe it's all God's word, we should preach on all of it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sermon on the Magnificat

This is lightly adapted from a sermon I wrote last week for preaching class. The passage is Luke 1:46-55.

Suppose you had to pick a woman to change the world. Who would you choose? Someone famous - a pop star, an actress, a celebrity, a TV presenter? Someone influential - A politician, a top lawyer, maybe a teacher or a doctor or an academic? Or maybe you'd go for someone spectacularly bad who could be turned around – a prostitute maybe or a criminal?

Chances are you wouldn't do what God did in v27 of Luke 1. God is going to change the world, and he starts with Nazareth - a town so obscure that no-one had ever written about it - in Galilee - a provincial backwater that most people ignored, and he starts with Mary, probably a teenage girl who's never even had sex and is engaged to be married to a guy whose only claim to fame is that 1000 years before, he'd had a famous ancestor. Lets face it, she's not the obvious choice for the job. At least get someone with maybe some influence, or useful life experience or at least from somewhere people have heard of! But that's not the way God does things. God chooses Mary.

Reading from verse 28...

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

“How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me according to your word." Then the angel left her.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!"

Mary has had an angel appear to her and tell her that she's “found favour with God”, and that she's going to be the mother of the Son of God. Even her respectable relative, Elizabeth, is acting like she's amazing. She's probably realised that she might well become the most famous woman of all time.

How does she respond?

She takes everything people have said and points it back to God. It's not about her at all really. Listen again to what she says:

My soul glorifies the LORD – literally that's closer to “my soul bigs God up” - and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant – that would be better as the “humiliation of his servant”. From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.

She's praising God because God has noticed her, even though she's nothing.

Actually, it's not just Mary. She doesn't even mention herself again in the song, but she notices that actually when God chose her, he did what he's always been doing.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers (powerful ones) from their thrones but has lifted up the humble (or the humiliated ones – the low ones). He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised his ancestors.

God has been doing what God has always done. Mary has been looking at the Old Testament, and realising that's always the way that God acts, and that's the way God promised to act. You know, they say that 60% of this song is lifted directly from lots of different bits of the Old Testament, and the other 40% is heavily influenced by it. How many teenage girls could do that. Come to think of it, how many adults who are regular church attenders could do that?

Mary's been studying her Bible, she knows what God is like. She knows that God always looks out for and helps the humiliated, the low, the hungry ones who fear him, who respect him, who honour him. He doesn't go for the proud, the powerful, the rich – if anything, God brings them down because they are too cocky, they don't respect God properly. So God chose Abraham. He was a nobody too – he was a nomadic Chaldean sheep herder. He was so unimportant, archaeologists reckon they'll probably never have any archaeological evidence that he even existed. But God met him and told him that he would become a mighty nation. Why? Not because Abraham was great, but because God loved him.

Here's Moses speaking to the people as they are about to enter the promised land. It's Deuteronomy 7

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

God didn't choose his people because they were great. He chose them because he is a loving God. He loved them because he loved them, he made promises to them because he wanted to. God doesn't choose the best people, he chooses whoever he wants.

God chose Mary.

And when he did that, he did exactly what he always does, and what he's promised he'll keep on doing. He chose the foolish things, the weak things, the despised things, so that no-one can boast.

We need to hear this today.

Maybe you're feeling weak. Maybe you're feeling foolish. Maybe you're feeling despised. Maybe you're feeling like you're a nobody. Well if so, Mary would say that's great, because God chooses people like you. If you respect God for who he is, if you fear him, then God will show mercy on you. God will lift you up, God will fill you with good things. That's what Mary's son Jesus came to do – to show mercy to people like you so that you can know the incredible joy of knowing God for yourself, and praise him as Mary does here.

If you to find out more about how you can come to know God, e-mail me, or talk to a Christian you know.

Or maybe you don't feel like that. Maybe you're proud, maybe you're powerful, maybe you're rich. For you then, this isn't such good news, because God scatters those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He brings down the powerful, he sends the rich away empty.

To you, what this passage is saying is “Change”. Come before God, recognise that he is the amazing God who created the universe with a word - the God who keeps everything in the entire universe running, the God who is so big and so powerful that we can't even begin to get our heads around it, the God who is so pure that if anything or anyone is less than perfect in his presence they just get burnt up. Come before that God, and realise that you are nothing. Realise that however rich you think you are, you are bankrupt in God's sight – that however clever you think you are, you are a complete fool – that however powerful you are, that you can do nothing. Recognise that, then maybe when you see that you are poor, that you are humiliated and worth nothing, when you are hungry for God, then he will have mercy on you. Or maybe, like me, you're a bit of both. Maybe you need to hear that where you are weak God is longing to bless you and to build you up, but where you feel strong and rich, he will tear down your pride so that you come to trust in him alone.

Because that's what he's doing by choosing a nobody like Mary. That's what he's always done. And that's what he's promised to do.

Lets pray.

Father God, where we are proud, break us. Make us into people who recognise our poverty, our humiliation, who hunger and thirst for you, and then who know what it is to be filled and lifted up by you, and to rejoice in God our Saviour.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I've jsut got back from a weekend away with the young adults' group at church. A good time was had, but as ever a fair few things got me thinking. Here's one of them - it happened this morning and was the lowest point of the weekend for me...

The power in the buildings we were staying in had gone (no real problem), so the meeting was moved from our usual meeting room (which was apparently too cold) to the dining room (which was warmer as we'd already been using it for breakfast and it had a nice log fire. Great, I thought, as I saw all the seats in a nice arrangement round tables and the musicians making room for their instruments.

But then people started moving the tables towards the back of the room, and putting all the chairs out in horribly regimented rows. The room looked so much worse, and I had to leave to try to avoid getting angry or something.

If we're singing to God and one another, surely it makes more sense to be facing one another than to have everyone looking in the same direction, so you can't see the face of anyone you're singing to! God doesn't say "when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am hiding under the table at the front!"

If we're listening to a talk, it's just as easy to listen when sitting round tables - just turn your chair to face the speaker.

Given that we spent a fair bit of time discussing stuff, surely it would have been better to discuss round the tables that were there to start with than try to move the chairs again to discuss things.

I've been to a few churches where people normally sit around tables for the service, and they're generally much friendlier, and it doesn't make it any harder to listen to the sermon or anything.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clothes Shopping

Today I got my first new pair of jeans in a few years.

This is actually quite a big achievement - I had to try six different pairs of different sizes and cuts before I could find one that fit me (and even now I'll probably have to wear a belt).

My problem? Thighs. Most people don't think I'm overweight. I am, but only slightly. But I've got 27 inch circumference thighs (each - I measured), and most trousers aren't designed for that. My last pair of jeans literally split down the leg, Incredible Hulk style.

Well, actually, that's not my problem. My problem is that trouser makers are inconsiderate. And yes, I know that in many ways women have it worse with standard sizes...

Oh yeah, and I'm going away for a few days, so don't expect any posts until late Sunday at the earliest...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Last night, some friends from college and I watched some films which took the mick out of Christians - Saved! and The Church. They were pretty funny actually. Saved! is made by non-Christians and set in a "Christian" high school in the USA, and The Church is a spoof done by a church in London in the style of The Office. To be honest, I thought both were quite funny.

What was striking though was that in both situations, the Christians were almost entirely graceless. The characters in them seemed not to understand that Christians are not better than other people - that we're all bad, we're all deserving of hell, but that Christians have been forgiven, and therefore have no right to claim any moral high ground. Given the number of times that judgementalism is condemned in the Bible, and the amount of emphasis on the total undeservedness of God's love for us, I think that's significant.

Interestingly, it's also the major thing missing from the (very twisted) church in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

So, is the church not communicating grace? Are we denying it by the way we act towards others? (I think we are sometimes - my attitude towards smokers, for example, or the way the church has been seen to respond to homosexuality)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fun with Physics

Fun with non-Newtonian fluids.

The basic idea is that in fluids, adjacent particles can swap places instantaneously, so the fluid can flow. In solids, adjacent particles can't swap places, so they can't flow.

However, that's actually just an ideal. All fluids take a finite amount of time for the particles to swap places, and many solids can have the particles swapping places, just they take a long time for it to happen.

So "solid" lead or glass will flow, if you give it long enough, and if you do stuff quickly enough to water, the particles won't have a chance to flow and it will behave more like a solid.

Another way of seeing the effects is to do what they do here - use a thick suspension of cornflour in water. Because the particles are big, they are very slow to swap places compared to most fluids, but still quicker than solids. So if you do stuff to the suspension very quickly, the particles won't have time to swap places and it'll behave like a solid. But if you do stuff to it very slowly, the particles will have time to swap places and it'll behave like a liquid. The results are as seen in the video...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Tale of Two Kings

(for a bit of background on this post, look here).

These are some thoughts of mine on 2 Kings 3, modified from this morning's sermon at St Ebbe's Church, Oxford.

We meet our two kings right at the beginning of the passage...

Joram son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned twelve years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father and mother had done. He got rid of the sacred stone of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them.

Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with a hundred thousand lambs and with the wool of a hundred thousand rams. But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. So at that time King Joram set out from Samaria and mobilized all Israel. He also sent this message to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: "The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?"

"I will go with you," he replied. "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses."

2 Kings 3:1-7, NIV

A bit of background...

After Solomon's death in 931BC, the nation of Israel split into two. The northern (larger) "half", often confusingly called Israel was ruled from Tirzah by a series of short-lived dynasties, most of which were ended quickly by coups. The southern (smaller) "half" was ruled from Jerusalem by the dynasty of David, who had earlier ruled the whole nation, and whom God had promised he would be with. The two kingdoms, as one might expect, fought quite a lot.

Then, around 880BC, Omri came to the throne in the north, and was the first king to establish a proper dynasty there. He was a strong (and evidence suggests brutal) king, who moved the capital from Tirzah to his new city of Samaria - the northern kingdom was sometimes called "Samaria" after that. In a remarkable insult, the Bible hardly says anything about Omri, except that he was wicked and didn't follow God (1 Kings 16:21-28). But archaeology suggests that he was incredibly influential - in fact Assyria called Israel after Omri for another 150 years. Although Omri only reigned for 12 years, it seems that he became the dominant king among the small states in the area, with the others paying tribute to him. Omri was succeeded by his son Ahab, then Ahab's two sons Ahaziah (who didn't last long) and Joram, who is the first king we meet here. But Ahab had been a wicked king, and God promised to destroy him and all his descendants. So We have Joram, the powerful king but he's under God's curse.

Probably late in Omri's reign, the other king, Jehoshaphat came to the throne in Judah. He was a much more godly king than Omri (and Omri's descendants after him), but is often criticised by preachers for being weak. However, we are told that he was at peace with Israel (1 Kings 22:44) - the first southern king we're told that of. We also know that Jehoshaphat tended strongly to ally himself to the king of Israel, as he does here, even acting as double for him once in a highly dangerous situation (1 Kings 22:29-33). What is going on?

Given the political situation, the size of the kingdoms, and what we know of Omri and his power and influence I think it makes most sense to say that Jehoshaphat was essentially a vassal king to Omri and his descendants. Why else would he put himself literally in the line of fire for Ahab, as in 1 Kings 22? Why else would he say "my people are as your people, my horses as your horses"? Joram is clearly the dominant king of the big and powerful kingdom; Jehoshaphat is following him around and doing what he says (well, mostly).

We also get hints of this with Mesha king of Moab. Mesha was clearly another king who was a vassal of Ahab. Now he is rebelling, so Joram gets an army together to crush him. And who does he call on? His two loyal "friends", Judah and Edom.

So if this is the situation, why doesn't the author of Kings say so explicitly? I think it's fairly clear what's going on in the passage, especially in the light of 1 Kings 22. While the author of Kings is describing actual historical events, he isn't always describing them as a modern historian would. His main interest isn't to provide a detailed history for telling us exactly who did what, where, when, how and why. He is far more interested, for example, in the fact that Omri and his descendants ignored God than that they were powerful. He's reporting facts, but he's reporting them from one point of view. Actually, that's what all historians do - they put their own slant on history, but this guy does it blatantly. If you want a good example which doesn't need archaeology, try 2 Kings 17, where he spends most of the chapter giving a sermon on why Israel got conquered.]

So we've got two kings - Joram the powerful Omride king of Israel with a curse and Jehoshaphat the weak vassal king of Judah but with amazing promises. What do they do?

"By what route shall we attack?" he asked.
"Through the Desert of Edom," he answered.

So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them.

"What!" exclaimed the king of Israel. "Has the LORD called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?"

But Jehoshaphat asked, "Is there no prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD through him?"

An officer of the king of Israel answered, "Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."

Jehoshaphat said, "The word of the LORD is with him." So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

2 Kings 3:8-12, NIV

We see here the difference in the attitude of the two kings to God. Joram tries blaming God for their own mistakes, Jehoshaphat wants to ask God via the prophet Elisha (who is a Good Thing).

Incidentally, it's worth noting that God's original judgement on Joram's father, Ahab, was a big drought, back in 1 Kings 17. Then, the drought ended in 1 Kings 18 after Elijah (Elisha's predecessor and mentor) had confronted all the prophets of Baal, demonstrated that Baal was powerless and God could do whatever he wanted and then had the prophets of Baal killed. The lack of water here might well be pointing back to that.

What does God say?

Elisha said to the king of Israel, "What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother."

"No," the king of Israel answered, "because it was the LORD who called us three kings together to hand us over to Moab."

Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. But now bring me a harpist."

While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha and he said, "This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD; he will also hand Moab over to you. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones."

2 Kings 3:13-19, NIV

What does God think of these two kings, the impressive and dominant Joram and the weak Jehoshaphat?

Elisha doesn't even recognise Joram by name. He wouldn't give him the time of day. Without Jehoshaphat, Joram would be stuck in the desert, and his diagnosis of the situation would be right. Moab would destroy them, his empire would fall. But God recognises Jehoshaphat, the weak king, the king of Judah, the descendant of David, the king with all the promises. God recognises him and helps him and those with him.

Who is the dominant king now?

But the implications of the passage are far better. You see, Jehoshaphat isn't the end of the kings of Judah. There is a far greater king - Jesus, the weak king, the king of Judah, the descendant of David, the king with all the promises. God recognises him and God helps him and those with him. However sinful we are, however much we have ignored God, however much we deserve to be under God's curse, God will help us if we stand with his king, Jesus.


The other day, I realised that I'm over halfway through studying for my Old Testament paper here, and though I won't be examined on it until 2008, it's the only time I will study some large sections of the Old Testament during my course.

That was quite scary. In some respects, I've been learning a lot. Last week's very intensive study of and reading about Wisdom Literature, for example, really seemed to set me up for preaching it. I'd feel a lot less intimidated doing a 5-part series on Job, for example.

But on the other hand, I don't feel as if I've really been equipped to do much in terms of preaching Old Testament narrative, for example. I've spent quite a bit of time learning how to answer difficult questions and confronting some issues I'd put on the back burner for quite a while, but virtually no time on the nitty gritty of how to preach it. I've read some decent books preaching through OT narrative, and since saying this to some friends have had some good ones on how to preach the Old Testament recommended.

And then I went to church this morning. I'm still looking round churches in the morning, and I saw the one I usually go to in the evening had a sermon on 2 Kings 3 (well, i misread the termcard and thought it was 2 Kings 2, but same idea), so I went there. And this is where it gets encouraging.

I read the passage, and immediately a few things from my course popped into my head (if you must know, it was observing the probably ecstatic (bad word for it, but it's the normal one) nature of Elisha's experience in v15, and analysing the political relationship between the four kings involved in terms of the social-political situation in the area at the time. That's as well as various fairly obvious stuff in the passage

The sermon was pretty good, but it didn't really use anything I didn't know or any skills I didn't have (other than remembering to look for typology, which I sometimes forget to do). I thought "I could do this", which was very encouraging for me, coz I'm meant to be able to do that without much more training.

What was really encouraging for me was that some of the random stuff I'd noticed (the socio-political stuff, mostly) can be used to bolster the preacher's main point still further. So that's what I'm going to try and do in my next post...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Very Funny

Now, I've heard of good lines to use with telemarketers, but this one is hilarious...

(Thanks Daniel)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good Design (part 2)

part 1

Yesterday's post got me thinking (well, there's a surprise!)

A big part of the reason I'm where I am now (training to be a clergyperson) instead of where I was 6 months ago (teaching physics) is that I felt that when I was teaching Physics I was doing something I could do, kind of like using my new lamp to prob the door open. When I was teaching the Bible, I felt that I was doing what I was designed to do.

I would't even begin to suggest that's essential in a job. But I think that if it's an option, it's important to go for it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Good Design

I bought a new lamp yesterday. It's so nice to get something that gives the impression of being properly designed for once!

  • The base is made of heavy stuff (metal) whereas the stem and top bit are made of much lighter material (plastic) so that even though it can stretch a long way, it won't topple over because the centre of mass is still in the base
  • The screws at each joint have things attached making it easy to loosen or tighten the joint
  • Easy to use switch
  • Thermoset plastic bulb surround - shiny on the inside to focus the light and not heat up as much, black on the outside to lose any heat quicky
  • Little shade bits at the side of the (rotateable) bulb surround so that it's easy for it to point at work without being able to see the bulb
  • Designed for compact fluorescent bulbs rather than the horribly inefficient ones

One of the less happy things was that it was the only desk lamp design in the shop to be designed for energy efficient bulbs - some of the others wouldn't even fit them in...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ellison on Suffering

I'm reading a lot of stuff about the Wisdom Literature in the Bible at the moment, and came across this great quote on Job, and suffering, which kind of ties in with various comments on the blog...

For quick reference, the book of Job is basically a poetic exploration of questions about God and suffering, based around a guy called Job who suffers a lot. (There is a debate among Christian academics over whether or not he actually existed - it's possible the story is a kind of God-inspired poetic dialoguey parable, but that's a different discussion.)

This explains the apparently unsatisfactory climax in which God does not answer Job's quesitons or charges, but though he proclaims the greatness of his all-might, not of his ethical rule, Job is satisfied. He realises that his concept of God collapsed because it was too small; his problems evaporate when he realises the greatness of God. The book does not set out to answer the problem of suffering but to proclaim a God so great that no answer is needed, for it would transcend the finite mind if given; the same applies to the problems incidentally raised.
H.L. Ellison, writing in the New Bible Dictionary

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Interesting Fact

According to the BBC, British women spend an average of £36 each per year on make-up.

French women are apparently the second-highest spenders on make-up in Europe, averaging £4 per person per year.

I think that statistic hardly needs a comment....