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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

not an entirely serious post...

Sunday, September 30, 2007





As I was contemplating Rublev's amazing icon of the Trinity again yesterday, I noticed something for the very first time. Is it just me being irreverent, or has Rublev depicted the Godhead engaged in a serious round of paper, scissors, stone?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:13 PM | link | 0 comments |

graven images...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"The trouble with image-based perceptions of God and worship is that you're only one step away from idolatry" - so spoke a friend of mine who is also a pastor of a free Reformed church.

His comment came as part of a conversation we were having on Sunday, in which I was describing how Dream tended to engage people who felt that their artistic and creative gifts had more often then not been sidelined in worship they had experienced at other churches. I tried to explain how songs and words were often seen as 'central' to the act of worship while artistic expressions (painting, sculpting, modelling, fabric work, etc) were seen as peripheral. People who expressed themselves better through art consequently often felt themselves sidelined in worship. Dream (and other so-called 'altworship' groups like it) was attempting to redress the balance and see art as equally central to the act of worship.

And then came the comment... the implication: art can lead to idolatry! My friend's point was that in art we attempt to 'picture' God and so violate the second Commandment. My response was that in words we equally attempt to 'picture' God and so are equally likely to break the second Commandment. Plenty of 'graven images' have been constructed linguistically and presented as THE correct description of God - surely that's just as idolatrous as an icon or a statue (if not more so because of the intent - very few people regard an icon as THE correct description of God)!

The real issue here is how we deal with the images of God that we construct - be they visually, through art, or linguistically, through words. In word or picture we attempt to encapsulate God, and as soon as we have done so what we have encapsulated is, by definition, less than God. God is so much greater than any of our images or descriptions of God, and so whatever we can come up with is, at best, only a partial depiction of God.

And so word and image are equally useful tools and equally 'dangerous' (if you want to follow my friend's line of argument) tools in trying to get a handle on the Divine. Maybe this is why Jesus taught so much about humility and used so many parables to disrupt people's perceptions and teach new things about God and the kingdom (incidentally, what are the parables if they are not attempts by Jesus to 'paint pictures' in people's minds?)

So I, for one, will continue the artistic and creative quest in worship event though I am naturally more disposed to words! After all, didn't Jesus say "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul..." as well as "with all your mind"?

the above image is from poosk

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:44 AM | link | 0 comments |

jesus loves you...

Monday, September 17, 2007

this video is great...
(warning... it does contain some mild swearing)

there are more somegreybloke videos 'here'

hat tip... Fat Roland at Sanctus 1

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:57 PM | link | 1 comments |

in love...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another great cartoon from Jon Birch's ASBO Jesus blog that hits one more nail on the head!...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 7:58 PM | link | 1 comments |

the god delusion...

Ikon have now put all the words from their Greenbelt service (which I mentioned in this post) online 'here'. As Steve Collins said, it's great to be able to go back and spend time with the material that was densely packed into the experience that was 'the service'! In particular I'm glad that they have generously made available the text for the excellent 'where does your faith lie?' by Jon Hatch. It's well worth spending some time with.

Thanks Ikon for a thought-provoking service and for making it all available to mull over again!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 7:36 PM | link | 0 comments |

am I allowed to 'preach'?...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

So here I am preparing my sermon for Sunday and wondering, as a result, whether I can really call myself 'emerging' (do I want to?... that's another post!), when I came across this great post from Maggi Dawn. I've been asked on several occasions if I think that the days of preaching are numbered, and my response has been something like, "no... but I think the days of unaccountable and unquestioned preaching are numbered." Maggi puts it much better when she writes...

"I'll tell you what - just for a minute, let's not call it preaching. Let's describe what it really is - it's talking and telling the gospel in an engaging and inviting way that draws people in; offers them treasures without insisting on how they wear them; gives them ingredients and invites them round to help you cook."

Thanks Maggi! Go read the full post...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:03 AM | link | 0 comments |

the philosopher and the archbishop...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"If I know God in a way that allows me to rest with this knowledge, then I do not know God, because God's life is infinite and impossible to possess. If I love God in a way that allows me to rest with the love, then I have tacitly believed that God's goodness is somehow manageable on my terms, that it is not a goodness that seizes me and continues to take me out of myself towards the divine life. So again I deny God's infinite life. But furthermore I cease loving. To love is to give myself away, but if I rest in a certain experience of God's goodness in this mortal life then I admit that I have no more giving to do, no more growing to do, no more dispossession that is required of myself. To love is to continue to go out of myself and to realize my present love, my present self-gift, as inadequate."

The above quote is taken from Jeffrey McCurry's paper, 'Towards a Poetics of Theological Creativity: Rowan Williams Reads Augustine's De Doctrina after Derrida' (Modern Theology, 23:3, July 2007). This may sound mind-numbingly dull to some, but the gist of the argument is that the 'true' and final meanings of the 'texts' of Scripture and church tradition are always both future (yet to arrive) and, subsequently, different to what we interpret and understand them to be in the present. Although this calls to mind Derrida's 'différance', a term he invented to mean both 'to defer' and 'to differ', Williams (and McCurry via him) puts forward a more robust theological framework of finite minds attempting to understand the infinite God.

"So what?" you might ask! All of this serves as a reminder to us of the inadequacy of our (current) understanding of God and interpretations of Scripture and tradition. Not that we cannot hold dear to certain beliefs and doctrines, but that we must do so always being aware of the limits of our own concepts and understandings when they come to describing the limitless God. When we approach Scripture do we come expecting it to confirm what we already (think we) know to be 'true', or do we come to it expecting it once again to unsettle our current understanding such that we can experience afresh the mystery of the infinite God?

I guess this is why I love contemporary parables such as this one, which cause us to read familiar biblical texts in new ways with previously unimagined twists and turns. Not to say that the parable is a more accurate (or 'true') reading of the text, but simply that it causes us to remain open to our own interpretations not necessarily being 'true' in any final sense either. I guess this places the Christian 'texts' comfortably within the analogy of journeying faith, in which we grow to know them and re-know them as we journey with Christ, as opposed to them being already arrived-at endpoints. As McCurry puts it, "Christian tradition is always undergoing a process of being re-imagined and even re-made in ways that are both profoundly discontinuous and continuous with the re-imagining and re-makings of earlier generations."

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:35 PM | link | 2 comments |

miracle...

posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:49 PM | link | 0 comments |

shifting paradigms, changing faith

Friday, September 07, 2007

'This' is a wonderfully honest and challenging post from David Hayward, which resonates with some of the ideas that Pete Rollins and the Ikon community are wrestling with. An example of David's shifting paradigm...

"Since the mind incessantly manufactures the god it wants to worship, then I am hopelessly idolatrous. As soon as my mind conceives of God, that is not God. There is something beyond which the mind cannot conceive."

This realisation can be both unsettling (since to recognise it is to lose any sense of control) and liberating. In relinquishing our certainty that the god we conceive of is God, we are led into the possibility of a deeper engagement with the God we cannot possibly fully know.

Read David's honest reflections for yourself...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:34 AM | link | 1 comments |

Gordon Brown remixed...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"I do believe that Britain needs a new type of politics which embraces everyone in the nation and not just a select few; a politics that's built on consensus and not division; a politics that draws on the widest range of talents and expertise, not the narrow circles of power; a politics that's built on engaging with people and not excluding them" - Gordon Brown, yesterday.

Try substituting the word 'Church' for 'politics' throughout the above quote - it seems like a pretty good aspiration to me!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 8:42 AM | link | 0 comments |

more bad news...

posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 8:40 AM | link | 0 comments |