Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, June 23

Questioning God

The 'progressive' church I currently attend was looking at the doctrine of the Trinity this week. In paraphrase; the doctrine of the trinity has been a human attempt to define God in order to determine political power in the late Roman empire, and was (is?) used primarily to exclude and persecute dissenters.

OK, I don't disagree entirely. It is true that we are too quick to try to explain God - even if the explanation is in itself a paradox. And it is true that the church is quick to exclude and persecute dissenters.

But the doctrine of the trinity is not incorrect. It may be a simplification of the reality, but it is a simplification that humans need. And i have to say that dissent from the doctrine is not generally aimed at a clearer understanding of the mystery of God; it is usually aimed at the 'ungodding' of Jesus. And if Jesus was not God, then his death was nothing more than a tragic injustice and it cannot save us.

It's all well and good to be 'progressive', so long as that progress is in the right direction.

Monday, June 16

My on-going crisis of faith

This post is to be read by mature Christians who have been through storms of doubt and who can help me.

I continue to attend a ‘progressive’ church with my wife, as a refugee from my home Evangelical church which is the focus of her formal complaint to the diocese.

The church suits my wife in its theology and social action, although she feels that their ‘all welcome’ and ‘inclusive’ slogans just mean that they won’t tell you to shut up, not that you actually are welcomed or included.

For me, there seems to be something more deeply wrong with the church, something seriously lacking, which is hard to put your finger on. The best analogy I can think of is that it is like chicken soup that has been put through a strainer. It still tastes of chicken, it still smells of chicken, it is still called chicken soup, but it lacks those lumps of chicken meat that are essential to the chicken-ness of the soup.

The progressive church is keen to avoid the patronising attitudes we have had to followers of other faiths. It is a place of refuge for people whose theology is not congruent with their own churches. So there is no mention of sin or our need of salvation from it. Any mention of Christ and the cross is watered down to something neutral and inoffensive. The hymns sometimes have recognisable tunes but the familiar words have been supplanted by insipidly neutral ones. And they are hymns about God, not to God, sung more as social lectures than worship of a saviour. The chicken has been taken out.

This means that I don’t feel I am fed or nurtured, and this at a time when my own faith is desperately sick.

My own crisis has the following elements.

The validity of scripture

This started before my wife’s theology course started, when I had to preach on Joseph. In my reading I came across the view that Joseph was a fictional character created by much later Jewish people seeking to boot-up a Jewish identity. I dismissed it as nonsense, but it was like a splinter under my skin. Then Mrs started her theology course, and came home saying that Daniel is also fictional, that Pauls letters were not written by Paul, and that most of John’s Gospel was not written by John. Now in a sense none of this is new to me. I have always known that ivory-tower academic theologians justify their existence by having to come up with ever more novel interpretations of texts. But the new aspect was my wife’s assertion that these are not anti-Christian theologians trying to undermine the faith but genuine believers trying to get to the bottom of it, and that they have found the truth. But for me the truth is: if Joseph was not real and Daniel was not real and Paul and John did not write, then the whole thing is fraudulent. Such lying scriptures cannot be a basis for faith.

Heaven and Hell

The curate at my home church insists that hell is not a place of eternal suffering, but a place of annihilation. He quotes a range of scriptures to support his case, and I can see where he is coming from. Meanwhile, my own observation is that in this life the Christian path is one of self-sacrifice. Heaven is obviously presented as a place of reward, but the character of God will not change and the truth is that heaven must also be a place of self-sacrifice. I don’t see it in quite the utopian terms that I did as a child. Far from being able to stop worrying about things in heaven, I will have to continue putting the needs of others above my own. I will still not have time to do all those things that I have always wanted to do for myself. Now if hell is a place of eternal torture, then the life of self-sacrifice is the obvious choice. But if hell is a place of annihilation – a place of dreamless sleep, a place of non-existence, a place where no self-sacrifice is required, then hell starts to look like the preferable option and the self-sacrifice of the eternal life with God starts to look like the eternal torture that I was trying to avoid in the first place. What then is the benefit of faith?

The wife’s formal complaint

She is perfectly entitled to make this complaint about psychological bullying and sexual discrimination in our home Evangelical church. But the fall out of this is that she is increasingly less evangelical in her outlook. It represents to her a theology of persecution, not freedom and life. This means that she has gone to the progressive church. And as a husband, I have to be by her side supporting her at this time. But the church provides no comfort or feeding for me, as described above.

So it’s the perfect storm. The foundation of my faith is gone. The purpose of my faith is gone. The context of my faith is gone. I could sustain one of those on its own, but with the three together, I have to confess I am struggling.

I still go through the motions of prayer. And I do still believe, deep down inside, but I suspect that that is more to do with it being steeped into me in my upbringing – I don’t have a non-Christian life to fall back into. I don’t have a non-Christian pattern to know how to live as a non-Christian. I live a Christian life not by faith but by default.

Friday, June 13

Moving? Bit by bit, maybe.

Following all the trauma of the complaint, Mrs now wants a new life, as discuss din my previous post "Really need your prayers". we have now made some accommodation for the kids desires. We still plan to get a house in the scenic area, but smaller. We will also buy/rent another small house in our home town (we also have tyhe small flat which we are buying with my inheritance)and remain here during the week until child nr 6 finishes his GCSE's, and only go to the scenic area at weekends, where we will start to develop relationships and find a church. We have put the house on the market, and have our first viewers this evening. Mrs has priced it for 'quick sale' - I believe we are giving away our pension. And I am less than convinced that leaving our big house and squeezing the family into two small ones and being away from them at weekends is really a sensible way to go forwards, in terms of practicality, in terms of have we got enough money, in terms of will anyone give us a mortgage for these arrangements, or in terms of will these really unite the family. But I can feel Mrs earnest desire to get out of this area and to have a future, so I go along with it. For now. But when she prays for a quick sale, I find it impossible to say Amen.

It continues

The 'Designated officer' for my wife's complaint has now been appointed and is making arrangements for interviews. His role is to confirm that there is a case to answer, before going to the full tribunal. I thought this had already been done, but I suppose they have to go through the formal procedure. Also he says we should have seen the response from the defendent, which we have not, so he should now send that to us.

Wednesday, June 11

Latest on the formal complaint

The diocese has accepted that it needs to be a full tribunal. I am just about to go home to read the email they have sent my wife.

Tuesday, June 10

Really need your prayers

The fall out from my wife's formal complaint gets worse. It uis now having a serious impact on the family.

Because her levels of trust have now dropped to an all-time low, she is now afraid of even meeting people in the street. She sees no future for herself in our town. So she has unilaterally decided that we are moving to another area - a more scenic one.

this would of course wrench children away from their schools and friendship groups. So she has made arrangements for me to stay here for a year with our 5th child (who can't stay in the same room as me because she suffers from misophonia and doesn't like the sound of my breathing), while she would take our 6th and 7th to the new place. But 6 would be the worst affected in terms of social group. the others are all at Uni.

Mrs thinks that the new place, being more scenic, would promote family unity, with nice walks in hills and by the water. But that has gone badly wrong. None of them want to go at all, and had a most disrespectful scream-at-mum session. So now she is hurt and offended too, that they should talk to her that way. She has cancelled their summer treat to Alton Towers.

To her credit, she is now trying to accommodate their desires, by looking to sell our house and but two small ones instead, one here and one there, with complex plans for weekend visits. But its all knee-jerk stuff. She pronounces that she has 'had a revelation' and declares what the revised plan is, but no one takes her seriously because they know that tomorrow there will be another plan.

I am caught in the middle. I fully understand her desire to move. But I also understand why the kids are angry at having it dumped on them without notice or consideration for how they might feel about this. She has failed to sell it to them.

so when I talk to them I defend my wife, and when I talk to my wife I defend the kids. Trying to be the bridge, I am hated by all for defending the others.

Also, financially, the plan makes no sense. She doesn't really get issues like a loan-to-value ratio and the concept of getting any kind of mortgage when you are 50 and already have a 5 x salary mortgage.

So no one wants to move, except her (and the 5 year old who has been promised a kitten in the new house). But to ask her to stay in this town will lead to her utter despair and sense of rejection. She desperately needs a fresh start.

And I need support too. I spent five minutes sitting in the car in the office car park before coming in today - just crying. With howls. I just don't do that - I get a tear running down frequently enough, but this was just uncontrolled. people often ask me how I cope. I joke 'I don't'.

But right now its not a joke.

And also, how do I get her to seek counselling/help/therapy without her treating it as another attack on her?

Wednesday, June 4

New Doors III

Our offer on the flat has been accepted. So we've been to the solicitor this morning to start the process.


Giant bird invades northern England

(It's just a perspective effect)

Tuesday, June 3

New doors II

You know that flat we went to see?

As we walked down the stairs after the viewing we were phoning the agent to put in an offer, which has been accepted.

So now I seriously regret spending the money on those computers for my kids, and wonder how I am going to top up my various bank accounts to match the total that we have sworn to the agent that we possess.


A strange sound

It was a whirring noise coming from upstairs, which I had once heard before but it must have been literally years ago. I was curious, perplexed, and was just about to go upstairs when I suddenly realised what it was. My teenage daughter vacuuming her rooom.