Three.Word.Dogmatics

I posted something about happenstance felicities of What.Three.Words addresses on FB, and Phil challenged me to write a three word theology. It’s been in my mind driving and walking around Northumbria on holiday this week, and this is I think my best attempt. I’ve used blank lines as additional punctuation, and there are some run-ons, which may be cheating. I’ve not checked whether any of these map to actual locations. Three.Word.Dogmatics God.Is.One God.Is.Three Father.Son.Spirit God.Is.Good God.Is.Love Many.Other.Perfections God.Creates.All Out.Of.Nothing God.Oversees.All End.Is.Coming Creation.Was.Good Humans.Did.Bad Creation.Is.Broken Humans.Need.Help God.Calls.Abraham Stories.About.Israel Exodus.Temple.Exile Return.Longing.Hope...

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Communion cups and individualism

Picking up from one or two comments in different places on my previous post: does the use of individual communion cups imply, or support, or strengthen, individualism? My short answer would be: not in British Baptist practice; I simply do not know elsewhere. This answer is based on a couple of convictions. One is that practices are not meaningfully narratable without properly thick description; the other is that I want to interrogate hard what ‘individualism’ means. I will deal with the first here; I might return to the second at some point. On the first: ‘thick description’ (for those who do not know) is a term coined by the anthropologist Clifford Geertz. He argued (roughly) that symbols are only intelligible specifically. That is, to take the case in point,...

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On the use of individual communion cups

There is evidently a fight going on within the Church of England on the potential use of individual communion cups as a Covid-safe way to celebrate the Eucharist. It’s not my fight, and I don’t want to say much about it. But in the last couple of days a new argument has emerged: that the use of individual communion cups is, historically, racist. That does bother me. Each of the five churches I have been a member of have used individual communion cups as a regular part of their sacramental life. This is hardly uncommon in either the English Free Churches, or Scottish evangelicalism—I don’t actually recall the last time I celebrated or received the Eucharist at a church that did not use individual cups (although our collegiate celebrations use a single cup and...

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On opening church buildings for private prayer

We should open our buildings for private prayer as soon as we can. Not for the members, but as a mission opportunity. This week it seems likely that the First Minister will announce that Scotland is moving to Phase 2 of our lifting of lockdown, which includes the opening of places of worship for private prayer—a move made this past weekend in the rather less orderly English system. I suspect that for most Baptists, the instinctive response will be to shrug; our spirituality does not have that sense of sacred space, or at least not of ecclesially-authorised sacred space. We might have our own ‘thin places’, where for us ‘prayer has been valid’, but they are probably not significantly connected to local church buildings. I think this response would be a mistake....

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But what can I do? A beginner’s tool kit 1: knowing

[I’ve been wanting to write this all week, but our marking deadline was today…] Plenty of White British folk like me have this week been asking—but what can I do? It was a question I first asked myself seriously after watching the events in Charlestown, VA, in 2017. This post is a beginner’s tool kit, written by a beginner of almost three years’ experience, for beginners with even less, in the hope that it helps someone. This post is about knowing—knowing how to begin to understand white supremacy. I plan to add a couple more on ‘doing’ and ‘giving’ soon. This is specifically for people in the UK churches, and began from wanting to take seriously several conversations with Black British church leaders who expressed some...

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Prosopal presence: our current conundrum

When we meet online, are we meeting ‘face to face’? My colleague Elizabeth Shively gave us an excellent sermon this morning in our series on 1Thess.; I won’t repeat what she said (its on our church FB page, and well worth the watch), but before she began my attention was caught by a word in the reading. Throughout the letter Paul expresses his regrets that he is absent from the Thessalonian believers, his longing to see them, and his eagerness for news of them. In 3:10 he prays ‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face’ (NRSV) ‘May see you face to face’ translates τὸ ἰδεῖν ὑμῶν τὸ πρόσωπον; it was the word πρόσωπον that caught my eye (I was following the reading in the original, as I usually do); it’s a word I’ve thought about a lot....

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On not having closed our churches

Language matters. It matters more in how it is heard than in how it is meant. If we want to communicate certain things, then disciplined use of language can help us, because it will improve the chances of what we want to say being heard, rather than being misunderstood. There was a time when we British Baptists would not have thought of calling the building we met in for worship a ‘church’. We knew that the church was the congregation, gathered together by God, covenanted to each other before God. If the church habitually met in a particular building, we called that a ‘chapel’. ‘Church,’ we once understood, meant people, saved by grace, making expansive vows to each other because God has called us together. ‘Chapel,’ we used to know, meant a building, where the...

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