Near Molong, NSW 2011

One Man's Web

In which I talk to the atheists within me.

Christianity is no different from many other religions and philosophies, and Christians are no different from other people. We all face the same basic problem, which is to work out who we are, why we are here, and what on earth the world is about. We all have to deal with the unpleasant fact that we will die.

Christianity is one more philosophy, one more set of stories and ideas trying to make sense of the inexplicable mystery of our existence.  It does not make much difference whether we explain this mystery with the hypothesis of a God, or whether we say it is all somewhere combination of chemicals that quite easily may not have happened. We are all trying to make sense of ourselves and the world.

In the end, no one can tell us the answer to these questions. No one actually knows; there is no formula whereby we can reliably demonstrate what life means. There is no repeatable experiment. We have to make up our mind, and our life, on the way through.

My observation is that there are a few folk who suggest life and existence is all chance and chemicals. There is no meaning.  There is no purpose. I don’t know how people can consistently live with that idea. When I get to feeling like that might be the truth, I still determine that I will create some meaning. I will make a purpose. Why else keep going?

The big ideological divide in life seems to be between those who decide life is all about them, and those who seek the common good. This decision cuts across all the religions (or non religions) that we espouse.... Read on >>>>

What does it mean when we say Jesus is coming back?

Do we literally expect that one day we will literally see the  son of man coming in clouds. Will he arrive floating through the air, sitting on his throne, ready to set the poor free from oppression? (That’s what that Coming is about, really. It’s for freedom, not judgement.)

Will he replant a kind of Garden of Eden, where life is full and good, and is how it should be for all people, and for the planet itself?

The thing is, he has not come back like this. Not if we are hoping for a literal interpretation of that story. Truth to tell, many of us don’t think he will. He’s had plenty of time.

We’ve decided maybe the story means something else. Maybe when the church looked with all its insights into how God will finally put things into place on earth; well, maybe we got it wrong. We misunderstood. Some folk, of course, think the whole idea is just rubbish. Jesus is dead and gone, they say.

So does it mean something else, this story? Does the idea of Jesus coming back still talk to us? Does God have a plan somewhere?... Read on >>>>

In central Australia we discovered a remote narrow gorge, filled with water, and began to swim up. So narrow is this place, that sometimes you cannot swim breaststroke, because your hands drag against the rock on each side. We watched with more than a little fear as we paused in a small opening of the walls. While we rested on the rocks on one side of a chamber the size of a lounge room, a snake swam downstream on the other side. Keep alert!

But our fascination drew us on up the gorge until I noticed that the sky, that high, narrow strip of outback blue visible beyond the sheer hundred foot walls, was suddenly hidden by heavy cloud. Keep alert! Stay awake!

We had so little perspective, just a few feet of sky. Was it a passing cloud, or the warning of a storm? If it were to rain, out here in the desert, even a few millimetres would have us washed away in an un-survivable torrent of water, rising metres in moments.

We swam downstream for our lives.... Read on >>>>

This trip was an attempt at 600km in 30 hours, which for my age and condition was always ambitious.  In the event I covered 566km in 33.3 hours. Riding time covered that distance in 26 hours. I had estimated a 600km loop, and the actual distance came up short.  I decided not to ride an extra 34 km  at the end, which indicates how tired I was!  Read on >>>>

When he was three years old, Mingkuri remembered his manners. He was standing at the farm, chewing with relish on a piece of kangaroo tail, as we men discussed some issue to do with the grapes. As I glanced at Mingkuri he started. “Oh... Andrew,” he said. “Would you like something to eat?,” and offered me the thoroughly gnawed tail. I thanked him, and said I was fine!

On that day, Mingkuri stepped among the sheep. Whatever extra good he does in the world is a bonus. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Is it this simple? If we do it to just one of these? There is no listing of a threshold beyond that. No three a week for five years. Just one... Read on >>>>

There is more than one God in the New Testament. Just as you or I imagine God differently, whatever the Reality, so do the various authors of that book. I have followed different Gods during my attempts at being a disciple. There was a time when the hard God described by Matthew, especially in chapter 25, was the one I imagined. That God scared me into the Faith. I read Matthew, and realised that if this was true, I was on the wrong side! That was my first conversion.

But Matthew and the other writers in the book have converted me in other ways. I can no longer make sense of a god who consigns people to outer darkness (25:30) and eternal punishment. (25:46) Such a god contradicts the God of love and forgiveness that I have begun to imagine from a wider reading of the same book.

So what am I to make of Matthew? Matthew himself has been a part of that wider reading, and re-reading, which has taught me about mercy.  Do I simply conclude that this bit (chapter 25) is wrong, and skip over it? Do I treat it as a kind of Leviticus, which we mostly, but rarely, read for background? Or do I look for some other truth, beyond outer darkness, in the parables of this  chapter?.... Read on >>>>

Great walls of regrets can slowly push in on us, just as impenetrable as that closed door which has a voice behind it saying, “I do not know you.” I fear ending up like this more than I fear death itself.... Read on >>>>

I remember the outrage when the town was flooded with apocalyptic Chick comics; hardline sectarian tracts. Our consternation was intriguing. As a friend said, “The thing is, we do believe there will be a judgement day!  What is the problem?”

I think the problem came from two things. The stark nature of the comics, from their storylines to the style of their graphics, laid bare the harsh and arbitrary nature of popular Christian ideas about judgement day. In these comics, we were shown the brutality of what we believed, stripped of all its piety and justifications. It was confronting.

To our credit, we were also offended.  We were revolted by the gloating, indeed the delight, of these comics in the suffering of those who were left behind, and going to hell and damnation.

At the end of Matthew we have a full chapter (24) on the destruction of the temple and the end of the age, leading into parables of judgement, (25) and ending in eternal punishment. (25:46)  How do we approach this?... Read on >>>>

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

I suspect these were among the first verses I ever underlined in a bible. They have an emotional power which is beyond anything I can analyse. I think it has to do with being burdened by the very fact of life, even as a child. There is the compulsion to excel, the demand to do right and good, and the struggle to make sense of life, despite its absurdity. Often, the only answer to all this, which is no answer, is to get up, keep going, and make the best of it. What else can you do? I get very tired....

Full of contradictory longings, I do not carry the yoke of life; I am bound into it! It is lashed onto my shoulders. I am now almost grafted into the wood of the yoke.... Read on >>>>

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