четверг, 27 февраля 2014 г.

Don't mention the war... the Cold War

It's been quite an eventful few weeks in the former Soviet Union. Not only have there been the Olympic Games in Sochi, but Russia's closest neighbour, Ukraine, has experienced a revolution.

In the run-up to the Sochi games no holds were barred with comparisons to Berlin 1936, fears for discrimination against same-sex relationships, terror threats and hyper-sensitive journalists stirring up stereotypes about poor Russian service. While very expensive, the consensus view is now that the Games were a fantastic success, very well run and provided a great forum for sporting competition. And an added bonus that the host nation topped the medals table fair and square. For me it was worth it just for the figure skating and the cross-country relay events. No sign of any major apologies after some pretty appaling journalism and despicable attempts to disrespect the host nation by sending low-key delegations hand-picked to highlight non-Olympic agendas.

Meanwhile in Kiev, perhaps not entirely by coincidence, the long-standing tensions between Ukrainian-speaking north west and the Russian-speaking south-east turned into a nasty stand-off at the Maidan independence square in Kiev, resulting in the overthrow of the president, Yanukovich, and now knock-on effects in Crimea and possible elsewhere. I am the last person to justify the use of snipers on a crowd of civilian demonstrators, however provocative, but no one in their right mind wants parliaments with powers to remove elected presidents or annul legal sentences by a show of hands in the space of hours. (Just imagine what would happen in the US if Congress could remove the President by a mere show of hands or, indeed, override the judiciary as it saw fit.) And I am very uncomfortable with the equation of good and evil, freedom and tyranny with the respective sides in an ethnically complicated country like Ukraine.

And so, it turns out, people haven't got over the Cold War yet. Certainly not the victors. Like chauvinstic hotel-owner Basil Fawlty from the 1970s British comedy, the Old Enemy remains although the conflict is decades in the past. The prejudices about Russia, Russians and the Russian President remain and are daily reinforced by the media.

Meanwhile in Russia everyone has Ukrainian relatives and forebears. Russia and Ukraine might be different colours on your map, but they are not separate, non-communicating entities. It was bad enough when Georgia was estranged from her long-standing ally, but Ukraine is a hundred times worse. A peaceful outcome to the events in Ukraine and long-term progress in relations between NATO-EU and Russia will hinge on the ability to respect and listen, not dismissing Russia as a passe bully who can be ignored and resisted because one now has 'playground protection'. International partnership in the 21st century cannot be doing with the Old Colonialism, even in its latest liberal democratic guise.

The Cold War is over. Get over it.     

четверг, 20 февраля 2014 г.

Цель проповеди

"... цель всего [касательно проповеди] - не интеллектуальный процесс соглашения с утверждением, а интенсивно личный акт отдачи своего сердца живой Личности"

Александр Макларен (1826-1910)
Батисткий пастор-проповедник XIX века

среда, 19 февраля 2014 г.

Lingua franca (язык международного общения)

На молитвенном собрании вчера возник вопрос о языке на богослужении.

Первая церковь вплоть до IV века повсеместно проводила богослужения на греческом языке (за исключение первых арамейско-язычных общин в Иудее). Только потом стали использовать латинский, сирский и коптский языки (IV век).

Когда настало время Реформации в XVI веке протестанты стали проводить богослужения на национальных языках, но не по националистическим соображениям, а потому что народ уже не понимал латынь (язык богослужения), а для протестантов было важно, чтобы члены церкви полноценно понимали и могли участвовать в богослужении, а не просто были пассивными зрителями. Между прочим восточно-православные церкви уже давно совершали литургию на национальных языках.

В XIX веке международным языком общения был французский. Когда Лорд Рэдсток проводил встречи по Евангелию в знатных домах Петербурга он в основном проповедовал через переводчика, но беседовал с людьми (а порой и проповедовал) на знакомом ему и слушателям французском языке.

В наше время международным языком общения является английский. Однако в отличие от раньше господствующих греческого и французского языков он имеет геополитический и культурный оттенок, делающий его неприемлемым для многих. Есть еще момент, что не зря в день Пятидесятницы ученики стали прославлять Бога на разных языках. Порой человеку нужно услышать Божье слово и ответить молитвой на родном языке, на языке сердца.

Слава Богу, в многонациональной России начинается (продолжается) воцерковление представителей иных народов - и приезжих и самобытных. Пусть Бог благословит, чтобы мы могли прославить Его вместе, не разделяясь по национальному или же языковому признаку, но в то же время, чтобы была возможность слышать "каждый собственное наречие, в котором родились" (Деяния 2). 

понедельник, 17 февраля 2014 г.

Завет (определение)

При Ветхом Завете неоднократно Бог обращался к народу, заключив с ним завет. А что такое завет (именно завет между Богом и человеком)? Вот мое определение:

"Завет есть соглашение, заключённое Богом с народом о союзе между ними на основании клятвы на крови, по которому Бог действует во благо народу, а народ обязан выполнить требования с последующим благословением или проклятием."

Согласны ли вы с таким определением? Можете предложить свой альтернативный вариант? Пишите свои варианты или наблюдения в комментариях! 

пятница, 7 февраля 2014 г.

Burn, heretic? (the Alexandrian library and its lessons)

There was once a huge library in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. It was founded by the Ptolemy I or II in the 3rd century BC and was at the height of its development up until about 30 BC. The Alexandrian library was a storehouse of ancient knowledge and would have included a copy of the translated Old Testament Scriptures (the Septuagint) as well as countless works of art and science. It was later moved to a pagan temple, the Serapeum. There are various versions of who burnt it down: the Romans (AD 48 or AD 270s), the Muslims (642), but - I am ashamed to say - the Christians were also implicated and it may have been the Coptic bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus, who in 391 ordered or turned a blind eye to the burning of the library, by the Christian mob (including monks)

What is the significance of the burning of the Serapeum?  

As an amateur historian and also as a Christian who believes in tolerance this act makes me very uncomfortable. But, perhaps more than that, I think it reflects a certain train of thought which is dangerous both within the church and without. And it can be summed up in a sentence, "I am right." Now, don't get me wrong; I am not a relativist. I don't believe that the truth doesn't matter, nor indeed that the truth is not knowable. I believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. But I am also aware that once someone gets it in their head not just the truth is knowable, but that they - personally and in principle - are right, something goes wrong

For one thing I don't believe that my faith excludes truth outside the confines of those who share it. All truth is God's truth. And there is much that is true and praiseworthy which is not Christian. Because God, as well as being the Saviour of the church in Christ is also the Creator of all through that same Christ. And to deny - or even be suspicious of - everything outside of the church is to deny that God is Creator. If you want to give it a scary name it is crypto-gnosticism. What's more just because the truth is in Jesus, doesn't mean my knowledge of it is infallible or complete. 

That means that I have got to keep listening. Listening to God in his Word. But also listening to people who disagree with me and whom I disagree with. I can't disount them and their views ("They would say that, wouldn't they!"). I can't isolate myself in my own in-group. If I do so it is bad for me and for others. 

Now, the problem isn't just in the church. There are other in-groups which share values and a meta-narrative and which are in danger of closing themselves off - or of trying to strongarm everyone else onto their side. You know who you are. Richard Dawkins fans. The LGBT community. The PC and equality lobby. The family values conservatives and nationalists in various guises. There are others. 

I think the lesson is this: don't stop listening to those who disagree with you. That dissenting voice is good for you. Embrace it, even if you don't agree with it.