Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Alison Morgan: 'the Wild Gospel' - quotes

A very good book, I read 'the Wild Gospel' this summer, and here are some quotes from it. Alison Morgan also has a good website, one joy of which is the Book synopsis section, which gives you a digest of everything from Steve Croft to Richard Dawkins, via Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch.

There seem to be a lot of Christian authors who are trying to reignite our passion for the Christian faith by going back to the start and repainting it. That's Rob Bell's own illustration for his work, one which Morgan also uses, but it takes in people like Dallas Willard and Brian MacLaren. In every generation we need people who ask how the gospel engages with this culture, and asks the church how much 'culture' it is importing from answers to that question in previous generations. Not all the answers will be right, but the questions are.

emphasis, where found, is mine...

“The gospel has been squeezed out from under the platform of our lives and become merely a picture on the wall, familiar, but essentially unrelated to everyday reality.”

“By turns irascible, compassionate, exhausted and stubbornly silent, Jesus was not the ‘gitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies’ that Dorothy Sayers once declared we had made him.”

“What did Jesus speak to these individuals? The astonishing answer is that to each one he spoke the truth. And that for each one the truth was different, because it penetrated differently into the untruth by which they were bound.”

“The parables simply will not work as helpful and systematic illustrations of moral points; they work only as carefully packaged boxes of explosives, innocently presented.”

“As a description of the way things are, the beatitudes simply won’t do. They don’t make sense. But lets assume for a moment that Jesus was not trying to make sense. Perhaps he wasn’t trying to explain things at all. Perhaps this too is a challenge not to our minds, but to our imaginations…a statement of vision, a challenge to leave our inherited values and enter a new world.”

“A culture is like a story, and its task is to make sense of what it means to be human. The story has its own inner rules, its own plot, its own characters its own world. But somehow the story is disjointed. Too many of the people within it are marginalised, the heroes and heroines aren’t really convincing, the narrators voice not entirely reliable, the ending so often not a happy one. Everyone in the story is trying hard to make it work. But at the bottom it just isn’t a very a good story, and they know it. Because of this, every so often a society will change the story.”

“Spiritual writer Henri Nousen suggests that one way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but cannot be found there.”

“The postmodern world invites us to slake our thirst by drinking deeply from the golden goblet of consumerism. We drink; only to find that we are drinking salt water.”

“The Millennium Dome…created a museum of sense impressions and fleeting images, a statement of the supremacy of the imagination in a culture which has no significant thoughts with which to fill the mind. We emerged with a sensation of the vastness of human achievement, and without so much as a sentence to express it in.”

“We must be aware that our ministers are in fact wearing Roman togas and Victorian dog collars, that we are meeting in stone buildings paid for by the taxation of medieval peasants and sitting on peculiarly uncomfortable pews installed hundreds of years later to stop the faithful from standing and walking about during services. We must realise that in a society which celebrates eating and drinking we are queuing up in hushed silence to partake of symbolic wafers and sips of wine… we are supposed to offer a countercultural message of salvation, and yet by clinging to our conventions we can appear more culturally bound than the people we are trying to reach.”

“insofar as we do engage with the world out there, our contribution is mostly a worried attempt to restrain it.”

As well as plenty of material on how the gospel engages with culture (and an intriguing trawl through how this has worked - or not worked - through history), there are big sections on the Holy Spirit at work in people's lives, and concrete evidence of the power of the gospel to make a difference. My main quibble is that the book focuses on Jesus/the Spirit's work in the individual, and is more ambivalent about social engagement. I agree that if we have the latter without the former then the church is wasting its time, and it's good to be reminded again that the gospel is God's power to change lives and communities.

Readable, challenging, inspiring, and great footnotes.

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