Archive | Christian Practice RSS for this section

How prophecy works

Prophecy – what actually is it? In the Bible, it involves a clear, specific message from God, often (but not necessarily) predicting the future in some way, and any “prophet” who got something wrong was to be put to death. In real life, what people call prophecy usually involves vague images and feelings, and those who make specific claims that turn out to be false face no penalty beyond possible slight embarrassment. But I always used to find it fascinating and intriguing.

Once, years ago, I was at a Christian festival and someone who was praying for me gave me a “word of knowledge” that God would give me calves of iron. I always used to take an interest in things like this, even writing them down in a notebook, but I hadn’t thought about this or anything else in years. Until recently. Read More…

Advertisements

Pass the Virtual Wine

Ship of Fools, the rather fine Magazine of Christian Unrest, is running an experiment in online Communion, and the wider idea of virtual sacraments. It’s an idea that interests me, because I like the thought of playing around with different ways of expressing things, but it’s been causing quite a fuss, even among people who fit the Ship’s subversive, liberal mindset. It’s been described as shocking, ridiculous and even blasphemous. Being thoroughly awkward and contrary, this just makes me more interested.

Is true communion this…

A lot of the criticism comes from people who believe in some form of ontological change in the communion elements, either Transubstantiation or the slightly broader idea of Real Presence. There seems to be a fear, whether spoken or unspoken, that the magic won’t work if you do it wrong. I have no idea whether they think God can’t or won’t change the bread and wine, but I find either belief difficult to reconcile with church’s own description of God as loving and omnipotent. Read More…

Without a prayer

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I’m not really a believer in “retail prayer”, the idea that you pray for something and get it exactly as ordered in the next supernatural delivery run. Actually, I don’t see anything that convinces me that petitionary prayer in general has any effect. Reports of answers to prayer are very liable to confirmation bias, various studies have shown prayer to have no effect, and as ever, there’s the uncomfortable question of favouritism if God chooses to answer some prayers, but not all of them. But that’s not to say that I think prayer’s useless. Read More…

Ritual without the religion

I recently attended a funeral (my first for some time), and I was struck by the potency of the ritual aspects of the service. From the well-worn routine of the service to the familiar words of liturgy, and – yes – through to the wake afterwards, something about the familiarity and the shared understanding of what was going on seemed to hit the mark, both easing the grieving process and allowing those present to begin to move on with their lives once the service was complete. Read More…

Healing and Homeopathy

I’m periodically involved in discussions about claims of miraculous healing in answer to prayer. My typical position, unsurprisingly, is to be extremely dubious, and with good reason. The condition being “healed” is often minor, self-limiting or liable to spontaneous remission. When more extravagant claims are made, the story tends to be hyped, at least in my experience, but little effort is made to verify details. If I was going to tell people that God made me walk again, I think I’d want some sort of medical opinion to show that even if I’m mistaken, at least I’m not crazy. Read More…

Distinctiveness of Christianity

Christianity makes a big thing of being counter-cultural, but when the rubber hits the road, how much does it actually differ from the culture it claims to run counter to? I grew up understanding the sum total of Christian Morality to be a sort of middle-class respectability and politeness, and I’ve seen little since then to suggest that it’s much deeper than that. There’s variation depending on your location and flavour of church, and those different flavours will often disagree with each other, but the result always seems to be a sort of institutionalised, co-opted secular morality, reflecting the dominant culture of church members rather than an objective standard. Read More…

%d bloggers like this: