Bible believing???

bibleI like to be challenged … no … really I do. I love a great discussion. One thing I particularly enjoy is pub theo (which happens tonight, 7.45pm at the Dog and Bone with great curry – shameless plug!!!) because people come to talk, are generally open to listening to each other which sometimes results in people changing an opinion.

Over the last few weeks, though, I seem to have come across quite a fair bit of cliche conversation stoppers … such as “well … I’m a Bible believing Christian’ … or … ‘You can’t pick and choose .. you have to believe ALL the Bible’. I have come to see these as conversation stoppers because they have been used that way … to stop me in my tracks with the expectation that the discussion should not stop … dead … there and then! Sorted! One way and all that!

Faith Interrupted writes well about this today.  I love Brian McLaren’s words that are quoted …

The Bible is too good and too important to be left to those who won’t think critically about it. And frankly, it’s too dangerous! 


One place to do some of that critical stuff is pub theo now and again … it’s important … it’s fun … don’t close the conversation … open it … lets challenge each other!

another great pub theo

pub theologyWe had a pretty good night at pub theo tonight. I really like the Dog and Bone and it seems to work perfectly for us as the staff are always friendly and Elayne is  a great cook. Loads of chilli, rice, tacos, cheese and salsa tonight, (for just a fiver!) along with incredibly well kept beer at just £3 a pint, all adds to the great atmosphere this pub provides for us.

Our first question … ‘Does it matter if God exists or not?’ kept us going for around an hour. I think that is a record for pub theo. The conversation was diverse between those who have a faith and those who don’t and after lots of talk and laughter and argument we seemed to decide that the question was an important question. It was an important question, one of the big questions, and the question itself is probably more important than the answer.

Although … the answer is ‘yes’ of course ….. just joking to half of pub theo there ;-)!!!

It was good to see a good mix of people tonight with 3 new people alongside some of the regulars … as well as missing those who could not make it of course. People also came and went … there’s a bit of a Greek Orthodox church thing going on here where people dip in and out of ‘the liturgy’ as they wish to.

A large part of tonight, between questions, was general catching up with people socially. Pub theology seems to have produced a little community that like each others company … and I guess I never really expected that to happen … it wasn’t planned …. but I’m glad it is as it is because there is something special about the group of people that come to the pub to talk theology. I’m glad to be part of this group that is just interested in each other. Thank you.

The next pub theo falls in the bank holiday when everyone seems to go away … so there will not be a pub theo in May … the next one will be on Monday June 30th, 745 in the Dog and Bone …. put the date in your diary!

pub grace

pub theo copyPub Theo happened again on Monday. Another new collection of people and another new question that I picked up from th high street:

‘If GRACE is real, why do so many bloody Christians have hang ups about what is right and wrong?’ 

It’s very rare that one question keeps us going all night … but on Monday night we had one such night! We batted around the idea of grace, what is grace, how do we experience grace and a mass of other questions. We then seemed to focus on whether grace had conditions.

There was a wonder whether grace had to be accepted and whether that acceptance entailed a change in behaviour, or whether grace was a total free gift with no conditions placed upon it at all.

Whatever of the above two viewpoints we were coming from, we did all seem to agree that grace was an incredibly radical and shockingly undeserved … almost scandalous even!

out_edited-1so …. grace …. undeserved yes …
but an acceptance and a change before it is experienced …
or is it experienced with no strings attached …
what do you think?

NB – the next pub theo will be on Monday 25th November. Bishop Brian (really great Bishop who’s bio is here) will be attending as part of his visit to Gillingham. Put the date in your diaries as I think this could be a really good evening.

the re-launch!

Wow …. I’m buzzing after what seemed to be a pretty successful and alive re-launch of pub theo. A short break, some new people, new-ish pub and lots of good conversation combined to make a real fun evening.

pub theologyTopics we looked at included death, terrorism, being true to self and belief, right living vs right belief …. and mixed in with that was a good amount of social talk as people got to know each other … and maybe, just maybe, this little community starts to grow again.

Tonight was a great experience as people shared, discussed, disagreed … and all left after a couple of drinks still being friends. I always wonder after a pub theo why ‘the wider church’ can’t manage to discuss contentious issues in the same respectful way.

The only downside of this evening was that we had to end …. but the next one is only a month away … Monday 28th October – stick that date in your diary.

pub theo

pub theologyPub Theo happened earlier in the week. We tried yet another location, this time The Cricketers in Gillingham, which seemed to work quite well. Bonus’ were a great oval table to sit around so we could hear each other, really good food with a good menu and, most importantly of all of course, Spitfire on tap!

The discussion rambled a little from the new Pope and the Falkland Islands, which led into a church and politics debate, as in should the church stay out of politics. We also wondered a little about a starter question I set … why is the media so interested in religion if religion is apparently dead (in light of coverage of the pope, the coverage of the Archbishop, and the bishops letter to the telegraph). I’m not sure we got very far with that question.

I love meeting with this group, we have become friends and it’s good just to chat. i think we have covered a lot of theology over the last 12-18 months and wonder if it is becoming increasingly more difficult to talk about things as we seem to have chatted a bout a lot. Are there only a limited number of questions or, more probably, do most questions come under the overarching themes of pain, war, existence of God, sexuality etc.?

Maybe thats a pub theo question … but anyway … we meet again at the end of April … so Monday April 29th at The Cricketers … why not join us!

pub theo on the move

urlPub theo was kind of re-born last night. Maybe not so much re-born as starting to look for a new place. last night that place was The Canterbury Tales in Gillingham which people seemed to feel comfortable in and worked well for our discussion. (The beer was well kept and reasonably priced too!)

There was a lot of social catch up as this group have not really had a chance to catch up since November and the discussion was as diverse as ever, from random acts of kindness to the morality banks charging interest (interestingly Islamic banks don’t …) hell, commandments and so on. I think we also touched on gay mariage which seems to regularly be something people want to talk about.

All in all this was a good night. The only down side was we had planned a pub crawl theo, simply because we need to find a new pub in Gillingham and there are a number of options. The crap weather, however, meant that the overwhelming majority wanted to stay put. So … the next pub theo may be at The canterbury tales and may be elsewhere. Watch this space! Maybe we will become pop up pub theo …. try saying that after the third pint!

I did love the atmosphere last night though. The group seems to have gelled well and enjoys being with each other. two of our regular people were not there last night and we kind of missed them. I now need to wait a few more weeks for the highlight of my month, which is what the people of pub theo have become.

are we ready to … Ask Seek Knock

ask-seek-and-knockAsk …. seek …. knock.
Ask and it will be given to you.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened.

These words of Christ that have been both a comfort and a challenge to me over the years. It would seem that now, though, they are becoming increasingly more of a challenge than a comfort. It is easy to run these words off to ourselves and others as an indication of a warm comfortable promise but, on both a personal and ministry level, I am finding the warm comfort has shifted to allow more of the hot prodding poker of a challenge.

As I think around, and reflect upon, these words of Christ I am discovering that these words of Christ demand a certain level of authenticity from me. They demand an authenticity in understanding that there is no point in asking if you think you already know the answer. An authenticity that refuses to seek or search for something  if you are not prepared to accept, and act upon, what you find. An authenticity that will not knock on the door until you are willing to step inside, and stay awhile, should you be invited.

I have come across quite a few people, over the last few months, who are struggling with faith, truth and life. They are experiencing stuff that is not compatible with their current belief system or developed faith. I wonder, though, whether they are actually struggling with faith as such, or whether they are struggling more with their discoveries from their asking, their seeking and their knocking.

You see, this lifestyle of question (ask), explore (seek) and introduction (knock) can cause us problems. Only the other day a Christian friend asked me about some issue that they feel they cannot raise in their church because the very raising, or asking, would bring a negative reaction. I believe this is why pub theology, a safe and accepting place to question and explore, has worked so well.

If what we believe is the truth then it will, stand up to re-analysis in light of experience. I don’t think with the the ask, seek, knock thing that was Jesus suggesting that this was supposed to be a one off event, but more of a lifestyle choice? I can’t be sure, and maybe others can argue for the one off event thing … but I’m going to go with the lifestyle choice one …

To do that we must be prepared to change depending on what we may find as we question, explore and introduce ourselves. God is not in a tidy little box and neither can the love and pain of Gods creation be squeezed. Every time we encounter God we are changed … it’s inevitable …. God IS never-changing …. but as we ask seek knock maybe our understanding changes

So … Ask … seek … knock …. and see what happens!

pub theo to community

this months pub theo contained its normal rich mix of great people and wandering discussions. We started by looking, essentially, at the celebration of Hallowe’en and how many of us, including myself, had been brought up in evangelical churches and how that influenced us, even now, as adults.

Certainly, I still have a difficulty of celebrating evil, but is what will happen tonight in parties in many homes a celebrations of evil, or is it simply an opportunity for friends and family to get together and have a party? That is a genuine question not a hidden statement, as I don’t know … my house ‘does not do Hallowe’en’. I think, though, it’s vlid to ask ‘Is any opportunity to connect with others in this disconnected world (borrowing language from my Brenee Brown post last week) always something that should be welcomed?’

The discussion then moved on to other stuff which was pretty far ranging. The thing I noticed must about this pub theo event, though, is that community is growing. People who used to know each other have reconnected, people who never knew each other have become friends and people were talking about stuff outside of the pub theo event. I think pub theo has shown over the last three years that if you bring a group of people together regularly for something that is meaningful to them then community starts to grow.

I find that pretty exciting and it causes me to wonder what is it that I need to be thinking about in the Gillingham high Street area that will bring people together and that will enable community to grow … that’s not such an easy question … watch this space …

pub theo: transgender questions?

pub theo gathered again last night ….one person on their first visit asked how long we had been meeting and I was shocked to realise that next month will mark our second birthday. Maybe we should do something special to mark the occasion on July 30th…. maybe go for a drink or something!

Tonight we started with a great question which ws presented on facebook a little while ago: if we are made in Gods image and created male and female and that is how he wants us to be and us not to change our sex. Then what about people who are born Hermaphrodites, born with both parts, What happens there? What Sex did God create them? Did we cause a flaw somewhere? or was that how it was meant to be? how can some one determine another person’s sex when they are born?

The discussion was lively ad healthy with people having pretty strong views. These views ranged from people needing to be encouraged to accept their body / identifiable gender to views of complete acceptance and non – judgement to all. There were differing views between those two views as well.

This whole area really grabs me as a while ago I wrote a short presentation questioning this which I concluded in this way:

I argue for hope in a God finishing what he started which demands an alternative Christian view of engagement, passion and transformation in this area. We consider before us a person in turmoil, confused, ill at ease and in the wrong place, but desiring transformation. To my mind this is like the image of a small Christian community waiting for Jesus Christ.
This is not someone to reject, to be repulsed or afraid of and neither is it someone to deprive of surgery; this is someone to embrace, to admire and allow to experience the transformational love of God. ‘Maybe not God given by birth, but God given by the ability of medical science developed through the God given talents of compassionate human beings.’

If you arw that interested and want to read the talk n its entirety it may be accessed here under ‘Approaches and Methods in Theology’, which was the module I happened to be studying at the time.

Following this we discussed rules verses living as a way of living out our (Christian) faith. We also spoke a lot about whether there was one way to live as a Christian, and whether that would be a good or bad thing if there was.

once again …. a great heated discussion …. see you next month!

is this a community birthing?

So pub theo happened again last night. I forget now how long we have been meeting, but it must be around 2 years. That’s a lot of theology, a lot of discussion, a lot of arguing, a lot of pulling ideas apart and rebuilding them, a lot of learning from each other, a lot of challenging, a lot of …. well a lot of good fun with a great and always changing group of people really!

Last night we touched on the rights and wrongs of freedom of speech based on Boris banning a certain bus advert. We ended up asking whether we do actually have free speech in this country and it was interesting to see a number of us disagreeing with the sentiment of the advert in question but struggling with the removal of their right to be heard.

Last night saw a lot of theological discussion as we moved on to other topics but this was interspersed by a lot of general chat around catching up with each other. I think last night may have been the first time that the theological and the catching up discussion was around a 50-50 balance. It seemed like something of community was evident and starting to grow … and I wonder if that can be the case after meeting only a few times over beer, food and talk? I guess it is a good, if not the best, way to start!