pub theo … what difference does faith make?

pub theology happened last night and we kicked off with something along the lines of:
‘Was Whitney Houston a bad Christian example and witness or was she a good example showing that Christians also struggle and do not lead perfect lives?’ 
We had a much longer discussion on and around this than I had expected.

Many took the view that it was far too easy ato judge and that many seemed to do that within the church. I think we agreed that we felt she was a good example as it showed how  faith is not a guarantee or a ‘cushion’ that protected people …. but rather that Christians, like everyone else, struggle with the crap of life …. sometimes that is life!

The conversation then exploded into what is a Christian …  and more particularly what different our Christian faith makes to our normal everyday life. I think there were varied answers to this …. for me personally it is about being good news for people and being involved in transforming communities and not about believing a set of practices or following a group of behaviours ….. discuss!

The next pub theo will be held on MOnday 26th March …. put the date in your diary.

in and out …

So pub theo happened last night … around 12 people were there and the discussion got pretty heated at times. It seems there is nothing like a discussion on heaven and hell, who is in/out and ‘if we are all going to heaven anyway what’s the point of believing’ to really get people going.

Last nights group had a lot of fun grappling with the ideas presented in this book and allowing them to wrestle with the stuff that they have been brought up with. I am not saying I agree with all that Rob Bell writes in Loves Wins … but he definitely covers a large area that lots of people do not really think about that much.

Personally, I could see it to be a challenge for most of us to grapple with this stuff and consider alternatives to ideas that we have been brought up with. It is like there is almost a sense of ‘wrongness’ that we should even be thinking differently. Maybe that’s the old evangelical identity fear of backsliding/liberalism/dodginess that Rob Bell has been accused of.

On a lighter note the group also had their photo taken by the manager for the Wetherspoons News … so if you frequent ‘spoons in other towns keep an eye out for the next magazine!

And the discussion …. I kind of think it is not over. There is a strong possibility that this particular discussion may continue online so you might want too pop in on the pub theology facebook page.

The next pub theo will be on Monday 27th. February … put that date in your diary!

Love Wins at pub theo

Tonight sees the first pub theo of 2012,a nd it is one that a few have been looking forward to for a while. Tonight we will be meeting in our normal place in The Golden Lion, the Wetherspoons pub in Rochester, to eat, drink and discuss the points that Rob Bell makes in Love Wins. For those of you that do not know the book, Rob Bell challenges a lot of our ‘traditional’ church thinking on heaven and hell and who will be ‘saved’ and who won’t be. It is a good read and you can see a video clip introducing the book here.

A few people have read the book in preparation, and I have come up with a few starting questions to get us thinking about where we want the discussions to be going. Tonight, with my pint, I will be starting the session of by asking whether anything in particular in the book provoked a particularly positive or negative reaction, whether anything was surprising, challenging or confusing and whether there was anything that people strongly agreed or disagreed with. I will also ask where people think Rob Bell gets it right, (if

at all) and where they think he has completely lost the plot! (again, if at all!) Then I have someother questions based on particular chapters if we need them …. usually people have enough questions and comments themselves so I hoep I won’t need those questions!

Tonight should be a good night … so if you are thinking of just staying in and watching some sad soap or whatever … why not join us, from 7.00pm (you can arrive whenever you like and join in wherever the discussion has got to) in The Golden Lion – it will be great to see you.

soul chat?

Last night’s pub theo was a pretty special event. Great atmosphere, great people, a fair amount of disagreement and challenge but always laced with a massive amount of respect, care and interest in each others views. If only church could be like this!!

The opening questions was something along the lines of ‘So come on then you Christians … what is so bad about celebrating Hallowe’en?’

The conversation moved around the belief or not of ghosts, spirits, afterlife and in particular of the soul .. and what the soul is, whether it exists, whether it lives outside the body and what happens to the soul upon death. Jade sent in comment via twitter (are you impressed how multi-faceted pub theo can be!!??) saying the body loses approximately 21 grams and  asked whether this could be the soul?

The conversation, both face to face, and the via twitter/facebook comments  was fairly fascinating and engaging. I’ve cut and paste some below … fee free to join in here or on facebook:

Sorry I couldn’t be there tonight 😦 Point to maybe lob into conversation, reportedly at the moment of death the body lightens by 21 grams – the weight of a human soul perhaps?

I think it misses the point to weigh the soul. The soul as the ‘ghost in the machine’ is a Greek import into Christianity. I don’t think the Hebrew faith known by Jesus would recognise it. We have the word ‘soul’ in English translations of the Hebrew Bible but again it’s an import. Belief in the eternal soul allowed Christians to do truly dreadful things to people’s bodies. I’m a monist when it comes to anthropology. We *are* our bodies. The soul/spirit are emergent properties of our brains. I believe in the resurrection of the body not the soul’s ascent to heaven. The troubling implication of this point of view is that death is truly the end of this experiencing self. And brain injury and disease truly affect our real self. Jesus approached his end with fear and trembling unlike Socrates (a believer in the soul) who took hemlock willingly. I’d be interested to know if this view emerged at Pub Theo. I threw it in when we discussed something similar at PUB:FAITH. Profound and fascinating stuff. Enjoy.

All the energy in the body does not disappear. Energy has to go somewhere even if it dissipates to a thin layer on the earth’s surface. The energy in the body is a result of complex chemical generation lending us our personality. Even the body if one thinks of it as our ‘matter’ has a psychodynamic relationship with our energy. Is all or part of the energy in our bodies representative of the soul?

So … want to add to the discussion?

pub theo

We saw the first Pub Theo of the new academic year last night. We had around 12/13 people and 4 of them had never been before. One of that 4 had seen the pub theo article in the local press so the paper article got us one new person.

The discussion last night was vibrant, fun, sometimes confusing, but this was all about good dialogue and discussion. People shared some fairly strong views, others challenged, disagreed or asked for clarification and on the whole this was a pretty good night.

The discussion started on the topic of 9/11 and I asked how this had impacted the people around the table as well as asking if faith helped or confused when faced with national tragedies like 9/11 or Utoya. This then branched off into theories about the afterlife to what heaven and earth could be. The discussion flowed well and people seemed to engage with the topics, each other and have a good time.

I’m always slightly saddened at the end of a pub theo session as it means it’s a whole month before we can do this again … not just for the dialogue, but just for the hanging out with some great people too.

Next one is on Monday October 31st from 7.00pm (we always meet up on the last Monday of the month) – maybe see you there!

pub theo heads page 3!

The interview I did the other week for the Medway News has been published this week on page 3. On the whole the article is fairly positive and I can thank Max, the reporter, for accurately outline what we aim to do:

‘I believe there are lots of people, those with faith and those without faith, who have questions about life and faith and theology – they basically want a safe non-judgemental place where they can chat about that’  is a fairly accurate quote of what I said, as is ‘it’s there to talk, have a laugh, and create community’.

The paper has also accurately reported when we next meet, along with linking to the gathering website which also gives dates for pub theology. So …. it will be interesting to see if we get new people coming in response to this article. I guess on that only time will tell.

its about dialogue …

It’s been an interesting couple of days. One of the local papers has heard about Pub Theology and have been trying to arrange an interview for quite a while now. One reporter came to a pub theology session back in June and seemed to enjoy stuff but for some reason the story never happened.

Yesterday another reporter spent some time with me asking for information so that the paper could write a story about pub theology as ‘others may be interested’. Although I am always wary of the press (who is not?) the paper seems genuine and we decided the right thing to do would be to give an interview.

The reporters main interest seemed to be the fact that we were a bunch of people that met to discuss for the pure aim of speaking with and listening to each other, without anyone, whether they have a faith or no faith, trying to convert the other to their way of thinking. The reporter mentioned to me that in other societies he had seen dialogue as the norm but that in this country there were few places for open, agenda free, dialogue. Because of our ‘dialogue thing’ he was very interested in letting other people know so that they have the opportunity to join in.

I think that sums up pub theology quite well – a place for open, genuinely agenda free, dialogue. In fact I think that pretty much sums up what theology is aboutas well. If dialogue is not agenda free then it becomes debate and debate becomes competition and competition means it is all about being right. Dialogue means it is all about hearing each others views and taking those on board as you (re)form your own opinions.

My experience tells me that you never quote know how things will turn out in the newspaper after things have been edited (sometimes not even by the reporter themselves), but I really hope that genuine open dialogue thing will come through.

pub theo …

pub theology met again last night in the pub …. well we would wouldn’t we!

The general discussion seemed good and we had a number of visitors from other places who were interested in what we were doing and how they might do something similar in their communities. I hope we were able to offer encouragement and a way forward.

I think I have said before that this is one of my favourite things that I am involved in. I think that is because there is no program or hidden agenda here – and it really is becoming a group of friends getting together over a drink (wine, cider, coke, juice, beer) to chat about stuff that is pretty important and/or puzzling to them.

As I look back on the last year it is interesting to notice the subjects that appear regularly. The suffering question is there. The ‘why do Christians act so bad’ question is there which more often than not expresses itself in how Christians treat other people that they do not agree with. Linked closely to this is the ‘sexuality’ question, which appeared again briefly last night.

These are important questions but I personally long and pray for a time when people no longer see the need to discuss these issues over and over – not because they are not important (because I personally believe they are)…. but simply because people within the church have tuned into the love message of the gospel and acts in an inclusive way in the nature of Christ. (meaning that sexuality and gender are no longer seen as an issue by all).

Pub theology now takes a break for the summer and we will reconvene again I guess some time in the autumn …. that’s if people are up for it.

pub theology discussions

We had another great time at pub theology last night.

The subjects were not as varied in the past possibly because we started the discussions off by asking whether it was right to have killed Osama Bin Laden.  This became a wide ranging discussion looking at a range  of our differing views on  a variety of associated topics.

It sounds strange, because there is no immediate link, but we then moved into a shorter discussion on whether the rise in vampire and werewolf movies is a sign of interest in the after life and spirituality within society or whether they are just good (or bad) films with good (or not!) story lines.

Anyway … we seemed to have a good time pulling all that stuff apart! As ever, we never came to decisions, i don’t think we agreed on much …. but then that is not what it’s all about is it!

pub theology

We had a good pub theo session on Monday – the opening question asking whether post mortem salvation is possible … can you be ‘saved’ (whatever that may mean) after you have died?

This led to an interesting discussion on what salvation is about, who God is, and what heaven and hell are … it was an interesting discussion and I don’t think I can do justice to the discussion here …. you’ll just have to come to the next pub theo session.

We discussed a few other questions, such as the relevancy and validity of Numbers 5 amongst other things.

I find these discussions invigorating and I guess I think they work well because people bring stuff they are interested in at this point in time. No one really knows what the questions are going to be which I think also adds to the excitement of the evening. I’m looking forward to the next one already …