“Why is my radio so cheap?” – The darker side of consumerism

17 06 2009

I don’t know much about Annie Leonard, but I stumbled across this video she’s done. It’s an easy watch – kind of animation-meets-lecture – and she does a good job of uncovering the hidden costs of consumerism.

Here’s a 60 second taster (if you want to see the whole 20min monster, then click on the banner above):

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Keeping in step with the Spirit – Christologically

15 12 2008
Depiction of the Trinity

Image via Wikipedia

Do you think Christologically about the the Holy Spirit? Suppose we’re talking about our New Testament freedom, in the Spirit, to learn to live as God intends. What difference does Jesus make to that freedom (over and above the difference made by, e.g. Moses or Isaiah)? Is it just that Jesus made Pentecost possible – and so the Holy Spirit was given after him – and the Spirit makes obedience possible?

If so, your understanding of the Spirit isn’t Christological.

Revival movements – even ones which start well – need to beware of this danger: rightly speaking of the inward moral power of the Holy Spirit, but doing so unchristologically. That way lies the worst sort of legalism. (The Montanists1 were an early example.)

The antidote? Reflecting more deeply on what it means for us to be in Christ. Through his Spirit, we enter into Christ’s freedom. We participate in Christ’s authority within the created order.

Or, to put it in Paul’s words, we are no longer slaves, but sons.2


For more on this, see Oliver O’Donovan’s book, Resurrection and Moral Order, p22-27.

Posted by Rick Creighton


1 Montanism was a prophetic movement within Early Christianity, dating from approx. 150AD. (See EarlyChurch.org.uk for more.)

2 Cf. Galatians 4v1-7: ‘What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.’ (NIV)

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From ethics to the gospel (04) – via the Fall

8 12 2008

[Catch up on the whole ‘From ethics to the gospel‘ series]

//pdphoto.org/PictureDetail.

Image via Wikipedia

What’s wrong with the ‘moral universe’ of most Hollywood movies? The trouble is, it’s not true to life. Most films present you with a world that breaks down into goodies and baddies. The goodies are basically good, and the baddies are basically bad. Once you’ve worked who’s in which category, movie-life becomes simple.

But life’s not that simple. So how do you explain the good and bad in our world? There are plenty of options:

  • The Hollywood option. The world is a mix of good and bad. Some things are good, others are bad.
  • The Disney option. The world is basically good (with minor bad bits). All it takes is the right attitude, and everything will be OK.
  • The Pessimist option. The world is basically bad. There’s no hope, so just get used to it.
  • The Buddhist option. There’s no such thing as good or bad. Such categories are an illusion. Learn to move beyond them.

None of these stack up to reality. In the world we know, you find good and bad mixed together in everything. Even the best people can have terrible flaws. Even the worst people can show flashes of goodness. (And even Hollywood reflects this sometimes: Peter Parker desires vengence; Doc Ock shows remorse.)

The Bible explains this in a way nothing else does. It tells us of a good-world-gone-wrong. It tells us about Creation and Fall. God created a good world; that good world has gone wrong. In everything around you, you’ll see evidence of both truths. You’ll see echoes of the original goodness, of what might have been. You’ll see evidence of the corruption, how far short things have fallen. You’ll see both together in same object, the same person. You’ll see them together in every person and every aspect of our world.

That’s a message worth proclaiming. And it’s a message that will be heard. The very cosmos itself is on your side when you proclaim it. This message makes sense of people’s world in a way nothing else does.


The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

From Mythopoeia, by J. R. R. Tolkien


Posted by Rick Creighton

The next item in this series (‘From ethics to the gospel’) will be posted next Monday.

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Ethics Resources – bethinking.org

1 12 2008
The Thinker, Rodin (1880)

Image by radiospike via Flickr

Check out this website: bethinking.org.

(UK readers may already know this site; but in case you don’t…) Bethinking.org is an apologetics website, put together by UCCF (the umbrella organisation for Christian Unions in the UK, affilated to IFES).

The site includes an ethics section, and lots of other apologetics resources too. The material is high quality, and it’s updated frequently. The resources are categorised by difficulty (“Introductory”, “Intermediate”, “Advanced”). Lots of them are in written format, but some are mp3s.

Here’s the site’s own blurb:

bethinking.org aims to bring together the best possible resources for thinking about and communicating the Christian faith. Its goal is to help to prepare all Christians to provide an answer to those who deny the truth of Christianity. Whether that’s answering the attacks of Richard Dawkins, discussing our faith with a Muslim colleague or chatting about the latest episode of Dr Who with a neighbour, bethinking.org aims to provide you with talks and articles that stimulate you to think about your faith and its relation to the world and culture around us, and then to show how Christianity is not only true, but provides the answers to life’s biggest questions.

You’ll notice there’s a bit of a UK spin.  But most of the material isn’t country-specific. Here’s a few example articles:

Posted by Rick Creighton





From ethics to the gospel (03) – blank slate vs ordered creation

17 11 2008

[Catch up on the whole ‘From ethics to the gospel‘ series]

New Blackboard

Image by drinksmachine via Flickr

What happens if you think the world is a blank slate? To put it another way, does it matter whether God created the world with order built in? Here’s why it matters: If Creation is a blank slate, then we’re free to (re-)order things whatever way we like. If no order is given in creation, then any order we choose with be arbitrary. There’s no objective reason for choosing one way of doing things over another. It’s just a matter of what suits you, of what gives you an advantage, of where your vested interests lie.

If1 that’s true all sorts of things suddenly make sense:

  • Homosexuality. If the pattern for human sexuality isn’t built into creation – if it’s arbitrary – they why not experiment with other forms of sexual expression? Especially if they seem to work better for you?
  • Transgender. If a person’s sex (either male or female) isn’t a fundamental aspect of being human – if it’s arbitrary and/or accidental – then why not change it?
  • Human-animal hybrids. If God hasn’t created a clear distinction between humans and animals (or, indeed, between one kind of animal and another), then why not experiment to see what sort of hybrids we can produce? (Including hybrids far more radical than currently the case; we’re still at the tame end of the spectrum.)

If you’re in a teaching role, and you’re tackling these issues, it’s important to do more than state what’s right and wrong. (Though, of course, you shouldn’t do less.)

It’s better to also help people see that the issue underneath these issues: Do we acknowledge that God is Creator? Are we willing to submit to the order that he has created?

Now, of course there’ll be debates about whether, and how, we rightly discern that order (i.e. epistemology2). But before we get there, we need to ask: In principle, are we willing to admit that God’s order is built in to his creation? And, once we know what it is, are we willing to submit to it? Unless the answer to these questions is “Yes”, there’s no point moving on to the other, more detailed questions (i.e. the epistemology).

If we can’t say “Yes”, we have a more primordial problem. We don’t want God to be God. We want to order the universe ourselves, as we see fit. We still want to claim the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Adam & Eve

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Posted by Rick Creighton

The next item in this series (‘From ethics to the gospel’) will be posted next Monday.


1 N.B. I’m not saying this is true. In fact, I’m saying it’s not true. But I’m also exploring where your thinking would go if you thought it were true (as many people do). Cf. My previous post: ‘From ethics to the gospel via creation’

2 Epistemology is the study of how, and whether, we know what we know.




From ethics to the gospel (02) – via Creation

10 11 2008

[Catch up on the whole ‘From ethics to the gospel‘ series]

So how do you get from ethics to the gospel? You get there via theology. You need robust doctrines of Creation, and of the Fall, and of Redemption, and of New Creation.

Adam, Eve, and the (female) serpent at the ent...

Image via Wikipedia

We’ll start with Creation in this post, and look at the others later.

When God created the world, he created it with a God-given ordering (or relationship-pattern). Things don’t just exist; they exist in relationship to each other. They come with God-given kinds and God-given purposes.

(a) Kinds. “Humanity” (i.e. all those created in/as God’s image) is a God-given kind. So we are wrong when we exclude any human being from the respect and dignity that belong to those who are God’s images.

That’s not self-evident.  “Crimes against humanity” occur when some people start telling themselves that other people don’t really count as human.  It might be whole ethnic groups (e.g. Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, or Jews, Romanies and Poles [hover for more info]) or more ominously, groups who are too weak to protest (“the slave”, “the foetus”, “the terminally ill”, “the comatose”) or groups that we deem unforgivable (“terrorists”, “white-trash”, “paedophiles”).

[By the way, choosing the “right” label is a good step towards dehumanising someone. Once they’re dehumanised enough you no long have to treat them with respect or dignity.]

(b) Purposes. God also created things with purposes; often mulitple purposes. Apples were designed to grow into apple trees. Apples were also designed to be food. Your neighbour was not designed to be food (not even in the most extreme situation). She was designed to love God and enjoy him forever, and to love her neighbour as herself.

The gospel tells us how God has acted in Christ to restore our Fallen world. Built into that message is the good news that in Christ we can be what we were created to be. “Being what we were created to be” is a pretty good summary of what ethics should be all about.

So, contrary to the question that began this post, it’s not a matter of “getting” from ethics to the gospel. Ethics already is contained within the gospel. Our job is to make Christ known, in all his glory. If we’re doing that faithfully, it will include calling people to be what they were created to be.

Posted by Rick Creighton

The next item in this series (‘From ethics to the gospel’) will be posted on Monday, 17th Nov, 2008.

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Understanding Faith (01)

3 11 2008

Image by Mr Messy! via Flickr

Image by Mr Messy! via Flickr

In case you didn’t know, there’s a revolution happening right now over the meaning of faith. The expression “for the love of Pete,” means either “love towards Pete” (objective genitive) or “Pete’s love” (subjective genitive). Likewise, pistis Christou in Paul means either “faith in Christ” or “Christ’s faith” (Rom 3:22 & 26; Gal 2:16 [twice] & 20; Gal 3:22; and Phil 3:9). Traditionally it has been taken as “faith in Christ.” But more recently, people have gravitated towards the second. The implications can be big, as Mark Reasoner suggests: “Proponents… who hold that Christ’s faith is what saves will not call for… placing one’s faith in Jesus. They will rather call people to join the church that lives out… the faith that Jesus displayed” (Romans in Full Circle, 39).

This is a great example of how your reading impinges upon the message you preach. The specific issue also has implications for where Christian ethics should be placed in the scheme of things. In this series of contribution (posted weekly), I want to use this debate to illustration the importance of how you read. More than this though, I hope to stir thinking in a new direction on the issue itself (and thus the ethical question), by focusing on what has been a blind spot. What happens when we read pistis Christou as a Graeco-Roman person would have read it? Surprisingly perhaps, the answer has much to do with relationships!

posted by Bruce Lowe