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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Fire also is a reality check. It uncovers the extent of the progress we have made towards loving and helping our neighbour or it displays the lack of trust among people who live cheek by jowl.
It is deeper than that of course. Why does an all loving God permit such destructive events like the Great Fire to happen, if we really cannot stomach the idea that He dooms the relatively innocent to illustrate a point about the over indulgent. It seems that God is either not loving or falls short of being all powerful.
Here the role of fire in visions of the end-time can help us. Such was the chaos of the obstinately metaphysical 17th century that sensible people recoiled from speculation about the end time. Enthusiasm in religion became suspect. At the end of the 17th century Archbishop Tillotson who had been a City Rector said “Stirring up men’s passions is like the muddying of the waters you see nothing clearly afterwards.” He had a point but the anaesthetising of the Christian community was only too successful. Christians became largely satisfied with the way things were. They gave up looking for a denouement, for what the New Testament calls – The Kingdom.
Ultimately this raised questions about what the Church was for and whether God himself was just a piece of antique cultural baggage. I was in conversation last night with a group of spiritual searchers called Moot, serious and imaginative young people who find the church stale and oppressive. One of them said very reasonably, has the Anglican Church got a vision?
This is the beginnings of the answer which is being given by many Christians in London today. One of the Biblical truths which has been brought to light by the scientific discoveries of the past century is that we live in an unfinished universe. The universe is full of pain and travail as Paul says in his letter to the Romans. It groans in all its parts. It is sufficiently distinct from God both to have the potential of being suffused with love for the Creator but also the potential for disaster, for the fire which destroys but also reveals. We cannot see the future of the human race and the climax of the creation of which we are a part. They are out of our sight with God at the Omega point to which we are travelling.
What we know however as people of faith as we look back over the story so far is that there is disaster but also rescue. There is tragedy but always promise and hope. God as we see him in Jesus Christ, the human face of God, is not a nanny who keeps a tight grip on us lest anything untoward happen. He gives us freedom and has himself accepted the suffering that such freedom entails. God was in Christ full of promise loving the world into loving.
The Christian community is composed of those who have consciously made themselves a part of this story. They are building on the vision of human life that we are given in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. They are called to become his body on earth. They know that happiness and fulfilment does not come by having but by loving. They know that human life flowers not when it looks after number one but when it takes risks for the sake of my neighbour. They know with the ancient writers that we fall alone but we are saved together.
--The Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
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