Are churches about belonging or believing?

Christian teaching has often emphasisted the importance of getting our beliefs right.

It began with the early Church’s claims about Jesus, and was accentuated in the sixteenth century Reformation debates. Modern religions generally define themselves by what they believe and what they do. On the other hand sociologists have pointed out the importance of belonging, regardless of the believing.

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Where are you?

I've just finished reading Jerry Brotton's fascinating A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Allen Lane: 2012). I'll tell you about three.

The first is the Hereford mappamundi. It is the largest of its kind to have survived intact for nearly 800 years, and shows what the world looked like to a thirteenth century Christian. Made from an animal skin it measures 1.59 metres high and 1.34 metres wide. The world is circular and divided by the Mediterranean into Europe, Asia and Africa. East is at the top. 

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Bless you!

Not long ago I was talking to someone soon to be priested about what priesthood is. As it happens I had just recently read C W Mitchell’s book on the meaning of ‘bless’ in the Old Testament.

A key text is the ‘Priestly Blessing’ in Numbers 6:24-26:

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The Resurrection - who cares?

At Easter the Order of Service for the mass media is to taunt bishops by asking for public statements about the Resurrection.

It’s pretty difficult to say something intelligent about it without shocking some group of Christians.

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Isaiah and society's agenda

The Old Testament scholar John Barton, in his Understanding Old Testament Ethics (Westminster John Knox, 2003, pp. 138-140), describes the moral philosophy of the 8th Century BCE prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah… begins with a picture of the world in which God is the creator and preserver of all things and occupies by right the supreme position over all that he has made.

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