About me

Excerpt from 'The Coffee House of Surat' by Leo Tolstoy

 This is an excerpt from a very interesting short story by Leo Tolstoy called 'The Coffee House of Surat' which revolves around a group discussion where people of different faiths are all claiming to have the ultimate divine truth. Eventually the student of Confucius says some very wise words.
"You are all misleading one another, and are yourselves deceived. The sun does not go round the earth, but the earth goes round the sun, revolving as it goes, and turning towards the sun in the course of each twenty-four hours, not only Japan, and the Philippines, and Sumatra where we now are, but Africa, and Europe, and America, and many lands besides. The sun does not shine for some one mountain, or for some one island, or for some one sea, nor even for one earth alone, but for other planets as well as our earth. If you would only look up at the heavens, instead of at the ground beneath your own feet, you might all understand this, and would then no longer suppose that the sun shines for you, or for your country alone."


"So on matters of faith," continued the Chinaman, the student of Confucius, "it is pride that causes error and discord among men. As with the sun, so it is with God. Each man wants to have a special God of his own, or at least a special God for his native land. Each nation wishes to confine in its own temples Him, whom the world cannot contain.

"Can any temple compare with that which God Himself has built to unite all men in one faith and one religion?" All human temples are built on the model of this temple, which is God's own world. Every temple has its fonts, its vaulted roof, its lamps, its pictures or sculptures, its inscriptions, its books of the law, its offerings, its altars and its priests. But in what temple is there such a font as the ocean; such a vault as that of the heavens; such lamps as the sun, moon, and stars; or any figures to be compared with living, loving, mutually-helpful men? Where are there any records of God's goodness so easy to understand as the blessings which God has strewn abroad for man's happiness? Where is there any book of the law so clear to each man as that written in his heart? What sacrifices equal the self-denials which loving men and women make for one another? And what altar can be compared with the heart of a good man, on which God Himself accepts the sacrifice?

"The higher a man's conception of God, the better will he know Him. And the better he knows God, the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man. "Therefore, let him who sees the sun's whole light filling the world, refrain from blaming or despising the superstitious man, who in his own idol sees one ray of that same light. Let him not despise even the unbeliever who is blind and cannot see the sun at all."
 If you want to read the full story you can go to http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2737/.

Free Will in the Afterlife

So this is something I've been thinking about for a while and don't exactly have my head around yet. I definitely don't have an answer, but it's still something to think about.

Is there free will in the afterlife?

In order for love to exist there must be the opportunity to not love. This is the basis of the Christian idea of free will. God gave us free will so that when we chose to love Him it would mean something, because if we were simply programmed to love God it wouldn't be real love. God wanted us to choose Him, and the reason there is evil in the world is because we and other free agents decided not to choose Him.

Okay, so if you accept that free will is a necessary precondition to love, then what happens in the afterlife? In the New Creation, do we maintain our free will? Is there a possibility of not choosing God in the afterlife? We believe that Christ defeated sin and evil and the New Creation will be a place without death and decay, but there must still be some meaning to the decisions we make in the afterlife.

I think that in the New Creation we will be so exposed to the love and truth of God that it will become almost impossible to choose anything else. He will reveal Himself in full and every part of us that isn't love and goodness will be burnt off of us, so that we enter only with that which can be in God's presence. Therefore in the New Creation we will still be making decisions, but the decisions will be ones of love of peace.

It's still not cut and dry for me. I think there must be some eternal value to free will, and in the New Creation decisions must surely still be made. My two cents.

Joy to the World: An Environmental Reflection

Christmas is one of my favourite Christian holidays. It’s a time for people to gather together over a meal to remember the day that the Prince of Peace was born.

In light of the season I want to do a quick reflection on the carol ‘Joy to the World’. My aim is to use this carol to reflect on our place in nature and whether this Joy really is for the world, or if it’s just for us humans, or even just for Christians. At the outset I would like to say that 1) I am a vegetarian and a fairly new one at that and 2) you don't have to agree with me.

In case you forgot the carol, here it is:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sound in joy

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders and wonders of his love

Joy to the World
One of the first themes I’d like to pick up on is the very title ‘Joy to the World’. Who does the world include? Is it just Christians? Are we ‘the world’ that the message of Jesus is for? Or is it possible that it should be good news even for those who don’t believe? I posture that it should be. If we are to be known for our love, should we not be blessing those around us regardless of their faith or sexual orientation or race or gender? Jesus didn’t come for the cool group. He came for those who were on the fringes of society, and while it’s fun to love the church people perhaps Christ is calling us to love everyone as He does.

But I would like to extend this question of who the world includes, and suggest that it doesn’t just include humans, but it includes all of Creation. That when Jesus died it wasn’t just so that Christians could go to Heaven, but rather that the New Creation could break forth on earth. And maybe, just maybe, animals and plants are to share in that New Creation. In terms of understanding this I would suggest a look at Colossians 1 where Paul says:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
“This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

It is difficult to read Colossians 1 and think that Paul meant that redemption and reconciliation was only for humans. Rather Paul is talking about a gospel for “every creature under heaven”. 

Romans 8 - "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

Hosea 2 - “In that day I will make a covenant for them, with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.

Then if we are willing to accept that Earth should be receiving her King (as the carol suggests) then how are we as the church allowing our fellow creatures to receive their King? I would suggest that exploiting and abusing Nature is not allowing her to receive her King. We are the only beings on this planet that can make moral decisions that affect the rest of the planet, and I think that comes with great responsibility. Are we living up to that responsibility?

Heaven and Nature Sing
The birth narrative of Jesus is such an interesting one, because it keeps pointing us to this galactic moment with the star shining brightly in the sky pointing to the fact that the King is born. As misguided as some nativity plays may be, I wonder if we really consider the oxen and sheep that would have surrounded Jesus when He was born. When Jesus is born it is as though all of Creation is a part of this moment; from the lowly shepherds, to the stars in the sky, to the wise Magi.

The Psalmist is amazing at talking about nature’s groaning for God and how Heaven and Nature sing about the glory of God.

Psalm 19 - “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

Psalm 98 – “Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it; Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord”

Psalm 148 – “Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, You great sea creatures and all the depths; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruitful trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and maidens; Old men and children.”

Isaiah 55 - “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 

In light of these Scriptures and the idea that all of Creation is to experience the Joy, how then are we so okay with the destruction of the planet? How are we okay with eating meat and the mass slaughter of animals? How are animals to partake in the Joy of the World? How are they to “repeat the sounding joy” if we keep them locked in torturous farms where their only job is to serve our greed and desire for meat?

If Jesus really is the Joy to the World, perhaps we ought to take the focus off of ourselves and focus on how this message and the movement we are a part of is actually being a Joy to the World. Perhaps we are to take seriously John 3v16, “For God so loved the world (all of it) that He gave His only Son...” and perhaps we, as God’s agents on earth, should finally understand what it means to take dominion over the earth.

This Christmas I will be enjoying a good, vegetarian meal with my family, reflecting on the Prince of Peace whose birth has brought the Kingdom of Heaven to earth and through whose resurrection we are assured that one day a New Creation will be made where the lion will lie down with the lamb.

Be blessed this Christmas. Love and peace.

San Parks Magazine Advert

What is going on here? Firstly, I apologise for the bad photo quality. Blame Blackberry if you must blame someone.

This is an advert for San Parks, and all I can say is "...". Actually I can say quite a bit more, and so I shall.

What is going on with the couch by the river? Did they bring the couch with them or is this couch there for public use? Did San Parks place couches around dams for people to enjoy story time.

Next, what is up with the woman's left leg and where does it go? Does she only have one leg?

Lastly, why is the woman smiling after she is clearly a victim of domestic violence? Those black eyes didn't make themselves. Is she just smiling in front of the kids, while deep down inside she is crying? Is that why she's only got one leg?

From this advert I take it that San Parks are great for families where taking couches to the dam seems smart, and domestic violence goes unchecked. San Parks... more like Sad Parks.

Wenger GIFs

The Professor says stretching is important

Wenger likes to stay hydrated

Sometimes he doesn't want any more water

Sometimes Wenger doesn't really know what to say.

Sometimes he does.

He is French after all

But if there is one thing that Arsene Wenger enjoys the most, it's fiddling with the zip of his jacket.

And fiddling some more.

And some more...

And still some more struggling

Finally the Professor figures it out.

Peter Rollins on Pyro-Theology

"Love whispers in your ear, “See that person over there. They’re sublime. See that person over there. They’re glorious. See that person over there. They’re beautiful.” Love, she is so humble. She hides away. She does not illuminate herself, she illuminates others. She is like the light in this room. We do not see the light, but it is the light which enables us to see. When I am with my friends in a coffee shop I am not thinking about the light, I am thinking about what the light illuminates."

To listen to the full sermon go to http://peterrollins.net/2011/07/pyro-theology-at-mars-hill/.

I am a house burning

I am a house burning,
My walls are red with flame.
Everything inside has fled for fear of the heat.

No matter how many buckets of water thrown
The flame will continue to burn,
The overwhelming tide of fire can not be undone.

I am just a burnt out shell of a building,
People come and look in sadness at what once was,
Walking away hoping they never catch alight.

What they don't know is their building is already alight.

Letter From Chris McCandless to Ron Franz

“I'd like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think that I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover.

Don't settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, Ron, and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”

- Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

My Director's Bio for Shnit

I wrote this Director's bio for the Shnit Short Film Festival which they had to cut down because it was too long, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to post it here.

Director's Bio 
Michael-John Phillip, known to many as MJ, has been directing short films since 2011 and has written and directed 4 short films so far. He grew up in the suburbs of Cape Town where he grew a large fascination with adventure and film-making. For many years he wanted to become an actor until he failed to land the part of Joseph in his high school rendition of Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat. Although it's not like he wanted the role anyway.

A few years went by and then he met someone* who introduced him to the possibilities of directing and writing films. After directing his first film, rather hipsterly-named ‘Abeyance’, he fell in love with the role of a director – being able to sculpt images and ideas into film. Since then he has sought every opportunity to write and direct films. He names Terrence Malick, Sean Penn, Clint Eastwood, Akira Kurosawa and Spike Lee as specific influences in his film-making. Currently he has too many unfinished scripts and needs to knuckle down and finish them. When he isn’t directing films he works as a writer and online marketer for a travel website.

For more info about the festival you can go to http://za.shnit.org/en/723.html.

*The 'someone' is my good friend Howard James Fyvie for those who want to know.

Being Involved in Creation

I have been working this idea around in my head for a long time, and I'm sure if you read other blog posts of mine they have echoed this idea. It is simply this: that we are not separate from creation but completely involved in it, and God is involved in creation and can be clearly seen through all of creation.

Rob Bell does this amazing talk called 'Everything is Spiritual' where he tries to de-construct our dualistic mindset with regards to God and us, or the spiritual and the natural. Instead the message of Christianity and the new creation is a story of the joining together of that which is 'Spiritual' with the 'Natural'. The incarnation points clearly to the idea that their is supposed to be an inter-locking between this world, and the world to come.

And this understanding must influence the way we see the world, other people and the rest of creation. People are not the sum of their own decisions. People are influenced by thousands of decisions they have never made. And so it is so difficult to say that this person is evil because of something they have done. Was John Wayne Gacy Jnr an evil person because he murdered all those young men? Possibly his decisions were linked to his alcoholic father, or a chemical imbalance in his brain.

This poem by John Donne is so great at understanding the connectedness of humankind. This is not to say we are not individuals with our own personality and 'soul', but rather to say that we are not alone.

No Man Is An Island 
by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

This is also a great song that I really love and find speaks so very well about this topic. Don't be scared off by him singing about 'Allah'. He's just singing about God and using the Arabic word for God.