Note from the Editors
This journal is
affirming and supporting the life and work of the Christian
churches, with their varying theologies, and that it aims to do
so by giving examples of how science, mysticism, and human
spiritual experience also affirm the core of Christianity. We
present some items of general interest, and then articles to do
with the theme of this issue: “Worshipping in Spirit and
in Truth,” an echo of the Samaritan woman's question as to
the right mode of worship, whether it was on Mount Gerizim or
The St Stephen
quotations can be read as if they were the words of a modern
mystic, and be found valid for us, or not.
We would like to
draw your attention to some interesting and relevant resources.
You might also like to check the identity of the production
team.. Submission of articles, and both positive
and negative correspondence welcomed.
Thomas Merton on St John of the Cross
1: St John of the Cross
"the greatest of all mystical theologians" : Thomas
John of the Cross is perhaps as close as anyone to Stephen the
Martyr, who has been partly the inspiration of this journal. The
notable Catholic mystic, Thomas Merton, writes as follows
about St John: [to read, click this url:]
begins, “If you have never seen El Greco's view of Toledo,
you might take a look at it. It will tell you something about St
John of the Cross. I say it will tell you something – not
very much. St John of the Cross and El Greco were
contemporaries, they lived in the same country, they were
mystics, though by no means in the same degree.” “El
Greco’s view of Toledo is very dramatic. It is full of
spiritual implications. It looks like a portrait of the heavenly
Jerusalem wearing an iron mask. Yet there is nothing inert about
these buildings. The dark city built on its mountain seems to be
entirely alive. It surges with life, coordinated by some
mysterious, providential upheaval which drives all these masses
of stone upward toward heaven, in the clouds of a blue disaster
that foreshadows the end of the world.
2: El Greco: Storm over Toledo
in the middle of the picture must be the building where St. John
of the Cross was kept in prison.”
NO LONGER LIVE WITHIN MYSELF
AND I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT
FOR IF I HAVE NEITHER HIM NOR MYSELF
WHAT WILL LIFE
IT WILL BE A THOUSAND DEATHS
LONGING FOR MY TRUE
AND DYING BECAUSE I DO NOT DIE.
THIS LIFE THAT I
IS NO LIFE AT ALL,
AND SO I DIE CONTINUALLY
I LIVE WITH YOU;
HEAR ME, MY GOD
I DO NOT DESIRE THIS
I AM DYING BECAUSE I DO NOT DIE.
WHEN I AM NOT
WHAT LIFE CAN I HAVE
EXCEPT TO ENDURE
BITTEREST DEATH KNOWN?
I PITY MYSELF
FOR I GO ON AND ON
DYING BECAUSE I DO NOT DIE.
AND IF I REJOICE,
IN THE HOPE OF SEEING YOU,
YET SEEING I CAN LOSE
DOUBLES MY SORROW.
LIVING IN SUCH FEAR
AS I HOPE,
I DIE BECAUSE I DO NOT DIE.
LIFT ME FROM
MY GOD, AND GIVE ME LIFE;
DO NOT HOLD ME
WITH THESE SO STRONG BONDS;
SEE HOW I LONG TO SEE
I AM SO WHOLLY MISERABLE
THAT I DIE BECAUSE I DO NOT
Stephen's Prayer expresses the same ideas very simply:
let me forget that I am me,
me know that I am with thee,
me not separate myself from thee
I am me.”
3: Joseph Campbell
on myth, spirit, and our times:
interview with Joseph Campbell,
by Tom Collins
Campbell is perhaps the world's foremost scholar of mythology.
Among his many books are The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The
Masks Of God, Myths To Live By, and his current multi-volume
Historical Atlas Of World Mythology. Interviewer Tom
Collins is a Los Angeles based writer and editor whose
works include Steven Spielberg, Creator of E.T. (Dillon
A new paradigm for
cosmology – and for theology? Rev. Dr E.A.
Johnston, MA MTh DMin
A personal response
occasioned by Simon Singh’s, Big Bang: the most
important scientific discovery of all time, and why you should
know about it.
Part of my response to Singh’s
book was to read also Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers,
which I learnt of through Singh.
4: Simon Singh
are the first generation actually to know how all things came to
be! Much of what in earlier generations was a matter of
conjecture, a mystery and so of faith is now a matter of
knowledge. It is only in our lifetime, indeed only in the
last twenty years, that scientists have unraveled the way in
which all things have come into being. The “theory”
of the “Big Bang” has been established as providing
an accurate model of the whole of creation, from the moment of
its inception to the present day. Nor is it realistic to speak
of a time before the Big Bang: for the Big Bang marks the
beginning of both time and space, there was nothing before it
nor anything outside of it.
Simon Singh’s book, Big Bang: has
brought this home to me. It has enabled me to understand at
least something more of the theory and how it developed in the
scientific community, mainly through insights gained during the
latter part of the 20th Century. He explains that the
proving of the “theory” required a “paradigm
shift” in the minds of all scientists, a shift that was
difficult for many of them to make and fully enter into. It
required a change in the fundamental way they understood the
whole of cosmology and of everything that flowed from it. The
theory shows the whole of creation as one seamless process from
the moment of its inception to today, one process ever expanding
into tomorrow. Read the whole article.
(7pp. If printed out)
Lloyd Geering's big problem
with St Paul. Michael Cocks
Christianity Without God (2002)
In preparing this article on Lloyd
Geering, I am very conscious of living in a small country, where
we tend to know each other. I am conscious that a number of my
friends and acquaintances have much love and admiration for
Geering, I think for the reasons that people were grateful to
Bishop John Robinson and his Honest to God. Both helped
to empower Christians to encounter the Divine on the basis of
what can be known and felt in this present age, and not to be
dependent solely on the witness of our spiritual ancestors.
Furthermore, I know the obvious, that these friends are human
like myself, and have peak experiences, feelings of the
numinous, intuitions, loving relationships, value the
communality of life to be found in churches, and have a desire
for a society imbued with the essence of the teachings of Jesus.
I acknowledge Geering's importance, and share some of his views.
But I strongly disagree with the philosophy underlying his work,
which is such that it prescribes conclusions, and thus precludes
research. He also makes statements about fundamental issues,
which are easily shown to be incorrect.
5: Lloyd Geering
have asked some friends who share his philosophy to check what I
have written in this review, and have heeded their comments. I
have appended comments from the Rev. Ian Crumpton, where he
suggests alternative interpretations of Geering's standpoint,
and I hope readers will feel moved to submit comments of their
problem with celebrity
they acknowledge it to be the case or not, fundamentalist,
evangelical, liberal, charismatic and sceptical theologians have
their varying selections of biblical passages that they use to
confirm and justify their theological positions. This in itself
is fine, since there are many theologies to be discovered in the
Old and New Testaments, and different personalities may be
attracted to the one, or to the other. In the case of
Christianity without God, Lloyd Geering is no exception.
His view on Christianity is determined by his materialist or
naturalistic philosophy, and therefore he does not accept the
reality of the transcendent, and of course does not believe in
the afterlife. So he selects his Bible references accordingly.
This is quite legitimate and there are many scholars of standing
who will agree with his stance. In addition there are many
clergy who are drawn to his point of view, and find his stance
exceptionally well articulated. Moreover, Lloyd is a fine
teacher, and has considerable charm.
celebrity, and the honours bestowed upon him by the New Zealand
government, however, do pose a problem. Lloyd, already a C.B.E
has been given the title Principal Companion of the New Zealand
Order of Merit, equivalent to the designation “Knight
Grand Companion” in the NZ honours system. Because he is
such a public figure, and because he has been a professor of Old
Testament Studies, we might put our trust in his scholarship and
take the information he gives us about the New Testament for
Gospel, so to speak.
Geering makes very clear that his philosophy is naturalistic or
materialist, with no ifs or buts. He is clear that there is no
afterlife, no dimensions of reality beyond those of space and
time. The consequences of this stance are that:
ignores the work of quantum physicists that paints a picture of
reality very different from that of the mechanist physics of
a matter of doctrine, he rejects sight unseen, all accounts of
what is at present called “the paranormal,”
regardless of the academic stature and integrity of the
physicists and other scientists and other people reporting and
discussing such experience.
leads him to reject the writings of St Paul. In Galatians
Paul writes that three years after his own vision of the
risen Jesus, he stayed two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem, and
met James the brother of Jesus. As Paul based his whole
missionary work on the basis of the crucifixion and
resurrection of Jesus, he will have discussed these matters
with Peter and James. Paul says that Jesus appeared to Peter,
and the apostles, and to 500 others, and lastly to himself. But
Geering ignores this. His doctrine does not allow Paul and
Peter even to think they had seen the risen Jesus.
Instead he maintains that the supposedly false story of the
resurrection arose a whole generation after the time of Paul.
In p126 of his Christianity without
God, Lloyd Geering writes that Jesus “was no
doctrinaire atheist and yet he was almost exclusively concerned
with the human condition rather than with God.” This
picture of Jesus is obtained by rejecting Paul's testimony, and
most of the material in the gospels. So much is rejected of the
gospels and of the writings of Paul, that we could be led to
suspect that Geering is more led by his desire for a new and
humanistic Christianity than by scholarly concerns. We can feel
a certain sympathy for such a desire since the aspect of Jesus
as a social and religious reformer has often been obscured in
liturgy and later theology.
overseas readers it can be explained that Lloyd Geering is a
former principal of the theological hall at Knox College,
Dunedin, and was first professor of religious studies at
Victoria University, Wellington. He has much in common with the
British theologian Don
Cupitt. For both
Geering and Cupitt, God does not exist ‘out there’
but is a part of our human reality, a personified ideal of
religious values, therefore we need a new type of Christianity -
a Christian Buddhism - in order to explore this new
understanding of God. The aim of this new Christianity is both
to help individual development and to operate as a collective
agency for progressive social change. Read
the whole article
The Rev. Ian
minister, writes the following comment on the above article:
a bit of modern scholarship is focused on recovering the Wisdom
Literature, and Geering is locating Jesus in that practical
minded tradition.” Read the whole
St Stephen on The Point of
of the unfolding, and the point of unfolding [in each of us]:
How can I best
describe the seed in the ground,
which will grow
into a great tree?
Each stage of
the unfolding is essential for the tree.
The object of
unfolding is the tree. Each stage in itself is of the greatest
importance at the time of that stage.
Is it your wish
to know the stage of unfoldingunfolding, point of
at which you
Would a seed,
as the first sprout reaches from the ground, from inside the
earth, and sees the light and feels the heat of the sun for the
first time, not say to itself, “Is this the object, or is
there a further purpose?”
Would it not
maybe recognise or perhaps associate with other trees, from what
it can sense, what it can feel of the vibrations that come to
it, and say, this is what I wish to achieve, this is what I feel
I should achieve.
The concept of
unfolding is [in] the now of this moment.
of knowing what was before for that seedseed,
is only of
relative importance for the understanding
of what is now:
not what it may
be, nor what it shall be,
understanding the desires or the instincts.
The salmon that
returns to the same spot
from which it
had come away as a fingerling,
that is the
object. Each mile of the journey is of importance.
something that you can ask through my mind that will help me to
make this clearer, Jeremy? Feel and probe...
nothing to say yet.
Has this in
itself fetched a question, or are there other questions that
will help me make it clearer? Feel my difficulty, if you please.
How can a leaf tell, through the branch, the seed that is yet to
come, of the unfolding after it arrives, and it is fallen to the
6: Kamani tree, Hawaii
Even though the
leaf knows, what comparison concept can it use to explain to the
seed yet to come, except,
when as the
seed begins to come, to tell it that it is a seed,
and as the seed
begins to grow to say,
“Do not worry seed,
you are progressing well.”
When the seed
is due to fall, to say to the seed,
“You will live again,
do not worry, you shall unfold”
Can you see my
You can say to
the seed, “You shall one day, be as the tree.”
for each thing that happens to you
is for that
that you have ever heard, and ever seen,
or can ever
conceive, has the same object.
Each seed has
been told this object even before it was a seed.
whilst things are happening, what is happening,
simple task for the leaf
that has been
through these experiences
and then finds
itself only a part.
even though experienced, and the unfolding,
even though the
leaf came about through this unfolding,
But the leaf
does know that it is a part of the tree,
that it was a
part of the seed,
that it did
unfold, as the coming seed will unfold.
In this way
only can I help, to say
“Think of yourself as
The stage of
the seed is immaterial.
may be, as the case with what I am,
and what I am
connected to, has unfolded in a manner,
not to become the tree, but to produce the seed, which produces
other teachings of Stephen, see previous issues of this journal.
To read about the experience of St Stephen, see the
Stephen home page.]
Communications from our
From the Revd Judy Ryland,
am a missionary in Macau SAR (China, a ferry ride from Hong Kong
to put me on the map). I am an ordained Deacon in the
Anglican Church with a BTh. I am Clergy in Charge of the
Morrison Protestant Chapel in Macau. It is the only
English speaking church in Macau.
was born in Bristol UK and migrated to Australia when I was 28.
I have been in Australia thirty years, one year in Mainland
China and one year in Macau. I will be backpacking for two
weeks around Malaysia on my return to Australia for two weeks
before returning to Macau.
teach English at an all Chinese Anglican School part time, will
be Chaplain to the Anglican English speaking school, Hospital
chaplain for any English speakers in addition to being in charge
of the Morrison Chapel.
7: The Morrison Chapel
may know or not know that Dr Robert Morrison was the first
person to transcribe the Bible from English to Chinese, first
English Chinese dictionary and Chinese Grammar. He worked
with the East India Company as a translator and was highly
regarded in Asia and Britain. The Chapel also claims to have had
the first ordained woman priest, a beautiful Chinese lady back
in the 1930's.
in this part of the world it is difficult to access much
theological information and your articles look just the kind of
material I am interested in to challenge the mind. My
congregation represents individuals from around the globe and
for many English is their second language.
is a Theological College in Hong Kong but the ferry ride is
expensive and so my trips are fairly limited. Also time is
another factor. Like many older woman we do the full time
hours but earn an honorarium. Still I am loving the
experience and serving the Lord here and I am deeply grateful
for the opportunities this adventure God has led me too. I
am also blessed that one of my two sons is working for his
company for two years in Beijing so I get surprise visits from
him when he can make it this way. My other son may be
going to work in Japan shortly so Asia may become a family
an Anglican Clergyman in Australia:
unsubscribe me now.
no-one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in
the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens,
engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or
who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.
Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD..."
wish to have nothing to do with you. The power of what I
believe does not come from the talking dead, or from mediums or
conversations with dead people, but with a relationship with the
living Lord Jesus Christ, our ONLY mediator between us and God,
and the Word of God which speak to us through his Spirit.
By the very infatuation you have for conversations with dead
people before the last great DAY of resurrection, you lead
people away from the power of the death and resurrection of the
Lord Jesus and suggest we need more than him. This is
detestable in the sight of God and is nothing less than evil.
by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has
given us. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the
spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets
have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of
God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in
the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess
Jesus is not of God.” 1 John 3:24b-4:6 It would
be good if all Christians could acknowledge that they quote only
the Bible passages with which they agree. One can doubt that the
correspondent would quote and act on e.g. Deuteronomy 21.21.
Rev. John A. Simpson, Australia.
Many thanks for the e-mail edition of
The Ground of Faith. Yes!! I want to subscribe to
future editions. This is what I've been waiting for for a
poems from Anthony Buckley, London, UK
On that lucky youthful day, that lucky youthful day,I
crashed my car,
it away -And
nearly me with it.Evening
halfway to Wales Racing
into the evening Atop
the Somerset dales
Then bend hit me.
And the wall held me
From plunging into the valley.
And -midway - Time stopped.
Time ceased...No longer in the death-carriages;
Body and vehicle deceased,
I was outside, elsewhere
With all the time out the world:
Time enough to see my life,a
memory of me: innocent child
Bare-legged and fishing in a pool.Time
enough to feel the love
Behind it all:
Broad,broad - so big! Understanding,
non-judging - so wide.
then back to the screaming tyres,The
Saving me from more than a cut knee
...but I was in ecstasy.
They give me other reasons, say it wasn't true.
I only say, I was there, not you
That intellect and love were holding me -
And it's all right to die.
So what lesson have I learned from this they ask,
(If only not to drive so fast!)
On this soft day, over
green mown lawns,
Ancient soldiers process by cenotaphs to
men they knew long ago:
The valiant dead, in the soil beneath
Are their tears for loss or for the joyous
triumph of Good?
Must that French field be forever
When the padre says those fallen warriors live now
by other, happier,
Don't our eyes fall,
disbelieving, to that rain-drenched earth,
Finding more sweet
beauty in the cherished songs of glorious sacrifice?
we imagine nothing more noble, nothing more beautiful;
resurrection detract from what we feel on this day?
wrong to be happy for those men blasted into the other
The padre says they now live more-happily than we!
tears of old men are human tears, soaking down to join
mortal bones of broken comrades beneath God's earth.
faster - but towards that Love,
slower, savouring Goodness.
From the Rev. Jorie
Gliding with Miss Lucy
wide the day with eyes
the thermal-driven journey
the glider dipping towards the horizon
altered air to meet
sacrament of morning.
the sky is hung
stars especially in the light
people rush to trap them one, two, three,
open, lined with expectation.
am lost in wonder and settle down
the hill to wait until one falls.
farm is benign and snoring, lazy after lunch
me a candidate for contemplation,
with Miss Lucy, a cranky ewe
hanging dugs from over-zealous lambing.
can she answer me
having been seduced
soaring dreams, harness tight,
on her woolly head?
snaps at the grass
juice froths at the corners
star doesn’t fall of course,
somehow the horizon
creation and a summer afternoon,
nearer to the infinite.
Lucy stares with an ambivalent eye
I loop the world.
is no life but this.
the road to the headland,
lie in the grass to rest for a while
watch the mountain grow.
ant navigates my arm
details are blurred.
are no shadows,
the valley and the mountain,
ant on my skin.
Fuller sucks and spits.
the pub, he thumps
favourite words together
throws them to the air.
let them fall. Dissatisfied
turns and pees against the wall.
believe and find the shape to match his wreckage.
front of him, wings brown with nicotine,
angel walks. We bow our heads
the steam of early morning tea
into a saucer, the swirling centred
cooled with my father's breath.
the coldest of places, I hug my knees,
home from the early caves,
the illusion of truth beyond
truths, content with silence,
smoke from camp fires
Three, I am your guest.
Son et Lumière
night has strange stars
place off my beaten track
by the fear of being lost again.
is a hint of thunder. Some reality
storm or indigestion? The forecast
no protection. I go for order,
assertive list of boundaries. A voice calls
I am busy counting constellations
logic. Counting loud
drown the rumbling.
whisper breaks the dark:
music of these far off sparks?
star winks, wild parabolas
out the light
shine me home.