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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.

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Entries in Christ (5)

Sunday
Apr042010

The greatest hope of all!

Luk 24:6 οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἀλλὰ ἠγέρθη. μνήσθητε ὡς ἐλάλησεν ὑμῖν ἔτι ὢν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ

May the risen Christ bless you with new life today! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

On Easter Sunday South Africa heard that a right wing white supremicist, Eugene Tereblanche, leader of the AWB was murdered on his farm. It would seem that he had a dispute with two of his workers who are accused of the murder. What makes this situation to sensational is the the infamous leader of the ANC youth league, Julius Maleme has been popularizing a song with the lyrics 'kill the boer' (shoot the farmer). Of course the media is connecting these two things. Many in the ANC have supported Mr Malema, defending his use of this song.

As a Zimbabwean who saw how white citizens where systematically abused in that nation I grow a little concerned when I hear such things.

But, I know there is hope for our nation! We need to learn the grace of forgiveness, the power of restraint, and the hope that comes from being one in Christ.

May this Easter bring peace to all across the world who live with conflict and fear.

Thursday
Nov012007

Pre-Order: Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Dom Bede Griffiths

This is an advertisement, so please feel free to skip it.

My new book is available for pre-publication orders. It is currently with the Publishers. I should have a few copies in hand in the next two to three weeks. The pre-publication price is R80 per copy. After that it will be selling for R98. So please your order early to get the discount rate. Simply drop me an email (see the link on the right), or leave a comment.

Here's the blurb for the book:

Karl Rahner wrote that the "...Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all". More and more Christians, and Christian theologians, are starting to recognise how important a lived experience of the mystery of Jesus Christ is in finding true life, and in doing sound theology. Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine Monk who was educated at Oxford, but spent most of his life adapting his Christian faith to the culture and philosophy of India, came to embody the depth and riches of mystical spirituality in his life and teaching. His integrated approach to spiritual living has helped many people to discover, and rediscover, the rich experience of being truly and fully alive in Christ. This book examines the elements that made Fr Bede's spirituality so significant by discussing his understanding of the Person, nature, and work of Christ. Fr Bede's Christology is informed by such varied sources as the Catholic Christian tradition, Indian philosophy, Hindu religion, quantum physics, transpersonal psychology, micro-biology, and the perennial philosophy. This book is a valuable resource for persons who seek to deepen their relationship with God and God’s creation. It also has a great deal to offer the more serious theological mind through the discussions on experiential theological methodologies and a challenging new vocabulary that can enrich our understanding of the doctrine of Christ.

PS. Huge props to my friend Monty in Canada who took the photograph of Spray Lakes that is on the cover of the book. To see his photos go to Monty's Flickr page here. And, of course sincere thanks to Manfred Jung who did the post-production for this book! Manfred is a star, and AcadSA are a great publisher for anyone like me who is just starting out... If you have some thoughts, resources, and ideas, why not get them out there. As I say to my students all the time "The difference between those who write and those who don't is that those who write DO..."

 

I have long since come to discover that what I may consider a simple, plain, boring idea may be quite inspiring and challenging to others!

I would particularly encourage Southern Africans to write! We need to get the thoughts, concepts, ideals, and even failings and struggles, of Africans into print!

There are two more books on the way this year, so watch this space! Yes, insomnia... Do a search on this blog... It will all be much clearer... I write... I'll sleep in the next life...

Amazingly, I am fairly certain that my LACK of sleep (which causes me to write), will HELP OTHERS TO FALL ASLEEP (because of what I've written!) Ha ha!!!

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Wednesday
Oct242007

Is the extinction of humanity part of God's plan for the evolution of the Cosmos? You and I might be nothing more than a gracious blimp in history...


My friend Gus posed a very interesting question in his blog. He asked : What if this is the only shot at life - ever? This is his post -


Reading some time ago about the amazing co-operation of factors that went together to give us the opportunity at life on earth, I wondered: What if this was the only shot at life ever (for all things living)? What if in the whole universe there was no other planet that produced sentient beings at all? (Which as far as we know is the case...)

Imagine how we would have wasted this opportunity if all we did for all our years was fight with and harm one another?

Here's my response to him:


Hi Gus,

This is a very astute observation! In fact, I think that you're right, this IS the ONLY shot that we have at this KIND of life ever! Now, I'm not talking about a pious afterlife... What I'm talking about is something MUCH MORE RADICAL!

Have you ever considered that perhaps human beings are not the end (the telos) of God's creative activity? Certainly, the God I know does not place humans at the centre of the cosmos - no, he places the Cosmic Christ at the centre of the cosmos. That God even notices us, and even gives us a single shot at life is a gracious miracle.

No, I think that perhaps we are part of what stops the world from reaching the true potential for which God has created it! So, perhaps we need to be made extinct for it to reach that purpose... Maybe not.....

But, the one thing that we need to learn is the WE are not the Alpha and the Omega... We're just a blip somewhere in the middle.

Jumbled thoughts, I know... I did record them much more articulately (and with a little bit of scientific and theological research) in a paper I had published a few years ago.

You can read, and download, the paper here.

It is called a posthuman evolutionary cosmology... I got quite a lot of criticism for it... However, I think the central argument is still quite sound... Christ is the centre, the goal, and the true aim, of the Universe... We are just an expression of God's gracious love along the way.

So, what do you think? This is not exactly the kind of thing you want to preach on a Sunday.... Heck, how 'seeker sensitive' do you think this will be!!? But, it may be something for us to consider in terms of theology, i.e., placing Christ at the centre and moving humans to margins?

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Tuesday
Oct092007

The gift of insomnia... Reviving an 'old project', a book on Bede Griffiths

I have never slept particularly well (my dad tells me that even as a baby I slept badly). Over the years the doctors suggested various reasons, most commonly it seems to do with a deficiency of melatonin. I don't really mind - every now and then I feel the effects of lack of sleep, but on the whole it is more of a gift than a curse! I am capable of getting by on about 4 hours of sleep.

This has meant that a lot of my thinking, writing, planning, praying, and working, happens late at night, or early in the morning.

Over the last two weeks I have not been sleeping particularly well, so I have revived a project that I had been working on some years ago - a book on Bede Griffiths' Christology (that is, what Bede Griffiths believed about Jesus, for those who are not familiar with the jargon).

Bede Griffiths was a remarkable man. He was born in England, educated at Magdalen College in Oxford (a lovely place! I've visited it). He was converted under the guidance of CS Lewis and entered the Benedictine Order. He spent most of his life in India in a unique and special Benedictine community that offered a fresh expression of faith in Christ to many Indian Christians, and also to many westerners who had given up on traditional Christianity.

What is of particular interest to me is the way in which Fr Bede adapted the daily rule of St Benedict to match his incredible theology. Both (the rule and his theology) were fundamentally influenced by his mystical spirituality. Fr Bede believed that the mystical experience of God was his primary goal for existence - this experience of the divine achieved two significant purposes. First, it offered devotion to God the source of all that exists. Second, it formed the substance of God's revelation to humanity (i.e., revealing God's nature, God's will, and God's mission in the world).

I did a Masters degree under Professor Felicity Edwards many years ago in which I studied Bede Griffiths spirituality. It was a significant milestone in my spiritual and theological development. It was from Felicity, and Fr Bede, that I came to understand and love the rich insights that theology can gain from science, and vice versa. However, Fr Bede's fundamental approach to the Cosmos as an expression of the nature of Christ (divine and human, physical and spiritual, non dual, and permeated with the sacred intention of God) has remained a central thrust in my life. It has informed my theology, ethics, and daily life.

My Masters Thesis was published by the Bede Griffiths trust in California and now forms part of the archives. It wasn't a brilliant piece of scholarship, even though I got a distinction for it. It needed reworking and refining.

So, in my sleepless nights I have been reworking it into a book. At this stage it will not be a very large book (perhaps 130 or so pages). It is a Christology, discussing the significance and contribution of Fr Bede's Hindu-Christian approach to the Cosmic Christ for spirituality and theological discourse. I think the title is likely to be Discovering the Cosmic Christ - a Hindu-Christian approach to Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths.

So, watch this space! I am about two thirds of the way with my edits - perhaps in a week or so I will have the first draft done.

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Sunday
Aug192007

Never too small to remember

This week has been amazing in so many ways. I have met and interacted with great scholars. I have spent time in ancient churches and centres of learning. I have discovered new friends, and been reaquanted with old ones. I have learnt so much, and had a few chances to teach.

However, as I think back on this week the experience is run through with one overarching idea - the fact that everyone, and every story, matters.

Before leaving for South Africa I was asked to write a chapter for a book on HIV / AIDS. I have been doing some research and reading, talking with Christian AIDS workers, and spending time with persons who are HIV positive, and those who have felt the great loss of loosing a loved one to this dissease. The reality is that very few of those persons' stories will ever be told. That matters. However, at another level their stories make up the very fabric of who each one of us is. They are our world.

This week I have been moved to tears (in private - this is England after all!) whilst reading Pehlippe Denis little book 'Never too small to remember: Memory work and resilience in times of AIDS' (2005, Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg). The book tells of the marvelous work that is being done among AIDS orphans in Kwazulu Natal through the use of 'memory boxes'. The aim of the project is to build a greater resilience in children and child headed households where both parents have been lost to AIDS. Of course there is very little that could ever be done to remove the agony of such a loss, but there is a great deal that can be done to help such young people. Naturally pragmatic and practical solutions seek to educate, clothe, and feed the children. This is necessary. It challenges me to think if I could not give and do more to help make their lives a little easier. But such generosity does not deal with the deep hurt and stigma associated with their loss. Morover, if the children themselves are HIV positive they will need more than just food, clothing, and education, to make meaning of their lives, to do more than just survive, but to truly live.

I have spent quite a lot of time with my friend Clive Marsh this week. He and I have been talking about the importance of experience and memory as a source of healing, yet also an essential source of good theology.

The memory box, which is the 'memory tool' Philippe Denis uses, allows the children and their care givers to make use of narrative, story-telling, to recount the memories that they have of their parents (both the good and the bad). It allows them to articulate, analyse, understand, and move through these memories (note that I don't say move beyond - to move through means that one takes something of the memory with you into your future). In doing so the children are given a far greater resilience to cope with their past, make choices in their present life, and form a new future. They can learn to live with the virtues and grace of belonging to the wider community (which as you know is essential as an expression of ubuntu in African communities), but they can also learn how to solve the problems that their parents and caregivers faced.

Memory is a wonderful thing. Today I remember where I come from. The picture above was taken in 1989. I was in my final year in high school [yes, I had a porno 80's hairstyle - although the mullet I had on my wedding day was even worse!].

So much has happened in the 18 years since then, and so much had gone before. My parents were divorced when I was 2, we left Zimbabwe, the land of my birth, came to South Africa to start again and encountered many more severe challenges and hardship than most. I was raised in my early years by my mother who struggled - the struggle was within herself and often caused great hardship around her. She was married, and in relationships, many times. My early childhood is filled with memories of terror, physical and emotional violence, yet also with tenacity and a will to live - it was however, also the dawning of my faith. I remember praying ernestly for the first time when I was 9. My mother's husband at the time had come home in a drunken rage and had beaten her to the point of breaking her back. My brother of 11 had tried to defend her yet was unable and also faced the madman's wrath. I was afraid for my life, and for the life of my mother and brother, and so in desperation I grabbed a hammer and hit the man on his head. He fell to the ground bleeding.

I remember praying, a frightened 9 year old, fearful that everyone was dead - my mother, my brother, and my mother's husband. Somehow the knowledge that there was a person - not a power but a person - named Jesus who could see, hear, and answer my prayers gave me the hope that I needed to get beyond that night.

Of course, such scars remain with one. By the time the picture above was taken I had been off the rails a few times. I had used (and abused) most of the drugs that were popular in the 80's, sought refuge in popularity and rebelion, and given my poor father and step mother many sleepless nights and gray hairs! I had been arrested, asked to leave church groups, and caused a lot of unhapiness to many people. I also had two tatoos and many earings as a reminder of those times.... In some ways it was because I had not built up a spiritual resilience that I sought comfort and meaning in physical and psychosocial remedies.

Perhaps it was when I discovered Christ, not just as a saviour, but as a friend, that my life changed most. That was in 1987. It was the first time that I knew that I was loved unconditionaly, that there was no threat, no need to impress, no expectation, just love.

Of course a great deal has taken place since that photo was taken. I have been married to Megan for almost 14 years now. She completes me in ways I could never have imagined. I have my two miracle children, Courtney and Liam, both of whom have stretched my heart and filled me with a new kind of wild passion. This passion moves me inwardly, to find ways of loving them and caring for them by showing them the kind of grace I have experienced in Christ. Yet, it also moves me outwards - to seek to change our world so that what they grow into will not be a place of fear, hate, and danger - this too is the work of Christ in me.

My life is very different now - as I write this I am sitting in one of the oldest, and most prestigious, academic institutions in the world, Christ Church, Oxford University. Who would ever have thought? But I am different in otherways: I am taller, fatter, balder, and richer than I was when I was 9... I also have more debt... But, I am also happier, more grateful, and much more privelaged. Remembering who I am helps me to savor these moments and experiences. They cannot be taken for granted!

Even though my life is different, I guess I am still the same. I am still Dion, I remember my past and long for a better future. I still enjoy adventures and love to pray. My memory box makes me more resilient. God has never forsaken me - God heard my prayer when I was 9, God heard my prayer last year when Liam was born, God still hears my prayer today.