The Vivian Girls Are Visited In the Night by Saint Dargarius and his Squadron of Benevolent Butterflies

In my old job I had to train with my English colleagues fairly often. StephB was one of those colleagues who I really liked but well, without being mean, I didn’t really enjoy visiting these training courses. For one thing, the money was stupid and the British have an old rich woman protecting their rights in place of a constitution. I mean, at least a poor woman is more likely to be on the look out for the alienated and power-less, lads! Anti-Britishness aside, the atmosphere in this sister organisation was one that sometimes felt a little smothering to me. There were quite a few of them who were the kind to get up and read Berkhof’s Systematic Theology (784 pages) over breakfast. This did actually happen once with Sam.

Anyway, NT Wright wrote an article this week that is very long and very fascinating in a Church of England website that shed light for me on why I found things tough with our fair brethren across the Irish Sea. The article is about, wait for it, substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary atonement is a really core part of what Christianity is. How can I put it? It is the idea that Jesus lived the life you should have lived and died the death you should have died. Its not really a part of Christianity you can reject and still understand the point of Christianity and so there has been a lot of talk about it in recent years.

Wright gets straight into the debate though, which was beyond him for the last few years as he you know, redefined the terrain of New Testament theology, and if you are a Christian and nerd enough to fancy 13,000 words on this topic then clear out an hour and read away. If you are not these things, then get distracted over here. In the article, I think Wright alludes to and then finally captures the divisive and shallow arguments that take place within evangelical Christianity over this issue and I would like to think that this is the end of Steve Chalke’s name being dragged through the mud. For those of you who don’t know, Steve Chalke is a nice Englishman who had his photo on the back of my wife’s teeanged youth Bible. That is all you need to know because the scurrilous attacks against him were a load of old bollix (from the latin meaning a waste of breath).

Did your geography teacher ever amuse and amaze your class by reading that old excerpt from a women’s magazine of the 1950s where advice is given about how to treat your husband? Its all gems like “wear a bow in your hair and put on a touch of lipstick” or “don’t bother him with your silly concerns, rub his feet and ask him about his busy day instead”. I love that document (not enough to do a google search for you though) but this set of predictions from 1900 about what life in the year 2000 will be like from The Ladies Home Journal surely tops it. I remember 2000. The e-commerce boom made my meaningless work unimaginably valuable and me and my two friends went traveling all around Europe while Neuro moved house to the countryside. Most animals were not yet exterminated, save for collections in menageries.

Quite independent of Babette’s commendation, we went to see the Lives of Others two nights ago and you need to do as we did. It is one of those astonishing, breathtaking, thought provoking, touching, heart-rending, peaches of a movie. Its unmissable. You hear me? Well book the tickets then.

One of the reasons I love the Bible so much is because, well, it maps on to reality. Christians talk about sin sometimes in terms that can let you, average Joe or Joan think that it just means stuff we do to have fun when we’re naked. But Paul always talks about sin as if it is a very real thing that traps us. Its not just simply things we do but at times, to paraphrase Wright in the article above, it seems to be a movement, an agent, almost equivalent to the satan.

Well the lasting thing I took from The Lives Of Others is just how true this is. East Germany, like all the Soviet satellites was repressive in a way Irish folks can’t begin to imagine but what this means is that individual humans did their job to fashion a State in a perpetual state of fear. These men and women obviously inflicted great harm on their victims with this sin but their sin trapped them too. The movie is a superb portrait then of this systematic evil, this sin that seems to transcend the individual sins that serve as its components and grows and morphs into its twisted sin-organism. Singanism. Every character is trapped by it but grace breaks free and starts setting others free. Its the willingness of one man to neither embrace the system nor utterly repudiate the people who are trapped inside of it that sets the whole plot moving.

Its also realistic because even this one man’s efforts aren’t enough to win out, at the end of the day.

I loved it. I hope I have made sense here. I am off to make pasta over there. See you later.

Your Correspondent, An aural idiot.

6 Responses to “The Vivian Girls Are Visited In the Night by Saint Dargarius and his Squadron of Benevolent Butterflies”

  1. teragram says:

    I love the new look, but could you make the links a little bit more different from the rest of the text please?

    Also, what’s with the scrollbar in the top right?


  2. jayber crow says:

    I was nerd enough to skim read the article but not to read every word. Am I allowed to express my childish enjoyment of hearing Tom Wright describe the Oak Hill book as “deeply, profoundly and disturbingly unbiblical” and compare it to a poor attempt at join-the-dots which ends up as a picture of a donkey instead of an elephant!!?? I nearly choked on my cheerios.

    More seriously, his observations about that part of conservative evangelicalism which is more interested in labeling people and writing them off through guilt by association than actually listening to them is absolutely spot on. And not funny at all. Thanks for the link.

  3. Where else is it possible to find great writing on German cinema and penal substitution in a single article?! This is cracking stuff, Commander Zoom. I saw the film last week. It works on so many levels I felt incapable of grasping its ideas in a single viewing. But, yes, there was something singularly unsettling about the universality of the sin it conveyed – the notion that this type of human behaviour didn’t begin or end with Communism. Have you seen any of Kieslowski’s Ten Commandments? The Lives of Others could be a companion piece to this epic series.

    I’m excited by the prospect of reading the NT Wright article. There was something deeply uncomfortable about the response to the Chalke comments… but I was baffled and disappointed at what was either stupendous naivety or wilful offensiveness in the way he chose to approach the subject.

    Chalke is the best communicator in British Christendom and probably its most effective social activist. In may ways I remain a “fan”. By his fruits we know him as a warm hearted communicative genius and galvaniser for good.

    But when someone as savvy as this halfway through a populist paperback *appears* to demolish the entire concept of substitutionary atonement (in his later writings he says he’s taking issue with Charles Hodge’s more recent theology), you have to ask: “What is he doing?” It’s like dropping a bomb from a plane and saying you’re surprised there’s an explosion.

  4. zoomtard says:

    Flipping heck Williamson! Careful with those compliments or I might start getting really cocky and making this website all about how great I am instead of it being about how great tiramasu is (by the way, its changing direction and becoming a culinary blog tomorrow).

    I think Wright puts some valuable context in place on the Chalke thing. Witch-hunts aren’t my style. So I remain very dubious about the validity of the way Dr. Steve was treated, even if he did constantly place bomb-scare phone calls to Oak Hill like I heard*…

    They have cheerios in Canadia Jcrow? Amazing! I am so moving to Regent.

    Finally, I will sort out the dodgy css on links next time I get a chance Teragram. I don’t know what the scrollbar is you speak of.

    *that is a joke by the way crazy Internet people)

  5. Sam says:

    I’m looking forward to reading Wright as well, bish on the bluefish also has a substantial post on this although has a rather different conclusion from yourself. This conservative evangelical rush to wrote people off as heretics or liberals (see West Wing series 7 for ‘you’ll not throw liberal at me as a dirty word’)is rather alarming more so for the manner in which its done…
    And my roomies at the aforementioned event dipped into gagging of god and calvin’s institutes as bedtime reading. I had Harry Potter…

  6. zoomtard says:

    Hey Sam. I joined in with the Blue Fish debate and tried to argue from my massively intellectual inferiority that the way we discuss things is often as important as what we discuss. Let’s hope it works…