$2.99/£2.99 ebook: "The Catholic Jesus"

Jesus invites us to know him in the Eucharist and in the community of the Church, and so to participate in the divine life of the Trinity.  Drawing on years of experience teaching in parishes, schools and universities, theologian Father Thomas Plant puts the best of contemporary biblical scholarship into an accessible and compelling account of how the earliest Christians understood Jesus: as much more than just a good man… Plant offers the Catholic Jesus as an antidote to the individualistic approaches to Jesus of both fundamentalism and liberalism. An Anglican priest, Plant opens the riches of the Catholic Church’s ancient, more communal and sacramental understanding of Christ to a wider Christian audience.  Readable and engaging, this book is ideal for Confirmation candidates, ordinands and parish study groups, but can help all Christians to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ and his Church. “The Catholic Jesus is superb” Fr Richard Peers SMMS, Liverpool Diocese Director of Educa…

Rocky and the Million Dollar Question

“Who do you say that I am?”
That’s the million-pound question for Simon. He’s already got the ‘ask the audience’ answers up on the board, as it were: some say he’s John the Baptist (difficult, given that John was by this stage suffering from a slight case of death), some say he’s Elijah, others Jeremiah (both more decidedly dead, several hundred years before). Which means that everyone is saying that Jesus is a prophet, because Jeremiah, Elijah and John all prophesied the coming of the Messiah, the anointed one - in Greek, the Christ - who would come to judge and save the Jewish people. They thought that Jesus was yet another of these prophets, heralding the Christ’s coming.
But Simon doesn’t choose any of the answers on the board, because, to stretch the metaphor, he's opted to ‘phone a friend. Or, properly speaking, he's already been ‘phoned by a friend: God. Somehow, the right answer has been mystically revealed to him:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Pentecost, not Esperanto

Salutojn! Strange to think that a small Jewish sect could, within thirty years of the death of its founder in Jerusalem, spread at least as far as India to the East and Rome to the West. How could it happen? There are sociological explanations: for instance, it was a religion which appealed particularly to the poor and to women, in a way that its contemporaries did not. There was the theological appeal, too, of monotheism, which resonated with the Platonic intellectual currents of the day better than the dominant polytheism of pagan folk religion, and pagans who admired the Jews now had the opportunity to join them. At the same time, there was also bitter persecution, ridicule and humiliation, too. The well-off could have avoided all this by joining some other mystery cult, like that of Mithras or Osiris. Certainly, the fishermen, essentially small businessmen, who were leading the nascent Church could have afforded to avoid their martyrdoms by doing just this. Yet they did not. So w…

Why the Church needs to abandon Christian values

I've got a new article out on Living Church, here. Yes, the headline is a bit of an attention grabber. Mea culpa.

Forgiveness overcomes fear: 1st Sunday after Easter

Sunday evening: the first day of the week. The disciples have locked themselves away in their room, afraid - that they might go the same way Jesus did, two days before.
A figure appears among them.
"Peace be with you."
The first time, they don't understand. They don't even recognise Jesus. It's only when he shows them the wounds in his hands and sides that they understand who he is. Only when they see the marks of his suffering that they understand what he is saying.
"Peace be with you."
Of course, they know the word, the Hebrew greeting which they as Jews would use every day: peace, shalom. And they know, as pious Jews, that this peace is the intended state of creation, the Sabbath rest of the seventh day in Genesis which represents perfection, a world in harmony with itself and its creator. But only on this eighth day, this second sabbath, do they realise what that peace of God really means. 
Easter, the fifty-day celebration of Christ's Resurrect…

Felix Culpa, Happy Fault: and may the darkness dazzle you this Easter.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Notre Dame:  France’s greatest tourist attraction? France’s premier museum? France’s top UNESCO World Heritage site? In secular France, the land of the Revolution, you’d think these descriptions would be enough. But clearly they are not. Not even for the French, the resolutely secular French, who knelt in the streets and prayed as she burned. Notre Dame. Our Lady. Through whom, at the Annuciation, our Saviour took flesh. At whose intercession Our Lord performed his first miracle at Cana, turning water into wine. Who stood with Him at the Cross. Who cradled his body in her arms, that her soul too was pierced. Whom He made mother to the lost and fugitive disciples. Our Lady: her powerful ministry of love quiet, unnoticed, downplayed. Forgotten in the turmoil of the Protestant Reformations, when God was made all power and sovereign will, all masculinity and muscle, unfettered from a mother’s love. Forgotten in the violence of the …

"Stop preaching at us!" - defences of relativism in Religious Education

Even RE teachers who acknowledge the relativistic bias of their subject are often happy to defend it. Some say that first, the students are not interested in learning about religious traditions in their own right, and second, they consider such teaching to be tantamount to preaching - which is, of course, a dirty word. After all, who might dare to tell them what to think, when they have been told from the outset that they themselves as individuals are the sole arbiters of truth? The fact that they accept this teaching without question or criticism goes unremarked. So, I am told, they switch off. Yet, we might ask: how many teenagers are really interested in Shakespeare, photosynthesis, trigonometry or the Second World War? We persist in teaching them nonetheless. In subject areas other than Religious Studies and PSHE, it would be unthinkable to define the syllabus purely according to student interest. The way in which we choose to teach any subject and the content we choose to includ…

Learning the languages of the soul

“To have another language is to have another soul” - Emperor Charlemagne My love of languages started at age 11, when I was made to take Latin. I enjoyed French, too, though not as much. There was something about learning an ancient tongue, belonging to such an alien and distant civilisation. At the age of 12, I managed to pester our school chaplain into teaching me Greek, too. In the end, I took all three languages to A-level and pursued Classics as my first degree. My favourite linguistic pursuit was “prose composition:” translating from English into Latin and Greek. I relished the puzzle of trying to frame my thoughts, or those of the writing I was translating, into a completely different mode of expression, with such different assumptions. In literature, what drew me most was poetry. Translating poetry, even more than prose, shows just how unscientific an act translation is. Under the influence of science’s empirical method, we tend in the West to default to the linguistic theory…