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“The Collage Of God” by Mark Oakley

collage of god
Wow! Just wow…
In relation to our conversation about Christianity and the rules, someone from the Wychwood Circle Community  very helpfully linked to this piece in the Huffington Post by Mark Oakley about his book. I have ordered it straight away, but meanwhile, here is the opening of his article. I suggest you visit the page to read the whole piece and perhaps also buy the book and we can discuss it here.

Broadly speaking, Christian people fall into two types: resolvers and deepeners. Resolvers are keen to clarify and solidify doctrinal and ethical matters. They like systems of thought, information, prose, full-stops. They often speak of their conclusions being somehow “revealed,” either through their reading of the Bible or the teaching authority of the Church they belong to.

Deepeners, on the other hand, distrust systems and jigsaws of the mind where everything fits together nicely. They prefer poetry to prose, intimation to information, and feel that full-stops need turning into commas because, with God, everything is as yet unfinished. Deepeners will talk of divine revelation but feel more comfortable with God-talk that takes human experience seriously and which is as unafraid to reason as it is unashamed to adore. For these, the mystery of God should be deepened by our God-thoughts, not resolved, and revelation cannot be monopolised by the interpretations of religion.

A healthy Church will undoubtedly need a good conversation between these two types always on the go. Individual Christians probably have a similar dialogue going on in themselves from time to time. At the end of the day, however, they can usually identify which of these two approaches they feel more drawn to.

My book, “The Collage of God,” is written for deepeners. Ever since my experience working in a hospital chaplaincy as part of my ministerial training, I have had to admit to myself that neat and tidy theologies just don’t add up for me. The only way I can make any sense of faith is to see it not as a system but as a collage. By which I mean it is a life-long collecting of fragments, epiphanies, hints and guesses, lit and shadowed — all slowly pieced together into something that often feels painfully senseless close up but which, taking a step or two back, can appear with some surprise to have an integrity and beauty to it. Faith is therefore a beach-combing enterprise and the shores we walk along include the Scriptures, the Christian tradition, relationships, beauty, justice and imagination. The pieces of the collage are placed with truthfulness, prayer and, where possible, a playful delight in the gifts that are being placed into our hands. The pieces don’t all fit neatly with each other but that’s OK. One of the best collages of faith we have is the Bible, where many images and memories jostle together to stir up our response.

Wikipedia has the following:

His initiative of having a series of sermons which explored plays that were currently showing in London, to which the actors and production team of each play came and took part in conversation, is an example of the way Oakley tries to open a dialogue between people of faith and the work of the artistic community. A lecture given by him in Westminster Abbey and Keble College, Oxford in 2002 argued that the Church in its search to be relevant was ironically becoming too secular for the British public and that it should be the deeper human resonances that the Church seeks to identify, explore and dialogue with.[3] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote in 2004 that Oakley’s thinking and approach is in the tradition of Westcott.[4] A more recent article by Oakley in the Church Times, entitled “An Issue! An Issue! We all Fall Down”[5] argues for the renewal of theological generosity in the Anglican spirit. In 2010, the former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, wrote a poem dedicated to Oakley entitled “In Winter” and said of him that: “It’s extremely unusual to meet anyone who isn’t a specialist who has such a subtle feeling for language as he does”. Motion has since added that he believes Oakley to be “the best sermoniser I’ve ever heard. And he’s funny, and he knows a lot, and he’s lived”.

Mark Oakley is also the author of ‘Readings for Weddings‘, an anthology of poetry and prose. And his book, The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry is being re-published next February by Canterbury Press. 

Meanwhile, here is Canon Oakley talking about ‘The Collage of God’ recently at St Paul’s, where he is Chancellor:

5 comments on this post:

Joyce Hackney said...
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New books no Kindle no buy.

Lay Anglicana said...
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Fair enough!

01 September 2014 15:32
01 September 2014 12:45
Joyce Hackney said...
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Ha ! I didn’t trust amazon so after two coffees I tried again.
The ‘buy the book’ link above leads to a page that only includes print versions. It says there are only two of these left but there are more on order.
Just in case, I followed the ‘books’ link at the top of the page at www,i-church.org anyway (as I always do when buying so that they get a penny or two from amazon) and clicked on the amazon icon to find there actually is a Kindle version. Yay Hooray ! ! I’m reading the sample already in another window on my computer as I type this.

I found two used paperbacks on eBay for £2.89 and £2.88 free of postage. There’s also a hardback on eBay.

I like the idea of discussing a book here. We have discussions on i-church which are very helpful and enlightening. They knock The Big Read into a cocked hat.

Lay Anglicana said...
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Thanks for making the effort, Joyce.
I had rather given up expecting comments in the blog – these days people seem to comment on the blog posts all right, but on Facebook. So the responses to the ‘anarchist’ post have rather taken me by surprise, but are an encouraging reminder that if people feel strongly enough about something they will make the journey to the web page :>)

I also enjoyed watching Canon Oakley’s talk on you-tube – well, I admit, I watched part of it and then also had it as background listening while I worked away on routine stuff. Now, if he could just be my bishop…

01 September 2014 15:38
01 September 2014 13:29
Joyce Hackney said...
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I’m afraid I can’t make head or tail of the L.A. facebook page. I was under the impression that everything there was also on the blog. Oops.
I’m not a big facebook user. I go to facebook every few days to read information posted by family, online Christian group members and old school friends. While there I get bombarded by adverts and invitations from people I’ve never heard of to join in silly games. I don’t stay any longer than I have to.

Your photo appears on my list from time to time with a link that leads back to the main post and the comments. I didn’t realise there was any more to it. I’ll have to go and look harder. I’d noticed that sometimes there were few if any comments on the blog page but I didn’t know there were more somewhere else.

01 September 2014 16:10

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