essentials

So… the Baptist Union of Great Britain has a new logo. That’s bad news for Baptist Churches that have the old one embedded into their architecture! The old logo contained a cross, water and a fish. The new logo is explained in this diagram:

NewLogoElements

(You have to recognise that the fish is swimming downwards).

Oh yes. A cross, water and a fish (plus a ‘b’ for ‘baptists’). In some ways nothing has changed, but in others plenty has changed. On Sunday evening I am preaching on Acts 15, where the early Christians had to work out what was unchangeable about being a Christian, and what God wanted them to hold lightly and be ready to change.

Questions were raised about whether being circumcised was essential for being a Christian – thankfully they discerned that this was not essential.

They discussed what sort of food could be eaten (including that which had been sacrificed to idols and was now being re-sold (probably discounted) – they felt that it was best that they avoided that (along with  a few other items of food and sexual immorality – interesting how it is last in the list!). In essence I think the advice was for them not to get mixed up in the cult worship of the surrounding culture: if it was about worship they should focus only on worshipping God as revealed in Jesus and not be distracted.

It does make me wonder what is still essential to being a Christian and whether there are things God wants to hold more lightly and be ready to change. At the risk of being hauled before a religious court or stoned by a mob I am going to try a few ‘essentials’:

Is it essential to accept that Jesus, God incarnate, died on the cross for you and receive the forgiveness God offers us, following him for the rest of our life?

Yup.

Is anything else essential?

Nope.

[cue sounds of rocks being gathered and ecclesiastical gavels being banged].

Let’s go back to the changing / unchanging logo of the Baptist Union of Great Britain:

The cross is essential and was probably the earliest Christian symbol.

The fish was an early Christian symbol too. In Greek the word for fish is ‘ichthus’ and in Greek this is also an acronym that means ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour’. That is pretty essential.

The water represents believer’s baptism, one of the things that made our foreparents (forefathers and foremothers) distinctive when they started forming Baptist churches just over 400 years ago. Believer’s baptism is an early Christian event too (Jesus told us to get wet) that expresses faith in Jesus and affirms our commitment to him as his followers. (Yes there’s a lot more here, but I will save that for another day).

Did the early Christians get thrown to the lions for believing more than that? Would you be willing to die for anything more than that? Is anything else essential?

Answers on a postcard (preferably not wrapped around a brick) – or you can give some feedback on the blog page by clicking the link at the top of this bloggage.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Car bears (no, not Care Bears!)

Last Saturday I bought a teddy bear. Those who read my blog entry for last weekend will remember where I went on Saturday and may realise what was special about this teddy bear. He has moving arms and legs and wears a lovely warm blue jumper with a badge on it. Still not sure? He looks like this:



I bought him to sit in my car and accompany me on journeys. As well as providing company he also proclaims my footballing allegiance to Ipswich Town FC to anyone who sees him.

This may be a problem. For the geographically challenged, Ipswich is about 16 miles away from Colchester. This means that there is a strong rivalry between Ipswich Town FC and Colchester United FC. I am wondering how sensible it will be for me to drive around the town with my new teddy bear riding shotgun, and whether I am asking for trouble if I leave him guarding the car while it is parked in the town centre. Only time will tell!

My new awareness of what is in my car and how my car bear may be received by others has made me wonder about the people who drive around with fish symbols on the back of their cars to show that they are Christians. The fish is one of the earliest Christian symbols, the Greek Word for ‘fish’ being ‘ichthus’ which represented the first letters of Greek words that we translate as ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’. It was a simple yet profound statement of faith, a mini-creed.

But it has created a car boot* (*trunk for North American readers) battle. There are now Darwinian fish appearing on cars. The fish has legs to represent the evolution of animals from fish as they crawled onto land and is designed as a direct attack on the ‘ichthus’ fish for Christians. 

I find it rather funny and applaud the creative thinking and imagination that led someone to consider putting legs on the fish symbol to represent their world-view, even though a belief in evolution does not negate or deny a faith in Christ. Perhaps we should respond in kind. Will we find aggressive new symbols for fundamentalists with an ‘ichthus’ fish eating a Darwin one? Will we get fish with stick men inside representing Jonah for those who like Old Testament narratives? How about five loaves and two fish? Or best of all I would love to see a car with nothing on one side of the car and 153 fish on the other! (Have a look at John 21 if you are not sure why).

Sad to say I have seen many ‘ichthus’ fish-decorated cars driven badly, over the speed limit, inconsiderately or even dangerously. It made me wonder whether the fish was intended as a warning: “I am going to heaven and I drive like I want to get there soon!” Because of that I do not have an ‘ichthus’ fish on my car. Not so I can drive badly without bringing Jesus into disrepute, but because I do not want to perpetuate a perception that Christians are bad drivers or rude. Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make me a good driver, but it surely ought to make me more considerate and courteous. I’ll try to remember that next time I get behind the wheel.

In the meantime I will stick to my Ipswich car bear and see if anyone notices him.