Onward, then, to more colleges.
Without the least hint of courtesy, a sudden, lengthy and tremendous shower of rain and hailstones battered the streets of Oxford into post-apocalyptic chaos. After a caffeinated hibernation back at the hostel lounge, I decided to venture back out in the afternoon, intent on visiting a few more colleges before the day was out. I was gradually familiarising myself with the three scrunched Oxford street maps I had acquired from various tourist spots earlier in the day (now slightly sodden and dog-eared). They were all of that peculiar variety of *free* map which seems hell-bent on wanting to punish you for not having forked-out the money for a full-priced (well, a ‘priced’) map. It’s as if the designers are sat there in the design room – or wherever such maps come into being – and an executive is standing over them giving deliberate instructions of sabotage: ‘The scale of that main road is far too accurate – try to make it look a bit more skewed, please; they don’t deserve such precision!’; ‘That landmark isn’t vague enough!’; ‘Don’t include too much of the city centre, just zoom in on an arbitrarily selected area...’; ‘What on earth are you using colour for?! Black & white is far less appealing!’ Indeed, we may be in a world of infinitely informative technology, but there I am with a textual manuscript dilemma and requiring cartography skills. As it turned out, neither map was entirely helpful on its own, but I managed to piece the various fragments together to form something of a general idea of where I should be.
Onward, then, to more colleges.
To Culture, Or Not To Culture. that is the question.
The Long Defeat is our friendship made public. Having known each other for quite a long time, we've enjoyed many long discussions (or 'confs' as we now strangely call them). When we get together we talk about a variety of different things. Often this means theology. But we also discuss matters of faith, and love, and relationships, as well as life in general.
One subject we frequently return to is that of culture. Like many Gen Y 20-somethings, we're steeped in cultural expression. Our DVD shelves are packed and our music libraries are extensive. We like to appreciate art and history and science and ideas. We watch TV. We go to the cinema. We play video games. We follow sport. (Well, apart from me.) We're just as likely to share our discovery of a stand-up comedian as we are to discuss the finer points of Christian doctrine. In all fairness, you've probably noticed this already. You can't exactly miss the weekly Doctor Who reviews. Or Owen's discussion of C.S. Lewis. Or his coverage of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and his recent piece on the important of beauty. I have no doubt that this trend will continue.
That said, we really wrestled with the implications of sharing this kind of stuff. After all, if we're Christians - and theologians - shouldn't we be dealing with proper theological subjects'? The stuff that bores paint dry? (Be honest: it's what some of you expected.) Eventually, however, we decided against this instinct and made a conscious decision to include cultural discussions on the blog.
To a certain extent, this is because it's just more true to our actual lives - i.e. we talk about culture amongst ourselves, so it makes sense to do the same here. But, to a much greater extent, we want to talk about culture because we believe it's actually important to do so. Not at the expense of our faith & theological convictions - but (and this is important) because of our faith & theological convictions.
If you'll let me, I'd like to borrow a few minutes of your time to explain what I mean.
Let's prepare for an awkward topic. Can Christians appreciate beauty? I mean generically; can we appreciate sunsets and symphonies? Paintings and Michelin-starred pasta dishes? Can we appreciate beautiful men and women?
So I had you there til the end. Of course – you thought to yourself – we can enjoy nature. Of course appreciating Cézanne isn't sinful. But that's some thin ice you're tap dancing on, Owen. I think you might be talking about lust. Or perhaps you don't think that; perhaps I'm just projecting. You see, that's my response. I find it entirely emotionally acceptable to appreciate natural or artistic beauty. Human beauty troubles me more. Why the contradiction?
Three young(ish) English theologians. Aaron; Owen, and Nathan.
We love theology.
We love the Church.
And we love Jesus.
"Together - through the ages of the world - we have fought the long defeat".
For more, click here and here.