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What does it mean to be human?

 

With the help of ancient and modern thinkers, Baptist church planter Joe Haward seeks to help us reconnect with our beautiful humanity, discovered in Jesus, in his new book The Ghost of Perfection

 


The Ghost of PerfectionWho am I? Who are we?

Simple yet profound questions.

Why does society sometimes make us feel inadequate and diminished as humans?

Where does the church and religion slot into this sense of dehumanisation?

What are we doing to ourselves and to others to impede our journey as humans living to the fullest?

Why does it feel as if violence and fear is the dominant narrative in this modern world?

What does it mean to be human?



With the ancients, have we not each looked to the heavens and asked,


‘...what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’ (Psalm 8:4)


The Ghost of Perfection is a book about what it means to be human and through it I will seek to ask the question, ‘what are human beings?’ In doing so I challenge some of those ways our humanity is stripped from us, both within church and culture.

Exploring themes such as violence, sex, prayer and consumerism, with the help of film, television, modern and ancient thinkers, I examine some of the attitudes and behaviours that lead to dehumanisation.

More than that though, I hope that we discover together what it positively means to be human and how we might pursue, reclaim and celebrate our humanness, a humanness I believe is discovered fully, totally and wonderfully in the person of Jesus.

There is always an invitation on the lips of Jesus to approach him and to follow him, and in following him, to discover our humanity. ‘...learn from me’ Jesus declares to weary, burdened and worn out people, (Matthew 11:28-30) learn from him what it is to be human, humans who are created in the image of God.

The Ghost of Perfection is not a manual to live by, a Christian behaviour code or rules to live according to. Within the book I argue that the Way of life with God is not about 'not breaking the rules' but about how we might live lives that ever more reflect and imitate the Light and Life of Jesus; how might we become more human; humanity does not need more rules from church or culture on how to live the perfect life.

We do not need prohibitions and holiness codes; humanity needs grace. With greater grace comes greater truth, (John 1:17) and with greater truth we discover a more truthful humanity; with greater truth we encounter the One who is Truth.


Slavoj Žižek writes,


‘In this new global order, religion has two possible roles: therapeutic or critical. It either helps individuals to function better in the existing order, or it tries to assert itself as a critical agency articulating what is wrong with this order as such, a space for the voices of discontent – in this second case, religion as such tends toward assuming the role of a heresy.’

Žižek, Puppet and the Dwarf, p3


I believe that this is the reality for Christianity in the 21st Century. My prayer is that through the pages of The Ghost of Perfection we might together celebrate the God of history who ‘dwelled among us’ (John 1:14) in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, for our theological canvases to be painted a vision of humanity that is faithful to the person of Jesus, to the God who has been revealed in and through him.

The ghost of perfection lurks, haunting us with visions of a humanity that leave us groping in the dark.

May the Light of the World rouse us from our slumber, from the ghostly dreams that strip away our humanity leaving us shivering in fear, and may the warmth of His resurrection life bring us to ourselves as we are brought to Him.



 
The Revd Joseph Haward is married to Sarah, and they have two daughters, Grace and Lizzie. Joe is an eighth generation oyster fisherman, turned Revd, after training as a Baptist Minister at Spurgeon’s College. Joe and his family now live in south Devon and founded the pioneer ministry This Hope.

The Ghost of Perfection is being published by Wipf and Stock in 2017. You can keep updated with the book and get snippets from it by following Joe’s blog www.redpillrev.com. You can also follow his page at www.facebook.com/TheGhostofPerfection



 
Baptist Times, 14/07/2017
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