angry birds, my teachers

If you hang around John Stott's writings for awhile, you'll soon discover he loved birds. Birding was his favourite hobby and a subject about which he had an encyclopedic knowledge. He wrote a delightful book - The Birds, Our Teachers - in which ornithology drifts across to ornitheology. What a difference an 'e' makes...

This love for birds has seeped into the organisation he founded, Langham Partnership. At my first ever gathering with the leadership team, we went to Skomer Island to enjoy puffins. I discovered that the two senior leaders - Chris Wright and Mark Hunt - were also avid bird-watchers.

It was clear to me. To become Langhamised, I needed to go birding.

What should I do? NZ has some lovely birds (the tui, for example) - but many seem brown or green and its most famous one is kinda ugly and can only be seen in the dark. So at one international meeting a staff member (remaining nameless) re-introduced me to Angry Birds. I downloaded it onto my smartphone and ornitheological pursuits downloaded their way into my life - and teachers they did become.

When I play Angry Birds...

I think about theology
The birds are angry. While I would not ascribe their brand of anger to God, it does turn my mind to his wrath which is integral to his justice. So many of God's global people, marginalised and harassed, place their 'hope in the judgement of God' (Ps 96.11-13). It reminds me to stand with them, in solidarity.

I think about apologetics
The way to win is to focus on the most vulnerable point in the foundations. The whole edifice comes crashing down in much the same way as the presuppositional apologists argue. Find the flaw in the argument, drive it to its logical conclusion ... and then they'll be ripe for Jesus. The only problem is that the postmodern is sitting there singing, Shania-like, 'that don't impress me much'.

I think about the christian mind
The way to win is to find the right shape for your parabolas. It is the orientation of the birds before anything happens that is critical. The information in the Bible is sufficient, not exhaustive. It sets us up for all we need to be oriented the right way. Then it is about finding the trajectory of wisdom, those wise parabolas, on which to travel as we think christianly about life and what it throws at us.

I think about pneumatology
Or, the Spirit. Sometimes the only way to win is for the birds to recognise that they cannot do it on their own. They need the boost of extra power, or the direction of extra guidance. Just a hint here of the way the life that is Spirit-filled on a daily basis does experience a divine resource in these very same areas.

I think about leadership
The way to win is to visualise the task that lies ahead, assess the resources that are available, set a strategy commensurate with those resources - and then use the right ones at the right time in the right way. Need I say more? Angry Birds provides a primer on visionary leadership.

I think about ecclesiology
Or, the church. Some of the challenges in Angry Birds are immense and the only way to win is to persevere, to keep trying, to keep stewarding the resources - and to do it together. There is a way to win. My mind drifts across to a field of Dutch tulips, the merits of 'the perseverance of the saints', and its affirmation of the true believer's inexorable progress towards sanctification.

I think about anthropology
Or, humanity. The way to win is to embrace the diversity of birds available, seeing their variety to be a many-splendoured-thing issuing from the mind of their creator. Each is flawed and prone to mistakes. And yet each has value. Each one is called to a different task and then gifted for that task. A little depravity. A little dignity. And a little dose of 1 Corinthians 12 as well.

I think about eschatology
Or, history and hope. Game by game, level by level - there is a winning to be experienced. There seems to be a purpose. There seems to be a direction. But is it going anywhere for the birds? Is their an ultimate victory for them - or, is it an endless succession of little wins and losses that ultimately go nowhere and succumb to some brand of cosmic fatalism? Ahh - my mind drifts across to real history, real hope, and real victory. Ultimately, Jesus wins.

I think about christology
The thing I think about the most when I play Angry Birds is the way these silly little games can become so addictive, reminiscent of the control which 'the exceeding sinfulness of sin' can have on our lives. But wait - there's more. The human heart is also so deceitful and can create endless justifications (a bit like this post!) for errant behaviour. My mind drifts across to Jesus, to his unique person and his final work, and to the way his redeeming work on the cross dealt the decisive blow to sin in human hearts and evil in human systems.

Well - that is enough ornitheology for one day.
And I haven't even mentioned the pigs...

nice chatting



Nicola B said…
I'd never thought of angry birds in this way! Thanks

I look forward to your reflections on Candy Crush!
I can't decide if I should be proud or embarrassed to be a long-time owner of Stott's Bird book. At least there's safety in numbers!

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