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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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56 Responses to 724

  1. drew says:

    So……um…….who is Mr Cave?

  2. Kim says:

    where are the bad seeds Jon??

  3. Kim says:

    This is a totally surreal one and I’d love to hear the explanation of how you were inspired to create it?! Fabulous dahling.

  4. janetp says:

    I’m with Drew on this one. Have I missed something?

  5. Pat says:

    :lol: :lol: Deep theology in those words eh Jon?

  6. Forrest says:

    Haven’t a clue who this fellow is.
    What I do have a clue about is what bible is that fellow reading?
    There are obvious and blatant interventions of God all through it. No matter what translation.

  7. linus says:

    Same one as you, Forrest. But he* doesn’t believe everything it says, obviously.

    “he” being the character in the cartoon/character in the song. Wouldn’t presume to make judgements on what Mr Cave himself makes of it all.

    Google is your friend, people:

    The song is called Into My Arms, and is from an album called The Boatman’s Call

    Nick Cave


    I don’t believe in an interventionist God
    But I know, darling, that you do
    But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
    Not to intervene when it came to you
    Not to touch a hair on your head
    To leave you as you are
    And if He felt He had to direct you
    Then direct you into my arms

    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms

    And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
    But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
    But if I did I would summon them together
    And ask them to watch over you
    To each burn a candle for you
    To make bright and clear your path
    And to walk, like Christ, in grace and love
    And guide you into my arms

    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms

    And I believe in Love
    And I know that you do too
    And I believe in some kind of path
    That we can walk down, me and you
    So keep your candlew burning
    And make her journey bright and pure
    That she will keep returning
    Always and evermore

    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms, O Lord
    Into my arms

  8. mdb says:

    Surely this is merely semantics?

    When Jesus was talking to Martha just before Lazarus was raised from the dead he says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

  9. Carole says:

    He’s a funny looking geezer…and yet oddly mesmerising. Beyond that I know naff all about him.

  10. Caroline Too says:

    well, all I can say is that I think this song has all the qualities of the worship songs that I avoid!

  11. Graeme says:

    Not sure that its actually supposed to be a worship song, or at least I hope not, as it is clearly a love song to a girl masquerading as a song to God!

  12. AdR says:

    I am not particularly fond of him, but I really am surprised by so many people not even knowing the name Nick Cave.
    Anyway, he wrote an introduction to the Gospel according to Mark for The Canon Pocket Bible Series – which you probably do not know either.

  13. jonbirch says:

    i think it’s a love song as a prayer.

    so, not many nick cave fans then. :-)

    adr… he did indeed write an introduction to mark’s gospel… i have that little set.

    for those interested… he’s a writer, poet and singer songwriter, with a voice like marmite – you love it or hate it.

    i was trying to get the interventionist god subject running again. ah well… :-)

  14. AnneDroid says:

    Yes I thought that was what you were trying to do!

    I believe in an interventionist God. Now argue with me, peeps.

  15. jonbirch says:

    annedroid… haha! :-)
    at the risk of being dull, it depends on what is meant by ‘interventionist’. i have known god to intervene, but through people, things and indeed what we might call circumstance.
    the very interventionist god of the old testament is a view of god i find hard to separate from the worldview or even propaganda of the men of the day. that’s not to say i don’t think it is valuable. i also believe that people’s lives can be changed remarkably through finding grace and turning to god, so in that way i believe in intervention. but i guess that’s not what most people mean by ‘interventionist’.

  16. AnneDroid says:

    I think God intervenes sometimes and not at other times, as suits his purposes. I used to have a strap that connected my wrist to my toddler’s wrist. He could have a degree of freedom and didn’t have to hold my hand but he couldn’t run out in front of cars. I think God gives us that kind of freedom, except that he doesn’t guarantee to save our life always and for evermore. Obviously not, or none of us would ever die. Some things he lets us go through and some things he doesn’t and sometimes we don’t much understand or indeed like the choices he makes. But part of faith is accepting that he’s the one who’s God and we’re not. We need to look through the telescope the at the right end. It’s his ball. He can do what he wants without our advice, though he does love us. He’s not a tame lion. He’s not a pocket house-elf. Or a fairy godmother. By the way I’m on a mission to see how many metaphors I can jam in here!

  17. Pat says:

    Jon @ 13: How could anyone not like Marmite – surely the most wonderful spread ever invented? :-)

    On the question of whether or how God intervenes, my question would be – does God treat people as objects or as subjects?

  18. Wulf says:

    Hi, just wanted to point out that there’s at least one Nick Cave fan here :-)
    Mercy Seat is a nice song with christian undertones. Check out Johnny Cash’s brilliant cover version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGGSTiDOjKU

  19. Miriworm says:

    Did God intervene to produce Nick Cave I wonder? :-D

  20. Caroline Too says:

    People as objects or subjects? great question, Pat (#17)

    and possibly too tricky to answer thoughtfully… hmm, I’m going to have a happy drive to Milton Keynes wrestling with that one…

    …but here’s a start: we need to be careful not to limit God to our boundaries… we tend to work on people ‘as objects’, so if I transform you, I am the subject and you are the object of my actions

    I think that God’s actions are different and that is why, for example, the Bible is so difficult to read. For we (and the bible story tellers) keep expecting God to behave like us, being a great warrior or fantastic architect or healer, for example,

    But God isn’t like that…and so, rather than being a clear journey for bad to good (with God in control – intervening) we have a wobbly story with people being transformed as they transform. God’s intervention being at His initiative but at our request…

    hmm, more thinking to do here… I can always spot when I haven’t worked something out, my sentences go to pot and a whole series of interrelated ideas and subclauses fight for prominence in what I laughingly call my mind…

    sorry folks

  21. JF says:

    Ahh – love Nick Cave. Have seen him play live in Munich, Montreal and Wolverhampton! Imagine my delight as I put The Boatman’s Call in the CD player for the first time and those lines came out! Amazing.

    But Forrest (6), if God is unchanging, why is the Bible full of “blatant and obvious interventions”, yet things seem to have gone so quiet lately? At best, “interventions” within any the period of reliable recorded history are people’s subjective interpretation of events which fall well within the norm of likely events. Why is that?

    I have heard it said that sending Jesus was God’s final intervention. But given that even Jesus’ provenance is not even the subject of universal agreement, it was an odd way to end a career of (reported) cataclysmic intervention.

    Or could the OT be unreliable folklore?

  22. Sophie says:

    I’m finding this one a bit tricky at the moment, a friend of a friend has just been diagnosed with cancer, so I want to pray that he’ll survive and recover and that the family will be supported. I felt weird praying – as if I didn’t know whether it’s ok to pray for a cure or whether that’s daft, or setting myself up for an unanswered prayer or something. Maybe it’s safer to pray that God will be with them all in the horribleness of it all and give them peace. But then I thought of Jesus and Lazarus. I have no problem believing that God CAN heal, but I also know that often God doesn’t (or at least not in the way we’d like). so there we go.

    I suppose the only thing to do really is to be honest with God about it all, and to support my friend as best I can.

  23. Pat says:

    Sophie – yes, I think honesty is the only policy really. Sometimes when I’m praying ‘for’ something – as in the sort or scenario you outline, I find myself adding ‘even though I don’t know what this means anymore’.

  24. Sophie says:

    Thanks Pat. It’s a tricky one.

  25. Munich, Montreal and Wolverhampton! Such things as can only appear on Blogs.

  26. JF says:

    Sophie, I feel genuinely reticent about advising anyone how to act in such a difficult scenario when there is so much pain and worry; I have no qualification to do so, except that I hope things work out well for your friend’s friend and all his loved ones. But I consider the point you make important enough to warrant comment.

    If you begin to petition an external, omnipotent being to make someone well, you quickly get into the territory of having to accept that it was the same external omnipotent being who made him ill in the first place. My concern is that you could then spend valuable mental energy in questioning / doubting and simply not finding answers. All the while, your friend’s friend is ill.

    Could it be better to simply accept / understand the awful, indiscriminate nature of cancer and the balance of all that can be done (versus a certain powerlessness), and then focus on praying / meditating about how you can best serve your friend’s friend and your relationship with him (even indirectly), to help him achieve the best possible outcome in the context of whatever scenario unfolds? Your prayer will influence what you DO. What you DO will contribute to the Peace you want for him.

  27. JF says:

    Jon (15) “i have known god to intervene, but through people, things and indeed what we might call circumstance”

    And on 722: “i’m not sure that god really intervenes that much”

    Annedroid (16): “I think God intervenes sometimes and not at other times, as suits his purposes”

    For me, this demonstrates exactly what I would expect if we were looking at random events and trying, post hoc, to determine a pattern of when these are / are not attributable to God.

  28. jonbirch says:

    the problem i have is that my belief in god means that god is behind all things. not that god is a director and me a mere player who stands where he says. no, i co direct, in that i make choices with what i’ve been given in life.
    i have no trouble praising the scientist for the discovery of a cure, whilst at the same time acknowledging that the cure was there to be found.
    once, and only once in my life i prayed that a seriously ill young friend would die. the next day he died. his life had become appalling and i wished him to be spared any more pain and suffering. did my prayer cause him to die?.. no. had i not prayed, would he still have died?.. most likely, yes. so, you could conclude that my prayer was insignificant… you could, but i don’t conclude that. i believe my painful plea captured exactly the spirit of what was happening. i believe i was very connected. i believe it changed me. i believe the same care that was in my prayer came over in my actions before and after. so, all in all, powerful stuff.
    i remember when roy castle died, hi wife received letters from so-called christians, saying her husbands death was a judgement on him for the way he lived his life. if i did believe in their kind of interventionist god, i think i’d want him to strike down all those sick minded people with a lightning bolt. but god doesn’t do that, it seems… the sun shines and the rain pours on the good and the wicked indiscriminately it seems to me.

  29. jonbirch says:

    isn’t christ much more about getting us to intervene in our world and with each other?

  30. Andy M says:

    I’m intrigued by the lyrics of that song, since what is Jesus if he isn’t God’s greatest act of intervention in our broken world? It might come down to his interpretation of “interventionist” but I think it is a contradiction. Angels have also been God’s way of intervening within the world.

  31. subo says:

    thanks for this blog, have not spent any time with N.C., so great to be introduced

    also like the comments on praying, i pray from how i feel, and then think about it and pray more thoughtfully, I’m ok at sharing my feelings with God, and i want to try to listen to what God says and work with that

    I do think God intervenes – he has in my life, I’m not clear how the process of dedicating and handing things over to God opens up his interventions, though am realising handing stuff over to God is important anyway

  32. subo says:

    wulf, that J. Cash clips awesome, cheers

  33. JF says:

    Wulf (18): “Mercy Seat is a nice song with christian undertones”… Really? I always took it at face value as an ugly song about someone with a personality disorder going to the electric chair! Love it though!

  34. Nick Cave – deeply profound man. Wonderful guy. Beautiful music. The Boatman’s Call is, yes, an album haunted by Jesus. More lyrics from the album:

    There’s a man who spoke wonders
    Though I’ve never met him
    He said, “He who seeks finds
    And who knocks will be let in”
    I think of you in motion
    And just how close you are getting
    And how every lttle thing anticipates you
    All down my veins my heart-strings call
    Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

    Used the album in a small group meeting once looking at darkness, and the Void before time anticipating God’s creation. This is probably a good place to start if you want to get a handle on his spirituality.

    There was a blind art gallery owner in Norfolk – famous; I can’t remember her name; she was 90+ when she died – and she befriended Nick Cave. She was resolutely Roman Catholic – recognised something in his questing.

    I wonder if the question you have to ask about Nick Cave is, “If you’re brave enough to admit to not knowing God, has God already reached you?” (Clue: I think the answer is yes.)

    As for intervention: why not start from the assumption that, as before God intervened there was nothing, everything is an intervention?

  35. Just a thought to add: if Love is present in the Void as well as Creation (in the death of Jesus as well as his rebirth) any prayer you offer up will be answered (though you may find the answer hard to grasp). So pray for healing – of course. Or pray for release. Either way whatever happens will be an intervention of Love in response to the Love you have offered out of the deepest part of you. May be deeper than words: that’s okay. Just pray.

  36. projectpastiche says:

    @Pat (#17) nice one!

    For my personal path, I’ve found making God the subject has made it easier to be transformed. Maybe that makes me the Object; I don’t care. All I know is that Good Things Are Happening. :)

  37. linus says:

    JF i agree with you that Mercy Seat is a fantastic (and yes ugly, but beautifully ugly) song that at face value is all about a guy going to the chair. But beyond face value, its clearly also about wrestling with themes of truth and justice and fear and redemption.

    Similarly, i agree with you that the existence we find ourselves in is a fantastic(and yes ugly, but beautifully ugly) existence that at face value is scientifically meausurable and rational in nature, but beyond face value its clearly about wrestling with themes of longing and belonging and love and mortality and meaning and purpose and truth and justice and fear and redemption. I think that’s something you’d agree with?

  38. linus says:

    A model of prayer that says “i need to do xyz to get the desired outcome” is not helpful (to say the least). God is not a vending machine.

    a model of prayer that says “express your heart to the creator” is more helpful i think.

    if your heart’s desire is that your friends are well in mind, body and spirit, that’s a good thing to communicate. I can guarantee you that not all your friends will always be well, but that doesn’t for a minute make your prayers any less of a true or valid expression of how you feel and what you desire. What happens as a result of that heartfelt expression is beyond our control or ability to perceive. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Regardless, i think it is a natural and healthy response to life as we seek God and seek meaning and seek hope.

  39. Chris says:

    I was helping at a youth group, and the priest used this song to explain to the teenagers how there are many levels of believing. We also looked at Nick’s earlier life and how his faith had ultimately saved him. It was a very moving experience.

  40. JF says:

    Yes linus, wholeheartedly. To grapple with our spirituality is such an important part of our existence.

    What I don’t agree with – in fact what I think is spiritual poverty – is to mix up our spirituality with superstition, fairy stories, wishful thinking and relinquishing of responsibility in relation to decision-making and the living of our lives.

  41. subo says:

    for me, a ‘personality disorder’, is being human, something with which we all look at at different times, trying to find out how I’m wounding others is an important part of my search for God

    for me, it’s not ‘them and us’, it’s ‘we’, we are powerless over our human nature – yet God can redeem us

  42. Bo says:

    21. The blatant answer is, that all the direct interventions of God was interpreted as such because they were prophesied before they happened.
    And the reason things are more quiet now is that there are no great prophets.
    So, no matter if God have intervened directly or not, we don’t know about it.
    Or maybe there have been great prophets, and we don’t know about them because we have been way to busy reading the theologians books instead…

  43. Pat says:

    Or possibly even (shocking thought this!) some of the theologians have been prophets :-) …and they’ve been ignored because they were only academics :-(

    Steve @ 34: an interesting thought about everything being intervention ..not sure that it helps though :-)

    And..an admission: I’ve just been and bought ‘The Boatman’s call’ :lol:

  44. Bo says:

    Pat, happy to resume our little discussion from earlier.
    Haven’t had time to elaborate a lot on my earlier point, though.

    I guess there is a very different climate of debate wherever you live, here in Denmark I have never met any critique of organised religion or the dependence on academic theology – not from Christians anyway.

    One of my favorite authors, Peter Rollins, write that there have been two main lines of teachers in Christian history, the theologians and the mystics.
    In modern times, the theologians have been greatly revered and their teachings taken as guidelines of the faith, whereas the mystics have been largely ignored.
    The only mystic I’ve heard mentioned is Augustine, and that was because he was also a philosopher and theologian.

    So what I am trying to do is simply restoring the balance between the rational and the subjective teaching of God, represented by the theologian and the mystic.

    “Some of the theologians have been prophets” – if you have prophesies from theologians from the past (with a preference to fulfilled ones) I would be delighted to hear them.
    I know that “prophet” can mean a lot of things, but in this discussion it is clearly one who makes prophetic claims about the future.

    And last, a blatantly obvious example of Gods direct intervention in our recent history:
    1948 – Israel is established as an independent state.
    This, along with the long exile of the Jews from their homeland, is written as a prophesy in the bible.

  45. Pat says:

    Hi Bo. My comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek rather than ‘needling’ – sorry if it didn’t come across like that.

    I think most people would consider Pete Rollins to be an academic (BA in Scholastic Philosophy; MA in Political Theory and Social Criticism and a PhD on post-secular religious theory); I’d also say that his self-proclaimed passion to

    render the academic discourse accessible, interesting and useful to faith collectives.

    might indicate that he himself places some value on academic theology and philosophy and thinks they have a place in informing christian thinking.

    However that may be, I am always somewhat wary (as I’ve just said to Robb on 725)of reductive dichotomies ( theologians/mystics’ or even rational/subjective if it comes to that)which I think can be rather simplistic if not downright false on occaision. I’d also say that my own personal development as a christian as well as my academic work has been, and is influenced and shaped by both theological and mystical thought and writings.

    I take your point that ‘in this discussion it is clearly one who makes prophetic claims about the future’ – in that yes, that is how your preceding comment implicitly defines it, although that may not be how others are thinking of it. (and obviously you realised that my comment doesn’t draw on the same definition)

    Regarding your ‘blatantly obvious example’ – I’d be really interested to know in what respect you see God as having intervened here. This isn’t an agressive question – it pretty much follows on from my others earlier in this thread and the previous one – what exactly do you mean when you say this? What precisely do you see God as having done in this situation, and how?

  46. Bo says:

    Well, if you read Jeremiah, as I’m doing atm., it’s clear that God influence the events in world policy.
    The rise and fall of empires are prophesied and fulfilled, as are the fate of nations.
    But there is not a single reference to just how God intervene to secure that the outcome of the events match the prophesy.
    This is in contrast to earlier books, like Joshua, where the exact reason for the victory of the Israelites over their enemies is described for most battles.
    But I expect God to have influenced the decisions of key politicians, and possibly the events which lead them to take those decisions.

    You’ve bought one of my points with no objection, that fulfilled prophesies mean that God interferes with history.
    However, if one have a hard deterministic world view, history have been decided from the beginning of time, and therefore God does not intervene, He just tell the prophets about the unchangeable facts of the future.
    This view is, however, in no way supported by my own experiences.
    My conviction is that a prophesy is God conveying His intentions, and afterwards carrying them out. The same is true for fortune-telling, the spiritual forces in question (demons) tell of their vision of the future, and proceed to carry them out, having gained authority to do so by being invited to give a fortune-telling.

    Yes, Peter Rollins is an academic, and so am I myself (though most of my courses have been in science, I’ve had just a handful of philosophical ones).
    And he is a firm critic of many things that stems from the modern (and even classical) usage of philosophy in theology, such as the rendering of God as an object to be grasped.

    You do seem to agree perfectly with my claim that both the tradition of theology and mysticism should “inform our faith”. Unfortunately “reductive dichotomies” are unavoidable in any real conversation, especially when you want to point out an imbalance. I’m not sure you got my point, I introduced the separation between theologians and mystics in order to criticise the clear preference of theologians over mystics when one judges which traditions and scholars are relevant in informing the faith.
    If there was not already a clear preference, there would be no need (for me) to draw that distinction. And if that preference is removed, I will stop making the distinction.
    But at the moment the preference is extremely obvious here in Denmark, I have no clue what it looks like on your side of the planet.

  47. JF says:

    Bo: I don’t agree that the Bible only contains reports of intervention where it has previously been prophesied. And if the OT is unreliable folklore, of what value is it when both the prophesy and the intervention are in the OT? So I kinda need another explanation as to why it’s all gone so quiet. I have a theory though…

  48. Pat says:

    Well, to be stictly accurate, I didn’t ‘buy one of my points [that fulfilled prophesies mean that God interferes with history] with no objection,’ I merely noted that, in the context of this discussion, that was how you had defined what prophecy was and that others (myself included) don’t necessarily hold that definition. :-) I don’t have a hard deterministic view of the future either!

    I’d guess, from your comments, that we have a very different approach to how we read scripture – which is fine, but I think means we’ll probably just have to agree to respect each other’s different standpoints on this particlar topic. I’d still like to know more though about precisely how God is understood as ‘influenc[ing] the decisions of key politiciansand possibly the events which lead them to take those decisions.’ but I suspect that this explanation too would sit within a world view with which I am no longer comfortable. So the same point would hold I guess and we’d end up agreeing to differ on that one.

    Regarding the relative influence of theologians/mystics on faith…well, as you say, maybe that’s just a difference in persective related to geography/culture etc. I’d have to say though that many of the churches I’ve been involved with over the years don’t seem to have been unduly influenced by either!!

    Maybe, at the end of the day I’ve just been lucky in encountering and being enriched by both strands….and it’s certainly something I’d want to encourage.

  49. Claire says:

    I recognised the quote in this cartoon straight away, although it might be a stretch to call myself a “fan” of Nick Cave – but then he is Australian, possibly he is better known here than in other parts of the world.

    I’m finding this discussion fascinating, particularly the struggle articulated by Sophie (22) and JF (26 & 27). My mother died of cancer just over a week ago. She was ill for over a year before she died, and throughout that time I really wondered how to even talk to God about it. It seems intellectually dishonest to me to praise God when she was in remission, if I’m not going to blame God for the cancer in the first place! And perhaps part of me does, but to be honest I’m inclined to think of it more in terms of “shit happens”. A friend of mine’s mother is in the practice of praying over people for God to heal them, and apparently some of the people she has prayed for have been healed in semi-miraculous ways. My friend contacted me to offer for her mother to visit my Mum and pray for her healing. I don’t know, though, I just couldn’t believe in a God who had the power to heal my Mum, but would only choose to use that power when it was chanelled through a particular person (and not for the fifty other people who were praying at a distance for her healing). In the end, the only way I can make sense of it is in the Bonhofferian notion that God suffers with us, but it’s not always a great comfort!

    I’m not so great with the prayer at the moment, but I hope things go well for your friend, Sophie.

  50. Pat (43),

    Would it help if I prophesied that it would help?

  51. Pat says:


  52. Ian says:

    Just wanted to add the following quote from Nick Cave:

    “Actualising of God through the medium of the love song remains my prime motivation as an artist. The love song is perhaps the truest and most distinctive human gift for recognising God and a gift that God himself needs. God gave us this gift in order that we speak and sing Him alive because God lives within communication. If the world was to suddenly fall silent God would deconstruct and die.”

    More at http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=800055

  53. Pat says:

    And a rather later addition to this thread to say I’ve really enjoyed ‘The Boatman’s Call’ so thanks to Jon and Linus for broadening my cultural horizons! :-D

  54. Pat says:

    Hey Ian – Your post and link have just appeared (guess it must have got caught somewhere en route). Some fascinating ideas in that piece to mull over. Thanks :-)

  55. jonbirch says:

    i’m afraid ian got stuck in the spam filter. sorry ian. :-)

  56. queermergent says:

    i have been wrestling lately with the idea of prayer. i sometimes think prayer is a crap shoot or that life is so very random. Sometimes i feel like i am deistic in my faith, but at least i keep wrestling!

    i LOVE Nick Cave. Pete Rollins turned me onto him back in 2002. That is a beautiful song!


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