Thinking Anglicans

still more on the embryology bill

I linked previously to David Aaronovitch’s criticism of the Bishop of Durham, who responded in an oddly snarky letter to the editor last Thursday.

Sir, I will happily respond to David Aaronovitch’s challenge (Comment, March 25) when he will answer me these questions.

First, does he think that there is any difference between humans and other animals, and does this difference matter? Secondly, what makes him think he can reduce the function of religion (which Jews, Christians and Muslims have traditionally seen as being about public truth) to the provision of “comfort and companionship”? Thirdly, where in St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians — or anywhere else for that matter — does the Apostle attack the “sinful mixing” which Mr Aaronovitch seems to think is the sole subject matter of Leviticus?

The Right Rev Tom Wright
Bishop of Durham

Today, David Aaronovitch replies to the bishop in Who wants to kill the elderly?

Last week, irked by what I saw as the use of wild exaggeration by church leaders in the embryology Bill debate, I challenged one of them – the Bishop of Durham – to justify one of his more outrageous claims. Tom Wright had accused the “militantly atheist and secularist lobby” behind the Bill (a Bill, as it happens, supported and sponsored by many practising Christians) of believing “that we have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people.”

I didn’t choose to quarrel with Dr Wright’s characterisation of abortion. What I did ask for, however, was any evidence whatsoever that any significant secular or atheist body of opinion advocates “the right to kill surplus old people”.

Bishop Wright’s reply to my challenge, carried on Thursday’s letters page in The Times, was to refuse to reply to it until I had answered a further series of questions that he set for me. This is, of course, odd. A cynic might think that the Bishop was playing for time while a diocesan search squad parsed the texts of old Polly Toynbee columns looking for gerontocide.

So let me answer the Bishop’s questions…

Another primer on the science can be found at this NHS page, Embryology Bill controversy.

Meanwhile, the Press Association reports that Cardinal agrees stem cell meeting, and the full text of Cardinal O’Brien’s remarks can be found here.

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Pluralist
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If he is not careful, the Bishop of Durham will find himself relegated to the division occupied by the Bishop of Carlisle.

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

It certainly does seem to be the case that there is an overlap between the secularist worldview and a belief in euthanasia (most of which would naturally be ‘performed’ on the elderly). Thus Evan Harris MP, member of the National Secular Society, is possibly the most enthusiastic advocate of euthanasia in Parliament.

David Aaronovitch is right that Paul jettisoned chunks of Leviticus; but he does not go into the reasons why: ie Christ’s fulfilment of the sacrificial and ritual law. Nor the reasons why this same Paul should view homosexuality in a different category and light.

JCF
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JCF

DavidA, re +Tom: PWNED! 😉

badman
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badman

Christopher Shell, Evan Harris MP has never supported getting rid of “surplus old people” which is the point that Bishop Wright has to substantiate.

Flossie
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Flossie

According to the Christian Institute, Evan Harris MP voted FOR euthanasia.

http://www.christian.org.uk/mpvotes.php?selection=&value1=442&submit1=SHOW&value2=1

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Christopher Shell’s comment is an interesting specimen of the method and mentality operative in today’s AC. He – quite naturally, as it is – makes is own over-interpretation (gnosticist identifications on the pattern a = b = c = d )the basis for appalling accusations, imagining both the unfortunate MP in question and the groupings where he is clamed to hold a membership, to be party to the crimes and the guilt (by association) which exist only in the mind of CS. We see this daily re St Joaquín and the outlandish accusations against PB Jefferts Schori and her staff,… Read more »

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

Is this not merely another example of how C of E bishops seem unable to communicate appropriately to the wider society? It is odd that they blame the rest of the world for being secularist while the Church promotes as its leaders people evidently unable to bridge the gap with the wider society. Tom’s Wright’s aggressive manner is hardly conducive to winning hearts and minds: many reasonable people, including, according to this week’s Church Times, the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, disagree with my Lord of Durham, so it’s inappropriate for him to be so touchily self-righteous.… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Hi Fr Mark-

How many hearts and minds did CS Lewis win? He won many to Christ but gave no quarter in debate. Why? Because he cared about the truth, and wasn’t of the adolescent school who thinks that anyone who is passionate about truth and/or disagrees with them in debate must hate them or be an unpleasant person.

I don’t know what alternative you are proposing. That people should become apathetic, uncaring or ‘tolerant’ rather than passionate? That those who have intellectual gifts and training ought to be debarred from using them to demolish illogic and/or bring clarity?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

CS Lewis also knew that the appropriate way to win hearts and minds was to approach them with love, affection and entertainment…not to berate them for not sharing his faith.

Narnia and the Silent Planet trilogy did more to explain Christianity to a secular world than any “debate” ever will.

L Roberts
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L Roberts

The pharase ‘getting rid of old people’ is not a (suitable) synonym for euthanasia.

To desist from its use would be honest and helpful to discussion of an important issue.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The original sentence of Bishop Tom’s sermon, which was quoted directly by Aaronovitch in the original article, reads as follows:

The irony is that this secular utopianism is based on a belief in an unstoppable human ability to make a better world, while at the same time it believes that we (it’s interesting to ask who ‘we’ might be at this point) have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people, and to play games with the humanity of those in between.

The euphemistic phrase “getting rid of” was not used.

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Simon S, Thank you for the clarification. It is a question of euthanasia. That can be institued for various ends. Is Wright to be denigrated for sharply raising the issue in light of the current discussion going on parliament? It would perhaps be helpful to discuss the basis of Christian regard for and the protection of life (whether at the beginning stages of life or toward the end). As the great historian of the early church A Harnack from the 19th century showed, it was Christian influence that affected a change in attitude and in the reality related to infantcide… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Christopher: I really wish we could explode this canard that ecclesiastical progressives are somehow intellectually feeble, or, as you put it, “adolescent.” Why do you assume that “those who have intellectual gifts and training” are on the illiberal side of the current debates? In my experience, it is quite the reverse: intelligent people nowadays do not think it is justifiable to maintain a system which discriminates against women or stignatises gay people. Doubtless, you regard that as adolescent namby-pamby lack of intellectual rigour? Many of the “progressive” contributors to TA have sufficient intellectual credentials to dispel any claims that this… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“It would perhaps be helpful to discuss the basis of Christian regard for and the protection of life (whether at the beginning stages of life or toward the end).”

How about in the middle?

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Its so complicated this, that I am glad to have the Magisterium of the Catholic Church ( 1 Tim 3:15) to guide me.

L Roberts
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L Roberts

It would perhaps be helpful to discuss the basis of Christian regard for and the protection of life (whether at the beginning stages of life or toward the end).

Ben W

We see the effect of ‘Christian regard’ in the illegal and humanly disastrous war on Iraq, apparently carried out by a Christian president and a Christian prime minister.

Or is the period in between ‘the beginning stages of life’ and ‘the end’ of no account ?

The cells in the petrie dish so much more in need of care and protection than Iraqi civilians and families ?

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

Its so complicated this, that I am glad to have the Magisterium of the Catholic (sic) Church ( 1 Tim 3:15) to guide me.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 6:24am BST

I am so glad that I am free of guidance of the bishop of Rome and RC denomination.

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat,

I think you got my point, but by all means if we can affirm this together lets go with your statement of it!

Ben W

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Pat- Not totally true. When he debated in the Socratic Club many thought him a bully so ruthless was he with the quest for the truth. The same goes for Paul and indeed at times the Jesus of the Gospels. A question: How would you get round the problem of people tending to believe on the grounds of a nice tone of voice or an impressive presence – as opposd to on the grounds of truth. For example there are various Christian leaders who were massively effective who had no oratorical power or presence: EJH Nash, George Verwer. Lewis… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Really, these outrageous lies from senior Anglican clerics are contemptible. They bring discredit of the Church in the same way that the Bishops’ Bench’s universal opposition to Wilberforce’s anti-slavery battles did.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“How would you get round the problem of people tending to believe on the grounds of a nice tone of voice or an impressive presence – as opposd to on the grounds of truth.” Simple, you present the Truth to them in a nice tone of voice. It really isn’t that hard to be nice to people. What’s more, when someone claims to follow a religion that has as its second most important tenet “love thy neighbour” presents what he claims is the message of that religion in a manner that shows no love of his neighbour, one has to… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

So the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” spoken of in 1 Tim 3:15 = “Magisterium of the Catholic Church”? :-0

Ridiculously weak, RIW. You’d be better off sticking to one of the (so-called) “Petrine” texts.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- Didn’t I already say that when I said that gentle tone of voice is good – even necessary – in itself? However, if someone showed themselves able to distinguish between style and substance I would trust their judgment more than that of someone who did not. Style can be very seductive. We have plenty of people who think that merely by staying cool and calm, they can convince people. And you know what? – they are right – they do ‘convince’ people. Whereas honest debate does not already have a conclusion in mind: it only asks that the… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Fr Mark-

Sure, I will debate you any time if you want to fix an event.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Style can be very seductive.” Indeed it can. It seems to be doing a very good job of convincing people that the most unChristian behaviours are acceptable as long as one keeps the homos away from the Church. Why do you think it is I have so little trust in the sincerity of conservatives? They talk a fine talk about following the Gospel, but do they really follow it? Not so’s you’d notice. Yet many are seduced by their pious sounding words. So, you’re right, a pious self-righteous style seems a lot like love, both being able to cover a… Read more »