Comments: godslots this weekend

A great suggestion from Rabbi Romaine.

Some Liturgical psalters have done this for years. So a good precedent has been set

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 21 April 2007 at 10:50pm BST

A nice selection of articles, thanks Simon.

Horwood made an excellent point that the core of all the major religions contains optimism and hope.

Romain's article does a nice job of highlighting how texts can be interpreted to justify aggression or dismissal of others' validity. He also makes the pertinent point that passages can be taken out of context. e.g. Adam ruling over Eve is in the context of a curse being acted out. The misogynists forget that curses do not have to continue in perpetuity and that there was something better before the curse was put in place. Also, if you think very carefully, you will see that the curse also contained blessings - Adam was made responsible for Eve - so he could no longer dodge responsibility for her actions. Eve was to ask for Adam's advice when presented with a challenge or unknown territory. The curse will continue while Adam refuses to be available to talk to Eve, leaving Eve to blunder along on her own. Which is how the mistake happened in the first place.

Removing offensive texts will not solve the problems. Acknowledging the context of the texts and how they can be misused is valid. Poor interpretations lead to invalid generalisations, repression or tyranny.

Further, trying to create the "right" text is duck shoving like Adam and Eve, trying to shift responsbility from individuals.

Better is to accept that aggression or sociopathy are continuums in humanity's characteristics. Every society will have some individuals who are more aggressive than others e.g. the school bullies, violent gang members. Clever ones will read holy texts and pick out the passages to justify their lusts.

If we were to condemn one prophet or all their followers because of some choose a violent repressive interpretation of holy texts, then we would need to condemn all prophets and peoples as this occurs across every faith and philosophical stream. (Don't tell me that Richard Dawkins is humble or gentle).

No prophet (not even God) can stop souls craving aggression and using theology to justify their hate.

What we can do is highlight the nature of the beast, explain how the texts are being misused, and suggest better ways to avoid them ruining civilisations and making souls' lives a misery.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 21 April 2007 at 11:04pm BST

There is no conflict between religion and evolution. Human sinuses are proof of God's pragmatism and that God makes something out of nothing. As one scientist commented, if the intelligent designer had done humanity from scratch, they would have designed our sinuses to drain properly in an upright posture. Presonally, I find it more miraculous and comforting that God tweaked evolution to create humanity. It is also more humbling as you realise that we are not indispensible and are as fragile as all occupants in Gaia's biosphere.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 21 April 2007 at 11:04pm BST

Enjoyed the Telegraph piece on Fr. Fortescue. Thanks.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 1:14am BST

Cheryl Clough: "Better is to accept that aggression or sociopathy are continuums in humanity's characteristics. Every society will have some individuals who are more aggressive than others e.g. the school bullies, violent gang members. Clever ones will read holy texts and pick out the passages to justify their lusts....No prophet (not even God) can stop souls craving aggression and using theology to justify their hate."


How wonderfully very perceptive, with pinpoint accuracy of the problem the besets many great religions.

We need to keep this in mind, for our own humility, fallibility and perspective.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 2:39am BST

"duck shoving "

I get the gist from context but would love to know where this comes from ... the ducks I know, who paddle about in the water hazards where I play golf, don't look shovable ...

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 4:16am BST

Keith Ward: Unfortunately, however, most journalists confuse "intelligent design" with "creationism", and then they confuse "intelligent design" with "intelligent creation".

That rings so true...

Posted by Thomas Renz at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 9:14am BST

To Rabbi Jonathan Romain: I agree with the bracketing suggestion. Also we need to establish that Scripture is holy only as used in the holy community of the faithful, who should not be bullied by Scripture as a dead letter. The Church establishes the meaning of Scripture and in light of this quarantines certain parts of Scripture that it has found in tension with the fundamental meaning. We have much to learn from Buddhism here, in its sense that language and religions are radically conventional, flimsy constructions to be handled skillfully and discreetly in pursuit of wisdom; wisdom that is not a matter of drop-dead stunning theophanies or detailed blueprints such as fundamentalists crave, but something more flexible, that shies away from definitive formulations. The poisonous violence that our unreconstructed trust in the letter of Scriptures and magisterial statements has produced must now bring us to a new hermeneutics that will be concerned, unencumbered, with the human and divine essence of religion.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 9:56am BST

Agree totally with Giles Fraser -- why has the failed technology of motorcars not come in for far more intensive scrutiny?

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 10:01am BST

Dissatisfied with Keith Ward -- needlessly polemic I feel. If genetic mutation and natural selection do explain how the world as we know it evolved out of the initial life-forms, then indeed it is unscientific to introduce any divine tinkering with the process at any point. Perhaps the “design” or “purpose” is nothing more than the dynamism of life itself, which can be trusted to produce something marvelous, albeit blindly, and with much waste, much hit-and-miss. The Creator can be seen as confiding the creation of species to that trustworthy force of life, rather than preplanning it all (see Bp Harries interview with Dawkins). Quite conceivably some other being, no less interesting than Man, might have been the result, and would have been just as much in the image and likeness of the Creator. I don’t think Dawkins would disagree that there is beauty and order in the physical laws supporting the evolutionary process. Teilhard would say that it is the drawing force of the divinity that animates the evolutionary process (a rather Plotinian idea perhaps) rather than any anthropomorphic notion of God planning the whole affair out at a drawing board. The intelligibility in the universe reflects the nature of being itself rather than resulting from a plan. Evolution should shake up our ideas of creation and providence a little more than Professor Ward allows it to.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 10:19am BST

Thanks, Cheryl, for your comments.

Posted by JayVinVermont at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 3:00pm BST

Keith Ward's article is unconvincing.

If evolution is local and based on random mutations, then unless the environment is very tightly drawn then an outcome ahead cannot be predicted. So there is no sense in which a God intended humanity. There might be a move towards complexity and it might turn into intelligence, but it could be any intelligent creature, and then there is the business about being conscious about being conscious.

Some people look at life and see how ordered it is, and then say no way could such a pack of cards have arranged itself such without intelligence. They fail to see that any arrangement of the pack of cards has its own unlikely outcome. The lottery balls look ordered after they have come out, but the chance of them coming out means a lottery is a lottery. As for evolution, environments for sorting out order are broad brush.

So once again Christian belief is being forced to believe what is against evolutionary evidence, forced to believe against what the science just shows. The issue about Christian belief is not to create another science, but ask what to do with what we have got. What are the purposes that can be made of the pack of cards now that they have turned up in this fashion rather than another?

Yes it needs a different view of God, at least as far as rejecting pseudo-science is concerned. God tweaked nothing, even if there was a God that lit the blue touch paper and retired, to receive messages each day once intelligence came about with words. I don't have much time for blue touch paper lighting either.

The cards we have produce words, meanings, other imprecise symbols, and it is here where we conduct religious matters, not in creating another science. Theology is theology.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 3:11pm BST

A simple thought regarding Giles Fraser's piece. If I don't have a car, I don't go to church. It is a ten mile return trip and even on a Wednesday morning the train is two hourly and arrives one and a half hours before the service and leaves two hours after it has finished.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 3:16pm BST

Duckshoving (one word or two) is a Down-Under expression - "duckshove" v. to disclaim responsibility or to blame others; to pass the buck.v. to disclaim responsibility or to blame others; to pass the buck. Australian National Dictionary earliest citation 1870. I like it.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 3:34pm BST

I agree with Pluralist.
Living in a normal small village a car is an absolute necessity: hospital (11 miles), doctors surgery (5 miles), leisure centre (4 miles), supermarket (9 miles)... Fortunately, I work from home, but my partner has a 40 minutes journey.
Local public transport is extremely infrequent and unreliable and largely doesn’t go where you need to go.

It's too easy to condemn cars, especially if you live in a city.
Having visited London again last week and seen mothers struggle up and down the tube escalators with pushchairs, toddlers and shopping bags, it strikes me that it's easy to condemn cars if you're a man living in a city.

Yes, we must urgently find ways of restructuring society to solve all these problems, but saying that "cars are a moral issue" is too simplistic.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 5:26pm BST

Re: Keith Ward I cite Douglas Adams: "Isn't it wonderful how the puddle exactly fits the hole made for it?"

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 5:35pm BST

"Teilhard would say that it is the drawing force of the divinity that animates the evolutionary process (a rather Plotinian idea perhaps) rather than any anthropomorphic notion of God planning the whole affair out at a drawing board." (Fr. O'Leary)

For another take on whether or not there was a drawing board, I commend to you all that you enter into your search engines the words Mr. Deity for some truly edifying and revealing short videos on creation.

"Theology is theology". (Pluralist) So is chapter 1 of Genesis. It's not about HOW god created everything, but, rather, a theological poem revealing THAT God created everything. It says, "All the peoples around you are worshipping all these different things, like the sun and the moon and the stars. But I tell you, God created those things. They are creatures with specific purposes, but they are not gods nor are they God. They are subject to God. All creation is subject to God. So don't go worshipping objects. Worship God. In addition, in order to properly contemplate this creation, which has been declared to be 'good', there is one day in every week in which to do so. Thus, this theological poem draws you into itself until you end with that one day, the Queen of the week, the Sabbath. Further, the second chapter is not HOW God created the world, but rather an answer to various questions humans have: why do we have to work so bloody hard, why do the animals seem to give birth easily but human women travail in great pain and at great risk, why is the world so harsh."

Comparing Science and the Theological poetry that is the Genesis creation story, is to compare apples and oranges. It is fruitless ( ! ) to try to have either inform the other.

But then, you may say this is what comes from having women ordained to the priesthood: "the disregard of ancient and legitimate church teaching and practice...a focus on emotional rather than rational argument in theology and morality.* relativism.* tolerance of apostasy"(comments from TitusOneNine as posted on Susan Russell's blog, An Inch at a Time). I don't think so, but OCICBW.
Lois Keen

Posted by Lois Keen at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 7:33pm BST

There have been some fun comments on this thread :-)

Fr Joseph, thanks for taking up the brackets suggestion from Romaine's article. I liked it too but had to edit back to be within the 400 word count.

There are passages in the bible that warn against aggressive or separtist interpretations in theology. Jesus' warnings about reconciling with your enemies before you get to the magistrate is one (Luke 12:56-59) Jesus also exhorts us to love our enemies in Luke 6:27-36. And Jesus' call for mercy here matches the exhortation for God's call for true justice of mercy and compassion in Zechariah 7:9 to 8:17 This last passage is interesting because it opens and ends with a call for compassion but the story in between talks of violence being evidence of things being out of order and safety evidence of things being in order. This imagery is paralleled in Micah 2 to 4, which also does a good job of citing God's rebukes against corrupt theologians.

Then Isaiah 29:15 to 30:21 also carries similar imagery. (Isaiah 31:1 to 3 explores the metaphysical imagery of Egypt a bit more) One important thing in this Isaiah passage is the exhortation not to hasten the end

Ezekiel 24:6-14 is a very clear rebuke of God's hatred of violence been done by his "holy" people(s). Ezekiel 34 is another slam dunk against cruel and negligent shepherds. Basically; if you aren't going to look after the peoples and deprive them of clean water and food; then God will directly intervene to protect them and treat the wasteful shepherds with the contempt that they deserve. This is consistent with Zechariah 10:2 to 11:17

Just a few passages that people might find helpful when confronting aggressive or cruel theologians.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 22 April 2007 at 11:02pm BST

Don't you love it -- cars are a moral issue -- when many are denying that homosexuality is.

What a laugh!!!

Posted by Margaret at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 4:50am BST

Margaret, homosexual orientation is a given that is normally not changeable by human intervention (NARTH notwithstanding), whereas cars are human inventions, and thus involve the use of freedom and responsibility (as does sexual behavior of course). Perhaps you are right that "many are denying" that homosexual behavior is a moral issue, but they are wrong, just as those who deny that the construction and use of cars has a moral dimension.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 9:09am BST

To my mind some of you, by rubbishing "intelligent design" and suggesting that in this way you've made a point against Keith Ward, have just proven him right when he claims that many are unable to distinguish between the theory of "intelligent design" and the concept of "intelligent creation". (He is committed to the latter.)

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 9:16am BST

Margaret: isn't the point that for far too long 'lifestyle choices' of the consumerist sort have been seen as outside the moral sphere? Fraser (to me) seems to be enlarging the compass of moral decision making to encompass rather important issues which have previously been exempt.

It always appalled me how the very conservative (ex-Brethren) type who lived round the back of us in my last parish was fiercely 'against' all sorts of things, but that he had a huge moral blindspot about his stewardship of creation - he took great pride in telling us about his son's new SUV and general gas-guzzling habits, and himself was a frequent visitor to Iona - by large, comfortable, under-occupied car. That this might be a moral issue never, ever crossed his mind. I know there is bastard form of theology in the US which believes our Christian vocation is to exhaust the earth's resources so the Parousia can take place....

No matter how passionate a coupling couple might get, I can't see they make a significant contribution to global warming. As in the old gag 'Do you smoke after sex?' 'No, but I get very hot.'

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 12:06pm BST

Hear hear to Giles Fraser - would that more people could be that counter-cultural even when it is blindingly obvious that we should be. Only Anne Atkins had so far made the same point in the Christian community to my knowledge - what is it about the Putney area that leads to such insight? Maybe they all travel by boat.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 1:05pm BST

Margaret: "Don't you love it -- cars are a moral issue -- when many are denying that homosexuality is."

So a nation's addiction to the automobile prods that nation's leaders to invade and destroy a country in a thinly veiled ruse to get at the oil, and to continue their dependence on the motorcar via that ruined country's oil isn't a relevant moral issue.

But same-sex couples in their addiction to healthy sex are a worldwide threat to society.

What isn't a laugh is that in modern western society it is simply more acceptable to turn on the television and blithely accept two men killing one another and recoil at two men kissing one another.

I'd laugh at it all, if it weren't so sick.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 1:11pm BST

Back in 1990 a once Anglo-catholic priest turned Unitarian minister, incidentally a gay man, now late of this world, was my mentor, and I stayed ten days with him in Kensington where he lived under his church. I was learning some of the ropes. Originally ordained in St. Paul's Cathedral, he did not drive either, and London was his village throughout his life. He was simply able to go around London using the buses, and he knew where they went. It is possible to do this in London, and indeed public transport has its spokes out of London too. He never had any need for a car, nor did he ever have to commute to work. The traffic swirled around his church and lower ground home all day and all night, and many were buses.

One of the biggest failing government ministers has been my ex-MP John Prescott. A very long time ago he spoke about improving public transport, as he talked about other actions that went nowhere throughout his wasted ministerial career. He did nothing of any significance.

Where I live now the trains leave just before the buses. They could co-ordinate, but each will even leave if they see the other arrive. I would not even take the train to Barton to get a bus to Hull. If I caught it going, I wouldn't coming back. The Humber Bridge is such an expensive barrier that even a bus company threatened to withdraw services across it.

So London is quite different, and when Margaret Thatcher (and John Major with rail) wrecked public transport, never put right by her successor Blair, she rather left London alone by comparison.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 2:56pm BST

Thomas;
I think most of us can discriminate between the 'C' word and 'intelligant Creation' - but we can still be suspicious of some of the reasoning we have heard behind it. The anthropic principle tries to run the film backwards, 'because we have won the lottery, we were MEANT to win the lottery'.

It is not like (say) Fred Hoyle's assertion that the electron value of a (was it?) carbon isotope had to be 'x' because he was here - ie, the nuclear process which led from C to O required certain parameters to be met, and had they not been met he would not be here to calculate them.

And IC proponents have to remember that the mutation process oh-so-intelligently directed is also the one implicated in numerous rather nasty diseases. Theodicy raises its head once more....

I respect Ward greatly - but this entire IC thing leaves me uneasy.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 3:25pm BST

David - you are still talking about the theory of "intelligent design" rather than the concept of "intelligent creation" as far as I can tell. I am with Keith Ward: it is possible to believe in an intelligent Creator and the purposefulness of creation without committing onself to the theory of "intelligent design".

If someone gets killed in a car accident, it will always be possible to give a "purely scientific" account of what happened (talking about speed of movement, force of impact and the rest of it - and some will claim that this is the whole story, a claim which itself cannot be established scientifically). But the question whether the driver of the car deliberately killed someone in this "accident" is not one which can be answered scientifically and yet most of us argue and behave as if this question can be asked and answered, even if not with certainty.

Proponents of "intelligent design" may try to argue from the "scientific evidence" that the driver knew what they were doing and anticipated the consequences but it is perfectly possible to conclude that the driver was in fact a murderer without appealing to any "scientific evidence" which allegedly cannot be explained without recourse to intentionality.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 4:22pm BST

Christopher Shell - for sure, let's be counter-cultural.

In North Cornwall, where house prices outstrip average income by upwards of sixteen times; where salaries are the lowest in the country; where seasonal work is higher than anywhere else and where unemployment rates are similarly high, vibrant communities are bieng destroyed by people buying houses and then not living in them very much - while local couples and families cannot find a house to buy or rent. When can I expect to see the Church - or even Giles Fraser - coming out and saying second home ownership is a moral issue, or even, God forbid a sin?

Posted by JBE at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 5:22pm BST

"What isn't a laugh is that in modern western society it is simply more acceptable to turn on the television and blithely accept two men killing one another and recoil at two men kissing one another."

As we say here, 'tis just so well to laugh about it as cry about it! And we don't blithely accept two men killing each other, we accept that there is nothing wrong with our children watching, on average, 5 simulated murders a night on TV, and are now so blase that we see nothing wrong with showing real murders on TV. Violence is OK, same sex affection is destroying society. Is there any wonder the world see us as irrelevant and somewhat mad?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 7:04pm BST

JBE
Second home ownership or irresponsible home ownership?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 7:40pm BST

In some countries they make the journey to church on foot if neccessary.

Is the nearest church really meeting that far away?

Have you considered a church plant?

Posted by dave williams at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 9:57pm BST

JBE: mercifully, I don't own a home anyway....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 10:06pm BST

Thomas: I'm not too sure of your analogy, which reminds me of one about existentialism in one of David Cook's books on ethics. Are you saying that science cannot reconstruct from its own parameters purpose - which seems unexceptionable. But in that case, why are the waters being muddied with the IC concept at all? It seems you're saying it's a purely philosophical concept, akin to Anselm's proofs, and may no more be demonstrated from the observable universe than any other theological or philosophical proposition. So what's its point? 'Creation has a purpose"? Stop the presses! Hold the front page! Pope claims the universe has a purposeful direction other than entropy!

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 10:13pm BST

If you have two houses, one in a part of the world away from where you normally live, you destroy community and contribute to the impoverishment of the poor. If second homes are not good news for the poor - and they aren't - doesnt that make them sinful?

There's huge theological work to be done on home ownership. Someone - preferably a bishop in the South West of England - should do some. Pretty soon, service provision down here is going to be cut dramatically, because nurses, teachers and the like simply can't afford to live here. If all that are left are those in need of care, who will do the caring?

Posted by JBE at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 10:43pm BST

The thing that I don't like about some forms of intelligent creationism is that there is a childish self-absorption in their paradigms.

There is a mistaken belief that the whole universe was created so that God could create "man" so that "man" could be God's best friend.

Rippling from this pat-on-the-back comes the blind spots that if the universe was created so that God had "man" as a companion, then God would not allow "man" to become extinct. Therefore, we don't have to worry about greenhouse gases, gas-guzzling SUVs, sustainability.

Further God only likes "perfect men", so it is okay to abuse or neglect the "unworthies" - whether that be the non-repentant, women, aliens, afflicted, animals, ecosystems, other religions or cultures...

My other warning bells is that there are then leaps of stupidity required to make the paradigm of ultimate safety complete. So the earth did not exist for very long without "man", because that would then infer that "man" was not necessary and was therefore not safe: so we reduce the age of the earth to the age of humanity's collective consciousness. You can see the same kind of hyperboles elsewhere e.g. Jews are evil and don't deserve sympathy so we'll just deny that the holocaust ever happened and suggest the photos and stories are science fiction artworks and a propaganda campaign.

When you see reality being doctored to ensure a paradigm is invincible, you can be sure that there is a fundamental problem and that people are really, really scared to confront their inner fears that maybe their paradigm is a bit "off".

When you see people editing reality to this degree, then you should know that you can not trust them to make rational decisions that are in the greater good's best interests. They will allow all sorts of atrocities to happen to those who are not graced in their paradigms, because their delusion tells them that God would tolerate and/or attack enemies of their reality.

That's why we have some really stupid people trying to sound really clever whilst denying that anything humanity has done has contributed to the greenhouse effect. Unless humanity is 100% responsible, then we don't have to do anything to fix the 10/20/30/40% contribution that is within our control? Another example of duckshoving.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 11:10pm BST

Mynsterpreost: "anthropic principle: 'because we have won the lottery, we were MEANT to win the lottery'."

I like that. Evolutionary biologists say "We won the lottery because we were lucky".

Keith Ward: "some identifiable processes cannot be explained on neo-Darwinian principles, and require reference to some intelligent designer...It has not been well-received by biologists in general, and so one would not be well advised to accept it too readily"

You can say that again. Darwin may not explain everything there is to know about evolution, just as Einstein eventually updated Newton. I doubt if there are many biologists who would take seriously the idea of having to invoke an intelligent designer.

KW: "Christians will think that a neo-Darwinian account of evolution is incomplete, since it misses out the vital thing - God's plan"

Well maybe we need to rethink God. He's becoming more and more redundant in the scientific field. Is an omnipotent omniscient creator the right way to think about God in the light of what the sciences teach us? Isn't the Old Testament idea of God just too patriarchal, too controlling, too convenient?

KW: "Whether God, a purely spiritual reality, can be detected by scientific methods is another question...We need to know when biologists go beyond the scientific evidence to make comments about chance or purpose that are philosophical, not scientific, judgements."

If God exists, then He can be detected by scientific methods. God certainly "exists" in our imagination, in our culture, our religion. Nothing is beyond the reach of the sciences, though, and it's about time theologians conceded this.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Monday, 23 April 2007 at 11:52pm BST

JBE
I agree there is huge theological and practical work to be done in the South West, I live there too!. But abolishing "second home ownership" is nothing but a buzz word. It smacks of people buying only to have a holiday base. What about responsible buying to let? Many people don't want to buy: students, people moving about a lot, people on short term working contracts. It's not irresponsible to have a house/flat they can rent.

I know it's an emotive issue down here, but I am every so wary of quick and ready answers.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 7:19am BST

JBE's comments about second homes are part of a wider debate which should be happening within the churches, but seems far too muted - what is the responsible use of wealth? As long as Christian values are seen as being largely those of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph (in UK), where a shock headline is that someone who has accumulated vast amounts of unearned wealth through ludicrous rises in the value of their property should in any way be required to use some of that wealth to support themselves in later life, we're stuffed.

Sexual morality has for far too long been under the Christian microscope, with an assumption that The Bible Has Spoken on such matters and that must end all debate (hat tip NP), but we have not dared touch the theology of wealth, even more present in the Bible. I wonder why?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 8:12am BST

People don't buy to let in Cornwall to benefit students. It's about funding a holiday home. Rents down here are becoming out of reach of ordinary people anyway - I'm often involved in helping young families find somewhere to live, so it's something I have some experience of. Rents of buy-to-let properties are habitually levied at at least the monthly mortgage - impossible to meet for couples in the poorest part of the country.

Somebody quoted the deregulation of buses and the privatisation of rail as contributing to the collapse of transport infrastructure everywhere but London: in fact the worst legacy of the Thatcher government was the Housing Act 1980, which forced councils to sell off their housing stock at below their true value, thus slashing, at a stroke, the available properties for rent to those who cannot or do not want to buy.

Posted by JBE at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 8:40am BST

JBE
If you're only talking about holiday homes in pretty villages that stand empty most of the time, then yes, I couldn't agree more!

All I was saying is that we must be careful not to destroy our case by making sweeping statements about ALL ownership of more than one properties being neccessarily morally wrong.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 9:45am BST

All ownership of more than one house is wrong. It contributes, as I said, to the destruction of community and impoverishment of the poor. It drives young people away from their families. It is undertaken for the sole purpose of making money, and is inspired by nothing but greed.

There's a housing crisis in this country. It's not been caused by a population boom, or by immigration, despite what the Press would have you believe. It's been caused by a massive rise in second home ownership and the destruction of local authority housing stock. If you own a second home, you are a part of the problem. You don't need it, and by having it you directly affect other people's lives for the worse. It is wrong.

Posted by JBE at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 11:09am BST

Isn't amazing how authoritarian the left becomes so naturally!

It is becoming illegal to hold certain views in the UK - very tolerant, left-wing government!

Now some people want to restrict the freedom of others, who have paid their taxes, when they come to choose how they spend their own income!

Tolerant, liberal democracy ?

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 12:19pm BST

NP,
Where did we say that it is illegal to hold any views in the UK?

All we said is that, as Christians, we have to consider the moral implications of our economic choices.

And if my holiday home is purchased at the cost of a local family unable to remain living there, I certainly have to make a better moral case than to say "I've paid my taxes so I choose how to spend them".

Surely, as a Scripture abdiding economic leftie you would agree with that?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 12:49pm BST

Thank you, Norris McWhirter.

Of course, your freedom to spend your own income is already curtailed. You may not buy all sorts of things which are damaging to society. I argue that a second home is one of those things which damages society.

By the way, I have never claimed tolerance as a virtue. I am simply more concerned about human behaviour which affects thousands of people, than human behaviour which affects only the indiviuals concerned. Your economic choices affect other people - you thus have a moral duty to exercise them with care. Love one another is still in your bible, isn't it NP? Along with Amos and Isaiah?

Posted by JBE at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 12:49pm BST

NP

Erika got in first, but I was also going to ask you to give us an instance of UK legislation that limits the holding of views?

Perhaps you meant that you think some laws limit the free expression of views?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 1:01pm BST

'..very tolerant, left-wing government!...'

The Governement is hardly left-wing (ask homeless people, nurses, prisoners, and the parents of children with a wide range of speical needs);

or tolerant (ask the people of Iraq)

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 1:18pm BST

I am so glad that housing is being addressed here. And so thoughtfully and with knowledge.

It is a serious matter of great concern. I worry about young couples and those with children--as well as single people young and old and all who need a place to live in their own district or village.

At root a profoundly political & spiritual issue.

Perhaps, we need another Faith in the City style in depth investigation, drawing on the strengths of the Church

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 2:31pm BST

...Is the nearest church really meeting that far away? ...Have you considered a church plant?_ dave williams_

The nearest is 30 seconds away, but I prefer somewhere with comparative breadth and brains.

In another setting I used to suggest church plants. Now I think I am my own church plant, and I just sow myself in other pots with soil variations and different effect growing chemicals.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 3:25pm BST

Simon - does not SORS limit the room for freedom of conscience and effectively make some views illegal in preventing people from acting in line with their views?

(eg a printer who might not want to print invitations to certain types of "weddings" will face a legal penalty for his religious view, right?)

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 3:30pm BST

NP I have just linked to an article about this point from today's Times newspaper. Let's take this discussion to that article, OK?
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002371.html

But "acting" is not the same as "thinking".

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 3:38pm BST

David - the Tablet essay does not give away a great deal about what Pope Benedict actually says in his new book. Keith Ward observes that as soon as someone says that the cosmos is "an intelligent project, with direction and order", they are heard as aligning themselves with a specific theory of "intelligent design".

Now why is that? Keith Ward suggests lack of effort - note the concluding sentence "But what some journalists have not realised is that they would have to read the book before commenting on it." I am sure this accounts for much, especially in the world of journalism with all its pressures.

Another reason may be the "alarm bell syndrome". Some people have a significant store of trigger words and phrases. They only need to read, e.g., the words "intelligent" and "creation" in the same sentence and alarm bells ring so loud and clear that it becomes impossible for them to hear anything other than the alarm bells and thus conversation ends before it even begun.

Hugh of Lincoln: "If God exists, then He can be detected by scientific methods." Sure, you've got to believe that if you hold to the world-view of "scientific naturalism" or "materialism". But where is the scientific proof for that axiom?

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 7:50pm BST

Thomas said
Hugh of Lincoln: "If God exists, then He can be detected by scientific methods." Sure, you've got to believe that if you hold to the world-view of "scientific naturalism" or "materialism". But where is the scientific proof for that axiom?


Remember the Babel fish....

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 9:58pm BST

Thomas: "But where is the scientific proof for that axiom?"

On the basis that if anything exists in the physical world, then, theoretically at least, it can be detected.

Perhaps the question should be "Can God be detected using our senses? Or is He extra-sensory?"


Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 10:14pm BST

Hugh of Lincoln

Maybe you'd like to read the bible? Gideon did not find God remote - the scenes of wet fleece/dry ground and vice versa are rather amusing. "Please prove that you are talking to me so that I and others don't think I've become a nutter".

Moses had quite a few heart to hearts with God too, many witnessed by other souls and others trusting in his anecdotes based on all the other evidence they saw.

Look at some of the dialogues between the prophets and leaders and God.

When you start to see the same personality and humour come out with various players in varying circumstances, you start to see that there is a consistent consciousness that has communicated with all those players.

Then again, you could take the exitentiialist argument, by which basis I deny that you exist as I have not seen you, heard your voice or touched you. And anyone who testifies about you is obviously insane or delusional.

If you wouldn't want to be written off by such a legalistic hyperbole, please show the same courtesy to God.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 11:07pm BST

Cheryl: "Moses had quite a few heart to hearts with God...please show the same courtesy to God."

I find it hard to be courteous reading Numbers 31 - God orders Moses to commit genocide against the Midianites.

But I accept there are more palatable passages.


Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:50am BST

"On the basis that if anything exists in the physical world, then, theoretically at least, it can be detected."

Science is all about reproducable phenenoma. God is not a reproducable phenenoma. Any God which could be detected by science isn't a god.

Posted by ruidh at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 3:18am BST

While I am not trying to run a "proof for God" argument neither do I wish to imply that proof denies faith, if this is what the Babel fish reference is meant to suggest.

What I am saying is that the claim that "If God exists, then He can be detected by scientific methods" is as non-scientific as the affirmation of the existence of God, "non-scientific" in the sense of not susceptible to scientific evidence and argument.

This does not mean that the two contradictory statements of faith cannot be discussed rationally. To affirm more specifically the Christian faith involves one in making historical claims. Thus, e.g., the (traditional) doctrine of the incarnation implies that in the person of a first century Jew God has indeed been accessible to human senses. This claim is not open to scientific proof but this does not mean it is complete non-sense. In my estimation it is not even open to historical proof but this does not mean that is a matter of blind faith. The claim is open to historical research, e.g., to start with it makes sense to ask whether this person Jesus of Nazareth even existed, to examine what we can reasonably assume Jesus to have said and done etc.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 9:40am BST

Just realised that the use of "contradictory" in my 9:40 post presumes one or two things not spelled out, especially that by "detected" we mean "explained as a feature of the material universe" (because this is what we seek to do when we apply scientific methods) and that a "god" that can be explained in such a way is not "God" as affirmed in any of the traditional monotheistic beliefs.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:08pm BST

JBE-
I agree with you broadly. Second-home ownership is a step in the wrong direction for several reasons. No-one needs more than one. No-one can live in more than one at the same time. Every extra home means one fewer that another person can inhabit, and/or a hike in prices for everone else. The god served is Mammon/capitalism.

Choirboyfromhell-
I so agree that it is sick the amount of killings on tv. A lot of American TV / movies seems to be about killing and smashing things up, and it says a lot about where America is at, as well as normalising (which equates to a not-insignificant percentage of causing) violence. Why, why, why?

The intelligent creation thing is puzzling. Just what God do we/you believe in if that God had no hand in creation?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:38pm BST

Sorry Thomas, a confusing 'snip' on my part. I happen to agree with your last posting.

On 'proofs' for the existence of God (among which I used to number the continued survival of the CofE despite eveything we did - but these days it doesn't seem so funny) - my old doctrine tutor always cautioned us that, even if Anselm got it right, it's an awful long way from that to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... and Jesus.

To quote Terry Pratchett: "The witches didn't believe in the gods. They knew they existed, but to believe in them would be like believing in the postman."

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:46pm BST

The assertion, for non-realists, that God is the "Ground of Being", is surely open to scientific inquiry.

Fideism, imho, is un-Anglican because it excludes reason.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 12:47pm BST

Can I toss in that God created the world, ergo must be outside of the created world. Thus, He is not amenable to the kind of measurements science can make. We simply don't have, and I would argue can't build, a God detector. On a basic level, we can't even conceive of what we are looking for. Besides, why would you want to? Think of Whitman's When I Heard the Learned Astronomer. Seeking to prove the existence of God in some scientific way sounds pretty soulless to me, actually.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 1:51pm BST

David - I agree with everything in your last post.

Hugh of Lincoln - you may have missed my previous post. I am not arguing for fideism but I am saying that there is more to rationality than can be measured in a test tube. Can you prove scientifically that Adolf Hitler existed? I don't think so. Are therefore all history books which claim that he did guilty of fideism? I don't think so.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 2:21pm BST

Thomas: "there is more to rationality than can be measured in a test tube"

Yes I agree. And faith is as much a feature in science as in religion. I believe that scientists are right to assert that the Earth orbits the Sun, or that life on Earth came about through evolutionary processes. I wouldn't be able to give scientific proofs, but I'm confident they are in the public domain, and the explanations seem to me to be entirely plausible.

So science is grounded in reason and reality. You may argue that religion is too. You might say they are non-overlapping magesteria, or you might point out that actually there is an overlap. Keith Ward seems to think so. But you can't have it both ways.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 25 April 2007 at 4:36pm BST

"faith is as much a feature in science as in religion" - agreed; indeed scientists cannot but work with assumptions for which they have no proof, some of which are not even accessible to scientific proof (e.g., the existence of the external world in the first place)

"science is grounded in reason and reality" - agreed, although reason and reality themselves cannot be fully encompassed by science ("the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences" - Eugene Wigner, 1960)

The Christian faith "is grounded in reason and reality" - the overlap with historical research is arguably greater than that with natural sciences as far as research domains are concerned

Posted by Thomas Renz at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 9:30am BST

"scientists cannot but work with assumptions for which they have no proof"

Mathematicians derive truth using logic. The empirical sciences do so using evidence and mathematical rigour. Weak or false assumptions are put to the test by new theories or evidence.

Nothing is off-limits for the sciences it seems; there is no theological or philosophical realm in the physical universe beyond the reach of science.

From a non-realist perspective, I'm quite happy that science can answer the big questions previously belonging to religion.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 11:47am BST

Before my reference to Wigner is misunderstood as an attempt at proving the existence of God, let me stress that its purpose is to point out that there are important questions about reality which cannot be answered by pure science, questions like this one:

"How can it be that mathematics, being after all product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?" (Albert Einstein)

People have argued that this question is impossible to address but the argument is a philosophical one, not a scientific one.

This was also what my example with the car accident sought to illustrate. There are different levels of interpretation and it is right to affirm that they interact but the move to reduce everything to "nothing but" material cause and effect or "what can be explained by science" is itself not a move warranted by science.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 12:02pm BST

"How can it be that mathematics, being after all product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?" (Albert Einstein)

Mathematics is, at its most fundamental and historic level, about solving practical problems concerning counting (number theory and algebra) and physical space (geometry). Theorems have been derived from these, with the striking consequence that they can be used by physicists to solve some of the deep problems of the universe. In a sense, the human mind maps onto physical reality, which should be no surprise given that we are part of that reality.

Yes, Mathematics requires imagination as much as logic; so in this sense it mirrors subjective pursuits such as religion or the arts.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 11:36pm BST

Christopher Shell: America has evolved into an all violent society. Just look at what happened in Virginia a week ago.

We spend more money on "football", i.e. American rugby, a contact sport fraught with injuries, at individual high schools than we do music in entire school districts.

We love the rush of anger, and many are attracted to the crazed (but simple minded in my opinion) intensity of large, charismatic and authoritarian fundamentalist churches.

A fifteen-year old boy was shot and killed in my midwestern city this week after he had pulled a handgun in an attempt to rob a 25-year old man in front of his house. The family of the young robber wannabe is castigating the man for protecting himself. That both had weapons is a sad fact of life of a nation that is very far from God.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 2:38am BST
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