Comments: still more on the embryology bill

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

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 31 March 2008 at 11:54am BST

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.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 31 March 2008 at 1:43pm BST

DavidA, re +Tom: PWNED! ;-)

Posted by JCF at Monday, 31 March 2008 at 5:23pm BST

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

Posted by badman at Monday, 31 March 2008 at 9:08pm BST

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

Posted by Flossie at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 6:10am BST

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, for instance ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 7:16am BST

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.

Perhaps the secular nature of society has more to do with generations of church leaders unable to cope with communicating effectively than any anti-church agenda. In other words, isn't our decline as an institution self-inflicted? Shouldn't we be examining our institution rather more critically if we want to understand why no-one listens to it any more?

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 11:20am BST

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?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 1:07pm BST

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.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 3:30pm BST

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.

Posted by L Roberts at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 5:55pm BST

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.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 6:31pm BST

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 and suicide in the Greco/Roman world.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 7:06pm BST

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 is about bright illiberals v liberal airheads, surely. Face me in debate and I'll wipe the floor with you!

I think, rather, that Christian homophobia is completely explicable by psychology, and has nothing at all to do with logic, or doctrine. Otherwise, it would not be this issue which, uniquely, presents such a big obstacle to a group of conservative Christian men. It must be that the gay issue touches upon some sensitive psychological thread which deeply challenges men operating in male-run, power-talking churches. Do we think that the psychology of patriarchy could be the explanation? It can't be the purity of doctrine, or there would have been a lot of other issues to make a fuss about, which weren't in fact regarded as first-order ones previously.

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 9:06pm BST

"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?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 1 April 2008 at 11:22pm BST

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

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

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 ?

Posted by L Roberts at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 11:52am BST

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.

Posted by L Roberts at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 11:59am BST

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

Posted by Ben W at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 1:18pm BST

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 himself was jolly shabby.

A gentle tone of voice is good (even necessary) in itself but has no bearing on whether the words are true or not. I also think it can be a filibustering delaying tactic to divert debates on issues of substance onto this side issue (on which we probably all agree anyway, but which is not directly relevant to resolving the debates).

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 2:09pm BST

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.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 3:54pm BST

"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 ask how much that person actually understands the message he is trying to preach.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 5:37pm BST

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.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 2 April 2008 at 7:17pm BST

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 truth be sought and so far as possible found.

Supposing that Wilberforce occasionally lost his temper when he saw cruelty - should we hold that against him? I would ten thousand times rather someone who lost their temper in appropriate cuircumstances than someone who was so cold as to plan tactically to 'win an argumsnt' by staying ice-cool.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 4 April 2008 at 9:21am BST

Hi Fr Mark-

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

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 4 April 2008 at 1:04pm BST

"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 multitude of sins.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 4 April 2008 at 6:45pm BST
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