Thinking Anglicans

pre-Christmas opinion

Jane Williams starts a new series for Comment is free belief with The Book of Genesis, part 1: God created. “Genesis looks at what the culture around it believes about the nature of the material world, and disagrees with it profoundly.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Defending the faith from its cheerleaders.

James Jones writes for Living Lightly: The Bishop Reflects at Christmas.

Christopher Howse writes in The Telegraph about An African church in Hampshire. “The leading church architect of the 20th century found inspiration in North Africa,” he says.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes for The Washington Post about The difference between Jesus and Santa Claus.

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Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Jane Williams’ essay is the best counter-argument to the creationists I have read in many years.

Pluralist
Guest

Regarding James Jones’s piece. Just because a story uses reversals and radical transformations of character like ‘the Good Shepherd’ to be consistent with the hoped for Kingdom of God does not make the story history. It is still a fable of the apparent past, just as the consistent hoped for future wasn’t realised and is a utopia.

Pluralist
Guest

Regarding Jane Williams’s piece. She wrote: “It is not what we might call a “scientific” disagreement, in that it is not so much talking about the mechanics of how the world comes into being. Instead, it is a “theological” disagreement, which leads to a radical rethinking of what human life is for and how the human and divine realm interact. Genesis is arguing that our lives are not accidental and purposeless…” But here’s the problem. Whatever it argues, however theological it is as opposed to anything else, the fact that the world does come into being otherwise than Genesis, indeed… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Thanks you Giles. As Fr Mark has said elsewhere, Christians are hardly likely to get their heads kicked in while crossing Trafalgar Square whereas gay men, going about their ordinary business, are murdered there. And no Christian leader says anything at all.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8207682/Public-schoolgirl-jailed-for-deadly-attack-on-gay-civil-servant.html

Fr Mark
Guest

Well said, Giles Fraser.

Meanwhile, in real modern Britain, rather than episcopal fantasy-land, people get their heads kicked in, not for being Christian, but for being gay http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8207682/Public-schoolgirl-jailed-for-deadly-attack-on-gay-civil-servant.html

Could George Carey, Michael Scott-Joynt and their chums please raise their loud and privileged voices against violence committed merely on the basis of the sexual orientation which they so stigmatise?

Bill Moorhead
Guest

I am always struck by how an article on religion or faith on the Guardian’s Comments Are Free–Belief page is very much like suddenly turning on the lights in an old decrepit house: the cockroaches go scurrying everywhere (in the CIF case, in the Comments section). Mindless kneejerk atheism is obviously alive and well in the UK. I thought Dr. Williams’ article on Genesis was very good and thoughtful, and Geoff Melnick did a nice job in the Comments section spraying the cockroaches. Over on our side, we have more problems with mindless kneejerk fundamentalism than with m.k. atheism. Although,… Read more »

Counterlight
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Counterlight

“But here’s the problem. Whatever it argues, however theological it is as opposed to anything else, the fact that the world does come into being otherwise than Genesis, indeed as a science, tells us that human life is accidental and purposeless, and that only we can give it that purpose in our transience.”

I’m probably more comfortably within the bounds of what people call Anglicanism than Pluralist, but I agree with him.
Belief (and unbelief) are ultimately arbitrary decisions.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Yes Bill, they do. People repeating tired old cliches rather than engaging with arguments. As regards Pluralists comments on +James Jones piece – yes, but one way of judging if something is history or not is to see if it is what was likely to be invented. It is not full proof of course (it is likely the Conservative Party story would include Prime Ministers from Eton and it does, it is likely the Labour Party story would include aspiring men from modest backgrounds becoming its leaders and it does). Shepherds are not that likely an invention – judging what… Read more »

Murdoch
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Murdoch

Genesis gets a kind of spurious authority from being the first book in the Bible — “In the Beginning” and all that. But it seems to be one of the texts cobbled together in Babylon when Judaism was being invented. Doubleday once published an edition of the scriptures in the order of composition; it gave rather a different view of the relationship of the parts. Scholars have found no evidence for the history in the Hebrew scriptures earlier than the Kings at the time of the compilation — Solomon, David, everything before, fiction or lore. I thought the first page… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Once again, Lord Carey and his friends have got it badly wrong……Furthermore, what many people suspect – and they are probably correct – is that this sort of campaign is motivated by a very narrow band of ethical concerns, led, once again, by a visceral disgust at homosexuality. When Lord Carey speaks of the need to stand up for Christianity, many of us now hear him as saying something as petty as the need to stand up for the right to be anti-gay. Well, count me out! – Giles Fraser, C.T. – Me too!. This sort of homophobic derailment of… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Giles Fraser is correct about Carey and the other professional Christian victims,

Meanwhile, the US Senate joins the House of Representatives in abolishing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the US can join Great Britain and other civilized nations in letting glbt people serve openly in the armed services. This despite a full-on attack by conservative Propestant chaplains. Implementation will not be instant, but we’re on our way. Don’t tell Lord Carey!

Pluralist
Guest

From what Rosemary Hannah said: let me ask, what were some shepherds going to see? Where was this? Who told them, and why would it have been interesting to go and see that baby?

It is a myth from top to bottom. Jesus becomes interesting when he opens his mouth and starts talking, once he’s learnt something and starts moving around. And even that is all wrapped up in the thoughts and hopes of the early Churches.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Murdoch – in the eyes of current scholarship, it is not quite like that. The jury is very much out on whether any/much of the narrative in Samuel and Kings is able to be traced back to the period in question. I myself (and I am pretty conservative) would tend to see much of the Succession Narrative as early, but by no means all or even most scholars do. There is a general tendency to push much of the ‘history’ into the Persian period. That makes much of Genesis, if it has its roots in Babylon, pretty early. ‘Cobbled together’… Read more »

evensongjunkie
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evensongjunkie

Hear, hear (or is it here, here?) Fr. Mark..
Meanwhile here in ‘Uhmerka’, (after the UK legislated it more than a decade ago) the LGBT community is finally allowed to serve in the military without lying about it.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101219/ap_on_go_co/us_gays_in_military

And don’t worry, one of our upper-chamber dinosaurs, the ex-candidate for president is making equally disgusting comments and playing the “victim” all too well. Maybe they’ll see the handwriting on the wall…… at the rest home.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“indeed as a science, tells us that human life is accidental and purposeless”

It does? And I thought it told us about the mechanics of evolution etc., about everything from the Big Bang onward.
If you can confidently say anything about whether the origin of life is accidental or whether it has purpose, you’re a better scientist than any I know.

And, no, this is not God-of-the-gap stuff, this is just a basic recognition that we actually don’t know.

Old Father William
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Old Father William

“Over on our side, we have more problems with mindless kneejerk fundamentalism than with m.k. atheism. Although, when you think about it, they really do have a lot in common, don’t they?” -Bill Moorhead.
Indeed they do. I think they speak the same language, and that both are singularly lacking in imagination.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

I really do think that Pluralist needs to be reminded that, for Believers, religion involves engagement of the heart as well as the mind

Yeh! I’m a Believer!

murdoch
Guest
murdoch

“But there is a heck of a lot more to Genesis than questions of whether it is ‘historical’ or ‘scientifically accurate’. What, to a Jew or a Christian, makes the beginning of Genesis stunning is the fact that God created the world and found it good. To us, that is hugely significant.” But Genesis is not a FACT, it’s a STORY someone told, and the moral, that creation is good, is really independent of the story; you tell the story to back up the conclusion you want, you don’t infer it from the story. I’m with the Pluralist — religions… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Murdoch humour us for a minute please. Stand with us in this place where there is indeed a loving God who created with a purpose. What method of revelation/awareness/evidence could possibly make you recognise it or hope it? I accept that you cannot access the myths in the same way we can. But short of ancient people having come across a book with physical descriptions and mathematical equasions, can you imagine any way at all that might make you believe? Because it strikes me that unless you think of what COULD, in theory, touch you, you only ever plant yourself… Read more »

john
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john

Random observations: (1) I think one of the interesting things about Carey is that he’s not actually homophobic (or at least I don’t read him as such: others may know differently from other things he says or does). I recall him saying a few years ago that he thought it perfectly possible that Christian doctrine on this question might reasonably change. So I think he’s more opportunist (has decided that this is a useful dividing-line) than homophobic. I don’t claim that this makes him a responsible moral agent. (2) I’m not with Pluralist. It’s perfectly legitimate for Christians (Williams, Jones)… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

I missed Puralist’s comment to me – I imagine he can anticipate my answer. Angels. I imagine them a huge and terrifying, flaming and other-than-human, but dear knows how they chose to appear that night. The thing is, if you start from the assumption (it is just that) that all people experience is the totally normal, that which current science can anticipate and explain – you will dismiss as not-having-happened all sorts of things which people do actually experience, and which (if they think you will not scoff) they will happily tell you about. And that people will only experience… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Murdoch – there are few ‘facts’ – there are a good many useful working hypotheses. I very much doubt the creation account was ever meant to be read as ‘a fact’ – but if you think ‘stories’ are without power, I suggest you read what Terry Pratchett has to say of the power of stories. ‘Stories’ transform. They express. They create.

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

john is quite right to say few NT scholars would accept the birth narratives – I don’t think I (and I’m not a NT scholar) would accept them in toto. But I think we need to be aware that some of the methods which cause them to be dismissed are – well, incestuous. They rely on circular arguments, and more on literary criticism than on historical methods. But that does not mean I accept or reject them on grounds of faith – just that I think some literary arguments are too too circular to be intellectually satisfying. So it is… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

John, Being homophobic isn’t merely a set of intellectual beliefs. On the contrary, I would say that the convictions of your heart determine the intellectual framework you subscribe to. Actions speak louder than words… by their fruits shall you tell them…what you have done to the least of them…. I am not at all interested in what Lord Carey says he thinks, what betrays him is what he does. As for my understanding of faith, I don’t think I have said anything at all about how I experience it or what level of conviction I have. What I am trying… Read more »

Kennedy
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Kennedy

Two BBC things: +ABC has an article in the Christmas edition of Radio Times (UK BBC TV and Radio listings magazine – circulation of c950,000 per week). See http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/3090 The Nativity – BBC 1 7:00pm (GMT) (Mon 20th – Thu 24th) A primetime slot for a retelling of the Nativity story written by Tony Jordan. “Andrew Buchan (Garrow’s Law, Cranford), Peter Capaldi (In The Loop, The Thick of It) and rising star Tatiana Maslany (Cra$h & Burn, A Grown Up Movie Star) have been cast in a magical re-telling of the classic Nativity story. Written by Tony Jordan (Life On… Read more »

John Waldsax
Guest
John Waldsax

I recall still with joy and amusement Eartha Kitt being guest interviewer on Monitor, Huw Weldon’s late night show when the BBC still did programmes for thinkers, oh, about 40 years ago. She was interviewing the then controvertial materialist philosopher Freddy Ayer on his atheism and pressing him hard on what he would say on encoutering God after he died.”Well”, he replied with the customary arrogance of his tribe, “I would demand of Him an explanation as to why He didn’t furnish me with proof of His existence while I was alive!”.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Waldsax
Is that really an arrogant statement? It strikes me that some people’s intellectual and psychological make-up just makes faith extremely difficult for them if not impossible. Just because some of us find it easier doesn’t mean that it IS a simple endeavour.

And if someone completely evidence based ever did discover that there is a God, he might well ask why his brain didn’t evolve in a way that made faith possible for him and what that says about the power that created him.

I have a lot of sympathy for the question.

murdoch
Guest
murdoch

“‘Stories’ transform. They express. They create.” Amen and amen. Stories are powerful. But some can be verified, some cannot. Some can be falsified. It matters whether a story has any basis in “fact.” The stories told about gay people in fundamentalist circles are fervently believed, false, and extremely damaging, for example. We have the illusion that we see a world outside ourselves, but actually all that we see is inside our heads, interpretations of sensory receptions. Fiction can create worlds as real to our minds as the actual world. Many of us have lived for a time in Middle Earth!… Read more »

peterpi
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peterpi

I read the Daily Express story, thank you Kennedy, and I find all this publicly pious posturing amusing. Even today, we have men perfectly willing to stone women whose pregnancy cannot be adequately explained to the men, especially if the women are unmarried in the eyes of the men. We have women being executed after being raped because, well, the women must have been immodest. The rapists get a few canings and go home. We look at the Nativity stories through roughly 1,900 years of religious filtering, through art, written texts and commentaries, beautiful music, and wonderful movies. IIRC, Mary… Read more »

Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

John Waldsax, Sir Alfred Jules Ayer was President of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which campaigned for the equalization of laws for homosexuals. He said, “as a notorious heterosexual I could never be accused of feathering my own nest.” For his time this nonbeliever was an exemplary pioneer for LGBT equality, which is more than can be said for many representatives of the established Church of England. (The Quakers and Unitarians were light years ahead of the C of E. and also much more accommodating to nonbelievers.) As a gay man, I am indebted to people who have helped make… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Erika, I don’t think you are construing either of these points correctly. (1) It is logically possible to conceive of people behaving in a certain way without really believing it or without being absolutely committed to it? Happens all the time, I would have said. Apply to Carey. His behaviour looks like straight homophobic or Evangelical can’t break free from his premises. In fact, when he says he can conceive of church acceptance, he reveals himself as immediately more complex and of course still unprincipled. But he’s not viscerally homophobic. He isn’t. (2)I don’t see that you are keeping the… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

The point is, Murdoch, that Genesis is belief expressed as story. The creation is not, I believe, INTENDED to be read as history or as science. That fact some mistakenly (in my view) read it in that way does not invalidate what it is trying to say. It is NOT the same thing as presenting as fact something which is an invention. There is nothing at all doubtful or immoral in presenting one’s beliefs through the form of poetry or narrative fiction. The problem only arises when somebody, reading, mistakes the intent. As to the birth narratives, they are not… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, Well, whether Carey is committed to homophobia or just happens to try to ruin gay people’s lives out of boredom and just kind of stumbles into these situations is semantics. Fact is, his involvement is always on the anti-gay side, it is always about not wanting to employ gay people or about not wanting them in your house, and he always shouts that his brand of Christians are being oppressed because they’re not allowed to discrimminate against gay people. He doesn’t need to be “viscerally” homophobic, it’s enough that he is a practicing homophobe. As for not having a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“I don’t like all this talk about ‘feeling’, ‘heart’, etc. It’s very vulnerable intellectually – and it’s the intellectual case for God that’s under attack now (as indeed it should be – I have no quarrel with atheists or atheists mouthing off).” – John, on Monday – ‘Heart stuff’ is, indeed, very vulnerable intellectually. It does well to remember, though even the apostle Paul (who was a bit of an intellectual, if I have categorised him correctly), when he met the risen Christ (whether in person or in a vision) had his own belief system turned upside-down and inside-out; by… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Rosemary Hannah, A question about the Succession Narrative (2 Sam 9-20; 1 Kings 1-2): Do you think it possible that its author is none other than the Yahwist? Robert Alter points out that the narratives in Gen 27 and 2 Sam 13:1-22 have the same structure (7 scenes with 2 speakers in each scene, one of whom appears in the following scene; both stories centre on a man in bed) and that the 2 Sam story echoes Gen 39.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“If God has no ‘hard’ explanatory function within the universe/multiverse, that’s very troubling for theists and should be. You have to commit to the proposition of God as ultimate cause”

(Ignoring the “have to” imperative—which naturally gets my dander up!)

This sounds very linear—and very human. Partial. Mortal. Fallible. Limited.

God—if God there be—is necessarily BIGGER than that. (Bigger than Biggest!) Beyond the Beyond. And waaaaaay beyond “hard explanatory…proposition of…ultimate cause.”

WHATEVER we can conceive of, ain’t God.

…which is why I stick w/ metaphor, analogy, allusion: “Life dies on the cross. For Love.” Stuff like that…

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

First: Re The Augustan Census. There were two. The first, the actual listing of the Households, in 2 BCE the second, the taxation, some 7 years later, if I remember rightly. Quirinius, who was promoted between 1 and 2, was responsible for both. Second: Re Bethroted. The Bethrotal was the l e g a l form in all lands until well after the Gregorian Reforms of the 11th and 12th centuries (in Sweden until 1915/1918). So, no nonsence about Mary being “unmarried”. The Wedding (the Feast) had not taken place yet, but otherwise Joseph and Mary were m a r… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Dunno Spirit – it is blindly obvious that whoever wrote it, did so with a view to showing Solomon in the the best possible light. David is great – but not TOO great – his failings are there, but not such as to suggest his sons cannot inherit his good qualities. His mother, Bathesheba gets off incredibly lightly. This would be true whatever period it is written in. It is not so much a pro-Davidic document as a pro-Solomonic one.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

That our world, in its imponderable depth and infinite variety, is sustained by and depends on some gracious power and wisdom, which all people call “God,” is a truth not formulable in hard scientific categories but that is very persuasive to those who see the world with the eye of poet or philosopher.