Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blogwatch...with invisible links, so I'm told!


I was very impressed to discover this article on the effects of education on belief in religious literalsim - with nice diagrams - from Pluralist here Do take a look and see whether his findings surprise you. Entry for 29th May.

Also, new boy on the blog (geddit?) Leo here could do with encouraging as he develops his blog network. Give him some advice on prayer.

As ever Boaz here is worth a look as he deconstructs Sydney Anglicanism.

Then go and give my friend Reverend Boy some encouragement here as he contemplates the finances of training for the ministry.

Another friend, Claudius, here who I study with, is practicing for a charity cylcle from London to Paris. His rear end is sore.

Poor Mad Priest here is having a turgid time at present regarding jobs and he is very pastoral towards the rest of us, so pop over and offer some cheer. See Diary Entry 29th May.

Finally: two video extracts which should frighten you to death, unless you are used to this sort of thing. The ministry of healing - or not showing at Waynedawg's blog here and one that tests the boundaries of mixing religion and politics at Jeff Greathouse's blog here.

Quite a mixed bag. Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dad is home.


Dad has been home from hospital for some days. He was very moved when I told him that people from all over the world had been praying for him and he asks that I thank you all.

He is looking very well and gains in strength daily, although he is frustrated that he gets tired about lunchtime.

Who doesn't?

The district nurses visit regularly and now that he is at home he can potter about with a stick (he'll soon get fed up with that) and be more independent. This means that poor Mum also gets some rest and Dad can take things at his own pace.

To be honest, if I hadn't known he'd been in hospital I would have been hard pressed to have guessed. They seem to be back in their old routine.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Science and religion: the final post.



Once more, it may help to have read the preceding posts.

If we look at the development of spirituality or, perhaps, that sense of awe and wonder that is the precursor of spirituality, we need to ask whether there was a decisive moment when humanity had reached the developmental stage when it felt the need for God, or had an awareness of God. Archaeology seems to be able to offer some help here.

Some seventy thousand years ago, fifty thousand years after evolution into a recognisable human form, there is an explosion of human creativity. Cave paintings suggest a mythical world that represents ritual, theology and belief. Asking the sorts of questions associated with myth, ritual, theology and belief would seem to be a necessary stage on the route from animal to human. Was this point a take off of a necessary evolutionary step or a gift from God? Is this where the epistemic distance from the creation event ends? Is this the point of ensoulment?

Either way it was a turning point and a transformation as questions were posed that had not been articulated before. If you consider it, this is also a process which each of us goes through in miniature in our own personal journeys, although in our modern and increasingly frenetic world, the sense of awe and wonder is often drowned out.

Seventy thousand years ago the mind lifted away from the routines of survival and the coming to be of self-consciousness led to an explosion of religious activity. Consciousness had developed into the capacity to wonder and question. How through evolution has the random bumping of molecules made us beings which are more than the sum of our evolutionary parts unless we are talking of a guided process? It was Aquinas who gave us the First Cause Argument which, in modern summary, invited us to imaging a world in furious rewind: not cause and event, but event, cause, event, cause, event, cause and so on back until the first event. In essence God is the cause or trigger which sets the process of creation in motion. Christian scientists and theologians today argue that that process includes the Big Bang and Evolution: not as random but as guided events. This sounds dangerously like the Design Argument to me and yet for many conservative Christians the Design Argument of Newton and Paley does not include room for the Big Bang nor Evolution because they cross red lines of faith.

Jurgan Moltmann, the German theologian talked of his wartime experience in Hamburg during an air raid and its consequent firestorm. For the first time he asked “Where is God?” He said: “If you feel the absence of God, you also feel the dark night of your soul.” and it was this experience which was for him a conversion moment.

For Moltmann, God is much more the God of expectation than of Omnipotence or any of the other orthodox descriptors: all such terms, while helpful up to a point, are inadequate in the end as we deal with a God who so transcends our capacity to understand Him that every human descriptor diminishes Him.

Moltmann uses the parable of the Prodigal Son which he renames the parable of the Waiting Father, to illustrate his point. God is now as much the God of infinite patience as He is an intervening or immanent God.

There seems to be a growing awareness that everything in the world is neither binary, nor black and white and it seems to me that we need to learn to cope with the textures of grey. Questioning is an essential and needs to be a part of that process of growing beyond the mother’s milk of spirituality of which we hear in 1 Peter. How are we to be weaned into a true spiritual maturity unless we are prepared to question and learn? Without questioning our understanding never increases and we are like the medieval church, whistling in the dark and setting our faces against the onset of truth and knowledge.

My friend Dave, a Physics teacher, told me this joke: Heisenberg was stopped by a traffic policeman.

“Do you know how fast you were travelling sir?

“No, but I know exactly where I am.”

Heisenberg’s law says that there is no certainty, only restless potential between black and white. The world is shot through with uncertainty and ambiguity side by side with some certainties. The old certainties of religion seem out of place in a material world, but science doesn’t seem to fill the gap either. As I said earlier, Christianity has done itself a disservice, not so much for expecting belief without proof, but for expecting belief without question.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tools of the Trade

I was asked recently by inspector gadget about a new gimmick, these so called bouncer sprays. I don't know of any doorman worth his badge who enjoys being known as a bouncer. They're advertised as looking like CS spray cans or pepper spray cans. They smell bad and claim to contain a UV dye to aid in identifying the sprayed after a period of time. I don't know anyone who'd want to use this for work. If it acts as a reassurance for those who fear attack then I suppose it has some place. For any doorstaff who fear attack, another profession would seem sensible.

A few observations about sprays. Getting a dose of pepper spray when you're caught in the police crossfire as they attempt to chemically subdue a punter is no fun. The stuff gets everywhere. I can only imagine these low spec versions will do this as badly if not worse. If this got used inside a venue it would likely be smelling like a sewer for at least the rest of the night. That'd be walking orders for just about any doorman.
As to the dye element, that worries me a whole load more. I've seen the mess when a dye marker for cash transit is triggered in a busy bar. More ambulances and breathing difficulties cases than you ever want to see.

To be legal the spray can't contain any noxious chemicals. People react to all sorts of chemicals and even wristbands and sticky plasters can send folks to hospital. I don' think with aromatic chemicals, propellants, solvents, dyes and whatever else is in there. I would never be happy using one or working with anyone who did. I wouldn't expect any manager I know, from pub to bar to nightclub to let his staff use these.

It's a tool for the fool. I rely on being good at what I do, not on any gadget more complex than a one button radio system or a torch. Even then those aren't for subduing, annoying or restraining the punters, that I can do all by myself.

Actually, now that you come to mention it.........Where is everyone?


Blame Passing Priest "This is very good stuff indeed. Where are all your regulars? Where is the passion? I note there are people who criticise the passing references to evolution you have made elsewere but have not come out and nailed their colours to the mast when you give them this opportunity. Surely this is exactly the debate to be having in the current climate. Maybe this is an indication that your arguments are beyond credible criticism. As you say this is quite conservative stuff: if you can't assent to this, where on earth are you in intellectual terms? There is no academic or intellectual rigour in much which passes for Chritianity these days as you have commented yourself."

Nator, Roland, Neil, William, P.J. Iggy, Jeff, Barbara, Pam, Jeff, Malt Viquor, Anne, Frank, Erika, Christopher, Mickey, Mad One et al. Where are you?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Science and Religion 3


It may help to have read the previous posts.

I finished the last post considering the Big Bang theory. Christians like me are often criticised by more conservative Christians for a blind adherence to theories such as this and Evolution. There could be few statements further from the truth but it does illustrate a basic misunderstanding on their part of scientific theory.

I have already clarified that all science is provisional: there may be further paradigm shifts when new experimental results reveal cracks in a once satisfactory theory. In turn further advances reveal new problems until the original premise becomes untenable. Those assumptions which gave rise to the established theory are re-examined and a new model emerges and what might be a centuries old tradition is eventually overturned. This happened for me as, side by side with my critical academic study of the Old Testament, belief in a literal creation became untenable with the paradigm shift that brought in an understanding of the Big Bang and Evolution as a guided process. It may happen again, but my sense is that if it does it will further erode, not enhance a theology of Creationism while further enhancing not eroding a science based cosmology.

So, is the New Gospel cosmology and evolution, not God? Are we, therefore, sons and daughters of ancient bacteria more than we are sons and daughters of God? Has an understanding of the processes of soulless DNA pulled the rug from under God’s feet and given us a truer understanding of our place in the cosmic scheme of things?

How then do we deal with evil or the dichotomy of good and evil in evolutionary terms if there is no moral creative force? If the problem of God is the existence of evil, then the problem of random, unguided evolution is the existence of good. If Darwin is right then the survival of the fittest is driven by the “selfish gene”. So where do the moral virtues such as altruism, humour, innate talent etc. exist in genetics? Or is there something beyond the genes?

If science can’t explain it then….God? Or is our science simply not good enough?

Some argue that moral values within natural selection can be explained away as either nepotism as we look after our own or expediency as it suits our purpose to be like this in a given situation. Others argue the opposite: that natural moral virtue is the starting point and brutish or selfish behaviour is both corrupt and learned behaviour.

Ought we to be starting with emotion, humour, moral values etc. as a given rather than explaining them away as cultural outcomes? Surely survival of the fittest needs to be seen side by side with sexual selection and therefore all these innate qualities are part of that process. But sexual choice and attraction elaborates those traits and amplifies them in an evolutionary context. Is there, then, any role left for God?

The biologist Dennis Alexander thinks this a bad way of doing both science and theology as however scientifically knowledgeable we become, it is both a step too far and an unnecessary step to posit no God. For him, as for many, Christian Theism is a more credible starting point than Atheism. Others on the other hand argue that the religious perspective is both mentally degrading and an ongoing falsehood.

Falsehood may not be bad of itself if it offers comfort, but it becomes bad when that falsehood claims to answer questions when it doesn’t. Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God choose the suffering of the weakest (evolution) as a means of His will?

John Polkinghorne (Physicist and Theologian) sees traditional Christian teaching as presenting the choice between God as puppet-master or disinterested spectator and this has also long been my objection. Neither is good enough!

The theological problem of suffering disappears, of course, if we accept that while God is creator and Omnipotent, He has voluntarily relinquished some control and is no longer Sustainer in quite the way many Christians assert. This is not a particularly radical view and it argues that God gave up a degree of control when He gave free-will, and evolution gives sufficient distance (epistemic distance) between creator and created to allow for our acts to be completely free. Evolution may have made us rethink the controlling God of The Old Testament, and an altogether more subtle God has emerged, one who works in more discrete and enigmatic ways. For thinkers like Polkinghorne, God interacts with the world but voluntarily limits his control. As I said, not particularly radical - perhaps even quite conservative and certainly within classical theism. After all, how can God give humanity free will and retain total control? This is not, after all, to diminish God in any way as He remains Omnipotent. It is a voluntary relinquishing of control, not of power. Thus far this is quite a conventional theology. Modern Christian scientists and other thinkers - and I dare to include myself in that category - have gone on to recognised the place of scientific understanding in that theology. As Lemaitre said: “There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both.”

Evolution is the perfect tool, then, for God to create thinking, learning, free-willed creatures.

Evolution becomes the agent of God.

Old Haunts

I've been working a few nights covering an unexpected departure at a venue in the town I've not been at for a while. Things have not changed. The same chavs are still repeating the cycle of getting themselves kicked out, getting themselves barred for carrying on outside, getting 3-6 months of being refused. Then we let them back in and they behave for 1-2 months, then they have a bad night and they get kicked out again and haven't learned not to kick off and the get barred again. It's pointless. They spend a load of cash, buy a load of booze and end up causing a little bit of trouble a load of times.

What gets to me is when they know they're barred for a while, they still come round every night they're out and try and get in. We have barred you, we will normally remember you. If not on the front door, we'll remember them when we see them inside, then they'll be shown the door and the barr extended. But every night they try. I've explicitly told a few, don't come back here 'til June, or go away for three months, then we'll see. It makes not the blindest bit of difference, these chavs are stuck in a pointless socialising, drinking rut. This return to the venue just made me aware of how little I miss the place and the poor quality of locals the town suffers from.
At least with stag and hen do's, they're from out of town and we don't have to see them every night of the week.

I never thought I'd welcome stag and hen parties but at least its not the depressing monotony of watching young and possibly capable folk drink and spend their way to social immobility. The lads never stop unless imprisoned, it's very sad to see 40+ men in sports casual wear. The only thing that seems to stop the girls is having a baby. That only works 'til they can leave the bairns with their olds while they look for baby father No. 2,3,4.....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Science and Religion 2


It may help to have read the previous post.

“What was God’s role in the process?” was the question which ended the last post on science and religion. As I understand scientific theory, nature suffers the uncertainty of random events. The Big Bang, if one accepts it, was a random event from a vacuum which began not just the cosmos but time itself. On that point alone – there was a time before which there was no time – I am able to challenge my reluctant 15 yr old religious studies students that some scientific ideas sound no easier than some religious ones.

Religious scientists are asking how a random fluctuation of natural laws could create the exact environment for human life. The “God question” gets moved to a deeper place. Are the arbitrary parameters of science there by design, then? Why do the constants have the value they do? Why is the universe the way it is?

Is it that only such a finely tuned universe can sustain the sophisticated life forms it does or is it that life has adapted to fit the scientific laws that govern the universe? Is there a role for God regardless?

We have to speculate then that there could be other universes with other constants and values. Could there be a multiverse containing every possible universe with our quantum mechanics unique to this one? Would God have to take little green flesh elsewhere, or is the atonement here literally a once and for all event? There would have to be trillions of such universes unless we are back to the instinctive idea of a finely tuned universe here by design, which would mean that the constants were fixed, or allowed to develop to this point by God for a purpose.

“A divine agent is a more fitting unexplained starting point for a world which includes people and moral values than brute matter” (John Polkinghorne)

Science is supposed to give reasons and rational answers, but the atheist is forced to argue that the laws of science are reasonless and exist for no purpose. Are they sufficient in themselves or do they point beyond themselves?

Georges Lemaitre was both a Catholic priest and a leading cosmologist of his day. He once said: “There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both.” He said that assuming the Bible tried to teach science was “a good deal like assuming that there must be authentic religious dogma in binomial theorem.” He is credited with stopping Pope Pius X11 proclaiming against cosmology. Galileo had also had to come to terms with his deep religious faith and his belief in science. “The Bible teaches men how to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go.”

Although the overwhelming majority of experts endorse the Big Bang theory, this does not mean that the theory is complete. Cosmologists at the start of the twenty first century continue to explore difficult issues such as the existence of dark matter and dark energy but some scientists are now saying that the universe is best defined by our presence in it, so we do not have a complete scientific answer to why we exist. However, science has put us back to where religion always said we were: at the centre of the universe.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thinking through science and religion.......


......as a non-Creationist. I am also not a scientist: my degree is in theology and I have limited scientific knowledge.

I was going to get to this at some stage but the comments and exchanges on the threads relating to my posts on how we understand the Old Testament have brought it on sooner. There may be concurrent posts on the Old Testament and Religion and Science, then, depending on how folk respond.

I would say at the outset that I do not favour religion over science or vice-versa: the general debate about these issues often presupposes a mutual exclusivity which I do not buy into. We seem to be in an age and an environment where people have lost faith because science has taught us to doubt religion and we seem to need impiracle evidence before we consider belief. How sad. Science and Religion may approach the same topics but are not asking the same questions. To me Science is concerned with the "how?" and religion with the "why?" and unless we get that clearer in our thought processes I think we are bound for trouble.

I did say on an earlier thread that I believe all that we know about science at present is provisional: scientists can "prove" relatively little of what they believe because future discoveries may well enhance, challenge or indeed change current thinking. Scientists aren't uncomfortable about this and nor should they be.

But at risk of some blog friends calling me a heretic I also believe that what we know about Christianity and Salvation is provisional. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians "For now we see through a glass darkly". Certainly all the mysteries of faith are too great to be revealed to us which is why I am constantly declaiming here and elsewhere that we are in danger of making God in our own image and therefore too small. My God is so transcendent that he can not be constrained by the pages of any scripture regardless of what that scripture proclaims about that same God's self-revelation.

That traditional religious belief co-exists uneasily with science at present is self-evident. Where is the blame for that? I have to say it all too often lies within Christianity itself because the church has had an historic suspicion of science which many individuals have inherited and continue to pass on. This is the same church which treated as heretical the ideas that the earth orbits the sun and that the earth is not, after all, flat. Linked to this there is also a history of religious retreats in the face of scientific advances. We have found ourself in a "God of the gaps" situation where God explains what we don't know and as we learn more the God gap shrinks and we become wrongfooted and defensive. Side by side with this another generation grows up believing without question or challenge that science has disproved religion.

The growth of startling scientific understanding from the 1960's has threatened that remaining God space: pulsars have been discovered which might be a clue to the Big Bang, the description many people - Christians included - give for the start of the universe. If matter can disappear without trace into black holes it is no great advance to speculate that it can also spontaneously appear, therefore removing the apparent need for a creative force. That does not mean, however, that there was no creative force.

But the good news is that we do not need to subscribe to the God of the gaps premise which is flawed because it is reactive to science and projects a far from transcendent image of God. Christian scientists such as Joceylin Bell-Burnett, an astronomer with the Open University argue that far from the God gap getting smaller, advances in scientific knowledge are not so tidy as to clear everything up but instead pose many extra unknowns. The God space does not shrink. Far from it: it expands.

Christianity has done itself a disservice, not so much for expecting belief without proof, but for expecting belief without question. It seems to me, however, that it is Christian scientists such as Bell-Burnett who are at the forefront of asking the hard questions today: questions like "What was God's role in this process?"

More to come.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Well, it makes sense to me....


.....How about you?

Andrew Copson The Guardian, Saturday May 17 2008

The announcement that students on the OCR exam board's GCSE religious studies course will now study humanism is good news for balanced and objective education. But it is not just that the inclusion of humanism as a non-religious world-view is to be welcomed in itself; it is also significant in that the move - and the media's reaction to it - implies the acceptance of humanist beliefs and values as representing a coherent stance on life, with its own integrity. In 2004, by contrast, when the first government national framework for religious education (RE) recommended the study of humanism, there were headlines such as "Children to study atheism at school" (the Observer) and "Schools are told to teach atheism" (the Sun). This focus on one aspect of the humanist world-view (its view on the non-existence of gods), and the general portrayal of humanist beliefs as just a reaction to or critique of religion, obscures the richness and depth of both the humanist outlook as a modern life stance and of the millennia-old humanist tradition. Four years later, it is encouraging to see acceptance of the independent existence of the humanist outlook (by OCR at least - other exam boards have not yet been so inclusive).

The noun "humanism", as it is used by humanist organisations around the world today (and when it appears in RE), denotes a set of beliefs and values that characterise a world-view very widely shared by many people in modern Britain, and it is a mistake to define their beliefs purely negatively, by reference to what they don't believe in (gods, ghosts, life after death and so on). It is true of course that humanists do not believe in these things, but the reason they do not believe in them is much more important. Humanists believe that the reality we perceive around us - the world and universe that we make sense of through experience - is the only reality we can know and that there is no "second layer" to reality in which gods, demons or the "supernatural" can exist. It is this conviction that also leads humanists to believe that this life is the only life we have and that morality as we understand it is a natural product of our social instincts and not handed to humanity by some external divine source. Together with the belief that the aim of morality should be human welfare and fulfilment and that, in the absence of ultimate "purpose" to the universe, we make meaning for ourselves, both individually and in community, these convictions form the basics of the stance on life described as humanism today.

When we have a curriculum subject such as RE that aims to increase children's understanding of all the different beliefs and values people live by today and to allow all children to reflect on and find their own answers to the "ultimate questions" in life, it is easy to see why the inclusion of humanism is essential. So large a number of people share humanist beliefs that any discussion of the world-views of modern Britons would be incomplete were it not to include them, offering pupils from religious backgrounds the opportunity to learn about values and opinions they may not encounter elsewhere and pupils from non-religious backgrounds the opportunity to give a name to beliefs with which they are already familiar. OCR itself said the move was prompted by the fact that humanist beliefs are "held by increasing numbers of citizens".

Most of all, when it comes to those "ultimate questions" that form the backbone of RE syllabuses, such as beliefs about truth, authority, meaning, purpose, ethics and morality, it is vital that pupils learn about the answers given by humanists: that the basis of knowledge is reason, evidence and experience; that morality comes from our own selves as social beings; that happiness, meaning and fulfilment are our own to create through the joy of intellectual endeavour, of social action, of human relationships.

· Andrew Copson is director of education at the British Humanist Association.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There may be sporadic posts......


....as Dad is in hospital! Seventy eight and now with no appendix and a perforated bowel. So prayers for Jack snr. please and for Daphne, left rather adrift and anxious, but with sense of humour intact!

Ring... Ring...Ring

Hello?

Hello, its your Mum here. Your Dad's in hospital.

Why?

I don't really know.

What, you mean they just came and took him away?

Well, he did tell the doctor to **** off.

Can't be that bad then.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Slow

Too many folk think that doorstaff are thick.
Some may not be too sharp but most are. This extends to remembering a face one night to the next. We see a lot of folks every night but the ones who cause bother, or the ones we think might in future, usually get logged in our sober bored minds, however tiny.

We're not likely to wander round the corner to listen to some drunken muppet 'apologise'. We'll keep where the lights and cameras cover. We don't like being out-numbered, out-gunned or out manoeuvered and we're normally bright enough not to let it happen.

If someone comes up with something new and interesting and it trips us up we'll find out about it sooner or later. Then everyone we work with and know from working with will find out fairly soon. Then the trick stops working and normally only shows it's face when doorstaff change and someone'll try it on thinking we don't pass on this kind of information between ourselves.

We're not infallible, we're not geniuses but we're not too dim to make our job safer and easier for ourselves. Obviously, if you don't like a fellow doorman, you can let them fall into something obvious just for shits and giggles but it's best if they or the punter don't end up with blue light taxis of either sort.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Power of Prayer


I was just looking back on the post where I recorded my shock in learning that the Lutheran World Federation had stopped funding to Europe with the realisation of its personal impact on me.

Since that time Bishop Walter has raised three fifths of this year's fees (albeit with only six weeks of the college year to go). I am feeling decidedly chilled about it all now, despite the earlier wobble!

Nevertheless, as I invite you to share with me in giving thanks, can I ask that you continue in prayer about this year's balance and all of next year's fees.

If anyone wants to hold a garage sale or bake cakes there is a donate link on the side bar. (If only you COULD donate cakes that way....)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thanks to Rural Rector


I was just browsing my friend's sites and I came across this Link on Hampton's Ramblings. These are a few of my favourites (I take no responsibility for the punctuation and spelling):

* When you or your family members go to the doctor, do you get antibiotics developed to treat drug-resistant bacteria, or do you insist that because evolution doesn't exist you should be just fine with the drugs from twenty years ago?"

Frankly, I would never take an antibiotic; there are far safer and more effective treatments, but all that aside, nothing that you mention above has the slightest connection to evolution. You are propagandising by attempting to mix evolutionism with biochemistry.

* Muslims countries aren’t as interested in ID because they don’t need to deal with nearly as much atheist scum evolutionists with their evolving mind tricks. All our liberties are allowing the atheists here to destroy our society. George H.W. Bush was intelligent and thoughtful enough to say that atheists shouldn’t really be citizens. Maybe his son will have the intelligence to make a similar point, maybe in his next state of the union adress outlaw evolution. He wouldn’t need to say much, simply something like “every evolutionist is now an enemy of the Republic,” and then explain why. The muslim countries know how to deal with these people(one of the rare things they do right). Why can’t we follow their lead?

* Sorry but scientists have just shown that mice DNA is more similar to humans than human DNA. So would evolutionists then declare that humans came from mice? Probably. That's because most people can't think for themselves and are confused about reality. That's why they believe anything scientists say.

* But think about it, who is smart enough to write the Holy Bible? The answer, no one.
How could people back then have written words with such intellegence? We were not very educated back then, we all know. So tell me, how could people back ages ago could have written the bible?

* How can anyone beleive we evolved from monkeys heres a few questions for people who beleive that

1.If we did evolve from monkeys then how come babies arent born monkeys

2.Even Darwin said his theories were wrong before he died so why do you still believe them

3.do you really not believe the bible it says we were created in seven days not millions of years

4.how come we cant speak monkey

Just for a fact ape like creatures are monkeys Just in case certain people get on this thread

* It took several million years for a monkey to turn into a man? oh wait thats right. monkeys dont live several million years.

Is this truly the level of ignorance and stupidity under which some Christians operate? Joking apart, is it surprising we have an uphill struggle to convince people that to be a Christian isn't one step away from insanity?

Where does the blame lie?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Scorcher

The excessive sunshine, the extended absence of work, the ready supply of premium lager and the over-abundance of fancy dressed hen parties. Most folk see the bank holiday as an opportunity to get up to all the little occasional tasks they don't seem to find the time for on a normal weekend. Whether it's off to the DIY superstore, the in-laws or the weekend break by the seaside.
For those who don't have things saved up for the bank holiday, the three day weekend looms as a massive drinking spree. When you usually drink, as the lower end of our clients do, 5 nights a week only getting out of your mind drunk on the Saturday, you savor the bank holiday. When sunny, as the thing was this end, it's a full three days off work, with beer gardens, top end sport and the ever rotating groups of hen nights in fishnets and bunny ears, devil horns, nurse's uniforms or police women's outfits.
Then as the sun sets its off to throw up near me. Blowing colourful chunks in the queue, in the reception, in the bar, on the dancefloor or even for variety, throwing up in the toilet. By the end of the monday night, yes it still kicks off on monday too, the whole place stinks worse than ever and all I want to do is get to bed for a long un-interrupted sleep.
What I don't want in the slightest is to be clearing out on the monday night, really far too early on a tuesday morning, to see two scrotes, having survived the night sipping warm weak lager slowly, swinging for each other. I didn't attempt to talk this one down, I didn't attempt to separate and cool them off. I just scooped them up together, shouted very loudly to make some space and landed them clear of the front door to sort it out. Not my usual diplomatic self but hot, sleep deprived, physically expended and fed up with the stench of vomit you don't get the best of me but at least it was quick and relatively mess free.

The Fall....(or not)


At what stage in the development of religious thought did the serpent who starts off merely as "...more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made" become Satan, the figure of evil incarnate?

Has anyone else missed, as I had until very recently, the wonderful image of God's grace in Gen 3.21? Nowhere else in the huge iconography of the Fall have I seen God making Adam and Eve's clothes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Anyway.....


So, I am rereading bits of Brueggemann and discussing it with you lot in order to begin an assessed exegesis, and no - before you tell me – “the Bible is the inerrant word of God” does NOT count as Biblical exegesis and will not gain me any marks nor count towards a master’s degree.

Brueggemann makes a number of key points in Chapter 2:

• He describes the Creation stories as Religious Myth i.e.: a reiterated liturgical form and poetic narrative which has grown out of a pre-Judaic cultural and religious series of stories, most notably Babylonian. It has become a solemn, stately, ordered and symmetrical account and is more like a liturgical antiphon than a narrative.

• These, together with the Flood myth and the Tower of Babel myth tell of a creation recalcitrant and resistant to God’s good intentions. “This deep elemental disorder, narratively instigated by the serpent and rooted in disobedience is enacted as human violence.”

• “The sum of these narrative parts constitutes a remarkable theological statement. What my have been various “myths of origin” is now transposed into a theological statement of divine judgement and divine rescue. ….This material is no longer interested in origins….rather, the text is an attestation of the main themes of Israel’s faith in God.”

• The first eleven chapters of Genesis, then, illustrate that the will and purpose of the Creator God is sovereign, but that sovereignty is deeply and categorically under assault from the outset.

• Gen 1.27 shows that “male and female” are together in “God’s image”.

• There is no theology of the Fall in Genesis 1-11. We owe our theology of the Fall to the interpretive authority of St. Paul in Romans 5, St. Augustine, Luther and Milton, even though the textual tradition of the Old Testament does not refer again to Genesis 3. “To be sure, the prophetic teaching of Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel assert that their contemporaries are hopelessly locked into recalcitrance against God; but nowhere in the Old Testament is that judgement articulated beyond existential disappointment about contemporaries.”

These are the points which particularly struck me. I won’t go on about the genealogies, nor the strange interlude of the “sons of God and the daughters of men”, but the key thing for me – and I have been very challenged by these readings – has been the idea of “imaginative remembering” and of a sense that, as the Pentateuch reaches its final form in the sixth century exile, the claim that the world belongs to the God of Israel is a mighty and daring alternative to the dominant and easily visible claims that the world is dominated by Babylonian gods. It achieves this claim by subverting Babylonian material for its own ends.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Old Testament: Fact or Fiction or the bits in between?


Following on from the last post and the discussion it engendered, I take up the baton again. One blogging friend has posed the question on his site: The Old Testament – Fact or Fiction? My immediate response was to ask about the bits in between fact and fiction.

Literary analysis shows that the Old Testament was not written by one person, nor was one person God’s guided secretary: the process of writing and the construction of the canon took many, many generations. Multiple strands of tradition were woven together to produce it.

Now I know like me many of you know this already and I don't want to patronise anyone but for the uninitiated here comes the rationale:

Simply put, Biblical criticism has for many years recognised that the Torah was composed by a series of editors out of four major strands of literary traditions. These traditions are known as J, E, D, and P.

J (the Yahwist or Jerusalem source) uses the Tetragrammaton as God's name. This source's interests indicate it was active in the southern Kingdom of Judah in the time of the divided Kingdom. J is responsible for most of Genesis.

E (the Elohist source) uses Elohim ("God") for the divine name until Exodus 3-6, where the Tetragrammaton is revealed to Moses and to Israel. This source seems to have lived in the northern Kingdom of Israel during the divided Kingdom. E wrote the Aqedah story and other parts of Genesis, and much of Exodus and Numbers.

J and E were joined fairly early, apparently after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE. It is often difficult to separate J and E stories that have merged.
D (the Deuteronomist) wrote almost all of Deuteronomy (and probably also Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings). Scholars often associate Deuteronomy with the book found by King Josiah in 622 BCE.

P (the Priestly source) provided the first chapter of Genesis; the book of Leviticus; and other sections with genealogical information, the priesthood, and worship. P was the latest source and the priestly editors put the Torah in its final form sometime after 539 BCE. Recent scholars are more likely to see P as containing pre-exilic material.

Contemporary critical scholars agree that this general approach best explains the doublets, contradictions, differences in terminology and theology, and the geographical and historical interests that we find in various parts of the Torah.

When we look at a passage in the Pentateuch and there are two or three of the above categories clearly at work yet from different historical periods, are we not to recognise a process of revision at work? The Flood

If you are a literalist, what do you make of these editorial strands?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Young Guns

This week I've been having some fun with a new lad.
He's unnaturally big, from injections, weights and 5 low fat protein meals a day at least. He's got a big gun show which he's more than ready to flash to pretty young vacuous things.
He gets stuck in, keeps trouble to a minimum and doesn't blow his top like alot of the other vein bulging freaks.
When it's midweek and we've got drunken students falling left right and centre with vomit appearing in random places every five minutes there was a slight scuffle. New lad gets there first. I leg it in and find him with one lad under each arm, looking to all the world like he's carrying a pair of carpets. He's grinning from ear to ear and it all seems under control. That is until we try and extract the two into a more exit friendly arrangement. The one I grab gives in and an anorexic pygmy in a tie could've gotten rid of him. The other one didn't. Finding the young one now had a spare hand the punter decided to see what he'd do with it.
The answer is to pin his two elbows together in the small of his back and steer him by his jaw into the un-open side of a double fire door. Young gun, still grinning, got his now mostly pacified punter to the door. The two thought about going at it again in the street but with me quietly saying it was a bad idea and young gun still grinning they wandered their way on without incident.
The phrase carrying carpets is often used to describe a certain over-built physique, young gun proved it's worth, this time at least. One day he'll get caught, but 'til then he'll still be grinning and making ladies swoon at his over-ripe biceps.

College Thoughts


This term at college, we have started studying the Old Testament. It is not a topic I had been looking forward to as the Old Testament is a hard book, unless you are the sort of Christian who takes it literally and then your life is easy: you simply don’t have to engage your intellect at all. I am not that sort of Christian. I remember some O.T. studies from my undergraduate course and rather hoped I might have exemption. No such luck.

However, much to my surprise I am having a blast! My tutor has been bought in by the college and has a reputation as an O.T. scholar in his own right. We are using a text by Walter Brueggermann, an American academic and Biblicist, and I have discovered that I am not alone in my views – in fact that my views are mainstream and not at all radical.

I like this.

Let me quote: “What we have in the O.T, rather than reportage, is a sustained memory that has been filtered through many generations of interpretive processes, with many interpreters imposing certain theological intentionalities on a memory that continues to be reformulated.” More simply put, the Biblical storyline does not closely reflect the lived experience of historical Israel. The Biblical text does not purport to be “history” in any modern sense of the term.

The relationship between history and the formation of the Canon of Old Testament writing is complex of course, but the process of that relationship is the work of TRADITION as parents tell and retell to children and grandchildren down the generations as “imaginative remembering”.

He goes on to say “Current scholarship is in a quite sceptical mood: on the one hand (serious) scholars increasingly judge the “historical” claim of the Old Testament to be mostly unreliable and unprovable and often unlikely. On the other hand, scholars recognise that the texts are loaded with ideological freight so that they can not be trusted as reliable. The recognition of these critical judgements is important and warns against making irresponsible claims for the text.”

Happy me!

What do you think?

Friday, May 2, 2008

What a busy week!


So, still sleep deprived from the LONG weekend I have had the week to end all weeks, hence no posts for nearly a week.

"Sir, can I borrow a pen?"

"Why?"

"My pen's run out."

"Use your spare, then"

"Why would I need a spare?"

"God give me strength!"

I teach 180 students in Yr 10 for R.S. That is 180 exams to mark and reports to write.

I am responsible for all 400 Citizenship pieces of coursework for the Yr 11 GCSE: ensuring they are marked and moderated and collating the grades to send to the exam board. We were unable to account for about 60 projects courtesy of a (now no longer employed) colleague who kept losing them. I have been off timetable today tracking down the kids and getting a reprint. "But I've already handed it in."

"Yes, now...about that...."

I have had three chapters of Breuggermann to read for Old Testament studies. (Fab book) and a presentation on one to deliver. (I got Genesis 1-11, so was VERY happy).

Now my chorus-master expects me to learn large chunks of the score for Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky IN RUSSIAN by next rehearsal.

Nurse! Can I have my medication and a little nap now?