… or indeed, irrational? Last week I read a very interesting interview with the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga called Is Atheism Irrational? I’d recommend reading it – particularly the last section at the end, which I found fascinating.
It’s to do with the belief in naturalism or materialism – i.e. the belief that the natural world is all there is. Nothing exists apart from the natural world, which obviously rules out God or supernatural beings etc.
One of the points that Plantinga makes is based on viewing our brains as purely the products of naturalistic evolution: Read the rest of this entry
This is the text of a sermon preached at the 9AM service at Christ Chuch Cockfosters this morning. It was part of a series going through ‘Uncover‘, the subtitle of this talk was ‘Go Out’. Unfortunately no audio is available but I stuck pretty much to the script on this one!
Hope you enjoy.
Steve Chalke wants to start a global discussion about the Bible – see the video here or the document here. You may remember, he made his views on same-sex marriage clear last year, and I commented then that I didn’t agree with his understanding of Scripture. He’s gone one step further this time, but I don’t want to waste time discussing it here when others have already written an excellent response. The gist of it is basically that what Steve Chalke is proposing ultimately undermines confidence in the Bible, the opposite of what he was intending!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been studying the book of Hebrews as part of my college course. Hebrews is a difficult book (I remember reading it as a student and being baffled by much of it!), but it has some important things to say to us regarding how we understand Scripture. Hebrews is interesting because it’s preaching a sermon about Christ, but it uses exclusively Old Testament texts to talk about Christ (it hardly refers to his earthly ministry at all). As such it teaches us a lot about what it means to understand the Old Testament.
As we all know the best place to start is the beginning – this is how Hebrews kicks off:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
I’m doing a course at college at the moment called ‘Public Theology’, which is basically about how theology and the public sphere (e.g. politics, society) interact. Earlier this week I did a seminar on marriage, i.e. how the church should engage society on the topic of marriage. As regular readers will know this is something I’ve written a fair bit about here, so it’s a topic I’m interested in! I focused on the topic of same-sex marriage, because we had limited time and that’s the thing which I think is most relevant.
Anyway, this course has really made me think through the whys and the hows of engaging culture, and has probably left me with more questions than answers! In particular on the topic of marriage – why is it that Christians should stand up for the ‘traditional’ / Biblical view of marriage? Read the rest of this entry
I read an article about a month ago called “Two Cheers for Human Rights“. It was published on 27th December so I was probably still too full of turkey and Christmas Pud to really digest it properly (did you see what I did there?!) Anyway, the article makes interesting reading – especially if you’re a fan of human rights (and who isn’t in the UK?)
I thought it might be worth quoting from the article. The writer, John Gray, is an atheist (as far as I can tell) but he has some worthwhile observations about the nature of human rights. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve had a few conversations recently about epistemology (how we know what we know), especially when it comes to knowing what we know about God. People are becoming suspicious of talking about the Bible being ‘clear’ on any particular issue – Rachel Held Evans’ blog post The Bible was ‘clear’… demonstrates pretty well this kind of attitude. Similarly, 5 churchy phrases that are scaring off millenials:
Saying, “This is where study and prayer have led me, but I could be wrong,” does infinitely more to secure our trust than The Bible clearly says…
I can understand this attitude: I think there has been harm done in the past (as Rachel points out) by saying that the Bible is ‘clear’ on a particular topic. But, the suggestion to hold our interpretations with an ‘open hand’… you know, I’m not sure about that either. Let’s be honest here, I think the real elephant in the room – the topic which we’re not allowed to hold a certain opinion on – is sexuality: it is the issue of our day – does the Bible condemn or affirm gay relationships?
Unfortunately, what I think it means to hold on to an interpretation ‘with an open hand’ is to ultimately diminish its importance so that you’re not really holding to that particular interpretation. If I, for example, believe that the Bible’s teaching on sexuality is authoritative, and that teaching describes a lifelong exclusive relationship between a man and a woman, and that that teaching is fundamental to the Biblical ethic on sexuality, to hold that interpretation with an open hand is meaningless. I think holding it with an open hand means that I might teach what I thought was the Bible’s clear instruction, but in practice be open and perfectly accepting of others who believe differently. In other words, however clear I believe the Bible is on that particular issue, that belief cannot be put into practice fully because other people believe differently. I can’t hold someone else to account for it.
The latest series of Sherlock aired its last episode on Sunday night. I really enjoyed the first two series (i.e. I think it’s one of the best things the BBC have done in the past few years, perfect cast and tone), so this was something I was eagerly anticipating. However… after a few days I’m still not sure what to make of it. I mean, let’s be clear, the series had some genius moments (loved meeting Sherlock’s parents in the first episode, or the game Mycroft and Sherlock are playing, for example). And it was all tremendously clever. But I feel that something fundamental had changed and just wasn’t there.
This article on the Huffington Post goes some way to explaining the problems I have with the third series. I don’t agree with all of it, but I think Kate Rose pretty much hits the nail on the head when she talks about some of the fundamental changes which seem to have happened between series two and three.
- One of the things people noted about S3 was it felt a bit like fan fiction. (Sherlock, if you didn’t know, has a massive fan fiction community). To me, I thought there were just a few too many nods to fan fiction – especially including a group of characters in the first episode who came up with theories about how Sherlock survived (I mean, is that meta or what?)
- S3 seemed to focus more on Sherlock’s character and its development. In some ways this was a good thing, but in others I felt like they overplayed it to the detriment of Sherlock’s raison d’etre: Sherlock as the aloof, high-functioning sociopath who … detects things. I mean, what did Sherlock really do in this entire series which only he could do? The first episode, he was virtually irrelevant to the bomb plot. The second episode he did deduce more, but I still felt like it wasn’t the same as the previous two (although the episode itself was probably my favourite of the three, despite moving at a snail’s pace sometimes). The third episode… well, again, not much deducing going on.
- This is the thing: the previous episodes have had some mystery which only Sherlock could solve as the primary driver behind the events in each episode – S3 seemed to go some way away from this. Each episode felt more fragmented and fractured, trying to tie all the pieces together.
- There was no real overarching plot (well, villain), unless you count the very end of the first episode. That’s what I loved about the first two series – both of them built up to a finale. In S3, the finale seemed to be more of a whimper.
It was still good TV, and I do appreciate that with the expectations riding on the series it was almost doomed not to live up to expectations. Still, these are just my feelings at the moment. I should probably go watch it again, just to make sure…
According to the news today, the “Sunday Assembly” has split. For those of you who don’t know, the Sunday Assembly is a church-style service, only it’s run by atheists. This is the vision from their website*:
The Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that celebrate life. Our motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Our mission: to help everyone find and fulfill their full potential. Our vision: a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.
Lots of ink was spilled over this when the assembly first started – I didn’t contribute at the time, but having heard this news I have a few thoughts. In particular, I do wonder whether an atheistic assembly is destined for failure.
I’d just like to wish all my loyal blog readers a happy Christmas. May it be peaceful and refreshing and full of good cheer!
This term at college I am going to be studying the book of Hebrews, which talks a lot about the supremacy of Christ. I’d like to quote from the opening verses, which it would be worth reflecting on with me over the Christmas break:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
‘In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’ – powerful and amazing words. Hebrews talks about Jesus as the word of God the father (c.f. John 1) – God’s word, what he has spoken to us, is Jesus. The incarnation, that little baby in the nativity scene, is God’s word to us. What an amazing truth. Do we listen to Him?
This is the text of a sermon I preached last Sunday morning at Christ Church Cockfosters. The audio isn’t available on the website (which means it may not have been recorded) – if it does appear I will update this post.
The theme was a traditional one for the third Sunday in Advent – “John the Baptist”. I chose to preach from John 1:19-34.