Sunday, March 30, 2008

The status of John's gospel

Doug has some interesting things to say about John's gospel here, principally he argues that "Jesus didn’t run round saying all those “I am …” claims that he makes in John’s gospel. The speech of Jesus in the gospel is largely a stylised representation of Jesus’ significance, given narrative form within the newly established genre of gospel."

I agree with this. That is, I don't read John's gospel as primarily an historical document (I think the synoptics are primarily historical, with the theology more or less thrown in). What I do think John's gospel is, however, is divinely inspired. I think that it tells the truth about Jesus, and it uses the monologues to portray that truth dramatically. I realised the other day, when pondering the question of inerrancy, that as soon as you let go of the modernist mind-set, and allow inerrancy to mean something other than the Enlightenment-era construct of historically demonstrable fact, then I would want to argue quite strongly for the inerrancy of John's gospel (and, flowing from that, the inerrancy of Scripture as a whole).

Which is a deeply conservative conclusion from what might seem a liberal premise. Yet it's only a liberal premise if you are, yourself, completely conditioned by Modern liberal prejudice.

Such is the world we live in.

TBTM20080330


This will be the last TBTM for a couple of weeks as I'm going on holiday. Chances are that this won't be the last post of the day though!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TBTE20080327


Taken with my cameraphone.

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He gives to his beloved sleep.

Interesting thoughts about church size

At Bishop Alan's blog here (and follow the links).

I think it's true that you can't be an effective pastor to a congregation of much more than about 60 adults; this ties in very strongly with things that Eugene Peterson teaches and, of course, with the Killing George Herbert approach.

Which means, in the Mersea context, that we need four or five 'ministers' for church to work, relational glue to be formed, and to ensure that people don't fall through the cracks.

Hmm.


Do we know more than Jerome about the Bible?

Chris referenced Jerome in the comments, and I suggested that we (as a community) now know more about ancient languages and the Bible than he did. Well, I have to confess I don't know too much about Jerome, and I am certainly no linguist (I leave that to the good looking half of the family).

What I have in mind is this:
1) we have access to more texts than the Ancients did (eg Dead Sea scrolls and so on);
2) we have access to archaeological evidence that the Ancients didn't have;
3) I suspect we also have a more nuanced understanding of language (although I may well be wrong on that); and
4) I'm pretty sure that we benefit from a larger and deeper pool of people studying these languages and the relevant texts (eg thousands of PhD students).

So I would want to stand by the general point, although I'm happy to be proven wrong about Jerome in particular.

I'd be very interested to know what John, Doug and Peter have to say on this, as they all know much more about it than me.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Reasonable Atheism (16b): a bit more on bloody hands

One of the sticks used to beat the faithful about the head is the notion that 'religion causes violence'. There is a particular historical genealogy behind this line of argument - it arose as a consequence of the seventeenth century wars of religion in Europe - but despite not being true it has become a persistent urban myth. It came up in some of the comments, most explicitly in CC's words "I have yet to witness a scientist strapping explosives to himself and blowing up civilians in honor of a theory or torturing someone to death because they would not subscribe to their view of gravity". I think this is worth a thread all of its own.

First of all, let me emphasise that I do believe that some people pursue violent acts because of their particular religious beliefs. Clearly Sayyid Qutb has generated precisely that ideology in radical Islam. Yet such religious beliefs are comparatively rare, and not only are they rare they are often in contradiction to the expressed teachings of the founder, not least in Christianity. Christianity was functionally pacifist for the first three hundred years of its life, and it reveres as teacher one who explicitly renounced the path of violence in his own life. If Christianity is inherently violent, isn't it a little odd that this wasn't shown for so long?

Which leads rather naturally into the second point that needs to be made. Christianity only stopped being pacifist when it became an official ideology of state power - and as soon as this happens, then you have the situation where religious language is being used as a cover for secular motives. This is how I read something like the Inquisition - it was a struggle for power that wore religious clothes, in just the same way that the "wars of religion" had very little to do with religious belief as such. Human beings will resort to violence to succeed in their aims and endeavours. That is the nature of the beast. The issue is: what will help the beast to be tamed? If you understand Girard you'll get a pretty persuasive argument that it is precisely religion that tames the beast, and the demolition of religion in the western psyche that caused the beast to be unleashed in the twentieth century.

The flip side of 'religion causes violence' is that 'no scientist inflicts suffering in order to advance (or defend) scientific research'. This seems manifestly untrue. Let's begin with the non-human world and consider vivisection. When a scientist carried out an LD50 test, for example, how does that not qualify as the infliction of suffering in order to discern truth? Second, consider the notorious example of Mengele in WW2. How was his work not scientific? Third, more profoundly, consider how far the Nazi ideology had its origin in acceptable scientific notions in broader Western society, eg social darwinism and eugenics (another link to mystic bourgeoisie is needed). The problem here isn't to do with wicked individuals, it is to do with a whole pattern of thought.

What that brings out is that sometimes scientific language is also used as a cover for secular motives, or, to put that differently, sometimes people can do the worst of things with the best of motives. We're back to the nature of the beast - human nature can be pretty awful - and we need to be very careful when we use language like 'science is morally neutral' in case, by doing so, we are giving a free pass to a nutter. Just as with religion, it is what we do with the words that matters.

There is one final aspect to this. I think you could make an argument that nobody kills for a scientific theory - all you need to do is define 'scientific' in the right way. Yet the consequence is that science is trivial, that nothing which science provides actually matters to our life. Nobody is killing for it, and nobody is prepared to die for it either. All that is most important to us is blind to that sort of science by definition. The biggest difference that I see is between those who accept that definition, and still believe that science is the highest form of knowledge, and those who don't.

Consider a new drug that cures pancreatic cancer; and another drug which tries to do the same but doesn't quite work. Why does the difference matter? Because we care about people and don't want them to die unnecessarily. Is that a scientific value? Is compassion for our fellow human beings something which science actively teaches and cultivates (science, not scientists)? It seems pretty clear to me that science rests within a much larger culture, derives legitimacy, values and purpose from that wider culture, and does its best work as a servant of that culture.

Whenever there is a plea for the independence of science from social control, and the rhetoric of 'science is morally neutral', I reach for my gun.

At least, I would if I had one :)

The Passion (BBC)

A few thoughts:
- overall very pleased with it, very enjoyable, loved the grittiness and realistic portrayal of the lesser characters, especially Caiaphas and Pilate;
- I thought Joseph Mawle was effective as the lead;
- didn't like the over-emphasis on the kingdom being within - definitely a secular influence there;
- similarly, was disappointed that there weren't any healing miracles portrayed;
- I found the treatment of the 'I am the son of God' language historically clumsy and implausible; I'm happy for Jesus to have an overwhelming consciousness of God as his father, but this seemed to have been strained through 3rd century theology and didn't work. That is, I don't think the claim 'I am the son of God' would have been understood in a Trinitarian sense at the time - it would have been understood as meaning 'I am the true king of Israel/ I am the true high priest', each of which would have been enough to generate antagonism;
- delighted with the last episode and the presentation of the resurrection, probably the best thing about the whole film and possibly the best presentation of the resurrection I've seen. I especially liked the way in which it is portrayed as initially confusing via the use of different actors, and then slowly the disciples 'get it' both in terms of recognising who Jesus is and taking forward the implications in their own lives (the washing of the feet).

4.5 out of 5

TBTM20080325


The King over the water

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vantage Point


All technique and no soul. 3/5

Jumper


Distinctly average. A sequel might have potential though. 3/5

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Some small fingers managed to turn off my TV recorder last night, so I missed the last half hour of The Passion. Ah well, I know how the story ends :-)

Dem bones


This is a train of thought prompted by reading (and commenting on) this post at Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream, the question being what difference would it make to Christian faith if Jesus' bones were discovered in a tomb somewhere, that is, in what way is the continuity of body between dead-in-the-tomb Jesus and eating-breakfast-with-disciples Jesus essential to Christian faith?

There are two angles I want to mention, but before continuing let me say that I believe the resurrection was a physically perceived event. I was about to put 'physically manifested' but that begs questions about scientific objectivity etc, and I don't really want to play that game. I want to say that the disciples experienced Jesus with them physically, and I'm content to leave open the question of whether that physicality was something that could, in principle, have been validated with scientific instrumentation. Luke's account: "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

So: two angles. The first is about the evidence for the empty tomb. Over the last eighteen months or so I've been introduced to Margaret Barker's work, and much Christian language and symbolism is now more meaningful to me. One of them is the empty tomb, in particular, the way in which the two angels at each end of the bed correspond to the cherubim on the mercy seat - in other words, the empty tomb is now the place of atonement (note: not the cross); here is the restoration of the world. I find that a wonderful image.

However, I haven't reached a settled view on the historical evidence question. Paul doesn't mention it; on the other hand, if the story was invented out of whole cloth the early community wouldn't have had the empty tomb discovered by women (their evidence was considered to be less worthy than that from a man). I think it possible that the story was invented; I think it possible that Jesus was buried in an unmarked grave along with the people crucified alongside him; but as time goes on I tend more towards something like the empty tomb.

Really what I want to say on this point is that whatever the view of the story on historico-critical grounds, what matters is the weight put onto the story - which brings me to the second angle - resurrection is not resuscitation. This is something on which Paul is good in 1 Corinthians 15 - the body dies and is raised a different sort of body. Still physical, but different. My worry about the empty tomb is less the historical question than the tendency it provokes to seeing the resurrection as simply a 'coming back to life' of Jesus: the body stopped working, and then it started working again. That's not the resurrection. The resurrection is a much more radical break in continuity than that, it is the first fruits of a new creation.

I think that continuity between the bodies is important (that is why the resurrected body bears the marks of crucifixion - that's tremendously important) but I don't believe that continuity has to be expressed through an uninterrupted sequence from dead-body-in-tomb to risen-body-with-disciples. I'm happy for there to be a radical break there - indeed, I believe there was a radical break there.

You could say: the empty tomb as an historical account isn't weight-bearing for me. Jesus being touched after his death is weight-bearing, and the empty tomb as a theological statement, these are weight-bearing.Which is really why I'm open to the possibility that we might one day discover a tomb with Jesus' bones in it. That is, I don't expect it, but should it happen, it wouldn't make a great deal of difference to my faith and, in particular, it wouldn't lead me to believe that the resurrection didn't take place.

UPDATE: in other words, the resurrection is not like this!

Reasonable Atheism (16): a response to the Chimp

I'm going to pick out some elements from the Chimp's recent comment. My remarks in italics.

Yes, very sophisticated. Proclemations made with no support. Science is the absolute antithesis of faith. In adopting the scientific method, nothing is believed to be true without evidence.

This isn't true. For implicit in the method, even as you describe it, is the construct of 'evidence', which contains assumptions about what is allowed to count as evidence. This notion is embedded in a whole patchwork quilt of assumptions from empiricism. Once these assumptions are brought out into the open the scientific endeavour starts to look much less pristine.

Faith is the exact opposite. The suggestion that science is in some way a faith position is ingnorant and misleading. It seems to me that anything half-hearted that states nothing concrete is 'sophisticated'.

No, I think what is sophisticated is being able to step aside from the culturally acceptable rhetoric about science, and recognising science as a cultural construct itself. That's why Ian and I can have productive conversations.


We 'humourless' Atheists are 'humourless' because we refuse to leave any wiggle room for religious fantasy.

Rather, I would say the humourlessness comes from not recognising a) the non-fantastical elements of religion, and b) the fantastical elements of science.

As for the end of faith, I have yet to witness a scientist strapping explosives to himself and blowing up civilans in honor of a theory or torturing someone to death because they would not subscribe to their view of gravity.

This is silly.I'm quite sure that if we were able to work out some sort of utilitarian calculation on which set of beliefs had had the most malign consequences - religious exploration and teachings, or scientific exploration and teachings - then science would end up with by far the most bloody hands. In other words, I'll trade you one Torquemada for your chemical warfare.

Science represents civilization, cooperation and the free expression of ideas.

You missed out motherhood and apple pie :) Those values existed before the rise of science and are maintained apart from the maintenance of science. What I would want to ask you is: can you give a scientifically acceptable explanation of those values?

Not all ideas are defacto accepted as equal. Some ideas are bad ones, they are discarded in favour of good ones.

How is this different from a religion?

There is no 'holy' text that cannot be contradicted.

Perhaps not a text, but certainly a network of culturally embedded assumptions. As Kuhn points out, what makes scientific practices change isn't some semi-mystical notion of 'reason conquering ignorance' but simply a generational change when those established scientists who don't 'get' a new theory die out and are replaced. Reason has very little to do with it (aesthetics is much more important).

Religion runs into this problem constantly. This leads to 'sophisticated' theology. That being bullshit dressed as being sensible. When the ancient books, full of hate and intolerence conflict with modern ethics, excuse making, obfuscation and meaning twisting begin in earnest. If the bible were a scientific document, it would have been discarded long ago.

Thank God it isn't - because I completely agree that as a scientific text it's worse than useless. But that is the mistake that fundamentalists make, and in saying it you show that you share a fundamentalist attitude. Besides which, where do you think 'modern ethics' came from, if not from Christian roots? Or do you think it sprang out new born from John Locke's head, like Athena from Zeus?

Harris' point is that if many people believe the end is coming, and a worryingly large number seem to think so, imagine what they would do with a nuclear arsenal. Many fundamentalists of all stripes actually look forward to the cataclismic ending of the world, day of judgement and all that.

I agree with him on that, and have been teaching and preaching to that effect for a while now.

His point simply is that the world can no longer afford 'faith'. Our technological development coupled with much freer access to information will empower believers to literally destroy the world over their fantasies. 'Sphisticated' theism is complicit in that it suggests these types of beliefs are reasonable and justified.

On the contrary, the only hope of humanity is good theology outcompeting the bad. All that humourless atheism achieves is the disarming of the last best hope we've got. If you don't understand what religion is, how it functions and why it appeals - if both good theology and bad theology is equally nonsensical - then the only future is a violent one, and my point above about the scientists having the bloodiest hands will be vindicated a billion-fold.

Reasonable Atheism (15): Western atheism as a Protestant sub-culture (1)

This theme will have a few parts to it. Here I just want to sketch out the logical/historical link between Protestantism and the abandonment of Christianity.

The essential claim of Christianity is the incarnation - that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine. One of the consequences of that claim is that the material world, the flesh, can be a vessel for the sacred, that it can communicate the transcendent, that it can be a means of grace.

This is the foundation for a sacramental theology, ie that through the water used in baptism, through the bread and wine of communion, God actively engages with the faithful and works to their healing - here the signs and symbols employed mediate God's grace.

Consequently the historically orthodox churches have all emphasised the centrality of sacramental worship - baptism as the rite of entry into the church, communion as the central act of worship renewing and sustaining the church. This pattern is common across the vast majority of Christianity in time and space: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran etc. However, it is a pattern that broke down after the Reformation in some Protestant churches, and which became culturally influential.

In England, for example, the downplaying of the altar, and the raising up of the pulpit to a position of great prominence, can be tracked architecturally. Whereas the historic faith had been sacramentally centred, the post-Reformation church reduced the sacraments to simple signs - and beyond that, they were signs that were optional for faith. The essence of Christianity became "faith", as in being "justified by faith" - and this became reduced to a matter of right belief. If you believe that Jesus Christ is your personal saviour then you have a saving faith.

So, in a great many Protestant churches today, what is most central to Christian worship is right teaching. You have to have the right attitude to the Bible, and the teachers of the Bible have to teach the right thing. Those are the essential elements for ensuring salvation.

However, note what has been lost in this transition. Where the sacraments have become optional or redundant, and teaching takes its place, you no longer need Jesus to have been God incarnate. He just needs to have been a good teacher. Where salvation is a matter of right belief, then Jesus' prime purpose is to teach that right belief (despite the fact that Jesus never uses the phrase "justified by faith").

So in the countries dominated by Western Protestantism, where the sacraments were downplayed or ignored, the idea that Jesus was simply a good teacher was implicitly first taught within the churches themselves. Of course, a major corollary of this trajectory of Protestantism was that church itself eventually becomes redundant. For if salvation flows from right belief, and right belief is a matter of rightly understanding the Bible and what it teaches - then that is something that can be obtained by private reading, private study of the Bible. Which becomes: "you don't have to go to church to be a Christian", a refrain still commonly heard on English streets when talking to the vicar.

At this point - when the church is redundant, when Jesus is simply a good teacher - the mental effort required to move to rejecting Jesus as a principal teacher is not very far.

This brings us on to questions of God, which I'll cover in another post.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Put that in your bong and toke it

Recent arrivals to this blog may not be familiar with this site, which is truly one of my favourites - and another example of sophisticated atheism at work, along with a a warped and wonderful sense of humour....

The project that the writer has embarked on is an important one. I hope his book gets published soon. His next book, that is.

TBTM20080321


Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good

Nobody sane doubts the existence of Jesus

Good article here:

Outside this triangle of sceptics, accommodators and apologists there is another group of men and women who number in the thousands, whose works fill the academic libraries and journals of the world and yet whose views are rarely considered in popular discussion of this topic. I am talking about professional biblical historians: not professors of theology in religious institutions but university historians specialising in the language, literature and culture of the biblical period. Be they Christian, Jewish or agnostic, such scholars shun both overreaching scepticism and theological dogma. They approach the Gospels not as zealous fabrications or divine scripture but as texts comparable with any other from the period. All texts have blind spots and points to prove. If historians waited until they found a source with no angle, they would have nothing left to work with (ancient or modern). The goal is not to discover an agenda-less source but to analyse every source in light of its discernible commitment. This is how scholars read every ancient text, including the New Testament. They do not privilege the Gospels, but nor do they come to them with prejudice. Christians may be unsettled by this objective historical analysis of their sacred texts but there is no comfort here for the dogmatic sceptic either. For while mainstream scholars disagree on many things about the life of Jesus, there is a very strong consensus that the basic narrative of the Gospels is historically sound.

Take the question of Jesus' existence. Dawkins may have his reservations; so might Onfray and Hitchens. But no one who is actually doing ancient history does. I contacted three eminent ancient history professors this week and asked if they knew of any professional historian who argued that Jesus never lived. They did not. Professor Graeme Clarke of the Australian National University was happy to go on the record as saying: "Frankly, I know of no ancient historian or biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ - the documentary evidence is simply overwhelming." Dawkins inadvertently proves the point. In The God Delusion his sole example of a serious historical case against the existence of Jesus is that of "Professor G.A. Wells of the University of London". Dawkins does not mention that George Wells is a professor of German language, not history.

That Jesus lived cannot be disputed...



Now the resurrection... that's a different question - and the subject of my Easter morning sermon!

Monday, March 17, 2008

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Incarnate Word

This is a response to the Celtic Chimp's question. In one sense the title of the post is the answer (ie 'yes'!) but a little more can be said - not least because I spent 40 minutes the other night explaining much of this. It ties in with the point about religious grammar as well ('what do you mean...?')

First off, I'm pretty sure that what I mean by saying that I believe Jesus is the Son of God is not what St Peter meant when he replied to Jesus' question. There are two principal roots for 'Son of God' language that I can see:
- the first is a description of the King of Israel, sometimes the whole people of Israel itself - it's another way of talking about the Messiah;
- the other I take from Margaret Barker's work on the Temple, and it comes from the description of the High Priest on his descent from the Holy of Holies, when he takes on the persona of God in order to cleanse the people from their sin.

These two things are clearly the major roots for why Jesus ended up being called 'The Son of God', yet it is equally clear that this language evolved rather rapidly in response to the resurrection and the meaning of the words changed to something more substantial, ending up with what we have in the creeds (of one being with the Father, begotten not made, light from light etc etc)

For me, the most meaningful declaration is the one I have appended to the title of this post - Jesus is the word incarnate. The link of Jesus to the royal line, and his being King of Israel (which underlies the genealogies and much else in the NT) I find mostly irrelevant. The Temple motif I find more interesting but primarily in an academic and theological sense - it makes no difference to how I live.

The confession that Jesus is the incarnate word is different. The 'word' - ie the logos - I see as the point, the purpose, the intent, the nature, the structure of creation. Jesus is that point, purpose etc in human form. He shows us what it is. The universe was made so that Jesus (and his brothers and sisters) could come into existence. Nothing in the universe exists without that potential being present. That intent and purpose cannot finally be separated from the one doing the intending and purposing, so it makes sense (to me!) to call Jesus God, and yet to distinguish the Son from the Father (and also why I think it makes sense to say - now - that we only come to the father through the Son) within the theological grammar of the Trinity.

So I would say: Jesus is the embodiment of God, he exemplifies humanity and the meaning of it, he makes a claim upon us to which we are required to respond (even if that response does not involve calling him 'Lord'). I don't think Jesus is very worried about the language that we use - he is very worried about whether we are selfish egotists or whether we empty ourselves out in service and love to our neighbour.

I believe that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine.

And I want to be like him; I want to conform my life to the pattern of his life, which means conforming my life to the eternal pattern and purpose laid down by the creator, to be holy, to bear fruit, to be his son, his brother, his friend.

Is that enough of an answer Gary?

Reasonable Atheism (14b): Religious grammar continued

At the risk of making this even murkier than it seems to be already, a few thoughts to expand what I said in the earlier post.

Think of different languages. Think of the different words for 'cow'. Clearly there are connotations to the word for cow in Sanskrit and Urdu that aren't present in English or Welsh. However, there is enough in common for the term to be more or less translatable.

You could say that the words for cow across the different languages share a family resemblance. There may not be any one item which is the exact 'essence of cow' which all the words for cow correspond to, but there is enough correspondence for people of different languages to understand each other, and recognise what is being referred to, in just the same way that different members of a family might more or less resemble each other, without there being any one specific feature which they all have in common.

My argument is that there is something similar going on with religious frameworks. There may not be any one essential thing which all religions have in common (in fact, I'm pretty certain there isn't) and there are all sorts of ways in which religions differ - to the extent that even using the word 'religion' is suspect - but there are family resemblances across the different religions which mean that they more or less resemble each other.

Much of that resembling comes in terms of what could be called 'the practice of holiness', ie cultivating certain attitudes and virtues like forgiveness. Again there may not be one specific element which is 'the essence of forgiveness' but, as I see it, there is enough correspondence in behaviour across the different faiths (and even no faiths) for this to become a meaningful analogy.

Now the way in which these different behaviours are described (or justified) across the different cultures may be very diverse, but if the underlying behaviour is sufficiently similar then I believe we are justified in saying 'these are the same sorts of behaviour'. My point is that when this happens the different religious perspectives do not in reality contradict each other, however diverse the explanations may be. (I would say they each correspond to the will of God - but that's an example of what is at issue.)

Ponder for a moment what it would be for this not to be true. It would mean that there is no common humanity across different cultures, no way in which, for example, one person could communicate their hunger to someone from a different society. Making motions towards an open mouth, rubbing the stomach and so on - are we saying that human beings are so shaped by their culture and language that no communication is possible?

Perhaps this is true. My wife is a translator, and certainly some things, some concepts, are untranslatable (I'm sure the word logos is one). Yet I would place this into a spectrum of understanding, whereby some things are more or less clearly common to human nature, and other things are more or less untranslatably a product of specific circumstance. This is why the word schadenfreude is used in English - in order to preserve a more specific meaning (and of course, that word may well by now have developed different overtones and connotations to what it had in its original linguistic home.)

The point I would want to drive home is that differences in spoken or written language do not necessarily make for a substantial difference in belief. They may, they may not. The key is the practice or form of life within which the words are embedded, and which give the words any meaning that they possess. I have no interest in saying that Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc are all the same (they're not). I do want to say that there are family resemblances, areas of correspondence and compatibility, and that what might seem at first sight to be a contradiction ain't necessarily so.

I return to that Wittgenstein quotation I make much use of:
"Actually I should like to say that ... the words you utter or what you think as you utter them are not what matters, so much as the difference they make at various points in your life. How do I know that two people mean the same when each says he believes in God? And just the same goes for belief in the Trinity. A theology which insists on the use of certain particular words and phrases, and outlaws others, does not make anything clearer (Karl Barth). It gesticulates with words, as one might say, because it wants to say something and does not know how to express it. Practice gives the words their sense."

TBTM20080317


Last night's episode of Lost was really good. Yet it was still only the second best thing on TV yesterday.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reasonable Atheism (14): A point about religious grammar

It is sometimes argued that because religious beliefs and experiences contradict each other, they can't all be true. Whilst I'm sceptical that religions are 'basically all the same' I also believe that this criticism isn't as strong as proponents believe.

Let's take these four theses for our purposes of comparison:
a) Jesus Christ is the Son of God;
b) Muhammed is the final prophet;
c) the Buddha teaches the noble truth;
d) the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the source of all goodness.

Now on the face of it, it is impossible to reconcile these four theses. At most only one can be true. Yet this is only the case if these theses are certain sorts of claims, principally, that the theses are factual claims about states of affairs in the world. It is as if there is a spiritual equivalent of the periodic table, and the claim in each of the four theses is that a particular entity occupies position #1. The other entities, however wonderful, cannot occupy that position, they have to occupy other numbers. As the Highlander tagline had it, 'there can be only one'.

To take the religious language in this way, however, is in my view to fundamentally mistake the grammar of religious language. Accepting this way of understanding religious language is, in fact, a hallmark of what I call the humourless perspective (both atheist and theist).

Wittgenstein said (PI § 43) "For a large class of cases - though not for all - in which we employ the word 'meaning' it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language." In other words, to understand what each of those four theses means - and therefore whether there is a contradiction involved - we need to look at what is actually being done with the words.

Now it is perfectly possible to imagine a Buddhist, a Muslim and a Christian whose lives closely resemble each other in certain particular respects, for instance that in response to suffering a wrong (being cheated in a business transaction) they each choose to forgive. Each one explains their behaviour in terms of their religious commitments: the Christian says that forgiveness is of God, the Muslim says he must follow Allah the compassionate and merciful, the Buddhist says something about the importance of cultivating boundless compassion to all creatures.

The point being that in this case, the meaning of the language is identical across the different religious beliefs. There is no more contradiction involved than there is when a Frenchman uses the word 'vache' where an Englishman would use the word 'cow'. Although the surface grammar of the statements appear contradictory, the depth grammar is the same.

Should we find someone who was a genuine worshipper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who, as a result of their spiritual disciplines and learning, ends up behaving in the same way (practising forgiveness) then we can say that their language means the same thing. We can even say the same thing about an atheist, or about someone who said nothing more about their behaviour than 'this seemed the right way to behave'. In each of these cases it is the behaviour which is fundamental and which gives meaning to the language used to describe it.

Which means that contradictions between religions come at the level of behaviour, not of speech.

For it is also easy to imagine Christians, Muslims and Buddhists who use the same language as their brothers and sisters in the faiths, but whose behaviour is markedly different. In response to being cheated in business, each one may respond with violence of thought and action, or resort to legal and judicial processes and so on. In this instance it becomes clear that there is certainly a contradiction between the beliefs of the first group and of the second - but the contradiction isn't a logical one (which person belongs in position #1 of the spiritual periodic table), the contradiction is one of behaviour.

One can push this a little further and say: the holy in each faith recognise each other and resemble each other. To use Jesus' language "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord' shall enter the Kingdom... but those who do the will of my father who is in heaven."

The fundamental claim of faith is that there is a right way to live, independent of our own choices. There are some disagreements across the faiths about what that right way is, but the disagreements should not be assessed at the surface level of grammar, but at the depth level of forms of life. Once that is done, and greater clarity is obtained about the claims of each faith, we can more easily see where the real contradictions obtain. Then, and only then, the conversation can become interesting and important.



blech


An insomniac night, so no TBTM. This is from a few evenings ago.

John Gray on humourless atheists

"Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest may still believe that, over the long run, the advance of science will drive religion to the margins of human life, but this is now an article of faith rather than a theory based on evidence..."
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Minster Model (March Synchroblog)

Before there were parishes in England, there were Minsters. 'Minster' is simply another word for monastery, or monastic community. However, these Minsters were not enclosed orders, they were instead the central social and economic hub for a network of communities. The Minster church was a place for pursuing worship, prayer, study and formation in discipleship. There was room for specialisation in ministries given the concentration of resources, and these served as a resource for the surrounding communities known as parochiae - what became the parishes. The Minster model was fundamentally missional in orientation and concerned with evangelising and nurturing those local communities.

The parish model succeeded the Minsters principally because the Minsters were successful in that evangelisation. The local communities, converted to the gospel, raised sufficient resource to employ their own local minister - often with the support of a wealthy local landlord who saw the establishment of a church on his land as a feather in his cap - and so, over time, was born the classic pattern of the English parson - the George Herbert model. In this context the work of the church was primarily one of pastoral care and maintenance, with the local minister being a more or less capable jack of all trades, providing for the sacramental and pastoral needs of the local community.

There are several pressures acting upon the church today which, to my mind, make the restoration of the Minster model the way forward for the church.

Amongst those pressures are:
- the contraction of clergy numbers over time. The broader pattern is familiar, but I was surprised to discover recently that the local pattern is more alarming than I had realised - the Colchester area (ie North Essex) is facing a decline in stipendiary clergy of two posts per year for the foreseeable future;
- the need for, and embrace of, the ministry of all the baptised, in this diocese called 'Ministry as Partnership', which has allowed a great many gifts to be explored and expressed in the life of the church;
- an acknowledgement of the collapse in Christian belief amongst the wider population, and therefore the necessity to shift to a more missional model of church.
We are now in a situation where the evangelistic success of the Minsters of England, a thousand years ago, has been destroyed. The population of England has just enough exposure and inherited acceptance of Christianity to inoculate it from genuine commitment and discipleship. In this context the inherited pattern of Christian life - local parishes and the George Herbert model of ministry - are incapable of being obedient to our Lord's command to 'go out and make disciples of all nations'.

~~~

Other people writing on related themes this month:

Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman's Square No More

Beth at Until Translucent

Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill

Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground

Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com

Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes

Brian Riley at at Charis Shalom

Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations

Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings

David Fisher at Cosmic Collisions

Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church

Erin Word at Decompressing Faith

Sonja Andrews at Calacirian


TBTM20080312


The finishing line is in sight...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

TBTM20080310


Taken with my camera phone. The weather was so foul I didn't want to risk taking out my main camera!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

As a Chelsea fan...

...I am bizarrely delighted that they lost to Barnsley (and Tottenham come to that). I wouldn't feel this way if ManU were still involved, but the FA Cup has now re-established its credentials as an excellent cup competition, and all these results are very healthy for football as a sport. I don't really mind who wins it now (probably Portsmouth) but it won't be one of the big four. Wonderful.

I also hope/expect:
Arsenal to win the title
Everton to claim fourth
Chelsea to win the Champions League!!!!

TBTM20080308


A bit late today. All sorts of busyness happening.

"I'm a Church of England Vicar.... I don't know about that"

This is marvellous - watch to the end :-)

(via St Aidan to Abbey Manor)

Friday, March 07, 2008

TBTM20080307


All the nightmares came to play
and it looks as though they're here to stay...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A man who has influenced me more than most


Via the I-Monk.

A very good point

Today is officially my day off. As it happens I had to drive around 90 miles in a round trip to two fairly important (and good) meetings this afternoon, wearing my most official collar, but as you will have noticed I've managed to do some blogging again. What you won't have seen is that I've been catching up on a lot of blog _reading_ - especially of various blogs that I haven't managed to look at for a couple of weeks. One of which was Pam's, who has a discussion of this marvellous point:

"there is a difference between: 1) Telling someone the Good News of the gospel and 2) Getting them to come to church"

Oh yes. Although the difference varies with the church ;-)

Save your own sorry arse

Hilarious.
(via Paul K)

Reasonable Atheism (13): Look at it as a miracle

I originally posted this in June of 2006, but it's worth bringing back up and putting into this sequence. There is more to be said, but this is a reasonable start.
~~~

(Something I wrote in 1995; I'm prompted to put it in from reading this and this)
‘The truth is that the scientific way of looking at a fact is not the way to look at it as a miracle… For imagine whatever fact you may, it is not in itself miraculous in the absolute sense of the term’ (Wittgenstein)
The "violation concept"
I suspect that if you asked the proverbial ‘man in the street’ what a miracle was you would end up with an account which referred to laws of nature being transgressed. Rather like the way the hand in the National Lottery adverts reaches in to the world to change the course of a person's life, so miracles are understood as the intervention of a divine actor into a system, transgressing the laws by which that system operates.

This sort of conception owes a lot to David Hume. He defined a miracle as
"a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent".
This can be described as the violation concept of miracle as it stresses two things: a system of natural laws which the world follows, and an intervention by God which violates those laws. This understanding of miracle has been exposed to severe criticism, in the first place by Hume himself.

Hume’s scepticism
Hume’s criticism of this conception is quite subtle, and very powerful. He does not deny that such events can occur, rather, what he says is that no reasonable person can believe that such an event has occurred. It is always more reasonable to believe that a person is mistaken than to believe that the laws of nature have been broken. Hume takes it as a fundamental principle that a reasonable person will always proportion his or her belief to the evidence available (he gets this from John Locke) and the evidence for there being natural laws is extremely strong, attested to by common experience and controlled experiments. In contrast the evidence for miracles is very poor.

Once we accept that we should apportion our belief according to the evidence, why should we believe in anything miraculous? We are never going to be in a position where it would be reasonable to believe that a miracle had occurred, one which was ‘attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind as to have a great deal to lose in the case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable.’

There are four main elements to Hume's critique:
  • Testimony: no miracle is attested to by enough people of sufficient education and integrity to make us believe them;
  • Gullibility: we know that people are prone to look for `signs and wonders', and that they enjoy stories of marvellous events (and are prone to embellish them);
  • Ignorance: most stories of miracles come from `barbarous' cultures who do not know better;
  • Incoherence: if miracles truly established anything then there would be some coherence to what they seem to show. Instead the different miracles from different religions effectively cancel each other out.
There is actually a fifth point which can be added to this sceptical charge sheet. This is that, if presented with the evidence for a supposedly miraculous event, why should we look for a supernatural explanation? Wouldn't we now simply try and understand what had gone on, possibly by trying to reproduce the events leading up to the supposed ‘miracle’, trying to understand what has gone on - in essence trying to tie it in to our understanding of the world? The most amazing of events would only be seen as a miracle if that is the way a person’s preconceptions lead.

The moral case against the violation concept
Hume’s sceptical arguments are quite powerful, but they essentially come from outside a religious framework. I think that a more devastating critique of the violation concept comes from Maurice Wiles in his book God's Action In The World. In essence Wiles says that, if you accept the violation concept of miracles (and therefore of God’s action) then the God that is responsible for such action becomes monstrous. Such a God chooses to perform some relatively interesting but trivial tricks (eg let Jesus turn water into wine) but turns a blind eye to situations that horrify us such as Hiroshima or Auschwitz.

There are corollary problems for human action if the violation concept is accepted. If we act in a world with stable natural laws then we can plan our actions with some degree of certainty as to their probable outcome and effect. However, if we have a God who intervenes to change things from their expected course then an element of arbitrariness is introduced which trivialises our actions. In addition, unless we can have a degree of surety about the results of our actions then we cannot be responsible for them - if the world was such that a God could intervene every so often to change the course of events then God assumes that much greater a degree of responsibility for what happens in the world.

There is also an issue about divine consistency involved here, ie how consistent is a God who sets up the universe to operate according to certain laws, only for those laws to cease to hold at times and places that are religiously convenient for a particular grouping of people on a small planet on the edge of an average galaxy in a small corner of the universe?

The idea of a miracle as a violation of natural laws is only one way of understanding the nature of a miracle. I would say that it is in fact quite a modern conception - Hume has a lot to answer for. It presupposes a stable and ordered environment within which God can act - essentially a Deist framework, whereby the creation is a vast machine which only has to be started off and then left to its own devices. An alternative way of looking at miracles, (which I would also contend has a rather more substantial Biblical basis) is to think of miracles as a sign, and not involving any breach of natural law. Rather than a miracle being a particularly interesting event, to describe something as a miracle is to talk of a way of perceiving that event.

In the climactic scene of the film ‘Pulp Fiction’ there is a discussion of the nature of miracles. The characters played by John Travolta and Samuel Jackson are hit men for a particularly nasty LA mobster. They have recently carried out a ‘hit’ which almost went wrong - one person had hidden away while his friends were being killed, and he then attacks Travolta and Jackson. The person shot six bullets at them, all of which missed. In the circumstances - the gunman was not very far away, it was a powerful handgun &c - Travolta and Jackson should have been killed. In fact, every bullet misses, the gunman runs out of ammunition and our two ‘heroes’ then kill him instead.


What is interesting about this episode is the discussion in a cafe which follows. The shooting incident has affected them in different ways: the Jackson character sees the episode as miraculous - it provokes him to examine his life, and he says that, because God has spared his life it must be for some purpose; he then resolves to give up his life as a hit man and reform his character. For Travolta, however, they were simply lucky - the event was simply unexpected, but doesn’t make him think of anything religious, he does not see this as proof of divine intervention. The important point is that nor does the Jackson character. The fact that the event could have a perfectly ‘normal’ explanation is irrelevant - what was important is that it has provoked a change of view in the Jackson character, which now leads him to describe the event as a miracle.

A change in perception
As discussed above, there are severe problems with a violation concept of miracles. They are impossible to prove and even if proven, they cannot be the foundation of a religion - cannot prove a particular doctrine, or be necessary for religious doctrine (which gives a clue as to the nature of a religious doctrine). Furthermore, this notion of the miraculous emasculates human freedom and shows God as both bizarre (couldn't God do a better job?) and immoral (why did the heavens not darken over Auschwitz?)

These problems stem from the modernist background against which this conception of a miracle was formulated. A miracle is essentially something that provokes a sense of awe and awareness of the divine. It develops a religious understanding of the world. The crucial point about a miracle is that it changes the aspect under which reality is viewed. This involves perceiving something in a different way - it is not a question of new facts being available, which change the way that other facts are seen. Rather it is that the same set of facts are seen in a different way. To use a different vocabulary, changing the aspect is the same as a paradigm shift.

Miracles involve the same process: an insight is gained which changes the way that things are viewed. In the Pulp Fiction example, Jackson and Travolta don’t disagree about the events, they disagree about how to interpret them. A miracle happens when an event strikes you in such a way that you see the event in a religious light - a revelation. It is something that provokes an awareness of the divine at work in creation. It does not mean that a divine figure has decided to intervene at just that point in time, in reaction to our choices. This is why no wonders can be performed if the observers have no faith, or no propensity for faith - see for example Mt 13.58. A determinedly sceptical mind will never be able to see a miracle, they will always search for explanations that cohere with their sceptical outlook - just as the saint sees God in all things, so a sceptic sees the absence of God in all things!

This can be taken even further. Wittgenstein at one point discusses a priest who fakes a miracle, using red ink to show stigmata in a statue of Christ. He says ‘You are a cheat, but nevertheless the Deity uses you. Red ink in a sense, but not red ink in a sense.’ The sense in which it is not red ink is where the perception of it has religious significance. What distinguishes a miracle from the merely strange, improbable or monstrous is the question of religious significance, and that depends upon the entire outlook of the person viewing the event. This is why miracles cannot be produced on demand, and why they cannot be the foundation of a faith - the faith must come first.

To say of something that it is a miracle is not to say anything factual about it, it is to provoke a particular way of seeing it. A student once asked the Buddha, ‘How did you perceive the world before you were enlightened?’ The Buddha answered, ‘Before I was enlightened, when I looked at a mountain all I saw was a mountain, when I looked at a tree all I saw was a tree, when I looked at a stream all I saw was a stream’. ‘Ah!’ said the student, ‘Now that you are enlightened, what can you see now?’ The Buddha answered, ‘Now that I am enlightened, when I look at a mountain all I see is a mountain, when I look at a tree all I see is a tree, when I look at a stream all I see is a stream’.
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Revolver


Surprisingly good. I'm not convinced that all the elements ended up making coherent sense but what elements! Any film that has Ray Liotta in his underwear screaming 'fear me! fear me!' has to be a cut above the rest.
4/5

Little Children


A beautiful box with nothing in it. It could have been an amazing movie.
4/5

The Bank Job


Rather enjoyable mindless nonsense. I'm intrigued to know how much of it is actually true.
3/5

TBTM20080306


Nothing interesting on the beach or in the sky so I thought I'd just take a picture of Ollie...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

TBTM20080305


"No one can speak the truth; if he has still not mastered himself. He cannot speak it; - but not because he is not clever enough yet. The truth can be spoken only by someone who is already at home in it; not by someone who still lives in falsehood and reaches out from falsehood towards truth on just one occasion." (Wittgenstein, 1939)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TBTM20080304


No day off last week.
No day off this week.
My brain is turning into noodle soup.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Thou shalt not shop at Tesco (a sermon)

Evensong: texts Micah 7 & James 5

Those who know me appreciate that I tend to refer to certain texts and principles from Scripture more often than others; I particularly like the prophets, and I particularly like the prophetic teachings denouncing economic injustice and promising God's terrible wrath upon it. I refer to these principles when, for example, I go off on one of my rants about Tesco. The trouble is, I can start to sound like a stuck record - and I don't really want to become a caricature of myself - so I've tried to avoid preaching on the topic too much, not least because I really don't want to end up in the pages of the Daily Mail again - although those of you who read my blog will be well aware that my views, especially on Tesco, have become even less moderate as time has gone on! But those good intentions rather fail when faced with the sorts of texts that we have tonight. So, with just a little heaviness of heart, I'm going to get up onto my soapbox again.

"Now listen you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you."

I should say early on that the problem isn't really Tesco - Tesco is simply an extremely well-run company that is operating within a certain context and playing the game according to the "rules" it finds in operation. The problem is that basic context, and it is that basic context which God will soon act to destroy - but I will come back to that. For now, let's run with Tesco as an example of what I feel needs to be named and shamed from a Christian perspective.

James 5.4-6: "The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you."

What James is criticising here is the exploitation of the weak by the strong - the abuse of power undertaken in order to increase financial wealth at the cost of the lives of those being exploited. This is not a new insight for James - he is drawing on the insights which run consistently throughout the prophetic literature, as with tonight's reading from Micah which points out that "the powerful dictate what they desire".

Now how might this apply to Tesco? Well, let's think about invoices. Normal business practice would be to invoice a company for goods and services rendered, and for those invoices to be met within a certain time period. Once upon a time I worked in the finance section of Anglian Water and it was my job to process the sequence of invoices, and I would have got into trouble if an invoice wasn't paid on time. Now, according to a survey by Accountancy Age magazine, Tesco only pays 67% of its invoices below the value of £5000 within standard terms. Think about what that means. If the invoice is below £5000 then we are dealing with a small supplier, someone whose livelihood may well depend upon a prompt payment. On the other hand we have Tesco which, given that it makes billions of pounds of profits in a year, can certainly afford to pay bills promptly. Yet it doesn't - and the high rate of non-payment - a third of their small bills - suggests that this is not an occasional accident. What we have is an example of a large company squeezing the supply chain in order to maximise its own cash flow and the income that can be generated from it. "The powerful dictate what they desire". Essentially what happens is that the supplier is forced to lend money to Tesco, and Tesco doesn't even have to pay interest. The trouble is that Tesco has become so good at practices like these that, according to one critical book I read recently, Tesco in the financial year ending in 2006 was able to 'borrow' over £2bn from its suppliers, at no cost in fees or interest payments.

Now as I said, the problem is not particularly with Tesco as such - they are simply the biggest player in this particular market and to a greater or lesser extent the criticisms apply to all the major supermarket chains. I just believe that we need to start somewhere, and not using Tesco is a good place to start. After all, it's not a great hardship for most people, and if a committed Christian cannot achieve that then most areas of Christian discipleship will also be too much for them.

"Now listen you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you."
The other great theme in the prophets is that the injustice of the rich will provoke God's wrath: "because I have sinned against him I will bear the Lord's wrath" as Micah puts it. The truth is that we cannot avoid sinning, we cannot avoid playing a part in the sins of the world. If you are a single mum struggling to survive on benefits, or a frugal pensioner, and Tesco is in walking distance then shopping there is the only reasonable option. It is the lesser of two evils and it is not at all part of my plan to heap yet more burdens upon the shoulders of those who are already vulnerable. Yet that simply points up the truth that what is needed is systemic change - and that is what God is bringing about. The way in which this systemic change is going to take place - the way in which we are going to experience God's wrath - is starting to become clear. You will, I am sure, be aware of the rise in the oil price to a new all-time record high; part of the rise due to the peaking of oil production throughout the world. Yet what has now started to happen are the secondary effects from that. The price of wheat has gone up by 46% in the last two months, corn by 20%. This is because significant parts of the American mid-west have shifted their agricultural land to the production of corn-ethanol. In other words, the farmers can make more money - as a result of government subsidies - from providing fuel for cars than food for people. The consequences of this are frightening. How will our economic system cope when the fuel that it relies upon is taken away? Our transportation system - not least the transportation system - is entirely dependent upon liquid fuels, and as that system breaks down all our assumptions about economic life will be challenged. And what will we do when the car drivers of the west out-compete entire nations in the third world in the demand for food and fuel. Are we really prepared to stand by and watch the wars and mass human migrations that will result? The system has entered into a time of crisis, and God knows how it will end.

It is our entire way of life that needs to change, and that will change. What we need to do is to start living in the light of the change that is coming. There is a particular Christian language that refers to this, and that language is "living in the kingdom". We are children of the resurrection. The resurrection shows the nature of God and the nature of humanity, it shows the way of life that we are to follow. Yet we are not there yet. What we are called to do is to live by that different understanding, to walk towards the light and to keep faith with it, even when it seems utterly absurd by worldly standards. What that means in this context is that we need to begin disengaging from the globalised production of pre-packaged food, and return to the sort of system that was universal as little as fifty years ago, where there is the possibility of a much more direct relationship with local food and local food suppliers. The implications extend into our entire habits of life. This is what the Transition Town movement is all about, and I am so glad that Mersea now has an organisation dedicated to pursuing that objective.

God is in this process. It is one of the principal places where the Spirit may today be found. For one of the other abiding themes of the prophetic writings is that God's love will not always be eclipsed, that there will always be the possibility of redemption. Micah writes "Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD's wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness." There is a way out, a way that God will bless. That way, for us as a community, lies in turning away from highly efficient and soulless corporations and returning to the resilient, the local and the organic - in every sense. There is a challenge in the book of Deuteronomy which encapsulates this message, and which we would do well to meditate on: "See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live..."

May the Lord guide all our choices that we may do his will, that we and all God's children may prosper in this land.

TBTM20080303


O Desmond.
O Penny.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Once more unto the meme dear friends

bls retaliated with a tag:

Rule 1) List three reasons for your blogging.
Rule 2) List these rules.
Rule 3) Tag three others with the thread.

Reason one: it's a pensieve, where my mind can overflow, and the contents, instead of being lost and forgotten, are preserved for posterity. That may not be a superior outcome of course.
Reason two: the conversation. Writing things makes me a) articulate myself more effectively, and b) invites comments that stretch my own thinking and challenge me to reassess my views. It's intellectually very healthy.
Reason three: because I enjoy writing.

I tag: Jonathan who never does a meme but I'd be really interested in his answers to this, and for whom I'd like to buy a pint; Jonathan in lieu of the pint that never was; and Justin as downpayment on a pint yet to come.

Jesus loves me this I know...


(HT Doug)

TBTM20080302


She's a working mother
earning jam for tea

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Olduvai 2008


Richard Duncan explains the Olduvai theory here. It's Holy Scripture for doomers.

TBTM20080301


Some days you wake up with her complaining
Some sunny days you wish it was raining
Some days are sulky, some days have a grin
And some days have bouncers and won't let you in