Monday, August 27, 2007

Dawkins & The Media

Came across this article in The Herald - thought it was a useful corrective to Richard Dawkin's increasingly desperate attacks on faith and Christianity in particular - with the added bonus that it comes from a 'neutral source'. It also highlights the inbuilt bias with which so much of the media approach these issues.


RD reminds me of the George Orwell quote concerning one of his characters that, 'he wasn't so much the type of atheist who didn't believe in God as the type who just didn't like Him'.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Full List of Posts: Dec 2006 - June 2008

Confessions of a Failed Atheist
Honouring God with Empty Hands
Paul's All or Nothing Gospel
The Reason for God - Quotes
An Intelligent Faith
Weary Worship?
Giant slaying - 'ANXIETY' is his name.
Teaching - it's a deal-breaker
Vision by numbers...
'The Lost Message...' - if only!
Jesus Driven Ministry - Quotes (3)
Jesus Driven Ministry - Quotes (2)
Jesus Driven Ministry - Quotes
The Gospel according to Hollywood
Not the same... (Benedict XVI & Indulgences)
Podcast Presuppositions
Deleting the Junk
The Golden Compass - Atheism for Kids
How the UK changed betwen 1997 & 2007
Hitch Hikers Guide to Evangelism Pt 1
Hitch Hikers Guide to Evangelism Pt 2
Worshipping in the Study
The Vision Thing
Clan Adam or Clan Jesus?
Dawkins & The Media
snag is coming
Playing with Words
The Gospel’s Guilty Secret
The Last Taboo
Pollokshaws Carnival 07
Spiritual Yobs
Attention Perfectionists
A Senate Prayer
Zechariah Calling
Additive Free Gospel
Day of Shame
Freedom & Service
Great Expectations
Church Planting
Ballot Box Morality
Spiritual Tourists
Permission to say ‘No’
A Mother’s Prayer
Why the British Stopped going to Church
Jesus and Romantic Love
Disciples or Christians?
Philip Yancey Book Review: ‘Prayer’
Mark Driscoll Book Review: ‘COARR’
Check out Jessica Hagy
Last Call to Prayer
The Christian’s Secret Stress Buster
The Most Important Person in Greenview
Personal Happiness and the Trinity
Saddam & the Death Penalty
CUs and the Ekklesia Report
Non-religious Objectivity?
Wheels within Wheels
Standing with the Brothers
Jesus & President Bartlett
Ministry Checklist
A Call for Unreasonable Christians
Filling Up

Thursday, August 16, 2007

snag - programme 2007/08

That it might be done on earth as it is in heaven...
Christian ethics in a complex world
snag (saturday nights at greenview) will be kicking-off a new winter series on Saturday 13th October at 7.30pm.

Sat 13th October - Drawing the Lines - Dr Stephen McQuoid
Tolerance,intolerance and how we decide

Sat 10th November - Playing God? - Dr Brian Neilly
Stem Cell Research, IVF & Genetics

Sat 8th December - Godly & Green - Dr John Bingham
The Bible and environmental concerns

Sat 12th January - God & Mammon - Edward Lobb
Handling wealth in a material world

Sat 9th February - Culture Clash - Dr Ken McPhail
How Christianity & Culture shape each other

Sat 15th March - Loving me - David Clarkson
Fashion, Fitness & Self esteem
The cafe will be open from 7pm each night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Playing with Words

Doesn’t it drive you nuts how slippery people can be when it comes to theology? Frequently this comes in the form of treating (what would appear to most people) straightforward statements as if they were fiendishly complex and impenetrable riddles. Now I don’t want to appear to be a simpleton here – I know language can be complex, nuanced and multi-faceted. But increasingly Christians seem to be using these considerations as an excuse to kick unpopular doctrines into the theological ‘long grass’. So Scripture texts that jar with our 21st century Western sensibilities can be ignored on the basis of, ‘scholars are divided on the precise meaning of this passage’ etc etc. This linguistic ‘get out of jail free’ card is also increasingly deployed whenever we are faced with a dodgy public pronouncement of some Christian leader we admire – ‘oh, I don’t think he/she was actually saying…’ – when if words mean anything it is abundantly clear that Christian Leader X was undoubtedly saying…

You’ll not be surprised to learn that I’m going to blame Post-Modernism for this. It is one more manifestation of the belief that there is no absolute truth – or at least that no-one can ever be certain they have it. Consequently any interpretation of a statement is as valid as any other even if they contradict each other – the old ‘what is true for you may not be true for me’ approach. But like much Post-Modern thinking the situations in which this approach is employed are conveniently selective. So no-one would say, “murder – it’s not my ‘cup of tea’ but I’m happy if it works for you”. Whereas when it comes to something like religious belief it is simply a case of ‘what makes you happy!’

Take the Bible’s apparently clear statements about the existence of Hell. Statements we are told, even by some who call themselves Evangelical, that are not to be taken at face value. Yes, the Bible has all these warnings and depictions of a place of eternal torment but they are just to make a point rather describe an actual reality. The point being to emphasise how strongly God feels about sin and people rejecting Him. We are not to think there is actually such a place - it’s just hyperbole to stress how awful it is to reject God.

The problem is that it all seems just a bit too convenient. Something we are happy to apply to things we don’t like but when it comes to Heaven for example, we tend not to say, ‘Well actually all that Heaven stuff is just there to emphasise how pleased God is when people respond to Him positively – but hey you’re not to think it actually exists’.

Secondly, not only is it self-servingly convenient, but we would never accept such a premise in other areas of life. Imagine you have bought a new DVD player and within the first week it develops a serious fault and no longer works. You read the guarantee which says, ‘In the event of a fault developing we will replace this product with a new DVD player’. However, back at the shop you are told there will be no replacement, the assistant explains: ‘Well of course, the guarantee says we’ll replace it, but that’s just a way of letting you know how much we really hoped it would work - we never intended that people should take it literally’. Or you get a memo from your Boss telling you to sort out some problem but you do nothing on the basis of ‘who is to say what they really mean’– it may just be a way of them telling you something of their inner feelings rather than something to actually be acted upon.

Of course, the reason we don’t generally ignore, reinterpret or plead bafflement with the words of employers, policemen or even friends is that we tend to take those people seriously – we would view it as patronising and even disrespectful to presume that what they say is not really what they mean.

When it comes to God’s words, however, it is difficult not to conclude that the widespread readiness to disregard or fudge them is because we don’t think they really matter that much. We have persuaded ourselves that our relationship with God exists in some mystical sphere unaffected by what we actually believe about Him and that theology is essentially irrelevant to the quality of that relationship. Big mistake! Words are the basic currency of relationships – the ability to be known by and to know another. To say, ‘I am obedient to someone’, but then to disobey what they say is a nonsense. To say, 'I know someone', but to have ignored their own self-disclosure and constructed your own image of them is a delusion. You don’t obey them and you don’t know them.

Much of the linguistic ‘smoke and mirrors’ used in Christian circles today has the effect of refusing to allow God the possibility of having spoken with any significant degree of clarity. Evangelical Christians need to start having a bit more confidence in the ability of God to communicate clearly and to have a bit more courage in accepting what He says.