Category Archives: Theology

17 Jul

Four legs good; two legs bad

I don’t know how they get away with it. Let me try to explain, but first you’ll need a bit of background

The first Bishop of Loughborough is to be Rev’d Canon Gulnar Eleanor Francis-Dehqani, Canon Francis-Dehqani was born in Iran in 1966 and, along with a great many other Christians, she and her family fled that country after the 1979 Islamic revolution which brought to power Ayatollah Khomeini

The new bishop likes to be called Gull and the Diocese of Leicester (of which Loughborough is a part) has told us what they expect from her: “Guli will take a full role in the work of the Church across Leicester and Leicestershire, but the post will also have a focus on supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county.”

Gull is delighted with her job specification:

“I’m very excited…”

(Newly-appointed hierarchs always start off by telling us how excited they are)

This one is excited “…about the potential for this role which draws together several important themes in the current life of the Church. Whilst being a bishop for the whole diocese, it (sic) will be a particular joy and a privilege to learn from and draw out the rich resources of Christians from minority ethnic communities.”

Well, she does not exactly speak as we speak in the street, but I think we know what she means. Since her escape from Iran, she has held a great many posts in the realm of synods, quangos and church committees and she has mastered the art of talking multi-culti bureauspeak.

That’s what I meant by saying I don’t know how they get away with it. I mean Gull and the Diocese ought surely to be arraigned for racism?

We can only imagine the furore that would ensue if a diocesan office had issued a job-specification as follows: “The post will have a focus on supporting White, English and Majority Ethnic (WEME) clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county>”

And if the appointee’s response had been: “It will be a particular joy…”

(Joy, like excited is another word they can’t leave alone)

“…and a privilege to learn from and draw out the rich resources from the majority white English population.”

An appointee saying such things would be denounced immediately for shameful and vile racism. She certainly wouldn’t be appointed. For the scandal is that you can be as racist as you like – so long as the objects of your racism are British and white.

I have listened to the arguments of the multi-culti fascists for for half a century and so I know them all off by heart. We are allowed to make exceptions in the case of preferred minorities, because they are under-represented and so we must give them a leg up with a good dose of positive discrimination.

The trouble with this is that there is nothing positive about it. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.

The multi-culti bureau-speakers are racists. And they get away with their racism because the counter culture, the culture of preferring minorities, is the culture now.

Do you remember chapter three of Animal Farm and Snowball’s condensation of The Seven Commandments of Animalism? “Four legs good; two legs bad.” 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
14 Jul

Transcendental gibberish

William Hague, who was leader of the Conservatives while they were in transition between what Theresa May called “the nasty party” and what, under her leadership, has become “the totally useless party,”  now moonlights as Occasional Panglossian Columnist (OPC) on the Church Times.

William is very ambitious. Not for him the trivial aims of passing a law to ensure that everyone is happy all the time or turning the reservoirs of ignorance and imbecility which are our state schools into models of scholarly excellence. No, William really wants to make his mark.

He wants to abolish all rape and sexual violence in warfare. He says: 

“It is often said to me that without war there would be no war-zone rape, as if that were the only way to address the problem. While, of course, our goal is always to prevent conflict, we cannot simply consign millions of women, men, girls, and boys to the suffering of rape while we seek a way to put an end to all conflict, since this goal is one we should always strive for but may often not attain.”

I have read William’s statement eight times already this morning and I still can’t make up my mind whether it is a moral message so profound that we should all be awe-struck and take our shoes off before we read it, or whether it is a candidate for one of the six impossible things that the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass boasted she could do before breakfast.

William’s words are so momentous that I cannot bear the full glory of them in their entirety, so I shall have to discuss them a bit at a time.

First his certainty of the truth of the proposition, “Our goal is always to prevent conflict.”

No it isn’t. Sometimes the right thing to do is to wage war thoroughly – for instance, when our country is threatened by a murderous aggressor. Let us take the example of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in September 1939. We shouldn’t have done it according to Bill Pangloss. We should have tried to prevent it. And we did this resolutely and consistently for a decade. It was called “appeasement” and it didn’t work. In fact, most military historians are agreed that, if we had waged war on Hitler sooner – for instance when he marched into the Rhineland with a battalion that was little more than ceremonial – the far greater carnage that ensued would have been averted.

I hope I’m not going too slowly for you, but one has to be so punctilious when stating the bleedin’ obvious.

So, let me move on to the next episode of Willie in La-La Land by reminding myself that in moral philosophy ought implies can. In other words, I cannot be bound morally to do what I can’t accomplish physically. For convenience, let us take another historical example. How would William have prevented the mass rapes perpetrated on German women by the avenging Red Army in the last years of the Second World War? What “mechanisms” would he have “employed”, what “systems” would he have “put in place” so that these unpleasant things could not have happened?

The answer of course is that, if William had been around in 1943, he would have been powerless to do anything to prevent these atrocities – because he would have had no authority over the Red Army. Similarly today, he has no control over what barbarians of Islamic State or Boko Haram might do in the territories which they occupy.

(Incidentally, he might just possibly be able to minimise such atrocities but, ironically, only by doing the one thing which, he says we must not do – and that it by waging war on them).

Of course, we might devise a moral code for the conduct of our own armed forces which says that they must not rape the enemy’s womenfolk. But the conduct of the enemy’s armed forces is beyond our control.

In the light of these reflections, we can return to William’s original statement and see that it is not, after all, some exalted ethical proposition.

It is sanctimonious gibberish

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
13 Jun

Ill met by moonlight

There is a noxious composition by Harrison Birtwistle called Endless Parade, really an extended noise, the very antidote to music. It’s one of those many pieces written by avant garde composers to irritate regressive people who like their music to have tunes and even to have something to do with beauty.

Endless Parade has its verbal, intellectual and philosophical companions in most of the discussion programmes about history, ideas and the arts on such as the BBC, the Arts Channel and the History Channel. With notable exceptions  – such as Leonard Bernstein’s remarkable series The Unanswered Question or Bryan Magee’s Conversations with Philosophers – these programmes are at best uninformative and misleading and at worst mere fatuity and claptrap.

Typically the format consists of a presenter who pretends ignorance – when this is Melvyn Bragg the pretence is undetectable – who asks faux naif questions of “experts” on behalf of the  ignorant and idiotic listeners or viewers. What follows is the spectacle of academics attempting to talk for long enough to generate in themselves the hope they might accidentally discover something interesting to say.

They hardly ever have. And this is not least because they can’t speak English. They speak only academic jargon. They might be reading from the text book or, more likely these days, the “study module.” They also speak “hand- me-downs” which are really only the unexamined universal prejudices of left wing university types turned media sages: The Renaissance a good thing; the Enlightenment a jolly good thing; French Revolution a pretty good thing; universal rights – bang on; democracy, modernity, diversity, feminism, multiculturalism, equality etc…

No need to flog it to death

And I mustn’t fall into the same trap and waffle as these illustrious persons do. Let me offer an example.

Yesterday on his Radio Four programme Beyond Belief the genuinely likeable Ernie Rea was asking a panel of three “experts” about humankind’s relationship with the moon over the millennia. Amid the usual catalogue of infelicities and desecrations, there was offered the insight that it was only with the coming of the Romantic Movement that we “…began to talk not just about the city but about the wilderness; about women and the feminine as well as males and the masculine; about the night and the dark as well as the day.”

By heck, whatever did we do for conversation before the time of Shelley, Keats and the other boys (and girls) in the 18th century band?

Had we really never come across Moses who led the Israelites forty years in the wilderness of Sinai? Of Jonah in the darkness of the stomach of the great fish? Or, “Yea the darkness hideth not from thee” (Psalm 139:12). Or the fact that St John of the Cross (1542-1591) wrote of “the dark night of the soul” centuries before Mary Shelley gave us the benefit of her nasty dreams? In my ignorance I had thought women had always featured prominently throughout our religion, mythologies, history and culture yonks before The Lady of Shallott turned up. Or perhaps Eve, Ruth, Naomi, Deborah the prophetess, Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba were only men in drag? Same goes for Ophelia, Desdemona and Lady Macbeth, I suppose?

Did we have to wait for the Romantics before we could talk about women? For heaven’s sake the dumbos on our panel of “experts” were discussing the moon! Wouldn’t you have though that even academics might notice that from ancient times the moon has always taken girls’ names: Selene, Artemis, Diana?

Beyond Belief indeed

PS It never stops. That doyenne of the purple patch and the non sequitur, Hilary Mantel, has just been on previewing her forthcoming Reith Lectures by telling us, “The spoken word differs from the written word.”

Gerraway!

Give her the Nobel Prize somebody!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
17 May

Humpty Rules OK?

What are the foundations of morality? The Ten Commandments? Our Lord’s summary of the Law in which we are commanded to love God and to love our neighbour? Does Aristotle “golden mean between the extremes” appeal? Or you might like to try Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative: “Act only on that maxim which you would will to be a universal law.” In the philosophical bargain basement, you can find the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill which declare that the rightness of an action is to be judged by its consequences. if you fancy a bit of positivism and moral anarchy, you can take your cue from A.J.Ayer and C.L. Stevenson who said that the propositions of ethics are strictly “meaningless” and merely emotive: according to these two gentlemen, when I say, “Slaughtering the innocent is wrong,” all I really mean is, “I don’t like slaughtering the innocent.”

Bewildered, we turn to the church. But what do we find there?

In the Season of Easter edition of Faith in Sussex, the Chichester Diocesan magazine, the Bishop of the Diocese, clearly with the election in mind, writes:

“But essentially the vote is an expression of engagement with a process in which law and taxation provide the foundations of what we believe to be morally right.”

I’m sure that if we were to ask the Bishop to clarify this perplexing utterance, I’m sure he would oblige with a qualification something like this: “Of course, I didn’t mean to say that law and taxation are the foundations of morality; only that what we choose to tax and the sorts of laws we make reveal the things that we value most.”

But, if that’s what you meant, Bishop, why was that not what you said?

There is a foolish notion, widespread particularly in politics and social policy-making, that it is the speaker or the writer who means. As if the same sentence in the same context from two different mouths could carry two different and even contradictory meanings. This is not so. It is not we who mean: it is  words that mean. And, unfortunately even for bishops, the choice of words determines what is being said.

It is no defence to reply to a challenge by saying, “That’s not what I meant!”

Then why did you say it? If you meant something else, why didn’t you choose words which would state that something else?

Unfortunately for all our public conversations, politicians, journalists – and it appears, even bishops – have all been reading Alice Through the Looking Glass and they have become the disciples of Humpty Dumpty:

“’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less’.”

No wonder Alice became irritated. And so am I!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
21 Jan

When I hear the word “culture”…

Wondering where to look next for a bit of excitement, I stumbled upon the briefing and agenda papers for the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England to be held next month. My pulse raced and I could feel my face purpling as I read: 

“The Church of England needs to undergo a major ‘culture shift’ to mobilise lay members to spread the gospel in their everyday lives.”

My excitement was occasioned by the utter brilliance of this proposal. The Church has been around in England for 1500 years, but this is the first time a genius has arisen among the hierarchy to suggest that members of the Church might talk to their fellow-countrymen about the Christian faith. The idea is so radical and innovatory that the brain-dead ecclesiastical bureaucrat – sorry, I mean of course the pastoral expert- in Church House has actually had to coin a phrase to describe it. 

This luminous phrase is “culture shift.” And its radical nature is all in the fact that “culture” is not something we naturally associate with the contemporary Church of England

Unless of course we mean guitars and overhead projectors; with cutting up little bits of yellow paper and sticking them on bigger pieces of blue paper; of decorating cup cakes; of “holding a line dance for the Lord.” All these cultural activities, and more besides, are what the Church authorities recommend in their course booklet, Love Life, Live Lent.

Recently they produced something even better when they suggested that parish churches should become “Pokemon Hubs.”

“And behold, he saith unto them, ‘Go ye into all the world and wherever you come across anyone barmy enough to take any notice, tell him to set up a Pokemon Hub’.”

The report, entitled Setting God’s People Free, calls for Christians “…to be equipped to live out their faith in every sphere – from the factory or office, to the gym or shop – to help increase numbers of Christians and their influence in all areas of life.”

Brilliantly the Church House genius understands that, for Church members to be able to do these things, they will have to be taught.

This is an insight of truly startling originality and forces us, at the point of wonder, to contemplate the infinite depth and resourceful creativity of the mind of the contemporary Church. 

These inspired suggestions are key elements in the lay leadership strand of Renewal and Reform – the latest wheeze – sorry, “…an initiative from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to help grow the Church.”

Which, being interpreted means, “The Church authorities – bishops, synods and the like – have been so mindlessly inept for so long that hardly anyone comes to Church any longer. So we’ve run out of money, folks. You’d better get out there then are pull in a few punters – or we won’t be able to pay for the synodical bureaucracy and the bishops’ expenses.”

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
20 Jan

The massacre of the innocents

Archbishop Justin Welby recently visited Auschwitz and afterwards said, “We must reflect on the human capacity for evil and the need to both recognise and challenge this wherever it appears. We must protest to the limit against evil: before it occurs, as it happens, and in its aftermath.”

That was very well said and profoundly Christian, befitting an Archbishop. Its pertinence is particularly noticeable in his phrase “wherever it {evil} appears.”

The extermination of 1.1 million people by the Germans at Auschwitz was a signal atrocity, but it was not unique. The Germans murdered six million Jews in their death camps, but the Russians under Stalin slaughtered three times that number – and some say even more than that. Still more were killed by the Chinese under Mao.

So this is where we should mark well the Archbishop’s phrase, “wherever it {evil} appears.”

And evil appears everywhere and in all ages “All have sinned and fallen  short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). This is the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, the fact that, while we may strive to do good, our will is inclined to evil. St Paul says, “The good I would, that I do not; and what I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19). We are divided selves. 

Nowadays the doctrine of Original Sin has gone put of fashion. Since the Enlightenment we have thought increasingly well of ourselves and so now the truth of the doctrine of Original Sin has been replaced by the lie of Progress. Modern, “liberal” Christians don’t believe in Original Sin: they think it’s just one of those dismal superstitions held by primitive people in the “pre-scientific” bad old days. Modern types are quite sure that they have grown out of such “negative” views.

The modern “liberal” preacher does not set about to convince us of our sinfulness but to cultivate our sense of self-esteem.

But it is easy to give the lie to the “liberals’” denial of the fact of Original Sin. If we are really so progressed, improved and altogether better than our forebears, why were more people slaughtered in the wars and genocides of the 20th century than in all the preceding centuries put together?

This is where I want to come a bit nearer home. The 1.1 million murders of the Auschwitz atrocity were an unspeakable evil. But since the Abortion “Reform” Act of 1967, 8,2 unborn children have been destroyed in the UK because their existence was. deemed inconvenient for those who procreated them. The legalisation of abortion, we were told, would abolish the dirty and dangerous backstreet clinics and termination would be allowed only within the first 24 weeks of gestation and in cases where the foetus was severely damaged or where there was a danger to the life of the mother.

“Termination,” they say blithely, clinically. They forget there should be an “ex” before that word

But for decades abortion has simply been used as another method of contraception used by the sexually incontinent.

8.2 foetuses destroyed since 1967. Currently at a rate of 200,000 every year in the UK. That’s an Auschwitz every five years.

And you tell me you don’t believe in Original Sin?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
25 Dec

Begone gloomy prelate!

“2016 has left us awash with fear.” Thus spake that leader of the Church Militant in this state of England, the Arch-community dirge-chanter of Canterbury, Justin Welby. We are haunted, he chants, by “the fear of terror and the economics of despair.”

If you Google SKY News, you can see a picture of him actually looking haunted and afraid.

Speak for yourself, Mr Welby. I’m not. I would rather believe the angel who said, “Fear not” than the wimpish Primate of all England.

The aim of terrorists is to make us afraid. I’m not going to oblige them, and I am confident most of my fellow countrymen are not going to succumb to fear either.

And what’s all this about “the economics of despair”? Foreign investment, since the referendum, is at the highest level on record. There are more people in work than ever. A score more economic indicators register strongly on the plus side.

There are so many things to be thankful for. Obama has (nearly) gone. We were spared Hillary Clinton. Trump is (almost) in the White House. The England XV went through the year unbeaten. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow scored a stack of runs.

Welby himself has served another year at Canterbury – which means he has one fewer to go until the day he leaves office.

And Leave won that referendum.

Best of all, it’s Christmas Day. The Word is made flesh and dwells among us, and we behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father: full of grace and truth.

So Lord descend to us, we pray: and take that Justin Welby away.

I’ve got a better motto for us: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus…”

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
19 Nov

ARCHBISHOP TALKS SENSE!

Indeed, the age of miracles is not dead. Let me write the headline: ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY TALKS SENSE. It’s even better than MAN BITES DOG. Yes, Justin Welby has surprised us by acting entirely out of character. He has said we must accept that the terrorist group Islamic State has some connection with Islam. Here is an extract from the Archbishop’s speech:

“If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult – probably impossible – to overcome it.

“A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that.

“This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Islamic State is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism.

“Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.”

I have never heard him say anything remotely sane or sensible before. I ran out of fleshy areas of my body which I might pinch to establish that I was not dreaming. Now I am left wondering why Welby spoke as he did. In the past he was always a fully paid up member of the Islam-is-a-religion-of peace-and-love brigade: those Guardianistas and BBC types who claim that the murderous psychopaths’ shout of “Allahu Akbar!” immediately before they behead you/throw a few bombs into a shopping centre/spray a playground with Kalashnikov bullets/ or perhaps crucify you is an aberration or a mere coincidence.

It was probably too much to expect the Archbishop to take the reasonable next step and declare that the Christian response – in fact the Christian duty – towards those who deliberately kill the innocent should be to fight them. This teaching, derived from Aquinas’ doctrine of the just war, is entirely orthodox. Better still if Welby had followed the example of St Bernard of Clairvaux who, in the Burgundian town of Vézelay on 31st March, 1146, delivered his famous oration on responding to the Muslim threat:

“…Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people? …Fly then to arms; let the holy rage animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the Hebrew prophet: ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ ”

But credit where it’s due: The Archbishop’s words represent movement in the right direction and a welcome change from the usual evasive, euphemistic tosh that churchmen speak concerning the barbarians who perpetrate mass murder in the name of Islam. Who knows where these things might lead? Perhaps next week the Archbishop will ascend the pulpit in Canterbury cathedral and say, “Up, lads, and at ‘em!”

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
07 Nov

The existence of God

One of the most interesting passages – among so many interesting passages – in Ian Robinson’s writings comes at the end of his book Holding the Centre. He writes:

“After about two decades of intermittent struggle and a not badly received talk to a serious philosophical society on the subject of the ontological argument for the existence of God, I am unable to venture over the verge… To deny that there is judgement is foolish because the statement is itself an attempt at judgment. I would dearly love to be able to show that the insipiens who twice in The Psalms says in his heart there is no God is trying with Derrida to make the sense that there is no sense… I believe we make sense…Can anyone take it any further?”

I don’t think I can take this any further, but i can point to contributions by at least three philosophers which just might.

In An Essay on Metaphysics R.G. Collingwood says:

“If Gaunilo was right when he argued that Anselm’s ontological proof of the existence of God proved the existence of God only to a person who already believed it, Anselm replied that he did not care… Anselm regarded the fool who ‘hath said in his heart, There is no God’ as a fool not because he was blind to the actual existence of un nomme Dieu but because he did not know that the presupposition, ‘God exists’ was a presupposition he himself made.”

In God, Religion & Reality Stephen R.L. Clark writes:

“If rational discourse is only possible in a God-directed universe, it follows that rational atheists must actually rely upon the truth of theism even to argue against it…. God does not belong to the class of existing things, not that he has no existence, but that he is above all existing things, even above existence itself. Any existing God would be less than God. An existent God would be an idol or a demon.

!”A world in which literally anything could happen, for no intelligible reason, is not intelligible at all. If the truth is such as to be intelligible, there must be a reason why it is whatever it is. So either there is something that exists (and never needed to come into existence) because of what it is, or there is no explanation at all for anything.”

In The Experience of God, David Bentley Hart says:

“It simply does not matter very much is some god named ‘God’ might happen to exist, even if he should prove to be the unsurpassable and unique instantiation of the concept ‘god,’ as that fact casts no no real light on the enigma of existence as such. Even if this demiurge really existed, he would still be just one more being out there whose existence would be in need of explanation: one would still have to look past him and his marvellous works in order to contemplate what is truly ultimate: the original source of being upon which he and the world must both be dependent.””

“Whenever Aquinas spoke of the ‘first cause’ of beings, he was referring to an ontological not a chronological priority.”

I wonder if Robinson thinks this takes the matter any further? And I wonder what others might think?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
28 Oct

All in the mind?

The prevailing wind is a westerly. That’s why we get so much muck blown over from the USA. The current bit of muck is Halloween. This was never popularly observed until comparatively recently and in one sense it epitomises our infantilisation. It demonstrates the truth of G.K. Chesterton’s remark: “When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.” It says much about the sort of society we are when, instead of celebrating All Saints’ Day on 1st November, we keep Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) the night before.

Some Roman Catholics and many Evangelical Christians become very exercised by this celebration of Halloween and warn that it can lead to the worship and glorification of evil. I suppose in a few extreme cases it could, but the real purpose of this “festival” is to make a lot of money out of it by selling masks, costumes and other such tat – as with that other fatuity, Fathers’ Day.

It’s gormless – but no more gormless than the countless celebrations of gormlessness that we go in for these days in our dumbed-down junk culture. For instance, this morning there was a serious discussion between supposed adults on The Today Programme about emojis – those silly faces and doodles which people append to their communications on the varieties of antisocial media. Particularly puerile was the fact that they were talking about designing emojis for older people. So there was one with bingo numbers for eyes and another with a reprimanding stare. is that what oldies do, then: get their heads down in the bingo hall and look up again to scowl at their neighbours?

Our infantilisation is now surely complete.

But there is something nasty about even a pretend celebration of the dark powers – whether you believe that devils exist or not. What certainly exists – and exists very powerfully – is the human imagination. And it is but a short step from pretend to reality – as we notice when violent images watched on TV stir up some people to go out and commit violence in real life. Only last week, a teenage girl was so distressed by a horror series she watched on TV that she did away with herself.

Why can’t people get it into their head that mental events are  real?

St Augustine taught that psychological reality is spiritual reality and moral reality. He said that, if you want to acquire a particular virtue – say kindness – you should pretend that you have this virtue already. Try doing little acts of kindness and you will gradually become a kind person: in the same way that (given a fair wind) you will be able to play the piano if you practise for long enough. Augustine, the master psychologist, actually said, “You must become a hypocrite.” Hypocrite is the old Greek word for an actor.

Be careful which parts you act out then. Choose warily the stuff you want to pretend or to practise.

Be careful what you wish for – you might get it!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail