Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Richard Dawkins (again)

An interesting quote from Richard Dawkins here, in which he casts doubt on the value of fairy tales.

Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse.

High-standard invective and good understanding of how the media works with the repeated mentions of child abuse. However, if Christianity or indeed Islam actually are in some sense true, then it would seem to be abuse not to teach children to believe in them. Like failing to teach a child that crossing a road in front of a big lorry is dangerous. Is that child abuse, by terrifying them with the prospect of death?

Meanwhile, Melanie Phillips has written a very interesting piece about Dawkins, after the Dawkins v Lennox debate in Oxford last week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Pearl of Great Price

No, this isn't about the Mormon book of that title - it's about Jesus' parable.

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:44-46, TNIV

A few thoughts:

1. Isn't it interesting that the man sells everything that he has "in his joy"? He gives up everything he has and sells it and does so joyfully, because he is overwhelmed with joy at the value of the treasure.

2. We'd probably say the merchant was dangerously obsessive. After all, what good is it to gain a great pearl, but to have lost everything else, including any way to protect it, anywhere to keep it, even anywhere to live. But surely that is the point. The kingdom of heaven really is valuable enough to lose everything for. And we don't need anywhere to keep it.

3. When preaching on this, we tend to say that you don't really have to give everything up, but you have to be willing to give anything up. I think that's watering it down too much. I think we have to go through the psychological process of counting everything else as lost, so that we no longer claim anything as truly our own except Jesus. Only once we have lost our hold on everything else are we truly free to serve Jesus with them. Only once we have lost everything are we truly free from the things we thought we owned.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bonhoeffer - Not Speaking

Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words... It must be a decisive role of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Atheist Buses

This is a wonderful story... Well, I thought it was moderately interesting when I saw it on the BBC, but the way the Guardian do it is priceless.

Richard Dawkins:

This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.

Here's a picture of the proposed atheist slogan:

In case you can't read it, it says "There's probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Alpha's current tagline is "If God did exist, what would you ask?" Past ones include "Who Cares?" and "Is there more to life?" One of the features of the current Alpha campaign, just in case you hadn't noticed where this was going, is that the posters tend to ask questions.

So Alpha posters ask questions. The atheist poster says that there probably isn't a God, so we should stop worrying and enjoy life. Richard Dawkins, noted atheist, when commenting on this says that thinking is anathema to religion. The Alpha posters make people think. The atheist ones say not to. Hmmmmm....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jack Deere - Surprised by the Power of the Spirit

This is a remarkable book. Usually, when I hear charismatics (as Jack Deere is) trying to persuade non-charismatics, they say silly things along the lines of it being important not to be scared of the work of the Holy Spirit. That's silly because the non-charismatics by and large aren't scared of the work of the Spirit - they just disagree over what the Spirit does and doesn't do. Nor does it help when charismatics tell them that God is bigger than their box - usually the question isn't whether God can do things, but whether he does.

Jack Deere, however, used to be a cessationist, and this book is different because it is a charismatic ex-cessationist writing to try to persuade cessationists, and doing a fairly good job of it.

Deere's basic argument is that cessationism is inconsistent because it claims to disallow arguments from experience, while at the same time cessationism itself is an argument from experience (or lack of it). He argues that the natural reading of the Bible is charismatic rather than cessationist, and dismantles the classic cessationist argument that miracles occur in three periods to authenticate revelation.

I have to say that on balance I think he does a good job. But then, for me the question isn't over the existence or continuation of the so-called charismatic gifts, but about how they are used.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


I've spent most of the last week thinking about death, funerals, etc.

One of the things that struck me most was when thinking through the doctrine of the Resurrection (the general one - us all being raised from the dead at the end), I realised that the vast vast majority of Christians seem to live specifically as if it were not true, except when confronted with the death of someone close to them. We invest far too much in this world, and our heart follows our treasure.

The church today denies the practical reality of the General Resurrection because it denies the practical reality of death by joining our culture in its conspiracy of silence. If we are genuinely to think and live correctly in the light of the General Resurrection, we need to be decidedly counter-cultural in the time and emphasis we give to death.