procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Theory of Discourses - Alain Badiou

i'll need to think this through a little more, but this was certainly a thought provoking quote in Alain Badiou's Saint Paul : the History of Universalism (2003) p48, contrasting Paul with Pascal, Badiou writes,
With Paul, we notice a complete absence of the theme of mediation. Christ is not a mediation; he is not that through which we know God. Jesus Christ is the pure event, and as such is not a function, even were it to be a function of knowledge, or revelation.

contrasting with Pascal, i think he's got the appropriate emphasis, although perhaps not the whole story. there is definitely "mediatory language" in Paul's Christology (c/f Col1:15), we know things about God because of Jesus. although i must admit there is a transcendence that is found "in" Christ (c/f esp. Eph1) that is almost beyond that of simply a mediator (in the terms of say Heb1 or 1Pet1).
i shall reflect some more on this.
and shall post some more Badiou!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

something worse than abortion (again)

i've been falsely referring people to this post, thinking i said what i'd been thinking.

as it appears this is not the case, rather simply my background thinking; and considering i've had discussions with people over this subject in the last couple of weeks, i thought i should post more fully my thoughts.

as mentioned in the background post, the foundation for looking at this question is the idea of Retrieval Ethics. that is, considering the twisted nature of this current existence, with suffering, death and sin, how can we hope to retrieve some good in a circumstance. in some ways, it is choosing the lesser of two evils.

and i think, in my humble, correctable opinion, that this framework for ethics can be applied to the issue of abortion. and i believe this for several reasons, but also with many caveats.
  1. abortion should never be the norm. God is a God who loves life, who creates life, who sustains life. life is a good thing, thus abortion should never be thought of as simplistically as "an option".
  2. lying outside of the couple of standard deviation points of the normal scenario, there will always be circumstances that are unusual, that are not to be seen as normalising or precedent setting - yet definitely suggest a need to seek the better be retrieved from an already awful situation.
  3. (and this is the icky one) the time in a womb is not to be undervalued - to say the only true value in life is found in having a full four-score years, ticking all the appropriate boxes (wife, kids, grandkids, house, holiday home, overseas ski holiday, rewarding career), is to place a false descriptor on true wealth. true wealth, for the Christian (and for the non-Christian too, in a Christian's perspective!), is to be loved by God. that this is of less value in the time spent in the womb is to put up a false benchmark.

in light of this, i can forsee times, places, situations, where Jesus' words in Luke 23:29 will be real for some people in the here and now, For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’
and this time may be closer, or even current for some people in the here and now. i indeed know of people, situations, where for their child to be born, could be the beginning of a horrific life, for child, for mother, for family.

now i want to say again, that this is not the norm. nor could this ever be normalising.
but my point is that this could be - and is. and to retrieve good out of the situation, abortion may be the better thing.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

up for a bit of Dawkins-esque vitriol?

over at Lara's blog, i hear that Oxford University is looking for applications to fill Richard Dawkins' job when he retires later this year.

i was thinking about possible (and by that i mean improbable) applicants.

top of my list would have to be this guy, with his research into whether it is indeed possible to teach a grandmother to suck eggs.

it seems the successful applicant will display:

  • (a) record of the highest quality of research, publication and teaching in higher education, in one or more fields of science (which could include history and philosophy of science);

  • (b) evidence, for example in the form of publications, lectures or published work, of an interest in enhancing the public understanding of science;

  • (c) experience in communicating with non-scholarly audiences, for example by means of writing or broadcasting, and using up-to-date methods of communication; and

  • (d) an interest in the relationship between the worlds of science and those of public discourse.

i'm still trying to find the paragraph detailing the need for:
  • (e)an irrational hatred of belief systems seen, at least in the successful applicant's eyes, to be incongruous with a scientistic view of science.

maybe it was in the desirable, though not essential, criteria, area...

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Saturday, February 23, 2008


whether it was Barthe, or Sartre, i cannot remember, but one of them (or someone else), wrote perceptively about viewing all of life through a camera lens.

the gist was that all our earthly existence we feel removed, abstracted - from our bodies, from our minds, from all that our senses try and tell us.
for who are we indeed, but a camera lens with a running background commentary?

especially now in considering the immanent death of my grandfather, i think i have never felt further removed from the psychicality of reality - that is, the spiritual/mental linkedness with the world. a lack of connectedness, of partaking in the emotional norms, knowing - or even wanting to know - how to react, behave, think.
and not that it is just now, in the present circumstances - they are simply a magnifying lens (no pun intended) that heighten (or deaden?) my understanding.

indeed, as Paul writes,
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.(1Cor13:12)
how i long for that day when abstraction, disconnectedness, a true drinking-in of reality, will be a lasting actuality.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the other journal and apologetics

continuing my comments a couple of days ago on apologetics, i noticed the latest issue of The Other Journal has just come out, with this great article on What to do when Christianity Looks Stupid! by Randal Rauser (what a great onomatopoeic name!)

what he means is best summed up here:
[... L]ogically valid arguments for theism do not necessarily increase the perceived plausibility of Christian belief.

A plausible religious system is, to use William James' terminology, a live option for belief; that is, it is one that, even if we do not accept it, we still take seriously; that is, we do not immediately consider it ridiculous. By contrast, a credible religious system is one that we consider to have requisite rationality, evidential support and internal coherence. Christian apologists have often focused on establishing the narrow credibility of Christianity, without due concern for its background plausibility.
that is, in order to have a meaningful discussion with a non-believer about Christianity, regardless of how true what you say may or may not be, by entering into discussion with your listener having zero confidence in your how plausible whatever you will be, by-and-large you're wasting your time.

so you may be soundly convinced we are surrounded by angels (and there is good Biblical weight that could build such a case - eg Ps91:11, Eze1, 1Cor4:9, 1Tim5:21, Heb12:22, Heb13:2, not to mention throughout Rev), YET, or should i say BUT, if there is no built plausibility in the way such a thing may be introduced, you can't really blame someone for thinking you're deluded.

so you could imagine two conversations
  • Christian: So, did you know we're surrounded by thousands of angels that protect us and look after us?
    Atheist: UM, no. Do you actually believe that?
    C: Oh, for sure. It says so in the Bible.
    A: And all Christians believe that?

you can imagine the rest of the conversation for yourself

how might the second conversation go?
(i.e. the one where the atheist goes away convinced that it is entirely plausible for angels to exist and us be unaware of their presence)

this is interactive, hypercolour, techmographical blogging at it's height.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

relational salvation

Philippians 2:12-13 says, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

i especially liked this quote by one commentator,
Salvation is not something we possess.
It is rather a relationship in which we stand.
Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Sayings of Paul, IVP 1989, pp218-22

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Monday, February 18, 2008


chatting to someone in first year at college the other day. i mentioned case, the Centre for Apologetic Scholarship and Education.

and they said something like, "yeah, i don't really like apologetics."
so i says, "what?" (please bear in mind, this is someone who has just enrolled in 4 years at theological college)
and they says, "Christianity isn't just about arguing."

my eyes slowly returned to their sockets, as i realised how common a misunderstanding this must be.

of course the cornerstone apologetic bible verse is that of 1 Peter 3:15,
but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord, always being prepared to give an answer (απολογια, apology) to anyone who demands a reason for the hope in you.

on the bus today, reading this great little book, Shining Like Stars (IVP)
Lindsay Brown, present past General Secretary of IFES* writes, "The Christian faith goes against reason but is not against reason," yet "we must not pander to people's intellectual curiosity, but give them a full basis for believing," as "Christianity is never exclusively rational - it also has moral dimensions."

of course, my fave apologetics quote comes from Irenaeus,
to describe is to refute
that is, simply by explaining what it is the-one-demanding-a-reason-for-the-hope-that-is-in-you is saying, the inconsistencies with a Christological world-view. it is then, that, as Tim Keller puts it in this really tops article, you can put in truth of the gospel. however he puts this "dismantling defeater beliefs" in the middle of his "apologetic sandwich", or, in his words:
  1. The attractive gospel – Brief gospel connected to baseline narratives
  2. Why Christianity can be true- Dismantling doubts and defeaters
  3. The Biblical story of the gospel – A more thorough telling

so, my good college friend, this is apologetics: sharing, in an inherently attractive way (joyful as we Christians all are), the gospel in which you trust. i say to you therefore, apologise away!

* International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (website here)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

calvin on prayer

"Hence, as the ambitious adopted Jupiter as their patron; the avaricious, Mercury; the literary aspirants, Apollo and Minerva; the warlike, Mars; the licentious, Venus: so in the present day, as I lately observed, men in prayer give greater license to their unlawful desires than if they were telling jocular tales among their equals. God does not suffer his condescension to be thus mocked, but vindicating his own light, places our wishes under the restraint of his authority. We must, therefore, attend to the observation of John: "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 John 5:14)." Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin, Book 3, Chapter XX, Point 5 *

it's interesting, not to mention culturally unsettling, to see the emphasis Calvin puts on the manner and the mind in which we come to God in prayer. with the contemporary estimation of the spontaneous, this is a healthy rebuke to those who esteem this too highly.

(however, before the liturgists give a triumphant huzzah, he is quick to apply the counterbalancing argument, in the very next point!)

* accessed from here, as for some unknown reason, several chapters of the macsword (a free mac bible program) copy don't work...

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


as previously discussed on this blog here and here, as well as on Byron's blog at various times, i've thought a little about the formality of "Church".

in our introduction to Chapel and Prayer Book today at college, it was interesting to reflect on a bit of history.

in reforming the church against the abuses of the Roman faith, the protestants had various ways of trying to reinforce the "new" way that we are saved, namely justification by faith.
and as well as writing and preaching against the deviation from the truth, the reformers also liturgised for the truth.

it is good for us to remember this as we consider how to do church better, and even more so as we reflect on creeds, with their odd wording - actually thinking through, "why would they have said it like this?", "was it really necessary to say that?".

things like the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed (neither of which being appropriately named!), why say, "we believe in one God,"? why not edit out "one"? it goes without saying does it not? but then you learn about Marcion, and you think, yeah, right on, hammer it home.
not to mention the dual progression of the Holy Spirit later on...

i like history.
and am thankful for my (spiritual) forefathers.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

clear and present word part iii

continuing my series after a hiatus, with Part 3 of my thoughts on the summary points from Mark Thompson's A Clear And Present Word

3. Christian theology is talk about God made possible by God's prior decision to be known.

at a weekend away this weekend, the leader prayed, thanking God that he knows us. as he said this, i realised what a profound, yet (as is often the case) straightforward and fundamental truth this is. remembering what a great joy it is that we do not remain in darkness, yet have had the light of God shine into our lives, c/f John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. that is, being known by God means being shown the light that brings life, namely Christ.

i also realised how distinctive this idea remains among other religions, as they seek to worship the impassible architect, or submit themself to a vengeful god with sacrifice after sacrifice in the uncertain hope that they will be spared their god's wrath.

not to mention the agnostic, who is mightily offended that anyone could be so arrogant as to presume to know the supreme being who may or may not hold all things together.

yet at the heart of the Christian's claim to know God is Thompson's point: we know God because he first knew us.

so i say to my atheist and agnostic friends, that, as Hebrews 4 so well puts it,
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

we are not in the dark. nor have we of astonishing intellect and insight sought and found the light-switch for ourselves.
no. God, in his great mercy has revealed the great mystery that is the Word become flesh.

series links: i, ii

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

future knowledge

did anyone watch the butterfly effect?
or that simpsons episode with the time-travelling toaster?

if you could change things, to what extent would you want to be able to predict the future?

so we were told about friends of my pastor who were the proud parents of a new-born baby, who happened to have down syndrome. they were, and rightly so, overjoyed.

the question remains, would they, i, you, change the past if you could?
i would guess the answer for many would be, no, to think that child, whom you grow to know and love, would not have existed were there a different egg/sperm combo, is a thought not worth entertaining.

but this is a different question, is it not, to whether any pre-pregnancy screening should be thought through.

this was all re-prompted (i started this post some 10 months ago!) by this talk a couple of weeks ago at my old church, entiltled Infertility, IVF and God, which raised a bucketload of interesting questions, mainly by just reiterating the can of complexities IVF opens up, the possibility of 5 parents not being as unreal as we may've thought (as this article clearly shows)

the excellent movie Code 46 just adds another layer of complexity to this whole issue (asking the question, what if you're genetically related but have absolutely zero familial connection due to genetic engineering - should you still be prohibited from the possibility of relationship?)

i really don't have a lot to say about this, but to remind myself of the complexities of living in this third-millenial world we've arrived upon, like aliens with a road map assembled from distant radio-telescopic images.
as kermit once said, it ain't easy being green

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