Stephen Kelly, in an article entitled Does Dr. Who feature a god for our times assesses how a country that has turned its back on its God(s) resorts to making up new ones.
The article concludes
And that’s just it, isn’t it? In the absence of an interventionist God, people simply make their own. After all, when presented with such an abyss, you fill it with whatever you can. Even if that does happen to mean someone who now thinks bow-ties are cool.
As GK Chesterton once said
For when we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing, we worship anything.
Always controversial and an outspoken atheist his ideas have impacted and infuriated many.
His entry in Wikipedia notes that he was included in ‘The Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll’ The poll ‘was conducted in November 2005 and June 2008 by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (US) on the basis of responding readers’ ballot. The objective was to determine the 100 most important public intellectuals who are still alive and active in public life.’
I remember watching the documentary Collision which followed Christopher Hitchens (author of God is not great) and Doug Wilson as they debated ‘Is God good for the world?‘. It’s not a particularly good documentary in some senses but what you can’t miss as you do watch it is what a friendly relationship they enjoyed.
In an article in Christianity Today on the death of Hitchens Wilson writes ‘During the time we spent together, he never said an unkind thing to me—except on stage, up in front of everybody. After doing this, he didn’t wink at me, but he might as well have.’
As we reflect on the death of a godless man we remember the word of the Lord in Ezekiel:
‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’
Google’s top 10 search lists for 2011 has just been released and for all those who feel the need to keep up to speed with what everybody is thinking they are an invaluable source.
There are top 10 fastest rising searches for 2011, fastest rising people (at least 5 of whom I’d never heard), a top 10 ‘how to’ list which includes at number 2 ‘how to snog’ and at number 7 ‘how to flirt’ and top 10 celebrities.
So if you’re desperate to look up-to-date on all things cool or you’re looking to understand the priorities and concerns of a nation you now know where to look.
So Richard Dawkins is guest editing the Christmas edition of the New Statesman – a smart move on their part which is guaranteed to boost the sales.
Like all fundamentalists Richard Dawkins can be infuriating. His resistance to reason and his refusal to engage with the world of ideas has driven many an atheist mad let alone the Christian. Again like many fundamentalists his rhetoric is often full of vitriol and demonstrates a sometimes scary intolerance for any who disagree with him – no matter how reasonable. But I for one am still glad he’s in the world. Why?
1. Is there anyone who does more to keep religion in the public eye than Dawkins? The secularist agenda is to marginalise people of faith by keeping God-talk out of the public sphere. Dawkins functions as a secret agent subverting the secularist agenda by insisting on discussing matters of faith. When others go on and on about X-factor he just can’t stop talking about God! He’s done more for the church, in the public sphere, than any religious figure since the time of CS Lewis.
2. It follows from the first point that Dawkins is responsible, both directly and indirectly, for opening up many a conversation as matters of God, faith & science continue to be discussed in the media. Just this last week Brian Cox distanced himself from Dawkins views on Radio 5 Live.
3. Dawkins does a great deal to reassure Christians that their faith is reasonable and credible. His refusal to debate Christian apologist William Lane Craig in Oxford a couple of months ago, even at a time that he was promoting his own new book through a show at the Royal Albert Hall, was a massive own goal. His unwillingness to defend his own ideas has been exposed by a number of atheist Philosophers.
4. Dawkins provides some great quotes to highlight the bankruptcy of atheism. His own (albeit qualified) support for infanticide, his admission that he has no idea how life began on the planet, his own recognition that for the atheist there is no good and evil all demonstrate how unliveable atheism is and how dark its conclusion are.
5.Dawkins compels Christians to think and to think deeply about their faith. As we take seriously the call to provide a reasoned defence for what we believe gets us back to our Bible and to good books.
6. Dawkins reminds us of the danger of fundamentalism in all of its forms. He is a warning to us all of how ugly it can be and how by contrast Christians need to think, speak and behave differently.
Francis Schaeffer was right when he said ‘the greatest apologetic of all is love’.
So happy Christmas Richard Dawkins and keep up the good work!
There is a sense in which WWJD is the wrong question to ask. A better question, when it comes to grasping the message of Christianity is what DID Jesus do? It is his life of perfect obedience and his death as a sin-bearing sacrifice that alone brings us into relationship with Christ. As the Apostle Paul says ‘God justifies the wicked’ Romans 4:5. So when it comes to answering the question what gets us right with God WDJD is a better question.
But in another sense once restored to a relationship with God through Christ WWJD is a good question.
Philippians 2:5 (NIV) says ‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.’
1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV) says ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.’
Ultimately we are called in the strength of God’s spirit to follow the example of Christ. Luke 9:23 ‘Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”
Tim Keller speaks to Google staff on the essence of marriage from a Christian perspective. A very helpful and stimulating look at defending marriage before a sceptical audience.
Every suicide is a tragedy but some suicides defy comprehension.
The overwhelming sentiment of those who knew the Wales football manager Gary Speed has been shock and disbelief alongside sadness and tears. That someone at the top of their profession, surrounded by a loving family and carrying an outstanding reputation could decide that his life (for what reason we don’t know) was not worth living is beyond comprehension.
It is a blessing that few people make a decision to end their lives in such heartbreaking ways. But Speed’s death highlights a number of painful, but important truths.
1. No one is immune from suicidal thoughts
One friend of Speed’s commented:
That this should happen is just unthinkable because everyone you knew, in any walk of life, in any situation, you would have to say he would have been the last one you might have thought could have done something like this.
2. Not even everything you could want in life, a loving family, material security, success or fame protects you from inner turmoil with is much more about who you are than what you have.
3. It is possible to keep dark feelings completely hidden.
Behind the disbelief is the frightening thought that someone can battle with suicidal thoughts deep within their souls and yet present no suggestion of it in the way they relate to those around them.
Some people prefer to battle these things entirely on their own. They learn to cope with these feelings whilst unable or unwilling to communicate their despair to the world.
James Lawton writing in the Independent noted:
In all his time as a notably undemonstrative, but deeply respected member of his celebrated trade, Gary Speed seldom, if ever, gave a hint of vulnerability.
4. Friends blame themselves that they didn’t see it coming.
The testimony of those close to suicide victims is that it is inevitable that they should look back over previous meetings and conversations and think should I have spotted that something was wrong. Friends and family think they should and could have done more, maybe made themselves more available or offered better support. The sad reality is that so often in such situations there is little that anyone can do to predict the unpredictable.
Alan Shearer said it all when he said of Speed’s death ‘this just doesn’t happen to your best mate’.
5. It is extremely difficult to accept that such a thing can happen.
Howard Wilkinson, his manager when he won the Football League with Leeds United said:
For him – at 42 – to leave us is such a tragic loss. I’ve rarely come across a better balanced, lovely, genuine person. He was a terrific player – not as gifted as some but he made the most of everything he had. Worst of all for me I knew his parents, in particular his dad, his lovely wife and family – I just find it very, very difficult to come to terms with.
Speed’s death came just a day before the announcement yesterday afternoon of the winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for 2011. It was awarded to Ronald Reng for his biography ‘A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke‘ the German national goalkeeper who committed suicide in 2009.
Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison-doctor and psychiatrist. When Moors murderer Ian Brady wrote a book The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and its Analysis, by the “Moors Murderer” Dalrymple was invited to review it for The Sunday Telegraph. The title of the review was ‘Inside the mind of a moral monster’ and in it Dalrymple offers an insight into what ‘moral monsters’ reveal about human nature:
‘I have noticed in the prison in which I work that the more conscienceless the prisoner with regard to his victims, the more prickly he is about wrongs he believes to have been done to him, however slight or trivial they might be. A man who won’t hesitate to stab a complete stranger if he feels like it, will call down anathema on the world if his tabacco ration arrives but 10 minutes late.
And if it were not for the fact that Brady came to his conclusions by torture and killing rather than by reading Derrida and Foucault, he could have found a post in any contemporary university department of literature: ‘Legalities, moralities and ethics are simply questions of geography, passing modes of fashion and taste, shaped and dictated by the prevailing ruling class of whatever country one happens to be in at a certain time.’
It is sometimes said that a psychopath is someone with no moral sense. This is not quite accurate. Even as thoroughgoing a psychopath as Brady sometimes lets slip an almost normal moral judgement that threatens to undermine his stance as a man of iron realism, amoralism and relativism.
Neither is it true that psychopaths such as Brady are unable to think in moral categories. Indeed, his denunciation of almost everyone around him pollutes with such moral categories as corruption and hypocrisy. He presents himself as the only honest man he knows.’
As the Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans chapter 2:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else…you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them).
The Bible contains surprising verses, even offensive verses, passages of the Bible that seem to be at odds with our understanding of the way the world should work and God behave.
Exodus 20:5 is one such verse;
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
If you’re a Christian you probably, like me, find a verse like that a little unsettling. What can such a verse mean?
1. It can’t mean that God actually punishes innocent people for the sins of an earlier generation. After all Deuteronomy 24:16 makes clear that ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers.’
2. Rather through this verse God warns Israel that as Stuart comments;
‘God will indeed punish generation after generation if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents.’
Ryken notes that;
‘God never condemns the innocent only the guilty. Here it is important to notice something that is often overlooked — namely, how the threat ends. God says that he will punish three or four generations “of those who hate me” (Exod. 20:5). The children hate God as much as their fathers did (which, given the way they were raised, is not surprising).’
And here is his sobering conclusion
‘As parents plan for the future, they should be more concerned about the second commandment than they are about their financial portfolio. This commandment contains a solemn warning for fathers. When a man refuses to love God passionately and to worship God properly, the consequences of his sin will last for generations.
The guilt of a man who treasures idols in his heart will corrupt his entire family, and in the end they will all be punished.’
The second commandment in action
And then in the news today we find something that seems in every way to be a fulfilment of this warning in our own times. Dr Helen Wright, President of the Girls’ School Association, in a speech to be given tomorrow warns that the consequences of parents not knowing right from wrong are falling on their children.
‘I have a deep worry that some parents have been so deprived in their own lives of education and values, that they no longer know right from wrong and that they are as a result unwittingly ‘indulging’ children in some parallel universe where it is acceptable to let young children wear make-up and provocative clothing.
“If parents can’t see anything wrong in dressing up their children in ‘Future WAG’ T-shirts and letting them wear make-up, high heels and ‘mini-me’ sexy clothing, then something is intensely wrong in our society.’
Cecil B. De Mille the director of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Ten Commandments, described the folly of ignoring God’s 10 commandments in this way – he said ‘It is impossible for us to break laws; we only break ourselves upon them.’
Today’s Telegraph contains a report on a speech given by the Chief Rabbi. Speaking at an interfaith reception, Lord Sacks argued that Steve Jobs has helped create a culture of unhappiness.
‘If you haven’t got a fourth generation iPhone, the consumer society is in fact the most efficient mechanism ever devised for the creation and distribution of unhappiness.’
Since joining the world of twitter and blogging I have to say I have been a little surprised at just how many posts and tweets by church pastors and planters have obsessed with the latest iGadget. Maybe the Chief Rabbi has something to teach us all.
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