The meaning of life in East and West

Michael Puett

Michael Puett

Harvard Professor Michael Puett’s lecture last night was as challenging as it was entertaining.

The title was ‘Chinese Philosophy and the Meaning of Life’. I had no idea that the strongest values of western culture were about to be turned on their head, but that’s what happened.

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Climate change: more hubris won’t stop it

Image of the Earth burningJohn Vaillant’s shocking description of the recent fires in California, hotter than anything seen before, melting everything in urban landscapes, should wake us up to the future awaiting us all if we carry on with our destructive lifestyles.

Now, the latest Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change demands ‘urgent and unprecedented changes’ by 2030, only 12 years away.

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Poems for justice (2)

Israeli grain mill

Israeli grain mill

This is the second of 3 posts about the ancient Hebrew prophet Micah, based on sermons I preached at St Brides Liverpool. This one is about the relationship between justice and fairness.

The first describes how Micah lived in a society with conflicting beliefs about justice. So do we. To illustrate the difference, here’s an old story. You may have heard before, but it makes a point.

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Poems for Justice (1)

MicahCentral Liverpool’s food bank, previously known as Hope+, has now been renamed Micah Liverpool. In its honour I was asked to introduce the Hebrew prophet Micah in three sermons at St Brides’ Church.

This one is based on Micah 6:1-8, which is quoted towards the end of this post.

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The origins of the Eucharist: not what you may have thought

Eucharist, Communion, Mass, Lord’s Supper. For the first Christians, it was their central activity. It was what they gathered for. Why?

The usual story goes like this. On the day before he died, Jesus gathered with the twelve apostles for the kind of meal groups of Jewish men often shared at the Passover Festival, with bread and wine. Jesus said of the bread ‘This is my body’ and of the wine ‘This is my blood’. He also said ‘Do this in remembrance of me’. 150 years after the death of Jesus, and from then on, the standard explanation of the Communion Service has been that Christians are doing what Jesus told them to do at the Last Supper.

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Boris Corbyn’s anti-them-ism

Antisemitism with Jeremy Corbyn, anti-Islamism with Boris Johnson: how do they compare?

This post is not about the issues themselves but about the way they are being publicly debated and what this tells us about our declining public ethics.

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New Directions for the Church 10: offer hope

This is the last in my series of posts on new directions for the Church. After this, instead of telling it what it should be saying, I hope to focus on saying it myself.

This is a plea for the Church to offer a positive message of hope.

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New directions for the Church 9: break down the barriers

This post continues my series on possible futures for the Church. Here I argue that we need to break down barriers.

Church culture today loves its barriers. It loves to emphasise what makes Christianity different from other faith traditions, or what makes one’s own denomination different from others, or one’s own church different from the one across the road. We need to break them down.

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The upside-down debate on assisted dying

Logo of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and PolynesiaLogically it ought to be the other way round. As David Seymour’s proposed assisted dying bill divides New Zealand, Jonathan Rees describes the debate between Anglican bishops. Two retired and one assistant bishop think assisted dying is ‘a good and moral choice’ but eight currently serving diocesan bishops, in leadership positions, think ‘the protection of human life is a fundamental cornerstone of society’.

It isn’t just New Zealand. Around the world, wherever medical technology can keep people alive, people ask: should we always postpone death as long as we can? Or should we sometimes accept that the time for death has come, and assist it? Eight states in the US, Canada and the Australian state of Victoria have accepted the need for assisted dying in some cases.

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New directions for the Church 8: admit the contradictions

The Church of England's General SynodThis post continues my series about future directions for the Church. Here I argue that ministers and church leaders need to be more open and honest about the contradictions contained within the Christian beliefs we have inherited.

In an earlier post post I argued that we need to accept more readily that Christians believe different things. Church leaders often give the impression that there is one thing called ‘the Christian message’, so that everyone who engages in mission and evangelism is promoting the same thing. As long as they offer this sterilised fantasy to people who can see the contradictions perfectly well, Christianity is being discredited.

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