Reclaiming church history for liberals

erdozainI’ve been reading Dominic Erdozain’s excellent The Soul of Doubt: The religious roots of unbelief from Luther to Marx. At last, a book that sets the record right.

The way I was taught Christian history, and the way far too many church history books still tell it, works on the ‘orthodoxy’ model. The Church carries on, with its doctrines. True church members accept them, heretics debate them, unbelievers reject them.

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Memories of David Jenkins

David Jenkins‘Best known for expressing doubts about the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of Christ’ – The Guardian .

‘“Unbelieving bishop” Jenkins famed for his sceptical views…
He shocked believers by expressing doubts about the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus’ – The Daily Mail .

‘An Anglican bishop who questioned some of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity… His views on the virgin birth and the resurrection caused a storm of protest’ The BBC .
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Suspect science and godless knowledge

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte

Richard Grant’s article Why scientists are losing the fight to communicate science to the public makes two good points about why people are often suspicious of scientists. I shall add a third, which to me is the important one.

Grant is pro-science. The population, he tells us, is not on the whole scientifically literate, and scientists want us to give us and our children a better life. It’s for our own good that they tell us their stuff.

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Has evolution made us what we are?

HuxleyEvolution140When I told the taxi driver that I was a priest, there was a pause. Then he said ‘Oh. I believe in evolution.’ ‘So do I’, I replied. That was too much for him. ‘I can’t take that.’

The study of evolution, like many academic disciplines, produces real insights and there is no good reason for Christians to reject it. However the case for it is undermined when its enthusiasts claim more for it than they should. I have already discussed the issues with selfish genes and evolution as a moral guide . Here I respond to the determinist argument: that everything we are, or do, must have an evolutionary cause – that we have to be the way we are for evolutionary reasons.

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How to not read the Bible

Banner quoting 'Prepare to meet thy God'Last Saturday’s Pride demo in Liverpool was a great occasion, according to the reports I’ve received.

I’ve been sent some photos depicting protestors with banners displaying biblical texts. They give the impression that the Bible disapproves of what Pride stands for.

Of course, they can take for granted that nobody in the demo is going to get a bible out and check the references.

Except that I did.
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Spirit and matter

SunsetAbbeyMy last blog post Spirituality and religion: what’s the difference? generated a number of responses. This is a continuation of the dialogue with the philosopher Paul Doran who posted comments on my blog page.

Paul is the founder of Philosophy in Pubs . His ability to understand the issues and address them clearly is a model for helping us understand deeper issues, so this is why I have followed it up. Rather than continuing the discussion in the Comments section I’m starting with another post.

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Spirituality and religion: what’s the difference?

Linda Woodhead

Linda Woodhead

‘No religion’ is steadily becoming the norm in the British population, according to Professor Linda Woodhead’s sociological research . I have referred to this before but it continues to attract attention. Here I focus on whether the meanings of the words contribute to this pattern. Linda says:

The growth of no religion isn’t sudden; there has been a steady and gradual rise over a fairly long period. I suspect it’s been taking place for at least a century or more. The question is whether it’s speeding up now.

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Shakespeare and Theology

Alison Milbank

Alison Milbank

Modern Church’s annual conference Performing the Faith: Shakespeare in the World took place earlier this week.

It was chaired, in a gentle and encouraging way, by Alison Milbank. Not being an expert on Shakespeare I was not sure how much I would get out of it, but in the event I was fascinated by every talk. This post consists of brief remarks. Photos are here .

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Brexit unmasks moral failure

moneyFriday’s Church Times contains some interesting articles about the Brexit situation. One is by Philip North , the Bishop of Burnley. It’s behind a paywall but here is the relevant bit:

History suggests that, whenever there is economic uncertainty or recession, it is the poor who suffer disproportionately… It is the jobs of the low-paid that are the most vulnerable; it is those who depend on benefits who will suffer most from extended austerity; it is those who live with debt who have the most to fear.

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How do we identify ourselves?

Map of European UnionThomas Mair, the killer of Jo Cox, when asked in court to state his name, gave it as ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. You couldn’t find a stronger way to identify yourself as British.

In all the debates on the European Union, we have heard over and over again that ‘we’ are the British. For some, ‘we’ are also Europeans. For others, Europeans are the ‘they’ against whom we identify ourselves as British.

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