What does progress do?

Francis Bacon by Drebbel, via Wikimedia Commons

Francis Bacon by Drebbel, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the second of my series of four talks on progress.

The first describes its origins. Human life is unsatisfactory but our lives have been designed, by some kind of god, with potential for improvement. Sometimes we go forward, sometimes we go back, but the world has been designed for the possibility of a better life for everyone.

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Progress: what is it and is it possible?

Children in carI’m doing a series of four talks on progress at St Brides Liverpool. The first was last Sunday. This is an edited version of the text. At the end there are questions for discussion, because this is what we do at St Brides.

The other three talks will be about the main ideas of progress today (mainly new technologies and economic growth); alternative theories of progress and the growth of scepticism; and finally how the Christian tradition can offer a positive account of it. Further details are in my new book Why Progressives Need God.

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Social mobility or equality: which is more godly?

LadderThere is a good article in the Guardian by Selina Todd on the tension between social mobility and equality. Written in the context of a disagreement between Conservative and Labour Party policies on education, it argues against social mobility and in favour of equality.

This post asks about the underlying values which might make us approve of one or the other, and argues that there is an essential difference between secular and religious perspectives.

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The Parable of the Mustard Shrub

Israeli mustard plant

Israeli mustard plant

This is my sermon for this coming Sunday, based on the Gospel reading’s parable about mustard.

I have designed it to illustrate two things. The first is how New Testament scholars analyse early Christian texts to shed light on what Jesus said and meant. The second is how this kind of research sometimes challenges earlier views and presents Jesus as a much more radical and exciting character. My main source is John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Crossan’s interpretation is disputed but I find it convincing.

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Steve Chalke, Pompeii and the clobber texts on sex

Steve ChalkeSteve Chalke’s new video analyses the New Testament ‘clobber texts’ on homosexuality in the light of artefacts reclaimed from under the volcanic lava at Pompeii.

If you want to see lots of artistic representations of male genitals and sex acts, you will enjoy the video. Alternatively, if you already know what they look like, Chalke shows how those New Testament texts had bigger concerns to address than loving same-sex partnerships. The excavations at Pompeii reveal what a first century Roman city was like and what ordinary people were up to in the minutes before the volcano buried them. It is not a pretty story.

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God: are we exploring further in or climbing out?

Youth questioning‘God: none, one, three or many?’ was the theme of Modern Church’s annual conference earlier this week, chaired by Jane Shaw and Linda Woodhead.

We were in the company of people who believe passionately in God and don’t believe in God at all; people who question what we mean by ‘God’, and whether we can possibly answer the questions; people who value their church but don’t see the point of God, and people who value God but don’t see the point of churches.

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Grenfell Tower and Hillsborough: who is to blame?

Grenfell Tower burning28 years on, six people are to be prosecuted for the Hillsborough tragedy. What, just six? Is that justice? Is nobody else to blame? What about the more widespread culture of mutual support and avoiding blame, among the police just as in many occupations? After all, whistleblowers are unpopular – and the louder the whistle, the more unpopular the blower.

Blame for the Grenfell Tower fire is even harder to pin down. The contractors who installed the inflammable cladding? Kensington and Chelsea Council? The other contractors and councils, elsewhere, who used the same cladding in buildings which by lucky chance didn’t burst into flames? After cuts upon cuts to local government expenditure, should we blame the Government for squeezing the whole system to the point where this happens? But then, if the Government is to blame, aren’t the voters to blame for electing them?

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British values from Jeremiah to Grenfell Tower

This is my sermon for this coming Sunday, published early in case any other preacher wants to pinch bits. The text is Jeremiah 20:7-13.

It compares the recent changes in British values with the tensions in Judean values at the time of Jeremiah.

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Justification by faith

This is my sermon for this coming Sunday, based on the Lectionary epistle, published in advance in case any other preacher wants to pinch bits.

It is planned for the Open Table service for the LGBT+ community, on its ninth birthday.

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Why Christians should vote for a different government. 15) Votes

Ballot boxThis post is the last in my series summarising some of the arguments in my new book Why Progressives Need God.

An election looms. How do we decide who to vote for?

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