State or individual – or anything else?

Clement Attlee & Margaret Thatcher

Clement Attlee & Margaret Thatcher

I first voted in a general election in 1970. Some have been closely fought, others were more predictable. As far as I can remember, every one has been proclaimed as the most important for a generation.

This one, though, does feel different. The growth of smaller parties represents disillusionment with the two big ones.

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The languages of evangelism

Ouija board

Ouija board

A few years ago in a local wine bar I found myself in unfamiliar company, sitting at a table next to a medium and opposite a committed member of the British Humanist Association.

I had not met either before, but this was the weekly local meeting of Philosophy in Pubs. The regulars knew each other’s views. Whenever religion got mentioned – almost always disparagingly – they would turn to the retired vicar in their midst to see how I would respond. These meetings remind me how marginal, or even absurd, Christianity and its institutions seem to many people. I often find myself the only one arguing that it is rational to believe in a spiritual being; but on this occasion it seemed important to set limits to the number I believed in.

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The economy and the humans

MoneyThe economy is getting rather too uppity.

I have written a number of blog posts on the economy, and I plan more over the next few weeks. This is a lot for someone with only limited training in economics. My excuse is that I approach it from a theological perspective, which offers different insights.

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The State We’re In: is God the problem or the answer?

worldburn140I’ve just posted here the text of the talk I gave at St Brides Liverpool on 23rd March. It’s over 4,000 words long, so I haven’t included it as a blog post.

It’s an argument for believing in God as a moral authority, derived from the fact that modern western society is completely failing to solve its biggest problems. We are destroying the environment, the rich are getting richer as the poor get poorer, and fears of terrorism drive militarisation. Why can’t we do better?

So it’s moral philosophy with a focus on God as moral authority. Read the article or listen to it here.

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Homophobia and the changing Christian mood

Steve Chalke

Steve Chalke

Is the Christian obsession with same-sex partnerships declining? Outside the churches people are puzzled why it is such a thorny issue.

It is to be discussed (again!) at a conference on 10th-11th April, hosted by Oasis. Oasis is the organisation set up by Steve Chalke, a well-known Baptist minister who has pubicly spoken in favour of same-sex marriage .

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Muslim worship at Waterloo

Giles Goddard

Giles Goddard

Shock horror, Muslims were allowed to say prayers in a Church of England church.

The church was St John’s Waterloo. The Daily Telegraph reported that ‘evangelical clerics were angered’. A flurry of activity followed, with official statements from the Diocese here and here , and the Vicar, Giles Goddard .

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Evil, suffering and Christianity

Irenaeus of Lyons

Irenaeus of Lyons, by Carl Rohl Smith, 1883-84

Can Christianity explain why God allows evil and suffering?

This is the third in a series of three talks I have been giving on why a good God should allow evil and suffering. The first is here . The second is here . If you like the sound of my voice you can listen to it here .

Traditional Christian accounts say God made a good world, but gave humans free will. Evil and suffering result from the human misuse of our freedom. In the early days they also speculated about whether God gave angels free will to sin.

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Evil and suffering, with or without God

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham

This is the text of the second of a series of three talks I’ve been giving at St Brides Liverpool, on the subject of why God allows evil and suffering. The first is here . You can listen to this one here .

These days many people argue that because of evil and suffering there cannot be a god at all.

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Evangelism and witness: about what?

Detail from Caravaggio's The Calling of Saint MatthewLast night I attended Justin Welby’s lecture on ‘Evangelism and Witness’ at Lambeth Palace.

Most of the attenders seemed to be church officers with some kind of evangelism brief. Ed Thornton of the Church Times was there, and over the preliminary canapes he introduced me to another journalist who sang the praises of Justin for at last addressing the declining numbers of churchgoers. I tried rather clumsily to relativise the significance of churchgoing numbers, referring to Linda Woodhead ‘s research on what people actually believed, but it became clear that I was saying the wrong thing: the ‘spiritual but not religious’ generation aren’t being given enough doctrine.

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Is it a good time for liberal theology?

Linda Woodhead

Linda Woodhead

What does liberal theology have to offer, why does it matter, why bother defending it? How can it increase its influence? Should it get more political?

These are some of the questions we discussed at Modern Church’s Council meeting on Friday and Saturday. Modern Church promotes liberal theology.

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