What would Meister Eckhart make of us today?

Eckhart140There was an excellent talk on Meister Eckhart at St Brides Liverpool this morning. The talk was given by Dr Duane Williams of Liverpool Hope University. We had time to ask questions, and after the service we carried on talking about it as long as we could – until the Annual Meeting took over.

I went home puzzling over what it has to say about modern attitudes to possessions and wealth.

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Biblical truth: how to find what you are looking for

BibleWhat does the Bible teach? Well, pretty well anything, depending on who is speaking. Do we just accept what we were taught when we were young, or recite a few favourite texts and ignore the rest, or feel well and truly turned off by all the claims?

Here’s my potted history of biblical meaning. It is derived from a number of biblical scholars, the main one being John Barton.

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How do bishops move?

Cartoon of bishopThis post is at Laura Sykes’ request. In a Facebook dialogue she published a cartoon, as below, mentioning that bishops move diagonally.

I haven’t completely forgotten my chess-playing days, so here is some more information. It may or may not be a helpful meditation on episcopacy today.

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The example of Jesus

crucifixion

Jesus nailed to the cross, detail. Ralph Hammann, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the last of four posts on whether Jesus died for our sins. There are three main theories. One is that he won a victory over the devil, along with paying a ransom. Another is that he offered himself as a substitute for humanity, which deserves eternal punishment in hell. The third, which I focus on here, is more down to earth, with less going on in heaven and more for us to do. Jesus’ death was an example for us to follow.
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Was Jesus punished as a substitute for humanity?

Detail from William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854. Detail.

This is the third in a series of four on ‘Did Jesus die for our sins?’ The first is here and the second is here . This one is about the idea that Jesus died as a substitute for the punishment the human race deserves for its sinfulness. This is the theory most popular among conservative evangelicals today.

In the ancient world most people believed the forces making life possible were gods. So when things go wrong – plagues, floods, droughts – what are the gods up to? They must be angry. Somebody must have offended them. There were priests who were experts at finding out which god was offended and how to make amends. Sometimes they said that the gods demanded the death of the guilty people, but often a god would accept an animal as a substitute. So by killing the animal you calm down the god’s anger and re-establish a positive relationship. That’s substitutionary sacrifice.

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Did Jesus defeat the devil?

The devil. Codex Gigas, c. 1220. By Herman the Recluse of the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The devil. Codex Gigas, c. 1220, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the second in a series of four posts on the question ‘Did Jesus die for our sins?’ The first, introductory one, is here .

The Christian tradition has produced three main theories about this, and this post looks at the theory that says we won. Jesus, by dying, paid a ransom, and in that way achieved a victory. Mark 10:45:

the Son of Man came not to served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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What did Jesus ever do for us?

Ethiopian picture of the Crucifixion

Leaf from the Gunda Gunde Gospels, Ethiopia, c.1540. Anonymous

Jesus died to take away our sins. What does that mean? If you are not used to it, it sounds odd. If you are, you may well have been introduced to a cruel and punitive God.

This is the first of four posts on the Atonement. The series is based on talks and discussions at St Brides Liverpool, and aims to give people the means to make their own judgements without tears. The Christian tradition has produced three main theories. This post introduces them. The next three focus on each in turn.

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Europe, nationalism and who we are

EU mapThe debate is hotting up. Or at least, the Prime Minister is. Will Britain vote to leave the European Union at the forthcoming referendum? Are we choosing between two lousy options, as Yanis Varoufakis argues?

I for one am much less enthusiastic about the EU since it has turned itself into an agency of neo-liberal economics, squeezing its poorer countries into ever deeper poverty. However if that’s a reason for Britain leaving the EU, it is an even stronger reason for Liverpool leaving Britain. But – oh, we’re British, aren’t we?

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The philosophy of Green politics

Russian dollsOn 27th January I gave a talk to Liverpool Green Party on the philosophy of Green Party politics. The full text is here . This post aims to summarise the main ways it differs from today’s dominant left-right debate.

One way to describe it is as a set of three tensions, arranged like a set of Russian dolls. The outer one provides the setting for the middle one, and the middle one for the inner.

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Why ‘no religion’ is the new religion

Linda WoodheadOn Tuesday I attended Linda Woodhead’s lecture ‘Why “no religion” is the new religion’ at the British Academy in London.

Linda is a sociologist of religion at Lancaster University and surveys how people describe their religious beliefs and affiliations. The latest news is that ‘nones’ (no religion) have been growing, and last month for the first time they hit 50% of those surveyed.

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