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Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 | 3 comments

Is ‘Suffering’ Still the Greatest Objection to Christianity?

Is ‘Suffering’ Still the Greatest Objection to Christianity?

I want to suggest that over the last few decades there has been a slow decline in objections to Christianity taking the form: “How could an all-powerful, loving God allow so much evil and suffering in the world?” The question itself comes from a modernist culture which had a very high view of human intellect, and very little room for mystery (i.e. anything that is beyond human comprehension). What has replaced it, in my experience, is a view which takes the form: “Religion is too dogmatic and constraining; it tells everyone what they should and shouldn’t believe/do, obstructing the freedom and diversity of true spirituality.” In a postmodern culture, where what’s-true-for-me is not necessarily what’s-true-for-you, the real problem is with anything that makes absolute truth claims affecting both of us. The odd thing is that these two objections are almost the opposite of each other. In the past Christianity was chided for not having enough answers. Now it is chided for having too many answers. Previously the failing of...

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Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 | 4 comments

How one Philosopher became Christian through reading Aristotle

How one Philosopher became Christian through reading Aristotle

  In 1981 the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre converted to Christianity during the course of writing his most famous work, After Virtue. The book argues that today’s Western understanding of right and wrong (morality) is a shipwreck of disconnected fragments that we can’t seem to piece together. Hundreds of years ago the coherent whole into which they fit was smashed to pieces by a series of revolutions in thought, the most significant of which was the Enlightenment. He noticed that in today’s moral debates (e.g. just war / abortion / poverty) the conflicting opinions have no common framework that could make both sides eventually agree. Therefore everyone’s moral standpoint ends up coming down to how they individually feel, or to an arbitrary decision to take one side instead of another. According to MacIntyre, we should not assume that this is the way moral debates have always been everywhere. On the contrary, things used to be quite different in the West. The common framework for thinking about moral questions came from...

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Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 | 7 comments

What is Worship?

What is Worship?

  I grew up in a church which was home to two competing attitudes to Christian worship. One of them was expressed when people emerged from a service grumbling that they “didn’t get anything out of” the worship that morning. The other was manifest in a common response to this complaint: “It doesn’t matter whether you got anything out of it. Worship isn’t for your benefit, but for God’s.” These contrasting views made either: (1) pleasing human beings, or (2) pleasing God, to be the primary purpose of worship. In recent years I’ve been led to question both these perspectives.[1] Not because it’s wrong to enjoy worship or to see God as enjoying it, but because both these angles miss something essential about what worship is for, why we were given this gift and discipline as followers of Jesus. In what follows I’m going to say three things worship is not, to clear the ground for a final statement on what I think worship is. Worship is not especially...

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Posted by on May 19, 2015 | 2 comments

Sex and the Church – and Diarmaid MacCulloch

Sex and the Church – and Diarmaid MacCulloch

“I think religion has got everything appallingly wrong and it has been terrible for us in sexual terms” declared Diarmaid MacCulloch in an interview about his three-part BBC series, “Sex and the Church.” The series is an attempt to prove his thesis by examining the history of Christian beliefs and practices about sexuality, which he calls “nearly 2,000 years of Christian negativity about sex.”[1] He himself comes from a modern liberal perspective, and is convinced that Christianity has “turned sex from a biological necessity into a vice, from a pleasure into a sin.”[2] I don’t think MacCulloch would deny that the series is not so much a documentary as a polemic directed against the traditional Christian view on sexuality. And, like every polemic, it is selective, generalising, and chooses an emotionally loaded word where a more neutral word would have served. MacCulloch makes his case in three ways: by showing (1) where Christian beliefs came from, (2) what kept Christian beliefs in place for so long, and (3) the...

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Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 | 0 comments

More than Just Evangelism? The Calling of Christians in the World

More than Just Evangelism? The Calling of Christians in the World

A review of the ReFrame course Why did God put us on the earth? What is his purpose for art, science, law, finance, literature and education? What does he want Christians do in those areas? For many Christians the answer to these questions is that we are there to “save others” i.e. to share the gospel with other people in those areas. But, as Loren Wilkinson asks in ReFrame, “if we’re here to save others, what are the ‘others’ here for?” To say that evangelism is the only purpose of Christians in the world is like saying that the only purpose of a business is to advertise its product. What is its product? What is the nature of Christian politics, engineering, and medicine, or does God not have anything to say about these things? ReFrame explores these questions, with ten 40-minute videos going through the Biblical story, examining how it reimagines what it means to be a human being on the earth, from a Christian perspective. It offers continual comparisons between...

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