Archive for November, 2010

Almost half of all Britons believe in aliens

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I linked earlier to a Telegraph piece which reports that 44 per cent of UK adults are convinced of the existence of extra-terrestrial life. In response, Simian made this comment:

Almost half of Britons believe in aliens…
Given what we know about the size, composition and age of the Universe, it is arguably extremely unlikely that there ISN’T life in other parts of the Universe. But it probably isn’t little green men in flying saucers.
What is the Christian view on this? If an alien civilisation were somehow able to make recognisable contact with us, would that undermine Christianity?

If we believe in the existence of angels or demons then would it not be fair to say that Christians already believe in alien life?

Back in October I posted this:

Because of the recent discovery of potentially habitable exoplanet Gliese 581g, talk of aliens is everywhere across the Christian Interweb.

As I’ve noted previously, few are as prepared for alien contact as the Catholic Church who are preparing theologically and are ready to baptise our first visitors.

Dr James McGrath noted this development yesterday:

NASA is going to be holding a press conference on December 2nd, and the line-up of panelists has some speculating that they will be announcing that they have discovered life elsewhere than on Earth (or at least from elsewhere). The NASA press release simply says that it relates to an “astrobiology discovery” and that it will “discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

I’m sure we’ll all be eagerly awaiting the announcement – in the mean time, feel free to speculate wildly!

For me personally, if an alien civilisation were to make recognisable contact with us, it wouldn’t undermine my faith, as in Jesus, God is drawing all creation to Himself and that would necessarily include any possible alien life.

A few good links

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

The Church Mouse Blog – Apple remove “anti-gay” Manhattan Declaration app from iTunes App Store

The Vernacular Curate – So You Want Readers?

Roger E Olsen – Arminianism is God-centered theology

A Grain of Sand – We Should Always Be Polite

Telegraph – Almost half of all Britons believe in aliens

And if you want to take a fun and relaxing five minute break then….

Edinburgh Zoo Live Penguin Cam

Are Believers Searching For The Atheist Seal Of Approval?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

A pompous piece of drivel has been traversing the atheist Interweb entitled: “Why Religious Believers Are So Desperate for the Atheist Seal of Approval“.

The premise of the article is that believers are desperate for the approval of atheists and Christian over at Homebrewed Theology has noted the absurdity and illogicality contained therein.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but we believers are sufficiently self-assured to enjoy our faith without the need of atheist approval.

It is in light of this bunkum that I’m going to reproduce Dr Jim West’s excellent blog post in full, which takes a brutal gander at the reality of the atheist – believer dialogue:

Hector’s new essay in Bible and Interpretation is simply a re-hashing, in my estimation, of previously rehashed ‘atheists can too do biblical studies’ arguments that have been addressed decades ago by none less than Karl Barth.  So here, my final response to Hector (because now we really are at a serious impasse from which we cannot extricate ourselves until he either becomes a Christian or I become an atheist- neither of which seems likely and especially not the latter), will simply be a repetition of Barth’s brilliantly articulated statement (with a dab of Luther for good measure) – applied to the real impossibility of dialogue with militant atheists (and fundamentalists of all stripes, including fundamentalist atheists).

There are three reasons why all planned apologetics and polemics have obviously been irresponsible, irrelevant, and therefore ineffective.  a) In such apologetics faith must clearly take unbelief seriously.  Hence, it cannot take itself with full seriousness.

As Barth rightly notes, granting unbelief recognition means granting it seriousness- and that a seriousness which it does not deserve.  To take it seriously is to denigrate faith.  So to recognize the unbelief (the angry atheism, whether he likes the phrase or not) of Avalos and others is to recognize something unworthy of recognition, since in gazing in the direction of that unbelief one has, for the moment, turned one’s gaze away from faith.

b) In all independently ventured apologetics and polemics there may be discerned the opinion that dogmatics has done its work.

But dogmatics hasn’t had its final say because dogmatics, the articulation of the Christian faith, is ever new because ever new persons are in need of hearing that articulation.   Atheism cannot demand ‘a full accounting’ because none exists, nor can it ever.  And assuming that it does, and can, is to fall into the trap of pride.

c) An independent eristics at least runs the risk that once its task is completed dogmatics will think that its conflict with unbelief has been brought to an end in the form of such prolegomena, and that it will thus lose the necessary awareness of the constant exposure to assault of all its statements.

Theology, and biblical studies, must go their own way without regard for unbelief or they become slaves to the ideology of unbelief and indentured to unbelievers who demand an answer from them when no answer will satisfy unbelief anyway and hence all such efforts are doomed to fail.

Dogmatics requires Christian faith.  Dogmatics is a function of the Christian Church.

And, I would add, so are biblical studies.  Absent Christian faith, neither dogmatics nor exegesis can be or are meaningful.  Avalos may disagree with this, as may others as well, but unless I am shown by plain reason and Scripture that I am in error, I cannot, I will not, alter my view (any more than Avalos is about to alter his).  My presuppositions may be showing, but atheist presuppositions are equally transparent.  So until we can all adopt the very same presuppositions, there’s no point in talking past one another.

I’ll let Luther have the last word- the last provocative word- on the subject (since I think I’ve made my position pretty clear) -

Hence it is a poor and miserable thing that this rabble of sophists opposes [the Gospel].  For what do these poor bats hope to accomplish with their petty flappings?  Let them come!  By the grace of God they have no true learning.  In all these things there is no better counsel than to preach the Gospel simply and purely, praying God that he will direct and lead us.

Did you know that the cold weather has brought down the crime level?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Yes it’s true, it would seem that we have ‘fair weather’ criminals.

Someone Tweeted this the other day.

Came home to find all of my windows wide open and all the contents gone!

What kind of sicko would do that to my advent calendar?


Why People Get Depressed at Christmas

Monday, November 29th, 2010

As we embark on the advent season on the run up to Christmas I think it is timely to remind ourselves that not all are feeling jolly at this time of year.

The Christmas season used to be a ‘wobbly’ period for me personally and so this from Psychology Today comes as no surprise:

We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report the highest incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season.

….continue reading

Let’s not forget those who struggle at this time of year and I rather liked the conclusion to this piece:

The Christmas season has become a difficult time for many people in our society. For those of us who don’t have difficulties at this time of year, it’s an opportunity to reach out to those who become depressed.

Just got to heed this myself now….

Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) request website censorship powers from Nominet

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I have an interest in the Internet coupled with Christianity and have noted in the recent past various cyber attacks against the Christian online fraternity.

The three articles I linked to above evidence cyber attacks which have occurred in the latter part of this year and I have no doubt that such attacks against our community are on the increase. I can cite an example from today’s news feeds, in which hackers defaced the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Cyber attacks have traditionally been the viewed as the major threat to Christian websites, however, a move by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency has perhaps changed that view.

The political blogger Guido Fawkes first noted the fact that Nominet – the entity which controls the .uk part of the Internet - plans to allow the police to take down any website without recourse to the courts. This power has been requested by the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Richard Baron had this to say:

Sometimes, it may be appropriate to close sites at the request of law enforcers. But there is a huge danger that this would develop into a power of censorship of extreme social, political or religious views. The police must never, ever, be given such a power. Even the courts’ powers in this area should be either zero, or very very limited.

Here is the comment that I sent to Nominet. I encourage all friends of freedom to send in their views, too.

… all

And this is the rub, namely, as the Christian worldview is increasingly viewed a subversive by our ‘elite class’, there is a danger that Christian websites could be censored by the police for falling foul of ‘politically correct’ legislation.

As the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog notes:

The danger for Catholic blogs is that “equality” legislation is increasingly opposed to the free expression of Catholic doctrine. Pope Benedict reflected on this in some of the less controversial parts of his recent interview “Light of the World” and in his excellent book “Truth and Tolerance”. If law enforcement agencies are allowed to decide motu proprio that a site must be closed down, we have then moved another step nearer to a police state.

Roger Pearse nails it with this observation:

….But surely we don’t want the police deciding who may and may not run a website?


How, then, should we engage with the ‘Big Society’ debate?

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I have been anticipating Bishop Nick Baine’s blog post on the ‘Big Society’, as everything I have read so far on this subject conflicts, with some – including Christians – viewing it as some sort of heinous cynical plot, whilst others – including Christians – viewing it as a marvelous opportunity to engage in transforming Britain.

All of this has left me somewhat confused, however, Nick cuts through the sludge and leaves us little wriggle room and does so in a positive fashion:

How, then, should we engage with the ‘Big Society’ debate? I think the first thing the Christian community needs to do is recover its nerve and remember its history. ‘Big Society’ is what we do – and what we have always done. We are not here to serve only our own Christian community, but the whole of the community in which we live. Every time I institute or license a Vicar I am reminded that he/she is the Vicar of the Parish and not simply the chaplain of their congregation(s). Even if (as was suggested to me) 80% of churches are not ‘volunteering’ enough in our communities, it is still true that nearly 80% of volunteers in the community come from and through the churches. Why? For theological reasons, no doubt; but also because we are there in every community and it is in our blood.

Anyway, to cut to the chase and suggest a dynamic for positive engagement in a rather complex morass of competing ideas about our current social challenges, here goes – as simply as I can make it.

… all

I’m still digesting this, but I commend this blog post to you and encourage you to hop over and read it in full.

The Bible is not a medical text

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

P Z Myers is correct in his assertion that the Bible is not a medical text and I will assert just as forcefully that the Bible is not a scientific text. It is folk that insist otherwise who do such great damage.

Everything in the Scriptures are designed to point us towards the wonder of Christ, however, this is accomplished through the narrative of typical and flawed human beings, complete with their own foibles.

This is the wonder of God, in that within the Bible He works through and uses the very ordinary and even the broken.

We have the weeping prophet, the addicted strong man, the bipolar king, the suicidal Qoheleth, the depressed Psalmist, the intensely grieved, the self-harmer, and of course the man of sorrow.

And through them all we witness the compassion and forgiveness of our loving Father and His willingness to touch us and accept us to His heart despite it all.

Blair, Hitchens Debate: Religion Force for Good? Two fine blog posts

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

First from Clayboy:

Clayboy – Hitch, Blair, and the non-event debate on “religion”

And second from Cranmer:

Cranmer – The Blair-Hitchens religion debate

Enough said….

David Cameron’s Wellbeing Index: Forget happiness and you just might find it

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Suem of the Significant Truths blog has a fine post on happiness prompted by David Cameron’s – so called – Wellbeing Index. Cameron is proposing to gauge the country’s happiness as a potential measure of prosperity.

This is Suem’s conclusion on happiness, but the whole post is well worth reading:

Finally the key to joy and contentment is service to others. Service is central to the Christian faith, in fact service is central to achieving happiness as a full human being whether you are Christian or not. Not a lot of people know this, but Leo Tolstoy did when he wrote,

“Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.”

So, if you want to find happiness, forget it. It is buried deep in the heart of other things and it isn’t served up as a dish in its own right.

… all

Absolutely spot on.

On an aside, the Guardian has an interesting article critical of the wellbeing index which highlights the superficiality of the project in the face of the preponderance of mental illness in this country.

Interestingly, the top Google search result for “David Cameron wellbeing index” is Christian Today featuring an article which cites some critics as viewing the Prime Minister’s wellbeing index as nothing more than a smokescreen for austere cuts, whilst some Christians say it could be helpful to know what matters most to people in Britain.

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