Saturday, March 14, 2009

The importance of being snobbish

No one likes a snob.

However, I would like to argue that in some areas - especially in the internet age - it is vital that we do become snobbish.

I was inspired yesterday by a review of a new book ( Based on the review (I have not read the book yet myself) one of the main theses appears to be that we have abandoned excellence and true culture in favour of sound bites and low culture. It is addressing the facebook generation who get excited by the gibberish (for one would scarcely call it English) that appears on their friends' status updates or photo comments, yet have never written a real letter; the generation who have vigorous, lively and completely uninformed debates, yet do not possess either the language to articulate their arguments, nor the knowledge to insert compelling content; the generation who consider culture to be youtube knowledge yet have never read a poem or an Oscar Wilde play to be delighted truly.

I am not saying these 'low-culture' things should be rejected. I'm not saying this at all. But we should turn our nose up at them - 'as we use them' and consider them to be what they are - BENEATH US. We should not be content for the sum total of our education and culture to be the malformed ideas and brutalised language of the facebook culture. 

Facebook, YouTube and the like are fantastic, useful tools - but tools they are and tools they will remain. We must use them, love them but keep them in their place... and pursue concurrently and with far greater passion and expectation the 'higher things'.

It is no coincidence that those with things to say are also those who have maintained a healthy level of snobbishness throughout their life. And just a caveat as I close - snobbishness, in the sense it is being discussed now - in no way should be equated with pride (always an ugly thing). It is quite possible to be a humble snobb... for your snobbishness has led you to sit under the instruction of those greater, more informed, more eloquent, more holy than yourself...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Airport philosophy

(Continuing in the vein of various objections I have to philosophical naturalism / secularism / materialism as a worldview...)

While waiting in the airport departure lounge this morning, I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between two businessmen. One of the phrases struck me. He simply said,

“I don’t deserve this kind of treatment...”

I wonder what Richard Dawkins would make of this?

I mean, just what kind of treatment does a randomly-come-together collection of molecules actually deserve? To be deserving of a certain level of treatment presupposes some kind of inherent worth. Where does this worth come from. If our whole purpose of existence is reduced down to such a cruel, pitiless fact that we exist merely to help replicate a string of molecules, then meaning, purpose, ‘deservedness’ and the like are neither here nor there; they should not even come into matters of life. However frequently human conscience and philosophical inquiry attempts to bring them to the fore, they are simply categories that shouldn’t exist.

Dawkins attempts to explain this troubling idea away logically by saying that he feels privileged to be able to understand the world... but the very definition of privilege is that it is granted by someone. Who granted this privilege? And why is it even such a privilege when it will all lead to nothing in the end anyway? Even the sun will die one day...

Not only do Dawkins and his followers fail to subvert the foundations of theism, they are unable even to justify their own existence without borrowing the categories and terms of a Judaeo-Christian system that is utterly based on God’s existence, his sovereignty and his benevolence.

When the most fundamental questions are all greeted with deafening silence, surely you need to start questioning the very foundations upon which you stand...?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do you support slavery...? Really? (This is kind of following on from my post about feminism & gender-targeted abortion. It’s making a similar point but one no less important.)

Having recently celebrated 200 years since the abolition of slavery I think that there probably aren’t many people left in the world who support the idea of slavery - of having another human being as ‘property’ and being in control of their life and actions.

So, reader, if I were to ask you today if you supported slavery, I can’t imagine you saying yes and I wouldn’t insult you by implying that this answer was anywhere near your thoughts. However, if you said ‘yes’ AND happened to ascribe to philosophical naturalism (ie. you’re an atheist/agnostic who bases this belief largely in evolutionary biology), then I would have to respond with, “Really...??”

It’s quite a simple and obvious point but philosophical naturalism does not allow for any fundamental distinction between human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom (at least not in terms it would be proud of - it’s not the most pleasant thought to tell something you have more rights than it because you “got there first”, which would be the only justification we have for any such distinction between us and animals, by virtue of us being higher up the evolutionary ladder). In terms of rights, privileges and responsibilities to the world and other creatures this system does not and cannot prescribe such things to one kind of animal and not to another (and when it does, we have eugenics and ‘Brave New World’ scenarios); its best bet is to remain neutral and plead ignorance. What this means is that while it is all very well to speak out against slavery... in order to be consistent with this belief (that slavery is wrong) then the principles of human dignity and human rights must be extended to other animals too. So, no killing animals, keeping animals, farming animals for their fur or milk or eggs - nothing.

In saying this, I don’t think I am being offensive or preposterous. There are more and more people who do feel that they need to be consistent on this point. So, vegans (although not all people are vegans for this reason necessarily) and those advocating equal rights for all primates are just a couple of examples.

What’s my point. I’m not trying to make anyone look silly for their beliefs or even ridicule any beliefs in particular. What I am trying to highlight once again is rather the inadequacy and poverty of the secular, naturalistic wordview when faced with these rather important issues. Science might be great at describing how things work and evolution certainly provides a reasonable explanation of certain processes... but they cannot touch these areas that are so important to our society, our sensibilities and our very well-being and future.

There is no mechanism in science - or any other secular framework for that matter - to make the kind of distinctions we need between humans and other animals that lead to declarations of independence and human rights. How would you define ‘dignity’ if you do not believe in a personal, higher authority who vests it on others. And, crucially, how do you decide who deserves dignity? We may ask for bigger pens for the animals we plan to kill and eat but it is still undignified to exist in order to be eaten with no hope of reprieve. We must understand that the only way the founding fathers of the USA could say “we hold these truths [ie. pertaining to human liberty and dignity] to be self-evident” is because of a theistic framework. Apart from this framework, who am I to say that non-human animals should or shouldn’t have their liberty reduced or removed? It comes down to a matter of power and ‘dog-eat-dog’. And neither should I interfere with other people’s choices. What about when it comes to humans? What reason do I have to object to paedophilia and bestiality when science cannot provide any kind of distinction between animals and humans or grown-ups and children that would tell me that such things are wrong? Consensus is one option but that just leaves me open to the tyranny of the masses. A million lemmings can’t be wrong...

Do you believe in slavery? Ultimately, before we look at the animals, we must look at ourselves. We may have abandoned the enslavement of Africans but I guess this was inevitable largely because it was too obvious. Under the radar in the 21st century, slavery is well and truly alive, through pornography and trafficking of women and children and the economic slavery of the third world - which we are all complicit in, either through looking at porn (blokes, just try and deny it), thereby perpetuating it in all its forms, legal and illegal, or by showing our indifference in how thoughtlessly we spend our money, choosing to buy another pair of jeans rather than giving a tenner towards wells in Africa or sponsoring a little kid’s education.

It is a credit to the secular liberals that they stand up on these issues more than most but as well as standing up with them, I would like to challenge them on what I hope to persuade you is the most significant form of slavery that needs to be addressed (since it is the root of all others), which is our slavery to ourselves. I would challenge the secularists on this because what I am talking about is the very klaxon call of secularism itself - that we should be ‘free’ to follow our hearts, unencumbered by any God and his dictates. But look where our hearts lead us! Surely all forms of ‘blatant’ slavery can be traced back to the original slavery - the one we all individually have sold ourselves to as we put ourselves daily before other people and ultimately, before God. Kierkegaard’s definition of this kind of slavery (the Bible calls it sin) is that it is ‘building my identity on anything but God’ (Sickness Unto Death) - this is what leads us to put ourselves before others, because anything that gets in the way of this and ‘denies’ us must be pushed aside, or else we lose our identity. But when your identity is in God, nothing can rock it; it is secure. And can I just say, if you believe that you are not enslaved in this way to yourself and your identity building (whatever that might look like), then you are the first person since Jesus of Nazareth even to make such a claim. The fact is, we all demonstrate our slavery to ourselves when we perpetuate slavery in the world.

So what about a solution....? Some people look at the third world debt and think to themselves - “why should we help them when they have mostly brought it on themselves...?” The fact is that the west is taking steps to clear the debt of the third world - at great cost to itself. The only difference is that they are doing it largely out of expediency - when God considered our debt and sent his son to free us from our slavery, he didn’t do it out of expediency, he did it out of love.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Turning 'disdain' into devotion

“The gospel [of Jesus Christ] produces people who do not disdain those whom they disagree with.” (Dr. Tim Keller)

The neo-secular orthodoxy today has a mantra. It goes something like this (and I’ll put it into a scene so you can picture it better). This is something I was actually viewing on YouTube yesterday. We are in a chat-show setting. Richard Dawkins has been invited as the guest of honour but there are also representatives from all the different social groups and categories. At one point, the rather tactless charismatic, pentecostal prophetess turns around to the gay-rights activist next to her and tells him politely but firmly and in no uncertain terms that his ‘lifestyle choice’ is wrong and that he certainly had a mother. Immediately (and here is the mantra), before he even considers what his response to this will be, he replies with the following words:

        “I would defend Betty’s right to hold those views...”

This caveat is inserted every time an advocate of philosophical naturalism or secularism encounters someone they disagree with. I have no doubt that both the ideas and the person of Betty King were deeply objectionable - and even hateful - to Peter Tatchell since, from his point of view, they would have sounded ‘intolerably’ intolerant and bigoted. But because the greatest value for him is tolerance, he must not show his disdain and certainly not act out any of his hostility to her and her ideas.

This mantra is the best way to couch contempt in cordiality.

And he most certainly was cordial; to his credit, whatever Peter was really thinking and feeling at that moment did not come out.

But that is only as far as it goes - and this is the problem. Since there is no mechanism - and certainly no motivation - within the secular system to transform disdain into anything else, all the feelings of disdain, frustration and anger are suppressed and stifled. You have heard of repressed sexuality - well the God of secular tolerance is producing a monster of repressed disdain and anger that is potentially far more destructive. I guess the vented rage of Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest is a testimony to this (certainly Hitchens’ take is that he is fed up with having to be polite to Islamists who want to kill his values and probably him too). So the secularist is left with a great need to ‘beautify’ the disdain he or she automatically feels when they encounter objectionable views. Tolerance, after all, must be upheld in some way.

Viewed purely in human, materialist terms, secularism fails abysmally at providing any solution to inter-personal and social disharmony and hostility; it can only cover it up and keep it at bay.

Since the source and god of secular morality is man himself, there is also no hope for finding a way around this impasse. The natural impulses of man do not lead him to such counter-intuitive acts as loving his enemy and sacrificing himself (even his life) for his persecutor. Just to preempt at this point a common - and valid - objection, I would agree that the attitude and behaviour of many - if not most - evangelical Christians towards practising homosexuals historically has been clumsy and inappropriate at best and evil at worst. And this, sadly, continues to a large degree to this day. But Christians though they may be... this - most assuredly - is not the attitude of Christ. I’m sure most Christians would tell you that they are a work in progress as God works in them to change them by his power.... and any conscientious Christian I know would certainly reel in horror at being shown the reality of their behaviour in many areas - attitude towards gays being just one of these. I would want to argue, however, that intolerance towards gay people from Christians has less to do with their Christian convictions and more to do with the prevailing culture (Christians tend to be a few years behind always - they haven’t really noticed that everyone else has stopped persecuting gays). This is no excuse but I’m not trying to excuse them; rather, to direct you towards the real reason for their inappropriate and wrong behaviour, which has nothing to do with Christ and his message (the gospel).

The fact that the homosexual act itself is not part of God’s plan for creation has been used by too many Christians to excuse them of the even greater sin of failing to love their neighbour as themselves when they act in a bigoted way towards gay people.

And so we get to the heart of the issue. The reason Dr. Keller’s words are so important for us to take seriously is because they reveal the inability of the secular system to provide a solution. They do this by providing a contrast. The gospel DOES HAVE the power to produce people who genuinely do not disdain those they disagree with. Christians who persecute gays are not behaving as Christians. The model of the gospel of Jesus transforms you - counter-intuitively and inexplicably - into someone who genuinely has a change of heart and attitude towards those whose views you find reprehensible and whose acts you find to be dissolute.

The ultimate example of this, of course, is Jesus himself...

...he was someone who not only preached it but practised it, even as he prayed for the forgiveness of the Roman soldiers nailing him to a cross. This was not just some minor disagreement - it was the complete humiliation and sadistic degradation of another human being, and yet not only did Jesus not curse the people attacking him, he did not even open his mouth. Funnily enough, this was how God’s special chosen servant was described around 800 years before Jesus was born - “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53v7, The Bible). And just to say, it was certainly not for lack of power that Jesus did not resist - his resurrection put to rest that issue.

The reason he did not speak is because his sacrifice was transforming ‘disdain’ into deliverance and devotion.

It is impossible for a secularist to transform disdain into anything that is essentially different - that is genuinely conciliatory; there is nothing in their system that has the power to do this. But the death of Jesus does have this power. It tells me that my disdain for God himself - and for my fellow human beings along with it - is now on the cross with Jesus, so I am free to love genuinely and show mercy bountifully, as it has been shown to me.

I am no better than you. I was probably worse and in many/most ways still am. But I am forgiven. And this frees me to love even the person I would naturally despise and loathe. The power of Christianity gets in your face most of all (in the most gentle and intimate, albeit startling, way) when you see it bringing two people together who should be enemies and the only explanation is ‘the cross of Jesus’. Is this good news (the gospel) really worthy of rejection? Is there anything else in the world that has the power to do this? Ponder these words.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

If it feels good...

If there’s one thing that science has taught us, it’s that our feelings have little or nothing to do with ‘reality’ (ie. what is really there). Our five senses and our emotions which help to process the things that pass through their receptors are the point with which we make contact with reality but they do not influence it and they certainly do not define it.

So why do we behave as if they do?

Why do people base life decisions on something they have been led to by their feelings. When I know very well that my feelings can mislead me and even be complete misrepresentations of ‘what is really there’, and yet I still plunge headlong into following them then surely something is not right?

Take the instance of the rather silly, and criminally reckless, man from Oxford who drove a Porsche which didn’t even belong to him at 173mph down an A-road. He certainly couldn’t have been under any misapprehensions about the ‘reality’ of the situation. He knew that the 60mph limit was fixed and would not change for him. The law would disqualify him immediately if it caught him and he would most likely have to pay a heft fine and face a jail term. And of course we are forgetting the damage, destruction and death that would result from any crash (highly likely at that speed, English drivers’ politeness in getting out of the way notwithstanding).

Now I don’t think I know of anyone who would ‘choose’ to sign up for any of these punishments. I think it would be safe to say that he did not get into the Porsche that day thinking, “Oh yes, today’s a nice day to kill some people and lose my license and end up in jail...” No, the key is that, even though he knew the truth of the situation, his feelings shaped a new reality for him. In this new reality, no one would get hurt, he would not get caught and no one would know any better. What the police didn’t know couldn’t hurt them.

We must conclude that he genuinely believed that he wouldn’t get caught.

I doubt that he was like the notorious Ghost Rider motorbiker who regularly baits policemen and does wheelies at over 200mph on specially altered Hayabusa motorbike (; the man obviously cares little for his own life. No, our friend had a lot to lose that day. His problem was that he had created an alternative reality because of his lust for speed. Let me get this straight. WE ALL DO THIS. To a greater or lesser degree, we are always looking for ways to reshape reality to suit our desires and feelings. But reality is not so amenable! The world does not change to suit our whims.

It might seem that true justice left this world a long time ago; if it ever existed, it died with God. In other words it became outdated and we must now face up to the ‘real’ reality which is that we are finite people in a relative world which is based on one principle - ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’. But this too is a fantasy. People who believe this in all earnesty (like Richard Dawkins), are in the minority. Why do you think that more and more people are buying into Eastern religions these days - apart from it being the fashionable thing to do - it’s because they are looking for justice. They are looking for a ‘right to end all wrongs’, a unifying principle (like Karma) to ensure that those nasty terrorists and paedophiles are not left unpunished.

Once again, then, we are left with just two basic options. We either follow a naturalistic worldview consistently and claim, like Richard Dawkins, that we just have to make the best of life in an unjust and uncaring world, or we commit ourselves to whatever unifying principle of absolute justice we have discovered and hold to be true. (Of course there are those who try and block everything out - probably more people than we’d like to admit - and try to get through life without thinking through these things at all. Their illusion becomes their reality - I assume that simply by virtue of reading this far you do not fit into this category.)

If we really are the product of random forces then they have played a sick joke by ‘leading us’ to sentience and morals, only to discover that justice does not exist.

I can only assume that Dawkins is able to compartmentalise his feelings and his convictions remarkably well because I do not know many normal people who are able to go through this life and retain their sanity whilst still holding to this conviction. And just in case you thought I’d gone completely off-topic, my point is this: this is the biggest illusion of them all! Unless Dawkins wants to deny the existence of the moral plane completely (a length I doubt even he would go to), then he has to deal with the fact that morality is a real part of human existence and that according to his worldview it is simply a cruel joke because actually, the only people who get punished are those who get caught and even then based on flawed and unjust principles. Everything about human history, thought and philosophy screams out against this. If this is true then sentience is a very real nightmare, morality is an illusion and personality is merely a vehicle for 'sentient animals' to understand how they have been divested of their dignity.

So why do we do it? Why do we build a new reality for ourselves? We come back to the point I made at the beginning;

We ‘must’ reshape the world for ourselves because our heart compells us to.

Just like our speeding friend, now nicely holed up in the clink, we find the law to be offensive, in violation of our desires, our autonomy, our very person. And so we enlarge our image of
ourselves (’invincible’, ‘not going to get caught’, ‘not accountable to anyone’ ) and degrade the image of justice that stands before us, airbrushing it out of our perception of reality. We ‘know’ that it is still there but we do such a good job of warping reality that we begin to believe our own illusion...

And the reality of this world is that the figure of justice who stands before us is the creator-God himself.

We look at his world and we know it to be true. We look at ourselves and we know it to be true. We look at the state of our hearts and we certainly know it to be true. Yet our hearts always respond by artfully reminding us of the options we (do genuinely) have - we can either confront this reality (hearts says, “Definitely not recommended!” ) or we can reshape this reality to suit our heart’s desires (hearts says, “That sounds more like it...” ). The irony is that this choice only exists because of the innate human dignity and personhood that this very same creator-God has vested us with... Once we have set off down this path, it becomes easier and easier to deny God, making it a very dangerous path. Dangerous because, whichever path we take, God is no less a God of justice further down the path than he was when we were at the crossroads. Our perception of justice will change but reality will not. Death is the only evidence God needs to put us in our place and remind us of reality - that justice and wrath exist and we cannot escape them.

Now, if this is all there was to it - we die and then we are punished again - then I could understand wanting to blot it out. But this is not and never has been the reality. If you think about it, if God really did delight in our destruction, he would not have wasted any time; he would simply have blotted us out the moment we rebelled against him. God is not a cat to toy around nor a man to have second thoughts and mixed motives!

The fact that we are still here means that either God does not exist or that he does and he has a benevolent plan and purpose for us.

All the while we have been trying to block out God from our thinking, he has been speaking clearly throughout history in the words of the Bible. And his final word is seen in Jesus Christ, God himself made flesh. People ask to see God in order to believe - God says, “Please, be my guest” - let me introduce you to my Son, the very likeness of me, the invisible God.“

If you understand and are frustrated about the way you have been reshaping reality to suit your heart... if you are all serious about ditching the various illusions you have built up around you as protective barriers then my counsel is simply this - go straight to Jesus. See for yourself if he really is the creator-God, the God of justice. Then listen to him and follow him. If he is not then looking after number one is the only thing that really makes sense. Karma is not the answer.

Don’t be an “if it feels good...” person.
Be a “
now, that changes everything...” kind of person.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fritzl & Obama

"I knew that I was hurting her. It was like an addiction...
"I knew the whole time that what I was doing was not right... but... it became completely matter-of-fact for me that I had a second life, which I led in the cellar of my house." (Josef Fritzl)

Apart from the shocking details of cases like the Fritzl case, these cases simply add an extra nail to the lid on the coffin of the ‘Obama worldview’ that man is essentially “good at heart” and “able to change in his own strength”.

Fritzl is not a monster - although his actions have certainly turned him into one ‘practically speaking’. This may seem like a contradictory and/or nonsensical statement so let me explain. Fritzl is not a monster ‘in the sense that he is perceived’ in the popular media. Hard as it might be to accept, he is actually no different “in nature” to anyone else, he is only different in practice.

The issue here is the human heart. Believers in philosophical naturalism (ie. atheists) have no reason to believe in a human heart or soul in any ‘metaphysical’ sense so they must hope for a better future based on man’s (potential) ability to change through working towards better social structures (cue classic Obama speech). The words of Fritzl are not the words of a madman - his clear, rational statements to date make it impossible to write him off as a lunatic; it is clear from his words that this behaviour was something he struggled with... although spectacularly unsuccessfully.

The question here is what makes more sense when we are confronted with the reality of someone like Fritzl? To say that he is essentially good at heart (a nonsensical statement if made by a philosophical naturalism anyway) but led astray by circumstances/dna/upbringing/experiences? Or simply to agree with Jesus of Nazareth when he says to us, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)?

Jesus’ point is that sin is something in our hearts from which we cannot escape once it has entered in. Our immoral actions are simply the evidence for this state of heart. Since there is nobody (apart from Jesus) who has ever even ‘claimed’ - let alone accomplished - a life free of sin, this would put us all into this category of being slaves of sin. We demonstrate that Jesus’ statement applies to us even with the slightest moral failing (and we all know that our own, personal moral failings are not ‘slight’ in any way - but that, dear reader, I leave for you to judge...).

Immoral desires in our lives reflect the natural state of our hearts.

What this means is that you, Obama, a new-born baby and I are only separated from Fritzl by a matter of degree. Our hearts are no less enslaved to sin than his - they are the same; it is only our respective acts which differ. The potential to be a Fritzl resides within us all.

Someone who has begun to comprehend the horror of the reality of this situation - which is the very human condition itself - has also begun to understand their need of grace. And this is what makes the Christian message stand apart from every other system, social, political or religious. For the stuff of Christ is the stuff of grace. No other message offers both redemption and change as a free gift.

We may never be like Fritzl in this life, or even close... but if we do not recognise the common plight we share with him, that we are similarly enslaved to immoral desires, then we are just as lost as he is...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shining Forever

The combination of watching the fairytale movie “Stardust” and being introduced to this song have led me to put finger to keyboard this evening...

Just in case you are not clued up with the plot of Stardust, it concerns a young man - a nobody - who ends up not only defeating the witch, getting the girl and becoming king but he also lives forever in a perfect relationship with her because she happens to be a star and has given her heart to him in love, so when he grows old they ascend to the sky to shine together forever.

The ultimate ‘feel-good’ movie...

I have one question though.

Why are films like this viewed so cynically by most people today? You can just imagine in Blockbuster (or whatever your preferred dvd rental establishment may be), your eye passing it by as an appealing choice (“for the wife/girlfriend/kids maybe”) but certainly not to be preferred above Die Hard, Michael Clayton or The Libertine. Why? Because they are a little bit more ‘rooted in the real world’, more for grown-ups. Soppy girls and children can go with these droll, fairy-tales but sensible men and women are just not convinced.

Yet if this is the sentiment associated with it (and this is certainly the feeling I automatically had when looking at the selection on offer at one of Kozani’s local dvd rental shops this evening), then why do we call it a feel-good movie in the first place?

Isn’t it because we view the situation it describes not so much as fantastical but as ideal?

It is how both our mind and our heart would prefer for things to be but we see that life is not like this so the whole scenario is rejected - often scornfully (but perhaps more often than we’d like to admit, wistfully) - as unrealistic. If you just think about it, we don’t think of X-Men or even Shrek as feel good movies. They are certainly fantastical but they are not an ‘ideal’ that deep down we actually want. Obviously Shrek does an excellent job of getting to the heart of both the genuine struggles of life and some of the deepest common values like unconditional love, but - almost cruelly - it is still remarkably earthbound. However much we agree with the ‘greater’ ideal of true love’s form being found not in external appearance but in the personal love between two souls, no one’s aim is to end up as an ugly, smelly ogre living on a swamp with all of life’s problems still present; this is what the heaven of humanism looks like. ‘Happily Ever After’ is a cruel joke in Shrek.

With a film like Stardust, however, you don’t have to be sentimental to see that it has everything that deep down we all long for. The story of someone being raised up from less than nothing in the eyes of others to an inheritance that is imperishable and glorious forever and this happening not for the purpose of personal glory and pride but for the purpose of a relationship of deep, interpersonal love and eternal intimacy... well, I don’t think I need to say any more. It is incomparably more desirable than any earthbound fantasy scenario. And yet this was a story written by a human and it is one that echoes throughout human history. It is a dream within all of us. Where does it come from? Michael Vaughn, the director of the film, comments that it is not a film that will affect anyone’s life or change the world but I beg to differ. The scorn expressed by someone for such a story always hides behind it a bitter, half-forgotten longing for this story to be true, for someone else, if not them. It’s almost as if they have been trying to forget a parallel dream of their own and you have reminded them and made them hope once more.

Well, somewhere, there is a cruel joke going on. Either the universe is playing a cruel joke on us by vesting us with these desires that neither have any rational origin nor hope of fulfilment (if materialism is the ultimate reality)... or the cruel joke is on those of us who choose to listen to the barking of Polly Toynbee and Richard Dawkins over and above the whole of human history which bears witness to these dreams of men as a consistent (and persistent) feature of the human condition.

It must be said that the dreams do not prove anything on their own, but their very presence obliges us to do something about them and simply barking at them is not going to make them go away. Neil Gaimon, the writer of the story behind Stardust, found an outlet in pen and ink. But this is hardly a satisfactory outlet or conclusion.

Indeed, the Toynbees and Dawkins of this world would remind us of the fact that they are simply being realistic - no one has ever ‘imagined themselves’ into a different state, place or condition; nature simply does not work this way. There is no point in losing oneself in unrealistic visions as if we could ‘make’ them reality just by believing in them and living as if they were true. They would claim that this is actually dangerous...

Yet just watch their ‘friendly bark’ turn into snarls, gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists (literally) when they are confronted with the historically-attested event of the death and resurrection of Jesus. They know that this is something from which they cannot escape because it is part of their own recent, human history. We do not know what the first humans looked like but we have numerous eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection with their accounts transcribed and cross-referenced; in a court of law there is only one winner here - the eyewitness evidence - and yet we are supposed to accept ape-man theories and reject the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection? They know this and so they do not waste their breath attacking the historicity of Jesus and the events surrounding his death and resurrection so they resort to emotional arguments in an attempt to undermine the interpretation of these events. Yet this is an even more foolish endeavour as the interpretation of these events is laid out over 1500 years of the Bible writers all writing about things they did not fully understand at the time but which are now crystal clear to us in the light of the person of Jesus. The story was already told and complete - it just needed the hero to appear.

“Saccharine” (sweet) and – ironically – “earthbound” are the words used respectively by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins when confronted with these events.

We are back in the dvd rental shop here! I’m not trying to undermine the latent hostility in their retorts but, essentially, they are looking at this scenario and not struggling so much with the events but with the interpretation of them - the interpretation which would allude to reality having any kind of relationship with ‘fairytale endings’, with true and everlasting love and with brilliance and glory shining forever with pride completely banished. Hitchens attempts to demolish the resurrection simply by calling it ‘sweet’ and Dawkins tries to reinterpret it, calling it ‘earthbound’ when any idiot can see that it is the complete opposite of this; if someone has truly been raised from the dead then it is the one true hope that answers the call of our hearts - to be free of the chains of the curse of death. And not only does it sound the klaxon call of freedom but it also speaks of the deepest love that no Shrek could ever even contemplate - an eternal, interpersonal relationship where you shine as do the stars in the brilliance of true glory (ie. not ‘vain-glory’) forever.... saccharine I think not.

At one point of the film, Yvaine - the star - asks the young hero if he is not tempted to kill her and eat her heart so he can live forever. He responds by asking her why would he want to live forever without this existence being in the context of a loving relationship. Conversely, the witch, Lamia, at the end, embodies the secular response to this sentiment by attempting to do exactly that - live forever without any loving relationships after her sisters have been killed. This is not even Shrek’s skewed version of heaven, it is the fundamentalist atheist’s version and it is a horrific thought; even if they could ‘live’ forever, they would still want to cut themselves off from the source of life, love and laughter; this is actually a pretty good description of hell, defined for us over and over by every article they write and every retort to God they snort out (I must add here that they are not all ‘snorters’ - at the best of times, Christopher Hitchens is a paragon of propriety and congeniality and in a kind of paradoxical way I am a great admirer of him).

Their constant refrain is that even if a perfect God was there, they would still reject him.

Which leaves us with the longings of our own heart. Obviously I am not lumping everyone who is not a Christian believer in together with Richard and Polly but sometimes seeing the extremes helps us find where we fit in. I hope you have noted, whether through your own observations or what I have been saying here that, at the end of the day, the ‘logical’ reasons to trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection are almost by-the-by. They can be checked out by anyone. What stops many - and here please take note - is their attitude to the scenario being presented to them (think of the dvd rental shop). They are indignant that anyone, even God himself, would ‘seriously’ seek to spoil the ‘grown-up’ (just another word for bitter) world they have built. They know it is not ideal; it is not even pleasant; in fact it is rather ugly and lonely, but it is theirs and no ‘sweet longings’ and fairytale endings placed in front of them should disrupt this. Their cry for freedom has long been stifled by patterns of thought and behaviour designed for survival and carving out a little corner for themselves in this cruel, unforgiving world and any tender thoughts (yes, I do believe even Polly has tenderness of this kind in her heart somewhere) harboured for any kind of ‘shining forever’ style ending has been covered over by a hardened and, ultimately, a proud heart.

My question for you is how much of this kind of person are you today or are you in the process of turning into....?

Please read the words of this song - it is the perfect companion to the fantastical scenario of Stardust because it speaks of a parallel scenario, but a true one.

Saturday, May 26, 2007



There is a word we are much loathe to use
(All while awhoring in secret we go),
Which word when spoken has pow’r to effuse
Suggestions that smite right through the ego.
But call me wretched, for this single word
So aptly my ways and worship depicts,
That humbled and down and duly deterred
I come now to hear of facts that convict.
“Unfaithful” that word, which taints ev’ry thought;
The sum of my parts: a liar and fake.
But though this be true, still that which was wrought
On one Roman cross, this word will unmake.
To man without Christ, but one fate befalls.
Though one love confess, a thousand times false.

Saturday 26 May, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007



When passion’s gay blossom withers and fades
And loneliness enters unbidden
Existence itself distorts and decays
Mind ponders thoughts hitherto forbidden.
Was love real? The cry of a tortured soul
Whose meaning is now called into question.
What kind of love would abandon me so;
Should I make ‘nature’ my one confession?
Dear child, pray your idealism retain
Yours is merely a misapprehension.
For love you must look in the One who remains
Through it all; yes, even condescension.
        When love will grasp the plural with both hands
        Then together life’s woes you both shall withstand.

Thursday 19 April 2007

Á ma petite fleur...

(«Ωραίο πράγμα ο πληθυντικός!»)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A nasty little conundrum for feminists...

Let me start this one out by saying that I certainly take no pleasure whatsoever in pointing out this particular conundrum since it refers to a particularly unpleasant and tragic reality. However, I am pointing it out – sincerely and purposefully – not to gloat in the slightest but simply to continue in my ongoing aim of exposing the glaring inconsistensies in the secular worldview in order to open up the door for an alternative for those who have never considered it... It is simply this.

• It is a widely reported phenomenon ( ) that women in both China and India are regularly and systematically aborting female foetuses, preferring to have male children. The reasons are largely cultural (it is seen as better to have a ‘strong’ male child to support the parents in their old age) and/or – as in the case of China – social (the infamous ‘one-child’ policy, which leads many women to ‘ditch’ the female child and hold out for a male child). For the purposes of this discussion, however, the reasons are largely immaterial.

• It is also a well-known fact (correct me if I’m wrong) that the overwhelming majority of feminists are also “pro choice”.

> The question I have for them (or their sympathisers) today is the following:

“Is it wrong to abort female foetuses in such a targeted and selective way?”

Now, some of you may be way ahead of me but if you’re not there yet, let me lay it out for you. People who are ‘pro-choice’ would defend to the death adamandtly and vehemently a woman’s right to choose. She is the master of her body and if she wants to have an abortion then it is nobody’s business but her own. This is the basic essence of the pro-choice movement (of which feminists are usually part of), perhaps with slight variations. HOWEVER, the practice of selectively aborting female babies brings this ‘principle’ into direct conflict with another sacred principle held by feminists - the equality of man and woman. Such a practice would therefore be absolute anaethema to them. So, the question that arises is: just which principle do they defend??

Their belief system brings them into direct conflict with reality and they are left in an impossible position.

Let me just stress that those on the outside looking in (ie. those of us are ‘not’ pro-choice feminists) have absolutely nothing to be smug about. We are talking about the systematic extermination of an entire gender! The Nazis would have been proud of this. Legal, quick and convenient.

The pro-choice feminist simply has nothing to say on this issue... and this is arguably the biggest demographic crisis ever to afflict the world, affecting over a third of its population!

The only conclusion that one can come to is that there is something wrong with the belief system. It may, theoretically, be feasible to be pro-choice and it may, theoretically, be feasible to be a feminist, but reality absolutely rules out the possibility of being both.

The question, once again, come down to a matter of worldview. When I exclude God from the picture then I am forced to come up with a moral system that caters for the ‘rights’ of those beings that I see fit to afford rights to. This conundrum simply exposes the self-centred manner with which a Godless-worldview prescribes such rights. If I am the centre of the universe - an ‘autonomous’ being not subject to any external moral or spiritual rule - then I will form my morality based on this premiss... Will a baby make my life more inconvenient or difficult? No worry - I simply affirm my rights and decide (choose) that that baby is not actually a human being until it is out of the womb (something that the recent ‘miracle’ baby shows to be utterly ridiculous). Or how about the gender problem? If I happen to be female then of course I will find it inconvenient that we live in what is still largely a patriarchal society. This is certainly not something that I have to put up with. I therefore assert my rights and declare that men and women must be equal in all things.

The problem, however clumsily laid-out, that I hope we have seen is not actually with the individual beliefs themselves. It is rather with the belief system that dogmatically bases everything on ME, MYSELF & I. Francis Schaeffer puts it well:

“Pressure is exerted by a world that does not want to say no to self – not just for a minor reason, but out of principle, because they are determined to be the centre of the universe.” (Francis Schaeffer)

THIS is the root of the problem that gives rise to our conundrum today. There is nothing wrong with men and women having similar rights or even with women being free to make decisions about their body. The problem is when you factor God out of the equation from the outset. This is what creates such a distorted picture that bears no relation to reality.

In closing, let’s just look briefly at the alternative. The Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God - therefore life is sacred. The image of God does not refer to a moment in time when a foetus goes from being a collection of cells to being human; it refers to the very essence of what we are: dust with God-breathed life. That is why from the moment of conception we are precious in God’s sight - and only he has the right to take away life. Abortion is wrong. If you want an incredibly politically-incorrect parallelism, abortion is to ‘targeted female abortion’ what man/man intercourse is to paedophilia. We regard the second two as reprehensible but not the first two. What exactly is the difference?
How about the second thing? Feminism. Well, believe it or not, just as the Bible has a higher view of life than the pro-choice feminist, so it also has a higher view of women. Women are not portrayed as having to fight for their place in an endless battle of the sexes. Rather, from the outset, woman is given a most privileged place. Man is incomplete without woman and in a loving marital bond, his brief is to love her and give himself to her in complete sacrifice. So often people dwell on the ‘wives submit to husbands’ but then ignore what comes next – this awesome picture of man sacrificing himself for his wife just as Christ did for the church, giving his life to his woman. I know of no more privileged position or higher view of woman than this.

The outcome of this ‘alternative’ (I would say, original) view is the categorical rejection of this practice in India and China for the simple reason that it is wrong. No juggling about with this and that person’s (if they are a person!) rights. The irony is that the Biblical view comes out as actually the most liberal and progressive: a high view of woman and a high view of life. Seen in contrast to this, the pro-choice ideology (brought out into relief by this example) can only be described as fascist.

Ultimately, what is the difference between saying: ‘clean out the Jew to make room for the Aryan’ and ‘clean out the female foetus to make room for the male foetus’...?!

Now, obviously I am not saying that pro-choice campaigners say this or believe this. In fact my point at the beginning was that they are actually duty-bound to oppose this by virtue of their feminism. But the fact remains that they are also duty-bound, by their own principles, to defend this practice in India and China as failing to do so would violate ‘pro-choice’.

I don’t know if this has confused you, angered you or left you completely impassive (I hope not the latter) but I do also hope that you are realising, if what I have been describing is/was your position, that a secular worldview is both a) untenable and b) not the only option. And always remember, someone is evil because they are a sinner and disobedient to God, not – in the first instance – because of anything they do or believe. These things simply follow and reveal the true nature of our hearts. Any Christian who goes on a crusade against abortionists, practising homosexuals and even paedophiles simply hasn’t got the point. We ‘all’ need to (re)turn to our Creator and Redeemer through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 05, 2007

thecoomar... blogged

Just to say that this blog is in the process of being resurrected so if anyone out there does enjoy visiting (but is currently finding it boring due to no updates!), just a tiny bit more patience is required of you...

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Much as I try to prevent this blog from becoming too much about me, I think this is an exceptional instance. I spent the last week in hospital (don’t worry, I’m ok!). During my time there, many, many friends - especially from the Bible School where I am currently studying - came to visit me and even stay with me. This poem is dedicated not to them, but to my Lord Jesus Christ, whose love constrained them...


When, you ask, is pure love best evidenced;
Of that rare unadulterated breed?
How to be sure such love you’ve experienced,
That this concern observed is true indeed?
The key to knowledge here in one source lies
Look no further than in your affliction
For in times as these do true friends arise
Their love not just feeling but conviction.
But hold, wherefore do they come and support
Who to me are by no means beholden?
Surely excessive is love of this sort;
Who can explain love with such abandon?
Though family genuine care may provide
Tis but a picture of Christ’s heavn’ly bride.

Friday 13th October 2006
Tsagkari Hospital (annex of Amalia Flemming), Athens

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The most desirable value?

Tolerance. It’s one of the bywords of our modern society. But what does it really mean... and why is it used so frequently nowadays?

The dictionary defines it as: willingness to accept or endure
(someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.

Well I ask you... is the world really so full of disagreeable people that “this” should be seen as the great value in today’s society?

How did people live together ‘before’ this word became “the most desirable value”? An in-depth historical analysis could be conducted but I think that the more pressing questiong for us should be: “just why exactly is this word taking over today?”

The attitude today is that the only thing that will not be tolerated is an intolerant person.

All other things and people must be endured. This has created a somewhat schizophrenic attitude in most people. They know that they are supposed to be tolerant, but this means that, more and more, they are putting up with people and practices that their conscience and values would normally find wrong or even repulsive. This situation cannot continue indefinitely - eventually either your tolerance will run out and you will be forced to comment on the repulsiveness of the behaviour, or your views on the behaviour itself will simply change to conform to your public facade. So, for instance, if I am a person who believes, for whatever reason, that ‘cohabitation’ (as it is now called) is wrong, yet I continually find myself defending such people - for the sake of tolerance - against others who find it morally unacceptable, then eventually I will find myself first sympathising with them, then agreeing with them and, eventually, perhaps even identifying with them. I will begin not only to argue that they be left alone but also that what they are doing is ‘right’. Perhaps I may even try it out myself.

This kind of toleration more often than not brings conformity, in opinion if not practice.

Of course, there are certain practices that are still regarded by the majority of people as ‘morally reprehensible’ - and therefore not to be tolerated under any circumstance. The only problem with this is that the boundaries regarding which practices fall into this category are continually being moved. This is particularly obvious when it comes to both sexual and medical ethics. Not so long ago sodomy was illegal in most countries around the world - now it is both legalised and encouraged (if you ‘feel’ it is right for you).

At what point did it stop being ‘tolerated’ (as deviant) and start being accepted (as normal) and then promoted (as good)??

Not so long ago, euthanasia of any form would have been treated as something out of a movie script; a horror scenario that hopefully would never come true. Now it is debated and being put forward as a potential standard practice. Even last month, there were strong calls to progress straight on to ‘involuntary euthanasia’... At what point did these views stop being ‘tolerated’ and start becoming mainstream?

At present, there is generally a huge furore over paedophiles - these are the people who are regarded as having committed the worst and most depraved acts... but how long will it be before this too is seen as ok, as long as the child is consenting or something like that? It would be very easy to scoff at this prediction but whoever would have thought just a few years ago that sodomy would be regarded as normal and natural. The ancient Greeks certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with engaging in sexual practices with young boys...

...when the boundaries are constantly being moved then, in the end, anything can be ‘tolerated.

Which brings us onto the greatest paradox about today’s society. Apparently, the only thing that is actually morally reprehensible is to comment on someone else’s behaviour and voice an absolute opinion. The action of the person should not be called into question at all - they are to be tolerated at all costs. Only bigots and fundamentalists have the audacity to be so ‘intolerant’. But is this fair?

By saying that a person must be tolerated ‘along with’ their actions rather than ‘in spite of them’, one is effectively separating this person from their actions, but this is impossible. You cannot separate a person from their deeds; we do not act within a moral vacuum. Our actions affect ourselves and others and we are therefore accountable to one another for those actions. If someone does something that I regard as immoral then that means that I must also call the person immoral (recognising, of course, that I am also immoral, lest I be accused of hypocrisy). You cannot separate a person from their actions.

So actually then, society today, by asking us to endure all these unpleasant things and unpleasant people is creating exactly the right circumstances for these undesirable practices to be perpetuated. If my misdeeds are no longer being sanctioned I will only be encouraged to carry on doing them. We see this most plainly with little children. There is no such thing as ‘telling off a deed’; you always tell off a person. If you do not tell of the person then they understand that they are getting away with it. By encouraging us to tolerate people ‘together with’ their unpleasant behaviour rather than ‘in spite of’ it, we are effectively being told to condone what they are doing. We affirm them in their ‘evil’ practices. But surely true toleration must be about accepting the person ‘despite’ their deviant behaviour? And this brings us to the heart of tolerance.

Tolerance was never supposed to be the solution...

It is merely a stepping stone to the real aim: reconciliation. What does genuine tolerance look like? Well, surely it involves accepting and enduring someone despite the fact that many things about them and many things they do are intrinsically wrong. And this is the major problem for the atheist; he is unable to label anything as ‘intrinsically’ wrong. Due to his or her worldview that excludes God from the moral plane, morality itself must be dealt with in terms of expediency and utility. Tolerance then becomes not a matter of sanctioning evil or deviant practices but simply about maintaining some semblance of order amidst a plurality of conflicting and contrasting values. Tolerance itself is seen as the ultimate solution but this begs the question... solution to what? The real problem that toleration addresses is not some vague idea of it being inconvenient that people have different views and practices, it is the concrete and horrific problem of evil; the fact that people lie, cheat and kill. But if there is no God then there is no truth, just different perspectives; if there is no God then there is no cheating or killing, just practices that favour my survival over another person’s (survival of the fittest). Suddenly the modern approach to tolerance becomes understandable; it is simply the logical outworking of the atheist’s worldview. Circular and hopeless though it may be (toleration is both the means and the end), it is consistent with the rest of the atheistic worldview.

This cannot be right, though. The real problem is one of broken relationships. Human beings are out of fellowship with each other; even our romantic relationships are full of cheating, lies and murder - this is a fact that is painfully obvious through just a cursory glance at our world; even the atheist can see this. We don’t need just a peaceful life.

What we need is reconciliation!

Toleration is simply the stepping stone to reconciliation. It not about ‘putting up with each other’, it is about restoring relationships that have been broken. When someone who knows that I regard their behaviour and views as being evil and wrong, according to God’s perfect standard sees that I nevertheless accept them completely (tolerate) and in doing so also offer them love (reconciliation) when what they deserve is condemnation and judgement for what they are doing... then they have been introduced to true toleration.

And of course the greatest argument for doing it this way is that, even if I know the correct standard, I have no right to condemn and judge anyway because I am no better. Jesus shows us very clearly that we have ALL broken ALL of the ten commandments so that none of us have a leg to stand on. This puts things in a very different light... when the only person who has the right to condemn and judge us finds us all guilty then the question stops being one of whether we will tolerate each other or not and turns into one of wonderment at just... on earth has God tolerated us lawbreakers for so long?

The answer is again found in the true nature of toleration; it was never supposed to be an end in itself - it points to reconciliation. The Bible tells us clearly that God was tolerating our sin because it was always his plan to reconcile people to himself. When the apostle Paul was preaching to the multicultural people of Athens, he said these words: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Jesus’ resurrection means two things - it shows us that God’s tolerance was being exercised for a reason (so that all people everywhere could have the chance to turn and repent and be reconciled to God) and it also shows us that his toleration of us will not continue indefinitely. Jesus demonstrated through his resurrection who he was: the living God who has the right and the power to judge our wrongdoing and rebellion against him and one day he will judge all people.

This means that if I haven’t yet repented (turned away from sin in my heart and turned to Jesus) then God is being tolerant towards me at the moment. But his offer doesn’t last forever. God’s tolerance is being exercised for the purpose of me having the opportunity to accept his offer of reconciliation. When that offer ends then so will God’s tolerance and I will receive the fair wages for my rebellion: judgement. Notice, however, the repetition of the word, “all”. God is an ‘all’ kind of God. All are facing judgement but God is showing tolerance to all. All have rejected God but God is offering reconciliation to all. All who repent will receive this offer and all who don’t will be judged eventually.

What are the implications of this to our idea of tolerance? Well, surely it means that our toleration must also be exercised in exactly the same all-encompassing manner? This means that I don’t just tolerate vegetarians and villains, but also gays and gangsters, not just blacks and bolsheviks but also perps and paederasts. There is no ‘choosing’ of what I tolerate or not. All evil deeds are ‘morally reprehensible’ to God; there are no different categories. The argument is simple: God has shown tolerance to even the worst offender amongst us so we have no right not to show tolerance to all people, whoever they may be, whatever they may have done. But that tolerance must be of the kind that points towards an offer of reconciliation. We must offer reconciliation ourselves and, above all, point to the source of all reconciliation; to Jesus Christ in whom we can be reconciled to God, the key to God’s toleration of us. There can be no lasting reconciliation outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Once again, you are left with a choice

Do you choose the toleration of this world; one in which the boundaries are constantly changing, where you could one day find yourself on the wrong side of the lines of toleration, where toleration is seen as an end in itself leading to a cycle of hopeless stalemate, where resentment festers and where the evil practices are accepted along with the person? Or do you choose the genuine toleration of God, who exercised complete toleration over all people in order that his Son, Jesus Christ, might appear to reveal the true purpose of his toleration: reconciliation.

Saturday, July 08, 2006



Where, then, should I go to allay love’s pain
When mind and will it so cruelly commands
This painful torment, rending breast in twain
Can not be quenched, can neither be disarmed.
Would that my eyes had never fixed their gaze
On vampish brown eyes, on fair olive skin.
Now I am vanquished; poor heart you’ve been razed
Your world has gone dark, and gloom has set in.
But can this be “love”, I ask you, young man,
That leaves you rejected and bankrupt so.
Now empty inside you will understand
‘True’ love delivers; and so time will show.
Beware the promise that passion recites:
‘The girl you will have, for this is your right.’

Friday 7th July, 2006, Cambridge

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Alpha (the beginning of a new season)

I feel I have come to the end of a cycle (the full collection will appear at some point on my site). So let this poem signal the beginning of a new season...

O write me a verse for the amorous one,
Who would give his all, a love to pursue.
Such fervour is oft brief, swiftly undone,
And we question: can love ever be true?
Of grandiose gestures we are most fond
We plan them through the wee hours of the night
Hoping to fashion some passionate bond;
In her heart of hearts, ‘I’ her new delight.
But blind are we, love’s nature to perceive
In our quest the fair maiden’s heart to smite
For love is both to give and to receive
A devotion that to passion gives sight.
Love is not love that gives the heart away;
It will share it - more and more, day by day.

Wednesday 31st May, 2006, Cambridge

Monday, May 22, 2006

'Circumstance' - that dirty little word

“Morality is the herd-instinct in the individual...” 
~Friedrich Nietzsche

When questioned about the basis for our morality, I'm sure most of us could come up with a perfectly coherent and reasoned argument for why we believe what we believe (for we all believe in ‘something’, even if it is only ourselves...) and why we behave as we do. We all have a moral code - those things that we consider ‘right’ and those that we consider ‘wrong’ - regardless whether or not mine is not quite the same as the next person’s. Of course, I’m sure that most of us agree on things like murder, lying, adultery, violence, slander, cheating etc... So I suppose you could say that, on the fundamentals, most people are superficially more or less the same in belief.

But in justification...?

This is where that dirty little word, Circumstance, comes into play. You see, however attractive our argument and demonstrable our reasoning, we cannot escape from the implication that the reality of circumstance brings to bear on our morality. If I have an atheistic worldview then, however well-reasoned and thought-out my morality is, it cannot escape from the fact that a world without a God is a world dictated by circumstance. In other words, if the material world is all there is, then the only law that governs our actions ultimately is the law of survival. The rule is, basically, survive or ‘be survived’. Under this worldview, whatever cosmetic dressings are added to the argument, the only reason for a morality that espouses ‘good’ principles such as truth, justice and peace is the fact that these things enable us to live in a society that is more conducive to our individual and/or corporate survival. In our experience, we have seen that these values do indeed lead to an increased chance of survival and so having good morals is good sense for most people. We could draw a link, then, between a decent standard of education and ‘good’ moral values held within a society (decadence notwithstanding). But this does not change the fact that its only BASIS, if it is held within a worldview that rejects God, is that it is beneficial for survival.

Do you see what this means? It means that if I have good morals and believe in just principles, then the only reason for this is ultimately circumstance. The circumstances of my life have dictated that I have been brought up in privileged surroundings and have witnessed the benefits these principles bring to one’s survival or at the very least that I have had access to a good education which has informed me of this greater chance of survival.

So, these values are not good ‘in and of themselves’. Circumstance has led me to view them as ‘good things’ based on their usefulness to my survival.

Take the flip-side of this. Say that I was born into adverse circumstances and I was consequently unaware of the benefits and increased chance of survival in a society where good values are upheld. If the only thing I was witnessing was how greed and injustice were rewarded then wouldn’t I be led to believe that ‘this is the best way to live to ensure my survival’? It’s a dog-eat-dog world y’know... Whatever anyone else might say about these good values being better, I would still have never seen them helping anyone in my own context. Circumstance, therefore, dictates my morals in both contexts, whether privileged or not. All of a sudden, Nietzsche’s cynical and seemingly far-fetched words (quoted at the beginning) are beginning to sound a lot more like the way things actually are...

Where does this leave us? If that part of us that we had always considered to be the one/main thing that sets us apart from the animals is now revealed as being the result of the most basic animal instincts within us...?

Surely morality is just an illusion??

Well, if you are finding something within you reacting against this suggestion (and I do hope so), then you have just demonstrated to yourself, in some ungraspable but very real way, that morality is - or should be - derived from something greater than ourselves. It is no ‘proof’ for the existence of God, but whoever said that God’s existence needed to be proved in the first place? When we know something to be true, something for which we have seen the evidence our whole lives - such as the love of our mother - then it is not something that needs to be (or can be) proved, it just needs to be accepted, because it IS true. The discomfort that we feel when confronted with that one little word, “circumstance”, should remind us that, all our lives, we have always ‘known’ that morality is something that we humans share, NOT because we are animals and have developed a ‘herd-instinct’, but because there are values greater than ourselves, values whose source could only be a person. And a person who is not only greater than us but better than us.

While I see the usefulness of arguments that attempt to demonstrate the existence of God, I do not believe that they will convince anyone conclusively because ultimately this is not something that can be ‘proved’. It is, however, something that we have seen, something that we see everyday (and something that one event in history should have convinced us is something we can believe beyond any reasonable doubt. This event was the appearance on this planet of the God-Man, Jesus of Nazareth, who demonstrated that he was the Christ of God and Lord of Creation and every man through the things he said and did).

An examination of ‘morality’ (through the filter of Nietzsche and circumstance) is just one of the many ‘pointers’, like the deeds of a mother that speak of her love, that reassure us that God is both real and good and that we are part of the evidence that points to this truth.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sonnet #27

What respite for the ever restless soul
To whom shall it turn and be granted peace?
Nowhere to hide, no nook or crack or hole
No chance this cacophony will ever cease.
From all sides, cries of pleasure and anguish
A maelstrom of sheer foolishness and waste
No matter how active, still you languish
The only solution: to leave post haste.
But who will guide me with no light to see
Who will move me when accustomed I grow.
Maybe someday I would like to be free
But perhaps this is it, this life below?
        It hounds us, from the day we leave the nest
        One thing we search for: to find perfect rest.

Thursday 19th January, 2006

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sonnet #26

O write me a verse for foolhardy men
Who behave as if lambs to the slaughter
Not able are they to pause now and then
And view their existence with laughter.
The greatest satire they would then observe:
The ceaseless complaints and churlish visage,
The good things they have but do not deserve,
The grasping for glory; that constant mirage.
When challenged such men may chortle and mock;
Bemused by the lack of enlightenment,
Or fly in a rage at being in the dock
Alas! It is they who lack discernment.
        The day you feel that praise is overdue
        First look ‘round for the joke may be on you.

Friday 13th January, 2006

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sons of Adam, Girls of Eve (inspired by Motion Picture version of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe")

Watching the new Narnia film inspired me somewhat... this is the result:

O, hapless Sons of Adam,
When will you e’er refrain
This dance of self
It leads to death
Proving such life as vain.

O, foolish Girls of Eve
Why have you always tried
To take control
Thus scorn the king
And so your end is nigh

O, captive Sons of Adam
Why pride yourselves in this
Ensnared in vice
A stench of sin
Whoever called this bliss

O, grieving Girls of Eve
This story’s getting old
These wars and strife
And loss of life
Unending take their toll

O, “enlightened” Sons of Adam
Wake up and cry for aid
Stuck in this mire
You will expire
Lost, without hope, waylaid

O, blessed Girl of Eve
Through you a Son was born
He came to us
To live as us
Rejected and forlorn

O, holy Son of David
Divine enshrined in man
Tis in your death
O undeserved
We see God’s rescue plan

O, mindless human race
Please recognise your King
Love in his eyes
Curse on his head
He dies freedom to bring

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Better to forgive and forget...??

Forgiveness: the act of excusing a mistake or offense

Picture a potential real-life situation in which a rich old gentleman, in the final years of his life, is seduced by his attractive, young, (gold-digging) secretary and marries her. He dies shortly after, leaving everything to her and nothing to his four eldest children (from a previous marriage). She proceeds to shut them out completely, leaving them penniless and extremely bitter. It is obvious that she intends to enjoy the windfall that her cunning manipulation of the old man has brought her. What are the abandoned children to do? They have been deprived of their birthright and their father's legacy and name - even the house they grew up in - by the canniving trickery of a beautiful witch who makes Cruella de Ville look like dear, old auntie Ethel...

Let us look at their options:
• They could possibly have grounds [A] to sue her in order to try and regain everything since their father had remade his will while 'arguably' in the early states of dementia and they had a 'verbal agreement' with her that she would give them something anyway (just nothing they can prove). This, however, could lead to them being even worse off since they would not have the money to fight such a case and the legal bills, if they lost, would be unthinkably high.
• So, [B] cutting their losses and backing out of the fight would seem like a more prudent option, albeit a forced one.
They do, however, have a third option.
• This would be [C] to make a decision to forgive and forget, thereby absolving Cruella "Mark 2" of all wrong and carrying on with their lives without the stigma of a 20 million pound grudge.

Surely, in human experience, C has always been the best option? Three thousand years of literary history - from Medea to Hamlet - have taught us that revenge (even with justice on one's side) is a dish best served cold, so obviously choice A (court battle), while maybe satisfying some of the demands of justice and retribution, is never going to leave them unscathed; it would be a bitter fight to the death - undignified, ruthless and cruel. Option B is only going to leave bitterness since they would have been forced to bow out of a fight due to factors beyond their control; a great injustice. The sense of frustration and anger this would leave behind would eventually mellow into a grudge too huge even to contemplate carrying around. So, we are led to the conclusion that option C - to choose to forgive and carry on with life - must the best option. You avoid all the hate, conflict, anger, bitterness and emptiness associated with the first two options. You walk away from the situation knowing that you are a bigger person and, after all, money is expendable but emotional health and good relationships are infinitely more valuable in this life...

I'm hoping you have perceived the gaping hole in this line of reasoning by now... Yes, in our experience option C is going to be the only one which, for the part of the abandoned children, has any kind of decent moral outlook. But what about JUSTICE?? We noted in option A that when we try and pursue justice for ourselves, we will always find it impossible to be objective and selfless. Option B was rejected for the very reason that it left justice unsatisfied, thereby creating a fathomless well of bitterness. But option C, even though it avoids the personal and moral pitfalls of the injured parties, still leaves justice unanswered. Who is going to call Cruella "M2" to account for what she has done? The sad truth is that, whichever of these options people take, the Cruellas of this world get away with these kind of acts and worse every day and are left free to prosper.

Forgiveness will help me to avoid burying myself in hatred or bitterness, or even regret, but it will never call Cruella to account. What shall we say then? Only, that:

Forgiveness for forgiveness' sake must necessarily exclude justice.

If I am not appealing to a higher authority who deals with justice, then any act of forgiveness I engage in must needs ignore the demands of justice; there is no alternative. This puts the atheist in a difficult position (and I do apologise for making you feel awkward if you realising this for the first time). Think about it: no one would dare infer that justice is not important so, in analysing the above scenario, an atheist would have to conclude that the only 'right' option is A, since it is the only one which comes close to meeting the demands of justice. An injustice has been done and it must be dealt with (unless justice is not important). This, however, brings us back to the problem of forgiveness being discarded. The 'reasonable' road of higher moral integrity is C, as we have noted, but that leaves justice by the wayside.

The atheist finds himself in the unenviable position of having to choose between forgiveness and justice.

Does he forgive and thus (albeit unwittingly in most cases) allow/condone the spread of injustice in the world OR does he decide that forgiveness is too high a price to pay and choose instead to fight for justice and retribution? The law will do its best to ensure justice is done but forgiveness does not come into it. He cannot have both; remember true forgiveness involves not the slightest bit of retribution or even renumeration since it involves the extension of undeserved goodwill by wiping the misdemeanor from the record completely. It is: "the act of excusing a mistake or offense."!

Having come to terms with this reality, what is he to tell the now-paraplegic and amputee victims of the recent London bombings? That they should just forgive and forget? This would be tantamount to saying that the horrific acts perpetrated against them don't deserve to be punished and they should just grin and bear it, including their vastly reduced mobility and quality of life. Perhaps he should advise them to devote the rest of their lives to the hunting down and bringing to justice of these killers, according to option A? But what happens when they are found and brought to justice? What will they then have to live for, consumed as they have been by their desire for personal revenge and justice, now that this aim has been accomplished? Even worse, what if they are never found? Consumed isn't the word.

Now, this isn't a dig at atheists. I (sincerely hope I) never criticise anything for the sake of it; a point I have already made. What we are doing here is perusing our options. If 'forgiveness for forgiveness' sake' (which just so happens to be the atheist's default position since he excludes appealing to a higher authority for justice from the outset) leaves us with unsatisfactory options, we are led naturally to ask the question:

So how can forgiveness and justice ever be reconciled in a satisfactory manner?

Is it that forgiveness is inherently unjust?? No it is not. The fact of the matter is that any just concept of forgiveness is simply incompatible with a materialistic or naturalistic worldview. If I, as an atheist or agnostic, decide both to forgive and to seek justice on any given issue or occasion, that is great, but I am being inconsistent with my beliefs since any forgiveness worth its name must excuse the act and leave it in the past without seeking justice.
But it doesn't just go this far. What I also want to demonstrate is that, not only is true forgiveness alien to an atheistic understanding of the world, it is also alien to every other worldview in existence apart from the Judaeo-Christian worldview.

Now, that's a pretty major claim, some might say. Evidence? Well, I can make this claim with confidence because only in the Bible do we witness the perfect marriage of justice and forgiveness in the same person and act. Please do get back to me if you manage to find an example outside the Bible. If you think about it, what we are talking about is the perfect paradox (a bit like life in so many areas - beauty/suffering, love/betrayal etc etc): we are talking about the possibility of both excusing an act and executing justice on it at the same time. It is simply impossible in human terms. I was being completely unfair on the atheist from the outset because the forgiveness/justice problem is quite possibly the greatest conundrum in existence in the moral plane.

Yet, God managed to demonstrate how such an act is possible in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It was, quite simply, the greatest act of justice and the greatest act of forgiveness ever seen. Actually, it was the ONLY such act ever seen or recorded in history (apart from the rest of the Bible, of course, which demonstrates exactly the same pattern in God's behaviour - the cross is simply the culmination of the whole story).

So why does the cross prove this? What happened on the cross? On the cross, Jesus was showing us that God takes injustice and wrongdoing seriously. Jesus bore the injustice of the world on his shoulders as God punished and cursed him there, giving him everything that we deserved in his own undeserved death, which he went to willingly. But, at the same time, God was also demonstrating his perfect love, in providing a substitute - HIMSELF - to take our punishment SO THAT HE COULD FORGIVE US. On the cross we see how God's nature is incompatible with injustice, he could not allow us to get away with our wrongdoing and rejection of him, but we also see how his nature is love. He wants to forgive us and excuse us of all our wrongdoing so that we can have a relationship with him. So, he himself became our scapegoat, the perfect sacrifice of forgiveness.

See for yourself what the God of the Bible is like, the God who wants to forgive you and who loves justice. Only he can ever satisfy the demands of both of these things, but if you are honest with yourself, isn't that what you'd expect from a perfect God? Indeed, if believing in God is ever something you have considered, could you ever believe in a God who was not completely just and completely loving? Well, Jesus demonstrated this on the cross. By coming into our space-time context and doing this for us, Jesus was not only revealing the truth once and for all about God's existence but also his perfect love and justice.

The God of the Bible is the God of the universe and he is a personal God who wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us. He will also punish every injustice, including the London and Jordanian bombings but, know this: if you are trusting in Jesus today, your wrongdoings have already been paid for - you are truly forgiven!

I leave you with two verses which show how God reconciled, not only forgiveness and justice but also a world of undeserving rebels to their creator God, if they would only turn and trust in the avenue he opened up back to him on the cross of Jesus.

"God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
(Romans 5v8)

"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no wrongdoing..."
(Psalm 32v1-2)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Thou shalt not disagree...


The latest EU slogan that we are hearing bandied about is 'Unity in diversity', a testament to the values of tolerance and acceptance that the EU is proud to espouse. The general idea is that although we all may come from different backgrounds and have different ideas on various issues, we believe that it is more important that we are united rather than opposed to one another. Therefore, we have made a commitment to celebrate those differences rather than use them as weapons against one another. We are completely inclusive and tolerant of people and ideas that are divergent and contrary to our own. In fact, the only view that is unacceptable is the view that another view is unacceptable. Of course, this is postmodernism (see next entry to come for more on PM) at its finest; with the foundations being laid for the past decade or so in society, it has now come to full maturity in this vision statement of the European Union.
You can probably sense it coming... Surely I'm not going to attack this too, you may be thinking... Oh yes I am Once again, we have a really great idea - encompassing great values such as inclusivity, equality and tolerance - and once again we have an example of something that I could not disagree with more heartily. Is it that I don't believe in these values? By no means. Let's break down this statement a bit more to see what it really means...

I have already laid out the basic premiss of 'unity in diversity'; basically, unity is achieved through celebrating our differences and making sure that everyone's voice is heard, no matter how outrageous, new or different that view is. The only heresy is somehow to suggest that someone may be wrong - the unity would then be broken. The golden rule is that someone's right to be different (diversity) must never be violated and must always be accommodated (result=unity). Whilst engaging in an intellectual debate with someone who has embraced this philosophy, you are very likely to be greeted with a retort that looks something like:

"I may disagree with your view, but I will defend to the death your right to voice it."

...which, loosely translated, basically means - 'I think you're wrong and probably think less of you for holding those views but that's ok because I have managed to convey exactly that without offending anyone or violating your right to be different.' This person has somehow contrived to celebrate your diversity and maintain unity with you whilst managing never actually to engage with your argument. He has both soundly rejected and incorporated your views into his worldview. You feel affirmed. Unity in diversity has been achieved.
Ok, so it sounds a bit superficial, you may say - people don't say anymore what they really think -, but surely it's a good thing if people are getting on more and more and falling out less and less...? Is it, though? As a free-thinking human being, surely my most basic right (which can never be taken away from me) is the right to come to my own conclusions. I am free to choose what I think and believe and obviously a good education and an abundance of information is important in this process but ultimately it is a path which I must be allowed to trace myself and any infringement that amounts to a dictation of terms in this area would constitute nothing other than slavery or indoctrination. I cannot be told what to think. It is not only through my own personal research, education and reading, however, that I shape my views, but also through discussion and debate with other well-informed people. So... with that in mind, just picture any scenario in which two people who are both well-read and well informed about the subject they are talking about, but with very different views, attempt to have a discussion. With a UiD approach, every time they come to a contentious point, they simply retreat into their respective corners having traded no intellectual blows. They may have heard what the other person believes but because it is their a priori intention to accommodate the other person's view, they have neither challenged it, nor received a challenge to their own view. So, rather than having gained anything from the discussion, they leave even more smug in the correctness of their own view and (quite possibly) disgusted at the closed-mindedness of the other person but affirmed in having maintained the peace. If they had engaged, however, they may have found a few surprises; had some of their own preconceptions about the other person's view overturned or corrected; and their own understanding, whether their view changed or not, would ultimately have been furthered. This approach is actually fostering more 'closed-mindedness' than free-thinking. I will find that I can not say what I actually think on various issues because if my view is absolute I would be implying that the other person is wrong. At the very least I tone down my view. My intellectual integrity is whittled away and my understanding is cuccooned by tolerance and obscured by a haze of political correctness and 'progressive values'.

Now, what I am not trying to do here is to pick holes in the postmodern process. While I have highlighted a few problems in the postmodern approach, (or at least those captured by the 'unity in diversity' philosophical statement), I'm am sure at the same time that it IS actually quite possible to have a robust intellectual interaction with someone who follows this philosophy [it sounds like I'm adding the same disclaimer here myself now, doesn't it... ;-)]. It would be unfaithful to this process but it would be possible. What I am trying to show, really, is that the unity that 'unity in diversity' creates is a false unity. It is a unity that is held together by a lie. I don't 'actually' agree with the other person but I will dress up my disdain/disagreement with a 'celebration' of his right to say what he thinks and all for the purpose of keeping the peace and making me appear to be a jolly good fellow for being so tolerant and inclusive. I'm not 'actually' being tolerant and inclusive because I probably think he's a idiot for thinking in the way he does, but I must needs give the impression that I am not rubbishing his ideas because unity is an absolute value. But hold on, there are no absolute values... er, well, never mind about that. Unity is good, yeah!
Ok, so I've started to mock... but it really is no laughing matter. When this unity collapses (and it will, especially if all that is holding it together is disagreement), it will expose all the resentment and ill-will that it currently is concealing. So, as we can see, this great manifesto statement that captures the ethical worldview of today's Europe, is actually not so great. 'Progress' has never been so deceitful.

REACH friends

But let's look at an idea of unity that does work... and it's a simple matter of switching two words around. How about if our statement changed from 'unity in diversity' to 'Diversity in unity'? What if the unity we so desperately sought after already existed and our task was simply to work out how to deal with the differences in a responsible and mature way, bringing them out into the open rather than concealing them? Can you see how diametrically opposed such an idea would be to the whole concept of 'unity in diversity' that we have explored above...? In UiD, the onus is on us to try to 'create' unity (which ultimately proves to be false and inherently unstable), whereas in DiU, the unity already exists. In UiD, we conceal our differences with a facade of tolerance but in DiU, we confront the differences directly with a view to dealing with them, not accommodating them. So how on earth would I go about trying to gain such a unity? If it doesn't originate in us (in that it is created by an outside agent) then surely it is beyond our grasp and purely a conceptual dream??

Well, alongside the promise of forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus, the Christ and Son of God, offers us, he also offers us this unity. You see, when someone puts their trust in Jesus for salvation and life in both now and the hereafter, Jesus has already promised to unite all such people in a manner that is not only perfect but supremely powerful - with his own presence. When someone becomes a Christian - a decision not to be taken lightly (no life and death decision is) - Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, the fullness of God himself, to live in us and with us. All Christians are 'united in Christ'. They are members of one body. A body does not fight against itself, it will only attack a foreign body; a body has many parts which are all different (diverse!) but they all belong to one body (united). They are also inherently 'already' united - they cannot exist apart from the body. The physical body is the best example of 'Diversity in unity'. The Christian fellowship of believers are described in the Bible as the Body of Christ and they are all those followers of Christ worldwide - regardless of denomination - who believe and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, sanctification and redemption (three words that are [v.important] Christian 'jargon' but you can look them up for their meaning and the theological weight attached to them if you are interested in exploring further - no time to explain them here).

Do you see the significance of this unity? No work at all needs to be done to achieve it since it is created by the Holy Spirit - God himself - and no pretence needs to be adopted since we cannot do anything to earn or create it; we simply come as we are and receive it, just as we receive the promise of life in Jesus' name (indeed, we receive both at the same time). No Christian can ever subscribe to 'unity in diversity' because it goes against everything that they stand for. Hence I am making a stand now, trying to expose UiD for the fraud that it is (even when applied in a Christian context - maybe especially so) and hoping to point you in the direction of the only place where true unity can ever exist: in a relationship with the Creator of the universe and Maker of each and every one of us, Jesus Christ.
[He also died and rose again, by the way, so that anyone who puts their trust in him can be reconciled with their Maker and spend eternity with him. Oh, and I do find it horrendous that I am including the main gospel message here simply as a 'postscript' but the main point of the piece does not discuss it so, in the interest of remaining faithful to the main point of the entry I have alluded to it only but, make no mistake, while not directly coming into the argument, it is the key to everything I have just said! ]

So, to conclude: Which unity do you prefer? The false peace of 'unity in diversity' or the iron-clad stability found in a relationship with Christ, through his sacrifice then and Lordship now, resulting in 'DIVERSITY (many members of every tribe, tongue and race) IN UNITY (the body of Christ)'...?