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(ABC Aus.) Ilana Pardes–“Draw me after you, let us run”: The poetry, sensuality and relentless artistry of the Song of Songs

This collection of love poems revolves around a dialogue between two young lovers: the Shulamite, as the beloved is called, and her nameless lover. There is something utterly refreshing in the frank celebration of love that is found in the passionate exchanges of the two. Nowhere else in the Bible are bodily parts — hair, nose, eyes, lips, tongue, breasts, thighs — set on a pedestal; nowhere else are the sensual pleasures of love — tastes, colours, sounds and perfumes — relished with such joy; nowhere else is sexual desire spelled out with so much verve.

And yet sexuality is never blatant in the Song. Instead we find a nuanced combination of audacity, innocence and decorum, made possible by a spectacular metaphoric web that allows the two lovers to be direct and indirect at once.

Both lovers are masters of metaphor. If much of the love poetry of antiquity (and beyond) sets male lovers on stage as the agents of courting, here we find a strikingly egalitarian amorous dialogue between two virtuoso speakers who woo each other while juggling a plethora of metaphors and similes from different realms. They liken each other to roses, trees, gazelles, doves, goats, the moon, the sun, a crimson thread, perfumes, gold, precious stones, locks, walls and towers. No figure of speech seems to suffice in depicting love.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) ‘The 20th century was Augustinian’–James K. A. Smith tells Madeleine Davies why the Early Church theologian still matters

“My hunch is that if people know anything about St Augustine, their picture is probably overwhelmingly negative,” Professor James K. A. Smith says, occupying a booth in the foyer of a South Kensington hotel. He suspects that they think of the fourth-century Bishop of Hippo as “the inventor of the doctrine of Original Sin . . . the champion of celibacy, and the generator of a particularly narrow doctrine of sexual ethics”.

If there is one misconception that he hopes that his new book will correct, it is the idea of an angry dogmatist: “When you really spend time with Augustine he is remarkably vulnerable, humble, and very much imagines himself as a co-pilgrim with people, rather than sitting up on this dais, sort of announcing and denouncing.”

Augustine is, he writes, less a judge than an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.

With a titular nod to Kerouac, On the Road with Saint Augustine offers the reader “an invitation to journey with an ancient African who will surprise you by the extent to which he knows you”.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Books, Church History, Theology

(PD) Things Worth Dying For: The Nature of a Life Worth Living

Family, friends, honor, and integrity: These are natural loves. Throughout history, men and women have been willing to die for these loves. As Christians, though, we claim to be animated—first and foremost—by a supernatural love: love for God as our Creator and Jesus Christ as his Son. St. Polycarp, for all his caution and prudence, eventually did choose martyrdom rather than repudiate his Christian faith.

The issue at hand is this: Are we really willing to do the same; and if so, how must we live in a way that proves it? These aren’t theoretical questions. They’re brutally real. Right now Christians in many countries around the world are facing the choice of Jesus Christ or death. Last year the German novelist Martin Mosebach published an account of the 21 migrant workers in Libya who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and executed for their faith. Twenty were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One was another African who refused to separate himself from his brothers in the faith.

The murder of those 21 Christians is captured on video. It’s hard to watch—not just because the act is barbaric, but also because, in our hearts, we fear that, faced with the same choice, we might betray our faith in order to save our lives. Put frankly, the martyrs, both ancient and modern, frighten us as much as they inspire us. And maybe this reaction makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a version of the biblical principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of martyrdom is the beginning of an honest appraisal of our spiritual mediocrity.

So I think we should consider this fear for a moment, rather than repressing it, as we so often do.

The Christian men beheaded on the Libyan beach are not really so remote from us. The worry we naturally feel, that we might fail a similar test, is a concrete and urgent version of the anxiety we rightly feel when we think about coming before the judgment of God. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know that we’re likely to fail that test too. After all, we’re barely able to live up to the basic demands of the Ten Commandments. Many of us have trouble following even the minimal norms of a Catholic life: regular confession and Mass attendance, kindness to others, and a few minutes of daily prayer. If those very simple things are struggles, how can we possibly have the spiritual strength to face martyrdom? Or the judgment of a just God?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day from William Temple

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst pray for thy disciples that they might be one, even as thou art one with the Father: Draw us to thyself, that in common love and obedience to thee we may be united to one another, in the fellowship of the one Spirit, that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

–Psalm 146:5-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Saturday Food for Thought from Thomas Merton

Posted in Church History, Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb′edee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

–Matthew 9:35-10:4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Catholic Herald) Heretic of the week: John Nelson Darby

Darby also originated a brand of eschatology call Dispensationalism, which holds that true Christians shall be raptured before the events leading up to the Second Coming and Last Judgment. He preached his Gospel throughout Britain, the United States, Canada, and even Australia and New Zealand.

While Darby’s views on ecclesiology gained few followers in America, his Dispensationalism has been a big hit among Evangelicals ever since, among other things injecting the whole idea of “the Rapture” into American pop culture and spawning the Left Behind series of novels and films. Alas, before he died the movement broke into two sections – one of which he chose and remained in until he died.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

(Church Times) This is how to honour the referendum: Welby clarifies Bishops’ statement

A binary “winner-takes-all” approach to Brexit does not honour the result of the 2016 Referendum, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week.

Archbishop Welby has written to clarify the College of Bishops’ statement, issued two weeks ago. He repeats his view that a no-deal Brexit would be a “moral failure”, an expression that attracted “intense criticism”, he reveals.

The College of Bishops produced a statement a fortnight ago which included the sentence: “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured” (News, 4 October).

Archbishop Welby argues, in response to criticism of the statement, in the Church Times and elsewhere: “To honour or respect the 2016 Referendum result is not to sign up to Brexit at any cost.

“Honouring the result means no more than paying proper attention to an outcome that saw 52 per cent of those who voted favouring leave, but 48 per cent favouring remain.”

He goes on: “It does not mean that the Bishops have aligned themselves with any particular political party, faction, or wing within a party.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Economist) The root of all fun Cash–strapped English cathedrals become temples of enjoyment

Durham is not among the eight cathedrals that charge an entrance fee. But the 700,000 people who visit every year are urged, in multilingual signs, to make a contribution of at least £3 ($3.70). This year-old appeal has increased visitor offerings by a third. Well-informed and polyglot guides explain the cathedral’s history and drive home its need for money. But with a payroll of 131 full-time-equivalent staff, supported by 750 volunteers, and a creaking fabric to maintain, neither the contributions of visitors nor the amounts offered by worshippers are anything like enough to cover running costs. Nor can an exhibition of medieval treasures, costing £7.50 to view, or a shop or a café, fill the gap. Only by ever more ingenious devices, ranging from cultural and recreational events to corporate sponsorship and flashy appeals to fund specific repairs, are cathedrals managing to stay in business.

Andrew Tremlett, the dean of Durham cathedral, reckons his institution has kept the right balance between ancient dignity and 21st-century opportunism. When the “Avengers” film was being shot, the 350 people involved were required to fall silent several times a day when services were held. Whatever the disruption to worshippers, the filming enabled 150m people to enjoy footage of the ancient stonework.

Other cathedrals have dreamed up even more eccentric ways to make use of the vast, numinous spaces under their control. An injunction by Archbishop Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church, to “have fun in cathedrals” is being taken very literally. As a summer attraction, Rochester cathedral tucked a miniature golf course inside its soaring Norman arches. In Norwich, a helter-skelter was installed. This supposedly allowed visitors a closer look at a cleverly sculpted roof, but it was mainly a bit of entertainment, for grown-ups as well as children. Lichfield cathedral won higher marks for a light show entitled “Space, God, the Universe and Everything”, which involved transforming the entire floor into a lunar landscape.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Entertainment, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Theology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to thy name; the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

–Psalm 140:13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Church Leaders meet Secretary of State on Northern Ireland political impasse

From here:

“As the leaders all of the main Churches in Northern Ireland, we met in Armagh last evening with the Secretary of State to highlight our strong concerns regarding the continued Stormont impasse. We discussed with him the urgent need for the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to address issues such as welfare reform mitigations, health and education policy, as well as the urgent economic and wider issues surrounding Brexit. In particular we conveyed our strongly held and shared conviction that the devolved institutions need to be restored before the 21 October to avoid unacceptably wide–ranging abortion legislation being imposed on Northern Ireland. The protection and the dignity of all human life is of vital importance, both women and unborn children – both lives matter.

“We believe that our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this. They all need to take risks, especially for the most vulnerable in society, and make the compromises necessary to find an accommodation that will restore the devolved institutions.”

Posted in Church of Ireland, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(CT) At the Upcoming Amazon Synod, Roman Catholic Leaders Are Discussing Married Priests, Female Church Leadership, and Climate Change

Right now, the Roman Catholic Church leaders are in the midst of a three-week long meeting discussing the future of their ministry in the Amazon. Among the issues the synod is investigating are how church leaders should respond to chronic priest shortages, the role of women in official church leadership, and environmental degradation.

Under the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, synods—or meetings convening all of the top brass of the Catholic church—were largely symbolic, says Christopher White, the national correspondent for the Catholic publication Crux. Not so with Pope Francis.

“His two synods on the family wrestled with, among other issues, communion. And in the end, after two synods and two years of deliberation, Pope Francis issued a document that allowed for a cautious opening to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, which did move forward the Church’s pastoral teaching on that particular issue,” said White.

White suggested that the Amazon synod may conclude with similar progress.

“Among the many issues that they’re going to be discussing in Rome over the next three weeks is perhaps relaxing the celibacy requirement for priests because there is such a shortage of priests in the particular region of the Amazon. And they’re grappling with what to do about it,” he said.

White joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the real or symbolic importance of synods, what makes the Amazon region particularly vexing to the Church, and why Protestants should stay abreast of an important Catholic meeting.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Psephizo) Ian Paul interviews Patrick Mitchel–What does ‘love’ really mean?

What do you think are the major issues in the way that love is (mis)understood in contemporary culture?

Today love has become virtually a religion in the West – an all-embracing belief system that answers questions of ultimate purpose. The reasons behind love’s exaltation are well described German sociologists Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim:

Love is glorified largely because it represents a sort of refuge in the chilly environment of our affluent, impersonal, uncertain society, stripped of its traditions and scarred by all kinds of risk . . . weighed down by expectations and frustrations, ‘love’ is the new centre round which our detraditionalised life revolves.[1]

So love, in itself becomes what life is all about. The ‘shape’ of that love will tend to be universalist and inclusive, almost a type of liberation theology, freeing people to be themselves. The philosopher Simon May has an incisive analysis of the high expectations that love now carries:

the more individualistic we become the more we expect love to be a secular journey for the soul, a final source of meaning and freedom, a supreme standard of value, a key to the problem of identity, a solace in the face of rootlessness, a desire for the worldly and simultaneously a desire to transcend it, a redemption from suffering, and, a promise of eternity. Or all of these at once.[2]

A key idea here is the anthropological optimism at the heart of much modern love. By this I mean how love is assumed to be within easy reach of anyone with little cost to the self. Yet this is a recent development and is far removed from how love is understood within Scripture and Christian tradition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC Covenant) Jonathan Turtle–Love, but not like That

For example, a few years ago I attended a workshop for Anglicans. At one point in our conversation we were sharing our images of God: how we understand who God is and what he is like. As people chimed in I was struck by one thing in particular: a lack of appeal to Scripture. People were happy to suggest that we can come to know God as we embrace our grandchildren or take a walk by the lake. No one seemed to think, however, that it was important to begin with the Bible—God’s own self-revelation—if we’re going to talk about God.

We hear Saint John say something like, “God is love,” and we assume that God’s love is like whatever our experience of love is. Or, worse yet, we might believe that whatever our experience of love is, is God. That is what I mean by sentimentality — when it comes to a truthful knowledge of God, things like Scripture, reason, and tradition take a back seat to my own feelings and experience.

Stanley Hauerwas, never one for mincing words, once said that the greatest enemy of the Christian religion is not atheism but sentimentality: “You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.” Part of his, no doubt overstated, point here is that bad liturgy leads to bad ethics. Liturgy matters. The hymns we sing, the prayers we pray, the sermons we preach, the language we use, the reverence with which we come to Holy Communion, it all matters. You wouldn’t want to end up murdering your best friend, would you?

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” As I said, we hear a passage like this from Saint John and we are prone to both sentimentality and moralism. Sentimentality because we think we know what love is from our own experience and moralism because we think loving one another comes naturally to us and that we’re already off to a good start.

Both of these ditches lead to our peril. But Saint John makes a way through for us and that way is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(FA) The Unwinnable Trade War–Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash—but Especially Americans

In late June, the leaders of China and the United States announced at the G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, that they had reached a détente in their trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the two sides had set negotiations “back on track.” He put on hold new tariffs on Chinese goods and lifted restrictions preventing U.S. companies from selling to Huawei, the blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant. Markets rallied, and media reports hailed the move as a “cease-fire.”

That supposed cease-fire was a false dawn, one of many that have marked the on-again, off-again diplomacy between Beijing and Washington. All wasn’t quiet on the trade front; the guns never stopped blazing. In September, after a summer of heated rhetoric, the Trump administration increased tariffs on another $125 billion worth of Chinese imports. China responded by issuing tariffs on an additional $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. The United States might institute further tariffs in December, bringing the total value of Chinese goods subject to punitive tariffs to over half a trillion dollars, covering almost all Chinese imports. China’s retaliation is expected to cover 69 percent of its imports from the United States. If all the threatened hikes are put in place, the average tariff rate on U.S. imports of Chinese goods will be about 24 percent, up from about three percent two years ago, and that on Chinese imports of U.S. goods will be at nearly 26 percent, compared with China’s average tariff rate of 6.7 percent for all other countries.

The parties to this trade war may yet step back from the abyss. There have been over a dozen rounds of high-level negotiations without any real prospect of a settlement. Trump thinks that tariffs will convince China to cave in and change its allegedly unfair trade practices. China may be willing to budge on some issues, such as buying more U.S. goods, opening its market further to U.S. companies, and improving intellectual property protection, in exchange for the removal of all new tariffs, but not to the extent demanded by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, China hopes that its retaliatory actions will cause enough economic pain in the United States to make Washington reconsider its stance.

The numbers suggest that Washington is not winning this trade war. Although China’s economic growth has slowed, the tariffs have hit U.S. consumers harder than their Chinese counterparts. With fears of a recession around the corner, Trump must reckon with the fact that his current approach is imperiling the U.S. economy, posing a threat to the international trading system, and failing to reduce the trade deficit that he loathes.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

Bishop Paul Barnett’s sermon at Saint Philip’s Charleston this past Sunday on John 4:1–4:26–God’s Special Moments

You can listen directly here or download it there.

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CJ) Are Cities Going to the Dogs?

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is dog heaven. On sunny Saturday mornings, the park’s open green space, Long Meadow, fills with hundreds of canines frolicking during off-leash hours. The dogs’ owners hover nearby like watchful parents who, when playtime ends, head over to the nearby farmers’ market or go out for brunch. Later in the day, they might make time for doggie yoga or the pet bakery before coming home to their pet-friendly apartment buildings, many featuring dog baths and groomers.

Roughly 600,000 dogs live in New York City, along with half a million cats. About half of U.S. households own a pet, which adds up to at least 77 million dogs and 54 million cats. Generationally, millennials are the most enthusiastic pet owners, with some 70 percent boasting of having at least one pet.

What you’re less likely to see, especially in America’s largest cities, are children. Pets are now more common than kids in many U.S. cities. San Francisco, for example, is home to nearly 150,000 dogs but just 115,000 children under age 18. Farther north, Seattle has more households with cats than with kids. Nationwide, pets outnumber children in apartment buildings. In New York neighborhoods like Long Island City and Williamsburg, wealthy singles have the highest number of pooches per capita.

In a recent Atlantic essay, Derek Thompson wrote about how “America’s urban rebirth is missing a key element: births.” Manhattan’s infant population is projected to halve in 30 years. High-density cities are losing families with children over age six, while growing their populations of college-educated residents without children. Indeed, the share of children under 20 living in big cities has been falling for 40 years.

Young professionals’ four-legged friends have replaced those babies.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

From the Morning Bible Readings

A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 131

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(BBC) Edinburgh hosts world summit on ethical finance

Scotland’s role as a global leader in ethical finance is being highlighted at a world summit in Edinburgh.

Senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations are attending Ethical Finance 2019.

Speakers include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The summit aims to “help define and shape the transition to a sustainable financial system where finance delivers positive change”.

The event is being hosted by the Scotland-based Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI).

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --Scotland, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Scotland, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector

(Economist) Is The best way to eradicate poverty in America to focus on children?

Elderly residents of Inez, the tiny seat of Martin County, Kentucky, deep in the heart of Appalachia, can still vividly remember the day the president came to town. Fifty-five years ago, while stooping on a porch, Lyndon Johnson spoke at length to Tom Fletcher (pictured), a white labourer with no job, little education and eight children. “I have called for a national war on poverty,” Johnson announced immediately afterwards. “Our objective: total victory.” That declaration transformed Fletcher and Martin County into the unwitting faces of the nation’s battle, often to the chagrin of local residents who resented the frequent pilgrimages of journalists and photographers. The story never changed much: Fletcher continued to draw disability cheques for decades and never became self-sufficient before his death in 2004. His family continued to struggle with addiction and incarceration.

Today Martin County remains deeply poor—30% of residents live below the official poverty line (an income of less than $25,750 a year for a family of four). Infrastructure is shoddy. The roads up the stunning forested mountains that once thundered with the extraction of coal now lie quiet, cracked to the point of corrugation. Problems with pollution because of leaky pipes mean that some parts of the county are without running water for days. “Our water comes out orange, blue and with dirt chunks in it,” says BarbiAnn Maynard, a resident agitating for repairs. She and her family have not drunk the water from their taps since 2000; it is suitable only for flushing toilets. Some residents gather drinking water from local springs or collect rainwater in inflatable paddling pools.

The ongoing poverty is not for lack of intervention. The federal government has spent trillions of dollars over the past 55 years. Programmes have helped many. But they also remain fixated on the problems of the past, largely the elderly and the working poor, leaving behind non-working adults and children. As a result, America does a worse job than its peers of helping the needy of today. By the official poverty measure, there were 40m poor Americans in 2017, or 12% of the population. This threshold is extremely low: for a family of four, it amounts to $17.64 per person per day. About 18.5m people have only half that amount and are mired in deep poverty. Children are the likeliest age group to experience poverty—there are nearly 13m of them today, or 17.5% of all American children.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty

(CC) James K A Smith–How Augustine responded to the problem of evil without solving it

As Augustine put it in a sermon in 404, “he took flesh from the lump of our mortality, yes, and he too took to himself the death which was the penalty for sin, but didn’t take the sin; instead with the merciful intention of delivering us from sin, he handed over that flesh of his to death.” God doesn’t abstractly solve a problem; God condescends to inhabit and absorb the mess we’ve made of the world. God “has not abandoned humanity in its mortal condition.”

This, Augustine encourages his listeners, should serve as a source of hope in the face of fears and sorrows: “So he handed over this flesh to be slain, so that you wouldn’t be afraid of anything that could happen to your flesh. He showed you, in his resurrection after three days, what you ought to be hoping for at the end of this age. So he is leading you along, because he has become your hope.”

The appeal here is not to the greater good, the free choice of the will, or the constitutive nothingness of creation that corrodes the good. Augustine the pastor and preacher avoids such abstractions. Instead, he appeals to the mystery at the heart of the Christian faith: a humble God who endured evil in order to overcome it. The point isn’t that God has a plan; the point is that God wins. We shall overcome because of what the Son has undergone in our stead.

This isn’t an answer to evil; it is a response. Hope is found not in intellectual mastery but in divine solidarity.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Theodicy, Theology

(Christian History) For His Feast Day–William Carey’s Inquiry

If the prophecies concerning the increase of Christ’s kingdom be true, and if what has been advanced, concerning the commission given by him to his disciples being obligatory on us, be just, it must be inferred that all Christians ought heartily to concur with God in promoting his glorious designs, for he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.

One of the first, and most important of those duties which are incumbent upon us, is fervent and united prayer. However the influence of the Holy Spirit may be set at nought, and run down by many, it will be found upon trial, that all means which we can use, without it, will be ineffectual. If a temple is raised for God in the heathen world, it will not be by might, nor by power, nor by the authority of the magistrate, or the eloquence of the orator; “but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” We must therefore be in real earnest in supplicating His blessing upon our labors.

[He employs an obscure passage relating to Jewish repentance after Christ’s return to show the effects of prayer]

The most glorious works of grace that have ever took place, have been in answer to prayer; and it is in this way, we have the greatest reason to suppose, that the glorious outpouring of the Spirit, which we expect at last, will be bestowed.

[He gives examples of the power of prayer]

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Posted in Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Richard Swinburne’s new book ‘Are We Bodies or Souls?’

Richard Swinburne is a leading philosopher of religion who has played a major role in making a case for Christian belief. As well as writing academic books on the existence of God, the coherence theism, the atonement and the nature of faith and many other topics he has also written a number of more accessible popular books such Is There a God?, The Resurrection of God Incarnate, and Was Jesus God? A practising member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, he deserves to be hailed as one of the greatest living apologists for Christianity.

The soul has long been of interest to Swinburne. The Evolution of the Soul appeared in 1986 and recently he has written Mind, Brain and Free Will. This new book represents an attempt by Swinburne to present his views on the soul in a more accessible way. It is not always easy going but it is worth the careful attention it demands. Swinburne is a strong advocate of substance dualism, arguing that the soul can exist without the body but the body cannot exist without the soul, and he claims this point of view can appeal to atheists as well as to religious believers.

Discussing religious beliefs, he agrees that it is logically possible a soul could become attached to a new body as in re-incarnation but argues the evidence for this is not strong enough. He alludes to Christian and Islamic belief that souls continue after death and are joined to new or revived bodies but declines to discuss this.

What Swinburne does provide is a robust and slightly modified version of Descartes’ argument and a refutation of the idea that mental events are no more than events in the brain….

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Posted in Apologetics, Books, Theology

Anglicare Australia calls for Robodebt system to be suspended

Anglicare Australia called for Centrelink’s Robodebt system to be suspended at a Senate committee hearing today.

“The Robodebt system has no human oversight – and it puts the onus onto ordinary people to correct robotised mistakes,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“The Government has already admitted that the system that has saddled people with tens of millions of dollars in false debt. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Many people are simply paying these false debts instead of challenging them. In other cases, the debts are so old that the records to contradict them no longer exist.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

–Matthew 9:10-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Diocese of Oxford) A Christian response to Brexit

  1. –Watch over other faith and minority ethnic communities. Hate crimes and crimes against other faiths increased after the 2016 referendum. Reconnect with the mosques, synagogues and gudwaras in your area.
  2. –Encourage truthful and honest debate. The renewal of our politics will need to be local as well as national. Plan now to host hustings during the General Election campaign. Don’t be afraid of the political space but step into it with a message of faith, hope and love.
  3. –Pray in public worship and private prayer for the healing of our political life, for wisdom for those who lead us, for reconciliation between communities and for stability in our government.

Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small.

Don’t take on too much either: loving our neighbour through the Brexit process needs to be woven into everything we do anyway, not simply added into busy lives. Don’t be limited by this checklist – you might have even better ideas. If you do, spread them around.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture