Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Another Atheist Theologian


I first referenced Daniel Maguire's work on ethics back in 2009, then posted a YouTube clip in 2011. At the time I was trying to rinse the taste of Reformed ethics out of my mouth, a legacy of taking a couple of very inadequate courses in that subject at Otago while in pursuit of my B.Theol. Maguire appealed on at least two levels. First, as a Roman Catholic his arguments weren't poisoned by deviant Calvinist assumptions. Second, he addressed issues directly, not beating around the apologetic bush. I admired then (and still do) his brilliant little book A Moral Creed for All Christians which I've described elsewhere as "worth a truckload of Reformed gnat-straining."

Today I learned that this troublesome priest has outed himself as - shock, horror - an atheist.

In an interview with Religion Dispatches he talks about his new book Christianity Without God (also the provocative title of an earlier book by Lloyd Geering) and makes some memorable remarks.
"I think the main passion of the conservative mind is fear... Fear makes you reach for a supernatural insurance policy."
Unlike all too many of those who have transitioned from various forms of Christianity to godlessness, Maguire retains the ability to engage in the conversation without the smug, tone deaf invective that shuts off communication rather than opening it up.
"I grew up in a household with four sons and three of us became priests. That’s part of my story and its still part of my thinking. My moral creed for all Christians does not require belief in a god; there’s a whole cultural development that’s very dependent on Judaism and it’s something that I treasure. Many of my sensitivities are still rooted in that tradition."
And it's for that very reason I think this might be an invaluable contribution to the discourse, moving beyond the barricades and the cheap 'talking points' that characterises the all too common sniping from the cheap seats. Hopefully an e-book edition will be released before too much longer.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Mainly Classical (#1) - Mozart's Wind Serenade

Light, sumptuous, engaging. Mozart composed many enduring works, but this is definitely among my favourites: a 'must listen' for anyone building a musical library with an emphasis on the classics. Not a lot is known about the origin of the Wind Serenade (K361, sometimes known as Gran Partita); exact year or occasion. It hardly matters. There's a pastoral feel to the work, great music to sit back in a comfortable chair and de-stress to.

My choice of recordings is a performance by the London Philharmonic Wind Ensemble (you can hear an excerpt here), but almost any credible alternative will do, with Mozart you're always spoiled for choice. Most recordings come in around the 50 minute mark.

Oh yes, and today happens to be Mozart's birthday. Herzlichen Gl├╝ckwunsch zum Geburtstag Wolfgang! The man may be gone, but the music remains.

Quotable - Ryan Bell

The historic, liberal seminaries in the United States and Canada teach modern textual criticism and pastors who graduate from those institutions know that the Bible is a human construction with many problems. Yet the average member would never know it. The clergy keep the story alive by hiding the truth behind ancient rituals that keep the myth alive... It would be a good time to pull the curtain aside and let all the lay people in on the clergy's little secret.

Excerpt from Ryan Bell, The Courage of Gretta Vosper.

Wisdom Ignored

Back in the early days of the 'Joeytocracy', Pastor General Joe Tkach Jr. gave an interview to the church newspaper. I came across a photocopy the other day. Here are the words of el Presidente.
"I've shared this with some of the ministry: Would it not be better for me to only be Pastor General for 10 years, and give it the best 10 years of my life? I'm in my prime, my health and my energy level, give it the best for 10 years and then I'd be happy to go pastor a church somewhere, and then let someone else do it for their 10 best years... I think there's wisdom in this approach."
I don't have a date for the article. It presumably appeared in the Worldwide News some time after the Dear Leader ascended on his father's coat tails.

Here we are now in 2015, the 20th year of Joey's mandate-free reign. So much for wisdom.

And even now do we know what process will be followed when Joey finally steps down? Another appointed PG? Appointed by Joey?

In case you missed it, here's what Joe Jr. wrote in his book Transformed by Truth in 1997.
"Our denominational governance is yet another major change we are in the process of making. The hierarchy of church structure is being modified to feature a board vested with authority both to appoint and to remove the president/pastor general. We also plan to limit the length of the pastor general’s term to a specified number of years. Until now, the office of pastor general has been a lifetime appointment made by the previous pastor general."
Yeah, right! The road to hell is paved, it seems, with Joey's good intentions. Too bad he won't act on them.

Does the man know no shame?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

No Big Black Line

"When a Realist crosses the equator he’ll expect to see a vivid black line across the ocean; while a Critical Realist will expect to see a faint grey line. The non-Realist, on the other hand, knows that the system of lines of latitude and longitude imposed on the Earth by us exists only in our own heads, but it helps us find our way around the globe. The same goes for religion: it is a system of guiding myths to help us (decide) how to live. Use it. Rejoice in its poetry and spirituality. Just don’t waste your time looking for that big black line in the sea."

Richard Holloway writing about Don Cupitt.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Bible Humour?

Tim Bulkeley has embarked on a bold new project demonstrating that the Bible contains humour.
[T]his series will argue that humour is widespread in Scripture and will attempt to begin classifying and organising it to enable clearer discussion of its presence and function.
Humour? In the Bible? Widespread?

Tim's initial posts indicate that he will be focusing - among other places - on the parables of Jesus. Is there humour in the reference to splinters and beams in eyes, for example, in Matthew 7?

Tim isn't talking about humour being read into passages in the Bible by creative preachers, nor the possibility of a hilarious reading of certain texts (Revelation in Monty Python voices perchance?)  No, he seems to be saying the humour is intentional.

I'm happy to be convinced on this question, but have to admit to a degree of scepticism at the outset. It'll be an interesting series to follow, and I'll be keeping (as much as lieth within me) an open mind. You can follow Tim's postings over at Sansblogue.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Creative Faith

It is probably fair to say that Don Cupitt's work can be demanding. Then again, compared with other philosophers, you could also say he is one of the more approachable voices in the field. What makes Cupitt interesting is he is a 'radical theologian', Anglican priest and (depending on what you mean by the word) atheist.
'He rejects all ideas of gaining salvation by escaping from this world of ours. "All this is all there is", he says and he now sees true religion in terms of joy in life and an active attempt to add value to the human lifeworld. ‘Life’ is all that there is and all we have, and must be accepted with its limits as a package deal. We must avoid all attempts to deny or escape the limits of life — traditionally time, chance and death.'
Once you get familiarised with the vocabulary he uses, Cupitt can be hard to ignore. There's a short but fascinating audio interview with the man on the Philosophy Bites podcast. It's a pretty good introduction to his thought.

All of which is a just a preamble to noting that Cupitt has just (January 8) published a new title through Polebridge Press, Creative Faith. It won't earn many kudos from traditional theologians I guess, but hey, having read almost everything the man has in print, I'm keen enough to have already downloaded a copy on Kindle.