God’s truth police – a consequence of fundamentalism

Rob Bell’s book Love Wins has provoked a predictable (and somewhat tiresome) debate among Christians, with accusations of universalism, heresy, and the erosion of truth taking centre stage. (The idea that God might be nice seems to be a shock for many.) As I read the vitriolic comments it appears to me that a central issue remains unaddressed, and it concerns the heart of Christianity — truth. Continue reading “God’s truth police – a consequence of fundamentalism”

Reading the Bible again

A brief exploration of truth and the Bible

Nick Clegg, according to the Daily Mail, is a devious politician who has thrown away his principles in favour of power and personal aggrandisement. Is this true? Thousands of Daily Mail readers no doubt view this as as indisputable fact, but surely there must be more to this than meets the eye? As someone who, for better or for worse, chose to take his party into a coalition with previous political enemies, there must be deeper issues here; Clegg is no doubt having to walk a very difficult tightrope, balancing principles against the fact that he is the leader of a minority within this fragile coalition. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt — that deep down he has the interests of the nation at heart.

This simple example illustrates how we are so easily swayed by words that are in print — accepting them as truth simply because someone has decided they are worth printing. Even though we know that media barons print stories simply to sell papers, and journalists are sometimes not the most truthful of people, still we are deeply affected by what we see in print. Continue reading “Reading the Bible again”

The measurement principle – encountering divine love

One of the first things I learned as a physicist was the Measurement Principle. Roughly speaking, it states that you can’t measure anything accurately because the measuring process will inevitably affect the thing you are measuring. Now in normal life the effect is minimal and probably would not affect your shelf-building project or the purchase of new shoes, but in the case of sub-atomic particles the effect is more drastic. Instead of using rulers you have to use underground particle accelerators and such things which explode apart the thing you want to measure and (if I’ve understood correctly) you then measure the resulting debris with rulers.  Continue reading “The measurement principle – encountering divine love”

Magic mushrooms – a culinary brush with death

Yelly (my Dutch wife) has just completed a two-day mushroom-hunting and identification course as a result of which I found myself (with some hesitation) eating various dubious-looking funghi. ‘It’s quite OK,’ she told me, with what sounded like confidence (after all, she had done a two-day course). ‘Only about twelve species of English mushrooms can kill you.’  One of these, apparently, you can munch on quite happily saying things like: ‘Mmmm — what a lovely delicate flavour!’ and such, and then two days later you die abruptly of kidney failure. Continue reading “Magic mushrooms – a culinary brush with death”

The edge of darkness – thinking about reality

As a physicist (though I confess a poor one) I conceive of God’s creative act as that of an explosive sun. God exploded us into existence, gave birth to us, and we orbit around him like the rings of Saturn, cosmic dust. But in his desire for children rather than angels, the centrifugal forces of his love spun us outwards to the edges of his gravitational influence, to the cusp of oblivion. Here, at the fragile discontinuity between light and darkness, a small force from our own weak will can take us beyond escape velocity into outer darkness, or on a trajectory back towards his heart. The choice is ours. The centrifugal force of God’s dangerous creativity is balanced, on a knife edge, with the centripetal force of his inexorable gravitational love.

It is a choice between the darkness of independence, a slide towards the frozen inertness of absolute zero, or to be consumed in the embrace of nuclear love. I have made my choice.

Green Bell—a lesson from a Cumbrian walk

Green Bell, Ravenstonedale, Cumbria

I grew up in the south of England and went to my parents’ Baptist Church. I grew up, therefore, thinking that I was a miserable sinner destined for hell; that God was pretty angry with me, but thankfully Jesus had stepped in between me and God to sort things out. Don’t get me wrong here: the church was full of wonderful people who knew deep down that God was love, and I have a deep respect for my old friends and for the heritage from those years. I suppose the problem for me was that what I saw in the love and dedication of my early friends didn’t seem to correspond with the theology that was being preached.
Continue reading “Green Bell—a lesson from a Cumbrian walk”

Intellectualism—exploring mind and faith

Following on from my last post about ‘isms’, let’s have a closer look at intellectualism

Recently I was at a meeting where the gifted speaker mentioned in passing that in the West we are far too intellectual. The eastern mind, he suggested, was more open and appropriate to ‘real’ Christianity; intuitive, imaginative appropriation by the heart was of higher value than mere intellectual assent.
There are two issues which need uncovering here. Continue reading “Intellectualism—exploring mind and faith”

Where’s home?

The art world, like the Christian world, is full of ‘isms’. There is impressionism, realism, surrealism and so on, most of which are recognised as ‘art’. Occasionally, of course, someone like Damien Hirst or Marcel Duchamp come along — the latter exhibiting an upside-down urinal in a Paris art exhibition — who challenge our understanding of what art is. Christianity’s ‘isms’ are similarly sets of rules, beliefs, creeds, philosophies and so on that consider themselves sub-sets of the genre ‘Christianity’, and, as in the art world, some of the more orthodox ‘isms’ are considered Christian, others on the fringe are considered — like Duchamp’s urinal — somewhat suspect, or perhaps even a joke. Most ‘isms’ develop when a group of people coalesce around shared values, often with a charismatic personality at the centre and, as in the world of art, often result when someone surfaces who challenges the status quo. Continue reading “Where’s home?”

Orthodoxy and heresy

To borrow an analogy from G. K. Chesterton (from Orthodoxy), I feel like the yachtsman who bravely set sail to discover new lands, but, due to navigation errors, finds himself off the coast of southern England some months later. Unaware of his mistake he bravely rows to the shore to plant the English flag and claim the new territory for the Crown. Surprisingly the natives speak English, and — to cut a long story short — he is soon enjoying some well-earned fish and chips, albeit with slight embarrassment. Continue reading “Orthodoxy and heresy”