01 Jan

Does Welby have a wireless?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has delivered his New Year’s message to the nation in which he praises the responses of what he calls “communities” to last year’s terrorist atrocities and to the Grenfell fire. Actually, “communities” is not a helpful word, Mr Welby if your aim is to promote social cohesion. There is one community and we are all part of it, whereas “communities” connotes ghettos – that failed multicultural experiment which encouraged the separate development of the different races and creeds. Most of the immigrants who have settled in Britain over the centuries have integrated into the general population – into the community, in fact. Only in recent years there has arisen an exception: Muslims who so dislike our British community that they segregate themselves in a form of apartheid. How inconsistent and odd of lefties such as Welby to have condemned apartheid when it took place in South Africa, but to applaud it here in their use of that divisive word “communities.” What we have in Tower Hamlets, Dewsbury, Walsall, Oldham and a score other of our cities and towns is not Muslim “communities,” Mr Welby but Muslim ghettos.

In his message, which was broadcast on the BBC, the Archbishop said he also wanted to highlight the suffering of people “struggling to find work or relying on food banks” and “those who are bereaved or coping with poor mental health or physical illness.”

He added: “Their suffering will never make the news.”

Really? Does Welby live anywhere near a television set or a wireless? Does he ever read a newspaper? If he did, he would discover that, far from “never making the news,” the topics of unemployment, food banks – many organised by the Church of which Welby is titular leader – and mental health are never out of the news. These subjects are of great public concern and so it’s right that they should feature prominently in the news.

It is entirely right that the Archbishop should express his thanks to the emergency services for their courageous presence during terrorist attacks and at terrible public disasters such as Grenfell. Likewise, his concern for the poor and the sick is something required of him by the faith which he professes. I just wish he would profess the Christian faith rather more than he does. Christian morality is derived from Christian doctrine. And the most fundamental Christian doctrine is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but we can take comfort and hope from the fact that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins. So, if we repent and turn to Christ, we shall be saved,

Not a word about this from Welby. As if a chemist were to talk about chemistry while avoiding all reference to chemicals, or England’s opening batsman should walk out to bat – only without his bat.

Surely, the turn of the year is the time for looking back and repenting of our sins, negligences and ignorances and for looking forward in hope and confidence in the saving work of Jesus Christ?

The social gospel is a very fine thing. But the social gospel without the gospel is just sentimental socialism. 

24 Nov

God makes an American comeback?

On Thanksgiving, Abraham Lincoln urged the American people to offer, “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Barak Obama omitted all mention of “God” or “prayer” in his message to the nation.

By contrast, Donald Trump declared America “blessed,” referred to “my prayer” and ended with “God bless you all. God bless America.”

I just wonder if this might be the start of something good, something wholesome and restorative?

“Thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

I could spend all morning quoting biblical texts at you in which the Old Testament prophets admonished an erring and straying people and urged them to return to their God. They added that the people would live in peace and prosperity if they followed God’s Commandments; but that they would inevitably end up in trouble if they did not.

But the Bible was written a long time ago in the days when people actually believed in God. Surely, four hundred years after the Enlightenment, we have outgrown such superstition? Dietrich Bonhoeffer – an Enlightenment man if ever there was one – declared that 20th century people had “come of age.” He neglected to mention the gifts reserved for age: two world wars, the most destructive wars in history. Man come of age perpetrated more slaughter in the Second World War than in all previous wars put together. In the same century, there were the genocides of the pagan Hitler and the atheists Stalin and Mao.

I have noticed modern man’s famous difficulties with belief in God all my life and I am sure that these difficulties arise because modern man first invents a god in his own image – a cartoon god, an unbelievable god – and then rightly and logically this belief. What if, instead of the cartoon god, we were to say something like this:

Unless you hold that there are absolute values by which your conduct is measured, by which you try to live, you are bound to live a morally incoherent life. Enlightenment nostrums and wonderfully progressed discoveries in mathematics, physics and biology will enable you to cure diseases, to live in warm houses, to construct an atom-smasher and even fly to the moon.

But no science, no technology, however advanced can give you guidance how to live.

Life requires absolute values. Relative values which change to accommodate our convenience and our shifting fashions and prejudices are not real values: there needs to be something definite, something absolute by which our lives are measured. The biblical word for this is “judged.”

As the great Enlightenment philosopher himself, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) put it: “The starry heavens above and the Moral Law within.”

Personally, I would want to go further than this theologically.

But will it do – for a start?