Cornering the inequality market

This is the topic I’d promised myself that I’d refrain from commenting on. After all, there is Literally No Point. Any line of engagement with LGBTQI+++ ideology which does not take the form of abject acquiescence is, by definition, the kind of hate crime for which self-immolation is the only just outcome. And I’d managed so well, but then the Welsh Government published its ‘Open Consultation’ [sic] entitled Consultation on the LGBTQ+ Action Plan, and I could feel a deep, irresistible rumbling in my bowels that was not to be denied.

The ‘Open Consultation’, is of course, almost nothing of the sort. The ‘consultation’ bit comes right at the end of a very protracted piece of ideological agitation, and very partisan political manoeuvring, and asks a very limited set of feedback questions, the structure of which largely decides the kinds of answers that will be received. I read the Consultation Paper, and then I read the LGBTQ+ Action Plan for Wales, conscious that both documents are rammed with questionable presuppositions, and the kinds of blanket assertions for which precisely zero evidence is provided. The whole exercise is driven by a particular kind of ideologue, and the only ‘open’ thing about it was my mouth as the text seemed to compete with itself in a kind of advanced form of obfuscation. Where on earth do they train people to write this stuff? At what point did we all sign up to the redefinition of ‘Open Consultation’ to mean ‘Ideologically Blinkered GroupThink’?

It may be worrying when Government ministers continually assure us that they are “following the science”, but it is far more concerning when they refrain from confirming that “we’re following the ideology”, without adding “and we’re going to force you to do so, too”. For that, as far as I can see, is the only End of this particular process.

Almost every substantive point in the Action Plan may be reasonably questioned. To detail everything would therefore be a work beyond the scope of this little post, and in any case the tone and tenor of the document is suggestive of a mindset which has evolved beyond the point of rational dialogue.

I was struck by the sheer volume of specific, Welsh-Government initiatives, all designed to – in effect – privilege LGBTQI+++ groups beyond the limits of the spectrum of rights which are uneasily shared out amongst the other nominally protected characteristics of age, race, gender, religion, belief and disability. Within Welsh communities, the Government now intends to actively promote LGBTQI+++ causes in February, May, July, September, November and December. They’ve already pushed forwards on curriculum reform, so that access to schools is frequently only available through those rainbow archways. They’re offering PReP free on the NHS. They’ve established a gender identity service which helps “our trans family to be their true selves” – I wonder what, in practice, those ‘selves’ are, and how might they support people to be ‘true’ to them? Will that loving support also be available to the increasing number of damaged twenty-somethings that are desperate to de-transition, albeit in an ideologically inconvenient direction? That proposed ban on (undefined) ‘conversion therapy’ is almost bound to adversely affect people who realise that they’ve made an awful mistake. The Government supports Pride Cymru, funded a bespoke LGBTQ+ venue grant, enabled funding for drag artists… In the area around our church they’ve got rid of all non-resident parking, so the elderly (or anyone else) can no longer drive to church and park their cars.

Of course, the Action Plan is pushing for much, much more – so much more in fact that it is quite clear that the ‘inequality market’, if one may so describe it, has effectively been privatised under our collective noses. The Action Plan commits itself to fifty-eight specific actions (supplementary to everything that is already happening), and is littered throughout with the terminology manufactured by Critical Theorists in order to advance their agendas in the public space. And, because the human rights element has effectively been hijacked by a single ideology, this whole exercise in effect steals our own culture from under our feet. This is scary stuff. If people are not outraged by it, then it is either because they have already lost the will to live, or are cowed by the vicious polemic in the public space – or because they have replaced democracy with the will to power, and no longer believe in the nature of democratic discourse. Modern progressive ideology is Nietzsche all the way down.

If ‘equality’ is a thing, then it has to be available for all of us – and the framework for constructing that equality has to be democratic, rather than the sole province of a particular kind of ideology. In practice, the Welsh Government’s Action Plan embodies the equality of Orwell’s Animal Farm. It is intriguing – and significant – that the (Welsh) Government has published a Strategic Equality Plan, a Race Equality Action Plan, a Framework for Action on Disability, and a Gender Equality Plan, but absolutely nothing in relation to those two other ‘protected characteristics’ (belief and religion). Indeed, the only references to religious communities in this paper simply allude to the ways in which people of faith must shift ground to accommodate this increasingly privileged minority.

And of that latter process, there is no evidence of an end in sight.

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“an outmoded postulate void of instrumental capability”

Alongside my more regular studies, over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed reading a series of substantive works by reputable academics who have all, in their own ways, seen through the intellectual legerdemain which has supported Darwinian and Neo-darwinian explanations of the origins of life.  All of them have made valuable points, and it’s always intriguing to note those instances where the rejection of materialistic hypotheses is not linked to the embracing of some form of theistic faith.

The most recent is Neil Thomas’s Taking Leave of Darwin, published earlier this year.  Thomas is a rationalist and humanist, but not an evolutionary biologist so that fact is no doubt sufficient to allow hardline Darwinists to impugn his credibility – given that is the way in which the discourse almost invariably runs these days.  His direct cognisance of the data is one thing, but his familiarity with the primary literature is another.  The book betrays an intimate familiarity with Charles Darwin’s own writings, and a robust understanding of the philosophical and metaphysical underpinnings which drove the invention and promotion of the theory.  Thomas takes the time to document the historical context within which Darwin and his contemporaries were seeking to concoct explanations which were purely materialistic in nature, and it is fascinating to note the exceedingly heavy dependence upon pagan Greek thinkers such as Democritus (460-370 BC) and the later Roman poets, Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD) and Lucretius (99-55 BC).  Indeed, Lucretius was heavily influenced by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (342 – 270 BC).

These thinkers were not peripheral or incidental to Darwin’s work.  It is clear from Darwin’s letters and other writings that their worldview was influential at a fundamental level on his theoretical ideas.  Thus ‘natural selection’ becomes a quasi-magical process, where nature itself becomes a kind of personification of divinity, and capable of acts of supernatural transformation which turn lifeless inorganic matter into sentient, self-conscious, autonomous living beings.  The remarkable thing is that, in an empirical age, driven by the recent output from the Enlightenment, this was ever passed off as science.  Indeed, whilst the pro-Darwinian narrative likes to define the opponents to his theory as largely comprising ignorant religious bigots, the fact is that the strongest resistance to The Origin of Species came from tenured and respected scientific academics.  And they had a strong rational basis for their scepticism.  Thomas supplies various explanations for the widespread adoption of this deeply-flawed theory, but ideology has to come top of the list.

Thomas’s book is well-written, indeed beautifully-written.  Here is a man in full control of his prose, of the well-turned phrase.  He manages to strike that difficult balance between a troubling dependence upon sarcasm, and a dry wit which reveals itself in pithily-proportionate comments.  It is also not an over-bloated book, which tries the patience through poor editing – at just six chapters comprising 146 pages, it is eminently readable because the author makes every word count.

Darwin’s theory got away with its popularising of a discredited ancient Greek philosophical system through the prevailing biological ignorance and idealism of his day.  Thankfully, the subsequent expansion of our knowledge about the sheer sophistication of biological information systems is driving change.  Within that context, James Shapiro’s 2011 blockbuster, Evolution: A View From The 21st Century is indicative of the sheer force of that change. Shapiro may be attempting to hold onto materialistic explanations, but if this is ‘evolution’, then it certainly does not comply with the original specification, as proposed by Darwin. In this context, the only thing for which there is persuasive evidence of evolution is the word itself.

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Religious organisations and child protection

A long while before I knowingly and intentionally decided to follow Christ in my late teens, I had been attending Christian churches in my home village of Danbury, in Essex. No doubt to provide themselves with a little welcome peace and quiet, my parents sent me to the URC sunday school from the age of around seven. Its version of Christianity was somewhat vague and undefined, but it was full of very kind people and I rapidly felt secure and cared for. Around the age of thirteen, I was sent up the hill to the Anglican Church to get confirmed and, being a dutiful son, I obliged. The whole exercise meant very little, as the liberalism of the Rector had, by this time, largely rendered the form of Christianity down to the comforting husk of the liturgy, which was followed without conviction. Again, the place was full of very nice, well-meaning people and I made new friends, and retain only positive memories of this period.

In my seventeenth year, the new curate demonstrated through his personal integrity and lifestyle a radical Christianity that I had not encountered before. Another acquaintance at the Mission Church, taught me what that was all about. I was hooked: I could see clearly that Christianity had little to do with ‘being religious’, and everything about a living relationship with God through Christ, a relationship which changed everything. The only church in the village I did not attend was the Roman Catholic one, but I did play chess with Father Clay, another positive role model. Even in the more liberal or whacky edges of Christianity that I experienced during my adolescent years, I do not recall a single instance of practice which was anything other than wholesome. Children were nurtured within every one of these contexts.

That’s three churches in one village that I had in-depth personal experience of. It is possible that my life was a little sheltered, but then I had friends attending a whole range of local secondary schools, and was quite familiar with the kinds of antics that happened elsewhere. Today, the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its Investigation Report, and you can read how the BBC has dealt with the subject here. It makes for a perplexing and disconcerting read, not least when one contrasts the actual content of the report with the way it is being reported in the media.

What can one say about this? On one level, a report consisting of 210 pages and eight main sections is sufficiently intimidating to encourage one to acquiesce wholly in its conclusions. And, whilst I can only speak as a Christian, any instance of either abuse or cover-up is to be deplored, and should never be justified in any shape or sense. Jesus told parables aimed at the kind of religious person who was content to claim the benefits whilst perpetrating abuse against others – so we may be sure that Christianity, as a faith, has zero tolerance for this kind of hypocrisy. But, on another level, it seems reasonable to consider what the report actually says, rather than simply accept the secular media’s spin on it.

Part B of the report is entitled Child sexual abuse in religious organisations and settings, and it is here that one would expect to see the most careful marshalling of the data which describes the extent of the problem. Indeed, this is the only place where one discovers the kind of data which would inform a narrative. Subsection B.3. contains some individual anecdotal material, which describes five harrowing cases, but that is it. What is vastly more interesting, is subsections B.1 & B.2 which (briefly) describes the Overview and Prevalence of abuse in religious settings in the UK. It is worth noting everything of substance detailed here:

  • The Inquiry’s 2019 review showed that 11% of participants ‘had been sexually abused as children in religious institutions, or by religious leaders’, which would seem to imply that 89% of them were abused in non-religious or secular contexts;
  • Between April 2015 and March 2019, of the 39,238 counselling sessions provided to abused children by the NSPCC, 0.13% involved religious settings. That is to say 99.87% of all cases occurred in secular (non-religious) contexts;
  • The NPCC (National Police Chiefs’ Council) stated that their analysis of data collected from early 2015 to January 2020 indicated that 11% of all child abuse cases occurred within religious settings and that 10% of abusers were linked to some kind of religious context;
  • Birmingham LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) reporting between April 2017 and March 2019 indicated that 0.92% of all referrals involved some kind of religious setting;
  • In Leeds, the LADO reporting between 2013 and 2019 showed that 3% of all notifications during that period had a religious context. That is to say, 97% of instances were linked to secular contexts.

There is one other statistic, relating to Bradford, but the writers of the report have rendered it so meaningless, one wonders why it has even been included. What the report tells us is that the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse cases are not happening within religious contexts. This conclusion is clearly embarrassing to the secular mantra of religion being the source of all evil, so how do the report authors handle this minor flaw? In subsection B.1, para 3, they blame it on repressive and opaque practices within religious organisations, and suggest that (therefore) these figures must be a ‘significant underestimate’. This is a difficult argument to respond to, because (clearly) if there is hidden data, none of us will have access to it. And if these repressive religious bodies are so adept at hiding the evidence, why is any of it being reported in those figures (above), and why would IICSA even report such matters if they are (therefore) so profoundly unreliable? Then, under subsection B.2, in several places we are informed about the patchy and incomplete nature of the records held by secular bodies, so how therefore is it appropriate to hold religious organisations to account for similar defects? The authors of the report seem to have experienced a collective parity bypass, and the outcome is a kind of judgement via innuendo.

There is plenty more of interest within the report, and every organisation which works with children, whether or not it is ‘religious’ must, at all costs, avoid complacency. For example, it is worth noting that Part C (Barriers to reporting child sexual abuse in religious organisations) is sufficiently extended to function as a proxy for the lack of hard data highlighted earlier, and seems to ignore the consideration that many different types of organisation, not just ‘religious’ ones, may suffer from remarkably similar policing and reporting defects. My own experience within evangelical churches is that safeguarding is applied rigorously and taken very seriously.

Nevertheless, the very limited evidence that this report cites indicates that children are far less likely to be abused within a religious context, than in almost any other setting in the UK. The kind of fake indignation and condemnation we’re hearing in the mouths of secularists suggests that they have not read the report, and are simply jumping on a convenient bandwagon.

If Christian churches, organisations or individuals have been involved in this kind of abuse, no amount of hand-waving will put things right. There needs to be a genuine repentance and tough action taken by Christian leaders, as this is a denial of our birthright. Christ modelled sacrificial love towards all kinds of people, especially towards the marginalised and ignored. The early Christians rescued and cared for the unwanted babies left to die by the pagan culture around them, and it is inconceivable that we would countenance anything less today.

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Knowing about knowing

There’s a great webinar coming up on Monday, August 23 – the philosopher Esther Lightcap Meek is going to be in conversation with Kristi Mair on a topic that both are very familiar with. Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge is an increasingly important subject to grasp, given the nature of the claims made by secularists about reality, and the current proliferation of influencers who are just ‘making stuff up’, pre-weaponised for their own preferred ideologies. Details of that online event, and access to the signup page may be accessed here.

The way in which many secularists translate what happens inside their heads to the outside world (and vice versa) frequently involves the kinds of shortcuts which most thoughtful people might consider somewhat unreliable. I often encounter atheists who have rapidly moved from Darwin’s imaginative but ultimately flawed version of ancient greek paganism straight to ‘established fact’ without apparently encountering any obstacles en route. If one seeks to question how it might even be possible to achieve such an advanced level of certainty, based upon constructs that are rich in presupposition and pitifully weak in real-world data, one instantly plunges into an Alice-in-Wonderland world of cultural dissonance that is quite difficult to navigate.

This raises the prospect that this kind of intellectual opacity is in fact quite deliberate. It warns the perplexed and wary sceptic to stay well clear, and gives a free pass to ideas that, if analysed with only a modicum of objectivity, would collapse into their constituent parts – namely, wishful thinking, atheistic determinism and the transformative power of creative repetition.

Knowing what we know is important, but I would say that knowing how we know is even more critical. Who is to say that walking Meat Machines, a byproduct of impersonal and unintelligent forces, entering and leaving the world according to no objectively-discernible purpose (save the repetition of the biological cycle), and acting out a programmed, machine-like existence where even the perception of ‘self’ is (I am told) a chimera, have the capacity to know anything for certain? Such entities – let’s call them Darwin’s Zombies – would simply need to react to environmental stimuli sufficiently to survive long enough to pass on their genes of futility. And then… grateful oblivion with a pre-programmed feedback loop supplying a sense of a job well-done. Evolutionary theory turns human beings into mere ticks in boxes – so it’s hardly a surprise to see how the culture wars seek to categorise us into groups (oppressors and oppressed, for instance) in order to control all those difficult-to-manage, God-created individuals.

And yet…we flourish and decline. We learn to love and to hate. We teach our kids that reinforcing racial stereotyping is ‘right’ or ‘good’, and that Martin Luther-King’s colourblindness is wrong or even bad – so there is at least an intent or capacity to form value-judgements. We may no longer have the vision to build cathedrals, but we’ve got creative with shopping malls and virtual worlds, in order to hold reality at bay. Our lives are too frenetic for worship, and yet we’re satisfied with mind-numbing TV. We can send Jeff Bezos out into space for touristic purposes whilst we ignore the consumption of valuable resources that was required to get him there and bring him back again. We have evolved the sensitivity to trawl through the curriculum to exorcise it of any lingering vestige of a culture which doesn’t comply with Critical Theory, whilst we disregard the suffering of millions of people subject to persecution by militant islamists. We can get all in a flap over personal pronouns whilst continuing to indiscriminately consume products generated cheaply by regimes which have radically cheapened human life. The prospect of heaven (or hell) may no longer enliven our listless lives, but the moment the COVID regulations relax, we’re queuing in long, sweaty lines for that flight to Torremolinos.

We’re an odd bunch, us humans, but certainly a whole lot more complex than the Darwin’s Zombies model would suggest. Reductionist models are always prone to that kind of problem.

Knowing how and why we know is important. It is that kind of self-awareness which distinguishes us from other living things, and really helps us to make sense of the external world in a reliable way. A Christian worldview uniquely equips us to develop a valid confidence in such matters – the kind of confidence that the secularist has to replace with presumption.

Why not come along and enjoy Esther and Kristi in conversation?

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Against The Thing

I’m pretty sure that I am in reasonably good company in singling out two of the most significant books of 2020. The first uses liberal secular presuppositions and values to critique the wholesale imposition of Critical Theory on Western Culture: Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. Whatever else one might say about this analysis, my atheist friends may have 100% confidence that there’s none of that God Stuff involved. It’s wholly a Secular Thing.

[It’s worth noting that Doug Wilson has written a typically pithy appreciation of Cynical Theories]

The second is written by a Christian academic: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman is an absolute tour de force from an analytical and explanatory perspective, and it demonstrates, with compelling clarity, how the Emperor’s New Clothes have come to dominate our worldview to such an extent that soon the shops won’t be selling any other garments. The subtitle says it all – Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution: Trueman documents with a kind of relentless rigour how the fruits of centuries of cultural development have been stolen away, overnight. Or were simply flushed away, via a toilet constructed by Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, the Frankfurt School and their dysfunctional progeny. Or were simply forgotten and ignored in the brouhaha that masquerades as civilised public discourse.

Of course, the atheists are not going to read Trueman. Indeed, there is precious little evidence that, these days, they are in fact reading anything substantive at all. Given Pluckrose and Lindsay’s credentials, for a little while I had entertained naïve hopes that they might be reading Cynical Theories, but apparently many would not wish to ‘reward’ authors they don’t agree with by purchasing their books (in which case, public libraries might be some kind of answer), or expose themselves to ideas that are ‘against’ what they believe (in which case, the bubble-world is preserved, intact). It is disconcerting to discover that it tends to be Christians that are reading the serious books written by atheists with serious secular intent. And taking them seriously.

This perspective that sees competing ideas as somehow ‘against’ one’s own worldview, and therefore beneath serious consideration, does require unpicking. It is suggestive of the kind hyper-fragility which is derived from a belief system constructed out of memes, rather than serious thought. It is as if we have replaced human rationality with FaceBook’s ‘Fact-Check’ system which instantaneously damns inconvenient facts because they don’t fit the algorithm. Nothing to see here, folks… Secondly, this outlook has somehow managed to convince itself that a set of ideas that have been around for, say, five minutes, have established a sufficiently robust pedigree to assume a normative role. And, thirdly, it pivots on an entirely ahistorical take on what is ‘against’ what. Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory are the direct descendants of Postmodernism which takes the rational scepticism of the Enlightenment and feeds it steroids in order to arrive at the kind of Radical Scepticism which is, in essence, against everything. So, who’s against who, folks? Are Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard on the side of truth and justice, given that (via a series of iterations) they’ve given us ‘Social Justice™’? Not according to Pluckrose and Lindsay:

Thus, radical skepticism is markedly different from the scientific skepticism that characterised the Enlightenment. The postmodern view wrongly insists that scientific thought is unable to distinguish itself as especially reliable and rigorous in deterring what is and isn’t true. (p.34)

This is not some minor point, for those atheists who so uncritically defend Critical Theory in all its various guises ignore the fact that this philosophical system (if that is not wildly over-embellishing its status) also denies the validity of (a) scientific method, and (b) Enlightenment thinking. The same individuals would generally seek to attack Christian belief from those same two perspectives, blissfully unaware that they have effectively denied themselves the right to use those kinds of arguments. Of course, if one assumes that atheism is in no way a rational response to the universe, then perhaps it is possible to hold these contradictory themes in some kind of harmony. Like baking a cake whilst including kitty litter as a viable ingredient.

I was at University in the early eighties, at a time when the fruits of Postmodernism were emerging as ‘a thing’ (having been incubating within leftwing faculties since the 1960s). My (secular) colleagues in the biological sciences laughed at the very notions that were spreading by osmosis within the arts and humanities, secure in the knowledge that we had the assured results of hundreds of years of scientific progress in the bag. I think they’ll be laughing on the other side of their faces now, or rather not laughing at all. Humour is perhaps not the most natural response to the new cancel culture, which is only capable of viewing the world through its own, uniquely distorting lens, and, as Douglas Murray has pertinently demonstrated, lost any sense of how to forgive dissenters that aren’t drinking the same Kool Aid.

Cynical Theories is not the only answer to the kind of madness which is now masquerading as culture, but it is a very timely and effective one. The sheer scale and rigour of the research underpinning it is impressive, but the book is still, somehow, immensely readable. From a Christian perspective, there are plenty of presuppositions there which I would want to query, but that does not in any sense diminish my appreciation of its value.

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A year of giving dangerously?

Christians often tend to be a bit rubbish when it comes to discussing money.  In many secular contexts, there’s an implicit ban on discussing religion or politics – in a Christian setting, it’s money that gets the cold shoulder, which is strange when you notice that Jesus had quite a bit to say about it.  If you raise the topic, it’s either because you are guilting someone else to dispense from their largesse, or because you have something to brag about.

Believe me, this is neither.  It’s because my wife and I tried an experiment and it has left us excited and wanting to repeat the exercise.  But, first a word of background.

I was raised in a ‘generous church’ in my home village.  JB, one of the church leaders, got up at 4.00am to milk the cows.  Then he cycled several miles to the nearest railway station, and commuted into London where he put in a day’s work at the Bank of England.  At the end of the day, the same practice in reverse.  He and his wife gave away most of what he earned.  One of my best friends decided with his new wife, that they would ‘tithe’ 90% of their income and keep 10% (tithing is the other way around) and see how they managed.  And they discovered that they managed just fine.  Another good friend, who only recently went home to glory, gave away 50% of everything he earned over his entire lifetime.

That kind of background tends to influence your outlook.  It has meant that there has never been any room for complacency when it comes to charitable giving, and led to that restless sense that we could always do more.  Last year, during COVID, because there was so much that we could now not do, due to lockdown, we found ourselves looking more closely at the money question.

This coincided with an increasing involvement in Great Lakes Outreach, a Christian charity engaged in genuinely transformative work in Burundi, and where the indigenous Christians appear not to have our hangups over money.  Here, in the UK, we take our time to mull over our vision and mission statements.  We analyse to the nth degree the nature of our projects.  We construct intricate business plans, create carefully-weighted budgets, in order to see whether or not we can do this thing which seems important.  Over there in Burundi, they crack on with the mission, and worry about the funds for it later on.  Here in the UK, we have the luxury of navel-gazing – out there, they really don’t.  It’s a matter of life and death, and that requires real faithfulness.

Against that background, and having become part of a praying community which is focused on making a real difference, we found that giving became a natural part of what we are about.  Not a kind of non-specific, scattergun approach, triggered by oversensitive consciences, but rather a very specific, need-related motivation.  We helped a little boy receive a life-saving operation.  We helped pay for a prosthetic limb.  We supported some supremely gifted Christians active in public service.  We were involved in a project which distributed 9,000 healthcards to families that could not afford healthcare – and which is continuing to support families in this basic way.  We helped buy sewing machines for women rescued from prostitution.  There were more instances, but those are the initiatives which I can now recall from memory.

Naturally enough, this led to an increase in giving, at a time when our income has dropped by 60%, as I move into retirement.  Initially, we were a little cautious about this change, and it’s only yesterday that I took the step of totting the figures up, to discover that, during the 20/21 tax year, we gave away 46% of our net income.  This represented a doubling on the previous year, but here’s the thing – not only was it not painful, and we managed just fine on 54% of our reduced income, but God seemed to compensate for us in other ways.  Our experience has been less about giving than it has been about investing. The Bible speaks of God being ‘no man’s debtor’, and that has certainly been our own experience – and we’re just blown away to see what has actually been done, on the ground, with our relatively modest contributions.

As we enter the new tax-year, my wife and I are asking ourselves, what more can we do this year?  Whilst we are earnestly praying that we may soon emerge from lockdown, so that we can better serve, it remains the case that financial giving has been the means of freeing up others to make such a profound difference.  But that doesn’t happen in a vacuum:  will you be intentional in your giving in 2021?

Book Recommendation:

Earlier this year, I read ‘Gospel Patrons’ by John Rinehart – a challenging introduction to three groups of Christians who literally changed their culture through giving. If you’re looking for a mission in your life, why not read the book and take steps to become a ‘Gospel Patron’?

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Return of the God Hypothesis?

There’s been quite a bit of advance publicity for this new book from Dr. Steve Meyer, which won’t be available here in the UK before the end of April.  I was fortunate to obtain a copy from a friend in the US, and it took me a week to read it and annotate the content carefully.  This is a book which repays careful study.

I have also benefitted from reading the author’s other two significant works, Signature in the Cell (2009), and Darwin’s Doubt (2013), both of which were widely acclaimed.  This is another substantial text (450 pages excluding references), and it demonstrates Dr. Meyer’s remarkable ability to take extremely complex ideas (there’s quite a bit on quantum cosmology, for instance) and make them accessible to the public.  It was, at times, a challenging read, but then for anyone other than the High Priests of Theoretical Physics, I suspect that attempting to get one’s head around the Universal Wave Function, or the quantum cosmological models of Vilenkin and Hawkins-Hartle is going to result in some overheating of the neurological circuits.

In fact, Meyer makes the journey as easy as he can.  The book takes us at a steady pace through a series of logical stages of his argument, an argument which builds on the extensive review of the scientific data in his previous two books.  Wherever possible, he reminds us of the main themes and conclusions in previous chapters.  Often there’s a bit or reiteration, to help the significance of the ideas sink in: initially, I found that the repetition grated a little, until I realised the importance of holding multiple complex ideas in one’s head simultaneously in order to understand their synergies. The book is well-written: it doesn’t talk down to its readers, neither does it make unrealistic assumptions about our capacity to interact with the highly abstract concepts that the academics work with.

In the runup to the publication of ROTGH, I have witnessed first hand the nature of the kind of atheistic fightback against the very idea of such a book.  Repeatedly, we’re told that Meyer is ‘not a proper scientist’, that he’s just pushing ‘creationist polemic’.  The widespread success of his previous publications is used to argue that he’s just in it for the money – and the sceptics who come up with that one, use it to justify their determination not to read the book.  And, of course, there’s the repetition of that hoary old chestnut, that Meyer is ‘just pushing religion’ – and as we’re all supposed to know, religion has nothing to do with science, indeed its adherents must huddle away in dark corners and self-censor.

Of course, none of those kinds of accusations are even remotely true.  They are the product of a mindset which delights in its own intellectual prison, and is determined never to venture outside its own self-imposed constraints.  Meyer is handing them the key to get out of gaol, but the signs are that there are plenty who wouldn’t take it.  Indeed, based upon the fact that history seems to repeat itself ad nauseam, I’m bracing myself for the usual slew of highly negative reviews which, if they tell us anything dependable, absolutely demonstrate that the reviewers have not read the book.

For those familiar with Meyer’s other work, there are few surprises here.  The level of rigour, and the very extensive and balanced treatment of the full scope of the academic research is consistent throughout.  There are exquisite moments when he goes behind the kind of popularist science (Hawking and Dawkins) to show that these atheistic catechisms often do not accurately reflect the uncertainties and ambiguities of the actual scientific research, from which they form their metaphysical  conclusions.  There’s some helpful analysis where Meyer checks out the actual historical background to the kind of polemic routinely used by popularisers of atheism masquerading as science (Neil deGrasse Tyson being a good example) and discovers clear evidence of systemic misrepresentation.  And there’s a persuasive enough sampling of the views of prominent scientists who, whilst adhering to a materialistic view of the universe, are not so prone to self-hypnosis that they would claim that they have espoused this position because of the data.

Meyer conclusively demonstrates that the constructs and speculations of quantum cosmology, conceived to avoid the design implications of the Big Bang, ultimately have the effect of completely undermining the objectivity of scientific endeavour.  As he develops his ‘God Hypothesis’, there is an elegance and a simplicity to his demonstration of theism as the best explanation of the universe as we know it, underpinned by his clear and explicit reliance on exactly the kinds of methodology resorted to by Darwin and other scientists who do not share his beliefs.  

I’m not sure that the ‘God Hypothesis’ ever really went away, largely because the overarching project of science was only ever possible because of the presuppositions of Christian theology.  The kind of binary reductionism (Science v Religion) which became the new dogma when the atheists took over the academic establishment may only be maintained by severely restricting our comprehension of history and philosophy.  Meyer’s book draws all these threads together and concludes with a brief resumé of the disastrous existential impact on us of a universe as redrawn by atheism, leading to a loss of identity, of telos, of moral grounding and ultimately of hope.

This is a substantive and worthwhile book – one that I intend to re-read and cross-reference.  It will be welcomed and read by open-minded people who wish to scrutinise the subject beyond the kind of hand-waving generalisations that we tend to get from the advocates for materialism.

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Fingers and what to do with them

Social media is beginning to resemble a kind of geological column of atheistic memes, cumulatively attesting to a steady erosion of human rational capacity. To wit, the latest example posted by ‘David Attenborough Fans‘ on social media…

Attached to this image of a gorilla finger (left) juxtaposed alongside a human digit (right), we are given the following inspirational thought:

A chimpanzee’s finger and a human finger. Identical in practically every aspect. We don’t come from primates, we are primates.

We are not a race, we are a species. We are animals. We are mammals. We are a product of nature. We belong to it and we are a part of it..

I’m hoping that I don’t need to unpack the direction that this meme is intended to take us in, but it’s difficult to know quite where to begin when faced with this kind of banality. The fact that it is posted uncritically is symptomatic of the sheer scale of damage done to our intellectual culture. And, get this, the damage is being done by those purporting to speak the language of ‘science’.

One introductory thought might be to question the meme’s reliance upon physical appearance. After all, in 1986, Richard Dawkins published The Blind Watchmaker, which quite specifically taught us that the ‘appearance of design’ in biological systems was simply a chimera foisted upon us by those cunning co-conspirators, random mutation and natural selection. Quite clearly, in Dawkins-Land, the appearance of something is not a reliable basis for the kind of intuitive response that an image such as the one above might provoke. Indeed, from this perspective, the uncannily-detailed artefacts of intelligent design must be discarded in favour of the kinds of explanation which bear a more direct resemblance to the writings of Ovid or Democritus than to the kind of empiricism which developed during the 16th & 17th centuries within a distinctively Christian framework. If this is science, Bud, then it’s not science as we once knew it.

But to leave the matter at that level is to artificially constrain our own capacity, as observers uniquely placed to interpret the world around us. After all, the real significance of a digit is what we are capable or inclined to do with it, rather than the mere physical appearance of the thing. Did the owner of the lefthand version paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling? Design The Shard in London? Pen In Parenthesis, the greatest poem of WW1? Come up with the distinct treatments of palliative medicine? Compose Night Train or The Messiah? Design weapons of mass-destruction? Put satellites into space? Construct that searching meditation on suffering in the Book of Job? Willingly set aside a brilliant career in the law in order to care for impoverished and vulnerable people? Methodically torture innocent people in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow?

No. And ‘No’ is without any shadow of a doubt. There is no library on the planet big enough to document all the examples of things which gorilla fingers have never done, that humans have done. Things that exhibit such a spectrum of both glory and evil, that any attempt at a direct comparison between simian and human demonstrates a profound disconnect with reality.

Or rather, perhaps, the raising of two fingers to one’s Creator.

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It’s all about Easter

Daffodils at Parker’s Piece, Cambridge

According to Oliver Wiseman, The Critic’s US Editor (‘Out of this world?’, March 2021), 66% of Americans believe that there is life on other planets, 57% believe there is intelligent life on other planets, and just under 50% believe that UFOs exist and have visited the earth.  This tells us a great deal about how beliefs are now formed in a postmodern world.

Firstly, one is reminded of G. K. Chesterton’s famous quotation: ‘When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.’  Our culture supplies an apparently inexhaustible stream of examples of what happens when we dispense with the only external objective benchmark of human identity or morality, and morph overnight into a generation of selfie-obsessed narcissists without the faintest clue as to what we actually are.

Secondly, the presumption in favour of the inevitability of life on other planets is palpable evidence of the way in which evolutionary theory has become the vehicle for advancing the unscientific philosophy of Naturalism.  Despite everything that is now known, quantifiably, about the vanishingly minute probability of Big Bang cosmology allowing for the chance conditions that would permit biological life, children are being educated into the belief that if you just sprinkle a few choice elements onto the rim of a volcano, and be patient for a few billion years, then David Attenborough will crawl out of the primeval sludge to tell the tale.  It’s not just that there is no evidence for abiogenesis.  Rather it is that everything that we do know about living organisms tells us that it could not have happened that way (ie. based upon Naturalistic presuppositions).

And thirdly, the expensive fascination with the Life On Other Planets myth tells us something about the way in which people will resolutely look away from the One Life On This Planet that tells us everything we need to know about the structure of reality.  Yes, I am speaking of the historic person of Jesus Christ, whose resurrection from the dead Christians will celebrate this coming Easter.  Christianity has always been, at one level, an evidence-based religion.  The Apostle Paul who, until his conversion, was one of the most violent opponents of Christ’s followers, speaks at length not only of the evidences (ie. the many categories of witness), but also of the testable nature of the resurrection claims and the pivotal importance of their truth (1 Corinthians 15).  In that sense, Christianity’s books are always open to inspection, and it is a mystery therefore why atheistic critics tend to tiptoe around the subject.  

Richard Dawkins, in his 2006 anti-God blockbuster The God Delusion, supplies 406 pages of questionable verbiage without demonstrating any sense that the resurrection of Christ might somehow be important.  This is a man who does not care to rest his polemic on anything substantive.  Christopher Hitchens, in his 2007 entertaining rant, God Is Not Great, somehow is able to bring himself to mention, en passant, the R-Word, but only with the lightest of inconsequential touches.  As if Christ’s resurrection is a kind of incidental flourish, or like the sprinkling of silver balls on the icing of a cake.

It is possible that I am now slightly behind the curve, but the only substantive atheistic critique of the resurrection I have encountered takes the form of The Empty Tomb (2005, Prometheus Books), a collection of sceptical essays edited by Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder.  It was required reading for my Masters’ Degree, and what depressing reading it was.  I have rarely encountered such a marshalling of strange, arcane and abstract ideas, glued together with sets of presuppositions which were immediately questionable.  For anyone who has read the literature widely enough, this highly selective presentation of certain kinds of data, may actually lead you to believe that perhaps there are alien life-forms, after all.

The Resurrection is important.  From a Christian perspective, it’s all about Easter.  Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent victory over death actually tells you everything you need to know about his identity, and about the nature of reality.  It also provides a rather persuasive confirmation of the authority of his teaching.

Indeed, the Resurrection of Christ is so important, that at Christian Heritage we are very glad to confirm that Dr. Gary Habermas, one of the world’s leading academics on this very subject, will be speaking at our webinar on the 29th March.  Please sign up for this unmissable event.

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Senseless Census

The next Census is on its way, and the folks at Humanists UK, are encouraging the Great British Public to self-identify as irreligious. Two examples of their latest adverts are shown here and they lead to the usual questions about rationality.

Firstly, the whole census is ‘intrusive’, not just those questions about ‘religion’. Whether one chooses not to answer the question at all, or supply the kind of clever, disparaging answer that proclaims to the world just how little regard you have for people who do not share your own views, the nature of the Census is always going, to some extent, to be intrusive.

Secondly, it would be difficult to conclude with any reliability how the results from the last census were actually used – but the reason that there are more faith schools is because there is a demand for them. If the intellectual foundations of atheism are so fragile and vulnerable, then parents clearly have every right not to send their children to a school where they might get infected with such scurrilous ideas as the Christian basis of modern science, or the notion that education itself was the direct product of the Christian worldview. Atheists should have the right to bring their kids up in a hermetically-sealed bubble where they never come into contact with any inconvenient ideas, or have to work hard at the significant questions of life.

Thirdly, if it was ever rational or responsible to answer the Census question on religion by putting ‘Jedi’, then clearly ‘No religion’ will do just fine when representing a worldview which believes that intelligent life can spontaneously emerge from dead elements, and that highly complex life-forms with sophisticated body-plans can appear out of nowhere without any precursors, and without leaving any evidence behind. Modern science has advanced a long way since Paracelsus and Dr. Dee but this ‘no religion’ worldview seems to be heavily dependent upon the kind of religious outlook which gave rise to alchemy.

Fourthly, whilst it is at times quite difficult to detect explicit examples of ‘religion in politics’, the fact is that amongst all of those politicos there are Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and a whole range of other believers. Heck, there are even folks who sincerely believe that Cray supercomputers evolve all on their own. If those Humanists UK folk want to ‘keep religion out of politics’, there’s going to have to be a whole lot of culling. Perhaps that’s what the Woke Agenda is about…

And, fifthly, didn’t I read recently that Humanists UK were lobbying for atheism to be taught in schools alongside religion ?

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