Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Christ and Culture and the God of the gaps

Another of way of thinking about the relationship between the gospel and culture is to see the parallels with thinking about the relationship between science and philosophy. Brian Cox in the very readable Human Universe takes a look at the big questions of the universe. When it comes to the question of "why are we here?", his answer is a sort of philosophical version of the 'God of the gaps' theory, where the bits we don't know about are the realm of metaphysics. "All scientific 'Why?' questions end with 'I don't know' if you pushing far enough, because our scientific understanding of the universe is not complete." (Brian Cox, Human Universe, 168) For Brian the first cause of the universe of it's edge is for philosophy until science furnishes a workable answer. In other-words his buying into the old fact-feeling split. Upstairs we have Romantic world of philosophy and religion and downstairs we have the hard factual world of science and reality. As if science and reality can be considered in the absence of philosophy!

There's a similar danger when we narrow our view of Christ and Culture to small band of religious activity; prayers, sermons and Bible reading. But just as philosophy is required to make sense of all of life, all parts of culture are effected by the gospel, or it's absence.  It's worth remembering that just as we'd want to avoid a 'God of the gaps' theory when we think about Science and philosophy we want to avoid a God of the gaps' when it comes to the relationship between the Gospel and culture.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Last Policeman

If you enjoy science fiction you should soak yourself in the world of The Last Policeman. The trilogy by Ben Winters is a fresh angle on the end-of-the-world, following the investigations of a young police detective, Henry Palace, during the final year of the world before a meteorite strike. Some end-of-the-world novels can ponderously ominous in setting the scene but Winters mangers to paint a convincing slow collapse of civilisation and places the most refreshing hero I've encountered for a very long time in the midst of one small corner of it. The anti-hero has become a popular but weary trope in modern fiction, so watching Winters across the trilogy navigate the wreckage of the modern world was an amazing experience, up there with say Hazel from Watership Down leading his small band through ruin and danger; noble without being naff. The other fascinating sub-current of the trilogy is the way people behave and respond to the approaching comet. (For those with more stamina but a taste for this sort of thing might be interested in Lucifer's Hamer, the sprawling epic from the 1970's about a comet strike. Which I listened to recently on a drive to Melbourne.)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Abortion and the Evangelical Australian response

Last year a pro-life group in America, conducted a series of video stings of Planned Parenthood, an organisation founded by the racist Margaret Sanger, who among other services provides abortions. The sting reveals across ten horrific videos how Planned Parenthood aborts babies at various stages of pregnancy and then profits from the organs harvested. You don't need to watch all the videos to realise that the bottom line is that babies look like unborn children while they're being killed.

There has been a range of nonsense in response, which I surveyed briefly last year when the videos first started being released, ranging from 'it's fake like the moon landing footage' through to 'who cares, we all knew abortion was horrific and that doesn't mean we should stop it'. Here in Australia abortions are partially subsided through Medicare (Medicare Item 16525) and it's reliably confirmed that about 80,000 unborn children are killed in Australia each year (e.g. 84,218 in 2003). [This figure is disputed and more work needs to be done to determine a more accurate number of Medicare funded-abortions. Stay tuned.]

Two quick reminders, about social justice and personhood. Firstly social justice. God calls us to act justly (Micah 6:8), to show compassion (Romans 12:20) and care for the vulnerable (Psalm 82:3). The most excluded, the most vulnerable and the most unjustly treated are the unborn who are killed, then the next most mistreated group are those women coerced into abortions. Any Christian response should be motivated to care for other human persons. We then need to care for both the unborn and the mothers, removing the stigma for having children out of wedlock and loving those who have had abortions.

Secondly, philosophy. Assuming that the world can be rationally understood it's arguable that human persons exist. Humans are a unique animal species with an observable beginning, called conception. Human persons are individuals with a discernible start and a number of characteristics including an inner moral life, imagination and rationality. Human persons can also be observed as grown ups, in groups and producing culture but it's important not to reduce Human persons to mere genetic material or athletic twenty somethings.

Australian Evangelicals should do the following.

Purchase and read:

Write to their local Politicians about

  • Medicare funding for abortion, support for new and young mums and the right to calmly protest against abortion

Support groups who provide pro-life counselling and who support mothers

Encourage their ecclesiastical leaders

  • to include the unborn when they publicly talk about the caring the vulnerable
  • to allow pro-life groups to flourish amoung their congregations
  • to oppose pro-abortion nonsense from other Evangelicals, for example the argument from the Melbourne Anglican Diocese that abortion is allowable in some circumstances because human life begins in some sort of sliding scale. 


  • For the protection of calm kind protesters and that angry unkind protesters stay away
  • That pregnant women find support
  • That their local congregations support mums with kids
  • The public discussion about abortion is allowed to continue in Australia