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Exiting Brexit

Monday, December 31, 2018

My confrere, Fr Anthony Chadwick, is going through the mill with regards to Brexit. This is understandable given that he is an Englishman living in France and has benefitted greatly from the British membership of the European Union. On the other hand, others in my confraternity have been concerned with our membership of the Union and the toll it has been taking on our British identity.


Where, you might ask, do I sit? Well, I have already said something about my views. The trouble is that Brexit is precisely a divisive issue and it is one that cuts across British Society as well as the English Channel (or La Manche, if you prefer). I am glad that I voted to remain in the EU and I am grateful for the democratic process which means that I don’t automatically get my own way. In that I voted to remain, I must necessarily disagree with the outcome of the referendum but agree that, given the outcome, the Government is right to seek how we may exit the EU.


I must say, however, that the media saturation that this issue is receiving is wholly depressing, especially when minor issues are being presented as major, when the government is not allowed to make any movement without the slightest criticism and demand for commentary, and when no respect is given for the hard work of the government officials involved in the negotiation. There is in-fighting in the Government and in all of Parliament to the extent that no-one knows what the right decision is. It seems to my myopic gaze that the media coverage is not helping but rather whipping everyone up into a frenzy.


One observation I make is this. In every report, speculation is being presented as fact. While there may be some obvious consequences to each decision, it is not true to say that these consequences are inevitable. There is many a slip twixt cup and lip as some folk might say. There are no foregone conclusions either in leaving the EU or remaining within the EU. There will be tough times ahead after Brexit, but there are tough times ahead should we remain. Granted that these will not be the same tough times.


As we begin the New Year, there will be all kinds of prediction made as to the outcome of various political situations. Some paint a gloomy forecast with another recession looming. Others paint a gloomier forecast with the climate change wreaking all kinds of havoc. However, as I said earlier all possibilities for our reality are in the mind of God who knows all consequences perfectly and communicates His concern for us through St Paul in Romans viii.28.


The future might terrifying but we cannot change the future until we have greater knowledge of the past and present. However, we Christians have the greatest knowledge of Emmanuel: God is with us. What we make of the Now will influence the Then but there is a greater beyond where the involvement of God will bless all and any outcome and make it more pertinent to our salvation, beautify Creation and glorify His name.


I no longer regard my membership of the United Kingdom as something to hold dear. I am a sojourner as all my fathers were. Holding onto British institutions is of a passing interest to me. The CofE is lost and with it any sanctity of British Tradition, Monarchy, Government. Pomp and Circumstance is empty and pointless in its new secular milieu. I take no interest in Royal Weddings, nor in public events because God is long forgotten unless it is the god who sanctions, welcomes and glories in the sinful folly and moral failings of British Society.


My mandate is clear and I render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and attempt to render unto God that which is God’s. My intention is to spend my life worrying only about what God wants and looking after my family and such flock as He entrusts unto me. There is no point in worrying about the great issues as I am no king nor government official. Their actions will affect me, I know. I will protest injustice, but all I can do is be present to God as I am and seek to become more like Him. If He commands my involvement in politics, then I must obey but being an armchair politician is pointless especially as I am in possession of none of the facts, nor am I likely to be. Whatever He commands of me, I trust Him to supply what I need in order to do it. There is no point in worrying.


2019 will be hard and it will be easy and it will be terrible and it will be glorious! I am terrified and elated in the same measure but all I hear is the voice of the Angel telling me not to be afraid for God is with us. And He is already here in 2019! Alleluia!

Comfortable words for social justice?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sermon for Mattins on the first Sunday after Christmas
 
At this time of year, many choral societies put on performances of Handel’s Messiah. The first words of this wonderful piece of music are “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.”
 
You know these words well. You know that they are the words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah, but who are these words for? Who does God want to comfort His people?
 
[PAUSE]
 
Isaiah stands in the Heavenly court and gives us a commentary on what he is hearing take place between God and His host. As we stand with Isaiah, we hear God recognise the plight of his people. He sees how they suffer, and it’s clear that He does not want this to happen. This is why He calls out to the court His will that His people should be comforted. Who are in His court? It’s difficult to say given that we are trying to understand what’s going on outside Time and in Eternity.
 
Yes, there are choirs of angels in God’s court. However, if God promises His Church Eternal life, then it’s also true to say that the Church is there, too. And He calls to His entire court for the comforting of His people.
 
And now you’re confused, aren’t you?
 
Aren’t God’s people members of the Church? Even before Our Lord is born, the Church is present for the Jews faithful to God are as much part of the Church as we are. It seems that the Church is being called to comfort the Church. How is that possible?
 
[PAUSE]
 
It’s hard to think, but we must remember that, while we live in this state of life, we form the Church Militant. The Church in Eternity is the Church Triumphant. The Church Militant is in Time: the Church Triumphant is in Eternity where Time has no power. We are the Church that still has to undergo the hardships of life. The saints are the Church that has been perfected, and our destiny in the Church Militant is to become saints in the Church Triumphant. While Isaiah is the prophet for Israel in slavery to Babylon and seeking her comfort for his time, we live in a time in which human beings are enslaved to sin. We humans have always suffered slavery to sin.
 
Israel in slavery to Babylon and Egypt stands for all humanity in slavery to sin. And God sees the suffering of His people in sin and wants the Church to do something about it. In His love for His Church, God says, “cry out!” And a voice from the crowd cries out. “What shall I cry?” Whose is that voice?
 
[PAUSE]
 
The voice is the one who cries in the wilderness. We can guess that this voice is that of St John the Baptist asking God what he is to say to the Church.
 
God says to St John, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
 
This sounds depressing. All that we know will fade away and die. What comfort is there in that? Is this Good News?
 
Of course it is!
 
If we are slaves to the world and we know that the world will wither away then we know our slavery is at an end. If we are slaves to sin and God’s goodness comes then sin will shrivel up and vanish. This is great news for all who love and trust God. This is great comfort for us through St John the Baptist. It means that all that the Slave driver calls good is destroyed when real, true goodness comes.
 
The Church Militant suffers from sin and its results now, but God is rock solid in His desire that we should be saved from sin. He comes to us with strength – that’s the literal meaning of the word comfort. We receive comfort when we look beyond this world and see the Eternal message that the Church has been given.
 
[PAUSE]
 
These days, we hear certain people stand up in pulpits and say that the mission of the Church is for social justice. To an extent, they are right. Yet, the primary purpose of the Church is to preach the salvation of Jesus Christ in Eternity before physical need. Yes, we must feed the hungry and clothe the naked, give drink the thirsty and visit those in prison, heal the sick and bury the dead, but these actions must come from the true love of God as well as love of neighbour. Poverty, nakedness, thirst, imprisonment, sickness and death are terrible things which must be addressed physically, but they will pass away as will all our attempts to alleviate them. Social Justice is justice determined by society. It is not God’s justice: it will pass away when God’s justice comes.
 
There are also spiritual poverty, spiritual nakedness, spiritual imprisonment et c. These must also be dealt with and can only be dealt with by the grace of God from Eternity. The message of hope that the Church bears is that living out faith in God will cure us all and keep us from the second death.
 
The Eternal message of the Church is to point to Jesus and say, “Behold your God!” Any attempts to change that, or water it down, will shrivel into nothingness. We can stand firm and know that God is with us, that God is for us, and God declares that we are His and His alone. He will feed us, carry us and lead us.
 
This is our comfort. This is the comfort we must proclaim to all humanity.

Blogday 2018: Oh! Grow up!

Friday, December 28, 2018

I don’t really celebrate my birthday. I am grateful for those who know it and who wish me well, but a birthday is not something I get excited over and I don’t usually tell people when it is because I want to keep the fuss to a minimum.


So why do I celebrate blogday?

Blogday helps me to reflect on what I have been thinking about over the course of the year. As this little blogling enters its teenage years, I am reminded of the turbulence of adolescence and the trauma it causes as we approach adulthood. Much of that adolescence is about self-discovery. It is also about learning to take responsibility for oneself and actions.

The past year has seen greater responsibility being given to me which explains why the number of posts is somewhat lower than in previous years. The next year will be the same. I will need to continue to take on responsibility as the need arises. We have to. That is part of true adulthood.

One of the things that has troubled me most over the course of the year is just how reluctant people are to take responsibility but rather push it onto those who will. There is an underlying childishness within certain groups which is both caused by and leads to a Nanny State. This can be seen very much in the disposable nature of society. If things get too hard, people are encouraged to walk away and give their problems to someone else, or apply for assistance to help them.

I was Examinations Officer in my last school and I had to apply for Access Arrangements – special measures for those with special educational needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and physical disabilities. Of course, this is vitally important for those who do suffer from such needs and who spend their time working out just how to live and authentic, self-motivated life with the faculties that they do and do not possess. Yet, I have encountered those who have just given an educational psychologist £500 just for a diagnosis of dyslexia: I have found such students to be bone-idle rather than true dyslexics.

The same is true for autism. Autism is not really a disability, though it does render one disadvantaged in a neurotypical society and therefore has to be regarded as a disability on these grounds. Effectively, Autism has a different coat-hanger on which the personality is built from the “normal” population. It differs markedly from person to person though there is a family of symptoms that allow a diagnosis to be made. It takes a lot for the autist to function in society. While there are, however, certain concessions which can be made, the autist still has to take responsibility for all his actions rather than hide behind his “condition”.
Adolescence may indeed be about self-discovery, however, as I say, it is also about taking responsibility for one’s life rather allowing someone else to live it for you. The Welfare state cannot be the arbiters of one’s true identity, and this leads us to an important point: one cannot allow oneself to be defined exclusively by what one can and cannot do.

I do hear it said that, as a Christian, I am part of the ultimate Nanny State. According to many people, we shouldn’t worry. God will take responsibility for our lives, Himself.

If that’s true, then why does God in Christ speak of Hell for those who never seek to know God?

We tread a fine balance between Pelagianism which thinks that we can somehow earn our way into Heaven just by being good and thereby failing to recognise the cracks in the fabric of our Human nature, and hyper-Calvinism in which each individual is a sinner from birth and automatically subject to God’s condemnation to Damnation thereby denying that there is true goodness in human nature which God wants to save. This hyper-Calvinism says that the individual is saved no matter what she does; Pelagianism says that the individual can only be saved by doing good. The hyper-Calvinist bears no responsibility for her actions; the Pelagian is effectively defined by her actions.

The progressive element in the CofE believes that the mission of the Church is to make heaven on earth, to iron out all injustice. It believes that it can do that just through the teaching of Our Lord. This progressive element says that Jesus has shown us how to be good, and now we can be good. The trouble is that, Our Lord’s words are first enshrined in the Old Testament and He is restating them. If the progressives are right, then there is no need for the crucifixion whatsoever! They just need someone to point out what is already there. This sort of progressive element needs a prophet and not a saviour which does call the Christianity of this progressive element into question.

One thing that I have noticed in teenagers is that they think that they can do anything. They have the energy of youth and an ever-increasing physical capability. Yet, too often, I have seen youngsters become brittle through a narrow definition of success and break at the first failure. I have seen youngsters become overconfident, stretch out too far and come crashing down because they have not weighed the truth of their situation.


Of course, failures are lessons from which we can learn but, too often the lesson learned is that the subject must be dropped, or the system changed to turn the failure into success. Or alternatively, there is the blame game.

In the beginning, Adam blames Eve for the Fall, and Eve blames the serpent. Likewise, the youngster who fails seeks a reason for that failure and projects that failure onto someone else. In many cases, this projection is justified but often, the seat of failure must lie in the individual. Too often, I have seen my colleagues berated for the exam results of a dilatory few. These few left the school in bad blood, breathing out threats and badmouthing the school whenever they got the opportunity. That’s not grown-up behaviour.

And here we come to an important point.


I have managed to acquire 25% extra time for some dyslexics. The most I managed to give a couple of individuals was 40% extra time. This meant that a two-hour exam would allow some students to take two-and-a-half hours to complete. Some of my colleagues at the time would say, “will they get 25% extra time to cross a road?” The point is well made as the demands of employment will make some jobs inaccessible to those who cannot complete deadlines on time. Either the dyslexic must find a way to cope with these deadlines (and some have done so remarkably!) or they must find an employment where they can thrive as they are. What they cannot do is petition the employer to change the practice to suit their requirements for extra time and then get up in arms because they won’t.


Adulthood means that we cannot expect to be included into any community without some commitment to that community and introspection as to what adaptations we need to make to our lives in order to make that commitment. The Adolescent is concerned purely with the self: it is a narcissistic age and uncompromising in its view that it is in perfect control of its identity. Adulthood knows that to be included in Society one must sacrifice control of one's identity in order to be indentified as a member of society.

 Inclusion may mean the intention and desire to change some aspect of ourselves that we hold dear. To be included in the Catholic Church, the intention must be the unqualified desire to repent of sins in order to find salvation from those sins. The Church does not define what sin is – it has already been revealed from the first in Holy Scripture. Yet, the progressive element in the CofE seems to think that, in order to be inclusive, it must change the Church and the teaching that she has received. That’s just not how it works.

Ah! You might say, you’ve been badmouthing the CofE since you started this blog.


Not quite. Badmouthing must happen behind someone’s back. We always badmouth in secret with like-minded individuals or with those who have no prior knowledge of the facts. One reason I blog is that I make my criticisms public and state upon what basis I make those criticisms, namely according to the same formularies that the CofE once held dear: Scripture, Tradition and Reason. I stayed in the CofE for six years after I started this blog and tried to work with her despite the impairment in communion. The reason why I still get upset by the actions of the progressive element is that I still have the greatest love for the CofE and want her to get better. However, she has been turned into a free-for-all and, unless you object to this inclusion by syncretism, you are automatically included whether you repent of your true sins or not. The Catholic Church engages in inclusion by the common realisation of the need for salvation by reason of the fallenness of human nature, not be redefining sin into nonexistence. I do not believe that the Bultmannesque Jesus of the progressive element is the historical Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Many in the CofE will call me bigot, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, full of hatred and unloving. I have seen this attitude so much on liberal blogs such as Thinking Anglicans. I am persona non grata and thus cannot be included in the Church of England – forever excommunicate.

The fact of the matter is that we talk different languages now. They have changed the meanings of words and we don’t understand the necessity for doing so. Adulthood must recognise that there are divisions and seek to bridge those divisions where a compromise exists. Where a compromise does not exist, then Adults must accept the limitations of their capabilities and walk away, not engage in warfare and coercion. Adulthood means living in the tension between what is and what should be, recognising the difficulties in resolution, and taking responsibility for the part one plays in keeping the division.


Adulthood is about authentic living rather than reducing oneself to a set of labels and actions. While God is our Father, He does not shield us from suffering but He also does not lead us into temptation. While life presents us with the fact of the existence of Evil, God delivers us from that Evil. At every stage, God presents us with the truth of Good and Evil. While He seeks to look after us and tend to us as a mother hen her chicks, He does so out of love and respect for our freedom to choose. He allows us some responsibility for our ultimate fate. While predestining the Church to Eternal Life, he will allow us to reject Him and that life if we so choose. That is not the action of a Nanny State who will legislate away the freedom to reject its idea of what is good for us.


I remain in my little Anglican Catholic Church grateful for the safe haven that it provides for my soul. I worry for the precarious nature of its existence and part of me worries about what might happen were she to falter and fade. The fact is that this little Diocese offers something remarkable: it presents the Catholic Faith which it does not dare change (unlike the CofE) and yet it does not tell people what to think (unlike a certain Italian Church) and it believes that faith (unlike the generally atheist secular society). It seems that no-one has heard of us, those that do won’t join us because we’re too small, and others won’t because we’re socially unacceptable. I therefore beg my readers for their prayers and for the kindness of telling people that we exist and exist for their benefit.


Once again, I would like to thank you for your readership of this little blog with all its manifest peculiarities and pray that you may receive richly the manifold blessings of Almighty God the Holy Trinity for 2019 and beyond.

Is the mulled wine glass half empty or half full?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity


Let’s be honest, not everyone is a party animal. Some of us like sitting in the corner and chatting quietly to a few good friends rather than getting up and throwing a few shapes to Billy Joel or perhaps something more modern. Everyone is different and has a different way of celebrating. If that’s the case, just how should we celebrate Christmas? Can we ever celebrate Christmas together?


Every year, we reheat like an old turkey those familiar arguments that Christmas is too commercial, or isn’t commercial enough, is better with family, or better with friends. It seems that, either way, we forget who the guest of honour is when we go overboard with the frivolity or become too austere and serious that celebrating becomes a chore rather than a joy.

[PAUSE]

We know that Christians have, in the past, banned celebrations of Christmas. No games, no music, no dancing. These are the Christians who hear what St Paul says to St Titus about living soberly, righteously, and godly, and then they enforce a complete ban on any activity that might possibly lead people into sin. Of course, drunkenness can lead to irresponsible and dangerous behaviour. It can lead to alcoholism and be used as a mask to hide real problems. Of course, unrighteousness is never acceptable to God. Of course, we must remember that we are children of God and must live accordingly without sin.

Does this really mean that God hates parties?

[PAUSE]

Where does Our Lord perform His first miracle? What is that miracle?

If God Himself lavishly changes water into wine so that people might truly celebrate a wedding, then He clearly wants His children to be happy with what He has given them. He goes so far as telling us that Heaven is like a great feast. St Paul tells us again and again to rejoice! The fact of the matter is that God has made so much for us to enjoy that we can’t live our lives in hatred of His Creation. God wants us to live and to find joy in Him.

If we’re going to hold a birthday party for God, are we going to give Him a booze up in which everyone ends up blotto and can’t remember Who He is? Are we going to give Him a dull meeting in a whitewashed room where the only food and drink is tap water and dry biscuits, in which we remember Who He is, but don’t enjoy what we’re doing because we are too filled with concern of the sins of the world?

[PAUSE]

It’s Christmas Day! A baby has been born into this sinful world, and for one brief moment it is as if there is no sin, no suffering, no hatred, no sadness, no trouble. A mother lies nursing someone so tiny and small. All is focussed on this present moment as a pair of tiny little eyes gazes into those of His mother, and there is utter joy! Nothing else matters.

The brokenness of this world is precisely the reason why God Himself takes human flesh and rejoices in doing so. It’s okay to put the concerns of this world on the back burner sometimes. God does not forget that we have concerns about the world but knows that we will break if we don’t have the opportunity to lighten up by gazing upon Him. He does not despise our existence but He comes to save each one of us and bring us into everlasting celebrations. He spends His life with us, sometimes eating and drinking in people’s houses, sometimes alone in prayer, rejoicing in both. All that matters to Him is the intimate connection between people and God. It is because He simply adores the sinner that He hates sin so passionately.

Likewise, we should not hate Christmas presents, Christmas parties, and mulled wine but take them and use them to the glory of God at His appearing in the flesh. They are simple means to an end, not an end in themselves. Used carefully, they are things that we use to remind ourselves of God’s abundant love for every single one of us. Of course, we must moderate ourselves, keeping in mind what we are doing and Whom we are celebrating. It doesn’t matter, however, whether we are a party animal or a wall flower, we can be at the same party because we are there for God Himself.

 It’s Christmas Day! We celebrate the birth of Christ at our parties, but we have to remember that He is the One Who comes through the door and shouts, “surprise!” When He does so, are we going to be ready and able to celebrate Him at the party in His honour?

Conception Concept Conniptions

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sermon for the fourth Sunday in Advent (Mattins)
 
Do you believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?
 
Whether you do or not, you might find the idea just a little bit too invasive in the life of Our Lady whom we call the Blessed Virgin Mary. But is it important?
 
[PAUSE]
 
Of course it is, and for good reason.
 
If Our Lady were not a virgin, then any claim that Jesus is the Son of God would be utterly doubtful. The virginity of Our Lady points very clearly to Our Lord being both Divine and Human and therefore capable of saving the human race.
 
If Our Lord has a human father, then how could he be any more the son of God than each one of us? What would single Him out as our Saviour?
 
And yet, people do doubt that Our Lady conceived by the Holy Ghost.
 
Do you?
 
[PAUSE]
 
There is a Holy Doubt that comes from our genuine confusion about what to believe. Our experience is clear, a baby has both a father and a mother. In our experience, a woman does not become a mother without a man being the father. It is natural to be sceptical about one-off events, but given that the birth of Our Lord is the single most important birth in our history we can’t really say otherwise.
 
A Holy Doubt says to God, “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.” The desire to have faith will result in it being given.
 
And then there is a pernicious doubt that eats away at our faith in God.
 
[PAUSE]
 
There are some who will say that Jesus’ birth is pure legend. They will bring up the fact that the Roman God Mercury was born of the virgin Maia and the God Jupiter, or that Krishna was immaculately conceived of Devaka, or that Horus was born of the Goddess Isis in the same way.
 
Does it worry you?
 
It shouldn’t for two reasons. First, when people say that Our Lord’s birth of the virgin Mary is pure myth, then they assume that a virgin birth must be always be myth. It’s like saying, “this bird hidden in the box is a swan and all swans are white, so this bird must be white.” That might be true if your experience of swans is that they are all white, but the fact is, whether you know it or not, there are such things as black swans. Just because other religions have myths of virgin births, doesn’t mean that the virgin birth of Our Lord is a myth.
 
Second, the virgin birth of Our Lord is unlike any of the myths with which the enemies of our Faith like to beat us. In this case, there are eye-witnesses, shepherds, Magi, St Joseph, even Our Lady herself. We have their testimony wrapped up in our Holy Scripture not just as a religious text but as History. These bear witness of the truth even though it might damage their reputations.
 
[PAUSE]
 
Is it possible to be a Christian and not believe in the Virgin Birth? Again, this depends on whether such a person is suffering from a Holy Doubt which seeks God, or that pernicious doubt that refuses to believe and tries to supply evidence contrary to the facts.
 
The Church believes that Our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary and says so in all three creeds. The Church regards it as a fact and seeks to help Christians to affirm those facts.
 
Yet, we can’t make you believe and nor should we. When the Church has tried to enforce belief on people, the results have been shocking and far from charitable. People need to be free to believe, even if they do not believe the teaching of the Church. The understanding of the Church is clear: the virgin birth is evidence of Jesus’ Divinity; if He had an earthly father, there would be no reason for us to believe that He was the Son of God.”
 
Yet, the Virgin Birth is more than just a dogma and a teaching, it is an invitation to us.
 
[PAUSE]
 
In God and Mary we have a relationship like none other. We are presented with a faithful God and a faithful Human bringing to birth God the Son. We see a God who cares about the human family and seeks to enter into the human family Himself so that we might enter into the Divine Family with Him. The Human family is a unit which should be unbreakable: mother-father-child. Nothing from outside can enter into that relationship without the consent of all three. Whether children are born or adopted, they enter into a relationship of what should be consent, love, and intimacy.
 
We enter into the family of Father-Son-Spirit through Father-Mary-Jesus by adoption and by everyone’s consent. This is the invitation that God the Father offers us when He makes Mary the Mother of God and Jesus our brother. If God were not Jesus’ father, this would not be possible.
 
[PAUSE]
 
Behold! A Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel – God with us!

Compromising the Commandments?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sermon for the Third Sunday in Advent (Mattins)

“That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”

Do you agree with that?

Of course you do. Our Lord Jesus commands it, does He not?

What about this?

“My command is thus, that ye shall return all violence and hatred with peacefulness and love, for my Law is love unto all things. Only through love shall ye have peace; yea and verily, only peace and love will cure the world, and subdue all evil.”

That seems right in context, doesn’t it? But there’s something a bit off with the phrasing, isn’t there?

In fact neither is a quote from Holy Scripture. The first was taken from an Ancient Egyptian Papyrus.

The second comes from a Wiccan book.

You’re shocked, aren’t you? And you should be. But why?

[PAUSE]

We know the Ancient Egyptians and the Wiccan religions to be “false religions”. Both are pagan and deny the Truth that Jesus Christ is God and Lord, the He is God Incarnate, born of the Blessed Virgin, was crucified and rose again from the Dead on our behalf. Yet, these pagan religions contain true statements of morality.  God’s command is that we love our neighbour as ourselves.

However, bring in that first commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and other religions might start to struggle. Some, like the Buddhists, will deny the existence of a personal deity. Yet, others might interpret “God” as Ra, Allah, Gaia, or “The Universe.” If we are to be true to this first, most important commandment, then just loving our neighbour as ourselves is not enough. To be a Christian, we must keep both commandments because Our Lord Jesus says so.

This means we need to know Who the Lord our God is.

Who is the Lord our God?

[PAUSE]

You can hear some people in this day and age saying things like, “Oh it doesn’t matter. Some people call Him Allah, others call Him Jupiter. Still others think He is she and call her Gaia. It’s just different names for the same God.”

No.

Big fat no!

If we all really worship the same God, there would not be this confusion about how to worship Him. There would be no doubting the historical person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There would be no denial of the Holy Trinity. If God reveals Himself to us as the Father, and to others as Allah and still others as Gaia because He is utterly transcendent, then He is a god of confusion. Further, the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ would mean nothing! The Cross would be utterly in vain.

St Paul is very clear to all Christians.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

That commandment to love God is a commandment to get to know Him as He has shown Himself to be. This is why the Creeds are of vital importance. If we believe Our Lord’s teaching, then we must believe that He is the only true way to God. Other religions certainly can say true and good things especially about how we are to behave, but behaving rightly is not enough. We know that the Israelites are not saved by the Law of the Old Testament that we share with them. We know that we must believe in God before we set about doing the business of doing what He says out of love for Him. Faith must influence what we do, not the other way around.

[PAUSE]

These days we hear of the Q’ran and the Islamic Call to Prayer being permitted in Cathedrals on the grounds of being inclusive and recognising the truth that resides in Islam. But Islam denies the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus, so any truth that it possesses as a religion does not chime with the truth that we Christians believe. If the Call to Prayer acknowledges that Muhammed is the Prophet of God and that Ali is God’s friend, then to accept this in a place of Christian Worship denies the Holy Trinity because Muhammed also rejects Him.

The Cathedral staff have committed heresy and effectively perjured themselves before God in the interests of interfaith relations.

[PAUSE]

Either we believe in God as He reveals Himself in Holy Scripture and the Faith of the Undivided Church, or we don’t. There is no middle ground. Either we commit ourselves to the Catholic Religion or we don’t. Not all religions are the same and they certainly do not point to the same truth about God.

How, then, should we behave with people of different religions? We love them: Christ commanded that. We accept their freedom to choose to believe what they wish to believe, but we keep ourselves firm in the Faith that we have received in Christ Jesus. We allow people to be wrong in their choice, but we do not reject our own choice to be friends with them. We do not try to coerce them into our faith, but we do not compromise one part of our belief for them. We permit the building of their places of worship but we do not enter them if it means rejecting our love for God. We trade with them and talk with them and have them as our best friends but, in the words of St Luke and St Paul, we do not “consume food sacrificed to idols” i.e. we do not join in activities which are contrary to our belief as to Who God is.

However, what we definitely do is preach what the Church has always believed to be true, without skimping, bending, breaking or hiding the Truth. We preach the Gospel, nothing more and nothing less.

This will not offend anyone except those who believe that to love people means giving up our religious beliefs to make a world of peace. They believe this because they cannot understand what “love” means. If other religions believe that we should love our neighbour as ourselves, then they will be happy to allow us to worship God as He commands us in His love. If we wish to convince them of the Truth of the Christian religion, then we must show them Christ Himself living in us, not compromising in His worship of His Father, but seeking to share in the sufferings of others so that He, and He alone, might bring everyone to Eternal Life. Christ wants that for everyone, even those who don’t believe in Him – yet.

The Multiverse and Reality

Friday, December 14, 2018


I posted a few years ago on the question of the Subjunctive God in which I raise the issue of divine omniscience being perfectly compatible with our freewill. God knows all the ways in which we might act in any given situation.

This raises some interesting possibilities in itself as it seems that we influence reality itself in the decisions that we do and don’t make. It is our decisions that make the potential actual and, although we create nothing, our existence as described in Genesis ii does seem to suggest that we have a power over creation.

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” (Genesis ii.19)

Of course, the naming of things has a deeper significance in the Pentateuch. To know a name is to hold some power over the thing names: the noun becomes a symbol of mastery which is why we are never given the true name of God other than a verification that He is.

What do we mean by “Reality”? Good question. As I try to think this through, my working definition (and one that is likely to change) is that Reality is all that is, how it acts in regard to its members and how it presents itself to conscious thought. Is God part of reality? In that He is, yes. In that He is the same as His Creation, no. God’s existence is not contingent on anything else. Science tells us that the Universe is a bundle of contingencies described by Laws of Physics which posit that it must itself exist. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem based on scientific principles tells us that any inflationary universe is not past-complete: if a Universe is expanding, then it must have a beginning.

Many scientists posit the existence of other universes set inside a grand Multiverse. They do so due to irregularities in the behaviour of gravity and the question of dark matter, dark energy and the theory of M-brane theory which arises from String Theory. In the late 20th Century, it was speculated (by Turoc, I think) that the Big Bang occurred as a result of a collision between two vast membranes floating in the universe. Of course, the existence of parallel universes is going to be as difficult to prove as the existence of God. Many scientists seem to have replaced the untestable hypothesis of God with an untestable hypothesis of the Multiverse. Even then, apart from applying the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem to the Multiverse, we still have the question as to why M-branes are colliding, why quantum fluctuations happen, and why there is something rather than nothing, and by nothing, I mean no thing.

I firmly believe that in God we live and move and have our being. This might smack of panentheism: God-in-the-Universe but it’s how we break that word “panentheism” up that really matters. Clearly God is distinct from His Creation otherwise there is Sin in God because there is Sin in Creation. I favour pan-entheism i.e. God present in all things, not panen-theism i.e. all things part of God, yet God standing beyond. I don’t think I’ve made that very clear in myself and see it as part of my development in my relationship with God.

 It is how we live and move and have our being that the empirical physical science strives to answer. The paradoxes of Quantum Mechanics seem to present us with a challenge to our understanding of reality. The double-slit experiment tells us that a particle can effectively be detected in two places at the same time, whilst Quantum Entanglement seems to suggest a “telepathy” between particles that is faster than light. These paradoxes do give rise to deeper research and deeper theories. Nothing can be completely observable to human measurement. What actually is may be different from what we observe. Can it be that Quantum Mechanics gives us a separation between Aristotelian Substance and Accident?

Clearly, in the Omniscience of God, all possibilities and modes of Existence are present at once to Him, yet there is only one of those possibilities that becomes actual and we seem to be responsible for that becoming through the exercise of our will.

Does this put us in the role of creators with God as this sounds like the exaltation of the human at the cost of the Divine Kingship of God. Are we gods?
No. I’m not saying that, though I believe that our sanctification by God permits us to share in His Divine Nature as He partakes of our Human Nature. We are beings endowed with the faculties of intellect and choice however imperfect they may be. Sin is the result of us having choice, and it is through our faith God in Our Lord Jesus Christ that we will find the way to repentance by turning always to Him.  We find ourselves in the presence of God who loves us so much as to give us space to be ourselves as He wants us to be, and to respond to His love with autonomy being drawn to Him by the glory of His Being, not coerced to Him by His power. He can and does wield that power very clearly though not always perceptibly. What we do does affect reality – we can’t deny that for that is how Sin spreads through the Cosmos. I merely speculate on a mechanism as to how, given the understanding of Science, this might be the case.

Unlike Fr Anthony who seeks the Truth through a Romantic and Classical Liberal Philosophy, I must remain a Scholastic and one who understands things through a Platonic Mathematics. I hope not to be as self-defeating as Frege or Ayer in their taking of logical positivism to unnatural and indefensible extremes. However, I am coming to see the business of being human as a voyage through the realms of the possible and bearing witness to what is the reality and what is a false impression of the reality. My understanding of what is will, I hope, always be on the ascent to the Divine with many a swoop and a dive, I expect. 

Nothing is certain in Science, but things are certain in Mathematics and Logic, though these require the Revelation of God to get us toward the truth as they do nothing without Him. To my mind, these are the waters upon which the Church has set sail. They may be ten dimensional branes, or they may be the brainwaves of God. In either case, our Science can only be perfected in Him and He is the limit to which we tend.

The grapes of indifference

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sermon for the second Sunday of Advent (Mattins)
 
Is the God that we see in the pages of the Old Testament really the same as the God that we see in the New Testament?
 
To say that they aren’t the same is to fall into the heresy of Marcionism. Marcion sees very little in common between the wrathful “God of the Old Testament” and the loving “God of the New Testament.” To help us out, he seeks to persuade us that we should jettison all those bits of Scripture that don’t really fit with how God really is. After all, Psalms 58 and 109 are far too savage to be part of the message of love, aren’t they? There’s that nasty bit at the end of Psalm 139 and another nasty bit at the end of the Venite. Why don’t we just cut them out?
 
We see a God who builds a vineyard and, because He doesn’t get what He wants, He throws a tantrum and destroys it.
 
Doesn’t He?
[PAUSE]
 
We ought to be sympathetic to Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry when all they can see is a vengeful and capricious deity throwing thunderbolts at whosoever will not obey in the tiniest detail. Indeed, the fact that “bad things happen to good people” is a barrier to many people to come to know God and has even caused people to lose their faith.
 
As we hear Isaiah pronounce the words of God Himself, we are presented with God reasoning with us. We hear Him say to us, “O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.” God is asking us to make a judgement. Indeed, Our Lord Jesus does say, “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”
 
So, then, let us take up the legal case with Our Lord.
 
[PAUSE]
 
We have someone who plants a vineyard in order to produce lovely grapes in the same way that we might want to have a good vegetable garden, or lovely flowers. He invests a lot in the cultivation of this vineyard, gives it everything it needs, spending so much money, time and energy so that it will be the best of the best. Nothing is spared. What happens? All the grapes it produces is sour. Does the man not have the right to knock it all down?
 
Of course he does.
 
He has the right, but why would he do so? Does the sourness of the grapes really offend him that much? That would have to be truly bad fruit for the man to destroy the vineyard.
 
[PAUSE]
 
What fruit would cause God to destroy His vineyard? What would cause Him to lop branches off the vine and graft in new ones?
 
We know what fruit God wants us to bear.  St Paul tells us very clearly, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” That’s what God wants to flourish.
 
What fruit does God not want us to bear? Again, St Paul tells us, “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
 
Look at this fruit. Would you want murder to continue? Would you want to allow strife to flourish? Hatred? Would you really want these to continue any more than you had to? If you had a vineyard that bore only this fruit, would you really want to keep it growing to produce more?
 
We cannot blame God for being passionate about what is truly Good. If He were so indifferent to the suffering of people from the fruits of Evil, we would not believe Him to be a God of Love. We talk of the wrath of God as something to be feared. As we stand in front of the Killing Fields in which so many people have been killed through the tyranny of other men, we realise that the wrath of God is something to be welcomed to destroy Evil completely.
 
[PAUSE]
 
Part of the problem is that, when it comes to crime and punishment, we human beings always seem to understand judgement in a legal sense, but yet there is a deeper way of thinking that goes beyond the courtroom.
 
With God, justice is not just about saying what is wrong; it is about putting it right completely and fully. It is about not tolerating the smallest atom of evil so that the love and goodness of God may be made complete in His Creation.
 
Perhaps there is something greater to be feared than the wrath of God. The god of Marcion is indifferent to the suffering of human beings. Any god that Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry would want is one that makes everything nice and thus prevent human beings from ever really know Who  God is from what He is not.
 
[PAUSE]
 
The God we see written in every page of Holy Scripture is the same One True God. He stretches through the Old Testament and into the New. His presence confounds our understanding and reasoning, but yet He still allows us to understand and reason.
 
In both Testaments, we see God’s investment in us. God Himself is prepared to struggle alongside human beings. God Himself is prepared to demonstrate that we are worth reasoning with. God Himself considers our sense of justice to be valuable even if it is imperfect. God Himself waters the Vine with His own blood. That is the investment that He makes to help us bear good fruit. Is it worth it? Well, what fruit do we bear?

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