SCRATCHINGS is a collection of some of the lectures given from time to time while the author was Chaplain to the University of Edinburgh between 1989-1994. The themes represented begin with the contemporary state of Christianity in Scotland in particular and in western Europe in general. Criticisms and analyses of well-known problems are offered and a hopeful account of future possibilities is presented. Issues concerning the historicity of Christianity are considered in the second lecture. David Jenkins' views on the reliability of New Testament documents are countered. James Barr's strictures on Fundamentalism are then considered and placed in a perspective which seeks to limit their damaging polemical nature.
The fourth and fifth lectures move into the arena of ethics beginning with the general and historical pervasiveness of ethics in all cultures and moving into the area of contemporary sexual ethical understanding. An attempt is made to relate present-day ideas to classical Christian teaching on the ethics of sexual behaviour.
The phenomenon of "New Age" is treated critically in the sixth lecture and the seventh, eighth and ninth lectures deal more specifically with Christological and Biblical issues in relation to New Age.
A plea for men begins the tenth lecture which is followed by an analysis and criticism of Daphne Hampson's extreme feminism.
The last two lectures deal with Scottish themes. The cultural impact of so many English people working and studying in Scotland's premier University is assessed with reference to academic history. Robert Burns is given a spiritual dusting down but his place in Scottish folk memory is acknowledged as is evidence of his greater humanity.
SCRATCHINGS tries to take the itch out of some problems. The book attempts to open up areas for future debates and discussion. It is responsive in tone and attempts to relate the undying truths of Christianity to a wide range of contemporary issues. It is both academic and popular in style and intention and is meant to interest the informed lay person, those who may wish to learn about Christianity amid the confusion of competing religious claims and those who want to communicate Christianity to others as a job of work, as a vocation or as a commitment within family and social life.
Christianity In Decline 1
The Historic Gospel Fundamentalism 42
The Ethical Basis of Human Existence 76
Christianity, Celibacy And Sexuality 91
New Age 116
Jesus And The New Age 132
The Birth Of Jesus 147
The Bible And New Age 155
Christianity And Masculinity 166
Reply To Daphne Hampson's "Theology And Feminism" 176
Is Edinburgh A Scottish University? 200
Robert Burns 231
The Autonomy Of The Artist
CHRISTIANITY IN DECLINE
A paper given in Edinburgh University Chaplaincy Centre in 1993
The Downfall of Israel (800 - 500 BC)
In the first half of the 8th century BC Israel enjoyed a time of great prosperity, much of it under Jeroboam II (c 782 - 753 BC). Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria (745 - 727 BC) began a process of aggression towards the west and the northern kingdom of Israel fell. In 701 BC Judah was overrun and Jerusalem was besieged by Sennacherib (705 - 681 BC). The city was spared at the last moment when the enemy withdrew and Judah remained in existence for another century and a quarter more. Prophets interpreted events as they happened and as they would happen. Their problem was to reconcile God's election and providence of His people with the historical disasters that were occurring. They laid the blame for events on the recurrent apostasy of the chosen people, on the fact of social injustice, on religious syncretism and on the failure to respond with love and joy to their Maker's love for them.
The original purpose of the chosen people was to witness to the reality of God. If they failed to do that their "raison d'etre" disappeared. They were called to be a servant nation - a light to the world - of the truth of God and of the moral law given to them by special revelation. If they themselves ceased to be examples of these things they forfeited their right to exist. The prophets were demythologisers and rejected the sacrificial cult as meaningless. They insisted on pure worship and the ethical outworking of the love of God in society between human beings. God, they said, is holy, just, consistent and true and will not tolerate such internal abuses by his most favoured nation. History for the prophets was the outworking of God's judgement on His own people's sinfulness and wrongdoing.
In the seventh century things got worse. Babylon began to rise in power and influence. Assyria's capital Nineveh fell in 612 BC. Nebuchadnezzar arrived at Jerusalem in 587 BC; it surrendered and eventually fell in 586 BC. The prophets of the time simply read events correctly and prepared the people for their fate. The same litany of issues was offered as the reason for God's failure to protect and defend His own people, namely, social injustice, false religious practice and abandonment of the love of God. The Jews were scattered as far as Babylon and the Exile began. Minority personal faith remained intact wherever devout Jews lived, but the calling to be the servant moral light of the world had been lost and with that lost purpose, political and historical influence and coherent nation state organisation had fallen apart.
The Downfall of the Roman Empire (400 - 800 AD)
The seeds of nemesis were sown long before New Year's Eve, 406 AD when an army of Vandals, Sueves and Alans crossed the Rhine and invaded western Italy. Rome, the Eternal City, was sacked four years later. Jerome wept that, "The City which has captured the whole world is herself taken captive". The defeat of the Roman pantheon by Christianity and Rome's continuing ambivalence towards Christianity caused the state to become a false absolute without moral and spiritual justification for its continued existence. Without a sense of holy difference and corrective succession, problems ensued and social and civic anarchy resulted. Municipal financial bankruptcy was common. Personal safety could no longer be taken for granted. Security was not guaranteed. Murders and robberies multiplied. Licence was given to each individual to defend himself as best he could. The state had collapsed.
History tells us that empires expand until they burst. A warrior empire will inevitably reap the harvest of internecine military rivalry and civil war. Arbitrary distribution of wealth and the practice of slavery guaranteed fragmentation of the social order as the oppressed took revenge. Social vice rendered human beings incapable of coherent responsible defence. Succession to political and imperial authority was always a problem and had weakened the Empire for centuries. Christianity unhinged the ancient world. Against all odds the Poor Man of Nazareth defeated the spiritualistic pantheon which had legitimised the Empire.
For St Augustine, bestriding all of this as a spiritual colossus, history had a beginning, a middle and an end. The earthly city which was defeated represented the lust of possession and all the proud frailties of the human character. The political and economic order was wrecked. These were not permanent elements of history. The heavenly city of eternal salvation, light, truth and faith in Christ would remain long after the earthly order had collapsed. It has proved to have been so.
If we abstract the elements in the decline of Israel and of Rome we find that all of them reappear in the context of late 20th century western Christendom, taking that to include the United States. the lack of a stable, clear moral and spiritual authority for all life was basic to everything that happened. Transcendent justification for the great collective human enterprise of government matters much more than we may realise. Governments are vulnerable to elements and forces that they cannot control. They seek to overcome these by gathering themselves into larger political units but problems are not thus made more soluble. Economic differences within societies render them vulnerable and create a dissatisfied and rebellious group. Anarchy results if personal morality and family and social obligation are left to the wish and whim of the undirected individual. The enemy outside, with cells of mission within, does not have to wait long for his chance.
The Downfall of Western Christendom (2000 - 2400 AD)
On August 6th 1990 Iraq under the dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, its tiny neighbour. A coherent international response occurred in which United Nations Resolutions condemned the invasion and annexation and demanded unconditional withdrawal. Iraq refused. The issues were complex. Iraq and Kuwait as identifiable nation-states are creations of British Empire policy which was always self -serving. Iraq advocated "right of conquest" over Kuwait on the basis of a claim that the area originally belonged to Iraq. The Kuwaitis disagreed and the international community backed them. Territorial disputes had gone on for some time and were unresolved. Saddam's pattern of advancement was too similar to that of Hitler in the late thirties for the western nations to turn a blind eye. The prospect of Saddam going further into Saudi Arabia and then to Jordan and Israel equalled a Third World War scenario. The thought of Saddam being in charge of a large proportion of the world's oil resources was a major aspect of the conflict.
The nature of Saddam's regime was the most important factor. He was known to be ruthless and disregarding of human rights. It was agreed that he used chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1988. It was known that he was building nuclear weapons whose intention was the annihilation of Israel. He remains anti-West, anti-American and anti-Christian in his expression of his Islamic religion. Thus for the time being he provided the focus for Arab Islamic grievances against the imperialist western nations and their history in the middle east in particular. Yet Arab nations have taken up arms against Iraq because they do not acknowledge Saddam as the legitimate leader of "Jihad" (holy war). Western nations adopted the posture of the "Just War" in which the following criteria are required for legitimate hostilities;
1) proper authority - the united Nations resolutions
2) just cause - the liberation of Kuwait
3) reasonable expectation of victory; based on superior technology especially in the air
4) no greater evil should ensue; this was not clear; if escalation occurred greater harm could be done than had been done but in the longer term it could be argued that to deal with Saddam at that moment may have prevented a full-scale nuclear war in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Europe in the future
5) peaceful means have been exhausted; it can also be argued that this was not the case; war ensued because it was felt that Saddam could not be dealt with other than by force no matter how many options were tried.
It is clear then that the criteria for a just war were not fully and clearly fulfilled but that the political prognosis in the Middle East may have weighed the balance towards the idea that war then would be less horrific than it would be in five or ten years. The concepts of "holy war" and "just war" are quite different. The former is offensive and the latter defensive. The latter is not a religious war in itself while the former is so. Yet the confrontation had a transcendent and spiritual dimension; the armies of both sides called on the same God albeit with a different Name.
The forces of the West were legitimised by Christianity; they had Christian chaplains working in their midst. The standard of absolute religious peace is found in Jesus Christ. It is not found in Mohammad. But the militarised nations fighting under the auspices of historical Christianity suffered the paradox of the ideal of peace being transgressed. It was legitimised on the basis of the just war, but it is difficult to justify any war in terms of the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. It would be a quantum leap in faith and understanding if the western nations with a Christian history were to lay down their arms and follow Jesus Christ's example. That would not bring peace to the world; it would bring the ruin of much of the life of the world as others took advantage of such political and military self-negation. That is the dilemma of politicians. Disarmament can be handled safely only with a multilateral dimension. But nations with a history of empire conquest cannot afford to surrender themselves to the avengers of history without inviting their own eclipse. Prospects of military victories may stave off the necessities of the future and that is likely to be enough.
The Islamic "Jihad" feels itself to be in the historical ascendancy and can afford to bide its time. It may well feel that the next three centuries will belong to Islam as a world religio-military-politico-economic force. Islam does not suffer the agonizing dualisms of Christ's perfection. In the longer term the numerical strength of China may allow it global domination.
Western governments are weakened by the prevalence of the desire for absolute peace among its citizens. Much naivety exists in peace movements. But in the longer term it can be argued that it is the non-violent Christ who offers the best hope for any future peace and stability in the world. That can only happen if western governments embrace the non-violent Christ and the West capitulates voluntarily to its enemies who in turn are converted to non-violence from within by the same Christ-inspired vision. Human history cannot however be stage-managed. It is by no means certain that such a process would bring any scale of peace whatsoever. It is more likely that near global anarchy would result and others without any religious or human sensitivities would grasp the opportunity to seize political and military power. The earth is combustible. Human society is always on a short fuse. No weapons invented by man have not been tried out in anger. There is no reason to expect any form of global peace in the long-term future of the world. The familiar aspects of decline in previous ages are with us today. It is impossible to conclude that the course of history will be any different from that of earlier centuries. It is right to wish for peace. It is right to pray for peace. It is right to live in peace. It is wrong to think that everyone wishes, prays and lives for peace. The triumph of the non-violent Christ will not be achieved without much suffering and bloodshed. So great will it be that it will make The Holocaust pale in comparison. Yet it is possible that at some future time thereafter a vision of peace will prevail in global politics.
The problem is that this cannot be disassociated from the Person of Jesus or his claims, His life, dying and the experience of Christians of His resurrection. The Jewish and the Islamic views of God disagree with the Christian view. Non-doctrinaire uniform religious movements do not accept the Christian creed either. It may be that history will lead human beings toward the acknowledgement of Christ in future generations. Unfortunately that will not be before the struggle for Islamic or Chinese world ascendancy is over. It is also possible that other religious and quasi -religious movements will attempt their own dominance of world religious opinion. There is no guarantee that the world will be anything other than a battleground. There is no reason to suppose that a golden age is about to dawn. There is no reason to think that future history will be any more peaceful than the past.
The elements in the downfall of Israel and of Rome are present in contemporary Europe. Nations with Christian pasts cannot apostatise with impunity. Secularism is not the live option everyone thought it was. There are serious consequences in leaving God out of a nation's life. The experience of the Soviet Union and of its satellite states bears that point out. Arguably it is Christianity which has defeated communism as Christ has defeated Marx. Leaving a collective covenant relationship with God is a dangerous path. If there is a Creator-God who loves human beings it makes sense to turn that to human advantage rather than to spurn the intention as so many individuals and nations have done. If the creation requires and depends on that love for its survival than to leave its source of protection and strength renders it vulnerable and liable to self destruction. Historical collective immune deficiency sets in. That is what happened to Israel. The sustaining God was left out of the picture. Nemesis resulted. Ethical relativities characterised social life in ancient Israel and in ancient Rome. This is typical of modern western society also, especially since the age of permissiveness of the nineteen-sixties. Only twenty-five years separate this departure from preservative ethical standards from the onset of the phase of history which will ultimately lead to the downfall of the civilisation in which we live. Economic injustice was present in ancient Israel and the prophets voiced the judgement of God upon it. Rome was built on slave labour and it could not withstand the injustices of that process for ever. Today, it is principally although not exclusively on global terms that economic injustice is seen. Most of the advantage has been with the industrialised and technologically superior Christianised West. Oil has given the Islamic Middle East fabulous wealth in relation to the West. China can prepare for political leadership of the world. The majority of the world's poor population has benefited from none of these resources.
Theological differences provide transcending justification for conflict. Who is right about God? Judaism, Islam and Chinese secularism might hope for vindication in war and history. Christianity is not justified on those terms. It is justified in the extent to which it is obedient to the example of its Founder and ultimately in eschatological terms. Christianity is not primarily about this world at all. It is about the life of God and the life of eternity to which human beings aspire by nature created, even if their aspirations are for the most part misdirected to idols and objects of lesser and contrasting value.
It may be that there can be no such thing as a Christian state as there is a Jewish state, Islamic states which base their political order on the Q'uran or the Chinese secular state. The decisions political leaders have to take must in daily duty be at least compromised and at worst negations of the teaching of Jesus. Dualistic theories have validated these decisions but in principle and ideal they are not defensible. It may mean that a person who wants to follow Jesus cannot be the political leader of his or her nation state. Issues of national security, militarism, violence and of legal punishment are against the spirit of the teaching of Christ and yet these are foundations of any nation state. The defence of large numbers of people is an extremely
difficult responsibility and that is why the concept of the "just war" was adopted.
If western countries had adopted a non-violent political strategy after the Second World War it is unlikely that communism would have suffered its historical defeat a half -century later. World domination by the USSR would have been accomplished easily. Christianity might then have won a global uprising as it won specific uprisings against dialectical materialism in 1989 and 1990.
That is likely to be the future scenario with Islam becoming a brief victor and greater victim of the incarcerable truth of Jesus Christ. China may prove a more inscrutable enemy. It might be possible for Christianised nations to lead an effective multilateral disarmament programme. Global peace could be achieved with step-by-step agreements to limit the spread of nuclear and conventional weapons. Historically, Islam is entitled to its medieval period of ascendancy and China to its future political supremacy. These things can only happen if there is no stronger force in the world. At the moment the United States remains the stronger force but it may be that the United States will not choose to defend Europe in future centuries. There may be no political, social or moral will within the United States in future to allow it to defend others from the consequences of military invasion as there has been throughout the twentieth century. The United States acts in its own interests also but not exclusively. Internal subversion may wreck its consensus. Islamic aggression against the white Anglo-Saxon dominated United States will surely find its moment. Asian financial control of the American economy may also prove decisive. The upheavals of the future will be infinitely greater than those of the present and no clear picture of the outcome is possible at present.
Western Christianity Itself
Did God ever intend everyone in the world to become Christians or rather that there should be in every place in the world Christians witnessing to His Saving Grace in Christ?
There are at present a number of significant large scale influences affecting our lives. Since Christians believe that God is in control and that we can understand why these influences occur, let us look at some of them.
Economic difficulties - As capital moves to developing countries for investment in manufacturing because labour is cheap, unemployment will continue to rise. Income tax will decrease and social services costs will increase. A decline in living standards affects well being, health, morale and conduct. The Church is affected by this situation over which it has no control. It therefore restricts its mission.
We live in a culture of pleasure seeking, not of piety or even of responsible endeavour. "Infotainment" is the current jargon and television is best suited to this mode of communication. Serious abstract concepts like God, eternity and the meaning of life cannot easily be explained with this method.
There is a growing lack of respect for authority and a deep cynicism about political government. There is a vacuum in standards of conduct in public life. Since the Church is weak there is no measure of human conduct other than reactive legislation. This means that more and more laws
are being passed to deal with more and more problems of human conduct. Voluntary Christian self -regulation is replaced by more and more statutory law.
The media dominate everything. Newspapers thrive on the less worthy aspects of human character, prurience, interest in tragedy (the public hanging syndrome), and where sensation may not exist, it is invented for commercial reasons. "The Sun" newspaper has been a watershed in our culture, owned by someone who, unlike other press barons, is not part of the English establishment, does not want to be and is opposed to it in principle. "The Sun" has reduced the quality of newspapers more than any other single medium. The Church cannot compete with intense bombardment of people's minds on a daily basis.
The political philosophy of market forces has dismantled the Welfare State. It was thought in 1948 that if there was sufficient primary health care, illness would eventually disappear. It is one of the greatest philosophical and theological problems that disease is never eradicated; it simply finds new forms of expression, sometimes more virulent. The mosquito, for example is now able to breed and transmit malaria which is resistant to quinine based medicines.
There is a culture of lies and deceit. It is typified by our political process in which the ability to disguise intentions, policies and activities is prized as astute political capability. However "the Buckingham Palace Denial" has long enabled others to justify deceit as a means of communication. It is a demoralising social engineering tool.
Life in consequence of these trends seems less secure than it did even 10 years ago. Everything seems to be judged in the short-term; there is a lack of moral purpose, of an overall sense of justification and direction in life. Britain has gone the way of the previous 22 empires - decline, not through military defeat but by internal moral collapse. Waiting their moment are the next two empires, the Islamic and the Chinese.
Christianity no longer convinces the European mind. It has not stood up to the onslaught of historic rationalism, evolutionism, materialistic science, psychological and sociological explanations of human behaviour, media politics, advertising and now alternative religions and the so-called "New Age".
If Jesus was really God incarnate and rose again from the dead, why should all this be happening. If Islam is a false alternative, will it triumph in Europe? Will China's numerical superiority eventually make it a single world ruler?
The prophets of Judaism faced exactly the same problems as these. If their God was the One True God, why were the people suffering? The answer to national decline, defeat and exile was that the people had lost their true calling. The good news was that God would still be known and worshipped and would still be available in the world to them and to others.
St Augustine in the 5th century, surveying the dissolution of the Christianised Roman Empire took a similar view, There are two cities, he said, the earthly and the heavenly, the former is temporary, the latter is eternal. No-one and nothing on earth can deprive the Christian of membership of the heavenly city.
In Scotland, it is interesting to note that Christian history has gone in roughly 400 year cycles; the Celtic Church 300-700 AD; the embryonic Ecclesia Scotticana 700-1100 AD; the Romanised Period 1100-1500 AD and the Reformed or Protestant Period 1500-1900 AD. It seems as if the next 400 years will be the Ecumenical Period, in which numbers will decline, historical grievances will be laid aside and minority Christians will carry on the faith against the tide of secularism and alternative religion.
There is another possibility! A Christian Scottish State! This would endeavour to base the philosophy and law of the State of Scotland on the Teaching of Jesus Christ. But Scots themselves would never agree. Imagine trying to get such a vision through the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, the Episcopal Provincial Synod and the Baptist Union Conference! There are, of course, many non-Christian Scottish intellectuals also.
Reformed Christianity in Scotland has never recovered from the stress on rationalism introduced at The Enlightenment which made the human mind the measure of all things. The undermining of the authority of the Bible, due in part to the theories of Lyell and Darwin, the application of literary and historical criticism to the text of Scripture, the reactionary and fearful attitudes associated with church people, and the achievements of science in the 20th century combined to weaken the position of Christianity in the collective mind of Europe. The Evangelical Revivals and the Romantic Movement in the arts offered a complementary vision but this never became sovereign in our culture. Evangelicals today are marginalised still. If the Christian Faith makes no intellectual sense it must decline. St John's Gospel is a rational treatise. Isaiah's writings are understandable. Neither of these great men wrote in tongues!
There is hope! The scientific model has already lost authority. It lasted barely 100 years! However, no return to Christianity has resulted. Instead, the void has been filled by astrology, divinisation, spiritualism, intuitive medicine, pre-Christian religious mythology, "New Age" communities, "one world" religious principles and modern forms of paganism. We should find it easier to struggle with those who share a spiritual view of the world, but "New Age" is not, in itself , a Prolegomena for the Christian Gospel.
No one needs reminding that our society is not a happy one. Nor should it surprise us that although there is expert analysis on all our problems in our universities and in the media, no-one ever makes the connection between the state of things and the loss of Christian conviction and calling. Christianity teaches that humans cannot by themselves recognise their own plight and cannot unaided turn to a Saviour if there be One.
Gradually, over the decades of this century, Christian principles have been extracted from the law of the land. Once this is done it is impossible to put them back unless Christians form a majority both in the populace and in government. 1977 was a very bad year. Divorce rates continue as the highest in Europe (although this may be because more people here go through a marriage ceremony). Divorce may occur because people have not found the happiness that the soul within longs for and because the present relationship is intolerable for one or both partners. Crimes of violence continue to increase in number and ferocity.
Every 24 seconds a burglary is committed
Every minute ten crimes are committed
Every 2 minutes a car is stolen
Every 7 minutes a motorcycle is stolen
Every 9.3 minutes there is road death/serious injury
Every 17 minutes someone is raped or molested
In particular, drugs-related crimes have crossed the boundaries of human imagination for evil, especially against elderly men and women. The malaise is much deeper. These social ills are symptoms of the deeper illness in our nation, which reflects European history and apostasy. Society has broken up into new groupings of nuclear and single families, employed and unemployed, house owners and tenants, car owners and public transport users, haves and have-nots, majority and minority lifestyles, indigenous majorities and immigrant minorities, pluralism in religion. There is now no overall spiritual principle or vision or uniting system of belief . Sporting events are used to rally national feelings - invariably with disappointment. There is no political or national or historical calling. Social obligation is at the mercy of commercialism. Uncontrolled individualism rules!
Politicians lie through their teeth to get elected and to stay in power. They tell us we've never had it so good, that prosperity is just around the corner, that success will soon come etc etc. But we are not entitled to anything. We are not guaranteed anything. The truth about human life is much deeper. Political and materialist solutions will never be enough to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to earth. The planet is at the mercy of energies and powers it cannot see or harness - the weather, for example. Science can help induce some control but where one leak is stopped another appears. Human life is motivated by forces we ourselves have yet to discover. Why have not advances in medicine been equalled by those in psychiatry? People have returned to paganism. The human alliance between pantheism, spiritualism and belief in extra-terrestrial beings typified by the American film industry via New Age is something that no-one would have predicted 20 years ago. Christianity agrees that the human mind is not the answer. It recognises the powers that be, but it pleads past them to a Sovereign Creating Being revealed to the world in Jesus Christ and it is in this context that the Christianity of the future will have to be explained.
The liberal Jesus of the 19th and 20th centuries with his pleasant social manners, the flower-power Jesus of the sixties beloved of the Iona Community, the socialist Jesus cultivated in our universities and by church leaders is not strong enough to deal with these challenges. The rationalist doctrinally described Christ of our Protestant evangelicalism is not strong enough either. It is a transcendent and victorious and sovereign and spiritually powerful active intervening recreating and saving Christ that is required if our society and our nation is to be saved from the consequences of the last 200 years. But this Christ was Himself crucified here on earth! As we look into the Church - we cannot see this Christ.
This time is characterised by the importance of images and perceptions. Advertising and political communication depend entirely on the skill of manipulating images and perceptions. Christianity has a poor image at present and people's perception of Christianity is greatly lacking in accuracy. Exceptions are people like Gordon Wilson, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu and Christine Witcutt. However, at the same time, we have to admit to our own shortcomings. Christianity is still associated in Europe with the self-renouncing, world-denying legacy of monasticism and congregational pietism. Think of all the millions of men who went to war this century believing they were doing God's will. Think of the women who have remained sacrificially in bad marriages because they believed that their vows were sacrosanct. People today don't want a creed that denies them the fulfilment of their potential - they don't want a Christ whose own crucifixion is the paradigm of theirs. They will turn to whatever spiritual power may help them in their difficulties, make them successful and salve their consciences. American Christian prosperity theology does not impress European Christians. It seems vulgar and materialistic although it can be seen in places like Surrey to great effect.
Christians believe that Christ does provide everything for them but our lives do not actually show conclusive evidence of our beliefs. We sing that Jesus dies to set us free but we have circumscribed the meaning of this dramatically. Church people bleed the same way that others do. We often appear as badly off as others, even less wealthy, influential, successful. We have health problems like others do. Our lives and the lives of our children are often not morally superior to others. Our faith may offer us an eternal perspective to our life but it does not actually solve our problems very well. We do not want to think of our Christianity only as a ghetto of consolation for the broken-hearted and wounded of life. Our Lord healed all such. He did marvellous things. We do not see these and neither do those outside the Church.
Church-goers are not always the most attractive of people. We seem uptight and conservative, sometimes dogmatic. The voices of leadership are desperately shallow. As compensation for an unsuccessful life, Christianity may work, but if the Church becomes an ego-trip for such people than it is badly served indeed. Egotisms in the Churches are, of course, transparent as the pronouncements of bishops and any day at the General Assembly.
The Freudian and D.H. Lawrence revolutions have long run their courses. Christianity is thought to be associated with an oppressive and stifling moralism. It does not matter that AIDS has appeared - governments and people don't make the connection between health and chastity. Discussion of sexuality in Church and in church-going families is usually at a premium.
There are many hidden spiritually problematical energies within the Churches, in people themselves, in the organisations and procedures and in the institutions as historical phenomena. But if you try to identify these as, say, a parish minster, you will open a Pandora's Box that you will not be able to control. Indeed, you are called to moderate things, not exorcise them! A ministry depends on moderation not discernment!
The heart of individual problems in Christianity is unanswered prayer. Everyone wants to know why God does not answer prayer. The party line is that God always answers prayer. God may say Yes, No or Wait. An alternative is that God answers prayer but never in the way we have asked, expect or want. We should never minimise the importance of this issue. It strikes at the heart of the belief that God was incarnate in Jesus Christ and that He lives to bless and help His own people.
It is not only that Christians have a hard life but that the most genuine seem to suffer most. Faithfulness is no guarantee of exemption from tragedy. Take some examples:
1) the appalling suffering in Bosnia and in other regions of conflict
2) the sudden death of a faithful and good husband
3) the long-term debilitating illness of a Christian mother
4) the illness and death of the child of praying parents
5) disabled children born to Christian parents
6) wrong choice of marriage partner
This is all very bad public relations on God's part! Hebrews 5:7 reads "In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. But even though he was God's Son, he learnt through his sufferings to be obedient".
Today, people do not want a God who allows or permits such suffering, does not relieve or heal suffering and who uses suffering to teach us lessons about Himself . Parents in this life are not expected to permit their children to suffer as a technique of education. Indeed, the law forbids them to do so. Do we then have a higher standard of morality for the treatment of our children than God has for God's treatment of the human race or of those who in Christ worship God? The answer must be "No". "Shall not the judge of all the earth be just?" (Genesis 18:25) But it is very hard to communicate our Faith in the face of such strategic disadvantage.
Much is written and spoken today about the relationship between the body and the inner person. New Age therapies take this seriously and using all sorts of techniques, pre-incarnational awareness, shamanism and forms of yoga, for example, try to restore this balance which is generally considered to be the cause of illness and misfortune in life. What is missing is the relationship to God. Harmonising your inner self and your physical body may well help and heal. And if it works, people have no need for a God. The idea that illness and disharmony and misfortune are caused by sin is traditionally Christian. The question is whether it remains at a diagnostic level or proceeds to a curative achievement. A person may attend Church for 30 years bearing an excruciating back pain. Not once has Christ healed that person though he or she must often have secretly prayed for this to happen. Rationalist Protestant theology has no further answer. Roman Catholic theology asks people simply to bear their crosses in life. If the New Age therapist is able to relieve the symptoms it will normally be by associating the pain with some deep-seated problem in the person's life. It may be that the sexual side of marriage is unsatisfactory. It may be a relationship problem at work. It may be rooted in the unspoken frustrations and imperfections of family life. It could, of course be something quite logical and ordinary. Stress, however, is likely to be part of the problem.
Thankfully, Christian Healing is at last gaining credibility in rationalist Scotland. Even 121 George Street has begun to take it seriously. We should not forget however that Cameron Peddie was mocked and George Fox ignored. As is typical of Scotland, we have the best available and we do not recognise these pioneers and servants of God. Much disease is part of the inherited human condition. God can and should heal such diseases upon prayer and request. However, we know that not everyone is healed by Christ just as preaching does not save every soul.
In the church we see the sanctification of suffering rather than its cure. We also sanctify the suffering partner rather than recognise part of the problem. Disharmony of inner beings in life-long intense relationships is likely to cause symptoms sooner or later. New Age usually fails at this point. What it offers is such an individualised and egocentric diagnosis which increases rather than decreases the strains involved. The relationship problems in the Findhorn Community for example are so appalling that they destroy its overall credibility. The gifts of Grace that are available in Christ are, in contrast, rooted in God as an objective Personal Reality in relationship. Therefore Christian diagnosis and healing should always be complete. The truth should set free. The diagnosis of sin understood only theologically is not the whole of Christian healing. New Age pantheism may locate the problem but may not provide a lasting solution. If you could see a couple dragging each other down to ill health over the years - if you knew that that was not God's will for either of them - could you, as a parish minister advise them to live separately? Would it not cost you your job? Would you not be reported to Presbytery who would with ‘shadenfreude’ investigate you? The Church is not open to the radical nature of Christ's own ministry. So, the ‘wonderful’ parish minister will crack a joke, say an impotent prayer and go on to the next parishioner. And people accept it. But the Church is dying.
Jesus was not domesticated and worked outside the confines of the synagogue and temple. He was in consequence a terrible threat to the establishment and was mercilessly put down. Jesus, remember, challenged people, "Do you want to be healed?", "Your sins are forgiven you", "Neither do I condemn you - go and sin no more". Protestant rationalism must recover the actual authority of God in Christ. The transcendent and supernatural reality of God must be visible in our midst if the Church is to survive and we ourselves are to be blessed, but we must remember that when that did happen in Jesus - He was exterminated! Why should we expect anything better?
Divinisation of human beings and adoption as children of God in Christ are not the same things. But we should remember that Jesus appeared to Jews as a kind of New Age character, operating outside the law. Worse, the "I am" sayings of Jesus are very "New Age" in their egotism and presumption of divinity. It is not unreasonable for people to suggest that whereas this was true of Jesus it was true not only of Jesus. That is where we are today. If we cling to doctrine and belief without practice and achievement, then we deny even the doctrine we preach. Where is your God? The world has turned in on itself . The United Nations is seen to be the future organism of human regulation. It is infested with New Age ideas. It sponsors all sorts of religious groups. Even if the humanisms of the 20th century are to be replaced with pantheism and divinisation in the 21st that is as far away from any sense of corporate belonging to a single Creating Being as ever. The direction is inward, earthward, and experimental towards the invisible; it is not rational or transcendent. It may be that if the Church could stand against these movements and energies, it would rediscover its own strength and purpose. As usual, though, the Church is fighting yesterday's war.
Christianity has a theology for every occasion. Christianity offers the world an understanding of the inevitability of its own self -destruction. Indeed, that message is central to the New Testament. No-one wants to hear it though. What the world wants is love and care. Charities are multiplying by the hour. Most are well intentioned. Some are fraudulent. The love of God can be demonstrated clinically in charitable activities. The West has been faithful in this respect. Huge efforts have been made over the decades of this century. Christians give a great deal to a wide range of global charitable organisations. All this is good. Most charities have originated in this country and in Europe. The United States has followed.
At local level, much good is done by church people and non-church people. There is a kaleidoscope of caring agencies, covering every part of the human body and every aspect of society. Yet new atrocities beget new caring agencies, dozens every day. Worship as such is seen to be a separate activity unconnected with the social activism of caring agencies. The neighbour has become an idol. The point here is that no matter how much good humans do, harm will multiply in a godless society. The reason is that the energies of evil are so strong and inventive that they require the authority of the transcendent Maker to keep them in check. Without sufficient collective appeal to such a Maker human activity is bound to be inadequate. There is a direct connection between the exposure of the human community to all sorts of atrocities and lack of quantitative worship by all the people in general.
Congregations are involved in fund-raising to survive, not to do good to others. That represents a credibility problem. The Church at local level does not show sufficient spiritual distinction to identify itself. Church piety is unconvincing. It does not represent the spiritual freedom that every human needs and seeks. Often relationships are difficult. "If you want a good fight, join the Church" is a well known saying. Many church people have no word of testimony. Having said that, actual conduct is a far greater example than loud words. Charismatic renewal usually destabilises the congregations in which it appears and inevitably leads to desertions and exodi.
Christians will become more obvious by their strength of character in such a society as ours. We need to have some sense of Christ's victory over the world also. In rest and quietness shall be our return. No great publicity will be given to such things. But as hunger and thirst for righteousness increases, Christians may be able to play disproportionate parts in all spheres of human social life.
The population in general will increase the pace of its self destruction. Humans do not naturally recognise their plight or voluntarily seek a solution. The gift of Christian revelation makes sense but it is not naturally perceived. Not many come to church. Not many see church as the real answer. Even Billy Graham's rallies are attended mostly by the converted. The majority of those who go forward are already church people. Many have even been forward before.
The Church does not have the power at present to embark on the kind of process of renewal that occurred last century, for example, in the church extension programme and after The Disruption. Our churches are led by lightweights. Decisions are made in most unspiritual ways. The closing of rural churches has been a new form of highland clearances. The reason was supposed to be a projected shortage of ministers. There is no shortage. There is an overabundance. The harm has been done.
The Church is probably incapable of renewal. The liberal establishment prevails. Evangelicalism has to be diluted to be tolerable. It is never acceptable. Fundamentalism is misunderstood and feared. University divinity faculties are now large departments of religious studies. The given context is an acceptable pluralism not truth evaluation of respective religious traditions. Para-church groups are more active than ever. Let us not forget that The Samaritans and The Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and many other agencies were begun by Christians.
Christians have strategic positions in government and throughout society. A village without a church is a community without a soul. It is not long before the social, emotional and spiritual effects become visible.
Nevertheless, the conclusion is that in general Christians have retreated into the interior spaces to lick their wounds. To hide and to pray. We do not want to be thought extremists for anything or much. Quietness is good but not if it is as a result of social defeat.
Many pray for revival and this is good. However we must not limit our understanding of revival to conversions at crusades. We need to re-Christianise the education system, for example. Christianity has to be re-introduced to the law of the land. But if this is done, will it help? Did not Paul conclude that people cannot keep the law? We have a society which is increasingly lawless. Grace is available and Grace redeems the individual from lawlessness. But unless the land itself is redeemed, individuals will fall in greater numbers than will be saved. But will people vote in a democracy for this? It is unlikely. Therefore they will have more and more law, which will be less and less obeyed. This is the apostate society.
Education has been a political pawn for all of the 20th century. Governments did not keep faith with the spirit of the 1872 accord. Atheistic socialism dominated local educational authorities; now commercialism and the enterprise culture dominates.
Scotland retains a spiritual metaphysical dimension to its consciousness which is not found elsewhere. This is as open to New Age as it is to God. There is a sensibility still in Scottish attitudes to politics and society which is not found south of the border or in Brussels. Scotland still has a sense of God. Yet two centuries of humanism, the rejection of Christianity by so many in the arts this century and the influence of the atheistic dimension of socialist politics have had their effect. Presbyterianism has been envied and opposed by many great enemies. It is now succumbing, as much to internal dissension as to these forces of history.
Hebrews 12:4 reads, "In the struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood". We are comfortable, well fed and reasonably healthy. Though the securities of even five years ago have gone, we are not the victims of military conquest or of holocaust or of extreme meteorological violence. Neither are we without faith and our relationship with God has not grown less. God has been faithful to our call. Many great things happen in Christ's church every day. They do not make headlines here on earth. We have everything we need.
Who is this Jesus Christ? It is no more possible to define Him than it ever was. He contradicts all human logic, forgiving prostitutes, touching lepers, arguing with his social elders and betters, laughing at displays of piety, walking on water, intellectually challenging, transcendent in direction, bleeding and dying, rising from the dead. The great contradiction of the divine in the human persecuted, murdered.
Christ the avatar is the present perception. Jesus is accepted as a high-achieving enlightened human soul. Unlike the gurus of today, he died a long time ago. Today you can have your own divinised guru - at a price. But Christian leaders are leaders of institutions, associated and identified with them. They rise because of their adaptability to these institutions and not necessarily for charismatic reasons. Presbyterianism indulges charismata less than other churches. Few recent Moderators claimed particular special revelation. The distance between us and Christ in history and in charismata is great.
Jesus was not a comfortable person. He was not institutionalised either. How can we defend an institution in His name? New Agers can say that they relate to the church as Jesus related to the synagogue and the temple. The "One God" is limited by the single incarnation. Trinitarian theology will be even more difficult to justify in the next millennium. Christians may be portrayed as Luddites standing against the spiritual advances in consciousness that one world religion ostensibly brings. Trinitarianism is the odd theology out. Judaism will also be persecuted. Islam's position is different. New Age ignores it, though Islam's monotheism and eclecticism may make it more broadly acceptable. Yet Trinitarianism is seen in the formations of sub-atomic particles. The complete human unit is man, woman, child. Trinitarianism reflects the community, not the lonely singularity of the Creator Being.
It is not going to be easy for future Christian generations to maintain that there has been only one valid final revelation of God and that the destiny of every human soul is already determined by its relationship to that single revelation. Many people in the Churches have already given up this exclusive claim and have acknowledged the parity of other religious claims. Some maintain that it is noble to surrender your own exclusive claims to recognise and accommodate others and to admit the wideness of God's mercy. Others maintain that the best thing that the Church can do is to disestablish and de-institutionalise itself . Christianity will find other forms. Perhaps these will be similar. But other institutions will take Christianity's place. These will be instruments of social engineering if not slavery. Eventually people will rebel against them. They will be led by Christians. This happened in Russia and in Eastern Europe before our eyes. Dictatorship and totalitarianisms will always try their hand. Christianity dethroned and underground will be as powerful a force as it was during the Roman Empire. Earth was not made for peace. The long term political prognosis is likely to include much turbulence, centralisation of authority, one world government and new forms of emperor worship.
It is hard to maintain that God is in control of all this. No wonder people think that if God exists, He does so for the heart and for eternity and for not much else. Jesus himself was crucified and he is our type and ikon and example. Something much more profoundly true about existence was being accomplished on Calvary than we understand. If the historic categories of atonement make no sense any more we need to find new ones to communicate this great mystery. Something cosmic occurred. Jesus' particular death is a contradiction to all contemporary processes of self-divinisation, usurpation of spiritual authority and schemes of salvation.
Life does not work based on positivism, consumerism, growth, increase, prosperity or on optimistic assessments of human nature and the progress of society. We see today secular forms of spiritual principles recorded in the Bible throughout Christian history. Sacrifice, tithing, balance, chastity, humility, poverty - these are all thrust upon us against our will due to adverse circumstances. If we will not choose them freely to honour God and to bring joy to ourselves, then in secular form through restrictions of behaviour, rules and the use of law they will be imposed upon us. The indulgences of the eighties are being paid for in the nineties. The moral excesses of the sixties and seventies are being paid for in the nineties. The ecological vandalisms of previous centuries are being paid for now.
Christ is the role model for sacrifice, tithing, balance and ecological awareness. His death is the most powerful corrective to human voluntarism that has ever existed. Its context is eternal and it blazes the way from earth to heaven. But it is by the way of negation that it happened. Christians can therefore accept changing circumstances and understand them and embrace them in Christ. The things of the Kingdom are entirely separate from the concerns of the world. Quality of life depends on giving not receiving, on maintaining sanctuaries for spiritual purposes, on rejecting the blackmail of consumerism, and on being devoted to family and neighbourhood.
Athletes, research scientists, explorers and creative artists have one thing in common. They sacrifice much for their calling. Christianity is the ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate prize. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. ‘It is by losing your life, O earth, that you will gain it.’ God is not worshipped with all the riches of the earth. The earth has become a goddess to be revered and worshipped instead. So many of the postulants of environmental theory are lapsed Christians. They do good work, but the real point is missed. The ancients understood ecological balances better than we do. Having said that, it is astonishing to realise how many thousands of trusts there are in Britain devoted to charitable purposes. Most businesses have such trusts. Indeed, the fabric of our society depends on them., The public image of industry and commerce is not good. Yet, in effect, these enterprises fund so many noble projects at all levels of our society.
We cannot underestimate the effect of the newspapers. If something is not in the newspapers, or is not on radio or television it is deemed not to have happened. A very false life exists in the media and it becomes the life itself . Whereas the benefits of a free press are great, the effects of a biased press are dangerous. The press is anti-Christian. Unreality is sold as news and opinion as event. Commentary becomes government policy and editorials become our nation's philosophy. Unelected, the perpetrators of such propaganda bear a heavy responsibility for the psychological chaos that exists today.
Jesus' individual life is superior to the lives of others who claim religious equality or who have religious equality claimed for them by followers. His freedom, enjoyment of life, spiritual struggles and victories, healings, political radicalism, pacificism, authority, poverty, celibacy, loving-kindness, humility, service, pity, nature aestheticism, self-sacrifice, formation of a community of followers under a married man - thus restoring the natural balance of male and female, dying, rising and giving of the Holy Spirit, all demonstrate a unique creation-shaking event which we can still plead. We know there are alternatives; we know the Church has done some ghastly things; but in Christ something greater than human minds occurred. If we do not acknowledge Christ, if we demean Christ, we are placing ourselves above Him. Too many Biblical and theological writers have done this for too long.
We should take heart. Religion for much of the 20th century has been despised by intellectuals. Yet religion has refused to die. On the contrary it has re-emerged as the major driving force of life. Sects abound. New Religious Movements have made substantial inroads to the former Soviet Union and the Eastern European states. There is a market for religion today as there has never been. If Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity will never die. But we do need to be open to a stronger radicalism of the spirit than the institutionalised church allows us. Or we have to accept the discipline and direction of a renouncing other-worldly piety. Christ is to be found there.
Romans 8:20 reads, "For creation was condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so". Christian theology has always had a place for God's permissive will. We do not know why God allows so much suffering to take place. There is a hiddenness to our real identity as Christians. 2 Corinthians 4:3 reads, "For if the Gospel we preach is hidden, it is hidden only from those who are being lost". Few recognised Jesus of Nazareth for who and what He was. Jesus is the most profound critic of the human community. When we survive into another life, it will all make sense there. This used to be thought of a "pie in the sky when you die". It may be that the New Age future will be more open to the possibilities of future existence. Eternal life may be a more acceptable idea in 500 years that it is today. Who would be a Robert Maxwell, a Joseph Stalin, a Pol Pot? Is the Christian heaven not populated by the angels of children whose faces were seen on global television dying of starvation? By the murdered innocents of Bosnia? By the millions of anonymous saints of 2,000 years of Christian history? Jesus Christ is almost the complete answer to every human longing. "Almost" because involuntary suffering still makes no sense. But the context of life itself must be broadened to include God.
Paul's world has become relevant again. Human rationalism does not answer much. Science has lost its credibility to solve the human predicament. Secularism in its political forms has been defeated. The world is in ferment. A religious solution is sought. The Cross stands high and supreme, the road sign to eternity - totally distinct from all human enterprise. Christ in power and glory, not the Poor Man of Nazareth, not the poet and wanderer, not the confused human egotist, not the fugitive and the victimised, not the Crucified God. The doctrines of incarnation and redemption take on new meaning when set beside the claims of the New Age travellers that they have been in touch with the Masters of the Universe; that they have shared the councils of the multiplicity of non-physical beings that populate the unseen universe; that they are co-creators of the world! Is not the story of The Fall re-enacted before our eyes? Humans declaring themselves divine - that is the ultimate issue - is it not?
But Christianity in its present form can be cast aside on grounds of infidelity as was Judaism 2,000 years ago. Hard it is for us to divest ourselves of our history in Europe. What will remain is the individual discovery of Christ, wholesome family life, free associations of believers, caring social groupings and activist, lobbying, politically involved societies. To the world we say, "If you will not believe in Christ by Grace, you will do so by default". To each other, we say, "You have died with Christ and are set free from the ruling spirits of the Universe".
Let us look at ourselves and the Church with God's eyes; it is His chosen instrument. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is a tiny denomination of a few thousand members yet it nurtured the present Lord Chancellor. More people still go to Church on Sundays than to football matches on Saturdays. What is more blessed than a beautiful Holy Communion Service? What is more moving than a baptismal service. Think of the faithful praying millions throughout the world. The New Covenant is being carried on elsewhere in the packed churches in Africa, South America and Asia. Healing miracles occur in these places. For those who truly find Christ we know the most wonderful blessings. It is the world that is not working - not God, perhaps not even us.
Our Lord died and rose in the next life. Christians will always be on the edge of things: but you get a great view there of what you will one day leave and of what is awaiting you. We know this to be true. Let us then accept it and rejoice in it. Nor feel the need always to be justifying ourselves, apologising or embarrassed. Somehow, let us grasp hold of the elemental Power that Jesus Christ is for us today. Our calling is upwards and beyond. Let God worry about the future of the world. Living in Christ's Kingdom is blessedness enough. As the leaven and the salt we will be! As the Remnant of the New Covenant in Christ we will live! As the human tithe of the global population we will worship! As the first fruits of Our Maker's love, we will find eternal life.
THE HISTORIC GOSPEL
A paper given to the Christian Historical Society in 1992
The definitive article in the title implies exclusivity. Christianity is not "a" Gospel among others but "the" Gospel in distinction from other salvific systems. At least that is what has been traditionally maintained although there are serious attempts today to divest Christianity of its exclusive claims and invest it in a broad framework of ideas which would become a sort of global religious conglomerate. John Hick, a renegade Presbyterian has suggested thoughts along these lines. "Gospel" at least implies the claim that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. "Historic" means factual rather than mythological, legendary or fictitious. It denotes rarity and uniqueness. It is precisely this claim that is under threat as we approach the third millennium of Grace. The idea of one faith intrinsically superior to others is obnoxious to many and the claim of being the one exclusive measure of eternal destiny is offensive both to followers of other religious faiths and to liberally minded people throughout the world.
Jesus' claims about Himself are therefore all the more difficult to maintain, support and propagate. It is the age of rights for everything, including animals. Natural human justice determines against an arbitrary Power of Election, such as the God of Israel and the Father of Our Lord Jesus. For more than 150 years within the European liberal tradition in philosophy, in theology and in Biblical studies there has been scepticism as to the accuracy of the recorded details about the life of Jesus in the Gospels and about the experience of the first Christians in the Book of Acts. At the same time as these major currents have gained weight, aided by the emergence of distinctive ethnic religious presentations, there has been a decline in the size, power, status, success and influence of the historic Churches in Europe.
We may be at something of a cross-roads. Some of us may decide it is no bad thing that institutionalised Christianity should slowly die away liberating humankind for an equality of spiritual opportunity in the global community of wholesale and retail religious programmes. Consumer mentality may infect the religious quest as it has done everything else. It can be argued that Christianity in its institutionalised form is probably at its least authentic, least attractive and least faithful. The higher one goes in the visible Church the further away one gets from true faith and discipleship.
The story of the death of Pope John Paul I, on one hand, and the extravagances of the electric churches of the United States on the other, do little to encourage Christianity's case. Moral corruption, financial mismanagement and nepotism are as much part of African Christianity as these were of medieval European Christianity. Even our own Scottish leaders succumb to vanity, albeit that they have to return to "auld claes and porridge" thereafter. Parish ministry is as much to do with money as it is about anything sublime or eschatological. Institutional Christianity is fundamentally a compromise with the world. But who are the leaders of the new religious multi-national, multi-cultural enterprises? They are not often genuinely spiritual people at all, but professional thinkers who have abandoned their own Christian upbringing and earlier faith and who enjoy a fairly comfortable and unchallenging existence.
For authentic personal Christianity we look to Lech Walesa or some of the other heroes of the great political changes in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. So the other road might lead us to re-establish the credibility of the incarnational claims of Jesus Christ, continued in the Churches which bear His Name. Already some leaders are moderating both these options, buying survival at the cost of doctrinal exclusivity. It may be that those who adhere to credal forms will appear to be intolerant and isolated. Christendom's greatest paradox could be that it fosters liberation while remaining itself authoritarian in form and doctrine.
Analysis of David Jenkins' Views on the Historic Gospel
Christian theologians try to find a way through the intellectual problems posed by traditional Christian doctrine, current scepticism and the relativities of the modern global situation. David Jenkins is one of them. I want to discuss some of the ideas expressed in his book "God, Miracle and the Church of England", (SCM, 1987). I will be less concerned with his Hensley Henson lectures and more concerned with those lectures given between 1984 and 1986 added to the book for publication.
Jenkins' basic task seems to be to try to rescue God from the unreliability of human history, from an out-dated (Biblical) world view and from belief in direct divine causation. His argument is : "God is prepared to work knock-down miracles in order to select a number of people into the secret of his incarnation, resurrection and salvation, but he is not prepared to use such methods in order to deliver from Auschwitz, prevent Hiroshima, overcome famine or bring about a bloodless transformation of apartheid. Such a God is a cultic idol"1 So much is taken for granted in this slippery provocation that it is hard to know where to begin to reply. Jenkins seems to want to rewrite Judaeo-Christian history to comply with contemporary ideals and values and to hide unpleasant facts. His God is a philosopher's God. The connection with human history is his own mind and nothing else. He ignores the presence of Israel and continuing Judaism in the world, and he seems to dismiss the specific calling of the disciples of Jesus andthe first Christians in community; the existence of individual prophets and saints throughout the last 3,000 years and the theological meaning discernible in their lives are not recognised. He does not discuss particularity, nor does he examine the evidence for miracles past, continuing and present in the history of the Church. Jenkins simply applies his own "state of mind" criticisms. His ethical problem, he says, is that God prefers a few select worshippers to all the sufferers in the world. This God, he says, is not deserving of belief. But his opinions strike at the very heart and fact of the historic revelation in Christ and the historic Gospel in His Name. The revelation is primarily of a just God. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself , not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19, RAV), "... he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45, RAV). God, therefore, is by nature, just, acts in reconciliation with humans and does not withhold his natural providence from the bad people of the world. Jenkins seems to deny God His own revelation. Particular people and events are allowed to reveal the true nature of God. It is perverse to malign the given revelation and speak as if it had never happened as it did.
Jenkins confuses actual, personal, divine revelation and human responsibility. What more wonderful gift could be given to the world than the Incarnation, the Resurrection and Salvation? Auschwitz and Hiroshima are human responsibilities not based upon the revealed will of God but contradictions of the given revelation. Famine in Africa always occurs in the context of civil war; that has been the case in Zaire, Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sudan and the rest. There is more than enough food in Africa for everyone, but it is withheld in defiance of the revealed will of God in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Mengistu of Ethiopia spent $250,000,000 on the l0th Anniversary of the 1984 Revolution at the same time as Bob Geldhof raised £100,000,000 to relieve the famine there caused by civil war. Gold was being smuggled out of Ethiopia in the dead bodies of Russian military personnel! The country's meagre resources were consumed by armaments purchased from Russia. It was Christian people in the West who through relief agencies acted decisively to help the innocent sufferers of this dreadful government. It was Christians who gave the most and still do, whenever there is an emergency which hits innocent men, women and children in such circumstances.
In South Africa, God's will has been consistently declared by Desmond Tutu and others. It is Christianity which inspires and cements opposition to and struggle against the heresy and tyranny of apartheid. If God were to do it all Himself, then we would not have life as God has intended it with freedoms and responsibilities.
The standards by which we judge human behaviour are Biblical standards as a result of particular revelation. The momentous events in Eastern Europe are again testimony to the inspiring, cementing and encouraging presence of Christians and of Christianity. The Judaeo-Christian revelation is mediated to and through people. It is a partnership with Our Maker. Jenkins wishes to deny God that caring role. He further wants to limit God's activity in the realms of history and of the supernatural. Jenkins seems to want to decide what is right and wrong in a moral vacuum. It is the challenging if not chilling criteria of judgement in Matthew 25 which determines the equality of all in the sight of God. Without particularised revelation we would have no vision of and for conduct pleasing to God. Without the historical dimension, we would simply be automatons or victims of a centralised dictatorial rule as in a communist country or a fascist republic.
The revelation of the supernatural has a validity of its own different from other historical elements in human experience. God must be free to choose or God cannot be God. We cannot either have Jenkins' ethical relativism. St Paul saw clearly that God does not judge human beings for failure to keep the law. This is the most marvellous revelation and liberates us all from the bondage of guilt and worry. If anything, we will be judged by not taking God at his word and sharing in the graces and glories of His love, made available in Christ, rooted historically in the human community by the Incarnation and continued in the Church.
For Jenkins, the birth narratives are more about obedience than virginity 2 and the resurrection is more about encounters than the empty tomb 3. But virginity was precisely the crucial issue for Mary - she had no husband - it was a social disgrace - indeed - it was against the Law for such a woman to conceive a child out of wedlock. One issue is "Why did God break His own Law?" Virginity is the content and context of the obedience. The great issue is the activity God in distinction from human attitude and expectation.
The empty tomb is a victory over death. What greater thing could God have done than demonstrate His power over that single factor which limits all of human life and aspiration? This is not spiritualistic survival. It is a pure incarnational necessity. The resurrection is God's witness for Himself and the truest expression of solidarity with human finitude and eternal longing. With the resurrection God claims humanity as His own children. Without it, the world is an orphan in space.
Jenkins thinks that there are no knock-down miracles to prove that God is around. 4 In fact those who seek spiritually and eschatologically find corroboration of their faith in events which have a spiritual direction and outcome distinguishable from mere human agency. Jenkins simply negates the lives of people like Padre Pio. He seems to deny the testimony of changed human lives such as those in prisons who have become Christians and love the Lord Jesus.
Jenkins denies the entire evangelical experience of the Christian Church in Africa, Asia, South America and North America for mere traditional European liberalism. Is he saying anything more than those who laughed at Paul on Mars Hill? Jenkins is a Christian but he has his own intellectual opt-out point. His thought is the indication of that opt-out point and not of any final or definitive understanding of the Christian faith for this or any other age.
It is typical of our time that atrophy and intellectual opt-out accompany one another in the visible Church in Europe. What we need is a heroic spiritual effort to rediscover the faith that has survived until now. What great arrogance to suppose that we know better than those who received the revelation first or second hand - we who are 2,000 years at a distance, materialistic, unjust, apostate, non-moral, unspiritual and intellectually arrogant! Is it not better to try to find the reality behind the doctrine than to dismiss the doctrine?
In Scotland we have no alternative. Our Church is based on doctrine and on nothing else. Jenkins paradoxically confesses to being something of a contemplative. Again, this is his personal opt-out point. He denies to others deeper experiences of the Spirit. Atheists would deny him his own contemplative insights. What is acceptable therefore is what he has experienced. Thomas Aquinas, in contrast, achieved much in philosophical theology but spiritually, he was granted more and that confirmed not his philosophical and theological erudition but the actual historic Gospel, taught by the Church.
Jenkins thinks that in the modern world we cannot accept the literal descriptions offered by the Gospels. He also suggests that there is a problem with the credibility of the writers of the Gospels. The Gospels are not newspaper reports or scientific accounts, he says. 5 Against that I would want to suggest that there are no real standards of truth and integrity in evidence today in newspaper reporting. Coverage of the political collapse of Romania was especially unreliable with reported estimates of the dead varying from 70,000 to 4,000. It may be that the real situation is still unclear and that only after years of research and study will a reliable account of events be available. It is interesting to note that it is after the event that clarification comes and that some time lapse is necessary to get the true picture of what happened. One of the complaints against the Gospels is that they differ in content. The argument is always that the earliest must be the most reliable. In secular history that is just not true at all. Later accounts are likely to be more reliable than earlier. Disputation of events is inevitable. The Lockerbie disaster is another incident where the truth may still be being suppressed. There is a 30 year rule governing the secrets of government; there is also a 100 year rule preventing knowledge of political history. Distance from events and the passing of time can lead to more accurate knowledge of historical events.
In scientific matters, it is admitted that there is no such thing as objective research. Scientists bring much subjective information, hope and aspiration not to mention pre-formed theories and conclusions to their work. Scientific theories change and contradict one another. There is no single source of final authority available in scientific terms. We do not actually know how the universe was created or how it runs. We have some knowledge and we can send men to the moon according to the laws of physics. But that is rather like a child playing with a Dinky toy farm with its tractor and Land-Rover and implements, provided for in a safe environment. The child is not discovering how the internal combustion engine works. The Bible does not tell us how the universe was made but the theistic and revelatory content cannot be dismissed on historical or scientific terms. For it witnesses to an area outwith ordinary human knowledge. To restrict it to temporary epistemological parameters is not helpful.
Jenkins thinks the Gospel writers are not culpable but their mixture of historicity, myth, legend and embroidery was just their way of doing things. 6 We need, he says, to do it our way in and for our own time. In so doing Jenkins undermines the credal confession of the Church and its doctrinal base. The message is that God did not act definitively and finally in Jesus Christ in the ways portrayed in the Gospels. The given revelation is up for reinterpretation. It does not say anything secure about our relationship with God. And yet there are more convincing similarities between the first Christians, 4th century Christians, St Francis, Martin Luther, George Fox, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King and others - for all find their inspiration in a relationship with God in Christ which affirms the credal basis of the Church. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall - is it not another Jericho? What is not accomplished without bloodshed? Are we so very different from our predecessors?
Things of the Spirit and of eternity are qualitatively different from those of the material world. It is wrong to apply the criteria of one to the other. That is what the third Temptation of Jesus is all about. It is a Temptation which Jesus resisted but which Jenkins has not. He discusses a specific text by way of example. It is Mark 9: 14-29, the healing of the epileptic boy. 7 The writers, he says, did not share our concern for historical and scientific statements. What standards? Are they those of Crocket's Preface? Are they those of the suppression of plans to legalise homosexual marriages of Anglican priests? Are they those of the Markinkus Affair? Are they those of the fabricated statistics of churches? This story, says Jenkins, is about scientific, psychological and social disorders like epilepsy and schizophrenia. I'd suggest it was about man's relationship with God, about God's attitude to human suffering and about the active Sovereignty of the Lord Jesus.
It is the idea that there may not have been such a boy, a distraught father, weak disciples and a wonderful healing that is at stake. If God's love does NOT do things like that for people then it may as well not exist. It is in the realm beyond human competence that God matters most, not least. The problem of evil is so great that Jenkins abstracts God from its unpleasantness. Thus the objectivity of evil is not discussed and the purpose of the Incarnation is neglected. He does not want a God of meticulous bureaucratic manipulation but the God of the Bible is One whose interest and concern for his people is expressed by His knowledge of the number of hairs on our heads. The point is that God does relate personally and historically to us and with us and always has done.
The whole area of spiritual authority is not discussed. God is a wandering artist in the world, a poet, says Jenkins, (not a Francis Thompson by the way but perhaps an Auden). Jenkins rejects the God of direct causal interventions. The world bas changed. Has it? In 1980 I worked briefly in Shetland, on Uist. There I saw an ancient crofter woman with a hand sickle cutting hay. I then went to work in Africa and saw the same. I've seen similar pictures of Eastern Europe. We are returning to organic farming and nations are destroying their mighty weapons of war. Families from the south of England, desperate for sanity, buy farms in remote areas of Scotland. Simplicity of diet is fostered even by the rich. Global ecological awareness is increasing. Spiritual consciousness is beneath the surface waiting to be reached. Young people are less hedonistic than they were 20 years ago. There is no utopia. The 21st century will be one of great unrest and struggle, of violence and suffering. But to limit the record of the Bible to the mid-20th century view of life is a great mistake. It is more likely that the truths of the given revelation will become more apparent in the future than they are at present.
Some Current Issues In Proclamation, Ecclesiology And Soteriology
To draw this discussion to its end, I would like just to mention matters of importance in terms of actual Church history with some reference to the Scottish situation. I do believe the way forward is in terms of the devout and serious call to the spiritual life. Thereafter, there will have to be discipleship and risk. I think that recent generations of professing Christians have had it very easy. They have not been caught up in great events or movements and as a consequence the full power and blessings of the new Covenant have not been in evidence. The greatest calling we can have is to re-establish the credibility of the Christian Gospel for the next century, just as in the last and this has been undermined by temporary human theories. The Church itself should be but may not be the means of such renewal and rediscovery of faith.
I do not think that anyone surveying the church scene in Scotland can be too optimistic. The rigorous piety of the past is less attractive now and there is a real move towards aesthetics in worship and away from proclamation. The authority of the Bible is a problem for a Church based on its credibility in pre-critical days, 400 years and more ago. Leadership is a problem in such a diffused type of Church order as Presbyterianism. Lack of personnel and money seems to be inhibiting mission. That is a spiritual problem because real mission never depended on money. Historic Calvinism is under siege from many different influences, including the Christian humanism of the Iona Community. The issue is whether in spiritual and intellectual terms what is taking over is actually superior or just more accessible and pleasing to the senses. There is too, a real failure to speak on behalf of God to people. We can believe the historic Gospel with all our hearts but with spiritual awakening comes some form of institution which keeps the momentum going, conserves it and fosters future generations, as for example in Methodism. There are great demons to be tackled and slain in our time and yet it does not seem as if the Church is strong enough, confident enough or organised enough to do it. There is no strong challenge to the contemporary wisdom of the world, nor to peoples' choice of values and lifestyle which merits attention and allegiance. It may be that we simply lack the anointing of the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is not with us, that the glory has departed.
Christianity in Scotland has not kept to one institutional form over the centuries and it may be that something new will occur next century. An ecumenical and united Church may survive as a minority Christian presence. We must hope, pray for and believe that Our Lord will renew our land and that His Name will be honoured here in centuries to come. The Good News remains that of reconciliation with our Maker, knowledge of the purpose of human life and its eternal destiny sealed in the Incarnation. That message will always be relevant on its own terms. It is in finding its truth that individually and together we may witness effectively. For Jesus' birth, life and resurrection remain qualitatively different from spiritualistic communication, visionary experience and philosophical abstraction. Only this fact explains the survival of His Church in the world which will continue until the end of time.
1 David E. Jenkins, God, Miracle and the Church of England. SCM, London, 1987, p5.
2 Ibid., p6.
4 Ibid., p7.
5 Ibid., p27.
7 Ibid., p33f
A paper given in the Chaplaincy Centre in 1992
The current ecclesiastical swear-word, as one distinguished evangelical minister put it, is the F-word "Fundamentalism". The Latin "fundare" means to found and "fundamentum" was a foundation. Fundamentalism is popularly defined as "Strict adherence to traditional orthodox tenets held to be fundamental to the Christian faith". Fundamentalism is distinguished from liberalism and from modernism. Liberalism is the free association of beliefs without adherence to specific doctrinal content. Modernism is the cultural movement of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries which takes account of scientific discoveries when interpreting the church's teaching and the contents of the Bible.
Traditional evangelical revivalism died out in early 20th century America. Weakening of the established churches' belief in the Bible's teaching, especially in relation to the Life and Work of Jesus Christ, His Virgin Birth, The Miracles, His Substitutionary Atonement For Sin, His Bodily Resurrection and His Second Coming took place and some, concerned at such doctrinal apostasy, decided to try to hold fast to orthodox inherited beliefs. Central to everything was the issue of the authority of Scripture. Extreme fundamentalists avowed the Bible's inerrancy in science and history as well as in faith and doctrine. There are still educated people in our own society who believe that the world was created at 9.30am on October 21st in 2004 BC in six 24 hour days. There are others who while accepting the theories of science about the possible origins of the universe do not have any difficulty in adhering at the same time to orthodox Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ. In popular language however they are also styled "fundamentalists".
The term "evangelical" is synonymous with "fundamentalist" in the popular press. There are however, many evangelicals who accept scientific accounts of creation but believe profoundly in Jesus Christ as the Lord of all. Not all "conservative evangelicals" are Biblical literalists, although even within the church, such subtle distinctions are quite often neglected. Conservative evangelicals in Britain and fundamentalists in America are often aligned with Conservative and Republican politics in their respective countries while liberals are associated with socialism and with the Democratic Party.
James Barr's books "Fundamentalism" and "Escaping from Fundamentalism" are serious criticisms of their subject matter. The following discussion is a response to the first of these titles. Barr's objection to fundamentalists is that they make "the conversion experience" the basis of all their judgements about the church and about other Christians. Barr does not mention the position of the Roman Catholic Church on conversion nor its practice of not admitting other professing Christian believers to its Communion. Nor does he discuss the fact that Christianity ‘per se’ is distinct in its claims over against other religions and philosophies in the world. His objections therefore cannot be absolute objections but such that are relative to the basis of Christianity itself in its credal and catholic form.
Barr thinks that fundamentalists are obsessed by petty attitudes to sexual matters or social sins like drinking alcohol or wearing make-up. There are many mature Christians in the Churches who have long passed that elementary stage of discipleship. In a perverse way, liberals will admire Mormons or Indian gurus who neither drink nor smoke nor take coffee or tea but denigrate evangelicals who refuse to smoke or drink. Smoking at least is regarded world-wide as an anti-social bad habit. Perhaps alcohol consumption will follow in the next decade. Barr does not make the connection between restriction of activity and spiritual and physical health, whereas modern public health propaganda does. The ghastly phenomenon of AIDS has brought credibility again to Christian teaching on sexual permissiveness.
There may be a proportion of psychological unhealthiness in fundamentalist circles but it is no less to be found in liberal circles. I do not have the respective data on the Keswick Convention, the Iona Community and the Findhorn Community but I suspect that there is a numerical graduation of screwballs from the first to the last. Certainly monasteries and nunneries also have their fair share of obsessives as do Steam Preservation Societies and Kennel Clubs.
Barr does not suggest that anyone making a spiritual journey in the 20th century is at odds with the prevailing culture and should be commended for such nonconformity. He seems to be exorcising something from his own life - a guilt perhaps? Nor does he place his criticisms within the context of the finding of eternal life and salvation which, if true, is surely worth a few difficulties and misunderstanding along the way. He takes Christianity for granted as liberals always do. Evangelicals struggle for Christianity in the modern world.
The cultural logic of our time is that one progresses from a narrow spiritual viewpoint to a broad one, as did David Jenkins, Robert Davidson and George Carey. The embracing of doubt is thought to be a sign of maturity. Yet the real achievers in the history of Christianity have taken a journey in the opposite direction, from doubt and uncertainty to assurance of faith. St Francis is a case in point. John Bunyan and John Wesley are others. Malcolm Muggeridge may be cited as a lifelong sceptic who found certainty of faith in his later years. It is all right for a person to give up the holy ministry because he no longer believes but not because he has tightened his views on baptism, for example, and feels unable any longer to baptise infants. No-one is commended for approaching a rigorous faith but usually for generalising and becoming less doctrinally assured. In the global village, doctrinal exclusiveness is not fashionable and a creed-free religious spirit is the fashion of the age. Monotheism is up for grabs as well as being replaced in some minds by a pantheism and self -appointed divinisation of mankind.
Barr does not agree that fundamentalists can escape the logic of their position by stressing not literality but inerrancy. It is not good enough, for example, to say that Methuselah did not literally live to be 930 years old, while holding to the authority of the Bible as originally given. He wants no half way houses. Only the liberal doctrine of Scripture that everything is relative to time, chance and circumstance in human personality and society makes sense to him. He thinks it is impossible for people to decide which passages to take literally and which not to take literally.
Barr wonders why the two source texts on the divine inspiration of the Bible, 11 Timothy 3:16 and 11 Peter 1:19-21 are not repeated in say, Romans or Galatians. Why do they appear in what he calls marginal books? This, he says is second class authority - Paul and Peter may not even have written these books. Fundamentalists on one hand give every part of the the Bible the same inspirational authority, while, on the other, do not actually give the same weight in practice to Numbers, for example, as they do to St John's Gospel.
If people concede a problem in the authorship of the Pentateuch does this mean that they must logically accept that there are problems with the reliability of the claimed words of Jesus? Is Christianity assent to doctrinal statements in any case? What is the irreducible minimum of belief for Christians? Is historicity the issue? Did Christ rise from the dead? Is everything else negotiable?
Barr does not allow that there is for many Christians in the 20th century a correlation between their own experience of faith and the descriptions of faith in the New Testament. Do people have a relationship with Christ prior to their fundamentalism? Is Christ alive to people in the Spirit prior to their knowledge of the Bible. The answer would seem to be "Yes" especially if the faith of children is taken into account. Faith is prior to understanding.
In any case - we may ask - is any human knowledge final and authoritative? How does Barr explain the dynamics of evangelicalism? What does he want to put in their place? Has he worshipped in the lively geometrically expanding churches of the developing countries? Barr thinks that fundamentalism represents fossilised theology. He wrote however before the political phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is a living and dynamic power in human society whether you agree with it or not or like or admire it. Why is it so? There must be some reality in it or else it would be ineffective. Is the fundamentalism of Pope John Paul II worthy of respect even if that of Ian Paisley may not be? What of Roman Catholic doctrinal fundamentalism or Greek Orthodox traditional fundamentalism? Were the Patristic writers fundamentalists? What about fundamentalism in engineering which keeps high rise flats in housing estates in place? What about the status of precedent in Law? Why is Barr so destructive? There are large areas for constructive debate. So far removed in time from the originating events of Christianity, can scholars actually know more than did Irenaeus or Athanasius?
How do you correlate a living experience of faith in Christ with the history of the church and the contents of the Bible if it has happened to you this way, existentially, individually in the late 20th century? Barr cannot explain the living phenomenon of faith. It is probably better to remind ourselves that Barr's targets are rather limited. He accepts that Luther and Calvin were open to the possibilities of textual problems in the Bible. He attacks particular modern closed-minded fundamentalists who seek to claim for the Bible historical and scientific authority as well as religious authority. How many of these people do we know? Yet he does go further. From that safe liberal harbour he then seeks to knock down the series of walls which protect the core of evangelical faith one by one and asks us all to admit of few certainties not only in relation to Scripture but in relation to faith as well.
He thinks easy and quick confrontation usually revolves around the issue of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Fundamentalists use this issue as a test of orthodoxy or the lack of it, he says. It is a test of whether someone believes in the pre-existence, divinity and incarnation of Jesus Christ as God. In fact, there are many evangelical Christians who would not want to argue about the Virgin Birth in a litmus test kind of way. Belief in the Virgin Birth may come long after a person has made an actual commitment to Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Barr discounts evangelical emphasis upon sin. He asks fundamentalists to accept that sin can pervade their own religiosity. He has a point here. One of the problems for Christians today is that we live in a post-Freudian world. I am not myself a Freudian and I think his theories bizarre and over-stated in many ways. I do, however accept that his perspective may be borne in mind when we consider truth in relation to ourselves. It is interesting, for example, that youthful enthusiasms for Jesus Christ often dissipate with the finding of the marriage partner. To love Christ in the absence of a marriage partner is a safe and a good and a noble thing to do. But it is perhaps wrong to attribute sainthood to every young person who does so, because he or she has not fully understood the drives and energies and indeed, the loving power of the soul-life of his or her nature.
Keenness and commitment and enthusiasm for the Lord can sometimes be substitutes for the expression of physical love (not necessarily in sexual terms). There is a case for more honesty and less evangelical absolutes, or at least, for being humble and brave enough to admit such an occasional possibility. It should also be admitted by Barr though that deprivation of human love has often accompanied the greatest spiritual lives and the living discoveries of the continuing love of God in human community.
If one looks at the progression towards spiritual maturity of Billy Graham one will recognise a tremendous change over the years. He once said that black men who raped women should be castrated. He used to think that Christianity and the United States of America were perfectly intertwined. He has eschewed these earlier excesses of opinion. John Stott has matured in thought and has for years been looking for reconciliation within the church of evangelical and liberal opinion and has been taking on board the necessity of considering social responsibilities as well as preaching eternal veracities.
Barr distances himself from absolute liberalism. He disagrees with Bultmann who said "An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable" (p. 236). He thinks many Biblical scholars who are involved in textual study do admit the possibility of miracles and of divine intervention in history. They do not, however, accept that the miraculous guarantees the credibility, accuracy and authority of the Bible in all its textual parts. The acceptance of miracles as such for Barr does not allow him to place Deutero-Isaiah in the 8th century BC or Daniel in the 6th century BC. He thinks that Bultmann confirmed in conservative minds the true nature of all Biblical criticism. This is, of course, quite wrong, bad generalisation and poor argument. F F Bruce is a case in point.
Barr does not approve of conservatives explaining away miracles. For example, the Red Sea Crossing may be explained by fortuitous winds. The common quail did migrate across the Red Sea in large numbers at the time. The miracle is in the timing not the actual event. Barr scorns this type of argument. He quotes Kitchen's analysis of the plagues featured before the Exodus (p. 241/2). He goes on to discuss the phenomenon of the star which led the wise men from the East to the birthplace of Jesus. The point for him is that conservative scholars try to harmonise the miracle with natural events, for example, the close proximity of Saturn and Jupiter in 7 BC, and in so doing, undermine the absolute case of the authority of Holy Scripture. He is, of course, by implication promoting the liberal view that it is legitimate to try to understand the Bible with all the tools of knowledge that modern life offers us. Barr's discussion about Jonah takes the severity of his abuse to its logical conclusion (p. 247).
When Barr goes on to discuss the status of Christian doctrine based on Biblical authority, he enjoys informing fundamentalists that the great 19th century scholar B. B. Warfield thought that "The verities of our faith would remain historically proven to us ... even had we no Bible" (p. 265). This, he says, suggests that the inspiration of the Bible is accidental rather than essential. He thinks the doctrine of inspiration has largely been created by fundamentalists. He contrasts it with Calvin's inner testimony of the Holy Spirit for example. He accepts that evangelicals base their Christian lives on Jesus as Lord first and then on Scripture, not the other way around.
Barr discusses the meaning of the phrase "as originally given" used by conservative evangelicals to describe the Bible as infallible and inspired. He thinks popular fundamentalism has no knowledge of the original texts at all. It is possible that there are some people who do not know that the New Testament was written in Aramaic and then in Greek but it really is insulting to most reasonably educated evangelicals to lay this kind of charge at them. But in general the argument allows for textual mistakes discovered by Biblical critical scholarship.
II Samuel 1:18 has David slaying 700 chariot fighters; I Chronicles 19:18 has the figure 7,000 for the same incident. I Samuel 17 says David killed Goliath but 11 Samuel 21:19 says Goliath was killed by Elhanan. Conservative evangelical works suggest that 11 Samuel 21:19 is wrong. Barr says fundamentalists cannot accept scholarly opinion saying that the Bible's historical inerrancy can only be understood when its textual corruptions are taken out. "As originally given" means before the mistakes of copiers and translators, or as God spoke rather than as human fallibilities received. The objective content could be maintained distinct from the human imprint of language and script. However, it is hard to make the division in the text to accommodate that process and argument. The substance of the faith is not affected by textual corruptions, say conservative scholars.
Barr turns to the discussion of the psychological states of fundamentalists. Some people argue that fear and insecurity lie at the heart of fundamentalism. People need to believe in some absolute thing to guarantee the faith they believe in but are not sure about it. There may come a time when their personal faith matures and they no longer need such an absolute. The Bible serves as an absolute for Protestants. The Pope in Roman dogma serves as an absolute for Roman Catholics. The Holy Spirit may serve as an absolute for charismatic Christians. The Person of Jesus Christ may serve as an absolute for evangelical non-fundamentalist Christians and for freethinking Roman Catholics and for many other practising Christians. Barr admits that many stable decent people are fundamentalists and that holding to the fundamentals does not necessarily imply a pathological state.
Barr does not however extol the virtues and values of fundamentalists. For example, many are and have been pacifists. During the last war a number of the Christian Brethren in this country refused enlistment in the armed forces. Many fundamentalists are devout prayerful peaceful citizens who obey the law and respect and love their neighbours. Many fundamentalists actively promote good works in their communities and societies. Many live simple humble lives, are faithful to their spouses and bring up their children with love and correction. Many negotiate the trials of life with patience and resilience. They are not by and large into alcohol and drugs in a big way. They earn their livings honestly. Like Jews they are not regularly found guilty of crimes. They support their churches generously and provide ministry for many others irrespective of their theological affiliations. They add much to the good of human society by constant prayers. They grow old with some degree of grace. They are not paragons of virtue and they are not saints. Many are robust and gifted people. They get a bad press and deserve a better one. Both the last Archbishop of Canterbury and the last Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (1991) issued grievously unbalanced public statements criticising fundamentalists.
Some of the great figures of history may be said to be fundamentalists. Jerome, Augustine, Knox, Melville, John Bunyan, John Newton, William Booth, Mother Theresa, Cliff Richard, to name a few. Indeed, the disrepute with which the term is coloured is precisely a 20th century phenomenon. The spiritual truth of the doctrines of fundamentalism should be judged by spiritual standards. Scientists object very much if and when non-scientists interject criticisms which threaten their theories and findings according to mathematic and physical calculations. Rightly so. But justice should be applied to fundamentalists. What they believe should be judged according to the tenets and principles of faith not according to scientific theories.
Who can tell whether there was or was not a virgin birth? Who can tell whether Christ will or will not come again in some recognisable form? Why is openness only allowed to world natural systems and not to transcendent spiritual truths? It is Barr who has the closed mind and the limiting vision. Fundamentalists do not all believe every word of the Bible to be inerrant. The proportion of people who do is very small indeed. Critics are too keen to tar everyone with the same large brush. The position of believing born-again Christians today is much more subtle than Barr allows.
Barr thinks that fundamentalists are anti-ecumenical. In fact, the largest interdenominational group in this country is that of evangelical Christians. Roman Catholic moral theology and evangelical moral theology are remarkably close on many things, including, for example, the moral problems of embryology research. In Edinburgh University, the largest interdenominational Christian student gathering is the Christian Union. Evangelicals have, since Barr's writings, become more powerful in churches.
Yes! The naiveties laughed at (p. 328) have existed in the past and may still exist here and there. It has to be admitted that people who pray a lot and do not indulge themselves in the options that our free society offers may begin to appear to be out of date, passe, wimpish, positively old fashioned and something of kill joys. The popular image of Christians is not really as it could or should be. But it is hard to communicate direct spiritual truths through the media of television, radio and newspapers. The resulting loss of understanding and the growth of wrong perceptions are crosses that Christians have to bear in this age. The belief that the opinions of people matter less than the inclinations of God, sustains Christians in times such as these we live in today.
Barr is right to say that conservative apologetics have little impact on Biblical scholarship. It is a pity that the essentially spiritual nature of the Bible is divorced from modern Biblical studies. Spirituality does not imply untruthfulness. It is just that the level of meaning in Biblical criticism is very superficial; it adds nothing to the religious or spiritual understanding of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The wonderful things in Christianity are the love of God, the incarnation, the saving Person of Christ, the eternal hope. Whatever else may be true or false these things matter more than the jots and tittles. If the latter become more important than the former a new godless pharisaism has arisen. It is a pity that it is thought that evangelical persuasions make people closed-minded. The opposite is the case. Liberals are always much more narrow and defensive. Why do evangelical academics have to leave Scotland to work in the United States? Because the universities here are dominated by liberal thinkers. The balance of academic posts given to evangelicals in Scotland does not reflect the presence, faithfulness, and power of the evangelical movement within the churches in Scotland, nor the history of Reformed Christian thought. It was the same in England where Michael Green was not allowed to lecture in Oxford in the late seventies and went off to the United States to seek his fortune there. Maurice Wiles and his public school cronies with their immature Billy Bunter scenario type theology held most of the posts in English universities at the time.
Why is it assumed that the natural progression must always be to doubt and not to faith? The Biblical progression is actually to a narrower way. Christ himself was constrained more and more until His death - the narrowest of possible options for a man of 33 years. Liberal conceits permeate all social thinking about spiritual truths and they deeply resent evangelical criticisms and exposures of the hypocrisies. Liberals are only liberal about their own dogmatism, not about other people's beliefs.
The Bible is of infinite value devotionally, spiritually, morally, doctrinally; it is of historical value also. It is of eternal value but we cannot prove that here and now. A more positive approach is required from Biblical scholars. The bitter harvest of 20th century Biblical studies has been the declension of the institutional churches and the social decay that has followed. The only growth visible is evangelical. Those who would spend their lives as critics of the Biblical text should firstly embark on a journey of spiritual seeking. They should find the spiritual vindication of the great claims of the Bible to be true and then their scholarship might be undertaken in a different spirit.
Barr thinks that evangelicalism is exclusive and hostile to other forms of Christian faith. He does not admit that the liberal consensus has for decades assumed authority in the churches far beyond its legitimate and numerical justification for doing so. Liberalism has not been open to evangelicalism and yet it has somehow managed, Pilate like, to appear to be disinterested while promoting its own partiality.
Barr thinks that the real problems of fundamentalism lies in its intellectual structure. He calls it "a highly self enclosing ideology" (p. 341). He thinks that ideological conquest of man replaces salvation of man as the desire and purpose of those concerned. He sees great contradictions however in the fact that conservative Biblical scholars often ignore the literal sense of the Bible, sometimes minimising miracles and the supernatural and admitting corruptions in the text. He also distinguishes between doctrinal and Biblical fundamentalism. The former admits the case presented by modern Biblical scholarship. He calls fundamentalism a sect, intellectually if not socially. He fears that fundamentalists want recognition both socially, ecclesiastically and in terms of conservative Biblical scholarship. He thinks evangelical alienation from scholarship is a consequence of the division created in the church by the precepts of fundamentalism.
For Barr, the liberal quest is a legitimate form of Christian obedience. He concludes with perhaps a reference (p. 344) to his struggles with Tom Torrance in Edinburgh some time ago. He does not mention the fact that the greater balance of persecution in Britain in the 20th century has been by liberals and against evangelicals and that the marginalisation of evangelicalism in academic circles has been because of a pro-active strategy of intolerance by illiberal liberals.
Barr probably rests with the relativities of New Age thought today. I would suggest that that extends outwith Christianity to all religions. I think that the intellectual quest is different from the spiritual quest. Barr seems to me to have journeyed far along the former but not far along the latter. He has in his life discovered nothing significantly true about Christianity. Indeed, he asks those who have to surrender their hard-worn faith to something intellectually acceptable, culturally specific and chronologically rooted in the passing values of the 20th century. I suspect that Christian Faith will travel much further in the next 200, 300 or 500 years.
THE ETHICAL BASIS OF HUMAN EXISTENCE
A paper given annually as part of the Biology, Origins and Ethics Course
in the Faculty of Science at King's Buildings
The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804) thought that there were four areas of human experience which required consideration. He suggested four questions.
1) What can I know? - the discipline of metaphysics
2) What should I do? - the discipline of ethics
3) What may I hope? - the territory of religion
4) What is man? - the discipline of anthropology
We might want to add another:
5) What is the natural order? - the discipline of science.
That general heading would have to be sub-divided into the many different fields of scientific enquiry represented at Edinburgh University, chemistry, physics and biology being among them.
The word "ethics" comes from the Greek "ethikos", ("ethos") which meant character or manners. From 1581 the word denoted morals and the treating of moral questions - moral science. It developed to mean a moral system and the rules of conduct of society. By 1690 it had grown to mean the science of human duty including civil, political and international law. Ethics is the name for the collective value system of a society or of groups within society. It is secular in intention and is distinct from the canon (Greek - rule) law of the Church. There are Christian ethics, but there are also, for example, Islamic ethics, humanist ethics, medical ethics, ethics of dining, ethics of dating, of golf , environmental ethics and there are ethics for, in and of the study of biology.
"The Ethical Basis of Human Existence" is a heavy title! I ask you to consider that the dimension of ethics or morality is not something to be ignored in the study of biology or of science in general. It is not something to be added as an after thought - to assuage a guilty conscience. I will try to demonstrate to you that all life is ethical in nature and that any suggestion otherwise may be considered to be distant from, and a minority report in relation to the commonly held beliefs and values of human consciousness throughout the ages.
It is possible to make the case that at the present time in the Western world, under the influence of secularism and of the scientific consensus, the moral dimension is not necessarily included and the study of objects continues without having a larger view of the meaning and purpose of the enterprises themselves or of life in general. On the other hand, there are vociferous claimants perpetually reminding us of the need to remember ethics in our scientific studies and experiments. "Pro-Life" for example, oppose abortion and embryo experimentation; anti-vivisectionists oppose experiments with animals and the growing environmental lobby opposes nuclear experimentation, motor cars, refrigerators and much else. My approach is phenomenological and introductory.
Our understanding is shaped by Judaeo-Christian history. Let us look briefly at the Old Testament, particularly Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The time is roughly 1200 - 1300 BC. People at that time understood that ethics were at the root of all existence. In Exodus 21:2 we read about rules for the treatment of slaves; a Hebrew slave was to be set free after 7 years without cost; this was based on an inherent sense of natural justice. Leviticus 18:1f forbids incest and bestiality. We know that today incest is actually practised more commonly than has been thought, perhaps because people have lost contact with inherited value systems. Leviticus 19:32 advises this, "Show respect for old people and honour them". We have recently read reports about cases of the rape of an 80 year old woman. Deuteronomy 22:1f offers rules for the humane treatment of animals. It also advises that "Women are not to wear men's clothing and men are not to wear women's clothing"! The ancients were more concerned with ecology than we have been. Leviticus 25:1f teaches that fields are to be left fallow every 7th year. Every 50th year is to be the Year of the Jubilee; slaves are to be freed, property is to be restored to its original owners or their descendants, no sowing or harvesting is to take place, the year is to be sacred, even the price of a house is to be determined by the length of its leasehold. When laws were broken, expiation and atonement were made possible through the sacrificial system in contrast to today's secularism in which wrongs are not atoned for.
Ancient Greek philosophers tried to understand the world without the personal divine revelation of Jewish tradition. Ethical principles were at the basis of every theory of rudimentary science. Early Orphic philosophy held that man was divine and was only fulfilled in the next life. Philosophers who followed evolved maxims like "Know thyself", "Nothing in excess", and "Occupy thyself with serious things", as clues and keys to the meaning and purpose of all human existence. God was nearly always included although this was an abstract rather than a personal concept as in Judaism. Pythagoras, the founder of mathematics in the sense of demonstrative deductive argument, was also a failed religious leader. Not content with his mathematical investigations, he created a religious system with ethical rules at its root. It must be said that this was not exactly a success and it is not hard to understand why. Here, briefly, is the framework of his religious system. 1) Do not eat beans. 2) Do not pick up what was fallen. 3) Do not touch a white cock. 4) Do not break bread. 5) Do not step over a crossbar. 6) Do not stir the fire with iron. 7) Do not eat from a whole loaf . 8) Do not pluck a garland. 9) Do not sit on a quart measure. 10) Do not eat the heart. 11) Do not walk on highways. 12) Do not let swallows share one's roof . 13) Do not leave the mark of the pot in the ashes of a fire. 14) Do not look in a mirror beside a light. 15) Smooth out the sheets on your bed after you have risen. (8. Russell, History of Western Philosophy). It did not catch on! Scientists then as today can be intellectual giants and spiritual dwarfs in the same person.
The great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, both accepted that life is ethically based. Plato understood metaphysics as the science devoted to the investigation of first causes, of Being as such, the eternal, incorporeal, God who is also the Good. This was regarded as the most valuable and comprehensive of all the sciences. This idea has reappeared in the work of Professor T.F. Torrance who argues that theology is a science since it seeks to lay bare and to test the logical basis of the knowledge of God in close dialogue with special sciences and with modern philosophy. Aristotle's scientific method was by observation - a method superseded in the Middle Ages by experiment and proof . The study material of physics was matter, moved and corporeal. Metaphysics - after physics - dealt with the eternal, imperishable nature of the universe. He held that man was by nature moral; virtues are founded in natural capacities guided by wisdom; he advocated moderation in all things. Different ethical schools developed in later generations, among them Stoics and Epicureans. If we proceed with scientific investigation without regard to ethics - not as an after thought or alternative value system - but as the basis and stuf f of life - we fly in the face of the ancients whose spiritual and intellectual contribution has shaped our own understanding and society. There are other religious systems and I want to spend a few minutes highlighting their contribution in this area of debate. So we will look briefly at Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and African Traditional Religion for some of their ethical ideas.
Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, African Traditional Religion
The influence of eastern religion has grown in western society in the last 30 years. It was popularised in the 1960's by the Beatles and by the addiction of rich Americans to gurus. Many of the "New Age" - or "Yuppie Religion" ideas come from the east in supposed contrast to the inherited materialism of much of 20th century western culture. Hinduism originally was not concerned with the events of history; religious experience and the receipt of revelations were held to be ends in themselves. In the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC India was polytheistic and pantheistic. Invading Nordics set up the "caste system". The word "Aryan" means "Noble". Attempts to alter employment laws in relation to the caste system caused the resignation of the Prime Minister of India some years ago. Ethical principles found in Hinduism are "ahimsa" or "non violence" and "metta" or "good will". Ahimsa was an element in the political struggle of Ghandi for the independence of India. Christian non-violence, rooted in the teaching of Jesus was basic to the civil rights struggle of Martin Luther King in America. Karma samsara is the ethical system within the world-view found in the Upanishads, which are Hindu scriptures. Karma is retributive justice and samsara is the chain of reincarnation. Yoga also has an ethical dimension in attempting to release the mind from the entanglements of human social and personal life. Jainism was founded about 569 BC by Vardhamana. It advocated complete non-violence towards all living creatures - even to the bugs in your clothes.
Buddhism's founder was Gotama, born in 560 BC. It was a reform movement within Hinduism; he was a kind of eastern John Wesley. Buddhism teaches world and life negation and offers a technique of detachment called The Noble Eight fold Path. Life is ethically based. Extreme asceticism is harmful. Compassion towards all living things is advocated and little importance is given to the individual ego. The founder of Islam, Mohammad, was born in 570 AD. His religious experience belongs with that of Judaism and Christianity and has an historical and purposive dimension. The Five Pillars of Islam are, briefly, Kalima - The Creed, Salat - praying, fasting, Zakat - almsgiving and Hajj - pilgrimage. Jihad or holy war has figured prominently in the context of Middle East crises. Ethics are essential and basic to Islam. Lastly let us not forget the traditional religions of people like the American Indians and of Africa. There were highly ethical in character long before they had contact with European colonisers. Among the Meru of Kenya, for example, if a young man and woman were found to be having sexual relations before marriage, they were punished severely. The couple were taken to the village square and everyone was called out to witness events. They were stripped naked and the girl was laid on her back. The man was placed on top of her, and his penis was put into her vagina. Then a long sharp wooden or metal stake was driven through the back of the man's neck, through the front of the woman's neck and into the ground. You can think about that on your date tomorrow evening!
A Brief History Of Scepticism
I have tried to make a case for the ethical basis of human existence. Why should this be necessary? Western society has such a strong tradition of scepticism, secularism, agnosticism, atheism, amorality and non-ethical value systems, coincident with and concurrent with the progenitors of its ethics which, as I have said, are Judaeo-Christian, Greek and to some extent Latin in origin. Why has this been so? There was a strand of ancient Greek thought which was humanistic. A group called "sophists" held that man can know things only as they are related to his faculties of knowledge. They had a maxim, "Man is the measure of the universe". They did not offer any principle with which to unite all human intelligence. The great Christian thinkers Augustine in the 4th century AD, who, incidentally was an evolutionist as far as creation is concerned, and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century AD, offered a metaphysical and theological system of explanation for the world, for its moral basis and for its Creator, God. After Aquinas, William of Ockham debunked the grand metaphysical abstractions. The Renaissance followed and man turned away from God to consider bimself and that process of self -absorption has been going on ever since. The ancient understanding of life with its ecological dependencies and its sacrificial mediations, which were often related to nature and to the meteorological elements was abandoned. Thinkers like Descartes took intellectualism to its logical conclusion, declaring the superiority of the mind over the senses.
In Edinburgh University it is essential to mention David Hume, the man who built the tower! He was the ultimate sceptic rejecting Christianity and everything else. He denied any necessary connection between cause and effect and believed that life was a series of impressions unrelated to one another. The "I" -that is you and me, was for him, "a bundle ... of dif ferent perceptions, which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement". This was the intellectual crucible in which specialised science studies found life. Western society has for a long time objectified or "thingified" its activities, observations and relationships. The nuclear bomb is the ultimate empirical example of this. It is a definition of non-morality. The fact that it is abhorred proves that there is an ethical basis to life. Much secularism however was inspired by the social and political philosophy of Karl Marx. His own life was a mixture of genius, persecution, continual drunkenness, adultery and massive personal debt. His political ethic was based on the maxim "the end justifies the means" and that ethic formed the character of communism in the 20th century with disastrous results which thankfully are now being acknowledged and abandoned. Marx rejected Kant's view that morality is demanded by the rational nature of man. For Kant the basis of morality was universalisability i.e., do only what you want others to do. The German philosopher Nietzsche died in 1900. He rejected Christianity and the ethics of classicism. His maxim was "Man is made for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior. All else is folly". This was the amoral philosophical root of Naziism in which it found full expression.
Thus trends of humanism, objectivisation, scepticism, and of amorality provided the background in which 19th century evolutionary, geological, palaeotological and anthropological studies took place. Metaphysics, faith in religious insight and belief and morality began to be sidelined. Science then took over the imagination and the verification procedures on behalf of western civilisation. The scientific consensus to this day is popularly perceived to be the antithesis of the metaphysical, the incorporeal, the spiritual, the theological and sadly, the ethical. In the nineteen-sixties there was an actual personal and social abandonment of inherited moral custom -the so-called sexual revolution. "All you need is love" was the theme of the era. The pop songs suggested "If her daddy is rich take her out for a meal; if her daddy is poor just do what you feel". Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds described drug induced hallucinatory experience. But after 20 years that behaviour which defied the ethical basis of all of human history reaped a harvest of grief , pain and suffering which is before us in terms of AIDS, single parent families, multiple divorce, abortion, child abuse and much else. That is why it has been necessary for the Warnock Commission, for example, to recommend specific guidelines for the handling of embryo research.
New frontiers of experimentation are being explored in which moral principles may be entirely left behind, if they are not associated with institutional law, so to limit the freedom of scientists to simply do anything they want. Not everyone agrees that there should be any moral or legal restraints on research. Those who participated in the socially amoral nineteen-sixties are now in positions of influence and authority in all walks of life, including scientific research. Minorities are therefore organising in order to remind people that life is basically ethical and no-one can avoid the moral consequences of their behaviour, whether it is personal or scientific. The philosophical framework in which universities are being asked to operate is utilitarian i.e., to do what benefits the greatest number of people i.e., work hard and get a job that will contribute to the economy of the nation. Taking the broad sweep of history at the present time, there is a real possibility of continuing war and struggle in the MiddleEast. Each side in any war seeks moral justification for its actions and invokes metaphysical and religious language. Whenever humans want to do something important they require to offer a moral reason for their conduct. Kant may have been right. We are made that way. We are moral creatures by nature. Clearly however we do not live up to our moral conscience or else the world would be a better place.
Right and Wrong
Ethics is about what is right and wrong, what we should or should not do. The debate takes place in every individual's life, every day, countless times a day. Sometimes major decisions are involved, say, for a teenager who becomes pregnant outside marriage. Should she have an abortion? Major decisions are made by people with responsibility for others. Governments make laws to regulate social life. Environmentalists advise us to take measures to save the planet from serious degeneration and to save species from extinction. Scientists cannot pretend that their work is not bound either by moral law or principle. The ancient creation story in the first chapters of the Bible issues a clear warning, "From every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat". The point is that if we take to ourselves the decision about what is right and wrong without reference to permanent metaphysical, spiritual and moral values on which life is based and which exist for our protection, we embark on a journey of self -destruction. It does seem that in terms of nuclear capability for warfare, in terms of the exploitation of earth's resources, in terms of the chaotic nature of personal, family and social relationships, and in terms of our selfishness and relentless pursuit of knowledge without contemplating consequences, we are doing ourselves and those who follow us no favours. Human existence is ethical and we simply must apply our highest ethical insights to all the aspects of scientific enquiry.
We are living in the so-called "New Age". This is in part a reaction against the materialism of recent decades and a rejection of institutionalised Christianity more particularly. "New Age" ethics are however deeply suspect; because there are no fixed rules or standards. You do what seems right for you "within your comfort zone" as the jargon has it. You are divine for as in pantheism God is identified with each and all of us here and everywhere. God is not an objective presence over and against Creation as in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. "New Age" science has not yet appeared although it is true that physics gets to a point where it seems to be studying building blocks of matter so infinitesimal that they are almost incorporeal, thus returning to some extent to the original perceptions of the early philosophers and metaphysical theorists. The absence of collective law is a serious problem. Jesus of Nazareth taught the spiritual basis of ethics which goes beyond rules to a realisation of love; do not be angry, do not take anyone to court, do not commit adultery, do not get divorced, do not take revenge, do not broadcast your faith and piety for ef fect, do not trust in material things, do not worry about food or drink or money, seek higher spiritual things, seek God. Science has to a large extent seemed to have departed from this inherited wisdom. But we have more ethical problems connected with science than ever. The ethical basis of human existences something which scientific enquiry cannot continue to ignore.
Ethics is the study of moral codes and practices which are prevalent in every human culture and society. Judaism was ecologically aware from its origins and related breaches in the moral law to a sacrificial system of expiation and atonement. Greek philosophy always included ethics in its analysis of reality, both material and non-material. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and African Traditional Religion have specific moral codes, basic to their world-views and understanding of human existence. Western societies' ethics were based on Judaism and Christianity but there was also a long tradition of scepticism and this has proved to be the context in which much scientific enquiry takes place today. Ethics is concerned with what is right and wrong; applied to life sciences, it means we have to decide about issues like the environment, animal rights, embryo research, abortion, population control etc. "New Age" ethical relativism characterises our society but
the teaching of Jesus offers us a permanent understanding of spiritual ecology and that must apply to scientific research theory and practice.
F.R. Barry, Christian Ethics and Secular Society, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1966
J. Dominion & H. Montifiore, God Sex and Love, SCM, London 1989.
M. Lockwood (Ed), Moral Dilemmas In Modern Medicine, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1985.
B. Russell, The History of Western Philosophy. George Allen & Unwin, London 1971.
H. Taylor, The Delusion Of Unbelief In A Scientific Age, Handsel Press, Edinburgh 1987
The Bible, RAV, Samuel Bagster, London 1982
CHRISTIANITY, CELIBACY AND SEXUALITY
A paper given to the Lesbian and Gay Society in 1990
I want to begin and end at Calvary. Calvary defines marginality and I meet you as a marginalised creature. The position of Chaplain to the University is not one of great influence or power. Perhaps you yourselves feel marginalised by and in society. I do too. I am a kind of solitary representative Christian in a largely secular institution, a Scot among so many English people, albeit that this is our capital city, supposed to be, a Presbyterian at a time when Presbyterianism has lost much direction and respect, an evangelical in a liberal culture and a single minister, part of the Protestant tradition in which marriage is the norm and expectation.
I want to begin at Calvary for deeper reasons too. St Luke's Gospel, chapter 23: 32-33 and 39-43 tells us that two criminals were crucified alongside Jesus. All three suffered the most cruel public dying. Each of the two criminals voiced different attitudes to their common misfortune. One abused Jesus, "If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us". The other man said, "Don't you fear God ... this man has done nothing wrong ... Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom". To the latter, Jesus replied, "Assuredly, today you will be with me in paradise". The former attitude was self -justifying, complaining and irreverent. The latter was confessional and repenting.
The form of this paper is a correlation of the classical and the modern, the deductive and the inductive, the idealistic and the empirical, the revelatory and the existential. We do require, however, to remind ourselves of the inheritance of faith within which we stand.
The Bible is not obsessed with sexual matters. Most of the Bible is about all sorts of other things. It is, in effect, the record of how a particular people experienced God and how they responded to God. The Old Testament spans a period of about 2,000 years. Initially there was an acceptance of polygamy but about 700 - 800 BC prophetic criticism appeared and political confusion was blamed on polygamous marriage. Adultery was prohibited in the Decalogue a3xodus 20:14). Rape was prohibited as was sexual intercourse before marriage (Exodus 22:16). Homosexuality was condemned (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13) as was bestiality (Leviticus 18:23). Some argue that since we do not keep the Holiness Code rules about eating steak and wearing mixed fabrics, we should not be bound by the laws on homosexuality. Jesus' own teaching transcended the minutiae of the Law not abandoning it but fulfilling it. Instead of "Do not commit adultery", he taught "Do not think about committing adultery". He did abrogate dietary laws distinguishing between harmless activity and harmful activity, as did St Paul. Jesus' reasons for so doing are recorded in Mark 7:18-23. What defiles is not food but internal intentions, evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Judaism tended to associate misfortune with personal and collective sinfulness. Sexual sinfulness was often a metaphor of the prior sinfulness of apostasy, idolatry, lack of trust in the redeeming Lord, faithlessness, inconstancy of purpose, injustice and oppression, all of which were regarded as the real causes of Israel's political and social problems.
Judaism represented an exceptionally clean and moral lifestyle in the Middle East in the two millennia before Christ. Judaism is The Law, "Torah", the revealed moral will of God for God's own people. It owes its binding authority to its revelatory origins which still hold for Ortbodox Jews, Christians and Muslims to this day. Judaism's identity was always an ethical identity. That calling was greater than Zionism which is the attempt to alter lsrael's calling and witness to political absolutism, even in our own time. There is a direct connection between the maintenance of the Law and survival as a distinct entity in human society and international affairs. The calling is as a light to nations rather than as a political unit although it could be argued that affairs in the Middle and Near East today don't reflect that perception. The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth upholds The Torah today.
The New Testament accepts the entire moral basis of the Old Testament. If the identity and calling of Judaism is ethical then the identity and calling of Christianity is spiritual. When Christianity attempts to arrogate to itself as an institution the power and politics and wealth of nations, it becomes corrupt and this has been the case too often throughout Christian history. Christianity's vocation is to be a witness to Jesus Christ as he was to Almighty God, to eternal life, salvation and friendship between human beings and their Maker.
The Church has often lost that vision of its calling just as Judaism often lost its vision of its calling. Judaism had gone so far away from its original purpose that it was instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus. Christianity in Europe today is not a powerful instrument of spiritual renewal and transcendent vision. It has failed recent generations through lack of piety and devotion, intellectual opportunism, complacency, self-indulgence and abandonment of the moral undergirding which spiritual witness requires. The New Testament does not have a lot to say about sexuality. It is basically concerned with eschatology, the last things or life after death. The New Testament is really about the resurrection of Jesus and that particular indication of divine providence over human finitude. Both Old and New Testaments af firm that creation was originally good. In Christ it is recreated good. Hebrews were sensual people and not ascetic or world-renouncing. Sexuality as the means of procreation was not considered bad in itself. The sin of the Fall was not sexuality but pride. Thereafter a sinful element has occurred in all of human life and activity and sexuality has not been absolved. For Jesus the inner state is more important than the outward act. The moral basis is however assumed. Jesus did not talk about the sexual desires of married people. His reaction to the woman taken in adultery was to tell her accusers to exact no retributive punishment and to tell the woman herself not to continue in her adultery. That does not mean that the prostitute or her clients were rendered immune from venereal disease as the natural consequence of their behaviour. Immorality springs from wrong intention in Jesus' teaching. The demands of the Kingdom and loyalty to Jesus take precedence over all other loyalties.
St Paul is one of those people in history who have had a bad press! His attitude to sexuality was Hebraic and not Hellenistic. He recommended celibacy not as spiritual excellence but for apocalyptic reasons. He believed everyone was living on borrowed time and that the world was coming to an end very soon. Gnostic religion considered the body evil and sexuality the lowest expression of life. It offered ascetic and contemplative techniques to overcome the bondage of sexuality and free the spirit for entrance into higher spiritual planes after death. In Romans chapter 1, Paul lists moral evils which he considers antithetical to God's will. The passage seems to include the following points:
God is recognisable in the created order and should be reverenced by everyone; some humans do not acknowledge God; God withdrew from these people and their moral consciences were altered for the worse as a result; they did not know right from wrong; homosexuality was an example of this; thereafter a complete breakdown of the human character followed with spiritual problems, insecurity, suspicion, jealousies and capriciousness infecting all activity and society. He talks of men burning in their lust for one another and this language bears similarities to the description of homosexual encounter given by Martin Hallett in his book "I Am Learning To Love".
"My lifestyle could be compared to some extent with the heterosexual playboy, enjoying an active social life, but always on the lookout for an attractive appearance, so that I would be a "good catch" for someone ... The desire to be attractive can become all consuming, a form of self idolatry. A need to feel that “I am beautiful and can therefore accept myself easily leads to narcissism. It has been said that in all homosexual love there is an element of narcissistic feelings ... the homosexual loves the person who is either like himself or else seems to be the man he would like to be”.1
Homosexual practice does not exist without eros and it is the erotic element which is the expression of the loss of the image of God. There is an interesting incident recorded in 1 Corinthians 5:1ff concerning incest between a man and his father's wife. Paul says "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (v 5). The man is to be excommunicated and suffer physical decay and possible death but if he repents he will not lose eternal life.
St Paul's thought formed the basis of the developing moral theology of the Patristic period. Christianity did not become like Gnosticism. Celibacy gained in prestige and became a permanent expression of Christian calling. Jesus, after all, was celibate. St Paul urged celibacy. Athanasius encouraged virginity. John Chrysostom thought virginity greatly superior to marriage. Tertullian thought sex within marriage was sinful. The Catholic Church however kept a balance between marriage and celibacy although it was not considered possible to go very far in the Church hierarchy without being celibate. Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, Tertullian, and Origen all followed Paul in not accepting homosexual conduct, male or female as within the will of God.
Augustine renounced the flesh to follow Jesus Christ. No-one could claim to be a serious Christian and live an immoral life. His thought has been very influential throughout the history of western Christendom. Some would say that it has had a catastrophic effect on the psyche of the western world. Alternative ethics today attempt to overthrow the great man's views on sexuality which are still implicit and pervasive in our society. Augustine held that before the Fall, the human will was rational. After the Fall the human will became subject to lust and desire and was no longer controllable by reason. At orgasm the mind and will are overtaken. He knew what he was talking about and spoke from practical experience. His term for this consumption by desire was "concupiscence". Jesus was born without sex. The Old Covenant commanded marriage but the new Covenant was concerned with spiritual rebirth. Celibacy was a blessed state but there should be no spiritual pride over married Christians. "God seeks not the subjugation of the body by the mind, a sterile and moralistic wrestling with wrong desires".2 This did not mean that he advocated licence in sexual matters. He was not permissive. Marriage was not evil or a sin, he said. Celibate marriage was most pleasing to God. a think that it is possible that celibate marriage is much more common today than we might suppose). Marriage was medicine for immorality. Neither Paul nor Augustine restricted sexual intercourse to procreation alone. Both recognised it as the act of the union to one flesh - a description of human love. Sex for pleasure within marriage was venial (to be overlooked). Birth control, abortion and sex outside marriage were, however, mortal sins i.e., putting the destiny of the soul in danger. To sum up Augustine's sexual hierarchy it is thus: 1) celibacy 2) celibate marriage 3) procreative marital sexuality 4) marital sex for pleasure is a venial sin and 5) all else is wrong. Homosexual practice was condemned as being ‘contra naturam’ (Confessions 3:8:15). It is clear that Christianity was morally distinct from Hellenism and the Roman Empire and spiritually distinct from the religion which underpinned the ancient world.
He noted that unlike animals men and women are together all the time not just for a mating season. Sex, he thought, interferes with a placid life (Aristotelian observation rather than argument from experience!). He denied that all pleasure is evil. Virginity is the greater good. Marriage is good for the body and the means of propagation of the race. If a ravished virgin should experience pleasure in the sexual act, she remains a virgin in God's sight provided that tbe pleasure arose involuntarily without the consent of her will. This is the sort of talk that gets Christianity a bad name. It weakens the right of the celibate to speak with authority even although Aquinas is still f„c authority for Roman Catholicism. He did not think that everyone was required to procreate. Some are called to the spiritual good of others and this requires celibacy. A married person could be better than a virgin whose internal attitude was not wholesome. Sex within marriage without lust is not a sin but with lust it is a sin. He does not define lust. Fornication is a mortal sin as is homosexual practice, bestiality, oral sex and masturbation. He taught that a woman must yield to her husband even during menstruation since if she did not this might cause him to seek relief elsewhere thus committing mortal sin, (opposing Leviticus 18:19). Intercourse after betrothal constituted marriage which is an indelible sacrament (saving ordinance) and therefore indissoluble.
Luther spent the first half of his life trying to justify himself to God and the second half enjoying personal freedom through Grace. The real sin he thought was to introduce false absolutes into human history. Sex is a fact of life. Celibacy is not higher than marriage. Woman is not inferior to man. It is the right and duty of all (including himself) but a select few to marry and have children. Marriage is not a sin, but it is not a sacrament for there is no divine promise. No-one is free from lust. The power of the libidinal drive is too great; this is the bondage of the will. Sexual intercourse before marriage is not lawful. One act of intercourse does not make a marriage. Celibacy is impossible. Most priests at the time had common law wives and families. A few could remain virginal for the Kingdom's sake. Marital coitus is the remedy for fornication. Marriage for passion is doomed to disappointment. Disgust quickly follows the satiating of the appetites. He thought remarriage permissible in cases of adultery, unbelief and desertion. A frigid wife was a disaster; "If the wife refuses, let the maid come". 3 Male impotence prevented true marriage. He permitted bigamy on Biblical grounds in the single case of Philip of Hesse. Whatever was not specifically prohibited by Scripture was optional for Christians. Each person must make his own decision. Luther was the forerunner of Freud in stressing the unavoidability of sexual instinct.
Calvin taught justification by faith and not salvation by merit following Luther, but emphasised the absolute sovereignty of God and the necessity for obedience. Luther was the heart of the Reformation, Calvin its mind. The moral law is a directive for those who love God Grace, then response, then moral law. Sex and marriage are facts of creation. Marriage is companionship and sex is secondary. Woman is not a safety valve for the male libido. Chaste and holy wedlock is God's will. Fornication and adultery destroy the person. Intercourse in marriage is pure, honourable and holy. Two extremes are wrong, celibacy and self -justifying indulgence. Resistance to instinct for marriage is wrong. "Where there is burning, no love of God can exist". 4 To burn is to boil with lust. There are three types of burning: 1) powerful impetuous lust 2) darts of the flesh overcome by prayer 3) sexual impulses preventing prayer. Someone who is free from burning or can put the thoughts away with God's help is exempt from marriage. Both Luther and Calvin dwelt on the sorrows and disciplines of marriage as good for the soul. All other sex is irresponsible and an expression of fleeing from redemption. Homosexuality was condemned. Celibacy was non-existent, he said, most priests visit brothels. A chaste mind is what matters. Anyone with sexual thoughts should marry. Moderation and modesty mattered in marriage, suggesting fear of pleasure: "Don't enjoy yourself too much!".
Calvin thought that the Law nowhere forbids simple fornication but he thought that the 7th Commandment, "Do not commit adultery" included all other forms of
sexual vice. He condemned any sexual act outside marriage. Adultery was worse than fornication. He said that Jesus was not a civil magistrate concerned with public order. For Calvin, homosexual practice was a heinous crime. Marriage was not a sacrament but a lifelong union. He advocated marriage for Roman Catholic priests. He prohibited wife-beating in Geneva. He had a higher view of marriage and of sex within marriage than Luther but was probably prudish and perhaps puritanical. Luther and Calvin however both liberated men and women from the thraldom of thinking celibacy a superior state which made other Christians into second class citizens in the Church. Both reacted to a corrupt ecclesiastical situation but may not have overstated the undeniability of sexuality and this is something with which 20th century psychologists would agree. Calvin made no connection between celibacy and creativity and was concerned with Church order rather than artistic expression. Likewise, neither Luther nor Calvin thought of a sexual condition as a genetically ordered state but considered all sexual instinct to be evidence of the fallen state of human life redeemable in Christ, controllable only within marriage.
Contemporary Pre-AIDS Thought
According to Roman Catholic teaching chaos and disorder in the sexual realm are inevitable once Christianity has been rejected and repudiated. That, I would contend, has been proved true before our own eyes with respect to divorce rates, child abuse, promiscuity and AIDS. Fulton Sheen thought that Freud was responsible for separating sex from the rest of the person. Catholic teaching still tries to communicate that hunger and thirst for God is important and that self-denial is a vi.a crz/cj.£ for each human being. Birth control and divorce are still condemned and sexual intercourse within marriage must be open to the possibility of life.
Protestant thought is diffuse. Helmut Thielicke thought that innate homosexuality was extremely rare. Logically, innate homosexuals would die out since they do not reproduce themselves. He thought that homosexuality was physical excitement rather than sexual encounter - a theory perhaps supported by the scale of promiscuity involved in homosexual activity. He also noted that many homosexuals are valuable members of society. His position was that homosexual relationship is not a Christian form of encounter. Barth also rejected idealisation and sacralisation of homosexuality. From a tbeological point of view Thielicke thought sublimation was the proper pastoral method of care and of help.
Thielicke thought that the homosexual must be willing to be treated. Celibacy is not an argument since it is based on special calling and free will. Protestants cannot ignore Scripture. Jesus was compassionate towards the sins of the flesh. The order of creation and the greater determination of the two sexes make it appear justifiable to speak of homosexuality as abnormal. Leslie Weatherhead expressed awareness of what is called sexual enlightenment. C.S. Lewis noted that food and sex were appetites which should not be indulged without restraint. Woody Allen thinks that it would be better to eat once a week and have sex three times a day! Modern psychologists corroborate from the point of view of secular personalism what the classical Christian thinkers considered proper from a moral and salvific point of view. They all agree that sex has a profound and abiding effect on our personalities. Weatherhead took a positive view of birth control. Today there are serious evidences connecting some forms of cancer with birth control methods. Catholic moral theology is justified by such findings. Protestantism does not say that procreation is the primary purpose of sex. Weatherhead also noted what I would call "secular celibacy", "Great numbers of men and women, including Jesus Himself have lived without direct sexual expression without developing serious emotional disturbance". 5 Homosexuality is an aberration. Divorce is not absolutely forbidden but those who endure redeem through love more than those who escape. Otto Piper stressed the carnal knowledge aspect of sexual encounter. It gives inner knowledge of the other person. Sex, however, is not indispensable to a full life. It can be disciplined to a higher purpose, the service of God and the neighbour. Religious orders do not suffer from sexual repression. In the secular world it causes chaos and nervous disorders. Marriage vows have a penitential significance for those with previous sexual experience. Emil Brunner thought tbat fidelity was the real bond of marriage. Marriage tempers the libido. Reinhold Niebuhr broke with classicism and thought that modern attitudes were better than the negativism of the Church. He recognised that now Christian standards were held to be arbitrary rather than binding. He noted too that sex does not corrupt the animal kingdom as it does the entire personality in humans. To summarise, the Roman Catholic position is still coherent and absolute. Protestantism uses the Bible in correlation with personal liberty.
Liberalism reached its nadir in the sixties and seventies. The nuclear family became despised and normality was redefined. Western civilisation began to rot from within. In human evolutionary terms western life was becoming like a large scale replica of the decline of the Roman Empire. There was no will to regenerate and no vision to inspire. The Churches lost power, presence and influence. Society itself began to break up. Individualism in its political, economic and moral dimensions ruled popular consciousness. Then came AIDS.
The Current Scene
If neither Biblical authority nor the authority of the Church are respected then human beings must find their way through life unaided by objective moral and spiritual standards. If they do so successfully and the age is typified by exemplary personal living, familial harmony and societal peace then credence would have to be given to the new order over the old. I contend that the opposite is in fact the case. Personal standards of behaviour today are not exemplary, familial harmony is less in evidence than before; two-thirds of marriages in the United States fail and almost one half in the United Kingdom. Child abuse is coming to our attention in an undreamed-of way; and, of course, the apocalyptic phenomenon of AIDS has ended the morally anarchic promiscuous party that began in the sixties. From an empirical point of view then, we are not in a position to say that our new morality is better tban the old; on the contrary it seems to be risky, dangerous, harmful and destructive of human happiness. If we work our way back to the teachings of Christianity and of the Bible we find that there is a way out of this present situation back to better things for ourselves. From an evangelical point of view, finding spiritual peace in a relationship with God our Maker, Friend and Redeemer, made possible in Jesus Christ is the beginning of a process of redemption which can work back through society to reclaim the lost and the fallen and the children of the lost and fallen.
The desire for liberty and the demand for rectitude in public life in this country today reflects the schizophrenic of sexual misdemeanour.
1) sexual abuse of children
2) rape of the sexually inexperienced (male-female, female-male, male-male and female-female)
3) rape of the sexually experienced (male-female, female-male, male-male and female-female)
5) homosexual promiscuity
6) heterosexual promiscuity
7) homosexual and lesbian practice
8) sexual intercourse outside marriage
9) safe sex outside marriage
10) solitary sex
All of these spring from the inner state of the human being, activated by wrong desire and then objectivised into an alternative philosophy of life. The latter is more important than the former since it is the expression of Pride which was the cause of the Fall in Christian thought. This, in turn is an expression of the abandonment by God of those who wilfully turn away from His prevenient love and Grace. If spiritual seeking and the destiny of the soul are irrelevant in our values and conduct we are blinded as to what is right in God's sight and good for ourselves. In our secularised, mechanised, materialistic and technological society such spiritual values have been reduced in importance. Except when people are dying, then they want to hang on to anything and everything that might help them cross the great divide. It is basic to condition of public life. Perhaps the slogan of our age is "Sex is recreation". Sex is thought to be a necessary and important aspect of life. Disabled people and the elderly are entitled to participate in sexual expression. The age at which young people begin sexual experimentation is becoming lower. Lesbian and Gay Societies demand the right to their particular forms of sexual expression. The situation allows those who claim that traditional Christian morality has nothing to do with any age but is a permanent and eternal aspect of personal life and of spiritual destiny to restate their case with credence. There is a middle way of social tolerance advocated by many educated liberal people. It is accompanied by a prudential principle of morality (safe sex), rather than an objective morality relating to and from God. Pastoral concern operates on two levels; the level of personal care for the suffering which is a Christian obligation and the attempt to bring the struggle to an end which demands negotiation of the principles of human conduct that are to apply on the macro-social level. Objectivisation of the alternative morality (which, of course, is very old indeed) into a philosophy and a theology is a declaration of war on those objectively revealed doctrines which are basic to Judaism and to Christianity. The very natures of the Old Testament Covenant and of the Incarnation in Jesus Christ are put up for discussion. Alternative morality requires divergent doctrine.
Today we might want to alter the graduations of non-moral conduct of medieval times. I offer a putative scale Christian redemption that human beings cannot help themselves nor discover the true path to eternal life unaided. We need a Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In recent years some Christian leaders have taken a softer approach to homosexuality. Michael Keeling held that it is evidence of a failure to develop normal relations and is a symptom of a neurotic condition. Companionship and community of interest are, for some, more important than sexual satisfaction. He thought that deep analysis and aversion therapy does not work and that only grace to turn desire to asexual channels can help. Hugh Montefiore, the former Bishop of Birmingham once said that Jesus may have been a homosexual; he also suggested that a little marital infidelity is not such a bad thing and can in fact help marriages survive. Fortified by these credentials, he wrote about homosexuality in the church. 6 He noted the slight change in the Roman Catholic position between 1976 and 1986 from defining homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered" to "a more or less strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder". 7 In 1983 the Church of Scotland condemned homosexual activity. The Church of England in 1981 regarded homosexuality as a handicap and in 1988 stated that all sexual genital acts should be confined to marriage. Montefiore recognised that loneliness, isolation and spiritual deterioration would result for homosexual people, even within churches. Roman Catholic teaching points out that suffering is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ. 8 American Roman Catholic Bishops reaffirmed Augustinian doctrines of free will in 1988. 9 James Gustafson suggests that modern psychological knowledge can indicate that often homosexual acts do not involve the person in grave or moral sin. He suggests a "theology of compromise". 10 He abandons deduction from the moral order in favour of induction from experience and empiricism. The problem of the innocent victim is not addressed in this analysis. From the empirical point of view, medical conclusions do not support his case.
David Jenkins, the Bishop of Durham, is liberal on doctrine and liberal towards homosexuality in the church. He thinks there is a new age and a new morality. Jenkins says he would not ordain a permanent and inveterate adulterer nor someone of continuing promiscuous behaviour but he would ordain homosexuals provided that they were discreet about their relationships and did not flaunt them. I am wondering if then he is saying that from the point of view of tolerance it is O.K. but not from the point of view of objective propaganda. The Osborne report defines homosexual practice as flawed and falling short of what God requires. The Gay Christian Movement hold that "it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love a person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship".11 The consensus of Christian teaching however does not agree with that objectivisation of the condition into an alternative morality. The implication is that Jesus would have approved. All indications are that He would no more have done so than He would have tolerated or approved of adultery or promiscuity.
Richard Winter suggests that we are all to some extent sexual deviants with our fantasies and aberrations. He thinks homosexuality is based more on developmental factors than on chromosome problems. It matters whether homosexuality is to be taken along with other sexual practices considered wrong or whether it is to be a special case. If homosexuality seeks protection in being regarded as no worse than other examples of immorality then the Christian prohibition must logically apply to all. If homosexuality is a special case then it must find some reference point other than self -justification on which to base its claims. If the bald statement of right is all that can be said then the Christian can counter with an equally exclusive claim such as "Homosexual practices are sinful and require repentance". There is little possibility for dialogue. The weight of moral theory from Aristotle, from the Old Testament and throughout Christian history is against the justification of old practices in a new way.
Is change possible? E.M. and M.L. Pattison suggest that if the homosexual condition is defined as unchangeable, then little change is possible; but where it is defined as changeable, change is possible. 12 Masters and Johnson reported a 65% success rate of change in 1979. The Pattisons record research about 11 men who changed from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality, six of whom were happily married. They claim that there is a substantive body of evidence that such change is possible. Gay Liberationists refute the claims and evidence. They have a vested interest in so doing. The crux of the matter is here. I am compassionate and tolerant towards individuals. We all have a sinful nature and sexuality is just one aspect of that state. If people cannot help themselves that is part of Biblical truth. Christianity is not about law but about God's love for us while we were yet sinners. But the refusal to accept His offer of redemption and transformation is another thing. To construct an alternative theology is even more troubling because now we have begun to express our basic spiritual pride and rebellion against God as revealed in Jesus Christ. God is love but love is not God. The commandment of Jesus is to love as He loved not to love in a way that suits us (John 15:12).
The Calvinistic tradition emphasises the transcendence and mystery of God. Calvin's thought teaches us that God is different from us. The strength of the homosexual presence is in the non-Calvinistic Anglican tradition. It is another aspect of harmful English influence on Scottish society at the present time. This leads us back to Calvary. Objectivisation seems to me to be the way of the unrepentant thief who dares Jesus to alter the way things are for his own immediate benefit. Repentance is the way of the good thief who makes a distinction between himself and his state and Jesus Christ and in acknowledging that great difference finds salvation. I cannot justify anything I am or anything I do in God's sight. With the good thief I cry to Jesus "You have done nothing wrong - remember me when you come into your Kingdom".
If we were to admit that we are wrong in claiming moral absolution for lifestyles which conflict with revelation, tradition and natural law, then not only would we ourselves find healing and peace but our society would be rid of such scourges as AIDS. Throughout the Bible repentance was always advocated as the way out of personal, social and national dilemmas. Not everyone is meant to marry. I once saw a T-shirt on which a slogan was written in large black script; "I am a pathetic, boring, pedantic bastard". It occurred to me that this was the secular equivalent of the medieval hair shirt. Throughout the history of the Church single people have been accommodated in terms of spiritual vocations - they still are in Roman Catholicism. In our secular society single people do not have a spiritual context within which to find meaning and the sublimation of their nature. They then turn towards one another finding relief and meaning in one another. Without the higher spiritual object the downward spiral continues to objectivisation and attempted theological justification. It is a long way back, individually and collectively from that point. It is not impossible however.
A Christ-centred system of relationships, support, friendship and community can rehabilitate people. As Oliver Cromwell said to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, "Think it possible, in the bowels of Christ, that you may be mistaken". If you can, join me beside Our Crucified Lord, and say to Him, "You have done nothing wrong, remember me when you come into your Kingdom".
1. Martin Hallett, I Am Learning To Love, Marshall Pickering, London, 1987, p.32.
2. Augustine, Continence, in William G. Cole, Sex in Christianity and Psychoanalysis, Oxford University Press, New York, 1966, p.55.
3. Ibid., p.115.
4. Ibid., p.121.
5. Ibid., p.171.
6. Jack Dominion and Hugh Montefiore, God Sex & Love, S.C.M., London, 1989, p.51f.
7. Ibid., p.54.
8. Ibid., p.69.
9. The Many Faces of AIDS, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1988, 0.14,15.
10. James M. Gustafson, Protestant and Roman Catholic Ethics, S.C.M, London, 1979, p.51.
11. Richard Winter, Homosexuality, in Medicine And The Bible, Edited by Bernard Palmer, Paternoster, Exeter, 1986, p.151.
12. E. M. Pattison and M. L. Pattison, "Ex-Gays" : Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals, American Journal of Psychiatry 137:12, December 1980, p.1562.
William G. Cole, Sex in Christianity and Psychoanalysis, Oxford University Press, New York, 1966.
Patrick Dixon, The Truth About AIDS, Kingsway, Eastbourne, 1987.
Jack Dominion and Hugh Montefiore, God Sex & Love, S.C.M., London, 1989.
James M. Gustafson, Protestant and Roman Catholic Ethics, S.C.M., London, 1979. Martin Hallett, I Am Learning To Love, Marshall Pickering, London, 1987.
Michael Keeling, Morals In A Free Society, S.C.M., London, 1967.
E.M. Pattison and M.L. Pattison, "Ex-Gays" : Religiously Mediated Change In Homosexuals, American Journal of Psychiatry 137:12, December 1980
Helmut Thielicke, The Ethics of Safe Sex, James Clarke, London, 1964.
Richard Winter, Homosexuality, In Medicine and The Bible, Edited by Bernard Palmer, Paternoster, Exeter, 1986.
A Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Edited by John MacQuarrie, S.C.M., London, 1967
The Holy Bible, Revised Authorised Version, Bagster, London, 1982.
The Many Faces Of AIDS, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1988.
A paper given on several occasions to different audiences in 1993
New Age may be described initially as a religio-sociopolitical conglomerate based on residual explanations of life in distinction from the claims of the revealed faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The political dimension of New Age is to be found in the Green Party and in the impetus towards centralised government of nation states as in the European Economic Community and the United Nations. The environmental aspect is seen in the deification of the planet, in making earth an ultimate concern for which and to which human aspiration and conduct should be subordinated. The business aspect is seen in the management training programmes of British companies which use methods purporting to harness subconscious cosmic energies in order to increase the productivity of their employees. A key aspect of New Age is the given-ness of astrology. Just as Christians affirm their faith with creeds, New Agers introduce themselves by their star sign. Astrology's influence has multiplied recently. You will remember that Mrs Reagan's astrologer set the dates and times of her husband's meetings with Mr Gorbachev. There is also the huge industry of horoscopes, carried now in quality newspapers, as well as in tabloids.
New Age people consider themselves to be advanced in consciousness, specifically rejecting the monotheism of Judaism and Islam, the Trinitarianism of Christianity, the Bible, the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of the world and the church as the continuing vehicle of reconciliation between a transcendent Creator and human individual and corporate life. There are six historical moments behind tbis contemporary phenomenon. 1) the residual spiritualism of traditional religions in all societies of the world 2) the pre-Christian religions of India 3) the Gnosticism of the early Christian era 4) the foundation of the Theosophical Society in the late 19th century in the United States by Helena Blavatsky 5) Carl Jung's theories of the collective unconscious 6) the invasion of western society by eastern religious ideas from the time of the Beatles in the early 1960's.
For some 200 years and more, the primacy of the rational mind has dominated the understanding of the society in which we live. In the 20th century science has been a divinity in opposition to the God of Christianity. Now in the wake of a rejection of Christianity, many people have found scientific explanations inadequate to deal with questions about their deep spiritual subconscious and issues of individual purpose and destiny. In reacting also to the stresses of modern post-industrial society, mechanised life, computerised everything - people are longing for a return to natural lifestyles.
The Church is not attracting people in large numbers; people seem unable to connect the problems of our society with their rejection of Christianity. New Age is a do-it-yourself religion, a supermarket of options. It rejects the authority of revelation and the validity of the sacraments of the Church. It encourages spiritual seeking in and through any means that may or may not be helpful. Many New Agers have left their churches. Many are well educated thinking people who have not been able to square the claims of Christianity with the realities of their own lives. The emphasis on the feminine principle is very New Age. Men are being urged to become more intuitive creatures like women. Women are urged to become more self-assertive like men. The Male Judaeo-Christian God is being replaced with the female Earth goddess. There is an implicit message that all men are bad and that all women are good. That must be a recipe for even more chaos.
New Age may actually be of some help to beleaguered Christians trying to communicate the realities of the life of Faith in Jesus Christ. New Age contradicts the rationalist proposition that the Biblical world-view of reality is outmoded. New Age accepts the supernatural, communicates with the invisible world and believes in both eternal life and reincarnation. Belief in Scripture as a historically reliable source of explanation for everything prevailed until the 18th century and was replaced by a scepticism about all religious claims.
The Roman Catholic Church responded to this situation in 1870 by creating doctrines of infallibility of the Papacy. In the 20th century some Protestant fundamentalists held to propositional revelation and offered alternative scientific explanations for evolutionary-based theories. New Age offers a world-view that is a spiritual-material interactive continuum contradicting cosmologists and physicists who have only one string to their bow. The fact that contemporary scientific research suggests that the basis of atomic life is energy, corresponds to the claims of New Age that we are fields of energy, conductors of spiritual electricity. Some would argue that this is in fact the Holy Spirit - the agent of creation described in Genesis and the New Testament. I do not think that I agree. In broad terms over the last 2,000 years we have moved as follows: God exists and earth is the centre of creation; God exists and earth is not the centre of creation; God is first and second cause; God is above everything if God exists at all; God does not exist. New Age teaches that human life is itself divine; it is pantheistic; God is also in nature, nature is divine; rocks, trees, plants are all divine. Is this different from animism? In addition, New Age teaches the existence of higher spiritual beings, higher realms, aeons, Masters of the Universe with whom it is possible to get in touch and who will act as guides and guarantors for us on our own journeys of spiritual exploration. David Icke, the erstwhile BBC sports commentator, judges himself to be a chosen instrument of these beings.
It is for this reason that some regard New Age as a return to paganism. New Age is against the established Christian Church which it associates with materialistic economics, industrialisation, colonialism, pollution and exploitation of mother earth. Christianity is also held to be morally oppressive since it does not allow free expression of individual wish and desire. It locks people into an objective moral code and bids them spend their life on earth unfulfilled in the hope of a resurrection for good behaviour. New Age has no absolute moral norms. You do what is right for you to do at any one time. There is no final assize. You can begin to see why it is attractive. It offers people who cannot bow their hearts to Jesus Christ a religion of their own in which their god is their own divinity. The astrological aspect of New Age thinking teaches that we are entering the Age of Aquarius„ "harmony and understanding -peace and love abounding".
There is to be a golden age when the world will be f ree from pollution, war, violence, racism, disease, hunger and death; there will be one language, one monetary system, one world government, one mind and one will in which each individual will willingly participate for the sake of the good of the whole. Mrs Thatcher's denunciation of the drive towards standardisation of all political processes in Europe was, to some extent, based on a theological rejection of New Age thought. The left-wing hippies of the sixties are having a new lease of life in the nineties. They are teaching in universities throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.
They are even training candidates for the ministry of our churches. Today within the church there is a theological split between the inheritors of the sixties (now known as crumblies - not yet wrinklies) and those who hold to the permanency of the revealed content of our Faith. Some think that the church should not only be dis-established but abolished and that towns and villages should not maintain sanctuaries exclusively for worship. Some do not want to insist that Jesus i.s the Way, the Truth and the Life, that He is the final arbiter of all human destiny. Some do not want to insist on the confession of individual and corporate sin. Some do not want to hold on to beliefs in the Virginity of Mary and the Resurrection of the Body. There are New Agers within the churches of this country advocating these ideas. At least one prominent Episcopal Bishop in Scotland advocates New Age ideas. The Findhorn Community exists as a refuge for those who have left the church and want to experiment. Indeed, Findhorn is regarded as an incarnation of New Age - a supreme example of the truth of transformation through acceptance of New Age thinking. Yet the lifestyle and example of the Findhorn Community is far from admirable and it is a very commercialised place indeed. It costs hundreds of pounds for each course of self -awareness and enlightenment. It would be most regrettable if perennial hostilities between liberal and evangelical were to be fought out again on the battle-ground of New Age, but this is likely.
The Royal Family is infected by New Age. The hapless Duchess of York succumbed - sitting under a blue pyramid to get spiritualistic guidance. The monarchy is being spiritually undermined - it has long been morally undermined, of course. New Age has a serious effect on the Christianity of this country. Yet it is riddled with falseness and folly. New Age targets Protestant Christianity more than any other form of Christianity. Much of television advertising uses New Age theory. The American film industry has promoted its ideas for two decades. The great Judaeo-Christian claims for One God, One Redeemer, One Judgement, One Destiny are being replaced in the name of individualised divinity. The record of Christianity as a benefit to the world cannot be quantified. The attacks on scientific rationalism and on Christian theology are significant when taken together. No age of peace is coming. There is no nuclear holocaust only because Jesus Christ has defeated Marxist Communism. Earth's powder keg is there with a million fuses already lit. Does anyone believe that the 21st century will escape war? Does anyone see a solution to over-population and famine? New Age asks rational material human beings to explore their spiritual subconscious but it offers no clear way out of the problems that we encounter when we do that very thing. The Church however should grasp the opportunity to hammer home its message that Jesus 7.s the world's Saviour for His credibility is greater than all the claims of New Age put together and lined from here to outer space. New Age seeks to abolish God, in effect, and replace God with humanity who by a quantum evolutionary leap will soon acquire the attributes hitherto associated with God. New Age has already infiltrated western society, politics, the media, education and the churches.
There are six broad principles held in common by New Age people;
1) God is impersonal and not separate from creation
2) Humanity like all creation shares the essential being of God and is therefore divine; humans are under no law and are accountable each to one's self
3) Humanity's crises result from ignorance of our divinity
4) Humanity's only need is for transformation to awareness of divinity; we are responsible for everything and can capture and direct evolution
5) Transformation is acquired by body, mind and spirit techniques
6) When personal transformation is repeated on a global scale there will be a golden age free from war, violence, racism, disease, hunger and death; there will be one language, one monetary system, one world government and one mind and one will. Some expect this to happen in our lifetime
Occultism in New Age uses many of the spiritual phenomena already known to most people, spiritualism, contact with spiritual powers, belief in spiritual masters, extraterrestrials, UFO's, astrology and the use of crystals.
One area draws common sympathy from people and has positive value for Christians and non-Christians alike; ecology, environmental issues, the depletion of planetary resources, over-population, the ozone layer, nuclear disarmament etc. On their own these are all right but if underneath a new philosophy of creation is being offered - a new doctrine of a personalised world as divine in itself - then we may want to limit our support to some external
procedures without accepting the theo-anthropology that goes along with it. It is not however easy to draw the line anywhere. New Age has its own metaphysical underpinning and spiritual justification. It offers a salvific system dif ferent from Christianity but no less absolute in its own way. New Age people think it is superior to Christianity. It is inclusive while Christianity is exclusive. New Age unifies the world, Christianity divides the world. New Age unites the human race, Christianity offers a chosen elect eternal life. New Age is unitary, Christianity is dualistic denying the world. New Age seeks the abolition of suffering, Christianity accepts that only by suffering is anything gained spiritually in the world. New Age accepts Jesus as an avatar "one of many equally good ways", Christianity accepts Jesus as Lord of all. New Age offers freedom of personal conduct, Christianity of fers moral and spiritual law.
Occult New Age is more dangerous still and is becoming the common value system of our own country through media saturation. Mind, body and spirit festivals are being staged. "The World Instant of Co-operation" took place in 1986. The was a festival of Harmonic Convergence in 1987. The entertainment industry promotes the occult with films like "Star Wars" which suggest a pantheistic force representing deity and communication with the spirit world, ascended spiritual masters in a hierarchy who will usher in the New Age. The message is always that humanity is divine and reality is what we perceive. There is a kind of feminism which condemns Christianity for creating a male deity who delights in war, repression and the exploitation of women; since God is abolished, the Earth Mother, or Mother Nature, takes God's place. Advertising is saturated with New Age thinking and more and more TV programmes implicitly advocate New Age ideas, philosophy and metaphysics. Personalities like Shirley MacLaine and John Denver have embraced New Age. There is a proliferation of groups like the Church Universal and Triumphant and the Inner Peace Movement. The Christian Churches are infected and many leaders unwittingly or otherwise use New Age illustrations in sermons or talks or writings.
The Bishop of Durham's theology which reduces the status of Jesus Christ opens the way towards New Age thought and the rejection of the exclusivity of Jesus' claims by people like John Hick is a confessed acceptance of the possibility of a new one world religion system in which all ideas and claims have an equal value. New Age, in fact, has its own strict neo-Hindu cosmology. The replacement Saviour is called Lord Metraya, a reincarnation of the Buddha.
Some hold that the final "christ" will appear in 2025 at which time there will also be for the first time, visible appearances of members of the spiritual hierarchy of masters who control the New Age from on high. The Green Party is a New Age political expression. Recall the televised statement by Sara Parkin that the population of the United Kingdom should be reduced to 20,000,000 by 2,100 AD in order to reduce consumption of earth's resources; population control is an avowed policy of New Age philosophy; Sara Parkin was warned never to mention that again; many vote innocently for the Green Party for good reasons not knowing its religious and philosophical base; party meetings being with "attunement" which is to do with psychic unity and good vibrations etc., etc. The Green Party has advocated unlimited abortion and approves homosexuality.
I have noted the following instances of New Age:
John Lennon's charity concert for The Spirit Foundation,
European monetary union and British government reluctance,
Festivals of inter-faith at Canterbury and elsewhere,
Attempt in the Presbytery of Edinburgh to renounce The Apostles' Creed by a man who followed the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolph Steiner,
Television news article that the first environmentally friendly house is being built at Findhorn on the Moray coast,
The use and sale and interest in crystals as healing agents,
Multiplicity of therapies, potions and alternatives to Christian faith and practice - all with an accompanying philosophy of spiritualism,
School education which includes assumptions about spiritual natures,
Subtle underpinning of media, drama, films etc.,
Explosion of astrology and psychical studies.
In politics, New Age has hijacked legitimate concerns about the environment, energy depletion and economic injustice and has climbed on the anti-nuclear bandwagon; there is an implication that Christianity is associated with the opposite of all of these and the Churches are blamed for being present during the two great industrial revolutions. In business, New Age Corporate Seminars are offered in this country. Some Christians refuse to take part in them to the detriment of their careers. They are aimed at helping people fulfil their true potential and that of course means in business terms being more successful and making more money and earning more money. The idea that New Age is somehow non-materialistic is completely false. The philosophy of these seminars is anti-Christian. Offering a mixture of religious ideas, home-spun philosophy, psychology and world-awareness.
Truth is what we perceive reality to be in our mind,
Traditional beliefs prevent personal development,
Parents must not condition their children,
Attitudes, habits and belief systems have to change,
Never let yourself be criticised or condemned,
Self -esteem is the most important aspect of personal life,
We are self -made people,
Universal knowledge exists and is accessed through Extra Sensory Perception,
Man has an infinite capacity for knowledge,
You are your own judge and jury - set yourself free,
You don't have to walk a straight moral line as long as you remain within your comfort zone.
New Age expresses disillusionment with science and technology and a mechanistic view of the universe. It also counters secular humanism. For these reasons many Christians might be tempted to think that New Age is an ally of the church and that the church will benefit from the popularisation of ideas about the spiritual dimension in and around life. The trouble is that New Age wrecks the Christian Gospel by philosophically contradicting everything that Christianity has taught. Many people might say that it is the church and it is Christianity and Christians who are being left behind. They are caught up in fossilised doctrines about one person at a particular time in history and a dreadful view of human experience as basically sinful and in need of redemption. There is an implication that Christians are insecure, retentive creatures unable to adapt to the New Age and fearful of abandoning the crutches which have supported them for so long. We have heard all this before; Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud both said similar things. The 20th century proved them completely wrong. The sin of the Fall was pride and self-centredness, non-acceptance of finitude and human limitation and a desire to be divine. These are precisely the elements found in New Age. It is history that will once again prove the Christian case true. For these doctrines if adopted by nations and political parties will bring destruction to this planet, not the utopia that is forecast by the devotees. Christians may be even more of a minority that at present. And there will be much testing and trial for us all.
It is an af front to many people when Christians insist on maintaining belief in Jesus Christ! It is much more popular to say Jesus is only one expression of all divine truth and all can be taken together. In fact, it is the Buddhist incarnation that takes the place of Jesus as Lord; Jesus is cast down, another takes His place in the New Age pantheon. Many Christians look for, pray for and hope for revival. It is not going to come easily or quickly and not directly either. It will come out of the battle with New Age. The churches have been too complacent and too comfortable for too long. Now the younger generation of Christians are going to have to struggle for the survival of The Faith. Many will fall away and many will be deceived. The church will be tested too - will it stand?
Some intellectuals in the Churches open the door to New Age when they express doubts about Christ's resurrection, therefore about His divinity, pre-existence, virgin birth etc etc. Anyone who holds these is thought to be fundamentalist; St John, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Earth, Torrance must all be fundamentalists then, and they are some of the greatest intellects of Christian history. How then do we stand up to and counter New Age.
Knowing the Lord and knowing the Scriptures,
Looking for all the evidence of New Age every day and being aware,
Praying continually and without ceasing for the victory of Jesus Christ over these things,
Being loving and non-confrontational to New Age people,
Rejoicing in the truth in Jesus Christ,
Countering erroneous doctrines that New Age teaches such as: that God and Creator of the world is a psychic pyramid of energy, gestalt; the trinity is father, mother, child; the true birth of the Christ was not the birth of Jesus; the crucifixion was not Jesus' hanging on the cross but the entry of the cosmic Christ into the etheric, mental and emotional energy patterns of the planetary body; as God's child you are sinless; the Last Judgement is the process of right salvation; man is his own Satan; Findhorn is the Second Coming - a magnetic source to draw out the rest of the world; reincarnation; the Age of Aquarius is here.
The agenda is always set and Christians are always on the defensive, explaining, apologising, trying to correct impressions and stereotypes; the currency is that new ideas have value and that the continuing exposition of tradition is less helpful. Tolerance of opinion, expression and action are held to be important. Yet all academic disciplines have their own exclusive interpretations and intolerances. Christianity as a broad framework of interpretation of life has been and is greater than anything currently in vogue. But we do need to articulate these facts. We also need by sincerity and integrity to win people, or at least save them from alternatives by the manner in which we conduct ourselves individually and as churches. Trevor Huddleston came back from South Africa with the words "Nought For Your Comfort". The end of the second millennium also brings "Nought For Your Comfort". More and more of these doctrines of the New Age will be seen in the years ahead. There is no-one as significant as Jesus in this anonymous New Age polyglot. The Buddha reincarnation will NOT appear. But - what damage will be done in the meantime?
JESUS AND THE NEW AGE
A paper given at Carberry Tower in 1992
The divine status of Jesus of Nazareth
Christian claims for Jesus as the sole mediator of the relationship between God and the human race are rejected by New Age thinkers. He is given a place in their pantheon -one "avatar" amongst many, often subjected to eastern religious incarnations in status. Jesus' historical identity and particularity are subsumed under a universal spiritualisation of existence.
In New Age thought there is no objective Person of God; the divine principle is within the created order and humans by their nature participate in this. The extent to which each person discovers his or her divinity is the measure of that person's spiritual enlightenment.
Jesus, therefore, in attracting attention to His person and placing Himself in the way of the individual's atomistic realisation of divinity is iconoclastic. His claims to the personal allegiance of His followers cannot be absolute.
Atonement is not once for all and objectively accomplished on behalf of the human race but achieved by the individual's search through the subconscious for his or her own reality.
The purpose of certain manifestations recorded in the Gospels
On the face of it, the Transfiguration (Mark 9: 2-9) contains elements of New Age thinking. European rationalist Biblical scholars have been saying for 200 years that this is a pre-dated resurrection experience edited out of sequence!
The New Age elements are 1) the location was nature religious 2) divinisation of Jesus became transparent 3) visualisation took place 4) reincarnations of Moses and of Elijah occurred 5) there were equivalent "masters of the universe" - wise spiritual guides whose own status is a measure of the divinisation of Jesus and of His calling to bear New Age light to the world 6) Peter thought institutionally and wanted to erect shrines; he could not comprehend the divine actualization that was taking place and attempted to externalise, objectify and materialise the experience within the context of Judaism's external cult.
The cloud emphasised the interaction between the material and the numinous, but was the sign of the presence of the Almighty.
The objective word of paternal acknowledgement was not New Age because it placed a single divine personal Being in relation to Jesus and over the divinisation that has just been manifested.
The meaning of Jesus' "I am" sayings and other self descriptions
Matthew portrays Jesus as the Jewish Messiah at odds with the stewards of the religious institutions of Israel. Mark describes Jesus as the unrecognised inbreaker of the Kingdom of God. Luke's Jesus is a human-divine Person in sympathy with the imperfections of the human predicament. John presents Jesus as "The Illuminatus" and His inner psychology and motivation are articulated in a way not found in the other Gospels. New Age teaches that each human can actualise his or her divinity. The "I am" sayings at one level reflect this principle. However if an absolute and exclusive metaphysical construct is placed over them, as, for example, in the Nicene Creed, then this would be thought to be retrogressive. Any doctrine developed from the "I am" sayings which may lead to or articulate an objective doctrine of the person of a single unity of Godhead would be rejected. "I am" is, of course, equal to the divine name in Old Testament thought (Exodus 3:14). Each New Age "illuminatus" claims co-equality with the divine being and so the apparent unique claims of Jesus are understood not as individual to him but the option of every human life. Shirley MacLaine, for example, has described herself as a "co-creator of the universe". It is helpful to look in some more detail at each of the "I am" sayings of Jesus in John 6:35,48, 8:12, 8:58, 10:11, 11:25, 14:16.
I am the Bread of Lif e
The claim is of and for absolute divinity; I am = YIIWII in the Old Testament; bread of life is the basic spiritual foodstuff of relationship with God, the creating, sustaining power of the universe. This direct relationship is only possible through and in Jesus. Life then, means life in direct relationship to God, eternal here and now. This life continues in the sacrament of Holy Communion in the Christian Church. The claim of one man to be divine in this sense is acceptable to New Age thought, indeed, this type of saying could be offered by a New Age prophet or prophetess. Everyone has the right to such divinity in New Age. It is not an exclusive category, not an impossibility for anyone. The association of an individual ego with divinity is supremely the characteristic of New Age. We should not forget that Jesus must have appeared as a madman to the orthodox Jews who listened to this talk. His extravagant language was typical of the inflated claims of New Age pundits today. It is in this context that the breathtaking sense of the incarnation must be understood. We like to think we would have believed Jesus had we seen and heard Him. I wonder! New Age spiritual leaders claim that there are many ways to life in all its divine fullness. Indeed, the extraordinary people in eastern Hinduism, clairvoyants and astrologers in western society and all sorts of psychic healers, therapists and diagnosticians would claim that they are the ones who are the bread of life. They can solve people's problems. The church seems to be a talking shop, ineffective, powerless
dying on its feet. Its claims do not hold up against the challenges of other spiritual forces. Life is not accession to objective doctrinal propositions, they would say, but experimentation with the divine within and without. The exclusive claim of Jesus to be the Bread of Life is unsupported by contemporary evidence. People live normal healthy long lasting lives without Christ. Unless this is a cosmic statement and Christ is the basis of all life on earth. That makes sense!
New Age appears to be anti-semitic, anti-Jewish, anti-monotheistic and anti-trinitarian. The only resolution of these conflicting claims is eschatological. Either Jesus is the cosmic bread and foundation of life even for those who not only do not acknowledge Him as such but set themselves up as alternatives or He is not. The doctrines of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the New Testament state that these elemental alternatives are to be brought under Him in the end of time. The personal historical conscious time-relevant God of Israel then is the One who commands our faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate form of the great divine life. The New Testament taken to its logical conclusion foresees a struggle on earth and above for the soul of human beings. Unlike New Age thought it does not expect an age of peace.
I Am The Light Of The World
Jesus contrasted the light of candles on the four candelabra which hung from the ceiling of the Court of Women in the Temple in Jerusalem with the spiritual light within Himself. Light was the first element of creation (Genesis 1:3). Today, physicists reduce much of their explanations to the nature of light. Whatever it is, is basic to the universe. Jesus was making a great cosmic claim for Himself . Firstly, there is a contrast between the Jewish temple rituals and the direct relationship with God that is possible in Christ. Most of the images of God's presence in tbe Book of Revelation are to do with light in some form or another. Light is common to all other religious claims and claimants. The contrasts with darkness, spiritual darkness, moral darkness, ignorance and the unenlightened state belong to all religions. Buddha, for example, is the enlightened one. Reflections of light humans may be, enlightened some others may have become, but Jesus was claiming to be in essence, in Himself , incarnate, the original basic light of which the world is made and which has a spiritual and relational dimension - scientists might note!
Before Abraham Was, I Am
The response to these words was that the Jews listening to Jesus took up stones to throw at Him; He was regarded as a false prophet, a madman and a blasphemer. David Icke claimed for himself the status of son of God. It must have appeared crazy and as false to the Jews who listened to Jesus as New Age claimants appear to us today. Is it possible that Jesus was a genius who understood the dynamics of spiritual life in a way that none other had done before Him and that His mastery of these things was the essence of His authority? Jews still have no place for and no need of an incarnate God. The of fence of the single incarnation ranks high throughout the world today and separates Christians from many other believers. Jewish, and Islamic monotheists on one hand and Hindu re-incarnationalists on the other. Are there any tests which may help us decide whether Jesus was not just a supremely gifted spiritual genius? 1) Even if He was - where did His unusual gifts come from? 2) His life was, in the end, sacrificially spent 3) Christianity, the most significant religious-spiritual phenomenon, was created 4) For centuries in each generation, millions have believed that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
It is true that in each generation many millions have not believed and that the claims for Jesus are not balanced by irrefutable evidence in the visible world today. The hiddenness of the incarnation continues in the feeble lives of Christians and in the churches throughout the world. Christians claim that in Jesus the Creator came to earth, lived among us and left the Holy Spirit within the human community. The intellectual, rational, sacramental presentation of this has supported human society for 2,000 years. New Age offers competing claims for other spiritual beings, personalities, divine personalities and incarnations. Christians claim that order and final sense of the whole thing occurs only in relation to Jesus Christ because He is who He claimed to be.
I am The Good Shepherd
The distinction is in the adjective; the context is the Old Testament view of the Lord as my shepherd and of commercial prophets as false shepherds who prophesy to earn a living and care nothing for the consequences. The marks of the good rather than the bad shepherd are 1) the good shepherd does not abandon his flock in face of dangers 2) the good shepherd does not look out for Number One 3) the good shepherd knows his flock and they recognise His voice 4) the good shepherd lays down His life. New Age is replete with advice, prediction, astrology, prophecy, healing, diagnosis, cures, therapies, none of which is free. It is a commercial operation. The selling of esoteric answers is essential to New Age. Christianity while not free from commercialism offers its open secret free of charge - up front and without equivocation. Christian congregations do rely on charity but no-one pays to enter a church or to worship or to receive the sacraments; there are no fees and no scales of charges. Compare the Bagwan in the United States with his 86 Rolls-Royces! More humbly, the very expensive courses in esoteric practices that you can get at Findhorn! New Age seems to be full of people who are rank egotists and who are interested in power and the manipulation of others. Spiritual loyalty is often undiscerning. James Jones' followers committed mass suicide in 1976. Hare Krishna has its gurus and authority figures who command absolute loyalty. Yet everyone has a good word to say for Jesus. There is something in Him which impresses even those who do not accept His claims to full divinity. The most obvious distinction however rests in the sacrificial life of Jesus; He gained nothing in this world; He left it a young man, enduring the most cruel means of dying. The surrendering, self -negating, self-denying nature of His sacrificial death speaks volumes about the true nature of the Universe in distinction from self -affirming, earth-affirming, divine status claiming pundits of New Age.
I Am The Resurrection And The Life
This only makes sense if you posit the pre-existence Christ, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World etc. These statements must be understood in a cosmic way rather than in a human way or indeed a bifurcated human-divine way. If the principles of existence themselves described in contemporary physics, for example, are of the essence of the nature of God the Creator and if the created universe somehow represents the nature of God, then it is consistent with this that the incarnate God should speak in this way. It is also assured that no-one will have understood what He was saying. In spiritual terms this text has come to mean the actual resurrection of Jesus from the death of Calvary and the ongoing eternal life thereafter. But it was both logical and natural for Him to have said this, given the premise of His pre-existent identity. It does not make any sense to say at this point that Jesus was an extravagant egotist. It is possible to relate these sayings to what scientists know about the invisible nature of the universe. That is a more productive means of gaining some understanding than to leave them as religious dogma or simply the imaginative claims of a brilliant religious genius. "Resurrection" and "life" relate to human temporality, morality and sin. For Jesus there is no discontinuation between life on earth and life hereafter. For us there is. Since Jesus Christ there is the hope of virtual continuation for those who believe in Christ and who live a spiritual life in which inspiration vivifies and energises. This is qualitatively different from the energy-seeking, power-seeking dynamics of New Age spiritualism, channelling, pan-psychism and souljourneying. The particularity of Jesus is not such an offence at this point if the pre-existent nature of Christ is accepted and the cosmic dimension of His Being is appreciated. It makes sense of the mission of Jesus to reclaim lost souls, heal wounds and restore lives ostracised and broken. That is what such a God would do.
The Way, the Truth, the Life
The Way is an idea common to all spiritual teaching. Journey, pilgrimage, reaching and exploring higher, deeper, more significant things, the quest for knowledge and understanding, inner journeying, self -exploration, depth psychoanalysis, regression etc etc all reflect the superficially and temporality of human individual, social, material life. It is true that for 200 years and more the minds of western people have been conditioned to believe reality was visible, measurable, quantifiable and discernible.
The Way however in Jesus is not direct or successful or related to anything much in this life. It is a way through death to life. It is the way to live and the way to life. It is a concrete incarnate mode and not a philosophy or a series of spiritual ecstasies, not meditative techniques or psychic communication with extra-terrestrial guides. The "I" is an exclusive "I". It means "no other". This is an offence to non-Christians but we must keep in mind the vision of the cosmic Christ and the social example of Jesus of Nazareth in relation to all outsiders. If we remember that he was associated primarily with them and against any human claims to personal exclusivities either racial or religious, then we can have a large enough picture in which all genuine seekers of the Way are accepted by Jesus Christ The Way. A single co-ordinating and controlling principle for all human aspiration to higher understanding and relationship is most valuable. New Age offers a principle of divinity within the planet earth, with no obvious controlling interest and at the mercy of non-material intermediaries with conflicting claims. That there should be "a way" that is evidently moral and self sacrificial, non-violent and thoroughly "good" (the Shepherd) should be the most helpful intelligence that the human community can have. The association of New Age with a political unitary world state is the opposite of this and there should be no naivety about its appropriation of the worst historical aspects of human absolutism
Eileen Caddy, a founding member of the Findhorn Community is quoted in Carol Riddell's book (The Findhorn Community) as saying "I am the Truth" (p. 206). She is a spiritualistic channeller of messages. In New Age she is making a legitimate claim for herself since divinity and enlightened humanity are identical. If a person such as she can make this claim does it relativise the claims of Jesus? It is possible to understand why He bore the wrath of orthodox Judaism. He was either an occult imposter or the genuine article. His adversaries were mostly convinced that He was the former. A few friends thought it possible that He might be the latter. Most who knew Him thought He had sustainable good qualities. The Truth here must be spiritual truth, truth about God, truth about human relationship to God and about its eternal nature. Again, it makes sense only if this is the pre-existent Son incarnate. The truth is simple. It is not the human Jesus but the divine Jesus who is The Truth. This truth is not corporeal since Jesus' body is not in skeleton form still on earth. It is the consequence of God the Creator being incarnate, the manifestation of the relationship between Creator and creation, parent to child, claimant to orphan, spirit to aspiration, eternal to temporal, life to death. If Jesus of Nazareth's skeleton I.I somewhere in the Middle East then Jesus is not "The Truth". Jesus is relativised - one of us equal to Eileen Caddy or any other person outrageous enough to give herself cosmic and theological significance.
In the Old Testament life is equated with keeping the Commandments. There is a dynamic relationship between human beings and the moral universe. The purpose of life is moral. Death, living-death, deadlines, emotionless eyes, hard hearts, cold souls, etc., are associated with the non-moral life. This is a law of universal existence with which humans comply or they do not. In the New Testament Life is equated with the Love of God. It is eternal life by definition since in Christ physical death is put in its proper perspective - the means to actual, personal, eternal life. God is revealed as forgiving and enabling, reclaiming the lost and making whole wounded souls. There is an equation between these things and the Person of Christ in whom they are revealed, hence the saying "I am The Life". The element of love in personal relationship with God is distinct in the claims of religion in the human community. New Age does not offer such a straightforward understanding of our existence. There is no clear moral basis to New Age cosmology. It remains to be seen to what extent a unitary global political structure will be engineered in and through the United Nations for the 21st century. At the level of substitute personal faith we return to the opening illustration. But here there is great conflict between competing disciplines and theories, therapies, diagnoses and explanations. There is no peace in New Age. The theory that humans can arrange peace politically and socially is disproved by history and yet this is the claim that New Age promotes above all else. This is the false absolute in history which contrasts with the transcendent self -sacrificing love of God the Creator seen in Jesus Christ.
New Age is a whole new ball game for Christianity. It rejects the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ in favour of spiritualistic relativism and a unifying principle, namely, the earth. It could be helpful in that it rejects the political, humanistic and economic materialism of the last 200 years as it also rejects scientific authority. Christianity's debate with science has been that of irreconcilable world views. New Age asks materialists to look beyond the visible and comprehensible to other worlds, new dimensions and powerful existences. In doing so it describes the intermediate world between the overall existence of God the creator and human life on earth. Christianity is closer to science in that its case is rationally presented and its unitary explanation complements the coherent explanations that scientists offer for the nature of the universe. Colin Russell has noted that the decline in respect for science and for Christianity has occurred at the same time. New Age asks us to return to our primeval understanding and rediscover our relationship with the earth and the natural order. New Age makes no distinction between the sacred and the profane and it rejects the claims of the Christian Church to be the vehicle of the sacred. The church, on the other hand, has failed to do justice to the greatness of Jesus Christ as one outside and above human religious institutions. Jesus of Nazareth was in dispute with the religious institutions of Israel, the synagogue and the temple. If the church only perpetuates its own cult then it will surely wither away. If it proclaims the love of God the Creator in Jesus Christ for everyone and the gift of forgiving relationship for humans and our Maker then it can never be consumed. New Age heightens the stakes, clarifies the alternatives, of fers starker choices. It lifts western understanding out of the materialistic mechanical world-view that has hindered its understanding. It offers a false answer but by default distinguishes the real alternative which is Jesus Christ.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS
A paper given at Carberry Tower in 1992
The Christmas story proper begins with a tale familiar in Jewish spiritual history; the issue is childlessness. Elizabeth and Zechariah were of priestly lineage; perhaps a comparison could be made with modern-day liberals rather than evangelicals, establishment rather than dissenting tradition. They were moderates and not synagogue-type pietists. They were high church rather than low church; Scotto-Catholic rather than Free Kirk! I am sorry to disappoint the evangelicals - but there you are. It is interesting, for example, that both John the Baptist and Jesus were anti-synagogue figures. Would they have been anti-evangelical today? Dare I suggest such a thought?
There was an angelic visitation. Something quite unusual. It was said that nothing significantly spiritual had happened to the Jews in the previous 200 years. God had had nothing directly to say to his people. They felt it. God was not speaking to them. The angel is named, Gabriel; this is significant - first name terms with the Almighty, no less. So immediate and authoritative is this that the angel introduces himself; this is not a vague psychic experience, not a seance, not a paranormal communication with its own arbitrary dynamics and unpredictabilities, lack of corroboration or historical vindication. This is the living God at work. What distinguishes this experience from the claimed experiences of many throughout the ages and now in this so-called New Age, is the personal, the verifiable and the historical. What distinguishes Christian claims is their historical correctness and verification by ensuing events.
A living Word is given. Zechariah and Elizabeth are to be parents of a significant birth - a servant in the ascetic tradition of Judaism, recognisable as the Elijah figure expected to foreshadow the Messiah. He is to be a revivalist - an evangelical! God enjoys his humours. Zechariah is not best pleased. An evangelical! No way! He asks for proof . He is a sceptic. Not believing, he cannot be let loose to babble. He must be silenced until God's word comes to be fulfilled.
Silence is also of God. God remains silent in face of so much human provocation. We are obsessed with words and communication. There are courses on communication at most universities now. None on silence. Has anyone done a master or doctoral thesis on spiritual silence? How would such a person pass the oral examination?
Elizabeth had suffered the scourge of childlessness; in those days the woman was always to blame, not the man. Beyond that it was believed that God had made her so. This was a social curse and the humiliation was the greatest that a woman could be asked to bear. Childlessness today in our country apparently affects 20% of married couples. It must be one of the greatest crosses any Christian couple is asked to carry. Imagine then Elizabeth's joy. She was past the change of life.
Zechariah although old was not impotent - far from it. They conceived in the usual way except that the spiritual nature and destiny of the child was special. Jews believe that there are three agencies present in all conceptions, male, female and the Holy Spirit. Here is a special calling to parenthood. It is the patriarchal and prophetic tradition of Judaism, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, for example. This is why many Christians do not accept abortion and do not favour the experiments on embryos carried out in fertility clinics. It is impossible to deny that the testimony of Scripture is that God is present at conception and determines the nature and purpose of human personal life. The spiritual DNA code is enmeshed with the physical. The higher purpose is woven into the consciousness of the newly conceived child. No other explanation suffices for the fact that such people as John the Baptist live this human life. The desire to serve God is implanted from the very beginning. Psalm 139 says it all. Imagine Elizabeth's joy then after hiding herself for five months to be absolutely sure she was not mistaken. Going down to the market, happy in the way that pregnant women like to be. I wonder if she ate some extravagant kosher food during the nights - not, I suspect, a tuna and banana pizza from the local carry-out! The years of shame were gone. Far from being cursed by God, she and her husband were chosen vessels for a significant birth. Misery turned to absolute joy. Zechariah still could not speak however and was prohibited from having fun with his friends or returning their gentle mockery of his sexual prowess in his old age.
In the sixth month of this pregnancy, the same angelic messenger, Gabriel, came to Mary their kinswoman, also then of the priestly families, a moderate not an evangelical! I don't accept the traditional view that Mary was a demure quiet thing. I think Mary was a young woman of great personality, strength of faith, courage, intelligence and spiritual discernment. She would have got a First in Theology without any problem. The Magnificat suggests that she understood very well the significance of what was happening. She took to it naturally - unlike flaky old Zechariah. She was not afraid. She believed. She wanted this. She did not ask for proof but it was offered to her plus the amazing comfort of discussing her own pregnancy with Elizabeth and vice-versa. Is not God good? And who says God is only masculine in character? God deals beautifully with these women, no feminist could deny it.
Thus far from St Luke's Gospel. Now we turn to Matthew for some other information. Matthew is concerned with the irregularity of the marriage. Would Mary have been expelled from the synagogue for becoming pregnant outside marriage? Brethren girls have been sent away from home in this state even in my life time. Joseph required a dream to tell him. He was not the father of this child and he did not fancy looking after a woman pregnant to someone else. He did not believe Mary either, note. Would you - if your girlfriend told you she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? No evangelical minister would believe it either. Come on - now sister, tell the truth - who is the father - is he in the congregation? Does he go to the prayer meeting? Is he an elder? Is it the minister? Luke has stronger sources. He had more interest in women than the other evangelists. He is a doctor. He has recorded the testimonies of the women concerned. Only they could have given the inside information. Matthew is bothered by the out-of-wedlock conception. The marriage was contracted discreetly and in a hurry. Why did God put this young woman through this trouble? Why did God break his own law about sex outside marriage? There is no easy answer. The conception could have been without male intercourse but within her marriage to Joseph. She would not have been a virgin however. Was that important? For Roman Catholics it is. They believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. Matthew does not (1:26).
The wise men feature in Matthew but not in Luke. Were they astrologers? If so, why were they allowed to worship Jesus? Today we think of astrologers as being opposed to God's kingdom. Were they sacred scientists - sort of ancient middle eastern Gordon Strachans, with their prayers and calculations. Were they devout astronomers believing in the supernatural and the transcendent in a way that modern scientists rarely do? They too were especially guided to be present. They and their gifts are symbols of the subjection of intermediary principalities and powers to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The gifts they brought are symbols of the things of the material world also at his disposal. They symbolise the secular wisdom of the age - the empirical proofs that 20th century people stress so much. They were led by religious intuition however.
The date and time are recorded by Luke not by Matthew. The census of the Emperor Augustus is mentioned. Quirinius was Governor of Syria. Roman history suggests that Quirinius was actually Governor between 6 - 9 AD, but some sources say that Quirinius led military expeditions a decade earlier, i.e., 4 - 1 BC. He may then have held an official post in Syria even at that time. Luke's term "hegemoneuo" means to rule or lead in general terms. Later his position may have improved and been more formally recognised. Some Latin inscriptions suggest the possibility of an earlier term of office.
The birth was unattended, no hospital, mid-wife, no doctor. She brought forth ... as the traditional language has it. Yards away people ate and drank and were merry. Jesus was always a marginalised creature. Take courage from the marginalisation of the church today, of your own life, of Christianity in the world. Life with Christ is life on the fringe. It is all the more powerful for that. Spiritual truths are unconquerable and irreversible. The only plausible explanation for the fact that we believe today is that this baby was God Incarnate.
Shepherds were granted a vision of angels and given instruction where they might find the Messiah. Perhaps they were devout and God-fearing. It was a collective experience. They had never seen an angel before. There was a special magic peace about the manifestation. The close presence of God evokes fear and guilt in sinful human lives. The reality is the Grace and Forgiveness of God. The baby was not friendless or alone. He had his birthday presents and good wishes. Mary and Joseph's lonely extra-social struggle was blessed and confirmed as being of God. They must have lived close to God indeed, living only for His glory, taken up with their faith and the extraordinary events surrounding them. These things did not happen in the synagogue. They happened outside the religious institutions of Judaism. How would we regard them today? New Age at least asks people to stop thinking of human life as a scientific brain and think of human life as spirit. For John Calvin there was no expectation of the miraculous in the life of the church. Rational Protestant faith has for 400 years limited though not excluded the possibility of God intervening directly through the subconscious spiritual dimension of the human personality. 20th century charismatic renewal has forced a rethink but intellectual credibility has not yet come.
New Age has taken over the monopoly of the miraculous. It has left the church trailing in its outdated materialism and rationalism. The church has had no room for the miraculous. Its power has gone at the same time; it has become a human institution. The great gurus of 20th century theology have fallen far; Bultmann who believed nothing of the Gospels; John Robinson who rejected the Biblical world-view; David Jenkins and others who still cannot accept the possibilities of supernatural and miraculous communication from Almighty God, but think in lateral earth-bound terms about the meaning of divine communication. God chooses the humble and the marginalised to reveal His own Person. It is our hope and our joy that this is the kind of being that God is incarnate in humility in Bethlehem to a couple outside the respectabilities of synagogue life - risking social reputation and everything else besides for God's purposes. Christ's life was in danger. His parents had to flee. Infanticide followed. The tenor was set. Christ the Prince of Peace came to a violent world. The agency of evil frustrated wreaked revenge on innocents. The mystery is that God allowed this too. In time His own Son would die.
THE BIBLE AND NEW AGE
A paper given to the Ichthus Society of the Methodist Church, Nicolson Square in 1992
The major reason for contemporary and I would say temporary decline in the influence of Christianity in our society is the loss of the authority of The Bible. Protestant Christianity is particularly vulnerable because its source of authority rests in the truths of Scripture. For 200 years or so many Protestant European intellects, free from any teaching Magisterium as in Roman Catholicism, have doubted, dismissed and disparaged the Bible. Philosophers and theologians who wanted to continue to believe in God in some form attempted to make the text reasonable to the wisdom of the age.
Reimarus (1694-1768) thought of religion as the pursuit of high morals and he rejected the supernatural as a reality. He decided that the main purpose of Jesus' life was to refine the moral character of mankind. He said that Jesus saw himself as a messianic king and this was what caused his death at the hands of the Romans. His followers felt cheated and they stole his body, invented the story of his resurrection, circulated the promise of his return and preached for converts to this falsehood to sell their properties and give the proceeds to the apostles of this new religion.
Strauss (1808-1874) thought that the Gospels were not factually true but were the imaginative creations of the disciples. Jesus was a disciple of John and then came to regard himself as the Messiah and called his own followers; he then went to Jerusalem to get recognition; he had premonitions of his violent death, predicted his apocalyptic return and was executed by the Romans.
Bauer (1809-1882) thought that no such great personality as Jesus ever existed. The Christian Faith for him was a mixture of Egyptian Jewish philosophy and Jewish history.
Renan (1823-1892) thought that the Gospels were legendary biographies; he discounted the miracles and the resurrection ... "the life of Jesus finishes with his last sigh". Jesus preached the purest dependence on God. Then he claimed to be nearer to God than others. He looked forward to judging mankind. His polemics and invective ensured his death.
Schweitzer (1875 -1965) thought that Jesus tried to keep his identity secret. He believed the end of time was about to happen. He tried to hasten the great cosmic catastrophe by sending his disciples out to preach its immanence. Judas betrayed his secret to the Jewish leaders who had him crucified as a false messiah. Hegel (1770-1831) thought that Jesus taught a moral religion. He had to draw attention to his own personality. He allowed messianic apprehensions to exist. Jesus was the highest point of the development of the human spirit.
Bultmann (1884-1976) thought that little or nothing could be known about the historical Jesus; this was "the broad ugly ditch" which Lessing had mentioned. Faith, said Bultmann, was not dependent on historical evidence at all but on a personal encounter not with Jesus of History but with the Christ of Faith. In these accounts we learn that for a number of European Protestant intellectuals over the last 200 years or so, Jesus was either disincarnate spirit, or a moral man, or a genius, or a revolutionary, or a deluded madman etc., etc.
This century apart from the declaratory atheism of philosophers like Bertrand Russell, A.J. Ayer and others, two Anglican bishops, John Robinson in the sixties and David Jenkins in the eighties rejected the historical accuracy of the Gospels. David Jenkins says that the Gospels are not like scientific reports or newspaper reports; they are attempts to speak about God in poetic language; miracles are not believable and there was no physical resurrection. Many in the church don't believe in the supernatural, miracles, divine intervention, personal conversion to faith, personal relationships with God etc. Those who do are usually called evangelicals. Evangelicals in the Calvinistic tradition have tended to believe the Bible because it is the Bible. Charismatic Christians in the 20th Century believe the Bible because it is the Bible and because they have found the spiritual things described in the New Testament to be true in their own lives. Liberals have sought to interpret the Christian faith in terms of human relationships and human community without going into anything that the human mind cannot understand.
The influence of science this century has made it hard for people to believe in the Bible. The first argument offered is that about creation. Did it happen at 9.30am on the 21st October 4004 BC or is the universe millions of human years old? Oddly enough, superstition has multiplied at the same time; astrology and psychical studies are popular; there is a great interest in the occult and even the expression of this in criminal activity as the Orkney alleged child abuse case showed.
Let me now turn to some texts from the Bible which, on the face of it, in our times and society, are very difficult to accept or believe in for anyone who does not take the Bible to be the authority of their faith. Even for believers some of these texts present real difficulties.
1) Genesis 6: 1-4
2) Nehemiah 9: 6
3) Job 1: 6-12 and 38: 7
4) Romans 8: 38
5) Ephesians 1: 21, 3: 10, 6: 12
6) Colossians 1:16
I have chosen texts which illustrate the belief in intermediate spiritual existences living a life distinct from human life, not angels under the immediate command of Almighty God, but somehow separate from them, apparently autonomous, loose canons, rebellious, dangerous, at odds if not enmity with Almighty God, hostile to human nature, life and society. This is the sort of fantastic tale that 20th century scientists, philosophers and intellectualised Christians reject. Hitherto there has been no answer; Christians believe the Bible; non-Christians do not; that is it. Liberal Christians humanise the Bible and eradicate any difficulties by ignoring texts such as these we have just highlighted. I have not mentioned the prevalence of angels under the authority of God throughout Scripture or the supernatural occurrences which surrounded the great prophets, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
When we look at the New Testament, it is clear that supernatural occurrences surrounded the life of Jesus. It is precisely the relationship between His divine origin and intervening supernatural powers to which the New Testament witnesses. Things happen which cannot be thought to be mere coincidences; suitable examples are found in Mark 1:23, 24, 5:7, 9:2-8, 13:24-27. There are many more. In Acts this dichotomy of supernatural spiritual intelligences continues; for example, Acts 5:3, 18:16-18,19:11-20. The Book of Revelation is a fantastic portrait of existences beyond this visible creation. The point about the New Testament is that Jesus was God Incarnate, vulnerable on earth but triumphant in heaven. The reason His life has been so dynamically meaningful has not been because He was the only good person who ever lived, though that is true, but because He addresses supernatural existences with the original Power of God the Creator.
This kind of language has lost credibility in the last 200 years. Today, few professional theologians accept that there may be some basic truth in the supernatural dimension of the Bible. Rational humanism informs most Biblical studies at the present time. Evangelicals may accede formally to Biblical supernaturalism and some may see the world as good v bad, God v The Devil, but only in charismatic circles is there an appropriation of a present supernatural dynamic consistent with that of the Bible. People outside the circle of faith simply call this "fundamentalism" and associate it with a narrow fixed and out of date view of reality.
Christianity has lost intellectual credibility, spiritual strength, power, influence and success. It seems doomed to a peripheral role in future society. Was it untrue after all? Were Christians mistaken? Jesus lived - but was he not just an inspired religious leader - a great humanist? Trinitarian theology has become more difficult to maintain. Monotheism is reasonable. Jews and Muslims worship the same God though they do not love one another. The idea of a single incarnation is foreign to eastern religions where multiplicities of revelations and incarnations occur. Christianity is the odd religion out in the world. Its exclusive claims about a single life, Jesus of Nazareth, cause division in the world. Reasonable people may believe in One God provided that God is accessible to all and may be worshipped in many ways. Christianity is asked to give up its special claims to accommodate a new vision of world religious harmony. That is the way things have been going for decades. Until New Age began to filter into people's consciousness. Reactions were both favourable and unfavourable. Some saw it as profoundly evil, while others saw it as helpful. Liberals tended to be more tolerant while evangelicals were deeply suspicious of the grand claims and the diminution of the Person of Jesus Christ. New Age is a title which like "catholic church" (small c's) covers a huge range of interests and activities. It is not the purpose of this paper to go into these. Rather let us look briefly at a particular aspect of NEW AGE thinking - the supernatural - and then return to our study of the Bible.
Randall Baer describes his own entry to the supernatural dimensions of New Age (Inside The New Age Nightmare, 1989). It began with spiritualistic and mediumistic communication, channelling and direction. This led to the personal development of higher psychic powers and from that to mind control, thought - power to control reality and transinduction. He gained psychic insights into people and believed he could influence the passage of clouds in the sky. More seriously he was given instruction on the "inner sanctuary" - a level of the subconscious which could be reached and in which wishes and desires could be energised, projected and achieved. Millions of American business people have taken this course and there are such seminars available ifl Britain today. He was then told to contact "inner counsellors" or "spirit guides" who would dispense wisdom and knowledge. Baer progressed to "crystal initiation" after which he received visions of science-fiction dimensions, crystal inventions and other advanced machines. From there he came into contact with "Universal Masters" and "Servants of the Light" and was told that he and his girlfriend were to be chosen as "Bearers of New Age Light" to lead the world to the "Golden Age Of Oneness". He was then advised to contact the "Space Brothers" who had come from a variety of galaxies who were assisting the earth to be purified. David Icke also spoke in this manner. He gave the definitive year as 1997 by which time these "Space Brothers" would lose patience with mankind and abandon the earth to its fate.
The "Space Brothers" were said to work in conjunction with a universal hierarchy of Ascended Masters, archangels, angels and spirit beings who administer and control all aspects of creation. Baer was told that his life was charted out by "The Higher Councils of Universal Masters" and that all sorts of doors would open for him. He believed cosmic gods were speaking directly to him. He and his live-in lover were hand-picked to lead the world into the New One-World Era. He then went on to study science-spiritualistic synthesis or sacred science. Baer went further and further into this type of communication. He went on heavy cosmic trips. He took part in a great plan to arrange for and welcome the actual visitation of the Masters of the Universe to the planet earth. He and others awaited the appearance of the New Age Christ, the Lord Metraya. He built an "Ascension Chamber" -a fast track to cosmic consciousness. It was on one of these trips that he felt he met the devil. He was shaken and decided to retrace his steps and make his exit from New Age. He became a born-again Christian. The point of this extended illustration is to suggest to you that New Age confirms the truth of the supernatural teaching of the Bible. It does not intend to do so. It is the existence of New Age practices and the testimonies of those like Shirley MacLaine who are still committed to New Age which by negation corroborate the testimony of the Bible about the existence of a spiritual universe with spiritual powers, principalities, existences, whatever you like to call them.
New Age therefore challenges the materialistic, rationalistic theology which has dominated European Christianity for 200 years. It also focuses our thoughts on the ultimate, cosmic, divine significance of Jesus Christ. It now makes sense to read what He was saying about Himself . In the context of the Masters of the Universe, He is the Saviour, Deliverer, Lord of all. The power of His life was greater than the power of the spiritual existences. That was why His ignominious death in a backwood of the Roman Empire was no hindrance to tbe still continuing spiritual revolution which His incarnation brought to earth. Christ has the Position and the Power in the universe to free men and women and children from the domination of intermediate spiritual existences. When a life is saved from atheism, agnosticism, immoralities, drugs, occult practices, idolatry etc., it is possible because of the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ. The ancient world into which Christianity was born was influenced by religious claims, the Greek pantheon, the Roman divinities. New Age confronts intellectualised western minds with the permanent reality of the spiritual dimension. It offers its own solutions. It clarifies the distinct claims of Jesus Christ. The Bible far from seeming to be outmoded and no longer credible takes on a new and breathtaking significance. All along the Bible has taught that the unseen world is populated by powerful forces at enmity with Almighty God. Christianity has always maintained the possibility of a cosmic fall. New Age IS THE COSMIC FALL.
You may think that this is fantastic and unbelievable. Let me show you how close New Age is. At Findhorn on the Moray Coast there is a New Age Community. This is regarded as the incarnational point of New Age. The Findhorn Community claims to be the focus of a worldwide personal and social transformation without which humanity cannot survive. It says that homo sapiens is to become homo divinus. Humanity will solve all its problems under divine guidance mediated through chosen human vessels of communication. No monotheistic claims can be tolerated. There is no doctrine of objective evil. Jesus Christ is one avatar (saviour) among many. Multiple consecutive relationships are allowed in the name of personal development. Its leaders have egomaniac complexes, the co-founder Eileen Caddy declaring "I am the Truth". It is based on spiritualistic communication. There are devotees of the Findhorn experience in all the churches in Scotland. In Edinburgh too, there are influential members of church courts who hold New Age ideas and seek to change the Church of Jesus Christ entirely into an organ of New Age thought. Indeed the real danger for the church is from those within who hold New Age ideas. A great sifting is taking place. The distinction between those truly known as Christians before these spiritual existences and heaven itself and those who are not is likely to be more clearly seen in future. The Bible illustrates the dynamics of this cosmic interaction which is still going on today and will continue as long as creation exists.
CHRISTIANITY AND MASCULINITY
A paper given to the Methodist Society in 1993
I want to begin, if I may, in the men's toilet at a restaurant in Glencoe in mid-winter. The bleak overpowering hills are covered in a foot of snow; there is a chill wind if not a blizzard blowing along the famous narrow pass. The restaurant is at the west end - warmth and light at last, you think - perhaps a bowl of steaming broth, a cup of coffee and a sandwich to return the body to this world. On the left of the main doorway there is a sign, saying "Gentlemen" and a bent arrow pointing round the side of the building. You look forlornly inside, people are warm and comfortable - some are actually laughing. You must do the needful, however. You walk round the side and then along the adjacent wall, round another corner and there at the other end is a blue door. It is the men's toilet. You go in and sit down; the snow is blowing in between the 2 inch gap at the bottom of the wooden door and the concrete floor. It is colder on some parts of your anatomy than on others. You think your backside has frozen to the plastic seat. As you stand up you are sure some flesh has actually been ripped of f. The water is solidly cold as you wash your hands. Like Titus Oates you brave the storm again, fighting your way round to the front of the building. At last, petrine-like you enter the restaurant; you go to the counter; it's bright and welcoming; there's a lovely smell of home cooking; you order some food; you wait; you look to the left - and there - all snug and warm - protected from any and all the elements is the /¢dJ.cs toilet. You think, "This is positive discrimination". It is a fact that exposure to severe cold and heat is bad for the heart. So that's why men die of heart attacks and women don't. I tell this story to illustrate the way men are taken for granted by so much of what is called social geography. However that is not as bad as the story of the visitor to Siberia who was told about the outside toilet and given some paper and a stick. He asked "What is the stick for?" and was told "To keep the wolves away".
Try to find some cauliflower au gratin in Marks & Spencer! You first get lost in a jungle of bras and lacy things, praying that no-one who knows you sees you. "I'm just in for some spare ribs -thank you". Maybe she thinks I'm a fetishist. In most shops the men's section is down the stairs in a remote corner next to the central heating system. Men are always being marginalised. 75% of consumerism is directed to women. Women are great spenders. Princess Di talked about "retail therapy" as she spent £5,000 of Charles' money every Friday afternoon. I think we should have an ordination ceremony for women shoppers. If the Bible is to be rewritten as some feminists want, we could replace "Man does not live by bread alone" with "Woman does not live by shopping alon&'. However tired a woman may be she can always summon enough energy for another purchase. Want to see an unhappy man? You don't need to go to Easter Road or Tynecastle. Go along Princess Street there you will see lots of unhappy men beside women wearing triumph-ant smiles.
From conception to grave women have a hold on men in a way that men do not have a hold on women. Men's first experiences are dominated by women as are their early years. I remember watching a school teacher called Miss Kerr lining up children after the lunch break and clapping them into classes one by one. On a train to Aberdeen I saw a mother humiliate her son of about 8 years repeatedly throughout the journey; eventually he began to cry in bewilderment at her treatment of him. I wondered what his attitude to women would be when he grew up - he was already afraid. Most primary school teachers are women and so boys reach the teen years before they begin to try to free themselves from female thraldom. No wonder some go to the extremes. Boys do rebel. A teacher asked a boy a seemingly innocent question. It was January. "Johnny, what would happen to you if you fell into the river?". "You'd freeze your ba's aff , miss". One back for the men.
All rites of passage are for women; birth is, of course, an occasion for women; in traditional societies like the Meru of Kenya and in Longniddry, men are not allowed near while a birth is taking place. Courtship is a kind of exorcism is it not? You have to learn how to handle the demon with its moods and variabilities. The man sells his car and buys an engagement ring; he gets a pair of cuff links in return. Weddings are for women - manifestly they are not for men! No-one stands up when the groom comes in. No-one cares what the father of the groom is wearing; the bride is brought in a beautiful limousine and the groom is driven in his pal's elderly Ford Escort; even the bride's mother has a limousine while the groom's father appears in his 1983 Lada. I once counted the photos in a wedding album; 132 were of the bride - there was 1 of the groom. In descending order, the centre of attraction at weddings is the bride, the bridesmaids, the bride's mother, the bride's granny, the bride's great-granny (if alive), the bride's school friends, the little posy girl, the groom.
Funerals are for women because all the men are dead. The youth who could play 3 games of football a week, work endless overtime and had the strength of an ox, over the years of marriage is slowly enfeebled, reduced to helpless dependence and mocked for his inactivity. His strength and energy have been exploited by the woman and then turned against him. The frail little 18 year old who could not lift a brick ends up outliving her great young husband by 20 or 30 or 40 years.
All arguments are won by women and they seldom apologise. Men seek peace and so give in because spiritually they cannot survive a long term internal war situation. When couples are interviewed on the television news note how often the women speak and the men sit like ventriloquists' dummies.
From infancy to death women have it all sown up; they understand life issues better than men and are more connected to earth than are men. In the house the woman chooses the style and decoration, the colour of the suite, carpet etc. The man is banished to his garden hut, or in the United States, to his den. There, at least, a corner of the real estate he is paying for is truly his. He can put his feet up if he likes. There is however the mother-in-law, more of a bosom pal for the wife than her husband will ever be. Men have turned down careers because the wife will not move away from the area of influence. Battles between couples usually involve the struggle between the mothers-in-law for influence over the couple. It is very rarely that men have much say in these preternatural rivalries. Women want everything and they are never satisfied. Aggressive female sports reporters in the United States demanded access to the male changing rooms after football games. Two players were somewhat rude to them and the female reporters then sued them. This is institutionalised oppression and men must not put up with it. Furthermore, men are not allowed to laugh at women nowadays although women have always laughed at men.
There is something elemental about women; they are powerful goddesses, daughters of Eve; without the redeeming love of Christ they are a law to themselves. And yet, what is happening before our eyes is that in this so-called "New Age" men are asked to become like women; the masculine God is being replaced with the female "earth mother". The sensitive caring male is to replace the aggressive, barely refined caveman. Christianity is to die and paganism is to take its place.
I want to suggest to you that men belong to Almighty God in a special way. It is because men have neglected their true spiritual calling that society has slid into the pit of self-destruction that is visible to anyone today. Men have a special calling and a special responsibility towards God. Men have a quality of transcendence which even the feminist writer Simone de Bouvoir recognised. That is why when men go wrong their sin and its consequences are always greater than that of women; that is why men fall harder and faster and take greater punishment in life; men are meant for something better. If men do not return to Christ's Church they will pass on to their sons this half life of manhood which is all the world has to offer. Sons are growing up afraid of the female race, afraid of their own transcendence, afraid to be alone, to be free in spirit. Men are being blackmailed into being women - why because they have lost their true vocation as a result of their denial of the Living God in their lives.
The danger is that this is being institutionalised in society. Daphne Hampson is a feminist writer who has rejected Christianity because it has an apparently male God, a male Saviour and a Church dominated by men. She has not been content simply to use inclusive language allowing equality to women, not even with re-writing the Bible to expunge all exclusively male terms for God, but actually has walked away from Christianity in an absolute way. She says it is impossible to be a Christian and be a woman. Many men may want to agree with some if not all of the things she says. But if this is to be the beginning of an ex-Christian secular religious women's movement, then men should return to the Church, to Jesus Christ and to God and reclaim their original calling. Because if women reject Christ, men can once again be His friends and fellow-workers for salvation among the members of the human community.
Hampson takes the Bishop of Durham's argument about revelation to its logical conclusion; she cannot accept a divine personal God relating to human beings; she cannot accept the incarnation of God in Jesus; she cannot accept the Virgin Birth, miracles or the resurrection; she cannot accept the experience and testimony of the apostles or of the Church for nearly 2,000 years. She rejects all of this because it is not intellectually credible in the late 20th century and because from her feminist position it is immoral because it refers to so many men.
For Hampson there was no such person as Eve and women did not sin or bring sin into the world at all. Sin for her is the failure of women to achieve self-actualization. Women have never sinned positively in the Bible's terms, she says; they have simply failed to assert themselves. So the great self-assertion includes rejecting Jesus because he was a man. She takes no account of the good Jesus has done in 2,000 years of human history nor of His teaching, nor of the doctrine about Him which the church has taught. He was a man and therefore must be rejected. This is what men are up against. It is up to men to intercede once again, to be praying and seeking the Living God and to share in the affirmations of Christian faith.
Either that or we make Daphne Hampson the new christa of the new age. I ask you to consider what this country will be like after 200 years without Christianity. We have had 20 years of it and see where we are. Men are suf fering a failure of nerve, a failure of will, a failure of spiritual fidelity, a failure of the love of God. You see the result. I was a prison chaplain; there I saw young men, third generation criminals whose fathers and grandfathers had been in jail before them. They did not know that there was a better way to live; no-one had told them, noone had shown them. Your descendants might be no better off.
There's another side to men in jail; many have gone there to protect their wives and children. Men confess to crimes to stop the police harassing their families or pressing charges against their wives. Men in prison often have a misplaced romanticism and nobility of spirit in spite of their predicament. They may just be trying to find consolation and vindication for their stupidity, but they have that spark of the responsibility of transcendence even during their punishment. You see men wandering, homeless, drunk, begging. Pitiful indeed, many more than women. God's image dulled and lost. They are meant for something greater. Not many widows remarry, most widowers do very quickly. Women seem more compact and organised, more realistic and at one with the world and human society. Men are dreamers, creators, achievers and when that goes wrong - the failure and consequences are terrible. Television comedies ridicule men; advertising always presents men in the weakest of lights. So much in the media world operates with great subtlety to reduce men, to bring them down, to humiliate them and to bury them. Unconsciously we become what we see people telling us we are. And there is no Christ in all of that.
Even in seeking peace, men are diminished because the peace they agree to is not the peace of truth but of comfort. Today, for all that we are supposed to live in a free society there are immense restrictions on the free living of masculine life. I am not talking about selfish huntin', shootin', fishin', golfin' life. I'm talking about real internal freedom and integrity of life. Men are losing the battle. St Paul was wise when he asked men to love their wives; even wiser when he did not ask wives to love their husbands; he asked wives to respect their husbands. Paul was a man's man. He understood what a man needs and wants in life. A man can live long with a woman who respects him and he can die early without it even if a claustrophobic romanticism surrounds him.
Women do not think of men as spiritual - they often misinterpret the spiritual in men as being childish and that is sometimes because the spiritual in men is directed not towards God but towards things less important. There are glaring injustices in life against men; the differential in retirement pensions, for example. Considering that women live longer than men, it is an absurdity. The legal system in relation to the custody of children upon divorce is dreadfully biased against men; sometimes they do not even get access to their own children. The process of tracking down absent fathers to pay maintenance is justifiable to some extent. But its lack of common sense has caused suicides and the break-up of second families. So much of the family and social initiative is with women. Again, men are blamed for desertion and cruelty, but the subtle internal warfare that women wage in men drives them away as the viciousness of the tongue can lead to the dull blunt instrument of the fist. Men need God to handle their lives well; they cannot survive their transcendence without its proper root in Almighty God. They can't make it on their own at all even if they think they can.
In the Bible men are found guilty and are forgiven and called to spiritual stewardship and divine responsibility in Christ. That is still their true calling. It is not to be with the feminisation of the world, nor with the earth mother philosophy of the New Age. It is to be with their God and the Father of their souls. It is to be with Christ, the male and incarnate Saviour. We have an affinity with and for God by nature. If men were to return to the church and witness for Christ the good to the world would be immeasurable. If renewal and revival is to happen in Scotland it will only do so when men come back to the church.
REPLY TO DAPHNE HAMPSON'S "THEOLOGY AND FEMINISM"
A paper given in the Chaplaincy Centre in 1992
Daphne Hampson believes in some kind of God as a power in the world, not over against human beings as is held in the three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She admits that she has never considered Christianity to be true. She says, for example, that since Darwin, we know there wasn't a Fall; she does not deal with the prevalence of moral wrong nor does she consider the origin of evil. She says that since we know about reproduction we know that a virgin couldn't have a child. The relationship of the original power of creation to a single act of equal value is not made i.e., the God who made the world can make a single baby. She says there could not have been a one-off resurrection. The rejection of God as objective, personal, active and in Christ necessitates a denial of resurrection. The affirmations of both the principles and the resurrection also hold together. She uses the pejorative term "myth" for Christian Gospel, Doctrine and History without defining its meaning. It is set against "scientific" which, for Hampson, equals "truth". She does not think Christianity is tenable or moral. Neither was Christ unique in any way. She rejects the patriarchal dimension of the given revelation in Scripture. She does not admit that Adam and Eve are held to be equal in their conduct before God. She does not see that men are judged by the objective revelation given to the human community. She does not distinguish human society and the content of the transcendent revelation. She does not admit transcendence in any case.
There is a non-human, non-male, non-female content to the three great monotheistic faiths which Hampson dismisses as to fact, credibility and meaning. She does not justify this. We have to accept that because she does not believe or understand, she is right. Women, she says, are secondary in the Scriptures, and Mary is only a model of humility and obedience, neither of which are values according to feminist thought. She asks women and men to walk out of the church. She encourages apostasy. She can't be bothered, she says, looking in the Bible for positive incidences of women. Christianity is sexist, being concerned with a male god and his sons. It cannot redeem itself by applying its liberating purpose to women. Eternal liberation is automatically discarded. She does not answer the problems of the atomism and individualism of her own position. She talks of prayer but without a personal content - i.e., as a movement of human good will. She claims that women are more rational than men who are individualistic, competitive and aggressive. Are women at high street January sales such gentle creatures then? What about the mother in the USA who tried to murder another woman because she claimed she was preventing her daughter becoming a high-school cheer-leader? What about the 75 year old woman in California who shot a man dead because he had parked his car across her driveway? What, indeed, about Margaret Thatcher? She thinks that ifl our society male is normal. I suggest that female is normal. Ask any single man. Ask any married man. Ask any married man with a family.
Hampson rejects what she calls the male paradigms which determine our understanding of God as over against humanity. Without any justification, revelation or intellectual support she declares that feminist paradigms allow us to capture something which is closer to what God mwsf bc. Is this then helpful? Is it of the same religious and spiritual quality as the Ten Commandments, the writings of the Prophets, the Wisdom literature (the feminine principle), the Sermon on the Mount, the Book of Romans? If you try to knock down big targets you need big ammunition. Hampson's declaratory feminist assumptions bear little weight. They are emotional in nature, expressing how she feels but they do not have an objective, historical, incarnate or corroborated quality. This is a cheap way to reject 4,000 years of spiritual journey and three major world monotheistic faiths. It is a kitchen mentality where the woman rules in her own domain and dominates her surroundings without testing outside. Hampson retreats to Schleiermacher (a man!). The influence of Jesus Christ in history seems to count for nothing. Equality and relation, the two qualities she thinks women bring to theology, were seen incomparably in Jesus Christ. She envisages some kind of religionless Christianity as did Deitrich Bonhoeffer. It does not work, of course. People need to live in houses. Children need schools. Students need universities. Workers need offices and factories. Religion as an organised force in society holds it together and saves it as the salt saves meat.
We see every day what happens when a society loses its connection with religious observance and behaviour. Hampson has no answer to the broken world. Hers is a private religious view. The caring aspect of organised Christianity as a positive contribution in world history cannot be measured. Hampson, moreover, takes no thought of alternative religious views and practices, Islam, or eastern religious ideas, spiritualism, New Age thought, astrology, etc etc. Her religion does not admit transcendence, revelation or the supernatural. Her power of prayer is earth-bound and human inter-related only. The three great monotheistic faiths are about other worlds, about cosmic issues. These are male paradigms, she says, and women are telling us not to be so silly as to be thinking about them!
The outset argument is not then about personal revelation or obedience, knowledge of God or relation to God. It is simply gender affirmation. It is the Eve principle articulated. The blame is passed. It is a seeking of exoneration not a confession of sin. It is not a seeking of "the other" and its introduction to human knowledge. What we want to know about is what is beyond this visible life. We don't want to know about women. Hampson tells us nothing about what exists beyond this physical life; she tells us about women. This is a gender self-discovery experiment about the status of women in human society.
This is a legitimate subject for literature or sociology, but it is not theology. In Jesus Christ there was relationship with God, ethics, and miraculous breach of natural laws; there was self -sacrificial death and resurrection; there was the founding of an ongoing dynamic identifiable community of faith and practice. What has Hampson to offer in comparison? The assumptions of her thought are consistent with late 20th century rationalism. This is very culture specific and time limited. Christianity has been around for much longer and who knows what new spheres of human knowledge are to be encountered in the next 500 or 1,000 years. Hampson surrenders Christianity to the men she seems to want to struggle against. There are Christian feminists who continue to live and work in the church. She rejects everything. Hampson is largely uncritical of the female species. The Bible, on the other hand, is radically critical about human nature, male and female. It is as well to remember that all men are borne by women and by and large raised by them in the early all-determining years. What men do in adulthood is a reflection of that fact. But Hampson does not ask women to take any share of the blame for the conduct of adult men. Nor does she admit the violence of women against children. She does not admit that women are violent. Hampson proves the case she is countering; she leaves it open for us to argue that the male has an affinity for God as an objective reality. We now turn to a detailed discussion of her thought, (Theology and Feminism, Basil Blackwell, 1990).
Hampson thinks feminism represents a revolution; she believes that as women come into their own, theology will change. Is this a spiritual revolution? Does it of fer us insight from beyond our field of knowledge? If it is the articulation of the feminine perspective, it should be noted that men as masculine creatures have not yet deliberately asserted themselves theologically either. Theology has been mediated by and large through males. But they were men taken over by an idea greater than themselves, greater than they perceived. They were receivers, humbled, mistaken, sinful, weak and insecure. The content of the revelation in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is not masculinity but a divine being. Traditional language has used male metaphors to describe this God but not as much as non-sexist language, omnipotent, compassionate, faithful, incorporeal, for example. These philosophical and relational metaphors have nothing to do with masculine gender. Hampson does not offer an alternative to the supernatural, transcendent, miraculous, Biblical intimacy of God and humans in relationship. She refutes the nature and possibility of any of these. Hers is a female liberal agnosticism - a one gender humanism - an anthropology not a theology. God is not solely represented in the Bible as male. The Biblical God is set over and against the human community. Men, by and large, receive the greater condemnation for their infidelity to called responsibilities. The Bible does not justify males as males.
In the Bible both men and women are instruments of divine self-disclosure; if there is a Being who created us and loves us - that fact is more important than the means of communication. It is astonishing that Hampson dismisses the entire content of the self-disclosure just because more men were instruments at one time than were women. The relationship between women and men in Biblical times may not please some women today but a comparison should be made with the status of women in other societies at similar points in history. The Bible is comparatively enlightened. Judaism has a relatively high view of the status of women, in comparison to, say, for example, 10th century Viking society or 19th century African society.
Hampson's thought is full of unjustifiable nostrums; it is a real theological nag. "Since the Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century it has been clear that there is a singularly ill fit between the basic axioms of Christianity and modern thought" (p. 2). I refute this simplistic jargon 1) on intellectual grounds; T.F. Torrance adequately demonstrates that scientific theory and Christian doctrine are compatible 2) on historical grounds; we have seen the historic nemesis of Marxism, once thought to have sounded the death-knell of Christianity 3) on religious grounds; New Age, whether we agree with its world-view or not, asks us to reconsider our materialistic philosophy in favour of a spiritual alternative.
For Hampson, Judaism and Christianity are patriarchal myths which have hurt women. She does not mention Islam. The male God paradigm has prevented women gaining equality. "To question the social order was to be disobedient to God" (page 3). Hampson pays no tribute to women of history who have been powerfully influential; what about Elizabeth I or Golda Meir? There is a theological issue as to whether the male as male has a natural or God-given authority over the female. St Paul thought that this was so. He also thought that men and women were equals in the Lord. He recognised that women preached (1 Cor 11:5). Both Roman Catholic and Protestant Evangelical doctrines uphold the view of the authority of the male. But no Jew or Christian would ever claim that this was to be used to the detriment of women, to their unnatural subjugation.
John Stott, for example, says "As her "head", he gives himself up for her in love ... And he looks after her, as we do our own bodies. His concern is not to crush her, but to liberate her ... The husband gives himself for his bride, in order to create the conditions within which she may grow into the fullness of her femininity" (quoted on page 102). For Hampson, this is just patronising. Hampson does not discuss the scale of family break-down in the wake of the so called liberation of women. Although she claims to take "relation" seriously she has nothing to say on the matter of
child abuse, divorce rates and the neglect of elderly people and women's contribution to these. There is very little ethical application in her thought.
Hampson has nothing good to say about Christianity; for her it has done only harm in its 2,000 years existence. She does not contemplate what the world would have been like without Christ. All the self -sacrificial lives, the receptions of understanding, the service, discoveries, inventions, achievements, humanities etc., etc., pass her by because these happened within the context of what she says is a religion essentially biased against women (p. 4). The feminine must be taken into public acceptance as a new thought process. Men must explore the ways in which they are loving and gentle, to allow themselves to cry or be weak (p. 4). This really is outdated old hat.
The female is deadlier than the male. Women are often less sensitive and more practical and hard-headed than men. Men die younger from their spiritual burdens, often the women's as well as their own, silently borne with dignity throughout a lifetime while the talkative self justifying female patronises the male and treats him like the baby she always wants to have in her arms. Women are in many ways tougher, more complete creatures of the earth than men. The male is caught more between two worlds, the human and the transcendent. The woman socialises the man and roots him on earth. She completes him and gives him peace. He bears the contradiction of being made in the image of God more obviously. Perhaps that is why men have mediated great spiritual truths more than have women. They have not witnessed to themselves as men but to the divine being beyond their maleness and indeed their humanness.
Hampson drives men back to God. Celibacy is that journey taken to its logical conclusion. That is not her intention; but her extremism and lack of justice obliges men to turn from women to their own transcendence. She is returning Christianity to men for their exclusive benefit and joy. We all know that women are more aware of life issues than men. We recognise that women are shrewd, deceitful, determined, successful, ruthless and that men are vulnerable, ridiculed, exploited, rendered slowly more and more impotent and then thankfully dropped by women into their mass grave. Zsa-Zsa Gabor was at least honest when she said "A man is incomplete until he is married - then he is finished!".
Hampson despises the Virgin Mary but she presents a picture of women as virginal creatures unsullied by any ulterior motives, base thoughts, sinfulness, injustice, malice, greed, hypocrisy, violence or anything conceivably wrong. Hampson turns all of women into wee virgin Maries! It is the lack of balance that is illuminating. Genesis places man and women together under condemnation. Hampson blames only the male. There is nothing of the repenting tradition in her thought. Women have nothing to repent. They must exercise self actualization - that is their way forward. Is this spiritually credible? Even eastern religions ask devotees to abase their spirits in face of the numinous, to open themselves out for correction and redirection and to be taken out of themselves into something
mystically greater. In Hampson “justification by faith” is replaced with justification by being female. Theology from below indeed!
Hampson claims that this is all a feminist revolution; the trouble is that there is little positive religious, moral, spiritual, theological or philosophical content to her evolution. The question is, "If an individual undermines Christianity in general and Jesus Christ in particular, is that person not taking the place of the latter and offering a replacement for the former?". Then Daphne Hampson is by implication a christa - a female christ - and her teaching is replacement christianity. Since she does not compromise or offer a balanced judgement on Jesus Christ and the history of His Church, she must accept the logical conclusion which she forces us to make. We must assume that she takes to herself all the "I" sayings recorded in the Gospels. Daphne Hampson is the way, the truth and the life; she is the light of the world; she is the saviour of the world.
Unless you qualify your own religious position and insight in relation to Jesus Christ you set yourself up over and against Him. There is actually no significant content to Hampson's thought. She says, "I do not believe that there could be peculiar events, such as a resurrection, or miracles, events which interrupt the normal causal relationships persisting in history and in nature." (page 8). David Hume did not believe in miracles, but he did not make a gender issue out of his disbelief . Hume of fered a subjective philosophical opinion on objective possibilities. Hampson simply closes out the possibilities without argument. So does the Bishop of Durham whose female disciple she is.
Jenkins has written, "... it would be wholly unbiblical ... to insist that God has, by a particular historically conditioned revelation, dictated, once and for all, a normative world view" (p. 24, God, Miracle and the Church of England). The present is normative for Hampson i.e., late 20th century western knowledge and understanding; it is the consummation of human enlightenment for it sits in judgement on all other streams of consciousness. This is really very parochial indeed. If Hampson wants to be taken seriously, her thought would need to become as great as the best in Christian history and then it would have to surpass that by dying to gender and even human issues to become a vehicle for the reception in the human community of transcendental spiritual truth of a new and eternal dimension adding significantly to the religious and spiritual understanding of the human race.
There is nothing in Hampson to suggest that that has begun. Is her individual existential starting and finishing point able to justify her condemnation of the entire history of the human race so far? In her enclosed individuality perhaps - but this is not an objective and selfless contribution to human knowledge. Has God corroborated Hampson's new revelation of non -revelation? By definition it cannot be done by a resurrection because she does not believe in a resurrection. There is no possibility of a supernatural corroboration or a historical vindication. She simply asks us to accept her personal opinion. Thank you very much.
Hampson's bitterness has in part come from the fact that the Church of England of which she was a member would not ordain her to the priesthood. She therefore condemns the theology of male headship as found in Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, Barthian and conservative evangelical thought. I agree with her that male supremacy should not logically accept the female leadership of the State although this has not been a problem in the times of Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth 11 and Margaret Thatcher. Hampson however makes no mention of the fact that some churches have for decades ordained women to the ministry.
It is truly insensitive and blind for this woman working in a Scottish University Faculty of Divinity not to acknowledge that The Church of Scotland ordains women, (as do Methodists and others). Why did she not join one of these churches rather than leave Christianity altogether? The ordination factor was not the most important after all. It was an excuse for a primary and deeper rejection of the totality of Christianity as a spiritual doctrinal system - and of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Son of God. Hampson places great weight on textual criticism; she therefore negates the women of the New Testament who were the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Were they diseased in mind and socially conditioned to accept this revelation? Did they tell lies? Were they without character and integrity? These women were central to the intimation of Christ's resurrection in history and yet Hampson ignores them.
Hampson offers traditional liberal criticism of the doctrines of authority of Episcopal churches. It is possible to disagree with them from a Christian stand-point however and these objections do not constitute objections to Christianity as such. Hampson takes no cognition of the Free Church tradition, of Brethren assemblies, Baptist unions and Pentecostal assemblies. She disagrees with the order of the threefold ministry as a feminist; she does not admit that millions of Christians disagree for Christian and Biblical reasons. I really do not think it is possible to take thought produced in such an individualistic vacuum seriously. I accept that Aquinas' arguments that women are defective by reason of nature are his own. I do not agree with them. I have sympathies with some feminist thought which wishes to of fer alternative ideas to these. However it is not apparent either that a society in which women are absolutely equal to men in all things is as yet the good or happy society. This may come to be in the future. The evidence suggests the opposite possibility.
If women are to be the determinates of everything as women without an objective revelation of God, than I would think that a new form of chaos is about to break in to human social history. Hampson rejects the thinking of those who accept women's ordination in an Episcopal church. She wants to reject the entire Judaeo-Christian Testament because it has, she claims, subjugated women. If it now seeks to repent and free women, she will not accept such charity. Instead she offers a final rejection.
Hampson cannot accept the Christian Church's credal affirmations about Christ. "I do not believe that the uniqueness which Christians attribute to Christ is possible ... neither do I believe ... that Jesus of Nazareth could have had, as well as his human nature, a divine nature;" (page 53). Hampson is not the first person not to believe. Hers is a recipe of eighteenth century rationalism, nineteenth century liberalism and twentieth century agnosticism. Many men have disbelieved but not for masculine reasons, simply on the grounds of inability to believe. The point is that Hampson adds nothing to the feminist case in this way. If she identifies her rationality, liberalism and feminism and she is wrong about Christ, does this then not mean that if Christianity is true about Christ then she is wrong about women? She puts herself in that unenviable position and she therefore sells women out completely to her own extremism. This is a false messianic complex if ever I saw one. What about all the faithful pious women of the millennia, centuries and decades? Are they all so foolish and deluded? Is Hampson the only truth that women have ever found out? A false messiah is not a neutral entity; it is positively harmful. I suggest that Hampson's denigration of women makes her an enemy of women and not their friend and champion.
The Cross is the negation of manhood as manhood in all aspects, physical, sexual, authoritative, declamatory. Why cannot she see this? Christ points us beyond any temporary manhood to a heaven in which there are neither male nor female.
Hampson's thought is do-it-yourself atomism. There are no events, dynamics or movements occurring. There is a traditional gender war. There is no strategy for the betterment of the world. The organising overview perhaps belongs to the male - would she agree? All of Judaism and Christianity has been inclusive of women and children. It is unclear that Hampson's thought is inclusive of males and children. She is a post-institutionalist although she has institutionalised her own thought in publication and she works and earns a living in a Christian institution. She is hung-up on the issue of authority because that fits her complaints. But she has nothing to offer us in the way of self -sacrifice either as an ideal or as a practice.
Is Mother Teresa a good example to the world of a woman's response to God in Christ? According to Hampson, Mother Teresa must be a bad example since she fulfils the traditional role of subservience in spirit to Christ; she is mistaken since she believes Christ is risen from the dead; she is deluded in adhering to a supernaturally understood sacramental salvific system and in thinking that she will find eternal life; she betrays womankind in serving within a structure which is both authoritarian and male dominated as to theology and practice. What of Martin Luther King - the 20th century apostle of non-violence? He was not a male stereotype; he loved his enemies, rendered not evil for evil, prayed for his oppressors. His ideal was Christ. His values were long rooted in Christianity. These values are not the preserve of women as women at all.
Hampson says she is not interested in finding feminine motifs in Christianity (p. 71). She wants a religion in which gender is not important. Again she states her individual preference without regard to the tradition she criticises. Hebrew thought is dynamically male and female in character. Greek thought was abstract and sexless. Hampson's is a Platonic view of the world. She denies the processes of her own existence. She is a female eunuch. What is so hateful about gender? The theology of creation in Genesis states clearly that it was originally good; it became bad through human self -will and was redeemed in Christ to become good again.
Women in the Bible
Hampson rejects Mariology (p. 73) as a male construction. She thinks that our contemporary understanding of chromosomes makes virgin birth impossible in fact. She negates the possibility of a humble woman receiving intimation from her Maker; she rejects special calling; she rejects divine intervening providence. For her Mary does not exist. Anyone who reads The Magnificat must wonder! Mary must have been a young woman of tremendous spiritual depth and piety with masses of physical and moral courage. To endure a pregnancy in such difficult conditions, to leave home for fear of the murder of her son, to watch the young man remain unmarried, to see Him die a tortured criminal's death. Mary was a woman of substance.
Is Hampson correct in saying that the parables of Jesus largely concern male characters? 1) Matthew 13:33 features a woman 2) Matthew 16:1 denounces men 3) Matthew 25:1f features women 4) Women are the major players in Matthew 1,2 and 3 and in Luke I and 2; Matthew 12:46f ,15:21f , 20:20f , 28:1f . 5) Luke 7:11f , 8:1f , 8:19f, 8:40f; 10:38f,13:10f,15:8f, 21;1f, 23:55, 24:1-12. 6) John 2:1f, 4:1f, 8:1f,11:1f,12:1f, 20:1f. It is interesting to note that in these incidences women appear as equals, as good examples, admirable, not to be judged by hypocritical men etc., etc., whereas Jesus' words to men as men were often at the least sharp and on occasions forthright and even brutal.
Hampson claims that women are disrupted in Christian worship by the male images and metaphors which are employed. Do women really feel this? Millions of women worship evangelically and happily without this complaint. Millions of nuns worship without complaint and without denying their womanhood to do so. She is not correct in saying that Jesus did not see the necessity for structural change to remedy the oppression of women. Likewise it is clear that for Christians there can be no male slaves and masters but the first shall be last and the last first. It is not the fault of Christ but of human sinfulness that these qualities for men and for women were not politically created for 18 and 20 centuries. But the impetus to equality itself cam-e- in both counts from within Christianity. Hampson is wrong (p. 89) in saying that not once did Jesus challenge the oppression of women, John 8:1f and 20:1f suffice.
Nothing pleases Hampson. She agrees that "spirit" in Hebrew is feminine in character but it is only a weak counterpart to the male Logos. Acts suggests differently! But Hampson would not accept that the Holy Spirit was an agent of supernatural power because she cannot accept divine intervention, particular calling and direction, miracles or personal revelation. It is her view of the Holy Spirit that is defective. She misunderstands the nature of the Old Covenant making it possessive and autocratically based whereas it is from the beginning a free associate relationship. She thinks there is a direct link between the goddess Iris and the iconography of the Virgin Mary. This is unjustifiable theological reductionism based on her liberal presuppositions. This is John Allegro and Don Cuppitt in skirts. Note the extremism - there is nothing good at all - in the Bible or in Christian tradition for Hampson.I am particularly concerned with her denigration of Jesus, an example of which appears on page 104. "... the Samaritan woman at the well ... she calls him in deference "sir".„ He pontificates to her, without discussion, on her marital relations ... the story ends by her proclaiming him to be the Messiah!". My own view of this story is that Jesus was attracted to and by this vivacious woman; that He broke all rabbinical canons by speaking to her alone; that He had a spirited argument (Gorbachev-like) with her, warmed to her, loved her and received recognition and understanding from her and was refreshed by His encounter with her.
Hampson does not admit that some men and some women are not equal. Some women can play golf better than some men. Some men are better at computer science than some women. What is so bad about this? Justification by gender is very restricted in its scope for understanding the complexity of human individuality with its range of gifts and talents. Women bosses can be difficult to work for, as anyone in universities knows! Jesus and the woman at the well were not equal; one founded a world religion, the other lived a life of multiple adulteries but was redeemable and loved of God. Cleopatra and the man who cleaned the streets of Alexandria were not equals.
Hampson seems to have some kind of totalitarian collectivistic view of human relationships. I suspect she wants us all to wear grey unisex suits like the Chinese gerontocracy. I reject such closet logic, such narrow vision, such feeble and synthetic posturing. It is certainly not theology. Hampson's thought will fail because it is not true to female nature. There seems to be no opportunity for fun in being male and female. Hampson cannot claim that her thought is about the equality of men and women because nothing in her thought shows an egalitarian evaluation of the social data. She cannot see past, for example, what she calls "the patriarchal past" to the intimation of the transcendent, something which women like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Deborah and others understood much better than the men around them.
Hampson plays with New Age ideas and quotes a woman's spirituality song: Woman I am/Spirit I am/I am the Infinite within myself /I can find no beginning/I can see no end? All this I am (p. 112). This is identification of divinity and womanhood. Christian hymns are about God in distinction from human nature. Hampson rejects this dichotomy as a male construct and refuses to see past it to eternal values. This is domineering and oppressive feminism. Hampson thinks that men as men may be irreparably damned (although she does not explain what she means by "damned" since she does not believe in a heaven or a hell). Women however, as women, escape the possibility of sharing the eschatological fate of the male species.
Hampson in overstating her case actually brings women into disrepute. This is real alienation. She says feminists have been concerned about one another, the earth and peace. But Jesus and St Francis, Gandhi and others have long been examples of these things. They also were concerned with the Person of God, but feminists are not so concerned. She does not think of humans as sinful (p. 121). Women's sin, has been, she says, "the failure to take responsibility for self-actualization" (p.123). This is a bit of narrow 20th century existentialism which would go down well if preached to female inhabitants of Edinburgh pubs on a Friday evening! It is female fascism. If there is no objective moral code, then anything is possible. Tbe fruit of this doctrine multiplied in 100 years is impossible to calculate. It is the opposite of the Way of the Cross.
Hampson regards a concern with individual fate and destiny after death as a male concern and quotes the American feminist writer Filman who called such concern "posthumous egotism". It may also be that the ancient principle that human life is divinely and eternally based is a better explanation. There is no analysis of life mysteries in Hampson; no Gospel, not even, I believe for women. Women like to be taken out of themselves and perhaps their interest in Christianity is precisely because it takes them out of and above themselves into a dimension which is interesting and exciting and a life-long exploration. All the evidence contradicts the Hampson view of an immanent earthly utopia. Hampson does not mention the great female mystics who have struggled to intercept the divine and mediate the divine to the human community, people like Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila, for example. She rejects the intellectual arguments of those like T.F. Torrance who af firm the positive meaning of Christian doctrine for modern scientific explanation of the nature of the universe. She rejects any historical corroboration of the Christian claims to an overriding divine providence in human affairs. Christian truth is proved as much by apostasy and by its acceptance - ask Karl Marx, wherever he is. Hampson is a female person thinking about things already in existence and not of fering philosophical innovation or theological discovery. The basic premise is that all religion is untrue. Her thought is not women's experience of God but simply one woman's experience.
Hampson closes her argument by saying "What I believe we need to do is to find a way to conceptualize God which is independent of the Christian myth, a myth which is neither tenable or ethical". She does not actually offer that. The implication in her work is however that she replaces the person of Jesus Christ with the gender of the female collectivised. How far women can and will accept this as fair, helpful, valid, or true remains to be seen.
Hampson's thought is out-of~date eighteenth century liberal rationalism. It is simply gender affirmation. It represents the spiritual divorce of a woman and Christianity. Hampson is dishonest and uncritical about females in society. There is no spiritual, eternal, metaphysical or eschatological dimension to her polemic. Hampson's view of the Bible is both reductionistic and iconoclastic; has the Bible done no good whatsoever in human history over the centuries? She has not a good word to say for 2,000 years of Christianity either. The Ordination issue was only a sign of a deeper rejection of Christianity and of Jesus Christ as a living Person. There is no credible doctrine of sin which is replaced by a theory of female self -actualization. We may conclude that logically Hampson is asserting her own messianic claims over against Christ. She expresses a dreadful collectivism of the human female personality and holds that the claims of all major religious understanding are untrue.
IS EDINBURGH A SCOTTISH UNIVERSITY?
A paper given in the Chaplaincy Centre in 1991
I am not going to discuss the merits and demerits of the new University Logo. I want to suggest that you cannot in fact identify a university by, with, or from such a logo. It may be helpful in the commercial world. The true corporate identity of a university is much more complex, living, dynamic and determined by the people who live and work in it at any time. The corporate identity of a university depends secondly on its educational policy and its moral values, the spiritual and intellectual purposes which it exemplifies. I am not convinced that there has been any serious reflection on the greater historical issues of corporate identity. The corporate identity of an institution cannot ignore the nation, society, city and people among whom it continues in existence. It is probably wrong to expect that a complex conglomerate such as this University should have a monolithic or totalitarian corporate identity. But there should be at least some sense of a coherent holistic philosophy and theology of university life. There should be a framework that can engage the minds and inspire the hearts of all who labour here. Without this, the atomised individual is liable to feel neglected and depersonalised, perhaps demoralised and threatened and, in fact, many members of staff do feel these emotions at the present time. Instead of a definite clear philosophy, universities have been forced into knee jerk responses to external pressure and these responses are more and more alien to Scottish educational tradition.
The very suggestion that there should be an overall
philosophy and theology of existence for our University is a very Scottish thing. Scots remain in the world as a cerebral people with a metaphysical and spiritual dimension to their personalities and understanding. In Scotland it is a serious God who is worshipped seriously and transcendentally or at the very least acknowledged nominally and that is the point. Idealism is still present and first principles are still advocated, notably and publicly by Lord MacKay, the Lord Chancellor, in his reforms of the English legal system. The objections to his approach in England were on pragmatic lines. William McIlvanney, the author, although an atheist himself , admits the reality of this metaphysical dimension of the Scottish mind and the world-view that results.
George Davie indicates that in post Union (1707) times "the English with their tolerant good-humour could refer to the complex sister-nation as "metaphysical Scotland". 1 One of the themes of his book, ‘The Democratic Intellect’ is that there has always been pressure from England to conform Scottish education to its larger neighbour's practice by eliminating the historic importance of philosophy in the Scottish educational tradition. For centuries the teaching of philosophy was a prerequisite to professional training. It was part of the generalist tradition which survives in the form of the ordinary degree in Scotland.
In 1826, Davie tells us, "... the Scottish system of a basically philosophical education found itself ... on trial before a Royal Commission. Governmental intervention in the affairs of Scottish Universities ... had been invoked in view of certain pressing difficulties of finance and administration." 2 Archdeacon Williams (not a Presbyterian), Rector of Edinburgh Academy, inspired by Oxonian ideas suggested the drastic step of ousting philosophy from the curriculum in order to make room for Greek. Francis Jeffrey replies to William's argument thus: "... it enables relatively large numbers of people to get not indeed profound learning, for that is not to be spoken of - but that knowledge which tends to liberalise and make intelligent the mass of our population, more than anything else". 3 The same principles are still at stake for there are Scots students who cannot get a place at this University although they have basic university entrance requirements.
Scottish education at that time offered free entry to university education whereas specialisation would have required a schooling system to match it such as was Edinburgh Academy itself . Westminster governmental policy on student loans is in principle against the historical tenor and purpose of Scottish education. This has been the paradoxical trampling of such an egalitarian system in the name of democratic free choice. Freedom of choice is determined by money now - it never was in Scottish education in the past. The attempt to radically alter Scottish education in 1826, by the way, was defeated.
Let it be noted that the two greatest Scottish intellects alive (arguably), Lord MacKay and Sir James Black, were both from humble poor Christian family backgrounds. What is wrong with a system that can still produce people of such high calibre? The legendary "lad o' pairts" may disappear from view because of the increasing pressure towards specialisation and the lack of basic adequate government education grants for students. Edinburgh University (although it is not alone in this) has not been able to offer any answers to these great problems.
Davie's words describe the ongoing situation accurately. "... a nation noted educationally both for social mobility and for fixity of first principles gradually reconciled itself to an alien system in which principles traditionally did not matter and a rigid social immobilism was the accepted thing." 4 Is there a coherent overall policy for the recruitment of students at this University? Is it to be that students from England with A Levels are to be valued more highly than Scottish students with Highers? Is the first year of University teaching here to be geared to A level attainment or to Highers attainment? Is Edinburgh a Scottish University?
I have met students who do not want to come here because they do not want to sit in tutorials with students from English public schools. One of our staff has wittily suggested that the ideal tutorial would be composed of 1 Scot, 2 ex-public school students so obnoxious that they would force the Scot to say something, 1 American and 1/2 an Australian! (He did not say which half!).
The Democratic Intellect
George Davie did not invent the term "Democratic Intellect". Walter Elliot used the description "democratic intellectualism" in the mid-nineteenth century. But the phenomenon has existed in Scotland for much much longer. In the ancient Celtic Church, unlike anywhere else in Christendom, the bishop was subordinate to the abbot of the local monastery. Scotland has hitherto resisted any attempt to impose monarchical episcopacy as a factor in its national church life.
Each King of Scotland was ‘primus inter pares' - a fact which the Stewart monarchs in later times failed to appreciate to their own misfortune. There were married clergy in the pre-Reformation Scottish Catholic Church. It was no surprise therefore that Scotland adopted Presbyterianism during the Reformation. Long before political democracy could be found in Europe, the Scottish Church had a nationally ordered system of government by popular representation and collective justice. What we have seen recently in Russia and in eastern Europe was found in Scotland in the 16th century.
Ecclesiastical and political government in England is by social class convention (unwritten) and by individualised temporary power. Academic administration follows the same pattern. In Scotland there are Rectors and General Councils in addition to Courts and Senates. The professionalisation of university administration may bring about the demise of these residual pointers to democracy.
There are now serious attempts to professionalise the academic administration of this University. I am not sure the plans are in keeping with the democratic mind of Scottish educational history. It seems that power to make decisions is being channelled into the hands of fewer and fewer people. This, in itself , runs counter to the way Scots think of authority and responsibility. We would not normally think that in a university context any single person should have the right to a final "say" over the destiny of any individual. We would not normally approve the concentration of academic power in a few hands. We would not normally value the reduction of the decision-making powers of statutory bodies, collegiates, courts, senates and councils. On the contrary, we would expect a progressive reforming university to strengthen these and to develop them.
One of the problems in this University is the flow of information, ideas and views from the top down and from the bottom up. There is no middle caucus where people like myself and many other teachers and employees can actually share in policy making and decision making. I think the University suffers from a lack of truthfulness about the future for example. People throughout the institution are afraid for their jobs and do not voice their concerns. The University is hierarchically structured and the professors are always right because they are professors. In the Scottish tradition a professor has always been respected for his or her knowledge and character, teaching abilities and research production.
But a professor is not right in everything because he is a professor. There are many people in this University with good ideas who will never have them taken seriously because they have no forum to promote them. Heads of Departments have increasing powers over star f members. The problem is the short-term knee-jerk response to outside pressures. The Church of Scotland is doing the same thing. It is centralising and thereby narrowing its decision-making base. The only thing is that there is still a General Assembly which can and does overturn executive decisions when it feels they are wrong. I believe in popular justice. Perhaps you will say that is because I am a Presbyterian. No - it is not that. It is because it works. I believe in broad-based accountability. Perhaps that is because I am a product of the democratically intellectual nature of Scottish education.
The humanity of an institution depends on communication. It is the devolution of decision-making power that will save this University. How can it be that as we look at the world, political and social philosophy is being democratised in practice and then in intellectual reflection and this University is moving in the opposite path. Do some people know things we do not? Are we in a Noah's ark? Or, is it more likely that panic measures and ignorance of the Scottish educational tradition are taking this University along a path on which it should not be travelling at all.
Why should this be? It is self -evident. The Chancellor is a naturalised Englishman. The Principal is an anglicised Welshman. Until recently all four Vice-Principals were English; now, at last, one is a Scot. Most of the Deans are English. Most Professors and Heads of Departments are English. Unlike at Glasgow, Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt Universities, for example, when senior positions are available, it is assumed in Edinburgh that the successful applicant will come from south of the border. The post of Director of the Careers Service was not actually advertised in the Scottish newspapers until a member of staff complained. A democratic mind is a particularly Scottish phenomenon. My view is that Edinburgh University is not being run imaginatively along democratically minded lines and that its plans for the future do not include, far less promote, democracy in mind, in academic administration and thence in its corporate image. Hence it will foster generations of undemocratically minded graduates. Is Edinburgh a Scottish University?
The Oxbridge Factor
It is my impression that this University tries to compete with Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It does not see its role as primarily to serve Scotland and its people and its school-leavers. Scotland is, apparently too narrow a base to find recognition, reputation and purposeful self justification.
How many of the senior staff of this University are products of Oxford and Cambridge? How many English students who come here would have gone to Oxford or Cambridge if they had gained entry there? How many of these seem unaware that they are in Scotland - that there are differences? Why should Scots be made to feel parochial if they resent such insensitivities and assumptions? There is a long history of struggle against Oxbridge influence in Scotland. J.D. Forbes succeeded Sir John Leslie to the Chair of Physics here in 1832. He was an Anglican and a Tory and despised the nature of teaching in Scottish universities ... "the state of preparation here is low to a degree which, with your high academic notions ,... must appear to you almost incredible", 5 he wrote to a Cambridge colleague. In 1838 he took the unprecedented step of supporting a fellow Cambridge Anglican Kelland who had no previous knowledge of Scotland for the Chair of Mathematics.
Sir William Hamilton entered a pamphlet war supporting a local candidate, Duncan Gregory maintaining that "there was a distinctive mathematical tradition in Scotland with standards of its own and well worthy of being kept alive".6 Forbes' candidate won! Today there is an implicit assumption that Oxford and Cambridge are superior in every way to any Scottish university. Principal Shairp recorded in 1856 a contrasting Oxford criticism of the Scottish generalist practice of introducing criticism and aesthetics into the Latin class as "premature intellectualism". 7 It would seem that the Scottish system could not win.
Matthew Arnold wrote of the national poet Robert Burns ... "Burn's world of Scotch drink, Scotch Religion and Scotch manners is a harsh, a sordid, a repulsive world:".8 George Davie comments, "Apparently Arnold in Oxonian fashion equated culture with the study of Greek, and thus for him the Scots had little culture because they had little Greek". 9 Burns, in fact, did have Greek and his poetry has universal ideals throughout. Why such parochial Oxonian blindness? Oxford and Cambridge have long been associated with privilege and elitism. I did not find theology at Oxford in the mid-seventies better than that in Scottish universities. It was, in fact, irresponsible (The Myth of God Incarnate) and superficial -dilettante choirboy wheeze theology! However I am concerned here to draw more general points.
It is often said today that Scottish education is more akin to that of Europe than is English education. Oxford and Cambridge determine English education. Britain's political problems with the European Economic Community may be caused in part by the isolation factor in the English social and educational system. Elements of ambition, individualism, of class consciousness and materialism typify the Oxbridge system and these generate much that is sleazy in British politics, industry and commerce. In Scotland there is a residual sense of community responsibility. The commitment of the individual to the whole is not forgotten and that can be traced to the nature of Scottish education over the centuries.
The question is therefore whether in a University whose senior positions are taken up by more and more Oxford and Cambridge academics and in which more and more students are English there can or will be anything left of any distinctive Scottish education at all. I want to go on the attack a little here and suggest that from personal experience and the observation of British political life, Oxford and Cambridge, while producing many brilliant men and women, do at the same time exemplify individualism, atomism, competition, drama, presentation, extroversion, convention, class, a lack of personal seriousness and much that is morally dubious. In Scottish universities there may yet remain that sense of the whole, of responsibility, of seriousness, altruism, modesty, and indeed, of the democratic intellect, qualities which are superior by far. I would also suggest that it is the latter qualities that are more in keeping with the development of European and world society than are those of Oxford and Cambridge. How then can it be that this University's corporate identity can be the negation of Scottish academic history and tradition? This University should be a guiding light for the preservation of the best in the Scottish tradition. There is an obvious danger for such a large institution to be so out of kilter with the albeit quiet and responsible moves in Scotland towards political self determination. May it not be that this University inhibits and restricts rather than fosters and advances the free movement towards such a happening?
New Age doctrine reaffirms that materialism is not the most truthful philosophy of life. We have seen in the past two years that ideas are prime movers in human society and can defeat bullets, tanks, organisations and seeming impregnable certainties of history. Scots have a distinctive culture, ethos, sense of community, philosophy, folk religion, expression of Christianity and theology of their own. They feel aggrieved living beside a numerically larger neighbour whose influence seems determined to obliterate distinctive characteristics of their own. Throughout the world there is a surge of nationalism and we learn that those we have hitherto recognised as nations are in fact confederacies and unions of smaller nation states with persisting cultural identities. Scotland is such a country.
In ‘The Eclipse Of Scottish Culture’ Craig Beveridge and Ronald Turnbull deal critically with negative perceptions of Scottish history and culture. These negative perceptions have most often originated and been fostered in England. No honest Scot could deny however that historically some Scots have indulged in national, political, ecclesiastical and cultural treachery. Beveridge and Turnbull use Frantz Fanon's notion of "inferiorisation". "According to Fanon, a colonised people is subjected to a process of mystification. Central to this process is a sustained belittling of the colonised culture, which is depicted by the coloniser, as impoverished, backward, inferior, primitive". 10 Recall the attitude of Oxbridge academics to Scottish
education in the 19th century. I myself worked in Africa, in Kenya, a former British colony. Once I watched a Kikuyu gaze bewildered over the fence at Limuru Country Club while he watched portly ‘wazungu’ in Bermuda shorts hit a small ball round grassy slopes. It occurred to me that the British had not so much militarily defeated the races of the world but confused them. To a Kikuyu that land meant acres of maize and potatoes. He did not understand. He assumed that it Was his inferiority as an African which prevented him from sharing in this activity, whatever it was.
Hugh Trevor Roper (he, of Hitler's diaries' fame!) in 1979 described the Scottish political system prior to the 1707 Union as one of "banditry" from which the Scots were liberated. He maintained that the Scots are by nature unfit to run a civilised polity. There are Scots who would agree with him. But if anyone went to see "Ane Satyre Of The Three Estaites", one of the few Scottish contributions to the 1991 Edinburgh Festival they would surely have been impressed both with Lindsay's criticism of 16th century Scottish society and the fact that he had been free to publicise them. I wonder if he would have kept his head in London? I doubt it. Was the destruction of highland society after the 1745 uprising the work of enlightened political visionaries? Was the wholesale slaughter of Scottish infantry in the First World War the responsibility of humanitarian army commanders? No!
Beveridge and Turnbull of fer an amusing list of language comparisons which reflect Scottish inferiorities:
Scotland dark England enlightened
Are these relevant today? Perhaps they are not often voiced; it may be however that English people still give the impression that they think in these ways. Radio and Television broadcasting attaches Scottish matters after other things. Sports broadcasting is notorious for its English bias and continual put-clowns of Scottish, Welsh and Irish sport. Much more important is whether or not this University attaches enough importance to Scottish related subjects. Are they not the Cinderella departments of this University? They do not attract the huge investments of the sciences nor do they have the showmen academics who are gifted in the public articulation of their work. Should this University not make itself famous for the promotion of Scottish related academic subjects? It would be a major policy change if it appeared to do so. Why should I have to raise this issue?
We are often told that Scottish universities in general and Edinburgh in particular are net exporters of graduates. Inward investment is high and employment prospects depend on this state of affairs continuing. I do not argue on a financial level. What I want to suggest is however that there is a great cultural price being paid for this. I am surprised that economic arguments are used to justify the nature of the University at this time because these same types of arguments are thrown at academics by governments who want them to radically alter their ways. You can't attack a principle which you use to defend yourself.
This is the same argument that is used against Scottish self -government i.e., that inward investment will dry up and Scottish society will be impoverished. I want to say that it is possible that irreparable cultural damage is being done to Scotland by the presence of such large numbers of English academics and English students in this University and others. So many Scots have left to find work elsewhere. Scotland, being one tenth of the size of England in population is always going to have to fight to protect its identity. It is not the presence of English academics and students that matters. Many are fine people in themselves. It is the scale of the cultural colonialism and its justification that is the problem. There are some who, for example, will suggest that I have no right as Chaplain to be saying these things. It is that sort of blackmail that no self -respecting honest and honourable human being can accept.
This University should create a policy to recruit (ie., to "head-hunt") Scots to academic and administrative positions. Given equal abilities and reputations there are Scots available to fill such posts. It would be very good if an initiative were taken from the top to invest in the teaching and research of Scottish related subjects. Deliberate recruitment of Scottish students can be undertaken from now on. Really, there should be no university in the capital city of a distinct nation which is so influenced, not to say dominated, by another nation and its people.
Whether members of the University here like it or not, it is quite possible that the slow and steady movement towards the break-up of the 1707 Union will result in the necessity to change the University's corporate image significantly by changing the nature and ethos of the University itself . Again, it seems to me that universities should be anticipating social changes and historical movements and not always reacting to them, sometimes with obvious distaste and even panic. I remind you that we are living and talking in Scotland. Scots still have a residual respect for education. Scottish people would, I believe, be prepared to pay to have top quality universities. The universities must identify with Scotland however and I have to say that at present this University has much to do in this respect. The history of Scotland is of subtle colonisation and it is time to begin to reverse that centuries old trend. No better place than here in this much anglicised and south-looking capital city.
It could be asked "Is Edinburgh A Christian University"? Ostensibly the answer would be "No". It would be maintained that Edinburgh was not a Church foundation. It fostered The Enlightenment. It is a large secular institution with a remnant of ceremonial Christianity surviving in spite of the predominating atheism and agnosticism within. A number of academics see no need for a Chaplain. The University may not wish to fund such a post for very much longer. Again, economic pressures undermine things of unseen but greater importance which our society has neglected at its obvious peril. You don't need to be a Christian to value the contribution of Christianity to Scottish life and to education in particular.
Yet from the south Calvinism and Presbyterianism are still thought to be positively demonic at worst and at least no religion for a gentleman. There is pervading this institution a sense in which Scottish Christianity is Christianity manque. There is much disease at the thought of the transcendent Holy Living God of Reformed theology having anything to say about or anything to do with the actual conduct of such an institution as this. Yes - aesthetic Christianity is welcome, choirs, and organ recitals and perhaps even a gentle homily. The most profound sermon I have heard in Edinburgh was preached by Professor Donald McLeod of the Free Church College in the spring of this year at a University Service in Greyfriars Kirk.
I discerned that this was only tolerable once in a while; something less challenging and even less intellectually credible was more appropriate for this University. H.T. Buckle wrote in 1861, "there runs throughout the entire country a sour fanatical spirit, an aversion to innocent gaiety, a disposition to limit the enjoyment of others". 12 This, 18 years after one of the most noble and sacrificial collective acts of Christian history - The Disruption - when over four hundred ministers resigned their livings in protest against state interference in the Church in general and against the Tory and Anglican inspired Patronage Act of 1712 in particular.
In nineteen-seventies' Oxford the question of which wine one would have at the evening meal and whether or not the Virgin Birth is credible were matters of equal weight. The "laugh at everything" levity of the Oxbridge mentality contrasts with the sincerity of Scottish religion but I am not persuaded that it is superior. It is the want of this piety in university leadership that has allowed these great ships to run aground. Presbyterianism is not a dreadful form of Christianity. The world, politically speaking, is actually becoming Presbyterian with the spread of free representative democracy. It is possible that even the Episcopal and Roman Churches will move towards a similar type of church organisation next century. I am not justifying denominationalism. It is the democratic principle that I am justifying. It is precious and it is basic to the expression of Christianity in Scotland to this day.
It is that right I claim today in speaking freely and democratically. But this University, like St Andrew's, has long been anglicised not only in the general sense but in the religious sense. Calvinistic notions about human sin and fallibility might conceivably have something to say to an administration that has lost its way. The University is a civic foundation. But there was a time in which it was necessary to subscribe to the Westminster Confession in order to teach here. I wonder how many would pass that test today - at New College? I don't think we want that. We do need however a conviction that a theology of human behaviour is not absolutely irrelevant in a modem university.
Suppose Edinburgh decided to market itself as a Christian University. Might it not be inundated with applications from well qualified students? Might not parents feel happier in thinking that the ethos of the University upheld spiritual and moral values? Is that not a better way to foster corporate identity? There are, in fact, many Christians working in this University. They keep a low profile. I was told to do the same. But there are greater issues at stake than silence can admit. We need to recover our sense of collective piety. Atheism and agnosticism may allow a certain amount of individual freedom but they do not seem to guide human life well in the longer term. It would be no bad thing for a university to exercise evangelical repentance as part of its strategy for survival in the future.
Agnostic and atheistic universities should learn the lessons of the recent political history of the Soviet Union. Spiritual things are never ignored with impunity. The revealed truths of Christianity will not lie down or go away - nor will they be silent. But if they are acknowledged and implemented then the revival of all aspects of community life becomes possible. This is the true answer to the loss of status and morale in teaching professions in general. Teachers are not by and large interested in larger salaries. They are interested in recognition and respect. But if all this Christianity is true then universities have fostered much untruth for decades. In some cases there has not been that much difference between the obligatory atheism of a communist state and the atheistic and agnostic corporate identity of a modern British university. I have no need to remind you that in Scotland it was Reformed Christianity which pioneered free egalitarian school education centuries before it existed in England. May I suggest too, that it is with Reformed Christianity that universities have most in common. It does not rely on authority or on sensuality. It relies on the exercise of the mind. That is why in Edinburgh there should be no suggestion that the Church of Scotland is an embarrassment or that Presbyterianism is a poor form of any religion. Intellectual exercise and democracy of spirit are the main characteristics of Reformed Christianity and they should be the basis of the corporate identity of any good university.
Freedom of Speech
I am concerned about what appear to be restrictions on the freedom of expression of members of the University. I wonder why there are such restrictions on people who are employed here writing to the newspapers, for example, (not, I must stress about internal University matters). I would have thought that it could only do good for others to know that academics - as academic specialists - have opinions on issues of relevance in today's world. The letters' page of "The Scotsman" is not replete with information and opinion from members of this University. It is quite clear that no-one would believe that there could ever be one single view on anything in and from an institution of this size. A university is a collegiate of gifted individuals - it is not a factory with line management and a single uniform corporate identity. It is the thin edge of a totalitarian wedge which encourages silent anonymity in the interests of a spurious corporate identity. To my surprise and disappointment I have found that even the humble role of Chaplain is circumscribed. Frank and fearless preaching in the Scottish tradition is positively discouraged. The truth of God must not offend anyone in the University! For an admirer of Kierkegaard this is particularly hard to swallow! (Do not disdain Christianity, it is a gentle Doctrine!).
For a Scot in Scotland in his capital city, a minister of the national Church, employed in such a great University to have to raise these issues in 1991 is symptomatic of the way universities are being run these days. They are not free associations of gifted individuals. They are factories employing people on contracts to do specific jobs for a limited period of time on strict conditions. This is against the tradition of education in Scotland and against the essence and purpose of education itself . Universities should not be defensive and paranoid. They should welcome all levels of public debate. They would then cease to have such a "wimp" image in the eyes of paymasters and politicians. Controversy and intellectual advancement are inseparable. Need I add, controversy and religion are one and the same thing!
It is wholly against the Scottish tradition of education that an entire faculty should be physically divorced from the balancing input of other disciplines and yet this is the case here. It is also against the tradition that there should be no physical relief from laboratory and work and at King's Buildings there really is none. It is not Scottish that the matter of the soul, the spirit, the human being as a totality should be unrepresented in such a large area of the University, but this is truly the case.
In the Scottish scientific tradition, research was informed by a metaphysical spirit and a distrust of single minded empiricism such as is found in English universities. James Clark Maxwell had strong metaphysical and moral interests. After Maxwell, the empirical tradition became established. It is astonishing that in this University's large science faculty, with thousands of students, hundreds of post-graduates, lecturers and researchers there is no coherent, visible, serious teaching and discussion of ethical issues in scientific research. To broach the subject of ethics in relation to say, genetic engineering is not going to win popularity. Academics are defensive and evasive. But ethics should be at the centre of all their conduct and ethical philosophy should be articulated for the present and for future generations. If the teaching of science was true to the Scottish tradition this would be done. Therefore the University should make it clear that the ethics of scientific investigation are essential to the ongoing work of the Science Faculty. Money should be raised to found lectureships in ethics in science. The recovery of a wholistic view of science would be beneficial for everyone.
This is not old hat. T.F. Torrance writes, "Since the new scientific view of the universe is not hostile to the Christian faith theology has no need to be on the defensive as it felt it had to be when confronted with the dualist and determinist conception of the universe as a closed Continuum of cause and effect". 13
Common Sense Philosophy
Scottish philosophy flourished between 1730 and 1770 with the likes of Adam Smith and David Hume. Thomas Reid (1710-96) advocated metaphysical philosophy. Colin Maclaurin writing in 1748 suggested that wisdom began when one became aware that the rival extremes of rationalism and empiricism were equally untenable. James Ferrier clearly articulated the distinctive approach of Scottish common sense philosophy. "The intellectual, like the physical world is a round: at the moment when the wanderer imagines himself farthest from the house of Humanity, he will find himself at home, he has revolved to the spot of his nativity ... Philosophy and common sense are reconciled". t4 Much of English philosophy in the 18th century came from Locke's empirical view of the mind as a clean slate on which impressions were made. This opposed the continental school that suggested the mind knows things "a priori". Common sense philosophy rose in reply to Hume's extreme scepticism. Reid thought Hume's idea sophisticated illusion. Ordinary people never question the existence of external objects. Philosophy which does is daft. Reid reflected upon experience and reached simplicities by abstraction. When we look at British and particularly Oxbridge philosophy in the 20th century we see a complete lack of this kind of common sense. Philosophy has an effect on the general mentality of universities and indirectly affects decision-making processes.
British philosophy this century has been heavily influenced by logical positivism and by language analysis. They are both narrow specialised philosophical practices. They represent the opposite pole from the first principles to common sense approach of the Scottish tradition. A.J. Ayer suggested that there were two groups of propositions: those of mathematics and those which could be verified. Religious language fell into neither of these categories and was therefore meaningless. Metaphysical and moral philosophy could have no contribution to make either and, in Ayer's own word, could be described as "nonsensical". 15 Thus the entire history of philosophy was negated at a stroke. This was intellectual parochialism of the most extreme kind. It also elevated scientific knowledge to an absolute status. Yet scientific truth claims have changed remarkably in recent years. Linguistic philosophy is also parochial. It questions the meaning of everything. It implies a view of value which is not articulated. No~one is personally objective. Each brings his or her own prejudices to the study in question. What is the relevance of this to Edinburgh University? 20th century English philosophy has attempted to undermine faith in God, revelation, Christian doctrine, moral and metaphysical philosophy and a wholistic view of the human community's purpose. It inculcates scepticism and lack of seriousness - a profound lack of common sense in individuals who pass through universities whose ethos is conditioned by such philosophy of life.
Too many academics working at present in this University have been influenced (subconsciously or otherwise) by the English and not by the Scottish philosophical tradition. John Anderson, a lecturer here from 1917-26 suggested that philosophy is not about analysis and description but about criticism of orthodox and fashionable ideologies, beliefs and values of the age. He criticised the industrialisation and professionalisation of universities and was against instrumentalist and utilitarian conceptions of education. The real object of education was the awakening of criticism and the fostering of a healthy rounded way of life. John MacMurray, Professor of Philosophy here from 1944-60 thought that it was the philosopher's task to address the great social and cultural questions of the age. He produced a philosophy of the person. He thought the weakening of religion impoverished life. "The decline in religious influence ... and practice ... intensifies a growing inseflsitiveness to the personal aspects of life, and a growing indifference to personal values". t6 John Baillie criticised the English positivist school in saying, "a certain painful restriction of outlook, of interest, of understanding and of sympathy which seems to leave them as very incomplete human beings". 17 Alasdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue" suggests that the moral life is under severe threat. This 20th century Scottish philosophy is broader, deeper, more common sense and realistic, more spiritual, moral and metaphysical than English positivist philosophy. What price parochialism?
Beveridge and Turnbull conclude, "English culture, or to be more precise, the public school, Oxbridge, "Home Counties" formation is steeped, to a singular degree, in the bizarre belief that its own history, institutions and practices are paradigms for other less favoured peoples". 18 Scotland is regarded as one such poor nation (remember Trevor-Roper!). Edinburgh University is one such institution doomed to compete with its Oxbridge betters. I return to the place from which I began - in still Godly metaphysical Scotland and the real meaning of corporate identity. This University requires to re-establish its reasons for existing, not in terms of outside pressures, not in keeping up with the south, but from first principles, theological understanding and philosophical application found in Scottish educational tradition. Recent world history shows that no false philosophy can last and that those who follow false philosophy do not prosper. The University of Edinburgh requires strong Scottish leadership and it requires to orientate itself towards Scotland and away from the south. It needs to be reflective of the best in Scottish academic history and practice. There has been much that is good and which will stand the test of time. The University should set in motion the revival of Scottish life, culture, religion and education. It can actually begin to do just that - so great is its potential for good.
1. George Davie, The Democratic Intellect, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1961, p.xii and p. 106.
2. George Davie, Ibid., p. 26.
3. Ibid., p. 27.
4. Ibid., p.106
5. Ibid., p.116
6. Ibid., p.120
7. Ibid., p. 206
8. Ibid., p. 210
10. Craig Beveridge & Ronald Turnbull, The Eclipse of Scottish Culture, Polygon, Edinburgh,1989, p.5.
11. Ibid., p. 7.
12. Ibid., p. 8.
13. Colin A. Russell, Cross-Currents, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, 1985, p. 250.
14. James Frederick Ferrier, Institutes Of Metaphysics, pp.11-12, quoted by George Davie, Op. Cit.' p. 284.
15. "Conversation with A.J. Ayes", Byran Magee (Ed) (1971) Modern British Philosophy, p. 49, quoted by Beveridge & Turnbull, Op. Cit., p. 64.
16. John Macmurray (1969 edn.) The Self As Agent, p. 30, quoted by Beveridge & Turnbull, Op. Cit., p. 97.
17. John Baillie (1962) The Sense Of The Presence Of God, p. 253, quoted by Beveridge & Turnbull, Op. Cit., p. 74.
18. Craig Beveridge & Ronald Turnbull, Op. Cit., p. 112.
1. Anderson, Robert Alexander, John McLeod Campbell : The Problem Of Authority ln Religion. (Unpublished thesis), Oxford, 1978.
2. Burleigh, J.H.S., A Church History Of Scotland, Oxford University Press, London, 1960.
3. Beveridge, Craig & Turnbull, Ronald, The Eclipse Of Scottish Culture, Polygon, Edinburgh, 1989.
4. Davie, George, The Democratic Intellect, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1961.
5. Donaldson, Gordon, The Faith Of The Scots, Batsford, London, 1990.
6. Jones, D. Gareth, Manufacturing Humans, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, 1987.
7. Newman, John Henry, The Idea Of A University, (Edited by I.T. Kerr), Clarendon, Oxford, 1976.
8. Russell, Bertrand, History Of Western Philosophy, George Allen & Unwin, London 1961.
9. Russell, Colin A., Cross-currents Interactions Between Science & Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, 1985.
10. Scott, Paul H., Towards Independence, Polygon, Edinburgh, 1991.
11. University of Edinburgh Bulletin Extra, Vol. 11, No xvi, 27 July 1989.
12. University of Edinburgh Bulletin Extra, Vol. 12, No xv, 2 July 1990
ROBERT BURNS THE AUTONOMY OF THE ARTIST
A paper given to the Carlyle Society in 1990
In this paper which I have entitled The Autonomy Of The Artist there is an introduction after which I will try to show how Burns' conduct, ideas, and of course, his poetic and literary expression were based on the principle of autonomy in relation to himself , nature, women, humanity, social class, politics, the Church and God. I therefore will appear to you as the heaven-taught speaker to the Carlyle Society, with, of course, the double-edged meaning of that compliment and jibe.
Burns! Possibly the best known Scot of all. Business is booming! There are 184 memorials to Robert Burns in different parts of the world. He has been translated into more than 40 languages. The Burns Supper season begins in November and lasts until March, easily outstripping the 18th Century Holy Communion seasons which received the whiplash of the poet's satire in The Holy Fair. In Bangladesh, Botswana, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver and many other places celebrations of the poet will have taken place. It is one of the greatest personality cults in human social history. It has an elemental and quasi-religious dimension. For Burns' is really the Scots own Jesus Christ, is he not?
Scotland in 1990 is more confused than it was in 1790, if not schizophrenic and fragmented with a permanently damaged national psyche for which Burns is a refuge and consolation. The Scottish Convention seeks to undo The Union. Thatcherism is antithetical to Scots' egalitarian sympathies, even if not to the descendants of the Edinburgh Establishment which lionised Burns during the winter of 1786/87. The Church no longer has authority but the break-up of institutionalised Christianity has been accompanied with the destruction of the ethical basis of personal and social existence. The tenant farmer today has a guaranteed income and prosperous lifestyle.
Anglification of Scotland in general and Edinburgh in particular goes on apace. In every walk of life southerners find employment. I cannot help thinking that Burns, if he were to return might prefer the City of Culture 1990 as a more authentic expression of contemporary Scottishness. Indeed, it is with McIlvanney, Lochhead, McGrath and others that an equivalent peasant/working class literature is found. There is no Steamie in Morningside. Jim Sillars may be the voice of Burns' more radical political thought but Sillars' extremism is questioned by most Scots. Burns is safe! He is about feeling and not about political maturity or financial independence. It is indicative of a nation that its primary hero is a poet and only Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Havel bears contemporary comparison. Just as I recently heard a spirited rendering of Scots Wha Hae - but I noticed that the singer had his hands in his pockets.
I hope to mention creativity and of fence, artistry and earning a living and the independent mind in the academic environment. Burns may not have been a rabid socialist today. My guess is that he would have distanced himself from organised politics and used it for wonderful satire. He might have died from AIDS had he lived today. Burns' universalism is relevant in the global village and his sympathies with nature might make him the Bard of the Scottish Green Party. Burns appeals to the world spirit of humankind. Yet - is there not a chauvinistic dimension to even his humanitarian thought? What would he make of Women's Lib?
In Burns the problems of democracy are resolved in poetry if not in reality. He has provided an identity for Scots since the 1707 Union. Yet he is always his own person full of contradictions. He is the idealist who is a moral failure. He is the anti-establishment poet who treasures the recognition of those who were of that ilk who negotiated the Union and threw away the pitiful impoverished national birthright of Scotland. He is the revolutionary who works for the government enforcing its laws. He is the anti-Calvinist who needs to believe in God. For 200 years Burns has legitimised the race. He is the god-man who brings divinity within easy reach. He is a Christ-figure of human desire - for he indulges our senses and offers us an existential salvation, a sacramental meal, an immortal memory. He is the aesthetic expression of the myth of the chosen race. Like Israel in Babylon he sings the strange song in the foreign land.
"By banks of Nith I sat and wept,
When Coila I thought on
In midst thereof I hung my harp
The willow trees upon" 1
In his later life, illusion and reality had become intermingled and he knew it. He claimed to be the poetic Elisha but his Muse was not the God of Israel. He is the spokesman for unredeemed humanity - the lovable sinner for whom Christ died. Carlyle said that Burns is our poet in the way that no other in the English language is and, of course, he was also the Hero as Man of Letters. He is part of ordinary life and culture. My maternal grandfather, a God-fearing Bible-literate working class engineman in coal-mining -on strike in 1926 with many others -quoted Robert Burns and sang bis songs until his 90th year and presented my mother with a Kilmarnock Edition on her wedding day.
We don't mind someone else paying the price of genius as long as we don't have to. We advertise the superiority of the consumer -the passive receptivity of the non-creative. We arrogate to ourselves the status of critics - but one poem of Burns is worth a million of our opinions. In October 1786, the first review of the Kilmarnock Volume appeared in The Edinburgh Magazine. The reviewer could not conceal his astonishment and honest admiration at the achievement of a poor farmer. He also said that Burns had at his command neither the Doric simplicity of Ramsay nor the dazzling imagination of Fergusson! The reviewer's name was Robert Anderson. And perhaps this paper The Autonomy Of The Artist will have as much critical value.
Burns was no philosopher, no theologian and no scholar of spiritual history; local congregational struggles activated his satirical streak. He gives little impression of appreciating the essentially democratic nature of congregational life in the Church of Scotland. One might have expected the great egalitarian to have perceived the intrinsic value of spiritual authority being shared among ordinary people, even if they could not always handle such responsibility well. Whatever wrongs he saw were minimal in comparison with tbe wrongs of the spiritual demagogues of Christian history. Burns seems not to have valued the Covenanters either and yet, one might have expected him to glorify their sacrificial witness for liberty. Burns picks small, easy targets for his religious satire. Calvin had stronger things to say than Burns about hypocrisy in his own church in Geneva.
Burns does not offer transcendence, vision, divine consciousness or eschatology. He is the secular anti-Augustinian in Scotland. He did not even believe as Carlyle did that the time of the churches had passed while being himself imbued with a sense of the truth of revealed religion. Burns has an autonomous revelation which he lives to its logical conclusion. His existential and experiential understanding is however informed with reference to the Bible. In 1787 he wrote to Margaret Chalmers, "I have taken tooth and nail to the Bible ... It really is a glorious book". 2
In 1798 he wrote to Mrs Dunlop, "Still I am a very sincere believer in the Bible: but I am drawn by the conviction of a Man, not the halter of an Ass". 3 This seems to have been a reaction to some forms of Calvinism which exercised authority against free-thinkers, sectarians and scoffers. He said, "Polemical divinity about this time was putting the country half -mad". 4 In wanting to find God his own way - he claimed a protestant right which we recognise, but, it has to be said that the spiritual search for God was not the prime motivation in Burns' life. Is a Calvinistic critique of human nature necessary to the well-being of society? Arbitrariness of human opinion and conduct is in principle against the tenor of Burns' thought yet he claims it as his own right, not simply as to content of revelation, but as to personal ethics. Yet in politics he criticised the exercise of arbitrary discretion based on class and status.
It seems to me that today Scotland is no better off for abandoning its Augustinian-Calvinistic theological and spiritual heritage. The Church of Scotland in Edinburgh under the influence of imported Anglicanism is failing to explain the depth and strength of the Christian revelation or maintain the identity of Scottish Christian history. Burns the artist in his satires, not that they are not justified, nevertheless sold out to a descendant of those who attempted forcefully to alter Scottish spiritual history. But Hamilton was his patron, and the artist must be autonomous as an artist, deeper, longer-term issues being cast aside.
Burns was himself a "Holy Willie" was he not? Ideal, criticism and personal performance were never connected in what is called today "being together as a person". Burns rejected the straight jacket which the Church would have made him wear for his soul's sake. Hogg was able to think theologically. Burns is antithetical to Christianity - the moral antithesis of Jesus. Yet in the "Cotter's Saturday Night" he acknowledges the honourable piety of many poor people.
"Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray
Implore his counsel and assisting might;
They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright," 5
The Vision (1786) suggests the mixture of sacred and profane which identifies the cult of Burns to the present day. The spiritual impulse of artistic creativity is supernatural but it is not holy. Burns suggests a divine right to go astray in life and thought.
"I saw thy pulse's maddening play,
Wild-send thee Pleasure's devious way,
Misled by fancy's meteor-ray,
By passion driven;
But yet the light that led astray Was light from Heaven" 6
The sacred and profane are indivisible in Burns. The spiritual, the ethical, the searching spirit, asceticism, redemption are missing. Art is so often an expression of unredeemed soul. Amoral criticism of art and amoral acceptances of art typify our culture. But what kind of poet would Burns have been had he followed Jesus Christ?
Might he not have done more for the cause of Jesus Christ in Scotland than John Knox? Is there not some affinity in feeling between George Herbert and Burns?
"When my devotions could not pierce Thy silent ears
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse
My breast was full of fears and disorder
O Cheer and tune my heartless breast, Deferre no time:
That so thy favour granting my request,
They and my mind may chime, and mend my rhyme"
Burns non-Christocentric Despondency is stark in thought.
"Oppress'd with grief , oppress'd with care,
A burden more that I can bear, I set me down and sigh:
O Life! Thou art a galling load,
Along a rough, a weary road,
To wretches such as I". 8
But perhaps Burns would simply never have written anything and that would have been a great loss. Carlyle wondered whether formal education might have improved the poet's creative gifts. Had ... the boy Robert been sent to school ... to some university: come forth not as a rustic wonder, but as a regular, well-trained intellectual workman, and changed the whole course of British literature, for it lay in him to have done this. Formal education might conceivably have blunted the poet's creativity and we do not know whether his poetry and his circumstances were inevitably linked. Burns was a universalist. But would he speak so kindly as in the Address To The Deil if he were writing after the horrors of the 20th century? Paradoxically, his satire The Holy Fair can be turned against Burns' Suppers where intention and practice are as far removed from one another as they were in the Holy Communion Seasons.
In Holy Willie's Prayer Burns ridiculed the Auld Licht mixture of the pagan determinism of pre-Christian Scotland and Christian doctrine.
"Oh thou that in the heavens does swell
Wha, as it pleases best thysel,
Sends ane to heaven and ten to hell,
A' for thy glory!
An no for ony gude or ill
They've done before thee". 9
This is a non-Biblical view of predestination. Burns claimed autonomy in personal ethics while asking for a moral basis to the eternal destination of individual human life which is the Christian doctrine rooted in the self revelation of God in the Old Testament and in Jesus Christ. Burns was the prodigal son of Reformed Christianity - but he did not return in penitence to The Father. Yet he could write to Mrs Dunlop in 1788, "A mathematician without religion is a probable character; an irreligious Poet, is a Monster"; and in 1780 "We can no more live without religion than we can life without air". Burns also used the Bible much in his letter-writing. He thought that he did not merit heaven but would probably get there. His creed seems to have been that good and not evil is the natural heritage of man, and that even the criminal, the fallen brother, should not be shut out from the sympathy of his fellows. Burns would have enjoyed the swinging sixties whose theme remains "All you need is love". Yet he does not poetise sex - not even as Donne did. Women are subjects not objects and so seduction is combined with poetic expressions of value.
Had Burns been alive today he might have been in the forefront of political debate; he might even have expected to assume some sort of political power in an independent, or at least, devolved Scottish parliament. Burns seems to have idealised the Jacobite struggle even although the Stuarts were the least democratic of monarchs. But this must have meant a political rejection of the Union. That puts Burns on the political left. It is possible that he might have opted for Scottish nationalism as McDiarmid did. I feel sure that he would have satirised the view that what matters in Scotland is the actual financial cost of independence and not our sense of national identity, pride, self-determination and liberation. Burns may have provided what is missing today - a personal focus for political independence. He might have been the cement and the gel - the inspiration and the voice of Independence. But he would not have been popular in Edinburgh for those things. If he wanted his poetry published - it would have to be in the City of Culture. The literati wanted a simple pastoral poet, not a complex intellectual one - certainly not a revolutionary one; obedient conformity wins acceptance but independence of mind and action do not. The Earnest Cry And Prayer 10 suggests a threat to the order of government which is satirically acknowledged to be corrupt. Burns' biographer Currie could not talk openly about his politics.
In the aftermath of the French Revolution there was much unrest throughout the land. Burns took the side of the Radicals whose text book was Paine's The Rights of Man. Emergency laws were passed to inhibit the growth of clubs and societies bent on actual rebellion. People had to hold their tongue for there were many informants. Burns' radical politics no longer made him isolated, but neither was he the stuff of revolutionaries. He was generically bound to the Opposition ....…
"If I'm design'd yon lordling's slave
By Nature's law design'd
Why was an independent wish
E'er planted in my mind?
If not, why am I subject to
His cruelty, or scorn?
Or why has man the will and pow'r
To make his fellow mourn?" (Man Was Made To Mourn) 11
Burns hated having to stand aside in the street for wealthy Edinburgh personages, as he wrote, complaining, to Mrs Dunlop in 1789, the year the Bastille fell. He mentions "the rattling equipage of some gaping blockhead, contemptible puppy, or detestable scoundrel". 12 Burns did not publicly oppose those in power. Some say that was because he had no means of financial independence which would have allowed him to do so. A poor excuse - I think - for if the cause was great enough - then as now - it is not money that matters in the end. Perhaps there was simply no reliable political forum and no proper organisation. He had a family and he put them first. In that he was as true to himself as in the expression of his radicalism.
Burns did not think that the Union was the way to economic prosperity, but for the Establishment the Union was an escape from the past, just as today, there is no coherent expression of Scottish solidarity to be found in this - nominally - the capital city. Early 19th century literati converted Burns into a safe pastoral figure to serve
popular sentiment. It certainly worked. Walter Scott was establishment, militarist, ancestral. Burns thought of the exploitation of the Scottish people - the bloodied instruments of the Empire. On the other hand, MacDiarmid thought Burns was not Scottish enough - a sell-out to Englishness in literature. It is part of Scotland's ongoing tragedy that Burns' expressed a legitimate opinion on behalf of many which was at the same time represented by movement towards democracy in other parts of the world.
Today, with the break-up of Soviet hegemony in eastern Europe and marked campaigning for ethnic and national rights within particular nations, in other places as well, Scotland should at once be part of that global movement and be impotent to do anything about it here. For there is no-one to justify such conduct, no leader to express the thoughts and aspirations of many, there is no-one to trust.
I myself believe that it is a lack of God-centredness in politics that renders us repeatedly impotent. A nation with a Christian history can get nowhere without reference to that history. It is the lack of spiritual justification that is at stake. Burns could have provided an artistic justification and possibly a humane and political one. But he could not provide a moral, a spiritual or even a religious one. Left-wing politics and ethical relativism equal chaos in any country. I suppose today Scotland is Burns in macrocosm. For what is authentic is also politically emasculated and ethically anarchic. It may even be worse. If we have been used and abused, if the rich have plundered the land, and sold the birthright of the poor, as MCGrath preaches in the play "The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black, Black Oil", then that is one thing. It is something altogether more serious if the spirit and soul of a nation and its historic relationship with its Maker is squandered by the same kind of mentality in the same kind of people. I have to say that is happening in Edinburgh today. The epitome of Burns' political radicalism is surely found in one of his most famous songs, "For A' That And A' That".
"Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord
Wha struts, and stares and a' that
Though hundreds worship at his word
He's but a coof for a' that
For a' that, and a' that
His ribband, star and a' that
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at a' that” 13
Burns idealised the powerless and his ethical relativism means that he offered no framework for the better ordering of society that would not be naive, therefore fallible and ultimately destructive. He estimated his own worth as being infinite in comparison with the Scottish nobility of the day. Few today would disagree with his self-estimate.
Burns 1990 - represents the autonomy of the artist. His excesses and his quick decline may indicate the squandering of a great talent. But he is worth a million octogenarians who accomplished little. The excise work was surely an insult and a mockery of the man and his beliefs. Satan is much cleverer than Burns thought - a foolish underestimation of the great Principle of evil. Holy Rabbie's Protest - what price sanctimony now? The autonomy of the non-authentic artist! He chose to marry Jean Armour, of the earth, a woman Jock Brodie described as "thouless", rejecting the aspirations of Mrs M'Lehose to be his anima and soul-mate. He could not take that courtship seriously perhaps because he was used to having sex as part of his relationships with women and he reacted against her verbalising of his inner psyche and her presumption of empathy. Yet for Clarinda he transformed Dodsley's poem into the unforgettable "Ae Fond Kiss" 14 after deciding against her and for Jean Armour.
These things represent the redeeming of Burns - in the end he was not the absolute reprobate of Alan Bold's analysis - he was the prodigal who returned to his roots and took up his responsibilities. Burns remains a living force and a genuine icon of some - but not all of the Scottish people. The Autonomy Of The Artist - Burns is the genius who claims the right to be, to write and to live as he sees fit. I myself suspect that Burns simply tried to do his best within the circumstances in which he lived his unique and gifted life.
1. Quoted by Hans Hecht, Robert Burns, The Man And His Work, Alloway, Ayr, 1936 (1986), p.146
2. Ross Roy, The Bible In Burns And Scott, in The Bible In Scottish Life And Literature, edited by David F. Wright, The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1988, p.80.
3. Hans Hecht, Op. Cit., p. 58.
4. Ibid., p. 48, 49.
5. Robert Burns, Complete poetical works, Douglas, Kilmarnock, 1891, (1938), p. 67.
6. Ibid., p. 50.
7. George Herbert, Denial, in The Metaphysical Poets, Edited by Helen Gardner, Penguin, London, 1966, p. 126.
8. Robert Burns, Op. Cit., p.81.
9. Ibid., II., p.195.
10. Ibid., p.12f.
11. Ibid., p. 85.
12. Hans Hecht., Op. Cit., p. 232.
13. Robert Burns, Op. Cit., II., p.108
14. Ibid., p. 294.
1. Robert Burns, Complete poetical works, Douglas, Kilmarnock, 1891 (1938).
2. Helen Gardner (Ed), The Metaphysical Poets, Penguin, London, 1966.
3. Hans Hecht, Robert Burns, The Man And His Work, Alloway, Ayr, 1936 (1986).
4. Donald A. Low (Ed), Critical Essays on Robert Burns, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1975.
5. Allan Massie, 101 Great Scots, Chambers, Edinburgh, 1987.
6. David F. Wright (Ed), The Bible In Scottish Life And Literature, Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1988.
1. Alan Bold, A Burns Companion, Macmillan, London, 1990, Extracts printed in The Glasgow Herals, 23rd, 24th and 25th January 1990.
2. David Daiches, The Scottish Enlightenment, Saltire, Edinburgh, 1986.
3. Murray Ritchie, Burns: The Man Of Many Faces, in The Glasgow Herald, 20th January 1990. 4. William Paul, A Bard, A Fast Buck And A' That, in Scotland On Sunday, 21st January 1990.