Who Left This Eyesore Cluttering Up The Internet?

Well the good news is that the world’s finest theologians all wash their hands after going to the bathroom. I know this because I have just spent the last week in Edinburgh at the grandiosely titled, “11th International Dogmatics Conference of the Rutherford House Institute“. The topic for discussion was the Doctrine of God. I know it might seem strange that as Zoomtard sits on his sofa of a Saturday morning watching cartoons and listening to OK Computer, remembering just what it felt like in the summer of 1997 to be part of that small, wise group who alone understood the civilisation advancing momentousness of that Radiohead album (there is an intruiging interview of Thom Yorke by the Christian magazine Third Way here that you should read if you like Radiohead, Christianity, reading or goodness), but he harbours half-thoughts of becoming a New Testament scholar. Yes, he knows that a computer science degree, a total ignorance of ancient Greek and Hebrew and an unhealthy obbsession with a schmaltzy US tv show are not standard ingredients for a biblical expert but he is allowed to dream.

To go investigate that dream a bit further he decided to fly off to this conference to sit around with big-wigs and discuss God’s aseity, to dwell on whether or not Jonathan Edwards was wasting his time when he developed an a priori argument for the Holy Spirit’s existence (we agreed that he was wasting his time but we had taken so long we didn’t get a chance to discuss whether the whole effort was ironic) and learning about something called the extra Calvinisticum which is so obscure, even the Internet can’t offer you a useful explaining link. I don’t want to diss the scholars who delivered these papers because they are all highly accomplished men (yes sadly they were all fellas) holding high positions in the finest universities in the world and I am just a man struggling to find socks that match in the morning, but it did depress me. See, I love theology because of the deep, many layered and beautifully satisfying truths that it can reveal- at its best it literally makes me want to stand up and sing songs of praise to God. I don’t of course; I am practically tone-deaf and modern praise songs (that I know) tend to be so bad they make my tongue feel stupid. Instead I go and do sit-ups because Britney Spears once said that sit-ups are “a kind of prayer”. I wonder why she wasn’t delivering a paper. TM put it best after the first lecture when he came over and whispered to me, “The Titannic is sinking and we’re participating in this Monty Python sketch!”

While the talks were coherent (but in some cases barely intelligible- I think you get more funding in theology if you use words with many syllables) they felt like they were mildly irritating mind games, not worship. They didn’t seem to be talking to the real world, to people’s hopes and hurts and all that stuff that Jesus was so fascinated by, to the mission of the Church and most importantly, they seemed disconnected from God. Vain speculation does not lead to doxology. But then along came the theological trinity of Stephen Williams, DA Carson and NT Wright (who has featured on this site many times before). Their three talks, all in one day, were astounding. Williams talked about God’s soverignity, which means that God can do whatever he likes since he made everything that is.

Carson talked about God’s wrath and argued beautifully that the judgement of God is liberating because it is neccessary that we have a God who does punish injustice. But touchingly, inspiringly and relevantly, he ended his talk on the wrath of God by arguing that this doctrine should produce one clear result in Christians- tears. In the face of the kind of thing that is happening in New Orleans, we should be brought to tears by that suffering and by the evil that rapes and pillages and shots at supply-bearing helicopters in the midst of it. He also clearly expounded that idiots like this who view natural disasters as examples of God’s wrath in return for particular people or group’s sins to be talking nonsense in the highest order. It was passionate. It was relevant. It was a joy to hear.

And finally Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Tom Wright spoke on the Doctrine of God and Christian Origins. In plain terms, he argued that the Gospels, which are narratives, are narratives for a reason. God is telling a story. If we strip away the story thinking it to be entertaining adornement to get to the heart of the matter in the form of propositions, then we are committing a crime against the text. The Gospel stories, the adornment, the different perspectives offered by the different authors, are like load bearing beams, not plaster flourishes. If you remove them, you have an empty shell ready to fall in on itself.

I haven’t done those talks justice but I don’t intend to. It would not be relevant to the readership of this blog (as if that ever stopped me before). But they were examples, when I most needed it, of the kind of theology that can get my mind racing, my heart thumping and my soul singing. It was delightful. And I was reminded of this great C.S. Lewis quote:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh I discovered through graffiti that the Queen of England is in the pay of the antichrist, that another and sweeter world is possible and that Jockser loves Jess 4 eva. Glad to hear all is well then. At the end of one particularly disheartening series of lectures, TM put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Knowledge puffs up. Don’t let this company take your feet off the ground”. Then he and PM took me out for dinner and sitting on a balcony overlooking the castle and putting the world to rights with these two giants of the faith around whom I was completely secure in being myself, I couldn’t help but thinking that the world is a pretty nifty place after all and that life is a very good accompaniment to it.

While in Scotland, I missed all the Katrina stuff. After the Stephen’s Day tsunami the pages of our papers and the opinions of our media were declaring loudly, “Where is God?” or “Can we trust God?” or most pressingly, “How can a good God let this happen?” I made a stab at understanding, independent of a Christian worldview, how such natural evil is a logical inevitability of a physical environment that permits free will. After Katrina however, the media seems to be quiet on such questions. Why is that? Is the perception of Asia as being less of a “Christian” region and America as being a “Christian” place somehow playing into it? Or is that we don’t easily sympathise with those as wealthy as us? Surely the same doubts about an all controlling God, a soverign God, apply in this case? Why is God not absent from New Orleans?

Whatever about God, evil is certainly not absent from Lousianna. The raping, pillaging, murder and just random destruction is a chilling reminder of how thin a veneer civilisation actually is. Whatever about the God questions raised by massive natural disasters, it is heartening to see distress in the media over the nature of man, that we respond in this way to disaster. How would you react if you were trapped in flooded New Orleans? Outside of New Orleans, outside of the panic, man is distinguishing himself as capable of bueracratic evil even in the absence of any tragedy. The argument about whether the federal funds of the USA are constitutionally obliged to be spent on the victims of Katrina is weirdly surreal and just beyond believability. And yet it goes on, as the bodies of their compatriots are still submerged under water. Here are two excellent opinion pieces from American newspapers on this issue: 1 and 2 (this one requires registration- go use BugMeNot if you don’t already).

The layer of self serving sin extends even beyond the borders of America to those knee-jerk Bush haters. I heard on Irish radio, people seriously suggesting that charities shouldn’t collect for disaster relief since the Americans are rich enough to fend for themselves. Others argued that America has wreaked havoc on the world and now they are getting their share. This to me, seems like the most twisted unlogic of all. At least those wackos at Repent America have built a worldview where people who do wrong (in their own twisted interpretation of wrong) get punished. Those Irish people however have fully embraced blind Karma. Terrifying. The Times have a great editorial on the scientrific claptrap spouted by various people who should know better in the aftermath of the hurricane that tries to connect Kyoto to south Atlantic tempests.

Neuro has just finished her knitted model of the Iranian Islamist revolutionaryAyatollah Khomeini so I have to go and take her on her bi-monthly tour of the morgue.

Your Correspondent, No one else on Earth can do such things for you.

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