10. Living with Uncertainty

8 11 2017

And so months have passed, a general election come and gone and now Parliament seems to be  taken up with with sexual misbehavior scandals and claims. For a moment there is a pause while the media get taken up with the results of a computer hacking that yet again reveals questionable activities in respect of overseas money handling, but no doubt the pendulum of the news cycle will swing back again and the unsavory behaviour of those who have been voted to rule over us comes under the spotlight yet again – with yet again unpleasant revelations. And all the while the Brexit process continues or appears not to continue.  That is the thing about negotiations; it is like playing poker and a hand is not revealed until the end and until then, doubt, questions, and all the time the media piranhas circle and watch and then dart in with acrid words. It is not a pretty sight.

It seems to me that this whole process is designed to reveal the worst of mankind. Observe the politicians from all sides, squabbling, jeering, sneering, jousting among themselves, out to capitalize on every slow move, every unwise word, every foolish misbehaviour. The absence of statesmanship appears rife and the very ordinariness of these people shines out and we are left wishing for a Churchill or his like who will stand like a rock in critical times and give us hope, but we seem to look in vain.

And then the media. I watched the other day the Governor of the Bank of England give a press conference as he explained why he was going to raise the bank rate by a quarter of a percent.  It was a clear and comprehensive explanation. And then the floor was thrown open to the media to ask questions. The first came from a BBC representative and then a journalist from the Times. I have a friend in America who says they used to trust the BBC but no longer. I felt the same about the Times. Bias and criticism that is self-serving seems to be the name of the day so often.  Both these two men as they asked their questions left me thinking, “Were you not listening? He explained that just now – very clearly! Why are you asking such questions?” I am still a subscriber to the Times which I often enjoy for it is still, I believe, one of the most clear cut papers and yet it appears so often to allow that snide, edgy writing that looks for the worst.

I have been an observer for a number of decades, of the state of the nation as far as ‘moral outlook’ is concerned and have commented more than once  that I believe the decline in moral standards, the undermining of ethical standards, can be directly related to the decline in belief in God in our nation. I have watched it and I think it is virtually measurable. It is a fact. It is also, therefore, not surprising.

On a good day, each of us would subscribe to a society that goes with the second half of the Ten Commandments. You would be an idiot to say that you think stealing or murder or adultery are good things and indeed you could take the argument much further and suggest there are many more things that do NOT make for a good, just, and harmonious society, things which we wish were not part of our national community, and which I have tagged in the first three paragraphs above.  Most of us agree to these things but we simply don’t have the power not to do them. Self-help is the name of the game and it fails us, and so we are left with this cycle of revelation; the behaviour never changes just the revelation of what is happening. And yes, we are glad that the media are there, pouncing on these people higher in the pile of society from whom we expect better than we are getting, but then we become saddened and jaded by the whole thing.

Is there hope? Oh yes, there has to be otherwise we might as well take a trip to a Swiss euthanasia expert and end it all now.  Oh yes, there is hope, the hope that perhaps prayers will be heard, perhaps a voice of sanity will arise in the public consciousness and perhaps a spirit of honesty and integrity will sweep through the corridors of power, whether they be in Westminster or any other instrument of society.  But it is not enough simply to analyse; there must also be endeavors, little ones and big ones to bring goodness in the midst of the darkness – overcome evil with good as the famous apostle once said.

God in the Headlines

6 09 2010

1“Once upon a time there were newspapers, and the newspapers did report the news. 2Then the newspaper proprietor-in-chief said, “We need to sell more copies – make the news!” 3Meanwhile in heaven the angels came to present themselves before the Lord (Job 1:6) and Satan came with them. 4The Lord said to Satan, “Nudge one of your lads to say something silly again. My people are getting lethargic and need stirring up.” 5And verily on the first day the Times newspaper did quote from Stephen Hawking’s latest book, with great clamour, for the said Stephen Hawking did declare that God did not create the universe, and the Lord simply looked down and smiled as Rowan Williams and many other great religious names did rise up and take the headlines on the second day. 6And lo, A-level RE teachers throughout the land gave thanks for the free resource material provided for them.”

In case you weren’t aware, that basically is what has been happening in this past week.  God grabbed the headlines on two consecutive days and the rumblings will no doubt continue on for a while.

What are we to make of Stephen Hawking’s pronouncements?

Theories not Facts

First of all realise that what is being talked about is theory not fact. This is just one atheist pontificating from his clever viewpoint.  Fans of ‘The Italian Job’ will remember Michael Caine’s closing words as they hang out over a deep ravine, “Hang on lads, I’ve got an idea!” The learned professor has some ideas – and that’s all they are.


Stephen Hawking is a very clever professor with a brain bigger than most of us. The trouble with such people is that there are very few of the rest of us who can understand their pronouncements. From a scientific standpoint there is virtually no one who can say, “Well, actually, no….”  A dangerous position!

Quantum Physics opened the door

Quantum Physics is an area of science where things don’t work as they should. Scientists are quite divided about whether Quantum Physics is real but it opened a door of thinking that said, “You can believe anything really.” Thus SH now says, it is possible for something to come from nothing; it’s OK to believe that. However, for the rest of us, the concept that ‘something’ can come from ‘nothing-nothing’ (as Schaeffer Schaeffer called absolutely nothing) is utterly impossible and science itself has always declared that – until now!

But Supposing…

Supposing, just supposing, that beyond our wildest imaginations there is some ‘mechanical way’ for something to come from nothing. That is still a process and the Bible’s claim is that God is the One who has designed all processes. Even if such a process exists (and it seems unlikely), that still doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist; it merely reveals one more staggeringly clever part of His design of the world.

Didn’t ‘God say’?

The Biblical record is that God spoke the command and it was done – something came into being, the world was created. How He did it is beyond us; how long He took to do it is debatable. An atheist says He didn’t; the Bible says He did. Choose which authority you believe!

Post-Modern Suspicion?

10 05 2008

I recently commented on this blog about truth being in short supply in these days and my post-modern suspicion of all things ‘modern’ has stumbled over a new source of question marks. I happened to be browsing through the Independent the other day and found that the word ‘report’ seemed to appear rather a lot. Now only last week I had cause to make some rather negative comments about the Times and a recent Rowntree Trust report on a minimalistic survey about modern social evils so perhaps my sensitivities was somewhat heightened at rather a lot of news that was based on this or that ‘report’.

Having been negative about the Rowntree report I was intrigued by the headline in the Times, “Churchgoing on its knees as Christianity falls out of favour” which led into an article about how Christian Research, an organisation I thought had fairly good credibility, brought out a report indicating rather large declines in church attendance in the UK. The article did observe that Lynda Barley, the head of research for the Church of England disputed the forecasts: “There are more than 1.7 million people worshipping in a Church of England church or cathedral each month, a figure that is 30 per cent higher [than the Sunday attendance figure used by Christian Research] and has remained stable since 2000. We have no reason to believe that this will drop significantly.”

I needed to go to another website to find a fuller picture where I found, “Christian Research points out that the shortcomings are to be found in the sensationalist interpretation of their data by The Times newspaper and others, not in the work they have published.” Tut! Tut! The Times at it again! And “head of Christian Research Benita Hewitt … told Christian Today e-zine: “The church statistics were looking at only Sunday attendance – and I completely agree with Lynda that it’s missing out those who attend less frequently than once a week, because increasing numbers are attending midweek and are attending less traditional forms of church. I agree all those things are missing,” which rather indicates the Times got it a bit wrong (perhaps!).

I find these things slightly perplexing because from where I stand numbers are going up, not down. Yes, I do know of a local Anglican church that was shut down but that was because it was right out in the country with few houses anywhere near it and so the few locals couldn’t sustain it financially. However I suspect there is a measure of truth about church going decline in traditional denominations, even though it is not true for the rest.

Another ‘report’ that caught my eye was in an article that declared, “Europe is facing a “demographic winter” as pensioners outnumber teenagers and birth rates fall, according to a report by the Institute for Family Policy.” The report was entitled, “The Evolution of the Family in Europe 2008.” If that one is accurate then we are living in a depressing era in that there is one marital breakdown every 30 seconds in Europe, the average marriage lasts 13 years and there are 1 million divorces annually. We’re obviously not very good at relationships – with God and with each other!

Another bunch of ‘report’ people who must be feeling rejected this week are the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). A report from the group said scientific evidence pointed to a “probable, but weak, causal link between psychotic illness, including schizophrenia, and cannabis use”, concluding that the health dangers from cannabis did not justify its inclusion in the higher category the the Government is going ahead with anyway. More suspicion of reports.

So in those three reports we find a) questionable data, b) unpleasant data and c) unpalatable data. I Keep finding my mind drifting back into the area of research integrity, or to be more precise, the lack of integrity that sometimes seems to flow around the world of research and assessment. It means, unfortunately, that there is a lot of skepticism floating around and the modern liking for knocking out research and research reports at the drop of a hat, only seems to fuel this skepticism. Perhaps these three reports I’ve cited today might be categorized as a) disputed, b) depressing and c) dismissed, none of which does a lot of good for the average punter looking for a lift in life!

Maybe it’s because I am a postmodern skeptic or maybe it’s because I am a Christian concerned about ethics in the twenty-first century, but however we look at these things we have to admit that we live in an age where truth is questionable. Is this information correct? Are these conclusions correct, or have we concocted conclusions to suit our presuppositions?

One of the things about all of this, it seems, is that in this period of history, despite all our information collecting, we are even more unsure about life. Many will even shout that there is no such thing as truth, until it comes to issues directly personal to them. There are no absolutes they say – but it is wrong for you to lie to me! We may not sack our politicians today for committing adultery, abandoning wives and families etc, but we will if they lie to us. We may have reduced our list of  ‘don’t do’ things, but we still have them and always will have them.  Our playing with research and reports, is a vain attempt to decide that is right and what is not, yet even as the report on drugs has shown, if we don’t like the report, we ignore it.

I look forward to the day – and it will come – when we will find society accepting that the best arbiter for right and wrong comes from “God said” but while people refuse to even examine the validity for that premise, that time may be a long way off. In the meantime we will continue to suffer reports telling us how bad the world is getting (meaning our lifestyles!), how God is not relevant (because we don’t like being told we’re wrong), and how this or that is bad for us – or not – we think – for the moment – perhaps – maybe!