3 February, 2020
It seems late to wish you a happy New Year, but three weeks of illness (I won’t bore you with the details) clipped my wings for a while. All is pretty well now, though, and I look forward to maintaining contact with our growing number of friends and supporters. We aim for a fortnightly newsletter and we like to keep it short: the sort of thing you can scan in a few minutes to reassure you, if you hold traditional opinions about the world, that you are not quite as isolated as you feared!
We need to remind ourselves sometimes that Christianity is a very materialistic and earthlyreligion. In our faith there is no necessary conflict between body and spirit; they were not created to be at odds with each other. G K Chesterton put it like this:
‘There are no bad things, but only bad uses of things. If you will there are no bad things but only bad thoughts and especially bad intentions… the devil cannot make things bad: they remain as on the first day of creation. The work of Heaven alone is material – the making of a material world. The work of hell is entirely spiritual.’
We ought not to be caught up in the belief held by Buddhists, for example, that the soul is a sort of prisoner of the body, destined eventually to be set free. On the contrary, we believe in the resurrection of the body (the Greek word sarx, or flesh, is even more emphatic). How this will happen is the deepest of mysteries, but until the time when all things are revealed we should keep in mind that mere ‘spirituality’ is not enough: our physical lives are important and redeemable.
Keeping this in mind will shape our attitudes to the world about us. We may think young people like Greta Thunberg are misguided and wrong-headed, but they are quite right to place a high value on the physical world. Let’s by all means question their methods and their claims, but let’s also honour their passion. To some extent at least we’re all on the same page: the world is good and we are called to care for it.
We are also called to care for people, not just their souls but their bodies too. As Christians we rightly shudder at the thought of aborting an unborn child, of pre-natal infanticide, and we’re horrified by the hypocrisy of governments that provide funding for child welfare with one hand and for ‘terminations’ with the other. Likewise euthanasia, the deliberate ending of a life (with or without the consent of the subject) is a horrifying thing.
Surely any interference with the natural course of a human life is a denial of the essential goodness of the world that God made for us. For all its faults and failings the Christian Tradition has always taken a holistic view of life as an amalgam of the spiritual and material. The whole of life is sanctified.
VALE SIR ROGER SCRUTON
Sir Roger Scruton died on 12 January. He did the Dawson Centre the great honour, several years ago, of becoming a member of our International Advisory Board. When I was president of Campion College I invited him to Australia (jointly with the IPA) but by the time of his visit in 2013 I had moved on and sadly never met him, but I admired him greatly and was in awe of his extraordinarily wide learning and his almost reckless courage: to call a spade a spade in an age that cares more about words than content can be a dangerous pastime! May he rest in peace.
Scruton came from a left-leaning working class background, but became a ‘convert’ to conservatism after seeing the behaviour of rioters in Paris in 1968. I had a similar experience. I was chairing a student meeting in that year on the other side of the world when a group came in wearing red headscarves and carrying red flags, occupied the front row of seats, and began to shout us down. It was a clear example of ‘no-platforming’ before that term had gained currency, and of course it worked: there was no point carrying on. I looked into the sightless eyes of people, some of whom I had thought were my friends (it was a small campus), and realized that there was a great gulf between us. I say sightless eyes, because it seemed to me that they were driven by dogma rather than reality. Like weather forecasters who tell you what the day is like without bothering to look out the window, or visually-impaired air traffic controllers, they are not reliable guides to life.
We have just held two weeks of summer schools, one in Latin and the other in ‘Koine’ Greek. The Latin course normally appeals to students of History, Philosophy or Literature who have discovered that the leading language of intellectual discourse during the past two thousand years is something that they cannot afford to neglect. Greek is valued by those who want to read the New Testament in the original. It’s a beginners’ course, but we get through a surprising amount, in spite of the difficulty of Greek verbs! Passages from the Gospels and Epistles, as well as extracts from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and an Easter sermon by the same saint, filled our week. We even managed to read a few lines of Homer!
Giving Richard Dawkins a hard time: a very entertaining piece from David Bentley Hart.
New Oxford Review: ‘Why are people atheists?’ – an analysis of atheism as a modern western phenomenon.
National Catholic Register: an update on Cardinal Pell’s situation.
Binary: Senator Amanda Stoker takes on radical gender activism.
Mercatornet: Auschwitz – the story of a conscientious objector.
FOR YOUR DIARY
1. 13 FEBRUARY – REV SAMUEL GREEN
AFES Islamic Engagement Director, Anglican Interfaith Chaplain, University of Tasmania. Samuel has been engaging with the Islamic community for the last 25 years.
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM – WHY HAS THERE BEEN CONFLICT, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD, AND WHAT IS A WAY FORWARD?
Samuel will be speaking on this subject and presenting his new book Where to Start with Islam.
Thursday 13 February 2020
Samuel will bring some copies of his book to sell. It will help readers to know where to start with Islam in the key areas of what it means to love everyone, understanding what Islam teaches about Christianity, how to share the gospel with a Muslim, the incarnation, Trinity, salvation, and the cross. It assesses Muhammad as a prophet and answers the Muslim claims against the Bible.
2. PROF PETER KURTI – 13 MARCH
Senior Research Fellow and Director – Culture, Prosperity and Civil Society Program, Centre for Independent Studies
Hotel Soho, Davey Street, Hobart
Friday 13 March 2020
COLLOQUIUM SATURDAY 27 JUNE 2020
This will be our sixth annual colloquium. The theme is secondary education, with a particular focus on the development of the spiritual and religious dimension of human nature. See the Dawson Centre website for further details.