I suppose if Christian civilisation were to adopt a Mission Statement, as most modern enterprises do, none better could be found than the simple list of the three ‘theological virtues’, Faith, Hope and Love. These sum up all our duties and our aspirations. Every human on earth understands in some sense what they each mean – though they can be misused or sold short.
To the believer they have their source and their goal in Eternity.
To the unbeliever they possess, sadly, a far narrower range of applications. Misapplied, they can even lead us badly astray. For example Psalm 146 strongly advises us not to put our faith in ‘princes’ (presumably that includes prime ministers or state premiers) for to do so is to tempt fate and court disaster. And love can be a poor, self-indulgent, conscience-saving activity, as the old saying ‘cold as charity’ reminds us. The words love and charity mean, or ought to mean, the same thing. The kind of love that lay behind that cruel adage is not really love at all; too often mere sentimentality or a guilty conscience can look like the real thing.
Hope is perhaps the hardest virtue to grasp, though St Paul thought it deserved a category of its own. Hope can be shallow and ungrounded: I can hope to win the lottery, and that’s a tall order (even taller if I don’t buy a ticket). I can hope for world peace, but it’s a vain hope unless all the world wants it too. Real Hope, that divine gift, looks to the future with an eye to Eternity. And Faith, that other noble virtue, is for the present. They complement each other: ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for’ (Hebrews 11.1). If they are separated strange things might happen: the incurable optimist could have hope without faith; the fatalist may have strong faith but no hope! But when all three are in lockstep they work wonders.
Christopher Dawson and others like him believed strongly in the close relationship between Faith and Reason. Perhaps Reason deserves inclusion in our mission statement, though according to St Anselm it is secondary to Faith:
‘I do not seek rational understanding so that I can have faith, but I have faith in order to have rational understanding.’
That’s a startling claim. It sounds absurd to an unbeliever, for it suggests unmistakably that nobody can properly understand anything at all without first having faith in God. But to the believer it naturally makes perfect sense, for Faith is like the focus dial on the lens: adjust it and the whole universe finally makes sense.
HEART TO HEART: THRIVING IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD
This single volume contains the full proceedings of the Colloquia for 2018 and 2019. Their themes, respectively, were ‘A World without Christianity?’ and ‘Rebuilding the Walls of Sion’. A wide range of first-rate thinkers and scholars combined to cover that challenging ground with flair, imagination and faithfulness.
$30 + $5 postage – payment by EFT:
REF. YOUR NAME + Purpose of payment
WHY DO WESTERN MEDIA OVERLOOK THE PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS?
The epicentre of Christianity has shifted. How much do we know about Christians in Africa? We all know about the Rohingyas and Uyghurs, but there is ample evidence that Christians also suffer appalling persecution. This article from Mercatornet provides statistics from Nigeria that are horrifying and eye-watering – in every sense.
The notion of WHITE PRIVILEGE ‘fundamentally fails to explain inequalities in society,’ claims Tom Slater in Spiked.
THE ABOLITION OF RACE
Racial distinction is ‘scientifically and socially unsupportable’ argues Inaya Imam. This is a bold approach by another Spiked contributor who’s tired of identity politics.
At a time when they are under greater threat than ever, Luciano Boschiero defends the Liberal Arts on Campion College’s website. Bella D’Abrera of the Institute of Public Affairs weighs in here. Communication and reasoning skills, together with an awareness of history and therefore of our place in the universe, these things should be the basis of all education. We used to call them the three Rs. Changes in educational theory combine with political expediency combine to make them an endangered species.
VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING
Reader Philip Turnbull wrote the following letter to the editor of a major daily newspaper. It was not published. I thought it deserved inclusion here.
X, an advocate of Voluntary Assisted Dying, insists that the issue be discussed objectively, yet urges caution when it comes to religion, dismissing any religious input because she claims religion ‘requires belief without objective proof which is subjective.’ Later she refers to the ‘fanciful dictates of organised religion’. This is not the language one would expect from someone calling for an objective discussion. Leaving aside the ethical questions of VAD, and given the religious illiteracy that has taken hold in the West, it is becoming more and more difficult for the Christian understanding of what it means to be a human being to be given a hearing in a growing anti-Christian climate. And that is at the heart of this and many other ethical and moral questions up for discussion today. The simple fact that ‘fanciful dictates’ are studied and taught at Universities such as Bologna, Cambridge, Oxford, The Sorbonne, Yale, Salamanca, Regensburg and many other places of higher learning should at least indicate that religion cannot be so airily dismissed with popular clichés. Let’s have an objective discussion by all means but that calls for respectful dialogue, an open mind and a willingness to try and understand where those we disagree with come from. And as a catholic opposed to voluntary assisted dying, I do not come from Cloud Cuckoo Land but stand firm in a living tradition that created Europe and western civilization and that, more than any other institution, championed the dignity of all humanity.
With best wishes always,
FOR YOUR DIARY
‘The Skin of our Teeth’: Medieval Book Production
Hotel Soho, Davey Street, Hobart
Thursday 27 August, 2020 (to be confirmed)
6.00 pm, followed by two-course dinner, $35 per person (drinks not included), booking essential.
The survival of Western Civilisation is almost entirely due to the monks and nuns who copied books by hand in the so-called Dark ages and in the Middle Ages that followed. This talk will describe the methods of writing, assembling and distributing the precious documents that have come down to us. Examples of original manuscripts will be on display and can be handled.
MR NEVILLE CLARK MC,
MENTONE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, MELBOURNE
‘A Modern Crusade: Sir Harry Chauvel and the Australian Light Horse in Palestine’
Hotel Soho, Davey Street, Hobart
Friday 30 October, 2020.
Two-course Dinner and Lecture, $35 per person (drinks not included), booking essential
Ending 400 years of Ottoman rule and paving the way for the creation thirty years later of the modern state of Israel, General Allenby’s Palestine campaign of 1917-1918 relied most heavily on its main striking force, the five Brigades of the Australian Light Horse, whose rugged riders and indomitable Walers proved to be the most effective and longest-serving of all the Allied forces in the Middle East – while throughout those storied lands of the Bible the Chaplains in particular had a field day!
1. MEDIEVAL LATIN, 11-15 JANUARY 2021
This course, now in its 27th year, offers a general introduction to post-classical Latin, poetry and prose, sacred and secular. We shall read some splendid literature that has had a formative influence on Western Civilisation. Some prior knowledge of Latin is assumed. There will be an introduction to palaeography, including an opportunity to handle original manuscripts.
2. NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, 18-22 JANUARY 2021
An intensive course in the koine Greek of the New Testament. We shall read passages from the Epistles and Gospels, as well as the Septuagint and Christian literature of the apostolic age. The course is aimed at beginners, but it is strongly recommended that all learn the Greek alphabet before commencing; exercises will be posted out beforehand to assist with that.
3. PHILOSOPHY, 25-29 JANUARY 2021
A five-day overview of the history and core trends of Philosophy taught by University of Tasmania academic Dr David Moltow:
This course is suitable for those who are interested in, but have not formally studied, the evolution of western philosophical thought. Beginning with the Ancient Greeks as the founders of Western Philosophy, we will go on to explore Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, through the middle ages discussing the work of Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas, and into the modern period. We will focus not just on the writings of prominent philosophers, but on the problems they sought to address (most of which continue to preoccupy our thoughts) and the methods by which they addressed them. We will explore how philosophers through the ages have sought to understand the ‘big questions’ – meaning, being, knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, free-will, religion, politics – and consider how their thoughts might help us today to think through some of the issues that confront us, privately and in our communities.
All three January Summer Schools will be held at Jane Franklin Hall (University of Tasmania), 6 Elboden Street, South Hobart.
Our annual conference originally scheduled for 2020 has been postponed to 25–26 June 2021. We’ll be a year older, and perhaps wiser. It will be worth waiting for! We are looking at the possibility of running this online as well as on site in Hobart. The theme will be secondary education, with a particular focus on the development of the spiritual and religious dimension of human nature. See our website for further details.