As the great man's guest must produce his good stories or songs at the evening banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obligation of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table.
Cardinal J. H. Newman, Preface to The Idea of a University, 1852

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thérèse de Lisieux

According to an item on today's BBC breakfast news, something like 3/4 of the population of Ireland visited the relics of Thérèse de Lisieux when they were taken around the Island. They are now in England - currently in Liverpool Metropoliton Cathedral.

There's lots in Catholic doctrine and practice that I really, really, do not go along with - but there's nothing wrong with veneration of the relics of a saint. Or there needn't be anyway. We need things to help us focus outside ourselves - or maybe I mean focus inside ourselves - think about 'deeper' concerns anyway. It's like viewing an original rather than reproduction of a painting, or standing among the stones of stonehenge, or visiting the site of a famous battle; there's something in the 'physical' presence that makes a difference. Or that we think makes a difference, and if we think it does then it does - like placebos.

Of course it could be used, manipulated by the unscrupulous, but then most things can.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Suffering, and Darwin's loss of faith

Alerted by a tweet from Richard Dawkins, I read this is the Guardian:
Darwin's complex loss of faith

It wasn't evolution that led Darwin away from religion, but nor was it simply the loss of his beloved daughter


In reality, Darwin's loss of faith was, as he recognised, gradual and complex. The reasons were not new – suffering always has been and always will be most serious challenge to Christianity – but they were newly focused. Plenty of Darwin's scientific contemporaries, men like John Stevens Henslow, Charles Lyell, Asa Gray, George Wright, Alexander Winchell, and James Dana, could accommodate their Christian beliefs with the new theory. Indeed, as historian James Moore has remarked "with but few exceptions the leading Christian thinkers in Great Britain and America came to terms quite readily with Darwinism and evolution."

But Darwin, brought up on William Paley's harmonious, self-satisfied vision of creation, could not.
(My emphasis.) I'd go along with that, but also note that suffering is at the heart of Christianity in Christ's suffering on the cross. Sort of obvious, and yet somehow it gets forgotten.