Mike Higton on Dawkins

Over nearly twenty years (I’m feeling old…), my friend Mike Higton has taught me, by precept and example, more about how to do theology than all but two, perhaps three, others. One of the lessons I regret never having quite learned from him, despite seeing it modeled repeatedly in his life, writing and conversation, is a truly respectful and patient listening to those with whom I disagree profoundly. On his blog, Mike has been giving just such respectful and patient listening to Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion. Does the book deserve such attention? Perhaps not, but an ethic of loving our enemies might demand that we give such a book that which it does not deserve. And Mike’s generosity is amply repaid with an endlessly fascinating series of...

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Stop the Traffik

Stop the Traffik isn’t clever. It isn’t funny. It is just vital. Slavery was wrong 200 years ago, when William Wilberforce finally piloted a partial and inadequate abolition bill through the British parliament. It is wrong now. Most of us know that the sex industry relies largely on people-traffiking, or ‘slavery’ to give it an older, and less gentle, name. We should know that the chocolate industry relies largely on people-traffiking, or ‘slavery’ to give it an older, and less gentle, name. The main chocolate manufacturers know this. They have known it for five or more years. They have done nothing because they think they can use slaves–mostly children–without too many of their customers caring. I hope they are...

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On aphorisms

My first serious theological study was on Coleridge, who delved deeply into the idea of the ‘aphorism’ as a mode of instruction. He says, in his Aids to Reflection, that ‘[t]his twofold act of circumscribing, and detaching, when it is exerted by the mind on subjects of reflection and reason, is to aphorise…’ (footnote to ‘Introductory Aphorism XXV’); he goes on to say this: ‘[e]xclusively of the abstract sciences, the largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms…’ (‘Introductory Aphorism XXVII’). I’m not sure about that; but the intellectual work he commends, of attempting to boil down an insight into its tersest form, to state the whole essence of the matter...

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An aphorism on prayer

‘Prayer is a gift God gives, not a duty God demands.’

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The pastor’s library (1)

Extracts from a letter to a pastor… You were the second person this week to ask me for recommendations on how to spend money on books, which seemed odd to me-I’ve never had a problem doing this… Anyway, you got me thinking about what good advice for a pastor’s library might look like, so I’m afraid you get an essay rather than a shopping list-teach you to ask a theologian! It is only in the last two or three years that I have taken to buying books because I wanted to read them; this is because we have both more money and more space than ever before in our lives. Before that I worked with a key distinction that I commend to you, between books I wanted to read and books I wanted to own. The latter I bought; the former I borrowed,...

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