The consolations of faith: on leading on non-religious funeral

Today I led a funeral service for my grandmother; in accordance with her views, and the wishes of her children, the service was devoid of any ‘religious’ content. I found this odd. Not difficult, but odd. Obviously, when asked to do it, I said yes; it did not take any thought to decide to help family members at such a time, and I rapidly worked out that, whilst I could not lead a ceremony speaking words I did not believe, I have no problem (indeed, a fair amount of experience, one way or another) in acting with integrity in public whilst not saying certain things that I do believe. What difficultly there was lay in working out what the service was for, in order to construct an appropriate form of words (I keep saying ‘liturgy’ in my head,...

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Christianity, Cameron, and Rev

David Cameron’s several interventions during Easter week concerning his own faith and his perception of the UK as a ‘Christian country’ aroused much interest, and more derision; by contrast, in it’s third series, the BBC2 sitcom¬†Rev has apparently reached that level of popularity which requires newspaper columnists to take pot-shots at it (see Tim Stanley in the Telegraph¬†and, much more interestingly in my estimation, James Mumford in the Guardian). Unravelling the various lines of a media and social media feeding frenzy like the one that surrounded the Prime Minister’s comments is not easy. His narrative of his own faith journey, which has clearly deepened in recent years following the death of his son Ivan, deserved much more...

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Translocal ecclesial identities

The theme of the recent – and excellent – Evangelical Alliance Council meeting was ‘It takes a whole church to raise a child’. Amongst the points made, two seem to me to connect interestingly. First, there was emphasis on the increasingly post-Christian, and so alien, nature of our society, which means that churches must become counter-cultural communities successfully modelling different values to the cultures around. Second, further reflection on the fact that young people tend to drop out of church when they move location – and the assumed mobility of many parts of our culture. We listened to testimony from Jesus House, and lots of helpful guidance as to what had worked for them. It struck me, however, that they seemed to be able...

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David Cameron ‘doing God’

Alastair Campbell’s intervention has become famous. Asked, in the course of an interview with Vanity Fair, something that touched on his personal faith, the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair hesitated, and Campbell lent across to refuse the question with the line ‘We don’t do God.’ Blair’s faith was clearly genuine, if kept quiet; the same was true of his successor Gordon Brown. David Cameron’s announcement in a speech yesterday that he is a ‘committed … Church of England Christian’ makes him (at least – I know nothing either way of John Major) the third premier in a row to find some importance in a personal Christian faith; that seems remarkable enough to bear some analysis, but that is not my point here....

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On Christian ‘belief’

Various folks commented in response to the two posts I managed to put up during Christmas travels, suggesting that a properly Christian account of ‘belief’ implied rather more than I had implied or allowed for. I am aware of this, of course, but probably should have been clearer that I was. The best analysis (as almost always…) comes from the scholastics: ‘belief’ is to be divided into three parts: notitia (‘knowledge’); assensus (‘agreement’); and fiducia (‘commitment’ or ‘trust’). To ‘believe’ in the gospel is, simultaneously, to know the claims of the gospel, to agree that they are true, and to stake one’s life upon them. My problem is that I don’t think that...

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