That’s more like an apology

Last week I outlined the sorts of thing that I don’t think work as arguments for or defences of Christian faith. Today I want to look at some of the things I hold to be more helpful.

Francis Spufford, writer of the excellent Unapologetic (photo credit: James Atkinson)

First, there are those positive accounts people give of why they believe what they believe, and how it makes sense to them. Francis Spufford’s 2012 book Unapologetic is one of the best of these to have been published recently. That doesn’t mean everyone will like it, or that all readers will find it persuasive. It does mean it comes across honestly, personally and thoughtfully, and shows how Spufford sets out the case for what he believes is a reasoned and reasonable response to reality, which also offers wisdom for living in and with that reality.

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Would I call that an apology?

I have been known to use the word “apologetic” (an adjective normally describing works that defend the Christian faith) as an insult. Sometimes, in a piece of academic work, the argument is remarkably unconvincing to anyone who doesn’t share the writer’s presuppositions. To anyone else it looks like, at best, special pleading. Instead of a work of scholarship investigating, say, the early history of the gospels, it comes across as a work of apologetic, trying to make a case that the writer’s view is defensible, but only able to persuade those who already hold that viewpoint.

C. S. Lewis, still the most widely read apologist, over 50 years after his death.

Such writers do have their counterparts on the other side of the argument. I also find myself reading people who, rather than offering a scholarly investigation (again as an example) into the early history of the gospels, seem more keen to construct or stress interpretations of the evidence that are incompatible with traditional Christian faith, than to give a good historical accounting of the complex detail.

(I should add a plug here for History for Atheists, a blog by Tim O’Neill – himself an atheist – doing his best to keep atheist readings of history and Christianity honest.)

Those are not the apologetics I’m looking for.

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Epiphany, not really a season?

As I watched the people after Mass at the church I was visiting carefully putting Christmas back into boxes for a year, I thought to myself, “Liturgists 0, Culture 1.”

Common Worship enforced an Epiphany season on the Church of England, prolonging Christmas well past Twelfth Night, into the beginning of February. Older calendars brought Christmas to a close with the day of Epiphany.

Detail from Fra Angelico’s Adoration of the Magi

I suppose one way to see it is an argument over whether to follow Matthew’s gospel prologue, or Luke’s. Matthew brings his infancy narrative to a close with the visit of the wise men, the massacre of the innocents, and the holy family’s asylum-seeking escape into Egypt. Luke brings the infancy narrative to a close with the 40-days-after-birth ceremony of purification prescribed in Jewish law (although he concludes his prologue with an additional story around the time Jesus might have had whatever passed for bar mitzvah in the first century).

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On Christian humanism

In returning to blogging, I’ve chosen to promote the strapline of a previous blog to be the title of this one: Musings of a Christian humanist. One or two people have asked me what I mean by this. I thought it would be worth a post outlining some of the thoughts that inform my choice. I will also copy the main contents of this post into the About page.

Hans Holbein’s portrait of Erasmus, the great early modern Christian humanist (detail)
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My photo portfolio

The second online thing I decided to do for this year was to make use of the portfolio option included in my Adobe plan.

Feet on staircase – Apple Store, Covent Garden

This is one of the images I’ve included in my black and white gallery. So far I’ve added four galleries, and you can access the portfolio here.

2019: into the unknown

I’ve decided to start blogging again. Over the last few months I’ve found myself wanting to offer more nuance than a tweet, or even Twitter thread could easily offer. So, new year, new blogging.

On the lookout for who knows what may come …

I can’t remember starting a year with so much uncertainty about where it would go. Brexit is the biggest factor in that. Any prediction seems to be as much about the predictor’s wishful thinking as any skill at futurology. I might hope that the UK will ask for an extension of the article 50 time limit in order to check out what the majority of people really think after two years of bad-tempered arguments, but I’m not holding my breath.

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