How free is our free-will? Reflections from a neuroscientist By Harvey McMahon Summary Free-will is fundamental to our sense of wellbeing, and underwrites our sense of morality, our judicial system and the Judeo-Christian faith. However, science has provided evidence that free-will may be an illusion. In this paper I explore how the brain functions as […]
It has never been easy to answer the question ‘Who am I?’ but increasing social pluralism, the fast-changing world of social media, and easy access to cosmetic surgery make it more difficult than ever. The resulting confusion may undermine wellbeing and threaten social cohesion. The biblical view of human identity as ‘given’ in Christ, worked out imaginatively in relational communities, can potentially buffer these harmful consequences, defend against narcissism and help cultivate personal resilience.
Risk has become a central concept in modern life. The ‘risk society’ that we live in has increasingly structured itself around attempting to manage an uncertain future, in which more knowledge simultaneously provides safety and increases our awareness of what we do not know. This paper argues while the risk society is a secular phenomenon, it provides an opportunity for Christians to live distinctively and attractively.
The broad and pervasive ‘trend away from marriage’ has far-reaching implications for society as a whole, as well as for Christians who come under pressure to conform to cultural standards. In contrast to the short-term and low-commitment relationships that have fast become the norm, the Bible holds out a positive vision for marriage, based on God’s covenant relationship with his people, and offers us the hope of communicating an attractive model of marriage to those who adhere to very different values.
The Christian’s conscience is increasingly set in opposition to some of the values and political aims of wider Western culture. This fact is evidenced by an increase in ‘conscience cases’, where Christians are sued or dismissed for acting in accordance with their conscience.
British higher education is increasingly secular in outlook. This paper identifies three aspects of that secularity: specialisation, instrumentalisation and globalisation. As Christians, we can respond by observing the intellectual, moral and theological inadequacy of the university life this generates. But we are also called to take practical beneficial steps to address its weaknesses as well.
During the recent financial crisis, governments borrowed as if they were fighting a world war. They have struggled to reduce deficits ever since and so their debts are at record levels, leaving societies open to the temptations of repression, default, or inflation. This is the poisonous legacy of the ‘Prodigal’ baby boomer generation that squandered not only their inheritance but that of their children too. Biblical wisdom helps us to understand the state we are in and the possible means of escape. But societies ultimately need a change of heart to understand that debt is financial servitude and we all have obligations before God to future generations.
The ethical foundations which underpin the wildlife conservation movement face a crisis: what gives nature its value? Anthropocentric views (which see the world as here to serve human interests) and ecocentric views (which aim to value all species equally) compete but are flawed. In contrast, a biblical perspective emphasises that both human and non-human creatures are made for the glory of God and have value directly in relation to God. This has significant implications for Christian attitudes to biodiversity conservation and for the conservation movement, which are briefly explored.
The Newick Park Initiative (NPI) in South Africa was a Christian initiative which helped to build the trust and a shared national vision across the political spectrum in the years around the release of Nelson Mandela in early 1990. It also prepared the ground for the mediation of Professor Washington Okumu in 1994 which made possible the peaceful conduct of the first fully non-racial elections of that year. The relational principles governing NPI are a guide for Christian peacebuilding at a national level, applicable in other contexts as well.
This paper considers the pastoral and political role of biblical lament in the Christian life. The theology and practice of lament is often neglected in congregations, despite its prominence in the biblical text. Such neglect deprives churches of a pastoral resource and moreover, as this paper highlights, diminishes the church’s capacity for prophetic critique and political activism in the face of social injustice.
The poet T. S. Eliot offers us a way of experiencing and interpreting the interplay of our personal and social worlds: ‘Understanding begins in the sensibility’. Read more…
Summary This paper contends that the Bible has been the single most influential document in British political history. It takes six major political ideas, each with contemporary relevance, and shows how the Bible has shaped our attitude to each, highlighting particular hermeneutical principles critical in explaining this influence. It is suggested that a continued, […]
Margaret Atwood is one of the most important and influential writers alive today. Her fiction explores and reflects the current cultural move away from metanarrative and towards fragmented notions of truth. She celebrates this new intellectual trend, whilst also revealing the damage done by its more confused, frustrated and narcissistic elements.
Moral hazard and sexual ethics Summary Rather than addressing fundamental moral issues around sexual freedom, this paper starts with our culture’s premise by taking a utilitarian approach and exploring the financial impacts. This is in line with the common assumption that what truly matters for public policy can be quantified. It argues that significant costs […]
Abstract The Equality Act 2010 was the last major piece of legislation to be passed under the British ‘New Labour’ Government. This paper explains briefly what equality law does as well as two related groups of recent problem cases. It sets out a biblical foundation for the commitment to equality as well as […]