Is the EU the ‘greatest human dream realised’?

Last Sunday the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, addressed the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in Serbia, on the issue of continuing Christian witness in Europe. In his talk, he gives a brief overview of the history of Christianity in Europe, and makes some important observations about the role of Christian churches in the current political context. He is clear that part of our calling is to speak truth to power:

For the Church to be effective and to continue to be blessed by God, it must speak truth to the societies that it sees around it and act in a way that is consistent with the truth it speaks.

He also sees the churches as modelling a distinctive kind of community, often at odds with contemporary culture.

History would indicate, and the command of Jesus direct, that the Church is first to seek to be a holy community, based in order, in mutual love, in humility, service and hospitality. That all sounds good and harmless, but it is in fact something that runs directly contrary to much of what we see going on in Europe today.

I was less convinced by his comments on reconciliation (as I have always been) since the central theological concern of our reconciliation to God by his gracious initiative cannot easily be extended to a general task of reconciling others to one another as an activity distinct from each party being reconciled to God.

But of course no-one has really paid any attention to these comments, since all the headlines were grabbed by a brief statement—almost a throwaway line—near the end of the address:

The EU has been the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It has brought peace, prosperity, compassion for the poor and weak, purpose for the aspirational and hope for all its people.


Most of the popular reaction has been a sense of fury that, yet again, someone who is perceived to be part of the privileged elite is trampling on the views of many ordinary people and their dissatisfaction with the EU project—with the implication that to have voted to leave the EU was an obdurate rejection of the fulfilment of human hope. But there are several more serious problems with the statement, quite apart from the problem of one sentence distracting from the rest of the talk.

Adrian Hilton highlights the basic error of understanding of recent political history:

But the curious thing is that it’s the Council of Europe which the Archbishop ought to be lauding: its nations came together in 1949 – almost a decade before the EEC (now EU) – to work for peace and reconciliation, establish human rights and foster democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe now includes 47 nations and 820 million people, which is 19 (soon to be 20) more nations and 300 million (soon to be 365 million) people more people than the EU. The UK isn’t leaving the Council of Europe: we helped to forge its ethos and shape its essential Christian mission. It was Winston Churchill who dared to “peer through the mists of the future to the end of the war”, and imagine a body of sovereign European nations working together for the common good.

It is the fraternal and benevolent Council of Europe which united the Continent and “brought peace, prosperity, compassion for the poor and weak”; not the EU, as the Archbishop believes. Oh, the EU might have purloined the Council of Europe’s flag and anthem and, indeed, have established something called the European Council so that people will forever be confused by the myriad of similar labels applied to a labyrinth of bodies which appropriate the word ‘European’. But the Council of Europe is distinct from the European Union: it was the true midwife of peace and godfather of reconciliation.

He also asks the longer historical question about progress:

Forget the invention of the printing press; the harnessing of electricity; the creation of the first steam engine; the invention of telephone; the discovery of vaccines, the abolition of slavery, the invention of the internet or flying to the moon.

as did friend and fellow Synod member Prudence Dailey on social media:

Forget the Reformation, the Englightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the fall of the Iron Curtain, dramatic reductions in poverty worldwide, sanitation and disease reduction, democracy, modern medicine, life expectancy approaching 100, racial tolerance, central heating, electricity, hot and cold running water, sanitation… Nope, it’s the EU that is mankind’s greatest dream. No wonder the USA, Japan and Switzerland are such miserable, backward places to live.

These reflections remind me never to make sweeping comments about historical reality!


There are two other important practical reasons for Christian leaders to avoid making these kinds of sweeping affirmations about specific political projects. Whilst it is absolutely essential that our faith has a bearing on practical issues, including those expressed in the political realm, there is a serious pastoral danger in any Christian leader taking a position on a particular political entity, especially one as controverted as the EU in Britain today. Amongst those for whom we care, there are likely to be people will very different views on specific political issues, and if we pronounce in this way we are certain to lose the confidence of one group or another. (It is one reason why I have never felt able to join a political party—though I am aware that other clergy take a different view.)

But the other practical reason for avoiding such statement is that the EU has a very mixed success even in its own terms. I was recently visited at home by my local Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, and we had a brief but animated conversation about Brexit. She, too, seemed to have little patience for those wanting to leave, and though I voted ‘remain’, I also expressed my grave concerns about the dogmatic insistence on free movement of people, which I genuinely think is an evil, in that it inflicts serious damage to cultures and societies and yet is dogmatically insisted on as essential and non-negotiable. A recent article in the Guardian highlighted the impact on countries in the east of the EU. Romania already had serious economic, social and political problems, but

Mass emigration has only compounded the problems. One notorious example is the healthcare system: tens of thousands of Romanian health workers now practise abroad, including 3,775 for the NHS, leaving Romanians in severely understaffed and underfunded clinics.

The writer sees this as just one aspect of the wider damage that is being done.

The migrants are usually the young and active, whose energy and idealism is therefore lost to Romanian society, economy and politics. Right now, it is badly needed. Any emerging political force that is serious about improving the situation must find ways to stop this exodus. The 400,000 Romanians in the UK are a great loss for Romania, above all.

This is hardly an example of human dreams fulfilled for them, nor for Italy’s three million unemployed, or to Spain’s four million or Greece’s four million. Unemployment is more than 30% amongst Italian young people, so it is not at all surprising that anti-EU parties have recently triumphed in Italy’s election.


Quite apart from these practical, pastoral and political considerations, it seems to me that we need to do better on our theological understanding of political issues. It is a relatively welcoming-worn cliché to explore the contrast between Romans 13 and Revelation 13 when it comes to political power—but it is a contrast (or a comparison) worth revisiting.

In Romans 13, Paul (notoriously?) appears to offer almost unqualified approval of secular political power when he says:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13.1–2)

Taken at face value, and out of the wider context of the NT, these are difficult verses—and it might be unfair to speculate whether Paul regretted using these words as he awaiting his execution by beheading under Nero. But the observation that systems of government bring a certain order to society is very striking in the light of our recent experience of Iraq and Libya, where it turned out that the distorted order of a corrupt leader actually compares well with the chaos and disorder that erupts when they are toppled.

In fact, I am not sure that Paul is saying anything very different from Jesus’ words to Pilate at his trial: ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above’ (John 19.11). This does not lead to unqualified submission to political power, but a recognition of who is sovereign over all—and to whom all political powers must given an account. The same idea is behind Jesus’ saying about paying taxes in Matt 22.21. When he says ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’, he is not dividing the world into two spheres, the political and the spiritual, each with its own domain and demands. He is highlighting the real but limited demands made by political power, and the all-embracing and sovereign demands made by God under which the other sits.

Revelation 13 is a depiction of what happens when that goes wrong—though in fact not just chapter 13, but the whole of the Book of Revelation. Read in context, the main theme of the book is whether John’s readers will make the right choice between loyalty (‘faithful witness’) to Jesus, or to the social, political and cultural forces around which claim to offer the things only God can offer and demand the loyalty only God can command. Somewhat ironically, John is offering in his context a critique of imperial power which itself claims to offer fulfilment of all human dreams, and to bring peace, prosperity and hope to all—if only they will bow the knee to the emperor.


Within his vision report, John does include in chapter 21 a depiction of the fulfilment of all human aspiration. The vision of the New Jerusalem (like all of Revelation) is more complex and nuanced than many readers realise—though it is easy to sense its power. The chapter actually offers a five-fold completion of what has gone before.

First, it is the last of seven unnumbered visions introduced with the phrase ‘And I saw’, starting at Rev 19.11 (the phrase being repeated at 19.17, 19.19, 20.1, 20.4 and 20.11); this is the last time the phrase is used (for the rest of the vision John ‘is shown’ the city), and this section is the fullest and most complete exposition of the meaning of Jesus’ return and the end of all things, where the preceding six vision have given more partial insight. Secondly, chapter 21 offers a counterpoint and a completion to the vision from chapter 17, which the bride of the lamb forming a deliberate counterpoint to the whore of Babylon. The hope found in Jesus is a glistening jewel compared with the gaudy baubles offered by political projects. Thirdly, this final vision draws together many of the strands of hope and expectation from earlier in the book; it is this vision and hope which are to sustain John’s readers in the practical struggles they face which have been delineated in the seven messages of chapters 2 and 3, and which have been contextualised socially and theologically in the intervening chapters. Fourthly, chapter 21 draws together the fulfilment of all the diverse hopes of God’s people from earlier in the canon of Scripture, from the whole Old Testament—for example, seeing the spiritual Zion lifted up as a high mountain which draws all the nations of the earth as set out in the second part of Isaiah. But, fifthly, in completing all these hopes, the vision articulates the fulfilment of all human longings, which is why it has such wide appeal even to those who know nothing of the previous four sets of completions.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21.3–4)

For any Christian leader or disciple, this is the only place where all human dreams will be fulfilled. And it is the vision which provides the yardstick against which all human attempts to do so must be measured.


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81 thoughts on “Is the EU the ‘greatest human dream realised’?

  1. It is also curious that the Archbishop seemed to assume that the Roman Empire was a great dream bringing benefits to all people, whereas the Book of Revelation to which you refer, Ian, would suggest a very different view of its supposed benefits.

  2. “Is the EU the ‘greatest human dream realised’?”

    No.

    Honestly, I struggle with Welby. One moment he does something rather wise and thoughtful, or writes something profound and interesting (Dethroning Mammon was a very good book) the next moment he makes a statement like this. I fear that he is not simply wrong (this is, of course, debatable) but like you; that he is overstepping his bounds by associating his ecclesial office with a political ideal. And not just any ideal, the EU is a utopian one. ‘Come let us build a tower’ and all that…..

    Two questions for you Ian.

    First, I have just finished Tom Wrights’ “The day the Revolution Began”, and putting aside the comment that it is, largely, nothing more than a popular-audience revision of “Jesus and the Victory of God”, one of the central themes in the book is the same as you have drawn from Revelation; that central question of “which Lord do you serve?”. Do you think this is becoming a more common framework for looking at the New Testament’s ‘grand narrative’, and if so, would you agree that to be a good thing?

    Second, would you be willing to elaborate on your conversation/meeting with Anna Soubry? I thought it was an interesting insertion into the article, but am unsure of it’s significance.

    Mat

  3. A priest friend in Lichfield Diocese so frequently berated those who voted for Brexit on Facebook that I have left Facebook altogether. So I was struck by your words “…. there is a serious pastoral danger in any Christian leader taking a position on a particular political entity….” which is very true. She has put herself in the position of regularly telling more than half of her parishioners that they are political lunatics in her opinion.

    I happen to come from an Anglo-Swiss family and in Switzerland there are very regular referenda on very serious subjects (a recent one was on pensions and June’s referendum will be about the Swiss currency and banks) …..the point is that you learn to make your case before a referendum, vote and then respect people for how they have voted.

    I have never experienced such outright disrespect that seems to me to equate to hatred across the Brexit / Bremain divide in the UK. I am also amazed by how often people say that “intelligent people would have voted differently” …. well, you know what, in Switzerland you persuade people BEFORE the vote – you don’t spend your life whinging and complaining about it afterwards. If you were really intelligent then you would have persuaded people before the vote.

    The second important point is when you quite correctly say that loyalty is “….(‘faithful witness’) to Jesus…” and I am struck by how ++Canterbury is consistently trying to persuade others that loyalty at all cost is some kind of virtue. Well loyalty is to Jesus Christ – not to Canterbury or anyone else – but to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    • Indeed, Simon.
      You’ll be aware that it is reputed that one of the buildings at Strasbourg is modelled on the Tower of Babel.
      I had high hopes when Welby was appointed, and was encouraged by his response that his identity was in Christ, when the life of his parents was fanfared in the press, but think he is making too many missteps.
      I think Ian P has highlighted a lack of theological grounding as Welby trespasses into political fields – but not to seek sheep that are not of his pasture. As he does so, his becomes a voice that will not be heard by many. And the risk is that Christianity is equated with a particular political position, as in USA.
      As part of a law degree , I studied Constitutional and Administrative law, the History of the English Legal System, and Jurisprudence and as a result on both occasions (yes I am that old) voted against the EU, deeply opposed to the EU law making processes, the EU Supreme Court, the undemocratic (now, seemingly anti-democratic) EU system. Economics, nor migration had much part to play in my decision.
      It was recognised, as cited by Ian, in Guardian, that migration denudes and dilutes cultures left behind, but too little credence is given to the dilution of host cultures, only that it only ever benefits, the economy in particular, or exclusively.
      My main concern would be, not whether exit happens or doesn’t but whether the spreading of the Gospel is helped or hindered.

  4. Yes, the EU is the greatest human dream realised. Peaceful cooperation and coexistence allow us to flourish while regulating the competition that leads to war and bloodshed.

    The UK wants to return to the pre-EU era of competing nation states. Despite noisy nationalist minorities in many EU countries, most of the rest of us don’t. So we’ll remain united, but with you on the outside.

    We have to get used to thinking of Britain as a rival rather than a partner now. The era of peaceful cooperation and exchange between us is over. You’re now a potentially dangerous competitor, so we’ll have to act to shut you out of our internal market and European structures where your presence could constitute a threat to our security.

    You want a return to the old adversarial order of things, and that’s what you’re going to get. I wonder if you’ve realised it yet.

    • Holger, why? Why does it have to be that way? Unless you want it. Can there not be an independent, mutually favourable interdependence,
      And why exclude the rest of the world?
      My dad fought in WW2. Yet that did not stop the family befriending a German Prisoner of war, held locally in England and later having family holiday with his and his family at their homes in Dortmund and Frieberg. And we travelled throughout Europe, without hindrance. Friends, moved to Germany, through his employment
      It seems to me that there is little or no will for that within the EU project, which has imposed it’s will on Greece and Italy and is looking towards self preserving Empire building, and has disregarded, overruled, democtra ic process in individual nation states.

      • We already have ‘mutually favourable interdependence’. It’s called the EU.

        The problem is that the UK doesn’t want mutually favourable interdependence. It wants a unilaterally favourable competitive advantage. It wants all the benefits of EU membership with none of the responsibilities.

        Unfortunately for you, that kind of deal is not on offer.

        The UK’s dream of a privileged relationship with the EU is totally unrealistic and you should look to our relationships with the US, Russia and China as models for the future dealings between us. Tariffs, quotas and restrictions will characterise our trading relations, as they do between all countries that compete with each other. That’s the nature of international trade. Either you’re part of a trading bloc that accords special privileges to its members, or you’re not. No membership means no privileges. It really is as simple as that.

        Trade deals take years to negotiate. 15 or 20 years down the line, the EU and the UK may be able to work out a comprehensive trade agreement, so there’s some hope for the long term future. But in the short term there’s quite simply no time. Even if there were, the lack of a credible negotiating stance from your government would prevent any agreement being reached. Mrs May and her fractious cabinet with its ever-changing “red lines” are a laughing stock in European capitals, and I think our leaders are fast coming to the conclusion that no deal will be possible until the UK has stable government. Contingency plans are being laid for a very hard Brexit indeed.

        In March of next year a wall comes down between EU and the UK across which, in the short term, very little trade is likely to take place. Some of your politicians are starting to wake up to this fact. I wonder when the British people will.

        • Holger,
          You have avoided completely the points I (and others) have made, only to reveal, what seems to be a resentful hostility to the UK, at which I’m somewhat taken aback, and a lack of will in the EU to do anything but to make the UK a warning example to EU members and indeed some see as trying are trying to block exit. And, as you show, would delight in a change of government.
          Why are you so angry?
          It is an approach, which was clearly visible under the shallow waters of EU superficial homogeny, and which was foreseeable would rise to the surface.
          Who are your de facto leaders, in the EU, democrats or bureaucrats?
          A recent statement by the EU budget Commissioner is also clearly concerned with how the Italian people should vote by pointing out some financial influencers he hopes will happen to help determine any vote which he’d prefer.
          The EU has rumblings of discontent in the nations to the south, but not only there. Hungary has voted Victor Orban into office 3 times as a “Christian democracy” to the chagrin of Brussels and Berlin. Governments in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are being seen as walking in the wrong direction.
          I can’t see that former Prime Minister David Cameron had much success or influence in negotiations before the referendum, so what’s new. Neither did the former Greek finance minister who has written an eye-opening, eye-watering account of negotiations.
          There clearly doesn’t seem to be any room for you to have any EU self- reflection for any sort of reform. The reality is that the EU in practice isn’t operating as a unifying force, but as a catalyst for discontent. Angry discontent, that flows from your pen.
          The EU, perhaps, could reform as a friendly association of free countries, trading freely. And perhaps come up with a sparkling new name for it – the Common Market. How about it?
          Are we still friends? Notwithstanding you not wishing to part as such.

          • Actually, I’m in no way hostile to the UK’s position. It is what it is. The British have the right to view the EU as they wish. As do we.

            You believe the EU is not fit for purpose. We believe it is. There are certainly minorities in various EU countries who see things your way, but none of them are influential enough to drag their countries out of the EU. And that’s the important point. No other EU member has declared, or looks likely to declare, its desire to leave the EU. Not Greece. Not Italy. Not Poland. Not even Hungary. Nobody has followed your lead.

            You’re on your own.

            If you feel alone and isolated, it’s because you are. We respect your decision to leave the EU, but it’s your decision, and now you have bear the consequences of that decision.

            The EU may not be perfect – indeed we know it isn’t. But it’s a great deal better than life on the outside.

            That’s what the UK has chosen. And that’s what the UK now has to face. You need to understand that nobody intends to follow you, and deal with the fact that you’ve cut yourself off from the rest of Europe and are now on your own.

            Honestly, I have little sympathy for you. It was your decision. It’s your problem to deal with. It certainly isn’t ours. Don’t be surprised if we accept your decision at face value and start to treat you as a foreign nation. That’s what you are now. That’s what you want to be.

            We’re not going to abandon the EU in order to please the English. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll understand that you’re now on the outside looking in. You chose your fate.

            Why can’t you deal with it?

          • Holger,

            I wrote on 7th June:
            “I have never experienced such outright disrespect that seems to me to equate to hatred across the Brexit / Bremain divide in the UK. I am also amazed by how often people say that “intelligent people would have voted differently” …. well, you know what, in Switzerland you persuade people BEFORE the vote – you don’t spend your life whinging and complaining about it afterwards. If you were really intelligent then you would have persuaded people before the vote.”

            So when you wrote on 9th June:
            “You’re on your own.
            If you feel alone and isolated, it’s because you are. We respect your decision to leave the EU, but it’s your decision, and now you have bear the consequences of that decision.”

            Disrespectful is exactly what you are being even when you allege:
            “Actually, I’m in no way hostile to the UK’s position. It is what it is. The British have the right to view the EU as they wish. As do we.” The rest of your same entry just shows you being disrespectful anyway!

        • Thank you Holger. Some British people have always been awake to the disaster that is Brexit. I think the UK will suffer greatly from this egregious decision. The EU is by no means perfect, but look at the alternatives.

          • Yes, Britain will pay the price of Brexit. But that was Britain’s choice.

            The people get what the people deserve. That’s democracy.

        • Holger,
          Who is this “we” you are always talking about? Who are you speaking for? Has it been delegated to you? I can’t see where anyone has suggested any other nation should follow the UK, nor have I seen in any of the comments any sense of aloneness or isolation.
          Did you even read Ian Paul’s original blog post?
          Could I suggest you start with the last sentence and work back.
          But, for the avoidance of doubt and for emphasis, here it is again:

          “Revelation 13 is a depiction of what happens when that goes wrong—though in fact not just chapter 13, but the whole of the Book of Revelation. Read in context, the main theme of the book is whether John’s readers will make the right choice between loyalty (‘faithful witness’) to Jesus, or to the social, political and cultural forces around which claim to offer the things only God can offer and demand the loyalty only God can command. Somewhat ironically, John is offering in his context a critique of imperial power which itself claims to offer fulfilment of all human dreams, and to bring peace, prosperity and hope to all—if only they will bow the knee to the emperor.

          Within his vision report, John does include in chapter 21 a depiction of the fulfilment of all human aspiration. The vision of the New Jerusalem (like all of Revelation) is more complex and nuanced than many readers realise—though it is easy to sense its power. The chapter actually offers a five-fold completion of what has gone before.

          First, it is the last of seven unnumbered visions introduced with the phrase ‘And I saw’, starting at Rev 19.11 (the phrase being repeated at 19.17, 19.19, 20.1, 20.4 and 20.11); this is the last time the phrase is used (for the rest of the vision John ‘is shown’ the city), and this section is the fullest and most complete exposition of the meaning of Jesus’ return and the end of all things, where the preceding six vision have given more partial insight. Secondly, chapter 21 offers a counterpoint and a completion to the vision from chapter 17, which the bride of the lamb forming a deliberate counterpoint to the whore of Babylon. The hope found in Jesus is a glistening jewel compared with the gaudy baubles offered by political projects. Thirdly, this final vision draws together many of the strands of hope and expectation from earlier in the book; it is this vision and hope which are to sustain John’s readers in the practical struggles they face which have been delineated in the seven messages of chapters 2 and 3, and which have been contextualised socially and theologically in the intervening chapters. Fourthly, chapter 21 draws together the fulfilment of all the diverse hopes of God’s people from earlier in the canon of Scripture, from the whole Old Testament—for example, seeing the spiritual Zion lifted up as a high mountain which draws all the nations of the earth as set out in the second part of Isaiah. But, fifthly, in completing all these hopes, the vision articulates the fulfilment of all human longings, which is why it has such wide appeal even to those who know nothing of the previous four sets of completions.

          And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21.3–4)

          For any Christian leader or disciple, this is the only place where all human dreams will be fulfilled. And it is the vision which provides the yardstick against which all human attempts to do so must be measured.”

          I get my status, significance, acceptance, security, belonging, from Jesus Christ, as do many who visit and contribute to this blog, not from any political or economic system. Do you? It seems not.
          It would be interesting to have your comments on Ian Paul’s scriptural references, and the theological grounding of this whole EU issue.

          • PostScript, Holger,
            It’s good of you to tell me what I believe. No one has used the legal term “fit for purpose.” Actually, what I believe is what I requoted from Ian Paul.

          • I should have thought the identity of the “we” I refer to is obvious. I mean the citizens of the EU. This does not include the British, of course, because although you are still technically EU citizens until the date of Britain’s withdrawal, you repudiated that citizenship when you voted to leave.

            The attitude of the “person in the street” towards Brexit is remarkably similar across the EU. It can be summed up by “if they want to leave let them, but out means out – they can’t have their cake and eat it too”.

            That’s certainly the attitude of the EU heads of government and also of the various EU insitutions themselves.

            As for the theological grounding of what you refer to as “this whole EU issue”, I’m not aware there is one. The EU is a political, not a theological structure. You might as well ask what the mathematical or oenological groundings are, for all the sense the answers will make.

            Of course those who are obsessed with the imaginary constructs they call gods, and who have invented a pseudo-science called theology that purports to give insights into the nature of these mythical beings, will persist in believing that any and every aspect of life and human behaviour must be related to their tin-pot eternal dictators. They’ll invent laboured and tenuous arguments “proving” how Michel Barnier’s odd accent and blatant overuse of the present progressive tense when speaking English are solid evidence of his real identity as Damien from The Omen. They may even believe it.

            That’s the thing about religious delusion. There’s no arguing with it. “I believe” is the single most absolutist and intransigeant statement a human being can make. It can’t be argued with. But it can certainly be laughed at.

          • Holger,
            You seem to have a weak and superficial, tissue paper thin grasp of philosophy, the philosophy of science, scientism, and Christianity. I’d suggest that it would be beyond your imaginings to invent the Trinune, God.
            Like you, I “believed” that God was an invention of humanity, but at the age of 47 years, He revealed the reality of His existence, presence and being born from above, the reality of Father Son and Holy Spirit. It is a question of evidence and history, as well as conversion experience.
            It would indeed be amusing to see you scientifically prove the existence of your own absolutist belief systems:
            “That’s the thing about religious delusion. There’s no arguing with it. “I believe” is the single most absolutist and intransigeant statement a human being can make. It can’t be argued with. But it can certainly be laughed at.”
            Mockery is indeed the fall- back position. You might be amused to read “The Dawkins Delusion” by Alistair McGrath. It’s a good laugh.
            And the preposterous statement by Stephen Hawking that philosophy is dead, is more than well countered by polymath prof John C Lennox in his short book “God and Stephen Hawking” is Hawking’s statement is indeed a philosophical statement that can not be scientifically proved.
            Lennox : “A matter of logic: a self-creating universe? One of the main conclusions of(Hawkins book) The Grand Design is:” Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will CREATE ITSELF OUT of NOTHING” ….this key expression of Hawking’s BELIEF.” (emphasis mine)
            Let’s have a good belly laugh or chuckle at the least.
            “Could all of this be just a little too much ado about nothing”? asks Lennox, perhaps somewhat mischievously.
            And there is much more in 96 pages of his books. Other books of his include, “God’s Undertaker -has science buried God.”
            It is doubtful, that you will take up a challenge to read any of those books to be open-minded enough to be challenged, in your omniscience

    • Hi Holger,
      I have a question that you may or not wish to answer here : are you Holger Krahmer ?
      I am intrigued!

  5. Oh no Ian Paul – Jesus did not say anything about paying taxes – he relegated the question to irrelevance! He is asked about paying taxes and asks to be shown a coin. The question he asks is key, as the people asking are theological literates, whose image is on it? Caesar’s is the reply. Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and (posing another question) give to God what belongs to God. What belongs to God? Well if what belongs to Caesar is that which bears his image, what belongs to God must be what bears his image. He’s neatly turned the question back on them. The coin is Caesar’s, give back to him, but to whom are you given?

    • Hi Richard,

      Despite your sarcasm, Ian Paul didn’t dismiss Jesus’ saying about taxes. Instead, Ian explained that: ‘He [Jesus] is highlighting the real but limited demands made by political power, and the all-embracing and sovereign demands made by God under which the other sits.’ He’s right.

      The unfolding narrative which precedes this incident at the Temple provides the context for Jesus’ question and declaration.

      1. As He entered Jerusalem, the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for what they perceived as blasphemous acceptance of messianic praise (Ps. 118:26)
      2. In the courts of the Temple built by Herod, Jesus challenged its exploitation of foreign worshippers by expelling the money-changers, reminding them (aposiopetically) of God’s promise to embrace the worship of Gentile God-fearers and to consign the Temple to the same fate as Shiloh (1 Samuel 4:10-11).
      3. In the same Temple Courts, Jesus responded to those questioning His authority by probing His detractors about whether John’s baptismal rite was ordained of God or man.
      4. Later, after the admonitory parable of the vine-growers, Jesus recited from the same messianic hymn sung during His entry to Jerusalem (this time, Ps. 118:22).

      Given this Temple context, Jesus’ criticism was apposite. Since the Temple authorities’ insistence that the shekel was the only legal tender for paying its own tax, Jesus turned the tables on his opponents by exposing their own hypocritical complicity in desecrating the Temple with coinage bearing the idolatrous graven image of Caesar.

      Even if it could be argued that ‘the coin is Caesar’s’, God declares that the gold and silver belongs to Him and that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Hag. 2:8; Ps. 24:1)

      So, to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” goes beyond taxation to include divestment of everything bearing Caesar’s idolatrous image and, potentially, incurring
      their financial ruin (albeit to their spiritual recovery).

      Of course, this was not the answer that they wanted. Nevertheless, it blunted their attempts to accuse Jesus of sedition, having nothing more to report than that His position on Rome’s authority to impose taxes was that Jews should give back to the Emperor everything bearing the Emperor’s image.

      When they marvelled, it was at His prescience, as revealed by the type of coin which they unwittingly provided for Him to undo their malevolent scheming.

  6. Free movement of labor’s an “evil”? Wow, even the staunchest Brexiter’s unlikely to go that far! Like any policy, it brings pros and cons, but “evil” would imply that it has no redeeming features. Given Christianity’s universalism, there’s a solid argument to be made that it’s a Christian position.

    They’re legion, from allowing labor to follow capital (and with it, jobs), to opening up new opportunities to citizens of poorer states, to breaking down barriers between neighbors. Not like it’s a novelty, either: it was the norm in Europe prior to WW1, when people didn’t even need passports. It’s generally popular across the EU for good reason.

    As to the cons listed, yes, when free movement’s extended to unequal economies, it can cause the problems raised, but that’s not an argument against the principle itself. Nor is it unanswerable: if the EU uses fiscal transfer to boost its developing members, their citizens will be incentivized to return with valuable experience, alongside citizens of other EEA nations.

    Would the same argument be extended, I wonder, to the United States, where for centuries there’s been significant internal migration between states of the union. Sometimes it hit poorer states hard, but sometimes with good reason. Would those people have been better off trapped in their state of birth?

    • Free movement of labor’s an “evil”?

      That’s not how I read:

      ‘ I also expressed my grave concerns about the dogmatic insistence on free movement of people, which I genuinely think is an evil’

      which I read as it’s not the free movement in itself which is ‘an evil’, but the ‘dogmatic insistence on’ it.

    • Yes, I think that dogmatic and unrestricted free movement is an evil. If you had a strong argument, you would not need to parody mine by assuming the false binary that the only alternative is ‘people trapped in their state of birth’. A really beneficial principle would be limited and controlled movement.

      If you were right about free movement, then in the US we would see the economies of the different states equalising, since not only do they enjoy free movement, but there are no language or cultural barriers, at least not to the degree that we have in Europe. But after centuries of free movement there, people in the richest state are still twice as well off as those in the poorest state on average. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/americas-richest-and-poorest-states_us_57db167be4b04fa361d99639

      And the size of the different states economies are massive, and the differences continuing to grow. (If California was a country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world.)

      Migrants might return to their own countries…were it not for the fact that they marry, have children and settle in their host countries–not least because the host countries fail to teach the children in the language of their origin as they are supposed to do. (GCSE in Latvian, anyone?)

      Free movement might have been the norm previously, but that was before the growth of welfare provision (the lack of which was a major disincentive) and prior to the internet, so people could not see the wonderful life available elsewhere. We live now in a completely different world.

      Controlled movement, which included limitation on numbers and an obligation to return, could do the things you suggest. But as it is currently practiced, unfettered free movement creates security problems, strips poorer countries of their talent, destroys community, and kills of cultural distinctives. I think those are evil things to inflict on a country.

      • I entirely agree, Ian.

        There are 3 practical issues which almost never get elucidated. England in particular is extremely densely populated now, over populated in many people’s view, and that has indisputable consequences for quality of life, social and economic welfare. Land masses and the resources they contain are finite, and the idea that ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ means ’till there’s standing room only’ is obviously ridiculous. There has to be a view on what is reasonable.

        Secondly there is an inherent dishonesty in using the term ‘asylum seekers’ when it’s clear that there isn’t the intention to return home once conditions become safe. It’s the intentional failure of governments in this area (and disastrous foreign policy) which has created the correct fear of ordinary people that ‘asylum seekers’ are no such thing.

        Thirdly the mantra that migrants are ‘net contributors to the economy’ is used with the implication that ‘the economy’ relates directly to individuals’ standard of living. That is a political deception which relies on ignorance about demographics, working life profiles of individuals, the differences between GDP, GDP per head, income, wealth, standard of living and quality of life. It’s obviously very complex, and subjective even, but the mantra as it stands is a deception.

        ‘Free movement’ as a principle is now so unrealistic and destructive that even the EU will have to bow to the inevitable at some point.

        • Your reference to “asylum seekers,” irrelevant to free movement of labor by EEA and Swiss citizens, illustrates a major issue with the debate: all kinds of immigration gets lumped together.

          The principle of free movement was written in to the Treaty of Rome, and is just one of four freedoms that constituted the founding pillars of what was the European Economic Community (the others being goods, services and capital). To function, any single market must allow the free flow of labor: otherwise, you get a NAFTA situation, where jobs are off-shored with no right for workers to follow, benefiting bosses, not labor. Even within Great Britain, it was uncontroversial until the Eastern European countries joined from 2004 onwards (a move ironically pushed by the British government, who also refused to implement the temporary restrictions used by all other EU members bar Ireland).

          So the issue’s not with the principle, but its implementation: and even this has been confused by the recent migrant crisis.

          • Sorry James (and Ian), you’re right, I should probably have left asylum seekers out, as they are a particular case. However, since they nearly all first come via the southern EU nations, and if they don’t return home, they will soon enough become EU citizens with full rights to freedom of movement and thus some of them will want to come to the UK. It’s certainly a complex picture but, for a finite land mass, the bottom line is population density, and freedom of movement is not a sustainable option.

      • It wasn’t my intent to parody your opinion, Ian; by trapped, I was referring to low-skilled migrants unlikely to be granted work visas. Of course there’d be skilled immigration, which would ensure any “brain drain” continued. Since banning an activity doesn’t end it or economic demand, what you’d also get is massive illegal migration, as we currently see from Mexico to the U.S.A.

        Since you appear to believe that free movement within America’s problematic (please excuse me if I’ve inferred wrongly), how scalable is this? London undoubtedly drains communities across the U.K. and Ireland, visiting identical “evil” effects: should Great Britain end the common travel area with Ireland, or even introduce some kind of internal passport? If not, what else but a “dogmatic” insistence on internal free movement acts as a veto?

        In 2018 a staggering 92% of Poles support staying in the EU. They clearly believe that the cost-benefit analysis of EU membership is in their favor, and don’t view free movement as an “evil” that’s destroying their communities and killing Poland’s cultural distinctiveness.

        • James,
          In which direction is the Poles movement free? In or out of Poland? Net funds go in or out?
          You are drawing unsupported conclusions “what they clearly believe” from a vote. What were the questions asked? But you are going over old ground. And you’ve left out the large part of the Independent article such as a 77% opposition to the Euro. This is a poor effort at advocacy James.
          Some skeptic has said that the cost-benefit analysis is definitely in favour of Poland.

          • The issue was free movement of labor, not the eurozone. The premise is that this is “evil” because it’s allegedly destroying the cultures and communities of Eastern European nations. Measuring such nebulous things as culture is difficult at best; but if it’s true, then at a minimum, you’d expect to see a widespread desire to leave the EU in its new members. Yet in Poland, we see the opposite, to an overwhelming degree.

            As for what Poland gains financially form her EU membership, at present, she’s a net beneficiary, promised hundreds of billions of euros’ worth of aid.

            I assume that the extremely strong condemnation of free movement (and that’s putting it mildly, seeing as “evil” is as bad as it gets) comes from a genuine concern for the wellbeing of accession countries: that being so, surely their citizens’ near-unanimous approval of EU membership is, at the very least, grounds to reconsider language like “evil” and allow that free movement of labor within the E.E.A./Switzerland has both pros and cons?

  7. Unemployment and especially youth unemployment is a chronic problem in Spain, Italy and Greece and have given rise to new political parties, loosely and not very helpfully called ‘populist’. At the same time, mass immigration has changed the character of many places in western Europe. The European Union under the aegis of the Franco-German axis has imposed upon Europe three strictures in particular:
    – the euro which hampers exports from the poorer south;
    – mass immigration from the Middle East and now from Africa;
    – a post-Christian philosophy of “selfism” which is another word for autonomy over one’s body. That is why unrestricted abortion, sexual freedom, drug-taking and access to ‘medical’ suicide are the goals and sacred cows of the liberal-left. The spiritual vacuum of a post-Christian continent wedded to materialism and “selfism” has produced this shadow fruit, and it is painful but not surprising that Welby can’t see this. The two previous popes understood this very clearly – and probably Rowan Williams as well.

    • And yet, those countries haven’t begun moves to secede from the E.U., nor even to leave the euro. The populist parties tend to get cold feet when it comes to advocating secession (even Marine Le Pen dialed it back when running for the French presidency). The wave of -exits predicted in the wake of the U.K.’s 2016 vote never materialized.

      When Phoney Brexit ends and economic reality finally hits the British Isles, I expect public opinion there will be fast reassessed, too.

      • Britain is an island with a territorial and political integrity going back many hundreds of years. Things are different on the Continent. Britain has never really felt part of Europe in the way that Spain and Italy have always been. At least that’s my ‘psychohistory’ take on it. How a post-Christian Europe with a large Muslim minority in its cities will size up is anybody’s guess. Post-Christian Britain has comparable issues, of course.

        • Being an island’s undoubtedly a factor: although the same geography applies to Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of whom voted for EU membership; and Irish support for the EU recently passed 90%.

          A failure to come to terms with the end of Empire, and particularly successive governments blaming their own domestic failings on the EU, abetted by a decades-long smear campaign in the British press, are probably stronger factors. It’s striking that, before Whitehall and the fourth estate dumped G.B.’s woes on Brussels, the U.K. voted convincingly for E.E.C. membership in the ’70s referendum.

          • James,
            Let’s not go back over the 1970’s referendum and how that was sold to the public, came about. And what was the EEC that the EU has morphed into? What differs between then and now?
            But that result is not characterised as a plebian, populism, as Ken Clarke and others have with Brexit referendum. Nor the abortion vote in Ireland. Populism is only regarded as such, in a derogatory way, when it is the wrong decision/vote.
            By the way, I wonder if the then Archbishop of Canterbury made a public statement on merits of the EEC?
            Which is really what the original blog post was about.

          • The Referendum was an all-UK basis: all in or all out. This was clear from the start. If being in the EU is more important than being in the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland have the option of voting to leave the UK and apply for membership (an independent Scotland) or become a member as a province of a united Ireland. As a Scot who didn’t have a vote (not living in Scotland) I was very much against the vote to break up the UK, but if the residents of Scotland wished to be a province of Brussels, they must have their way. As for the EEC, the EU bears very, very little relation to that organisation. You are talking apples and oranges here.

  8. I think it is worth mentioning that the European Union (in its earlier incarnations) did represent a Christian, actually Catholic, social vision that one can link to the political and social thinkers of the 1950s and 1960s (Monet, Adenauer, even de Gaulle); and perhaps something of this vision lingers in the memory of English bishops that have an instinctive love for it. However, its core value today is not Christian community but secular welfarism; and as the west went on to embrace the sexual revolution in a way that Asia and Africa have not, it was only inevitable that politics would follow suit. An example: a generation ago, most Christians would have supported Amnesty International. But when it turned to advocacy for gay rights and abortion, it moved decisively from a 1948 vision of human rights.

  9. In all this we do need to keep asking the question as to whether the EU has made it more or less likely that people of different nationalities and cultures will engage with each other as human beings rather than as ‘others’ to be feared and too easily hated; whether it has made less likely the continuance of the European record of wars between nations since the 18th century, involving the deaths of 100’s of millions of people; and whether these, together with less death and less hatred, more human reconciliation and the reduced number of tyrannies (Soviet Europe, Spain, Portugal and Greece) are more like the Kingdom of God

  10. For Geoff:

    So anyone who is unconvinced by the three-headed phantom you worship is just too stupid to cope with the complex, superior nature of your thoughts, eh?

    What a joke.

    The more I interact with Christians, the less respect I have for them and their superstitions.

    • Holger,
      Keep on cracking them (jokes, that is). You are not interacting. Trite and tedious, simplistict, but scientifically predictable, based on the evidence of the contributions of your bilious comments here. You don’t seem to have much respect at all.
      You clearly have a supreme intellect, that spews out derision with an absolutist inability to deal with intellectual challenges. You disingenuously avoid the points. You said that God was a human invention. My point was that the Triune God is beyond human invention.
      More than that, it is telling that you ignore everything written about the Dawkins Delusion and John Lennox.
      You seem to be of atheist TINGAIHH Party: (There Is No God And I Hate Him) Party.
      Your opinion seems to be a compulsive knee-jerk contrarian statement of philosophy, unprovable by science and is, philosophically, a presupposed product of a fully functioning brain and perfect, infallible, thought processes, with blind scientific foresight and baleful tidings with an abnegation of the vicarious liability of science.
      Not having properly read or understood Ian Paul’s original post (or his CV) you seem to have stumbled onto this blog site. While I’m not part of the Welcome Team, a belated welcome to robust Christianity. Others may extend a Church of England welcome!
      Yours in Christ Jesus.
      You may or may not know that Saul was a murderous prosecutor of Christians until He had a life-changing personal encounter with Jesus. He is nearer to you than you are to Him, more than you know. May you encounter Him, in your mockery and hostility. Many of your national forebears have met Him.
      Yours,
      In Jesus Christ,
      Geoff
      It’s been good to have this interaction.

      • PostScript, Holger,
        Unwittingly, you may have provided some unexpected response, feedback ,on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s conference address in Serbia.
        Yours in Christ,
        Geoff

      • You call this ‘robust Christianity’. I call it a ranting tirade by someone with a very high opinion of himself and his ‘superior’ intellect.

        There’s nothing robust about your ad hominem insults. They’re just background noise. They are representative of modern Christianity, however. If at first you can’t evangelise, don’t try and try again. Resort instead to insults and put-downs. Raise yourself above the heathen and make him understand how much smarter you are than him. Or at least try to…

        Yes, I’ve heard the story of Saul. Religious hallucination is a recurring theme in Christian tradition and it continues to this day. You’re not the only mentally fragile religionist who’s ever regaled me with stories of his ‘personal encounter’ with Christ. You’re a bit thin on detail though. So did he go the full Teresa of Avila on you too? Or can’t you say for fear of appearing a bit too … gay?

        Well, whatever it was, as you broadcast the fact that you’re so special, god talks to you, with all the pride and hauteur of a 21st century Pharisee, know that I see you for what you really are. And find it pitiful.

        • Holger,

          On the basis of the Rare Earth hypothesis, Drake’s equation would set the probability of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence at 8 x 10 power -20.

          By comparison, in the Ehrman-Craig debate, Bart Ehrman estimated the probability of a miracle at a far more likely 1 in ten billion.

          Yet, those comparative odds didn’t stop atheists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and others from encouraging the West to pour millions into the fruitless search for the extra-terrestrial intelligence ‘sky fairy’.

          No doubt anyone who disagreed was just ‘too stupid to cope with ‘the complex, superior nature of their thoughts, eh?’

          Now, there’s a real joke and real superstition! And E.T. still ain’t phoning.

          • If we calculate the amount of money that’s been spent on your sky fairy – the cost of building and maintaining churches, synagogues and mosques, the land they sit on, the bullion and artwork that drip from them, the salaries and upkeep of the clergy and other religious – I’m confident that the cost of the SETI program is a drop in the ocean in comparison.

            In saying that however, I can’t argue with the fact that we have no evidence that extraterrestrial life exists. I certainly don’t know if it does or not. Neither did Hawking or Sagan. As scientists they calculated the likelihood and seemed convinced that it must. But my attitude is that until we have hard evidence, probability does not constitute proof. So I don’t ‘believe’ in ET. I don’t dismiss the possibility that he might exist. But until I see him with my own eyes, or see compelling evidence that he’s out there somewhere, he’s as much of a myth as your Jesus Christ.

            In any case, if you want to lobby against government spending on SETI programs, be my guest. I’ll be too busy lobbying against public support for the activities of religions to lend a hand. And for the money you’ll save, kicking up a big fuss hardly seems worthwhile. But far be it from me to deny you your hobby horse.

          • So, despite criticising others for lack of robust debate, your idea of intellectual rigour is to resort to the “your ‘sky fairy’ has cost far more than the atheist ‘sky fairy’”

            You wrote: ‘as scientists they calculated the likelihood and were convinced it must exist’

            Calling something a calculation doesn’t magically imbue it with academic rigour. As you’re no doubt aware, in that ‘calculation’ (i.e. the Drake Equation), several terms are mostly or purely speculative.

            So, it’s just blatant hypocrisy for you to deride theology as pseudo-science, only to dignify atheist pseudo-science (which Western nations believed and invested millions upon millions) with the ‘calculation’ misnomer.

            Exposing your hypocrisy is just a responsibility. There is no hobby-horse.

    • Whereas anyone who is unconvinced by the case made by the likes of Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking for pouring millions into the fruitless search for the extra-terrestrial intelligence ‘sky fairy’ is just too stupid to cope with ‘the complex, superior nature of your thoughts, eh?

      Now, there’s a real joke and real superstition! E.T. still ain’t phoning.

  11. Holder,
    There’s no need for you to take it personally. Think about it as an abstract depersonalised thought experiment, critique on present day atheism. From one fellow sinner to another, May God bless you. It would be good to have your theological reflection on what a pharisee is. Surely, that is outside a secular remit. You seem to know the ad hom. fallacy but don’t seems to have any self reflection on how it applies to yourself and how you have constructed a straw man Christianity.

    Please give an intelligent response to John Lennox, as there is widespread populist atheist response to Jesus. But you are not in that camp, are you, and you look forward with eagerness to reading the books recommended?God Bless you, Holger.
    Geoff

  12. Anyone else think that Holger is just a Russian troll with the intention of riling up people against the EU? I don’t have a strong opinion on Brexit either way but it certainly seems that way to me. He’s really pulling off the “angry atheist remainer” thing well.

    • Hi Chris – that is an interesting thought, and one that had not occurred to me! I am intrigued, because given that Holger is so in favour of the EU, and is therefore probably in agreement with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the EU, he then expresses contempt for the Christian faith! I can’t make this add up any more than I could make all the pre-referendum info add up!

      • So if I agree with the archbishop of Canterbury on the EU, I have to agree with him on religion too, do I? A person can’t have an accurate opinion on one subject and an erroneous one on another?

        What a strange black-and-white, all-or-nothing universe you Christians live in.

        • Hi Holger, I didn’t suggest that you need to agree with the Archbishop about religion just because he, like you, is in favour of the EU. I just thought that, since the Archbishop’s views about the EU are rooted in his Christian faith, you might consider that there could be something good about the Christian faith. Why do you address us as ‘you Christians’ as if we were some amorphous mass? As Christians, we have many differences amongst ourselves, which we try to work through as amicably as we can. Nor are British people an amorphous mass – for instance, as you know, 48% of us voted to remain in the EU.
          And finally , when I asked if you were Holger Krahmer, I was making an enquiry, not trying to impose a new national identity on you 🙂

    • Yes – no one can be that insulting to Christians on a Christian blog and not be role-playing. Sad really – I pity him.

      • Another passive/aggressive Christian insult, I see. You pity me! And what is pity? It’s the Christian way of striking back in anger dressed up as compassion.

        Why not be honest and admit that you hate me and hold me in contempt? That’s what you really mean.

        • No- I don’t hate you and don’t hold you in contempt whatsoever. Do you hate yourself and hold us in contempt I wonder? I actually admire something of your lone protest and your very quick mind and outstanding articulate grasp of the English language. But I do think someone who comes on a Christian forum to insult in the most strident terms the Christian faith is sad and should be pitied. Why ever would you do that? No one is going to appreciate it or change their view because of it. You just come here and vent – a verbal attack what is most precious to us. No sensible person does that so it must come from a deep place. My experience is those who are most hostile are often Those who are nearest accepting Jesus. My guess is you are not far from the kingdom and like others here we pray you will quickly push through this aggressive smoke screen and surrender to the love and lordship.

    • First I’m German. Then I’m Russian. Who’s going to raise the stakes and make me North Korean next?

      Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m nothing but a common garden Dane. I support the EU because of its clear benefits. I condemn British particularism because of its clear dangers.

      I think Brexit is going to be a disaster for your country, but that’s your problem rather than mine. Danish exports to the UK will certainly suffer, but in saying that, the EU offers us so many opportunities that we’ll absorb our British losses easily enough.

      I have little sympathy for you because you’ve brought it all on yourselves. You were told there would be no special deal for Britain if you left the EU, but you chose to believe your dishonest (or deluded) Brexit campaigners when they assured you we’d cave in to your demands and give you everything you wanted. You believed them when they said you’d have unlimited access to the US market. You believed them when they said your former captive markets in the Commonwealth would come on bended knee begging you to supply them with all their needs.

      How the panic must be rising in your throats now you’re faced with Barnier, Trump and Commonwealth focus on their own strategic trading partners rather than an untrustworthy former imperial power that betrayed them in the past and certainly can’t be trusted now. Where are you going to turn? To Russia? China?

      The best of British luck to you. You really are going to need it.

      • Yeah, this guy is probably a troll of some variety. It seems unlikely that someone could seriously maintain this kind of attitude. I would personally ignore him. Pearls before swine and what not.

  13. Here is an article by a real Russian, which the ABoC could take into acount:
    https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018/06/25/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-harvard-commencement-speech-reflections/

    It is entitled: My Harvard Speech in Retrospect
    By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    June 7, 2018 10:38 AM

    Not that I hold to conspiracy theories, about Holger and his comments. To use Holgers words: it is what it is.

    And I’m really not offering advice here, but perhaps there is a need to “get out more” particularly on other Christian blogs where the likes of Holger’s anti-Christian rant is far from rare. Some atheists, however, do indeed offer more genuine opportunity to engage in apologetics with secular Western worldviews.

    • So if I can translate your comment from Christianese into plain English:

      “Some atheists, however, do indeed offer more genuine opportunity to engage in apologetics with secular Western worldviews.”

      Meaning: some Atheists (I supplied a capital A, which apparently you don’t think we’re worthy of) haven’t tangled with Christians yet and can therefore be regarded as possible targets for conversion. Not Holger. He has hardened his evil
      heart against de Lawd Jayzuz Chraist and must therefore be regarded as a lost cause and treated with lofty disdain.”

      That’s Christianity for you. It’s all about winning souls for your acquisitive saviour, isn’t it? If someone proves unwinnable, you dump him and move on to a softer target.

      • Holger “Christ” is a name and hence “Christian” has a capital C

        “Athei” is not a name and hence it is not rude at all in the English language to write “atheists”

        • So you write Muslim and Islam with lower case letters, do you? The Islamic prophet is not called Musl or Isl. The origin of both words is “aslama”, which is Arabic for “submit”.

          Atheists are not accorded a capital letter by Christian zealots for one reason only. To denigrate them.

          • If the origin of the word is, as YOU write: “….The origin of both words is “aslama”, which is Arabic for “submit”….” Then your comment is NOT related to either of the words being name based and your comment is shown to be completely unfocussed and irrelevant.

            Islam is the NAME of a faith.

            Atheism (beginning of the sentence, and hence capital letter) is, or is not, the name of a faith. So everyone can see that Holger is proclaiming that “Atheism” should have a capital letter for being the name of a faith – i.e. atheism is a faith (and therefore Holger believes is not a fact as seen by all his other views on faiths/religions).

  14. Deoff (Don’t like the g in my name? You won’t mind dispensing with it in yours then.)

    You can try to backpedal on your insults and explain them away as general rather than personal attacks, but that would be dishonest. You couched them in personal terms therefore you must have meant them in personal terms. Why else would you use personal terms?

    Your real meaning is clear. You’re annoyed that I’ve called you out on your unchristian behaviour and are casting around for excuses so you can avoid owning up to it and having to apologise, not only to me, but also to your god.

    You don’t fool me. And if this god of yours really exists, I doubt you fool him either. Your problem seems to be that you think you can fool both of us. Not only do you think you’re smarter than me. You also think you’re smarter than your god!

    So we can add dishonesty, pride and the worship of idols (ie. your own intellect) to the growing list of your personal and deeply unchristian failings.

    I’m not surprised. This kind of adolescent self-aggrandizement, dishonesty and denigration of an opponent’s intellectual capacity is par for the course in any kind of discussion with Christians of whatever age. When pointed out, it’s always denied. When the denials fall flat, as they always do, the final justification is always a bleaty and childish “but we’re all sinners”.

    It’s supposed to be the ultimate excuse. But in reality, it’s the ultimate cop out. Christianity is presented as an improving religion. The fruits of the spirit are supposed to calm the true Christian and show us that faith in his god makes him a better person. Only it NEVER does. Christians are just as quick to anger, hatred and ad hominem insult as anyone else. The fruits of the spirit are noticeable only by their absence in Christian discourse. Atheists may shout and hurl abuse, and I’m sure many do. But Christians should be calm, beatific and unflappable. The fact that they’re not is a devastating judgment on their faith.

    Indeed if I take your evangelising method as an example – and you’re nothing if not average and representative of Christians as a whole – then the hollowness of Christian claims is easy to prove. “Look at me and what a wonderful person Christianity has made me” is your basic conversion tactic. It’s not only a contradiction in terms. It’s a PR disaster.

    I am looking at you. What do I see? Pride, self-regard, contempt for others and a feeling of being special and more worthy of the attentions of a divine being. What I see is what your very own holy book describes as a Pharisee. And it ain’t a pretty sight.

    Pharisees are described as proud, self-serving, disdainful of others and convinced of their own special status and holiness. They mouth trite and formulaic religious mantras that mean nothing in their hearts. A good example would be your claim that “we’re all sinners”. You clearly don’t believe that statement applies to you. Or if it does, your sins are minor and less serious than everyone else’s and won’t stop you from getting to heaven. Why? Because you’re special. So special that god goes out of his way to have a personal relationship with you. So special you can lie about what you meant when you insulted me, and god will swallow your lie hook, line and sinker.

    I suppose in a way you are special. Specially repulsive. Specially deluded. Specially representative of exactly why your self-serving and hypocritical faith has been rejected by society at large. We look at you and are repulsed by what we see. As I said, if this god of yours exists, you’re going to have some explaining to do when you meet him. Good thing for you he’s nothing more than a figment of your imagination.

  15. Holger,
    It was a typographical error to misspell your name, that’s all. Apologies,
    You will see that I correctly spelled your name at the end.
    Goodbye, Holger.
    Geoff

  16. For David Shepherd:

    The more contact I have with Christians, the more astounded I am by their ill will and ability to twist the truth into lies and misrepresentations of other people’s positions.

    The Drake Equation is well-known for its insolubility given the state of our knowledge today. Every serious scientist admits that. Nobody uses the Drake Equation as justification for funding SETI programs. Why? Because it’s a hypothetical piece of mathematics. We don’t have the data needed to allow it to calculate an accurate result.

    Both Hawking and Sagan accepted this fact. Neither of them ever claimed that the Drake Equation was proof that money should be ploughed into SETI programs. What they may have done is put hypothetical data into the equation to calculate a hypothetical result. But this result was never presented as knowledge. It was only ever presented as a hypothesis.

    To say that Hawking and Sagan believed in sky fairies is therefore UTTER nonsense. In fact it’s worse than nonsense. It’s an out-and-out lie. A misrepresentation of the truth by a dishonest and manipulative zealot determined to destroy all opposition to his pre-conceived ideas by whatever means necessary.

    You destroy your own credibility by choosing the path of slander and falsehood. The end does not justify the means. The means shows the end for what it really is: a fixed and stubborn idea that you’re willing to sacrifice everything else to. Such obsession is characteristic of mental disorder. No wonder people like you are dismissed as crazed zealots.

    • For Holger:
      You wrote: ‘as scientists they calculated the likelihood and were convinced it must exist’.

      So, if, as you say, the Drake Equation ‘was only ever presented as a hypothesis’, what did Sagan use to calculate the likelihood, on the basis of which, they were convinced of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence?

      According to the scientific method, mere hypothesis is not enough to convince of the existence of hitherto unseen life-forms.

      So, spare us your ranting verbiage and give me a counter-argument that doesn’t contradict your previous comments here.

      Such fun! You really are priceless.

      • They calculated the likelihood using the only data available to them, which they freely admitted cannot be proven to be accurate.

        The result is not certainty but a hypothesis. That’s how science works. A scientist is never absolutist in his approach to certainty. It always depends on the validity of his data. He can only be convinced that his conclusions are correct IF his data is valid. When he says “I’m convinced” then you should understand “I’m convinced only if my data proves to be accurate”.

        It’s this fundamental difference in our way of thinking that makes the scientific and religious approaches so incompatible. Religionists believe they can identify absolute truth without the need for any data to back it up. When a religionist says “I’m convinced” it means he’s pulled his “facts” out of thin air – or an arbitrary story – to justify what is essentially an act of egotistical will.

        I leave it to others to decide for themselves how “priceless” such an irrational and self-centred attitude is. Seeing the world through a lens of egotistical belief (“I believe it therefore it must be true and it IS true because I believe it and no evidence to the contrary will convince me”) is, to my way of thinking, the ultimate abdication of rational intelligence.

        • Your conclusion is wrong. Plain wrong, and is, as you say so subjective, “to my way of thinking”. And a scientist may die his state of unproven conviction.
          How can you scientifically prove a negative; there is not God? Of course if one knows all that there is to know and will be known
          In everyday life in Courts Systems in England and Wales rely on evidence that’s not scientifically proved.
          As it is highly unlikely that you’ll be challenged by reading the books I suggested, nor have you responded to the citation of John Lennox, but perhaps, maybe, you’ll listen and watch the following. Perhaps you’ll accuse John Lennox of “ultimate abdication irrational thinking”. His book contains much mathematical and scientific detail not mentioned in the debate.
          John Lennox is Professor of Mathematics (emeritus) at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School, Oxford University, and teaches for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme. In addition, he is an Adjunct Lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, and at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, as well as being a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum.
          Perhaps you’ll mock and ridicule his intellectual capacity and irrationality.
          And there are others, such as William Lane Craig. At the last minute, Dawkins pulled out of debating him in the UK, much to the consternation of some atheists.
          Respected philosopher Anthony Flew became a theist, from a lifetime of atheism, again to the consternation of atheists.
          Enjoy.
          Enjoy these talks/discussions, Holger,
          Part 1
          https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Why-I-am-not-an-atheist-David-Robertson-vs-Matt-Dillahunty-Unbelievable
          Part 2
          https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Why-I-am-not-a-Christian-Matt-Dillahunty-vs-David-Robertson-Unbelievable

          Here is also a link to a debate between John Lennox v Richard Dawkins: has science buried God?
          https://youtu.be/zF5bPI92-5o
          Goodbye.

          • I think this exchange has probably reached the end of its usefulness…and in fact probably did some time ago.

            Let’s focus on something else now, can we?

          • Hi Ian,

            Yes, you’re right. Just doing what Paul did: 2 Cor. 10:5.

            Perhaps, with all due respect, this exchange would have ended more speedily and fruitfully had Holger been prevented from baiting Christians here, for instance, by deriding the Trinity as a ‘three-headed phantom’.

        • You wrote: ‘When he says “I’m convinced” then you should understand “I’m convinced only if my data proves to be accurate”.

          Ridiculous. It wasn’t Sagan who wrote ‘I’m convinced’, but you, who wrote of scientists, like him, ‘they were convinced’.

          So, now, your hypocrisy is compounded with a blatant lie: that, when used to describe scientists, the word ‘convinced’ (which, by definition, means ‘caused to believe firmly in the truth of something’) should mean ‘caused to believe pending further investigation’.

          Pity that you’ve now resorted to doing violence to the English language to shore up your inability to argue precisely and robustly.

          Epic fail on your part.

  17. I’m not sure why anyone is replying to Holger any more. He’s not been ignored so there’s no danger of being accused of such. This ignorance finished it for me, “your claim that “we’re all sinners”. You clearly don’t believe that statement applies to you. Or if it does, your sins are minor and less serious than everyone else’s and won’t stop you from getting to heaven”. He’s entirely clueless about Christianity and dug well in. Sadly, he makes me regret my ‘on balance’ remain vote.

  18. “Let’s focus on something else now, can we?”

    What if we return to Holger’s first paragraph? “Yes, the EU is the greatest human dream realised. Peaceful cooperation and coexistence allow us to flourish while regulating the competition that leads to war and bloodshed.”

    Is the EU in these terms the only example of “the greatest human dream [of a polity] realised” so far as one knows? And, why, or why not?

    Might the United States of America not be considered equally so – though the original ‘States’ were never ‘nation states’? “Peaceful cooperation and coexistence allow [their citizens] to flourish” – and have done so for a longer period than that of the existence of the EU, and despite a lengthy and bloody civil war after some 70 years, now 153 years ago?

    Would the length of successful existence qualify the USA to be an even ‘greater realization of the human dream of polity’? And what of the contribution of that USA to ending the second-most-recent massive instance of “competition that leads to war and bloodshed”, the Great – or First World – War? And, again, what of the contribution of that USA to ending the most-recent massive instance of “competition that leads to war and bloodshed”, the Second World War?

    Would either of those, or both of those together, qualify the USA to be an even ‘greater realization of the human dream of polity’?

    In any event, the EU could not have come to pass as it has, had the USA not made its contribution to ending the most-recent massive instance of European “competition that leads to war and bloodshed”, the Second World War in Europe, and had it not contributed to the rebuilding of so many of the European nation states, and to their retaining or regaining independence from 1945 on.

    How favourably, against whatever yardstick of polity, is that continuing human attempt, to be evaluated?

    Perhaps, upon a little reflection, Justin Welby could tell us.

  19. I just encountered, in a blogpost elsewhere from earlier this year, and a different context, “Truth cannot be arrived at by simply taking a vote among those currently living, or, worse, a powerful selection of those currently living or worse, a powerful self-selection of those currently living.” That applies well to the truth about a good polity – attending to what has been well thought and well done in the past – but strikes me as applicable to the good functioning of a polity, too. In how far does the EU, in effect, function by the choices of “a powerful self-selection of those currently living” in it, far more than by “taking a vote among those currently living” in the nation-states which are its members, or other serious account of them?

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