Thursday, February 28, 2019

Shameless Publicity

I have, over the course of the past three years, been busy on a couple of projects for my Diocese and my bishop.

I am pleased to say that I have been able to publish both of these books and invite interested readers to take a look for themselves by clicking on the links below.

Anglican Catholicism: Unchanging Faith in a Changing World

Whom Seek Ye?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Goodness out of Eden

Sermon for Sexagesima (Mattins)

It seems rather mean to punish all snakes for the action of just one.

It seems rather mean to punish all men and women for the actions of Adam and Eve.

It may seem mean, but is it? How would we know?


The consequences of the Fall are far reaching. Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. This means that all of their children will be born out of Eden, too. If Adam and Eve are the parents of all humanity, then we are all born outside of the place where once mankind walked and talked with God as friends. If we are born out of Eden, then we are born needing the grace of God to find that place again. Human beings must live their lives out in this state of separation from God. We are not left without His love, but our every action can lead us further from Him. We have this knowledge that Good and Evil exist, but do we have the ability to tell the two apart when we are so separated from the true Goodness that is God?

If we are separated from God by the Fall, then we cannot be sure. How can we judge angels and men as St Paul tells us? How can we be salt for the world if we have lost our saltiness? How can we be judges if we are so fallen?


It is clear that Christians can behave unjustly to each other. St Paul sees the Corinthians taking each other to court. Our Lord sees His disciples arguing about who is the greatest and whether someone else who is not a disciple can be truly following Jesus. Our judgement is impaired through living outside Eden and it is impaired because we only think we know what Good and Evil are. If we truly did know Good and Evil, then we would want to cut Evil out from the very heart of our being even at great cost to ourselves.

We are no different in this day and age. The Episcopal Church in America has been engaged in lawsuit after lawsuit in much the same way that St Paul saw in Corinth. We see the Church of Rome and the Church of England reeling from the scandal of priests who seem to have forgotten that offending against children and exploiting the vulnerable brings about a punishment so terrible that being drowned with a millstone around the neck would be infinitely preferable. We, too, must be careful as our own sins are no less offensive. All sin is offensive. All sin deepens our separation from God.


What can we do? We cannot work our way back into Eden. We are completely unable to amend our lives with our own knowledge of Good and Evil. It is that very knowledge of Good and Evil that sees us thrown out of Eden in the first place.

The only way is through Christ Himself. We must put on Christ, join ourselves to Him and not wander from what He teaches. Through Baptism, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ which can step past the Seraph with the flaming sword guarding the entrance to Eden. Yet, even if we are Baptised, this will not save us if we stick to our own ideas of what Good and Evil are. God tells us what Good and Evil are. So many Christians these days think that fornication is Good, or try to reason that they have not committed it when they have. An act of fornication might be forgivable, but if we don’t believe that it is sinful, how can we be joined to Christ and be with Him in Paradise? Can two walk together except they be agreed?


We are not saved by the Law. We are saved through the Grace and Love of God and this means we cherish what He decides is Good and has been Good from before the beginning of the Universe. Evil separates us from Him; Good binds us to Him and it means that we must cultivate goodness in our hearts.

The beauty of penitential seasons like Lent is that we have an opportunity to listen to what God calls Good and pursue that, cutting out of our lives anything that tears us away from Him. If we accept what God calls good then we will not offend His children and cause them to stumble. By clinging on to Christ Himself in Scripture and in Sacrament, we will re-enter Eden and regain that wonderful life that we once had with God.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Begin the begin

Sermon for Septuagesima

In the beginning…

What’s so controversial about that?

Given the much-hyped conflict between Science and Religion, it’s easy to overlook one simple thing: both Science and Christianity make the claim that there was a beginning. We might argue about the nature of that beginning, but we’re agreed that our existence has a beginning. It’s quite reasonable, then, to ask what began that beginning. Whatever began that beginning cannot have had a beginning and must always exist, can’t be made of matter, and must have made a clear choice to begin the beginning. Whatever many modern scientists may say, the belief in our Creator God is rational, reasonable and very plausible. It takes a lot of complex argument to come up with an alternative and, despite their best efforts, no-one – and certainly not Stephen Hawking - has really succeeded.


Today, Septuagesima, is the Scriptural New Year. Seventy days before Easter, we begin at the beginning again, reflecting on God’s creative power. Why today though?

As we prepare for the discipline of Lent, we need to go back and remember what we are trying to achieve in Lent. The fasting of Lent may prepare ourselves for Easter but we need to prepare to prepare. We can’t just embark upon a fast that we choose. All things must begin with God and His Creation. We often forget to do so, though. Human beings have been very good at creating their own gods. While the golden calf and the bronze serpent have been consigned to the bin of idolatry, we still have a tendency to want God to be what we make Him out to be. The god we make is often the one who either turns a blind eye to our sins, or makes it so that we haven’t really done any wrong. If we want to find out the God we worship, then we need to see Him as He is, away from our own biases and preconceptions, away from all that we see around us, away from all the things that influence us. We need to go right back to basics. We need to go to the beginning.

What do we see there, in the beginning?


In the beginning, we see God. In the beginning is His Word. In the beginning, we see His Spirit moving over the face of the waters that He has just created. We see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit already there before any thing exists. This is what God tells us about Himself as we read the Holy Scriptures. He tells Moses, “I AM.” He tells the Scribes and Pharisees that, before Abraham was, “I AM.” There, in the darkness before the light comes, there is God.

Then comes Creation: heavens, earth, waters, light, firmament, seas and land, grass and herb and tree, sun, moon and stars, animals, cattle and Man. At each stage, God reveals more about Himself. All of His creation is good – very good!
In the very act of creating things, God reveals to us what is good. Goodness comes from God – it does not come from us. Goodness is not made up by Society. For God to say that His creation is good means that Goodness must be there in the beginning before Creation. In the beginning we see that God is good, and goodness is part of who He is.
And this is where Septuagesima comes in.


During Lent, we tend to look at what’s good for us. We tend to call the shots by giving up chocolate or television, or taking up exercise or reading, which we do because that’s what we think will be good for us. But do we approach Lent selfishly, seeking our own way of discipline in getting back to God? That’s what many people do, using it as an excuse to find some accomplishment like Movember, or Veganuary, or a month without alcohol. What people outside the Church don’t know is that Christians take up Lent for the love of God, and that this means going right back to the beginning with Him. These weeks of the Gesimas are an opportunity for us to make that preparation to begin again, to return to God in prayer and look at ourselves with Him, seeking how we may make our Lent with His involvement.


Can we really begin again? Of course we can! Look, God promises us a new heaven and a new earth if we will but be faithful to Him. He is willing to begin again just as we should want to begin again. The Benedictines have a saying - always we begin again. Each day is new and God always wants us to begin with Him.

This is how we must live life: begin at the beginning until we come to the end and then stop. If God is with us in the beginning, then He’ll be with us at the end, too. You can be sure of that!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Continuum Blog: a rapprochement

The Continuum Blog: a rapprochement

I suppose it’s a psychological quirk of Anglo-Catholics to be looking back at the past. I like to look back at some of my old posts and see how I have changed.

For once I have done what I don’t normally do: I have deleted a post which no longer serves a purpose.

About a decade ago, I had a falling out with those who run the Continuum Blog over the desires of the TAC to enter into dialogue with the Church of Rome. I was (and presumably still am, I very much hope) friends with one of the TAC proponents of the Ordinariate, though we haven’t spoken in years. I found the language that was being used to be unacceptable and so I made my thoughts plain.

Now, some ten years later, things have changed. For starters, I joined the Anglican Catholic Church to which the Continuum blog owners either belong or are in communio in sacris following the wonderful concordat signed. Secondly, I have climbed down from my rather rarefied position as a Tridentine Anglican Papalist for the simple reason that I came to realise that I was trying to hold on to ideas which I could no longer in conscience defend. I will still call myself an Anglican Papalist only in a much more nuanced sense but I do have to concur that the Ordinariate is not the way for the Anglican to find communion with the Holy See.

Given that the owners of the Continuum Blog are American and I am painfully English, I know that they will take issue with my stance on the Book of Common Prayer. What we certainly do have in common is that we have had to fight and fight hard. We fight, however, on different battle grounds. We cannot expect the cavalry to be expert in the care and use of cannons any more than we can expect the artillerymen to work in combative livery.

To all intents and purposes, the most recent battle for the Continuum Blog is over: they have stated their position with regard to those who leave behind their Anglicanism at the door of the Personal Ordinariate. I cannot blame that exodus in any way, but am rather grieved that they found Rome to be the only solution. However, I do believe the Continuum Bloggers were right to call them out on this even if I do not appreciate the language used. I have benefitted greatly from their wisdom and learning and sorely wish that my own was up to their standard.

In the UK, I am still engaged in battle. We have not the resources of the ACC in the United States, and we have the three big Churches that overshadow us massively, namely Canterbury, Rome and Mammon though I do seriously wonder, sometimes, whether the first and the last are the same. That being said, I also wonder where the second is heading given the bizarre antics of the Patriarch of the West. The Continuum Bloggers are used to being big hitters because they have fought for a quarter of a century longer than we have here in Blighty. We have a lot of work to do here, and it is an uphill struggle and solidarity from our brethren across the pond is vitally important.

Given that I am now in the same fold as the Continuum Bloggers, I feel that the time is right for me to offer the re-establishment of contact with my confraternity over the water. Actually, I think this is something that I should have done a long time ago. Nonetheless, I offer this blog post as an olive branch in the hope that, even if we can’t agree on our positions, we remain part of the same communion and have the same goals as befits the Continuing Churches. I hope, therefore, that my readership will take advantage of the wealth of learning resources on the Continuum Blog and that it may continue in its course of edification and education.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Custard Pies, Spacetime, Joy and Brexit

Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly One, thy sanctuary!
Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

Who has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Add his to the jubilation!
Indeed, who even just has one soul
To call his own in this world!
And whoever never managed, he should steal away
Crying from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At the nature's breasts.
All Just Ones, all Evil Ones
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Salaciousness was given to the worm
And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, like His suns fly
through the heavens' grand plan
Go on, brothers, your way,
Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Are you collapsing, millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
Above stars must He dwell.

The Anthem of the European Union nonetheless!

Of course, with Brexit looming, the UK’s relationship with the EU is certainly uncertain and complex. These are strange days politically and we face some very strange times ahead. The media is simply oversaturating our lives with stories about what we can expect and this divided media is polarising our country with this oversaturation. We find ourselves divided among ourselves. Media is a house divided; Parliaments is two houses divided; the CofE is a house divided. And when a house is divided, the question must be asked, “how can this house stand?”

Clearly, many of us are affected by these deepening divisions. Ex-patriots are facing a serious blow to their personal identity; companies are being sold cheaply to overseas buyers; the person on the street is worrying about how life can go on as normal after the threat of a no-deal Brexit. And with the noise of the divided media, the problem comes down to this: in facing such an uncertain future, whom can we believe?

How about this?
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

We keep looking at the future and we forget to be ourselves here and now. We lose our existence as beings of the present moment. And in the present moment there can be joy!

My Bishop, the Rt Rev Damien Mead, has to juggle his sacred duties with his secular duties – indeed, he, like every Christian, sanctifies his secular duties by bringing them into God. Like all bishops, his burden is onerous. Yet, I notice he still finds joy enough to take a custard pie in the face all in the cause of charity. Here, in amid the heavy concerns of pastoral duty, there is joy in the present moment.

Our Lord is deadly serious, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. He bids us to be present to Him in the here and now as we stand before Him in the throes of sin, or throes of repentance. Of course, we Catholics do not regard the present moment as a detachment from the rest of Time but rather set within it as an interface between past and future both of which have existence in the mind of God but also imperfectly within our own minds as memory and expectation.

We are faced with demons of the past and of the future which contribute to our regrets and fears constantly and also numb us to our interconnectedness in History. Today, we have such a forensic attitude to History and such a Statistical attitude to what is to come. We always see ourselves as the observers aloof to both the past and to the future until it they both conspire to impact into our daily lives.

Whatever Time actually is, whether it is an attribute of God’s being or a creature as utterly subordinate to the Divine command as we are, whatever its purpose is, perhaps a mechanism whereby we have an arena to understand how we exercise our free-will and imago Dei, it is something which exists for our Good and for the fulness of our Humanity. That’s something we forget. And we allow both our experiences of the past and our hopes and fears for the future to make us who we are, forgetting that it is God who makes us who we are, above the shrill screeches of vanquished Evil.

As Space is to Art and Sculpture, so Time is to Music and Speech.

A Musician presents a score as a spatial representation of a work that has its expression in Time. Likewise, we experience a painting in snapshots of Time as our senses experience it. Time and Space are always mixed within our lives – both produce the canvas for our existence. Our Eternity with God as Creations of God will be this interplay of Time and Space perfected. How we temporal beings are to experience this extra tempore I don’t know. One suggestion is that, in creating Time, God has necessarily entered into Time and thus travels with us as the only One with the roadmap of the future. I’m not convinced by that, personally – it makes God too small.

Indeed, any understanding of God that we have is too small. His revelation to us sets some impression of how our relationship is to work. His changelessness means that His Holiness is changeless and thus the nature of Sin is changeless, so the relationship that we have to God is clear for our limit understanding. Yet, God stands beyond our thinking and has the capacity to do things that we can find incomprehensible. He is more terrifying, more unpredictable, more unknowable than our Future, more challenging, more exacting, more revealing than our Past. And that’s why we have to learn to trust Him.

This period of uncertainty presents us with a single challenge to trust in God, face both past and future and be joyful. We have to rejoice in the Lord alway. The way we rescue our pasts and our futures is by learning to be joyful once more. This may sound very existential as if we were Camus’ Sisyphus, and in some sense we really do have to cock a snook at Evil by daring to be joyful despite what it throws at us. But we do so always in context for we cannot disjoint ourselves from either past or present. To be Catholic means to mourn with the martyrs in their torture and to exalt in their witness to God. We shudder at the dismemberment of St James Intercisus, the disembowelling of St Elmo, and at the appalling choice that faced St Gianna Beretta Molla who chose her death rather than that of her unborn daughter and we remember with joy that these have overcome Evil at the very source. Their agonies are past: their present is an Eternal Now with their Creator.

Our agonies are to come, but we are given time to be with God and develop our trust in Him. No, this is not going to be easy and we are weak. Nonetheless, we trust God even when things seem black and we rejoice – we rejoice as best we can, presenting before God every single little things that He has given us with gratitude and humility. There is always something there, even if it is a single painless breath that we once took ten years ago. Our loved one dies, and yet there is a joy that we knew them at all. We fall into poverty, and there is a joy that we have enjoyed a little wealth at some point. We lose our health, and there is a joy that we once ran and jumped and played with abandon. These joys may exist in the past but, in sacrificing them to God we find ourselves sanctifying them for the joy of every human being, past, present and future that they may share in their joy and we in theirs and all may share in the joy of God which is always Now, Now, Now!

I do worry about how Brexit will affect my family, their growth and education and livelihoods and I have fears for my own future too. However, I intend, with the help of my Creator, to walk through the door that leads into Tomorrow with my head held high and all my hope set on Him and Him alone in His ineffable Eternity. There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance…

So let’s bring on Brexit, and live dangerously trusting in God!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The repentance of tops and magnets

Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)

Did you know that, according to St Matthew, the first word of Our Lord’s ministry is “Repent!”?

That seems to be the central theme of all of the prophets of the Old Testament and, indeed, all of the apostles of the New. Throughout human history, there is this clear, uncompromising call – Repent!

Does God need to repent?


The prophet Amos seems to report that God does need to repent. Twice, God threatens Israel with punishment; twice Amos begs the Lord to forgive Israel; and twice the Lord repents with the words, “this shall not be.” How are we to understand this? Can God sin?


Clearly not. How can God separate Himself from Himself? That doesn’t make sense. Perhaps then, repentance is not really about sin and evil.

The prophet Amos records for us his conversation with God. Like Abraham, he pleads for God for other people. Abraham manages to persuade God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people within the city. Similarly, Amos seems to persuade God from bringing pestilence and fire upon Israel.

We do have to remember that God is omniscient. This means that He knows all that is possible to know. And, if you think carefully, this does mean that He knows not just what is and was and will be, but what could have been, what could be, and what could happen. God knows all the possible consequences and outcomes of every situation. He can speak of possibilities as well as reality.

For the sins of Israel, God could let grasshoppers consume Israel; He could burn up Israel by fire and He knows the outcome. This shows us very clearly that faithless Israel deserves these punishments. Anyone who forsakes the Lord God deserves terrible punishment. This is what God wants us to know, but see how He is open to be persuaded from such a course of action. It’s clear that God does not want to abandon Israel and that He wants to give Sodom every chance to return to Him. There will, however, come a time when there will be no opportunity to do so. Sodom falls, and Israel is led into captivity.

And this is what is essential if we want to know what repentance really is. God turns His eyes from what is His right to exercise punishment, but rather seeks to rescue Israel from Evil through the bringing down of the wicked rulers of Israel and the source of Evil. God repents by turning away His eyes from the possibility of vengeance to the reality of His love. In so doing, He shares with us what could be, but shows us that He turns Himself to us in love and in truth.

God repents by turning toward us as we are in our sinfulness, and bids us turn to him away from that sinfulness. Repentance is about the changing of the mind to what is good and loving and true. It’s clear that God does not want to lose any one of His children, and Holy Scripture is filled with God confronting sinners with the truth of sin and evil, but also with His divine forgiveness and unconditional love seeking our transformation into beings of love, light and truth. Every time we turn from God, He steps in front of us with the same message of love. We just have to turn to Him away from all sin and evil.


Sometimes, we seem to be like tops spinning around and around on the spot trying to avoid looking at God in order to follow our own selfish desires. All we need to do is to stop and turn to Him and allow Him to draw us to Himself. We need to be less like tops and more like magnets aligned to our Creator.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Sex and Tolerant Conservatism

Many moons ago, I was introduced by John Beeler to the notion of Tolerant Conservatism, to wit:

Charity and discretion about people’s failings while at the same time not making excuses for those vices either.

The point of the Catholic Faith is to demonstrate what sin is and thus show people who have ears to hear how they have sinned. It is also very much supposed to be a reassurance that, despite one’s sin, God’s love always offers a way back without damnation. We can always be restored to righteousness with no conditions except that we desire to be restored to righteousness wholeheartedly.

I find this incredibly healthy. Even today, I see too many people sit in judgment over other. This judgment is not the same as God’s Judgment: Man’s judgment springs from law which can only say where we have gone wrong; God’s judgment puts things right.

This is why I am so wary of the Liberal movement and its successor – the Progressive movement – both within the Church and in secular society. If by Liberalism, we mean the pursuit of freedom of opportunity for everyone to follow their conscience and excel in what they do, then I am in full favour and a proud Liberal. But that is not what being Liberal means now. Being Liberal now seems about being free to be who we want to be and to be free from the demands of others which may prevent that. The former is more conducive to the cohesion of Society and the latter conducive to its division.

I find it ironic that proponents of this Modern Liberalism only apply it to those who agree with them. As a proud conservative Christian – i.e. one who holds to the traditional teaching of the Church, in particular men and women being substantially different within humanity and fornication being inherently sinful and with all the consequences therefrom– I am judged to be illiberal and therefore not allowed the freedom to be who I am because it impinges on other, more worthy, freedoms of others within Society. I am judged to be homophobic, transphobic, and misogynist and must therefore be censured, censored lest I incense the ire of decent members of Society. This Modern Liberalism is intensely illiberal.

Let us, for example, look at the current question of surrogacy. You may know that the diver, Tom Daley and his (male) partner have had a baby by surrogacy. What we do not hear about is the person who carried that baby in her womb for nine months. We do not hear about her involvement despite the fact that this child bears her DNA. The woman has been whitewashed out of that relationship. The fact of the matter is that two homosexual males have an inherently sterile relationship UNLESS a woman is involved. What we will soon see is that women in poverty will be encouraged to be surrogate mothers for payment. What if the baby is not satisfactory, or disabled, or dies in the womb? I have already heard of a case of a single man who entered into a surrogacy agreement with a woman of little economical means who subsequently bore him a child with Down’s Syndrome. He refused to take the baby or to pay the sum due leaving a woman in penury with a completely dependent child. Is it any wonder that my mind is turning to the Handmaid’s Tale?

Liberalism needs to ground itself in basic facts: we simply cannot be what we want to be. Such a freedom is always going to encroach upon the same freedoms of others. The same desire that wants to see women being regarded as equals within the human genus is actually seeking to define women out of existence because it refuses the basic facts of the sacredness of being a man and the sacredness of being a woman and the intransigence between the two. As a man, I cannot know what it is like to be a woman, and Society doesn’t seem to get this. Society confuses being and doing grotesquely. Look at the retail industry: blue for boys, pink for girls; trucks for boys, dolls for girls; heavy shoes for jumping in mud for boys, pretty princess shoes for girls. Whether or not we have a visceral reaction to a boy playing with dolls, it’s clear that the boy is still a boy and that his preference for playing with dolls does not change what is written in every cell in his body.

Likewise, a stay-at-home father is often regarded as doing “women’s work.” He is not. He is doing his own work in looking after his children and playing a different role from his wife who is earning the money. The work does not rewrite DNA: DNA is a fact, not an opinion and Progressivism needs to ground itself in inalienable facts if it is to do justice to the human condition.

And this is where I am proudly conservative because I regard tradition highly and seek to preserve the corpus of human experience. It seems to me that the Revolutionary Spirit found in the present swathes of Social Justice Warriors seems out to deny the human beings of the past their own existence which has been completed. They are who they were and they were who they are. We have to share solidarity with all humanity throughout all ages because, despite the proud claims of the Progressives, humanity has not changed morally-speaking. Thinking that we have progressed will lead to the Progressives becoming ironically the cause of an enslaved society. It will be the Modern Liberals that will bring about the reality of the societies found in the Handmaid’s Tale, the Hunger Games, 1984, and even the Time Machine.

We can look, say, at the Carry On films which are probably being derided once more. They seem to have gone up and down in popularity since their time due to how politically correct their humour is found to be at the time. However, they are never allowed to be of their time. No, gawping at a woman’s chest is tacky and yet, the heterosexual male naturally finds the female figure attractive. The figure of Sid James lusting after Barbara Windsor is horrific in that Babs is being dehumanised, yet it is also tragic as Sid dehumanises himself as an animal on heat, and it is comedic in that this is how humanity is. That is something that has been expressed in all human culture from the beginnings of human culture. It has always been the source of comedy. Human experience finds much comedy in the figure of the man in the thrall of sexual desire because it is a common experience which conflicts with manners.

It is absolutely abhorrent for a man to force his attentions upon women, and rape is a disgusting way to treat a human being. Yet it is impolite and degrading to remark upon a woman’s body in a way that will make her feel uncomfortable and less-than-human. The comedy arises in this tension between the male animal seeking gratification of his desire and the homo sapiens seeking to rise above his animal instinct and treat a woman with the respect and dignity she deserves. And yet, comedy is the thin median between tragedy on the one side and horror on the other. Conservatism should seek to keep the boundaries by which this line is apparent: tolerance should allow someone forgiveness when they transgress this line and, having transgressed, render remorse, apology and transformation. Every human male should learn to feel disgust at the thought of a woman being raped and seek to check his natural instincts. Every woman should indeed call out any activity that she finds infringes her body autonomy. Both sexes must also recognise that mistakes happen, sometimes with terrible consequences. There needs to be the capacity for forgiveness but it must be recognised that this forgiveness may take a long time to complete and at a cost commensurate with the offence.

Conservatism ensures that we keep to the same standard as always even though some societies have gone against that. Conservatism keeps that ideal standard going above the changes and chances of this fleeting world and, for me, engages in a reflection of the Divine Nature. Conservatism recognises that there are moral absolutes and objective moral values. These values turn Hume’s “ought”s into concrete “is”s. In recognising both the immutability of these values and also the brokenness of human nature, we see Tolerant Conservatism as being a fully Christian view of politics. I don’t doubt that Christians can take other political stances: it is the Christian Royal Priesthood that will sanctify politics. However, the Christian does need to make room for the King of Kings as a king and thus recognise the limits to which human beings are truly free. The fact is that we are free to be the people whom God has created us to be, not whom we create ourselves to be.

The seeds of dystopia are always in our society and they always will be. We need to learn about all kinds of Fascism. Conservatism has its own Fascism as the Nationalist movements of the last century show us; Socialism has its own Fascism which fell largely at the end of the Century and yet still afflicts countries today; we need, therefore, to be on our guard against Liberal and Progressive Fascism which is beginning to build up in our youngsters disillusioned with any ideal that disallows themselves to define themselves as they desire. Once the generation of old-style conservatives has lost control, the Social Justice Warriors will succeed them. They have a chance to see how their politics could become intolerant and alter their stances accordingly. I pray that they will take this chance.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The evil that God does

Sermon for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)

Do you know the difference between good and evil?

We like to think so, don’t we? We know the Ten Commandments and that idolatry is evil and adultery is evil and stealing is evil, et c. However, we also know that the Lord Himself has a habit of showing us up. If we are angry with someone without good cause then we are murdering them in our hearts. If a man lusts after a woman then he is committing adultery with her in his heart. It’s clear that good and evil aren’t as clear cut as we think they are, and that’s our problem.

Can God do evil? It would appear that the Prophet Amos thinks He can!

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?


It’s verses like that that often give people a reason to think that God is a monster but it’s worth trying to understand what Amos is saying here. What is this evil in the city? Other translations have the word “disaster” instead of “evil”. We human beings tend to think of disasters as being a natural evil. Indeed, people like Stephen Fry have used natural disasters to show why they believe that, if God exists, then He is a nasty piece of work.

Perhaps you have seen that piece of film of the baby iguana being chased by snakes. You watch as it scrabbles over rocks as snake upon snake upon snake lashes out hoping to grab the little lizard. How you breathe a sigh of relief when it escapes their clutches! But why did you take the iguana’s side?

Look at it the other way. Think of the starving snakes desperate for some food. They need to eat to stay alive. Here is an opportunity of food and they all seek to grab it. And they fail. Those snakes have to face another day with the pain of hunger.

So which is good and which is evil?

The poor snake has been tarred with being evil because it is dangerous to human beings and because the Devil disguised himself as one.

Perhaps God is evil for making animals behave like this in the first place. If animals didn’t eat each other, everything would be okay.

And here we face a bit of a problem. God loves us and the Cross of Christ proves that. His creation is Good even if we find it hard to stomach sometimes. But that’s the problem – we’re the ones calling it evil, not God. The lightning is terrifying, but it’s not evil. The lion and the gazelle are both glorious examples of God working through evolution and we perceive their beauty. We may not understand wasps, slugs, spider, scorpions, snakes or tapeworms, but a careful study of them shows how perfectly designed for their environment they are.

God’s creation is good. Water is our life, but we can drown in it. Fire keeps us warm, but it can burn us. Things that keep us alive and happy can hurt and kill us. God’s good creation can be used to harm us.

When a city is flooded, God is responsible only in the sense that He makes water do what water does. Whose responsibility is it for building the city where it can be flooded? If a small child dies of starvation in Somalia, God is responsible only in the sense that He created us to need food. Whose responsibility is it that this child has to live in poverty in Somalia in the first place? There will be hotter summers and colder winters under Global Warming. More people will find it difficult to live. God is responsible only for the way that weather follows the laws of physics. Whose responsibility is it that Global Warming started at the same time as the Industrial Revolution?


Human beings have to take some responsibility for the disaster that befalls them, and this is precisely what the Prophet Amos is telling us. Rejecting God is bad for our health. Living in a way that dishonours God has consequences for us – in our language it looks like punishment for our sins but this punishment comes simply from the consequences of our actions.

Our Lord Himself tells us that the people killed by a falling tower are not receiving a result of their personal sins. However, the law of gravity says that towers fall and the way that the tower was built clearly had a weakness. The builders have to take responsibility of their failings.

The evil in human society is a consequence of the Evil that infects human nature. Often we are unconscious of the wrong that we do. If we buy cheap clothes then we could be funding modern slavery. If we don’t dispose of plastic safely then we could be contributing to the destruction of ocean life, and thus all life on this planet.


This all sounds very depressing and human beings do have a lot of responsibility to take for the state of the planet. However, the point is that we have a Saviour who promises that all things will be made new – new heavens and a new earth – and that we ourselves will be made new. That doesn’t mean that we should forget about things as they are now. We are still affected by the consequences of the human race even if we are not personally directly responsible. We need to show our love for neighbour by being active, reducing poverty, ending oppression, and, above all, showing the love of God in our lives trusting that all things are possible with God.

Just as the sea is made turbulent by waves, so is our human life made turbulent by all our sins. If we live according to the will of God then we bring with us the One Who calms the storm just by being in the same boat as us. By returning to God and obedience to Him, we become instruments of His Peace and do our Fallen World some good.

In the face of the disasters in life, St Paul has these words for all who turn to God:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.