Saturday, November 16, 2013

Yet another meditative Sunday munching on Pellism and Anglican spaghetti ...

(Above: an evangelical moment from Scott "speaking in tongues" Morrison, to get the fundamentalist juices flowing this meditative Sunday. More Wilcox ).

The most interesting part of David Marr's talk/interview for the Adelaide festival of ideas was his acknowledgment that in his youth, he'd been a passionate believer, and even more amazing, a passionate Anglican ...

You can still listen or download the audio at LNL, and the even better news is that because Marr is a talker, interruptions by Phillip Adams are kept to a minimum, and for once the questions from the floor are on the money.

Inter alia, Marr did over Pell's rather pathetic and terse response to his essay for , which ran:

A predictable and selective rehash of old material. G.K.Chesterton said: 'A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian. ().

Apart from noting the lameness of quoting that old chestnut Chesterton - yes Christians keep on doing it, showing their thinking is still somewhere back with C. S. Lewis, the lion, the witch and the wardrobe - and noting he hadn't actually written a novel, Marr made the point that good novels, as much as bad novels, tell us much about their authors.

Anyone who read the now largely ignored novels of Chesterton will swear to that, as will those who read his short stories about the priest-detective Father Brown (you can in the usual way these days find a lot of Chesterton online, including at the University of Adelaide, provided you don't blame the pond). There you can find sharp witticisms such as:

No man is such a legalist as the good Secularist.

Nor a woman such a legalist as a good Jesuit or an expert Catholic theologian or a Chestertonian with a Victorian or Pellist mind set.

Never mind, the real capper was Marr's Anglican confession, as a retort to Pell's thought bubble:

Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.

(Allowing that a believing Anglican is reasonably close to a believing Christian, though if the Anglican is an angry fundamentalist Sydney Anglican, that might be a close run thing ...)

The point, of course, is that Marr was a motivated, believing Christian, while it's the believing Christian who really doesn't have a clue about what motivates a secularist, because of the fear of the yawning abyss, the darkness at the edge of town, and a universe without comforting myths, fables and father (and the odd mother) symbol ...

That lack of understanding, as Marr noted, emerges in Pell's defiant, clinging, backward-looking conservatism, which leads to strange and peculiar yearnings, including his bizarre campaign as a 'climate scientist' to defeat the global climate change conspiracy.

There's a deeper irony in this, with Marr pointing out that Pell believes that Catholics should submit to the authority of the Pope, yet with Benedict XVI firm on the dangers of global climate change, and Francis already revealing himself to be a progressive on the environment and on such matters as protecting the Amazon Basin ...

Pell is also part of the fundamental confusion that bedevils Catholicism in other ways - its strategic (to protect its assets) lack of structure, and Pell's willingness to act as a definitive spokesperson for the Church, except when it's convenient for him not to be a definitive spokesperson.

Lately it seems that Pell has been given an elevated profile amongst the Murdochians.

At one point, you could never find Pell's weekly outings for the Sunday Terror on the digital website.

These days he's given a high profile presence, as befits Tony Abbott's confessor and spiritual advisor:

Yep, there he is, right alongside Miranda the Devine and Akker Dakker doing their usual Sunday twittery:

All together at the top of the revolving fickle digital Terror finger of fate ...

In the old days, it was easiest to catch up with Pell in the week-old reprint at the Catholic site, , but now Pell has come in from the digital cold, and sits alongside the conservative commentariat who recently went off to a private junket with fellow climate denialist Tony Abbott.

What a cosy coterie of denialists it is, and never mind the many misdeeds of the Pellists recorded by Marr.

Of course when you actually get to read what Pell has to say this week, in , it turns out it's just more of the same.

You might think from the header that it's something novel - all about women and their rights - but it quickly turns into yet another routine assault on abortion and prostitution.

So much for Francis, and so much for Pell's submission to papal instruction:

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time." ()

It is, if you're a Pellist wanting to yoke women's rights to yet another bit of spruiking about abortion.

Of course if you've had some experience as to what motivates a believing Catholic, Pell's closing words will be crystal clear in their implications:

The miracle of bearing new life sets women apart and demands our deepest respect. We need to remember that this is not a principle everyone accepts. Some work mightily against it.

The idea of treating each woman and every person as unique and irreplaceable is not something we can take for granted, either in the developing world or here in Australia.

That's not about women, that's just a variant on the Mary worship that is unscriptural and that has bedevilled the Catholic church for centuries ...

If you want a unique, irreplaceable woman, let's have a female Pope. It's been a long time since , speaking of fables....

If you want full blown Mary worship, head off to the Catholic encyclopaedia, , but you can see where Pell is coming from in his attitude to women with this explanation of Catholic thinking:

A special term was coined to refer to the special honor given to the Virgin Mary, who bore Jesus--God in the flesh--in her womb. This term, hyperdulia (huper [more than]+ dulia = "beyond dulia"), indicates that the honor due to her as Christ's own Mother is more than the dulia given to other saints. ()

It's at moments like this, with the nauseating smothering of women in a garnish of miracles and uniqueness, that the pond feels quite Anglican.

Alas, that only lasts as long as a trip to the Sydney Anglican website, and a most unfortunate juxtaposition of skies.

Can't we get back to the good old graphic days?

It seems that Jensenism keeps marching on, with Phillip Jensen still on the front page, scribbling about

In the usual way, it's about vanity, and being unique and being chosen. Vanity, all is vanity:

We do not face the world as simply another business to do business with, nor as a government instrumentality to provide welfare for the needy, but as a family whose love for one another shows that we are the disciples of Christ Jesus. Lose that sense of family and we may as well pack up shop and join the local council.

The pond will settle for the local council, provided the garbage is taken away and the roads maintained and gays and women offered equal rights. Oh, and as a bonus, atheists aren't demonised.

But that would require Michael Jensen to stop rabbiting on, as he does in

In his desire to stick it to atheists, Jensen flirts dangerously with heresy, or classical theism, which veers dangerously towards "open theism", denounced by that much-loved - if only by Sydney Anglicans - preacher John Piper:

As a pastor, who longs to be biblical and God-centered and Christ-exalting and eternally helpful to my people, I see open theism as theologically ruinous, dishonoring to God, belittling to Christ, and pastorally hurtful. My prayer is that Christian leaders will come to see it this way, and thus love the church by counting open theism beyond the bounds of orthodox Christian teaching. ()

Indeed. But Jensen has to stray into that field to do battle with "pop atheism" and the "pseudo-intellectualism" of new atheists, and then produces his very own version of "pseudo-theology":

The atheist who sniggers something about the flying spaghetti monster, arguing that the existence of God is just as plausible as the existence of this airborne entanglement of Italian cuisine, simply fails to understand what God is: he is not interchangeable with some other being, since he is being itself. These arguments do dislodge many false Gods, but not the true one.

He is being itself?

False Gods? Surely false gods ...

Oh dear.

And then Jensen thoughtfully reminds us that Xians have no idea what motivates a non-believing secularist:

Hart ... (the author under review) goes to great lengths to show that materialism is a self-contradictory philosophy, since it cannot confidently claim that reason knows anything at all. The atheist who is also an absurdist is the only consistent atheist.


This sort of gibberish always reminds the pond of one of its favourite koans:

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku. Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received."

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?" (more )

Let's overlook the dangers of smoking. Let's just note the absurdity of a believer in ghosts, angels, spirits and Satan insisting that atheists must be consistent, and give Michael Jensen a whack with a bamboo pipe ...

Meanwhile, there's something deeply disturbing about Jensen's fearful protestations:

Hart shows that the noisy, self-congratulating and smug band of atheists are nothing to fear at intellectual level.

Actually these days the Anglicans should be worried about the way the Catholics are taking over the joint. Including the digital Terror and all the nooks and crannies of government.

So why keep writing and worrying about atheist?

They do not understand, and are not even interested in, the thing they are denying. (Hart does give a list of more intellectually credible atheists in his book, by the way, including J.L. Mackie). Conceding that there are no grounds outside the gospel for belief in a divine being is both unnecessary and unbiblical.


In round two of Jensen v. Piper, Jensen explains how the grounds for belief in a divine being outside the bible is any different to all those other divine beings, including - and not least - the noble FSM ...
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