Colin Blakemore's programme in the series looked at science, first encouraged by Christianity and then clashing with Christian authorities, and then major scientific outlooks undermining the Christian explanation for the world and universe. I noticed how Richard Dawkins does allow for a more sophisticated God view around actual evolution, though it is a more limited view.
However, I was more interested in Colin Blakemore interviewing someone I've met on a number of occasions, once one of the radical priests in the Loughborough area and now it seems he has moved to Oxford. I understand that another of the Loughborough area radical priests I knew has also gone elsewhere; there was always a thought at the time that they would be stuck where they are but obviously not so. A number of East Midlands incumbents occupied Emmanuel College livings and thus were connected with Don Cupitt.
The programme itself arrives at a point where the Hebrew Bible creation stories have been as much superseded, but Colin Blakemore makes the point about a far more limited effect of science upon the New Testament. He is interviewing his Roman Catholic ordained scientist guide again, before he comes to Rev. David Paterson.
Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican Astronomer, is explaining to Professor Colin Blakemore that with Christ "all bets are off" and God is inserted into human history and we can't expect that to ever occur again. He agrees with Blakemore that it is an assertion and as a scientist he has no evidence. He cannot disprove it until there is a time machine. It is an assertion based on faith but also the evidence we have that is the recorded evidence of the people at the time. The Church never taught biblical literal creation as central to its faith: it's not a core belief, not in the creed, and different from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
30:41 Caption: St Michael and All Angels Oxford [New Marston: Marston Road B4150 and Jack Straws Lane]
Colin Blakemore narration: But science has led a few Christians to question even these fundamental tenets of Christianity. I was brought up an Anglican and there's a lot I still like about churches: the hymns, contemplation, the sense of community. I'm here to meet an Anglican priest, David Paterson, who belongs to a group of Christians called the Sea of Faith. Many of them doubt the divinity of Jesus Christ and even whether God really exists.
CB: So, er, let's just be clear, I mean God didn't make - literally make the universe.
David Paterson: No.
Caption: Father David Paterson
CB: And er, God didn't engineer the virgin birth of Jesus.
CB: And Jesus perhaps didn't really exist as a person at all.
DP: Mmmm. I think he probably did, actually, yes. Yes I think, I think he did.
CB: Then can I just explore that a bit more. I mean what - what then is God to you?
DP: Em, what I fell in love with; what I wanted to give my life to. [Edit?] And its ingredients were a lot about the natural world, a lot about making relationships with people.
CB: Well I empathise with all of those things but I haven't found any necessity to see God reflected in those things. The existence of life is extraordinary, but why any more? Is there any more, really?
DP: No there isn't any more. There is actually no difference between the theist and the atheist: it's only the terminology that's different. Some people have this - this deep understanding of the spiritual nature of reality - of everything - and they want to personify it and call it God, or a God, or a particular name of God or something. Some don't want to do that.
CB narration: David thinks that the Bible was never meant to be taken literally.
DP: All the religious stories are mythological stories where asking 'Did it Happen?' or 'Where did it happen?' or 'What date did it happen?' is all completely irrelevant. It's actually all about this being a story that helps you understand what life is all about.
CB narration: So according to David all these fundamental tenets of Christianity - virgin birth, the resurrection, life after death - didn't happen at all. Seems to me that David's version of Christianity is virtually atheism: science provides the facts about the world; religion gives us the music and the pictures and tells us stories about human nature.
Caption: Pays de Gex, France.
CB narration: For me it is science not religion that provides out best understanding of the workings of our universe.
This was one of the better programmes in the series. I was disappointed with a number of them and Michael Portillo's was basically shallow. Incidentally, Colin Blakemore is not one of the scientists at the next 2009 Sea of Faith Conference, Science, Religion and Meaning.
Well, I agree with David Paterson. Recently it was suggested to me that because I have been invited to preach on Easter Sunday at the Hull Unitarian Church that this adds to Anselm's proofs of God - one he'd missed - that God has a sense of humour. Thus I might proclaim there, "Christ is risen, no he isn't."
I thought about this a lot afterwards, and I thought this is just a bizarre way of thinking. First of all it assumes that God is a Cosmic Joker, which would be one explanation for some of the biblical myths compared with scientific findings. Indeed, either could be jokes - an appearance of an old earth while it is young, or the biblical narration of a young earth and quick creation when the earth is actually old. On any such account, though, God the Cosmic Joker leaves nothing but unreliability, that we all might be wasting our time investigating or thinking and looking busy.
Perhaps then this God has acted like this throughout my own biography, but if so it's less God the Cosmic Joker and more God the Fuck-Up Merchant: setting up trivial co-incidences, trip-ups, failures and such the like and all centred around my ego.
And then you think along such logic: what a waste of God's own God-activity. It makes the tragedies of the world all the more obscene while the God is making jokes and fucking up lives in relatively trivial ways.
This is rubbish. It is the mentality of this form of thinking that I object to, in the end, and it has to be dismissed. It certainly is no proof of God, but is a proof of the decline in the credibility of God-thought.
Recently there was a ridiculous debate in the Church of England General Synod about affirming the uniqueness of Christ. Eight people voted against. I can just imagine the mindsets of some people voting for who don't actually believe in Christ's uniqueness. They do it in the pulpit; they vote. At least they avoided Peter Ould's investigatory witchhunt, who listed and made value judgments about those who voted no, as he parades his self-righteous narrow orthodoxy. I made a quick comment on Thinking Anglicans but couldn't be bothered to blog on it because it was pathetic, as if such can be voted upon (rather why I dislike part of the Jesus Seminar approach). I'd have voted no because I don't believe it: there is the absence of historical evidence and means of such evidence (and lack of evidence of absence is not equal in reply), there is the mythic community based construction of the texts that is visible in interpretation by reading them, and there is the anti-science involved in such as a reconstituted transformed body or in giving birth without a father. So I'll be agreeing with David Paterson: and to repeat Colin Blakemore:
religion gives us the music and the pictures and tells us stories about human nature.