Saturday, April 17, 2010
Environmentally we see Global Warming, Earthquakes in Haiti, China and Chile, and now a volcano in Iceland knocking out a sizeable majority of air travel in Europe. There are struggles and conflicts in Thailand, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. And then of course there is the relentless battery against the Church.
It seems that every Christian body is under attack at the moment. We have governments trying to impose regulations on who we can marry, whom we can ordain and what actions we can regard as good. We have scientists not only preaching atheism in a most evangelical fashion but trying to use the weight of the law to force their views. We have a media which is more concerned with peddling distortions and muck-raking in order a) to earn more money and b) to silence the voices of moral authority. We have historians and authors trying to publish their own fantasies about the origins of the Church at odds with the Tradition we have received. We have infighting, division and schism.
The Lord says: And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled : for all these things must come to pass , but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended , and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise , and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound , the love of many shall wax cold .
The beginnings of sorrows - ah! the Church has suffered many of them since our Lord walked bodily among us. It's very tempting for us to think that the end is very near. We can turn to the Apocalypse with a sense of frightened justification and look for the true Millennium, seek out the one who bears the number 666 (or 616) and await the beast rising from the sea.
However, this is rather rash. It is very easy for us to get nervous and start interpreting the Scripture or Tradition in a way that will alleviate our fear. The Lord says we are always going to hear of disasters - natural, political, social and moral, but we should not take them as necessarily being the End of the World.
I think that the Maccabees had the right idea - within reason.
In the first Chapter of the first book of Maccabees, we read of the enforced apostasy on Israel. We read of the abomination being erected in the Holy of Holies, of the Israelites being told to conform to the worship of Zeus, of Jews forsaking the worship of God for the state religion.
And the Maccabees said "NO!"
Of course, they then take arms and a lot of bloodshed ensues (that's clearly how things were done back then), but in the ensuing war, the orthodox Jews were united.
We are in the same boat, with the world trying to enforce its morals on us by corrupting our leaders and vilifying those who stand against. Like the Maccabees we need to say "NO" and we need to fight, and fight hard.
Of course, the only weapons appropriate to the Christian are Faith, Hope and (most importantly) Love expressed through the Truth, Prayer, and Worship. We must discipline ourselves like good soldiers in living the Christian life well so that the love of God shines through us brightly to destroy the malignant spirits lurking within our societies and to win others by our sheer devotion to God.
And we must come together, unite despite our differences, to show the World that the Worship of the One True God will not be crushed.
The Ordinariate does offer such an opportunity. It is a start, the first wave of what should be the move to Church Unity. I doubt that it addresses all the problems, but it is a start and it is a chance for us to fight back against an antipathetic establishment.
We can only do this if we in one Christian community are prepared to trust each other, make ourselves vulnerable to the other Christian community. We can be defensive and be very scholarly in our defences, building up an impenetrable wall demonstrating that the other is utterly wrong, keeping ourselves utterly pure and isolated waiting for the other to move first; or we can accept that there are differences which may be mutually interpreted as error but the intention to worship, pray and study together is of greater importance and so make a move towards the other.
Let us look for ways to increase the spirit of the Ordinariate in finding ways to become a United Church even if we cannot agree to the details of the Apostolic Constitution. Let us pray for our leaders, especially Pope Benedict, so that further ecumenical dialogue can take place unhindered by hysterical and malignant reports by the media.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Yet I've always been troubled by the notion of "average" - i.e. trying to find a single number which best represents a statistic of a population. School statistics gets you as far as learning about the mean, median and mode.
To refresh the memory of my readers who may not have touched upon this for some time, the mean is what we tend to call THE average - add up all the data and divide by the number of pieces of data you have. This is where you'll get your 2.5 children. The mode is the most frequently occurring value of the data, and the median is the middle number that you would find if you arranged all the data in numerical order.
What you may not have been taught in school is that two of these averages are biased!
By biased, I mean that the expected value of the average depends very significantly on the sample of the population that you choose, i.e. if you use a biased average you can't get an accurate value of the average height of the population by recording the average height of 200 people.
In fact, the median is biased and so is the mode. The mean is not. We can reasonably expect that value of the mean of any sample will be the mean of the population. Not so the median and mode.
But let me remind you about the mean: add up all the values and divide by the number of values you have. If you have 10 people and the total amount of money that they have in their pockets is £453.20, then the mean amount that one person has is £45.32. The mean is a rather Procrustean quantity: it levels the playing field by cutting off the bits that are too high and gluing them to the bits that are too low. The mean is a truly communist average.
And yet it is the mean that we think of most when we think of "average".
How willing are we to describe ourselves as average? Does that mean that we fit a Procrustean bed of qualia? If we mean "mean" when we say "average", then to describe ourselves or anyone else as average we are fitting them into a mould within our minds to "aid" understanding. Except we lose information and make our average humans less than human. The mean human being is not a human being.
Human beings are biased.
That's not something to be ashamed of. In fact it is something to rejoice in, provided that we recognise our bias when we make objective judgments. Our bias is the result of our upbringing/heritage/nature/interactions and without our bias we would cease to be the persons we are.
We can have a bias for pure mathematics, but pure mathematics can naturally lead us into contact with the filthiest mathematics going - statistics and theoretical physics. But it is knowing this bias that allows us to engage with the mathematics at its most necessary as a language of pure reason to make reasonable judgments about the universe. However, we should not focus on the mean values but try to see how our reality possesses bias away from what we expect and imprint upon our understanding.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
Thomas autem unus ex duodecim qui dicitur Didymus non erat cum eis quando venit Iesus dixerunt. ergo ei alii discipuli vidimus Dominum, ille autem dixit eis nisi videro in manibus eius figuram clavorum et mittam digitum meum in locum clavorum et mittam manum meam in latus eius, non credam.
et post dies octo, iterum erant discipuli eius intus, et Thomas cum eis. venit Iesus ianuis clausis et stetit in medio, et dixit pax vobis. deinde dicit Thomae infer digitum tuum huc et vide manus meas et adfer manum tuam et mitte in latus meum et noli esse incredulus sed fidelis. respondit Thomas et dixit ei Dominus meus et Deus meus. dicit ei Iesus quia vidisti me credidisti beati qui non viderunt et crediderunt. multa quidem et alia signa fecit Iesus in conspectu discipulorum suorum quae non sunt scripta in libro hoc. haec autem scripta sunt ut credatis quia Iesus est Christus Filius Dei et ut credentes vitam habeatis in nomine eius
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said , Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
St John xxi.24-31
Saturday, April 03, 2010
Πάτερ, εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit
Friday, April 02, 2010
It is finished
Thursday, April 01, 2010