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(Re-)Searching Questions 12 January 2013

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Ponderings, University.
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I am not ignoring my blogging. In fact I am thinking about it more than I have for a long time, possibly more than ever. However, I’m fully aware that there are certain times that are convenient for writing, and certain times that are convenient for publishing, and this time of the evening isn’t an ideal publishing slot. So it’s probably just as well that I have little to say! Except, that might be a slight untruth as I have rather a lot of things that would bear blogging about, and quite a few drafts. Maybe that actually sums up the problem rather well. Considered writing takes time. I am grateful for those who read and comment on my often rather imperfect posts, especially as I feels, like many of my sermons, that they are fine until the last quarter whereupon they rather tail off!

All I will say at this time of night, at the risk of missing comment from much of my readership, is this: sitting on the University’s Research Ethics Committee throws up some interesting questions. One is quite how I am there! I am “Lay Representative” – and gained my position by virtue of holding my own PhD, even though it never needed any ethical clearance (maps and trees do not, certainly in the academic sense, worry about confidentiality or emotional upset, or whether the research is covert…) and/or on the grounds of my vocation as a Minister. Sometimes they are questions of academic methodology. Often they are challenges to my understanding in fields beyond my expertise (like PhDs in Dance, for example). More often than not I find myself proof-reading the proposal and clucking gently over grammatical errors and what might best be described as dubious (or “international”) English.

The biggest challenge of all though is to me and my perceptions, usually related to my faith. My university teaches neither Theology nor Philosophy (raising the interesting question about whether it even is a “university”). That does not mean matters of faith, spirituality and the Other are not present, instead falling within the realm of Psychology (and the MA in Transpersonal Psychology). This was brought home to me recently as the Ethics Committee studied a proposal from a practising  (Neo-)Pagan to investigate the efficacy of certain Pagan spells. I must confess that just below the surface I had a temptation to smile, even laugh, at this. I do not really believe in the efficacy of any Pagan practice at anything other than a psychosomatic level, and if I am honest, were any practices shown to be effective beyond that I’m afraid that I would probably suspect demonic influence as a means of drawing people away from the truth, and that despite having Pagan friends and being really rather liberal in my theology, at a mental level at least. (That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate conversations). The challenge, of course, arises from the reminder that to so many around me, friends and strangers alike, and that includes readers of this very blog, my own faith and beliefs are a regarded in exactly the same way (or worse). I may not agree, but I can see (and understand) that view. It will not make me change my position, but it gives me no grounds for laughter or scorn either.

And the clock indicates I have grounds for sleep…. or better still, a bed….



1. Jane Williams - 13 January 2013

*Demonic* influence? Really? I know there used to be a tendency to label anything that was both “supernatural” and not under the control of the Church as “demonic” (with the latter being the main criteria), but you’re a bit beyond that. What’s the perceived danger, as far as you’re concerned?

2. Dr Moose - 13 January 2013

I suppose it is a strong word, although not as strong to myself as others maybe. I suspect it is one of the remains of my Pentecostal days. I do, however, still hold to the orthodox Christian position with regards to the existence of an entity usually referred to as the Devil and also of “other” spiritual beings who may be either positively or negatively oriented, and thus term angels or demons.

I could water down the statement, and it would be true to say that such a statement would be a *reaction* rather than necessarily a considered *response*, but I’m not so liberal yet as to subscribe to the “all roads lead to God” position. I still believe in the need for human redemption, mediated through the work of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, even if I cannot explain exactly “how” (and Alpha Course evangelicalism notwithstanding there are multiple models of the Atonement available, none of which were considered important enough in the early years of the church to be fought over in terms of rooting out heresies and defining orthodoxy).

But I digress, I still look for the work of God in bringing redemption through Christ in all people, and if asked I will speak of it and my understanding of the Gospel and the need for human response. However, I will not presume that I have “a window into men’s souls” (can’t remember the origin of the quote, but not being deliberately sexist!) and hope that I am wise enough to let God be God and the so let the Holy Spirit work without my presumption. I do not believe that salvation is merely an exercise in ticking boxes (and, after all the very word “salvation” means as much to be healed and made whole as any “religious” interpretation acquired down the years).

God, or if you wish to use less loaded terms, the Divine, is bigger than we give credit for, but to return to the starting point the danger I perceive (or you may say imagine, I don’t begrudge that!) is one of distraction. I speak as one who has seen things that can only be described as miraculous, although even there there are always questions, as we are critical thinkers (and rightly so).

I guess however close I get to recognising that my woolly-ness has taken me out of the evangelical fold, every so often my roots show my true colours…

Whether that makes any sense, of course, is another matter!

3. Jane Williams - 13 January 2013

I’m going to need to read that a few more times to be sure I’ve understood it – or at least, understood it as well as I’m able to. Let me check one thing now, though – when you say “distraction”, are you thinking in terms of effectively bribery? “Turn to me and I’ll give you Kool Magick Powwas” sort of thing? Or something more subtle? Since the latest “fad” in the generic occult arena is Angels, and quite overtly Christian angels at that, it seems likely that you’re implying something more subtle, but I’m not sure what.

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