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1153Friday's Belfast blog - the great debates

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Jul 18, 2014
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      JONAL ENTRY 1548 | FRIDAY, JULY 18 2014

      Today's Scripture: Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!
      — St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4:5-8,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below. «

      Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

      A frequent cliche that the Left uses against the Right in America is that "they wrap themselves in the flag." Though all the kids loved to wave little flags on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July when I was a weeun, I've never seen an American literally wearing the Stars and Stripes. But at the July 12th parades in Northern Ireland, it was not unusual to see someone draping the Union Jack (the British flag) over their shoulders or even as a skirt or kilt. And at the Black Parade and Re-enactment in Scarva on Monday, the man seen above, who posed for me but didn't give me his name, got special attention from the crowds as the most flag-bedecked participant.
      After a week off from my duties at the Dock Cafe, it was back to work today. And the weather today has been very mild for an 18th of . . . March. Occasional mist under constant grey skies and windy, but warm enough for short sleeves.  «
      In the news
      Links to articles on current issues—news and opinion that may signify how the cultural winds are blowing. Note that most 'news reports' are not 'objective' and if some are 'neutral' it's because the writers and editors are disinterested (could care less about the topic). Neither are 'news reports,' in general, highly accurate or unbiased; try to discern the bias of any report's source; always read aware and at your own risk.
      Estimates of up to 100 AIDS conference attendees on downed Malaysian jet
      Passenger made eerie Facebook post before boarding plane that was shot down
      Why icons of God the Father may be seen in Orthodox churches despite prohibition
      Angels and demons are covered in the Creed's 'all things visible and invisible'
      Louisiana Supreme Court orders Catholic priest to betray the confessional
      Conference studies the preservation of famous Georgian cave monastery
      City in Florida ordered to pay $25,000 for police bra-shaking search
      How entrepreneurs of various faiths express religion in their businesses
      Christian worldview
      (This department alternates with Writing stuff)
      One of the things I most admire about C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and about one of Lewis's own main mentors, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), is their skill and success as debaters. Both engaged some of the most astute minds of their time in public give-and-take and both ably defended the faith of the apostles and church fathers to large audiences. In this, I admire two distinct qualities in both men: they could produce the proper response at the proper moment under the pressure of public scrutiny and even verbal responses, and they were able to keep cordial relationships with the men (and at least in one case in Lewis's debating history, women) that they met in debate.
      Chesterton debated some of the most famous men of his generation, like George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell, and was, historians tell us, admired and even liked by his adversaries. Lewis, on the faculty of the premiere university of the English-speaking world for most of his adult life, was the backbone of the Oxford Socratic Club which always attracted crowds to its meetings, the main attraction at which was debates between Lewis and whomever accepted the Club's invitation to be their special guest. Such engagements strike me as the best example there is of St. Peter's injunction, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you, but do this gently and with respect," 1 Peter 3:15.
      Few people who already have taken sides on whether God is real or not are converted by either side's arguments, so in most cases whoever "wins" such debates depends on whose side you are on; you like the arguments of the one you agree with. But there are many people in the general public and in the university milieu who are not sure which side they're on, and it is to them that such debates are of value. I'm sure more than one student at one of Lewis's debates would came away saying, "he made some good points and I wish I could say I believe it," but they were not ready to give up their "free-love" lifestyle which they feared would be the cost of such a commitment. St. Augustine is only the most famous of many who have prayed, "make me holy, Lord, but not yet."
      The closest I get to any such encounters are occasional forays on Google+ (it seems the atheists are out in force on that social network, more than on Facebook). Any post I make, whether a thought of my own or a repost of something I've found online, if it has a strong argument for belief, is likely to get some angry (or so them come across to me) retorts from fundamentalist skeptics (atheists or secularists). Since my stroke of 1999, I have been especially slow at thinking on my feet, so I usually ignore the responses. But earlier this week I got into a few rounds of give and take. Three points made by my opponents strike me as worth mentioning here:
      1. C.S. Lewis was discredited as a defender of theism during his lifetime, so recommending his writing to prove anything is stupid.
      2. Belief in God is insane because there is no empirical evidence such a being exists; thus, faith is illogical.
      3. Citing the two-billion-odd believers in Christ as evidence for the truth of Christian claims is a fallacious argument because, "if all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you do likewise?"
      I'll take these up next time. «
      Today's video
      Today's quotes
      Poor human reason, when it trusts in itself, substitutes the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts.
      — St. John Chrysostom «
      All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
      — C.S. Lewis «
      Homiletical thought: Both of today's readings are about God's judgment. This was a major theme of the Torah, the Jewish Bible that Christians call the Old Testament; there is a basic, innate desire for justice, and only a Holy God can provide it on the transcendent level, cosmically and eternally. And here Paul is cautioning us to not get ahead of God. Though the righteous will have a part in judging, do not try to do God's job before the day of judgment. You have very limited faculties that never see beyond those limits, so your judgments are always likely to be skewed, off-kilter; only God's judgments are perfect or truly just. «
      §     §     § 
      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence