Why I’m excited by Drupal and the Church

This is another e-mail that I thought could become a blog post

Drupal and the Church in the UK

Looking at Drupal specifically many UK christian organisations are standardising around Drupal. HTB use it and employ Drupal developers, Spring Harvest use it, CCK (Church of Christ the King, big New Frontiers church in Brighton) are using Drupal more and more now. Meanwhile we’re working with New Wine and Soul Survivor (Disclaimer: whilst we are a Drupal shop, just because we’re working with them, it doesn’t mean they will use Drupal for everything . What Standardising on one technology enables churches to do is share their innovative ideas. Sharing ideas means that technology can become inter operable and achieve a greater reach and scale.

Sharing innovations on one platform

Trying to convince people to work on one platform is difficult. But that is already happening. Also everything we build we open source. Now we’re snowed under with our work on New Wine at the moment so I don’t know what the future holds for us. But hopefully when we’re less snowed under we can put effort into marketing the open source stuff we’ve done. This means the other organisations that are just using Drupal already could potentially just “slot it in” to their website.

For now we’re dealing with stuff that will probably only help larger organisations. We have a piece of work coming up to build a site that helps Sutton pray more (an area outside of London). It’s for a group that are working on increasing prayer in Sutton (linking lots of organisations and churches in that area) but the website will include a public prayer wall and a “adopt a street”. (like this http://prayadoptastreet.net/).

Now this stuff already exists but by using Drupal’s modular nature any other website that uses Drupal can just put it on their website with almost no hassle. Currently it requires a developer with a bit of Javascript and Google Maps API knowledge to do. This is exciting because by putting these tools in the hands of non-techy people they can do things we couldn’t imagine. Long term with Drupal 8 we can have better cross-site communication. So Churches could have their own “adopt a street” working alongside other church websites.

This is really small but lots of small things like this has a huge potential (methinks).

Prophecy, God and technology

The thing my boss is really excited about investigating as well is combining IT with the prophetic. We haven’t really figured out how to communicate this because its not something you can say, its more something you demonstrate. I mean, you can say it, but its so easy to say “I’m a christian company making money from christian organisations and I want God intimately involved in our work”. If you say that to christians and they believe you, you’ll make money out of it which instantly means saying it means less.

However, there is something exciting behind it. I’ve heard from both my dad and boss how they have had times when they have tried to solve a bug in their code. They had spent ages sorting through it but finally they decided to do a quick nehemiah style “arrow prayer” and after praying almost instantly found the answer.

Also technology is kinda like a language. A chunk of code is one way that ideas can be communicated between people and organisations. Prophets aren’t about control and telling people what to do because God said so. They just need to tell people and let the church choose whether it listens or not. Technology has something that is analogous.

For example we could tell a church “You should give away all your sermons for free”.

Or we could work with a bunch of churches that went to sell sermons. We could build resource and sermon libraries that you can use that allow you to categories  find and share all your resources. We can build it as a shop with a private area, subscriptions or pay per sermon and because its Drupal any church website already using Drupal can just use it.

But with the press of a button in configuration those churches can go from charging to using it all for free.

In the olden days where making more tapes or CDs cost money it was easy for churches to justify making a little bit of money on the side. When it costs them no extra to give away their talks to more people for free it changes the question from “Why do I have to give everything away for free” to “Why shouldn’t I give it all away for free?”

At no point are we dictating to churches how they should act. That church that wants to sell anything is welcomed to do so. If they use our software or pay us to do it, we would only be building the things they want. We wouldn’t use their time and money to make it easy to give things away from free. But because this is open source software we don’t have to. The functionality just has to exist out in the community (either built by us or someone else in their spare time or paid for by another church) for this to be true.

This means the things we choose to build and release could potentially impact the church. This means that every piece of code we write needs to be treated with utmost respect in terms of listening to what God wants us to do. Whether I’m running a prayer meeting for the city or writing a payment processing module for Drupal, they both have the ability to impact the church positively and both need God involved in it…


This is a work in progress. I’m guessing most of what I’ve said is complete rubbish and I’ll have to think about it a bit more and see where I’m wrong. Also I’m not trying to convince you of anything! But thought it might be a fun rant to read if you have a bit of a computer science background.(Disclaimer: I’m not very good with the prophetic stuff. I do what I can to listen to God but I couldn’t pin point what ideas in my head belong to me or belong to God or whether that distinction is even helpful for me. So this is another area where this rant might be wrong as I probably need to explore these ideas more)

The roots of Fresh Expressions

This is a reply to a text message about a church a friend is going to that is part of the fresh expressions that he felt is grassroots orientated. (He is right. It is, but there is an element where its not which I find more intresting). So this is the church: http://churchonthecorner.org.uk/ and this is my reply (feel free to correct me if things are factually incorrect)

One thing that is interesting about Fresh Expressions is how NOT grassroots it is! It was commissioned by Steven Croft, Graham Cray and Rowan Williams! I mean its about as top down as you can get (being something almost created by the arch bishop). Graham Cray is the guy who is Mike Pilavachi’s boss and also created Greenbelt. Graham Cray also heads up some really awesome sociological research like “making sense of generation Y” and has given quite a few talks about what a new church should look like (For example he talks a lot about how our culture doesn’t do corporate singing whilst churches that aim to be new and reaching our culture focus on mat redman style worship which is actually very counter-cultural). Stephen Croft I think was the other potential candidate for arch bishop alongside Justin Welby and he is the main person behind fresh expression. He is also Steve Wilcockson’s boss! (Steve is his number 2, an arch deacon that actually carries out his ideas in his area).

So although fresh expression churches feel all grassroots-ey its actually just the result of brilliant top-down research driven marketting!!! Which is fun because all the other “liberal” “grassroots-ey” things outside of the christian world are the same. The Pharmaceutical companies own all the health food alternative supplement brands. What is so impressive is every time I have disagreed with something the fresh expressions guys (specifically graham cray) has said I have always been wrong. Every assumption I have had about our culture (which is usually very in tune of mainstream church’s assumptions) that has been at odds with what graham cray found through his research, I have later found to be incorrect even with the people around me. I just never knew about it.

Most of his research is even better then anything in the secular world regarding generation Y. When people talk about this generation and the millenials they tend to get far too excited by the impact of the Internet and go on about that but actually there are plenty of people our age who don’t use facebook.

Fresh Expressions are really interesting. With New Wine I went to a seminar where bunches of them got together. Its really an extension of the Cell group movement that we were part of and the values behind it are really similar but Cell Groups had too much structure. The flip side is that fresh expressions haven’t quite worked out how to scale without looking more and more like traditional churches.

They are also unbelievably diverse. There is a fresh expression in Earl’s Court which is really just a bunch of people looking after homeless people using an old chapel as a base. They basically don’t do any “marketting” aimed at christians and don’t try and attract them. Another fresh expression was just on an allotement in a council estate where they did gardening and people could join them.

It goes hand and hand with the New Monastic movement which is also unbelievably cool. The new monks are so much cooler then the old monks.

So yeah, I think I’d like to come. But be warned. Its unlikely I’ll “like” it. I don’t really like churches anymore. I don’t really have oppinions apart from “How can I use technology to help this church” and “What is this particular community’s place in the global church and how can it use technology to increase its influence”

I’m sure there are some churches out there that are so bad they are nothing but toxic to the body of christ and should be completely expelled. But more often then not those churches don’t want to be part of the rest of the church anyway and become cults especially in a society where being christian doesn’t give you any real advantages. Most of the time a church that is “good” just have aspects that are good and aspects that are bad but due to your particular personality type you don’t care about the bad thigns as much and get a lot from the good things. From an overall objective point of view they are just a mixture and this fits with the way that paul pretty much lays into every one of the churches he was dealing with.

So I’ll probably both love and hate the church

International Women’s Day

For national women’s day my most inspirational women:

Florence Nightingale – Cause statistics are cool and she was one of the first to make use of pie charts to change things. She was also the first female member of the royal statistical society. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale

Webchick – Angie Byron – Co-maintainer of Drupal 7 and generally a tech great. http://twitter.com/#!/Webchick and she has done some good talks on women in open source that can be googled but here is an aritlce: http://www.cmswire.com/cms/web-cms/open-web-vancouver-2009-want-more-women-in-your-project-004815.php

Princess Marie Bonaparte – Her story about how she went about researching about the clitoris is awesome. http://blog.museumofsex.com/the-rule-of-thumb-vagina-types-and-variability-of-female-orgasm/ (Warning, some people may not like these pictures!)

Vicky Beeching: Her songs are great and she has an amazing blog. The way she goes about using social media is really interesting. http://vickybeeching.com/blog/

Goodbye Christopher Hitchens

I’m going to join a chorus of blog posts saying goodbye to christopher hitchens in a variety of ways. He was brilliant at writing and so I’ve found many of his fans are also really good at writing why they are sad and explaining why he was brilliant. This blog post will not be one of them, its not going to be well-written and probably no one should bother reading it. Normally when I blog I try to write it, leave it for a bit and check over things. I really need to not do that with this post.

One reason why I need to not do this is because I’ve tried writing about my feelings toward hitchens before. In one interview he told everyone that if you ever want to write to a writer, always do. He said he reads everything and is always encouraged by praise, even if he doesn’t have the time to respond. I love a tech writer called Matt Asay and after consistently being amazed at his articles and insight into the tech world I sent a little message to him saying “Matt, you are awesome, everything you write just makes me happy, thats all I have to say”. And Matt replied “Thanks that really made my day”. It was so exciting being able to connect in some way to the human behind the articles and as a result I felt I ought to write something to hitchens to say thank you.

The christian in me particularly wanted to write something. I remember being at New Word Alive listening to a ex-homeless guy sing about how Jesus had saved him from stuff. I don’t know what it was about that conference but it left me a little cynical, but I really felt strongly that I needed to thank hitchens and so I drafted this letter. I can’t find the draft and can’t really remember what I wrote about it and this makes me sad. It makes me sad for entirely selfish reasons and I don’t want to pretend I actually care about the person hitchens himself (I don’t know him). I’m sad because I really wanted to have that opportunity again to connect with a writer that up until that point is more of an immortal figure or symbol rather then a human (even though one of the things hitchens did brilliantly that others have talked about was that he made you feel you were connecting with a human as much as is possible through one-directional writing). But secondly I’m just pissed off that again something I’ve wanted to do, I’ve missed the boat through laziness or cowardice. I have a long list of regrets of things I’ve really wanted to do, things I wanted to say but missed it. Satre would have me shoot germans for 15 minutes but I don’t think that would actually make me feel much better about it all.

Anyways, I don’t think I’ve had time to fully analyse why I liked hitchens so much. I hadn’t read everything he wrote, and certainly didn’t agree with everything he said. I think the thing that made me like him, is that he wasn’t on a “team”. He joined the atheists and secularists as much as he wanted to but when they did stupid stuff he called them out on it. Then obviously the way he is famously a left-ey but looked like he “switched sides” regarding the Iraq war. But I think the reason why I really like that, is he acts like he is on his own team and the reason why I like that is because as a result he treats you (me) like you’re on your own team. When he debates christians he treats them like they are people, not just representatives of a “facile religious side”. In some ways I think, even if you are horrible to this person (eg Mother Teresa), it is treating the person with respect and dignity. When he is getting angry at Henry Kissinger, when he is complaining that he wanted to see the day that he died, he is also saying that kissinger is worth this anger, that he matters. I feel that this is also a source of his success in arguments. My treating your opponent in either debate or article as a human you cut through the pretence and patheticness of most debates, it makes your defeat so much stronger and honest.

Which leads me on to the next thing, very closely related. His humility. I’ve spoken to plenty of christians about how arrogant and nasty hitchens. Whereas I’m saying that not only is he someone who humbly treats people with respect but he is one of the few public figures to do so. People act like humilty is playing down your strengths but that is just patronising. Hitchens was someone who knew full well what he strengths were and played up to them, but at the same time demonstrated through his life that he worked to maintain them as his strengths. If he had an oppinion he acted like he did everything he could to justify having that oppinion with a clean concious. When he didn’t know what he was talking about, he said it. In fact he usually said it so quickly that the public debate would move on from the thing he doesn’t understand so that the majority of the debate time would be spent on the opponents misunderstandings (misunderstanding that the opponents knows are stupid but wants to aggresively defend anyway). He said to someone on TV once “You talk like you’ve never read anything that disagrees with you”, but hitchens did not talk like that.

Finally one small nigglying thing that flows from that is that whilst he was respectful, intelligent and honest. I didn’t think he was right about everything. One particular nigglying thing for me was how he would use “Occam’s Razor” throughout his arguments and especially in his book. He’d poetically talk about it coming in, slashing away falsehood and saving the day but rarely discussed the complexities of using occam’s razor for anything but an instrumentalist view of science. I never saw anyone else bring this up but maybe there is a debate out there already where this is discussed. I would have liked to have seen him dealing with this, dealing with the complexities that the arguments against various forms of scientific realism pose. Would he care? Possibly not, but I feel like he would have taken any argument against him seriously before putting forward the case for why it should be ignored and it would have been interesting to see that.

Which is part of the wider final and more boring point. Its boring because everyone thinks it including hitchens himself. I would have loved to see how his career developed. People call you an islamophobe but what would you have said to a changing islamic world? If the arab countries currently rising up against the facists actually managed to stabalise. Would you have changed your tone against Islam? I’m sure you would have always hated Islam itself, but whilst you were one of the first to attack Islamofacism I’ll bet you would have been one of the first to praise groups of muslims fighting against the facism you dedicated your life against. I’ll bet in 10 years it would have been clear that “islamophobe” was a ridiculous word to use against you.

So Goodbye Christopher hitchens, I’ve potentially got a lot of life ahead of me, I hope I get to meet more people like you, possibly inpsired by you. I really hope next time I’ll send the damned letter!

Creating a Platform

After reading the blog of Esther Rose Stewart I have been inspired to once again attempt to continue this blog every friday. Today its about software and next week I’m hoping to have something written about Heiddegger and Jesus, though the plan is to keep these blogs much much shorter.

I’ve read an awesome rant by a Googler ranting at Google+, the article I read is here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/13/google_does_not_get_platforms/ and it has a link to the actual rant below. Its pretty exciting but I haven’t figured out if I’m just excited due to my own personal extreme arrogance. I’ve been told that pretty much every philosopher with their own idea tends to try and argue that their idea is something Aristotle said all along. Even if they are completely contradictory, I don’t know if I’m just reading into this post what I want but it really feels like this post reflects a “I told y ou so” to the world, it fits in with what we at the tribes online are really excited about.

That is, the importance of building an accesible platform for the church.

Now that we’re actually starting our business and business problems like, being able to pay rent are popping up we’ve had to put loads of effort into side projects. This is building small websites just to earn money, writing summaries of work for companies that ultimately we don’t intimately care about and building drupal modules to see where it goes. One thing we’ve spent quite alot of thought hours into is our killer app. What is it that we’re doing that will truly provide value? We don’t have to provide much, just enough value that someone will pay us to be able to sleep and eat!

In this article he talks a bit about killer apps. Steve mentions that Facebook’s killer app is its wall and profile. But says that the long term success of Facebook is not the app, its not a good product, its the fact its on an awesome platform. Anyone can make a wall on a profile, I could put together a facebook profile clone in about 10 minutes using Drupal but it won’t have anywhere near the success of Facebook. Its partly because of the huge user base but its also because of the platform. Facebook did not have to predict Mafia Wars or Farmville, as steve puts it, they just make it so other people can come up with their own ideas.

Whilst we spend our time looking at how we can make money, or looking at our killer app that will fuel our platform, or as we talk to the various church networks and churches we’re talking to. There is still the initial vision in site and the world hasn’t changed enough to not need our vision. Our vision is that when we were 14 and 16 building a little discussion forum for our church, we wanted to do it as part of something. We wanted to find tools already working with churches that we could use. And when we turned a “Like” button on our forum into an “Amen” button and discovered a really cool way to take our spirituality online, we wanted someone to tell about it.

There are still plenty of questions though:

  • Everyone wants to be a platform, but how do you actually attract developers? Is the church ready for this?
  • What does the platform do? Amazon’s platform is its computing ability, Apple is that loads of people use iphone, Facebook is a huge connection of users. What are we sharing? Code? Connections? Data? Ideas? All?
  • We need to remember Canal Mania, Railroad Mania and the dotcom bubble, we need to be able to use our own platform and get that killer app.
  • How open is this platform? Is it a fully distributed network of websites? Is there a central server with APIs? Is it just some code? Is it just the ideas?

A discussion about God, etc from Facebook

A while back a facebook discussion broke out on my wall in reply to a link I posted on my wall about new atheism and a church an atheist writer quite liked. The discussion got a bit out of hand which each reply getting larger and larger and then splitting up into multiple threads of conversation with replies spamming multiple comments. Facebook is just not a good platform for any kind of meaningful discussion as you really need the full width of your screen and some basic ability to format replies (headings, bullets, etc). So its continued here.

This is a reply I was going to send to Micheal Rush (who was our lecturer for metaphysics) but I spoke to Toby Searle about it and he pointed some issues with the way I worded things. Its such a long post I haven’t had the time to properly go through it and reword it correctly. The issue is something along the lines of originally I seemed to suggest I was saying it is impossible to have a coherent concept of “supernatural events” vs “natural events”. What I’m saying is really, If I were to assert that I am an orthodox christian and believe everything in the bible, but do not believe there are any special supernatural events. Is that coherent? It means when dealing with questions like “How did the ressurection happen?” I wouldn’t be able to give an answer but I could just state I don’t know I think it did happen and it happened naturally.

I’m not saying that this is a desirable state for a christian to be in. Just interested in what is wrong with that when people like the brights put a huge emphasis on the distinction between their naturalism and what they call “supers”. Anyway here is the e-mail exchange between me and toby and we can see if this goes anywhere!

It took me ages to write this. And then when you mentioned that there are perfectly coherent ways of dividing natural vs supernatural it means I’m going to have to change the wording of the whole thing in a complicated way.
Its something to do with a definition of “Natural Law” that forces a christian into a distinction (I’m ok with all events are natural, OR all events are supernatural,but not both happening) that I think is wrong. But we could just assume God is a first cause in random other events other then creation to have the distinction if we want….
So this changes what I was going to say to rush 😦
here it is:
Again this has taken a while! Unfortunately it is not a sign of a well thought through response so much as a sign of these answers gradually taking longer whilst doing this dissertation! This is getting pretty ridiculous for the comments section of a facebook link!
My comment is roughly divided into 3 sections:
– Stuff to do with Natural vs Supernatural
– Stuff to do with my sort of pseudo-falsification posed to attacks on christianity
– A final question about positive reasons for atheism.
So regarding the historicity of Jesus’ death and ressurection. I was asking if it would prove the existence of God if it were true. Do you think that it could Or do you think it wouldn’t even do that?
Regarding natural laws. This may due to my lack of understanding of what counts as a “natural law” and you’re welcomed to refer me to somewhere to read up on it. But I can’t understand a definition of natural law that would allow God to break them and this is why I would say he doesn’t break natural laws. I mean the “Natural Laws” can’t possibly simple mean “Our understanding of natural laws”. If it turns out we find something that breaks “The natural laws” we don’t say its supernatural, we instead change our understanding of what the natural laws are.
I suppose the divide could be “Natural laws dictate what humans can do” and “Supernatural events are only possibly achieved by God”. But then there are biblical accounts of miracles where God enables a human to do the miracle, eg healing through their own touch. I suppose you could then have a divide that miracles are events that can only be achieved through God’s power (I can’t heal anyone through touch whenever I want, but can if God allows me to). But then I have the view that God sustains everything all the time anyway so I wouldn’t be able to accept a divide like this because I’d say even Newton’s Laws happen because of God.
I can’t understand what could possibly be a good definition of “natural order” that would allow a God to break it in the ways outlined in the bible.
Regarding “Would God be worthy of worship if he existed?”. I dunno why that makes his existence a more important claim? Why can’t it just be an “if” that is left there? I don’t know if this is a silly point but isn’t the existence of other minds still debated? Do humans really answer the question “Does my wife really exist” before they ask “Does she love me?”. Ought they?
I mean if there was a good reason to believe my wife or God did not exist, I think that is different. But if there is still an argument raging on both arguments to that question, why not just leave it to one side and deal with more important questions that can be more easily answered for a human?
Regarding falisificationism, I’m definitely not trying to apply pure falsificationism to the existence of God and try and suggest that any of this is science. But I feel that there is an underlying principle that may be applied both ways.
Basically if you say “Extraordinary exidence” is required for “extraordinary claims” without giving an example of what would be a satisfactory set of extraordinary evidence, I feel like this raises similar alarm bells to what Popper felt about psycoanalysis. For example, I have found the historical evidence suggesting Jesus’ death and ressurection to be satisfactory to me. However, most of the good criticisms I have seen levied at the historical evidence seem to attack historical evidence as a whole as not being sufficient for the extraordinary claims of death and ressurection of Jesus. Now this is something I actually accept, I do not feel that historical evidence as a whole is good enough for other people to accept these claims. But I think that as far as any historical evidence could support a claim like this, the evidence for the ressurection is good. I have yet to have seen good attacks on the historical claims that fit within the framework that is consistent.
An example of this is that some people claim that the fact that there are 4 gospels gives us good reason to believe that the ressurection was true as the claims are corroborated. However, some people attack the four gospels citing that there are inconsistencies with the facts between the accounts and therefore we can’t trust any of them. Whereas some people attack the gospels for being TOO similar and therefore they must be copying each other or there must be a 5th Gospel “Q” that is actually the source of all the gospels and so there are not 4 independent accounts but more like 1 or 2. Here the inconsistencies can be used to either support the claims of the gospels or be used to attack them.
So I’d ask, a kind of null hypothesis attitude, what kind of historical evidence ought we see if the claims were true? And do they match up to what we do see?
Does this make sense? (I’ve never managed to communicate the point I’m trying to make with full success)
I’m going to leave the point about the rabbit. I’ve read lots of threads of people discussing whether a precambrian rabbit counts as a true falsifier and all I can do is summarise those discussions, but I don’t actually know what I think. I think your stuff about not being able to go back in time and see the ressurection happen is a good criticism of historical evidence as a whole being problematic, but I have the same issue with that as above.
“Don’t all Christians have to accept that there is an  unquestionable authority?”
The point I’m making is that the answer to this question is the same as the answer to the question “Don’t all scientists have to accept that there is an unquestionable authority?” And the answer is the same for the same reasons. The scientist’s final authority is the external world itself. A Scientist can believe in something with as much consesus as they like, but if the statement is not true of the external world then it is not true. Similarly a theologian can have as many thoughts as they like but ultimately statements about God, if he exists, are either true or false.
However there is a sense where you could simply just say no to both those questions. I also kind of think you don’t need to argue “no” any further for both those questions then simply stating this answer. (Now I do accept that some Catholics think differently, some catholics would see the Pope’s authority as unquestionable. But they are wrong).
I could go into Paul’s arguments that I like, although I do not think that these are neccesarily argument that would convince other people. Certainly they are not about the existence of God and most of them assume some tenets of Jewish law as being true. I think many of Paul’s arguments regarding the inability of the “Law” to fully justify anyone apply to other moral systems though, so I could go into that. However, for fun, I could write up some of the arguments I’ve read recently that I liked?
I’m guessing that your paragraph about God asking you to commit genocide is a kind of attack on “divine command theory” which I’ve only just heard about. This is a whole new area of discussion but I do not think the bible provides a moral code. (I mean, it definitely does, but thats not what is important about it). I think the message of christianity is the “Good news” which is God’s solution to morality as a whole. I think that morality, (be it God’s laws, or utilitarianism, or kantian ethics) do nothing more then reveal guilt. The purpose of the Cross is to free us from moral constraints and allow us to do what it is that we really want. For that reason anyone who accepts any moral code would have, I think, a good reason to hate all christians in theory, even if in practise they wouldn’t need to…
Again… this is a massive tangent, whilst there is plenty of theological support for my position, I’m still having discussions with my atheists philosophy friends about whether its at all consistent.
The final point, that is kind of a deviation. Say I’m someone who already accepts the position that God exists (and that roughly all the tenets of christianity are true). What are the positive reasons that are should move away from this position? I say “positive reasons” so as to exclude answers like “There is not enough evidence”. Instead I’m looking for answers in the form of “Because there is not enough evidence, someone who accepts the position that God exists should reject that position for reasons, X, Y Z). Where X, Y and Z are the positive reasons?

From what I can tell, Occam’s Razor is sort of the main reason?

From Toby:

Hi jamie,

Sitting in my lunch break and had a chance to have a brief look though. Looks pretty good.

As you say, I definitely think you ought to say more about natural laws! I think they can be defined through physical cause and effect relations.

Also, not sure if I can explain this right, but I am a little uncomfortable with the bit drawing similarities between the resurrection and pschoanalysis. It seems to me that if they are similar in the sense that niether counts as popperian science, but I think you are trying to say something different and I don’t quite get it!

Thanks for a cool lunchbreak though.


Why I care about the Calvinism verses Arminianism debate

I ask lots of people their stance on this issue. When I talk about it I usually ask how much they know about Incompatibalism vs Compatibalism (ie a disagreement about whether determinism (usually a more scientific version) and free will are compatible). It seems that there are lots of people in the philosophical world that have moved the discussion forward regarding free will but people in the theological world haven’t caugt up. Usually they would be opposed to the idea of “catching up” as well. So when I talk lots of people ask me the question “Why do you care?”

Here is what I think is my response:

Regarding why I care. I think its a mixture. I do find the CvA debate interesting from an intellectual stand point just because it seems so clear that something is dodgey. Every Calvinist or Arminian I’ve met or read seems to assume incompatibalism without any argument or realisation that they are doing so. So I think this is significant but don’t really exactly know how. It might turn out that that they actually agree with each other for example.

From a more personal level I think there is a “middle ground” that shows a much clearer gospel message to our generation. Whilst I’m more sympathetic to arminianism, I find their solution to the problem of pain (pain is caused by our free will) problematic. 1) There is plenty of suffering that isn’t caused by individuals (tsunamis) and then you end up with a wierd view that our sin causes earthquakes. and 2) many of the pain and suffering that people caused is usually part of a chain of events. In relationships with some of the nastiest guys I know, you can usually see a particular girl that messed them up, and then see someone before that, that messed her up. Rather then “Free Will” I tend to see the world as a series of broken people that can do nothing but break other people, because out of brokenness comes more brokenness.

Telling broken people they need to fix themselves, I think is like telling a depressed person they “just need to be happy”. Instead they need to be “rescued” out of their brokenness. So this leads me to a much more calvinistic way of explaining the gospel.

Alternatively you might argue that 1) isn’t wierd and 2) just means you need to chase back the first cause. Well if you go down this road you’ll probably have to chase it back to the fall. (Whilst I find it wierd that me stealing something now, could cause an earthquake in Japan, I don’t think its wierd to suggest that when sin first entered the world, the whole world was changed in some almost supernatural way). In this case you end up with original sin and you basically have calvinism. You could still possibly argue about whether eve had free will but I think that moves the argument into the very theoretical. For all intents and purposes the people I encounter arn’t free.

And yet… I still think calvinism is wrong. I still think the smug manner in which calvinists say free will is just an illusion is wrong. I think we do have a very real free will that is able to choose Jesus… I don’t think that very real free will is a complete naive libertarian free will but neither do I think the whole “We have free will, but God dictates our will and we then act freely on that” is satisfactory.