Magic, science and religion

Most magic is essentially the same as religion: it is a human attempt to contact the supernatural and, perhaps, manipulate it. Most magic seeks to achieve ends by getting supernatural beings to bypass the normal workings of nature. Religion also seeks supernatural aid, although the purpose is usually more lofty (to do with the afterlife or basic sustenance, not overt power) and the means involves more veneration. Also, generally, the being involved in religion is on a broader scale than those involved in magic: gods are generally conceived as being bigger, more universal, and more powerful than the demons, ghosts or spirits called upon in magic. But these are differences of degree or emphasis, not of fundamentals. (more…)

Did Christianity really decline?


The Death of Christian Britain

The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding secularization 1800–2000
Callum G. Brown
Routledge, London and New York, 2001, 256pp.

It’s an ironic title, is it not? After all, Britain is still, obviously, a place where a mainstream publisher will take on a book which is entirely about the social significance of Christianity and which argues against the assumptions of secularist theory. Moreover, the first chapter, which describes “the Christian churches in crisis”, quotes,


Bagging the masons

Couldn't Help Noticing, Life

Is this a new trend in religious advertising? A local newsagent has advertising printed on its paper bags—not so unusual in itself (The Sydney Morning Herald has an ad on one side). But surprisingly the Freemasons have now started advertising in this way. Describing their social responsibility, dedication to charity and community, the organization is encouraging people to inquire, presumably about joining. For a group traditionally shrouded in secrecy, this seems a remarkably public recruitment drive. Next we’ll be hearing details of the secret handshake …


Calling the shots: Science and ethics collide


Scientific breakthroughs are big news these days. Scientists discover the gene for this or that disease; new drugs let you lose weight or feel happier or pay attention; there are techniques to make babies for infertile couples or grandmothers; and soon we’ll be able to give grieving parents an exact copy of the child who died. What is more, we all have the absolute right to all of it.


Designer Cells


Darwin’s Black Box:
The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution

Michael J. Behe
The Free Press, New York, 1996.

For a Science book to win the Christianity Today ‘Best Christian Book of the Year’ is somewhat surprising. Despite the chatty style and simple analogies, this is a book with technical biochemical descriptions of some difficulty. What relevance has this to Christianity? In scientific detail, probably not much. The relevance is in the implications of the thesis, particularly in the highly creationist-sensitive American context. Behe claims he has found a fatal flaw in Darwinian evolution—that because of discoveries in microbiology, Darwinian evolution simply cannot be true.


Can you feel it?


Jonathan Edwards is something of a celebrity in theological circles these days. He is revered by American writers as one of their greatest sons. In the controversy over charismatic ‘manifestations’ (such as in the Toronto Blessing), he has often been quoted as a reformed evangelical who was in favour of extraordinary emotional outpourings, and who promoted revival, with all its sometimes unruly accompaniments.