Tag Archives: Romans 1

Greed and need

Our neighbours and pastors admire us (but not usually our families).  We get promotions.  And nobody notices that we are sick, sick with the covet parasite.  The very people who ought to be taking us to the doctor are making us sicker than ever. (page 63)

If we keep the first commandment well and the last commandment well, all the commandments between are protected: love God, love your neighbour. (page 63)

The parable of the barn builder is an expose of greed: using what we have to get more instead of giving more away; using our position or good as a means for getting impersonal power rather than giving away love.  The story is a small pebble in our shoe that gets our attention the moment that our life of love of God and others begins to work itself into the manipulation of power over others.

All our wealth is grace-wealth.  We are never power wealthy, money-wealthy, influence-wealthy.  We are love wealthy. (page 63)

Poverty is the condition in which we do not have what we need to live adequately; to discover our urgent need for God, and so acquire energy to learn the language of prayer.  Wealth is the opposite condition: we have far more than enough, and in the process of building a barn that can handle the “more than enough” our language is emasculated of the personal and relational.  We lose our basic sense of neediness, God-neediness, and lose both interest and fluency in the language of prayer.  In our preoccupation with bigger barns we forget about asking for bread for our friend.  But as this story sinks into our imagination, making plans for building a huge barn suddenly seems like pretty small potatoes compared to tasking for three loaves of bread for a friend. (page 64)

Merton’s Palace of Nowhere – Part 5 – False Self Seeks God

On how the false self seeks God:


“Let them claim that the world has a definite meaning: but that they do not know what the meaning is.  Let them claim life has its obligations: but they do not want to find out what they may be.  They assert that the gods are all quite real, but they do not want to have anything to do, one way or another, with divinity.  Rightness, piety, justice, religion consist, for them, in the definition of various essences.” Page 74


Merton calls this group the “right thinking.” God never excites them, for they are only excited when one of their definitions is threatened or when they come up with a new definition that especially pleases them. (page 75)


On Promethean Theology (after Prometheus who attempted to steal fire from the gods)


“The Promethean instinct is as deep as man’s weakness.  That is to say, it is almost infinite.  It has its roots in the bottomless abyss of man’s own nothingness.  It is the despairing cry that rises out of the darkness of man’s metaphysical solitude – the inarticulate expression of a terror man will not admit to himself: his terror at having to be himself, at having to be a person.” (page 75)


One common expression of Promethean theology is the “save my soul” spirituality, which holds that the Christina life is an effort carried out against unbelievable odds.  Christian life is like the struggle of Sisyphus pushing his stone up the hill.  It is God who has made the hill steep.  It is God who sees to it that the stone is heavy.  It is God who makes sure that the stone never reaches the top of the hill.  The fires of God’s life merge with the fires of hell which God supposedly places like a flickering sphinx between himself and his creatures who dare to approach him.  Entrance into heaven is said to be gained by tricking the devil, “by getting into heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”  In this system salvation is gained only by tricking God.  Our sinfulness places us on a greased pole going down into hell.  But, by a superhuman effort and a final barrage of highly efficacious prayers, we can manage to trick God into letting an unwanted sinner into his kingdom.” (page 76)

The Divine Go



Also remarkable is the way that Abram is called when he is old, and quotes Craig Groeschel who says “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”


But you don’t go by sight, you don’t get to know what is happening.


Looks at Terah who goes on the journey and can’t leave, and stops at Haran, which like Ur (according to Ezekiel) is known for idolatry.


Abram goes into the land and builds altars, which is the beginning of prayer and worship in a regular way, and illustrates that to go out, we also have to go up.


Jesus comes to Abraham’s land many years later and he sends people out saying “I will be with you” – this is the with God life, it always sends you out, and always means that we have to rely on God to be out there.


Great passage where he says (although can’t find this)


Abraham was the wrong age – and God says “Go”

Moses has the wrong skills – and God says “Go”

Gideon was from the wrong tribe – and God says “Go”

Ruth was from the wrong nation

Rahab was from the wrong profession

Joshua was sent to the wrong city – and God says “Go”

Desiring the Kingdom – Part 1

More specifically, I want to distinguish liturgies as rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations.  Admittedly this might include rituals not associated with traditional religions (e.g. rituals of Nazi facism or other rituals of totalising nationalism); indeed, expanding our conception of what counts as “worship” is precisely the point.  Our thickest practices – which are not necessarily linked to institutional religion – have a liturgical function insofar as they are a certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desire for what we envision as the kingdom – the ideal of human flourishing. (page 87)


So one of the most important aspects of this theology of culture is first a moment of recognition: recognising cultural practices and rituals as liturgies.  We need to recognise that these practices are neutral or benign, but rather intentionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people – to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms. (page 91)


On apocalyptic literatures capacity to unmask rival kingdoms: (page 92)

Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world.  Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of the cleverly engineered “miracles” (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples – all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion.  In the context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4.  The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.  (from Richard Bauckham)

Pleasures and Sorrows of Work – Part 1 – Biscuits

(from page 42)

The supermarket will never again let the shifting axis of the earth delay its audience’s dietary satisfactions: strawberries journey in from Israel in midwinter, from Morocco in February, from Spain in Spring, from Holland in early summer, from England in August and from the groves behind San Diego between September and Christmas.  There is only ninety-six hours’ leeway between the moment the strawberries are picked and the moment they start to cave in to attacks of grey mould.  An improbable number of grown-ups have been forced to subordinate their slot, to move pallets across sheds and wait in rumbling diesel lorries in traffic to bow to the exacting demands of soft plump fruit.


(from page 44)

This gargantuan granary is evidence that we have become, after several thousand years of effort, in the industrialised world at least, the only animals to have wrested ourselves from an anxious search for the source of the next meal and therefore to have opened up new stretches of time – in which we can learn Swedish, master calculus and worry about the authenticity of our relationships, avoiding the compulsive and all-consuming dietary priorities under which still labour the emperor penguin and Arabian oryx.


(from page 76)

Manoeuvres which one might briefly have carried out on one’s own in the kitchen (readying an oven, mixing dough, writing a label) had at United Biscuits been isolated, codified and expanded to occupy entire working lives.  Although all employment at the company was ultimately predicated on the salve of confectionery and salted snacks, a high percentage of the staff were, professionally speaking, many times removed from contact with anything one might eat.  They were managing the forklift trick fleet in the warehouse or poring over the eighty or so words written along the side of a typical packet of salted nuts.  Some had attained extraordinary expertise in the collection of an analysis of sales data from supermarkets while others daily investigated how to ensure a minimum of friction between wafers during transit.


(from page 78)

During a series of often bewildering conversations with members of staff, I came to realise that a Paretan utopia was now a realistic prospect at United Biscuits.  But however great the economic advantages of segmenting the elements of an afternoon’s work into a range of forty-year-long careers, there was reason to wonder about the unintended side effects of doing so.  In particular, one felt tempted to ask – especially on sombre days when the eastward bound clouds hung low over Hayes – how meaningful the lives might feel as a result.


(from page 82-83)

The company headquarters might have borrowed its aesthetic from a roadside motel, but only because, unlike the inhabitants of Versailles and the Escorial palace (distracted as they had been by thoughts of God, power and beauty), the leaders of the biscuit company harboured no doubt as to the divinity they were worshipping.


Perhaps for this reason, I was to encounter no jokes at any biscuit’s expense.  The minders of the Ginger Nut and the Rich Tea , of the Jaffa Cake and the Moment, resembled a flock of patient grave-faced courtiers ministering to the needs of a nursery of wilful infant emperors.


Adam’s Return – Part 10 – Liminality

Liminal space is a concept refined by Victor Turner in his classic study on initiation and ritual.  The Latin word limen means “threshold”.  Liminality is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where people can begin to think and act in genuinely new ways.  It is when are betwixt and between, have left one room but not yet entered the next room, any hiatus between stages of life, stages of faith, jobs, loves or relationships.  It is that graced time when we are not certain or in control. (page 135)


Many spiritual giants try to live their entire lives in permanent liminality…It can take the form of monks, nuns, hermits, Amish withdrawal, and dropouts of various persuasions, but softer forms too, like people who do not watch TV, people who live under the level of taxable income, people who make prayer a major part of their day, people who deliberately place themselves in risky situations, which is to displace yourself. (page 136)


Remember, it is the things that we cannot do anything about, the fateful things, and the thins we cannot do anything with, th useless things, that invariably do something with us.  These are the only times when we are not at the steering wheel and someone else can teach us and lead us. (page 137)


One of the most effective ways to avoid liminal space is to be quick, efficient, successful, and goal-oriented.  Or to be super-religious on the Right or super-correct on the Left.  In either place you will only reconfirm all your crutches, addictions, and false securities.  (page 139)


The most common substitute for liminal space is “liminoid” space.  It superficially looks like liminal space, but it isn’t.  Nothing new happens here, only a confirmation of the old.


The liminoid is a movement into trance and unconsciousness so nothing real will be revealed and the shadow has no possibility of showing itself.  Victor Turner calls this ceremony, as opposed to true ritual.  True ritual, like true drama, always creates a catharsis, or emotional cleansing.  It reveals instead of disguises.  We love ceremony, the liminoid, because it asks so little of us except to show up, yet it allows us to think we have done something significant.  Religion comes to require only attendance, serving as a mere spectator sport.  We fear true ritual, at least I do, because it demands psychic and personal participation, and maybe even a change of mind or heart.  Basically, the liminoid allows us to remain our trance.  (page 141)


Initiation is a deep yes to otherness, instead of any superficial self-assertion or self-denial.  This is why both Jesus and Buddha mistrusted acts of mortification, dietary laws, or any religion of heroics.  They are usually liminoid, experiences passing for liminal.  (page 141)


As the Jewish tradition brilliantly intuited: if at least one-seventh of life is not consciousness, presence, and naked human being, the other six days will be caught up as human doings that have little depth, meaning, or final effect.  If at least one-seventh of life s somehow Sabbath and sabbatical, the rest will take care of itself.  Without daily, weekly, and yearly choices for liminal space, our whole lives eventually become liminoid and we up just doing time.  (page 142)

Jeremiah and the Cisterns

Jeremiah And The Cisterns

29th August 2010


‘Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.

Many may not have rationalised it. May not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it. It therefore conditions and colours their social attitudes. Alienation expresses itself in different ways in different people. It is to be found in what our courts often describe as the criminal antisocial behaviour of a section of the community. It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics. Of course, it would be wrong to say it was the sole reason for these things. But it is a much greater factor in all of them than is generally recognised.

So spoke Jimmy Reid, in his Rectorial address to Glasgow University in 1973.


Many many years, back in the dusts of an ancient civilisation

In a time where people spoke strange languages

In a spot that is still there,

A prophet stood and he shouted out words, to describe the alienation of his people

I don’t know how he came upon these words

It may have been something of a trance

Or it may have been that in his own creative gifts he assembled the words

And the Spirit of God confirmed within him that he had found the truth.

Anyway, he spoke of the same things as Jimmy Reid had in 1973 during his address as Rector.

Something is broken

Something has dulled us

Something is empty

Jeremiah went further than Jimmy Reid

He went beneath the social degradation

The violence

The unjust taxation

He went beneath that and discerned a community

Which had lost its umbilical connection with the mother who had birthed it

A wife who was no longer on speaking terms with her husband

A relationship that broken in its most fundamental degree.

And the prophet stood on that dusty street, and he said his words

And they have echoed down through the ages,

Even as far as our gathering this morning.

Never Introduced

There was once an atheist (I think it was George Bernard Shaw, but struggled to find the quote) who was once asked why he did not believe in God, and he answered “We have never been properly introduced”.

There is a tendency to think that our alienation from God is kind of God’s fault,

His fault for lack of clarity.

I was reading on Facebook this week someone talking about faith.

I take comfort in science and the quantifiable evidence it can provide as opposed the blind faith of religion. Others feel the opposite and neither is fundamentally right or wrong as we will never be able to disprove religion though religion can, in theory, be proved. (All it would take is for God to pop by for a visit. )

I believe that Jimmy Reid and Jeremiah and that guy in Facebook were all describing a similar thing, this alienation.  This sense that God is not here.

But where Jeremiah takes us in a different direction, is that he insists the problem is not a logical one, it is not a question of finding the best argument,

It is down to a moral flaw in us.

They are both in verse 13,

We have forsaken God, the fountain of living waters

And hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that hold no water.

Wanting Away

It is a stunning charge for us to hear, for the people of God

“You have forsaken God”

There is a part of us, that wants to be away from where we are now

There is a malicious discontentment

It runs away from the present moment – we move fast

It wants out of the constraints of living – we drink much, we eat much, we get our highs

It wants away from responsibility , from ownership, from being needed.

It is the pain of living, and we want away.

Now this is not the same as wanting to things around us to become more

It is being fundamentally dissatisfied with who we are and where we are, even though it is the right place for us to be.

It is like those strange Michael Jackson impersonators you get on the X-Factor, unable to live with who they are called to be, they become a grotesque, frightening impersonation of someone else.

Ultimately this is rejecting of the kindness of God,

That God alone cannot be left to the job of keeping us and guiding us.

We need another agent, we need to take control, we forsake God.

And when we forsake God, we run away to other Gods.

Going To Other Gods

The second charge is this

Not just that we abandoned God, but that we went after other Gods.

There was an offer of water, and instead of taking it,

We said, I will collect water for myself, the cistern may be broken

But I want that water.

I have a friend who whenever he or someone he knows is tempted to look at another woman, he says “Drink water from your own cistern”

In verse 11, it says “Has a nation ever changed its gods”

One writer has suggested that other nations would never want to change their gods,

Why would they want to do such a thing, because when your gods are undemanding, why would you want to leave them, but the God of Jacob, Isaac, the God of Jesus, he calls and summons us to something big.

“But the grace which gave much asked much; it demanded self-surrender.  And without self surrender on the part of those who received it, grace became an empty word.  No other nation changed its god, non-entity though that was.  Israel forsook Yahweh because the relation to Him was full of ethical content… Yahwism had this iron core on it.  The iron core was that Israel could only have Yahweh on his own terms.  Yahwehism was no colourless faith, it laid a curb on men, it had a yoke and bonds.  The bonds were those of love, but love’s bonds are the most enduring and the most exacting.”  Adam C. Welch

Other gods

The ancient gods of Romans and Greeks,

Venus, the God of love

Mars, the God of war

Exist today in more subtle forms

Venus the God of love, the God of lust, the god that persuades us that joy is the perfect physical form unveiled for us –

Mars the God of war, the god that convinces us that fulfilment lies in conquest, in victory, in ascending in power above other mortals, the god of promotion

Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, of knowledge

Dyonisius, the god of pleasure

Hestia – the god of the home, quite literally the domestic goddess

Hera, the goddess of marriage, women and childbirth

Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty

Of people who worship these gods, the Bible through Jeremiah says:

“went after Worthlessness and became worthlessness”.

And then there is the god of the self:

Even sometimes we wish to install ourselves as God, as shapers of our own destinies.  I sometimes draw back from rhetoric that says “You can be whoever you want to be” – no you can’t.  We are frail, limited creatures.  The only people who say these things are the winners of talent contests, not the 20,000 people who didn’t even get to boot camp; and even the winner of the talent contest will stop saying it three years down the line when they have lost their record deal.

I was listening to Boyd Hilton the TV critic (who writes the TV reviews for Heat) saying that his favourite form of comedy at the moment is “atheist anti-religion humour”.  Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais, Robin Ince all have major sections of their acts which are dismissive or religion.  Stephen Fry, who I really love, has been dismissive of religion also.

And I do wonder if what is behind these people striving for their to be no god, is not a careful reasoning of the arguments but a need for self to be God.


Jeremiah probes beneath our alienation, our frustration at the hidden god,

And says “Let us first face your abandonment, your chasing after other gods.”

And the antidote to this abandonment of God, and running after other gods

Is to ask a question

It is a question that appears in verse 6, and verse 8

It is to honestly ask the question “Where is the Lord?”

In alienation, the response is not to try and try and manufacture faith for ourselves

It is to honestly ask the question “Where is the Lord?”

This has spoken to me a lot this week.

Because for a while now I too have been carrying this sense of alienation.

It is wrong to imagine that people like me have this kind of hotline to God.

And I have been trying to ask the question “Where is the Lord?”

There is a perception sometimes that questions are the enemy of faith.

There is a scene in a film called Cinema Paradiso, set in 1950s Sicily, where the hero Toto is in Church, spots the woman he loves, Elena, arrive at the confession box to make confession, this woman is phenomenally beautiful and Toto needs to be with her, he needs just the chance to talk to her.  So he has an idea, he will rush into the priests portion of the confession box; but he needs to distract the Priest, so he enlists the help of his friend, an old man called Alfredo.

This is how Alfredo distracts the Priest:

“Father Adelfio” he says “I have a very serious doubt that is torturing my soul.  And you’ve got to help me, because I’ve lost all peace of mind”

We cut back to Toto, talking to Elena, and then back to the priest Father Adelfio and Alfred,

And the Priest is distraught, crossing himself, almost whimpering, and the scale of Alfredo’s doubts, and what are these non-permissable doubts

“I know, but the miracle of the loaves and fishes, for example I think about it a lot, how is it possible…”

And the Priest continues to be appalled.

And this plays into a serious conception about religion.  It is the job of the people to have ordinary lives, with ordinary doubts; and the it is the job of the priest to be certain, and to police the people so that they have no doubts, it is their job to wander about with their hotline to god, and their comfortable certitude; whilst everyone else asks questions.  And even the smallest of questions, what about the loaves and fishes, is a grave sin.

It’s not like that.  I too am plagued from time to time with doubts.

Sometimes fearful that I have made the right career choice.

That haunting alienation from others and from God.

The exact thing I must do is ask questions.

I can resonate with the experience of the improbably named Revered Adam Smallbone.  Vicar of St. Saviours in the Marshes in the TV series Rev.

The end of the last episode of the series was about his alienation and disintegration

He is at a party where his bitterness with life,

His sense of failure in ministry

His alienation from the sense of God

Erupts in a furious argument with his wife

He drunkenly makes a pass at the local primary school headmistress

And when walking home, having been told to leave, tries to pick a fight with a local gang

Before being picked up by the police.

The police though do not take him to the cells but to a local high rise flat,

Where high up, on what looks like the fifteenth floor, they need Adam to visit a man who is dying of cancer.

No one else they sense is qualified to deal with this man’s deepest need

Because beyond his physical pain is the need to resolve his alienation from God

And so Adam administers bread and wine

And in this profound act, a drunken disillusioned priest, a dying man

Bread and wine

God becomes present.

And Adam is summoned back to himself

Away from his lustful pathetic wanderings,

And his false gods of drink and of lust and of self

Called back to God

I thought about this a lot this week when I too

Struggling with my own sense of alienation

Met with a man who is very ill

And as he lay in his bed, my alienation felt all the more acute, my questions thundered through my head

And just as they reached the crescendo this man lying there said

“I’ve no stopped believing, I’m ready to meet my maker”

Our sense of alienation is met in a resolve to return

To ask the question “Where is the Lord?”

Do you feel alienated, empty, distanced,

Have you had your share of the worthlessness and false promises of nothing gods

Then make your return.

Jesus, the dying man who at the last cried it is finished, and gave up his spirit to God

Loves all his children with unbreakable love

Turn to him

His arms are wide

And his burden is light.


How to wreck your life

The old gods have not gone away, they have just gotten sneakier.

Prosperity masks our idols and crisis reveals them.

The question is not “Do we have idols, but which ones do we have?”  Ortberg names eight:

1. Money

2. Success

3. Being smart – bragging about degrees

4. Attractiveness – often a lot of pain and attention and anxiety given to this one

5. Relationship.  This one is a little more subtle.  It is about the place that we can give certain relationships.  There is a book called “If you can’t live without me, how come you’re not dead”, which is about the obsessional nature of relationships.

6. Pleasure – what we call addiction, the Bible calls idoaltry.  So many of the rituals and dynamic around addiction are about worship

7. Church – a big problem in Jesus’ day

8. Work –  people trash their lives over work.

Then Ortberg asks 10 questions that allow us to mark against each of these, and work out which is our idol

1. Which of these do I find myself thinking about the most? Look over those eight. Which one of those
eight occupies your minds? Because our idols are what we tend to daydream about. We just think about
them a lot. Which one of those eight do you think about the most?
2. Which one of those do you most fear losing or feel like life might not be worth living if I did not have
this, if I lost that? Which one of those tempts you to feel that way?
3. Which one of these idols most gives me a sense of identity? Which one most makes me feel that
because I got this or am this, I’m somebody? Which one of those most gives you a sense of identity?
4. Which of these do I most look to, to make me feel secure? Which one are you most tempted to gain a
sense of security from? Put a little check mark next to that one.
5. Which of these eight do I most want to be known for? Again, it could be success or a relationship or
having money or something.
I was talking to one of my best friends. I have known this guy for 30 years. We went to grad school
together. But we were talking about grad schools we applied to, and I was telling him about one that
rejected me, but I implied if I really wanted to get into it, I could have gotten into it. Now, why do I do
that? Well, I have an idol problem. It’s embarrassing and goofy to talk about it, but it’s just in me.
6. Again, as you look at those eight, which one of those eight most causes my emotions to go up and
down? …makes me happiest when I have lots of it, makes me saddest when it’s threatened. Just put a
check mark next to that.
7. Which one of those would other people who know me well say is my most likely idol? Which one of
those items of the people who know me…because other people, they see that stuff in me. Well, just put a
check mark to it. Which one would other people say is probably your idol?
8. Of those eight, which one do my efforts most tend to revolve around? Because we give our behavior,
our actions, toward our ultimate priority. Which one of these do I sacrifice the most for?

Tim Keller, in his book “Counterfeit gods” quotes two scholars who say that the central organising principle of the Bible is the rejection of idolatry.

The cost of the idols

1. They will cost you gods purpose for your life.  The idol has no greater purpose for you, it only wants the best of you, or it will make you like itself – added by Neil

2. They will exhaust you – “thou shalt perform”

3. The idol will not give you what you need the most.

Faith As Currency

and in a more general sense, those of the entire Modernist Enlightenment project.

The positivistic, materialist ground of the (Western) economic globalising project has morphed. In the late 20th century, it appeared as inevitable, ‘natural’, destined and irrefutable fact. Now it looks dodgier than a penalty award to the Old Firm.

‘Currency’ is now in question; but this is revealed as being other than it earlier appeared: that which is ‘real’, empirically measurable and rational.

Up until the 70s, money was to all intents and purposes, real. It could be touched, weighed, quantified and encompassed by real, physical, enfleshed bodies.

During a difficult re-election campaign, President Richard Nixon (at the time largely unnoticed) loosed money from its physical bounds into the boundlessness of virtuality. He cut the link to the Gold – or as Mark C. Taylor would insightfully coin (sic) it – the Go(l)d Standard. In the 80s and 90s and in all global financial centres, technology enabled the culmination of this in the digitisation of money. The signifier became free from its signified.

In virtuality, the material ground for day-to-day existing became digitised, ephemeral. Futures, Hedge Funds, Options, Credit Swaps proliferated and took on the role of defining the terms of positivistic, rational existence.

But currency, even when loosed from any reference to physical material (gold)  still retained a degree of physicality. Though virtual and fluid, currency, at least in terms of the zeros and ones of digital information, was physically measurable in electronic pulses. We thought this was the most essential base material which grounded our existence.

But we were mistaken. Now, towards the end of the ‘Noughties’,  it’s not these zeros and noughts that are the most basic foundation of our economic system. Instead, we realise it’s faith; belief; or to be more specific, ‘confidence’.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of ‘confidence’ is a ‘feeling’ (emotional) or ‘consciousness’ (awareness):

“A feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances , eg. ‘had perfect confidence in her ability to succeed’; ‘met the risk with brash confidence.’ “

But a second definition is additionally necessary:

“faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way, eg. ‘have confidence in a leader.’ “

More pertinently, the etymological root of  ‘confidence’ is ‘faith’, con-fidere or rather ‘faith-together’ shared faith.

At this juncture in human history, the li(f)e-blood of that which sustains and will ensure human history, that of banks, pension funds, government coffers, is a matter of pure Faith, Trust, Belief, Assumption.

No-one who understands even the reductive, positivistic basis of contemporary secular religion, Scientific Materialism and its touchstone (or creed) of the Scientific Hypothesis should really be surprised.

The basis of ‘rational’, ’empirical’ ‘fact’ is the hypothetical-deductive Scientific Method:

1. Use your experience: consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations. If this is a new problem to you, then move to step 2.

2. Form a conjecture. When nothing else is yet known, try to state an explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook.

3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow?

4. Test : Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2. It is a logical error to seek 3 directly as proof of 2. This error is called affirming the consequent.

(author’s italics inserted)

The value and reasonable applicability of such a (logically sensible) process should not be disputed or denigrated, least of all by this author. This is how after all, modern, secular truth is brought to birth.

However, it’s beyond deniability (or should that be ‘falsibility’?) that the precursor to all that we rightly celebrate as knowable, ‘certain’, ‘dependable’ and rationally verifiable as ‘truth’ or ‘fact’ is a ‘ con-jecture’, a ‘pre-diction’ (‘saying before’), an assumption,  naked belief, faith; even if this factuality is seen as provisional and open to being revised or changed at some point in the future by further research, experiment and testing.

Thomas Kuhn observed as much in his famous essay on ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,’ pointing to how in order to move any such knowledge forward, the current worldview and its assumptions are taken as given.

And the most powerful computers have to make an assumption that what has been ‘verified’ before is true and can be trusted. If even such a advanced computer had to re-check every calculation, fact, statistic, element in its calculations (ie. every accomplishment of knowledge) before embarking on the next stage of advancing and furthering the boundaries of knowledge, even possessing the most powerful memory or computing power, it would never be possible to move beyond merely confirming the past.

At root, any scientifically, rational truth is a prayer, a hope that the true kingdom might appear via formulation, becoming the definitive ‘Word’.

‘Reason’ is hailed as the greatest achievement of Western thought. Yet even this which is taken to be the most honest, accurate and ‘reasonable’ basis of truth can now be seen as being essentially no different from the fashionably denigrated truth of faith, which has grounded and sustained the rest of human history.

The blessing (or curse?) of humanity is that the future, rather than the past, is what calls and beckons us. To rely only on the provable consigns us to the past. Today, again, it’s becoming clear that only faith can enable a future. Not what ‘has been’ but what ‘might be’ is more important: proof or promise?

Religion, or better, Faith, is most interesting says Mark C. Taylor, when it’s not talked about, when it appears to be least present. The present-day newspaper and TV reports on the ‘Credit Crunch’ demonstrate this. The F-word doesn’t get mentioned. It wouldn’t be polite or pee-cee. So, not much F-ing still, there’s quite a lot of Blind-ing.

Oh, and did I omit to mention earlier, that the $ (dollar sign), that universal symbol for currency, is a contraction of I.H.S. aka. Jesus?