Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why do you seek the living among the virtual?

He is not here.
He has risen, just as he said!

10 comments:

Benjamin Ady said...

What are you saying--Jesus isn't on the internet?

Freder1ck said...

Stonehenge is a great touch for an Easter post, evoking the grand cosmic dance and the changing of the seasons!

byron smith said...

No, not today. So go and seek him elsewhere... :-)

The first disciples couldn't find him in the tomb; he found them where they were gathered. Sounds like a good idea.

byron smith said...

Freder1ck - though Easter's about much more than the change of seasons; the new life of spring is an image (a very imperfect one) of Jesus' new life. In Oz, it's easier to not get confused about this because we're going into autumn in any case.

I think I picked Stonehenge because it looks a little like a tomb. I hadn't really thought of the other connotations.

Gordon Cheng said...

Hey Byron, sorry to bust in with a non-resurrection related-comment (I'm a bit anti-easter, but I appreciate the 4 day weekend). I just gave a bit more thought, as promised somewhere or other, to the question of climate change and our response to it as Christians.

You have a fifteen part blog series devoted to it, ending here, and it is good reading too. And I've assumed for practical purposes that you were right about climate change being shaped and accelerated by anthropogenic-related factors, although I am open to the possibility that in 30 years time we may all look back on this period of our lives and laugh at what we assumed to be true; that is to say, my underlying philosophical position on this is that I don't know and I doubt others do.

I am now wondering if we may end up laughing at our assumptions sooner rather than later.

I remain committed to my own position of militant agnosticism, of course. But I remain curious as to whether someone less agnostic, such as yourself, has a theological and/or political contingency plan in case the worst case scenario—that our current practical assumptions about climate change turn out to be risible—are wrong?

My current contingency plan is to say "Yes, I always felt that the current hysteria about climate change was a little bit overplayed", whilst stroking my chin in a manner that would seem wiser if I was also puffing on a pipe.

byron smith said...

Gordon - It's a shame you're not into Easter; I think it's great! I assume you're still into resurrection and God's transformative affirmation of creation, of course.

Do you really think anthropogenic climate change is a line ball? I agree that we can't be certain about these things, but the IPCC puts it at over 90% likely. That's about the same probability I faced 15 months ago that I would now be dead if I didn't receive drastic treatment for cancer. I had people telling me back then that I shouldn't have chemo or radio because they mess you up. It's true that they've had some nasty effects, and also true that they don't always work, that they increase your risk of getting cancer (!) in the future and that they're not much fun. But I'm glad I picked those risks over the much greater no-treatment risks.

So when you say And I've assumed for practical purposes that you were right about climate change being shaped and accelerated by anthropogenic-related factors, I assume the practicality of your response doesn't extend to the general impression one would gain about the importance of the problem from reading your web postings? That is, although your may have altered your behaviour, your words (at least on the web) still seem to be generally cynical and designed to make people think it's not a particularly big issue.

As for the Oz article, I'll start thinking the scientists have changed their minds when respected climate change scientists start saying so, not when the head of a think tank with little directly to do with climate change points out data that has been known for some time and taken into consideration in the calculation of likelihoods. Clouds have been a complicated and not yet fully understood aspect of the models for some time and the uncertainty associated with them is built into the final results of the IPCC. The fact that 1998 was a particularly hot year doesn't undo the startling upward trend of the last few decades (see here for more).

I remain committed to my own position of militant agnosticism, of course. But I remain curious as to whether someone less agnostic, such as yourself, has a theological and/or political contingency plan in case the worst case scenario—that our current practical assumptions about climate change turn out to be risible—are wrong?
Of course: I will praise God! Yet as we discussed back here and here,* I do not think that such a happy eventuality would require any change in my theology. I would still believe that God has made a good world, that part of our self-destructive rebellion against him is to squander his good gifts through unnecessary ecological degradation on a massive scale, that also included in our anti-God self-obsession are both dogmatic environmental scepticism and ecological despair, that the Easter message of a risen Jesus is the basis of Christian hope and ecological action out of love for God and neighbour, and that it's nonetheless possible that should we succeed in destroying ourselves, God can raise the dead. I've said it before and I'll say it again, climate change is not the most pressing issue facing humanity (I'm not even persuaded that it's the most pressing ecological or political issue we face). Nonetheless, the best science seems pretty clear at the moment, and so to continue to ignore the serious threat represented by climate change (especially the threat to those most vulnerable) seems neither wise nor loving. Even if, in God's grace, it should turn out to be a false alarm, I do not think that personal and public moves to reduce our consumption, develop renewable sources of energy and shift to a less-energy intensive lifestyle are wasted efforts. Even if they were costly and did not have intrinsic benefits, I still think that some drastic measures would be called for given our current level of knowledge. We don't know for sure, but we know enough to take evasive action without the need to feel silly about it later if we turn out to be wrong.

I hope that clears some things up. I'm also curious about you. Do you have a contingency plan for the 90% possibility as well as the 10% possibility? Do you have a contingency plan if the icecaps and glaciers keep melting, shifting patterns of rainfall and temperature reduce agricultural productivity, undermine biodiversity and the robustness of ecosystems to cope with extreme events, sea levels rise and increase the frequency and severity of floods, and so on? At what point would you repent of militant agnosticism? What would it take to convince you that this is a serious (though not ultimate) problem for our society?

*NB Speaking of old conversations, I'm still waiting for you to get back to me about this one.

Grace & peace,
Byron

Gordon Cheng said...

Hey BS,

thanks for the long response, which I will read through a couple of times more. On the NTW thing, I did what I promised back on that post, which is to go away and have a think. No comment-blogworthy thunks, though, I fear.

Just a quick one:

Do you have a contingency plan for the 90% possibility as well as the 10% possibility? Do you have a contingency plan if the icecaps and glaciers keep melting, shifting patterns of rainfall and temperature reduce agricultural productivity, undermine biodiversity and the robustness of ecosystems to cope with extreme events, sea levels rise and increase the frequency and severity of floods, and so on?

I would just keep doing what I'm doing now. Reading my Bible, praying, reducing, reusing, recycling, loving my family, loving my neighbour, preaching the gospel, bein' a backwoods preacher man; givin' the Lord...a hand (Tony Joe White).

Why? Would you have me do more?

byron smith said...

I would just keep doing what I'm doing now. ... Why? Would you have me do more?
There's one more thing you do quite a bit of which didn't make it onto your list, namely, being a militant agnostic re climate change and spending quite a few keystrokes on promoting it. So I was asking what it would take for you to change that part of your attitude and behaviour.

Also, in a culture obsessed with ecological crises and yet apparently quite committed to a collective lifestyle of voracious consumption that seems to help cause them, I wonder whether preaching the gospel might also include (in some contexts) addressing the present situation of fear and greed with God's gospel of peace and grace.

I did what I promised back on that post, which is to go away and have a think.
The way I read it, you made two promises on that post, one in your last comment and one in your first. ;-)

Gordon Cheng said...

So I was asking what it would take for you to change that part of your attitude and behaviour.

Wet feet?

I dunno. I tend to take these things a day at a time. When I wake up and discover that the weather seems to be pretty much like it was this time last year, it encourages me to keep going in my MA (militant agnosticism).

I expect that some time between now and 30 years from now, the evidence will be overwhelmingly and I will be clearly tipped into the category of either scoffers or ark-builders.

The way I read it, you made two promises on that post, one in your last comment and one in your first. ;-)

Ah, the 50 bucks! If I find I can score a couple of discount tickets for next time my choir is singing, I'll let you know. The amount you save should cover the debt ;-)

Just that I'm not trusting PayPal at the moment, I think my computer's got a virus.

byron smith said...

Wet feet?
A little like giving up smoking once you start coughing up blood? Or applying the brakes once you see the airbag inflating? :-)