Marilynne Robinson’s universalism

by Kim on April 16, 2016

“Is it conceivable that the God of the Bible would shackle himself to the worst consequences of our behavior? Reverence forbids… I know the refutation. If salvation is universal, what about Hitler, Stalin? Well, hard cases make bad law. I am not willing to open an abyss, conceptually speaking, just to accommodate Hitler and Stalin. It is surely perverse to construct a whole cosmology around them. Thus begins the casuistry, as it used to be called, that provides hell with so many other tenants. My thoughts on the ultimate disposition of the great villains and monsters of history might incline me to curtail my conception of grace. The cost would be too high.”

Marilynne Robinson, from “Theology”, in The Givenness of Things (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), pp. 216-17.


Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,
Nothing but bones,
The sad effect of sadder groans:
Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.

For we considered thee as at some six
Or ten years hence,
After the loss of life and sense,
Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.

We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;
Where we did find
The shells of fledg’d souls left behind,
Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.

But since our Saviour’s death did put some blood
Into thy face;
Thou hast grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.

For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
As at doom’s-day;
When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.

Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust
Half that we have
Unto an honest faithful grave;
Making our pillows either down, or dust.

Apologies for my techno-inability to reproduce Herbert’s formatting!


Hymn of the day

by Richard on February 21, 2016

A change from Wesley today…

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and him who reigns with them in highest heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Martin Rinkart, tr. Catherine Winkworth


For us like any other fugitive,
Like the numberless flowers that cannot number
And all the beasts that need not remember,
It is to-day in which we live.

So many try to say Not Now,
So many have forgotten how
To say I Am, and would be
Lost, if they could, in history.

Bowing, for instance, with such old-world grace
To a proper flag in a proper place,
Muttering like ancients as they stump upstairs
Of Mine and His or Ours and Theirs.

Just as if time were what they used to will
When it was gifted with possession still,
Just as if they were wrong
In no more wishing to belong.

No wonder then so many die of grief,
So many are so lonely as they die;
No one has yet believed or liked a lie:
Another time has other lives to live.

October 1939


Hymn of the Day

by Richard on February 14, 2016

Jesus! the name high over all,
in hell, or earth, or sky!
Angels and men before it fall,
and devils fear and fly.

Jesus! the name to sinners dear,
the name to sinners given!
It scatters all their guilty fear,
it turns their hell to heaven.

Jesus! the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
and bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
and life into the dead.

O that the world might taste and see
the riches of his grace!
The arms of love that compass me
would all mankind embrace.

His only righteousness I show,
his saving grace proclaim;
‘Tis all my business here below
to cry: ‘Behold the Lamb!’

Happy if with my latest breath
I might but gasp his name;
preach him to all, and cry in death:
‘Behold, behold the Lamb!’

Charles Wesley


Gravity waves and theology

by Richard on February 12, 2016

I’m still not finding the space for blogging that I’d hoped for. But here’s a good piece on the announcement that gravity waves have finally been observed.

Mind you, I have to say that gravity waves seemed like old news to me. I saw them years ago on Star Trek.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on February 7, 2016

What shall I do my God to love?
My loving God to praise?
The length, and breadth, and height to prove
And depth of sovereign grace?

Thy sovereign grace to all extends,
Immense and unconfined;
From age to age it never ends;
It reaches all mankind.

Throughout the world its breadth is known,
Wide as infinity;
So wide, it never passed by one,
Or it had passed by me.

My trespass was grown up to heaven;
But far above the skies,
In Christ abundantly forgiven,
I see thy mercies rise.

The depth of all-redeeming love
What angel-tongue can tell?
O may I to the utmost prove
The gift unspeakable!

Come quickly, gracious Lord, and take
Possession of thine own;
My longing heart vouchsafe to make
Thine everlasting throne!

Charles Wesley


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 24, 2016

Christ, from whom all blessings flow,
Perfecting the saints below,
Hear us, who Thy nature share,
Who Thy mystic body are.

Join us, in one spirit join,
Let us still receive of Thine;
Still for more on Thee we call,
Thou Who fillest all in all.

Move and actuate and guide,
Diverse gifts to each divide;
Placed according to Thy will,
Let us all our work fulfill.

Sweetly may we all agree,
Touched with loving sympathy,
Kindly for each other care;
Every member feel its share.

Never from Thy service move,
Needful to each other prove;
Use the grace on each bestowed,
Tempered by the art of God.

Many are we now, and one,
We who Jesus have put on;
There is neither bond nor free,
Male nor female, Lord, in Thee.

Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all!

Charles Wesley

{ 1 comment }

Who is Christ

by Richard on January 21, 2016

Rowan Williams gives the second in a series of lectures. You’ll need to listen attentively, but your effort will be repaid.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 17, 2016

Thou God of truth and love,
We seek thy perfect way,
Ready thy choice to approve,
Thy providence to obey:
Enter into thy wise design,
And sweetly lose our will in thine.

Why hast thou cast our lot
In the same age and place?
And why together brought
To see each other’s face?
To join with softest sympathy,
And mix our friendly souls in thee?

Didst thou not make us one,
That we might one remain,
Together travel on,
And bear each other’s pain;
Till all thy utmost goodness prove,
And rise renewed in perfect love?

Surely thou didst unite
Our kindred spirits here,
That all hereafter might
Before thy throne appear;
Meet at the marriage of the Lamb,
And all thy glorious love proclaim.

Then let us ever bear
The blessed end in view,
And join, with mutual care,
To fight our passage through;
And kindly help each other on,
Till all receive the starry crown.

O may thy Spirit seal
Our souls unto that day,
With all thy fulness fill,
And then transport away!
Away to our eternal rest,
Away to our Redeemer’s breast!

Charles Wesley


Bedroom tax fears confirmed

by Richard on January 14, 2016

From the Joint Public Issues Team

Announced quietly, on the last day of Parliament in 2015, the findings from the Government-ordered evaluation of the bedroom tax make disturbing reading. 75% of those affected are cutting back on food.

The bedroom tax was one of the most controversial and widely condemned policies included within the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2012. When the policy was announced in January 2013, the Government stated that the bedroom tax could be changed if it had unforeseen impacts. Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches later created this briefing explaining why the bedroom tax, alongside other changes to housing, posed a serious risk of increasing inequality and poverty.

The new research, conducted by Ipsos MORI and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning, has confirmed campaigners’ fears. Among other findings:

  • 78% regularly run out of money by the end of the month
    for the control group not affected by the bedroom tax, the figure of those who cut back on food was the lesser figure of 56% proving the direct link between the bedroom tax and lack of food
  • 46% have cut back on heating
  • Only one in nine found alternative accommodation – this cuts against the stated purpose of the bedroom tax to compel tenants to downsize to smaller properties

A government spokeswoman was quoted as saying “It is wrong that under the previous system taxpayers had to subsidise benefit claimants to live in houses that are larger than they require”. Yet the research supports previous claims that smaller properties are simply not available in the needed quantities.

With affected individuals having to do without food and heating, the bedroom tax is a recipe for ill-health. We have also blogged on how the Prime Minister’s previous claim that disabled people are exempt from the bedroom tax is simply untrue.

The Government’s preferred term for the bedroom tax is the spare room subsidy – with the implication that tenants with one or more ‘spare rooms’ are enjoying more space than they deserve. To encourage claimants to move, the bedroom tax comprises an ‘under-occupancy penalty’ of 14% of housing benefit for one extra room and 25% for two or more extra rooms. Among all the policies introduced in the last round of welfare reform, the punitive nature of the bedroom tax was particularly marked.

In short, the bedroom tax is a risk to people’s health and is mean spirited and punitive. The Government should honour its commitment of January 2013 and review it – or better, scrap it.



by Richard on January 11, 2016


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 10, 2016

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Charles Wesley


View post on

From The Washington Post (via Facebook)


“Normal weather is a thing of the past”

by Richard on January 6, 2016

So says Professor Myles Allen, who leads the climate research programme at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. Given that I had to mow my grass just after Christmas, and had cherry blossom alongside my Christmas lights, I’m inclined to believe him.

Here’s the interview, on yesterday’s BBC R4 Today programme


Epiphany cartoon

by Richard on January 6, 2016

Visitors to the Wise men


The Guardian:

The Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University (NYU) School of Law recently published a report summarizing a survey of economists with climate expertise. The report was a follow-up and expansion of a similar survey conducted in 2009 by the same institute. The key finding: there’s a strong consensus among climate economics experts that we should put a price on carbon pollution to curb the expensive costs of climate change.

The survey participants included economists who have published papers related to climate change “in a highly ranked, peer-reviewed economics or environmental economics journal since 1994.” Overall, 365 participants completed the survey, which established the consensus of expert climate economists on a number of important questions.


A new low in US Presidential campaign?

by Richard on January 5, 2016

obama wants your guns

With all the focus on Donald Trump, I’d almost missed just how deep idiocy runs among the other Republican candidates. I say idiocy, but that’s surely too kind a word for this latest bit of campaigning from Ted Cruz. Mother Jones points out the striking resemblance to a bit of WWII propaganda, which I’m sure was entirely unintentional.

obama nazi stormtrooper


From The Independent

David Cameron has been urged to “come clean” over the role the UK Government played in voting Saudi Arabia on to the UN Human Rights Council after the kingdom’s execution of 47 people in a single day sparked outrage across the Middle East.

The leaders of the Liberal Democrat and Green parties have demanded a public inquiry into whether the UK was involved in a secret vote-trading deal in 2013 to secure both countries a place on an influential UN panel.

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks last year purported to show that UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support.


Hymn of the day

by Richard on January 3, 2016

The return of a connexions tradition

Come, let us anew
Our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still, till the Master appear;
His adorable will
Let us gladly fulfill,
And our talents improve
By the patience of hope, and the labour of love.

Our life is a dream,
Our time, as a stream,
Glides swiftly away,
And the fugitive moment refuses to stay:
The arrow is flown,
The moment is gone,
The millennial year
Rushes on to our view, and eternity’s here;

O that each in the day
Of his coming might say,
“I have fought my way through,
I have finished the work thou didst give me to do!”
O that each from his Lord
May receive the glad word,
“Well and faithfully done,
Enter into my joy, and sit down on my throne!”

Charles Wesley