Upcoming Events
  • Mon
    27
    Feb
    2023

    Is God Necessary for Meaning?

    +++

    with Andrew Fellows

     

    on

     

    Monday, February 27th at 7.00pm

View All Upcoming Events

Articles

Joshua Kellard, Outreach Coordinator at Christian Heritage, continues our series on the University.  Discussions of the mission of the University are always ethical in character: they are concerned with how we ought to live. Specifically, they are concerned with what we ought to do, and why, in the context of higher education. What are the proper goals of the University? What is it for?  The Magna Charta Universitatum documents claim that the University has a universal and rational mission. But if we wish to maintain this, we will need an ethical framework which can justify the University’s activities, showing them to be good. But the fact remains that not every worldview is able to ground the University’s mission in moral reality. In the last post, we saw that secular humanism, committed to the idea of an uncaused and amoral universe, struggles to ground any moral values which are universally valid. It is just not clear how the humanist can move from a description of things that are, to a prescription of how things ought to be. If human beings are the source of all moral values, then ethics will be as changeable and relative as we are. One implication of this worldview-enforced...

Johann Georg Hamann is the key Enlightenment thinker that you don't generally get to hear about. He had critiqued Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason before that seminal work was even published. He analysed the key, self-defeating weaknesses in Moses Mendelssohn's capitulation to a secular worldview, and predicted the danger that this would lead to for the Jewish people in Germany. He was admired by Goethe, Schelling, Schlegel, and Kierkegaard, and was a significant inspiration to that great man's philosophical work. In this webinar, Dr John Betz (University of Notre Dame) talks about how Hamann is a great example of how Christians engage thoughtfully with culture, and asks whether he could be a model for us as we seek to be salt and light in a collapsing society.   ...

Joshua Kellard is Outreach Coordinator at Christian Heritage, Cambridge.  The most important questions about the University are ethical: those that include words like ‘ought’, ‘should’ and ‘must’. What ought the University to be? What kinds of good should it pursue? Which beliefs must we hold in order to ground these goods in something more than whim? What we say about good and evil, about the purpose and meaning of human activity, dictates what we are able to say about the mission of the University.  While this is a basic point, it is surprising how often it is ignored in discussions of higher education. It is far easier to talk about the University in the pre-packaged terms of the culture wars, or make vague appeals to ‘human flourishing’ than it is to explain what the University should be for, and why. Big questions like these have a tendency to take us to the very roots of our worldview, and therefore into uncomfortable territory. I suspect that is why the question of ethics is usually kept at a safe distance from discussions of higher education. In philosophical terms, there is always the danger that dealing with ethics might force us to confront our metaphysics...

Joshua Kellard is Outreach Coordinator at Christian Heritage, Cambridge. A ceremony described as ‘once in a generation’ took place last week, as university officials from across the world gathered virtually on June 16th to celebrate the signing of the Magna Charta Universitatum 2020. The document reaffirms and develops a 1988 charter of the same name, and aims to declare what universities are, what they should stand for, and how they should operate in our 21st century. It is an ambitious statement, and should give pause to those of us who believed the days of global declarations to have reluctantly given way to institutional emojism and hashtaggery. Video may have killed the radio star, but it would seem that the draw of the ‘Big Charter’ lives on.  To anyone interested in universities, the declaration, and its predecessor, repays a close reading. In this post, my concern will be to introduce the two documents and their key ideas, before probing some of the assumptions behind them in the second, and then going on to provide a short response from a Christian perspective in the final instalment.  The Background The 1988 Magna Charta Universitatum was written to coincide with the 900th anniversary of Europe’s oldest University, that of...

Kevin Moss is Director of Operations at Christian Heritage and a PhD candidate in intellectual history. According to Oliver Wiseman, The Critic’s US Editor (‘Out of this world?’, March 2021), 66% of Americans believe that there is life on other planets, 57% believe there is intelligent life on other planets, and just under 50% believe that UFOs exist and have visited the earth.  This tells us a great deal about how beliefs are now formed in a postmodern world. Firstly, one is reminded of G. K. Chesterton’s famous quotation: ‘When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.’  Our culture supplies an apparently inexhaustible stream of examples of what happens when we dispense with the only external objective benchmark of human identity or morality, and morph overnight into a generation of selfie-obsessed narcissists without the faintest clue as to what we actually are. Secondly, the presumption in favour of the inevitability of life on other planets is palpable evidence of the way in which evolutionary theory has become the vehicle for advancing the unscientific philosophy of Naturalism.  Despite everything that is now known, quantifiably, about the vanishingly minute probability...

Kevin Moss is Director of Operations at Christian Heritage and a PhD candidate in intellectual history. I’m afraid I was a bit of a late developer when it came to reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus, The Gulag Archipelago. In the end, won over I suspect by Jordan Peterson’s emphasis of its significance, in 2017 I bought the condensed volume which incorporated all three instalments of Solzhenitsyn’s monumental treatment of the phenomenon of the Soviet Gulags. My review on the page linked above will hopefully convey my sense of the utter relevance of what is described here. There are several layers to a work such as this. One is as a record of a particular period in history, describing a cultural phenomenon which happened on the other side of the world, and which, in its sheer scale and brutality is almost beyond Western comprehension. The Wikipedia listing of the Gulag camps is a helpful first point of reference, as it powerfully conveys the scale of the whole machinery of oppression, reminding us that this is very far from being the kind of minor consideration that is of little relevance. Solzhenitsyn makes it clear that there is a very specific kind of human pathology...

Kevin Moss is Director of Operations at Christian Heritage and a PhD candidate in intellectual history. In the wake of the recent insanities on Capitol Hill, I have taken to re-reading Gertrude Himmelfarb’s excellent book, On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society. Published in 1994, it is perhaps unlikely that Himmelfarb (who died towards the end of 2019) would have anticipated these events, as unlikely as it would have been for John Stuart Mill to have anticipated the outworking of his thesis, On Liberty, the book which has been a foundational influence on modern liberalism. Mill’s work benefits from a very clear-sighted critique in Chapter IV of Himmelfarb’s book, entitled Liberty: “One Very Simple Principle”? which demonstrates that the kind of reductionism at the heart of On Liberty has not weathered the passage of time very well. Indeed, the clue to the fundamental weakness in Mill’s optimism about liberalism is to be found in another of his essays, Nature, written only a few months before he commenced On Liberty. It would be difficult to find two views of human nature which had less in common, but it was the naïvely optimistic one which prevailed, because it was...

Kevin Moss is a Christian Heritage trustee and PhD candidate in intellectual history. One of the many joys of historical research is that one gets to meet great minds that have somehow fallen through the cracks of popular history.  One such, for me, has been Johann Georg Hamann (1730-88), a profound German Enlightenment thinker with a propensity for dark and enigmatic writings.  In recent years, there has been a gentle flourishing of translations of his literary contributions (many remain untranslated from the German), and I have recently benefited enormously from John R. Betz’ After Enlightenment, the Post-Secular Vision of J. G. Hamann (2012, Wiley-Blackwell). Hamann’s is an unusual mind, given his context.  He turned from the sterility of continental Enlightenment to a robust, evangelical Christian faith – and in that turning became something of a focus for secular acquaintances who regarded his sincere faith as an affront to their values.  Through their influence, he was introduced to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in the hope that the great philosopher would reclaim this errant Enlightenment heretic, but what actually emerged was an improbable friendship, one where Hamann certainly gave as good as he got.  Essentially, Hamann provided one of the best, and certainly one of...

As modern people, we like to think that we have got things firmly under control. We don't do well, as a rule, with those aspects of life which defy our management - the great realities which resist being tamed. Take the seasons, for example. Traditionally, the ebb and flow of creation's 'appointed times' - seedtime and harvest, summer and winter - ruled our movements, our activities and even our entertainments. These days, our drive to manage everything, coupled with our use of technology, leaves us less aware than any generation before us of the movements of the seasons. If you don't believe me, just ask yourself the following questions: when was the last time you cancelled a trip because of an inauspicious wind? Has your conscience ever smitten you for buying strawberries in January? Has a bad wheat harvest ever ruined your holiday plans? I could go on, but trust that the point is made. Our indifference to the seasons is part of a more general attitude change in regard to time. We see ourselves, we moderns, more or less as 'Time Lords': de facto owners and organisers of time. The suggestion that our activities, entertainments or diets should be constrained by...