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Contemporary Western culture sees itself as broadly liberal, a value framework which has given us democracy, the rule of law, toleration, human rights and a market economy – all things to be grateful for. With the collapse of Communism, there was an air of self-congratulation.  Some spoke of the ‘end of history’, since we in the West had the best system and nothing could improve on it. But then came Islamic terrorism, the financial crash, Brexit and Trump - the rise of populism, and much elite angst. To address this, Patrick Deneen, an American academic at Notre Dame, has written Why Liberalism Failed and it became the basis for one of our lunch discussions. Deneen’s project is interesting, since his thesis has gained traction on both the political left and right, with many agreeing across party lines that there is a crisis afoot.  Deneen first describes how the crisis of liberalism has come to the fore. First, there is the economic insecurity and inequality brought on by globalisation – factory jobs lost to China, for example. Then we see social dislocation brought on by family breakdown and immigration. There is then a need to deal with the consequent distrust in government....

Joshua Kellard introduces John Eliot, the Cambridge graduate whose work as a translator and missionary visionary in 17th century New England was well ahead of his time.  Jesus College, Cambridge, with its 12th Century chapel, cloistered courts and sleepy wooded surroundings, does not seem a likely springboard for a globe-trotting missionary pioneer; certainly not one who would find it necessary, just 10 years after leaving his college, to abandon the Church of England and seek a new life in a young colony perched on the edge of the world then known to his people. But appearances can be deceptive, for this is the path that John Eliot was to take.  Born in Widford, Hertfordshire, in 1604, John was the third child of Bennett Eliot and Letesse Agar. Being a yeoman and possessed of some lands, Bennett Eliot was able to send his son to Cambridge as a pensioner (fee-paying student), and he graduated BA in 1622. He narrowly missed being contemporary with Oliver Cromwell (who left in 1617) and John Milton (who arrived in 1625), but would have been aware of the poet George Herbert, who held the chair of University Orator from 1620 to 1627.  While little is known about the years...

Adrian works with Pilgrims & Prophets Christian Heritage Tours and Bassetlaw Christian Heritage to promote interest in the Christian history of Lincs and Notts. His most recent book, Restless Souls, Pilgrim Roots, tells the story of the Christian faith in these two counties. The year 2020 was meant to be the big commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower but Covid had other ideas, and so the mass events and supposed millions of American tourists have never happened. This is not to say that nothing has happened. What has filled the void is a host of people who have used the occasion to float their own ideas with little regard to the motivating issues of Christian faith and worship that caused Carver, Brewster, Bradford et al to set sail in the first place. Various places in England have jostled for the dubious position of being the most ‘significant’ in the story, and various causes have shouted themselves hoarse to turn the Mayflower story to suit their own purposes. Issues like the persecution of Native Americans and Slavery have been thrown into the mix (somewhat illogically, as they came later) whilst in America there is always controversy to be...

  Isaac Watts lived through a time of collision between traditional Christian faith and the forces of 'Enlightenment'. How he engaged with, critiqued and adapted to the veneration of reason is fascinating and still instructive. In this webinar, Dr Graham Beynon, Watts scholar and pastor, profiles this fascinating man, his thought and his times.   ...

As part of our Cambridge Characters series, Joshua Kellard introduces Beilby Porteus, sometime bishop of London, and vociferous opponent of the Slave Trade. The youngest but one of 19 children, Beilby Porteus grew up in relative wealth and privilege. His parents were natives of the colony of Virginia, and owned a vast tobacco-growing plantation, worked by African slaves. By the time Beilby was born, the family had relocated to York. In those days, Cambridge had something of a reputation for drawing scholars from the northern counties and, aged 17, Beilby was admitted as a sizar (i.e. a student who worked in order to pay tuition fees) of Christ’s College. The 17th Century was marked by intellectual rebellion against Christianity. As the breakers of the European Enlightenment pounded on English shores, and the tide of unbelief swept into the universities, many students found it difficult to stay afloat. Porteus, however, emerged from his studies strong in conviction, was ordained to the ministry, and proceeded to a string of fulfilling church appointments, including Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, bishop of Chester and bishop of London.  Two aspects of his ministry as bishop deserve special mention: his pioneering involvement in the movement to abolish...

Barbarism rarely reveals a bare face. It finds room in our hearts under the generous cover of  ‘modern values’, it spreads with the aid of euphemisms and half-truths, and it covers its tracks with the conscience-numbing virtue of non-judgementalism. But barbarism is with us: quiet, determined, and just occasionally splashed across the opinion pages of national newspapers.   I’m referring here to Rebecca Reid’s defence of the killing of unborn children for any reason whatsoever in the Telegraph last month. The background was the UK Government’s unprecedented move to allow women to obtain pills which would kill their unborn child without the need for an in-person medical consultation. The ‘pills-by-post’ scheme enables women to obtain mifepristone and misoprostol, the two chemical agents used in so-called medical abortions, and to self-administer them at home if they are less than 10 weeks pregnant.  In her article, Reid responded to news that Christian Concern had hired actors to make ‘mystery shopper’ type calls to abortion providers Marie Stopes and Bpas in order to gauge the kinds of reasons for which women were being sent the means to abort. The callers used false names, dates of birth and gestational periods and were, without exception, able to obtain...

A kerfuffle was precipitated this week when it emerged that Chloe Clark, an English professor at Iowa State University, had threatened to dismiss students from her classroom for voicing views contrary to her own on gay marriage, abortion, and the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). This is what her initial syllabus notes for English 250 stipulated:  “GIANT WARNING: any instances of othering that you participate in intentionally (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, body shaming, etc) in class are grounds for dismissal from the classroom. The same goes for any papers/projects: you cannot choose any topic that takes at its base that one side doesn’t deserve the same basic human rights as you do (ie: no arguments against gay marriage, abortion, Black Lives Matter, etc). I take this seriously.” It is, to be sure, a demand for intellectual subjugation far more frank than the usual indirect fare offered in the humanities. The statement also quite plainly contradicts its own call to forsake ‘othering’ as it effectively marginalises and censures any student wishing to express dissident views. To its credit Iowa State University quickly addressed the situation in line with its code on the First Amendment’s provisions...

Kevin Moss is a Christian Heritage trustee and PhD candidate in intellectual history. Earlier this month, I wrote a short piece about the toxic impact of ‘cancel culture’, especially as it is impacting upon higher education.  It is worth noting that the introduction of reductionist ideologies within the secondary school system means that we are churning out undergraduates who are ill-equipped to cope with the free intellectual environment that hitherto characterised our Universities.  Analogically,  ‘Foot-binding‘ was a historical and disfiguring practice conducted in China, only finally abolished in the early 20th century: its victims were no longer able to walk naturally and freely.  It is quite likely that the shackles of reductionism may have a similarly constraining impact upon intellectual development, but labelling academic freedom as the ‘problem’ misses the point by a wide mile.  Academic freedom can only be a ‘problem’ to students who are suffering from a societally-induced pathology, disabling the exercise of critical faculties, and subverting the capacity to tolerate opinions other than their own. Of course, those who have the greatest interest in fostering or supporting cancel culture are the same people most likely to deny that it exists.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago documents the painstaking lengths to which the Soviet...

Kevin Moss is a Christian Heritage trustee and PhD candidate in intellectual history. ‘Cancel Culture’ may not be new, but it’s suddenly gone mainstream.  Perhaps it’s a secondary symptom of the COVID-19 virus. It seems that those who are doing the ‘cancelling’ are keen that our awareness of what is going on needs drastically paring back.  Colin Wright, an evolutionary biologist, has written at quite some length, in order to document his own experience at the hands of the mobs who seem to control social media.  The irony here is that scientists who are Christians have, for many years, found themselves ‘cancelled’ (or existed under the threat thereof) for any public dissent from the presuppositional naturalism which has been used to weaponise the biological sciences against the very (theistic) worldview which gave rise to them.  Suddenly, those of atheistic or agnostic persuasion, are discovering that this toxic ideology has quietly morphed into something that is far more dangerous to Western intellectual culture, and has the capacity to bring the whole house of cards down. Well, evolution’s a bit like that. Of course the intellectual viability of the scientific project was always wholly dependent on its theistic foundations.  To mix my metaphors;  since Darwin, the...

Kevin Moss is a Christian Heritage trustee and PhD candidate in intellectual history. Like most organisations, the implications of some kind of post-COVID-19 reboot for a charity I support are enormous.  Running a visitor centre, where people have the temerity to move about, requires immensely detailed precautionary measures.  Visitors have the right to feel safe, but so do our staff, and therefore how does one introduce sufficient structure and control to limit undesirable social contact, when the whole point of the exercise is to welcome people and interact positively, constructively with them?  That’s not going to happen whilst wearing hazmat suits, or by steadfastly hiding behind polycarbonate screens, or by spraying anti-viral agents on anything that has a pulse. And so, we plan, we plan . . . The precise content of new instructional signage.  The location of the automatic hand-sanitiser dispenser.  The types of masks to be stocked, and who gets to wear them.  How we get people in and out of the Visitor Centre through the same door, whilst at the same time minimising contact.  How we manage movement around an open, round, internal space.  How we deploy new signage or barriers without at the same time completely vandalising the unique experience...