Thursday 29 December 2005


There are traditionally two reasons for sleeping--to refresh the body, and as a memento mori, a preparation for leaving this world and entering the next. Is today's Western busyness part of our denial of death and a world beyond this one? Lauren Winner thinks so in this call to get enough sleep. I hope you do these holidays! See you in 2006.

Send CASE an email

Tuesday 20 December 2005

Christmas wishes

Christmas brings out the deeply serious and the deeply silly in me, so here's wishing all CASE readers a very word-became-flesh focused, theologically sustaining, carol-filled, Narnia-visiting, suitably Aussie (not Aussie), and fun festive season. Join us in 2006 for more courses, lectures and conferences—and a quarterly publication that is back on a quarterly timetable!
Greg Clarke

Send CASE an email

Wednesday 26 October 2005

Intelligent teaching of intelligent design

A perceptive article in today's Higher Education supplement of The Australian newspaper (not online, sorry) brings me to dip my nervous toe into the ID debate. Should the Intelligent Design approach (summary: that irreducible complexity in biological systems is best explained by a Designer) be taught in high schools—either alongside evolution or on its own?
Without being able to comment on the science, my feeling is yes—but only if the teachers have a grasp of both evolutionary theory, creationism and ID. It is rare to find teachers (wonderful people) who have had the time or inclination to stay up to date with scientific developments, let alone new ideas such as ID. These are not simple, static facts that are being passed on to students—they are profound and complex ideas about life's origins and development.
What is needed is a decent ongoing education option for teachers and syllabus directors where they can step back and consider the content of the material. Is it science? Can the theory be explained to high school students or shoudl it be left for uni? Does it require worldview commitments of students and teachers?
In my part of the world, CASE, along with specialised science and religion groups such as ISCAST will need to step up to this challenge.

Send CASE an email

Wednesday 28 September 2005


A friend in advertising, Matt Andrews, alerted me to an Australia Day speech by Lowitja O'Donoghue where, in relation to the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report (about aboriginal children removed from their families), she talks about the spiritual power of saying sorry:

"I myself was one of five children taken from my mother. And to this day I still do not have a birth certificate. The report was a watershed in Australian history. It ended the silence around these experiences – and told stories that were so important to the thousands of people who have been affected. Many found that this was their first tentative step on a journey of healing. It was the catalyst which drew thousands of Australians from all walks of life to formally express their sorrow, and commit to working towards a just and equitable future. And for me it has been a time of forgiveness and a renewal of my Christian faith."

There's a connection to how I've been talking about the Da Vinci Code—I've been saying how sad and sorry I feel about the way the Church is perceived. It is often the point which shifts people's attitudes towards what I am saying about Jesus.

Sometimes, it seems, an apology can be the best apologia.

Send CASE an email

Winning words

We are thrilled at CASE to have picked up two awards from the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA). One was for Tom Frame's feature article on US foreign policy and the reception of the gospel (online at our home page) and one was for my Christmas editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald last year.

Send CASE an email

Thursday 4 August 2005

Water crisis? Us?

The economists can fry my over this one, but the stats are too upsetting not to mention it. Apparently, the amount of money needed per year beyond current spending to provide clean drinking water to everyone on earth is $1.7 billion. The amount spent around the world on bottled water every year is...$46 billion.
Here's a simple idea. Every time I drink a bottle of water (which I do, because it stops me eating junk food—pathetic, yes, but effective), I'm going to put the same amount of money into a box for a water-based charity (e.g. WaterAid. Otherwise, that Mountain Franklin is going to have a bitter ethical aftertaste.

Source: New York Times

Send CASE an email

Monday 13 June 2005

Chasing God

I saw this film on the weekend, after reading very positive reviews of its attempt to explore humanity's defining feature—its near universal belief in a god. The film is just an hour long, more like a final year project than a fully-blown documentary. However, the makers did have access to some great footage and some interesting religious leaders. But it is a film with a mission—to persuade the viewer that all religions are one, and that oneness of humanity is the common goal. Bizarrely, there is no mention in the film of the differences between religions, nor any examination at allof religious texts. The only point of discussion about the content of belief is a section on the different experiences of god that people have had.

This really is head-in-the-sand propaganda under the guise of tolerant spirituality. It isn't going to get us anywhere. It would have been more fruitful to explore how people with profoundly different notions of the divine (god as a person, god as a light, god as the laws of physics) can begin to talk about their differences in a meaningful way. Then we might see some progress towards human togetherness, perhaps.

Interestingly, there was no discussion of Jesus Christ at all, and that is where Christianity alpha-s and omega-s.

Send CASE an email

Tuesday 31 May 2005

Investment and faith

Back after a long hiatus. I heard an interesting paper at UNSW recently arguing that the rise of the Christian Right in America is based on two notions. The first is premillennial eschatology, whereby certain things need to take place in the world (especially in the Middle East) before Christ will return. The second is the strengthened connection between capitalism and Christianity. The speaker summarised this nicely as a shift from the Protestant work ethic to the evangelical investment ethic. Put briefly, debt becomes the tool by which a group can advance its cause in the world. This comes largely from the work of a Catholic economist, Michael Novak (for Novak here...against Novak here...general articles on Christianity and capitalism here and here).
On 15 August, former World Bank economist, Dr Michael Schluter, will give a CASE seminar on "Why the Bible bans interest, and what we can do about it" (more details soon). It should add something to the discussion!

Send CASE an email

Sunday 10 April 2005

Agreeably persuasive

The word of the year at CASE is swasivious. It's a beauty.
According to the OED, it's an obsolete or rare word meaning 'agreeably persuasive'.
That doesn't mean people will always agree with things they read or hear at CASE; but we do hope that the kind of persuasion we are involved in will always seem agreeable. It's a tone thing.

Send CASE an email

Thursday 24 February 2005

About the boy

Using modelling software normally applied to solving crimes, scientists have come up with an image of how Jesus might have looked as a 12 year-old boy.

Do such images add anything to our understanding of Jesus? The temptation is to say no. They tell us precious little about God, God's work in the world, and spiritual truths. However, before writing off its value entirely, an image of Jesus is suggestive of i) his actual existence; ii) his true humanity; iii) something of his emotional make-up (there are at least some vague temperaments you can read from a face; and iv) his 'presence', something that the New Testament mentions briefly (e.g. Luke 2:40, 52).

So, without claiming too much, perhaps an image of Jesus' boyish face might have some value in attracting a person to the really valuable task of finding it who this boy grew up to be.

More images here and here.

Send CASE an email

Wednesday 2 February 2005

Planning for catastrophe

When US judge Richard Posner wrote his book, Catastrophe: risk and response (OUP, 2004), he had no idea that a tsunami would kill 300,000 within months of its publication. However, he would have said (and now has that we should have been more prepared. Posner's basic argument is that there are events which have a very small probability of occuring, but whose impact is so dramatic that it makes sense to get ready for them. To give a crude example, if we knew that a tsunami would hit once every 300 years and kill 300, 000 people, that is 1000 people a year who need to be factored into the defence/health care budget.

Working out how to prepare for such events is difficult, but not impossible. For instance, some say much more money should be spent on asteroid watch and elimination (anyone see Deep Impact?) More generally, it warrants serious examination of global environmental issues such as warming, diminishing oil supplies and species extinction, and whether or not enough is being done about them.

What happens if we apply 'catastrophe planning' to Christian belief. Even if you think there is but a small risk that there is a God to whom the creatures of the universe will give account, what kind of planning might you do to prepare for such a possibility? Would it not be worth expending resources now in order to prepare for possibilities then?

Send CASE an email

Monday 24 January 2005

Being spiritual, being well

A report late last year from a research conglomerate involving Anglicare, Edith Cowan University and others studied the connections between spirituality and well-being. Reading the report, I was struck by how weak the correlations are. It's all quite complex, but the data seems to suggest that being spiritual (rather than religious) doesn't much enhance your satisfaction, sense of purpose or personal growth. If you have orthodox religious beliefs, you are likely to be more optimistic and concerned for others. but if you are "religiously dogmatic" you may have lower self-esteem and personal growth than if you are not.

This makes the apologetic line "Christianity is good for you" hard to maintain except slightly and in some specific areas. It may be better to stick with the approach that looks for the real, the true, the beautiful and the good.

Download the report here.

Send CASE an email

Tuesday 18 January 2005

Converted to what?

Champion of atheism for 50 years, Professor Anthony Flew, has declared at age 81 that he is a theist. There's a fascinating interview with him and Gary Habermas here. I wonder whether Flew is at the beginning or end of his journey.

Send CASE an email

Tsunami apologetics

The discussion has been broad and deep over the problems surrounding God and the tsunami.
I've previously described the cluster of issues called 'the problem of evil' as the hardest question in the world.
Most people feel (or even think) that the existence of evil in the world casts serious suspicion on God's existence.
I'm working on some material on natural disasters for the Case magazine, but here's a question I'd appreciate responses to:
What aspect of God is called into question by evil? Is it his love? His power? His justice?
I'm interested in specific answers.

Send CASE an email

New Year's Resolution

CASE is back from our holidays with a number of heady resolutions.
Resolution #23: To have an entry here every second day.

Oh no, what have I done?
Please keep me to it.

Send CASE an email