ASIAN TSUNAMI: OPINION PIECE AND LETTER TO VILLAGE (IRELAND'S CURRENT AFFAIRS WEEKLY)




WEEK 8 - 14 JANUARY 2005

The editor, Vincent Browne wrote an article 'Some loving God' in which he argued that a tsunami is incompatible with faith in God. "Our rationality and the Bible tell us there is no loving, all-powerful God who intervenes in our lives, who cares for the us, on whom we can depend." (Page 34)

Andrew Furlong's opinion - "To my mind, the world provides conflicting evidence for the existence of a God of goodness and love, so therefore, faith is always a leap beyond reasoned consideration.

I don't know how to reconcile a tsunami with a God of love. It is a mystery to me, but I still have faith. I am conscious of the agony of the thousands of distressed people." (Page 34)

WEEK 15 - 21 JANUARY 2005

Andrew Furlong's letter (page 27)

Vincent Browne presented several stories from the Bible on the basis that all Christians believe them to be historical reports of interventions by God in our world. Yet, he is aware that there has been an explosion of theological research, over recent decades, that radically challenges such an outdated interpretation of the Bible. Not to mention the results of this research, which like research in any subject is contested to some extent, is to deceive readers who may be ill-informed, and to cheat them of the full story.

I was guilty myself of such deception and cheating for many years, because I did not challenge the view that the Bible is inerrant with sufficient determination or transparency in order that that people might become more aware of new theological thinking and the questions it posed for the interpretation of the faith that they had imbibed as children.

My own view now is that it is liberating to have an understanding of the scriptures, not just of the Bible, but also of the holy writings of the other major world faith traditions, which allows me to say,

"that is what people claimed thousands of years ago to be right or to be the will of their god, but what they believed then does not constrain how I think today ".

To my mind, it is part of the dignity and responsibility of being human that we have to work out our moral conclusions and theological convictions ( or delusions as Vincent Browne is entitled to hold), however provisional, for ourselves.

Readers of Village are still in their honeymoon phase, and are becoming more conscious of its strengths and weaknesses, they do not expect perfection. However deception and cheating from a widely known and respected journalist who has a responsibility to work for the success of his magazine, in part at least because his colleagues' livelihoods depend on it, are flaws that need attention.

I admired, once again, the moral concern and moral indignation so evident in his Editorial and the intelligent and lucid presentation of economic facts in relation to world poverty. These are some of Vincent Browne's strengths at both an intellectual level and in terms of moral character. I am not alone in valuing him for them.

(The above letter is a slightly altered version of the one that appeared in Village.)

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