Although the course was entitled "God and Reason", any pretense that reason was an important consideration was abandoned in this talk, which was just straight Christian evangelism. I found it pretty hard to stomach. As usual, I report what was said, with my comments in brackets.
Beyond reason: Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37). There are 3 aspects of humans: heart, soul, and mind. Loving God with our mind is an obvious challenge [for] students. Tennyson: "There is more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds", which shows that we should think about our faith and not just mumble dogma over and over. Doubt springs from a kind of faith.
[No, it doesn't. Doubt is the opposite of faith. Faith is believing in the absence of evidence; doubt is saying the evidence is insufficient.]
In my [North's] field, all my literary heroes are Christians: [Edmund] Spenser, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Gray, Bronte, Tennyson, Browning, Hopkins, e. e. cummings, Dickinson. Pascal: the heart has its reasons. It is the heart that experiences God and not reason. Pascal was one of many renowned scientists and academics who were Christians. This shows it is possible to be a Christian and be respectable intellectually.
[Who doubts that? But all of the people Prof. North named lived in predominantly Christian societies, so it is not very surprising that most of them were Christians, any more than it would be surprising that literary heroes who wrote in Hebrew or Yiddish would mostly be Jews.]
[A name conspicuously absent from North's list is Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was expelled from Oxford and lost custody of his children after he published The Necessity of Atheism. How many people of those times would have dared to admit they were atheist, considering the consequences?]
[This reminds me, by the way, of a talk that Michael Higgins gave at Waterloo 6 years ago. Speaking of atheists, Higgins said, "We [Catholics] used to burn them", and this got a good laugh. Just imagine if he had said the same thing of Jews! I doubt there would be much laughter. This shows the double standard that our society has for believers and non-believers.]
John Henry Newman (1801-1890). Wrote The Idea of a University and An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. In the latter book he argued that scientific standards for evidence and assent are too narrow and inapplicable in daily life. Logic and its conclusions are not transferable to real-life decision making. "Logic is loose at both ends" - it initially depends on restrictive assumptions and is thus unable to fit its conclusions neatly into real world situations.
- I can believe with understanding
- I can apprehend (beyond belief) or intelligently accept without understanding
[By the way, the points above that Prof. North presented seemed to be taken more or less verbatim from Wikipedia, without citation. But maybe Prof. North wrote the Wikipedia article, I don't know. I haven't read Grammar of Assent. All I can say is, the process of science relies very little on formal logic. The manner in which scientists actually reason, which is based on forming hypotheses, figuring out how to test them, being skeptical of claims and even more skeptical of one's own beliefs, and consilience, is very useful in daily life, and I use it all the time.]
He objected to claims like "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe in something and are true to yourself." [But who makes claims like that? Of course it matters: "It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it." (Edwin Way Teale)]
Prof. North claimed that hospitals in Egypt are "notorious for routinely using black Christians for body parts" and that this is "well-documented". [Perhaps; I am hardly an expert about this. I found this article and, later, this one. I don't know exactly what his point is. After all, Egypt is a strongly religious and monotheistic society. Furthermore, Israel has been accused of similar practices.]
Prof. North talked about his petition against sex selection used in "partial birth abortion". He seemed to imply this was happening routinely in Canada. [I am not aware of this.]
Prof. North said: "Consider"
- if Jesus is the creator of the universe, who exists beyond time, then he is able to relate to each human being intimately & uniquely
- if Jesus does love the world as a group & each individual then he will answer the private prayer of a child or an adult
- if Jesus respects our integrity, he will let us turn away from him
- He is both a macro and micro God
[Well, this is just babble. What does it mean to "exist beyond time"? Why does "existing beyond time" say anything about a desire or ability to relate to us? Why must it mean he will answer prayer? What about all the prayers that are not answered? So much foolishness!]
Prof. North said:
- every little child is worth the world
- even aborted ones through partial-birth abortions
[Again with the partial-birth abortion business; he seems very preoccupied with this. Well, if every little child "is worth the world", why does the Christian god let so many of them die of starvation, disease, and natural disasters?]
Prof. North said:
- of the thousands of people I have ministered to as a volunteer at the local hospital, almost note have said they don't believe in or hope for an afterlife.
[Well, I have no doubt that there is some self-selection going on here. Probably non-believers would not want to talk to a Christian evangelical on their deathbed. I know I wouldn't.]
Prof. North said:
- rich people donate more near the end of their lives, in order to ensure hope in the afterlife.
[Well, that could be one possibility. But another possibility is that people dispose of their assets when they realize they won't need them.]
- forgiveness is the basis of faith and is the basis of all relationships
[No, it's not. Most of my relationships are not based on "forgiveness" - the relationships I have with my students, colleagues, tradespeople, physicians, and so forth.]
"Without the shedding of blood there is no remission..." (Hebrews 9:22)
[More foolishness. We routinely forgive people without the shedding of blood.]
Prof. North discussed a student of his, Kelly, who read Don Knuth's book "3:16" at his suggestion and became a Christian. [Unfortunately I missed the punchline because Prof. North spoke so quietly. He asked his student, Kelly, why she had changed her mind, and she said, [inaudible].]
"The only forgiveness big enough is the death of God himself."
[This makes no sense at all. The Christian god is immortal, and so cannot die. Jesus is either not god, or he didn't die. And how does someone else dying forgive anyone else's sins? I am at a loss why anyone believes this stuff.]
Loving with one's soul:
- our soul might be described as our self-hood, our unique nature, our gifts and talents
- the Lord walks and talks with each of us in a unique way, at a depth no one else can
- Hence this is companionship of the most profound kind
- I [Prof. North] have a deeper relationship with God than with my wife
[Well, I am really glad that I am not married to Prof. North. I would be profoundly insulted if my spouse told me she had a deeper relationship with some imaginary being than with me. ]
Prof. North then described how he prayed to help the people of Africa in some way. Later his prayers were answered, because he was able to connect some people who invented a technique for laying plastic pipe cheaply from a helicopter with the government in South Sudan, so now the people of Juba will have fresh water that they never had before.
[Well, this is, on a superficial level, a nice story. But who would fail, given the opportunity to connect people together to achieve social good, to do the connection? It has nothing to do with religion. And the belief that you are somehow so special that a god would deliberately deprive hundreds of thousands of people of fresh water just so you could have the virtuous feeling of helping them -- well, it simply beggars the imagination. I fail to see how a Christian, who invests so much in "humility", could think that his prayer is at the root of what has occurred, or that the whole situation is somehow positive! Why didn't his god simply put a good freshwater lake down near the people, instead of working through John North?]
- "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)
- "knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7)
- "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)
[But, for gosh sakes, if you don't, then have fun rotting in hell forever. Yes, that is really "gentle".]
- "You shall hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:21)
- "Know that I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20)
- "Your sin and iniquities I will remember no more" (Hebrews 8:12)
There is no such thing as a "good Christian". "Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15).
[Sounds like a recipe for suicide bombers to me.]
Prof. North concluded the series with these suggestions:
- read the bible (gospel of John, particularly)
- find fellowship
- ask for prayer of others
- "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)
- "Study to show yourself approved of God" (2 Timothy 2:15)
- accept the call to good works.
[Not much "reason" here. Just lots of god-talk.]
[I didn't stay for the questions, because I don't like being preached at.]