Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Swaythling Problem- Looking At Notional Results

With my drawing up notional results completed, I now need to look at one problem with them.

There was once the era when:

Every boy and every gal, That’s born into the world alive, Is either a little Liberal, Or else a little Conservative

By the 1950s and early 1960s there politics was basically the Conservatives and Labour. Yes, there might be a small group of Liberals, but really we had a two-party system.

So, to all intents and purposes you knew that if boundary changes moved a group of voters from constituency A to constituency B they would vote the same way regardless of which constituency they were in. No tactical voting.

When we draw up notional results, we make the assumption that people would vote the same way under proposed constituencies as they did in the real constituencies. But these days there is tactical voting and targetted seats.

To take the extreme example- the proposed seat of Brighton Pavilion which I looked at when I considered the proposed South East England constituencies.

The real seat of Brighton Pavilion was narrowly won from Labour by the Greens' Caroline Lucas. With the new proposed seats, Brighton Pavilion is altered by the transfer of two wards of Brighton & Hove City Council. Firstly, Regency is moved into an expanded version of the current Hove seat. And secondly, Moulsecoomb & Bevendean is picked up from the current Brighton Kemptown.

When we draw up notional results for Brighton Pavilion we effectively assume that if the proposed constituencies for the May 2015 general election had been in place for the May 2010 general election then the Greens there would have fought an odd campaign. In Hove they would be extensively focussing on just the Regency ward in a seat they wouldn't stand a chance of winning, while in Brighton Pavilion it'd be all hands to the recycled pumps- except for the Moulsecoomb & Bevendean ward, which could be the ward that makes the difference between a Labour MP and a Green MP.

There is another example, very locally, that is connected with tactical voting. And this is the constituency I live in, Southampton Test, which picks up one Southampton City Council ward (Swaythling) from Romsey & Southampton North to form a new Southampton Test, which is only 32 voters short of the maximum allowed.

The new Southampton Test is drawn from two very different constituencies. Romsey was a safe Conservative seat when created for the May 1997 general election, but the Liberal Demcorats won it in a by-election in May 2000, and it was a close Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginal at the June 2001 and May 2005 general elections. Probably many Labour-leaning voters went tactically for the Liberal Democrats to keep the Conservatives out.

Southampton Test is often considered a bellwether seat, oscillating between the Conservatives and Labour. However, in May 2003 the Liberal Democrats overtook Labour to be the largest party on Southampton City Council- a situation which remained until May 2006 when the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats tied on 16 seats each. With the large student population, and a council led by the Liberal Democrats, at the 2005 general election I was seriously thinking Southampton Test would be another of those Liberal-Democrats-gain-from-third-place seats. At the very least I expected them to push the Conservatives into third place (which they nearly did) and to then pick up enough votes from disillusioned Labour supporters and tactically-voting Conservative supporters to go on and win Southampton Test at the next election (at the time, elections were normally 4 years apart, so I expected that one in June 2009 to coincide with the European Parliament ones).

But what about Swaythling? Well, drawing up notional results tells us that this ward would have brought in plenty of Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters, and not many Labour ones. But this is in part due to Romsey & Southampton North being a seat Labour can't dream of winning.

The notional results give a proposed Southampton Test that would have seen a smaller Labour majority over the Conservatives, and a larger Liberal Democrat vote, than the real Southampton Test. It is possible that there were Labour voters who might be natural Liberal Democrat supporters but voted tactically to keep the Conservatives out but might have voted Liberal Democrat if they felt that party was in with a chance of winning.

Suppose that it were indeed the proposed Southampton Test in existence at the 2010 general election, then what would be of use to the parties and voters? The notional results for the 2005 general election would be used.

Note that I am not talking about what the 2005 general election would have been if the 2010 constituencies had been used, but what the 2005 general election would have been if the 2015 constituencies had been used.

Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher drew up the notional results of the 2005 general election based on the real 2010 constituencies. For Southampton Test they got:

  • Labour- 18,022
  • Conservatives- 10,205
  • Liberal Democrats- 9,826
  • Others- 2,714
  • For Romsey & Southampton North they got:

  • Liberal Democrats- 19,217
  • Conservatives- 19,013
  • Labour- 4,816
  • Others- 1,025
  • Remember these are the notional results of the 2005 general election if the current (not proposed) constituencies had been in place.

    Now look at the actual result of Southampton Test of the 2010 general election;

  • Labour- 17,001
  • Conservstives- 14,588
  • Liberal Democrats- 9,865
  • Others- 2,733
  • The notional results for Southampton Test (the 2010 result projected onto the 2015 constituency) we have are:

  • Labour- 18,006
  • Conservatives- 16,548
  • Liberal Democrats- 12,937
  • Others- 3,330
  • The difference between the notional 2010 results and the real 2010 results are:

  • Liberal Democrats- 3,072
  • Conservatives- 1,960
  • Labour- 1,005
  • Others- 597
  • What does this difference represent? The only thing that has changed is the inclusion of Swaythling, so these are, as near as we can get them, how the good people of Swaythling voted in the 2010 general election.

    The next step is to look at the actual result in Romsey & Southampton North (including Swaythling):

  • Conservatives- 24,345
  • Liberal Democrats- 20,189
  • Labour- 3,116
  • Others- 1,289
  • We can now calculate the percentage of each party's supporters who were in Swaythling, and then multiply that by the Rallings & Thrasher notional result for Romsey & Southampton North- this gives us the number of Swaythling voters for each party at the 2005 election:

  • Liberal Democrats: 19,217 x (3,072 / 20,189) = 2,924
  • Conservatives: 19,013 x (1,960 / 24,345) = 1,531
  • Labour: 4,816 x (1,005 / 3,116) = 1,553
  • Others: 1,025 x (597 / 1,289) = 475
  • This shows us something interesting about the Labour vote- just under one-third of the Labour vote in Romsey & Southampton North comes from Swaythling.

    We now add these to the Rallings & Thrasher notional results for Southampton Test:

  • Labour: 18,022 + 1,553 = 19,575 (41.43%)
  • Liberal Democrats: 9,826 + 2,924 = 12,750 (26.98%)
  • Conservatives: 10,205 + 1,531 = 11,736 (24.84%)
  • Others: 2,714 + 475 = 3,189 (6.75%)
  • These are the 2005 general election results projected onto the proposed constituencies for the 2015 general election. Suppose that the 2010 general election had been fought on the proposed 2015 boundaries, then these would be the notional 2005 figures used. Every issue of Focus in the run-up to the election, every piece of campaign literature from David Callaghan, would urge Labour supporters disillusioned with the Government to vote for the second-place Liberal Democrats and would tell Conservatives that the best way to defeat Labour is to vote for the second-place Liberal Democrats.

    My gut feeling is that if the 2010 general election had been held on the proposed 2015 constituency boundaries, then the Liberal Democrats would have done better in Southasmpton Yest, and the other two main parties worse, than the notional results give.

    Maybe a way forward in producing more accurate notional results is to look, not at the most recent election, but the one before that, and draw up notional results (e.g. 2005 election on proposed 2015 boundaries) and somehow work forward from those.

    Sunday, 25 November 2012

    Does Christ The King Have A Prime Minister?

    Ecclesiologically I am not an Anglican. I worship at an Evangelical Free church, having left the Church of England (or more precisely, having stopped worshipping at an Anglican church) last autumn.

    But I still use Common Worship in my daily prayer. And today brings us to Christ The King.

    The Bible readings for today- Dan 7:9-14, John 18:33-37 and Rev 1:4-8- emphasise Jesus's Kingship.

    From Daniel's vision of the Son of Man (Jesus's term for Himself), to the Apostle John's encounter with Jesus, and Jesus informing Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, we have this clear message- Jesus is a King, and His kingdom is one that lasts forever.

    I wonder what goes through people's minds when we think of Him as King? And whether that changes depending on whether we live in a republic or monarchy.

    In medieval times, when the King's word was law, unconstrained by Parliament, then there must have been a clear understanding of what Christ as King meant. He says it, it happens. He commands us, we do it.

    It is often said that the Queen reigns but does not rule. Basically, the Royal Prerogative is exercised by a Government accountable to an elected Parliament, and the Government takes actions in her name.

    Is this the same in the Church? That ministers and pastors exercise authority in Christ's Name? As His Government or as His civil servants?

    What does it mean for the Church to recognise Christ as her King?

    Thursday, 22 November 2012

    After The Women Bishops Vote- The First Evangelist

    After this week's General Synod vote, time to turn to one thing that I have noticed which concerns me.

    About 20 years ago, I was in Mensa's Politics Special Interest Group, and the discussion turned to the ordination of women as presbyters. One lady commented that there were 4 women identified in the New Testament as priests- Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia and Chloe. Case closed.

    What struck me wasn't just the "oh look- tbe Bible mentions a woman, ergo she must be a priest" approach, it was the subtle message about the Apostle Paul. He came across as someone a bit grand- rather than a man willing to get his hands dirty and work manually (Acts 18:3) (keep that page open). A man who surely could not associate with anyone who wasn't wearing a dog collar and didn't have Rev in front of their name.

    A bit of the attitude that one former vicar of mine described as "the minister ministers and the congregation congregates". An approach he disagreed with.

    One argument I heard for women being ordained to the presbyterate is that there are not enough male presbyters to carry the load. Can I just suggest that if more people in dog collars is the answer, then maybe we're asking the wrong question!

    In the debate about the pros and cons of ordaining women to the presbyterate, it often came across as if Rev in a dog collar saying words over bread and wine was the be-all and end-all of Christian ministry.

    When we hear that it is only by allowing women to be consecrated to the episcopate that we are affirming women's ministry, or that women will only feel a valued part of the Church if we have women bishops, then take a step back and ask what the underlying assumption is..

    Is it that the only ministry that counts is that of the mitre and crozier? That lay ministry is something not to be affirmed, or - at best - is a second-rate ministry? What message is being said about ministry in general? With all Bishop this, Vicar that, what seemed to be lost in all the heat generated was any idea the lay ministry matters. Singificant that it was the House of Laity that the draft Measure fell in - just a reminder that the Church isn't all about Bishops and Clergy...

    We heard a lot about how God has given women gifts. Yes, and the New Testament passages restricting women from preaching and exercising authority in the church setting were written in the full knowledge of that- it's not as if Paul had been unaware of how Acts 2:17-18 fulfilled Joel 2:29.

    It has been said that women are the backbone of the church, and then in a leap of logic this needs to be reflected in the episcopate. Is it more a case that it's laywomen exercising their God-given gifts that are the backbone of the church? And then the Church sends the message that real ministry is done by the big boys (and since April 1994, the big girls as well) in fancy robes with titles in front of their names...

    It may seem an odd point to start talking about tongues, but in a Twitter discussion I referred to this. Paul has to write to the Corinthians about the correct use of tongues in services (I Cor 14:26-33). Tongues are a gift from God, but there is a time and a place and a manner.

    A couple of examples. The first is from the March for Jesus back in May 1994, and I ended up in a small group when it was time to pray in groups. And in our group, whenever anyone started praying in English, a young man would start praying loudly in tongues, verbally drowning whoever was praying in English. You can say "Amen" to a prayer in English. How can you say "Amen" to a prayer in a language you don't understand?

    The seocnd was a couple of years later, at a prayer meeting labelled as ecumenical, where the speaker asked people to get in pairs and pray out loud together- one in English, one in tongues- and then swap later on. I got up and walked out.

    When God gives a gift is it really for use whenever and wherever you feel led? Does the Holy Spirit really lead people to use gifts in a manner that is contradictory to the Bible?

    So, yes, there are many men and women to whom God has given gifts for the building of His Church and the extension of His Kingdom. But every gift needs to be exercised in a manner that is consistent with the Bible. A woman might indeed be given the gift of teaching- but it doesn't follow that the appropriate time and place is in the pulpit on Sunday. If you go back to Acts 18 (you did keep it open, didn't you?) then in v.26 we encounter Priscilla, a woman with the gift of explaining Christianity. But her arena wasn't the front of the church, but in private, one-to-one instruction, giving him the individual instruction that he would not get in a big church setting.

    Part of Twitter discussions have been about Mary Magdalene- sometimes she gets called the Apostle to the Apostles, but nowhere in the Bible is she called an apostle.

    She was, indeed, the first person on record to see Jesus after He rose from the dead (John 20:11-18). But an Apostle, with the authority that it entails?

    Is it not possible that Mary was the first evangelist? With the simple message that evangelists share- He is risen. Jesus is alive. Sharing the message with Jesus' closest circle of friends.

    Sometimes a wrong idea of evangelism develops, and I have fallen into this trap. That it's all about special church events, with a big name speaker, and waiting for people to come through the front door of church to be met on our terms, so they are the ones making the effort. And, yes sometimes that is the way. But Mary didn't rush off and have a set of flyers printed to say she would be giving a talk entitled "That Jesus You Crucified Has Risen" at the local town hall the following week. No, it was the basic go and share the message that Jesus lives.

    Rather than spending the next years arguing over who can wear a mitre, just draw a line under it and concentrate on what Biblical ways the laity can be empowered and encouraged to exercise their ministries.

    Sunday, 18 November 2012

    What If The General Synod Doesn't Vote For Women Bishops?

    Tuesday sees the big vote in the General Synod over the Draft Bishops & Priests (Ordination & Consecration of Women) Measure which may get a two-thirds majority in the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and the House of Laity, or it may fail to in one, two or all three Houses. To miss a two-thirds majority in just one House is enough for it to fall.

    We've debated it long enough- just get on with it so we can concentrate on more important matters. I love that logic. Surely if there are "more important" matters then campaigners for women bishops could set that aside and concentrate on the "more important" matters.

    Of course, if it falls then no doubt the supporters of it will try again and again until Church of England doctrine changes.

    One thing we need to note is that this issue has set evangelical against evangelical. On both sides, evangelicals have formed alliances with people we really should not have done, against fellow evangelicals. That is a sad consequence of this whole issue being put on the agenda.

    Above all, if the motion falls, let there be no triumphalism. There will be evangelical women who will see what they believe they have been called to turned to dust. There will be hurt people. There will be a situation which has to be dealt with pastorally.

    We are called to bear with one another in love and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4: 3-4) and Jesus prayed fo the church's unity (John 17:22).

    Sometimes we get so caught up in structure and organisations and buildings that we think ekklesia refers to an organisation rather than a family.

    I remember when I was a new Christian, and was struck by letters that appeared from time to time in the Christian press. To sum up, they could be along the lines of:

    Oh, how terrible it is that the other churches ignore Jesus' command that we should be one. If only the Anglicans stopped baptising babies... If only the Pentecostals stopped their prophecies and tongues... If only the Methodists stopped having women ministers... If only the Baptists got rid of their old hymns.... Why oh why oh why can't all the other churches in our town get rid of their practices that stop us from being united?

    I used to be a mamber of an Anglican-Methodist church. The process was slow. The old Methodist church had been subject to a compulsory purchase and the new building was built in the Anglican car park. As time went on, there was more sharing of worship until full merger happened. And yes, it can be tricky to combine the horizontal Methodist structure with the vertical Anglican one. Bishops doing confirmation services have to recognise the Methodist presbyterial confirmation (i.e. an Anglican bishop and Methodist minister jointly lay on hands and confirm). Next door was a United Reformed Church. In the summer holiday period, evening services alternated between the URC and the Anglican-Methodist.

    Churches can have family unity without organisational unity.

    It is possible that, after defeat, supporters of the consecration of women to the episcopate turn to "valid but irregular" practices. Basically find 3 bishops in the Anglican Communion, pay for their air fares from the USA, and get them to consecrate a women presbyter from the Church of England as a bishop. Such a bishop would be a valid Anglican bishop but, naturally enough, could not remain in the Church of England. Are there supporters for whom it is so important that they would do that?

    And what if evangelical churches feel the need to leave the Church of England and accept episcopal oversight from an Anglican denomination that does consecrate women? That would be sad, but let there be no hard feelings.

    As I learned as an undergraduate Christian, evangelicals can work together for a common purpose without organisational unity. If evangelicals feel the need to leave the Church of England then there is nothing to stop them working alongside evangelicals who choose to remain.

    Saturday, 17 November 2012

    Did The Church of England Approve Women Bishops In The 1970s?

    This follows on from a Twitter debate with someone who maintains that the Church of England General Synod agreed the theology on whether women could be consecrated to the episcopate 40 years ago. This was then clarified to 1975 and 1978.

    So, is this the case? Is Tuesday's vote on the draft Women Bishops Measure no more than a tidying-up vote? When I argued for a switch to the Alternative Vote system for electing the House of Commons, and relied on the two times (1918 and 1931) when the House of Commons backed it, or waiting for the preamble of the Parliament Act 1911 to take effect- well, is this the same thing? Is it a case of just as the House of Commons voted for constitutional reform that never took place, the General Synod voted for ecclesiastical reform that never took place?

    Well, frankly, no.

    1975 was a Synod motion agreeing "this Synod considers that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood". Nothing about bishops. And, at one level, there is nothing wrong about authorising women to preside at the Lord's Supper- there is no magic in the communion service. We don't use the 1662 Book of Common Spells. The same effect happens whether a man or woman says the words.

    And let's face it, a lot of the debate over ordaining women to the presbyterate boiled down to the presiding-at-the-Lord's-Supper issue.

    The Synod can change its mind though, can't it? Is it possible that in November 1992 it took a step back from its 1975 position?

    The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 passed by the Synod and by Parliament has Resolutions A and B. The first allows a Parochial Church Council (PCC) to decide that a woman cannot exercise presbyterial functions (primarily certain parts of the celebration of the Lord's Supper) and the second prevents a woman from serving as the church leader.

    There are the two basic objections to women serving as presbyters. One- more Catholic- concerns the celebration of the Lord's Supper, while the other- more evangelical- concerns headship. And people who take one stance don't necessarily take the other.

    For example, when I lived in Leicester I was on an assertiveness course. The lady who ran it once mentioned her daughter being a deacon-in-charge of an Anglican church and had to rely on retired male presbyters to conduct the Lord's Supper.

    And conversely, there are Anglicans who feel that there is nothing wrong with a woman presiding at the Lord's Supper but that it's wrong for a woman to be the actual leader of a church.

    But surely by allowing a parish opt-out, the Synod was saying that there could be "fundamental objections" to women being ordained to the priesthood. In addition, alongside the Measure, the Synod passed the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 which introduced Resolution C, authorising the Provincial Episcopal Visitors (often called the "flying bishops").

    There is one thing to note about the Resolutions- they are not "sunset clauses". There was nothing in them to say they were designed to give Anglicans who opposed the ordination of women a little bit of breathing space as they found another denomination to worship in.

    Another thing to note about 1992/93 is that I remember a lot of emphasis on the great divide being presbyterate/epispocate not diaconate/presbyterate. That basically, a presbyter is really the same as a deacon but just does a bit more (the "just four paragraphs" argument, which interestingly focusses on the celebration of the Lord's Supper as the be-all-and-end-all of presbyterial ministry), so nothing in the Measure would lead to women actually becoming bishops.

    At one Anglican church I know there was a (now moved to the USA) presbyter who, whenever there was a service on St Stephen's Day, wear his stole over his left shoulder (deacon-style) rather than over both shoulders (priest-style) to emphasise that he was still a deacon.

    It is clear from the New Testament that the two orders of ministry are the diaconate ("deacons") and presbyterate ("priests" and "bishops").

    That's 1975. What about 1978? Did the Synod agree a theology of women bishops there?

    There was a motion asking "the Standing Committee to prepare and bring forward legislation to remove the barriers to the ordination of women to the priesthood and their consecration to the episcopate".

    Case settled? Clear will of the Synod?

    Well, it has to be passed by all 3 Houses- Laity, Clergy and Bishops. As it fell in the House of Clergy, it cannot be considered the will of the Synod.

    In 2000, the Synod passed a motion asking "the House of Bishops to initiate further theological study on the episcopate, focusing on the issues that need to be addressed in preparation for the debate on women in the episcopate in the Church of England" which led to a Commission led by Michael Nazir-Ali, then the Bishop of Rochester, which reported in 2004.

    Now, wait a minute. Surely if the Synod agreed the theology in the 1970s, then why set up the Rochester Commission? And why does the report only briefly touch on 1975 and 1978?

    On Tuesday there will be various arguments put for and against. But let's not have this "The Synod agreed it in the 1970s" put forward when, despite what someone in the Yes 2 Women Bishops movement is saying, it isn't the case.

    Sunday, 11 November 2012

    Putting Scaffolding On The Cross- "Creation Science" And Apologetics

    My tooth was really hurting. Couldn't ignore the pain while singing the choruses. Hurried out, seeing if there were a stall that sold aspirin or something like that.

    This was Wolfsburg in the summer of 1995, and I was at the Operation Mobilisation Love Europe conference, before we went off to our short-term mission teams.

    Nipping out I came across another guy I had chatted with briefly beforehand, and he was clearly troubled about something, so I asked him what it was. He explained that he was unsure about creation-evolution issues. I mentioned that there are a wide range of views among Christians, and that there were a few hardline recent creationists there for whom it was a salvation issue (I had already been informed by one of them that I was not a Christian) but that these people were a minority.

    And as I got up to go, he shared with me that he could no longer believe in the Resurrection. Now, my own conversion sprang from me realising that Jesus rising from the grave was the logical explanation of the events of the first Easter Sunday (sorry, I cannot give an exciting conversion story- it was just scientific and logical). He would think about what I said, and as my toothache had gone, I went back in to join the worship.

    Before the last day, he went home as he no longer considered himself a Christian. And for some, there was not the sadness that I felt for him, but the gloating. They knew from the first time they met him that he wasn't really a Christian. And the thing that stood out for me was that the big deal was that he didn't believe in recent creationism, not that he didn't believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

    When I was back in England I did write to assure him I was praying for him and to tell him to contact me (the days before email) if he needed to discuss anything. Never heard back.

    As a coda to this, these are the days of social media. Go to Facebook, put in his first name (I couldn't remember his surname), search, then narrow it down by location and then appears someone who has the same first name and what I am now sure is his surname. Contact or no contact? And if so, what do I say?

    A few years later I was given the chance to do a PhD in Astronomy at St Andrews University. And if people know you are a Christian and a scientist then the questions follow.

    In particular you will be presented with the little faith-strengthening arguments from science that people learned at Sunday school- which are often along the lines of "Science cannot explain X, therefore God" and are quite frequently "scientific mysteries" which had already been solved by then yet were still presented as things scientists couldn't explain.

    Then there would be creationist magazines passed to me to look at....

    Can I just say, if you wish to use a half-life as proof the Earth is young, please understand what a half-life is. Yes, after one half-life, half of a radioactive material will have changed into something else and only half of it left. After two half-lifes, half of what is left has changed, so a quarter of the original material is left. It isn't that after one half-life, half the material changes and that after the second half-life the other half changes.

    And please try to understand what the Second Law of Thermodynamics actually says.

    And I have never come across any example of a simple Christian with the Book of Genesis in their hand reduce an "evolutionist scientist" to sobbing "I don't know! I don't know!"

    So, what things do I want to note?

    1- Put the matter in perspective

    Take the example above. Yes, recent creationism is a viewpoint held by some Christians. But as well as what you believe being important, is how you believe it.

    I don't mean what your reasons are for recent creationism, but what your emphasis is on it. Is it something you believe but accept others differ on? Is it something that should take its place alongside the Trinity etc. as part of doctrinal creeds and statements of faith? Or has it gone further and reached the stage of being the be-all-and-end-all of Christian doctrine? If your idea of a Christian Union mission would be getting someone in to give a series of talks about the universe being only a few thousand years old, then yes, maybe such a missioner would be speaking truth but he or she would not be presenting Christ crucified. Even if the universe young, which is the Gospel message that needs to be proclaimed- Jesus's death or a young Earth?

    There is something I sometimes say- one man's hardliner is another man's heretic. Yes, you might make a young Earth a salvation issue, but other Christians would have an issue that you feel you were "done as a baby". On almost any secondary issue there will be Christians who put too high an emphasis on it and who, in the old phrase "major on minors", and you cannot keep all of them happy all the time.

    Recent creationists I have encounter vary from those who happily recognise ancient creationist and theistic evolutionists who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour to be their brothers and sisters in Christ to those for whom a young Earth is a salvation issue.

    2- Science develops by surprises

    By the end of the nineteenth century, physics was seen as complete. Then came relativity and quantum mechanics.

    When I've had creationist magazines shoved into my hand, sometimes a song-and-dance routine is made of scientists being surprised by a discovery. There are two paths you can take.

    The first is to look again, to ask other scientists to examine the case, to do some detective work, to re-analyse, to move the science on, and maybe a new theory will arise or an explanation as to why there is an anomaly. That is exactly how science develops.

    The second, worse, path is to jump up and down and declare that "evolutionist scientists" were surprised and interpret this as The Discovery that brings that part of science crashing to its foundations and in bringing part of science crashing down, somehow PROVES that the universe is young.

    Oh, and if you wish to take something that only applies to Main Sequence stars and apply it to an Asymtopic Giant Branch star, don't be surprised when astronomers have a giggle at your "proof" that the universe is a few thousand years old.

    3- Defend the Gospel, not the apologetic

    This is where the Cross has scaffold added to it, to keep it upright. Don't develop a mentality that it is worth going to the stake to defend an apologetic argument.

    If an apologetic argument is shown to be wrong, ditch it. Pure and simple. Don't waste time and energy arguing it any more.

    Apologetics points towards the Cross. It is not a case that if one apologetic argument is shown wrong then the whole scaffolding around the Cross collapses and we have a worthless Cross lying on the ground of no use to anyone.

    If your favourite apologetic is the "god-of-the-gaps" then when the gap is filled, stop saying that scientists can't explain it.

    If I point out a gap is filled or that your favourite PROOF of the Bible is based a creationist magazine misinterpreting something, I'm just trying to stop you making a fool of yourself (and of Christ) when you give godless scientists a good laugh the moment you present your "scientific proof" of the Bible to them. All you've done is reinforced the stereotype that "religious people" believe despite evidence to the contrary. What do you want to share with them- Christ or your ignorance of science?

    4- Scientists Are Busy People

    Yes, your favourite magazine might have published a scientific PROOF of the Bible last month and not a single scientist has written in to respond. Ah-ha, scientists can't come up woth an argument against it.

    Actually, it's hard enough to keep up with bona fide scientific journals without spending time going through creationist ones.

    5- The End Doesn't Justify The Means

    And this is my big worry about parts of the recent creationist movement.

    The deception.

    No, not just getting facts wrong, which can be forgiven. But the continual relying on "proofs" and "evidence" that have been discredited.

    Even if recent creationism is true, why does the movement itself have to rely on lies and deception to spread its message?

    Does that honour Christ at all? Is sending young Christians to share the Gospel to scientists using "scientific evidence" that is untrue actually bring one scientist nearer to God?

    Pastorally, what happens when your new convert who was convinced by the "scientific proof" learns that his or her pastor- perhaps through ignorance- misled them? Aren't they then going to be suspicious of the genuine arguments for Christianity that were also presented to them?

    You never get the recent creationist movement hold its hands up and say "oops, that argument was flawed. Don't use it". Instead, if you try and engage with them you quickly find that their response is to lash out and question whether you are really a Christian if you dare to point out flaws im their "scientific proof".

    Thursday, 8 November 2012

    After The Presidential Election, Next Steps For Republicans

    So, incumbent American President Barack Obama has been elected for his second, and final, term.

    In some ways, the Republican situation reminds me of the Conservatives in the period of about 1998 to 2003. And, so here are my thoughts about how to reoover.

    Look like the America you want to represent.

    Look at the Conservative benches in the House of Commons. They are diverse- in terms of race, in terms of gender, in terms of class, and in terms of sexual orientation. No, I'm not calling for affirmative action or quotas, but the Conservative MPs of even 10 years ago came across as nearly uniformly pale, male and stale.

    The latest figures I have to hand give 93% of African-Americans who voted voting for Obama, along with 73% of Asian-Americans and 71% of Hispanic-Americans. The demographics of the USA are changing- how are Republicans going to reach out to non-whites and show what Republicanism means in a mutli-racial America?

    Hug a husky- or something similar

    When Prime Minister David Cameron was derided for hugging a husky and coming up with the "Vote Blue*, Go Green" slogan, his critics missed an important fact- that it was under the Conservatives that the Clean Air Act 1956 was passed, and that the world's first Department of the Environment was set up.

    Yet environmentalism became seen as something on the Left.

    Find a policy area that is identfied with the Democrats, yet was once a Republican one, and take it back.

    Remember that it was a Republican President, not a Democrat, who was responsible for the Emancipation of African-American slaves.

    [*In Europe, red is used for socialism and blue for conservatism]

    One more heave is not the answer

    There was one viewpoint in Labour circles developing between their fourth successive defeat at the April 1992 election and Tony Blair becoming leader in July 1994. And that was the "one more heave" view. Labour had done some changes in policy, and all they needed to do was wait for the Conservative Government to screw up.

    Wait for the next general election, then just "one more heave" and victory is assured.

    Although this is an example from the Left, Blair understood that things had moved on, and that Labour had to change policies without changing its principles.

    Republicans should not look back at any golden era, even that of Ronald Reagan's Presidency, and try to re-create it. Instead look at the guiding principles that have formed the basis of Republican administrations and ask how those principles apply today.

    Europe is not a four-letter word

    OK, pet grouse here. If Republicans wish to condemn a Democrat policy, which word is the worst insult in the Republican lexicon? "European" of course. Just describe a Democrat policy as European and you cannot come up with any stronger criticism.

    Hmm, remember former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush talking about the Swedish education system and calling it "voucherized"?

    Yep, Sweden. Supposed hotbed of European godless socialism, coming up with an education system that is a Republican dream.

    And no need to imagine how a flat tax system would work- just ask Hungary, Estonia and Lithuania about it.

    Focus on the big picture

    A party can come up with all sorts of dreams and plans. But these are worthless if you don't win.

    If you believe the election of a Republican President and a Republican Congress is what the USA needed then that should be the focus, with there being no room for shilly-shallying around with personal egos. If a candidate for an elected federal post is an embarrassment and/or a liability, cut them loose. Their are higher priorities than their career. For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe a horse was lost. For the want of a horse, the battle was lost.

    Choose the next Presidential candidate now

    2016 will begin with Des Moines being crowded with politicians, but why wait?

    In Westminster-style democracies, an important figure is the Leader of the Opposition. And a good one can successfully portray themselves as the Prime Minister-in-waiting, biding time till the next election.

    So, why not in 2013 give the USA a de facto Leader of the Opposition? Someone who is the ultimate visible face of the Republicans, rather than have it come across that shock jocks or politicians who talk about "legitimate rape" are the Republican mainstream. Someone who will develop a national, and international, profile as the person whom the Republicans wish to take office in January 2017. Someone who could go as far as drawing up a Shadow Cabinet, e.g. a Shadow Secretary of State who draws up the Republicans' foreign affairs policies, a Shadow Treasury Secretary who draws up the Republicans' finance policies etc.