"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6.8

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Year 10 and Transcendence

I've been having a problem with some of my students. They don't get God. Years ago there used to be a book called "Your God is too small." and I think of that every time a child says to me with all the wisdom and arrogance of a 15 yr old, "But Sir, I don't believe in God. How could one man create a universe?"

Right Fans, I'm a man and I've not created many universes recently.

They look at me inscrutably.

O.K. What I mean is, I've never created a universe. Do you see the point?

Impassive stares. I consider instituting a seance on the basis that I'm not having much luck with the living so I might as well try the dead.

I don't get it.

(Now there's a phrase that irritates me beyond measure. It is usually intoned with a whine and translated means "I'm too lazy to think it through.")

Why do we even have to do this? (This from William. When the going gets tough the tough ... No that's not right. When the going gets tough my kids moan about having to do the subject.)

Look. If God exists - and I know that's a big if for many - that God must be beyond and above our wildest understanding. When we begin to use descriptors we immediately diminish God because we have to reduce him to something we can understand. We are describing the indescribable and not doing it justice

I show them the picture above.

That's my idea of Transcendence.

Is that God then?

NOOOOOO! (Pause for deep breath.) That's supposed to be us representing our awareness of our insignificance in comparison to God and surrendering to the Transcendent.

I throw my arms wide as if in supplication and the sudden movement triggers the lights to come on. I stand there bathed in the glow as if I was caught in the spotlight of the Berlin Wall.*

Wow Sir! Now I get it.

* Note to my American friends - that's a reference to history. It was in Europe so you won't know about it.


  1. Do English students have to take religion in state schools? Is is a mandatory subject or do they simply choose this from a list which includes other subjects hoping that Religion will be easier than Physics or Organic Chemistry?

  2. Transcendence is damned difficult for mos adults to get their head around let alone the generation who have never been encouraged to think at all in any way shape or form. Think? What am I talking about? Simple imagination would be sufficient.

  3. I beg your pardon!! Have you been reading MP's snotty post about the ignorance of Americans?

    I actually have a piece of the Berlin Wall. And I know about the spotlights that pointed out those trying to escape.

  4. Berlin Wall? That sounds vaguely familiar.

  5. * Note to my American friends - that's a reference to history. It was in Europe so you won't know about it.


  6. Anon,

    At GCSE level (years 10 and 11) the core subjects are English (includes English Literature, Mathematics, Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics), RE, ICT, PE.
    There's Government talk of making a modern foreign language compulsory.

    At my girls' school they can then choose 3 from:
    Art & Design, Art & Design Textiles, Business Studies, Catering & Hospitality, Dance, Drama,
    Economics, Electronics, Food Technology, Geography,
    Graphic Products, Society, Health Development
    History, further ICT, Modern Foreign Languages,
    Music, Resistant Materials

    The school will not allow them to over-specialise, so you couldn't, for example, choose music, drama and dance together.

  7. Today is national Be Mean To Americans Day. I'll be nice again tomorrow.

    Religious Studies (or as it is called in my school, Philosophy of Religion and Ethics)is a compulsory subject along with Maths English and Science. The reasons go back into the Victorain period when education was becoming compulsory. They no longer make real sense but noone in government has any motivation to change things.

    It is taught in state schools which do not have a church foundation as non-confessional. I do not teach religion, I teach about religions. The distinction is important.

    The syllabus I have chosen covers Religion and Life Issues and Religious Philosophy and Ultimate Qustions. We look at peace and conflict, abortion and euthanasia, prejudice and discrimination alongside the more traditional science and religion, life after death and suffering and evil, but all from a Christian and Buddhist viewpoint. The choice of religions studied will vary from school to school but we also examine the Atheist perspective. 97% of my students sit a public exam at the end of the course.

  8. Pam,you were in Europe then so you are excused. Susan It was made in Korea.

  9. Sir,
    does the curriculum include a module on how science and religion fit together?
    We had the most astonishing conversation round the dinner table yesterday when my year 12 and very bright year 10 talked knowledgably about all those topics you mention, with a real sense of understanding. Only to ruin it all by then saying dismissively – of course, it’s all not true, science has disproved God in all those places people used to see him and therefore we’ve invented him and it’s all just nonsense…. and proceeded to talk about the workings of the DNA.
    There was a real sense of compartmentalisation, of understanding something in a particular context but of actually not understanding at all how it might fit meaningfully in the overall scheme of things and why one didn't have to be a complete moron to believe in God.

  10. Useful to know. Do students try to get out of learning this? Do parents say that they'd rather have their students take another course (say, more Physics) rather than Religious Education?

  11. Erika, we do a lot on science and religion, concentrating on Cosmology and Teleology with a good bit of Aquinas and the First Cause argument thrown in to balance or interpret the Big Bang and Evolution.

    Anon, some moan, of course but no more than they moan about French, maths, P.E......

    There's no getting out of it. You can't vary your timetable.