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Familiarity breeds contempt, but the Bible still contains some beautiful sentiments

I love Monty Python. I used to watch it from an early age, laughing like a drain, and there was a time when I could recite pretty much any sketch on demand. I think I must own just about every Python DVD there is, but I don’t watch them very often these days, because I know it all. Just reading through the description of a show is usually enough, and it’s familiar enough without needing to watch it.

But sometimes I put one on anyway, and it usually surprises me. Just the smallest detail that I’d forgotten about can be incredibly arresting, all the more so when I thought I knew what was coming. It might be Conquistador Coffee, a Man Who Speaks in Anagrams or the Italian Lesson, but I can be caught out by a forgotten sketch or even a line. However much of a fan I am, I never quite know it all.

heart_cross_2That’s how I sometimes feel about the Bible. I’ve read it all, I’ve spent a lot of my life studying it, and I often feel like it’s got no more to offer me. But just occasionally, it still has the capacity to take my breath away. Read More…

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Devil’s Advocate – What the Romans did for us

Groupthink is a terrible thing, one of the greatest threats to critical assessment of the available evidence and one of the easiest to slip into. It’s all too appealing to surround ourselves with people who agree with us, and to settle into self-perpetuating thought patterns that are increasingly extreme and complacent because dissenting voices are filtered out. And that’s why you have to give the Roman Catholic Church a lot of credit.

DevilI think the invention of the role of Devil’s Advocate in the 16th century under Pope Sixtus V was one of the most impressive acts of critical thinking in history. It created a formal role purely to challenge and question the received wisdom. For someone to be considered for canonisation, opinions of them would have to be overwhelmingly positive, but the Devil’s Advocate would ensure that groupthink didn’t turn the process into a mere formality. Read More…

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