In the Middle Ages astrology was a respectable part of the philosophical world view. Albert the Great was well-known as an astrologer and magician. Albert, especially, saw astrology as a legitimate part of knowledge. Thomas Aquinas was more sceptical despite being Albert’s pupil. He thought it was all a waste of time. Let’s think about it for a while.

As a theist I am inclined to think that the world as we observe it does reflect what God intends. Science can proceed according to its own rules and discover truth. Despite all the uncertainty and doubt in contemporary physics I regard it as the best practice we have to uncover what is the case about the world. Quantum physics and general relativity, whatever their incompatibility, are the best accounts available of what is there. I am fascinated by the wave function and four-dimensional space-time with its curvature. I have recently been finding out a bit about inflation theory. Cosmology is an active and endlessly interesting field.

In the Middle Ages astrology was at the cutting edge. Nowadays the cutting edge lies somewhere in the contradictions between quantum theory and general relativity. Poor old astrology. It has been left far behind. No modern scientist thinks astrological influence is a real thing. In the Middle Ages there was no better account of how things were. Now we have good theories about how stars and galaxies form. Inflation theory traces the origins of the universe way, way back. Astrology takes the universe as it is and tries to predict the future.

To think about astrology is to think about an old science. Astrology used to be part of ‘let’s call it science’ but now it’s not. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the Middle Ages and science was different then. Roger Bacon is often thought of as the originator of science. I am inclined to disagree. Bacon was less scientific and Bacon’s time more scientific than this indicates. I’m more of an admirer of Thomas Aquinas. Thomas’ views on all sorts of things accord less well with modern views than do those of Roger but I quite like Thomas’ loyalty to the Church. I am inclined to regard the Roman Church with hostility but I still admire Thomas’ loyalty.

Getting back to astrology, let’s distinguish our attitude to medieval astrology and modern astrology. The former, medieval astrology, was a good thing, the latter, modern astrology, is a bad thing. In studying astrology medieval scholars like Roger and Albert advanced knowledge, by promoting astrology, modern enthusiasts block advance. Advancing knowledge is taken as a good thing, blocking advance is taken as a bad thing. I find that I must be a progressive, what a shock.


Time frames. The present, the future, the past. Which of these is the most important? The future seems the biggest, the present seems the most immediate, the past seems the most concrete. For God all are the same. For us they are different so that makes them different for God. Theoreticians have written a good deal about the arrow of time, little of which I have read. I can’t really claim to understand the best contemporary thinking about time. My own thinking about past, present and future is thus ill-informed but here goes.

The present is the field of divine action. The past is the record of the presents that have passed away. The future hasn’t happened yet. We live in the present. We are subject to divine action. What we remember is the past. Our memories can change but the past cannot. The past is real. The future is not.

God knows the past. God does not know the future. The future will be made by God. God cannot change the past.

Human beings exist through time. God exists timelessly. We live in time, God lives above time. This must be important but how is closed to me.

What does Aquinas say about time?

It seems inevitable that human beings will invent things that exceed them in all the things that have previously been claimed to be uniquely human. They will invent things that are cleverer, more adaptable, more long-lived, and generally better than they are. Does this matter? Does AI make humans obsolete? I think not.

What is the theological significance of AI? There have been attempts to claim we are making God. These are profoundly mistaken. Think about value. Think about the source of value. Value originates with human beings.

I recently did some thinking prompted by the idea of longtermism and its relationship with post-humanism. This is an interesting pairing when thought about theologically. If we accept the promise that human tools will acquire independent capabilities we need to think about this theologically. The full capability of AI includes generation of objectives. Objectives are reasons for doing something. If such reasons can be categorised as such they can be generated.

Theologically it seems clear that only God can really have objectives of His/Her/Its own. Human objectives do exist but must be subordinate to God’s. That must be wrong. For God really to value human beings, which is a must, their objectives must have validity.

I am really confused. I am committed to the idea that God really values human beings and I am also committed to the idea that God exceeds human beings to an infinite degree. This seems to imply a process of the realisation of God’s objectives that can dispense with human beings.

I am a cisgender male. I would like to view this from a viewpoint informed by a transgender perspective. This is a real challenge. I would like to see whether a cisgender perspective is a limited one. To think about God is difficult from the point of view of gender. I have always taken the view that we are obliged, by tradition, to view God as male. The use of the He pronoun is traditional. Scripture is full of a view of God as male. To view God otherwise is to reject scripture. The NRSV method of changing the male pronoun to make them neutral is ridiculous. It really is.

God is not male. This is widely agreed and incontrovertible. God is not female. This is also true. So God must be either both or neither. Either God is both male and female or God is neither male nor female. These propositions are both unscriptural and impossible to deny. I can find no way to be both scriptural and faithful. Help.

Taking transgender people at all seriously puts one in a very difficult position. This difficult position is impossible to avoid. I wish it were not so but it is. I would really like to be scriptural but I can’t. The arguments within the Church about homosexual people were bad enough but the arguments about transgender people are even worse.

The time has come to say clearly that the arguments are intolerable. The way forward must force the Church to give up on scripture. We have to strike out on our own. Scripture, tradition, our history all have to be subordinated to our present relationship to God. The liberals have been saying this for nearly 200 years and they were right all along. It pains me to admit it but the liberals were always right.

The vocation of The Church is to have the right kind of hopefulness. I need to say something about what I understand by vocation, The Church, hopefulness.

Vocation: a call from outside on the life of an individual or institution. Nothing can be said about the caller other than His name. God. Vocation is God’s call on you. You can listen or not but the call is always present. Every person, every institution has something they are meant to do. God has a plan, or at least an intention for everybody. The vocation comes in different ways for different people.

The Church: The Church is defined, first of all, by worship. Those people who worship together make a church. All the churches together make The Church. Membership of The Church is a serious business. Baptism. Various kinds of institutional life grow up in The Church but they are incidental. The Church is one and it’s various parts have purposes and vocations. The vocation of The Church is especially hard to hear since The Church has no institutional existence. Only the parts have institutional existence. I have written before about the peculiar vocation of the URC.

Hopefulness: Hopefulness is the living form of faith. The great truth of the Protestant Reformation is salvation by faith alone. I remain convinced that we can be saved only by faith. I’m not sure what we are saved from, despair maybe? I am sure that the only saving force is faith. The way to faith is hopefulness. What we hope for is less clear. Love maybe?

While I was working as a pastoral minister I only really came across transgender phenomena once. Somebody came to me wanting conversations and saying they wanted to change from male to female. We met a few times and then he/she moved house. He/she never came to a service. I don’t know if the conversations were at all helpful.

One of the members of one of my congregations was a psychiatrist who worked extensively with young people, including work at the Tavistock Centre. She said that gender dysphoria had become real for her through her practice. We only had quite a brief conversation about it. This was the limit of my experience as a pastoral minister.

I have a friend with some experience through his children. As part of my training I did a placement in a congregation where transgender phenomena were part of everyday life.

My PhD research in the 1980s and in the 1990s was much concerned with gender issues. I came to the conclusion that gender was very fundamental indeed. For this and other reasons I find transgender phenomena troubling and fascinating. I am very aware that this is an area where social change has been very rapid indeed. My children’s generation find it significantly less strange and troubling than does mine. In the 1970s and 1980s transgender phenomena were very foreign to most people. In the 2020s this is much less true. Transgender phenomena are part of life in a way they weren’t 40 years ago.

How to make sense of all this in a church that still hankers after the 1960s? I really don’t know. If people can change sex are we facing part of what it is to be post-human? We might be. A world beyond gendered sexual identity is a very strange world indeed.

I am very sorry if anybody finds this offensive or intrusive. I am writing about my reactions not anybody’s reality. I feel the need to think and no desire at all to give instruction or advice. I have known some people who identified as having a sexual identity other than that which they were assigned. I would never want to give the impression that I felt qualified to judge them. I though, assert my right, as a man, to reflect on the reality of masculinity. I have a y chromosome and have lived my whole life as male. The possibility of being born with a y chromosome and living as a woman is one that impacts all men, whether they live as men or women.

When we think about the past we think through the present. When we represent the past we are inevitably selecting those aspects of it that we think important. I think about Hilary Mantel whenever I think about representing the past. Her representation of sixteenth century England is an example that I respect greatly. I am thinking about why and how I chose the thirteenth century as the period where I can best say whatever it is that I want to say.

If I could identify the attraction of the thirteenth century I might get a valuable clue about what I want to say. Being clear about what I want to say seems like a good thing. Being clear about why the thirteenth century also seems like a good thing. Being clear about who I am speaking to also seems like a good thing.

All in all clarity seems good. Clarity seems important to me. I just wish I knew what clarity itself represents.

Going back to historical representation. By this I intend writing that purports to create in the reader some sort of view of a period other than that shared by the writer and the implied reader. Implied reader is a category that I have borrowed from biblical studies. It implies that every text implies a reader. Somehow a text reaches out to someone imagined by the writer. In reconstructing the writer it may be helpful first to reconstruct their implied reader. Representations of the past must always be representations to someone.

A representation of the past requires some sort of construction of the present.

Over the last five years I have thought a lot about climate change. Before that I didn’t think much about it because it was too scary. Since recovering from my stroke, to the extent I have, I am less easily scared. Climate change is very important since it is a real existential threat. It is also very hard to manage. I did a series of services dealing with it while I was in active ministry. This is the result of five years of reflection.

The climate has changed many times. What is unique about its current trajectory is its speed. Climate change is thought to be behind the original evolution of Homo Sapiens. Assuming Homo Sapiens evolved in the Rift Valley then it was probably a change to the climate of the Valley that triggered the transition from the predecessor species to Homo Sapiens. Our species’ unique adaptibility was highly advantageous in circumstances of a changing climate. Another good example is the inundation of Doggerland, which occupied the space which is now the North Sea. Climate change is also thought to be behind the spread of agriculture around 10-15 thousand years ago.

Most species are now extinct. The extinction of almost all species at the time of the astroid impact that killed the dinosaurs is well-known. Extinction is no new phenomenon but we are right to be concerned about the predicted mass extinction occassioned by human activity. Climate change and biodiversity are connected and important. The extinctions that took place before the evolution of Homo Sapiens should give us pause, but we still should feel uneasy about causing extinctions ourselves.

For the theologically minded, like me, there is no getting away from the thought that if we are responsible for this mass extinction God must be responsible for the preceding ones. If we feel guilty about this one then do we feel accusatory about those preceding? This is a new variant of the question of evil. Is extinction a bad thing? Is evolution a bad thing?

I am committed to a strong doctrine of Providence. I really believe God to be in charge of history. I am strongly committed to an idea of progress. I believe God guides history in a forward direction. God’s purposes are expressed in the long process of historical progress. This progress is best measured in the advance, which I believe it to be, in scientific understanding. I think that the movement from Newton to Einstein genuinely expresses an advance in knowledge. Technology follows science. AI is a real advance, and progress here has been dependent on improved knowledge of the brain. Science drives technology and both are advancing.

I’m not sure what to do with the contending thoughts that anthropogenic climate change is a real problem and that God is in charge of history. Anthropogenic climate change is a historical phenomenon and there is good reason to be worried about it. COP26 was wholly inadequate and the processes underlying climate change are not in control at all. But nonetheless I trust God to sort it all out. There is no doubt that technical solutions are possible, even probable. At the same time there is good reason to be concerned.

This is all pretty inconclusive. There is plenty to think about, but conclusions are elusive. What should one do? I have bought an electric car and fitted solar panels and insulation to our new house. I can’t see what else I can do. I feel responsible, but I think God is responsible. I am both very optimistic and very pessimistic. I can’t see our masters taking the action that is required, but I am confident everything will turn out for the best. Hey ho.

I can write again because someone else is responsible for all the physical work. I can’t manage a computer myself and this was established through the intervention of a specialist Occupational Therapist. We tried voice recognition software which has greatly improved of late, but this was inadequate to my needs. The OT concluded that only a PA would do. The council is funding this employment to a certain level and my mother is helping further.

We can offer a reasonably good hourly rate and thus had a number of candidates to consider. My own personal criteria in choosing between them offers an insight into the nature of this strange relationship. I found, looking back, that the most important thing to me was that I would value the PA’s opinion on my writing. I should say a little here both about the PA and the writing.

Writing first. The main project I have in mind is a novel. I have been thinking about it for 20 years. It is fairly well developed in my mind. It is a historical novel set in the 13th century and taking place within the world of the Knights Templar. There is a mystery element and a love story as well as one man’s spiritual quest. All in all there is quite a bit of complexity, but I have it under control in my mind. Despite this, I have already been surprised by it in the writing.

Alongside the novel there are various side projects. I have written and submitted an article that is more straightforwardly theological. It tries to deal with the relationship between post-humanisim and theology. There is also this blog where I can write about whatever comes into my mind. These side projects are increasingly important to me. I have written in another post about the significance of writing and I refer here to this.

Second, the PA. It is a bit awkward because she is taking this down. What I say about the PA is mediated by her. That last sentence made her laugh in fact. I have to be careful what I say because I don’t want to give away too much of her identity here. This writing, after all, is public. I feel free to give away as much I’d like about myself, but I also feel the need to be careful with others. Let is suffice to say that the person we have employed as my PA is a young woman, a writer herself, and very bright. These were all significant factors in selecting her. Above all I needed to feel comfortable with the mediation involved in this working relationship.

All my writing is now mediated. This mediation is not limited to the physical action of typing. Speaking itself is now speaking to another. I now have my construction of my Assistant’s consciousness between myself and my words and her typing between my speech and this.

Writing is a funny business. There would be no point if one knew what one was going to say but one must be confident that something will come in order to begin. Something but not what. I think I have in common with others who write this feeling that the content of my mind is hidden from me until I begin to write. This relationship with oneself seems to me to be a characteristic of the writer.

This writing, like other writing, is something of an exploration. In committing myself to words about writing I begin to discover what writing means to me.

Writing can stand for anything here. This is a piece about writing because it says so at the top. I have decided to write about writing and I am. There is something arbitrary about this, but there is also something necessary. I have, in collaboration with others, found a way to begin writing again post-stroke. I am physically unable to write, but I write nonetheless and why this is necessary for me is the content of this post.

Why do I need to write? In order to find out what I am going to say. I don’t know my own mind until I have expressed it. The expression of it requires some form of publicity. I used to preach and this was important to me. I switched to extempore preaching because when I read scripts I found I always disagreed with myself. Extempore preaching had the advantage that I could guarantee my own agreement with myself at the moment of speaking. Any delay would guarantee new thoughts.

This implies that I already think that what I’ve written is wrong.