Quick Post: Historicity of Jesus

The Guardian published an article by Simon Gathercole about whether there was an historical Jesus.  The article is depressingly terrible and it’s annoyed me for a full day.

We should start with who Gathercole is.  He is an outstanding theologian who is pushing the development of several areas of inquiry about early Christianity.  When we talk about wanting Richard Dawkins to engage with serious theology, we’re talking about people like Gathercole.

But that doesn’t mean Gathercole isn’t sometimes afflicted by bouts of sloppy thinking, as evidenced by the Guardian article.

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About to make my golden move, apocalyptic lipstick campaign… Is there a moral reason to obey international law?

A few weeks ago, Australia’s chattering classes were gripped in an unedifying discussion about the Rule of Law.  The new head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, was asked by ABC’s Leigh Sales if she believed in the Rule of Law (she did) and if that belief was inconsistent with the amount of law-breaking undertaken by unions.  It was an asinine series of questions and the resulting conversation covered nobody in glory.  I pointed to it as yet another example of legal theorists letting down the wider community.

What might surprise some people, perhaps, is that the same discussion points raised by the questioning of Sally McManus also arise in the recent decision to smack Assad with the tomahawk missiles.

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Am I more soulful? Am I coming down now? … Proud to be Right

It has been alleged — not unfairly — that I’m routinely more critical of conservatives than I am of progressives and radicals.  One person has suggested that this is because I’m after a pat on the head: the vast majority of my friends and colleagues are progressives, so it is socially profitable to go after conservatives than the alternative.  This greatly underestimates what an atrocious dinner guest I am.

The answer is less sinister.  I have more invested in an improvement in right wing politics than I do in the left.  I am like the theologian who wants to improve understanding of Christianity regardless of how many atheists I convert.

So why am I conservative?

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The Economic Consequences of the Speech

There’s not a lot to be gained by engaging in any sort of analysis of Milo Yiannopoulos’ behaviour.  He’s an attention seeker and we keep, for whatever reason, giving him attention.

I want to focus on one aspect of the Milo saga: the part where a publisher withdrew a book deal with him due to comments he’d made in support of statutory rape.  I want to focus here because it raises questions about censorship and about freedom of expression and because, for whatever reason, we struggle with these concepts as a society.  The problem, as ever, is that quite a lot of the tricky bits of liberalism haven’t been resolved, yet all the loudest people on social media think that they have.

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A thousand rainy days since we first met… why there’s no Gal Fawkes

The obvious answer is that ‘Guy’ was his given name, but we can (and should) look more deeply at the gendered and racial nature of anonymity.  Why is Guy Fawkes — the symbol and icon — a grinning white male, and not something else?

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All the rules and ideas we fill our heads with… Teaching law or training lawyers?

In 1939, Robert Menzies gave the commencement speech at Canberra University College (which would later become the ANU Faculties).  The speech ought to be read by every undergraduate in the country; I had to get a copy brought up from the archives where all the little-read books rest in half sleep, half death.

He delivered the speech in April 1939, shortly after becoming Prime Minister and six months prior to entering Australia into the Second World War.  Menzies worries that the ‘barbaric philosophies of blood and iron are resurgent’ and that democracy is ‘on the defensive’, and he sees in universities part of the answer.

It is difficult, armed with hindsight, not to be cynical.  For all the universities in the Anglophone world, and for all of the leaders with degrees from those universities, there was a lot of sympathy with Nazism among the educated elite.  Their university studies did very little to disabuse them of their worst prejudices.  The same occurs today: how many students really change their minds about The Big Things during their studies?

Menzies gives seven defences of ‘pure’ academic learning.  One of those defences regards practical training and, in particular, the practical training of lawyers — a topic about which I spend a lot of time thinking.

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Life’s a bit and sometimes you die… Automating legal services and abandoning the poor

Every so often, I see a story about how some fourteen-year old with an iPhone has created a lawyer app to deal with parking fines or something.  The praise is always lavish: could this be the end of lawyers?  But it’s nonsense.  As I’ve written before, C-3PO will never be your lawyer.  The law is about meaning and intent, and these things aren’t reducible to mere words.  I have a theory that people are promoting machine-readable statutes for a sinister intent: there’s profit to be made in selling the software that will read statutes written in a particular way.

My conspiracy theories aside, two things have made me think about app lawyers again.  The first is the inability of ordinary people to deal with the Centrelink fiasco.  People are being encouraged to appeal and go through merits review, but there are bigger legal questions at play here: what is the statutory basis for Centrelink’s actions and has the statute been applied correctly?  The second is that I keep getting adverts for mental health apps.  This might say something bad about me, but the adverts are persistent and they make me think about the range of sensitive services (legal services, health services, &c., &c.) that we are outsourcing to app developers.

So the question arises: are we abandoning the poor and vulnerable to robo-services?

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