Lent: human origins, human freedom

By Harry Hagopian
March 3, 2012

As Lenten continues, I share two items that I suggest are 'a must-watch' and 'a must-read' for reflecting on Christian and human concerns far and wide.

The first is a YouTube weblink to the recent discussion staged at the University of Oxford between Archbishop Rowan Williams and Professor Richard Dawkins on 'Human Beings and Ultimate Origin'. Moderated by distinguished philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, this four-stage event in the Sheldonian took place on 23 February 2012. You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfQk4NfW7g0

I found the 128-minute discussion rich and interesting in many ways. It was evident, however, that the issues were being explored between a philosopher/theologian and a scientist with different ways of seeing and speaking. Therefore the benchmarks and parameters were not always synchronous throughout those two hours.

I found the final short summation by Archbishop Rowan about the significance of a clutter-free elegance and beauty in our world extremely relevant - symbolising, perhaps, one major difference between the symposiants.

What also interesting is that Richard Dawkins preferred to describe himself as an agnostic rather than an atheist, although he then tried to backtrack with some hair-splitting transpositions of those two concepts.

From my own Armenian perspective, the clutter-free beauty of the world is a manifestation of the love that God bears for the world, and thereby the different ways in which people live and witness it. This is at the core of our faith in a way that exceeds images and allegories, and in so doing frees us to see anew.

This leads me to another stimulating address: this time, a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury at King's School Canterbury on the topic of freedom. It can be read here: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2367/archbishop-on-bo...

Using the precious letters that renowned German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in Nazi Germany, the sermon provides a wonderful and short reflection on freedom and on its (initially surprising) components.

It was broadcast a week ago on BBC R4 'Sunday Worship' at the beginning of the Lenten season, and one key question the sermon asked was, "After all, what [other] sort of freedom is finally worth having?" That is precisely what we seek to explore, personally and collectively, in Lent.


© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK) and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.