Campbell Campbell-Jack: Christians should challenge, not conform

One of the most overused words in the language is ‘genius’. No matter how popular they were, the Beatles were not geniuses; they merely produced some memorable melodies. John Lennon’s poetry was not a work of genius. Although scanning more smoothly than the doggerel of William McGonagall, its content was as trite and emotionally hackneyed as the poet laureate of Dundee.

Genius is not merely a matter of IQ. By some reckoning, genius level IQ is 160 or over. Yet Richard Feynman, who managed to win the Nobel Prize for physics and is generally considered a genius, had an IQ of only 125. There are many exceptionally clever people who are not geniuses and whose intellect has little or no impact outside the circle of their family and friends.

A genius is a person whose creativity helps the rest of us to look at the world in a new way.

Albert Einstein was a genius. After his theory of general relativity we could no longer think in Newtonian terms about time or space. Richard Dawkins is a biologist who employs predestinarian evolution to demonstrate that he is a superior being and the coolest guy on the planet.

Picasso was a genius. After Les Demoiselles D’Avignon we could never look at things as before. Tracey Emin is one more in a long line of art school graduates who produce a frisson of excitement amongst intellectual poseurs and a yawn in the other 99.999 per cent of us.

Louis Armstrong was a genius. The opening bars of West End Blues are not just sublime music; they make us hear things differently. John Cage was a musical chancer who made a comfortable living peddling unlistenable compositions, the snake oil salesman of the musical world.

However, no matter how much of an impact the work of a true genius has, their ideas are gradually replaced. Even Einstein’s work is no longer sacrosanct but is adjusted, tweaked, even denied. The world moves on, especially the intellectual world.

Geniuses are gamechangers. By this reckoning, Karl Marx was a genius. After him our understanding of human relations was totally altered. Since the mid-19th century we have seen the world in class terms, and our ultimate value is economic wellbeing.

Without any underlying coherent belief system we find that consumption is the standard of happiness and a desire to have what others have is the prevailing motivation. Black Friday teaches us that bling is now the opiate of the masses.

During the 20th century the concept of class dominated every area of intellectual and other endeavour. From history to comedy, from sociology to sport, Marx ruled and set the agenda for all our activity and understanding.

Even the unlikeliest of people fell in with the programme. Margaret Thatcher, arch-conservative, gained and kept power not by playing up to the ruling class but by appealing to the legitimate aspirations of the working class. Tony Blair kept Labour in power by appealing to the fears of the English middle class. In the words of John Prescott, ‘We are all middle class now’.

The seemingly ever-present anarchist protesters, vociferously representing the 99 per cent masses against the activities of the rich 1 per cent, are not the class warriors they imagine. They share more with the corporations they demonise than they would willingly acknowledge. What they are actually saying is ‘Greed is bad. I have bills, give me your money.’ The protesters share the outlook of the banks and corporations they often rightly decry, that material possessions are what matters. They merely disagree with the mechanics of distribution.

Thankfully Marxism is dead, but its effects linger on like the smell of a dead rat behind the skirting board. Today identity politics is the latest, and most widespread, manifestation of class warfare. The church, late as usual, got into the act with class-based theology: black theology, homosexual theology, feminist theology etc.



Now that homosexuality is accepted, the church continues in full identity politics flow, with transgenderism being the cause du jour of trendy theologians ever eager to adapt to the world around us. We even have the theologically illiterate idea of re-baptism for those who have changed their gender being seriously proposed.

The original South American Liberation theologians, often roundly condemned as Marxist, were rarely actually Marxist. Rather the intellectual milieu in which they operated was suffused with Marxist paradigms and terminology. Like chameleons, they took on the colour of their surroundings: usually red, sometimes red and black.

What is ignored by the protagonists of class warfare and identity politics is that worldview or ideology is more influential. What people believe matters more than what people have. Two families, one of whom is rich and the other poor but both of whom are Christian, have more in common than two families both of whom are poor but only one of whom is Christian.

The Christian church should be the only classless society on earth, according to Galatians 3:26-29. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Marxist-influenced progressive theologians are as adulterated by political power as their more conservative predecessors. Christianity has become, to a large extent, a religion of conformity, of integration into the prevailing culture.

Calvin spoke of the church as the spearhead of the new creation, not as the last man in the circus parade, the one who comes after the elephants with a bucket and shovel. Even if it does produce marvellous roses, aping what goes on in the world is no task for the church.

Thankfully the church always contains a current which is hostile to prevailing political power, which is revolutionary and truly anarchical inasmuch as it breaks with, and challenges, institutional power. We who are Christians constitute the alternative society, the counter-culture which the New Testament embodies and the world needs.

Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack

  • The_Mocking_Turtle

    “However, no matter how much of an impact the work of a true genius has, their ideas are gradually replaced. Even Einstein’s work is no longer sacrosanct but is adjusted, tweaked, even denied. The world moves on, especially the intellectual world.”

    Does that include the ideas and work of religious geniuses whose words are, more often than not, regarded by devotees as received, sacrosanct, set in stone and inviolate?

    • JabbaPapa

      Unsurprisingly, you implicitly confuse Dogma with theology.

      But you make a fair point — so does Dr Campbell-Jack.

      • The_Mocking_Turtle

        Christianity is incapable of challenging even itself, my friend, without suffering splits and schisms. And theology IS dogmatic.

        • JabbaPapa

          theology IS dogmatic

          Nope.

          • The_Mocking_Turtle

            Yep – and purposeless to boot.

          • JabbaPapa

            No, really, NOPE.

            Dogma is that which is established and is to be taught — Theology is the study and philosophy and speculations and so on that can be drawn out of Dogma, but which are by definition apart from it.

          • Bik Byro

            theology IS dogmatic

            Yup.

  • Uusikaupunki

    The trouble is, the CoE took “The Vicar of Bray” as an instruction manual…..

  • Bik Byro

    More proof that TCW is fast becoming a single-issue site. It should just rename itself the “Colonel Blimps who Hate Gays and Transgenders” and have done with it. At least it would be a title which reflected both the daily output and the readership.

    • Royinsouthwest

      Who invented the trans-gender issue? It wasn’t TCW nor was it a collection of so-called “Colonel Blimps.” It is yet another issue invented by PC types seeking new ways of bossing other people around.

    • Don Benson

      I guess in a sense you are right: the Conservative Woman is a single issue site, But that issue is nothing at all to do with ‘hatred’ of anybody; it is about homing in on the objective truth of whatever you are considering. To misquote a former American president: ‘it’s the truth, stupid!’

      Genuine conservatism will not baulk at unpopular or inconvenient notions, be they ancient or modern. It seeks to work with the grain of nature as the best way of understanding and organising the way we live. And a great way to understand about this is to see how things have worked out in the past, which is why conservatives are not embarrassed by embracing things from the past (in contrast to modernists whose mission is to trash everything the past has to offer). And you may not like this, but if there is revelation of truth from somewhere beyond utilitarian survival and pleasure-seeking, conservatives will be prepared to listen.

      But I agree, it’s no good getting stuck in a nostalgic rut because that absorbs your energy and prevents you from seeing the potential for good in the future (Brexit, if we don’t make a complete hash of it, for example!). But always we should follow where truth leads.

  • “Thankfully the church always contains a current which is hostile to prevailing political power”.
    I haven’t noted it lately, the current Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be doing his level best to support the prevailing power (and urging more of everything) as well as all those individuals who claim to be able to change their gender at will and so should be able to marry each other regardless of their gender..
    Where is this “current which is hostile to prevailing political power” in the Church of England? I haven’t noticed it.

    • Alan Llandrindod Wells

      What is the Canterbury Wimp going to say when someone wants to marry their dog.

      • “We must be inclusive”, I suspect. We must be friends with Islam which wants to enslave or destroy Christianity and we can’t be nasty to those who are different from the majority. Instead of getting out and preaching Christianity to attract converts, he’s giving in to what many of us see as inevitable Islamisation.

    • Tricia

      AMIE is the Anglican Mission in England, Renew, Confessing Anglicans are some who are hostile to the prevailing direction of the C of E. The current bishops are wedded to the culture and political power so there will be a split within a few years and those who follow Christ and not the culture, will grow and the C of E will die. You need to be awake to the signs of the age! Very apt in Advent.

      • The CofE certainly needs to change. I feel it should be disestablished and the bishops elected by the church members rather than appointed with their politics in mind. We have an Islam loving bishop, would the congregations or the church wardens appointed him? Somehow I doubt it.

        • John Thomas

          You might be right, EP – but remember that in the Diocese of Hereford, it was the diocesan synod (laypeople?) who approved a Same Sex Marriage liturgy, so it looks as though lay people (the influential few? Middle Class “liberals”?), or some of them, are pro-cultre also.

          • I don’t recall having the choice of electing people to the synod; we had a vote for the church wardens – ours certainly wouldn’t support such ideas! Out of curiosity I must find out more.

  • Nick Muir

    If Richard Feynman’s IQ was measured at 125 then that is the ultimate proof that IQ as a measurement of intelligence is utter bunk. The man was one of the greatest physicists and thinkers who ever lived. The theory of Quantum Electrodynamics and especially the path integral formulation are towering achievements, on a par with or even beyond Einstein’s achievements.

    • The_Mocking_Turtle

      That was Feynman’s IQ when a schoolboy. Probably Feynman was simply not interested enough in psychometric tests like that to have bothered to make an effort. I wouldn’t agree that QED is better than relativity; the former is as mathematically ugly as the latter is elegant and beautiful.

      • Nick Muir

        Renormalisation in QED is something, the ultimate rabbit out of a hat. And part of the fun is that it works when it shouldn’t. The path integral formulation is both elegant and beautiful, but esoteric. Almost anyone by contrast can understand the principle of equivalence. But I do think IQ tests are a very limited view of ability.

        • JabbaPapa

          Jordan Peterson has a talk on the subject available online, and what I’ve gathered from my interpretation of it is that the quality of IQ testing has improved over the decades — which actually goes a long way to explaining why average IQ has increased over that same period.

        • The_Mocking_Turtle

          Removing infinities by means of renomalisation is an unsatisfactory and unpleasant way to get theory to match experiment, QED works as far as calculation goes but nobody can explain the hows and the whys.

          • Nick Muir

            I once met a chap who had spent 30 years measuring the predictions of QED to ever greater levels of accuracy, and never found a discrepancy. It’s a matter of taste really but I like the mystery at the bottom of it all.

      • Bik Byro

        Mind you, there are some pretty big hairy formulae in general relativity

    • Harley Quin

      It isn’t just IQ. It’s imagination and the confidence to think without being shackled by prevailing orthodoxies.

      Time and again one hears of superlatively intellectual people who idled at school or who were dismissed as dreamers by their tutors,

      Einstein’s breakthrough came about after he imagined himself sitting on something or other and travelling at the speed of light.

      • Bik Byro

        It was a tram.

  • David

    Hear, hear Dr Campbell-Jack.
    Jesus was a revolutionary figure (in the theological sense) and such was the extraordinary power of his message that, against all the odds, and within a few centuries his followers converted the Roman Empire. From there it went on to spread across the world and recreate entire societies, as it is still doing. Jesus didn’t achieve that by being Mr Nice Guy.
    Christian leaders need boldness not meekness, as our message is uniquely beautiful, true and life transforming for entire societies. Bring on the 21st century Reverend Wesley !

    • JabbaPapa

      and within a few centuries his followers converted the Roman Empire

      Been pondering whether I should give this one a pass, but I find I can’t.

      It wasn’t until IIRC the 8th Century, about simultaneously with the fall of the Western Empire, that Christianity became the religion of a majority of Romans, East or West.

      700 years plus is hardly just “a few” Centuries.

      Constantine did not establish Christianity as the official Religion of the Empire — quite apart from being a convert of his own death bed rather than the fanatical Christian zealot that some describe him as, what Constantine actually did was to decriminalise Christianity and to institute in Law the Principle of Religious Freedom.

  • Aisla Sinclair

    I`d put Paul up there as a genius too. Only Paul could possibly have made sense of the recent madness surrounding the life, death and resurrection of a Jewish rabbi.
    Paul had a rare synthesis of Jew, Greek and Roman-he`d been out to Arabia and pretty much established a Christian model of life and social action by himself. No other mind has been as wide ranging as his.
    And all this with no Gospels, and on the run from town to city, synagogue to house “church”.
    Paul-Newton-Mendeleev-Einstein.

  • JabbaPapa

    Really though, this notion of linking high or even genius-level IQ with religious insight is basically Gnostic in both origin and nature — this notion that Christians are somehow set apart in some sort of mystically superior state to “the 99 per cent masses” (and never mind the superciliousness) has exactly nothing to do with Christianity as such.

    As to : Thankfully the church always contains a current which is hostile to prevailing political power, which is revolutionary and truly anarchical inasmuch as it breaks with, and challenges, institutional power. We who are Christians constitute the alternative society, the counter-culture which the New Testament embodies and the world needs.

    … see : Hebrews {13:16} But do not be willing to forget good works and fellowship. For God is deserving of such sacrifices.
    {13:17} Obey your leaders and be subject to them. For they watch over you, as if to render an account of your souls. So then, may they do this with joy, and not with grief. Otherwise, it would not be as helpful to you.