Providence Theology

Radical - Thoughtful - Affirming

'Ghosts' - by Peter Burrows

‘Ghosts are what we fear and what we hope for.’ 

                                                         - Adam Nicholson


I always believed in ghosts

Fearing the inevitable

That someday I would see one.

Though what would happen next

Would be anyone’s guess.

Fuelled by grown-ups’ gas-fire tales

At family gatherings:


Spectral bedside visits, cowled

Reunited grandparents;

My sceptic Dad pursuing

His wandering Nan downstairs;

Your father’s posthumous pint

Stoked us cousins well, scaring

Ourselves richly; mythmaking


Not only bedtime stories.

Anywhere invoked destiny.

Heightening old haunts, corners

Where a dark glint could summon

Fearful relief: My time come.

My teens’ homemade Ouija boards

Ghost-hunted validation


To reach anyone beyond this life.

Who pushed the glass to invite

White terror messages, and

Nights embracing the Bible?

Then before I knew, outgrown.

Reasoning and sense won out.

Even your sudden early death


Did not scare me. Habitual

Comfort felt you were still there.

Before I could realise

You were more than just misplaced

And family rifts widened

The space that could not be filled

The searching dreams ceased. You were


Undeniably nothing.

You, simple and honest saw

What you believed so in turn

They came back to you. Untrue

But true to you; not for me.

But hang the laws of physics -

Scare me with the floating bed,


The apparitional grandma

Smiling through the wallpaper…

Back at the family home

I stay up alone recalling

Your presence, in your arm chair.

The memory grasps - willing

You through the old shadows where


Only childish hope remains.


Peter Burrows is a librarian in the North West of England. Poems have appeared in The North, Northwords Now, Dream Catcher, Coast to Coast to Coast, and The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society anthology. His poem 'Tracey Lithgow' was shortlisted for the Hedgehog Press 2019 Cupid’s Arrow Poetry Prize, and he was a co-winner in the Hedgehog Press 2019 Tree Poets Nature anthology (forthcoming).            @Peter_Burrows74

Words are like dirty cutlery - by Simon Mapp


Around two hundred years ago the idea that truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe

Richard Rorty 1931-2007 was an American philosopher most noted for his 1989 book ‘Contingency, irony and Solidarity’. In this book Rorty drops the demand for a theory on which individuals and society can rest and sketches out the figure of the ‘liberal ironist’ – the person who faces up to the contingency of their most central desires. 

What has this to do with religion?

Well, Rorty sees ‘ironism’ as a rejection of metaphysics; of course, one need not define religion by metaphysics – what is interesting is that this is the opposite to the way the philosopher Heidegger (1889-1976) saw things; Heidegger thought of metaphysics as the pursuit towards a clear and definitive reality of ‘being in the world’. Rorty is defining ironism as a rejection of social truth and of metaphysical [T]ruth and Heidegger’s ‘socio-metaphysics’ [representation of reality] - in favour of metaphor – but, in Rorty’s words ‘metaphors of width rather than height or depth’.

World and [T]ruth

What this does is make a distinction between world and [T]ruth; only metaphor and descriptions can be categorised as truth or false [we use such to justify our beliefs] whilst the metaphysical cannot! Ironically, not unlike Wittgenstein’s early work one could argue this safeguards the metaphysical into the silence; but Rorty’s position is more subjective than objective – more empirical than analytical, it’s the position that truth is born out of romanticism and so truths are made rather than found. However, 20th century history has shown that this can be a dangerous philosophy [one need only consider National Socialism] but the answer, for Rorty, is that only by standing such negative positions against the wall of liberalism can we be set free – the more poetic vocabulary becomes a painted backdrop and cultural stage – ergo the ironist, the seeker, the libertarian, must be always be a recreation – never static. Therefore, when reading Rorty one sees that the arguments for God or for a particular religion can only be viewed in the light of surrounding vocabularies which may or may not offer a more liberating pathway – thus the use of words such as ineffability become negated by being but a word in a sea of competing words, and any argument in favour or God or indeed against God simply becomes a ‘game’ of - which vocabulary is the strongest or more attractive!

Words are like dirty cutlery – be careful how you use them, for you may know not where they have been!

Does Rorty offer any answers?

To ask this question would be to miss his most central point; for a society in which there is a fixed point and certain order would be the society that the truly liberal, the ironist would seek to avoid because philosophical foundations badly serve the liberal society by being descriptive. The religious person, already in the belief that they have the “right” vocabulary, must therefore recognise there are no philosophical or theological systems on which to rest one’s ideas simply because there is no ‘outside, future or projection’ to measure such systems against – only an oral history which is already stained – in short: Words are like dirty cutlery – be careful how you use them, for you may know not where they have been!

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'Like for like?' Translation and the Bible - by Richard Britton

Is translation as simple as it seems?

In Greek, there are several words that are translated into English as ‘love’; some are about deep friendship, love for God, erotic love or intellectual connection. In Hebrew it has been suggested that the word for day – y-m – is more akin to ‘age’, which would put a big new spin on Genesis!

Often it is taken for granted that translation is a simple transaction in which one word is replaced for a like word in another language. However, languages are varied and even words in closely related languages are not completely equivalent to what they may be thought to be like.  Culture and context makes such a difference.

This video about the Welsh language Bible shows that some English translations departed from the meaning of the original text whereas the Welsh ones steered it back. Or, at least, according to one view of what the original meaning may have been!

Parts of this article from the Translation Journal are helpful, talking about the importance of cultural context.

Paul in the New Testament could be seen to be trying to explain Jewish and Hebraic ideas to other ethnicities, such as Anatolians, Galatians, Romans and Greeks. Therefore, even when he first spoke, he was engaged in a kind of translation. This is why he alludes to Greek ideas and philosophy.

Translations cannot be removed from the situation they are made in – they are products of their times. The King James Version is as influenced by early modern ideology as it is the culture the ancient texts describe. The seeds of the English Civil War can be seen in the decisions made in the result of this scholarly endeavour.

What decisions will be made in future translations of the Bible?  Will the words chosen to substitute the Greek and Hebrew be reactions to austerity, Trump or Brexit?

Next Discussion Evening on January 21st - 2020 – 7.30pm – Providence URC Church, New Mills