By Hug Rayment-Pickard

In fifty wonderful brief essays one of many UK's liveliest younger writers on faith introduces the major topics, hobbies and thinkers in theology. George Pattison, Professor of Divinity on the collage of Oxford says: 'Hugh Rayment-Pickard is among the clearest thinkers at the British theological scene, and 50 Key ideas in Theology opens the door to theology for college kids and normal readers alike. He has provided a legitimate advisor for the confused and a stimulus to argument among the interested.'

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This makes all discussion of doctrine a win–lose contest where only one party can be right, since it follows from the ‘rightness’ of one party that the other must necessarily be wrong. There is no possibility of more than one correct view of the truth, and once fixed, the doctrine must be defended for all time. This is why the Roman Catholic Church waited until 1992 to change the doctrinal position that it had taken in 1633 on Galileo’s astronomical theories. In practice, of course, doctrines have changed over time, with new doctrines being added to the body of teaching, and with others being amended (see ‘Atonement’).

1). Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923) argued that the message of Jesus was ethical rather than doctrinal: ‘We are no longer in the business of fixing permanent dogmas from an inspired Bible. ’ IDEAS The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: a ‘new’ doctrine, controversially adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in 1950, that the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken, body and soul, straight up to heaven after her death. Catechesis: the teaching of the Church in its practical form. Didache (pronounced ‘did-ee-kay’): the Greek term for ‘teaching’.

And there is a logical paradox at the heart of atheism: it requires the concept of God in order to define itself, so to some extent atheists give credence to the gods they are against precisely by pointing out their non-existence. If there were a campaign to show that the man on the moon doesn’t exist, it would automatically give status to the counter-claim that the man on the moon is in fact alive and well. A perfect atheism would have to pass beyond disbelief to a complete indifference to the question of God’s existence.

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