By Fr. David…

 

Until this month, the word “algorithm” was not part of my vocabulary. As I did mathematics back in the Stone Age, I didn’t know what the word meant. Well, I certainly do now. A result devised by a machine based on previous results. Sometimes with unfortunate consequences: a student predicted an ‘A’ gets a ‘D’ because someone the previous year got a ‘D’; end of university dreams. These are difficult times for everybody, but I think it could have been foreseen that this would not work well, and explains why the Education Secretary now looks as if he wishes to hide under a stone.

Ancient understandings of God’s justice were rather similar, as if God was using an algorithm. The books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy all contain texts where God is said to punish sins “to the third and fourth generation”. The great-grandchildren suffer because the great-grandparents failed.

A later understanding removed this idea of a divine blunt instrument. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel both quote an old proverb: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” and both say this understanding has now been superseded. By our own good and bad actions, and ours alone, we stand before the justice of God.
Peter is given the keys of the Kingdom, to “bind” and “loose”. Let us hope he doesn’t use an algorithm, too. Otherwise when the time comes for me to meet my Maker I may be judged not as myself but according to the general level of justice in Central Reading, whatever that may be.

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