In each episode of Matters of Life and Death, brought to you by Premier Unbelievable?, John Wyatt and his son Tim discuss issues in healthcare, ethics, technology, science, faith and more. John is a doctor, professor of ethics, and writer and speaker on many of these topics, while Tim is a religion and social affairs journalist. We talk about how Christians can better engage with a particular question of life, death or something else in between.
Somebody once said that in contemporary society we all want to ‘have sex with our friends, and be friends with our sexual partners’. There is a broad suspicion of intimate but non-sexual friendships, especially those which are intergenerational or cross the sexes. We are all supposed to be too cynical to believe that people might just be friends – surely it’s actually all about sex and power in some way? In this episode we try to unpick where the denigration of friendship came from in the modern Western world, and explore what impact this has on the Christian ideal of friendship.
To mark one year since Matters of Life and Death joined the Premier Unbelievable network, we have a special one-off episode answering some questions emailed in by listeners.
There are two strong Christian traditions when it comes to robust political or industrial action such as strikes. One argues for enduring oppression and unfair employment in the manner of Jesus and points to Paul’s teaching in the Bible on slaves and masters. But a second position throws its weight behind efforts to challenge injustice and protect the vulnerable, noting Jesus’s clear teaching on care for the widow, orphan and stranger.
The UK is currently gripped by a wave of strikes from public sector employees – nurses, teachers, postal workers, train drivers, paramedics, and soon junior doctors too. But this raises complex ethical questions. Few Christians would deny it is legitimate for private employees to withhold their labour in order to demand better pay or conditions, but it is not the governmental employers who will suffer in public sector strikes but patients, students and ordinary citizens.
In this episode we think through more of the implications of living in a non-private digital village in the 21st century, but is privacy even a Christian virtue in the first place?
Every tap, swipe and click we make on our phones, tablets and laptops is being recorded by big tech firms. This is often called surveillance capitalism – a network of products and services we use every day which sucks up large quantities of data about us and then sells it on to advertisers at huge profits.
In the second part of our discussion with Chris Goswami, we dive into some of the ethical arguments for and against cryptocurrencies.
Recent news headlines have been full of discussion of the current ‘crypto winter’, a season where the value of cryptocurrencies has plummeted causing financial devastation and destroying what looked like thriving crypto institutions.
In our second conversation on Canada’s euthanasia regime, we chat with a Canadian doctor about the troubling expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying to those only suffering from mental illness.
This week we speak with a Christian psychiatrist from Canada who has been involved in both the campaigning against the spread of euthanasia, and also figuring out on the ground how to care well for patients in a system which offers them the chance to take their own lives instead of receiving treatment.
In the third and final installment of John’s discussion with Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, they discuss Martin’s views on the future of space travel and astronauts, and whether some robotic future progeny of humankind will eventually replace us in exploring the universe.
Happy New Year! Today’s episode continues the Big Conversation between John and Martin Rees, the astronomer royal.
Today’s episode is a little different from normal as we’re going to begin a short series sharing a recent conversation John had with Lord Martin Rees, the astronomer royal.
In the second half of our conversation with Tim Farron, we discuss his conviction that Christians should get stuck into politics despite its compromises and challenges. Why did his own term as leader of the Liberal Democrats come unstuck so badly, and does he believe there actually is a ceiling on ambition for Christian politicians who wish to hold onto their integrity? What impact is social media and our accelerating, atomised society having on our politics, and how can we as believers resist being dragged along with this?
This week we’re joined by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron to discuss social media and politics. Research suggests UK members of parliament like Tim get sent thousands of offensive tweets every single day.
In the second half of our discussion with Christian psychiatrist Daniel Maughan, we work through some ways in which the church might play in role in supporting those struggling with their mental health back to fullness of life.
Since the covid pandemic there has been an alarming rise in people presenting with mental health problems.
In the second part of our conversation on ageing and dependence, we think about how secular society has tried to ameliorate the crisis of isolated older people with technological solutions.
We’ve discussed in previous episodes the looming ‘demographic timebomb’ – a growing mass of elderly and increasingly chronically ill people in many developed nations, expected to place huge strain on public resources.
Resuming our conversation with Rhys Laverty from the Davenant Institute, we look at John’s contribution to the Protestant Social Teaching book – a chapter exploring post-Reformation tradition around death and dying.
Over 150 years the Catholic Church has built up a body of ethical doctrine commonly known as Catholic Social Teaching, which applies Catholic theology to wider social concerns, covering everything from labour relations to contraception.
Building on last week’s discussion of AI chatbots, we consider the theology and sociology of why interacting with other human beings is so central to our personhood.
Earlier this year, a Google engineer went public with his concerns an artificial intelligence chatbot program he had been testing had become sentient.
Twenty-four years ago, John published the book which gave this podcast its name: Matters of Life and Death.
Building on last week’s whistlestop tour through the latest ground-breaking embryo research, in this episode we consider what we should do as Christians about all this.
There has been a flood of highly significant if poorly reported developments in embryo research in recent years, all of which raise new and confusing questions for Christians and non-Christians alike.
Our second episode on the evolution debate considers three more bones of contention: where do different species come from? Are we all commonly descended from a single source, or does God intervene?
In this special one-off episode, Tim speaks with Mark Greene from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity about Queen Elizabeth II, her faith and decades of service.
Evolution vs creationism. It’s been one of the most divisive and contentious debates within Christianity. But is there a way to tackle these questions without falling into rancour and accusation?
Archie’s case underlines the growing crisis over the lack of trust many ordinary people have in medical professionals.
Twelve-year-old Archie Battersbee died on 7 August, after months of legal wrangling between doctors who believed he was brain dead and wished to end life support, and his family who resisted this.
In this episode we pick up our conversation with clinical geneticist Melody Redman to talk about a new NHS programme in England which is piloting whole genome sequencing of newborn babies.
Each of us carries around in our cells about 20,000 different genes – a unique set of biological code which shapes how our bodies develop.
Resuming our conversation about suffering, we think through some faithful Christian responses to evil and loss.
The problem of suffering has been one of the most intractable and painful theological debates for centuries.
In the second half of our conversation with theologian Andrew Davison, we ask what the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe would mean for Christian faith and teaching.
In the week the first images from the new James Webb Space Telescope were beamed back to Earth, we are joined by theologian Andrew Davison to consider the spiritual value of cosmology and astrophysics.
Today we’re going back to our conversation about simulation for part two of this re-broadcast.
For the next two weeks we’re dipping back into the Matters of Life and Death archive to bring you an episode we first broadcast last year. It’s all about simulation.
Could it be that some knowledge – including whether your unborn child has a serious genetic condition – is actually not helpful, and even harmful to us?
Pregnant women today are offered a battery of tests and screening for their unborn child, looking for an ever-increasing range of conditions and risks.
Demographic trends reveal clearly the next century will be one increasingly dominated by older people. If God is giving us a lot more folk in their later years, what are they for in church life?
The world’s population is rapidly becoming older and older, with many developed nations seeing unprecedented proportions of their citizens in retirement age.
In the second part of our conversation on robot rights, we explore three Christian responses to calls for robot personhood, spanning the spectrum of hostility to optimism about the development.
If and when autonomous and intelligent robots come into existence, should they be granted rights, or even personhood?
Abortion is a flashpoint issue in both the church and wider culture, with the very language you choose used as a cudgel for either side.
This is part two of our re-broadcast of last year’s John Stott episode, to mark what would have been his centenary.
This month marks 101 years since the late John Stott was born, and his centenary last year prompted a flurry of events to mark the centenary of this highly influential vicar, Bible teacher and evangelical leader.
In Britain as in many countries there is a growing campaign to legalise assisted suicide and to make doctors prescribe on request lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.
Over the past 60 years a new field of medicine has emerged – palliative care.
Following on from our discussion last week on the rise of climate fatalism, we discuss what an authentically Christian response to our environmental crisis would look like.
The latest report from the UN’s climate scientists was both incredibly downbeat about climate change and almost entirely ignored by a media fixated on Ukraine.
In this episode we pick up our conversation from last week about transhumanism and how technology might redefine what it means to be human.
Billions of dollars are currently being spent by a suite of private firms, mostly in Silicon Valley, pursuing radical research to enhance human capacities.
To mark our arrival on the Premier network, we recap how Matters of Life and Death began and what we hope our intergenerational conversations might achieve.
The Omicron variant has in a few short weeks almost taken over the pandemic.
This week we are resuming our conversation about infertility which begun in our previous episode.
Today we are delving into a complex and sensitive topic – infertility and IVF.
This week we’re digging into assisted dying. A bill to legalise it in England has been introduced to parliament – what does it propose and how likely is it to actually become law?
Mark Driscoll, the hermeneutic of suspicion, Sigmund Freud’s chaise longue, and Paul-Timothy relationships
This episode was inspired by John’s new book – The Robot Will See You Now
It’s been almost six months since we last dedicated an episode to covid, and since then a lot has happened.
Last week marked 100 years since the late John Stott was born and there has been a flurry of events to mark the centenary of this highly influential vicar, Bible teacher and evangelical leader.
Today’s topic is simulation. We live in an era when digital technology is making it increasingly easy and cheap to create fake but compelling images or videos of people, or even entirely artificial human-like personalities.
This episode explores one of the most significant and potentially long-lasting ways the covid pandemic has affected church life – the shift to digital.
In today’s episode we’re taking a sideways step from the covid pandemic and instead are discussing social media and free speech.
Microchips. Bill Gates. The mark of the beast. 5G cell towers. False positive rates. Big pharma. DNA alteration. It’s been hard to avoid the swirling morass of misinformation and conspiracy theories around the pandemic.
Can Christians be given the vaccine without compromising on their religious convictions?
Is this crude, blunt instrument really the best way to tackle the second wave of the covid pandemic?
We received a fascinating question from a listener after our last episode on vaccines, picking up on the competing and perhaps contradictory philosophies behind the anti-vax movement.
There are about 40 different potential covid vaccines already being tested on humans, with almost a hundred more at earlier stages of development in the lab.
We’re back after a slightly longer than expected summer break with a new episode, all about our fears, anxieties and hopes amid the pandemic.
In the second part of our conversation on technology during the coronavirus pandemic, we look into our crystal balls and try to imagine what the world of tech will look like in the future, thanks to Covid-19.
One of the perhaps unexpected results of the coronavirus pandemic is how it has thrown up some fascinating debates about technology.
For many years death has been described as perhaps the final taboo in British society. Rarely it is deemed polite to mention the uncomfortable fact that one day we all will die, let alone try to bring faith or spirituality into that conversation. But in the midst of a pandemic which has already claimed over 50,000 British lives in various ways, is that changing?
In this episode we examine what life in the NHS has been like during the Covid-19 crisis.
First come, first served? Or key workers and politicians before everyone else? How can doctors decide who to treat in a healthcare emergency when there are not enough beds or ventilators to go around?
Our third episode on coronavirus zooms in to focus on how Christians should be thinking and acting during the pandemic.
In this second episode in our series on coronavirus, we explore how Covid-19 is different to plagues in the past.
Our first ever episode of Matters of Life and Death kicks off a short series on coronavirus.
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