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Lent Talks is a series of talks, normally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday in the United Kingdom, to mark the Christian season of Lent. They typically are brief talks, lasting about fifteen minutes, and have featured various speakers from different backgrounds. Each week,the speaker gives a talk on a different subject, and reflects on how this relates to the life of Christ.
Speakers in 2008 have included the Conservative politician Ann Widdecombe, and in 2007 featured Armando Ianucci, who discussed why the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is longer than forty days. The final Lent Talk in 2008 was delivered on 19 March, by the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright. His talk drew upon the Bible book Lamentations of Jeremiah, emphasising the negative moments in life and times when we need to sit and reflect. The theme of his talk, delivered during Holy Week, was to reflect on the period between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Speakers in 2008
- 13 February 2008: Jude Kelly
- 20 February 2008: Professor Terry Eagleton
- 27 February 2008: Mary Loudon
- 5 March 2008: Clive Stafford Smith
- 12 March 2008: Ann Widdecombe
- 19 March 2008: Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham as from 2003
In 2009, the series of Lent Talks began on 4 March, with the first programme being broadcast by Martin Bell, talking about his experience in the war zones. The second edition was presented by Richard Holloway on 11 March, in which Holloway discussed the power of language and referred to the transcendence of God. His talk referred to both music and verbal language. He also referred to the problem of infinite regress as applied to the question of "Who made God"? providing an answer by stating that this question overlooks the transcendence of God. The third edition was entitled "Does God makes mistakes" and was presented by Sister Frances Domenica. The fourth edition was presented on 25 March by George Pattison, and was about "The Absence of God", dealing with the theme of how we cannot see God. Early in this edition, Pattison referred to the an Anglican liturgy, in which it is said that God knows our hearts, and watches our inner movement. He later referred to the French atheist existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, describing Sartre's early loss of faith, and stating that Sartre remained, for the rest of his life, a resolute atheist. However, he later referred to the postmodernist philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who said that although we cannot see God, God can see us, and discussed how this is important to Levinas' philosophy.
On 1/4 April, Frank Field presented Lent Talks. He described Lent as a time not merely of sackcloth and ashes, but as a time to divide the periods in our lives. The final edition of the Lent Talks in 2009 was broadcast on 8 April, and presented by the Jewish philosopher and theologian Melissa Raphael. Raphael's talk, "In God's Absence", reflected on the meaning of God for Jews during the Holocaust. Raphael mentioned how she, as a feminist Jew, had studied Christianity while at university but had remained a Jew.
Speakers in 2009
- April 8. Melissa Raphael, talking about "In God's Absence".
- April 1/ April 4. Frank Field.
- March 25. George Pattison
- March 18/March 21 Sister Frances Domenica, on "Does God Make Mistakes"?
- March 11. Richard Holloway
- March 4. Martin Bell
The Lent Talks for 2010 began on February 24 with Will Self giving a talk on religion and the arts, and the spiritual sense that one can feel in church buildings. Maajid Naawaz, the director of the Quilliam Foundation, gave the Lent Talks on March 10 2010. Alister McGrath presented the Lent Talks on March 24 2010, on the relationship between religion and science - he mentioned Karl Popper, Peter Medawar and Sir Isaac Newton.
The Lent Talks in 2011 began on March 16 2011. Ian Blair was the first speaker and talked about religion in public life.
The Lent Talks in 2012 began on February 29 2012. Speakers in the most recent (i.e. 2012) series included John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University; Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and Linda Woodhead, lecturer in Religious Studies at The University of Lancaster.
The third of the Lent Talks in 2012 was presented by John Lennox on the theme of science and religion. Early on in the programme, he quoted Albert Einstein: "The only thing that is incomprehensible about the universe is that it is comprehensible". He also referred to Alfred North Whitehead, as well as many scientists - such as Kepler or Galileo - who believed in God. Lennox said that Jesus Christ as the person, above all else, who did not fit into this world. He also clarified that was one of the reasons why he was a Christian.
The final talk in the 2012 series was given by Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ on Wed, 4 Apr 2012
The Lent Talks for 2013 considered the theme of abandonment. They were commenced on February 20, 2013, by the human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.