Some Christians specialise in dismissing other Christians because they don’t believe this or that , or do this or that. Often it is explicit and that poor Christian is told she cannot be a christian because……………….
The more evangelical and fundamentalist specialise in this and most commonly it will come out in issues like Creation in 6 days flat, a rejection of evolution, the inerrancy of the bible, and being able to date one’s conversion.
My introduction to the world of shunning came when I went to study under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri in Switzerland in between working as a geologist and training for the ministry. I’d always thought that only a few nutters believed in a 6-day creation, but I was wrong on the fewness! It was the latest rave of his son-in-law who encouraged me to read creationists books to develop my Christian understanding. After wading through The Genesis Flood for two hours , I could see what Morris had done. It was systematic distortion and misrepresentation. (since then I have not found any accurate material in Creationism.) When I said what I found I got it!!!!!
“Don’t you believe the Baybull?”
“Evilution is evil.”
And similar comments. From then on my faith was suspect as at best I was a heretic and I wondered if I was going to be dragged down to Geneva to join Servetus. Schaeffer wasn’t happy but then went off somewhere, so when I gave a talk on creationism he wasn’t there. The talk had a very mixed reception, but it was typed up and put in the library. We went back in 1998 and checked the talks in the library. Mine was missing! All the rest were there.
I soon found out how many Christians who accepted geology and evolution were shunned by their churches and fellow Christians, which initially shocked me, but gradually I realised it was common on this and other issues.
One evening Schaeffer was rambling on about elderly Greek women going to shrines in the Holy Land. He said they had no faith in Christ. A few months before I was at those shrines and saw similar women with their devotions. I was not impressed. Who was Schaeffer or I to judge?
I still thought it was only the looney extreme of Evangelicals until I started ministering in parishes and found it there, encouraged by the vicars. I’ll never forget at a staff meeting the vicar told me that some of the brethren were not sure I was a Christian, as I did not go on about my conversion. It did not defuse the situation when I said they should sort themselves out. This vicar had divided his congrgation into Christians and non-Christians. If someone didn’t come out the jargon or worship him, they were clearly not Christian. (He had a gift in falling out with his curates!)
And so we have proper and improper Christians and too many “Christian” think they should judge others. YUK
As a result I’ve kept my distance from this kind of evangelicalism, apart from forays into Creationism, when I get called all sorts of things.
For many years I thought moderate evangelicals and the rest of the Christian community were above all this, but have been forced to revise my opinions in the last decade.
I would never have anticipated it but as so many have gone a bundle on an extreme Social Justice, (informed by Cwitical Theory and Intersectionalism) , follow the latest spoutings of groups like Extinction Rebellion on Climate Change , the environment and everything else, things have changed in the last decade. It does seem that you cannot have a questioning view on these subjects. You are either with them or against them.
I first discovered this in 2011as I started to consider fracking, which I initially opposed. My geological and mining background led me into a minefield as I soon realised that the facts and arguments put forward about fracking by the Friends of the earth, the diocese and other groups were manifestly false. I was soon shunned for saying so. But then a priest who in their former career worked alongs drillers and planned and supervised a drill-rig would know far less than a graduate in modern languages.
With the advent of Extinction Rebellion all the woke conerns have between thrown together in one great big muddle – sorry – I should say classical example of intersectionalism. Thus we get environment, climate change, racism, patriarchy, capitalism, all in one sentence. Their all embracing concern is summed up here;
Right from the beginning Rowan Williams , former Archbishop of Canterbury, has supported Extinction Rebellion. Before long Christian Climate Action started saying they were the Christian wing of extinction Rebellion. Many of the number , including clergy, seem to enjoy being arrested. Further both ER and Christian Climate Action has gained the support of several bishops.
It is unreasonable not to say the green woke concerns are the de facto position of the Church of England and other mainline churches. This comes out in the General Synod motion to achieve Net Zero by 2030 and not 2045 as in the original motion of Bishop Holtham. This aim in unachievable and even more so after Covid. Many churches are in bad state at present, especially over finances and aiming for Net Zero 2030 will bankrupt many parishes, as well as alientaing many members and fringers.
More and more it is increasingly hard to present an alternative view (grounded in science of course) as the activists are speaking “truth to power” and thus utterly convinced of THEIR truth. It means that “anyone else’s truth” can be ignored, sidelined or rejected.
As examples of silencing of other voices look for Christians who actually argue WITH EVIDENCE for Nuclear Energy, or that renewables cannot replace fossil fuels for several decades, or point out the problems of producing electricity by renewables and , asuming it were possible, how long it would take to extend the grid to cope with the increased electrical generation. Mantras of “keep it in the Ground” and “renewables” do not produce the power.
The problems oif Extinction Rebellion are manifold. It is prone to scaremong with Hallam’s 6 billion deaths due to Climate Change and this article states;
XR starts from the premise that climate change is likely to bring about “human extinction through climate change”. At the core of their ideology is an understanding of climate change as “an unprecedented global emergency”. This theme of “a life or death situation”, a “Sixth Mass Extinction”, and a catastrophic “climate and ecological emergency” is constantly repeated in their speeches, on marches, and in articles.
It also argues from a very strong form of the Precautionary Principle, which would mean that I should never go out on my bike (I cycle over 100 miles aweek on public roads) or go walking on moor and mountain. There is a risk for me, but a low one.
He said “People of faith should be here because they are people of faith. That is, they believe they can make a difference of some kind and that that difference is worth making. At the moment we’re at a remarkable moment of opportunity. People are talking about building back better. We have to take the opportunity. It’s not just recovering what’s been lost but building again something that is genuinely more sustainable. Because in the last few months we have seen the possibility of some alternatives that might work and I think people of faith ought to be on board with making those alternatives work, taking that moment of opportunity.”
There is little room for those who disagree.
To say People of faith should be here because they are people of faith seems like my fundi friends and implicitly excludes from “people of faith” like me those who would not be protesting and agree with the agenda. Does that mean I am not a person of faith
It also ignores some of Paul’s teaching , when writing to Christians who wanted to no-platform him, as in 2 Corinthians chaps 10-12 , especially 2 Cor ch10 vs7 (This was the text of my last sermon of the church I mentioned at the beginning. It got home!) or Galatians 1 vs13f. I won’t go as far as Paul did in Gal 5 vs 12.
We need to reply as robustly as Paul did , but this goes against the spirit of the age in the church today.
John Macarthur is pastor of a megachurch in California.
He has recently increased his notoriety over Covid by insist on opening up his church to vast numbers and insists there is no pandemic. Below I reblog an article from Premier which seems very balanced – to some that means I agree with it!!!
Along with the church is the Masters Seminary who gives out degrees. (I ought to try and get a D.D. from my published work from his seminary.) He’s written loads of books which are widely used including in Britain/
MacArthur can only be called a fundamentalist with a literal view of the bible.
He does not regard Roman Catholics to be Christian, but I’m not sure of his views on Anglicans.) He’s strongly creationism and a good example that Creationism is symptomatic of other errors.
When it comes to creation, um, well, believe it or not he insists on a 6 day creation a few thousand years ago. When you search is website “Grace to You” http://www.gty.org you’ll find lots of it, looking to such fantastic scholars as Scott Hulse and Douglas Kelly Ph.D. (Cantab)
So these people who say everything has alwayscontinued as it was from the very beginning haveforgotten that there was a time when the heavensexisted long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water,and another time when it was destroyed by being flooded. In other words, Peter is pointing to the factthat everything has not continued through a uniformitarian process since the beginning,but rather there have been two cataclysmic events…one,creation, and the other the universal global flood. There have been immense alterations in the earth as we know it. Creation itself was cataclysmic. Originally the heavens existed long ago and theearth was formed out of water and by water…andwe’ll comment more on that when we go back to Genesis. And there was a time when the entire globe was destroyed,being flooded with water,which had immense cataclysmic impact on the surface of the earth.
This earth has not gone on in a uniform kind of existence;rather two immense cataclysms have effected its current condition,one being creation itself,and the other being the Flood. Uniformitarians claim that the strata in rocks, the strata sediment,the fossils and the companion chemistry of geologicdating based on uniformity demand an earth that is billions of years old. During the early nineteenth century,the central presupposition of uniformitarianismwas that the present is the key to the past. That is that everything went always the way it’s going now,popularized by James Hutton and Charles Lyle, who in turn influenced Darwin.
This is not even wrong! I love the mispelling of Lyell – a sure sign of incompetence. It comes up in Creationist Bingo. To claim that his misrepresentation of Uniformitarianism demands an ancient earth is simply false. Geologists gradually worked to an ancient earth following the evidence from the rocks. His grasp of geology is a trifle shaky and flaky.
Uniformitarianism is the belief that the originand development of all things can be explainedexclusively in terms of the same natural laws and processes seen operating today. Uniformitarianism has been the backbone of modernhistorical geology and is responsible for thecurrent widespread assumption that the earth is billions of years old. The uniformitarians insist that all geologicfeatures and formations once attributed to geologiccataclysms can now be satisfactorily explained by ordinaryprocesses functioning over immensely long periods of time. That’s basically their view. Scott Hulse, writing in The Collapse of Evolution, gave us that definition.
He does it again falsely claiming thecurrent widespread assumption that the earth is billions of years old.
False statements like that do not give credibility
Scott Hulse summarizes some of this evidence – just give it to you briefly. “Creationists maintain the uniformitarian principlessimply cannot account for most of the major geological features and formations. For instance,there’s the vast Tibetan plateau which consistsof sedimentary deposits which are thousands of feet thick,located presently at an elevation of three miles above sea level. The Karoo formation of Africa contains an estimated 800 billion vertebrate animals. The herring fossil bed of California containsapproximately one billion fish within a four-square-mile area. The uniformitarian concept is equally incapableof explaining the Columbia plateau in northwestern United States,which is an incredible lava plateau several thousandfeet thick covering an area of 200 thousand square miles. Uniformitarianism also fails to offer a reasonableexplanation for important geological concepts such as mountain building,”and it goes on and on, and I won’t bore you with it.
All of these things require sudden and dramatic change,rapid burial, and lithification,as it’s called, are essential to the formation and preservation of fossils. The only possible way you can have seashellson the top of mountains thousands of miles fromthe sea is if there was once water there.
This is just daft. It’s utterly clueless on geology especially as Niclaas Stensen aka Steno explained seashells on mountain tops in de Solido in 1669, and seashells on everest are due to uplift due to India crashing into Asia!!
Recently he has also totally rejected climate change, as Paul reminded me in a comment
All this is simply standard Creationist fare of the worst sort. In itself it may seem harmless but it is symptomatic of something more serious and sinister and that is the problem of MacArthur and Grace Church.
It is a carefully-argued anti-science and anti-intellectuallism, used to control people and along with shunning exclusivism – as with denying Roman Catholics They well-substantiated views of anyone can be dismissed.
Edit; Now Trump has given MacArthur a bell!
MacArthur said he then told Trump that “any real, true believer is going to be on your side in this election.”
This is what MacArthur does over Covid-19 as he dismisses all the scientific evidence. It could kill some . He says
“In truth, 6 per cent of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to Covid, 94 per cent cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from Covid. There is no pandemic.”
The blog explains how wrong he is
As a result they fall for the American Dream Nightmare, opening themsleves to any-kind of reactionary view, now expressing itself in the denial of the seriousness of Covid-19
It is classic sect behaviour and as Jenkins concludes
Avoid foolish controversies’
The Apostle Paul instructs a young Titus, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).
I’m praying this scenario will not be true of Pastor MacArthur related to the division and confusion he is causing during this pandemic.
I’m praying he’ll repent of the false witness he is bearing. For his own sake, his church’s sake, the greater American evangelical church, and all of our communities affected by this great trial.
The pastor of a Californian megachurch has claimed there’s no pandemic, and told his congregation there’s a ‘great effort’ underway to ‘shut down churches’. DJ Jenkins, who pastors a church in the same city as John MacArthur, explains why he strongly disagrees
The Gap Theory set to classical music: Haydn’s Creation
To many people geology and Genesis don’t mix but over the centuries many Christians have tried to “reconcile” the two. To some that is absurd as you cannot reconcile the 144 hours of 6 days with the 13.2 billion years of our universe.
From 1860 until 1980 the most popular way of conservative evangelicals reconciling the two was the Gap Theory. Here it is posited that between the verses of Genesis I vs1 and vs3 , there was a “gap” when all the millions of years of geology took place before god re-ordered it in 144 hours to get ready for humans. That was rejected by less conservative Christians 150 years ago and by Young Earth Creationists in recent decades (though their view is even more implausible).
The Gap Theory came to the fore with Pember’s Earth’s Earliest Ages of 1876. It wasn’t entirely novel as it was a development of Thomas Chalmers’ ideas of 1804.
In fact, in another form, as the Chaos- Restitution interpretation, it goes back centuries and even to Justin Martyr. It was an apologetic to relate to Classical thought and arguibng that the chaos or “formless void” of Gen 1.2, was the same as the “chaos” of so many Classicla writers from Heisiod onwards. Aristophanes put an erotic spin on it, but what do you expect from the author of Lysistrata?
In one form or another it was the most common interpretation from 1600, with a straight 144 hour creation lagging a bit behind, and a day-age view lagging in third place.
And so to Haydn’s Creation;
It begins with a superb orchestral piece “the Representation of Chaos” to set the scene. After that in a series of recitatives, solo arias and choruses it works through the Six Days of Creation.
PART ONE Overture – The Representation of Chaos
The First Day Recitative and chorus
RAPHAEL In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth; and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
CHORUS And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; and God said: Let there be Light, and there was Light.
URIEL And God saw the Light, that it was good: and God divided the Light from the darkness.
This is simply the first two verses of Genesis 1. But then to bring out the common understanding of the creation and end of Chaos, Haydn slips in anther Aria and Chorus to being out the “recreation” of creation after the time of chaos has ended.
Most of the aria and chorus is rather sombre but turns to joy with “A new-created world springs up at God’s command.” And so the rather dark and dismal chaos has been transformed into the delight of “A new created world”.
URIEL Now vanish before the holy beams the gloomy, dismal shades of darkness; the first of days appears! Disorder yields and order fair prevails. Affrighted fly hell’s spirits, black in throngs; down they sink in the deepest abyss to endless night
3 CHORUS Despairing, cursing rage attends their rapid fall. A new-created world springs up at God’s command.
After the transformation of chaos all is read for the Second Day
Haydn’s Creation expresses the variety and ambiguity of the 18th century interpretation of the Creation Story in musical form. Haydn’s Creation apparently gives a simple musical rendering of Genesis Chapter One in a thoroughly literalistic manner. A closer examination belies this and indicates that the libretto follows the Gap Theory with its interval between the two clauses of verse two, allows a measure of “ruin-and-restitution” and has probable close links with contemporary sciences, especially the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace.
The Creation was one of Haydn’s last works and he began composing the music in 1796 after visiting London in 1791-2 and 1793-4, when he “experienced the overwhelming effect of Handel’s oratorios. Temperley argues that Haydn’s experience of Handel’s oratorios in London was the chief stimulus for both The Creation and “The Seasons”. The original text of The Creation was in English and it was given to Haydn by Salomon in 1795. Gottfried van Swieten, who translated the text into German wrote about its origins in 1798; “Neither is it by Dryden but by an unnamed author who had compiled it largely from Milton’s Paradise Lost and had intended it for Handel….” The author is not known, but many have assumed that it was Thomas Linley (1733-95). However, what is known is that it dates from about 1750, and is thus evidence for contemporary understandings of Genesis One and is similar to Milton and other poets, who incorporate ideas of Chaos. as well as many exegetes, as described above.
van Swieten’s libretto is a fairly literal translation of the English , and the Recicatives in German do not follow German Bibles, but rather a literal rendering of the A.V. into German. Temperley argues that the inept or bizarre choice of epithets: “holy beams”, “dreary, wasteful hail” and others are modelled on Milton by an imitator lacking the master’s touch. The structure of the oratorio is simple, following through the six days of Creation with Recitatives, Arias and Choruses, with that for the First Day preceeded by the superb orchestral introduction The Representation of Chaos. As with much contemporary exegesis, e.g. Bishop Samuel Horsely, it is easy to see it as straight literalism. Consideration of the Aria with Chorus, “Now vanish before the holy beams” indicates that the librettist follows a form of “ruin-and-restoration” with a Destruction of gloomy chaos by the Light (“Now vanish before the holy beams / The gloomy shades of ancient days” and “Affrighted fly hell’s spirits black in throng; / Down they sink in the deep abyss / To endless night. and “Despairing rage attends their rapid fall “) and the formation of “a new-created world” which “springs up at God’s command.” The libretto for the first Day points to the first Act of Creation being the Chaos “without form and void” and then after an unspecified time was recreated or reconstituted in Six Days. Thus from the chronological sense of the libretto the orchestral Representation of Chaos should between Raphael’s first recitative and the first chorus, though not on musical grounds! The words of the libretto for Day One preclude the possibility of taking the Chaos as the pre-existing material which God moulded into shape over six days
As well as looking to contemporary biblical interpretations of all of the Eighteenth Century, Haydn also looks to modern science especially astronomy. As Tovey wrote, ” the chaos he intends to represent is no mere state of disorder and confusion. he has a remarkably consistent notion ofit, which harmonises well enough with the Biblical account of the Creation; not less well with the classical notions of Chaos, whether in Heisiod or Ovid; but most closely with the Nebular Hypothesis of Kant and Laplace.” Kant published his views in 1755 and Laplace in popular form in 1796. While in England Haydn visited the astronomer Herschel at Slough, but Tovey does not give the date. Tovey considers that the Representation of Chaos represents not disorder but a gradual evolution of Cosmos from Chaos. One could see this differentiation from the original “chaotic” nebula as Gardiner expressed it “Amidst this turbid modulation, the bassoon is the first that makes an effort to rise and extricate itself from the cumbrous mass (bar 6) Later “In mingled confusion the clarinet struggles with more success (bar 31?) and the etherial flute escapes into the air (bar 39). It is interesting that William Gardiner wrote this in 1811, which is the the time that the Gap Theory was gaining wide credence among British Christians,such as Chalmers, Sumner and the Reverend Geologists, as this gave them plenty of time for all their geology to be inserted into Genesis
Though Haydn began work on The Creation in 1796, ironically a year after Smith’s formulation of stratigraphic succession, the libretto comes from the beginning of the century. The libretto was in English and given to Haydn while he was visiting England in 1791. Returning to Vienna Van Sweiten translated it into German, which was the language of the first performance in 1798. The original English text had possibly been prepared for Handel in the 1740s and is based on Genesis One , some Psalms and Paradise Lost. Though with typical Enlightenment optimism it stops short before the Fall, it provides another insight on how Genesis was understood in the 18th century. The Introduction and the early recitatives and choruses show that it is not a simple literal interpretation. We are presented with an initial Creation, then a long, dark and mysterious Representation of Chaos in a minor key, (which musically is in the right place, but should follow on from Raphael’s first Recitative.) and then “a new-created world”. What we have is a musical rendering of the Gap Theory, which both reflects widely-held understandings of Creation Story in the whole of the 18th Century and then because of its popularity made this understanding more widely known. After its first performance 1799 in German and then the English version at Covent Garden in 1800. It became one the most popular choral works, almost overtaking The Messiah in popularity. Societies were formed up and down the country expressly for The Creation and its familiarity is referred to in The Mill on the Floss
It was fitting that Salomon should have presented the first London performance, but John Ashley pre-empted him with a performance at Covent Garden on 28th March 1800. The Creation entered the standard repertory of provincial choir festivals within two decades (Norwich 1813, Edinburgh 1815 and York 1823). Throughout the century it was also performed annually at Exeter Hall, London, the bastion of interdenominational evangelicalism. There is an irony that it was at Exeter Hall in 1856 that Hugh Miller so forcibly presented the geological arguments against the Gap Theory. Some years later, on 7th January 1866, with greater irony, Thomas Huxley was introduced to an audience at St Martin’s Hall, Covent Garden by “a booming church organ pumping out Haydn’s ‘Creation’ to heighten the sense of awe”. (p345 )
The production of the Creation is important to highlight the relation of Genesis and the general thought and science of two centuries ago. The received version is that until these atheistic geologists came along with their hammers in 1790, the churches all believed in a 6 24 hour day creation. Young Earth Creationists are adamant about this and the more liberal Christians tended to argue for this until this century.
Before 1790 most “educated” Christians were either iffy about or rejected a 6 day creation. The discovery of Deep Time did not shatter the churches beliefs, but rather Deep Time slotted quite easily into the supposed chaos of Gen 1 vs 2, and just considering British Christians this so-called Gap Theory became widely accepted, though some preferred the Day Age view.
It comes out clearly in the evangelical Rev Joseph Townsend’s The Character of Moses Established for Veracity as an Historian, Recording Events from the Creation to the Deluge, (1813). Townsend was one of the three vicars who worked with William smith, the “father of English Geology”. It was then expounded by Rev William Buckland in huis iaugural lecture as Reader in Geology and Mineralogy at Oxford in 1819 – Vindiciae Geologicae and then in his Bridgewater Treatise of 1837.
These are but two examples, but a minority e.g. G.S.Faber and the American Silliman presented the case for the Day Age view. Some still held to a 6 24 hour day, either because geology was no concern to them or they considered geology atheistic.
By the late 1840s the chaos view was going out as it did not “fit” with geology and the more liberal went with the Germans and broke the nexus with historical events. This summary of Genesis interpretation from 1800 to 1850 is hopeless brief and wil, be expanded in a later blog.To conclude we can listen to Haydn’s Creation and see that geology was not a problem for early 19th century Christians – at least the sensible ones and there is no need to hold that Deep geological Time can only lead to atheism as I was told by a historian of geology 20 years ago when we were looking at the thermal metamorphism of slates caused by an intrusive sill at the fantastic Tan Y Pystyll waterfall near Shrewsbury.
At present there is much interest in understanding suffering ,due to the coronavirus.
some have written books on it, and then by default look to the Fall to explain suffering . Or else reckon that yonks ago the Devil introduced it when he mucked up creation.
Odd readings of Romans 8 are used to support this.
we cannot get away from suffering and ultimately we have to admit that it is written into the fabric of life and not malevolence nor a punishment for sin.
Here I deal with Darwin, first on design and then his problems with suffering, which we must all identify with but what is more interesting are his problems with doubt and suffering which I expound at the end of the referenced paper at the end.
He was greatly concerned by suffering , whether Annie’s death, the treatment of slaves or even the behaviour of the ichneumon fly.
Last autumn I found that Tortoiseshell butterflies were being caihght in spiders’ webs and then packaged to be eaten later.
Today when cycling on the Lune eastuary I found a tortoiseshell struggling in a web with a spider bearing down on it. I decided to let Incy-wincy have his dinner . I didn’t get a good photo.
Darwin felt the problem of suffering but there seems to be no answer, except that suffering has been around as long as life and is not something introduced into the natural world, wither by the devil, or god gatting annoyed with scrumping!!
Here is my rather old paper published in Science and Christian Belief in 1997 , for which I received a $2000 prize from the Templeton Foundation
It’s obvious the New Testament was written in Greek and very short. It is better to read something in the original language for understanding.
Learning Greek gives a better insight and an awareness of shortcomings of translations (Romans 8. vs18-24 is a classic case and even NT Wright gets lost onit with the fours seasons as the result of Adam eating an apple)
I am a lousy linguist but find reading a little Greek daily as my my bible study an immense help, though at times I get bogged down and find some passages very hard.
Lastly, I reckon learning Greek should be compulsory for ordination training.