Category Archives: bible

Why does Creation Groan? Or does it?

Recently the American Evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, led with an Article

Why does creation groan?

The author John Schneider was a professor at Calvin College in the USA but left because of his views of Adam and Eve. They are close to mine.

Over recent years John has aplied his mind to a vital, and often ignored, issue about living things. Why if God is so good is there animal suffering? On this he published a book Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil, (Cambridge University Press (26 Mar. 2020)

Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil eBook : Schneider, John  R.: Books

It deals with the nasty aspects of life not found in the hymn All things bright and beautiful  as this cartoon shows!


I am sure if John or I made up an additional verse it would cause more upset than the one about “the rich man in his castle”!!

The question partly  comes about due to the discoveries of science about the history of life in the last 350 years, as from 1660 to 1800 it became apparent from geological studies that the earth was ancient and many millions of years old. Before 1800 it was known that life also went back millions of years old but in the 1790s the fact of extinction became evident – that is some living forms existed millions of years ago but not today. Dinosaurs are the most well-known example. However the problem of suffering is still a serious problem for those who think the earth is only a few thousand years old – as it is for everyone.

John gives the example of predation and disease in Creataceous creatures of 100 million years ago, to which we can add 500 million year old trilobite fossils have been found with teeth marks from a predator. One life form usually feeds off another, though not all are as blatant as Darwin’s wasps – the ichneumon flies..

And so Tennyson gave us the expression”nature red in tooth and claw” but contrary to popular (and scholarly opinion) he was considering the works of William Buckland, the geologist, and not Charles Darwin. Yes, animals seem to spend their lives tearing each other to bits or being torn to bits. That’s when they are not having sex!

That creates a moral question and if God is the creator of all life (whether by fizz-bang creation or through a slow oozing evolution) there is a question about his moral rectitude for creating such a bloody universe. John is forcing the question of whether a God, supposed or otherwise, who created with such suffering among creatures can be considered to have any goodness. Many ask that question when suffering hits them, either for themselves or a loved one.

Some would say his ideas are flawed because he accepts the fact that the earth is ancient and that living forms have been living and dying on this planet for a few billion years. Neither he nor anyone else can do any other  because, despite the nay-saying of Creationists, the earth IS ancient. Even so, to claim that God put a Curse of suffering on all life because of Adam’s sin raises moral questions about the goodness of god.

All this raises the classic questions of theodicy, the goodness of God and why there is suffering

This question was less challenging in the 17th century when most thought the earth was young and chronologists like Scaliger and Ussher  thought that creation occured in about 3000 to 5000 BC and all was created in six 24 hour days, so death before the Fall was irrelevant, as Adam went scrumping a matter of hours after they were created. This is the “Traditional View” but I must give a caveat. A good number of scholars were more flexible, some allowing more time for Creation by God first creating “chaos” and then later re-ordering it some time later. This was common among many savants at the end of the 17th century: Thomas Burnett is just one example.

However the “trad view” was immortalised by John Milton and Paradise Lost became the default view of many in succeeding years. The opening words of Paradise Lost show how Adam’s sin caused suffering.

“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden fruit, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe“.

and later

Beast now with beast gan war, and fowl with fowl,

And fish with fish; to graze the herb all leaving,

Devoured each other. P.Lost X 710-12

This moulded the ideas of many, scholarly and non-scholarly for several centuries, so Bishop Colenso could say in 1863 “We groan under the burden of Milton’s mythology.” That was true then and is still true today.

The “trad” view began to be eroded a few years after Ussher published his Annales with creation is 4004BC, as geologists with their picks and hammers started studying the strata. This began in the 1660s with Nils Steno, titular bishop of Titopolis and then many others in the next centuries. By 1800 there was no doubt that the earth was ancient and most educated Christians, clergy or not, accepted geology. In the 1780s James Hutton knew that many clergy accepted geological time and that makes an interesting story. That meant that they implicitly accepted that there had been death, disease and suffering in the animal world long before humans walked this earth. More and more theologians considered the implications of geological time but others e.g. Thomas Scott and Charles Simeon, simply ignored geology! Many others were happy to accept geological time , even “stretching Genesis like an elastic band”  but didn’t consider suffering.

One who did was the geologist Rev William Buckland of Oxford who regarded predation as a good thing removing old and decrepit animals quickly. However he did not consider the predation of the young. He addressed the issue more theologically in a sermon given at St Mary’s Church, Oxford in 1839

As Buckland and others were not phased by anmal suffering another geologist was. Or at least he started as a geologist but illness confined him to home so turned to biology. This was the intended Anglican parson Charles Darwin. He was also affected over the death of his father and of his daughter, Annie, at eleven. Charles Darwin was concerned about animal suffering and his concern over the parasitic ichneumon fly is notorious asking how a beneficient God could make such a creature. Ichneumons are now named Darwin’s wasps in honour of him.  I think Darwin raised all the issues over suffering and it prevented full-blown theism for him. My own understanding of suffering has benefited from considering his concerns and my conclusion will be where I am now.

So soon after the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin laid out the (his) problems of animal suffering in relation to God in a letter to the Christian botanist Asa Gray. However most Christians dealing with theodicy tend to sidestep the issue.

In his book The Problem of Pain C. S. Lewis tries to minimise the pain of animal suffering. Others have gone down the same route, but I wonder if they have witness an animal in pain. These are not only mammals as I found when I found an injured frog shrieking with pain. I cannot buy into this minimising of suffering. However I have to state that Lewis’s book Mere Christianity was instrumental in convincing me of the Christian Faith a few weeks before I obtained a degree in geology.

I find it significant that most leading Christians on science and faith are not geologists or biologists. A physical scientist does not deal with death and suffering in their work; no dead fossils, no earthquakes killing animals and people, no predation etc. Hence suffering is often sidestepped by Christians seeking to present their faith as reasonable for a scientist. One may say there is almost a conspiracy of silence.

One group take suffering head on and they are the Young Earth Creationists. To them creation took place a few thousand years ago and there was no death or suffering until the Fall of Adam and Eve, when God put a Curse on creation introducing death and suffering as a punishment. Its strength is that it seems very reasonable and true to Scripture, but it does make God seem a bit of an ogre and also means that one must reject all of science.

So now we come to John Schneider. No one can accuse him of not taking the issue head on!!!! He notes the ghastly reality of suffering whether for humans or animals. As he rightly wrote the death of an aged dog is awful. Death and suffering in the natural world seems so wrong. For us it is more so. Without saying so he dismisses the Creationist explanation, which is interesting in an evangelical publication. He totally accepts the scientific picture of an ancient earth with evolving life from soon afterwards. Not that any other position makes any sense. And, of course, he is a Christian and is trying to understand all suffering in the light of Jesus Christ. On this we  are totally at one and where we disagree it may be that we both are like blindfolded people trying to cross a mine field.

His Christianity Today article Why does Creation groan? raises many questions and, hopefully, will result in constructive discussion.

I want to consider three points;

  1. The idea of the Creator as a cosmic artist
  2. his use of Romans 9 and the potter
  3. the groaning of creation in Romans 8

Two biblical sources can help to resolve apparent conflict between the Christian story of redemption and the story of species. First, the apostle Paul’s famous discourse on divine election in Romans 9–11 is unexpectedly useful. Interpreters rarely notice that the discussion on election follows immediately after Paul’s imagery of the whole creation “groaning” in labor pains, longing to be rescued from evil (8:18–23). Surely violent predation, disorder, and death among animals are part of the picture Paul has in mind.


To justify God’s action morally, Paul adopts an aesthetic explanation. He presents God first as an artisan, a potter, fashioning an unusual vessel (9:21–23), and then as an arborist, who is pruning and grafting together a tree that will be greater in glory than any tree has ever been (11:11–24).

Paul implies that this strange messianic artistry reaches all the way back to God’s seemingly arbitrary election of Jacob and rejection of his older brother, Esau (9:6–13). The morally enigmatic style, then, according to Paul, is nothing new.

Paul explains further, however, that Israel’s “hardening” is temporary. After the Gentiles have been grafted onto the “tree” that God is cultivating, God will restore the original “root,” the Jews. Paul concludes this very long discourse with this rousing resolution: “God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone” (11:32, NLT). In that way, to paraphrase Chisholm, the evils of divine election are gloriously defeated for all concerned.

This is a stunning statement. It seems that Paul envisioned the entire history of creation and redemption as a work of art, in which God has deliberately included evils in order to defeat them by means of mercy that unifies and vindicates the finished messianic whole.

Further, it is a short step back to Paul’s earlier vision of the whole creation “groaning” in great pain, not hopelessly, but in the forward-looking way of a woman giving birth (Rom. 8:22). In this vision of the future for nature—and for animals—the evil is not just ended or outweighed by the outcome but is defeated in universal, cosmic fashion. In both outcomes together—redemption of the human and nonhuman realms—the great goodness of the outcome could not be as good, true, and beautiful as it is going to be without defeat of the apparent evils involved in its creation.

Before relating this point more directly to Christianity and Darwinism, let us consider a second canonical source of support for this distinctly Jewish and Christian aesthetic approach to evils.

So to consider John’s points;

  1. The Cosmic Artist.  In many ways this is a lovely antropomorphic picture and so much better than mechanistic creation beloved by Deists in the 18th century, whereby god sort of fiddled around with details like a mechanic rather than giving a broad brush approach which a Cosmic Artist does. But I am one who does not find visual ideas like that very helpful. For me I can see the wonder of creation but the creator seems to be hiding out of sight. But his results are fantastic – however He did it!  Here are some sundew and Snowdon in the early morning.                                                 


  2. The potter in Romans 9. I find this the most inscrutable part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I probably see Paul’s picture of the potter as saying that there are many things we don’t understand and just have to accept them, just as a rejected pot might want to moan at the potter! John’s argument that  “God has deliberately included evils in order to defeat them by means of mercy that unifies and vindicates the finished messianic whole.” goes beyond what Paul is saying in Romans 9 vs 19ff, and I don’t think that it is a valid interpretation. Here John is being too fanciful and although it has an appeal to feelings I cannot accept it.
  3. Romans 8 and the Groaning of Creation. During this century this has become a popular interpretation of Romans 8 vs 19- 22 and is commonly used in eco-theology in all its forms. I have just discovered that a similar view was put forward by G D Yarnold, a priest-physicist in his book The moving Image (1965). Yarnold happens to be my uncle and studied physics alongside my mother in 1930. But I remember him telling me there was no need to learn Greek to be a vicar, but I ignored him!

Its appeal lies in the awareness of all the environmental degradation around us, from pollute air and water, loss of biodiversity, increased emissions. as we think of the extinction of soecies, grossly polluted rivers, choking smogs and lots of other nasties, it is a good anthropomorphism to say Creation is groaning. Further many do not see the seriousness of any aspect of environmental degradation, which is seen both in individual and corporate actions.

We should note this quotation from Aldo Leopold, the great environmentalist from Wisconsin. (if you haven’t read his a Sand County Almanac, then you must.) If you are not sure, just consider what replacing all your garden/yard with plastic grass and hard surfaces does to wildlife.


There is a major problem with this interpretation as, though “creation groaning” has a good feel about environmental degradation, it is rather forcing the words to say something Paul never said or meant. I am quite sure Paul never thought of environmental problems beyond stinking sewers in Rome. As well as that, we may sense that creation is groaning around us. I “groan” when I see another front garden/yard laid down to plastic grass or gravel when there were lawns, flowers shrubs and trees before. Or when road verges are mown removing all the wild flowers. Or when trees are cut down for no good reason. The list is endless. But then I ask, “How is Pluto or Sirius groaning?”

As with any biblical passage we need to ask what the author meant and not just put our own interpretation on it. Another verse which is now used to justify environmental action is John 3 vs 16  “God so loved the world”. From that some argue we too should love the world and care for creation. But, wait a minute! The word “world” – Greek kosmos is used by John in different ways. It CAN mean creation i.e. the created universe, but here and in many other places John does not use it that way, but to signify the human population opposerd to God. That is what we often find in John.

Thus we ought to consider the choice of words in Romans 8 vs 19-23 and what they mean in that context. First we need to asks what the word translated as creation – ktisis – actually means. The almost complete consensus of scholars today is that it means creation, as in the created cosmos, but very few consider that ktisis has multiple meanings. It can mean all creation, a new Christian  – new creation ” Cor 5 vs17, humanity as opposed to all creation as in Mark 16 vs15 and Colosians 1 vs23. With reference to Romans 8  Arndt and Gingrich (latest edition F W Danker)  in the standard lexicon emphasise “The meaning. of ktisis is in dispute inRo 8:19–22,” having mentioned that in col 1 vs 23 and Mark 16 vs15 ktisis means humankind. The word is used in various ways in both the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers.

Historically, at least since 1650 scholars have been divided over the meaning. However after 1860 most have favoured Creation, and very rarely explain why they chose that option. I don’t have space to give my historical survey. Just a s taster is how Luther and Calvin disagree. Of all the commentaries Luther’s is the most intriguing. He says for vs 19 ktisis is the cosmos, and then for verse 20 ktisis is man in his vanity “Most exegetes take the term “creature” in this passage to mean man, because he has a share in everything created. But it is better to understand man through the word “vanity,” as it says expressly and very rightly in Ps. 39:5: “Surely every man living is altogether vanity.” For it is certainly true that, if man, the old man, were not, there would be no vanity”. Thus instead of the cosmos being subjected to futility, humans are stuck in their “vanity” – see below on matiotes. Luther is not only the most intriguing, but also the most profound. However Calvin on Romans 8 uses ktisis to mean cosmos throughout.

Verse 22 says “all ktisis has been groaning in labor pains” and verse 20 says “the ktisis was subjected to futility, not of its own will but the one  (i.e. God) who subjected it..”

Many commentaries which opt for creation rather than humankind see in this a reference to the Fall and the Curse eg Sanday and Headlem’s classic commentary of 1900. (I doubt if these scholars believed in a Historical Fall and almost certainly accepted evolution). And in the more recent one of James Dunn among others. If that is correct then if we follow Paul we must hold that before Adam fell there was no death or suffering among re-human living forms.

N. T. Wright wrote more fully, and rather oddly, in Evil and the Justice of God. P116-7

Creation, writes Paul, has been subjected to futility (Romans 8.20). Don’t we know it: the tree reaches its full fruitfulness and then becomes bleak and bare. Summer reaches its height and at once the days begin to shorten. Human lives, full of promise and beauty, laughter and love, are cut short by illness and death. Creation as we know it bears witness to God’s power and glory (Romans 1:19-20) but also to the present state of futility to which it has been enslaved.

I love the seasons and their changes. These are photos of the Four Seasons taken close to where I live in Lancashire. The mountian for summer and winter is Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. To me this is the joy of the Creator not futility.

DSCF8789 (1)DSCF3617


Wright uses the word “futility” or in Greek mataiotes as in Rom 8 vs 20. In every other occurence in the New Testament mataiotes and cognates is used to describe the human (fallen) condition as it is in the Greek Septuagint, par excellence in Ecclesiastes but also often in the Psalms and in the fourth commandment. If Wright is right then this is the only example that mataiotes is not used to describe human folly in both the New Testament and the Septuagint.

I question this interpretation of Romans 8 as it makes creation to be rotten to the core. Further what does it mean to say creation is groaning being subjected to futility by God? It may appeal to our feelings and emotions as we consider the destruction of the environment. In Britain I can cite the destruction of raptors on moorland, sewage-filled rivers, the removal of trees in the centre of Plymouth and many other examples. But what is the “groaning of creation” on the planet Neptune  or distant stars and galaxies, which humans have never visited?

It may be an appealing interpretation but it is not grounded in good biblical interpretation. Further it is not right to make a “big” theological argument or doctrine from one verse, especially where there are acknowledged questions of meaning.

I admit that most New Testament scholars since about 1850 say  (often without presenting any case – for or against) that ktisis throughout Romans 8 vs 18- 23 means the total creation. My own survey on the use of ktisis is that before 1860 a small majority favoured creation as the meaning, but some significant scholars did not starting with John Lightfoot in 1659. Lightfoot thought any idea of creation groaning was meaningless! With his date of Creation of 3929BC he makes Ussher seem like an old earther!

As one considers the New Testament Writings and the Apostolic Fathers one finds that ktisis has various meaning according to the context and can mean either Creation of everything of humanity. Thus Romans 1, it is used of the ACT of creation of the cosmos (vs 19) and the worship of a Creature (vs 25). Mark 16 vs 15 and Col 1 vs 23 ktisis means humanity – unless you preach to bugs and boulders! The use in Col 1 vs 15 could mean either humanity or creation. I am dealing with this in detail for a conference this year so this is a very brief summary. This five year old blog is an earlier attempt, which I have now improved and given a historical background.

John Schneider has given much to ponder and has faced up to the fact of an ancient earth with life, and thus death,disease and suffering, going back billions of years. Very often the issue of suffering is evaded but not by John! He has faced it head on. Any theological view which doesn’t accept suffering for billions of years is simply wrong, wrong, wrong. This cannot be said too strongly.

The challenge is to find a satisfactory explanation. I have never found one which satisfies me and flounder when I attempt to do so.

Ultimately I consider suffering as an unsolvable problem and one we can only feel towards in the light of the cross. Any understanding of suffering must accept that death and suffering have been part of the natural world for billions of years and are thus written into creation.

If, and that is a big if, creation is groaning and in labour pains (and perhaps the tectonically resless earth with all life facing death chimes in with this) (verse 22) then, according to Paul, that is becouse “creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it (verse 20) which if ktisis means the whole of creation points to the change at the Fall. This has the corollary that there was no death before this “subjection” – Fall and thus Young Earth Creationists are correct in their claims.

I freely admit that I cannot explain suffering. I accept it as a fact that suffering has been on this planet at long as life has existed and is written into creation. I feel like Job when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind (Job 38)

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man;
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began
and caused the dawn to know its place,

But we can go further than Job as we see the incarnate Son entered into suffering as I explore in this blog. It is all I have and know it goes beyond any evidence or good argument and can offer no more. As Butterfield famously said

Hold on to Christ and for the rest be uncommitted.

and even better

My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?

Now read this which goes from the ichneumon to the cross.

An open letter to John Inge, bishop of Worcester, on sexuality and marriage | Psephizo

Recently John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, wrote an open letter why same-sex marriages should be conducted in church.

Here Ian Paul challenges his arguments, especially those from the Bible, and also his claims that it is the same as the church accepting that creation in genesis should not be taken literally and occurring a few thousand years ago, but rather millions of years ago. To support his claims he said his predecessor at Worcester, Charles Gore was lambasted for not accepting a literal Genesis in 1889. He was wrong there as Ian points out ..

Have a read to decide.

Source: An open letter to John Inge, bishop of Worcester, on sexuality and marriage | Psephizo

Bingo! Everyone’s wrong on creation of man and woman in Genesis!

One New Year’s Day 2023 the Liverpool Echo had a article about the Rev Bingo Allison, who is a transgender Anglican priest in Norris Green, Liverpool. It was repeated in the rightwing rag the Daily Mail, and thus cannot be reliable reporting, and then in the respectable left-wing newspaper the Daily Mirror, which validates its authenticity.

Church of England priest on how God guided them on their journey of becoming queer

Church of England Priest Bingo Allison

I shall not comment on transgenderism as there is enough comment elsewhere.

My focus here is on Bingo’s novel and radical interpretation of the Creation account of Genesis chapter one. It came as a result of writing a theological essay on the creation of the earth, which is a foundational Christian doctrine. I must add here I have spent far too much time on that chapter and considering the implications, or not, of science on Genesis 1. I have read, and then written up in academic publications, how Genesis 1 has been understood in relation to science from 1600. But away with that. We will just consider Gen 1 vs 27 on the creation of humans;

“male and female He created them”

As The Echo reported;

But one evening, Bingo was writing an essay about God’s creation of the earth when they had an epiphany. They explained how Genesis 1:27 uses the terms ‘from maleness to femaleness’, rather than men and women.

Bingo said: “I was sitting there in the middle of the night when I realised I might need to run my life upside down. It was a deepening spiritual experience, I properly felt God was guiding me into this new truth about myself. One of the things that has kept with my ministry ever since is that transition and coming out can and should be a spiritual experience, as well as an emotional and social and sometimes physical one. There is something beautiful about growing into who we were created to be and growing into our authentic selves.”

It this is right then the Bible speaks about a continuum from “maleness to femaleness” rather than a binary division. If that were so, then we have been reading the Bible wrong for 2000 years, or 3000 for the Old Testament. Genesis One speaks of the creation of the world in six days culminating in the creation of humans , with verse 27 on the creation of human male and female;

 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply,

That is the RSV translation and is typical of all translations as all have “male” and “female”, which, of course, was necessary if they were going to be “fruitful and multiply”. A gender identity won’t produce kids! Checking the Hebrew (my Hebrew is non-existent) the meaning is male and female as in sexed humans and the words for male and female is used to delineate the SEX for other animals, as gender identity doesn’t really apply to a year old male lamb for sacrifice!

I have a number of Commentaries of Genesis from Calvin to Westerman and Wenham and none give any support to Bingo.

It is the same in the Greek Old Testament (Septuaginta LXX) translated by Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria in the 2nd and 3rd century B.C., and the usage is found in the greek New Testament and Apostolic Fathers, most explicitly in Mark 10 vs 6-7;

But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

Thus the Bible in the original languages is absolutely clear, the words for male and female in Gen 1 vs27 mean just that and not “maleness” and “femaleness” which seems to be a gender self-identification.

On 13/1/23 a priest on Twitter posted the following;

*Lowers voice to a quiet whisper* …Surely the use of the connective ‘and’ rather than ‘or’ in Genesis 1:27 affirms, rather than precludes the place of non-binary and fluid gender identities in the Creation…?

This goes against the whole meaning of “and” in this context whether in EVs , Septuagint or Hebrew. This is more eisegesis and striving after finding one’s own preferences.

Bingo!! It’s wrong

I would have loved to have seen the theological lecturer’s face if that appeared in an essay – or perhaps not. (Maybe he taught a module on queer theology.)

It is incredible to think that this “epiphany” has any credibility beyond personal opinion and feeling. It is as much within standard Christian belief as Joseph Smith’s discovery of the Book of Mormon, and other “visions” some have had, going beyond Christian teaching.

From such false premises and a gross misreading of Scripture it is impossible to see that through this “God guided them on their journey of becoming queer.”


I see in all this the confusion many in the churches have in interpreting the Bible today. There is the influence of Postmodernism (don’t forget Foucault’s holidays in Tunisia) allowing an infinite variety of personal views. There is also the elevation of eco- , feminist-, liberation- and other stances, which are often applied with the dogmatism of fundamentalists, and are equally fundamentalist in their own ways.

Biblical interpretation is not forcing your own views and wishes onto the words of the Bible, but asking what that passage of the Bible means. It also involves taking into consideration what others have said for the last 2000 years.  It also requires a little humility.

If you want more how some in the Church of England view transgenderism, this blog contains Dr Ian Paul’s critique of the views of Rowan Williams and some others

If you want , here is Genesis chap 1

In the beginning God created[a] the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit[b] of God was moving over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

The Cross of Jesus Christ as a Crane

As a kid I loved my Meccano set and was making stuff with it  (or playing or learning mechanics?) until I was 14, when I moved over to taking bikes to bits and re-assembling them. The ten years later I did the same with Morris Minors, which I ran for twnety-five years.

I was given my first Meccano set for my seventh birthday. It wasn’t a surprise as I had checked my parents’ hiding places for presents. It wasn’t a shiny new set but I had lots of bits to play with. I had two favourites; making model vehicles and cranes. I once made a large model which looked a bit like an Austin Atlantic, with IFS at the front, a gearbox and a differential. I made lots of cranes, some of which fell over as they were so high. I would not have made those mistakes if I had consulted an engineering textbook!

My first crane was a bit like this (which is not very stable);

Analysis of Meccano Manuals - Manual Model Search

My cranes got bigger and better and I ended up making something like this,

Meccano model page 15

I could have post picture of real cranes but thought these would do. After all, Meccano is probably the best “engineering” toy ever made and beats plasticky Lego into a cocked hat. The name Meccano is related to mechanic and machine and comes from the Greek as Wiki says  “The English word machine comes through Middle French from Latin machina, which in turn derives from the Greek (Doric μαχανά makhana, Ionic μηχανή mekhane ‘contrivance, machine, engine’, a derivation from μῆχος mekhos ‘means, expedient, remedy’). The word mechanical (Greek: μηχανικός) comes from the same Greek roots.” The greek, (or at least Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Eastern Roman Empire) word  μηχανή mekhane can simply mean crane.

Here are some pictures of ancient cranes. They were made out of wood with pulleys and, often, a treadmill to provide power. Some could lift well over a ton. Similar cranes were used in the middle ages for castles and cathedrals. Of course things changed with the introduction of iron and steam power. (I am surprised greenies haven’t suggested we go back to human powered cranes.)

Roman Construction Crane | Stephen Ressler, P.E.

They could be quite large. This one seems to be working on an aqueduct.History of Cranes - Lee Industrial Contracting

I had never thought about Roman and Greek cranes until I came across the metaphor as the cross of Jesus being a crane in Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians. Ignatius was a second century Christian who became Bishop of Antioch in Syria. Somehow, details are not known, he crossed the Roman authoirites and was sent to Rome to be executed. The date  is normally thought to be in the reign of Trajan (98-117) or possibly Hadrian (117-38). en route to Rome he wrote seven letters – to the churches of the  Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrneans and a letter to Polycarp who was martyred several decades later.

To me he is too full of himself as bishop and calls for an almost blind obedience of bishops. Any more comment on that may detract from what he said about cranes. most of his letters are about 3000 words long and thus comparable with Paul’s. His aim in all his letters was to encourage fellow Christians who knew he was travelling to Rome to be executed. He seems rather untroubled by his forthcoming death, which was liable to be an unpleasant spectacle. Despite his views on bishops, he is strong on encouragement and his letters have a New Testament feel about them. That is unsurprising as they were written some fifty years later.

In chapter 9 (or better paragraph 9) Ignatius wrote;

because you are stones of a temple, prepared beforehand for the building of God the Father, hoisted up to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using as a rope the Holy Spirit;

This is from the recent translation by Michael W. Holmes, and the whole of chap 9 is

But I have learned that certain people from elsewhere have passed your way with evil doctrine, but you did not allow them to sow it among you. You covered up your ears in order to avoid receiving the things being sown by them, because you are stones of a temple, prepared beforehand for the building of God the Father, hoisted up to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using as a rope the Holy Spirit; your faith is what lifts you up, and love is the way that leads up to God. So you are all participants together in a shared worship, God-bearers and temple bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holy things, adorned in every respect with the commandments of Jesus Christ. I too celebrate with you, since I have been judged worthy to speak with you through this letter, and to rejoice with you because you love nothing in human life, only God.  – Epistle to the Ephesians 9

The image of the cross as a crane is vivid and would have resonated with his hearers as most would have seen one these wooden cranes on construction sites, often lifting up large stones to a considerable height. Thus there is a second image  – of stones.

The vividness of the metaphor is that to Ignatius both cranes and crosses were wooden structures with an obvious vertical component. Clearly Jesus was passive and nailed down on the cross, so was immovable, but despite his passivity his death brought about the salvation of humanity. That is what we read about in the New Testament and has been the central focus of the Christian faith ever since. This comes out in so many hymns, including the popular ones of There is a green hill and When I survey the wondrous cross. and then there is the majestic processional hymn Lift high the Cross with its TWELVE verses and chorus, giving time to circumnavigate any cathedral, following the processional cross – lifted high. To Ignatius it is not the cross lifted high, but the cross lifting us up high, as Jesus lifts up those who follow him.

Paintings of those at the foot of the cross abound, from  the almost erotic

Eugène Delacroix
Saint Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross 1829

File:Eugène Delacroix - Saint Mary Magdalene at the Foot of ...

to a simple photographic silhouette

Lent Series: At the Foot of the Cross – The Benefice of Garsington,  Cuddesdon and Horspath

Looking at the paintings found on google its seems that there were fewer men at the foot of the cross.

Ignatius develops a second image – that of stones, echoing St Peter’s words

And like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house I Peter 2 vs5

His hearers would have seen cranes lifting stones into place, so here we have the Crane/cross of Jesus lifting living stones, Christians, into place. I find it a great image

The third part of the image is the rope which is the holy spirit who, in the words of J V Taylor, is the go-between God, here between Christians and Christ. I suppose it was a three stranded rope too. Sorry, that would be an allusion to the Trinity.

In the 19th century the great New Testament scholar J.B. Lightfoot (1828-89) and later Bishop of Durham, not only wrote some excellent commentaries, but also a mammoth work on the translation and commentary on the Apostolic Fathers. Here he sees another image in chapter 9 – the Windlass.

So here is chapter 9 in the Greek and the translation.

Book page imageBook page image

Note that he uses Engine rather than Crane, but Engine  was used more generally in the 19th century for any machinery rather than the producer of motive force! He would have been surprised that most call railway locomotives an engine and that what is under the bonnet of a car. Today μηχανή mekhane  is better translated crane

However he continues “Your faith is your windlass” i.e the pulley system

That is a nice thought but fanciful and the Greek is more literally; “Your faith is the one who lifts you up”. The major Greek Lexicon of Arndt- Gingrich dismisses Lightfoot’s translation as quite unlikely.

This imagery of the cross  as the crane is very technological  and is hardly ever used. We often sing lift up the cross and how Jesus lifts up the fallen, but never this.

The multiple imagery of a crane lifting up stones for a building is a  good and evocative one, expanding the ideas of Peter (I Peter 2 vs5) of living stones in a pictorial form of the cross/crane lifting up stones and placing them above the corner stone (Jesus). Jesus as the cornerstone is also found in Ephesians 2 vs 20 but Paul jumps to more bilogical imagery.

The Cornerstone

What Ignatius gave us is an excellent image of the work of Christ and it baffles me why it is never used

Here is a crane lifting up a stone for a building

The CornerstoneANCIENT Crane - Who invented the Crane? medieval - roman - greek old


Here is a brief exposition from 1900

The Epistles of St. Ignatius

By J. H. Srawley

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge

First published 1900.

have learned that certain persons from yonder [3] have passed through your city, bringing with them false teaching. These you did not suffer to sow seeds among you, for you closed your ears that they might not receive the seeds sown by them, since you were stones [4] of the temple, prepared beforehand [5] for a building of God the Father, being raised to the heights by the engine of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, using as your rope the Holy Spirit. Your faith is the windlass,[6] and love is the way which leads up to God. So then you are all companions in festal procession along the way,[7] bearing your

[1] Suggested by 1 Cor. ii. 14 sq.
[2] See Introd. § 4.
[3] It is uncertain what place is alluded to. Lightfoot conjectures Philadelphia.
[4] The change of metaphor is sudden, after the manner of Ignatius, and is followed by another change. They are in succession the soil in which seed is sown, stones of a building, and members of a festal procession.
[5] Lightfoot’s emendation has been adopted.
[6] The whole of this passage is a somewhat extravagant expansion in great detail of the metaphor used by St. Paul in Eph. ii. 20 sq. In the building of the Church, the faithful are the stones, the Cross is the crane, the Holy Spirit is the rope by which the stones are raised, faith is the windlass which sets the machine in motion, and love is the inclined plane along which the stones are drawn.
[7] Another change of metaphor. The figure is now a heathen procession, in which the pilgrims, arrayed in festal attire, carry small shrines, images, and other sacred emblems.  Such processions would be common in Syria, Asia, and elsewhere.  For a gift of such images to the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, see Lightfoot, Ignatius , II. 17.

Is the Bible contradictory on sexuality? | Psephizo

The issue of sexuality is permanently to the fore in the churches, with attendant charges of homophobia and heresy.

Here a recent article by a leading American biblical scholar, Walter Bruggeman, is discussed by Ian Paul.

It is a very constructive piece but some may disagree with Ian.

Source: Is the Bible contradictory on sexuality? | Psephizo

What do we do if we think the Bible is wrong? | Psephizo

Of course the Bible is wrong!!

It teaches a flat earth and the earth was created in 4004BC.

Really, that’s only if we don’t consider when and why it was written

Here’s Ian Paul on whether 2+2=5 and all that


Seriously there’s more too it!!

After all we still read Shakespeare despite his mistakes, especially his history of english kings!

Science hardly gets a mention…

Source: What do we do if we think the Bible is wrong? | Psephizo

‘God intended it as a disposable planet’: meet the US pastor preaching climate change denial

John MacArthur must be my least favourite American pastor. I am quite sure he would not consider me a Christian – and I hope he wouldn’t.

He is a 6-day creationist

He seems to lack love and loathes Roman Catholics and his (per)version is ghastly.

He seems to reject the fact that Creation will be renewed and restored  – the apokatastasis
Here he simply denies any kind of climate change following the steps of earlier Brown evangelicals

Primate's Progress

This piece,written in October 2020, seems more relevant now than ever. The Reverend John Macarthur returned to this theme in November 2021, repeating his description of the world as disposable and comparing it to a styrofoam cup

Reverend John MacArthur. Wikimedia

Paul Braterman, University of Glasgow

Every so often you come across a piece of writing so extraordinary that you cannot help but share it. One such piece is a sermon on global warming by American pastor John MacArthur. Full of beautifully constructed rhetorical flourishes, it is forcefully delivered by an experienced and impassioned preacher to a large and appreciative audience.

For me, as a man of science, it is the most complete compilation of unsound arguments, factual errors and misleading analogies as I have seen in discussions of this subject. But it’s important because climate change is a big election issue this November in the US, where there…

View original post 879 more words

Evolution doesn’t scupper Christianity, nor do scrumpers

One of the most popular ways of debating is to parody a view to ridicule it. You know most won’t see past your misrepresentation. It is even easier when some extremists adopt what you parody.

Here is a good example

Frank Zindler quote: The most devastating thing though that biology did to  Christianity...

When this meme appeared on my Facebook feed I presumed Zindler was a typical young earth creationist, repeating the usual claims of young earthers to bludgeon people into accepting Young Earth Creation as necessary as a result of faith in Christ.

But before considering the apparent plausibility of the meme we need to ask who is Frank Zindler. Being British I cannot keep up with all American Creationists and the atheists who take them on. I know of many and have met some, and some like Ken Ham have written against me! However this meme is from an atheist. Zindler was born in 1939 and was president of American Atheists in 2008. for more read;

among other things he had a debate with the creationist Duane Gish in 1990

Many of these are unsatisfactory partly as a result of the way Gish galloped through everything in his famous “Gish Gallop”. That is a useful tactic as it gives the impression of omniscience, without giving the opponent time to respond. I had a similar problem in 2003 when I debated the Australian John Mackay, who likewise used a scatter gun approach. I attempt to correct some of his terminological inexactitudes, and was accompanied by boos from his acolytes. Were I not a Christian, Mackay would have persuaded me to be an atheist!! However the purpose of Creationists in debates and presentations is to win an argument not to present truth.

At first, I thought this was a Creationist Gotcha meme, as Ken Ham, Mackay, Gish, Morris and so many others put forward similar  ideas. Here Zindler takes the same ideas and lobs them back like an unexploded grenade to Christians who may not be Creationist. At first sight the arguments here seem to be orthodox Christianity, but….

Frank Zindler quote: The most devastating thing though that biology did to  Christianity...

In this meme Zindler makes five points which lead to the next and clinches the argument against Christianity, or rather any version of Christianity which is not dogmatically wedded to Young Earth Creationism. All five points are made by creationists like Ken Ham.

  1. Adam and Eve were never real people

Garden of Eden | Story, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica

Well, did Adam have a navel when he was created that October in 4004BC? A serious question! In all fairness before 1800 belief in in a historical Adam and Eve was a most reasonable belief, and few Christians questioned it, though many from 1680 onwards realised the earth was slightly older than Ussher reckoned! Even when the earth was reckoned to be millions of years old some serious Christian theologians believed in a historical Adam and Eve.

For many the image of Adam and Eve is provided by John Milton in Paradise Lost. Here Milton takes early Genesis in a most literal way and put it into an epic poem. Milton has unhelpfully influenced the understanding of Genesis for centuries.

When we consider the interpretation of Genesis historically from 1600, we find that first chapter one was interpreted to allow more than six days. This was most often by a “Day-Age” theory or a Chaos-Restitution stance. By 1780 most educated Christians including the “orthodox” from both Protestants and Catholics favoured one of these to a 6-day creation. By 1859 hardly any educated Christians thought the earth was created in 6 days.   Details on this;

In the 17th century most European savants thought that most strata were laid down in the Flood, but by 1800 Noah’s contributions were limited to the top 30 ft of strata. Perhaps the last geologist to take the geological efficacy of the flood seriously was William Buckland in some illegible notes in 1842/3. He suggested the flood was a result of melting ice from the Ice Age, later taken up in the 1990s by Ryan and Pittman in Noah’s Flood.

In the 19th century the more conservative still insisted on a historical Adam and Eve but it was getting more fraught especially after radiometric age dating after 1907 showed that humans had been around for hundreds of thousands of years. B B Warfield’s attempt to keep Adam and Eve was not convincing, nor Denis Alexander.

2. If no Adam and Eve, then no Original Sin

What is Original Sin? It was not held by Christians until about 400AD, largely due to St Augustine. Eastern Orthodox churches have no doctrine of Original sin, but have a deep awareness of sin. Original sin is the belief that we inherit sin from forbears i.e. Adam and Eve. In the hands of Augustine and successors Sin is both Original and what humans do which is sinful. There is much discussion over this, which I will leave to one side. Even so all stress that Jesus died for you and your sin and forget Adam while you consider yourself!!

Here we have the classic YEC misrepresentation. Jesus died on the cross for Original Sin, rather than all human sin, present and past. Doing this takes away the fact that every human is sinful and needs forgiveness. That is ignored by focusing on Adam and Eve and Original Sin in an overly narrow sense.  If that is what Sin is, then we are not responsible for sin as we can do nothing about what we inherit.

(Whoopee, we can go out and sin to our hearts’ content!!)

Far better is to see that every human is sinful and sins. Any understanding of Original Sin which underplays individual sin effectively removes our responsibility for our actions.

3.If no Original Sin then no need of salvation

This implies that salvation through Jesus is ONLY for Original sin and not our actual and continuing sin. That is most odd. If that is right then we are not sinners in ourselves, never need to admit to or confess our sins. It makes a mockery of almost every hymn on Jesus’ death on the cross, as all point to the individual sinner, rather than something way back in time, which could have no effect on our sinning today. Frankly it is a muddled view of salvation and what Jesus did on the cross, as well as distorting what Original Sin is.

The extreme evangelical view that Jesus would have died on the cross for you, even if you were the only sinner, crassly makes a valid point.

No, every human is sinful and has the HPtFtU  as Francis Spufford said.

Human Propensity to Fuck things UP, 

More here

This is somewhat earthy but brings out the squalor of human sin in non-theological language. It shows where  we are wrong and need forgiveness from Jesus, not for some guy who went scrumping in 4004BC, but that nasty thing we did a short while ago.

We need salvation because we are shits, sorry, sinners, not because of neolithic scrumpers

4. If no need of salvation, then no need of a saviour. Jesus is unemployed

Well, if Jesus only died for scrumpers, then the rest of us have no need of a saviour and the whole Christian edifice tumbles down. Yes, Jesus is on the dole. We may as well go scrumping.

That is not the case, Jesus died for YOUR salvation, for YOUR sin and that makes him fully employed and doing overtime. That is, of course, what Christians of all shades have said for 2000 years in contrast to this meme.

Jesus' Death On The Cross - Part 1 - YouTube

5. Evolution is the death knell of Christianity

First, Evolution does not affect the nasty nature which show easily surfaces in each one of us. That is called SIN, and is the fault of the person.

Only if our focus is on the sin of scrumping does Christianity come crashing down

Jesus saved me and you, not some naked scrumpers

Are the accounts of the resurrection contradictory? | Psephizo

One of the favourite arguments against the resurrection of Jesus is that the four gospel accounts are different, thus they are all made up.

One could argue that four witnesses who agree on the essentials are more reliable than those who agree on every word, having ensured there were no differences.

Paul argues that many of the differences are due to the extreme brevity of the four accounts and the need to select evidence when writing it down (or dictating which is more likely)

In 1959 my uncle, Grenville Yarnold wrote a book Risen Indeed, which is a good short book, accepting a real bodily (but not physical) resurrection, but does not discuss the differences between the gospels. He showed how the gospels point to the empty tomb and that Jesus rose from the dead, but not as a conjuring trick with bones!

Enjoy this straightforward but detailed argument

Christ is Risen.

If not Christians make fools of themselves!!

P.S. Grenville’s wife, Dorothy, got a degree in maths and physics from Oxford in the early 1930s , as did her sister my mother. both were also hockey blues.

Source: Are the accounts of the resurrection contradictory? | Psephizo

Keep Climate Change out of Easter

Several years ago the activist group Christian Climate Change organised a “Fossil-free Advent service”. 

Here they are.

even the hymns and carols were re-written to bring in Climate Change and the horrors of deadly fossil fuels.

Silent Night, Holy Night

When will you see the light?

Arctic melting as temperatures rise

Carbon burning and filling the skies

Churches – think of God’s way

For Christ’s sake please hear what we say

I never know what is the best response to things like that, whether to snigger and ridicule  or try to answer the issues they raise. Over the years I have found the last option an impossible task as groups like this take the most extreme and dismal reading of Climate Change and the IPCC reports. By selection and cherry-picking they present the argument that we are all about to fall over a cliff of climate disaster. If you don’t agree with them you are a climate denier and want to destroy the planet. 

We have moved on from the Fossil-free Advent and now  there are attempts to squeeze Climate Change into the services for every sunday, even when the Biblical passages for that sunday cannot be twisted, sorry interpreted, to say anything about Climate Change or Petrol. A search on the web will turn up ways of bring Climate Change into any biblical passage. Often the interpretations are somewhat forced and bizarre and are trying to get oil out of a stone!! (That is done by drilling.)

There is little in the Bible on the environment as it was simply not an issue two to three thousand years ago. There is much on Creation in both testaments but very, very little on how we should care for it.  We can bring out general principles for creation care from the Bible, but nothing in detail.

This is my short and simple summary of how a Christian should care for creation, but I have only given principles and not examples of need;

Sometimes attempts to find Creation Care in the Bible gets rather weak. Thus a leading Christian environmentalist argued that the classic verse John 3 vs16 means we should care for creation, because God loved the world and then so should we.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…….

Really!  That is an OK reading by a 12 year old in Sunday School but not an expert! The word “world” often occurs in John’s Gospel and is translated from the Greek word “kosmos”. In Greek kosmos can mean the whole of Creation as it does in Romans chap1 vs 20. However it is used some 70 times in John’s gospel and can mean  the creation, humankind, humans a opposed to God etc. In fact John 3 vs17 uses it to mean (hostile) humanity and not the whole of the natural world. Or take John 18 vs20 when Jesus replied to the high priest. He neither meant the antipodes or anywhere but locally around Jerusalem and Judaea. The use of kosmos in John  18 vs 33 – 38 and John 17 completely undermines this misunderstanding of kosmos.  Even a superficial reading of John and considering the use of kosmos completely undermines the claim that John 3 vs16 is a call for environmental action! That is one thing this verse is not calling for. I have not identified the author but they are a leading Christian environmentalist. But not the same as the Anglican expert on Climate Change who recommends taking garlic to avoid getting covid!!

It is very bad interpretation of the bible to try to squeeze things out of passages which simply are not there. Much of the time if we take a section of some verse, a chapter or even a whole book, they deal with only one or two topics and the other 999 are simply unmentioned. 

In recent weeks in the run up to Holy Week I have seen requests on social media for guidance on how to bring in Climate Change into the appointed bible reading during the Easter period. Considering all the readings which could be used over this period, none bring in Climate Change, even implicitly, and all have another purpose as they are to bring out the meaning of those events from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. If we need to ask, “what do these passages say about care of creation?” The answer has to be zilch and we need to look elsewhere

Yet more and more churches are putting “Climate Justice ” at the centre and thus wish to be able to bring it in to everything in the life of the church. thus Climate Change becomes the controlling narrative and not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words the Gospel is subtly changed in its basis. Initially, one could see, it is Christianity PLUS creation Care with an apparent lack of shift. Gradually certain kinds of Creation Care become dominant, and that becomes the controlling principle squeezing out the core of the faith, though often retaining the words.

 I can hear many say, “Surely protecting the planet is vital?” To which I happily answer YES!! those who know me will know that I do try to protect and care for the planet, whether in economy of use, growing trees to give away, my use of a bicycle, and trying to hold local councils to account by attempting to stop the destruction of flower rich verges.

But though my creation care is integral to my life and faith it is not the guiding principle. That is because faith in Christ includes Creation Care, rather than Creation Care being at the centre, or faith in Christ AND Creation Care. 

Today, Maundy Thursday 2022, we see Green Christian forcing their views on Just Stop Oil on to the remembrance of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. This is misguided, tendentious and judgmental of those who disagree.

May be an image of 9 people, outdoors and text that says "GC Green Christian heenChrleta 18m Just Stop Oil. Christians were involved in the recent Just Stop Oil protests around the country recently. #JustStopOil http:/grencristior.ukjustop.ol On Maundy Thursday, when we celebrate Jesus' washing of the disciples feet, let's commit ourselves once more to sacrificially serving others and God's earth. HDYER Like Comment 1 share Share"

If all is Climate Change and stopping oil then nothing is and everything goes and the claims of both the Christian Faith and the need for Creation Care go out of the window.

The danger of this conflating of issues with major Christian Festivals is that the whole purpose of those festivals is lost. Christians have those in the Christian Year, with high points at Christmas and Easter, to bring home certain central features of the faith. Whether we take a minimalist or maximist view, Christians focus on that aspect, and that aspect alone on the particular day. By doing so reinforces a pedagogic purpose of strengthening Christians on one point and then the other points will dealt at another time. To  photo-bomb these with climate change or stop oil immediately diminishes the purpose of the day and confuses the issue with something else. On this in recent years, many churches have introduced a season of creation in September to fill a hole in the church’s year. 

Thus for the next few days all the focus is on the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. That is more than enough! Throwing in green issues will only diminish the emphasis on these centralities and ultimately may take over from them.

 On this I am reminded of the events of 1933 and 1934 in Germany when the churches were split down the middle by the Nazi movement. Some Christians went the whole swastika and formed the German Christians. A minority opposed this and produced the Barmen Declaration of May 31st 1934. The essence of that wass for a Christian there was only one way and that is Jesus Christ  – John 14 vs6 was their key text – and nothing should be added to that.

Later Karl Barth wrote on that in Church Dogmatics vol II .pt1 pp172ff, which is very pertinent to this question. Going beyond the horrors of the Nazis, Barth pointed out that the German Christians were only a continuation of what had been going on for decades. Little bits, and in Germany that was German nationalism, had been added on to the Christian Faith so that more and more Christianity was becoming Christianity and German Nationalism. It is now seen with the Russian Orthodox Church and the blatant nationalism of the patriarch and is not very pretty as the Ukrainians have found out.

But saw the events of 1933 as the fulfillment of 19th century Christian thought, which added an “also” to the faith, this soon became “and” and as with the German Christians “only”. He said similar things were happening in Britain, USA, and other European countries. (He could have given earlier examples from the Middle Ages.) 

Thus the German Christians were move from Christianity also National socialism, to Christianity and National socialism and, finally, ONLY National socialism – which was Hitler’s ultimate aim. 

This is a perennial risk for the Christian Church and a rooting of church history will give many examples, but few as bad as the German Christians.

The dangerous trap some environmental Christians are falling into is that they are raising their particular environmental concerns (which often align with the most extreme of environmentalists like Extinction Rebellion) in such a way that the centralities of the Christian Faith are downplayed, and, more worrying, that those Christians who don’t accept them are regarded as rather deficient in the faith, both in Christ and Creation care.

That is not on.

Hence my tirade!

This weekend as Christian we focus entirely of the death and resurrection of our Lord and then, and only then, see how it works out in every aspect of our lives both in love of neighbour and love of creation.

Easter - It's Meaning, History & Holiday Symbols Explained