Category Archives: Christianity

As it says, reflecting my faith

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; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

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

An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Anyone who has gone to an Anglican or Roman Catholic service would have recited the Nicene Creed.

The first version was produced at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 near Constantinople. This was called by Emperor Constantine (who became emperor at York) to get the churches in order. What we say is the revised creed o AD381.

The Council of Nicaea: Resolving the crisis in early Christianity | Sky  HISTORY TV Channel

It is usually assumed that the delegates came from the roman empire but this blog says one came from India. He may not have come for India as it could be Iran. Even so , a long way from the empire. Here it in verse 2

What else he did we don’t know, but it is interesting how scatted the delegates were. I am intrigued whether or not he spoke greek

Something else to undermine Dan Brown’s absurdities in Da Vinci Code.

Source: An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Are trans people ‘on a sacred journey’? | Psephizo

Over the last few years there has been a great increase of people, especially young people, wanting to change sex i.e. to be transgender, or as the ghastly terms put it to be “trans” rather than”cis”.

In fact you can only surgically modify our bodies to be sorta like the other sex, but every cell remains male or female i.e. XX or XY. There is no way XX can be changed to XY.

Without denying some of the problems some face, Dr Ian Paul deals both sensitively and incisively with the whole transgender issue and points out where Archbishop Rowan Williams and Steve Chalke have got things very wrong despite their concerns

He focuses on the bizarre and scary statement from there letter

To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

Is that actually true? Or in accord with the love and teaching of Jesus

We could soon move onto issues like gender vs sex and whether or not we are binary etc. But not now!

Transgender - Wikipedia

Now read Ian Paul’s excellent article and stop and think.

Source: Are trans people ‘on a sacred journey’? | Psephizo

Ruthless Conquistadores And No Less Ruthless Indigenous People

An interesting blog reviewing a recent book on the Spanish Conquistadores and their equally nasty locals!

The savage was not so noble and thus not the indigenous either. The civilised were scarcely civilised.

The review and the book remind us we should neither glorify the indigenous nor demonise the coloniser, but rather consider the horrors of the human condition.

So much of history is simply violence and oppression from all sides.

I must read the book

Source: Ruthless Conquistadores And No Less Ruthless Indigenous People

How has ‘end times’ expectation shaped Christian history and theology? | Psephizo

We all have images of the proddy sandwich board man (women are too sensible) with the words

THE END IS NIGH

The End Is Nigh Futurama GIF - The End Is Nigh Nigh Futurama - Discover &  Share GIFs

Many of us have come across evangelicals who are obsessed with Revelation and Daniel and the wonderfully bad 1970s book The Late Great Planet Earth, with the EU as the beast and so on.

Thus many of us sideline any thought of Jesus’ return and the ghastly term “End Times”, but to our cost. We ignore the fact that, when properly understood, it is an essential part of the Christian Faith. We also fail to see how “End Times” have cropped up in the past from the Donuts  – sorry Donatists – of 4 th century Tun isia, right up to the Religious Right today.

This blog is a helpful corrective .

I probably look back to early beginnings  – not 4004BC and what to do now rather than consider the future.

Source: How has ‘end times’ expectation shaped Christian history and theology? | Psephizo

Niels Steno, the Father of Stratigraphy

The titular bishop of Titopolis was the father of geology way back in the 1660s – and not Charles Lyell.

He tried to tie geology into Noah’s Flood as did all in his day and was vague on the age of the earth.

Science meets Faith

On 11 January 1638, Niels Steno was born. He was a Danish anatomist, palaeontologist and geologist. He was ordained a Catholic bishop in 1677 in Italy and moved to the Lutheran part of Germany and died in 1686. Having established the theoretical basis for stratigraphy, he can be called the Father of Stratigraphy.

In his work on geology “De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus“ (The Prodromus of Nicolaus Steno’s Dissertation Concerning a Solid Body Enclosed by Process of Nature Within a Solid, 1669) Steno describes four of the defining principles of the science of stratigraphy. These were:

  • the law of superposition: New layers of sediment are deposited on top of older layers (law of superposition), one can determine relative time sequence by examining the order in which strata appear – “At the time when a given stratum was being formed, there was beneath it another substance which…

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Astronomy in Early Christianity & the Scientific Revolution

This is a good survey of astronomy and the Christian faith going back to the New Testament, then the early fathers and stopping at Isaac Newton. It also has a nod to earlier Greek philosphers

On St Paul he reckons that as an educated Greek he’d be a typical Greek geocentrist of his day, but could go for a three-decker universe. I argue that Paul and Luke rejected a three-decker universe and were typical geocentrists. I would not be surprised if fishermen, tax-collectors and builders/carpenters in Galilee were flat-earthers. Not that would matter if we believe Phillipians 2.

See my chapter in Evangelicals and Science chap 3 ; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/a-history-of-evangelicals-and-science-part-3-of-12/

Now to the blog. Cleb Poston was a pastor in the Southern Baptists for a time and is now an english teacher.

He gives a good overview and my suspicion is that he is reacting to Creationism, which he has seen through. Much is standard to those familiar with the subject but it is good summary

Here it is and there are others to read.

https://medium.com/faith-science/astronomy-in-early-christianity-the-scientific-revolution-dbc02145a25b

Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Am I a fundamentalist for accepting that some wise guys came to Bethlehem following something in the sky, and then gave the baby some valuable gifts?

Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Here Ian Paul et al look at the visit of the wise men from Matthew chap 2 and conclude there was a visit. But they weren’t kings and there weren’t three!

Is the account better history than Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra, who put the lovely King Herod in charge of Judea in the first place?

It is fascinating how the Lord , Saviour and son of god Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus is tied up with another Lord, Saviour and Son of God, who dynasty has lasted a bit longer.

According to the Roman Imperial Who’s Who, Herod put down his hobbies as  – killing family members and sometimes little children.

Source: Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Evolution und Religion im Heimatland Darwins; An account of harmony and conflict 

Now this is for German readers.

In 2009 on the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth I went to a conference near Frankfurt.

The papers were collected in a book Streitfall Evolution ed Angela Schwarz (2017  Bohlau Verlag) and I contributed a chapter in English which was translated into German.

Below is the German version but here is the English one

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/evolution-and-religion-in-britain-from-1859-to-2013/

I am afraid it had to be translated for me as my German has been totally lost!! In my chemistry course I had to sit an exam on German translation and passed. But that was the end of my German, I am afraid.

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