Category Archives: Christianity

As it says, reflecting my faith

Did God subject Creation to pointless futility?

Now  that might seem a very odd question? Surely Creation i.e the nautral world – call it what you will, is wonderful and beautiful as these two photos show;

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The first is of Llyn Idwal and the Glyderau behind. I have been visiting there in all weathers and seasons since 1963 and it’s always wonderful. On the right is a typical January scene on the river Wyre near me. Snowdrops never fail to enchant. There is nothing futile here.

Most people would agree that this planet and the rest of the universe is full of wonder and awe, and many would point to Attenborough documentaries. It is clearly beautiful, though at times very harsh, but I can’t see many looking for and finding futility.

Yes, our world is also full of suffering alongside the incredible beauty. There are those, following the poet John Milton, who think the suffering is the result of Adam and Eve’s misdemeanors when the ate the fruit (note that the latin word malus means both apple and sin). suffering and death is God’s punishment for that  and seems rather excessive. It is still widely held by Creationist Christians who won’t accept that the earth is billions of years old and suffering and death have been around as long as life. As all this was known over two hundred years ago it is surprising that some seem to think that the creation is subject to futility. Some even hold it along with an acceptance of evolution.

Let’s now consider a leading Anglican New Testament scholar who accepts evolution and that creation is subject to futility – N. T. Wright. With his vast output he needs little introduction and has probably written one of the best books on the resurrection, where he deftly avoids a simplistic physical resurrection and a non-bodily one. Theologically he is a leading representative of moderate evangelicalism, but some of his Perspectives on Paul are less appreciated by the more conservative and reformed Christians. That is another issue, but I side with Wright on these. But let’s first consider his understanding of Romans 8 in his series Paul for Everyone.

Here is his translation of Romans 8:19-21 New Testament for Everyone (NTE) (which is closer to the Greek than given by Sanday and Headlam in their commentary!)

19 Yes: creation itself is on tiptoe with expectation, eagerly awaiting the moment when God’s children will be revealed. 20 Creation, you see, was subjected to pointless futility, not of its own volition, but because of the one who placed it in this subjection, in the hope 21 that creation itself would be freed from its slavery to decay, to enjoy the freedom that comes when God’s children are glorified.

That is followed by a brief exposition beginning with taking a country walk. I was not happy that he normally walks to take exercise as to me walking is a multi-faceted activity as I enjoy the effort/exercise of climbing 3000ft up a Lakeland fell, as looking at the views, finding unusual flowers like sundews, spotting glacial features and looking for all things new! He had taken an overgrown path and found it led to fantastic view and then likens Rom 8 vs18-25 to a fantastic view of “the whole plan of salvation for all of God’s creation”. He criticises, rightfully, those who see Paul’s theology solely in terms of individual justification and salvation. But after that I depart with haste from his view.

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I was proud of this photo of a struggling rowan high up the Bowland fells. I see beauty and the tenacity of life but no futility. Also God must be a rum lad if he subjected creation to futility!

He then wrote; “The language of creation on tiptoe with expectation is not what they expect. The strange idea of God subjecting creation to futility and slavery, and of creation then being rescued, simply isn’t what people wanted to hear. …. So the path to the viewpoint has been covered over with thorns and thistles.” This made me blink. I am afraid that in the summer months my legs are covered in scratches. Once, in a desert, I walked past a bush and a venomous snake popped out and tried to nip my bare leg! There must be some theology in that. On another occasion I nearly trod on a sleeping Cape Cobra ……

He continues, “the present suffering, … will be far outweighed by ‘the glory that is going to be unveiled for us’. He’s spot on there, but not in his conclusion to the paragraph “then, at last, creation … will know that the time has come for it to be rescued from corruption.”

I want to ask, how is creation corrupted? Except where stupid humans have polluted it.

I am baffled in what way creation, like all the strata from the early Precambrian to the Ice Ages, needs to be rescued from corruption. I cannot see anything corrupt in the Precambrian Numees Tillite or recent Lower Dryas moraines, which I worked on. He continues:

“To understand this, we need to grasp the big biblical story of creation. … God has allowed creation to be subjected to its present round of summer and autumn, growth and decay, birth and death.”

He wrote more fully 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 question this interpretation, both of Romans and Genesis, as it makes creation to be rotten to the core. Romans does not say that and it is so contrary to experience – at least my experience. I cannot see futility in the shortening days after the summer solstice. Also the word futility (mataiotes in Greek is ONLY used of the human condition in both the Old and New Testaments, so it is odd to use here for the inorganic creation. I cannot see it in geological studies, which trace out a detailed history of the surface of a planet. I cannot see the Four Seasons as anything but wonderful in their variety and nothing futile.

The beauty of creation in the seasons- a random selection of my photos

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and the futility;

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Where is the futility in a struggling moorland oak in autumn or a British mountain under snow. The mountain is Ingleborough which I had just climbed for the nth time!

(The word translated futility in mataiotes which in the Greek New Testament and the Septuagint is only used for human folly!)

Also I am one of those who cycles, walks and climbs mountains every month of the year and in all weathers. As I write this on St Nicholas’s day my last three months of walking during the autumn must have witnessed that annual subjection to futility. No way! I’ve had three glorious walks in the Lakes, three in the Yorkshire Dales and many more in the Forest of Bowland. Yes, I’ve experienced wind, rain, snow, cold and warmth and gone up to my thighs in a sphagnum bog! Now that was futile!! My feet were frozen.

Stinging nettles, thistles, thorns, midges and horseflies – and in the past, tsetse flies! I have watched autumn unfold and merge into winter, fungi helping the process of decay/recycling/upcycling in weird and wonderful ways, stands of bog asphodel after losing their fantastic yellow flowers and turning bronze before sinking into a peat bog, frozen pools and a little snow. Beauty, awe and wonder, but no futility. I now look forward to climbing in the snow, and then to the pastel greenness of spring with its flowers, on to the height of summer and back to autumn. At Christmas I am looking at the buds in my garden and daffs poking through. Come January I’ll be looking for snowdrops in the road verges. In all of it I echo G M Hopkins;

The world is charged with the glory of God

not to mention some of the  psalms like Psalm 8 and hymns like How great thou art on creator and  creation

Yes, this has been going on for 4 billion years and is the nature of creation which was written in at the beginning. But his representation of “corruption, futility and slavery” shows that he believes that the creation is not as God intended. He writes of “the sharp end of corruption of creation – on an earthquake fault line, for instance, or by an active volcano – you may sense the awe of that futile power.” Power, yes, but not futile. Often it may be tragic as with the recent eruption in New Zealand. Plate Tectonics, and the attendant quakes and volcanoes were there from the beginning. And that beginning predated humans by a few billion years.

Evidence of Plate Motions - Geology (U.S. National Park Service)

One of my great climbs was up Mt St Helens in 2009, which blew its top in 1980. It was totally awesome. Many years before I was scalded in Bumpas Hell just below Lassen Peak in California, while taking a photo of sulphur crystals. I was shirtless at the time when a gust blew steam over me. I squealed!

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A view from the summit of Mt St Helens showing the devastation caused by the 1980 eruption. Is Mt Ranier is the distance next to go? The grey area was green forest.

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I’ve experienced a few minor quakes in Britain and a massive Mag 8.6 as a child which I do not remember, and one about Mag 4.5 in the middle of a hymn during worship in Uganda. The organist missed a few notes and carried on as we did!

If Wright is correct then there should be something marking the introduction of quakes and volcanoes in the geological record, as that should have occurred when Adam and Eve went scrumping.

There are none.

If there were, I could not have found volcanic lavas in strata some 900 million years old in the Namib Desert nor glaciation in 650 million year old strata nearby, nor some big faults caused by tectonic shifts resulting in quakes some 600 million years ago. I could also mention all the other ancient volcanic rocks I’ve seen from the 2.2 billion year Scourie dykes in the Highlands, 450 million year old lavas in Snowdonia and the Lakes giving excellent rock-climbing, not to mention the mere 65 million year old rocks in Skye. In fact, volcanoes and igneous rock have been formed for a good 4 billion years.

In 2005 Wright gave a lecture God, 9/11, the Tsunami, and the New Problem of Evil (Transcript of one of N.T. Wright’s May 18-19, 2005, lectures at the Church Leaders’ Forum, Seattle Pacific University. https://spu.edu/depts/uc/response/summer2k5/features/evil.asp)

In the lecture he wrote;

What then about the tsunami? There is of course no straightforward answer. But there are small clues.

We are not to suppose that the world as it currently is, is the way God intends it to be at the last. Some serious thinkers, including some contemporary physicists, would actually link the convulsions which still happen in the world to evil perpetrated by humans; and it is indeed fair enough to probe for deeper connections than modernist science has imagined between human behaviour and the total environment of our world, including tectonic plates. But I find it somewhat easier to suppose that the project of creation, the good world which God made at the beginning, was supposed to go forward under the wise stewardship of the human race, God’s vice-gerents, God’s image-bearers; and that, when the human race turned to worship creation instead of God, the project could not proceed in the intended manner, but instead bore thorns and thistles, volcanoes and tsunamis, the terrifying wrath of the creation which we humans had treated as if it were divine.

I was simply stunned to read that and have long restrained from discussing it. I am well-aware of induced seismicity from hydropower, mining and fluid injection in wells, but this is another level or two up.

All these quotations could have come straight from a recent publication of Answers in Genesis and I find it difficult not to read it in the sense that the author believes that “thorns and thistles, volcanoes and tsunamis” are the result of human behaviour i.e. a Curse as the result of the Fall. That was dealt with by the assault of geological hammers and biological microscopes, if not by good exegesis. I am, of course, aware of induced seismicity, at times up to Magnitude 6, whether from mining, fracking, geothermal energy, or the unsettlement of strata from hydro-electric dams, but human activity cannot be the cause of tectonic movements before humans appeared on the scene and could not cause the massive earthquake which resulted in the 2004 boxing Day tsunami, or the eruption of Mt St Helens to give two examples.

The next paragraph makes his understanding clear;

“The human race was put in charge of creation (as so often Paul has Genesis 1-3 not far from his mind). When humans rebelled [in Garden of Eden] and worshipped parts of creation instead of God himself (Rom 1 21-23), creation fell into disrepair.”

How did creation fall into disrepair not so many thousands of years ago? How does the disrepair manifest itself? My bicycle takes a battering as I cycle over 4000 miles a year and continually edges towards disrepair necessitating repairs or replacement. Yes, it is continually falling into disrepair – particularly after winter cycling! But the creation? How?

I expect to read something like that on the website of a Young Earth Creationist group. What Wright is claiming is that when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden that affected the whole of the natural order, or creation, or cosmos, or universe and made it change from a good state to one of disrepair and had fallen into corruption, whereas it was uncorrupt before. Seriously, From my fieldwork, I cannot distinguish between the basic make-up of glacial material deposited 600 million years and those from 20,000 years ago, or alpine moraines today. I have studied all three in the field. We need more on how the creation is corrupt whereas previously it was incorrupt.

He concluded his lecture;

The Gospels thus tell the story of Jesus, and particularly of his death, as the story of how cosmic and global evil, in its suprapersonal as well as personal forms, are met by the sovereign, saving love of Israel’s God, YHWH, the creator of the world. They write intentionally to draw the whole Old Testament narrative to its climax, seeing that narrative precisely as the story of God’s strange and dark solution to the problem of evil from Genesis 3 onwards.

Here he first looks to a past event when “evil” was introduced to a pristine planet – including earthquakes – and also conflates natural with moral and spiritual evil. Wright seems to imply that natural events like volcanoes and earthquakes are not as God intended. On could add disease and death, but all these are part of the fabric of the natural world.  Leaving aside the issue of natural and moral evil, this whole discussion brings out the Achilles heel of many theological “reconciliations” of theology and evolution. Most are aware of the reality or brute fact of the vast age of the universe and evolution, but then approach their theology and biblical interpretation implicitly rejecting that reality and thus adopting a theology more amenable to young earth ideas. Most commentators on Romans 8 do this as do many other theologians.

If all these scholars are correct in taking ktisis as meaning the whole of creation , the cosmos, or the universe, then their theology and that of the apostle Paul is totally contrary to the physical realities we have in geology, biology and cosmology.

Is Paul simply wrong or have we got Paul wrong?

As Wright presents his understanding of the Fall in these three places he effectually adopts a Miltonic view of the Fall accepting that it had a serious and deleterious effect on ALL creation and that is how his epic poem Paradise Lost begins

“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

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

We are too easily lulled by Milton, as the the geologist Rev Edward Hitchcock stressed in the 1850s, when he wrote, “we groan under the burden of Milton’s mythology.”.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

Great though Paradise Lost is, it is putting the whole Genesis account as portraying a young earth and the dramatic change to the constitution of this planet caused by “man’s first disobedience.” Some New Testament scholars are saying that – at least implicitly. In other words, all of these are essentially saying Young earth Creationism is right, there was this CURSE and thus the earth is thousands of years old. That is simply untrue as the earth is billions of years old and life nearly as old, and thus death and earthquakes.

Creation is wonderful and not subjected to futility as these photos show;

Was Jesus really born into a ‘poor’ family? | Psephizo

Shock! Horror!

Jesus was not born in poverty.

This totally destroys the leftie gospel and the woke gospel.

Seriously Ian Paul does some solidly based iconclasm on popular ideas of the poverty of the Holy Family and points out that, for their day, there moderately well-off. This should be obvious if you don’t read the gospels with rose-tinted glasses.

Ian concludes

Jesus was not born in a stable, the shepherds were not despised outcasts, and Mary and Joseph were rather ordinary. Christmas is not about God coming to others, over there, for whom we ought to feel sorry, but to ordinary people like you and me. In the incarnation, Jesus embraced the poverty that every one of us experiences as a vulnerable, dependant human being. And if he came to us then, he will come to us again this year. ‘Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.’

Source: Was Jesus really born into a ‘poor’ family? | Psephizo

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treadwheel_crane

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

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Here is a brief exposition from 1900

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/srawley/index.html

The Epistles of St. Ignatius

By J. H. Srawley

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge

First published 1900.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/srawley/ephesians.html

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

10625007_903401446354135_8319436030620620834_n

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

What does it mean to love God with our minds? | Psephizo

The old joke  is that if you need a new brain get one off a vicar as it has never been used. That may be true for some but not all.

In this blog makes it clear that using one’s mind is vital for a Christian, though some regard thinking as optional and other Christians have weird thought processes.

Read on

Christians don’t have to be daft as this!!

No photo description available.

If you think 2+2=4 then read this blog

Source: What does it mean to love God with our minds? | Psephizo

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; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zindler

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

https://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/gishzindler.html

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.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

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;

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/genesis-chapter-1-and-geological-time-from-grotius-to-thomas-chalmers-1620-1825/

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 https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/lent-the-human-propensity-to-fuck-things-up/

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; 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