Category Archives: ethics

The transgender treatment of young people | Psephizo

A very serious and much-needed discussion of the recent high Court decision on transgender issues.

This deals with the issue very well (from a Christian point of view) and shows why the matter is such  a concern.

(It is excellent that Ian Paul, who writes so well on theology, invites others with particular skill to deal with complex issues.)

Source: The transgender treatment of young people | Psephizo

Is there a positive case for the ‘traditional’ sexual ethic? | Psephizo

There’s been much questioning over gay marriage in recent weeks in the Church of England, especially over Living in Love and Faith, which seems to open the way for gay marriage

https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/living-love-and-faith

Not all agree especially from the conservative end with the Church of England Evangelical Council’s http://www.ceec.info/ and their video The Beautiful story.

I admit to preferring that to Living in Love and Faith as more in accord with the christian Faith.

Here is Ian Paul’s blog on the topic which I largely agree with

Source: Is there a positive case for the ‘traditional’ sexual ethic? | Psephizo

Good little Christians must support Extinction Rebellion; the new fundamentalism

Some Christians specialise in dismissing other Christians because they don’t believe this or that , or do this or that. Often it is explicit and that poor Christian is told she cannot be a christian because……………….ararat_or_bust

The more evangelical and fundamentalist specialise in this and most commonly it will come out in issues like Creation in 6 days flat, a rejection of evolution, the inerrancy of the bible, and being able to date one’s conversion.

My introduction to the world of shunning came when I went to study under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri in Switzerland in between working as a geologist and training for the ministry. I’d always thought that only a few nutters believed in a 6-day creation, but I was wrong on the fewness! It was the latest rave of his son-in-law who encouraged me to read creationists books to develop my Christian understanding. After wading through The Genesis Flood for two hours , I could see what Morris had done. It was systematic distortion and misrepresentation. (since then I have not found any accurate material in Creationism.) When I said what I found I got it!!!!! 

“Don’t you believe the Baybull?”

“Evilution is evil.”

And similar comments. From then on my faith was suspect as at best I was a heretic and I wondered if I was going to be dragged down to Geneva to join Servetus. Schaeffer wasn’t happy but then went off somewhere, so when I gave a talk on creationism he wasn’t there. The talk had a very mixed reception, but it was typed up and put in the library. We went back in 1998 and checked the talks in the library. Mine was missing! All the rest were there.

I soon found out how many Christians who accepted geology and evolution were shunned by their churches and fellow Christians, which initially shocked me, but gradually I realised it was common on this and other issues.

One evening Schaeffer was rambling on about elderly Greek women going to shrines in the Holy Land. He said they had no faith in Christ. A few months before I was at those shrines and saw similar women with their devotions. I was not impressed. Who was Schaeffer or I to judge?

I still thought it was only the looney extreme of Evangelicals until I started ministering in parishes and found it there, encouraged by the vicars. I’ll never forget at a staff meeting the vicar told me that some of the brethren were not sure I was a Christian, as I did not go on about my conversion.  It did not defuse the situation when I said they should sort themselves out. This vicar had divided his congrgation into Christians and non-Christians. If someone didn’t come out the jargon or worship him, they were clearly not Christian. (He had a gift in falling out with his curates!)

And so we have proper and improper Christians and too many “Christian” think they should judge others. YUK

 As a result I’ve kept my distance from this kind of evangelicalism, apart from forays into Creationism, when I get called all sorts of things.

For many years I thought moderate evangelicals and the rest of the Christian community were above all this, but have been forced to revise my opinions in the last decade.

 I would never have anticipated it but as so many have gone a bundle on an extreme Social Justice, (informed by Cwitical Theory and Intersectionalism) , follow the latest spoutings of groups like Extinction Rebellion on Climate Change , the environment and everything else, things have changed in the last decade. It does seem that you cannot have a questioning view on these subjects. You are either with them or against them. 

I first discovered this in 2011as I started to consider fracking, which I initially opposed. My geological and mining background led me into a minefield as I soon realised that the facts and arguments put forward about fracking by the Friends of the earth, the diocese and other groups were manifestly false. I was soon shunned for saying so. But then a priest who in their former career worked alongs drillers and planned and supervised a drill-rig would know far less than a graduate in modern languages.

With the advent of Extinction Rebellion all the woke conerns have between thrown together in one great big muddle – sorry – I should say classical example of intersectionalism. Thus we get environment, climate change, racism, patriarchy, capitalism, all in one sentence. Their all embracing concern is summed up here;

Right from the beginning Rowan Williams , former Archbishop of Canterbury, has supported Extinction Rebellion. Before long Christian Climate Action started saying they were the Christian wing of extinction Rebellion. Many of the number , including clergy, seem to enjoy being arrested.  Further both ER and Christian Climate Action has gained the support of several bishops.

It is unreasonable not to say the green woke concerns are the de facto position of the Church of England and other mainline churches. This comes out in the General Synod motion to achieve Net Zero by 2030 and not 2045 as in the original motion of Bishop Holtham.  This aim in unachievable and even more so after Covid. Many churches are in bad state at present, especially over finances and aiming for Net Zero 2030 will bankrupt many parishes, as well as alientaing many members and fringers.

More and more it is increasingly hard to present an alternative view (grounded in science of course) as the activists are speaking “truth to power” and thus utterly convinced of THEIR truth. It means that “anyone else’s truth” can be ignored, sidelined or rejected.

As examples of silencing of other voices look for Christians who actually argue WITH EVIDENCE for Nuclear Energy, or that renewables cannot replace fossil fuels for several decades, or point out the problems of producing electricity by renewables and , asuming it were possible, how long it would take to extend the grid to cope with the increased electrical generation. Mantras of “keep it in the Ground” and “renewables” do not produce the power.

The problems oif Extinction Rebellion are manifold. It is prone to scaremong with Hallam’s 6 billion deaths due to Climate Change and this article states;

XR starts from the premise that climate change is likely to bring about “human extinction through climate change”. At the core of their ideology is an understanding of climate change as “an unprecedented global emergency”. This theme of “a life or death situation”, a “Sixth Mass Extinction”, and a catastrophic “climate and ecological emergency” is constantly repeated in their speeches, on marches, and in articles.

It also argues from a very strong form of the Precautionary Principle, which would mean that I should never go out on my bike (I cycle over 100 miles aweek on public roads) or go walking on moor and mountain. There is a risk for me, but a low one.

http://www.uncancelled.co.uk/tie-world/the-problem-with-extinction-rebellion/?fbclid=IwAR2aLR5UDLRTs29WqDt__ClKGcL0hrxkuDWJk9SI1uugZFeAHffcd3hgzE0

Despite this, too many in the churches have backed ER as they did at the end of August 2020, with Rowan Williams to the fore.

The banner is a misunderstanding of Romans 8, but that is another issue

In the Church times article (URL below) Williams said;

People of faith should be here because they are people of faith

That seems to have the fervour of fundamentalism, which caught me (and others) out with their arrogant claim to truth and spiritual arrogance.

Instead of “Do you believe the Baybull” it is ;

“are you a climate denier?”

And if one says Net Zero 2030 is wrong, then one is!!

Read the Church Times here. It is hardly unbiased reporting

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/4-september/news/uk/lord-williams-joins-extinction-rebellion-protests-in-london?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1599350669

He said “People of faith should be here because they are people of faith. That is, they believe they can make a difference of some kind and that that difference is worth making. At the moment we’re at a remarkable moment of opportunity. People are talking about building back better. We have to take the opportunity. It’s not just recovering what’s been lost but building again something that is genuinely more sustainable. Because in the last few months we have seen the possibility of some alternatives that might work and I think people of faith ought to be on board with making those alternatives work, taking that moment of opportunity.”

There is little room for those who disagree.

To say People of faith should be here because they are people of faith seems like my fundi friends and implicitly excludes from “people of faith” like me those who would not be protesting and agree with the agenda. Does that mean I am not a person of faith

It also ignores some of Paul’s teaching , when writing to Christians who wanted to no-platform him, as in 2 Corinthians chaps 10-12 , especially 2 Cor ch10 vs7 (This was the text of my last sermon of the church I mentioned at the beginning. It got home!)  or Galatians 1 vs13f. I won’t go as far as Paul did in Gal 5 vs 12.

We need to reply as robustly as Paul did , but this goes against the spirit of the age in the church today.

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There is another way of caring for God’s creation 

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

How do we handle the complexities of the Bible, sexual ethics, and contemporary culture? | Psephizo

This goes beyond the title as it begins to highlight the ways we can use and misuse the Bible and Christian teaching for our ethics from sex to social justice and to the planet

Source: How do we handle the complexities of the Bible, sexual ethics, and contemporary culture? | Psephizo

‘There is no pandemic’ – Mythbusting John MacArthur’s claims – Premier Christianity

John Macarthur is pastor of a megachurch in California.

John F. MacArthur - Wikipedia

He has recently increased his notoriety over Covid by insist on opening up his church to vast numbers and insists there is no pandemic. Below I reblog an article from Premier which seems very balanced – to some that means I agree with it!!!

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Along with the church is the Masters Seminary who gives out degrees. (I ought to try and get a D.D. from my published work from his seminary.) He’s written loads of books which are widely used  including in Britain/

MacArthur can only be called a fundamentalist with a literal view of the bible.

He does not regard Roman Catholics to be Christian, but I’m not sure of his views on Anglicans.) He’s strongly creationism and a good example that Creationism is symptomatic of other errors.

When it comes to creation, um, well, believe it or not he insists on a 6 day creation a few thousand years ago. When you search is website “Grace to You” http://www.gty.org you’ll find lots of it, looking to such fantastic scholars as Scott Hulse and Douglas Kelly  Ph.D. (Cantab)

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-212/the-how-why-and-when-of-creation-part-2

So these people who say everything has always continued as it was from the very beginning have forgotten that there was a time when the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, and another time when it was destroyed by being flooded.  In other words, Peter is pointing to the fact that everything has not continued through a uniformitarian process since the beginning, but rather there have been two cataclysmic events…one, creation, and the other the universal global flood.  There have been immense alterations in the earth as we know it.  Creation itself was cataclysmic.  Originally the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water…and we’ll comment more on that when we go back to Genesis.  And there was a time when the entire globe was destroyed, being flooded with water, which had immense cataclysmic impact on the surface of the earth.

This earth has not gone on in a uniform kind of existence; rather two immense cataclysms have effected its current condition, one being creation itself, and the other being the Flood.  Uniformitarians claim that the strata in rocks, the strata sediment, the fossils and the companion chemistry of geologic dating based on uniformity demand an earth that is billions of years old.  During the early nineteenth century, the central presupposition of uniformitarianism was that the present is the key to the past.  That is that everything went always the way it’s going now, popularized by James Hutton and Charles Lyle, who in turn influenced Darwin.

This is not even wrong! I love the mispelling of Lyell – a sure sign of incompetence. It comes up in Creationist Bingo. To claim that his misrepresentation of Uniformitarianism demands an ancient earth is simply false. Geologists gradually worked to an ancient earth following the evidence from the rocks. His grasp of geology is a trifle shaky and flaky. 

Uniformitarianism is the belief that the origin and development of all things can be explained exclusively in terms of the same natural laws and processes seen operating today.  Uniformitarianism has been the backbone of modern historical geology and is responsible for the current widespread assumption that the earth is billions of years old.  The uniformitarians insist that all geologic features and formations once attributed to geologic cataclysms can now be satisfactorily explained by ordinary processes functioning over immensely long periods of time.  That’s basically their view.  Scott Hulse, writing in The Collapse of Evolution, gave us that definition.

He does it again falsely claiming the current widespread assumption that the earth is billions of years old.  

False statements like that do not give credibility

 Scott Hulse summarizes some of this evidence – just give it to you briefly.  “Creationists maintain the uniformitarian principles simply cannot account for most of the major geological features and formations.  For instance, there’s the vast Tibetan plateau which consists of sedimentary deposits which are thousands of feet thick, located presently at an elevation of three miles above sea level.  The Karoo formation of Africa contains an estimated 800 billion vertebrate animals.  The herring fossil bed of California contains approximately one billion fish within a four-square-mile area.  The uniformitarian concept is equally incapable of explaining the Columbia plateau in northwestern United States, which is an incredible lava plateau several thousand feet thick covering an area of 200 thousand square miles.  Uniformitarianism also fails to offer a reasonable explanation for important geological concepts such as mountain building,” and it goes on and on, and I won’t bore you with it.

Facepalmingly hignorant!

All of these things require sudden and dramatic change, rapid burial, and lithification, as it’s called, are essential to the formation and preservation of fossils.  The only possible way you can have seashells on the top of mountains thousands of miles from the sea is if there was once water there.

This is just daft. It’s utterly clueless on geology especially as Niclaas Stensen aka Steno explained seashells on mountain tops in de Solido in 1669, and seashells on everest are due to uplift due to India crashing into Asia!!

Recently he has also totally rejected climate change, as Paul reminded me in a comment

All this is simply standard Creationist fare of the worst sort. In itself it may seem harmless but it is symptomatic of something more serious and sinister and that is the problem of MacArthur and  Grace Church.

It is a carefully-argued anti-science and anti-intellectuallism, used to control people and along with shunning exclusivism  – as with denying Roman Catholics They well-substantiated views of anyone can be dismissed.

Edit; Now Trump has given MacArthur a bell!

MacArthur said he then told Trump that “any real, true believer is going to be on your side in this election.”

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/john.macarthur.says.trump.thanked.him.for.taking.a.stand.over.church.closures/135489.htm

This blog gives more on the matter.

https://thewayofimprovement.com/2020/09/01/how-john-macarthur-politicizes-science/

This is what MacArthur does over Covid-19 as he dismisses all the scientific evidence. It could kill some . He says

“In truth, 6 per cent of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to Covid, 94 per cent cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from Covid. There is no pandemic.”

The blog explains how wrong he is

As a result they fall for the American Dream Nightmare, opening themsleves to any-kind of reactionary view, now expressing itself in the denial of the seriousness of Covid-19

It is classic sect behaviour and as Jenkins concludes

Avoid foolish controversies’

The Apostle Paul instructs a young Titus, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

I’m praying this scenario will not be true of Pastor MacArthur related to the division and confusion he is causing during this pandemic.

I’m praying he’ll repent of the false witness he is bearing. For his own sake, his church’s sake, the greater American evangelical church, and all of our communities affected by this great trial.


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The pastor of a Californian megachurch has claimed there’s no pandemic, and told his congregation there’s a ‘great effort’ underway to ‘shut down churches’. DJ Jenkins, who pastors a church in the same city as John MacArthur, explains why he strongly disagrees

Source: ‘There is no pandemic’ – Mythbusting John MacArthur’s claims – Premier Christianity

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?

 

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?

 

cor1

The only reasonable answer is NO. Definitely No, the virus is not evil.

It is simply part of the natural order, so can be no more evil than a Koala Bear, a bluebell, a sunset or a beautiful woodland. Some will disagree, but lets consider the universe, the natural world or the creation, call it what you will.

The universe is billions of years old and billions of light years across. Our tiny planet was formed some four and half billion years ago along with the Solar System. Initially Earth was too hot for life and gradually cooled, with volcanic activity, earthquakes and the like. The first life was formed some three or four billion years ago. Grossly simplifying it was some kind of bacteria, which lived and died at a great rate. Viruses appeared as dubiously living things riding piggy-back on any life-form they could and often killed them. Since then the earth has been violent, with bits of crust whizzing round the surface of the planet with earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Life has also moved on. New and more complex forms arose and went extinct to be replaced by others. Animals could only thrive by eating up other living things, whether plant or animal. At times fossil animals have been found with the teeth marks of predators. Disease and death was the other side of life and many of these were caused by bacteria or viruses. Animals have a love-hate relationship with bacteria and thus half the human body is made up of – not human flesh – but BACTERIA. Last to appear on Planet Earth were humans and for many millennia their lives were “nasty, brutish and short”. Life expectancy did not top 40 anywhere until the 19th century. Famine, starvation and disease were rampant, with regular pandemics, most notably the Black Death.

All of this is totally natural with suffering and death going on for a few billion years. Triceratops suffered in agony when ripped apart by a T Rex, as much as we do if we suffer from covid-19 or another ghastly disease.

All this is totally natural and is simply the way the world is.

Think of watching an animal in at the kill. Consider a lion bringing down a springbok. Once looking out the kitchen window I saw a sparrow eating honeysuckle berries. In a flash a sparrowhawk appeared and grabbed the poor sparrow. Last autumn I discovered spiders in my garden were catching tortoiseshell butterflies in their webs, wrapping them in silk nd taking them to their food cache. All is totally and utterly natural.

Too often we only consider the cuddly bits of nature and forget the rest. We want to stay with Bambi. Nature is not like that. Neither are our lives and we know most of us will die of dementia, heart, respiratory disease or cancer. Three hundred years ago we never lived long enough to die from those.

I spent over a year living in a mountainous desert, which was as rugged as it was beautiful. Each day was self-indulgence on fantastic scenery, which was even more fantastic when the desert flowered after rains. But I did not keep my social distance with a Cape Cobra, which probably would have been fatal. Before that I was in the Ugandan bush, beautiful in a different way, but I had to take anti-malarial tablets. Mosquitoes kill more humans than any other animal – including humans. Closer to home our enjoyment of snow-covered mountains can end up with hypothermia. Not to mention all the other diseases we can get.

All is totally natural, but suffering and death is never far away

Violent earth processes, predation, disease, suffering and death is usually referred to as Natural Evil, but that seems a misnomer as if it is Natural how can it be Evil – unless some devil put its oar in? Too much Christian theology does just that; the alleged Curse given by God after the Fall of Genesis 3, or due to a very early angelic Fall, spiritual warfare as the devil tries to wreck everything now.

To say that suffering is Natural is not comforting if we see a pyroclastic cloud or tsunami coming towards or a large branch falls on our head or we are struck by lightning. Or even when we get a bad cold and feel like death warmed up. Worse is when we break a bone, get a nasty illness especially if it is fatal or when we witness illness in others. Think of watching the 2004 Tsunami clips on TV.

It is painful, it is sad, but we need to admit it is totally natural and normal so Natural Evil is not a good term.

What about Covid-19 and other suffering?

Is it always natural and not evil?

It seems most likely that it came from a bat at a live, wet, market and jumped to humans at the end of 2019. In a sense that makes it harder as we can’t blame one person or a group.

If suffering was caused by agent then we could blame the agent.

There are those who want to identify the agent. Some say it is God cursing the earth after the sin of Adam and Eve related in Genesis 3. Many evangelicals believe just that. Others, noting that the previous idea can’t be tenable if we accept and ancient earth and evolution suggest a primeval fall of angels, who have been causing havoc ever since. Even today, well over two centuries after the discovery of geological time and extinction before humans, far too many Christians still accept this untenable set of beliefs.

Or else one may claim to believe in spiritual warfare, in that we live in a world where natural disasters, disease and evil are tied up not only with the choices of human beings but with the freedom exercised by spiritual forces in rebellion against God. Despite the victory of Christ is his death and resurrection, there are still lots of spiritual battles of good and evil, whether cancer, a tsumani or a pandemic.

These divide creation into good and evil. But how do you decide which parts of creation is evil? When in Yellowstone some years ago a Ranger told me that some visitors told him to remove all the bad animals from the park. I presume they meant grizzlies and bison who are not very cuddly. Just because they are potentially dangerous doesn’t mean they are evil. I must admit I was a bit jumpy on one hike despite having a bear bell! Some extend this to the inanimate creation and consider earth forces like earthquakes and volcanoes to be bad and with malign spiritual forces behind them. This is totally Manichean with a battle of good and evil and makes people look for the good and the bad, rather like that Yellowstone visitor.

We cannot make this simplistic division of creation into good and bad, but we need simply to accept creation as it is, and realise there are some uncomfortable aspects. I’ll come back to suffering.

More recently some, and not fundamentalist, have stressed the Groaning of Creation from Romans 8. This can be tied into the fundamentalist view of the curse of Genesis 3, or have a curse without a curse, apparently accepting the whole evolutionary picture by saying the cosmos needs redeeming. I have to admit that I do not know what it actually means, and really only makes sense if we believe a literal fall which changed the cosmos. It is also dependent on a particular translation of Romans 8 vs 19ff.

One of the most common theistic explanations which is brought out every disaster is that the event – hurricane or virus – is an Act of God and a judgement on sin. This is a common practice of leading pastors and they single out things like gay marriage. I find it hard to believe in a loving god who’d bump off so many people because a few went for single-sex marriage. It makes God an ogre and a nasty bit of work.

Granted this is an old view and was wheeled out for many natural disasters and pandemics in the past. It does have some roots in the Old Testament but not in Jesus Christ.

None do justice to a loving God (though there are issues why He allows such disasters) or to the brute naturalness of these disasters whether floods or pandemics.

Not all suffering is natural

Much suffering is not from a natural cause and is caused, directly or indirectly, by humans. Human history is full of examples and the Holocaust is the worst of many. I write this close to the 75th anniversary of the freeing of Belsen. Words fail on that. Or take some examples from history; the Thirty Years war of the 17th century, the harrowing of the north of England by William the Conqueror, the blood-bath of WWI for a few.

It is too easy to focus on the evil of the Holocaust and Pol Pot and ignore all the lesser evils like the ones each of us commits – assuming we can grade them. Human evil always hurts others to a greater or lesser extent. Just read a standard history book and think of the human suffering caused by war, revolution, or misgovernment. The most well-known is the history of World War II with its horrific toll of suffering and death. Just read a volume by Max Hastings or Anthony Beevor or Michael Burleigh’s aptly titled work on WWII Moral combat, which is a most unsettling book.

It does not have to be the world at war, it can be within a family, local community or a church community. On the last there is not only child abuse but spiritual abuse Title. Many have left a church totally hurt by “nice Christians” who behaved badly.

Some may try to play down the moral side by insisting that often it was not deliberate. That comes from the common, but simplistic and wrong, view that for an action to be sinful/evil, it must be deliberate. Not all evil is deliberate, but that does not make it not evil. In one of the Anglican prayers of confession we find these words;

We have sinned…..

Through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault…

I confess that when I first used it half a century ago I thought it misguided as I thought sin had to be cold-bloodedly deliberate. I gradually appreciated its wisdom.

Weakness is the failure to do what is right as Edmund Burke said “All that is needed for evil to thrive is that good men do nothing.” In fact, good men become evil. Weakness can often mean lacking the moral fibre or guts to do what is right.

Ignorance comes in various forms. At the simplest it is simply not knowing and there is nothing wrong in that, provided we admit to it. It is wise to realise one’s ignorance. But there is a more serious ignorance when we simply fail to find out something on a vital issue. This can have lethal results if a mechanic is ignorant on fixing a bike, car or plane, because he failed to consult the manual. Ignorance can be deliberate and/or culpable, when a person simply fails to find out what they can. Many years ago there was a ghastly accident on Snowdon. A group of hillwalker out to climb Snowdon in January, and without skill or equipment attempted a snow and ice climb. Halfway up one slipped and broke his leg, they left him there. They carried on, another slipped and died. It was a catalogue of culpable folly and Snowdonia Mountain Rescue were fulsome in criticism, something they do not usually do. You may be ignorant about a route up a mountain and thus when you attempt it you may have a serious accident. But that does not make you blameless, as if you have not worked out the route before by studying the map and guide book and checked whether you and the party are capable of returning safely, you are responsible for everything which goes wrong. Many years ago the Welsh Mountain Rescue ascribed nearly half of accidents one year to folly.

Now the Holocaust is simply “deliberate fault” and unmitigated human evil. There are many lesser examples of bad actions due to “deliberate fault”, and I am sure you can think of many – including your own.

Where does covid-10 come in? The virus itself is totally natural, and, if the present scientific consensus is right, then C-19 had existed for ages in bats. In Wuhan the virus did what viruses often do, especially when its host animal is badly stressed – it jumped to another species and this time to humans and we know the rest and the terrible results.

There is no evil in the C-19 virus itself, though it causes disease, but the evil and sin is in how conditions were formed to enable the virus to jump species. All the evidence points to the live trade in exotic animals, which is illegal in civilised countries. Animals are kept in appalling conditions and if alive are highly stressed and if dead squalid and filthy. It is not a hygenic environment, ideal for spreading diseases and that is what happened. (I am aware that some say it came from a lab – when the same strictures apply.)

Some may try to play down the moral side by insisting it was not deliberate, so we go back to the prayer of confession;

We have sinned…..

Through ignorance, through weakness

The outbreak of C-19 was not deliberate but seems to have been caused by blatant ignorance and weakness in taking part in live markets. The lack of animal welfare could be seen as deliberate. Before too many fingers are pointed, the whole human race has a bad record on treating the earth and the life in it.

We could list many other examples like the drunk or careless driver who kills.

Earlier I gave some of the false explanations for so-called Natural Evil and why they are wrong. They gain traction because they do appear to be explanations and I’ve offered nothing by way of explanation. My omission is deliberate, but it is not an omission, but a realisation that an explanation is not forthcoming. We are simply stymied by suffering, whether on a personal level when we lose a relative, a pandemic or a war.

When suffering strikes many want an explanation, be it “Why is God punishing me?” as if is a result of wrong-doing, either ours or Adam’s. Suffering is often seen as punishment and enough theological spin-doctors down the centuries have spun their tales, which often cause more hurt than comfort.

We live in a world where suffering is guaranteed whether on a large or small scale. Each of us has experienced suffering in the past, more for some than others. From the news or history books we will hear of more. However much we put it on one side we know it will continue to hit us until the day of our deaths. That death will cause suffering to others. My mother, who lost my father at 51, once said to me decades later, “you never get over it.” Move from the family to the wider society.

Suffering is more of a problem today than before when life expectancy was about 40, you’d expect to lose half your children, famine and disease hanging over like a cloud. If you read about 19th century Britain, you find women dying in childbirth, lots of children dying and a life where death was never far away. At the end of the 19th century Sunday School hymnbooks had several hymns to sing to mark the death of a fellow scholar – as that was expected. Then most, Christian or not, were much more acceptive of suffering, as they had to be.

The Bible gives us nothing tangible on the origin of evil and suffering.

On the former it accepts some kind of spiritual evil, which is weaker than the power of God. I am very hesitant to call it in on every occasion but have occasionally come across it.  This needs to be emphasised, especially as many want spin a theology of little biblical basis, whether to explain suffering or to give comfort.

Human evil or sin is a brute fact and common to every person, The Old Testament is weaker on it than the New Testament. And the behaviour in the OT is often appalling! It is almost that the character of Jesus highlights what human evil is by contrast. Each human comes off worst in comparison, thus giving the central theme  – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – which on its own would be soul-destroying, but the greater emphasis is on Jesus Christ, whose forgiving transformative powers are presented in so many different ways, like the many facets of a cut diamond.

I suggest the common and popular view of atonement – penal substitution – is very limited and self-centred focusing on the individual’s salvation, rather than the reconciliation and redemption which litter the pages of the New Testament. It also leans to seeing suffering as punishment, and is also rather smugly triumphant.

Focusing just on punishment for sin, it overlooks the fact that we have a mangled Jesus, who was humiliated and beaten up before being strung up. Jesus had entered into human suffering, in a way which most of us won’t. During his life He was not the strong man overpowering his opponents but identified with the unpowerful. Nothing is further from the Jesus of the Gospels than the corruption of the Nazi Churches with their fuhrer Christology. Jesus was no ubermensch superior to everyone else (with blue eyes and blond hair too). Instead he was an untermensch – everybody’s dogsbody. As he made clear in Mark 10 when two disciples wanted to bag the best seats in the Kingdom.

42 So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

He came to serve, not to be served and that is the calling of every Christian. Paul brings this out in Phillipians 2. Where Paul looks to the example of Jesus for a Christian to follow

2If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess  that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Here the example of Jesus’s sacrificial service and devotion is something to be emulated and that it something which has come into the wider society through the Christian faith as Tom Holland argues in his book Dominion, even though many would not confess to being Christian. We have seen this sacrifice during the covid pandemic.

Perhaps sacrificial service is the only Christian answer to any suffering on any scale, rather than spinning yarns about god cursing Adam and Eve, or a spiritual warfare. It is probably the only human answer too.

Suffering and death is a given and never explained and that is the theme of Job, a fine religious novel in verse. How anyone can take it a historical beats me as the whole story is artistically contrived and none the worse for that. The writer enjoyed piling it on with a certain black humour in the first few chapters and then introduced the reader to four, well-meaning but wrong-headed advisors (just as we have today from many religious writers).

Job ends up after his four advisors were no help being confronted by God;

“Were you there when I created the universe”

Or rather Job 38 vs1 ff

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2 ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you  have understanding.5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?

The essence of God’s message to Job was “trust me”,  without the superficiality of today’s usage. Job turned to God in trust and then to action. In the absence of any answers on suffering a Christian who rejects all the dodgy theological yarns spun in despair has only the option of trusting God in Jesus Christ and striving to serve.

As I wrote above the essence of Jesus’s life was to serve others and so that became the mark of the early Christians, as, unlike the Romans, Christians actually cared for those in need, and this became apparent in the pandemics which afflicted the Roman world. This marked out Christians from the beginning and the contrast with the Roman lack of care for others is summed up pithily in the Epistle to Diognetus ch5 vs7 “They share their food but not their wives.” Many Romans did the opposite! This stemmed from the second of the two commandments and other parts of Jesus’ teaching and extended in Paul’s ethical teaching and above all in the letter of James chap1 vs27

 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

And so, despite the Church being sucked into power structures since Constantine, It has always had an emphasis of caring for those in need, heroically in pandemics and more mundanely in the setting up of hospices and the care of the sick. Many of these became hospitals with a legacy of such names as St Mary’s, St Thomas’s and others. With the missionary movement, Christian missionaries of all denominations pioneered hospitals and medical work in areas where there had been none.

However it is wrong to see Christianity as primarily a moral code devoted to good works rather than a faith in Jesus Christ, with all the added religious mumbo jumbo about salvation as Clement Atlee called it. The two are totally intermeshed and cannot be separated.

In his letters Paul often first gives his doctrine and then his ethical teaching.  John in 1 John presents it almost as an oscillation between “religious faith in Christ as saviour” and loving action.

1 John 3 vs23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

1 John 4 vs 7-117 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

Clarity can be worse than imprecision and can lead to arrogance, whereas if our imprecision comes from not knowing we are more likely to be humble and understanding, and thus more able to help others.

I suggest there is no “answer” to C-19, and all attempts to give an answer are doomed as I demonstrated earlier. Perhaps I should be more dogmatic and say

THERE IS NO ANSWER TO C-19 OR TO ANY SUFFERING.

We have witnessed some arrogance in response to C-19 , like those who scrawl “Jesus is my vaccine” on their trucks, or think their faith will protect them.

Pandemics are not like that and never have been, or else the Black Death would have been neither.

The answer comes in doing the best one can and that means looking for the science, as did the earliest attempt at quarantine or some ways of dealing with outbreaks like typhus in Philadelphia in 1836. Any solutions will be in the scientific knowledge of viruses and how to deal with them. As this is so matter of fact, technical, and apparently soulless, more emotive responses are often preferred. That is doomed. To understand one needs to be practicing a very high de-coupling, and then, and only then, dealing with the personal suffering with skill and care. Many of the daily scientific reports this March and April have been rather cold and distant and some have criticised them for their lack of human warmth. However the best scientific evidence is needed before making moral and political decisions. Those decisions are not easy, as often the least bad option must be chosen.

To those Christians who have to have a “biblical” answer to everything, this will be a feeble and wrong response. It is so much easier to see Covid-19 as God’s judgement on a wicked world or a similar ghastly theological explanation. Using the word correctly and wisely they are heretical and also very hurtful.

We are in the position of Job, in that magnificent Old Testament legend about suffering. No one can give an answer, except that on this planet “shit happens” – there is death, disease and suffering which hits us in so many different ways. Most of the time it is one individual in one family but a Pandemic affects everyone potentially. Corporately we face our mortality and find no answer.

We can understand it partially with our reductionist science and then need to apply that as those who suffer are cared for and hopefully led to the road of recovery.

For a Christian that is to look at the example of Christ and to love one another.

Perhaps this meme quoting an American Old Testament sums up what we shoulf think and above all do.

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Do we know what Anglicans think about same-sex marriage? | Psephizo

Do most Anglicans support same sex- marriage?

A recent survey claimed they did and this was pounced on my some Anglicans.

But here a priest, who is a professional statistician questions the whole basis of the conclusions arguing those Anglicans were like WWII soldiers who when asked what denomination replied “dunno” and told “You’r C of E”.

 

 

Source: Do we know what Anglicans think about same-sex marriage? | Psephizo

Why Extinction Rebellion seems so nuts

A good discussion on the absurdity  of Extinction Rebellion.

note that the “warriors” at the battle of Canning Town were mostly Christians , and from Christian Climate Action

The more dogmatic environmentalism becomes, the more it loses touch with reality.

Source: Why Extinction Rebellion seems so nuts

 

My comment on Bishop Bayes

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2019/10/19/bishop-bayes-on-extinction-rebellion/

Extinction Rebellion gives us a new Christianity

Methinks there is a new version of Christianity to compete with Moonies and other cults

Now I may be a bit slow but I thought Good Friday was about Jesus dying on the cross and not what “Christian” Climate Action want

“What a better way to spend Good Friday than getting yourself down to the #ExtinctionRebellionprotest sites and standing up for Gods creation.”

Or

“Observe meat free day and remind the world of the damaging effects of deforestation and meat production”

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I am afraid we were very wayward today and simply focussed on Mark chapter 15 on the death of Christ.

If the Christian faith is not focussed on the death and resurrection of Jesus, then it is not the Christian faith

Hence we considered Mark chapter 15

11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
16Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 28 29Those who passed by deridedhim, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
The Death of Jesus
33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole landuntil three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
40There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome
The most important is ;
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In that we see the Christian Faith at its baldest; God the son dying on the cross, soon to be followed by the resurrection.
But a result of that is to care for God’s creation and use it wisely.
None of this Green gnosticism
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And now Christian Climate Action had an Easter service blocking the road at Marble Arch
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