Category Archives: fundamentalism

Evangelicals and Science; The Rise of Creationism 1961 -2007, Chapter 7

By 1961 the issue of anti-evolution had apparently receded and left in the wilds of Dayton, Tennessee

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but then came back with a vengeance with the publication of The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb.

And so we have all animals on the ark, including (baby) dinosaurs.

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Slowly and surely like a heavily laden WWII bomber it took off and created havoc among evangelicals, first in the USA and then around the world.

Ken Ham is now the leader with his Creation Museum which has cameos of humans living with dinosaurs!!

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The core work is The Genesis Flood published in 1961, written by Morris, a hydraulic engineer and Whitcomb an Old Testament bible college teacher.

Image result for henry morrisImage result for j c whitcomb

Evangelicals were slow to review it but here is the best of the critical reviews

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/the-genesis-flood-a-revue-in-1969of-the-creationist-pot-boiler/

I attempt to give a history, an exposition and criticism of the content of YEC and then a bit on Intelligent Design. Here is a blog on the Church of England and Creationism.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/the-church-of-england-and-creationism/

However it is not the only evangelical understanding of science as chapter 8 will show. But now open this link for a brief account of Creationism from 1961

Chapter 7; The Rise of Creationism

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A history of Evangelicals and Science – part 3 of 12,

 

How have evangelicals interpreted the Bible in the light of science in the last 300 years?

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We now come to chapter 3;

Evangelicals, the Bible and Science

so open up;

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This chapter considers that question and shows how some insisted on taking everything literally and others following Calvin and Augustine did not see the bible as a scientific tome but accommodated to the date of its writing. 

Augsutine

The story is a bit of a mixed bag and partially carries on the divisions within the Reformation churches.

Major themes are biblical authority, inerrancy, accommodation, early Genesis and a flat earth.

A history of Evangelicals and Science – part 1 of 12 parts

Evangelicals and Science (pub 2008) Foreword and Introduction

In 2008 my Evangelicals and Science was published as part of the Greenwood series. On the same day Peter Hess produced Catholics and Science. 

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My aim was to give an overview considered historically. I confess I was not an outside, impartial observer as my roots are evangelical and moved away, more from evangelical behaviour than theology. I became a Christian through the Christian Union at Oxford, so began with an excellent pedigree. Soon after I was in Uganda as an exploration and mining geologist, where I was baffled meeting a 300lb missionary from the southern States, who lent me creationist literature. I thought it bunk and that no one could believe it. In 1971 I went to L’Abri and was told to study books like The Genesis Flood. I soon found how flawed they were. No one was bothered in Britain until the Arkansas trial of 1981.

I studied the whole evangelical relationship with science mostly from a historical point of view, with an emphasis on geology. That comes out in the book and no apologies. I went historical as I felt that would clarify many issues and I found it did and that I was echoing the work of many historians of science like Ron Numbers and David Livingstone.

I could go on but in the successive blogs I’ll present another chapter, which you can read by opening the link beginning GNWD018

So here is the beginning;

The forewords of the editor and myself.

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Contents

Chapter 1 What Are Evangelicals? 7
Chapter 2 Evangelicals, the Bible, and Science 33
Chapter 3 Eighteenth-Century Evangelicals and Science: From
Jonathan Edwards to John Wesley 59
Chapter 4 Evangelicals and Science in the Age of Revolution 83
Chapter 5 Post-Darwinian Evangelicals 113
Chapter 6 Evangelicals in the Shadow of Scopes 139
Chapter 7 The Rise of Creationism: Young Earth Creationism
and Intelligent Design, 1961–2007 165
Chapter 8 Evangelicals and Science Today 201
Chapter 9 Evangelicals, the Environment, and Bioethics 225
Conclusion 245
Primary Sources 249
References 285
Index 299

Chronology of Events

1000BC

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1720s Cotton Mather supports smallpox inoculation.
1730s Beginning of Evangelical Revival in Massachusetts (Edwards)
and England (Whitfield).
1738 Conversion of John Wesley.
1758 Death of Jonathan Edwards from smallpox vaccination.
1771 Francis Asbury goes to the American colonies and starts the
Methodist church.
1795 Death of John Wesley.
1790s Evangelicals blossom in Britain and America.
1790–1820s Series of evangelical science professors at Cambridge.
1817 Rev. Adam Sedgwick elected Professor of Geology at Cambridge

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1812–1867 Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution, London, much experimental
work and lectures.
1820s–1840s Height of “evangelical” geologists

anning

—Sedgwick,Lewis, Miller in Britain and Hitchcock and Silliman in United States.
1859 Publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

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1860s Correspondence of Asa Gray and Darwin on design and
evolution.
1880s Height of “rapprochement” with B. B. Warfield and G. F.
Wright.
1910 Publication of The Fundamentals.
1920s Rise of anti-evolution, and splits over modernism.
1925 The Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tennessee.
1930s Heyday of Harry Rimmer and George McCready Price.
1941 Formation of the American Scientific Affiliation in United
States.
1944 Formation of what became Research Scientists Christian Fellowship
(later Christians in Science) in London.
1949 First Billy Graham Crusade at Los Angeles.
1954 Publication of Ramm’s The Christian Vew of Science and Scripture.
1961 Publication The Genesis Flood.
1962 Formation of Creation Research Society.
1972 Founding of Institute of Creation Research at San Diego.
1981 Trial at Arkansas.
1992 Formation of Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN).
1994 Formation of Answers in Genesis at Florence, Kentucky (with
Australian roots).

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2000 Cornwall Declaration opposing the EEN.
2005 Charles Townes, Nobel Laureate for MASER and LASER
awarded Templeton Prize.
2006 American evangelicals divided over global warming.
2007 Opening of Creation Museum in Kentucky

And then my introduction, which gives an outline of each chapter and acknowledgments. Many will be familiar to those who follow the issue and I leave it to members of HOGG to identify the one who called me “bloody clergyman” and gave me immense help in my related interest on the history of geology.

Introduction

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To sum up where I stand consider the plaque to Adam Sedgwick in Dent

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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/

The Gap Theory set to classical music: Haydn’s Creation

The Gap Theory set to classical music: Haydn’s Creation

To many people geology and Genesis don’t mix but over the centuries many Christians have tried to “reconcile” the two. To some that is absurd as you cannot reconcile the 144 hours of 6 days with the 13.2 billion years of our universe.

From 1860 until 1980 the most popular way of conservative evangelicals reconciling the two was the Gap Theory. Here it is posited that between the verses of Genesis I vs1 and vs3 , there was a “gap” when all the millions of years of geology took place before god re-ordered it in 144 hours to get ready for humans. That was rejected by less conservative Christians 150 years ago and by Young Earth Creationists in recent decades (though their view is even more implausible).

The Gap Theory came to the fore with Pember’s Earth’s Earliest Ages of 1876. It wasn’t entirely novel as it was a development of Thomas Chalmers’ ideas of 1804.

In fact, in another form, as the Chaos- Restitution interpretation, it goes back centuries and even to Justin Martyr. It was an apologetic to relate to Classical thought and arguing that the chaos or “formless void” of Gen 1.2, was the same as the “chaos” of so many Classical writers from Heisiod onwards. Aristophanes put an erotic spin on it, but what do you expect from the author of Lysistrata?

In one form or another it was the most common interpretation from 1600, with a straight 144 hour creation lagging a bit behind, and a day-age view lagging in third place. Here is a summary paper on the period 1600 to 1850 published in a Geol soc of London volume on Myth and Geology. https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/genesis-chapter-1-and-geological-time-from-grotius-to-thomas-chalmers-1620-1825/

And so to Haydn’s Creation;

It begins with a superb orchestral piece “the Representation of Chaos” to set the scene. After that in a series of recitatives, solo arias and choruses it works through the Six Days of Creation.

HAYDN’S CREATION

PART ONE Overture – The Representation of Chaos

The First Day Recitative and chorus

RAPHAEL In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth; and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

 CHORUS And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; and God said: Let there be Light, and there was Light.

Recitative

URIEL And God saw the Light, that it was good: and God divided the Light from the darkness.

This is simply the first two verses of Genesis 1. But then to bring out the common understanding of the creation and end of Chaos, Haydn slips in anther Aria and Chorus to being out the “recreation” of creation after the time of chaos has ended.

Most of the aria and chorus is rather sombre but turns to joy with “A new-created world springs up at God’s command.” And so the rather dark and dismal chaos has been transformed into the delight of “A new created world”.

URIEL Now vanish before the holy beams the gloomy, dismal shades of darkness; the first of days appears! Disorder yields and order fair prevails. Affrighted fly hell’s spirits, black in throngs; down they sink in the deepest abyss to endless night

 3 CHORUS Despairing, cursing rage attends their rapid fall. A new-created world springs up at God’s command.

After the transformation of chaos all is read for the Second Day

Some background

            Haydn’s Creation expresses the variety and ambiguity of the 18th century interpretation of the Creation Story in musical form. Haydn’s Creation apparently gives a simple musical rendering of Genesis Chapter One in a thoroughly literalistic manner. A closer examination belies this and indicates that the libretto follows the Gap Theory with its interval between the two clauses of verse two, allows a measure of “ruin-and-restitution” and has probable close links with contemporary sciences, especially the Nebular Hypothesis of Laplace.

SeeNeil Jenkins on the Creation

http://www.neiljenkins.com/biography

            The Creation was one of Haydn’s last works and he began composing the music in 1796 after visiting London in 1791-2 and 1793-4, when he “experienced the overwhelming effect of Handel’s oratorios. Temperley argues that Haydn’s experience of Handel’s oratorios in London was the chief stimulus for both The Creation and “The Seasons”. The original text of The Creation was in English and it was given to Haydn by Salomon in 1795. Gottfried van Swieten, who translated the text into German wrote about its origins in 1798; “Neither is it by Dryden   but by an unnamed author who had compiled it largely from Milton’s Paradise Lost and had intended it for Handel….” The author is not known, but many have assumed that it was Thomas Linley (1733-95). However, what is known is that it dates from about 1750, and is thus evidence for contemporary understandings of Genesis One and is similar to Milton and other poets, who incorporate ideas of Chaos. as well as many exegetes, as described above.

  Milton, himself,   was far more committed to a literal Genesis, with some odd things thrown in. He did much to mislead Christians for two centuries. My blog on Milton and his influence   https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

van Swieten’s libretto is a fairly literal translation of the English , and the Recicatives in German do not follow German Bibles, but rather a literal rendering of the A.V. into German. Temperley argues that the inept or bizarre choice of epithets: “holy beams”, “dreary, wasteful hail” and others are modelled on Milton by an imitator lacking the master’s touch. The structure of the oratorio is simple, following through the six days of Creation with Recitatives, Arias and Choruses, with that for the First Day preceeded by the superb orchestral introduction The Representation of Chaos. As with much contemporary exegesis, e.g. Bishop Samuel Horsely, it is easy to see it as straight literalism. Consideration of the Aria with Chorus, “Now vanish before the holy beams” indicates that the librettist follows a form of “ruin-and-restoration” with a Destruction of gloomy chaos by the Light (“Now vanish before the holy beams / The gloomy shades of ancient days” and “Affrighted fly hell’s spirits black in throng; / Down they sink in the deep abyss / To endless night. and “Despairing rage attends their rapid fall “) and the formation of “a new-created world” which “springs up at God’s command.” The libretto for the first Day points to the first Act of Creation being the Chaos “without form and void” and then after an unspecified time was recreated or reconstituted in Six Days. Thus from the chronological sense of the libretto the orchestral Representation of Chaos should between Raphael’s first recitative and the first chorus, though not on musical grounds! The words of the libretto for Day One preclude the possibility of taking the Chaos as the pre-existing material which God moulded into shape over six days

            As well as looking to contemporary biblical interpretations of all of the Eighteenth Century, Haydn also looks to modern science especially astronomy. As Tovey wrote, ” the chaos he intends to represent is no mere state of disorder and confusion. he has a remarkably consistent notion ofit, which harmonises well enough with the Biblical account of the Creation; not less well with the classical notions of Chaos, whether in Heisiod or Ovid; but most closely with the Nebular Hypothesis of Kant and Laplace.” Kant published his views in 1755 and Laplace in popular form in 1796. While in England Haydn visited the astronomer Herschel at Slough, but Tovey does not give the date. Tovey considers that the Representation of Chaos represents not disorder but a gradual evolution of Cosmos from Chaos. One could see this differentiation from the original “chaotic” nebula as Gardiner expressed it “Amidst this turbid modulation, the bassoon is the first that makes an effort to rise and extricate itself from the cumbrous mass (bar 6) Later “In mingled confusion the clarinet struggles with more success (bar 31?) and the etherial flute escapes into the air (bar 39). It is interesting that William Gardiner wrote this in 1811, which is the the time that the Gap Theory was gaining wide credence among British Christians,such as Chalmers, Sumner and the Reverend Geologists, as this gave them plenty of time for all their geology to be inserted into Genesis

Though Haydn began work on The Creation in 1796, ironically a year after Smith’s formulation of stratigraphic succession, the libretto comes from the beginning of the century. The libretto was in English and given to Haydn while he was visiting England in 1791. Returning to Vienna Van Sweiten translated it into German, which was the language of the first performance in 1798. The original English text had possibly been prepared for Handel in the 1740s and is based on Genesis One , some Psalms      and Paradise Lost. Though with typical Enlightenment optimism it stops short before the Fall, it provides another insight on how Genesis was understood in the 18th century. The Introduction and the early recitatives and choruses show that it is not a simple literal interpretation. We are presented with an initial Creation, then a long, dark and mysterious Representation of Chaos in a minor key, (which musically is in the right place, but should follow on from Raphael’s first Recitative.) and then “a new-created world”. What we have is a musical rendering of the Gap Theory, which both reflects widely-held understandings of Creation Story in the whole of the 18th Century and then because of its popularity made this understanding more widely known. After its first performance 1799 in German and then the English version at Covent Garden in 1800.  It became one the most popular choral works, almost overtaking The Messiah in popularity. Societies were formed up and down the country expressly for The Creation and its familiarity is referred to in The Mill on the Floss

            It was fitting that Salomon should have presented the first London performance, but John Ashley pre-empted him with a performance at Covent Garden on 28th March 1800. The Creation entered the standard repertory of provincial choir festivals within two decades (Norwich 1813, Edinburgh 1815 and York 1823). Throughout the century it was also performed annually at Exeter Hall, London, the bastion of interdenominational evangelicalism. There is an irony that it was at Exeter Hall in 1856  that Hugh Miller so forcibly presented the geological arguments against the Gap Theory. Some years later, on 7th January 1866, with greater irony, Thomas Huxley was introduced to an audience at St Martin’s Hall, Covent Garden by “a booming church organ pumping out Haydn’s ‘Creation’ to heighten the sense of awe”. (p345   )

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The production of the Creation is important to highlight the relation of Genesis and the general thought and science of two centuries ago. The received version is that until these atheistic geologists came along with their hammers in 1790, the churches all believed in a 6 24 hour day creation. Young Earth Creationists are adamant about this and the more liberal Christians tended to argue for this until this century.

Before 1790 most “educated” Christians were either iffy about or rejected a 6 day creation. The discovery of Deep Time did not shatter the churches beliefs, but rather Deep Time slotted quite easily into the supposed chaos of Gen 1 vs 2, and just considering British Christians this so-called Gap Theory became widely accepted, though some preferred the Day Age view.

It comes out clearly in the evangelical Rev Joseph Townsend’s The Character of Moses Established for Veracity as an Historian, Recording Events from the Creation to the Deluge, (1813). Townsend was one of the three vicars who worked with William smith, the “father of English Geology”. It was then expounded by Rev William Buckland in huis iaugural lecture as Reader in Geology and Mineralogy at Oxford in 1819  – Vindiciae Geologicae and then in his Bridgewater Treatise of 1837.

These are but two examples, but a minority e.g. G.S.Faber and the American Silliman presented the case for the Day Age view. Some still held to a 6 24 hour day, either because geology was no concern to them or they considered geology atheistic.

By the late 1840s the chaos view was going out as it did not “fit” with geology and the more liberal went with the Germans and broke the nexus with historical events. This summary of Genesis interpretation from 1800 to 1850 is hopeless brief and wil, be expanded in a later blog.To conclude we can listen to Haydn’s Creation and see that geology was not a problem for early 19th century Christians  – at least the sensible ones and there is no need to hold that Deep geological Time can only lead to atheism as I was told by a historian of geology 20 years ago when we were looking at the thermal metamorphism of slates caused by an intrusive sill at the fantastic Tan Y Pystyll waterfall near Shrewsbury.

Creationism, Noah’s Flood, and Race

With so much on racism in the news today, here is a good blog (not mine) on Creationists and Race over the last 200 years.
The record on ultra-conservative Christians has not been good as in the USA annd south Africa with Apartheid

Primate's Progress

20th-Century creationism and racism

Henry M. Morris photo.jpg Henry Morris, CRI publicity photo

(re-post from 3 Quarks Daily): Henry Morris, founding father of modern Young Earth creationism, wrote in 1977 that the Hamitic races (including red, yellow, and black) were destined by their nature to be servants to the descendants of Shem and Japheth. Noah was inspired when he prophesied this (Genesis 9:25-27) [1]. The descendants of Shem are characterised by an inherited religious zeal, those of Japheth by mental acumen, while those of Ham are limited by the “peculiarly concrete and materialistic thought-structure inherent in Hamitic peoples,” which even affects their language structures. These innate differences explain the success of the European and Middle Eastern empires, as well as African servitude.

All this is spelt out in Morris’s 1977 book, The Beginning of the World, most recently reprinted in 2005 (in Morris’s lifetime, and presumably with his approval)…

View original post 3,440 more words

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?

 

Is Covid-19 Evil? A Christian answer?

 

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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.

Image may contain: text

 

On plagues, judgement, and the Book of Revelation | Psephizo

A useful bog  by an Anglican theologian on the subject

 

Rather sharp on those who see God’s stroppy judgement in every possible disaster.

Some Christian seem think God’s an ogre who delights in sending plagues and disasters to punish us.

I will have more on this in a later blog of my own

 

Source: On plagues, judgement, and the Book of Revelation | Psephizo

Why is Franklin Graham being turned away? Bring back Billy!

Image result for billy grahamImage result for franklin graham

 

Since the 50s Billy Graham had many visits to Britain ( and the rest of the world) and was generally welcomed. I played a small part in his 1984 visit.

His son Franklin is not so welcome and thus in 2018 when he came to Blackpool several local clergy asked thier bishop not to show a welcome.  I didn’t go to hear him, but nearly did to see how much I’d dislike him!!!

I have only followed his visit casually and have no wish to take part.

Here is a better comment that I would make

Source: Why is Franklin Graham being turned away? | Psephizo