Category Archives: Gospel

Bishop Spong meets Charles Darwin

On 12th September the controversial Bishop Spong died at the age of 89. I’d known of him for decades and in the 80s he helped at a wedding at a Welsh church where the vicar was a very conservative evangelical, which gave us a smile.

As someone who is fairly conservative and orthodox I have never been partial to Spong with his extreme liberal views almost throwing out every item of the Christian faith for a progressive faith. He is a person whom people either loved or loathed. Spong raises many issues and especially the absurdities of extreme fundamentalism, but throws the baby out with the bathwater. I will not give a general assessment of him but focus on one issue.

Bishop John Shelby Spong in an undated photo. He used a combination of celebrity and tireless writing and speaking to open up the Episcopal Church.

That issue is his understanding of Charles Darwin and the effect of his science on the Christian faith. Way back in the 1990s he explained some of the reasons why he rejected “orthodoxy” and much hinged on Darwin. He claimed that until 1859 all Christians believed in a literal Genesis and then with The Origin of Species Darwin torpedoed that making it totally untenable.

Probably most people would agree with Spong on that and it has been the received view among most who consider themselves educated. In his book and TV series of the 1980s The Sea of Faith Don Cupitt came out with same arguments. Many thought it wonderful, but his history had a bit to be desired! A similar view comes out in older church histories and among writers of popular science, including Richard Dawkins.

I never kept the article where I read Spong’s views on Darwin but at some lectures in 2018 he repeated the same line. These were lectures he gave at the Chautauqua Institution and reported in The Chautauquan Daily – their official newspaper.

“On Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy, Spong explained how Darwinian and Christian values came to divide the Christian faith in his lecture titled, “The Assault of Charles Darwin and Why the Christian Church Retreated before Darwin.” Spong continued Week One’s interfaith theme, “Producing a Living Faith Today?”

Here is what the report said of his lecture, when he dealt with Darwin. It all sounds so familiar

http://chqdaily.com/2018/06/spong-dialogue-between-darwinism-christianity-critical/

One of the scientists who pushed the status quo was Charles Darwin, who Spong called the second “obsession of the church.”

Darwin began his work in 1831 when he got a job as a naturalist on a five-year survey voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. It took him 25 years after the trip, but Darwin claimed his place in history when he released the Origin of Species.

The book sold out immediately and raised questions that had previously been debated, but were never analyzed from a perspective like Darwin’s. Christians did not welcome these findings with open arms, Spong said.

“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”

In an attempt to set the record straight, a debate took place in 1860 between Thomas Huxley, a biologist and an avid defender of Darwin’s, and Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford and an advocate of biblical literalism. Wilberforce resorted to ridicule and at one point asked Huxley which side of his family was descended from apes. Wilberforce won the debate, but Spong said it was not enough to earn him a lasting legacy.

“Sam Wilberforce was hailed as a hero, but what’s interesting is that heroes don’t last forever,” he said. “He was very popular in his lifetime, but his reputation has faded.”

After the debate, Darwin’s theories made their way into the bloodstream of western civilization. At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on.

A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Once the project received funding, more than 500,000 were sent out each week. As time went on, the pamphlets became more popular, and by the 1920s, every church in the world was divided over being classified as fundamental or modernist.

“You can’t force truth into popularity,” Spong said. “Darwin seemed to have the truth, and after a while, these fundamentals of the Christian faith did not seem fundamentalistic after all.”

The Presbyterian leaders published five fundamentals all Christians were required to believe in order to identify as Christian. Among them were the ideas that the Scriptures are the infallible word of God and human beings are created perfect but fell into sin. Spong said those fundamentals were too similar to the myths of the religion to survive.

“They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” he said.

The problem facing modernists, on the other hand, was that they knew too much to be fundamentalists, but did not know how to be Christian, Spong said.

“That is reflected in the world today,” he said. “The major mainline Christian churches are all in a frantic of political decline. The fundamentalistic churches are strong, but they are also declining. The world is catching up, and fundamentalism is not a viable option any longer.”

The fall of these ideals caused a rise in Darwin’s ideals. At that time in history, there was no longer a medical school in the western world without a foundation built upon Darwinian principles, and hardly a science department in the United States that was not embracing evolution. That was until the public school system implemented “creation science,” Spong said, designed to be a fair alternative to Darwinism. Although creation science is not taught in public schools anymore, Spong reminded the audience it was not that long ago that former President George W. Bush endorsed it.

“Bush wanted people to be fair, to have a chance to voice an opinion,” Spong said. “He thought you could decide by majority vote what truth is. It doesn’t work that way.”

After Bush’s endorsement, the U.S. Supreme Court declared creation science unconstitutional.

“By virtue of its own strength and integrity, Darwin became stronger and stronger,” Spong said. “There is hardly an educated person in the western world who does not accept Darwin’s point of view as truth.”

Spong asked why Christians fought so hard when they knew they were wrong. The answer, once again, was Darwin.

“There was something about Darwin that challenged not just the Christian story, but the way in which we told that story,” he said. “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.’ You can’t fall into sin if you are not perfect to start with.”

Spong acknowledged how difficult it can be to accept the similarities humans have with the apes, but in a time where millennials check “none” for their chosen denomination more than the rest of the other options combined, he believes the dialogue has to continue between Darwinism and Christianity in order for the faith to survive.

“I think we have a wonderful faith,” he said. “Not the only faith, but a wonderful faith. And we have to work hard to make it live in our generation, and I think we can.”

[Clearly this is an account of what Spong said and not his actual words. However from what I’d previously read what Spong himself wrote on Darwin, it seems to be an accurate and trustworthy account. Thus as I have no reason to doubt its authenticity I shall treat as Spong’s views of 2018, which are similar to those he held two decades earlier.]

On the surface this seems reasonable and historically accurate both with regards to Darwin’s life and work and the effect on the Christian church.

But it is not!

As he started in 1831 he could have mentioned that Darwin receieved the letter inviting him to join the Beagle after a few weeks geologising in Wales with the Reverend Professor Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge. BRESSAN_2013_Geologizing_-Darwin_Map1

Darwin’s Welsh visit of 1831 More here https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/just-before-the-beagle-darwin-in-wales-1831/  

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Rev Adam Sedgwick, father of the Cambrian system. Susan Darwin had a crush on him.

Sedgwick was one of the great Anglican clergy-geologists. He was one of the most significant geologists to elucidate the Lower Palaeozoic and Devonian from 1831-1845. But, horror of horrors, he was also an evangelical. Now what was an evangelical doing as a professor of geology and doing fundamental work. Like most evangelicals of his day i.e. before 1859, he had no problems with geological time and did not see it as destroying his faith. He was very scathing about those who rejected geology and tried to insist on a literal Genesis. Here deal with some of his spats, which are quite funny too.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/how-to-deal-with-victorian-creationists-and-win/

It’s a pity Spong did not know about Sedgwick and his many Christian geologists! And so he dug a bigger hole;

“The war was on,” Spong said. “Darwin was now an enemy to the Bible, as the Bible was interpreted literally, and he was an enemy to the church in the way (Darwinism was) interpreted theologically.”

My question to Spong is simple. Who in the churches interpreted the Bible literally? For 40 years I have tried to find some examples and beyond slave-holders in the Southern States and other nuts, I am still wandering around in the wilderness looking for one.

Quite simply, virtually no Christians with a modicum of education in the 1860s took Genesis 1 literally and denied geological time. I think that is slam dunk against Spong. I’ll now go slam dunker and gently point out that Samuel Wilberforce was not a biblical literalist.

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Bishop soapy Sam Wilberforce

He was a competent amateur scientist and while at Oriel College , Oxford in the 1820s he went to William Buckland’s geology lectures for three years running. (The attendance records are in the Oxford museum. From my brief study of it, he was the only one who went every year.)

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Buckland checking out glacial Striae at Rhyd Ddu in Snowdonia 1842. Buckland introduced ideas of an Ice Age to Britain

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Rev William Buckland giving a geological lecture at Oxford

His review of the Origin in the Quarterly Review is competent scientifically and is similar to what most scientists would have written in 1860. Wilberforce was no literalist and no fool, but was a rather soapy bishop! Spong could have mentioned Christians who accepted Darwin from 1859 including the evangelical Rev H B Tristram, Charles Kinsgley and others. Read this for the British scene from 1859

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

Spong next dealt with The Fundamentals of 1910 “At first, evolution was taught in small, private settings, but as it began to gain momentum in 1910, the Christian Church decided to tackle the issue head on. A group of Presbyterian divines proposed a series of pamphlets on the fundamentals of the Christian faith.” Really! Head on? Many may know the series of brown paperback booklets called The Fundamentals. So much for taking Darwin/Evolution head on. One or two articles did, but most which dealt with Darwin or Genesis at least accepted geological time and in the case of James Orr, evolution as well. Spong simply had not doen his homework and was woefully inaccurate. So much for saying, “They were so absurd, no one in the academic world would give them credibility,” In fact many had academic credibility from competent conservative scholars, but some were not. Spong cannot have studied the background or content of these leaflets. If anyone was absurd it was Spong!

He continued “Darwin said there was ‘no perfect creation,’ but the church said we were ‘created perfect and then all fell into sin.” When did the church say that? Some fundamentalists did, and still do, say that but they are not the church but just a small part!

He ought to have known that humans ARE apes, and thus have similarities with all the other apes. A lack of biological knowledge here.

So what should we say about Spong’s encounter with Darwin?

Most obvious is that he has adopted a popular and extreme form of the Conflict Thesis of science and religion and out- whites White. To claim that the church was literalist in 1859 is simply completely and utterly false. Just to take the Anglican church, the vast majority of clergy had accepted geological time, and thus a non-literal Genesis way before 1859. In fact a higher proportion of Church of England clergy in 2021 are literalist than in 1860.

The best that can be said is that his confirmation bias to buttress his understanding of Christianity is to assume what he claims. This is simply not scholarly and is a very shoddy way of presenting an argument. Sadly others like Don Cupitt have done the same but he did (mis)quite contemporary authors! I agree with Spong on how awful Young Earth Creationism is in every way, but we need to ensure that what he say about others is accurate. He does not.

In 1998 Spong nailed his 12 Theses to the internet and Rowan Williams dismembered the lot with simplicity and clarity.

https://anglicanecumenicalsociety.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/bishop-spong-and-archbishop-williamss-response/

Williams exposes the shoddiness and wrongness of all his arguments both theological and ethical. I don’t need to repeat Rowan’s arguments.

On the positive side Spong is good at raising questions and especially those which come as a result of being swept up in fundamentalism. But he is not so good at understanding and tilts at the non-existent strawmen of ultra-fundamentalism and includes all the mainline orthodox in his tilting. His dealings with Darwin are just that. His ideas may resonate with those escaping from fundamentalism, but for the rest of us (who often have serious questions about our faith) he provides nothing of merit and an easy target for a hatchet job.

What Bishop Spong gives is not a new and progressive Christianity for a the 21st Century but an incoherent and muddled rejection of the faith. Sadly some would disagree with me and Rowan Williams!!

Was Jesus a racist? Some say “Yes”.

Did the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 teach Jesus not to be racist? | Psephizo

This story in Mark’s gospel is one of the oddest in the Gospels. On a plain, literal reading Jesus comes over as a racist and some progressive types  (maybe re- not pro-) reckon the lady taught Jesus a lesson on racism and CRT. Mary should have done that!!

Here Ian Paul discusses it at length and points out the shortcomings of a progressive reading. Similar and equally fallacious accusations are made about Jesus knocking the Jews in John’s gospel. Jesus was a Jew  (unless you are a Nazi) and he was criticising Jewish authorities not Jews.

The passage from Mark 7 is a tricky one and Jesus appears downright rude and discriminatory.

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 
25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 
26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 
27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 
28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 
29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 
30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Feeding food to dogs is essentially feeding Gentiles. Now was Jesus racist against Gentiles like most Jews, or what was he doing? Ian Paul discusses this well.

an insight from my daughter is that Jesus held up a mirror to society and reflected Jewish beliefs, hence his sharp comments. There is irony here, but a mirror hen would be polished copper or silver and not iron 🙂

I can imagine his hearers were confused and had questions, especially after hearing the girl was cured.

Recently the black Conservative commentator and Anglican ordinand, was called a house negro but a POC. Not very nice. And so I rephrase Mark 7 to a plantation!

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of South Carolina. He entered a large house on a plantation and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman (one of the plantation housekeepers, a house negro) whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a housekeeper. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and give it to house negroes.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the house negros eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Forget what I wrote and read what Ian wrote

Source: Did the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 teach Jesus not to be racist? | Psephizo

April Fool’s Jesus? | Psephizo

As it’s April Fool’s Day , I guess some have tried a joke on others, or fallen for one.

Here Ian Paul presents Jesus as an April fool from God as Jesus and all he stands for is so contrary to everything else.

Or as Paul says, “The foolishness of god is wiser than human wisdom”.

The life of Brian never quite got it either!!

Source: What sort of fool is this Jesus? | Psephizo

Has the Church of England gone Creationist in Live Lent?

Surely the Church of England is far too liberal to think the earth is only 6000 years old.

Most would respond to that question by saying, “don’t be so daft!” After all in many ways the CofE is somewhat liberal both in belief and ethics. The church has many who have held fast to evolution; Gore, Temple and others in the 19th century, most theologians in the 20th century, and more recently theologians with scientific training – notably Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne and Alister McGrath and many other lesser fry, like myself! If anything is the default position of the Church of England, it is one which accepts a 4.56 billion year old earth and life which has been evolving for the last 4 billion years. But against that about 5% vicars are Creationist. and lots of churchmembers are a bit confused. and not a few clergy!

So what is this article doing as part of the Church of England’s Lent Live?

It takes the NRSV translation of Romans 8 vs 19, 22-23, with an odd omission of verses 20 to 21, and then comments on the passage, claiming that 

” the whole creation has somehow been infected, and fallen under the influence of darkness.”

Now, that is just how Creationists argue from their ideas of a 6000 year old earth and no evolution, as they reckon when Adam bit the apple, God put a Curse on Creation, making it Fallen and thus death, illness and earthquakes began. 

Consider the image and brief article. The image just gives the biblical text but the article reflects on it.

Image

And so the reflection;

The reflection is very brief, as is needed for short thoughts for Lent, it is difficult to see how they find their comments in the extract from St Paul. It raises many questions on whether the article actually reflects Paul and his teachings in his letter to the Romans. And whether it has any Christian basis………………….

The second paragraph doesn’t refer to Romans but makes an extraordinary claim about the Gospel story;

“The Gospel story doesn’t merely talk about individual human sin and weakness, difficult enough although those things are. It goes on to claim that because of our collective selfishness and distance from God the whole creation has somehow been infected, and fallen under the influence of darkness.”

This totally baffles me as I cannot think on anywhere in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John which either says of implies this. At best, they may look to John with his “cosmos” as opposed to God, but there John normally uses “cosmos” to mean humanity in opposition to God and not the whole creation, as in John 3 vs16. In other words this statement is just wrong.

It does seem that the writer takes a particular interpretation of this passage from Romans as looking to the Fall of Genesis 3 – or rather that God inflicted a curse on the whole of creation because of Adam’s sin. That seems a bit harsh. It is NOT the teaching of almost all Anglican theologians, but is what Young Earth Creationists teach about the Fall and the curse, in which animal pain and suffering, and earthquakes and tsunamis were inflicted by God on creation AFTER Adam ate the apple! It seems rather harsh to curse the whole of creation for Adam’s deed.

This idea, though largely and correctly rejected today, has a long history going back to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and has resulted in a misreading of creation in Genesis.

Further the quote from C S Lewis does not speak of creation but of human behaviour. Citing it here implies that Creation is enemy-occupied territory , whereas Lewis meant so much of human behaviour, which rang true in the war years.

How can one say “The Whole creation has somehow been infected and fallen under the power of darkness?”

Granted humans have made a mess of this planet but what infection is there in the rest of the Solar System. ; for example in Venus, Jupiter, or the Sun? The idea becomes even more absurd when we consider further stars and galaxies. On a starlit night just look out at stars and consider how we have infected the stars of the Great Bear or Orion – if we have! Or closer at home consider the beauty of Nature/Creation around you.

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This kind of writing sounds all very good and spiritually challenging – until we ask how and when it all happened! If we do that, then we will see it as vague gnostic woffle, which is soothing to our feelings but not to our soul – or it is an argument for Young Earth Creationism, with its curse on the whole of creation.

Romans 8 vs19-23 is a baffling passage and many, and perhaps most, commentators see it as an allusion to Gen 3 and the Fall permeating all creation. If so, they need to see Paul’s theology they present here is nonsensical as the Universe in 13 billion years old and Adam’s scrumping did not affect the universe!! Unless of course, you are a Creationist and endorse a curse and a young earth!!

The idea or FACT of an ancient universe is not new, and goes back well over two centuries. By 1800 astronomers and geologists had demonstrated that both universe and earth were – then reckoned only to be millions of years old. With all the fossils it was clear that life was ancient too and thus the idea held by some theologians that the Creation was not what God intended it to be was way off the mark. To suggest that humans are to blame is simply absurd! Though that is the reading of John Milton in Paradise Lost.

Humans have stuffed up Planet Earth, but not in that sense. Too many theological writers are careless about this and one bishop recently wrote “the whole creation, in its original unfallen state….” meaning that the creation as we now experience is now fallen and originally was not. The bishop should have said when the creation transitioned from “unfallen” to “fallen”. This kind of poor thinking tends to make Christianity incredible.

This understanding of Romans 8 vs 19-23 Turns on the meaning of the greek word ktisis used here, which is commonly translated as “Creation”. Ktisis has a variety of meanings as brought out in any decent Greek lexicon. It can mean the whole creation or simply the mass of humanity. The latter makes better sense in Romans 8, as it does in Mark 16 vs15 (longer ending) If these are words of Jesus , did he mean the whole creation and to preach the gospel in the vicinity of Sirius or Betelgeuse? I don’t think so, do you? Otherwise you’ll preach to dogs and cats and birds and bees. He means to every human as we find in the Post-resurrection commands as presented by Matthew and Luke. (see Day 28 for a reflection on Matthew 28)

For details read;

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/mis-reading-romans-chapter-8/

This reading is common today with our very justified concern for the environment today. There is no question about humany’s environmental damage to this earth , which I have held since reading Silent Spring in the 1960s. This has happened in so many different ways; Pollution, species loss, climate change and damage from careless mining , development, including fishing and farming.

This contribution for LIVELENT was, I think, written to make us care more for the environment, and we need to.

It is vital to care for creation (what have you done for creation today?) but misreading Paul is not the way to argue for it.

More nativity debunking ; Three surprises for Christmas | Psephizo

The way the nativity as presented is so often cloying and almost reduced to a fairy story.

Here this blog by Dr Ian Paul does his usual stuff, by wrenching us away from Christian slush and making us consider what actually happened and why it is important today.

The three things are;

The shepherds who were unpoor

The swaddling clothes – a first century babygro

The women – Mary was not alone as there were several women (probably relatives), so Joseph could get some sleep!!

Yes Jesus was real, born in areal time in a real place and is important for us today

Source: Three surprises for Christmas | Psephizo

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 2 of 12, What are evangelicals?

Evangelicals and Science

Chapter 1;  What are evangelicals?

This is the second installment of my book Evangelicals and Science (2008) and considers what an evangelical is, before considering the science.

First part; 

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/11/16/a-history-of-evangelicals-and-science-part-1-of-12-parts/

Just what is an evangelical?

Truth and Freedom: A Classic Billy Graham Message

To some it is the conman revivalist preacher, holding out a begging bowl and jumping into bed with various women.

To others it is those who are very biblically-based in their faith and try to follow Jesus closely.

To many they a wonky American religious types, who sometimes pop over the pond.

Each of those contains a partial truth, but evangelicals are so much more.

They go back to the early 18th century and gave a new twist to Protestantism.

As it is not easy to sum them up in a few words, you can read my summary – which was written in 2007. It’s chapter 1 of my book Evangelicals and Science

What are Evangelicals?

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On bishops, creation and the environment | Psephizo

I find I’m in almost 100% agreement with this blog!

I have questions about Rohr but his ideas go back to Sally McFague in 1993 and seem to permeate so much of Green Theology, which has become quite an industry. I’d also add that “green Christians” have become somewhat exclusivist and assume that all must follow their views and actions. eg support of divestment, Extinction rebellion etc. I think this is probably related to the odd theology.

I’ll reblog this to go against my quickie response of last week

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/10/08/is-creation-god-can-god-be-incarnate-in-creation/

Source: On bishops, creation and the environment | Psephizo

Is Creation God? Can God be incarnate in Creation?

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Is Creation God?

One of the great moves by the churches in the 30 years has been a concern for the environment. That was after decades of not being bothered.

One diocese in the forefront is Oxford Diocese and they are releasing as series of four videos on Creation and our care on the environment in which the Bishop of Reading gives four short addresses on different aspects.

The first dealt with a general view of creation which needs to underpin all care of the environment. Much was standard Christian teaching but somehow she brought in the idea of God as incarnate in Creation;

“If God is incarnate in the whole of creation, can there be any separation between sacred and profane?”  

We ought to welcome her concern for creation and environment, but may question her support of Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action, but this raises more than a few eyebrows.

However there are severe questions about what she said.

How can one say that God is incarnate in creation?

From 2.30 she deals with Incarnation and says the Incarnation becomes vaster with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.

and 2.50 God poured his godself into Creation

From 3.40 uses Colossians 1 and John ! to support this

and then in 4.30f that Evolution is God incarnate

The word “Incarnate” means is enfleshed  and is used of God becoming human in Jesus, just think of the Prologue of John’s gospel read as the culmination of every Christmas Carol Service and usually the main reading at Christmas services;

And the Word became flesh and lived among us John 1 vs 14

i.e God – the Word – became “flesh” – a human.

Hence Christian theology has always spoken of the Incarnation to sum up this central belief which is expressed in the apsotles and Nicene Creeds and by theologians down the centuries – except those in the 1970s who went for “The Myth of God Incarnate”!

You could say that this video is not quite Nicene orthodoxy!

To say that God is incarnate in Creation is first a bad use of the word “incarnate” as that means “enfleshed”. I presume what she meant is that God is in the whole creation, but that would make God “enmattered”.

edit 13/10/20 I should have checked – it’s straight out of Richard Rohr Creation as the body of God. and in The Universal Christ.

https://cac.org/creation-body-god-2016-11-09/

To say that God is in the whole of creation is NOT the theistic understanding of God and Creation but Pantheism, where God is in all of creation. It is fair to say that the Biblical texts on creation and theologians during the last 2000 years have stressed that God is apart from his Creation.

Here we speak of god being immanent and transcendent. If He was just the latter he’d be a deistic god, who leaves the world alone – or as one atheistic wag once put it £God made the world and retired hurt.” But God is involved and present and that is immanence.

This is expressed neatly by some quasi-mathematical equations by William Tmple in Nature Man and God (p435)  

World – God = Zero

God – World = God

Ideas from Process Theology of Panentheism are attempts to express this in another way, but not all theists are convinced.

Ultimately Christianity and Judaism and Islam as THEISTIC faiths see God is separate from Creation and not “incarnate” in any sense. Islam also questions whether God can be incarnate in Jesus, but that is another question.

Christian teaching must have a very high view of creation and the Bishop is trying to express that, but falters on the use of “incarnate”, which van only mean Pantheism and not Theism. Too often creation and its value has been ignored and sidelined, so that creation is only the stage where we “work out our salvation” or lack of it. Who cares what happens to it as it will only be burnt up at the end of time!!

As Christians we need to show awe and wonder with Creation, not worship as God being incarnate in Creation would require. We should worship the creator not the creation.

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It is also absolutely vital to care and nurture God’s creation, but to spell that out would need another score or so blogs!!

But here is a brief and simple (simplistic) summary

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

I also think the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has something to teach us too.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/gods-grandeur-gerard-manley-hopkins/

And a chapter in a book published by the Geological society on creation in reference to geology

Genesis one for geologists

Finally Colossians chap1 vs13-22

13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—

Oxford Diocese and the bishop have responded on the diocese website

A helpful clarification…

 

What’s happened?

A number of commentators on social media have said that the core message of this film by the Bishop of Reading is pantheistic or panentheistic. Pantheism is defined as a doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.

What does that mean, and why does it matter?

Incarnate means “taking flesh”, “becoming human”. Christians believe this happens in a unique and unrepeatable way in Christ, lifting up humanity to a unique place within the creation. Applying the same analogy to the whole of creation can be seen as blurring the distinction between Christ and Creation; that God is in everything to the same degree. In turn, people believe that if God is in everything to the same degree, then this erodes the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ.

Is that what you meant to say?

Of course, this isn’t the intended message of the film, as Bishop Olivia responds:

In the first of the videos I made on how we might understand our care for the environment, I used the word ‘incarnation’ in a very broad sense which some have found unhelpful, so here is a clarification.

The event of the Incarnation of Christ, at a moment in time and in a place on Earth was unique, unrepeatable and salvic. Through this event, as Colossians 1 puts it, we see in Christ, not only the image of the invisible God, but the fulness of God, and the whole of the created world has access to ultimate reconciliation with God.

Reading John 1 and Colossians 1 gives us a profound sense that all things are formed through God and Christ the Logos. And since the beginning, God makes Godself known in creation for the purpose of reconciliation. More than this, as we read in Laudato Si’, God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things; his divine presence ensures the subsistence and growth of each being.

I can see that the words I used had a pantheistic ring to them, which I did not intend (God and creation are not the same thing). But I think that it is helpful, in considering our relationship to our world to think about the notion that the Divine pervades every part of the universe, while clearly being above, beyond and greater than the universe.

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”
– Psalm 19

 Michael responds; the cause of the confusion is using the word “incarnate”. It would be better to say God is immanent and creation is his handiwork, not his incarnation.

I would suggest withdrawing the video and re-do it avoind “incarnate” to avoid confusion otherwise the charge of being pantheistic will stick.

To say evolution is god incarnate is an odd expression and has no biblical support. I say that as a geologist with a total acceptance of evolution

It’s good to encourage debate

It’s good that there has been some vigorous debate. Done well, it shows that we care. Let’s remember too that, as Christians, we also have an essential part to play in the shape of online society. How we model good disagreement and how we interact with one another is important. Let’s make social media kinder.

 
 
 

https://www.oxford.anglican.org/care-for-creation-film-a-clarification/?fbclid=IwAR275wOa7TyzfU13h2UeL3KMxL6napkoIxk2vpe1-rgO9OPUBjuZ32l1vWU

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