Category Archives: Gospel

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

Just how poor was Jesus and his family?

So often we are told his family was desperately poor, but here Ian Paul stresses that simply ain’t true. Ian quotes this

Homelessness awaited them…Off to the stinking stable, the dank cave. Poverty does stink,

By today’s standards, including the poorer parts of Africa Jesus’ family were poor, but were of average wealth for the time.

(A little aside, we forget how much the so-called Industrial Revolution and the use of fossil fuels has enabled most people to live linger and with greater wealth and comfort. But don’t tell anyone!!)

Above all the popular myth that Jesus was poor and came for the poor is wrong. By our standards Jesus and his family were poor, but Jesus’ mission, ministry and message were for all people, whether rich or poor. His message in challenging for all.

We are all poor before God, whether we are rich or poor

P.S. I reblog Ian’s work because I find it helpful and deals with topics I’ve only dabbled in!!

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

Why do Matthew and Luke offer different birth narratives? | Psephizo

This is to shepherd your thoughts on the wise men of Christmas!!

DSCF1384

A blog (not mine) comparing Luke and Matthews’s accounts of the Birth of Jesus, one has wise men and the other has shepherds. Neither have a stable!!

Source: Why do Matthew and Luke offer different birth narratives? | Psephizo

It’s all Greek to me. Reading the New Testament in Greek

Many will have heard the quip about Bibles “If the Authorised Version (KJV) of 1611was good enough for Pau, then it’s good enough for me!!

Some take this seriously think the old version of the bible is the traditional. Others think it the most reliable – which it is not.

Why and how can we learn New Testament Greek? | Psephizo

Yes, the New Testament was written in Greek, not Modern Greek nor the Classical Greek of Plato and Aristophanes, but Koine, or everyday, Greek of the Ist  Century AD or CE if you prefer (CE= Christ’s Era).

The Importance Of Including The Greek Old Testament – The Septuagint – In  One's Study Of The Bible | biblicalexegete

Until recently most people training for ordination had to learn New Testament Greek as part of their course. Many found it a trial and often stopped after having floundered with Mark’s Gospel. Today, at least in the Church of England, fewer and fewer budding vicars are expected to learn even a little greek.

As a result, most clergy are totally dependent on translations. There are a vast number of English translations which vary in quality. Some are more literal than others. One serious issue is that translating committees can impose their biases, whether evangelical, catholic or simply being PC or woke! I use the NRSV with reservations, but get the impression that the latest version is trying to hard to be acceptable, thus rephrasing “slave girl” and “enslaved women” as it is less offensive. I reckon any kind on enslavement or being a slave is offensive! If parts of the Bible offend modern sensibilities then so be it. Some of the worst version are one-man band paraphrases like the Living Bible (now almost dead) and the Message, which pours the author’s interpretations over the text. At times the original meaning is lost.

There are those who argue that many trainee clergy, though having great potential, are not up to learning Greek along with everything else. Is that really so? As a vital part of ministry is preaching and teaching the Bible, then surely some grasp of the original language would be valuable? I can here some readers applauding me and others not.

Reading the New Testament in Greek is tough but very rewarding. It is tough, or very tough, for anyone who’s not a natural linguist. That includes me as I have never found learning foreign languages easy. At school I scraped French at O level/GCSE and failed Latin twice. I did better at German. When in Africa I picked up a smattering  of Swahili, Lutoro and Afrikaans!

At theological college I opted for an Honours degree in theology and was told to learn enough to read Mark’s gospel before starting. In my course I had to study Matthew, John and romans in Greek  and thus left college almost being able to read the Greek Testament.

During my ministry I used the Greek New Testament often, but read it regularly half the time. Some would say I should have used an Interlinear, but didn’t as the temptation is to look at the English rather than the Greek.

Most of the time, I used the 3rd Edition of the Aland, Black etc text of 1975 (United Bible societies). I like that as it had a mini dictionary at the back. If I wanted a bigger dictionary/lexicon the Mens’ Society at St Paul’s Wigan gave me the massive Arndt-Gingrich lexicon when I left in 1978.

The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (UBS5) with Concise  Greek-English Dictionary [Hardcover]: 9781619701397 - Christianbook.com

And so I have struggled on, reading a bit almost every day. Parts, like John’s writings, I find straightforward, but chunks of Luke and Paul are difficult. I find it valuable as when reading the NT in English it is so familiar that it washes over me and I learn nothing new. When I read it in Greek, I read very slowly because of my indifferent skills in Greek. I often have to look up a word or parse a verb. That means that in my struggle I understand it better.

At times I find translation inadequate, either by putting a bias on the translation , or that something is omitted in the translation. An example is at the end of John’s Gospel, where Jesus is putting Peter in his place. In most versions in Jn 21. vs 19 and 22 Jesus tells Peter “Follow me.” The Greek is much blunter. In verse 19 the Greek is to be translated “Follow me”, but in vs 22 after Peter was trying to be clever Jesus said to him “You follow me” , with an emphasis on YOU. I imagine Peter was annoyed with Jesus at that point. Jesus was telling him “Don’t look over your shoulder at John, look to yourself first and make sure YOU follow me.”

But I needed assistance!

Several decades ago in a Roman Catholic bookshop in Liverpool I found a book by Fr M. Zerwick A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. It was a great help, but the text was ting and some years ago I found a big print version, which is now somewhat battered.

Then this year I found The Greek New Testament; readers’ edition produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

It is not the most exiting binding!

Amazon USA https://www.amazon.com/Testament-Produced-Tyndale-Cambridge-Readers/dp/1433564157/ref=sr_1_1?crid=28VU64L00KULL&keywords=greek+new+testament+reader%27s+edition&qid=1639604731&sprefix=greek+new+testament%2Caps%2C245&sr=8-1

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Testament-Produced-Tyndale-Cambridge-Readers/dp/1433564157/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2GG9T0R5RC1TJ&keywords=greek+new+testament&qid=1639604864&sprefix=greek+new%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1

Here is the description from Amazon (accurate)

This reader’s edition of the Greek New Testament text combines the new Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge with a running list of glosses of every word in the Greek New Testament that occurs 25 times or less.

Those with limited knowledge of Greek can smoothly read the Greek text without needing to constantly refer to other reference resources–accelerating their facility with the Greek text and making their time more rewarding and more enjoyable as they read the very Word of God.

  • Running glosses of any Greek word occurring 25 times or less in the New Testament, placed below the Greek text
  • Complete morphological parsing of Greek verbs used in uncommon or difficult forms
  • Dictionary in the back defining words occurring more than 25 times
  • 10-point Adobe text
  • Single-column format, in accord with the earliest Greek manuscripts
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: Slipcase
  • Parsing

This is what the pages look like. The text is in a clear font and below are words which occur less than 25 times in the NT and then parsing less well-known verbs.

Note, there is no apparatus of alternative readings as you find  in the UBS test. (It’s worth having both)

I have now been using my copy for a month. It does make my reading easier and more fluent. I still have to check out common words! The parsing helps me a lot. I still need to use a Lexicon and check the grammar. On the grammar this version makes it easier to understand the parsing and use of the verbs.

If I need to check alternative readings I have to look at my Aland/Black NT, but most of the time I don’t need too. Clearly, if I am doing detail reading I need to but most of the time I want to just read the basic text. It doesn’t make a great deal of difference most of the time as in John 18 vs 5 where most have Jesus saying “I am” rather than “I am Jesus”.

So, to conclude, I have found it a great help in making for easier reading.

To use an alpine climbing analogy, it is rather like climbing on a via Ferrata rather than the north Face of the Eiger!!

But using an Interlinear is like watching a video of an Alpine climb!!

I have found this a great help in my study of the Greek New Testament and it should make the Greek more accessible to far more people.

I hope it does something to reverse the decline of reading the Greek New Testament among clergy. It might even reduce the amount on banal preaching, where bible passages are used as pegs to hang out one’s own ideas rather than preach and teach what the New Testament writers wrote.

To help you more, you can take a DailyDose, a short 2 minute video on a verse of the Greek , explaining and parsing it. It soon adds up to a lot

DailyDoseofGreek.com provides ongoing accountability to busy pastors and other Christians, helping them to read the Greek New Testament daily and progress in their Greek skills.

It is well worth subscribe to the email

Happy Christmas! Cheer up! Jesus never lived!

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May be an image of text that says "SMILE THERE s FIELL Atheist Forum @ForumAtheist #AtheistForum Jesus christ isn't coming to save anyone because he doesn't exist. Jesus was created by The First Council of Nicea (325 A.D.). Do your research and stop believing in bullshit"

Viewing wacky fundamentalist and creationist social media is great fun and the source of many a cheap laugh. And so we have Jesus riding a dinosaur and the 15th century Bishop of Carlisle having a pet dinosaur.

However some atheists, especially of the village idiot atheist type are just as risible, as is the clever clogs who posted the tweet above. Along with its incoherence its shows really profound ignorance of the history and the claims of the Christian church.

By stating that “Jesus doesn’t exist” I assume he means that there was no Jesus who lived in Palestine at the same time Augustus was Emperor, rather than implying Jesus never rose so he may have existed once but now no longer! I’ll leave the latter as the resurrection is irrelevant if Jesus didn’t live on this planet for thirty odd years.

Few historians reject the existence of Jesus and one of the few is Richard Carrier an American. Almost all conclude that the was a Galilean wandering God-botherer who ended up being crucified. One of the most thorough works is Geza Vermes , formerly professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford. Rowan Williams thought his Christian Beginnings “a beautiful and magisterial book”. Vermes has a very historical Jesus but rejects “the deifying message Paul, John and the church attributed to him”. The decisions of the council of Nicaea were an even bigger mistake.

Image

Though he is highly erudite, Vermes argues that the human and divine saviour that is Jesus Christ is simply a mistake and that for 2000 years us Christians have got it wrong, though, perhaps he would argue, the Unitarians were closer to the historical Jesus. Vermes’ Jesus does not save.

Whatever wording you may prefer, the essence o Christianity is that

Jesus came to save

Despite Vermes’ erudition that is the claim of the New Testament , the early church up to Nicaea in 325 and right up to the present day, though there have been various departures like Servetus and the Unitarians, but these struggle to take over!

Most of the imagery of the New Testament are to stress that Jesus “came to save”. (That term “came to save” is often off-putting owing to its over-use by more fundamentalist Christians.) Those who collect Messianic labels like stamps can claim there a four hundred. The dominant one (ones) came to be ;

son of God

Saviour

Lord

In the context of the early first century  – the time of the Twelve Caesars, this can be seen as a sideswipe, or implicit rebellion, to the emperor who was often known by the exact same words, whether in Greek or Latin. So the Christians were say that the emperor was not the Son of god and not divine , nor a saviour, nor Lord, but the Galilean jobbing contractor was, or rather is, as the Christians didn’t change the saviour like underpants as did the Romans with their emperors, whenever they got a knife in their backs. The year 69 must have been amusing to Christians, though it heralded bad times.

then there is the Eastern prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

which sums up what Christian have believed for 2000 years.

But what is the evidence for Jesus?

There is some outside the New Testament but it is very terse

The first outside the church to mention Jesus was the Jewish historian  Josephus, writing in AD93 with two references to Jesus. One was suspected to be inserted by Christian scribes and the other referring to James, the brother of “Jesus, the so-called Christ”. Later  were Pliny and Tacitus, Tacitus says  Jesus was executed while Pontius Pilate was in Judaea (AD26-36)  which fits with the gospel timeline. Pliny says Christians worshipped Christ as a god. Both were almost hostile witnesses and the better for it.

Another favourite claim is that the emperor Constantine sorted out the canon, which books were in the New Testament, at the Council of Nicaea in AD325. That often crops up but notably in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code which is replete with fabricated church history about Nicaea, as is seen in this meme

Da Vinci Code Facts Vs Fiction

At times, others claim the New Testament was written at Nicaea. I don’t think it was

Our friendly village atheists have conflated the writing of the New Testament books with the final formation of the Canon. This took place at Nicaea and settled on the essential 27 books. This has been accepted by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and protestant and evangelical off-shoots , though some eastern churches add  to the number. However it was FINALISED at Nicaea  but for 300 years Christians were trying to decide which books were to be in the canon.

There was some variation but all recognised the 4 gospels , Acts, Pauls letters and most of the other letters. They often included some of the apostolic Fathers.

Comparison between earliest biblical canons[edit] from wiki

Books Marcionite canon[39] Muratorian fragment[40] Peshitta
[citation needed]
Codex Vaticanus[41] Codex Sinaiticus[42] Codex Alexandrinus[43] Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus[44]
Composition date c. 130–140 c. 170 ? c. 300–325 c. 330–360 c. 400–440 c. 450
Matthew No Probably[45] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mark No Probably[45] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Luke Marcion[46] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
John No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Acts No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Romans Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Corinthians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Corinthians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Galatians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ephesians Laodiceans[47] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Philippians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Colossians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Thessalonians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Thessalonians Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Maybe[44]
1 Timothy No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
2 Timothy No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Titus No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Philemon Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Hebrews No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
James No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 Peter No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 Peter No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
1 John No Probably[48][40] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2 John No Maybe[48] No Yes Yes Yes Maybe[44]
3 John No Maybe[48] No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jude No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Revelation No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
1 Clement No No No No No Yes No
2 Clement No No No No No Yes No
Shepherd of Hermas No No No No Yes No No
Epistle of Barnabas No No No No Yes No No
Apocalypse of Peter No Yes No No No No No
Book of Wisdom No Yes No No No No No

These are the “books” of the New Testament, but when were they written. Few scholars would doubt that most were written in the first Century with some letters of Paul going back to the AD40s. Some, e.g. J AS T Robinson reckon they were written before AD70 – the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Most reckon that all were written by the 90s and a few take dates up to 135. all these dates are slightly earlier than the Council of Nicaea in AD325!

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

Here is Prof John Barton of Oxford dealing with reference to the Da Vinci code

https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/blog/how-new-testament-was-created/

There are many more

An old (1946) but still valuable book is Are the New Testament Documents reliable? By Prof F F Bruce which is here for free!! It is where I started and most of the arguments in are still valid.

You could surf and find more recent scholars saying much the same.

In the list of Canons above , the last six did not make it! Four form part of the Apostolic Fathers (1 & II Clem. Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas) I am glad that Barnabas didn’t make as he argues for 6000 year old creation more explicitly than in any canonical scripture. That would have upset the geologists!

As well as those four, the Apostolic Fathers contain the seven letters of Ignatius, who was executed in Rome in about AD120, and the Didache which many reckon was written in about AD50, though some extend that by 200 years. The Apostolic Fathers  are mostly from the second century C.E.  (Christ’s Era!)  and cite all NT books except Philemon and 3 John. Several of the writers cite a good 20, so they must have been well known and widely copied.

Sadly many Christians who read their Bible never look at the Apostolic Fathers and there is a fine Penguin edition. They are well worth a read.

In the second century Irenaus quoted 21 of the final 27books and the next century Origen cited a similar number

So before Nicaea there was not unanimity of the content of the canon, all accepted over 20 of the final 27. Thus the decision at Nicaea was the culmination of three centuries of sifting

I think my brief summary above, shows the wrongness of claims that the council of Nicaea made up Jesus and the New Testament! But what was Nicaea all about.

Cryptically it was whether there was ever a time when Jesus was not. Most Christians at that time insisted there was never a time when Jesus was not, but the pugnacious group, the Arians, led by Bishop Arius, insisted there was a time when Jesus was not, and that Jesus Christ was created being and not from all eternity and thus not God.  The Arians saw Jesus not as God but the son of God, Their opponents saw Him as both..

This concerned Constantine greatly as he had only recently become the sole emperor and wanted peace. Many would say his concern was his own back rather than defending Christian belief. Hence he called the Council of Nicaea   to stop divisions in the church, which he saw as liable to cause instability in the empire. and so in the summer of AD325  the council of Christian bishops was convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea (now İznikTurkey)  800 bishops were invited and between 250  and 320 attended.

Their aim was not to discuss the existence of Jesus as  all sides accepted the 4 Gospel accounts. Thus there all accepted the earthly life of Jesus from the Virgin birth to the Resurrection. What was at issue was the nature of the relationship of Jesus Christ to God.

(Over)Briefly the essence of the disagreement was whether Jesus was fully God – which leads to doctrine of the Trinity – Father Son and holy Spirit. The Arians argued that Jesus was a created being , but an exalted one being the Son of God. As one of the anathemas (condemnations) put it;

  But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

This hostile summary is fair as the majority believed that Jesus Christ was there before Creation, hence “there was not a time when he was not” and that he was “begotten, not made/created” and his nature was that he was “consubstantial with the Father” thus divine. And thus a little late the creed says “and was made man”. Here in the womb of Mary the pre-existent Jesus Christ, who was there before creation and thus God, was made man, which stress He is both God and Man i.e God in flesh i.e incarnate. ( A little story here. My theology professor H E W Turner (1907-1995) did not believe this when he was ordained deacon. A year later he concluded that he did and his vicar welcomed him into the catholic church!! After that he spent some years as chaplain of Lincoln College, Oxford, moving to Durham in 1950. He retired in 1974 and had to sell four fantastic oak bookcases which he brought with him from Lincoln. I bought them for £50, but was too late for lunch. I still have them. Hughie was a brilliant teacher and helped me to be totally convinced that the majority at Nicaea were right!! I suppose you could say that Hughie was Arian when ordained and then moved to Nicene orthodoxy. Sensible chappie.)

The key to the argument is Christ being the saviour of humanity. No mere human could do that and thus an Arian Jesus could not ultimately be the Saviour. Only God could save and thus Jesus Christ as Saviour could not be a created being but was God as well. Hence Nicaea re-emphasised what most of the churches had held since the resurrection that Jesus is human and divine. This comes out in the Proluge of John  (John chap 1) read at every Carol service and many other parts of the New Testament and is the thread, with Jesus’s death and resurrection, which runs through the 27 books.

This is, of course, contrary to what any hold, including among many worshippers, that Christianity is simply being good to others. It most definitely is, but if that is all and Jesus as Saviour, Lord and Son of God who died and rose to save humanity is quiwtly side-lined under a vague devotion  all that is left is MTD (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism)

Here’s the Nicene Creed. On the left is that produced in AD325 with a dismissal of Arius. On the right is how it was revised in AD381 nd is what is used in churches today. The ideas go back to the New Testament and were not plucked out thin air in 325.

We believe in one Godthe Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, [God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heavenand sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead. ;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Ghost. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

Conclusion

Like so much posted by twitting atheists this tweet is simply nonsense in every statement! The really need to improve their “research” and share material of substance rather than stuff so easily contradicted.

Yes , Jesus lived

But who was he? He lived for 30 odd years, a peripatetic teacher who got crucified – the most delightful of all Roman methods of execution.

For 2000 years Christians have said he rose from the dead and came to save us.

That’s enough for now.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Happy Christmas rather than Happy Holidays

Why we should all be using printed Bibles | Psephizo

The bible has changed over the years. First it was on scrolls of papyrus or parchment, then codices and after Gutenberg in printed books. To begin with a printed Bible cost as much as a house but the price soon dropped.

Recently Bibles are available as electronic text and many have them downloaded onto their computers or phones. Some almost only read them on the phone.

That is all very useful but here Ian Paul makes the case that you read the Bible better in a hard copy than electronically.

I agree as I find reading electronically makes me skim rather than read, marm and inwardly digest

Source: Why we should all be using printed Bibles | Psephizo

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