Category Archives: Jesus Christ

‘God intended it as a disposable planet’: meet the US pastor preaching climate change denial

John MacArthur must be my least favourite American pastor. I am quite sure he would not consider me a Christian – and I hope he wouldn’t.

He is a 6-day creationist

He seems to lack love and loathes Roman Catholics and his (per)version is ghastly.

He seems to reject the fact that Creation will be renewed and restored  – the apokatastasis
Here he simply denies any kind of climate change following the steps of earlier Brown evangelicals
https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/evangelicals-and-climate-change-1990-to-2011/

Primate's Progress

This piece,written in October 2020, seems more relevant now than ever. The Reverend John Macarthur returned to this theme in November 2021, repeating his description of the world as disposable and comparing it to a styrofoam cup

Reverend John MacArthur. Wikimedia

Paul Braterman, University of Glasgow

Every so often you come across a piece of writing so extraordinary that you cannot help but share it. One such piece is a sermon on global warming by American pastor John MacArthur. Full of beautifully constructed rhetorical flourishes, it is forcefully delivered by an experienced and impassioned preacher to a large and appreciative audience.

For me, as a man of science, it is the most complete compilation of unsound arguments, factual errors and misleading analogies as I have seen in discussions of this subject. But it’s important because climate change is a big election issue this November in the US, where there…

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

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

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

Read on

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

No photo description available.

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

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

Evolution doesn’t scupper Christianity, nor do scrumpers

One of the most popular ways of debating is to parody a view to ridicule it. You know most won’t see past your misrepresentation. It is even easier when some extremists adopt what you parody.

Here is a good example

Frank Zindler quote: The most devastating thing though that biology did to  Christianity...

When this meme appeared on my Facebook feed I presumed Zindler was a typical young earth creationist, repeating the usual claims of young earthers to bludgeon people into accepting Young Earth Creation as necessary as a result of faith in Christ.

But before considering the apparent plausibility of the meme we need to ask who is Frank Zindler. Being British I cannot keep up with all American Creationists and the atheists who take them on. I know of many and have met some, and some like Ken Ham have written against me! However this meme is from an atheist. Zindler was born in 1939 and was president of American Atheists in 2008. for more read; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zindler

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

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

Many of these are unsatisfactory partly as a result of the way Gish galloped through everything in his famous “Gish Gallop”. That is a useful tactic as it gives the impression of omniscience, without giving the opponent time to respond. I had a similar problem in 2003 when I debated the Australian John Mackay, who likewise used a scatter gun approach. I attempt to correct some of his terminological inexactitudes, and was accompanied by boos from his acolytes. Were I not a Christian, Mackay would have persuaded me to be an atheist!! However the purpose of Creationists in debates and presentations is to win an argument not to present truth.

At first, I thought this was a Creationist Gotcha meme, as Ken Ham, Mackay, Gish, Morris and so many others put forward similar  ideas. Here Zindler takes the same ideas and lobs them back like an unexploded grenade to Christians who may not be Creationist. At first sight the arguments here seem to be orthodox Christianity, but….

Frank Zindler quote: The most devastating thing though that biology did to  Christianity...

In this meme Zindler makes five points which lead to the next and clinches the argument against Christianity, or rather any version of Christianity which is not dogmatically wedded to Young Earth Creationism. All five points are made by creationists like Ken Ham.

  1. Adam and Eve were never real people

Garden of Eden | Story, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica

Well, did Adam have a navel when he was created that October in 4004BC? A serious question! In all fairness before 1800 belief in in a historical Adam and Eve was a most reasonable belief, and few Christians questioned it, though many from 1680 onwards realised the earth was slightly older than Ussher reckoned! Even when the earth was reckoned to be millions of years old some serious Christian theologians believed in a historical Adam and Eve.

For many the image of Adam and Eve is provided by John Milton in Paradise Lost. Here Milton takes early Genesis in a most literal way and put it into an epic poem. Milton has unhelpfully influenced the understanding of Genesis for centuries.

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

When we consider the interpretation of Genesis historically from 1600, we find that first chapter one was interpreted to allow more than six days. This was most often by a “Day-Age” theory or a Chaos-Restitution stance. By 1780 most educated Christians including the “orthodox” from both Protestants and Catholics favoured one of these to a 6-day creation. By 1859 hardly any educated Christians thought the earth was created in 6 days.   Details on this;

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

In the 17th century most European savants thought that most strata were laid down in the Flood, but by 1800 Noah’s contributions were limited to the top 30 ft of strata. Perhaps the last geologist to take the geological efficacy of the flood seriously was William Buckland in some illegible notes in 1842/3. He suggested the flood was a result of melting ice from the Ice Age, later taken up in the 1990s by Ryan and Pittman in Noah’s Flood.

In the 19th century the more conservative still insisted on a historical Adam and Eve but it was getting more fraught especially after radiometric age dating after 1907 showed that humans had been around for hundreds of thousands of years. B B Warfield’s attempt to keep Adam and Eve was not convincing, nor Denis Alexander.

2. If no Adam and Eve, then no Original Sin

What is Original Sin? It was not held by Christians until about 400AD, largely due to St Augustine. Eastern Orthodox churches have no doctrine of Original sin, but have a deep awareness of sin. Original sin is the belief that we inherit sin from forbears i.e. Adam and Eve. In the hands of Augustine and successors Sin is both Original and what humans do which is sinful. There is much discussion over this, which I will leave to one side. Even so all stress that Jesus died for you and your sin and forget Adam while you consider yourself!!

Here we have the classic YEC misrepresentation. Jesus died on the cross for Original Sin, rather than all human sin, present and past. Doing this takes away the fact that every human is sinful and needs forgiveness. That is ignored by focusing on Adam and Eve and Original Sin in an overly narrow sense.  If that is what Sin is, then we are not responsible for sin as we can do nothing about what we inherit.

(Whoopee, we can go out and sin to our hearts’ content!!)

Far better is to see that every human is sinful and sins. Any understanding of Original Sin which underplays individual sin effectively removes our responsibility for our actions.

3.If no Original Sin then no need of salvation

This implies that salvation through Jesus is ONLY for Original sin and not our actual and continuing sin. That is most odd. If that is right then we are not sinners in ourselves, never need to admit to or confess our sins. It makes a mockery of almost every hymn on Jesus’ death on the cross, as all point to the individual sinner, rather than something way back in time, which could have no effect on our sinning today. Frankly it is a muddled view of salvation and what Jesus did on the cross, as well as distorting what Original Sin is.

The extreme evangelical view that Jesus would have died on the cross for you, even if you were the only sinner, crassly makes a valid point.

No, every human is sinful and has the HPtFtU  as Francis Spufford said.

Human Propensity to Fuck things UP, 

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

This is somewhat earthy but brings out the squalor of human sin in non-theological language. It shows where  we are wrong and need forgiveness from Jesus, not for some guy who went scrumping in 4004BC, but that nasty thing we did a short while ago.

We need salvation because we are shits, sorry, sinners, not because of neolithic scrumpers

4. If no need of salvation, then no need of a saviour. Jesus is unemployed

Well, if Jesus only died for scrumpers, then the rest of us have no need of a saviour and the whole Christian edifice tumbles down. Yes, Jesus is on the dole. We may as well go scrumping.

That is not the case, Jesus died for YOUR salvation, for YOUR sin and that makes him fully employed and doing overtime. That is, of course, what Christians of all shades have said for 2000 years in contrast to this meme.

Jesus' Death On The Cross - Part 1 - YouTube

5. Evolution is the death knell of Christianity

First, Evolution does not affect the nasty nature which show easily surfaces in each one of us. That is called SIN, and is the fault of the person.

Only if our focus is on the sin of scrumping does Christianity come crashing down

Jesus saved me and you, not some naked scrumpers

Are the accounts of the resurrection contradictory? | Psephizo

One of the favourite arguments against the resurrection of Jesus is that the four gospel accounts are different, thus they are all made up.

One could argue that four witnesses who agree on the essentials are more reliable than those who agree on every word, having ensured there were no differences.

Paul argues that many of the differences are due to the extreme brevity of the four accounts and the need to select evidence when writing it down (or dictating which is more likely)

In 1959 my uncle, Grenville Yarnold wrote a book Risen Indeed, which is a good short book, accepting a real bodily (but not physical) resurrection, but does not discuss the differences between the gospels. He showed how the gospels point to the empty tomb and that Jesus rose from the dead, but not as a conjuring trick with bones!

Enjoy this straightforward but detailed argument

Christ is Risen.

If not Christians make fools of themselves!!

P.S. Grenville’s wife, Dorothy, got a degree in maths and physics from Oxford in the early 1930s , as did her sister my mother. both were also hockey blues.

Source: Are the accounts of the resurrection contradictory? | Psephizo

Keep Climate Change out of Easter

Several years ago the activist group Christian Climate Change organised a “Fossil-free Advent service”. 

Here they are.

even the hymns and carols were re-written to bring in Climate Change and the horrors of deadly fossil fuels.

Silent Night, Holy Night

When will you see the light?

Arctic melting as temperatures rise

Carbon burning and filling the skies

Churches – think of God’s way

For Christ’s sake please hear what we say

I never know what is the best response to things like that, whether to snigger and ridicule  or try to answer the issues they raise. Over the years I have found the last option an impossible task as groups like this take the most extreme and dismal reading of Climate Change and the IPCC reports. By selection and cherry-picking they present the argument that we are all about to fall over a cliff of climate disaster. If you don’t agree with them you are a climate denier and want to destroy the planet. 

We have moved on from the Fossil-free Advent and now  there are attempts to squeeze Climate Change into the services for every sunday, even when the Biblical passages for that sunday cannot be twisted, sorry interpreted, to say anything about Climate Change or Petrol. A search on the web will turn up ways of bring Climate Change into any biblical passage. Often the interpretations are somewhat forced and bizarre and are trying to get oil out of a stone!! (That is done by drilling.)

There is little in the Bible on the environment as it was simply not an issue two to three thousand years ago. There is much on Creation in both testaments but very, very little on how we should care for it.  We can bring out general principles for creation care from the Bible, but nothing in detail.

This is my short and simple summary of how a Christian should care for creation, but I have only given principles and not examples of need; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

Sometimes attempts to find Creation Care in the Bible gets rather weak. Thus a leading Christian environmentalist argued that the classic verse John 3 vs16 means we should care for creation, because God loved the world and then so should we.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…….

Really!  That is an OK reading by a 12 year old in Sunday School but not an expert! The word “world” often occurs in John’s Gospel and is translated from the Greek word “kosmos”. In Greek kosmos can mean the whole of Creation as it does in Romans chap1 vs 20. However it is used some 70 times in John’s gospel and can mean  the creation, humankind, humans a opposed to God etc. In fact John 3 vs17 uses it to mean (hostile) humanity and not the whole of the natural world. Or take John 18 vs20 when Jesus replied to the high priest. He neither meant the antipodes or anywhere but locally around Jerusalem and Judaea. The use of kosmos in John  18 vs 33 – 38 and John 17 completely undermines this misunderstanding of kosmos.  Even a superficial reading of John and considering the use of kosmos completely undermines the claim that John 3 vs16 is a call for environmental action! That is one thing this verse is not calling for. I have not identified the author but they are a leading Christian environmentalist. But not the same as the Anglican expert on Climate Change who recommends taking garlic to avoid getting covid!!

It is very bad interpretation of the bible to try to squeeze things out of passages which simply are not there. Much of the time if we take a section of some verse, a chapter or even a whole book, they deal with only one or two topics and the other 999 are simply unmentioned. 

In recent weeks in the run up to Holy Week I have seen requests on social media for guidance on how to bring in Climate Change into the appointed bible reading during the Easter period. Considering all the readings which could be used over this period, none bring in Climate Change, even implicitly, and all have another purpose as they are to bring out the meaning of those events from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. If we need to ask, “what do these passages say about care of creation?” The answer has to be zilch and we need to look elsewhere

Yet more and more churches are putting “Climate Justice ” at the centre and thus wish to be able to bring it in to everything in the life of the church. thus Climate Change becomes the controlling narrative and not the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words the Gospel is subtly changed in its basis. Initially, one could see, it is Christianity PLUS creation Care with an apparent lack of shift. Gradually certain kinds of Creation Care become dominant, and that becomes the controlling principle squeezing out the core of the faith, though often retaining the words.

 I can hear many say, “Surely protecting the planet is vital?” To which I happily answer YES!! those who know me will know that I do try to protect and care for the planet, whether in economy of use, growing trees to give away, my use of a bicycle, and trying to hold local councils to account by attempting to stop the destruction of flower rich verges.

But though my creation care is integral to my life and faith it is not the guiding principle. That is because faith in Christ includes Creation Care, rather than Creation Care being at the centre, or faith in Christ AND Creation Care. 

Today, Maundy Thursday 2022, we see Green Christian forcing their views on Just Stop Oil on to the remembrance of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. This is misguided, tendentious and judgmental of those who disagree.

May be an image of 9 people, outdoors and text that says "GC Green Christian heenChrleta 18m Just Stop Oil. Christians were involved in the recent Just Stop Oil protests around the country recently. #JustStopOil http:/grencristior.ukjustop.ol On Maundy Thursday, when we celebrate Jesus' washing of the disciples feet, let's commit ourselves once more to sacrificially serving others and God's earth. HDYER Like Comment 1 share Share"

If all is Climate Change and stopping oil then nothing is and everything goes and the claims of both the Christian Faith and the need for Creation Care go out of the window.

The danger of this conflating of issues with major Christian Festivals is that the whole purpose of those festivals is lost. Christians have those in the Christian Year, with high points at Christmas and Easter, to bring home certain central features of the faith. Whether we take a minimalist or maximist view, Christians focus on that aspect, and that aspect alone on the particular day. By doing so reinforces a pedagogic purpose of strengthening Christians on one point and then the other points will dealt at another time. To  photo-bomb these with climate change or stop oil immediately diminishes the purpose of the day and confuses the issue with something else. On this in recent years, many churches have introduced a season of creation in September to fill a hole in the church’s year. 

Thus for the next few days all the focus is on the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. That is more than enough! Throwing in green issues will only diminish the emphasis on these centralities and ultimately may take over from them.

 On this I am reminded of the events of 1933 and 1934 in Germany when the churches were split down the middle by the Nazi movement. Some Christians went the whole swastika and formed the German Christians. A minority opposed this and produced the Barmen Declaration of May 31st 1934. The essence of that wass for a Christian there was only one way and that is Jesus Christ  – John 14 vs6 was their key text – and nothing should be added to that.

Later Karl Barth wrote on that in Church Dogmatics vol II .pt1 pp172ff, which is very pertinent to this question. Going beyond the horrors of the Nazis, Barth pointed out that the German Christians were only a continuation of what had been going on for decades. Little bits, and in Germany that was German nationalism, had been added on to the Christian Faith so that more and more Christianity was becoming Christianity and German Nationalism. It is now seen with the Russian Orthodox Church and the blatant nationalism of the patriarch and is not very pretty as the Ukrainians have found out.

But saw the events of 1933 as the fulfillment of 19th century Christian thought, which added an “also” to the faith, this soon became “and” and as with the German Christians “only”. He said similar things were happening in Britain, USA, and other European countries. (He could have given earlier examples from the Middle Ages.) 

Thus the German Christians were move from Christianity also National socialism, to Christianity and National socialism and, finally, ONLY National socialism – which was Hitler’s ultimate aim. 

This is a perennial risk for the Christian Church and a rooting of church history will give many examples, but few as bad as the German Christians.

The dangerous trap some environmental Christians are falling into is that they are raising their particular environmental concerns (which often align with the most extreme of environmentalists like Extinction Rebellion) in such a way that the centralities of the Christian Faith are downplayed, and, more worrying, that those Christians who don’t accept them are regarded as rather deficient in the faith, both in Christ and Creation care.

That is not on.

Hence my tirade!

This weekend as Christian we focus entirely of the death and resurrection of our Lord and then, and only then, see how it works out in every aspect of our lives both in love of neighbour and love of creation.

Easter - It's Meaning, History & Holiday Symbols Explained

An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Anyone who has gone to an Anglican or Roman Catholic service would have recited the Nicene Creed.

The first version was produced at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 near Constantinople. This was called by Emperor Constantine (who became emperor at York) to get the churches in order. What we say is the revised creed o AD381.

The Council of Nicaea: Resolving the crisis in early Christianity | Sky  HISTORY TV Channel

It is usually assumed that the delegates came from the roman empire but this blog says one came from India. He may not have come for India as it could be Iran. Even so , a long way from the empire. Here it in verse 2

What else he did we don’t know, but it is interesting how scatted the delegates were. I am intrigued whether or not he spoke greek

Something else to undermine Dan Brown’s absurdities in Da Vinci Code.

Source: An Indian delegate at the First Council of Nicaea

Darwin’s Wasps and Good Friday

I recently bought the WILDguide to Britain’s Insects. It is a magnificent bulky guide and too big to carry into the field. With its photographs and descriptions it was better than my older guides. It also made me realise how little I knew my insects

The unofficial book club review no 2 | Through 360 Degrees - A blog by Mark  Cocker

At 600 pages it is vast and comprehensive and deals with all the families from the beautiful dragon and maiden flies to the less-enchanting bed-bugs. Much has been known about insects for years and Victorian clergy sometimes spent more time looking for beetles than writing their sermons.

One section took me by surprise. The last section of one hundred pages was on the Hymenoptera – ants, wasps, bees and relatives. Flipping through this I found five pages 472-476 on

Darwin’s Wasps

That was new to me, but these are the delightful parasitic wasps, whose females inject their eggs into some poor caterpillar and the larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside until they pupate, fly off and leave the poor very hungry caterpillar to curl up and die, which caused Darwin so much angst.

Here’s a female in action implanting its eggs into a caterpillar

Coined in Basel: The “Darwin wasps” | by Maridel Fredericksen | sci five |  University of Basel | Medium

Rather than expound these lovely critters here is wikipedia on them https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichneumonidae

I am not a great wiki fan, but it gives enough basic stuff on Darwin’s favourites. They have only been called Darwin’s wasps in the last few years and many articles are behind a paywall.

I cannot see Mrs Alexander including these wasps in her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful – or this suggestion, which as serious as it is funny.

allthingorrible

Suffering is a problem as we will all encounter at sometime and Darwin felt it so strongly  as over the loss of his daughter Annie and used the Ichneumon fly to highlight his concern. suffering is the greatest challenge to the Christian Faith.

Now to nature red in tooth and claw.

To the cynical, natural history films are a mixture of sex and violence with either animals bonking in exotic ways or tearing each other to bits. Usually it is often a large cat tearing down a buck and then scoffing the gory remains. Yet most will find the ichneumon wasps too much for even the least squeamish. The female lays her eggs in a caterpillar and the larvae eat up the caterpillar from the inside but keeping the poor thing alive until they have metamorphosed into their imagos i.e. flying wasps. Those who have been to the tropics will know jiggers. The first thing you realise that your toe by a nail is very itchy. When you look it is red and the temptation is to scratch. After several days of infuriating discomfort you notice that the centre of the red area is a tiny black circle. Soon after that you can squeeze hard and out plops the larva, and the redness subsides. The ichneumon do it on a bigger scale!

Here is a picture of a caterpillar with the larvae exiting their host. Not a picture for the squeamish!!

ichneumon

Just imagine the larvae chomping away at the caterpillar which is just alive. Very grisly!

But this clip of a parasitic wasp is even more graphic and  takes the violence to an extreme.

Enjoy it!!

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/body-invaders-caterpillar-edition

This video of maggots eating a caterpillar alive from the inside and then sending it mad is the stuff of horror films and would make most people squirm. It’s bad enough describing how to get rid of jiggers to even the least squeamish, but this!! Yuk, double yuk! Now Charles Darwin was squeamish and that is why he gave up medicine when he witnessed an operation on a child. To Darwin the ichneumon fly casts doubt on the benevolence of God as he wrote to the Christian botanist Asa Gray on 22nd May 1860 on issues raised by The Origin of Species. He wrote;

I cannot persuade myself that a benificient &omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intent of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that cats should play with mice.

Here Darwin lays bare the whole problem of theodicy; how we understand the existence of pain, suffering and death with a loving God. Little did he think when he casually wrote that letter to Asa Gray raising issues of belief in God, that his comments would be read and considered by so many and come to epitomise the question of a loving God, and that these wasps would be named after him. This letter and the reference to the ichneumon is a reminder that Darwin’s doubts about Christianity were less intellectual and more on morality and suffering.

Darwin was a sensitive person and in 1827 gave up studying medicine in Edinburgh because he could not accept the suffering involved in operations, having witnessed one on a child. His sqeamishness turned to a questioning of a benificient God and the death of his ten year old daughter Annie in 1851 is often seen as the last straw for his Christian faith. However Jim Moore argued somewhat too neatly that this extinguished what little Christian faith he had. He had found hard to accept the death of his father in 1848, who as an unbeliever had no place in Redemption. During this period Darwin studied several works of theology which had moved beyond the edges of orthodoxy notably F.W.Newman’s Phases of Faith (1850). As Moore points out “there was no resting place en route from Anglicanism through Unitarianism to a purely theistic belief….Darwin gave up Christianity”(1 ). He did not give up belief in God, but could not reconcile a loving God with such unneccessary death and suffering. This questioning stayed with Darwin for the rest of his life. His religious musings in his Autobiography also show that his problems with Christianity were not so much intellectual as moral, and thus Darwin may be regarded as a typical Victorian moral critic of Christianity (2 ). Nowhere does this come out more poignantly than in his letter to Gray of 22nd May 1860, as the essence of his letter is the question,’How can a loving God allow suffering?’

Darwin had sent Gray a complimentary copy of the Origin in November 1859 and Gray, who had known of Darwin’s natural selection theory for several years, soon made his basic acceptance clear to Darwin. In the first part of 1860 Gray was both arranging the publication of the Origin in the U.S.A. and writing a favourable review for the Atlantic Monthly. Frequent letters passed between them mostly on these preceeding matters, but also openly discussing more religious matters. In a letter dated 22nd May Darwin aired his problems over suffering. Unfortunately the letter from Gray dated 7th May has not been found. Darwin’s letter dealt first with matters of the American edition and then of recent reviews, refering to negative ones by Sedgwick, Clarke, Duns and Owen. The second part of the letter deals with ‘the theological view of the question’ and Darwin dealt with theological rather than scientific problems, stating ‘I cannot see, as plainly as others do,…. evidence of design and beneficence.’ He could not see how a good God could have created an Ichneumon fly or allowed cats to play with mice. Ichneumonidae lay their eggs in live caterpillars which remain alive until the larvae pupate, and gave the basis for the SF film Alien! It is difficult not to feel the force of Darwin’s argument as he required a benificient theodicy, and could not reconcile ‘Nature Red in tooth and claw’ with a loving God. To Darwin a loving and wise God not only had to be an Intelligent Designer, He also had to be a Loving Designer.

Many of Darwin’s scientific predecessors, however, did not feel the problem of suffering so keenly as is evidenced by those who wrote the Bridgewater Treatises a generation earlier. The Bridgewaters represent the height of design and evidential theology in the 1830s. All the authors were Christian, mostly clergy. At least two discussed suffering. Buckland, the Oxford Geologist, who in the 1820s was the foremost proponent of Diluvialism, wrote On Geology and Mineralogy in 1836 which, according to Jon Topham, was the biggest seller of the eight and found in many mechanics’ institutes (3 ). This treatise presented the geological and palaeontological understanding of the mid-1830s through the eyes of one of geology’s foremost Anglican exponents. By 1835 Buckland had rejected his diluvialism and in 1838 became convinced of the Ice Ages proposed by Agassiz, following a visit to the Jura. Theologically Buckland was close to moderate Evangelicalism as was his friend Edward Copleston of Oriel College, whom Simeon considered to share all his essential beliefs. In the 1820s Buckland was encouraged by the Evangelical theologians J.B.Sumner (Archbishop of Canterbury 1848-62) and G.S.Faber, and by the ultra-conservative Bishop Shute Barrington of Durham (4 ). To Buckland and many contemporary Evangelicals predation did not contradict the beneficience of God, as is shown by Chap XIII of his Bridgewater Treatise; ‘Aggregate of Animal Enjoyment increased, and that of Pain diminished, by the existence of Carnivorous Races’. Neither did they accept that passages such as  Genesis 3 or Romans 8 raised problems for the concept of predation (5 ) Buckland is echoing Paley’s view of suffering in Natural Theology where he says without predation we would ‘see the world filled with drooping, superannuated, half-starved, helpless and unhelped animals’ (29 ).

And put satirically by the Oxford professor of chemistry, Charles Daubeny;

It is true  Paradise was delicious and nice,

Yet, if those born on earth had ne’er died,

‘Twould have been such a cram, like the berries in jam,

Pic-a-back men and women must ride.

William Kirby’s On the History, Habits and instincts of Animals (1835 ) was unique among the Bridgwater Treatises for adopting a young earth position to the consternation of other writers. The introductory chapter claimed that all strata were laid down in the Flood. Kirby was the leading early 19th century entomologist and his work was widely used by Darwin. This is borne out by his correspondence with the Rev John Rodwell in late 1860, describing cats and blind rats and how these supported the ideas in the Origin. On discovering that Kirby was Rodwell’s uncle he wrote, ‘whom I for as long as I can remember have venerated’. In 1818 Kirby and Spence had written a four volume Introduction to Entymology of which Darwin had a heavily annotated copy. As his was the first edition he probably used it for his beetlemania at Cambridge. In the second volume of his Bridgwater Treatise Kirby described the Ichneumon and how they destroy pests ‘by the goodness of Providence'(6 ). The chapter on insects speaks of them demonstrating the beneficence of God in their beauty, design and behaviour, especially the maternal care of the female wasp which found a suitable caterpillar for the larvae to feed on , slowly eating the poor beastie from the inside as in the video clip, something Darwin could not accept. However in his letter to Gray on 22nd May 1860 it is far more likely that Darwin was thinking of Kirkby’s account in his Entymology rather than his Bridgewater, as the former was one of Darwin’s most used texts. Kirkby described how, ‘The active Ichneumon braves every danger, and does not desist until her courage and address have insured subsistence for one of her future progeny'(7). Kirkby focussed on maternal care of the wasp and Darwin on the poor caterpillar.

There is not only suffering caused by predation , disease and other aspects of pain for living beings, but that caused by the earth itself, especially volcanoes and earthquakes. 2015 saw the ghastly earthquake in Nepal caused by a small shift in the Indian plate sliding under the Eurasian plate. It was nearly as powerful as the Nepal earthquake of 80 years ago and the Assam earthquake of 1950 (which shook our bungalow to bits). April was also the 200th anniversary of the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia, which killed thousands near the volcano and disrupted the climate and thus harvests for several years , causing even more deaths. No wonder the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which killed some 10,000 to 100,000 people in the city alone made many question a loving God. The repercussion were also theological and philosophical and the common argument that it showed God’s judgement lacked plausibility, especially as Lisbon’s Red Light district got off lightly! Among others Voltaire and Kant wrote on the questions raised, particularly of a totally benevolent creation.

With a growing understanding of geology and the structure of the earth, it was increasingly impossible not to see that these “natural evils” have been there from all time and WRITTEN into the structure of the earth, and not introduced by God after Adam and Eve went scrumping! There was no way anyone could accept the view of theodicy immortalised by Milton in Paradise Lost;

Of man’s first disobedience ,and the fruit

Of the forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe.

With loss of Eden…….

Without me giving a well-thought out understanding of death and suffering in relation to a belief in a loving God, we have to say that any  philosophical or religious view which does not accept that earthquakes, suffering and death are part of the inherent fabric of this planet is utterly false.

But there are those, who do not say this as Young Earth Creationists will echo the theodicy of John Milton and say there was no suffering or death, and even earthquakes before the Fall. It is the lynchpin of creationist thought and can be persuasive. A good example is Ken Ham’s musings on the Nepal earthquake;

https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2015/04/30/nepal-suffering-after-major-earthquake/

You see, God’s original creation did not contain earthquakes or any other natural disasters. When God saw all that He had made over Creation Week, He called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The original creation was free from any death or suffering. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve rebelled against God that death and suffering became a part of our world (Genesis 2:173:1–24). The death and suffering caused by this earthquake is a reminder of sin and the severe consequences that rebellion against our Creator brings.

I cannot buy into that and at this point I am somewhat theologically challenged by suffering, or bewildered  as was Darwin. Thus Darwin wrote ‘With respect to the theological view of the question …. I am bewildered’ as ‘There seems to be too much misery in the world’. A few lines further he wrote, ’On the other hand I cannot ….. conclude that everything is a result of brute force’ (21 May 1860). Perhaps like William Blake, Darwin could accept that God ‘designed’ the lamb, but did not frame the ‘fearful symmetry’ of the tyger (8 ). As Blake’s biographer wrote “Few poems have been scrutinised so closely”, and one reading is that a benevolent God made the lamb but not the tyger. Among critics, there is little agreement to its meaning. However his Book of Urizen seems to accept two creators one benevolent and Urizen the other, thus providing a mythological dualism to explain the negative in creation (9 ).

Suffering was an insuperable problem for belief to Darwin, and in the face of it he was left bewildered as to whether a beneficient God could have designed a world with so much animal pain. Darwin’s theodicy was a baffled reverent agnosticism; Buckland and Kirkby regarded animal suffering as God’s intention for the natural order, but this became less acceptable in a post-Chloroform society.

I originally gave much of this material at a Christians in Science conference in 1996 (when I was introduced to Intelligent Design in the form of Behe’s book). At the conference where this paper was presented the most perceptive and awkward question was on how I, as a minister, tried to minister to people in the midst of suffering. Two days after the conference I was due to bury a little baby of five months, so the questioner touched a nerve. To give a brief outline how I personally grapple with suffering, I start with God as Creator, echoing God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind (Job. 38 -42) and considering the Love of God reflected in the beauty of Creation. I then move to the death of Christ, the Son of God and the Crucified God who not only forgave sins but also entered into all human suffering. I often focus on the cry of dereliction “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ( Mark.15.34.) Pastorally, I look for the appropriate way of considering Christ’s death as entering into suffering and seek what is the right and sensitive approach to the people concerned. I find I have to say things with diffidence rather than a boldness, which would be insensitive. I have found Darwin’s concerns over suffering most helpful and challenging to my own pastoral work. Desmond’s treatment of the poignant correspondence between Huxley and Kingsley over the death of Huxley’s little son Noel has also been spiritually formative for me and gave me the kernel for a sermon at the annual Memorial Service in my Church. (Desmond op cit. p286-9) Darwin and Huxley both raised acute problems over the goodnesss of God in their pain over the loss of young children. No help will be found from an Intelligent Designer or a Cosmic Fine Tuner. Like Job they were angry with God for “taking away” their children, see Job chaps 2 and 3. The beginnings of an answer come in Job chap 38 where God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and asks Job where he was at Creation. For succour one must go to the Suffering Servant who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” ( Isaiah 53.4.) Christians need to listen to both Darwin and Huxley over suffering as they raise the deepest of personal issues as well as the less important intellectual ones.

Ultimately, I do not get much further than echoing Jesus’s cry of dereliction;

My God , my god , why have you forsaken me.

Perhaps as we come to good Friday we can think of the bizarre suffering caused by Darwin’s wasps and then think of our suffering. We then need to think of Jesus’s death on the cross and think quietly and deeply on that and not just parrot “Jesus died for our sins.

The passion narratives of the gospels are most poignant in their accounts of Jesus’s death and make us think of the human condition of suffering  and evil, both petty  and on the industrial scale.

I suggest the slow reading of the account of his death in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Here is Mark on the death of Jesus

The Crucifixion of Jesus
21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 2829Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
The Death of Jesus
33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
I began with a parody of all things bright and beautiful. Here is her hymn on the meaning of Jesus’s death
There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to heaven,
Saved by his precious Blood.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.

O dearly, dearly has he loved,
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming Blood,
And try his works to do.

But don’t forget, unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, we don’t stop at the death of Christ and move on to the resurrection which makes all things new.

Crucifixion, Failure, and the Revolution of Submission - Catholic Stand

1.) Desmond, A. and Moore, J.Darwin, London: Michael Joseph, (1991), chap 25 ‘Our Bitter & Cruel Loss’ especially p299.

2.) On the “moral criticism” of Christianity see Altholz, J. ‘The Warfare of Conscience with Theology.’, (1976) in Parsons, G. Religion in Victorian Britain. Vol IV. , Manchester: Manchester University Press (1988), p150-169. (Useful, despite howlers on the history of science!)

3) Topham, J. ‘Science and popular education in the 1830s’, British Journal for the History of Science (1992) 25, 397-430.

4.) Rupke ,The Great Chain of History p14.

5.) Buckland. W, Geology and Mineralogy considered in reference to Natural Theology., 2 vols, London, 1836 etc.

Buckland, W. An inquiry whether the sentence of death… London 1839.

See S.J.Gould’s discussion of the same theme in ‘Nonmoral Nature’ in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, London, Penguin, 1984, p32-45.

6.) Paley, W. op cit, p312.

7.) Kirkby, W. On the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. as manifested in the Creation of Animals London, various editions, from 1853 edit vol ii, p243.

Kirkby, W and Spence, W., An Introduction to Entomology, London, 1856 (6th Edition), p194.

8.) William Blake, Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright; and Little lamb, who made thee?

9.) Ackroyd, P, BlakeLondon, (1995), pp399, p 143f & p175.

Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Am I a fundamentalist for accepting that some wise guys came to Bethlehem following something in the sky, and then gave the baby some valuable gifts?

Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

Here Ian Paul et al look at the visit of the wise men from Matthew chap 2 and conclude there was a visit. But they weren’t kings and there weren’t three!

Is the account better history than Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra, who put the lovely King Herod in charge of Judea in the first place?

It is fascinating how the Lord , Saviour and son of god Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus is tied up with another Lord, Saviour and Son of God, who dynasty has lasted a bit longer.

According to the Roman Imperial Who’s Who, Herod put down his hobbies as  – killing family members and sometimes little children.

Source: Myth and history in the Epiphany of Matthew 2 | Psephizo

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