Category Archives: Jesus Christ

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

Evangelicals and Science (pub 2008) Foreword and Introduction

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

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

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

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

So here is the beginning;

The forewords of the editor and myself.

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Contents

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

Chronology of Events

1000BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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Is Creation God? Can God be incarnate in Creation?

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Is Creation God?

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

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

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

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

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

However there are severe questions about what she said.

How can one say that God is incarnate in creation?

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

and 2.50 God poured his godself into Creation

From 3.40 uses Colossians 1 and John ! to support this

and then in 4.30f that Evolution is God incarnate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World – God = Zero

God – World = God

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

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

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

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

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

But here is a brief and simple (simplistic) summary

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

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

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

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

Genesis one for geologists

Finally Colossians chap1 vs13-22

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

Oxford Diocese and the bishop have responded on the diocese website

A helpful clarification…

 

What’s happened?

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

What does that mean, and why does it matter?

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

Is that what you meant to say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s good to encourage debate

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

 
 
 

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

What happens when clergy leave ministry? | Psephizo

A high proportion of Anglican clergy simply quit and little is done to deal with the causes for it.

Perhaps bishops need to ask why?

They also need to consider why so many serving clergy have appreciated this disturbing blog.

It’s more important than going to demonstrations

 

Source: What happens when clergy leave ministry? | Psephizo

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

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

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

Bible translation ‘The Pure Word’ slated by experts – Premier Christian News | Headlines, Breaking News, Comment & Analysis

This so-called translation of the Bible isn’t just bad……………

The rendering of John 3.16 cited is a forced interpretation

New Bible translation slated A new Bible translation has been hugely criticised for its clunky English as well as its poor translation of the texts.  ‘The Pur

Source: Bible translation ‘The Pure Word’ slated by experts – Premier Christian News | Headlines, Breaking News, Comment & Analysis

Darwin on Design, Doubt and suffering

Darwin is reckoned to have killed design ,

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At present there is much interest in understanding suffering ,due to the coronavirus.
 
some have written books on it, and then by default look to the Fall to explain suffering . Or else reckon that yonks ago the Devil introduced it when he mucked up creation.
 
Odd readings of Romans 8 are used to support this.
 
we cannot get away from suffering and ultimately we have to admit that it is written into the fabric of life and not malevolence nor a punishment for sin.
 
Here I deal with Darwin, first on design and then his problems with suffering, which we must all identify with but what is more interesting are his problems with doubt and suffering which I expound at the end of the referenced paper at the end.
 

He was greatly concerned by suffering , whether Annie’s death, the treatment of slaves or even the behaviour of the ichneumon fly.

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Last autumn I found that Tortoiseshell butterflies were being caihght in spiders’ webs and then packaged to be eaten later.

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Today when cycling on the Lune eastuary I found a tortoiseshell struggling in a web with a spider bearing down on it. I decided to let Incy-wincy have his dinner . I didn’t get a good photo.

Darwin felt the problem of suffering but there seems to be no answer, except that suffering has been around as long as life and is not something introduced into the natural world, wither by the devil, or god gatting annoyed with scrumping!!

Here is my rather old paper published in Science and Christian Belief in 1997 , for which I received a $2000 prize from the Templeton Foundation

 

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

Why and how should clergy learn Greek?

It’s obvious the New Testament was written in Greek and very short. It is better to read something in the original language for understanding.

Learning Greek gives a better insight and an awareness of shortcomings of translations (Romans 8. vs18-24 is a classic case and even NT Wright gets lost onit with the fours seasons as the result of Adam eating an apple)

I am a lousy linguist but find reading a little Greek daily as my my bible study an immense help, though at times I get bogged down and find some passages very hard.

Lastly, I reckon learning Greek should be compulsory for ordination training.

Have i said the wrong thing?

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

Engaging Faith with Science amid a Pandemic | Psephizo

A useful blog on science and religion issues by a fellow Anglican Priest who was initially a chemistry teacher and thus a chemist!

His persepctive is much more on the physical sciences than mine which usually tends to matter geological and the implications there.

The second part is on Christian attitudes to Covid Augsutine

Source: Engaging Faith with Science amid a Pandemic | Psephizo

The Bible, race, and the kingdom of God | Psephizo

A useful theological comment on the murder of George Floyd and the long-standing racial issues behind it.

Rather than dwell on CRT – Critical Race Theory – or White Privilege Ian goes back to the Christian source book (which some american numpty, who’d never read it, held up in front of St John’s Church)

It’s worth a read and one hopes church leaders will do more than echo correct platitudes.

 

Source: The Bible, race, and the kingdom of God | Psephizo