Category Archives: theology

Southgate on The Groaning of Creation

In his blog Anthony Smith discusses Christopher Southgate’s book The Groaning of Creation and raises several questions.

http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/2018/01/04/the-groaning-of-creation-god-evolution-and-the-problem-of-evil/

Southgate like many Green Christians today puts much weight on Romans 8 vs19-22

The Groaning of Creation

Smith comments

 

The great turning point of history, for Southgate, between the evolutionary ‘groaning’ of creation and its eschatological hope, is the Cross of Christ. The Cross is ‘the moment of God’s taking ultimate responsibility for the pain of creation’ and, with the Resurrection, the Cross also serves ‘to inaugurate the transformation of creation’ (p. 16).

What, then, is the role of humanity? We are now able to participate with God, to a small extent, in the ‘healing of the evolutionary process’ (p. 16). God subjected the creation to the frustration of the evolutionary process, in hope that the creation’s groaning might bring humanity into existence, so that humanity, redeemed by Christ, might share with Christ in bringing about the liberation of the whole creation (see Romans 8:19-22). Considering the evolutionary process to have served its purpose, Southgate writes, ‘I regard this as the eschatological phase of history, in which humans should be looking to their own liberation and to the relief of creation’s groaning’ (p. 126).

What does this mean in practice? The example Southgate gives is the role humanity should seek to play in protecting species from extinction, whether that extinction would be through human actions, or by ‘natural’ causes. In this ‘penultimate’ phase of history, such actions would serve as a sign of the future hope for the whole creation.

This argument for the groaning of creation and its redemption in Romans 8 is commonly held today by Christians and may almost be the Green Orthodoxy.

Its validity turns on the translation from the Greek of Romans 8 vs 20 τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη, οὐχ ἑκοῦσα ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα, ἐφ’ ἑλπίδι

and especially the first clause

τῇ γὰρ ματαιότητι ἡ κτίσις ὑπετάγη,

This is normally translated “For the creation was subject to vanity/futility”

Here lies the problem. The word for creation here is ktisis which can mean either the whole of the natural world or simply humanity.  The word translated vanity/futility is mataiotes, which, with cognates occurs 14 times in the New Testament and in every other instance refers to the flaws of humanity, with echoes back to the “vanity of vanities” of Ecclesiastes

now for Rom 8 vs22  οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν , which is in the NRSV “We know that the whole creation has bean groaning with labour pains until now” Now sustenazw means to groan together and sunwdinw normally means the suffering of childbirth. Again, the question is whether ktisis is humanity or the whole universe.

Almost all commentators today argue, or usually simply affirm without argument, that ktisis is the universe, but many scholars in the past argued that it was humanity, notably Lightfoot in the 1650s and William Buckland in 1838

Ulitmately translation of these verses turns on the meanings of ktisis, mataiotes and phthora (decay).

Southgates’s argument and possibly the whole book turns on ktisis being creation as universe. If this is not the case then his thesis fails. At best it is one of two possible translation, but it cannot be seen as THE ONLY translation. Thus we cannot say with him;

God subjected the creation to the frustration of the evolutionary process, in hope that the creation’s groaning might bring humanity into existence, so that humanity, redeemed by Christ, might share with Christ in bringing about the liberation of the whole creation (see Romans 8:19-22).

However much this reading of Romans 8 may chime in with environmental ideas today, it cannot be seen as an adequate dealing of the text and does not recognise the variety of ways in which key words in this passage are used.

Hence his book cannot be seen as an answer or solution to God, evolution and the problem of evil.

Here is my earlier blog which is being revised

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

 

 

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The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil | Anthony Smith

This is a blog by an ordinand at Cranmer Hall Durham, which exposes the issues of suffering , evolution and the Bible by considering Romans 8vs 19-22. This understanding is common among green Christians, but I have my reservations as in this older blog

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

 

 

I’m going to be engaging this term with Christopher Southgate’s wide-ranging book, The Groaning of Creation. Here I attempt to summarise the book.

Source: The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil | Anthony Smith

Cursed Christmas Carols; Mohler’s moanings

 

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One of my favourite Christmas Carols or hymns is Joy to the World, with words by Isaac Watts and a tune by the heavyweight composer G F Handel.
In fact it is hardly a Christmas Carol and is based on Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

When you compare the hymn with the psalm, it is clear that Watts dealt with the words very freely, but has made the psalm into a superb creation hymn with an implicit, but no more than implicit, reference to Jesus Christ. I wonder whether it is more suitable for the Creation Season than Christmas, but I will still use it for Christmas!!

Verse 1
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Verse 2
Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Recently I read an interesting blog by Albert Mohler on the hymn. Mohler is a Southern Baptist who has shoved the Southern Baptists in a more reactionary direction in the last decade. I am no fan of his, but follow him as he is significant in the USA. He is also a young earther, which does not draw me to him. His recent blog on 8/12/17 caught my attention as he discusses the much-omitted third verse of this hymn. Here it is;

Verse 3
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

I winced as I read this, with its way of reading Genesis 3 with a CURSE afflicting the whole of Creation. I’ve written on this before and especially the influence of John Milton from Paradise Lost; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/why-the-apple-didnt-kill-adam-and-eve/

paradiselost

Mohler is very much in the tradition of Milton! His blog is found here and included at the end https://albertmohler.com/2017/12/08/far-curse-found/?mc_cid=2244bcb749&mc_eid=9710ba7c22
Mohler takes the typical 6-day creationist view of the Fall as historical, with Adam’s fruit-eating resulting in god cursing the whole of creation, causing thistles and predation! He then stresses that Jesus’s death on the cross not only gives redemption to humans but also reverses the effects of the curse. (not that I can see that when the local cats eat our birds or I struggle with thistles.) Many YECs use their belief in a CURSE as why they must reject all science which demonstrates an ancient earth and evolution. After all, there can be no curse if T Rex munched other dinosaurs.


There are many problems with the so-called CURSE. Why would a loving god inflict all this “suffering” on animals who had never met humans, like Smilodon or even canivorous dinosaurs and trilobites?

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis would totally agree over the CURSE

Of course, Mohler would collapse 4,560,000, 000 years into Ussher’s 2021 years, with creation in a mere 144 hours. More than that, however “literally” we read Genesis 3 it does not actually teach a CURSE as the language of Genesis 3 vs 14-18 is to elusive and poetical to conclude such a firm and harsh conclusion. I also reckon that it is a totally unsuitable reading for the first lesson of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. I would replace it with Ecclesiastes 4 vs 1-6.
Mohler then writes,

“Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.”

I am trying to visualise how all chemical reactions are CURSED and wonder how the CURSE afflicts the outermost reaches of the universe.
All in all, by emphasising a CURSE Mohler makes everything about Jesus Christ more incredible and rather bizarre, where Jesus seems to have been born in Bethlehem to correct the naughtiness of a pair of prehistoric scrumpers, rather than sorting out the folly and moral stupidity of the human race giving both a new and living hope and a guide for life, far better than any other way. Thus we think of Jesus Christ when we sing;

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

But I couldn’t possibly sing verse 3.

****************************************

https://albertmohler.com/2017/12/08/far-curse-found/?mc_cid=2244bcb749&mc_eid=9710ba7c22
Think with me about verse three of the hymn, in which we read,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
The reversal of the curse is promised in the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of his atoning work. Implicit in this third verse is the promise of the new creation. We live in light of that promise, even as we look back to Bethlehem and as we celebrate Christmas.
But look carefully at the reference to the curse. Christ’s victory over sin is declared to extend “far as the curse is found.” What curse? How far does it extend? Where is it found?
We find the curse in Genesis, chapter 3. After Eve has eaten of the forbidden tree, and then Adam also ate, and after they found themselves facing God in the reality of their sin, God first cursed the serpent:
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Then, God cursed the woman:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Then came to curse to Adam, and through Adam to all humanity:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
By Adam, our federal head, the curse of sin came upon all humanity. We are dust, who must return to the dust, for the wages of sin is death. All creation is under the effects of the curse. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” Adam is told.
The curse is God’s righteous judgment of sin, and the effect of the curse is death. The curse has fallen upon all human beings, first because of Adam’s sin and then because of our own. In Adam, we all sinned. In Adam, we all died.
Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.
Most importantly, every single human being is found under this curse. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So, how can we sing about joy to the world?
Look with me to Galatians 3:10-14:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Here is the gospel of Christ, the good news. But first, the bad news. All who rely on works of the law are under a curse. All humanity is born under this curse, and under the law. The congregation that originally received Paul’s letter would have understood immediately where Paul grounded his argument, in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. At the end of the series of curses God delivered from Mount Nebo, we find the most comprehensive of all: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [Paul in Galatians 3:10, citing Deuteronomy 27:26]
We are born under the curse, we are cursed by the curse, and the law offers no escape. We cannot work our way from under the curse.
So where is the good news? Where is joy to the world? Look at verses 13 and 14.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. What we sinners could not and cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He removes the curse and the power of the law to condemn us.
How? He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. The sinless Son of God became incarnate as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. That sinless Son of God became sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became a curse for us, by hanging on a tree, in fulfillment of Scripture.

Why is Young Earth Creationism so appealing?

Appeal of Young Earth Creationism

 

Forty years ago creationism and anti-Darwinism was almost unknown outside the USA but today it is common throughout the world and results in conflicts in various religions and over education. The roots of creationism are in American fundamentalism and the modern movement effectively dates from 1961. Since the 80s creationism has grown throughout the world influencing faiths, education and museums. 

 

Creationism has grown within evangelical Christianity, which often tends to take the Bible literally. Within Europe this has resulted in pressure to make science teaching critical of evolution and to recognise creationism as valid science. So far this has been rejected within the UK and EU. 

 

  The growing evangelicalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America is dominantly creationist, and is beginning to impact on education, though there has been pressure to alter anthropological displays in Nairobi museums and to teach Creationism in various countries.  

 

            It is difficult to give a clear picture of creationism as the situation is confused. One thing is clear; Creationism will be at the centre of controversy both in world faiths and in education for many years to come. 

To many YEC is simply absurd but simply saying that will not help. We need to understand why some Christians believe it so fervently

 

Answers magazine, Oct-Dec 2014 issue

The appeal of YEC cannot be understood without grasping the deeply felt reasons for believing what many scientists think nonsense. YEC provides the “scientific” capping to a “biblical world view,” which provides an all-embracing outlook on life and integrates every aspect of life. It enables one to oppose non-Christian world views and to be confident in the “Culture Wars.” Recently many evangelicals have stressed the uniqueness of the biblical world view against the secular world view, which may look to science for its justification. This is expounded, for example by John MacArthur of The Master’s College in California in Think Biblically (MacArthur, 2003) and on the AIG Web site.

 

The reasons for accepting YEC are interrelated and are threefold being theological, moral and anti-reductionist. These predicate the scientific objections to “evolution” and are more than adherence to a literal Bible.
The most important reason for accepting YEC is a concern for salvation through Christ. The heart of evangelical faith is redemption through the death of Christ, expressed as (penal) Substitutionary Atonement in that Jesus’ death on the cross forgives sin and takes away the penalty of death. This goes back to St. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century. Since the late eighteenth century, the corollary of an ancient earth was that animals were living and dying long before humans, thus most evangelicals have limited the “death” brought about by the Fall to humans, and regard animal death as of no consequence to the atonement. However some evangelicals in the early nineteenth century, for example George Bugg, and YECs today argue otherwise and that physical death came in at the Fall (Genesis 3), and that the Fall resulted in a Curse over all creation, and before that no animal died or suffered. If T. Rex had actually attacked and killed herbivores 100million years ago, then the whole Christian Faith will collapse like dominoes, hence the geological timescale must be false. This is at the heart of YEC arguments as expounded by Sarfati (2004, Refuting Evolution pp. 195–224), and Whitcomb in the appendix to The Genesis Flood (Morris and Whitcomb, 1961). Carefully presented (with evangelistic overtones) this is crucial.
The authority of the Bible is central to evangelicals, who often interpret it in its plain or literal sense. For early Genesis, that means creation in six days and a worldwide flood. A Young Earth model supports this “scientifically,” so YEC is the only valid interpretation. A further “biblical” appeal is the Sabbath as the day of rest. The Fourth Commandment reads, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work. . . . for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20 vs 8–11). Hence the Sabbath is dependent on a six-day creation and thus “billions” of years must be wrong. To reject this is to reject the Commandments.
Hence the biblical arguments for YEC are threefold,

first, upholding the plain sense of scripture, which is inerrant in history and science,

second, buttressing salvation through Christ’s death, dependent on no death before the Fall, and

third, defending the Commandments .

As these are essential to evangelical belief then a Christian must be YEC. The appeal is irresistible. Well, almost.
To understand why YEC beliefs have grown in the Anglican Church, the approach of evangelicals like Richard Blackham are very instructive. He was curate of All Souls Langham Place under Richard Bewes for many years and has a particular perspective on the bible. Briefly he seeks to interpret the Bible without external influences and thus no input from any other knowledge. On Genesis and creation that means that he ignores science and opts for a literal interpretation. i.e a theological argument for YEC. This has manifest itself on his video on Genesis for the Open Bible series, produced while at All Souls. This caused controversy at All Souls as several members, with scientific backgrounds saw this as moving from the classic evangelicalism of John Stott to fundamentalism. More recently Blackham has been working with John Mackay on a creationist understanding of Genesis.

This self-sufficient and internally-consistent world-view and very appealing as it is a very strong faith position, which appears to give a powerful challenge to secularism and any alternative religion. Its Achilles heel is on biblical literalism in relation to Genesis and if that is not accepted the worldview collapse like a line of dominoes.

Moral concerns, particularly over eugenics, motivated the antievolutionists of the 1920s and the Scopes trial . YEC has amplified this position and stress that evolution leads to immorality of every kind. In his book The Genesis Solution (Ham and Taylor 1988, p. 97). Ham argues that evolution leads to a decrease in marriage, an increase of suicides, euthanasia, pornography, abortions, promiscuity, sexual abuse, homosexuality, theft, violence, racism, etc.

evolution leads to a decrease in marriage, an increase of suicides, euthanasia, pornography, abortions, promiscuity, sexual abuse, homosexuality, theft, violence, racism, etc.

Hence evolution is contrary to family values. The concern to counter teaching evolution partly stems from this.
A further appeal of YEC is the opposition to Reductionism, or Nothingbuttery as Donald Mackay called it. This is the view that everything is nothing but physics and chemistry and that there is nothing distinct about humans. Reductionism often stems from a scientific materialist philosophy. Opposition to reductionism is by no means restricted to YECs. Many oppose reductionism. Arthur Peacocke, the British biochemist and clergyman, opposed reductionism for decades from a liberal theology and founded the Society of Ordained Scientists in 1986 to facilitate this. John Polkinghorne, Donald Mackay, and many evangelical members of the CIS also oppose Reductionism. However YEC is extreme antireductionism. When these arguments are put before an evangelical audience the appeal of YEC becomes compelling. Anyone who to challenges them, and “scientific arguments” for YEC are compromising the Gospel. That is why such beliefs are so tenacious. The argument is more over deeply held religious convictions than intellectual ones. Recent anti-evolutionism is often bound up with the Religious Right and family values, but one must ask whether the motivation is the control of education or religious belief. All YECs I know of are so because of religious rather than political or educational convictions. It may be hard to understand their outlook if one is not “religious” and thus one may look for a nonreligious explanation in line with the secular outlook of Western academic culture. But this often fails to understand their motivation. One must grasp the religious and moral appeal of YEC in order to understand the movement and how it has developed. The scientific arguments are beyond the wit of most people, but the average evangelical will understand why the blood of Christ washes away his sin, even if he cannot evaluate the arguments for and against the decay of the speed of light.

Hence acceptance of Young earth Creationism supports one’s Christian faith in a world which can be hostile to Christianity

 

Anglican Environmentalists misguidedly challenge church report on fracking

dscf6016

 

In January 2017 the Church of England published a briefing report on Shale Gas and Fracking https://www.churchofengland.org/media/3856131/shale-gas-and-fracking.pdf

. The church was slow to give a response to fracking so this was overdue. It was produced under the join chairmanship of the Bishop of Salisbury and Philip Fletcher CBE. Responses to it have varied; The industry representative body, UKOOG were favourable but the Green Party and Operation Noah slated it for being too supportive of fracking.
My take is that it is a very balanced and accurate report, and is what should have been produced five years ago.
With Operation Noah being so anti-fossil fuels I wondered how Green Anglicans would respond as anti-fracking is more important than faith in Christ to some. Or at least it feels like it 
Well here is the response from the Blackburn Diocesan Environment Committee. Since 2012 they have produced three previous discussion papers on fracking, which are somewhat flawed in their accuracy. The first referred to contaminants in fracking fluid including acetic acids (plural) and citric acids (plural). There is only ONE acetic and Citric acid and both are added to fish and chips. To make howlers like this it does seem the committee are short of scientific knowledge. I do not have space to discuss these, but a URL for my blog on The Challenges of Fracking, The Churches Response is given below.

In July the Social Responsibility Network https://srnet.org.uk/ published a rather negative blog; Shale Gas and Fracking https://srnet.org.uk/shale-gas-fracking/ The SRN describes itself as “A network of people passionate that the Church engages with the issues of our communities”. However from the website I could not work out who exactly they are as no names of organisers are listed, but it does seem to come from social responsibility sources in largely the Church of England. What is most concerning is the committee reject or ignore the careful work from academics like Paul Younger and Nick Riley (both Christians) and reports from government agencies including the British Geological Survey. As in this blog reviewed here, they seem to prefer those “experts” who are not recognised outside anti-fracking circles. It would be like a diocesan science and religion group advising church members to reject the work of Prof Tom Mccleish,F.R.S., Sir John Polkinghorne, Prof David Wilkinson and Prof Alistair McGrath in favour of creationists like Andy McIntosh and Ken Ham, who may even have doctorates but not in the field they are challenging.
The blog is brief and asked readers to comment on what they saw as the short comings of the Fletcher/Holtham paper.

Here is the blog post in full
SHALE GAS & FRACKING
JULY 26, 2017 SRNET221
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We welcomed the Church of England’s December 2016 Briefing Paper “Shale gas and fracking”1 pulling together some of the key references on this topic and so stimulating debate within the Church on this controversial process.
Since then, a number of well-referenced papers2 have re-examined the evidence in various publications cited in the Briefing Paper and raised significant concerns about the reliability of the conclusions drawn.
We feel it imperative that the authors of the Briefing Paper seek expert advice on the strength of the evidence given and the conclusions drawn in these new publications and update the Briefing Paper as necessary so that Christian churches and others can participate in informed debate on the care of Creation and social responsibility in respect of shale gas.
We would be grateful for your response to this concern, to the email addresses below.
Blackburn Diocese Environment Group
• Revd Professor John Rodwell (Chair, johnrodwell@tiscali.co.uk )
• Revd Canon Ed Saville (Diocesan Environment Officer,
ed.saville@blackburn.anglican.org),
• Dr Stephen Garsed,
• Derek Estill.
1 Mission and Public Affairs Council and the Environment Working Group of the Church of England (2016) Shale Gas & Fracking;
2 Michael Hill (2017) Review of the Church of England Mission & Public Affairs Council and Environment Working Group Briefing Paper on Shale Gas and Fracking; Paul Mobbs (2017) Whitehall’s ‘Fracking’ Science Failure; David K. Smythe (2017) Submission to the Scottish Government consultation in unconventional oil and gas.
end of post

The blog challenges many aspects of the Church of England report. I would now like to consider their claims over its shortcomings.

The second sentence states;

“Since then, a number of well-referenced papers2 have re-examined the evidence in various publications cited in the Briefing Paper and raised significant concerns about the reliability of the conclusions drawn.”

The three cited publications are from Mike Hill, Paul Mobbs and David Smythe. All are well-known for their adamant opposition to fracking. Hill and Smythe have made exaggerated claims of their professional capabilities and experience. They are the ‘specialists’ of choice for the anti frack movement. Their claims are not matched by the mass of evidence from independent specialist studies, such as those done by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and many others.

Mike Hill is an electrical engineer from Lytham, Lancs and over the last few years has given presentations against fracking mostly in Lancashire but also throughout Britain. He has given presentations to church groups e.g. Canons and Area Deans in the diocese of Blackburn and was the main advisor for the Dean of Blackburn’s report The Challenges of Fracking, The Churches Response published in Nov 2014. His main argument is that the regulatory system of fracking is totally inadequate. He still complains that of the 10 recommendations made in 2012 to properly regulate shale gas operations, only one of these has been put in place. This is at odds with the industry representative body. http://www.ukoog.org.uk/about-ukoog/press-releases/144-the-royal-society-and-royal-academy-of-engineering-recommendations-review-of-progress He claimed to be an ‘EU adviser’ in a talk in Canterbury and a complaint to IPSO revealed that this was not the case. https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/ruling/?id=02280-14 He stood as an antifracking candidate in the last General Election, and his independence was called into question in the publication of the ‘Medact Report 2015’ which was strongly antifracking. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/expert-report-on-fracking-risks-was-written-by-activist-q2wxp0jgj0t

Paul Mobbs is a freelance biologist with very green concerns who often publishes in The Ecologist. He was arrested for attempting to arrest the Prime Minister. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc1ESFg4fkA

David Smythe retired as Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow in 1998 and has not worked professionally since. He runs a B and B and lives in France. His recent paper in ‘Solid Earth’ was rejected, and described by one critical peer review as ‘Advocacy based science’. https://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/se-2015-134/ . Other comments are similarly dismissive. Smythe was told not to resubmit the paper. The Geological Society has instructed him not to describe himself as a Chartered Geologist. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fracking-row-scientist-lied-about-his-credentials-vxtcrtsxczr This article also states that the University of Glasgow, where Mr Smythe worked 16 years ago, has also written to him asking him not to suggest that its academics share his views.

The blog simply gave the titles of the papers but no way of obtaining the papers and should have given URLs to enable readers to make a proper judgement. Having read the first two writings I was aware of the URLs for them, but was unable to access Smythe’s but am familiar with his writing.

I am baffled why these papers are given such a definitive recognition. None were peer-reviewed or from any recognisable professional source in any acceptable publication. Hill’s paper is published on his private website, Mobbs in a green magazine The Ecologist, and Smythe’s is simply a letter of submission to a Government consultation. Anyone, including a 6 year old, can submit to a consultation like that
Hill’s paper 2 Michael Hill (2017) Review of the Church of England Mission & Public Affairs Council and Environment Working Group Briefing Paper on Shale Gas and Fracking is to be found on his website Shale Gas Office.
https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/b0aabf_5902a55b06fd4338a56db38dd8687240.pdf
Hill makes a lot of charges against the inadequacy of the Church report, which would take a lot of discussion to analyse. However his choice of references is very revealing and show why he cannot be recognised as any kind of authority.
Here are his references from the paper with my comments
REFERENCES Nearly half are written by Mike Hill and have * by them. It is not acceptable or professional to cite your own UNPUBLISHED work as a source for you conclusions. My comments on the references are in BOLD

* 1. Presentation for the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, Whaley Abbey Conference. Hill. M., May 2014.
I was not present and have not seen it. This is one of Hill’s self-published papers/presentations
As far as I can gather the Dean of Blackburn (Armstrong) had invited Hill to speak to the Area Deans. (A diocese is split into deanerys of 10-20 parishes and one vicar is appointed as Area Dean). I have not seen a copy
* 2. Briefing Note for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most reverend Justin Welby, Hill. M., April 2014.
This was an unsolicited paper sent to the Archbishop This is one of Hill’s self-published papers
*3. The Challenges of Fracking, The Churches Response, The Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong, Dean of Blackburn, Nov 2014.
This response is both inaccurate and biased. Hill put on his website that he had been the adviser. I reviewed it here https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/lancashire-churches-get-fracked/
Hill was the chief expert and advisor for this report chaired by the former Dean of Blackburn, according to Hill’s own claims…The internal evidence and the fact it repeats Hill’s false claims on regulation confirms it.
4. Dept. for Communities and Local Government Appeals Decision,

5. World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment (19tcf TRR, Cuadrilla estimated 200 Tcf GIP) and U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA/ARI World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment, September 2015.
6. London School of Economics http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/faqs/what-potential-reserves-of-shale-gasare-there-in-the-uk/ Aug 2014
7. Professor Andy Alpin, Unconventional Petroleum Development, Durham University. 4th March, 2014.
8. The Oil Drum – estimate of TRR for the Bowland shale
*. 9. Necessary Regulation in the Exploration and Development of Unconventional Fossil Fuels. Hill. M. January, 2014
This is one of Hill’s self published papers
*10. Shale gas regulation in the UK and health impacts of fracking. Hill.M. The Lancet. 28th June, 2014. P2211-2212.
Simply a letter to the Lancet, thus has no authority
*11. Medact “Health and Fracking – The impacts and opportunity costs”, McCoy. D. Dr., Saunders. P. Dr., Hill. M., Rugman. F. Dr., Wood.R. Dr.
Hill was a major advisor to the first Medact report published on 30 March 2015. I and a retired oil engineer were present at the launch. Hill had difficulty answering our questions. He waxed lyrical about seismic problems but showed he had no grasp of geology . I summarise some of Hill’s shortcoming s here; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/lancashire-churches-get-fracked/ Interestingly, after much criticism, Medact republished their report in 2016, and in their key points, stated that ‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’.
https://www.medact.org/2016/resources/reports/shale-gas-production-in-england/
*12. Institution of Engineering & Technology Conference “Managing the Risks” – , “Brief Review of The Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering Report and the present position of shale gas regulation” Hill.M.,
Another self-published paper by Hill
Reviewed by Slater.G., May, 2014. at the IET Meeting 20th May, 2014. Presented to the President of the OET and to Prof. Robert Mair’s (Royal Society Shale Gas Report Author) representative Prof. P. Younger.
13. Environment Agency Permitting Decisions. Issued Permits. Jan 2015. Sec 5.1.10.
14. Geomechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity. November 2011. Dr.C.Paer & Dr. S. Baisch. P27-28 Wellbore Deformation.
15. Shale Gas North West – Monitoring of Flowback. Environment Agency. Dec 2011. These results used drinking water as a metric as selected by the EA. The results showed that the Lead rose to 1438 times the average level found in mains water. All of the following figures relate to the amount more than mains water. Cadmium 150x, Chloride 6,874x, Chromium 636x, Aluminium 198x, Arsenic 47x, Iron 17,979x and Radioactive Material averaging 90x the safe level. This from just one fracked well and only to stage 5. 30 stage + frack jobs are now the plan and potentially rising to 100 frack stages.
This should have given a URL or a proper reference so that we could actually READ his claims. A proper academic and professional approach would provide a full reference
16. The Royal Society – Shale Gas Extraction in the UK: a review of Hydraulic Fracturing. June 2012. Prof. Mair. R. Page 7- Recommendations. GLOSSARY HVHF: High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

6 out of 16 of the refs are by M Hill , Ref 3 advised by Hill, so thus nearly half refer to Hill’s unpublished writings

Mobbs
http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/musings/2017/20170524-whitehalls_fracking_science_failure.html
This is an article in The Ecologist trying to show that the late Prof Sir David Mackay’s report of 2012 has been overturned by work by Ingraffea. No expert agrees with Mobbs. This is simply an advocacy article.
Smythe

The committee referred to Smythe’s (2017) Submission to the Scottish Government consultation in unconventional oil and gas.

Here is the URL

http://www.davidsmythe.org/fracking/Smythe%20SG%20consultation%20submission%20on%20UOG%20may2017%20v1.0.pdf

This is a very long submission of 71 pages, which would take much space to discuss at length. He refers to his paper submitted to Solid Earth in 2016. https://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/se-2015-134/ . This was strongly criticised by other geologists and the paper was refused for publication. One must note very strongly that those who criticised Smythe’s paper ARE leading geologists working in this field at the present time eg Younger,  Verdon and others. Smythe is now writing from his house in France having retired in 1999, is not an active researcher and not an expert in this field.

It should be obvious to anyone that on issues like this you go to the leading authorities of the day and not to someone outside the field. further Smythe has attacked many of these geologists in a personal way. http://www.davidsmythe.org/professional/insolence.html

It is difficult not to see this as pure vitriol against leading geologists like Riley, Rutter, Davies, Lord Oxburgh, Selley, Shipton , Styles, Verdon, Younger. I have met and discussed matters with several of these. Incidentally Lord Oxburgh was one of my geological teachers, and very good was he – and entertaining in the pub at Horton in Ribblesdale, where he was teaching us geological mapping.

The appendix to this submission continues on attacks on geologists, which scarcely seems professional.

Here he raises various questions especially on the problems of faults. This is a long and technical section, but I prefer to go with the consensus from active geologists!!!

There is a section on disposal of waste water which fails to state that waste water from Preese Hall was cleaned up by Remsol to the satisfaction of the EA and that procedures are in place. This is a serious oversight

The Environment committee should have considered this before relying on a questionable document.

Smythe retired from Glasgow Univ in 1999 and has had no professional involvement in fracking.
He self publishes widely, including his blog.
His contributions are totally rejected by nearly all academics working this field.
It may seem cheeky for me to say so, but I question his geological competence as when discussing why there were no fracking licences in Witney – Cameron’s constituency – he was unaware that the sub-surface geological feature – the (Wales –)Brabant High meant that sediments would be too thin for fracking. This is first year geology teaching!!
His personal attacks on leading geologists, including one of my university teachers Lord Oxburgh, then a geology don at Oxford, and others of my acquaintance are in very bad taste.
As a result my blog on him https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/david-smythe-anti-fracking-geologist/, which gives details of his rejected paper in Solid Earth.
And the third sentence is
We feel it imperative that the authors of the Briefing Paper seek expert advice on the strength of the evidence given and the conclusions drawn in these new publications and update the Briefing Paper as necessary so that Christian churches and others can participate in informed debate on the care of Creation and social responsibility in respect of shale gas.
I think I have demonstrated that these publications are without any value, and thus cannot help anyone “participate in informed debate on the care of Creation and social responsibility in respect of shale gas.”. This appeal reflects the sheer incompetence of the writers of this blog. It does seem that they have selected only those who give an anti-fracking stance and ignore the vast body of work from leading academic bodies, govt bodies etc. At best the authors are guilty of culpable ignorance and are bringing the churches into disrepute
Perhaps they need to listen to St Augustine from 400AD

Augsutine

(This quotation is often cited against Creationists whose misunderstanding of science is legendary.)
The identity of the contributors
Though the blog does not specifically say so, it does seem to come from the Blackburn Diocese Environmental Group. Members of that group have been involved in producing three very inaccurate reports on fracking for the churches of Lancashire, both Anglican and Roman Catholic
This gives an indication;

We would be grateful for your response to this concern, to the email addresses below.
Blackburn Diocese Environment Group
• Revd Professor John Rodwell (Chair, johnrodwell@tiscali.co.uk )
• Revd Canon Ed Saville (Diocesan Environment Officer,
ed.saville@blackburn.anglican.org),
• Dr Stephen Garsed,
• Derek Estill.

The fact that two of these have Ph Ds in biologically related science is very concerning. Any scientist should be cautious going outside their sphere of competence and when they do should look very closely at the experts in the field. Some of the false arguments they accept are like someone claiming they found cacti in a peat bog on the tops of the Forest of Bowland. (If you ask about my qualifications, I have a degree in geology and worked as an exploration and mining geologist in Africa for 2 ½ years before ordination. Since then I have researched and published on the history of geology in major journals,and have led geological field trips. In recent years I have studied fracking deeply, visited sites and made my own field study of the Bowland Shales. I also benefit from experts who tell me when I go wrong!)

If this is produced by the Blackburn Diocese Environment Group, then they should be ashamed of themselves misleading other Christians about fracking. At best it is folly and at almost the worst, intellectually dishonest
CONCLUSIONS
Church of England Report
• A very careful study using decent authoritative studies from Government sources etc
• Were not gulled by the anti-fracking rhetoric
• Gave a fair and considered assessment along with some concerns

Blog article
• Rejected all authoritative studies from govt bodies, academics etc and ignored them.
• Essentially this shows a bias to extreme anti-fracking rather than a balanced and fair discussion.
• Accepted as gospel writings of anti-frackers , who though they have some technical background, have no actual involvement or experience in fracking
• Failed to see that self-published and self-referenced articles are of very limited worth. This is very much so of Hill’s paper
Finally I regard this blog as not only very misguided but liable to misinform and confuse others. It is not a responsible action.

A N Wilson gains Darwin Award for Historians

After producing an awful biography of Darwin and shooting his pen off about Darwin’s bogus science practised at Downe House, I was disappointed to see that Wilson’s biography of Queen Victoria was used in the TV series Victoria. That may explain the fictitious aspects of Drummond on screen. He died three years before the repeal of the Corn Laws – the time of his murder in the TV series – and there is no evidence of a gay relationship. Having read a few of Wilson’s historical studies I have no respect for him as a historical scholar. I read his God’s Funeral twenty years ago and no longer have my copy. I wonder why.

I do think Wilson is worthy of the Darwin award for historians and this was confirmed when I dipped into his Victoria today. For interest I went to the index and looked up Darwin and this is what I found.

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The three lines on Lyell and Darwin are simply historical codswollop. Yes, Lyell was a great geologist and in 1864 was rightly knighted for that. In 22 words Wilson simply got everything wrong. Yes, it is a popularly held view and especially by those who consider themselves educated that it was Lyell who shattered the views of the church over the age of the earth. But it is wrong on so many accounts.

180px-charles_lyell

First, before November 1797, when Lyell was born, most scientists and savants had concluded that the earth was ancient and its age was either hundreds of thousands or many millions of years old. The former was the view of the great Swiss geologist Andre de Luc snr and the latter of William Hutton. Most educated Christians throughout Europe also accepted the vast age of the earth, even if many preferred de Luc. However 100,000 years completely undermines a literal Genesis. There were also those like Lhwyd and Ray who were thinking about an older earth by 1690.

Secondly, when Lyell published his Principles of Geology in 1831, many leading British geologists were clergy e.g. Sedgwick, Buckland, Coneybeare, Henslow and many lesser ones. Within the churches there were not seen as either heretics or way-out liberals, but rather as orthodox Christians with the full backing of church leaders from Archbishops and Bishops to country parsons. In fact, when the American creationist and employee of Answersingenesis  wrote his Ph.D.  (and book The Great Turning Point) on “Scriptural Geologists” from 1820 to 1850, he could only find 20 to 30 and I haven’t found many more. These so-called Scriptural Geologists were singularly ineffective in convincing the rising numbers of Victorian evangelicals, who were happy to accept the findings of geology.

Thirdly, by the time Darwin came along – effectively after 1840 – after his Beagle voyage, the vast age of the earth could be almost taken for granted. By 1859 few educated cChristians or clergy held to a six day creation and thus in all the responses to Darwin in the 1860s I have only found one which did not accept geology and that was by the Plymouth Brother B.W. Newton in his Remarks on a Mosaic Cosmogony, which was a hostile response to Essays and Reviews.

I could was lyrical on this, but have surveyed it in my book Evangelicals and Science, where I focus only on evangelicals and develop the ideas here on  Genesis and geology unearthed

 

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Wilson has aggravated many on his biography of Darwin, which seems to be very jaundiced to him. Reviews have been largely negative and his atricles in the press show that he has little grasp of Darwin’s science and seems now after his re-conversion to be leaning to creationism or Intelligent Design https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/charles-darwin-exposes-a-n-wilson-as-a-fraud/

Sadly many will read Wilson as a serious historian and accept his wrong and outmoded views not only of Darwin but also the relationship of Christian and Science – so often epitomised as the bible vs Darwin