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We hear much about fake news at present and how it influenced both the Brexit vote and the Presidential election.

Fake news is prevalent and is common both among climate change deniers (the extreme one) and what Owen Pattison in his only wise comment on the environment called the Green Blob. Fake News is rife among ideological Greens, especially Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth , anti-fracking groups and all the KIITG (Keep it in the ground) palaver. As a Christian it offends me that it has become the quasi-official view of Christian greens. much of whose stuff is fakenews. (They are good on tips for green living – but some of us have been doing that for decades, OK on local projects, but on big issues like energy, fracking and climate change they go fake.)

As Ken who puts in detailed complaints to the ASA on anti-fracking groups says “I do not know of any valid science in the anti frack rhetoric. Bullshit from start to finish, as I have shown with Frack Free Somerset, RAFF, Frack Free Alliance. Breast Cancer UK, and perhaps with FoE.” several of these forensic complaints can be found elsewhere on my blog

I could include Creationism as fake news as it is equally spurious, but is of more marginal importance

Here the ever-perceptive Nick Grealy makes some very good points and thus I asked him if I could nick his blog. I share his view that all this is destroying the environmental movement as once anyone starts to check out this green fakery with intellectual honesty, they will finds flaws galore and soon get disillusioned. It is like the boy who cried wolf.



As that boy discovered to his horror a wolf came and attacked the sheep and nobody took any notice of him until it was too late


and so, if we are not careful the big bad wolf of environmental degradation will jump out and destroy our world. We will have to thank all those green groups if it happens

I do wish the Green Blog would stop crying “Wolf” and get on with caring for our planet instead of pushed their pseudo-green scare-mongering ideology ideology




The nomination of Scott Pruitt has rightly caused much gnashing of teeth at sites like Climate Home.

Green groups reacted with bitter hostility calling Pruitt a “fossil fuel industry puppet” (350.org), “an arsonist in charge of fighting fires (Sierra Club) and “destined for the environmental hall of shame” (NRDC).

But how exactly did Pruitt – and us – get to this position?  All three of the above organisations fought Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s all of the above energy plan because it promoted the use of of natural gas alongside nuclear, efficiency and renewable. The Sierra Club, is the oldest environmental organisation in the US (1892) and has 2.4 million members today.  Yet their Beyond Natural Gas campaign doesn’t have any actual plans, simply a whole bunch of feelings.  A large part of the anti fracking movement narrative depends on  fake news, just as reprehensible coming from the green left as from the right:

Natural gas drillers exploit government loopholes, ignore decades-old environmental protections, and disregard the health of entire communities. “Fracking,” a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas.

Yes this is the same Sierra Club who once took money from Aubrey McClendon’s American Clean Skies. They still take money from Michael Bloomberg for the end coal campaign, even though Bloomberg doesn’t agree with them at all on natural gas.

To keep coal-fired power plants in upstate New York and not frack doesn’t make any sense at all.

We also have Bill McKibben of 350 in 2009

On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben joined demonstrators who marched on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he was ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.

What caused environmental organisations to change their mind about natural gas is one of the mysteries of the age.  Much blame can be found in the intersection of the social media echo chamber where the Tea Party met the Fake News movement and produced the Post Truth Era.  This is the Wikipedia definition, and they at least thanks to donations like mine and I hope yours, are one of the few remaining on line oases of sanity:

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of “secondary” importance. While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the internet. In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell cast a world in which the state is daily changing historic records to fit its propaganda goals of the day. Orwell is said to have based much of his criticism of this on Soviet Russian practices.

The contemporary origin of the term is attributed to blogger David Roberts who used the term in 2010 in a column for Grist.[1][2][3] Political commentators have identified post-truth politics as ascendant in Russian, Chinese, American, Australian, British, Indian, Japanese and Turkish politics, as well as in other areas of debate, driven by a combination of the 24-hour news cyclefalse balance in news reporting, and the increasing ubiquity of social media.[3][4][5][6][7][8] In 2016, “post-truth” was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year,[9] due to its prevalence in the context of that year’s Brexit referendum and US presidential election.[10][11]

Tea Party, Green Tea Party, Brexit and Trump were all enabled by two key trends in what was previously called the Main Stream Media.

One is the financial catastrophe that hit newspapers and TV networks as they lose advertising and eyeballs.  But especially in the UK, where luckily , to  my progressive lefty opinion at least, we have the BBC, there was another force present.  We saw the trend  in the UK on first the fracking debate, and secondly the EU referendum debate. The second problem is  false balance. The BBC’s great strength in the main stream media era was that as a public broadcaster they were required to have a neutral stance and reflect a variety of opinion.  I’m happy to concede here that the neutrality does not often extend to the climate debate, but that isn’t the issue here. This from Open Democracy gives a summary of the problem:

There is now widespread agreement that the BBC failed the nation by botching its coverage of the referendum. Viewers and listeners seeking information were instead bombarded with contradictory and impenetrable claims and counter-claims. As a result, many ended up confused, frustrated and sometimes unsure how to cast their votes. BBC representatives have half-admitted that this was so, but have offered an excuse.

It’s worth underlining that the UK shale gas is “controversial” meme stems from giving a platform to all views. Let me make clear, all views should be represented, but at the same time, this result from the Referendum campaign could also describe much of the fracking “debate”. Simply substitute  “campaigners” for politicians:

One effect of this approach was to draw politicians (anti -fracking campaigners) into making ever more extravagant and less well founded claims. It therefore actually reinforced both the opacity and the mendacity of the campaign. Attention had to be concentrated on the often trivial or diversionary assertions of campaigners instead of the real issues.

So in the interests of either balance, or simply to create an interesting twist on the very boring subject of natural gas supply,  a very small minority were given a platform far bigger than votes would otherwise have allowed.  The Lancashire Nana Tina Rothery for example got 3.8% of the vote when she stood for election.  The UK Green Party, which cost Lib Dems previously safe seats throughout the UK, thus destroyed the Lib Dam/Conservative coalition got the same percentage nationally.  They thus set the stage for the Brexit Referendum.

Nowhere in the UK, including Lancashire, London or Yorkshire, do actual hard core opponents of shale number more than a tiny percentage.  Yet eccentrics such as Gayzer Frackman, who also believes in chemtrails, or 9/11 conspiracy “theorists” like Ian R Crane are given platforms for public debate that would make anyone who knows little about the subject think they are credible.   This “balanced” “debate” where the eccentric or just plain cuckoo are given equal weight to thousands of mainstream energy experts confuses, not informs.

The false balance  about fracking is one in which even the UK government colludes, if accidentally, by giving  the choice as one between fracking or renewables as the DECC/BEIS opinion polltrackers insist on presenting.  Renewables always win and if it was a true choice, with a gun to my head, I’d  choose renewables too. Going against wind or solar of the oil industry is a false choice. The reality is that it’s BOTH. To pretend otherwise  is false balance.

False balance can sometimes originate from similar motives as sensationalism, where producers and editors may feel that a story portrayed as a contentious debate will be more commercially successful than a more accurate account of the issue. However, unlike most other media biases, false balance may actually stem from an attempt to avoid bias; producers and editors may confuse treating competing views fairly—i.e., in proportion to their actual merits and significance—with treating them equally, giving them equal time to present their views even when those views may be known beforehand to be based on false information

Fracking in the UK is continually described as “controversial”, despite it only being so to a tiny minority. The all of the above option is notably absent in the fracking debate.  June 23rd showed how binary choices, presented in an emotional  post truth  feeling over fact debate, have not helped democracy, but subverted it.

No where is this more true than the Keep It In The Ground (KIITG) movement, which was given  initial credence by the UK Guardian newspaper.

Interestingly, several present and previous Guardian journalists have told me privately that they were horrified by the KIITG campaign.  Since the departure of Alan Rusbridger the editor at the time, it often , but not often enough, seems to have disappeared – along with 250  jobs.

Rusbridger and Murdoch have similar sorts of motivations: both men have used money-losing papers in pursuit of political beliefs – and in so doing, as each would argue about the other, placed politics above journalism.

It’s clear now that the Keep It In The Ground campaign has failed.  Trump and Brexit showed how post truth triumphed.  The UK anti fracking campaign that is centred on Adam Vaughan of the Guardian may have slowed things down, but certainly not triumphed.

The folks at Climate Home, 350, and Keep It In The Ground got to where they are today in large part by rejecting any pragmatism for the role of natural gas – again a fuel they fully supported when the debate was about facts not feelings, science not emotion.  This is the  “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” meme that went from Cicero to Goldwater to Malcolm X and now apparently resides both in Trumpism and radical anti frackers.

I fear that some of the Keep It In The Ground tendency will take the wrong conclusion.  They, somewhat like the UK Labour Party under Corbyn, feel that the only reason they failed was due to not being extreme enough in their policies.

Just as Corbyn will take the left down with him, environmentalist extremists won’t learn lessons.  That would be devastating for the environment, but devastating for democracy too.  We need a new centre for a new world, in both politics and environment, before we end up with neither.  We’re standing on the edge of an abyss. What the answer is I don’t know but we have to realise where we stand and how we got there.  This from Michael Lewis in the FT is depressing and instructive, but only if the Green movement engages in some self criticism and learns from the new world:

(Trump’s) rise to power, in this sense, marks the triumph of the irrational in US politics.

“Every which way, Trump is exploiting the faulty mechanisms in people’s minds,” …. “It feels like we are in a world where, to me, some meaningful part of the electorate is beyond reasoning with — beyond fact, anti-science. All the mental faculties that lead to human progress, they are opposed to.”

Faulty mechanisms are in everyone’s minds, not just Trump’s and Farage’s, but in Alan Rusbridger’s too.  It’s time to abandon outdated concepts before they drag everyone down.

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Was the resurrection a conjuring trick with bones? Bishop David Jenkins RIP

Today, 4th Sept 2016 it was announced that Bishop David Jenkins had died. Some of us will remember the uproar he caused in 1984 over his theology and especially on the resurrection.



Image result for david jenkins

David Jenkins hit the news shortly after he was appointed Bishop of Durham in 1984. Prior to that he was professor at Leeds following time with William temple and the World council of Churches, where he developed his Humanum studies. Until 1984 Jenkins was a little known moderately liberal professor of theology. In January 1979 I went to a William Temple Foundation conference in Manchester , where he was the most conservative voice – but not conservative enough for me!

Jenkins was interviewed on TV and then the storm broke. Essentially he said nothing new and theologically he was no more liberal than his immediate predecessor John Habgood, or Hensley Henson half a century before. Jenkins was in the tradition of scholarly Durham bishops; Lightfoot, Westcott, Ramsay and Habgood in particular. Like Henson in the 1920s, Jenkins did not believe in the Virgin Birth or the empty tomb in respect of the resurrection. I am quite sure Lightfoot, Westcott and Ramsay could have challenged him!!

The difference was that others put their theology around in learned articles and conferences and not prime time TV, where some theologically clueless journo could make a story out of it  – and they did. I had a copy of the transcript of the TV programme back then – but it has been lost after several moves. From memory it was not memorable, but simply a brief and popular summary of a widely -held liberal theological belief. Though I then took a far more conservative position than he did – and still do – there was nothing startling. It was similar the theology taught at the Anglican theological colleges Ripon Hall or Westcott House, but not the tranche of evangelical ones.

However the media picked up his denial of the Virgin Birth and also claimed he did not believe the resurrection. That was totally untrue, but his memorable sound-bite that the resurrection was not

A conjuring trick with bones

was taken to imply that he rejected the resurrection.

After the media and the conservative theological underworld went into overdrive, and Jenkins was unjustly known as the unbelieving bishop. Even a parishioner at my church in Liverpool asked if all who studied at Durham had similar views 🙂 (She wasn’t overly partial to me and once our 4 year old asked why she had funny hair. Luckily a lady, who was stone deaf heard her first, and made the comment apply to her. Muriel saved the day!)

In fact the sound bite “not a conjuring trick with bones” makes an incredibly important point, and on this point I am at one with Jenkins. I am sure (without checking what he wrote) that Jenkins believed that Jesus rose but not the account of the empty tomb. I think he is wrong to deny the empty tomb, but he has (present tense of course) a great grasp of what the resurrection means.

He used the expression “a conjuring trick with bones” to show that the widely-held popular idea that on the first Easter Day Jesus literally physically rose again. Sadly that is held by many with theological training i.e. clergy, as well.If the resurrection was  a conjuring trick then it was resuscitation rather than resurrection. That happened to Lazarus (John chap 11) as he was only to die again.

When you read the resurrection narratives in the four gospels CAREFULLY, you will see it is not a conjuring trick or resuscitation, but much more than that. Jesus was recognisable , but not quite physical as we read in Luke 24 on the Emmaus Road and with Thomas in John 20. So “dem dry bones” were not put together again by a conjoror. It was something more. Often writers and preachers are very slipshod over this and seem to imply a purely physical resuscitation, ooops-  I mean resurrection.

As I started my training I found this a problem but found the book Risen Indeed by Grenville Yarnold very helpful. ( I was given a copy as Gren was my uncle and godfather and before ordination senior physics lecturer at Nottingham. He married my mother’s sister, whereas my mother married a biochemist, who was a second generation atheist. I did not carry on that tradition!) In the book Gren argued first for the Empty Tomb, which I consider to be essential in our understanding.

Most important was his treatment of the “body” of the Risen Christ. After dealing with all the resurrection narratives at the end of each gospel, he said clearly that the Risen Jesus did not have a physical body, but a  quasiphysical body (lit; as-if-physical). I found that made so much sense and it guided my understanding of the nature of the resurrection for the last forty or more years.It helped me to avoid the two errors (I am tempted to say heresy) of a literal conjuring trick with bones and denial of the empty tomb and a purely spiritual resurrection. The former leads to crass materialism and the latter to a wispy rejection of the material. As Jesus is the first of the New Creation, he is very material indeed and we see that the Resurrection involves not only people but the renewal of the whole creation (apokatstasis if you prefer).

More recently, Tom Wright has argued the same point (p476ff) in his book The Resurrection that the Resurrection of Jesus is not physical nor spiritual but


I think that is a better word but it has the same meaning as Gren’s quasiphysical.

This briefly is how I have reflected for three decades on Jenkins’ conjuring trick with bones. He was making a very important and serious point but I do think his successor as Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, came up with a better understanding , but without a memorable sound-bite. After all”transphysical” is unsuitable for News Night or The Daily Mail.

Christ is risen

He is risen indeed, alleluia

P.S. I said all that is needed in exactly 1000 words!

Why Bill McKibben’s “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” World War II Analogy is Ridiculous

As the Divestment campaign continues and even infiltrates the churches, here are four reasons why it is wrong  and McKibbin especially so.

I expect most at Greenbelt will agree with McKibbin but ought to live out the implications. The first of these is that Mckibbin would not fly from Seattle to the UK so as to keep-it-in-the-ground



Four Reasons – Beyond the Obvious – Why Bill McKibben’s “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” World War II Analogy is Ridiculous

Climate activist Bill McKibben has officially jumped the shark, penning a cover article for New Republic this week that claims ending all fossil fuels is the equivalent of what the Greatest Generation did when they stormed the beaches of Normandy:

“We’re under attack from climate change and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.”

“It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing.”

The “mobilization plan” the leader of the “Keep it in the Ground” (KIITG) movement speaks of is an immediate conversion to 100 percent renewable energy — which is essentially a declaration of war on reality, as a pair of prominent Democrats have recently pointed out.

Obama Science Advisor John Holdren has said, “The notion that we’re going to keep it all in the ground is unrealistic,” while Clinton campaign chair John Podesta has called the KIITG agenda McKibben is pushing “completely impractical.”

And as EID has noted numerous times, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which activists including McKibben have long called the “gold standard” for understanding climate change — has stated fracking brings down greenhouse gases.

So beyond the fact that McKibben continues to deny the science and push absurdities (yes, he likens fossil fuels to Hitler) here’s a closer look at the four reasons why McKibben’s plan is as impractical as it is ridiculous.

Reason #1: McKibben wants to end the one fuel responsible for significant decreases in GHG emissions

McKibben and the KIITG movement continue to ignore the fact that the U.S. energy-related CO2 emission are at their lowest levels in nearly a quarter century. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has projected that domestic CO2 emissions will drop to their lowest levelssince 1992 this year. Any objective observer would have to agree the fact that natural gas is now the U.S.’s top source of electricity generation has everything to do with that trend.

In fact — thanks to fracking — electrical generation is no longer the top industrial source of CO2 emissions, as conversion to natural gas for electrical generation has accounted for 68 percent of the 14 percent total reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions during last decade. This has all happened at the same time the economy has grown 15 percent, reversing a trend in which economic growth has been coupled with emission increases.

McKibben certainly would have applauded these trends back in 2009, when he was standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol demanding power plants switch to clean-burning natural gas. McKibben was so cognizant of natural gas’ climate benefits that he was even willing to get himself arrested in efforts to get power plants switched to natural gas, as he said in the build up to the protest:

“There are moments in a nation’s — and a planet’s — history when it may be necessary for some to break the law … We will cross the legal boundary of the power plant, and we expect to be arrested.”

McKibben even said a conversion to natural gas would be good for the economy, which, of course, has proven to be a spot-on assessment.

Flash forward seven years, and McKibben’s tone is much the same, but with a few notable caveats: Natural gas is now the enemy even though it reducing GHG emissions — which is ironically the No. 1 goal of the KIITG movement. Furthermore, there are huge doubts about the economic and logistic feasibility of the alternative McKibben is pushing, which brings us to the next two reasons his New Republic article is ridiculous.

Reason #2: Study McKibben cites as evidence of renewable energy’s economic viability shows 100 percent conversion would yield millions of job losses

Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson’s research has long been used by greens to try to sell their 100 percent renewable ideology as being economically feasible, and McKibben’s New Republic piece is just the latest example, as he claims:

“For starters, it’s important to remember that a truly global mobilization to defeat climate change wouldn’t wreck our economy or throw coal miners out of work. … It would produce an awful lot of jobs. (An estimated net gain of roughly two million in the United States alone.)

But a recent EID review of Jacobson’s plan found his own data showed a 100 percent renewable conversion would actually destroy nearly four million long-term jobs nationwide with a net loss of 1.2 million jobs.

Those figures were buried on an Excel sheet from Jacobson’s website under a tab titled “Total Job Loss.” Jacobson’s own data showed that a complete conversion to renewables would yield the elimination of 2.4 million transportation jobs, 800,000 oil and gas production jobs and 90,000 coal mining related jobs — a grand total of 3.8 million jobs lost, compared to the 2.6 million long-term jobs Jacobson claims his plan would create.

Not surprisingly, after EID brought this information to light, Jacobson claimed these numbers were not “real” and “test” numbers. He subsequently deleted the “Total Job Loss” tab on excel sheet from his website.

Jacobson also originally touted that his plan would result in a net gain of four million jobs. However, we would be remiss not to note the latter was based on his projection of 5.3 million construction jobs being created — the kind of “temporary” jobs greens have long criticized as not being “real” jobs. Interestingly, McKibben has now halved Jacobson’s original claim to two million net jobs created, which may or may not have something to do with EID highlighting the original inclusion of these “temporary” jobs. But bottom line: both of his figures are wrong.

Reason #3: Experts agrees a conversion to 100 percent renewables is impractical

Even before EID shed some much-needed light on what Jacobson’s data really forecasted on the jobs lost/jobs created front, his rosy plan for a 100 percent renewable energy conversion was highly criticized for being completely impractical from a basic functionality standpoint.

Roger Pielke, a professor in the environmental studies program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has called Jacobson’s 100 percent renewables plan for New York a “fantasy” and “magic thinking.”

Dr. James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s most famous climate scientists, says that believing in the feasibility of a rapid transition to renewables is more of a mythical belief than a reality-based argument, stating:

“Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.” (emphasis added)

Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute — whom TIME Magazine has declared a “hero of the environmentsimilarly critiqued Jacobson’s plan for 100 percent renewables, specifically Jacobson’s decision to rule out nuclear power, which produces no carbon dioxide emissions. Shellenberger also notes “solar and wind are totally different than [fossil fuels] and inferior in that they’re intermittent.”

Even a Daily Kos blogger, who allowed Jacobson a forum to respond to EID’s findings, criticized his 100 percent renewables plan as impractical. In a comment posted to the article including Dr. Jacobson’s interview, the environmental blogger said that “no electric utility is ever going to adopt Jacobson’s plan” because, among other things, the “wind power component of Jacobson’s plan cannot be relied upon for reliable electric power generation and supply.”

The latter facts were recently highlighted in a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which brings us to our next example of why McKibben’s piece essentially declared war on reality.

Reason #4: Renewables need natural gas like a fish needs water

McKibben notes in the New Republic piece that retired engineer Tom Solomon has calculated that the 100 percent conversion to renewables mapped out in Jacobson’s plan would require “about 6,448 gigawatts of clean energy to replace fossil fuels — or the equivalent of 295 solar factories the size of Elon Musk’s SolarCity Gigafactory under construction in Buffalo, N.Y.”

Considering this would equate to the construction of six such factories per state over that timespan, even Solomon admits this is a very tall task. And, ironically, it would require a whole lot of natural gas to execute.

What McKibben, Jacobson and other KIITG supporters always fail to mention is — due to the fact that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine —all the new wind and solar infrastructure would be required to have backup generation options due to their status as intermittent sources of energy. And that backup source will likely be natural gas, due to all the economic and environmental factors we have already discussed.

As the National Bureau of Economic research study notes, eight megawatts of back-up capacity are required for any 10 megawatts of wind capacity added to the grid. Again, this is required.

That study also makes reference to research suggesting that in order for photovoltaic power to be a viable base-load resource, it must have the ability to store solar electricity for 20 hours. Problem is, no such massive storage technology currently exists, which is why rapid-fire fossil fuel backup power (i.e. natural gas) is necessary to “spot” solar power, so to speak.

These realities considered, the study points out that renewable conversion is much more expensive than its proponents are leading on, and that usually means the added cost will be passed along to customers.

“… the estimated indirect costs of renewables are at least an order of magnitude greater than those associated with dispatchable fossil-fuel technologies. For the latter, system costs are relatively modest, generally estimated below USD 3 per MWh (megawatt-hour) in OECD countries. For the formers, such costs are as high as USD 40 per MWh for onshore wind, USD 45 per MWh for offshore wind and USD 80 per MWh for solar. These high estimates are the direct results of the need for additional system reserves and back-up generation to ensure system reliability. Renewable energy system costs will also increase over-proportionally with the amount of variable electricity in the system, with far-fetching [reaching] implications for the energy markets and security of supply. Ignoring them can thus lead to a severe underestimation of the social and private costs of any energy transition.”

It is important to note that this study was not the product of an industry source or so-called “climate deniers.” And independent experts such as Christopher Knittel, who directs the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at MIT, largely agree with the conclusions, as Knittel made the following comment to the Washington Post.

“It’s a reality check now,” said Knittel of the study’s insights on the practicality and financial issues regarding conversion to renewables. “I think it’s potentially bad news as we start to get higher and higher penetration levels of renewables.”


That McKibben choses to compare the incredible sacrifices of the Greatest Generation to the KIITG movement is bad enough.

Making matters worse, McKibben’s piece ignores the fact that a fuel he advocates eliminating is achieving his movement’s stated goal — reduced GHG emissions — while the alternative he’s proposing has been unequivocally deemed economically and functionally impractical.

Throw in the strange irony that McKibben has declared war on a fuel that he was willing to go to jail for just seven years ago, and it’s no wonder mainstream Democrats simply don’t agree with McKibben and the extreme “Keep-it-in-the-Ground” movement he represents. U.S. Interior Secretary and former National Parks Conservation Association board member Sally Jewell pretty much summed it up when she said:

“It’s going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve.”

Viscious ISIS-style sexism from the biblical book of Judges

The two most violent books of the bible are Joshua and Judges. I used to call them the Taliban period of the Bible but now call them the ISIS era. I am reading Joshua at present and am relieved that I do not have to draw my inspiration from their example.

It’s from judges 19 and is the story of the Levite and his concubine, who after being gang-raped is chopped up into 12 pieces and each piece sent to a different part of Israel.

For sickening horror it is what we hear about ISIS and their abominations.

So why is it in the Bible? First, I think, because the Bible tells us as it is and records the horror as well as the good. and secondly as a warning on what not to do (2 Timothy 3 vs 16-17).

Then we should not regard the bible of equal value throughout and definitely not giving us (bad) examples to slavishly follow. To anyone it should be clear that this act is contrary to the whole Old Testament Law, which is more compassionate than any other ancient set of laws.

Further for a Christian the authority of the New Testament is paramount and above that of the Old Testament. Or as I put it aphoristically

The New Testament trumps the Old Testament

I am sure some evangelicals will disagree with that, but the whole tenor of the New Testament is that the gospel supercedes the Old Testament , even though Jesus builds on the foundation of the Old Testament.

The great disservice many evangelicals have done is to so stress the inerrancy and authority of the WHOLE Bible that they do not see that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Testament. To do otherwise opens us up to returning to the era of ISIS- Judaism rather than the Gospel based on the sacrificial love of Jesus.

If any thinks I am totally heretical over this, then please teach this story to a group of kids under 10 whether in Church or at a church school

I rest my case.

BTW I value the Old Testament and read it thoroughly and often, but parts are sickenly violent and only serve to remind us how awful humans can be.


The story of the Levite and his concubine in Judges 19 is one of the most misunderstood stories in the Bible. Many Christians have never read the story and are unfamiliar with its gruesome details.…

Source: Blaming the Woman

Photos of 16th century Bibles

Last week on my annual jaunt with Harvard biology summer schools students looking at Darwin’s activities in Shropshire and Wales, we visited the library at Shrewsbury School

As well as a first edition of the Origin of Species


they also had a first edition of the 1600 King James/authorised Bible.



The cover is a bit worn but not bad for 405 years.



Here is Genesis 1 in gothic scropt



and a bit of illustrated chronology


The contents also list the Apocrypha, which was generally included at that time.


There was also an early copy of William Morgans Welsh Bible

Must last ancient bible is a another Jacobean gem. This time it is the personal copy of King James II, which somehow ended up in Shrewsbury.



The embossing is superb.


and included the royal insignia


gone is the gothic script but it includes a form of “f” for “s” which only went out in about 1820*. Every page was adorned with red lines, which were not printed but hand-drawn.

I presume King James left these behind when he relinquished the throne


I would not like to guess how much these books are worth today or what they cost when printed. Suffice to say early bibles of 1450 cost the equivalent of £250,000 or so.


And finally a 15th century printed book showing the fall of Adam and Eve. With an unusual snake up a tree.

P.S. The problem of “f” as “s”. I have a copy of John Wesley’s Primitive Physic  and section 49 on “A consumption” makes for odd reading as para 191 reads;

191. In the last stage, fuck a healthy woman daily. This cured my father.

However nowhere in the book is “f” used as “s”.  This is an unusual aspect of orthography and printing.


I am very grateful to the librarian of Shrewsbury School showing us these and allowing me to share these on my blog.



Lessons from the Peleton


I nicked this from Bishop Lee Rayfield of Bristol diocese who draws a Christian message from road cycling. Some useful thoughts, but I’d never be a road cyclist and regard an average of 10 mph as good


Top of Jeffrey Hill, near Longridge, which has a section of 1 in 5 or 20%, which I cycle up each year along with other hills

Lessons from the Peloton

Bishop LeeIn this lighter summertime piece, Bishop Lee looks at the sport of road cycling to draw some parallels with what is expected of Christian disciples.

Those who know me well appreciate that two things are very close to my heart – road cycling and the Lord Jesus Christ. With the Tour de France still fresh in our minds and the Tour of Britain coming soon this seems a good moment to ask “What do professional road cyclists and Christian disciples have in common?” Here are a few thoughts with some Bible references for further reflection and exploration:

Teamwork – although some still believe that the 198 cyclists who line up for the Tour de France are all out to win the competition for themselves they are mistaken. It is all about the team working with and for one another. Being a follower of Jesus is not about a solo performance but working with others in the Church, the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Gifting – the team contains cyclists who can maintain high speed on rolling terrain (rouleurs), sprinters who can ride for one hundred miles or more yet still finish the last 200m at over 40 mph, and climbers who can fly up steep hills or one mountain gradient after another. Every person’s gift is valued and honed for the good of the whole team (1 Corinthians 12: 12-31).

Serving – some cyclists spend their whole career as domestiques. They have no aspiration of winning; their role is to ensure that others – especially the lead rider – are protected, provided for, and given every opportunity to win either a stage or the overall race (Mark 10: 41-45).

One Leader – in any race, but particularly in a stage race such as the Tour de France, one person is the nominated leader in the overall competition. When there are two potential leaders, or occasionally even three, it usually spells trouble! For followers of Jesus it must never be about us but about Christ (1 Corinthians 3: 1-11).

Suffering – a word you will hear a lot among amateur road cyclists as well as professionals. Getting better as a cyclist does not abrogate suffering, rather it means learning how to bear it for longer. Road cyclists have to dig deep and learn to keep going when their body is telling them to stop, to give up (John 19: 23-27).

Sacrifice – on long mountain stages, the pace will get faster and faster as one member of the team after another rides on the front to provide cover for their leader and bear the brunt of the wind resistance. Team members sacrifice themselves by giving everything they have before dropping back totally spent and plummeting down the ranking (John 21: 18-19).

Courage – mountain descents and bunch sprints require tremendous nerve. Crashes during the madcap sprint are all too common, often ending in broken bones and smashed faces. Following the cyclists down mountains at speeds of up to 70 mph has caused journalists in their cars to be in tears because they have been so frightened. (Esther 7: 3-4).

Cheating – sadly professional road cycling, and even some amateur competitions, have been tainted by doping. From the very beginning of the sport there have been those who have taken drugs and other substances to improve their own chances. In the Lance Armstrong era doping was not only endemic but part of a culture of fear and corruption. (1 John 1: 5-2: 2).

Joy and Thanksgiving – at the end of each stage, and far more so at the conclusion of the entire race, the joy on the faces of the whole team and the gratitude that the winner expresses to his teammates is wonderful. In a competition such as the Tour de France the winnings are shared by the whole team (Romans 12: 9-21).

In penning this I want to conclude with two thoughts. First, men’s road racing is more familiar than women’s because of events such as the Tour de France, but each dimension above applies as much to women road cyclists as it does to men. (I chose Esther as an example of courage as a reminder of this). Unlike professional cycling, discipleship requires us to work in close partnership across gender, not in separate compartments.

Second, one of the reasons I find road cycling a powerful illustration for discipleship is because it says something I believe men need to hear about the nature of following Jesus Christ, namely that it is demanding, tough and deeply rewarding. My sense is that men need more help in recognizing these dimensions of the Christian life. Perhaps hanging a racing bike inside or outside the church might promote an interesting engagement around this by men and women?

August 2016

Is Pope Francis Pro-life? The Perplexing Silence ofLaudato Si’ on Human Overpopulation

Is Pope Francis Pro-life? The Perplexing Silence ofLaudato Si’ on Human Overpopulation

I nicked this blog of Peter hess from Huffpost http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-m-j-hess-phd/is-pope-francis-prolife-t_b_10709504.html

I am sure Peter wont mind

07/01/2016 02:47 pm ET | Updated 1 day ago
  • Peter M. J. Hess, Ph.D. Theology for a Sustainable Future
  • A year after the highly anticipated publication of Laudato Si’ I continue to ask myself, “Is Pope Francis really pro-life?” That was my first question on reading through his lengthy encyclical letter a year ago. The pope had a fantastic opportunity—from the most visible pulpit in the world—to address the causes and treatments of one of the greatest threats to life on earth: anthropogenic climate change. I’m glad he took this opportunity, and I hope he’ll revisit the topic.

    However, the encyclical leaves one glaring omission: not once in forty-thousand words did Pope Francis say a single thing about one of the two critical drivers of accelerating environmental degradation: human overpopulation. By our sheer numbers and our energy-extravagant lifestyle, we Homo sapiens are driving huge numbers of our fellow species—and possibly ourselves as well—toward theprecipice of extinction. In this respect Laudato Si’s analysis and treatment of a complex problem is surprisingly weak.

    Please do not mistake this as an anti-Catholic diatribe. I write as a lifelong Roman Catholic and a trained theologian. I have deep loyalty to my church and her gospel of freedom, to her ministries of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and educating tens of millions around the world. I believe that how we live our faith in light of climate change may be the biggest ecclesiological issue of our time: without a livable world there will be no church left at all.

    Along with global overconsumption of finite resources, overpopulation is one of the twin pillars underlying all our ecological crises. Together they account for the exhaustion in a few centuries of fossil fuels laid down over hundreds of millions of years. Together they are responsible for skyrocketing CO2, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, inundation of island nations and coastal cities, and accelerating ecological refugeeism around the globe. Together they account for coral reef bleaching, deforestation, habitat destruction, and worldwide extinction of species on a scale unseen for millions of years.

    In a century and a half the human population has skyrocketed from one billion to 7.42 billion, fueled by a one-time bonanza of fossil energy. The industrial application of fossil fuels improved agriculture and furthered the advance of science and technology. More food meant fewer people died of starvation, and modern medicine found ways to decrease the infant and child mortality rate and increase the human life span. In themselves these are good developments, but when they are not matched by a corresponding reduction in birth rate, a population surplus quickly starts to build.

    Why might a “pro-life” pope fail to recognize that human overpopulation is a problem for all life on earth? Of the sixteen occurrences of the word “population” inLaudato Si’, only three are relevant to this point. These are found in paragraph 50, in the context of the discussion of human numbers. The first instance is a flat-out denial: “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and to a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” Pope Francis seems unable or unwilling to acknowledge that there is a biological limit to Earth’s carrying capacity for humans just as there is for every other species on our planet.

    The second use of the term correctly points to the arrogance and danger of ignoring excessive consumption: “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.” Indeed, it would be completely wrong simply to point fingers elsewhere and ignore the thirty-times-greater environmental impact children born in the developed world have than those born in developing nations: “It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized.” The pope correctly addresses here the second pillar of environmental degradation.

    But the pope’s third reference shows that his understanding of population issues does not reflect the facts of biological equilibrium: “Attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations.” The claim that population density is a merely local problem is false on many counts. The delicate balance between earth’s inhabitants is constrained by numerous factors related to the population of competing species.

    Lions once ranged widely across Africa and into Syria, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and northwest India. 2,000 years ago more than a million lions roamed the Earth; today there may be as few as 20,000 left. Demographers estimate the African human population will be four billion by 2100, equivalent to the entire global population in 1974. Tigers likewise are in precipitous decline: the Bengal Tiger population stood at 100,000 in 1900, and numbered fewer than 4,000 in in 2013. With India at 1.4 billion humans today, the human/tiger ratio is 35,000 to one.Examples of other fauna being crowded out by humans include African elephants, rhinoceros, pandas, polar bears, sharks, whales, and other large species. By our sheer numbers we humans are presiding over the sixth great mass extinction event in the history of earth.

    Ultimately we humans are just as vulnerable as all the other species we are extinguishing, and sooner or later our population in excess of carrying capacity will be pitilessly trimmed by the factors of famine, disease, refugeeism, and brutal wars over water, energy, land, and resources. This should be recognized as a serious moral problem for a pro-life position. Twenty-five years ago Catholic missionarySean McDonagh asked in The Greening of the Church, “Is it really pro-life to ignore the warnings of demographers and ecologists who predict that unbridled population growth will lead to severe hardship and an increase in the infant mortality rate for succeeding generations? Is it pro-life to allow the extinction of hundreds of thousands of living species which will ultimately affect the well-being of all future generations on the planet?”

    Pope Francis has said many important things in Laudato Si’, and my critique should not detract from what is an excellent first foray by Catholic Church leadership into discussions of ecological degradation. But sweeping overpopulation under the carpet is like leaving the eggs out of eggs Benedict. I hope Laudato Si’ is only the first installment in a courageous reappraisal of theology-as-status-quo, and that we can look forward soon to another encyclical addressing the problem of human overpopulation in its integral relationship with overconsumption.

    Challenging Bullying in Churches

    Surely there can be no bullying in churches, as all christians are lovely to each other!! Sadly that is untrue as some Christians are simply bastards to anyone who does not adulate them.

    Bullying is very common in churches , whether clergy on clergy, clergy on parishioners or parishioners on clergy or parishioners on parishioners.

    I can give loads of examples, including from the hierachy at times, right across the board.

    Fortunately the churches are beginning to take this seriously

    Source: Challenging Bullying in Churches

    Challenging Bullying in Churches

    3291-000123Following my post last week about Rosemary Power’s new Grove booklet Challenging Bullying in ChurchesI was sent this review from a fellow clergy person, drawing on that person’s own experience. I know who the author is, but the review is (understandably) offered anonymously.

    Nobody likes to be called a bully—and while it’s good to believe that if you stand up to bullies they will back down; we know that it’s not always the case. That is why I am writing this review anonymously, in the hope that it might help others without causing further pain to me or those near me.

    Ian opened his blog post on this last week with the question: ‘Does Bullying Happen in Churches?’ It doesn’t take long as you read through his post, and Rosemary Power’s Grove Booklet Challenging Bullying in Churches, that the answer is unequivocally ‘yes’ and that it is far more common than any of us like to admit. I am an ordained minister of some years standing and probably not someone who would most people would see as a target of bullying. But as I was reading through Power’s book I found much which resonated with me.


    Power outlines and discusses definitions of bullying from ACAS but I found her own definition much more useful, certainly in a Church context:

    Bullying is the sustained use of power destructively against another. It takes an act of will by the perpetrator and requires the acquiescence of onlookers.

    This definition is helpful because it names the question as one of power and identifies that there are more people involved than the perpetrator and the target, other people have to allow it to happen, something which is often related to the culture and history of the local church and the community in which it is set.

    I am not sure, though, whether her definition of ‘spiritual bullying’ goes far enough.

    Spiritual bullying is defined as the situation in which the ‘senior’ faith worker uses his (sic) greater understanding of theology, or experience of being a minister, to point out the failings of the junior faith worker.

    The reality is far more complex than that. While this is undeniably one way in which spiritual bullying can occur, it can happen in many other ways too. Clergy do use their positional power to bully lay people or members of staff. Lay people can spiritually bully clergy by using what they consider to be their greater understanding or experience of being a Christian. They may have no positional power but instead have a high level of relational or financial power. Sometimes this might come with the implicit (or sometimes explicit) criticism that all that stuff you did in theological college was (at best) a waste of time, or at other times comes from something they have heard at a conference or read in a book (or on a blog!). Interestingly Power gives what I believe is a far more helpful definition of spiritual bullying on page 19 when she is addressing bullies directly and encouraging them to take practical steps which might help:

    Beware of spiritual bullying—believing bullying actions are for the good of another or to ensure his or her improvement.

    Causes and Consequences

    Power draws on some helpful case studies here and describes exactly what bullying can feel like:

    Bullying can dominate someone’s life. The bullied person may reach a point where they fear every email and letter. Emotionally their judgement is likely to be impaired. They may need time off for stress … (page 7)

    Fear is the dominant emotion here, and emails make this worse especially now they can be pushed at people through their smart phones. Turning off email notifications or having a work email account which you only access on your computer is one way of dealing with this, but it doesn’t stop text messages!

    The one thing which I believe Power misses from this is the effect that this can have on ministerial families, especially when the family home is tied to the job (as almost all are). Clergy move with their families and are ‘all in’—home, school, work, worship and Christian identity are all bound up together. The sense of isolation that this can cause can be almost overwhelming—especially for spouses and children.

    Causes of Conflict

    Power is spot on here: conflict is about power and it can be so intense in churches because of all the reasons that she lists in the bullet points at the bottom of page 13 (quoting Alistair McKay). From my experience the following points are especially significant:

    • Matters of faith go to the heart of our identities
      I would say this is true both for clergy and lay people
    • The church provides opportunities for exercising power and influence which may not be available to people elsewhere in their lives
      To which I would add: or if it is available it can be exercised with far less accountability in the church.
    • A tendency to avoid or spiritualize conflict
      Which is why ‘spiritual bullying’ is such a serious problem which is often allowed to go unchecked.
    • A lack of maturity and personal self-awareness
      Of course this is something we all need to grow in throughout our lives. One of the things that makes this so difficult is that I wonder if bullying is something that is ‘in the eye of the beholder’. I have been forced to reflect on whether may response to being bullied has been to use my positional power in overly defensive ways instead of seeking to be an ‘undefended’ leader.

    This is certainly a toxic combination and Power’s reflection on Jesus’ teaching on power relations in Matthew 18 and events throughout his life leading to his passion and death is a helpful reminder than none of this is new or should be unexpected.

    Responses & Getting Help

    Without a doubt the most challenging response that Power gives is the encouragement to “pray for your tormentors daily, by name…recognize that, though they might be acting badly, they may think they are doing God’s work, protecting God’s church.” Not easy, but undoubtedly the right response, though we need to be aware that this type of prayer can become a form of self-abuse, so may need to be done under the care of a counsellor or Spiritual Director.

    Power then goes on to list helpful advice for those who perpetrate bullying, for church leaders and organizations and for onlookers. The final chapter suggests places where people can get help and advice and it ends with a final theological reflection on the process of writing the book.

    Final Thoughts

    My final reflection is that we all have a part to play in addressing this, because bulling can only happen when onlookers acquiesce, so in one sense they are not really ‘onlookers’ at all, they are as involved as everyone else. I think that is worth bearing in mind for those who will respond by commenting on the blog or on Ian’s Facebook wall. Some may see this as another ‘whingeing clergy rant’ and let us know how incompetent we are anyway, some may sympathise, some may recount tales of how they have been bullied by clergy (which I don’t doubt are true). Some will respond with a version of “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”—but the problem is that many clergy are doing precisely that.

    The one ingredient which is so often missing in my experience when bullying is involved isrespect. Whenever this word is used in this context then usually the response will be something like ‘respect has to be earnt, not given’ but that is not what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5.12-13:

    We appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

    Of course this can be and is abused by some and they must be challenged, but Paul seems to be suggesting here that without respect for those in authority in the church there will be no peace, which makes this a gospel imperative, for who wants to be part of something that is at war with itself?

    Finally, perhaps the most important thing about this book is that it has been written at all. Bullying does happen and it is a serious problem for the church. In the end perhaps the best way forward is to acknowledge that and bring it into the light:

    No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. (Luke 8.16–17)

    Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 08.45.37Rosemary’s booklet has clearly hit a nerve and is addressing an very important issue. For anyone local to Nottingham, there will be a book launch on Monday 20th June at 6pm at St Peter’s Church, Nottingham NG1 2NW (next to M and S).  Light refreshments available from 5.30 pm.  All are welcome to come and meet the author, Rosemary Power.  Copies of the booklet can be obtained on the evening or for £3.95 (p and p free) fromthe Grove website.

    Follow me on Twitter @psephizo

    How to trip up Christian asylum seekers?

    This is a crass way of testing whether a migrant who claims to be Christian is in fact so.

    The Home Office has been both daft and unreasonable

    I wonder who the twerp who made these up is!!

    Ialso wonder how many Christians need to be deported for failing this test. I would say the majority.

    Can You Name All Ten Commandments? If Not, This (and 18 Other Questions) Could Get You Deported


    Take this quiz of Christian trivia faced by converts from Islam seeking asylum in the UK.
    Can You Name All Ten Commandments? If Not, This (and 18 Other Questions) Could Get You DeportedAndrew Seaman / Flickr

    What color is the cover of the Bible? This shows invincible ignorance. A bible can be any color, my working ones are blue/green/red; reds and blues; carmine, others are black, blue, red-brown, green, dark blue

    How many books are in the Bible?

    Who did Jesus raise from the dead, and which book can you find it in?

    These questions, among the nearly 20 questions in CT’s quiz below, have been asked of Christian converts from Islam who are applying for asylum in the United Kingdom. Wrong answers put them at a high risk of deportation. [Take the quiz yourself and see if you’d face the same fate.]

    Such questions are unfair, according to a new report released today from the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief and the Asylum Advocacy Group (which includes organizations such as the Evangelical Alliance UK, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, and Release International).

    “The problem with those questions is that if you are not genuine you can learn the answers, and if you are genuine, you may not know the answers,” Elizabeth Berridge, who chairs the group, told the BBC.

    Another problem: the case workers determining whether a refugee deserves asylum don’t necessarily understand Christianity, Mark Miller, a pastor of Iranian converts in a church in northern England, told CT.

    “Why did God send Jesus to earth?” he said. “The HO [Home Office] said the answer ‘to wipe out the sins of all humans’ was wrong, and that ‘Jesus came to teach us how to behave’ was the correct answer.”

    The All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief unveiled their report today.

    All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief

    The All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief unveiled their report today.

    As refugees stream from the Middle East, countries of refuge—including the United States, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic—have struggled withjudging which converts are sincere.

    Asylum seekers, especially from countries hostile to Christianity, know that a conversion may help them remain in their desired host country. But converting to Christianity doesn’t solve everything—in addition to not guaranteeing asylum, for many, it means facing insults and violence in their resettlement areas.

    In 2015, the UK updated its guidelines to clarify how to deal with religious refugees:

    At interview, the claimant should have been able to describe the personal experiences in the faith of his or her origin and of the encounters or contacts with Christianity (for example, the people who inspired, or the readings which attracted, and which contributed to the decision to accept and follow it) and how far this occurred in the home country or in the UK.

    A person’s faith story likely includes baptism and worship at a church, state the guidelines. But asking anything beyond the basic knowledge questions isn’t allowed:

    Although the person’s understanding of the faith and of the particular Christian tradition the claimant has joined (if any) is relevant, caseworkers are not qualified to assess the accuracy or relevance of answers to more than the most basic knowledge questions (another reason for not overdoing that line of questioning at interview). But statements of belief or answers to specific questions which are so clearly wrong that no reasonably well-informed person could be expected to take them seriously will call into question the credibility of the conversion.

    These policy guidelines are sound, the report found. The problem is the way the guidelines have been put into practice.

    “[I]t is clear that a lack of understanding of religion and belief is a primary cause of the disparity between good policy guidelines and practices of decision-makers within the UK asylum system,” the report stated. Less than half (44%) of adults in Britain identify as Christians.

    That ignorance means decision makers are perusing (sometimes outdated) church websites or asking questions off “crib sheets,” according to the report.

    Those cheat sheets can bring trouble for asylum seekers no matter how they answer, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association told the parliamentary group. If seekers answer the questions incorrectly, they can be rejected for not being true converts. But if they answer correctly, they can be rejected for simply memorizing the correct thing to say.

    “Christian convert asylum seekers are still being asked detailed factual ‘Bible trivia’ questions, which is too simplistic a way to judge if an individual is, for example, a genuine convert,” the report stated.

    For example, Mohammed, a Christian convert from Iran, was asked what color the cover of the Bible was.

    “I knew there were different colors,” he told the BBC. “The one I had was red. They asked me questions I was not able to answer—for example, what are the Ten Commandments. I could not name them all from memory.”

    Mohammed’s application for asylum was rejected. So was a convert who didn’t know that Catholics abstained from meat on Friday. So was another convert who correctly named the last book of the Bible but did so in Farsi and was misunderstood.

    It is better to ask how a convert feels about Jesus, what being a Christian means to that person, and how being a Christian had affected his or her daily life, Miller told CT.

    The parliamentary group report advised the Home Office to track how many asylum claims were made on the basis of religious persecution (and how many were granted), to make sure case workers and interpreters were acting professionally, to work with faith communities to check applicants’ credibility, and to fast-track the asylum applications of dependents of any refugee who has been granted asylum for religious persecution reasons.

    In the United States, only 60 percent of practicing Christians (those who identify as Christian, say their faith is important in their lives, and have been to church within the past month) can name the first five books of the Bible, according to an American Bible Society and Barna Group report released last month. Fewer could identify Solomon as King David’s son (58%), or Elizabeth as John the Baptist’s mother (46%). More knew that the “3” in John 3:16 was the chapter (77%), and could identify Esther as a book of the Bible named after a woman (75%).

    CT has previously reported how questions about Thanksgiving and the apostle Paulalmost got Chinese Christians deported from the United States. CT has also noted criticisms of the questions Canada asks asylum seekers, as well as how Sweden’s secularity has put Christian converts at risk of being sent back to Iran.

    Can you answer these actual questions asked by UK immigration officers?

    1. How many books are in the Bible?
    2. How many books are in the New Testament?
    3. How many chapters are in the book of John?
    4. What are the 10 Commandments?
    5. Which gospel relates the story of Jesus’ birth?
    6. Where was Jesus born?
    7. What were the names of Jesus’ earthly parents?
    8. What was his earthly father’s occupation?
    9. How many disciples did Jesus have? Name them.
    10. Where did Jesus become angry with the money lenders?
    11. Who did Jesus raise from the dead? Which book is this miracle in?
    12. Recite the Lord’s Prayer.
    13. What happened during the Last Supper?
    14. Who betrayed Jesus to the Romans?
    15. Where was Jesus arrested?
    16. What is Ash Wednesday?
    17. Is Easter celebrated on the same date every year?
    18. What is the date of Pentecost?
    19. What is the meaning of Lent?


    1. 66 depends whether you include the apocrypha or are Ethiopian Coptic and then it would be 80
    2. 27 Ethiopians would add a few
    3. 21
    4. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image and worship it. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord. Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet.
    5. Matthew and, more famously, Luke.
    6. Bethlehem but some scholars say Nazareth
    7. Mary and Joseph
    8. Carpenter tekton is actually a builder, so it was Joe, not Bob, the builder
    9. 12: Simon Peter, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew or Nathanael, Thomas, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot Liable to stump both the Archbishop and me
    10. In the temple
    11. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; it was recorded in John 11.
    12. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” ~ Matthew 6:9-13 (Late manuscripts add “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”) I couldn’t recite it word perfect when I was ordained
    13. During the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. He washed their feet, gave them bread and wine by which to remember his body and blood, and told them he would soon be betrayed.
    14. Judas Iscariot
    15. Garden of Gethsemane
    16. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian church.
    17. No. Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. (Thank the Council of Nicaea.) not if you belong to Orthodox or Coptic or Syriac traditions
    18. Pentecost is seven weeks after Easter.
    19. Lent is a season of 40 days that lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It represents Jesus’ 40 day stay in the desert, and those observing it pray, repent, and fast.

    Professor wants faith-based Christian universities for Scotland

    Re-blogged from Paul Braterman’s blog.

    Paul is right to show his concern for this, though we differ on the position of church schools.

    My impression is that would be a very narrowly-Christian university as shown by Fraser’s membership of the Wee Frees (who though very rigid – I would not be welcome – are not quite 6-day creationist).

    To us orthodox, but not fundamentalist Christians reference to “pre-suppositional framework” sets alarm bells ringing, as pre-suppositionalism is an extreme evangelical and largely very reformed argument which tends to exclude all others, Christian or not, by bleat “your pre-supps are wrong”. It is a closed impenetrateble self-confirming hermeneutic and is usually 6 day creationist.

    Unless I am a radical secularist, (as Creationists think I am) his labelling unvrsities as “radical secularist” is simply wrong. Our universities are SECULAR not secularist and on the whole staff and students of diverse beliefs can thrive in them.

    Perhaps this is a suggestion too far.


    Professor wants faith-based Christian universities for Scotland

    ProfJamesFraserProfessor James Fraser CBE,  has called for the establishment in Scotland of universities that teach within “the pre-suppositional framework of a Christian world view”, as opposed to the “radical secularist” position that he attributes to the existing universities, and holds up the network of Christian universities in the United States as a model. This demand is ill-conceived and presumptuous, and should be resisted. Professor Fraser is a philosophy graduate who has spent nearly all his career in university administration; he, of all people, should know better.

    Remember that Scottish Universities are very heavily dependent on taxpayer money, since Scottish students have their fees paid for them by the Government. So the proposed Christian universities would be funded, in direct competition with the existing system, at the expense of a general population of whom now less than half are Christian. But that’s the least of it.

    Self-styled Christian universities do indeed exist in the United States, and the problems that they pose should be enough to make Professor Fraser think again. They require their faculty to be Christians, and teach from a Christian point of view. But who is to say what point of view is Christian, and what is not? The Free Church, whose General Assembly he was addressing, adheres to a version of Christianity according to which the world was made in six days, the entire earth and life science content of the school curriculum must be wrong because it contradicts the Word of the Bible, humankind is “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good”, and all those who do not receive God’s grace are condemned to miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.

    Is this what Professor Fraser wants to be able to demand from his Faculty? There have been cases, in the United States, of distinguished Professors being sacked from these Christian universities, merely because they did not accept on faith the literal truth of Genesis. Is this what we are being asked to emulate?

    presupapolocoverAs for a “pre-suppositional framework”, that is a technical term that Professor Fraser will not have used lightly. The pre-supposition involved is that all reasoning and all evidence must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the framework, which is itself sacrosanct. Such an approach to knowledge is the very opposite of everything that a university stands for.

    And finally, the claim that existing universities are “radical secularist”. I honestly do not know what the learned Professor means. All points of view are represented within our universities, and that is how it should be. Religious viewpoints have, if anything, a privileged position. They have chapels for those who wish to use them, hold religious services, and provide facilities for chaplains of all faiths. And nothing could be more stimulating for believers and nonbelievers alike than to freely mix and to discuss their agreements and differences. Why would anyone wish things otherwise?

    Image of Professor Fraser from University of Highlands and Islands news release

    Source: Professor wants faith-based Christian universities for Scotland