Sunday, March 27, 2005


As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes about 3,000 years ago. But sometimes blogs do end:

Well, I think I have now covered pretty well the topics I wanted to cover here so this blog will now be joining my RECIPE BLOG and my MARX BLOG in being placed on hold. As with the other two blogs, however, I will be happy to post new material if something comes up in my emails that warrants it.

My decision to cease daily postings here arose partly out of my having committed the sin of David (2 Samuel 24) -- in numbering my readers. I have had a counter up for the past week which tells me that this blog gets about 60 hits per day. That compares with around 600 hits per day on Dissecting Leftism. So this is a very tiny corner of the blogosphere. 60 hits per day still probably amounts to a couple of hundred readers per week overall and I would be loath to abandon that many readers except for something else that the counter tells me: Almost all readers come here via Dissecting Leftism. So if I do put up any new posts here I will notify that on Dissecting Leftism and interested readers should find it.

My principal aim in doing this blog was to get people to read their NT more attentively and compare their beliefs with first-century Christianity. If I have done that for a few people I am pleased. Early Christianity was a faith of great power -- as judged by the strength that it gave believers in the early days of the Roman empire. So if anyone were to revive that faith today, I am confident that it would still have great strength and influence. But the reason I sent my son to a Catholic school was my belief that ANY passing on of the teachings of Jesus will be of great benefit to those who listen.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

JOHN 5: 21-30

"For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, even so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment. I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me".

I have so far concentrated heavily on Paul's account of the Day of Judgment in 1 Corinthians 15 because it is undoubtedly the most carefull spelled-out account in the NT but I thought I should also draw attention to at least some of the accounts given by Jesus himself. And the scripture above is I think fully in accord with the account Paul gives.

Once again we see that Jesus is seen as the agent God uses to run the show. We see that the alternatives are eternal life and death, not Heaven and Hell. We note that it is twice said that the dead SHALL hear the voice of God -- which assumes that they are not already alive somewhere and listening. We note again that ALL the dead (good and bad) are initially resurrected -- with the good guys going straight off into eternal life (compare Paul's description of the good guys being changed "in the twinkling of an eye") and the baddies going off not directly into the second death but rather into "judgment" ("kriseos" in the Greek -- the basis of our word "criticism"). This implies that the unrighteous dead get a prolonged examination before final death -- a divine courtcase or trial. That "kriseos" describes some sort of extended "legal" proceeding is also what is behind the statement (verse 24) that he who believes "cometh not into judgement". The good guys don't have to stand trial. They just get waved straight on. Note that Revelation 20:12 also seems to envisage an extended Day of Judgment legal process with books being opened and people being judged according to what is in the books.

There is however one rather curious point: What are we to make of "and now is"? Is Christ saying that the resurrection is happening at exactly the time he speaks? The fact that he teams it with a verb in the future tense ("shall") suggests not and the Greek word concerned ("nun") is in fact used in several different ways in the NT. In John 12:31 ("Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out"), for instance, it clearly means "presently" or "soon" and that is presumably also the meaning of the word in the passage above.

Britain's lost Christian culture

More than half of British people have no idea why Easter is celebrated, a survey revealed. Just 48 per cent of some 1,000 adults questioned for the Reader's Digest Magazine poll correctly answered the resurrection of Christ.

In addition, a massive 92 per cent failed to recognise Karol Wojtyla is better known as Pope John Paul II, according to the survey. People appeared to struggle with religious figureheads, with two-thirds clueless as to the identity of the Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams and 42 per cent unable to name Judas Iscariot as the man who betrayed Jesus.

Despite their lack of religious knowledge, the poll found 64 per cent of people quizzed believed in God and 58 per cent in an afterlife. "Britons have a strong spiritual sense, with a majority expressing a belief in God and an afterlife, but they have little grasp of or interest in the basic tenets of Christianity," said Reader's Digest editor-in-chief Katherine Walker. "Many people who would profess to be Christian know little more about the faith than they do about other world religions," she added.

More here

Friday, March 25, 2005


The OT view of what happens after the coming of the Messiah is straightforward. As we see in (say) Isaiah 11, the expectation is of the world being once more transformed into a big Eden in which resurrected man will live forever. But the NT has a different story. As I have recently been discussing at great length, the NT expectation is that good people are resurrected into a spiritual life in the Kingdom of Heaven. So what happens to the earth after that? With the exception of some texts of arguable implications in the book of Revelation (e.g. chapter 21) I know of no text that really answers that. Curiously enough, however, one very well-known text does seem to touch on it:

Matthew 6:10 "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven".

That text certainly does seem to suggest a restoration of God's kingdom to power ON EARTH. And there will presumably be somebody on earth to do God's will. So who will be there on earth if all the good guys have been transformed into spirit beings and taken up residence in Heaven (as 1 Corinthians 15 tells us)?

I think we just have to accept the obvious here: It is envisaged that human life will continue on earth but in a perfected form. The old OT vision is, then, not completely abandoned. And it is presumably because the old OT vision was well-known that nobody in the NT really tried to spell out what the ultimate future of the earth was.

So the Heavenly destination of the good guys who have lived between the Fall and the Day of Judgment is presumably a reward for their great virtue, not something that keeps on happening forever and ever. And since there will be no more death, there would be no more need for any more resurrections of any kind anyway.

A small question that remains is what the source of the continuing earthly population will be. If the bad guys have all gone off into the second death and the good guys have gone off to Heaven, would not the earth be empty at that point? It would seem so. But the God who created man in the first place should have no trouble creating a few more people to restart the earthly population, I guess.


In their strong statement of support for lesbian and gay clergy, and regret for the actions taken against the liberal provinces of the West, the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have firmly aligned themselves with Canada and the US. "Whether this accelerates schism of the Anglican Communion depends on what they do now. The Scottish Episcopal Church is a small church, with just 45,000 members. Compared to the 17.5 million members of the orthodox evangelical province, Nigera, it has a small voice. In Scotland, the Presbyterian Church is the main Christian presence, the Roman Catholic Church second.

But the episcopal church's status as neighbour to the Church of England and its already well-established reputation as a liberal province, thanks partly to the leadership of its former Primus, Bishop Richard Holloway, give its actions weight out of proportion to its size. The statement in support of gay and lesbian clergy and blessings of same-sex relationships was made by the College of Bishops in response to the Primates' Meeting in Newry, Northern Ireland last month.

The US and Canada, who provoked the crisis two years ago by electing the openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and authorising same sex blessings in the New Westminster diocese, were asked to impose a moratorium on future similar actions and to voluntarily withdraw until 2008 from the Anglican Consultative Council, the British charity that is the management body at the centre of the Anglican Communion. The indications from Canada are that the church there remains defiant. In the US, the bishops have agreed to call a halt to all episcopal ordinations, straight as well as gay, until next year's General Convention can debate the matter.

The Scottish bishops have added to the instability of the situation. They have not formally authorised any same-sex blessings services, and are unlikely to do so. They will continue to ordain gay people to the priesthood, as churches around the world still do, where they pass the usual selection criteria. As yet they have not announced plans to consecrate a gay bishop. But episcopal vacancies come up all the time. The Scottish church has already passed legislation to permit the consecration of a woman bishop, although has yet to do so. The future of the Anglican Communion could now depend on what happens when the next episcopal vacancy comes up in Scotland, and on whether the church decides to elect a married man with children, or to make a statement and choose one of their clergy who meets all the criteria but just happens to be in a stable, loving relationship with a member of the same sex. And this could even be a woman.

(From The Times)

Thursday, March 24, 2005


An email from a reader:

"Your attempt to explain (away) Paul's use of the word "body" in "spiritual body" makes no sense as the Greeks already had a perfectly good word to describe a spirit -- i.e., "spirit" (pneuma: wind, breath). Just as today a person talking about seeing the body of a ghost would be jarring, so too it was for Paul's readers. The question you leave unanswered is why Paul should use that phrase rather than the typical "spirit."

Paul does of course use the word "pneuma" in 1 Corinthians 15. In verse 44 we read: "it is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body". The word translated as "physical" is "psyche" and the word translated as "spirit" is "pneuma".

Note however that on other occasions "psyche" is translated as "soul" and "pneuma" is translated as breath. So one could conceivably translate the verse as: "It is sown a soul body; it is raised a breath body" -- which almost means the opposite of the usual translations of the text.

So we see the language difficulties Paul was battling with in this passage. If he had been a modern man he might have written: "It is sown a physical entity; it is raised as a non-physical entity". But he just did not have such linguistic resources or usages available to him. He had to use the language of the people he was writing to. He had to use a very limited and ambiguous everyday vocabulary -- which is why he expressed his message in so many different ways in that passage. But in all those different ways the common theme is of a transformation of people into something very different and much grander that what they were in their previous earthly life. So his message lies in the whole of the passage rather than in one part of it and that is why verse 44 is normally translated as it is. The translators "get" what Paul is driving at. The context determines the meaning.

And the same applies to the word "body". It too cannot be taken in isolation and has to be seen in the context of the passage as a whole. Paul just did not have such a word as "entity" available to him so has to use an ordinary Greek word -- "soma" -- to express his meaning. And note that Paul does repeatedly use the word metaphorically -- he does not always use it to mean something with two arms, two legs, heart, eyes, ears etc. The best example of that is his use of the word to describe a group of people as a body -- as in Romans 12:5: "So we, though many, are one body ["soma"] in Christ. He was clearly using the word "body" ["soma"] there in a highly abstract sense. So any claim that Paul's use of "body" in 1 Corinthians 15 must indicate something like a normal human body is naive -- particularly as that view was what Paul was clearly trying to dispel in the passage as a whole.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


There is an article here which tries to contrast what Jesus taught with what Republicans are doing today. It is really just a stream of Leftist abuse rather than a real argument but I guess one should occasionally say something about such attacks. Here's a few excerpts from it for starters anyway:

As we enter another Easter Season, it's become all too obvious that if Christ returns, those who hate in Jesus's name will have him slimed, then killed. Christ was a long-haired peace activist who would have hated the war in Iraq. "Blessed are the peacemakers" Jesus said in his defining Sermon on the Mount. "Turn the other cheek...Love thy neighbor." Such hippie-radical ideals are the "Christian" right wing's worst nightmare. The GOP would never tolerate an upstart like Jesus gathering a following in the face of their corporate-fundamentalist crusade. These are Christians who love power but would despise the actual Christ, just as they love a Zionist Israel but can't tolerate actual Jews.

In the wake of Jesus's exemplary life of non-violent rebellion, a perverse liturgy weighted by twenty centuries of intolerant bloodthirsty bigotry has erupted in his name. Attacks on people of color, on nations with oil, on humans of the same gender who love each other, on youth who enjoy sex..all have become enemies of a new fundamentalist crusade doing in Christ's name things that would have left him sickened and horrified.

If Christ came back today to resume preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Karl Rove would slime him in the media, then kill him outright, then turn his words into right wing hatespeak, then kill those who refuse to follow in his name.

But would Jesus stand for the slaughter of 100,000 Iraqis in his name merely because of oil and dubious Biblical prophecy? How would Christ view a president in love with the gas chamber and electric chair? What would Jesus, who hated hypocrisy above all, say about a Bush who scampers back to prolong the life of a brain-dead woman who wanted to die, but who gleefully executes 150 people as governor and as many more as president as he can get his hands on? How would Jesus cope with a self-proclaimed Divinity demanding the death penalty for children?

"Christ was a long-haired peace activist". I wonder how that jibes with "I came not to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34 RSV)? And one thing Christ certainly did NOT do was preach peace selectively. Leftists wanted bombs for Christian Serbia but want a peaceful approach to Islamofascists.

"it's become all too obvious that if Christ returns, those who hate in Jesus's name will have him slimed, then killed" What's the evidence for that? There's none at all, or if there is, it is not spelt out. As it stands it is pure baseless assertion.

""Blessed are the peacemakers" Jesus said in his defining Sermon on the Mount. "Turn the other cheek...Love thy neighbor.". What our Leftist fails to mention is that NOBODY (except for a few small sects), Leftist or Rightist, practices that today. In fact, Christ himself did not follow it. He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple and said, "I came not to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34 RSV). Leftists find it impossile to get into their power-mad skulls that Christ's whole aim was to save men from the consequences of sin and get them into the Kingdom of Heaven. He was not concerned about their survival on this earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is the constant theme of his words as recorded in the Gospels. And telling us how to get into Heaven was, of course, exactly what he was doing in the sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). He essentially has no advice about how to run this world or survive in it. His advice is about what is best for you spiritually. And every time you DO turn the other cheek it WILL be better for you spiritually. Whether it will be better for your survival in this world, however, he simply does not address. So those who DO want to survive in this world have to find their own rules to live by. And any group that stopped defending itself would not last long. And it is as a defence against further attacks on America such as the 9/11 events that American troops have now taken the fight onto the home soil of the Islamists.

"If Christ came back today to resume preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Karl Rove would slime him in the media, then kill him outright, then turn his words into right wing hatespeak, then kill those who refuse to follow in his name". Again, sheer abuse and assertion.

"But would Jesus stand for the slaughter of 100,000 Iraqis in his name merely because of oil and dubious Biblical prophecy?" Here our Leftists shows the usual Leftist complete lack of concern about the facts. The article in The Lancet claiming 100,000 deaths in Iraq has long ago been refuted (e.g. here) but that simply does not matter to our Leftist. He KNOWS -- just as he knows that the war is all about oil and so completely disregards the 9/11 events.

Attempting to reason with people like that is a complete waste of time. He is not interested in getting at the facts and does not attempt to. Promoting himself and his wisdom is all he cares about and he seems to think that abuse is a good way of achieving that.

(I have put up an earlier version of this post at Blogger News too.)

Scotland: Fury as bishop says no to gay teachers in Catholic schools

The Bible teachings are crystal clear in both the OT and the NT (e.g. Romans 1:26-29; 1 Corinthians 6:9) but they don't seem to get a mention

The Catholic Church risked isolation [How awful!] last night after it emerged that senior churchmen want to bar homosexual teachers from Catholic schools. Politicians, local government and parent groups all warned against discrimination when a senior bishop insisted that the church's new charter for schools would prevent gay teachers from securing jobs in Catholic schools or gaining promotion if already employed. Bishop Joseph Devine, president of the Catholic Education Commission, said the church's blueprint for its schools - A Charter for Catholic Schools - made it clear that homosexuality was incompatible with Catholic education. He said in an interview: "Being homosexual would not at all be compatible with the charter. It would cut across the whole moral vision enshrined in the charter. "It would be offering a lifestyle that is incompatible with Catholic social teaching."

Bishop Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said the charter would provide the framework to make sure gays were not employed in Catholic schools and would probably limit the promotion opportunities of those already employed. He said: "In practice, I would think that it is possible that some may have been hired, but [the schools] may not have known until it was too late. "That's our fault for not making the proper checks and references. The charter tightens it up."

The charter does not explicitly ban the hiring and promotion of gay teachers but it calls for all teachers to support the ethos of Catholicism in their jobs. It states that all staff would be "expected to support and promote the aims, missions, values and ethos of the schools". This could be interpreted in a number of ways, but for Bishop Devine it means a bar on all homosexual teachers.

The Catholic Church has had discussions with COSLA, the local government body, over its charter and the councils are adamant that any plans to discriminate in any way against homosexuals are not acceptable and not legal. The charter has yet to be implemented, and it has run into problems principally because, if interpreted in the way Bishop Devine believes it should be, it could easily be seen as blatantly discriminatory. [Of course it is!]

The Rev Ewan Aitken, COSLA's education spokesman, said: "Local authorities would never countenance discriminating against a teacher because of sexual orientation. Councils would be in court in seconds." COSLA's condemnation was backed up by a statement from the Scottish Executive that stressed the need to hire the best staff possible regardless of any other factor. A spokesman said: "The Executive would expect authorities, in pursuit of their statutory obligations, to employ the best staff available." Peter Duncan, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: "I do not see any reason for discrimination on race or sexual orientation or gender." Fiona Hyslop, SNP MSP and shadow minister for education, said: "The SNP would expect a non-discrimination element to be part of the revised schools code."

Judith Gillespie, from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, described Bishop Devine's views as "very sad". She said: "His comments are worse than unfair and it reflects on the church that it wants to reject a group of people who are not choosing their lifestyle. I thought Christianity was about inclusion and brotherhood."


Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I am a bit peeved by this article. It is on a Christian site that aims to appeal to young people and the way they aim to do that is by being "progressive" -- i.e. Leftist.

Here is an excerpt:

"A news headline from the BBC World Service website caught my attention last week: "MTV Launches Channel for Africa." I was intrigued. I clicked. The headline pretty well summed it up. It's called MTV base. About one third of the music represented on the new channel will be authentically African. Weekly documentaries will highlight promising artists. Broadcasting will be beamed via satellite throughout the continent and will also be made available on "free-to-air" networks. The article was meant to be informational and straightforward, but what was written between the lines disturbed me most. I did some further research.

The issue I have with MTV Africa isn't the music. Nor is it the television. The problem lies in the calculated dissemination of the American brand of cultural insolvency MTV has created that has no place being in our own society, let alone being proselytized to another. MTV's gross irresponsibility on this issue is the moral equivalent of cultural colonialism. Cloaked in the guise of "good intentions," MTV purports to bring African music and culture to the masses. But their false altruism is transparent. In actuality, MTV does not want to bring African culture to the masses at all; it wants to take the wildly successful business model grown popular in the United States and abroad, and indoctrinate a new land with a message of decadence and moral corruption.

This kind of crusade-esque guerilla marketing is frightening when you consider the zeal with which it is elicited. Couple this with the fact that its initial offering will be made free-of-charge in some markets. OK, here's a quick lesson in Business 101: nothing is ever truly free. MTV is counting on getting people hooked on a golden calf of image addiction and then selling it to them-be sure of it. The deeper underlying issue that MTV needs to face is the gaping chasm between responsibility and exploitation..... Bringing MTV to Africa is exploitation. Africa is a continent wrought with war, devastation, disease, pestilence, drought, famine, governmental corruption and every conceivable ill. In some countries such as Zimbabwe and Botswana where sexual promiscuity runs rampant, one in every three people are suffering from HIV/AIDS. A Darwinian struggle for existence is lost on a daily basis with death counts sometimes in the thousands. Millions of people are homeless and living in primitive refugee camps hoping to receive one meal of porridge a day. War and death are a way of life. Racism is endemic.....

For centuries the white man has brought trouble and exploitation to Africa-trying to force his ways on a people too burdened to fight back. Africa has lost many battles with the West, and it will lose this one, too. And perhaps most unfortunately, it will become increasingly de-cultured rather than culturally enriched because of MTV's insatiable appetite for "greener" lands. And I can't help but wonder-will there be no shame?

The paternalism of that ("We know what's best for you, you poor dumb Africans" is the basic message) quite sickens me. But that's what you expect of Leftists, of course. What bothers me is that even some serious conservatives seem to agree with it. Like this guy. I think some conservatives need to rethink their assumptions.

And, conservative or Leftist, it is certainly not New Testament Christianity. "My Kingdom is not of this world" is what Jesus said (to Pontius Pilate -- John 18:36) so a New Testament Christian would not be concerned with anything as worldly as MTV. What Jesus tried to do throughout his ministry was to get people to lead personally Holy lives and as far as the rest went, to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mark 12:17). I give some of the sects great credit for trying to do just that by leading unwordly lives but I am afraid that mainstream Christians seem rather deaf to that teaching of the man they claim as their Messiah.

I don't see anything wrong with voting, however. That is just another of Caesar's requirements these days -- one of the smaller requirements in fact. But a New Testament Christian would be evangelizing for personal Holiness as a highroad to salvation, not for worldly political issues. And I think the evidence is that churches which DO concentrate on the Gospel are the ones that have most success in attracting people.


Or is it just hopping on a bandwagon?

"Abortion was propelled to the centre of the election campaign yesterday as the Church of England threw its weight behind demands for a thorough review of legislation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who declared that there was a "groundswell of distaste" at the way the current law works, was backed by senior Anglican clergy who not only questioned the current 24-week time limit, but also the whole of the 38-year-old Abortion Act.

All the main churches across Britain have drawn up guidelines on how churchgoers can challenge candidates at election meetings organised by local Christians. Christians, especially Roman Catholics, are expected to use the meetings to ask candidates from all parties to support a review of the law.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, the vice-chairman of the Church of England mission and public affairs division, backed Dr Williams, saying that many Anglicans were deeply concerned that there were more than 500 abortions a day in England.

Methodist leaders also said that the issue needed to be "revisted from time to time" in the light of advances which gave very premature babies a greater chance of survival.

Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative backbencher, led calls for a Tory manifesto commitment on holding a debate in government time on lowering the legal time limit on abortion, in which MPs would be given a free vote.

The growing clamour will increase pressure on Tony Blair, although Downing Street said last night that his view remained that abortion was an issue of conscience that should be addressed through a Private Member's Bill, not government legislation.

Church of England bishops would support a reduction in the current time limit of 24 weeks, which has been called for by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader. The bishops are not just concerned at the relatively small number of late abortions, which amount to less than 1 per cent of the total, but also at the way that the number of abortions has increased. Dr Williams said yesterday that the current law was causing "more and more of a shared unhappiness and bewilderment". He indicated that the election campaign could provide an opportunity for voters to question individual candidates but dismissed fears that debating abortion could lead to single-issue campaigning, as it has in parts of the US. "The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some Neanderthal Christian Right is alarmist nonsense," he said.

Although he did not say that he opposed abortion outright, he said that, for a large majority of Christians, including himself, it was impossible to regard abortion as "anything other than a deliberate termination of a human life", and that the advance of technology had reinforced anxieties. "Whether it is a matter of evidence about foetal sensitivity to outside stimuli (including pain), the nature of foetal consciousness, or the expanding possibilities of saving early foetal life outside the womb, the trend is inexorably towards a sharper recognition of the foetus as a natural candidate for `rights' of some kind," he wrote in The Sunday Times.

The Archbishop's intervention came after Mr Howard said that he favoured reducing the limit from 24 to 20 weeks and promised that, if elected, he would find parliamentary time for legislation. The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, commended Mr Howard's statement last week, saying that he was pleased that abortion would be debated before the election.

David Hinchliffe, the Labour chairman of the Commons Health Committee, said: "My view is it is very sad that an issue as important as this only emerges in the weeks before an election. I think it is unfortunate that there is no serious debate on this issue. There are arguments on both sides and I would like to see an objective view taken in terms of current science."

Anne Quesney, spokeswoman for Abortion Rights, accused churches of trivialising women's rights: "It is very saddening to see the debate is being fuelled by the Church of England after political leaders have clearly said this shouldn't be an election issue. "The ultimate agenda of trying to make abortion illegal is very damaging as it doesn't make abortion go away."

Given the divisions in the Church of England over homosexuality and women bishops, abortion is unusual as an issue that unites most senior clerics, bringing liberals, Catholics and evangelicals together."

(From The Times)

Monday, March 21, 2005


A good Christian comment on the Greenies by a Professor of Atmospheric science

That the Creation exists to sustain us may sound presumptuous, but it flows from the faith-claim that we humans are created in the "image of God." This means human life is valuable above all Creation. Now, as a scientist, I cannot prove that human life is of such great value, it’s a matter of faith. But, a worldview which values a chickadee as much as a child is not evangelical.

When faced with difficult choices about the relative value of human life, evangelicals err on the side of humanity. Hypothetically, we choose the African child over the humpback whale and the Alzheimer's patient over the giant sequoia … every time. Fortunately, we do not face such contrived situations. Our environment can sustain us and still remain vibrant. The good news is, it's happening more and more thanks to affordable energy.

Jesus commanded us to dignify human life by working to enhance the health and security of all, especially the poor. How do we honor both the environment and human life if the latter consumes the former? Ultimately, affordable energy is key to enhancing health and security with minimal environmental impact. Economist Julian Simon called energy the "master resource," because it "enables us to convert one material to another." From my personal point of view then, since energy grants us longer and better lives, suppressing its availability devalues human life. My "green" evangelical friends, already nervous, will cringe at this next part.

That Texas oilman who provides cheap energy to sustain a poor family through the winter? That engineer who designs new, but power-consuming devices to aid the crippled? That entrepreneur who finds a cheaper way to bring vital goods to the consumer? These people are doing work that by biblical standards must be called righteous. They are solving human problems, honoring human life.

Affordable energy underpins virtually every solution discovered in the past century. Think about it: U.S. lifespans up over 60%; per-capita, food-calorie production up worldwide despite a population boom; the list is endless. Would these have happened without accessible energy? Generating carbon-based energy produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a natural greenhouse gas which, in increased proportions in the air, is linked to rising temperatures. Please note, CO2 is vital because without it, life would cease. Plants love it. If rising CO2 poses a serious threat to us in our ever-changing climate, evangelicals should be first to sound the alarm. However, if the hard numbers of science tell us the threat is inconsequential or benign, and further, that well-meaning regulations actually make human life more difficult without affecting the climate's trajectory, we should stand for something else.

We face real environmental problems today. While a missionary in Africa I witnessed the destruction of rich forest habitats because poverty drove people to burn wood for energy … inefficient, polluting wood. As the energy "hunter-gatherers," women were especially burdened with huge costs of time and labor. Wildlife vanished. Too, these precious people lived and died with water-borne diseases. Where human life suffers, Jesus' commandments are not being "accomplished." And, where human life suffers, the environment does as well. Do you want to protect the environment in a significant way? Why not work to provide energy and clean water to 1 billion people in need? That means burning carbon in some fashion today, but using something better (and cheaper) tomorrow.

Environmental initiatives can deceive, especially those dealing with climate change. They sound so innocently altruistic. But underneath, they generally constrain energy, that "master resource," making life more difficult. When considering an environmental issue, evangelicals should think first about its impact on one important component in the ecological cosmos - us.


Sunday, March 20, 2005


I have lifted this post from What the Bible Says:

"God instituted Capital Punishment for the crime of murder (Genesis 9:5-6), which was singled out as an attack upon God himself and the most serious offense. There were 36 separate offenses throughout the Old Testament (Book of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy) that were punishable by death including Murder (no pity), rape, sacrificing to false gods, and so on. We can find instances of execution being carried out in the Bible (e.g., Leviticus 24:10-16). It was practiced both in ancient Israel (as reflected in the Old Testament) and in Judea in the first century (as reflected in the New Testament).

Execution was given theological justification, both in the Old & New Testament. The Pentateuchal rationale for capital punishment was not basically in terms of societal order, and thus modern utilitarian values (e.g., does it deter?) have no bearing on the validity of the biblical attitude toward the penalty even though the Bible states it does deter (Deuteronomy 19:20; also see: Eccles. 8:11). The motive for capital punishment was not human desire for vengeance (retribution), and thus modern theological abolitionists on that basis cannot criticize it. There is not a verse in the Bible in either the Old or New Testament that overtly departs from the consensus on the topic. There are no theological stances in either testament (be they forgiveness of enemies, love, non-vengeance, etc.) that may be taken as an implicit challenge to capital punishment. The Bible distinguishes killing in battle, or in self-defense, or in accident, or as execution, from murder and negligent homicide (which alone merit execution).

Some Christians pretend that Jesus Christ broke with the traditions of the Old Testament or take the position that he replaced it, but this couldn't be further from the truth as Jesus himself explained during the Sermon on the Mount. This would also include capital punishment, they say, which was repeatedly sanctioned in the Old Testament. Christ said,

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17)"

Saturday, March 19, 2005


(I liked the article below so I will make it my post for today:)

Here we go again! A "core group" of "influential" evangelical leaders is about to try to address "global warming" using political weapons. Like previous efforts - Prohibition in the 1920s and the Moral Majority with which I was associated in the 1980s - this one is doomed because it distracts and dilutes the primary calling of evangelicals. Do evangelicals have time on their hands because they've finished the mission to "go and make disciples of all nations"? Is this not a great enough commission that "global warming" and a host of other "issues" must be added to make evangelicals contemporary and relevant?

The Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, a Washington lobbying group, was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created." Rev. Cizik offers no biblical citation for his view. There is no biblical expectation that a "fallen" world can, should or will be improved prior to the return of the One to whom evangelicals are supposed to owe their complete allegiance. Rev. Ted Haggard, president of NAE, says he has become passionate about the issue because he is a scuba diver (but not a scientist) and has seen how "global warming" affects coral reefs. What about passion for Jesus Christ?

The religious left has long tried to sway evangelicals into embracing its social agenda. It would appear they are finally succeeding. Rev. Ronald Sider, who heads Evangelicals for Social Action, a liberal Christian group with an agenda that reads like Democratic Party talking points, told the Times, "Evangelicals have sometimes been accused of having a one- or two-item political agenda." A document he helped draft, called "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," is aimed at making "it very clear that a vast body of evangelicals today reject a one-issue approach," he says.

Jesus is appropriated these days for all sorts of things with which he would have nothing to do. Remember the "What Would Jesus Drive" campaign that attempted to convert people from their SUVs to more environmentally friendly cars? Those on the left and right who misuse Jesus think they can have the best of both worlds. Desiring the approval of one, however, mostly leads to disapproval from the other.

Should politicians be unclear as to the source of evangelical power, Rev, Haggard says, "We do represent 30 million people, and we can mobilize them if we have to." Leaving aside whether he "represents" 30 million people and whether they would all vote and lobby in lock-step (they didn't in the '80s), this is a far cry from "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

The first description of Satan is that he is "subtle." (Genesis 3:1) Another translation says "crafty." Satan tempts to do what seems good. Liberal churches have long believed in a doctrine of salvation-through-works, as if helping the poor was the chief responsibility of government and an end in itself, rather than a means for individuals to communicate the love of God to poor people. The social gospel is about causes, not Christ; agendas, not Alpha and Omega; politics, not the Prince of Peace; more of this world and less of the next one. It's a subtle, but effective, means of distracting evangelicals from their paramount calling, which is about conversion, not political convictions.

By focusing on the other kingdom, one can have the most influence on this kingdom. By attending mainly to improving this world, one is doomed to futility and can do little for the other one. Look at past efforts of religious activists - left and right - and note their limited success when the focus has been on transforming culture, rather than converting hearts. This is going to be another failed effort that will lead many astray, divert resources from more effective pursuits and leave little of eternal value. Better to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20) rather than on earth where they do.

(From Cal Thomas)

Friday, March 18, 2005


An email from a reader:

As for the gospel of Mark, scholars have proposed a number of explanations for why the gospel of Mark should have originally ended ubruptly before the resurrection appearances. Some have suggested, for example, that the orginal text may have been lost or damaged, while others have suggested that the ending may have been a literary device (i.e., to criticize those early Christians who may have emphasized the resurrection at the expense of the crucifixion; it's interesting to note that many movies, such as Gibson's The Passion, either ignore the resurrection or similarly downplay it). However, no scholar that I know of says what you say, that it means Mark did not believe in the resurrection. The very last line would seem to make this perfectly clear:

"And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you."

This is not what you'd expect from a writer who does not "believe" in the resurrection.

In answer I simply say that I approach these things probabalistically. The failure of one of the Gospel writers to mention any of the post-resurrection appearances is certainly a stark omission in need of explanation. Whether there are other scholars who agree with what I think to be the obvious explanation -- that Mark was one of the doubters -- doesn't butter any parsnips as far as I am concerned but I would nonetheless be surprised if modernists such as Bultmann and Thiering disagreed with me.

And the last verses of Mark do not really say much. Mark reports what the women say they were told by the angels and leaves it at that. In fact, as I see it, the fact that Mark reports a prophecy of post-resurrection appearances and then fails to mention whether any such appearances took place seems revealing. Surely he would have hastened to mention something as striking as fulfilment of that prophecy if he had believed in it.

But anyway, suffice it to say that we know there were those who were never convinced so whether Mark was one of them or not adds little.

I feel I owe my readers an apology for going into these matters at all. My basic aim is simply to elucidate what the teachings of the NT are. Whether I personally believe in those teachings is an unimportant matter to anyone but myself. But I do slip up occasionally and say what I think of the truth of the teachings concerned. I should not. I undermine my own project by doing so.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


A reader referred me to this rather jocular article by some alleged pagan ("pagan" = "attention-seeker" most of the time as far as I can see) about the Genesis story. The writer is obviously not a bad Bible student but what he says is still fanciful rubbish as far as I can see.

He points out quite correctly that there are two creation stories in Genesis -- with the second one being immediately after the first and comprising only Genesis 2:4-7. I am too lazy at the moment to type it out here but do look it up in your Bible. It IS quite different from the story of Genesis 1.

Our pagan, however, deduces from this that there were two different creations being referred to and I don't think that is supportable. He does, however make one point I had never noticed before -- that in story 1 the creator is said to be "Elohim" (God), whereas in Story 2 the creator is said to be YHWH (Yahweh). I must say that the difference is a curious one and from a textual criticism viewpoint would tend to indicate that Story 2 is much older than story 1. Hesitancy about use of the divine name is a fairly late development. Story 2 also has YHWH taking a stroll in the garden during the cool of the day so that should indicate an older story too. A more anthropomorphic view of YHWH would be taken by most textual critics as indicating an earlier text. So story 1 was probably tacked on to the beginning of Genesis as a much later effort at a more sophisticated account of the creation.

Our pagan's point about "Elohim" being a plural form is true as far as it goes but does not indicate the plurality he claims. The word takes singular verbs so is intended as singular. With the Hebrew insistence on there being only one God it could hardly be otherwise. The plural form is then just another example of a plural being used as an honorific (as in the British Royal "we").

So are the two creation accounts so different as to be contradictory or even accounts of two separate events? It must be said that they COULD be accounts of two separate events but I don't see that they are in any way contradictory. The story that before the rains came there was a pervasive mist need be seen as nothing more than an added detail.

The interesting thing about story 2 however is that YHWH created man on the SAME day as he created the heavens and the earth -- whereas in Story 1 man was not created until the 6th day. I think this should upset only the most extreme fundamentalists, however. Throughout the Bible, words have both literal and figurative uses -- the various usages of even common words are one of the great plagues of scriptural exegesis in fact -- and it seems perfectly clear to me that "day" is being used in a figurative way in Genesis -- meaning "a period of time" rather than "24 hours". So I certainly see no contradiction between story 1 and story 2. Story 2 is simply using a less detailed timescale.

Perhaps I should mention the obvious -- that even in modern English we do use "day" figuratively --- in expressions such as, "In my day it was different". And the Hebrew word concerned has a variety of meanings too. I am too tired to go into that at the moment but look at 2 Peter 3:8.


I don't take much interest in textual criticism as my primary interest is in the NT and it is not a large feature of NT studies.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (NKJV)

This is another of Paul's descriptions of the day of judgment and again we find him using a fair bit of figurative language. This time entering and leaving tents and swallowing up are not used as metaphors but we do get two other very common metaphors used: Sleep used as an analogy for death and the sky used as a symbol of Heaven (the latter being a symbolism we also see in Luke 24 and Acts 1 -- see my post of 11th). That Paul really is talking about the sky we see from his mention of clouds and meeting the Lord in the air ("aera" in the Greek). I presume that nobody would want to argue that the terrestrial atmosphere is the actual venue for the afterlife and so would agree that rising up into the sky is being used here as a metaphor for the transition into the spirit world. To be consistent, then, we also need to argue that the dead are not actually just unconscious but rather that sleep is being used as a metaphor for death. In other words, the divine power can restore the dead to life just as people awake out of sleep.

It could be argued that, with the primitive knowledge of physics existing at the time of Christ, people really did believe that the afterlife was located somewhere in the sky -- and the use of the same word ("ouranos") for the sky and for Heaven might seem to encourage that view. Note however that in the sophisticated 21st century we still do exactly the same. It is still not uncommon to refer to the sky as "the heavens" while Heaven is also understood as a spirit realm. And the idea of the afterlife as happening in a non-physical realm altogether different from ordinary life on earth is so clearly set out by Paul elsewhere (1 Corinthians 15) that it would be absurd to say he was incapable of distinguishing between the two ideas and usages or that he was confused about them. So we must conclude that the above passage is simply a continuation of Christ's practice of using vivid imagery (e.g. sheep and goats) to teach a lesson in an easily assimilable way. It is not meant to be taken as the whole story.

It must be conceded, however, that Paul does in all his accounts of judgment day seem to envisage proceedings as BEGINNING on earth: Christ appears; ALL the dead are resurrected to life on earth; judgment is rendered; the wicked go off into the "second death" and the righteous transit to everlasting life. In 1 Corinthians 15: 51,52 the change into an eternal existence is said to occur in "the twinkling of an eye" but in the passage from Thessalonians quoted above a rising into the sky is envisioned as occurring. I don't think those two accounts can be reconciled without taking the whole passage above as a vivid metaphor -- particularly since the teaching clearly is that the afterlife is not something that you physically go to: "It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15: 44 RSV).

To change the subject a bit: My Christadelphian correspondent is a bit cross at me for not giving his theories more of a run on this blog so I will just point out that the scripture that I have just quoted above would seem to be quite contrary to the Christadelphian account of the resurrection. It says we will BE a spiritual body, not that we will be a physical body INFUSED WITH spirit. Christadelphians are not of course alone in thinking that there are physical bodies in Heaven but I cannot see that any of them are giving due heed to what 1 Corinthians 15:44 actually says.


Excerpt from an article by Christie Davies

"At the end of the nineteenth century, there were comparable levels of religiosity in Britain and the United States. The British lived in a culture in which the assumptions of Protestant Christianity were taken for granted. Few people believed strongly, but everyone believed a little. Throughout the population there was a somewhat vague general acceptance of central Christian beliefs, a strong respect for sacred things, a liking for church-based rituals to mark the turning points in life (and particularly its ending), a moral code of helping others that was rooted in Christian ethics, and a liking for and ability to sing hymns, both of which had been learned in Sunday School. Even football crowds sang “Abide with Me” or “Bread of Heaven”; today they sing songs full of thoughtless blasphemies, obscenities, and thought-out sexual and racial abuse to upset their opponents. Regular attendance at Sunday School was a standard part of most people’s youth, and it was the place where standards of respectability were inculcated. Britain’s was a society with a remarkably low and falling incidence of violent and acquisitive crime, illegitimacy, and addiction to opiates. Public drunkenness was a problem, but it was gradually ceasing to be so; by the 1920s it had all but disappeared.

This is the world Britain has lost. The first turning point was the First World War. Before that war there was already a degree of uneasiness about the strength of religion in Britain; after the war it was clearly in decline. The decline of religion was slow and punctuated by periods of recovery, such as the early 1950s. From the mid-1950s onwards, however, the previous prevailing religious culture collapsed, and by the millennium Britain was one of the most thoroughly irreligious countries in the world. Less than half the population believes in God. For many of those who do believe in God, their belief is not in a personal God who is a guide to conduct or a source of solace but a mere impersonal and irrelevant something-or-other.

In 1901–1911, half the British population under fifteen was enrolled in Sunday School; in 1957 three-quarters of those over the age of thirty had attended Sunday School at some time in their lives. By the end of the twentieth century, less than 10 percent belonged to a Sunday School. An entire culture had been lost. In England in 1913, 70 percent of all live births were baptized in the Church of England; in 1956, it was still 60 percent, but by 1997 it had fallen to less than a quarter. In the 1950s in Britain two-thirds of those questioned said they believed Jesus was the son of God and only a fifth expressed disbelief. By the 1980s, less than a half of those asked said they believed this and nearly 40 percent said they did not believe. In the 1950s most people believed in the central tenets of Christianity or at least went along with the dominant belief of their culture. By the 1980s, this was no longer the case. By the end of the millennium, many Christian denominations in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales, were predicting their own imminent demise in the twenty-first century. A few evangelical, Pentecostal, and fundamentalist groups thrive, but they lack numbers, have little influence on the wider culture, and are ignored and even snubbed and discriminated against by the secular liberals, who control broadcasting and education.

One consequence of this, or at least a social change that is closely correlated with it, is the collapse of respectable Britain. By the standards of 1905 or 1925 or 1955 Britain is a criminal society, a society with a substantial minority of violent people and an even larger minority willing to indulge in planned dishonesty. In 1927, there were only 110 robberies reported to the police; there were thirty times as many in 1997. Most of this increase occurred after 1955. Even if some part of the recorded increase may be dismissed as merely greater reporting and improved recording, it remains a massive change. In 1927, one’s chance of being mugged was absolutely negligible. Even today it is not all that likely an experience, but it has become one of the ordinary risks of life to be thought about and around which life is planned—enough to constitute an important qualitative change.... "

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

2 Corinthians 5

Just a few more comments on the NT teachings about the day of judgment:

Just as Jesus used a lot of parables, Paul too uses a fair bit of figurative laguage. In 2 Corinthians 5: 1,2 we see the body called a tent or house that we inhabit. And we are said to long to put on a heavenly tent instead. This metaphor could be taken as supporting the immortal soul doctrine. The real "we" just "puts on" an earthly or heavenly body. To draw that conclusion would of course be to ignore the obvious -- that Paul is NOT speaking literally. Our body is not REALLY a tent (though when I look in the mirror sometimes I wonder if I might not end up that way unless I change my diet) and we do not REALLY "inhabit" it.

And Paul does make that clearer in verse 4: "so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life". So there is not just a "stepping out of" but a complete "swallowing up". Paul is just using whatever metaphor he can -- be it housing or swallowing -- to express the inexpressible, namely a personal identity that somehow is recreated in another form on judgment day -- or "we shall all be changed", as Paul puts it with admirable simplicity in 1 Corinthians 15: 51.

And then verse 6 returns to the "home" metaphor: "While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord".

This way of speaking is however fairly inevitable. The original Hebrew idea of resurrection that we see in the OT is perfectly simple: Our old physical body is just re-created in a perfected form -- minus the warts, as it were. So it is easy to see how the old and new bodies could be essentially the same. But if we are recreated in a spirit form, how can the spirit form be in any way identified with the old physical form? I suppose the idea is that our characteristics endure. Our new form will have characteristics that will somehow reflect whether in life we were large or small, quick or slow, sensitive or insensitive, weak or strong, patient or impatient etc. The whole idea sounds utter nonsense to me but all religions do seem to believe that some transformation such as that does happen so who am I to argue?

The NT is only unusual in that it posits a prolonged and utter death before the good guys receive eternal spirit life on judgment day. Most religions seem to think that you transform into a complete spirit being immediately on death -- and that belief has seeped into modern-day Christianity too.

I probably should make clear at this point that my aim with this blog is NOT to convert anybody to anything -- be it atheism or membership of some sect or anything else. My only interest personally is basically an historical one -- to get clear what the original religion of the NT was and to contrast it with Christianity today. The only influence I hope to have on readers of this blog is to get them to read their Bible more attentively -- to see what it actually says rather than seeing its words through a lens of conventional preconceptions. I make no judgment about which or any version of Christianity is best in any sense. I was myself brought up as a Presbyterian and sent my son to a Catholic school so I think that should make clear that I think that Christianity generally is a good thing rather than some particular version of Christianity being best. Although I am a complete atheist (unlike many of my former academic colleagues, I don't even believe in Karl Marx), I think that the teachings of the gentle Jesus have had a tremendous transformative influence for the good on the human race.

As well as being a scripture blogger I am of course also a Marx blogger. But I study Marx for the opposite reason to my reason for studying the Bible. I want to see what was behind such a force for enormous evil in the world. And if you read Marx for long it is pretty clear what has made him such an influence -- he was absolutely filled with hate and contempt for just about everybody. So the haters and enviers of the world have always found in him a kindred spirit. If I were religious, I think I would see him as the Devil made flesh.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Most of the world's religions claim that there is some immortal essence or "soul" within us all that survives death. The ancient Hebrew religion as recorded in the OT is then most unusual in saying that death is death and that is that (see e.g. my post of Feb. 20th. and lots of passages in the book of Ecclesiastes, particularly chapter 9). The OT hope for an afterlife is blessedly simple -- it lies not in an immortal soul but in a future resurrection back into perfected physical life in a restored Eden on this earth -- as described in (say) Isaiah 11.

And as I also point out in my post of Feb. 20th, the NT carries on the rejection of an immortal soul and offers hope in the form of a resurrection. But it is not the same simple old Hebrew resurrection. The pagan fascination with a spirit life had taken hold and the hope now became for a resurrection into the spirit realm (e.g. John 14:2) -- or God's Kingdom, as Jesus usually describes it. And in 1 Corinthians 15 that is set out as unambiguously as it reasonably could be.

Now that should not disturb most Christians too much as both Jesus and Paul make clear that they build on the OT to create a new and better understanding of reality. Although both Jesus and Paul quote the OT extensively to justify what they say, they are clearly claiming to offer a new understanding of the matters they discuss.

Not all Bible students are happy with that, however. They view the Bible as being one whole and think it should be consistent from beginning to end. They cannot accept that the NT tells a new and better story than the OT. They want the OT and NT to be consistent.

That is a big ask however and fairly heroic assumptions have to be made to accomplish it. Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians are the only ones I know that make a serious attempt at it but there are presumably others. The Jehovah's Witness solution is probably the easiest -- they split the difference and say that some go to Heaven and some stay on Earth. The Christadelphian solution seems to be to say that the body survives but without its blood! From what I have seen the arguments for both stories are specious and I don't think my readers would be interested enough for me to spend time rebutting them. My Christadelphian correspondent has however sent me a brief summary of the scriptural argument as he sees it so I reproduce it below for what interest it may have. I suspect that most of my readers will find the reasoning involved to be really stretching it.

Christ was raised to an immortal body which is not flesh and blood but flesh and spirit. Please consider these verses: 1st Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” For something to be quickened, a something has to exist to be operated upon to be “quickened”. In other words, you cannot quicken a nothing. In immortality, the blood is no longer needed to give life to the body. Spirit, which is God’s power (not a 3rd person of the ‘Trinity’) is the life of the immortal body. These ideas play out in John 3:6 with Nicodemus: John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Spirit does not give birth literally to spirit or itself, but to people who are born of the spirit (Joh 3:5-8), or in other words, quickened, made alive or energized by the spirit. And the same is found in Galatians 6:8 Galatians 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. “of the spirit...” Christ’s change to immortality then is described in 1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Firstfruits... That means there are others who will follow the same pattern. And so we find the promise of 2 Peter 1:4 is consistent with this: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” So to be a partaker of the divine nature is to live by His spirit, or power.

I think we just have to accept that the OT and the NT accounts of the afterlife are different and take it from there. From what David Boxenhorn says, modern-day Jews cheerfully accept several quite different accounts of the afterlife all at once! I must confess, however, that I don't at all understand how serious Jewish students of scripture can accept belief in an immortal soul in view of the number of times that those same scriptures describe the "nephesh" as mortal. I guess they must place a lot of emphasis on uses of the word "ruach" but Ecclesiastes 3:19 must give them a few difficulties there. That scripure says that animals and people have the same "ruach" ("spirit" or "breath") so Heaven must be overrun with billions of rats, cats and dogs (just for starters). Good if you want to have a chat with a dinosaur or a pterodactyl, I guess. Very confusing!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


I have got a lot of correspondence lately that needs reply. I am a bit lost where to start. It's all my own fault, of course. Some time ago, I threatened to put this blog on hiatus unless I got more challenges and questions coming in and I have been busy writing up answers every night since!

Anyway, if you have been reading this blog for long you know that I have a compulsive fascination for that parody of Christianity known as the Church of England -- and its daughter churches, of course. So you will understand why I liked the email below:

"I'm a Christian myself, and my wife is training at seminary for the Anglican church of Canada. We are in the evangelical wing of the ACof C, in a liberal diocese of a liberal (ecclesiastical) country, which for my wife and her fellow students is like signing a lease for an office in the twin towers on Sept 10, except with advance notice of what's coming.

The situation vis a vis looming expulsion from the Communion is for real, but even if that weren't happening the Canadian and US Anglican churches are crashing due to the predictable effects of liberalism. In our diocese our bishop has closed a dozen parishes and has a dozen more on his list, because -- surprise surprise -- nobody is interested in going to a church to hear mushy vacuous liberal piffle, nor will they open their wallets to pay for it.

CS Lewis predicted it all quite neatly back in the 40s, when he told a group of seminary students that if the priest is a liberal he will find he has 2 types of parishioners. The first will be those who disagree with his theology and, since no one wants to have to evangelize ones own priest, will go somewhere else for instruction in their faith. The 2nd will be those who agree with his theology and find it gives them no reason to go to church. The end result will be the same--an empty church".

My advice to my correspondent above was to emigrate to Sydney (Australia). The Sydney diocese still seem to accept the 39 articles and their seminary and churches are packed, of course. They remind us of what the CoE once was. They even evangelize in neighbouring dioceses. Something that gave me a great laugh was when one of their priests set up an evangelical style "family church" (He could not call it an Anglican church) in a neighbouring diocese and soon had huge congregations -- while the bishop of the diocese concerned spend his Sundays in his cathedral preaching to about 6 old ladies in flowered hats! That may be an exaggeration but not by much.

To my mind, one of the saddest events recently in the Anglican Church of Australia was the demonizing of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth. He served in Brisbane for some time so I got to know him a little -- enough to know that he is a true man of God -- which is more than I would say for most of the Anglican episcopate. His service to the church has now been cut short however because of a huge public uproar engineered by the Leftist media. The outrage was over the fact that he insisted on a proper judicial standard of evidence when an accusation of sexual abuse was brought against one of his priests. Apparently priests have to be assumed guilty until proven innocent according to the media.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


A couple of days ago I put up some links to the site of Steve, my Christadelphian correspondent. He has emailed me again since then with some comments about how he became a Christadelphian -- which I thought readers might like to see. He has also put up some scriptural challenges to me that I will deal with one by one over the next few days. So first his biographical notes and then on to some of his exegetical comments:

"I was not born into the Christadelphian community. I was raised Roman Catholic. By late high school I was intellectually and morally very dissatisfied with Catholicism. There were too many mysteries and too much history that showed the corruption and crimes of the Church. What a witness history is... if men would only avail themselves of looking at history! The Church will apologize for the crimes of 'its sons and daughters' but when has it apologized for -- to start with -- the crimes IT committed?

So by late high school I was looking into the Baptists, Methodists, charismatic movements -- really about anything that might have some answers. They were, like the Catholicism I left, religions that were built on tradition, contradiction, convenience and above all feel-goodism. Particularly striking to me about modern Christianity was the corruption of the clergy (cp 1st Joh 4:5) and its reliance on one or two verses wrested to prove their doctrine, whereas the rest of the Bible was ignored. I knew that if there was a God, he would not have so many pious frauds working for Him. Also, there was no serious study of the Bible or history and no attempt to reconcile the two (as to what happened, why it happened, and man's nature).

It was about that time that I met a Christadelphian then started studying things for myself, Bible open. When I saw that Christianity was built on fables as I had previously understood, though instinctively, and that the Bible could be understood in a way that did not contradict itself, that it explained man's nature, and above all, that it gave a purpose for why God created man, why mankind suffers &c -- Num 14:21; Psa 72:19; Matt 6:10; Acts 15:14; Isa 11:55-13 to start with -- it got my attention.

If I had not found the Truth, I would have turned to atheism for the sake of intellectual honesty. That might shock a liberal Christian, but if a person lies to himself, if he loses his own intellectual integrity, though he owned the world, he'd still be the poorest and most miserable man alive.

2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables".

And now for an exegetical challenge: Steve writes:

Regarding 1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. You wrote, "1 Corinthians 15 tells us that there is no flesh and blood in Heaven". That is true but where does the Bible say that men go to heaven, besides Christ? There are a number of verses that would indicate otherwise: (John 1:18, 6:46, 3:13; Pro 30:4; Acts 2:34; Rom 10:6; Exo 33:20).

OK: "No-one has ever seen God" (John 1:18 and John 6:46). This does not say no-one WILL see God. That happens after the resurrection. "No-one has ascended unto heaven .. but the Son" (John 3:13). Again right. That comes after the resurrection. Note, by the way, how that text rules out an immortal soul going straight off to Heaven. "Who has ascended unto Heaven and come down?" (Prov. 30:4). Again that speaks of pre-resurrection times. "David did not ascend into the Heavens" (Acts 2:34). Again: Not yet. "Who will ascend into Heaven?" (Romans 10:6). Again, not yet. "For man shall not see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). YHWH is here explaining to Moses why Moses cannot see him so is clearly referring to physical man not resurrected immortal man.

So that was easy. As for where does the Bible say that men go to Heaven, that is 1 Corinthians 15 for starters. Paul there mostly refers to the post-resurrection spiritual afterlife of the righteous without saying "where" it is for the excellent reason that as a spirit realm it does not have a "where". Towards the end of the passage, however he refers to it as "the Kingdom of God" and if God's abode is not Heaven how do we explain Matthew 24:36, Mark 12:25, Galatians 1:8 and Revelations 10:1 -- all of which say that Heaven is where the Angels live. Aren't the angels part of God's kingdom? And what about Acts 3:21 and Romans 10:6 which say that Heaven is where Jesus is until the Second Coming? And Matthew 5:16 which says, "give glory to your father who is in Heaven" And I guess I don't need to mention the Lord's prayer.

I could go on....

Friday, March 11, 2005


Dienekes has sent me the following email about the Ascension which seems to be seriously meant:

1 Corinthians 15:50 states that "I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." Obviously, this passage speaks about the "kingdom of God" and not about "heaven".

Second, there is no reason to think that Jesus left his physical body when he ascended to heaven. Here is how this event is described in Luke 24: "Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven."

No mention of anything happening to his physical body. And here is how his return is said to be like in Acts 1:

"And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

So, the New Testament is pretty clear: Jesus ascended to heaven as he was, without any "transformation" or "shedding of the physical body", and he will come back in the same way.

There are a number of things wrongheaded things in the above but the really amusing mistake is to think that the sky is the only "Heaven". I imagine that Neanderthal man looking out of his cave might have thought that the afterlife was literally "up there" but for a sophisticated Greek (which appears to be how Dienekes sees himself) to be that simplistic is frankly amazing. That the "heaven" referred to in Luke was the sky is made perfectly clear by the fact that his followers were looking up into it. It was in short visible and the whole idea of the spirit realm is that it is not visible. So Christ's body going up into the sky may have been symbolic of his transition into the spirit realm but it could not have been anything more. And where did his body go when it went up into the sky? Presumably it vanished or was dissolved into thin air just as it did on various occasions (e.g. Luke 24:31) during his post-resurrection appearances to his followers.

And the attempt to say that the spiritual realm mentioned in 1 Corinthians is not also called Heaven is frankly to ignore the text. Read verses 47 and 48. The same Greek word meaning "sky" ("ouranos") is also used to mean the spirit realm.

It must be said that the use of the one Greek word to mean various things is pesky but that is what we are stuck with repeatedly in our reading of the NT and that is why the careful definition of what the afterlife is given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is so important. Paul himself was obviously perfectly aware of the potential ambiguities and went to great lengths to make it clear that is was a non-physical realm he was talking about. And Christ himself of course made a similar distinction between the two modes of existence in Luke 24:40.

I will comment further on this if anybody thinks anything further needs to be said.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


A reader has asked me whether I consider Jesus to have been a real person. I consider him to be one of the best attested people in ancient history. Given the amount we have written about him -- mostly in the various books of the NT -- if he did not exist then nobody did. To me however he was the wisest of men, not anything more than a man. I would like to see more of his teachings passed on in the churches. It pains me that they so often have pagan dross mixed in with them. I have traditional blogger advice about the NT: Read the whole thing!

I am very pleased to see that I am not the only internet writer who can see the huge gaps between modern Christendom and the Christianity of the NT. And this time it is not a wicked old atheist like me but a committed Christian (a Christadelphian). His site is here. Below is a copy of one of his pages:

Christendom Astray From the Bible

* 1--The Bible--What it is, and how to interpret it

* 2--Human Nature Essentially Mortal, as proved by Nature and Revelation

* 3--The Dead Unconscious till the Resurrection, and consequent error of popular belief in heaven and hell

* 4--Immortality a conditional gift to be bestowed at the Resurrection

* 5--Judgment to come; the dispensation of Divine awards to responsible classes at the return of Christ

* 6--God, Angels, Jesus Christ, and the Crucifixion

* 7--The Devil not a personal supernatural being, but the scriptural personification of sin in its manifestations among men

* 8--The Kingdom of God not yet in existence, but to be established visibly on the earth at a future day

* 9--The Promises made to the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), yet to be fulfilled in the setting up of the Kingdom of God upon earth

* 10--The Kingdom of God the Final Instrumentality in the great scheme of human redemption

* 11--Christ the Future King of the World

* 12--The Covenant made with David to be realised in the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Israel under Christ

* 13--The Second Coming of Christ the only Christian Hope

* 14--The Hope of Israel, or, the Restoration of the Jews, a part of the divine scheme, and an element of the Gospel

* 15--Coming troubles and the Second Advent

* 16--Times and Signs: or the evidence that the end is near

* 17--The Refuge from the Storm: or, "What must I do to Do Saved ?"

* 18--The Ways of Christendom inconsistent with the Commandments of Christ

* Summary

I am also pleased to see that Steve is an old conservative like me. See his article here about politics and Christianity.

For tomorrow I have an amusing email from Dienekes about the Ascension to comment on.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


As I mentioned in my post of 7th, Jesus after his resurrection seems not to have looked anything like he was before his resurrection. He normally had to talk people into recognizing that he was the same person and even then they only recognized him by various signs, such as the wounds in his hands and the way he broke bread. And some followers never were convinced, it appears. See Matthew 28:17. And Mark, perhaps wisely, mentions no appearances at all -- which is why various extra bits [1] are occasionally added on after the final verse (16:8) of his Gospel. Why would a historian of Jesus's life leave out the most dramatic part of that life? It very much sounds like Mark was one of those who did not believe that it really was Jesus who appeared. And the obvious conclusion from all that is that the resurrected Jesus was a smart impostor enjoying the attention he got. Any competent illusionist ("Magician") could have done what the allegedly resurrected Jesus did.

Such a conclusion is of course unacceptable to a person of faith and one of my readers has attempted to do what the scriptures do not -- explain WHY Christ was normally not recognized in his post-resurrection appearances:

I address the post-resurrected Christ. I believe you are searching for something that isn't there. There is no Scripture stating what you believe, ie the temporary body. And as for an imposter, I suppose this could happen, but it does not coincide with belief in an omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty God. He has no need for imposters, or magicians! As Moses displayed, God's power being used through Moses far outshone the abilities of Pharoh's magicians. Only God has authority and power over universal law, and Jesus being unrecognizable has no real merit or importance in the message of Christ.

But, to humor you, I will suppose, as many Christians and people do, why I think Jesus was not immediately recognized. First of all, He was probably in His "glorified body," already, and who knows exactly what that is or looks like? I sure don't, for all I know is what I read, and although Paul is fairly specific on telling us when this will happen and the results of being in this new body, he does nothing to describe it to us. We only know that it is imperishable, a term not relevant to spirit, and it is incorruptable, meaning there will never be any sickness again, something else that bears no relevance concerning spirit, and it is immortal. But how we will look, that is not revealed.

However, I have heard some suggest that it was because of this, "Glorified body," they did not recognize Christ. I wish to add that they also were of the mind set that once something is dead - physically, it will remain dead, for history had proven this to them. There was no expectation of ever seeing Christ again in this life. Perhaps their minds could not comprehend something that had definitely defied the laws of physics? I think that would be the case far more than Jesus looking so differently, for Scripture also tells us that, "They will look upon Him whom they pierced and weep." These people will definitely know Jesus.

This statement of Scripture also defies the idea that Jesus is only spirit. How could one look upon a spirit and recognize scars or that it was wounded in a particular way? Also, Jesus spoke to the women He met first making a statement that they shouldn't "touch" Him, because He had not yet been to the Father. So, sometime between then and the time He had Thomas touch Him, then He had been to our heavenly Father and was cleansed, or whatever may have happened. Again, I attribute the misunderstandings here as being on our part for trying to understand that which is infinite with finite minds. As smart as we think we are, we still will never understand universal mysteries until that time comes when God so designs.

One other possibility is that Jesus was SO scarred He wasn't easily recognized, for Isaiah says that, "He was marred beyond that of any man," and that the disfigurement was considerable. If Jesus had been to hell, "hades, gehenna, sheol," and witnessed to the souls there, but not yet ascended to God, then His disfigurements would still be quite obvious, as well as fresh. After the time He ascended, then He too would have put on that immortal body, which Scripture says we will have at the time of Christ's return.

Whatever did happen, and I believe the clues are there in Scripture for us to decipher, Jesus was not at first recognizable, but He could be recognized, and after a specific time, He was immediately recognized by the disciples. I have also considered that the disciples were so afraid of suffering what Jesus did, should they have been found, that their exteme paranoia kept them hostage from the truth. I have always thought that it wasn't because they did not believe Jesus couldn't resurrect, because they had seen Jesus resurrect the dead Himself, their biggest problem with believing had to do with the fact that Jesus first appeared to the women. Since women had low social value in those days, and were even thought of as property, the disciples had to wonder why Jesus would first come to them. I think the disciples had a bigger problem with this than the fact Jesus was alive.

If that explanation saves anybody's faith I am happy with it but I see various problems in the account:

It is true that the scriptures nowhere use the word "temporary" in connection with Christ's post-resurrection body but we are also told that Christ was bound for Heaven after his appearances and 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that there is no flesh and blood in Heaven so that makes his body temporary as far as I can see.

"Glorified" body? I don't know what is being referred to there. It must be some non-scriptural reference. Christ's Heavenly body is not a flesh and blood one but the one who appeared to the disciples emphatically was flesh and blood.

The fourth paragraph above is confused. Nobody has ever argued that the post-resurrection Jesus is only spirit. He argued during his life (e.g. John 8:58) that he was a spirit inhabiting a body and nobody argues otherwise after the resurrection. The reference to "do not touch me" (John 20:17) is a mistranslation. The RSV rendering ("do not hold me") makes much more sense in the context. Read the context if you doubt it. The Greek ("apto") has the sense of "cling to" according to Abbott-Smith.

The idea that Jesus was disfigured is nowhere mentioned. Those who met him seem to have always accepted initially that he was just another ordinary person.

That his followers simply did not want to believe what they saw is not inherently unreasonable but that is not what the texts say. The texts say that on various occasions they simply did not recognize him. They did not even suspect that it was he.


[1] I have three recensions of the Greek NT -- Nestle, Griesbach and Westcott & Hort and none of them accept anything after Mark 16: 8 as original. The two major 4th century MSS we have (Vaticanus 1209 and Codex Sinaiticus) do not have anything after 16: 8. The "long" ending first appears in 5th century MSS so was evidently added by someone in that century. The "short" ending is confined to even later MSS. The NIV sums up the matter with admirable brevity: "The most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16: 9-20" but all recent translations I know have some note to that effect.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


The articles were first issued in 1571 and, up until 1865, every Anglican priest had to swear to his belief in them. Now he only has to swear "general agreement", which means precisely nothing

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.

"Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God".

This now ancient statement of faith concerns one of the great controversies in early Protestantism. Are we saved by our faith (Luther) or is there nothing we can do to ensure our salvation (Calvin)?

I have always thought that predestination is a pretty nutty doctrine despite the fact that it was a traditional belief in the Presbyterian family into which I was born. There is some scriptural justification for it in the epistles (e.g. Romans 8:29,30) but it flies in the face of everything Jesus taught. He was always telling people what they needed to DO to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Its main exponents used to be the Reformed (Europe) and Presbyterian (Britain) churches but it is now seldom preached anywhere in Christendomn as far as I can gather. It is however still very influential in Islam.

The above official Anglican statement on the doctrine did therefore labour under something of a burden. How to reconcile the various things the NT says on the question? So what we get is to me a rather fun bit of theology. Because it is theology it is very hard to understand but it boils down to saying that we are all indeed predestined to our fate (first paragraph) but it is dangerous to believe that (second paragraph) and we must follow God's law anyway (third paragraph)!

A perfect bit of Anglican compromise even way back in the early days of Anglicanism -- and making about as much sense as modern Anglican theology.

On other issues, however, the 39 articles are admirably clear and blunt. Take article 22:

XXII. Of Purgatory

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

"Shove that up your cassock" seems to be the message there. I love it! I like plain speaking. We get more in Article 24:

XXIV. Of speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth

It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.

So those old guys were pretty straight and to the point when they were not labouring under a need for compromise between opposing viewpoints. Jolly good stuff in my opinion. If you can handle antique English, read the whole thing! You will definitely see real Protestantism at work in them, which is more than you can say about most of Anglicanism today (Sydney diocese of course excepted).

There is a site here that actually "translates" the articles into modern English but that takes away half the fun. I like the emphatic language of the original.

So is there a better way out of the predestination dilemma that the Anglican one? Possibly. I think it could be argued that the "predestinarian" texts in the epistles are really talking about God's FOREKNOWLEDGE and that knowing a thing will happen is a lot different from making it happen. I would not be prepared to argue that in detail, however. I will leave that one to the theologians.

(Note: Just for fun, I am putting this post up on Blogger News too. Rather amusingly, I seem to do most of their religion posts)