If you are reading this, you probably live in an English-speaking western country. And it is no secret that we in the west use a greater amount of the world’s resources than do people in less affluent countries. Is it fair?
Jesus is no longer a sacred subject in our culture. Scholars feel free to cast doubts on almost any aspect of his life and construct counter-hypotheses to explain his life. Internet ‘instant experts’ confidently state that he didn’t exist. Some christians are deeply disturbed by these claims and doubts. And we may all find it difficult to share our faith in Jesus when our friends may doubt the gospels contain any historical truth.
What can we say to all this?
If you spend time on online religious discussion forums, you’ve probably heard someone say: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!” Ever since Carl Sagan said it, this aphorism (often abbreviated to the acronym ECREE) has been used to critique claims of miracles or the paranormal. It sounds neat and logical, and it can help you feel you have the ‘high logical ground’, but is it true? What should christians think about it?
David Sloan Wilson is an eminent evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University in New York. He is an atheist “but a nice atheist”, he assures us, and he is interested in the study of religion from an evolutionary viewpoint and the use of evolutionary principles to develop community development programs.
You may be surprised to know I believe christians can learn something useful from him.
Most of us have heard stories of people being healed after they were prayed for. They encourage our faith and encourage us to keep praying for those we know who need healing.
But are they also useful in helping non-believers to believe?
If you’ve spent any time on the internet this year, you probably know that Rob Bell is a much-loved and much vilified US pastor whose latest book Love Wins has caused a great deal of comment and even anger. The cause of the anger is many commentators’ fears that Bell has subtly espoused a doctrine they regard as heretical.
Is the fuss warranted?
A long time ago I read a book which (primarily) examined a bunch of Biblical prophecies which had come true in verifiable history, and attempted to estimate the mathematical probability of this happening by guesswork. The book was Science Speaks, by Peter Stoner, a college professor of mathematics and astronomy, and I have just found it is now available on the internet.
Of course the study found that it was quite implausible that these correct prophecies could have been made by chance, and I remember being very impressed at the time. But the argument for the truth of the Bible from fulfilled prophecy has since fallen on hard times. Should we be using it today?
If you’ve trawled the internet for very long, you’ve probably come across unbelievers who say Jesus never existed, the stories are simply myths. How to answer them (if we choose to)?
A couple of post back, in Good news?, I reflected on how some aspects of the teaching and example of Jesus seemed to be missing from modern “gospel” presentations, and suggested “we could improve our presentation of the good news to be more positive, forward looking and reflecting ‘God’s favour’”.
I’ve now had a go at writing a summary that tries to be more faithful to Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God, although using modern language. Here it is …
Is belief in God dying out, in the western world at least? Some recent surveys give some answers, and some challenges for christians.
This is the second in a series of posts on Jesus and history.
Not so many years ago, christians could talk about Jesus and quote the Bible as their authority, and it wasn’t much questioned. People may not have believed in Jesus or followed his teaching, but few doubted he lived and taught and died. But things have changed in a few decades.
Archaeology can tell us a lot about the world of first century Palestine, where Jesus lived, and this is a great help in understanding the New Testament. But can it tell us much about one of the most basic questions of all: are the New Testament gospels accurate accounts of Jesus’ life, based on eyewitnesses?