SHERINGTON WITH CHICHELEY, NORTH CRAWLEY, ASTWOOD AND HARDMEAD
God, the Greatest Engineer
“I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.”
- WHAT ABOUT ADAM AND EVE?
During a recent “Something Different” service, we started looking at the Apostles’ creed and asked if there were some areas of which we were uncertain. One topic was the whole issue of how the universe started, did we believe that God created it?
I am in the process of writing a book about God, the Greatest Engineer, so I offer a small part of it as a starter to think about this huge subject: One of the most common scientific theories is that of the “Big Bang”. A simplified explanation of this, from Wikipedia is: “The Big Bang theory is a cosmological model of the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. ... Edwin Hubble concluded from analysis of galactic redshifts in 1929 that galaxies are drifting apart; this is important observational evidence for an expanding universe.” “Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place the Big Bang at around 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe.”
This seems to be a direct contradiction of a literal reading of the book of Genesis, which has the universe being created in six days, culminating in the creation of Adam and Eve.
Which is true? “Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs! You cannot be serious!” This is a widely- held view which is used to discredit the bible, and seems to directly contradict the scientific world view. Hasn’t Darwin’s “Theory of evolution by natural selection” been accepted by everyone except some fundamentalist creationists in the USA?
John Young’s book, “The case against Christ” proposes several alterrnative ways of viewing the Adam and Eve story, which I summarise and provide comments:
1. The story is literally true If God is God, He has the power to perform a miraculous literal 6- day creation, alongside the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib. It has been said that “rib” is a mistranslation of the original Hebrew, and a more accurate translation is “side”. Young quotes former Prof Verna Wright, of Leeds University, UK as saying: “For myself, I believe in a six-day creation. A straight-forward reading of Genesis by an intelligent man, not exposed to the evolutionary model, would suggest a literal six-day creation. The only way around this interpretation would be to suggest the account was allegorical or poetic. Neither in the opening chapters of Genesis nor elsewhere in the Bible is there a suggestion that the account is symbolic. Moreover, it is not found in the poertic section on the Old Testament.” Young comments ”Views held by a professional scientist, on a subject which he has studied closely, must be weighed carefully.”
2. The possibility of accepting the theory of evolution and the Bible Many people strongly disagree with the above approach, as it draws attention away from Jesus and onto sterile secondary issues. Such an approach may lead unbelievers to write off Christians as “anti-science”, who’s faith can be therefore be dismissed or mocked. Recently, “militant atheists” have used the literlist approach as ammunition against faith. Believers in evolution and the Bible say that the order of creation in Genesis Chapter 1 is similar to that suggested by evolutionary scientists, ( e.g. water creatures before land creatures). They also point out that the “6 days”, in Genesis refer to extremely long periods of time. Indeed, there are Biblical references concerning God’s timing: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter, Chap. 3, verse8) “For in Your sight a thousand years are but a day that passes, or a watch of the night”. (Psalm 90, verse 4) Many people also point out the Bible tells us that God created the world and all living creatures, but scientific theories of evolution attempt to tell us how He did it. This idea is echoed by Revd. Professor Sir John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS in many books, but most accessibly in “The Archbishop’s school of Christianity and science” he states: “…Doesn’t science tell us all we need to know, giving us enough answers to mean that we don’t have any need of religion as well?
Not at all. Science doesn’t even ask all the questions. It has been very successful precisely by not trying to ask and answer every possible query. It limits itself to asking how things happen. Science’s task is is to explore the processes of the world that keep things going. On its part, religion is asking another and deeper set of questions, enquiring into why things are happening. Is there meaning and purpose behind it all?.......”You come into my kitchen and the kettle is boiling. I put on my scientific hat and I say that this is because the burning gas generates heat, which raises the temperature of the water to 100 degrees, Centigrade and then it boils….
Yet nothing prevents me taking off my scientific hat and saying that the kettle is boiling because I want to make a cup of tea. We need to answer both the how and why questions in order properly to understand what is going on. I like to think that I am two-eyed and that, by using both my scientific eye and my religious eye, I can see more than with either alone.”
3. Is Genesis a history book?
Young says that some people say that the early chapters of Genesis are pre-scientific or non-scientific.They were written cenruries before the rise of modern science… The authors of Genesis did not know about modern science, and were therefore unable to be concerned about answering scientific questions. Genesis uses different types of language, and is concerned with different issues. Literal truth is not the only type of truth. Are the following staements literally true? “I lost my head” “She’s an old battle axe” “He’s got a frog in his thoat” This idea is taken further by Prof. Russell Stannard in “Science and Belief – The big issues”. Programme 1, Evolution and Genesis. Christian Education Publications, In it he quotes a William Blake poem: “Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? “ These phrases are clearly ridiculous, if taken literally, but they are vivid descriptions of what the writers wanted to convey. As Young stated “ On the basis of reading the first few chapters of Genesis and taking them seriously, but not literally, what sort of world would we expect to find? We should expect a world in which there is a great deal of beauty and design,plus a great deal of trouble and disharmony. In short, we would expect to find the world as it actually is.This is the genius of the book of Genesis. It describes and explains the human situation in a most profound way.” Genesis Chapter 3 contains a description of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. Here we see how humans behave when discovered to be at fault. The man blames the woman, and then God himself! “ the woman you put here with me- she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” ( Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 12, NIV). Not to be out-done, Eve also passed the blame on. “The serpent decieved me and I ate” ( Genesis Chaper 3, verse 13).
Genesis is absolutely truthful about how we behave. How like 21st. Century people! This story is a good example of a myth.
myth noun (ANCIENT STORY) B2 [ C or U ] an ancient story or set of stories, especially explaining the early history of a group of people or about natural events and facts: ancient myths
So, myths can be true about the human condition, if not historically true. We need to answer the question as to who is right; the proposers of the “Big Bang” theory, or those who have a literal view of the Bible? My view is that they are both right. The Scientific view gives a cogent view of the truth of how the Universe was created, whilst the Bible gives us the truth of how people behave.
We might also consider another question: “if the “Big Bang” is true, what, or who, caused it to happen?” There are many other issues concerning the creation of the Universe and the accuracy of the bible. I’m sure you have views about this. Are we honest, if we recite, “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of the heaven and earth”?
Please let me know what you think.
Prof John Fielding, April 2020
A Visual Reflection for Good Friday
A view in the Garden Tomb garden, near the Jerusalem ’bus station. Sometimes called “Gordon’s Calvary, after the general killed at Khartoum. Note what look like eye sockets and nose at the centre of the photo. Could this be Golgotha, the “place of the skull”?
Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed for us
Below a slideshow as Jesus would have seen the Temple, behind the city walls from lower down the Mount of Olives. He knew that the High Priests were there. They were the heart of the religious establishment that was going to have him killed. To the left was Herod’s palace, the heart of the political establishment. To the right was the Antonia fortress, heart of the military establishment. This is where it all happened. Martha, Mary and Lazarus’ home was Jesus’ “bolt hole” in Bethany, close to the Mount of Olives. .
views from the Mount of Olives
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SILENCE AND REFLECTION 1
John Chapter 18, verses 1 to 27 (New International Version)
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley....
read by John Fielding
barracks for 500 soldiers
SILENCE AND REFLECTION 2
John Chapter 18, verse 28 to 40
Jesus Before Pilate
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor....
read by Pam Fielding
SILENCE AND REFLECTION 3
John Chapter 19, verses 17 to 30
17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull....
read by John Fielding
... 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
SILENCE AND REFLECTION 4
John Chapter 19, verses 31-42
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.....
read by Pam Fielding
....42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
The Lord's Prayer & the Grace
Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours, Now and forever. Amen
MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, BE WITH US ALL EVERMORE.
Most of photos taken in Israel by Prof John Fielding, 2010
A VISIT TO EXPERIENCE THE PASSION PLAY IN OBERAMMERGAU
This year, Easter is going to be different from any we’ve experienced before! We will not be able to physically share Holy week, Good Friday, or the joy of Easter day.
We travelled to the passion play by flying from London to Munich, in Southern Germany. A coach then took us to rural Bavaria, where we stayed in a guesthouse, attached to a farm. We experienced wonderful food and associated rural smells. We were told that one of our drivers was “Jesus” from a previous production. The play is only performed every 10 years, and follows a tradition started in 1632. The village was afflicted by the Black Death plague and 80 people died. The village elders prayed and made a vow “at this time of suffering, the village councils met, and vowed to perform the passion play every ten years”. This vow has been kept, with the exception of 1940, when the War intervened. The village and surrounding hamlets have some 5000 inhabitants, about half of whom were directly involved in the play. The cast of hundreds of men, women, children and some animals performed on an enormous outdoor stage (the audience being under cover!). There was a huge choir and orchestra, who performed especially composed music in a very professional way and although they are amateurs, and the effect was very moving. The play was performed in two 2 hour plus sessions, divided by a break for a delicious meal in the delightful village. The play covered the last week in Jesus’ life, but included excerpts of the “sermon on the mount”, which showed his strength, power, love, and condemnation of evil. It’s easy to see why Jesus upset the political and religious establishment! The events of Holy Week unfolded inexorably, interspersed by vivid tableaux in which actors posed for several minutes to display Old Testament events. These acted as prophecies of what was about to happen to Jesus. The whole effect of the play was very powerful, and reminded us again of Jesus’ courage, love, and sacrifice and suppressed power. Highlights were the last supper, the awfully realistic crucifixion, and subtle resurrection. No one could be unmoved by it. For the remainder of the week, we went into Northern Italy, to a hotel besides Lake Garda, in glorious sunshine. We saw many wonderful sights, culminating in a live performance of the opera, Carmen, in the huge Roman amphitheatre of Verona. It did not take much imagination to think of citizens of 2000 years ago sitting on the same marble seats watching the martyrdom of our predecessors who were followers of the central figure of the passion play. Would we have had the same love and courage?