Just finished browsing the latest issue of the Journal of Theological Studies, and found much to be thankful for. Of particular interest to the readers of this blog will be more reminders that the most reliable sources for knowledge of what Jesus actually did and said remain Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This has been generally admitted by academic scholarship for some time, but has yet to percolate into the press, most seminaries, and too many pulpits. I find myself having to challenge the idea that it’s been conclusively proved that the New Testament was all made up in order to repress true Christianity two or three times a year; if you don’t, you’re shirking your duties.

So it’s great to read, for instance, that the latest and most authoritative commentary on the Gospel of Thomas confirms that ‘any relevance to historical Jesus research is negligible’ (p 805), and that ‘agreement in substance between… scholars with distinct perspectives may be indicative of the emergence of a majority opinion that considers the use of apocryphal gospels in historical Jesus research to be problematic’ (p 765).

Which isn’t to say that the early church wasn’t almost as theologically diverse as some would like to think; but it does confirm that Christians have been right to use the canonical gospels in order to discover what Jesus actually taught rather than what He was believed to have taught. It’s also good to be reminded that even this real diversity was less threatening to orthodox contemporaries than the revisionists try to convince us. Even that hammer of heretics, Irenaeus, ‘spent considerable energy urging the church, especially in Rome, to preserve its toleration for diversity’ (p 817).

Finally, news of a new book on the relationship between Science and Christianity by a Professor of Physics at Oxford University asserting in the most vigorous terms, which the reviewer found quite persuasive, that ‘the pursuit of science is a natural and important aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth’ (p 898). The writer, Andrew Steane, not only believes in the resurrection, but considers that the other miracles can be believed ‘on the basis of reliable testimony’, and argues that miracles do not contradict the findings of even the most up to date science (ibid). The title is Faithful to Science, and I can’t wait to read it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

21st-century Europe has only itself to blame for the mess it is now in. For surely nowhere in the world has devoted more resources to the study of history than modern Europe. When I went up to Oxford more than 30 years ago, it was taken for granted that in the first term of my first year I would study Gibbon. It did no good. We learned nothing that mattered. Indeed, we learned a lot of nonsense to the effect that nationalism was a bad thing, nation-states worse, and empires the worst things of all. “Romans before the fall,” wrote Ward-Perkins in his “Fall of Rome,” “were as certain as we are today that their world would continue for ever substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”

Read it all here

We are on the Lord’s side, servants of the King,
No more hesitation, all to Him we bring;
Jesus Christ our Saviour has us in His care,
In His perfect Kingdom risen life we’ll share.

Eagerly obeying, proud to bear His name,
Time is past for sorrow, ended is our shame;
Jesus our redeemer makes our spirits bright,
Leads us out of darkness into glorious light.

Children of one Father, by one Spirit led,
No more fear or doubting, all is done and said.
Jesus our Messiah sends us now to go
into all creation, His great love to show.

So, our worship ended, service we begin,
To our duty going, confident in Him:
Jesus is God with us, first and last is He,
And we will be with Him for eternity.

Suggested tune: Camberwell (Michael Brierly, 1960)

bloke as future scientist w test tube etcMost Christians are a bit defensive when the latest developments in science are being celebrated, but Evangelicals often seem especially so. I’ve never worried much about any apparent contradictions between science and Scripture, since it seems pretty clear that the Bible was not given as a science text, and is bound to be misunderstood if treated as one. So it never occurred to me that thinking about the Bible in relationship to developments in science could actually be a spiritually positive thing, until I found the blog Undivided Looking.

The blog is run by Aron Wall, a postdoctoral researcher studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics at UC Santa Barbara, and is not only the best internet resource on the relationship between physics and Scripture specifically, and science and religion generally, that I’ve yet come across, but also the best that dozens of others have come across, as comments on the blog show regularly. This is only the most recent of several memorable ones:

This site has quite literally been a Godsend to me.  I’ve always loved science but until about 5 years ago, I assumed you had put your brain on a shelf to be a christian.  No big bang, no creation, etc… I now look at science as learning about God, and He becomes more incredible to me every day!

It’s also a great read if you’re actually interested in the science; I’ve tried several introductions supposed to be helpful to the layman, most recently Peter Coles’s Very Short Introduction to Cosmology, but none of them were as helpful as Wall’s blog series on ‘Fundamental Reality’. Wall’s blog has several series of this sort, and I can also recommend ‘Did the Universe Begin?’ (start here, where there are links to all the preceding posts) and the still ongoing ‘God and Time’, first post here.

I’ve found that I need to set aside quite a bit of time, an hour or so, before tackling even a single post, but the result has sometimes been that I’ve understood not only some aspect of science, but some aspect of God’s word, for the first time. If you find the subject interesting, you’ll find the time well spent, and if you just want something to recommend to the next wise guy with a ‘science has disproved all that’, I don’t see how you could do better.

Tom IshamReaders of this blog will be familiar with the 19th century leader of the evangelical party in the Episcopal Church, bishop Charles Pettit McIlvaine, having read about him here and here. Tom Isham has a new article about McIlvaine in the latest issue of Crossway, the quarterly magazine of Church Society, arguing that he is America’s equivalent of England’s J. C. Ryle. Ryle is also familiar to our readers—too many posts about him to list here, type his name in our search box and you’ll find dozens.

More information about Crossway, including a subscription form, can be found here; the new issue also has articles on the life and ministry of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the advantages of long-term persistent expository preaching, an article on “preaching the negatives” as well as the positives, and a helpful look at the confusing subject of transgenderism, and how Christians should respond to it.


Evangelion 2015The recent gathering of Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church, known as Evangelion, was seen by many around the church, as well as those present, as the best thing that has happened in PECUSA for quite some time. Bruce Robison has invited the Evangelicals in Pittsburgh who were unable to be present to attend anyway, hosting a video replay of the entire event on June 19th at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Highland Park. Nine people have signed up to attend, and no doubt there will be some walk-ins. This made possible, of course, by the video recordings made by Kevin Kallson of Anglican TV, to which there are links in the posts below.

If you’re not on Bruce’s mailing list, but would like to attend, the address of St Andrew’s is 5801 Hampton St, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (412-661-1245). Let him know you’re coming via the ‘comment’ link to this post and he’ll make sure there’s a chair for you.

Seems like an easy way to spread the encouragement around, and I suspect that other readers of this blog might be able to get a similar group together. Let’s pray that Evangelion I keeps rolling round the country till it’s time to register for Evangelion II, the dates and location of which should be confirmed shortly.

Lee Gatiss, in his second address to the recent conference of Evangelicals, described a recent survey of Evangelicals in the Church of England which discovered that not only is the evangelical community divided over whether evangelicalism is having an effect on the church, but that the same division is found in individual Evangelicals—that Evangelicals are suffering from a spiritual bi-polar disorder. We can go from fervent optimism to utter despair in a matter of hours. The cure, of course, is the gospel itself…


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