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Further comments on philosophical implications of ‘Interstellar ‘ film by William Lane Craig and another Christian blogger

I’m not the only one who enjoyed the’ Interstellar’  film but noted subtle anti Christian propaganda in it.

http://rogernews71.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/large-hypothetical-collider.html?m=1

The death of any man diminishes me….

As the famous quote from John Donne goes ‘The death of any man diminishes me…ask not then for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’ But the death of some people inevitably affects us more personally than others, and I was very sorry to hear last week that legendary guitarist John Renbourn had passed aged only 70. His long term friend and collaborator Stefan Grossman, whom I have met twice, has posted this video of the 2 men informally rehearsing.

He was an exceptional and adventurous musician who inspired at least 2 generations of guitar pickers. Coming to prominence in the late 1960s with the folk fusion group Pentangle (whom I saw perform at the Royal Albert Hall as a teenager around 1973) he studied composition after achieving commercial success (a rare thing) and succeeded in producing guitar music with elements of folk, blues, jazz, mediaeval, baroque and Irish (particularly the music of the great blind Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan which he and Stefan Grossman (featured in this video) did so much to transcribe and popularise for guitar.

I saw him play at least 4 times that I can remember, with Pentangle, Jacqui McShea, Isaac Guillory and solo-and he was never less than amazing, but could make self deprecating jokes about himself. Check his playing out on YouTube.

John Renbourn inspired my playing (such as it is) more than many. The first song I learned to play on guitar was Pentangle’s version of the old English ballad  ‘Lord Franklin’. And now he is gone, where we all must go-to the next world.

The Bible says in Psalm 90, attributed to Moses, ‘..for the years of our life is but three score years and ten, or perchance by strength, fourscore, and then we fly away….so let us number our days and get a heart of wisdom.’ Time is passing, we should use it well because it will run out sooner than we think.

Nasty ‘Disciples of the New Dawn’ anti Christian troll site

I heard about the self styled ‘Disciples of the New Dawn’ a few days ago via a FB post from a Daily Mail item about them. The Mail appeared to take them perfectly seriously. There is a petition calling for them to be banned. But the whole thing is a malicious fake, and part of an emerging pattern of deceitful ‘false flag’ internet operations designed to smear and misrepresent Christians..

new dawn breastnew dawn

The material the group (or is it the work of an individual?) posts is ludicrously and spitefully anti female, purportedly coming form a biblical Christian viewpoint. For example excoriating Caesarian sections for difficult labour, saying stuff like ‘if God wants you to die in childbirth, who are you do disagree?’. There is a lot more nasty stuff, after reading a sample I didn’t feel the need to clog my mind up with any more of it as it was so obvious. Or was it?

Lots of people are either taking this seriously, or else making comments like ‘whether or not this is a troll site …’ as if it was open to question. A veritable festival of Christian baiting is going on, as you can see from this Facebook page with sample comments like

” And they say the “wickens” (Wiccans-SH) are a cult. I hate that all the cults choose Christianity to use as their excuse to spread hate and ignorance ‘……..’ Of course… That way, they can get away with anything they want by claiming First Amendment rights, which they don’t deserve the way they spew hate/bigotry”

  • But no Christians have ‘spewed bigotry’ on the New Dawn page, since this is a fake site claiming to be Christian, a false flag operation. Note the second poster cited above asserts that the presumed Christians behind New Dawn ‘don’t deserve’ their First Amendment rights to free speech. This may all look like a very nasty joke, but it is serious. Mud has been thrown, some has stuck. And presumably this is what was intended.

Free speech means free speech, and if I want it (which I do) then it has to also be allowed to idiots, spiteful jokers, hateful blasphemers and others who are up to no good. If I am free to express my love and admiration for Jesus and pass on the message about God’s command to repent and believe, then opponents must be free to use their words to openly oppose that message should they so choose. But I do find it particularly repellent when people pretend to be who they are not in order to deliberately misrepresent other people and stir up hate.

This is a nasty form of poisoning the wells of debate. I have come across it before with a site calling itself creation science study which is another troll site run by a cynical atheist. Amongst other things, this site says that God hates the Phillipines and sent hurricane Hyan to punish them for being Catholics. If that were true, then I worked against God by sending some relief money via TEAR fund. I posted a couple of comments calling out the unprincipled, cowardly liar (*) calling himself Jim Solouki (**)responsible for this hateful false flag blog but he simply censored my comments without responding. And I have seen similar ‘false flag’ postings on YouTube.

From the posts that are published, apparently some people are taken in, but then again since it is clear that the people behind these anti Christian troll sites have no regard for truth, the responses may be fabricated. However, many Christians being gentle souls are slow to be as suspicious as they might be. And of course, much of what they post has a superficial resemblance to material that sincere believers like me post-so they can have a good old chortle as ‘real life resembled parody’ or whatever else they want to tell themselves. They won’t be laughing when they give account to Him before whose eyes there are no secrets.

Yes, I post angry stuff here, yes God is judgmental. No, I don’t apologise for that. But I post here under my own name and comments are uncensored. What kind of people deliberately post lies and misrepresentation with false identities to try to smear an intellectual/religious opponent? Oh yes, as Jesus said in John 8:44, something about ‘when Satan lies he speaks according to his nature, for he was a liar from the beginning’.

Its all getting very nasty out there. Christians, wake up. The enemy of our souls is no gentleman, and he isn’t playing for a draw or a truce. He is working to comprehensively destroy the church. Resist him, firm in your faith.

(*) Sorry if anyone doesn’t like this sort of phrase, but it is biblical language. I don’t hate this guy, I love him and am calling him to repentance.

(**) I tried Googling on this name, I found nothing. If anyone knows ‘Jim Solouki’ he is welcome to come here to explain himself, I won’t block his comments as he blocked mine.

There in the ground, His body lay…

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again.

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.

For I am His, and He is mine

Saved by the precious blood of Christ.’

Stuart Townend.

So looking forward to getting my new body. Thank you Lord.

(C)

BBC news priorities and the ‘Arab Spring’

Cameron+Sarkozy+Visit+Libya+BJhnAlK4fnEl

The main item on this morning’s Radio 4  BBC’s news flagship Today programme was a comment made by David Cameron in an interview in which he said that if elected as Prime Minister for a second term, he would not stand for a third term. He made the comment in response to a direct question. He has been accused of arrogance and causing chaos by his opponents, but presumably if he had dissembled or lied that would have been wrong too. Big story of the day.

A following item was about the State of Utah in the USA using firing squad to execute murderers, since Europe refuses to sell them the drugs used for lethal execution. Because Europe is like, so moral and ethical.

The fourth news item was about the bloodbath in Libya, which has collapsed into warring, ungovernable armed factions following the fall of Colonel Gaddafi. Maybe 100,000 people are dead, many more displaced. Now its starting to be a problem for Europe since Islamic State (BBC preferred term ‘so called Islamic State’) Jihadis are taking over, and there is a massive rise in people fleeing the country to try to get into Europe. Hundreds of refugees regularly drown at sea, some who get through will perhaps carry out Charlie Hebdo style atrocities in European cities. This is largely David Cameron’s fault.

Libya under Gaddafi was stable. Gaddafi was an essentially secularist leader, he was not a good man and had a history of supporting terrorism. Following a deal with the West, Gaddafi had stopped sponsoring overseas terrorism (he used to fund, train and arm the IRA when they were blowing up shopping centres and assassinating police officers in Northern Ireland and the UK mainland). He also got rid of his WMD program. In return for this, sanctions were lifted. Seemed reasonable in an imperfect world, rather like the peace the UK government made with the murderous IRA-far from perfect but not the worst thing.

Gaddafi thought he had a deal, but he thought wrong. During the ‘Arab Spring’, the west encouraged Libyans to revolt, then helped them. Led by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French Premier Nicolas Sarkosi, NATO air power destroyed Gaddafi’s tanks, artillery and aircraft leaving the way open to the downing of his government by rebel forces. This was part of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ that the liberal left BBC was so keen on. Now it is an absolute catastrophe. And it is our government’s fault. They learned nothing from the Iraq catastrophe and still somehow thought that the unrest in Arab/Muslim countries was something to do with a desire for liberal, pluralist western style democracy.

William+Hague+Cameron+Sarkozy+Visit+Libya+DXO6_AP0dSbl

                  look at them, so pleased with themselves for bringing peace and democracy to Libya!!!

Incidentally, after the West stabbed Gaddafi in the back (quite literally-he was savagely murdered by a mob) it is absolutely certain that no dictator will ever do a deal with the West again. Why would they, given the examples on display? Assad now knows that he and probably his family will die if he loses the civil war that was started with western encouragement. It seems likely therefore that he will fight to the last drop of blood to stay in power.  So the betrayal of Gaddafi after he thought he had a deal makes the world a much more dangerous place for generations, and greatly reduces the likelihood of peaceful change coming about by negotiations.

They even wanted to try the same trick in Syria. I heard a ‘Free Syria Army’ spokesman on BBC world service demanding that NATO did the same for them as they had for the rebels in Syria. ‘You don’t need to put any boots on the ground.’ he said ‘All you need to do is use warplanes and drones to take out Assad’s artillery and planes and arm us, we will do the rest.’ And the UK government very nearly did just that, only a strong grass roots campaign and a narrow vote in Parliament stopped us intervening in Syria. Alas, the rebels’ hope that we would be forced to intervene once there were enough photos of dead kids on YouTube had spurred them on, and by then events had a momentum of their own. And arms and Jihadis were pouring in from various foreign powers.

The situation in Syria is complex, and no doubt all commentators are biased while none are fully informed, but of three things there can be no reasonable doubt.

First, whichever way you look at it, Syria and all its people groups and communities were better off under under Assad’s rule than they are now. Same is true for Iraq under Saddam and Libya under Gaddafi. Stable dictatorship is less bad than merciless civil war and life in a refugee camp.

Secondly, the uprisings in these Arab nations were led and funded not by democrats, but by a mix of tribalists and jihadis, including those from foreign powers and international Sunni Muslim extremists.

Thirdly, the lot of Christians particularly has been made much, much worse in all these nations.

More could be said, but it was also ironic to hear an item about the moral superiority of European governments who think it wicked to judicially execute a convicted serial killer but were OK with using air power (i.e. dropping high explosive on to unconvicted people from a great height with variable accuracy) to help a bloodthirsty army of jihadist rebels overthrow a stable (albeit somewhat repressive) government and turn Libya into a failed state in which this sort of thing happens regularly.

coptic martyrs

I would rather my favourite guitar (a 2013 Les Paul sunburst) was stolen by a drug addict and sold for a tenth of its worth to pay for his next couple of fixes than vote for the wretch Cameron. He is as stained with innocent blood as Blair the Butcher of Baghdad. Both men utterly misread the situation in the Middle East, took bad advice and ignored good, and intervened where they had no right, no obligation, and no chance of doing anything good. The last word will go to my friend Dr **** **** who was from Mosul in Iraq, now overrun by Islamic State.

‘Why did Tony Blair invade my country? Why? George Bush is an idiot, but Blair is an educated man. Why did he do it? Under Saddam it wasn’t democracy, but we had education, water and electricity and you could walk down the street without being kidnapped or murdered.

Further thoughts concerning ‘An Atheist on the Alpha Course’

Following my recent attendance at ‘An Atheist on the Alpha Course’ presentation  at Winchester Skeptics group by Simon Clare, I have done a bit more research and reflection. He acknowledged in passing that some Christians did not think much of the course as they thought it oversimplified orthodox (small ‘o’) Christian doctrine. From my limited researches, this seems to be so, up to a point.

A Google search found amongst other observations on Alpha the following item.

http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/alpha.html under the not very cryptical banner ‘deception in the church’. This thoughtful essay by Tricia Tillin speaks of ‘post-Christian neo-mysticism’ and warns of the dangers of the so called Toronto Blessing which seems to have profoundly influenced Nicky Gumbel, the man most associated with the development and roll out of Alpha. I have seen the ‘Toronto Blessing’ and it sucks. There is some half hearted approval of Alpha which as acknowledged (as reported by Simon Clare) does present the message of Christ’s death for our sins, but asks (A) why do we need to ‘buy in’ Alpha to do this, and (B) what excess baggage comes with it?

Tillin writes

‘Alpha certainly starts by preaching the Gospel; the first three talks on video one focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the three talks on video two cover fundamental steps for new Christians, such as ‘How can I be sure of my faith?’, ‘Why and how should I read the Bible?’ and ‘Why and how should I pray?’ are all good. but as the course progresses, some of the talks tend to wander of into lengthy accounts of HTB’s (Holy Trinity Brompton) experiences of the Toronto Blessing and associates ministries, novel exegeses of various Biblical passages common among pro-Toronto preachers, all of which are less than helpful, to say the least, to potential Christians.

Clearly the aim is to bring as many into God’s Kingdom as possible but by the end of the course I cannot help feeling that the Toronto Blessing may have been the greater beneficiary.’

 

Tillin offers the story of a woman who left a church and set up a group meeting in her own home because she refused to ‘..snort like a pig and bark like a dog.‘ This reminded me of the notorious 1960 anti Christian film ‘Elmer Gantry’ which as the Wikipedia (linked) article describes, concerns ‘..a con man and a female evangelist selling religion to small town America.’ Incidentally, how many folks today know what ‘the sin of simony’ is? More about simony later. I remember being profoundly disturbed by this film which I watched on TV as a child. Since this kind of perversion exists (and always has) I wish someone had explained it to me, but growing up in a Catholic home, all Protestantism was equally of the devil in my father’s eyes. All I was ever told about it was that it was wrong.

elmer gantry

A perhaps more balanced criticism of Alpha from the Evangelical Christian angle can be found on the Got Questions? Christian apologetics site.  The item begins by saying

 ‘This article takes a very cautious view of the Alpha Course. We do recognise however that the Alpha Course has been a tremendous help to many Christians. Many people have come to faith in Jesus Christ though it. Many more have been strengthened in their faith and knowledge of God’s Word through it.’

So why the concerns? because, as they go on to say

‘The problem is that the Alpha Course can be very different depending on the church/organization that is using it. In the hands of a solidly evangelical teacher, the Alpha Course can be excellent. In the hands of someone trying to push beliefs and practices that are biblically questionable, the Alpha Course can be used to indoctrinate and mislead.’

That seems to fit in well with Simon Clare’s criticisms. The ‘Got Questions?’ article goes on to succinctly chronicle some of the doubtful to false doctrines and questionable practices of Alpha, while stressing (as do other commentators) that much good Christian truth is at the heart of Alpha and that the content and tone of the course depends very much on who is leading it.

The final paragraph states

”Again, as with any course or teaching, we must be diligent and discerning. We must diligently study God’s Word on our own and reject anything which contradicts the Bible. We must be discerning in evaluating the qualifications of the person or people teaching the course.”

Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/Alpha-Course.html#ixzz3SkGNxOKI

the cartoon below depicts the decidedly dodgy revivalist Todd Bentley.

todd heresy strange fire

In a useful discussion on the gift of tongues the Biblical phenomenon of speaking in tongues (described particularly in Acts chapter 2) and the modern phenomenon of glossolalia. I was involved in the latter during my time in a Charismatic church and I am now quite certain that it was a learned behaviour encouraged by the leadership which had to do with religious enthusiasm and group identity.  As a line from a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee classic  ‘Sporting life blues’  goes ‘I was young and foolish, and easy led astray.’ I don’t it was either the Holy Spirit or the devil, I think it was emotional manipulation among mostly young Christian people who were hungry for a manifestation of God and religious excitement who found this sort of thing much more to their taste than boring old Bible study, prayer and sound doctrine. See 2 Timothy 4:3. I had reached this conclusion independently and abandoned the practice of glossolalia some years before hearing Simon Clare, but still found it painful to hear someone washing this particular item dirty linen in public. It has to be owned up to, but also put in context.

So, was Simon Clare telling the truth about the Alpha Course?  

Yes and no. Credit to him, he was open about his atheism and desire to turn people away from God and Christ, converting them to atheism. However, that doesn’t detract from any faults he has found with Alpha. He is not the first to have found these faults, they are documented in the 2 links I have posted above, many more critical views from within the wider Christian church can be found. The church I am now committed to runs its own ‘Introduction to Christianity’ courses which absolutely do not rely on the kind of ‘cheap stage magic’ that Clare rightly deplores. So ‘An Atheist on the Alpha Course’ perhaps isn’t quite the big news story it might be seen as. Nor was it entirely representative of all Alpha courses everywhere, and nor am I going to condemn Alpha out of hand. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:2 ‘I have become all things to all men so that by all means I might save some.’ and that by the way is not an endorsement of any form of dishonesty or misrepresentation, for Paul wrote later to the same audience ‘We are not like so many peddlers of God’s word, but with sincerity we preach the word of Christ with God watching us’ (2 Corinthians 2:17.) 

One thing I noted Clare say was that Jesus had some very good things to say, but only as judged against Clare’s ‘humanism’. But what exactly is ‘humanism’? Presumably a godless philosophy, one among many. Clare was quite clear about his belief in big bang cosmology and molecules to man evolution and that we were coming from nowhere and going to nothing. He also stated his belief, consistent with Dawkins (whom he said was a hero) that we have no free will but followed biological determinism. In that materialist context, what of humanism or any other philosophy? Can it be any more than a personal preference, a meme? Perhaps just as good or bad and as based on emotionalism and group thinking as the worst excesses Simon Clare criticises in the Alpha Course.

Who is Simon Clare to judge the moral worth of Jesus, or indeed of anyone, according to an abstract standard of his own preference? This  seems to me an attempt to put a pseudo Christian gloss on the nihilism/hedonism that absolute materialism logically implies. Pure materialism is not a very attractive creed to live by.

I may return to this reflection later but now need to get breakfast and go to the orchard to split some logs. Oh yes the sin of simony….you can read about it in Acts chapter 8. Simon Magus was (apparently) a Christian convert who offered the Apostles money in return for spiritual power, that he could use to make more money. He was severely rebuked by the Apostle Peter. He gave his name to the sin of simony which is about using religion as a means of making profit. This heinous sin is referred to several times in the New Testament. 1 Peter ch 2 vss 1-3 describes false teachers ‘who will exploit you (KJV- will make merchandise of you) with deceptive words’, also Mathew 7 :5 where Jesus says ‘Beware of false prophets, they come to you in sheep’s clothing but inside are ravening wolves’  and as Paul said when he was leaving a church he had established and built up in Ephesus ‘For this I know, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.’  Many other similar warnings could be added. This isn’t new, indeed it has often been said that one of the things that adds credibility to the Bible is its unflinching depiction of the weaknesses and failings of most of its heroes.

So, the New Testament  is quite clear that false teachers and exploiters will arise attempting to destroy the church from within, some of them totally wicked, others merely misled to greater or lesser degrees. That is why Christians need to watch and pray at all times, as Jesus commanded. A Sovereign God can use opponents of Christianity like Simon Clare to point this out if church leaders are failing in their duty to do so.

I beg you to be reconciled to God through Christ.

Ex Machina film review

ava-from-ex-machina-borg

I wrote this the day after seeing the film, been busy, just finished editing and posted.

There are 2 films showing at the moment about the creation of humanoid robots/androids with artificial intelligence (AI). I saw one ‘Ex Machina’ last night and saw the trailer for the other ‘Chappie’. I don’t feel inclined to watch ‘Chappie’, which looked from the trailer pretty much a remake of  ‘Short circuit’. In both cases, the AI creation was described as being  ‘the next stage in evolution’. This use of language is worthy of comment.

Of course, there is a long history in science fiction and fantasy writing and film making of robots/androids who are very clever and can think and hold conversations. Without taxing myself I can think of Robbie the robot in the seminal sci-fi classic ‘Forbidden planet’ from around 1955, Isaac Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’, Marvin the paranoid android from Douglas Adams’ great sci-fi spoof ‘The Hitch hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, the cute little robots in ‘Silent Running’ and ‘Wall-E’ which was undoubtedly derivative of Silent Running. There are many others, including an oblique reference to artificial sex partners in C S Lewis’s ‘fairy tale for grown ups’ ‘That Hideous Strength’. So ‘Ex Machina’ is very much the latest twist on an old genre.

I appreciate sci fi and fantasy, and like any other fan I know full well that one has to willingly suspend disbelief when profoundly implausible technologies are deployed in the interest of good storytelling. So I won’t bother with a full technical review of the things on the film which obviously wouldn’t work in real life. But it was interesting in a brief chat with friends after the film how many thought that we might be no more than decades away from artificial intelligence. For pity’s sake, while we have rulers making insane political and economic decisions that doom nations it would be nice to have a bit more intelligence in live humans. I digress (but not much).

Caution plot spoilers

Ex Machina is a visually stunning and very watchable film despite there being only 3 main characters. 95% of the action takes place in or just outside the astonishing mainly subterranean home of the fabulously wealthy inventor Nathan which is located 2 hours helicopter ride in a mountainous wilderness. The mountains, glacier and river provide beautiful backdrops to several fascinating conversations.

Nathan lives there apparently alone with a female servant whom we are told speaks no English for security reasons. The young programmer from Nathan’s vast IT/mobile phone company wins a trip to the bosses home, but finds he has been brought there to carry out a ‘Turing test’ on the android, to see if she can really pass for human through interaction.

It seems that the android Ava has indeed acquired intelligence, a personality, and during a power outage that she has deliberately caused ( to disable the cameras that record their conversations) she confides to Caleb that ‘Nathan is not your friend’. It becomes clear that she wants to live and be free and suspects that she is going to be terminated. Her actions to prevent this deliver some very clever plot developments. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the plot.

ex-machina-trailer-590x312

The film is amongst other things a vehicle for philosophical ideas about who we are as humans and what intelligence, humanity, consciousness, freedom and love are. I was struck by the faith expressed in Ex Machina that clever men will soon, ‘inevitably’ as Nathan says, create intelligent androids. ‘Not if, but when.‘Nathan suggests that the future belongs to AI (think of the ’Terminator’ and ‘Matrix’ series of films) and that future AI beings ‘..will look back on humans as we look back on African ancestors using stone tools on the plains of Africa.’

All very deterministic, materialistic and evolutionary. This makes  a kind of sense within a materialistic context. If we evolved from space dust via pond slime andwithout meaning or consequence and simply cease at death, then why would it matter if  we humans were displaced by AI beings and rendered extinct? If we reject the Creator God and instead accept as a certain fact that we got here by a series of accidents (random mutations acting on natural selection in a struggle for life in which the strong eat the weak) then this will inevitably affect our world view, the things we think, and how we live and act.

I think the film understates the problems of creating an artificial brain by many, many, many orders of magnitude. On one level, OK-its only a film, category science fantasy. But on another level, when we see a flying horse or talking mouse as in C S Lewis’ Narnia stories we know we are watching fantasy, while this comes over as real. Film

s like Ex Machina present us with the prospect that creating a living humanoid is a realistically possible scientific achievement. Perhaps this is supposed to make it emotionally easier for folks to accept that life is nothing special and could have evolved, but even on that levels its nonsense, since what we see here is top end intelligent design (and beyond implausible at that.)

A watchable and thoughtful film, but one whose message needs to be evaluated in the light of the prevailing evolutionist assumptions that shape the world view of so many of us. If as I am convinced those assumptions are utterly false, then building our dreams and even basing our fears on them will lead us badly astray.

‘Controversial’ bishops’ pre-election letter

welby

The MSM (main stream media) is buzzing today with talk about a 52 page open letter by the English bishops ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Reactions vary, but most of what I heard reported or scanned on a brief Google was mild to moderate disapproval, whether from Conservatives who feel misrepresented, misunderstood and got at, or from the general public who find the Church boring and irrelevant. Labour supporters and those who think that the message of Jesus was essentially ‘Be nice to each other and set up a generous Welfare State’ were most positive

There is a link to the letter from the BBC item linked to below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31499189

I have read the full letter and what struck me most about it was its insufferable blandness. The tone is of damp social democracy and an attempt to induce guilt in anyone thinking of voting Conservative or (Giles Frazer forbid) UKIP. If they wanted to encourage people to vote Labour because they believe that big tax, big government and redistribution are Christian imperatives, why couldn’t they just say so? (and of course prove their case from Scripture). Likewise, if they believe in unilateral nuclear disarmanent, as the letter suggests, why don’t they just say so? Likewise, if they believe in open ended immigration, why not say so plainly rather than drop bland hints about ‘scapegoating’ and ‘community cohesion’?

Instead of anything distinctively Christian, we have 52 pages of bland waffle, with the official English Church’s name on it. It reads like an essay from a Guardian reading liberal lady curate with a sociology degree who is trying to be generally encouraging and uplifting without saying anything precise enough to offend anyone. The main impression is of a half hearted attempt to induce guilt in anyone who still believes in the so called Protestant Work Ethic. A trumpet blast calling for national repentance, it aint.

I am definitely not against Christian leaders speaking into national politics, far from it-although their main work is and must always be calling sinners to repentance, faith and Christian discipleship. To be fair, this does happen-and is not much reported as the MSM prefers controversy. However, if the C of E is going to sally forth into national politics, among subjects on which it might legitimately have a view and on which the letter is silent (unless I missed them in which case may i be corrected) are

-the persecution of Christians world wide, and their growing State-sponsored harrassment in Britain (as exemplified in the Leslie Pilkington and Ashers’ bakery cases)

-gambling (helping to keep poor folks poor)

-the cruel effects of supermarket cartels on milk farmers (Fair Trade begins at home)

-abortion and other harms resulting from sexual libertinism

-the continuing destruction of lifelong monogamous marriage including so called same sex marriage

-the manifold and demonstrable harms to children growing up in fatherless households (apart from a brief mention of ‘single parents’ in the context of saying they should be given more free money at the taxpayers’ expense)

-over regulation and other harmful effects on small business (a bedrock of liberty)

-the growing move towards legal mercy killing

-the debate about legalising cannabis and other harmful recreational drugs

-Islamification

-free speech including freedom to question, even insult, ALL religions and secularist viewpoints

-evolutionist and sexual libertarianist indoctrination in schools

Now there’s some stuff in there that WOULD cause real offence, but better to offend (for the right reasons) than to bore people comatose with bland waffle.

What offends me about this letter most is not its assumption that big government tax and spend policies are the default position for a Christian, (which by the way, if you read the Bible rather than The Guardian, they aren’t) but its squandering of the Church’s accumulated (but diminishing) stock of credibility on something so indistinguishable from a Guardian editorial. The more often the C of E comes out with this sort of banal expedition into general national politics, the less validity it will be seen as having when saying something distinctively Christian-for example-repent of your adulteries, murders, idolatries and thefts (Revelation 9:21).

PS The Guido Fawkes blog reveals that Richard Chapman, one of the Archbishop’s political advisers has a long record of working for left wing Labour MPs.

Horus borus

The Christian who wishes as part of their loving duty to point fellow sinners to eternal happiness by seeking to correct and refute various on line untruths, distractions and stink bombs designed and deployed to oppose the Christian message must budget his or her time carefully, or else they could spend 16 hours a day at it. I have just disengaged, at least temporarily, from a particular Facebook discussion group as it had become clear that certain persons were going to continue posting misleading, re-hashed, many times already answered questions until the other posters had given up correcting them or died of boredom. So its almost refreshing to see the old Horus story is still doing the rounds.

Having said that, it is a very tired old story. Basically, the myth/meme asserts that the story of Jesus was borrowed from the Egyptian myth about Horus. As generally told, Horus is said to have been a god-man, born of a virgin on 25th December, had 12 disciples, etc, etc and obviously the whole Christian narrative must have been stolen from this older story. There isn’t any evidence of course, but if you don’t want the story of Jesus to be true, for example if you’re quite fond of adultery and believe strongly in your own autonomy, and generally detest the idea of having to obey and worship God, it’s a useful aid to unbelief. Handy little smoke bomb to throw at Christians if they’ve already given you decent answers to ‘What about…Galileo, the Inquisition, the Crusades….’and a few other standard ripostes. If, in an internet discussion, someone throws in ‘Jesus is just a copy of Horus!’ of course its trash, but it takes quite a while to explain why. This handy little item on the Come Reason  site makes it easier.

horus-jesus-myth

Refreshing my memory on the Horus distraction tactic reminded me of Sir James Frazer’s 1922 book ‘The Golden Bough’ which sought to undermine Christianity by comparing it with numerous pagan ‘dying and resurrecting god’ cults. I wrote a brief essay about this a few years back which is on Kindle in ‘Three Men in a Hut and Other Essays’. The essays were inspired by an ambush at a dinner party which I describe in the book. I post it unaltered apart from minor grammatical corrections

 

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The Pagan connection: The Golden Bough

There is a rather interesting 1922 book by Sir James Frazer, a Fellow of the Royal Society, called ‘The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion’. I mention it as The Golden Bough remains a highly influential source of subtly anti-Christian ideas and beliefs: although not that many people today have read it, a lot of people have picked up ideas from it by osmosis. Some of these ideas were flung out at the dinner party in question and I have heard them often elsewhere so I thought I’d devote a couple of paragraphs .

‘The Golden Bough’ is one of those seminal books like ‘Origin of Species’ that many people have picked up ideas from but few people have actually read. A lot of the content is description of various global pagan religions with an emphasis on festivals, rituals and the idea of a dying and resurrecting god, which obviously Christianity is asserted to have borrowed. I have explained elsewhere why this view is not supported by evidence. Frazer seeks to establish the connection, for example by citing the now very well known facts that Christmas was not celebrated by the early church and that 25th December is the date of the old Roman festival of the rebirth of the invincible sun, the winter solstice.

I remember 40 years ago seeing a young Irish Catholic woman visibly upset when she was informed that 25th December was not our Lord’s actual birthday but the date of an old winter festival celebrating the passing of the shortest day of the year. Incidentally, this is a vital concept in Christian apologetics-we need to get our facts straight and avoid fighting the wrong battles!  PS Knowing this, I still celebrate the Nativity of our Lord on 25th December, but I hold it lightly. As part of our family celebrations we eat and drink with loved ones, exchange inexpensive presents and give a sum of money commensurate with our spend on festivities to deserving charities in the name of Jesus. I also enjoy a seasonal rest and time of reflection after a year of hard work, and yes, I share the joy of all men, including pagans, that the days are getting lighter from now on. I do not believe this is any more pagan than enjoying a sunrise, going ice skating or visiting an art exhibition. The precise date of the birth at Bethlehem is of limited significance, the fact of it is immeasurably worth celebrating.

Frazer’s main argument, although writing in 1922 he was very careful not to state it too explicitly, is that Christianity is just another of the dozens of superstitions about a dying and resurrecting deity, many of which are connected with growing crops, particularly corn. Think of the song ‘John Barleycorn. ’ Christianity happens to have become, so the assertion goes, the most successful of such myths, but that’s all it is. The Golden Bough chronicles numerous pagan religions from all over the world and the whole of recorded human history, describing various rituals connected with sowing and harvesting corn ‘the bread of life’, some involving the sacrifice of a specially chosen person, in many cases their body being cut up and perhaps consumed. Clearly , the question of a parallel with Christ’s sacrifice and the rite of Holy Communion is raised.

Frazer’s intention is obvious-to smear Christianity as a man made myth by association with these primitive superstitions. Like most of the other smears and misrepresentations I have sought to address here, it’s easy to make but quite time consuming to refute. Most of Frazer’s argument consists of describing numerous pagan cults from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece etc to more recent savage practices found in Africa, Central America, Scandinavia and elsewhere. He invites the reader to assume that Christianity is simply one more of these corn god cults which as he puts it owed their similarity to the well meaning but misguided attempts by humans to try to make sense of the mysteries of the universe.

But however successful Frazer is as a chronicler of pagan religious beliefs and practices, when we get down to the specifics of Christianity, we find that his understanding varies from superficial to profoundly mistaken. For example, on page 361 of The Golden Bough under the title ‘Oriental religions in the West’ he brackets Jesus with Buddha and writes

‘...an instructive parallel might be drawn between the history of Christianity and the history of Buddhism. Both systems were in their origin essentially ethical reforms born of the generous ardour, the lofty aspirations, the tender compassion of their noble Founders , two of those beautiful spirits who appear at rare intervals on earth like beings come from a better world to support our weak and erring nature. Both preached moral virtue as the means of accomplishing what they regarded as the supreme object of life, the eternal salvation of the individual soul, though by a curious antithesis the one sought that salvation in a blissful eternity, the other in a final release from suffering, in annihilation.

But the austere ideas of sanctity which they inculcated were too deeply opposed not only to the frailties but to the natural instincts of humanity ever to be carried out in practice by more than a small number of disciples, who consistently renounced the ties of the family and the state in order to work out their own salvation in the still seclusion of the cloister………

…..p 362 ‘… For it should never be forgotten that by their glorification of poverty and celibacy both these religions struck straight at the root not merely of civil society but of human existence. The blow was parried by the wisdom or folly of the vast majority of mankind, who refused to purchase a chance of saving their souls with the certainty of extinguishing the species.’ (my bold-SH)

I am not misrepresenting or ‘quote mining’ here, these are Frazer’s words. He compared Jesus with Buddha, of course ignoring the unique evidence from prophecy that attaches to Jesus and to no other founder of a world religion. He represents Jesus as a preacher of ‘moral virtue’ while ignoring his claim to be the unique Son of God and the whole ‘Lamb of God’ strand of his mission, discussed elsewhere in these essays. He gives him equal status with Buddha who may have, like ConfuciusBaha’ullah and many another inspirational man, been a teacher of decent morals but was in no way a peer of Christ.

I don’t have time to discuss Buddha or Buddhism at length here, but I was quite into Zen in my late teens and know a little of it. Buddha was in no way or on any level the peer of Jesus of Nazareth. The idea that Jesus was essentially an ‘ethical reformer’ preaching ‘moral virtue’ is quite off the mark. He emphasised that he upheld the Law of Moses, he said he had come to fulfil it and ‘… to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Matthew ch 20 vss 17-28). This was not ‘ethical reform’ but the supernatural fulfilment of the Isaiah and other Messianic prophecies which I consider in a later chapter. And what’s this about ‘glorification of celibacy’? Sir James Frazer FRS has clearly read very widely about world paganism, but if he can assert that celibacy was a feature of the early church, or as he appears to state here a condition of salvation, I can only wonder if he has read the New Testament at all! We read specifically in the NT that church leaders should ordinarily be married and good fathers, see 1 Timothy chapter 3. I have written in another essay of the unbiblical nature of the Roman Catholic celibate priesthood.

Poverty is not a virtue in Old or New Testament religion either. Charity yes and avoidance of selfish ambition and the love of riches, but not poverty as a goal. I am against the unbiblical ‘prosperity gospel’ but recognise that there is a clear strand of Biblical teaching that promises modest wealth as a normal consequence of godly living including hard work. God may bless the humble poor and judge the undeserving rich, but poverty is nowhere seen as an aspirational state in Judaism or Christianity , even if it is in Buddhism. Frazer reveals in this passage that however much an expert he might be on his special subject of the pagan practices of primitive societies like the original Native Americans or the ancient cults of Balder, Osiris and Mithras, he doesn’t know quack about the basics of New Testament Christianity. I could (and have) said the same about some present day Fellows of the Royal Society!

Frazer certainly draws our attention to some significant and interesting facts that should be thought through rather than peremptorily dismissed or ignored, but the conclusions he invites his readers to draw are very much matters of interpretation. He seems to have bought into the secular humanist evolutionary view of religion as a sociological phenomenon. I will admit that some of his data about pre-Christian nature worship religions do support that view, but he does not appear to have properly considered the evidence about the unique features of the Judaeo-Christian tradition which I have discussed here. See the essays on prophecy, Israel and ‘sense and nonsense about evidence’.

C S Lewis was a serious student of global pagan myths, especially the Norse myths including that of Balder and the ‘Golden Bough’ which as Frazer tells us was mistletoe. He considered the same body of evidence, and certainly studied The Golden Bough as he wrote about it, but reached different conclusions. He asserted (not all Christians see it this way, some are offended by the suggestion) that the story of Jesus did in fact have emotionally satisfying and heroic qualities which overlap with some popular myths, but this could be explained by God sending pre-Christian cultures ‘good dreams’ which would prepare them for the true Gospel in due time. He further observed that the historical and other facts about Christianity set it on a completely different level from all the other stories which involved atoning sacrifice and a dying and resurrecting god. Where are the prior prophecies, prepared peoples and specific times and dates concerning any of those other tales? Can anyone give us the time and place of Adonis or Osiris’s birth, or the location where either was killed?

Frazer’s attempt to throw Christianity into the same bag as the dozens of pagan nature religions which can reasonably deserve the epithet ‘superstitious mumbo jumbo’ is superficially attractive, but fails. Christians assert that since God knew we would be subject to ‘the futile ways inherited from our fathers’ (1 Peter ch 1 vs 18) including all this ‘And man made god in his own image.’ stuff , He sealed the true religion with many evidences, including the unique and remarkable history of Israel, multiple fulfilled prophecies, the Law of Moses and the miraculous deeds and resurrection of Jesus. The evidence is there if we check it out. It appears that Sir James Frazer was selective in his appraisal of the evidence, he clearly got some very basic things about Christianity completely wrong as I show above in his own words.

Most likely like Charles Darwin (see later essays) he began with his conclusion and then selected and assembled the evidence accordingly.

At the very least, the honest sceptic considering Frazer’s assertions about Christianity being one among many made up story about dying and rising gods needs to ask how it became so enduring and successful. Where are the cults of Mithras, Balder, Osiris, Attis and Adonis today?

 

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…..or indeed the cult of Horus? It amazes me that people accept such trash unexamined, while spending much time and money on following football or TV series like Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing or Game of Thrones. This isn’t trivial. Speaking to honest skeptics may I remind folks that if Jesus was who He said He was then our eternal destiny depends on us following him. If we decide not to, we must safely refute His claims on better evidence than this cheap Jesus/Horus meme that flows from the work of a so called anthropologist who from actually reading what he wrote clearly hadn’t done his basic homework on the most important text his work dealt with.

 

 

Happy birthday Uncle Charlie

happy birthday Uncle Charlie

Visited the Museum of Natural History in Oxford yesterday, while in town for a 36 hour trip centred on the William Blake exhibition at the Ashmolean.

The Oxford MNH is very well worth a visit despite the predictable Darwin worship. I may post in more detail about that when I have time. I am sometimes criticised by evolutionists for arguing against the supposed evidences of evolution I was indoctrinated with at school for A level zoology in the 1970s, when there is supposed to be much more sophisticated evidence these days. So I have heard, but in fact the exhibition about evolution and Darwin in the Oxford MNH (being viewed by various school parties yesterday) is still very much centred on those supposed evidences, including the pitiful Peppered Moth story.

In a large display on the peppered moth, there was no mention of the now well known fraud by the original researcher Kettlewell during his fiddled experiments-which included glueing moths to tree trunks to be photographed, but ignoring in any event the fact (obvious to me as a 17 year old) that all we were seeing here was a cyclical shuffling in gene frequency with nothing new being created.

There was another display about pigeons, showing several different varieties. The fact that these are all still very much 100% pigeons and nothing else is ignored.

mothspigeons

You can shuffle pigeon genes for as long as you like, but they always remain pigeons. You can’t even breed them into a different kind of bird, its pigeons forever. The same is true for dogs, apples, carp and people. Darwin’s most fundamental error was to observe that trivial variations within a species existed and that some conditions favoured some previously existing forms (as with his classic grass square experiment, a very good bit of science as far as it went) and made the gigantic leap of faith to believing that all life forms were descended ‘by numerous, successive, gradual adaptations’ from a common ancestor which presumably assembled itself in ‘a warm little pond’ as he put it in a letter to Huxley.

He never had any repeatable observations to support the idea that one species could become another, even refused to define a species. His ‘theory’ was nothing but a great leap of imagination. But a godless origins story was what people like the anti-clerical T E Huxley WANTED to hear-as Dawkins wrote in ‘Blind Watchmaker’ ‘Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist’ . I submit that was and remains the primary reason for the widespread acceptance and protection of evolutionism from the normal process of criticism and falsification. The legend became the orthodox reality, which is even protected from criticism by law in our education system.

Darwin Day, 12th February, has not exactly taken off as a national celebration, at ;least not here in England 2015. But in the post-apocalyptic 2089 as imagined in my novel ‘Darwin’s Adders: A Chronicle of Pagan England 2089′ The Greatest Scientist Of All Time is honoured as a prophet and a god………

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