"You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:22-24
I've been watching this series the over the last few weeks. There have been three parts so far covering the (very) early church in the East (including in China) and the developments of both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. Next week is the Western Reformation.
It has been a very illuminating look into what is a very living history of the belief system I subscribe to. Like many of my fellow Christians I haven't ever really had an appreciation for where exactly so many of our doctrines and particular local beliefs have come from. Has also been equally fascinating to see how they have both been shaped and tailored the history and culture of the world over the last 2000 years alongside seeing their interactions between themselves and other world powers of the various times.
I read a book on Jesus earlier this year that explored how a lot of things recorded in the Gospels as simply fact but with no explanation on motivation fitted in very well with local events and political situations of the time. This was a great encouragement to me as it helped ground the story of Christ not just as simply historical fact but also as very real and human in terms of people and places.
Similarly this series is helping me to get a wider view of the development of Christianity and its various incarnations and associated theologies and how they are often very much products of their times.
I was chatting with my flatmate about it tonight after we watched the latest episode and I was wondering what a similar programme might look like in 500 years time as they looked back on our own church era - global, with mass communication and being closely associated with the only world super-power. Will many of the things the church of today seems to overly dwell on look as simultaneously hair splitting and world changing as many of the things over the last 2000 years? Will the church be perceived as again influencing the political situation of the world however indirect? Will the patriotic view of the Church in the US be viewed as just as deviant as we might view some of the early church strands?
I suspect so as this seems to be how things have always been and it is perhaps human nature to approach such matters with the best of intentions and yet to inflate them over and above what they should rightfully be.
The over ridding thing I am taking from this series though is just how many forms and quirks of Christianity have been genuinely and honestly held by large groups of Christians over the years. Many of these beliefs do in fact conflict with what I have been raised and taught are Christian beliefs and values and yet they are all still so small in comparison to the ultimate belief of Christianity - that of the Resurrection of Christ.
If God will judge us all fairly then surely it can't be just modern 21st century Christians that have got it 'truly' right at last. Rather His love and grace extend far beyond that. If God can cope with such a spectrum of beliefs that come out of Jesus' death and resurrection then it surely gives us all greater motivation to extend our unity, tolerance and humble brotherhood with all in the wider church.
A good series, recommended. And currently up on iPlayer.
(Oh and also one frightening example of people getting things very, very wrong and perhaps the ultimate case for good biblical scholarship and learning in our churches... Never confuse 'Redeemer' with 'Castrater'..... Ouch.)
Something that is often said in discussions about evolution and creation amongst both Christians and atheists is that evolution disproves God and hence is associated solely with atheism by default. Conversely many Christians reject the evidence for evolution in favour of a ultra-literal six day special creation ('because the Bible tells me so...') by God. This reinforces the viewpoint in both groupings of people.
So we get evolution = atheism and special creation = Theism (the belief in God). Very neat and tidy, eh?
For myself I reject this as evolution has very little to say on the subject of the existence or non-existence of God. Evolution describes (very well) the diversification of life on our world but this can be seen as compatible with either atheism or theism. It can't ultimately prove one or the other either way.
Which got me thinking. Why do theists such as ourselves think that special (i.e. instantaneous) creation (rather than gradual creation such as in evolution) is solely compatible with theism and not atheism as well?
It is a bit odd when there are (conceptually at least) special creation avenues in the natural laws of physics that may or may not be capable of creating instantly. Modern physics entertains a number of these possibilities. Things like white holes may exist that spew out information as a counterpoint to black holes that absorb it or if you take some interpretations of quantum phenomena objects are described by wavefunctions that instantly 'collapse' into familiar objects when observed.
I think the only reason we do ascribe special creation solely to theistic beliefs is because we associate special creation with a directed intelligent causation in our heads much more so than we do with a longer term gradual creation. Part of this I guess is the human mind trying to rationalise some possible but very unfamiliar observations of the universe by layering human creation methods onto them in an attempt to understand the universe better. A case maybe not so much of the human mind creating God, but the human mind creating the methods of action that God can be permitted to use.
This dichotomy is probably also why so many of the people in our churches struggle with God working through the gradual mechanism of evolution to bring about His purposes - because it is not how we would do it which makes it an initially difficult idea to ground ourselves in.
Neither viewpoint deals a knock out blow to either worldview. Whether or not we personally find it difficult we do have to make the effort to better understand evolution and appreciate it more. And also perhaps to stop being so arrogant and protective, so high and mighty, of instantaneous creation.
This post will be a bit of a break from the normal theme of this blog but don't worry too much, I'm still untrendy but have friends who are more trendy (musically) than myself. One of those friends Jo Wilson sings as DLDown and has a new album out and officially launched it here in Edinburgh at a gig last Thursday.
DLDown's style is a bit hard to pin down. Its unique, experimental, familiar, confident and a bunch of other things. Jo plays and layers in multiple instruments as well as vocals to create a sound that is fresh and deeply woven. Annoyingly it is also full of incredibly catchy tunes that will stick with you long after they should (for the sake of your sanity). I keep coming back to them against my will.
The album is called 'also, he made the stars' (AHMTS) and follows on from the bands first album 'Puzzle' released a couple of years ago. The title of the album comes from Genesis 1:16, where God is described as bringing the stars into existence almost as an afterthought and thus underlining how incredible God is.
Jo composes and writes the songs himself and about issues, themes or thoughts that are in his current thinking. Songs in this new album range from ecology to the Resurrection to courting/checking out his (now) wife. I like to discuss God, Jo does too, but Jo is also awesome at doing this through music as well and this oozes out through this album. Questions are asked, answers considered but I think the joy of discovering more about God is what comes through here the most. A few of the songs on AHMTS are new versions of old favourites from the first album but improved takes on these and the rest are all new tracks.
Although this album is primarily a solo production the hat must be well tipped to a small supporting cast providing seamless additional vocals and instrumentation.
For much of the last year DLDown has been silent but its good to see it back again and the break only seems to have improved the material and its presentation. The words on the songs are edgier, more challenging, the presentation of the CD album slicker and Jo, both on track and live on stage, comes over as just that little bit more seasoned and confident.
If you have the time (or even if you don't) download/purchase/buy/sell your kidneys and get a hold of a copy of AHMTS - a perfect trade.
And it has to be said... AHMTS, so good... its criminal.
Exciting day today as I submitted some of the results from the spider scans back in August at Glasgow to a big international MRI conference. Hopefully it will be accepted, but if not there are plenty of other routes to try to get the work published in.
The submission was the first 'official' submission that I have researched, written and submitted as first author so it was actually quite an interesting and worthwhile experience even if nothing else comes from it.
I am a physicist currently working in biomedical research.
Firstly though and (hopefully) before all else I am a follower of Christ (commonly called a Christian).
I like fudge, roasts, good company, spiders and something else.
Warring, transforming robots are quite good fun too.