The period of Lent comes as a remembrance of Jesus’ fast for forty days. He goes out to the desert, away from the distractions of life – away from friends and family as well as food. I look at this with awe. I’m connected online pretty much every moment I’m awake. I like food, and I like the fast pace of twenty-first century life with its ever-changing stimulus. I currently live in Tokyo, which can do intensity in all its forms. There are districts here where the bright lights, flashing neon and wall of sound is like a physical blow. Take two steps and there is yet another loudspeaker, megascreen, or crowd of people. I love it! Food, friends, family, fun – I could just about manage a day away from these things. I can’t imagine having the strength of will to abandon them for over a month.
In the Bible there is a startling snippet of a story from that time. It comes just after Jesus had been publiclyidentified as the Son of God, the Messiah, the one all Israel has been waiting for. With God’s voice declaring over him ‘you are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased’, the weight of expectation was on him. How was he going to deliver his nation? Would he be a triumphant king, driving out the Roman oppressors, restoring peace? What sort of Messiah was he going to be? How would he fulfill this destiny? Continue reading →
The winter aconite is a ray of hope in the dark days of January, often flowering before the snowdrops come out. It’s easy to assume that these fragile short-lived flowers are produced by equally fragile plants, but often the reverse is true – especially when it comes to seeds. Aconite seeds need to sit in a cold damp place for several months before they can start to germinate. If you put me in a cold damp place over winter I would absolutely not flourish – in fact I would probably catch pneumonia!
A friend recently told me something I didn’t know about seeds, which her Father – who happens to be expert in tropical silviculture (forestry) – had passed on to her. I knew that some seeds need to lie in the soil for years before they can germinate, and others need to be exposed to fire, but I didn’t know that some could last longer than the trees themselves and still produce a seedling. Continue reading →
As a child Rosalind Picard, a Professor of Computer Science at MIT, was encouraged by a neighbour to read the Bible – starting with the book of Proverbs. She expected to encounter fantastical stories, but found it profoundly wise. She went on to read the whole Bible, and found herself changing in response to what she read. Later she described that time as “an experience of being spoken to. When you enter into a conversation with somebody, if you’re willing to truly listen, then you are also open to being truly changed.” Rosalind enjoyed being made to think. She began to question her assumptions about Christianity, and although it was a long time before she became a Christian herself, that journey started for her with the Bible.
For a Christian, the Bible is God’s word to us; it tells us about God’s character and creative purposes, how he has related to people in the past, and his promises for the future. Science is a specific way of studying the world, exploring the physical properties of things – a wonderful way to explore God’s creation. With this in mind, if the Bible and science seem to be contradicting each other, surely we have made a mistake in interpreting one or the other? Continue reading →
To risk sounding like a smart aleck seven-year-old, technically speaking you can only prove things mathematically. If you need to know that one plus one equals two, don’t go to a chemistry lab. The natural sciences deal with objects and forces that can be observed and measured. Scientists look at the evidence from their experiments and try to come up with a way of thinking about the material world that makes sense.
For example, if I travel around my local area and see nothing but brown cows, then I could try out the statement that “all cows are brown”. I couldn’t prove that all cows are brown. I could never rule out the existence of a different-coloured cow somewhere in the world. Scientific knowledge is always provisional. Continue reading →
The world is one tiny piece within a vast universe – so vast that I, at least, can scarce comprehend it. The world we inhabit is one planet within a solar system . . . within a galaxy . . . within the universe. Our sun is just one of between 200 billion and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and earth is just one of at least 100 billion planets. There may also be ten billion white dwarfs, a billion neutron stars and a hundred million black holes. And that is just one galaxy out of possibly two trillion galaxies! …
Most nights I consider it a clear night if I can see Orion and the Big Dipper, and it is a sad reality that most of us are seldom in places that are dark enough at night for us to enjoy the stars in all their splendour. In fact, light pollution is now so bad that more than one third of the human population is no longer able to see the Milky Way. In Chapter One we reflected on NASA’s ‘black marble’ images, realizing that the earth at night is electric with lights criss-crossing across the globe.… Continue reading →
As I write, Noah’s ark has arrived for a three month stay in Ipswich docks. A half size replica of the vessel described in the Bible, this floating art exhibition will no doubt stir up some discussion and result in some emails in my inbox over the next few months!
Christians often hold different views on certain issues. Some will hold their opinions on particular issues very passionately, and you may do too. So how can we tackle these issues well? How should we express what we think, or work alongside others who hold very different opinions on topics that matter to us? Continue reading →
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
“He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:7)
As one who has used some of the techniques of developmental biology, I have a rather different perspective on Advent to most people. Long before that famous journey to Bethlehem, before Mary was accused of adultery, and before Joseph married his pregnant betrothed, Jesus became an embryo. Read more