The Stories We Tell: Science, faith, and cultural distinctiveness

Tiamat
Babylonian cylinder seal. Ben Pirard at nl.wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time, there was a goddess called Tiamat. Tiamat was the ocean, chaotic and powerful. Tiamat’s husband, freshwater, was bothered by the noisy younger gods and wanted to kill them but Tiamat disagreed and warned her son. When Tiamat’s husband was then killed by the younger gods she wanted revenge, so she made eleven monsters to hunt them down – including her own children. In the end, the young champion Marduk challenged Tiamat to a battle and killed her. Marduk cut Tiamat in two, using one half of her body to make the heavens, and the other the earth.”

When the people of Israel were exiled in Babylon, if any of their youngsters ever got to receive an education they might have been taught the Babylonian creation poem Enuma Elish. The highly abbreviated version I have given here is just a flavour of this extremely – to my ears – bloodthirsty and violent epic. I wonder what the parents might have thought about their children being exposed to stories like this? Continue reading

Book Preview: Blue Planet, Blue God

pexels-photo-355288

“The oceans cover 71% of the Earth and our planet could equally well be called Ocean as opposed to Earth. Seen from space our planet is indeed a beautiful ‘blue marble’ spinning in the vastness of the cosmos and, as far as we know, the only place in the universe with intelligent beings who can contemplate and understand something of themselves and the creation in which they live.

The oceans may well be where life originated on our planet and they harbour life on all scales, from Continue reading

Book Preview: Jesus, Beginnings, and Science

sunrise-in-durbs-1560729 Jacqueline Maurice freeimages
© Jacqueline Maurice, freeimages

Many people consider only Genesis 1–2 when they think about the Bible and creation. While the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are certainly important, they represent a small portion of the biblical message of creation For example, there are a multitude of descriptions of creation in Psalms 8, 19, 33, 74, 104, and 148. God’s dialogue with Job is especially rich in this regard, In fact, in his book Faith & Wisdom in Science, Christian physicist Tom McLeish proclaims Job 38–41 to be the most insightful biblical text on creation and science.

Biblical scholar William P Brown also urges us to look beyond Genesis In The Seven Pillars of Creation, Brown examines seven traditions or ways of creation in Continue reading

Guest Post: Consider the Ant – the story of insects in science and theology

ant leaf cutter Josh More flickr 31599107203_18b285ed95_o
© Josh More, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

No animal or plant group can quite match the insects for their diversity, profusion (in numbers of species as well as numbers of individuals), adaptability, mobility – or in a word, their ‘evolvability’. Albert Schweitzer, the great organist, theologian and humanitarian, said about the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the apotheosis of the Baroque style, if not music as a whole: “…Bach is… a terminal point. Nothing comes from him; everything merely leads up to him”. Something similar could also be said of insects. Whether swarming, creeping, burrowing, swimming; armoured, slimy, spiky, fury; green, brown, transparent or iridescent; insects fill and adorn our planet like Continue reading

Faith and Neuroscience: Wisdom, Training, and the Numinous

B0010280 Healthy human brain from a young adult, tractography
Healthy human brain from a young adult © Alfred Anwander, MPI-CBS, Wellcome Images, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

What help can people of faith receive from neuroscience? This was the question that Revd Dr Alasdair Coles asked in his lecture at the Faraday Institute last week. Alasdair works at Addenbrookes hospital, Cambridge, both as a neurologist and as a hospital chaplain. He brought both these perspectives to his talk, which I will summarise here in my own words. Continue reading

Finding our Place in the World: Belonging, Limits, and Abundance

Picture2 by Lauren Stark Adams of Spokane, Washington
© Lauren Stark Adams of Spokane, Washington

What is our place in the world? In his seminar at the Faraday Institute last month, Dr Jonathan Moo described the current movement towards ecomodernism, which involves a separation from nature. If you want to understand this trend in more depth you can listen to the recording of Jonathan’s talk. In this post I will focus on the last part of the seminar, where Jonathan presented his own ideas about how limits can help us to flourish. Continue reading

What does the Bible actually say about Adam and Eve?

Lucas_Cranach_(I)_-_Adam_and_Eve-Paradise_-_Kunsthistorisches_Museum-crop

Professor J. Richard Middleton feels called to help the church interpret the Bible well (see last week’s podcast). In his seminar at the Faraday Institute last month, he outlined what he thinks the first two chapters of Genesis say about the origin of humankind.

In ancient Hebrew, the words that are often translated into the names Adam and Eve can have more than one meaning. They can be personal names, or they can mean Continue reading