When Jesus Was an Embryo

Embryo mouse days 1 to 4 Dr M. Zernicka-Goetz, Gurdon Institute Wellcome images
Mouse embryo, days 1 to 4 © Dr M. Zernicka-Goetz, Gurdon Institute. Wellcome images

“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

Humility in Science

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Skeeze, Pixabay

What qualities does it take to be a great scientist? You might think of intellect, great experimental technique, original thinking, and endless hard work. Humility may not be the first thing that springs to mind. Nevertheless, humility is a very helpful virtue in science, and I think it has played an important role part in leading some scientists to discover God for themselves. Continue reading

Guest Post: Do you know?

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Image courtesy of NASA

‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone –
while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.

‘Have you journeyed to the springs of the seaor walked in the recesses of the deep?

Job 38:4-7,14,16 (NIV)

‘Do you know?’ God’s challenge to Job’s lack of humility before God stretches across time, space and all creation. The view of the universe that science gives enables us to answer some of the challenge. We weren’t there at the start of it all, yet our studies of the Earth and other planets, along with glimpses of the farthest universe and the hidden depths of the sea, enable us to perceive perhaps more of how God is at work in creation than Job. Continue reading

Humility, Hope and Holiness: A Christian psychologist explores character strengths

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Pixabay

When Roger Bretherton worked as a clinical psychologist he would ask the question, “What skill is missing here?” What does this patient need to develop so they can, for example, be kinder to themselves – or to other people? These character strengths and virtues are now his chosen field now that he is a Principal Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln.

Roger is interested in three main areas. He spends time exploring the methodologies and measurements that help a psychologist understand people at a human level. He is also engaged at a theological level, and trained as an existential psychotherapist. This combination of theology and psychology is a growing trend, especially in the US, where a number of educational institutions will encourage students to pursue studies in both and teach them how to integrate the two (for example, at Fuller Theological Seminary where the regular Faraday speaker Justin Barret is based). Finally, he is interested in the pragmatic – what works, or is useful to people. Continue reading

Advent post: Human yet Divine

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Adoration of the shepherds (1622) by Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,


‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Luke 2:1-14

Continue reading

The Universe Within

Universe within coverI often mention the wonders of scientific discovery, but sharing one’s latest finding with a wider audience is difficult. Even the clearest analysis needs a huge amount of translating before anyone outside of the field, let alone a non-scientist, can appreciate it. I recently read The Universe Within, a book that succeeded in getting me genuinely excited about geology, which is a rare feat (apologies to geologists, I just lack the necessary training!) It also got me thinking about human history.

Neil Shubin is a paleontologist who’s fascinated by the deep history of the planet. The main narrative of the book centres on the origin of the universe and our place in it, with a good dose of geology on the way. Each chapter is a story of exploration and discovery, introducing the main—and often colourful—characters involved, and ends by showing what the cosmic or global upheavals described have to do with us. The overall message is that we, our bodies, and everything about them that makes us human, are the products of processes that started when time itself began.

Shubin is a fantastic teacher, and he tells a good story, using intrigue and suspense to carry the reader along. Continue reading

Reality

© Ruth Bancewicz

The early scientists described in ‘The Faith of Scientists’, are all remarkable characters, but it was in the company of Blaise Pascal that I felt most at home. He had his eccentricities, and I certainly don’t agree with everything he said, but in the extended extracts of his writing presented in Frankenberry’s book I recognised many of my own thoughts and beliefs.

Pascal was fascinated by the immensity of the universe.

When I consider the brief span of my life, absorbed into the eternity before and after, the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then. Who put me here? By whose command and act were this time and place allotted to me? … The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.

Pascal, Pensées, Fragment 230

Humility in scholarship was also important to him – the recognition that there’s much we don’t know. There is even one part of the Pensees that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so true, where Pascal describes how as our experience and influence increase our friends are less likely to tell us the truth about ourselves, so we end up doing more and more stupid things.

There is much discussion on faith and reason in Pascal’s writing. He discusses the personalities of different people – those who come to believe in God through faith (or perhaps what could be described as more intuitive means) alone, and those for whom reasoned argument is more important. His discussion of the famous wager shows that he gave rational arguments for God a good deal of thought, though he came to the conclusion that ‘reason is to faith as moral effort is to salvation – necessary, but not sufficient without God’s grace’ (Frankenberry)

So Pascal was not at all against rationalism, but saw a place for faith in the grand scheme of things.

Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.

I could take that statement further. If faith is in something real, then even if that reality includes something beyond what we can detect with our senses, our faith should at least help to make sense of what we can see and touch.