Blaise Pascal

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On this day, 23rd November, in 1654, physicist and mathematician Blaise Pascal became a Christian. He is a key figure in the scientific revolution and the making of the modern world.

One of his earliest inventions was the first working calculator, which he began pioneering work on in 1642, while still a teenager! Some call his calculator the first computer, the forerunner by 400 years to Alan Turing’s ‘first computer’, which broke the enigma code in the 1940s in World War II.

Pascal’s early work was so advanced that his contemporary René Descartes was convinced an adult must have done it, complaining that such ideas could “scarcely occur to a 16-year-old child.” Pascal was thus a great mind, a real prodigy.

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Pascal’s calculator

He also contributed significantly to mathematics. For example, ‘Pascal’s triangle’ demonstrates mathematical properties such as binomial coefficients, whereby each number is the sum of the two directly above it.

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The first six rows of Pascal’s Triangle

Perhaps is most famous scientific work, however, is his contribution to hydraulics, pressure, fluids, vacuum, and the weight and density of air. In honour of this, the name Pascal is given to one unit of pressure (1 bar = 1,000 Pascals = 14.5 PSI).

He invented the syringe, the hydraulic lift, and his insistence on the existence of vacuum led to conflict with other prominent scientists of his day, including Descartes.

His strong opposition to the reductivist rationalism of Descartes and his assertion that empiricism is insufficient for determining major truths has influenced science and philosophy to the present day.

“Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.” – Blaise Pascal

Pascal’s “definitive conversion” experience led to him feeling “certitude… joy… peace.” Immediately after his conversion he began writing major works on religion, including Les Provinciales, which use of humor and satire and influenced the prose of later French writers like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

It is in Les Provinciales that Pascal made his oft-quoted apology for writing a long letter, on the grounds that he didn’t have the time to write a shorter one:

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Pensées

Pascal’s most influential work of theology is the Pensées, intended as a sustained examination and defense of the Christian faith. It is widely considered to be a masterpiece of thought and style.

In Pensées, Pascal presents ‘Pascal’s wager’, an argument for belief in God. The wager uses the following logic (excerpts from Pensées, part III, §233):

  1. Either God exists, or he does not. While we can know a great deal through science and reason, these alone are not enough to decide either way between God’s existence or non-existence. We are therefore forced to gamble as if on a coin toss: either God exists, or he does not.
  2. Participation in the wager is not optional: simply by existing in a state of uncertainty, we are forced to choose between the available options (God exists vs God does not exist) for practical purposes.
  3. We must therefore weigh the gain and the loss in wagering either that God exists or that God does not exist:
    • If God does not exist, and you wager he does not exist, you lose nothing.
    • If God does not exist, but you wager he does exist, you lose nothing.
    • If, however, God does exist, but you wager he does not exist, you lose everything.
    • If God does exist, and you wager he does exist, you gain everything.
  4. It is rational and safer, then, to wager that God does exist. If you are right, you gain everything. Whereas, if you wager he does not exist, and you are wrong, you lose everything. You bet with your life that God does or does not exist.

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Pascal’s wager was groundbreaking, because it charted new territory in probability theory and pragmatism. It is based on human finitude – that our limitations constrain our ability to reliably know everything. Since reason cannot give absolute certainty, everyone must risk either believing that God exists (and potentially gain everything), or risk believing that God does not exist (and potentially lose everything).

A wise person, then, will gamble on God’s existence. If God does not actually exist, you will have lost only a finite amount (you’ll have suffered the mockery of unbelievers, perhaps), whereas the believer stands receive infinite gain (for example, eternity in Heaven) if God does exist.

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Pascal’s last major achievement, returning to his mechanical genius, was inaugurating the first bus route. He died aged just 39.

What should the relationship be between the Bible and Christian ethics?

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Introduction

I wanted to get a post up about Christian ethical decision making before the 12th December UK general election, so what follows is an adapted version of an essay I wrote for St Mellitus College at the end of an ethics module in the second year. It doesn’t argue in favour of this party or that party, but more offers a paradigm for Christian moral choices, based on reasoning from scripture. I hope you will find it useful, even if you don’t entirely agree!

There are multiple understandings on how the Bible informs Christian ethics. To some extent, the Bible can be seen as the ultimate rule, because it makes clear ethical statements like “Love your neighbour” (Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18), and claims to “equip believers for good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This shows that Scripture makes clear statements regarding Christian moral behaviour.

However, these Biblical statements often have specific contexts around them. So, for example, the same epistle that states that Scripture equips believers for good works (as quoted above) also goes on to command “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas”! This shows that not every instruction or statement in the Bible is intended to be acted upon by all Christians in every time period and in all places! I for one don’t know anyone called Carpus, I’m not planning to visit Troas, and I doubt I’d find the right coat there now, anyway, so I’d not be able to act on this particular Biblical command!

There is therefore a need to interpret scripture around this ‘gap’ between the Bible and how it should relate to behaviour. Additionally, as well as these statements which Scripture makes that we are clearly not meant to act on to the letter (like fetching a coat from Troas), the Bible does not include exhaustive lists of what to do in every ethical situation. For example, there are no explicit instructions in the Bible about car parking morality!

Nevertheless, it is often possible to infer appropriately Christian behaviour from the things the Bible does say. So, this post will examine some ways in which Scripture can inform Christian moral deliberation, and will argue that Scripture can be interpreted reasonably to provide ethical paradigms for contemporary Christian morality.

Bible

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The first five books of the Bible are sometimes called ‘the Law’ (Torah in Hebrew). Here, moral conduct is often dictated as divine fiat, for example Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, with commandments like “You shall not murder”, “You shall not commit adultery”, “you shall not do any work on the Sabbath”. Consequently, some commentators insist that the Bible really clearly delineates Christian morality.

And indeed, endorsement of these sorts of commandments appear throughout all of Scripture, not just in the Law. For instance, other books in the Old Testament such as the Prophets repeatedly refer to moral conduct as being consistent with Torah, and immoral conduct as being the opposite of Torah – abusing and exploiting people, harming others for your own gain. Similarly, in the New Testament, both Jesus and St. Paul summarise the Law with the phrase “Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Consequently, much of Jesus’ teaching seemingly encourages morality consistent with his summary of Torah, and some of St. Paul’s epistles include ‘sin lists’ which are consistent with the “you shall not do x, y, z” style from Torah, such as Ephesians 5:3-6. Thus, from its first books to its last, Scripture is full of statements on Christian moral choices.

 

Paradigms

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As well as the statements in the Bible like the ones above, some further ethical paradigms can be inferred from reading Scripture. For example, Genesis 1:26-7 asserts that humans are made “in the image of God”. This can be taken to mean that humans therefore have “extrinsic” dignity and worth – we have value in part simply because we bear God’s divine “image”. We can then infer that Biblical Christian morality should be life-affirming, based on this high valuing of human life.

However, Scripture can also generate multiple interpretations. For example Psalm 139:13’s statement “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” appears to support pro-life claims that personhood begins in the womb. But Psalm 139:15 then says, “I was woven together in the depths of the earth” – obviously not a factual statement. This could show that Psalm 139 does not irrefutably prove that the foetus in utero is Biblically a person – without also proving that humans are made underground! As such, the ethics of pro-life/pro-choice convictions are undecided in Christian interpretation of Biblical morality.

Similarly, other scriptural statements can be interpretted to mean different things, depending on context. For example, 1 Timothy 2:8-9’s statement that “I want women to dress modestly” is sometimes taken to mean that women should dress plainly, perhaps to avoid sexual objectification. But the passage continues, “I want women to dress modestly – not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”. Some commentaries, then, take the implication here to be about not showing off your wealth with expensive clothes, hair styles, and accessories. This begs the question of what interpretations are valid in Christian deliberation about morality.

Binding and loosening

In the lead up to Jesus’ birth, Jewish culture had a tradition of “binding and loosening” the ethical statements in scripture: binding means a really rigorous interpretation of a command, and loosening means inferring a more relaxed paradigm from a command. Similarly, the New Testament sometimes takes an Old Testament law and intensifies it, and sometimes takes an Old Testament Law and relaxes it. This shows two divergent directions that Christians could argue are consistent with Scripture.

For example, in some cases Scripture encourages taking paradigms like love of neighbour well beyond the requirements of Torah. For instance, in Leviticus 6:1-5, the Old Testament Law requires a person who has committed fraud or extortion to repay the whole amount that they took, plus 20% extra. However, in the New Testament, when a man called Zacchaeus repented of extorting others in Luke 19:1-10, he promised to compensate everyone the amount he had defrauded, plus 300%, and to donate half his wealth to the poor! This suggests that Christians should follow a moral paradigm which goes much further than the requirements of the Law, to show very abundant love to our neighbours.

Similarly, Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 commands love of neighbour as based on the Law: here, Jesus takes specific statements from Torah such as “You shall not commit adultery” and then elaborates with even stricter statements like “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. This can be articulated as “Not only ‘do not commit adultery’, but also ‘do not even look at someone else lustfully’”. This shows Jesus taking the moral requirements of Torah and intensifying them considerably. It is easy to build other “not only x, but also y” paradigms from these statements of Jesus’, which likewise imply a rigorous moral paradigm for Christianity.

Yet on the other hand, some of Jesus’ other teaching and actions make for a far less rigourist approach. For example, he freely associated with people who were clearly guilty of breaking Torah, such as extortionate tax collectors like Zaccheus. Indeed, in some ways, Jesus did not hold himself to austere moral standards, either. For example, he was criticised by his enemies for his love of food and drink, and they called him “a glutton and a drunkard” (Matthew 11:19). This suggests he was not a harsh perfectionist taskmaster, but much more relaxed and enjoying life.

An instructive example is the Sabbath law. Jesus himself apparently broke the Sabbath law repeatedly, healing people on the Sabbath, despite the Torah stating we should do no work on the Sabbath. On balance, this can be said to encapsulate Jesus’ attitude to the Law. He argued that the Sabbath was made for the good of man, and that we should not be bound by a slavish obedience to the Sabbath law. This suggests an ethic which is conducive to human rest and flourishing, rather than rigorist legalism.

Indeed, both the demanding Torah statements of ‘You shall not commit x’ and the even stricter New Testament paradigms of ‘you shall not only not commit x, but you shall also not commit y’ can be seen as rooted in this consistent love of God and neighbour: don’t commit adultery because it does not respect the extrinsic worth of your spouse and it does not show love to them; similarly don’t look at a passer-by lustfully as it does not show respect for their extrinsic worth and does not show love for them as a human being.

Such a paradigm can thus explain incidents where Scripture’s binding and loosening appears to contradict itself. For example, the Law of Moses permits divorce in cases of adultery. This can be seen as love of neighbour – permitting the wronged spouse to divorce their adulterous partner who has so neglected to show love of them. However, Jesus seems to forbid divorce, equating it to adultery in Mark 10:2-12. But Jesus’ moral paradigm is consistent with Moses’ – love of neighbour – in that he speaks against abuse of the divorce law whereby men wrongfully divorced their wives and did not love and honour them as the paradigm requires.

Similarly, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 notes that although the Lord “commanded” partners should not separate, St. Paul permits separation in cases where an unbelieving spouse leaves a believing spouse. This too may be built on a paradigm of love: he comforts the abandoned believer that they have not broken Jesus’ commandment. As such, we have a consistent paradigm (love of neighbour) which results in three different outcomes.

 

Conclusion

This post has sought to show that Scripture makes certain clear statements on Christian morality, but that these often require interpretation for proper application. Jesus offers “love God and love your neighbour as you love yourself” as a summary of Christian moral conduct. So, while there are no stated commandments pertaining to good car parking etiquette, Biblical morality can be used ‘paradigmatically’, to infer the right ethical response in different situations.

Some paradigms imply requirements beyond the rigours of Torah, such as Zacchaeus’ repaying more than the Law required, or Jesus’ “not only x, but also y” statements.

Other paradigms require less intensified approaches, such as Jesus’ attitude to Sabbath, or the various statements scripture makes about permitting or not permitting divorce. Invariably, the paradigm is rooted in love of God and love of neighbour. Contemporary Christian morality therefore should consistently arrive at ethical behaviours which emphasise respect for God and what he has created, and a heart for the flourishing of others alongside ourselves.

 

Bibliography

Atkinson, David J. & David Field (eds.), New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. IVP, 1995

Banner, Michael, Christian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems. CUP, 1999

Brock, Brian. Singing the Ethos of God: On the place of Christian Ethics in Scripture. Eerdmans, 2007

Bryant, John. ‘Beginning of life’, lecture given to SMC, 02.04.2019

Cosgrove, Charles H., Appealing to Scripture in Moral Debate: Five Hermeneutical Rules. Eerdmans, 2002

Danby, Herbert (transl.). The Mishnah, Hendrickson, 2012

Doherty, Sean. The Only Way is Ethics. Authentic Media Limited, 2016

Dowler, Edward. Theological Ethics. SCM, 2011

Durber, Susan. Song of the Prophets: A Global Theology of Climate Change. Christian Aid, 2014

Fedler, Kyle D. Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality. Westminster John Knox, 2006

Gill, Robin (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics. CUP, 2001

Green, Bradley G. Covenant and Commandment: Works, Obedience and Faithfulness in the Christian Life. IVP Academic, 2014

Green, Joel B. (ed.). Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics. Baker Academic, 2011

Griffin, Nick. ‘Moral Soundtracks Today’, lecture given to St Mellitus South West, 05.03.19

Griffin, Nick. ‘Scripture and Ethics’, lecture given to St Mellitus South West, 12.03.19

Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament. T&T Clark, 1997

Hütter, Reinhard and Theodor Dieter (eds.). Ecumenical Ventures in Ethics. Eerdmans, 1998

Jarvis Thompson, Judith. ‘A Defense of Abortion’, in Philosophy & Public Affairs vol.1, no.1 (Fall, 1971)

Jones, David Albert. The Soul of the Embryo. Continuum, 2004

Long, D. Stephen. Christian Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. OUP, 2010

Messer, Neil. SCM Study Guide to Christian Ethics. SCM, 2006

Meilaender, Gilbert, and William Werpehowski. The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics. OUP, 2007

O’Brien, Brandon J. and Randolph Richards. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. IVP, 2012

O’Donovan, Oliver. ‘Scripture and Christian Ethics’ in Anvil 24.1 (2007)

O’Donovan, Oliver. ‘Towards an Interpretation of Biblical Ethics,’ in Tyndale Bulletin 27 (1976)

Ricœur, Paul (auth.), Kathleen Blamey and John B. Thompson (transl.). From Text to Action. Northwestern University Press, 1991

Stott, John. Issues Facing Christians Today. Zondervan, 2006

Torrance, Thomas. F. ‘The Being and Nature of the Unborn Child,’ Theology Matters vol.6 no.4. July/August, 2000

Tyra, Gary. Pursuing Moral Faithfulness: Ethics and Christian Discipleship. InterVarsity, 2015

Various. ‘Forgive and you will be forgiven’, Easter Pilgrim. Church of England, 2019

Webb, William J. Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. IVP, 2001

Williams, Rowan. ‘On Making Moral Decisions’, in Anglican Theological Review LXXXI:2 (1998)

Wright, David F. (ed.). Essays in Evangelical Social Ethics. Paternoster, 1979

Wyatt, John. Matters of Life and Death: Today’s Healthcare Dilemmas in the Light of Christian Faith. Revised edition, IVP, 2009

The problem with urban theology: the search for synthesis #1

The following is a reblog of a post that attempts to affirm the strengths of both liberal and conservative Christianity. We could caricature the same point in negative: a liberal Christian might meet the physical needs of a homeless person, but not offer them the way to save their soul. A conservative Christian might explain to someone how Jesus has died to save them from their sins, but not offer to help alleviate their material poverty. These are gross caricatures, but it is sometimes how one silo sees the other.

To contrast meeting physical needs vs meeting spiritual needs, then: “a body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost”. The gospel actually responds to both – material and spiritual needs. Hence it is life, in all its fullness.

Grace + Truth

Over the last week there has been an interesting exchange of articles between Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley and Ian Paul, who writes the popular Christian blog Psephizo.  It focused on the theology of mission in deprived areas, and whether or not Christians need to ‘take Jesus’ into these areas. It is good to see a robust and respectful encounter of two contrasting perspectives.

The encounter between different theological perspectives has been a key theme in my life.  I was raised and came to faith within a middle-class evangelical culture which emphasised ‘knowing God personally’. Believing the right things and being distinctive in your faith was emphasised.

But as I studied social work, started working with homeless people and moved onto an inner city estate in my 20s, I discovered a whole different theological worldview. This emphasised an incarnational faith and a more social emphasis. This more…

View original post 775 more words

The Church of England has an historic mission to the whole people of England

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St. Augustine of Canterbury lands in England and meets King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, c.597

Introduction

The Church of England has an historic mission to evangelise and serve the whole people of England. This is expressed, for example, through the Church’s tagline for parish ministry: “a Christian presence in every community”.

However, the Church of England also allows for other forms of church besides parishes, such as cathedrals. This endorses a ‘mixed economy’ approach to fulfilling this historic mission.

Recently, significant cultural changes have challenged the parish model as an inadequate means for fulfilling the historic mission. Consequently, this has led to ‘fresh expressions’ of church, which are established primarily to reach ‘un-churched’ people (those who’ve never been to church) or ‘de-churched’ people (those who have been before, but then stopped going). Such fresh expressions can work alongside the parish to expedite the Church of England’s historic mission to evangelise and serve the whole people of England.

This post reviews the historic mission, critiques fresh expressions, and ultimately argues for an integration of parish ministry and fresh expressions in order to embrace and fulfil the historic mission of the Church of England to the people of England.

Historic Mission

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“A Christian presence in every community”

Christianity arrived as a missionary faith in what is now England centuries before even the English got here! For example, we have evidence of Christian faith and practice in Roman villas and burial sites dating from the 200s, whereas the English didn’t start arriving until a century or so later. Thus, around A.D. 200, the theologians Origen and Tertullian both include Britain in their lists of places reached by Christianity. Whereas, the earliest statement that the former Roman province of Britainia had fallen to Saxon rule is not until 441 – over two hundred years later.

However, perhaps the most significant date for the origins of an English Church is St. Augustine of Canterbury’s mission of 597. Augustine arrived from Italy with a team of missionaries, specifically to evangelise the pagan English. After landing in Kent, his mission spread north and west, founding the parish system which now covers all of England – to evangelise its people, and to serve them.

A thousand years on, this mission was embraced as “perhaps the most important” influence in the English Reformation from the mid-1500s. This embrace affirmed the Church of England’s historic mission to evangelise and serve the whole people of England. Tellingly, the Church’s parish system remained essentially intact through the Reformation to the present day. This indicates the centrality of the parish to the historic mission to serve the whole people of this country.

 

Limitations

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However, the Church of England has also struggled to fulfil its mission to be the Church for the whole people of England. For example, the suppression of traditional doctrines in the 16th Century contributed to rebellions such as the Prayer Book Rebellion, which was reacting at least in part against the imposition of ecclesial changes. Conversely, in the 17th Century, the Civil War was waged partly by Puritans against the retention of traditional practices. These conflicts undermine the plausibility of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ Church for all people.

Nevertheless, the Church of England still embodies the historic attempt to reconcile these competing reformed and traditional tensions in a middle way – a ‘via media‘. This attempt is exemplarily articulated for example by John Jewel, who argued that the Church of England was neither Roman Catholic on the one hand, or one of the “sundry sects” on the other, but rather an expression of Church “as most fit for England”. This position retains much significance for the Church of England today.

The Church of England thus rejects some Roman Catholic doctrines, such as the medieval development of the concept of Papal primacy on the one hand, but also rejects some of the more extreme forms of Protestant belief as being like throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. For instance, unlike anabaptists, the Church of England still baptises infants, as do the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. For this, it cites such scripture as Colossians 2.11-12 to show that infant baptism replaces the Old Testament tradition of circumcision:

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” – Colossians 2:11-12

In the Old Testament, all male converts to Judaism, male infants born to Jewish parents, and male servants were circumcised as ceremony of initiation into the Jewish community. Similarly, for Anglicans, baptism has replaced circumcision as the religious ceremony of initiation into the Christian community.

The via media ‘Settlement’ of the Church of England as a middle way between Roman Catholicism and some Protestant denominations thus means there are other Christians to either ‘side’ of Anglicanism in this spectrum. Unsurprisingly, this has led to the opening up of England to a plethora of other denominations, and indeed religions and worldviews. The Church of England has thus gone from being the one compulsory religion of the nation to just one Christian denomination among others.

 

Fresh Expressions

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Nevertheless, such delineation can risk divorcing the Church of England from its historic mission to be the Church for all the people of England. Furthermore, there is extensive internal diversity within the Church of England. This suggests that Anglicanism is not size fits all, but diverse and responsive to evangelism and mission in context.

To some extent, this internal diversity is inevitable, given the historical mission. As the Church of England has sought to provide a Church for the nation, it makes sense that it resists becoming monocultural, and instead demonstrates contextual diversity. This is enshrined, for example, in Article XXXIV of the XXXIX Articles, which states, “it is not necessary that Tradition and Ceremonies be in all places one”. This shows the assumption that God allows his church to adapt “as shall be thought from time to time most convenient for the present” context from place to place. This offers an innate openness to ‘fresh expressions’ within the Church of England as being appropriately consistent with the historic mission to the whole people of England.

Fresh expressions are developed to evangelise and serve specific cultural contexts which are different in culture to the church which planted them. They can be as diverse as family focused Messy Churches to New Monastic Communities. Fresh expressions are therefore context-specific: they are new forms of church within contemporary cultures, primarily engaging with those who don’t otherwise go to church. They minister from within the cultures they reach, so that those they engage with encounter Christian faith, and not a colonialist call to conform with this or that culture.

Fresh expressions are not meant as a stepping-stone between being un-churched/de-churched and joining a ‘proper’ church. Fresh Expressions are proper church. Because they are intended to attract people from different cultures to the people we can attract with a good parish church, we must accept that fresh expressions will not look like parish churches.

Recent research indicates there are approximately 1,100 fresh expressions in the Church of England, across 21 dioceses, with over 50,000 people attending. This compares immensely favourably with parish ministry as a means for missional impact evangelising and serving the whole people of England.

However, one of the greatest difficulties has been reconciling how fresh expressions should fit with the parish system. For example, fresh expressions might cross parish boundaries, placing them at an angle to traditional parish structures.

Furthermore, fresh expressions are not merely re-brands of ministries run by a parish church, like a toddler’s group renamed as a church in its own right. Fresh expressions are meant to be new forms of church intended to reach people who ministries of existing parish churches would not reach. And indeed, fresh expressions are successfully evangelising and serving those groups who would otherwise be un-churched or de-churched. In order to embrace its historic mission to the whole people of England, the Church of England needs to use expressions of church which will reach cultures within England that are not currently being evangelised or served by traditional parish ministries.
Conclusion

The Church of England has an historic mission to evangelise and serve the whole people of England. The development of parishes to expedite this mission began soon after the first missionary bishops like Augustine arrived in England. This parish system remains in place today as an essential component for delivering the Church of England’s mission of evangelism and service, to the whole people of England.

However, the historic mission means that the Church of England also has a responsibility to evangelise and serve those who do not attend their parish church. Happily, fresh expressions of church allow the Church of England to do this, reaching people who would not otherwise engage with their parish church. This shows that parish churches and fresh expressions thus share in the historic missional task to evangelise and serve the whole people of England. Fresh expressions done well compliment the parish model, and are entirely consistent with the Church of England’s historic mission to evangelise and serve the people of England.

 

Further Reading

BBC, ‘Christianity in Britain’, accessed http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/history/uk_1.shtml on 02.06.2019

Chapman, Mark. Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2006)

Church of England, ‘Mission-shaped Church’ (Church House, 2004)

Cottrell, Stephen. ‘The baby and the parochial bathwater’, Church Times (23.11.10), at https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2010/26-november/books-arts/book-reviews/the-baby-and-the-parochial-bathwater

Cray, Graham. Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context (Church House, 2009)

Cray, Graham. ‘Turning the Ocean Liner; the fresh expressions initiative’ in Bolger, R. (Ed.) The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions. (Baker Academic 2012), pp. 327-338

Cray, Graham, Ian Mobsby, & Aaron Kennedy (eds.). New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of Church (Canterbury Press, 2011)

Croft, Steven (ed.). Mission-Shaped Questions: Defining Issues for Today’s Church (Church House Publishing, 2008)

Croft, Steven. (ed.). Future of the Parish System: Shaping the Church of England in the 21st Century (Church House Publishing, 2010)

Davie, Martin. A Guide to the Church of England (Bloomsbury, 2016)

Davison, Andrew, & Alison Milbank. For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions (SCM Press, 2010)

Fletcher, Anthony, & Diarmaid MacCulloch. Tudor rebellions (Routledge revised 5th edn., 2008)

Fresh Expressions, ‘Introduction’,  http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/about/introduction

Fresh Expressions, ‘Our Story’, http://freshexpressions.org.uk/about/our-story

Fresh Expressions, ‘What is a Fresh Expression?’,  http://freshexpressions.org.uk/about/what-is-a-fresh-expression

Gildas (auth.) & Hugh Alders William (transl.). de Excidio Britanniae (Dodo Press, 2010)

Hill, Jonathan. The History of Christian Thought (Lion, 2003)

Hoekendijk, Hans. ‘The Missionary Calling of the Church’, International Review of Missions 41, Issue 3 (July 1952)

Hollingshurst, Steve. ‘The bishops and fresh expressions’, Church Times (30.01.08) https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2008/1-february/features/the-bishops-and-fresh-expressions

Jewel, John. Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae (1562)

Lings, David. Day of Small Things (Church Army, 2016)

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Thomas Cranmer: A Life (Yale University Press, 2016)

McGrath, Alister. Christian History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)

Moynagh, Michael. Church for Every Context (SCM Press, 2012)

Newbiggin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (SPCK Classics edn., 2014)

Percy, Martin. ‘Books reviewed’, Modern Believing vol.52:3 (July, 2011)

Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’, 1999

Pui-Lan, K., & S. Burns. Postcolonial Practice of Ministry (Lexington Books, 2016)

Rayner, Linda. ‘Re-imagining the Church in a rapidly changing culture’, The Bible in Transmission (August, 2018)

Strype, John (ed.). Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion And other various Occurrences in the Church of England (Thomas Edlin, 1725; Cambridge University Press, 2010 edn.)

UK Parliament, ‘Act of Supremacy 1534’, https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/collections/common-prayer/act-of-supremacy

Wells, Samuel. What Anglicans Believe (Canterbury Press, 2011), p.93

Williams, Rowan. ‘Archbishop’s Presidential Address’, given to General Synod, York (July, 2003)

_______, ‘Making the mixed economy work’, address to Fresh Expressions national day conference (06.05.11)

“Jesus was passing through Jericho”

It was a joy to preach in Shillingford St. George this morning, one of my favourite churches in the diocese of Exeter, Devon.

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We looked at 1. the ring of truth in the details in the Bible, 2. the opportunities to encounter God and share Christianity “in passing” on the bus, in the pub, etc., and 3. the theme of persevering in faith and good works, despite grumblers, mutterers, and persecutors.

Luke 19.1-10, 2 Thessalonians 1.1-12

Reach out to God

On this day, 1st November, in 1512, Michelangelo unveiled his famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. One of the most iconic parts of this work is the image of God and Adam’s fingers nearly touching, as they reach out for one another.

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The bad things we do – sin – is what separates us from God. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can feel this hole in our spirits, this wound in our consciences.

But God is reaching out today through the Bible, through Christians in churches in your community, and through his Holy Spirit in your heart. Just as he reaches out to Adam in Genesis and to Michelangelo to inspire him, he reaches out to you.

Will you reach out and touch him today?

You can open a Bible (why not start with one of the Gospel books – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?), you can visit a church or ask to speak with a Christian friend, and you can pray.

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The opinion that the Bible is not supported by archaeology simply does not match the material evidence

Reblog of Chris Sinkinson, ‘Edom: How archaeology is confirming the truth of scripture’ , from Premier Christianity Magazine (1st October 2019), available at https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Edom-How-archaeology-is-confirming-the-truth-of-scripture

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Over the summer a number of archaeological discoveries have made mainstream headlines as they cast light on the biblical record. At the end of September this included the claim that the lost civilization of Edom had been discovered.

From The Daily Mail to Popular Mechanics, an array of publications carried the story. The Times ran the story with the headline ‘Scientists find State of Edom which they thought was a Bible Story’.

It is all very good for popular apologetics, but it is worth pausing for breath to consider the reality behind the headlines.

First, there has always been good evidence for the existence of Edom. Not only is it mentioned over 80 times in the Bible there are ancient references to it from military campaigns of Pharaoh Seti I (c.1215 BC) and Rameses III (c.1155 BC). The name means “Red” and the Bible identifies the region with Esau, the brother of Isaac, who had red hair. In later history it was the location of Petra and then, in New Testament times, it is known by the related Greek name of Idumea. So there is no real reason to doubt the existence of the region of Edom.

The redness of Edom is obvious for anyone who visits the rose-red city of Petra or the wilderness of Wadi Rum, used as location filming for The Martian. The colour of the earth betrays the rich iron deposits of the region. While it was hard to farm, the region did lend itself to metallurgy and the recent news stories really relate to the remarkable antiquity of the metal workings in the region.

The copper mines in the Edom date back to 1300 BC. Archaeologists of the Central Timna Valley Project have published a number of papers which have developed our understanding of the copper manufacturing in the region. Over the last decade they have found evidence that the copper mines of Timna were at the forefront of the pivotal development of civilization from the Late Bronze Age into the Iron Age. The most recent publication has drawn attention to just how early, and how significant, this metallurgy was in Edom. An analysis of slag from the smelting process has demonstrated a rapid technological development during the 11th Century BC. The paper authors call Edom a “copper powerhouse” of the ancient world. What this establishes is that Edom at the time could not have been a loose alliance of tribes but must have been a unified kingdom with all the administrative and trade capabilities to support such development. It is just such a kingdom that the Bible writers describe.

The archaeological record continues to demonstrate that what we read in the Bible matches what we know of the ancient world. It is a little overdramatic to talk of “proving the Bible.” Better to acknowledge that as time passes archaeology confirms that the biblical authors demonstrate genuine knowledge of the ancient world about which they write. The traditional, liberal view that the Bible is a collection of legends based on much later writings simply does not match the material evidence.

 

Sinko-web_author_lineChris Sinkinson is a lecturer in biblical and theological studies at Moorlands College and author of Time Travel to the Old Testament (IVP, 2013). He originally studied Philosophy and English before going on to complete an MA and PhD in Theology. He has been involved in Christian ministry with UCCF as a Regional Staff worker and as a church pastor. He was the senior pastor of Alderholt Chapel in Dorset for over ten years.