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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Arrival Of Scoffers - Wow! How Brainy Were They!

As he sat at his desk, tapping away at his typewriter, no one, least of all himself, would have given him much attention. Salman Rushdie was practically unknown to the majority of the population. He was engaged in what he does best, writing books. This British -Indian author submits his finished manuscript to the publishers and by September 1988, his latest work, Satanic Verses was released. Soon afterward, this Muslim writer needed police protection for writing a book about the Prophet Muhammad which stirred rage within the Muslim world which spread right across the globe like petrol-fueled wildfire!
Then on the 14th of February 1989, dire threats came from the office occupied by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the then Supreme Leader of Iran. He issued the fatwa, an opinion that Rushdie must be put to death, and Muslims everywhere bayed for his blood as a result.

Salman Rushdie

As Islam as a whole was baying for the blood of one man who wrote and published a book against the Koran, what a massive contrast when those mainly in the academic community began to dismantle the veracity of the Bible, particularly with the early chapters of Genesis. Hardly a stir or whimper of protest in the churches and British society as a whole, as great men of learning such as Jean Baptiste Lamarck, Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin, along with Georges Cuvier, William Buckland, John Fleming and John Pye Smith, all living within the late 18th Century into the 19th, either played down the full effect of the global Deluge or denied it altogether. Although British society then asserted itself as Christian, with a high percentage attending church on a regular basis, yet because these men were academics, their reasoning were accepted with hardly any challenges from the churches or from the Christian public. Rather, both began to accept these theories as truth, a gradual progression rather than a sudden upheaval like the one Salman Rushdie caused within Islam.
For a quick and simplified rundown on which role these guys named above played in shaping our way of thinking: Cuvier, Buckland, Fleming and Pye Smith all denied the truthfulness of the Noachian Deluge and its impact to the Earth's topography and the formation of fossils, a belief held by Jesus Christ, his Apostles and the Churches for up to 1,800 years. Cuvier and Buckland instead believed that it took a series of multiple floods to create the geological and meteorological phenomena that we see today. In turn, Fleming, a Scottish minister, taught that the Flood was so tranquil that it had no impact whatsoever in shaping the Earth's surface - even the trees were left intact. Fleming's theory could not stand up to the laws of physics, and was quickly abandoned, to be replaced by John Pye Smith's Local Flood Theory, that is the Biblical Flood being confined to within the Mesopotamian Basin, leaving the rest of the planet unaffected. This idea is still accepted in some Christian circles to this day.
In turn, English geologist Charles Lyell studied the fossiliferous rock strata and came up with a theory that these layers were formed by sediments carried by the flows in shallow seas, rivers and lakes, and were the result of gentle settling over millions of years. This theory became known as Uniformitarianism, and became the bedrock for Charles Darwin's theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (in opposed to Lamarck's theory of Evolution by Mutation, which preceded Darwin's.) It was to Lyell who Darwin gave much credit to in his book, The Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin

As the decades came and went, belief in the Biblical record of Divine Creation and the Deluge eroded, from the universities to the public, with Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection taking over as factual knowledge.
David Attenborough, the BBC's most famed and enduring reporter on Natural History, advocated Evolution above Creation for the last fifty years or so.
Then as if a sudden, Oxford professor Richard Dawkins exploded on to the scene with his book, The God Delusion, published in 2006. Alongside Dawkins, Sam Harris released his book on to the shelves, Letter To A Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens wrote, God Is Not Great.
What amazed me was that these three books were released pretty much at the same time. These books not only brought Genesis to the level of myth, but the whole Bible. The beat was on. Anti-Bible propaganda was in full swing. Dawkins even had blazing on buses plying the city streets, There is probably no God. Enjoy yourself.
Yet the pace accelerates.
Leading up to Easter 2011, two BBC2 documentaries were shown at the same time. One was Wonders of the Universe, presented by the lovable professor, Brian Cox. Although he talked much about the Big Bang which started off the existence of the Universe, there was absolutely no suggestion of Divine Creation mentioned at all in all four series episodes.

Professor Brian Cox

The other programme was Bible's Buried Secrets, presented by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, a lecturer at the Department of Theology and Religion at Exeter University. She graduated at Oxford where she studied Theology and also collected her Doctorate. Her speciality was the Hebrew Bible, and in her programmes she totally discredits the veracity of the entire Bible by means of comparing its record with some pottery and figurines found at various archaeological sites in the Middle East, and using carbon dating to test the age of the objects found, uses the age discrepancy as proof for the Bible's unreliability.

Dr. Francesca Stravrakopoulou

Then, just two weeks previous to this blog, the Daily Mail reporter Robert Hardman, refers to all Creationists as "crackpot Bible-bashers who stick doggedly to their beliefs of a worldwide flood and Noah's ark"
And now, the Daily Mail publishes another article, this time by Professor Bart D. Ehrman, who insist that Paul the Apostle did not write the first letter to Timothy nor the letter to the Ephesians. Neither did Peter write his second letter bearing his name. This guy also wrote three books, each discrediting the truthfulness of the New Testament: Misquoting Jesus; Jesus Interrupted and Why The Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.
And so these two newspaper writers publish their work at the same time as the BBC broadcast the works of Cox and Stavrakopoulou all within the same month as we draw closer to Easter.
But why?
Why are the academics, those who have the highest intelligence and education, seem to be desperate to get us to stop believing in the Bible and its truthfulness?
Yes, I agree that Brian Cox does not discredit the Bible directly, as the others do, but his total lack of acknowledgement nevertheless hints at it.
But what is it about the Bible which academics despise? And why don't they discredit the Islam Koran? Or the Hindu Vedas, or for that matter, the works of ancient Greek authors such as Hippocrates, Plato or Aristotle?
Could it be that the Bible holds the key to the redemption of our souls, the forgiveness of sins, our salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus?
Or could it be what Peter says in his second letter, its authenticity denied by Professor Bart Ehrman:-
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of the creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters the world at that time was deluged and destroyed.
(Emphasis mine.)
Sure, spot on, Peter...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Newspaper Journalism - a Reflection of Middle Class Arrogance

This blog is written on the wake of the massive earthquake just off the Japanese coast on Friday March 11th, 2011 - and the resulting tsunamis which killed thousands of inhabitants and wiped towns off the map. This is just another show of Nature's anger, after the earthquake which flattened Christchurch in New Zealand just a few weeks earlier, and another earthquake which caused the tsunami disaster at the Indian Ocean which killed an estimated 230,000 people in 14 nations, on Boxing Day, 2004.
Among many reports of the latest disaster, one in particular really struck me above the rather monotonous stream of newspaper journalism.
Daily Mail Robert Hardman wrote an article on page 11 of Saturday's (12th March)issue of the paper with the headline screaming out -
What fools we are to think we can tame the wrath of nature.
This at first looks to be a humbling article, with setting our human achievements in their rightful place, subservient to nature, no matter how dizzying high our achievements have reached, whether they meant building a skyscraper over a piece of ground once inhabited by a few animals, communication wizardry, or sending someone into space. Hardman says that when nature unleashes its forces, everything we are and our attainments goes flat like a house of cards. So far, so good.
But it was how the article opened which caused me to gasp, "Wow!"
This is what he wrote:

How we chuckle at those primitive civilisations with their sun-worshipping superstitions, their pagan ways. How we pooh-pooh those Creationist Bible-bashers clinging steadfastly to their crackpot beliefs in Noah and his Ark. The only real threat to the world, we are always told, is the human race itself. Because we are the ones in charge.
(Emphasis mine)

This statement seems to me that the author is at worst, an atheist, at best an agnostic, but certainly not a Bible-believing Christian whose beliefs in Divine Creation and the Flood were the foundations of British society throughout its history, simply because Jesus Christ and his apostles upheld these two Old Testament events as historic, not fable, and was the conviction held by many throughout English history which even cost them their lives.
Robert Hardman seems to me, to be one of a growing number of journalists and reporters who totally refute any historicity to the Bible, because to them, all truth in Scripture has been refuted by science. And that despite that the laws and constitution which formed the basis of English society was founded on principles based on the veracity of the Bible.
Yet even to this day, journalists cry out over the watering down of traditional Englishness. One time Daily Mail political columnist Simon Heffer, a self-confessed atheist, once wrote,

What defines a British gentleman is that even while just out shopping on a Saturday afternoon, he'll go out in public wearing a suit and tie.

And he described himself as a "radical Englishman". His quote also means, in reality, that "the British Gentleman" is extremely far and few between, "as rare as an oasis in a desert", being my pet expression, particular on a warm summers day, where his definition of a gentleman would be totally non-existent, unless on duty whether in the Forces or in Retail.
Heffer's statement leads me to his replacement after he left the newspaper post some years ago. His replacement was, and is, Amanda Platell, who on a Daily Mail online article, she criticised Prince William for touring Australia with an open neck shirt during one of their hot summer days. The number of comments she received disagreeing with her might have been the reason why her article was scrapped before the paper went to print.
But she, along with fellow journalist Melanie Phillips, lashed out at the "emotional, sentimental and mawkish attitude" of the British since the death of Princess Diana in August 1997. This weakening of the stiff upper lip to a trembling lower lip is the diluting of the spirit of the British Bulldog, which to them, made Britain unique.

Platell also wrote a complete page long article on how stoicism not only made Britain unique and head of a mighty worldwide empire, but as an Australian backpacker, decided to settle in London permanently some 26 or 27 years ago.
I once watched a clip based on a movie about an airline in distress mid-flight. On one side of the central aisle was a crowd of panicking Italians shouting and screaming. On the other side a crowd of English passengers, in business suits, in total stoic silence, some even reading a newspaper, as if nothing out of the usual was happening.
Admirable stuff.
In reality, only last year 33 Chilean miners were trapped in an underground cavern after the roof of an access shaft collapsed, blocking the exit. If ever there was stoicism displayed by these guys, all of Spanish descent, it was by these miners who were trapped underground for six weeks. Some became ill, but none panicked. Their secret of survival was hope in prayer. In the cave they built a makeshift chapel, where daily prayers kept their hopes alive. And amazingly, Amanda Platell was away the week such a spectacular and successful rescue operation was completed, with no fatalities.
And according to TV news reports, at present the Japanese seem to show stoicism while coping with the recent tsunamis catastrophe. Instead of screaming and panicking, engineers have got to work in making safe the nuclear power plant which was threatening to leak radiation, risking their own lives in doing so.
And so I could go on. The point is that the British are not unique in stoicism as these journalists would like us to think.
And added to this, journalists such as Hardman had added insult to injury to many who are devoted to the Bible as historical.
People have died for the cause of Biblical truth, reverence and historicity. The best examples are the three Oxford Martyrs, who set the course for the rise of the Church of England. They were bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. They were burnt alive on the stake outside Balliol College on the 16th October 1555, for insisting that the bread and wine of the Body of Christ was meant to be spiritual not literal, as taught by Rome. Five months later, on 21st March 1556, Thomas Cramner was burned at the stake at the same spot as the other two, for similar convictions. Cramner composed the Book of Common Prayer in 1548-49, a liturgy read in churches throughout the land of centuries afterwards.

Nicholas Ridley

Hugh Latimer before the Council

Death of Thomas Cramner

Which gave to the rise of the Church of England, headquartered in Canterbury, Kent.

Belief in the historicity of the Bible did not turn a nation into savages but an ordered civilisation. Basically, such convictions and belief in a Triune God who Created everything, the Noachian Deluge, the birth, Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ and belief in the resulting afterlife kept evil under check.
True enough, there were some appalling stuff within British history, such as the slums, the workhouse, poverty, disease, capitalist greed and extortion using child labour in deep underground mines and grim factories and mills, and a strong and rigid class system. All these things were very bad in those days.
But belief in the Bible was the underlying cause of social reform. One good example of this was the rise of the Trade Unions, originally a Christian organisation for the welfare of manual workers, along with the rise of the NHS, and societies for fairer trading, etc.
And most important, as Robert Hardman pointed out, perhaps unwittingly, the Bible plays an important role against pagan child sacrifice and cannibalism.
Then there is the most important truth in the Bible - our salvation.
And salvation is the free gift of God, given to all who trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Nothing pooh-pooh about that.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Vanity of Vanities, Life is Vanity, says Brian Cox

Last night my wife and I watched The Wonders of the Universe, presented by the ever smiling, smooth-talking ever-so-lovable Professor Brian Cox. Not a dour looking middle-aged gentleman with a moustache and in a grey suit, as one could imagine a professor to look like, but a youthful looking chap, some fifteen years my junior, and casually dressed to the extent that some diehards would call "scruffy" for his profession.

We enjoyed his one-hour long presentation. But as the programme progressed, I began to feel low, depressed. And Cox himself actually admitted that this part of his presentation would depress his audience.
For he spoke about the great age of the Universe, about 13 billion years old, and the coming death of the Universe as each star dies after burning up all of its fuel. This including our Sun, which when its fuel, which is Hydrogen, runs out, would then grow to a Red Giant, then shrink to a White Dwarf and eventually explode into a dust cloud.
And that is the fate of every star in the Universe. The brighter stars would die first, as they burn fuel at a much faster rate than the red dwarfs.
But over trillions, trillions and trillions of years into the future, only a few red dwarfs remain, as they were the slowest to burn their fuel reserves. But even they will turn into white dwarfs and explode into gas clouds and as the clouds disperse, the whole Universe will become a utter black void, without any source of light and heat, as eventually every single atom in the entire Universe becomes non-existent.
He even demonstrated this theory of the second law of thermodynamics by standing next to a rusting hull of a ship beached many years earlier. Gradually the hull was being eroded away and will, over time, disappear altogether, as the second law requires, as every matter deteriorates from order to disorder. The same applies to the Universe.
Depressing stuff!

This morning on Radio 2, I heard presenter Chris Evans quip that life was purposeless, for we are all doomed, after watching the same programme the evening before.
And this is the final fruition of great intellects such as Charles Lyell, Jean Baptiste Lamark, Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and now Brian Cox. All of these guys, five British, one French and one American, either denied the existence of God or presented an alternative to Divine Creation in the name of Science. And the end result, a feeling of a depressing sense of purposelessness, acknowledged both by Cox and Evans.
And this sort of atheistic knowledge has swept across the Western World mainly from this nation, from where this knowledge had its origin from Lyell and Darwin respectively.
Does it matter?
Yes, I think it does. The thought of a dying Universe where eventually every star will fizzle out like a fading ember, to me at least, robs all sense of worth and purpose of living. We are reduced to a mass of atoms arranged into molecules by chance over millions of years of evolution. Having faith in God was nothing but an evolutionary hiccup, maybe to help with our survival as a species, but now, according to Dawkins and Harris, it's high time to throw all this into the dustbin and move on. Divine Creation is just a fairy tale. And the cause of a tremendous waste of hard labour endured by many generations.
After all, for example, because the Pyramids of Egypt were a burying place for the kings to enter the afterlife, they were of a religious significance and therefore a waste of time and energy in their construction, ditto with the giant statues of Buddha.
But more touching, would have been the birth, growth and history of the nation of Israel, and eventually its capital, Jerusalem. Totally purposeless would have been a need of a burial cave that would stand as a sentinel to testify that the land of Canaan was given to the children of Israel by divine decree.
It would mean that it matters not a jot whether the Palestinians succeed in pushing Israel into the sea, and grab back Jerusalem and return it to its status of a provincial city under the administration of the Islam capital of Mecca. But the fact that this had always been the wishes of the Palestinians, backed by the United Nations, along with superpowers such as Russia, as with all Arab nations. Thus Jerusalem has become a cup of trembling, and one day whose right to possess that city will be the cause of the greatest war fought by the nations, threatening the extinction of the entire human race. For what purpose? Religion? Something now proved pointless by science?

And again, if we are here because of an evolutionary stroke of luck in a slowly dying Universe, what purpose was the Crucifixion of Christ, and the Church he said he would build. From the churches comes the teaching that by having faith in the death and Resurrection of Christ, one's soul will be saved by having all sins forgiven, and to love and serve God and each other, to show compassion to the less fortunate, to give more freely, to do good to those in need and most important: to have a sense of purpose - which is to spend eternity thoroughly partaking and enjoying the love that has always shone so brightly between Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the three persons of a Trinitarian God! And to enjoy it in a re-created Universe and a world so astoundingly beautiful, that it is totally impossible to imagine it.
With this faith comes the assurance that as long as God keeps his Covenant with Israel, the Earth will never be destroyed. And he has also assured us that he will only break his covenant with Israel if we successfully achieved the impossibility of counting every star in the Universe, or cause the day and the night from following each other (that is, to stop the Earth from rotating) or even boring a hole down to the core of the Earth, literally. As for the great war over Jerusalem still future from this point in time, God will intervene before mankind is wiped out, and the Son of God will claim his throne of his father David in Jerusalem.
With all this in mind, I recall one particular evening at my bachelor pad some years ago. A member of the Bracknell Community Church (back then it was Bracknell Baptist Church) who himself was a graduate, came to visit me with a question:
Why are we here?
Without hesitation I quoted Revelation 4:11
For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
For thy pleasure. It's a beautiful reason, and one given only in the Authorised version of the Bible. (All other versions use the word "will" instead of "pleasure".)
The visitor was stunned. He then explained that great minds have written volumes in attempting to explain why we are here, and I did it in a single stroke.
No, the Bible did.
Here we have it. Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and trusting the Bible as authority has and always will spare me from the depressive sense of purposeless and doom propounded by the likes of Brian Cox and his ilk.