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In the beginning ...

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William Crawley | 16:12 UK time, Friday, 9 May 2008

genesis.jpgThis could well be called Creation Weekend on BBC Radio Ulster. In the Beginning, our dramatic serialisation of the book of Genesis begins this Sunday at 4.30 pm on Radio Ulster. We'll also be debating the moral and literary legacy of the book of Genesis on Sunday Sequence, just after the news at 9.00 a.m., with Baptist theologian Maurice Dowling, the academic Leon Litvack, who's also our regular guide to Jewish affairs, the Christian feminist writer Christina Reece, and Robert Stovold from the National Secular Society. How has the book of Genesis influenced the way we write and speak today? How have the values of this ancient book shaped our legal systems and moral codes? And can the book of Genesis be rescued from the claim that it is a manifesto for misogyny, racism, slavery, homophobia and genocide? Some complex questions to be explored this Sunday morning.

To complete a decidedly biblical weekend, I'll be making a visit to the Answers in Genesis conference at the Waterfriont Hall in Belfast to meet Ken Ham, the world's most famous Creationist.

Here's the official blurb for the launch of our serialisation of the book:

""In The Beginning" - three deceptively simple words, and perhaps the most famous opening to any book ever written. The book of Genesis has been read by more people, and translated into more languages than any other text in the history of writing." So states William Crawley who, in this unique new series for Radio Ulster, tempts us as surely as that infamous serpent once did, to tune in and try to get to grips with the meaning behind the stories and the people behind the names we think we know so well.

Over eight half hour episodes we learn of the creation of the earth and its creatures and of mankind itself. The fateful mistake in the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, the building of Noah's Ark, the goings on in Sodom and Gomorrah, the plight of Babel, the test of faith placed upon Abraham. Isaac, Jacob, Methuselah and Joseph are all there.

This is not a dry regurgitation of the biblical stories and characters we think we know. Crucially William Crawley issues a warning - "What you are about to hear is extremely adult material. This is one of the most dangerous books ever written."

Stunning, specially composed music from Graeme Stewart provides a subtle, filmic soundtrack to the melliforous voice of Jim Norton who narrates Genesis - a voice which lends clarity and meaning to the archaic and poetic words of the King James' translation of the Bible. This may change how you hear the voice of God in your mind's ear forever ...

In The Beginning starts at 4.30pm on Sunday, 11th May on Radio Ulster. The producer is John Simpson.


  • Comment number 1.

    "...So states William Crawley who, in this unique new series for Radio Ulster, tempts us as surely as that infamous serpent once did..."

    Now then, William Crawley tempting us as surely as the serpent?

    Should I think of that statement as, literal, metaphorical, allegorical, figurative, factual, precise, declarative, poetic, mythological, or a combination of some or all of these written forms? Would it give me license to tempt, or caution me against such practice? What does it say of William, what does it say of the serpent?

    What does anyone think?

    And, as for changing "how (I) hear voice of God in (my) mind's ear forever"? Has the BBC embarked on some new mystical form of broadcasting over the airwaves?

  • Comment number 2.

    Here's a compliment for BBC NI, Radio Ulster and William specifically.

    I loath the way the BBC is funded and I object in principle to the very idea of 'public service broadcasting'. But THIS constitutes the very epitome of what public service broadcasting is supposed to be: articles of serious education and exploration in the public interest, in the sciences, literature, and I think I'm speaking on behalf of a majority of contributors to this blog when I say that projects like Blueprint and this new series exploring Genesis are the reason (often the only reason) we take an interest. The more the BBC tackles this kind of subject matter, the less angry I would feel about being forced to pay the licence fee to own a television.

    On a side note, Will- It'll be great meeting Ken Ham; maybe you can persuade him to join the panel as a worthwhile last minute addition??

  • Comment number 3.

    William: I just hope your forthcoming interview with Ham (or will it take the form of a report ?) is as good as the last one which was excellent.

  • Comment number 4.


    "William Crawley...as the serpent."

    I like it already.

    "literal, metaphorical, allegorical, figurative, factual, precise, declarative, poetic, mythological.."

    All of the above!!!

    "...license to tempt."

    Oooh, now we're getting somewhere.

    "What does it say of William?"

    William, gimme a bite out of that apple or I'll ..... you (Abel would've been second if he had.)

    Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end. Was about 7000 year ago, wasn't it William? All I was trying to do was invent fruit salad. Sheesh, come up with a new idea and everybody wants to steal it from you. Damn that woman.

    John Wright;

    "BBC is funded...to... public service broadcasting...in the sciences...."

    To them, this is science. Just ask Andy Macintosh if it isn't so.

    BTW, if some people feel quoted out of context....well....welcome to the BBC.

  • Comment number 5.

    Marcus- :-)

  • Comment number 6.

    Will, the Sunday Sequence discussion was very good. A very interesting panel. It would be nice to have Robin Lane Fox or Bart Ehrman on some time.

    Incidentally, is there a link to last week's interview with the Hamster (Ken Ham)? I missed it, and (naughty!) you didn't alert us on your blog. I thought it was to be today, so I missed it.

    The first interview was great. Sounds like you were wetting yourself laughing at him (as would be appropriate). Will try to comment later on the serialisation...


  • Comment number 7.

    can't seem to be able to post

  • Comment number 8.

    Well I can now not sure what's wrong. There's a report on Ken Ham's blog re. the interview yesterday:


    I would also imagine AiG would be somewat disappoi9nted with the turnout i.e. 300on Friday, 500 yesterday. Considering Ham on his own attracted nearly 2,000 people last time. Maybe it's the time of year.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is what Ken Ham has written on his blog about Will Crawley's interview with him (though he hasn't named Will) ...


    This is just a short update from Belfast, N. Ireland. I will write more later. The two-day conference here in Northern Ireland began at 2pm on Friday—and about 15 minutes into a lecture, someone somehow apparently broke the glass in one of the fire alarms (you have to break the glass to set off the fire alarm). Everyone had to be escorted from the building and wait until the fire engine arrived and the building was cleared. Just a little drama to start the conference!

    After I spoke tonight, I was interviewed by a well-known BBC radio personality who is known to attack biblical creationists. He interviewed me for about 15 minutes. His big issues:

    1. Why would God kill all those children in the Flood? I tried to get him to understand that the real question should be: “Why does everyone die?” And that he needed to understand that we (as sinners) are the ones responsible for those children (and everyone else, including ourselves) dying, because we sinned in Adam. I also tried to explain about God knowing everything and having morally commendable reasons for things etc., etc.
    2. I was accused of doing a “hard sell” on the books—supposedly taking a lot of time to do this. I reminded him that I spoke for 75 minutes and took 4 minutes at the end (after the talk) to recommend resources. I also told him that AiG–USA makes NOTHING on the material sold in the UK—we discount the resources highly in the UK so people can afford them—and we sell them to our sister ministry, UK–AiG, at raw cost.
    3. I was then accused of being in this ministry for money—that I had a vested financial interest. I told him that he probably wouldn’t understand this, but I was in this ministry because of my burden to proclaim the gospel. I had to remind him that our budget is probably very small compared to London’s Natural History Museum budget—and that compared to secular institutions, we were very small.
    4. He told me I had a very “slick” presentation. I said if you mean it came across well, then that is because I am using the gift of communication the Lord gave me.

    Anyhow, I invited him to the Creation Museum.

    Yes, another eventful day in the life a traveling AiG speaker!

  • Comment number 10.

    Great! Sounds like you kicked his hiney, Will. Any chance of setting up a permalink to the interview? (I am so kicking myself now!!)


  • Comment number 11.

    I tried to post this by copying and pasting on Saturday but couldn't for some reason.

    I would assume this is William that he (Ham) is referring to,unless Davy Dunseith has interviewed him as well ?(according to Paul Taylor of AiG UK there were going to be two BBC interviews ???)

    David Dunseith did apparently interview him (Ham) the last time but according to Ham's blog he (Dunseith) got up and left the interview half way through (probably through frustration !). This was never broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster. The account by Ham of this incident is still in his blog archives.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks Peter - yes, the BBC must have quite an archive on this character. Come on, Will, collate 'em and publish 'em. You can call them "Slices of roast Ham" or some such.

    Will has quite the reputation as the "hostile interviewer" to judge from Ken's little blogette.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Heliopolitan,

    'Will has quite the reputation as the "hostile interviewer" to judge from Ken's little blogette.'

    I don't know about that. It wouldn't surprise me if that was just Ham thinking that anyone who doesn't glorify him must have it out for him. Given the near-endless scorn that YECs deserve because of their ludicrous position and regular dishonesty, I'd say they generally get a pretty easy time in the media.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well if the Dunseith thing is true then Ham will recall him as a hostile interviewer rather than Crawley, whose interview last time couldn't have been described that way, to my memory.

    I'm more interested in why the producers didn't want to air that interview; in my world, an interviewer getting frustrated and walking out is the embodiment of good radio. :-S

  • Comment number 15.

    Here's the account by Ham from his archives John:


    Today, the BBC sent a taxi to pick me up for an interview with David Dunseith, who is known to be an extremely anti-Christian and arrogant talk show host. Well, he started off the interview by asking me why I believed the Bible instead of science. That gave me a great open door, so I went for it. He then tried to keep pushing this line, but I kept hammering him that it wasn’t the Bible versus science. He then told me how ridiculous it seemed to believe that a Creator created the universe out of nothing. So I asked him whether he believed it just popped into existence for no reason. He abandoned that line and then started saying there were contradictions/inconsistencies in the Bible. We went back and forth for a while and then he walked to the door and showed me the way out and that was that! I have never had such an abrupt ending to an interview in my life!

  • Comment number 16.

    In the beginning God created the heavenly licensed BBC and its earthly listeners in the Garden of Ulster. And God said: "Let there be light" on the airwaves. And the Lord God formed Ken Ham and Franklin Graham of the dust of the ground to have intellectual and moral dominion on air over the pure and simple Ulster folk. But it came to pass that the Devil created two wicked and evil seekers after the tree of wisdom, the extremely anti-Christian chat-show host David and his protegee and stand-in William, who is known to attack biblical creationists. And David encouraged William to eat of the fruit of the tree of questioning so that even Kevin Myers was with wrath. And God punished both David and William by making them recite the creation story every day for the rest of their lives, starting on the afternoon of Ulster's first day, 11th May, 600 million years BC, at 4 30pm.

  • Comment number 17.

    I loath the way the BBC is funded and I object in principle to the very idea of 'public service broadcasting'.

    Television/radio without ads and sponcors is bliss. I find the commercial breaks on UTV/Sky an intrusion on my enjoyment of the programme and I nearly always switch channels when they come on (or fast forward if it's recorded on Sky plus).

    No, leave the BBC the way it is. In my opinion the licence fee represents excellent value for money.

    Back to the subject of interviews etc. here's what Ham published on his blog from a reader about Gerry Anderson:



    A person from Belfast (Northern Ireland) sent this message to us recently about a news item from Belfast we linked to in a past blog:

    In respect of the link you have on Ken’s Monday Aug 29 blog to the Belfast Telegraph here, and the infamous (here at least) Gerry Anderson’s musings, rest assured he’s considered no less a crackpot here amongst his ‘peers’ as he comes across from the drivel within that article. He’s a totally unlikeable, irreverent, blasphemous (Catholic) man who takes great pleasure in deriding everything considered good or ‘holy’ in any shape. Few here entertain him, other than those of his own ‘kind’ who are as bent as he is!! So just thought I’d share that nugget with you, as I found it incredible to have a link from our little province on your wonderful site/information etc. Hoping to make it to Monty’s talk in the Crescent in October. Keep up the EXCELLENT Work guys! Blessings?

    Monty White (CEO of AiG UK) had a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph responding to this nasty piece of journalism:


    Some rather nasty/sectarian comments I thought. YEC's have absolutely no sense of humour.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nice one, Brian! But somehow I don't know if "In the Beginning" is going to cut el mustardo with the creationists - it's too obvious that Genesis is just a tarted up amalgam of tales in common circulation at the time. It's like Josiah tootled along to the priests of Yahweh, and asked them to "Pimp my creation myth".

    And behold, they pimped.

  • Comment number 19.

    Personally I think uncle Shugo should do the next Ham interview !!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice one Peter!:-)

  • Comment number 21.

    Peter Henderson- I've heard that standard argument for the licence fee so many times and it's never gotten any better. You say:

    "Television/radio without ads and sponcors is bliss. I find the commercial breaks on UTV/Sky an intrusion on my enjoyment of the programme..."

    Good, 'cause I find the licence fee an intrusion on my wallet. Being forced to fund the BBC because I own a television is not a good business model, and the benefit of having no ads isn't worth much if I don't want to watch BBC television.... which is my choice.

    "No, leave the BBC the way it is. In my opinion the licence fee represents excellent value for money."

    Get this: "in your opinion" [emphasis added] ... it's great value for money, and if enough people agree with you, it should have no trouble surviving on a subscription model. "Your" opinion will cause you to want to be a subscriber, and if enough people agree with you in order to 'justify' the licence fee in the first place, then the BBC won't change very much at all as a result of a change to subscription!

    (My bet is that most people don't share your opinion at all, however, and are being forced against their will to fund the BBC; I refer to the last BBC Charter Review consultation which revealed that 58 percent of respondents said they'd like to have a choice whether or not to receive BBC services, and 48 percent of whom suggested alternative funding which didn't rely ultimately on the threat of a jail sentence to collect. The beauty is that - if I'm wrong - changing to subscriptions will prove so, to everyone's satisfaction. Willing to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak?)

  • Comment number 22.

    Seconded - that'd be a winner. "Ah, sure we all know that Tyrannosaurus rex had them big teeth for eatin' wee cream buns. Ken, never you worry - your uncle Hugo loves ye, even if Jesus doesn't. The wee man from Strabane and the big Kentucky Ham with a gub like a pan."

    I can't wait.

  • Comment number 23.

    Good, 'cause I find the licence fee an intrusion on my wallet. Being forced to fund the BBC because I own a television is not a good business model, and the benefit of having no ads isn't worth much if I don't want to watch BBC television.... which is my choice.

    Do Sky produce,make,broadcast good quality science,drama,.etc.etc.etc. Much of Sky's output is virtually all imported material (and mostly from the US).

    Could you ever see Sky (or ITV for that matter) making the equivelent of life on Earth (the YEC's detest David Attenborough by the way), the excellent earth story (I recommend you watch this on DVD), or Horizon ?

    Just as an example John, have a look at the sky at night's website and watch this month's programme (no. 666 by the way). Entitled "what we just don't know" it's a really fascinating discussion on cosmology which I think you will enjoy. Could you ever see something like that appearing on either sky or ITV ?

    Also, considering even the cheapest Sky package is between £15-20 per month 100 odd ponds per year is not all that much. I pay by monthly direct debit and I don't even notice it (compared to all my other expences £11 per month is miniscule).

    Having seen television in the states (the ads come in 15 minute segments) we are relly fortunate to have the BBC. Good quality science programmes don't come cheap but every time they are shown the YEC's get annoyed. The BBC must be doing something right.

  • Comment number 24.

    Peter- Thanks.

    "Having seen television in the states (the ads come in 15 minute segments) we are relly fortunate to have the BBC. Good quality science programmes don't come cheap but every time they are shown the YEC's get annoyed. The BBC must be doing something right."

    I have no issue with the quality of BBC programming (in fact it would be a scandal if it weren't good quality given the fact that UK residents are forced to pay for it); my issue is with the licence fee. To say the BBC must be doing something right is tantamount to saying that the department that operates traffic lights must be doing something right since they all work, very well, for 24 hours a day!

    What's fascinating about your comparison with Sky and how good the BBC (funded at gunpoint) is compared with Sky is that you still voluntarily subscribe to Sky! It's that bad!

    Yes the BBC is responsible for some great science programmes: it's also responsible for giving you Eastenders under a threat of jail.

    You mention TV in the States. I live in America now, and the situation is very interesting. I get BBC-quality programming from as diverse a range of broadcasters as PBS, C-SPAN, Discovery, Equator, National Geographic, History, HBO, HD News and many more. By the way, how many high-definition channels are available through the BBC? Here I have 39 including many of those I just mentioned, and the quality and detail in both sound and vision is astonishing.

    The point is that no licence fee is required to produce good quality programming (in fact the BBC pairs up with Discovery on some science programmes, making them partners with a commercial broadcaster). If you happen to doubt what I say about the quality of programming from broadcasters like National Geographic, let's test it out: we'll take two random five-minute segments from BBC and National Geographic and ask you to identify the one you were forced to pay for (whether you wanted it or not). Up for it?

  • Comment number 25.

    Peter J:

    This is one of John's libertarian right hobby horses. Whether the BBC is funded by the license fee or another method of taxation, I agree with you that it should remain in public hands. Indeed, thank heaven (even if doesn't exist) for the BBC.

    It is the voice of sanity in a mad world. Think of Andrew Gilligan during the lead-up to the Iraq War. He stood out as a journalist who revealed the truth and on the BBC. "The BBC must sack the hopeless hack Gilligan", declared the Sun newspaper for whose journalists the term 'hack' could have been invented. Of course, The Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing Australian who despises state-owned broadcasting. Moreover, Gilligan's story was essentially true: the government did 'sex up' the September 2002 document on Iraq’s WMD. Did the Murdoch media discover this? Certainly not. Their supine support for the war on Iraq  – before, during and since  – was universal, the Fox News Channel being the worst culprit, with its sickening buddy buddy bias in favour of everything Bush said.

    BBC interviewers, like Paxman and Humphrys, generally try to probe the politicians and public officials and don't accept evasive answers. Their standard of journalism is about as high as it gets.

    True, in recent years the news on all channels has become more superficial and obsessed with celebrity. In many respects, the BBC has succumbed to this tabloidism and it should resist it more strongly. But it will only do so if it is given the support from the general public that it needs in the face of predatory politicians and businessmen seeking to trivialise everything and convert all media into their public relations departments. All attempts to privatise it should be strongly opposed.

    In general, the BBC's range is truly remarkable. You mention Attenborough, but he is only one example. Look at the BBC's documentaries, current affairs programmes and biographies, on both TV and radio, which have received praise and awards worldwide. Would Blueprint have been broadcast in the UK at prime time on a commercial channel?

    Look at its great comedies and compare them to the generally pathetic offerings of ITV over the years. Look at its coverage of classical music, probably unparalleled anywhere on earth. Look at its award-winning drama (admittedly it has declined in this area lately). Look at its website, with news in 43 languages.

    Yes, it is sycophantic to royalty. Yes, it does reinforce the moral hegemony of religious groups. But ITV is no better and actually worse in that humanists/atheists HARDLY EVERY get a look-in there.

    So, despite my objection to the continuing absence of Humanists from Thought for the Day, let's give two cheers for the BBC and long may it reign as a bulwark against the barbarian media manipulators.

  • Comment number 26.


    "This is one of John's libertarian right hobby horses."

    Is that supposed to be an argument??

    In any case I don't expect to find representative opinion on a BBC site, of all places. Suffice to say that not all licence fee-payers agree with you, and - that being the case - I dare you to abandon your arrogant demand that they fund your favourite broadcaster so that you can continue to suckle at its monstrous hooters in favour of allowing people to choose (a novel concept I know).

  • Comment number 27.

    Well, if my money goes to keep Will + David + Shugo in jobs interviewing nutbag Australian throwbacks, it's money damn well spent, and sod Doctor Who.

  • Comment number 28.

    In the beginning of television there was the BBC license fee!

    I have already defended the concept of the NHS to John in another thread, but in this case I agree with him.

    It's the *license* bit I don't like. I don't need a permit to own a phone or a CD player etc. but I do need one for a TV. And get this:

    "You need a TV licence to use any television receiving equipment such as a TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, computer or mobile phone to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV." from - https://www.bbc.co.uk/info/licencefee/

    **any television receiving equipment**

    And then the BBC, which receives this fee, pays some of its presenters the salary of a small nation to churn out stuff I don't want to see. Other public institutions e.g. hospitals, schools, security etc. pay their employees a standard salary, they don't generally bid on the open market for talent.

    Yes, it does some good programming, some very good programming, but the point is, I have to pay the BBC to watch any TV at all; anyway, has anyone other than me noticed the number of in house adverts for other BBC programmes we now have to endure between almost every programme. Free of other people's adverts would be a better description.

    Subscription seems sensible to me.

  • Comment number 29.

    Helio- Agree! :-) Again it's the method of funding I take issue with.

    Peter- Actually portions of the BBC could still be 'public' in the way that PBS/NPR are in the States without much complaint from me; perhaps a TV enterprise could be formed, call it 'BBC Public Service', which provides educational/news/science etc. ... the soaps, the game shows, the comedy and much else could either go commercial (despite the complaints above there are few people who refuse to watch commercial TV because of ads, and the industry is going through a lot of change anyway as a result of DVRs and less people who wish to sit through breaks) or subscription, or possibly aspects of both as traditional media and the internet collide.

    One thing's for sure: the licence fee is on borrowed time, and opinions to the contrary are slowly being made obsolete by technology and an expectation of freedom which surpasses that of such 'old media' models.

  • Comment number 30.

    Whether or not the BBC is founded by a licence fee or by general taxation, it is definitely worth preserving as a public service broadcasting organisation, owned but not controlled by the state. Could we get back to the beginning?

    In Genesis 1:1, the earth and 'heaven' are created together 'in the beginning', whereas according to current estimates, the earth and universe are about 4.6 and 14 billion years old, respectively.
    Do creationists believe that the earth and the universe were created at the same time? (4004BC, or whatever?)

    In Genesis, the earth is created (1:1) before light (1:3), sun and stars (1:16); birds and whales (1:21) before reptiles and insects (1:24); and flowering plants (1:11) before any animals (1:20). The order of events known from science is in each case just the opposite.

    (1:3-5, 14-19) "Let there be light": God creates light and separates light from darkness, and day from night, on the first day. Yet he didn't make the light producing objects (the sun and the stars) until the fourth day (1:14-19). And how could there be 'the evening and the morning' on the first day if there was no sun to mark them?

    And why are there two accounts of the order of life creation? In Genesis 1:25-27 humans were created after the other animals: "And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image.... So God created man in his own image".

    In Genesis 1:27 the first man and woman were created simultaneously: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them".

    But in Genesis 2:18-19 humans were created before the other animals. The man was created first, then the animals, then the woman from the man's rib.

    "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.... And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man".

    So, which is correct? Neither, seems a safe bet.

  • Comment number 31.

    Do creationists believe that the earth and the universe were created at the same time? (4004BC, or whatever?)

    Not exactly Brian. YEC's believe the Earth was created before the sun, moon and stars. Although there is light at the beginning the bible doesn't state the source of that light. Ham doesn't know either but merely says "have you ever thought of all the things God doesn't reveal to us". He thinks it was probably some form of heavenly light.

    Don't forget there are stars that are actually younger than the Earth, and some whose lifespans don't even last as long as the current estimated age for the Earth. Stars with much larger masses than the Sun use up their fuel very quickly.

    The Sun and Earth formed at roughly the same time from a solar nebula around 4.55 billion years ago (+or- about 10%) as you correctly say, with current estimates of the Universe being 13.7 billion years.

    Ham also states that evolution (photosynthesis etc.) and the idea that the Sun and Earth fomed at the same time is a form of "Sun worship". The bible apparently warns us not to "worship the Sun". According to Ham ancient pagan religions worshiped the Sun, another reason why evolution and Christianity ae incompatible,or so he says.

  • Comment number 32.

    You've got to admire Ham's logic. Tight as a drum.

  • Comment number 33.


    I know you work in medical genetics - as Prof Norman Nevin is the creator and world leader of this field what does it says about the field that he is a YEC (like Mendel)?



  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.


    Mendel was a great, intelligent man I do hope that not for one second second you are trying to lump him in with 10th rate hucksters like Ken Ham?

  • Comment number 36.

    "Could we get back to the beginning?"

    No fun, Brian, I don't disagree with you on that!

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Brian

    Preamble (i)

    I am not a scientist, I have not studied science, and I have no intention of studying it any time soon (I'd rather spend any free hours I have surfing somewhere along the north coast) and I will not debate you on the basis of science, cos I can't. I am however prepared to answer your questions about Genesis. But please don't accuse me of doing bad science. What I will do is deal with the words we have, not the words we don't have.

    Preamble (ii)

    I'm not really sure why you are asking the questions at all. Did you, for example, spend a significant amount of time typing in all the references just to be able to ask a rhetorical question, which you then proceed to answer for us?

    Why bother at all if you don't believe in God? Do you like to flag up apparent contradictions? Is it that you want to find out what some of us believe, for, say, amusement; or are you actually interested in how some christians handle the words?

    Preamble (iii)

    It's probably also important to point out a couple of things the bible is NOT. It is not a science text. It is not an encyclopedia. It is not exhaustive, in other words it is not an intricate, detailed account of everything that happened. It is not the 'National Geographic', no photographs of distant universes for example, no links to video clips on the web etc. Of course Heliopolitan would also say that it is not the word of God! but we’re not debating that here.

    Anyway, Peter Henderson has answered one question, so I'll try the next, which seems to concern the sequence of events and the two accounts.

    So why two accounts and what about the sequence?

    Interestingly you point out some of the 'differences' between Genesis one and two, but ironically I suggest that you don't go far enough. The differences are greater than those which concern you, and it is in these very differences that I think an explanation lies.

    Genesis one is all about God. God created, God said, God saw, God made, God blessed. God is the subject of every verse; of course there weren't chapters or verses in the beginning! So whatever you think about the truth, falsity or otherwise of this book, the literary style is clear. God is the subject of chapter one.

    Turning then to chapter two; as you note there are differences. But the differences are more significant than you suggest. They are differences of style, content and point of view; and one of the differences is that the human race, people, are now the focus of the story. Names appear, the name of God included, YHWH. We have the relationship between God and people, between people and people, between people and nature.

    Seen in this light then, the 'difficulty' of sequence is irrelevant. Anyway, I would also suggest to you that the bits you quote, e.g. Gen. 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them", doesn’t actually say anything about sequence, it just says God did it. And in chapter 2: 18-19 no sequence need be implied. We could think of it written in these terms. God did this, and He did this, this, this, and He did this. Why impose sequence when there isn't one?

    I agree that in chapter one we have the sequence of days, but again, the bible is not science. And anyway when it comes to days, maybe God was just saying, "See, all in a week’s work!" (for Him).

  • Comment number 38.

    PeterM, yes, I do not believe that the bible is the word of any god (for fairly obvious reasons). But I think that Christians are missing a trick here. The bible is not scientifically accurate, we agree. It is not necessarily always historically accurate, we also agree. It's not allegory either. What it is is CONTEXT. It is a collection of cobbled together folklore and writings over a period of a few centuries, that people have interpreted in many different ways (some sensible, some stupid). The bible tells us nothing about gods, but a great deal about humans. And we haven't changed that much (evolution takes a lot longer).

    PB, point of info here. Norman Nevin did NOT create Medical Genetics - it had been going for years in several areas of GB before NI's first clinic was established. He is certainly NOT regarded as a "world leader" in the field (nor would he make such a claim about himself). I don't think you do anyone any favours by over-egging the pudding.

    And, as we have pointed out so so so many times before, it doesn't MATTER. He still has no evidence or arguments for the stance he takes, other than religious ones. Do not kid yourself - there are plenty of very intelligent people wandering around who believe a pile of cobblers. There are EVEN intelligent Muslims, Mormons and Jews! Fancy that, eh?

    Hey, Will - any word of that Hamster interview going up on permalink? ;-)


  • Comment number 39.

    Helio says: "The bible is a collection of cobbled together folklore and writings over a period of a few centuries, that people have interpreted in many different ways (some sensible, some stupid). The bible tells us nothing about gods, but a great deal about humans. And we haven't changed that much (evolution takes a lot longer)"

    Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner! This is exactly what the bible is: the fact we describe it in the singular says more about the way the church has attempted to make it seem as though that was always the way it was supposed to be. In actual fact 'the bible' is 66 books of all different kinds of literature across centuries of composition relating to the early Jewish and then early Christian religions, and it must be read contextually - Paul writing to Corinthians is Paul writing to Corinthians, not Paul writing to Corinthians AND to the rest of Christendom millennia into the future. Even those who hold to a theory of divine biblical inspiration should have no trouble evaluating the bible in context. And it's a lack of strict contextual reading that gives creationism its legs, for with it nobody could read Genesis and understand it literally.

  • Comment number 40.

    I find it remarkable that after a few thousand years of the Book of Genesis, BBC can invent some new twist on it. You'd think tht by now every possibility had been explored already. My favorite is from Disney's movie Fantasia 2000. In it Donald Duck plays the part of Noah to the strains of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, the one we are familiar with. Ever since I've seen it, every time I see anything about the Royal Family, I think of Donald Duck. Funny that it took that movie for me to make the association.

  • Comment number 41.

    A few of you have asked about the Ken Ham interview I recorded. In fact, we never intended to broadcast a long interview, since I have already conducted a 20 min interview with Ken Ham, which is still available online. On this occasion, I simply made a visit to the Waterfront Hall to see the event in full flow and have a work with Ken Ham. This most recent chat -- that's really what it was -- was broadcast in an edited form on Sunday as part of the report about the conference.

    I was very surprised at the low turnout for this Answers in Genesis event. The organisers told me that about 120 people came for the afterrnoon sessions; about 300 tickets were sold for the evening event on Friday; and they hoped for 500 people on Saturday evening. When Ken Ham last visited Belfast, the Waterfront Hall was full; but the decision to hire the hall for two days, based on that successful conference three years ago, seems to have backfired on this occasion. I would say that AiG has had to subsidize the Belfast event very significantly from their own funds. On Friday evening, I estimated that there were less than 300 people in the room. Perhaps the poor turnout explains why the order of the evening was changed. Ken Ham was originally to speak at 9pm, with another speaker (a retired anatomist) speaking at 7.30. In the end, Ken Ham spoke first (for 75 minutes without taking questions from the floor).

    Listening to Mr Ham speak, I wondered if Creationism in Northern Ireland is waning.

    Mr Ham has been explaining the "hard sell" at the end of his presentation. The lobby areas were essentially an AiG merchandise store for the evening. All organisations sell their resources, of course. I was simply taken by the effort to push the materials, which is why I raised the issue with him. Mr Ham confirmed that his organisations annual income is over $24 million. They have 300 staff salaries to pay out of that figure, and only 30 per cent of their earning come from merchandise; most of the income is from donations. I asked Mr Ham if it's true that he earns $180K per year. He did not give me his actual salary figure, but explained that it is "less than" 180K and that, even if it was 180K, this would not be an unreasonable figure for the CEO of a comparably sized company.

    On the theology, we debated the morality of a God who would drown innocent children under the waters of a universal flood. Ken Ham questioned my use of the term "innocent", since all have sinned and all, including children in the womb, are the offspring of Adam. He did not appear to find the idea of a divinely-ordained genocide (which is what the flood amounts to) at all unpalatable. Instead, he argued that we should trust in God even when we can't explain his actions.

    A big part of the evening on Friday included a pitch for the Creation Museum, which is apparently proving very successful with theological day-trippers. Ken offered me a personal tour of the Museum, and asked me to join him for lunch, over which we could talk about where I stand with God.

  • Comment number 42.

    I was very surprised at the low turnout for this Answers in Genesis event.

    So was I william. As I have told Mike Brass over at the BCSE forum, it could have been for a number of factors. The good weather for example could have played a part. People here tend to get outdoors when the weather turns sunny and sitting for several hours listening to a speaker would not appeal to most people, even Christians. Church attendance always goes down during the summer months. Many churches have to resort united services wih other denominations during the months of July and August. The fact that a number of other major events take place during May (i.e.the Balmoral show and the North West) probably didn't help either. Don't forget that the last Ken Ham event here was in early March, really the end of winter and still the dark evenings so that is possibly why the crowds were much larger then

    Also, their marketing of the event may have been all wrong. Many would probably be prepared to pay £5 for a one off ken Ham event but not £30 to hear the others. Most would not have heard of Burgess, Menton or even White for that matter. Ken Ham does seem to have been very disappointed with the turn out and he's said vry little on his blog about it. Here's his lst entry from a few days ago:



    We arrived back from Ireland and Northern Ireland yesterday—tired, but encouraged. I couldn’t begin to tell you the thrilling testimonies we heard from people who attended the conference in Belfast (I hope to have some photos for tomorrow’s blog).

    One young couple was so moved by the talks, that when they heard how the BBC interviewer kept accusing me of being in the ministry for financial reasons (see previous blog), they called a radio personality from another major radio station and pleaded for him to do a REAL interview with me.

    So, after I finished speaking on Saturday night (around 9 p.m.—after I dragged myself away from all the people wanting to talk to me—and yet another reporter), and while Dr. David Menton presented the last lecture, I was taken to a radio station where I was interviewed for a segment to be played on a very popular program on Sunday morning that reaches many non-Christians as well as Christians. Yes—it was a real interview (not an agenda-driven, interrogation attack like the BBC interviewer).

    Also, after I finished speaking on Saturday night, a reporter from the Telegraph newspaper came and said he was assigned to report on the conference, and he needed to ask me a number of questions. Busy night!!

    After we finished in Belfast, we then drove to Dublin, arriving after midnight, to finally get to bed about 1 a.m.—then arose early in the morning to fly back to the USA!!!

    I wonder which other radio station intervied him ? What exactly is a real interview ? Is this one that doesn't ask any awkard questions ? Your questions must have been OK if that's what Mr. Ham thinks of the encounter.

    I'm not sure that creationism is on the wane in NI though. One swallow doesn't make a summer as they say.

  • Comment number 43.

    Are you going to take Ken up on his invitation to the Creation Museum William?
    It would certainly make an interesting documentary.

  • Comment number 44.

    Thanks for the clarification, Will. Still sorry I missed the episode of SSeq, but that's my own fault. Cripes - if it was the Waterfront they shelled out for, this'll dent the old coffers a bit. It's intruiguing that Ham's argument justifying the flood (which never happened) could be used by him, if he wished, to justify the Holocaust (which most certainly did).

  • Comment number 45.

    "He did not give me his actual salary figure, but explained that it is "less than" 180K and that, even if it was 180K, this would not be an unreasonable figure for the CEO of a comparably sized company."

    A comparably-sized company not funded by donations.

  • Comment number 46.

    Creationists have had a reasonably enhanced media profile in NI lately, so it is interesting that this appears to coincide with a dramatic slide in their effectiveness. So much for Ken's "big announcement" he was going to make; so much for his "meeting members of the Northern Ireland Assembly".

    I would maybe propose that it is precisely *because* of this coverage that this butt-stupid nonsense is on the wane - sensible people are waking up and realising that Ham and his cronies are fruitcakes, and quite unpleasant ones at that.

    Point and laugh. Seems to work.


  • Comment number 47.

    Helio:Apparently D.U.P. M.P./M.L.A. David Simpson was seen at the conference but I haven't heard of anyone else being there. Nothing on Ken's blog about the supposed meeting either although something may have taken place in secret. We'll know soon enough I would imagine.

    I also noticed on the videos of Paul Taylor's talks in Lisburn (they're available on both sermon audio.com and Godtube as far as I know), that there appeared to be a number of parties bussed to the event from further afield. Maybe that's what happened at the last Ken Ham meeting in 2005 and with Franklin Graham recently as well. This doesn't seem to have occurred at this one for some reason.

    I wouldn't necessarily say that YECism is on the Wane either, much as we would like to think so. It could also be that it's talked up much more than it is and outside evangelical church circles belief in a young Earth etc. is non-existent, even in Northern Ireland.

    The Causeway Creation Committee have been fairly quiet recently. We'll just have to wait for their next move. Something may very well transpire from last weekend !

  • Comment number 48.

    "we debated the morality of a God who would drown innocent children under the waters of a universal flood...the idea of a divinely-ordained genocide (which is what the flood amounts to)..."

    Hi William,

    I'm kind of surprised that no one else has picked up on this comment. Seems you have accused God of murder, unless I'm misunderstanding your use of the word genocide! Is this really what you think? Is God the Marquis de Sade, or was your your conversation with Ken Ham a kind of tongue in cheek, 'red top' journalism?

    I suppose I could, sort of, understand it if it was. I'm not a great fan of the christian subculture, it’s 'disneyanity' showmanship or it's plastic shrink-wrapped merchandising of God. I'm also cautious of single issue organisations, those, for example, which limit their answers to one book of the bible; but, genocide William, really?

    It seems that some people think that christianity stands or falls on certain particulars like, six 24 hour days, or the idea of real flames in hell; but the character of God is the greater issue, and if you are suggesting that the Lord God, the Most High of Israel, El Elyon, 'Maker of Heaven and Earth', is guilty of 1st degree, then that, if proved, is going to bring an end to the church a lot quicker than science.

    Anyway, if you think the flood puts God in a bad light, I could point to many other biblical descriptions, which would be even more of an anathema to the 21st Century mind. If you want to be controversial about God, why stop at the flood?

  • Comment number 49.

    There you go again, concealing your own view of the matter. What do you think about all these alleged atrocities produced or sanctioned by a good god?

    If God caused the Flood as described in Genesis, then it IS genocide, as are his supposed orders to Jewish leaders to wipe out all the various enemy tribes such as the Amalekites. If these things didn't happen, then how do you distinguish the events which God caused from those that he didn't. You have never really answered this question.

    To relate the point to today's world, did God cause the flood in China or the cyclone in Burma? If he didn't, then how do you as a 'biblical' Christian (see the social evil thread) explain them?

  • Comment number 50.

    I should have said 'earthquake' in China.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hi Brian

    There *you* go again accusing me of concealment when I have clearly and on more than one occasion, not only interpreted the bible for you but been clear about my view.

    Do you expect me not to respond to comments made on this blog? Should they remain unchallenged? Do I have to preface every question with, "Well guys, here's my view in all it's glory", before asking anything. I wasn't the one who used the word genocide, and you are the one, remember, accusing a God, who you say doesn't actually exist of the same, which is kind of inconsistent. If he doesn't exist, why bother?

    With particular regard to the social evil thread, please remind yourself of everything I have said on that thread in context, the agreements, the disagreements, the self-examination, the defense of your statements and the clear presentation of my own. You might also like to refer to post 37 on this thread and my interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, cos it seems that you ignored it, as you ignored my question to you about your reasons for giving us all the references in the first place.

    Brian, let me put it simply to you, I have no fear of your accusations against the God of the bible, nor am I trying to win an argument, I'm not that foolish. If you want, I'll walk with you on the dark side of the sovereignty of God, no problem; but if your going to have a go at me, cut out the petty accusation of concealment.

    And in this case, leave William to answer the question I asked him in response to the comment he made.

  • Comment number 52.


    You asked in #37: "Why bother at all if you don't believe in God? Do you like to flag up apparent contradictions? Is it that you want to find out what some of us believe, for, say, amusement; or are you actually interested in how some Christians handle the words?"

    It's all about understanding, communication, reason, truth, openness, fairness, is it not? There are almost as many versions of Christianity as there are Christians (probably the same is true of humanists), so I am trying to get a clearer picture of yours so that I can grasp it fully and properly. I think that on several threads I have been pretty upfront about my opinions and have outlined them at some length. I have, if you like, laid my cards on the table and it seems to me that I can claim a moral right to ask for reciprocity from believers. However, I find some of your comments about your own beliefs obscure and incomplete. Perhaps that is my failure as much as yours. Anyway, we can but try.

    You say in #148 on the Social Evil thread that in your view a Christian must be more than a Christian ethically. Why? You also say that you believe in the Bible’s central message. But what exactly is it if it's not ethical?

    In #37 above you say that the Bible isn't a Science book. But what does this mean? That it is a work of fiction? That the Bible was written by fallible human beings, who got many things wrong? Does it mean, for example, that you think that a Flood which wiped out nearly everybody is a myth because God couldn't possibly commit genocide? That is presumably the assumption behind your question to William. But if you do mean this, are you then saying that all the bad things in the Bible are not done or ordered by God at all? Or only some of them (not the big ones, only the minor ones). And if ethics is not what it's all about, why are you concerned whether God committed genocide or not? I don't believe he did because I don't believe he exists. But why does it matter to you whether he did or not when the morality of God is not the central message of the Bible?

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi Brian,

    First of all sorry, this is long.

    You say, "It's all about understanding, communication, reason, truth, openness, fairness, is it not?"

    Yes we can most certainly agree on this form of words as the basis for an exchange of deeply held views and opinions, and debate.

    I'm sorry you find my comments about my own beliefs obscure and incomplete; there are I think a number of possible reasons why online message boards like this one lead to misunderstanding and lack of clarity. First of all the lack of face to face communication makes everything a bit limited. The fact too, that this blog is predicated on controversial issues can also skew debate, this is unfortunate, but probably a necessary starting point. Another reason, this time a personal one, is that I have no particular axe to grind. I don't think of myself as a fundamentalist, shouting, as it were, my own 'truth' from the roof tops with my fingers in my ears. I too, like to understand people, and sometimes to do this you have to try and clarify what other people mean by their words. This is one of the reasons I queried the word 'genocide'; it is a loaded word implying, as I said, murder. Clarification is an attempt to limit confusion rather than a deliberate concealment of my own beliefs. I have beliefs, and I believe them to be true, but I wear them lightly, why, simply because I am fallible. I am open to learning and if that means I need to adjust my thinking then I'll seek to do that.

    I think too that there is another reason for our misunderstanding. On occasions it seems that your questions are framed in such a way that the only possible answers are one of two opposites, and when I don't always respond with an either / or then I can understand why you think I might be seeking to avoid your question. Let me give you an example. On post 148 on the Social Evil thread, when we discussed Christian ethics, what I said was, "The trouble for all of us is that Jesus was claiming to be more than an ethical teacher. If it were a matter of ethics *alone* then I suspect more people would have less problems!" Yet, here on post 52 you say, "But what exactly is it if it's not ethical?" and "But why does it matter to you whether he did or not when the morality of God is not the central message of the Bible?" Here is our dilemma. You are going further with my words than the meaning I intended. I did not say that Christianity *wasn't* ethical, I said it was more than ethical. Which means that yes, it concerns ethics, but claims more. If you read again what I said about Jesus in 148 you'll see what the 'more' bit is. I would have thought that stating that "we live in the reign of the Eternal King, Jesus Christ was pretty specific!"

    The other difficulty with interpreting the bible is that it is written primarily in a Hebrew context. Again don't misunderstand me; I don't believe the bible to be just context as others do, but it does have a context and if we are to attempt to understand it then we must appreciate the context. I have already pointed this out Social Evil thread post 125, "Sometimes the bible is deliberately ambiguous and sometimes the interpretation is slippery"..... Why would this be so? To deliberately put tension in the mind of the reader. Sometimes the bible make absolute statements, e.g. Acts 4:10 "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead." What Peter believed seems clear to me. On other occasions, e.g. Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus speaks of not worrying about what we should eat or drink or wear. Why? So that we go around naked and starve to death, or to draw attention to his teaching about the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? Again, at the level of straightforward literacy, it seems clear to me.

    Brian, I'm not trying to avoid, I'm trying to understand. No one said it was easy, but I'm not going to pull one of those fundamentalist stunts and reduce everything to a few out of context texts.

    You also ask, "In #37 above you say that the Bible isn't a Science book. But what does this mean? That it is a work of fiction?" Brian, when I say that the bible is not a Science book, I mean that it is not a Science book, where's the difficulty? And no it doesn't mean it is fiction. Read Post 37 again, I set 'Science Book' in the context of, "intricate, detailed account of everything that happened", "National Geographic" etc. The bible is written in a range of genre, history, eye witness account, letter, poetry, song, proverb, etc. by a variety of authors over 2000 years or so. It is not arranged in a neat topical form with individual themes, so I suppose it's not a surprise that we might wrestle with how it all fits together. The bible is not an easy book, and I have no neat "Tony Blair" 'hand of history' sound-bite type answers. But what I will say, as a starting point is this, and it is within this context I interpret the words. And I know that this probably raises more questions than it answers but anyway:

    The central message of the bible, I believe, is a message about God. Who he is, what he is like and how we should relate to him. It is a book set primarily in the historical context of the nation of Israel, and it explains that it is in the context of real life that we learn about God. Above all it is the story of a man called Jesus.

    Maybe at this point I could quote N.T. Wright - Bishop of Durham,

    "Christianity is about something that happened. Something that happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Something that happened through Jesus of Nazareth.

    In other words, Christianity is not about a new moral teaching... this is not to deny that Jesus gave some bracing and intelligent moral teaching. It is merely to insist that we find teaching like that within a larger framework. ... It is not about Jesus offering a moral example.... it is not even about Jesus accomplishing a new route by which people can 'go to heaven when they die'... (these things are true, but) Christianity is all about the belief that the living God, in fulfillment of his promises, has accomplished the finding, the saving, the giving of new life in Jesus. God's rescue plan has been put into effect once and for all. In particular we are invited - summoned, actually - to discover, through following Jesus that this world is a place of justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty. In listening to Jesus, we discover whose voice it is that has echoed around the hearts and minds of the human race all along."

    from, Tom Wright - Simply Christian.

    It is within this framework that everything else (the hard, unpalatable consequences of living in a dangerous world included) is understood.

    If this helps, then I'm genuinely pleased, if not, I'll try again.


  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Peter:

    Many thanks for your considered reply. There is no need to apologise for its length. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is rarely the key to effective communication. Indeed, my main objection to most blogs is that the brevity of comment creates a bias against understanding.

    You say that your Christianity is partly ethical and partly about 'the everliving Jesus'. You say this is pretty specific. But, alas, it is gobbledygook to me. Does it just mean that Jesus is immortal, or has it some other added significance which is not ethical?

    You later say that Christianity is about the belief that the living God (aka Jesus above), in fulfilment of his promises, has accomplished the finding, the saving, the giving of new life in Jesus (aka God). I find this very confusing. God fulfils his promise by giving new life in God? What does this mean?

    The thread is about Genesis, and of course Jesus doesn't appear there at all. Indeed he is absent for the 1,000 or so years of the Old Testament. God is there but, as William implies, he is a rather cruel God who condemns all women for Eve's 'sin' and wipes out nearly all the human race in a Flood because humanity in general has sinned. Why did God do this and then wait another thousand years to intervene to save humankind through Jesus? And why, through Jesus, does he suddenly become a good and loving God? Did he come to realise that the Flood approach was the wrong one? That it was the action of a bad God? That instead of sacrificing nearly all the human race, it might be more humane and 'moral' to do so by sacrificing himself? instead?

    You see, the question of morality is here, whether you wish it or not. If God is a good God and Jesus is his embodiment, then the whole of the Old Testament IS fiction because it depicts a bad God. Not only is it not a Science book, like the National Geographic, but it doesn't even approach the truth. It is, in short, a pack of lies.

    As far as I can see, your concept of the 'everliving Jesus' is, to use Andy Dufresne's word to Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption, obtuse. It is certainly difficult to reconcile with much of the Bible. I think you need to elaborate more what it actually signifies to you.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi Brian,

    Constructive conversation is most certainly worth the time and effort required. Thank you for taking the time and interest to respond.

    I suppose one of my difficulties is that I assume too much when I try and explain my thinking, and yet at the same time I am trying to explain christianity without an overuse of religious terminology/cliche. Northern Ireland is, sadly, saturated in that, and it often does more harm than good.

    I liked your use of the word 'everliving' in reference to Jesus (another 'name' might be 'Always' ). Yours is a better explanation than some christians can manage! However, I think I can amplify the meaning I think you intend; and maybe if I am to elaborate more on what it (Christianity) actually signifies to me, the nature of the God of the bible would be a good place to start.

    In theological terms one of the most fundamental words which signifies the nature of God is aseity. This refers to God's self-existence. The God the bible speaks of then, is, whatever he is by his own self and of his own self. In other words he is not dependent. He is not dependent upon, or subject to, any external source of power, life, ethics, law etc. Indeed we can go further, he has no needs at all. When we read the story of Moses and the 'burning, but not burnt away, bush', for example, one of the things we should be thinking of is the inextinguishable God, who, like the flames needs no source of fuel. This is the sense of meaning captured in the name of God used in the same story, 'I Am'.

    Now, at this point I am in a dilemma! Ought I to use biblical quotes or not? In my view too many christians throw bits of the bible at others as if the verses were spears in some self-righteous armoury; this is not helpful. However, with that pre-cursor, maybe you'll understand if I suggest you read Isaiah 40. Read it though as comparative language, Isaiah is not saying people are of no value, he is, rather, contrasting our dependence with God's independence, and of course his otherworldliness (his transcendence). He is contrasting too the relative poverty of nations in comparison to God. I'm not saying it's easy to stomach, or understand, I am saying that it’s a biblical description of God.

    Another thing to say, which might be helpful, is that we should not separate God from any attributes which describe him. Holiness, goodness, wisdom, justice, love etc. are not standards which God conforms to, they are rather, identical to God himself. These attributes then are concrete and personal, rather than abstract and impersonal. So when I speak of ethics, I do not speak of ethics as outside of God. The christian concept of ethics is not partly ethics, partly God. It is simply, God. And yes, I know, this raises more questions - hard questions about the role of God in the darkness of this world. With time I can deal with this too.

    The main point I am driving at here is that the God of the bible is described as the 'something' who/which accounts for everything else. The 'logos', the 'reason why' if you like.

    The thing is this, all of us argue for some version of aseity or other. Maybe it is a self-existent universe, maybe pantheism, maybe an assemblance of atoms, maybe fate, maybe Plato's Forms or maybe we cast ourselves in that role, thinking of ourselves as the sole arbiter of our being. The difficulty of course with the last one is that I am not *of* myself, I am *of* someone else, i.e. mother and father. Relatively speaking we can control very little about ourselves. I might choose tea or coffee, milk or sugar, but I cannot determine the day of my birth.

    Interestingly too, all these solutions are dependent upon the world which already exists, and so Christians argue that it is only the God of the bible who, independent of this world, is truly of himself.

    To quote N. T. Wright again, "The Christian story claims to be the true story about God and the world. As such, it offers itself as the explanation of the voice whose echo we hear in the search for justice, the quest for spirituality, the longing for relationship, the yearning for beauty."

    Maybe next we can deal with who christians believe Jesus to be, and where he is or isn't in the story.




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