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Astrolabe made about the year 1400

Posted: 30 September 2020

One of the enduring myths in some modern forms of atheism is that Christianity prevented a scientific revolution happening in the time of the Roman Empire, and instead triggered the ‘Dark Ages’. According to this script, the medieval church suppressed science and persecuted scientists until the coming of the Renaissance started to loosen the chains of religion.

Theories such as these, which were encouraged by the New Atheists, have been the target of a blog – History for Atheists – since 2015. Produced by the Australian writer Tim O’Neill, who describes himself as ‘an atheist, sceptic and rationalist’, the blog relishes in debunking poorly informed history, including the way religion in medieval times is often caricatured and weaponised in arguments against faith. O’Neill...

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Photo looking up out of a tomb

Posted: 23 September 2020

Over the summer, HistoryExtra, the podcast of BBC History Magazine, released a series of 20 episodes answering the question, ‘What is history’s greatest mystery?’ The series tackled historical enigmas such as ‘Did Richard III order the murder of the princes in the Tower?’, ‘Did Agatha Christie engineer her own disappearance?’, and ‘Who built Stonehenge – and why?’

The Stonehenge question came top in the listeners’ poll, but at number 3 was the question, ‘What happened to Jesus’s body?’ This was nominated, and then discussed on the podcast, by the historian and author Tom Holland, whose 2019 book, Dominion, traces the rise and influence of the Christian faith on the West.

At the beginning of the episode, Holland is challenged about his choice of subject. Can a...

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Graffiti on a fragment of the lead chalice

Posted: 19 September 2020

The oldest known example of Christian graffiti in Britain has been discovered in the ruins of a 5th or 6th century church near Hadrian’s Wall. The graffiti was incised into the bowl of a lead chalice, which was found in 14 fragments buried under the collapsed stonework of the church. The graffiti covers the surface of the chalice, inside and out.

This rare discovery was made in the Roman fort of Vindolanda, a key military garrison on the Roman road running east-west from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth. Vindolanda was occupied by Roman troops until the late 4th century, and a previous archaeological excavation on the site uncovered an inscription carved by soldiers from Gaul dedicating a statue of the goddess Gallia.

The discovery of the chalice helps tell the story of how the...

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Photo of cinema sign reading The world is temporarily closed

Posted: 31 July 2020

 

At the height of lockdown in the UK, Christian theologian and author Tom Wright wrote a book called God and the Pandemic. The book raised the questions: ‘Does anyone know what is going on? Why is this happening? Is someone trying to tell us something? What are we supposed to do about it?’

Wright says that while people adopt different strategies to cope with Covid-19, including the idea that we should just self-isolate, watch plenty of Netflix, and wait for things to get better, the experience of others is very different. ‘In the refugee camps, in the multi-storey tower blocks, in the slums, the suffering gets worse, and the sorrow rises from the whole world, like a pall of smoke, shaping the question we hardly dare ask, Why?’

Now Wright has been interviewed about his book by...

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Photo of Tom Holland

Posted: 15 July 2020

Tom Holland, the historian who has written books on Rome, Persia, the rise of Islam, and most recently the 2,000 year story of Christianity, is the subject of a new interview, ‘The Power and the Glory’ on the High Profiles website.

Holland reveals that he grew up with a childhood faith in Christianity, although his early love of icthyosaurs and triceratops made him feel keenly the lack of dinosaurs in the story of the Garden of Eden. He has described the loss of his early faith as being like a dimmer switch turned down.

‘I had a kind of synesthetic approach to history. I would think of ancient Athens and imperial Rome as a deep blue sky and the sun, you know, glinting off temples; and it would be rich and sumptuous. And when I thought of the coming of Christianity, I thought of a...

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Street art for George Floyd in California

Posted: 16 June 2020

The death of George Floyd, killed on 25 May when a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis, has triggered global protest not only about his death, but at police violence against black people. His final words, ‘I can’t breathe’, have been taken up by people around the world, agitating for radical change to the way western societies discriminate against people based on race.

Since his shocking death, the details of Floyd’s life story, and his Christian faith, have emerged as his friends and family have spoken to the media and posted on social media. This testimony came together at his funeral in a Houston megachurch, Fountain of Praise, which included traditional hymns, gospel songs, protest anthems and laments for a life cut...

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Posted: 04 June 2020

Francis Collins, the geneticist who directed the team which sequenced the 3 billion letters which make up the human genome, and whose work helped identify the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis and other conditions, has been awarded the Templeton Prize, for his contribution to the relationship between science and religion.

The prize, which is sometimes referred to as the Nobel prize for religion, was established in 1972, and recent recipients have included Alvin Plantinga, Jonathan Sacks, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Marcelo Gleiser, who gave our Drawbridge Lecture in 2018, received the Templeton Prize last year.

In addition to his work as a biologist, Collins founded the BioLogos Foundation, which ‘invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and...

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Photo of NT Wright

Posted: 30 May 2020

What are we supposed to think about the coronavirus crisis? There’s been no shortage of strongly expressed opinion on social media. Some people join in the chorus of blame and condemnation: ‘It’s the fault of the Chinese, the government, the World Health Organization…’

And among religious people, there are others who are certain about what they think. ‘This is a sign of the End,’ they say. Others disagree with that, but are equally clear: ‘This is a call to repent. God is judging the world and through this disease he’s telling us to change.’

In a new book, God and the Pandemic, Tom Wright examines the reactions to the virus and finds them wanting. Instead, he looks at a different way of seeing and responding – a way that draws on the teachings and examples of the...

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Photo of Elaine Storkey speaking

Posted: 03 March 2020

Update (24 March 2020): Sadly, due to the coronavirus epidemic, several of our lecture dates have been cancelled. If it’s possible to rearrange these lectures for later in the year, we’ll post an update on this blog.

We’re very pleased to announce that we’re marking the 150th anniversary of the Christian Evidence Society with a lecture series, delivered at cathedrals around Britain.

The lectures, by nationally renowned speakers in apologetics, will respond to some of the best-known public challenges to faith in modern times. Our speakers will engage with quotes that have gained widespread attention, including a TV soundbite by Stephen Fry, a book title from Christopher Hitchens, and a newspaper interview with Stephen Hawking.

We are waiting to hear whether the planned lectures in...

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Southwark Cathedral seen at night with the Shard

Posted: 16 February 2020

On 5th March 2020, the Christian Evidence Society, which produces this website, will be exactly 150 years old. We’re marking the occasion with a series of lectures which will run throughout the year, but on 5th March we’re celebrating with a church service and lecture at Southwark Cathedral, London, with a warm invitation to everyone who would like to be there.

The church service is Choral Evensong at 5.30pm, followed by a lecture and drinks reception at 6.30pm in the Cathedral Retrochoir. Everyone is welcome to come to one or both of these events.

The lecture, ‘Evidence for Christianity in an Age of Hostility and Indifference’, will be given by the Rev’d Canon Professor Richard A Burridge, who chaired the Christian Evidence Society until 2017. The Rt Rev’d Richard Cheetham, Bishop of...

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Photos at the top of this column by:
Taro Taylor and Jon Sullivan