Monthly Archives: February 2018
Uncertainty – the Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics by William Briggs (Springer, 2016). The world really does need a book on the philosophy behind probability, and this is it.
Although week by week I play mostly modern songs in church, on guitar, it’s the hymns of my distant childhood that still resonate most with my theology. One I learned, and loved, at primary school was Immortal, invisible, God only wise (number 407 in The English Hymnal – even that fact has deeply lodged in my memory for 60 years! Here it is for those only familiar with Hillsongs:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Let’s start with a really basic Christian truth: “No man comes to the Father except by me.” Or from another text, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Now one of the challenging things about the Christian narrative is why, if sin is so deadly and Christ’s work so necessary, the history of salvation seems to unfold so slowly.
Last night Channel 4 aired the documentary on the genome sequencing and facial reconstruction of Cheddar Man, the 8,000BCE mesolithic skeleton discovered in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge a century ago. It was interesting and well done, though of course the “Hey Presto” effect of unveiling the reconstruction was lost because his photo has been splashed over every newspaper and TV channel for the last fortnight.
The revelation that senior figures from the major relief charity Oxfam, whose income is £400m annually, engaged in prostitution and possibly the abuse of minors whilst doing relief work after the Haiti earthquake, has shocked the nation. That’s especially so as it emerges just how many other major charities have experienced the same, and largely winked at it, over recent years. Some in the know speak of deliberate infiltration of the charity industry (sic) by abusers.
In my last post I pointed out the close match between the description in Genesis chapter 10 of the migration of Semitic peoples to lower Mesopotamia, and the story of the Akkadian Empire of Sargon the great, and also the general correspondence between the table of nations and the western (but not eastern) Neolithic radiation. I suggested how this was an indicator that the writer of Genesis must have been fully aware that non-descendants of Adam existed at this time, and quite plausibly in the time of Adam himself, given his habit of ignoring outsiders.
Genesis chapters 1-11 continue to intrigue because, for all their “under-determination” of meaning for us moderns, and their mythic style, they keep resonating with details of the most ancient human history. And so, quite apart from any theological reasons, I can’t go along with those who regard them as ahistorical, nor have much sympathy with the idea that they are purely late, exilic, additions – they wear their great antiquity prominently.
The conversation on BioLogos about the implications of Lenski’s E. coli experiment continued, between Richard Buggs and Joshua Swamidass, after I wrote my piece on it here. It turns out that, after discussion, they agreed that, in contradiction of my conclusion, the situation with respect to human genetics is less unpredictable, rather than more, as I suggested there, because of the highly mutable nature of bacteria in comparison to mammals. Lenski therefore seems to have been dropped from the discussion as irrelevant. As Joshua writes, “Retractions are good”!
Following on from my recent post, N T Wright provoked another thought, through an offhand reply in a video of his. He described Genesis 1-11 as “The Old Testament of the Old Testament”. And that of course is true, both in its time frame – the world before the call of Abraham into covenantal (= testamental) relationship – and its provenance, in a classical Mosaic torah framework at least, as the ancient traditions that Israel already possessed at the time of the Exodus.
I’m looking for a succinct summary of the Bible for a Bible Overview course. That’s only worthwhile, of course, if one regards the Scriptures as telling (in the popular phrase) “His Story”, rather than their being a disparate collection of pious thoughts from Jewish religionists, cobbled together over their history from even more disparate and contradictory sources. Yet even that might add up to single story if one believes that God is in charge of history, and has a plan for it.