Monday, 26 March 2012

The 90th anniversary of Lenin’s "destruction" of Christianity on 22 March 1922 with Peter Hitchens

Debates between atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens on the one hand and former atheists - turned - Christians like Alister McGrath and Peter Hitchens on the other are interesting to watch.

Given the 90th anniversary of Lenin’s secret Shuya Memorandum of 22 March 1922, I thought it might contribute to the continuing debates by quoting a few bits and pieces from Peter Hitchens' reflections, following his five years in Moscow as journalist:

Was the anti-theist teaching of the Soviet schools under Lenin good? Did they produce a good society? (142)

“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s secret Shuya Memorandum of 22 March 1922 launched the state-sponsored looting of Russia’s churches in the hope of provoking the Orthodox hierarchy into resistance and so crushing them ... That year, 2 691 priests, 1 962 monks and 3 447 nuns were killed” (133).

“Moscow, despite growing enormously in the 75 years since the Bolshevik putsch, had lost 500 of its 600 churches, many of the m spitefully desecrated, some blown up, some relegated to serve as store-rooms” (135).

“Soviet Communism used the same language, treasured the same hopes and appealed to the same constituency as Western atheism does today. Soviet power was, as it was intended to be, the opposite of faith in God. It was faith in the greatness of humanity and in the perfectibility of human society” (122).

“The biggest fake miracle staged in human history was the claim that Soviet Russia was a new civilisation of equality, peace, love, truth, science and progress. Everyone now knows that it was a prison, a slum, a return to primitive barbarism, a kingdom of lies where scientists and doctors feared offending the secret police, and that its elite were corrupt and lived in secret luxury. I saw this myself at first hand when I lived there” (123).

For more see Peter Hitchens’ book: The Rage Against God (Continuum: London & New York, 2010).

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Jesus Scandals - Why He shocked his contemporaries (and still shocks today) - Dr David Instone-Brewer from Cambridge

Rev Dr David Instone-Brewer is one of my friends here in Cambridge. He is a Baptist Minister who was seconded to the academic world by his denomination. He is now the Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House in Cambridge. He has written several academic books and articles on early Judaism and the Bible, as well as regular contributions to Christianity magazine.

We had the launch of David’s popular book The Jesus Scandals - Why He shocked his contemporaries (and still shocks today) here at Tyndale House this morning. I was the first to buy a copy – and David was kind enough to sign it for me as well as explaining in short why he wrote the book:

Mulder: David, why did you write this book?
Instone-Brewer: I wrote this book because I want everyone to see there is historical information in the Gospels which no historian would throw out. When you look at the Gospels and see embarrassing things about Jesus – they’ve got to be true because they wouldn’t have put them in if they weren’t.
Mulder: Like the women at the tomb?
Instone-Brewer: Yes, and details about the disciples and how dubious they were; how Jesus was illegitimate; accused of alcohol abuse; how Jesus talked about child abuse ... all sort of things they would’ve liked to omit if they wanted to sell the Gospel better. But because it was real, they had to include them. That’s what scholars call the criterion of embarrassment, and I’m putting it across in newspaper style saying “Hey, here’s all the scandals!”. Every article is about one coffee cup length to read, and then it gives you something to talk abut in the pub.
Mulder: Congratulations David, it reads quite easy.

Professor Richard Bauckham has this to say on the back cover: "Fresh and intriguing ... His lively style and the parallels he draws with our own society will appeal to a wide range of readers".

Here's a little taster from the chapter called Embarrassing Resurrection:
"The concept of the genetic code helps us understand how God might rebuild our bodies, without the scars of living; and making hard-drive back-ups helps us to understand how God might preserve the contents of our mind and memory. And yet we find it as hard to convince people about the resurrection as even the earliest Christians did. Evangelism might still be much easier without the resurrection but, as Paul said ... what would be the point?" (p 80).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas - Dr Simon Gathercole's 4th monograph hot off the press!

There can be no doubt that the Gospel of Thomas is the most well-known and controversial extra-canonical gospel, much discussed in scholarly, student and popular circles. Dr Simon Gathercole's fourth monograph with the title The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas: Original Language and Influences, answers important questions about the origins of this gospel, exploring whether it was written in Aramaic or if it was influenced by the canonical gospels.

At present, theories of Thomas as a Semitic work abound. Simon dismantles these approaches, arguing instead that Thomas is Greek literature and that the matter of Thomas's original language is connected with an even more controverted question: that of the relationship between Thomas and the canonical New Testament. Rather than being independent of Matthew, Mark and Luke (as in most Western Aramaic theories of Thomas) or thoroughly dependent on the four gospels (as in most Syriac approaches), Simon develops a newly refined approach to how Thomas is influenced by the Synoptic Gospels. Thomas can be seen to refer to Matthew as a gospel writer, and evidence is discussed showing that Thomas incorporates phraseology distinctive to Luke, while also extending that special Lukan language.

Congratulations Simon! For those interested in other books of Simon, check out the interview I had with him on surviving critical biblical scholarship as a Christian in January 2012.

To order the book click here