How does the Christian concept of God as the all-powerful creator of the universe fit with authentic human choice and random events in the natural world? Philosophy professor Michael Murray thinks through the issues, with the help of some chess moves and a lemon meringue.
Professor Murray, what attracted you to study philosophy?
I became a Christian right before I went to university. My intention was to study chemistry. I was also very interested in the intersection of science and faith. At university, I kept running into people who had philosophical questions and concerns. One of my room-mates had a philosophy professor who was notorious for his atheism. He would challenge his classes, saying: ‘If anybody give me a reason why I should believe in God from a philosophical point of...
Michael Northcott, who is Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, believes that ‘until we see an environmental crisis as a people crisis, we run the risk of not seeing its scale, impact or urgency’. He talks to Nigel Bovey about the challenge facing the planet and its people, and the positive role which faith can play.
Professor, how did you become interested in the environment?
I have a longstanding interest in the relationship between Christianity and the environment. It goes back to the time when I was a missionary priest in Malaysia, where I saw enormous damage being done to the earth through habitat destruction, particularly people being made homeless.
As science is increasingly revealing, ecological destruction is not only about what we do to creatures or to land but...
‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ controversy has taken a fresh turn this week. The scholarly journal New Testament Studies has devoted the whole of its July issue to the subject and concludes that the papyrus fragment at the heart of the debate is a forgery. The story, which has echoes of The Da Vinci Code, first hit the headlines three years ago.
In 2012, a scrap of ancient papyrus the size of a business card caused intense debate in the academic world and a storm on social media because on it Jesus was reported saying, ‘My wife… she will be able to be my disciple…’ The academic who introduced it to the world, Professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School, said that the papyrus, which she then believed was written in the 4th century CE, does not prove that Jesus was married, but only that...
In the film The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking introduces himself to his wife-to-be, Jane, as a cosmologist. When she asks what that is, he replies, ‘It’s a kind of religion for intelligent atheists.’
William Lane Craig, the analytic philosopher and theologian, says, ‘That remark is both provocative and revealing!’
In a recent lecture, ‘Cosmology: a religion for atheists?’ Craig examines this claim, looking at the dialogue from the movie and Professor Hawking’s own publications. Does a beginning to the universe entail a creator? Does Hawking’s latest ‘no boundary’ Big Bang model disprove it? What hope is there, in a universe without God, according to the science of physical eschatology? And is philosophy dead, as Stephen Hawking claims?
Roger Trigg is the Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and a member of the faculties of Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University. Nigel Bovey talks to him about science and philosophy, faith and reason, and how it takes more faith to believe in a multiverse than in God.
Professor Trigg, why philosophy?
I started reading Plato at school, where we were taught Classics. As a student at Oxford, I read what was called ‘Greats’ – a mixture of classical literature and ancient and modern philosophy. One of my teachers was AJ Ayer, one of the leading humanists of the time. He was very strident in his criticism of Christianity. He maintained that science sets the standard of what defines evidence. His view was that only those things that can be verified have...
Christian philosopher and author Peter S Williams was at Sheffield University in January giving a lecture on ‘Science, Scientism and the Knowledge of God’. A video of the lecture, given to the university’s Christians in Science group, is now online, complete with the Q&A session at the end.
Says Peter: ‘After illustrating the recent growth in the idea that science is the only way to know anything about anything – an idea promoted by the likes of Stephen Hawking and the new atheists – I show why this idea is wrong.’
The lecture explores questions such as ‘What is science?’ and looks at the relationship between science, philosophy and arguments for God. The practice of science relies on philosophical disciplines (such as logic, ethics and the philosophy of science), while...
When Stephen Fry said in a TV interview that he thought God was a stupid maniac for creating a world of suffering and injustice, there wasn’t a shortage of online comment agreeing and disagreeing strongly with him.
One response came from Justin Brierley, who hosts Unbelievable? – a weekly debate show on Premier Radio where believers and unbelievers argue the pros and cons of Christian belief. Justin Brierley took to the streets of London with a film camera to record a ‘Dear Stephen’ video letter to Stephen Fry.
‘I’m a Christian,’ says Brierley, ‘and my first reaction was to want to tell you, I’ll give you five bulletproof reasons for why that’s not the way God is. But then I realised you’re not giving an argument against God, but more an expression of your anger...
It might sound like the beginning of a joke, but when Stephen Fry was asked in a TV interview over the weekend what he would say to God if he unexpectedly found himself outside the pearly gates, he gave a serious and angry reply.
Fry, who is well known as an atheist, responded: ‘I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’ See the whole exchange in the clip above.
Stephen Fry’s outburst against God isn’t original, as philosophers and theologians have been debating the issue of why suffering exists (when God...
An academic conference which could easily have been introduced with the words, ‘And now for something completely different’ was held in London last summer. Jesus and Brian: What have the Pythons done for us? drew a lot of biblical scholars together who wanted to discuss the life of Jesus in light of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
The film wasn’t a huge hit with the church when it was released in 1979, due to its themes of religious satire. John Cleese and Michael Palin were hauled over the coals by churchmen in a TV chat show and Life of Brian was banned from being shown on the BBC and ITV and from many towns in the UK.
This time around, academics from around the world were delighted to be discussing their favourite subjects in the light of what was for many of them their favourite film....
Rev Dr Joanna Collicutt is a clinical psychologist who teaches trainee Anglican priests and is the Advisor for Spiritual Care of Older People for the Church of England Diocese of Oxford. Nigel Bovey talked to her about faith, delusion, wellbeing and her own journey as a Christian.
Dr Collicutt, what did you study as a student?
I studied experimental psychology at Oxford and then became a clinical psychologist. As a clinician, I specialised in neuropsychology, working with the rehabilitation of people who had brain injury as a result of a stroke or an accident.
In an increasingly ageing society, there is concern about the difficulties of dementia. Can eating a correct diet or doing puzzles help stave off the onset of dementia?
It’s always good to keep your brain active. The other...
Christian Evidence Society 2014
A Registered Charity No. 244232
We are constantly adding to and updating our resources. We produce written and audio materials which we hope will help answer some of the questions you might have about the Christian faith. Photos above by Taro Taylor and Jon Sullivan