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Image showing the Jesus, Aquinas and Florence Nightingale book covers

Posted: 19 May 2017

A new, short (88 pages) ‘very brief history’ of Jesus has just been published. It’s the first in a new book series which gives concise, expert, paperback introductions to key figures of world history.

The Jesus book is by Helen Bond, who is Professor of Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh. As well as looking at the story of Jesus as told in the Gospels, her book also debunks claims that Jesus never actually existed, sets the political context of Jesus’s time, and looks at the impact of Jesus throughout history and into the present day.

Helen Bond, writing in Female First, says that the book is ‘an attempt both to reconstruct his life but and also to chart his unparalleled influence on the modern world. I don’t just mean the Church, or western art and culture,...

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Photo of Pauline Webb

Posted: 11 May 2017

We were very sorry to hear that Dr Pauline Webb, former Methodist and ecumenical leader, and a vice president of the Christian Evidence Society, died at the age of 89 on 27 April.

Pauline championed many causes in her long life, beginning with women’s ministry, which was the subject of her first book, Women of Our Company, published in 1958. She was an important figure in the World Council of Churches and in the 1970s was active in the WCC Programme to Combat Racism. In the 1980s, she was the organiser of religious broadcasting for the BBC World Service.

Pauline was a trustee of the Christian Evidence Society from 1992 to 1999. She wrote one of our booklets, Evidence for the Power of Prayer, in which she linked the Christian life of prayer with the life of action: ‘To undertake to...

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Photo of a worker in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel at CERN

Posted: 11 May 2017

Andrew Pinsent, who is a physicist and priest, and is research director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, talks about the fine-tuning of the universe, the possibility of multiverses, and how a theory of everything would not account for everything. Interview by Nigel Bovey.

When did you become interested in science?

When I was young, I used to read a book my father had on atomic physics. I was interested in space. I wanted to become an astronaut, but in the 1970s there weren’t any British astronauts. Career-wise, I decided that physics was the best way to keep my options open. I studied physics at Oxford and then branched into particle physics. So instead of studying the very large things, such as stars and galaxies, I ended up doing the opposite, studying very small...

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Posted: 30 April 2017

Over the past month, these are the events in faith, science and culture that have been catching our attention.

23 AprilPeter Adamson, Professor of Philosophy at the LMU in Munich and at King’s College London, is continuing to add podcasts to his monumental series, ‘A history of philosophy without any gaps’. In April alone he has posted podcasts on William of Ockham and his critics, and naturalism in Indian philosophy, which ‘anticipates modern-day theories of mind by arguing that there is no independent soul; rather thought emerges from the body’. The podcasts are 15-20 mins in length, and they have also been published as a book.

22 AprilOn Earth Day, more than 600 Marches for Science took place around the world. The Guardian reported: ‘Hundreds of thousands of climate...

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Photo of a mural of Jesus on a church in Los Angeles

Posted: 19 April 2017

Easter may be the biggest festival of the year for Christians, but in the UK, Jesus Christ has apparently slipped to fourth place on the list of things most people associate with Easter. Ranking just above the Easter bunny and just below hot cross buns, only 55% of people connect Easter with Jesus, according to a new YouGov survey. That figure drops to 44% for 18-24 year-olds. Here’s the YouGov top five:

Chocolate Easter eggs (76%)
Bank holiday (67%)
Hot cross buns (62%)
Jesus Christ (55%)
Easter bunny (49%)

Several commenters on the YouGov website blamed slipping educational standards for the decline of knowledge about Jesus, but others linked the survey to research carried out in 2015 by the Church of England and others which found that 39% of adults in England did not believe Jesus...

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Photo of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, one of the sites claimed to be the original tomb of Jesus

Posted: 15 April 2017

When he was a student, Richard Burridge, who had no time for religion, was challenged by a friend to ‘prove it’s all rubbish and help people like me stop believing in fairy stories’. He looked at the story of the resurrection of Jesus, and became convinced it was true. Now a New Testament scholar, and Dean of King’s College London, Richard Burridge talks to Nigel Bovey about the resurrection.

Professor Burridge, is the concept of resurrection unique to Christianity?

No. The ancient Egyptians believed in gods who died and rose again. What’s unique to Christianity is the claim that a living human being – a man who walked and talked among us – died and rose again. That is a very different idea from myths about dying and rising deities.

What does the Bible mean by the word...

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Photo of a statue of Martin Luther

Posted: 31 March 2017

Over the past month, these are the events in faith, science and culture that have been catching our attention.

31 MarchRalph Ellis, an author with no university affiliation, has gained a lot of media attention by claiming that a coin showing the head of an ancient King of Edessa (pictured above) is actually the earliest known likeness of Jesus Christ. Ellis has acknowledged his claim is controversial, but others have gone further by saying it is on a level with claiming the pyramids were built by aliens. Simon Gathercole of Cambridge University says the argument is ‘crackers’, while Francesca Stavrakopoulou of Exeter University says, ‘It’s a theory that’s so wacky it’s completely beyond the realms of scholarly debate.’

30 MarchIn China, a resurgence of religious faith...

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Photo of part of the Roman acqueduct at Caesarea

Posted: 28 March 2017

Photo of the cover of the book Digging for EvidenceImagine the excitement of brushing away the soil from some ancient stone or pottery shard and finding an inscription mentioning someone previously known only from ancient documents. Imagine what it would be like to unearth a building mentioned in the Gospels that Jesus and the disciples actually visited. Can you imagine discovering something which has been hidden for 2,000 years?

These things really happen. The evidence of archaeology can help us interpret certain biblical texts, as well as providing an independent way to check the Bible’s historical reliability. While the critics of the Christian faith continue to argue against the trustworthiness of the New Testament record, many new archaeological finds have been on the side of scripture, rather than the sceptics.

To illustrate the...

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Photo of the head of a robot

Posted: 16 January 2017

In the near future, our world will probably be populated by artificial intelligence and robots. How will this affect work, relationships and religion? Nigel Bovey talks to Dr Beth Singler, anthropologist of religion and Research Associate at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Singler, in the past you have researched the New Age movement and new religious movements, such as Scientology and Jediism. What are you investigating now?

I am part of a team researching the social and religious implications of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. We are not building or programming robots, or trying to create AI; rather, we are looking at the impact on humans of potentially near-human machines.

Will robots running the world be more...

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Photo of Mark Zuckerberg

Posted: 12 January 2017

There was a surprise on Facebook on Christmas Day when Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social network site, wished his followers a ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah’. His greeting attracted 27,000 comments, but one of the first, posted by José Antonio, asked, ‘But Aren’t You atheist?’ Zuckerberg responded, ‘No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.’

clipping from Mark Zuckerberg Facebook post

Mark Zuckerberg was widely claimed as an atheist for the simple reason that his Facebook profile had once listed it as his religious preference. According to Beliefnet, he declared his atheism when he was 13. Along with Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) and Elon Musk (SpaceX), Zuckerberg was one of the...

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