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Posted: 18 July 2016

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

17 JulyBrian Cox, physicist and broadcaster, made an interesting observation at the Starmus festival, which has just finished in Tenerife. The festival, which included Brian Eno, Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, celebrated the synerygy between astronomy and music. Said Cox: ‘The fact that we’re in an insignificant physical speck in a possibly infinite universe is as easy or difficult to accept as that we are a very tiny temporal speck in a possibly infinite time span… But it’s a conversation that won’t be had by physicists. It’s a conversation that’s best had in art, philosophy, literature and theology. That’s where the meaning of the things we discover...

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Photo of the chariot race in the new 2016 version of Ben-Hur

Posted: 13 July 2016

One of the most famous movies in history, Ben-Hur, has been remade and is due for worldwide release in August. Based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the new film re-imagines the novel for the big screen, although it will inevitably be compared with the 1959 epic movie starring Charlton Heston, which won 11 Academy awards.

The movie tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish prince accused of insurrection against the Romans by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer serving under Pontius Pilate. Judah becomes a slave on a Roman galley, but eventually triumphs in a chariot race with Messala, a sequence which is ‘truly the crown jewel of the film,’ according to Timur Bekmambetov, the director. His life is changed by a series...

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Posted: 08 July 2016

Is the universe that produced us just a result of a chance roll of the cosmic dice?

Justin Brierley, the presenter of the radio apologetics debate show Unbelievable? demonstrates in a new video, posted this week, that it would have taken a gigantic streak of good luck to roll the dice so the universe would produce life. So gigantic, in fact, that the chances of it happening are 1 in 10 to the power of 55. This leaves us with a question: why is the universe so finely tuned for life?

Justin asks: ‘What if the evidence points to this life-permitting universe actually being the product of an intelligent mind, which intended for us to be here?’

Barbara Drossel, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Darmstadt, Germany, says: ‘The fine-tuning argument is not proof… but it’s...

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Posted: 04 July 2016

‘God is not the object of scientific research or mathematical proofs, so we cannot prove him,’ says Barbara Drossel, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Darmstadt, Germany. ‘But I think there are good reasons for believing in God.’ She talks here with Nigel Bovey about her life in science and her Christian faith, taking in the laws of physics, the big bang and the fine tuning of the universe.

Professor, what is theoretical physics?

It is physics done with pencil and paper and computer modelling rather than laboratory experiments. It focuses on mathematical and computational analysis to explain how and why things happen.

Why did you choose to study science?

I was around 13 when I decided I wanted to be a scientist. At that age, I started, or at least tried, to read...

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Image of the key players in the Gospel of Jesus Wife story, produced by The Atlantic

Posted: 17 June 2016

The professor who introduced ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ to the world in 2012, and who has championed it ever since, has finally admitted that the fragment of papyrus may in fact be a fake. Commenting on dramatic new evidence about the story, Professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School, says, ‘It tips the balance towards forgery’.

The fragment, the size of a credit card, apparently reports Jesus saying the words, ‘My wife… she will be able to be my disciple’, as we reported in this 2012 blog post. It has stirred up intense debate in the academic world over the past four years. Painstaking scholarship discovered that the writing appears to duplicate errors found only in a document published on the internet, and which a forger might simply have copied. A year ago, an...

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Photo of the CS Lewis memorial in Westminster Abbey

Posted: 17 June 2016

In November 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, a memorial was unveiled to CS Lewis at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, honouring his work as a novelist, poet, academic and Christian apologist. Last week saw the launch of a book celebrating the event, and assessing Lewis’s lasting influence in literature, theology and philosophy.

In the book, CS Lewis at Poets’ Corner, Rowan Williams and Alister McGrath assess Lewis’s legacy in theology, Malcolm Guite addresses his integration of reason and imagination, William Lane Craig takes a philosophical perspective, while Lewis’s successor as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, Helen Cooper, considers him as a critic.

Christian philosopher and apologist Peter S Williams, one of the book’s editors, says: ‘Lewis...

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Painting of the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus

Posted: 08 June 2016

When Christian writer Larry Taunton wrote a memoir of his friendship with Christopher Hitchens, one of the ‘four horsemen’ of new atheism, and called it The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, knowingly or unknowingly he had written a book spoiling for a fight. Hitchens famously said, shortly before his death from cancer in 2011, that if he ever made a religious confession it would be because the cancer had gone to his brain.

Taunton’s book did not overtly claim that Hitchens had found faith, but it reported a road trip shared by the two men during which they spent several hours reading passages from the Gospel of John. That and the book’s rather misleading title was enough to draw outrage from Richard Dawkins, among others. Dawkins called Taunton ‘a vulture’ and quoted...

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Photo of tombs in the Kieron Valley, Jerusalem

Posted: 16 May 2016

We live in an era of growing, misinformed skepticism about the historical reliability of the New Testament’s account of Jesus and his early followers. According to Richard Dawkins, ‘The only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction.’ And the late Christopher Hitchens said: ‘Holy writ is probably fiction, of a grand sort, to begin with.’

But is this actually the case?

Christian philosopher and apologist Peter S Williams is the author of several books, including CS Lewis vs the New Atheists and A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism. His latest publication – Digging for Evidence, a free-to-download booklet published by Christian Evidence – gathers together the archaeological finds of the...

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Archaeological dig in Bethsaida, Israel

Posted: 26 April 2016

Chris Sinkinson explains how archaeology can serve to confirm the stories, people and places in the Old Testament.

The discovery of what could be the biblical city of Sodom at Tall el-Hammam in Jordan was shared widely by Christians on social media in 2015. But not everyone is convinced that the Bible’s account and the archaeological record are easily matched. The claims of sceptics such as Sheffield University professor Philip R Davies, who dismisses the biblical King David as ‘about as historical as King Arthur’, have attracted plenty of attention and publicity through popular media.

In reality, however, the development of archaeology as a discipline has produced a wealth of material evidence for the essential reliability of the Old Testament. Wherever the truth of the Bible can...

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Posted: 23 February 2016

New movie Risen (Sony Pictures, 117 mins) dramatically tells the story of the days immediately after the death of Jesus – as seen through the eyes of the Romans who crucified him. Where other biblical epics make Jesus their central character, Risen puts Roman tribune Clavius in the leading role, as he investigates the most famous ever disappearance of a dead body.

The result is a movie where the resurrection of Jesus is recast as a detective story. The empty tomb of Christ is treated as a crime scene. The disciples of Jesus are caught up in ‘the manhunt that changed the course of human history’, in the words of the movie poster. One film critic describes it as ‘Law and Order: Judean Desert 33 AD’.

‘I’d describe it as the greatest murder mystery ever written,’ says Joseph...

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