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Christians at work – a saw point. Sp.

posted by Robert Hall  Thursday 20th February 2014

February in our house is a time of clearing up.  Maybe the spring cleaning idea comes a bit early, but it’s a good time after the busyness of Christmas and when outside activities are curtailed.  This year the cellar was cleaned up.  Many timber offcuts were consigned to the firewood store. ‘You don’t want this any more do you?’, and piles of ‘stuff’ not put away were put away or thrown away.  ‘Where does this thingy go?  No sooner had the wheelie bins been emptied than they were filled again.  ‘Can you recycle this type of polythene?’  ‘This dismantled vacuum cleaner is no use is it?’  ‘I thought the motor/ bag/ hose/brushes/cable may come in useful’.  I hope you are building a picture of my domestic scene.

Now, occasionally items from the ACTuality office spill into other parts of the house which is the house of many trades due to the passions of its occupants.  Documents, magazines, books and so forth.  So picture the scene when settling down for a relaxing evening in front of a nice open fire fuelled by the aforementioned offcuts, my wife spotted a stray document on the hall table.  Still in clearing up mode she said, ‘Where does this “Christians at work” go?’  Her question was met with laughter from me.  ‘Are you sure?’ I said. ‘Read it again.’  She did.  The document was actually a fine and useful publication from the Health and Safety Executive entitled ‘Chainsaws at work.’

Now, this is very interesting.  My wife saw what she was expecting to see, since a large part of my work is about Christians at work.  So?

For me this is a lesson in careful perception.  How often do we meet with a pupil and our first glance determines our understanding and attitude towards them for the next year or more?  Likewise, how often does the pupil take a first look at us and decide their attitude?  It’s a lesson for governing bodies who appoint staff.  For more on this, read 1 Samuel 16 when God gave Samuel the task of choosing a man to replace King Saul. 

May God bless you as you have to make dozens of quick judgements or decisions each working day, in your dealings with colleagues and pupils.  May God the Holy Spirit guide you according to his perception.  As for me, I’m off to clean and sharpen my chainsaw, having first carried out a risk assessment of course.

Don’t be deaf to singletons

posted by Robert Hall  Friday 14th February 2014

It was 3 25 p.m. and four damp children stood forsaken in the school doorway, seeking shelter from the rain and a vantage point to spot the arrival of the delayed cappuccino Skoda .  The playground was deserted except for a large cappuccino puddle which, if it had been ice would have made a commodious skating rink.

At last the cappuccino Skoda made its way carefully through the school gates and circumnavigated what was, by now, the cappuccino lake.  The children tumbled in and off we went. ‘Can we take Simeon home first, then go on to Rose’s because all three of us are singletons and we are spending Valentine’s evening together?’  I saw the DVD of Love Actually protruding from Eleanor’s bag.

Five-year-old Simeon wasn’t much appreciating the giggly excitement of the singletons’ night.  He was looking forward to more important things, so was relieved when we arrived at destination number one and he was repatriated with his family and his football card collection.

Ten minutes later we arrived at destination number two.  The girls stumbled out to begin their giggly evening, and then grandfather chauffeur drove home, enjoying the steady and therapeutic purr of the cappuccino Skoda, in contrast to the excitable giggle of the day’s accounts of skirmishes with boys at school. 

It made me think of the huge capacity for dynamism which young people have.  I reflected as I thought of the minute detail of their social day that they can absorb so much.  Was I like that fifty years ago?  What have I learned over those years?  One thing above all others, perhaps, is the wisdom to be quiet, and simply listen.  I am sure that they think I must be stone deaf. ‘All old folk are stone deaf, right?’  No, but perhaps I am learning when to keep silent, listen and learn.

Ecclesiastes 3

I believe in creation, but not in creationism.

by guest blogger Andrew Marfleet.  Dr. Marfleet was Chair of ACT from 2001 to 2007    posted  Tuesday 4th February 2014

I share Gill Robins’ disquiet over eminent scientists who advocate banning the teaching of belief systems they don’t agree with, but I wonder if Christians who promote the teaching of creationism should stop and think.  Have we contributed to an image of Christianity that’s all too easy to reject, resulting in the attitudes shown in the TES straw poll that Gill refers to?

I’m not a scientist, though I’m aware of the mounting evidence for scientific evolution, based more on DNA than on the fossil record these days.  The subject I studied and taught throughout my teaching career was English Literature.  I learned how to study texts, not least the Bible.  Appropriate engagement with a text means asking what sort of text it is.  The Bible offers a wide range of genres, the majority being narrative; stories are a powerful way of understanding life, but to be effective, they don’t need to be true.  Jesus’ parables are an obvious example.  The account of the nativity in Revelation 12 does not feature in many school productions! History and biography feature strongly in the Bible, but it offers us ‘truth’ in a variety of ways.

As a matter of integrity, I try to look at Biblical texts for what they are without reading my own ideas into them.  Genesis poses a challenge.  Not because it contradicts the science I was taught, but because it offers different stories about the origins of the world and of human life.  Chapter 2 talks of God creating the heavens and earth in a different order than in Chapter 1.  It’s clearly a different story, but included in Genesis by an inspired writer who saw the value of the different accounts.  There’s no problem unless you insist that both are literal accounts, true in a historical and scientific sense.

Christians of earlier generations, I’ve discovered, didn’t insist on literal readings of the text.  Origen, Augustine, Calvin and most pre-Enlightenment theologians weren’t constrained in this way.  Creationism, as we now know it, only emerged about 100 years ago.  It’s actually a modernist construct, an attempt to impose a scientific/historical reading onto the text.   Its impetus came largely from a movement in the 1920s in the USA.

Evangelical giants such as B.B.  Warfield, early in the 20th Century, had no problem with Darwinism.  Later Christian writers I’ve come to respect, such as C.S.  Lewis, John Stott, J.I.  Packer and Michael Green, also see no contradiction in accepting scientific evolution as a credible explanation of life on this planet alongside their strong faith in the Bible as God’s word.  I was greatly helped to think through these issues in my younger days by a former Chair of ACT, Charles Martin.  On his advice, I read authors who weren’t constrained by the American shackles.  Those with academic credentials in both science and Biblical Studies, such as Ernest Lucas and Alister McGrath, have impressed me particularly.  And if there’s one book I would recommend to all ACT members, it would be Denis Alexander’s Creation or Evolution: do we have to choose? He, and others from the Faraday Institute, will help anyone seeking to apply their mind to issues of science and faith.

Denis Alexander makes the point at the end of his book that we have more important things to do than knocking the theory of evolution.  I agree.  God’s revelation of himself in nature and in his word ought not to be contradictory.  Too much time, money and effort goes into fighting unnecessary battles in this area when our task is to proclaim the crucified and risen Lord.  


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