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Posted: 09 December 2019

The story of the birth of Jesus is well known through Christmas carol services and nativity plays. But modern archaeological finds have helped give the story greater depth – for example, by showing that the village of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, was a tiny, impoverished settlement. Here are three details from the Christmas story, illuminated by arcahaeology, taken from the booklet, Digging for Evidence, by Peter S Williams.

‘In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world… And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David’ (Luke 2:1,3-4).

So begins the birth narrative of...

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Photo of audience listening to a lecture

Posted: 05 October 2019

Christian Evidence has recently started working with the Montgomery Trust, which helps fund lectures and talks on the Christian faith by expert speakers. These talks are delivered throughout the UK, making them accessible to a wide audience. The line-up of talks between now and Christmas take place in Edinburgh, Welshpool and Derbyshire:

Photo of Jolyon Mitchell

Passion Play: The Mysterious Revivals of Religious Drama
4 November 2019
Jolyon Mitchell at St Albert’s Catholic Chaplaincy
23-24 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD

In this illustrated talk, Jolyon Mitchell explores the extraordinary growth of religious drama in the UK, Europe and beyond over the last 60 years. Using examples from both the Mystery Play tradition and the closely related Passion Play tradition, he investigates why both ancient and modern...

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Photo of Richard Dawkins speaking in Australia

Posted: 01 October 2019

Richard Dawkins’ latest book has just been published, and it has a young audience in its sights. Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide, ‘explains to readers of all ages how life emerged without a Creator, how evolution works and how our world came into being.’ Dawkins has often tweeted in opposition to religious parents bringing up their children in their own faith traditions, and this new book, which has been dubbed ‘the junior version of The God Delusion’, seems designed to educate young readers in the opposite direction.

Outgrowing God has already been making waves. How has it been received by religious and other reviewers?

Dawkins and Rev Richard Cole engage in a good-natured to and fro about the book on the Penguine website, in which Cole says, ‘the problem, for serious...

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Photo of a home smashed by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans

Posted: 27 September 2019

‘Some of the fundamental questions religion asks are: What kind of world do we live in? What, if anything, does God demand of me?’ Dr Jonathan Moo, associate professor of New Testament and environmental studies at Whitworth University, Washington, talks to Nigel Bovey about climate change and human responsibility.

Dr Moo, what is your academic background?

As an undergrad, I studied biology and English literature in Chicago. I then spent a year working in a seminary. While I was there, I enrolled on a theology course. I then did a master’s degree in wildlife biology at Utah State University, followed by time studying the New and Old Testaments in Boston, before completing a PhD in early Judaism and the New Testament at Cambridge University.

You have been working as part of the Faraday...

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Photo of a skull in a medical school

Posted: 26 July 2019

Is there a genuine conflict between science and religion? A new report shows that the ‘conflict’ between science and religion is sometimes talked up in the UK as if it were part of an emerging culture war, as it apparently is in the US.

The report, produced by Theos, the think tank specialising in the relationship between religion, politics and society in the contemporary world, gathers over ten years of polling data to give the fullest picture yet of the science and religion landscape in the UK.

The report can be downloaded (for free) here. Some of the most memorable findings include the following facts and figures, taken from the report’s executive summary:

• The percentage of people who agree or strongly agree that science and religion are incompatible is only 27%, compared...

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Photo of Justin Brierley in the Premier Radio studio

Posted: 03 July 2019

Ahead of Unbelievable? the Conference 2019, Justin Brierley, presenter of Unbelievable? – a radio debate show which brings people of faith and no faith together – talks about his experience of being a Christian, and of sitting in the hot seat of debate for 10 years.

I grew up in a Christian family. Both my parents became Christians when they were at Oxford University together. However, I wouldn’t say that I really owned that faith myself until I was about 15 years old. We went to church every Sunday, and I had friends in the youth group, but I went because my parents did. The turning point for me came at a church youth camp. As a teenager, l wasn’t sure about Christianity, I didn’t have the conviction that others seemed to have. However, on that youth camp, faith really came...

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Photo of the Nathan-Melech bulla being held by an archaeologist

Posted: 23 June 2019

A tiny clay seal discovered beneath a former car park in the centre of Jerusalem may be linked to a name found in the Bible’s book of Kings, according to the archaeologists who found it. The seal was found in the ashes of a house which burned down in 586 BC, when the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and razed the city to the ground. Stamped onto the clay seal are the words: ‘Belonging to Nathan-Melech, servant of the king’.

According to a report in the New York Times, the Israeli archaeologist Yuval Gadot found the discovery very emotional, saying, ’When you find something like this it’s very exciting. It gives flesh and bones to things that are very distant stories.’

Photo of the Nathan-Melech bulla

The distinctive name Nathan-Melech is found in the story of an Old Testament...

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Posted: 20 June 2019

‘If there are many different reigions, there are also many different atheisms,’ says John Gray, in the introduction to his book, Seven Types of Atheism (2018). A British philosopher and himself an atheist, Gray says that the New Atheists, who have dominated the debate between faith and non-faith for the past generation with their ridicule of religion, have failed to understand both religion and the broad tradition of atheism.

Gray distinguishes and explores the branches of atheism ancient and modern, from the old atheists of the Enlightenment through to the New Atheists of the recent past, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, whom he describes as ‘mostly a media phenomenon and best appreciated as a type of entertainment’. That comment immediately tells you that Gray’s book is not...

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Photo of man sitting in church

Posted: 28 May 2019

‘The fact that having a religious faith is good for you is psychiatry’s best-kept secret,’ says Andrew Sims, Past President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Leeds. In this interview, he talks to Nigel Bovey about the health benefits of faith.

Professor Sims, why did you choose psychiatry as a career?

My father was a GP and he had a few colleagues who were psychiatrists. He didn’t think much of psychiatry, but as a schoolboy I was interested in what makes people do the things they do. I had never heard of psychology but thought that if I studied medicine, I might be able to get into psychiatry, which is what I did.

Have you worked as a clinical psychiatrist?

Yes. After qualifying as a medical doctor, I trained in...

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Posted: 12 April 2019

A combative new book on Jesus and New Atheism, authored by the philosopher and apologist Peter S Williams, has just been published. The book, Getting at Jesus (with the forthright subtitle, ‘A Comprehensive Critique of Neo-Atheist Nonsense about the Jesus of History’), argues that New Atheist claims about the historical evidence for Jesus are mistaken and false. It builds the case for how modern readers can get at the truth about the Jesus of history for themselves.

Says Williams: ‘The so-called New Atheists are interested in “getting at” Jesus in the sense of attacking belief in him, but they don’t put much effort into thinking about how we get at Jesus historically speaking. I wrote this book to show that thinking carefully about how we get at the historical Jesus reveals...

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