Read Bible Favourites to Children, Parents Urged

A new campaign, an initiative of the Bible Society, urges parents to read tales from the Old and New Testaments to their children.

The Telegraph has the details:

Organisers are hoping to introduce a new generation of British children to stories from the Bible with which their grandparents would have been instantly familiar

It might not feature boy wizards, magic wardrobes or Hobbits, but its epic cast list does include a giant, a talking snake and a man who lived for 969 years.

Now parents reading stories with their children are being urged to mix favourites such as Harry Potter or the Narnia books with tales from the Bible as part of a new campaign aimed at a million young people.

The initiative is timed to coincide with the release of a string of blockbuster Hollywood adaptations of stories from both the Old and New Testaments.

Organisers are hoping to introduce a new generation of British children to stories from the Bible with which their grandparents would have been instantly familiar.

They fear that ignorance or open hostility towards religion by some parents could lead to a generation of children growing up unaware of many of the stories which have formed a foundation of western art, literature and music.

The campaign also follows a series of studies suggesting that fewer and fewer parents are regularly reading stories to their children at all.

The campaign, an initiative of the Bible Society, aims not to promote religious teaching but simply to introduce a new generation of children to the drama and adventure contained in the Bible.

Research commissioned by the charity found that British adults who recognise themes and stories from the scriptures in modern films and music are in the minority.

The study, which will be published this month, also found that only just over a third of adults think that having an understanding of the Bible is an important part of young people’s education.

However, it found that where they are introduced, Biblical stories still carry a strong resonance with parents and children alike. Separate polling conducted for the campaign identified the nativity as the nation’s favourite Bible story for both children and adults, followed by Noah’s Ark and the life of Joseph.

But there was then a divide along gender lines. The story of David and the giant Goliath ranked fourth among boys, while for girls it was Adam and Eve, which featured the talking snake. The story of Methuselah – who lived to the age of 969 – did not feature.

The organisers of the “Pass It On” campaign are understood to be working on a new app for iPads and other tablet computers containing a selection of Bible stories designed to be read to or by young children.

They are also in talks with popular children’s authors to come up with their own exciting retellings of once familiar Biblical stories.

“Despite being the world’s all-time bestseller, the Bible today faces its greatest challenges in the UK for centuries,” said James Catford from the Bible Society.

“Its stories open the door to understanding much of our history, as well as our cultural and literary heritage. But many of us have never opened its pages and only a tiny minority read it regularly.”

The campaign hopes to capitalise on a string of Biblical blockbusters, including Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, and Russell Crowe’s forthcoming appearance as Noah.


Bible Archaeology

Beyond Belief: Archaeology and Religion

Beyond BeliefThe BBC:

A new series of Beyond Belief begins with a discussion on the impact of archaeological discoveries on religious belief.

Listen here (right click & “save target as / link as”).

Duration: 28 mins.

Features renowned Bible scholar Francesca Stravrakopoulou.



Natural Disasters: Is God in Control?

Via Joy’s January Edition:

The number of natural disasters striking the earth today is unprecedented; monthly we hear of an earthquake or hurricane ripping through entire islands and countrysides. The devastation that follows is usually so systemic, that is takes years, if not decades, for people and countries to recover. And yet as each new disaster hits, the same age-old question emerges (asked by believers and non-believers alike): “Why would God allow such a catastrophe?”

For some Christians, the irrefutable answer is that God is Sovereign and can do what He pleases, and we can rest in the knowledge that it is ultimately part of His great plan for bringing mankind to a place of reckoning and for those who accept it, redemption.

Is God in control of the weather? For other believers though, the notion that God would either actively cause such tragedy, or that reactively, He would allow it, is incongruous with the belief that He is a good God who came “to give us life abundant” (John 10:10).

Rather, for those who view God this way, they would say that because the world is fallen and cursed, that natural disasters are in fact just that – either caused by the effects of nature at war with itself, or by the devil who, as “the prince of this world” has authority to unleash evil and destruction (1 John 5:19) as part of his purposes “to steal, kill and destroy.”  (John 10:10).

Jesus-centred view For others, though God may allow some natural disasters, and even cause them, He is not specifically involved in each one. They base this on the notion that Jesus (as God incarnate on earth) demonstrated a love for people that supersedes the immediate call for judgement (through natural disasters or other means). One respected theologian noted in response to the Japanese Tsunami of 2011, that, “the Jesus revealed in the Bible healed, restored, and raised to life.

Indeed He did warn and admonish, but never with destruction and death. He rebuked the disciples who wanted to call down fire from Heaven on His detractors (Luke 9:54). When one of His followers cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear, Jesus admonished the disciple and healed the man’s ear. Throughout Scripture we see that God always warns before He destroys or judges a nation. If there was no distinct warning from God, then I do not believe the Japanese tsunami was an act of punishment or judgement.”

For a prominent Christian pastor, it is critical to realise that the devil has power in this world (though admittedly it is power granted to him for an allotted time by God.)

This pastor explains, “The Old Testament story of Job is a classic example of how God sometimes allows satan to bring calamities. Job lost his cattle, crops, and family to vicious attacks, a killer hurricane, and firestorm. Job’s friends said these disasters came from God, but a careful reading of reveals that it was satan who brought these evils. (Job 1:1-12).”

Another perspective For another theologian (I withhold names because often as Christians we polarise our responses to difficult theological questions and lose the point of the message when we know of the messenger), God is most certainly in control of the weather and can work His purposes for good, in the midst of hopeless destruction.

Acknowledging the laws of nature In a response to the recent typhoon that ravaged the Philippines, he had this answer for the journalists questioning God’s role: “Tragedies cause many people to question God’s goodness. It is distressing that natural disasters are often termed “acts of God” while no “credit” is given to God for years, decades, or even centuries of peaceful weather. God created the whole universe and the laws of nature (Gen 1:1).

Most natural disasters are a result of these laws at work. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornados are the results of divergent weather patterns colliding. Earthquakes are the result of the earth’s plate structure shifting. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake.

The consequences of the Fall The Bible proclaims that Jesus Christ holds all of nature together (Col 1:16-17). Could God prevent natural disasters? Absolutely! Does God sometimes influence the weather? Yes, as we see in Deuteronomy 11:17 and James 5:17. Numbers 16:30-34 shows us that God sometimes causes natural disasters as a judgement against sin. The book of Revelation describes many events which could definitely be described as natural disasters (Rev 6, 8, and 16). Is every natural disaster a punishment from God? Absolutely not.

In much the same way that God allows evil people to commit evil acts, God allows the earth to reflect the consequences sin has had on creation. Romans 8:19-21 tells us, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The Fall of humanity into sin affected everything, including the world we inhabit. Everything in creation is subject to “frustration” and “decay.” Sin is the ultimate cause of natural disasters just as it is the cause of death, disease, and suffering.

Why would God allow this? We can understand why natural disasters occur. What we do not understand is why God allows them to occur. Why did God allow the tsunami to kill over 225 000 people in Asia?

Why did God allow Hurricane Katrina to destroy the homes of thousands of people? For one thing, such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity.

Saving the lost Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realise how tenuous their lives really are and how life can be taken away in an instant. What we do know is this: God is good!

Many amazing miracles occurred during the course of natural disasters that prevented even greater loss of life. Natural disasters cause millions of people to re-evaluate their priorities in life. Christian ministries have the opportunity to help, minister, counsel, pray, and lead people to saving faith in Christ!

Resting in His love One of the greatest challenges we have as Christians is to somehow continue to believe God and to trust Him in the midst of horrendous devastation. When you see children being separated from their fathers and mothers, when you see hundreds of people dead, it is very natural to ask, “Where is God?”

We can wrestle with these questions till Christ returns, and we can attempt to answer the critics of Christ in all sincerity, but ultimately, the ways of God are higher than the ways of man; His thoughts supersede our reasoning. Ultimately this is what we know: God loves us, He died for us and offers to those who follow Him, a glorious eternity. 

To think about:

Do you believe God is in control of the weather?

• Are natural disasters a punishment of the nations?

• Does satan have authority over the weather at all?

• Do you believe the world will end in our lifetime?

HT:  Fr David MacGregor