Archive for July, 2007

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (15/20)

July 20, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1822-1884: Gregor Mendel: Called the ‘father of genetics’, Mendel was an Austrian priest of the Augustinian order whose revolutionary insights into genetics were not fully understood and appreciated until the 20th century, years after his death.

His 1865 paper ‘Experiments On Plant Hybridization’ received much criticism when it was first presented to the scientific community and was largely ignored subsequently as a result, yet that same paper is now recognised as the defining work of modern genetics. Gene theory in Mendel’s day. It is ironic that at the same time the deeply religious Mendel was establishing the foundation of modern genetics, Darwin’s work was relying on the incorrect ‘pangenes’ theory of inheritance.

In fact, Mendel had read Darwin’s ‘Origin Of The Species’ prior to publishing his own work (though after he had already completed it). There is evidence in Mendel’s paper that he was influenced by some of Darwin’s ideas on biological inheritance, though not by his theory of the origin of the human species.

Article here.

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Article: Slavery In The Bible (2/5)

July 13, 2007

Slavery In The Law Of Moses

This article examines which of the various forms of servitude common to the Ancient Near East existed under the Law of Moses, and how they were regulated:

* Chattel slavery (definition)

* Indentured servitude (definition)

* Bride sale (definition)

* Vassalage (definition)

Article here.

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Article: Christians And Slavery (1/3)

July 12, 2007

Due to the strong support provided for the African slave trade by many Christians, and the well known historical resistance of Christians in the Southern States of the USA to the abolition of slavery, Christianity has acquired an unfortunate reputation for sanctioning and even encouraging slavery.  Whilst it is certainly true that Christians have been responsible throughout the centuries for sanctioning, encouraging, and even enforcing slavery, it is also true that there has existed at the same time a strong Christian resistance to slavery.

The following is a brief historical review of Christian opposition to slavery from the 1st to the 19th centuries. Much of the following material has been taken from Edward Roger’s comprehensive work ‘Slavery Illegality in All Ages and Nations‘ (1855).

1st-2nd centuries AD: Polycarp and Ignatius, Christian leaders, free their slaves

3rd century AD: Christians in Asia Minor ‘decried the lawfulness of it, denounced slaveholding as a sin, a violation of the law of nature and religion. They gave fugitive slaves asylum, and openly offered them protection’ (following the commandments in the Old and New Testaments)

3rd century AD: Cyprian, bishop of Carthage condemned a local slaveholder in uncompromising terms, condemning slavery as incompatible with Christianity:

‘You, man of a day, expect from your slave obedience. Is he less a man than you? By birth he is your equal. He is endowed with the same organs, with the same reasoning soul, called to the same hopes, subject to the same laws of life in this and in the world to come. You subject him to your dominion. If he, as a man, disregard or forget your claim, what miseries you heap upon him. Impious master, pitiless despot! You spare neither blows nor whips, nor privations; you chastise him with hunger and thirst, you load him with chains, you incarcerate him within black walls; miserable man! While you thus maintain your despotism over a man, you are not willing to recognize the Master and Lord of all men.’

2nd-4th centuries AD: Christians throughout the empire regularly collect money and go to the slave markets, buying slaves and setting them free immediately afterwards

4th century AD: The emperor Constantine gives bishops the authority to free slaves and forbids the separation of families who are, but maintains the old Roman punishments against runaway slaves, as well as the punishments masters were permitted to inflict on their slaves

Article here.

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Article: Slavery In The Bible (1/5)

July 12, 2007

Due to the infamy of New World slavery, particularly the plantation slavery practiced in North America between the 17th and 19th centuries, the terms ‘slave’ and ‘slavery’ invariably invoke images of precisely that form of servitude. Readers both Christian and non-Christian alike recoil from any passage of the Bible in which these words appear. It is wrongly assumed that any reference to ‘slaves’ or ‘slavery’ in the Bible necessarily refers to the New World ‘chattel slavery’ of the plantations. This is simply not the case.

The following article is an examination of the various forms of servitude described in the Bible. It addresses the topic as it is presented in the Old and New Testaments, within their historical and cultural background, together with the Biblical instruction regarding servitude in its various forms.

Considerable use has been made of Glenn Miller’s excellent studies of servitude in the Old and New Testaments.

The Definition Of Slavery

Various forms of servitude existed in the Ancient Near East, all of which are described in the Bible and most of which are commonly translated ‘slavery’ (largely inaccurately). In the list which follows they are described in general terms without reference to the specific manner in which they were addressed by different ANE law codes:

* Chattel slavery

* Indentured service

* Bride sale

* Vassalage

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (14/20)

July 9, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1789-1857: Augustin Louis Cauchy: A French mathematician whose extreme Catholic views made him enemies, but whose skill in mathematics produced major contributions to the field. He wrote over 700 mathematical papers, was a pioneer in mathematical analysis, developed the wave theory in optics, and contributed significantly to algebra, physics, calculus, number series theory, and geometry. His work was highly influential in the development of 19th century mathematics.

1800-1861
: Lars Levi Læstadius: A strict Swedish Lutheran, Læstadius was an accomplished botanist who served on a number of expeditions. Læstadius made a number of botanical discoveries, and was recognised internationally, belonging to several botanical societies. He is also well known for his influential religious revival in Lapland, leading social reforms in the underprivileged village of Karesuando, which was plagued by alcoholism and violence. Læstadius’ successful reformation of the village has been honoured by the production of an opera, and the award ‘Man of the Millennium’ by local Laplanders.

1793-1864
: Edward Hitchcock: A renowned 19th century geologist, Hitchcock was responsible for building the scientific reputation of Amherst College, where he was Professor of Natural Theology and Geology. He made significant contributions to geology and palaeontology.

During the 19th century the developing field of geology raised questions regarding the age of the earth. As geological discoveries indicated the earth was older than 17th century theologians had suggested, Hitchcock was one of a number of Christians who enthusiastically embraced the scientific evidence, and argued convincingly that an ‘old earth’ was no challenge to the Biblical account of creation in ‘The Religion Of Geology And Its Connected Sciences’ (1851).

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (13/20)

July 2, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1679-1767:  Firmin Abauzit:  A French Protestant who was highly accomplished in physics.  On his visit to England he was introduced to Newton, whose great work ‘Principia Mathematica’ he had read. Newton graciously acknowledged an error in ‘Principia’ which Abauzit identified to him, and corrected it in the second edition of the worck.  Abauzit was well known for his considerable breadth of knowledge, and held in high esteem by intellectuals such as Rousseau and Voltaire.

Article here.

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