Books

Has A.N. Wilson reached the last port of call on the tempestuous sea of faith?

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

A.N. Wilson has had a tempestuous journey on the sea of faith. His first port of call was St Stephen’s House, in Oxford, the Anglo-Catholic seminary where he trained for ordination in the Church of England. He jumped ship at the end of his first year and travelled to the wilder shores of atheism, writing the polemical pamphlet Against Religion: Why We Should Try To Live Without It.

Unable to follow his own advice, he created a niche for himself as the biographer of influential Christians such as John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman, while also penning studies of the life of Jesus and the mind of St Paul.

After all Wilson’s literary and spiritual journeys, his fans, of which I am one, cannot quite work out whether our hero is faithfully committed, divinely discontented or celestially confused in his relationship with God.

He calls himself a ‘wishy-washy Christian’. But as he writes in such vivid primary colours which no doubts or agnostic detergents can remove, this is a misnomer. Surely his latest book, a guide to the Bible, must reveal whether or not Wilson has at last been cornered by the Hound of Heaven?


The Book of the People is much richer fare than a conventional guide or commentary. It is more a surprise menu of idiosyncratic dishes created by a master chef. The meal titillates the palate and passes the Churchillian pudding test by having a strong theme. But will it feed the spiritually hungry?

Wilson is an author with a mission. He loves the Bible, and has immersed himself in Old Testament scholarship. He makes a serious attempt to persuade the general populace to follow Augustine of Hippo’s exhortation, Tolle, Lege — take up and read. And his enthusiasm is infectious. He knocks over the easy targets of the fundamentalists and the literalists who claim that every word of the good book is true. Instead, he seizes the high ground of the Bible as an inspirational force in human lives, as exemplified by Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, George Herbert and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Wilson makes his case with such pellucid writing that he deserves applause for his argument even in the most doubt-strewn biblical terrain. Few Christian apologists could surpass his encomium of the beautiful but baffling Book of Job. As the writer of a modest commentary on the Psalms myself, I envied his chapter on the metaphorical riches of their poetry.

Yet for all the delicious morsels that Wilson serves up, there are disappointments. One rule that should have been heeded is that too many cooks spoil the broth. For this book is, in a muddled way, co-authored by a mythical interlocutor called ‘L’. She constantly interrupts Wilson’s flow with letters, questions, suggestions and quirky opinions. This literary device of having L as an appearing and disappearing Cheshire cat occasionally works but more frequently grates. ‘Why the L doesn’t he shut her up?’ I kept wanting to shout. This would have been a more satisfying book if Wilson had had the courage to take the wings of the morning and fly solo.

From such a disciplined author, too much of this book feels wayward. Under L’s influence a grasshopper seems to have infiltrated Wilson’s thinking as he leaps hither and thither across a huge range of topics, people, locations, contradictory theories, and differing points of view. Perhaps this is his way of demonstrating that there is something in the Bible for everyone, as he strives valiantly to persuade people of all faiths and none to share his passion.

It is a noble endeavour. But vox populi and vox Dei are not the same. Reading the Bible is an individual calling, not a populist cause. Wilson fights the good fight with learning and eloquence but he is too unsure of his own voice when it comes to answering Pilate’s question, ‘What is truth?’ Perhaps the last word should go to Job, who towards the end of his ordeals observes: ‘We only understand the outskirts of God’s ways.’

Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £15.99 Tel: 08430 600033. Jonathan Aitken is a former Conservative MP; his books include Prayers for People Under Pressure.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • Mack

    Oddly posed photograph. Using rosary beads as a book mark would put physical stress on the pages. I suppose there is meant to be a statement – and let the people say “existential.”

    • pobjoy

      Just a puff for papism.

  • Cooper1992

    I finished reading this book a couple of days ago.

    During the first few chapters I felt confused as to what the purpose of the book actually was.

    The latter half of the book is much better, especially the focus on Job and Psalms.

    The argument against fundamentalism and literalism is noble but I really don’t think Wilson actually says much more….

    The constant references to the mysterious T (or whatever her letter was) seemed both interesting – in terms of her story; but also pretty pointless – in terms of what she actually says about The Bible.

  • pobjoy

    ‘the biographer of influential Christians such as John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman’

    No Christians in that list.

    • betty_ejenkins

      ╍●‿●╍❁_❁_❁●‿●❁_❁

      Just I saw A Bank Draft 75oo Usd by doing Simple C0mputer J0bs.Piper . I didn’t believe that…my… neighbours mother truley taking home money part time at there labtop. . there great aunt has been doing this 4 only 22 months and a short time ago took care of the debts on their villa and bourt themselves a Lexus LS400 .

      ======== HAVE A LOOK TO THE LINK FOR YOUR BRIGHT FUTURE ========

      ➡➡➡➡ https://THEBILGATESWORLD.COM

      • pobjoy

        ‘the biographer of influential Christians such as John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman’

        No Christians in that list.

        The Gates of Hell will not prevail, anyway.

        • Chas Grant

          I would very much like to hear your definition of “Christian”.

          • pobjoy

            Why would it be different from yours?

            Are the stated views of John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman mutually compatible?

          • Chas Grant

            Of course your definition is different from mine, because the people mentioned are generally accepted as being Christian.

          • pobjoy

            ‘the people mentioned are generally accepted as being Christian’

            Are they? Many intelligent, well-read people regard Lewis as a con man. Most ordinary folk have never even heard of Milton, and know nothing of his beliefs. They think of Belloc as a humourist, Tolstoy as a novelist whom they will never read, Betjeman as a man who loved creature comforts far too much to take the risk of unpopularity. It is an insult to readers to take this guesswork as reason to believe that your definition is one whit different from mine, anyway. There are now reasons to believe that your definition is exactly the same as mine. Three reasons.

            Are the stated views of John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman mutually compatible?

            There’s no rush.

            Unless you now feel out of your depth, of course.

          • Ivan Ewan

            Why do the majority of trolls all go for as much unwarranted smugness as they can muster? Is it to make up for other shortcomings?

          • pobjoy

            Probably.

          • Chas Grant

            Over-compensation.

          • pobjoy

            Ah. Honest confession.

          • Sean L

            Clueless. John Milton is one of the most influential English men that ever lived. That few alive today have heard of him doesn’t alter that. They think and speak in his language everyday. Indeed English wouldn’t be the language it is if it weren’t for him. I’m reminded of an analogy of Heidegger’s: everyone watches television, said H, but there are probably no more than five men who can truly understand the science behind it. Popular recognition has nothing to do with influence. A tiny number of geniuses are ultimately responsible for the Western or modern world, Milton is among them, certainly the English- speaking part of it

          • pobjoy

            ‘John Milton is one of the most influential English men that ever lived.’

            True enough. But the claim is that he was one of five ‘influential Christians’. Before you start slinging round words like ‘clueless’, maybe it would be an idea to find your reading specs?

            Milton was influential, yes, and in a very serious way (though I think you exaggerate way beyond the reality). One needs to be a determined lover of poetry to stay with him long, surely. 🙂 Belloc, by contrast, and atypically for a member of his religion, has amused, with delightful brevity;

            ‘When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
            His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.’

            🙂 And that sums up the rascal, methinks. But would Milton and Belloc have approved of each other, had they met? And will Christ say to both, “Begone, you hypocrites; I never knew you!” When you have opened theology books, or even the Bible, you can come here and talk with proper respect and authority, rather than raucously trumpet your own ego.

            The point that is probably vexing you is that these five writers, approved by the exceedingly doubtful and irrational authority of Wilson, would have disapproved of *each other*, to greater or lesser degree; so to say that all five were not Christians is likely to be merely to extend the exclusions from four to five.

          • Sean L

            Yes hardly anyone reads serious poetry. But that doesn’t contradict the truth of Shelley’s point that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” And it’s in that sense I believe you are without a clue about Milton’s influence, which extends far beyond the merely literary. You don’t do yourself any favours by referring to AN Wilson in such derogatory terms either.

          • pobjoy

            Milton, the unacknowledged legislator, now. So what was it about Milton’s influence that was both politically effectual *and* Christian? Both, you snake.

            AN Wilson can be defended when his selection of authors can be demonstrated to be both Christians and influential *as* Christians. It seems to *me* buffoonery to suggest that Tolstoy, Betjeman and Belloc have influences of a Christian nature today. True, in opposition to atheism, they are cited as examples of educated theists. But that is nowhere near to showing them to have been Christians.

            Though maybe you, with your superior knowledge of literature and theology, know more than I do. You have foolishly, arrogantly, added to your burden of proof a Herculean task, it seems to me. But, undaunted, you will of course make suitable reply. You’re loud-mouthed loser, or erudite expositor, one, or the other. Let us see.

          • Chas Grant

            Surely the most commonly accepted definition of a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus as Christ? Which of the people you mentioned do not fit that definition?

          • pobjoy

            ‘someone who believes in Jesus as Christ?’

            Good! That makes sense.

            What is the meaning of the word ‘christ’?

          • Chas Grant

            As I understand it, it means “Messiah”.

          • pobjoy

            I see. What does ‘Messiah’ mean?

          • Chas Grant

            Well, “Messiah” is generally accepted as being synonymous with “Saviour”, which I would go along with.

            But please – I am still curious to hear your personal understanding of what the word “Christian” signifies.

          • pobjoy

            ‘”Messiah” is generally accepted as being synonymous with “Saviour”‘

            That’s part of the meaning. The word is derived from the Hebrew word for ‘oil’. Oils were often used for medicinal purposes by anointing, but also for special anointing of the forehead. This special use was reserved, in post-Mosaic Israel, for three sorts of person. One was prophets, though not always used. Prophets not only predicted future events, they also spoke on behalf of deity in particular moral situations. Another was the High Priest, to offer sacrifices, who was always anointed. There were no kings for a long time, but when there were, these also were invariably anointed. So the roles recognised were prophet, priest and king, particularly the last two. These are the roles attributed to Jesus as the messiah or christ promised to Abraham. In the gospels he is through his teaching seen as prophet; and as priest, through the sacrifice of himself, perfect deity, because only a perfect sacrifice would suffice. Because of gratitude for that sacrifice, that removes guilt and punishment for the evils committed by humanity, he becomes king, or lord, of those who have that gratitude. In Luke’s Acts and in the letter to Christians, we see that the apostles and other disciples mentioned displayed that gratitude, and their example is the one taken by Christians subsequently. We also see comprehensive definition of the beliefs of Jesus’ followers.

            So Christ’ means ‘Prophet, Saviour and Lord’, not just ‘Saviour’. A Christian is therefore one whose life is example of the rule of Christ, through love for all, as well as reflection of the necessary beliefs of Christians. So that is the biblical definition of ‘Christian’. Jesus, John, Peter, Paul, and Jude, Jesus’ brother, all warned about false claimants to Christian faith within the church as they wrote, and there are warnings of their false teachings, which would become widespread. History demonstrates this in great measure. So any who lay claim to be Christians are likely to claim falsely, either in ignorance, or deliberately.

            Whether the five authors mentioned were genuine is matter for individual scrutiny. As soon as one examines their separate beliefs, one sees that they are mutually exclusive. Therefore, either A.N.Wilson has not done anything like sufficient research, or he is lying, being one of the many false teachers promised by Jesus and his followers.

          • Chas Grant

            A truly comprehensive reply with which I cannot disagree.

          • pobjoy

            Thank you.

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            But did you see things that way before? And did John Milton? If not; imposters, all.

          • Chas Grant

            Isn’t Genesis 22:18 commonly interpreted as a promise of a messiah to Abraham?

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            Only by commentators who claim (improbably) that ‘seed’ really means messiah. The word messiah occurs here and there in the OT, mostly in the prophetic books, and not really in the sense that christians have taken it to mean. Christians are welcome to the concept (along with the suffering servant and so on) but it’s not to be found in Gen 22:18

          • pobjoy

            ‘Only by commentators who claim (improbably) that ‘seed’ really means messiah.’

            They don’t, do they.

            Jeffrey is a serial liar. What is the issue? Homosexuality?

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            Umm… the issue is whether seed means messiah.

          • pobjoy

            Homosexuality.

          • pobjoy

            Gen 22:18 NIV
            “… through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

            People with Jewish names have benefited the world through music, and humour, perhaps. But it’s hard to see how else they have blessed the world. The biblical Israel was at least as much disloyal to deity as loyal. So Jesus as Messiah is the only possibility.

            Obviously, many people will interpret ‘bless’ as ‘curse’; but that’s even more evidence for Jesus being the blessing promised to Abraham.

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            Their stated views on the fundamentals of xstianity are compatible (Jesus was the saviour, all those who believe etc etc). If they differed in their politics, their attitude to church history or their views on predestination, that is not enough to disqualify them. If it did, we could not accept anyone’s self-definition; and then we enter the epoch of denunciations, purges and inquisitions. It’s like the interminable squabbles about proper socialism, true Islam or the meaning of the American constitution. No worldview or doctrine endures for even a century without spawning rival claims and personal responses. You may argue for your version, but it is simply forlorn to expect everyone to see it your way (especially if we are supposed to grasp instantly what is going on inside your head)

          • pobjoy

            ‘Their stated views on the fundamentals of xstianity are compatible’

            Then why do the bodies they represent steadfastly refuse to meet? One cannot call another a fellow, and stay apart; yet every town has at least half a dozen separate, separated groups of people calling themselves Christians. If the differences are too small to matter, are compatible, what is their problem? Body odour?

            No. The point is that the differences *do* matter, and they matter enough to make the difference between salvation and damnation, as serious punters well realise. It was precisely because of that *existential* danger that separate denominations and cults arose in the first place. But one can leave one heresy to fall into another; and all five of the authors listed are heretics, one way or another. That was presumably, certainly predictably, the criterion of A.N. Wilson.

            A man walks into a bar. His pal, already supping, says, “What’s your poison?” referring to the large range of drinks on offer. That’s the choice presented by all of the denominations and cults. You can ‘buy’ anything, as long as it’s ‘poisonous’. That’s why Christians don’t attend the denoms now, preferring their own company in house churches, or possibly Independents. A.N. Wilson won’t mention them as a valid alternative, you can bet your pension on that. Unless he becomes a Christian, of course.

    • linda_jcollins

      ╍●‿●╍❁█❁_❁●‿●❁_❁

      Just I saw A Bank Draft 75oo Usd by doing Simple C0mputer J0bs.Piper . I didn’t believe that…my… neighbours mother truley taking home money part time at there labtop. . there great aunt has been doing this 4 only 22 months and a short time ago took care of the debts on their villa and bourt themselves a Lexus LS400 .

      ======== HAVE A LOOK TO THE LINK FOR YOUR BRIGHT FUTURE ========

      ➡➡➡➡ https://THEBILGATESWORLD.COM

    • Hamiltonian

      If Tolstoy, Lewis, and Belloc (I am less familiar with Betjeman) don’t qualify as christians to you, who does?

      I have theological differences with all of the above myself, but all of them (save Milton) could say the Apostles Creed without reservation.

      • pobjoy

        Satan could say ‘the Apostles Creed’ without reservation. He wrote it.

        Are the stated views of John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman mutually compatible?

        • Hamiltonian

          Satan wrote the Apostles Creed? Really?

          Belloc was a fervent Catholic, Lewis a tepid Protestant, but they all believed in Christ crucified and risen again. As the person making the outlandish claim, it is on you to prove your ideas.

          • pobjoy

            ‘Belloc was a fervent Catholic, Lewis a tepid Protestant, but they all believed in Christ crucified and risen again.’

            What does Christ risen again think about their differences? In your view.

          • Hamiltonian

            I’m a Calvinist, so I disagree with both of them, but I still believe orthodox Catholics and Anglicans are Christians. The same for Lutherans and the Eastern Churches, as well as uniquely Anglo inventions like Methodism, the Baptist movements, and sundry other smaller movements. Even the Charismatics. All of us agree on the essentials of the faith, even if I believe Reformed doctrine is the best way to avoid lapsing into heretical practice.

          • sidor

            Newton didn’t believe in Trinity, and the Orthodox don’t accept unintelligible and obviously pagan filioque clause. Do you regard them as christians?

          • Hamiltonian

            The Orthodox pray the pictures, what is more pagan than that? However, one does not have to agree with someone entirely to consider them members of their faith.

          • sidor

            Still, the symbol of faith must be formulated in an unambiguous way. Filioque is definitely pagan and inconsistent with the first commandment.

            The Orthodox icons are an obvious compromise established after the iconoclastic wars. In this sense the Orthodox Christianity is a middle point between the actual (archaic) christianity and its Latin pagan interpretation where 3D idols are worshipped. However, the (real) icons are deliberately painted in a way the excludes their connection to the physical world, most notably the perspective.

          • alfredo

            St John of Damascus explained long ago that icons are merely the means through which prayer passes to its addressee. And icons are not mere ‘pictures’.

          • pobjoy

            ‘St John of Damascus’

            Did God tell us that he was a saint?

          • alfredo

            No, the Church did. Why do you ask?

          • pobjoy

            Can those who insist that their own opinions be regarded as authoritative be regarded as Christians?

            Would it be inappropriate to imprison or hospitalise them, at the very least, for the safety of the general public?

          • Hamiltonian

            You are welcome to your interpretation, but I am opposed to praying to saints completely, as well as any physical manifestations to use to center prayer. I don’t think disagreeing with me makes anyone a non-Christian however.

          • pobjoy

            ‘I’m a Calvinist’

            Does that mean that you are a vile bit of scum, who lies and evades questions, on the anonymous internet?

            ‘Belloc was a fervent Catholic, Lewis a tepid Protestant, but they all believed in Christ crucified and risen again.’

            What does Christ risen again think about their differences? In your view.

            Fwiw.

          • Hamiltonian

            What?

            I’m sure Christ would have preferred a more unified Church, but I think both myself and Christ see folks like you as the major impediment to that happening.

          • pobjoy

            ‘What?’

            Fwiw, for what it’s worth. Your opinion. Which is insulting to educated people.

            Try the Mail.

          • Hamiltonian

            No, plenty of educated people agree with me. Your thoughts, however, are so disjointed that I have no idea whether you are an atheist, a westboro baptist type, or a weird modern gnostic.

          • justejudexultionis

            Excellent. Good to see someone with Reformed convictions on this website. England is in mass apostasy. Only when atheism, materialism, Islam, Roman Cathololicism etc. have been neutralised can we begin to progress again as a nation.

            semper reformanda
            sola scriptura soli deo gloria

          • alfredo

            How odd that you should have chosen as a pen-name a line from the Dies Irae in the Requiem Mass, than which nothing could be more ‘Roman Catholic’.

          • pobjoy

            Well observed.

            Biographies of supposedly Christian leaders such as Wesley make careful record of their conversions. It is notable that biographers and historians of Calvin state that Calvin never made claim to conversion. He remained a Catholic, therefore.

            Calvin was also a lawyer, and his tricky lawyer’s mind is seen in his extensive work. The net result of all of that was to present the same hypocrisy that had brought papalism into near-fatal disrepute, but without the more egregious signs of heresy. His strictly enforced morality, as suffered by the poor people of Geneva, was one effect of that.

          • Hamiltonian

            I am in agreement with you on England, but I am a Yank myself (my grandmother was born and raised in North Wales, and my grandfather in Northern England, which is why my father and I remain very much attached to this part of our heritage). I regret to say that my church has recently even poached one of the last few Scottish Reformed ministers from his perch in London. All of the the UK’s current issues (whether Scots Nationalism, growing Islam, or the growing radicalised Left) are the result of the loss of the Reformed theology that bound the nation together.

          • alfredo

            I don’t think you could fairly call someone (Lewis) who went to the trouble of writing a cartload of books about his faith a tepid anything.

          • pobjoy

            The word ‘tepid’ was not mine. Though Lewis was a Catholic pretending to be a Protestant. A ‘cunning Catholic’ might be a better description.

          • alfredo

            Insofar as he was an orthodox Anglican he was a ‘Catholic’. Nothing cunning about it.

          • pobjoy

            It is obvious that I referred to Roman Catholicism, and that ‘alfredo’ is unfit to post.

            To say the best of him.

          • Hamiltonian

            You seem to be obsessed with telling people they don’t have the right to post. Are you some sort of self-declared moderator?

          • Hamiltonian

            I was not referring to his Christianity as being tepid, but his Protestantism.

      • Chas Grant

        I’m curious – what do you mean by “save Milton” in connection with saying the Apostles’ Creed?

        • Hamiltonian

          Milton was not a trinitarian, he was an Arian.

          • Chas Grant

            Thanks – I honestly didn’t know that.

        • pobjoy

          Milton was a sensible man in practical matters, but was not the orthodox believer that many English people suppose him to have been. He was a monist, a view that none of the olther five would have taken seriously, other than Tolstoy, perhaps. He was also an Arian, which the Trinitarian heretic cult of Belloc condemned, though Arianism and Catholic Trinitarianism are little different, in practice. The same cult condemned the Trinitarians Lewis and Betjeman for public (if not private) belief in justification by faith, because, when combined with that belief, Trinitarianism loses much of its heresy value. Betjeman would have found Lewis’ apparent certainty, and his ‘Mere Christianity’, unpalatable. Lewis would have been more kindly in reciprocation, but, like many literati, would not have taken Betjeman’s fuzzy, comfy views seriously. Tolstoy would have called down a plague on all their houses, though his own beliefs were as heterodox as those of Milton.

          What Wilson’s selection has in common is that these authors are all wrong! One supposes that Wilson would never have contemplated commenting on John Wyclif or John Bunyan, whose orthodoxy and reliance on biblical resources were far greater than any of these. Apart from Lewis, these five writers were *incidentally* believers. They were not practical claimants to Christianity, whose names are rarely known to the public; and neither were they theologians, who rarely have much influence these days, unless it is of a liberal and controversial sort. Apart from Lewis, they have had no great influence on today’s UK population, in any respect, let alone as Christians. Even Lewis was relatively obscure, before TV took a strange interest. That sudden popularity may seem to be Wilson’s sole, thin excuse.

          • Chas Grant

            Yes, you’re quite right. Milton’s beliefs were more than a little unconventional.

    • alfredo

      What do you mean by that? First of all, a Christian is one who has been baptised with water in the name of the Trinity – until he/she repudiates that baptism. Second, all those in the list quite specifically stated that they were Christians. Are you suggesting they didn’t know what they were?

      • pobjoy

        ‘a Christian is one who has been baptised with water in the name of the Trinity’

        Is that definition found in the Bible? If not, why should it be taken as authoritative?

        • alfredo

          Because it is the consistent teaching of the undivided Church, which produced the New Testament and decided which scriptures are authentic, thus giving us ‘the Bible’, which cannot be reliably interpreted outside the body of believers to whom it belongs.

          • pobjoy

            ‘Because it is the consistent teaching of the undivided Church’

            Then the correct definition is to be found in the Bible. Paul, Peter, Jude and John all warned of false teachers or antichrists already in the church, and James warned about nominalism. Therefore, nothing written subsequent to the NT on the subject of Christian teaching can be regarded as reliable; the definition of Christian status given is not found in the NT, and is therefore from an irresponsible source, that, in the historic circumstances, could be a symptom of intention of war criminality.

          • alfredo

            Dear me.

          • pobjoy

            Defeated you.

          • alfredo

            If that was the object of the exercise, I have no objection to your thinking so. But I hope that in exchange, you won’t mind my concluding, reluctantly, that you’re not quite right in the head – or heart – and that I’ve been wasting my time corresponding with you. You strike me as yet another auto-didact, and such people, lacking mental discipline, can become a major problem for rational discourse.

          • pobjoy

            ‘If that was the object of the exercise’

            That’s rich, coming from the one who wrote ‘Dear me’.

            You’re in shock. You’re at a crisis point. You realise that the Bible says that every word that cometh out of the Vatican, that ever came out of the Vatican, is demonic. We both knew that anyway, but you didn’t realise that the Bible said so.

  • Hollie

    Last 40 year Best Home Income with spectator < ……. Find Here

  • Hegelman

    Christianity is an anti-Semitic cult and indeed the big original fount of anti-Semitism.

    It has caused untold havoc in the world – you only have to ask the Jews.

    It also inspired much good. In this sense it is like Islam and Communism.

    • sidor

      In what way Jesus, a jewish fundamentalist inspiring jews against the Roman occupational administration and the Roman puppet priests in the Temple could be antisemitic?

      • alfredo

        He didn’t inspire Jews against the Roman occupation. That was probably Judas. You’ll be telling us he was a cultural Marxist next. Some even among the clergy believe that nowadays. He wasn’t an alchemist either.

        • sidor

          You should discuss facts as presented in the Scripture, rather than speculate about Marxism. His action against money changers and advice not to use the Roman coins were clearly directed at undermining the monetary system of the Roman rule in Judea. Non-violent resistance in the style of Gandhi.

          • alfredo

            Not ‘clearly’ at all, since he never, as far as we know, advised people not to use the Roman coins. Quite the contrary – ‘Render unto Caesar’. His objection to the money-changers was that they were hindering the use of the Temple as a place of prayer. Nothing to do with coinage. Nor was his approach to them exactly ‘non-violent’.

          • sidor

            You are seemingly unaware of the situation described by the Scripture. First, temple, and the money changers were key elements of the Roman monetary system in the province, since the Jews refused to use coins with Caesar picture.

            Second, the instruction to the Jews was (Aramaic text):
            Yeshua said to them, “Give what is Caesar’s to Caesar and what is God’s to God.”

            Jesus was thus organising a disruption of the coin circulation and thereby undermining the Roman system of tax collection. This was equal to a revolt.

          • alfredo

            You’re making it up I’m afraid. And where have you found the Aramaic text of Jesus’s words? They are a clear instruction to obey the secular authorities in those things which are properly within their jurisdiction. That is not a revolt.

    • alfredo

      I don’t think the balance between good and evil caused by Christianity is QUITE the same as with Islam and communism …

      • pobjoy

        ‘the balance between good and evil caused by Christianity’

        What is that balance? What Christianity has done is precisely what Jesus and his apostles said would happen; give rise to false claimants bearing false ‘fables’, to persecution of real claimants by false ones, and the smearing of the name of Christ by false claimants.

      • Hegelman

        True. Islam and Communism were relatively less evil. Christianity inspired the folk hatred of Jews over the centuries that made the Holocaust possible.

        So no: the weight of evil was greater in Christianity.

        Christianity has been the most SINISTER of the world religions precisely because its msk of humility conceals a depth of hate unknown before it. Anti-Semitism is the immortal soul of Christianity.

        • pobjoy

          Hegelmann has a massive problem with Christianity. It may be to do with pride, money or sexuality, or a combination. Knowing that papalism was a reaction to Christ by criminals as much challenged by Christ as he is, he foists onto the following of Christ responsibility for the crimes of people who murdered Christians. So Hegelmann knows that he has a lot to pay for, when he dies; though he will probably escape sentencing before then.

          • George Drca

            Pobjoy, what makes you so scathing of people who write about the Bible in a way that shows they cannot square *all* of it with experience in their own life and times?
            Is it
            (a) that you have sinned against the 10 commandments almost never, and despise those who let themselves, and others, off punishment the first time, ignore the threat of damnation the second offence, and ultimately don’t care that after physical death they will be punished (according to parts of scripture) for eternity?
            (b) you have had a transendental experience which you think was sent by God as a promise or a warning?
            (c) In every human interaction you let your heart make the decision that you are not infracting the injunctions to Faith, Hope and Charity?
            (d) You are a Pharisee, an expert on chapter and verse, who stamps on every deviation from The Rules (interpreted and enforced by yourself) of Obedience to the present-day, actual real human, Spiritual leaders of the Christian flock?

            In any of these cases, you are awfully sure of yourself.

          • pobjoy

            ‘what makes you so scathing of people who write about the Bible in a way that shows they cannot square *all* of it with experience in their own life and times?’

            How does that relate to:

            ‘Christianity has been the most SINISTER of the world religions’ ?

            The qualities expected by a church in its members are honesty, kindness, patience, willingness to forgive, peaceableness, humility, reliability, generosity and self-control. Which of those gives offence?

        • Hamiltonian

          Christianity began in the 1st century AD. It was at the very earliest the 4th century, and most likely the 9th century before Christians killed over to spread the Gospel. Meanwhile, Communism was invented in the 19th century, and by the very early 20th century, people were dying over it. I don’t know how you could possibly compare the two and not see how Communism is more dangerous. As for Islam, the very founder of Islam was a warlord and a brigand. I don’t know of any religion where, within the life of the founder, they have committed genocide. I also don’t see how you can prove that anti-semitism is a Christian invention when Muslims also have a large problem with anti-semitism. Perhaps it has more to do with humanity’s tendency towards xenophobia.

          • Hegelman

            Mohamed may have been a warlord and a brigand but he founded a civilization that gave humanity great things like algebra (an Arabic word) and the foundations of mathematics and the most beautiful architecture mankind has yet known. Without Islam we would not have the Alhambra and the Taj Mahal. Similarly Communism was often cruel but made possible the great books of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky and the poems of Blok and Yesenin and the films of Eisenstein and the plays of Brecht

          • Hamiltonian

            It is much more likely that the Islamic world came to a temporary advantage in mathematics and architecture (an advantage that clearly ended around 1200-1300, for obvious reasons) because of it’s geographical position, not anything intrinsic to Islam. If you have conquered territory from the Byzantines, the Persians, the Egyptians, and Indians, you are bound to create something new and unique by synthesizing these disparate advanced cultures. I think it is more impressive that Christian nations, established in areas of the world that had never seen an advanced civilization in their entire history, were able to make impressive progress on economic and philosophical matters and to indeed, reverse Northern Europe’s traditional status as a barbarian backwater.

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            I don’t see that a creative synthesis is bound to happen; look at Tamburlaine, for example. I agree with you nonetheless that the ‘genius of Islam’ argument is insufficient, chiefly because they didn’t see it that way themselves. Between 1000 and 1500 Islamic territories were conquered over and over by turks, uzbeks, uighurs, cumans, circassians, mongols…they came to stay, went native, and presided over (islamic) civilisations that were very often considerable in their achievements. But they didn’t attribute all of this to an creator spirit that oozed from the pages of their holy book.

        • alfredo

          So Christianity more evil than Islam and Communism (put together of separately)? I think your rather startling view of the world may be distorted by something in your own experience or psyche.

          • Hegelman

            Talk to the Jews.

          • Hamiltonian

            For some reason, there seem to be rather more Jews in Europe than in the middle east. I have also noticed that the world’s sole Jewish majority nation has rather warm relations with the world’s more Christian nations, and poorer relations with Islamic and Communist nations. How do you square that circle?

          • Hegelman

            Have a word with the Jews about how one third of the Jewish population of the world was wiped out in Europe – an incredible crime unthinkable without 2000 years of fanatical Christian Jew hatred.

          • Hamiltonian

            The vast majority of the murders of Jews in europe were committed by the pagan Nazis. Meanwhile, the Islamic World, there are less Jews, very few Christians, Yazidi, Druze, or Zoroastrians, all in the area of the world these religions are native to.

          • Hegelman

            You don’t seem to be able to read. I said:

            “…one third of the Jewish population of the world was wiped out in Europe – an incredible crime unthinkable without 2000 years of fanatical Christian Jew hatred.”
            Hitler often cited Jesus against the Jews and most Nazis were Christian. The idea that they were pagan is a tired myth. See Richard Steagmann-Gall’s authoritative “The Holy Reich”.

          • Hamiltonian

            Yes, they just repeatedly ran jailed pastors for no reason. I’m sure there were Christian nazis, but the high command was interested in racial purity and ancient german myth, not Christianity. Of course Hitler was going to make an appeal to a more popular idea than his own to justify his actions.

            I would point out, once again, that even with the Nazi atrocity, there were many more jews living in Christian europe than the Muslim middle east in 1948.

          • Hegelman

            As I said:

            “Islam and Communism were relatively less evil. Christianity inspired the folk hatred of Jews over the centuries that made the Holocaust possible.”

    • Hamiltonian

      Christianity was started by Jews, and for its first hundred or so years was considered a version of Judaism by the authorities. I would also note that despite how often I’ve been told about the Christian pogroms and the Muslim toleration of the Jews, there were still more Jews in Christian Europe than the Islamic middle east, even after the atrocity perpetrated by the Norse pagan Nazis.

      • Jeffrey Vernon

        I don’t know how you can be so sure about the jewish population of europe or the middle east at that time; who was counting? Jews were prominent in middle eastern public life throughout the middle ages, for example in Persia (under the Abbasids and the Mongols).

        • Hamiltonian

          Yes, which indicated a significant population Jews. Yet when the state of Israel was founded, there were not that many left throughout the entire Muslim world.

  • The Bible is in some ways one of the most unusual of religious books if one compares it to the writings of ancient religions and to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and so on – in that it is intensely self-critical, and the writers have committed to paper narratives no other religion would allow. It chooses truth over vanity. It is, I think, the most honest. But besides the tribal narrative, there is an immense and enduring power. that from the Old Testament onwards offers the hope of reconciliation and salvation to not only to Jews, but to all the people’s of the world. Someone who has only read snippets will be surprised how strong the desire is in the Old Testament for Jews to reach out to non-Jews.

    • Hamiltonian

      I have long felt that the unity of scriptures that even the most liberal scholars agree were written across centuries by various different peoples, was one of the most incredible things about christianity.

    • Hegelman

      What illiterate, ignorant drivel. Other religions are in fact far more self-critical and open.

  • Terence Hale

    Books of faith have moved people, for many they are a moat protecting a castle of morel for others they are a weapon. Martin Luther broke the “Da Vinci’s Code” and made the Bible freely available to all, the Quran with its historical ambiguities has made the day. The word remains with an open question, which word?

  • pobjoy

    ‘the biographer of influential Christians such as John Milton, Hilaire Belloc, Nikolai Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman’

    One cannot call another a fellow, and stay apart. Each of these men wrote of the implied beliefs of at least one of the others as heresy. Had each of these been contemporaries, living in the same town, they would never have associated, except for (no doubt interesting) literary discussions. For religious purposes, they would have gone their own ways. So, de facto, they would have condemned each other, in terms of common sense, and especially in terms of Christian teaching and practice, because they would not have prayed together. Even the two Anglicans would have kept themselves separated, because one of them was an evangelical (or so it was thought), and the other had particular distaste for evangelicalism.

    A distaste they all shared. As does A.N. Wilson, that reluctant believer. What unites them all is false belief, that takes many forms, because falsity is so easily spotted, so readily debunked.

  • pobjoy

    ‘He knocks over the easy targets of the fundamentalists and the literalists who claim that every word of the good book is true.’

    Is Aitken feeling ok? Does he really suppose that anyone takes as literally true this description of deity?

    ‘Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals
    flamed forth from him.’

    How many kilowatts is the Light of the World, Jonathan?

    If a fundamentalist is a literalist, there are none— not even in Alabama! The Bible is recognised as scripture precisely because, in its projected autographs, it has been found entirely true in some sense, very often by means of figurative language. That which has been found untrue has been filtered out.

    The Bible has been found to be entirely consistent and organically related from first word to last; a property that is unique, and difficult to explain of 66 books written by 40 authors over several centuries, who could not have colluded very much. Difficult to explain, unless the Bible is revelation of supernatural origin. That is presumably why the likes of A.N. Wilson read it, and write about it, in order to spread doubt about it, to contradict it, and to misrepresent it. They can’t possibly read it because they like it, anyway.

    • alfredo

      The Bible has been found … has been found … By whom exactly? And are you sure that it’s the work of exactly 40 authors? Why?

      • pobjoy

        ‘By whom exactly?’

        By scholars for the last five hundred years, whose work has been the culture of significant faculties in many universities in Western democracies, particularly Britain, Germany and the USA. Their total output is colossal.

        Before which, scholarship was either impossible, or impossible to publish, because scholarship was regarded as a threat to totalitarian governments.

        ‘And are you sure that it’s the work of exactly 40 authors?’

        No. It may be a few more, a few less. But the scholarly consensus is 40. I don’t think that this number is of religious significance. 🙂

        ‘Why?’

        For reasons of internal identification, external identification, chronology, purpose and literary style. As with any literature.

    • SarahAB

      But the Gospels give quite different accounts of various events. [I’m not particularly given to supremacist sentiments, but after reading this thread I’m quite glad I’m an atheist.]

      • pobjoy

        ‘the Gospels give quite different accounts of various events’

        There was never any doubt that some irritated person challenged by Jesus would post this tedious old chestnut, after a pause. Sarah, what is your hang-up? Money, sex, or just the notion that you are not the marvellous, perfect person that capitalists and their advertising stooges want you to believe?

        If Jesus was an invention, it would be expected that there would be only one record of him, as with the Qur’an’s ‘evidence’; or maybe two. But there are four, and the variation in them has long convinced that, if there was collusion, it was far more sophisticated than one would expect of ordinary humanity. It was the mention of lack of collusion that got you upset, wasn’t it, Sarah. I knew when I typed it that some guilt-ridden reader would get panicked by that. So your fearful, mendacious mind got to work. The differences signify authenticity. And that’s what raised your dander. You decided to make out the differences to be far more significant than they actually are. Look at yourself, pompous and self-righteous. What a nasty person you’ve become, eh. You need to do what Aitken claimed to have done, and that’s commit your life to Christ. Nobody can tell you that more than you can yourself.

        For what, to scholarship, seem the best and most natural of reasons, the gospels give different views of what are plainly the very same events, though they share the main significance of the meaning of Jesus, that his crucifixion was the means of salvation available to all, as shown by his resurrection. On points of minor detail they may *seem* to conflict, at times, but intelligent folk can always see that these are only natural variations, as the evidence given by witnesses in courts of law vary. Several scholarly gospel harmonisations taking account of all the variations have been made. Though, because these are minor, and could easily be put down to small memory lapses, it would seem like looking a gift horse in the mouth to use them as excuse not to accept the gift on offer in the gospels.

        • SarahAB

          I was only challenging your contention that the Bible was consistent. The different accounts in the Gospels suggest a complex pattern of influence between them (and other records, no longer extant). I didn’t say that the Gospels were inconsistent with the historical existence of Christ, only questioned whether they are ‘entirely consistent’ with each other. I agree that the differences could be a marker of authenticity, particularly as regards the later stages of Christ’s ministry as opposed to the birth narrative etc.

          • pobjoy

            ‘The different accounts in the Gospels suggest a complex pattern of influence between them’

            Three of the gospels were evidently taken from a core from a common source, that was almost certainly the ‘reservoir’ of lore held by the twelve disciples who had witnessed the whole of Jesus’ ministry. There were three of them, because they were addressed to three different constituencies, though personal attitudes as to how these were to be reached, with concomitant selections and emphases, contribute to the variety. The fourth is more concerned with abstractions, so does not make use of this reservoir. It takes a less factually detailed, more philosophical view, to meet the philosophical enquiries of another constituency.

            As with all literature that is not contemporary, readers need to understand the outlook and backgrounds of intended original readerships, and, once this is done with the gospels, as well as with the rest of the Bible, things that seemed out of place, fall into place,

  • Ivan Ewan

    L should stick to criminal investigations.

  • Paddy S

    What I often find amazing about the Good Book is that it does a far better job criticising religious and religious abuses than anything written by the new or old atheists. The prophets of the Old Testament were biting on this subject as was Christ himself.
    The Bible also is different like UKIPforBritain wrote in that it criticizes repeatedly the people it talks about from Kings, to men of God and lonely man and women with little exemptions something many other religious books fail to do, as they glorify their protaganists wheras Bible often whacks Jewish and Christian believers.

  • DonaldSNelson

    ^^^^^Reset your job with spectator.. < ***** Find Here

Close