In his book Who Is to Blame? Disasters, Nature and Acts of God (Oxford, UK and Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, 2014) Bob White presents a most helpful exploration of theodicy – defending the idea of a just and loving God in the face of what seems contrary evidence.
We have little problem in identifying where human beings, given freedom by God, act sinfully and cause the suffering of the innocent (‘moral evil’), but cases of disease and the tragedy of natural disasters are far more difficult to explain. We cannot begin to deal with these problems without asking serious questions about how we believe that God acts in the world, and this involves both a theological and a scientific perspective.
With the help of modern science we are able to predict where and when natural disasters are likely to take place. So countries which are rich in resources and technology could counter such anticipated problems and avoid the worst effects if they had the will-power to accept the economic costs; for example, houses need not be built on an earthquake fault, and farmers need not farm on the side of Mount Etna. Poorer countries have less choice and are less able to take evasive action. Unless developed countries are willing to share their wealth, living space and expertise with others less advantaged, large populations will go on living – for example – on the coastal flood plains of Bangladesh. Thus, when we raise the moral question of the goodness of God, we recognise that this also involves a moral issue for us. It is often a matter of justice.
Bob addresses these questions, while also addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ – population growth, which is a contributory factor in extent of many disasters.
Keith Innes provides a useful review of the book, which can be read here on the JRI website.
– Natalism and Bible Interpretation in Modern America
Religion is a wildcard in shaping birth rates. The normal factors that affect “ideal family size” e.g. women’s education & access to contraception, don’t much influence affluent American fundamentalists who (wrongly) interpret Bible verses like “be fruitful and multiply” as a divine desire today for high fecundity and big families. Happily, history shows that even fundamentalists’ interpretations can change (e.g. regarding slavery). JRI Associate Dr John McKeown has tackled this topic in his book “God’s Babies” which JRI are pleased to promote
“God’s first words to Adam and Eve recorded in Genesis 1 v 28 were ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….’ John McKeown in his book ‘God’s Babies’ takes these words and the many related references in the Bible and in Christian literature over the years and carefully discusses how Christians should apply them today in our increasingly crowded and damaged world. It is a subject of important relevance that we Christians today need to take on board. John’s thorough and careful treatise provides a good basis from which to begin.”
— Sir John Houghton CBE FRS
There is more information about this book from this page on our site, and it can be obtained from http://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/263/gods-babies–natalism-and-bible-interpretation-in-modern-america
Creating justice: considering our role in promoting Shalom with reflections on the medieval Carnival
We have taken the decision to open up the CRES days that we have been running very successfully at Ripon College Cuddesdon nr. Oxford to a wider audience. The next day will be on Saturday 8th November 2014 when our guest speakers will be Andy and Carol Kingston-Smith co-founders of the jusTice initiative. The morning sessions will explore connections between the Medieval Carnival and biblical principles of social justice, examining, in particular, the three themes of social inversion, laughter and the banquet. They will seek to stimulate a hopeful, critical and applied dialogue with the status quo of socio-economic inequality, and injustice, in contemporary Britain under the mediating influence of the biblical concept of shalom. In the afternoon session the focus will shift to justice in rural Latin America. The themes explored will be highly relevant to those on the CRES course, but could be taken as a stand-alone day for all interested in Global Justice. Do book soon! FULL DETAILS and BOOKING.
Bishop David Atkinson
Bishop David Atkinson has been very active on environmental matters in recent years. He was on the Board of Operation Noah, but has now retired from that post. The attached paper is a contribution he made to Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign about disinvestment from fossil fuels. This divestment movement was started by Bill McKibben and 350.org in the United States, but has spread to become an international movement. Essentially the movement is saying that organisations should get rid of their investments in fossil fuels to take a moral stance. If burning fossil fuels is bad for the planet and for the poorest people in the world should we continue to invest in them? Recent high profile organisations that have divested include the British Medical Association and the World Council of Churches. The Church of England has yet to decide, and Bishop David’s paper is his personal view on the issue. Although the PAPER is posted on the Bright Now web site, neither Operation Noah nor their Bright Now campaign is responsible for the views expressed in his paper. Similarly, the John Ray Initiative has no firm opinions yet on divestment, but we post the paper to help foster the debate. DOWNLOAD
Our latest newsletter has been published and is now online for viewing and download from the ‘Newsletters’ page, with options available for live active links and printable versions.
It is a 12-page edition, with a full report of the annual conference held at Redcliffe College on Saturday 1st March 2014 on the theme of ‘Sustainable Communities: What does the church have to offer?” It also includes information about CRES for the coming year; staff changes; recent publications; a new way of contributing to the funding of JRI; and more.
Rev Dr Mike Rayner
Food and Theology with Mike Rayner
For some years CRES (Christian Rural and Environmental Studies) have been running day conferences and residentials at Ripon College Cuddesdon near Oxford. These have been excellent days, but until now have only been open to present and past CRES students, and staff. We felt that it would be good to open up these sessions to a wider audience so that more could benefit from them. The first such session will be on Saturday 13th September 2014, and we are very pleased to have Rev Dr Mike Rayner* coming to take the morning for us on “Food and Theology”. Details of the programme, how to book and a biography of Mike are below. Hope to see you there!
10.00-11.00am Mike Rayner- Session 1. Theological reflections upon the production, distribution and consumption of food
11.00-11.30am Coffee in the Common Room
11.30-12.45pm Mike Rayner- Session 2. Practical applications of our theology of food, both local and global
1.00-2.00pm Lunch in Dining Hall
Depart after lunch
Please note that ALL who intend to come to Cuddesdon must book by 25th August. The fee for attendance for the morning is £20 including coffee and full lunch. Bookings will be dealt with by the CRES administrator, Lynda McKeown. Please send a cheque made out to THE JOHN RAY INITIATIVE to: The CRES Administrator, THE JOHN RAY INITIATIVE (JRI), Wotton House, Horton Road, Gloucester GL1 3PT, UK
Telephone (mobile): 07583 481759. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please book early. Travel directions etc. will be forwarded to you with confirmation of your booking.
* Mike Rayner is Director of the British Heart Foundation Health Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, based in the Nuffield Department of Population Health of the University of Oxford. The Centre, which Mike founded in 1993, is a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre. Mike is also Chair of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming and Chair of its Children’s Food Campaign in the UK. He is a trustee of the UK Health Forum, Chair of the Nutrition Expert Group for the European Heart Network based in Brussels and a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel of the International Obesity Task Force. He is also an ordained priest in the Church of England and the Assistant Curate at St Matthew’s Church, Oxford.