Archive: March 2021 - Operation Noah

March 2021 newsletter

Posted in: Newsletters

Read our March newsletter.

It is a sign of the times that this month we have news of no fewer than six online webinars, both live and recorded (including our Anglican Communion webinar later this week – sign up now!).

We also have an excellent new two-part blog from our Chair, Revd Darrell Hannah. If you’ve ever had a frustrating conversation with a Christian about the interaction between science and faith it’s worth ten minutes of your time.

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Science and the Bible, part two

Posted in: Articles, Blog, Theology

In the second of a two-part blog, Operation Noah’s Chair, Rev Darrell D. Hannahconsiders the Bible and its relationship with science. Read part one.

The Bible must be approached on its own terms, not ours. That means, to choose just one of the more important implications, we must read the Bible remembering that it was written in a very different historical context from our own. When I was a PhD student, I remember a conversation I had with a member of my church. She had heard I was pursuing doctoral studies in the New Testament. She said something like, ‘You are just the man; I have always wondered about this.’ She picked up a Bible and turned to first chapter of Genesis and read to me,

And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky’. (Genesis 1:6-8, NIV)

She then turned to me and asked, ‘what is this “vault”‘? I began to explain that the common view in the ancient near east held that the world consisted of three levels, a flat earth, surmounted by a dome, which was the sky, and subterranean sea, which led down to the underworld. A pained look came onto her face and she said, ‘But, it isn’t true!’ She knew that the world was a globe spinning in space. 

The Bible was not written in a historical vacuum. Nor did God, in a Star Trek manner, beam the authors of the various books of the Bible out of their historical context and into ours when they wrote. Rather, they wrote assuming their context – just as all human writers have since time immemorial. The author of Genesis had no conception of the world as a globe spinning in space as it revolves around the sun. He (it was probably a ‘he’) did understand that all things owe their existence to God and that God, unlike many of the ancient near eastern myths, did not find creation a struggle. God simply spoke and creation flowed into being. To compel our scientific understanding of the world into conformity with the ancient near eastern assumptions of the biblical authors is to take the Bible on our terms not on its. It reflects not so much a reverence for Scripture, but an unwillingness to let go of our presuppositions and to appreciate the difference between the biblical world and our own.

Finally, the Bible makes clear in a number of places (e.g., Ps 8; 19; 104; Romans 1:18-23) that creation itself reveals to us something of the majesty and character of God. Theologians refer to this as ‘general revelation’, as opposed to the specific revelation contained in the Scriptures and, above all, in the Person of Christ. General revelation can never reveal as much to us of God as does the Bible and Jesus. Nonetheless, the Bible takes seriously the idea that creation reflects the beauty and faithfulness and wisdom of its Creator. As a masterpiece of the Supreme Artist, it bears, as it were, his signature. Science, as the study of creation, witnesses to this Artist by investigating his masterpiece. To refuse to see in scientists – and climate scientists – prophets of our age is to deny this central biblical doctrine. 

Darrell is the rector of All Saints parish church, Ascot Heath. An American, Darrell moved to the UK in 1992 to pursue a doctorate at the University of Cambridge, in Christian Origins, and has lived here ever since. He moved into full-time parish ministry, in 2008, after academic posts at the universities of Sheffield, Birmingham and Oxford. 

Read part one

Want to learn more? Tenants of the King is a Bible-based, Jesus-centred small group study resource from Operation Noah. It is designed to help you and your church consider what the Bible has to say about today’s climate crisis.

Science and the Bible, part one

Posted in: Articles, Blog, Theology

In the first of a two-part blog, Operation Noah’s Chair, Rev Darrell D. Hannah, considers the Bible and its relationship with science.

Operation Noah’s concise theological statement Climate Change and the Purposes of God (CCPG) likens climate scientists to Israel’s prophets who spoke uncomfortable and disturbing truths which the Old Testament kingdoms of Israel and Judah did not welcome. The framers of CCPG and the rest of us at ON manifestly place a high premium on science. After all, our strapline is: Faith-motivated. Science-informed. Hope-inspired. There are, however, some Christians who remain deeply suspicious of science. For them, modern science is the implacable enemy of faith. Especially in the United States – but not just there – one encounters the idea among certain Christians that beginning with the theory of evolution modern science made a decisively wrong turn in direction. Such Christians not only reject human and animal evolution, but the consensus among geologists concerning the age of the earth, the consensus among geneticists concerning the age and shared ancestry of humans and much else besides (Why creationism bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory).

It is not surprising that among such Christians, concern for the environment tends to be negligible at best. Having dismissed the evidence for evolution as error inspired by Satan, there is little reason to pay attention to the scientific consensus for the current climate crisis. 

While I am not a scientist and not competent to comment on any scientific consensus or theory, I have no doubt that the root of the problem lies not so much with science but with the view of the Bible embraced by such Christians. Wishing to take the Bible seriously and to stand with it – even if that means standing against the rest of the world – when modern science and the Bible are presented as being in opposition, they naturally choose the Bible: science must be wrong. 

Having dedicated most of my adult life to the study of the Bible, I am convinced such Christians do not take the Bible too seriously. Rather, they do not take it seriously enough. For example, Christians who dismiss evolution and climate change tend to read all the different books of the Bible in the same way. A moment’s reflection will show how mistaken an approach this is. We don’t read a book of history the same way we read a collection of poetry; we read a Mills & Boon novel with different presuppositions and expectations than a biography of a major historical figure or even a science fiction novel. In the same way, to read the Psalms just as one reads the historical books of Samuel and Kings would not reflect a serious engagement with the Bible, but instead a superficial approach. Or to read the Gospels or the apocalyptic books, Daniel and Revelation, with the same expectations that one reads the erotic poem that is the Song of Songs (or Solomon), would only lead to serious misunderstanding.

When paying attention to the clues in the text of the different books of the Bible, and even to different portions within those books, it becomes clear that the Bible contains a number of different genres. Nowhere among the various writings that make up the Bible do we encounter a work of ancient science – to say nothing of modern science! More importantly, if we give careful attention of the text of Genesis, it is clear that its first eleven chapters differ in genre from the rest of the book. While in Genesis 12–50 we may be dealing with a kind of family history, in Genesis 1–11 we are dealing with something more like saga or myth (understanding the term ‘myth’ not as a lie, but as a story by which the ancients made sense of and interpreted their world). To read the creation story or the account of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden as scientific or historical accounts is to ignore clues the text of Genesis gives as to how they should be read.

Darrell is the rector of All Saints parish church, Ascot Heath. An American, Darrell moved to the UK in 1992 to pursue a doctorate at the University of Cambridge, in Christian Origins, and has lived here ever since. He moved into full-time parish ministry, in 2008, after academic posts at the universities of Sheffield, Birmingham and Oxford. 

Read part two

Want to learn more? Tenants of the King is a Bible-based, Jesus-centred small group study resource from Operation Noah. It is designed to help you and your church consider what the Bible has to say about today’s climate crisis.


Anglican Communion webinar

Posted in: Events, Featured
Date posted: 8 March 2021

Operation Noah is pleased to be organising this free webinar.

Register for your free place.

The webinar will provide an overview of how Churches in the Anglican Communion can act for climate justice ahead of COP26 through divestment and investment.

Across the Anglican Communion, Churches are supporting a just and green recovery by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean alternatives. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have divested from fossil fuels. The Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church are set to debate divestment at Governing Body meetings in the coming months. There have also been calls for the Church of England to accelerate divestment from fossil fuels, following a motion on divestment passed at General Synod in 2018.

Join this interactive webinar to hear from inspiring leaders across the Anglican Communion, who will share their insights about the steps that Churches need to take on divestment and investment ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

The webinar will provide an excellent opportunity to find out how you can get involved in campaigning for divestment in your local church, diocese and at a national level.

We are delighted to welcome the following speakers:

Keynote speaker: Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford: Fossil fuel divestment, positive investment and the urgent need for a just and green recovery from Covid-19

Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network: The theological underpinnings of divestment

Revd Jacynthia Murphy, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia: The impact of the climate crisis in the Pacific Islands and decision of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to divest

Very Revd John Conway, Provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh: How St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral divested from fossil fuels and what needs to happen now in the Scottish Episcopal Church

Revd Stuart Elliott, Vicar of Betws-y-Coed Parish Church and Member of Church in Wales’ Environment Group and Ethical Investment Group: Fossil fuel divestment in the Church in Wales and investment in climate solutions

Stephen Trew, Member of the Church of Ireland General Synod: The Church of Ireland divestment journey

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah: Key findings of the report Church investments in major oil companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant?

It will provide an opportunity to find out more about how your Church, Diocese or Province can join the next global divestment announcement for faith institutions on 17 May 2021.

The webinar is organised by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Operation Noah, Christian Aid, Tearfund and Eco-congregation Scotland.

Registered charity number 1138101