Doctor Who Meets Jesus

TARDISI know I am showing my age by saying so, but I remember when police boxes like this were really to be seen on the streets of England. I remember where I was, in the town of Leatherhead, Surrey, when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot. And I also remember where I was the very next day, at home nearby, when I watched the first ever episode of Doctor Who, now

the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and … the “most successful” science fiction series of all time.

I didn’t watch any more of that first series, probably because my parents thought it too scary for their eight-year-old boy. Over the 48 years since then I have seen quite a few of the nearly 800 episodes, but I have never been a regular fan.

But I know that several of my blogging buddies are fans, although the Americans among them cannot have been watching for anything like as long as I have. Among them are James McGrath, who has posted on Harmonizing Judas With Doctor Who. As part of that he has started a meme

to come up with the most creative, outlandish, entertaining or humorous way of harmonizing the [biblical] accounts that you can.

His own offering harmonises the different gospel accounts of Judas by bringing in Doctor Who, and his TARDIS time machine in the form of a police box. My offering towards his meme (first seen as a comment on his blog, slightly edited here) is a continuation of his own story. This isn’t so much harmonising the gospel accounts as reconciling their harmonised accounts with the science fiction world view:

When the Doctor had finished with Judas, he took the TARDIS to Gethsemane, while Jesus was praying and the disciples were sleeping.

“Jesus,”, he said, “you don’t have to die. Just come with me in the TARDIS.”

“No, Doctor. Get behind me, Satan! God’s will has to be done.”

“OK, but come with me for a short trip first, and I’ll bring you back here, before your friends even wake up.”

First they travel ahead three days and appear outside a guarded tomb. The Doctor makes himself look like an angel, puts the guards to sleep, opens up the tomb, and takes the body. Then he sends Jesus out to comfort a woman in mourning.

They move on and in the evening materialise the TARDIS inside a locked upper room, and Jesus takes another trip outside.

Then a few more appearances, including one by the Sea of Galilee, and another at the Mount of Olives, where the TARDIS hovers in a cloud and draws Jesus up with a tractor beam (oops, wrong sci-fi series there I think).

Finally they fast forward a few years and appear in a blinding flash on the Damascus road.

Only then does the Doctor take Jesus back to Gethsemane. “Now at least they won’t forget you after you die”, he says in parting.

Or maybe the biblical accounts of the Resurrection are more believable taken at face value …

By the way, in case anyone from the BBC reads this (Tom, that includes you!), I claim copyright on this storyline, but I am prepared to licence it to the producers for a reasonable fee.

Who should I vote for?

Thanks to clayboy (Doug Chaplin) for the link to this quiz. In the light of his recent past attacks on the Liberal Democrats I was surprised to see that he came out as a recommended Lib Dem voter. I was less surprised to find the same for myself. The following are my results as copied from their site:

Take the Who Should You Vote For? England quiz

You expected: LIB

Your recommendation: Liberal Democrat

Click here for more details about these results

Update 2: Solved the formatting problem, I think, by replacing the problematic HTML with an image.

What kind of political animal are you?

I thank the Church Times blog for a link to SUSA, which is a new initiative “led by Bible Society with support from 24-7 Prayer” with the vision

To encourage and equip Christians in the UK to become more extensively and effectively engaged in politics and government.

On the SUSA front page you can take a light-hearted quiz “What kind of political animal are you?”, with questions which allow readers to

create your virtual cabinet and find out how your faith and politics match up!

I took the test, with questions which really made me think, for example about how far it is the government’s job to uphold moral standards. I ended up with a personal “cabinet” consisting of Tony Blair, Che Guevara and Bono! Presumably my views are supposed to line up with theirs. I also received a report complete with cute cartoons of my cabinet members, as well as with a personalised list of recommended resources – you may be able to see it here.

But, better than reading my report, take the test for yourself – and let me know in the comments who is in your cabinet.

Five statement Bible summary

Sorry for not much blogging recently. As a newly married man I have new responsibilities, and a new way of life to adjust to. Also I have been doing some temporary paid work, for the first time for some time, and on top of that I have been having serious computer problems. Now the work has come to an end, at least for this week, and the computer is just about working again. So I have had some time to catch up on blog reading, and have just found enough for a short post …

Doug Chaplin, a.k.a. Clayboy, has tagged me with The new five statement bible summary meme. He also tagged David Ker, whose response is the only other one I have seen. These are the rules for the meme, which seems to have originated with Doug:

Summarise the Bible in five statements, the first one word long, the second two, the third three, the fourth four and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.

I’ll try this in descending order.

  1. God created everything very good.
  2. Human beings messed up.
  3. Chosen people failed.
  4. Jesus succeeded.
  5. Wow!

Of course here I gloss over the entire church age, by no means a “wow” time, to the best one word summary I can think of for the ultimate Christian hope.

Like David Ker I will decline to tag five others. Part of my excuse for that is that I can’t find links easily on my newly restored but still not quite right computer. But the main reason is that I don’t want to put people on the spot to be original on this one. So instead I’ll tag all five people who actually read this. Or if the number is in fact 500, this could be the world’s fastest growing meme.

Deeply De-Christian Doctrines

David Keen, David Ker and Doug Chaplin have been posting on “5 Deeply De-Christian Doctrines”, a meme for which they have been tagged. So far no-one has tagged me specifically on this one, as far as I know. Is that because my name doesn’t fit the meme’s alliteration by starting with “D”? But David Ker did write:

If you’re a reader of this blog consider yourself tagged.

So I will make my contribution. The challenge is to

List 5 doctrines that are taught within the Christian church that you believe to be deeply de-Christian.

Here is my list, taking up themes already discussed on this blog:

1. Original Sin: Doug in his list has a go at Augustine, but doesn’t mention this, perhaps the most fundamental of his doctrinal errors. The Church Father and former Manichaean seems to have introduced into the church aspects of his non-Christian Manichaean teaching. I am not sure if the Manichaeans taught original sin, but, as I wrote more than two years ago, Augustine did, and justified his teaching from a misunderstanding of one poorly translated Bible passage. Later scholars have recognised Augustine’s exegetical error, but have relied on his authority as a Father and so failed to reject the false teaching that came from his error. Now I do accept that humans are born with a tendency to sin, and that, apart from Christ, all are guilty before God because all have sinned. But I reject as “deeply de-Christian” Augustine’s doctrine that babies are born guilty and subject to condemnation, apart from anything they might have done, because of the sin of Adam.

2. Church leadership by a special caste of pastors or priests: Now I know Doug would disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think either David would. It seems clear to me that Jesus and his apostles entirely rejected the concept of a special priesthood and hierarchy of church leadership. Doug is of course right that these ideas are found in the church as early as the second century. That simply shows how quickly the church became de-Christianised by taking on the values of the world. But then many Protestant Christians who would reject this concept of priesthood have set up a new priesthood by another name consisting of their pastors, elders or whatever name they choose to give – a self-perpetuating small group of those considered qualified for church leadership, and to whom deference is due. This is also “deeply de-Christian”. Of course churches do need leadership, but not on this model.

3. Leadership is male: This is one I have discussed many times before on this blog, so I won’t go into the details again. Just let me say that I can find no basis in authentic biblical Christianity for this concept, which also seems to have been imported into the church from the surrounding culture.

4. War is an acceptable means for Christians to further their aims: As we come up yet again to Remembrance Sunday here in the UK, I want to mention this one again. I do want to honour those on all sides of each conflict who have chosen to fight for what they believe is right, or have been coerced into fighting, and especially those who have died or have been injured in horrific ways. Also I don’t want to take a doctrinaire position that war can never be right or just. But I consider “deeply de-Christian” the way in which professing Christians like Bush and Blair considered it acceptable to start wars of aggression when there was no real threat to their countries or to world peace.

5. Salvation by right doctrine: In his point 5 Doug touched on this one, the idea that one is justified or saved by assenting to the right doctrine. The idea is particularly prominent today among conservative evangelicals, especially the latest crop of younger Calvinists. But it has ancient origins, in the historic Creeds of the church, assent to which came to be seen as necessary for salvation. The biblical position, however, is that the only requirement for salvation is to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord – not as a propositional truth to be accepted in an intellectual sense, but in allowing Jesus to be the Lord of one’s own life.

Although I’m not officially part of this meme’s set of links, I will challenge Eddie Arthur, TC Robinson, John Richardson, Brian Fulthorp and Suzanne McCarthy.

Facebook makes the changes I asked for!

Don’t say that Facebook isn’t receptive to changes requested by its users like myself. Only last month I complained about the privacy issues with taking Facebook quizzes. Now, as the BBC reports, Facebook is going to do almost exactly what was necessary to meet my concerns:

Facebook has said it will make changes that will give users more control over the data they provide to third-party developers of applications, such as games and quizzes.

There are around 950,000 developers in 180 countries who provide applications for the site.

Specifically, the changes will require applications to state which information they wish to access and obtain consent from the user before it is used or shared.

“Application developers have had virtually unrestricted access to Facebook users’ personal information,” said Ms Stoddart.

“The changes Facebook plans to introduce will allow users to control the types of personal information that applications can access.”

Jennifer Stoddart is the Canadian privacy commissioner, who also said:

These changes mean that the privacy of 200 million Facebook users in Canada and around the world will be far better protected.

Another change is that Facebook users will be able to delete their accounts completely, including deleting all personal data, as an alternative to merely deactivating an account, with the data retained to allow easy reactivation.

Now I can’t really claim that Facebook has responded to the concerns in my blog post, although it might have taken them into account as part of its general monitoring of users’ concerns. It seems rather that Facebook was breaking Canadian law and was facing a court challenge from the privacy commissioner. Kevin Sam, himself Canadian, already blogged about this, and I noted it in a comment. Nevertheless I am of course pleased that these changes are about to be made.

Three cheers to Ms Stoddart!

What is my real Christian tradition?

I just took a new quiz Christian Traditions Selector, recommended by Kevin Sam – not on Facebook I am glad to say, but the advertising images I saw in the sidebar are a bit suggestive.

As I correctly predicted before viewing my results, my number 1 result is “Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God”. I’m also not surprised that “Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.)” came second. It is a bit worrying that “Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England” came as low as 8th place, when I have been a lifelong member, although in a very untypical congregation for the last 24 years. Perhaps this confirms what I am already beginning to think, that I am in the wrong denomination.

Here are my full results:

(100%) 1: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God 

(86%) 2: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) 

(81%) 3: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist 

(74%) 4: Church of Christ/Campbellite 

(70%) 5: Seventh-Day Adventist 

(64%) 6: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene 

(63%) 7: Lutheran 

(57%) 8: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England 

(57%) 9: Congregational/United Church of Christ 

(54%) 10: Eastern Orthodox 

(47%) 11: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) 

(42%) 12: Presbyterian/Reformed 

(32%) 13: Roman Catholic

Honest Scrap award

Honest Scrap awardIt is two weeks now since Kevin Sam nominated me for the Honest Scrap award. I have been too busy blogging about communion to respond to his nomination. But I will do now.

To quote Kevin,

I’m supposed to tell you 10 HONEST things about myself and then nominate 7 other blogs that I think deserve to receive the Honest Scrap Award.

Well, here goes. My answers are deliberately modelled on Kevin’s, but of course changed to what is true about me.

1. I drive a 1995 Astra, pictured hereCar-Astra (as it looked just before I bought it, in 2002). That is, a Vauxhall Astra, which is almost the same car as is known as the Opel Astra in continental Europe, the Saturn Astra in North America, the Chevrolet Astra in Latin America, and the Holden Astra in Australia. After 14 years (but only about 66,000 miles) this is now nearly a piece of scrap, but at least it will be “honest scrap”! And then I may well go for another Astra.

2. I very rarely watch TV, largely because there is so little worth watching on the limited range of terrestrial channels I can receive. Yet for some reason I collect TV sets that are given to me or left at my house. Not long ago I took two to the dump/tip to be “honest scrap”. Perhaps I should do that with the remaining one.

3. This will probably have to be the last item in my list directly about “honest scrap” – but I own an entire garage full of assorted furniture, mostly unattractive or in a poor condition, which I don’t think I can even sell as “honest scrap” – although I am open to offers.

4. I can quote Kevin on this one:

I’m a thinker-type, as opposed to a feeler-type and so admit that I don’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t make any sense when they get angry or flustered.

I too try to have patience, but I’m not a pastor so I don’t have to try so hard!

5. I spent 16 years training and working as a Bible translator, including seven years living in a former Soviet republic. But now I am back in my home town.

6. What really turns me on in a Christian setting is not preaching (although I appreciate a good preacher) but worship in music, if led with both technical skill and a real heart for worship, and if there is genuine response from the congregation. When that happens the style of music is largely irrelevant, although I do struggle with hymns accompanied on the organ.

7. Where I most differ from Kevin is that I am not at all a Calvinist. Well, I might accept about half of one of the five TULIP petals. All I can clearly agree with is the “T” if defined properly, i.e. in agreement with this Wikipedia point:

Total depravity does not mean, however, that people are as evil as possible. Rather, it means that even the good which a person may intend is faulty …

8. Politically, I am a Liberal with a capital “L”, a member of the Liberal Democrats party here in the UK, and I have been their candidate in a local election. But don’t blame me for the bad policies of many so-called liberals around the world, even those of Barack Obama.

9. I have lived in turn to the south west, the south east, the north east, the north west, and now again the north east of London, but never within the boundaries of Greater London (except for two years at London Bible College which was just inside the border) and also never more than about 50 miles from London – with the exception of the seven years that I lived in a former Soviet republic for my Bible translation work.

10. Unlike Kevin, I am by no means a city slicker. I was brought up in a country village and still prefer that lifestyle. I am happy to live on the edge of a medium-size town, so I can easily get into the countryside but also easily access the town’s facilities. But I rarely go into London, and don’t miss it.

Well, as usual I have written quite a lot. Now for seven other bloggers to tag:

David Ker

Sam Norton

Doug Chaplin

Dave Faulkner

John Meunier

Rachel Marszalek

Mike Aubrey

My C-Factor: they say I am "somewhat of a Calvinist"

I found a quiz going round the Christian blogosphere which I could take (because it can’t access my personal information), unlike the dangerous Facebook quiz I discussed yesterday: Test your C-Factor. I come out with a C-Factor, a level of Calvinism, of 47%, which means that I am “somewhat of a Calvinist”. That’s more than Michael, and a lot more than Doug, but much less than Kevin.

Here are my full results:

Test your C-Factor

You are somewhat of a Calvinist. Some of your points of view make you look like a Calvinist. However, you live your life in a lighter way than Calvinists do, which allows you to enjoy it more.
ID Category Score Comment
52 Work 57% You sure have a Calvinistic working ethos. You never work hard enough; work for you is your bounden duty. You are the type of employee any company desires, but the balance between your work and private life may get disturbed.
55 Strictness 40% You know how to enjoy life. You don’t always spend your time in a useful way. Mind the balance!
57 Sobriety 50% You were not born to be a Calvinist. Catholicism suits you better � slightly hedonistic, loose and emotional.
56 Relationships 0% In your relationships you are not very reserved. One might say: uncalvinistic. You let yourself go too easily to be a Calvinist.
53 Beliefs 60% You are an unconcerned believer, who doesn’t worry too much.
Test your C-Factor
You are somewhat of a Calvinist. Some of your points of view make you look like a Calvinist. However, you live your life in a lighter way than Calvinists do, which allows you to enjoy it more.
ID Category Score Comment
52 Work 57% You sure have a Calvinistic working ethos. You never work hard enough; work for you is your bounden duty. You are the type of employee any company desires, but the balance between your work and private life may get disturbed.
55 Strictness 40% You know how to enjoy life. You don’t always spend your time in a useful way. Mind the balance!
57 Sobriety 50% You were not born to be a Calvinist. Catholicism suits you better � slightly hedonistic, loose and emotional.
56 Relationships 0% In your relationships you are not very reserved. One might say: uncalvinistic. You let yourself go too easily to be a Calvinist.
53 Beliefs 60% You are an unconcerned believer, who doesn’t worry too much.

Actually I am rather surprised to see such a high score on work, and such a low one on relationships, considering how I answered the questions. But I think the overall score makes sense: not a Calvinist but some leanings that way.

Facebook quiz danger?

Sorry that blogging here has been so quiet. This is largely because I have been busy preparing for my wedding, on 24th October, and of course spending time with my beautiful fiancée.

In recent weeks several of my Facebook friends have invited me to take interesting quizzes on Facebook. These include Wayne Leman and ElShaddai Edwards, who have done so in blog posts, as well as various friends who have invited me with Facebook notifications.

The problem with this is that when I try to take these quizzes I typically get a message something like:

Allowing access will let it access your Profile information, photos, your friends’ info and other content that it requires to work.

I am required to allow this access before I can take the quiz. In other words, I have to give to a piece of software about which I know almost nothing access to personal information not just about myself but also about all my friends. If “your friends’ info” means what is on their profiles, it includes e-mail addresses, sometimes postal addresses and phone numbers (not my own), and all kinds of other details which people are happy to share with their friends, but not to make public.

Of course if the quiz program can access this information, so can its author – who can use it for marketing or sending spam, or sell it to the highest bidder. That may well be a breach of Facebook rules, but how well are these rules enforced?

Presumably each of my Facebook friends who has taken one of these quizzes has given the program permission to access my profile information, which is intended to be for my friends alone to see but not to pass on to unknown third parties. I am not at all happy that any of my friends have done that; I consider that they have acted unethically. But if I chose to de-friend them I would probably hardly have any friends left.

ElShaddai, in a comment in reply to mine, writes:

AFAIK, Peter, the “friends’ info” is applicable to the last step in the quiz where it asks you if you want to invite your friends to take the quiz.

Indeed, as far as he knows. But what I am worried about is what he doesn’t know, what the unknown author of the quiz software is not saying. He may be right, of course, but how do I know that he is right? I’m afraid “AFAIK” is not an acceptable defence on an ethical issue, just as it isn’t in a court of law.

My real concern is that this quiz program is in fact an elaborate trojan horse, installing itself in millions of Facebook users’ computers worldwide, collecting personal information on the side for some kind of nefarious purpose, or at least for a mass marketing campaign. Can anyone reassure me that there is no danger of this? I know Facebook has had to stop rogue applications before. Could this be another one?