Bethlehem features in a number of Old Testament events which have prophetic significance. It is the setting of the Christmas story which is celebrated by many millions world-wide.
Bethlehem is now a Palestinian town that is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims to visit. The sacred sites include:
The City of David (historic) with its wells,
The Church of the Nativity (built on Jesus’ birth location),
The Shepherd’s Field (2 contested sites),
The Field of Boaz, and
Rachael’s tomb (under Israeli control).
What is the evidence for these locations? In 135 AD the Romans established a pagan shrine and grove over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. This site has a fascinating history – so is it correct? The other sites of Bethlehem also have controversy, so how likely are they genuine?
Trevor Harris has visited Bethlehem six times and has investigated these sites. He will present and assess the evidence.
In the first century Christianity (especially in the person of Jesus) raised the status of women dramatically in comparison with the prevailing Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures. Women played a key role in the rise of Christianity within the Roman empire. In fact, Christianity was mocked for being a religion filled with women.
However, some of the contemporary cultural male/female roles and practices (such as head coverings) were maintained, which now seem out of touch with modern egalitarian western views, especially those arising from the feminist movement. This is sometimes an object of ridicule that may cause some to dismiss Christianity as old-fashioned and irrelevant. So, is there an essential difference between a Biblical view and modern western values? If so, who is right?
The topics that will be discussed are:
What is sexism?
What were the cultural influences in the 1st century?
What does Genesis say?
How were women viewed in the Old Testament?
How did Jesus treat women?
What were Paul’s views on the role of women?
Are they still applicable?
How should we respond?
I would have preferred that this topic be presented by a woman, but I am the only one who has put their hand up so far; and I happen to be a man.
Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide and is a member of Ingle Farm Baptist Church. He is also an engineering researcher and research supervisor at the University of South Australia.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds was popular in Europe, particularly in many leading philosophical circles. To Francois-Marie Arouet, more commonly known as Voltaire, this was nonsense, and he set out to lampoon the concept in brilliant satire.
What was the basis of this belief in the first place?
How effective is Voltaire’s response?
And what should we make of it today, particularly in our covid-ravaged world?
Amongst Christians, evolutionary theory and the age of the earth are highly divisive issues, and our subscribers and committee members also have different opinions. The differences are quite stark and at least one party must be radically wrong. We have had speakers with various views in the past. On this occasion, Dr Gordon Stanger will present his contribution.
His summary of what he will cover is as follows:
In a North American study, 67% of young people, who had been given a Christian upbringing, had abandoned their faith. The primary reason given was that “science in general, and evolution in particular, disproves the Bible”.
At least a third of global Christianity teaches that:
Evolution isn’t true,
The Bible and science are incompatible, and
One must choose between Darwin and Jesus, and between God and evolution.
This issue is as polarized as vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers; US Republicans vs Democrats, Scientists vs climate deniers; or ‘Young Earth’ vs ‘Old Earth’ Christians.
But can Earth’s amazing panoply of life be generated by the seemingly random processes of evolution, and yet simultaneously be an outcome of God’s creative volition? Creationists emphatically say NO! I emphatically say YES! …..and will explain how this can be true.
In this presentation I will argue that evolution is a reality and that the true core of this issue is more a matter of Biblical interpretation. Do we read scripture from the modern perspective of Biblical literal inerrancy, or do we read it in its original context of multi-faceted visual imagery and a rich complex of early Hebrew linguistic idioms?
Science strongly indicates that a Biblical literalistic interpretation is erroneous, whilst using the original contextual frame of reference is consistent with reality. Science and Christianity are allies, not enemies.
Dr Gordon Stanger is a geologist, hydrologist, water resources specialist, and a climate-change impact analyst. He is semi-retired and is a keen advocate of ‘sensible Christianity’.
Transhumanism is the belief that humanity can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations by means of science and technology.
Already today there are huge advances:
Gene Editing enables cures (yes cures) for a number of terrible diseases, as well as the promise of many more, including cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
Brain Computer Interfaces are already being used to overcome paralysis and loss of limbs and may offer help for issues as diverse as dementia.
There are also AI powered scientific breakthroughs that may well yield radical life extension and even start to reverse aging.
Transhumanists believe that we have a moral obligation to take control of human evolution to prevent suffering and overcome our biological limitations, including death.
It sounds like science fiction, but much of the above is already happening and so much more is highly likely within the next 5-10 years. Given our secular society in the West, perhaps it should be no surprise that a growing and influential minority of voices have started to look to this science and technology “for salvation” to solve much of our suffering, and perhaps even death itself. Transhumanists believe that humanity now has the ability and the moral obligation to take charge of our own evolution. Yet it turns out that this serves to highlight the importance of the Christian worldview.
Have you ever heard people claim that the Bible is full of contradictions? I expect so, but is it true? This presentation reviews the claims of “The Bible Handbook for free thinkers and inquiring Christians” by GW Foote and WP Ball. This catalogues numerous alleged contradictions and problem passages in the Bible.
The forward to the 10th edition states:
OUR BIBLE HANDBOOK was first issued in 1888. It has now survived the storms of religious controversy and continues to carry devastation into the ranks of Christian bibliolators without receiving any adequate answer… the anti-Christian controversialist “has only to open our Handbook, and in five minutes he will be able to advance more arguments against the Bible than his opponent will be able to answer in a lifetime”.
Stephen White assesses some of these alleged contradictions and whether the claim in the forward is true.
In addition, he addresses the following issues:
What do we mean if we claim that the Bible is inspired?
How should we respond to alleged contradictions or problematic passages in the Bible?
How should we respond when people claim that the Bible is rubbish and full of contradictions?
When Paul arrived in Athens (Acts 17: 16-32), a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him, and they gave Paul the opportunity to speak to the Athenians in the Areopagus. For the previous 450 years, Greek and Roman philosophers had been debating God(s) versus chance in creation, and this debate continued for a further 250 years after Paul’s speech.
The debate began in 400 BC, when Democritus introduced the concepts of atomic atheism, the infinite power of chance, evolution, and determinism. This triggered Socrates to argue for God’s existence based on arguments from design, the power of the mind, and a predictable cosmos. Later, Epicurus invented naturalism as the framework for understanding science. Then the Stoics became the greatest intellectual opponents of atheism for 500 years, inventing systematic arguments for creation until atheism faded from the classical world by 300 AD. Why did atheism fade out?
This 700-year debate only came to light in 2007, so it is all quite a new slant on the classical world. Leonard Long will describe this 700-year debate and its relevance to our times.
Leonard is a retired doctor and has spent much of his retirement studying the historical development of thought and ideologies in Western culture.
Dating the gospels is controversial, but some scholars date the gospels from 65 AD for Mark and up to 95 AD for John. In the meantime, the gospel message was supposedly passed on mainly by word of mouth. Sceptics claim that the stories were distorted and embellished by Chinese whispers, and then written down to meet the needs of the church at the time of writing. Thus, they are historically unreliable.
Is this true, or are the gospels based on eye-witness testimony? So,
What do the gospel authors claim about the nature of their testimony,
Can they be trusted, and
How can we know?
Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is also a researcher, research supervisor and former lecturer at the University of South Australia.
You’ve no doubt heard of the pyramids and other huge monuments of ancient Egypt. Many inscriptions are chiselled on to these monuments and people have been fascinated by them for centuries. Once the hieroglyphic script was decoded in the modern era, our understanding of the stories, religion, history, and laws of ancient Egypt has greatly expanded.
More recently, over the past 100 years or so, a huge number of texts from other ancient nearby cultures – Sumerian, Babylonian, etc., have been discovered and decoded. This has similarly added hugely to our understanding of these ancient cultures.
The Bible, widely available and read by westerners over the past 2 millennia, includes the stories, religion, history, and laws of the ancient Hebrew people, who existed in the same general area as those other ancient peoples.
So how do the texts from these different cultures relate? In particular,
How do the non-Biblical texts from various cultures relate to the Bible texts?
Are they related?
To what extent and in what way do the non-Biblical texts help us to understand the Bible texts?
There’s an aspect of Christianity that most churches are uncomfortable with, and that is directly hearing from God.
This can be by such means as:
Hearing an inner voice,
Two-way conversational prayer,
Some churches argue that the Bible is all-sufficient. Nothing more is necessary, and such forms of direct human-God communication died out in apostolic times. Others, generally of a more ‘charismatic bent’, regard at least some of the above as still valid for today but are wary of such teaching as applying to the ‘normal Christian life’. So, can we hear God?