Rev Dr Giles Fraser, St Mary’s Newington

And in the Big News today from a Faith Perspective, Happy Not Quite Epiphany Yet everybody!

It’s all so very very big and immense and mind-bogglingly huge out there. It just makes you want to ask what is the meaning of it all. And the answer is Jesus (obviously) and Desmond Tutu.

Once again, there is no news today, so I’ll just use the time to usefully plug my religion instead.

6 thoughts on “Rev Dr Giles Fraser, St Mary’s Newington

  1. Back in the late 1970s I watched “SkyLab” making its way across the night sky. I was irritated at the time, as I had been babysitting and had not long managed to get two young children to bed (finally), when their parents arrived home. Dad rushed upstairs and dragged the kids out of bed shouting “come and see Skylab!” and we all went out into the garden to see. I had to agree it was worth seeing.

    Skylab was not a star, and was closer to the earth than any star (or comet, or celestial body of any kind) could ever be. But if Skylab had suddenly stopped in its course, no one below would have been able to pinpoint any particular house over which it had stopped. Yet Giles Fraser blithely repeats that bit of nonsense from his BBoMS telling how the magi (or whatever they really were) were guided my a moving star to a very specific spot; a house. It clearly wasn’t the house next door; or a couple of doors down, or in the next street. For that to be true, that ‘star’ would have to have been almost as close as a street lamp.

    This, of course, is bunkum. Which leaves Fraser (for it doesn’t bother me) with the old dilemma – if you once acknowledge that one bit of scripture is stretching credulity too far (even if it’s just accepted as ‘descriptive padding,’ or metaphorical, or a meaningful fiction) then what of all the rest of it? Does he go with the incredible moving star story and keep the magi and the Epiphany moment? Or is the whole narrative suspect? Well, this morning he chose to go with the nonsense bit and probably hoped we didn’t notice.

    But I did.


  2. “Back in the day I effusively sang atheistic lines from pop songs, but nowadays I effusively believe and forcefully spout the ‘nativity’ story as a profound historical fact and, what’s more, I expect to be regarded as all the more edgy for it”.


  3. Liverpudlian rightly debunks the nonsense that Giles seems happy to repeat about the Star of Bethlehem. What that tale really shows is, once again, the extent to which the Gospel writers were dealing in myth and symbolism, not historical fact. (Either that, or it shows how ignorant the Gospel writers were about how celestial bodies work: real Persian astronomers, or even astrologers come to that, wouldn’t have made that mistake).

    Giles endorsed Paul Weller’s view that Jesus wasn’t merely a “celestial sky-pilot…just floating around up there”. If you accept that the half-dozen “genuine” epistles of Paul represent the earliest version of Christianity, the picture they draw is exactly that: Jesus was a purely celestial being who was killed by the evil spirits who really rule this earth, and brought back to life by the IMF in order to vanquish them. On this view, all the details set out in the Gospels were essentially made up decades later. But it would take more than three minutes on TftD to discuss this hypothesis properly.

    At one point Giles also raised the question “what are we here for?” He’s not the first to have done this in recent days. People of faith love this question, because it allows them to make up all sorts of stories about the IMF’s plans for us, and how important it is to seek and understand our “destiny”. They shy away from the real answer, which is that we’re not “for” anything except the handing on of our genes (to be fair, a lot of non-religious people don’t like that answer either). But it would be nice to see a bit of intellectual honesty for a change.


    1. They shy away from the real answer, which is that we’re not “for” anything except the handing on of our genes…

      I did a thermodynamics course as part of my degree. I didn’t realise at the time that I was studying the Meaning of Life. I wonder how many theologians, or philosophers in general, have examined the (chemical) thermodynamic explanation for life, because it is a) very simple, and b) experimentally demonstrable.

      At the very least, it requires analysing and eliminating as a possible answer. The basics are all there in a combination of The Selfish Gene and in an understanding of energy states of complex molecules. The result, that life is energetically favourable and that anything that is energetically favourable will, given sufficient energy to get out of a local minimum, always happen, is straightforward.

      So, to Giles and anyone else pondering the Meaning of Life, what is wrong with this explanation? It is sufficient and complete, so unless it is wrong, it must be the answer.


      1. “Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest.”

        Albert Szent-Györgyi, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine in 1937 for discovering Vitamin C


  4. I missed this yesterday but on listening back I can see where Giles and I diverged from both loving Paul Weller’s lyrics but then using them in understanding the universe in such different ways. Or maybe Giles still does too – Weller still occasionally writes brilliant lyrics about life. I can still turn to songs such as Where e’er You Go and weep.
    The rest was Christmas waffle: god wasn’t a spaceman we can both agree on but Giles would not be able to tell us where his IMF did really come from or where he is now in an expanding universe.


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