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Freelance theology is on indefinite hiatus.

Readers are still able to browse the archive of questions and answers, and comment on existing posts.

‘Spontaneous creation’, Stephen Hawking and God

Question 166 from Stella, United Kingdom

How would Christians respond to Stephen Hawking’s comments about creation being “Godless”.

Professor Stephen Hawking is well-known as a cosmologist and author, and his most recent book, The Grand Design, has been widely quoted following serialisation in The Times newspaper. In excerpts repeated across the media, Professor Hawking has been quoted as stating:

“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”


The veneration of Relics

Question 165, from Pauline, United Kingdom
What does the Bible say about the Roman Catholic practice of keeping Relics?

The veneration of the remains of ‘saints’, or other holy objects, is said to have been part of Christian tradition since the martyrdom of Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, in 156AD, when members of Polycarp’s church reportedly gathered up his remains. Since that time officially sanctioned relics have been regarded in some churches as having healing or mystical properties, as they provide a connection between the worshipper and the saint who is in the presence of God.

Critics of the veneration of Relics cite possible pagan origins for the practice. For example, (more…)

The Trinity explained in a twenty minute talk

Earlier this year, Jon the freelance theologian was asked to explain the Trinity to a Christian youth group in a twenty-minute talk. Although it’s impossible to give full justice to the topic, here are some of the points he made.

We’re going to talk tonight about the Trinity, specifically: how can one God be three persons, or three persons be one God?

Imagine a person you know. What could you say about them?
They are (more…)

Fair trade stalls in church and trading on Sundays

Question 164, from Tessa, UK

I work for a fair trade organisation. A lot of my customers are not permitted by their churches to hold fair trade stalls on Sundays, which is frustrating for both activists and supporters. Our official view is that Jesus’ anger at the trading that took place in the temple was specifically to do with unjust scales, precisely the situation fair trade is helping to challenge. But from a personal point of view it would be interesting to see a deeper theological analysis of the debate – “should churches sell fair trade on Sundays?”

It is interesting that since the late 1980s when there was a concerted political campaign in the UK to prevent Sunday trading and ‘Keep Sunday Special’, shopping on Sundays is much more acceptable for Christians these days. In fact, many of the arguments made by the Keep Sunday Special campaigners were prescient – Sunday has become (more…)

Making the case for Christian environmentalism

Question 163 from Elizabeth, Canada

I recently went on vacation to the U.S. and was just blown away by the “Christian” right wing movement that seems to be rampant. I had no problem using my dusty memories from bible college to defend my “socialist” ideas of health care, but drew a blank when it came to being eco-friendly. Somehow the Genesis passage about subduing the earth became the rallying cry for consumption, the earth was made for us to use (and apparently abuse.) I know we are to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us and I believe the environment is a gift. How is a “pinko liberal communist tree hugger” to respond?

The following article was written by guest theologian, Abi.

This is an interesting question, especially in the light of lots of international talk about carbon footprints, zero gas emissions and reaching Kyoto protocol targets! Theologically, the issue of ecology, climate change and the environment can be a confusing one, and with so many approaches it is difficult to know how respond. Therefore, (more…)

Understanding and rejecting satan – some ideas to consider

This article is based on a talk given by Jon the freelance theologian in June 2010. It is best read in conjunction with the article on evil, posted on freelance theology in February 2010.

The talk began with a rough “timeline” of what is often taught in churches about satan. An adapted version is shown here: (more…)

The gender of God

Question 162, from Paul, United Kingdom

Is it possible to think of God as having a gender?

This is an interesting question because most Christians, and most Christian writers, automatically use the personal pronouns ‘He’ or ‘Him’ to describe God. This is partly due to the limitations of human language, and also the longstanding tendency to describe God in human terms that have gender-specific connotations, for example, the word ‘Father’.

While most Christians would acknowledge that “God is Spirit to be worshipped in spirit and truth” and that both men and women were created in God’s image, there is still an underlying temptation to ascribe the male gender to God. (more…)

Theological ideas about the origin of evil

This is a short teaching session Jon the freelance theologian was asked to do on the subject of evil. Instead of addressing the standard ‘Problem of Evil’ as classically stated, this was a study of some theological ideas about the absolute origin of evil in a world created that Christian theology would claim was created as ‘good’ by a good God.

There were six theological ideas put forward:

  • Evil originates in God and is misunderstood.
  • Evil occurs when God ‘withdraws’ from a place.
  • Evil is entropy/chaos seeking to reassert itself in a world that has been placed in order by God.
  • Evil is the ‘no’ inherent in the ‘yes’ of God’s creative act. It is the ‘nothingness’ that exists apart from God.
  • ‘Evil’ is down to natural probability.
  • ‘Evil’ is a force in the world that springs from our collective psychic experience – interiority.


Kenotic theology (kenosis) and Jesus Christ

Question 161, from Patricia

What are the things that those who believe in Kenosis actually believe in? Do they believe that Jesus had a “veil” that concealed his divine powers while his incarnation on earth or do they believe that he actually “emptied himself” of all divine powers?

‘Kenosis’ is a term based on the Greek word ‘keno-oo’ used in Philippians chapter 2, verse 7, to describe Jesus Christ. Often translated as ‘Jesus humbled himself’ it literally means ‘to empty’ and has been interpreted as implying a shedding of divine powers by the pre-existent Jesus during the incarnation. (more…)