In the Bog or out of the Bog

I was in Dublin yesterday at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. As well as the splendid Tara Brooch and Ardagh Chalice, were the “bog bodies”. These brown remains of men preserved in Ireland’s peatlands are in stark contrast to the shimmering gold of our iconic national treasures. They are brown, leathery, hollow shadows of their former owners. Only one of them had most of its limbs intact. All of them were twisted and flattened. And yet, in archaeological terms, they are outstandingly preserved with skin and hair still present. They are celebrated for their preserved condition and what they tell us of Ireland in the Iron Age. In contrast, there is very little left of all those who perished in their time who did not end up in the bog. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own mortality. 2500 years from now, is the best I can hope for to be found in a bog, leathery and hollow?
In a sense, yes – I am only here for a short while. But in another sense, no. Well, I believe not – as a Christian, I have a hope in something greater, in a heaven without rot or illness or decay or violence (all these men were murdered). I even have a hope in a new body, as crazy as it sounds. Yet, sitting on the ground floor of the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, looking into a glass case, at the flat remains of some poor guy in his twenties who was stabbed in the head and turfed into a bog – and he was one of the wealthy people – I couldn’t feel anything but… small. Like a flower of the field, here today and gone tomorrow, as the Hebrew Scriptures observe. It was certainly a grounding experience.

So, I cling to the hope I have. Hope, in someone who walked the Earth not long after these bog men, actually. Hope in God through Christ, who defeated death and is “preparing a place” for us, if we would follow Him here and then there.

I feel glib, saying these things. It is not that I believe these things blindly or simply out of fear. Yes, I do want to believe that the claims of Christ are true, that He was and is who he said He was but I do question and I do have my doubts. I have written before about Lewis’ trilemma – Jesus was either mad, bad or God – lunatic, liar or Lord – to say the things he said about himself. Or he didn’t say them at all – if we question the Gospel accounts of his life. My position is that not only am I inspired and awed by the character of God as revealed in the person of Christ but from what I have read and what I have thought through and what I have experienced, I believe that Jesus was who he said he was. The Gospel accounts are more reliable than any other ancient texts and more reliable than many give them credit for. His character and his story are compelling.  He is my hope now and 2500 years from now, whether in the bog or out of the bog.

Currently out of the bog,



3 L’s or 4 L’s?

One of the best things about doing RELAY with IFES Ireland is the people! In Munster, I am privileged to work alongside my co-RELAY Worker, who I’ll call “Ledge” and our supervisor, who I’ll call “Shure”. Together, we are Team Munster! As well as working alongside each other from day-to-day, we meet regularly to coordinate our work and build up our spiritual muscle. We have started to explore a book called the Historical Reliability of the Gospels. It sounds heavy and it is! So, why are we stretching our brains with this book?

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis put forward his famous “trilemma”: based on the claims that Jesus Christ made about himself, he could only have been one of three things: liar, lunatic or Lord. Either his claims were untrue and he knew it or his claims were untrue and he didn’t know it or his claims were true and he knew it. Based on the evidence put forward in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, I believe that he indeed was who he said he was, the Lord God of the Universe. But wait a minute….

Some have asked whether there should be a fourth ‘L’ added to the list: “Legend”. The above trilemma rests on the premise that what Jesus said about himself he actually said about himself and that the other things that have been recorded (which corroborate his claims) actually happened. Hence, we must ask the question could Jesus have been a legend or at least could the traits that Christians say make him unique in all history be the stuff of legend rather than the stuff of concrete truth? This is an important question. It is to this end that TM are stretching our brains; we are exploring the origin of the Gospels, which together describe this Jesus and the claims he is said to have made. We are looking at how the facts have been handed down – at first, orally and since the middle of the first century, in writing.

While challenging, it is also rewarding, as we consider how the Gospel writers composed their works and reexamine how the startling claims of Jesus Christ arrived in the Bible which so many of us know and cherish today.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Being stretched in some of the right places,