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The search for the Top 100 UK Christians – nominations now open for #CranmerList2016

It’s that time of the year (again.. comes round quickly, doesn’t it?) when our minds turn naturally to consideration of year’s momentous events, significant people and lists of achievements: best ofs, worst ofs, winners, losers, who’s left us, who’s up, who’s down, who’s in, who’s out… The world has its power lists, and so should the Church.

The concept of a Top 100 Christians in the UK began in 2014:

In the seemingly eternal quest for hierarchical supremacy in an era of competing rights, societal fragmentation and adversarial identity politics, you may have observed the emergence and proliferation of certain media ‘power lists’ – the Top 100/50/10 Asians, Women, Asian Women, Feminists, Gay Feminists, Asian Gay Feminists, Muslims, Sikhs, Blacks, Disabled, Secularists, Humanists, Secular Humanists, Gay Secular Humanists, Environmentalists, Haggis-making Nationalists, Sportsmen with Autism, Reggae-singing Rastafarians, etc, etc, etc..

Why should we only celebrate dead saints? Surely those who serve God and advance His Kingdom would appreciate a little encouragement while they live? Some run the race with fire in their hearts. Why should they not be celebrated? Some give up everything to serve the Lord. Why should we not hear of their mission? Some just get on with it, quietly, humbly, unseen, unknown. Why should they not be made known? If it is not they who selfishly seek an earthly reward, what is wrong with seeing their faces and telling their stories so that others might hear of the signs and wonders that witness to the love of God and the transforming power of Jesus?

The (not-so-loving) criticism poured in:

..Twitter raged: “This is just awful, absolutely awful.” “Seriously?! Can think of many worthy people who would be horrified by the idea of this list so I’ll honour them by not nominating.” “Please tell me this is all a joke? Otherwise a hideous idea, profoundly contrary to the example and teaching of Jesus.” “I don’t think this is wise. Surely inconsistent with Christian humility. And it is not our opinion that matters.”

There was more (much, much more). Funny, isn’t it, how those who laud the Church of England’s ‘Funeral Celebrant of the Year‘ mock and pour scorn on this initiative. What’s the difference, other than a much broader, richer, ecumenical celebration of ministry and mission?

Power lists of the Top 100, Top 50 or Top 10 may be part of what we call ‘celebrity culture’, and they may be obsessed with assertions of identity or the propagation of minority interests, but, for good or ill, that is now the dominant culture of the Western world, and Christians either adopt, engage and transform it, or shun, denounce and pour scorn upon those who might see a missiological opportunity. Since the world has celebrities, why shouldn’t the Church? If the world spreads its message through fame and renown, why shouldn’t Christians promote worthwhile ministries or recognise those individuals whom the world often overlooks? To inculturate is not to compromise: it is to become all things to all people in order that they might be saved.

The Top 100 Christians survived into 2015:

..To rejoice in what God is doing in and through the Church right now is to savour God’s love for the whole world. When we hear great stories of individual Christians following in Jesus’ footsteps, being salt and light in a world full of darkness, they can and ought to spur us on to deepen our faith and respond accordingly. When any of us chooses to pursue God’s calling beyond a self-centred life, we should expect to see wonderful things. This power to transform the world is simply not restricted to a select few.

And so into 2016: the #CranmerList is yours. It is compiled democratically from your nominations, and the ‘Top’ Christian is the one who receives most nominations (which are not pre-disclosed: there is no voting). Past winners include the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White (2014; still contending for the Faith); and Nissar Hussain (2015; still enduring persecution).

Please note that this is the Top 100 UK Christians: Nominees must be living and citizens of the United Kingdom, so please don’t nominate Jesus or the Pope (someone does, every year). Their ministry may, however, be wider than teaching, preaching, pastoring or witnessing in the UK: it may be to anywhere in the world. Please note also the the #CranmerList is designed to recognise profound and remarkable Christian service in a given year. If you believe that Her Majesty the Queen deserves to the top honour, please cite how she has distinguished herself this year.

You are free, of course, to nominate Fred for hoovering the church carpet every week; or Rosemary for her faithfulness in serving teas week after week for the men’s prayer breakfast. But, as commendable as this service may be for the kingdom, the point of the exercise is a consideration of spiritual influence in the world, focusing on Christians whose ministry is significant in the public realm; those who labour in the vineyard, contending for the Faith, whose fruits are discernible and compelling.

So, as you consider your nomination(s), do not just ask yourself, ‘What has this person done for us?’ (where ‘us’ is the Body of Christ and the communion of saints), but also ‘What has this person done for the mission of God and the cause of Christ in the world?’ If their ministry is principally in and to the Church, have they sufficiently inspired others to follow Christ; to go out into the world and reflect upon the treasures of eternity? If their ministry is in and to the world, does it reflect the peace, truth and mercy of a loving God? What, if anything, distinguishes it from secular social intervention? Do they foster unity or division? Are they gracious or conceited? Do they speak, sing or write with divine wisdom, passion and insight, or go on about carnal obsessions and material desires? In short, are their eyes fixed on Jesus?

Nominations will close at midnight on Sunday 11th December. The winners will be announced on December 31st, coinciding with the world’s New Year Honours. Please (final plea) ensure that your citation is included for their exemplary witness this year: ‘nice bloke’/’good egg’/’loves Jesus’/’Great man of God’ won’t quite cut it.

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    One doesn’t wish to push oneself forward…ahem

    • Anton

      Then nominate your esteemed husband!

  • Anton

    Perhaps the people who run the major organisations fighting the good fight for Christian values in our culture – The Christian Institute, Christian Concern, The Maranatha Community and others. Or those who run the charities for the persecuted church – Release International, Open Doors, Barnabas. Or an Anglican bishop who has made a public speech against the liberal/PC consensus. Or an MP or Peer who is Christian and has done the same. Or Ashers Bakery, or a street preacher who has refused to be cowed by legal or physical threats.

    • David

      Your suggestions are along the right lines I’d say.

      • Anton

        His Grace might get more comments if he asked for the worst self-identified UK Christian of the year!

        • David

          You inverter you !
          I think I’ve invented (mangled) a new word.

          • Anton

            I’ve not seen it applied to people before. In electronics it means a device that converts DC to AC.

          • David

            Ah yes, well said ! Of course ! Nowadays I’ve rather forgotten most of my ‘A’ Level Physics, but occasionally it is still useful to understand what is happening around me. Maybe my new word “invention” was a blast from my past – my ancient (reptile?) memory of the late ’60s ?

        • Sarky

          I henceforth nominate the inspector and Martin.

          • Anton

            The Inspector is evinced scepticism here that Jesus of Nazareth is divine in the sense that the presumed universal Creator is, and cannot really be categorised as a Christian.

          • Inspector General

            One merely holds the position that Jesus is a messenger from God. One cannot see how he IS God. Same goes for the so called Holy Spirit – in reality angelic activity albeit summonsed by said creator. It all makes sense, you know, and does not detract from what Jesus was about. A Christian is one who follows Christ’s example…and not a title that can be bestowed by other mortals on a fellow mortal…

          • Anton

            Inspector, you are free to believe what you like, and may God bless you. But you are not free to believe what you do and call yourself a Christian.

          • Inspector General

            My dear fellow. The Inspector’s last sentence. He wishes to draw your attention to it…

          • Anton

            If, Inspector, you use words to have different meanings from everybody else, you cannot expect to be understood.

          • Inspector General

            Isn’t that a thing, Anton! You find yourself in the same situation as the Roman Catholic hierarchy when Luther nailed his demands to the church door…

          • Anton

            At least Luther and the Pope agreed that Jesus of Nazareth was divine! But please explain your analogy.

          • Inspector General

            Jesus was the son of the father. He said so.

          • Anton

            That is not in question. But Isaiah 9:6 stated that a child would be born who was God, and “God” to Isaiah and his hearers meant Jehovah. That child was Jesus of Nazareth, of course. And doubting Thomas cried out to Jesus “My lord and God” and was not rebuked for it; had Jesus not been divine, He would obviously have denied it at that point.

          • Inspector General

            Do feel free to ignore Christ’s words if it suits…

            Thomas was verging on the hysterical. You don’t sit hysterics down and tell them what is…

            Archangels are very close to God. The God that had them into being…

          • Anton

            Where did I ignore Christ’s words? I’m not only affirming that he is son of God but saying that he is God the son. His response to Thomas’ outburst show that the mood was suited to a “O no I’m not” if that had been the case. And what of Isaiah?

            Have the Jehovah’s Witnesses been about you? They believe that Jesus of Nazareth was an archangel, you know…

          • Inspector General

            JW’s believe that Jesus was the Archangel Michael. Not so this man. When Jesus started off he didn’t have a clue. Even on the cross when he called out. Whatever plan was in play, Jesus was not privy to ALL of it…

          • Anton

            Read that psalm (22) to the end – for Jesus surely had the whole of it in mind – and you will find an affirmation of faith.

            Just as Jesus limited himself in time and space by becoming human, he chose not to be privy to all things while he was here with us physically; an example is at Matthew 24:36. But in view of your lack of objection to Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus was divine, may I take it that you agree?

          • Inspector General

            Isiah made a prophecy. 700 hundred years before Christ, and you rely on that?

          • Anton

            That among other things. Are you a Bible cherry-picker, Inspector? If so, what are your criteria, and why?

          • Inspector General

            Good night Anton. Sleep well. Until the next time…

          • Anton

            I would say “And also with you” but I do not wish to be misunderstood…

          • Sarky

            Well I’m glad I opened that can of worms!

          • Anton

            Don’t pride yourself; it was not you who suggested a list of the worst Christians of the year!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Mr. Slope would like your home address…..

          • Anton

            Tell Slippery the answer is no.

          • Sarky

            Got to admit it, you actually make sense.

          • Anton

            So you believe in angels? That’s a good start…

          • Sarky

            Hells angels!

          • IanCad

            Poor old JW’s. They are not alone in their assertion that Michael is Christ.
            Matthew Henry, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, W E Vine, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Wesley, Thomas Haweis, John Gill, IanCad… The list goes on….

          • Anton

            References?

          • IanCad

            It certainly isn’t a salvific issue Anton but the notion that the two are The One has fallen by the wayside of late.

            My own view is based (Using my favourite phrase!) on weight of evidence. I will again resort to the help of others to do the heavy lifting for me. A short summary of the controversy can be found here:
            https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/theology-jesus-christ/michael-another-name-jesus
            There are many writings – for and against – available online.
            It may be that, as the doctrine is one the JW’s beliefs, it has been cast in the light of their Nontrinitarian views of the Godhead. Throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

          • Anton

            It deserves to be clarified that all the men you name believe Jesus is divine. (That might very well be a salvation issue.) The issue is whether the Archangel Michael as mentioned in scripture is another manifestation of Him. They reckon Yes. I reckon no, but I agree with you that *that* is not a salvation issue. See

            http://www.summit1.org/GUN_Vol_27__1_-_January_2014_-_A_Study_of_Michael_the_Archangel.pdf

          • He also said that before Abraham was I Am. Not only that but He emphasised it.

            John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

          • Inspector, he is not the messenger but the message. He does not convey the word; he is the Word of God. John says he is God’s word ‘in the beginning. His reference is to Genesis One and God speaking… and God said.

            God’s words not only express who he is they are an extension of who he is. They are who he is. They objectify him, define him, flow inextricably from him are him. They carry within them all the creative authority of deity.

            If Jesus is God’s Word then the Spirit is his breath.

            Thought, breath and word are indivisibly one.

            This Word became incarnate, became human.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Inspector!

        • chefofsinners

          Tricky. Wayne Rooney or Tyson Fury?
          Christstain of the year.

          • Anton

            Various Anglican liberal bishops?

      • Dominic Stockford

        Except the size one.

        • David

          A sizeist ?

          • Dominic Stockford

            Only God does the building up – and He does it where He chooses. Some of the best preachers and pastors are in the smallest congregations.

          • Anton

            In that case you might as well say that the stand taken by Ashers was due to God not man.

          • Dominic Stockford

            It was. Do you not hold to the Sovereignty of God?

          • Anton

            Yes, but what does it mean *in context*? We are not puppets.

          • David

            I was only teasing you.
            And yes I agree with what you say about it being God that is in charge.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Sorry, hard week.
            BCP “the good works prepared for us to do”.

  • David

    In past ages Saints were the role models. So I see this annual rolling list as an updated approach to that excellent, ancient idea. Therefore I am fully supportive of the initiative. Well done Your Grace !
    Now who shall I nominate ?

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Ahem….

  • How many can we nominate?

  • Inspector General

    A timely reminder for the Inspector that the madness that has usurped Christmas is just around the corner. And if that isn’t bad enough, first we must endure this nonsense…

    • Anton

      Er, Christmas actually usurped a pagan festival held at that time of year. The evidence that Christ was born close to the winter solstice is zilch.

      Please note that I am not saying you are not free to celebrate it then or on any other day of the year. It is exclusively “usurp” to which I object in your context.

      • Inspector General

        In that case, one objects to the current pagan 6 weeks that dares to include the word ‘Christ’ in its description…

        • Anton

          I have no problem with that!

        • CliveM

          You’re in a right grump tonight aren’t you.

          • Pubcrawler

            Perhaps he needs a jolly tune to cheer him up.

          • CliveM

            Can you think of any?

          • Pubcrawler

            Of course.

        • Pubcrawler
          • TropicalAnglican

            Thanks very much for the link. It did warm the cockles of my heart. (Incidentally, the first time I actually heard someone use this phrase was when the news broke out that the Argentinians had surrendered). Back to your link, serves that overboard Oregon official right! Wonder if they are still rioting over there …

      • magnolia

        No, that much is pagan propaganda that has been remarkably successful. I think it was Happy Jack who pointed out that it was reckoned 9 months from Lady Day in actuality.. After all, mathematically, how many days surrounding the shortest day of the year are we to be disallowed Christian festivals without someone questioning the validity? As the shortest day is usually 21st but sometimes the 20th does that mean any day between the 16th and the 25th belongs to pagans, or should we expect a wider time frame. As there are at least 8 pagan holidays does this mean Christians need to avoid 80, or more days?

        The reassembly of paganism is itself a highly questionable hotch-potch. Odd that any should think they can call the shots from such a ramshackle and bizarre construct.

        • Anton

          To discuss this properly it is necessary to use sources from the early church, upon which all subsequent authors depend. A fairly clear view of what happened can then be reconstructed. The gospels do not specify the time of year of the nativity (or the incarnation, from which the nativity date could be inferred); this absence tells us that God does not regard it as important for us to know. Eventually the time of year was lost, hence the speculation about it two centuries later by Clement of Alexandria and subsequent Christian writers. The earliest reference to a Christmas *celebration* – in midwinter – is from the mid-4th century, roughly the time that Pope Julius I is said to have chosen that date, and after Christianity had become the Roman Empire’s favoured religion. That is the same day of the year promoted by Emperor Aurelian in AD274 as a celebration of the sun god, sol invictus; under the Julian calendar of that era it corresponded to the winter solstice. (The Julian calendar has since drifted by a few days, but it is still used by the Russian Orthodox church, which celebrates Christmas in January as a result of further drift.)

          Some centuries later, the church aimed to take over pagan festivals as a mission strategy. Pope Gregory explicitly advocated this trick in a letter sent to his missionaries in England in the early 7th century (included in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, book I, ch. 30). That is not pagan propaganda. The Pope said it himself.

          The Apostle Paul has words about Christian freedom and calendrical festivals: he says that it is a personal matter. Those who wish to celebrate Christ’s birth on a given day are perfectly free to, but they should not pretend to know on what day of the year it took place. If you think you do know, please argue it from early church documents and/or the gospels. Based on the timing of the rise of Marian devotion in the church, I suspect that Lady Day was inferred from the unproven date for Christmas, rather than vice-versa.

          • magnolia

            A cut and paste from http://www.churchyear.net
            Second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa tried to find
            the day in which Jesus died. By the time of Tertullian (d. AD 225) they
            had concluded that he died on Friday, March 25, AD 29 (incidentally,
            this is an impossibility, since March 25 in the year AD 29 was not a
            Friday). How does the day of Jesus’ death relate to the day of his
            conception? It comes from the Jewish concept of the “integral age” of
            the great Jewish prophets. This is the notion that the prophets of
            Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception. Therefore,
            if Jesus died on March 25, he was also conceived that day. The
            pseudo-(John)Chrysostomic work de solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis nostri Iesu Christi et Iohannis Baptistae
            accepts the same calculation. St. Augustine mentions it as well. Other
            ancient Christians believed Jesus was conceived on March 25th for
            another reason: they believed (based on Jewish calculations of the
            period) that the creation of the world occurred that day. Thus, it was
            fitting that the one who makes us new creations was conceived on the day
            the world was created.

            This argument places the earliest dating of Christmas as arising by two removes from Jewish understandings about the date of the Creation.

            Any pagan considerations are coincidental and parvenu, therefore!

          • Anton

            So the best that can be done is the assertion that the great holy men of Judaism died on their birthdays (a principle nowhere found in scripture), hence it is “fitting” that Jesus was conceived (not born!) on March 25th, a theory that is wrong by the admission of the author you quote (re AD29)? What a shambles that argument is! “Fitting” is a fine term to use for what is more honestly called wish-fulfilment.

            Even this rickety edifice would crumble if there was no Jewish tradition that the prophets died on their birthdays. And there isn’t! The best that can be done is a highly ambiguous claim that Moses did, but even that is far from clear from the wording, and there is no Jewish tradition that others did. Clearly somebody just wrote down what they wanted to be true, called it fitting, and everybody else then just quoted him without checking any sources. See:

            https://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/is-the-integral-age-theory-an-apologetics-myth-9-things-to-know-and-share

            and the follow-up

            http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/integral-age-update

          • magnolia

            However one disputes the edifice it has nothing to do with the druids and wiccans who get self-important and start claiming we “took over…their..religious festivals”, of which the sub-text is we are cheats and newcomers. Whereas many Christians roll over and say what amounts to we accept your case, our religious festivals are second-rate and inauthentic, and the pagans delight in that, actually the whole dispute predates them and in a different part of the world.

            We do well not to shoot ourselves in the feet and question the authenticity of our major festivals and connections to all those who come to church only once or twice a year.

          • Anton

            But the druids and wiccans are right in saying that the church took over a pagan midwinter festival. If you deny it, any pagan can point to Bede’s book containing Pope Gregory’s letter telling his missionaries in England to do just that. Christians should not present an open goal to pagans by denying the truth. What we should do is accept the facts of history but say that the issue is unimportant compared to who Jesus is, and then preach the gospel. I agree, of course, that a festival which packs the uncommitted into a church is a golden preaching opportunity.

          • magnolia

            But Tertullian arguing for 25th March as the date fo the crucifixion, from which later is deduced the Annunciation, and hence Christmas predates both Bede and Gregory, and is from North Africa, so whether they (after these initial facts) said that is irrelevant to the original genesis of the date.

            I see references to the first account of Christmas being celebrated on 25th December in AD 336. I haven’t yet checked them out.

          • Anton

            You need to read Clement of Alexandria, who ante-dates Tertullian and says that the time of year is not known.

          • magnolia

            Have since found this interesting article which argues that it was known earlier:

            http://taylormarshall.com/2012/12/yes-christ-was-really-born-on-december.html

          • Anton

            Nothing in that article about post-apostolic sources says that it was known earlier. As for the argument about Luke, here is my version of it, from an unpublished essay:

            Mary became pregnant with Jesus six (lunar) months after Elizabeth (Luke 1), who conceived John the Baptist after her husband Zechariah returned from duty in the Temple – which must mean soon after. Following its unique start, Mary’s pregnancy would have been the usual nine months, as nothing untoward is stated. So there were about 6 + 9 = 15 months from Zechariah’s duty to Jesus’ birth. Luke also states which of the Levite priestly subtribes Zechariah was from – Abijah – and 1 Chronicles 24 sets out the order in which the 24 subtribes served. Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews vol. 7, ch. 17, paragraph 7) wrote in the first century that a tour of duty lasted one week, so that the rota was run through twice each year. (The festivals partly made up the missing time.) This gives two windows for Jesus’ nativity, centred about late January and late July with an uncertainty of a few weeks. Some of the uncertainty is because the Jews added an extra month every few years to keep their lunar calendar tuned to the solar calendar, and we do not know when in that cycle Jesus was born.

            People are wont to write on this subject with more certainty than the gospels or the church fathers warrant.

          • Anton

            PS Luke does not state how soon after John B’s father returned from duty in the Temple his wife conceived. Nothing excludes the possibility that Luke (1:1-4), conducting interviews decades later, asked when it happened, and was told that “the previous significant thing in my/his life was being on duty in the Temple”, ie it could have been many months before. (Not every member of a subtribe was on duty at the same time.) Even the most optimistic estimate is that his wife had no period following his return from duty because she became pregnant, but that still allows an uncertainty of weeks. Then there is natural variation in the length of any pregnancy, including Mary’s; healthy women vary by up to a fortnight. Then there is the way I alluded to by which the Jews kept their lunar-based monthly calendar tuned to the solar calendar, which introduces further uncertainty of weeks, but of which the author you quote is unaware. Any claim that you can name a specific day when there are uncertainties of these sizes is absurd, and reveals only the author’s agenda to work backwards from his preferred date. He also quotes the wrong part of the Old Testament for the order of service of the priestly subtribes in the Temple: it is not Nehemiah (who does list them, but not in any stated order) but 1 Chronicles 24. Then you r author assumes that the list was run through once per year, giving a fortnightly tour of duty, although according to Josephus it was run through twice per year with a week-long tour of duty. That totally wrecks his calculation. Be careful who you quote!

          • magnolia

            A bit short on time but one point easily made is that his wife was not having periods. You cannot miss a period if you aren’t having them in the first place. 40 weeks is the usual time of pregnancy; others are over, or under, and an average and majority assumption is fair enough.

            Whatever the truth of actual dates it became the tradition of the church starting at least in the second century and probably, though not provably, earlier, that 25th March, 25th December, and for John the Baptist 25th June were the days. I see no pagan influence, despite their claims based on the much later passage from Bede. In the circumstances they have no leg to stand on, and need politely telling as much while we get on, unhindered, with Christmas.

          • Anton

            You celebrate what you like when you like! Paul is clear that you have that freedom. But don’t pretend that you know when it happened. Clement of Alexandria is the earliest writer to say we don’t know the time of year; God does not bother to make it clear in the gospels; and the argument from Elizabeth’s pregnancy has uncertainties of weeks even if Elizabeth clicked the first night that her husband came back, which we don’t know.

            The church, having lost the date, just happens to choose the midwinter festival, and you don’t see pagan influence?

          • magnolia

            No, I don’t, and above all I do not see British pagan influence! With quite a few issues some of the early church fathers knew things others didn’t. But by the 2nd Century there is written attestation. Before that no doubt oral tradition, which also wouldn’t have reached everyone.

            As it is no other date has- to my knowledge- with any early pedigree at all- been put forward. As he had to be born on some day and there is no competition, I consider 25th December has to win, at least until someone can produce a better date with more convincing early primary attestation. Don’t see that happening.

          • Anton

            The earliest Christian writing on the subject (Clement of Alexandria) states that the time of year is unknown. The idea that Clement was unaware of oral sources which other people then wrote down is speculation, but speculation can cut both ways, of course. No historian worthy of the title would trust a story about Queen Victoria that first surfaced today, would he?

            The date that is customarily celebrated today matches the midwinter solstice and the associated pagan celebration of sol invictus inaugurated by Emperor Aurelian late in the third century.

            The argument from Luke 1 relating to John the Baptist’s conception gives two peaks of probability, equally likely and six months apart, and both broad.

            You are free to celebrate Christmas when you like, of course. My best guess – this is not original and others take the same view – is Tabernacles, in the autumn. The Jewish Messiah was expected at the harvest festival of Tabernacles (as his brothers understood; see John 7), and it is undoubtedly when his second coming will occur (Zechariah 14:16), so his first coming was presumably at that time, so that faithful Jews might identify him (Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:25-38?) I accept that this argument is not certain, and I suggest you would do well to do the same with yours. Tradition can be sticky stuff but that does not mean it is correct.

          • magnolia

            The status of possible oral tradition in the first century cannot equate with the status of possible oral tradition in the 19th/20th Centuries. Scribes were not common in the first century and all writing was done by hand and scripts copied laboriously, as compared with after the printing presses and far different understanding of historiography, and very different communications geographically. Furthermore the expected second coming was reckoned by some to make writing it all down unnecessary, hence some areas had different stories passed down than others.

            What is clear is that the only date for those who cared about birthdays- and not all did- was 25th December.There is no record whatever of the Feast of Tabernacles, nor any later surfacing tradition.

            if we know neither the day nor the hour of the Second Coming, as we are told by Jesus we do not know, how can you possibly know it is on the feast of Tabernacles? That is some hefty contradiction, isn’t it? Aren’t Jesus words ones that trump all others?

            And are you maybe just reading backwards from a desired particular type of Zionism? And a particular eschatological understanding?

          • Anton

            The people who care about December 25th invented it several centuries later. Certainly you care more about the date than the early church did, or even the inspired gospel writers. What does that say about you and them?

            Jesus gave specific signs to watch out for when he spoke on the Mt of Olives. The prophets also said to watch out for a peace treaty that is violated after 3.5 years, which is followed by 3.5 years of horror ended by Jesus’ return. “No man knows the time” means simply that no man knows in advance exactly when the sequence of signs, and that 7-year period, begin; they were ahead when Jesus spoke, and still are today (although closer). But believers may be certain when Jesus will return from 3.5 years ahead of the event, and they will find that He comes back at Tabernacles.

            The three great annual festivals for which every able-bodied Jew was to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem were Passover, FirstFruits and Tabernacles. The first two found Christian fulfilment in the Crucifixion and Pentecost respectively. What fulfilment do you think is planned for Tabernacles? Hint: It is the harvest festival, and the festival of rejoicing.

          • magnolia

            Dr. Taylor Marshall in his book actually calculates according to two priestly cycles a year, hence:
            ” Each shift of priests served one week in the temple for two times each
            year. The course of Abias served during the eighth week and the
            thirty-second week in the annual cycle.[ii”
            [ii]
            I realize that there are two courses of Abias. This theory only works
            if Zacharias and Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist after Zacharias’
            second course – the course in September. If Saint Luke refers to the
            first course, this then would place the birth of John the Baptist in
            late Fall and the birth of Christ in late Spring. However, I think
            tradition and the Protoevangelium substantiate that the Baptist was
            conceived in late September.”

          • Anton

            Tradition and the Protoevangelium? The tradition began after the time in which Christian writers said that the time of year was lost, so is worthless. The Protoevangelium of James dates it by saying that John the Baptist’s father Zachariah entered the Holy of Holies – which was entered only on Yom Kippur (in the autumn) by the High Priest. Marshall himself admits that this is nonsense, because Zachariah was not the High Priest. The Protoevangelium is also worthless for this purpose.

            Even if not, to nail it to December 25th means speculating on exactly how many days Mary’s pregnancy lasted, speculating on how soon after Zachariah returned from duty his wife conceived, and speculating on where in the 3-year cycle of an extra month added to the Jewish calendar (to keep the lunar calendar tuned to the solar one) the event took place. Speculation + speculation + speculation = Speculation!

          • Pubcrawler

            “Pope Gregory’s letter instructing his missionaries in England to do just that”

            A specific instruction for one time and place, not general policy, even for England. The current pagans may wish to extrapolate from it, but there is no reason we should let them get away with it.

          • Anton

            Clearly Gregory saw it as a general principle. The thing to do is say it doesn’t matter to the gospel message and then preach that.

          • Pubcrawler

            Did he? Compare what he wrote to Æthelbert:

            “Therefore, my illustrious son, do you carefully guard the grace which
            you have received from the Divine goodness,
            and be eager to spread the Christian faith among the people under
            your rule; in all uprightness increase your zeal for their
            conversion; suppress the worship of idols; overthrow the
            structures of the temples; establish the manners of your subjects
            by much cleanness of life, exhorting, terrifying, winning,
            correcting, and showing forth an example of good works,”

            https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.i.xxxi.html

            So perhaps it’s no so clear.

            Pope Boniface later wrote in much the same vein to Edwin of Northumbria, as well.

            Saying it doesn’t matter they will regard as a cop-out: better to show them that they are mistaken or overplaying their hand and then correct them.

          • Anton

            I’m less interested in converting pagans than in converting than undecided audience listening such dialogues, for the simple reason that there are many more of them. That’s why I’d turn the subject to the gospel as soon as I’d said that a Pope did exhort Christmas to be built upon the pagan midwinter celebration in our land but what has that to do with the truth of Christianity and/or paganism?

            Pope Gregory does not give any reason, in his letter to his missionaries in England (reproduced in Bede, as mentioned), why the principle he recommends of Christianising pagan practices might be suitable only in England. Indeed there is no reason, as English paganism did not differ significantly from continental. How do you, Pubbers, reconcile Gregory’s words to Æthelbert with his letter to Augustine of Canterbury, please?

        • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

          There are moves afoot to have recognised Mohammedan festivals recognised and observed by the state. One shudders…

          • Anton

            I need a bacon sandwich!

  • IanCad

    My wife often says that anyone who can stand my company for more than five minutes must be a Saint.
    I hereby nominate my wife; Tracy.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      A saintly woman indeed…I shall invite her to my next gathering at The Palace.

  • Inspector General

    Damn down tick isn’t working…

    • CliveM

      Ha, Grump in Chief foiled!

  • chefofsinners

    Thinking a step ahead, I’d like to nominate Mike Pence as Christian of next year. He’s gonna need all the saintly virtue and divine help he can muster.

  • Or there’s that fellow Hilton who explained to many the Machiavellian machinations of the EU helping Brexit along to the frustration of anti-Christ liberal globalisation forces.

  • len

    Canon Andrew White.

  • len

    I suppose the real heroes of the faith are those who`s names never appear in public.Those who have been beheaded in some remote areas where no one witnessed their death or their utter conviction that death was preferable to denying their faith in Christ.
    This is true faith, God knows every one of them.

  • bockerglory

    For me it is the 31 Egyptian Christians be-headed by devout Islamists – they did not deny Christ. Heroes, martyrs – inheaven with God & Jesus.

  • Jon of GSG

    I’m obviously years behind with this debate, but… It’s always seemed self-evident to me that we must be basically incapable of judging each other in terms of faith – one person’s overcoming a lifetime’s selfish habit to buy a Big Issue may be a bigger spiritual victory than someone who’s always been generous-natured spending a whole year serving poor people in Africa. So it’s unclear to me what purpose the list serves… and I certainly can’t see how it transforms the world’s paradigm. Rather I’d think the transformation is more likely to be the other way round.
    Now if the list weren’t implicitly a competition – if it were just a list “in no particular order” – then perhaps.