Rev. Giles Fraser Catches Out Richard Dawkins in Dispute about Christianity in Britain


On Tuesday, BBC 4 hosted an occasionally heated exchange between Richard Dawkins and Rev. Giles Fraser. In their exchange, Fraser takes exception to the design of a survey conducted by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He suggests that the survey, which purports to establish that Christianity is rare in Britain, shows no such thing. The Dawkins survey revealed that nearly two out of three who consider themselves Christians were unable to name the first book of the New Testament. (The correct answer is supposed to be the Gospel According to St. Matthew, but that depends on what you mean by “first”!) Fraser put the Dawkins test to work on Dawkins himself and asked if he could name the full title of The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. Though he said he could, Dawkins stumbled when trying to quote the full title of his own secular Bible. Some British journalists are having laugh at Dawkins’s expense.

For audio of the interview (less than 7 minutes) click here. The story is reported at the Huff Post, with a transcript of the embarrassing bit, here.

Many, no doubt, will remark with glee on the embarrassing incident. But this isn’t quite fair, in my opinion. True, Dawkins should know the full title of Darwin’s seminal work. Dawkins is, after all, a former Oxford University professor who has published extensively in defense of Darwinian evolution. He is also the author of a 23-page Introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of The Origin of Species and the Voyage of the Beagle, published by Alfred A. Knopf. But it surely is a sad commentary on the state of literacy in Britain that so few who call themselves Christians can name the book that appears first in most copies of the New Testament.

There is a larger point that should not be missed. There was a time when knowing that sort of thing was widespread among believers and non-believers alike. But the fund of “common knowledge” has been compressed to the dimensions of a thimble so that now what counts as literacy is up for grabs. Christian or not, shouldn’t a literate person know enough about the world’s great literature to be able to declare with confidence the name of the first Gospel of the New Testament?

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Get a Grip on Greek


In the 1970s and 1980s I took several courses on New Testament Greek, at both grad and undergrad levels. I don’t need reminding how long ago that was! Like so many others, I “let my Greek go.” So my proficiency dropped dramatically. Call it my own personal “Greek tragedy.”

After investing the effort in studying Greek, I hated to see it go to waste. I’ve made good use of my knowledge at times, but I haven’t been very deliberate about sustaining and improving my grip on Greek. Now I’ve come across a little book that addresses this very typical reality—Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People, by Constantine R. Campbell.

Campbell’s book of 90 pages is organized into ten mini-chapters.

  1. Read Every Day
  2. Burn Your Interlinear
  3. Use Software Tools Wisely
  4. Make Vocabulary Your Friend
  5. Practice Your Parsing
  6. Read Fast
  7. Read Slow
  8. Use Your Senses
  9. Get Your Greek Back
  10. Putting It All Together

There’s advice in an appendix on getting it right the first time, for those who are just now beginning to learn NT Greek. The book ends with a list of resources truly useful to the person who would follow the practical advice that Campbell gives.

There are no stunning new revelations here about how to stay on top of a language you’ve learned. It’s mostly common sense—but it’s wise and inspiring common sense.

The author maintains a blog—Read Better, Preach Better—where he offers practical advice on biblical study and Bible-based preaching. The chapters of his book are adapted from a series of blog posts about keeping your Greek skills intact. Each chapter concludes with a few comments or “blog responses” from his readers. It’s a clever idea whose potential, I think, is never fully exploited. The value of including these responses depends, of course, on the value of the responses themselves.

Campbell uses Accordance software in his own regimen of Greek review and New Testament study. I’ve used this tool myself. It is powerful and convenient.

Two resources especially recommended by Campbell are:

I concur with these recommendations.

If you need brushing up, or you have the inclination to teach yourself New Testament Greek, I strongly recommend the published work of my friend Bill Mounce:

Mounce provides a wealth of additional tools, including his FlashWorks vocabulary drilling program, at his Teknia website.

For audio assistance with Greek study and review, these tools will prove useful:

Cover of "Sing and Learn New Testament Gr...

Cover via Amazon

Finally, you must poke around at the Institute of Biblical Greek website.

At least twice monthly, I teach an adult Bible study. Lately I’ve been introducing group members to the benefits of Greek study. We are currently studying 1 John, with an emphasis on Bible study technique. If you happen to live in North Orange County, California, you’re welcome to join us!

The Apologetics of Jesus


What would Jesus do if he was alive on the earth now and facing the skeptics of our day? The same thing he did in the first century. And what was that?

This question is answered with great clarity in the new book by Norman Geisler and Patrick Zukeran—The Apologetics of Jesus: A Caring Approach to Dealing with Doubters.

I want to recommend this book for several reasons: Read more of this post

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