Grasping the Nettle

Share and Develop 1/12/21 – Grasping the Nettle – David Nash


As a relatively recent organisation, Grasping the Nettle (GTN) formed in 2015 drawing together the largest representation of the Christian community in Scotland  to enable science and the church to address some of the wider questions affecting modern society – principally that Science has not made God redundant. This community includes Christian academics, church leaders, medical practitioners, and scientists and engineers and has representation from all of the main denominations.

A summary is given here of an interview with Prof David Nash at our Share and Develop event on 1st December 2021 that drew upon C-A-N-‘s interest in focus on the following:

What has motivated the need to start Grasping the Nettle?

The activity of ‘grasping the nettle’ of addressing a challenge that science has made God redundant and since 2010 this has been in mainstream discussions. Certainly, there is a move in the West for sure to make God irrelevant even though a number of things in creation like the start of light may be identified. Science clearly shows how God made the Universe and the process by which we came to be.

How does Grasping the Nettle carry out its activity?

Within Grasping the Nettle, there are three key elements – an initiative, which build community, a charity which provides a resource mechanism and a media production company which produces video and online resources for the church. The GTN initiative includes both church leaders and those who would be considered working in science. Then there is community that form the activities and events that we run in public and church locations. This provides support and confidence to the church in many ways through use of the materials. To date, the material crosses three themes – the Cosmos, Life and Evolution, Mind and Consciousness, which have been a driver behind the productions that have come out of GTN and also translated into most major languages for global distribution – and soon even Gaelic for the Highlands and Islands! Here in Scotland, we have the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church as well as other smaller denominations including the Free Church coming together to discuss topics in these themes.

Have you done events in a University?

Yes, but with limited success since inviting members of the general public and also children is challenging, whereas such venues as theatres have helped better for a wider audience. However, in terms of University facing events, they have taken place with some presentations to learned societies and to fresher’s weeks and have involved discussions and debates with including audiences including those of secular or humanist backgrounds. But online we have a much broader reach and there are many resources including the video casts on our website.

Has the Environment been a topical subject for you?

Yes, certainly care for creation is a matter of great interest. Man was called to care for the garden and so in GTN, we see our role to showing how the earth and heavens display the glory of God. However, finding some discussions/debates with some consistent thinking on the needs and remedies to the Climate Crisis is not easy, so it is important that alignment with Scriptures can be drawn to in response this rather than directing from Scripture at the start.

In trying not to mention Bible scriptures from the start, how do you see that working out?

Going back to my own student life, I would say a term from my youth was that evangelical Christian students were known as Bible bashers and those sharing the Gospel would start with various texts and ‘force’ their positions on enquirers. This was quite off putting to me but rather I observed  a rugby friend become a Christian and he shared his faith and the Bible with me while still sitting well in his engineering studies. This drew my curiosity to find out more. We are in a world with well educated and relatively well to do academics who don’t see a need for God or the Bible. This puts us in a ‘pre-evangelism’ zone whereby we can take what we have but can come to identify that we have not got answers to some of the ‘big questions’. Through discussing openly and respectfully we can then win the right to bring in the Biblical perspective. Most importantly the Bible isn’t ignored, it’s just not playing its role on day one!

But also there can be a lot of scientists that are not so well educated in the sense they ignore other disciplines such as the arts, history, philosophy and literature etc. but in topics like Artificial Intelligence this is so important in how it interfaces with Human Rights?

I can relate to that as an engineer. This has been fulfilled in part by inviting speakers from around the world and our themes including Mind and Consciousness do help to encapsulate education in the broader sense that is in line with the broader school education in Scotland.

I guess this begins to show how the concept of Grasping the Nettle gets is name?

Yes I it is, that the physical act of grasping a nettle is doing something (maybe painfully) difficult and there was nothing really for the wider church in Scotland to address the large New Atheist agenda. In drawing the initiative together, it has helped to then get all on board by coming under the unifying belief of God as our Father and Creator. That’s the nub of the nettle if we like it and it’s been a wholly fulfilling initiative to grasp it.

How can we know more?

The website has many excellent and free resources for the church. There are many interviews and debates which can be streamed – which are excellent starting points for conversations. The principal aim is to equip the local church and to support it to address these societal issues and to truly grasp the nettle with confidence.


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