Thursday, 31 January 2008

Your family IS your work!

I'm presently reading a biography. The subject of it was an Anglican minister who died in the early 1980s who was also what is often called a "workaholic".

He was completely devoted to his ministry of evangelising and preaching. Unfortunately, he routinely allowed this ministry to draw him into neglecting his family, which included his beloved wife and two children. He was a popular international speaker to conferences, seminaries and universities, and regularly made trips of several weeks to many countries. When at home, his study was sacrosanct and he spent vast amounts of time there, studying and praying. He seems to have been a highly gifted and valued preacher, very self-disciplined, sensitive to criticism, something of a perfectionist, and deeply concerned that his ministry should be fruitful. All of this contributed to driving him into his study when at home, and around the world as many opportunities arose (in fact he had to turn around two-thirds of invitations down).

What I want to draw attention to here is the wrong thinking that calls us to label this phenomenon with descriptions like "spending too much time on his work" or "working too hard", etcetera. Biblically speaking, I think it's the very opposite. If we were to use Biblical terminology, we'd call it neglecting your work or being lazy.

How so? Because, according to the Bible, husbands and fathers are required by God to make their own families a priority area for their work. It's not for nothing that the apostle Paul routinely made family life one of the areas that he singled out for special attention and in-depth instruction (e.g. Ephesians 5:22-6:3, Colossians 3:18-21). God instituted the family - not the office or even the pulpit - before the fall, as the fundamental unit in human society (Genesis 2:18-25). There is a plethora of Scriptures urging us to pay serious and continual attention to our families:

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Ephesians 5:25-33)

"For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5)

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

"Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love." (Proverbs 5:18-19)

"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing , and obtaineth favour of the LORD." (Proverbs 18:22)

As always, of course, the lazy man who doesn't want to invest the effort needed in his family can find many specious excuses. He spends so much time away from them because he loves them and wants to provide for them. He is in the office many hours to keep them in the style to which they've become accustomed. God has given him gifts in his vocation and he should use them fully, shouldn't he? He buys them the best presents and goes on holiday with them every year, doesn't he? Etcetera, etcetera.

The plain fact is, though, that God never told us to neglect our families in order to serve another cause. He told us to make them a non-negotiable priority. He tells husbands and fathers that he requires them to invest time, prayer, sweat and tears in patiently teaching, discipling, guiding, correcting and as the crown of it all enjoying the wonderful blessing of family life.

In our individualistic age Christian men need to make sure that they firmly resist the temptations to laziness which are offered on every side, that they take responsibility like real men, and that they trust God for the long-term fruit of this essential area of their work.

Got Teenagers?

Here's a tip-off about a book I haven't read. But the subject matter is important!

Our teenage years are absolutely crucial, because in them we make the transition from childhood to adulthood. They are awkward years - is this gangly youth a boy or a man, or something else?

One of the most obvious marks of the foolishness of modern Western society is the almost unbelievably low expectations which we have of our teenagers. Many modern parents completely expect their teenagers to be layabouts, to rebel against all authority, and to produce nothing of any worth or value until they "grow up" (an event which is deferred until the 20s). And yet these years are some of the most crucial, character forming and potentially productive. When you meet a teenager who didn't share this set of devastatingly low expectations, the difference is enormous. What a waste to lose these years!

All of this makes me encouraged to hear about the forthcoming "Do Hard Things", written by teenage brothers Alex and Brett Harris. Here's the blurb, written by blogger Justin Taylor (http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/01/do-hard-things.html):

In writing this wise and compelling book, the Harris brothers model their very message: a competent, Christlike, collaborative effort that casts a vision for rebelling against the culture of "teenage" low expectations. Along the way, readers are introduced to a growing group of ordinary rebelutionaries who are doing hard and extraordinary kingdom work. I thank God for this book, and I warmly recommend it to teenagers and parents alike.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1601421125/bettwowor-20

Abridged audio CD: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0739359061/bettwowor-20

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

On the press

I've been reading some more of the Western press's coverage of Kenya. It's a curate's egg - some good, some bad. One enthusiastic headline writer in the Independent announced that we were sliding into civil war. The article underneath the headline said no such thing. Obviously, the headline writer was more bothered about penning something catchy, or something that fitted his view of how things ought to play out in an African country, rather than being faithful to the article.

This led me to reflect. On a small number of occasions in life, we get to be close or close-ish to something that gets reported in the press. In my experience, whenever this happens (whether to me or someone else), what gets reported is at best simplistic, distorted through being shoved into the mould of the press's view of the world, or at worst downright wrong. When I talk to friends about their experiences, they say the same thing.

I increasingly find myself thinking that if this is the case for all the incidences where I have personal knowledge of the situation - how accurate is the rest likely to be? Increasingly I find myself reading the newspapers more critically - looking both for the facts reported, and for which parts are the copy writer's own interpretation; and asking myself why the writer has presented things that way.

A personal universe

What is the right understanding of reality and the universe?

Introducing Naturalism

Amongst those who've made a serious effort to think through their assumptions about reality, many in the modern west hold to the system of naturalism. Naturalists seek to explain all of reality in terms of matter and the physical forces, or interactions, between matter. They treat the physical universe as a closed, self-contained and self-sufficient system. Everything must ultimately be explained in terms of physical laws. Naturalism seeks to rule out any kind of idea of a divine mind behind the universe, or a divine will active in it. Naturalism seeks to remove the category of the "transcendent" from reality - ultimately, all is matter and there is nothing beyond it.

Naturalism Expressed

In biology, naturalism is expressed in the theory of Darwinism, which seeks to explain all of life's complexity by the mechanism of natural selection working upon random mutations. In pyschology, naturalism seeks to reduce all of human behaviour to the chemistry of the human brain. In theology, naturalism seeks to empty the Bible of the concepts of divine revelation, human fallenness and a gracious Saviour, and reduce it to a helpful ethical message about how to live a good life. And so on. Naturalism is a powerful, even dominant, force in many areas of study in our time.

Naturalism And Personality

One of the immense problems that naturalists have not yet approached any kind of coherent explanation for is the problem of personality.

We live in a personal universe. Beyond the molecules, cells and systems which are present in your body, there is a you which transcends them all. Almost every cell in your body is replaced within seven years - yet there is still a you which continues on throughout your whole lifetime. I am not a different being from the one I was as a little boy - even though there's hardly a molecule shared between me now and there. You are a personal, self-conscious, thinking being. You think thoughts, you weigh up moral decisions, you consider ideas - and you can do all of those things without being determined by your genes. The thoughts that go on in my childrens' heads are not pre-determined by the genes that mum and dad gave them. We might both love classical music; they will be free to decide that it's boring if they choose.

Our awareness of our own self-consciousness and of the reality of our existence as personal beings is summed up most simply, most memorably and most famously in philosopher Rene Decartes' dictum: Cogito, ergo sum. Or in English: "I think; therefore, I am".

Decartes had the aim to how much he could deduce from a position of radical skepticism. He aimed to drop every assumption and pre-conception about reality, and simply deduce what he could from the naked act of thinking. His celebrated first deduction was that since he was sure that he was partaking in the act of thinking, he must exist. There was a distinct, personal being chewing the cud.

To sum up what we've discussed here: Our awareness of the reality of the university as being personal - that we have individualities which transcend the physical - is one of the deepest, most fundamental facts about our existence.

So....

At this point, naturalism is utterly stumped. How can a lump of flesh generate self-consciousness? The concept of self-consciousness transcends the categories of naturalism - naturalism has no place for an I or a you. Naturalism has to explain how, somehow, the bone material of my skull is not self-conscious and yet the lump of brain tissue contained in that skull is!

Stories about how a physical world could develop out of nothing can be made to sound plausible. (How plausible they sound after you've thought about them a little is another matter). We can all, in our heads, at least picture the idea of fish turning into amphibians, and then into mammals, apes and then people. It strikes us as at least being worthy of discussing. It's quite another thing, however, to try to cook up a story about how there can be an I and a you.

In other words, naturalism is completely up the creek when it comes to explaining one of the most basic facts about reality. The evidence of personality as a basic and transcendent category in the universe we live in points very definitely not to an impersonal reality behind the university. It testifies clearly to a vast Personality who is behind it all.

In other words:

I think; therefore God is.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Why so many "versions" of Christianity?

Here's a good question that is often asked of evangelical Christians like myself.

If Christianity is true, then why are there so many denominations, so many disagreements, and so many sects that split off from it?

The answer is maybe surprisingly simple. On the assumption that Christianity is true, where is the devil going to spend all his time trying to cause confusion, and what is he going to spend his effort on trying to counterfeit?

There's a reason why there's no market for counterfeit plastic. It's not worth anything. Counterfeiters counterfeit gold!

Monday, 28 January 2008

C.S. Lewis On Evolution

1. The marvelous "Evolutionary Hymn":

Lead us, evolution lead us,
Up the future's endless stair,
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

It gets better still: see the whole thing here.


2. "C. S. Lewis and evolution" (by Peter Barnes):

"If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset."


"What inclines me now to think you may be right in regarding [evolution] as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders."

3. "C.S. Lewis and the Great Myth" by Don Hardgrave:

"They love the Myth so take care how you expose it".


4. C. S. Lewis on Creation and Evolution: The Acworth Letters, 1944-1960

To what extent Lewis came in his later years to reject his earlier belief in theistic evolution is more difficult to ascertain. His Oxford colleague Dame Helen Gardner recalled a conversation with Lewis over dinner in which she suggested that Adam was probably a "Neanderthal ape-like figure," to which Lewis coolly replied, "I see we have a Darwinian in our midst." Nothing in his published writings suggests, however, that he gave up his long-held view that biological evolution was compatible with Christianity. Nevertheless, Lewis seems to have been favorably impressed upon reading Acworth's unpublished attack on evolution. "I must confess," he wrote on September 13, 1951, "it has shaken me." Lewis's later correspondence with Acworth suggests that he had begun a gradual shift away from his earlier unquestioning acceptance of evolution, but had stopped short of adopting Acworth's antievolutionist stance.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Book Review: "The Sacred Anointing" (The Preaching of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

"The Sacred Anointing" (The Preaching of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Tony Sargent, Hodder and Staughton, 1994

(This isn't really a book review - it's more a synopsis with a commendation).

Often history only becomes clear at a distance. It seems clear, though, 27 years after his homecall, that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (DMLJ) was one of the must gifted and influential preachers of the 20th century. Completed about a decade after his death this book, by the then pastor of the Worthing Tabernacle in Sussex, attempts a survey of the "Doctor"'s theology and practice of preaching.

Pastor Sargent is obviously a fan of the Doctor, but there is nothing gushing in this book, and the reader will not be irritated or misled by any occasional lapses in objectivity.

Not In Word Only

One of the main burden's of DMLJ's ministry was that his preaching should be "not in word only". He believed that preaching was more than a just a sub-species of lecture or discourse. He held that the ultimate aim of the preacher was "theophany": that his hearers should experience the powerful presence of God through his word. He was a relentless critic of any tendency which seem to suggested that a gospel minister could be satisfied solely with the delivery of correct doctrine, even when that delivery was sincere and enthusiastic. Refusing to make widespread contemporary dearth his measure, DMLJ looked back into his Bible and into Christian history to understand what may happen when a preacher has a special measure of God's presence with him. He called this experience "unction", or "anointing", and often explained it as being a consequence of the preacher receiving a "baptism" in the Holy Spirit.

Baptism and Filling

This latter use of terminology was, for those holding the same Reformed faith which DMLJ held dear, the controversial element in DMLJ's teaching as it seemed to open the door to the kind of "second blessing" teaching which, in other contexts, DMLJ was rightly a determined critic of. It seemed to me from reading this book that DMLJ was overly attached to the term "baptism", and that many of his critics would have been placated if he had used the term "filling" instead. Against DMLJ, I understand the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit to be used in Scripture to mean conversion, not a special anointing for service, but with DMLJ I agree that the initial conversion experience is not all that Christians are intended to seek. Sargent discusses some of the rough edges in DMLJ's theology in this area - such as the critical question which he never apparently answered: what should a gospel minister who hasn't experienced a "baptism" do or expect? Is his ministry forever condemned until he gets it?

Where's Home?

Because DMLJ was a unique figure, and because he was a massively gifted, blessed and influential figure, it follows that a whole plethora of theological camps will want to claim him for their own. In my judgment he best fitted amongst those he always said he belonged to: the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists - experiential Calvinists. How DMLJ would have responded to the modern developed charismatic movement or to its "Reformed" wing is ultimately a matter of speculation; Sargent thinks he would have become considerably more critical of it had his ministry been prolonged, as he was of Pentecostalism, and he points out some of DMLJ's critiques of charismaticism's historical fore-runner, Irvingism.

The Value Of Sargent's Book

Sargent provides a useful and fairly thorough survey of DMLJ's theory and methodology in preaching. Though he placed such an emphasis on the necessity of divine unction in preaching, it was never as a substitute for thorough and studious preparation. Indeed, second-rate study is as sure a way to grieve and chase away God's Spirit as any. DMLJ self-consciously held to a thoroughly evangelical understanding of the principles of Biblical inspiration and interpretation, and sought to operate in consistency with it at all times. Most Christians who have encountered DMLJ will know that he was deeply impressed by the thorough and deep-rooted logical development he found particularly in the letters of the apostle Paul, and how he sought to apply his diagnostic skills to bring that development out. Sargent applies some mild critique of DMLJ's aversion to the study of formalised hermeneutics and to theological colleges - which was always only partial, as he founded one himself!

The great value of this book is firstly in its emphasis upon preaching, secondly its emphasis upon preaching that is Biblically accurate and faithful to the whole of the Bible, and thirdly its emphasis upon preaching that is "more than words". When the church loses its confidence in preaching, it ultimately loses its confidence in the Saviour who is preached. The church in the UK today has a great need firstly to recover its confidence in authentic preaching, and second to recover that preaching itself. This is, DMLJ reminds us, far more than a simple matter of applying the correct techniques; it ultimately comes down to the need of preachers and churches to get down upon their knees and "sue God" until he delivers upon his promises of spiritual power.

The Importance of DMLJ

Reading this book reminded me of my first encounter with Lloyd-Jones, when I "happened" to find a book of sermons on Romans 1 at a bargain price in my local Christian bookshop. I didn't really know the Doctor from Adam, but I was hooked very quickly by the thoroughness, logic and clarity of his printed sermons. I think that for readers who don't know much about DMLJ reading such sermons would be a far better introduction than this book, whose value is probably because of the angle of approach much higher for those who preach than for those who "sit in the pew".

DMLJ's importance in the revival of Reformed Christianity in the 20th century is hardly disputable, and there cannot be a preacher alive today who would not find a good deal of help from considering the Doctor's ministry. It's good to have an accurate idea in our head about what preaching really is, or ought to be. The Doctor shows us in flesh and blood. May God be pleased to raise up again preachers who know by experience what it means to preach week in and week out under the blessing of "the sacred anointing".

Are you a Christian?

I'm not here explaining what a Christian is - the fundamental teachings about the life, death and resurrection of Christ, his saving work and how it becomes ours.

I am, though, going to ask my readers who profess to know and believe those things and to have been saved, whether they live like Christians?

Whether we live like Christians is evidence of whether or not we really are Christians. John said, "He that says 'I know him,' and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (1 John 2:11). What are God's commandments to us? The second one is this one, in Jesus' words: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." (Mark 12:31).

Actually, that's a very mundane, everyday commandment. In each of the situations below, we all know what we'd like someone to do for us. What it means is this:
  • You have a sandwich in the lounge. Do you put the plate in the kitchen afterwards or leave it lying around for someone else?

  • Someone writes you a letter. Do you write back, or do you put it off indefinitely?

  • Your children do something to irritate you. Do you deal with it patiently and kindly (explaining to them what they're doing wrong if relevant, or "getting over it" if the fault was yours), or do you snap back at them?

  • You are sitting down on a full Tube train. A pregnant lady enters the train. Do you immediately stand up, or do you wait for a bit to see if anyone else is going to do it?

  • You make a cup of tea. Do you offer your wife one too, or can't you be bothered? 

  • At the bottom of some stairs, a young mum is struggling with a buggy which she needs to get to the top. It looks awkward and you're pre-occupied and a bit tired. What are you going to do?

  • You hear a friend is ill. You're schedule is busy, your mind is full of problems, and it seems like quite an effort to pick up the phone and speak a word of encouragement to them. Will you do it?

In all the above situations, it is actually absolutely blindingly obvious what we would appreciate someone else doing for us. Isn't it?

Or in other words, bringing Jesus' commandment into it, it is absolutely blindingly obvious what the commandment "love your neighbour as yourself" requires us to do, if it requires us to do anything at all.

Or, bringing the apostle John's words into it, it is absolutely blindingly obvious who is and who is not a liar when they claim to be a Christian. Isn't it?

If being an advanced Christian means having a solid knowledge of the faith, being a preacher, being known as a respected church member, etcetera, then I'm sure many of us are doing very well. I am. If, however, on the other hand, Christian maturity means such mundane things as putting stuff away after you use it so that the other people in your household don't have to do it for you, or helping your wife with the washing up, then does that make things look differently? By this measure, I have one enormously long way to go. Do you?

"Whether therefore you do the washing up, or make a cup of tea, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31, or thereabouts.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Church History Lecture Series (Rugby)

Rugby Evangelical Free Church, Railway Terrace
Church History Lectures 2008

 
Monday 14th April
"Gnosticism: Past & Present" : Dr Nick Needham (Inverness)
 
Monday 19th May
"Sarah Edwards" : Sharon James (Leamington)
 
Monday 9th June
"Have we lost interest in Revival" : Paul Cook (Breaston)
 
All Lectures Commence at 7.30pm - All Welcome.

The lectures will eventually be placed here for download.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Wilson on Piper

Doug Wilson recently finished his chapter-by-chapter overview of pastor
John Piper's new book on N T Wright and justification.

In other words, the arch-Federal-Visionist reviews a convinced classical
evangelical reviewing the arch-New-Perspectivist. Whew. No serious
student of the doctrine of justification could fail to get at least
something out of this. Follow the link below, and the installments come
in reverse order:

http://dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=ArchivesByTopic&TopicID=33

<http://dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=ArchivesByTopic&TopicID=33>

Wonders will never cease!

Let's be blunt. Not a small amount of the political commentary in the Western press about the recent troubles in Kenya has been drivel. The kind of drivel you could only be dreamed up by a hack who spends his time behind a desk in some cosy corner of London and chatting with like-minded friends in trendy wine bars.

It was a lovely surprise to read one of the best stories explaining some things to a Western readership in one of the worst offenders, the Guardian.
"The EU has only 23 languages; Africa has at least 2,000. Kenya alone has 40. Like an imagined Europe unified by force by outsiders, Africans played no part in the creation of their nation states. Their boundaries were drawn on maps in Europe by Europeans who had never even been to Africa and with no regard for existing political systems and boundaries. Half a century later, Africans were given flags and national anthems, airlines and armies and told they were now independent; Kenyans, Nigerians or Chadians."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/kenya/story/0,,2235987,00.html

The Fool Hath Said...

My online friend Charles Collins has begun blogging his way through Professor Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and Professor Alister McGrath's "The Dawkins Delusion".

In his opening post, he makes a good point about atheist claims that they are "free" thinkers, whose position is more neutral (especially as far as raising their own children) goes:

"I am not sure if Dawkins has children, but every parent brings up their
offspring based of the set of values they have. I brought my children
up to go to church because I believe in God and believe He is worthy of
our worship. I dare say, Dawkins [if he has children] didn’t bring them
up to go to worship God in church each Sunday because he doesn’t
believe in a God who is worthy of our worship. He is inflicting his
values upon his children, just as much as I am."

Religious neutrality cannot strictly exist - either you render worship to God, or you withhold it from him; middle ground is impossible. Similarly, with children, either you show them by example that God is worthy of their worship, or you show them that he isn't.

Follow Charles' progress at:

http://thefoolhassaid.wordpress.com/

What Is Marriage?

With delicious irony, after my last post extolling the wonders of modern technology, a five-day (so far) Internet outage struck! Ah well...

Marriage

I read in this BBC News article that US presidential candidate Mick Huckabee (former governor of Arkansas) "has been under fire for remarks apparently equating same-sex marriage with bestiality." Quoth auntie,

"Marriage has ... as long as there's been human history, meant a man and a woman in a relationship for life. Once we change that definition, then where does it go from there?" he said in an interview for Beliefnet online magazine.
"I think the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal."

David Smith of the gay rights Human Rights Campaign told CNN that Mr Huckabee, a former evangelist preacher, was "out of the mainstream of American thought".

Two things to note here:

  • Candidate Huckabee has, it seems, raised the point that if we're going to redefine what marriage is, then what are the limits on this process?

  • In response, a "gay rights" group's speaker charged that Candidate Huckabee's way of thinking wasn't "mainstream".

My thoughts:

  • What kind of argument is that? Since when did the gay rights' groups adopt what's "mainstream" as its litmus test of what was right and wrong? Was it after "gay rights" ideas became mainstream, or before?

  • I think that Mr. Smith is wrong. Whenever I see a poll, it indicates the opposite. When there have been measures on US state referenda in recent years to address the question, the public have come down against gay marriage. See here.

  • If "mainstream" shows us what is right and wrong, why just restrict it to the US? Why just restrict it to the present generation? Why not take a poll of the whole world? Over the last 1000 years? Presumably because the answer wouldn't be what Mr. Smith wanted.

  • Seems to me that when Mr. Smith talks about "mainstream", he's talking about the leftie press and university departments where secularism dominates. The lefties love to redefine their preferences as "mainstream", and call everyone else an "extremist". Raspberries to that. From the perspective of history and humanity as a whole, it's actually them who are the extremists.
None of the above points though have addressed the main point - the one which Mr. Huckabee raised. There are two key questions here:

  1. Firstly, what is marriage?

  2. Secondly, who gets the right to define what marriage is or isn't?

Huckabee's point is actually pretty logically sound. If the definition of marriage is going to be broadened from its historical one of the covenanted, exclusive union of a man and woman to be something else, then where do we stop? On what grounds can it be modified in one place, and not in another? "Because gay rights activists want to" is not a coherent answer. Paedophiles and all manner of other sexual deviants might want to as well. Never heard of the "man-boy love league"?

Who gave the state the right to re-define the nature of one of society's fundamental institutions? Historically, the role of the state in marriage has been to recognise it where it exists, and to provide the basic necessary regulation, which is a very minimal role. It has not been to declare what marriage is, or to change it when it didn't like it.

If gay rights' activists and their friends in high places are allowed to re-write one part of the definition of marriage, then why cannot other groups do it elsewhere also? Muslims and traditionalist Mormons would like to change the law to allow the practice of polygamy, a practice which is deeply degrading to women. If we're allowed to change the "one-man and one-woman" to "two men", then why not change it to "one-man and four-women" also? Why not, as candidate Huckabee says, have a man and three women - or even three men and three women, or a man and a goat? If marriage is just a nose of wax which can be shaped as society pleases, then why just stop at the preferences of gay rights' activists? Don't other groups have preferences too? I suppose that this is why Mr. Smith has to appeal to what (he believes) is "mainstream" - because the logic to back up his desires is lacking; hence he just makes a subjective appeal to what's popular in his circles.

How to answer those tricky questions?

Once you assume a couple of simple truths, the tricky questions aren't actually tricky at all. At the beginning, God created the human race to be male and female. He made man and woman to relate to one another in lifelong marriage - it was his intention. He made us to be complementary, physically and emotionally, and gave us the drive for sexual intimacy, and for an exclusive relationship, as the right context in which families could both begin and thrive. Who gets to say what marriage is? The one who made both it and us!

Even from the viewpoint of basic biology it's blindingly obvious that man and woman are intended for each other, and not man and man. Homosexuality is completely sterile. It s practice cannot be any kind of basis for a coherent society.

Who has the right to say what marriage is? Our maker. If you don't start there, you have to go wrong. Once you decide that man decides what marriage is for himself, then you lose the right to logically and coherently object to the man-boy love league and those who would enslave women in polygamy - that's just your personal preferences against theirs. We're made for one man, one woman relationships, and all the parliaments and laws in the world can't change what we are. Men will never be complementary to men, any more than they will be to boys or to animals. The fight for "gay rights" is a fight against nature, and its proponents need to repent.

Footnote

Whilst on the subject of the US presidential candidates, yesterday I passed a Nairobi bookshop and saw Senator Obama's face smiling out at me (Obama's father is a Kenyan). I learnt by peering through the window that he has a biography called "The Audacity Of Hope". To my mind, leaders ought to be proven and experienced - especially if we're talking about becoming the most powerful man in the world. Senator Obama, from what I understand, began running for president a mere two years after joining the US Senate, on the back of a well-received party conference speech. The audacity of hope, indeed!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Inventions or discoveries?

There are plenty of things in everyday life we don't think much about - but we ought to!

One thing I am profoundly grateful for, and amazed by, is modern technology. There is such a vast amount of technology involved just in the act of blogging that it is breath-taking

Just to mention a few...

  • The laptop it's typed out on. The processor, the display, the battery (power cuts happen here!), etcetera...
  • Then it gets beamed a short distance through the air to my mobile phone,
  • from where it gets beamed to the nearest mobile tower.
  • Then a combination of fibre-optics and/or satellites get it to blogger, somewhere in the USA, where it is stored on magnetic disks.
  • And then over to you!

I live in Africa, but because of the Internet in many ways the distance feels quite short. I can e-mail video clips and photos, receive e-mails, read the BBC news, send SMS messages, just as when I lived in the UK. If I really wanted to, I could do all of those things on a mobile phone handset costing about £80 (it's probably cheaper where you live!). A tiny thing that fits in my pocket and is so light I don't notice it's there can do all of that. Amazing!

The reason I find it amazing isn't because I think it's magic. I studied scientific subjects at school and university, and as a boy technology was always one of my interests. My understanding of how many of these things work doesn't make them seem less wonderful - it makes them seem far more wonderful. The above list includes the technology involved in electricity, electro-magnetic radiation, satelite technology, magnetism, fibre-optics. When we understand more, we don't marvel less: quite the opposite.

Coming To The Point...

So, what am I saying? Did you notice that I said I was profoundly grateful for these things? Where should that gratitude be directed, exactly?

Often we describe these things as being "inventions". And indeed, in an important sense, they are. There's a big step in between understanding the principles of fibre-optics, electricity, and so on, and then actually putting together all the equipment that uses those principles to make it possible for my thoughts to get out of my head, though the air, and onto your screen. It needed someone to make the long route from A to B.

Fundamentally, though, these things are not inventions, but are discoveries. For the human "inventor", they did not come out of nothing at all, but were a harnessing of things that already existed. In the days when our ancestors did not have electricity, mobile phones or e-mail, the potential for such things were all still latent in the world around them - they just had not been harnessed.

The Big Question

So, is that all just luck? Our "gratitude" is misplaced - a false emotion? We should just be saying, "that's a stroke of fortune"? It is just a wonderful coincidence that such "blessings" (wrong word again!) just "happen" to exist?

Such things are reasons why it's impossible to be a consistent atheist. To have to attribute these things, and many more besides, just to happy coincidence. Let's call it the "good-luck-of-the-gaps" explanation - denying the reality of God, who made all these things for our pleasure and his glory, we have to write off huge areas of human life as being mere fortune. An appeal to "luck", though, is not an actual explanation - it is a confession of ignorance. "Luck" is not a cause or a mechanism - it is a philosophical abstraction. Luck is not a person or mind, and cannot actually do anything.

Such things as the above also make it hard to be an inconsistent theist. By that I mean, acknowledging in our minds the reality of God, but failing to give him thanks or worship with our lives. Technology depends upon minds - human minds which piece it all together, understand it, and manufacture the wonderful little gadgets that result. Much more fundamentally, though, technology depends upon a divine mind. A divine mind, that constructed the creation where all those possibilities have lain latent until a spark of inspiration moved the human inventor to harness them. The enormous potential in the material world for technology speaks clearly of a divine mind behind it. A mind that made it all, and made us so that we might discover and harness it - and give him the praise. We, unless we totally refuse to think about these things, have a corresponding and correct sense that we ought to direct our gratitude and praise somewhere. That's a sense which shouldn't be suppressed, but yielded to.

Much better to live as a convinced worshipper. Or as the Psalmist wrote, 3000 years ago:

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The worst anti-Christian violence in India's (independent) history

"Hindu extremists launched a spate of violent but meticulously planned attacks on Christians in Kanhdamal District, Orissa State, on 24 and 25 December 2007. A total of 95 churches were burnt to the ground, as well as 730 homes of Christians. In cases where a Christian ministry operated from rented premises owned by a Hindu, the attackers were careful not to damage the building, but took all the contents outside and set them on fire."

Read more here:

http://www.barnabasfund.org/news/archives/article.php?ID_news_items=358

Cricket: A Monkey Business!

Last week Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh was banned for three matches for making a racist comment towards Australian opponent, Andrew Symonds. Read about it here.

Though neither umpire heard it at the time, off-spinner Singh was found guilty of having called Symonds a "monkey". The BBC report that "Match referee Mike Procter said he was satisfied Harbhajan had used the word - though neither of the two umpires heard the remarks - and that 'he meant it to offend on the basis of Symonds' race or ethnic origin'." Symonds, one of the world's most talented all-rounders, is an Aboriginal.

Something's Missing...

What the BBC don't report, though, is exactly why calling Symonds a monkey would be a racist insult. In modern test cricket, stump microphones regularly pick up all manner of insults. The Australian team are renowned for the lengths to which they have taken the practice of verbally intimidating their opponents, a practice called "sledging". It's not unusual for a cricketer to be insulted with the name of some animal; I'm sure that when I played village cricket I can remember people being called donkeys to insult their playing ability.

What's the difference, then, between a monkey and a donkey? The newspapers and radios don't seem to have bothered to explain this. Why would calling an opponent a donkey be unremarkable, but calling him a monkey get you a three match ban and newspaper column inches all over the world?

Ah...

The answer, in case you hadn't twigged, is Darwin's theory of evolution. The theory claims that every living creature alive is descended from a single common ancestor. Most controversially, it says that human beings have evolved from apes - in the (in relative terms) very recent past.

Darwin's theory eventually developed into Neo-Darwinism, which is the theory most widely held today. Neo-Darwinism theorises that all the inherited variation in our genes is due to random copying mistakes at the time of reproduction. That is, all the essential differences between you and a chimp is due to random mistakes in copying your genes.

The relevance of Darwin's theory to the question of racism is like this. If we are evolved from the monkeys, and if different parts of the human race show different characteristics (which they obviously do, as I don't look very like a Chinaman, and an African doesn't look much like an Eskimo), then it follows that evolution has not been an equal process.

In other words, it means that some of us will be more highly evolved than others. Or closer to the point, some of us are closer to being monkeys than the rest of us.

That is, of course, why someone wishing to make a racist insult will call someone a "monkey". It is not a coincidence that the monkey chants sadly sometimes still heard in football matches are aimed at the players of African descent. The insult being given is as follows: "You are backwards, less highly evolved - close to being a chimp".

Why does the BBC not mention this? Because it would be a bit politically incorrect to do so. If Darwin's theory is true, then racism might in fact be not only racist, but correct. Different parts of the human race do self-evidently have different characteristics, and if Darwin's theory is true then it is a valid question to ask which of those characteristics owe most to the gibbons in our ancestry. Some parts of the human family might in fact be inferior - and pointing it out might be scientifically accurate.

It's not very PC to talk about that, though. The enslaving of supposedly inferior Africans by Europeans, the building of an Aryan master race and extermination of inferior Jewish races, etcetera - history shows a horrible legacy from people who started to take the kind of ideas that Darwin's theory leads to seriously.

As a creationist, though, I can happily point this out. I don't believe that we are highly evolved monkeys. The Bible tells me that God made man as a special and distinct creation, uniquely important - made in the image of God. The differences amongst human beings are the expression of a combination of the incredibly rich genetic diversity present in the first human couple at creation, and genetic mutations which have almost all been destructive, not beneficial. No human being is a monkey; 100% of them bear the divine image and so, for God's sake, are worthy of respect. Yes, genetic defects exist - but none of them are monkey remains.

The question to ask, of course, is if Darwinism is true, then why is it not allowed to be consistent with it? Why are we expected to treat all humans as being equal in dignity, if this may not be true? Are we just meant to assume that by a happy coincidence, all of us just happened to evolve to the same level? That though we have obvious physical differences, none of them are remnants of what we had as monkeys? That despite the physical differences mentally we all just happened to evolve to just the same level when talking about IQ or other mental abilities?

We're meant to believe that Darwinism is true... but behave as if it were false. We're meant to believe that we are evolved from monkeys, but behave as if all humans have unique and equal dignity just as if we'd been created by God. We're meant to accept Darwinism: but not its consequences. But if your belief system can't be consistently lived out in this way, maybe it's time to take a closer look at it...

David Anderson

"By Grace Restored"

The year is 1978. David Brown is an experienced pastor who was respected and admired by his church and his family. Then, he left his wife, his children, his church, the Christian ministry and ultimately his profession of faith itself - all for another woman.

Wind forward 25 years. David is still away from the Lord.

You can read David's amazing story of how he was brought again to repentance and faith, how he sought out and found forgiveness from all those who he wronged, and supremely of how the Lord brought him back to himself.


My name is David Brown, I'm 67. Raised in a Christian home I worshipped at an open brethren assembly where my father was an elder. Saved and baptised in my early teens and called to preach a few years later I attended Moorlands Bible College then at Dawlish and under the leadership of its founder/principal David Clifford.

I served as college evangelist for a few years conducting tent and open air missions mainly but not exclusively in the West Country.

I later served as Pastor to independent mission churches in North London and Kent. Whilst in Kent I attended and enjoyed the fellowship at the Westminster Fellowship under the chairmanship of Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones.

In January 1975 I moved to south London to serve as Pastor to an FIEC affiliated congregation. During my time there I formed a liaison with a female member of my congregation (I deluded myself with the argument ‘this feels so good it must be of God’!) until in September 1978 I left my wife and 4 young children, abandoned my flock, and betrayed my best friend by leaving with his wife. Not only did I harm all these people but I gave the enemies of the Lord the means to make life difficult for the wider church as the News of the World gave it publicity.

On a number of occasions the Lord graciously called me to repent but I refused and from that time onwards I carried on in what I now look upon as being held in the Devil's POW camp.

Many years later at the end of January 2004 (approx 25+ yrs later) and the Lord had allowed me to get to an end of myself. With everything in a complete and utter mess, and on the verge of taking my own life God stretched forth His loving arms and rescued me.

...

There have been numerous lessons for me to learn but the Lord has been gentle, patient and gracious with me.

I have nothing of which to boast for the restoration and transformation in my life has been in no way earned or merited, it is ALL of Grace.

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, Grace unknown
And love beyond degree.

Surely He has not dealt with me according to my great sin and wickedness but according to His great mercy and steadfast love.


His website, "By Grace Restored", contains his testimony, sections for backsliders, for praying friends and for church leaders. I commend it to you.

http://www.bygracerestored.org.uk

David Anderson

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Welcome!

My name is David Anderson; I am a minister of the gospel presently serving in Kenya. My personal homepage is here. Welcome to my blog!

Why this blog, and what can you expect here?
  1. I am a Christian minister - my responsibility before God is to spread his word, which is contained in the 66 books of the Bible, as much as he enables me.

  2. A blog is a way of fulfilling the principle of "double usefulness" - once you've done something potentially useful, with a blog you can squeeze a bit more juice out of it.

  3. I was born in the UK, but live in Africa. My heart yearns for the dreadful spiritual state of my country of birth - a blog is a way of speaking to an having a tiny influence in my former home land.

  4. I'll probably waffle on about whatever comes in to my head. Christianity, theology, philosophy, politics, culture ...

  5. The blog title, "More Than Words", is from 1 Thessalonians 1:5; the conviction that God's words are more than words. I'd like most of all to present the case for Christian thinking in different areas of life, and so I hope that this verse will apply.
Comments Policy

Yup, the Internet can be like the wild west except with less accountability. Which makes boring small print like this necessary...
  1. The ultimate rule: Round here, I am the arbitrary despot. Wu ha ha!

  2. Comments are in general open, though may be moderated. To save your comments from the grim reaper (see rule 1), you should identify yourself (e.g. your real, full name and town of residence).

  3. All rules are subject to arbitrary change as circumstances, my arbitrary whims (see rule 1) and the price of bulgar wheat at the local market may direct. If in doubt, see rule 1.

  4. If any of these rules cause you pain, consider not commenting. See rule 1.
If you want to know what's statistically less likely to arouse the despot's arbitrary wrath - well, it's the usual kind of thing. Be concise (no multi-part posts), if you disagree, put your argument in the comment - no literature bluffing ("Find out why you're wrong by reading this book/article/Wikipedia"). No self-promotion ("Good article. You'll probably like my site, www.astrocultnewagebunk.com."). No ad-hominem, no whining. Etcetera etcetera.

Otherwise, I hope you find it worthwhile to drop by. Welcome!


David Anderson