Friday, 29 May 2009

More dinosaur protein discovered

The relevance of discovering dinosaur protein is that it wouldn't exist if it were truly millions of years since the dinosaurs were alive.
Still more confirmation of dinosaur soft tissue and protein
Mary Schweitzer announces even stronger evidence for amazingly preserved flexible blood vessel and cell structures from dinosaurs. This time they are from the bones of a plant-eating dinosaur (hadrosaur / duck-billed dino) rather than a T. rex. And this time she performed the tests the critics demanded to prove this beyond reasonable doubt. Objective chemical measurements show that proteins should not last anywhere near the claimed 80 million years even if frozen. So this discovery should by rights be the end of the billions-of-years paradigm. See our article Dinosaur soft tissue and protein—even more confirmation!

Read the article

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Paul separated from the Jews

I want to carry on making a few Scriptural points directed towards my evangelical brethren in mixed denominations, especially national and/or institutional churches such as the Church of Scotland or Church of England.

When I've interacted with such brethren, or read their reasons why they think that the Bible's commands to separate from unbelief/immorality don't apply to them in their situation (or don't yet apply to them), I often hear arguments with reasoning that involves the Old Testament theocracy. I think I specifically remember John Stott somewhere or other baldly stating that even in the darkest days of Israel's apostacy, the prophets never told the faithful remnant to depart from the nation and start a new one. There are many variations on this theme, but they all boil down to the same thing. Israel was a mixed body, and the church is not a replacement for Israel but its continuation/fulfilment - therefore there is warrant for us to seek to remain and purify the church, not to depart from it.

Now, I think that these arguments are hideously confused - multiple category mistakes:
  • The observation that the New Testament is the continuation and fulfilment of the Old Testament (and thus the people of God in the NT have that relation to the people in the Old) in no way implies anything about the organisation of that people. The outward administration of the covenant must be distinguished from its inward continuity. Obviously those two things are related, but to use one to over-ride the reality of the other is wrong in principle. It's like arguing that Solomon's temple was splendid, therefore God requires us to build elaborately decorated church buildings.

  • Old Testament Israel finds its New Testament fulfilment in an international church of believers. To somehow find reasons in Old Testament Israel for not separating from unbelievers must be grossly mistaken.

  • The New Testament specifically tells us that the theocratic economy was a temporary arrangement intended to preserve an outward witness to God in the world until Christ came. It was an infant state of the church. The people were kept "locked up" under the law - a severe schoolmaster - until the liberty of sonship should come, Galatians 3:19-26. Because the Old Testament church was full of unbelievers, they had to be given a harsh discipline in order to preserve their existence so that they didn't totally disappear from the world before the time God had chosen to send forth his Son. Hence, there's no way you can reason from that old state to justify failure to depart wide-scale unbelief in the New Testament age. It's an immense chronological mistake.

  • At root it's a huge error about the nature of the New Testament church. Its unity does not consist in any kind of organisational or outward principle. We are not born into it by the first birth, but by the second. We do not belong to it by the flesh, but by the Spirit. There is nothing special about an organisation simply because of who belong to it years ago. I hear evangelicals speaking in the Church of England of "not abandoning the church of the Hooper, Latimer, Cranmer, Ryle, Simeon", etcetera. This is nonsense. There is no New Testament doctrine of any kind of automatic successionism. Evangelicals decisively reject such ideas as incipient Roman Catholicism (e.g. apostolic succession - the idea that the laying on of hands from one man to the next constitutes the spiritual unity of the church). The gospel and faithfulness to Scripture constitutes the true spiritual succession. But they let this false doctrine smuggle back in with this kind of talk. There is no entity that Christ cares of called "The Church of Scotland" that has some special value merely because it's united to the state, or had godly men who led it in years past.

I could go on and list more. But the main point I wanted to make is a different one. Actually, the New Testament church did separate from the Jews. The church grew up from the synagogues - it was for some time intertwined to differing extents in different places. Synagogues had believing Jews and unbelieving Jews - and much fertile evangelism went on in those places. But eventually, the lines of division became hard and fast: some believed, others were decisive in rejecting the gospel. And when that happened, Paul separated the disciples from the synagogues, and gathered them together in separate meetings. We see that pattern time and again in Acts. Here's an example in Acts 19:8-9:
And he [Paul] went into the synagogue, and sppke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading about the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened, and did not believed, but spoke evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

Here's the same in Acts 18:4-7 in a different town:
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. 5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. 6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his clothing and said unto them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." 7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
There's a repeated pattern. Paul went to the synagogues preached the gospel. He preached it repeatedly and clearly. Eventually it led to lines of division. When those lines were clear, he took the disciples out of the synagogues and met elsewhere. He didn't teach them that because of the godly men who'd been there in previous years they should stay and fight for control. He didn't say that it would be wrong to cede control of the buildings and machinery of the organisation instead of seeking to win it for Christ. He didn't say that the synagogue remained the "best boat to fish from" despite the Jews' unbelief. He didn't treat the synagogue system as some kind of special organisation that remained a "church" despite the widescale rejection of Christ that prevailed, that then justified remaining in it.

Rather, Paul knew that that widescale unbelief would be spiritually ruinous to remain in contact with. Just a little leaven leavens the whole lump. He gave up the buildings, the structures, the history, the organisational machinery - and took the groups of disciples into hired houses where they no more had anything to do with the official machinery of Judaism. Note that this was a course of events that took months, not years - not decades; not generations; not centuries. There is no Biblical justification or precedent for the arguments of those evangelical brethren who take such a course. Once it had become clear that the spiritual corruption had reached the roots, the church was separated out from Judaism. When the signs of fundamental spiritual ruin were there, they were told to flee and not even go back to collect their coats. The final judgment on the Old Testament church was nigh, and fell in that generation when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans. Had these dear evangelical brethren been alive in AD70 and run the same kind of arguments, they would have fallen with them. It's spiritual folly of the highest order.

Monday, 25 May 2009

What is a church?

As bloggers digest the aftermath of the triumph of sexual perversion in the "Church" of Scotland, I want to assert that these points are basic:
  • What is a church? According to Scriptures, a church is not defined by organisation, or state endorsement. A body is not a church, just because it is called one.

  • A church is defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. A body can begin to be considered a church, if, for starters, it professes the Biblical gospel.

  • The "Church of Scotland" is a mixed body, some of whose members profess the gospel, and a majority of whom profess forms of liberalism or semi-Romanism The liberals have the massive majority, because even when the evangelicals combine with various forms of traditionalists they can't defeat their will, as we've just seen.

  • Ergo, as the "Church of Scotland" as a whole does not profess the Biblical gospel, it is not Biblically speaking a church.

To my mind, evangelicals in the CoS need to face up to the bogus-ness of the arguments they've been using over the recent decades to justify their organised union with unapologetic unbelief. They speak of "saving the church", or it being wrong to "abandon the church", etcetera. This is nonsense. When those who believe divide themselves from those who don't believe, they have not left the church - they took it with them. To say that there can be "church" when there is no gospel, is an appalling position to be in - but it's the one that these often wonderful brethren have backed themselves into. The foundations were removed years ago, and now we are witnessing the final collapse of the building. The evangelicals are now left in the smoking rubble, and they look spiritually foolish - aren't they meant to be the spiritually enlightened ones who see these things far off, and do what's necessary long before it comes to this?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Christian Unity And The Church Of Scotland

Bear with me a little, blog-readers. I know some of you will have a reaction to the below - he's young, he's hot-headed, he's inexperienced, it's easy for him to say, he doesn't understand the complexity of the situation.... but bear with me still. I've heard those things said. I've considered them, and then again. I think for the most part, you're wrong. It won't hurt you to read me saying them again, should you have heard me saying them before. Tolerate it one more time...

The Church of Scotland tonight is to consider the question of appointing ministers (and one in particular) who are open practicising homosexuals. In this case, it's not just a practicising homosexual - but one who broke his marriage vows to his wife, abandoning her and his family. There's a gathering in the Church of Scotland that wants to appoint this covenant-breaker as their minister. Naturally, those who believe the Bible to be true, think that this is wrong. The Bible is consistent from the first pages to the last on this issue. Those who prefer to trade in tedious slogans, comparing it to temporary, symbolic and covenantal restrictions on ancient Israel (e.g. food laws and clothing laws) just betray their lack of interest in what Scripture says. Like Stephen Dancer I much prefer those openly confess their rejection of what the Bible clearly says - at least we can have a reasonable conversation with those people.

This post, though, is not about the liberals. It's about the evangelicals in the CoS - those who do accept the Scriptures in a serious way. I want those brethren to take a step back and look at what it's come to. What on earth are you doing?

What I mean in particular is that they ought to look at the whole setup of the argument that they're getting themselves into tonight. They've got a motion tabled, to advance the idea that only those accept that marriage is the only legitimate sphere for sexual intimacy should be accepted as Christian ministers in the church. Well, that's true enough. But this motion is going to be debated in an assembly made up of some evangelicals who believe the Biblical gospel, and a (probably) far larger number of liberals and semi-Romanists who openly reject it. The evangelicals hope that with the help of the Catholic party, they'll perhaps be able to get something through. Outward morality will then be at least officially preserved, for the time to come - if they manage this.

Meanwhile, the actual Biblical gospel itself will continue to be openly denied by both Catholic friend (on this debate) and liberal foe. There will be no attempt to re-assert this gospel - that battle was apparently given up a long time ago. The fact of ministers in the church who openly preach another gospel will continue to be accepted as a necessary (though regrettable) state of affairs that will have to go on for the forseeable future until some miraculous intervention occurs.

But on authentic evangelical principles, this is madness. To fight for outward moral behaviour when the Biblical gospel has gone out of the window a long time ago, is not faithfulness to Christ: it's fighting over what colour the deck-chairs should be when three-quarters of the ship has already broken up. The gospel has to be the foundation of any supposedly "Christian" body worth joining. Kicking up a fight over sexual behaviour when you've lost that is swallowing camels and afterwards getting irked by the flies.

Paul, in Galatians 2, tells us that he stood up to oppose his brother - his fellow apostle! - Peter, publicly. What had Peter done? Had he preached a false gospel? No. Had he accepted as a fellow Christian minister people who preached false gospels? No. His crime was simply to not eat with Gentiles - to go along, for a time and under pressure, with the practice of those who were making critical mistakes about the gospel. He ate with the wrong people. Paul saw that this compromise led to the inevitable unravelling of the gospel, and that Peter had to be publicly confronted for the gospel's sake. His eating only with Jews virtually denied the gospel of justification by faith alone - without Jewish works.

Our evangelical brethren in the Church of Scotland, though, accept membership in a body where the vast majority does not accept the Biblical gospel. The principle that ministers could be appointed without believing that gospel was conceded by them years ago. There will be no motion presented at the meeting this evening to insist on the gospel - in its place there'll be one to insist on right outward morals. They want to insist on the fruit, even though the roots of the tree were dug up a long time ago, and now the trunk and branches are being chopped down in broad daylight. This is madness and folly of the highest order.

The apostle John wrote (2 John 14) that we should not welcome into our homes those who teach gospel-destroying errors. Brethren in the CoS - you ride so far roughshod over this principle that far from talking about sharing a meal with those who do this, you actually are prepared to sit alongside them in a debate, accepting them as fellow ministers and go through all the niceties of discussion and then voting. You will accept them as those who should decide what is done in the church - even though you know they don't believe the gospel that is the criteria for joining the church, let alone becoming fellow-ministers in it.

I read one evangelical minister's words, in which he bemoaned that probably the outcome will be that the liberals, as is their wont, will probably devise a cunning compromise that stops the thing coming to a head without any clear statement of orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality being allowed to emerge. OK. But what about the point that the evangelicals' long-term direction has also been to again and again come up with some cunning and unbiblical compromise that allows them to carry on ministering in an organisation that draws and has no intention of drawing a clear line over the Biblical gospel? Reasons to carry on taking part in these assemblies, treating gospel-deniers as Christian-ministers, debating and discussing with them as partners though they reject essential swathes of Biblical truth? What about all the "line in the sand" issues of the past decades that evangelicals have successively persuaded themselves they could find a rationale for over-looking, again and again?

Brethren, come out and be separate - and the Lord will receive you as his sons and daughters. Join the vast legions down Christian history who've left their familiar and comfortable situations and gone "outside the camp". Go back from the fruits to the roots. Make the issue one of the Biblical gospel. Insist that the church must clearly accepted that as a sine qua non - not only of becoming a minister, but of being accepted as a Christian at all. If you're not willing to make that the issue, just leave now - there's no point in making an issue of anything else if you won't make an issue of this. You may have reasoned that the Lord is pleased for your bold stand over sexual behaviour. But if you read and read again the book of Galatians and see just how worked up Paul got about the subverting of the Biblical gospel - is yours really a tenable position? Is Jesus really pleased that we're so keen on outward morality, because presumably that's the heart of what his kingdom's about?

Friday, 22 May 2009

How can it be?

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with tax-collectors and sinners, they said unto his disciples, "How is it that he eats and drinks with tax-collectors and sinners?" - Mark 2:16

After over two decades learning more about Jesus, I think cannot understand this question myself. Not in the sense the Pharisees asked it - they didn't classify themselves as sinners, and saw no reason why Jesus shouldn't fraternise with them. But if we do see who we really are, and who Jesus really is - just how is it that he can fellowship with us? Jesus had to explain to the Pharisees that is was the sick who needed a doctor - and as the "physician of souls" he'd come to visit those who knew that they needed him. That's why he came to them. But why did he come? How can he have been willing to come so low, to stoop so far, to fellowship with us?

That's the mystery of the good news which Mark wrote to explain - "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (chapter 1, verse 1). We'll never understand it fully though by God's help we make progress year by year. We'll never reach the goal because the love is infinite; the good news is that we'll have an eternity to keep going towards it.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Taking the biscuit...

Pastors in Kenya are expected to fit into the cultural role of the "big man" who provides handouts for those "under" him. One challenge we face is to try to confront this culture especially when the need for the handout so often arises from irresponsible behaviour that someone needs to learn the consequences of rather than just be bailed out each time.

So, requests for money are quite common. But today (via my co-pastor) was the first time I ever heard of someone coming to a pastor to ask him for some money to help him pay off the police who'd arrested him for driving with an expired license and insurance. That really takes the biscuit.

And should the authorities be reading my blog, no, he didn't give him the money!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The career of Moses

Very memorable quote from Gareth Crossley's "The Old Testament Explained And Applied" (EP), on the 120-year life of Moses:
(a) Forty years thinking he was somebody, (b) Forty years learning he was a nobody, and (c) Forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.

Monday, 4 May 2009

New Published Review

If you've been here before you'll know that I've extensively reviewed Dr. Denis Alexander's recent work in favour of theistic evolution, "Creation or Evolution - Do We Have To Choose?" (Monarch Books, 2008). The following is previously unpublished work - a mid-length review, peer-reviewed and now available in the print publication "Journal of Creation" published by Creation Ministries International, or online on their website here:

This is the review to read and recommend if you want something mid-sized. There is one particular two-line section which was added in the editorial process which I was not happy with, which has made it into the final review - I'm not sure if by oversight or because my objection was over-ruled.