Wednesday, 29 February 2012

On killing babies

"Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say"

At first I was quite heartened by that headline.

Though I wondered why we needed "experts" to point out the obvious: that abortion equals killing babies:
  • Babies are persons, whether they've yet travelled the length of the birth canal or not
  • Killing babies outside the womb is wrong
  • And so it is wrong to kill them inside the womb too
However on reading the story itself, it became clear that their logic was something quite different...
  • Babies are not persons, whether they've yet travelled the length of the birth canal or not
  • Killing babies inside the womb is (so they say) fine
  • And so there's nothing wrong with killing them inside the womb, either

Academics are often more willing than others to follow through the logic of their premises.

If it's OK to kill babies who are located at one end of the birth canal, why not the other?

Why not indeed?

If on the other hand, babies are persons (which they are!) then abortion is murder of the most defenceless people of all, and our societies are ripe for the fierce and holy wrath of God.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Some disjointed thoughts on Abraham's experiences with the surrounding nations

Abraham's dealings with surrounding nation "recapitulate" the experiences of Israel in advance. Or perhaps we should say, they anticipate them.

Abraham saw his wife, Sara taken into captivity in Egypt (Genesis 12). But Pharaoh's house is plagued, and Abraham goes out with great spoils.

In chapter 14, Babylon came to take his nephew Lot captive and exile him; but he was rescued and restored.

In chapter 18, the filthy Canaanites are leading Lot and his family into corruption; they are judged, but part of the family falls to the judgment, and lasting scars remain behind.

In chapter 19, there is a tustle with the Philistines (via their king, Abimelech), who endanger the fulfilment of the promise. Abraham proves weak and unfaithful; and his treasure, the bearer of the covenant promise is taken away - but later is voluntarily returned by Philistines who are eager to avoid God's judgments. (Thus anticipating the capture and return of the ark - I admit I'm not quite so sure of my grip on this one, and suspect there is more).

This is emblematic of the dangers which Christians face in the journey to glory. They need to be redeemed out of slavery to sin. They need to avoid worldliness - which leads to being carried off in the judgments that will fall on the worlding. They need to avoid like the plague the filthiness of the people who don't know God and follow their own lives. And they need to... hmmm; those pesky Philistines. They need to maintain faithfulness at all times and trust in the sovereign God who delivers us from far greater challenges than we are capable of?

Christ redeems. Christ reigns from heaven and calls and empowers his people to live heavenly lives on earth, in anticipation of the arrival of heaven on earth (and not worldly lives that lead to us being washed away when the worldly are). He is holy and calls his people to be holy too; and his Spirit teaches us to be holy so that we do not share with the children of filthiness and children of wrath. He trusted fully in his Father, who delivered him even from the grave - and so must we trust in God through him.

The Bible's stories have far deeper connections, resonances and messages that we are intended to pick up, than we realise. I'm just scratching the surface in this quick jotting of a few passing thoughts. Most of us have grown up in very technocratic, image-obsessed, moment-focussed, story-and-imagery-impoverished settings that have deprived us of a lot of our understanding of the Scriptures' message.

Secularism and gay marriage

"Who owns marriage? It’s an interesting question and a pressing one in the debate around equal civil marriage. It is owned by neither the state nor the church, as the former Archbishop Lord Carey rightly said. So it is owned by the people."

Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister
That settles the question very neatly and easily, of course.

But it solves it with a blunt assertion of humanistic secularism as if it were a settled fact.

What if humanistic secularism is not a settled fact?

What if marriage is owned by the Creator of marriage?
"it is the Government’s fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future"
As Jim Hacker said, it's my job to find out where my people are going, and lead them there. Does the minister have a sense of irony, or is the Rt. Hon Hacker her role model? Oh dear.

However, if this is her true feeling, then the case is settled: opinion polls keep finding out that people don't want the government to redefine marriage.
I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, irrespective of whether they are gay or straight.
What do the minister's beliefs have to do with it? She's just told us that what matters is the beliefs of the country at large, not her own ones. Is she projecting her beliefs onto everyone else?

This belief also begs the question. If marriage is the God-given lifelong union of one member of the mutually complementary sexes, then the assertion is a nonsense. Marriage is by definition impossible to two members of the same sex.
I want to urge people not to polarise this debate. This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs. This is about the underlying principles of family, society, and personal freedoms.
This is political triangulation and double-speak. Those underlying principles are the very ones that we are polarised upon.
Marriage is a right of passage for couples who want to show they are in a committed relationship, for people who want to show they have found love and wish to remain together until death do them part. Why should we deny it to people who happen to be gay or lesbian who wish to show that commitment and share it with their family, friends and everybody else? We should be proud of couples who love each other and a society that recognises their love as equal.
This begs the question at several levels. What is marriage? The minister supplies her own definition; which is not the historical understanding. If homosexual activity is perversion, then there is nothing to be proud of. Love can exist between friends of the same gender; but whether it is a true expression of love to jump into bed with them is the matter at issue.

The minister does not engage with the real issues. She simply asserts her set of secularist and humanistic assumptions as if they were indisputable facts. That's not the meaning of "equality", except in Orwell's 1984.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Fallen and Christian morality

Sad article here - "The Eric Joyce case shows that MPs are human too – believe it or not"

On the one hand, it's true that we get the leaders we deserve. They will reflect society at large.

But Dan Hodges says something that goes further than that - he says we shouldn't expect our leaders to observe higher standards; that we should not hold them to higher standards.

The Bible says something different when it speaks to Christians. "Be holy, as I, the LORD your God am holy". "Be imitators of me, as I also imitate Christ". No excuses for moral failure - but a loving Saviour who forgives us when we confess and ask for his mercy; and a gracious gift of the Holy Spirit to make true moral change a reality.

In fallen human morality, you eventually have to fall back on saying, "well, none of us as perfect - these things happen, ah well, move along...". With the gospel, there is hope - a risen Christ performs works of wonders.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

All law is enforced morality

One of the first axioms of government is that all law is enforced morality.

Secularists and confused Christians seem to have forgotten this, whether willingly or not. We hear many and various in different contexts saying things such as, "the law should not be a tool for one group to enforce its morality upon others".

Without enforced morality, there is no law. That issue is not up for debate.

The only issue up for debate is what kind of morality will be enforced. Not whether to enforce morality, but which morality to enforce.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Do historical matters matter to faith?

This book looks valuable and timely - "Do Historical Matters Matter To Faith?" - "a firm defense of Scripture’s legitimacy and the theological implications of modern and postmodern approaches that teach otherwise".

I can't tell from the brief Amazon description if it addresses the creation/evolution controversy. But the overall thesis certainly sounds vital to that area, especially whilst we are currently plagued by those of the ilk of Denis Alexander, Mike Taylor, Biologos et. al., who are determined to teach the church that you can keep the Bible's spiritual insights whilst gutting it of its historical foundation.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

It's Christianity, not faith-ianity, thanks!

Typical head-line: "Faith can be positive for society, says David Cameron"

This comment is nothing to do with David Cameron - it's just he happens to be named in this head-line. I haven't clicked through to the story yet. But I don't need to, because I've seen enough of them to know what's around...

Christians don't have faith in faith. They have faith in Jesus Christ, the living Son of God.

We don't particularly believe that faith per se is beneficial. We believe that the power and presence of the resurrected Jesus is beneficial.

Now, how can Christians who want to see their faith Saviour accurately represented get that message through to the media-gatekeepers who write these stories and head-lines...?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Binding of the Blade

After finishing Narnia again, I began reading to my children the "Binding of the Blade" series.

Brilliant; absolutely brilliant. We're presently in the second half of book 2. I can't understand why we'd never heard of it (we found it in the ACTS bookshop in Nairobi). A great story, and a well executed echo of that awesome story of all stories that, in our house, has both reader and hearers eagerly waiting for the next chapter...

So dear reader, I do my duty by pointing you to:

Friday, 10 February 2012

Permission to pray

If I follow this news story from the UK rightly...
  • Bideford Town Council had a vote, in which the majority voted to pray before their meetings.

  • Mr "Justice" Ouseley has ruled that, despite its desire to pray, it has not been granted the powers in law to do so.

  • The logic of his decision seems to be this: if there's no law saying that you can pray on some particular occasion, then you can't. Even if you want to. In Mr Ouseley's world, it seems that councils may have powers to spend tax money, pass by-laws and the like: but the act of praying is one that is strictly forbidden to them.

Welcome to the world as re-made according to the desires of the National Secular Society. Think you'll like it? Perhaps you have no particular interest in council meetings or what happens in them. But suppose that the whole of society was run by people of the NSS's ilk and inclinations... would that be better or worse than living in one that had been shaped by the Bible?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Ministers of Alice in Wonderland

Kevin De Young recently did a post on “10 reasons to believe in a historical Adam.” It drew predictable criticism from the usual quarters.

BTW, we’re glimpsing an Alice in Wonderland sort of world when it’s controversial for a minister to defend Bible history. Shouldn’t it be controversial for a minister to deny Bible history? But somewhere along the line, certain segments of evangelicalism fell through the rabbit hole.