Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The consistent implications of public secularism (part 9531)

When you abolish the idea of God and his moral law and a future day of
judgment from the public square, and as you become more consistent in
working out all the many implications of that down the years, you come
to realise that the only tool you have left is to make everything bad
into something illegal and criminal.

Secular societies have officially abolished the idea of Christ
progressively discipling the nations beginning with the preaching of the
gospel, as the main basis for better societies. They have banished from
their thinking the idea that there may be many behaviours today that we
have to tolerate whilst disapproving whilst we work and pray for a
better tomorrow (which is ultimately certain, because Christ is at God's
right hand). In a consistently secularist eschatology there can only be
here-and-now secularist incentives and rewards left; and all you can
ultimately do to make tomorrow better is legislate, legislate,
legislate. Once you have no confidence in any higher power, it's just
the Big Man in government applying the carrot and stick.

Today's case in point:

Welcome to the brave new world. Going down this path of a
government-enforced secularist utopia was tried before in certain
Eastern and Northern European and Asian countries in the 20th century.
Didn't turn out too well.

Friday, 25 May 2012

'Twas not me, 'twas my brain...

Typical newspaper head-line and by-line seen today:
'Desire to (blank) is hard-wired into human brains' - Nevada scientists say our willingness to (blank) might actually not be our fault - it could be hardwired into our brain.
The logic of such statements does not compute. If the desire to do thing X is "hard-wired" (whatever they mean by that) into our brains, then how does doing thing X then become not our fault?

"It was not me - it was my brain" - what does that statement actually mean? Is your brain a constituent part of you or not? If not, then what is it?

Christians do believe there is an "I" other than and distinct from our brain and other biochemistry. There is an immaterial part which can be distinguished from the material part. We have a soul. We are not simply lumps of flesh, blindly working  out chemical inevitabilities. But belief in a soul does not entail that it is the body's helpless victim, much less that the spirit/soul is "I" and the brain/body is an "it" which is something completely distinct.

Our friends the "Scientists in Nevada" and appear to be trying to escape the idea of personal responsibility. The cash value of "it was my brain, not me" is that "so don't blame me for it".

That's a secular vision of salvation: you escape guilt for your sins because it wasn't you: it was your brain. But if your brain is part of you, then that does not work. Salvation does not consist in the 5-year old's excuse "it was not me, nobody did it", nor in more grown-up philosophical or pseudo-scientific versions. It was me, I did do it; but Jesus died for me and forgave me and changed me.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The public witness of UK evangelicals

A couple of examples of blogs from the US in the last couple of days,
related to the "culture wars":

I do not know what you make of that, or of the US "culture wars" in general.

But Moody's famous quote to a critic, which I'll paraphrase from memory,
bothers me when I think of the land of my birth, the UK: "I much prefer
what I am doing to what you are not doing".

Whatever else is involved, US evangelicals are known, in general, for
believing decisively against the sins of sodomy and child murder. And UK
ones are not - at least, if we are talking about being ready to do
anything beyond preaching against it in our own gatherings, that is. If
it means standing up in public and saying "this is against the law of
God"; if it means raising a voice in relevant public places and trying
to reach lost people where they are (e.g. outside places where
"abortion" is provided), directly protesting against those who
perpetrate and allow such wickedness (as John the Baptist rebuked Herod)
instead of hoping that somehow they wander into our gatherings, then I
think it's fair to say that these are hardly seen as priority issues.
We're happy to leave others alone as long as they leave us alone too.
That's my honest impression, and that of an insider and friend of UK
evangelicalism, not of a hostile critic.

Is that how it should be?

Religion masquerading as science

Here's a blog post from Scientific American, on a solar eclipse last weekend. Amongst the more factual material, the author throws in this:
So is there some great significance to the fact that we humans just happen to exist at a time when the Moon
and Sun appear almost identically large in our skies? Nope, we are just landing in a window of opportunity
thatâs probably about 100 million years wide, nothing obviously special, just rather good luck.
That's not a scientific statement, and the author offers no proof or argument for it. Rather, it is a piece of metaphysics which the author simply assumes to be true based on his religious worldview. His blog post discusses the relative sizes of the Sun and Moon, and their relative distances from us. But no amount of examination of those physical data can provide any clue as to their significance and interpretation. For that, you would need to know about facts beyond the immediately measurable. The author, however, seems to share the religious worldview of "Scientism", which claims that immediately measurable knowledge constitutes the whole of knowledge. i.e., If you can't measure something, then you cannot know it. Since we cannot examine the cosmos and then deduce any knowledge about the teleological questions of why the sun and moon might be why they are, the follower of the philosophy of Scientism concludes that therefore there is no purpose, or at least none that we could ever reasonably know.

But Scientism is not the same as science. It is a philosophy and religion. Value judgments like "luck" cannot be discerned from simply measuring distances - they are theological judgments. Christians need to tune their senses to spot the difference and not be cowered by such grand claims falsely made in the name of "Science", because they rest upon no good foundation.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Kids books...

We see books and reading (both alone and with parents) as a key part of our children's education.

Contemporary education seems to be much impoverished in this regard. Contemporary technocratic, statist, secularist societies lack imagination.

Kids need imagination to imagine a different world, one living under the Lordship of Christ; to see behind the curtain and think about being transformed and transforming.

Books open horizons; help us to assess and analyse the subtle spiritual propaganda of the enemy of souls, and think differently. Books help us to place ourselves within much larger contexts than the narrow ones we see when we only converse with figures our existing four walls.

Then the question is - which books? Friendly recommendations are always helpful. So I'm grateful to Justin Taylor for publishing this list used by his school, which will give us some material to take a look at and think about getting:

Friday, 18 May 2012

The state-centred mind, a.k.a. when the public square is secularised (part 426)

Interestingly for me, in the past couple of days there's been a bit of debate about the role of the state in Kenyan newspapers.

One commentator was taking issue with the mindset which, in any given community problem, reflexes unthinkingly to the solution of "tunaombea serikali itusaidie" ("we are asking the government to help us..."), and juxtaposed that with a quote from Kenya's first president, "serikali si mama yenu" ("the government is not your mother").

On that theme, in the UK press, I come across this quote from the prime minister in recent days:
David Cameron said it was “ludicrous” that parents received more training in how to drive a car than in how to raise children.
That would indeed be fairly ludicrous. Were it the whole picture.

However, consider instead this alternative quote, which I just made up:
David Cameron said it was “ludicrous” that parents received more state-provided, state-monitored and state-approved training in how to drive a car than in how to raise children.

Obviously it was time, he said, was for himself and his fellow politicians and bureaucrats to take over more of the situation so that it would be done rightly.
Now that's a different kettle of fish... but for the secularist mind, there appears to be very little difference between the two.

Seen a problem? Then obviously it's time for the government to do something about it, isn't it? No?

What could possibly go wrong? What might the long term effects of the outworkings of the secularist mind in this way be on a society?

I recall last year reading news stories about parents sending their children to school still wearing nappies, and not bothering to give them breakfast... because, well, obviously that's the state's job, isn't it?


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Coming to God in prayer

From Clarke, commenting on Jairus in the gospels:

To be successful in our applications to God by prayer, four
things are requisite; and this ruler teaches us what they are.

First, A man should place himself in the presence of God-he came
unto him.

Secondly, He should humble himself sincerely before God-he fell
down before him-at his feet. Mr 5:22.

Thirdly, He should lay open his wants with a holy earnestness-he
besought him greatly. Mr 5:23.

Fourthly, he should have unbounded confidence in the power and
goodness of Christ that his request shall be granted-put thy hand
upon her, and she shall live. He who comes in this way to God,
for salvation, is sure to be heard.

Monday, 14 May 2012


a.k.a. big sister.

An Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile cycle, then running (26.2 mile) marathon.

Friday, 11 May 2012

The obedience of Adam

This post gives much useful food for thought:

Many things could be said; plenty I agree with (including the overall thesis that there was a covenant of works); but I wanted to point out two common errors amongst contemporary evangelicals, which Taylor makes:

1) He speaks, as an aside, of spending eternity in either heaven or hell. That's not Biblical. I'm sure Taylor does believe in the resurrection body and the new creation, but he seems to forget it here. A much-too-common mistake, and, I have come to see in recent years, a serious one.

2) Taylor discusses the idea of Adam having a "probationary period", of unknown length. If he hadn't sinned, then at some point he would have been glorified (that, I agree with). But when? Taylor, as many, misses the fact that God had announced quite clearly the length of the "probationary period". Adam was given a work to do. He was given a commandment to fill the earth and subdue it (1:28-29). Glory was to be given when that task was completed. This is confirmed by the New Testament; the last Adam, Christ, is presently subduing the earth to himself; and the state of glory will come when he has put down every enemy under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25-28).

Taylor's "big picture" seems to contain a self-contradiction. He envisions a time of testing for Adam regarding the negative command concerning the tree; meanwhile, Adam presumably is carrying out the positive command he was given; but (in Taylor's scheme) when enough time has passed Adam is glorified solely for his obedience to the negative command, regardless of how far he'd got or not got in relation to the positive one. Confusing. Was the positive command meant to be taken seriously or not; did God intend to see it accomplished or not? As we see the fulfilment in Christ as he sends out his disciples in the Great Commission and tells them to subdue the world to obedience through the gospel, the answer ought to obviously be "yes". Glory comes when that command renewed in the "second man" is complete, confirming that that's when it would come too had our first father not deviated from it.

Both these mistakes seem to have a common factor. It's a less-than-fully-robust doctrine of creation. Creation itself, and its filling with God's glory, appears less important than it really is in Scripture. We escape it for eternal heaven. Adam gets glory with something less than fulfilling the Creator's purpose for his world, but simply by not eating from the forbidden tree. But creation is not simply a backdrop to the Biblical story of redemption in this fashion; it is at the heart of that story.