Thursday, 25 December 2014
Now we, who are weakness and frailty, can live through his infinite strength.
The Lord of life became subject to death - so that those doomed to death should live.
Praise God for Christmas Day!
Saturday, 6 December 2014
Thursday, 20 November 2014
- Anyone who can watch the original 1984 video without being deeply moved must have a heart of stone.
- There's a touching naivety and innocence about it too - Africa has no food; we can raise money for them and "feed the world"; then they can eat, and be grateful for our goodness. Isn't life simple?
- Of course, when you're trying to fund-raise, you want a message that's readily comprehensible. To interpret a 5 minute pop video as the whole message would be over-interpreting....
- ... however, this has limits. Nobody's making a particularly astute analysis now to point out, after 30 years, that the depictions within it contain gross, crude over-generalisations. In Africa it never rains and nothing ever grows; the solution is Western largesse. In Africa the sun is burning hot - no snow for you, boo hoo. (I never met anyone in Africa who was sorry about the lack of snow. And yes, we all know that there's snow on Mount Kilimanjaro, you very clever clogs - have a gold star!).
- I can't help finding the 30-years-after-the-fact armchair criticism of some of the newspaper commentariat to be revoltingly smug and self-referential, as if the main point was to praise oneself for making these points now that they've been made for decades, instead of to do something useful for dying people. If you think Bob Geldof is wrong in his approach, then smug armchair criticism is only likely to persuade him of the opposite.
- Commentators who see Band Aid as an opportunity to take pot-shots at pop stars' legal tax arrangements, or to question whether they're doing it for the publicity or out of genuine concern, or whether they should give more of their own money instead of telling others too, are saying nothing useful. Government is not a charity, and so maximal legal tax avoidance (to be contrasted with illegal tax evasion) is not a moral fault; motive-mongering is a sin; and I have no idea how much of their own money they give - which is a matter between themselves and God, and only a matter for moral censure if there is verifiable evidence (rather than Internet gossip) that they are hypocrites.
- Bob Geldof is not a Christian. We can't expect him to think or act like one.
- Not being a Christian, he's ill-placed to accept that the most influential (not only) factors in famine in the 20th century were corrupt human government, and human greed.
- Neither is he able to perceive the ultimate solution to the problem of famine, in the heart-and-nation-changing gospel of Jesus Christ - which is also the ultimate solution to his own desperate problems, and those that have plagued his tragic family. Jesus Christ makes us new, and puts us back together again - he, alone, puts the world back together again.
- Nevertheless, the fact that Bob Geldof was and still is appalled to his core at the plight of the people he is trying to raise money for, is because of God's common grace at work. Grace is grace, even when bound up with human confusion and sin.
- And of course, the immediate solution to starving people is, in fact, to give them some food. The problems of aid, corruption and dependency only arise in conjunction with the attempt to do the main thing that needs doing, and how it is handled.
- For some Christians, the whole scene of pop culture is corrupt, and we should never even speak about these subjects. I disagree a) that we should never speak about them or b) that speaking about them either endorses or minimises the obvious sin and corruption. We are not discussing what the so-called "stars" of Band Aid 30 get up to away from the microphone, or proposing them as role models by discussing them. They exist, and their song exists: pretending they don't is silly. There's some middle ground between "it's 100% great" and "it's 100% evil". The world of sin and grace that we live in isn't so simple. Christian growth involves learning to navigate through some of these things.
- The controversial line "tonight, thank God it's them instead of you" was always intended as a piece of ironic moral commentary on the West - and when properly understood, has a lot to say to us. In my view, it's a sign of the Twitter age, that any line that might be instantly slated as it gets crudely misinterpreted had to be dropped - and that's not a good thing, when viewed broadly (though I fully understand that the immediate aim is to sell more records and raise more money to help in the ebola crisis).
- As Moody said, I much prefer what Geldof has been doing to what the legions of armchair critics have not been doing. The world is a very messy place, and often perfect solutions don't exist. But we can identify the non-solutions pretty easily....
- ... and I can say that, even whilst I think that aid dumps do vast harm in the long run, and need to be handled extremely carefully to minimise harm - and I think that Western charities routinely don't do this.
- I can't help noticing, though, that Band Aid 30 has deliberately tried to respond to the criticisms of Band Aid 1984. It speaks of West Africa and a specific crisis, rather than singing about the whole of Africa as if it were a permanent situation.
- I think that generous aid can be the right response to a crisis situation. The main problem with the imagery associated with Band Aid 1984 was the idea that continual aid is a major solution to Africa's problems - when, in fact, it can actually be fuel on the fire.
- I read one singer of African descent writing that he did not want to be part of Band Aid 30 because it did not portray a positive image of Africa - and that he'd had many nice holidays in West Africa. He was glad he wasn't in a production that started with a clip of an ebola patient being carried off to die. Well, yes. It's a song about the ebola crisis. What are you expecting? This piece, and others, seemed to be examples of people who realised, 30 years too late, that there was something problematic about Band Aid 1984, and that they needed to parade their hindsight now rather than never. Apparently, 50% of those who had work before the crisis began in Liberia now don't. That sounds like very widespread misery, doesn't it? Is it wrong to point that out, because it fails an arbitrary test of not being "positive"?
- This is not to say that none of the problematic overtones remain. The West is going to feed the world, when its superstars get together? This is always delicate, as works of poetry (which songs are, whether good pieces or bad pieces) are often open to broad interpretation. (And the false cultural guilt of relativists who are embarrassed by the prosperity that came in the West because of its Protestant roots is nothing to be worried about).
- The criticism that largely Islamic countries probably don't care if it's Christmas time misses the points that a) Britain today celebrates Christmas as a cultural festival, rather than a religious one, and b) If Bob Geldof sees the future of West Africa as being Christian, then I for one applaud his vision. ;-)
- Whereas there's plenty of commentary about the naive view of the world promoted in 1984, it should also be recognised that a) this isn't very long ago, and was very widely shared (read some of the accompanying articles about the original Band Aid on Wikipedia to get a sense of the mood) - shouldn't this humble us rather than making us proud? and b) Is the 2014 West's view of the world any less simplistic? Our elite, our political leaders, appear to believe that peace and joy will be spread this Christmas, not by a gigantic aid dump, but by bombing tyrants out of power. If we just displace the leaders and/or disrupt the power structures of, say, Libya, or Egypt, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Syria, then a new era of secular democracy (the long-awaited millennium, all hail!) will spontaneously dawn across these lands. Won't it? Perhaps if we try it one more time, it will work? Do you think? Remember: this is not the stereotypical knee-jerk Daily Mail reader who is pushing these opinions and acting on them. It's the elite who are thinking this, the ones who give us so much evidence of sneering at the hoi pollo.
- If the 1984 video and appeal was full of the naive spirit of modernism, then is the West now better off in the cynical spirit of post-modernism? No. This is not moral progress, but just the replacing of one very wrong outlook with another.
- Should you give to help with the ebola crisis? That is a difficult question. You should certainly pray. Money given to the wrong places will just line the pockets and entrench the power bases of the corrupt. I have no idea who the Band Aid 30 money will go to or through. The perfect should not become an enemy of the good, of course. Each must decide whom they trust to deal with their funds. It's funny, though, how little thought in the consumerist West we give to spending more money on ourselves again and again, as if this was morally unproblematic in comparison to giving to foreign aid. My main recommendation is to give through Christian organisations which have accountability and meaningful oversight, and which are willing to speak clearly about the huge problems of causing local dependency - evidenced by a track record of dealing firmly with miscreants. (Anyone who doesn't know how at least half of their money would get siphoned into corruption in most of Africa, and who hasn't had to deal with corrupt individuals to deal with that, is probably seeing more than half go down the drain today). It is not easy to discern these organisations - but why do we want it to be easy?
- The finger of death, evidently, does not only touch people in Ethiopia or West Africa. Look at the videos, and see how Bob Geldof and Bono have aged. That's the touch of death, right there. Life is not young, or vigorous, any more. It's written across their faces as you look from 1984 to 2014.
- The finger of death is also seen clearly in how many of the singers live their lives. (I confess, I don't know who all of them are). Spiritual death: the obvious indications that they do not know, or love, their Maker, or having a saving relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
- The finger of death touches us all. There's only one way to ultimately heal the world - through the life-giving, resurrection-bringing gospel of Jesus Christ - which is desperately needed across all nations.
- Sin is worse than ebola. Those singing about freedom from ebola can be the slaves of sin, and liable to a fate worse than death by raging fever. The "clanging chimes of doom" are ringing for all of Adam's children who aren't in Christ.
- So, this Christmas time, don't indulge in smug armchair criticism. Care for the orphan and widow, as God told us to - whilst discerning how to avoid encouraging sloth or causing long-term dependency - and preach the gospel, looking for world-wide spiritual fruits to come through spiritual means.
Saturday, 8 November 2014
Friday, 17 October 2014
... but he can see the way that the wind is blowing us all in the world of Western secular individualism pretty well here:
"Many of them reported feeling financially insecure: to reach safe ground, they believed, they would need, on average, about 25% more money. (And if they got it? They'd doubtless need another 25%). One respondent said he wouldn't get there until he had $1bn in the bank.
For this, we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this, we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness."
God made man to exist in community. Western individualism has been slowly and inevitably grinding away this part of our lives, since the Enlightenment.
There is an answer at hand, in the gospel - which calls us back into fellowship with God, and creates a new family on the earth; that of the church. This is why it is so important for churches in the West to be different: not fundamentally teaching schools, where you go to learn doctrine (vital as it is); not supermarkets, where you go to get the spiritual services you want (a really wrong-headed way of understanding what church is about): but families, where we meet with the Father and with all the brethren; where, over and above everything else, we belong to each other, through the unbreakable bond forged by the blood of Christ.
Friday, 3 October 2014
Why are atheists more likely to believe in aliens than non-atheists are? David Tyler says it's a case of wish fulfilment. Atheists want to believe that life is an accident, rather than a miracle. Something that can happen by itself. And so, despite there being no substantial evidence for alien life (or for the ability of life to create itself), they believe it anyway. It's tied up with what they've staked their eternities upon.
Saturday, 6 September 2014
The famous Richard Dawkins is an obvious example of this (and even confesses at times to being a "Christian atheist"). Lorry-loads of Christian assumptions and aspirations, which he mostly takes for granted, remain embedded in his thinking and mode of operations. For some reason, he still feels that he needs to justify his existence by crusading to convert everyone to The Truth - even though "The Truth" (for him) is that soon, we're all nothing, and that the ultimate meaning of that is that there is no ultimate meaning to that. A strange thing to get so worked up about, isn't it?
Consistent atheism would be absolute nihilism - but human beings and the created order they live in aren't wired for that at all, so consistent atheism is impossible to find in reality. Reality isn't meaningless, and human beings aren't luckily-rearranged offspring-of-pond-slime who are heading towards eternal nothingness.
On which note, this link: http://triablogue.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/what-if-im-wrong.html, which leads in turn to this one: http://www.proginosko.com/2013/08/the-atheists-guide-to-reality/
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Friday, 15 August 2014
Sometimes, I think this emphasis has caused us to miss another part of the parable: that the wheat and the tares both grow until the harvest.
Initially, they look alike, or hard to tell unless you're an expert. But as they grow, it becomes more obvious.
One way in which this becomes more possible is as human beings more and more "subjugate the earth", in Biblical language - i.e. develop the potential of God's creation.
Technology now means that you can do all kinds of things - if you want to. Or, you can do all kinds of other things - if you prefer those.
You can be narcissist, an avid consumer of pornography, you can terminate unborn lives because they weren't convenient to you, you can experiment in all kinds of depraved things: all without hardly anyone knowing, or without social stigma.
Or, if you prefer, you can exploit the opportunities that the modern world gives to serve Jesus, and redeem the time for him in ways that our ancestors could not dream of.
The wheat and the tares are both growing. It's becoming more obvious which is which. Which are you?
Thursday, 14 August 2014
"Survival International, which campaigns to protect the lands in habited by "uncontacted people" – defined as peoples who have no peaceful contact with anyone in the mainstream or dominant society – estimate that there are about 100 uncontacted tribes in the world"
That's a lot of peoples who need praying for, that the door may open for their evangelisation and discipleship.
Wednesday, 13 August 2014
What ought to be - but absolutely isn't - obvious to any thinking person is one thing: we have not got the foggiest. We didn't know before, and nothing indicates that we know now.
By "we", I mean Western society.
Our finest minds, spread through our institutions of learning, charity and government - in parliaments, UN, EU, think-tanks, militaries, etcetera - have been chewing on a number of thorny problems over the last decade or two.
All the assumptions and ideas which shape and describe modern Western thought - all our ideas about democracy, intervention, the best future for the world, how to aid suffering peoples in remote places, the overthrow of tyrants, etcetera, etcetera - have gone to work on the problems in a lot of places.
Iraq. Afghanistan. Libya. Egypt. Syria. Ukraine. Gaza. Iraq again. I am probably missing others.
What can we conclude? There have been enough now that we can't say "post-Enlightenment Western thought hasn't had a chance to show if it knows the answers, or what it can achieve". Quite the contrary. It is now obvious to anyone who isn't wilfully blind. We know exactly what it will achieve. Chaos. Bad situations made much worse. Very bad situations made immensely worse. Death, suffering and upheaval all around (except for us).
Peter Hitchens has a few things to say in this area here: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2014/08/something-must-be-donethis-is-somethingok-well-do-that.html. One point he makes - and which we won't be hearing our societies' leaders, the ones in charge of taking action, making - is this (capitals his): "ADMIT YOUR PAST MISTAKES BEFORE MAKING ANY NEW ONES". Hitchens says:
But until we admit our past mistakes, how can we possibly be fit to take new actions which are equally likely to have unintended consequences? Oh, but surely everyone now admits the Iraq invasion was wrong. Well, in a way, they do. But only symbolically. Politicians and their media allies who cheered for the war, and in some cases helped propagate the lies that started it, may have mumbled some admissions of error. But they are still prominent in public life, and in many cases are still listened to seriously.Without indicating whether he is in jest or deadly serious, he continues:
In my view, every politician and columnist who backed the Iraq war should have that fact displayed, in large red letters, next to everything they write, should be forced to admit it, before they make any policy statement or call for any actions. If they speak in public, especially for a fee, a large red notice should be displayed on the podium reminding the audience that this person supported the Iraq war. Likewise, the same label should be prominently displayed on screen whenever they speak or are interviewed on TV, and should be mentioned at the beginning and the end of every appearance they make on radio.It gives you something to think about, doesn't it? Imagine if there were consequences for being drastically wrong about major issues that involved vast numbers of deaths, maimings and bereavements. Imagine if being mistaken about such serious matters was a matter for shame, dishonour and withdrawal from public life.
That hasn't happened, and won't happen. Why not? Because post-Enlightenment Westerners have been trained from birth to believe that their distinctive doctrines - those of secular humanism, and individual autonomy - are the answer to the world's problems. It is the very air that they breathe. They know that they have the answers to the worlds problems. Democracy, education, human rights, sexual "freedom", globalism, "benevolent" intervention to overthrow tyrants - these things must and will bring peace on earth, if we just try them again: our modern religion has told us so.
Except: they won't. They have been tried. Weighed. Tested in the balances: and found wanting. Not just a little bit wanting. Completely wanting. Rank amateur as-wrong-as-you-could-be wanting. Again and again; and all at other peoples' expense. All paid for, not by the people who made these decisions, but by soldiers who signed up to promote the rightful and legitimate interests and defence of their country in just war, and by legion upon legion of innocents. Our interventions have brought most of the subjects of our experiments into worse situations than they started off in.
Where is the repentance? Where is the heart-searching? Who is crying out "How could we be so wrong? Where did the mistake begin? What is rotten in the foundation, that it has caused the building to collapse like this?"
God does have a plan to put the world right. It is not all hopeless. But that plan is not our current leaders' plan. God's plan begins with repentance. It begins with admitting that our autonomous attempts to make it all right ourselves - whether that's personally, nationally or globally - are doomed to failure. It begins with submitting to God, and his plans for the world. Submitting to God, and the King he has appointed for the world. Until that is done, the modern West will continue to blunder through this succession of disasters until God puts us out of our misery, one way or another: either we'll bankrupt ourselves and lose our ability to carry on, or someone else will rise up with a bigger stick than ours and we'll lose the ability to carry out such ill-conceived schemes, or somesuch. When it happens, many people in the rest of the world are quite likely to find it a mercy.
Thursday, 31 July 2014
Friday, 18 July 2014
The UK abolished the death penalty for all offences during the last
Labour government - all except one, that is. You can still be put to
death for the offence of being an unborn child whose parents wish that
you did not exist.
If you happen to be physically disabled, then your crime is aggravated:
the rules provide additional circumstances for you to be executed which
do not apply to the able-bodied.
Thursday, 10 July 2014
you create hell on earth.
Sadly, too many Christians are hoping that there will be. They think to
themselves, "well, I can ignore this latest outrage, and keep my head
down, have the quiet life, and all will be well". It's a delusion,
because evil isn't something we can negotiate with. The devil doesn't
take holidays or keep to his side of the bargain. He'll keep fighting to
the end. Faithful Christians must do likewise.
Case in point:
obvious and unhidden; adults add a layer that they suppose is
sophistication to their sin. To God though, this is simply childish: he
sees right through it, even if we persuade ourselves that it was very
clever and cunning.
In other ways, we need to become like little children again: to trust
God, to lose our guile and "sophistication", to take simple delight in
God and his world. To enjoy each blessing in the voyage of discovery of
both for its own sake, instead of trying to fit it into some personal
masterplan which isn't God's (c.f. the book of Ecclesiastes).
Saturday, 28 June 2014
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
life of present grace."
John Owen -
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Amongst other things, I think it is revealing to see how opinion-formers and commentators in our secularist, post-Christian society are now speaking.
" Moral relativism has long been thrown out as a sensible argument" - good, but what have you got to replace it? Next lines: "One person taking a knife to a young girl's genitals is a crime. A million people doing it doesn’t make it culture." - and then, the end of the article.
So, just a declaration, with no argument. If you dare to raise a question, then presumably you'll be shouted down for supporting the mutilators. (And comments are closed on the piece, though that may be because it concerns a matter that is sub judice). What's my point? My point is that we're seeing this pattern of argumentation more and more frequently. People realise that moral relativism clashes with reality. It is self-contradictory in theory, and doesn't work in practice. So, what's next to try? If you don't have moral relativism, then you must have moral absolutes. But absolutes need grounding in something. What are the commentariat going to ground them in? The answer appears to be in the force of their declarations, followed by their ringing full stops. It's a crime... so shut up. Got any quibbles with the concept of two men "marrying" each other? It's obviously right, so you're a hater, so put a sock in it! When I was at university, the student union was a "no platform" policy for anyone who wasn't in favour of ending children's lives in their mother's wombs - not just that they were held to be wrong, but that they weren't allowed to speak; giving them the "oxygen of publicity" would, for the elite in the student union leadership, be itself morally wrong. Etcetera.
In fact, when you get down to it, this is just moral relativism re-branded. Rather than "everyone's chosen morality is right for them", it's "the chosen morality of those in power is right for everyone". The same question is ultimately begged - why is it right? What does "is right" mean? Where's the external measuring stick - beyond man's ability to choose or change - that we can use to make this evaluation?
Christianity provides moral absolutes that are grounded. Our Maker is good, and we are living in his creation. His essential nature binds us, and he has given a law that reflects that nature. Morality is not arbitrary - whether the arbitrariness is personal and different for everyone, or just the arbitrary choices of the leaders of society. It is binding upon us, becomes it proceeds from our Creator and Judge. Secularism and atheism provide no logical foundation for morality; Christianity does.
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
This division becomes "useful" when thinking of schooling. The question comes up: why would I send my children to a secularist school, when I am not a secularist? Why would I not educate them in a distinctively Christian environment, if I believe that Christianity is distinguished from other philosophies of life by being true, whilst secularism is a philosophy of life which is, ultimately false? This is where the Enlightenment dichotomy comes to the rescue: schools teach facts, whilst home and church teach values. I can send my children to this or that school, because any influence of a different philosophy of life will be minimal - they're not really learning that way of life from their school. They're learning times tables, dates, laws of science, etc. I will give them a way of looking at the world that is authentically Christian outside of school.
Probably everyone would realise it's more complex than that. But if it comes down to it, that explanation is more-or-less in the ball-park. It's the go-to explanation to answer the basic question "why am I giving my children an education for which the central and majority use of time is instruction from people working within a secularist paradigm?"
The Enlightenment divide between facts and meaning has never been how human society works. The idea of neutrality is a myth. Human beings were not created to be "split-brain" in this way. All facts have meaning, and all true meaning is a fact. However, whether Christians do or don't look at school according to the philosophy of the Enlightenment is increasingly irrelevant today. It may be an idea that vaguely floats around the back of our minds, and appear to have its uses at times, but it's often very far from floating around the minds of our children's educators. Those who hold the reins of power and influence in Western society are emphatically not saying "when educating children, we'll stick to times tables, dates, science experiments, etc., and let their parents teach them a way of viewing the world". The fact that such a thing is impossible to do in practice is increasingly meaningless.
Which brings me to the link that prompted this - from Tim Challies; entitled "The New Birds and Bees": http://www.challies.com/articles/the-new-birds-and-bees. Whether or not it's possible to have a neutral, merely "fact-based" sex education is irrelevant. The real facts are that in schools, Western children are increasingly taught radical 1960s and post-1960s gender theory. The "facts" that they are taught are that the Bible's view of man and woman are wrong, wrong and wrong, and that the opposite is true. And then they are not left to work out some "values" of their own based on it, but are taught the "values" which flow naturally from these "facts".
The church needs to read, weep, and act, before the church's children begin to view it as their job to re-educate the church out of its "unenlightened bigotry", and bring it into line with "modern understandings of gender". There are lots of home educators going it alone to try to provide children of Christians with education that is Christian. There are increasing numbers of co-ops. And yes, there are some Christian schools. But, the amount of attention that this issue gets in evangelical churches and the wider sphere of evangelicalism is tiny. I understand that nobody wants to tie up enormous burdens to weigh down already highly-pressurised individual parents with. One of the ways to avoid over-burdening individual Christian parents is for the church as the church to rise up and face up to its responsibility for this area. It's a glaring need of our times. If churches can have building committees, missionary teams, youth work committees, evangelistic teams, women's ministry teams, etcetera, etcetera, there what is the Western evangelical church's reason for, on the whole, having no officers specially appointed to look at the question of how to make sure that church children have maximal opportunity to receive a Christian education instead of a secularist one? Isn't it something we need to think about, and ask God to show us what we can do about?
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
It should not be a difficult one.
Should you go to a celebration, at the heart of which God calls evil? A celebration of something which, in its essential nature, is evil?
Some are already trying to slice-and-dice the question. Every marriage, they point out, will involve sin somewhere. So perhaps we should just abandon the world and live as hermits in caves, to avoid sin?
This is an evasion of the main point. Marriage in itself, in its essential nature, is good, and evils are incidental to its essential nature. Homosexual practice, however, in itself, in its essential nature, is contrary to God's law and to the order of his creation. The evil is inherent and unavoidable in every manifestation of homosexual practice.
There might be some actual marriages a Christian would not attend, because they fundamentally corrupt the nature of marriage itself. If a man abandons his covenant commitment to his wife to take a younger model instead, then we should shun him when he does so. If his marriage is incestuous or bigamous, we should make clear in every way possible that the act of marriage, in this case, is unavoidably and essentially wrong.
If a Christian was invited to a child marriage, in which a dirty old man is to "marry" his ten year-old niece, then presumably the suggestion "perhaps I should go along anyway, to bear witness by my handshakes, smiles and pleasantness to God's grace even to the worst" would be given short shrift in most evangelical churches.
There's no difference to a "gay marriage", except that a "gay marriage" goes even further into depravity - if we let the Bible be our guide as to what depravity is, that is. The only "difficulty" is of societal pressure. We don't live in some traditional African or some Islamic societies where child marriage is accepted and promoted. We feel no pressure to not say "that is an abomination" in those cases.
And that is the only difference. The world has been carrying on a multi-generation re-education campaign to teach us to call good evil, and evil good. We "must" now call truth-telling bigotry, and describe vileness as an affirmation of love, if we are to be accepted by the world. Acting as a Christian in this case rather than in that might cost us something. Being faithful to Jesus might mean taking up the cross and following him. It always has. There is no alternative on offer to his followers.
Saturday, 29 March 2014
" Truth is truth, and error, error, and that which is unlawful is unlawful, whether men think so or not. God has put an eternal difference between light and darkness, good and ill, which no creature’s conceit can alter; and therefore no man’s judgement is the measure of things further than it agrees to truth stamped upon things themselves by God. ... [Wise men] are usually immovable as the sun in its course, because they think and live and speak by rule." (The Bruised Reed, chapter 12).
have taken place today, or will at any point in the future.
This is because, a thing is what God says it is - and not what man, in
his aspirations to dethrone God and re-make the world in his own
corrupted image, wants it to be.
Marriage itself remains what God says marriage is - a binding covenant
union between a man and a woman - and has not changed to become two
people with state-approved bedroom activities for as long as they feel
The challenge for Christians now is to hold this line. It is not an
unusual situation. Man is always attempting to redefine the meaning of
God's creation. Christians have always been called to honour the Creator
and his creation, instead of man and his de-creations. It will cost
something; perhaps very much. But in the end it will cost nothing; what
gain is it to lose your soul in return for a temporary slice of the
world? And what loss is it to lose a temporary slice of the present age,
and inherit all the fullness of the age to come?
Friday, 28 March 2014
Thursday, 27 March 2014
I read the paper version about 15 years ago, and it was very good.
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
An email I have sent to World Vision (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are a World Vision sponsor, then I encourage you to do the same.
In view of these issues...
... I have cancelled my direct debit for child sponsorship to World Vision (ref: X) with immediate effect, after around Y years. I will be re-allocating the funds via a different body that upholds Christian ethics.
I hope that World Vision will re-consider the words of Christ and his apostles, and turn back to him in future. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." - John 14:15. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality" - 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
"Any one is at liberty use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book the writer has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein contained to be a true statement of Scripture truth, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use."
Some undeveloped thoughts:
a) How unusual.
b) How Biblical.
c) I wonder why it is so unusual?
d) Each must give an account of himself to God. Our position is not to judge another man's servant (Romans 14). But, the "big picture" in the world of evangelical publishing is disturbing. Did you know that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation owns half of the evangelical publishing market in the US? ( http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2011/october/harpercollins-buys-thomas-nelson-will-control-50-of.html). What makes it attractive to him, do you think? Obviously, the profits to be made from the sheep.
e) No doubt there are lots of complexities in the "market". But who's actually *trying* to put Matthew 10:8 ("Freely you have received, freely give") into practice, in some way? (I'm not saying "gimme free stuff!" - I'm asking how the principle is playing out, in the big picture. Are evangelical authors widely known for giving away their royalties? For assigning them to the churches on whose time they wrote the books? Or is the answer mostly "we have no idea - this all sounds a bit new and odd to us". Note again: this isn't pointing the finger at one or two people. I'm trying to discern which way the wind is blowing in general and what it means, not whether this or that gust has knocked someone in particular's flower-pot over).
Monday, 24 February 2014
On which subject, Corrie Ten Boom's "The Hiding Place" is one of my favourite Christian books. "Every Christian should read this" is an over-used description. But it'd definitely be one of my "Desert Island" books. I've read it to my children twice (with a little bit of age-related censorship at some of the more gruesome points).
There are two companion books covering other parts of her astonishing life, "In my Father's House", and "Tramp for the Lord", which are also highly worth reading. (The latter is rather disjointed. But it has a lot of spiritual profit in in, so we should not be churlish!).
Thursday, 13 February 2014
different people from different backgrounds to come together, and to
discuss and debate the Bible, without either compromising the truth or
their differing interpretations of secondary matters. It is possible to
speak what you understand to be the truth without hedging, but also
without hectoring or preaching. (Preaching is of course right when you
On the other hand, there is a wrong kind of scholarly language, which
reduces everything to a merely human view, and speaks as if God had not
spoken, or has not spoken authoritatively and clearly. There is a wrong
kind of language, which treats the Bible as if it were to be approached
like any other book.
For the Christian who is involved in some kind of academic study, there
is a challenge to navigate a right path between the two.
Sadly, many Christian scholars who started off well have evidently
shipwrecked their faithful testimony to truth. They have so modified
their rhetoric that everything is doubtful, and everything is
subjective. Has God spoken? Who knows? It's so far beyond the boundaries
of discussion that few reading the scholar would know one way or the other.
Here's a few examples of what I mean, from a book I just picked up...
"At the heart of the Bible's presentation of Israelite religion stands
Israel's story in which God is repeatedly acting in historical events".
"The prophets recognize in these events God's actions of judgment
against the people." "According to the biblical tradition, the events of
history are filled with meaning and purpose". "History clearly plays a
prominent role in the Bible's presentation of Israelite religion."
Interpreted charitably, that's all the true in the literal sense, of
course. But when the talk is all (or mostly) like this, exclusively from
a subjective human perspective that leaves the question of God's
revelation to one side, then we have a gross imbalance that dishonours
God and his holy revelation to us - a revelation that he tells us should
cause us to tremble.
Where is the trembling when the scholar's talk is continually of this
kind? What kind of reverence for God is it that can never bring itself
to speak in a way that goes beyond the way that a complete unbeliever
Many liberals realise that language is power, and that is why they
police language as diligently as they do, to prevent utterances that are
contrary to their world-view from being spoken. What cannot be
articulated, as Orwell perceived, is having the door shut upon it
against being believed or practised. We see this a lot in contemporary
culture in politically correct speech, etc. In with "gay relationship",
and out with words like "against nature", "sexual depravity" or
(horrors!) "sodomy". Such utterances are quickly shouted down with the
Newspeak word "homophobia!" Or consider the difference between these twosentences: "she's working at her God-given calling as a Christian woman"and "she doesn't work, she's a mother". They might be two different peoples' ways of talking about the same lady - but what a differencelies behind those two ways of thinking! And so on.
The Bible could be described as a record of Israel's dealings with God.
But that is a very one-sided description - and one which leaves out the
most important aspect of the matter. It is also God's holy word to us
all today. If we must say on the one hand "History clearly plays a
prominent role in the Bible's presentation of Israelite religion", then
we should also say "God dealt with his chosen people through history" or
"The Bible reveals to us how God dealt with Israel through history".
Dealing with holy things as if they were not holy is very dangerous. The
Bible tells us so. And thus, it is certainly true. The Bible is not
simply to be studied, but trembled at, and obeyed. Let those of us
involved in such studies not forget that, as we value our souls!
Friday, 7 February 2014
That's some house.
It's not quite clear how well the flood-defences are holding up, though. One more load of heavy rain could wreck the entire ground floor, if it's not happened already.
As such, it's a perfect picture of those who are building primarily for this life. They might build something really attractive. But, as far as this life goes, the flood waters are rising. You won't be able to keep them out. They'll wash over everything you have and everything you build in this life in time.
Which life are you building for?
Saturday, 25 January 2014
"Now that is interesting to me because the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to call both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible, the 'Word of God'. The character of the Bible and the character of Jesus are linked together." - The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy 1987, Broadman.How we respond to the Bible's words is how we respond to the Lord Jesus Christ. If and where we knowingly disobey his written words, we knowingly disobey and dishonour him personally, the living Word.
Would you do such-and-such if the Lord Jesus Christ descended from heaven in light you could not even look upon, surrounded by legions of angels, and personally declared to you that you must not do it?
You might like to say "no, of course not". This would be self-deception. You would, and I would, because that is the nature of the sin that still dwells within us. Jesus Christ made his attitude to the Scriptures very clear, with words like "Your word is truth", "The Scriptures cannot be broken", "Do you not err, because you do not know the Scriptures?" and "The words that I have spoken will judge him at the last day" and "Man shall not live on bread alone, but upon every word that falls from the mouth of God".
What is the Word of God telling you to do? Exactly what the written word of God is telling you to do. You can dishonour and disobey neither or both - there is no middle ground, and let's not kid ourselves that there is.
Friday, 17 January 2014
I am well aware that many Christians think that this is scare-mongering or far-fetched.
It's worth pointing out, then, that the Scottish government has, in fact, taken the next logical step - proposing that this understanding (or we should say, monstrous, totalitarian power grab) be codified in law. This view, far from being far-fetched, will be the law of the land in Scotland if they get their way.
Here's an update on their plans - a legal view expressed that this conflicts with the UN charter of human rights. Let's hope that this legal opinion gains currency: http://www.christian.org.uk/news/top-lawyer-snps-state-guardian-for-children-unlawful/
Saturday, 11 January 2014
Wednesday, 8 January 2014
Here's the Kindle link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Should-Christians-Embrace-Evolution-Scientific-ebook/dp/B009VJC4NC
Or direct from the publisher (multi-format): http://www.thinkivp.com/9781844749003
Here's Tim Challies' review: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/should-christians-embrace-evolution.
Of course I am biased, but I believe this is still the "go-to" book for a solid and yet readable multi-author scientific and theological response to the question posed in the title.