Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Liberty redefined - families, individuals and liberty

This is very clear and timely, and sadly something a lot of Christians are very muddled (or have never really thought) about: https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/liberty-redefined.html

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

David French on Ravi Zacharias (and John MacArthur)


"The inside story of how Ravi Zacharias’s ministry concealed and enabled his abuse."

To anyone who has personally witnessed the inside of a situation in which one man holds too much power without genuine accountability (but instead has a sufficient number of personal friends or relations or economic or career dependants in key positions, protecting him for a variety of reasons and motives), this account will be harrowingly familiar.

It's a pattern that has played out again and again, causing deep pain to the victims, to those caught up in various ways, to those seeking the truth, etc.

A word to the wise. Never enter into partnership with a ministry that is, whether in name, or in effect, the personal vehicle of one man. You might think it will turn out well. You might think that the man is a Christian hero, and there may be people who praise him from Dan to Beersheba. Just hear this: putting your head in a crocodile's mouth might also turn out OK. But if it didn't, don't let anyone tell you that the severity of the outcome was surprising.

Note that in the Ravi Zacharias scandal, secular investigators had to be called in to root out the truth. They - like the FBI, the crime squad, etc. - are often people who (through real-world experience) really believe in original sin and not accepting the first, smooth, answer that mentions grace and innocent mistakes, etc., - an answer that too many Christians who've been entrusted with enforcing real accountability accept in the false belief that doing so is the gracious thing to do. Isn't that tragic?

And whilst we're in this area, the material now coming out about John MacArthur looks very bad. I expect many Christians might respond to this sort of material by saying "but Christians should't wash their dirty linen in public." That's a dangerous half-truth. There is gossip and innuendo, that should be avoided, as a sin. But the apostle Paul was not indulging in that when he warned people about Alexander and Hymenaeus; he was testifying to truths verified by proper witnesses - he appealed to publicly verifiable facts. These are not gossip, and neither are the facts being documented in MacArthur's case. It's also true that we are not called upon to be busy-bodies, obsessing over things far from our field - we surely all have our own work which the Lord has commanded us to be busy with. But when one brother takes a position as a public leader and representative of Christians beyond the confines of his own church, and his own church fails to hold him accountable or to demonstrate that it has done so, it is perfectly reasonable and right for those who have before been targeted by that public ministry to raise public questions. You can't have your cake and eat it. Start a public ministry that goes around the world, and be accountable for it - or don't. This particular story looks like it's got further to run.

Lastly: may the Lord have mercy upon us, and help us to finish the race world. Whether it's sex, money or power, far better believers than you or I have succumbed in the most horrible ways. What can keep us? Only the daily grace and power of Jesus the crucified. Lord, hear our prayers.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Still CS Lewis

The fact that C S Lewis - https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/15/quiet-cs-lewis-is-on-why-subject-of-new-film-could-be-right-for-now
<https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/15/quiet-cs-lewis-is-on-why-subject-of-new-film-could-be-right-for-now> - can still win a sympathetic article in the Guardian in 2021 relating to his role as a Christian apologist and convert from atheism is a testimony to the scale of what God accomplished through him.

The fact that, in 2021, Lewis might still be Western Christianity's foremost public apologist, despite having been dead for over half a century, is less encouraging - and is a telling testimony to the drift of evangelicalism at large during that time into anti-intellectualism or superficiality.

N T Wright could have taken the role, but has sadly with great consistency proved unable to restrict his desire to curry favour with society's gate-keepers by regularly taking any opportunity to sneer disdain at anyone to the right of him, and his silly desire to try to stake out a position as the first person ever to be correct about important topics - desires encouraged him in propagating unnecessary and significant theological errors. This was a great loss, as his combination of intellectual gifts, energy and ability to speak to different audiences were a match to Lewis's. The way he combined top-class scholarship and orthodoxy of "The Resurrection of the Son of God" in particular was thrilling (one of the best-argued and ground-breaking theological books I have ever read - and it stands well alone, so if you don't have a particular desire to plough through reams of "New Perspective" advocacy in the other large tomes in the series, you can easily read it on its own).

Friday, 20 November 2020

All of education is religious - the only question is, "which religion?"

Firstly, read this: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/muir-woods-queer-woods-california-wokeness-live-not-by-lies/

This illustrates a simple fact: there is no neutral territory. Everywhere where there is education, even a wood, even spiders, a world-view is being communicated. The question is not "shall we teach how to understand our observations?" but "in what context shall we teach how to understand our observations?". And the most important context - everyone realises - is how humans understand themselves, and the world they live in, and how to interpret their inner lives. When people swallow the untruth that some sort of secularism in which we just observe without adding any context, they simply end up as teaching that life should be lived according to atheist nihilism, by default. "There are only facts" is functionally the same as "there is nothing but self".

As we see illustrated in the above article, the world outside the church understands these truths about education well. They know that the world is not a simple, naked, meaningless brute fact. Rather, there is a narrative, a background, a context, in which it should be interpreted. And so, as the world's educators seek to educate others, and especially children, they seek to teach what they hold as the correct, righteous context. They teach their worldview, because that's what educators do. That's what education involves. In the modern world, that increasingly means they teach a self-centred, God-less world-view in which man and his personal desires are the ultimate realities, and ultimate good things.

Lots of Christians haven't accepted these facts about how education works. In my observation, that's usually for one of two reasons.

The first reason is that they've never thought about it. Despite living in a society that has undergone such radical change as Western societies have in the last few generations, they have not applied their mind to thinking about what this means for the task of educating our children. They haven't even begun to reflect seriously upon what it means to obey the Bible's instruction to be "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is a terrible failure to love God with all our minds, in one of the major areas of our duty.

The second is worse: Christians know that education is not neutral, and that the secularist education they have chosen for their children is anti-Christian - but they aren't willing to endure any of the costs in doing otherwise. They knowingly send their children to be educated in a context of darkness instead of light, because doing otherwise would involve discomfort. It would involve change, effort, and the possibility of others in their social groups pulling funny faces at them, which might make them feel awkward. I hope and pray that a lot of these Christians come, or will come, into a third category: those whose eyes have been opened, realised that pleasing God necessitates a radical change of direction, and who are going by his grace and strength to get up and make those changes.

Monday, 16 November 2020

"A failure of spiritual leadership" - Christian Institute lecture

This lecture, scheduled for tonight, sounds well-worth listening to: https://www.christian.org.uk/resource/a-failure-of-spiritual-leadership/.

In my personal view - informed by having lived in multiple foreign countries and thus, I hope, having gained some perspective on trying to analyse how church, state and culture are interacting and thinking about what that means - all is not well in the UK church scene. At all.

One of the things that is not well is that when we listen to the output of the mainstream evangelical organisations, we do not get the impression that all is not well. Or at least, nothing that making sure we preach the gospel in our weekly messages can't mostly account for, if we keep plugging away at it. The outside of the house is still very presentable. The people are sincere, pleasant and persuasive. But all the signs are present that the long-term soundness of the building is deeply suspect. And what is meant by "long-term" increasingly begins to approach, and the number of plausible scenarios in which it actually means "next year, next month, next week" rather than "next decade" begin to increase. There are fundamental problems that exist, that we can ignore most of the time, but which something like 2020 suddenly draws attention to. As well as being a challenge, 2020 then becomes an opportunity: an opportunity to review our course, and what needs doing about it.

As a trustee for the widely-respected Christian Institute (and "Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics", which I confess I'd not heard of, and a former Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, right at the heart of (Anglican) mainstream UK conservative evangelicalism), Richard Turnbull is potentially a very good person to deliver a message and have people listen. At this point, I do not know what he will say, but the title and summary some promising:

"Many have reported increased spiritual interest in the person of Jesus Christ during this pandemic. This has often been true in these times of crisis. Individual church ministers have often been heroic. However, the response of the church as an institution has been nothing short of scandalous. Why this failure of spiritual leadership? What led to the suspension of public worship for the first time since Magna Carta? There are, of course, broader questions including the trade-off between health and economics, the proper role of the state and the place of liberty, including religious liberty. We will reflect on all these matters."