Monday, 30 June 2008

Gay super rights

Homosexual activists are not aiming to have equal rights. They are aiming to have "super rights" - rights which trump those of every other group. They won't rest content until not only are they allowed to do what they want to do, but also nobody else even has the right to express disagreement with them.

Hence this:
Public bodies like schools, the police, and local councils should be forced by law to promote ‘gay rights’, says Britain’s leading homosexual lobby group. Homosexual-only shortlists for Parliamentary candidates should also be permitted, Stonewall says.

The comments come in anticipation of the Government’s proposals for a vast, over-arching Equality Bill.
In this brave new world, all people are equal. But if you enjoy perversion, you get to be more equal than others. Even to the extent that those others get to have their taxes spent on educating them to agree with you, and spent on stacking the decks with even lawmakers to pass even more laws of this kind. Neat!

Hat tip:

Saturday, 28 June 2008

How to spot the false church

Satan has a false church in the world, a counterfeit. It doesn't go under any one name or denomination and isn't found in just one locality, but he's at work in them all, everywhere. How can you spot the false church?

One answer is that the false church never preaches repentance. Repentance is an essential hallmark of true spokesmen for God. The prophets preached repentance, e.g. Ezekiel 18:30
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn  yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
When John the Baptist came to prepare the people for the Messiah's appearance, he preached as follows:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2)
When on earth, Jesus preached repentance, e.g. Luke 13:3
"... unless ye repent, you shall all likewise perish."
When he sent out his apostles during his earthly ministry,
"they went out, and preached that men should repent." (Mark 6:12)
On the day of Pentecost, the people asked Peter what they needed to do. The answer?
"Then Peter said unto them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.'" (Acts 2:38)
And Paul:
"[God] now commands all men every where to repent: because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has appointed; of which he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)
You know that friendly fellow wearing religious garb who you see on the television, in the papers, and so on, supposedly speaking on behalf of the Christian church? He never mentions repentance? He always has something to say about the need of the hour, what the government should do, what the Christian response is, etcetera, etcetera... but he never has anything to say about repentance? Now you know which church he belongs to!

The Hilarious Professor Dawkins

"We've achieved an enormous amount in the way of understanding. We now understand essentially how life came into being. We know that we are all cousins of all animals and plants. We know that we are descended from a common ancestor which might have been something like a bacteria. We know the process by which that came about. We don't know the details but we understand essentially how it came about." -Professor Richard Dawkins, during a debate with Professor John Lennox, both of Oxford University.

Note the "switcharoo" pulled here - Professor Dawkins claims that we understand "how life came into being"; then he goes on to talk instead about how life developed. If you're familiar with the recent movie "Expelled", you'll know that in his interview in it the professor candidly confesses that neither he nor any other atheist has a clue about how life came into being; he then speculates that it is possible that aliens brought it to earth from outer space!
"There are still gaps in our understanding. We don't understand how the cosmos came into existence in the first place but we're working on that."
Good luck with that! I wonder how he kept a straight face... I couldn't keep one whilst listening.

In other news, I'm proud to have now mastered the game of darts to world-class level. There are still gaps in my ability to get within half a meter of the spot I was aiming for, but I'm working on that. Meanwhile, my wife is pleased to announce that she recently broke the 100 meter sprint world record, give or take 10 seconds, and she's working on that too.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Identifying the elect

Part one, part two.

In his next post, here, Dr. Field expands on his argument that it's impossible to argue from the idea that the New Covenant is made only with the elect, to the idea that baptism is only intended to be for believers (i.e. those who, through the profession of faith, give credible evidence that they belong to the elect).

I thought it was a bit curious that in this new post, Dr. Field professes to have just checked a book on believer's baptism for the first time to see if Baptists do in fact argue this way. As a former Baptist, a member of a Baptist church, and someone who has been working full time for many years in the training of pastors, this seems rather late in the game to begin studying what Baptists believe. But, that's all irrelevant to the argument. Here's how Dr. Field expands on the point above. Why can't we say that if the elect are the members of the New Covenant, then only those who believe (as far as we can tell) should be granted the Covenant's privileges such as church membership and baptism?
You'd have to think that you could identify the big-E Elect by their faith. But that would exclude the possibility of false faith or temporary faith. And since you can't know for sure that someone's faith isn't false faith or temporary faith then you'd never baptise anyone at all.
The implied and unstated assumption behind the argument that Dr. Field makes above is this: That you must only baptise someone if you have infallible certainty that they are truly qualified for baptism. The chain of logic in what he says seems to flow like this:
  1. Major assumption: We must only baptise with infallible certainty.
  2. Minor assumption: We cannot have infallible certainty about the identity of the elect, because faith can be counterfeited.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, baptism cannot be on the grounds of presumed election.
It's worth noticing firstly that this isn't first and foremost an argument in favour of paedobaptism and against believer's baptism. It's an argument in favour of the Federal Vision theology. Reformed paedobaptists down through history have generally identified the New Covenant as being made with the elect and their seed, and when faced with adult converts have applied the test of a credible profession of faith, just as adults do. The difference hasn't been in the test applied to adults - it's just been that they've said that a different test applies to infants.

The problem, though, is in the major assumption. Why do we require infallibility? What is the major problem that arises if a mistake is made? In baptism, amongst other things, a person (lets assume for the moment they're an adult) makes a profession of faith. Dr. Field's argument logically entails that this profession is an irrelevance which is nothing to do with the baptism itself - because professions of faith are not allowed to be connected with the legitimacy of a baptism because that involves the uncertainty of not knowing who the elect are. In other words, the argument proves far too much - and hence nothing at all.

Dr. Field then proceeds to consider a possible response to his own argument:
If the response is, "we're not claiming to baptize the Elect, only those who look like the Elect because they have faith" then you've just separated out baptism from the New Covenant and said that baptism is for "those who look like the Elect to us".

Which is fine, because that's what paedobaptists / covenantalists are claiming: that we operate at the level of the "look like Elect to us" and that's how God intends it to be.
The response here, though, doesn't actually save the paedobaptist position, because an infant who as yet is not able to articulate a profession of faith can't actually "look like one of the elect" (i.e. New Covenant members). A little one who is not yet equipped with the faculties to bring forth the mark of the elect cannot be "seen" as one of the elect. If Dr. Field is saying that those infants do "look like Elect to us" then he's saying that all infants are elect (or, to use Dr. Field's terms, "Big-E Elect"). This argument isn't going anywhere.

I've pointed out before that Dr. Field's own argument also would forbid circumcision under the Old Covenant. How do you know that the 8-day old brought by the Jewish parents really is their child if you haven't been in their presence since birth? If the parents recite their family tree going back to Abraham then it's nice to hear, but how do you know that they really are the people at the end of it that they claim to be? How do you know that there wasn't an illegitimate child in the ancestry (Deuteronomy 23:2), or even that this baby really is the son of the claimed father? If absolute, unbreakable infallibility is what is required, then not even circumcision was possible once you'd identified the descendants of Abraham as the members of the Old Covenant - because you could never infallibly, to the standard Dr. Field is applying, know that that little baby really did fulfill all the criteria.

Let's finish off this post quickly:
Mind you, if baptism is then the initiation rite for the New Covenant then you've just said that there are people who rightly receive the New Covenant sign but who are not big-E Elect. But if they rightly receive the New Covenant initiation rite then they break the New Covenant then the New Covenant is breakable.
Baptists hold that as circumcision was the initiation rite for the Old Covenant, heart circumcision, i.e. conversion, is the initiation rite for the New Covenant. Dr. Field's argument here springs from ignorance of what Baptists actually say. Baptism does not constitute one as a member of the New Covenant - union with Christ does. Those who receive this heart circumcision are initiated into the unbreakable New Covenant, and there they remain. Dr. Field's argument ultimately conflicts with Calvinism, because in it people are initiated into the Covenant which Christ mediates, but his mediation ultimately doesn't save them: they become visible saints, but are not preserved until the end.

I won't quote Dr. Field's final paragraph. It builds a conclusion upon this error-laden foundation, so its contents are moot.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Your citizenship is in heaven

"Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time." - Revelation 12:12

The book of Revelation always pictures the people of God as being in heaven. They are around the throne, taking part in a glorious worship service, looking down. They ultimately take over the earth when the new Jerusalem, the lamb's bride, comes down, the earth having been cleansed from the evil presence of the beast, the prophet and the harlot. From above, God's judgments are poured out. On the other hand, the earth and the sea are pictured as the chaotic and rebellious domain of sinful men. The beast rises out of the sea; a hailstone is thrown there; the new heavens have no sea. God's people have to live for a time in the earth, but they do not live in the world's city, the harlot Babylon. They live in a wilderness, having been commanded to come out and be separate.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Exclusive to here - a sermon by Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas, the much appreciated pastor of Alfred Place church in Aberystwyth, has kindly given me permission to make a sermon of his available online here (MP3 format):

You won't find this sermon anywhere else - it's a world exclusive! Pastor Thomas preached it here in Nairobi earlier this year. His text was Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit." It was a sermon full of encouragement and well worth passing on.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Government as God, again

"Enforce sex lessons from the age of five: Speculation is growing that the Government’s answer to record abortion numbers among schoolgirls is to start sex education with five-year-olds and scrap the parental opt-out." - read more here:

Is it actually the case that all the abortions are happening amongst schoolgirls who were being withdrawn from the government's sex education lessons? Is it that the ones in the lessons are angels and the tiny minority are single-handedly sending the abortion figures through the roof? Or would this be just another example of the government in all of its omni-competence deciding that the solution to the problem is to take yet more of parents' prerogatives to themselves?

In any case, the wider ongoing issue in stories like the above is Western governments' continuing attempt to take over the role of God, of parents, and of everything else: you will do with your children as they think best, and they will criminalise you if you don't agree with whatever their latest folly is. This is the tragic fate of the godless. Once they lose their belief in an all-powerful sovereign ruler in heaven, they have to create an alternative one on earth. There can't be no god; the nature of humanity requires one. If we depose one, we need to set up another to replace it. Unfortunately the counterfeit always ends up not being a God of glory for our admiration, devotion and willing service, but a terrifying seven-headed beast.

Is evolution compatible with religion and free will?

"Is evolution compatible with religion and free will? What does a recent survey of evolutionary scientists teach us?"

Read the full article on

Friday, 20 June 2008

Back to infant baptism...

Part one: here.

Now to examine the second logical contradiction which Dr. Field perceives. He asks, "How could 4. follow from 3.?" Let's remind of what 1-4 were, in Dr. Field's words - a Baptist would nuance a thing or two:
1. Non- big-E Elect people were members of the Old Covenant
2. The New Covenant is different - all in the New Covenant are big-E Elect, big-R Regenerate
3. So baptism is for believers only
4. And therefore not for babies.
One nuance would be to make clearer the link between 2 and 3 (which was the theme of the previous post) - the New Covenant is made only with the elect, and the reality of election manifests itself in repentance and faith, and therefore the ordinance of baptism is only for those who give a credible profession of repentance and faith. Others may or may not be elect and even already converted - but they can't join the visible church until there is outward evidence of it. That is the procedure that paedobaptists follow with adults, so in principle there shouldn't be anything to argue about on that score. So just what are Dr. Field's objections with this link? He has three (I have changed his bullet points to numbers for clarity):
How could 4. follow from 3.?  Unless you thought:
1. that it's impossible to be big-E elect without having the sort of faith recognizable by us for the purposes of baptism (no salvation for infants dying in infancy then)
Here, Dr. Field makes the logical fallacy of "affirming the consequent". The 1, 2, 3, 4 argument above argues that visible faith is necessary for baptism - i.e., no visible faith, no baptism. Dr. Field turns this the other way round and says that it's saying that no baptism means no faith. i.e., He says that it would imply that where the Baptist does not administer the ordinance he's saying that there's no faith. It always rains here in February - it rained today, so it must be February... ? No - it rains in plenty of other months here too. Next!
2. AND that God gives no other way of identifying his people than their self-conscious articulate faith (you really have abandoned household covenantalism then, which, of course, lots of antipaedobaptists openly acknowledge)
If "household covenantalism" means that "the head of the house joining God's people means the rest of his household also join God's people" then yes, I openly acknowledge that I have "abandoned" this position, except for the minor requirement of having to take up a position before you abandon it. But, I think that Dr. Field has probably abandoned "household covenantalism" too, and so have all modern paedobaptists. How many paedobaptists do you know who say that all your household employees and servants should be baptised? Do not they all just restrict it to infants?
3. AND that there's no such thing as paedofaith (and certainly the book I was reading made no mention of paedofaith - the Psalms and Gospels and Epistles phenomenon, the Rich Lusk book, the Calvin and Turretin doctrine, or the existential reality).
This objection is the same as 1, just stated in different words (or rather, applied to the particular case of infants). "No faith means no baptism" does not imply "no baptism means no faith". That's simply a gaping logical fallacy.

Dr. Field finishes with a final paragraph that repeats the only real (and fallacious) argument he's made all along - that election is secret, hidden, inaccessible, intangible and irrelevant to anything that the church should do in the concrete reality of its life on earth:
And the reason is that once you've said that the new covenant is unbreakable then you have equated it with the membership of the decretally elect. That is in the mind and will of God, i.e. on the eternal, infinite, uncreated Creator side of the creator-creature divide. But antipaedobaptism is about not baptizing certain people and that is on the historical, finite, created, temporal side of the creator-creature divide. Trying to argue from an unbreakable new covenant to antipaedobaptism requires that temporal, finite creatures know the eternal decree of the Creator. It is trying to cross the Creator-creature divide - and you don't get category confusion bigger than that!
The eternal decree of the Creator is manifested in time and space, as sinners hear the gospel, repent and believe. The water-tight separation that Dr. Field makes is simply unwarranted.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

When the state becomes God

At the beginning of Nazi rule, a law was enacted in Germany to make education by the state compulsory - lest anyone should teach their children to question the state's doctrine. That law is still rigorously enforced.

"A mother and father who have been homeschooling their children each have been ordered by a German judge to serve three-month prison terms after a prosecutor said he was unhappy with fines the family paid and he wanted the parents jailed."

Here's just how rigorously:
"Judge Peter Hobbel, who imposed the fines [i.e. those now replaced by prison sentences], also criticized school officials for refusing to answer the family's request for approval of their "private school."
"It is embarrassing the German officials put parents into jail whose children are well educated and where the family is in good order," he
wrote in an earlier alert about the situation. "We personally know the Dudeks as such a family."

But for those who want to see the state become God, the existing laws don't go far enough:
"Just weeks ago, WND reported the Dudeks warned about a new German federal law that also gives family courts the authority to take custody
of children "as soon as there is a suspicion of child abuse," which is how the nation's courts have defined homeschooling."
When the state tries to replace God, though, it finds that the position is already occupied, and so it needs to take part in competition:
"Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government "has a
legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.""
In case there was any doubt that statism was an alternative religion, they're happy to spell it out for you in words you'll find easier to understand:
""The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling," said a government letter in response. "...
You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. ... In order to avoid this in
future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious
convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.""
More here:

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Lots of sermons...

I'm presently preparing 13 sermons.... hence less posting here...

Monday, 16 June 2008

The new fascism

Where will the next fascism arise? Answer: it's already rising fast, in the modern "liberal" west. Under the guise of "liberalism" and "human rights", fascism is making astonishingly rapid advances.

Here's a case in point, from Canada. There, human rights commissions have been awarded extraordinarily broad powers to look into just about whatever they please and dispense pretty much arbitrary punishments. Their courts lack many of the usual legal safeguards, rules of evidence, due process, etcetera, and are generally staffed as regards the prosecution and judge by the most rabid of "liberal" activists.

Mr Boissoin, a Christian pastor, wrote to a local newspaper, saying that "Children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to pyschologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights."

Cue the fascist homosexual activist, who complained to the human rights commission that his feelings were hurt by having to read this - and the commission duly summoned, tried and convicted the pastor with a fine of $2000 for costs and $5000 to be paid to the poor hurt activist. The kangaroo court further told him that he was forbidden to post any disagreeable remarks about homosexuality ever again in newspapers, on the radio, in public speech or even in private letters or e-mails.

More here:

Make no mistake - this is undiluted fascism. The man has expressed an opinion which the state finds unacceptable and wishes to forbid. The state has taken on the right to suppress all such unwelcome opinions and to harshly punish those who hold them. Just because it's being done in the name of "liberalism" and "minority rights" doesn't make change its nature.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Christ is our law, sin and death

“So then, while Christ is the law, He is also liberty: while He is sin (for ‘He was made sin for us’), He is righteousness: and while He is death, He is life.
For in that He suffered the law to accuse Him, sin to condemn Him, and death to devour Him, He abolished the law, He condemned sin, He destroyed death, He justified and saved me.”

- Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics, 1979), 86.


I think I'd want to say "abolished the law's accusations" rather than "abolished the law"!

The two comings of Christ

Psalm 110 clearly implies that there would have to be two comings of Christ:
  • He was appointed to rule "out of Zion", "in the midst of [his] enemies". Whilst he ruled, he would have enemies to conquer, to be put under his feet (verse 1). So clearly, this must be before he finally banishes all evil and renews the creation.

  • But, David was speaking of something that as yet was in the future - the Messiah's reign had not yet been inaugurated.

  • It is clear, too, that "Zion" cannot be the literal Jerusalem. Some interpreters say that it is so, and that this talks of a future millennium. Not only is this contrary to how the Psalm is used in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:34-35), but it would contradict verse 1, which says that the rule is from God's right hand. The Christ rules from God's right hand, which is Zion - the place symbolising God's presence and strength.

  • More than that, he is a priest forever, of the order of Melchizedek (verse 4). A priest deals with the problems caused by sin and mediates through prayer and sacrifice. But, after Christ's coming in glory, there will be no need for any work of priesthood. So again we see that we're dealing with a time whilst this present age continues.
So, the Messiah is conquering over a sinful earth and providing mediation for his people after having ascended to God's right hand. That's only possible if there's a first coming which isn't his coming in glory, before the coming which is in glory.

I also found it interesting to note that God speaks twice: once to appoint the Messiah as a king who will defeat his enemies and receive willing service from his people, once to appoint him as a priest (who will deal with his people's sins).

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Sympathy for the Pharisees

If you don't feel even just a little bit sorry for the Pharisees, then I wonder how much you can actually understand God's grace.

I became used and accustomed to the idea that the Pharisees are the "bad guys" of the four gospels, and indeed they are. They're proud, legalistic, confident of their own righteousness based on their obedience to the law and ignorant of their desperate need of a Saviour who would die for their sins. In fact, they're so ignorant that they end up murdering him.

But, really, do you think that the Pharisees actually deliberately and self-consciously intended to be all of those things? Did Rabbi Bar-Smith get out of bed on Monday morning and say "I have no need of grace - I am righteousness personified!" His heart might have subtlely suggested it to him 100 times before the morning was over, but I really doubt that he actually self-consciously articulated a thought anything like that.

No, what his (tragically deluded) thoughts about himself were were surely much more like this:
  • God has favoured me by giving me his law.
  • I am also favoured by being helped by and large to keep that law. In fact, I'm very serious about it, as I ought to be because he is a holy and righteous God.
  • God is not pleased by all the sin and wickedness he sees running amok in our society, and wants me to be separate from it. He is a holy God who is separate from evil, and I must be like him.
  • I know though that I'm not perfect. I thank God that I have all the services and ceremonies of the law to bring me the cleanliness I need.
  • ... and so on.
Give it a little nuance and tweak here and there, and I hope you think that sounds quite reasonable. If you don't, as I say I fear for you. Possibly you're one of those people who confuses grace with license and think that God's love for sinners means he doesn't really mind their continual sinning - maybe you're one of those people who thinks the Bible actually encourages us to think of God as being our big chum in the sky. I tremble for you as I type those words for the horrific awakening you're going to have when this life ends if you don't have it sooner.

Maybe you're so spiritually alert that the above points as a summary of a God-pleasing life would never ever seem reasonable to you. Maybe you're so alert to the glory and grace of Christ, the true depravities of your heart, the inward spirituality of God's law, the intention of all the Old Testament to point us away from a self-generated righteousness to that of the Saviour and so on, that the Pharasaical religion would never have any attraction to you. If so, then you'll know too that that's all thanks to the grace of Christ and not to anything in yourself. Without this life-giving grace of Christ, I know what I and surely the vast bulk of serious-minded people would chose to be in the days of the Pharisees - one of them.

On the other hand, maybe today you read your New Testament and shook your head in wonder at the evils of the Pharisees, and never realised that in reality you are still one of them?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Zechariah and Elizabeth

I've been studying Luke chapter 1. I'm sure somebody somewhere has done a thorough study of this, but this thought occurs to me: To what extent are Zechariah and Elizabeth deliberately represented as a picture of Old Testament Israel?
  • They are old, but still barren. The Old Covenant has almost worn out - but still no Messiah.
  • They were of the believing remnant who walked blamelessly before God, faithfully keeping the law - yet were still barren.
  • In the temple, Zechariah prayed for salvation to come to Israel, representing that believing remnant whose prayer was heard.
  • Elizabeth gives birth to a son who is filled with the Holy Spirit - old Testament Israel at last gives birth to the new age of the Spirit through the Messiah.
  • Yet despite a clear word of promise, Zechariah fell into unbelief and asked for a sign. The divinely appointed time had come, but the people were not ready to believe.
  • After a long period of silence, at last the promised son is born and Zechariah speaks again. (After 400 years with no prophetic word from God, the time of the Messiah suddenly arrives God at last speaks again).
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah both echo the prayers and songs found in the Old Testament as they rejoice in God at last visiting them according to the promise.
  • God's promised one grew up quietly, unnoticed in obscurity. God's purposes of grace amongst his Old Covenant people were often secret and hidden, whilst the nation at large went carelessly on its way, not knowing what God was actually doing amongst them.
Whilst this is largely speculative and I haven't thought about how an argument could be developed in a more rigorous way, I think there's enough there at least that the two of them are like Old Testament Israel in miniature.

Rationalism and atheism - not the same thing

Here's a quote from a post at Telic Thoughts, quoting an article from "Science Daily":
Three years before he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, Eugene Wigner published an article entitled "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" (1960). He marveled at how often physicists develop concepts to describe the "real" world only to discover that mathematicians–heedless of that real world–have already thought up and explored the concepts. His own experience of the uncanny applicability of mathematical insights to the physical reality of quantum mechanics led Wigner to observe "that the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it."
In reality, there is no problem in understanding why there is such a close connection between abstract mathematics that we might think only exists in boffins' heads and the physical world. The God who made us and our minds also made the physical world. The world is the product of the mind of God, and so are our minds. When he made us, he made us with minds that weren't wildly incompatible with the world we have to live in! Hence it's hardly a massive surprise to find that mathematics and the world are not completely dissimilar, but that one is in many ways the key to the other.

The author of this quote, though, shares the deep confusion of many atheists. He confuses rationalism with atheism, and ends up proclaiming that the correlation between maths and matter is mysterious and has no rational explanation for it. What he meant to say was that it was incomprehensible to an atheist and had no godless explanation for it.

Godlessness and rationalism are not the same. Godlessness and irrationalism are the same, and the conundrum described above is one of the evidences of it. Everything in creation declares the glory of the creator - the irrational position is the one that refuses to join the dots, not the one that does.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Head I win, tails you lose

On the one hand, the UK government has made every effort to encourage both parents to get employment outside of the home and to leave the education of their children in the hands of nursery assistants, day care assistants, school teachers, etc. There's every tax incentive to work and have someone else raise the kids, and it's tough going financially if you choose not to.

On the other hand, the same government keeps on proposing to fine parents when their children misbehave. Here's the latest one: "New measures against teen
binge drinking target parents: Parents could soon face penalties if their children persistently flout underage drinking laws, according to press reports."

Surely the government, having encouraged parents to hand over child-raising duties to itself, should be the one that gets punished when the kids turn out bad?
 Seems like having your cake and eating it to me.

Thursday, 5 June 2008


A cracking example of tribalism today. I was with a group of Kenyan men, all godly men and preachers. One of them had a newspaper - the front page story was Senator Barack Obama's sealing of the Democratic nomination for the US presidency.

They all wanted Senator Obama to win in November. Then I explained some of Senator Obama's policies on abortion; I could have mentioned his position on gay rights too - both positions would be considered an abomination to any Kenyan-in-the-street, let alone a Christian.

This was all news to them. They'd never asked what his policy positions on anything were. They just knew that his father was a Kenyan!

Interestingly, had he been running for office in Kenya itself, I suspect some of them would have not voted for him not just because of the above but because he wouldn't be the right tribe within Kenya - not "one of us"; but seeing as he's running for US president he is one of us!

Surely you never think in this tribal way... do you? Service ends at church... you look up... no, I won't go and speak to him/her - he's not one of us. I'll go and speak to him over there instead, because he's the same age/interests/job etc.... surely not.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Covenant and believers' baptism, continued

After the previous series (part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven), we're now looking at the second post from David Field, a lecturer at Oak Hill College (Anglican), UK, "New covenant and antipaedobaptism".

By "antipaedobaptist", Dr. Field means what we'd mean by "Baptist" of "credobaptist" - someone who believes that baptism is properly only for those who profess faith. Reformed Baptists all hold that the New Covenant differs from the Old in its efficacy - it is perfectly efficacious towards all its members. Christ saves to the uttermost all - not just some - of those who come to him under it (Hebrews 7:25). Many members of the Old Covenant needed to be exhorted to "know the Lord", because they only knew him outwardly and weren't truly saved - not so under the New (Hebrews 7:11). Many under the Old Covenant were only ceremonially purified; under the New, all of our sins are forgiven and we are heirs of salvation (Hebrews 8:12-13).

Dr. Field begins by telling us that it isn't his aim to discuss whether this notion of the New Covenant as perfectly efficacious, i.e. unbreakable, is correct or not, but to work out some of the logical implications and contradictions if that were assumed to be so:
This is not about whether the New Covenant is "unbreakable". I do not grant that it is but I am exploring things as though it were true to see what happens. Mind you, if it is "unbreakable" then it's the same thing as the big-R regenerate (systematic category) and the big-E Elect, i.e. certain in God's decree and inaccessible to us. So, if the New Covenant is "unbreakable" then it is (directly speaking, rather than as it tells us about God and his ways) un-usable because it is inaccessible. Got that? Unbreakable NC = inaccessible = un-usable.
Dr. Field said in the earlier post that he didn't know if any Baptists actually held that position - an admission I found rather odd, as he was himself at one time both a Baptist and a theological lecturer, before becoming a Presbyterian. He seems to be making the admission that he made this change in position without understanding the distinctives of either the position he was leaving or the one he was adopting. He proceeds to tell us that he has just consulted a book (for the first time??) by a Reformed Baptist, and was surprised to find that this was indeed the position taken:

But I've just taken a look at a book on "believer's baptism" and it did what I said in my Covenantal Category Confusion post was invalid. I said that you can't argue from the unbreakability of the new covenant to antipaedobaptism.

But the book I've been reading tries to do so. Like this:
1. Non- big-E Elect people were members of the Old Covenant
2. The New Covenant is different - all in the New Covenant are big-E Elect, big-R Regenerate
3. So baptism is for believers only
4. And therefore not for babies.

So, what's weird? As before, the answer is not that these premises are contradicted by the Bible (though I assume he would argue that) - it's that they contain an inherent logical contradiction which makes it logically impossible for them all to be true at once. (Note that the terminology of "big-E Elect, big-R Regenerate" is assuming some of Dr. Field's own "Federal Vision" theology and wouldn't make a meaningful distinction within Calvinistic Baptist theology).

Here's the first reason why it's weird:
How could 3. follow from 2.?  Unless you thought that all (recognizable by us for the purposes of deciding who to baptize) believers were Elect. (see the next post for more on this)
In other words, you can't travel from "the New Covenant is made with those who are true Christians" (2) to "the sign of the New Covenant should only be administered to those who give credible evidence of being true Christians". Why not? Because, says Dr. Field, it would imply that we must be able to infallibly recognise this evidence and distinguish it from a counterfeit. This is why he defined the "big-E elect" in the previous paragraph as being "in God's decree and inaccessible to us". Did you get that? It's because Dr. Field says that the elect are by definition inaccessible, that it's impossible for election to be directly related to covenant membership and the application of the covenant sign.

Dr. Field, though, has confused two different things. It is one thing for God's secret decree of election to be inaccessible as far as utter certainty goes. It is quite another for it to be inaccessible as far as manifesting itself in history goes. If election had no manifestation in history, then there would be no hope for the world - whatever God's eternal purposes were for us, they would be hidden and irrelevant to day to day life. But election does very much manifest itself in the ordinary activities of every day life - because Joe Jones, who used to be a drunkard and a mocker at religion is now sober, home from work on time to show love to his wife and children every night, and professing love to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in his death on the cross as his hope for everlasting glory. That's not hidden - that's the manifest work of God, marking out one of his children. Yes, people can be deluded. A man can have a pyschological experience and have a well-meaning Christian tell him that he's now saved and should be baptised. But if there's no real root of faith there, then Matthew 13 (the parable of the sower) tells us what will happen - sooner or later, he'll show it when the weeds choke him or the sun causes him to shrivel. Election has results in day to day life, which are far from being invisible and inaccessible.

Well, we haven't said anything new here, because Dr. Field hasn't either - he's just continued to beat some more life out of the starting assumption that election and real life belong in two hermetically sealed compartments, and never the twain shall meet. Here's something I want to draw out a bit more, though: Dr. Field isn't actually arguing here against Baptists. I've noticed a common feature joining some different theological tribes out there at the moment. Federal Visionists, followers of the New Perspective, and the so-called "Reformed Catholics" all seek to reject elements of traditional Reformed thought which are common to Baptists and (the vast bulk of) Presbyterians, but instead of actually doing so in a straightforward way, they pin it all on the Baptists.

What do I mean? Well, historically Presbyterians, who are paedobaptists and not "antipaedobaptists", have been happy to define the New Covenant as being made with the elect and their children. Babies of believers are to be baptised, so they say, because God's covenants are always made not only with discreet individuals, but also with their offspring. The New Covenant, then, they say is made with the elect, and their children too, who are thus entitled to the Covenant sign.

Note then that Dr. Field's arguments have exactly the same force against this traditional Reformed position. He's not arguing particularly against Baptists - he's arguing against a far more widespread belief that is shared by Baptists, not exclusively belonging to them. He's arguing from a point of assuming the Federal Vision to be true, which means not just that Baptists are wrong, but the overwhelming bulk of other Reformed folk too. I have yet to work out just why in the minds of FVers, NPers and RCs, it's necessary to pick out Baptists as the fall guys and why they don't spell out the implications of their arguments more clearly.

How do we get from 2 to 3? (The New Covenant is made with the elect -> only those who profess faith should be baptised). Easy. When a person does not profess faith, there is no evidence that they belong to the New Covenant. They might profess faith later in life, but as yet we simply have no grounds to believe that they belong to the Covenant for which baptism is the sign. It's not weird; it's not even slightly weird, and you don't have to be a theological professional to get it - you just have to avoid swallowing lots of prior assumptions before you come to the matter. So far Dr. Field's just been arguing in a circle - he assumes that the Federal Vision is true, applies some of the results of that assumption to baptism, and then demonstrates to us that the Baptist position can't co-exist with it. Surely we already knew that.

To be continued...

Internet Anonymity

I don't think I have anything more to say about the Internet and anonymity, pseudo-anonymity, etc. Here's an index of what we had:
To be anonymous on the Internet means not to be identifiable as the person who you are when not on the Internet. It's possible to give your full name, and still be anonymous, because even if "Bob Smith" says outrageous things in his own name, nobody actually knows where to find him, what he looks like or who (if he's a Christian) the elders that he's accountable to are.

I hope I've made a strong case that if you must say something without being identifiable, you should have a pretty good reason. "I can't take the heat", "I want people to focus on my words and not me", "I would be a distraction", "I'm not ready to be an online person" and "I don't want there to be a permanent record of things I said years earlier" are, as I hope I've shown, not good reasons. Posting in your own name keeps you honest. If you're worried about your fellow men knowing who said that, perhaps you have even more reason to be worried about God knowing you said it - and he does!

Pointing out the obvious

At school, as we prepared for our A Level maths exams, we got to take past papers from previous years - up to 10 years previously. My father also, as I did, took A Levels in both Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and he was able to look over the papers I was bringing home.

That was more than enough to make blindingly and completely obvious that A Level mathematics was getting noticeably less challenging over the years. Things that my father did in O Level had become A Level material and much of the Further Mathematics paper was things that he had done in Mathematics. The "third" paper from my year was basically pretty similar to the "second" (in terms of difficulty) paper from 10 years previously. And so on.

There's a report on the BBC news website today, based on an investigation someone or other's done into this, here.

Here's the bit from the school's minister:
Schools Minister Jim Knight said standards were carefully monitored by an independent watchdog to make sure they remained world-class and were an appropriate preparation for study or work.
The mind boggles! I don't like the casual way in which allegations of shameless lying are bandied around today, but I find it hard to imagine what kind of parallel mental universe the politicians who trot out this kind of statement are living in, and what the chain of thought is that leads them to such conclusions.

The report also says:
"We need a cultural revolution to transform maths from geek to chic".
That's absolutely what we don't need. A cultural revolution we really need is one where whether something is geek or chic is something we stop caring about. The worship of chic is the problem - we won't help maths by persuading people that by doing maths the gods of chic will be appeased. We need them to learn that maths is good for you, and you should learn it whether it's chic or not. The value of learning is not to be measured by the measuring rod of cool. On the contrary, "cool" needs to be measured and found wanting by the yard-stick of reality!

The Pilgrim's Progress - Free Audio

" is offering a free audiobook of Pilgrim's Progress (10.5 hours) free in the month of June. Just use the code JUN2008 when checking out."

John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" is the most read and most translated book in the history of the world, after the Bible. If I remember rightly, it's been translated into around 100 languages. Charles Spurgeon read it over 100 times. I first read it when I was 12; our little ones hear a child's version being read to them by mum.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Monday, 2 June 2008

E-Mail Freedom Day Arrives!

After many years since I set the goal... I have no e-mails in my inboxes! None at all! Hurrah! Every mail needing a reply has been dealt with, and every e-mail whose real purpose was to remind me of some job I was meant to do but without needing a reply afterwards has been transferred to a "to do" list.

I think I first realised I needed a more disciplined system about 4 years ago when I observed that I had over 250 e-mails of up to 2 years old. In September 2006 I got down to only 4 e-mails, but then it took off again. Most of the time it's been hovering between 30 and 100. A sermon I listened to some months ago reminded me that God is a God of perfect order, and that therefore tidiness does not come after godliness - it is godliness! It's one thing to agree with that, though, and quite another to discipline oneself to slowly chip, chip, chip away at the various tasks that have been put to one side for so long...

Having seen a few similarly jubilant "I emptied my inbox" posts over the years (e.g. this one from my friend Gerv) and feeling jealous, I must follow the genre and give my tips on how to do it (with apologies to you organised people out there who've never had this problem and wonder what the fuss is about):
  • A spreadsheet recording jobs that need doing. Using your inbox as a list of reminders is bad - just write down the job that needs doing and move the mail away. My list of jobs that needs doing has somewhere around 150 things on it! ;-)

  • The same spreadsheet also keeps a running total of how many e-mails there were - I record it every few weeks or so. This way I can keep a tab on whether I'm actually making progress or not and see the progress made. I've done this for the last 2 years and it's been a big help in terms of motivation.

  • I adopted the principle that if an e-mail came in that I could reply to straight away or do the job that needed doing straight away, then I would seek to. Often I check my e-mail during a break from something else, or in the evening when I'm tired - and I can't be bothered to reply, I just want to read. That practice though leads to huge backlogs if you get much mail. According to my e-mail program, I've received around personal 12,000 e-mails, not including spam or mailing lists in the last 6 and a half years - an average of 5 a day (six and a half years ago was the last time I had no e-mails - I accidentally deleted them all!).
Well, some people might read this post and think it's tragic that someone with a university education can get so excited about such a trivial thing - indeed, that with more than two brain cells it could be such a struggle in the first place to keep on top of your e-mail. But, it's a fallen world - such tragedies exist. The only thing to do is deal with them! :-)

Police: "you can't preach here, this is a Muslim area"

Here's an example of the kind of chilling effect on liberty and free speech that "hate speech" laws have even when they have explicit clauses in them protecting propagation of religions. Even with those clauses (which many argued were unnecessary, as nobody would be so foolish as to make a mistake in such an area, blah blah blah), activists in the guise of policemen seek to propagate their own ends like so:
The incident happened to Mr Arthur Cunningham and Mr Joseph Abraham as they were handing out Christian tracts on the corner of Ellesmere and Alum Rock Road in the city on 19 February this year.

PCSO Naguthney (30825) told the Christians they were committing a hate crime by attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity and that he was going to take them to the police station.
More here: