Friday, 30 October 2009

"Islam: at war within itself"

Very informative piece from the Barnabas Fund, here.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Freedom to smack

This nugget was in a friend's prayer letter. He's also a missionary in Kenya...
A final snippet from <son's name, aged 9>. We were talking at the dinner table the other night, and he came out with: “It’s much better growing up in Kenya”.  “Why’s that?”,  I asked, thinking it might be because of the weather, the wildlife, or some such thing. “Because parents can smack their kids here without any fear of getting in trouble”.  Just to check I’d understood properly I said, “Are you saying it was good that when you were little we could smack you?” “Yes, of course, much better”… Obviously he’s been seriously traumatised by the whole thing….

Friday, 23 October 2009

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I've been reading volume 1 of Iain Murray's biography of Martyn
Lloyd-Jones, covering the first 40 years of his life. The biggest
challenge I've found in it is something that comes across quite clearly
- the inner fire in Lloyd-Jones' soul. The account is of a man of
conviction and focus. He preached as a man who believed in preaching -
or rather, in the God who commanded preaching. He comes across as a man
gripped by the gospel and the weight of responsibility and privilege he
had in declaring it. Would that God would make us who preach, and send
more preachers who are utterly gripped in this way.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The right to have no rights

My last post was an example of a regular feature of government in the secular West. In the name of individual rights, individuals lose their rights - and the government gains them. Paradoxical - but real.

When the government declares that a right exists, and puts it into legislation, it hasn't merely handed you a new supposed right. It's also handed itself the right to control and enforce that right. The government gains new rights to be involved in areas of life that it wasn't before.

It's actually one thing to have some supposed right, and quite another for it to be decided that the government is the best entity to police that right. But in the secular West, there is no God allowed, and the government has to take its place as the supreme being in every area of life. If there is a right to police, government is the only entity we can think of to be involved in overseeing it - church, parents, family, clan and community must ultimately bow before its omnicompetence.

When the government awards itself these new rights, it's always at the expense of others' rights. A new right to interfere into other spheres is a new loss of freedom in those spheres. When the government can barge its way into family or church where it couldn't before, liberty in those spheres is lost. Rights are not a license to print free currency for health, wealth and happiness - you can't magically gain them in one place all the time without losing them elsewhere. That's why previous and wiser generation didn't fixate upon rights the way our society does, but about responsibilities instead. Responsibilities promote true freedom - rights erode them.

The idea of "children's rights" has been the most pernicious and potent tool for the government to withdraw all kinds of rights from families. After declaring a mixture of rights, good and bad, for children, governments have then arbitrarily appointed themselves the guardians and providers of these rights - at the expense of parents. To say that Johnny has the right to X is one thing. To say that the government has the right to barge its way into your front room to ensure that X is provided on precisely the terms and in the exact way that the Minister in Whitehall deems correct is something else entirely.

The net result is that everyone is gradually having their rights eroded, and the government is little by little accumulating all the rights. The final step is the right to have no rights at all. This is when every individual has such a comprehensive and all-embracing set of rights that government eventually has the right to regulate absolutely everything in order to enforce these rights. It won't be called that, of course. But it's coming. Ministers openly discuss ideas like overweight children being removed from their families to protect their right to good health, and such drivel - in the broad daylight, as if it were vaguely sane. And a hundred over such petty intrusions and extensions of the government's remit fill the news week after week. You can't start rolling down the slope and pressing the gas without arriving at the bottom eventually. "The right to have no rights" - something to look forward to, is it not?

Monday, 19 October 2009

What's good for our children is for us to say

"What's good for our children is for us to say" - that's the title of an incisive article on the government's power-grabbing plans to intrude further into family life, from the Daily Telegraph:

In the name of the rights of the child (as ever), the government is again seeking to increase its own rights. Now: a new right for the officers of the local council to interview your child, in your home, without you present - to determine if they think you're educating your child in a way they approve of. As Johnson says, "Orwellian". This isn't just a big deal to home-schoolers. This new right, once established, has far-reaching implications, and every parent in the UK should be deeply concerned.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

What if officials did this to your child?

From the Christian Institute:
Video: what if officials did this to your child?      

The Government wants to give officials the power to enter a family home and question children about what their parents are teaching them – without their parents being present.

Please watch this short video (81 seconds) and act now to keep families free.

Kenyan church discipline

Just to follow up on the last post. I've been teaching through 1 Corinthians this term at college, and so we've dealt with church discipline a little whilst covering chapter 5. I asked the students about their experiences, and to evaluate if what they've seen is Biblical or not.

The most common answer is that they've seen their pastors simply announce church discipline on their own authority, to remove those they dislike from the church. In once case, a student said their pastor had announced the removal of seventy people in one go from the church!

In the West such a pastor would soon be known as a tyrant and people would avoid him. But in the African culture of the "big man" people sadly get used to it. (Of course the Western church has many of its own problems which my students are equally astonished by if I describe).

On the Kenyan church

Through talking with other missionaries and the mature Christians in my own churches in Kenya I've gained a picture of the Kenyan church at large. But more lately I've been able to gain a better understanding by asking the students I teach at theological college about their own churches. When we study some Bible passage I've been asking, "how is this done in your church? What is done rightly, what is done wrongly?" In fact this process has basically confirmed the picture that other third parties were giving me.

Typically, Kenyan churches are plagued by problems coming from the society at large, which is no surprise. Particular problems are:
  • The health, wealth and prosperity heresy
  • Authoritarian and hypocritical leadership, glorification of leaders at the expense of brotherhood
  • Rampant sexual immorality, greed, dishonesty, theft and corruption
  • Biblical illiteracy, with traditions and man-made rules taking the place of knowing and following Scripture
  • Services with very little Biblical content, instead filled with endless repetitive songs and personal testimonies
Biblical, serious and consistent Christianity is very rare indeed. There is a myth in the Western church that Christianity is spreading greatly in places like Kenya, and will be the salvation of world Christianity. This is an idle dream if we're talking about the church here today. Africa is desperate for money, and those bringing Christianity often bring money, and as a result "rice Christianity" is rampant. But as one fellow missionary said to me, he explains to people in the UK that an average well-taught teenager in a serious Christian family in the UK is likely to have more Biblical knowledge than most pastors here in Kenya. What we do have is a wide open door of opportunity and a great God. But there is an immensely long way to go.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Bound to correct us

Great quote from Arthur Pink on God's disciplining of his children:
Chastening is not only reconcilable with God’s lovingkindness, but it is the effect and expression of it. It would much quieten the minds of God’s people if they would remember that His covenant love binds Him to lay on them seasonable correction. Afflictions are necessary for us: "In their affliction they will seek Me early" (Hos. 5:15)
(The Attributes of God, Chapter 10 -

Respect people, not opinions

Good article here in the Times by Oliver Kamm. He nails the idea that free expression means that all ideas (especially religious ideas) must be treated with respect - an idea that is impossible, and that the people propagating don't carry out in practice. "The idea that people's beliefs, merely by being deeply held, merit respect is grotesque." Opinions should only be respected if they are well-grounded; they must earn respect - it is conditional. It is people who are to be given respect as people made in the image of God, not because they hold views.

Ultimately if all ideas are worthy of respect, then none are. When counterfeit gold can be passed off as the real thing, the real thing loses its value in the marketplace. If Islam's teaching that in a court of law the testimony of a woman is inherently worth half that of a man is an opinion which is equally worthy of respect as the Bible's teaching that men and women are equally made in the image of God, then ultimately we're just saying that neither opinion matters at all. You can't have it all ways.

Friday, 2 October 2009


Reading a book review in a mainstream Evangelical newspaper in the UK, this came at the end....
"But, by the book’s own admission, it is not dealing with things that are essential for salvation (p.65). Ah. This is why I’m not sure about it — £12.99 and a good couple of hours reading it and it’s not going to make a scrap of difference to eternity. Hmmm."
Have evangelicals in the UK really come to this? I'm glad that the fellow's focussed on "things that are essential for salvation". But what on earth is he saying? Is he serious?
  • Christians should never spend a couple of hours on a matter that is not essential for salvation? Do you think this fellow eats, sleeps, goes to work? Presumably he never rests, reads a newspaper, plays a game with his kids....

  • Or is it just books that have to pass this test? So we should never read a book unless it's about the way of salvation? Do radio programmes have to pass this test? Or how about sermons - must every sermon be evangelistic? Do we get to talk about other topics with our kids?

  • Or are all these things allowed as long as they don't reach "a couple of hours"? One hour OK? Or 15 minutes?

  • Did the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28-29) just expire? Since when?
I presume that this standard is just meant to apply to Christian books. I can't believe this comment got past the editor. Is a new hyper-piety abroad in the UK? Is there a new movement of anti-intellectualism at work amongst evangelicals in the UK? We refuse to read books unless they're on one subject and one subject only? I'd never seen something like this before in the circles I'm vaguely near to. I'm gob-smacked.

What problem of evil?

A very good (in the main points) post on the "problem of evil", and why it's impossible for an atheist to use it against Christianity, here:

The author says he does not know what the theological explanation for "natural evil" (natural disasters, etc.). The Bible's answer is the Fall and the ensuing curse.