Friday, 30 April 2010

Voting for Christian values

One insight that Douglas Wilson describes well is this: We want a free nation: good. But free nations need free men. And there are no free men without Jesus Christ. None; none at all.

Hence I view the various likely outcomes of the upcoming UK general election as being like finding out which one of your limbs is going to be hacked off first, and whether it's going to be done with a blunt instrument or a newly oiled chainsaw.

One party leader, a self-professed atheist, wrote in a church newsletter that his party's policies were based upon Christian values. Ha ha.

Christian value number one is that Jesus Christ is Lord. Lord of all. Lord of our innermost thoughts; but also Lord of politics, Lord of taxation, Lord of government borrowing, Lord of social and family policy. Lord of all: or not really Lord at all.

When we start to evaluate by this Biblical standard, the fact is that Christian action as salt and light in the present UK political scene is basically about trying to stop the overwhelming stench from the rotting corpse finishing the country off sooner rather than later. That action is of value and has a good and proper place. I thank God for those doing it. But the regeneration of the UK will not come from gaining political agreement to a lobotomised set of Christian values. (That's not a veiled criticism of anyone in particular's work, by the way). It'll come when we eventually see, by the power and mercy of God, the original Christian value taking root once again. That's what made the UK truly great amongst nations; that's what makes any nation truly great. In the past, we bowed to the Lordship of Christ - and not in a hypocritical manner that was afraid to actually state his name and identity.

The universe belongs to Jesus Christ, being made by and for him: the pathetic and miserable game of trying to make the world work without recognising or acknowledging him won't work because it can't work. It's impossible, because Jesus actually is Lord. If we want to see the fruit of Christian living in the UK, then the huge task today is to trust in God and go to the painful, sacrificial work needed to plant the roots once again. Jesus Christ works through Christians. The most fundamental question for us who are Christians is whether the Lordship of Christ is a daily reality in our "ordinary" lives, or whether it's something that we like a politician just pay lip-service too when it seems like the right thing to do. How is it with you?

I suppose some passing atheist might think that this post is a call to set up a theocracy. If you do, you misunderstood everything I said.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The divine original

Yesterday I preached on marriage and divorce from Mark 10:1-12 - the message can be downloaded from Here are a few thoughts following that.

Marriage is an illustration of why the doctrine of diviine creation is so important. After all, what is marriage?

Is it whatever society wants it to be? Is it a human creation, that we can mould and shape to the preferences of the hour? These questions have to be answered before we can even discuss ideas like "gay marriage", because they lie underneath them.

Jesus teaches us that to know what marriage is, and how it should operate, we must go back to the divine original. The original marriage was a prototype, a pattern for others to follow. Adam could not send Eve away without sending himself away; her creation from one of his ribs illustrated a permanent principle: that in marriage the two are intended to permanently be one. He could not take another wife, because there were no others to take: God made him one wife, not three. He could not take a man as his wife, because God made him an Eve to complete him, not a Steve. God set a binding pattern for us to follow - not to adjust according to the spirit of the age. Without the strong doctrine of divine creation, all of this falls apart. Attempts to re-sculpt marriage are basically atheism: they deny that there is any God who has set out a way for us to follow.

The fact that Western society's rejection of Biblical marriage has coincided with Western society's family breakdown is not a coincedence. Because we do live in God's creation and not the fantasy land of our own imaginations, if we don't follow the lines that God prescribed for us, things don't quite work. I might like to imagine in my head that my Land Rover Mark III is a nippy little BMW Mini, but if I actually try to live out that belief on the road it won't work out well for any of us. Rather, I need to drive it the way the designer intended. In the sexual revolution, the West decided that we can drive off a cliff and land safely at the bottom, simply because we wish it to be so. It's not working, and it never will. Sexual freedom is enjoyed not when we become slaves to whatever desire strikes us next (how could it ever be so?) It is enjoyed within the safety and protection of the limits that God set for us, and nowhere else: when we are free to have all that God wanted for us, protected from what he did not.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Conference recordings

The Reformed Baptist conference in Nairobi, Kenya that I'm at this week is making the handouts and audio freely downloadable, here:

Messages are about 65-75 minutes long, so it's something to get your teeth into! The conference theme is the gospel, and mine was on the purpose of the gospel (the glory of God). We had about 50 people there which is quite encouraging - it's our first one so it's a good start so far.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Free John Piper book on marriage

I dwell in a bit of a back-woods Internet-wise. By which I mean, I don't go out browsing much. So apologies if this is old hat. But, here's a freely downloadable John Piper book on marriage:

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When youths are your leaders

" And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tender-hearted, and could not withstand them." - 2 Chronicles 13:7

Question: How old do you think "young and tender-hearted" Rehoboam was?

Answer: " for Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign" - 2 Chronicles 12:13.

According the word of God, Isaiah 3:4, being led by the young is a judgement of God upon a nation. " And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them." This ought to be obvious; younger people have less experience of life and of the world and of making mistakes. They can of course much better understand the points of view and experiences of people at different stages of life. Therefore when leadership is characterised by youth, something is wrong.

The last UK prime minister to win an election, Tony Blair, became an MP aged 29 and became prime minister aged 43. 43 is also the age of the two leaders of the two main opposition parties fighting the present election. Nick Clegg entered parliament aged 38, and David Cameron did at age 34. The present prime minister, Gordon Brown, entered parliament at age 32 and became shadow chancellor at age 38, then the real thing at 43. The present shadow chancellor is 38, having entered parliament a month after leaving his twenties. If David Cameron becomes the next prime minister, he will (all being well with his wife's pregnancy) be the third in a row to have shared 10 Downing Street with a baby.

In other words, these aren't one-offs; it's a trend. And the general opinion of the public is not that we are just blessed with an outstanding batch of prodigies; the public stock of politicians and their leadership is at a long-term low.

The Bible requires that church leaders prove themselves in their families, and particularly with their children; "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5). This does not necessarily mean that a church elder has to have grown up children; the fruits of parenting policy can be seen well before this. But the basic assumption is that nobody is entrusted with responsibility in a larger area of life who has not proven themselves in a smaller. The UK has 58 million citizens; it cannot be and is not (as can be seen by reading their biographies) true that its political leaders learnt and achieved more in the 10 or so years of adult life before entering parliament than many other people did in the, say, 35 years before reaching age 55 at which perhaps suitable political leaders would become clear. Remember: at 41, according to the Word of God, Rehoboam was a youth.

Of course, there are prodigies; Spurgeon was a pastor in his teens, and Calvin wrote the Institutes in his twenties. And of course age does not automatically bring wisdom or blessing - we'd surely choose all of the above politicians in preference to Robert Mugabe, for example. But the point is that such as Spurgeon and Calvin are prodigies. When youth leadership is the norm, you are not witnessing the unfolding of God's blessing, but his curse. And the fact that nobody comments on this phenomena or finds it remarkable (or even thinks it's good, which presumably we must do, as these people didn't become leaders without winning chains of popularity contests) shows how far the curse has gone. That is the situation that the UK presently finds itself in.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I love long-distance physical challenges. I just have limited opportunity for them (unless, that is, I neglect my work or family!).

On which note, I am in awe of Richard Hendron, who last Saturday (together with Jim King from the army) won the Devizes to Westminster 125-mile (non-stop timing!) canoe race for the third time. The previous two times it was amazingly by a minute - which if you all started together (which you don't because you have to choose your time in order to meet the tide in London) means that after 201 kilometres of river you could still be seen by the crew behind. But this time the competition was blown away by 70 minutes - which is about 8 miles! I have a dream that one day I'll paddle the course with one of my sons, but it won't be in the race unless they move back from starting Saturday (which means they finish early Sunday) - and I'm in the wrong country to train or attempt so it may have to remain a dream!

Today I enjoyed myself running because I beat my 5-mile record from had stood since September 2007. (That journal entry actually says I wasn't really trying so hard which I definitely was today!). This was the first personal running "record" I'd set since that day. It's been long! Stress fractures, runner's knees, moving country, adjusting to altitude. The 5 mile record (as opposed to 7.1, 10, half and full marathon which are the others I "race" myself at) was the softest target, but it feels good all the same. I could never have guessed it would take so long; only with a lot of perseverance have I got back to and at last overtake where I was. Which must be a lesson for the rest of life! I wonder how many things I've given up at and haven't achieved in family, work or other areas because I didn't have the needed single-mindedness.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The apostles' creed

This is the apostles' creed, the oldest commonly known creed, coming from around 50 years after the latest writings of the New Testament:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Maker of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
    and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
    the holy catholic church;
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body;
    and the life everlasting.

I used to find this confession something of a puzzle. It seems relatively light on specific doctrinal confession, taking most of the space on recounting historical events. My mathematical and scientific mind wasn't so used to this kind of fodder. Over a number of years my thinking has changed - I hope, developed and matured. The construction of this confession is now something I appreciate and value very deeply.

Now, I don't think this or any man-made confession is infallible. For one thing I think that the arguments that "he descended into hell" was not intended literally by the confession's authors are implausible, given the position of that statement (coming after crucified, died, buried, and as a separate statement to that one). And I think that statement is false; Christ told the dying thief that "today" they would be together in paradise. Christ's sufferings are in the Scriptures uniformly attributed to the cross, not to a mythical "descent into hell". I think that those who have used the confession in the last 500 years in this sense (i.e., it refers to the cross) are right in intent, even if it is not really what the confession says.

But, coming back to my point, I think that the historical emphasis is very helpful. The confession arose in the times when the Gnostic challenge was very strong, and the fact is that Gnostic-type errors have never died, but manifested themselves again and again in different forms in the church. By Gnostic-type errors, I am talking about the tendency to separate history from theology, facts from ideas, values from events - flesh and blood from soul and spirit.

Theological liberalism is a form of Gnosticism. Theological liberalism sought to "de-mythologise" the Bible, stripping out the historical claims and keeping the ethical teaching. But in the Bible, the ethical teaching is a fruit, and God's historical actions in the world are the roots. Dig out the former, and quite quickly you won't have any consistent basis for the former - as the recent history of the West shows.

The Bible is a very earthly book. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He acts in this world - not some mythical private sphere - to judge and to save. Jesus is Lord, not simply of our private values and personal beliefs, but of the hills, valleys and plains too; of the public, visible reality that you can see on Google Earth. He actually came into this world, lived, suffered, and died and rose - to be Lord of this world, not of a different or invisible one. He's Lord of all seven days of the week, not just Sunday; Lord of the world, not simply the church. When we understand that, we'll understand that secularism is actually functional atheism, and that secularism no more matches with Christianity than Gnosticism does - because it is (in its Christianised forms) a species of Gnosticism.

Theistic evolution is another crypto-Gnostic scheme, that separates God's acts from God's words. It relegates the creative accounts of Scripture to theological stories that are intended to teach theological ideas, but not because they tell an account of what actually happened in the real world. Fruits without roots again.

This insight is part of what gives me confidence as a missionary and elder. As I preach the gospel and spread the word in this world (badly, but with God's help to keep going forward), I have confidence that Jesus, as Lord of this world, will achieve his purposes. I believe that his word will transform real-world institutions - individual lives, families, places of work, cultures and even governments. Those things aren't in another sphere, where Jesus' Lordship is less important - they're an integral part of the very universe he is Lord over. We can pray and work with confidence, not just hunker down into a holy huddle waiting for the second coming to rescue us into a world where Jesus actually does reign.

Tomorrow I've been asked to address a student Christian Union on the subject of post-modernism. Post-modernism denies the validity of meta-narratives - i.e. of universally true stories which transcend local cultures and boundaries. The gospel is nothing else than a meta-narrative, and the Apostles' Creed hence denied post-modernism 1900 years in advance. I submit that a Christian who really appreciates the logic of the construction of the Apostles' Creed is a Christian who is well-armed against many of the erroneous -isms plaguing the church today. Once you've grasped Genesis 1:1, that in the beginning God made not just souls and Platonic realms of ideals, but the real-life heaven and earth in which we live, and once you've grasped the flesh-and-blood gospel of a Saviour who really suffered terrible agony on a Roman gibbet around 30AD, and once those insights have penetrated throughout your thinking, you're well on the way. Truly the ancients have a lot to teach us, even in the very fundamentals.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Feeling tension? Try one of these...

The Swahili language is all short vowels and not pronounced exactly the same as English. This transfers into my (Kenyan) students' English pronunciation, and then into their English spelling....

Point 1 of the student's essay I'm just about to mark is headed: "The massage of a true apostle".

I'll certainly read that section with interest. This is the second essay so far it's appeared in.

The other one that came up a few times during term was angles from heaven. As an ex-mathematician I can certainly appreciate those.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Legislation allowing state to enter homes and interview children alone dropped

Hallelujah! In the pre-election "wash-up", the government has been forced to drop its plans to empower local education authorities to enter home educators' homes and interview children alone - and to forbid the parents to home-educate if they object. (Currently the law only allows a "order to compel school attendance" in the case that the state can prove an inadequate education. The proposed legislation deemed that if you refuse to allow the LEA officer to interview your child alone, then that would be sufficient to make a verdict of an inadequate education! In other words, a huge state take-over of parental prerogative). There were various other iniquitous proposals in the package too - I'm not sure of the status of all of them. Compulsory state-approved sex instruction for 15-year olds has been dropped also.

Home-educators well know that this is not the end; the war will continue. The education secretary Ed Balls has stated that it will be his priority to launch these measures again in the very first session of the next parliament. Alternatively if he doesn't get into power after the election the fact is that all our political parties are very statist, and seem to have grossly underdeveloped concepts of the rights of families in particular, believing that central legislation and control can and should be used to bring in any utopia/nightmare they wish to dream up... the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were both heavily opposed to these particular proposals, but it is unclear as yet at least to me how much of that is politicking and how much is conviction...

On-the-money quote from Lord Lucas in the House of Lords debate:
"We are considering a section of the Bill which will cost £20 million per annum, which is about £1,000 per home-educated child. These children receive no money to help pay the costs of examinations; no money to buy textbooks; no money to buy materials; no money and no tuition to help them over difficulties in education. Now the Government can find £1,000 for each of these children-and will spend it on auditing them. Not one penny will go to help the children; it will all go on auditing them. What have these people done to deserve that?"
Even if you're not a home educator, you can understand this proposition: home-educators have chosen their path for a number of reasons, but overall it will be true by implication that they believe that they have chosen a better choice than the state system. You can understand how we might feel at the state taxing home-educators first to pay for a state system that they do not use, then taxing them again in order to increasingly bring them into conformity with that system whose standards they think are in various ways inferior - and increasingly eroding their rights as parents, even within their own homes, as they do so. No thanks!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Grace Magazine (Kenya), Issue 2 - The Death Of Christ

Issue 2 of "Grace Magazine" (Kenya), focussing on the death of Christ, is now available for free download or online reading:

  • Christ died for our sins
  • Announcements
  • Wagalatia 6:14 (J.C. Ryle, 1816-1900)
  • Christ, a ransom for many
  • The Biblical stand on homosexuality
  • The centrality of the cross of Jesus
  • Premarital sex
  • Christian books about the death of Christ
  • Love in the family: wives
  • The book of Genesis : an overview

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Confused? You will be...

God has a super-special deal on confusion - buy one, get two extra free!

It works like this: in God's created world, God's creatures need to put God their Creator first in their thinking. If they rebel and refuse to do so, they are deliberately choosing confusion. And then confusion is what they get - by the barrel-load.

The world is very busy trying to ignore God's revealed moral law. In the West, for example, the laws against sexual immorality or dishonouring your parents and other authorities are so far from being observed that a very high number of people think that things like valuing chastity (ooh, what an old word!) or honouring authority are very close to being signs of mental illnesses.

But however much we ignore the moral law, we remain moral creatures, crafted by God. If our sense of morality is attacked and supresseed, yet still it cannot be obliterated.

Result? Moral confusion. It cannot be wiped out - so it has to be distorted and perverted instead. Here's an outstanding example from last week: "Great-grandmother given an electronic tag and curfew for selling a goldfish to a 14 year-old". Normally when I see a newspaper headline like that I think, "yes, but if you read the story there'll be more to it than that...". In this case there was - a slightly poorly cockatiel, a gerbil that wasn't well looked after by a disabled girl, a £1,000 fine for all this overflow of iniquity, and a self-righteous council spokesman dealing out sound-bite slogans to justify this punishment upon the 66-year old dear as exactly the right thing, which "sends out a message", blah blah blah. When Manchester and the result of the UK is full of adultery, abortion, drugs, prostitution, knife crime, pornography, disrespect to authorities, and so on, it's amazing that he can work up such an overflow of righteous indignation about the poor twee goldfish's potential mistreatment (though it does say something else about the British schools if by the age of 14 it can safely be assumed that you're not yet competent to look after one...). It's amazing - until you join up the dots and realise that the excess of perverted righteousness in such a case of this is simply the result of a excessive lack of concern for righteousness in the other: they're not independent ases.

The solution to this isn't a return to "common sense" or "old-fashioned values" or caning in schools etc. These things were consequences and concomitants, not causes. The root cause is godless thinking. When God hands over a nation to intellectual and moral confusion, it's because that nation has already wilfully chosen intellectual and moral confusion. They shut the door on God and after his long patience, God says "let me lock that for you". Buy one, get two free. The only way back is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. With godly repentance, the grip of moral confusion is broken and that's when the re-building can begin - not until.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Inaugural Faraday Lecture

"Michael Faraday - Man of science, man of God". That's the title of the inaugural "Faraday Lecture" to be given at Westminster Chapel, London this Friday (9th April).

Faraday himself was an outstanding man in the history of science as well as being a Bible-based believer. The Royal Institute's website describes him using the pejorative language of today as belonging to a "literalist sect", which is secular-speak for believing the Bible to be - shock, horror - true.

I don't think Faraday would have been happy that in present times his name has been hijacked by the Faraday Institute in Cambridge - Britain's foremost think-tank for trying to promoting theistic evolution and trying to influence Bible-believing Christians to interpret the Bible's accounts of creation in largely non-historical ways.

So it's good to see this new venture which might claim back his name... more details here (I don't think it is organised by AiG but appears in the event calendar they maintain).

Friday, 2 April 2010

The day death died

The heart of Christian teaching and experience is both simple and profound: We who believe are united with Christ. We were united with him in his death and resurrection. His death at Calvary was our death; and now we live a new life together with him.

This is both in our justification and our sanctification.

Legally, the damnation that Jesus endured at Calvary is considered as his peoples'; their sin has been condemned fully and finally in him. God considers the slate wiped completely clean, considers us legally holy, and so can come to dwell in us by his Spirit. He will raise us from the dead at the last day to eternal life because we cannot be condemned and death can no more continue to hold us than it did Jesus.

Experientially, when we begin to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, our old way of life passes away, we become a new creation (and a part of The New Creation) and receive a new empowerment by the Spirit to live a new life. We can live a new way, because we have a new Master. We are not under the law's condemnation, or under the law as the covenant that regulates our approach to God. We relate to God by the Spirit of Christ who is in us.

Of course, the old creation is still with us, and the remains of the sinful nature are still at work in us. The work of the "New Creation" still has many future aspects, in particular its consummation when Christ returns and glorifies us and the world. But the Christian reality is that we live in a new way, even whilst still surrounded by the old which is considered obsolete, passing away, soon to be abolished. We have been born again and all things are made new.

This is the gospel, and we should think about it every day; not just what has come to be called "Easter Friday" ! But we can be reminded today to especially focus on the fact: all these benefits come to us by Christ's death and resurrection, and no other way. Only the painful stroke of divine wrath of that day of days brings us any of these benefits. Only the bitter cup of infinite judgment and condemnation which he drank brings us the refreshing nectar of life. Death did not die in any old way; it died on that day, in that glorious act. It was he who did it, at an infinite price to himself. Praise his name!