Thursday, 28 April 2011

Individual prejudice?

Here's a story about the last remaining Roman Catholic adoption agency losing an appeal for the right to only place children for adoption with heterosexual couples.

Deputy chief executive of homosexual activist group Stonewall, Laura Doughty, said: “There should be no question of anyone engaged in delivering any kind of public or publicly funded service being allowed to pick and choose their service users on the basis of individual prejudice. This ruling makes the law in this area crystal clear.”
Is this what public discourse has come to? "Individual prejudice?" I am an evangelical Protestant, not a Roman Catholic; I think the Roman Catholic church has erred on fundamental and vital questions of truth. But would it not be honest to at least distinguish between individual preferences and official church teaching stretching back over a millennia, and between prejudice and a considered and reasoned-out opposition? It seems that Stonewall can't...

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Total Forgiveness?

I've been readiing Dr. Ted Williams' "Christ or Therapy - For Depression and Life's Troubles"; a very helpful, easy to read book.

One of its insightful analyses is of the teaching of "Total Forgiveness"; the idea that the Christian should forgive everyone, unconditionally, and that this is the path to inner peace.

Williams shows how this idea in its contemporary form was unknown to previous generations of Christians, and is a significant corruption of the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, brought in through humanists via the secular counselling movement. Its major defects are:
  • Authentic Christian forgiveness is based on real dealing with sin, and achieving reconciliation between the offender and the wronged party. "Total forgiveness" is based upon the wronged party granting a forgiveness within themselves - a forgiveness which is not usually communicated to the wrong-doer (and the wrong-doer may not agree that it was needed), and which is not based upon any actual dealing with the evil committed.
  • Christian forgiveness aims for objective righteousness in God's world. "Total forgiveness" aims at the therapeutic healing of the wronged party, to give them inner peace, and is thus essentially a selfish enterprise.
  • These things being so, the "wronged party" self-identifies; they deal only with their counsellor, who takes their word for it that they are wronged and then deals with their feelings; in an authentic Christian process, when necessary credible judges are brought in to give their opinion based upon Scripture.
  • Christian forgiveness is ultimately based on the principle of atonement, and is not received unconditionally but rather when repentance has been credibly manifested. "Total forgiveness" is based upon nothing; righteousness is simply cancelled. Thus, "Total Forgiveness" promotes a sub-Christian view of God's character.
Some Christian "Total Forgiveness" advocates also add rank blasphemy to their teachings; e.g. R T Kendall's teaching that it is necessary for us to forgive God! As Williams says, the idea that a fallen creature can imagine that he needs to forgive God beggars belief.

The Bible forbids Christians to hold grudges, to be bitter or otherwise hold on to wrongs. It commands us to hand over our wrongs to God, and to entrust ourselves to him and his righteous judgments in due time, in all humility knowing that we ourselves are sinners. We are to stand ready to forgive when repentence is credibly shown, and at that time to deny it to nobody. But "Total Forgiveness" is not a Biblical concept, but a humanistic one which - as humanism does - is ultimately an anti-Christian attack on the doctrine of God and his righteousness.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Lining up with reality

I have been doing some study of the ten commandments lately.

One point I've seen is this: that the first "table" (commandments 1-4) are in part about lining up with reality.

If I said to you, "You shall have no other gods before me" or "Do not take my name lightly on your lips, or you will be guilty", you'd justifiably take me for a raging egomaniac. I'd be asking you to live out a lie. I have no worthiness, either inherently or through my inglorious actions, to receive such treatment from you.

But when God gives such commandments, there is no fault in him. He is calling us to reality - to recognise the true order of the universe. He is calling us to live according to how things really are.

In the first commandment, he calls us to have no other gods before him: because he is the one true living God. We are summoned to worship him, because worship of our Maker, Sustainer, Saviour and Judge is the foundation for a right view of all reality. There is no other like him: therefore we should not give any that place either.

In the second commandment, he tells us to avoid use of our imaginations in worship, and to worship him strictly according to his revealed will; and in particular, not to imagine that he is adequately represented by any part of the material creation. He is far more glorious and exalted than we can conceive. His excellence cannot be captured in any created thing. Our lives should reflect this wonderful truth and testify to it.

In the third, he tells us that his name is highly exalted and should be rightly hallowed. There is nothing common about him; everything to do with him is holy. In all of worship (and thus in all of life), he must be given unique and unceasing honour - and not to do so is a serious error. He deserves a dignified, awe-filled approach to life in his world from us, because of his awesomeness.

I have not moved on to my study of the fourth yet, but it is easy to see how it carries out - I will leave that to you! But the point is this: the "first table" of the law lays down, amongst other things, the true order of reality. Unless your life reflects it, you are not simply sinning, or breaking a command that's hard to keep, but you are living in God's world in an unreal way; you are living a delusion, a lie. God does not call us to worship him because of some emptiness or need in himself; he calls us to build on the one true foundation for life - the only route to true joy. He tells us of the foundations that he built our world upon: his own glory. A man who thinks his wife is a tree or that his cat is his son is hardly likely to enjoy the true joys of marriage or family. Neither can a person who neglects the ten commandments.

And when we see this depth in the commandment, we face a fact: how far short we must have fallen, and how gracious the Lord Jesus Christ must be. How he must have suffered to bring us back to God in the face of our neglecting of these holy requirements!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

American edition of "Should Christians Embrace Evolution?"

Presbyterian & Reformed publishing company are publishing an edition of "Should Christians Embrace Evolution?" (to which I contributed a chapter) for the American market next month - and it's available for pre-order from already:

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Keep plodding

Another year rolls round, and I inevitably recall one of my most memorable days, the 125-mile 1998 Devizes to Westminster ("DW") canoe marathon. I can't imagine I will ever see "April 10th" approaching on the calendar and not remember that day.

One reason I won't forget it is because of some of the lessons I learnt along the way.

One of those lessons is, keep plodding on. If you keep moving forward, then the end will keep getting closer, and must at some point eventually arrive. There's hurt; there's trouble; but nothing worthwhile is achieved in either the world or the kingdom without going through those barriers. Those who raise mind over matter will get the medal; those who do not, won't. In most walks of life, there are lots of people who are less talented, but who get their anyway because they refuse to believe they are defeated. Talent is a great blessing, but determination can make up for a lot. Simple observation teaches us this useful truth.

Some people are more determined by nature than others. They have been blessed by God with an extra measure of this grace from birth. But in every Christian, we should be growing in our focus and resolve year by year. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; the ability to take ourselves in hand and say "I will make sure I see this through" is a blessing we can seek and expect to grow in if we walk rightly. Whether in pursuits that only have value in this life, or ones with eternal value, to lack resolve is the road to failure. Because Christ is risen, we are not doomed to fail in the areas of life that he gives us opportunities to do something beneficial in. Despite a thousand setbacks and disappointments, God remains the God who raises the dead and does the impossible. In the work of the gospel in Kenya, the task to be done is absolutely immense and our resources in ourselves are nothing. But God can do anything, and our job is to plod on and trust him.

Perhaps someone thinks that the connection between canoeing and gospel preaching is tenuous. Not at all; God made every part of human life. He teaches us many things in different ways. I learnt in a very practical way from my canoeing and my coach that patience and determination open many doors to us that are otherwise closed. That's a lesson I hope I'll be able to use for the kingdom. How about you?