Tuesday, 26 June 2012

If not democracy, then what?

As I read the world news and various commentators, I notice a few answering questions to which, by their own admission, they do not have answers.

Part of the secular Western narrative is that democracy fixes all evils and brings us into utopia. When all decisions are made by the people, freedom and liberty will reign.

Unfortunately, across the world that thesis appears to be being falsified:
  • In the West, it appears to be leading to the rule of a permanent managerial class, who are increasingly inexperienced in life outside politics (and thus increasingly unaware of the realities of life outside politics and the effects of their decisions), and increasingly hard to distinguish from one another, who prioritise the demands of their own power-bases over the people at large. Moreover, regardless of who is in power, red, blue or yellow etc., the politicians appear to be progressively bankrupting economies by bribing the greedy voters with their own money, their children's money, and increasingly their grandchildren's money. That's worked out quite nicely for the first generation - but the grandchildren? Big problem ahead...
  • In the "Arab spring" and further east such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, it appears that the net effect has been for strong-men dictators to either cede power to Islamic totalitarians, or for anarchic chaos to take over (e.g. local tribal chieftains all battling out for power and a share of the spoils).

It really appears that universal enfranchisement does not automatically make life better. Indeed, it can make it worse. The "demos", just like the dictator, appear to prioritise short-term and selfish interests over the long-term good of the country as a whole. When the people replace the strong-man as the de-facto God, the ruling principle of society, they also appear to be not up to the task.

Oh dear. What next? If we can't put our faith in "the people" instead of in the solitary strong leader, then whom shall we put our trust in? In Jesus, of course. Whilst man-centred societies will inevitably collapse under the weight of their own pride and folly, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus will last forever. It is not a kingdom based upon worldly principles, but heavenly ones. It does not fight with carnal weapons, but with spiritual ones. And since those weapons are stronger and better, in the end it wins. So there is no cause for despair. Let believes be defensively salt and offensively light in the world, preserving doomed societies from destruction whilst themselves showing a better way. Repentance and faith are not a new political platform; they transcend all political platforms, and will do what political platforms cannot. Let believers trust that Jesus' words, "surely I will be with you - even to the very end of the age" are true, and press on.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The limitations of scientism

Most "new atheists" advocate "scientism".

i.e., you should only believe to be true, what you can prove to be true by empirical testing and logical deduction from the consequences.

By that method, you should not believe scientism itself to be true. Scientism is self-refuting.

The belief that scientism is true is philosophical, and not subject to empirical testing nor deducible by logic.

Proponents of scientism like to contrast it negatively with "faith beliefs", which they define as being beliefs which you have no empirical or logical evidence for. (That is not the Christian definition of faith, but that's another story).

Based upon that definition, scientism is itself a faith belief.

If your world-view cannot even boot-strap itself, then your world-view is a failure. There's no need to be afraid of the big bad "new atheists"; they haven't even joined the discussion yet.

Motivational speaking and our narrative of reality

Conrad Mbewe makes some good points here on motivational speaking in a Christian context:


I think the analysis could benefit from something extra. I think the responses to the young man needed to go deeper. The man had a wrong view of "success". His view was, as Mbewe points out, self-centred rather than God-centred.

That comes down ultimately to the question "what kind of world are we living in?"

The Christian answer is "one made by, through and for Christ. One which is fallen and which Christ has redeemed. One in which 'success' does not mean getting your glory now, but taking up the cross and following Christ so that we can be part of the new creation when he completes the renewal of all things."

The young man really needed someone to change his narrative of reality. Telling him that he is a sinner under the wrath of a holy God is part of this. But what else? How does this relate to the question of "success"? Is repentance a means to worldly prosperity, or something else? What does discipleship look like? The gospel actually needs to not just change our view of self, but of the whole narrative of reality. The very meaning of the word "success" is what is at stake - not simply the issue of how to get it.

I'm thinking that, in Africa just as in the West where the Biblical narrative has disappeared from society's shared assumptions, we need to begin further back. We need to lay the foundation of a Biblical view of reality - of creation and fall and redemption - before we can proceed to talking about sin, otherwise our hearers fail to understand us. In the anecdote Conrad tells, the young man did not see that he was chained by sin and that that was his major problem. But as I read the anecdote, one of those chains - one of the ways that sin was working in the young man - was in enslaving him to a counter-biblical narrative of what the word "success" meant. The problem was deeper than the surface issue that the man was focussed on "success" instead of upon salvation. His problem was that he had defined success in terms of personal enjoyment of life upon the sinking ship of the "old age" that is doomed to destruction, rather than in terms of participation in the resurrection life of Christ. Christianity does offer "success"; but a different, better and deeper version than the corruptible trinkets of the present age.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Listen to Jesus

I'm preaching this Sunday, all being well, on the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).

Imagine hearing the voice of God the Father himself. How few in human history have ever done that?

Yet Peter did, there on the mountain. One of the select few of all time heard the direct voice of the Father.

What did it tell him? What new and astonishing revelation did this select occasion contain?

Actually, none. It told him to listen to the one whom he had already been walking with; it told him to listen to Jesus.

And there's a great lesson. We scratch our heads, fret and worry, wondering what the will of God is.

Yet, if we opened our Bibles, then we could listen to Jesus. And if God himself were to rip open the heavens and tell us what to do next, that would be what he would tell us to do.

Moses and Elijah give us the same testimony. When they were permitted, for a moment, to come back from the world of glory and speak with the Son of God, what did they want to know about? About what Jesus would do at Calvary. Christ and him crucified. If you want to understand the world, and how to live to please God in it, that's where the law, the prophets, and the Father himself send you.

I think we can say from the Bible that it took a while for Peter to learn the lesson. It's certainly taking me a while. How about you?

Friday, 15 June 2012

What is the chaff to the wheat?

Some precious verses to us this week (Jeremiah 23:26-29):
26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
Get into Christian service of whatever kind, and you'll find a lot of straw (or chaff, KJV). A lot of lying and deception, of worldliness and sinful behaviour, often done in the name of the Lord.

But, must it discourage us? What is the chaff to the wheat? Is not God's word still fire, and a hammer to break rocks in pieces?

Yes, and amen. So let's keep going.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

This takes the biscuit...

Read newspapers, and you will read a lot of quotes that make you say "well, duh..."

But this one takes the biscuit:
Mike Freer MP for Finchley & Golders Green (Con)

"It is sad that the Church cannot seek to reflect society as it is rather than as it would want it to be."

Dear Mike: presumably you never pray, but each day the Christian church prays to God, "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." One of our reasons for existence is to transform earth according to the heavenly template. If you think that trying to improve society is "sad", then you think that the church's existence is "sad"... but really, this is rank hypocrisy. What have the liberal elites in political parties such as Mr. Freer's been up to for the last 50 years, if not trying to change society to make it more like they wanted it to be, and less like it was when they found it? For homosexual activists and sympathisers to be complaining about others trying to change society.... pot... kettle... what?

Dear Mike: have you ever lived in a society which exists in the state that human societies invariably exist in before Christ brings them into increasing conformity to his image? If you have not lived in one, then have you done any reading to tell you what that is like? It is all very well to be squandering the West's Christian capital, built up over many years - but can you conceive of a society that manages to consistently throw off the salt-and-light influence of the Christian church? Do you know what that will be like?

You won't like it. You'll probably complain that the church should have done more to prevent it...

One day left to tell the UK government they are servants, not masters

The UK government thinks that marriage exists at its whim, to be redefined as it pleases - and they do not even need to put it in their election manifestos beforehand. They are the masters of the universe. Marriage is not part of the order of creation - it belongs to the political parties, to give and take away as they please.

Disagree with that? You have one day left to tell them: http://c4m.org.uk/consultation/

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Yes, but...

Nothing wrong with pointing out legal and societal consequences of the contradiction-in-terms which is "gay marriage", of course...


But should not a former Archbishop also consider it his role to point out the moral and theological consequences? Something along the lines of "this contradicts the will of our Creator" or "this provokes God's wrath" or "Jesus will judge as at the last day for this unless we repent and trust in his mercy"... ?

I mean to say - if it is not his role, then just who is he passing the buck to?

Why is it apparently never strategic for Christianity's purported public spokespeople to say something politically incorrect? Yes, the media will then treat you like a crank... is the job of Christianity's public spokesmen to avoid being labelled as a crank? Or to speak God's truth faithfully and lovingly? Someone needs to decide, because it became clear a while ago that you cannot do both... sadly, the more public utterances of various "churchmen" I read, the more it looks like they did decide; wrongly.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Atheists versus objective morality

In this recent blog post, prominent Internet atheists Paul "PZ" Myers attempted to explain how he, as an atheist, can have an objective morality.

The post hardly needs fisking. Only on a surface reading, you can see that Myers appears to believe that "objective" means that same as "subjective", or is somehow fatally confused about the difference between the two. Myers explains his "objective" morality at every turn with "I want this, I do not want that, I would not like this, I have no interest in the other, I much prefer that." Dear Professor Myers, meet dictionary.com. Myers' whole post is an example of the semantic equivocation fallacy; Myers uses the word "objective", but not to mean what it is meant to mean in this discussion, namely "not founded and rooted in human preference" (i.e. not "subjective"). Rather he re-deploys it to mean "a listable, repeatable set of criteria" (i.e. not subject to random change depending on what side of the bed I rolled out of).

I suppose, though, that Professor Myers does know what the word "objective" means, and what it means in this context. For him, that knowledge is the problem.

He knows that morality ought to be objective. Which means: not subject to what any particular individual, or even humanity as a whole, wants/prefers/likes/enjoys. Morality ought to be above human power to tamper with according to subjective whim and preference. Something that is not established by saying "I have no interest in doing this or that".

Professor Myers also, since he is an intelligent man, wants to be able to believe things which ought to be able to true. The problem is, that his atheism won't let him. Since he is in rebellion against God, his will is set against admitting what he knows ought to be true.

Hence, the preposterous spectacle of a university professor trying to pen a moral philosophy in which he appears to not know the difference between two opposite terms, and presents us one long equivocation fallacy under the guise of learn-ed reasoning.

Which view of the world can explain all these facts? How an intelligent, educated man can tie himself in knots trying to explain why his view of the world explains X, whilst showing on every line that it absolutely does not? Some view of the world which involves an objective moral-order that is higher than man and handed down to him... some view of the world in which man is a moral deviant, a fallen creature... some view of the world in which man willingly fights against what, deep down, he knows to be true because he does not want it to be true.... hmmm.... is that Christianity?

Myers shows us that when atheists attempt to argue against Christianity, they prove it.

Friday, 1 June 2012

UK government consultation on redefining marriage

The Christian Institute is encouraging its supporters to respond now to the Government’s consultation on redefining marriage.

We are urging you to use this simple, easy, quick web form on the website of the Coalition for Marriage.

Act now. Please send your response.