Tuesday, 27 August 2013

God's wonderful law

When I browse skeptical websites, I get the idea that the law of God as expounded in the Old Testament (at greatest length in Deuteronomy), is mostly about the eating or non-eating of prawns, and killing people. So much for the fruits of free thinking and rational inquiry.

When I have the pleasure of reading God's wonderful law, I find a book so rich and practical for the problems of everyday life. As a book of case law it is not comprehensive in the sense of describing every possible scenario (which is what legalists want). Rather, it is varied and full in demonstrating how righteousness, love and wisdom combined to deal with the realities of daily living in God's glorious but now fallen world.

There we find the rich and the poor, the worker and the idle, the prospering and the down-and-out. There is the aggressor and the aggrieved; the judge who is tempted to twist justice; the man surprised by circumstances and the man deliberately plotting evil. There are the young children, the soon-to-be-adults, the newly-married, the long-married, the widowed, the single, the old and the dying. And so on.

It is said that "everything old is new again". Many situations in life surprise us with their complexity. There's always a new twist on an old conundrum. And yet, the more I read, the more I found that God knew it all already, and gave us the guidance we needed - we just didn't know it. How many issues have we had to wrestle through the out-workings of; how many temptations have sought to lead us astray; how many times have we suspected that we've done wrong by someone else... and it was all there, all the time, in God's law, explaining to us how to relate to our neighbour/wife/son/employee/etc., in a loving, generous, righteous and merciful way.

Sorry, skeptics - I'll take God's liberating law any time over the man-made tyranny of a new law being passed every 3 hours (or 2,700 new laws every year) into which our rejection of God's wisdom has been plunging us in recent times. The law of God can be read in a single sitting. There's not enough hours in the average day to read the laws that were passed during it - and what of those passed before you started the exercise? If I and the secularist each get to enjoy a good prawn curry after reading the laws of our preferred Lord, then the secularist will die of starvation. I shall be tucking into the second course and thanking God for it before he's got past the pre-amble.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Secularist dishonesty

Secularist atheists are always seeking to enforce their values on others. Unlike Christians, who will a) openly confess that we would be delighted for everyone to embrace Jesus Christ, and b) we recognise others' rights to disagree, secularists are a) deceitful and b) coercive. Their routine method is not to set up their own secularist institutions to compete with Christian ones, but to enter secretly, lie, work to take power, and then enforce the new values on everyone else.

The take-over of Girl Guiding and enforcement of a humanist oath, replacing a theistic one (to be "true to oneself" and serve the "community" instead of loving God and being faithful to the Monarch) was an example of this. For a), they lyingly claimed that it was about inclusiveness (but, since when was enforcing a humanist oath inclusive?). For b), read this to the end: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10258241/Christian-Girl-Guide-leaders-defy-decision-to-drop-God-from-pledge.html. There you'll see that it's about coercion, not inclusivity: it's the secular humanist way or the highway. Notice the blatant hypocrisy of the new leaders of Guiding quoted in the last three paragraphs: those who don't recognise the new values are free to leave. That is apparently in stark contrast to the old values, which the entry-ists felt themselves completely free to first ignore and then replace!

What's the take-home message for Christians? Don't believe the myth of secular humanist "neutrality". It's a temporary guise until they gain power... after that, it's time for the boot stamping on your face. You can see the same in the sphere of "gay rights"; "tolerance" was a temporary myth until they had the upper hand. The switch is already well underway: you won't hear much of tolerance from now on, but only of "guaranteeing universal human rights everywhere, regardless of what the bigots think". When you hear talk of "neutrality" and "inclusiveness", you need to start counting the spoons.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Why I am a Christian

I don't know what causes you to be found on this website today, or who you are... but whoever you are, I wanted to post a brief answer to a question, with the hope that it might help you.

Why am I a Christian?

A question like that can get an answer on more than one level. Human beings are complex, and life is complex. There's my family and cultural history. There's my understanding of Christianity now, and the reasons why I now find it more intellectually and emotionally satisfying than any of the alternatives. In a Western context, we'd probably need to spend some time discussing various objections to Christianity, and why when examined they don't hold water. An answer that really got to the heart of things would not start with me, but with God, and with Jesus Christ.

But in this answer I don't really want to give a history of my life or an account of Christian teaching or answers as such. Those things are all important in their place. But, I want to explain why I need to be a question, and why you do too. Why must I be a Christian? When I ask that question, I remember a short exchange between Jesus and his disciple Peter, recorded in the Bible in the book named "John", in the 6th chapter:
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"

But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (verses 66-69)
At its heart, being a Christian means believing that Jesus of Nazareth is "the Son of the living God", and the "Messiah" (God's appointed King and Deliverer, who came from heaven), and being a follower of Jesus means submitting to him as king in our lives. There's a lot to unpack in there, but for now I want to focus on one important part of it.

As a follower of Jesus, the question "Do you also want to go away?" will come up a lot. Following Jesus is tough. It means living according to his teachings, not our feelings or desires. It's tough inside, because we'll soon find out that we're not the people we should be, or imagined ourselves to be. It's tough outside, because there are many other agendas in the world than Jesus'. Standing up for Jesus often brings trouble.

But when that question comes up in my heart and mind, I find it always followed by Simon Peter's answer. Where else would I go?

For one thing, of all the things I can doubt, I can never doubt that, deep down, I've got a basic problem of being corrupt. Human nature is corrupt, and "what's wrong with me" is not just temporary "slip-ups" or "mistakes" or "things I didn't really mean". No... I find that the Bible's description of humanity - including me - as being wrong *at root* is totally accurate. There's not just something wrong with what I occassionally do, or think... there's something wrong with me. I am what the Bible calls a sinner. Being selfish, being proud, being blind to other people and their needs and problems, and being so very slow to think about or seek after my Maker are all things that come naturally to me - even before they result in other particular wrongs that I do. I know, deep down, that that feeling that I in myself am not right is not just false guilt, or society making me feel to be something that I'm not. No: my sin is as certain a fact as I can lay my hands on anywhere in existence. I'm more sure that my sin and guilt exist than I am sure than you exist!

Perhaps you can persuade yourself that your conscience and the guilty it reminds you of corresponds to nothing real at all. It's just some weird by-product of evolution. I find that totally unbelievable. Evolution cannot even begin to explain how there is an "I" - a feeling, thinking, desiring, rejoicing, hurting, alive being, somewhere in "here", self-conscience, looking out in to the world. Stories about how genes can replicate are nice; but evolution can't deal with the most basic fact of your existence: that there is a you. We are not just bodies; we are souls. The ways we live always, every day, testifies that we believe that. Even the most angry of atheists still behaves, all the time, as if his personal existence is real and matters - that he's not just an empty, soul-less machine.

Who can take away my guilt? Who can forgive what I've done wrong in this world which I didn't make, but which God did?

The answer that I've come to learn is "Jesus Christ, alone". Muhammad did not die in my place, offering an innocent life to God to take away the guilt of mine. Buddha had a human nature every bit as wicked as mine. The wisdom of Socrates is, at the end of it, only wisdom about what someone ought to do - and can say nothing about how to deal with what I have already done, or about how to access a power to do the good that I already know I should be doing. Whenever I look at other religions, I find them telling me what I ought to do, or ought to have done. Christianity is radically different, because it tells us that what we do doesn't cut it... but that what Jesus Christ has already done and completed is more than enough... and that he gives it all to us a free gift. When God looks upon the followers of Jesus, he doesn't see all their evil - he sees the perfection of Jesus, and the perfect price that Jesus paid on the cross when he was crucified to take away all our wrongs.

If Jesus of Nazareth is not the Rescuer, whose death on the cross cleansed away my sin, then we have to face the fact that there is no Saviour. We're going to die without God's forgiveness. We're lost. We deserve God's anger and his punishment, and are kidding ourselves if we try to argue otherwise. We need Jesus. There's no other candidate. To whom else shall we go?

Why am I a Christian? Ultimately, because Jesus Christ the Rescuer brought about a day in my life when he showed and persuaded me that what he'd done on the cross when he did, perfectly met my need before God as a sinner. He showed me that his resurrection from the dead meant that he could supply me with all the heavenly power I'd need to be his follower, through thick and thin. He made me to understand that I could not work my way up in to heaven - but that he'd simply forgive me out of his amazing kindness.

Why am I still a Christian? Because he's kept those promises, and many more. He's helped me to grow. I'm not what I ought to be - but I know that I'm not what I was. I know that there's nobody else like him. Why would I not want to be a Christian? Where else would I go, either now for a relationship with the living God, or in eternity when I have to stand before God and have my life judged by him?

What Jesus did to me is what Christians call "conversion". It's not just an intellectual thing. It's the whole person. It's a whole new life from him and with him, day by day - and carrying on into eternity.

I thank you for reading, and hope that you'll seek it out and find that life too.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Is democracy over-rated?

Roger Scruton is not a Christian, but is a thinker who has often offered penetrating critiques of some of the absurdities of the shibboleths of the leaders of the modern secular West. Here's another - published, somewhat surprisingly, by the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23607302