Thursday, 31 October 2013

Displeased with whaaaatt?

When your theology, logically carried through, leads you into complete absurdity, then it's time to back-track.

Read this through to the end - - and see what David VanDrunen thinks God would be displeased with. Then start hunting on the floor for where your jaw dropped to.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

No, not Soviet Russia

In some countries in the world, apparently, you have to petition the government for permission to take your kids on holidays! Imagine!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Relevant preaching

I saw this blurb for a book:
"What we hear in church on Sunday morning sometimes seems worlds away from the challenges we face on Monday morning. With lively Bible teaching and drawing on a wealth of real-life stories, (the author) shows how work was part of God's good plan for men and women - given to us so we can make a creative contribution in his world."
What this means is that the author of the book is making up for something wrong with the preaching. That's a good thing for authors to do. But what about the preaching itself? If you are a preacher or teacher in some capacity, then are your hearers in danger of coming away with this lack of understanding of what the gospel actually means for their lives?

Pondering about this whilst in Kenya led me to formulate the following 'rule of thumb'. Imagine a long-term hearer of someone's preaching. However, he is not physically present; he is listening via tapes (MP3s, etc.). He does not know ahead of time where the preacher is, or what the preacher and congregation's situation is. He does not know what the congregation's challenges are, in their cultural setting. If the preacher is a good preacher, then he should be able to work it out from listening to the preacher. i.e. It should be possible to reconstruct the daily challenges faced in the social context of the preacher's congregation, by listening to the preaching. By considering the applications, he should be able to 'reverse-engineer' the situations that they are being made to.

All this is simply to say that good preaching is applied. Actually applied; not solely in generalities which could be proclaimed equally to all listeners everywhere; but in specifics that enable people to recognise the relevancy of the message for them, today, where they are. The clothes must fit. This is a shepherd's duty; a shepherd must know his flock - not just vaguely, but closely. Of course, some applications are universal; believe God's promises, turn away from sin, etc. But what promises and what sins are particularly pressing for your time and situation? Can it be right to rarely hear anything about that, so that you come away not knowing (except in the vaguest terms) how Sunday and Monday are related?

This is part of the reason why knowing your people (for a pastor, through pastoral visiting) is important, so that you can get a much closer, less vague, understanding of the shape of their challenges. But that's another subject. My point is this: the fact that such books as the above require to be written is an indictment of our preaching. We should not fail to heed the message in between the lines.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


This essay by Peter Hitchens deserves to be read through from start to finish:

Friday, 4 October 2013

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Albert Mohler on state schools

This is very interesting, and I am glad to read it. Albert Mohler is a significant figure amongst US evangelicals. I am not familiar enough with the US evangelical scene to know whether any comparably significant figures have gone as far as he has yet; but I am glad that he has. In reading this quote, remember that a what is called a "public school" in the US is what in the UK is called a "state school" (confusingly, in the UK, the terms "public school" and "private school" mean the same):
Is public school an option? For Christians who take the Christian worldview seriously and who understand the issues at stake, the answer is increasingly no. The number of Christian parents coming to this conclusion increases each year. We can understand the nostalgia that many Christians hold about the public schools. I spent every minute of my school life from the first grade to high school graduation in a public school. And yet, I saw the ideological transformation of the schools before my own eyes. Long ago, the public schools entered a Brave New World from which no retreat now seems possible.
The article is thought through and makes carefully argued distinctions; I recommend you read it all.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Is the Pope a Catholic?

This used to be the classic hypothetical question, which required no answer.

No longer. The new Roman Pope just keeps on speaking, and the question keeps on coming up:

Q. Your Holiness, is there is a single vision of the Good? And who decides what it is?
A. "Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good."

Q. Jesus in his preaching said that agape, love for others, is the only way to love God. Correct me if I'm wrong.
A. "You're not wrong. The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood. All are brothers and all children of God. Abba, as he called the Father. (Continues).
If you put your trust in the merits and guidance of the supposedly never-changing church of Rome, instead of in Christ and his Word alone, then you must be finding this new Pope's teaching very confusing. Good! Follow that thought. See where it leads!

And this is unbelievable:
Q. But just a few days ago you appealed to Catholics to engage civilly and politically.
A. "I was not addressing only Catholics but all men of good will. I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres. All my predecessors have said the same thing, for many years at least, albeit with different accents.
Compare the line I highlighted in italics with this:

"[It is error to believe that] The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church." Pope Pius IX, The Syllabus of Errors, 1864, Section VI, "Errors About Civil Society, Considered Both in Itself and in its Relation to the Church", #55.

"For many years at least" - is this an implicit concession that the Popes from the beginning of the Papacy until the 20th century were universally wrong on this question? What are the implications of that?