Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All that glitters is not gold

Kevin DeYoung does it again - another spot-on blog. This time on the 'New Gospel' that is so prevelant in the evangelical world today.

Read it HERE.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Atheism's Poster Child

Those benign & freedom loving humanists & atheists have now turned their hostility to religious faith onto, among others, Christian parents with a new poster campaign. With great moral superiority, Christian Mums & Dads are now being told that bringing up their children in an environment of Christain belief and practise is oppressive and intellectually abusive. To be honest I hadn't noticed that our society was being taken to the dogs by hordes of havoc reeking young people with Christian values - or that NHS counselling units were filled with people from secure family backgrounds unable to function normally because they had been brought up with a sense of identity.

But of course, what is driving this campaign is not really a concern for the mental or social welfare of children - but a deep hostility to freedom of religion, a failure to recognise their own presuppositions, and an intolerant desire to impose their world-view on all others. And if that sounds a bit rich from someone with strong evangelical beliefs then let me explain...
1. The poster above could only come from people with a real blindeness about their own belief system. Humanists & Athiests like to believe that they possess some moral and intellectual objectivity when it comes to assessing reality. That is, they think of themselves of having a vantage point that stands over all those primitive, unthinking, blinkered religious groups. They alone can see 'things' clearly - their superior reasoning has worked out what real right & wrong are, what truth is, and how the world actually works. Obviously having such exalted knowledge means that they see themselves as uniquely placed to decide what is, among many other things, best for everyone elses' children. I mean, you can't leave such matters in the hands of weak-minded religious fools.
But Humanistic Atheism is just another belief system, just another group's analysis of the world, just another human standpoint. It is no less arrogant than any religious standpoint. Obviously because I believe my Christian analysis of the world is correct - I think the world would be better off if everyone else held it too. Likewise Humanists obviously think the world would be better off if everyone shared their take on it. So when it comes to arrogance & narrow mindedness - Humanists & Athiests have absolutely no high ground over religious people. They look at the world, they come to conclusions, they think their conclusions are right - so join the club and stop this nauseating pretence to some special objectivity.
2. This means that Humanists (if they are honest), like religious people, want children to be brought up according, not to 'neutral values', but to their values. Are atheistic humanists really telling us that they tell their children that 'religious beliefs' are just as valid as non-religious ones, that Christianity may well be true, and that they would celebrate the possibility of their little ones becoming evangelical Christians? You see, the great indoctrination that humanists want to inculcate in all children is the belief that God is essentially a matter of indifference. Because to say to a child it doesn't matter if you believe in God or not - is to bring them up to believe that God can't matter much. Afterall there are obviously no consequences of a wrong choice that your parents feel you should be protected from. So surprise surprise most 'humanist children' grow-up not to be very religious - because they have consistently been taught the message that 'it's no big deal'.
I wonder if Humanists believe that teaching children that racism is wrong is an abuse of their intellectual & moral rights. Surely to be consistent Humanists should say to children regarding racism, 'well some people think black people are inferior but you need to make your own mind up about that'. That Humanists (rightly) wouldn't bring children up that way is because they think that it really matters what you think about other races - because how you think about them will ultimately manifest itself in how you treat them.
Well Christian parents, who man for man & woman for woman, have just as many brain cells, Degrees, PhDs etc, realise that if God exists (and which their intellectual & moral analysis of the world leads them to believe is the case) - then that is really really important! In fact because what we think about God will affect how we treat God (relate to Him & thus how He relates to us) then it is really important that children have guidance in such matters. Indeed not to bring up children in such a way would be the real abuse & negligence.
See a similar post here:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's under your bonnet?

I’ve had my full driving license for about 20 years now – in that time I’ve owned four cars and driven various others. I think of myself as a fairly capable driver – only one ‘bump’ over the years. But for all that 'driving experience' I actually know little about what makes a car work. I couldn’t explain to you the workings of the internal combustion engine and other than a few obvious bits (like the battery) the machinery under the bonnet is a mystery to me.

For many the Christian life is approached similarly. We know our way around the ‘controls’, we have a competence in operating the system – but we are often ignorant of its internal workings. Which means, that like myself and engines, we often only have a superficial knowledge of how God actually works in us (and indeed His church).

Lots of the time that might not seem to matter too much – we’re just interested in getting from ‘A to B’ and the mechanics at our garage can look after the ‘nuts & bolts’. The ‘nuts and bolts’ in the case of the Christian life being doctrine. However, what if my mechanic is poorly trained himself or a bit of an ‘Arthur Daley’? I mean, when my car mechanic makes that sucking noise with his mouth and says, 'sorry mate, you need a new carburretor' – who am I to argue? Many are the stories of expensive and dangerously poor advice given to naive car owners.

Too often Christians think about doctrine in the way I think about oil filters – a dull subject you either know about because you’re paid to or are just a bit nerdy. But understanding what’s under the bonnet is vital if we are to: (a) avoid being at the mercy of dodgy advice, (b) figuring out why something isn’t working and (c) ensure that the engine is running smoothly.

Because if you get the air & fuel mix wrong (e.g. too much activity & not enough prayer), or calibrate a key component incorrectly (e.g. set justification to ‘infused’ instead of ‘imparted’), or let the suspension seize up (e.g. neglect eschatology), or forget to allow differentials between wheels (e.g. have a right view of the Trinity) – then no amount of ‘driving skill’ will make up for a seriously crocked car.

Better get back to the owners’ manual!

Monday, November 09, 2009

The End of History

‘This used to be God’s country, but not anymore – and thank God for that’
A History of Scotland (BBC)

Thus, with a sound bite to make Alan Partridge shout, 'Back of the net!', BBC Scotland’s Neil Oliver ended his assessment of the Scottish Covenanters. Oliver took the utterly predictable and increasingly, it seems, BBC mandated line of telling us what an awful bigoted bunch religious people are. The Covenanters, we were told, were a ruthless power-hungry mob intent on turning Scotland into the kind of fundamentalist state that would have made the Taliban blush.

What is particularly depressing is the ‘a-historical’ nature of such programmes. That is, they seem (wilfully) ignorant of any historical perspective. Thus people and events can only be evaluated through the lense of twenty-first century liberal eyes. So the Covenanters were ‘extreme’ in their religious beliefs – but who wasn’t in the 17th Century? The Covenanters ideal was a nation converted to Presbyterian Christianity – as if the Catholic Church or the Episcopal Church would have been less zealous for their own faiths. Neil Oliver might like to think, had he lived in 1638, that he would have stood ‘above’ such squabbles but he would just have reflected the worldview of whatever 'extreme' sect he belonged to (as he clearly does in his own time).

Like Neil Oliver, I’m not a trained historian (although my wife has a first class MA in History & agrees with me if that counts?) but it seems to me that you primarily need to judge historical figures and events in their historical context. Thus the extent that something was positive or negative needs to be seen in the social & political climate of that time. For example, the Magna Carta would hardly seem a radical charter for human rights today - but it most certainly was in 1215 (something that historians like Simon Schama seem to grasp). Therefore in the context of the 17th century the desire of the Covenanters to resist state controlled religion (whatever their other shortcomings) is surely something to celebrate rather than discredit. But one wonders, if Neil Oliver is not so much interested in the 17th century as pushing a twenty-first century secularist agenda.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Just 'words'?

Kevin DeYoung on why 'words' are rightly and properly at the heart of our worship and walk...

In a similar & overlapping vein here are the 10 reasons we cite in the GV Preaching Course for the centrality of 'Word Ministry'...

1. God primarily reveals Himself / makes Himself known through His Word (i.e. His words communicated).
Thus even where God reveals Himself in ‘act’ we nevertheless only understand those acts through ‘word’ witnesses (e.g. our knowledge of Jesus’ life is through the written word accounts of the apostolic witness).
(Hb 1:1-2; Jn 20:31; ‘The Word of the Lord came to…’, ‘God spoke to….’ etc.)

2. God acts/works through words.
e.g. Genesis 1 is prototypical here: God speaks and brings creation from nothing, light from darkness, life from deadness, order from chaos etc.
(Ezk 37:1-10; Acts 6:7, 12:24, 13:49, 19:20; Hb 1:3, 4:12; 1 Pet 3:5,7)

3. God is distinct from his Word in His being (i.e. ontologically) but not in how He is savingly known (i.e. epistemologically).
That is, a saving knowledge of God is not divisible from knowing His Word.
(Gen 15:1,4; 1 Sam 3:21; Jn 3:34, 4:41, 6:68; Acts 20:32)

4. God inspired the written Word of Scripture.
Thus what the Bible says – God says.
(2 Tim 3:16; Hb 3:7; 2 Pt 1:21)

5. God’s Word is the means through which God brings people to salvation (applied by the Holy Spirit).
(Jam 1:18; 1 Pt 1:23, Mk 4, Jn 5:24; Jn 6:68; Eph 1:13)

6. God’s Word is the means of sustaining new life and transforming His people (applied by the Holy Spirit).

(Jn 17:6,17; 1 Cor 15:2; Php 2:15-16; Col 5:16, Titus 2:1-5; Jam 1:21-23; 1 Jn 2:5; Rev 1:2-3.)

7. God’s relationship with His people is by covenant - that is, it is essentially promissory and thus established in words.
(Gen 12:1-3;Titus 1:1-3; Ps 119:74, 130:5)

8. God’s authority is exercised through His Word.
(‘Thus says the Lord’, Ex 20:1ff; Dt 18:19; Josh 23:6; Mt 7:26; Mk 8:38)

9. The Gospel is a message to be communicated – a message that must be heard (read) and understood to be effective.
(Romans 10:14,17; Col 1:5-6; 1 Th 2:13; 2 Cor 2:13)

10. Teaching the Word is the key task of God’s servants.
(Acts 6:2, 20:17-32; 2 Tim 2:15, 4:1-5; Hb 13:7)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Noughties Nostalgia

BBC 3 ran the first of two programmes reveiweing the Noughties - the decade that unbelievably is almost over! As 2009 draws to a close I found it fascinating to think of all the things that only became part of life post the Millenium Dome.... (look out for a whole new batch of sermon illustrations!)....

1. Weird Baby Names
2. The Da Vinci Code
3. Metrosexual men
4. Sat Navs
5. Civil Partnerships
6. Ipods
7. Simon Cowell
8. Celebrity business people (The Apprentice & Dragon's Den)
9. Plasma TVs
10. ASBOs
11. Charity Muggers (Chuggers)
12. Size Zero
13. Shock Docs ('Half Ton Man' etc)
14. Botox
15. Five-a-day
16. Coffee Shops
17. Internet Shopping
18. Obsession with property (Location, Location, Location)
18. Militant Atheism

...and we're not even at the top 50 yet.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The church I go to...

Dara O’Briain has a book out this Christmas entitled ‘Ticking the English’ – it’s an Irishman’s observations on the British. He notes that we British are a very self deprecating bunch – it is in our DNA always to find the downside in ourselves and to play down even significant achievements. He notes the recent news that average life expectancy in the UK has now risen to 79 years old – a remarkable attainment and something that puts us among the most privileged people on the planet. We have, he notes dryly, pushed back the Grim Reaper himself and extended the very bounds of mortality – yet this news is announced in the British Press, in terms that only the British could come up with - 'PENSION TIMEBOMB!'

Our church culture is not immune from ‘glass half empty’ perspectives – we readily, too readily at times, run ourselves down – our natural disposition is self-flagellation. Well as someone, often guilty of such an approach, let me attempt to redress the balance by stating some of the many good things about the church I go to (no it’s not perfect - not by a long-shot but this is Fallen world after-all), but it's my church and I love it because….

The church I go to has two Toddlers groups with lots of non-Church carers and kids who mix with and get to know Christians;

The church I go to has a cafĂ©, staffed by volunteers, which is regularly full of non-Church people – being served by Christians in a warm & friendly church environment;

The church I go to has a Kids Club and a Youth Club where non-Church kids get to hear about the gospel and their parents get to have contact with Christians.

The church I go to has started doing Community Litter Pick-ups and Free Car Washes in order to serve its local community;

The church I go to provides meals for families who have recently had a baby to show them care and practical support,

The church I go to has a football outreach to unchurched teenagers in a nearby housing scheme;

The church I go to runs Christianity Explored courses twice a year so that non-Christians can get to explore the Gospel in an environment suited to them;

The church I go to is often full and has a steady inflow of visitors;

The church I go to is committed to preaching the Bible itself – and allows me to hear God’s Word explained both by those in full-time Christian service and by people who work in education, law, health services, business, social services, and policing among others;

The church I go to is kept in really good condition and feels modern and comfortable;

The church I go to has a group of talented musicians who thoughtfully lead us in edifying praise and worship;

The church I go to has regular Missionary reports and helps to support Mission by regular prayer and financial giving;

The church I go to is connected by an email Prayer Chain to keep me informed about prayer requests and to remind me to pray;

The church I go to has an annual week long Kids Club which is run by loads of Christian volunteers and attracts loads of children from within and without the church;

The church I go to has an Easter Egg Hunt & short service in a local park when we have fun and share with others the wonderful news of a Risen Saviour;

The church I go to … when I think about it, is a place that I am very privileged to be a member of (I spent 12 years in church with 15 members so I know not to take the above for granted!).

Don’t worry I’m sure normal service will be resumed – but as Churchill said on VE Day – although there is still much to do, many difficulties and battles to be fought, ‘we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing’ – just once in a while (Php 4:8).