Sunday, 25 March 2012

We always marry the wrong person

And if by chance you married the right person, “just give it some time and he or she will change” (Hauerwas).

Good commentary on the above here

Friday, 23 March 2012

Favourable conditions never come

C. S. Lewis nails one of our biggest enemies when it comes to getting the important jobs done:

There are always plenty of rivals to our work. We are always falling in love or quarrelling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come (from Learning in War-Time, a sermon preached in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, Autumn, 1939)

Pure genius!

Proverbs 20:11a in action

Takes a while to get going but the pay off is super sweet...

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Marriage = an institution not an ideal

Currently reading Christopher Ash's magisterial book on marriage where he notes that:
Marriage is not an ideal, but an institution within which couples are called to live
In other words, being married is not about striving towards some high ideal but about entering a status from which the longed for warmth, growth and maturity may be achieved. Or to quote Christopher again,
Marriage must first have a stasis before it can have a proper dynamis.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

"Gay Marriage": Christians are partly to blame

In recent weeks, there has been widespread condemnation of the UK Government's proposed change to the legal definition of marriage, so as to open the door to the so called gay/homosexual marriage. Most vocal in this debate has been the Roman Catholic Church which took the notable step of publishing a letter defending the traditional view of marriage which was read in every Roman church last weekend.

Amid all this clamouring, it is worth reflecting on the kind of institution homosexuals - who have never really grasped what marriage is - are now seeking. When Peter Tatchell advocates gay marriage by saying that “All couples who love each other should be treated equally and without discrimination” what precisely is it, he is asking for? The phrase couples who love each other, is fundamental in understanding what is being sought. By championing equality without defining precisely what actually constitutes a couple, Tatchell indicates that the configuration of a couple does not matter so long as they are in love. Thus on this schema a couple is no longer defined by religious doctrine, gender complementarity and home-centred commitments to child rearing but largely by one’s current emotions and the apparent delight garnered by being in a relationship.

If this analysis is correct then arguably we Christians have played a big part in advancing the contemporary decadent morality by our insipid defence of marriage and in our embracing of the culture's views e.g. that cohabitation and divorce are ok. Given the degradation and distortion of marriage which we Christians have tacitly endorsed, isn't it the case that many homosexuals (and the culture at large) have rightly concluded that it is not they who have changed but rather marriage itself?

Think of the symbolic white dress that is worn by many a bride. How many heterosexual couples have made a bad joke of this traditional image of purity? How many couples have considered the wedding dress as a merely beautiful garment long before homosexuals tried to make optional a wedding dress of any sort? Many Christians in line with the surrounding culture have embraced a highly individualistic and egalitarian view of marriage with the resultant flailing commitment to childbearing, to traditional gender duties, and even (permanently) to spouse. That homosexuals now therefore want this strange new thing which marriage has become should surprise no one. We Christians have played a major role in fanning the flame of wickedness which now engulfs our depraved society.

What is the solution to this mess? The Church needs to pick up her mantle again as the herald (and incarnation) of Truth and Grace. The reformation our society badly needs has to start in our own House by first, repenting of our own evil and malaise and second, by exhorting Christians to live out of sacrificial and life-long marriages. This - and only this - is the hope for our nation.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ye pagans be warned

You have a Holy God above you
a precious soul within you,
an awful eternity before
                                   (Matthew Henry)

For a brighter future, see this

Should Sunday Schools/Youthworkers be scrapped?

I'm definitely with the first speaker (and not simply because he's black!)

Debate: Should Sunday Schools and youth workers scrapped? from Evangelical Alliance on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Is "Mother Church" too Catholic?

It's a well-known quote:
He cannot have God as Father who does not have the church as mother. 
For many evangelicals, this sounds way too Catholic but should we be so reticent? Consider first, the Scriptures do indeed describe the Church as our Mother (Galatians 4:26). Second, the picture in Scripture is that those whom God has appointed to eternal life, do so through His Church (e.g. Acts 2:47 & 1 Corinthians 14:25). Of course there are exceptions (such as the thief on the cross and perhaps the Ethiopian eunuch) but, isn't it the case that exceptions prove the rule? The Westminster Confession of Faith seems to confirm this when it declares that outside the Church "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” This makes sense when we recognise that in Scripture, Salvation  is much more than conversion; it also includes sanctification and glorification. We shouldn't therefore be so presumptive as to think that we may approach eternal life apart from the means of grace that our Covenant Lord has ordained for us. It is within the church that we are born into this kingdom (via baptism), that we hear the glorious words of our Risen King proclaimed, that we are strengthened and nourished in our faith by his sacraments, and that his law is administered through church discipline by the officers given to the church by her Lord. This is where we are born, where we grow, and where we are protected and disciplined. Like a nurturing mother, the church cares for us throughout our lives and deserves to be greatly honoured for her inestimable work. Or as John Calvin puts it somewhere:
let us learn, from her single title Mother, how useful, nay how necessary, the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceives us in the womb and gives us birth, unless she nourishes us at her breasts 
In other words, we Christians need to stand up in respect, when Mother enters the room.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Advice on meeting Royalty

From a letter written in 1785:
In the first place, you must not cough. If you find a cough tickling in your throat, you must arrest it from making any sound; if you find yourself choking with the forbearance, you must choke — but not cough. 
In the second place, you must not sneeze. If you have a vehement cold, you must take no notice of it; if your nose-membranes feel a great irritation, you must hold your breath; if a sneeze still insists upon making its way, you must oppose it, by keeping your teeth grinding together; if the violence of the repulse breaks some blood-vessel, you must break the blood-vessel — but not sneeze. 
In the third place, you must not, upon any account, stir either hand or foot. If, by chance, a black pin runs into your head, you must not take it out. If the pain is very great, you must be sure to bear it without wincing; if it brings the tears into your eyes, you must not wipe them off; if they give you a tingling by running down your cheeks, you must look as if nothing was the matter. If the blood should gush from your head by means of the black pin, you must let it gush; if you are uneasy to think of making such a blurred appearance, you must be uneasy, but you must say nothing about it. If, however, the agony is very great, you may, privately, bite the inside of your cheek, or of your lips, for a little relief; taking care, meanwhile, to do it so cautiously as to make no apparent dent outwardly. And, with that precaution, if you even gnaw a piece out, it will not be minded, only be sure either to swallow it, or commit it to a corner of the inside of your mouth till they are gone — for you must not spit.
Later we are told:
You would never believe — you, who, distant from courts and courtiers, know nothing of their ways — the many things to be studied, for appearing with a proper propriety before crowned heads. Heads without crowns are quite other sort of rotundas.
Now I wonder, how would we need to modify the above when preparing the heathen/new believers to meet HM King Jesus - the ruler of the kings of the earth?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Featherstone and Cameron take note

Anger is ok. sometimes. Even the intense, raging, furious variety which could make a well-built rugby player cower and shrivel is sometimes perfectly allowable. Of course the Bible tells us to be slow to get angry and Jesus also warns against being angry with our fellow Christians BUT noticeably, nowhere does Scripture condemn anger altogether. The clearest place where anger approved is in the exhortation to "be angry, and do not sin". Here, the Apostle permits Christians to be angry, so long as they do not then sin in the heat of the moment. This is very much like the oft-distorted warning about money/wealth where Scripture warns against the love of money not just about money per se. Anger therefore (like wealth) is not a thing to be always eschewed (which may come as a relief to some!). In fact there are moments when being angry, is to be positively commended like when we see a gross injustice or a person/peoples indulging in perverse wickedness as is the case with our  Coalition Government's wicked attempt to destroy marriage and the family. As Psalm 2 puts it

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; 
   be warned, you rulers of the earth. 
11 Serve the LORD with fear 
   and celebrate his rule with trembling. 
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry 
   and your way will lead to your destruction, 
for his wrath can flare up in a moment. 
   Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Lynne Featherstone and David Cameron take note.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

London protestors are parasitic scroungers

The widespread perception of bankers, is that they are the most hideous leeches - pompous twits who indulge their every fantasy while we plebs suffer it out with our meagre rations. However, following an article The Daily Telegraph, highlighting how the 'poor' in our society really are parasitic scroungers, I've been reminded of a story that was doing the rounds a few years ago...

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.
So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in a pub every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner offered them an enticing deal. "Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20. Drinks for the ten now cost just £80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33%savings).
The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
'I only got a pound out of the £20', declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got £10!'
'Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a pound, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'
'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get £10 back when I got only two? The rich folk get all the breaks!'
'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and university professors, protestors and CofE clergy is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Lent should be a time for feasting...

Is one of the helpful biblical insights in the discussion below.

Monday, 5 March 2012

How "Reformed" is the "Reformed resurgence"?

Is one of the questions Carl Trueman was asked in a recent interview. His answer:
That, of course, depends on how one defines ‘Reformed.’ If you understand it in terms of the Reformed confessions and church orders which stem from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, then it is not very Reformed at all. It is largely baptistic and exhibits a separation between theology and church life/organisation which is alien to the confessional traditions of Christianity. 
If you understand it as ‘anti-Pelagian’ or committed to four or more of the five points of Calvinism, then it is fairly Reformed; but that is a rather minimalist definition of the term. 
Part of the problem is that terms such as `Reformed’ and ‘confessional’ have come to be used by many as having nothing more than doctrinal significance. For me, they also carry with them clear implications for church life and ministry. One cannot separate Reformed theology from Reformed practice, even if there is some legitimate debate about the finer details of the latter. 
Simply put: belief in predestination does not make you Reformed in the sense that the word carries in my world. Nevertheless, we should rejoice that good doctrine is being grasped by so many young people. That is a good thing, even if not as perfect as we might hope. 
The line that stuck out for me was the view that the "resurgence"
is not very Reformed at all. It is largely baptistic and exhibits a separation between theology and church life/organisation which is alien to the confessional traditions of Christianity 
+ the comment that

belief in predestination does not make you Reformed
In simple words there is much much more to being Reformed, than merely plucking one string of the TULIP bow!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The difference between Law and Gospel

The difference between the law and the gospel does not at all consist in this: that the one requires perfect doing, the other only sincere doing – but in this: that the one requires doing, the other, not doing but believing for life and salvation. Their terms are different not only in degree, but in their whole nature (Emphasis added).

OUTSTANDING insight by Walter Marshall in The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

The EU is NOT a free market

More insights on the folly that is the EU, by forthright MEP, Daniel Hannan