Tuesday, 31 December 2013

To a new thing in 2014

One of the most encouraging things about new years, new weeks, new days, new places, new jobs, is that word ‘new.’ Consciously or not, it offers us the hope of being able to start all over again. I wonder whether that’s why the Scriptures are full of God doing new things. For example, He makes a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert; He empowers the weak and shames the strong; He vindicates the foolish and humbles the wise. Perhaps most remarkable of all, He, the King of Heaven chooses for His precious Son to be born in the muck and filth of a stable, attended by goats and asses and impoverished shepherds. The wonderful hope of this beautiful season that we’ve been celebrating is that God has done a new thing—He has made a home among a people who have a hard time feeling at home here themselves. In the midst of the ambition and striving and disappointment and homework and housework, it all seems very unlikely that God really cares. And yet… God is now among us. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Or as Chesterton put it, “our peace is put in impossible things.” So rather than enfeeble our expectations this New Year, rather than try stage-manage what the next 12 months will bring, let’s all remind each other what we often forget: God is forever at work, bringing wild impossibility to bear on the things we struggle to keep under our own control. Here’s to something new, even impossible this season and in the New Year.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The people who challenged my atheism most were prostitutes and drug addicts

A recent article in The Guardian, acknowledges the intellectually bankruptcy of Atheism. It begins thus:
I've been reminded that life is not as rational as Richard Dawkins sees it. Perhaps atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy.
Of the many honest (and surprising) insights, my favourite is the line:
In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes. Or, in Biblical terms, we are all sinners.
Read the full thing here

Monday, 23 December 2013

Dickens on Christmas: even pagans 'love' it

Epiphany Carol Service 2013
We had our carol service last night. It was beautiful (and no that's not our church - just a lovely pic I picked up somewhere). Anyway our church was completely full and the singing boisterous and I'm sure that's not just because of the well known hymns and the beautiful candlelit setting. I think the *fact* of the incarnation cannot but move even the hardiest pagan. Dickens has it absolutely right when he says:

Christmas time changes our hearts, its seems, whether we wish it so or not. There is a power the coming of Christ has over even the most obdurate unbeliever that simply cannot be escaped. Amen and Amen.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Calvinism v Arminianism - an illustration

It is the difference between the man who manufactures life vests and the man who pulls drowning people out of the water, between the man who makes a scalpel and the man who uses it to cut out a cancerous tumour to save a patient’s life. Creating a system to do something is a fundamentally different thing from actually doing it. Thus, saying that Jesus creates a salvation system rather than saving us gives us a  fundamentally different perspective on the cross and the empty tomb.”

Greg Forster, The Joy of Calvinism, p. 54-55

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Chandler v Hitchens - Chandler cornered, not a pretty sight

Chandler from Friends (aka Matthew Perry) was in a debate yesterday with Peter Hitchens (who knows a thing or two about drugs). The debate starts of gently but by the end there is blood on the studio floor! I'll leave you to work out whose...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Understanding suffering is like reading Hebrew

Some providences, like Hebrew letters must be read backwards.

—John Flavel, Puritan (1627/8-1691)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

C. S. Lewis on reality: it's all fantasy

"The lie of realism is that somehow we've let people define good fiction as that in which there is no soul, no spirit, no supernatural." Wrong! Nate Wilson explains why below:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

How England has fallen - what Edward's abdication teaches us

On this day in December 1936, Britain's King Edward VIII abdicated his throne in order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward was the first British monarch to propose marrying a divorced woman and it's staggering, when one looks at the history annals to discover that his abdication came about not because of some law or constitutional demand but rather because neither the Prime Minister (Stanley Baldwin) nor other leaders of the world would accept the King being married to a divorcee. Can you imagine that happening today? If it did, we'd be getting ready to welcome King William and not Charles. 

The truth is given our quickness to affirm relationships simply because the individuals involved 'love each other' without defining what true love looks like, we've unwittingly championed a decedant morality devoid of Christian/life-long faithfulness, gender complementarity and home-centred commitments to child rearing. The end result is a culture where divorce/bleeding hearts are rife, where children are abused/depressed and where couples and especially women find themselves trying to do everything and failing miserably. As someone once said, arguing with Christian morality is like jumping off a cliff in order to quarrel with the law of gravity. You can marshall all the arguments you like on your way down, you will however eventually find yourself refuted in a messy way.

Well what is the solution to this mess? The Church needs to lead the reformation of our land by first, repenting of our own evil and malaise (in for example accepting and embracing things like 'marital breakdown' as an acceptable grounds for divorce) and second, by exhorting Christians to live out sacrificial and life-long marriages. This - and only this - is the hope for our nation.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A difficult Christmas quiz

Don't believe me? Try doing this without looking up the answers in the Bible. Once you've done it check your answers here

1. Joseph was originally from... (Luke 2:3)
    A. Bethlehem
    B. Nazareth
    C. Hebron
    D. Jerusalem 
    E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the Innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
    A. “There is no room in the inn.”
    B. “I have a stable you can use.”
    C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
    D. Both A and B
    E. None of the above

3. A manger is a...
    A. Stable for domestic animals
    B. Wooden hay storage bin
    C. Feeding trough
    D. Barn

4. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
    A. Cows, sheep, goats
    B. Cows, Donkeys, goats
    C. Sheep and goats only
    D. Miscellaneous barnyard animals
    E. None of the above

5. Who saw the star in the east?
    A. Shepherds
    B. Mary and Joseph
    C. Three Kings
    D. Both A and C
    E. None of the above

6. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
    A. Camel
    B. Donkey
    C. Walked
    D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
    E. Horse-drawn chariot
    F. Who knows?

7. How many angels spoke to the shepherds? (Luke 2:10)
    A. One
    B. Three
    C. Multitude
    D. None of the above

8. What did the angels say/sing? (Luke 2:14)
    A. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
    B. “Alleluia”
    C. “Unto us a child is born, Unto us a son is given”
    D. “Joy the world, the Lord is come”
    E. “Glory to the newborn King”

9. What is a heavenly host?
    A. The angel at the gate of heaven
    B. The angel who serves refreshments in heaven
    C. An angel choir
    D. An angel army
    E. None of the above

10. There was snow that first Christmas...
    A. Only in Bethlehem
    B. All over Israel
    C. Nowhere in Israel
    D. Somewhere in Israel

11. What is Frankincense?
    A. A precious metal
    B. A precious fabric
    C. A precious perfume
    D. None of the above

12. In Matthew, what does “wise men” or “Magi” refer to?
    A. Men of the educated class
    B. Eastern Kings
    C. Men who studied the stars
    D. Sages

13. What is Myrrh?
    A. Middle Eastern Money
    B. A drink
    C. An easily shaped metal
    D. A spice used for burying people
    E. None of the above

14. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
   A. 3
   B. 6
   C. 9
   D. 12
   E. We don’t know.

15. Where did the wise men find Jesus? (Matthew 2:11)
    A. In a manger
    B. In a stable
    C. In Nazareth
    D. In Saudi Arabia
    E. In a house
    F. None of the above

16. When the wise men found Jesus he was... (Matthew 2:11)
    A. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
    B. A young child
    C. A boy in the temple
    D. A grown man

17. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed... (Matthew 2:9)
    A. Stayed in the same place their entire journey
    B. Disappeared and reappeared
    C. Moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was
    D. Was just a mirage
    E. None of the above

18. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem... (Matthew 2:2)
    A. To inform Herod about Jesus
    B. To find out where Jesus was
    C. To ask about the star
    D. To buy presents
    E. None of the above

19. Where do we find the Christmas story?
    A. Matthew
    B. Mark
    C. Luke
    D. John
    E. All of the above
    F. Only A and B
    G. Only A and C
    H. Only A, B, and C

20. When Joseph found Mary was pregnant, what happened?
    A. They got married
    B. Joseph wanted to break the engagement
    C. Mary left town for three months
    D. A and B
    E. B and C

21. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-5)
    A. The angel chorus
    B. Mary’s mother
    C. Herod
    D. The shepherds
    E. Caesar Augustus

Remember to check your answers here

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Why Santa sucks

As it's the feast of St Nicholas, here's a helpful corrective re Santa followed by the collect and appointed readings for today

Almighty Father, lover of souls,
who didst choose thy servant Nicholas
to be a bishop in the Church,
that he might give freely out of the treasures of thy grace:
make us mindful of the needs of others
and, as we have received, so teach us also to give;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Epistle: 1 St. John 4:7-14
The Gospel: St. Mark 10:13-16

Friday, 6 December 2013

Friday Fury: Global Homosexual epidemic

Did you know that:
  • The HIV rate among active homosexual men is eight times that of the general population in low income countries? 
  • The HIV rate among active homosexual men is 23 times the general population rate in high income countries?
  • In no country in the world is the HIV prevalence lower in among active homosexual men than in the population as a whole?
  • The nation with the highest rate of new infections is the USA?
These are some of the key statistics highlighted by Professor Kevin Fenton at the recent British HIV Association's Autumn Conference. What is clear is that despite the increasing number of tools and resources to combat HIV infection, there is a growing epidemic in Homosexual men in every part of the world. And while I know that such statistics can be wildly abused, aren't they - after a careful reading of them - a sober warning of the wickedness of homosexuality? Here's one such warning from the Apostle Paul:
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Kyrie Eleison.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Luther on the Protestant work ethic

It is often claimed that Luther defended the value of all vocation by saying:
The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays -- not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.
I've tried tracing this quotation in Luther to no avail. It's all over the internet mind you as one of Luther's sayings but no one ever sources where in Luther it comes from. Anyway I midst my searching I did come across something good that Luther did actually say regarding vocation:
The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbour, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbour oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbour. . . . The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbour. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living. 
– Martin Luther, “Sermon in the Castle Church at Weimar” (25 October 1522, Saturday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity)

In other words, Christians have such great liberty (and should be the most productive) because whatever lawful work they embark on - beer making, child rearing, road sweeping, chimney cleaning, love making, all that (and more!) can be considered the Lord's work. Praise be to our God and His Christ, for designing His world and our work in it to carry with such immense value. As Herbert put it: the world is charged with the grandeur of God. Indeed. And our labours therefore last into eternity.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Bonhoeffer describes Advent

While imprisoned by the Nazis, Bonhoeffer observed in a letter:
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.
Completely makes sense of this stirring carol


[Choir of Clare College]

[Alternative/soft rock]

Monday, 25 November 2013

Disraeli channelling John Calvin

I recently heard that there are more licensed mediums in France than there are Roman Catholic clergy! If true, this vividly illustrates John Calvin's insight that we humans have an abiding propensity to produce idols:
Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.... Man's mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.... To these evils a new wickedness joins itself, that man tries to express in his work the sort of God he has inwardly conceived. Therefore the mind begets an idol; the hand gives it birth.... Daily experience teaches that flesh is always uneasy until it has obtained some figment like itself in which it may fondly find solace as in an image of God. (1.11.8)
This confirms what G K Chesterton said:
When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing-they believe in anything. 
This morning I came across a quote from Disraeli which makes much the same point but given that Disraeli could not have read anything Chesterton wrote, I am sure that it was Calvin he'd been reading/had read when he said:
Man is a being born to believe, and if not church comes forward with all the title deeds of truth, he will find altars and idols in his own heart and his own imagination.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ethical dilemmas: Is copying theft?

It all started so innocently. I was once visiting a parishioner and during the course of our conversation it transpired that we both like Mozart. Next thing I know he had copied one of Mozart's concertos for me to listen to. Rather than say something(!) about the illegality of copied music, I smiled and accepted the cd only to later dispose it! Now here is my question, even though it is illegal (I think?!) to copy music in the UK, is it actually theft in the way that stealing has been historically understood? 

Think of it this way when the parishioner copies a concerto for me, how is that comparable to a thug stealing my car? In that latter case I lose and are dispossessed of something I own - my car. With the copying of music however, the record company still has/'owns' the piece of music - but so do I. So are the authorities being accurate when they describe those who copy music as "pirates"/"thieves"? I'm not convinced and the video below makes the point rather humorously: 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Free Audiobook: Instructions about heart work

I recently came across this free audiobook of the English Puritan, Richard Alleine's Instructions about heart work. It's read in a strong Canadian (American?) accent which might be a hindrance to some but contains some insightful gems! Here's a sampling:
  • Judas sold this pearl [Christ, the priceless treasure] for 30 pieces of silver. Sinners, many of them, sell Christ at a lower rate than this
  • He that hath heaven in his eye, will not fear to have holiness in his life
  • A sound heart will make a strong back. He that loves much, will bear anything
  • The life of a Christian is not a toying, but a toiling life
  • Sinners' fires are all sparks. A spark will not warm and will not last
  • The life and spiritual health which we received from Christ by our union, must be preserved by our communion with him 
  • The hard heart is a sacrifice for the devil..with hard and unbroken hearts, the devil is well pleased
  • Spend more of your anger against yourselves, for your own sins, and then you will have the less to waste upon others.
Listen to the full thing here

Monday, 18 November 2013

The one key difference between kids who excel at maths and those who don't

This from Quartz

Is math ability genetic? Sure, to some degree.

Terence Tao, UCLA’s famous virtuoso mathematician, publishes dozens of papers in top journals every year, and is sought out by researchers around the world to help with the hardest parts of their theories. Essentially none of us could ever be as good at math as Terence Tao, no matter how hard we tried or how well we were taught. But here’s the thing: We don’t have to! For high school math, inborn talent is just much less important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence.

How do we know this? First of all, both of us have taught math for many years—as professors, teaching assistants, and private tutors. Again and again, we have seen the following pattern repeat itself:

  1. Different kids with different levels of preparation come into a math class. Some of these kids have parents who have drilled them on math from a young age, while others never had that kind of parental input.
  2. On the first few tests, the well-prepared kids get perfect scores, while the unprepared kids get only what they could figure out by winging it—maybe 80 or 85%, a solid B.
  3. The unprepared kids, not realizing that the top scorers were well-prepared, assume that genetic ability was what determined the performance differences. Deciding that they “just aren’t math people,” they don’t try hard in future classes, and fall further behind.
  4. The well-prepared kids, not realizing that the B students were simply unprepared, assume that they are “math people,” and work hard in the future, cementing their advantage.
Thus, people’s belief that math ability can’t change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This was certainly my experience at O level and I'm thankful to a good Christian friend for urging me to ditch the self-pitying "I'm awful at maths" mantra and instead encouraging me to keep working hard in Maths (the end result of which was I moved from a D average to a getting a B in my final exam!)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Like waking from a nightmare into ectasy

Is C S Lewis' moving description of what it means to believe in Christ. He writes:

The experience is that of catastrophic conversion. The man who has passed through it feels like one who has waked from a nightmare into ecstasy. Like an accepted lover, he feels that he has done nothing, and never could have done anything, to deserve such astonishing happiness . . . . All the initiative has been on God’s side; all has been free, unbounded grace. And all will continue to be free, unbounded grace. His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would be to achieve it in the first place. Fortunately they need not. Bliss is not for sale. Cannot be earned. ‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once. He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved. It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all the Protestant doctrines originally sprang.”

C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, p. 33.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Spurgeon, Baxter & St Paul on how to improve your preaching

From Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor:

“Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine…lest you unsay with your lives, what you say with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labours.” Or as Spurgeon puts it somewhere: it's a dreadful thing when people say, “Our minister undoes in the parlour what he has done in the pulpit; he preaches very well, but his life does not agree with his sermons.” This is very much in line with what St Paul says about how to have an effective and evangelistic ministry

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Wilson says Leithart is "dumb" and Clark is "dumber"

Peter Leithart recently caused a storm by asserting the end of Protestantism. In response, another Peter wrote to challenge Leithart's claim. This was then followed by Fred Sanders' stinging rebuke which Leithart acknowledged and responded to here. Lots of others have pitched in but I think, that the best line (for it's vivid and arresting imagery) is what Doug Wilson wrote about R Scott Clark's criticism (and mind you in this whole brouhaha, Doug is not supportive of Leithart)
Reading Clark on this subject is like taking the oil of lucidity and mixing it with the vinegar of dumb mistakes, resulting in the tangy vinaigrette that we have come to associate with the salad bar that is Escondido.
I wish I could write like that and whilst disagreeing with some of Doug's analysis I must say his writing and oratory often brings me close to disobeying the 10th commandment!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Leaving the path of wisdom / perplexed but not in despair

"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring

Gandalf's warning, can be applied to so many things happening in our day:- 

  • The tragedy of ordaining women to the priesthood
  • The folly of pretending that the marriage can exist between 2 men and vice versa!
  • The wicked promotion of abortion in the name of women's rights
  • The relentless modernist pursuit of equality in for example allowing women to go to combat
  • The abandonment of physical punishment for disobedient children etc etc

I'm sure am glad that I'm a Post-mil. It would be mighty difficult otherwise to get out of bed in the mornings! Thankfully the Scriptures assure us that before the New Creation, Christ will vanquish all His enemies, the last one to be trounced being death itself (1 Corinthians 15:21-28) - oh happy day. In the meantime may we disciple the Nations as we await that day when by His timing, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Q & A on discipling/disciplining little children

The q and a video below, though an hour long has a ton of winsome biblical advice. If you're a parent, about to become a parent or know any parents make sure you/they get to watch this. The questions they cover include:

  • Is there ever a good time to ask your child: "How do you think this makes me feel?"
  • Is there a way to use Scripture effectively without embittering your children towards it?
  • How do you become a house of "Yes" without spoiling your children?
  • Can using Scripture to teach and admonish become abused or done wrongly?
  • What steps did you take to both be on the same page when it came to disciplining your children?

For my money probably the most helpful answers were those given to the questions: How do you consistently discipline your child and at the same time show them liberty and freedom? (from 08:39 onwards); How involved should you be in your child's private devotions? (from 36:16 onwards); How do you apologise to your kids (from 48:39 onwards). Their answers, were at once challenging, edifying and liberating. As I said above if you have any ongoing interaction with children and especially if you are a parent, find the 60 minutes somewhere to watch this video. Go to be late if you have to - your discipleship of the little ones will be markedly improved after watching it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Wednesday wit: Happy to be a Postmodern until...

The cartoon below reminds me of a comment by a comedian (I think it was Marcus Brigstocke) saying that he used to be very liberal until his house got burgled and then suddenly he found himself a supporter of capital punishment!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Liberals' social gospel v an Evangelical social gospel

Liberals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century used the label “social gospel” to refer to their program. They substituted salvation from poverty and ignorance through state-mandated welfare and educational programs for salvation from sin and damnation through the cross and Spirit. One theologian characterized the social gospel of liberalism as a God without wrath, bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment though a Christ without a cross. Obviously, that is a total distortion of the biblical teaching.
But in another sense, we could benefit from restoring and redeeming the label “social gospel.” The gospel is social through and through. Traditional Christian teaching claims that outside the church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. That is to say, forgiveness from sin and incorporation into Christ’s body go hand in hand. Salvation includes a new status (justification) and a new community (the church).
Moreover, the whole Christian life can only be lived out in the context of the church community. The New Testament authors presuppose that followers of Christ will be discipled in the matrix of an ecclesial community (cf. Acts 2:42ff). Numerous apostolic commands only make sense in this light. For example, we are told to love one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, confess to one another, forgive one another, and so on.  In other words, we’re to “one another one another.” But this can only happen in the environment of a church body. It can’t be done in isolation.

Via: In Medias Res the newsletter of Trinity House

Sunday, 3 November 2013

How to have an abortion!

Read slowly, imagine vividly, act wisely...

Don’t think about the freckles he, or she,
Might have, or how much hair, how big a grin,
Or whether swimming would come naturally,
Or whether–it?–might play the violin.
Don’t think of prom, don’t think of puppy love
Or calculus, or snow, or spring in bloom,
Or anything that might remind you of
The future now contained within a womb.
Don’t feel anxiety, don’t feel regret,
Don’t fret about some otherworldly guilt.
Don’t feel the bond of parenthood, don’t let
Insane outmoded Don Quixotes tilt
At private windmills–don’t spill any ink
Examining yourself. Don’t feel. Don’t think.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Favourite Calvin find: flees Paris via a window

John Calvin in FlightHistory has a tendency of repeating itself. When the Apostle Paul escaped from the city of Damascus by being lowered over the wall in a basket, it would not be the last time that a Christian minister would be forced to dramatically flee from persecution. On this day in 1533, John Calvin made a similarly thrilling escape from the city of Paris. The reason for Calvin's flight was a sermon he had helped draft which forcibly condemned his fellow ministers for undermining the wondrous Salvation we have in Christ. Part of the sermon read as follows:
“They teach nothing of faith, nothing of the love of God, nothing of the remission of grace, nothing of justification, or if they do so, they pervert and undermine it all by their laws and sophistries. I beg of you, who are here present, not to tolerate any longer these heresies and abuses.” 
The result of this sermon was that Calvin had to flee for his life with the police hot on his heels. Part of the escape involved being lowered from a window on tied-together bedsheets and escaping from Paris dressed as a farmer with a  hoe on his shoulder. For a few years after that he wandered about as a fugitive evangelist but eventually settled in Geneva becoming perhaps the greatest theologian of the Reformation. What a tale, what an experience! Forced to live a most stalwart existence because of writing truthfully about the most moving theology

Friday, 1 November 2013

The world has never had it so good - thanks partly to Capitalism

This is from today's Daily Telegraph and is partly why like Jonathan Edwards I'm a Postmillenial. The DT writes:
Contrary to what environmentalists, anti-globalisation campaigners and other economic curmudgeons like to think, the world is not going to hell in a handbasket. 
Immense problems remain, of course, from Europe’s youth unemployment crisis to atrocious cases of extreme child poverty around the globe, and it is the duty of all of us to highlight and address them. 
But humanity as a whole is doing better than it ever has: the world is becoming more prosperous, cleaner, increasingly peaceful and healthier. We are living longer, better lives. Virtually all of our existing problems are less bad than at any previous time in history. 
In How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World, Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg documents how on almost all important metrics, the human condition is improving at a dramatic rate; his thesis is backed up by oodles of other data and research. 
Take war, the worst possible affliction that can befall a society. It is often wrongly argued that armed conflicts are the handmaiden of capitalism; in reality, they are the worst thing that can happen to a liberal economy, destroying lives, families and capital and triggering state control, militarism and deglobalisation.
Read the full thing here and consider the wonderful truth of Postmillenialism here.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

To celebrate Martin Luther - the Reformation Polka

It's 496 years today since Martin Luther pinned his 95 thesis to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg thereby adding fuel to the Reformation fire began by men like Erasmus and Jan Hus. Anyway as a momento of this momentous deed here is an animated video of the life and times of Martin Luther including an inimitable and humuorous song, sung to the tune of Mary Poppins' “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious” (PS. if I was overseeing a Sunday School, this is what we would be learning this weekend)

[Words to the song below]

When I was ein younger man I studied canon law;
though Erfurt was a challenge it was just to please my pa.
Then came the storm, the lightning struck; I called upon Saint Anne:
I shaved my head, I took my vows – an Augustinian.


Papal bulls, indulgences and transubstantiation:
speak your mind against them and face excommunication.
Nail your theses to the door, let’s start a reformation,
papal bulls, indulgences and transubstantiation.

When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St Peter’s profits soared,
so I wrote a little message for the All Saints’ bulletin board;
‘you cannot purchase merit for we’re justified by grace;
here’s ninety-five more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!
They loved my tracts, adored my wit; all were ex empleror;
the pope, however, hauled me up before the emperor.
‘Are these your books? Will you recant?” King Charles did demand;
“I will not change my diet sir, God help me, here I stand.’
Duke Frederick took the wise approach, responding to my words
by knighting George a hostage in the kingdom of the birds.
‘Use Brother Martin’s model as the languages you seek,
stay locked inside the castle with your Hebrew and your Greek.’
Now let’s raise our steins and concord books together in this place
and spread the word that ‘catholic’ is spelled with lower-case;
the word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets a chance,
so come on, Katie, drop your lute and join us in our dance.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How does Scripture oppose sodomy? Not like the GAFCON primates!

So how then does Scripture opposes sodomy? 

It does not do so in the same way that the GAFCON primates have done. Their way is more dignified, sanitized, and polite. Their tone is one of grief and sorrow, not outrage and offense. I do not think history will judge this approach kindly. I could be wrong, but I think they ought to have adopted the tone of Galatians 5:12 (“I wish they would castrate themselves”) or Philippians 3:2 (“beware of dogs, evildoers, the mutilators of the flesh”) or Revelation 2 (“You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who teaches my servants to practice sexual immorality”). If the Bible norms our speech ad verbum as well as as rem, then these are the sorts of epithets that ought to be applied to the Katharine Jefferts Schoris and Gene Robinsons of this world by bishops who claim the name of “apostolic”.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween: the Christian connection

Every so often, I send off stuff that I've written, asking those in Media to publish it. My begging sometimes works and the article below was kindly printed in the October edition of Evangelicals Now

How are Christians to respond to all the spooky outfits, scary masks, witches’ hats that dominate our streets at this time of year? Should we simply retreat, batten down the hatches, avoid all shops and hope no one calls ‘trick or treating’?

Before answering that question, allow me to share with you my top tip that I think is guaranteed to ruin any good party. Imagine the scene: you’ve arrived at a party — the venue is lovely, the music is playing, the food is fantastic, conversations are flowing, everyone you want is there and at this point (early on in the party) no one has done anything silly or embarrassing. Here is how to ruin the party. Just wait until there is a bit of a pause, then raise your voice a little and say: ‘I tell you what, this seems like a good time to speak about death!’ Mentioning the dreaded d-word is one sure way to stop getting invitations to parties!

Now here is the link with that anecdote1 and the subject of Halloween. When you see the sorts of outfits that are sold in the shops and supermarkets at this time, isn’t it as if our society says: ‘Let’s have a party, a celebration, a festival, and use it to talk about death’ — isn’t that what it’s like when you come across the scary, horrible-looking, death-imitating costumes in the shop aisles? Don’t they just scream ‘death’ and remind us of this horrible enemy in our midst?

Triumph over death
Well, here is the first surprise as we consider how Christians respond to Halloween. Christians (unlike the non-believers) have a good reason to celebrate Halloween by putting on scary costumes and joking about death because unlike the world we have a King, Jesus Christ, who has conquered, triumphed and overcome death. We have a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has experienced this horrible enemy death, but who thankfully has defeated it (Hebrews 2.14-15). As Paul provocatively asks in 1 Corinthians 15.55: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ His answer in verse 57 is: ‘Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. Those who are united to this Jesus Christ have every reason not to fear death. Christians can look death in the eye and say: ‘Horrible though you are, O death, one day... one day we will have the last laugh on you’. We Christians can mock death because even though we know that it is horrible and painful and sad, yet we can still laugh at it because we have a Saviour who has completely triumphed and defeated death. Christians need not therefore fear these scary costumes that appear at this time of year, and in fact we should be free to mock death by wearing these ghoulish outfits to mock this defeated enemy — death.

Our sorrows will turn to joy
If you’ve seen the film Crocodile Dundee, you’ll know that there’s a scene where the main character, Dundee, is walking home late one evening when he gets accosted by three kids wanting to mug him. The lead gang member pulls out a penknife and shouts, ‘Give us your wallet’, and Dundee’s girlfriend in a bit of panic, urges him to hand it over. Dundee retorts by asking, ‘Why?’ to which she replies, ‘Because they’ve got a knife’. Dundee’s comical response is to say, ‘That’s not a knife... here’s a knife’, as he draws out a machete! And it’s a little like that with the victory accomplished by our risen, reigning Lord. You can imagine him looking at all the scary outfits which people don at this time of year and saying: ‘You think that is scary? Wait until you see the fierce dragon that I had to fight. He is horrible and cruel and everyone whom he attacks loses. Everyone that is, except Me’.

Halloween then can and should be for the Christian a time to laugh. Not a fake, shallow, pretend laughter, but the kind of laughter which is filled with a certain hope that even though the present may be painful, even though the present may be full of tears and sadness, yet in Christ we are confident that our sorrows will be turned to joy.

Started by Christians!
Here is the second surprise related to Halloween. Modern-day Christians should reclaim the celebration of Halloween, given that it was our forbears who encouraged people to wear scary outfits as a parody of death.

Halloween was originally known as All Hallows Eve. It is the day before All Hallows or All Saints Day, when the church remembers those who have died in the faith and gives thanks for their faithful witness. All Hallows Eve therefore was (and is) an occasion to tease death by reminding ourselves of the wonderful hope of the final resurrection as we give thanks for those who’ve fallen asleep in Christ.
The medieval church thus encouraged Christians to wear frightening and death-imitating costumes not because they were morbid or because they didn’t have access to a medieval Gap or Calvin Klein, but rather because they were confident that death had been defeated. Christians therefore wore horrible outfits not because of a lack of fashion sense, but to satirise death and say to it, ‘You’re a loser!’ or, more positively, ‘We will win!’

This, by the way, is the reason that many old churches and some grand buildings have gargoyles. Have you ever wondered why someone would build a beautiful church with intricately designed mosaics, pretty stained glass windows, ornate looking furniture and then include unappealing and often scary-looking gargoyles? Well, the reason was simply to say to the congregation (and to the world) that, though death may still be present among us (which is what these gargoyles pictured), yet in Christ we shall overcome. In other words, gargoyles were a visual way of saying that the medieval Christians were not afraid of death.

It is reported that Woody Allen when once asked about death responded: ‘I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens’. How different for the Christian! This Halloween then, let us not fear... let us not fear the frightening costumes, let us not fear the knock on the door, let us not fear the future, and crucially let us not fear death. And why not think of a tangible way (including perhaps wearing a scary costume?) to teach and share with your family and friends that, in Christ, death is not the end!

Kiprotich Chelashaw is a curate in Audley & Alsagers Bank, Staffordshire.

1. Taken from Lee McMunn’s Identity course, (Session 4. ‘The God who comforts us’).