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.