Archive for the ‘Stuff that Happened’ Category

AND FINALLY…

My wife – the unnamed hero of much of this blog’s output (Jesus being the named hero) – is getting baptised on Sunday. Having been raised a Baptist myself I have bugged her about this for years. She always said she wouldn’t do it until she could genuinely proclaim repentance, active faith and a changed life. She also thought the prospect of standing in front of a crowd and inviting people would be too terrifying. Well on Sunday she’s doing it, entirely of her own initiative. She’s scared but she very much wants to proclaim the goodness of Christ in front of friends and family, Christian and non-Christian. I hope you’ll be there Sunday to see it…God is brilliant and I’m chuffed to pieces. That’s a good way to end the blog.

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THE END OF THIS BLOG!

What a melodramatic title. It is true though. I’m quitting for now. ‘What a fickle, impulsive chap you are’ I hear you think aloud – ‘just last week you were obsessed with drumming up business for the thing’. Yes, I know… and that’s part of why I’m stopping. Here are my reasons:

  1. It was detracting from my work. You may have seen the times of these posts. They are generally during school hours. There is absolutely no doubt I have committed myself significantly less to the job I’m paid to do in favour of writing and checking this blog. That’s not good, honest nor godly.
  2. There is too much desire for self-affirmation. I know I’ve blogged on this before. However, I’m too competitive and I can’t help the drive for recognition, ‘hits’ and feedback. It means I’m often posting with the wrong motive and I can’t abide it. There are plenty of people serving a heck of a lot more sacrificially and effectively within CCB, but without e-mails to advertise the fact.
  3. As a general rule, this is not ‘doing’. I don’t know exactly what ‘doing’ looks like – but blogging is generally just ‘talking about doing’ instead of ‘doing’ it. There are some posts on here I am proud of and which God has used to help others as well as me. However, in the majority of cases, time spent blogging would be better spent doing something else. I’m finding this ever harder to justify.
  4. Whilst I have come some way in terms of a ‘theological education’ via sermons, books and my own study, I want to formalise my learning a little. Therefore, I plan next term to start taking the theology courses from Moore Seminary via correspondence, in order to give my endeavours greater discipline, soundness and a certificate! I do love to study…

 So, was it all a waste of time? No, I don’t think so. For the following reasons…

  1. It gave me a reason to think things through with a degree of accountability. Thanks to this project I now far better know my Bible-based mind on Calvinism, gender issues, movie-watching, evangelism and a great deal more besides. This is very helpful for apologetics and mentoring younger Christians.
  2. I know, more via e-mails that comments, that some people have occasionally been helped and challenged by a couple of things that came up. Being honest however, this was more true early on  – when the posts were more occasional but more borne of deep conviction and a troubled soul.
  3. This whole blog relocation was part of a drive from the start of 2009 to get my focus on God. Along with setting myself some rules, reading more and listening to a heap of sermons I have managed to wean myself off some bad habits that I’m sure still lurk, ready to reclaim me lest I ever grow complacent!

Right, so, the end of the game for now. The best posts of the 71 were probably these about sex, a stag weekend, blogging v atheists, Jade, my wife’s op, The Shack and how it’s all irrelevant compared to the cross. I do love writing and I pray God will use that willingness in some way I haven’t yet been shown. I do also love discussion, but it may be more honest done in person and via e-mail, so do feel free. Thank you for reading and God bless.

 PS There is also one quick post to go which is very important…

REFLECTIONS ON GUEST ‘WEEK’

1. ON THE BIG ARGUMENT… Gender issues do get people in a pickle. More so than I realised. In hindsight… well I’m not someone whose views are utterly rigid – I’ve been wrong a million times before and I’ll change my mind on plenty of things yet. However, I will continue to look to the Bible for my authority, treating it as God’s relevant and sufficient word. That doesn’t mean I see it as a History textbook or Ikea instruction manual (thankfully, as then it really would be impenetrable), nor that I think context and literary styling should be disregarded in its reading. However I don’t believe we can skip bits, can evolve away from God’s word over time, nor that we can reach a point where we’re confident in disregarding it’s clearly, repeatedly stated principles and instructions. Everything’s there because it’s meant to be – ‘all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ as the old Ishmael song says (OK he may have read 2 Timothy 3…). Above all, I fear the consequences of increasing flexibility on this issue. Major revival, whether courtesy of Luther, the Clapham Sect or Billy Graham, finds inspiration by returning to biblical truth – that which we tend to drift from over time. Gender issues are unlikely to be the thing that scuppers us, but wishy-washy Bible reading has led many away from penal substitution, from the uniqueness of Christ, from preaching Hell and judgement… without these the basic gospel message is lost. As in so many things, seriousness over the ‘little’ issues should keep the ‘big’ ones in line.

2. ON THE LOVE OF ARGUMENT… It is very easy, when discussion breaks out, for an ‘us v them’ mentality to break out, making the tone not entirely dissimilar to that employed in numerous ‘atheist vs theist’ debates online. It was thus good to finish with Simon’s post on unity. I do think the differences matter, but not as much as our shared brotherhood (or sisterhood!) in Christ. We need to get better, in our Christian chat as in our evangelism, at relating things to Christ and the gospel – that which we share if we are truly Christians. This is something I’ve been increasingly convicted of recently. Those of us nominally bracketed as ‘conservative evangelicals’ can talk and think as if we are uniquely blessed with all answers and the ‘best’ approach to everything. This runs the danger of making us Pharisees, looking down on those who can’t so well articulate doctrine or who fall the wrong side of our view on woman preachers, the Alpha course or the Pentecost; whilst overlooking the fact their lives more loudly speak of Jesus – the saviour they love and live for. Let us never be more excited by John Stott’s latest exegesis than we are by Jesus’ death on the cross…

3. ON THE RESPONSE TO THIS PROJECT… The format of this experiment has very much favoured the Monday posts. I must apologise to Brian and Simon whose contributions went up at the end of the week. Monday posts are launched with an e-mail reaching over 100 people. Many of them click the embedded link and quite a buzz is generated. However, without subscribing to the blog via a blog reading tool such as Google Reader (and only 7 people have done that!), few people are compulsively checking back (that is the preserve of he/she with a personal investment in what’s written there) in subsequent days. Thus, by Friday of each week, the hits have been a quarter of what they were four days previous, as reflected by the number of comments. Not sure what the answer is here – there is a limit to how many emails people want to receive rabbiting on about my ultimately inconsequential blog! Can I nevertheless assure those who posted that many more people have read your work than may seem the case (most readers will never post comments). There have been 1,000 hits on the blog (exactly 1,000, as I write this. Weird…) in June thus far – the vast majority of them attributable to this project. There was a wide general awareness of what had been written when our congregation got together at Revive in Portsmouth over the weekend. I hope you feel it was worth your while because I learned from each post and I’m not alone in having done so.

4. WHAT’S NEXT? I will revert to posting my own thoughts on living in the world as a man for God (ie the normal blog). However, things will go quiet in a week or two as my second job as an A Level exam marker kicks in, meaning I work almost every hour of the day and night. If I do post during that time then rebuke me; the few minutes I can spare should be spent catching up with my wife. If I’m writing on here I’m just procrastinating and putting off my responsibilities in an ungodly fashion! Following that, in another attempt to keep things interesting, I will approach a few interesting people in positions of responsibility for a planned series of interviews (digging out my student journalist past!) to post here – looking at the challenges they face, what drives them and the advice they can offer us along the way. Thanks for your support!

QUICK REMINDER TO VOTE!

Next Guest post tomorrow – thanks all for getting into the spirit of things – over 100 hits a day Tues and Wed (although 70 of them probably Phil!). In the meantime just a little reminder to VOTE!!! We have all heard the quote that all it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing. Whilst we may be able to pick theological holes in the concept , it is very apt for today… every apathetic soul too lazy to make it to the polling station – perhaps in the name of protest – is reducing the voting pool and thus increasing the BNP’s share of the active electorate… (and you can be sure their supporters WILL be pitching up!).

So vote. There is even a pretty sound Christian party option although I more than trust anyone on here to think for themselves when it comes to who to vote for. Just do vote!! And keep reading the blog as another friend gives up their time to contribute wisely tomorrow (and at least 3 more after that!).

ARGUING ABOUT IDA

Well I messed up yesterday… Minding my own business in the staff room I was accosted by my atheist Deputy Head delightedly shoving at me a print-out of Ida – the 47 million-year old lemur fossil unveiled following discovery in Germany. The look on his face suggested I should be cowed and distraught at this final blow to my superstition. He offered to help me through the ’emotional withdrawal’ I would now clearly be facing having, I presume, just seen God effectively disproved.

Now, quite why this would be the case I’m not sure. I love those big scientific discoveries that get us all excited – they make me thank God for the endless complexity and wonder of our world. I don’t purport to be an expert, but I’m certainly not a ‘young Earth’ literalist, determined to resist evolution at all costs. After all, the foremost expert I know on evolution (and a passionate defender of that theory) is a fellow CCB member – a godly woman working at the Natural History Museum. Basically, I’m open to your views, whilst remaining happily and biblically convinced that God made it, God intended it, God controls it and God sustains it.

Anyway, how did I mess up?? Well my response was hardly Grade-A apologetics. Somewhat taken aback, I stammered that I had no real problem with evolution and neither did ‘any’ other Christians I knew (surely most untrue). At which point a further colleague started assailing me about how this evolution must have been pretty quick then, to have taken place over only a few thousand years! I denied that too – at which point he smugly asked then whether I believed humans to be evolved from apes, something I’ve opposed him on before. At which point an elder Christian colleague who I greatly respect rushed over to inform me rather forcefully that ‘Well I do know a Christian who opposes evolution now’ because he was indeed one – and he found the theory to be thoroughly full of holes… at which point I stammered something entirely unintelligible. I now had someone in either ear, both finding me woolly and unconvincing, but from entirely different sides of the divide. And then the bell went and the episode finished, me having effectively denied I believed anything at all…

Now if you know me at all by now, you’ll know I can’t leave things like that. Therefore, I am going to e-mail the following to those present! It’s not the gospel, so it goes against my own advice. But at least it shows I have a mind. I actually find the gospel to be ideally launched from the inevitable follow-up point where they ask why, even if there is a God, out of all the religions in the world I’m arrogant enough to think that mine is right!

THE E-MAIL: Chaps – regarding the brief episode in the staff room yesterday where you questioned me on Ida the fossil… other than looking a bit bemused I didn’t really say much of sense in response. I’m no expert on evolution, but I do have thoughts rather more formed than I managed to articulate yesterday, so I thought I’d just jot them down. This is done off the top of my head in good old Room 25 (instead of eating lunch!) so pardon my lack of academic rigour. However, I want you to know where I’m coming from…

  1. I’m not threatened by the idea of evolution. Yes I am a Christian and I do believe, as Colossians 1 says, that ‘all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’. However I have no problem understanding the start of Genesis as poetry rather than as science textbook and, if evolution is God’s chosen method, that’s cool with me!
  2. That said, it’s clear we’re all still finding our way in terms of fleshing out the theory of evolution as all-encompassing. Micro-evolution is well established and shown. Macro-evolution in terms of the emergence of new species from others  is still rather a case of ‘the science of the gaps’, true as it may ultimately be. In terms of Ida being the ‘missing link’, it will take more than a set of fingernails on a monkey to convince me beyond doubt that we are nothing more than apes with a voicebox. Neither am I sure that every adaptation of every species IS advantageous, nor that every biological feature CAN be credibly arrived at by minute steps. Neither am I sure that evolution explains the arrival of DNA as a complete, complex and fully understood code as present as now in all from the first single-celled beings.
  3. However, even if every aspect of evolution suggested were proved to be undoubtably true, I would still see no reason to ditch God from the equation.  Things have to have a starting point, unless they are either infinite or created from nothing – this would seem to necessitate, at the very least, a creative force working outside of our laws of physics. To have the world we do if shorn of God or anything else beyond our physical realm is clearly infinitely unlikely. For the Big Bang to have produced a stable, life-supporting universe necessitates a ‘fine tuning’ of forces and reaction speeds taking us into realms of probability exclusively featuring figures of at least one in million millions. No-one can reasonably suggest it happened straight off of its own accord. Atheists must start looking at multiple universes or multiple dimensions – neither concept seeming any more likely or provable than that of a creator beyond our immediate understanding. Given infinite steps all things become conceptually plausible, but only in the same way as the famous Shakespeare-producing army of monkeys with typewriters. I like the analogy of a poker-player whom, having played 40 consecutive straight flushes, pleads for his life by claiming that ‘in an infinite universe, this was bound to happen eventually’. To summarise, the ordered, stable, observable world we live in is a more likely outcome if there is a God, than if there isn’t.
  4. To finish, I do also have problems with Darwinism as a fully-realised worldview capable of replacing God in that it provides no basis for morality, nor furnishes us with any purpose greater than survival. Christianity (to focus upon my own faith) is not continuing to spread and thrive even under persecution (I think of the millions risking their lives by attending house churches in China) not because they need an explanation for creation. They do so because it’s a way of living and relating to others that works and gives purpose (as well as the fact they happen to be convinced of its truth – certainly the case for me despite the inconvenience and occasional ridicule it entails!). It is dangerous indeed to assume we can tell people they come from nothing, go nowhere and have no purpose, then believe they will remain accountable and responsible on the basis of some inherent ‘human goodness’ borne out in neither history nor current affairs. We do each have an awareness of accountability for our actions (conscience), in addition to a sense of wonder at creation – and its by these criteria the Bible says we know the reality of God. We each know there is an absolute morality that remains right and true even if both the government and population of the day deny it. And yet we each know we fail to meet our own desired standards despite our best efforts. I don’t think this can be explained by Darwinism alone, even allowing for the ever more stretched ‘meme’ hypothesis.
  5. Right, enough I think. I find it hard to stop once I start typing… at least you know I do think about this stuff – it’s a common misconception that those of faith are scared to do so. Feel free to respond or silently deem me mental! For what it’s worth, I’m glad Ida was found – knowledge is a good thing! (hence the whole teacher gig…)

THOUGHTS FROM THE HOSPITAL

1. The Mundanity of everyday life

Most days we talk about unimportant things as if they were the be all and end all. There’s nothing essentially wrong with that I guess – if not done all the time and if not without self-awareness… but hospital does at least lend a sense of perspective. Hang around the Neuro Intensive Care unit for long enough and you will become accustomed to conversations of great significance – staged in the most ordinary tones. Instead of hearing people leave or enter a room complaining that they wore the wrong shoes… or that Franz Ferdinand’s latest work just doesn’t match their early promise, you’ll hear them commenting that “she can’t use her arm or leg” or that “he remembers nothing from the past four days”. Everything that goes on in that room is really very life-changingly important to those in and around the beds.

I’m not sure I have a readymade point here linking this to the Christian life. Other than to say that we shouldn’t get too accustomed to trivialities. Particularly as most of those forced to face their own mortality do so without any assurance of salvation – something we must attempt to address in those we love before they take their turn. 

2. Death is real and not all that distant

Sorry to be morbid. But why should I apologise? It’s because death is seen as rude and inappropriate for polite conversation. It’s not the done thing to remind people. However, it’s one of the few certainties that await us. We all know this in an abstract way, but enough time at the business end of a hospital will bring the point home. I was listening yesterday to a couple of nurses. One enquired as to why an expected patient hadn’t arrived to claim her bed. The other replied that it was an ‘unsuccessful cardio’ and that she should therefore be crossed off the list. This was the end of someone’s life! The nurses weren’t being crass or unfeeling. It’s just that they see it all the time… Be ready! We are not immune! Have your death insurance in place… Jesus has picked up the bill! 

3. We really are made in God’s image. Or at least doctors are…

It’s not always easy to see man as God’s own image. However, in doctors we seem to get closest. He (or she, but he in our case this week) spares life and declares death. Every patient and every underling awaits the moment of his visit, his appraisal and his judgement. From him we crave attention; from him we expect an absolute assessment – based on a brief scan of surely incomprehensible notes… We scrutinise his body language when examining those we love; we hang on his every word; and we experience bitter disappointment when he moves on to the next hopeful patient – nothing having changed for us from before.

Only God knows. Only God can give or take life. He has imparted much skill and responsibility upon these medical magicians, but perhaps it’s because I know so many of them that I try to remind myself they too are deeply fallible! They, like the rest of us, are making up half of their job as they go along – hoping the rest of us won’t notice. I won’t buy into this idolatry, but it’s tempting! (Thank you God for doctors…) 

4. The Stuff of Beauty

It’s faintly obscene that the glamour mags – whether those aimed at women or the fuller-bosomed lads’ versions – are sold on site in a hospital. Digitally altered images of perfect skin and smiles? In this place? It’s so incongruous. After all, it is mightily refreshing that this is where society’s beauty flies out the window and yet a far greater beauty takes its place. Patients shuffle like the living dead – they are bandaged, swollen, unkempt and bemused. Doctors and nurses play along by shrouding themselves in shapeless sheets, their make-up selflessly sacrificed. Relatives yawn and sag – cheeks puffed and reddened by unashamed weeping. Respecting the tone, all on-site shops seem obliged to hire only the least employable or presentable staff London has to offer. Cosmopolitan it ain’t, but it’s more and better. This is where people love one another – full-time, and at cost to themselves. You’ll never see more heartfelt embraces nor greater appreciation between families and friends. You’ll never again see people give up day after boring day just to have someone know they are far from alone. So many bedsides tell a story of relationships touched by common grace. (And some bedsides are never visited at all – another challenge to consider…)

There should surely be more of the hospital and less of the Cosmo in our everyday dealings – interactions characterised not by the superficial and worldly, but more by the messy, tiring love of Christ – inconvenient beyond all reasonableness but beautiful beyond all doubt.

PS How did the op go? The op went well – the after-effects tough, ongoing but, God willing, temporary I’m sure…

THE TURNING TIDE…

Another news item for you – David Booker was recently sacked from his job as a charity worker. His crime? He engaged in apparently friendly discussion with a colleague regarding his religious beliefs – including a biblically honest answer regarding his views on same-sex marriage and homosexual clergy.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5140133/Charity-worker-suspended-over-religious-debate-with-work-colleague.html

I mean, really?! Well, first off, I’d better point out that any of the millions of Christians who have remained true to the gospel under threat of torture and death would have cause to scoff if I too liberally used the word ‘persecution’ to describe our current state of affairs. After all, Christianity is still (I think) the state religion, and bishops sit in the Houses of Parliament, for all the good it does… But, the first signs are there – they really are. This one will probably be reversed – I mean, surely?? A man talks to a friend at work, honestly and calmly answering questions regarding his faith-informed views. If that’s a crime at work, then why not on the street? In the pub? In the church, even?? But this is not a one-off and, as atheists in the past week have announced the intention to begin targeting school assemblies and hospital chaplains, we must again understand that a battle is being announced. The other side is really very keen indeed – are we?

Without any great insider insight, I can see a logical progression to this, leading us to a point where we could be genuinely despised by many. The issue will continue to be homosexuality. Once the current anti-homophobia law is passed, without any ‘free speech’ clause, it is only a matter of time before a preacher is prosecuted for preaching that practising homosexuality is a sin. It is hard to see how the new law can fail to urge conviction under such a circumstance. Once it is deemed unacceptable for such views to be voiced, then there is no reason to see why society should permit them being written down and sold to children. Thus, opponents will look to censor the Bible of Leviticus 20:13, for example. Once this happens, and once Bible-believing Christians fight bitterly for the defence of unaltered Scriptural integrity, then, make no mistake; we will not be what we always envisaged when asked to consider future persecution – that is heroic martyrs, admired as we’re bullied for our truth by a cruel despotic regime. No, we’ll be the ‘hate-mongers’ who are fighting for inclusion of a verse about gay-lynching. That’ll put us right up there with the BNP in terms of our reputation.

It’s horrible isn’t it? But I can see little real reason why it’s unrealistic. To endorse biblical Christianity is increasingly seen as negative, fundamentalist, pushy, arrogant and, most damningly to our world, as homophobic. Occasionally, particularly for us under the Co-Mission leadership of Richard Coekin, we are asked why we get obsessed by the ‘gay issue’. We’re not – really we’re not. Well, I’m certainly not. Same-sex sexual sin is no more or less serious than any of the other million sins we have found to separate us from God. Jesus has dealt with it by his substitutionary death on the cross, thus meaning the law of Leviticus has been fulfilled and no longer practically applies. My gay unbelieving mate is no different to me than my straight unbelieving mate – both need Jesus in order to gain any measure of righteousness in God’s esteem and are doomed without him! But Leviticus is in the Bible and should thus very much remain there – we may sometimes struggle with it, but begin picking and choosing which bits of God’s Word to keep, based on whether they suit our current world-oriented culture, and we will be neutered and irrelevant in moments – tossed to and fro on the prevailing winds.

I will finish with the advice of 2 Timothy 3 – great guidance in anticipation of any tough times that may await us.

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

LONDON MEN’S CONVENTION

Saturday was my first London Men’s Convention. I almost feel it’s too late to post about it now. The blogosphere is festooned with reviews and highlight summaries; particularly regarding the contributions of Tim Keller. However, as suggested by the title, I’m posting about it anyway. I’m going to start with the statement that it was brilliant. I’m then going to suggest some reasons why.

 

1. It was brilliant because it meant quality time with blokes from church

Yes we see each other every week. But the time available around the biscuits immediately preceding or following a meeting is limited. What’s more, it is largely occupied with us asking out about each others’ week, sees people variously joining and leaving the discussion – dependent upon their biscuit needs, and is also populated by those of the fairer sex.

The time spent travelling to the Docklands, taking breaks, eating lunch and getting back home on the other hand was hours long in total, saw us captive in our proximity to one another, and allowed a more bloke-friendly realm of banter. This therefore enabled hours of uninterrupted chat – spent dispensing borderline abuse or considering football, workplace pressures, health concerns, preferred worship styles, ideas for talking to others about Jesus, film recommendations and much else that helps grow relationships. It’s sometimes nice to hang with the boys…

 

2. It was brilliant because the talks were brilliant

 

A confession: I fell asleep during the second Keller talk. It was still brilliant, or so I’ve heard, but I’m really lacking kip at present, and I blame the carb crash that inevitably results in following Pete Matthew to Square Pie for lunch… Anyway, regarding the talks I do remember – I was often struck by the little things I’d never previously noticed – skilfully pointed out in otherwise familiar passages regarding the person of Jesus.

Wes McNabb pointed out Jesus’ authority in ‘dismissing’ the large crowd prior to his walking on water – that and the fact he knew exactly where their boat was! It was pitch black!!

Tim Keller blew my mind by pointing out the significance of every little thing recorded in John whilst Jesus hung on the cross. A few folk more learned than I were open-mouthed at his linking the water from his side to that which gushed from the rock struck by Moses’ staff in the wilderness… particularly when it was pointed out that the rock too played a substitutionary role in taking the blow from the staff (usually a measure of punishment) prior to pouring forth the water of life.

His second talk (that which I was conscious for) was helpful in pointing out the lunacy of no-one expecting Jesus’ resurrection – following all his talk about the ‘third day’ – and then making clear that it’s because they were no more naturally inclined to expect the dead to rise than would we be! This was linked to prevailing ‘chronological snobbery’ in people assuming they would have gone along lightly with such a notion.

Mike Cain strengthened my belief, borne of Revive 2007, that he has rare gift of analogy. Whatever modern day scenario he picks to depict biblical concepts, he tends to stick with it throughout – anchoring the talk in the familiar whilst doing thorough justice to the passage. In this sermon examining Jesus’ return, it was the idea of him awaiting his wife’s return from a trip away; we progressively heard of the wisdom in him following those instructions she left behind and of the need for him to show his love by doing the washing-up before she return, and not waste his time watching football!

I would also like to ‘big up’ Richard Coekin, who looks admirably comfortable in front of a crowd of thousands and seems utterly authoritative in his role as chairman.

 

3. It was brilliant because the worship was brilliant

 

This is a qualified statement. It could have been more brilliant if we hadn’t assembled the most reserved 4,000 men in all London. That number of voices could truly have raised the roof… As it was, most arms were held vigorously at sides, but the basso tones nevertheless swelled my heart as they grew in confidence throughout various well-penned anthems, each pointing surely at the figure of Jesus Christ. Stuart Townend and his band are skilful indeed, but it is overwhelmingly the words, particularly of those penned by Townend himself (In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love etc), that leave me euphoric… He truly has a great line in triumphant last verses!

 

4. It was brilliant to see people from other churches

 

By virtue of a couple of years doing summer camp, I know a few faces about the place. There is also the constant anticipation of bumping into one of my blog heroes (someone please introduce me to Jam Carey – I never managed to spot him!) and the surprise of stumbling upon of couple of Year 11 students from my school! It is great to be reminded that this community of ours is larger than a corner of Balham. With so many faces, both familiar and otherwise, surely we can impact upon this capital of ours?!

 

So, there you go. It was also brilliant to buy a newspaper, but to be so busy chatting and listening that I never read a single page! That said, I want to add a proviso here – I know from posting a similar review of the Lads’ Weekend Away that not everyone does so enjoy this ‘sort of thing’. The large crowds can alienate those who feel less comfortable among their brethren, whilst the constant singing and hours of Bible-bashing may not be to everyone’s taste. However, there can be little real harm in hearing skilful Bible exposition, in getting to know other Christians a little better, nor in letting the many secular support staff about the place see the passion that exists for Christ. I would hope few ultimately regretted spending the time or money… For my part, I deem it to have been worth very penny. I very much hope I can return next year (along with a non-Christian mate or two – it’s the mission version next time as part of Passion for Life) and tell you again how brilliant it all was!

 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS PART TWO – ‘HUMAN SACRIFICE’

OK – here’s another. Same site (I would have represented some very interesting email correspondence instead but I don’t yet have the co-corerespondent’s blessing…), and the challenge here is ‘defend the indefensible’ in terms of the prevailing societal view. My atheist mate posted a very strong accusation of a God who demands ‘human sacrifice’, citing many bloodthirsty OT passages such as that of Jephthah’s daughter or Saul’s descendants. His assumption was that Christians should be, at best, embarassed. Another atheist, in commenting, presumed that Christians would claim that it was irerelevant nowadays as it was the Old Testament. I felt I had to express our view, in the full knowledge it would get heavily criticised. A good idea? (Let me know as I’m most unsure!)

PS the reference to the Spanish touches on Cortes and the Spanish colonisation of Mayan/Incan peoples. It is cited in the original post as an example of ‘Christian’ hypocrisy as those killed by the invaders were apparently condemned largely for their practise of human sacrifice…

“Just felt I should show up here briefly because it would smack of ducking the tough ones otherwise. I could go into technicalities, placing each example in context (eg Jephthah’s rash vow was entirely unnecessary and uttered during the rule of the Judges – a time in which Israel was going its own way and doing a lot of stupid things. God is notably silent throughout the episode). However, it would merely be to skirt around the fact that yes, God does sanction killing in the Old Testament and yes, he does see death as ‘the wages of sin’.

It’s a toughie to us pampered and liberal 21st Century types (although significantly less of a toughie for most who have preceded us). However, it is helpful I think to note a few underlying principles.

Death is absolutely and consistently portrayed throughout the Bible as a just and appropriate fate for sinful rebellion against a holy God. It is the entitled destruction of created beings by the one who created us – having seen his handiwork rebel against him and his purposes, trying instead to put themselves in his place. The New Testament hasn’t seen God change personality or us get any better – its just, as you correctly note, that Jesus has paid the price as the entirely sufficient sacrifice by virtue of his blameless life. Thus, no more blood for now. God didn’t have to act painfully in order to spare us a deserved punishment. Therefore we can rightfully see him as God of Love, as well as of Justice and Righteousness. It is worth noting however that those who reject Christ’s act will still have to stand on their own merits – a somewhat alarming prospect…

You are also right to see Jesus as the fulfilment of OT sacrifice – and of substitutionary sacrifice. The lamb that took Isaac’s place on the altar, the Jews’ place at Passover, and the Israelites place on the Day of atonement in the temple is fulfilled by the long-prophesied ‘Lamb of God’, Jesus.

And, as post-Christ New Covenant ‘Christians’, the Spanish were, of course, bang out of order…

Right, I entirely anticipate being ripped to shreds here but try to resist making it personal. I’m not hitting you around the head with this stuff – I just read “let’s see what some likely Christian responses would be”, so I thought I’d better give one. And, as a sign off, I would note that I don’t think this much touches upon the issue of God’s existence. It is, after all, a puerile argument that God can’t exist if you find some of his methods unpalatable…”

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS PART ONE – PARENTING

Dear all – I don’t want the site to lie dormant whilst I get back to grips with a new term at school. Therefore I’ve decided to share a few replies to others that I’ve posted or sent of late.

First off – a comment in response to an atheist friends’ blog on corporal punishment. He is against it and has strongly criticised Dr James Dobson’s insistence that it is the loving thing to do (Dobson himself was apparently extensively beaten as a child). He vows not to allow brutality and pain a part in his soon-to-be-born daughter’s upbringing…

My comment:

” I was interested by this, enough to step out from lurking in the shadows for once! I totally disagree with you (although I entirely respect your choice and motives), and not necessarily on religious grounds alone. I’ve just always felt that moderate and controlled smacking – not done as an angry outburst – is a harmless and effective deterrent. Did me no harm whatsoever, nor my parents before me, nor most of our mates… I do get annoyed when the currently overwhelming tide of mistrust and political correctness tries to portray those who do it as abusers; particularly in light of a generation of spoiled and pampered kids starved of discipline and lacking, as a whole, respect for those around them. That’s not merely a changed perspective as I age – kids genuinely don’t have the same automatic wariness and respect around their elders as we did. It’s seen in everything from the failure to surrender a seat to the ubiquitous loud playing of music or swearing on a crowded bus.


There is a Christian element to it – in my assumption that people are not naturally ‘good’, but need to know rebellion carries unwelcome consequences (a conviction hugely strengthened by my 6 years as a teacher!). But that’s not the primary motive on this one – I just think it works. I hate most the assumption that I can’t be trusted to administer such punishment lovingly and without excess or recognising limitations. It’s the same suspicion for all that has led the state to tell me I can’t lay a hand on a pupil or be alone in a room with him because I’m most likely a paedophile. Such fear is only prevalent in a morally baseless and deeply troubled society. One that, at present, trusts children too much and adults too little…

 

PS As for Dobson – I haven’t read the book, so I can’t judge. But I would certainly agree that love includes discipline. If kids don’t learn tough lessons from us, applied with the motive of care and improvement, they will certainly learn them elsewhere with an outcome less sure. All kids are moulded by their formative experiences – it is more loving they learn that wrong behaviour results in discomfort than that they perceive there are no real consequences to their antisocial conduct. That said, if your summary of his experiences are true, it does sound like brutality and abuse – pure and simple. I learned my lessons without any need for bruises or tools beyond the palm (or back) of a hand…

 

PPS And just in case it seemed I was being careful to leave God out of this one – yes the obvious analogy stands. I do believe God disciplines us in love for the good of our eventual character, just as does a parent (Romans 5:3-4). And a spoiled and whingeing Christian is just as unappealing as a spoiled and whingeing kid! “

What do you think? Decent comment. Is corporal punishment OK?