Friday, 30 October 2009

Divisions in the Church

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. (1 Cor. 11:19 TNIV)

Divisions in the church are a result of sin. Ever since Babel, mankind has been cursed with a sectarian spirit. Even the church in C1 Corinth, under the influence of the blessed apostle himself was riven by sectarianism. You'd have thought they'd all unite as a body under such infallible Scriptural teaching, but no. "I am of Paul" cried some, "I am of Apollos" shouted others, and still others "I am of Cephas".

How does Paul deal with such sinful division? In chapter 1:10-28 he appeals for unity under the message of the gospel.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.(v10)
Yet later in the same epistle in verse 11:19, Paul concedes that divisions, sinful though they are, serve a purpose in the mysterious providence of God. These divisions serve to show "who have God's approval."

To highlight his point it's helpful to look at what Paul doesn't say. He doesn't say something like "In all your divisions you are each providing a different perspective on truth and piety. When all these perspectives come together, they form a wonderful, rich and varied tapestry highlighting God's truth." In other words, not every sect has something relevant to say. It's kind of trendy today to speak of the different denominations of the church as providing a manifold witness to the truth of the gospel. Yet such gobbeldygook rests upon a hermenuetic of uncertainty and an overly chastised epistemology.

For instance, how do the various strands of the church provide a different perspective on the truth of justification? Rome says faith plus works, Geneva and Augsburg say the opposite. Are both sides right? Rome speaks of two streams of revelation, Geneva and Augsburg speak of only one. Are both sides correct? Pentecostals affirm the continuation of supernatural prophecy, while those bound by the Westminster Standards deny this. Are both camps providing different perspectives on truth? Oh please. This type of crap is just a watered down version of postmodernism's maxim that all roads lead to God.

Or take church worship as another example. The Reformed believe in singing only inspired texts, while the rest of evangelicalism will sing anything but inspired texts. Are they both correct? Rome believes in the sacrifice of the Mass, while Protestants see it as a horrible blasphemy. Are they both following the leading of the Spirit? If the Spirit leads me to pray to Mary, while He leads you to embrace the exclusivity of Christ, is He playing games? Is he Bi-polar? Clearly not.

The purpose of divisions according to the apostle is to highlight those who are genuinely blessed by God (v19). The apostle believes that the validity of certain church practices should be self-authenticating. For instance, it's obvious that getting drunk during communion isn't pleasing to God, so those who abstain from booze during worship are obviously approved.

So to sum up, first, divisions in the church function as a mysterious providence as to who has God's approval; they don't all witness to different aspects of an unattainable truth. Second God's approval of certain parties among the divided is self evident. Third his approval rests upon those who uphold the purity of the gospel through right preaching of the word and proper administration of the sacraments.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

sincerity the new saving faith

It appears that to many, including some evangelicals, God will open the doors of heaven to all who were sincere in life, even if they were sincerely and profoundly wrong.

However appealing such an idea is at a disneyesque level, it is wishful thinking. The Bible never views sincerity as a basis for eternal life. Those who crucified Christ were 'sincere' in their intent. Paul, the Apostle, with zealous sincerity persecuted the early church.

Jesus reminded his disciples that the days would come when, 'anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.' (Jn 16:2).

Indeed, Paul speaks of the sincere but misguided zeal of C1 Israel for God; 'they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.' (Roms 10:2)

However, Israel's sincere zeal and the sincerity of those who would persecute the church was anything but a saving sincerity or saving zeal. Paradoxically, their 'sincerity' stemmed from a failure to 'submit to the righteousness that comes from God' (Roms 10:3).

Sincerity does not save; in fact all 'sincere' belief that does not flow from trust in Christ, is sincere rebellion against God. Sincerity in itself is of limited worth. Fascists are sincere. Islamic terrorists are sincere. Pro-abortionists are sincere. Atrocious acts are perpetrated by sincere people.

Jesus came to save, not the sincere, but sinners. Sincerity cannot save, but it may well damn.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Justification: Understanding the Reformed Doctrine - Part 16 Does Premillenialism Corrupt the Gospel?

It's been a while since I dipped into Fesko's tome on Justification. I don't know if you're like me, but when I read a long book, sometimes I just need a break in order to re-new my enthusiasm. Well, a Godfrey book on Calvin, a Zaspel/Wells book on New Covenant Theology and four DVD box-sets of The Wire later I'm ready to resume watching Fesko take up the cudgels in defense of our beloved doctrine.

Boy does Fesko float my boat in chapter 12 when he relates justification to the final judgement. How does one reconcile justification sola fide to the final judgement? It is Fesko's contention firstly, that Christ's resurrection is "paradigmatic for believers" (p300), and he cites support from passages along the way like 1 Cor. 15:20b which describes Christ's resurrection as "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep". Fesko goes on to argue that Christ's resurrection is a forensic event where God both declared Christ 'just' and inaugurated a new status of sonship-in-power.

Bearing in mind the forensic nature of Christ's resurrection, and the fact that it serves as a pattern for the resurrection of believers, serves to support Fesko's thesis that the resurrection and final judgement are one and the same thing. ZOWIE BATMAN! Let that sit for a bit. Fesko supports this thesis by considering:

(1) being raised with Christ according to the inner and outer man. Fesko here stresses that the resurrection is a revelation of a present status believers only enjoy inwardly (Rom. 8:10), while the outer body wastes away (2 Cor. 4:16-5:5). Believer's are already raised with Christ (Col. 3:1-4). Resurrection does not imply a two-stage justification however. It is a publication of what already is.
(2) the immediacy of the resurrection transformation. The above passage from Colossians states that when Christ appears we will immediately appear with him in glory. Another passage says we shall be changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52). It is when we see him that we shall become like him (1 John 3:2). There is no evidence of our waiting before Christ conducts an analysis on 'the whole life lived'.
(3) the extent of the resurrection. Fesko convincingly shows that the resurrection of the righteous to life is glorifcation just as the resurrection of the wicked to death is judgement (see Daniel 12:1-2 and John 5:28-29)
(4) the ground of judgement. Whereas the wicked are judged according to works the righteous are judged by faith alone. In the judgement scene in Rev. 20:11-12, there is a book of deeds and a book of life, referred to previously as "the book of the life of the Lamb that was slain" (Rev. 13:8). Attempts to see Romans 2:1-3:8 referring to the judgement of Christians fails to take into account the conspicuous absence of the word 'faith'.

Fesko is clear, the cross of Christ is the only judgement the believer will face. Eschatological theories which ignore the symbol laden structure of Revelation and separate the eschaton into distinct stages of resurrection-judgement-glorification lend themselves to undermining justification sola fide. The glory of amillenialism is that, rather than seeing the the eschaton in these distinct stages, it sees them as an organic unity. Who said eschatology was a secondary issue? ;)

freedom of speech

Matthew Parris's article on freedom of speech in the wake of QT debate is so good I must draw attention to it. Read it here

A taster

'... what made tears well to my eyes was ... I saw an entire national intelligentsia, in a time of relative peace and stability, unthreatened by any serious challenge to the values they hold dear, and in the face of no more than a gnat of a man leading no more than a rag-tag party with no more than a dishcloth of a manifesto, flinch — seriously flinch — in its commitment to free speech.'

A great article, full of moral authority, from someone who had good reason to remain silent.

saints or sinners?

By all accounts the book on marriage by Harvey Dave, 'When sinners say I do' is first class. I have not yet read it but people whose judgements I respect and have read it recommend it highly, not least my wife, who insisted on quoting little snippets to me while I was trying to read something else.

Perhaps it's a latent animosity to the book generated by wifely interruptions that prompts this criticism. I don't like the title. Oh I know why the writer has chosen it. He's pointing out that flawed people marry and so it demands lots of effort and lots of forgiveness and lots of trusting in God. For these reasons his title makes good sense.

Well what's my problem? My problem is that Dave uses a title for Christians that the Bible seldom if ever does. Have you noticed the NT is not in the habit of referring to believers as 'sinners'? Christians are saints not sinners. When Paul writes his letters to various churches he does not say 'To the sinners in Christ who live in...', instead he says, 'To the saints in Christ who live in...'.

Paul wants the believers to whom he writes to think of themselves as saints (God's holy ones) not sinners. Why? Well, when we think of ourselves as sinners there are two likely outcomes. One, we are likely to live up to our title. Give a dog a bad name... . Two, we are likely to excuse ourselves for our sins: 'after all, I'm only a sinner'.

Paul insists that we recognise the difference grace has made. Writing to the Corinthians he says:

1 Cor 6:9-11 Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is never an excuse for sin. We can never fall back on our background, our habits, our nature, our circumstances or anything else. We are washed, sanctified, justified. We are saints, God's holy people and we ought to live, we ought to be inspired to live, according to who we now are.

Tell a drunk he's just a drunk and he will live as a drunk. Tell him he is a human being and ought to know better and it may make a difference.

The NT approach to Christlikeness is always, 'Be what you are'. You are washed, live as someone washed. You are sanctified, live as sanctified. You are a saint, live like a saint. This is no counsel of despair, it is an incentive to live all the potentiality of the new creation we are in Christ in a fallen world.

Will we fail. Yes we will. But we will pick ourselves up and start again. How will we do this? We will look at our failure and say to ourself, 'this is not the true me, I don't need to be like this, I don't need to lie in the gutter, I am a new person, I have died to this life and have a new life, I am a saint and will live up to my calling by God's grace.' This is the biblical way of triumphing in faith.

Am I nit-picking about the title of the book, yes I am. Buy the book and read it, the author would no doubt amen what I have just written. But I am not nit-picking about the main point. Think like a saint not a sinner. Think of yourself as a saint and not a sinner.

Every time you fail talk to yourself and say,

Rom 6:1-11 What shall I say then? Am I to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can I who died to sin still live in it? Do I not know that I have been baptized into Christ Jesus and this means baptized into his death? I was buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, I too might walk in newness of life. For if I have been united with him in a death like his, I shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. I know that my old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that I would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if I have died with Christ, I believe that I will also live with him. I know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So I also must consider myself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Friday, 23 October 2009

question time

I watched Question Time last night. I have no truck with Griffin or the BNP. I was glad some of his agenda was exposed. By all accounts he and they support some very nasty policies.

Yet I worry.

Both the scenes outside the BBC and the approaches of many in Question Time reveal how hostile and intimidating the liberal establishment is when its cherished beliefs are questioned. I have observed similar animosity to conservative Christian beliefs by liberals on programmes like 'The Big Questions'; liberals soon reveal just how 'liberal' they really are in their feral responses.

I worry about the hypocrisy of the main parties. Their self-righteous desire to take the moral high ground and make political capital at Griffin's expense is as patent as it is pathetic. Ironically, they accuse Griffin of cynically tailoring policies to make them acceptable. Which of them has not adapted their policies to suit the electorate and which would not impose lurking ideologies if they thought they could get away with it.

At the moment, the threat to society is the liberal leftist secularism of the establishment not the far right. It is liberal secularism that is attacking democracy and freedom of speech as it prepares to sanction directives by non-elected European commissions that seriously threaten freedom to express views. The threat to my freedom to practise my Christian faith comes from Brussels and Westminster, not the BNP

I worry because cross-party liberalism is wilfully blind to the threat of Islamification. I wish to give my Islamic neighbours the freedom to practise their faith. A Christian country rightly grants Moslems the right to believe and disseminate their faith. However, Islam does not prove itself so generous in return. When Islam is the dominant faith and wielding political power it regularly denies religious freedoms and shows little concern for the rule of law; religious minorities are often oppressed, persecuted and denied equality. Islam in power regularly shows it is an oppressive ideology. Mainstream politicians seem resolutely unwilling to face this self-evident reality and until they do nasty parties like the BNP will no doubt flourish.

It is time to question and show as wanting the tenets that drive liberal secularism.

Monday, 19 October 2009

substitutionary atonement

Both Moses and Paul expressed the desire that they be 'cursed' (blotted out of God's book or cut off from Christ) for the sake of others (Israel). Cf. Ex 32:32; Roms 9:3.

Clearly both believe that in some sense the 'anathema' of the one substitutes for the many. They are not saying they wish to be 'cursed' alongside Israel but 'cursed' instead of Israel. If possible, they could wish to be 'accursed' in the place of the nation.

They were not so cursed, nor, for them was curse-bearing possible. Yet, the curse would be borne by one fitted to bear it. Paul is clear, Jesus took the curse.

Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"

His curse bearing is not simply alongside Israel but instead of Israel, bearing the curse to redeem those cursed, in order that they be no longer cursed.

Surely this is substitutionary atonement. Praise God for the curse-bearer.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

freedom of speech

'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear'.'' George Orwell

Saturday, 17 October 2009

theological interpretation

'The end of biblical interpretation is not simply communication - the sharing of information - but communion, a sharing in the light, life, and love of God.'

This is but one of ten theses on theological interpretation
from Vanhoozer found here.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Is triperspectivalism the panacea?

Tri...what? Triperspectivalism. Try saying it aloud. It is virtually unpronounceable, pretentious, angular and ugly, and just the kind of word a theologian may invent. Which is exactly what happened. It is the brainchild of Calvinist theologians John Frame and Vern Poythress..

Truth, Frame affirms is multiperspectival and the more perspectives we can see the better our understanding. God, who can see all perspectives, has perfect understanding.

We, however, have finite perspectives and Frame explains, 'all finite perspectives must, to attain truth, “think God’s thoughts after him.” So in one sense, all perspectives coincide. Each, when fully informed, includes all the knowledge found in every other. There is one truth, and each perspective is merely an angle from which that truth can be viewed.'

He continues,'We will never achieve perfect knowledge of that one truth, but we advance toward it step by step. That advance always involves enriching our present perspectives by referring to those of others. The work of attaining knowledge, therefore, is always communal. And inevitably it involves reference to the perfect, exhaustive perspective of God, insofar as he has revealed it to us.'

So far so good.

Frame goes on to affirm that for finite people all knowledge is essentially triperspectivally received. He develops what he means by this, however, for the purposes of this blog we need not try to grapple with this. Simply to observe that Frame believes grasping the principle of triad perspectives may help to deal with apparent imbalances and potentially divisive hot spots in evangelicalism.

He writes, 'So I think that perspectivalism is an encouragement to the unity of the church. Sometimes our divisions of theology and practice are differences of perspective, of balance, rather than differences over the essentials of faith. So perspectivalism will help us better to appreciate one another, and to appreciate the diversity of God’s work among us.'

Again little to disagree with here. Most of us recognise this and wrestle with questions of what is merely a difference of perspective and what is more seriously a difference in fact.

Frame's triperspectivalism has been adopted by Church Growth groups to explain different emphases within evangelicalism. One model gaining currency notes that Christ had three offices - prophet,priest and king and these three 'perspectives' of his work can be seen in the present evangelical church. His kingly role (organizational) is seen in the mega-church emphasis on structure; his priestly role (community and relationships) can be seen in the emerging churches; and his prophetic role (proclamation and truth) in the reformed circles.

The implication is that the differences between the three groups is simply one of emphasis (or perspective) but not substance. All three contribute profitably to the body of Christ.

At first blush this seems attractive. TriPism (triperspectivalism) appears a unifying paradigm. However, it is not quite as simple as that. For the issue in orthodoxy is not simply what perspective you champion but also which perspectives you reject. Heresy, after all, is normally one perspective taken to an extreme and rejecting the balance and input of others.

Yes, unity is possible where one perspective is embraced a little over-enthusiastically without jettisoning the others. However, where one perspective becomes all consuming, dismissing even despising the others, something is seriously amiss.

To frame (no pun intended) the point another way - the issue for mega-churches, emerging churches and reformed churches (and any other perspective) is not their perspective but whether they have gospel clarity. Do they protect and proclaim the apostolic gospel.

Frame's TriPism has a place if it reminds us we all think within limited perspectives, if however, it is made a vehicle to simply baptise evangelical pluralism then it is dangerous. After all, as Scott Clark points out, the Papacy could be constued as 'kingly' and Catholic convents, monastries etc as 'priestly'. Does this make them acceptable or biblical?

Evangelical unity rests on a basis much more objective than these descriptors. It rests on the apostolic gospel. Where this is shared there is unity, where it is missing no unity exists.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

What was wrong with Judaism?

What was wrong with C1 Judaism? Was anything wrong? There must have been something wrong since Israel rejected her Messiah.

About what was wrong, scholars are divided. Surprise, surprise! The traditional answer (the old perspective) is Judaism was legalistic; it taught salvation by works. The modern answer ( the new perspective) is it was nationalistic; it saw salvation in Jewish ethnicity.

We should be grateful for scholarly research but never in thrall to it. The final and certain resource for a Christian is Scripture. There we find, surprise, surprise, that both legalism and nationalism blinded C1 Judaism.

John the Baptist warns the religious leaders not to trust in their ethnicity (do not say, we have Abraham as our father Matt 3;9) and Jesus tells the parable of the pharisee and taxcollector against the pharisees (who trusted in themselves that they were righteous Lk 18:9-14).

They did not grasp that 'not all Israel are of Israel'. Nor did they realise that Law was a covenant of works that condemned rather than justified.

They had a false confidence in both their lineage and their Law. Tragically, because of this, they failed to recognise their Lord.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I, Myself, and the Gospel

Justin Taylor has the following quote from MLJ on his website. It is a quotation from a book I read years ago. The book and the quote have been very useful to me in the struggle to live by faith. I think all elders and pastors should read the book. It is as helpful today as when first published. A vital pastoral resource.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp. 20-21:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”

What better excuse can you have when caught talking to yourself.

Monday, 12 October 2009

the idol factory

There is but one God, the God who is the Creator of all things and has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. But there are many idols and they are false and damning.

In the ancient world idols were fairly obvious. Religious temples were full of them. Today such idols are still integral to some world religions. In fact, Christians believe that the worship of any god other than the true and only God who has made himself known in Jesus is idolatry.

Our secular world fondly thinks it has moved beyond primitive idolatry. This is a great self-deception. Idoltry is as rampant in secular society as was in the ancient world.
Idols are the gods of the heart. Idolatry is the turning of (often) good things into ultimate things. More specifically, it is the worshipping of created things rather than the Creator.

Tim Keller, in his new book, 'Counterfeit Gods', exposes many of our heart gods. One telling comparison is between the ancient gods and modern gods. He cites four examples of gods in the Parthenon in Athena where Paul the Apostle preached (Acts 17).

There was found Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty; Ares, the god of war; Artemis, the goddess of fertility and wealth; and Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship.

It takes little mental effort to see that these gods have many worhipping at their shrine today. The gods of beauty, power, money and achievement are worshipped today as devotedly as ever they were in the classical world. The only real difference is the place of worship. Keller observes, the shrines are no longer in the Parthenon, but are the spas and gymns, the Office Tower, the Shopping Mall, and the stadiums.

Ancient gods were hard to please and today is no exception. Men (and women) regularly offer everything they have on these altars - health, character, family, and life itself. False gods are deadly and destructive.

The rebellious human heart needs something to worship. It is an 'idol factory'. The big question is how far we who are Christians worship at these modern high places, these pagan shrines.

We need to hear John, the Apostle's words today just as much as believers did in C1, 'Little children keep yourself from idols'.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Is pre-evangelism biblical?

Pre-evangelism is the notion of building up relationships with non-christians before introducing them to the gospel. It seems reasonable. However, the problem is that many of us get 'stuck' in pre-evangelism and rarely actually reach the 'evangelising' phase. It makes me wonder if pre-evangelism is really just a cop-out for no-evangelism.

Actually it is questionable how biblical such a concept is. I am not suggesting it is unbiblical, more that it is non-biblical. Certainly we get no inkling Jesus spent time building up relationships with folks before confronting them with the demands of the Kingdom. Nor does Paul spend time in a community building up a network of friendships before evangelizing; he evangelizes from the word go. The disciples are sent by Jesus to various surrounding towns and instructed them that if people did not receive them then they are to leave the town and move to the next.

Now, I am not saying we should immediately jump in evangelistically in every relationship of life. I am simply cautioning against creating a default dogma called friendship pre-evangelism that may be an excuse for interminally evading gospel embarrassment or even poo-pooing 'cold evangelism', the most evident method in the NT.

Friday, 9 October 2009

What light's your fire?

It is said of many American mega-churches that they are driven by the three 'b's' - buildings,bucks and butts.

God forbid that these drive UK churches.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Disciplining God

“We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be”

C S Lewis

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

How much do you put in the bag?

Many years ago I came to realise that most precious commodity I have is - energy. I am not normal [anyone who knows me will tell you that]. There have been times when one draining activity has left me exhausted for weeks – when attendance at one Church service has demanded more than most folk can imagine.

Mark 12

41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

Some people give a lot and some have a lot to give. This is true of money but it is equally true of other resources God has given us. Unfortunately, we usually judge by the amount given rather than the cost. After all, what else can we judge by?

One of the most important resources we posses is energy. There are a few individuals blessed by God with almost boundless energy. However, most of us have to choose how much of this limited resource we give to various daily demands: work, family, friends, fun, church, prayer etc.

Perhaps, we need to think more about our priorities. Many Christians today [men and women] end their working day exhausted with little left to give. That can happen for different reasons – it might not be a matter of choice. But it might. More money, promotion and more influence usually demand more energy.

Do we spend our energy wisely?

Over the last few months God has given me some extra energy to spend and I have had to think very carefully about how to do that. I can do more [though still limited] – possibly at less cost than in the past. There are many Christians who struggle with this problem. We can be too quick to judge others on the basis of what we see them giving, unaware of what it costs. I can imagine the day might come when I will blush because I dismissed someone as uncommitted or unspiritual and then Jesus points out that they gave far more that I ever gave because they gave out of their poverty – it cost them more than I imagined.

Monday, 5 October 2009

First Things First

I hope those who have glanced at the previous 'First Things' blogs will have got the point. In my first, I asked what counsel a retiring leader would give to younger leaders. I hope that the answer would be 'Protect and Proclaim the Gospel' or words to that effect.

The two follow up blogs were an attempt to reinforce this. Paul's final message to Timothy in 2 Timothy was to protect and proclaim the gospel. Jesus' instruction to his followers before ascending to heaven was to go into all the world and 'preach the gospel'.

In other words that which is of first importance is 'the gospel'. I say this because it is so easy for leaders to lose sight of this. At a local church level elders, swamped by all kinds of bureaucratic concerns, can easily lose sight of priorities. The temptation is to see the great need of the church in terms of a hundred and one other things, other, that is, than the gospel.

Leaders at an itinerant level eager so often for recognition and to leave their mark invent all kinds of success packages that we are confidently told is what this generation needs to hear and do. Jesus had but one. Paul had but one. True leaders will have allegiance to but one: preaching (to christians and non-christians) the gospel. The gospel and the gospel alone is 'the power of God unto salvation'.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Suicide of the West

'The Big Questions', a BBC religious programme worth watching, discussed this Sunday the suicide of a young woman the previous week. The young woman swallowed poison and then phoned for an ambulance to take her to hospital. However, she did not want doctors to prevent her suicide but simply oversee her suicide. The doctors, fearful of some national laws, acquiesced.

On 'The Big Questions', the main reason posited for approving the doctors decision was 'the basic human right to take one's life'.

Much discussion followed and a number of good points against accepting the 'right to suicide' were made. Some of these by two Christians on the panel. However, objections were largely predicated on the assumption that the 'human right to suicide' was correct. The main reason for preventing suicide was that suicide signalled a distorted reason. It revealed a mind unqualified to make a rational decision. Despite the Catch 22 nature of this argument, I agree, of course, that thoughts of suicide signal a diseased mind that needs protecting from itself. However, this does not address the fundamental premise of the pro-suicide lobby, that the right to suicide is a basic human right. In fact, it kind of assumes the right to take one's life if one is in one's right mind.

It was left to a Muslim to expose the basic flaw in the 'human rights' argument, namely, that life is a gift from God, and it is not ours to discard at will. In a world where God reigns, there is no human right to take one's life, nor to support others who wish to do so.

The 'doctrine' of human rights is full of pitfalls. Perhaps it is for this reason that the bible rarely deals in rights but focusses on responsibilities. The Bible stresses responsibility to our Creator, as he has revealed himself in Christ. This provides a much surer basis for societal morals than so-called inalienable human rights which increasingly seem to contribute to the suicide of the West.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Collision Movie

A movie following the debate between atheist apologist Christopher Hitchens and pastor Douglas Wilson will be released at the end of October. The film, called Collision, was discussed between John Piper and Wilson at a recent Bethlehem Conference. I just love the following quote from Wilson:
There are two tenets of atheism. One, there is no God. Two, I hate him.

Friday, 2 October 2009

First Things (3)

You are one of the eleven disciples about to hear Jesus last words of counsel before returning to heaven. What counsel do you think he will give?

Answer found in Matt 28.