Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Short History of Heresy (Kind of)

Following my previous post on heresy, Patrick Ramsey post an important quote on the problems that have arisen within the Protestant church in not dealing with heresy.

Dr. Carson Describes Emergent

Yesterday I found a series of three lectures on the emergent church given in February 2004 by Don Carson. I've only listened to the first one. It was quite informative. Dr. Carson was attempting to describe the emergent church. This is a pretty difficult task as you may imagine. Nevertheless he seemed to do a pretty good job.

In closing Dr. Carson listed five things that were good about the phenomenon. I thought it would be worth listing them here (they are my notes, not a transcription). We must not approach these issues as some kind of balancing act, as though if the good things outweigh the bad then we can give it the thumbs up, and vice versa. Both the good and the bad things must be addressed individually. Those outside the phenomenon must learn from the good. While those inside must sort out the bad. As an outsider, I am only to pleased to consider what must be learned from the good. So here they are:

  1. The Emergent Church is trying to read the times. The EC is often found where there is a diversity of culture where the church needs to understand the people around them.

  2. They push the value of authenticity. Dr. Carson notes that sometimes in our conservative churches there can be a kind of phoneyness. Often the efforts of the church to be 'relevant' (e.g. Willow Creek/Seeker Sensitive, Saddleback/Purpose Driven Church) can generate a market-style phoneyness.

  3. They recognise the effects of postmodernism. The times are changing. Twenty-five years ago atheists were ‘Christian’ atheists – the God they did not believe in was the Christian God. They thought in Christian categories. But not now - the questions people have are different. This affects how the gospel is introduced and explained.

  4. There is a deep concern to reach the ‘way-outs’ There is a whole class of people in society who have no contact with church, who have never heard the gospel and so have no idea what we are talking about. Who’s going after these people? The conservative churches are good at talking to their own kind. The EC seems to have developed the ability to talk with anyone. Dr. Carson believes one of the real needs of the church today is for evangelists and pastors who have the ability to talk to anyone.

  5. They display a willingness to question tradition. This means that all things are questioned. While this can unfortunately lead to questioning important doctrinal positions, it also points out traditions that have no basis in Scripture. For example, Dr. Carson asks the question about dress codes in church, both for the pastor and the congregation. EC asks, "What can we dispense with to reach the culture?"

These are important questions for conservative churches in our day.

No doubt the next lecture will not be quite so friendly!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Have a Laugh

You have got to listen to this. It's funny!

Go on - play it!

Play it now!

Judging Good and Evil

Calvin comments of some words of another writer, Themistius, an Aristotlean philosopher, on the ability of men and women to judge what is evil and what is good. It takes a couple of reads to get the gist:
Themistius more correctly teaches that the intellect is very rarely deceived in general definition or in the essence of the thing; but that it is illusory when it goes farther, that is, applies the principle to particular cases.In reply to the general question, every man will affirm that murder is evil. But he who is plotting the death of an enemy contemplates murder as something good. The adulterer will condemn adultery in general, but will privately flatter himself in his own adultery. Herin is man's ignorance: when he comes to a particular case, he forgets the general principle that he has just laid down.
(Calvin's Institutes II.ii.23, Battles' translation)

Calvin himself actually goes further than Themistius. He writes that in addition to the above, the conscience sometimes kicks in so that although the general principle is known, a particular act can also be known to be wrong.

Interesting insights into how the sinful human mind works.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Emergent No and Heresy

The word 'heretic' or 'heresy' always sends shivers down my spine. It is one thing to read about Marcion the heretic of eighteen and a half centuries ago. It's quite another when someone uses it in conversation in all seriousness.

A few days ago I read on Emergent No a discussion on what does and does not constitute heresy. You can read about it here, including the 69 comments (at the last count). The list that the good people on that blog produced contained some pretty fundamental issues, and some not so fundamental.

The latter not-so-fundamental classification troubled me. I too am concerned about the 'emergent church' and the effect it is having on souls before God. I am concerned that it seems to be culture and experience driven, with biblical truth taken for granted. However, I also believe that it is a many-headed animal which will take time to master and get the better of. Therefore I will reserve final judgment for the moment.

However, it does no good, in my view, start throwing the term 'heresy' around, and then having been challenged, to hurriedly lash together a quick definition. Unfortunately, the Emergent No list has sticky tape and bits of badly knotted string all over it.

Now, my own definition of heresy not well formed. I am still working it out, and writing this post helps. Heresy is certainly deviation from those beliefs which, if not believed, would result in damnation. However, it would seem to be more. 'Heresy' derives from the Greek word hairesis meaning 'choice'. The word was originally used in connection with the choice of a philosophical school an individual may follow. However, it may also occur within the Christian church and is characterised by factionalism. The factions may form around both fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines.

George Gillespie, a Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly in the 17th century, has written helpfully on this matter though his language is a little opaque. Having reviewed the Scriptures he gives six helpful marks of true heresy, which I summarise with my own words and comments:

  1. It arises amongst members of the church, or an assembly professing to be a church. In other words, it is an irrelevant term to apply to adherents to non-Christian religions such as Buddhism or Islam. However, it would apply to Mormons or J.W.s

  2. It is an error voluntarily and freely chosen, both when initially proposing it, and in the maintaining of it or adhering to it. This in contrast to those who are compelled, say, under persecution to accept an error.

  3. When it chooses an error, it is accompanied with a rejecting of truth. Something which is already accepted as truth is kicked out in order to accommodate the error

  4. It is an error which is professed and maintained, as a result, becomes a 'scandal and snare' to others. In view here is the effect the profession has on others in the fellowship, drawing them into sinful behaviour. Views that are privately held are not the concern at this point.

  5. It is an error which contradicts some primary and substantial truth which is grounded upon, or, by necessary consequence, drawn from, the Bible. The subtlety here is that, historically, heretics have always appealed to Scripture, but they have always failed to agree with some primary truth that follows from Scripture.

  6. Heretics are schismatics and draw others away to their heresy. Their tendency to factionalism always leads to separation.

These points raise a few challenges to the modern church:
  1. Heresy fits nicely with our Western trend to individualism and freedom of choice. As the church accepts individualism, we should see more heresy.

  2. It shows the need for a fully worked out confession of faith in order to be able to identify what are primary truths, and therefore what are heresy (note that adherence to the Scriptures is not enough!)

  3. Teachings which lie outside the confessions may not in themselves be heretical. It may take a considerable amount of time and effort to work out whether such teachings really do undermine what has been commonly accepted. But then, if they do, what is to be done about it?

There may be more which I have not thought of. But it leaves me with problems regarding the Emergent No people - by what standard are they defining heresy? Frankly some of the issues they raise have not appeared in any confession, creed or basis of faith I have ever seen. They need to work a bit harder, IMHO.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Be Stylish


I don't usually comment, but Girl has a developing sense of taste and style. She's always trying things out. This is the latest offering. Clearly her friend is envious and wants to emulate her. Let's face it, who wouldn't? But, what do you think?

By the way, it is the first day of the school Easter holidays...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Food and Water

(This is part of a comment I made on another blog about the Schiavo case. But I want to say it here too. Deep breath...)

Let's be clear. Administering food and water is not a treatment. It is a necessity, It is in the same class as the air that Mrs Schiavo breathes. The fact that it is administered through tubes doesn't change anything. It is simply another kind of "spoon". People who advocate euphemistically the removal of her "treatment" are advocating cruel starvation. They might as well argue that it is kind to remove her access to air. There are plenty of pillows that could be used for that purpose in the corner.

Shocked? I hope so. We live in days of muddled humanistic, godless thinking. Occasionally it bursts out in the horrors we are seeing in Florida. In the coming days I expect we will see more cases like it, and society will become desensitised. And the sad thing is we have people who are called ministers of the gospel in support of it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Blind Faith

Susan (t'wife) spotted a great letter in The Independent today. I thought it worth quoting in full:

Admit it: abortion is used as contraceptive method of choice

Sir: Your leading article on abortion (16 March) states: "Information about birth control should be more widely published ... Abortion is never the contraceptive method of choice." There may be a small minority of people in this country who aren't aware that contraception can prevent pregnancy. However it simply can't be true that the vast majority of people who get pregnant by mistake do so because they have never heard of contraception.

There were 181,600 abortions in 2003 compared with 621,469 live births. How many of those 181,600 women took proper precautions to be really sure that they wouldn't get pregnant, and how many of them took risks? Only 1 per cent of people will get pregnant if using contraception properly. I think the majority who had an abortion in 2003 knew about contraception and had used it in the past, but on the occasion they got pregnant they had sex when they knew they had forgotten to take a pill or didn't use a condom. They chose to take that risk, and therefore did choose to use abortion as contraception should they get pregnant.

If you are old enough to be having sex you are old enough to remember to use contraception. Excuses such as being drunk and getting carried away aren't good enough. We condemn people who kill by drink driving. We think that fox hunting is barbaric. Why is killing a foetus because you didn't act responsibly when having sex any better? Whether or not people are prepared to admit it, abortion is used every day as a method of contraception by people who know all the facts of life.

London W12

I don't know about you but I was horrified by the numbers. I knew that the number of abortions was around the 180k mark, but I had no idea it was so large relative to the live births. Think about it: for every ten live births there are three abortions.

Yes, society in general likes to believe the idea that, "Abortion is never the contraceptive method of choice". But it's blind faith driven by an ideology.

The facts tell us to believe something else.

Edmund Clowney

I'm saddened by the death of Dr. Edmund Clowney last Sunday. (HT to Sacred Journey). Read about his life here.

Why am I saddened? I did not meet him. I did not attend a lecture that he gave or a service of worship where he preached. No, the one opportunity I had to hear him give a lecture series at The Tron, under the auspices of Rutherford House in the 80's, I had to miss, I think because of illness.

But I got the tapes. And I have listened to them many, many times. I listened to them again this month. I can honestly say that they have been seminal in my thinking about Christ in the Old Testament.

Saddened, but rejoicing in God's provision.

Monday, March 21, 2005

What is 'Emergent'?

I'm grateful for this discussion of the vocabulary of the Emergent Church from tallskinnykiwi (Let me guess. Is he tall? skinny? a kiwi? Nah! Too obvious.) It helps fill in my admittedly limited knowledge of the movement. Here's a quote (but go and read the whole thing):

“Emergent”, as it is used in “emergent theory”, is a name given to the phenomena of how new organizational structures progress from low-level chaos to higher level sophistication without a hierarchical command structure. Emergent theory explains how birds change direction, how slime mould moves, how ant colonies are built and how knows so much about us. The process involves constant communication and feedback among the lowest level of organization, pattern recognition, local action affecting global behavior, and takes into consideration the element of unpredictability in a chaotic system. Solomon was wise in suggesting that we observe the ways of the ant and be wise (Proverbs 6:6) And the emerging church has been wise in allowing the vocabulary from emergent behavior to give a window of insight to the traditional church.

This is interesting. Others looking from the outside can give interesting viewpoints on how the church is developing and maybe see influences that the church itself is not aware of. I find the application of "emergent theory" to church kind of quirky but interesting.

The problem, I think, is the last sentence of the above quote. It seems that there is an attempt to give the idea of an emergent church a biblical basis (though I admit I may be making too much of this) by looking at the ant, as Solomon did. Ant colonies are chaotic systems which emerge. Solomon counsels looking to the ant. So churches should be chaotic systems which emerge.

Except Solomon was not talking about the system. He was addressing the question of a godly work ethic, or the lack of it. He was challenging slobs, layabouts, wasters. This verse is not adequate as a paradigm of the church. There needs to be something else.

I have to admit, though I am interested in the analysis of this movement from a scientific theoretical point of view, this whole approach screams alarm bells at me. If you can analyse a system in an a-spiritual, deterministic way without any reference to principles, should this not worry us? Perhaps there is more that can be said and I just don't know about it.

I am concerned that the structure of such communities just evolves. It can't. There are principles in the Bible that tell us how to organise.

It is bottom-up:
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.(I Thess 5:12, NKJV)
Those who work hard for the people of God get recognised by those people.

But it is also top-down:
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. (Heb 13:17, NKJV)
Those who are over us in the Lord, get to rule and direct.

You see, there is a much better biblical paradigm for the church. Not ants in a chaotic colony, but sheep in a well shepherded flock. In this paradigm, instead of groping about, we get to go places where the Shepherd leads.

White Horse Inn on Emergent

I'm ill. So I'm flopping around trying to get better.

I like the White Horse Inn. You get clever people thinking about the cultural and theological issues. Yes, it is American, writing from a reformational perspective, but well thought out and well worth spending time in.

Anyone interested in Emergent, should download this interview. It gives some pointers to the philosophical basis of Emergent, how it interacts with the Solas of the Reformation, the connection with medieval mysticism. To my mind quite measured. But then, I have a view. Go listen for yourself!

Friday, March 18, 2005

What We Wish the Bible Said

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and opinions. (John 1:14)

"God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in their opinions.” (John 4:24)

“I tell you my opinion, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

"Then you will have an opinion, and this opinion will set you free.” (John 8:32)

"Sanctify them by their opinions; your word is an opinion." (John 17:17)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Blog Bother

Has anyone else had trouble getting into Blogger and blogspot websites over the last 24 hours? I've been tearing my hair out ... what's left of it.

TNIV Makes the News

So the TNIV makes the news in the UK. It comes with 45,000 changes from the NIV. The translators have taken the step of removing words like 'aliens' and replaced it with 'foreigners' since young people think of extra-terrestrial beings. (I have to admit that reading 'aliens' in our family Bible reading has actually added to the fun of the occasion and has offered the opportunity of explaining that 'aliens' really were outsiders!)

Of course, the most controversial changes have been in the use of gender neutral language as far as possible. The reason for all of this is given at the Zondervan website:
For Zondervan, more people engaging the Bible more means reaching 18- to 34-year-olds with the Bible in compelling, innovative formats, all supported by the most readable and reliable translation for today’s generation—the TNIV.
In other words, it is a marketing ploy.

There has been great deal of scholarly discussion of the TNIV, and its predecessor the NIVI, but Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary writes:
The scholarly discussions have their place. We can debate about the meaning of this or that individual verse. But in the end, the differences in opinion do not arise primarily from scholarly technicalities. If there is any justification for the overall policy of the TNIV, it is a pragmatic one.
(emphasis his)

Clearly pragmatism, increasingly the dominant consideration amongst those who call themselves Christian, is winning out over the plain meaning of Scripture as delivered to us. Poythress concludes:
[I]t is not legitimate to drop some meanings out of the Bible itself, for the sake of acceptability. We must beware lest, in spite of our good motives, we end up compromising the word of God. We then end up implying, in spite of noble intentions to the contrary, that God made a bad marketing mistake when he wrote the Bible the way he did, but that fortunately we are here to help him out! No. Rather, let us respect what God has spoken in his Word, and let us not attempt to be wiser than God.

More on the TNIV debate can be found here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Quote of the Day

But knowledge of ourselves lies
  • first in considering what we were given at creation and how generously God continues his favour towards us, in order to know how great our natural excellence would be if only it had remained unblemished; yet at the same time to bear in mind that there is nothing of our own, but that we hold on sufferance whatever God has bestowed upon us. Hence we are ever dependent on him.

  • Secondly, to call to mind our miserable condition after Adam's fall; the awareness of which, when all our boasting and self-assurance are laid low, should truly humble us and overwhelm us with shame. In the beginning God fashioned us after his image [Gen. 1:27] that he might arouse our minds both to zeal for virtue and to meditation upon eternal life. Thus, in order that the great nobility of our race (which distinguishes us from brute beasts) may not be buried beneath our own dullness of wit, it behooves us to recognise that we have been endowed with reason and understanding so that, by leading a holy and upright life, we may press on to the appointed goal of blessed imortality.

John Calvin, Institutes II.i.1 (Battles translation, bullet outline mine)

Know creatureliness and fallenness, know self.

Why All This Fuss About Change?

What follows is a minor, largely incoherent, rant.

I have to confess I am bothered by this notion that churches have to change. I hear it from all over the place. I always have. I have been a Christian now for around 25 years, and in every church I have been in there has been a group of people who advocate the need for change. (There have been times when I have been one of them!) What they are getting at, most often, is that the church needs to present itself differently, to be newer, more shiny, more attractive to the outside world. Our old ways are just putting people, off are they not? We are just not relevant.

Lots of churches have swallowed this and are undergoing various degrees of change in their forms and practices. Some of it subtle, some unseemly. My problem is that this all seems like slapping on more perfume to cover up an underlying stink.

The stink is this: disobedience. It's disobedience to one command - to love one another. Lack of love goes with discontent. It creates discontent. It cries out for change. No one is happy.

But if we were to love...

Love covers over a multitude of things. It covers over the initial blam! of the strange culture we find in churches. That is after all a fruit of the interactions of the people there. But love exists between people, not just a style issue. So when a newcomer comes into our midst love is the magnet that overcomes the so-called "irrelevancies".

This frees us up then to honestly search Scripture about our forms and practices and not be ruled by those tyrants Relevance and Change.

Let us focus on love, and let the style issues sort them selves out.

Rant over.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Emergent Discussion

The White Horse Inn discusses the Emergent Church from a confessional perspective. The programme includes clips from an interview with Brian McLaren.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Rumble in Essex

It seems that the rumblings within the C of E are beginning to result in observable action. The thing that's funny about this though is this: how is it possible to be out of communion with someone who is nominally over you in the Lord and still be in the same organisation. I don't really understand the epicopal system, but if you don't accept your bishop, shouldn't you just leave?

Ho hum, those funny Anglicans...

Blurring the Lines

Tim Challies has an excellent post entitled The Blurring of Lines & Shame For The Gospel on the relationship between Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Life) and New Age Spirituality. Here's the key quote:
I do not necessarily believe that Rick Warren is knowingly New Age in his teaching. However, it seems clear that what he teaches, and what so many others mimic in his teaching, is not distinctly Christian. As believers we need to ensure that we do not mask the truth of the gospel message in vague, inoffensive, language. The gospel message is clear, offensive to [un? - SD]believers, foolish, but above all, powerful! To be ashamed of this message is to be ashamed of Christ himself. To remove the gospel from our message, is to leave ourselves with no message at all.

Go on, read it all. You know you want to.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Fools for Christ

It must be about 10 or 11 years ago now that I went with a bunch of Christians to investigate the Nine O'Clock Service in Sheffield, just before it emerged that one of the leaders was involved in inappropriate relations with some of the women in the group. This was round about the same time that Willow Creek was getting a foothold in the Christian consciousness in the UK. As one who at that time attended a small struggling traditional URC in my village, but with a reasonably large youth group, I was open to new ideas. Willow Creek seemed just the ticket. The event in Sheffield was another avenue to follow.

The Nine O'Clock Service was quite an experience - loud dance music, strong visuals, dancing girls (yes, even there), mats not pews or seats, large control/mixing desk, computers etc. It was a heady mix and had quite an effect on me. Even as I write I can still feel the effects.

Today I came across this site, what seems like a very similar concept and it stirred up memories for me. Now, I can both understand the attractiveness of this site and the event it is promoting, yet, in spite of its being so cool and 'alt', I also see its true foolishness.

There is much about Christianity that seems foolish and pathetic - preaching though no-one will listen, doing the real graft of biblical study, looking after widows and orphans, the 'smallness' of biblical Christianity, the ease with which we are discouraged when things don't look too great. This seems so contrary to modern expressions of worship and 'church'.

But when you realise that Jesus himself looked like nothing - he was not the all conquering one that the Jews expected - then we can take comfort. We seek to be devoted to the apostles teaching, prayer and the breaking of bread, and for this we are led to looking small, feeble, foolish. Yet we follow in the steps of the Master, our hope placed in Him and in His return.

It is noticeable that at Grace website its, cool, innovative, 'alt' ... and Jesus or Christ is not mentioned. Maybe He would give the wrong impression.

I'm In Agony

Oh yes. After five and a half hours of helping a colleague distribute Christian leaflets round Belper, Derbyshire, yesterday I can barely move today.

Unfit, overweight. Are these inevitable in Christian ministry?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Doing It My Way

Once I walked into a church just before the start of the Sunday morning service and sat down. This was not my own church. I was visiting. It was quite a small building, traditional in practice, with the pipe organ quietly playing in the background. Quite soothing, soporific even.

It was a few minutes before I realised that the tune being played quietly was Sinatra's My Way . It's a song of someone looking back on life with self-congratulation, proud of his self-sufficiency in the face of adversity. Here are some lines:

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

It will be no surprise then that I was horrified. In the midst of the assembly, where Christ is proclaimed, where all thought of self-sufficiency must be mortified in the face of Christ's death, here was what seemed like the ultimate hymn of praise to Man being played for all to hear!

All this is a bit of a preamble to mentioning this article (thanks Harry). It seems, as if we did not suspect it, that secular songs are increasingly popular in funeral services. And look what's at number two in the UK: My Way by Frank Sinatra! Increasingly it seems that the more secularised we become, the more we display our arrogance and self-congratulation as we rush into the presence of our holy Creator.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What's in a Building?

The LORD calls, through Haggai, on the remnant to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. So, what's the big deal? Who cares about a building? The church in the 21st century knows that she should not make much of bricks and mortar. So why does the LORD make such a big issue of it?

The temple idea plays a big role in redemptive history. It speaks of the LORD's willingness to be at the very centre of his people. Consider these things:
  1. After the Exodus God commanded that there be a place for him to dwell with his people:
    Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.(Exod. 25:8)
    As a result the sanctuary, the tabernacle was to be placed at the very heart of the people. The camp would be configured so that three tribes would camp on each side of the tabernacle. The LORD himself commanded that it be so.

  2. After the nation of Israel had been finally established and there was peace in the land, God promised that Solomon would be allowed to build a temple. Once again, this non-portable structure would be placed at the very heart of the national life of the people of God. It would be the place where God would dwell with his people.

  3. When Jesus comes an interesting change occurs. John says in 1:14,
    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
    The word for "made his dwelling" could be translated "tabernacled". Then, in Jesus' body we find the presence of God dwelling with his people. Signaling further the transition from the physical temple to Jesus body, He responded to the Jews' demand for a sign by saying (in John 2:19),
    Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.
    Jesus himself was the temple.

  4. In the next phase of redemptive history, after Jesus death, resurrection, ascension and pentecost, the place of his dwelling is the church. Paul says of the Corinthians,
    Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
    Note that Paul is speaking of them collectively, not as individuals.

  5. Finally, at the very end of the age, the temple is still prominent. But again there is a change. John says in Rev. 21:22-27
    I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
    God himself is the temple and the people of dwell with him forever in His glorious light.

When we see what all of this was pointing to, is it therefore any surprise that at that particular stage of redemptive history the LORD should be concerned to establish his temple? To our eyes, it is simply a building. God dwells in the church now. But it speaks of his eternal purpose and desire to dwell with his, yes, sinful, people in the closest possible communion. It is an amazing, eternal covenant love.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

God is Working His Purpose Out

Last Sunday I started preaching through the writings of Haggai. The contents of this book (I call it a book, though it is only two chapters long!) were given at a difficult time in Israel's history. It is post-exile, where a remnant have returned to the ruined Jerusalem in order to rebuild the temple.

I guess we can only imagine the fragility of the people. After all, all the covenant promises to Abraham, Moses and David seemed to have come to nothing. Even though they had been allowed to return, you can sense the pathos of their situation, and the ease with which they had become discouraged. "What's the point?" seems be written through them like in a stick of Blackpool rock.

It seems significant to me, then, that God is referred to frequently as "The LORD Almighty" (NIV) or, more literally, "The LORD of hosts" (as in the NKJV and AV). This title is important.

When "LORD" is used in the OT, it is the translation of YHWH. This is the covenant name of God. It is noticeable that in the first chapter of Genesis where God displays his creative power, He is referred to as Elohim. But in chapter 2, where Adam is the focus of attention, He is called YHWH or LORD. Why? Because he forms a special relationship with Adam - a covenant relationship. So when the OT uses 'LORD' it has in view who He is, not just what he is. This is especially true in Haggai. How the people needed to know that this was their covenant-making God speaking, and that his interest and concern for his people had not waned!

But more than that, He is the LORD of hosts. He is the commander of legions. He is almighty, as the NIV states. He is powerful over creation and providence. He orders the affairs of men and nations. How this remnant needed to hear this too. Not only does God care for them, but he is able to do something about it!

All this leads to the conclusion that surely God's promises to his people had not failed. His plans are not thwarted. He will save his people, even this motley remnant!

Friday, March 04, 2005

New Therapeutic Exercise

Imagine yourself on a Scottish hilltop, wind howling, and say with great gusto (and your best Scottish accent, making full use of arms):

There wis a coo
On yonder hill
It's no there noo
It must've shifted.

There. Feel better?

Blah de Blah

OK. I know I removed my links to FV writers from my blogroll, and I know that Doug Wilson is in that camp, but I can't help it - this is funny.

Now, who wants to talk about the Trojan horse of entertainment concealing dark theological enemies?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Not Much Guzzling Here

K and R ( and T!) were round for lunch on Sunday. They brought a box of Roses (616g thereof) so they may come back again.

Just in case they look in on this blog, here's how much is left...

This is quite an achievement given that
  1. it's already Wednesday

  2. Daughter and I both love chocolate

Pretty restrained, huh?

Secular Religion

Melanie Phillips writes on the effect of the human rights culture on society. She makes the observation that,
... modern human rights [are] acting as a solvent upon the moral values on which our society [depend] - principally our sense of duty and responsibility – and that this [is] destroying real human rights...
(I've changed the tenses of the verbs in [] to make the quote make sense.)

Of course, she would not see the solution from a Christian world view, but she has a clear view of the symptoms of the sickness. Indeed her observations lead her to the conclusion that,
...human rights are now our secular religion...

I'm glad that some people are beginning to wake up to this and correctly locate it in real life.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


When I was a student in Glasgow in my penultimate year I shared a flat with another student and a graduate teacher. On Sundays we would pile into the graduate's car and drive off to The Tron for worship. Occasionally, we would stop on the way to pick up an old lady who had phoned to ask for a lift.

Mrs. Long was a fine Christian lady. She was in her 80s and walked with two sticks, slowly but surely. She always came to both Sunday services, and turned up without fail to the midweek prayer meeting. The prayer meeting was held in a hall near the church building which had a number of stairs leading up to the door. Mrs Long struggled painfully up them, and back down again, every week.

We were having a conversation with her in the car one Sunday morning. She was asking for a lift later that evening. Once the pick-up was agreed she concluded by saying, "I don't mind asking for a lift. Some people get so embarrassed about it, but I don't. It's much more important that I'm there worshipping or praying in my right place, than sitting at home unembarrassed."

Mrs Long made such an impression on everyone by her stamina, commitment and radiant joy, despite her pain, that the stewards always reserved a place for her at the end of one of the pews. They knew she would be on her way.

I have never seen such a witness since. We seem to live in an age when people give up so easily, when Christianity is so flabby and self indulgent. Would that there were more people like Mrs. Long!