Thursday, June 30, 2005

'Nuther New Blog

Here's another old pal o' mine, Paul who's just started blogging. Since he's such a brainbox, clever-cloggs, academic kind of guy, he ought to be worth checking out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Cult of Non-procreative Self-gratification

Mark Steyn makes some observations about post-religious societies. Here a quote:
... what's at issue is ... whether [casual sex is] an appropriate organising principle for society. Or at any rate whether a cult of non-procreative self-gratification is, as the eco-crazies like to say, "sustainable".

... Frank Field made [some remarks] at a Centre for Policy Studies seminar last week. The subject under debate was poverty and social disintegration, and pondering the collapse of civility in modern Britain Mr Field gave seven reasons. Number One, he said, was the decline of religion.

At that point, many Britons will simply have tuned out for the remaining six, and the more disapproving ones will be speculating darkly on whether, like yours truly and other uptight squares, he has "casual sex" issues. Religion is all but irrelevant to public discussion in the United Kingdom, and you'd have to search hard for an Anglican churchman prepared to argue in public, as Mr Field does, that material poverty derives from moral poverty.

But the point is: he's not wrong. There aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies. And, if one casts around the world today, one notices the two powers with the worst prospects are the ones most advanced in their post-religiosity. Russia will never recover from seven decades of Communism: its sickly menfolk have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis; its population shrinks by 100 every hour, and by 0.4 per cent every year, a rate certain to escalate as the smarter folks figure it's better to emigrate than get sucked down in the demographic death spiral.

And then, of course, there's the European Union.
Of course, his observations are empirical, but interesting nonetheless.

Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people. (Prov. 14:34, NKJV)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Religious Hatred Law

If you want to know what happens when you have a religious 'hatred law' read this news report about what is happening in Victoria, Australia.

The Christian Institute has more background.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Co-op and Christians

Al draws our attention to this report about the Co-Op's decision to close the bank account of Christian Voice. CV's response is to be found here.

Personally, I am not a great fan of CV. I agree with their positions on all issues (I think - to be honest I have not checked every jot and tittle) but their tactics leave a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, whatever one's view of CV, this is a remarkably illiberal move by the Co-op Bank. Not only do they take a position themselves in regard to 'diversity', which they have a right to do I suppose, but they require their customers to agree with them or they will not do business with them.

In other words, they disagree with with what a segment of society says and they oppose its right to say it. Let's see where this kind of thinking takes our society in the coming days.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Southern Baptists on State Education

A couple of days ago I posted on the failed PCA resolution to encourage members to withdraw from state education. Now it looks like the Southern Baptists are going to revisit the issue. Al Mohler has written of the need for the SBC to have an exit strategy for its members. Though a 'common' educational system has done much good for the peope of the US, there are now serious problems. Here's a quote (emphasis mine):
The breakdown of the public school system is a national tragedy. An honest assessment of the history of public education in America must acknowledge the success of the common school vision in breaking down ethnic, economic, and racial barriers. The schools have brought hundreds of millions of American children into a democracy of common citizenship. Tragically, that vision was displaced by an ideologically-driven attempt to force a radically secular worldview.

In other words, the danger is not in the vehicle of any state system itself, but it is in the ideology it is allowed to convey.

Bound for Glory - A Review

In case anyone is confused, R. C. Sproul Jr. is not the same person as R. C. Sproul. R. C. Jr. is pastor of a church in Tennessee and is son of R. C., as you might guess.

Sproul Jr. has written a book called Bound for Glory: God's Promise for Your Family. It is short (119pp.), an easy read and very stimulating. Sproul writes as a presbyterian committed to covenant theology and all that that means for family life. So serious is he about this that he is a strong advocate of home-schooling, a growing trend in the US. He is also a paedo-communionist (i.e. he believes baptised children of believers should take communion) , a point over which he differs from his father.

The book covers a big topic: what the covenant means for family life. Therefore, it is not a complete treatment by any means. Indeed, it is much more of an exhortation for those basically convinced to take seriously biblical implications for family life.

Sproul starts by examining the fragmented nature of modern family life. Though some families live under the same roof, at a very early stage each member begins living separated lives, each with their own space or room, entertainments, social connections. Christian families are affected too. Family suffers. As he observes,
Even if we could get them together in the one room, it would only be to watch the blue-eyed glowing idol in their living room. (p. 25).
Sproul argues further that the segregation within the family is seen also in church life: youth groups, men's meetings, women's meetings, segregated worship, and so on. This is all extremely challenging, but strikes a chord.

Sproul goes on to look at the family in the Bible, starting with Adam and Eve. He goes in a direction I found surprising. They were to exercise dominion over the earth, and they were to raise children to do the same. This serves as a paradigm for covenant families, to make manifest the reign of Jesus Christ over the earth. It seems clear therefore why family life is is the most important activity a man or a woman can be involved in, far more important than secular career. Christ's reign on earth begins with his reign in your family. My observation on this is that it does seem one-sided. Perhaps this is necessary at times to highlight a point. But there is a strong hint of covenant-sucession being more important that free and open gospel proclamation to all who will hear.

Nevertheless, the book moves on to consider the role of the husband, the wife and the child, with its focus on the exhortations of Ephesians 5. These sections are very helpful and practical.

The penultimate chapter deals with the role of the church as a wider family. In particular Sproul has in mind the care and nurture of single people and single parents. In these cases, many of the functions that a family would provide are to be taken up by the church. A particular example was instructive. There was a family in Sproul's church that was damaged when the husband left. As a result the wife and children were left destitute. The church stepped in. One of the married elders who lived nearby became an 'uncle' to the children to serve as a father figure in order to support the abandoned wife's nurturing and discipline. Then, perhaps the most radical step taken was for the church to agree to support the family financially rather than have it cast upon the State. This challenged me because I realised that one of the ways the State corrodes the life of the church is to remove the need to care for its people and to share what the members have with one another. I wondered in how many other ways we allow State involvement in our lives such that true church life is throttled.

The final chapter consists of a transcript of a radio interview between R.C. Jr. and R. C. about family life. Though they have their differences, through it all you get this strong sense that R. C. Jr.'s greatest (earthly) hero was his dad, and that R. C. was proud of his son and how he had turned out!

This book was extremely interesting and challenging. Aside from some theological questions noted above, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Christians and State Education

This is an interesting development in the Presbyterian Church in America. It follows a similar move last year at the Southern Baptist Convention. I suppose that when
The public schools are by law humanistic and secular in their instruction, and as a result the attending children receive an education without positive reference to the Triune God
eventually Christians will wake up to their God-given responsibilities and care about the influences on their children.

Our situation in the UK is different. State schools are still required to perform a daily act of Christian worship, though I understand this is very loosely interpreted. But it would be no surprise to me that in time this will disappear.

There are two issues for Christians, I think. Firstly, Christians must not be complacent about our children's upbringing, but I think often we are. Too many of us believe the most important influences on their children are the youth group or Sunday school. At the same time we don't take seriously our obligation before God to be the primary source if instruction in the faith. Education begins in the home with family prayer and worship, godly conversation, joy in the Lord.

Secondly, just what place do state schools have in the Christian education of our children? There are those who believe that the reason so many drift away from the faith is that the schools are not sufficiently 'Christian'. I am not one of those. I believe if there is a fault it is more likely to be at home. I have previously looked on state education as a means of educating children in aspiritual disciplines. They gain basic information and skills. In this view the state system is independent of the Christian faith, in the same way that going to the doctor or buying a pair of shoes is. There is no more need for acts of worship in school than there is to have them down at the Asda checkout. So I have not been able to advocate the Baker-ite acts of worship.

However, in recent months I have been more aware that
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7)
This is a chainsaw to the root of the view that knowledge can be aspiritual and independent. Solomon tells us that the fear of the LORD is foundational to all knowledge. Therefore can any subject be studied without reference to Him?

This raises other big questions. What is a genuinely Christian education? Can it be just a 'daily act of worship'? Or must it affect the subjects themselves and how they are taught? What does that mean for our one-size-fits-all National Curriculum? Can this be sustained without allowing a necessarily secularist, aspiritual worldview erode the spiritual nurture of our children?

I'm open for suggestions.

By the Way...

... I think the Job exam went better than expected. I answered everything except one small question, so that's a good sign. I had a good 3-hour drive home last night. On the way, I listened to some of a series of lectures Sinclair Ferguson gave on Christian Doctrine at The Tron in the 80's when I was a member there. (It's frightening to think that he was younger then than I am now!) It is still good stuff!

Reflecting on my prep for Job, the way the exams were scheduled, I had virtually 42 hours to mug up on the topic (into which I also had to fit sleep, eating, getting clean etc as well) while at the college. I have to confess (now that I have finished) that before the exam I had only covered 25% of the course work. You can see why it was a train wreck waiting to happen. However, in that 42 hours I think I covered nearly 60% more of the course while cooped up in my room. I read a huge amount, made loads of notes, and virtually thought of nothing else (except when I got hungry, of course).

So you can see then why now I am thinking:
  • Could I not have got through the coursework when I had plenty of time, but without the stress?

  • Think what could be achieved in reading if I really set my mind to it. Maybe I could get through those dozens of unread books on my shelves!

Anyway, lets have a look at some blogs...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I'm Done

"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Quick Update

A shakey thumbs up for the Hebrew Grammar exam this morning, though I need to wait for the results to be sure, but it felt ok-ish.

I have been cooped up in my college room now for virtually all of the 53 hours I have been here trying to catch up. Can't help feeling that in the effort to get on top of Hebrew in the last few weeks I have sacrificed studies on Job. I am just about getting to the point where I feel I could at least tackle the questions in the past papers. But this is hardly a comfortable position to be in. This is my worst ever preparation for a module exam!

Roll on 5pm tomorrow and I can go home...

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, not much learning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Week Has Arrived

Finally, I am at ETCW for my end of year exams. I had the first this morning on Pastoral Principles and Practice. It was just a short one, with one question. The gist of it was, "How do you deal pastorally with a childless couple who come to you for help. He is addicted to internet pornography and has some online friends with whom he shares intimate details. As a result their marriage is suffering. What would you do?" (There is of course more detail than this in the paper.)

So, come on then, whay would you do?

Hebrew Grammar tomorrow. I think this is under control.

Book of Job on Thursday. This is a disaster waiting to happen. But I have 42 hours and 20 minutes to turn this tanker-baby round...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

New Blogger

Just a quick note to let you know that my mate Rob Whiteway has a blog. As you will see, like me he is experiencing the pain of prep for next week's exams at ETCW.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sproul on Institutions

In his book Bound for Glory, R. C. Sproul, Jr. makes the following observation (from a US point of view, of course)
God, in His mercy and his power, has established in this world four institutions. One is the individual. The second is the family. After that comes the church. And finally he has established the state. The drive in our age is to reduce that number down to two, to eliminate what the sociologists call the "mediating institutions," the family and the church. The culture looks at each of us principally as individuals who are likewise part of the state. Our identity in the family or the church is seen as coincidental, if not problematic. But in actuality the family and the church are mediating or middle institutions, in that they protect us from being swallowed into one of the other two institutions.
(p. 26)

Sproul's identification of the four institutions is not something I have thought about before, but seems obvious now. Of course, it fits. The rampant individualism of the last 40 years has damaged the culture's concept of the family, and certainly corroded the way the church thinks about itself. It is no surprise, therefore, that when Christian individuals can't deal with issues increasingly even their cry is to the government to legislate and/or act to the point of damaging the middle institutions they are part of.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Big Picture

Google introduced a maps feature which seems pretty good. The US version also has the feature of showing satelite images of the map that is in view. I've had an interesting time trying to identify the houses of one or two people I know who live there. Just for fun, you understand.

Sometimes one comes across interesting views on the satelite image. Google Sightseeing collects such views and makes for interesting browsing in a spare moment.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Satsuma Elephant

Originally uploaded by Dancers.

Should anyone be now bored with making Underpant Toast, here's another idea - all of my very own - Satsuma Elephants!

If you would like a free fact sheet about how to make one, then something could be arranged, I'm sure.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Susan and Stephen
Originally uploaded by Dancers.

The Girl took this while we were all out for a walk round Little Eaton last month. Pretty good, I thought.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Gravitational Pull

To assume that because man has ability to love he therefore has the ability to love God, is about as wise as to assume that since water has the ability to flow, it therefore has the ability to flow uphill; or to reason that because a man has power to cast himself from the top of a precipice to the bottom, he therefore has equal power to transport himself from the bottom to the top.

Predestination, Loraine Boettner, p62.

I like when theologians use physics to explain a theologocal concept. Here, Boettner is trying to explain how man has "wholly lost all ability of will to any good accompanying salvation" (WCF 9.3). The effect of sin is likened to a gravitational pull.

Like it.