News and Help

In case you haven’t noticed, posting has been a bit sporadic. This is because I have exams tomorrow (Christian Ministry) and Thursday (Greek). Travel down to ETCW this evening, back Thursday, late.

By the way, just to show practical care and concern, I really am sorry about this. If any English readers want get together and talk about it, I have a willing ear to listen to anyone grieving at this sad time.

I promise to try my best not to smirk or snort uncontrollably.

News and Help

Some Snooping

During my recent sojourn to Messy Christian’s blog a couple of weeks ago I got into a discussion over whether or not elders may ‘rule’ a church, and what the nature of that rule is. This person occasionally writes for this blog.

While perusing that blog, I noticed that under the “In my Library” section there was a recent one (‘The Lost Message of Jesus’) by Steve Chalke. This book has proved controversial, and a scathing review of it appeared in last month’s Evangelicals Now.

Some will remember that Steve Chalke became a bit of a darling of the evangelical scene in the UK in the 90’s. A Baptist pastor, engaging speaker, good looking he had quite an impact. He was even the main speaker at a mission in Derby in 1995. Susan and I took some neighbours to hear him.

Not only this, he had a growing interest in reaching inner cities – youth, addicts, homeless etc. His vehicle for this was the Oasis Trust which gained significant support from churches and evangelical organisations throughout the UK. Such was his impact that he began to appear regularly on GMTV. He had the kudos that other evangelicals did not have because he was helping to meet real physical needs.

My wife Susan wrote to him at the height of his popularity. She was concerned that once in the media spotlight he would lose his gospel focus. She received a very gracious reply from his office and thanked her for her concern.

However, his book shows that her and my fears have been realised. Amongst the several points made in the EN review was the denial of penal substitution (i.e. that Christ came and died as our perfect substitute to take the penalty of God’s wrath that we deserved). Paraphrasing Packer in his lecture What did the Cross Achieve?, penal substitution is a distinguishing mark of evangelicalism. But for Chalke, the penal substitution theory presents us with

“a form of cosmic child abuse – a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed, morally dubious in total contradiction to the statement ‘God is love'”p.182, according to EN.

Thus, Chalke has decisively moved away from an evengelical position.

Why am I telling you this? Well I was just surprised to see it listed on the !oxgen blog, that’s all. Of course, I can’t tell the reasons why the writer(s) may want to read the book – I may even read it myself in due time. Yet, most people have no problem advertising what they would also recommend.

But I went a little further. In discussing the issue of ‘rule’ mentioned above, my friend suggested I read an article on Rom 13:1,2 posted on the !oxegen website. What’s interesting is that the author is the creator and a contributor to the website Jesus Radicals. What’s this? It’s a website for Christian Anarchists! I have not read very many of the articles here, but the underlying philosophy of this group is the anarchism of writers such as Noam Chomsky and others. In this mode of thinking there is an intense distrust of any heirarchical power structure. In it’s Christian manifestation, there is an intense distrust of any form of power structure in the church. The site contains articles denying that any authority inside and outside the church, except that of Jesus, is biblically authorised and mandated. Hence I believe I have found the source of my opponents arguments – a political philosophy which serves as a filter by which Scripture is interpreted.

One last final point: on that same site, there are a couple of papers denying the penal substitution theory of the atonement!

Is there a connection between Christian anarchism and this denial of a vital doctrine? I’ll let you know if I find out!

Some Snooping

Interesting Word

Tonight, during family devotions, we were reading Joshua 3 – you know, the part where Israel crosses the Jordan behind the ark of the covenant. When my daughter Katie (aged 10, soon to be 11) realised that God had made the waters pile up so that they could walk over on dry ground, she exclaimed, “Awe…Wicked!!”

Er…quite.

Interesting Word

Blogroll Update

I have updated my blogroll to reflect what I am currently reading.

Of course I need to add a disclaimer, should there be any impressionable young souls out there who need a hand to hold, that I do not agree with everything out there. There are left-wing, right-wing, reformed, non-reformed, charismatic, conservative, New Perspective supporters, opponents of NPP etc etc on the roll. I agree with lots of things you will find there, but I have strong reservations about some of them. Whatever, I do find them interesting and that is why they are listed. So, if you want to find out what I believe, read this blog, not anyone else’s!

Blogroll Update

For Preachers

Here’s an interesting little book: The Imperative of Preaching by John Carrick (Banner of Truth, 2002). Carrick is a professor of theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and teaches on the topic of this book.

The target audience for the book is given away somewhat by the critique he offers of the preaching method of the Redemptive-Historical school within the Reformed/Presbyterian community. In a nutshell, this school sees a minimal role for imperative instruction from the pulpit. Its is not the function of the preacher, so they say, to make the Bible relevant to people. Rather the method seeks to draw people into the text where they see themselves. Carrick rightly asks what this means!

Carrick’s purpose, then is to show what the essential elements of preaching are, and to show how they are used in Scripture. There are four:

  • The Indicative: stating the glorious truths of the gospel
  • The Exclamative: the use of exclamation to add ‘heat’ to the indicative statements
  • The Interrogative: the use of questions to analyse indicatives, or as rhetorical devices, or as a means of searching the hearts of hearers.
  • The Imperative: giving instruction to the hearers.

Many examples are given from Scripture of all these elements, as are many from the recorded sermons of well known preachers spanning the time from Jonathan Edwards down to Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is a pretty thorough approach.

As such the book is a useful tool for analysing how one constructs and delivers a sermon. The danger, as with any book that deals with homiletics, is that one can become formulaic in one’s preparation and delivery without possessing the heart and fire of the gospel. Without this the endeavour of preaching is pointless.

The niggling question I have, though, is one for Carrick’s method. Is it valid to infer from the teaching methods in the writings of Scripture what the nature of the preaching should be? Written records of sermons often do not read very well as writing simply because they should be heard. Similarly, attempting to read a theological book as a sermon will be stilted because it is intended to be read not heard. So, is it possible that Carrick mis-states, possibly overstates, the case for the role imperative in preaching?

For Preachers

Yerp Again

I got my postal ballot papers for the Euro Parliament elections on the target date so I am happy. But I feel a rant coming on. Here goes…

Now, I am pro-European. I always have been. The original intent of the project, to bind warring countries together after the War and to make themselves self-sufficient in food, has been enormously successful. We as a country have benefitted from increased access to trading partners and from EU infrastructure projects. Well and good.

However there are two great scandals which have become clear to me in the last few years which must be addressed.

Firstly, the lack of genuine democratic accountability. Three years ago the whole Commission was obliged to resign because the accounts did not add up. The parliament had a role to play in this. This was good. Yet for the last nine years the accounts have not added up! Are the parliament consistently holding the Commission to account? Obviously not. The Commission has free reign. This offends me.

Secondly, the existence of the Common Agricultural Policy. As I said this has been a great success. It has helped Europe get on its feet. But now it exists to subsidise inefficient farms who shouldn’t be in business. As a result we have mountains of food which we have to dump on world markets. The knock on effect is that the grinding poverty of underdeveloped countries is perpetuated. It seems to me that these beleaguered economies are not able to compete in the areas where they might have a chance, even an advantage. Instead, the industrial power of Europe, through the CAP subsidy, is now effectively directed against the agricultural economies of the 3rd world. (I believe American subsidies are just as damaging, though I am open to correction) This deeply offends me.

Can the votes of the ordinary people of Europe make a difference? I am pessimistic. For the EU parliament to call the Commission to account for its corruption is difficult. When MEPs point their fingers accusingly, the Commission will only point back at the MEPs, citing the huge expense accounts as evidence. The MEPs are essentially bribed into inaction.

On the CAP, well frankly national governments of Germany, France will simply not let go of their hold on this. MEPs are powerless.

So, what I want to know is: which party is prepared to tackle these two evils of our time? Unfortunately, the MEPs elected will be unable to do anything themselves. This power will rest with national governments, accountable to national parliaments. So the real Euro debate must be had during national elections. Nevertheless, the Euro elections can give the right signals to the parties and therefore affect policy. Therefore there is some reason, at least, to vote.

So this is what I want to find out: a) the attitude of the parties to the lack of democratic accountability b) their attitude to the CAP.

What think ye?

Yerp Again

A Sad Day

This is Mouse, another of our three cats. She is 15. I arrived back from Ayrshire on Tuesday at lunch time. She appeared later that evening. It was clear she was not well at all. She had been lively last week but now she was barely walking. I resolved to take her to the vet in the morning. Thinking she would bed down for the night and since she was in such a state it never occurred to me that she might go out again, so I didn’t lock the cat flap.

In the morning she had gone. I looked for her in most of her usual haunts but she was not there. Finally today I posted notes through all the neighbours doors asking if she had been seen. It turned out this afternoon that a neighbour had found her and was feeding her but didn’t know she was ours.

At the vet this evening I was told she had suffered kidney failure. There was nothing to be done. Tomorrow she will be put to sleep after Kate and Susan have said goodbye.

A sad day.

A Sad Day

Redwood (Tory) vs. Kilroy-Silk (UKIP)

I watched these two battle it out last night on Channel 4 News and then on BBC’s Newsnight programmes. Kilroy-Silk the new slick front-man of UKIP, Redwood Howard’s supposed Dobermann sent out to see off the intruder.

I have to say that in terms of passion, presentation skills etc. Kilroy-Silk won hands down. He has, after all, had a lengthy career as a TV presenter. Redwood was shown to be basically in agreement with UKIP. The only argument Redwood could put together was that the Tory party is the best vehicle to get what UKIP wants. Therefore vote Tory. But the official position of the Tories of “Live and let live” in Europe is radically different from the “Say NO to Europe” (i.e. full withdrawal from the EU) position of UKIP. It shows that the deep underlying problems that bedevilled the Tories in the 90’s are still there.

For the Tories I think last night’s exposure was disastrous.

Redwood (Tory) vs. Kilroy-Silk (UKIP)