Busy Today

I preached twice today. Firstly, this morning I was at Solihull Presbyterian Church, about 50miles south of where we live. There were 20 there, I think, similar to last week, but some different faces. One lady from the neighbourhood who had come for the first time last week had come back, so she was a great encouragement. Another man who has been along a few times and has many questions about the faith also came. He too was an encouragement. I preached on the rich young ruler of Matthew 19, issuing the call to follow Christ.

In the evening, I was at DFC. We have reached John 21:1-14 where we looked at how Jesus prepared Peter for his full restoration after his denial of Christ.

Naturally, I felt much more at home at DFC than Solihull. I know the people, their circumstances. I know when they are getting restless and when they are engaged. Solihull was a new ball-game – exciting, but tricky picking up the ‘rules’ and ‘plays’!

Now I am shattered and probably will be tomorrow too.

Busy Today

Is S/He Really A Christian?

When I was a young lad and not long a Christian, I and my Christian friends would discuss the merits of the preachers we knew and heard in and around Glasgow. At uni there were many of us in the Navigators and the Christian Union so there were plenty preachers we knew of to talk about.

Perhaps it was arrogant of us to think we knew anything about what to look for in preaching and preachers. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, after all. Youth has a habit of not caring too much about such small but important details as experience and wisdom. But, undeterred, we pressed on with our discussions, often late into the night.

Not all the preachers were considered ‘good’. In fact, based on the quality of the preaching, the things said, the views expressed, occasionally someone would say in hushed tones, “I don’t think he is a Christian”. Such conclusions seemed perfectly rational.

Much later, having moved abroad to England, I still maintained that kind of thinking. In any church there are Christians and not-really Christians.

Now, there are two ways that one can deal with this kind of thought. First, there is the recognition that not all of those who are members of a church today will be there at the Last Day. This is a fact which cannot be denied. Hypocrites are in the church and they will be found out by Christ (Mat. 7:21-23). But the second way of dealing with this is to adopt an attitude akin to the Inquisition. “Is that person really a Christian?” I may ask. The person is a member of the church I am a member of. He/she is not an “open and notorious evil liver”. In other words, he/she could be living an ordered life, outwardly impeccable. Yet the Inquisitor in me says, “Is that person really a Christian?” This is the approach I used to take some years ago as I formed a mental list of those in my church who were “real Christians” and those who were not.

The difference between the two views is simple. Who decides? In the first case, Christ decides. He is the infallible judge. He always gets things right. This is a fearful fact that must be treated with some urgency and importance by each individual. He will not make a mistake and therefore there is no room for appeal, no matter how people will try. (Read Matt. 7:21-23 again to check that this is true.)

In the second case, I try to decide. Of course, open sin must be confronted – theft, adultery etc. Here, the process of pastoral discipline must be followed through by the church (Matt. 18:15-17), resulting in expulsion (1 Cor. 5:1-13) as the final step if necessary. But what of those who are not like that? They may be baptised, professors of the faith, but who at the same time don’t seem very lively spiritually speaking, sometimes come out with whacky theological views, and lack an eagerness to serve that others may have. Yes, there is a case for me to encourage them in greater zeal for worship, prayer, meditation on the Word, acts of service. But is it legitimate for me to entertain that secret little thought, “He’s not really a Christian”?

I can’t justify a “yes” to that question. Can you?

ADDENDUM: Of course I should add for the sake of clarity that for anyone to stand in a pulpit and preach unbiblical nonsense is a great sin. Any afflicted church must deal with this cancer and do so crisply. Young men who do not know what they are saying should be counselled and trained. Older men who know exactly what they are saying should be told to “pick a windae” – as they say in Glasgow.

Is S/He Really A Christian?

The Real JM

Everyone knows that Jon Mackenzie is hiding something. He thinks he has fooled us with his arty foto. But there have long been rumours – he is hiding something.

Now, after much work and long hours, using only the finest digital enhancement software, I have manage to do something quite remarkable. We now know what Jon Mackenzie looks like….


The Real JM

We’ve Been Had!

You may remember the precautionary measures that I felt it necessary to take the other day. And, thanks the nudge from David, my family has been catechised for their own protection by learning a helpful song.

Cool Accessory

However, it is with great regret that I have discovered that there are double-agents afoot propogating even more pernicious falsehoods. It is necessary for all to be made aware of some secret research which has been done on the efficacy of tin-foil hats, which I have uncovered.

Here are the results: yes, it is true that at most radio frequencies mind-controling rays are attenuated by the hat. We are safe from, say, Radio 1. However, there is a band of frequencies for which this is not true. In fact, in this band the signal is … stengthened!

And HORROR of HORRORS!?!? – it is the band reserved FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT USE!! It seems that the whole rush to get the population of the world to acquire such (admittedly, mmm, fetching) hats was an elaborate ruse to control us yet further!!!!!

Whatever shall we do?

We’ve Been Had!

Science, Politics and Homosexuality: A Book Review

I reproduce here a book review I wrote a while ago for my church magazine. Enjoy…

Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate
Stanton L. Jones & Mark A. Yarhouse
IVP: Downers Grove, Illinois, 2000. 183pp, pb.
ISBN: 0830815678

As a trained scientist I was drawn to this book by the words “scientific” and “research” in the title. This area of concern is heavily politicized within the wider Christian community and it is sometimes difficult to find solid ground for the assertions made. The authors of this book write from a conservative evangelical standpoint and adopt the traditional attitude to homosexual practice. However their primary concern is with explaining the relevance of research data to the moral debate, not with explaining biblical texts. With this in mind it is refreshing to read authors who want to look at some hard data gathered in the field, some of it eye-opening and challenging.

The basic structure of the book is to look at what research has to say about four questions: How prevalent is homosexuality? What causes homosexuality? Is homosexuality a psychopathology? (i.e. is it some kind of mental disorder?) Can homosexuality be changed? Each of these is covered in a chapter each of which adopts the same form: A review of the use of research in church debate so far; a review of the scientific findings; a discussion of the relevance of the research to the moral debate.

In my view Jones and Yarhouse make two particularly useful contributions. The first is that they simply clear up the numbers. For example, it is now commonly asserted by pro-gay advocates that 10% of people are gay. The source of this is two-fold: firstly, a study made in the 40s and 50s with methods that are now discredited. Secondly, there has been a reckless enhancement of the figures for political ends. To counter this Jones and Yarhouse simply present a full list of research results carried out more recently with more rigorous methods. The clear conclusion is that the figure is more like 1-2%.

The second useful contribution is to show how important caricaturing of conservative Christian arguments is in progressing the pro-gay viewpoint. For example, “Homosexuality is not very prevalent therefore it is abnormal and must be rejected”, is one such caricature that pro-gays have seized upon. The argument has the ring of scientific authority about it. To counter it, it is in the interests of the pro-gay lobby to show that the prevalence of homosexuality is significant. Having done so, so the pro-gay argument goes, homosexuality is not abnormal and therefore should be accepted. It is a successful approach since Christians often unthinkingly adopt the caricature (as I found I had done!) with the result that they are then portrayed as being against science. Jones and Yarhouse spend some time analyzing the caricatures and showing them for what they are. This was very thought-provoking.

The book closes with a chapter on Christian sexual ethics. This is particularly useful as it connects dealing with the moral choices concerning homosexuality with the broader issue of making moral choices as a fallen Christian. Christian living means hard decisions sometimes with hard consequences, and not just for those who struggle with homosexuality.

Though a short read, it is a book for the committed reader who really wants to get to the bottom of the underlying research. But for those with an interest in the topic it is well worth the effort and money spent on it.

Science, Politics and Homosexuality: A Book Review