Monday, 11 July 2016

It's no longer about Right and Left...

It's confirmed, the establishment in Britain no longer care why they lead how they lead, they only care about how. The definition of what government is, and why it should be that way is completely ignored, they just want to be in political leadership because, well... they do.

May and Eagle, who's excited? Anyone?
There is a certain breed of politicians which are intellectually toxic to our political set-up. They are there, not out of principle with ideas to put forward, but with the simple desire to get into politics. Sure, they care as much as anyone about life generally getting better, but their passion isn't at all philosophically motivated, there is no core aims of their career. They may be slightly right or left wing, but only pragmatically, the only thing they desire is the job. These career politicians are driven by the idea of being in power. They, like a robot are programmed to say and think almost identical things, presenting themselves at all times to act in a certain way, even to the point of knowing exactly when to smile. But under this is next to no substance, and we have found in Britain over the last twenty years has been governed by polished turds, not making any substantial moves for any kind of cause, but simply putting forward any agenda which seems popular to get them the votes that they so desperately need.

The philosophical foundations of both the Left and the Right are no longer needed to be an established politicians. They aren't unaware of these views, but from Blair onward, the political elite have pushed into the centre ground, in order to not have to form an actual argument, but simply convince the populace that they will give them the most stuff. No longer is it at all relevant whether you think that Thatcherism or Socialism is the way forward, the job of a politician is merely to be there in order to, well... be there.

We see this in both the Tory and Labour Party at the moment, Corbyn, as much as his views are absurd, has views! What a refreshing thought, someone has entered politics who actually has a hint of conviction, and has made it to leader. But, the Labour establishment is unhappy, as this guy may cause some people to disagree with him, and may lose votes (heaven forbid!). So, Labour are shoving up Angela Eagle, the definition of a career politician to clean up his mess and go back to seeking votes from the brain dead electorate by offering stuff. We see this in the Tory party as well, with the MP's vomiting this heir-to-Cameron: Theresa May with a very centrist position. It will be fun observing the shitstorm to take place at the next election if the Labour Party get's rid of Corbyn, and I say 'shitstorm', because when you pretty much agree politically as two polished turds, the only thing you can do to appeal for votes is argue that you're less of a turd then your opponent. 

I for one hope that Corbyn stays, and that he wins the next election. I'll take the hit. The Tory Party had the opportunity to have Leadsom, who, even if you disagree with her, has clear views. But, she was bullied into resigning by the most successful smear campaign I've ever seen by centrist Tory MP's and the centrist media. If Corbyn wins the next election, this will force the Tories to oppose his actualisation of ideas, by coming up with ideas themselves. Whether Left or Right, we need to start actually thinking about the bigger questions about why things are the way they are, and from that form pragmatic solutions, rooted in actual reasoning, not just doing for the sake of doing.

Corbyn, actually saying something.
When we start voting based on ideology, reasoning and dialogue again, perhaps the concern about free speech within the political sphere will once again loosen. Part of the new Social Justice Warrior movement in which people are passionate about pursuing the more peculiar way of self-expression, whilst suppressing those who disagree with them through shouting as loud as they possibly can, is due to this shift towards the centre. We all, philosophically under are centrist regime, should agree with each other. So things like gay marriage, or minimum quotas for minorities in work are absolute human rights, and morally irrefutable, because, well... they are. So, because of the political centrism which naturally breeds political correctness, as they have demolished the idea of ideological debate, has brought in a generation of people that simply don't know how to disagree. My generation are particularly Left Wing. Now I've got many good Left Wing friends, and have great intellectual debates with them. But there are thousands, which we can see through the numerous protests like tuition fees, anti-austerity, Black Lives Matter, anti-Brexit and anti-Tory in which it is impossible to reason with them, as these people just want to shout out their Leftist gospel as loud as possible, because they haven't seen a true difference of ideas being debated, due to the shift towards the centre. Therefore, if you disagree, you're labelled homophobic, sexist, racist and bigoted, because in general, ideologically my generation has no idea how to disagree well! 

The way forward is to once again have a political system that encourages ideas, thoughts and philosophical dialogue. We're reaching a stage where unless your in the polite political establishment, you're either a hysterical young Leftist, or a conservative to ashamed to admit their views. So, Jezza, best of luck, continue pursuing politics on genuine views, and I hope one day my party will provide you with a genuine rival!

Monday, 4 July 2016

The 'United' Kingdom?

'The United Kingdom' seems to be a great irony as we reflect on the news last week. The bitter divisions that led to such harshness from either side have scarred both friends and family. I have written attacking the hostility and hysteria of the extreme of the Remain side, but I do acknowledge there are many with worryingly racist intentions from the Brexit camp that have seized this opportunity to create racist disorder in this nation. Within the laity, such hurt has been caused by both sides, both intentionally and unintentionally. Whilst this has been happening, in Westminster, both the Tories and Labour have seem to forgot that little 'governing' role in their job description and decided to replicate scenes that couldn't have been written better by George R.R. Martin himself! Our political landscape at the moment seems so uneasy, that buying a printed paper seems utterly useless, as the news has been changing by midday with another resignation, or a backstabbing leadership bid. The desire to have trust in politics has been blown out of the window, I for one don't care too much who the hell it is that the Westminster establishment vomits at us, I simply long for an element of stability to once again enter the UK, well, until Sturgeon manages to throw a tantrum for another fifty referenda until she finally may get what she wants (also, someone get her in a Safe Space soon, she might implode; some cuddly toys and colouring books may do the trick).

There is a desire in society at the moment for unity and stability. This is very much an admirable desire, and it is of course something that we must strive for. For a sensible discussion and plea for unity, I seek here to expose the ways in which both the far ends of the Right and the Left are further breaking society apart, and to encourage us that our great country is not broken beyond repair! The far right long for unity by seeking a common ground to unite us, usually uneducated, they give in to our natural instinct which is to be sceptical of the outsider, looking to protect our own. From this view, there has been many racist attacks and xenophobic abuse which has been damaging in many areas of the UK. The longing for unity here is purely material, there is a longing to unite as white British people, looking out for our own kind. This is obviously horrific on a philosophical level, making race far too large a factor in who we are as community. It also has a terrifying result on a social level, creating violence and division purely on the basis of race. This model of thinking absolutely needs to cease; skin colour, race nor anything else should be a necessity for unity.

Obviously disgusting sign from the Far Right
 To avoid the mistake of the far Right, we must pursue to educate with tolerance and peace. But with this, we must qualify what on earth we mean. Too much contemporary conversation is driven by 'buzz words' such as 'love', 'tolerance', 'acceptance', 'equality' and 'peace'. These are all marvellous words to strive for, but if you just shout them loudly just to decorate your own political agenda, these words begin to lose their authority and weight. For example, the LGBT parade are beginning to realise this, with increasingly bullying conservative Christians (who are usually far more expressive of the core definition of 'tolerance', with Voltaire's famous line "I hate what you have to say, but defend to the death your right to say it.") for not agreeing with their definition of what marriage and relationships should be. This is the problem with a lot of the younger generation, and unfortunately a few older members of the public as well. This ambition for unity with the style of argument in which these 'buzz words' are yelled as loudly as possible is symptomatic of the Regressive Left. This is a new breed of political bigotry that remains popular among many that may have been relatively liberal (by the proper definition, knowing how to agree to disagree), but have been caught up by this ambition to create an all-accepting, all-loving society, and have been 'radicalised' into a belief system which is hyper-sensitive and hyper-intolerant.

What the Regressive Left pushes for, scares me far more than the racists in the far Right. Racists hate people based on race. Simple. We know our enemy and how to deal with them, if they're not violent, through education, if they're violent through the force of the law. But on the Left, they hate whatever they class as 'bigotry and intolerance'. Sounds like an alright thing to hate, but here's the punch line: they define what this bigotry is! Which means that like the far Right, they end up excusing their violent and divisive behaviour as they ridicule what in their eyes should be hated. But this could be anything, there has been an increase of moronic accusations of bigotry for suggesting that gender is not a social construction, and that you may be deluded if your a man who thinks he's a woman. This is completely rational and has been the opinion of well, everyone throughout history. But the Regressive Left are shouting louder and louder about this issue. It's got to the stage where feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers is often accused of sexism for denying the gender pay gap: you couldn't make it up! I witnessed it with many Facebook friends last week who to my mind are great examples of the Regressive Left, they decided that whoever voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union should be branded as a 'racist' and 'xenophobe', and thus some of the foulest written abuse towards those on the conservative end of the spectrum took place. We were marked as horrible people with our integrity questioned. 
Mass hysteria from these Regressive Remainers.

On both the far Left and far Right, society is  being divided. Racists and snowflakes are dominating much of the discussion online and in general conversation at the moment, and it's a real shame. The dichotomy of most public debate appears to have foaming at the mouth Social Justice Warriors on one side, and volatile racist rhetoric on the other. Both sides want unity, but want it in the wrong ways, due to being uneducated, young, and philosophically illiterate. 

Whilst the far Right long for unity based on our commonality, which is race and culture, the far Left long for unity based on deluding ourselves that we have no particularity within us. The Left want to aspire to ignore our differences and fully accept each other within their definition of what tolerance is, which is "agree with everything we think". Whereas, the Right simply desire unity within the fact that we are the same. Both desire to force similarity on people, the Right at a physical level, and the Left on an intellectual level. Both are on the rise in our society and are equally as terrifying as each other.

What we need to do is to get back to basics, strive for freedom of discussion and expression, whilst knowing how to disagree well (which includes accepting the fact that you will occasionally lose a referendum.) Within our commonality (that we are human) we should accept the fact that we have particularities (gender, race, sexuality and opinions.) Within this, there should be space for anything to be discussed and expressed, within a space where we are free to critique each other. Once we lose our intellectual ability to disagree, we only have room for shouting matches and bullying, in which the intellectual unity of the Left or the racial unity of the Right will become the centres for a political battle in which either winner will be horrific. This is simple stuff, which is the core of the majority of the political philosophy of early liberal writers who the Left would love to site if they had the ability to read.

A last word, although I believe on a secular level, libertarianism is most definitely the way forward, learning how to agree to disagree, there is no true unity until we are in Christ, who repairs all racial divides that we may have. In Him, we, still having particularity, have our core identity and reason to love one another in Him (Gal 3:28). The reason we are seeing such extremity in the pursuit of unity is that humans naturally desire what we have in Christ (Rom 8:19-21). The Left, Right and Centre in any political system desire a community which are bound together in love and peace. Problem is, that this can only happen when we are in Christ, bound together as brothers and sisters by the Holy Spirit in His name. A high calling for us Christians in this stage of national disunity is to display this love, we are to show God's love by our love for one another (1 John 4:7-21)! What a challenge that John gives us, let us aspire to live it out!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Calm down, darling!

Goodness, gracious me! This EU referendum has promoted some of the most vicious political arguments that I have ever seen, friends and even families are falling out over it. Just check through your Facebook, and I guarantee you that there will be some absolutely disgraceful conversations taking place. I am ashamed to be British. Neither result would have made me say this, I would have been disappointed, but respected the result had we remained. But the way people have been reacting to the result, particularly on the remain side has been utterly disgusting, we look appalling as a nation at the way that we have handled ourselves, both those in politics, and merely commenting have much to bow their heads in shame at.

So, I have a gentle message for all the Remain snowflakes (dissolving as soon as they meet any force at all), crying about this referendum and demonising the other side: Calm down, darling! All I’ve seen throughout social media, and in conversations with people, and through the papers from much of the remain side is an unwarranted accusation of racism, bigotry and xenophobia from whoever voted out. Hysterical infants, sorry… young voters, have been terrified that this vote to leave a political union to ensure we are a self-determinative nation, is going to lead to the rise of another Nazi Party. This is plain and simply just ludicrous. Yes, there has been racist attacks from some Leave voters, and they are morons who have been, and will continue to be arrested. Also, there has been Remain voters refusing to talk to family members, voting to leave, and marking every Leave voter as a racist (or someone with internalised bigotry, if such thing made any sense at all). These are also morons, the law can do nothing about it due to your freedom to say absurd rubbish, but I beg you for your intellectual good, calm down.

We have a great opportunity in this nation now to redefine who we are, although we aren’t stable, we can do what these snowflakes are constantly wanting and ‘be who we want to be’. It’s scary times, we don’t know what’s ahead, but we have decided by a slim majority that it won’t be with the EU. I personally want to stand by all of Britain, whichever way they voted, and aim to make this country as great a place to live as possible, being open to immigrants from all nations to join us to make it a strong, stable place to be. In order to achieve this, we have to drop the bickering. Marking your neighbours as bigots completely dehumanises them, and leads you to reject what they have to say, due to the moronic label that you shove on them. This helps no one, and also, ironically is an act that is closer to the Nazi’s than these half-wit snowflakes would like to admit: ‘you’re filthy for having that political opinion’, goodness me! How can you not see darling, that you are leading to a societal breakdown? Some of the language being used, I’m surprised that no one has suggested shoving all Brexiters in a concentration camp!

A special note to those Christian Remainers out there, our Lord isn’t the UK government, the EU, or any other power; but Jesus Christ, no matter how we voted. Let us not boast in anything but Him, and pray for our country, that His glory will be showed, and His guidance will be given.

Let’s all have a cuppa, calm down, and discuss a way forward. All this rhetoric with a few racist morons on one side, and some moronic accusations from the other has to stop.

Love and peace, from the Lord Jesus, let’s try and get along please, I beg you!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Accident in the Church in Wales


The Church in Wales have had a bit of a shocker today, they put out a statement which affirms same-sex-marriage, or civil partnerships as an appropriate activity for Christians to support. This for any Christian or critical non-Christian is laughable. I can't be bothered to do an extensive theological blog about how same-sex marriage is unacceptable for anyone who truly believes in the authority of scripture, because it is so clearly obvious! The whole man and woman becoming 'one flesh' (Mk 10:8) and Paul's criticism of swapping that for unnatural relations (Rom 1) is pretty well clear. So, the Church in Wales have had a bit of a blunder with this. 
The statement did however have an amazing idea to 'commit to working for a Church in which gay and lesbian people are “fully affirmed as equal disciples” and to praying with and for them' which I completely agree with! We should all be praying for, supporting and loving each other as Christians. Also, as disciples, we pursue obedience to Christ. Part of this obedience is sexual, and Christians hold to no sex apart from a monogamous marriage (which incidentally is between a man and a woman.) 

They acknowledge in the statement that a full acceptance of same-sex marriage is not achievable at this time, mostly because pesky Anglicans like myself actually believe what the bible is saying and want to take it remotely seriously. So, they have put forward 'prayers (that) do not constitute a service of blessing' which basically means that they want to do a full blessing, but are being held back by the rest of the pesky bigoted Anglicans. But have no fear! I've edited their blessing... whoops, I mean prayers... to fulfill another need that the Church has been needing to address. So, if you have a BFF (Best Friend Forever... We desperately need to affirm and pray over these things in order for people to feel loved.) then feel free to use these edited prayers for you and your friend, before you go partying in Zante, courtesy of the Church in Wales. Blessings be upon all of your activities, no matter how ludicrous they are.

PRAYERS
that may be said with BFF’s
following the Celebration of a Bromance or a Girl equivalent.

FORM ONE

For the couple

Father God, whose will it is that all people should find fullness of life in your Son, we thank you for N and N, who have found such love and companionship in each other, that it has led them to dedicate their lives in support of one another.  Look upon them with loving kindness, and guide their commitment to each other to be strictly ‘platonic’, even if that means they one day have to distance themselves from another, so that their joy in one another and in you can be appropriate. And guide the paths of their future that they may walk in the ways of life and peace all the days of their life, especially on such occurrences in which they can shout in a club 'LAD's ON TOUR!'.  Amen.

For their homes

Heavenly Father, you gave your Son to live as part of a family in an earthly home in Nazareth.   As N and N go to their homes after the service, may your love rest upon them, and upon all those who dwell in them.  May their homes be a place of security and of love, of joy and of peace, where those who live there may find strength and hope for the future, and grace in their lives, this day and forever, and may the house parties be epic.  Amen.

For their family and friends

Lord God, your Son lived amongst us, calling disciples to his side to become a new family in your kingdom.  As N and N make a commitment to share friendship, bless all their families and friends with patience for the countless drunken antics.  As two lives and two families may meet through the friendship, may this commitment always be a source of joy and of love; may their friends rejoice in their joy, and support them in their sadness, and may the good news of your kingdom ever draw them onwards and upwards into that life which is your will for the world.  Amen.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Church’s Great Commission- On Evangelism


Picture from https://fromoffshore.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/rodent-evangelism/
I’m not an evangelist. I don’t feel my personal calling is to focus on reaching out to non-Christians. This could change if it is God’s will, but at the moment I haven’t particularly got many gifts in evangelism, and nor do I feel led to do it.

Especially in low evangelical churches, evangelism seems to be a key topic, and almost a way in which the laity show their devotion to Christ. Many enthusiastic preachers who in a lovely piece of rhetoric, often inspire us all to go out and find some non-Christians in order to bring them into the faith. Usually comparing evangelism to telling people about a free unlimited chocolate offer, these types of preachers usually then go on to insist on the ‘urgency’ (read that word in a loud voice, with a dramatic pause for five seconds to understand what I’m getting at) of the situation, and assert that we all have an ‘obligation’ to seek the salvation of souls and have a ‘heart for the lost’, fearing the eternal torment that awaits the heathens.

This has a large element of truth to this, the Gospel is truly good, and we should long for those who aren’t in Christ to join. The Great commission was to the church is still make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20), and we should desire, as we’ve joined with Christ, join in His work in reclaiming people to His good self.

However, we often forget about the whole ‘church thing’ and treat it as some kind of ‘club for the saved’. And with the guilt-trip sermons about the need to go and share the Gospel, all the individual members must invite as many people they can into the club. The way we talk about evangelism seems incredibly individualistic in that it is a job for each individual in the church, to share the Gospel with as many people as possible. In a way therefore, there has been a dislocation between the church; the people of God and evangelism, because evangelism has become a means for an individual of the church to introduce another individual to salvation. For sure, the saved recipient of evangelism may attend church, but only for the function of bringing in more people to the special club who are avoiding the terrors of hell.

The fact is, most people put under pressure to go out and evangelise, myself definitely included, are terrible at it. So at worst it ends up with a congregation member feeling ‘convicted’ (guilty) and essentially putting people off the gospel. Hands held high, in my youth this was me to a group of friends. And at best, you have a congregation member feeling completely guilty for not ‘stepping out in faith’ and letting their friends perish in the eternal fire of hell. Good job enthusiastic preacher, really good job!

Perhaps instead of the insistence of many evangelical churches that we must all do our utmost to be seeking non-Christians, we should take St. Paul seriously in his letter to the Ephesians in that some are called to be evangelists. Just like some were Apostles and Prophets (offices that were temporary in the early church) God gives evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip his church (4.11). No one argues that everyone is called to be pastors and teachers, those are things that God gifts specific people with for the service of the church, so why on earth is everyone to be under pressure to go out and evangelise?

This is an important issue to grasp, not just for avoiding practical mishaps, but to develop a greater ecclesiology appreciating the wonderful nature of God’s people, the church, as his missional force in the world. Paul is rejoicing in Ephesians 4 that ‘Christ, who has extended his victory over all opposing forces and his sovereignty over all creation...now equips the church to join him in his sovereign reign over all creation.’ (Frank Thielman, Ephesians, p 273.) The church is to evangelise, yes. But the church is one body (1Cor 12) some roles of the church are performed by particular members and not others. It mustn’t be insisted that all devote to be a hand (using hand as evangelist) as the hand knows not what to pick up without the eye (teachers) and there can’t be much work done on an empty stomach (administrators). It leads both to poor evangelism and a dislocated church when we insist that evangelism is a universal gift. The great commission is a church effort, not an individual effort, some must devote energies to the upkeep of the church in order that evangelists have a substantial community to bring people into. I believe salvation is of eternal significance, but salvation also changes the here and now, and if we make it all about eternity, we neglect gifts that aid the church here and now. I won’t go into it now, but this is precisely why conservative evangelicals are often wrong about dismissing monks who give up everything to devote themselves entirely to prayer, some body parts play a more interior role. Within this view, we can support those gifted with evangelism more significantly, acknowledging them and commissioning them in their work.

A quick note that there is of course an obligation in every Christian to desire the salvation of their non-Christian friends and family, and to care and pray about the work the evangelists in their church and in the world. In terms of our particular environments, Jesus tells us be salt and light, desiring to be distinctive in order that God will be shown through our actions (Matt 5:13-16). We should also desire to build up more and more knowledge of our faith in order to respond to our friends with as good an answer as we can give (1 Pet 3:15). At all times, we should be prepared to share the Gospel if an opportunity comes, or God leads, for this wonderful Gospel is nothing to be ashamed of (Rom 1:16)! I often have many great conversations with non-Christians about the Gospel, which I love when it happens. But in terms of seeking out environments with non-Christians to share the Gospel, although is a vital call to many in the church, I can’t find anywhere that affirms that this is a universal gift.


Before I am bombarded with silly criticism, of course people who are not evangelists can evangelise, as noted above. But there are many people that teach and pastor others, who aren’t necessarily a pastor or a teacher. There is nuance within church roles, it isn’t set absolutely in stone as good conservative evangelicals would like. The point is, that God has executed his mission through the church, who are His ambassadors on earth (2 Cor 5:20). Let us therefore as one body move forward together, encouraging each other with our particular gifts to glorify God, for the hope of the salvation of the world, completing this great commission to all nations as one body together.

Friday, 11 September 2015

ISIS are Humans



'I believe in humanity'

Looked at plainly, those four words look completely absurd to say the least; of course people exist, how could one not believe that? But these words actually are what a vast amount of people believe, and what much popular philosophy amounts to.

So, what do people mean? They usually have an optimistic view of the capacity for goodness in the human being, that humans in general will do the right thing, and if they don't, through education they will. This line of thought is called '(secular) humanism' which is in my view what the majority of the British are today, albeit they may not recognise or admit to it. The word 'Humanity' is used in two ways today, either to simply describe all the people of the earth i.e, 'humanity has existed for thousands of years'. Or, as this post will be discussing, it is used to describe people behaving well i.e, 'the good Samaritan displayed his humanity in helping the stranger'. 

Now it seems like a nice belief to have, to have a hope that goodness of people will win out and eventually change the world for the better. Unfortunately, I cannot share the faith of those who hold this view. The problem the best that I can do in my humanity will still be deeply flawed. There is no level of education, no peace process, no amount of money given to the poor, no depth of love worked up by a human that couldn't be better. We as humanity, even by our own insufficient standard of what 'good' is, will never make the cut! And from a Christian perspective, if there is a God who requires of us to be without blemish in His sight, we do not stand a chance! Which is why as a Christian, I rejoice not in the potential of humanity, but of the achievement of one human, the God-man, Jesus Christ, whose life and sacrifice means that I can be made right with God (which I will be writing about at more length for sure in other posts).

This may all seem obvious to many of my readership, but I write all this with the hope of provoking thought from those that would usually not. I've was quite struck by how this philosophy is ingrained into the psyche of many even on popular television over the past week or so, with regards to ISIS. Don't mistake me for one minute, I think that ISIS are probably one of the most horrific organisations that humanity has ever seen! But the problem is, that people seem to forget that it is an organisation that is human. Chris Ryan on BBC Breakfast said he disliked the term 'Jihadi John' as it humanised ISIS, while I too dislike the term finding it distasteful, it struck me. Although it probably wasn't given a second thought, this is humanist philosophy infiltrating the way we discuss evil. I've also been witnessing many talking about ISIS as 'monsters' and hyperbolically, I think it's a term that can rightly be used to describe them; but do we do so remembering that we have exactly the same capacity to be monsters too?

The thing that we must understand is ISIS show the depraved nature of what humanity are capable of. Although created in the image of God, and capable of great goodness as a priests black shirt and white collar reflects, totally tainted by sin (black shirt) but still reflects something of God (white collar); humanity is still prone to great evils. ISIS are an obvious evil in the world today, who just may have to be stopped by force, but they are still people. Not actual monsters, people. They are a reality check to the humanist who has a positive view of human nature, who feel the need to dehumanise those who aren't making the cut, to justify their philosophy. 

Tim Keller writes of a survivor of the Holocaust, Yehiel De-Nur who had to testify about a Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann in court. De-Nur, when he came face to face with this awful man who put him through much suffering, fell face-down in tears. When interviewed about this experience, he disclosed that it wasn't due to his personal suffering that he broke down, but in seeing Eichmann out of his uniform in normal clothes, standing hopeless before the court, he realised that Eichmann wasn't some kind of monster, he was a human, just like De-Nur. He realised that he, himself was capable of similar evils, saying 'I was afraid about myself... I saw that am capable to do this... Exactly like he.'

I realise that when push comes to shove, everyone will admit that the Nazi's and ISIS etc. are human! 'Obviously!' people will declare, but on a sub-conscious level, the way we use our language to dehumanise those who do horrific crimes leaves us with a misguided interpretation of what humanity is. We are all capable of the most horrific kinds of evil, not because we lose our humanity, often because we fully embrace it. On a more practical level for how we respond, it also leaves no hope when we forget the humanity of a group like ISIS, which is why although I support military action against them in order for peace and justice in the areas which they have influence, I still pray that God will change them as people. Because, just like me, they are totally tainted with sin, but are still made in the image of God.


Monday, 13 April 2015

The God revealed in Scripture


This is a topic that took me a while to make sense of, it seemed like the church were telling me to read a book that wasn't really relevant to me, and somehow I’d be better and closer to God. I hope today to make the place of the Bible make sense, that instead of being a dull book that is a chore to read, it is a dynamic collection of literature, in which God has graciously revealed Himself. And I'm going to make a bold claim, that the way that we approach this book in which God has revealed Himself, our lives will change!


Here's some background information about myself; my name is Cal, and my accent is obviously from my family influences, but I grew up in a little town called Virginia Beach which is in America, where my parents still live today. My favourite sport is Volleyball, which I play every Wednesday. I speak two other languages, that is French and German, and I have two pet dogs who are my pride and joy, also, one interesting fact about me is that I'm the youngest ever full-time pilot in the world, which I gave up last year due to a back injury.

Now, I must apologise to you, because for the sake of illustration, I've just told you a pack of lies. I grew up in Harrow, in North West London my parents live in Poole, my favourite sport is Rugby (I do actually play on Wednesdays though!) I don’t speak any other languages and I have no pets, and I certainly don't fly planes! You see, it is possible for me as man to lie to you, there is the possibility for a disconnect from whom man is, and what man says. Lies, are one of the core components to a sinner, that we stray away, and do not walk in the truth. But such a disconnect does not exist in God, Numbers 23:19 says that ‘God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and then not fulfil?’. Hebrews 6 answers these questions when speaking about God’s covenant with Abraham to bless all nations, it says ‘God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.’ This was a promise that God would never, and has never broken. What God says, comes to pass, Genesis tells us ‘God said, “let there be light” and there was light.’ What God therefore says, comes to pass! A passage in Isaiah 55:10-11 talks of the effectiveness of God’s word ‘As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’


So, I therefore want to base the remainder of this post on the premise that God cannot lie. So, what He reveals about Himself, is true about Himself. And also, therefore what God reveals to be His purposes are His purposes. When we read scripture, we aren’t reading man gradually figuring who God is and how he might respond, getting stuff wrong about God along the way. When we read Scripture, we are reading about who God has revealed Himself to be, if God by His Spirit guided men to write Scripture, none of it’s claims about God can be wrong. There is no disconnect! What we read of God’s character and purpose in Scripture is true of God!


Christ, the Word of God


John chapter 1 starts like this; ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was God in the beginning…. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have beheld His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ This is one of the most powerful passages in scripture, as it tells us who Jesus is. In the context in John was writing in, with Greek and Jewish readers, this was a genius introduction into talking about Jesus’ life. The Greek word for ‘word’ is logos, the readers would have connected this to the whole rational and logical basis of thinking. Johns choice of using ‘Word’ would have also struck a chord with the Jewish readership, who would connect this to the Torah (which are the first five books of the Bible) and the rest of the Old Testament, as this to them was God revealing who He was, and what it means for them. So what this passage in John is saying, is that the Word, all the wisdom that God had revealed in the Old Testament, and the very rational basis of our existence, became human and dwelt among us. And His name, is Jesus.


With this, we see Christ, who is God Himself is the true Word of God. God has revealed Himself in Christ, when we see Christ, we behold the glory of the one from the Father, who is full of grace and truth. Christ reveals who God is to us. Christ Himself is the Word of God, He is who God has revealed Himself to be. So with this, if we want to know God, and our relationship to Him, we look no further than to Christ. This is as Christ in His very nature is God, and also in Christ we see God’s purposes fulfilled in Christ, as Colossians 1:19-20 says; ‘For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross’. That is the Gospel of our salvation, by Christ’s blood we are at peace with God, this was achieved through Christ, who is God, in whom God has revealed his purposes to us. Who Christ is and what He did is God’s revelation of who He is.

Scripture testifies to Christ


a) The New Testament


So, with Christ being the true Word of God, we clearly are pointed to the New Testament in the Bible. In this, we are given four accounts of Christ’s life (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), an account of Christ’s early disciples in the book of Acts (also written by Luke). Then we have a bunch of letters by Paul, John, Peter and other writers, who were early followers of Christ, whose letters instructed the church in who Christ was, and what it means for us. Just as we hear a big story from our friends about what is going on in the world, we look online, in the papers etc. to see if it’s true. How much more should we search the pages of the New Testament, exploring the life of Christ and the impact on the early followers? If Christ truly is the true revelation of God, and God Himself, surely this is an amazing gift that we have a vast amount of literature to teach us about who He is! We have this gift of the New Testament, to find out who Christ is, what He did, and what His effects were. Then we have the letters that were being written to followers just like us. Reading the New Testament then, we are faced with Christ as He is recorded most clearly, this is not like reading a biography of a dead hero, but is engaging with our living Lord, through the text which is illuminated to us by the Holy Spirit.


b) The Old Testament


The Old Testament is the record in which we see God revealing Himself to Israel. He rescues them from slavery in Egypt, as recorded in the story of Exodus, and gives them a new way of life, that is the law, which is the Torah. There is a lot on the history of Israel such as Kings and Chronicles, literature containing praise and wisdom like Psalms and Proverbs, and also there is the writings of the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah. As we've already seen, John has described Jesus as the ‘Word of God’, which shows that He in Himself is the fulfilment of the Old Testament, embodying a perfect life who lives in obedience to God’s commands. Jesus Himself talks about the Old Testament pointing to Himself, saying that ‘these are the Scriptures that testify about me.’! So when we see Jesus, the Old Testament should make a lot more sense, as we see that it has reached its fulfilment in Christ. So, when we see something like a Levitical law, in which they would sacrifice in order to get forgiven by God, we are reminded that we are ‘made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all’ (Hebrews 10:10). Also, the Old Testament prophets reach a conclusion in Christ, Isaiah 53 talks of one being pierced for transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities, and in Christ Jesus, we have just that! God reveals Himself through the Old Testament, but we see God most clearly through the lens of the revelation that Christ brings, as  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world’ (Hebrews 1:1-2) Christ Himself said that ‘until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished.’ (Matt 5:18). He then expands saying that teaching the commandments of the Old Testament is a good thing (19). There is nowhere in Jesus teaching where He suggests that the Old Testament is no longer relevant to the guidance of believers! The meaning of the Old Testament, we should desire to read and to obey, although it is a little harder to understand than the New, it directs us to Christ!


Scripture moulds and shapes us, because it leads us to Jesus
Paul commends Timothy in 2Tim 3:15, that ‘from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ He then goes on in verses 16-17 that ‘All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in all righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ With this, we are told that the Bible is something we can trust, as the Spirit inspired the authors, and also the Spirit therefore is at work as we as believers read it. It seems like a massive claim, that scripture equips us for every good work. But it seems logical when we look at Christ, if Christ really is the Word-become-flesh, then he embodies the life that we as Christians should be living. But, seeing that all scripture directs us to Christ, of course it will change us to change our lives to be more like Christ!


As Scripture directs us to Christ, and is useful for every good work, we should hold it as our guiding authority in how we daily live our lives. Psalm 1:1-2 says ‘blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stands in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night’. Psalm 119 shows a desire and longing to live according to the way which God has revealed, in verse 12 it says ‘Praise be to you O Lord, teach me your decrees and in verse 18 ‘Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in your law’. How many of us today would delight in reading the Bible? It is with the Bible that God reveals to us Himself, and His will for us, and where we are led time and time again to gaze upon Christ, who the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in!


With Scripture, God speaks to us, He reveals Himself, and He reveals things about us. Everything we can know of God, is found in Scripture. We are not left in the dark, as Psalm 119:105 says ‘your word is a lamp to my feet and a lamp to my path.’ It is an amazing thing that God speaks to us through His Word, revealing who He is, and revealing who we are in relation to Him, and it is something that anyone can read.


Tips with how to read scripture


Here are some tips and suggestions with how we can approach Scripture;


  1. Realise that you won’t understand it all at first- There are very confusing parts of Scripture and there is no one that can claim that they fully understand the whole thing. Mark Twain once said quite poignantly ‘it’s not the parts of scripture I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the bits that I do.’ So, when we read it, God will still challenge us through the bits that we do comprehend.
  2. Start with a Gospel- Just challenge yourself if you've never done personal Bible study before, start with a Gospel (usually pastors recommend Mark, as it’s the shortest one), just to learn about Jesus, and what He did and taught. Ask God to speak to you throughout.
  3. Read it either first thing in the morning, last thing at night or both- Obviously reading scripture any time is fantastic, but these are two times of the day in which you can make an event of reflecting on your day past, or rooting yourself in God’s Word before the day ahead. Also, it is a time where it is easiest to keep free for a routine for most people.
  4. Community- Read the Bible together, we can often focus on different things when reading the Bible, that are both true. Talking and working through a passage in community can deepen the understanding of Scripture. This is why house groups are important.
  5. Pray- Always pray when studying scripture. Reading the Bible is not about what we can learn to add to our collection of knowledge, but to reveal God’s will to us, that we may change! It’s not an optional academic activity, but a spiritual one. So, back to point one, don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand all of it, through prayerful reading, you will be fed by what we need, we’re told in John 10 that Christ is the good shepherd, and the sheep will hear His voice! So don’t panic about not getting certain elements!


Prayer for reflection;


Father


I thank you for your word, thank you that you revealed yourself through your Son Jesus Christ, and that your word teaches me how to be more like Him. I ask that by your Spirit you can guide me to have the motivation more each day to read the Bible where you give revelation of who you are, and speak to me as I should act. Help me to read more of it that I know more of you and can have more enjoyment of the Christian faith.


In Jesus name, Amen.