Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Terms of service

This weekend I had another opportunity to apply the gospel to myself in correction and rebuke as the Holy Spirit convicted me. It seems that I had previously un-noticed Terms of Service. They ran something like this:


I hereby submit to you (God) as your servant.
1. This service will be to your glory and by your grace, through your Son and by the power given by your Spirit. It will not be to the glory of my name.
2. This service will be expressed in serving your church and more broadly your creative, redemptive and restorative mission in the world.
3. This service will be done with joy.
4. If others don't in their actions recognise this service, or the ways in which you have gifted me for your service, or acknowledge me as a responsible servant, I reserve the right to feel frustrated, hard done by, put out, generally discouraged and possibly resentful.

Eh? Since when did #4 slip in under the gospel screen?
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2.1-11]

Friday, 24 February 2006

GBU camp

I don't know if anyone is reading this, but I'll be at the GBU-Ichtus national camp this weekend. I won't be liveblogging: that would be ridiculous when trying to run the bookstall (the French part at least), co-lead the music-worship (I'm giving the francophone bits), lead a multilingual small group (I think I'm in English for this), be on call for French-English translation for 2 Bulgarians in the talks and generally use the time to build up students in the gospel. I'm looking forward to it: Chawkat Moucarry is speaking on Islam, relating to Muslims, etc., which should be good. I've a feeling I'm going to get very linguistically confused this weekend though.

If anyone is around here (reading this), I'd appreciate prayer:

- that students would buy some of the fab books I've got on the very small bookstall, so they'd later read them and grow in the gospel of our God. It will take quite a bit of work to persuade the students that they're worth buying - it seems that publishers don't translate the easier books into other languages (so we get Cross of Christ but not Cross-examined, for example), and we don't get the kind of juicy discounts IVP do on CU bookstalls. (Honestly: all I want is all of IVP and Good Book Co in French, how hard can that be?);

- that we'd do the music and lead the worship to God's glory, helping the students to worship God and encourage each other in singing and praying together. Pray in this that the mixture of languages won't get in the way as we have to sing sometimes in a language with which some of the students aren't familiar;

- that in small group and generally I would be a help to the students thinking through, taking in and applying what we learn for growth in Godliness, confidence in the gospel and in lovingly sharing it with our Muslim friends;

- that I'd have energy to serve with cheerfulness, and when energy is lacking, that God's grace would not be lacking so that I'd keep on being godly and building up students in the gospel!

Thursday, 23 February 2006


I spent this afternoon with an Ichtus (Flemish IFES movement) staff worker planning the 2 'worship' sessions for this weekend's national GBU/Ichtus camp. Wonderful! We get to lead the students in praising, confessing and adoring our God, repenting, praying and encouraging each other in the gospel as they sing. A wonderful privilege and I pray that God will be glorified in it.

This evening I discovered that of the songs chosen, a few of the songs I thought existed in French don't exist in French at all, others have been translated badly so as to water down their truth and most of the rest have been translated badly so you've no hope of fitting the words with the tune. Ah, you say, so why don't you use songs originally written in French? - That would indeed be nice, I answer, but we need them to exist in Dutch too! [And with a couple of Bulgarians coming, some must also be in English.] I'm spending all this evening battling through folders and the internet in a hunt for lyrics. Next time any of you are leading a meeting or music group for worship, and are feeling a bit hassled, pause and give thanks to God that you don't have to do it all in THREE LANGUAGES! And next time you're not sure about the wording of a line in a song, give thanks that you don't have to check it in three languages.

I'm not currently feeling like praising the Lord. Which suggests that my vision's gone a bit narrow. So join with me as I remind myself:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy. [Psalm 92:1-4]

So then, what does the gospel say about this? I'm finding it frustrating trying to praise the Lord in just 3 languages together? Why, it's a testimony to God's gospel, overturning the curse of Babel to the glory of his name! Of course there are still frustrations in it. We're not yet in the fully consummated Kingdom where we'll all from every tongue praise the Lord (bags I not in charge of the acetates ;-)) - we're still in the 'now' where there are thorns and thistles even in getting a bunch of people together to praise the God who has redeemed us. So I'm going to use this frustration to remind me of when it won't be frustrating any more. To look forward to what one song (available only in English and Dutch) says: a place where the streets shine with the glory of the Lamb!

Be thou my vision, O Lord! For it is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High!

[Now I know Be Thou My Vision is out there in French somewhere; we sang it at my church...]

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Green bottles, real coffee and worshiping God

A great discussion started up at Warwick CU chat, on the subject of the singing type of worship. Some of the references won't make sense without reading the previous few comments on that page, but you'll get the gist anyway, so here were my 2 centimes:

Good thoughts. It's not easy to discuss stuff like this cos we have a tendency to each immediately assume what we like is being 'got at'! Especially since in CU we get together from different backgrounds. So good on youse. A few thoughts, not particularly from me... Ever unpack the couple of NT references to singing? Worth looking at carefully :)
(God through Paul in Eph 5:17-20) Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
1) Singing songs of worship is encouraged - making melody can be done in a great way!
2) It's contrasted with being foolish and drunk: so I don't think 10 green bottles is gonna make great worship song no matter what your heart's doing ;-)
3) It's an expression of being filled with the Spirit, so it's going to be in line with his Word and his fruit. So songs and the way in which they're done are going to express the fruit of the Spirit and the Word of the Spirit - so the words sung and the way it's sung matter.
4) In singing, we're "addressing one another". So it's not just between me and God. It's God and us: me and all my bro's & sisters, addressing one another. So will this song help me address my brothers & sisters to build 'em up in Christ?
5) It's also "to the Lord". We get to praise God the Father :o through Jesus :D by his Spirit!
6) And as if anticipating that some of us might get so keen on the Spirit helping us to sing to God that we forget the rest of the Spirit's work (like unity, love, holiness, patience with one another, etc...), the Spirit inspires Paul to add, "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."

(God through Paul again in Colossians 3:12-17) Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
1) Again, it's all in the context of being one body in humility loving one another and building each other up!
2) It's part of the Word of Christ dwelling in you (plural) richly - will singing these particular songs together really help get God's word richly deep down into us? Yeah, what a goal!
3) And whatever you do - singing included - don't forget that the only way that you can do it and the only reason why you're doing it is in the name of the Lord Jesus. I.e. when you sing, make sure what you sing (maybe not each song, but a set) recognises that you're only able to praise God because of Jesus, you're coming through him - don't let that be assumed cos next you know, it'll be forgotten.

Y'know, sometimes we settle for so little! We reassure each other and content ourselves with things that sure, are true! But they're really ickle, flimsy, digging a ditch in the sand truths, rather than the huge, deep, awesome church-building, God-enjoying and glorifying Grand Canyon truths! You may well have thankfulness in your heart as you sing 10 green bottles, or sing meaningfully that these are the days of Elijah (tho' what meaning I'm not sure), or truly worship Jesus using a song you could just as easily sing to your boyfriend. But looking at these verses, God's view of what we could be doing in our songs is much, much greater! :D Don't be content with the least; aim for God's goals so you all together, grow in glorifying (wow!) and enjoying (whoah!) HIM! :D

Then I see that a great new blog conversation has started up, and started on this very topic: The Coffee Bible Club Blog. I've learnt and continue to learn a lot from these two guys, Andy and Dave, so I think their conversation will be well worth listening in to (it already is, in fact). They're full of God's grace, centred on God's gospel, preaching and living the gospel of grace by the power of God's Holy Spirit. My Mum says that the Relay slogan, Encourage the good wherever you find it, and if you can't find it, look harder! has always been hers for working with children with special educational needs - but these guys teach me what it looks like in working with, well, everybody. And especially students :)

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Care for the church of God

Someone in eldership (effective or acknowledged) or responsibility in ministry says something very wrong about the gospel of God's grace. Or perhaps we, not thinking much of our responsibility in ministry, say something wrong. When questioned, it they (or we) may reply with thoughts such as this:
Well I don't really believe such & such that you implied from what I said. Perhaps it wasn't phrased well - I just mean [vaguely rephrased]. It was just a personal reflection with an approach which was undoubtably different from what we're used to, but nothing more. I could have said it like such & such to be less polemical. But at least it was good to push people to think, because look, people are reacting and that's good. In any case it wasn't a theological summary.
Or perhaps we might say, "I just share my personal reflection, what I've felt God's been teaching me. At least that makes people think. I'm no theologian."

And what's the harm in that? It comes in pulpits, books, editorials, chatting from day to day, websites and blogs. "Some people had a problem with what I said the other day; but at least I got people thinking." What strikes me as so sad in this is an attitude deeper than finding it hard in sinful pride to say, "I was wrong." What is so sad is the pitiful view of God's church, his word which forms his church and thus the ministry of the word of God.

One doesn't have to be an elder to feel the force of the commission of love and truth given in the words of Paul to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
In as much as each of us is a member of the church of God, this ministry is a challenge. Even for those of us not elders, surely our ministry within the church should not be at odds with this and more so for those who have a specific responsibility.

The minister is accountable to God
"I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." As Paul declares himself innocent of their blood, he uses the analogy given by God to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33):
So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
And so Paul was innocent because he had not held back from declaring to them the whole counsel of God. It's easy to shrink back. It's easy to avoid declaring the whole counsel of God even if we say some unpopular bits, or our aims seem good. But as a watchman is accountable for the life of the people, so one in a position of effective or acknowledged eldership is accountable for the life of the people. For those of us not in eldership, surely we cannot ignore this either. Would that this would weigh upon us more.

The ministry is commissioned by God
"...the Holy Spirit has made you overseers..." Paul reminds the elders that it was not they who had applied for eldership. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit had made them overseers. In many of our ministries, those with eldership responsibility do apply, especially in organisations run as extensions of the local churches rather than in one local church. Yet the point remains: God made them overseers. They cannot define their ministry as they like. We cannot define whatever our ministry is as we like. We cannot in our ministry be constrained by custom, fancy, culture or personal preference. God gives and God defines.

The ministry is defined by God
"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,... to care for the church of God..." We cannot afford inattention. "To care for the church..." - oh that God would give us a deeper love for his church, so that we could not but help care for her, to such an extent that we never let our attention slip from how we might care for her. "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock" - "declaring to you the whole counsel of God": how much higher is this in love than 'pushing people to think' and admitting 'not a theological summary' to escape us. That we might pay such careful attention to themselves and to all the flock, caring for the church of God, that we never let our personal reflection depart from God's word, so that we may be sure of always edifying others in the flock. In this there is much to be said on 'pay careful attention to yourselves' first, but Baxter has already said it.

The church is God's
"...to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood." The other people to whom we minister, the body in which we minister, belongs to God. If we have any responsibility in that body - and we all do, elder or not - then we must remember that it is relative to this: that body of people with whom we talk, whom we serve, belongs to God. He bought it with the precious blood of his one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How could we but be careful - careful with the most full attention - to care for that people?

A Christian who ministers to their brothers with goals less than these is not Christian in their ministry. For a fuller description, we need only look at 1 Thessalonians chs 2-3. Summary quotes: "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." "For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?"

May our attitude to the church of God never be as light as to dismiss careless words. May our prayer for the church be rather with that of Paul for the Thessalonian Christians:
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Sunday, 19 February 2006

Busily lazy?

C.J.Mahaney writes,
...disparity in gifting is no excuse for the absence of discipline in our lives. And where there is a neglect of reading in the life of the pastor, there is often the presence of laziness and pride. I don't doubt that you are busy and that your to-do list appears endless. But it is possible to be very busy and yet very lazy, because we aren't busy doing that which is most important. There is a difference between busyness and effectiveness. The real question is: are you busy with various responsibilities of secondary importance, or are you attending each day to that which is most important?
I've often caught myself being busy in practice and lazy in attitude and wondered at the state of my heart that can be so perverse. I wondered at my attitude towards work as I found myself consoling myself in being very busy preparing a seminar for the students here, on... a Biblical Theology of Work & its implications. Ah, for an undivided heart, mind, soul and strength.

(PS. When I've turned the seminar into a comprehensive note form for the GBU website I'll post it here, though it's likely not to make it into an English translation. Praise God, the students seemed (as they studied, discussed and prayed) to be 'getting it' and said they found it helpful. Much of it based on seminars given a few years ago by Graham Beynon and Mike Partridge.)

Climate Change

Physical Climate Change:
Several US / Canadian Christian bloggers have been discussing the recently launched Evangelical Climate Initiative: a high-profile Christian leader foray into doing something about Global Warming. It seems my blogging brothers and sisters in the US & Canada are convinced that Global Warming is a myth. I'm not so convinced but haven't studied it either way. What does concern me whether or not Global Warming is a myth is the cavalier attitude towards the environment which seems to accompany this Global Warming Conspiracy Theory idea (and beyond). The attitude runs something like: "God's concerned about saving souls. We should be concerned about saving souls. Anything else is a distraction." I disagree. While we should never assume the gospel and move away from proclaiming it, God's plan to save some humans for his glory does not nullify his plan to have the whole of creation glorify him, with humans as its stewards under him. In fact if anything the salvation of humans is to serve as witness of God's plan to renew all creation (we being the firstfruits, Rom 8). This means that we should care about God's creation. Irrespective of whether or not Global Warming is a myth, and of whether of not Rick Warren jumps on a high-profile Climate Initiative funded by dubious sources!

Moral Climate Change:
Meanwhile Bishop Tom Wright said some good things in the Lords about Moral Climate Change (reported by Dave from Rawson St). Worth reading. Wright even gives good old BUECU (also here) an anonymous mention!

Friday, 17 February 2006

God's just love

The ambiguity of the subject title I've just typed reminds me of the ambiguity of language and the difficulty of translation: I did not mean that God is just love; I did mean that my subject is the just love of God. On which subject the editorial by our GBU Gen Sec was far from ambiguous. It's in French here, a response in French here and a translation of the article and paraphrase of response in English:

The justice and the love of God are doubtless some of the best-known attributes of God, above all in evangelical circles. And a lot of ink has already been spilt on theories to reconcile the two. God in his perfect justice must reward good and condemn evil generally, and their authors in particular. But in infinite love, God wants at all cost to offer an abundant life, full of peace, joy and hope, to all his creation and men in particular. The solution often offered to reconcile these two characteristics of God is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. But how can the death of an innocent be a just act? In Jesus' death, God's justice isn't reconciled with divine love, but transcended by divine love. The cross is the sign of the preeminence of love over justice. Yes, there is injustice on God's part, but this injustice of the cross is in favour of men and in disfavour of God. God completely takes up this injustice in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. As Philip Yancey wrote in What's so amazing about grace?, grace costs nothing to the one who receives it, but everything to the one who gives it. And it is precisely by grace, the expression of the ultimate love, that love can transcend justice. Grace is to accept to suffer injustice in the name of love, it is to give more than that which is just, it is to accept disfavourable situations, it is to abstain from condemnation albeit merited, it is to forgive the unforgivable.

What does that imply for us? That Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, shows us the path, the example of love over and above justice. It's why he calls us, notably in the Beatitudes but also by Peter's pen, to suffer unjustly and even therein to rejoice, because in that we follow his example, we walk in his footsteps. Is my life marked by search for justice or by the gift of his grace? In my life, does love transcend justice? Would it not be sad that we Christians, for whom the notion of grace is at the heart of the faith, were to live a life with neither grace nor love but full of legalism and judgment?

Love's transcendence over justice is the revolution, unique in history, brought by Jesus Christ and prepared by God throughout the history of the people of Israel. We must therefore go beyond the legalism of the Old Testament and throw ourselves without fear but with faith in the folly of the God of the New Testament. Thus and only thus can we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Gauthier Daugimont
I appreciate that Gauthier is seeking to communicate to the students the grace of God, and how a grace-filled life seeks grace over justice, grace over legalism and judgment. He speaks rightly of how grace teaches us to suffer injustice with joy. However I have 3 big objections with what he has written as the basis of this encouragement.

1) God's love and justice do not need to be reconciled.
God is not composed of separate characteristics which can be played off against each other. God is wholly God in every one of his characteristics. He is love, and he is superlatively holy - holy in every aspect of his being and nature. His love is holy, his justice is holy, his justice is loving and his love just. He is not at war with himself; his love and justice are inseparable and one does not triumph over the other. God does not need to reconcile his justice and his love. In love he wants to reconcile his rebellious hell-deserving people to himself and in this he will be just.

2) In Jesus' death, God's justice is not transcended by his love; there is no injustice on God's part.
In Jesus' death, God shows his justice:
[Rom 3:21-26, ESV] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
There was no divine injustice in Jesus' death: although he died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, when he died God did not see him as an innocent victim: as he offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, he bore our sins in his body on the tree. Thus in God's eyes he was guilty: those eyes which are too pure to look on sin turned away and he cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It is because he was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Rom 4.25) that we rejoice in our sufferings (Rom 5.3) - on the basis of his justice (5.1) that we know his love (5.5) poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

It is gloriously true that this is all mercy: "Where your boundless love conquered my boundless sin, and mercy's arms were opened wide" as Steve & Vikki Cook wrote in a hymn. But the basis of mercy is not in love trumping justice, but in God in love being both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Our assurance is found in the justice of God's mercy: "Payment God cannot twice demand, first of my bleeding Surety's hand, and then again at mine." (Augustus Toplady)

3) God is consistently gracious: it is not that the OT is legalistic and grace comes in the New.
Gauthier is right that God's gracious justification in Jesus Christ was 'prepared by God throughout the history of the people of Israel'. Why then does he say that God was legalistic in the OT and imply that the folly (of grace) only comes in the New? We come back to the point I first made: as God is not composed of separate characteristics which can be played of against each other, so God does not have different aspects in different times which he plays against each other. God is wholly and in all times, God! And that is the God of grace and justice. He did not deal with his people in the OT by law and in the NT by grace: his dealings with his people were throughout the OT marked by grace! He created - graciously - he provided & commanded - graciously - he sustains - graciously - he redeems - graciously - he disciplines as a Father his children - graciously - he leads, guides, protects, punishes and instructs - graciously - he provides for his dwelling among them - graciously - he covenants with them - graciously - he reveals to them how to live in his covenant - graciously - for the rest, read Psalm 136: his hesset, covenantal love, endures forever. There is no dichotomy between Old and New Testaments. The only question is, 'How can his covenantal love endure forever in the face of covenantal unfaithfulness?' The answer is,
[Rom 3:21-26, ESV] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Gauthier asks, "Would it not be sad that we Christians, for whom the notion of grace is at the heart of the faith, were to live a life with neither grace nor love but full of legalism and judgment?" Of course the answer is yes, it would be sad if Christians were to live grace-less lives. His direction to us to be graciously salty and illuminating in the world is a good call. But we have no basis for being the salt and light of gospel grace if we have not the assurance of God's justice and love being one in him and shown in the cross: that is, if we do not know gospel grace. We may never depart from that - this just substitution in love is the basis for our gracious living:
[1 Pet 2:19-24, ESV] For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

Bring the books, join the cry!

thebluefish is always worth reading, but I've must flag Dave's latest post in particular: Bring the books, join the cry!

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

De quoi as-tu soif?

"Have you had an invitation?"We're now in Louvain-La-Neuve (LLN). Strictly speaking, the campus of the Université Catholique de Louvain. Since it's RC in background, we can have rooms and permission for a stall on campus no problem. It's a gift of a campus: it's actually a town, but it's all university campus - in reaction to the Flemish university in Leuven, a NEW TOWN was purpose built for the French speaking uni, hence the name: Louvain (that's Leuven francophonised) The New. I love Belgium. Anyway, here we were today and are tomorrow. Flyering, a lunchbar (to which some came: a lady with whom I was talking took a Bible afterward), lots of flyering and questionnaires and a coffee/tea/soup stand.

Members of the GBU group there and active. The group is no bigger than that at Mons, but they don't have non-stop classes all day so could join in!

Our theme for LLN is 'De quoi as-tu soif?' which roughly translates as 'What are you thirsty for?' - hence the cartoon in my previous post. Someone in the group cleverly adapted the immediately-recognisable logo for Jupiler beer, the Belgian brand cheap student beer, resulting in the logo in the bottom RH corner of the flyer above. The following conversation followed when I handed a flyer to a guy:
- [Him, glancing at the logo] But Jesus doesn't fit with beer!
- [Me, jokingly] Beh, he drank...
- No, really?? It says that in the Bible?!
- Well it wasn't beer, but he drank wine! He was even criticised for it by some.
- Oh!
I think he said he'd come to the events... Struck by his misconception of Jesus perhaps! (Feel free to post comments on cheesy ways in which I could have used this to launch into the gospel...)

As well as group involvement and many, many questionnaire conversations going on throughout the day, my joy was in giving away all 3 of our available free Bibles to students who really wanted to read them :) Ah the joy of giving God's word written to someone who wants to read it!

You can see tomorrow's programme on the flyer. Unfortunately I won't be there more of the day as I'm staying in Brussels for French class and then picking up the team leaders' oldest son from school since Tim will be in LLN and Emily has broken her foot, so I won't have much immediate news. I hope to get to the evening meeting unless Emily needs a hand with the boys' bedtime. Pray for her while you're praying for the mission - that she wouldn't let the extreme frustration of having broken her foot just before mission time rule her, but would have much grace to be patient and thankful in the gospel. In plaster & on crutches for 6 weeks with a 4-year old and a nearly 2-year old isn't fun.

De quoi as-tu soif?

Not answering the question?

Common non-responses to Q1 on our questionnaire: "Quelles idées as-tu concernant Dieu?" [What ideas do you have about God?]

"Je ne suis pas trés croyant" [I'm not much of a believer.]
This pre-answer can stand for one or a mixture of several sentiments: "I'm apologising that I'm about to show my ignorance since I've just realised your questionnaire is about God" (I had said it was about student beliefs... but there we go); "I'm apologising because I'm not going to give you Roman Catholic answers, we're in an RC university and I assume you want RC answers"; "I'm apologising that you (poor person) are presumably a practising RC and I'm about to not say what I assume you want to hear."
'Je ne suis pas trés croyant' - Ah, let's start discussing then! If you could see Jesus then you'd be saying, "I believe; help my unbelief!" It's the Holy Spirit's work to give that faith, to open those eyes to see the glory of Christ - so I'm really happy to continue on with this questionnaire: please don't say, "I'm not much of a believer" to dismiss investigating it! [Obvious NB: I don't of course say that - I usually probe for what they're thinking of when they say they don't believe in it: so God, does he exist? What's he like? and we run from there.]

"Je crois en Dieu mais je suis pas trés pratiquant"
This response is very common in Belgium.
[<- Caption: I believe in the existence of this glass; unfortunately I'm not a practising drinker!] This response means that the person does not believe in God. It's not rocket science. The revelation of the one true God when accompanied by the gift of faith does not result in 'I believe but I don't practise' - I believe but I don't do anything about it. It leads to falling on your face in adoration enabled by the application of the work of Christ by the Holy Spirit. It results in repentence and the obedience of faith. It results in life: life-transformation, relationship transformation, work transformation. It results in turning from your idols to serve the true and living God and to wait for his Son from heaven, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. It brings an explosion of "Everybody: look at GOD! How great, how glorious, how gracious! How worthy of praise! He offered his Son to bring us to him! Praise him, all you nations!"

I have only one sympathy with this response: that by 'practising' they're probably thinking 'doing stuff the RC institution says a believer in God is supposed to do'. That is the soul-destroyapostasytacy of framing the gospel in works and hedging gospel life with works. They turn from works, recognising their worthlessness as a system of salvation and rather than knowing to turn to the grace of God, they make up a God of their own imagination.

I might post more interesting questionnaire responses in due course.

Monday, 13 February 2006

Mission Day 1: Mons

Give thanks that...

- It didn't snow! It rained lightly all day, but that was workable.

- The 2 Bible College students from Paris who've come to help us for the week, Jonathan & Damien (& a 3rd who joined us for most of today) are great, and a big encouragement to IFES team and GBU students alike even by their presence with us - and also their evangelism.

- 3 of the Mons GBU students came to join in at various parts of the day. The leader opened up the church building for us and left us making coffee & filling the tap-flasks while she went off to her day of lectures. 2 girls joined in doing flyering & questionnaires later and even set off for the Grand'Place to do it there, Barnaby in tow. This is great. However they found students at the Grand'Place more hurried and hostile to even taking flyers, which was not great. They're still enthusiastic though: praise God :)

- I'd some beneficial conversations with students, from the questionnaires. I do find it harder in French to pick up on the subtleties though - like discerning when you can push a question further or the manner in which to introduce what the Bible says about a subject. But no matter how 'well it goes' I remind myself & others that we're helping people to reflect and go away taking with them something of what the gospel says about God, Jesus, the greatest problem and how we can be accepted by God (as they take away a copy of the questionnaire with appropriate Bible passage/verses to the side).

Please pray...

- that others from the Mons GBU group would join in tomorrow. I really want to be discipling the Mons GBU students in evangelism, not just doing evangelism (no matter how valuable that is). But if they're not there, they can't be discipled in evangelism! The students do have busy class schedules but half of the group we haven't seen since the second semester started at the end of January: please pray that they'd show up prepared to do evangelism, no matter how scared they are. I really want them to be knowing fully every good thing that is in them for the sake of Christ, and Paul tells Philemon that sharing the faith has that effect, by God's work. So I really want them to take this opportunity to share their faith with other students. I really want students in Mons to come to worship God through Christ Jesus, his most precious and perfect Son whom God gave in love to die for sinners. I pray that some may so do as a result of these couple of days. But more so that Mons GBU students would be encouraged and trained in helping other students hear of this Saviour so that they would continue to do so after these couple of days. Please join with me in praying for these things.

- Tomorrow is the Mons evening event: a meal & message. With the publicity themed on Love Actually (and tomorrow being Saint-Valentin), the title for the message is "Que je t'aime!" which is the title of a Jonny Halliday song and means roughly "How I love you!" (or it could be "That I love you!") - I haven't looked up the song to find out from the context (I'm not the one doing the talk, just the flyers this time!). The talk's going John 3.16 anyways. Please pray for students to come, have eyes opened to see Christ and not leave in apathy but response. And pray that it will be a response of God-given faith in the one Saviour and Lord.

- Please pray for continued energy and encouragement in the gospel for the IFES team and guys from France.

Thanks for your partnership through prayer with us in the gospel in Belgium.

Sunday, 12 February 2006

Let it NOT snow, let it NOT snow, ...

... with a not-so-veiled link to the subject of the previous post.

I haven't posted here much in the past week, because I've been madly preparing* for 2 days of evangelism at Mons and 2 at LLN. I haven't had time to think any thoughts interesting enough to post: they've mostly been along the lines of, "I wonder if the GBU leader has phoned the pastor yet for permission to use the kitchen... If I move this logo here on the flyer then the talk title will be clearer... I hope the GBU take to the questionnaire idea... How can we do the logistics of serving tea & coffee outside with nowhere to plug in a kettle or coffee maker?" with fewer-than-should-have-been forays into, "Lord, thank you for your gospel - please help us get it out here!" It's now Sunday night and 2 flyers are designed, 1000 flyers printed, 3000 more on the way, 1 evangelistic questionnaire prepared together with method of taking results which doesn't detract from conversation, 120 questionnaires & 30 'results version' questionnaires printed, 2 GBU groups trained in the gospel and how to use said evangelistic questionnaires (thankfully only Mons was my call), lots of liaising done with Mons GBU leader over a room and stand location, the local Christian bookshop cleaned of cheap gospels and Bibles to give out and 3 thermos tap flasks borrowed from my church... The situation for the 2 days at Mons: it's snowing. And having been refused permission for uni rooms, we'll be outside all day flyering for the Tue evening event & doing evangelistic questionnaires.

[I'd insert a picture of snow here, but they're all just far too nice. Imagine a picture instead: in the snow-dim half-daylight people in ones and twos stand outside in rushing snow all day while the wind cuts their ears and they try with red-numb hands to hand red flyers to students who rush past only aiming to get indoors again asap.]

Please pray for us: that the snow would stop (seriously - people will NOT stop to do a questionnaire if it's snowing!), that we'd be able to use a church to make the tea & coffee and that the person driving relay with flasks between said church and the stand would be safe, that GBU students would joyfully get involved even in fear & adverse conditions, filled with the Spirit for boldness in evangelism. Pray that they (and we) would be encouraged in the gospel. As Paul prayed for Philemon (1:6), please pray for us that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. Pray that students would stop to do the questionnaires and would be engaged by the Spirit of God by his truth and desire to find out more, take a gospel to read it, have their eyes opened to see Christ and have faith given to trust in him. Please pray for strength and encouragement for us and for the students. Please pray that God would prepare the hearts and minds of some students who receive flyers inviting them to the meal & message evening on Tuesday, so that they come and hear the message with 'open eyes'! Please pray for us (the IFES team) to disciple the GBU members well in evangelism. Please pray that we would see with eyes wide open in every minute of this week just how precious Jesus Christ the Lord and Saviour truly is and be so filled with joy at this that nothing - nothing - causes us to react in a way that loses sight of him. Please pray that God would work through our weakness to get lots of glory at Mons.

* for those possibly concerned (yes PM), have no fear: as well as this mad busyness over the past week and some flyer printing & student leader chasing-up on Saturday, I did also manage on Saturday a brief lie-in, some exercise, some violin playing, a trip to the cinema and a listen to a Piper sermon on Hebrews, and today I was round at someone's house from church after church.

"I'll pray for you"

"I'll pray for you." It's amazing how differently that phrase can be used.

I see it astonishingly often used as a final "Times infinity!" sure fire put-down line in online 'theological debates' along the lines of "Does!" - "Doesn't!" - "Does so!" There "I'll pray for you" is used to imply - "Whereas I am right in all things and walking in the Spirit, you are clearly blind to the truth of Scripture which I'm so clearly setting out before you and therefore hard of heart to the Spirit of truth, so there is no point me engaging with you further: I'll pray for you." Class dismissed! Probably not truthful and definitely not loving.

I use it disturbingly often well-intentioned but which turns out to be a lie; and I suspect that some others in the world do the same. I'll pray for you: I murmur love and forget it the next minute. I'm working on this: for example, resolving to pray for the person immediately I say the words or read the prayer request, or putting a note in my mobile(!) so to do, so that I don't forget later. "I'll pray for you: hang on while I tie a knot in my trunk! Only as loving as it is truthful.

And then when "I'll pray for you" is welcome: it's real; you know that person is going to sit themselves down with your prayer request and an open Bible and pray for you. Truthful and loving. I thank God for the people I know are doing that for me; I know I need it. I resolve to do it as often as I say it.

Thursday, 9 February 2006


Today by 11a.m. I'd had one cup of tea and one cup of coffee, which is my self-imposed caffeine intake for a day and often as much as I have in a whole week - so not really good for one morning. This was partly because I had the impression of not sleeping at all last night, though I did realise this morning that it couldn't have been quite the case because I didn't feel as rough as I should have done if it were. This morning's caffeine is however wearing off which is frustrating as I have a lot of work to do.

It snowed as I walked from my house to French class, stopped when I got there, restarted in time to catch our walk to and from the canteen for coffee in the break, stopped again, restarted for the walk home, only merrily taking the opportunity to change to hail when I popped into the bank. My French teacher would indubitably seize on that to announce that the gods, all constructs of human culture, are vindictive towards humans. I merely found it rather humorous and thanked God that I had a hat. I'm now thanking God that after 2 hours with my radiator on full, wearing a thick jumper and huge dressing gown (me that is - not the radiator) that I'm starting to feel not quite as cold as before.

I may start awarding a 'False Announcement Of The Day' prize to one quote per week from my French teacher. Today's prize-winning quote would for announcing that of course Homer's Odyssey was legend: it was 'the first great adventure book before the Bible', which was so bizarre on a 2 counts that I wasn't sure what to interject so missed the moment.

One of my classmates said to me that it was interesting to hear my take on the caricatures of Mohammed fiasco since I was 'on the inside'. I pointed out that I wasn't defending Islam in any point I'd made, but she merely meant that I was truly religious - she agreed with what I'd said anyway. Another classmate managed to say that all Muslim people are behind, mediaeval, don't use their brains but just their feelings and don't understand about such things as freedom of expression since they aren't on the same level of advanced thinking as 'we are'. Nothing like cultural, socio-political and intellectual arrogance, eh?

I discovered for the first time that there exist words in French which although masculine in the singular, become feminine when pluralised. E.g. amour - if you have one love, it's masculine, but many are feminine. Curiouser and curiouser.

In coffee break with a few of the ladies in the class the conversation turned to juicers and I pondered inwardly that I would love a juicer/smoothie maker but it's the sort of thing that's rather extravagant to buy for oneself and so usually asked for on a wedding list. Sometime I shall buy one as a celebratory symbol of not putting my life on hold in a wait for a wedding list - not that life consists in the abundance of one's possessions! While on the topic of wish-lists, I came across these books by G.E.Veith and decided that I may just more or less want them all, and Steph Bushell points us to look to the wedding supper of the Lamb with an amusing imaginary scenario with setting up a wedding list in a John Lewis department store [HT: Bish].

Now not only have I exhausted my caffeine intake for the day, but also my random output. So it's back to work, and relative sanity should return to my next post...

Monday, 6 February 2006

Who wants to say grace today?

Today's post hits closer to home: what do I actually do in Belgium anyway? Ok, well I'll post about today anyway.

Today I went to Mons GBU meeting. (GBU = CU but think instead a CU small group for an entire uni: now you got it.) This I do every week, and it wasn't all I did today of course - also some photocopying, a couple of hours of IFES team meeting (prayer and planning for the mission next week), some printing of evangelistic questionnaires at a seedy-looking net café (which isn't a café) on the corner, a dash to the Post Office (and a lot of waiting in line), late lunch, preparation for doing evangelism/questionnaire training at Mons and THEN set off for Mons at around 5pm for the 7pm meeting.

The treat this week was that unlike all other weeks heading to Mons, the IFES team leader came too so I got a LIFT & thus arrived in time to pop into a friterie for some dinner before the meeting (imagine that), rather than getting the bus, metro, train & bus and grabbing a hot waffle on the way through the train station.

The meeting was a joy. Ok, so only 3 of the 7-8 group members came. But they were enthusiastic for the couple of days of mission, we got them (mostly) planned and did some evangelism training. I love the gospel. I lead them through revising what the main elements of the gospel are and then went through some questionnaire training. And they're up for doing questionnaires! This all means me praising God muchly.

Y'see, the background to this is that few days ago, we'd only had contact with 2 of them since their exams (all of Jan), they'd been denied permission to hold meetings or put up a stand/stall in any of the university buildings due to religious neutrality (we got an article of law cited in response to the GBU leader's lovely letter of request), they couldn't think of anything else to do and were rather intimidated by the thought anyway, I couldn't see that I should persuade them to do all day just the questionnaire I'd designed, the IFES team leaders had been counting on me re Mons, we had 2 missioners coming from Paris to speak and no meetings for them to speak at and I was feeling like it was all my fault. Ok, not the banning of religious activity from campus bit, but the rest. "If I had been more persistent at the end of last term to get the leader to respond to the mission suggestion by email, then we'd have been organised before the last minute. If I had made the time and effort (French is so much harder to make out via mobile!) to phone the group leader a few days ago when she told me about the refusal of permission, then we would've found other solutions by now. If only I hadn't reassured the IFES team leaders that we did indeed want to do a couple of days of mission at Mons despite not having heard back from the group leader, then we wouldn't be in the situation of having speakers coming from France for 4 days with only 1 talk to give in the 2 days at Mons as we have no venues. If only I'd found out sooner that Mons is some sort of 'free' university so won't allow us rooms/space. If only I..." Then this morning it was as if God shouted something about grace to me as I was praying. "Oh yes. Grace applies!" Grace blows if only I out of the water. It turns desparately despairing prayers to do with my failing into desparately confident prayers to do with God's grace and glory.
[On a slightly different scale but nevertheless true: from Lam 3,19-24 (ESV):]

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

The 2 sides of the coin are that I keep neglecting that in everything I'm dependent on God to his glory, and (praise him!) he keeps finding ways of reminding me. May he never let me forget.
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." [1 Cor 1,28-31 (ESV)]

Sunday, 5 February 2006

God loves maths. And arts. And science...

At university I didn't recognise until the end of my second year that as a mathematics student and a Christian I had to fight for the truth of Christianity in my study of mathematics. It wasn't English literature, wherein to fight the upholding of immorality as art, or post-modern literary theory. It wasn't Biological Sciences wherein to fight for the philosophical framework of intelligent design to be considered against the philosophical framework of the evolutionary model. It wasn't Psychology wherein to fight for a Christian approach to the mind. It wasn't Law wherein to fight for a Biblical basis for law and order in society. It was mathematics: the language of God's universe, beautiful in its own right, with no issues to raise or fight. Or so I thought. The battle I neglected was in my own thinking. I relegated my study of mathematics to a non-spiritual part of life, an inevitability. So while I started university delighting in studying mathematics to God's glory, I was really encouraged to be involved in CU. And when mathematics got even more difficult and circumstances piled against it, I retreated into involvement in CU. Of course I knew that it was all to glorify God. I knew that as a Christian I had a duty to try to work as if to the Lord - as I'd a duty not to cheat, or lie, or... But I didn't realise what that meant. I neglected that God had given me that original delight in mathematics to use to glorify him, so when everything stacked against it, I didn't fight to delight in mathematics for God's sake: I squandered it. I would hope that I extrapolate too much from my experience. But I know so many others who segregated their studies from their Christianity - not always in terms of accepting non-Christian teaching, but in terms of neglecting to fight to glorify God in their studies. The students here in Belgium when given the chance to choose a subject for the monthly 'Focus' meetings, said, "We're University Bible Groups - but we only do the Bible Group part - we want to study The Christian and Work, or Study." Which bears witness to the lack of treatment - when pressed for examples they came up with ethics, coping with stress and failure, etc - for which they wanted Bible verses to reference. They know the need to work Christianly but they don't know the Christianity of work.

We easily deny two-tier Christianity but hold on to it to some extent: work/study = Christian duty but church/CU = Christian delight. We delighted in work to God's glory in Eden and will again in the new heavens and new earth (Isa 65). We should delight in working to God's glory here too. The only difference is that the pervasive corruption of sin means we have to fight for joy in these things to God's glory. (Now if only I had realised that before the end of my second year.)

It occurs to me that CU (& church!) can easily contribute to the myth of 2-tier Christianity by giving enthusiastic young Christians non-study related work: evangelism and Bible study; which they readily think of as more worth-while, without a word being said on the subject. But that suggests the remedy: not to take away the evangelism and Bible study (God forbid!) but to say words on the subject! I'm very thankful that Mike Partridge organised a regional day on the subject for CU leaders at the end of my second year. So for the Belgian students who requested teaching on the subject (above) I've prepared a similar seminar looking at a Biblical framework (creation, fall, redemption, final restoration). My prayer is that they would see the totality of Christianity from the framework of the gospel, the falsity of two-tier thought, and pursue joy in God in all of life, including in their studies. That they wouldn't just cope (even Christianly) with study and vive le weekend! for church, or see their studies or work simply as a means to a more 'Christian' end such as witness or money for mission, but as a worthwhile God-glorifying thing in itself.

CU (/GBU) is an evangelism team on campus. Amen! But while we're about that let us encourage them to fight against the attitude which, however consciencious, hands study to the devil while they fight on 'more spiritual' fronts. Let's encourage Christian students to fight for joy in their studies, presenting them to Christ as Lord to his glory.

Saturday, 4 February 2006

Guardian of the faith

As Richard Dawkins plows on religiously in his anti-religion polemic and as British media continue to give him air/viewing time to do so, a critique comes from a surprising source - a column for The Guardian, by Madeleine Bunting. It was a month ago, but it drew my attention as I'm currently reading Total Truth - which goes into Dawkin's subject a lot more carefully than Dawkins does [edit: with respect to the relation between Darwinian science and worldview]. There are new articles dealing with Dawkin's recent programmes on bethinking.org: part 1 and part 2.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Lunatic, liar, Lord

A clarification. I tossed an aside in the previous post to the effect that I consider the much-used trichotomy of C.S.Lewis to be forced. Forced is a clumsy word. I should have said that I consider common Christian usage of Lewis' trichotomy to be forced, which is to use it out of context as if it were a self-contained proof. This undermines its usefulness and does the Christian no service.

Writing of Jesus, Lewis said,
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Thus Lewis set up what has become known as the Lunatic, Liar, Lord trichotomy (or the Mad, Bad, or God) trichotomy.

Before my mother rues the day she bore me, I assure you that I agree with Lewis in context most wholeheartedly that in the light of the gospels, the option of 'Jesus was a great moral teacher' is patronising nonsense. We either recognise the Son, continue in rebellion and kill him that we might play at ruling, or we fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God.

However, there are two issues with the common usage of the trichotomy which I will address. If I'm right then hopefully this will help us witness better. If not, let me know.

Firstly, some say that this is a false trichotomy - that these things are not categorically mutually exclusive and exclusive of other options. For instance, there are those who say that someone delusional about self-deity may be functionally sane in other areas of life. Even if one could not grasp this or another possibility for the options at the moment, it must be admitted that the options are not as closed as we would like them to be. However, this does not mean that we cannot be certain nor that we shouldn't use our present understanding; it does mean that setting up a trichotomy and discounting 2 of the choices is not a water-tight means of arriving at certainty. So while I don't say that Lewis' trichotomy is necessarily fallacious, we should note that it is not an ultimate measure and means to certainty. It's a limited tool for the limited comprehending of his revelation.

Secondly, and more importantly, the trichotomy rests on certain presuppositions. This is always the case with a logical argument. Lewis was not ignorant of this (this quote has a larger context!), but it seems that most Christians using his trichotomy ignore the necessary presuppositions, treating it as if it had none. A proof does nothing if the person with whom you're reasoning doesn't accept your presuppositions. In this case, it only holds on the presuppositions that the gospels are faithful accounts of historical events (and experiencially that the person with whom you are discussing is familiar with Jesus' life and claims from them - but we'll assume that because it can always be remedied). Taking it a step further back, it relies on presuppositions that there are such things as historical events and that there can be faithful accounts despite a lack of objectivity! If the trichotomy is used as if it's a water-tight argument without any mention of those presuppositions or any accord on those presuppositions, then it's not got a leg to stand on. So the person may accept the trichotomy as a useful bit of reasoning, but not accept that the gospel writers accurately recorded Jesus' life and claims.

With both these problems, we rely on the testimony of the gospel writers. Relying on testimony is not blind or irrational: we all rely on testimony a dozen times a day in what we do. But the issue of testimony is essentially something for another post. My point in referring to it for now is that the common usage of the Lunatic, Liar, Lord trichotomy, is forced, because it doesn't acknowledge the necessity of its presuppositions or ultimately of faith. It is not self-contained proof. We must recognise that it depends on belief in the testimony of the gospels and use it appropriately.

In other words and more broadly speaking, we can't philosophically reason our way to God irrespective of faith in revelation (through testimony). If we could, our own reason would be effectively our god, and revelation redundant. However, recognising its limits, reason may be used as an aide - just not relied upon. Revelation may be reasonable in a sense, but reason is not revelation.

All that for the sake of a carelessly unqualified aside - I must be more careful!

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

From the sublime...

...to the ridiculous.

Philip Ryken over at Reformation21 has posted: "...proceedings began last week on the trial in Viterbo, Italy, concerning the existence of Jesus Christ of Nazareth." Do read it!

This is, in a deluded way, a more honest approach than that which accepts Jesus existed yet tries to redefine him or come up with some patronising nonsense about him being merely a good teacher. While I think that C.S.Lewis' trichotomy (Mad, bad, or God) is a bit forced, he was certainly right in dismissing as arrogant nonsense the idea that Jesus was merely a good teacher. To be an honest atheist, you've got to get rid of Jesus altogether.

There's nothing surprising about someone wanting to attack Jesus' existence. It recognises that Jesus is the biggest stumbling block to atheism.

Of course, most postmoderns have escaped above such restricting categories as existence anyway. Relegating Jesus' existence to religious truth and so to the subjective, non-fact realm, you don't even have to consider him! This trial could be a nice blow to that value / fact, religious truth / scientific truth dualism with which Western thought and culture is plagued.