Monday, 30 April 2007

Quote of the day: monadic idolatry

...God also designates himself by another special mark to distinguish himself more precisely from idols. For he so proclaims himself the sole God as to offer himself to be contemplated clearly in three persons. Unless we grasp these, only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God.
- Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, ch.XIII

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

The reverse psychology of preaching the gospel

At least in certain ages subjects like God’s wrath, divine justice and human culpability received far more positive air time from the pulpit and elsewhere. Christians knew they were divinely, gloriously created but also profoundly and radically fallen. And God both loved and judged. And Christians then seemed to cope. I also do a great deal of listening to the voices of 2007. Many of these are Christian voices, evangelical Christian voices. And their churches are ones which rarely if ever preach on sin, hell and judgement – those topics are so antiquated and negative, after all! - and yet the people I listen to now have never felt so judged, flawed, inadequate or profoundly bad about themselves. Most are encumbered with dysfunctionalities of various forms. It is almost as if reverse psychology is at work here. It seems to me that the less we speak honestly of the human condition in all its splendour and all its squalour, the more we actually disservice those we are trying to help. The truth, the whole truth, does set us free, that is, if we have the courage to embrace it.
This from a Dr Lisa Severine Nolland offering a pastoral response to Bishop Tom Wright following his tirade against the writers of Pierced For Our Transgressions. (The writers themselves have responded here, albeit in the tiny text size of their website.)

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Unity is not a feather duvet

Together for the Gospel have an anticipatory video in prep for the next conference - and as with the previous one, it's rather instructive to video those 4 men (Lig Duncan, CJ Mahaney, Al Mohler & Mark Dever) in discussion! In the last 4-5 minutes of the recording the conversation turns to divisive issues:
CJ Mahaney [joking] - I'm amazed we've gotten through this whole time without you [Al] making some remark to Lig about his position on baptism. [Cue laughter & joking.]

Al Mohler - In all seriousness, one of the criticisms that I have received about Together for the Gospel is that we talked about all these things, but didn't talk about baptism. And I want to come back and say, look at the title of the conference. Together for the Gospel. We're the people who believe that baptism is of urgent importance. Because we believe so much in ecclesiology. And so, with all the humour and love between us, the fact that we disagree on this is no small matter. And when I have preached from Lig's pulpit I have said we may be the last people on the planet who can have an honest disagreement because we honestly believe in Biblical authority, confessional accountability and the importance of baptism as an act of obedience to Christ. But we're together for the gospel. So we're not going to just sublimate these things and act like they don't exist - and I love the fact we can tease each other about it - and we can talk responsably, because there are few persons of the theological stature of a Lig Duncan that I can even talk to about this as a baptist to a Presbyterian. So where there's friendship and history and tradition and creed and confession and exegesis and all that behind us, we're the people who are going to say there are a lot of things that are extremely important beyond what we talk about at this conference. But we're focussing right now on the gospel.

Lig Duncan - This issue (Al, you're exactly right), illustrates one of the ways in which we are trying to be different from other alliances and coalitions that have been formed in times past in evangelicalism and that is, that has often been: "The gospel's important; none of these other things matter." That's NOT what we're saying. We're saying
the gospel is very important, we are together on it, these other things DO matter. And they matter enough that we will talk seriously with one another, we'll tease one another about them, and we'll teach our congregations what we believe the Bible says. And I think that helps evangelicalism, when there are men like Mark Dever, and Al Mohler, and CJ Mahaney, teaching faithfully that these things matter in their pulpits. I don't think that hurts presbyterians, or baptists: I think it hurts when people tell people that those things don't matter.
I agree with these men. Unity is not a fluffy thing to cuddle up in. Fellowship is not something you have when you display only those things you both like. Togetherness is not found in holding to those things you agree on but ignoring their consequences. Unity is in truth. Truth as revealed, truth loved and truth applied and ministered.

Yet some important truths are
more important than others. So we can express unity in them while disagreeing strongly on those other things. But if you tell people that those other things don't matter, you're not helping them in unity; you're harming them. Because truth matters. That we live the lives God has given us thinking, acting and feeling according to the truth he has seen fit to reveal by his Spirit, matters.

Monday, 23 April 2007

UCCF Press Release

Response from UCCF to the SPRING HARVEST decision to end the World Alive Bible teaching week after 14 years

FOR the past 14 years, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and Keswick Ministries have been delighted to partner Spring Harvest in organising Word Alive, one of Europe's top Bible Study weeks with a vibrant student track aimed at young people. Widely recognised, orthodox Bible teaching has been the hallmark of the event.

In 2003, the Revd Steve Chalke, one of the Spring Harvest Event Leadership Team, and a member of their Council of Management (trustees), wrote The Lost Message of Jesus. In it, he promoted unorthodox views over the nature of the Atonement, and hit national media headlines over his controversial and graphic description of Penal Substitution.

The Word Alive committee, of which UCCF is a part, believed such views to be contrary to orthodox Biblical teaching and as such, decided that the Revd Steve Chalke could not teach from a Word Alive platform.

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) held a Theological Forum at which various theologians debated with the Revd Steve Chalke. As a result, that organisation decided to change its constitution to clarify where the EA Council of Management stood on the issue. In May 2006 Spring Harvest advised the leadership of Word Alive that the Revd Steve Chalke was able to sign up to the new and revised EA constitution and therefore requested he be allowed to preach from the Word Alive platform in 2007. This request was refused as Mr Chalke had publicly confirmed he had not changed his personal theological views.

In September 2006 the Word Alive Committee were called to a meeting by Spring Harvest and told that as they would not include the Revd Steve Chalke, the 14-year partnership was at an end. Spring Harvest said they regretted they were putting a personality ahead of partnership. Spring Harvest announced it would be promoting its own student-based week at Minehead in 'week one', resourced by Fusion, of which the Revd Steve Chalke is on the Council of Reference.

Our decision to allow only orthodox Christian teaching from Word Alive platforms, and Spring Harvest's subsequent decision has caused enormous pain and regret. However, UCCF believes it can no longer work with those whose understanding of the nature of the gospel and the distinctive of the atonement is so different to theirs, and mainstream evangelicals in the UK and across the world.

There comes a point when loyalty to the gospel, as we believe it to be clearly set out in Scripture, and the drive for unity with others can come into conflict, and we have reached that point.

Meanwhile, a new 'Word Alive' event, organised jointly by Keswick Ministries and UCCF has been planned for 7-11 April 2008 at Pwllheli, where speakers already confirmed include John Piper, Terry Virgo and Don Carson. There will be an increased capacity and further details will be released shortly.

Rumours circulating that the break-up of the partnership was down to Word Alive's refusal to accept women speakers is totally refuted. UCCF regularly has women speakers on its platforms, and it is a matter of public fact that Keswick does too. The key issue is Spring Harvest's corporate support for one of its own trustees, the Revd Steve Chalke, over Biblical orthodoxy on such a central issue as Atonement.

- Rev Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF: The Christian Unions

Handling the invisible

"Many are willing to believe in Christ if he remains a merely spiritual reality. But when we preach that Christ has become a particular man in a particular place issuing particular commands and dying on a particular cross exposing the particular sins of our particular lives, then the preaching ceases to be acceptable for many.

This is the stumbling block of the incarnation—when God becomes a man, he strips away every pretense of man to be God. We can no longer do our own thing; we must do what this one Jewish man wants us to do. We can no longer pose as self-sufficient, because this one Jewish man says we are all sick with sin and must come to him for healing. We can no longer depend on our own wisdom to find life, because this one Jewish man who lived for 30 obscure years in a little country in the Middle East says, "I am the way the truth and the life."

When God becomes a man, man ceases to be the measure of all things, and this man becomes the measure of all things. This is simply intolerable to the rebellious heart of men and women. The incarnation is a violation of the bill of human rights written by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is totalitarian. It's authoritarian! Imperialism! Despotism! Usurpation! Absolutism! Who does he think he is?!


Piper on 1 John 1:1-4 - manuscript, audio

Friday, 20 April 2007

Getting the message (of) across

Ok, so maybe it wasn't too informative to merely post a linked logo: Adrian, being the World Famous Christian Blogger that he is, has (unsurprisingly) written it up rather better: Adrian's Blog: Word Alive and Spring Harvest to Separate After 15 Years Because of the Atonement

Friday, 13 April 2007

Logic on fire!

One of the books I'm currently reading is Piper's "The Supremacy of God in preaching". In it he encourages (expounds? exalts over? delights in?) expository exaltation. But apparently he's been developing a new homiletic technique: expository combustion. I think it might catch on. And with that frivolous thought, I'm happily away for the weekend.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Q.1 What is the chief end of blog?

I was recently asked for blogging tips by someone thinking of starting out. So, being a blogger(!), I'll collate my reply into a blog post. Hoping it'll be helpful for some. If Mike Reeves is to be believed (which he generally is), then Luther rather thought that we must have a theology of everything - blogging included (ok, he didn't explicitly mention blogging). Otherwise we'll be doing those non-theologised things idolatrously. We do have a theology of everything - but what theology? What theos? If we haven't seen blogging in the light of the word, perhaps we're blogging idolatrously! So, without further ado -

I blog (in reverse order):

a) for myself - to help me think through what I'm learning. You know - you have a brilliant or deep thought, try to explain it to someone else, and realise it actually doesn't make sense. Or you forget it a day after having it. Blogging can help you think it through more. It also keeps you more accountable about such thoughts: goes some way towards you doing theology in community, rather than on your own. Which then helps to hone those thoughts, getting input, correction, etc., from others.

b) for the Church - helps me focus on building up the Church. That is, I have a thought, I learn something, something strikes me, or something happens to me. I want to share it. But how and why? Blogging forces me to think through the thing in a gospel framework, from a gospel perspective, for the building up of the Church. Why blog it otherwise? So I aim to not blog about something until I can do so in an edifying way. Of course, and sadly, I don't achieve this 100% - nor does that mean that my posts are all fluffy & encouraging! But they should be edifying. As I say, that's an aim... (This also means that I welcome comments on any of my posts, or on the blog in general.)

c) for God's glory - the 2 aims above come under this. Blogs are sitting around theologising together, only you can do it across the world and have random people listen in, learn, rebuke, correct, encourage, etc., which is marvellous. But as with everything, it can also be self-serving, self-glorifying, captivated by the desires of the idol factory within, so idolatrous.

So as with all things, blogging should come with a 'take care' tag. It isn't that blogging is intrinsically bad. But our hearts are idol factories, and we so easily take any good thing and quickly it shows up our sin / trips us up in ways in which we hadn't had opportunity before. So for example, it's all too easy to vent on a blog - to post quickly, without the care necessary, giving off to a faceless meta rather than purposing to minister to brothers & sisters in Christ. I sometimes go and type a blog post in haste & high emotion, then save it as a draft, come back to it days later, and rewrite it / scrap it because in its original form it wouldn't minister the word well to my brothers & sisters in Christ who read the blog, or it wouldn't point them to the hope we have in Christ. Another idol-factory blogging example is being enslaved to stats, for popularity or for pride. Knowing your blog stats is not necessarily bad, but take care of your deceitful heart. I know I all too easily slip into the captivity of fear of man, and pride - so I don't register with technorati.

The purpose of blogging? To glorify and enjoy God! So purpose that your blog will be a theatre for God's glory, not for your own. And please minister the word to me to rebuke & correct me whenever that's not the case here.

Some words from better bloggers than me: Adrian Warnock - Andy Shudall

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Too much; yet not enough.

Summer sunsets are dangerous. I enjoy the park in the evening summer sun. Grass so real, every blade a different hue, that I started to wonder if I wasn't real, or transparent... if the light would go right through me and the grass through my feet. I ponder: perhaps I know more what C.S.Lewis was talking about. Yet it's not so much the weight of glory, as the weight of reality. The truly real. But maybe that is glory. He had it at the end of The Last Battle, as well as The Great Divorce. The new heavens & new earth will be truly real - these are just the shadowlands: in our current bodies, awaiting the final redemption, we wouldn't be real enough for it. Thus pleasure at this creation has in it such sadness. Thus beauty in this world carries with it such an ache. A majestic tree glowing in the evening sun: I stand and admire, and cry and pray, until the sun sets low over the city and with the cooling air, midges. Perhaps I should avoid sunsets. Yet they draw me...

Friday, 6 April 2007

Week of Thankfulness

Word Alive - a finished Word on a finished work: Hebrews in the student celebrations; my lovely Impact group girls thinking things through & having God's living word cut them open, show them Jesus, and so impact their lives, meeting with said girls for coffee, praying with students after the Celebrations, reviewing Questioning Evangelism in Starbooks with the lovely Linda Marshall, listening to Mike Reeves on the Church and Trinity, catching up with old uni friends, and last but not least catching up with Keith Getty and discovering he's just as cheeky as ever. Heading from Skegness to...

Warwick - the town, not the uni - for a friend's birthday meal. Realising at 9.30pm that it wasn't going to be possible to get the last (22:10) train back to Brum, being released from piano-playing duties for next morning's church service by texting Pastor, and staying over with said friend in Warwick - who enjoyed using her spare room in newly married house - a marvellous hostess :) Then it was to...

Leamington Spa - for the morning Good Friday service of my old church, whom I love dearly and who love me far more than I deserve. Enjoying being there 'unplanned' and the fact that I'll be back next weekend. Also enjoying sharing the newwordaliveevent news with Bill & Sharon James, who are appropriately thrilled that we'll have such a good event: clear of false teachers, and rejoicing in the truth that Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Then it was back to...

Bournville - for our afternoon evangelistic Good Friday service on a local estate in which we've been doing outreach. This I had to play for, and given my dubious skill on the piano and that it was merely a keyboard I had (and without my best friend - the sustain pedal), we did ok - I enjoyed knowing the words to the songs so sang loudly to cover any duff notes. Then it was back to...

Friends from church for a chat until the time surprised us by approaching 8pm and I walked home before it got dark. Thereby walking home in a lovely summer-like evening sunset, partly through a park. Ahhh. Now it's...

Fish for dinner, not because it's Good Friday, but because I felt like it. With thanksgiving. And then...

I'm on holiday for a week, though still in Brum, Leam, Cov, etc. Byeeee!

New Word Alive!