Monday, October 31, 2005

Reformation Day

There seem to be a lot of bloggers celebrating 'Reformation Day' and getting excited about it. I suppose perhaps it should excite me. I hold that the Reformation was the greatest spiritual renewal since Pentecost.

However, I suppose I tend not to get excited about the past. Much as I do find history interesting, I tend to dislike people being fixated on the past. If there were a day celebrating the birth of the Plymouth Brethren or the work of John Nelson Darby, I would probably ignore it.

Controversy

Oh dear, I am getting into lots of controversies about Calvinism, the Rapture and even dress and appearance. Somehow these debates always seem to find me out.

Some people have thought that I love getting into arguments. This is not the case, I would much rather agree with people. However, I do not fear controversy when it comes.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Taoist I Know

I regularly bump into an unusual man who I met while street preaching once. He professes to follow Taoism an ancient Chinese religion based on the harmony of nature. However, he might just as easily be described as a New Ager.

He regularly rages about the evil of Capitalism, the environmental situation and he used to attend demonstrations against animal cruelty. Getting a job seems to be beneath him, however. I believe he lives on welfare payments from the government that he hates.

He does not seem to get on well with other Christian evangelists; the first time he met me, he was furious with my preaching. However, he was delighted that I was willing to spend time listening to what he had to say. I keep meeting him and getting into conversations.

I met him yesterday and had a conversation. He told me my beliefs were a straightjacket, but he got very angry when I told him that his own beliefs were a straightjacket.

He does not seem to realize it, but he is an incredibly arrogant and proud man. He is convinced that he is superior to most people because he does Tai Chi, martial arts and other activities that 'cultivate' his spirit. He seems to think I am in a wretched state because I do not spend any time 'cultivating' my spirit.

He needs a lot of prayer.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Longer Posts

I notice that a lot of bloggers write longer posts and seem to get more visitors. Do longer posts get picked up by search engines more easily? Or do I just write a lot of rubbish? Much appreciation to regular visitors.

I am not planning on writing lots of long posts. If I want to say something, I do not use a lot of words. I ought to be Finnish.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Works Argument

A standard Calvinist argument:

1. We are not saved by works.
2. Works are actions pleasing to God.
3. Faith is pleasing to God.
4. Therefore we are not saved by any faith origninating in our selves.

To refute this argument, we could challenge premise 2. We could argue that when Paul speaks of 'works' he refers only to works of the Jewish law. Here is someone who takes this approach:

http://www.geocities.com/biblestudying/belief-works.html

I think this line of arguemnt removes some of the force from the doctrine of Justification, however. Related to this line, it might be suggested that next to the grace of God bestowed upon sinners, any merit in faith is trivial. After all, if the merit of faith cannot be calculated, it is questionable whether the believer's faith makes him any more worthy than an unbeliever who may well have carried out far more 'righteous' acts without faith.

A better approach would be to question premise 3, that faith is pleasing to God. There is little in the Scriptures to imply that faith is terribly pleasing to God. The closest is Christ marvelling at the faith of a Roman centurion. In this case, this was not saving faith. The Calvinist would argue that the Centurion's faith was purely of God, which it could possibly have been on the Arminian view, anyway.

The Bible places a high premium on obediance, far more than on faith. Faith, at least the sort involved in accepting the Gospel, is not obediance to God's Law. Faith without works is useless, according to James. If faith partly originates in man, it is of the flesh which cannot please God. Therefore I do not believe that any human response of faith in Christ is a work and thus the standard Calvinist arguemtn falls down.

Minimalism

I just love Minimalist interior design, whether Scandinavian or Oriental. I loked at a book once on Oriental interior design. It was great! Lots and lots of rooms that were nearly empty.

Minimalism is not too popular in most British homes. A lot of homes in Britain are filled with stupid ornaments that are huge dust-traps. I hate ornaments.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What Language Should I be Learning?

You Should Learn French

C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.
You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...


But actually, I am learning Finnish. I was rubbish at French at school.

Scrrewtape Letters

I get really irritated when preachers tell people to read CS Lewis' Screwtape Letters. This book seems to get an awful lot of praise, but very little criticism.

The first problem with Screwtape Letters is that it presents a fantasy view of the spirit world. As most Christians are weak in their grasp of Biblical Angelology and Demonology, this compounds an exisitng problem. The view of the demonic realm prsented in the book is derived from Milton and Medieval artwork, not from Scripture. I appreciate that the work is fictional and humourous, but unless young Christians study the Scriptures for themselves they will be left with a misleading impression.

Secondly, by focusing on the work of demons, Screwtape Letters leaves the reader without the comfort of knowing of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. The reader is left with a warped view of spiritual warfare and the impression that they are battling on their own.

The biggest problem is that it is not made clear in the book at what point the 'patient' has become a regenerated, born-again believer. Thus, a somewhat Pelagian soteriology is presented in which a believer may yet be lost.

I realise that there are helpful comments in the book and that it may be supplemented by studying the Scriptures. However, these days too many Christians are weak in doctrine and in the knowledge of Scripture. It is a lot easier to read a book like Screwtape Letters than it is to spend time studying God's Word. In fact, the frequency of the endorsements of the book seem almost too make it appear canonical.

Thus, unlike the majority of preachers I have heard, I would not encourage young or immature Christians to read Screwtape Letters.

I Love Shopping. Consumerism is Good

I am sick of preachers and theologians denouncing consumerism. Just what is so bad about wanting nice things?

Consumerism is good for the economy. What happens when people buy less stuff? Well, shops make less money, so they have to make cuts. Which means that people lose their jobs. Shopping is good for society as well as for individuals. Those theologians and preachers who attack consumerism have not got the faintest idea about basic economics.

Tim Warner on John Chapter 6

Tim Warner's helpful critique of Calvinist interpretations of John 6. Be warned, Warner denies Perseverance/ Eternal Security.

Monday, October 24, 2005

People Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

I really hate to hear people taking the Lord' name in vain. It really offends me. I would rather hear people using filthy language than use God's name as a swear word.

Do people really need to say God's name with such disrespect? I suppose to them it is just meaningless words. They probably do not even think about it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dressing for Church

It really bothers me when people dress scruffily for Church. I personally try to always wear a suit for Church, and if not, I still wear a tie. The most recent exception was in Finland, where most people dress scruffily anyway. I dress up for Church to show people that going to worship and hear the Word of God preached is important.

A lot of people at my congregation wear trainers, jeans or shorts for Church. I realise that I should not judge them for this, but it does bother me. I cannot help wondering if they have a casual attitude to Church in general.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Is Marriage a Goal or an Instrument?

In western society, marriage is a seen as a goal to acheive. After all, many films are primarily about two people who end up getting married. People set marriage up as an ambition. It is seen as vitally important to find the right husband or wife

The dream of marriage motivates people to work hard to acheive an ideal home. Related to this is the trend to delay marriage to one's late twenties or even one's thirties. For non-Christians the trend is to live with a few partners before settling on one for marriage.

I think that viewing marriage as a goal rather than an instruement is an unscriptural and unhelpful attitude. There are three problems with the marriage as a goal attitude-

1. It directs Christians away from a setting their sights on serving the Lord.
2. It sets up unrealistic expectations of both marriage in general and the person whom one marries. It is probably, therefore a contributor to the high rate of divorce in western societies.
3. The trend to late marriage may not be helpful. It puts strain on the commitment to chastity of young Christians and causes women to delay childbirth with the accompanying risks to female health and fertility.

We find in the New Testament that Paul presents an Instrumentalist view of marriage. He says in 1 Corinthians 7:

It is better to marry than to burn.

Hence, marriage is there to encourage restraint and to prevent fornication. This is a lot of use if one has to spend years working to be in a better financial position to marry and to spend years looking for someone to marry. Likewise, in 1 Timothy, Paul strongly urges younger widows to marry. There seems little that is romantic about his comments here. Marriage is viewed as a useful and convenient arrangement to be entered into as a matter of course.

There is much Christian literature on the subject of singleness. Most of this is about helping Christian singles to deal with their singleness emotionally until they marry. This is good, but I do not think it addresses the real issue. Until Christians adopt a functional, instrumentalist view of marriage, singleness will be a problem. The Christian community needs to ask whether it has taken to many of its courtship practises from the world, such as dating and encouragement of delayed marriage.

I think it would be highly advisable for Christians to consider the practise of arranged marriage. All the evidence shows that couples who's marraiages have been arranged are less likely to divorce. This is probalby because they do not have the enormously high expectations of marriage common to western society. Rather than building relationships on passion, oriental courtship allows passion to develope through the relationship. Obviously, arranged marriages do have disadvantages and the practise might be dificult to translate to the Christian community in the west, but I think the practise should be strongly considered.

David Cameron

It looks very likely that David Cameron will become leader of the Conservative Party. This is crazy. He is so young an inexperienced. Who is going to take him seriously?

If he does become leader and starts doing funny things, I will start to wonder why I should bother supporting this party.

Another reason to leave Britain.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Total Depravity Argument

Calvinist theology is built on a foundation of deductive arguments. While Calvinists can present a fairly convincing Biblical argument for their doctrines, they rely heavily on deductive logic. Here is a fairly standard argument for Total Depravity:

1. Unregenerate man is dead in trespasses and sins.
2. One who is dead in trespasses and sins is unable to believe the Gospel.

=Therefore unregenerate man is unable to believe the Gospel.

To refute this argument, it would be necessary to challenge the second premise. It could be argued either that being dead means inability to save oneself rather than inability to believe. Alternatively, one could argue that the drawing of the Holy Spirit which accompanies the preaching of the Gospel is sufficient to empower a man to believe without regenerating him.

Modern Life is Great

One of the points that Lomborg makes is that films give a misleading picture of life before the modern era. Films give the impression that people in the past lived lives which were simpler, but closer to nature and full of beauty. I n reality, most people before the modern era would have been hideously ugly because of being constantly ravaged by illness, malnutrition and lack of hygeine. Not to mention stinking like sewers all the time.

Who cares about living close to nature? I certainly do not want to.

Bjorn Lomborg's 'Skeptical Environmentalist'

In my spare time I am reading Bjorn Lomborg's book 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'. This is a controversial book by a Danish environmentalist, which argues that those who claim we are heading for doomsday are dead wrong. Lomborg controversially argues that in general, things are getting better not worse. Hunger is becoming less of a problem, worldwide the trend is for better health and longer life expectancy. Though he recognises dangers ot the environment, he arguues that they are nowhere near as bad as most environmentalists make out and that some measures to deal with them may not be worth the cost.

When I read lots of depressing stuff in the newspapers, Lomborg's book makes me feel really cheerful. Though, I guess I am more cheerful about the fact that Christ is coming to restore the earth.

The Pessimism of 'The Lord of the Rings'

I really enjoy reading Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings', but I think it is a really depressing book. I am not sure that other people appreciate the intense pessimism of the story.

A key theme of LOTR is the decline of the past. Middle Earth is presented as being in a state of deep decline. The things of the past are presented as being better, more noble and worthy and yet they are lost forever. The Elves are fading, Gondor is in a mess, Moria has been lost, even the Hobitts' civilization does not seem to be what it once was.

Take the Ents. They lost their mates, the Entwives a long time ago. They hope that they will one day be re-united and the reader shares in this hope. It certainly does not happen in the book. In fact, the Ents believe that the re-union will only occur when they have lost their forest completely. It is an apocalyptic hope, not an expectation that will be realised in the near future. In fact, given the consistent theme of decline in the book, we can be sure that the Entwives will never be found and the Ents themselves will one day be disappear.

Evil is defeated at the end of the book. Yet, it is still made clear that Middle Earth is changing to a newer age. No hint is given as to how things will differ in the future, so the reader is left with a sense of pessimism.

The book is built on a Romantic Pagan worldview that sees the past as a mythical golden age and sees no progress or hope for the future. This is very different from a Christian worldview which looks at the past as a sphere of failure and ruin and sees a great hope for the future.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Ambitions in Life

My five ambitions in life in order of importance:

1. To do whatever God wants- all other ambitions subject to this.
2. To get my PhD.
3. To get fluent in Finnish
4. To have my own immaculately clean apartment or house.
5. To leave Britain.

A Good Short Book by Robert Gundry

A few years ago, Robert Gundry*, a well-known Evangelical Bible scholar wrote a book with an incredibly long title-

Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, especially its Elites in North America

The book highligts some themes of John's Gospel that tend to get ignored. Namely the theme of Jesus as the Word, thus emphasising the centrality of the doctrinal message of Christianity. Also, the theme of opposition to the world and the empasis on a future, rather than a realized eschatological hope.

After identifying these themes in John's Gospel, Gundry demonstrates the failure of contemporary Evangelicalism to take heed of them. He argues that in renouncing Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism has gone to far in trying to accomodate to the world.

This book is extremely unusual in that it is a call from a member of the Evangelical intellectual elite to move back towards Fundamentalism and away from engagement with the world. In the last 50 years, the domminant voice in Evangelicalism has been a call for more intellectual, cultural and political engagement with non-Christian society. This book seemed to me like a breath of fresh air.

*Gundry is perhaps best known for his arguments for Post-Tribulationalism. I have heard that he has said a few odd things in his works of critical scholarship. As I have not read his commentaries on Matthew and Mark, I will reserve judgment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rose's Reasonings

Another sound and edifying Christian blog.

Not Feeling Great

I am feeling really depressed now that I am back. I attended a lecture yesterday on teaching methods. I am finding this particular module difficult. The lecturer noticed this. I am not going to get a qualification for it, so I might not carry on with it. I shall ask her for some advice.

Had dinner with some Christian friends yesterday, the family of the guy I stayed with in Helsinki, which was nice.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My Visit To Finland

I took a flight from Birmingham, England to Helsinki via Copenhagen on Friday. I came back yesterday. It was so fantastic. I expected to be a bit disappointed by Finland, but in fact, it was the nicest place I have ever been. I really did not feel like going home to Britain.

Part of my motivation for going was the feeling that the Lord might have called me into some sort of ministry in Finland. I have been learning the Finnish language since Febuary.

I stayed with a family. The host was an Englishman, the son of a lady in my Church. He is married to a Finnish lady and they have two children, a boy of five years and a girl of two. As I usually am in social situations, I was terrified of doing anything to offend my hosts. However, they were incredibly kind and courteous to me. They really made me feel welcome.

My hosts followed the Finnish custom of removing their shoes upon entering their apartment. A very sensible custom (sorry, pet rant again!). There apartment was not large, being student accommodation (my host is a student), but extremely pleasant and comfortable. It was actually larger than I expected.

On the night I arrived, my host invited me to share a sauna with him, a central part of Finnish culture. I tend to avoid any activities that involve removing my clothes (especially all of them- you take a sauna naked). However, I would seem very wet if I went to Finland and did not take the opportunity to try a sauna. I thought that I would hate it, but actually, though rather intense, it was a quite delightful experience. I should be thoroughly disappointed if I never use a Finnish sauna again. This was a good start. Having found that I liked the sauna, maybe Finland was a good place for me.

The weather was not too cold. Their October (apparently a fairly mild one) seemed rather like an English December (there was no snow).

Helsinki is absolutely beautiful. I have never been in such a nice city. It is incredibly spacious (having a smaller population than the UK, they can spread out more) with lots of green spaces. Coming in to land at Helsinki airport, I could see fir trees everywhere.

My host showed me the old university library, the Lutheran Cathedral (there is also an Orthodox cathedral, but I did not go there), the island fortress of Suomenelinna, the Rock Church, which is a Church built into rocks. We had a meal at McDonald's and then he left me to do a bit of shopping in Stockmanns, the biggest (or is it the second biggest?) department store in Europe, and to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. There were some interesting things in the museum, but there was a lot of really shocking, disturbing art. I was very surprised that children were allowed to visit this museum.

My hosts took me to their Church on Sunday. This was an English-speaking Lutheran congregation catering to foreigners. It reminded me of a lot of Evangelical Anglican Churches, liturgical, but relaxed. The theology of the preaching was good, but as with Anglican Churches, I was not happy with the order of service (but I would say something similar about the congregation I worship at in Worcester). I did not participate in the communion, as I assumed the minister would hold to Consubstantiation (a quirky Lutheran doctrine that is halfway between the Reformed view of communion and Transubstantiation).

After lunch on Sunday, my hosts took me to a Finnish country park with a lake. It would have been a shame to go to Finland and not see a lake. The drive through the Finnish countryside was magnificent. Unfortunately, my host's son fell into the lake as soon as we arrived. Hence, we had to go back immediately. It was good to get a glimpse, however.

The Finnish people are incredible. They were just as I had heard. They do not talk much, they do not smile, and they do not look at you unless they are speaking to you. I sat next to a couple of Finnish young ladies on the flight to Helsinki. They did not in any way acknowledge my existence. I wondered if I should speak to them, but I did not. My host later told me I was right not to have tried to be friendly.

My Finnish was a big disappointment. I have learned a lot of it, but I could not follow what people were saying. I did make lots of attempts to speak to people in Finnish, but they did not humour me. If I did not understand them, they would switch to English. I guess I should spend less time trying to understand the words and spend more time just listenning to my tapes and CDs of Finnish language. I found listenning very hard when I did French at school. I think my Dyspraxia makes it harder for me. I sometimes find it difficult ot understand people when they speak to me in English. My hosts' children are bilingual. Their father speaks to them in English, and their mother speaks to them in Finnish. The two-year old daughter understands English, but tended to only speak in Finnish. The five-year old boy spoke very good English.

The police reminded me that Finland is a somewhat more authoritarian society than Britain. They wore army-style fatigues and looked vey tough. Much as I think Finland is a lovely place, the Left-wing authoritarianism would make me a little hesitant about living there. I would not want to bring up children in a society where smacking children is outlawed and where the state has more power to intrude into people's lives. However, I must admit, living with a family with two small children did not make me feel enthusiastic about having children of my own.

There is a lack of Fundamentalist congregations in Finland, even though there are more Evangelicals within the Lutheran Church than in Norway and Sweden. The Brethren have little, if any presence in Finland. If I were to live in Finland, I would definitely want to be involved in some Church -planting work.

Have I discovered a calling to Finland? Not yet, but it felt strangely like the right place for me. I am not aware of any particular opportunities for service in Finland. Any missionary work on my part might well be pioneering. There are huge difficulties involved in reaching a people who simply do not want to talk. I cannot imagine them talking to an open-air preacher like myself.

I think part of me hopes that I will not be called to Finland, so that I can emigrate to the USA and have an easy ride.

Of course, I have not experienced the Finnish winter. That would be a real test. Anyway I am deeply thankful to the Lord for this wonderful trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Letter Ö and my Accent.

Having a slightly Yorkshire accent (or is it just a weird accent?) I tend to pronounce the English sound O (as in home) as er (as in better, but more open). This sound is very similar to the Finnish letter Ö.

(I would not have been able to write this post without the use of a Finnish computer. I am in Helsinki at the moment. Post more soon.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Which Book of the Bible am I?

Proverbs-
According to this personality test, anyway.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by

I am so Cold-Hearted

I am really lacking in compassion. Partly, this is down to God-given personality. I am a very objective, analytical person. The world needs people who can be objective. Too much 'compassion' is just superficial sentimentality.

However, it is of concern to me that I am very lacking in compassion and sympathy. I am just not moved at all by pictures and stories of people suffering. I ask the Lord to give me more compassion and more love, but I just do not feel much.

Lobster-Pot Arminian

Back to some serious theology. I call myself a Lobster-Pot Arminian. I deny all of the five points of Calvinism except Perseverance-

Easily in, not so easily out; so said the Lobster in the Lobster Pot.

Filthy Carpet in a School

Continuing on my pet rant, I also saw a photograph of a primary school classroom in the newspaper. This classroom had an absolutely filthy carpet.

This photograph was an argument in itself for the Japanses practise of removing shoes in schools, universities, offices, hotels and restaurants, let alone homes. Going to far? Ask people suffering from asthma and dust-related allergies.

New Etiquette Guide

Good news in my crusade to persuade people to remove their shoes at the door. In 'Times' newspaper today, it said that 'The Good Housekeepers Magazine', a British publication had released a guide to modern etiquette for women. This guide said that women should comply with hosts who insist on shoes off in their homes. This is a sign of incresed tolerance of the shoes-off rule in Britain. That said, I have not read this eitquette guide, so it could be that it discourages readers from making this request themselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Conspiracy Theorists Seem Really Mean

I think there is probably something in theories about a conspiracy to create a New World Order. However, I think a lot of the people who talk about this conspiracy seem a bit mean. They continaully make out that Bush is a really evil man who is working to further global tyranny. I daresay his policies may well be contributing to some conspiracy to establish global government. However, I think the conspiracy theorist villainization of Bush is just nasty. Likewise, Wolfowitz probably is working towards introducing a global dictatorship, but does that mean everything he does is evil? Do the conspiracists have to be so nasty? What is wrong about a bit of respect and giving people the benefit of the doubt?

I do not think I am an idiot for thinking that Bush seems like a nice man, even if I do not agree with all of his policies.

Arguing through Guilt

Generally I do not like debating the issue of election and predestination with Calvinists. On eof the few exceptions is my friend Jason (Premillennail Reformed Baptist). In debates he has shown a humility that I have often found wanting in a lot of Calvinists.

Calvinists are usually very passionate about their theological system and this often leads them to become rather angry in debate. I suspect they often fail to realise this. They also have a habit of using guilt as a trick in debates. They seem to try to make out that if you do not accept their system you must be rather self-righteous and arrogant. I knew a Calvinist who was a very godly and admirable man who had a habit of very quickly making accusations of blasphemy when debating theology. While Calvinism ought to lead to humility, I fear that a lot of Calvinists take great pride in upholding doctrines that others find difficult.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mental Hospital in Albania

I have a friend who served as a missionary in Albania. He told me a story about a mental hospital he had visited in Albania.

This mental hospital was really filthy and unhygeinic. It had absolutely no decent facilities. Then a Christian charity came along and gave them lots of new furniture and equipment and spent ages cleaning up the place. As soon as the missionaries were gone, the staff at the hospital sold off all their new furniture and equipment and within a few weeks, the hospital was just as filthy as it had been before.

Then a few months later, another missionary organisation visited and provided the same service that the other had. Again, the staff sold off all they were given and the place got messed up again.

This story tells us a lot. It shows some of the problems of humanitarian aid. I have heard some people say that the west should provide all sorts of things to courntries in Africa. However, would the people there make good use of them?

This story also tells us about human nature. Some people ask, why does God not stop wars and vioence and terrorism? The answer is that if He did, people would start doing them again. Human nature has to be changed fundamentally for God to bring peace.

Evangelical Ecclesiology

I am doing a PhD thesis on the ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) of John Nelson Darby, one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren.

A difficulty I have found is the lack of extensive material written by evangelcials on the subject of ecclesiology. Evangelicals do not tend to think very carefully about the subject of the Church.

This is a real shame as the Church is of great importance. Ecclesiology shows how Christ has a purpose in not only saving individuals, but in bringing them into a corporate community.

To Finland on Friday

I am going to Helsinki, Finland on Friday. I am very nervous, but I am looking forward to it. I suppose I am not a big fan of travel.

Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to go to Finland and to learn Finnish. Well, I have learned quite a bit of Finnish so far and I am going to Finland for three days. The Lord has blessed me indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Long Hair on Men

I had my hair cut today. I wear it slightly floppy on the top with a side parting, but very short at the back and sides. My mother thinks it makes me look like a Mormon evangelist.

When I was at university three years ago, I wore my hair long, about half-way down my back. Someitmes people would quote 1 Corinthians 11-

Doth not nature tell you it is a disgrace to a man if he has long hair?

This arguement did not convince me, as the Bible praises the appearance of Absalom, even when pointing out his long hair. However, I decided in 2002, before I finished university to have it cut. I felt that 1 Corinthians 11 particularly emphasised the importance of men and women being disitinct. I could not avoid the conclusion that 1 Corinthians 11 entails a woman wearing a headcovering and long hair, so I thought that I should certainly get rid of my long hair. Also, it occurred to me that it was not good to be identified by my appearance with all that ungodly Rock Music culture (not that it is wrong to listen to all Rock music, but Christians should not be associated with that kind of culture).

Also, in the next few years I would have enough trouble trying to find and hold onto jobs without having long hair!

There is the question of 'How long is long?' Most Fundamentalists say that the difference is over the ears. Men's hair should not cover the ears and women's hair should reach below the ears. I think this is silly. Paul would probably have tolerated men having longer hair than this and would probably have expected women to have longer hair than that.

Personally, I always avoid criticizing people over how they dress. If people had given me lots of criticism for having long hair, I would not have listened. Christians must be allowed to follow their consciences on this matter. It is right to have opinions and convictions on dress, however.

I would suggest that a man should definitely not let his hair grow below his shoulders, though he would do well to wear it shorter than this. I think women should ideally let their hair grow waist-length, but I can understand if this is too long to be convenient. It is important not too judge people by their appearance, though they should take care to please God by their dress and grooming.

Interestingly, I work for an Exclusive Brethren- owned company. Their sect has very strict rules about how to dress and would probably throw out their members if they broke these rules.

Worn-Out Slippers

Evidently, I spend to much time at home, as my slippers have become worn out after just ten months use. They were a Christmas (I know Xmas is Saturnalia, but its hard to avoid it) present from my ex-fiance a few weeks before we split up. I guess the collapse of these slippers is kind of symbolic of the collapse of our relationship.

I got a new pair of slippers today. I really like slippers. Not really necessary in summer, but very nice in winter. I particularly value slippers because I am really fundamentalist about removing shoes at the door*. I also have an old pair of slippers that I wear when going into the backyard. I should have been Japanese.

*For the benefit of American readers, this is not a British custom, but is viewed in Britain as a sign of severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Cough Medicine

On saturday, I went to a supermarket that sells only cheap German imports. You never know what you might find at this place. I decided to try a German 'Herbal Liquer'.

This 'Herbal Liquer' tasted just like cough medicine. This was great. For some reason I love things that taste like cough medicine, like spiced marmalade, root beer and Dandelion and Burdock.

Angela Merkel

I was delighted to hear on the radio that Angela Merkel, the Christian democrat leader is going to become chancellor of Germany. Hopefully, she will help to push Europe in a more right-wing direction.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Conversation on Ecclesiology

I was talking to a couple of guys at Church today. I told one of them about my thesis on John Nelson Darby. This lead them to talk about Brethren assemblies. They both agreed that the Brethren are weak theologically for not appointing pastors. I do not agree, but I refrained from giving my opinion.

The downside of appointed pastors is that they may have come from a Bible College where 'liberal' theology or false doctrines are taught. He may not be a genuine pastor (not having a calling and gift, though appointed by men).

My two friends and brothers were right in their concern for sound doctrine, but they seek to establish it by man's structures and devices. If we do not trust the Holy Spirit to equip and guide us, then we will get into all sorts of messes.

The Church which I attend has an appointed pastor and may be strong in doctrine, but most of the congregation are weak. A congregation cannot be built up by management.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Dyspraxia Blog

A great blog by somebody else with Dyspraxia.

Why Do I Carry a Scofield Bible?

Although I am only an off-beat Dispensationalist, I take a Scofield Reference Bible to Church and when I go out street preaching. I do this for three reasons:

1. It has a good min-concordance at the back.
2. To symbolise my identification with the Dispensational/ Fundamentalist tradition of Evangelicalism, despite my differences.
3. To irritate any very rigid Reformed Christians.

A Singer's Outrage

The singer and songwriter Andrea Haugen who performs as 'Hagalaz Runedance' wrote a song 'Little Light' in which she expresses fierce anger at child abusers, wishing she could curse them forever.

I tend to think that when a person is keen to show off outrage at child abuse it is a sign of moral bankruptcy. Murderers and wife-beaters are particularly noted for their anger against child abuse. People with consistent ethical systems know very well that child abuse is gross wickedness and tend not to parade their disgust at such behaviour.

I find it very hard to see on what moral basis Andrea Haugen can condemn child abuse under her pagan belief system. She sings in praise of Hel, the goddess of death. She worships this goddess as a fundamental principle of spirituality, that is in the sacredness of both death and birth. Thus, her religion is grounded in her belief in the sacredness of nature itself.

What kind of ethical system can the worship of nature provide? If death is holy, then is killing wrong? Man is not the only creature that kills for pleasure, there are animals that do so. How can the animalistic instincts that lead to sexual abuse be condemned if nature is the ultimate arbitrator of moral goodness?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Cadbury's Chocolate

I really cannot stand Cadbury's chocolate. I believe the European Union tryed to take action against Cadbury's because of its high content of vegatable fat. A lot of British people were enraged by this, declaring their patriotism and their love for Cadbury's chocolate.

On the contrary, I think Cadbury's chocolate is really nasty; its milk chocolate bars are dreadful and its white chocolate is especially vile. It has a really unpleasent aftertaste. Nestle's chocolate may be a bit sweet, but their chocolate is delicious when compared to Cadbury's. The British bad taste runs to extremes when it comes to chocolate.

Am I One Of Those Guys?

I generally try to avoid the issue of election and predestination, but it always seems to find me.

Arminians/ Non-Calvinists/ Anti-Calvinists/ "Moderate Calvinists"* really make me embarassed not to be a Calvinist. A good deal of their arguments are really bad.

Most Arminian arguements fall into sentimentality. The worst example is Dave Hunt's book 'What Love is This'. My old pal Jason (Premillennial Reformed Baptist) thinks the book is absolutely terrible. I think it is almost absolutely terrible. It contains two or three good arguments and that is about it. The central argument of the book is that God is a loving God, therefore the Calvinist idea of God reprobating or passing over sinners is absurd.

This focus on the love of God at the expense of His justice and holiness betrays the sentimentality of those who take this approach. God is a holy and sovereign God. Man is a sinner who is condemned by his own deeds. God is would be perfectly just in condeming man and passing him over. This is the clear conclusion of Romans 9:15. The idea of Reprobation does not appall me at all. If the Scriptural data pointed towards the truth of the Calvinist position, I would not loose sleep, but I would worship God for his awesome glory and majesty.

Those who reject the Calvinist conclusion must move away from this sentimental deductive logic that fills their polemics.

Instead we must take a far more inductive and exegetical approach, seeking to establish the nature of God's dealings with man. I believe the Scriptures point towards a model of sovereignty that includes God's responding to man and offering him a conditional offer of salvation. The Calvinists have fallen into the error of interpreting the Scriptures primarily in the light of their deductive conclusions. Hence, we have doctrines such as Limited Atonement that are eisegetical.
However, those who reject Calvinism have fallen into the same error by using a faulty deductive arguement:

1. God loves all mankind.
2. God would* offer all mankind the chance of salvation.

God has therefore offered all mankind the chance of salvation.

By this reasoning, God becomes obligated to do something for man. God does love mankind, but man has sinned and fallen into condemnation. God's love does not obligate him to offer any kind of salvation at all. It seems to treat salvation as a right, not a gift.

Let us reason from the Scriptures.

*Most of them do not want to be called Arminians, but they cannot think of another name to give their theology.
*I say 'would', but those who reason this way really mean 'must'.

Christians Going To Nightclubs

I have met Christians who go to nightclubs, but I really do not understand why they go to those places. I think it is fine to drink alcohol and go to bars, but I think nightclubs are a quite different kettle of fish.

You cannot have a conversation in a nightclub because the music is so loud. Most of the Christian nightclubbers I have met are girls who go to dance. Now, I personally think that Christians are better off not dancing because it draws attention to the body and is therefore immodest. However, I can understand and appreciate Christians who think that dancing is fun and harmless. However, surely it must be obvious that most of the dancing in a nightclub is for the purpose of attracting a mate (and not for marriage). It is flirtatious dancing. Non-Christians go to these places to get drunk, to dance for the purpose of finding a partner and ultimately to fornicate with that partner. The whole character of such establishments is to cater for immoral behaviour. Why do most pubs and bars not need door staff? Because most people who frequent ordinary bars are there to have a drink and play pool or darts or to have a conversation. The staff of nightclubs expect the majority of their clients to get into a high state of intoxication.

Perhaps I am missing something. Maybe there really is something wholesome and edifying that can be found at nightclubs, but I do not know what it is. Can any Christian nightclubbers enlighten me?

Nostalgic Evangelicalism

It seems to be that many Reformed Evangelicals have a tendency to crave nostalgia. They just love things from the past. They go on conferences on 19th century revivals, they read as many Puritan books as they can and exalt the Protestant matyrs. I suspect that the trend for Exclusive Psalmody amongts some Reformed Evangelicals is part of a sentimental dream of being Scottish.

Of course, none of these are bad things and Christians from other theological traditions can also be sentimental about the past. However, it does annoy me when Christians spend so much time thinking about the past and (it seems to me), wishing they were living in those times.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pithy Posts

I notice that a lot of other bloggers write long, deep and substantial posts, while I tend to write short and pithy posts.

Should I write longer posts and put more time and thought into what I write?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Open-Mouthed Smiles

Many years ago, I saw a painting of Prince Harry. There was something about this painting that made it look very different from the great old paintings of previous centuries. I was not sure what it was. Later I realised that it was the fact that the prince was smiling with his mouth open. His teeth were visible.

In all of the great paintings of the past, people were portrayed with their mouths closed. I realise that this was mainly because people probably had crooked teeth. However, I do think that people look more dignified, elegant and restrained when they have their mouths closed. This modern love of the open smile smacks of casualness, excess and sentimentality. When someone takes my photograph, I try to keep my mouth shut.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Think Upon These Things

An edifying blog by a young Christian.

MetaSchema

Some great logical material from a Reformed Christian.

Postponement of the Kingdom of God

It has been a great delight for me to apprehend the truth of the postponement of the Kingdom of God.

99% of the time that people talk about the Kingdom of God, they are talking about their own ideas and their own programmes and they call it the 'Kingdom of God' to blackmail Christians into accepting them. Christian Socialists call their politics the 'Kingdom of God'. Conservative Evangelicals identify the structures of their denominations the 'Kingdom of God.' Shallow Evangelicals identify the 'Kingdom of God' with being really nice and friendly. Charismatic Evangelicals seek sighns and wonders as part of the 'Kingdom of God'.

However, when John the Baptist said that the Kingdom of God was at hand, he was talking about that which we find in Bible prophecy. That is the restoration of the Jewish Kingdom and God's rule over the Earth. A purely spiritual Kingdom is not found in the Old Testament. Yes, believers are brought into the spiritual, heavenly mystery form of the Kingdom, but this is not the subject of Old Testament prohecy. This is not the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

The Dispensational doctrine of the postponement of the Kingdom provides an answer to all those who would seek to build the Kingdom of God by human devices.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Talking to God

During my teenage years I attended a Charismatic Church with my parents. At this Church it was seen as a mark of a healthy spiritual life that you had regular inner conversations with God. If you did not talk to God and God did not talk back to you, it was a sign that there was something wrong with your spiritual life. Hence, under this pressure, I had lots of imaginary conversations with God.

This attitude shows the bankruptcy of Charismatic theology. It is founded on the continual longing for new subjective experiences. It is very dangerous. The Church that I attended was involved in the Toronto 'Blessing', unsurprisingly.

The idea of having regular conversations with God is completely foreign to Scripture. Yes, believers are led by the Holy Spirit when they walk in faithfulness, but nowhere is it indicated that they should expect to regularly hear God speaking to them.

In the Bible, when God speaks, it is to impart new revelation of his purposes, not to give us pastoral support. For that, we have the Scriptures and other believers.

Street Preaching

I have been involved in open-air preaching on the high street for about five years. Although I have seen few converts, I belive it is a fruitful ministry. Some people criticise street preaching, arguing that few people take any interest. However, those who criticise this method of evangelism have usually never tried it. In the experience of myself and my friends, we have found it leads to many great conversations about Christ, especially with young people.

Older people like to shy away from street preachers (though they cannot help but hear the message), but young people often come to us with their questions. Yes, there are many who mock, but often the mockers and scoffers are more interested than they would like to admit.

I find it very frustrating that so few Christians are willing to get involved in street evangelism, even just by giving out tracts. It does require a little courage, but not much. We have encountered very little that could be called violence. We have generally been supported by the police. Would it be that difficult to come out one Saturday and give out tracts or preach?

David Davis, Conservative Leadership Candidate

My opinion of Conservative Party leadership candidate David Davis went up this weekend. He revealed in the Times magazine that he thinks that William Hague, a former Conservative leader will be prime minister one day and that he will offer William Hague a job in the shadow cabinet.

This is great. My parents and I regretted Hague's hasty resignation and wanted him to stand again as leader. It is a real shame that Hague has so far refused a shadow cabinet job. He may not have been experienced enough the first time he was leader, but he did have much strengh. The disaster of the 2001 election owed more to the strengh of the Labour party and Blair's popularity than to Hague's mistakes in the campaign.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Differences in Paul's Teachings on Marriage

I think that there is a difference between Paul's teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 and in 1 Timothy. In 1 Corinthians, Paul encourages believers to remain single and encourages widows not to remarry. However, in 1 Timothy, the married state appears to be presented as the norm. Elders are required to be married and younger widows are encouraged to remarry. That widows are encouraged to remarry suggests that marrige is intended to be the norm for Christian women in general. This requirement also means that there must be enough men for these widows and other women to marry. Hence, 1 Timothy gives no encouragment to singleness, except to older widows.

This difference does not imply a contradiction, it can be accounted for by time and circumstance.

I would be interested to know if folks agree with this conclusion and how they would account for it. If there are two different lines of teaching in the NT, which is more applicable to us?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Get Me Out Of Britain, Please.

When I have finished my PhD, I would really like to leave the UK, preferably to emigrate to the USA. I think a theologian with expertise in the theology of the Plymouth Brethren would me more likely to find an academic post in the United States.

I also really dislike my country. I am proud of the great acheivments of my country, but I am just a bit sick of my heritage. There is perhaps too much history in Britain. Somehow the past chokes the present.

I hate the small-minded meanness of spirit that is so common among British people. I cannot stand the continued affection for Socialism and trade unionism. Britain has also been ruined by its over-reliance on the welfare state.

Phil Johnson's Bookmarks

An excellent set of links to theology sites, annotated from a Reformed Baptist perspective. Mostly divided into Helpful theology, Bad theology, Really Bad theology and Really, Really Bad theology. Phil Johnson would no doubt put my theology inot the 'Bad' category. His dry humour is fun to read, though.