Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another New Year

It is now 2007 in the UK.

It has been an interesting and mostly a very encouraging year. There are a lot of things about my life that I regret, but the God I serve is faithful and has done so much for me.

The next year is likely to be even more interesting, especially as it will be beginning with my going to Japan for two months from 9th January.

I had been longing to go out on the mission field througout last year and God has seen fit to bless me with this opportunity to go and see Japan for myself. I had no idea things would move so quickly. And my losing my job helped to make this possible. Of course losing my job in September was sad, but I had expected it to happen for a long time.

A Discussion with a lady of active breeding OR, Do I have a duty to get married and have lots of babies (Horror of Horrors)?

I had a very interesting discussion this evening with a lady at my church. I think she is an homeschooling mother with lots of children (and an enormous people carrier that is the size of a minibus). She was of the opinion that Christians have a duty to have lots of children. She saw this as a means of evangelism, both in bringing up Christian children and in being a testimony to the world.

I decided to challenge her a bit and get her to explain and defend her views. I think she was challenged and she gave a good argument. Her main argument was the centrality of the family in God's dealings. She was also very frank in telling me that she thought that I have a duty to actively seek a wife. I do not think she approved of my carefree, responsibility-shirking student lifestyle.

If she is correct it has big implications for me. It means that my refusal of any attempts at courtship and my reluctance to contemplate marriage is sinful. It means my dislike of the notion of having children is a product of a faulty worldview. Of course, even if she is not quite correct in her insistence on the importance of childbearing, my attitude may be wrong and may show an unhealthy passivity. I must be mindful of this.

I am however, uncomfortable with the case she made. This is an area where I see a lot of tension. On the one hand, the family is central to much of Scripture and God's dealings. There are a number of passages that could indicate that marriage and childbearing are a duty and responsibility, rather than a lifestyle option.

However, to my mind this idea seems unspiritual and possibly Judaistic. No doubt, my Dispensational Gnostic tendencies will be apparent here. However, I think the Church is an heavenly entity in which relationships are transformed. The Church is a spiritual family in which people may find relationships of a very different kind to those in the natural family. The Church belongs in heaven and needs no earthly inheritance through lineage. Thus, to my mind, duty-childbearing seems like a return to Judaism.

I am also mindful of the limitations and constraints that children can place on missionaries. So many missionaries are burdened by the care of their children. I believe a childless lifestyle is a legitimate option for marries couples who feel called to the mission field.

A Girl named Dallas?

Last night, I had a dream in which I kissed a girl named Dallas.

A girl named Dallas? Am I reading too much Dispensational theology?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

On Four Continents

In January, the C- family will probably be spread over four continents. I will be in Asia, in Japan. My mother will be on holiday with a friend in Tunisia, in Africa. My father will probably be making a business trip to the USA. My sister will be staying in the UK, in Europe.

Second Christmas

(Team members, you are welcome to post. But I appreciate that you all have busy lives to live, unlike this carefree single student)

The C- family is having a sort of second Christmas this weekend. My sister and her boyfriend are visiting.

Today, we all had a cocktail called a Highlander. It contains Scotch, Drambuie, Martini Rosso, Vermouth, Cola and lemon juice. However, after the first round of glasses, we had made a stronger variation with Rum instead of Martini and Vermouth.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Preventive Security v Reactive Security?

Some people are starting to argue that there is a tension between preventive and reactive security at airports.

They argue that airports have become too focused on reacting to security concerns, by which they mean measures such as restrictions on hand luggage and searches of passengers' shoes.

They argue that instead, airports should focus on preventive security, that is concentrating on checking the identity of passengers and preventing suspected terrorists from boarding planes.

To my mind it seems utterly illogical to put these two approaches in tension. Surely we need both.

I appreciate that reactive security slows things up a bit, but surely it is vitally necessary. Do critics of airport security really think that only a suspected terrorist is going to carry a bomb? Are there no lone amateur terrorists out there?

Whatever they are arguing, the critics are certainly not in favour of abandoning all searches. I am sure they think that hand luggage should still be x-rayed. But if they are prepared to allow that a passenger might have explosives in her handbag, is it not also possible that she might have explosives in her shoes? Hence, the vital necessity of the severe security measures that have been in operation in the last year.

It also seems logical that those who support a primarily preventive approach
to airport security should favour profiling as a means of identifying suspects. Perhaps they do not, but under their own logic they ought to. This would mean focusing on those from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds, an approach that raises sensitive questions. Is it fairer or more sensible to make everyone take off their shoes or just make the Pakistanis remove their shoes?

As far as I am concerned, if strip-searching everyone is the price to pay for safe air travel, so be it.

A bit more about the film The Remains of the Day (as requested by Kitty Cheng)

The film is about the butler of Darlington Hall, James Stephens (played by Anthony Hopkins). Mr Stephens takes a holiday to visit a former colleague, Miss Jenton (now Mrs. Jenton- played by Emma Thompson). During this holiday, he recollects on events during the 1930s when he was butler to Lord Darlington, an English aristocrat who favoured appeasement of the Nazis. Mr Stephens comes to realise that his life has been wasted. In the end, his would-be lover returns to the husband she left.

The Remains of the Day is of course based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. He is a Japanese writer. Without wanting to stereotype Japanese people, I could see elements of the Japanese mindset (as I understand it) in Mr Stephens.

Firstly, he has dedicated his life to the service of his employers. For him, nothing is more important that carrying out the duties of a head butler. It is common for Japanese men to dedicate their lives to the serviceof the company that employs them. Work is often at the centre of their lives.

This is shown further in his extreme deference towards his employer, Lord Darlington. While other characters are appalled by Lord Darlington's determination to negotiate peace with Nazi Germany (Darlington comes across as noble but misguided), Mr Stephens trusts and respects his employer and refuses to even contemplate critcism of him. When Darlington goes so far as to dismiss two Jewish refugees to avoid offending his German guests (a decision Darlington later regrets), Mr Stephens is shocked but continues to trust his employer and refuses to criticise him even in private.

Mr Stephens is so devoted to his life of service that he cannot allow himself to express any emotion at all. His only indulgence is to read romance novels in private, creating for himself a private world that he keeps secret from others. His refusal to show his true feelings leads to his failure to form a relationship with Miss Kenton, who instead looks for love elsewhere. Thus, he finds himself decades later, disappointed in life.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Watching a Film: The Remains of the Day

Today I watched a film adaptation of The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I had meant to read this book a while ago (the author being Japanese and the setting being England). I thought it was great that a Japanese writer should choose to write about England.

It was a good film.

I could very much see what I knew of the Japanese cultural mindset in the central character, the butler, Mr. Stephens.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

At a risk of being boiled with my own pudding and having a sprig of Holly skewered through my heart, I am going to say:

Merry Christmas

Or Merry Saturnalia to all you Jehovah's Witnesses and any like-minded extreme KJV-Fundamentalists who want to enjoy having a family holiday but do not want to get tangled in any pagan stuff.

By the way, a lot of people get slippers as a Christmas present. They are one of those things that makes a great present (provided you know the recipient's shoe-size). If you do, please take it as a sign that you really ought to make your home a shoe-free zone. It will certainly make for a more relaxed atmosphere during the holiday season.

Have a clean and godly Christmas this year.

Old men should dress smartly

I think in general, elderly men look absolutely terrible when they dress casually. They really do look a lot better when they dress smartly. In particular, they look far better when they wear neckties with collared shirts.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Introducing another new member

I am privileged to have Jodie, aka HK Flynn on the team. She is a great Free Grace sister and a homeschooling mother (not all of them are Calvinists).

Jodie is an extremely intelligent blogger. She was brave enougth to debate Frank Turk twice on his Debate Blog.

Jodie's blog has mostly focused on presenting the insights of Zane Hodges and other Free Grace writers. However, she has also written on the subject of politics. I hope that she may have time to pursue some political themes on this blog. Jodie is also a member of Unashamed of Grace.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Visiting Friends

I visited some friends from church yesterday. They cooked a great meal of roast chicken. They had invited somebody else to come as well; an unemployed man who is a regular recipient of everybody's generosity. However, he did not show up (apparently he wanted to be taken to a restaurant, not fed a home-cooked meal!).

After lunch, we watched Muppets' Christmas Carol (which I had seen before, but it is a great film). I was then introduced to an X-Box game. Some of you may be amused to know that I have never played an X-Box before.

I am starting to get used to my hosts' little dog. While I am not a dog lover at all, I have started to tolerate the creature curling up next to me on the sofa.

In the evening we went to the church prayer meeting.

Angels do not have Breasts

At Christmas time, one sees many pictures and models of angels. What really annoys me are images of angels with femminine shaped torsos.

The Bible seems to present angels as male. The only possible exception to this is Zechariah 5:9, which is very debatable.

The domminant tradition in art history has been to portray angels as androgynous beings, with faces like very handsome teenage boys. They are always flat-chested. Sidestepping the question of whether it is acceptable or not to paint pictures of angels, I think this artistic convention is a reasonably faithful interpretation of the Biblical material.

However, many modern secular artists (I assume they are not Christians) seem to be under the impression that angels and female. Hence, they give us pictures and models of angels that have breasts.

Okay, it just annoys me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some more new members

I did think about inviting Phil Johnson to become a member of this blog. I thought he might bring something fresh to it. However, I feared that Antonio would make me choose between having Phil on the team and having him. So, I guess I must choose Antonio Da Rosa.

Antonio has passionately defended the Gospel of grace and made some serious criticism of Calvinism on his blog, Free Grace Theology. He is also a team member on Unashamed of Grace. I hope he will be able to bring some of his passion and enthusiasm to this blog.

The other new member, Rose~ is a remarkably level-headed and reasonable lady. I think her blog Rose's Reasonings is the best in the Christian blogsphere. Like Antonio, she is a co-member of Unashamed of Grace. Rose~ is probably one of the most enthusiastic Dispensational bloggers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Introducing a New Member of this Cult

I will be going to Japan in three weeks for a two-month mission trip. I have no idea how much internet access I shall have while I am there.

I cannot bear the idea of my blog going silent, so I have invited a number of like-minded Dispensationalists to act as caretakers in my absence. They are all excellent writers and so they should hopefully write stuff that far exceeds the quality of this blog and yet reflects its character (light-hearted reflection on various subjects from a Dispensational Fundamentalist/ Evangelical perspective).

The first to join is Sarah, aka Redeemed. She is a King James Bible-believer from Montreal, Canada. Like me, she has Alexander Hislop's Two Babylons on her bookshelf.

Sarah writes some excellent devotional posts on her blog That I May Know Him. She also occasionally writes on Pen of Iron. Sarah is a very faithful evangelist who is regularly involved in giving out tracts.

Sarah is also a regular visitor to my other blog, Shoes Off at the Door, Please. She lives in Canada, where removing shoes in homes is very common.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Andrew's New 'Tactic'

Andrew recently introduced a new element to his street preaching. I think it is remarkably clever (a description of it which he was uncomfortable with). Today, I began to introduce this element to my own preaching.

Andrew has started to say things like:

I know that there is somebody in this street today who is not like the rest of the crowd. I do not know who you are, but I know you are listening.

This person does not want to go along with the rest of the dumb crowd who try to shut their ears to this message. This person does not feel disgust at the name of Jesus, but is drawn to that name. I do not know who you are, but I know you are listening. If you are that person, I would urge you to come forward and receive a free Gospel of John.


What Andrew is attempting to do is to direct his message not at the crowd in general, though he wants to be heard by them, but to focus in on those few people who are responsive to the message. The person who is in the process of being drawn.

While Andrew has not sold his soul to John Calvin or made obesiance at the altar of A.W. Pink, he does see this 'tactic' as the result of taking a more Calvinistic view of his preaching.

I do not share that view, but I think this approach is helpgful because of the reality of people who are in some way seeking God. This message is an attempt to appeal to them and focuses on their seeking. It is being seeker-friendly, while preaching the true Gospel and the reality of sin.

I connected this 'tactic' in my preaching today to John 3:19-21:

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.


I said in my preaching:

If you are willing to 'do truth', that is, to be really honest about yourself, you will admit your sin and you will look to Jesus Christ to take that sin and give you eternal life. I would urge you, if you are honest about yourself to look to Christ for eternal life.


Andrew has found that his seeker-directed message always gets some response from individuals in the crowd.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ask the Calvinist: Incredibly, I am on Frank Turk's Side!!

Ask the Calvinist: Incredibly, I am on Frank Turk's Side

I find myself in the unusual situation of being on the same side as Frank Turk, since Bugblaster (who is probably closer to me in theology) challenged Frank Turk on the subject of abstinence from alcohol.

Frank believes that drinking can be accpetable for Christians, Bugblaster believes that it is better for Christians to abstain.

Our own Free Grace champion, Jodie did a stunning job of challenging Frank on the interpretation of James. I only hope Frank puts up a suitable defence of Christian liberty in this area.

It is odd that depsite my Fundamentalism, I just love whiskey, vodka, liquers and beer. I used to be teetotal, but I came to abandon that position a couple of years ago. The real culprit for this is J.N. Darby, William Kelly and the rest of the Exclusive Brethren, who have always been more sensible than most Dispensationalists on this issue.

Had I been in the Orthodox Presbyterian church at the time of the split with the Bible Presbyterians, I would have been in the difficult position of having to choose between supporting Premillennialism and the liberty to drink alcohol (Carl McIntire and the Bible Presbyterians affirmed Premillennialism and opposed alcohol use).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Owl

There is an owl hooting very loudly from our neighbour's front garden. I can see the tree it is sitting in, but I cannot see the owl.

Dinner Tonight

I cooked my own dinner tonight; roast chicken, potatos, carrots and peas.

I experimented a bit with the gravy, putting a tiny amount curry powder in it. You could not taste it much, but it did give it a slight kick. As I often do, I put slightly too much of the stuff that makes the gravy go brown in and so the gravy was pitch black.

A Guy who would get on really well with Palm Boy

Every week when my friends and I go out to preach the Gospel on the streets, a certain young man comes out to protest against the Iraq War. This young man sets up a table with petitions and leaflets. He always has signs emblazoned with such slogans as 'Get Blair out!' and 'George W Bush is a terrorist!'

Much as I think the young man's cause is absolutely absurd and this is quite maifest in his description of Blair and Bush as terrorists, I do admire his commitment and his persistence. It is unusual for somebody to give up spare time every week just to exercise their right to free speech.

I have never actually spoken to the young man, but Andrew has talked to him once or twice. He once approached Andrew wearing a rubber mask caricaturing Tony Blair. Andrew said to him:

I do wish you would take that mask off. You look very silly and it does your cause no favours.


I would just love to introduce him to Palm Boy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Augusto Pinochet Dies: At least he kept the Communists out

I heard yesterday that Augusto Pinochet, the former military dictator of Chile had died.

I was surprised to learn that the friend I was with at the time knoew nothing at all about Pinochet. I had reflected on the question of Pinochet's right and wrongs since I was about 12.

At the time of his death, Pinochet had been stripped of his legal immunity and was facing trial for his abuses of human rights. I think it is sad that he will not have to answer to the world in court for all the people he had killed. This seems a denial of justice.

However, as Mark Anthony said in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:

The evil that men do lives on after them; but the good is oft interred with their bones.


It is esy to forget the good that Pinochet did. He saved Chile from becoming another Cuba and helped the West in its global war on Communism. He dragged Chile into the glorious world of free market capitalism, for which he certainly ought to be thanked.

While the atrocities of the Pinochet regime are tragic, it is easily forgotten that the free world was engaged in a Cold War against the monstrous evil of the Soviet Union and the international Communist movement. Had I been in charge of United States foreign policy back then, I dare say I would might have supported the policy of giving support to military dictators who opposed Communism.

However, now that the evil empire of Communism has mostly been defeated, it is right and proper that those who carried out violations of human rights answer for the actions and justify themselves before the world.

Vaccinations

I had some injections today. I needed to get immunized from a number of diseases before my trip to Japan. My arm aches a bit.

I need to go back for a couple more shots for protection from Hepatitis B.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Please do not switch your Blog to Beta!

Please do not switch your blog to Beta.

It does not work very well on my computer and thus I am unable to comment on Beta blogs.

I appreciate that nobody blogs for the sake of getting comments from me, but I am sure some people enjoy my short, precise comments.

If you switch to Beta, I am afraid I cannot comment on your blog any more.

Friday, December 08, 2006

W.H. Griffith Thomas (1861-1924)

Many Dispensational Fundamentalists may be surprised to know that one of the founders of Dallas Theological Seminary was a Church of England minister. Likewise some conservative Anglicans who learned their theology from The Principles of Theology may be surprised to know that the book's author was a Dispensationalist who was well connected with American Fundamentalists. That man was W.H. Griffith Thomas.

Griffith Thomas was a sunday school teacher before he became a Christian; he quickly klearned as he taught the word of God that he was a stranger to grace, but he was lead to Christ at the age of 17 by some Christian friends. Eleven years later, he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England.

Griffith Thomas had a most energetic ministry in the Unites States, Canada and in Engand. He worked closely with the Fundamentalist movement and contributed to the Fundamentals magazine. Like many other cross-atlantic Bible teachers, he was a guest lecturer several times at the Keswick Convention.

Griffith Thomas wrote many books, including commentaries on Genesis, Luke, Matthew and Hebrews. However, his greatest work was Principles of Theology, a textbook of Evangelical theology based around the 39 Articles. The subject matter of the 39 Articles rather limits the scope of the book; hence there is no thorough discussion of eschatology in it and much discussion of issues of interest primarily to Anglicans. Griffith Thomas was deeply committed to the theology of the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, even though he combined this with the more modern theological system of Dispensationalism.

Griffith Thomas seems very much a figure of a bygone era; an era when Fundamentalists were not separatist, when Evangelicals from various denominations rallied around Dispensationalism and before the Keswick Convention had discovered its 'social conscience.' I doubt there are many Evangelical Anglicans today whose theology comes close to that of W.H. Griffith Thomas.

Shoes Off at the Door, Please: This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD

Shoes Off at the Door, Please: This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD

Our award to countries where removing shoes is customary.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Booking Flights and Buying Shoes

I booked my flight to Japan, for my two-month mission trip today.

I also bought some shoes without laces. In Japan, you have to remove your shoes not only in homes, but in all kinds of buildings. I got a pair of smart leather slip-ons and some slip-on sneakers (reduced to £10!). Shoes without laces are not ideal for me, as my feet are very narrow.

Please keep my trip in your prayers. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Maybe you shouldn't be shouting about it then."

I had a Calvinist friend who used to be involved with the street preaching, until he crossed the Atlantic to study at Covenant Theological Seminary, Kansas. He used to be of the opinion (advocated by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis) that creation science should be central to evangelism. That is one should spent a good deal of one's time witnessing in refuting evolution. He was very skillfull at this. He would bring it up in his preaching and he had a dossier filled with Answers in Genesis cartoons that he would use in conversation. Of course, he was an environmental officer and so had come from a fairly scientific background.

Both Andrew and I tried the creation science approach and ended up looking a bit silly.

I once raised the issue of evidence for the flood and an early date for the world's creation in my street preaching on once occasion. A young man immediately interrupted with some objections. I could not answer them. I replied that "I do not understand all the science involved." His reply was cutting:

Well, if you do not understand all the science that is involved, maybe you shouldn't be shouting about it.


I think he had a very good point.

Andrew had a similar experience once. He had engaged in several conversations with some teenagers, from an exclusive fee-paying school, on the subject of evolution. He brought along several creationist books to the preaching in an attempt to give them a run for their money. He read an excerpt from the one he considered most scholarly and got the response:


Whoever wrote that does not understand evolution at all. It is more like this...


Andrew felt they had ran circles around him. He just could not give an adequate response to their arguments.

While I appreciate the excellent work of Answers in Genesis, I think they can be a little over-optimistic in expecting the average Christian to confidently defend creation in the face of knowledgeable opponents.

I think there is also an additional danger in Christians who do not really understand scientific principles baptizing scientific theories they do not understand. As a theologian I can see that the Bible clearly teaches a six-day creation and an early earth. However, I am not at all qualified to judge whether certain rock formations can be used as evidence to support such a view. I cannot say whether creation science is good science or not beyond the general principles. If even scientists researching non-controversial subjects can play fast and loose with the evidence, I think we do need to maintain a certain degree of scepticism towards articles and theories put forward by creation scientists. It is very easy to convince people who are scienctifically illiterate of something by producing scholarly-looking evidence which may turn out to be psuedo-science.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dressed for Work?

In church yesterday, a little boy noticed my suit and tie and asked me if I was wearing my 'work-clothes'. The boy's father always dressed very casually for church and so he was evidently unaware of the concept of sunday best.

As my work is study, my work-clothes are normally jeans and a rugby shirt.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Street Preaching Today

It was just Andrew and myself today. I was expecting somebody else, but maybe he missed us as we were preaching in a different street to the one we usually preach in.

It was the Worcester Victorian Christmas Fair, so it was especially busy. More people took literature than was normal. I preached twice.

I spoke to Nigel, who was convered last year. He confessed that he was getting drunk again and he had been drinking that day. Andrew and I both gave him some exhortations.

Andrew spoke to a number of people including an homeless man. He confessed to being an alcoholic. He admitted he hated his condition, but refused to turn to Christ.

A Chinese student took some free literature. He said he was studying the Bible for himself, with the help of some Christians.

Preacher's Fellowship Meeting Today

It was the monthly Preacher's Fellowship meeting today. This is a class meeting lead by our pastor on preaching.

I was supposed to give a presentation of a sermon outline on Psalm 22 today. However, we did not have time for me to present it, as we spent the whole session hearing the pastor's review and refutation of The God Delusion, a recent book by Atheist Richard Dawkins.

In the discussion I referred to the philosophical problems faced by naturalists in dealing with the human mind, which is not obviously a physical object. I also recommended Plantinga's argument that belief in God need not be proven, because it can be basic or commonsensical in the same way as belief in the existence of minds other than one's own (I know I have thoughts and feelings, but I could never prove that other people have thoughts and feelings like my own).

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Fundamental Problem with Contemporary Worship Music is that I don't like it.

Those who criticise contemporary worship music are sometimes accused of simply not liking modern worship. However, this completely misses the point.

Contemporary worship puts great importance on enjoyment of praise. It seeks to cultivate aesthetic pleasure in the worshipper. The internal dilemma for such a philosophy is that people have diverse tastes, which under the logic of the contemporary worship advocates ought to be accomodated. Believe it or not, I have never enjoyed singing or listening to modern worship songs.

When I was a teenager, I attended a Charismatic church that favoured contemporary worship. I did not at all enjoy the worship music there. I enjoyed Death Metal music. The choruses sung at my church were quite obviously tailored to people who were great fans of Simon and Garfunkel. What was I to do? I understand there are a few churches in the United States that have Death Metal worship music. However, I am not aware of any in Worcester or any other part of the UK.

The obvious answer was for this teenage Death Metal fan to put away his records and to go to church. I might not have liked singing Simon and Garfunkel style worship songs, but I knew that I was supposed to worship God, so I put up with it.

Now, if a young teenage Death Metal fan can sing songs that are not his first choice of music, knowing it is in worship to God, maybe other people can. Just maybe aesthetic pleasure and enjoyment is not the main consideration when chosing what songs to sing. Maybe the theological purpose of worship and the theological quality of the songs might be the main priority.

So the real question is not what I like or what you like, but what kind of worship God desires from us.