Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Gospel incarnated in subcultural form

Our theology has to speak from a cultural context. Below are some reflections on several fictional Christians.

The Christian Hippie

The Christian Hippie is entranced by the beauty of God's creation. She delights in living close to nature, experience every moment she can in woods and meadows. Believing in the sacred nature of God's creation, she likes to go barefoot as much as possible; feeling the touch of the earth that God has made.

While her non-Christian hippie friends talk about the energy of the earth, she sees the earth as permeated by the presence of God its creator and sustainer. She cannot escape the beauty of His presence.

The Christian Hippie believes that modern life is somewhat deficient. It is too far removed from creation and nature. She does not feel that humanity is living the way that God intended.

Knowing that the world is departed from God and under the sway of evil principalities and powers, she fears that the environment is under threat from pollution and climate change. She knows that not all Christians share her views on how resolve environmental issues, but she seeks to encourage her fellow Christians to take an interest in environmental issues and take seriously their responsibilities as stewards.

With her passion for nature, she tends to like organic food that she and her husband have grown themselves. She is also a vegetarian, having a lot of compassion for animals. She understands that vegetarianism is not taught in the Bible and respects those who eat meat, but her choice to abstain from eating meat is an outworking of the compassion she feels towards God's creation.

When she and her husband have children, she wants to give birth at home. She aspires to live a somewhat alternative lifestyle. She believes that Christians are called to live lives that are very different from the world and has no fear of being considered odd.

The Christian Hippie believes that spirituality is a fundamentally important part of human life. Humans were created to experience God. She feels that simply knowing theological facts is not enough and the reality of God's immanence and transcendence must be experienced.

However, the Christian Hippie is very worried about her Hippie friends. They are into paganism and Occult techniques. She fears that they are tapping into the powers of darkness. Nevertheless, she believes that there messing about in the Occult is a reflection of a genuine need for God. She believes the answer to her friends searching is the knowledge of the only true God.

The Christian Hippie believes in peace. Perhaps that is an understatement. She longs for renewal of the cosmos and all things to come to know the light of God's goodness. She takes seriously the call of her saviour to be a peacemaker. She believes that the Bible teaches pacifism. She understands that not all Christians accept the pacifist position, but she finds it hard to accept the idea of ever using violence.

The Christian Hippie has a lot of concerns about society and the environment, but she is not really interested in politics. She aspires live her life the way she believes is right and set an example, the way the first Christians did.

She wears bright coloured clothing, reflecting her optimism. Although she sees much in the world that is wrong, she is filled with hope in the God that she has come to know.

The Christian Skinhead

The Christian Skinhead identifies with the working class of his country. He wears braces, jeans and boots, just like his grandfather did when he worked in factories many years ago.

The Christian Skinhead identifies with the working class because he sees that God has chosen the poor and the humble. God has not chosen those who are clever, or wealthy or fashionable, but the humble. He aspires to be the Salt of the Earth, down to earth, simple, honest and true.

The Christian Skinhead identifies with Peter in the New Testament; an ordinary working man who was not wise or great; a man who sometimes made bad foolish decisions. Yet Peter was chosen by the Lord and the Christian Skinhead believes He was also among those chosen to serve the Lord and to be conformed to Christ.

The Christian Skinhead loves his country. He is a true patriot. While, he knows that patriotism can be an idol, he points to Paul's love for his fellow Jews as an example of patriotism. He recognises that God has providentially divided humanity into nations and he is proud of his. He sees his loyalty to his country and to his favorite football team as reflections of His greater loyalty to God.

Although he is a patriot, he rejects the racism that is common among skinheads. He believes this racism is unchristian and contrary to the true Skinhead spirit. However, he recognises that he can himself fall into the trap of prejudice. he understands that we are living in a fallen world and that prejudice is an tap to fall into when confronted with the many problems in the world. He looks to Christ for the grace to overcome prejudice.

The Christian Skinhead's values are very conservative. He believes in the values of an older generation; marriage, family and work. He believes that these values are under threat in modern liberal society. His shaved head and combat boots reflect the fact that he sees himself as engaged in war; a war against the principalities and powers that are ruining human society. Nevertheless, he looks to the coming of Jesus Christ to bring victory to the humble of the earth.

The Christian Punk

The Christian Punk is by inclination, a rebel. As a Christian, she cannot go as far as her non-Christian Punk friends in rejecting authority (knowing that God has put authorities in place) but she believes that the way authority is exercised in the earth is very wrong.

The Christian Punk takes seriously the New Testament's claim that Satan is the ruler of this world. Knowing this, she finds it hard not to suspect that governments are corrupt and that the capitalist system helps the rich and oppresses the poor. She knows that not all Christians see politics the way she does, but she seeks to challenge them not to be complacent. She fears that Christians are too inclined to settle for a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. In her opinion, for the most part the church has abandoned Gospel authenticity in favour of worldly respectability.

The Christian Punk totally identifies with Jesus Christ as one who challenged human authority, both religious and secular. She believes that Jesus identified with those on the fringes of society, those that today would be scorned by the middle class.

The Christian Punk dresses to be noticed. She has several piercings that make her stand out in any crowd. Her dress displays her keen sense of irony; she often wears a ripped school tie and corporate logos on badges. She really appreciates some of the irony displayed by Jesus and the New Testament authors. She loves the way her Saviour gave clever answers to the Pharisees and Sadducees who tried to trick Him.

The Christian Punk has come to learn that sometimes her rebellious attitude is not down to moral outrage, but simply sinful pride. She has often been humbled by the grace and forgiveness shown to her by more conservative Christians on occasions when her pride took her too far. She knows that she needs to submit to the Lordship of Christ and this means being willing to submit to the correction of her brethren.

She also has learned that she needs to respect the consciences of weaker brethren. Although she feels at liberty to dress how she does, she realises that some Christians can be offended and she must recognise that. To that end she has come to see the need to dress more conservatively in church at least. She has failed in the past and caused offence, but she knows that she has found forgiveness through Christ and His blood has cleansed her from all unrighteousness.

The Christian Punk is apocalyptic in her worldview. The Sex Pistols sang that there was 'no future.' Likewise she believes that there is no future for this sinful world. She looks to Armageddon and the coming of Christ to bring an end to injustice.

The Christian Biker

Like the Christian Hippie, the Christian Biker is overawed by the beauty of God's creation. He longs to see more of it. To that end, he has travelled a lot on his motorcycle and hopes one day to travel across the whole world.

The Christian Biker is very thankful to God for the life that he has been given and he wants to live it to the full. When he rides his motorbike at high speed he feels the true thrill of life and whispers a silent prayer of thanks. He praises God with each day that comes and seeks to enjoy it to the maximum that is possible. He is thankful too that God gave man the intelligence to design such a great machine as the motorcycle!

While the Christian Biker spends a lot of time riding on his own or with his wife, he also really enjoys the company of other bikers. He frequently hangs out with his friends from the motorcycle club and attends various biker festivals around the country. He recognises that God created man for fellowship; to be a social being. In eternity God was not alone but was in the eternal fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Likewise, man reflects his creator in the need to spend time with others.

The Christian Biker loves his motorbiking buddies, but even more than they can realise in their unbelief. He knows that though they have a good time on their bikes and in their drinking and hanging out, they are lost men who are on the road to destruction. He hopes to use his time with them to witness to them and share with them the love of the Saviour that he has come to know.

As one who loves to travel, the Christian Biker finds it hard to settle in one place. He identifies with Abraham who was a pilgrim and a stranger. He has come to appreciate that the world is not his home and he must travel on until he comes to find his heavenly rest.

However, he has come to learn that he does need to settle to some extent. His wandering instinct has lead him to make some unwise decisions and he has in the past drifted from church to church. He is seeking to learn how to make a greater commitment to his present fellowship. At times, his marriage has suffered through his tendency to go off on long trips with his biker buddies. However, he has repented to his wife and is striving to be a godly husband who takes his responsibilities seriously.

The Christian Republican Voter

In a number of ways, the Christian Republican Voter has a lot in common with the Christian Skinhead. She is a patriot. She believes that America has a great and godly history and has been uniquely blessed by God. She sees no contradiction between being a patriotic American and being a faithful Christian.

The Christian Republican believes in family values. She believes that God made marriage as the fundamental building block in society. Without the god-ordained family, society would fall apart. She believes that this institution is under threat today because of the humanistic ideas that are strong in the media and education.

Unlike the Christian Punk, she has a strong belief in capitalism. This arises from her belief that hard work is taught in the Bible, particularly in the Book of Proverbs. Though she is not without concern for the poor (and she values the input of the her Punk friend in this area), she is convinced that there is no such thing as a free lunch. God has given people responsibility to serve in life and employment is a vital arena for service. Business in her view is a positive force for good in society.

The Christian Republican does not share her Hippie sister's grave concerns about the environment. In her opinion, God has created a good world that is rich in natural resources. She also believes that God has endowed man with great wisdom and thus she is hopeful that technology can deal with many of the environmental problems that arise. She feels that a little scepticism over environmentalist claims is warranted.

The Christian Republican feels that she has legitimate concerns about her younger Punk sister. She feels that at times she dresses just too provocatively. She also feels that she might show a little more discernment about some of the music she enjoys. However, she recognises that God has put believers at liberty to make judgements about what is right in some matters. In the past she has confronted her sister about these matters in a manner that was unwise and hurtful. She regretted it and asked for the Christian Punk's forgiveness for her lack of sensitivity. She is learning that sometimes it is easier to judge others with a stricter measure than one measures oneself.

Times: Fuel is a feminist issue

Times: Fuel is a feminist issue

"Forget the hairy truckers. A car is a handbag, a creche and nappy bag all rolled into one"

Article by Sarah Vine

Friday, May 30, 2008


Wow, the new auto-formatting for blog templates is amazing! It really makes it easier to alter one's blog.

I hope you like the modifications.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A very oversimplified history of the tsars of Russia

Ivan IV the Terrible (1547-1584)- bad and bonkers
Feodor I (1584-1598)- weak. Boris Godunov ran the show. Last of Rurik dynasty.
(Beginning of the Time of the troubles)
Boris Godunov (1598-1605)- A pretender. Impressive chap
Feodor II (1605)- Murdered
False Dmitriy I (1605-1606)- an impostor and a Polish puppet
Vasili IV (1606-1610) - Another pretender to the throne
Vladislav IV (1610-1612)- A Polish tsar? Surely not? Didn't reign long enough to make a difference.
(end of the Time of the Troubles)
Michael I (1613-1645)- Weak but good. First of the Romanov dynasty.
Alexis I (1645-1676)- Good
Feodor III (1676-1682)- A simpleton.
Ivan V jointly with Peter I (1682-1696)- An odd situation. Their sister, Sophia was acting as regent. She was an impressive lady.
Peter I the Great (1682-1725)- bad but very impressive. Changed Russia completely
Catherine I (1725-1727)- weak
Peter II (1727-1730)- Didn't reign long enough to do anything.
Anna (1730-1740)- bad. Twisted sense of humour.
Ivan VI (1740-1741)- ruled and deposed while still a baby
Elizabeth (1741- 1762) - good
Peter III (1762)- a silly young man. Deposed by his wife, Catherine.
Catherine II the Great (1762-1796)- very good.
Paul I (1796- 1801)- bad. Murdered.
Alexander I (1801-1825)- good
Nicholas I (1825-1855)- Not so impressive.
Alexander II (1855-1881)- very good. Serfdom abolished.
Alexander III (1881-1894)- Bad. Turned Russia into a police state.
Nicholas II (1894-1917)- Tragically, a bad tsar. End of Russian monarchy

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Aggressive Begging

While I was in Birmingham this weekend, a man came to me and asked me for five pounds.

It's one thing begging for money, but I think specifying the amount you want somebody to give is a bit cheeky.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A sermon preached at Greatfield Road Evangelical Church, Kidderminster

I preached this yesterday:

Acts 19
8 ¶ And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.

9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyran'nus.

10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

11 ¶ And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:

12 so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.

14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.

19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

21 ¶ After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achai'a, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

22 So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timothy and Eras'tus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.

In this passage we have an account of Paul’s preaching ministry in Ephesus. We learn of his engaging in intellectual debate with the synagogue and with the school of Tyrannus. But we also learn of his demonstrating the power of his message through miracles, even through aprons and handkerchiefs. Indeed, the message of the Gospel preached by the apostles was accompanied by miracles that proved that God was at work. We read in chapter 2 of the epistle to the Hebrews:

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to His own will?

The miracles performed by the apostles confirmed that God had begun a new work, that salvation was being proclaimed to all the earth.

There are some Christians who think that we should expect signs and wonders today. There was a time when I used to lament with bewilderment the fact that when we preached the Gospel on the streets, there were no miracles.

However, it is a great mistake to treat Acts as being the norm for the church’s experience. We should note that in Hebrews 2 the signs and wonders are talked about in the past tense. They were given to confirm the work and authority of the apostles. These men gave us the completed New Testament and it must be that which we proclaim, not signs and wonders. The only signs and wonders we should expect are those that are performed by the man of sin, the antichrist, whenever he should appear. He will have plenty of those.

Related to miraculous signs is the confrontation of demons. This incident with the sons of Sceva is perhaps one of the most memorable incidents of demon activity in the New Testament, perhaps because it has a slightly comical aspect to it.

What are demons? Demons are evil spirits that gain possession of the bodies of men and women and overthrow their personalities causing chaotic behaviour. Most Christians think that demons are fallen angels. Other Christians believe that they are the disembodied spirits of dead men. The Bible does not tell us where they came from.

The demons are subject to Satan. Just as God has His kingdom, Satan has His own kingdom, made up of both angels in the heavenly realms and evil spirits at work in the earth. He is the ‘god of this world’. In the 18th and 19th century humanists boasted that ‘Man is free’, that men could control their destiny, yet the truth is that this world is under Satan’s dominion. The earth is not free from Satanic tyranny and the powers of darkness.

The early twentieth century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote many stories about the Old Ones, malevolent beings from distant cosmic realms, before whom humans were utterly powerless. Lovecraft created a vivid picture of cosmic evil and the hopelessness of the natural man. Without God, man is helpless before the power of Satan and His kingdom.

I want to tell you that if you are not a Christian, you are under Satan’s power. He will blind you with lies. He will give you things to do, whether they be work or leisure; things to distract you and keep you from God. You may regard yourself as a 'free-thinker.' You may think you can choose between one religion and another. You think you can decide for yourself what you want to believe. But you are merely floating between one set of lies and another. Socialism, Mormonism, evolution, Islam- name any religion or secular philosophy, Satan will use it to keep you from believing the truth that Jesus Christ is the Saviour who can life. The only way you can find freedom from this evil cosmic kingdom is to be received into the Kingdom of the Saviour Jesus Christ through being born again. I tell you, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In recognising the fact that demons are a reality, we must exercise some caution. There are a lot of sensational books written about demon possession today. If you study the epistles that are addressed to the churches you will find that most of them say nothing about casting out devils. Most of the incidents of demon possession that we find in the Bible are in connection with Christ’s earthly ministry. Throughout the Bible as a whole, possession by evil spirits is quite rare. It seems likely therefore that very few people today are actually possessed. It would seem that the activity of demons today is rather more focused on deceiving people through false ideas and teachings.

We are to confront Satan’s kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel rather than by casting out demons. Hence, Paul was not just doing spiritual warfare when he drove out demons, but also when he debated in the synagogue and in the school of Tyrannus. There he was fighting an intellectual battle. We have to fight ever false idea that is opposed to the truth. We have to confront Islam. We have to show that the New Testament is reliable and not the Quaran. We have to oppose Communism. The Communists thought that through revolution they were building a perfect society and creating a 'new man.' We must oppose this teaching with what the Bible says abot the sunfulness and depravity of man.

A teacher at my school was once told by a couple of female pupils that being a teacher must be really easy. The teacher was quite amused by this and offered to let them teach the lesson next week. They were delighted at this and were briefed on what they needed to teach the glass.

The next week, the teacher sat at the back and let the two girls deliver the lesson. The two girls had an horrible time. They were mocked and jeered at by their classmates who had no desire to be taught by them. This derision was brought to an abrupt end halfway through the lesson by a loud cough from the back of the class by the teacher. Fortunately after that the lesson continued in peace.

The boys and girls in that class knew who had the authority. They feared and respected the teacher, but they had no patience to be instructed by their classmates.

Likewise, the demons know who has the authority. The demons know who is boss, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. As the risen saviour, Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth.

The man Jesus Christ is made the supreme ruler of everything. He has not yet claimed that rule, but at His coming He shall do so. All things will be put under Him, the nations of this earth, the angels of heaven and the all the devils.

The demons know this and they tremble, for they are subject to His name.

But Christ is not the sole heir of all things. He is the head of a new race of heavenly humanity. A people destined to be conformed to His glory and to exercise rulership over creation. Those who are in Christ can receive through Him power over the demons.

Hence the apostles were able to cast out demons in the name of Christ because they had been brought into that vital relationship with Christ. Even Judas Iscariot, though he was not a true believer, was able to cast out demons because he had been delegated that authority by the Saviour.

In this passage we see those that did not have any relationship with Christ falsely claiming the power of Jesus’ name. Just like the class at my school did not recognise the authority of the two girls who took the lesson, the demons do not recognise the sons of Sceva. “We know Jesus. We know Paul. But we don’t know who you are. Raaahh!” And the sons of Sceva got a well deserved beating for their folly.

There is nothing to be gained from falsely claiming the name of Christ.

Sadly, there are millions around the world who profess the name of Christ yet who are utterly lost and have never exercised true faith in His name. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox who mix up Christianity with idolatry, liberal Protestants who doubt the truths of God’s Word and the many cults who vainly follow the lies of men. Not to mention the hoards of benchwarmers who go to church to give themselves an air of respectability.

Calling yourself a Christian will not save you on the day of judgment. On the day of judgment, being a church member will not save you from hell.

It is only faith in Christ for eternal life that will get you into heaven. You must look to Christ alone for everlasting life and give up the hope that your good deeds will save you. Don’t put your trust in churches or religious ceremonies; trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. In Him you can find eternal life if you would only receive it from Him by faith.

Notice the results of this incident. It leads the believers to burn their Occult books. It is so important that we shun things of the Occult. If you get involved with Occult things you are dealing with Satan’s realm. You are engaging with him. Some of those things like astrology and Ouija boards might seem harmless, but they are not good. We must turn away from them.

It is very likely that some of those who burned their books may have been believers for as long as two years, when Paul first began his ministry in Ephesus.

When a person becomes a Christian, she is born again. She has a new nature. A new start. Yet the old flesh remains. And sometimes Christians can continue to feed that flesh by hanging on to old habits. Sometimes Christians can really struggle with addictive habits like smoking. Or pornography- there are so many Christian men who struggle to avoid viewing vile images on their PCs.

The temptation for the mature Christian is to judge young believers and to doubt their conversion on the basis of their failings. Yet beware lest you judge with a stricter measure than you judge yourself.

Perhaps you are struggling with some old habit of your past life that you find really hard to break free from. Maybe you wonder “Am I really born again? Surely a true Christian would not keep on doing this thing!” Do not be discouraged. If you have looked to the Lord Jesus Christ you have founded grace and acceptance in Him. All Christians have experienced this struggle with the flesh. Yet if you look to Christ and trust in Him for His great work of sanctification, you can experience victory over sin. Confess your sin and think on your Saviour and what you are in Him. By looking to Christ in faith you can claim the victory which is yours by right.

But you do need to be willing to turn from that which is wrong. And there may well be a cost to that, just like those believers in Ephesus gave up books that were of great financial value to them. However, the rewards for doing so are immense. It will lead to a closer union with Christ and deeper fellowship with Him. It will lead to His praising you at the judgement seat of Christ. It will mean sharing in Christ’s rule over the cosmos. There are great rewards to be gained!

Let us not be deceived by the vanity of earthly pleasures. Next to the things we have gained and will gain in heaven they are nothing.

Let us set our affections on the things of heaven and forsake all those things that are unacceptable to God.

Jesus Christ is coming back to establish His kingdom. He shall destroy the evil order of Satan and crush all his strongholds. Our feet shall bruise Satan shortly. Let us not fear his minions; but let us not be deceived by them either.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Society of Evangelical Arminians: The Problem with Deterministic Arguments

Society of Evangelical Arminians: The Problem with Deterministic Arguments

Entertaining Today

I entertained six twenty-somethings from my church. It was a really nice time.

I cooked for them Thai Red Curry with beef and a vegatable curry containing Black-eyed beans, green lentils and goat's milk yoghurt.

They all removed their shoes at the door. That is one of the good things about my generation; they are more conscious about dirt from shoes.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Things can only get better...

Last night was a good night for the Conservative party in the local elections. It appears that Labour are down to 24% of council seats and the Conservatives have 44%.

It also looks likely that the loveable Boris Johnson is going to become mayor of London and the anti-semitic Islamophile 'Red Ken' is going to be kicked out of office.

Remarkably, the Greek and Bulgarian Orthodox are celebrating St. Boris day today.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

St. Catherine by Reginal Frampton

Often religious art is most effective when it adopts a very simple and minimalistic style.

The angel figures in this Victorian picture seem rather naieve, but they reflect a beauty that is really pure.

For comparison and good measure, here is another picture by Frampton: