Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Times: An unjust, feminist view of murder

Times: An unjust, feminist view of murder

The law cannot regard women's domestic violence more leniently than men's

article by Melanie McDonagh

Guardian: A holiday from fashion

Guardian: A holiday from fashion

While the Camerons look comfortable dressing down on holiday, the Browns appear ill at ease, as if from another era

Article by Joan Smith

Times: With Dubrovnik cheaper than Dorset, we need cheap flights

Times: With Dubrovnik cheaper than Dorset, we need cheap flights

Environmentalists will cheer if rising fuel prices ground the budget airlines. But, Alice Thomson says, their customers deserve holidays too

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another interview coming up

I got invited to another interview next wednesday. That makes three interviews in a fortnight.

This one is with a charity that provides housing for vulnerable people.

Batman: The Dark Knight

I went to the cinema with some friends to see the new Batman film. I was amazed how good it was. It was very faithful to the ethos of the comics. I used to be a real Batman geek, who read many of the comics on a monthly basis. However, its a while since I have read much Batman stuff.

I was delighted that the film dealt with the Harvey Dent/ Two-face storyline. I think that is one of my favorite elements within the Batman cycle.

I was a bit shocked when somebody told me it was a 12. With the level of violence in the film I thought it must have been an 18 rating.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A crushing blow for the Labour party

Last night the Labour party lost their third safest parliamentary seat, in a bye-election in Glasgow to the Scottish National Party. There was a swing of 22% against Labour. If the same performance was repeated throughout Scotland, the prime minister would himself have lost his seat.

Labour are in serious trouble. It is in Scotland where the damge to them seems most tangible. Gordon Brown is fighting a losing battle.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I wrote a Knol!

Shoes off at the door?

I took advantage of Google's new Knol facility to write about my pet hobby horse.

Guardian: Safety First

Guardian: Safety First

'Earned amnesty would bring illegal workers out of the shadows, making life safer for migrants – and for all of us'

Article by Wil Somerville

I agree. We need to make plans for regularising the status of some of the thousands of illegal workers in this country,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

American Country Music #3

By Antonio Da Rosa

So far we have seen and heard Miss Kelly Pickler, the Wreckers, and now we move on to Mr. Kenny Chesney. I really love this song. I have a daughter who is 8 years old. She is my life!

One of the things I love about country music is that it has a 50-50 chance to be a wholesome song. I admit that they often sing about rowdy partying. But just as often, they sing about family and values.

Watch this video... If you have a daughter, and after watching it there is no tear running down your cheek, you must check your pulse to see if blood is still pumping in that heart of yours.

Without further ado, Kenny Chesney: There Goes My Life

I just found out that the embedding code has been disabled by request of Kenny Chesney himself. You must click this link. Good American Country!

There Goes My Life: You Tube

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This is exciting!

I have been invited to another interview. The guy has not confirmed the date, but it should be next week.

This one is for a trainee drugs worker.

Another interview

I got another job interview. This one is in the same part of the country as the last interview, but a different role. The job is for a community support worker. I would be helping people with learning difficulties to live indepently in supported housing. I think that would be really valuable and important work and housing is certainly an area of interest for me.

Guardian: New Labour's new workhouse

Guardian: New Labour's new workhouse

'The government's proposals to make the unemployed work for their dole has sinister implications for Britain's job market'

Article by Gregor Gall

It should particularly frighten the working poor at the bottom end of the jobs market – those in unskilled and low-paid work. The rationale for this is that there is no reason why, in the attempt to "re-integrate" the so-called "work shy" back into work, that the work they are forced to do is not just community service work. It could include any number of menial labouring tasks like street cleaning, gardening, basic maintenance and so on that people currently get paid for in order to earn their living.

Guardian editorial on welfare reform proposals

Guardian Editorial: Not quite a revolution

Politicians suggest sweeping away the (undoubted) perversities of social security requires nothing more than being bold. Many perversities, though, are inescapable side-effects of funnelling funds to the sick, the unemployed and the otherwise unproductive. No sane government wants to encourage people into these groups, yet providing income to them is essential for fairness - the basic purpose of social security. Mr Purnell rightly rejects the route followed in parts of America where money is simply cut off after a time. But that leaves his reforms turning on a familiar idea - asking claimants to jump extra hoops.

Guardian: The war on Drugs- A dangerous fiction

Guardian: The war on Drugs- A dangerous fiction

'The war on drugs is a non sequitur - and is equally harmful to both producers and consumers'

Article by Misha Glenny

Drugs are a huge public health problem but, by absenting themselves from the market, states around the world are ensuring that they cannot regulate any aspect of it. Levels of drug-related violence now threaten everybody's security. The Brown government's response is to toggle cannabis between B and C classification - a policy that demonstrates a staggering depth of ignorance with regard to the real world.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heavy Metal and a sound warning

I happened to go into a record store today and saw a middle-aged man buying a teenage boy several Heavy Metal albums. The boy addressed him by his first name, so I am guessing he was his step-father, or maybe his uncle. The boy evidently lacked musical knowledge, so the man took the lead in recommending the classic albums that he should listen to.

My ears pricked up when the man warned the boy not to take the Lord's name in vain. I do not know if he was a believer, but he was evidently a man who feared God.

There was something really positive about the way the man was spending time with the teenager and taking an interest in the things he liked. It is good for young people to spend time with the older generation. It was also even more encouraging to see him encouraging the boy to fear God.

I could not help but chip in by expressing my approval of a Motorhead album that the man suggested.

Work is freedom?

Daily Telegraph: Jobless to be made to pick up litter under welfare plans

The government is proposing that those who have been on unemployment benefits for two years should be required to work full time in the community.

This is the kind of no-nonsense proposal that is sure to appeal to a lot of people. It seems a very moral notion; it is hardly seems right for people to be getting something for nothing.

Strangely it is often people who generally support free-market economics that advocate ideas like this. Yet in doing so they must abandon sound principles.

Either the work that is done will be useful work or not. If it is useless work, it will simply create bureaucratic activity ensuring it is carried out with no productive benefits gained.

On the other hand, if the work is useful work, it could be carried out by private enterprises that would do so efficently. Perhaps it might be work that is already being carried out by government employees, in which case we can expect that local government would make savings by firing those who are already doing the work. Thus, some government employees might find themselves out of the job and then doing the same job again for less. This might save the government money, but inevitably the work done would be of a lesser quality.

The assumption behind this proposal is that making unemployed people do work would deter them from living off benefits. However, is this really the case? It is unlikely that the work would be more demanding than that carried out by unskilled, low-paid workers. Why should people choose to take on a low-paid, unskilled job when they could be living off benefits and just doing some community service overseen by some goverment employee who does not care at all how many cigarette breaks they take? I am sure this scheme would actually cost more money than just paying the unemployed people benefits. I do not think this scheme does anything at all to remove the poverty trap of social security that discentivizes people from seeking employment.

I think the idea would also create a problem with regard to criminal justice. Community service is a useful punishment for minor offenders. But how would community service be a punishment if the offenders were already being made to do community service as a condition of receiving benefits?

I think the government would do better to radically re-think social security and introduce an Individual Basic Income.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Trying to create a fixed sense of ‘Britishness’ will not achieve social cohesion

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Trying to create a fixed sense of ‘Britishness’ will not achieve social cohesion

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Erich Sauer on the Host of Angels

Erich Sauer (I am not deliberately pursuing a German theme) wrote:

Now to what end do these worlds exist in etherial space? Has God any pleasure in dead matter? Is He not the God of the living? Can any inanimate matter praise Him, the Lord of all life? (Psalm 30:9). Or is not rather the starry world of God everywhere filled with personal life?

In fact, if only our small earth, this speck of dust amidst the whirling suns of the universe, carries organic life, "then in meaningless contrast to it stands millions of dead colossi. Then were the immense universe a limitless extinct waste, in which only on this tiny earth, as a marvellous exception, the solitary flower of life blooms." Then the fiery splendour of the millions of suns, which yet illuminate nothing, were only "a vast meaningless and purposeless firework in the dead universe," and all the stars and heavenly bodies were burning or burnt-out craters!

Quite otherwise speak the prophets and apostles of the divine revelation. The Word of God knows of thrones and lordships, of principalities and authorities (Col. 1:16), of sons of God and morning stars (Job 38:7), of the host of the high in the height (Isaiah 24:21), of Cherubim and Seraphim (Rev 44:6-8, Isa.6:2,3), of archangels and angels (Jude 9, Rev 5:11, 12:17). And all these it describes by the same term, "the host of heaven", as it uses for the stars.

From this viewing and naming of the two together we perceive a reference of a more profound nature. For otherwise how could "the morning stars" sing together, and at the same time shout for joy with the "sons of God"? (Job 38:7) How could the starry world worship the Creator? Will the dust praise Him? Will it proclaim His truth? But "Thou art the existing one, Jehovah alone! Thou hast made the heavens, the heaven of heavens, and all their host, the earth and all that is thereon... and thou makest these all living, and the host of heaven worships thee" (Neh.9:6)

The Dawn of World Redemption, p.28

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two Pictures by Evelyn De Morgan

The Storm Spirits (Left), Port after a storm at sea (right)

In these two pictures, Evelyn De Morgan portrayed the natural forces of wind and storm as angelic beings. I believe this idea can be justified biblically.

It is my contention that God's providential control of nature is exercised through the intermediary of angels. These beings have been delegated authority over the cosmos.

If so, then fallen angels may also have such power over the natural world. This enables us to understand why there is so much 'natural evil' in the world. If suffering in creation has its origin in the working of spiritual beings, then there is no such thing as natural evil; only a corrupted creation.

When a cyclone strikes Burma, the unbelieving conclude that it is just a chance event. Christians on the other hand fall into the pattern of either trying to think of a reason why it might be a divine judgment or else put it down to the mysteries of God's providence. I would argue a better (and in my opinion more Biblical approach) would be to put it down to the workings of maleovolent supernatural beings who are tyrannizing the cosmos.

Shelter: Migrant workers in housing hell

Shelter: Migrant workers in housing hell

It is simply not true that immigrants are taking up council homes. The truth is that many immigrants live in some really horrible housing conditions.

Vinterriket- Der Letze Winter

I love to dance to music before going to work to get me in an energetic mood. This morning I was listening to Der Letze Winter, an album by German one-man Black Metal band, Vinterriket.

This album might be better described as 'Mountain Metal' rather than Black Metal, as it is inspired by winter mountain landscapes. It is hardly surpising that a German would make an album like this; in the 19th century, Caspar David Friedrich and other German landscape painters graced the world with some of most incredible mountain landscapes; presenting an incredible portrait of man overwhelmed by the immensity of the natural world.

Musically, Der Letze Winter is pretty minimalistic. All the songs largely sound the same. But it still drives me crazy. The influence of Burzum's Filosofem on the album is unmistakeable. Ambient syntheziser soundscapes are juxtaposed with fuzzy guitars and electronically distorted vocals to a backdrop of samples of snowstorms.

The sense of a musical landscape is what I love about this kind of Black Metal music. Although I have enjoyed it since I was 18, the time I spent doing missionary work in Japan really cemented my appreciation of it. People often think of Japan as a gleaming urban metropolis; yet they forget that it is also filled with desolate areas of mountains and forests. While I was there I travelled through the mountains in winter; which is quite a scary experience. There is something scary about being surrounded by mountains and vast forests in winter. While I did not take any Black Metal to listen while I was in Japan, I discovered a new appreciation of it when I returned.

One of the aesthetic acheivement of Black Metal is its portrayal of a sense of hostility and chaos embodied in the landscapes of Norway, Sweden or Germany.

Christians often focus on the natural world as a sphere in which the beauty and glory of creation is displayed. This is a biblical concept. Yet the creation is also fallen and arguably in a state of chaos. In recent posts I am arguing that God is not the only force working behind creation. There are other powers at work in shaping the cosmos, namely the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers- the elements of this world.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lowenbrau tastes like Fosters

Its a while since I posted about food or drink.

I tried Lowenbrau beer a couple of weeks ago in a city centre pub.

I was surpised how much it tasted like the Australian beer Fosters. Sadly, this is not to my taste at all. Much too sweet.

Redefining Smart Casual

There are two big contexts for me in which smart casual might be called for. Church and work. Neither situation explicitly calls for smart casual dress. One can go to church how one pleases, though I would hate to appear scruffy at church. There is no dress code where I work (drugs services and the social care sector in general is not noted for smartness). I am sure there must be some point at which one might get a comment from the team leader, but I have no idea what item of clothing would provoke it. I would not wear shorts or a t-shirt to work.

I think my interpretation of smart casual is more radical than most. I include flip flops and 3/4 cropped trousers (the male equivalent of Capris) in it. Not shorts. 3/4are not shorts.

I think I am being radical in my redefinition of smart casual, but I think this is a necessary progression. Women seem to get away with including cropped trousers and flip flops in the smart casual category, so I dont see why men should not. I do not see why women should be comfortable in summer and men should not.

I believe the future is on my side.

Guardian: The green inquisition

Guardian: The green inquisition

"We're being force-fed vastly over-hyped scare stories which block out sensible solutions to climate change"

Article by Bjorn Lomborg. You need to read his book 'The Skeptical Environmentalist.'

Guardian: Post-PC dignity

Guardian: Post-PC dignity

"Political correctness has come in for a battering, but ethically sensitive language remains crucial"

Article by Ziauddin Sardar

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Preaching at Hatherley Evangelical Church, Cheltenham

I preached today at Hatherley Evangelical Church, a small congregation in the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical churches that meet in a school. They are quite informal.

My parents came and my father provided some unplanned accompaniment to the worship on his flute. I do love it when he does that.

In case anybody is wondering, I wore a blue short-sleeved shirt, linen drawstring trousers and some smart leather flip flops. Definitely smart casual.

I hope you will be edified by my sermon:

Exodus 25:17-22

17 And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.

18 And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.

19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof.

20 And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.

21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.

22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

When we think of Exodus, we tend to think of the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. This story is certainly one of the highlights of the Bible. However, unfortunately it means that we often forget some of the later chapters on Exodus. These give meticulous details about the tabernacle and how it should be furnished.

You might wonder what is so important about all these details. The reason is that the tabernacle was to be the most holy place on planet earth. The very presence of God was to be manifested in the tabernacle.

The things of the tabernacle were to be patterned after the things of heaven. I did some missionary work in Japan. While I was there, I visited an Anglican church. It looked exactly like an Anglican church in England, except that you had to take your shoes off when you went in. This church in Japan had been modelled on an English church. Likewise, the tabernacle on earth was to be modelled after the much greater temple that was in heaven. Did you know that God has a temple in heaven? At the edge of the universe there is that place where God's presence is manifested in a way unknown anywhere else in the cosmos.

Not only was the tabernacle modelled after the temple in heaven in its appearance, but if we look carefully at the details of its furnishings, we can find hidden references to some of the deeper spiritual truths of Scripture. I cannot go through all of these today, but I would like to talk about the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. By the way, if you want to explore some of the symbols and types of Exodus, I highly recommend reading AW Pink's commentary, Gleanings in Exodus. I do not agree with everything he says, but it is a very thorough commentary.

Most people know the Ark of the Covenant from the Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw it when I was a four years old and was terrified by the bit at the end where the baddies melt after the ark is openned. It made me cry. Defintely too scary for a four-year old.

What is the Mercy Seat? If you are from a Salvation Army background like my mother here, you will know all about mercy seats, they have one in all their citadels. They are based on the idea we find in Exodus 25. Nobody knows exactly what it looked like, but it was placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant. It was not a seat in which anybody was allowed to sit, not even the high priest. It was Yahweh’s own throne. Just as God had His throne in heaven, He also had His throne on earth in the Tabernacle.

God entered into human history. He had condescended to man and entered into a relationship with the people of Israel. A relationship of government, but also a relationship of grace.

The nation of Israel was made the special object of God’s protection and blessing. God had chosen them to be the centre of His workings on earth. And some of us believe that at in their restoration after Christ’s return they shall be restord to blessing and privilege. However, they were a nation under law. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was placed the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The Mercy Seat was placed over them. Thus, law was the principle of God’s rule over Israel. When they were faithful they knew of God’s protection, but when they neglected the law they had been given, they were disciplined and fell prey to their enemies. In Deutoronomy, the last book of Moses we have a list of blessings that Israel would enjoy if she kept the law and a list of curses that would fall on them if they neglected it. And neglect it they did, with the result that they were scattered amongst the nations.

The Mercy Seat was made of pure gold. This reflected the purity of God’s holiness. God is utterly pure and righteous. He can have nothing to do with that which is defiled. That ought to be a sobering thought to us. Yet Christ was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. Thus in Him we are also made holy.

The Mercy Seat was decorated by images of Cherubim. What are Cherubim? They are heavenly beings. Ezekiel and the book of Revelation describe them as having the characteristics of a man, an ox, a lion and an eagle. Whether the Cherubim on the Mercy Seat looked like that, we do not know. A lot of the artistic depictions of the Ark show them as the more human-like conventional winged angels.

The Cherubim represent God’s judicial dealings towards mankind. They represent God’s government.

The visions of Ezekiel and the apostle John both included Cherubim. Both these men prophesied of God’s judgment.

When our ancestors, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God sent Cherubim to guard the Eden. They were a sign that judgment had been exercised.

Just imagine in the Victorian era, a ragged child gazing into the windows of a toyshop, looking at all the wonderful toys inside. And imagine that child being pushed away by a burly doorman saying “These ent for the likes of you, son. These are for the nice children.” That must have been how Adam and Eve felt as they gazed at the home they had lost in Eden, forever barred by those Cherubim. Yet they had brought that loss upon themselves by disobeying God.

Thus, there were Cherubim on the Mercy Seat in the most Holy of Holies. They were there as a sign that Israel was subject to God’s government. Their sins had to be dealt with.

Therefore only one person could go into that place to intercede for them, the high priest. Once a year on the Day of Atonement. An animal had to be sacrificed before he could do so. Blood needed to be shed first. Without shedding of blood is no remission for sins. Thus, after having made sacrifice for the people, the high priest would come before the Mercy Seat as a representative of the people so that their sins could be pardoned.

The entrance of the high priest to the holy of holies was a type or a shadow of Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered death as a sacrifice for our sins. The blood of animals could never free anyone from sin. Yet Christ permanently dealt with the problem of sin by His death. He gave Himself for sinners.

After He rose from the dead, Christ ascended into heaven, into that heavenly tabernacle. He is present there as our great High Priest. He is there in heaven as our representative.

Just as there were Cherubim in the tabernacle on the Mercy Seat, there are real live Cherubim in heaven.

Adam and Eve were shut out of the Garden of Eden by Cherubim. Now there is a man, a human being, who dwells amongst the Cherubim. The apostle John saw Christ in heaven in the midst of the Cherubim and the angels.

In Christ, redeemed humanity is lifted up to the heights of heaven. In Christ, the believer is given access to God and given the right to enter into heaven. Through Christ redeemed humanity is united to God.

Maybe you are here today and you are not a Christian. Maybe you have no fellowship with God. To you God is a remote figure. You can be reconciled to God through Christ. Through Christ you can enter fellowship with God. You can receive the very life of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ. If you will believe on the Lord Jesus you shall be saved forever. I would urge you to turn to the Lord Jesus.

That Christ has entered into heaven means that we can have confidence in our prayers. As the high priest, Christ is our representative. By entering the heavenly sanctuary, He has obtained for us the right to bring our prayers to God. So we can ask anything of our heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. We can have confidence that our prayers will be heard in heaven.

In the old Tabernacle, the high priest of Israel never got to sit down in the mercy seat. It was the throne of Yahweh. However, Christ, our high priest is sat down in the throne of His Father. Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth. He has not yet exercised that authority, for not all things are yet put under Him. However, when He comes in glory He shall rule over all creation.

But the Lord Jesus Christ shall not rule alone. He shall reign with His saints. The apostle Paul said “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.” Those who are in Christ have the opportunity to share in ruling over the universe with Christ. The Lord is establishing a new heavenly humanity in His Church who will be Lords over the universe. A kind of celestial aristocracy.

The Cherubim were a sign of God’s judgment over mankind. However, as Paul says, “Do ye not know that we shall judge angels.” In the coming kingdom, the saints are going to be in charge of the angels.

Knowing this is very important to us. How are we to conduct our affairs knowing that we shall judge angels? Now is the time to prove that we are ready for this responsibility. How can Christ put us in charge of His Father’s business when we are neglectful of our daily obedience? If we would reign with Christ, we must be attentive daily to our calling to serve the Lord.

Yet through the Holy Spirit, we have the power to overcome and to win that crown. Let us therefore look to our Saviour in His heavenly sanctuary and be diligent in His service.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

One of these days I need to read some more Jonathan Edwards

One of these days, I need to read some of Jonathan Edwards writing on the religious affections. I believe he wrote some really helpful stuff about the nature of beauty as a reflection of the divine reality.

Friday, July 11, 2008

CH Spurgeon on Extraterrestrial Life

The nearest planetthat resolves around the sun is Mercury, which is about 37,000,000 miles from the great luminary. Mercury, therefore, receives a far greater allowance of light and heat from the sun than comes to us upon the earth. It is believed that, even at the poles of Mercury, water would always boil; that is to say, if the planet is constituted at all as this world is. None of us could possibly live there; but that is no reason why other people should not, for God could make some of his creatures to live in the fire just as well as he could make others to live out of it. I have no doubt that, if there are inhabitants there, they enjoy the heat. In a spiritual sense, at any rate, we know that men who live near to Jesus dwell in the divine flame of love.

CH Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students, p.475

This statement comes across as somewhat surpising given the dogmatism with which many Evangelical Christians dismiss the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Some of Spurgeon's most devoted admirers are among the most dogmatic in denying extraterrestrial life. Spurgeon's acknowledgement tends to get forgotten, just like his Premillennialism and his Old Earth Gap views.

Is there life on other planets? Only if God created it. We must reject any probabalistic calculations about it based on godless evolutionary theory. In fact some scientists calculate that possibility is highly unlikely anyway.

There certainly is angelic life and I would suggest that angels are not an order of beings totally removed from similarity to us. They seem to have bodies of flesh like ours.

I am very uncomfortable with the dogamtic assertion that God would never have created extraterrestrial life. The Lord has not seen fit to reveal all things to us at this time. There are many cosmic mysteries that we are not party to.

Sadly for Spurgeon, it does appear that Mercury and the other planets of our solar system do not feature life. I suggested in a recent post that they may have once been inhabited before the rebellion of Lucifer. Does God create a wasteland?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Angels as elemental nature spirits

These two pictures are among Gustave Dore's illustrations of Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. I love Dore's pictures, but it is hard to comment on these as I have not read the poem.

The angels in the picture seem to have been portrayed like fairies or nature spirits. Christians would generally not think of angels as nature spirits, but I think this may be to some extent a valid idea. I recently quoted John Henry Newman, who viewed angels as being intimately connected with the forces of nature.

The idea that nature is intimately connected with spirits is very common throughout the world, particularly in many animistic tribal cultures. Perhaps we may even say that the idea is a basic belief. Given that the cosmos God has made is fundamentally hierarchical, it seems natural to believe that God's providential sustaining and governing of creation takes place through intermediate beings. If so, when we experience God's glory reflected in creation, we also experience the created glory of the angels who communicate the divine reality.

There are a number of texts that would support the role of angels in creation and providence. Firstly, God says 'let us make man in our image.' It is common for conservative Christians to regard the 'us' as a reference to the Trinity, but this conclusion finds little support among Hebrew scholars. It is more likely that the 'us' are the divine council of heavenly beings who work with God. This council is referred to in a number of places in the Old Testament, such as in the first chapter of Job, Psalm 82 and 1 Kings 22. This view is defended here by Michael Heiser. That angels might be involved in the work of creation should not be thought of as compromising monetheism; they would not have created matter ex-nihil, but only worked in the development and shaping of this matter.

Galatians 4:3 refers to sinner being under bondage to the 'elements of this world.' This probably refers to spiritual beings. This fits with Paul's references to principalities, powers, mights, thrones and dominions. These spiritual beings, who were originally appointed to govern the cosmos and mediate God's sovereign rule still exercise authority over creation. This enables us to understand why there are so many natural disasters and diseaises in the world. The creation is being corrupted by the misrule of angelic powers and elements.

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7)

In a number of places, the Bible connects the stars of heaven with the angelic hosts. There seems to be an intimate connection between the two. Thus, when we see the stars, we are seeing the divine glory being mediated through the working of the sons of god. The universe that we inhabit is a pale reflection of the greater glory of the heaven where God and His hosts dwell.

Yet we shall be translated to that position. God created man in His image. Though we are like the angels, we are lesser than them now. However, in Christ, the Lord is gathering together a people who will come to be transformed into the divine glory of heaven. Believers in Christ are to share the beauty and the radiance of those beings created in the distant beginning. It is God's purpose that the redeemed should come to exercise that position of ruling authority over the whole of creation, to replace that fallen hierarchy that now governs the cosmos. Mankind, redeemed in Christ is to be at the head of all creation.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Individual Basic Income

Believe it or not, I was once a member of the Green Party. One of their policies is to introduce an Individual Basic Income or Citizen's Income. I may not be the environmentalist that I once was, but I have recently been thinking that the Individual Basic Income (IBI) idea is quite a good one.

An IBI is a sum of money that would be paid by the government to every citizen, be they man, woman or child unconditionally. This would not depend on being unemployed or employed, willing to work or unwilling to work, or whether one has an high or a low income from employment. The sum of money might vary in amount with regard to age (a child being paid less than an adult, an elderly person would be paid more than somebody of working age), but otherwise there would be no other variation in amount.

At first this idea might seem left-wing, after all it guarantees state provision for all. However, it is very similar to the Negative Tax idea that was advocated by some free market economists, most notably Milton Friedman (hardly a Left-winger). An IBI scheme would work best when combined with a flat rate of tax, thus allowing individuals to potentially earn without penalty. The variable rate tax schemes that are common today tend to penalize people for earning. Of course, this would mean people on low incomes would pay more tax, but this would be compensated by the fixed IBI payement they would receive.

The main advantage of the IBI is that it avoids the benefits trap that conventional forms of social security tend to generate. Hence, people receiving uneployment benefits can sometimes earn more money than if they took up employment and if they find a job, they are penalised by losing their dole money. Conventional welfare therefore has the effect of disincentivizing people from taking up work. Thus, the IBI idea has the real potential to bring together both Left and Right as it addresses the differing concerns of Right-wing and Left-wing people. For those on the Left it provides support for the poor and for those on the Right, the IBI would create more efficency and eliminate bureaucracy.

The main argument against an IBI would be that potentially many people could decide not to work and just live off their IBI payment. They could, though they would hardly make a decent living and so they would lose out. Of course, under conventional social security schemes, there are many people who choose to live off benefits. Thus, conventional social security requires an army of bureaucrats to police those receiving welfare to ensure they are looking for work. There are also many people under conventional social security who cheat the state by receiving benefits while working. Therefore the state has to spend huge amounts of money on combatting fraud, often with very little money being recovered. Under the IBI system, there would be no need for people to cheat the system as everybody would be receiving the payment and there would be no need for millions to be spent on paying government employees to bully those on welfare.

There would also be other advantages. People could take time off work in order to study or to re-train and learn other skills. Our economy would benefit from the flexbility this would create in the labour market. Mothers would be able to afford to take time off work to spend time with their children or being homemakers without suffering significant financial loss.

The real beauty of the IBI idea is the simplicity of it. While it has potential problems, I think the advantages it would entail makes it very worthy of consideration.

For more information on Individual Basic Income:

About Basic Income


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Where in the USA would I live?

A friend just asked me where in the USA I would live if I emigrated.

I said I fancied Texas.

Would that be a sensible choice?

Yay! No dress code!

I am preaching at another church next sunday. I was told on the telephone that they do not have a dress code for preachers.

That was kind of nice to know. Most churches never tell you whether they have expectations about what you where. You end up feeling bad if you don't wear a suit or at least a sports jacket.

Maybe I can get away with wearing my flip flops for this engagement.

After I left university, I got kind of legalistic about dress. I had worn long hair (half-way down my back) and a nose stud as a student and decided that this was inappropriate. I started to dress really smart and felt disapproving towards people who didn't meet my standards.

Yet I had forgotten how much it hurts to have people disapproving of how you look. When I was a teenager I hated having Christians tell me that long hair on a man was wrong.

When I went to university, I started going to a Reformed Baptist church (I didn't pick up their theology) and really loved it.

I don't think I fully appreciated it at the time, but I think what really made me feel welcomed and accepted there was the fact that nobody in the congregation ever criticised me about how I dressed. Some of them criticised my theology, but they never commented about my long hair and pierced nose. They probably did not approve, but they never said so.

I am sure if the people at this church had criticised my appearance, I would not have continued attending. It would have put me right off.

So I would urge Christians everywhere; please don't criticise people about how they dress. Let them listen to their own conscience. Leave the Holy Spirit to convict them about this.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

One of Dore's illustrations of Orlando Furioso

I love this picture by Gustave Dore. It is really unusual to see a picture of an angel flying downwards, so it is rather striking.

In this scene from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, the archangel Michael is seeking Silence and searching in a monastery, finds that the monks are a pretty noisy lot.

John Henry Newman on the doctrine of angels

I cannot express much agreement with John Henry Newman's theology in either his Anglican or his Roman Catholic phase. However, I think his views on angels were very insigtful:

I suppose it was to the Alexandrian school and to the early Church that I owe in particular what I definitely held about the Angels. I viewed them, not only as the ministers employed by the Creator in the Jewish and Christian dispensations, as we find on the face of Scripture, but as carrying on, as Scripture also implies, the Economy of the Visible World. I considered them as the real causes of motion, light, and life, and of those elementary principles of the physical universe, which, when offered in their developments to our senses, suggest to us the notion of cause and effect, and of what are called the laws of nature. This doctrine I have drawn out in my Sermon for Michaelmas day, written not later than 1834. I say of the Angels, "Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect, is, as it were, the skirts of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God." Again, I ask what would be the thoughts of a man who, "when examining a flower, or a herb, or a pebble, or a ray of light, which he treats as something so beneath him in the scale of existence, suddenly discovered that he was in the presence of some powerful being who was hidden behind the visible things he was inspecting, who, though concealing his wise hand, was giving them their beauty, grace, and perfection, as being God's instrument for the purpose, nay, whose robe and ornaments those objects were, which he was so eager to analyze?" and I therefore remark that "we may say with grateful and simple hearts with the Three Holy Children, 'O all ye works of the Lord, &c., &c., bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever.'"

Also, besides the hosts of evil spirits, I considered there was a middle race, [daimonia], neither in heaven, nor in hell; partially fallen, capricious, wayward; noble or crafty, benevolent or malicious, as the case might be. They gave a sort of inspiration or intelligence to races, nations, and classes of men. Hence the action of bodies politic and associations, which is so different often from that of the individuals who compose them. Hence the character and the instinct of states and governments, of religious communities and communions. I thought they were inhabited by unseen intelligences. My preference of the Personal to the Abstract would naturally lead me to this view. I thought it countenanced by the mention of "the Prince of Persia" in the Prophet Daniel; and I think I considered that it was of such intermediate beings that the Apocalypse spoke, when it introduced "the Angels of the Seven Churches."

In 1837 I made a further development of this doctrine. I said to my great friend, Samuel Francis Wood, in a letter which came into my hands on his death, "I have an idea. The mass of the Fathers, (Justin, Athenagoras, Irenæus, Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Lactantius, Sulpicius, Ambrose, Nazianzen,) hold that, though Satan fell from the beginning, the Angels fell before the deluge, falling in love with the daughters of men. This has lately come across me as a remarkable solution of a notion which I cannot help holding. Daniel speaks as if each nation had its guardian Angel. I cannot but think that there are beings with a great deal of good in them, yet with great defects, who are the animating principles of certain institutions. … Take England, with many high virtues, and yet a low Catholicism. It seems to me that John Bull is a Spirit neither of heaven nor hell ... Has not the Christian Church, in its parts, surrendered itself to one or other of these simulations of the truth? … How are we to avoid Scylla and Charybdis and go straight on to the very image of Christ?"

Cardinal J.H. Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua

I think maybe people in the New Age movement could relate to this kind of theology. We have to rediscover the importance of the doctrine of angels.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I got a job interview!

I was feeling rather discouraged this week with all the stress I am going through about the future. However, I was pleased to discover today that I have been shortlisted for a job in drug services in another part of the country.

The interview is for an Arrest Referral Worker. Should I get the job, it will be my role to visit people in police cells to talk about their drug use and encourage them to seek help with their addiction.

I will have to leave Worcester if I get the job. However, I will be closer to my parents and my sister which would be nice.

The interview is next Friday. Please pray that this goes well. Thanks.

Jesus is Lord

I am going through a stressful time at the moment. However, regardless of this I cannot fail to be encouraged when I remind myself that Jesus is Lord.

One could write pages about what it means to say that Jesus is Lord. To put it simply, if Jesus is Lord, those who are in Him by faith have access to everything that pertains to God.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

RV NOW: Do you remove your shoes before entering your RV?

RV NOW: Do you remove your shoes before entering your RV?

I am not 100% sure what an RV is, but I think it is great that some people remove their shoes before entering them.

God bless RV owners!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

After the War on Drugs: Tools for the Debate (PDF)

After the War on Drugs: Tools for the Debate (PDF)

A document presenting the case for the legalisation and regulation of illegal drugs.