Tuesday, June 30, 2015


One thing missing at Revive15 was evaluation. At some conferences I've attended, we've been asked to evaluate each session. That was a bit much. One evaluation for the whole event is sufficient.

For a conference such as Revive15, that is, not work, professional or academic, I think the evaluation should be a light touch, but even so, people should have an opportunity to cover the main parts of the conference.

  • Timing
  • Content: main speaker/s, workshops (perhaps one line for each workshop)
  • Food
  • Duration
  • Music
  • Prayer
  • Compere
  • Video breaks
  • Venue
  • Wayfinding
  • Meeting people
  • Hospitality (did you feel welcomed, cared for, respected)

That should cover it.

All on a four point Likert scale, with a line for optional comment.

Then, of course, sex, age band, educational level and income band (because it indicates occupational attainment and therefore general capability).

Monday, June 29, 2015

Praying church

At home group the other day one of our members talked about her ambition that our church become more prayerful.

Now, that's a Good Thing to pray for!

We talked about what it means. I had a vision (not a serious spiritual vision, just an ordinary old thought) of more prayer through the service, of more prayerful consideration prior to planning, more prayful thought about action and relationships.

At the moment we only pray together at one time in the service that I go to. It would be good to do more: an opening pray, a formal pray before or after the Bible reading (we only have one, a couple and a psalm might be good...but that could be just hankering after my Anglican roots), prayer prior to the sermon (like here) and a benediction prayer.

We do have private prayer after the service, and I think that's a wonderful idea. It tends to be seen as a 'crisis' prayer, but we should widen it, I think. We also have a small prayer meeting before church, which is good, I would aspire to attend, but cannot.

The person talked about small group prayer during the services. I added that I don't like that and a few others agreed; visitors certainly would feel alienated by it, so great care is needed if it is done. I still wouldn't support the idea because the context is wrong and it would be dissonant with the tenor of a 'look to front' service.

We have special prayer for our overseas mission partners once a month, but maybe we could also pray as a church in prayer meetings. One member said he couldn't see how you could just pray for an hour, so I explained that it's a little more than that and can include devotional reading of the Bible, even a psalm or two, then a couple of times of small group or plenary prayer.

If I was Anglican, I'd point to the form for morning or evening prayer, which I've always found beneficial...can't do that in a Baptist church.

A work in progress.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spiritual Care

As part of my responsibility at work I had to approve a document today that included in its resource list a link under 'spiritual' to an organisation called Spiritual Care.

No doubt you've checked it out yourself by now (link above). Nothing to do with Christ or his church, plenty to do with the sad facade of Tibetan Buddhism: either spooks or fakes, or maybe just dressing up observed wisdom in saffron robes.

Before I checked the link I had hoped that it might have lead to a Christian organisation that had managed to hit the marketing approach that clearly, as I discovered, the TBs had.

I approved the document because I didn't have time to contest the link (or suggest that my employer should not support a religion) and thought that some good may come. Some well read critically informed and loving Christian might attend one of the courses and open up a Christo-centric conversation. An organisation with Christian roots might be spawned to do a similar job...lots of other maybes zipped by.

From time to time important aspects of pastoral care or good living are packaged, marketed and publicised and make public headway. Kubler-Ross and her work on dying was one ages ago, this one is another...I suggested to a minister who was looking at developing ministry in the Sydney CBD that a 'work-spirituality' connection be built; he wasn't interested (leave it for some Buddhist, I guess).

I notice that while Christians talk about 'out-reach' they instantly convert it to 'in-drag' and don't in fact go out anywhere. At work we have some out-reach services, and that's what we do: go out. We send people to where the target group is, to become known and trusted, to merge with them and bring them the services they need. Some 'tougher' services are 'assertive' out-reach. They are more pointed at psycho-social 'rescue'. The church, which has a long tradition of out-reach seems to have forgotten it these days, and just wants to in-drag.

I hope we change before too many slip away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Just searching!

An inner city Anglican church had this sign up:
“join us searching for things that matter”.
It might not have been exactly that, but what an offer! What an admission! We don’t know; the indwelling Spirit of Gd and the Bible don’t help…all we can do is ‘search’. How is this an offer to people without Christ who are searching? You don’t know, we don’t know: therefore anything goes.
Still it lines up with the rector’s track record. In a debate many years ago with a leading philosophy lecturer at Sydney University, his first move was to accept the materialist framing of our world and therefore experience! So much for a gospel that saves!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

12 books

On INC there's an article listing the '12 books that Steve Jobs wanted you to read'. Happily, I've already read a number of them; I don't know that my free time extends to some of the others he lauds. Four of them are Eastern religious books...very cool to mention (but I wonder what the long term result of homage to the East will bring, given that it disdains the ordered thought that has brought us freedom, productivity and discovery). There are a couple of businessy books, and novels. I might read some of them; for instance, Moby Dick. Its often mentioned, so perhaps a read one day.

But, what would my 12 books be? Off the top of my head, there are more than 12, so let's stick to Christian books.

Without giving it deep thought, my list begins:

Augustine: Confessions and The City of God
Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the English People
C. S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
G. K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy
Francis Schaeffer: The God Who is There
Ratzinger: Introduction to Christianity
Jurgen Moltmann: The Crucified God

More later.


In recent years meditation has gained popularity in the West. The Beetles gave Eastern meditation popular appeal, and it spread from there. It even started to penetrate the church, and not necessarily in keeping with our traditions (for instance in Psalm 1:2 "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night". Meditation a connection with content.)

In How the West Won, Rodney Stark has this to say:
...most religions outside the Judeo-Christian tradition do not posit a creation at all. The universe is said to be eternal, without beginning or purpose; never having been created, it has no Creator. From this view, the universe is a supreme mystery, inconsistent, unpredictable, and (perhaps) arbitrary. For those holding this view, the only paths to wisdom are meditation and inspiration---there being nothing to reason about.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The missing periodical

None of the periodicals in my list really hit the mark for me. L'Abri Footnotes and other occasional publications served some of my interests, Searching Together others, and On Being others those many years ago, but in a light way.

Something is missing.

With hundreds of millions of Christians in the world by some counts, surely there is the market for a Christian journal of substantial commentary and analysis that covers the spectrum of contemporary theological thought, opinion on the world around us, evangelism and church life. First Things is close. Christianity Today is nowhere near although its sister publication Books and Culture does get closer. My wife and I subscribed a few years ago and found it rather US-centric and more triumphalist than critical and so let it drop; but there's nothing like, say, Quadrant, American Scientist or The Atlantic. Thus no thoughtful critical and reasoned Christian voice that might obtain a wider readership.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Oh Lord!

On Sunday our small group ministry team met to talk about small group  ministry. A couple of items stuck in my mind:

Someone prayed that those "who led" would be blessed...I would have thought that Christians don't 'lead' they 'serve'.

Then we discussed how the small groups might do (a) service, and (b) outreach. Well I'm glad 'service' got a look in, but still not happy: it was 'service' in terms of the Baptist deficit view of relationships, as though the gospel can only make sense, or we can only have a mission to those who are in serviceable need.

One reason for this is that we don't have a culture of reasonable, rational Christian faith, we are lurching to a paganised faith of 'leaps', I fear.

Discipleship should start not with the hit and miss of a small group, but with education in Christian faith, and that should start in Sunday School, properly teaching children about the Bible, the creeds, Christian history and what and why we believe, so that they can reason from their faith to its outworking in all sorts of contexts.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why science?

From Rodney Stark's How the West Won:
...most religious outside the Judeo-Christian tradition do not posit a creation at all. The universe is said to be eternal, without begging or purpose; never having been created, it has no Creator. From this view , the universe is  a supreme mystery, inconsistent, unpredictable, and (perhaps) arbitrary. for those holding this view, the only paths to wisdom are meditation or inspiration--there being nothing to reason about. But if the universe was created in accord with rational rules by a perfect, rational creator, then it ought to yield its secrets to reason and observation.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Drifting off

I went to a meeting at work today, and thought that as the meeting (one of the meetings that we like to call 'workshops', entirely unrelated to light engineering, too) was unlikely to require much writing of me, I would just take my Ipad.

Well, as it happened the first event of the meeting was to fill in name and e-mail address on a piece of paper that was circulated. Darn. I didn't even have a pen and had to borrow one. Slight amusement to lender.

But the trouble with an Ipad is that during dull bits, one is tempted to browse the web. I did. I thought to look up Puritan names. As I was so doing, I heard the chairman (I'm not into this 'chair' bit) ask if I could speak to a point just raised. Happily she clarified just a little and I was able to handle the topic. Close one!

(This is a post about the Puritan names, just in case you are wondering).

Incidentally, the author of the Puritan names list blogs here and has more on Puritan names.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The death of Christianity?

Recent article in The Spectator on the decline of the church in the UK; and a blog on a similar theme.

A basic reason that Christians aren't taught their faith, don't engage with its history and literature, know nothing of theology or apologetics and cannot think of the faith implications of anything. Thus they are led about by the wet and the left and anyone with a specious argument about anything, or they simple 'just believe' an alternative inarticulately.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Not a post about Spurgeon, but I was reminded of this incident when I created a link to Charles Finney on Spurgeon.org.

One of the great detriments of the Churches of Christ was that uneducated people (almost always men) could end up as elders of local churches and control (usually with genuine intent to serve) the teaching of the church.

The word 'teaching' is not quite the right word in my experience, because there was none. Even basic biblical challenges could not be met.

On one occasion I was with an older friend, our youth group president (not 'leader', note), and son of an elder (now the owner of a successful theatrical agency in Melbourne) when a more informed Christian referred to Spurgeon in a talk. My friend, very smart, well read in general literature (and over-read in science fiction, to my mind) had not heard the name before and asked "What's a Spurgeon".

There you have it. The result of a church that not only did not encourage exploratory reading in the faith and history of the church, but did not even know that there was the possibility of such. Thus failing to provide intellectual nurture for younger people, leaving us to go to uni completely unequipped to represent our faith and the challenges we would face in its practice. The faith of many thus wilted.

Monday, June 8, 2015


The sermons on Deuteronomy are usually thoughtful, creative and stimulating. The one on Deut 14 was in this mould.

It was entitled "God's Macroeconomics", exciting with quotes of Brueggemann (although I am suspicious of the domination of his rhetorical program) and Wright (C, not T).

Then we came to 'application'. That is, what today do we make of this instruction to Israel. The small group study notes asked this:

How do you think we should go about bringing the rule of Christ to bear in the kingdom of this world, in respect to economic and social structures?  What principles or objectives does this passage from Deuteronomy hold for contemporary society and politics? 
 The old 1980s 'sinful structures' talk, and do we turn social policy into a theocratic response? Not so. We cannot take a law based covenental framework into today. We are not subject to the law, but to Christ as part of his regenerated church; we are not Israel and this is not the Promised Land.

My answer is that we do have to care for the poor and the disadvantaged, but the best way is a system that where ever possible does not cushion people from the real world and excite indolence, nor does it selectively support those who would feed at the public trough.

20% flat tax, no deductions and no freebies.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Meta questions

Our study this week was on murder, manslaugher and due process in Deuteronomy 19, etc.

Every so often after a group of analytical questions (no, I'm being kind...comprehension questions) there was a 'reflective' question...what about now, what about our times...almost as though we are or should be a theocracy post resurrection. Misunderstands the whole point of the resurrection and the KoG to my mind.

Given this, I asked meta-questions instead: why are we being asked this type of question? What does it seem to assume?

Was very profitable.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Quote from Crisis Magazine:

Do the obvious things that will attract men. You want men? Go get them. Tell them that you need them to do the job, which is true. Set up a men’s reading group, and read real works of theology and Catholic philosophy, works that are daunting in their significance for a deadening secular world. Read Romano Guardini, The Lord. Read Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Read C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man. Those, for starters. Invite teenage boys to join in, and treat them as absolute equals. Set up a weekly morning prayer in the rectory for the men of the parish, early enough to catch most of them before work. Let them pray on their knees, on the floor, as I’ve seen done at one extraordinarily vibrant parish in Connecticut. Let them hear a sermon that takes the truth to them and gives them their marching orders of the day. Notice how quickly and completely all the differences of class and education are forgotten.

Let them forge friendships in the vicinity of the sacraments. Announce a monthly meeting for men, for confession, discussion, and fellowship. Make sure there is food and beer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Manslaughter, murder and malice

At the end, I was glad that I went to my church, even though late (I wasn't the latest, as it happened). The sermon was on Deuternomy 19 and 21:1-9.

The uninformed often refer to 'the God of the OT' as being a retributive God, unlike Yeshua. But not so: the Torah provides a law that limits death to the most serious of personal crimes (not property crimes, unlike most cultures until modern times), and even then provides for doubt.

One crime that is often brought up is neglect of parents (lack of respect): this arguably refers to adult children not caring for their parents, inflicting their care on others. In a tribal society this is tantamount to killing one's parents. Thus the penalty.

Don't go

The church that I attend is hopping on the 'social justice' bandwagon! I can't see the point. At best tokenistic, at worst a waste of time.
It's a good question though. Where and to what extent to we bring to the government's attention our disquiet with its actions?
In this case, I think that its going to be about the economic opportunists who want a free ride to Australia when they wouldn't otherwise come in.
Maybe the government's treatment of some needs to be improved, but also, maybe they should be having a lend of us so egregiously. The government's first job is to protect the state (which is why it has the sword...Romans mentions this).
This advert was in our church bulletin on Sunday. I don't know that I'll be saving the date or that the 'voices for justice' would be fully informed or just an ABC-TV type knee-jerk reaction.