Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Days and days!

Article after my own heart on the idea of duration in Genesis 1.

Christ Church St.Lawrence and I

I mentioned CCSL in a recent post.

In the late 1980s this was my parish church. I had moved to Surry Hills and my ex-girlfriend had declined to become my current girlfriend if I didn't resume my Christian participation.

I resumed. As it was, the Christian participation was more enduring that the relationship.

The nearest place of Christian coalescence was CCSL. I'd been there on a couple of occasions previously. One for a service sung by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge (or a similar choir) and on another occasion at Easter, so I had some familiarity with the place.

I quickly fell in with a crowd of about my age, but including people of upwards of 15 to 20 years older.

One couple hosted an open lunch in their home on Sundays after the Choral Eucharist. These were wonderful occasions of friendship and fellowship attended by a diversity of members, clergy, servers, choir and general friends. The lunch often ran up to time for Evensong.

I developed some lovely friendships over the three or so years I considered myself part of this church and its Wednesday evening group.

We met for the Wednesday eucharist, then dinner at a local restaurant (the Volcano pizzeria was a favourite) followed by a study group at Fr Reg's flat. These were the highlight of my week.

I loved living in walking distance of both my office and my church, and both buildings were of architectural significance in the history of Sydney, to boot.

St. James had some similar litrugical attractions: the un-hurried confidence and peacefulness of the services was very encouraging and 'grounding' and the prayer, music, scriptures, and the biblical solidarity of the prayer book all worked together to engender worshipful reflection.

As St. James was very close to my office, I often attended the mid-week eucharist there. Later at St Philip's Church Hill, when my office was closer to it. A few of us met for a BCP service.

When we didn't trot up to R and M's for lunch a few of us strolled along to the Graphic Arts club for Sunday lunch. I also ate at this, my father's trade union club with him from time to time during the work week. They were wonderful times.

A memorable moment from this time was a 'pilgrimage' we undertook to Bathurst cathedral. The two parishes clubbed together and hired a steam-engined train for the trip to Bathurst and back. I think the CCSL choir might have sung at Bathurst. Very special.

Friday, December 25, 2020

The mostly Christian service

We attended a 9 lessons and carols service at St James, King Street, for Christmas. Happily it was outside the latest 'lockup' zone, or gulag, as I like to call it, both geographically and dispositionally.

We were initially hesitant to go as the official encouragement was to make only essential trips.

Church is essential. Anyway, the governor of NSW went. She clearly thought it was essential.

A good service in many respects, and wonderful musically. Rarely heard carols, a couple of old favourites, and wonderful readings, almost all by culturally significant people, unfortunately. Some of whom were not so good at reading in public.

We had judges, members of parliament, academic worthies from Chippendale indoctrination centre (Sydney...University?) and its mail-order twin (Charles Sturt, same question).

But that was the thing. I don't go to church for other than members of that congregation, and particularly worthies from the world, to read the word of our Lord and Saviour to me.

That's not worship of our creator and redeemer, it is prostrating before the world and its vanities.

I immediately thought of James 2:1-7 and Luke 14:7-11 and allowed myself to be dismayed.

In this respect a Christmas eve service at Christ Church St Lawrence was much more Christian (although, Christian of the 17th century, charmingly).

Notably the St J's service included the absurd 'acknowledgement' of the 'traditional custodians' of the land. Apparently the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, with more than a touch of thespian anachronism, but not my 'tradition', or probably anyone's, in reality. Pure political theatre.

I don't see the gospel as being made subject to any earthly tradition, particularly an obviously pagan assertion. Did Paul encourage the Ephesians to acknowledge the priests of Diana in their meetings? The very idea is anathema. Israel's dance with Baal show us where this sort of syncretistic gesture ends.

In fact, I'm agin any form of jingoism in church. I'll happily pray for the government to maintain justice and peace, that's its God-given job. To preserve our natural liberty. But, that's all. A putative 'tradition' of actual animists, not so. And please, no national flags, no pictures of heads of state or government, either.

St. J's also has submitted itself to the age and apparently put the fiction of amoral 'sexual orientation' before the proclamation of the gospel. See above on Baal.

At the end we seem to have learnt nothing from the history of the formation and course of the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche which followed Herr Schicklgruber like a lap dog.

And, a couple of wonderful 9LC services: Durham, St. Swithun's, New College, plus a stack more on YouTube, of course.

Church and imagination

During these strange times of Covid-games, the church has shown remarkable un-creativity in maintaining services while being legal.

Outdoor service, spaced participants. Put everyone in an 'official' choir. have the choirs take turns during the service, spaced out around the auditorium.

There, just for starters.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Superb carols from 2020

 Jussi Bjorling: O Holy Night

And another, by another

And my perennial favourite: particularly sung at the beginning of a Christmas service as the ministers and choir enter in procession. Very moving.

Once in Royal David's City


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Christmas, church, and music

Friday evening was our first (and given current over-reaction to a virus with a case mortality rate of 0.011, possibly last) Christmas music outing of the year.

It was a fabulous carols in the park put on by a local church.

Aside from family enjoyment and Christian enthrallment, I learnt two things:

1. Joy to the World is not, properly, a Christmas carol. It is a second coming hymn. Now it all makes sense...not that I'm sure it didn't make sense before, but if a carol, it has a basic conflict with the scripture in Matthew 10:34.

2. Small choirs do not work well in large open spaces without good mic-ing and a reflective screen behind. There were also teething problems with sound mixing, instrumental density and depth (and probably mixing again, but then I'm a big symphony/heavy rock chap from way back). Plus, don't get congregations to sing complex professional singer arrangements. They are too hard for occasional singers. Then, decide if you are putting lyrics or images on the big screen - and rehearse to ensure lyrics shown match what the singers on stage are doing. But these are minor compared to the wonderful evening we all had.

Inevitably the 'clear gospel' message was given. Only, it was hardly clear, viz: "Jesus came to save us from our sins."

Great. What are 'sins'? asks the average person...and many Christians too, from my observations.

This is the old habit of the modern church: it's the novice salesman error of selling on features, not benefits.

'Save from sin' is a feature, but what's the benefit?

The benefit is Jesus came to resolve the fracturing of life we see and experience, to restore us to relationship with God which is universally fractured because we choose to live in rejection of our Creator. The ultimate benefit Jesus brings is not 'no more sin', but resolution of our god-rejection by his demonstrated victory over it in his resurrection. In this he foreshadows the resurrection of all his followers for life with him forever in his New Creation.

A bit wordy, but its the sort of existential punch that is needed, and it connects with the commonly experienced frustration of a life designed for eternity with God, living in rejection of him.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Explain 'moral', Christopher.

Christopher Hitchens was famous for his debating ploy with Christians, asking them to name one moral act that Christians can to that atheists cannot do.

Most are flumoxed.

Here's a reply a pal of mine would make:

Sorry Christopher, but your question is misconceived because Christians are capable of doing every moral act whereas atheists are incapable of doing anything morally right.

When Christopher's apoplexy ended you would have placed the burden of proof back onto him by asking him to explain how any act within a materialist worldview can be moral. In other words, on what true and justified meta-ethical basis can an atheist say he is acting morally without question-begging, invoking brute facts (a disingenuous blood relative of question-begging) or forever cascading along that infinite regress.
An alternative is:
A person who is not a Christian is incapable of any morally upright act.
Again, after the apoplexy dies down.
Christopher, you are using your incomplete world view to batter my complete world view. Step inside mine for a moment. 
Paul in Romans 3 starts this passage with perhaps Psalm 14:3, and then runs through a number of Old Testament ideas:

There is no righteous person, not even one;
11 There is no one who understands,
There is no one who seeks out God;
12 They have all turned aside, together they have become [i]corrupt;
There is no one who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
The venom of [j]asps is under their lips”;
14 Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And they have not known the way of peace.”
18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

He also deals with the universal dilemma of the reflective person: "I do what I don't want to do, and don't do what I do want to do" Romans 7:21-25.

What's your solution, dead Christopher? Avoidance? Denial? Rejection of your own failings?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The navigator God

There are plenty of opportunities for confusion over the seeming contradiction of God's will and our free will.

Here's a clarifying analogy, based on Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.

From this I gather that God works as an actor in our life-world, in the time-space domain that he made for us (in which he demonstrated his presence and activity in Genesis 1 - working in the constraints of the same time that denominates our lives), shown in the flow of biblical history.

In this view, God is a navigator using the winds, currents and storms and the nature of his vessel to get to the port he plans to arrive at. He made the cosmos for us, and so works within it's ebb and flow, in our human affairs, only rarely intervening to protect the line of the messiah and demonstrate his credentials and the dawning of his kingdom.

The end story: God will achieve his purposes through the vicissitudes of human life and history.

[BTW, the 'his' in italics means that the translator has inserted this in line with the implication of the original Greek. I also de-capitalised 'his' because it's a pronoun, not a proper noun.]

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A different 5

A while ago I posted on Greg Koukl's neat summary of the story of reality.

You may remember it.

Just thinking of another angle, good for use as a quick explanation:

1. God

2. Man (you might need to say 'People' in a general audience)

3. Rejection (because this might start questions, and people can grasp this in their own lives)

4. Christ

5. Resurrection

Reality turns on the Rejection of God by People and is resolved by Christ in his and the general Resurrection.

But, there's a longer, 7 step elaboration:

God (creation)

Man (creature in God's image)

Rejection (by man of God for 'not-God')

Christ (God enters the life-world of man by his incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth)

Crucifixion (Christ ends the reign of death and sin to herald his kingdom)

Resurrection (in rising from death Christ shows he has overcome it and turning to him, and away from our rejection and its embrace of evil, we share in his victory)

New Creation (in our resurrection as Christ's people we share in his new creation, where all is made new as the old is obliterated).

Saturday, December 5, 2020

7 books - as foundation for Christian life and thought

In his recent podcast, Greg Koukl, of Stand to Reason gave a list of 7 books that together a sound Christian structure to thought and practice.

I've set out lists of recommended books, but Greg's is better. Mine are too 'me' and possibly not always helpful to others.

Here's Greg's list .

1. The basics of Christian faith

   C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity*

   Greg Koukl - The Story of Reality*

2.  Single volume theological reference

   Millard Erickson - Christian Theology*

3. Christian Apologetics

   F. Turek and N. Giesler - I don't have enough faith to be an atheist

   W. L. Craig - Reasonable Faith*

4. Spiritual reflection

   C. Spurgeon - Morning and Evening

   A. Bennet - The Valley of Vision

5. Practical engagement

   G. Koukl - Tactics*

6. Spiritual life

   John Owens - Spiritual-mindedness

   C. Lungaard - The Enemy Within

7. Bible study

   G. Fee, Stuart - How to Read the Bible for all it's Worth

*I have in my library and have read them, except Erickson.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Advent Evensong

A local church had an Advent Evensong this evening. We went.

For the first time in months we got to sing at church (something the apostle has instructed us to do and the church should have rebelled against this nonsensical government ruling).

We sang (first lines, not names)

Come and stand before your maker

In Christ alone my hope is found

Great is thy faithfulness

Our father everlasting

The prophets saw in ages past

Lift up your voices (The love of the father).

The sermon was a dialog between the rector and senior curate.

The prayers were given from various places in the congregational seating area.

All well done, and outdoors to boot, with good music, amplification and weather (24 deg. after a day of 39 deg.  That's Sydney weather for you!)

Now, I'm all charged up, listening to Advent hymns on YouTube.


The BBC despite its mission to subvert all things good accidentally keeps running Songs of Praise.

This morning it was about Christingle.

Great idea. We could do this too. It helps focus children (any their grown-ups) on Advent, rather than the consequential gifts and fun of Christmas; which, by the way, is also worthwhile.

Why do you...?

The question that often stops Christians in their tracks.

As Voddie Baucham reminds us, Peter asks us to always be ready to give an account (1 Peter 3:15)

This might play out in such questions as, innocently asked, 'why do you go to church? the Bible, believe in Christ/Christianity, believe in God...' or even 'do you think/believe that I'll go to hell?' and the correlated one about God of love and evil being present.

Be ready with some answers, their rebuttals and your responses.

The easiest on is the one about hell. The answer is: only if you want to.

OK, here are the others:

Why do you go to church: I want to learn how to live forever.

Why do you believe in Christ/Christianity: So I can live forever.

Why do you read the Bible: it's the story of who we are, the story of reality.

These are all 'first step' answers. They are designed to invite discussion and without having to make long speeches.

Or, you might like these answers:

Why do you go to church: I want to connect with others who want to really enjoy life.

Why do you believe in Christ/Christianity: he shows the way of the story of life/it gives the best understanding there is of life and its future. [oh, have you examined all of them? No, because Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, I'm happy to follow him.]

Why do you read the Bible: it's the best picture of reality there is and it meshes with life that we experience at every point, but it also shows the way to live forever.

Again, first step answers that can lead to a chain of conversations.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Who's involved?

Genealogies are an important part of the Bible.

They put events into a time relation with us. They make events specific and show the real relationships that carry through the flow of biblical history, with real people involved. Myth, incidentally, is not like this, only history.

Voddie Baucham has a great piece on this:

And his 'flow' can be extended. The genealogy he talks about also connects us with the 'Spirit-breathed' life that we have from God. We are not related to animals, we are not the offspring of some great ape. We are of God. The genealogy shows it.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The most encouraging sentence in the Bible

 Micah 6:8

He has told you, mortal one, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

 Not to be 'great', not to be super-Christian, not to be nothing but...there you have it.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Oh no, it's back!

In the 90s a couple of friends and I used to visit 'New Age' cults' promotional meetings. We would seek to engage the speaker during question time to de-legitimise their nonsense. On many occasions after the meetings we'd get to talk to others who had attended. We always pointed to the gospel and got varying distances along that trajectory.

It was a great experience and excellent for learning about our own beliefs and knowledge and how to communicate it.

One of the New Age junk teachings we came across was the 'enneagram'.

Mitchel Pacwa SJ wrote a useful piece on it in the Christian Research Journal in 1991. He also has a YouTube piece on the enneagram.

It's having a new outing, it seems, with Alica Childers doing a program on it, and Jay Medenwaldt writing a two-piece article on it. Part 2 is here.

It's a case of 'here we go again' defending the church against the narcissistic pandering of the New Age movement and its self-indulgent 'look at me' gnosticism.

Atheism is?

A transcript of a segment of a podcast by Greg Koukl:

Atheism is the idea that there is no God.

It is not a 'lack of belief' in God. This is not what atheism is.

It does entail the idea that the atheist lacks a belief in God but they don't lack a belief about God. They are not without belief regarding the subject; they have a very firm conviction about it - a belief - and that belief is that God does not exist. When it comes to God there is none! That is a belief!

When I say 'belief' I don't mean 'mere' belief, maybe they have reasons for it, but a belief is just holding that something is so and that is one of those things.

People don't write books about non-beliefs and they don't hold lectures and have debates about non-beliefs.

They talk about their beliefs and this case atheists a belief that God does not exist which means they have no belief in God but they do have a belief about God.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

God the three in one #2

A while ago I wrote about the Trinity.

I gave an example of a family of three.

But here's a better example: a business partnership.

By Australian law, the partners in a partnership are 'jointly and severally' responsible for every action and liability of the partnership. If partner 1 takes a loan for the business, the creditor can go to partner 2 for repayment.

Dealing with any partner is dealing with the partnership. They are all of 'one mind' and one responsibility. You can talk to any of them and you have talked to all of them.

Now, amplify the intensity of that and imagine each partner has identical motives and objectives to the others, and they each are fully engaged with each other.

You have, then, the Trinity.

More What is the trinity? and Does the trinity make sense?. also has a couple of articles on the Trinity: Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Jesus on sex

There's a comment wafting about the Internet that Jesus didn't say anything about sexual conduct, therefore homosexual practices (marriage) are all OK.

Maybe this idea was behind the misleading sermon the other day.

But Jesus had plenty to say on this topic. Dr Voddie Baucham explains in this video snippet.

 I'll summarize:

  1. He did in Matt 5:27-32, 19:3-8: marriage, rooted in Genesis 2: between man and woman for procreation, illustration and sanctification; God defined marriage as between male and female and not to be separated by man who thus no right to introduce same-sex 'marriage': firstly it's not marriage, but something else, as it doesn't have marriage function. God is the author of marriage not man (Genesis 1:27, 28, 2:18-24 ; therefore, and secondly, it is not in man's capacity to introduce even the concept of same sex marriage. The very idea is incoherent as same sex couples are inert when it comes to procreation, contradicting the outcome intention of Genesis 1 and 2.
  2. Jesus is part of the Godhead: one of the three relating persons, therefore he is the author of Leviticus 20:13. Jesus doesn't have a different view of sexuality than Father and Spirit
  3. The Bible is one story, not many, and it does not separate Jesus from Paul or Peter as one cannot separate God into disunified persons; the apostles are Jesus's apostles: they give us the teaching from our Lord who sent his Spirit to instruct them.

And a bonus:
Jesus also addressed the issue of  pedophilia (Matthew 18:6), among other things.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Today at church

The sermon took an excursion into Critical Theory, I think, without realizing it.

Somehow from Psalm 8 (with references to Psalm 139, from memory) we lurched into personal identity games as played out these days. Lots of talk about 'gender' and sexuality, sexual expression. Plenty of room here for shining the biblical light on the topic, but no. None!

No comment as to our identity is in Christ and is given emergent substance by our service: contributing our gifts to the church. Our 'identity' is of no interest, but our service to others, our worship of God is.

No criticism of the current obsession with 'identity' in parts of the media and the dominant cultural demonstrations as being a self-obesssion, bordering on narcissism: a 'look at me' game.

No rescue from the in the gospel explored.

No reference to God making man male and female, or of Paul teaching that in the church even that distinction is irrelevant to our contribution to the church life. But then, being a Sydney Anglican church they couldn't say that as the SAs hold that Paul was wrong and there are distinct service areas in the church for men and women.

The sermon played right into the covert Marxism of 'Critical Theory' with narry a comment, analysis or rebuttal. No evident knowledge of its roots in the Frankfurt School and the French deconstructionists and their motivating program. Naive from start to finish.

Yet, Neil Shenvi has such good work on this area. All disregarded, if it was even known about. Stand to Reason also has some content.

There was question time at the end, and my pet peeve: every questioner was told their question was 'a good question'. Like the speaker was there to judge questions instead of answering them to the encouragement and dignity of the questioner*.

Finally the main minister took the rostrum and explained that the answers to questions of life are to be found in the Bible, and, 'please, come and see us if you have challenges finding the answers you seek.' Whew, we are a Biblical church, then.

This article on 'transitioning' 'gender' might also interest. It should have been mentioned.


*On handling questions.

If you need to say something other than just answer the question, you can say "Thank you for the question', or 'let me think a moment'...or 'I'm sorry I didn't cover/was not clear about that in the talk'

Saturday, November 14, 2020

McGrath goes wrong

In a Gresham College Lecture I watched recently: "Darwin, Evolution and God..." Alister McGrath claimed that Darwin did not renounce Christian faith. Notwithstanding he was at best a nominal Anglican, perhaps there was not much 'faith' to renounce.

[I came to the lecture via an article by Rod Lampard on Caldron Pool.]

But that aside, the claim is dispelled by these quotes from the Descent of Man

Page 386 of my edition of Descent:
"He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation."
and page 395:
"I am aware that the assumed instinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument for His existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant spirits, possessing only a little more power than man; for the belief in them is far more general than of a beneficent Deity. The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator of the universe does not seem to arise in the mind of man, until he has been elevated by long continued culture."

There was one comment from an irreligionist who claimed that McGrath was confused. My reply to that comment was:

Maybe the problem is that he tries to combine two worldviews into one:

1. modern darwinian evolution and its story that material is all there is and everything has only a material cause (including ideas, including the idea of 'grand theory evolution') and is therefore of no real ontological significance, and

2. Christian theism and its story that mind is the fundamental reality, indeed, self-existent minds in relationship, and these are causal of everything else, including material all of which therefore has real ontological significance.

Another comment trotted out the usual materialist bloviation about science and religion. I commented:

Not an attack on science. Modern science emerged from the crucible of belief in the very ideas you mock. It is to attack the materialist mythology that drives GTE (grand theory evolution). Of course mainstream peer reviewed journals won't publish their work, peer review acts as a block to any threats to the underlying metaphysical materialism that lies of the heart of modern science.

Read Kuhn for some more on this. Thus Behe and the information theorists have no chance of getting published with their logical criticisms and attract instead a stream of irrational and tendentious invective. None of this is surprising as any successful attack on metaphysical materialism will block humanities' relentless mission to retreat from its creator, avoiding the risk of repentance and relationship with him.

Friday, November 13, 2020

How not to help

 In the 2017 Worldview Apologetics Conference in Bellevue WA the first questioner got the ol' stony statue treatment.

She asked about the JW's Nestorian claim about Jesus not bodily resurrecting, but passing into a body-like form occasionally to impress the disciples.

She asked how this might be dealt with by a Christian.

From the panel she got stony faces, mental foot shuffling, and some pretty poor responses, from some pretty smart people who one would have thought could answer from general Christian knowledge.

He JW interlocutor raised the episode in Luke 24:36ff and Genesis 18 where Abraham met the angels.

First, the JW has to prove that Jesus was not  raised bodily. Not just claim it from their own ideas, but prove it from the scriptures (even theirs). Then they can try to prove why almost everyone got it wrong until their founder revived Nestorianism.

Next they have to explain why Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate both a physical death and a bodily resurrection when they claim that neither happened.

They are leaping in to pagan philosophical idealism here and thinking that God demonstrates things in this world he created by not doing things, but only appearing to do things that are in fact disjoined from his creation, and thus meaningless in the creation in which they are demonstrated to be meaningful.

Then they have to explain the point of the charade if it is the charade that they claim, when the claim that Jesus had no real soteriological function attached to his bringing the kingdom.

Being Nestorans or Arians, they of course will dismiss all your arguments and avoid all your questions.

See here for more.

Also this is a useful article generally.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The good and the bad

On my long walk on Sunday I listened to the last in the series of talks on Lewis's Mere Christianity.

It had good points and bad points.

Chris Mitchell took Darwinian evolution as a starting point in one place. Perhaps it was just a rhetorical ploy, but later comments told me not so.

He considered those pondering the 'next step' in 'human' evolution. It seemed that he, along with most others, have the darwinian Victorian progressivism in mind as the pattern of evolution. But Darwin's idea has no 'directional' force. The 'next step' only has to have superior survival value to humans and out compete them for resources in relevant ecological niches. There's no concept in evolution of 'better' in any other way. Either rabbits or bacteria may be better, but we need to see enough mutations to disable humanity first, arguably.

I was further disappointed that he referred in question time to Francis Collins (a famous theistic evolutionist) as the go to guy for  discussion of the 'new' atheists. I'd much prefer to go to William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl and JP Moreland for this, even though they are all 'long age' creationists.

As a clever use of the idea he said that the 'next' step has already been taken. We go from being creatures of God to sons of God.

 Pentecost, thus, should be the most important day of the church calendar. It is the founding of the church. At least, it is as important in God's grand outworking as Easter.

On the good: he talked about Lewis not quoting scripture, but rather weaving scripture into everything he said.

Lewis didn't use theological or 'churchy' language. He addressed the ordinary person in his talks and book (Mere Christianity, that is). Mitchell called him a 'translator' and reminded us that it is work to do this; we have to work at understanding our faith and the Bible so that we can translate it into contemporary thought forms and be meaningful for our listener. Churchy language is off putting and excluding for those who aren't familiar with it. People want to be conversed with in a common language and with respect for their ignorance of what is to them a specialist area.

This is something that the church has consistently failed at, but for a few spokesmen (Lewis, Chesterton...).

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Significance: is that the secret?

Is belief in God reasonable? Can we have knowledge of God? That is, can we get past belief; is belief really reliant on knowledge? That is for a reasonable belief?


Leave Kierkegaard's 'leap of faith' in the existential bin where it belongs.

Moreland and Craig in their books and lectures on YouTube and on line cover large territory in this area, but there's more, I think.

It's akin to what I call 'the problem of beauty'.

There's plenty of talk abou the 'problem of evil'. And that's a problem for the atheist, polytheist and the village cynic. As C. S. Lewis sets it out, it is a motivator of belief in God.

The other problem is that of beauty. In a materialist framing of reality there is no basis for it, no functional reason for it, no material connection it makes with particular assemblies of matter.

But we detect it, enjoy it, seek it, want to create it, evaluate it and prize it. Materially it is irrelevant.

Why should a natural scene, a sunset, a bird, a painting, a musical performance be so good. Why does fruit or wine or cheese, or a New York Cut steak, or French cooking taste so darn good. It doesn't need to be that good to be enjoyed, and it doesn't need to be 'good' at all to sustain life. But there you are. It's better than it needs to be and we can detect and enjoy that.

Significance likewise.

We all live as though our lives are significant, we fight death and discomfort and insignficance every time we shop for clothes, buy a book and go to the doctors.

No matter our beliefs, we act in a hierarchy of signification.

In a material world this is irrelevant. Sure, we would act to achieve instinctive benefit, but our demise would be a non-event if there was no means of signification.

We live significantly.

That is because there is a being of final value (this is therefore an offshoot of the Liebnizian cosmological argument) [also Craig here]. There is a giver of significance. Significance is not a contextless attribution or disposition of our 'brain'. But is a mental reference to a value system that in itself cannot be a configuration of matter.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Let the devil have a go?

The long practice of the church is to reserve our meetings together for mutual encouragement, prayer, contemplating the presence of the Spirit of God (even including contemplation by singing, prayer, discussion, learning, participating in communion) and the community life of the congregation.

We do not turn up to listen to songs extolling animism or convey historical deceits and revisionism.

Thus at a friend's church we were assailed by a 'rap' song by an Australian Aboriginal band. Nothing against the ethnicity of the band; nor in fact its music...I found it tolerable. But its 'spirit of the land' paean was not on.

We don't introduce into our Christian gathering the pagan, let alone the work of demons.

Where would it end? Invite some Devil worshippers in to tell us all about it? Opps. That's just what we did do!

Educating ourselves about the beliefs and lives of others is fine in a training or educational session. It is not suitable for a gathering for corporate worship and turns it into a travesty.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

All religions are not alike.

Here's a contrast between the Bible and Islam.


Ezekiel 18:3

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he would turn from his ways and live?


Surah 9:5 commands Muslims to “kill the infidels (non-Muslims) wherever you find them and take them as captives and besiege them and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush so if they repent (and become Muslim) and perform prayer, leave their way free.”



 Read all about it here.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The 5pm service

As we come out of the (completely unnecessary) coronavirus circus, our church instituted a 5pm service. We all had to keep up the circus performance, of course, sitting distant from others, not singing (not even finding creative ways to sing while avoiding being infection vectors) and signing in!!

I hope those records were destroyed 14 days after they were made. I don't want anyone prying on who goes to church.

Anyway, we got an e-mail telling us that the 5pm service was now a real service. I'd not thought anything but.

I've been to churches with services at 5pm, 6pm and 7pm in the evening and 8am, 9am, 9:30am, 10am, 11am and 11:15am.

The early starts were either to accommodate three morning services, or to let people 'get church out of the way'.

I have no interest in 'getting church out of the way'. Meeting with my Christian brothers and sisters is the highlight of my week.

The pattern of church during my adolescence and early adulthood was what suited me.

9:30 to 10:30 Sunday School, and adult bible study. I helped on the bus roster at one church. We had three full size buses and 9 or so on each Sunday to operate them. While SS was on we had our Bible study. It was a wonderful time.

11:00 was the main church service. Pre-busses we spent the time between SS and church at morning tea with other helpers. This too was a wonderful time of chatting as well as prepping for church if on roster.

Back home for 1pm Sunday lunch -- the high meal of the week. Typically baked chicken or lamb, sometimes beef, with roast vegetables. Desert was usually an apple pie with cream or custard (or both) or a lemon meringue pie. Bliss.

Sunday afternoon relaxing, visiting friends and occasionally church: training or discussion meetings, committee meetings of the youth club organisers, etc. For a while we held Christian Endeavour meetings in the afternoon. I learnt a lot from them.

Sunday evening we met at 7pm. Following this service was a light supper.

Often my family went on Sunday evenings to our 'mother' church: the church that had 'planted' our regular church which we supported, and the church  my mother had grown up in.

Following the evening service here (7pm, of course), we could join a small group to take communion, then many times we were invited to old friends of my mother's for  supper.

Truly joyful times.

Supply chain for churches

We are starting a 'mainly music' program for toddlers and their families, well, mainly for toddlers.

It's about music, fun, a bit of dance and relaxing time for mums, dads, carers. Whoever brings the child.

We'll hold an optional concert by the kids in an end of year church service (it'll be 'seeker-modified', but not very, with a sermon in context).

But we'll develop a 'supply chain' out of it.

This might include reduced price mini courses on aspects of child's development.

Dinners/lunches for mums/dads/carers with a child raising expert to talk, maybe even a kick up your heels club for young parents.

All of this will have some overt Christian content, but the aim is to offer people access to the next link: 'the full life' courses (intro to the story of reality), being a 'dad/mum/carer' courses, and a 'breakaway' coffee morning or afternoon (on weekends for workers) so that parents can just relax. A creche will be available.

There'll even be occasional grandparent program, for young parents to have an older person to talk to if their actual parents are distant or unavailable.

Should be good.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Worship? Song and dance or something else?

Too easily we follow the habit of thinking 'worship' is the name of our corporate rituals, or even worse, limited to singing (Eph. 5:19). Our community gatherings are we bringing together our experience of the redeemed life bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Terry Dein's sermon at Swiz, today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Story or report?

How do we get from the ineffable God to profane man? How can the limitless eternal God be brought into connection with limited, fallible and comparatively ignorant man? How do we get anything from God's mind into our finite Earthy practice? How do we get from God to Man?

The Genesis 1 section of the creation account shows us how, precisely, in detail, and in terms of the experience of man of his world: not as a story about those things described, but an account of those things done.

If it is merely a story about those things done described and our relationship to them, neither of which are real, but are metaphorical, or symbolic or figurative or illustrative, then we must wonder to what do they refer? There must be a third element which is definitive and which is truly real in all relations and under all conditions. This point of reference to which the story refers is the reality behind the story. But we only suppose this because we need to get away from the story itself, following Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:8. And if it were so, we do not and cannot know this true reality. It is hidden behind an illustration and is out of reach. Untouchable. We therefore have no knowledge.

But Genesis 1 is not like this. It is embedded in and embeds the only real reality that flows in a continuous sweep from God's word to man's experience of the creation, resulting in his true knowledge; reflecting that God created in wisdom, understanding and knowledge (Proverbs 3:19-20 ), and not out of what is seen (Hebrews 11:3).

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Methodological what?

You've maybe heard that modern physical sciences operate on the basis of 'methodological naturalism'. That is they assume the natural world as a uniform closed system. Good as far as it goes but this is not the case.

The 'methodological naturalism' claim is a ruse to import what is truly at play: metaphysical naturalism. That is, the assumption that the material world is all there is.

But here we start into a problem. If that's the base assumption, I don't see how you get to methodological naturalism from it.

What is labelled 'methodological naturalism' is in fact methodological Christian theism. The base philosophical assumptions of modern science from the get go are founded in Christian theism. From the assumption of the mind to the assumptions of a rational objectively perceived universe that we can have genuine knowledge of (and that the idea of genuine knowledge is meaningful) are Christian and spring from Genesis 1 to 3. Paganism/naturalism doesn't imply them.

Some videos that might be of interest:

Darwin's corrosive idea:

The myth of materialism:

Information enigma:

They all seem to set the biblical timing of creation to one side, but are conceptually aligned with its central premise. Logos precedes techne (material systems) and produces episteme (knowledge).

Sunday, October 25, 2020

What Genesis is really about

My letter to Wayne Grudem

Dear Dr Grudem,

I was eager to watch the YouTube video of your talk at Biola ( ) on Genesis 1 defying its corruption by theistic evolutionist tendentiousness.

I know you only had a short time, but there's at least two hours that could be spent to examine the theology that comes out of Genesis 1-3. This is an area of thought that needs the attention of evangelicals. A theology will  answer the 'so what' of defence of the historicity of Genesis 1-3.

Firstly, if I may, a couple of comments on the structure of Genesis 1. I know it is grammatically historical, and it also reads like 'dead-pan' history. It has none of the arch imprecision of time and place or existential discontinuity of myth.

From my studies (at masters level) in computer science (not my major, mind you), the narrative of the days looks like a BC Normal Form data structure, 'days' are the key, each has a count field, a definition field (evening and morning, as a calibration of their duration), a description field and an end of record field. All very economical of space and parsimoniously precise.

Another aside. People worry about incest in the first generation. Not because of the law, but because of biology. However, we can assume the gene pool of A&E was perfect, eliminating that quibble.

The major concern we should have of the three theistic-evolutionists you mentioned in your talk is their implicit philosophical idealism: this results in God communicating what is by a 'story' of what is not: that is, not true to events in our time and place (I avoid 'space' so as not to confuse this with physics). Therefore they must hold that something else really happened, not what is stated, and that it is this something else (evolution!) that defines reality and our experience of it. Thus we end up with both an ontology and an ethics denominated by chance (despite the warning of Isaiah 65:11, for instance). Yet this does not reflect our innate aspiration, or our experience of our own interaction with the world. Our 'word' is reliably casual in achieving effects. No one takes their car to an 'evolutionary mechanic'!

The theology of Genesis 1 starts, in my thinking, with God's creation over a series of days. Days are how we experience life. Specificity of place and time denominates our 'life-world'

Genesis 1 shows that God is active and present in our life-world, working in the circumscriptions of time and place that we have, by God's grace. God is near, as Jeremiah 23:23 reminds us, and not far off. God moves the creation by logical stages from the creation of energy (light) to the completed habitable setting of our fellowship with him: where, to borrow from N. T. Wright (ironically) heaven and earth are shown to 'come together', to overlap, or to become coincident existentially as God forms us in his image and speaks to us (A&E) within our place.

There is an astonishing intimacy that God shows us in coming into our constrained world, it's terms, categories and how it works with reliable causality showing us its nature, and to create it for us to bear his image and be his people in a commutative relationship (relationship expressed mutually).
There is nothing of the myth here: God is not remote or unapproachable, he is not restrained in some place of which we are unaware. Nor is he unknowable and depersonalised. He is here, in our life-space, being the relating God in community with his creatures, showing and being love.

God also creates in a rational, causally reliable continuity from Logos (he speaks) to effect (techne) making our episteme also reliable and truthful. This is not the 'world' of the Hindu or materialist illusion. It is the world where we directly and reliably experience what truly is. There is no platonic, or mythic 'is' that we need to refer to, there is only what comes from God's word (Hebrews 11:3 reminds us).

The TE theologians must split God off from his creation and sever his intimate connection with the concrete reality he creates for our habitation and pleasure, and for communion with him. They sever God's creating actions from the flow of history and its continuous ontology in which he overcomes the fall and brings about his Kingdom, yet the Bible brackets this flow of history with two great conjunctions of Heaven and Earth, both in terms of our existential place in a real reality. These are the Creation, and the New Creation, with the peak event where this also happens in the Incarnation.

These theologians  place their theology of creation in Genesis 3:8b: they hide from God. Evolution starts here: it's the means, along with the long fantasy ages of materialism and paganism ( ) to separate God and his creatures. Indeed this was expressly the mission of Hutton, and carried out by Lyell ( ). Our TE brothers advance this mission.

The wrong liturgist?

 Our church service today was puzzling in parts.

The liturgist had a unique approach, which provided most of those parts.

Most services start with a 'call to prayer' a reading of scripture or the like.

Ours started with 'let's kick-off'. No, it was not a foot ball game. At least she didn't want to 'kick-start' it, like an old motorbike.

It was good that she prayed next. But I wondered why she prayed that we should 'hold God to account' for his promises. Hold the almighty creator of heaven and earth, our saviour and Lord to account? Hardly.

She made a remark that we 'come in repentance but leave some change'. I didn't follow that at all. Like we've something to leave for our Father who provides all that we have?

Next stop was reference to John 21:17, where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him and reminded Peter that love meant obedient action concordant with that love.

I got the impression that the liturgist thought of a warm feeling in the 'heart' in response to Jesus's undoing Peter's three-fold denial.

Later the preacher asked us how long a sermon should be and what its purpose was. Answers included that it was to teach us the Bible, apply it to our lives. He asked why.

Now, just off the cuff I was stumped trying to think of a thorough answer (always the way with me when unrehearsed).

One brother said  'because it's the rules'.

I thought, no, it shapes our knowledge of reality and of God. (or our Creator and our connection with him).

So next time "It shapes our knowledge of reality and of God".

I'll stick with that.

The knowledge is by action played out in history, of course and interpreted by the prophets.

Then the liturgist came back (after some wonderful songs offered by the band).

She ended with a quiet and lovely prayer. Much appreciated.

Friday, October 23, 2020

With my body

 I think we misunderstand the word 'worship' these days. In many churches, 'worship' means singing. Not so.

Worship is our action and affections directed to one who is worthy of that direction.

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer shows it in the context of marriage: 'with my body I thee worship'. The husband to the wife. A Vow of exclusive physical intimacy, affection and dedication.

A Mennonite post says it well.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The declining congregation - 2

 So, what would I do*?

Project inward: the congregation.

It is the congregation that is the great communicator, but people need to know their faith, the Bible and their context plus, be trained and practiced.

First, teach through the biblical description of reality as a consolidated flow of history in our services, once a month lunch after the morning meeting. In the early evening a more discussion type reprise of the morning content (which would also be a 'service' including song and prayer). A light supper would follow, with 'evening prayer' for those who wanted to end the Sunday in fellowship with our Father.

I'd run Sunday afternoon seminars, maybe once a month, on topics that would help people have conversations about their Christian convictions. These would discuss the intersection of contemporary life and world-views with the scriptures.

Then a men's Bible reading group, for congregants. One morning a week, to model devotional reading of the Bible, with prayer. Friends welcome, of course.

Project outward: beyond the congregation

I'd also start an evening course program: two courses per year of 6 weeks each. They would be designed to have general appeal. For instance 'The history of you' about the literature and history of early Genesis, but set in a modern existential frame to demonstrate the connection with today. 'Parents and children' might be another, about child-parent relationships (Ephesians 6:4 the starting point, maybe).

Next, contact with the community at a more casual level. Children, elderly and stay-at-homes being the groups of interest.

All of these would provide 'services' to people as an introduction to the congregation, to lead on to further contacts: dinners and talks perhaps two a year, an occasional BBQ on a weekend afternoon for attendees and congregation, with hooks to KnowingReal a series of 3+7+3 meetings about Christian knowledge (sort of like Alpha, but not).

Meanwhile, I'd build up congregation-organised groups for young people, young adults, men and women that had a community/social action aspect, with some political action, local community contact, 'talk your convictions' practice, but mainly fellowship.

We would also have a church 'conference' each year over a Friday night and two half days on the weekend. This would involve some outsiders, open to guests, but mainly for our church's deepening and, again, fellowship.

All good fun.

*like last time, I'm not a paid clergy-bod, but have served on a denominational church development and education committee, church management committees, a church planting committee, worked on evangelism 'strategy' for one church I served at, engaged in community evangelism (at the Mind, Body, Spirit festivals in the late 90s, as an example), contributed to small group training, studied at three bible schools, four if we count 'theological education by extension' lectures, attended two L'Abri centres in the US and served in youth work for a number of years.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Say hi to the neighbours

We are about to expand our church property.

It'll be a renovated house, mainly for informal work: weekend small group seminars, youth and elder use through the week.

But it looks like a house. It's amongst other houses.

We are thinking of having a 'street party' in the new ministry centre (called 'The Out House', a flippant nod towards the outdoor toilet) every year, to say hi to our neigbours and to offer them some relaxed hospitality.

This is a 'contact' thing, and being a good neighbour. We'll have some take away literature in the foyer, flyers for courses and other programs, but that's all for that side of it. No overt talks. Just food, gifts for the children, live music and a Christian entertainer with a small band of 'hosts' to serve food and ensure everyone is comfortable.

We'll invite the neighbours by direct mail and a reminder leaflet and RSVP to get the numbers.

Should be lots of fun.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Loving God

Intentional ambiguity there in the title.

One of the defences to the 'problem' of evil is the 'free will defence'. The argument goes that God wanted people to love him who would do so freely.

Now, that's OK for Adam and Eve. The could. They chose not to and now we can't. We are left with the the negative and can only know being  poor in spirit.

But I think the defence is wrong.

We were given 'free' will (notwithstanding Adam and Eve's fall) not for God's pleasure, but for our own. God doesn't need any more pleasure. Our worship adds nothing to him.

But God, being loving, wants us to be able to, as creatures in his image, with effective volition, to fully enjoy loving him and experience his love for us!

The  Stepford wives cannot enjoy loving the Stepford husbands.

Non-'free-will' creatures cannot love God and so cannot enjoy God.

That's what its about!

Similar to the purpose of praise, worship. Its for our benefit; yet we hubristically collectively reject God.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The job of prayer

I chatted to my brother today about some good medical news my Radiation Oncologist gave me: 2 months ago I had three tiny lung tumours. Two weeks ago the PET scan showed two tiny tumours. The larger had not grown between scans, and a smaller one did not show as 'bright'. So, metabolically relatively inert. The smallest one was not evident.

My brother noted the importance of prayer, but mentioned inter alia that it 'didn't work' for one of his neighbours.

I reminded him: prayer is not fundamentally about solutions to problems. It's about living in communion with our Father in heaven. That's what prayer is about. It's about putting our feet in his footprints, so to speak, about learning to be part of his Kingdom. That's the magnificence of prayer: the slow alignment of our wills with his.

Not only do all atheists and other detractors miss the point. I think a lot of Christians do too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A theological summary of Genesis 1 (to 2:4)

 One of the great challenges of thinking about God is how the infinite eternal God can be in communion with his finite creature, bound by time and space.

The creation account shows that God is present and active in the world of his creatures by his word (showing that his word precedes all that we know and experience in the creation).

Indeed, the very act of creating in sequence of our 'days' demonstrates this.

The only theology that would overturn this is a theology where God is not reliably available for our worship (the way we are in communion with him). That is a theology that relegates the sequence of days to story-land, but still hopes it tells us something by not telling us what is! This is the type of theology that follows Genesis 3:8, a theology that hides us from God.

The declining congregation - 1

One of the routes I take for my daily walk goes past a local church property. It is on a main road, so highly conspicuous.

The building itself is a quite attractive (or not unattractive) 1960s style triangular prism, the grounds immediately around the building are a step down from that: not so good. They appear, from an aesthetic point of view, not quite considered, and are not appealing. Often they look un-cared for.

Adjoining the plot of land of the building is an unmade car parking area, and then adjoining that a dwelling and open ground used for outdoor functions.

Here the unkemptness looks even worse, even sloppy, bedraggled!

Think of the passers-by. In the locale of this church people are generally very 'house-proud'. It is a high income area and the properties usually look very 'sharp' and at least neat, well presented and carefully looked-after. It's an area with high appearance values.

The church premises are discordant with this. They suggest a demeanor that is inconsistent with the area. A place people might feel ashamed to be associated with (I would).

Over the years I've been living near this property, I've seen the number of  'services' decline from three per Sunday to one.

What's happened? It can't be just poor property presentation, it's got to be more.

I pray for this church as I stride past it.

But, what would I do?

I'm not a professional clergy-person*, nor do I know the congregation; but I know the area and its people, so I can but make a few guesses.

They are here.

*but I have post-graduate quals and experience in adult education and marketing.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Walking through Genesis

This morning I watched St Swithun's 'traditional' service. The one I attended for many years, many years ago.

There was an interview with one of the scripture teachers at nearby Turramurra High School. She mentioned that year 8 works through Genesis.

So, I wondered, how would I 'work through' or teach Genesis.

Its a challenging book on one level, but on another is a piece of great literature with an enthralling sweep of  a story.

I would start with asking the students to read through the book as quickly as they could. Not like 'speed reading', but read it like a book. That way you get the whole picture and it hangs together as a story, almost like a saga. Which it is. But a real saga.

Then we would talk about the story for a few lessons.

After that we'd talk about the historical setting, just so we didn't make any anachronistic mistakes (like, 'Why didn't they text each other?')

Then we'd look at a couple of other pieces of literature that purported to address the same events. The Gilgamesh epic and extracts of the tedious Enuma elish. We'd compare these with the Genesis accounts, particularly noting the mythic elements of both stories.

Perhaps we might also look at the Story of Wenamum (Egypt) and the Lament for Ur, noting language, style and subject.

Then we'd look at the biblical theology flow of Genesis. Now we are getting serious: it's about God's interaction with his people through history, as we guided events to repair the damage of the Fall and bring his creatures to a condition of fellowship and knowledge of God and his love.

Finally we'd look at the creation account in Genesis 1-3, culminating in 3:8, of course where the breach of the relationship is shown.

Then we'd study the theology of the account, it's structure, its place in the biblical flow, its place in the pure historical flow of human history and the structure and language that drives the theology.

Of course this would lead us to a critique of the materialist basis of modern intellectual life and its parlous consequences for relationship with our Father in heaven and conduct and understanding of life in general.

We would also need to deal with a couple of popular misunderstandings of Genesis 1. Most prominent at the moment tends to be the so-called 'Framework Hypothesis', discussed by Pipa and McCabe's more detailed paper and blog. Walton's fanciful approach is also takes an approach that denies the direct meaning of Genesis 1 and obstructs its theology of contact.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

What the creation is really about

 A nice piece on this, that goes to the theology of the creation that is given by the content of Genesis 1-3.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The main philosphical game

In my post on the Problem of evil is us, I show the locus of evil.

There's more to be said.

The philosophical or theological 'problem of evil' is, I think, a means of avoiding the problem; of attempting to avoid our problem of evil and put it back onto God.

Man does everything he can to avoid God, starting in Genesis 3:8 (the starting point of the idea that the cosmos made itself and that we 'evolved' into existence care of the same process to avoid God and eject him from the world that Genesis 1 shows him clearly active within).

We say the problem is 'God's' because we want to resist that the problem is ours. We are evil, every thought is evil as is every motive. Evil because they revolve around us our our base motive of pride.

The start of dealing with the problem of evil, the problem that cuts us off from communion with God, is to repent of rejecting God and turn to him.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

A day 'in'

With the authorities imposing the current corona-circus inflicted on all and sundry (and with little push back if any from churches for their reasonable liberty to continue operating as they see fit), our church came up with  a great alternative to a spring houseparty (which would have been just like school in risk terms; i.e. almost zero).

It was a 'day in' at our church premises.

The program was:

9:00 - registration

9:30 - activities

10:30 - morning tea

11:00 - input session

11:30 - discussion groups

12:30 - free time

13:00 - lunch

14:00 - activities

16:00 - afternoon tea

16:30 - seminar 1 (a range of options available)

17:00 - seminar 2 (a range of options available)

17:30 - free time

18:00 - dinner

19:00 - movie

21:00 - close

22:00 - the real go-home time.

The consensus was that this was a great day, and is likely to be provided during each school holidays, irrespective of government panics or not about illnesses.

Something similar twice a year for the adults could be considered as well, although a better program might be two half days on the weekend.

Now if your church is too small to run such a thing, why not get together with a few local churches (in a rural area), or a group of your denomination in a large city area (for example, all the XYZ churches on the North Shore could get together).

This would be a great way of building friendships, deepening understanding of faith and its communication, and building skills in conducting groups, speaking and discussing.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Next step

One of the most arresting items in Mitchell's Lewis talk was this:

He spoke to a dying friend and asked him to write a name on paper. Friend asked why. Mitchell replied that it was the name of one of his friends who had died 20 years previously. He wanted to send a message to him.

Now, nice integration of the real hope and today's life, nice sentiment about his friend. But let's think about it.

The scriptural data first. A few passages spring to mind:

> The thief on the cross: Luke 23:424. Today you will be in paradise with me (and so much for Yeshua's going to hell)

> The Thessalonians: 1 Thess 4:17. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

> After death: Phillipians 1:3. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.

> Revelation 21: all things new, the old is passed away, in our Father's presence forever.

We seem to think of heaven (I use this not as the neoplatonic fictional world of spirits, but the domain of God's will being done) as some sort of in between place like a waiting room, perhaps while we await the return of Yeshua (1 Thess 4:17). In this place the saints gradually accumulate over earth-time. So my parents will have been waiting 20 or so years for me to join them.

If this would be the case, Mitchell's note might be in order.

But it's still not. We will be renewed. We will have no concerns, we won't forget things; certainly not important things, things about people and relationships. No need for a note. He'll remember!

Mitchell seems to think it will be the same time in heaven as here. His friend will have 'waited' 20 years for news of his family.

I don't think this is on either.

Firstly, I don't think heaven time is coordinated with creation (earth) time.

If anything, the 'scale' of time might be different. So 20 years earth time might be a blink of the eye in heaven time (if there even is heaven time).

Secondly, I don't think heaven has been designed by bureaucrats with waiting rooms, real books of deed, etc. I think these are part of the great and very serious operatic images of Revelation.

Thus, and thirdly, I think 'paradise' may be the only paradise discussed. The new creation.

So perhaps we all 'arrive' in the new creation (heaven) at the same time. Time sort of warps between here and there/then, heralded by the return of Yeshua.

Here is subordinate to there. Not the reverse.

And there we are, pre-millenial dispensationalism in the bin at last.

After I'd written this, but before it posted, I discussed my speculation with my brother, who is smarter than me. He proposed that the new creation will be always 'now'. It will be 'un-tensed'.

Now, that's interesting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The distinguising mark of man-made religion

There are three big man-mad religions:



The Watchtower Society


They all turn man's relationship with God into a transaction. As though man can bring anything to the table!

Listen to Mitchell's C. S. Lewis lecture as this is thought through.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The three main events.

The Bible tells of three moments when God and his creature are together.

The creation: made for the fellowship of God and man, for life together. The creation is done in the terms of that relationship to show the ground of that relationship.

That relationship is broken at Genesis 3:8. This is the day that the relational ideal is shown, the day the idea of evolution started (the idea that separates God from man and denies his love) and the day it was shown that harmony had left the creation.

God and man are richly together in Genesis 1 and 2.

God and man are richly together in Revelation 21 and 22

God and man are together in the created world in the incarnation. Yeshua shows how different the world is from how it should be: he, its creator, is rejected by it; but only to turn the tables on that rejection and take up his life again, to bring us into his kingdom. Thus Revelation 21 and 22; where it is all headed.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

On my walk

If you want to listen to one Christian talk, listen to this one by Chris Mitchell. He talks through part of C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity in The Christian View of Reality. He means of course, 'what reality really is'.

Download it. Listen to it. Then listen again. I need say no more. 

Why I got to listen to this podcast on my walk.

Hitherto I've just enjoyed the scenery, but a friend related his listening to some sports podcast on his walks.

Sport is not my thing, but I thought: plenty of  podcasts I want to listen to, so get on with it. Sticky taped the earphones in and off I went.

My son suggested a better way would be Taotronics Soundliberty 79s. I'll see.

Problem of evil: us!

I've just read an article in the Weekend Australian by a woman telling of her and her sister's childhood abuse at the hands of relatives and its parlous consequences.

It reminded me of Jeremiah 17:9 

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? 

As I wrote yesterday. The 'problem of evil' is not a philosophical game. It starts with us, and we mostly reject the solution our heavenly father has provided.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Koukl does it agin.

Greg K has an interesting article on how evangelism was done. Read it!

I wrote to him:

Dear Greg,
I listened to your podcast where you discussed evangelism in Acts. I like the cut of your jib. In fact, it reminded me of the priority of repentance: turning away from a life turned away from God.

When people talk about the 'problem of evil' they are disinclined to acknowledge that they are part of the problem. And they can do something about it: reject the evil that infects all of us all the time and turn to God in repentance: God's way out of the 'problem of evil'.

But that's an aside.

As you were talking on the podcast about evangelistic episodes in Acts I was thinking that you were going to point to an important distinction: the distinction between incidents with Jews and others knowledgeable about Judaism and those with Gentiles. Paul's strategy with Gentiles was utterly different to those taken with Jews, yet today we often think we are talking to Jews. People who know of God, his commandments and his promises. But we aren't. We are talking to a bunch of Stoics and Epicureans, just as Paul was in Acts 17.

The interesting thing about this is Paul's start: he acknowledged their spiritual interest, as lame as it was, and he gave them the identity of God, the one who demonstrated by his presence in action and event that his domain overlapped with ours, with our 'life-world'. God as creator.

God refers in many places to his being creator as the basis for our worship of him. This is of fundamental significance to the fellowship place and means he made us for. This identity is bedded in Genesis 1-3: the complex account of creation and its disruption.

We tend to allow discussion of Genesis 1-3 to be limited to 1 and get distracted by 'days' and the events of those days as recounted in the passage, reducing them to a cute mechanism, without pondering what it teaches about who God is, his relation to us as his creatures-in-his-image in the world that came from his word.

So what does God teach in Genesis 1 particularly? His proximity, indeed his intimate involvement in our world, to the point of immersion in it, sleeves rolled up! God, working in the denominating factor of our lives: time, and that delimited into days, shows God here he is accessible and active in the place he creates for real engaged fellowship; fellowship with the one who shows his spiritual proximity, the nature of our reality, the ontological continuity between his word, its fruit and our experience of the creation. This is God in our world; not a pagan 'god' who has nothing to do with our world and is removed from the life of man by myth: all connection of time and place lost, evaporated, obscured, invisible and so a god remote, uninterested, disconnected and untouchable, so to speak a God to whom man is insignificant: the ludicrous Enuma elish the prize exemplar of pagan craziness.

God made the world as the place where his being and ours could come together and showed this in the creation 'method'. A method of embedded being where Logos is immediately primary and productive instantly into our Space-Time-Event-Material world. This turns both paganism and materialism on its head and defines reality as dependent upon Logos.

It is this whole conception of God that Paul reaches to in Acts 17. This is the God to whom we repent: one who is near in time and space and almost entangled with our life-course in the creating of (and thus sustaining of) the world made for us to worship him in.

A world that stands in a continuous ontology between God's Logos, its actions in the creation and our experience of that creation where logos is prior to techne and gives rise to episteme.

Today, we faint before the materialists and put this aside in real terms. We give in to the modern Stoics and Epicureans with their evolution abetted by immense passage of time and swallow their nonsense, bringing home Lyell's hope of detaching our view of the real world from its creator ( ). So repentance becomes a meaningless trope of a vanished and ignorant age in the minds of those we abet in their paganism.

If its not real, then its really nothing.

If the creation account in Genesis 1 and reflected throughout the scriptures being presented as the basis for worship of God is not an account of real events in our space-time-event-material (STEM) world, then its relation to truth is uncertain it and can provide no compelling basis for worship in our STEM life-world and its constituting relationship with the Creator-God.

The 'philosophy' of the Bible is 'concrete realism' of events and relationship in the context of logos dominating the material world. If the creation account is not part of the historical flow of God's relationship with his creature-in-his-image, then it is dislocated and God is 'mythologised', removed from our 'life-world'.  His proximity denied by the materialist alternative of evolution and he is pushed away from us and relationship with us in the totality of the interpenetration of his ontology with ours. Lyell's mission accomplished!


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Surprising questions

I sometimes listen to the Stand to Reason podcasts. More frequently, I read the titles or the blurb, and decide to not listen. Life is too short for the questions some people ask (and some people would see the need to answer):

'God is the threat and a rescuer' (brought to you by Calvin's theology-fiction more a statement than a question!).

'Was there a definite point (sic) in time [moment of time?] when the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant began?'

'Why couldn't Jesus have paid for our sins by dying of old age?' [more amusing than daft]

'How do I answer the challenge that Jesus may have just had a near-death experience?'

'Should we seek interpretations of our dreams as they did in Joseph's day?'

'Would leaving a 'seeker-friendly' church for better teaching be too petty a reason to leave?'

Wow. That's all I can say, 'wow'.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Just an organiser

Thinking about my post on not leading, this came to mind:

A home group that I was part of needed a 'leader'. An older woman, one of the long time members of the church was told she was the leader.

Discussing it with us, she was flipping between being horrified and being overwhelmed. She didn't know what  a 'leader' was. No one told  her.

However, we figured it out: she kept the roster and made sure we all knew the venue as it varied from month to  month.

That was all. She was our organiser. She was great at it.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Why are you a Christian?

There are lots of ways of answering this question. I'll keep writing them up as they come to me (from experience as well as musings).
I was told of a  neat approach at a local high school Christian group: all the seniors were asked for their answer to that question. In one sentence.
A real challenge. Give me 5 minutes or half an hour and I'd be OK. But one sentence?
Let's give it a go:

"The driving factor is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In his resurrection he showed that he had dealt with the final human frustration and guaranteed his chief claim: following him makes you part of God's family."

Monday, August 31, 2020

Don't tell me; show me!

 A friend and I have been discussing the difference between the Koran(/Book of Mormon/Dianetics/Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures/Being and Nothingness/Enuma elish) and the Bible.

The big difference?

In the Bible God, the creator, is personally involved. Mankind is shown as being deeply connected to the person-ness that underpins, defines and sustains all reality. God is palpably there. He knows (us) and is knowable. He comes to us for our benefit even when we push him away. He enables us to understand our person-ness and its root in his own divine-(person)-ness.

From Genesis 1 the Bible unrolls the story of the connection between man and God, creature and creator in a great flow of historical meaning shown through God's actions and his encounters with those who reject him, reap the consequence of rejecting life, and can be finally regenerated to enjoy God forever. The great dynamic rent in history is the defining demonstration: the resurrection of the Christ, God amongst us.

God is ever present, personally available in commutative relationship with his creature (Genesis 1:27) and seeks his creature for that relationship (Genesis 3:8). Not because it would be good for him, but good for us!

God is deeply interested in and in fellowship with man. Throughout the entirety of the Bible.

In the other books I mention above God is a distant figure, a cipher, a place holder with no ontology, personality or passion. They leave us in the existential mess resulting form our living in opposition to God, a mess made worse and not better by the 'gods' of the witch doctors and charlatans who composed these books without knowledge, but full of excuses. More, they leave us adrift and without hope, or without hope as persons. They all deny the base reality we reflect of God: person-ness and connection.

The scriptures address man in his existential and spiritual condition and meet it by the supreme relationship with God who regenerates us for our eternal delight in him that bubbles out in worship, praise and thankfulness.

What is the Bible? Why read it? It is the greatest love story: of the creator who seeks his broken and rebellious creature in his (our) mad pursuit of death and not life, who puts pride before humility and bluster before knowledge, but who is turned from spiritual poverty to the riches of adoption by the creator, now our Father in Heaven.

There is person-hood and relationship throughout the Bible. It is not a book of  rules, but is the genealogy of new life set out by the one who gives it and who shows that he gives it, by showing the facets of the relationship culminating in the supreme demonstration of victory of that which defeats us: death.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

What use are leaders?

The theme at church in the sermon (and see Darryl Erkel on this) was 'leadership' or being a 'leader'.

The sermon was about Solomon and his wisdom to exemplify the theme.

All fine, as far as it went (see Darryl's article again), but it went the wrong way.

We in the modern west seem obsessed by 'leadership': in churches, in politics, in business. None of this is right, particularly for Christians. We have one leader, Christ (Matthew 23:10).

Leader in modern usage has more to do with the often hubristic heroic 'leader' of business. I'm pleased that Mintzberg deplores this as much as I do. If there is 'leading' it is the social influence component of management (in an organisation context). Mintzberg talks, rather, about 'communityship'.

Leadership as we seem to operationalise it in the church is an artifact of media hero-worship, but Paul describes communityship. Groups of people interacting to achieve a common goal. Any organisation, including a value-producing organisation is in effect a 'community of specified purpose'. Everyone is there to do something specific for the jointly produced value.

Now, bring this back to church. Paul tells us we all have a ministry: that is, we all serve the body of all Christians in some way. What characterises ministries is the span of responsibility and the administrative conditions of the ministry. The specific content just follows.

What is essential in all ministries is responsibility.

The oxymoronic idea of 'servant-leadership' seeks to get around this by having the worst of both worlds, it is a sad compromise where 'servant' and 'leadership' mutually destruct.

Every ministry in the church is about serving the church: teaching, administering (i.e. planning, budgeting, taking minutes, organising, convening, coordinating), etc.

But, paradoxically, or maybe not, elevating some as 'leaders' disempowers all others and defeats the gospel. It tears the practice of discipleship away from everyone who is not a 'leader'. And we wonder why the church is disempowered. It has disempowered itself!

At church the Archbishop of Sydney was interviewed (by video link). He talked about 'leadership'. Not once did he talk purely about service (except for a tipping the hat to 'servant-leadership', so, not really), or about responsibility, about equipping people, about ensuring people were encouraged to do their ministry. Not a word. It was all about the splendour or the hierarchy. Thus, is the reformation a forlorn gesture that has merely replaced Rome with lots of little Romes.

I contrast this with the Army's approach to leading. The best little text on this is by Jans "Leadership Secrets of the Australian Army".

A similar pedigree attaches to Adair's triangle of leading: its about the individual, the team and the mission.

In my Army training (at OCTU, as I already had a degree) it was emphasised that the officer's major job was the welfare of his men. Pity the church doesn't seem to have this mind.

In church circles it's never about the one responsible but those for whom one is responsible, or so it seems. And that word, 'responsible', is too often missing from the hollow rhetoric of leading, which itself should be expunged from the church.

Instead? Most 'leaders' in the church are organisers or coordinators, even managers, sometimes mentors or coaches, educators, facilitators, supporters, secretary. Use those words instead, they are far more reflective of the calling of the church and tend to make people accessible in their roles instead of isolating them with the diadem of 'leader'. Others are teachers, preachers, evangelists, etc. Words are descriptive of roles, not titles of persons.

Similarly, we don't 'lead' discussions, services, youth groups. We conduct services, we moderate discussion (moderator like the Presbyterians: I like it), we minister to youth groups, and the youth themselves are trained up as organisers, ministers, enablers, even helpers. "I help the youth group organise/run/grow.", "I help our youth group to run/operate/organise/disciple its members".

Darryl Erkel has the last word.