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.

Christingle

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? ...read 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?.

Bible.org 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?

Yes.

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.

Bible

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?

Islam

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.”

 

Extraordinary!

 Read all about it here.