Reflections on changing church
‘People who hop from church to church, you can tell their conversion don’t amount to much.’
(Denomination blues, song by Washington Phillips, recorded by Ry Cooder)
I am in the processing of transferring my commitment from a small village Anglican church (won’t say which) to a large city Evangelical church which is affiliated to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC). These are some very non exhaustive notes on the why and what of that decision, written partly for Mr Happy Jack of the Cranmer blog, but you can read them too. I’ll try not to be vindictive, petty, triumphalist or nasty in any other sort of way, but one does not leave a church, a bank or a marriage if one is happy or if one could see a way of realistically amending what was significantly unsatisfactory. I’ll try to keep this short and relevant while keeping back anything that could sound mean.
I never really was an Anglican. Circumstances took us to the place where we now live and it made sense to attend the local church. It suited other members of my family better than me. Over time a lot of the people who saw things theologically more my way have gone. The C of E is a broad church which is often thought of as a three legged stool the three legs, or wings being Reformed/Evangelical, Liberal and Catholic. Some Anglican churches are much more Evangelical. The church I am leaving has moved, as I see it, in an increasingly more Roman and liberal direction, I have moved in a more Evangelical and reformed direction. That about covers it, without getting too personal.
Above Bar Church (ABC) is a well established and well regarded Bible church. I used to go there with other students when I was a new believer in the 1970s, and their main beliefs and style of meetings have not changed since then. Attendance has risen, the morning service is repeated at 9.15 and 11.00 as there are too many people to pack in at once. The heart of the service is a solid half hour to 40 minute Bible sermon, not the preacher’s latest thing but steadily working through the books of the Bible. The web site has archived sermons going back to 2007 at least and ABC takes (cliché alert) ‘a high view of Scripture’. For the last year or so I have been listening to podcast sermons and I like what I hear. Must be careful about terms like ‘like’ as I don’t want to imply that we should take a consumerist view of church. The Christian must be a servant of the Lord and be humble, not boastful. Anyway, I have been going to ABC since mid December and found the sermons very biblical, the worship a mixture of good old hymns and modern ones (I prefer the old, probably some of the younger people prefer the new, and probably someone has thought about this and tried to please everyone. I like that.) Also they have not got a font but a well-they baptise believers, not infants, and by full immersion. Just like in the Bible.
There are lots of activities going on with an emphasis on reaching out, at home and abroad, in development and relief projects and in preaching the Gospel too-both, not one or the other. I like that too. There was a Christmas appeal which raised £20,000 which will be divided between a local food bank and a TEAR fund project in Haiti which some church members are going out to help at this autumn. I like that too. I have been invited to a men’s breakfast soon where the issue of sexual temptation ‘playing with fire’ will be discussed. The church is not ‘obsessed with sex’ as the tired cliché goes but recognises the dangers that lurk for ‘people like us’, not least in on line pornography. I have heard this warned against from the pulpit at ABC, although the subject was never mentioned in the last 15 years at my Anglican church. Anglicans are too ‘nice’ for things like that, apparently.
There is a football oriented group (not for me, but for some) an over 50s group (for me) a politics discussion group (yes please) and no doubt more. I have been invited to a ‘beginners group’ which run regularly and I will be attending. Best of all perhaps, a few old friends from university days recognised and welcomed me.
But why are there divisions and different sects and denominations in the church? In a word, because of error. Paul wrote about this to the Corinthians, deploring error but commending those who separated themselves from it. Error exists. As John Risbridger was preaching from Revelation this very Sunday, yesterday as I write, we are in a battle and we have an enemy, one Mr Satan. There is no point denying this, and if we are to say that there is no devil, then we are calling Jesus a liar for he often referred to him. And as John preached, one of Satan’s strategies is to inspire false teachers to lead men astray. Again, Jesus preached about false teachers, so did Paul and Peter, John and Jude. And if there are false teachers, then we must beware of them. And what is the best defence against false teaching? True teaching.
And how do we know what true teaching is? Well, the Bible would be a good start. And a good middle and end. In fact, let’s just put human wisdom and tradition to one side and just teach the Bible systematically and have done with it. And this is what ABC does, and has done since I was a student, and what the Church of England does a bit of, some of the time, and much more in some local churches than others. The Pilling report on human sexuality exemplifies the way that the C of E seems embarrassed by the bible, especially when it conflicts with popular opinion. I wrote to my Anglican bishop about the Pilling report which seems to me not merely to make a seriously incorrect decision, but to do so via an unbiblical process-asking for the opinion of radical pressure groups and trying to court popularity with unchurched people. I received a polite but non committal reply. For me, this wasn’t good enough.
Anyhow, I had to make a choice. Thinking about the standard criticism of quitters ‘if you don’t like things, stay and change them’ my response tends to be-at the Anglican church I am moving on from, people evidently like ritual, processions, gowns, choral anthems (some in Latin) candles, icons and the occasional Hail Mary. And hymns I find mostly dull or (in the case of John Bell’s work) infuriating in their liberal assumptions. If I asked them to change to accommodate my preferences, perhaps they might say ‘we’re happy, why don’t you go somewhere they do things your way?’ (And in fact, a former rector said exactly that to a number of us who asked for change. Several families acted on his advice.).Which would be fair enough. So I have moved on t somewhere more in tune with my deeply held beliefs, with no ill will and without ruling out popping in for the occasional evensong or Messy Church if they ask me to play guitar. Anyhow, in the circumstances I see myself more of a joiner than a quitter.
Division and arguing is not good and I hope I have kept this polite. But we can’t avoid the fact that Jesus brought division, because He was The Truth and some people found the truth very inconvenient. That’s why they killed Him.
A friend posted on the Cranmer blog that whatever church I joined would let me down. I get that. It’s not ‘church’ that meets our needs, but Jesus. I hope I won’t let them or more importantly Him down.
There is an interesting discussion (the usual atheist and Roman Catholic trolling apart) on the Cranmer blog (see right for link) concerning the story of David Silvester, a UKIP counsellor at Henley on Thames who has outraged BBC and much other opinion by sentiments expressed in a letter and interview. Sylvester expressed the belief that God was judging Britain through the recent floods because as a nation we had abandoned him, not least as exemplified by changing the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples.
Enough has been written in robust criticism of Silvester’s thinking from both Christian and non Christian viewpoints (see Cranmer’s post, this morning’s Radio 4 Thought For The Day, numerous blog posts and tweets etc) to make it superfluous for me to add anything. I am as familiar as the next bible student with the words of Jesus about the tower of Siloam, which were cited on TFTD this morning. What he actually said was
‘….those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13 1-5)
So it wasn’t so much that Jesus said that the victims of this disaster were innocent, but that we were all guilty and standing in danger of judgment. The first part is usually quoted and the second, which makes the real point, omitted.
It is the same with the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11). People always quote the text where Jesus says ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone at her’ and then when nobody does, says to her ‘neither do I condemn you.’ But the punch line ‘go and SIN NO MORE’ is generally left out.
Anyway, back to David Silvester. Was he being as barmy as almost everyone seems to be saying? To avoid misrepresentation, I must say that I think he was out of order to say what he did and it was right of UKIP to suspend him, not for holding the views -UKIP accepts for example Hindu members, who believe in reincarnation and that misfortune in this life is deserved punishment for offences in former lives. This belief is highly offensive to most people but most people don’t mind Hindus believing it. Silvester was disciplined for giving the BBC an interview which he must have known would be used against the party. But could Silvester be right to believe what he said? I speak as one who does his inadequate best to follow Jesus and who believes with other Christians the creedal statement that Jesus will ‘come again in glory to judge the living and the dead’. Preaching about the coming Judgment, although central to Jesus’ mission and message, has fallen out of favour. In many Anglican churches you are more likely to hear a vicar preaching about Palestinian rights, global warming or homophobia.
Has God judged and punished whole nations in the past? And could He, will He do it again? A non-exhaustive study of the Old Testament brings up the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by fire from above for their wickedness (including but not limited to sexual sin see Ezekiel 16:49-50, Jude verse 7), the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-11) and indeed His own people Israel whom He punished many times for their apostasy, idolatry, cruelty towards the poor, adultery, child sacrifice and other sins. See for example the books of Judges and Jeremiah to see how often God punished Israel for national waywardness. I have no intention in this post of attempting to justify or explain this harsh justice, merely to record the fact of it. So, has the God of the Jews and Christians punished whole nations for national sins in history. Yes.
But it has all changed since Jesus came, hasn’t it? Well in one sense, yes, but in a more important and eternal sense, no. The greatest judgments are yet to come, as we read in the Gospels and Revelation particularly. This still doesn’t mean that David Silvester is right to blame our national sin let alone to single out homosexual issues for the terrible weather we have been having lately.
In church last Sunday before this blew up in the national media, John Risbridger was preaching on Revelation chapters 8-11. You can download the whole sermon as a podcast from the Above Bar Church web site . The plagues of Revelation, which we are left in no doubt are cast upon the earth by a (rightly) angry and judgmental God, are described. Risbridger said that he did not see most of these fearful judgments being single one-off future events but more to do with the harms that come upon us generally as a result of our foolish decision to try to live without God, although he said there would be some particular and finally awful future judgments. But I was particularly struck by Revelation 9:20-21 where we read ‘ But the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship idols…and did not repent of their murders, or their sorceries or their sexual immoralities or their thefts.’
So, in the light of revelation 9:20-21 and as seen from a bible believing Christian’s perspective, is David Silvester still looking quite so much of a fruitcake?
David Cameron, our Prime Minister who calls himself a Christian and a Conservative, bulldozed though a same sex marriage bill that was not in any party manifesto and despite rigged opinion polls was not generally wanted by the British people. It will have significant effects on our national way of life that cannot be predicted, not least as it will cost his party so many votes that it will greatly assist Labour at the 2015 election.
(Incidentally, UKIP policy is to be fully accepting of same sex civil partnerships but to oppose same sex ‘marriage’ as it is not necessary (given civil partnership), will offend many more people that it pleases, and is extremely likely to be used by gay activists as a battering ram under European ‘Human Rights’ laws to force churches who oppose it to carry out such ceremonies. This could at least split or even lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England. The latter may be right or it may be wrong, but has not been openly discussed and it seems unlikely that most people would welcome it. Peter Tatchell, the main proponent of same sex marriage, is also an outspoken anti monarchist. At least you know where you are with him.)
This same David Cameron tried to get Britain to commit armed forces on one side (the same side as the Saudi backed Al Nusra Front) in the murderous Syrian civil war, and was only stopped in Parliament by a frighteningly narrow margin despite well over 80% of ordinary voters including every single person I spoke to being against it. It should be noted that the Syrian rebels when they started the war were hoping to provoke/blackmail the west to intervene as we had in the earlier Arab civil war in Libya. So to that extent, the death of over 100,000 mainly civilians and the severe persecution of Christians in Syria is David Cameron, Barak Obama’s and France’s fault for giving the rebels cause to hope we would step in to finish what they, with their eyes open, started.
Please remind me, who is the dangerous lunatic here?
Cameron’s opposite number, another politically correct sexual revolutionary Ed Milliband, seems likely to become Prime Minister after the next election. He is a deficit denying Marxist who was fully involved in the last Labour government which took us to war in Iraq in 2003 with such utterly disastrous results. They also ran up the largest debt this country had ever known, borrowing money our children and grandchildren will have to pay back. The money wasn’t even spent wisely, mainly swelling welfare, creating new QUANGOs and government non-jobs, failed grandiose schemes like the NHS computer system (£12, 000, 000, 000 wasted on a vanity project that we didn’t need and was never going to work) various electoral bribes and of course the Iraq war. Plus mass immigration as a tool of social policy (Google Andrew Neather + immigration). Milliband has never apologised for a thing or given the slightest credible indication that he won’t repeat the same failed policies when he gets into power in 2015.
The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, is another sexual libertarian who has admitted to having sex with 30 women and perhaps his own history and attitude is making it harder for him to manage the Lord Rennard affair effectively. After all, ‘Lord’ Rennard only (allegedly) asked women to go to bed with him. What’s wrong with that? Nick Clegg must have done the same at least 30 times (assuming no refusals) unless he has mastered telepathy.
My points are that (A) David Silvester (who has been disciplined by his party and become a national figure of fun and/or hate for suggesting that God punishes wickedness) is not so way off the Christian main stream as certain Christian commentators are saying, and that (B) our ‘normal’ politicians who are far too clever and well schooled in the arts of deception to reveal their true feelings on controversial issues as David Silvester has are a mutually appointed gang of dangerous revolutionaries who are wrecking our nation by stupid irresponsible policies.
The wrath of God is superfluous, we are doomed anyway with a shower like Cameron, Clegg and Milliband running the show.
I admit to being a member of UKIP and suspect that some UKIP members, especially former Conservatives (as David Silvester is) are in fact still loyal Tories, moles and sleepers waiting for the order to come out with something crazy to help the BBC with its anti UKIP campaign. Of course I would not dare to make such an assertion against any named individual, due to the lack of evidence that would stand up in court in the face of the oppressive UK libel laws. But this is not about that. It’s about the much more serious issue of people believing that it is inherently absurd to suggest that God punishes nations for their wickedness and that we can freely disdain His commands. He does and we can’t.
Just seen this post on the Cherson and Molschy blog. http://chersonandmolschky.com/category/immigration/ following a discussion on the Archbishop Cranmer blog http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/ about the question of persecution of Christians. This subject was brought up in church yesterday where the preacher, John Risbridger at Above Bar Church, Southampton is working through the book of Revelation. He mentioned the persecution of Christians, which the Open Doors organisation said led to 2,031 deaths world wide in 2103, double the number for the previous year. Risbridger used a photo including some dead bodies (the children had gone out to their activity) from the Pakistani church bombing last year which caused over 70 deaths.
How to discuss persecution and related issues without being accused of paranoia, Islamophobia? And how to discuss mass immigration without being called a racist bigot? The fact that the questions can be asked is itself indicative of the fact that we may feel inhibited by aspects of the culture from raising difficult issues. I certainly feel nervous raising the issues.
I was in London at Christmas and in Regent Street on Boxing day I felt as if I was in a foreign city. All kinds of non-English languages were being spoken by predominantly darker skinned people all around me in the crowd, hardly anyone I heard was speaking English. The forgoing 2 sentences are simple statements of fact, if you had been there you could not have failed to make the same observation. But what about my feelings? According to various ‘enlightened’ opinion leaders especially on the liberal left side of things, I am supposed to call this ‘vibrant’ and like it. If I don’t like it, I’m a bad person. In any event, I don’t have any choice about it.
Cherson and Molschy point out in the above linked article that Britain received some 250,000 immigrants between 1066 and 1948, but now receives double that number EVERY YEAR. But it is simply unacceptable in polite society to express anxiety or disapproval about this. The roads and rail are choked, our hospitals especially Accident and Emergency and Midwifery services are struggling to cope (many heavily pregnant women come from overseas to give birth in Britain, in order to get free health care). And our schools are struggling to cope not least due to language difficulties.
The public were never asked to vote on this. Revelations by Andrew Neather and Peter Mandelson reveal that there was a deliberate, but secret, Labour government policy to engineer mass immigration in order to pursue social and political ends. It is in the interests of socialists to bring in many immigrants-they tend to vote socialist, and so do the 5 million or so benefit dependents of working age with whom immigrants compete (successfully) for low paid work. These people will all vote Labour too.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is the large number of Muslims who have come here. They typically send home to Pakistan or Bangladesh for marriage partners for sons and daughters, which has the dual effect of increasing numbers (since the spouse gets UK citizenship) and reducing the prospects of integration by making sure English will always be a second language at home.
I’ve already posted enough to get me into deep trouble. I don’t hate men and women who happen to be Muslims, but I have read the Quran and studied a bit of history and taken a look at the results of Islam round the world. The Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia who have found themselves being kidnapped, shot, blown up, burned or beheaded are not imagining things. The killers of Lee Rigby specifically cited the Quran as justification for his murder. It is very instructive to note British commentators, not least Prime Minister David Cameron, bending over backwards to deny that Islam had any role in Rigby’s murder. Funny that. You might think that his killer Michael Adebulajo, knowing that what he was doing would lead to death or life imprisonment, would have known what his motivation was. Lee Rigby’s killer, was quite clear that ‘Muhammad told him to do it’ and brandished a Quran during his trial. So why is David Cameron so certain Adebulajo was mistaken? Does he know the killer’s mind better than he did? Even if he WAS mistaken in believing that the Quran justifies the killing of infidels, aren’t Cameron and all the other apologists for Islam just a teeny bit concerned that other Quran readers might make exactly the same misjudgement?
Having read the Quran, I can see very clearly why anyone might think that the book is a death warrant for Jews, polytheists, Christians and Western Civilisation. Because it bloody well is, as so many have found to their cost. Don’t take my word for this, read it yourself. If that’s too much trouble, just Google on ‘Quran war verses’ or spend a few minutes on www.jihadwatch.com or www.thereligionofpeace.com specifically http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/quran/023-violence.htm where the war verses are analysed in the context of Muslim denials.
None of the above should be taken as an incitement to hate people or take any uncharitable actions. But history tells us that while at times and places Muslims have lived sort of peacefully alongside others, Islam’s holy book most certainly does insist on world domination by all means necessary including the sword and during history Islam periodically has gone through phases of aggressive expansion during which Muslim armies, including the unweaponed armies of mass immigration, conquer territory and Islamicise it, always permanently. If we are living in or at the start of such a period of history, and there is at least some evidence pointing that way, denying it or calling people Islamophobic racist bigots won’t make it go away.
C S Lewis wrote that he had no objection to an Anglican (or other) clergyman losing his faith and ceasing to accept the teachings of the church. That was his right. Obviously, Lewis spent a great part of his life writing to persuading people to accept and follow the Christian religion on the grounds that it was true, so he would regret someone walking away from the Faith, but he was against compulsory religion. What Lewis went on to say he objected to was someone changing his beliefs but continuing to wear a dog collar and draw a salary as a minister after he had stopped believing. And so we come to the ‘Reverend’ Giles Fraser, the well known BBC vicar. He has spouted some highly unorthodox views before now but his broadcast yesterday morning on ‘Thought For The Day’ on Radio 4 Today programme took the biscuit.
Fraser is a privileged man. He and I both have free speech, but he has a much bigger platform. He enjoys the favour of the BBC and is a regular contributor to the 3 minute Thought For The Day (TFTD) spot on the flagship Radio 4 Today programme. He is free to give a religious commentary, broadly interpreted, on any subject, to an audience of millions, a freedom granted to few. How did he use this freedom to serve Christ on this occasion (10th January 2014)? There are plenty of things worth commenting on, the Mark Duggan lawful killing verdict and responses to it, civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Africa (in which you might think a Christian commentator had an interest since Christians are being murdered by Muslim militias) the housing crisis (so much worse due to easy divorce and state subsidised large scale single parenthood), or our national debt. For starters. There is a Christian angle on all these things which deserves to be heard more than it is. Within the limits of BBC censorship, he could have used his pulpit to put forwards arguments for the Gospel, as Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist TFTD speakers use it to promote their beliefs.
He chose instead to blame ‘homophobia’ for the historic suicide of the footballer Justin Fashanu, a promiscuous homosexual who was wanted by Maryland police for alleged sexual assault on a teenage boy. Fashanu fled the USA to escape accountability. Oddly enough, that detail wasn’t mentioned by Fraser, who blamed ‘homophobia’ for making Fashanu hang himself, not the fact that the police wanted to question him about an alleged sexual assault. Fraser also compared homosexual ‘coming out’ with the Christian New Birth, mangling the words of Jesus and a favourite Charles Wesley hymn in support of this, while accusing supporters of traditional/Biblical sexual behaviour of being ‘wicked’. So its fine to cruise gay bars for casual sex, but wicked to disapprove of this. That is ‘Reverend’ Giles Fraser’s theology which he calls ‘love’ and calls on Jesus to support.
Particularly offensive was his use of the words of Jesus ‘the truth shall make you free’ in the context of homosexual ‘coming out’. This phrase was truncated and lifted out of context, as it is said ‘A text out of context is a pretext’. Jesus actually said, ‘If you continue as my disciples (i.e. if you DO AS I TELL YOU) then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.’ (John 8:32) For Fraser to misuse scripture in this way surely disqualifies him from any pretence of being able to call himself a minister of Christ.
The assertion that ‘Jesus never forbade gay sex so therefore it can be assumed to be allowed’ is fatuous nonsense. Jesus never mentioned drunkenness, rape or kidnapping either. Jesus upheld Moses and after His Ascension sent the Holy Spirit to inspire the Apostles, who gave us the Epistles and Revelation which roundly condemn sexual immorality whether heterosexual or other. Jesus unequivocally condemned adultery (e.g. Matthew 16:4, Luke 16:18, John 8:1-11) and referred to God’s creation order for marriage as an enduring pattern of normality, citing Genesis as authority (Matthew 19:4-8). People who mangle and twist scripture like Fraser and his friends in the ‘gay Christian’ lobby should not be in church leadership, it is highly questionable whether they should be admitted to church membership. Or indeed whether Christians in churches infested by their views commit sin by remaining in fellowship with them. See Revelation 2:20 where the spirit of the risen Christ berated the church of Thyatira for ‘..tolerating that witch Jezebel’ who was tempting the church into sexual immorality.
Fraser used the word ‘love’ to mean man on man sex, as if the word can be legitimately used this way without qualification. Obviously he has not read C S Lewis’ ‘The Four Loves’, or else refuses it’s lessons. Of course and as always, (see earlier blog post ‘Christian bigots kill sweet young gay man’) homosexual genital activity is presented as ‘love’ with never a mention of the rampant promiscuity which this lifestyle routinely includes, as testified by the massively increased rate of sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhoea, viral warts (causing anal cancer) etc in this group. To hear Fraser and other homophiles go on, you would think that ‘gay’ people were into courtship, engagement and chastity before first physical intimacy on their ‘wedding night’ instead of cruising the gay clubs and bars for dozens of semi random encounters each year, sometimes hundreds. Fashanu’s Wikipedia entry suggests a promiscuous lifestyle. Did he ‘love’ all the men he picked up for a night of sensual gratification? For Fraser to equate ‘love’ with casual sex with multiple partners is an outrageous abuse of language, never mind Scripture. Why do we allow ourselves to be conned like this?
At least you know where you stand with Giles Fraser. With the heterodox entity masquerading as our national church. (see 2 Peter 2:1-2, Jude 3-10).
I post this with some trepidation, knowing the tactic of today’s anti-Christians. They attack the church on sexual morality, and then when we respond by restating the Biblical position, accuse us of being obsessed with the subject. Then the fear of falling into this propaganda trap and being smeared as sex-obsessed (whereas it is the world that is obsessed with sex, not the church) bullies us into silence. Neat, eh? But he who remains silent is deemed to assent, and he who assents to heresy will enjoy the reward of a heretic.
Fraser of course accepts evolution and has in the past used his TFTD pulpit to attack Christians who trust the Bible on origins rather than Richard Dawkins. One thing leads to another, if you can’t trust the first book of the Bible, including by the way the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for amongst other things (Ezekiel 16) ‘going after strange flesh’ (Jude) then why trust the rest of it? Just go with the flow, be ‘relevant’, don’t trust those ‘wicked’ fundamentalists. Go for modern peer-reviewed rainbow religion, kick out that sad legalistic misogynist bigot Paul and embrace the gospel of ‘love’. I have written about this in my Kindle novel ‘Darwin’s Adders’.
The New Testament warns repeatedly against false teachers WITHIN the church (it is taken as read that those outside whether pagans, atheists or others will teach and practice error concerning the Creator God). To be relaxed about this problem ‘Hey man, let’s not judge!’ is to disobey the Scriptures that explicitly and repeatedly command us to watch out for these infiltrators with their lawlessness and different gospels (Galatians). The Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures does not waste words: the need to be on constant guard against false teachers is a major theme of Jesus and the Apostles, coming up in almost every book of the New Testament. So how dare we ignore the issue of heresy?
False teaching with its desire to avoid criticism or other discomfort, be friends with the world and its talk of ‘interpretation’ (i.e. twist the Bible to our own preference as Fraser does here) begins at the beginning, the book of Genesis which tells us where we came from, how things went wrong, and how God proposes to rescue some of us. Yes, some of us. Read the parable of the wheat and the tares. It could be you, but that’s out of my hands.
One thing’s for sure, there are heretics about, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they are attractive and plausible, just like any practiced con man, kidnapper or assassin. Just as Lucifer came over as reasonable and persuasive when he smooth talked Eve into ‘interpreting’ God’s explicit command to mean the opposite of what it said. Which when you think of it is what the theistic evolutionists, sexual revolutionaries and other heretics in the Church are doing. ‘Yeah, hath God indeed said?’ Genesis 3:1
Evolutionism, the belief that the universe was not created by the direct action of a Sovereign God but formed itself and then formed life from atoms and energy is bad science but also, in Christian terms, a heresy. I call it a gateway heresy, as it opens the door to other false beliefs. One of these is antinomianism, the belief that because ‘we are forgiven’ we don’t have to obey God’s righteous laws. Another is Gnosticism, the idea that there is secret knowledge vouchsafed only to certain insiders (as opposed to the revelation of Jesus Christ, which is open to all who will come). Gnosticism also is very vague about sin with a tendency to permissiveness. Both of these heresies are attractive to people who don’t like being told they must repent their sins, especially perhaps their sexual sins. There is plenty of evidence that when Christians wholeheartedly swallow the Darwin Mythos they are more likely to fall prey to other deceptions. I am sure this is one reason for the popularity of evolutionism. It gets rid of the image of God as a severe judge of our sins, including although not limited to our sexual sins. And sin can be a lot of fun in the short term (but see Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.
I confess that I have never seen the culturally iconic Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’ although I have seen several clips and heard much discussion of the film and the controversy about it over the last 30 years. I do know what it and the Pythons are about, but genuinely never felt like seeing the film. Anyhow, this post isn’t so much about the film as about the self justifying words of Michael Palin and John Cleese whom I heard on Radio 4 Today programmes on Monday this week. Palin was given the opportunity to edit the 3 hour main news programme: how lovely for him to be given such a privileged platform. He and Cleese chatted about a televised debate about the film that had been broadcast on ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ when the film came out in 1979. A few selected excerpts were played as the two Great Men congratulated themselves for being so wonderful and having defeated their foes in debate.
The opponents were the elderly and very eccentric Catholic broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood the bishop of Southwark. Cleese said in the most contemptuous terms they were boring and stupid and did very badly. By all accounts, neither put up a very good set of criticisms of the film, and what is sadder for me is that neither put up a good intellectual case for the Christian religion being true. Apparently neither thought it was necessary to do so, and thought that ‘Life of Brian’ was a mucky little film that would be forgotten and sink without impact. In this they were evidently much mistaken. But does it follow that because Christianity was not effectively and energetically defended on that particular occasion, that it is not possible to defend it well? Was this such a ‘famous victory’ that it deserved 10 minutes of celebration on prime time national radio 34 years later?
As Cleese put it this week, he felt that no intellectual case for Christianity was put. Well, he has had thirty years to reflect. Was he saying that the Python team had met their enemy, beaten him soundly, and that that was that? I don’t know, because as always on the BBC whenever some ‘right on’ personality comes on (don’t forget Palin was editing) there was no dissenting opinion or awkward questioning allowed from an articulate Bible believing Christian. Of course they wheeled on a BBC vicar the ‘Professor of Biblical Interpretation’ Richard Burridge who is organising a conference on the Pythons and took their side. He had a good chuckle and expressed disappointment at the poor performance of Muggeridge and bishop.
Cleese, Palin and the rest of their friends have always denied that the film was anti Christian. They say that they saw it as ‘making people think’. Yet from their actual words, then and now, they clearly despised and still despise people who follow Jesus, labelling us hypocrites, bigots, warmongers and stupid. What, really, all of us? Not even slightly unfair, generalising or lacking in objective judgment? And if the people who follow Christianity are so vile, then surely Christianity must be vile too? Just a hint of cowardice perhaps? Hate Christianity (its certainly a very inconvenient religion for someone so often divorced as Cleese) but not quite the gall to attacks it directly, so make fun of its followers.
The reverend Professor Burridge on Monday’s programme said that the initial working title of ‘Life of Brian’ was ‘Jesus Christ, Lust for Glory’ but apparently when they did some research they realised that it would not be possible to make fun of Jesus in that way. Cleese and Palin didn’t mention this, perhaps it might have sullied their ‘we’re not anti Jesus’ credentials. Perhaps they weren’t brave enough, or perhaps the film’s backers told them it might lose money if it directly attacked Jesus. I don’t know, the interview was as I have said entirely one sided.
Palin made fun of the bishop (putting on an annoying silly voice) for going on about ‘the Incarnation of our Lord’ instead of making an intellectual defence of Christianity. Fair comment, Christian leaders (if Anglican bishops can be said to be that these days, or even then) need to do much better. Many have done, they were not mentioned in this self congratulatory piece. But even so, is this a fair criticism? If Christianity is true, then ‘The Incarnation of our Lord’ , that God became man in Jesus in order to save us from our sins and allow us to become adopted into God’s family and receive the gift of eternal life, IS actually the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. If Muggeridge and the bishop failed as accused to make the intellectual case that Christianity was true, then Cleese and Palin certainly made no intellectual case that it was NOT true. They just employed their trademark knowing, sneering, self satisfied mockery of what is held sacred, a style which they dignify with the term ‘iconoclasm’.
He said ‘Don’t just believe because someone in a pulpit tells you to, work it out for yourself’. Well I agree with that and put it into practice, as I will discuss in a near future post about why I am leaving the Anglican church, but do Palin and Cleese practice what they preach? Cleese made some great swelling assertions about the authenticity and authorship of the Gospels which were pure atheist tripe that a proper scholar could knock flat in 5 minutes, proving that he wasn’t particularly good at following his own advice to research things properly before basing your life on them.
He described himself as approaching Christianity and finding it ‘a tenth rate series of platitudes’. And what was he offering instead? Would he describe ‘thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ as a tenth rate platitude? So knowing. So wise. Such a tosser.
Cleese and Palin accused Christians of following ‘the exact opposite’ of what their religion taught, accused churchgoers of ‘..going to church, singing hymns, and then standing by while their money was spent on guns and bombs’. What on earth is that about? In what sense were Christians doing that in the sense that everyone else was not doing exactly the same because in fact they had no choice? Was Palin preaching obligatory pacifism including national defencelessness? Was he saying that Christianity implied pacifism and that therefore these hypocritical churchgoers should have refused to pay their taxes and been sent to prison for it until Britain disarmed unilaterally? As it stands this is rank nonsense and a blanket accusation against all Christians of being hypocrites, which of course by implication (but not by any facts or arguments) the Monty Python team were not.
Cleese said haughtily about this interview, their famous victory, that ‘…there is still no attempt at a proper discussion…it remains the case now that there is no attempt at a proper discussion about religion.’ Excuse me, where has he looked for such a discussion? If C S Lewis is too old hat, has he tried reading Lee Strobel? Or any of the many other educated Christians who have mounted an intellectual case for their faith? Of course if he watches the BBC he will never see a rational discussion of Christianity there by someone who actually believes the Bible is true. It’s not allowed. So he is wrong on the facts again. Or perhaps ‘not even wrong’? The ‘knowing’ sneers that are so often used to dismiss reasoned arguments about faith are part of the Python’s legacy. Cleese gives the impression of being so in love with a vision of himself as a wise, thoughtful, fair minded person that he thinks that all he has to do is make a bold statement and that itself establishes his opinion as fact. And he accuses others of failing to engage with the facts and arguments?
I remember seeing Cleese on TV around the time of this film, it may have even been an interview from the set, saying that when he heard swearing on a TV show he always made a point of writing in to say that he approved and enjoyed it, in opposition to the old fogeys like Muggeridge who objected. Well John Cleese, you were successful in this matter. As you put it, you won. Our schoolchildren are foul mouthed, dumbed down and believe in nothing except their own rights. We have a failing, hedonistic, disrespectful society which hails you and others like you as cultural heroes. Your self-serving ‘iconoclasm’ helped to create a vacuous, populist cynicism as you smashed down the foundational values of the society that had fed, protected and educated you and put nothing in its place.
Interestingly, Palin chose as his ‘Thought for the day’ speaker a Hindu, who fluffed her words and was talking about reincarnation as if it were an established fact. Was this Palin being ‘ironic’ (a term that excuses everything in these post-Python days) or was he taking the piss, or does he think that Hinduism is as valid as Christianity. Which, incidentally, Charles Darwin wrote in a letter was his opinion.
John Cleese, you were never as funny, clever, brave or original as you love to believe. You are a sad, faded cultural icon of a decaying civilisation. In the coming Judgment, Mary Whitehouse and even Malcolm Muggeridge will be called as witnesses against you. And your mate Michael Palin won’t be writing the script or preventing hostile questions being asked then.
PS Michael Palin, do you get bored of people asking you when you are going to film ‘Life of Muhammad?’
I don’t know who was behind the Lockerbie bombing but have always suspected it was done by a third party on behalf of the Iranian government in revenge for the Iranian civilian airliner Iran Air flight 665 that was shot down some months earlier in a stupid error by a US naval ship. About the same number of people died, nearly 300, and in the same way, but they were only Arabs so we don’t hear so much about it.
Lockerbie was of course a dastardly crime. Just like the thousands of unrecorded massacres of civilians that have happened in Africa and the Middle East and elsewhere before and since, mainly involving poor people with dark skins who die by guns, machetes or, as George Orwell put it ‘smelly diseases’ far from any journalist. We don’t hear so much about those victims. Dr Jim Swire, who gave up his career as a family doctor to campaign for truth and justice over Lockerbie, was on the radio today saying that his daughter was intelligent and she would have wanted the truth to come out, about why the victims’ lives were not protected. He is not satisfied and will never stop campaigning. He is not alone, I heard many voices bemoaning the lack of ‘closure’ and that ‘our wounds are not being allowed to heal.’
Not being allowed to heal-by whom?
As a former doctor, Swire should know better than to suppose that there is always a satisfying answer or that there was always something that could and should have been done to avoid the bad outcome. And that therefore someone is culpable, and that therefore we would be happy if they were ‘brought to justice’. Life is SO much messier than that. Doctors of all people, and perhaps especially GPs (I was a GP for nearly 3 decades), ought to know that problems have a habit of presenting themselves in complex and unexpected ways that defy solution or even definition. Things are often not what they seem, causes are usually multifactorial, bad people with a motive and resources will always look for a weak point to exploit. He should also know that bereavement, however painful and unfair, is and always has been a fact of life, and should be dealt with wisely. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for weeping and also a time to conclude weeping and get on with life with all its messiness and potential.
Jim Swire once had a daughter and a career as a doctor. Now he has neither. Whether he made a careful and informed choice that it was wise to abandon his medical career to pursue ‘truth and justice’ or whether he was gripped by passions so strong that he could not resist them, I do not know. What I do know is that he has no way of knowing whether his daughter would have preferred him to have mourned her for 6 months or a year and then got back to caring or to have made a new career out of being permanently engaged in demanding ‘justice’. Maybe devoting his life to a memorial hospital in a poor country where daughters die of easily treated diseases. I do not know and I do not judge, I’m just out to break the taboo of the bereaved person’s quest for justice that cannot be questioned because, like, they are very upset and their loved one was special.
The accusations that still fly around about cover ups and lax security imply that whatever happened to the victims, however much had been done to protect them and however skilful and dastardly the plot against them was devised and delivered, it was someone’s responsibility to have stopped it happening. And its really their fault. I am not accusing Swire of saying this, he seems a very polite and balanced man. I’m really sorry for him-he lost a daughter AND threw away a career for, in my opinion, nothing,
Christians know that we will never get justice in this world, and what’s more we pray that we do not get it in the next. We want mercy, not justice. Justice will be without mercy to the one who is without mercy.
It’s hard to write this, because I feel for Swire and the other victims of the Lockerbie bombing but also because there is a strong swell of opinion that bereavement is a sacred state especially when there is someone to blame. OK, no doubt there is someone to blame, but does it always help us to pursue this at all costs? Some costs may be too high. As with the polonium poisoning in London by Russian agents of Alexander Litvenyenko, there isn’t much you can do about it that won’t make things worse. What should the British state have done about this appalling affair, declared war on Russia?
On tonight’s TV news we saw the tears of a mother whose orthopaedic surgeon son died in Syrian custody. I have no reason to doubt that he was a good man who did not deserve to die, and he did a very brave thing by going unofficially into an exceptionally chaotic and cruel war zone. But that doesn’t mean that the British government had the power or the responsibility to make it all better. We expect too much of our governments, and we shouldn’t-it only encourages them to take more of our money and liberties to spend on our behalf, usually badly. We cannot allow a tyranny of grief to dictate foreign policy.
Jim Swire and the other Lockerbie bereaved should face facts. This is a shitty world with a lot of shitty people living in it doing shitty things. Neither you nor I can point to some fundamental certainty which guarantees our right to ‘the truth’ or ‘justice’ and even if we were, it wouldn’t necessarily make things better.
Better to turn to Jesus, the one who despite being The Truth was denied justice but obtained mercy for all who would receive it.
Watching ‘Lewis’ on ITV 2 nights ago, wife and I both found it quite disturbing. For those who don’t know, this is a follow on series from the popular ‘Inspector Morse’ a detective thriller series set in Oxford, with the City very much as the star. I love Oxford.
The plot of this well produced and well acted drama was as follows (caution spoilers). A Sweet Young Gay Man commits suicide by shooting himself. He has made a suicide (martyrdom?) video which he sends to one of his homosexual friends, a black film maker. We only see the first few moments, he is asking him to ‘do something for me’.
As the plot develops, we hear move about a sinister ‘God Squad’ movement with which he may have been involved. Investigations move to a stuck up, cold, heartless, ‘homophobic’ Christian college principal (or whatever authority figure I wasn’t keeping notes) who denies all knowledge. We then see a priest (overweight, ugly) welcome a guest into his home. Next thing he is tied up and killed by a red hot poker driven into his brain. A message is left linking the killing to the suicide and the shadowy ‘god squad’ group ‘The Garden’.
The black gay man hearing of the murder phones the atheist journalist to say ‘X is dead’ to which he replies ‘good’. The same man expresses happiness later after the third murder and says he wishes he could have filmed it.
The plot moves on. Two other hated Christian bigots are murdered, eventually we discover that the sweet gay boy (catch phrase ‘love is never wrong’) was driven to suicide by the counselling he received from these evil Christian homophobic bigots, who everyone is glad has been killed.
HIs boyfriend has gone through the ;sacrifice’ of a sex change for him to allow them to have sex as male to female so it won’t offend his religiously induced guilt, it turns out she is the killer. She/he/it is portrayed far more sympathetically than the 3 Christians who are ritually murdered. If I had time I could mention other anti Christian stuff in the film, for example the conversion of a church into a hedonistic and depraved ‘swinging’ club called ‘Communion’. The murdered minister is said to have sold out his friends and his faith for ’30 pieces of silver’ over the deal. All the Christians are evil hypocritical bigots, all the gay, agnostic and atheist characters are sincere and loving. Even the killer, who has made a great sacrifice (‘sex change’ surgery) for love and is taking justifiable revenge on her lover’s killers (as he/she/it sees it and as the viewer is invited to). Get the picture?
Where to begin appraising this prime time propaganda? Yes, there is an issue with insensitive ‘pray out the gay’ counselling. I am aware of this as I listen to the testimony of Christian ex gay and celibate gay oriented people, including True Freedom Trust and Alex Tylee, author of the very balanced book ‘Walking with Gay Friends’ But this was pure anti Christian propaganda, and very hateful. You could not possibly have a TV programme like this made that showed the opposite view or looked at Muslims in this way.
To unpack the dishonesty on this 2 hour programme would take hours, but I would like to concentrate on the phrase ‘Love is never wrong’ which was used frequently, very poignantly on a suicide film of a young man who was portrayed as perfect, kind, loving, innocent etc.
Love is never wrong? You can certainly make that case from Scripture, e.g. 1 Corinthians 13. But, as the poet hath said, ‘what is love?’ Lets rephrase that.
Sexual desire is never wrong. Still agree?
Lust is never wrong. What’s the difference between love and lust?
Sex is never wrong. Well is it?
Self gratification is never wrong.
I am never wrong. Most of us seem to believe that, don’t we?
These statements don’t seem quite so self evidently true put like that, do they? Of course dear old C S Lewis was an Oxford man, and wrote a book ‘The Four Loves’ in which he examined the many different meanings of that much misused four letter word.
There is no point me as a Christian protesting about anti Christian propaganda. I have tried more than once, you just get a standard ‘We are sorry that you feel offended but fuck off, loser.’ letter. But I think it is worth thinking about the way that public opinion is being systematically manipulated by the media, which I am long persuaded by the evidence is controlled by a very small mutually appointed elite group of sexual and social revolutionaries who are extremely hostile to traditional Christian beliefs.
One of the characters was an outrageously in your face homosexual who was delighted to scream in people’s faces and bang on their cars about his own right to free speech. I do not believe that we have free speech in England today. The charge of ‘homophobia’, which like the post Stephen Lawrence report charge of ‘racist’ is deemed proven by the virtue of having been made, trumps free speech. It is already effectively illegal in Britain to offer counselling to help people overcome unwanted same sex attraction. I am not sure I would dare to post this if I wasn’t retired, one doctor has already been struck off for expressing ‘homophobic’ views in writing.
As I wrote in my Kindle novel ‘Darwin’s Adders’ I believe it is only a matter of time before the Bible is banned as hate speech and replaced with a government approved ‘Rainbow Testament’. This will not be an infringement of free speech you must understand, it will be (mental) health and safety, equalities and diversity legislation and child protection. People brainwashed by the sort of propaganda I saw on high production values prime time TV last week will agree.
The 2013 Fair Oak Creation conference at Wyvern College on Saturday 2nd March was opened with a prayer and acknowledgment of the wisdom and authority of our Lord Jesus. This is a report with some commentary on the presentations given on the day. It was mostly typed up then and there with minimal later editing and is as accurate as I could make it, although not a complete or verbatim report.
The first speaker was Professor Andy McIntosh from Leeds, who is involved with Truth in Science. He began by mentioning that many genuine Christians fail to appreciate the importance of the issue of Creation. He stressed that there will be many who disagree with us on Creation, but it must not ever be said that they are therefore not true believers as Creation is not a salvation issue. But as he would explain it has great implications for our understanding of the Gospel and that the evolutionary world view from the supposed big bang to today was in fact a secular religion which stands in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He gave an overview of the mainstream evolutionary belief system that prevails in much of the western world. He cited Laurence Krauss from Arizona State University, who said in a video ‘Forget Jesus, the stars died that you might be here today’. The atheist Jerry Coyne was also shown saying that ‘Evolution strikes religious believers at the solar plexus of their faith…morality does not come from God…we are of no more significance that a squirrel or an armadillo.’ The enemies of the Gospel clearly understand the anti-Christian significance and effect of Darwinism better than the Christians who compromise with it. This is important-Christians cannot afford to be divided on this.
The authority of Scripture is very much at stake. Genesis tells us that God spoke everything into existence. All through Genesis chapter 1 it says ‘And God said’. We read that the Trinity was involved, ‘Let US create man in OUR image’ but pre-eminently Christ as we read in Col 1:15-17 and John 1:1. Christ is the primary source and agent of creation. Hebrews 11 tells us that it was by the word of God that the worlds were made. Thousands of years later we find that Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead with a word e.g. Luke 7:6-7, Mark 4:39, Mark 2:10-12. These miracles did not happen gradually over millions of years but immediately, by the word of God. Now shine that back to Genesis 1, it was the same agent (Christ) and the same means (his Word) that created.
This is straightforward exposition: you need to study the whole of scripture to understand scripture. From an exegetic view, Genesis is mostly not written as poetry but as history and this is clear from the words used. This is being revised by some modern Evangelical scholars, but the use of the word ‘yom’ is evidently used to mean a literal 24 hour day, not least as the words evening and morning accompany it. Whenever the word yom is used together with ‘evening and morning’ it means a literal 24 hour day. There are also numerals e.g. first day, second day, third day etc. To argue as some do that Genesis can be taken to mean that the days of Genesis represent millions of years is unreasonable. Also in Exodus 20:11 when Moses was giving the command about the Sabbath: this only makes sense in the context of 6 literal days.
Some common questions were addressed e.g. how did we have day and night before the sun was created? We don’t know what the pre-sun light was but it is plausible that Christ himself was the light. We don’t need a sun to have day and night; we only need a rotating world and a source of light. Christ himself shone with light at the Transfiguration and is described as the light of the world. We do not know exactly what the pre-sun light was but it is not a problem for a plain reading of Genesis as history.
Jesus said that God made them male and female ‘in the beginning’. This does not fit with the evolutionary time line at all which has man appearing after millions of years of evolution via reptiles, birds, fishes, and other non human ancestors.
Andy McIntosh said that the Bible is the only foundational religious book that has a coherent history, not the Koran or the Vedic Hindu scriptures or any other. This biblical history gives us a time line from Adam to Abraham to Christ, who died at a real point in history. According to the Scriptural time line, Adam was a real man in history just as surely as was Jesus. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 that ‘as in Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive’. This is amplified in Romans. All of this supports the fact that Jesus took Genesis as literal history.
The Flood, to which Jesus referred, is a matter of history. There have been approximately 150 generations since the Flood which is consistent with known rates of world population growth. The population of Britain was halved at the time of the Black Death, it was about 6 million then, but growth has been sustained despite periodical wars, famines and plagues. The world population was about half a billion around the time of Christ, it is 7 billion now. The documented growth of human population during recorded history is not consistent with humans existing in our present form for hundreds of thousands of years. If humans had been around in our present form for that long there would be much more burial evidence than we find.
As well as being inconsistent with the physical evidence, there are grave theological problems with a very old earth and molecules to man evolution by natural selection acting on random mutations. The millions of years that evolution requires would have to have involved billions upon billions of deaths before the emergence of the first humans. Theistic Evolution requires many compromises but perhaps most significantly over death. The Bible says that death resulted from sin, but evolution teaches that death was part of the process through which life developed. Theistic evolutionists are logically compelled to believe that God chose to use mutation, struggle and death over millions of years as creative mechanisms. How is this consistent with the repeated use of the phrase ‘it was very good’? And why would God do this given His undoubted ability to create in 6 days if He chose?
Professor McIntosh reflected on the Lord Jesus’s death on the cross which gained full atonement and the promise of a new resurrection body for believers. He asked how this made sense if there had not been a real literal Adam whom God had warned would die if he sinned. He illustrated this point with 1 Corinthians 15:22 ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ all are made alive’ and Romans 5: 12-17 where we are also told that death came into the world through one man’s sin. He finished by mentioning his book ‘Genesis for Today’ where these issues and others were unpacked more fully
Sylvia Baker of the Biblical Creation Society spoke on creationism in the classroom. She told us how she used to be a strong Bible believing Evangelical who accepted evolution without having given much thought to it. She studied biology under an atheist professor, and discovered that you were not allowed to question evolution. It was seeing this special protection from questioning that evolution enjoys that helped turn her into a creationist. She later left biology and became a teacher and a governor of an independent Christian school.
She told us, admitting a bias, that creationism in the classroom was a key issue of the moment, especially for those who value our Christian heritage and freedom of speech, both of which are under attack. We should all be concerned: the stakes are getting higher. It is getting darker. The new Free Schools must not teach creationism as a scientific theory, by government diktat following aggressive lobbying from Dawkins and company, or they will lose their funding.
There has been much opposition to questioning Darwin in the education system, including from Christian pastors. The teaching of evolution has now become explicitly compulsory with a huge emphasis on Charles Darwin from the age of 5. These changes have resulted from intense pressure from a small number of people, notably the British Humanist Association and their friends, who are celebrating having achieved ‘beyond their wildest dreams’.
What effect is current government policy having on creationism pupils in state schools? Professor Michael Reiss was forced to resign in 2008 as director of education at the Royal Society, a body which Isaac Newton and others founded. This was despite having stuck to government advice and the RS’s policy, just because he dared to suggest that creationist pupils should be treated with respect.
At least 10% of school pupils are creationists, many of them are Muslims. Reiss’s concern was that these pupils might be treated disrespectfully by teachers and peers and treated with mockery and scorn. Michael Reiss, although an evolutionist, deserved appreciation for his principled stand against creationists being mocked and ridiculed. (NB some notes and commentary about the Reiss affair were posted on the CSM blog at the time-SH)
A study by Francis and Astley investigating the views of 34,000 teenage pupils in the 1990s found that creationist pupils tended to feel more worried, lonely, worthless and even desperate than their evolutionist peers. Astley considers that their anguish (a word which was repeated with some feeling) is caused but the creationists’ beliefs themselves, however Sylvia thought it was caused by the hostile setting in which they are placed. She mentioned the severe mockery she and other creationists experienced on TV’s ‘The Big Question’. She felt that this was God showing them what it was like for children being mocked in the school system, something that Reiss had seen and felt moved by. However, research Sylvia Baker has done and published shows that pupils taught in a Christian world view school who are taught both sides of the creation/evolution divide have much better levels of self esteem, whereas no harm is done to evolutionist pupils taught in the same systems. This contradicts Astley’s conclusions.
Sylvia has submitted her findings to government although feels that they have been sidelined and ignored, by contrast to the approaches of the radical atheists who have so successfully lobbied Michael Gove the education secretary who has now mandated that evolution must be taught and it may not be questioned in state schools.
An item in New Scientist 17th March 2012 p 37 demonstrated that research shows that children are born creationist. The researcher Justin Barrat wrote that ‘Whatever some people say, children do not need to be indoctrinated into believing in God and Creation, they naturally gravitate towards the idea.’ This is immensely important: children have a natural belief in God, the secular school system is systematically indoctrinating them out of it as a matter of public policy.
Sylvia considered the view of Calvin and the early Reformers who formulated a biblical based world view based on investigation and thought instead of top-down priestly authority. This biblical world view involving Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration arguably gave rise to modern science and much else which has benefited the world. If you believed that life was random, you’d never do any science, if you believed that death and mutation were good you’d never do any medicine. This world view and view of history is the opposite of what is being rammed down our throats today by secular humanists. It is causing pain to Christian and other Darwin doubting children in the state school system and is intended to turn them into atheists. Believers have a responsibility to inform themselves and act.
CEO Creation Ministries International-UK/Europe
Environmental and ethical issues: a biblical perspective
He cited an atheist Jeremy Rifkin who wrote ‘we make the rules…we are now the architects of the universe, we are responsible to nothing outside ourselves…ours is the kingdom the power and the glory for ever and ever.’
Human philosophers have brushed aside the absolutes of Christianity which come from the God of the Bible and replaced them with their own thoughts.
What has replaced Christian faith in our society? Andrew Marr, for example, said in a TV series ‘Darwin has given us a great truth and there is no going back.’ The alternative world view that derived from Darwin and displaced Christian thinking was described by atheist Michael Ruse, as ‘…. a secular religion, a fully fledged alternative to Christianity…an explicit substitute for Christianity.’ Ruse wrote a letter to an Intelligent Design advocate signed ’Yours in Charles Darwin.’ This was clearly intended as a mockery of the phrase ‘Yours in Christ Jesus’. The evolutionists when they are honest are clearly convinced that Darwinian evolution is a religious world view and a basis for ethics and behaviour which replaces Christianity. (It should be noted that they blow hot and cold over this: when they are talking reassuringly to theistic evolutionists they are careful to pretend that Christianity and Evolution are perfectly compatible, but among themselves they admit this is not so-SH)
In relative morality, men say ‘who are you to say what is right and wrong?’ But the Bible warns us (e.g. Hosea 4: 6) ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge I will also reject thee….seeing you have forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget you.’
Genetic engineering was discussed. In essence, this is manipulating the genetic information in DNA, perhaps grafting genes from one organism to another, to get (for example) bacillus thuringensis genes into plants which can possibly give disease resistance to food crops, or less fatty bacon. Phil said he thought this was not a black and white issue ethically and could possibly subject to safeguards yield great benefits in agriculture (As a fruit grower I agree SH). However, he felt that despite great hopes that genetic engineering in medicine not much had been achieved so far (I agree again, this time as a medical doctor! SH).
It was important to have a debate about the rights and wrongs, risks and benefits of GM technology. Potential benefits could include reduced pesticide use and healthier or cheaper food, but would it benefit the poor in Africa or only the big companies who controlled it for profit? This was a matter of justice rather than science. What about the potential harms of genetically modified (GM) viruses which could produce terrorist weapons or new human diseases, perhaps by accident? What about the risks of engineered genes leaking out into places they were not wanted? To what extent should scientists be allowed to produce these kinds of things given the risk of unintended consequences and accidents? The issues are complex and call for wide discussion and wisdom.
Scientists and policy makers should think this through, but what about Christians? Is GM part of the creation mandate? Can we use it to defray some of the effects of the Curse as we do through agriculture and medicine? We should consider the world view, most likely evolutionary, of those who are developing these things. (I would add that some people believe very strongly that the natural planetary ecosystem is more important than people and the human population should be drastically reduced-SH)
What about Leviticus 19:19 which says ‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.’ To be consistent with this we should have to apply various other parts of the Mosaic Law such as not wearing polyester cotton shirts or eating shellfish. We are not bound by the Mosaic Law.
Abortion, Phil said, is still a key issue. We have got used to it with effective abortion on request in Britain and over a million abortions a year in Europe, but it is still an issue of the sanctity of human life. Evolutionary views have clearly influenced society’s views on a range of moral and ethical issues. Phil showed us some pregnancy ultrasound scans and scripture verses e.g. Luke 1:41-44, Psalm 139:13-15 which left no doubt that what is in a mother’s womb during pregnancy is a unique human life which we ‘terminate’ in defiance of God’s clear command. He did not wish to offend or distress anyone present who had been involved in abortion but the facts were the facts.
Having normalised the killing of the youngest and most defenceless we are now moving to kill the oldest and most defenceless. Influential philosopher Peter Singer has promoted the view that we should ‘Catch up with Darwin’ who in his opinion had undermined the entire way of thinking that had shaped western society, i.e. Christianity. The logic is sound that if one rejects God and Christ, then man is just an animal and can be ‘put down’ if a decision is made to do so. Assisted suicide is already legal is some countries and the momentum to go further is spreading. (PS the celebrated English poet A E Housman, a Latin scholar and atheist, wrote several poems recommending suicide as a logical response to unhappiness or failure. He reasoned that as (in his belief) there was no God, no afterlife and no coming judgment, suicide made perfect sense if you felt that your life was not worth living. It is a relatively short philosophical step from this to deciding that some other people’s lives were not worth living and making the decision for them-SH)
We must make sure that however emotional we may feel either way about these contentious issues, we must search the Scriptures to see what is written. Our consciences must be informed by God’s word.
In response to the question ‘What can we do?’ Andy McIntosh said we ought first to seek to engage the church and try to influence Christians. Times are getting darker and the world is against us, we can’t expect them to give us a fair time.
Phil agreed we should be equipping and encouraging the church to act. We have to be wise as serpents and innocent and doves. The system is heavily biased against us.
Sylvia Baker spoke again on ‘Creationism in the classroom-a crucial controversy.’
The Christian world view could be summarised ‘Creation, Fall, Redemption Restoration.’
The Fall has mostly disappeared from Christian discussion. Yet is it vital to a properly rounded Christian world view. Since pupils in state schools are not being education in the Christian world view, then what world view are they being educated? Because there is no neutral position.
Sylvia discussed data from her on-going surveys from present and past pupils in new independent Christian schools. About 1,000 people returned questionnaires, about 80% of those asked so a very representative survey.
Young children do not need to be indoctrinated into believing in God and that the world is designed, they naturally tend to believe this. However, Darwin is being ‘forced down the throats of children from the age of 5’ in our schools, and there is no dissent allowed.
Research into world views and spiritual/emotional health were virtually indistinguishable from those in secular state schools. However pupils in New Christian schools showed a better level of ‘spiritual health’.
Questions in the survey included
‘I feel my life has a sense of purpose’ (82% (Christian) vs 64% (State))
The number in state secular schools saying yes to the question ‘I believe in God’ has fallen from 42% to 22% over the last 2 decades. This is in line with the national census figures. The figure was 35% for Anglican schools and 87% in New Christian schools.
In response to the question ‘there are too many foreign people in this country’ responses were 51% agreed in the secular schools, 57% Church of England schools but in the New Christian schools it was only 38%. This seems to go against the idea that committed Christian education will produce ‘bigoted narrow minded’ people.
Belief in Jesus as ‘my personal saviour’ was high at around 70% as was agreement with the statement ‘God created the world as described in the Bible’. Even some who were not churchgoers accepted creation!
The New Christian schools produce very good results in biology and other science exams, despite creation being taught alongside evolution. This was not due to academic selection or splendid new buildings, neither of which were present in the schools under discussion, Sylvia took the view that he love of God in the schools made the difference.
The research is ongoing but seem to show without doubt that teaching creation (always alongside, not instead of) evolution theory absolutely does not harm science education or prevent people going on to higher science education.
Sylvia finished by drawing attention to the sad fact that few churches had many (or indeed any) teenagers, and that this was very largely due to atheistic indoctrination in schools. ‘If you don’t want an empty church, establish a Christian school’. Christians must refuse to allow their children to be taught in such an ungodly situation, whether though engagement with the system, home schooling or Christian schools. However this was very costly in time, money and effort, Sylvia even said that some people had been worn out by the effort to the extent it night have shortened their lives.
The work is on line at the university of Warwick website and a simplified version will be published as a book ‘Swimming against the tide’ hopefully out in Spring 2013.
Philip Bell spoke about cloning, stem cell research and global warming. On stem cell research, it is important to understand that not all stem cells are embryonic, requiring the death of a foetus. Stem cells can be found in umbilical cord blood, brain or fat cells and bone marrow: these can be used ethically without the destruction of an embryo. These adult or umbilical cord stem cells have given many successful cures without raising ethical dilemmas. (It is important to note this as our opponents often accuse people who respect human life of blocking stem cell research-not all stem cell research involves taking human life: As a doctor who has some interest in this area I am aware of no Christian organisations who object to umbilical cord or adult stem cell research, and this is where almost all the success has been so far.-SH)
Cloning of animals even to harvest organs for human use does not necessarily raise any great issues, but clearly we should not farm human embryos for medical use nor clone humans, who are made uniquely in God’s image. But cloning animals, Philip said, could be considered ethical within the dominion mandate (Genesis 1:28) to ameliorate the effects of the Curse. This again calls for wisdom, and certainly we should be careful of the motivation of scientists and others who advanced an agenda. The http://www.creation.com site contains articles on cloning, genetic engineering, stem cell research etc. Sincere Christians will disagree on some of these issues.
It is often suggested by enemies of the Gospel that the dominion mandate (Gen 1:28) is misused by Bible believing Christians, blaming us for environmental degradation and much else. But this is unfair. We must always act ethically and morally within the dominion mandate.
What then of global warming/climate change? There are differences of opinion and strong views either way: CMI does not have an official opinion. Philip gave us some facts. The earth did indeed warm by about half a degree in the last quarter of the 20th century but it is not proven that human activity caused this warming. Do we have enough evidence to justify spending a great fortune to change the way we produce power? The mediaeval warm period is often ignored and there has been no further warming in the last 10 years, at a time when global carbon dioxide rose faster than ever before not least to China, India ,Brazil and other less developed countries growing their industries burning fossil fuel at an enormous rate. The picture is not so neat and tidy as some people have made it out to be. Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson’s book ‘A Cool Look at Global Warming’ was recommended for a sceptic’s view. A Met office report showed that global warming stopped 16 years ago in 1997. An item on the CMI web site by Carl Wieland on global warming summarises the sceptical view.
The speaker stressed that this area was a complex controversy involving conflicts of interest with much money and power in the balance. For example government minister Tim Yeo earned double his MP’s salary taking money from three ‘green’ companies, which seems like a conflict of interest. Meanwhile the Chinese build a new coal powered power station every 5 days and some scientists are talking about an era of global cooling. Emotive pictures of polar bears on ice floes prove absolutely nothing and while ice is melting in some places it is advancing in others.
Writers like Melanie Phillips have described the whole climate change drive as a massive exercise in totalitarian thought control. Climate change sceptics are subject to vile personal abuse: Phil could not help comparing this with the way that evolution dissent was suppressed. Genesis 8:22 promised that seedtime and harvest would continue to the end of human history, so while we should be good stewards we ought to have more faith in God’s sovereignty and also bear in mind that most of the climate change models were based on a millions of years old earth which as biblical creationists we reject. It is God’s world, not Mother Nature.
Philip stressed that while the facts he cited were true, interpretations varied and there were at least 2 sides to this story and he was asking questions and putting his own view, not that of CMI or any other organisation.
Deuteronomy 18:22 about supposed prophets whose predictions do not come to pass should come into consideration regarding the various Doomsday scenarios which have not come to pass! We should trust God, not men. Jeremiah 17:5-7.
Creation or evolution-looking at the evidence
He began by saying ‘I never use the term microevolution’ as this word appears to give the impression that it is happening and its only a matter of time. Adaptation is another matter: it is a downhill or sideways event involving switching on or off or other shuffling of already existing genes, or the corruption of DNA (mutations) so that plant or animal varieties do better in certain settings (e.g. hotter, dryer, wetter, shadier etc). This doesn’t create any new DNA information and could go on forever without the animal turning into a different species.
Natural selection is not a problem to the creationist position as it allows for variation to the existing created kinds. Creationists differ from Intelligent Design people, some of whom accept common descent as do evolutionists, although clearly there is some overlap.
He showed us a clip from the new BBC evolution spokesman Brian Cox (who has been mentioned on the CSM blog before) who was telling the audience how the three linked ossicle bones of the mammalian ear had evolved from the jaw of reptiles. His evidence? A flick book, an early sort of animated cartoon, depicting the supposed evolutionary sequence in quite literal Mickey Mouse style. As Professor McIntosh remarked, this had absolutely nothing to do with science or evidence and would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
He showed us a number of photos of fossils and corresponding animals living today which demonstrated the creationist principle of sudden appearance and stasis (i.e. animals make their first appearance in the fossil record fully formed and then don’t change). The Coelacanth is perhaps the best known example of this principle of stasis.
Giraffes have special neck muscles which control blood flow to allow them to lift their necks up and down without fainting or bursting blood vessels. These certainly appear to be purposefully designed. Giraffe fossil skulls said to be millions of years old are (as we saw) identical to skulls of modern giraffes, suggesting that no evolution has occurred since giraffes first came into being.
Feathers as we saw have not changed from allegedly 125 million year old feathers trapped in amber or in archaeopteryx fossils.
Butterflies are wonderful creatures with an incredible lifestyle which involves a complete change of body plan, metamorphosis. Nobody has ever found evidence of creatures which undergo metamorphosis from any animal which does not undergo it. A fossil butterfly preserved in exquisite detail was shown which is identical to modern butterflies. The same is true for dragonflies, moths and mosquitos fossils of which we were shown. These fragile creatures must have been buried almost immediately while still alive to have become fossils.
The same is true for many other creatures, plants and animals.
Trilobites (Andy passed round one of his fossil trilobites) have complicated compound eyes. They are made of calcite which splits light rays into two images. Trilobites are supposed to be part of the Cambrian explosion, supposedly very simple animals but in fact from the fossils they are very sophisticated animals. The lenses are lined up to be perfectly attuned to the correct axis for light splitting through calcite, in order to correct the refraction and avoid the animal seeing double. It all looks as if it was designed by a master engineer. Trilobite optics speak of a fully functional and highly sophisticated vision. There are no known trilobite precursors, no evidence of the trilobite eye being in development, only fully functional trilobites with extraordinarily complex eyes from the most deeply buried examples.
A dinosaur graveyard at Lo Hueco, Spain shows eight different species mixed together with turtles and crocodiles in a mass grave. What were the land dwelling dinosaurs doing buried with water dwelling animals? Clearly a major catastrophic event must have caused the burial. The crocodile fossils apart from their larger size (many animals were larger in the past, presumably due to better living conditions before the Flood) are unchanged compared with today’s crocodiles, they have not evolved.
Dating remains an issue. If you are going to use anything as a clock you have to calibrate it. Radiometric dating is all based on assumptions which cannot be independently verified. For example a sand clock (egg timer) is only any use if we know how long it has been running and whether the hole has always been the same size. The same is true for how long it takes to fill a bath depending on the flow of water. Has it been constant? How much water was there in it to begin with? Has any water left the bath during filling? When it comes to radiometric dating methods, you need to know whether the rate of decay has been constant, how much of the mother and daughter elements were present to begin with, if any has left or entered the specimen and initial conditions. Due to the shortage of time machines (my quip! SH) we can’t check any of these things independently, so therefore dating assumptions must be questionable.
At the Crinium colliery near Emerald, Queensland Australia, there are large age discrepancies in rock dating, with charred wood entombed in basalt flow 69 feet down in basalt below sand and clay. The sandstone above the basalt is said to be 255 million years old. The tree roots are in siltstone below the basalt. There is measurable carbon 14 in the wood giving a maximum possible age of 57 thousand years give the known half life of C14. Professor McIntosh disputes the date of 57,000 years but made the point that even if this was true, the presence of a single molecule of C14 buried that deeply totally falsifies the dating of the rocks above it.
Significant amounts of carbon 14 are being measured in dinosaur bones, which is completely inconsistent with them being millions of years old. www.dinosaurc14ages.com/carbondating.htm
Taking this together with soft tissue in dinosaur bones, we see that the bones are not so old. The stocks speak of catastrophism and judgment, and as the Lord Jesus said, as in the days of Noah so shall it be in the Day of the Son of Man. Men who accept evolution refuse to accept the idea that we have a God who is Creator and Judge is as it means they are not in control. Evolution is a world view opposed to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
Q Global warming-what about flooding?
A The facts remain warming stopped in 1997. The picture is complex, some glaciers have disappeared but others have advanced. Philip admits to bias (unlike the pro global warming people who admit no doubt!-SH). As with creation/evolution, inconvenient evidence is being suppressed for ideological reasons and ‘a good story’. Some of the same sort of abuse and denial of a platform for their views used to silence and discredit climate change sceptics are aimed at creationists.
Q is there a created mechanism that ameliorates carbon dioxide mediated climate change?
A probably solar activity is more important anyway, and the facts show that there has been no further warming since 1997, despite massive increases in CO2 emissions from China particularly,
Q what do you say to people who discount the significance of animals not having changed since their fossil appearance?
A Prof Macintosh Coelacanths existed unchanged since their supposed fossilisation millions of years ago. They must have existed during all the fossil bearing layers supposedly created since they supposedly became extinct. (*) Evolutionists have the same problem with apparent fossil stratification. Phil mentioned genetic entropy which scrambles DNA over time, also that similarities between humans and chimpanzees have been grossly exaggerated but still amount to over 300, 000, 000 differences. (* Dr Vij Sodera in his book ‘One Small Speck to Man: the Evolution Myth’ describes what he calls ‘the Coelacanth Principle’ namely that in the absence of direct evidence to the contrary, any animal could have lived at any time before or after its supposed evolutionary fossil dating. SH)
Q could the global warming activism be something to do with a desire to control global power supplies?
A Philip -There are strong vested interests and conflicts of interest with many of the most prominent people in global warming activism linked with companies making money from it. (There are internet conspiracy theories about climate change being advanced as an excuse to impose a global New World Order, but none of the organisations represented at the conference has a view on this-SH)
Q should we be even more keen to take our children out of state schools or should we try to confront and improve the state system?
A Sylvia-yes, both. Studies show that our pupils are more environmentally concerned. We don’t want anyone to be anguished, and we don’t want our children taught in a godless environment.
The meeting ended with a prayer.
I have tried to be as accurate as possible and made it clear when I was commenting rather than reporting.
Edited 9th March 2013
This may be freely copied, distributed or posted in full but not altered without my permission.
I have been reflecting in recent months on the proliferation of stand up comedians in our culture, almost all of them socialist in outlook. I can see the point in one way, after all it’s much easier to make jokes about rich bankers than it is about benefit scroungers. And as the BBC and its conjoined siblings ITV and channel 4 are such big employers of these folks from Sandy Toksvig and Stephen Fry to Graham Norton and Alan Carr, of course they will be glad to toe the received left (politically correct) line. In fact, up and coming comedians have little choice but to follow it if they want work.
I am not anti-comedy, but the kind of truths I feel the need to communicate don’t come across well as quips and one liners, and frankly they’re not that funny. Simple lies that make the audience feel good about themselves (usually by mocking others) are easier to compress into a punch line than are complex truths that make people ask themselves difficult questions. But these people seem to have an inordinate amount of influence on the culture. I cannot help thinking of the Biblical warning that ‘In the last days will come mockers’ (2 Peter 3:3, Jude 1:18). Jesus was mocked, and the Old Testament books of wisdom warn against the mindset of the mocker/scoffer. There is an interesting Biblical reflection on mockers and mocking here.
I made an offhand reference to stand up comedians in my Amazon Kindle novel ‘Darwin’s Adders: A Chronicle of Pagan England 2089’. In the context of a story within a story about two student hitchhikers haranguing a minister of religion who has given them a lift in the following paragraph in the chapter ‘The Ancient Serpent’ where the main protagonist of that part of the novel, Terry Symes, reflects on the nature and origin of evil.
“In the story, the minister, revealed by his dog collar, tried to share his faith with his student passengers. They fired off round after round of the usual assertions and questions at him. ‘If there is a God, why is there so much suffering…how do we know the Bible is true…religion causes all the wars in the world… science has disproved…there are lots of myths about dying and resurrecting gods, Christianity is just another….etc.’ It’s amazing how much of that sort of thing you can pick up in a short time from a stand up comedian in the student union, especially one who was fighting what was left of his seared conscience after bullying his girlfriend into an abortion she hadn’t wanted. “
And now, lo and behold, there is a by election being held in the Parliamentary constituency of Eastleigh where I live, occasioned by the Liberal MP being caught out in a 10 year lie and perverting the course of justice. And believe it or not, although it was not what he was forced to resign over (Google Chris Huhne for the sordid details) it turns out that Mr Huhne MP bullied his wife into an abortion she hadn’t wanted for the sake of his career. And the Labour Party candidate in this election is a stand up comedian called John O’Farrell. And from what I have been able to discover a rather nasty one, with the politics and attitude towards oponents we have come to expect from the hard left.
Peter Hitchens has quoted some of John O’Farrell’s hateful writing in his blog here. He explicitly describes his hatred for Mrs Thatcher, wishing her dead-and not merely as a figure of speech, but quite specifically wrote that he wished she had been killed by the IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel Brighton (which did kill several people). He also fantasised about him shooting her. He blamed her for the accidental death under a truck of a miner on a picket line while ignoring the deliberate murder of a taxi driver by two striking miners who dropped a block of concrete on his car as he took 2 working miners to work. Hitchens mentions this in the context of the real, virulent hate that the political left has for its opponents such as himself (there is a web site called ‘Peter Hitchens Must Die).
I have already voted (postal) and it wasn’t Labour, for sure. I haven’t seen a recent opinion poll but the outcome is unpredictable in what is usually a 2 way Liberal/Conservative marginal. Lib Dem voters may find it hard to vote for their party having been lied to, and Conservative voters may feel the same. David Cameron reneged on his ‘cast iron guarantee’ of a vote on the hated Lisbon Treaty (an unwanted European Constitution by another name). Labour supporters in Eastleigh usually vote Lib Dem tactically to ‘keep the Tory out’ but since there is a Tory/Lib Dem coalition in power, the arithmetic of this might not work. I suspect the same sex marriage issue pushed through by Cameron despite lack of an electoral mandate may keep quite a few Conservative voters at home, or make them vote UKIP (as I have done).
I would feel very unhappy and totally disenfranchised to be represented at Parliament by a socialist ‘comedian’ like John O’Farrell and even less happy to be governed after the 2015 General Election by deficit denying Ed Milliband who leads Labour. He and his colleague Ed Balls were by Gordon Brown’s side as the innumerate foul tempered Scot taxed, borrowed, regulated and spent Britain into the worst economic crisis of her history. Read Vernon Coleman’s brilliant book “Gordon is a Moron” for unequivocal evidence that he was the worst Prime Minister we have ever had. None of these crypto communists has ever even hinted at an apology. As I wrote in ‘future retrospective’ sense in ‘Darwin’s Adders’, ‘The last days of one person one vote democracy were characterised by knaves courting fools for their votes, using their own money to bribe them and when that ran out, their children’s money through borrowing.’
And people are seriously talking about putting Labour back in control of the economy their policies wrecked. It would be comic if it wasn’t so horribly real. I suppose a stand up comedian may at least claim to have more experience of life outside the Westminster bubble than most of the shower that currently infest Parliament.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qhd0c SCROLL FORWARD TO 38.06 to 43.36
What’s in a word?
This blog entry is about the meaning that we lay upon words, the power of words and the used of biased words as propaganda shorthand.
On Sunday mornings between waking at around 6 am and getting up some time after seven I usually listen to radio 4, or else a podcast sermon from a local evangelical church. This morning I did both and it made an interesting juxtaposition.
The sermon was by John Risbridger of Above Bar Church Southampton and was entitled ‘Does it matter what we believe?’ He looked at the first part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which the Apostle wrote in the strongest possible terms that it did matter, ever such a lot. Paul wrote that if anyone sought to pervert believers from the Gospel of Jesus Christ as originally delivered they should (not would, although in the context that was a given, but SHOULD) be damned to hell. Strong stuff, Paul obviously really wants us to pay careful attention. So listen up.
The phrase Paul uses twice in Galatians 1:8-9 is translated ‘…let them be accursed’ in my Bible, in John Risbridger’s it was translated ‘…be under God’s curse’. Paul repeats the phrase for emphasis, something he rarely does, so he must have really meant it. And as the preacher correctly pointed out, he maintains this strength of view on the issue under discussion (messing with the Gospel) throughout the letter. The specific issue was that of Jewish converts to Christianity saying that male Gentile converts had to be circumcised as well as baptised-Paul writes that if that’s their view, they should be cut off themselves. (Galatians 5:12-note that the exact meaning is disputed, some translations suggesting castration, others death, i.e. ‘be cut off themselves’).
This is very strong stuff. The preacher says this was not because Paul was nasty and/or inflexible by nature, other of his writings show that he was not, but he would not stand for monkeying with the Gospel. He perceived that the benefits of forgiveness of sin, new life in Christ and reconciliation to God that is freely available in the one and only Gospel as originally delivered doesn’t work if you add to or subtract from it. The sinful human condition needs the right medicine, and only one treatment will work. Accept no substitutes. Feel free to listen to the whole sermon here. A compromised Gospel, like a leaky lifeboat or a counterfeit medication, might look OK from the outside, but it won’t save you-whatever the salesman says.
I have listened to several of Risbridger’s podcast sermons. IMO he is a serious and thoughtful Bible scholar, not given to novelties or ‘ear tickling’ messages, who unwraps and expounds what is actually there in Holy Writ, not twisting or adding to it. He was careful to stress that although it did matter what we believed about the central issues of the Christian Faith as originally given (how could it possibly not matter?) we should be very careful about picking fights with other churches over negotiable particulars. Ah-but deciding where the line is between negotiable and non negotiable, there’s the rub! For me, the only answer to that is a systematic study of the whole of God’s word, always in a spirit of judging ourselves first, others (if at all) later and then humbly-BUT bewaring of the false teachers we were repeatedly warned would come from Satan to lead us astray.
Having listened to the whole sermon, I then switched from my Smartphone to the radio and listened to the tail end of the BBC radio 4 ‘Sunday’ religious magazine programme. After an interview with a Danish bishop who told us that his denomination had accepted same sex marriage in church without any dissent worth mentioning, there was an interview with Canon Giles Fraser, the trendy vicar’s trendy vicar, on why he was giving up his regular column writing for the Church Times after 9 years.
He sounded quite bitter (he said he was ‘angry’ a couple of times) although he stressed he had jumped not been pushed. He was unhappy that he and others like him who want to normalise homosexuality in the church hadn’t made more progress. Funny that, I thought they had made rather a lot of progress. Anyway, Fraser was evidently angry with Christian traditionalists whom he accused of being ‘obsessed with what goes on in peoples’ bedrooms’. And so to that now ubiquitous neologism ‘homophobia’.
A little background. Fraser supported the protesters who camped outside St Paul’s cathedral for a few weeks last year (or was it 2011?). Nobody was quite sure what these ‘anti-capitalists’ with iPhones were protesting about, but they were obviously against ‘the establishment’ so Fraser was naturally drawn to them. He ended up resigning his position at St Pauls over the issue, although I’m not quite sure why. He is also an anti-creationist, I have heard him rant against people like me in his Radio 4 ‘thought for the day’ pulpit for our countercultural sin of taking the book of Genesis as true history, as Jesus and all the New Testament writers did. And here he was today, once again given a platform by the Biased Broadcasting Corporation (he’s very much their sort of vicar) ranting against ‘right wing traditionalists’ in the church who prefer the Bible and two thousand years of tradition to the editorial policy of The Guardian (for which Fraser also writes) over same sex genital activity.
He used the word ‘homophobia’ about 9 times (estimate incorrect, on listening again it was only 7 times, but boy he meant it!) while mentioning Jesus not at all. He admitted to being angry at the homophobic ‘right wing’ Church of England where homophobic ‘so called traditionalists’ hid their homophobic opinions behind a homophobic mask of ‘tradition’. I don’t think he mentioned the fact that some of us also hide our homophobia behind the homophobic words of the homophobic Bible written by homophobic Moses, homophobic Paul and homophobic John. Not to mention the homophobic God who so homophobically rained homophobic fire and bigoted brimstone on the caring, loving cities of Sodom and Gomorra. Anyway, we got the message-if you prefer scripture and tradition to revolution then you are homophobic, and that’s about the same level as being a slave trader. There is no possible defence against this cluster bomb of a charge.
When the interviewer asked him if he was so upset with the right wing homophobic C of E why he didn’t move on, Fraser said he would ‘stay and scrap’. Yes, I know all about that. It’s called ‘The long march through the institutions’. Former Marxist Peter Hitchens wrote about this in his book ‘The Cameron Delusion’ which explains a lot of things about Britain today in terms of closet 1960s revolutionaries infiltrating all our establishments from the civil service and education to government and the national church to gradually work their way though and achieve by gradual change from within what they could not achieve by direct onslaught. The idea that the C of E has not been sliding steadily leftwards for decades would be laughable if it were not so far from the reality. Incidentally (I edit this after listening again, you can listen again here if you like http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qhd0c slide forward to 38.06 to 43.36) I noted that while he thought the C of E had moved strongly to the right, he also thought that a very large number of people agreed with him. So, a bit of a muddle-but then we are talking about the C of E here, its always been a bit of a muddle.
The question arises though whether the ‘broad church’ of England can for much longer include people like him and me who take such extremely different views on the inspiration and reliability of Holy Scripture versus the modern liberal ‘rainbow gospel’ so heavily influenced by secular humanist consensus thinking with which men like Fraser seem so at home. And the question arises-which group will force the other out? As things seem to be going, I think the chances of me still being an Anglican this time next year are less than 30%. Either the new archbishop Justin Welby will lovingly but vigorously re-state the plain Biblical view on sex or he will not-either way, some people will be very unhappy. A lot of people, including Giles Fraser, already are.
I am more irritated and depressed than angry with Fraser, but I am really angry at the way the liberal left subverts language for propaganda purposes as exemplified by the way the cynical neologism ‘homophobia’ is uncritically accepted. Fraser repeatedly used the term as if it was a knockdown killer argument instead of the meaningless sophistry and baggage-laden, slanderous insult that it is. I wrote about the misuse of language this word represents in my Kindle e-book ‘Three Men in a Hut and Other Essays’. Briefly, the term literally means an irrational fear of the same, or of one’s self. This makes no sense. If homophobia is meant to mean an irrational fear of homos, then I must ask (A) is it now OK to refer to homosexuals as ‘homos’, and (B) why deliberately conflate principled objection to what the Bible calls sin with irrational fear amounting to a mental health problem? And if dissenting from the normalisation of same sex genital activity is now classified as a mental disease (that’s what a phobia is), then we should remember that the socialist USSR used compulsory mind-altering medication and incarceration to deal with dissidents labelled insanse by the State. And of course the children of the insane should be taken into the State’s loving care. For their own good.Why diesthe liberal left deliberately conflate non violent principled objection to the celebration of unnatural sex with hate crime and mental illness!!! And how dare other protagonists stand by and let this happen without objection!!! But ‘homophobia’ is now a routine term of abuse and an argument stopper. An accusation of it can lose you your job and it is fast becoming an indictable crime. So how would Giles Fraser respond if I called him a fag enabler? Offended? Shocked? Accuse me of being judgmental or unloving? Or would he take it as a lesson in being given a taste of your own medicine?
I’m not obsessed with sex, let alone same gender sex-and I do know more about it that I’d like after my voluntary work with an AIDS charity in the 1980s. I HATE writing about this subject, I’m forced to do so as ‘he who is silent is deemed to assent’. The homosexual activists in the church are asking me to throw my plain understanding of the Bible under the bus to please them. I can’t do that.
I don’t expect Fraser to change his convictions, but I think he should apologise for and desist from what I consider the deliberately insulting use of ‘the h word’ to dismiss the sincerely held convictions of many thousands of his fellow Anglicans, probably millions worldwide, who legitimately and honourably differ from him on this issue. These convictions are not for the most part prejudice or a dislike of the other, but arise from the plain and repeated teaching of the Bible and all the centuries of church tradition. May I ask what fundamental principles are his convictions based on and whether he explain why those convictions are better founded from a Christian point of view than ours?