Archive for February, 2008

Exhaustive and Exhausting

February 18, 2008

I’ve just finished reading John Owen’s Communion with God for the second time. This time I read it in a new version edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic. I would have to say that it is a great version. The language is modified in places to enable the reader to understand more readily and there are useful footnotes to translate the archaic terms. However the greatest strength of this version is its layout. The book is very clearly set out and has an excellent outline at the beginning which makes the whole book much more easily read and the argument more easily followed. It is a well presented book and if the Puritans are going to be accessible to the presetn generation this is the way to go.

JI Packer writes somewhere of Owen that you have a sense that when he deals with a topic that he has exhausted it.  Certainly that is the sense that you have with Communion with God. Even in this more accessible edition this is not an easy read. But it is very profitable. As I said this is my second time through the book. I find reading it slow going and I can only manage usually a section at a time. But I always come away from it having profited from Owen’s insights and with my heart warmed as Owen deals with how our communion is with each person of the Trinity.

If you read this book you may find that progress is slow but it is really worth it. If you want to tackle just one book that will stretch you in terms of your understanding of the depths of the Christian faith this book deserves a look. It is exhaustive and may leave you feeling exhausted but it will also give you a sense of achievement and it will lead you to marvel at the wonder of your salvation.

What is the church?

February 14, 2008

I suppose many people would give many answers to the question what is the church. I was impressed by an answer I heard recently in a sermon by Tullian Tchividjian which expresses the answer to this question in dynamic terms. He said that ‘we are not a self-preserving tribe we are a  self-sacrificing mission.’ It is a powerful statement about the nature of the church, that we exist not for our own sake but to demonstrate the reality of the gospel to a watching world. It is a definition that strikes at the root of the consumerist view that is a blight upon the church at this time.  In the day in which we live we need a much more missional view of church which moves us away from the idea of church as something that is there for our own convenience to a view that sees it as a community that displays the glory of God in salvation.

The Archbishop and Sharia

February 11, 2008

Time I think for a few reflections on Rowan Williams’ remarks that the adoption of parts of Sharia law was inevitable in the UK.

  1. There is a I think little doubt that Williams comments have been hugely misrepresented and that he has been unfairly treated.
  2. There is also little doubt that Williams has made a huge gaffe. I don’t know who looks after his PR but his remarks are extremely ill advised in the current climate.
  3. Williams’ remarks have shown yet again that he is out of step with mainstream Anglican opinion, something he has managed to demonstrate on just about every major issue on which he has spoken. Unfortunately in an age of spin we are constantly being told it is a misunderstanding based on his superior wisdom and the stupidity of the rest of the world. In which case it is an unfortunate brilliance he possesses.
  4. Whilst some have sought to defend Williams not many have rushed to agree with him. Notably there have been many Muslim voices who have disagreed with him. What does this latter fact tell us about Sharia law?
  5. One response to Williams’ statement by a Muslim was to ask which version of Sharia law should be introduced? Williams statement may help people understand Muslims better if they understand that Islam, like Christianity, is not monolithic.
  6. Many have observed that the UK’s laws are based on Judaeo-Christian values. Hopefully Williams remarks will cause many people-Christian, secular and Muslim- to think carefully about that and what we are in danger of surrendering if the UK continues headlong in its pursuit of political correctness at every turn. The ‘liberal’ values which so many cherish are deeply rooted in Christian values.
  7. One Muslim commentator remarked that Sharia law offered protection to minorities. That was once true in the past in certain cases. But sadly it is seldom the case today as many Christian minorities in Muslim dominated countries could testify.
  8. Sadly Williams has done little to encourage true dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Instead his remarks have helped whip up further hysteria which may only lead to the further alienation of Muslims in the UK. It is therefore incumbent upon Christians in the UK to befriend Muslims and engage them where it truly matters, not on the public stage, but at a local level.

As mentioned above in PR terms Williams’ statement has been a disaster. But it may inadvertently have the spin-off of causing people to think more carefully about the issues he has raised. Hopefully it will also cause Christians to think more carefully about how they engage with their Muslim neighbours and not push them into some kind of knee-jerk reaction.