Archive for August, 2008

The Current Need for Spiritual Discernment

August 23, 2008

This week has brought more sad news about the behaviour of leading Christian figures. First there was the news that Todd Bentley who has been the leading figure in the ‘Lakeland Revival’ has been forced to stand down after filing for divorce from his wife and admitting to an inappropriate relationship with another woman. Then there was the admission from Michael Guglielmucci whose song the Healer written when he was diagnosed with cancer had been an inspiration to many people admitted that he never actually had cancer- the whole thing had been fabricated.

Since I have been studying 1 Corinthians so much of what Paul writes there came to mind as I considered these sad episodes. Notably the dangers that there are in promoting the cult of celebrity Christian leaders and the need for spiritual wisdom and discernment. But perhaps one the in Corinthians came to mind more than others. And that is there is a theme running through Corinthians where Paul seeks to shame the ‘super-spiritual’ Corinthians by telling them that even the people of the world are wiser and more discerning than they are. it’s not a major theme in the letter but read it carefully and you will see that appears at several points e.g 5:1; 6:1-6; 14:23. And it is indeed to our shame as Christians where we have less common sense let alone spiritual discernment than the world around us. It must appear to the world that we are not people of faith but just plain gullible.

We live in an evangelical sub-culture where we need to reassess the nature of true Christian experience and true spirituality. That will require boldness and a willingness to stand up to those who would bully others in the light not of plain scriptural teaching but their so-called experience. We live in a day when the principle of sola scriptura not only needs to be recovered but also when we need to consider carefully how the rule of Scripture is to be applied.

Getting the Message Across

August 23, 2008

I remain slightly bemused about the level of interest there is on this side of the Atlantic about the US presidential race. Somehow I can’t think that the Americans will get that excited about our next election. Part of the wild excitement has been over Barack Obama (or should it be O’Bama now that his Irish roots have been revealed). He certainly is a crowd pleaser and I see that in the US some even speak of him in messianic terms.

Yet despite all the brouhaha surrounding Obama and the general sense that the Republicans are in trouble this has not seemingly been reflected in the polls. There it appears the two candidates neck in neck.  An interesting piece in the TImes reflects on why Obama is not way out ahead. It offers a fews suggestions including a holiday which allowed McCain to regain momentum, racial issues and the fact that people are a bit weary of him already- anyone for a chorus of ‘four more years?’ But it suggests that one of the key weaknesses of Obama’s campaign has been that no-one is completely certain of what he stands for. At the minute McCain’s answers are clear and concise, while Obama’s nuanced answers leave the public uncertain of what he stands for- witness the question on abortion at the Saddleback forum.

It left me reflecting not on politics but the gospel. That where the gospel gets a grip upon people’s lives is where it is clearly proclaimed. Sadly today the inability of churches to declare the gospel boldly and to vacillate in its answers to many pressing questions has left society confused. Many people are left to today unclear what the gospel is and what the church stands for. Whilst the church in its ongoing quest for ‘relevance’ has created simply a fog of misunderstanding.

Obama’s campaign might yet lose its way in a fog of confusion- as John Kerry’s did last time. His current predictament should serve as a warning to the church in our day. If we want to speak to our society then we must speak clearly so that people might firmly grasp the gospel and see clearly what the church stands for. If not our campaign too will continue to lose its way.

Matthew Henry on Adam’s Rib

August 21, 2008

I came across this very moving quote by Matthew Henry on the creation of woman in Genesis 2.  He writes,’ the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.’ It is beautiful vision of the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual responsibilities within marriage.

Julie Burchill on Contemporary Christianity

August 16, 2008

Julie Burchill, the British journalist, has always proved something of a conundrum to many people- see her entry in wikipedia just to get a flavour of this. But in the Guardian, of all places, she has this article today which is written with her usual passion and to my mind  fair degree of insight. journalist

Gripe of the Week

August 10, 2008

Gripe of the week or perhaps comic turn of the week- Richard Dawkins complains about being misrepresented- now he knows how it feels.

Anyone for Freedom of Speech?

August 10, 2008

I haven’t been blogging for a while- summer holidays and all that. Of  course during my unnoticed absence many things haven’t changed. Random House publishers have decided to postpone indefinitely (read cancelled) The Jewel of Medina, the debut novel by journalist Sherry Jones. It is a novel about the prophet Muhammed’s child bride. The reason they cite is that they have been warned that the novel may incite some Muslim’s to violence.

I cannot help but compare this step with the kind of furore that follows every blasphemous piece directed towards the Christian faith. There we constantly hear the message that Christians can be offended if they want this is about freedom of speech. But clearly we are being told here that freedom of speech is not really a right worth defending. Freedom of speech has its limits- a potential threat and the literati will go running. Perhaps we’ll yet have public readings of the book. Or maybe those champions of free speech who so excoriate Christianity will publish extracts and broadcast extracts- anyone for television rights?! Random House have said someone else is free to publish the novel. Watch this space as the champions of free speech stride forward.