Archive for September, 2008

Velvet Elvis Has Left the Building-IV

September 23, 2008

I stumbled across my copy of Velvet Elvis and decided to finish it and complete my postings on it- you can read the others elsewhere on my blog. What I read in the concluding chapters alarmed me but did not surprise me in the light of the earlier chapters. His suggestion that at the heart if the gospel is the message that Jesus believes in me and God has faith in me is just downright unbiblical. What did Jesus say, ‘The Son of Man came to help mankind fulfill its potential’? No,He came to seek and to save the lost. What did the early church proclaim, ‘Believe in yourself and everything will be fine’? No, repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Bell’s message is a travesty of the gospel.

The chapter where he then goes on to tell us that hell is full of forgiven people who have chosen to live outside God’s story is another travesty of the gospel. As is his half-baked suggestion that hell is this world gone wrong and that we are created to bring heaven to earth. This a shambolic distortion of the gospel.

Whilst I appreciate his call for the church to seek to make the gospel more of a practical reality in the world I disagree that the church has been created by God to serve the world. No, the church has been created by God to worship Him. Also his suggestion that the early church did not preach the resurrection because everyone believed in gods dying and rising displays a basic ignorance of Scripture. (What Scripture Bell uses throughout usually displays his complete inability to handle Scripture accurately).

This book is simply a terrible book and I continue with that sense of alarm that it is being widely promoted in Christian book shops. Much of what Bell says is simply not Christianity. I know some of you will think I’m too hard on Rob Bell. This is not a personality thing. So if you want to respond to this post don’t try to defend him as a great guy- I’m sure he is. But let’s deal with the ideas he is pushing in the name of Christianity.

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And Darwin Replied….?

September 15, 2008

The ever entertaining hierarchy of the Church of England are at it again. This time they are apologising to Charles Darwin on the 200th anniversary of his birth. They are apologising to him for the Church of England’s negative response to his theory of natural selection. Its good knock-about stuff from the Cof E. Of course they are more interested in being pc than they are in being historical. It wasn’t only Christians who reacted negatively to Darwin’s theory it was also the scientific community who were much more severe on Darwin that Christians. Some Christians found the theory preposterous. Others were more ready to accept it but were worried about how some people, like Thomas Huxley, were pushing the theory to atheistic conclusions.

But here we have the Cof E making a pointless apology to a man who is dead and like so many of the pc brigade failing to accept that ideas and debates are part of the evolution of the historical process. They might be of more service if they actually encouraged serious interaction between the scientific and Christian worldviews today. On second thoughts maybe not, who knows what they might come up with.

I rather like the response of one of Darwin’s descendants to this apology. He says, ‘When an apology is made after 200 years, it’s not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organisation making the apology feel better.’ Exactly.

Watch this space for an apology to those atheists who have been offended by the CofE’s historic belief that God exists

And that is what some of you were…

September 13, 2008

I was saddened to hear of another high profile Christian figure in the US come out as being a homosexual. I was more sad to hear of his rationale for his behaviour. Ray Boltz writes, “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.” It is a sad distortion of the Christian message and one seems to be gaining greater popular credence.

1. The Bible treats homosexuality as a sin and warns us that we cannot blame God for our sinfulness- James 1:13

2. Boltz has divorced his wife. Clearly his divorcing of his wife to pursue other sexual behaviour doesn’t register on Boltz moral scale as being a sin.

3. Where does the ‘God made me this way’ defence end? Can we therefore justify every behaviour- infanticide, incest, etc on the grounds that God made me this way?

4. Boltz ignores the basic Christan teaching that how we are is not a sign of God’s goodness to us but of how sin has corrupted God’s good gifts including our sexuality. Sin must have no place in Boltz’ s theology.

5. Boltz distorts the gospel as so many do today. He takes the line that God accepts us just as we are. This is often a partial truth and distortion. God meets us where we are in the sense that no amount of self-righteousness can make us acceptable in His sight. Sin creates a level playing field for us all in the sight of God. Yet whilst God in that sense meets us where we are  He does not leave us there. The heart of the gospel is that God changes us. He deals with our legal guilt but He also breaks the power of sin in our lives and sets us free from the sin that enslaves us.

Paul writing in 1 Corinthians of the sins (including homosexuality) that had enslaved the Christians there does not say ‘but hey this is the way God made you!’ Instead he writes, ‘And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ (6:11)

Sadly it seems that Boltz never really has grasped the essence of the gospel and is now using it as an excuse for his sin. I am not hopeful that given this distortion he will come to repentance unless God opens his eyes and changes his heart.

The Name on Everyone’s Lips

September 6, 2008

Sarah Palin has been the news story both sides of the Atlantic this week. You would almost think she was running and not McCain. As Palin comes to the fore so does more about her background. Seemingly one of the most common search terms has become ‘Sarah Palin Hot Pics’ although this it seems has come up with poor results! What has become clearer is Palin’s religious background- baptised a Catholic she then became a member of AOG and currently describes herself as an independent. And whilst I’m in favour of Christians being involved in the public square alarm bells have started ringing regarding Palin.

In one news report this week it has merged that she made a speech in Alaska urging support for both the Iraq war and an oil pipeline as being God’s will. When people advocate public policy on the grounds that it is God’s will this leads us into a very scary place. Of course God’s will is clear with regard to certain matters as in the abortion issue and is set out in his word. But to bring the idea of God’s will into matters of general policy where His word of not clear and God’s will is nothing more than a kind of gut feeling is a very alarming pattern. It sends non-Christians running for cover to find that Christians like me are already there.

Coming from N Ireland where religion and politics have long been mixed up it has long been my contention that we should not vote for anyone on the basis that they are a card-carrying, church-going Christian. Instead in politics, as in every walk of life, our concern should be to see those who are most able for the position filling it. Christians, as we know here only too well , and as people like Dubya have proved in the US, do not make infallible leaders. Indeed they often do not know how to combine personal belief with the administration of public policy. Indeed there is such a thing as misplaced Christian zeal.

Whoever becomes President in the US will have a influence on world events. So my American voter friends- choose wisely for all our sakes. Try to see beyond the rhetoric and see who will actually provide the best and most able leadership.

Old Rocker goes off his rocker!

September 5, 2008

For a long time Sir Cliff Richard has lived out his Christian faith in the eye of the public. As a pop star and entertainer he has lived his life with integrity under the media spotlight which is no little achievement in Britain. Whilst he has used his fame to winsomely commend the Christian faith. This makes it all the more sad to hear of his recent commendation of same sex blessings. According to a report in today’s Times Cliff says ‘I think the Church must come round and see people as they are now…Gone are the days when we assumed loving relationships would be solely between men and women.’

His comments highlight a number of issues.

  1. We once again see the danger of figures in the public eye who become spokesmen for Christianity simply because they are in the public eye. Cliff is a hugely influential figure and this will make his comments all the more damaging.
  2. We again see the danger of allowing cultural norms to determine morality. Here Cliff simply repeats what is going on in our culture rather than challenging it.
  3. Cliff somewhat misses the point in his comments. Christians have long recognised that people can have deep, loving relationships with people of the same sex. The issue is not friendship or companionship it is a sexual relationship.
  4. Cliff makes no mention of the Bible as the authority for his comments. His authority has become his opinion which he sadly seems to think carries weight because of his public profile.

I do hope that in the days to come those who have spiritual influence in Cliff’s life will gently restore him and show him the folly of the stance that he has taken.

You can read the article here- timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4675929.ece

Peace in our time- Well, for one Day at least!

September 3, 2008

In another example of the do-goodery that the famous specialise in Jude Law has been called upon. He is promoting a day of global ceasefire on 21st September- which if it happened would be an excellent way to celebrate my birthday! I’m not quite sure which is the greater in this case- Law’s egotism or his naivety. Does Law really think that if he asks people to stop fighting they will stop? Or that even if his ceasefire came about it would make any material difference? If he has this amount of clout he should be cloned and dispatched to every war zone in the world.

Law’s approach and those who are with him show that enlightenment values are still alive and well. They didn’t die out in the 1980’s with all those people who would say to me, ‘why don’t you people in Northern Ireland just get along with one another?’ Wow! We’d never thought of that!

The desire for peace is of course laudable. Indeed it is natural for that is what we were made for. Only a fool would not long in his heart for peace. But we need to ask ourselves realistically how it will come about. Will it truly come about because an actor asks for it? I read the blurb on a book recently which described the book as possibly the best case for world peace ever assembled. So what? Even my kids could make a great case for world peace. But how will it come? The reality is that it will never come because the sinful desires that lie in the human heart. The desires of pride, greed, and the desire for power override our desire for peace. Never mind our ability to achieve peace.

Peace will only come with the war to end all wars. When Jesus Christ, the prince of Peace, will return triumphant, and overthrow all that stands opposed to Him. And consequently all that stands opposed to his rule of peace, righteousness, justice and joy. In His death and through His resurrection Jesus triumphed over all that stood opposed to Him. He has won the battle and the end of the campaign is not in doubt. Until then we His people must preach the gospel of peace with god through Jesus Christ and seek to live out that gospel of peace in our lives.