The London Olympics is allegedly becoming the biggest media and broadcasting event in history. This week, the city opened its doors to around 28,000 commentators, anchors, reporters, technicians, make-up artists, and camera and sound operators from 190 countries. This is almost three times more than the number of athletes.
Whereas at previous Games reporters who could not afford rooms have camped beneath their desks, London aims for this to be the first Olympic press centre that doesn't have journalists sleeping on the floor. With London accommodation prices soaring to an all-time high, members of St Brides Church on Fleet Street are offering free accommodation to journalists from the world's poorest countries such as Togo, Croatia and Romania. Hospitality as a neighbourly response.
St Brides stands in a long tradition of Christian hospitality. The Bible suggests that those who have much are obligated to share. In Acts we are told the community of believers shared with those in need (Acts 4:33-34). Rather than placing a full stop between the two verses, the Greek word ’gar‘ indicates a causal relationship: “Great grace was upon them all, for there was not a needy person among them.” Gaius, to whom John wrote his third letter, lived out his faith by welcoming and caring for travelling teachers.The nature of monastic hospitality is found in the Rule of St Benedict: “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say, 'I came as a guest, and you received me' (Matthew 25:35).”
In his book Walking With the Poor; Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, Bryant Myers addresses the issue of encountering people of different cultures, nationalities, and different faiths. "We need to do our work and live our lives in a way that calls attention to the new Spirit that lives within us. We need to relate to people . . . in ways that create a sense of wonder. We must seek a spirituality that makes our lives eloquent."
Henri Nouwen not merely lived such an eloquent life, he also formulated his thoughts on ‘hospitality’ brilliantly: “Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break though the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveller. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.”
In his book The Wounded Healer, Nouwen describes that letting others enter into the space created for them, we allow for their presence to be inviting and liberating.
The character formation as Christ’s disciples involves the nurturing of an attitude of hospitality. It concerns our home and our heart. Hospitality is a virtue that shapes not merely our homes and communities but also our institutions, the way we do our work.
As in the early Church, a community of Christ followers who live according to new values proves to be a powerful display of the Spirit’s liberating and restorative presence. The inclusion and sharing itself become the message. Eloquent lives for sure.
Marijke Hoek, coordinator Forum for Change - Evangelical Alliance
In this series, we have been discussing Dr. R.C. Sproul’s answer to a question about the age of the universe during the Q&A at Ligonier’s 2012 National Conference. We have discussed a number of foundational theological issues that reflect Dr. Sproul’s distinctively Reformed approach to this issue, an approach based on the thinking of Reformed theologians from John Calvin to B. B. Warfield. In this final post, we turn to Dr. Sproul’s answer to the specific question that elicited his lengthy response:
When people ask me how old the earth is I tell them “I don’t know,” because I don’t. And I’ll tell you why I don’t. In the first place, the Bible does not give us a date of creation. Now it gives us hints and inclinations that would indicate in many cases a young earth. And at the same time you get all this expanding universe and all this astronomical dating, and triangulation and all that stuff coming from outside the church that makes me wonder.
And then at the end of his response, he explained again:
Now having said that, that’s a long way to say I don’t know how old the earth is…
I suspect that some conference attendees were disappointed when they heard this answer. Some probably expected Dr. Sproul to proclaim dogmatically one way or the other. A large number, however, applauded. I believe they recognized the wise humility evidenced in this answer. Dr. Sproul recognizes the kind of harm Christians can do and have done to the church by hastily jumping to wrong conclusions about general revelation and science. When Christians declared to the world that geocentrism was something that is clearly and definitely taught in Scripture, all they did was convince those who had carefully studied the evidence that Scripture must therefore be in error. They created a false dilemma. This problem is not new. Augustine, the greatest theologian in the first millennium of church history, also encountered this problem and addressed it in words that have been quoted often:
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.i
Augustine’s comments emphasize the importance of Christians exercising caution and humility – particularly regarding subjects about which we have little or no firsthand knowledge or expertise. As he explains, if we misinterpret Scripture on such subjects and then proclaim to others who know something about those subjects that our misinterpretation is the sure Word of God, we bring disgrace on Christ and His church and place unnecessary stumbling blocks before unbelievers to whom we are presenting the good news. It is far wiser to say, with Dr. Sproul, “I don’t know,” than it is to assert falsehoods to be the teaching of Holy Scripture.
It is also wiser to say, “I don’t know,” than it is to make ultimatums that may be based on a misinterpretation of Scripture and/or God’s created works. I have encountered Christians who have said that they would renounce Christianity if they were convinced that the earth moves around the sun because it would mean that the Bible is not true. I have also encountered Christians who have argued that any believer who is convinced that the universe has been proven to be billions of years old should abandon Christianity because it would mean that the Bible is not true. No. As Dr. Sproul implied, something like this would merely mean that a particular interpretation of Scripture was mistaken. It says absolutely nothing about the truth of God’s Word itself. If the universe turns out to be 6,000 years old, that fact will not ultimately conflict with what Scripture actually teaches. If the universe turns out to be billions of years old, that fact will not ultimately conflict with what Scripture actually teaches.ii We do not need to renounce Christianity in either case. Only if Christ is not risen from the dead is our faith in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).
What about the age of the universe then? If students of general revelation (i.e. scientists) contribute to our understanding of special revelation as Dr. Sproul has explained, then those of us who do not have the training to expertly evaluate the evidence ourselves are dependent to one degree or another on those who are trained in order to help us understand the evidence for and against the different claims. A problem arises, however, when different Christians look to different specialists and those different specialists themselves present us with conflicting conclusions. We end up with Christians who have an equal commitment to the authority of Scripture coming to different conclusions about the evidence. This then affects our reading of special revelation.
The different conclusions to which Christians have come regarding the evidence for the age of the universe has led to an ongoing debate in the church about the interpretation of the nature and length of the days of Genesis 1. Just as those who were convinced that the evidence supported heliocentrism were forced to take a second look at Joshua 10 and other passages, so too were those convinced that the evidence supported an older universe forced to take another look at Genesis 1. This has led to much discussion and debate – some of it quite rancorous.
This debate has played out in several Reformed denominations. In 2000, for example, the PCA issued a lengthy report on the subject. This was followed by a similar report from the OPC in 2004. Both reports concluded that several views of the nature and length of the days of creation are within the bounds of biblical and confessional orthodoxy. Both reports were commended to the various presbyteries and churches within the respective denominations for their study and consideration. Both of these reports are well worth reading for their overview of the issues and arguments involved.
The debate over the age of the universe and the days of Genesis has also played out as numerous books have been written in the last century and a half by Reformed theologians presenting evidence for one view or another.iii The Calendar Day view was held by Reformed theologians such as Robert L. Dabney and Louis Berkhof.iv It has recently been defended by Douglas F. Kelly, James B. Jordan, Joseph Pipa, and David Hall.v The Day Age view was held by Reformed theologians such as Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and E. J. Young.vi More recently, this view has been defended by Francis Schaeffer and James Montgomery Boice.vii The Framework view has been defended by Reformed theologians such as Meredith Kline, Mark Futato, and Henri Blocher.viii A version of the Analogical Day view was held by William G. T. Shedd.ix More recently, this view has been defended by Reformed theologians such as C. John Collins and W. Robert Godfrey.x In short, Reformed Christians are still sorting through the issues.
During a period of time when Reformed believers are attempting to work through and evaluate all the evidence, a measure of grace, humility, and patience would seem to be advisable. The Ligonier teaching fellows are an outstanding example of this attitude. More than one view of the age of the universe and the days of Genesis 1 is held among them without strife and enmity and without charges of compromise on the one hand or obscurantism on the other. This is due to the fact that these men understand the implications of what Dr. Sproul said in the response we have been examining for the last several weeks. Would that more Christians would take Dr. Sproul’s wise words to heart.
Keith Mathison Jun 22, 2012 - Ligonier ministries - http://www.ligonier.org/blog/age-universe-and-genesis-1-reformed-approach-science-and-scripture/
i Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram: 1.19.39 translated by J.H. Taylor, Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41. ii And if the universe turns out to be both because of aspects of God’s creation having to do with relativity and time, that will not ultimately conflict with what Scripture turns out to actually teach either. iii Three of the views of the days of Genesis were defended in David G. Hagopian, ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation (Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001). iv Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, 2nd ed. (St. Louis: Presbyterian Publishing Company of St. Louis, 1878), 254–6; Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 154–5. v Douglas F. Kelly, Creation and Change, Genesis 1.1-2.4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms (Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 1997); James B. Jordan, Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999); and Joseph A. Pipa and David W. Hall, eds., Did God Create in Six Days? (Greenville, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press and Kuyper Institute, 1999). vi Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1982) 1:570–71; B. B. Warfield, Evolution, Science, and Scripture: Selected Writings, edited by Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone (Grand Rapids: Baker: 2000), 145; J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View of Man (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1965), 115; E. J. Young, Thy Word is Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 169–70. vii Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time (Downers Grove: IVP, 1972) and James Montgomery Boice, Genesis, Volume 1: Creation and Fall (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982, 1998). viii Meredith Kline, “Because It Had Not Rained,” ,Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1958) 146-57; Mark Futato, “Because It Had Rained: A Study of Gen 2:5-7 With Implications for Gen 2:4-25 and Gen 1:1-2:3,” Westminster Theological Journal 60 (1998) 1–21; Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, The Opening Chapters of Genesis, Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1984. ix William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed. Edited by Alan W. Gomes. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 374. x C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2006) and W. Robert Godfrey, God’s Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003).
Are we, or any of us, burdened with a sense of sin? are we perplexed with temptations? are we bowed down under the oppression of any spiritual adversary? do we, on any of these accounts, “walk in darkness and have no light?” One view of the glory of Christ herein is able to support us and relieve us. I must confess the truth of what I read here. For last night, up until the early mornings my heart was full of ache of a particular kind. I could not sleep as I felt the burden of the world upon my shoulders and another distinguishing feeling which at times accompany my feeble heart. Although this night I wasn’t burdened due to my own sins, but I was unable to rest, to be in that bed of Christ where sleep comes naturally to his saints. My eyes were wide awake, the terrible yet sweet ache still lingered until I at once began to read of the glory of Christ. I read and as I read I began to contemplate upon his glory; how beautiful his incarnation was that Him to whom the heaven seem unclean should stoop down to this earthly trash and make it his home. That Him to whom all honour, glory and praise belong should so humble himself as to become nothing, allowing the awful sinners of this earth to surpass him in splendour and glory. O I caught a glimpse of his glory and as light extinguishes the darkness, the ache of my soul fled away. I am relieved, O more of that surpassing glory. What is your trouble, what is your ache? Look now unto Christ, see him with the eyes of your heart.
Whatis his glass without him drinking it Or his words without him speaking it. What is his picture without me touching him Or his memories without me living it. I must learn the hateful art of forgetfulness Live the life of an un-present being. I must in tears unwind a love knitted in many years.
I am believing today that God is my Father and that He loves me
That He is God who is high above the universe
That He is God of our redemption and our Saviour.
That He is the condescending* God, who humbled himself and took on our form.
That He is God who indwells me, that all glory is His.
*By condescending I simply mean that God became man, that is he left his infinitely superior throne to be found as a servant - not in a snobby or pretentious manner but lovingly as to be our mediator and our representative.
Sinner:To you sir I acknowledge my sins and before God Almighty. For he was present when my evil deeds I committed but took no pleasure in his presence but rather abhorred it. Now, I feel evil, a son of perdition, arousing the Lord of hosts to jealousy and abusing the grace given to me in Christ Jesus. Now I am full of trouble, the heaviness on my heart could sink this unrighteous city. O I feel like a foe of the Lord, an enemy of righteousness. I feel like an entangled thorn, the blooms of my joy has wither, the earth heaves before me and my rocks are broken into pieces. I have heard Sir that with an overflowing flood he makes an end to his enemies - his torrents are set up against me and I cannot collect my strength. My lines no longer fall on pleasant places, my face can no longer endure the sight of his temple - O Sir my unrighteousness gleams like torches, my face grows pale. Behold he is against me, I am a marked man. O for help and grace, for mercy and pity - I am ever willing to release my sins forever if He should set his face on me again that I may enjoy his morning due and delight in his surpassing sunshine.
Sir: My Son in the faith; you are ever so sensitive to your sins. I have known you a while; and compared to others, your sins are not worth a comparison. But because you know the tune of holiness, understanding each distinctive notes that if any of it should ever be out of line, you my Son know of it and despair, where many men would have no notice of its variation.
Let me comfort your soul in this - that you are a Son of God, born of His Spirit and He is your Father. Therefore he does not hate you but he loves you - your righteousness is ever so near him, that he thinks and looks on you with pity when you do not do away with your guilt and accept his pardon for you. You are a saint of Christ, no more known in his courts as a sinner; only walk worthy of what you are. No more a slave of unrighteousness for once he came to cut off your shackles of oppression to set you free and put his loving seal on you. He cares for you more than the flowers of the field and look how tender he attends to them. My Son, he loves you and has washed away your unrighteousness.
While David Cameron was hogging the media limelight in front of Lord Leveson last week with the disclosure of the “Yes he Cam” text from Rebekah Brooks and the sports’ writers were midway between Germany’s defeat of Holland and Spain’s annihilation of Ireland, something of far greater significance was happening in the House of Commons. Backbenchers were debating mental health. What was extraordinary was the passion of all the speakers. Yet it was a far cry from the yah-boo politics of Prime Minister’s Questions. MPs of course spoke from their constituents’ experience from meeting them in their surgeries. However four mentioned their own experiences: Sarah Wollaston and Andrea Leadsom both talked about their post-natal depression, and being convinced that their family would be better off without them. Ms Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, said: “It is unbelievable how awful you feel when you are sitting with your tiny baby in your arms and your baby cries and so do you. You cannot even make yourself a cup of tea. You just feel so utterly useless.” Charles Walker described with poignant wit his obsessive compulsive disorder as “sometimes benign, often malevolent…. like someone inside one’s head just banging away”. And Kevan Jones described his deep depression related to work and other things going on in his life. “This is the first time I have spoken about this…. Like a lot of men, I tried to deal with it myself - you do not talk to people. I hope you realise, Mr Speaker, that what I am saying is very difficult for me…. Whether it affects how people view me, I do not know; and frankly I do not care, because if it helps other people who have depression or who have suffered from it in the past, then, good.” There is a stigma, even a denial, in our society about the reality of mental illness. This was highlighted in the report How mental health loses out in the NHS, published by the London School of Economics on Monday. “It is a real scandal that we have 6,000,000 people with depression or crippling anxiety conditions and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression. Yet three quarters of each group get no treatment.” The depressive, Gerard Manley Hopkins, expressed the reality vividly:
“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap May who ne'er hung there.” No one is immune. Not politicians, not poets, not prophets, not pastors. Yet for many clergy, depression is an unconfessed burden, as they feel perversely compelled to model ‘strength’ in their lonely leadership-roles, to meet their churches’ expectations. It’s perverse because neither the Bible nor heroes of faith nor our Lord himself modelled invulnerability. As Christians we do our neighbours no favours by hiding our real experience. Faith confers solidarity, not immunity. It’s no good pretending we find life easy. It fools nobody, and it helps nobody. In this at least we’d do well to learn from our politicians. Tell it as it is. Michael Wenham– retired minister, active writer and blogger - Evangelical Alliance
“One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him.
I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness IS Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.
Now I could look from myself to him and could reckon that all my character was like the coins a rich man carries in his pocket when all his gold is safe in a trunk at home. Oh I saw that my gold was indeed in a trunk at home, in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption.”
- John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
I am to think of you as God’s princess A delightful daughter of God - In this there is worth, a treasure kept in the palace of Christ. I am to think of you as sought after By the king of heaven himself. I am to think of you as a little Christ One day to be his glory.
Have you seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in your heart?
Because if you haven’t seen this light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in your heart, to put it simply and gently, you do not know God.
How can you say such a thing you may ask? Its because of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4 vs. 4&6. 2Co 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2Co 4:6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Do you see why I can say such a thing? Who are they who cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ? It is unbelievers. Why? Because the devil (god of this world) has blinded their minds.
And who are they who can see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? They are the believers. Why? Because God, who said, Let shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if you do not have this knowledge in your heart, then you are still blinded by the devil. You cannot sing with great joy of Christ your everlasting saviour and have any real happiness in him.
And because you are a stranger to this experience, or this knowledge, you fill your worship of God with images, pictures, and music to represent to yourself somewhat of that glory which you are deprived of.
I am sure you have heard of stories of those who have been converted or perhaps of yourself, that once before they had no real love for God but then all of a sudden they loved his Christ - they rejoiced in him exceedingly with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, that though not seeing him, they love him and believe in him. This is because they have seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is why John Newton could write, “Amazing grace, How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was blind but now I see.” What did John Newton see - I shall tell you. He saw the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is why John Newton was a Christian and nothing else - He could not worship a pagan god or ascribe this knowledge to reason as to worship it - but Newton worships God through Jesus Christ because the knowledge revealed in his heart was the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
If you know not of what this seeing of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is, then your experience should illuminate whether you possess it or not. Have you a real delight in Jesus Christ? - Do you love him as to strive to obey his commandments - Is the object of your faith Jesus Christ? These are but the few characteristics that follows those who have this knowledge in their hearts. You may not always have this in all seasons but you will have them nonetheless in certain degrees. Jesus Christ shall forever be what your eyes are fixed upon, for he is our hope of Glory.
It is here in this knowledge that we should live and die, for we are called to behold it now and to behold it forever hereafter. Joh 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
You see, Jesus Christ wants us to be where he is, so that we may behold his glory when we are reunited with him. The seeing of this glory begins here by faith but ever so dimly. In seeing this glory and dwelling there, meditating on its awesomeness, our souls will have rests and satisfaction for it was for the beholding of that glory for which our soul was made.
God in his infinite mercy begins this beholding here by letting light shine out of darkness into our hearts, so that we may see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Do you have this view in your heart? Has your heart been impressed upon with this glorious sunshine or have you lost sight of it? If you have lost sight of it, fear not. Come boldly once again to the throne of grace, asking your heavenly Father to show you in greater lustre that glory which supersedes the wonders of heaven - come to the cross of mercy and see the hill where the glory of God was glorified. Ask for this sunshine, for this warmth till your heart say, I shall die if I do not see it. God who is your heavenly Father will not give you a stone when you have asked for bread.
And if you have never seen this glorious light, if you have never seen the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ then I pray for you that God who said let light shine out of darkness will shine in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Believe the gospel afresh, believe with your heart and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour in your heart.
For many of us living in the UK, war is at a distance – it is at a safe arm's reach. War doesn’t disturb our daily lives like for those living in Afghanistan. We may have the odd breaking news of rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels by many young peoples in their local communities. It is a far cry from having American and British soldiers occupy your land and bombing your country.
War is violent and terrible. In GCSE history as we surveyed the twentieth century it quickly slapped us in the face that this century was a bloody century. Two world wars, revolutions, genocide, Hiroshima, and thank God, the restraint of America and Russia in keeping their nuclear weapons inactive otherwise we may have witnessed multiple Hiroshimas.
War is pointlessly murderous as Joseph Persico, author of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 summarises the gruesome death toll of the First World War, noting that “Graveyards were the chief legacy of World War One”. The Second World War resulted in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities making the war the deadliest conflict in human history.
Looking back at the First World War, Winston Churchill would observe: “It was not until the dawn of the twentieth century of the Christian Era that war began to enter into its kingdom as the potential destroyer of the human race. The organization of mankind in the great states and empires, and the rise of nations to full collective consciousness, enabled enterprises of slaughter to be planned and executed upon a scale and with a perseverance never before imagined…” What is war good for?
Absolutely nothing. So goes the song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1969 and recorded by Edwin Starr made famous to my generation by Jackie Chan in Rush hour (see pic above). The song continues: there’s gotta be a better way, war has caused unrest among the younger generation, induction then destruction, who wants to die?
In the First World War those who died were the young men reducing the European forces largely to old men and young boys. An entire generation went missing. If this is the consequence of War, we are brought to reflect again on the words of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, “War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Should we share Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong’s refrain that war is good for absolutely nothing?
As a Christian in their twenties, would you have engaged in the First Word War or in a Third World War should it ever come upon us? Is war absolutely good for nothing or is War sometimes the only means in stopping the spread and tyranny of evil?
Historically, individuals in church history have debated, developed and expanded different positions on war. Dr Steve P Sullivan summarises these different positions under three categories. They are activism, pacifism, and selectivism.
Activism believes a Christian is always right to participate in war. Since the government is ordained by God then the Christian is obligated to submit to his government and fight in war. The question of a “just war” is overlooked by this position.
Pacifism believes it is never right for a Christian to participate in War. The Christian pacifist believes that Christians are called to counteract this world’s war like tendencies by displaying the non-resistance, peace and love which Jesus Christ calls his followers to show towards their enemies and to those who oppress them.
The final position on war is selectivism. Selectivism believes a Christian is correct to participate in some wars. These wars are good for something; they will achieve a noble end. The “just war” position is another way of expressing this view.
As a Christian in their twenties, if you share Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong sentiment that war is good for absolutely nothing then you will be a pacifist. A Christian is never to participate in the war. You will side with the Christian church Father Tertullian when he writes about the incident when Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, that “Jesus cursed the works of the sword for ever after.”
A Christian selectivism may ask the Christian Pacifist the question asked by Matt Perman in his article Did Jesus teach pacifism: “Should the world have turned the other cheek to Hitler and tried to love him into surrender? When Osama Bin Laden ordered the attack on the World Trade Center, should The U.S. have responded by sending him the Sears Tower as well?” Or does Jesus allow a place for both loving our enemies and yet, in certain situations, using force to restrain life-threatening wickedness?
Francis Schaefer, a renowned Christian philosopher and theologian warns of the dangers of consistent pacifism. He writes, “to refuse to do what I can for those under the power of oppressors is nothing less than a failure of Christian love. It is to refuse to love my neighbour as myself.” He went on to say that was why he was not a pacifist: “pacifism in this poor world in which we live-this lost world – means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.”
War may be far from our British shores but if it does come and our generation is called into action, what will you do. Will you join the protest, knocking on the prime minister's door lamenting with the words ‘war, what is it good for, absolutely nothing?’ or will you weigh up the situation, pick up your weapons as an act of love for the service of justice and peace and embark on the journey of killing the tyranny of evil?
The hearings of the Leveson Inquiry – the public investigation into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press - rolled into their seventh month this week. And like a familiar iPod in shuffle mode, another crop of public figures and political faces were seen and heard. Brown, Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Osborne were among the classics downloaded and added to the playlist, which already included the overtures of Blair, Cable, Clarke, Jowell and May.
The initial announcement of an inquiry was made by the prime minister in July 2011, following a much-publicised phone-hacking scandal. After outlining the parameters of the inquiry, and identifying its victims, Team Leveson’s bus pulled into town, set up its decks in Westminster and the hearings kicked off in earnest in November 2011. They began to call those affected as well as those implicated, and sometimes more ‘news’ seemed to be being made of the people appearing before the inquiry than the purpose of the inquiry itself. In terms of public awareness, the inquiry hearings were in the charts right up to the end of 2011, pausing briefly around Christmas and Easter before resuming with momentum each time. So it is no surprise then that these hearings were still in the top ten as the country partied for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Even as many are flying the flag for football, cheering (or crying) for the cricket, tidying up for the tennis or anticipating the 2012 Olympics, the calling up, questioning and evidence gathering of Team Leveson continues. And all for the public’s good.
By definition a public inquiry is an official review into an event or actions. It is official because it is ordered by government and public because it is usually conducted with the expected observation and participation of interested individuals or groups. And if it is going to be credible, this kind of exploration and scrutiny needs to be thorough and transparent.
To-date, not all the music that has been made by the artists selected to appear at Team Leveson’s gig have been tuneful, in key or in time. The process has been demanding for some and damaging for others, and only time (literally) will tell just how far reaching the effects of media intrusion and unscrupulous irregularities have gone. In this process though, it seems that no-one is beyond being called for questioning, or being recalled if required. And so the inquiry continues...
Being scrutinised in public or in private isn’t usually a comfortable experience, but as revelation after damning revelations comes to our ears like poorly mixed recordings and badly arranged covers, I wonder whether deeper lessons of responsibility and accountability can be learnt, both for those in public life and those who are not?
When Jesus says in Matthew 5:16 (NIV): “In the same way, let your light shine’, he wasn’t referring to the shock discovery of the violation of privacy, nor of the unsolicited intrusion of a media group, or even to a time-limited period of scrutiny of an official body or interest group as a result. He was, I think, championing a kind of life and lifestyle that is ethically and morally well-behaved, both in and out of the lime light, and which is, and remains, genuine and authentic when put under the spotlight. I also think Jesus calls me to do more than spin a story or to manage our public reputation when an inquiry team comes to town.
I’m hearing a clear call to expect to be observed and to be effective in my dealings with and toward others, acting accountably and responding responsibly in all my dealings, so that the goodness of God is seen by those who I encounter as well as, those who encounter me. And that is the kind of life ‘tune’ that could be downloaded and played on repeat.
Katei Kirby, Belonging Together Partnership Officer, The Methodist Church - Evangelical Alliance
Our Lord Jesus Christ in his famous discourse uttered this Holy Spirit inspired words, "blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."
Only they who are pure in heart shall see God. If you are not pure in heart you will never see God.
The psalmist puts it another way by asking a question and then answering it. Psa 24:3-4 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
You may now be thinking like Solomon in the book of proverbs: Who can say, "I have made my heart pure; I am clean from sin"? Proverb 20:9
Can you really say you have made your heart pure; I am clean from sin? If you can then you will see God and can ascend up his hill and stand in his holy place.
You may be suspicious at this point if anyone answers possitively because Jesus once said that it is "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Mark 7:20-23
The Apostle Paul adds to this impurity, idolatry, socery, enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, drunkeness, orgies and things like these, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
If you are found innocent of any of the works mentioned above then you are pure in heart and can stand and ascend up the Holy hill of God.
Or perhaps you understand the condition of your heart to be more like Paul in Romans 7, 'Oh the wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body (heart) of death?'
Paul goes on to say in Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
How does Jesus Christ deliver you from your evil heart?
By his death on the cross and his ressurection. Becuase you believe in him by faith He has given you a new heart, to put it in old Christian language, 'you have been born again'. Listen to what Peter says about this: 1Peter 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
But you may say that I don't feel 'born again' or I'm still the same person.
That may be true and what you need to do is pray like David when he prayed in Psalm 51:10 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me'.
You will also need to throw away your former hope which made you think that you were 'converted' or 'born again' and believe afresh the gospel of Jesus Christ. God will come and cleanse your heart by faith (Acts 15:9).
You may say, I do feel born again but yet I know that there is sin in my heart, does that mean that I will never see God?
The good news is yes that you will see God because what makes you pure is Jesus Christ and his purity. To put it simply, you as a Christian have the entire righteousness of Jesus. Jesus never sinned so it is as if you never sinned; you are perfect in the sight of God when you come to Him because you are always wearing the Jacket (righteousness) of Jesus. This is called in theological terms Imputed righteousness. Personally I love this 'doctrine' so much that I called my blog counted rigteous in Christ.
You may then ask the question, does that then mean that we don't strive to be pure in heart?
Of course we do. Paul puts it this way in 2Co 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
As a Christian you have the righteousness of Jesus Christ which means that you are pure, and because you are in Jesus Christ, God is transforming you day by day to become more like his Son, Jesus Christ.
Do you get it?
We are pure because of Jesus and what he has done - but we become pure in heart, that is, it has its effect in our lives as we conform ourselves to Jesus Christ. This is a process. But we can always come before God, ascend up his holy hill because of Jesus Christ and when we repent of our sins He will always forgive us.
You can read this text every day, 'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God', and say - Jesus Christ is my perfect righteousness. He has made me pure, because he has made me pure and righteous I will live my life in conformity to Jesus's righteousness and not to the world. When I do fail and don't feel pure in heart, I will confess my sins, repent from them and say every time, Jesus is my righteousness. And immediately I can come to God, to pray and enjoy his presence and I don't have to wait, or go and do something because Jesus has already offered up the sacrifice of atonement.
Why my soul do we run so far from that which brings us joy and satisfaction - why my soul do we delay to sit at his feet and listen to his voice when it is there that we are content. Why do we rise very early to chase that which will only bring us misery. Why my soul do we not stay like a dog, why do we not rise and pray and sing and dance to his tune. My soul we must from this day employ ourselves entirely in him - there is nothing for us in this world, nothing of ultimate satisfaction which will not leave us dry. We must be nourished upon him, yea, we are hungry and he has the bread, we are thirsty and he has the water, we are tired and he is there to comfort, we are restless and he waits to rest us. Come my soul, let us go. We feel entirely sinful, he has the forgiveness, he has the righteousness, we have none of our own. He calls out in the street, he is calling our name, hear is soft tender voice, ‘Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink, and live.’ Come my soul, let us leave this rock of guilt, of death, let us go to him. If we do not go now we shall never go again or we may miss him - come my soul, let us leave it all behind.
Stricken late afternoon - beside the pounding waves Heavy upon the rocks - the rocks of my Laboured life. Carried above the marsh, headed towards the stringent dune With a heart hard as stone unrepentant un-renouncing The gospel preached to savages convert to behave Like Christ crucifying death for joy. Drunkards thieves meet no more to glorify the night The day revealed profits counted as loss - The rulers such works do hate Have me lead to death through the dirty dismal sanctified street Now marked with a martyrs sprinkled blood Followed by hidden gentiles believing Christ is Lord.
About a martyr who is being lead to die by the rulers of this poor dark city. They will stone him to death.
Listen Fredrick. Can you hear the soft playing piano? I think its coming from heaven. I could rest my soul now to sleep. Fredrick, I can play the instrument of life, she is rather the loveliest of instruments but for some her tune only yields a melancholy note. My tune has long been heard like a soft playing flute and like a gentle harp - mine manifests itself like the movement of the clear stream on a calm day - I spend my days on the sandy shores late into the cool evening when the moon beamns her quiet disposition of soft peace invincibly into my soul. O Fredrick I speak to highly of myself.
I must say also Fredrick, that i am not well trained in that art of flirtatition - I am a pitiful drawer, mixing my colours in the wrong manners. One time, I tried to sell a very fine painting and I knew not how to maintain an interest to the audience; infact I bore them and where I to leave the painting to sell itself it would have gone for a high price.
Reach for the shelf not for a masterpiece nor pick a name that birds will know - pass by the famed concrete polished prose and rest the orators to sleep tonight - but pick an obscure humble rhyme an ordinary grinder like you and I.
I don’t want to see this house not be a home there are somethings I cant go back to because I’ve let them go.
The afternoon needed a dose of a drink to numb the pain that aches my soul. To sleep now, I beg for I not to wake - to forgo the nights dread awaking at eternals sunny morning.
Friday Night Theology may have popped into your inbox earlier than expected. The short working week following the Jubilee has had a disorientating effect, throwing us out of our natural rhythms. This ‘break’ in the everyday pattern of life has a wonderful effect, allowing us time to be with friends and family, to celebrate and relax.
The discipline of celebration is deeply rooted in a Christian model for life. In the very earliest chapters of the Bible, God takes time out from his work and celebrates what he has done. Leviticus 23 spells out seven annual feasts that Israel were to mark as ‘holy days’ or feast days. They would come before God in the temple, feast and celebrate, rest and remember the stranger. These days were designed to break the pattern of life, to help the people of God remember all that God had done and all that He had promised; where they’d come from and where they were heading. The descriptions of them are strikingly joyful: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40)
The celebrations of the Christian church – Easter, Christmas and recently Pentecost – should have the same effect. Our own celebrations: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, house warnings and goodbye parties can be the same kind of gifts if we celebrate them intentionally, noticing their meanings. Sixty years on the throne for our Queen was a wonderful opportunity for the nation to get together and rejoice, to think about how much has changed and also how much hasn’t. What other opportunities are there to celebrate in your family, church and community?
A Christian vision of the human person and a flourishing society recognises that people are not linear but cyclical. We are not like machines, able to keep going in one direction at one speed until we fall apart. We need rest, time for gratitude, time for community, time for contemplation. We are not pragmatic utilitarians, valuing only outputs and quantifiable gains. Time is not, as the saying goes, money, though it may be wealth.
The discipline of celebration forces us to get out of our rat runs and tram tracks, take a breath and look around us. If the Christian community can model both committed, passionate excellent work and the discipline of celebration, we’ll be pointing to something true and nourishing for us all.
Elizabeth Hunter – Director, Theos - Evangelical Alliance
We live in an unequal world. Some Nations are rich and some are poor.
In rich countries, individuals are healthier, live longer, and are much better educated. They also have access to a range of amenities and options in life, from vacations, to career paths, that people in poor countries can only dream of. People in rich countries also drive in roads without potholes, and enjoy toilets, electricity, and running water in their houses. They also have typically governments that do not arbitrarily harass or arrest them; on the contrary, the governments provide services, including education, healthcare, roads and law and order. Citizens vote in elections too and have a say in the direction of politics. p44
Poor individuals living in poor countries are not so lucky. They lack the basic necessities that individuals living in rich nations take for granted. The difference is vast.
Understanding why these differences exist and what causes them is Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson's focus in this book.
Developing such an understanding the authors write, ‘is not just an end in itself, but also a first step in generating better ideas about how to improve the lives of billions who still live in poverty.’
So why do poor nations get it wrong and the rich nations get it right?
Poor countries are poor because those in power make choices that create poverty. The opposite is true for why rich nations get it right.
Countries differ in their economic success argues Acemoglu and Robinson because of their different institutions, the rules influencing how the economy works, and the incentives that motivates people. Thus nations fail today because their extractive economic institutions do not create the incentives needed for people to save, invest and innovate.
Acemoglu and Robinson uses North Korea and South Korea as an example:
Imagine teenagers in North and South Korea and what they expect from life. Those in the North grow up in poverty, entrepreneurial initiative, creativity, or adequate education to prepare them for skilled work. Much of the education they receive at school is pure propaganda, meant to shore up the legitimacy of the regime; there are few books, let alone computers. After finishing school, everyone has to go into the army for ten years. These teenagers know that they will not be able to own property, start a business, or improve their living standards even if many people engage illegally in private economic activities to make a living. They also know that they will not have legal access to markets where they can use their skills or their earnings to purchase the goods they need and desire. They are even unsure about what kind of human rights they will have. P68
Acemoglu and Robinson also rejects the common hypothesis that people have often assumed was the major cause of why nations fail. They reject the geography hypothesis, the cultural hypothesis and the ignorance hypothesis and in their place they argue that to understand world inequality we have to understand why some societies are organised in very inefficient and socially undesirable ways.
Acemoglu and Robinson present historical evidence from the Roman empire, the Mayan city-states, the Soviet union, Latin America, Europe, United State and Africa to show that the way these nations were organized were instrumental, in fact, highly critical, of the success of the Nations.
Confucius once said, ‘in a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of and in a country badly governed wealth is something to be ashamed of.’ Aristotle the grand father of western philosophy also once said that ‘poverty is the parent of revolution and crime’. Echoing and personally agreeing with the words above and with Acemoglu and Robinson earlier sentiment that poor countries are poor because those in power make choices that create poverty.
Leaders need to make choices that creates wealth for the people not just the elite, and have good economic institutions created through politics and political institutions or else as history as shown, (e.g the Arab spring, the American revolution and countless other revolutions) that poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
Purchase book here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/why-nations-fail-daron-acemoglu/1110776486
There’s something beautiful about longevity. This four-day weekend, a range of events will mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne. We’ll watch the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, take part in the Big Jubilee Lunch, and enjoy the Jubilee Concert. The final day of the long weekend will be marked by a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, during which aspecial prayer will be offered for her. The Psalmist muses that those who dwell in the shelter of the only true Sovereign and rest in His shadow will be satisfied with long life and shown His salvation (Psalm 91). It reflects the shalom intended for humanity. The contrast with lives that were brutally cut short in recent weeks could not be starker. Dark shadows were cast when 49 children were killed in the Houla region and six kids died in Derby when their house was set on fire. Longevity and shalom seem light years away from these tragedies. The Catholic mass to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee also contains a special prayerfor the Queen, requesting that in her governance she continue to grow in every virtue.In his book Virtue Reborn, N.T. Wright shows that virtue occurs when our habitual choices have been wise. In Proverbs, wisdom is personified in a woman. Wisdom invites us to come and learn. She will keep and guard us and place a graceful garland, a beautiful crown on our head (4:9). Wisdom is needed to be genuinely human and therefore vital to good governance. Whether our vocation concerns governance of the family, classroom, boardroom, city, or nation, we need to be virtuous people. The woman in Proverbs 31 is such a gem. A home-maker, entrepreneur and artisan whose character is noble and whose heart is big. She loves her work, her family and those in need. She mentors with sound advice. A diamond with many facets. Undoubtedly, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of her wisdom. No wonder her husband is proud of her. His praise crowns her virtuous life. Solomon started as a virtuous leader, who did not ask for himself long life or riches, but understanding to discern what is right. In response, God promised him a wise and discerning mind (1 Kings 3:11-14). Yet, much was lost along the way and, subsequently, dark shadows were cast instead of light. N.T. Wright asserts: “From a Christian point of view, then, virtue cannot be conceived solely in terms of the individual journey from a standing start to a future destination. It belongs within an end that has already begun, an eschatology that has already been inaugurated.” If like the woman in Proverbs 31, we want to smile at the days to come, we need to grow as virtuous worshippers, allowing wisdom to shape all facets of our life into the diamond He has in mind. Each life individually highlighting the beauty, relevance, joy and compassion of the Christian life and the enduring hope for God’s suffering world; and collectively, even more so. Enjoy the party in honour of the Queen. Beyond that, may we live long lives in honour of the King and see His salvation. Marijke Hoek, coordinator Forum for Change - Evangelical Alliance
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953 in London. C.
S. Lewis chose not to attend the festivities because the weather was not great,
because he did not like crowds, and because he was not in the mood to dress up.
Instead he stayed at home and watched the event on TV (it was the first fully
A month later Lewis reflected on the coronation in a letter
to a friend (Letters, 3:343):
You know, over here people did not get that fairy-tale
feeling about the coronation. What impressed most who saw it was the fact that
the Queen herself appeared to be quite overwhelmed by the sacramental side of
it. Hence, in the spectators, a feeling of (one hardly knows how to describe
it) — awe — pity — pathos — mystery.
The pressing of that huge, heavy crown on that small, young
head becomes a sort of symbol of the situation of humanity itself: humanity
called by God to be His vice-regent and high priest on earth, yet feeling so
inadequate. As if He said, ‘In my inexorable love I shall lay upon the dust
that you are glories and dangers and responsibilities beyond your
Do you see what I mean? One has missed the whole point
unless one feels that we have all been crowned and that coronation is somehow,
if splendid, a tragic splendor.