Friday, September 23, 2005

Books read in September (4)

1. K.I.S.S. Guide to Dreams - Lisa Lenard

Lots of theories about dreams and what you may learn from them. A really eclectic mix from ancient and modern thought on dreams. Oh for a Joseph to pass on true interpreation!

2. Fields of God: Football and the Kingdom of God by Mark Roques, Jim Tickner

This has to be the most original Christian book I have ever read. Full marks to the authors for producing a book to link Christian faith with the beautiful game. This book is theologically profound and erudite about football too, racy and very colloquial.. It is written from a reformed evangelical perspective giving us no mere gospel presentation but a look at creation, the cultural mandate, the flow of redemption history and the coming of the kingdom with realised eschatology. This is done with everything illustrated from the soccer world. Here you will meet soccer heroes and villains and marvel to ponder how the game would be if played according to the way of the kingdom of God.
Here is Christian faith that touches all of life. Pietistic, here called Platonist Christianity, is exposed as short-changing the full message of the kingdom.
If you love the gospel and football, this book is for you. If you want to know how to use the contemporary scene of football for sermon illustrations, here is a gold mine. I think it has evangelistic potential too.

3.Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 - 1981) and Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism - John Brencher

John Brencher writes, "That he, like all men, had feet of clay does not affect my view that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was unrivalled as an expository preacher in the twentieth century. That I was able to sit under his ministry at Westminster Chapel from 1950 to 1959 and intermittently for the next nine years was an experience which has had an extraordinary effect upon my life and ministry and, for better or worse, has not wholly ceased today.

I would echo , That he, like all men, had feet of clay does not affect my view that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was unrivalled as an expository preacher in the twentieth century. That I was able to sit under his ministry at Westminster Chapel from 1964 to 1967 and intermittently in various places for the last years of his preaching was an experience which has had an extraordinary effect upon my life and ministry and, for better or worse, has not wholly ceased today.

Donald MacLeod wrote that M L-J was "arguably the greatest British preacher since the Reformation". I would concur. Whifefield in the 18th century seems to have been the greatest orator, but his printed sermons seem to lack much substance. Spurgeon was the Prince of Preachers, a wonder of Victorian England, but he was not the careful expositor we heard in M L-J. I believe I have heard at least one better expositor but never an oratorical preacher to surpass "The Doctor".

Brencher's is a far more critical work than Iain Murray's biography, but great men have great faults, and I believe Brencher is more open on this matter than Murray.

Foremost in Brencher's criticism is the aftermath of the 1966 Evangelical Alliance address when evangelicals were call to leave mixed denominations, As a result the influence of The Doctor is seen to have declined among evangelical Anglicans and others who stayed in their various denominations. brencher believes The Doctor deliberately wanted to make his stand, alone if necessary, contra mundum; at least contra the British ecclesiastical world. He marginalised himself post 1966.

For myself, a lesser criticism is the one most relevant personally. Brencher says the Doctor ran Westminster Chapel more like a consultant's surgery than a local church. As a student who attended the chapel but was never invited to stay for any sort of after-church fellowship nor challenged to join as a church member, I have to say The Chapel under the Doctor failed me as a young Christian. If I learned a great deal about preaching from those years, I learned nothing about vital church life.

Macleod is also quoted as saying that The Doctor, "functioned as the Cardinal Archbishop of evangelicalism ". I confess at the Westminster Conference I saw him being deferred to as such when R T Kendall gave his paper asserting that particular redemption was not part of the teaching of Calvinism according to Calvin, but a later, next century development. When it was evident that kendall had the chairman's approval, most listeners seemed to follow suit out of deference to the Doctor.

However, Brencher's book is among that select few books I have made time to read more than once.

Brencher is a Baptist and in part his criticism of the Doctor's administration of the sacrament may be coloured by this. But as a Presbyterian I too am unhappy to read what he did. Preaching was so exalted as THE means of grace that the sacraments seem to have been downplayed.

One factual error which Murray also makes is to state that the Doctor's first sermon in Wales was in Newport. Murray's index says this was Newport, Gwent, which is now in Wales. but when the doctor preached and when I was born there it was still in Monmouthshire, England.

Brencher seems to me to contradict himself stating there were many students from different countries and races at the Chapel, than saying there was a general absence of young people between 16 and 25. Did Brencher only see post-doctoral students? I for one was aged 18 to 21.

But I want to end on a positive note. The book reminded me of that unforgettable preaching I once enjoyed. I shall never forget his sermon the Sunday after Aberfan., or his reference to the fall of Nkruma and the toppling of his blasphemously inscribed statue. Great preaching for which I continue to thank God.

4. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Letters 1919-1981

Insight into the life and character of The Doctor from his correspondence. He had a very formal style in his letters, ever the consultant physician of souls. His love for his mother, wife and daughters comes across very strongly .

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Boom Boom

Some things in life irritate greatly, like people who drive with the bass booming out of their car stereo. I confess to retaliation if they are next to me at the traffic lights. I turn up BBC Radio 4.

But even more irritating are radio stations broadcasting speech and putting boom boom noises in the background. LBC 1152 initiated this and BBC Radio London have followed suit. I complained to the former and did not get so much as a reply. When I want news or traffic reports I do not want it accompanied by BOOM BOOM!

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

God and disasters

I am reminded of what happened when I was a student in London in the mid 60s.

I attended Westminster Chapel, a formative part of my theological education, hearing Martyn Lloyd-Jones, IMO the greatest preacher in the UK in that century.

The Doctor rarely referred to contemporary events in his expositions, but when he did it was all the more memorable.

It was a Sunday evening so the text was in Acts. I have forgotten what it was but not the gist of his stunning comments on the disaster at Aberfan the week before. There in his beloved Wales our preacher knew so well, the slag heap from a coal mine had slipped down a hill side and covered the school below killing many innocent young children.

The preacher said people ask why dd God allow this. He said why should they hold God responsible when humans were responsible, depositing mining waste where they knew there was a spring of water at the site. Why should God protect people from irresponsibility when they have rejected him? He said he knew Aberfan well. It had been blessed sixty years before in the Welsh Revival but now the chapels were empty. If people turn their backs on God, why should he protect them?

It was stunning. At the time I though he was hard. No-one else was saying this.

But I soon came to see he was right. The slag heap should never have been there. God's common grace usually protects us, the just and the unjust, day by day. But if his providential protection is withdrawn, we see the effects of sin in a fallen creation and in fallen lives in all its horror.

My sympathies and prayers are with the people suffering in Luisiana. Now is the time to call upon the Lord.

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May we admire Rahab?

When we worked in Nigeria,Christian folk there had no
ethical problem with Rahab's lie. They had a problem
with what the spies were doing going to her house :-)

Our problem here is an apparent conflict between the
commands not to kill and not to bear false witness. To
give up the Jews to the Nazis might be seen as some as
not to be murder, but I am not among them.

I worked with a doctor from Denmark who told me that
when the ocupying Germans asked Danish doctors for
lists of Jewish patients they said they had none. She
said the question of the lie being sinful was
irrelevamt. Saving life took precedence over
absolutising truth telling.

I have to say, if i was a fugitive from murderers I
would not want to hide among Christians who were not
prepared to mislead murderers to save me. Murderers
have no right to the truth if they want to use the
truth to kill.

Rahab's was an admirable act because she is commended for her faith. It was faith in the God of the covenant which led her to protect the spies. We may question her means of doing so, but she did not have the ethical instruction we do. Neither was she living in a peaceful society with habeus corpus and no death penalty. She was different, and in different times.

Applying present day understandings to historical situations is foolish. Look and see if they were approved or not by their contemporaries. Which contemporaries criticised Cromwell in Ireland or flogging in Nelson's navy? We have our understanding of ethics today, but the past is a different country.

Similarly, I am reluctant to use this as a basis for contemporary ethics except to say I think it does say something about deception in times of war or when the lives of others are murderously threatened.

I wonder if brethren who absolutise the command on false witness to the detriment of saving life would consider it absolutely wrong for police and intelligence services to engage in under cover operations? e.g. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4212524.stm

And what about the court oath? No I am not talking about oaths being prohibited but swearing to tell the whole truth when you are neither required nor allowed to tell the whole truth, only to answer the questions put to you truthfully.

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The Ashes Dilemma

I have a terrible dilemma. My wife had surgery last week and hopes to be well enough for me to take her to a family wedding 200 miles north next saturday, 10 September.. .I hope she is well enough to go ...But I have a ticket for the game at The Oval. It cost me 40 ukp. On eBay f it may be worth 200 ukp. If I have to take my wife to the wedding I will sell it to a friend for face value but the money is not the dilemma. I want my wife well and see the game. She wants to be at the wedding and not feel guilty.

I am praying that she is well and I am gracious. I could also pray that it rains all day but in London, not the north of England. If there is no result due to rain over the five days, England wins the series ... but we want to win the last game too.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Israel

To believe that God has a purpose yet for ethnic
Israel, as I do, is not necessarily to be a Zionist.
Lubavich, ultra Orthodox Jews are not Zionists. They
believe in no restoration to the land until Messiah
comes. Similarly, I believe Scripture teaches no
restoration to the land except for a repentant
covenant people. Israelis are not such a people. They
reject the covenant which is now in Christ. So the
State of Israel is not according to prophecy and
deserves no special consideration as part of God's
purposes. Christian support of Zionism is the biggest
stumbling block to evangelising Muslims. It should be
the cross, not Israel, that is the stone of stumbling.
I believe that Jews are both under the blessing and
the curse of the covenant.

Their continuing existence as a diaspora for 1935
years, unique in history, is testimony that God has
not left off his covenant blessings to them.

Their continuing persecution for all these years is
evidence they are under the covenant curses for
rejecting Messiah.

THIS LATTER FACT IS NOT A JUSTIFICATION FOR
ANTI-SEMITISM. It is for understanding it.

In common with all nation states I believe they have a
right to an existence in secure borders. I would apply
the same reasoning to Kurds and Armenians.

So I think they have to come to some peaceful
agreement with the Palestinians. But I am no Solomon.
Even he did not have wisdom enough to cut up the
baby, only to say it should be cut up. But I mean it
and he didn't.

I am British. With the island next to us as one of our
problems it does not become me to say how to divide up
Palestine. I do have more positive suggestions about
uniting Ireland :-)

BTW, part of the trouble with Iraq is that it is not a
nation state but an artificial construct like many
former colonies.

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Homeopathy

First I will state my bias in this. I am a pharmacist who was taught that homeopathic medicines have no rational basis, for just when the dilution is so great that it is doubtful if anything of the active ingredient remains, at that level it becomes potent.

Like my late professor, I regard homepathic specifics, i.e, medicines, as nothing but sugar. I will not recommend nor stock them for sale. The one good thing about them is their freedom from side effects.

OTH homeopathic practitioners say they treat patients not diseases. Their holistic approach and time taken to listen are both very firm positives in the healing process.

But we all know people who absolutely swear by wonderful cures from homeopathy. I suggest it is from the consultations not the medicines which can be no more than placebos.

As to other alternative medicines, they range IMO from the proven, acupuncture, to the plain scatty, crystal healing, with many things in between.

Desperate diseases require desperate remedies. I would have to be very desperate with the failure of allopathic medicine before I tried some of the alternatives.

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Bad and worse terrorists

A comparison is often made is saying Islamist and Irish terrorism are similar.

Far be it from me to defend people of violence on either side of the Northern Irish sectarian divide, but neither party there broadcasts video messages with religious banners behind them. They act in the namer of Nationalism or Unionism under the banner of Irish tricolour or Union flag. They fight in the name of politics not religion. They are not given to suicide missions (except by hunger strikes for a time). By and large they gave warnings and did not bomb their own people.

I hesitate to draw this conclusion, but comparing them with the Islamists I see some mitigating Christian influence among the men of violence from N Ireland.

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