Monday, 23 October 2017

Surprised? Maybe Not.

I was involved recently in a discussion with several younger leaders in a Christian ministry. The question was raised, "Should people in common-law relationships be allowed to sleep together at a retreat where both Christians and non-Christians are gathered as part of a process exploring the Christian faith.

I was rather taken aback at the response on the part of some: "It's part of today's culture; it's the way things are today, so we should allow it." To be fair, these people might have sincere motives for this thought - not wanting to turn anyone away from their investigation of Christianity, or not wanting to be considered puritanical, but I think there needs to be more to the conversation than pure, instant compromise.

I tried to say that at least there should be a conversation. Of course it's not an easy question to answer, and we Christians are not here to judge those outside the church, but I still think it's a more nuanced issue than merely deserves a flat out unconsidered answer.

I indicated that my response would be to at least have a conversation with such a couple to gauge what they might think of the following line of thought:
You probably know what the traditional Christian position is on sex outside of marriage. I'm not here to judge your arrangement, but I think there are things that need to be considered. There are guests among us who are searching to see if Christianity is true. I think they may be looking to see if we who are Christians are sincere in our own faith. So, bottom line is that they may, I repeat, "MAY," see us as hypocritical if we allow unmarried couples to room together. I repeat, I'm not here to judge your living arrangement. We're more than halfway through our course and I haven't yet, have I?
There is a passage of Scripture that I think, in a way, addresses this issue. It is Romans chapter 14. Granted, this chapter is speaking to those within the church, but I think there is a place for us to be considerate of other people's consciences. So I'm just afraid your rooming together might cause some other guests to, what we call, stumble. I'm not talking about those who are already Christians. I can handle them, but I'm thinking of those who may be seeking and who may be put off by seeing what they might see as hypocrisy among us. 
So I'm wondering if you would mind, just for this weekend, having separate rooms - men with men, women with women?
That might be how my conversation might have gone. I have no idea how it would turn out, but I think it deserved a conversation. I'd be interested in any thoughts.

Take Care

Sunday, 22 October 2017

What's Wrong?



This is a picture of a presentation slide. The points are taken  from a book called, "Disappearing Church" by Mark Sayers. I recommend the book. I believe it paints an accurate picture of the changes in Western society that are ultimately leading to what I call, "The end of the empire;" the decline and eventual, inevitable, fall of our Western culture.

Now, that may seem alarmist, but the pattern of history is that every empire that has ever existed has fallen, every civilization that has once flourished has ended, and we would be naive to think that at some point, ours won't as well. Our torch will inevitably be passed on to the next world power. I don't know when or how quickly, but I have stated before I think it will be China, who will not only only take the place of the West in power, but also in faith - namely the Christian faith.

 Because the picture is probably difficult to read, here are the points into which Sayers writes our current culture seems to have bought:

  1. The highest good is individual freedom, happiness, self-definition and self-expression.
  2. Traditions, religions, received wisdom, regulations and social ties that restrict individual freedom, happiness, self-definition and self expression must be reshaped, deconstructed or destroyed.
  3. The world will inevitably improve as the scope of individual freedom grows.
  4. The primary social ethic is tolerance of everyone's self-defined quest for individual freedom and self-expression. Any deviation from this ethic of tolerance is dangerous and must not be tolerated. Therefore social justice is less about economic or class inequality and more about issues of equality relating to individual identity, self express(ion) and personal autonomy.
  5. Humans are inherently good.
  6. Large scale structures and institutions are rejected and personal authenticity is lauded.
  7. Forms of external authority are rejected and personal authenticity is lauded.
The only point I might clarify a bit is the last part of point 4. I would say current social justice causes do indeed include economic and class inequality, but only certain accepted classes: First Nations, for example (and I would not dispute the rightness of that), and sexual minorities, but certainly not the consciences of Christian bakers, for instance.

I think the most perceptive phrase here is in the middle of that same point 4 - "Any deviation from this ethic of tolerance is dangerous and must not be tolerated." Those who subscribe to this new, "ethic" don't even seem to see the inherent hypocrisy involved in it.

I leave it with you for your consideration.

Take Care

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Billy Graham Evangelism Congress

No Sooner did I return from my Calgary junket (Sunday afternoon) than Eva and I started a three-day Evangelism Congress beginning Sunday evening at the Fantasyland Hotel at West Edmonton Mall. One of the featured speakers noted the irony of hosting an event aimed at bringing a Christian revival to our nation in a facility named, "Fantasyland." We who were there, and who have on our hearts the evangelization of our nation, would not consider our aims any kind of fantasy.

The event was completely inspiring, with speakers such as Mark HughesDanielle StricklandCharles Price and Edmonton's own Bob Jones, Senior Pastor at North Pointe Church. The worship band was also from North Pointe and the quality and duration of music was just about exactly perfect. I say duration because I find a 15 to 20 minute worship set to be just about right.

I met many people there who I have previously met in my travels around the province, some of whom recognized me before I recognized them. I also met many people who I hadn't met yet, but whose churches have run Alpha throughout Alberta. I have found that in any such large church gathering, a surprising number of the people I meet, or someone they know, came to faith through Alpha.

I was pleasantly amazed at how much the Billy Graham organization seemed to like Alpha. There were quite a few recommendations of Alpha as an evangelizing tool, even though Alpha wasn't officially involved in the congress. I was so pleased to see in what high regard Alpha is held both by the organization and many of the individual speakers there. Alpha works so well because  it takes into account the very fear and reluctance to evangelize that many of us seem to have. All one has to do is invite someone to, "dinner and a movie," so to speak, to learn a bit about the basics of the Christian faith and discuss some of life's big questions in a relaxed, open and non-threatening environment.

My greatest takeaway from the Congress: "Culture trumps everything." A church may say it wants to evangelize; may say it wants to reach the lost for Christ, wants to grow, but so often the true culture belies their words. They will not make visitors feel truly welcome and comfortable when they come through their doors. They will not honestly examine every aspect of their Sunday morning and ask, "If this were my first time here, would I want to come back?" They will say things like, "I don't really want to get bigger than we are right now. I like my church just the way it is." Mark Hughes put it this way; "Every church, regardless of size, should be growing in numbers."

And of course, we all know the last six words of a dying church; "We've always done it this way!"

Take Care

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Wisdom From Chesterton

"If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments they shall be governed by ten thousand commandments."
Chesterton had a way of putting profound things so simply that the reader would wonder, "Why didn't I think of that." The quote above tells a truth so obvious, when one considers it, yet so missed by so many.

Time was, for instance, when people could seal business deals on a handshake. No longer. It takes a phalanx of lawyers to hammer out what should be even the simplest of transactions. The Bible tells us that we should let our Yes be Yes and our No be No, but even the church has been so infiltrated by the world that many now require such things as signed confidentiality agreements and other contracts.

If we only kept the commandment regarding bearing false witness, or against theft, we could eliminate a myriad of laws. If we lived honest lives, according to our consciences, knowing what is right and holding to it, even though it might be at personal cost, we could eliminate many cases of corruption.

If we didn't cheat on our taxes, or pad our expense reports; if people (and I'm sure there are some) who cheat on Unemployment Insurance or welfare would work and contribute to society instead of taking from it, I'm sure we could do away with a great many regulations. In other words, if we could just trust one another, we would not need the micro management of these, "ten thousand commandments."

Pie in the sky I know, but in a perfect world...

Take Care





Friday, 15 September 2017

Culture and Liberal Christianity


It has been a while since my last post. I'm reading a fascinating book called, "Disappearing Church," by Mark Sayers. In it I find some fascinating insights, including these thoughts on our current culture in light of the advance, some would say the decay, of the liberal church. .
 
"Like a team of suicide bombers who obliterate themselves yet irrevocably change the cultural atmosphere, liberal Christianity has essentially destroyed itself as an ecclesiological, institutional force, yet has won the culture over to its vision of a Christianity reshaped for contemporary tastes.
While cursory glances at our culture’s religious hue can give one the impression of atheism, we will soon see its liberal Christian residue. Following liberal Christianity’s lead, the majority of Westerners hold to a belief in a pleasant afterlife and a benevolent Christian-esque god. However, the doctrines of divine judgment and hell are ditched as repugnantly retrograde. Concepts of personal morality and the pursuit of virtue are replaced by a desire for the common good… 
In this reformulated understanding of sin and evil, salvation is achieved through the gaining of enlightened attitude… Thus those who have gained this enlightened attitude… …form a refashioned concept of the Biblical notion of the elect. This community of the elect has moved beyond the need for concrete forms of church and association, and instead form a culture based on shared opinion manifested in a language based on a correctness of speech, opinion and belief.  Sin is recast as purely unenlightened attitudes. 
Now with the culture reflecting the values of the liberal mainline churches, one simply leaves the church."
In a sense, the author concludes, we see in this adoption of the church by the culture, this, "ghost memory" of Christianity, as Tim Keller has put it, a revival of the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, the belief that we can accomplish our salvation on our own.

We must remember, though, that it is Christ who is building his church, and nothing, even the, "gates of hell" will not prevail against it. "Heaven and earth," and even false beliefs will eventually pass away, but the true body of Christ will last forever.

Take Care

 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Persecution of the Christian Church in Egypt


I'm reading a book. There is a section on the persecution against the Church in Egypt. It speaks of persecution so intense that even the survival of the Church there can only be attributed to the grace of God.

Churches closed - many desecrated, burned, destroyed. Christianity made illegal; clergy especially targeted - beaten, imprisoned, killed. It tells of all Christians suffering for their faith, with no public places left to worship and no clergy left to lead services.

Terrible.

The book is on the life of Athanasius, and this persecution took place between the years 311 and 313.

Two quotes come to mind:

  1. "There is no new news; only old news happening to new people" - Malcolm Muggeridge
  2. "...I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it." - Jesus Christ
Just Sayin'

Take Care


Sunday, 7 May 2017

More of LC17

5562 (Capacity) at Royal Albert Hall
Here are some of them


Self Explanatory

Church at HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton, Anglican, if you were wondering)


Nicky and Pippa Gumbel
Until Next time,

Take Care

Beyond Belief


In London for Alpha's Leadership Conference, Eva and I visited Kew Gardens, Royal 
Botanical Gardens. I was struck by the amazing variety of plants and trees - thousands in fact, in just these acres of gardens, and all so different, from every corner of the world.

I found myself thinking once again about evolution. As difficult as it is to believe something as complicated as animals and humans descended from a common ancestor, this visit made it even more difficult to fathom how anyone could think it made more sense that these all developed by a series of accidental mutations from a single... whatever, than that there is a God who brought them into being.

Of course the atheist has put himself in a position where he cannot consider this because he has rejected the option of there being such a supernatural creative Being. The atheist claims to demand evidence, but then rejects any evidence that is not in keeping with his presuppositions. "Evidence" for God is all around, including the evidence that there is, 'something rather than nothing,' and the extremely complicated variety of everything there is. As difficult as it is to imagine all this happening by accident, the atheist must insist that it did, because his presumptions prevent him from thinking anything else.

Just sayin'.

Take Care