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Showing posts from April, 2017

Who gets the attention of whom?: Getting faith the wrong way round in the Old Testament

Okay, so yesterday I promised an Old Testament example. Instead let me give you two. As I said yesterday, these are examples of what happens when people get the order of the relationship between faith, attention and blessing wrong.

Our first example is the more pleasant of the two – so pleasant in fact that’s it’s normally thought of as a positive story, and the sinful start tends to get skipped over. It’s found in 1 Kings 3. David has died and his son Solomon has become king, and 1 Kings 3 starts with these words:
Now Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and married Pharaoh’s daughter; then he brought her to the City of David until he had finished building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall all around Jerusalem. Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days. And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned ince…

Repeat after me: Faith isn't a Work! (So don't turn it into one!)

Today I'm reposting something from four years ago, but don't worry, the relationship between faith and Jesus hasn't changed in the meantime ;) ...
On Twitter I read the bold proclamation that “Our faith catches the attention of Jesus”! (Yes, I know, it was Twitter!) I was going to continue with the next sentence of this post something along the line of “but is that really true?”, but instead let me be more direct. That's not true at all! It might sound good (emphasis on the “might”), but it's absolute rubbish, and dangerous rubbish at that! For, if “our faith catches the attention of Jesus”, then faith has become a work!
That's why it's dangerous rubbish, because if “faith” is transformed into a “work” then we end up with salvation by works. But, you say, he said “our faith”, not “our works”! But the thing is, we can so empty the word “faith” of its true content and fill it with new content that it ends up becoming a work. And that's what's happened…

What the Incarnation has to say about Abortion: Some theology in light of the news from the Irish Republic

At the weekend, The Citizens’ Assembly/An Tionól Saoránach set up by the Dáil in the Republic of Ireland to consider constitutional changes made its decisions on the 8th Amendment, which has been reported in the press as a vote in favour of decriminalising abortion (for, although the eighth amendment doesn’t specifically mention abortion, it does rule out its introduction in the Republic). The 8th Amendment is actually a positive statement asserting the human rights of unborn children:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
I’m not Irish (although that confuses anyone who doesn’t come from Northern Ireland), but I do come from a country bordering the Irish Republic, and in which, like the Republic of Ireland, abortion is, in most cases, a crime. And what’s more, many people in Northern Ireland look v…

A New Test Act?: Does the first week of the election campaign signal the exclusion of orthodox Christians from UK public life?

We used to, in this country (or at least in the English and Welsh bits of it), have something called the Test Act. The whole point of the Test Act was to exclude people of certain faiths from public life. If you couldn't meet the test required in the Act, you couldn't hold an office under the Crown (i.e. have a civil service or military job), serve in local government, matriculate at Oxford, graduate at Cambridge, or sit in the House of Commons.
The test was twofold: you had to receive Communion according to the rites of the Church of England, and you had to take an oath declaring that you did not believe in transubstantiation. And so Nonconformists (whether Catholic or Protestant Dissenters, i.e. non-Anglican Protestants) failed the test, and were excluded from any political or civil role.

Eventually the Test Acts were repealed by the Tory government of the Duke of Wellington, bringing emancipation for Protestant Nonconformists in 1828 and for Roman Catholics in 1829. (Altho…

Why we need to read more of the Bible in Bible-believing Churches

Evangelicals sometimes speak of themselves as ‘Bible-believing Christians’, and yet, you’re likely to hear much less of the Bible read in a 21st century evangelical church service than you would in many other traditions. In liturgical worship, you’ll hear at least four Scripture readings on a Sunday morning – one from the Old Testament, one from the Psalms, one from the New Testament epistles, and one from the Gospels – and probably sing a few portions of Scripture on top of that too. But, more and more frequently, evangelical services can be found with the only Scripture reading being whatever the preacher decides to read before the sermon (if he decides to read a passage of Scripture at all!). Now, clearly this is not the case in all evangelical churches (so don’t mistake me for suggesting that it is), but it is becoming more and more and more common as a particular form of worship/liturgy sweeps over more and more of evangelicalism. And, because many evangelical churches don’t have…

Polemics, Pragmatics, and Church Government

Sometimes polemical claims overshadow careful consideration. And yet, when that happens, polemics can eventually give way to a pragmatism that forgets what is really the case. You see, once a polemical claim is exposed for what it is – no more than a polemical claim – then it cannot form a solid basis for anything. And, if the polemical claim has so overshadowed the real basis for things, then something good and true can easily be swept away with the polemics.

What on earth does all that mean? Well, let’s think of church government. These days forms of church government don’t tend to raise passions too high; but that wasn’t always the case in these islands – just think of the controversies between prelacy/episcopacy, Presbyterianism, and independency (congregationalism) around the time of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. Within British Pentecostalism, differences over church government were one of the main reasons for the formation of three different Pentecostal denominations in t…

On the Power of God’s Word and Evangelical Biblical Scholarship

Scripture tells us that God’s Word is powerful. By His Word the Lord created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1; Ps 33:6). By His Word He gives new life (Jn 5:24; 1 Pet. 1:23, 25; Jas 1:18) and faith (Rom. 10:17). By His Word He cleanses (Eph. 5:26) and sanctifies (Jn 17:17).

Throughout the centuries, those who hold to the Evangelical faith have trusted in the power of God’s Word. As Luther said during the Reformation:

Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. … I did nothing; I let the Word do its work. What do you suppose is Satan’s thought when one tries to do the thing by kicking up a row? He sits back in hell and thinks: Oh, what a fine game …