Monday, April 30, 2007

"God says "Yes" to creation; he says "Yes" to life."

Daniel Blanche writes:
"I am convicted that I need to out-feel those around me who do not know God, because unlike them I have reason to believe that my feelings are a response to real joys and real tragedies. I need to be involved intellectually and emotionally in all the real good and all the real evil of the world and of the lives of those around me. I need to laugh more. I need to cry more."
Life is for living. Some say that to err is human. Others say thinking makes us human. We could speculate all day long, but we do actually already know. The first page of the Bible is often ignored because it's perceived to be controversial. Yet, most of the most important words ever said are on that page. The Guardian is publishing a 14 part series on Great Speeches at the moment - they really should include Genesis ch1. We get God speaking. We get God speaking and the universe-happens. Spaces are formed, and then filled. And his approval is stamped on it all - "good". God makes life happen and it is good. He says Yes.

And then something "very good". Actually us. Human Beings. Image-bearers. Pale reflections of God himself, but reflections nonetheless. Sixty-six books and however many years later we're now marred by sin but we're not lost causes. We can be redeemed. Not by ourselves, we can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps - that wont work. The one who is The Image-Bearer can bring us back. The Cross of Christ is the one and only way that the complete job can be done - wrath-averted, sin-cleansed, relationship-restored, community-created, heart-changing, mind-renewing transformation. What that could lead us to conclude is that the only thing to do is evangelism. Skip living and just preach the gospel, right?

What does it mean to be image-bearers? Relational - echoing the Trinity. Creative and communicative (just look at everything God does in the 26 verses of scripture before he makes us). Creation-subduers and rulers (in the very best sense of what that can look like). And there are ways to bring out that from the darkness. The music teacher can help a child express creativity. The speech therapist helps someone communicate. The biochemist explores the world that God made, finding out how it works best. The agriculturalist cultivates the world - a few steps short of a Global Eden but better to get it working a bit rather than not at all. Planet Earth (and the rest of the Universe) is God's place and it's corrupted but it's still pretty phenomenal.

I work for a mission agency and our passion is evangelism. But not even Roger Carswell spends every waking moment doing evangelism. We can live. And we must. Christian Students have a job. It's studying. I want to see them know how to study their course to the glory of God, and to take their gifts and their talents into the marketplace, into the workplace. We need Bible Teachers, apologists and evangelists. But mostly we need an army of life-living Jesus-loving people - who love what is good, who live - work - and play to the glory of God. Limping along from one moment to the next as best they can with the help of God.

The Christian has their eyes open to this. Their mind-renewed. Their heart-awakened. We have a taste of the new creation and that means we can really live in the first one. We're able to get our heart broken and our mind thinking. We can breathe deeply. We can experience the boredom and the excitement. The writer of Ecclesiastes wasn't a freak he was normal (and honest). We can have fun and we can mourn. We can feel gain and we can feel loss. We can see the big picture and we can delight in the details. I spent the first 18 years of my life soundly asleep unawares of the most beautiful things in life. Sadly there have been plenty of times in the last 10 that I've dozed off. Someone keep me awake please! I need an IV drip of caffeine for my soul. I need the Holy Spirit. I need the Word of God. Life is there for living.

What a true evangelical should be...


They are
"warm-hearted ministers of the Gospel and I bear much love for them. They’re also all joyfully self-deprecating and full of good humour. Exactly what a true evangelical should be."
(Tim Suffield, on CJ Mahaney, Mark Dever, Lig Duncan and Albert Mohler)
T4G-2008 Video
All in it'd probably cost about £700-800 (double the numbers for dollars) to go to this from the UK... I don't have that kind of money. So, unless someone would like to help... I guess we'll just have to settle for 'NWA08' which is gonna be pretty good too and comes a week earlier.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Eating with leaders

BBQ with Reading CU leaders, and having preached on Titus 1 (mp3 quality is ropey for first 7 minutes but normal after that). My prayer is that they are and continue to be qualified leaders, people of godly character and gospel convictions.

After our church meeting ended and we went out into the Spring sunshine my friend Tony and I had a chat about two things. He challenged me to use more stories in my preaching. I think he's on to something. I feel a tension. I said about 1800 words in 24 minutes (recommended target 20mins.) More stories mean less of something else. I'm keen to do detailed explanation of the text. I included a fairly significant portion of direct application in this talk, and yet I'm left to wonder how much of the material really connected with those present. Some gave very positive feedback so I'm not beating myself up, nonetheless I'm keen to do this more effectively - not least because today's subject matter concerned how to encourage God's people with sounds doctrine and refute error...

My thesis was that God's Leaders have Godly Character and Gospel Convictions... which takes some explaining and arguing. God has given us the teaching propositionally, in a letter - albeit set in a very real context of church planting on Crete. Should I be satisfied to teach that material as I did? Would including more stories have conveyed the same content more effectively and engagingly? Would more illustration have allowed me to do less application because it would have been more obvious? Or, is God's word clear enough for me not to do that much translation - it's already in English and being explained? ...and I'm left asking did I really herald the glory of the gospel enough anyway? Does the form make that much difference?

I listen to a lot of sermons. I like to do it (which probably makes me both strange and a preacher). Which ones strike me most. Simon Pethick preached Nebuchadnezzar's testimony with great attention to it's form as a testimony in February. John Piper preached Paul's closing prayer in Romans as a prayer earlier this year. How do you preach a letter?

Tomorrow - preparing to teach the Sovereignty of God to the church... the only restrictions on me... I have three days to prepare, 75 minutes to do it with some advice to have around 20mins of 'talk', 25mins of group discussion and about 30mins of Q&A. Not a theoretical exercise. It's happening.


Mend the fence. Build an ark.

Everyone has an explanation as to why there are fractures in evangelicalism. Everyone has their angle. I do. One blogger suggests it's about:
"...boundary maintenance by conservative evangelicals who appear to have captured UCCF at the moment and are paranoid enough to feel threatened by those whose commitment to the gospel and scripture has some differences with their own..." Andii Bowsher
Sitting the room, having breakfast with those concerned I'm not sure it shakes down that way. Sure, UCCF is a conservative evangelical movement - in that we're committed to contending (conserving) for the gospel (evangel). Looking at our history - tracked back to the lesser incident in 1919 (which was not over the truth of penal substitution, only it's centrality), it's certainly not about a movement being 'captured...at the moment' - we've not moved. The only thing that has changed is that we've become a bit better at communicating who we are clearly. That's not normally a bad thing. Now, perhaps one could say it's boundary maintenance to want God's people to be rooted in what God has said? perhaps it could be said that it's boundary maintenance to not want lies to be spread about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If so, I'm very happy to be a fence-mender. Looking stupid to many in the church.

I also want to be an ark-builder. A man like Noah. Standing around in the middle of a desert building a boat. A really big boat. Not my boat - God's boat. The Jesus boat. The one where rebels like me can flee God's wrath and get a taste of everlasting communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Spending our days glimpsing the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified. He who was crucified to bear the punishment I deserved. Crucified so I could die to sin. Crucified so I could be brought to God. Me, Jesus and all God's people happy in an ark. Looking stupid to the watching world. So be it.

When ships pass in the dark, or bloggers post their points for debate it's easy to talk past each other. It's almost impossible to have constructive conversation because nothing stays on topic for long and the format requires us all to speak up - the day bloggers tame our tongues the blogosphere is finished. Can't see that happening anytime soon. My intended philosophy, easily buried by my selfishness, is to critique myself more critically than I critique others - and to presume that others have the best possible motives. That's probably a naive approach, but we all hold our beliefs because we think we're right (otherwise we'd have changed them). I don't feel particularly threatened by those who differ from me - they keep the debate alive. As for paranoia, it seems unlikely. Confident. Careful. Just a family on a mission, with a passion for the trustworthy message about Jesus Christ and him crucified. Passionate for his fame. Passionate for his people.

Since you asked, UCCF is the mission agency I serve within. These are just my ramblings.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Today was sunny

Spent the day at Richard Cunningham's place, being much encouraged to be involved with a family who love the cross in all it's multi-faceted gospel glory and love God's people deeply. It was also very sunny, and that was nice too.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Church Times on the Word Alive issue

Atonement row gets personal as Evangelical partnership splits

Pat Ashworth writes: "At the heart of the controversy over Mr Chalke’s views was his rejection of one understanding of penal substitutionary atonement... "

Pete Broadbent seeks to bring clarification on the Spring Harvest position: "They’re trying to make it a big issue over Steve Chalke, which isn’t true. He’s one factor among many."

It's not a contradiction, it's wisdom

Some blogs have got a little heated recently over penal substitution and related events. As many have observed, Steve Chalke included, this is an issue that is vitally important. In his words: erroneous theology will always lead to dysfunctional missiology. When things matter we want to speak out. But one other thing each of us (myself very much included) need to consider are things like this.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
From Proverbs 26. There's a time to speak and a time not to speak. A time to correct what we consider to be error, and a time to tame our tongues and say nothing. How we're supposed to know which one to do is 'wisdom'. The truth needs to be defended but there are days when it's good to say nothing, where responding enflames situations rather than providing clarity. And b default we think we need to speak, and the person we disagree with should stop talking...

Different people inevitably see situations differently, and especially when two parties divide it's not necessarily going to be for mutually agreed reasons. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit doesn't mean we can't divide - there is room enough for different ventures, but I suppose it does ask for us to be patient, kind and to bear with one another. I find it hard to bear with others - because it means loving when love isn't the easy thing to do.

Six weeks ago I thought I might get to meet Pete Broadbent. He was, I think, originally due to offiate at a Mothers Union service where my Gran got inducted as Area-Vice President. It was an interesting event to be part of (mostly since the average attender was a woman in her 60s... and the experience of being different can be quite disconcerting. Hmm.) Sadly the Bishop was double-booked and busy ordaining people elsewhere (which is perfectly fine!). Now we meet in the comments on my blog.

I don't know if UCCF should have bothered explaining why Spring Harvest asked them to leave. I don't know if Spring Harvest should have responded, in general or in detail. I'm an introvert which makes me prone not to speak when I should. I can type fast which makes me prone to publish more words than I should. And forget all that stuff about sticks and stones and breaking bones, words are very powerful. They're what God uses to create, and they can be destructive.
But the words are out there now... I suppose it's a matter of wisdom.

On sin, grace, gratitude and controversy - Martin Downes

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Our life depends on stories

"The specific, nitty-gritty, sometimes disgusting, sometimes beautiful things that God has done really matter. We're saved by faith alone, but faith needs facts. We need to believe in something particular and concrete. After Joshua and all his contemporaries died, we are told that "there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord" (Judges 2:10-11).

They didn't know God, and this led them into sin. They didn't know God because they hadn't learned about the things he had done for them in the past. Their parents neglected to tell them the stories. They didn't know that God chose Abraham to be the father of his chosen people, and he gave him Isaac. Isaac had two sons--Jacob and Esau. Esau was given the hill country, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt. Later, they were enslaved, but God led them out of Egypt and saved them by drowning the Egyptians in the Red Sea.

These are simple stories--nothing convoluted or arcane. But forgetting them was the downfall of Israel over and over again."

Abraham Piper on Stories
"Don’t you just love a story? Doesn’t anyone? Is it not a relief to be drawn out of ourselves, to be released temporarily from the exhausting struggle of trying to conjure up some sort of metanarrative to make sense of the world around and within? The Bible is 90% story and that didn’t happen by chance. As humans we are made in the image of God, imbued with imagination and a propensity for creativity. C.S. Lewis was not being childish or naïve when he wrote his Chronicles of Narnia and, if box office ratings are anything to go by, the postmodern recall for these stories will far outlast memories of Lewis’ more traditional apologetic works"

Tony on Postmodernism, apologetics and stories

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clear heads, passionate hearts

"Just as one of the mottos of the Reformation was semper reformanda, being radically biblical is going to involve us in the same dynamic process of trying to order more and more of our lives and thinking in line with the will of Jesus Christ. We’re going to go on being radically biblical. I would say this, though: that we want to be a college which is known for its students growing in faith. Faith is in an interesting idea. It captures, in its biblical sense, both knowledge and trust. It’s something that involves both the head and the heart and so we want to be a college where people are grounded, confirmed and increased in what they know of God and his will through his word, but where their hearts and affections are correspondingly warmed towards him. Faith involves both. It would be wonderful if our graduates took out into the churches where they are working that kind of faith: clear heads that know the truth and hearts that are passionate about Jesus and making him known."

Interview with Mike Ovey, Principal-Elect Oak Hill College

The Wright Impression of Penal Substitution

NT Wright - The Cross and Caricatures
Steve Chalke - Redeeming the Cross
Don Carson reviews Wright on Evil & Suffering
The Oak Hill boys respond to NT Wright's critiques

Just before Easter 2007 Dean Jeffery John went on the public record to say that as far as he understood penal substitution (which was crudely simplified) it was insane, rejecting any notion of it. A month on from that Bishop NT Wright lays into the man from St. Albans, quite rightly. He notes that John cites Isaiah 53 in part but then says...
"if you get one part of Isaiah 53 you probably get the whole thing, and with it not only a substitutionary death but a penal substitutionary death, yet without any of the problems that the caricature would carry"
Which is interesting not least because we find Steve Chalke (in Redeeming the Cross) cite the start and end of Isaiah 53 but without the bit in the middle that he doesn't like. It's a danger we all have to be wary of - wanting to use scripture to justify our view, rather than letting it master us in it's entirity. It is all God breathed, not just some of it.

When he's done with Jeffery John the Bishop turns to Mike Ovey, Steve Jeffery and Andrew Sach. Where we might expect, given is 'evangelical credentials' for NT Wright to welcome this book, he doesn't. He's frustrated by it. He is positive in places, but ultimately not a fan - which as the authors note explains why he's not in the 10 pages of endorsements that the book begins with.

NT Wright is mostly concerned, it seems, to justify his own support of The Lost Message of Jesus. He claims Chalke's book is based on "good scholarship" presented in a punchy way. He did not perceive Chalke to have denied penal substitution, and so you can see why he's frustrated by Pierced for our Transgressions. From where he stands it's not needed.
"And my sorrow, reading Pierced for Our Transgressions, is not only that the book seems to be unaware of this possibility, but that, despite the ringing endorsements of famous men, it is deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical."
Which raises the temperature a little - which he's entitled to do. He confesses that this does need some justification...
" it abstracts certain elements from what the Bible actually says, elements which are undoubtedly there and which undoubtedly matter, but then places them within a different framework, which admittedly has a lot in common with the biblical one, but which, when treated as though it were the biblical one, becomes systematically misleading."
Chiefly he feels agrieved at what the authors don't cover more than what they do cover. This is how many of us feel when we read commentaries which cover everything except the verse we're struggling with. The problem is that Pierced for our Transgressions is very thorough. Sure there are passages they could have addressed but it's not exactly a brief book as it is. It seems that NT Wright thinks systematic theology is doomed - unable to pull together what different passages accurately say. He has a point, but the church has been doing fairly able systematics for 2000 years...

The authors of Pierced are notably and explicitly generous towards the new perspective views on Romans and Galatians - which they could have not done as they deal at length with Romans and Galatains. Still, the Bishop is not satisfied. The new perspective once more portrays itself as the victim child of evangelicalism, misunderstood and maligned but on the biblical high ground for being more careful than the careless majority who've not yet seen the light.

NT Wright is on the ball when he calls for study of scripture:
"We live in difficult times and it would be good to find evidence of people on all sides of all questions taking the attitude of the Beroeans in Acts 17, who ‘searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were so’, instead of ‘knowing’ in advance what scripture is going to say, ought to say, could not possibly say, or must really have said (if only the authors hadn’t made it so obscure!)."
This started with Chalke and Wright is standing by every word. That is disappointing because the Bible requires that leaders be holding firmly to the trustworthy message as taught. The curiosity is that Chalke & Wright are trying to carve out a new middle ground. They reject Jeffery John and they attack the Oak Hill boys and their associated endorsers. They claim to be the true evangelicals (assenting at times to something they want to call 'penal substitution') but they look like more like new liberals - rejecting caricatures and calling for more careful study without ever positively affirming the doctrine under consideration.

New UCCF website goes live

Amidst the blogosphere storm about penal substitution we're still getting on with contending for the gospel in the student world. The new release of the UCCF website is a vital resource for serving Christian Unions as Mission Teams...

Especially see...
Jobs: Reading and Guildford Christian Union Staff Worker (CUSW)
Deadline : May 24th

Monday, April 23, 2007

Press Release: Response from UCCF to the SPRING HARVEST decision to end the Word Alive Bible teaching week after 14 years

Issued today by my employer, UCCF.

FOR the past 14 years, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and Keswick Ministries have been delighted to partner Spring Harvest in organising Word Alive, one of Europe's top Bible Study weeks with a vibrant student track aimed at young people. Widely recognised, orthodox Bible teaching has been the hallmark of the event.

In 2003, the Revd Steve Chalke, one of the Spring Harvest Event Leadership Team, and a member of their Council of Management (trustees), wrote The Lost Message of Jesus. In it, he promoted unorthodox views over the nature of the Atonement, and hit national media headlines over his controversial and graphic description of Penal Substitution.

The Word Alive committee, of which UCCF is a part, believed such views to be contrary to orthodox Biblical teaching and as such, decided that the Revd Steve Chalke could not teach from a Word Alive platform.

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) held a Theological Forum at which various theologians debated with the Revd Steve Chalke. As a result, that organisation decided to change its constitution to clarify where the EA Council of Management stood on the issue. In May 2006 Spring Harvest advised the leadership of Word Alive that the Revd Steve Chalke was able to sign up to the new and revised EA constitution and therefore requested he be allowed to preach from the Word Alive platform in 2007. This request was refused as Mr Chalke had publicly confirmed he had not changed his personal theological views.

In September 2006 the Word Alive Committee were called to a meeting by Spring Harvest and told that as they would not include the Revd Steve Chalke, the 14-year partnership was at an end. Spring Harvest said they regretted they were putting a personality ahead of partnership. Spring Harvest announced it would be promoting its own student-based week at Minehead in 'week one', resourced by Fusion, of which the Revd Steve Chalke is on the Council of Reference.

Our decision to allow only orthodox Christian teaching from Word Alive platforms, and Spring Harvest's subsequent decision has caused enormous pain and regret. However, UCCF believes it can no longer work with those whose understanding of the nature of the gospel and the distinctive of the atonement is so different to theirs, and mainstream evangelicals in the UK and across the world.

There comes a point when loyalty to the gospel, as we believe it to be clearly set out in Scripture, and the drive for unity with others can come into conflict, and we have reached that point.

Meanwhile, a new 'Word Alive' event, organised jointly by Keswick Ministries and UCCF has been planned for 7-11 April 2008 at Pwllheli, where speakers already confirmed include John Piper, Terry Virgo and Don Carson. There will be an increased capacity and further details will be released shortly.

Rumours circulating that the break-up of the partnership was down to Word Alive's refusal to accept women speakers is totally refuted. UCCF regularly has women speakers on its platforms, and it is a matter of public fact that Keswick does too. The key issue is Spring Harvest's corporate support for one of its own trustees, the Revd Steve Chalke, over Biblical orthodoxy on such a central issue as Atonement.

ENDS.

Quotes can be attributed to: The Revd Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF: The Christian Unions.

For further information: Revd Richard Cunningham (UCCF) 01608 659134, 0783 426 9780 (m); Paul Eddy (PR to UCCF): 01202 522177, 07851 007 187 (m);


Related Links:
The word is out
Adrian Warnock on the Word Alive - Spring Harvest split
New Word Alive Website

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A mighty feast with Mike Reeves

You need to register to download these for free... doing all of this in one weekend is pretty ambitious and classic Reeves.... The sound quality isn't great but the content is tasty.

A six-course feast for your soul.

Proverbs... Thinking theologically... life through the cross.. Job...Psalms... Song of Songs... Ecclesiastes

More about the All Souls weekend itself from someone who was there

Who knows the future?

Premiership predictor at BBC News
I have to say I didn't give it a great deal of thought as I typed in a few scores... but here's how it panned out (see picture - what would yours look like...) Reality is I don't know how it will go. I can think about possibilities and permutations, I can make plans and predictions but I don't actually even know if tomorrow will happen. Scientifically speaking it ought to but just because something has happened before doesn't mean it will again.
3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
(2 Peter 3, The Bible)
Information gets deliberately forgotten because we don't want to know it. When it comes to the future of the Premiership I kind of have a soft-spot for West Ham (for no particularly good reason) but that wont help them stay up. As a resident of Reading, I might be optimistic for them... and I'd rather Man Utd won the title this year than Chelsea... and so even without much thought I probably didn't make my predictions on 'facts' alone.

And that holds for those who predict the future on a bigger scale too... We have our agendas. An oil company isn't going to want to accept that fossil fuels cause global warming. A cigarette producer doesn't want to admit they're causing cancer. And an atheist doesn't want to pay any attention to what God is reported to have said and done in the past... We're all biased, but that's no reason for despair. Something we can't know. Some biases need to be admitted. And somethings are absolute certainties. Like Watford finishing bottom of the table...

Seven Days



MP3 of the Week

Matthew Sleeman at Arborfield on Titus 1v1-4 - Message & Ministry.

I've not done this for a few weeks...

1. Freeway & Caroline Bridges

Saturday evening gig at The Swan, Arborfield. Most enjoyablel

2. Discovery
I'm convinced that Mark Lauterbach is one of the most thoughtful bloggers. Now some of his sermons can be found at Sermon Cloud.

Mark has made one of the most helpful posts related to the word alive story.

3. Gareth

Final supervision with South East Team Leader Gareth Davies. I've worked with Gareth for a little under six years since he joined UCCF in September 2000. He's been a godly example of care for the gospel and care for people. Notable for his shirts, his liturgical dancing, his Forum seminars on Unity, his infamous sale of Systematic Theology, his work with the NUS and many, many things. He moves on at the end of this month to work for Care who "provide resources and helps to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives"

4. Esther 1-3
Studying it with Tim.

Don't be Esther. Maybe I'm wrong but it's not good for a Christian girl to beautify herself so she can seduce a powerful non-Christian and keep it quiet that she's a Christian... granted God used this behaviour in Esther's life...

God's the unnamed hero - prize God's promises of saving his people even though the wrathful Xerxes has sanctioned their annihilation...

5. Farnham
Penultimate visit to the University College for the Creative Arts Christian Union in Farnham. The clock is counting down.

6. The West Wing
Season five. Good tv on DVD.

7. Photo of the Week -


"Mike Reeves is my theology advisor"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The word is out...



The temperature is rising on a sad but essential parting of ways. Last month Pierced for our transgressions was published by IVP as a thorough and warm defence of the glorious doctrine of penal substitution. I'm currently reading a copy I managed to borrow - since the first print run sold-out quickly. IVP assure me that the second print run will be available by the start of next week!

Gospel-loving blogger Adrian Warnock is writing extensively about penal substitution and his path meandered to the launch of New Word Alive:
"New Word Alive has managed to confirm a fantastic line-up of main preachers: John Piper, Terry Virgo, and Don Carson will all be speaking at the event. Not much wonder that the New Word Alive Facebook group has jumped to almost 900 members already! If they will have me, I may just have to try and go along with my whole family and live-blog, like I did at Together On A Mission 06."
This is a conference specifically designed to be cross-exalting and life-changing as the New Word Alive website says...
" We rejoice in opening up the Scriptures with some of the most gifted Bible teachers of our time, and as we acknowledge God’s transforming work in our lives we want to respond in heartfelt, passionate worship and prayer. We long to see lives shaped and changed by an authentic experience of the gospel of grace."
This is a conference for all the family that promised to get people together for the sake of the gospel, rather than for anything else.

Related articles:
  • Tim Suffield on Evangelicalism Divided : "Word Alive was formally a conference within a conference at Spring Harvest, the more biblical bit without the incessant trappings of evangelical subculture, if you will. Less flag waving, prophetic painting and false stumbling blocks to the cross of Christ, that kinda thing. In other words: it was reformed."
  • David Gibson on Assumed Evangelicalism: some reflections en route to denying the gospel : "Assumed evangelicalism believes and signs up to the gospel. It certainly does not deny the gospel. But in terms of priorities, focus, and direction, assumed evangelicalism begins to give gradually increasing energy to concerns other than the gospel and key evangelical distinctives, to gradually elevate secondary issues to a primary level, to be increasingly worried about how it is perceived by others and to allow itself to be increasingly influenced both in content and method by the prevailing culture of the day."
Pierced for our Transgressions & NT Wright
UCCF & Spring Harvest statements:

The Preachers Heart

Are you called to preach?

HT: Ed Goode

And Jonathan Thomas:
"This morning I started the new book ‘pierced for our transgressions’ and was nearly bouncing off my chair with excitement when I read their explanation and application of Exodus 12. Then I moved onto John Piper ‘Future grace’ and my heart felt strangely warmed as I read and re-read the fact that I am saved by grace and I will be kept by grace. To see that Christ’s grace is sufficient for today, tomorrow, next week, and all the way into glory was a real encouragement –particularly for a natural worrier like myself. Then I spent some time looking at the ‘reformation study Bible (ESV)’ and really enjoyed it. But it only gets better. I put my iPod on and started listening to ‘songs for the cross centred life’ (SGM) and had all these great truths applied not only to my head but to my heart."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

First dance with Velvet Elvis

Dancing with Velvet Elvis you inevitably look cool. It's a good looking book to be reading on the train. The cover is cool. The typography is cool. And many of the things that Rob Bell has to say are also cool. Some of them are not cool. Really not cool. I plan to write several posts interacting with this very popular book. I want to be positive about it's strengths but also robust in some of the areas where I think he's made some bad false steps.

Bell is in with the cool kids from the start because he wants to buddy up to Martin Luther. Luther rocks - theologians who love the Bible and love beer are worth hanging around with. We're warned against thinking that our living of Christianity can be set in stone. That's a good point. We shouldn't say we've got it all figured out, we inevitably have errors in our beliefs and our behaviour. Reformation is necessary. Freezing the faith is not clever.

However, Bell seems to think that the point of reforming is to be reforming. Rather than that we reform to get back to what the Bible says - which was Luther's point. He wisely notes that "If it's true, then it isn't new" but you get the feeling he doesn't entirely believe that. The issue here is that God has sort of frozen things. He has spoken definitively and finally. He's still speaking everything in the Bible but the book is sealed (which isn't to say no prophecy today). What there is to know about God is out there - or rather in there (in the Bible). We may not have a definitive grasp of it, but for God to press pause is fine. It would be arrogant for me to claim to write the definitive Systematic Theology but it is not arrogant for God to draw a line under authoritative revelation and say 'that's all you're getting'.

From the painting of Velvet Elvis in the introduction we move to the Trampoline in chapter 1 'JUMP'. Bell like verbal illustrations though he plays fast and loose with the imagery. His writing is very accessible though actually kinda confusing. In what I think is probably one of the core underlying fallacies of Velvet Elvis we get the classic false divide between God and what God has revealed about himself (Doctrine). He says doctrines aren't the point. On some levels they aren't, but on many others they are, they really are. He repeats himself - the springs (doctrines, on the trampoline) aren't God. That's true - but they are God's self-revelation of himself and so they describe who God is as far as we're allowed to know.

We're then asked to consider if a spring can be seriously questioned. Something like the virgin birth or the trinity for example. Could you have a real Christian without one of those things. Bell wants to be clear that he believes both things but then asks: "If the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring then it wasn't that strong in the first place, was it?" Listen to Bruce Ware "The doctrine of the Trinity is both central and necessary for the Christian faith to be what it is. Remove the Trinity, and the whole Christian faith disintegrates." (Father, Son & Holy Spirit - p. 16) If we take the Trinity and throw it out, and then Christianity falls apart that doesn't mean that the doctrine or Christianity wasn't that strong. It means that the spring you threw away was really, really, really important.

Flip the image. Not trampolines, but walls - brickianity (which is a clever word). Brickianity has rigid doctrines and so, he says, it's bad. It excludes. And that's true if you want to hold doctrines firmly (as the Bible tells us to) then you will exclude people. But, doctrine is also always inclusive - of those who believe it! You get the feeling with Rob Bell that really he's writing against some theologically constipated people who've never learned to enjoy God, but that in the process he's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

He wants freedom ask questions. I agree. We should be able to ask any question. Doctrines can take very serious examining. If they can't stand up to careful scrutinising of the Bible then they need changing. But he goes a bit too far "Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God" - not quite central, but it's ok to ask humble questions. We ask questions to find answers - and in many case (granted, not all) God has answers for us.

We're warned against mere intellectual faith, and that is a helpful warning, though I have to say I don't see much of that in reality. Feels a bit like he's writing to a straw-man. Bell warns against doctrinal dryness but doesn't seems to have the counter-balance of warning against vacuous anti-doctrinalism. We should, as Bell wants, have a faith of joy and wonder. Studying God's word is meant to be transforming and grow our love of God. Interestingly Bell gives a blanket endorsement of everything John Piper has written - yet you can't help feeling that at least some of Piper's recent Athanasius biography is written as a response to the anti-doctrine undercurrent in the first 36 pages of Velvet Elvis.... Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ... Athanasius would have abominated, with tears, the contemporary call for “depropositionalizing” that you hear among many of the so-called reformists and the emerging church. Our young people in Alexandria die for the truth of propositions about Christ. What do your young people die for?”

Rob Bell's goal for us to amazed that we get to live this life and enjoying God more is one I agree with wholeheartedly. What saddens me is that his approach seems more likely to confuse than bring clarity. Velvet Elvis is thought-provoking for discerning readers, but I don't think I'd want to recommend it to anyone I was discipling. There are better books on living life. There are better books on enjoying God. Books that don't looks so cool, but books that will lead God's people to love God and his word more deeply.


Please note this 'review' is only of the introduction and first chapter. Forthcoming posts will converse with the rest of the book.

Pastoral Refreshment



Talks from 2007 Pastoral Refreshment Conference
Dave Burke - Psalm 103, pt1

Dave Burke - Psalm 103, pt2

Dave Burke = Psalm 103, pt3

Philip Warburton - Faith & Doubt
Pastoral Refreshment Conference 2008
5-7 February 2008 at Hothorpe Hall, Leicestershire

Come and join us for the Pastoral Refreshment Conference 2008. This year’s theme is “Enjoying the Grace of God in Leadership”. If you are in Christian leadership or are married to a leader this conference is for you.

The Pastoral Refreshment Conference is an opportunity for spiritual refreshment specifically tailored to those involved with ministry. It combines inspiring preaching, corporate worship and plenty of encouragement from others with an atmosphere of care, prayerfulness and receiving together from God’s grace.

We are pleased to be able to offer places at the Pastoral Refreshment Conference 2008 at £99 for those who book before the end of October (£150 after that), a reduction of £50 on last year’s price. Publicity will be available shortly. To request publicity and a booking form please email admin@livingleadership.org

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The elephant in the room

Tim Suffield on the state of evangelicalism...
"...it’s more interested in flag waving than proclaiming the substitutionary wrath-bearing death of Christ. It’s replacing the cross with a social gospel, a neutered people and a voiceless church.

Seven Days



MP3 of the Week

Steve Abery - Get on the train to God's new creation - from our all-age service this morning.

I've not done this for a few weeks...

1.
Shoulder
Been injured since Thursday, but almost recovered now.

2. Cell notes
Very enjoyable experience of working on my final set of cell notes for Reading CU on 2 Chronicles & Esther.

3. Walking in the sunshine.
Days off with my wife. Sunny skies. And lunch from the Wellington Farm Shop. Summer in April is great. Global warming? Woop.

4. Church
We'd missed the last two meetings with our church here and it was nice to be back home with them. Also exciting to have visited Trinity Church last week... maybe we'll be there next year...

5. Entertaining.
Good friends visiting us for dinner. And visiting others for dinner. Friends are a precious gift. As is food.

6. Evie Morgan.
Dedicated on Sunday.

7. Pic of the week:

What Andy did to Tom's room... I imagine Relay 1 will be a riot next year...
More of them on facebook



Monday, April 16, 2007

Theology 101 (Trinity)

What if all our theology started with Trinity... not character of God... not doctrine of Scripture... but TRINITY. What difference would that make? And what would trinitarian thinking about God's character, about church, about Scripture, about salvation look like...

Tim Chester on Trinity:
"made in the image of the Trinity as we are, human personhood is realised through relationships just as divine personhood is. The doctrine of the Trinity shows us that relationships are essential for personhood."

"The church is the new humanity being re-made in the image of God. “The manifest
inadequacy of the theology of the church,” argues Colin Gunton, “derives from the
fact that it has never seriously and consistently been rooted in a conception of the
being of God as triune.” Instead we think of the Trinity as “one of the difficulties
of Christian belief”. But, in neglecting it, we fail to appropriate “its rich store of possibilities for nourishing a genuine theology of community”."
Mike Reeves on Trinity:
"So we started off looking at how we define God, trying to move away from ideas of “divine being” or “substance”, but instead to look at Father, Son and Spirit. This had profound implications for speaking with people from other monotheistic faiths, especially Muslims. I guess could be tempting to find common ground, believing in ‘one’ God, but actually we believe in Father, Son and Spirit - and our Father, our God-head is profoundly different to Allah."
Hugh Bourne on Mike Reeves on Trinity

"Some people think theology is boring, or simply intellectual - actually (and Mike Reeves has helped me in moving away from any notion of those two ideas) Christian theology gives glory, fear and reverence to an awesome God!"
Hugh Bourne

Burn the pews?

“They have these so-called untouchable brown wooden pews. But why not rip them out and burn them? “Country churches can only survive if they are repossessed by the community... Like farmers’ markets, bring and buy sales, for the schools, for meetings. For the village community to be secure the church once again needs to be at its centre.”
Sir Roy Strong
The church owns lots of buildings that hardly get used and cost lots of money. It makes perfect sense to use them for other purposes.
  • What should be noted is that buildings are not special at all - church buildings are just halls, some of them well designed other not. They're not holy places. They're not sancturaries. Just walls and roofs. And it'd be good for the communities in which they stand to realise that they can come inside.
  • The second thing to note is that it would probably help if those who lead the tiny congregations in these places started faithfully preaching the good news about Jesus a bit more - because then these buildings might not be so empty on Sunday mornings. Teaching them to love Jesus, and to love the church that Jesus loves. Nonetheless, even if the building was full on Sunday it may as well be put to good use during the week.
It's still a curiosity that churches own buildings - not sure that ever happen in the early years of the church, and not sure that all that much has been gained since it started happening. Church is about people not buildings. And not just any people, those who are joined together with one another and with Jesus Christ.

Through the Spring we (at Reading University) studied Ephesians. The big theme of the letter is that God is bringing everything under the rule of Jesus - Jesus above everything. The way this is achieved is through the death of Jesus. And the way that looks in practice is the church. The church a people who would have been divided but are united to one another and to God in Jesus. A people who are Jesus' body - in union with Jesus because of his loving penalty bearing death in our place. Love the cross. Love the church.

Giving

My writing project is on money and possessions. Tim Chester may just have done a better job than I ever could on the area of giving. And if not, he's given me some things I want to quote...
Tim Chester on Giving (outline from The Crowded Church, Sheffield)

"do not lie about the value of the gospel by the dullness of your demeanor"

John Piper:
"Woe to us if we do our exposition of such a gospel without exultation—that is, without exulting over the truth we unfold. When Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord,” the word he uses for “proclaim” is kerussomen—we herald Christ as Lord, we announce Christ as Lord. The kerux—the proclaimer, the “preacher”...may have to explain what he is saying if people don’t understand (so teaching may be involved). But what sets the herald apart from the philosopher and scribe and teacher is that he is the herald of news—and in our case, infinitely good news. Infinitely valuable news. The greatest news in all the world.

The creator of the universe, who is more glorious and more to be desired than any treasure on earth, has revealed himself in Jesus Christ to be known and enjoyed forever by anyone in the world who will lay down the arms of rebellion, receive his blood-bought amnesty, and embrace his Son as Savior, Lord, and Treasure of their lives.

O brothers, do not lie about the value of the gospel by the dullness of your demeanor. Exposition of the most glorious reality is a glorious reality. If it is not expository exultation—authentic from the heart—something false is being said about the value of the gospel. Don’t say by your face or by your voice or by your life that the gospel is not the gospel of the all-satisfying glory of Christ. It is. And may God raise up from among you a generation of preachers whose exposition is worthy of the truth of God and whose exultation is worthy of the glory of God."

Why expositional preaching is particularly glorifying to God - John Piper at Together for the Gospel 2006

Overcoming sin and temptation

Phil Johnson on spiritual warfare. Who is to blame for our sin and how to overcome it...

"I asked about the nature of the attack he was under. He said he was finding it impossible to get along with his mother. He said the two of them hardly ever spoke a civil word to one another, and it was destroying the peace of their household. He said he found it hard to study the Bible or grow spiritually as long as evil tension ruled the home environment. He was hoping I would tell him how he could get Satan out of his household.

I first asked him what made him think this problem was uniquely Satanic. As he described it to me, it sounded much more like raw carnal pride on both his part and his mother's. They were constantly saying unkind and unloving things to one another. He admitted that he purposely did things he knew would annoy her. He spoke disrespectfully to her. He stated quite clearly that he couldn't stand her and didn't like being around her. It sounded like an unbridled case of youthful rebellion on his part, rather than a satanic attack.

So I told him that. I said, "It sounds to me like you're just behaving in a fleshly way. I think you need to look into your own heart for the culprit, rather than blaming the devil and outside influences."

I think I'd add seeking the Holy Spirit's help but humble repentance is the way to do that! It's a classic trait of our sin to find extenuating circumstances or excuses...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Union with Christ and the Cross

Daniel Newman reflects on some wise words in Pierced for our transgressions dealing with a common criticism of penal substitution... concluding:
"In the family photograph of Christian doctrines, let us bring union with Christ towards the front, where it rightly belongs. "
Union with Christ is a beautiful and life-giving doctrine that we need to pay much more attention to. One good place to get a grip on it is to take a read of Ephesians... notice all the in Christ's...

Not so much about union with Christ but nonetheless outstanding is this by John Piper on the Cross hosted by the PFOT guys:
‘God Vindicated His Righteousness’ (Romans 3:21-26)

"where is the Spirit of Jesus?"

John Piper:
"Oh that the rising generations would see that the world is not overrun with a sense of seriousness about God. There is no surplus in the church of a sense of God’s glory. There is no excess of earnestness in the church about heaven and hell and sin and salvation. And therefore the joy of many Christians is paper thin. By the millions people are amusing themselves to death with DVDs, and 107-inch TV screens, and games on their cell phones, and slapstick worship, while the spokesmen of a massive world religion write letters to the West in major publications saying, “The first thing we are calling you to is Islam . . . It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme.”5 And then these spokesmen publicly bless suicide bombers who blow up children in front of Falafel shops and call it the way to paradise. This is the world in which we preach. And yet incomprehensibly, in this Christ-diminishing, soul-destroying age, books and seminars and divinity schools and church growth specialists are bent on saying to young pastors, “Lighten up.” “Get funny.” “Do something amusing.” To this I ask, Where is the spirit of Jesus?

...exposition of texts is essential because the gospel is a message that comes to us in words and God has ordained that people see the glory of Christ—the “unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)—in those gospel words. That is our calling: to open the words and sentences and paragraphs of Scripture and display “the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”"
Why expositional preaching is particularly glorifying to God - John Piper at Together for the Gospel 2006

In defence of expository preaching

Peter Adam writes:

(1) Preaching through the books of the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, respects and reflects God’s authorship. God did not gives us a book of quotable quotes, nor a dictionary of useful texts, nor an anthology of inspiring ideas. When God caused the Scriptures to be written the medium that he used was that of books of the Bible. If that was good enough for the author it should be good enough for the preacher.

(2)Expository Preaching reflects God’s respect for human authors. One of the most beautiful features of the Bible is the way in which God causes his truth to be written and yet does not over-ride the individual writer, but respects their place in history, their vocabulary, their spoken and literary style. If God is so careful to respect the human authors of the Scriptures we should endeavour to do the same by reading, studying, preaching and teaching their books in the order in the way in they wrote them.

Read the other thirteen reasons and more in Peter Adam - Arguing for Expository Preaching

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Preaching the Cross



Preaching The Cross

This is the Together for the Gospel 2006 book by Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler, Jr., C. J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper and R. C. Sproul.
And I'd really like a copy of it.


HT: Tim Challies

Freewheel

We saw Duke Special supporting Martyn Joseph at the South Street Arts Centre in Reading in summer 2003. Quirky. Quality.

Your blood speaks a better word

The core content of the gospel is always underfire but that has particularly been the case in recent years with attacks by Steve Chalke & Alan Mann and Jeffery John on the glorious doctrine of penal substitution.

Richard Cunningham addressed taught the cross clearly at Word Alive this year from Hebrews 9, something that must continue to keep mission agencies like UCCF in safe hands.

And Adrian Warnock is on the case:

Introduction
Does the cross of Jesus matter
Quotes from Leon Morris
Attacks on penal substitution
Historical Background
The mission of Jesus
Quotes from Jim Packer

IVP sold out of Pierced for our transgressions but I finally got hold of a copy last night. Temporarily I have custody of Ed's Word Alive Review Copy.

At BeginningWithMoses.org we've added some new articles on the cross this month:

Dan Strange - The Many Splendoured Cross
Mark Meynell - The Shedding of Blood for a Sin-ravaged World

See also

Mark Dever - Nothing but the blood

"a nominal Christian is happy to prove the importance of the crucified redeemer.... but the true Christian delights in the cross, rejoices in it, glories in it and shudders at the thought of glorying in anything else" - Charles Simeon

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hebrews help...

This summer I'm doing five talks from the book of Hebrews (one from chapter 3 and the rest from chapters 10-12). I've done some work on all these passages for prior talks but I'd like to take a fresh run at them. I only have the BST commentary which hasn't been particularly helpful... I can't afford the time or money to get more than one or two new commentaries so what would people recommend?

The Holy Spirit... in Galatians

The Holy Spirit is all over Paul's letter to the Galatian churches. Grace and law might be the dominant issue but the answer is completely tied up with the Holy Spirit.
  • 3v2 - How did you receive the Holy Spirit? It wasn't by obeying the law it was by hearing with faith!
  • 3v3 - So you started in the way of the Holy Spirit (see v2) but you're now going a different way? What's with that?
  • 3v5 - How did the Holy Spirit's miracles happen among you? By hearing with faith not by law obeying!
Christianity that takes the Holy Spirit seriously is centred upon hearing God's word with faith. That means listening to it and believing what God says. No other doing of stuff has anything to do with it.

Then we find that this is the same way that Abraham was taught. Hear with faith and you get counted righteous by God. Hear with faith and you get blessed! And the big shocker - 3v14 - that promised blessing was "the promised Spirit". The great pay off of the gospel here and now is being counted righteous and receiving the Holy Spirit.

That didn't ought to be surprising because - 2v20 - Christian life is lived in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself up for us. How do you live in the Son? By the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a speaking Spirit and he's talking away in us.

What does the Holy Spirit say? 4v7 - THIS IS A SON OF GOD! Whatever we think or feel, what God is hearing from us is that we're son's with all the benefits and promises that belong to the Son of God. The Holy Spirit wont stop saying that. He wont change his tune. He can't say anything else because we've been clothed with Christ (3v27) and justified by Christ we're in him (3v24-26). His personal testimony based on all the evidence is that anyone from anywhere who hears the gospel with faith is a son of God.

How do you live this Spirit life? We eagerly wait by the Holy Spirit (5v5) for the righteousness we're promised in Christ. And moreover we walk by the Spirit (5v16), torn between the desires of the flesh and the Spirit (5v17) and inevitably going the wrong way at times. But the way to fight sin isn't to be sin-focussed but rather to walk by the Spirit. And - 5v18 - led by the Spirit we're not under law. So as we pursue the footsteps of the Spirit his fruit is grown in us (love, joy, peace...). We are those who live by the Spirit (5v27) and so we aqre to walk by the Spirit (5v27). It's a matter of being who we are! Keeping in step with our new identity as we live in the Son by the Spirit.

We sow to the Spirit (6v8) by choosing to love, be joyful, be peacemakers, be patient, be actively kind, seeking to do whatever is good, committing to faithfulness, holding our tongue to be gentle and controlling ourselves since we're no longer sin-slaves. As we sow, the Spirit grows life in us, eternal life (5v8) which will be the harvest we ultimately reap. Not reaped by our growth - all we do is hear with faith - but secured as the great inheritance that belongs to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in whom we live.

"Now with His power in us we’ll reign in life
With eyes of faith we’ll move ahead
The Spirit helps and strengthens us each day
Confirming our eternal place
Our confidence is not our ability
Nor in the earthly strength that we hold
But in His grace He takes the fragile things
To show the greatness of His love"

Louise Fellingham, Treasure

Next: The Holy Spirit... in Ephesians

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Life is for living: going the extra mile

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

What would that look like in your situation?
What might that look like for the members of a student Christian Union?
Here's a few questions....
When volunteers are needed to clean up the Union venues on Saturday morning who will step up?
When people are needed to staff the Union shop who will do it?
When the nightline service needs volunteers who will answer the call?
When clubs need people to serve who will sacrifice time?
When AGM's happen who will turn up?
When people are needed to move freshers in, who will do it - and not just if you can wear a CU t-shirt?
When volunteers are needed to come back early and greet internationals who will come?
When someone needs to show prospective students around on open days who will give up their afternoon?

We need to be those who live at the heart of the student world. At the heart of academic departments. At the heart of hall life. At the heart of students union politics. In deep relationships with people in all these places because life matters. Not only when and where we can get evangelistic opportunities, but at all times and in all places. Known for our integrity. Known for our service. Known for loving life deeply. We're not just passing through and getting by. We're not instant coffee people. We're live life people. We're filter coffee people. People who go the extra mile for the better taste. We're people who savour life because it's a gift from God. And people who want to live every moment to his glory in every situation

Only the grace of God can teach us to live this way. Grace to serve. Grace to be sacrificial. Grace to endure. Grace to suffer for doing good (suffering is not persecution if we suffer for doing wrong, or even for omitting to do good). It's the message of the cross of Christ that teaches this real living. This is cross-applied living.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Leadership matters

Four years ago Jeffery John was withdrawn from appointment as Bishop of Reading. John had said publicly that he was a celebate homosexual and the campaign against him was centred on this. I said at the time that this was not the reason to exclude him from office. Rather, he failed to qualify because he adopted a celebate lifestyle to follow church teacher rather than because he accepts what the Bible says. He is a 'liberal', meaning it's not God's word that rules his life, but his opinion. It's dressed up in religious clothing but really it's not Christianity.

He stepped down and the campaign subsided. Perhaps the campaign had no further authority - but it remains that what disqualifies someone to be a bishop also disqualifies from being a dean or a vicar or anything else in leadership until proven repentant. In it's wisdom the Church of England proceded to make this man Dean of St. Albans...

The Bible lays out many qualifications for leadership. One of the key passages is Titus 1. Here the standard is depth of character that is changed by relationship with Christ. And, holding firm to the trustworthy message of the gospel - to it's sound doctrine. It is this latter criteria that John fails to meet. He doesn't submit to God's word. And now, (April 4th, BBC Radio 4) he says this:

“What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? ...and anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath.”

John confesses that he has heard the gospel preached faithfully as a child (though he charicatures it a little). And he openly denies it. He says it's foolishness (which is what those who aren't Christians do say about it - 1 Corinthians 1v18). He wants to invent his own Christianity. Steve Chalke said that the doctrine of penal substitution was essentially 'divine child-abuse' now John says it makes God a psychopath. He makes errors all over the place - positing what God might be like from the basis of human behaviour which is what The Bible calls the wisdom of the world that can never know God. Jeffery John does not hold firmly to the trustworthy message of the gospel in The Bible. He hates it. By no stretch of the imagination is he a qualified leader.

His lifestyle is not the root issue - his beliefs are. Once you decide you can make up your own 'gospel' you can live however you want to... which I suppose suits him fine. Paul's instruction to Titus is set in the context of those who follow myths and false teaching, rebels, empty talkers and desceivers... those who claim to know God but refute themselves by the way they live. What we see today is nothing new! Such false-candidates will always exist, yet Titus was expected to find people who qualified. People who loved the gospel and whose lives fitted with it. And that was even in Crete, a place characterised by it's own writers as full of lazy gluttons.

The standards of leadership in the church are vitally important. For the outsider they reveal what matters most to us. The church is so important in God's plans that it must be well cared for - by people whose lives are transformed and who love the church-creating gospel word. For the insider the standards matter - we should pray for our leaders, examine ourselves to see if we're qualified. And if we're serving we must maintain a repentant posture, inclining ourselves to the trustworthy word of God and praying for our lives to be changed by God.


Albert Mohler on Jeffery John
Pierced for our transgressions - asserting the importance of penal substitution