Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapture disappointment

To those who, mistakenly, thought that the rapture would happen today you'll just have to get over the disappointment.  After all it's not as if it's the end of the world.

For an informed Reformed assessment of Harold Camping false prediction go read the thoughts of Kim Riddlebarger

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Richard Dawkins won't debate William Lane Craig (updated)

The Telegraph has noticed the Richard Dawkins has declined to debate with William Lane Craig this Autumn:
"I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion,” he said.
Some of Prof Dawkins’s contemporaries are not impressed. Dr Daniel Came, a philosophy lecturer and fellow atheist, from Worcester College, Oxford, wrote to him urging him to reconsider his refusal to debate the existence of God with Prof Craig.
In a letter to Prof Dawkins, Dr Came said: “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.
“I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”
Prof Craig, however, remains willing to debate with Prof Dawkins. “I am keeping the opportunity open for him to change his mind and debate with me in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford” in October, he said.
Prof Craig will be using his UK tour to analyse The God Delusion and to present his own “strong rational grounds” for belief in God.
His tour will include a London conference on the defence of Christianity and a debate in Manchester with the atheist, Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, on the existence of God.
Read the whole thing here

In this video clip from two years ago Dawkins explains why he refuses to debate William Lane Craig:

I would also heartily encourage you to read Cranmer's take on the CV of Richard Dawkins.  Whilst I cannot write a blank cheque for everything that is written in the blogs that I link to, I will say that Cranmer never fails to provide stimulating analysis and a model of how to write with style.

Here is a clip of William Lane Craig and Peter Atkins in debate:

"The Reasonable Faith Tour with William Lane Craig" is being sponsored by Premier Radio, UCCF and Damaris.  

Provisional Schedule

The details of the tour are still being arranged, and the schedule below will be updated as events are finalised.
17th October 2011 at 7.30pm
Westminster Chapel, London
Premier Christian Radio Debate on the existence of God with a well-known atheist (TBA)
19th October 2011 at 7.30pm
Public lecture on Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design
22nd October 2011 from 9.30am - 5.30pm
Westminster Chapel, London
Bethinking National Apologetics Day Conference
Opening and closing lectures from William Lane Craig. Further lectures from Gary Habermas, John Lennox and Peter J. Williams
25th October 2011 at 7.30pm
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford
Lecture "Is God a Delusion?" A Critique of Dawkin's The God Delusion
26th October 2011 at 7.30pm
Debate "Does God Exist?" with Dr Peter Atkins
"Why isn't there more of this kind of thing being preached from church pulpits? If there were, I'd go more often and I'd stay awake during the sermon!"Comment from a self-confessed irregular churchgoer during the 2007 Reasonable Faith Tour.
For more details, and to book, go here

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

Excellent words on this subject from David Murray over at The Gospel Coalition site.  He is far clearer on this than the other contributors to the article:

I’m massively encouraged by the church’s renewed interest in preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and especially by the increased willingness to see how Old Testament people, places, events, etc., point forward to Christ. This “types and trajectories” (or redemptive-historical) hermeneutic has many strengths.
However, I’m a bit concerned that an overuse of this tool can give the impression that Christ is merely the end of redemptive history rather than an active participant throughout.
Puritans such as Jonathan Edwards were masters of balance here. In his History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards shows Christ as not only the end of redemptive history, but actively and savingly involved from the first chapter to the last. He did not view Old Testament people, events, etc., as only stepping-stones to Christ; he saw Christ in the stepping-stones themselves. He did not see the need to relate everything to “the big picture”; he found the “big picture” even in the “small pictures.”
I’d also like to encourage preachers and teachers to be clear and consistent on the question: “How were Old Testament believers saved?” The most common options seem to be:
1. They were saved by obeying the law.
2. They were saved by offering sacrifices.
3. They were saved by a general faith in God.
4. They were saved by faith in the Messiah.

Unless we consistently answer #4, we end up portraying heaven as not only populated by lovers of Christ, but also by legalists, ritualists, and mere theists who never knew Christ until they got there. Turning back again in order to go forwards, may I recommend Calvin’s Institutes Book 2 (chapters 9-11) to help remove some of the blur that often surrounds this question.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Counsel of the Ungodly: Thomas Hardy and the Moule family

As a teen the great English novelist Thomas Hardy was friendly with the Moule family and their seven impressive sons.  Mr Moule was vicar at Fordington, his son Charles became president of Corpus Christi in Cambridge, Handley became Lord Bishop of Durham (I can see his book on Ephesians, squeezed in amongst my commentaries, as I type this) and two others went to China as missionaries.

Thomas Hardy was a year older than Handley Moule but became close friends with Horace Moule, eight years Hardy's senior.  Horace became 'Tom's special friend', he was 'the charmer, handsome and gifted' but also 'a tender-hearted son to his mother, writing to her almost every year on the anniversary of the death of the baby brother who had died before he was two'.

Horace had studied at Oxford and Cambridge but failed to gain a degree from either university.  Hardy's biographer, Claire Tomalin, describes the changes in Horace's thinking that put him at odds with his upbringing:
Horace introduced Hardy to the newest and cleverest of the weekly magazines, the Saturday Review, London based naturally, in which social issues were discussed and religion treated with small respect.  He bought himself books on geology and science that alarmed his father, because they cast doubt on accepted religious ideas, and handed them on to Hardy.
Horace's upbringing had been more robustly Christian than Tom's, but, making his way in metropolitan literary journalism, he could not miss the spread of scepticism, and he was too quick and intelligent to ignore it.
Tomalin also notes the impact of all this on the young Hardy:
Tom's situation was different and easier.  Christianity was something he had taken for granted as part of the fabric of everyday life, and Christian theory was never discussed in the family.  He read the Bible, he knew all the church services and most of the psalms by heart; indeed, the year was a sequence of church festivals quite as much as it was a sequence of the natural seasons for him.
And he remained a fully practising Christian into the 1860s, but his mind was on the move, and with Horace he began to see that there were questions to be asked and lines of thought to be followed that eroded the old faith.  As their friendship ripened, they read the notorious Essays and Reviews of 1860, religious pieces that offended the orthodox by their attacks on doctrine and by their textual criticism of the Bible.
Hardy also claimed to have been an early admirer of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, though it is not clear exactly when he read it, or how much it influenced his thinking at the time.  He could well have found his own way along the path towards free thought, but Horace was an encouraging companion on the journey, and with his access to books, guided his steps at many points.
Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man, pp. 54-55

I don't think that it is necessary for me to spell out the implications here.  It seems to me self-evident that this was a form of discipleship, and that it possessed many of the elements that we associate with and encourage in that type of relationship.  Tragically, in the case of Horace Moule and Thomas Hardy, it was a path along which the younger man was led to follow the counsel of the ungodly.

Concerning the impact of Essays and Reviews (1860), and the climate of plausibility that a new approach to Biblical scholarship brought in, Roger Beckwith made the following remarks:
The ‘accepted results’ of critical study tend to be taken for granted as a basis for one’s own further study, and radical questions are rarely asked about them. When they are asked, and in a public manner, the presumption is against those who ask them, and any attempt the questioners make to turn back the tide of critical opinion is disregarded, as self-evidently perverse. New ideas receive an open-minded reception, but attempts to revive old ideas are, not unnaturally, seen as simply reactionary.
There is more to the clash of orthodoxy and heterodoxy than learning.  There is also more to it than spiritual conflict in the lives of individuals.  There is also this sociological dimension, and the embedding of new orthodoxies in institutions, guilds and in the public mind.  All of which makes the championing of older, historic, mainstream views appear to be little more than a retrograde step, a recrudescence of ideas considered untenable, obsolete and unworthy of re-examination.

Beckwith's conclusion is fitting:
All things considered, therefore, the revolution in Biblical study which began in England with Essays and Reviews, and the similar revolution which preceded it in Germany a hundred years before, is a revolution which did more harm to the Church than so far as it taught us to approach the Bible unbelievingly, it has hindered the mission of the church ever since. It lies at the root of many of the calamities which have afflicted the church in our own day, and from which, until we repent of unbelief, the church will never recover.

Monday, May 02, 2011

How the ideas of the enemies of the Reformation have made a comeback

Next Saturday, 7th May, I will be giving a church history lecture at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Swansea on:

Heresy Never Dies
How the ideas of the enemies of the Reformation have made a comeback

 The enemies of the Reformation in question were the Socinians: deniers of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, original sin, eternal hell, justification by faith alone, penal substitutionary atonement and God's exhaustive foreknowledge.

Faustus Socinus may well be long forgotten but some contemporary evangelicals have found some of the Socinian ideas to be very attractive.  They were in their day the Reformed and Puritan nemesis, powerful and influential enemies, and their ideas continue to be plausible and attractive options draining the blood of authentic Christian truth and life.

Last year I gave a lecture on this subject at the Twin Lakes Fellowship focussing on the conceptual link between the contemporary open theists and the Socinian views on God's foreknowledge.  The audio is available here  I will touch on that again as part of the lecture, but will also take a look at original sin and the atonement.

The lecture is at 4 pm, followed by a tea, and after that I will be preaching at 6 pm.  As the church hold this as an open meeting and are expecting visitors I'm sure that you would be very welcome to come along. It will also be my privilege to preach at Ebenezer on Sunday 8th May.

You can find out more about Ebenezer Baptist Church and where to find it here