Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riots

Over recent days all that’s been talked about on the news is the riots in London, and the ‘copy cat’ riots in other major cities in England. Everyone’s response seems to be to condemn the senseless violence and opportunist thievery, as is mine. I would like to take this opportunity however, rather than simply ranting at those who display such obnoxious behaviour, to ask some questions. Why are (predominantly) young people
rushing on to the street and attacking seemingly random places? And, what should our response as Christians be?

Much of the violence seems to be deliberate and have no purpose other than to release adrenalin in the perpetrators. To ask why people would go out on to the street in this kind of riot, is in fact to ask why anyone would deliberately convict an unprovoked act of violence. To ask, in fact why people do wrong, why we sin? When we reduce the question to this we realise that, there is not really any difference between them and us.

How should we respond then, with hate and superiority? That seems to be what we see in the press, I would never do something like that, therefore I am better than them and they are a legitimate place to pour out my scorn and hate. Should we really respond like that, when we to are sinners, when without Christ’s grace we would deserve the same punishment?

Monday, 25 April 2011

Serenity: A poem

The soft babble of a lock,
A spider jumping fast.
Sitting doing nothing
The afternoon did pass.

The sun upon my neck,
A view unto my eye.
What a world is this,
Such majesty to a-spy.

Softly guided by the wind,
A butterfly a-floating.
A painting just for me,
Flowers tall a-growing.

To sit, and wonder,
To stare and never bore.
To rest and ponder
What this life is for.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

El is God!

In my road, there are several cars. Now due to my lack of imagination I refer to my car simply as a car. When I go out the door saying I’m getting in the car, I do not refer to a general car, I’m not going to get in to a random car, I’m not going to get in to the closest car but rather I will climb in to my specific car. Because I have labelled my car ‘car’, it does not mean that every reference to car refers to my car or that all cars are synonymous.

That seems obvious but what happens when we instead of thinking of cars we think of God? In Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou “Did God Have a Wife?” this seems to be the logic used. That if two things are referred to by the same classification then they must be the same thing. Specifically there was a Canaanite god called El and the word El is used in the Bible to refer to God.

“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty (El-Shaddai), but by my name the LORD (Yĕhovah) I did not make myself fully known to them.” Exodus 6:3

The problem with this is that El means God, so the fact that there was a god called god is not entirely surprising and it doesn’t mean that every use of the word god refers to that specific god. Else in today’s language someone talking about David Beckham being a god should be interpreted as saying that David created the universe and everything in it as, after all, the word god is used to describe that as well.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Brotherly Love

This is the second post I’ve now written on characteristics that we should strive to possess, based on a series of sermons at church at the moment on 2 Peter 1. This post is about brotherly love:

“…add to your faith goodness;… and to godliness, mutual affection” 2 Peter 1:5-7a

In this translation, the word mutual affection is used, but other versions translate it as “brotherly kindness” or even ”warm friendship”. Perhaps a good way to sum up all of these various ideas is in the term ‘brotherly love’. This is also a literal translation of the Greek word that is used here: φιλαδέλφεια (philadelphia). It is in fact an amalgamation of two simpler words: philos meaning love and adelphi meaning brother.

What is perhaps interesting but not obvious is what words could have been used instead. For instance Peter didn’t write φιλανθρωπία (philanthropia) a word which was available to him (used in Acts and Titus) and from which we get the word philanthropy. This word might also translated as mutual affection but it has different subtleties. Philanthropia like philadelphia is derived from two words, the first of which is again translated as love. The second however is anthropos meaning humanity or mankind. So this word means love of humanity or humanitarianism.

In this light, the brotherly kindness that we are meant to add to godliness is not simply helping those in need but also conveys the sense of community. We need to grow closer together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. That we would resemble the family that we claim to be. This is a lot harder to do than to simply help those in need. For once you have helped someone you can remove yourself from them, but in a family you can’t remove yourself from any problems that arise. It is easier to love someone at a distance then to love your brother. Many people acknowledge this, even world renowned philosophers, such as Linus (from Charlie brown) who states:

“I love Humanity! It’s people I can’t stand.”

Saturday, 19 March 2011


The elect of God: a contentious issue in many Christian circles. Who are they? Do they have a choice in the matter or are they simply ‘chosen in him before the creation of the world’?

In some views of Christianity God chooses people who will be saved and they have no real say in the matter. They are brought as a slave on a block, and have as much opportunity to choose their master as the slave does. Another view of this issue holds that each person who hears the gospel has the ability to accept or reject its message and in this decision God has no say.

I have issues with both of these view points: The first does not speak to the reason that God saved us in the first place, his desire for a relationship with the church. What kind of relationship can you have with someone who has no say in whether they are in the relationship? Consider a marriage, for instance, where the husband loves the wife but if the wife does not also love the husband then theirs is not a true relationship.

The second point of view says that there is something which God has no say in, that God’s will could in theory be thwarted. If God wants someone to be saved and they say “no” then there is nothing that God can do about it, there would be something that God had no control over.

However I believe that both of these points of view do have some merit in explaining such a complicated issue. The first sees God as in complete control, being sovereign over absolutely everything and the second views being saved as entering in to a relationship with God, giving him the rightful kingship of our lives. Trying to reconcile all of these ideas with the passages that are used to support both of them I have formed my own view on the issue of election.

I believe that God, before the creation of the world, made two groups of people, the elect and the un-elect. I think that rather than choosing individual people to put in to each group he defined what it would mean to be in each group. To be an ‘elect’ you must trust Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and to be an ‘un-elect’ you must not. That is, God choose the elect before the beginning of the world but he did not choose individual people to be elect. We have the choice as to which group we are in, and God desires us all to choose the ‘elect’ group for ‘God does not wish any to perish but all to come to repentance’ but because of his desire for a real relationship with us he will let us make this choice.

My thoughts on this are still not fully formed and I would appreciate any comments on what people think.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


What does it mean to be good? Is it simply not doing things that are wrong or is it more than that? This question comes out of a series that we are doing at church at the moment on 2 Peter 1, on characteristics that we should aspire to have.

“…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9

So, what is this goodness that we should seek to add to our lives? It is here listed as a virtue, which means that it can not simply be the absence of a vice. That is, goodness is not simply ‘being good’, not doing anything wrong, but rather has a proactive nature that replaces something which is bad with something desirous. Simply put, goodness is not simply the absence of badness.

We do have a model for what goodness is, and that model is Christ. When Jesus was called ‘good teacher’ he responded thus

“’Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone.’ ” Luke 18:19

So we are to seek to become more like God in this, to become good as God is good. Specifically the word here translated goodness is ‘αρετε’ in the Greek, which means (according to my pastor) ‘moral characteristics worthy of praise’. So we are to add to our faith moral characteristics which are worthy of praise.

Can we look at our lives at the moment and say that our character is worthy of praise, as God’s character is? I certainly can not, and it is a high thing to aim for, but that is what we are called to do. Remember that ‘with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’; it is only through faith that we have a chance of adding goodness to ourselves.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Confusion: A poem

Lying awake at night,
Doubts a-lingering,
Was that decision right,
Fears a-strengthening.
Was that decision right?

The wood of this life,
Dark and enclosing,
Full of wonder and strife,
Which path am I taking?
Full of wonder and strife.

As one who is blind,
This path I must tread,
Knowing not what I’ll find
The next step ahead.
Knowing not what I’ll find.

How long to decide,
Which way to go,
I’ll take the next stride
And trust, you know.
I’ll take the next stride.

Was that decision right,
Full of wonder and strife.
Knowing not what I’ll find
I’ll take the next stride.
Knowing not what I’ll find!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The week gone

What a week! How can so much life be fitted in to such a short space of time? For those of you who don’t know, last week was the missions week at our university. A week when the Christian Union puts on loads of events with the sole purpose of evangelism, of telling people about Christ in as many ways and settings as possible.

The week was entitled ‘Free Week’, and all of the events were of course free. We served free tea and coffee daily, had a free lunch with a themed talk each day and each evening there was a free event, where either a testimony was shared or a short talk given. The evening events were diverse and the aim was to create a ‘chilled’ and welcoming atmosphere, we had a ceilidh (a barn dance), a pub quiz, a comedian, a classic games show event as well as our usual weekly meeting.

The week went really well, and it was a great encouragement to see how many people turned up to the events and had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. The questions that people asked were good and hopefully many of them will come along to Christianity Explored, which is a follow up course that is being run, looking deeper at what the Bible actually says. Another great thing about the week was the people from the CU who were running and helping out with the events. It is good to see people serve one another and I believe that through out this past week I have seen them grow in the love of Christ and a tighter knit community begin to form.

However when looking back on such a week, it is important to consider where improvements can be made as well as what went well, to learn from mistakes as well as successes. One thing that we learnt from this week is the importance of knowing the people who will be speaking at the events, even when they are last minute replacements. In certain circumstances it might be better to cancel an event entirely rather than having someone inappropriate talk.

On a lighter note, we also learnt that Black Wednesday (so called for the tiredness prevalent and the fact that the end of the week seems far off) may not fall on a Wednesday. This year there seemed to be plenty of energy on the Wednesday; it was on the Thursday that people’s energies waned. I mention this because it is worth remembering that at some point people will get tired in such an endeavour and will need encouragement to keep going, but it was also noted that it seemed to be when we were most tired that God gave us the most opportunities.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1Cor 1:27-29

It is important to remember that we must continue to rely on God and not our own strength which is bound to fail. So that in all we do God’s name would be glorified and not our own.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Pessimistic Christian?

This morning at church we were looking at developing as a Christian. At a list of characteristics that we should seek to grow in as we continue our walk with Christ.

“make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”
2 Peter 1:5b-7

However I believe that this list is not exhaustive. I think that we can find other traits which we should seek after, and ones we should try and banish from our lives. In this post I shall be looking briefly at pessimism, is it a trait that we should desire, one to be avoided or simply one that has no bearing on the working out of our faith?

The last part of this question is perhaps the simplest to consider. Every character trait has an impact on who we are, are we generally happy or melancholy, loving or hateful, introverted or outward looking. Every part of our character determines what we are most likely to do in any given situation. An extravert may be uncomfortable in a room on his own and get up and seek out company, whilst an introvert is much more likely to remain where they are. Thus every single facet of our personality will effect how we perceive the world and live our lives. To live our lives for Christ means that every aspect of them must be brought before his throne with willingness to be changed in order to be more like him.

What does a pessimistic view of the world really imply? A pessimist generally sees the worst in any situation, saying that their endeavours are bound to fail, that no matter how promising something looks at the moment it’s bound to go wrong in the end. There are two things that I think are wrong with this view of the world. Primarily a pessimistic Christian can not truly believe in an all powerful God who loves them. To see every task as a failure before it is even failed denies God’s power and love, after all we are told to “bring everything before him in prayer and petition”. What is the point of prayer, if God does not listen? If you deem your task a failure do you demand that God gives up on it too? Is there no expectation of intervention?

Secondly, we are told to live for this day. Not “to worry about tomorrow”, by saying ‘this task will fail’ in the heart, is one not really saying ‘I know what tomorrow will bring and that will be failure’? Even Christ did not know the date of his second coming, how are we then to know what will happen tomorrow?

To summarise: pessimism is liable to lead to a belief that only I have an impact on my life, both its successes and failures and to worry about the future rather than living in the present. I hope that I have managed to convey what I believe about the necessity to deny the pessimistic cravings within all of us with out causing any offence. If that is not the case than please accept my heart felt apologies.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Then the Fire Came: an Image

Houses stand side by side: each one different, each built by a different hand, the hand of their owner. Some are tall towering eloquent edifices of architecture whist others are mere hovels. Some are made of humble material; of brick, of wood, of thatch and stone. Whilst others are structures of opulence; made from glass, precious metals, from gems and marble. They do not stand apart from each other but rather sit cheek by jowl as if each one were placed at random with no thought for the overall aesthetics of the neighbourhood.

The houses only had one thing in common, and that was the rock that they were built on. A hard bedrock, strong and solid but with many holes in. In fact each house was situated over such a hole, a cellar if you wish, or a place to hide if disaster struck. When disaster did stick it was in the form of a fire. A sea of flames spread across the city, jumping from one house to the next and fully engulfing each and every one. Not a single dwelling was sparred the judgement of the flames, from the smallest to the biggest the flames attacked each one with vigour and gusto.

Eventually the flames died down and were extinguished, and the people started to emerge from the bedrock in which they had hidden. Some came out to find that their house had only been singed whilst others emerged to still smoking debris, their entire house burnt to the ground. There was no pattern to which houses were still standing and which weren’t. In one place a hovel remained and all around the once tall towers had been raised to the ground. Whilst in other places this image was reversed.

In all of this there was only one saving grace: Each and every citizen of this metropolis had survived, each had been spared the force of the fire by the bedrock they sheltered in, a shelter that no hand had made.

1 Cor 3:11-15
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”