JESUS – Who is He?
One Christmas hymn asks:
‘Who is He in yonder stall,
At whose feet the shepherds fall?’
Who is this person? Jesus has profoundly affected the lives of millions and even altered the direction and history of whole nations. Yet there’s an astonishing ignorance of who He really is.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day fully understood what Jesus was claiming by saying He was the Son of God. Jesus was claiming equality with God the Father. The religious leaders were incensed by this claim. They were seeking to kill Him because He was ‘making himself equal with God (John 5:18).’ Jesus was claiming to be God and under Jewish religious law was blasphemy and punishable by death.
The Christian Church makes exactly the same claim today. Jesus, the Son of God, is God. Many today are incensed by that truth claim.
Jesus at one time asked His disciples ‘Whom do people say that I am’. Just like our own day, they replied by saying, the people have many ideas about His identity. But then Jesus made it more personal by asking ‘Whom do YOU say that I am?.
There’s a vague notion about the identity of Jesus, but few find out for themselves, preferring to simply parrot what others say.
When Jesus asked ‘Whom do you say that I am?’ Peter, one of the disciples, replied by saying that Jesus is ‘The Son of the living God.’ In saying this, Peter acknowledges that Jesus is God (See Matthew 16:13-17).
You too may have a vague notion that Jesus is not like everyone else and might even concede that Jesus said some good things. You might even see that it makes sense to see Him as God, but you just don’t believe it. You might say ‘I’m fine, it’s not for me.’ But this has no bearing on its truthfulness. As an illustration: think about gravity. You can’t see it. But it affects our lives every moment. And if you were to jump out of a window you would very quickly be confronted with its reality. Apparently, survivors of suicide regretted jumping the split second gravity took over as they hurtled to their death.
The split second you leave this life and your spirit leaves your cold dead body you will immediately believe that Jesus is God. Tragically, it will be too late. The Bible says ‘now is the accepted time, now is the day of Salvation (2 Cor 6:2).’
The chorus of the hymn I started with answers the ‘Who is He’ question by saying this:
‘Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord! the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! Crown Him, Lord of all!
What must you do in the light of who Jesus is? It’s what we all must do. You need to bow before Him. Acknowledge your rebellion towards your God and plead for mercy on the basis that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners 1 Timothy 1:15).
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This is my first attempt at an Evangelistic Leaflet. The errors are all mine but If you can use it, please go ahead.
Three years ago today Sue, my wife of 32 years went to be with her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I have absolutely no doubts about where she is, so she isn’t lost. She has joined that happy holy Blood Bought throng to praise God without the burden of a sinful nature. I hesitate to say she has died and I still balk at saying j have lost her.
I’m thankful to my friend Pastor Robert Briggs. He told me three years ago that ‘my own personal walk with God would get me through.’ He was absolutely right. Not that I take credit, but rather give glory to the keeping power of Christ.
I have a small group of friends that have stuck by me over the years. I’m thankful for them.
And I give thanks to God for my children, grandchildren, and family and for Sandra.
My testimony is that God has been utterly faithful and has continued to bless me, unworthy as I am, over these past three years. He has kept me and has preserved me. His Mercy’s are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness Lord to me!
The fact is we will ALL leave this life and enter eternity. That eternity will be a world of unutterable joy with Christ or a world of unutterable misery without Christ, again in the presence of Christ, but Christ the Judge. As Joshua said ‘…. choose this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15.
This hymn came to my mind this morning about the death of Sue and for every Christian.
It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.
It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake, in glorious repose,
To spend eternal years.
It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.
It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong exulting wing
To live among the just.
Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.
H. A. Cesar Malan, 1787 – 1864 (?).
Translated by: George W. Bethune, 1805 – 62 (?).
Sovereignty, subsidiarity, and the future of Europe: What the Brexit deal tells us about the prospect of the EU
But next, we turn to another story with huge worldview implications, most of which are simply not acknowledged in the mainstream media coverage. We’re talking about the world’s messiest divorce in history. It’s actually not between a husband and a wife, it is between Britain and the European Union, the so-called Brexit. British voters voted quite unexpectedly in the views of the political elites early in 2016, to leave the European Union for Britain to declare its economic independence and to leave the union that had so characterized Europe in the post-war period.
This was a declaration that Britain intended to exercise and to assert its national sovereignty. But that, of course, led to a huge array of the most complicated questions ever confronted in modern politics. How in the world would a nation like the United Kingdom, which has been so integrated into the European Union exit? The word Brexit, as it became popularly known, was actually a clever political neologism. It was a word coined out of the blue, a combination of Britain and exit, thus Brexit.
…political elites first of all in Europe, but also in the United Kingdom were absolutely confident that the voters in the UK would never vote to leave the European Union. But that’s exactly what they did.
It is really important to notice that the political elites first of all in Europe, but also in the United Kingdom were absolutely confident that the voters in the UK would never vote to leave the European Union. But that’s exactly what they did. This then precipitated to the biggest political crisis in modern diplomatic history. How would the United Kingdom leave the European Union? That’s still an unanswered question. It was declared earlier this week that the British government under Prime Minister Theresa May had reached a Brexit agreement with the forces in Brussels that are responsible for the European Union. It had to be a negotiated exit. This is how complicated the situation is.
Britain had been integrated into the immigration laws, integrated into the border laws, integrated into the economic policies, integrated within the custom system of the European Union. In essence, the European Union that came out of the ashes of the Second World War was an attempt to limit the sovereignty of those European states that would join the union and create a new super national authority, the European Union.
Now, as Christians, we need to pause for a moment and recognize there is a huge problem here. That problem is a violation of the principle of what is called subsidiarity. It’s always good for Christians to be reminded of this principle. Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Christian theology, deeply embedded in the biblical worldview. It tells us that truth and reality and health subside at the most basic unit possible. If that sounds abstract, let me clarify. This means that the greatest unit of meaning is in the smallest unit of structure, which is to say that marriage is actually the centerpiece of civilization. Marriage is not healthy because the civilization is healthy. A civilization is healthy because marriage is healthy.
Marriage, the union of a man and a woman creating a family as that man and the woman have children, that creates the unit of greatest importance to the civilization. The functioning of healthy families is something that is so indispensable that no government at any level can alleviate what is missing if the family is broken. That’s a pathology that is radically demonstrated in American society, and in so many other societies today.
Subsidiarity also tells us that the most important government action is not at the highest level possible, most abstracted from the real lives of people, but rather at the closest level possible. That’s to say, a city government is more likely to be responsive to people, than a supranational authority The United States is more likely as a government to be responsive to its people, than would be the United Nations. This is a basic principle. It’s written into our constitutional order in the system of federalism that marks our constitution. It’s also important to recognize that the intellectual elites both in Europe and in the United States, increasingly have rejected subsidiarity. They have instead argued for a certain kind of internationalism.
In the views of so many, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, bigger is always better. A global authorities better than a national authority, a national authority as far better than a state authority. That we need to note is not only the reversal of the constitutional logic of the United States, it is also the reversal of that basic Christian worldview principle of subsidiarity.
When British voters in early 2016 voted so unexpectedly for Britain to withdraw from the European Union, the arguments were extremely important, and they were generally very straightforward. European leaders argued that Britain could not leave, it must not leave. Because in so leaving it would leave the entire European project. Most major British political leaders in both major British political parties also opposed Brexit. So, this was a populist revolt that in so many ways, was matched by the populist revolt in the United States in the 2016 presidential election. Those two events Brexit in early 2016, the presidential election in the United States at the end of 2016, those really formed the year of the great uprisings in both Britain and the United States.
But Britain’s uprising, the Brexit vote, set into play a series of events that clearly is not over. But there’s a deadline, that deadline, March 29, 2019. That’s a hard exit for the United Kingdom, and that might appear to be the easiest solution except it’s not. It’s extremely complicated. Britain is so interwoven into the European Union, its policies, its economics, its politics, its policies going all the way down to regulations about produce and weights and measures. Furthermore, the very important issues of customs and trade, all of these are so deeply intertwined that it is not easy for just one partner to walk out of this relationship any more than it’s easy for one spouse to leave a marriage.
The metaphor of divorce in this case is almost entirely appropriate. It’s messy. Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to win the support of her cabinet in the middle of this week, only to have her cabinet undermined by two very prominent resignations in protest by those coming from a conservative side who argued that this is a compromise, a further compromise of British sovereignty because under the proposal of the British Prime Minister, Britain would continue to lack control over its own trade and customs, processes and policies. That is indeed a very important infringement of sovereignty.
So, what’s the principle for Christians? Why would Christians in the United States care about this? There’s a huge lesson, the lesson is this: once you surrender sovereignty, it is extremely difficult to get it back. Once you compromise subsidiarity, it is extremely costly to clarify it. There are many in the political elites in the United States who would prefer very clearly to have more federal authority than state authority, more state authority than local authority, and even more authority in international entities above the United States of America. That’s a very dangerous argument. We do live in a global community, but we’re really not a global community. We are a community of nations, but what’s really important is to recognize that the existence of the nation state is itself a protection for human dignity and human rights around the world.
The compromise of that national sovereignty is extremely dangerous. But as I said, for Christians, we understand there’s more than sovereignty at stake here, subsidiarity is at stake. The European Union did come out of the ruins, out of the ashes of World War II with the promise that the violence between states that so marked the 20th century will be overcome by integrating those nations in one big entity. There was actually explicitly the hope of something like a United States of Europe to match the United States of America. But the current European Union is complicated by the fact that the kind of union that had been envisioned, well, it turns out to have been far more idealized than can ever be realized to the perplexity are so many who want to believe that we live in a simple global community. The French continue to speak French and to act French, the Germans speak German and to have characteristics to German culture. That’s true across the board in Europe. And what you see right now in the United Kingdom is that the people of Britain decided we’re simply going to be Britain.
Now the question is: will that actually happen even as the decision of the voters in 2016 was abundantly clear, even if unexpected?
Now I have visited Ireland (RoI and NI) I wanted to read about Patrick (Circa 390-Circa 460 AD). So I decided to read Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact by Michael A. G. Haykin. For such a small book there is an awful lot packed into it yet avoids being a dense read. Probably too short at 102 pages (total) for an index but each of the chapters has easy to follow headings. There are quite extensive footnotes throughout each chapter, mainly references to other works with the occasional helpful comment. The text is small but not difficult to read. There are a few pages at the end of the book with recommended further reading with helpful summaries of each work should you wish to research further into the life and times of Patrick.
The book is easy to read and not overly concerned about the historical difficulties: although at first, I thought it might overshadow Patrick Himself. However, Dr Haykin doesn’t shy away from the problems so the book isn’t a hagiography. The two primary sources are his ‘Confession’ and ‘Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.’
The explanatory boxes throughout the book, I thought, are a nice touch and help the context. For example: ‘The fall of the Roman Empire’, ‘On The Teaching of Arius’ and ‘Celtic Paganism.’ Not all the pages are so full of page notes (see example below) but if notes are not your thing you can easily read through without referencing them. Unfortunately, I like to read them so it can break the flow a bit. Very helpful if I wanted to look into the life of Patrick in more detail. His Confession and Letter are referenced throughout.
After being captured by a party of Irish raiders Patrick is taken to Ireland. Patrick interprets this as a judgment for ignoring the Word of God. After coming to know Christ he escapes back to Britain and some 20 years later (after theological training) returns full of missionary zeal to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the very same people who kidnapped him!
There are quotes from his Confession and Letter throughout – all referenced. Embedded in the test the words of Patrick really brings the man alive. There were huge controversies in Patrick’s day, not the least of these was the Trinity. What comes over very clearly is a man committed theologically to The Triune God, The Gospel of Christ and a fearless missionary burden to bring the Gospel to the unreached no matter what the cost to himself. Patrick’s life challenges us in these areas: Theological commitment, Love for Christ and the Gospel and Missionary Zeal.
After a brief chronology and preface there are five chapters:
- ‘I Am Patrick’: The Life and Historical Context of Patrick.
- ‘One God in the Trinity of the Holy Name’: The divine foundation of Patrick’s theology
- ‘I am bound by the Spirit’: Patrick and his Irish Mission
- ‘God has spoken’: Word and Spirit in Patrick’s piety
- An Evangelical reflects on Patrick – Very brief
This a great introduction to Patrick. It gives a flavour of the man and his time. I enjoyed it very much and thoroughly recommend it. I bought it for a £1.00 with another book plus postage on 10 of Those (still £1). It normally sells for £7.99. Buy it anyway, you won’t be disappointed.
Dad didn’t say too much about the war. I understand that. But I do wish he’d said more. I should have asked more. When I bought a Poppy this year I said my Dad served in WW2. I was asked if he came through it (WW2) unscathed. He didn’t lose a limb if that’s what was meant. But he did have health issues (bronchial problems) throughout his life because of it. He lost all his teeth as well because of it. I can also remember him having awful nightmares. As a young boy, I would hear him wailing in the night. So no, he didn’t come through it unscathed. And I doubt many, if any, did.
He served in the Reconnaissance Corps and two requirements (apparently) to be in the Corps were intelligence and aggression. I reckon those two characteristics served him (and others) well. The motto of the Corps was ‘Only the enemy in front.‘ Four stories he did tell me were these. No details. He told me how on one occasion a patrol went out but only one person came back. The man that came back was a Christian. I don’t know what that (Christian) meant. But it obviously affected him quite deeply and he never forgot it. Another time he was due to go on a troop ship but for some reason, he didn’t make the boarding. The ship was sunk and everyone on board died. Then he was on his bike (he was a dispatch rider) going from one side to another and had to ride across a ridge. Enemy artillery had targeted the ridge and as he went along shells were exploding behind him but he made it without being hit. One other incident was how he rescued an officer on the back of his bike. No details just the fact of it.
He always bought a Poppy and would watch the Remembrance Day service on TV but never attended any reunions and never joined the Remembrance Day parade. I think it was all too much for him. The memories were so awful. His medals were in a box in the cupboard. But many years later as a Christian, a serving soldier (weapons Instructor) in the Church encouraged him to get his medals mounted and join the Remembrance Day parade. And he did. So thanks Ian Fraser for encouraging him to do that. I was able to watch him march with other WWII veterans. I watched him with pride. I guess I didn’t think too much about it when I was younger but today I’m thankful for his service. And all those that served – many paying the ultimate price. Thank you for your service Dad.
Whichever way you look at it, war is a terrible thing. A necessary thing sometimes maybe, but terrible all the same. As veterans die there’s a renewed realisation, it seems, that we ought not to forget their service and the horror. The war to end all wars (WW1) left the door open to another one. And so conflicts continue around the world. There will be wars, and rumours of wars, until the end said Jesus (Matthew 24:6). And so it is until The Prince of Peace Himself comes to reign.
A New Command
A much more significant event, even than the war, happened to Dad as an older man. I think in his late fifties. This was when his life came under a new command, The Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord Christ appeared to Joshua,
Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-15)
My Dad, by the Grace of God, bowed the knee to Christ. Not an easy thing for him to do as a very self-sufficient man. People say ‘look at all the suffering in the world, I could never become a Christian.’ This is just an excuse to not bow the knee. My Dad saw a lot of suffering. He saw friends blown up and lots of death and destruction first hand. And yet, my Dad came to see that he was a sinner in the sight of God. He came to know the Christ he had rejected for most of his life. My Dad’s favourite hymn was:
‘I have a friend, whose faithful love
is more than all the world to me,
’tis higher than the heights above,
and deeper than the soundless sea;
so old, so new, so strong, so true;
before the earth received its frame,
He loved me – blessed be His Name!
C A Tydeman
You might have seen the following words, or similar, on a War Memorial. But did you know they were from The Bible? ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’ John 15:13. Jesus laid down His life. But Jesus laid down His life to take it up again. Only Jesus could say this, and then do what He said. ‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father (John 10:18).’ He also said in John 10:27 ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’
Before they died, my Dad and Mum came to know and follow this risen Lord Jesus Christ. Have you?
My second (of three now) book on the Gunpowder Plot has the catchy title of A History of the Gunpowder Plot by Philip Sydney. If I have it right this was published in 1905 – 300 years after the plot – by Protestants Today. I bought it for £5.95. There are few illustrations and no sub-headings to speak of and so the reader is confronted with page after page of dense text. Mercifully the text type is easily readable and most of the chapters are short. Every chapter has quite a few endnotes which need to be read. There is no index and no bibliography. Not a particularly inviting book – so probably a book of its time. Very plain.
Perhaps mistakenly, I read a few reviews on Amazon that said it was dry and difficult reading. One ‘reviewer’ didn’t finish it. If I’d taken any notice of their reviews it would have stayed on a shelf in the Christian Bookshop. I obviously took no notice of them and bought it anyway. But given my comments above and the reviews I can see what they mean.
But, I really enjoyed it. I think I must be weird! The book has no Evangelistic emphasis (as the previous book) and has no real context other than a few meager references as you move through the book. What I’m enjoying though is all the detail – another thing the ‘reviewers’ didn’t like. There are a lot of quotes from the original case and a number of letters are included.
Sydney is quite upfront about his own belief that ‘it was a put up job.’ The Government (that is, Robert Cecil – Secretary of State) it seems had all the main players on a ‘watch list’. It’s extraordinary the plotters thought they could get away with it, and even when the game was up they still thought they could stage an uprising in the Midlands. There are a few references to Dunchurch, Rugby (where I grew up), and several other places I know well. Dunchurch is built around a crossroads with a couple of historic Coaching Inns and a house (then The Red Lion Inn) that apparently was where some of the plotters met. I knew a guy some years ago that lived there and have been in the house. Sadly, at the time I had no interest in any of this – a shame that. Next time I’m in Dunchurch I’ll get a few pictures.
The propaganda value of gruesome public executions seems quite obvious – especially if the authorities knew all the time. Some things don’t change. Although, the plot itself, had they actually pulled it off, would have changed the country. It was of epic proportions. But it failed. Thank God.
The historic controversies (so I have learned) concern when the authorities (Cecil) knew of The Plot, the delivery of a mysterious letter to Lord Monteagle (or Mounteagle) warning him to stay away from Parliament on November 5th and whether the Jesuit hierarchy also knew of The Plot. Sydney deals with these and drops in his disagreement with other views as he goes along. The book seems quite thorough and as far as I can tell he argues his case.
The whole thing is an incredible story. I suppose there is always going to be room for conjecture on some of the issues but Sydney quotes from primary sources – letters, trial transcripts and secret transcripts between prisoners in The Tower (that is, The Tower of London). I need another visit to the Tower myself now after reading about The Plot.
Do I recommend the book? If you get hooked on the subject, then yes. If you are a history buff, yes. Otherwise, I think you’ll survive without reading it. But:
‘Please to remember
The Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot;
I see no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.’ (On the inside page)
The whole episode raises enormous questions, especially about propaganda, freedom of religion, security and torture as a means to elicit information. And so in that sense reading of The Plot is ever relevant as we face those very same questions in our own day.
So I have another book to read on The Plot that will be a bit more demanding. I’ll do a post in due time.
I recommended ‘Grieving, Hope and Solace: When a loved one dies In Christ‘ by Al Martin two years ago (almost to the day) but that was only on reading the first chapter. At long last, I have finished it. When I first started the book the grieving was still quite raw. It’s taken me these two years to read it maybe because I completely entered into the author’s own experience.
I don’t think on a practical level, for me, it’s quite as helpful as the book by James White. Al Martin’s book though is answering a different question. The book is focused on dealing with the bereavement of a spouse and is asking ‘What happens to a Christian loved one when they die?’ He not only answers that question but shows the relevance of that knowledge to the here and now for the grieving spouse.
The book (my copy) was first published by Cruciform Press in 2011 and written several years after his wife died, based on a series of sermons he preached soon after she died. It’s a short book at just 116 pages as this usually needs to be. it’s easy to read with short chapters with several headings for each chapter. There are only a few endnotes but with lots of scripture references throughout. It’s divided into Four Parts with a total of 13 Chapters plus a preface. Although there’s a lot of theology I definitely entered into his grief. It touched a lot of nerves for me. I’m grateful for that.
My copy is full of notes, underlining and asterisks. I can only mention a few things. The reality of his grief is evident. He doesn’t hide it. This paragraph from page 21 I thought was very helpful.
‘The idea here is not that if we truly obey these verses, we will no longer suffer the pain of loss. In my best efforts to fix my thoughts on the things above, I still felt the pain of my wife’s absence. Rather, in the midst of our grief (Italics are his) – which can be painful, sorrowful, lengthy, and at times even debilitating – the kind of grieving that brings glory to God nevertheless includes a grace-motivated determination, in obedience to these verses, to direct our thoughts to the things above. This both glorifies God and helps to ease – not eliminate – the pain and sorrow of our grief.’ (The verses he is referring to are Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3: 1-2.)
Then this from page 95 & 96:
Few things more quickly and effectively snap some of the shackles that bind us to this world than does the death of a dearly loved one. Tenderly holding their lifeless form in our arms, or wistfully looking as they lie in a coffin, such experiences become powerful voices. These voices call out, urging us to obtain the wisdom that alone can enable us to live as those who “number our days.”
There are three sections in Chapter 10 (God’s Purposes In Us Through This Death) that I noted by writing Vital!!! Couldn’t be overstated!
The headings are: We Have Opportunity to Grow in Fellowship (page 93). For this, I had in mind some very special people who helped immensely during Sue’s illness and after she had died. Also: The Word of God comes more Vividly Alive (page 94). This is so true. The Scripture becomes alive in a completely new and fresh way. And: We Become More Heavenly Minded (page 94). Heaven is close.
There’s an extremely poignant paragraph at the beginning of that chapter where I wrote the following in the margin: I have no doubt about this. This was upon my mind very early on. However, it made me feel responsible for her death. I realise I’m not. But even so…. This is the paragraph I was responding to:
‘When a servant of God prays from the heart, “Lord, do whatever you need to do to me and in me to make me a better shepherd of your people,” we have no idea how God will answer. For me, such a prayer was answered in part by God’s severe mercy in taking Marilyn from me. (page 85)’
A severe mercy. Indeed so. I’m not a shepherd but God will sanctify His people. In all honesty, as I’m writing this and looking through the book at my notes and underlinings I realise how helpful the book has been. It helps enormously to have your own experience confirmed. Not everyone can enter into it with you but this author, for me, has done that. And for that, I’m truly thankful. I’m sure he will do that for others. Not for everyone, but it will help some. Maybe it will help you.
The only parts of the book I found unhelpful and that jarred with my own experience is how perfect his wife was through her illness right up until her death. Sue wasn’t like that, and yet I think for all her struggles with dying she displayed the grace of God in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had she been so perfect. Obviously, I can’t criticise Al Martin’s wife Marilyn for dying so well (by the grace of God in that way). My note in the book reads: ‘We must not make these things the norm, wonderful though it is.‘ I’m glad that was her testimony. I just don’t think that is the experience of most people. As Christians, we don’t want to admit how hard dying is. Death is the final enemy. And it is horrible. Really horrible. So in Sue’s dying, I saw a paradox. I saw how hard it was for us both, especially for her, and yet I saw the grace of God displayed through her in a truly remarkable manner. That glorified God I believe.
The book closes with a Gospel message that tells it straight but points to the only hope. That hope is found in The Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who has conquered death.
I still recommend the book. I do wonder about the recommendations that come on the cover with this type of book. Do they know anything of what the author is talking about? I think the answer is often, no they don’t. That’s just my opinion, as all this is. There is so much in the book, not a word is wasted. Ministers of the Gospel ought to read it as they are going to encounter grief in their people. The book will help prepare you. Grief is such a personal thing. I’m not sure it would be the first book I’d reach for to give to a grieving spouse, but then it depends who it’s for. It’s not a touchy-feely book, but it is real. Above all, we need the reality of Christ and His Word and His presence. This book by God’s grace will help. Order it from your local Bookshop.
I’d love the opportunity to speak with the author.
The Ligonier State of Theology Survey is now available.
‘What do Americans think about God, Jesus Christ, sin, and eternity? Ligonier Ministries’ State of Theology survey helps uncover the answers. Every two years, we take the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with better insights for discipleship. Read some of our key findings from 2018 below and explore the data for yourself.’
Thanks for the information and the invitation to explore the data. There are some worrying results. The two that immediately stands out is the question on the Trinity and the follow-up question on who Christ is. These are for Evangelicals – so called.
The question on the Trinity is stated thus: ‘There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.’ The response is overwhelmingly orthodox with 94% agreeing Strongly. Excellent you might think. But the next survey question is this: ‘Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.’ The response is quite startling. 73% Strongly agree! The survey of 2016 was 64% Strongly agree. But the total agreement with that Heretical Statement finds this:
2018: 78% agree vs. 18% disagree. 2016: 71% agree vs. 23% disagree.
It’s figures like that that give strength to Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christadelphians, and Muslims. I’m sure these groups will find the survey quite encouraging.
It’s just extraordinary that on the one hand there’s such a high percentage agreeing with a Trinitarian statement and the contradictory finding on the person of Christ. It’s actually worse this year!! What would a survey here (UK) reveal? Honestly, I dread to think!
I tried to sit and think about it for a while as I’m sure many reading the results will have done. And with a great deal of soul-searching and dismay, I shouldn’t wonder. What is going on?
Churches that I have been a member of teach unreservedly that The Lord Jesus Christ is exactly that, LORD. That is, Jesus is God. He is the second person of The Trinity and is co-equal with God The Holy Spirit and God the Father. Read The Athanasian Creed for a fuller statement. I’m thankful for these Churches.
And yet, to my knowledge, these doctrines have never been taught in a systematic way. There is so much high-quality material available that we really have no excuse at all. Much of it coming from America – the same America of these results! History plays a major role in this. Why do I say that? The battle over the person of Christ was hammered out centuries ago. Yet the writing of those men is not only relevant to today but vital. Dr Nick Needham has edited a wonderful book of Daily Readings from The Church Fathers. The persons of the Trinity take centre stage. And rightly so. I have heard it said that what the Church needs is an understanding of the humanity of Christ. And I understand that. But it cannot be to the detriment of His Deity.
It occurred to me that there is a mighty gulf between being regularly and even passionately told these truths from the pulpit, and being systematically taught these same truths – not necessarily from the pulpit. Do Ministers and Pastors, and Elders know what their people are reading? I’m not advocating an Evangelical version of the Thought Police but the Ligonier Survey is shouting out that ‘Something is not working.’
You are in a Church where good teaching takes place. Thank God for it. Friends, especially those brought up in even a good Church, have had to ask themselves if they believe what they believe because that’s what they are told or because that’s what they believe for themselves. Believing these fundamental truths needs the operation of The Holy Spirit. There’s no denying this. But on the other hand, to believe them for oneself needs the opportunity to engage with those truths. What better way to engage than through Church History or The Reformed Confessions. Well, I would say that wouldn’t I. Yes, it’s a hobby-horse that I ride occasionally but the results, I think, of this survey, justify a good gallop!
I’ll leave it to others to analyse the data but it isn’t good.
How would you answer? You can take the survey.
I thought it might be a good idea to read Augustine’s ‘The City of God’. A good idea until it arrived! It is a massive great thick tome. I decided to get help ‘if’ and it’s a big ‘if’ I decide to read the thing. There were some old Westminster Conference papers going cheap and in 2005 a paper was given by Dr Michael A. G. Haykin on Augustine’s work with the title ‘”The most Glorious City of God”: Augustine of Hippo and The City of God.’ I don’t know if the paper is available online.
Reading Michael’s paper it was a surprise to find that Christians had attached themselves to The Roman Empire to such an extent they were at such a loss over its fall.
‘Many Christians were equally stunned and shocked by the horrors that had overtaken the city of Rome. Jerome, for instance, was absolutely overwhelmed by reports that he heard and for a while could do little else but weep.’ Later Jerome lamented “The whole world is sinking into ruin” (Haykin, Page 39, Westminster Papers, 2005).’ On page 40 we read ‘… many other Christians of his (Jerome) day, seems to have been utterly unable to conceive of a Romeless world.’
Not so Augustine. Eusebius, sometimes called the father of Church History, viewed history through the lens of The Roman Empire. So that in ‘Eusebius’ hands the Roman state has become a sacred realm. (page 42).’ This is the beauty of Augustine’s work, it doesn’t rely on particular Empires but is a Biblical view of history that works for all ages. It was great to discover this because it is exactly what I was hoping for. Many Empires have come and gone.
I was left asking if the European Union is an Empire? Is it? I believe it is. It has a President and a Parliament with Vassal States just like any other Empire. And it will come to an end just like the rest. I find it astonishing some are so Anti-Western Colonialism or Imperialism. Don’t they realise there were a great many Eastern Empires? Western Colonialism will go just like the rest. The British Empire has gone. The Ottoman Empire has gone. The Egyptian Empire has gone. The Persian Empire has gone and so forth.
It seems to me that (some) Christians are unable to conceive of a world where The UK is not part of The European Union. So, one reason for reading Augustine’s weighty tome is to come to a better understanding, not only of history, but the flow of history, and of the European Union as an Empire. And, as an Empire that will not last.
Dr Haykin sets the context and then very helpfully gives an overview of the book which I won’t detail here. When I do finally get round to reading the book it will be good to have an overview to hand. Maybe I’ll write some more at another time.
Dr Haykin’s last quote (Westminster, page 54) from Augustine is powerful and relevant. Augustine writes:
‘Look, my brothers and sisters, do you wish that unto you should belong that peace which God utters? Turn your heart unto him: not unto me, or unto any man. For whatever man would turn unto himself the hearts of men, he falls with them. … Our joy, our peace, our rest, the end of all troubles, is none but God: blessed are they that turn their hearts unto him.’
If your hope is in the State (The City of Man) you are going to be hugely disappointed and will ultimately fall with it like ancient Babylon. But if you are looking for another city, namely, The City of God, then you will also share in its final triumph when the King in all His Glory comes to take residence.