Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact by Michael Haykin – Brief Overview

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:

  1. ‘I Am Patrick’: The Life and Historical Context of Patrick.
  2. ‘One God in the Trinity of the Holy Name’: The divine foundation of Patrick’s theology
  3. ‘I am bound by the Spirit’: Patrick and his Irish Mission
  4. ‘God has spoken’: Word and Spirit in Patrick’s piety
  5. 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.

The Ligonier State of Theology Survey shows Evangelicalism is in a State.

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.

‘The City of God’ – Augustine

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.


F. F. Bruce – The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable?

The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable? by F. F. Bruce. IVP. 6th Edition, 2009.

It’s taken me till now to read this book. And what an excellent book it is. I was very encouraged by reading it. It does have a downside. So let’s get that out of the way first.

The latest reference to any work is 1990. To me, because I’m older, that sounds quite recent – modern even. But when I think it through, that’s 28 years ago! Many of the reference works are much older, even though the research may still stand up. It’s an obvious point of criticism.  I’m sure there are more recent books that build on and enhance the work in this book. A more recent book to recommend is Michael Kruger’s ‘Canon Revisited‘ Nov 2013.

Given that, it’s a great read. It’s very helpful. It isn’t long. Just 141 pages. It has page footnotes which I like, a scripture index, suggested further reading for each chapter, and an index which I also like. If you’ve never read anything on this subject before, this is a great place to start.

In the opening paragraph to his preface (p.7) Bruce writes:

‘Reliable as what?’ asked a discerning reviewer of the first edition of this little work, by way of a comment on the title. His point, I think, was that we should be concerned with the reliability of the New Testament as a witness to God’s self-revelation in Christ rather than with its reliability as a record of historical fact. True; but the two questions are closely related. For, since Christianity claims to be a historical revelation, it is not irrelevant (or irreverent, my comment) to look at its foundation documents from the standpoint of historical criticism’.

He doesn’t shy away from the problems but shows how in terms of their historicity the New Testament documents fair very well. In fact, they fair much better than other ancient texts (ch 2, pp 21-23). He mentions the Chester Beatty (Library) Biblical Papyri. I was able to see some of these on a recent trip to Dublin. I’m not quite sure which ones are referred to in the book but see one of the pictures below I took of the manuscripts.

He takes some time looking at the miracles (ch 5) but points clearly to the resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ.

‘This response of faith does not absolve us from the duty of understanding the special significance of the several miracle-stories and considering each in the light of available knowledge, historical research and otherwise, which can be brought to bear upon it. But these are secondary duties; the primary one is to see the whole question in its proper context as revealed by the significance of the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Christ’ (p.82).

The chapter on Lukes Gospel (ch 7) was really excellent. Especially so when it came to the accuracy of places, names, and titles. Very encouraging. An obvious point, which I hadn’t thought about, was how there were many writings out there that Luke was able to use in order to write his Gospel and The Acts of the Apostles.

Luk 1:1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
Luk 1:2  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
Luk 1:3  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
Luk 1:4  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

The most important aspect of the book wasn’t his proof of the NT Documents historicity, which he does admirably, but his confession that it takes a work of the Holy Spirit to make a person alive to Christ. In the final analysis, even if they are accepted as completely reliable, which they are, it’s only the Holy Spirit that can grant repentance and give life. The question Christ asks of us all is ‘Who do you say that I am?’.

Mat 16:13  Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is?
Mat 16:14  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Mat 16:15  He said to them, But who do you say that I am?
Mat 16:16  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Mat 16:17  And Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

I should have taken notes or made comments and underlining in the book. I didn’t.  Nevertheless, I thoroughly recommend this book to any believer or unbeliever for that matter. If your church has a library, put this book in it.

Here are the Chapter Titles:

  1. Does it matter?
  2. The New Testament documents: their date and attestation.
  3. The canon of the New Testament.
  4. The Gospels.
  5. The Gospel miracles.
  6. The importance of Paul’s evidence.
  7. The writings of Luke.
  8. More archeological evidence.
  9. The evidence of early Jewish writings.
  10. The evidence of early Gentile writers.

Bible Reading: Benefits and Warnings

When I say Bible Reading, I mean systemically reading it through in a year. There are quite a few plans available that take you through the OT and NT in a year. Here are three plans you might like to try.

No 1. The Murray M’Cheyne plan. This takes you through the whole Bible and through the Psalms and NT twice. It can be a lot of reading but then you do get Psalms and NT twice. Obtainable from The Banner of Truth to buy (cheap) or free to print off Here.

No 2. This plan is similar, going through the whole Bible once, so slightly less to read. Available Here.

No 3. Finally, there’s Reading it chronologically. Available to print off Here.

The advantage of the Chronological plan is you read events, Psalms and Prophets in ‘real time’. The disadvantage with this plan is you won’t reach the NT till October! So it is a bit lopsided. This is the plan I use, but as a ‘corrective’ I read a separate NT plan as well.

Go Here for more plans.

I accept there are many ways to ‘do’ your private devotions. And there are advantages to some of these methods. For example, some use commentaries or other things like The Geneva Bible notes – which are very good. I’ve never found that way helpful and they will not take you through the whole Bible. It’s my personal conviction that Christians should be primarily reading the Bibles. Ad Fontes if you like.

If I’m reading a book about doctrine or the Bible, I read that in addition to reading The Bible not instead of it. There are hundreds of excellent books out there that will grab our attention, but no matter how good it is, it isn’t The Word of God.

I have found that if I don’t read before I go out, the day and what it brings just takes over and I end up reading it when I’m far from my best, or I have to catch up. I know it isn’t easy with a family and work, but it can (normally) be done – even if, at times, done poorly. You may not agree, but I think better to do it poorly and out of duty than not at all.

Four Brief Benefits then, not necessarily in order of importance:

Benefit One: You get to read it all not just your favourite bits or what’s trending or topical in your particular Church circles. We rightly make much of The Bible and how all our doctrine and practice come from it, but have we read it. All of it. If you are a new Christian then you probably won’t have read through it yet. So let me encourage you to start doing it today.

Benefit Two: This is similar. You are reading what God Himself has decreed to be recorded and preserved. There are lots of things we might like to know that hasn’t been recorded for us but what we have is what God has left for us to read.

Benefit Three: By systematically and regularly reading it you will slowly become familiar with its contents. You will make connections between one Scripture and another. Names and places will begin to stand out and you get a ‘feel’ for the book as a whole.

Benefit Four: As you read pray. Let God’s Word speak to you and guide you. He will bring people, situations, your own failings and the wonder at what God has done for you in Christ before your mind. Thank God and pray.

Benefit Five: I decided to briefly add this one as well. God Himself tells us through His Word of particular benefits. We are warned, informed, encouraged, delighted, sanctified and cleansed! (Eph 5:26)

That’s the benefits. I’m sure there are many more but now for a few warnings.

Warning One: Just because reading it this way works for you – including the benefits – don’t be fooled into thinking God is going to bless you because of it. He might. He might not. It certainly won’t get you into heaven. Only Christ can do that! Take a look at your heart.

Warning Two: It isn’t always going to be great fun. There will be times when it will be a real grind and you’ll only be reading out of habit. The temptation will be to give up because your heart is cold and formal. Welcome to the real world. Press on. Don’t give up. Remember there isn’t just your own sinful heart to contend with, there’s also an enemy that would draw you away from God’s Word.

Warning Three: You find out other Christians aren’t or haven’t read it right through. Pride is always ready to overtake us. Imagine, getting proud for reading The Bible! It happens. However, God has a way of humbling the proud heart.

Warning Four: For whatever reason, there will be times when you will get behind and the task of catching up begins to look impossible. Don’t get overcome with guilt. Either of these options is fine. Option 1. Set some big chunks of time aside and catch up. Maybe a Sunday afternoon. Option 2. Start afresh from where you are and then keep going!

Finally: I might as well warn you now as there’s no way of getting around it, it won’t always be easy, it will take discipline and just sheer doggedness at times to keep going. But those glimpses The Lord will give you of Himself from time to time far out-way the hard work.

I hope you found this helpful and encouraging.

A Grief Continued

I was told the Christian Bookshop (Michael Keen) had ordered several copies of a book on grieving by Al Martin, a well-known preacher in Reformed Baptist circles. Michael very kindly handed me a copy yesterday morning after the service. Opening the book on the way back to the car I began to read.

The very first paragraph is gripping and took me immediately to the bedside of Sue as she breathed her last. To say I began to hyperventilate is a slight exaggeration but it’s a moment I have relived over and over and over again. It’s not nice. After nearly 11 months the emotions still come back with great vividness and force. The agony and the grief that wells up in the depths of my being are there in that first paragraph of  the book. It’s very obvious to me that Pastor Martin is reliving that moment. I know he has experienced this and I’m gripped, wanting to read what this man has to say.

As I walked racing through my mind was the thought to ‘isolate, isolate, isolate’. I felt the need to get away from people. The reality is this is not a good thing. Isolation is different from solitude. I like the solitude of staring out to sea. We all need solitude from time to time. It’s when our emotions run away from us like a freight train that we are to ‘take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ’. It isn’t easy when our emotions are SCREAMING to us one thing, but then seek to do the very opposite. Staying away from Church and people is understandable and sometimes can be helpful, but long-term is destructive and unhelpful. The thought of isolation needs to be brought into obedience. I often fail miserably.

Back to the book. I dipped into future chapters so I ‘might’ Blog through the book. There is one particular chapter in which he will deal with some very heavy theology that I too have had to work through. Pastor Martin wrote it for his own understanding and to help others. I’ll be blogging (if I do), as before, for the same reasons. So I trust even this brief post will have been helpful.

Just one further note. His book is for Christians when their loved ones have died ‘in Christ’. Like me, the loved one for Al Martin was his dear wife. However, should any non-believers come across the book they will be pointed to the God of all comfort and to The Lord Jesus Christ ‘whom to know is life eternal’. The Gospel is here.

I have only just started to read this book, but already, I have read enough to highly recommend it.


James R. White – New book on the Qur’an

Dr James White has a new book on the Qur’an. Dr White has for some years been researching and studying extensively the religion of Islam. His new book has the title ‘What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an (Paperback)’.

There’s an excellent interview with Dr White on The Reformed Forum. From the Reformed Forum website:

Today we welcome Dr. James R. White to the program to speak about his book What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an. In the book, Dr. White presents Islamic beliefs about Christ, salvation, the Trinity, the afterlife, and other important topics. White shows how the sacred text of Islam differs from the teachings of the Bible in order to help Christians engage in open, honest discussions with Muslims.

It’s available in the UK via The Book Depository. This is a book I’ll be ordering very soon!

Download interview via Reformed Forum website link above.

Dr White is the Director of Alpha & Omega Ministries – Christian apologetics.

Van Til Lecture

Cornelius Van Til

We were treated last evening to a lecture on ‘Cornelius Van Til’ given by Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth) in his own inimitable way. The lecture wasn’t the cerebral exercise many were expecting but was a warm lecture full of personal anecdotes and challenge by a man who knew personally Dr Van Til and Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones (You’ll get the connection when you listen to the lecture).

We were warned about the scientific method and evidentialism that hands authority over to man. It’s not for man to decide, it’s for man to repent and believe the Gospel. Preachers (and a lot were at the lecture) were encouraged to preach warmly to the conscience of man knowing there is a God and to not preach a Gospel of probability (my take) but of certainly.

Geoff said after that he should have mentioned ‘Paul at Athens’ and ‘Why I Believe in God’, two booklets by Van Til that are more accessible and available for free. Geoff wished Van Til had written more in this style.

Again as Geoff said afterwards, ‘there’s just so much to say and it’s a massive subject’. But everyone I spoke to and all the conversations I overheard were positive and appreciative of the lecture. He recommended the biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman by John R. Muether and a newly released book of 9 sermons by Lloyd Jones, ‘Setting Our Affections upon Glory’.

The best recommendation of the lecture I heard came from a lady sitting in front of me when she said, ‘now I understand Van Til’.

For Van Til resources follow link to a previous post.

I’ll post links to the audio as soon as it becomes available.

God Is Not Great: Christopher Hitchens

Cover of "God Is Not Great: How Religion ...
Cover via Amazon

Now I have a Kindle it’s so easy to download and buy stuff – that’s good and bad. It’s good, for example because amongst other things I bought ‘God is not Great‘ for £0.99p. It’s bad because no matter what the format I still have to find time to read the stuff. A window of opportunity opened and so I began to read. It was also a time to find the drawback of the kindle I have of not being able to type notes fast enough and so it’s really hard work. I need a pen and a notepad with it. May I’ll get faster and improve with use.

I’m assuming he (Hitchens) will lay out his store as it were in the first chapter, so here’s a few points to be going on with from Chapter 1.

1. I like his style writing – he has [had] great skill with words and was obviously very well read.

2. I like his honesty. He tells it how he sees it. He calls a spade a spade as we say. And I like writers that do that. His honesty doesn’t extend however to a correct understanding of Christianity. He continuously (as does Dawkins) misrepresents Christianity (see point 3).

3. Sadly, from what I read he never ever really understood the Gospel. This view may be wrong – I guess his brother might know – but it’s how he writes.

4. He talks a lot about Religion. Yes Christianity is a Religion. And there can be stupid and very bad Christians – but this doesn’t actually invalidate it as truth. It certainly doesn’t help but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

There’s a big problem with the Title. For such a specific claim you would have thought it important to be specific about the God he is talking about. Is it the Christian God, the God of Islam or the God of his own imagination. Here’s just a couple of quotes.

Many of them never believed, and many of them abandoned faith after a difficult struggle. That might be his experience but it isn’t mine. And in any case even if it were true it still wouldn’t invalidate the truth claims of Christianity. All that proves is the weakness of the human condition. You say, why doesn’t God help them then. In my experience He does – for example my own mother that died of bone cancer and many other I know of.

‘We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry (Really! see paragraph below), open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.

God did not create man in his own image. Evidently (There are other explanations for so many religions but it doesn’t suit his case to give any evidence even if he could), it was the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.

Imagine that you can perform a feat of which I am incapable. Imagine, in other words, that you can picture an infinitely benign and all-powerful creator, who conceived of you, then made and shaped you, brought you into the world he had made for you, and now supervises and cares for you even while you sleep. Imagine, further, that if you obey the rules and commandments that he has lovingly prescribed, you will qualify for an eternity of bliss and repose. I do not say that I envy you this belief (because to me it seems like the wish for a horrible form of benevolent and unalterable dictatorship), but I do have a sincere question. Why does such a belief not make its adherents happy? It must seem to them that they have come into possession of a marvelous secret, of the sort that they could cling to in moments of even the most extreme adversity. This quotation serves to demonstrate his understanding of the Gospel is 100% wrong. Any decent historian may not believe it but should be able to tell you what it is. Sadly, Hitchens doesn’t have a clue and his readers will just slavishly and uncritically swallow it. His Atheism is poisoning everything!

Just got back from a bright dinner with Richar...

Since reading the first chapter I have listened to a discussion of the book first broadcast back in 2008. This is a series of 8 available at Unchained Radio for $0.98 cents each. (I think they might be available for free) I’ve now listened to them all and I’d say they are worth every penny (I am English). To buy them go HERE. These guys are way more able than I am but demonstrate rather uncomfortably for Atheists that Christian apologists (especially Presuppositional apologists) have good solid scriptural apologetic arguments and the debating skills to take them on. I’m being polite when I say they (Paul Manata in this case) completely destroy Christopher Hitchens arguments, method, worldview and just about everything else besides. Whether he listened to the programs back then, I can’t say, but he was well able to defend himself at the time. The reason for ‘flagging them up’ here (he can no longer defend himself) is because as one of the ‘Four Horsemen’ an awful lot of weight will be given to his words. I have no doubt in the coming days we will be hearing a lot of his writing and of his legacy to the Atheistic cause.

After listening to Paul Manata discuss the book I am left wondering why Hitchens was so popular a writer. A book was mentioned in one of the broadcasts. With a Kindle it’s possible to download sample sections. So I read a sample of the book ‘On Bullshit‘ by philosopher Harry Frankfurt as it was recommended by Paul Manata. By the criteria of the book Dawkins, Hitchens and the other ‘Horsemen’ are probably no more than a bunch of ‘Bullshitters’ and people love it. Frankfurt has a sequel to ‘On Bullshit’ and it’s well worth reading the sample section of ‘On Truth’. Frankfurt thinks they (Bullshitters) are worse than liars. We need to make sure that as Christians we don’t follow their example.

Out of curiosity and a search through YouTube I found a video of an Atheist convention. Hitchens was filmed with an 8 (yes that’s Eight!) year old girl asking him what books she should read. He listed a few books and is amazed to find she had read them. Now here’s the thing: She said she wanted to be a Free Thinker just like him. We (Christians) are accused of indoctrination if we tell children about The Lord of Glory but if 8-year-old little girls are taken to an Atheist convention (her Mother stood proudly looking on) they are free thinkers. And Christians are accused of being closed-minded! That’s the end of this post – I’m speechless!

HT for the broadcasts to my friend Jim over at The Domain for Truth.

‘Against All Odds’ by Paul Connolly

'Against All Odds' by Paul Connelly

I’ve just finished reading ‘Against All Odds’ by Paul Connolly – Kindle edition. It’s quite a brave book to write, it’s honestly written and pulls no punches (pun intended). The early chapters are quite a harrowing account of life in an institution till he was forced to leave at the age of 17. Paul was abandoned at two weeks old and left out with the rubbish and his book is really an account of his ongoing battle with a sense of worthlessness. If you are offended by very strong language then I don’t recommend you read it. But if you can get past the language and some of the abuse it really is a story of survival ‘Against All The Odds’. We see or meet people and perhaps comment how some individuals have something written on their forehead. For some it’s the word ‘Jail’, for others it’s ‘Abuse Me’ or it might be ‘Thug’ and we all see these labels from time to time. We might also comment on how some kids often through no fault of their own, do not stand a chance – they are marked as it were from birth. Such was Paul Connelly, at least that’s what he was told.

It a story that ultimately triumphs over a horrendous upbringing and the damage that followed him into adulthood and that he still is not entirely free from like the rage within him that he struggles to control ever day. Thankfully he found, in his words, a wonderful woman and he now has two wonderful young boys. It is remarkable indeed that he has defeated the lies of those so-called ‘carers’ by living a normal life.

What’s my response to the book as a Christian? Because of the link that altered me to the book I naively expected there to be some Christian input. It didn’t take long for me to realise this wasn’t going to happen. The only encounter Paul had with Christianity was in the home so understandably there is no mention of God in the book except towards the end when he contemplates killing the ‘carers’. These were individuals that by any standard had really escaped true justice in spite of the best efforts of some police officers. Here’s the passage at the end of Chapter 12 where Paul writes:

“Some of them have paid something for their crimes, but they havent paid nearly enough and I dont believe in a just God who punishes the wicked after death. I wish that I did because, if anyone ever deserved fire and brimstone, it was them.”

It’s a fascinating quote because it shows how Paul has a sense of justice that unfortunately does not extend to some of the victims he battered senseless. Did they all really ‘deserve’ it, or even most of them – I doubt it. I’m reminded of the end of ‘Unforgiven’ with Clint Eastwood. Little Bill is facing death and says ‘not like this, I don’t deserve this’ to which William Munny (Eastwood) replies ‘what’s deserve got to do with it’. Unlike the justice of men, the justice of God is righteous and He knows all the details. The fact is we all, me, Paul, everyone, deserves the judgement of God. But through the free Grace of God in the Gospel of Christ repentant sinners may go free.

There are some great insights into the human condition as he deals honestly with his own inward state and the resultant struggle within. This is something Paul would fail to appreciate but he is articulating what the real problem is: it’s a heart problem. Jesus teaches quite specifically, that it isn’t what comes out of a man or the exterior – how good and righteous we make ourselves out to be, even deluding ourselves – it’s the sinful nature within that is the problem. And only God in Christ can sort that out. His book made me think I should be less judgemental. That drunk that we see staggering down the road: I do not know his story. Maybe he has a similar story to Paul. As a Christian what’s the very best I can do for such people? I can hold out hope and give them words of eternal life. And where possible maybe a hot drink and a non-condemnatory chat and treat them as a human being of worth, people made in the image of God yet ravaged by sin. Though terribly marred by sin they nevertheless have the stamp of God’s image upon them.

The full title is ‘Against All The Odds: The Most Amazing True Life Story You’ll Ever Read’. It isn’t the most amazing true life story I’ve ever read, it is an amazing story, but the Life of Jesus Christ is the most amazing story I’ve ever read and am likely to read. Here’s where I’m left disappointed and sad: and if somehow Paul does read these words I trust he’ll take them as well-meant and full of hope. Although it’s a marvellous outcome for him he’s still without Christ and without hope. I admire him but at the last day when he stands before God to give an account if he is without Christ he’ll be damned. There’s just no easy or nice way to say it. But it’s true. Without a Saviour he’ll end up in the same place as his abusers. I know this is an unpalatable truth, but really it is the great leveler as ‘we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ’. But ‘Christ loves the unlovely that lovely they may be’. This is real hope!

Mez McConnell

All the while reading about Paul I couldn’t but help compare his life – and outcome – with another book I read a little while ago by Mez McConnell ‘Is There Anybody Out There‘: A Journey from Despair to Hope. Mez suffered horrific abuse from beatings and drug use that today affect his health and probably always will. Mez turned to Christ and is now the Pastor of a Church. He works with the dregs of society, the druggy, the dropouts and seeks to lead them to Christ. Check out a previous post on Mez and the links there to find out more. Here’s his Blog. And read his book.

As good a story as Paul’s is and as inspiring as it is, it falls short. Why? I’d like to believe that Paul seeks to help those caught in desperate circumstances but his resources are finite and the hope he offers is limited to this life. But the Gospel comes with the Power of God to change us from within, to forgive, to cleanse and to keep. Paul couldn’t help me – I couldn’t afford his services, but the Salvation offered by Christ is free to all that will call on Him. And Christ will never turn anyone away.

It’s turned out well for Paul, and I’m glad it has. But his story is unfinished without a Saviour – and so is yours.

UPDATE: Sincere apologies, I mis-spelt Connolly. Now corrected. I know a Connelly and didn’t notice the difference until it was pointed out to me.