The Morality of Spying, Lying, Deceiving – Interview with a former CIA Intelligence officer.

Last night I sat and watched this fascinating interview on Al Mohler’s ‘Thinking in Public’ channel with a former CIA operative whose wife was also a spy. It was promised to be fascinating. And it was. Here’s the full title of the interview:

Spycraft and Soulcraft on the Front Lines of History: A Conversation with Former CIA Chief of Counterintelligence James Olson

If you’ve ever contemplated the idea of the Nazis knocking on your door and asking if ‘there are any Jews in there?’ then you’ll be interested in this. Or if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to go about your life in relative peace and safety you might like it. Would you lie? I’d like to think I would. No question. Not even a debate for me. I’d rather not lie of course, but for me, it would be the moral thing to do in that situation. The spies of Jericho were quoted to make the case for lying in certain situations (Josh 2:1).

‘Spying has always been based on deception. I look for guidance from the greatest of all sources, the Bible. And we all know the story from the book of Joshua, about how when Joshua was conducting his campaign for the conquest of Canaan, he’s standing before Jericho, and he sends two spies into Jericho to gather intelligence on the defenses. And the spies are sheltered, protected, hidden by the prostitute Rahab. And thanks to Rahab they survive when the king’s men came looking for them, she lied about their whereabouts. They were able to return safely to the Israelite camp. And I think it was because of their intelligence to a large extent that the campaign was successful.’ (Quote is from the transcript)

Just this Sunday we had a sermon about Ehud. Ehud straps on a sword with the intent of killing Eglon. It was just assumed that he did the right thing but he entered with a concealed weapon and used subterfuge and lying to get an audience with the king in order to get him on his own and plunge the sword into his belly; literally spilling his guts before making his escape. He went there with one aim: kill the king. It wasn’t murder, he delivered justice. (Judges 3:19-23) So it isn’t just the spies of Jericho.

‘I often ask my students, “What are your moral absolutes?” And students say, “Well, I would never kill anyone.” I say, “Well, you’re a soldier, our country’s being attacked. You are a parent, your children are being threatened. Could you kill to protect your children or your right?” Yeah, there are exceptions. Would you ever steal? I know I can never steal anything, but how about to feed your family? How about to steal the secrets from an enemy? Would you ever lie? No, but we all tell white lies. And there are occasions, as you mentioned, where lies I believe are the only course of action to protect human life.’ (Quote is from the transcript)

The espionage world in which this man lived and operated, with his wife, and now training other operatives, is a world of lying, deceit, manipulation, subterfuge, torture, and execution (killing). What might surprise some is that he operated with a Christian moral worldview. The prospective spies he trains are expected to have a moral compass. He didn’t say this, but without some sort of objective morality they might just as well employ as many psychopaths as they can. I’m sure Russia aren’t the only ones to have psychopaths on the payroll.

You might find the whole interview intensely annoying and not agree with a single thing he says. And that’s fine. But remember this: while you sleep peacefully in your bed or go about your life each day there are men and women out ‘there’ literally putting their lives on the line for our safety and doing things so we can keep our moral superiority. I recall some years ago a story in the papers of a British Army colonel, I think, who had infiltrated the IRA. I remember thinking about what would happen to that man had he been caught.

‘And it’s really unfair after the fact, I think, for people sitting back in Washington to say, “You went too far, you should not have kidnapped that person. You should not have waterboarded that person.” Because it’s easy to say, and our people were doing this with the best of intentions. Waterboarding is nasty. I hate the fact that we had to do that. But it’s easy to take the moral high ground and say, “We’re not going to do that.” And of course the Obama administration decreed that we would not do it anymore. That’s fine, tell us, we won’t cross the line. But we have to realize that when we refrain from activities like that, and I would contend as my good friend and colleague Jose Rodriguez wrote in his book, Hard Measures, that waterboarding these three people did save lives.’
(Quote is from the transcript)

It’s a messy fallen world, and yes I know, governments aren’t always working for the interest of their own people. I’m putting a best case on this knowing, that other governments are probably operating with more dubious moral standards.

One other thing he said was that if they’d (The US) have had the intelligence at the time they could’ve prevented Pearl Harbour as the German ‘chatter’ about it was being listened to. One of the ‘What If’s of history.

A brilliant TV series, (I think), is ‘The Americans.’ It’s about Russian operatives in America living as Americans, complete with a family, but living double lives. And you get to see the CIA as well. Quite gruesome in places so if you’re squeamish or object strongly to bad language then best not to watch it. But it is quite brilliant. 6 seasons I think.

I’m fascinated by it all so I’d like to hear more on this. He’s written a couple of books so they might be worth checking out.

Note: Because the CIA was like it was in James Olson’s day, it doesn’t mean it’s the same today. Check out for example Andrew Klavan’s show.

Some might (will be) be outraged by this, but then we don’t have to make these decisions – someone else does. There was so much more and it all raises so many many questions, but here’s the video link.

Thoughts on Social Distancing and The Trinity

Social Distancing and The Trinity

Social distancing as I’m sure many have pointed out is not really a new concept. It was called isolation. And we find this in the Bible to contain the spread of contagious diseases such as leprosy. We read this in Leviticus.  The main and obvious difference is that it was the person or people with the disease (determined by the priest) that were to separate themselves from the rest of the community. That is a demonstration of the divine wisdom. It makes sense. Those who were clearly symptomatic were separated from the rest of the people. However, the difference now is that everyone is deemed contagious whether they show symptoms or not. Not only that, even those that have been vaccinated against Covid currently have to practice careful separation by distance, exclusion, including wearing a face mask. This, we are told, is to keep us all safe. Regardless of whether you have been vaccinated or not.

I’m sure those that know about these things will be able to explain it all scientifically. But I have another explanation, and it’s this. We, all of us, have been created as social beings. Because of the fall there are clearly anomalies to this. Included in that are differing personality types and some forms of mental incapacity. But by and large that is what we are – Social Beings. Social distancing then, has a marked and serious mental consequence. We don’t do well when isolated. There are exceptions as I’ve said, but in the normal course of life isolation is not good. It was Jeremy Bentham back in the 18th Century that came up with the ‘Panopticon’ prison. This was a form of isolated observation. Why do you think isolation is such an effective means of torture? Divide and conquer. Isolation then, is weaponised.

One of Satan’s tactics against struggling Christians, or anyone else for that matter is to isolate them. And it is true of bereavement. The reaction is to isolate oneself, and we all know this is not a good thing. Some time alone to reflect is normal and necessary at such times of great distress. But isolation is something else altogether and is not good. We know this.

It might surprise some to realise or understand that God the creator is also a Social Being. In other words, within the Triune Godhead there is at the heart of the divine being, community. A better word for this is fellowship or communion. Within the fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is love and communion, not isolation. We can remind ourselves that the ultimate experience of the wrath of God was isolation, not communion. The cry of dereliction from the Cross by The Lord Jesus Christ was ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ Hell will be eternal separation, eternal forsakenness. Isolation in its most terrible and permanent form.

We can perhaps think about the Social Distancing in two ways then. In the first place:

Social distancing isn’t just an assault on the created order but on God himself. Where Social Distancing is enforced by the authorities it is, I think, another form of rebellion against God. The Lord of heaven and earth has set in his creation a certain order. And enforced isolation such as is being experienced during our current crisis strikes at that order and at the very nature of God.

But secondly, the isolation is a foretaste of the final judgement. The isolation we might feel during the lockdowns and the social distancing is only a temporary thing. For Christians the isolation is temporary. But for those that do not know God through Christ, the isolation to come will be intensified to an awful degree for eternity.

Social distancing tells us two important things about the Gospel.

  1. It tells us that by nature we are far off from God. Our sin has separated us from God and so deep within us we know something is not right. The Gospel tells us we are separated and at a distance from our creator. Social distancing powerfully demonstrates this.
  2. It tells us that God has done something about it and so by the blood of Christ we are have been brought near. When the Bible uses the word ‘know’ it’s often used relationally. For example, Adam knew Eve. So, in marriage we ‘know’ our husbands or wives. Marriage illustrates just how close the believer has been brought to God. Our relationship with God through Christ is one of great intimacy – the ultimate relationship. There is no isolation in Christ.

Relationships then reflect the very nature of God. And it’s that relationship, that close relationship within the Godhead, that we are invited to experience, and to experience for all eternity.

I’m sorry to say the Vaccine is offered as a poor substitute. The adverts tell us that the vaccinations bring hope. It’s a lie in its ultimate sense. Only through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ will any of us experience real eternal hope not the temporary ‘fix’ of the vaccine.

All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown,
he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

Wherever you are right now, God is inviting you with all your doubts and fears to trust in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

‘some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.’ Psalm 107:10-13

Martin Luther’s Speech at the Imperial Diet in Worms (18 April 1521)

Martin Luther’s Speech at the Imperial Diet in Worms (18 April 1521)

1 Most Serene Emperor, Illustrious Princes, Gracious Lords:

2 I this day appear before you in all humility, according to your command, and I implore your majesty and your august highnesses, by the mercies of God, to listen with favor to the defense of a cause which I am well assured is just and right. I ask pardon, if by reason of my ignorance, I am wanting in the manners that befit a court; for I have not been brought up in king’s palaces, but in the seclusion of a cloister; and I claim no other merit than that of having spoken and written with the simplicity of mind which regards nothing but the glory of God and the pure instruction of the people of Christ.

3 Two questions were yesterday put to me by his imperial majesty; the first, whether I was the author of the books whose titles were read; the second, whether I wished to revoke or defend the doctrine I have taught. I answered the first directly, and I adhere to that answer: that these books are mine and published by me, except so far as they may have been altered or interpolated by the craft or officiousness of opponents. As for the second question, I am now about to reply to it; and I must first entreat your Majesty and your Highnesses to deign to consider that I have composed writings on very different subjects. In some I have discussed Faith and Good Works, in a spirit at once so pure, clear, and Christian, that even my adversaries themselves, far from finding anything to censure, confess that these writings are profitable, and deserve to be perused by devout persons. The pope’s bull, violent as it is, acknowledges this. What, then, should I be doing if I were now to retract these writings? Wretched man! I alone, of all men living, should be abandoning truths approved by the unanimous voice of friends and enemies, and should be opposing doctrines that the whole world glories in confessing!

4 I have composed, secondly, certain works against the papacy, wherein I have attacked such as by false doctrines, irregular lives, and scandalous examples, afflict the Christian world, and ruin the bodies and souls of men. And is not this confirmed by the grief of all who fear God? Is it not manifest that the laws and human doctrines of the popes entangle, vex, and distress the consciences of the faithful, while the crying and endless extortions of Rome engulf the property and wealth of Christendom, and more particularly of this illustrious nation? Yet it is a perpetual statute that the laws and doctrines of the pope be held erroneous and reprobate when they are contrary to the Gospel and the opinions of the church fathers.

5 If I were to revoke what I have written on that subject, what should I do but strengthen this tyranny, and open a wider door to so many and flagrant impieties? Bearing down all resistance with fresh fury, we should behold these proud men swell, foam, and rage more than ever! And not merely would the yoke which now weighs down Christians be made more grinding by my retractation it would thereby become, so to speak, lawful, for, by my retractation, it would receive confirmation from your most serene majesty, and all the States of the Empire. Great God! I should thus be like to an infamous cloak, used to hide and cover over every kind of malice and tyranny.

6 In the third and last place, I have written some books against private individuals, who had undertaken to defend the tyranny of Rome by destroying the faith. I freely confess that I may have attacked such persons with more violence than was consistent with my profession as an ecclesiastic: I do not think of myself as a saint; but neither can I retract these books. Because I should, by so doing, sanction the impieties of my opponents, and they would thence take occasion to crush God’s people with still more cruelty.

Summons for Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms, signed by Charles V. The text on the left was on the reverse side. Published in book authored by Bernhard Rogge.
Elisabeth, Kurfürstin von Brandenburg, nimmt heimlich das heilige Abendmahl in beiderlei Gestalt. Holzstich nach einem Gemälde von Adolph Treidler (1846–1905), erschienen in: Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 9 (1874) Summons for Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms, signed by Charles V. The text on the left was on the reverse side. Published in book authored by Bernhard Rogge.

7 Yet, as I am a mere man, and not God, I will defend myself after the example of Jesus Christ, who said: “If I have spoken evil, bear witness against me; but if well, why doest thou strike me?” (John xviii:23). How much more should I, who am but dust and ashes, and so prone to error, desire that every one should bring forward what he can against my doctrine. Therefore, most serene emperor, and you illustrious princes, and all, whether high or low, who hear me, I implore you by the mercies of God to prove to me by the writings of the prophets and apostles that I am in error. As soon as I shall be convinced, I will instantly retract all my errors, and will myself be the first to seize my writings, and commit them to the flames.8 What I have just said will, I think, clearly show that I have well considered and weighed, not only the dangers to which I am exposing myself, but also the parties and dissensions excited in the world by means of my doctrine, of which I was yesterday so gravely admonished. But far from being dismayed by them, I rejoice exceedingly to see the Gospel this day, as of old, a cause of disturbance and disagreement; for such is the character and destiny of God’s word. “I came not to send peace unto the earth, but a sword,” said Jesus Christ. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foees shall be those of his own household.” (Matthew x:34-36)

9 God is wonderful and terrible in His counsels. Let us have a care, lest in our endeavors to arrest discords, we be bound to fight against the holy word of God and bring down upon our heads a frightful deluge of inextricable dangers, present disaster, and everlasting desolations. Let us have a care that the reign of the young and noble prince, the Emperor Charles, on whom, next to God, we build so many hopes, should not only commence, but continue and terminate its course, under the most favorable auspices.

10 I might cite examples drawn from the oracles of God. I might speak of Pharaohs, of kings of Babylon, or of Israel, who were never more contributing to their own ruin than when, by measures in appearances most prudent, they thought to establish their authority! God removeth the mountains and they know not (Job ix:5). In speaking thus, I do not suppose that such noble princes have need of my poor judgment; but I wish to acquit myself of a duty whose fulfillment my native Germany has a right to expect from her children. And so commending myself to your august majesty, and your most serene highnesses, I beseech you in all humility, not to permit the hatred of my enemies to rain upon me an indignation I have not deserved. I have done.

[Having delivered this speech in German, Luther was now asked to repeat it in Latin. After some hesitation, he did so. He was then reminded that he should answer a simple question: whether he would retract or not. Thus he continued:]

11 Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.

(Source for the above.)

Free Speech And Why It Matters by Andrew Doyle – Reviewish

Free Speech And Why It Matters by Andrew Doyle, Constable, 2021. £7.32 on Amazon at the time of writing.

It’s a hardback just a bit smaller than A5. 134 pages total. An easy to read type, a notes section and even an index. Think I would’ve preferred footnotes but it kind of works. I ended up reading the book and then read all the notes, which were actually worth reading. He uses a lot of fancy words I’ve never heard of, but then he does have a Doctorate in Renaissance Literature from Oxford. As you would expect then, the book is well researched and referenced. Like I say, the Notes really are worth reading. For example:

‘In an address to the House of Commons in March 1763, William Pitt the Elder (1708-78) recognised that the home is a sanctuary for every citizen in which in which even treasonous sentiments might be safely expressed: ‘The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It mat be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter, but the King of England cannot enter. All his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.’ p. 123, note for p. 89.

And if you know what’s happening to friends North of the Border you’ll know the relevance of that quote. As indeed does Andrew Doyle.

Early on in the book he takes a bleak view of Savonarola and his ‘Bonfire of the Vanities.’ This in the chapter titled ‘The Self-Censuring Artist.’ What Andrew doesn’t tell you is that Savonarola was going up against, through action and speech, the psychopathic Pope Alexander and his equally psychopathic Cardinal son Cesar Borgia (Duke Valentino, AKA The Prince). By speaking out against the Pope, Savonarola wasn’t long for this world. Maybe Andrew should really have been supporting him. I guess we’ll never know.

The book has 18 chapters so they are all quite short. I thought this worked well.  It’s easy to pick up and put down. I didn’t think there were any wasted words. The chapter ‘A Thought Experiment’ was interesting. Andrew chose Christian opposition to homosexuality for his experiment. It felt quite personal so I checked to see if Andrew is a homosexual – which he is. I must admit knowing that did slightly change how I read the book. Not enough to put me off it though. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I would see him as quite opposed to the Christian faith, but he wouldn’t want to lock me up for expressing the view that homosexuality is a sin. For the record I would’t want to lock him up either. I wish him no ill – at all. In the realm of Free Speech, he, along with Douglas Murray and Peter Tatchell are allies. Friends even.

As for the book, yes, it’s helpful. He perhaps makes for a surprising ally.

Like so many, Andrew wants to have an objective truth, because that is the only rational option, but then wants to have a relative view of it where it suits. You can’t have both. Nevertheless I’m grateful that common grace forces him, and those like him, to operate within a Christian Worldview, even for those that oppose it. It’s truly amazing how even the godless can end up praising God. It’s quite amusing really.

Do I recommend it? Yes I do. In fact, the way it’s written and its size makes it a handy reference book. So I may well read it again. Like me, you probably won’t agree with everything he writes. We don’t have to support his worldview, but we can support him.

As Christians we should support Free Speech, even if that means unpleasant speech, or speech that is directed at us. And there is plenty of that! There is one who judges our speech, and our prayer is that our speaking the Gospel freely will bring those who at the moment are opposed to The Lord Jesus, into His Kingdom, and then to speak FOR Him. But we don’t do that by banning the free speech of others, even those that are vehemently opposed to the Christian faith.

The other side of the Transgender Debate – Dan Crenshaw interviews Scott Newgent

Dan Crenshaw interviews Scott Newgent (No idea if that’s his real surname.) ‘Let’s talk about Transgenderism.’

This is another really important interview. So important it probably means no one will listen to it. There you go. But it’s the side of the Trans debate that isn’t being heard. It needs to be heard. The link to the interview is HERE and at the end of this post.

It’s an interview with Scott, a Transgender man. A really poignant part of the interview was when Dan asks Scott ‘Would you do it again? If you didn’t have these medical kinds of complications? Would you do it again?

Scott: Erm, (long pause) probably not, no.

Dan: Still no? Even if it was a smooth surgery?

Scott: ‘Probably not, no. You know, it’s taken me a while to say that. And you get pushed when you’re talking about this stuff to De-trans right. It’s another fallacy, I’m changed, the hormones are permanent. I could De trans but then I’d be a trans woman. And I really don’t want to go through the BS. My family has been through enough. I’ve got to the point in my life where I accept who I am. Should I have accepted who I was before? Absolutely.’

Scott needs to be heard. He tackles some really important stuff here, commenting on suicide, surgeons, and, interestingly, on evangelicals. I was tempted to use the phrase ‘Follow the money‘ for the interview. If you listen you’ll see why.

It’s quite raw in places and very honest.

Dan Crenshaw interviews Scott Newgent – Let’s talk about Transgenderism

Reaching the lost in high places – Acts 13:1

‘Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.’ Acts 13:1

By Bartlomiej Strobel - Museo Nacional del Prado, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20080818
Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St John the Baptist by Bartlomiej Strobel – Museo Nacional del Prado

Being a somewhat ordinary person and living in an ordinary station in life, those in high places, to me, inhabit another world. I see the Royal family, the world of the stars (so called), the high-end business world and so many other areas of life that are simply alien to me. I sometimes wonder how these people are reached with the Gospel. Despite all the trappings of privilege and success they are still people that are in need of salvation. It’s highly unlikely in the scheme of things that I would ever have the opportunity to speak with such. Nevertheless, Christians do move in those circles. And I’m thankful they are able to reach the parts people like myself cannot. But it isn’t just those in high places, it’s sometimes the type of people that are in those high places. So, for our encouragement let us consider a man (in the verse above) by the name of Manaen.

We aren’t quite sure of his relationship to King Herod but at the very least he moved in the same circles. The main sense is that of a friend, or even a foster brother. One commentator (Matthew Henry – full quote below) suggests they ‘nursed of the same milk’ or went to the same school. The ESV text (above) says he was a lifelong friend. Let’s suppose that is the case. Who is Herod the tetrarch? This is the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded. I don’t think we are far off the mark if we call Herod a psychopath. Manaen is a lifelong friend of this Herod.

We aren’t explicitly told how Manaen heard the Gospel, or when he came to trust in Christ for salvation, but we do know that John the Baptist preached to Herod. Is it too much of a stretch to say Manaen heard the message from John? And yet two very different responses. Manaen became a prophet and leader in the church and Herod continues, as far as we know, in unbelief – perhaps signifying his eternal destiny.

Why did Herod invite John to his court? John was a novelty to him and a curiosity, but whatever the reason, John didn’t tone down the message to gain favour or be overawed in the presence of the great and the good. That doesn’t mean we have to ‘go at it’ and be aggressive – but it does mean we  have to be faithful and take the opportunities to speak as the Lord presents them to us. Easier said than done of course.

It may even be that Manaen heard the Lord Jesus speak. Either way, whether from John or Jesus, Manaen became a follower of the Lord Christ. I’m not convinced that just because Herod was a psychopath Manaen was a similar character – maybe he was. We simply aren’t told what sort of character he was before becoming a Christian, but we do know something of his life as a believer from our verse above. He became a  prophet and a teacher. Unlikely people do become followers of Jesus. Some even become ministers of the Gospel. Like the Apostle Paul (1 Tim 1:13).

The Lesson

It’s a simple lesson. The Lord has his people sometimes in the most unlikely places. The court of Herod was a place of debauchery and butchery. A place of adultery and licentiousness. And a place of immense privilege. Yet there was Manaen. The Lord doesn’t need us to reach people. But His way is most often to use Christians to speak to people from all manner of backgrounds. Maybe He’ll use us too.

We might think it is futile to pray for some as they seem so far from the Kingdom. But this isn’t the case. Many Christians pray for Boris, for example, even though they will probably never meet him. Or praying for that celebrity, or even a terrorist. God does answer the prayers of His people. No prayer is futile. No one is beyond the reach of God. Acts 13:1 then, is a very encouraging verse – so pray on.

 

Manaen, a person of some quality, as it should seem, for he was brought up with Herod the tetrarch, either nursed of the same milk, or bred at the same school, or pupil to the same tutor, or rather one that was his constant colleague and companion – that in every part of his education was his comrade and intimate, which gave him a fair prospect of preferment at court, and yet for Christ’s sake he quitted all the hopes of it; like Moses, who, when he had come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Had he joined in with Herod, with whom he was brought up, he might have had Blastus’s place, and have been his chamberlain; but it is better to be fellow-sufferer with a saint than fellow-persecutor with a tetrarch.

 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2118). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (3)

This is part three of sections from Chapter 1 of William Williams ‘The Experience Meeting.’ (Part 1 here & Part 2 here)  Note the condition of the church when the Spirit of God visited in revival blessing..

What follows is a description of what most of us have no personal knowledge of: when the fire falls upon His people. What’s so encouraging is that these believers were in such a low spiritual state. God visits us when He chooses to do so. Not because we’ve reached a point where we might be tempted to say ‘God will bless us now.’ The Christian faith is not a works based religion. It is Grace based, not merit based. Our merit before God is found in another. Namely in the Son of God – The Lord Jesus Christ. It does not give us licence to live how we choose, but at the same time our living is not meritorious. We do not earn Gods favour. How we should know the reality of the phrase ‘we are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10).’

EUSEBIUS continues…. ‘But at last, forced by cowardice, unbelief and the onslaughts of Satan, we resolved to give up our special meeting; and now we were about to offer a final prayer, fully intending never again to meet thus in fellowship. But it is when man reaches the lowest depths of unbelief that God imparts faith, and when man has failed, then God reveals Himself. So here, with us in such dire straits, on the brink of despair, with the door shut on every hope of success, God Himself entered into our midst, and the light of day from on high dawned upon us; for one of the brethren – yes, the most timid of us all, the one who was strongest in his belief that God would never visit us – while in prayer, was stirred in his spirit and laid hold powerfully on heaven, as one who would not let go.

His tongue spoke unusual words, his voice was raised, his spirit was aflame, he pleaded, he cried to God, he struggled, he wrestled in earnest, like Jacob, in the agony of his soul. The fire took hold on others – all were awakened, the coldest to the most heedless took hold and were warmed; the spirit of struggling and wrestling fell on all, we all went with him into the battle, with him we laid hold upon God, His attributes, His Word and His promises, resolving that we would never let go our hold until all our desire should be satisfied.’

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Pages 8 & 9.

I’ll leave it there and continue the narrative with another post – maybe two more. My desire is simply to encourage us all in the Lord (1 Thess 5:11 & Heb 10:25).

We all went with him into battle

I like the phrase ‘we all went with him into the battle.’ I don’t think that means everyone was praying at the same time or that everyone prayed. But that when one prayed, all prayed (Acts 4:24). Such was their united assault upon the throne of Grace. That’s the sort of unity we want in our prayer meetings.

It’s a fine line, perhaps, between not despising the day of small things (Zech 4:10) and the realisation that without God we are sunk. God is at work. He does not stop working. The Lord Jesus is building His church (Matt 16:18), and He will continue to build it until He returns. He gives us persevering grace. We are not fallen away because He keeps us in the way. For this we are thankful and raise our Ebenezer (1 Sam 7:12). But we pray: “Lord, give us that longing we know we need.” ‘O, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down (Isaiah 64:1)’ and ‘that glory may dwell in our land (Ps 85:9).’

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (2)

This is part two of sections from Chapter 1 of William Williams ‘The Experience Meeting.’ (Part 1 is here) (Part 3 here) I don’t intend to post anything, for now, on how the society meetings were organised during the flow of the revival, rather the condition of the church when the Spirit of God visited in revival blessing.

This next section is, I believe, one in which our churches can take great encouragement to not give up meeting. Revival comes not at the behest of man but by Gods gracious intervention – and that, when we are at our lowest ebb. Perhaps that is one of our problems. Our churches are so well organised that if God were absent from our meetings, or our evangelism, would any of us really notice?

‘And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.’ Judges 16:20

The Bold text is my highlighting. I have also divided the text into two paragraphs so it’s slightly easier to read.. Continuing then where we left off with Eusebius on page 8:

EUSEBIUS continues….: ‘This is the way the Lord worked in that part of the world. One time, there were just a few of us, professing believers, gathered together, cold and unbelievably dead, in a meeting which we called a special service, so discouraged as to doubt whether we should ever meet again, some who were usually absent from every meeting, some in a deadly apathy, with nothing to say of God nor their own souls, some given over to the world and its cares, some backslidden completely from all means of grace and the ordinances of the gospel, some given over to the flesh and its lusts, as in the days of Noah – seeking a wife, seeking a husband marrying and giving in marriage – and I myself well nigh disheartened and thinking often of coming to live in warmer spiritual climes, and moving my tent from Ur of the Chaldees nearer to the borders of the Promised Land.

But, even though all things were as i have described them – the world, the flesh and Satan victorious – these special services were yet conducted in an incredibly lifeless manner. There was no encouragement for anyone to carry on the work, save only the promise of God, that wherever there were two or three coming together in His name, if their purpose were right, however lifeless their present state, He would come to them and bless them. This alone had made us come together to pray; but our prayers were not much more than groans.’

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Page 8.

I like the way he says ‘This is the way the Lord worked in that part of the world.’ It may be the Lord will again work in that way – here in Wales and where you are too. But in this passage especially, we should note the condition they were in. ‘cold and unbelievably dead‘ and a ‘deadly apathy.’ How many of us have thought of moving our tents to where ‘things are happening?’ ‘To warmer spiritual climes‘ and ‘nearer to the borders of the Promised Land.‘ Is that us? Is that how we see ourselves? Or are we in need of nothing?

Also notice there were people in the meeting ‘who were usually absent from every meeting.’ I’m sure Pastors try to encourage their people to attend – but to no avail. The Lord can do in a moment what man can’t.

Despite this, we shouldn’t fail to recognise who we are. The world may despise the church of God, and we can be tempted to think that way sometimes too, but our hope is still in the living God.

‘Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!’

I’ve written more than I meant to but I do hope and pray these posts from the writing of William Williams will be an encouragement to the church.

 

‘The Madness of Crowds’ by Douglas Murray – Recommended reading

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, Douglas Murray, Bloomsbury, 2020. This is the updated & expanded edition.

Have you ever seen the 1963 film ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’? It’s a totally crazy film with big stars in it all searching for buried loot under a ‘Big W.’ It’s a comedy and is hysterical. It’s very funny.

This book by Douglas Murray plunges us into a mad, mad, mad, mad world as well. There’s a lot that’s hysterical. But it isn’t funny. At all. There is a ‘Big W’ though. And an elusive prize.

I didn’t take any notes. I simply wanted to read it. I think the book will make a good companion to Carl Trueman’s latest book (started but not finished).

On the cover of the book is the line: The Sunday Times Bestseller. This is rather surprising because, I assume then, someone is buying it. I did. Presumably lots of people are buying it – not sure if they’re reading it though. Murray was initially encouraged by this. But in the afterword of this edition he’s rather more pessimistic. The frightening aspect of the book is that you can be anything you want to be by ticking the appropriate ideological box. And this is the message: we (that is, most people) are being coerced (or simply marinated) into an ideology. We are being forced further into an ideology that divides. You capitulate or else. In fact, it works the other way as well. You can be told what you are as well. So a black man can be a white man if he doesn’t get with the program. The whole idea of black, white, man, woman, boy, girl is an utter mess of confusion and cancellation. Murray has provided us with enough evidence (all cited in the end-notes) to convince anyone, that wants to step back and see, that what is going on is complete madness.

The Chapter Titles are: 1. Gay. Then an Interlude – The Marxist Foundations. 2. Women. Another Interlude – The Impact of Tech. 3. Race. Interlude – On Forgiveness. 4. Trans. Conclusion. Then an Afterword for this edition.

The chapter on Race is the longest – just. The chapter on Trans is the saddest. The whole book is fairly tragic though. At the beginning of the book he explains the difference between what he calls a Hardware or a Software issue. It recurs a few times through the book.

‘…. the contemporary world has begun to settle on a morality which roots itself in this dispute and which may be viewed as a hardware versus software question.
Hardware is something that people cannot change and so (the reasoning goes) it is something that they should not be judged on. Software, on the other hand, can be changed and may demand judgements – including moral judgements – to be made. Inevitably in such a system there will be a push to make potential software issues into hardware issues, not least in order to garner more sympathy for people who may in fact have software, rather than hardware, issues.’ p.29.

I do think there are some conditions that might be described as a ‘Hardware’ issue simply because we live, according to the Bible, in a fallen world. We should expect to find things that don’t fit. For example Murray gives some figures for people with Intersex (formerly Hermaphrodite) that might be a ‘Hardware’ issue. I’m not convinced surgery is the answer though. It’s all very sad. Help is definitely needed but it’s coming from the wrong place. Everyone has an inherent worth and dignity because we are all  made in the image of God our creator. Everyone. Just like me they need the love and grace of God not an ideology.

‘It has been estimated that in America today around one in every two thousand children is born with sexual organs that are indeterminate, and around one in every three hundred will need to be referred to a specialist.⁷’

I wasn’t sure quite how to read those figures but according to one website I looked at there’s about 1.4 million intersex people in America. That sounds like an epidemic to me. But it depends where you are on the trajectory and also on who decides where you are. Some of the people that decide, frankly, should be prosecuted for child abuse. It’s not science or health care, it’s ideology. It’s all in the book if you can stomach it. 

I’ll quote below a couple more sections from the conclusion to give you a flavour of the book.

Because the most extreme claims keep getting heard, there is a tendency for people to believe them and their worst-case scenarios. p.242

Final quote:

‘With each of the issues highlighted in this book the aim of the social justice campaigners has consistently been to take each one – gay, women, race, trans – that they can present as a rights grievance and make their case at its most inflammatory. Their desire is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn. In this again the last part of a Marxist substructure can be glimpsed. If you cannot rule a society – or pretend to rule it, or try to rule it and collapse everything – then you can do something else. In a society that is alive to its faults, and though imperfect remains a better option than anything else on offer, you sow doubt, division, animosity and fear. Most effectively you can try to make people doubt absolutely everything. Make them doubt whether the society they live in is good at all (and it’s working – my comment). Make them doubt that people really are treated fairly. Make them doubt whether there are any such groupings as men or women. Make them doubt almost everything. And then present yourself as having the answers: the grand, overarching, interlocking set of answers that will bring everyone to some perfect place, the details of which will follow in the post (in other words there is no answer – my comment)’ Pp. 247-248.

Given the hot-button topics I thought the book is written quite sensitively. It’s not an aggressive book, but unfortunately what Murray can’t give you, and to be fair he doesn’t try, is any hope, or an objective truth claim to base that hope on. I don’t think he’s saying there’s no such thing as truth, I’m fairly sure he would say there is, but he can’t base it on anything. If there’s no God of truth, there can’t be any truth. The Lord Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ And so as Christians our hope is in God – the God of the Bible. But we do have to reach people with the Gospel of Christ; a world that is perishing and drowning in its own particular madness. This book describes the world, or some of it anyway, that desperately needs the Gospel.

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (1)

I read this book years ago, and one particular section especially was impressed indelibly upon my mind. And I always tend, somehow, to make reference to it when talking about revival. Which I did do just recently. It’s about time then, that I typed that section up. It’s fairly lengthy for one post so I’ll break it up into three or four shorter posts. (Part 2 here & Part 3 here) Any highlights in bold or italics will be mine.

I don’t know if the book is still in print. Whether it is or not doesn’t really matter. What the book, or this section anyway, tells me is that no matter how lifeless we think our prayer meetings are, and let’s face it, they mostly are, the Lord is well able to visit us and revive us. We don’t need to gee them up and try to inject life into them. We simply need the Lord to visit us. That’s the only life we need. His life. The Spirit of God. Our hope is in God. Williams writes the book as a conversation or dialogue between two people, Theophilus and Eusebius. Here’s the first of the quotes:

THEOPHILUS: And now, what progress is the Lord’s work making in your country? I have heard that the gospel of Jesus has reached you, and has begotten many sons. Will you please tell me how grace began to work there? By what means? And with what power? And to what extent apart from the usual means? And which graces appeared first? What wiles has Satan devised to hinder the work? And what troubles or trials have you suffered to test and strengthen you and to purify you?

EUSEBIUS: You have asked me many questions, and I will do my best to answer them all, for I find nothing sweeter to recount, and nothing to quicken my soul more, than to remember the days of the Lord’s visitation to me and to others in the day of my betrothal to Him, the joyful day of my heart; to remember that time, to me, is ever as sweet as honey (This is the first paragraph of a long section).

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Pages 7 & 8.

I can’t recall where I read it, but in one of Jonathan Edwards books he talked about how through remembering and talking about past visitations of God those same feelings can come back. I don’t think Edwards was speaking negatively here, but speaking experientially. Hence we read above: ‘to remember that time, to me, is ever as sweet as honey.’