The Gulag, Live not by lies, and Wokeness.

Very difficult to think of a title for this post. But I’m continuing to listen to this abridgement of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation.’ Narrated by, I believe, his son which lends to it a certain poignancy.

Listening to this is relevant to the book I’m reading by Rod Dreher, ‘Live not by lies.’ The title of Dreher’s book is from the writing of Solzhenitsyn. Reading about Communism in Dreher’s book isn’t quite the same as listening to the writing of someone that lived through its horror. The quote below from Solzhenitsyn puts some realism into our current situation and is really helpful as I read Rod’s book. The section is where Solzhenitsyn is describing what happened to Russians that were taken prisoner. I already knew this but to hear it narrated is quite different. Simply by coming into contact with The West was enough to get you imprisoned on your return home (In chapter 6 of The Gulag ‘That Spring’). Or even shot. It didn’t matter if you had defended Russia or were decorated. It was all stripped away in the name of the ideology. You were an enemy of the State. All that was necessary was that you confess your crimes.

Dreher describes the Totalitarianism we are experiencing as ‘Soft Totalitarianism’ but make no mistake it’s the same ideology. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Captain in the Russian army. During his imprisonment he encountered other soldiers, like himself, decorated soldiers, but it didn’t make any difference. They were now an enemy of the State all the same.

So here’s the quote:

‘The West simply had to understand that Bolshevism is an enemy for all mankind. But The West did not understand at all! (from Ch 6)’

That quote, especially if you listen to it in context, is incredibly powerful. The young, it seems, and other Social Justice Warriors (SJW) want to play or experiment with Communism. They think it’s a good idea. But to repeat the quote from Solzhenitsyn ‘the West did not understand at all.’ Call it Wokeness or SJWism if you like. Whatever we call it let’s listen to Solzhenitsyn and realise ‘that Bolshevism (or soft totalitarianism) is an enemy for all mankind.’ It’s an enemy to us all. Including those trapped by it. The West still doesn’t understand.

What’s interesting for us is that we can see this at work today. For example, a person aligns themselves with the leftist Woke ideology. They like to display their credentials. Or businesses do the same. But they happen to comment, for instance, that because someone ‘identifies’ as a man or woman it doesn’t make it so because the biology says otherwise. They are still a man or a woman however they might ‘identify.’ We know these cases. That is enough. You are condemned. It’s like a Russian soldier coming into contact with The West. The retribution is merciless and swift. You are cancelled. Yes, the Soft Totalitarianism doesn’t put a bullet in your brain, or throw you in the Gulag, but its aim is to destroy you. It’s truly Satanic. It’s from the same source. (You can read about many of these cases in Douglas Murray book ‘The Madness of Crowds.’ Or consider J. K. Rowling (See here for the latest attacks) or Martina Navratilova.)

I’ll continue to listen to ‘The Gulag’ and to read ‘Live not by lies.’ Maybe a ‘review’ or some comments later. We really need to be equipped not only to spot it but to defend against it and where possible rescue those from its grip. Not everybody on ‘The Left’ is our enemy. When it comes to Free Speech we (Christians) can find ourselves standing with surprising allies. They are our friends. But ultimately without Christ they are still lost. They might not be in the grip of Wokeness, but they are still lost. They need the Saviour too.

‘When Harry became Sally’ & ‘Irreversible Damage’ – Recommended reading

I read these a while ago so I apologise for the delay in posting but here are two books that I’d like to recommend. Both are ‘Jaw-dropping’ to read. I didn’t take any notes. The first by Ryan Anderson I ‘read’ as an audio book. The second by Abigail Shrier, I also read without taking notes. I’d like to simply make a few observations about them both in this post.

I’ve now read these two books and Douglas Murrays book (Here’s my post on that) so I’m in a slightly better position now to continue reading Carl Trueman’s book (which I will eventually get round to reading and review).

When Harry became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson

I believe the author is a Christian (RC I think). I didn’t really know what to expect with it being banned by Amazon. But if you were expecting a book full of scriptural references, you’d be wrong. I can’t recall one reference. In fact, I’m not sure I remember any reference at all to the Christian faith.

The book is a devastating critique of the Transgender moment (or movement) and its ideology. The book demonstrates how utterly illogical it is for a man to become a woman (and vice versa).

It’s important to say that it isn’t a nasty book, rather it is written in a respectful manner. I thought it was well written with detailed research. He neither approved or reproved but he does present the facts (which is probably why it is banned). The anatomical details of the changes and the surgery required are quite tragic (as well as quite detailed) and demonstrate the awful lengths to which people will go.

The key to whole movement, I think, is in Chapter 2. I’ll provide the actual quote because I think it’s really important to grasp this. It’s more than Harry becoming Sally. Harry is Sally. And so the body has to be brought in line with the brain and not the other way round. The body must conform to what is the (claimed) Ontological reality. So any criticisms of Transgender people (or the movement) is a direct assault on their being. This is why any criticism is taken as a direct assault on the person – from their perspective that’s what it is. This is in complete opposition to the real reality – if I can put it that way. That is, in reality this is opposition to God and his created order. It’s rebellion at the deepest level. And it isn’t cheap rebellion either. I’m not talking cost in pounds or dollars but deep, very deep, personal pain – mentally and physically. Utterly tragic. And so for many that are caught up in this it isn’t a conscious rebellion because young people especially are being manipulated to satisfy the ideology of the Activists. They are being used. That’s the bottom line. Here’s the quote then from Chapter 2 under the heading Transgender Ontology:

‘People say that we live in a postmodern age that has rejected metaphysics. That’s not quite true. We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative meta-physics. At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person – in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, not merely a girl who identifies as a boy. It’s understandable why activists make these claims. An argument about transgender identities will be much more persuasive if it concerns who someone is, not merely how someone identifies. And so the rhetoric of the transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be. That’s the claim.’

However, some have realised the mistake of going the route of surgery based on what is a false and extremely dangerous ontology – ideas have very powerful consequences, and not all good (That’s an understatement by the way). And so in Chapter 3 we are given a series of testimonies that would advocate caution – at the very least. The claim to being Transgender is still accepted.

I do have a view on this, but I can’t work out why politicians of mainly the left, but the right as well, are sanctioning something that is so obviously damaging. Just the onslaught of logic ought to be enough to convince anyone that there’s something not right here.

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

Again, this is a jaw dropping and tragic read. More tragic actually. Abigail concentrates on how this Craze is affecting young people and especially teenagers. NOTE: She is using the word ‘Craze’ in a sociological sense not as a pejorative. It does capture something though. Abigail is not a Christian, so in a few places she does use language some might find offensive – try not to let that put you off though.

Honestly, if you are the parent of a girl, especially a teenage girl, you should read this book. Your child might just breeze through her bodily changes and all will be well. But she might not. Writing as a woman with daughters herself is helpful. She isn’t a philosopher or theologian, but she is an investigative reporter (on this anyway). And she’s a good one as well. We need people like her.

To be forewarned, is to be forearmed!

There are some shortcomings with the book which I think we need to realise. This came through with an interview she did with the two guys on their Triggernometry YouTube channel – worth watching. The shortcoming is this: Her worldview (and theirs) is self defeating. This isn’t a huge problem (for now) but we do need to be aware of it. As I write it makes me wonder if this is why Ryan Andersons book has been banned and this one by Abigail hasn’t. (Although there were those that wanted to ban her book as well – see Abigails article here.) Ryan’s book is grounded in a Biblical Worldview – this one isn’t, or not deliberately so anyway. Truth comes from God. Truth has to come from somewhere, and if not from God (the bible) it has to come from somewhere else. I’m grateful that there are still people like Abigail that can write and research from within a Judeo-Christian worldview (I think she is Jewish) but it isn’t the same as being grounded in a Christian Worldview. Don’t get me wrong I’m very thankful for her. She is most definitely our friend, in this, as is anyone that supports Free Speech. But by supporting same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism she just, for now, draws the line in a different place to others in the culture.

Someone said ‘Support Trans Kids.’ Frankly, giving in to this ideology is NOT supporting Trans kids, at all. What it does is damage kids. Often it is exactly that: Irreversible damage.

Here’s another terrifying article (When the State Comes for Your Kids) by Abigail that shows the sort of things that are happening in some States in the US. Make no mistake, the ‘activists’ will take your kids if they can. Thankfully, the Government in the UK, for now, is opposing plans to make changing gender easier. I say for now because the ‘activists’ will not stop. See here for more on the UK situation.

Finally, I’ve shared this before but it’s such an important interview that I’m including it here as well. This is an interview with a transgender man, Scott Newgent (he admits to actually being a biological woman), who shares with us the reality of what changing is really like and what happened to him, and about the opposition he is encountering because he is speaking out. Go here for the interview with Dan Crenshaw.

It should go without saying that we are to be loving towards transgender people, whatever stage they are at. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree with it. But we need to lovingly and graciously disagree. That is almost impossible by the way if any disagreement is seen as an attack on their being, not their belief. We have to try though. I won’t bore you by saying more, but I do urge you to read these two books especially if you have teenage, or younger, girls.

Paradise PD – A slightly different Christian perspective

There is outrage, again, over the Netflix production ‘Paradise PD’ that blasphemes the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it blasphemous? Yes. Is it offensive? Yes. Do I like it? I haven’t seen it, but probably not. Will I watch it? Unlikely. Though I might if I had to. By the way, I didn’t even realise this was a series and in its 4th season. I’m guessing the series have a pop at everyone – hmmm, maybe not everyone (you know).

I accept the moral outrage by Christians but I’d like to come at the episode, what I know of it anyway, from a different perspective. Let me just say, because it probably needs saying, I’m not endorsing it in any way shape or form, just looking at it from a slightly different perspective. 

Remember the old ‘The end is nigh’ sandwich boards of the past. They ridiculed it, but you know, the end really is nigh. It’s a true statement. Messiah-Nara might be meant to ridicule and be funny, but actually it’s a statement of truth. It will be the end for His enemies.

What ought to be fascinating is the fact that Jesus just won’t go away. The usual tactic then is to ridicule him. They tried that in the New Testament so doing it this way is nothing new. We ought to be encouraged because they are still doing it. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Here’s a few things about this episode that I know from the criticisms. Like I say, I haven’t seen it, so what I say here isn’t personally verified. I wonder if the writers of this episode know more than they are letting on. My speculation is that they could be, or at least have first hand knowledge of evangelicalism. They’ve been influenced by self-righteous controlling church leaders. Maybe in a bizarre way this episode is a cry for help. Here are a few points then not in any particular order.

Free Speech

I need to say this. I believe in free speech. If they want to produce this episode that is their right to do so. However blasphemous it might be. I don’t have to like it to allow them the right to produce it but free speech also gives the right to protest against it. I rarely sign petitions. There is a petition to take it down, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll be signing it. There are many petitions out there wanting to ban Christian stuff as well. I don’t see too many petitions against heavily polititicised LGBTQ stuff which is far more insidious that this film. I think the petition in this case will just make more people want to see it. In a way it’s self defeating. But I understand the outrage.

The Cross

The picture shows Jesus breaking the cross and the nails turning into Uzi’s (Probably 9mm). Of course there is a mixture of fact and fiction but nevertheless it shows Jesus victoriously breaking the cross and wreaking judgment on his enemies. Jesus could have come off the cross, but then there would be no salvation. So that didn’t happen. But think about how Aslan in the Narnia story after the White Witch and all her host had done their worst and killed Aslan, what happened? Aslan breaks the stone table and is victorious. The story is playing out the reality of Jesus’ victory. The Bible tells us that he triumphed over his enemies through the cross.

The greatest possible symbol of weakness becomes the greatest symbol of victory and of power. So that he has put to shame all powers through the cross. We might not like the picture but actually, intended or not, we see a triumphant Messiah.

A Fallen World

Because we live in a fallen world we should expect to see this sort of stuff. It’s everywhere really. This show is a bit more in your face but it just proves the truth that we are rebellious against our creator. It’s a form of imprisonment, they can’t help themselves. We can’t help ourselves. Which is exactly why we need a Saviour. And the only way we can be saved is through Jesus dying on a cross. So in an unintended way the film demonstrates our own fallenness and of our need for a Saviour.

Final Judgement

Jesus is crucified as the Lamb. But in revelation we read about ‘the day of his wrath.’ The Lamb is mighty. And all his enemies will be dealt with. Being slaughtered using a pair of Uzi 9mm’s will seem a mercy when considering the awful reality of an eternal lake of fire. People will be laughing, I’m sure, but it’s not a laughing matter. The enemies of The Lord and His anointed one (Messiah) will be destroyed.

True Knowledge

The film shows an underlying knowledge that not only is there a real Jesus, but also a real knowledge that there is a judgment to come. This episode, and those like it, demonstrate how the truth is actively being suppressed as the bible teaches. Not only does the bible teach it but we know it to be true. Our consciences tell us it’s true. The conscience of the series tell them it’s true as well. Try as they might, Jesus is not going away. He can’t be got rid of so he must be mocked.

True Forgiveness

I was thinking how outraged we can get. Then I wondered how The Lord Jesus reacted to His own crucifixion. We get all pious and outraged but Jesus said ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ I can think of things I said about Him before God had mercy on me. The foul blasphemies that poured out against the Lord Jesus from my unrighteous lips! But He had mercy on me. Someone prayed for me. Someone told me the Gospel. Jesus saved me. The amazing good news is that Jesus saves all who will call on Him. Will you call on Him?

A Mighty Christ (Messiah)

I’ll just end with this. Maybe you watch the series, and you’ve seen the episode about Jesus and the Cross. I’d ask you to consider the points I’ve tried to make. This Jesus who just won’t go away is going to return to judge the world, to judge you. Then, the choices we have made about The Lord Jesus will have eternal consequences. So I ask you to consider Him.

‘Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb 12:3).

Mighty Christ from time eternal,
Mighty, he man’s nature takes,
Mighty, when on Calv’ry dying,
Mighty, death itself He breaks.
See His might,
Infinite,
King of Heaven and earth by right!

Mighty was He in heaven’s purpose,
Mighty, in the pledge to save,
Mighty, from His birth to Calv’ry,
Mighty, bursting from the grave.
Still will He
Mighty be When things hidden now we see.

Great my Jesus in His Person.
Great as God and man is He,
Great His comeliness and beauty,
White and ruddy, fair to see,
Great that sight,
Sovereign Might,
Throned secure on heaven’s height!

vv. 1 & 3 Titus Lewis, 1773 – 1811;
v. 2, Anonymous;
tr. Graham Stuart Harrison 1935 – 2013 (No. 117 Christian Hymns, E.M.W)

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

‘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.

Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice….?

Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’”
But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1&2)

When reading verses like these it would be easy to make an application that our (various) governments should open the churches in order for normal services, or just services, to resume and to ‘let my people go.’ End the lockdown and get back to normal is what a lot of people are calling for. I think there’s a more important issue, or stage before that. Or to put it another way, there’s a much deeper issue with our government, and politicians in general, than ‘simply’ getting them to ‘open up the churches.’

The deeper issue is that our leaders, be they Prime Ministers or Presidents, ‘do not know the LORD.’ Pharaoh in the verse above actually confesses to the fact that he ‘does not know the Lord.’ And because of the truth of that confession says in direct response to the command of God – ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice….?’  And ‘I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.’ Who is this LORD? I will not obey his voice. We don’t have to be living in ancient Egypt to see this played out. You could almost admire the honesty of Pharaoh if it wasn’t so foolish.

Church life is quite different now. And like you, I hope, I want to see our churches back open. I don’t say back to normal simply because we may have to use this opportunity to re-evaluate what ‘normal’ church life (and evangelism) is going to mean. But what if our governments suddenly said ‘OK, you can open up.’ We will still be under a government, that, by and large, says ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?’

There are many regimes round the world that act like Pharaoh. In the West it is cloaked with a superficiality of Christianity but underneath beats a heart that is as opposed to the will of God as any other godless regime. I don’t, nor should we, treat the mercies of God with contempt. Any gains or progress, or where policies are merely put on hold – we should thank God for. Here in the west things could be far far worse.

God, the same LORD Pharaoh refused to obey, brought upon Egypt the plagues, judgement upon Pharaoh and the destruction of his army. The people of God were’t allowed just to leave, they were driven out and ‘plundered the Egyptians’ of their goods in the process.

The point I am making is this: Jesus will build His church. He will continue to build it until He returns to judge the world. We, His people, must persevere for ‘deliverance is at hand.’ In the meantime we continue to ‘preach’ the Gospel of the grace of God as He gives opportunity. The Word of God cannot ultimately be silenced. It is impossible.

What is our message? ‘…. that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His (Jesus) name to all nations (Luke 24:47).’

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Cor 15: 1-4)

Not only that but we should pray:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2: 1&2)

You’ve read this far. Great. But your heart is rebellious just like the heart of Pharaoh. It will do no good, as some do, to whine on about how bad the government is (Christians do this as well). Unless you repent you’ll be swallowed up in the judgment to come just like them. The only safe haven is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Boris points to Christ – sort of

The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) gave his  Christmas Message (see below) on Christmas Eve after securing a last minute Brexit deal.

It was obvious that he was on a Brexit high and took the opportunity to give us a happy Brexit Christmas. I’m sure just as many will have been pleased to hear it as those that were displeased or simply horrified at the whole process. The Brexit deal is definitely not the feast.

Like Prime Ministers before him Boris was able to demonstrate that he’s actually clueless as to what the real Christmas message is about. Of course he knows some of the details which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it shows Christianity is still, for now, embedded in our culture. One might even say Boris had totally lost the plot if he really knew it in the first place. Like many of us probably. Embedded as it may be, the real message is easily obscured where there is no real knowledge of God or the Saviour who has entered our world to save people from their sins. There are so many things that Christmas is not about and Boris’s message for many is about as close as they want to get. I mean, contact with Christ, who is Lord of all, can be life changing. Boris is a good example, perhaps, of people that want ‘something’ to do with Christmas but really don’t want to get too close. Like Herod, he didn’t want to get close at all and set about making sure he didn’t. That didn’t work out so well for Herod. Let’s face it, the PM (any PM) has to say something Christmassy even it’s mostly nonsense.

What is Christmas about then?

In a nutshell, we all have a problem. The problem we face is that we are born with a sinful rebellious nature that wants nothing to do with God. That puts us at odds with God and makes us by nature ‘children of wrath.’ This rebellion will be dealt with and put down once and for all when The Lord Jesus comes again to Judge the world – that’s all of us. You and Boris included.

But such is the love of God that he sends a Saviour. A rescuer from the Judgment of God has come.

What do I want for Boris? The same as I want for you. Salvation from sin. A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. ‘You shall call his name Jesus’, Mary was told. Why? Because he (Jesus) will save his people from their sins.

How does Jesus do this?

The Christmas message, and in fact the whole Christian Gospel, is all about what God has done. In the first place, He is born into this world. He lives a life of perfect obedience and is offered as a sacrifice to turn aside the wrath of God. This he does on the Cross. Wonderfully He rises from the dead and ascends to the right hand of God where he waits till the day of judgment. In the meantime, right now, Jesus is building his Church. And he is right now calling people through The Gospel (good news) to ‘repent and believe.’

Boris rightly talked about ‘rebirth and renewal’ but the rebirth and renewal the Bible talks about comes through repentance and faith in the one God sent. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. The question for you then, and for all of us (Boris included) is will you repent and believe, calling upon God for forgiveness?

Church Services and Boiling Frogs

On 3rd November a friend posted this on Facebook:
‘If we are going to press for the continuation of public worship in Christian churches, can we get beyond the somewhat tepid assertion that it is good for our mental health?’

This post, in part, is an attempt to answer that very important question.

[Apologies, if the formatting is not working correctly]

It sounds dramatic, but the Apostle John warned us about the Anti-Christ. (1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7) And Jesus told us to look out for false Christs that will seek to deceive us. (Matt 24:5) Kim Riddlebarger, if I’m channeling him correctly, said the sign of the Anti-Christ is when the machinery of the State is mobilised to persecute the church. The question is, is this what we are seeing now? Are we seeing movement towards that? When does it cross the line from a painful inconvenience, that we are told benefits our neighbour, to outright persecution? Are the powers that be acting with more subtlety than we see in China? In China we definitely see the State mobilised against the church – and against religion in general. It would be insulting and quite ridiculous to compare our situation with Christians that are losing their lives simply for being Christians. Or are we in the West seeing the proverb ‘Softly softly catchee monkey’ being played out. Would a full on assault be too obvious? You’ve heard of boiling frogs. Is that us?

My recent reading about Cyprian of Carthage (200-258), The Scottish Covenanters, and Martin Luther has raised all sorts of questions. Christians then were asking similar questions. I have a couple of quotes from the book on Cyprian that, I think, puts where we are at, or where some think we are at, here in the UK and the US. It’s a debate that is happening right now. Is the fact that church doors are closed and gathered Worship is restricted, some might say forbidden, demonstrating State persecution? Is the State boiling a few frogs?

The following quotes ‘might’ help the discussion.

‘Persecution and prosecution were the same thing in these cases. Being prosecuted for disobeying laws that violate religious conviction is germane to persecution. We empty persecution of its meaning if we do not include prosecution for refusal to do something that would violate a person’s faith. [The writer] Moss does not see it this way. She writes, ‘There is something different about being persecuted under a law – however unjust – that is not designed to target or rout out any particular group. It may be unfortunate, it may be unfair, but it is not persecution.’ p. 70 & 71.

Some feel that way now. Perhaps saying ‘The lockdown doesn’t seem fair, but it isn’t persecution. Christians aren’t being singled out.’ Brian Arnold gives a footnote to the comment above from Moss, saying;

”I understand Moss’s point and I believe the point is well-taken in certain instances. Take for instance Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was killed, not for his faith, but for his attempt to assassinate Hitler. Should he be considered a martyr? Perhaps not. But early Christians do not fit this category. They were killed because they were asked to do things that would have severed their souls from Christ for eternity.”This is footnote 21 on p. 71: Moss, The Myth of Persecution, 14-15.

This is at the heart of it. Are we Christians being asked to do, or not do something that is a serious violation of our faith?

Some say yes, or at least, we are close to it. Others say no. Did I say Cyprian experienced persecution and plague? He also had some interesting things to say, I thought, on the Lord’s Supper. He was eventually beheaded in the year 258.

Shifting or sifting?

Whatever it is the Lord is doing (some of which may be a sifting), in a few months we have shifted (a lot have anyway) from worshipping in our church buildings (whatever the building) to worshipping as an online church community. We say, ‘What a blessing from God this technology is that we can meet. It isn’t ideal but we can meet. How wonderful.’ And it is, but we all know this is second best to meeting together as a church. Right? I’m seriously wondering if our online church experience is really just boiling frogs. It’s a bit weird for the minister speaking into a camera, or just one or two techie guys there but it’s what we are doing. Some are a little further on from that and are working towards more being able to attend. I’m not quite sure what happens when the church building reaches its social distancing capacity. For us, we simply aren’t going to all be able to attend with the current regulations in place. That’s my understanding anyway. I’m amazed at how quickly habits can form. There’s no rush to make the meeting. There’s no inconvenience. There’s little or no discipline. There’s no need for punctuality. You can amble into your living room, if you get up at all, watch the service at your own convenience while still wearing your pyjamas and eating your breakfast. And, you can pause the service while you boil the kettle and make your cup of tea.

Jesus came in the flesh. He had a body while on earth. He still has a body on earth – it’s called The Church. There’s something deeply Incarnational about gathering physically as the church. The Bible speaks of giving the right hand of fellowship (Gal 2:9), or greeting one another with a kiss (1 Peter 5:14) or simply sitting down with one another. Speaking to one another face to face. And if your church practices it – washing one another’s feet! Or the laying on of hands or anointing. I must admit to not seeing a lot of anointing with oil. Still, these all require physical contact.

The Lord’s Table

Then there’s the Lords Table – Communion. Breaking bread together. I know some churches are managing to do this online. We can’t ask Cyprian or Luther what they would have done today, but Luther did say this:

‘The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh itself and not weaken in the struggle but continually grow stronger…. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attacks the old man, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about everywhere, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or yield hand and foot and become indifferent and impatient. For such times, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.‘ Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Though’ by Stephen J. Nichols, p.129.

We are moving towards a year now. When was the last time we physically assembled for the Lord’s Table? And when will we be able to celebrate again? Many of us celebrated (past tense) the Lord’s Table each month. Churches do this differently, but whatever the frequency, we must surely celebrate this means of grace at the minimum annually. Is it a command from The Lord Christ, or a suggestion? The State, however we frame it, intentional or not, is causing us to neglect the physicality of the Lords Table. This is how I see it. And it’s a problem. Isn’t it? When will we be able to celebrate this again and strengthen and refresh our faith together and say ‘Until He comes.’

Then what shall we say of Baptism? Will we have ‘Socially Distanced’ baptism’s? But perhaps we’ll leave that for another time.

Overstepping Authority?

Has the State over-stepped its authority? Surely it has no authority over the church of The Lord Jesus Christ. Meeting online, however convenient, is at best a very poor substitute for the physical gathering of the body of Christ – His church.

Now, what to do? That’s the question. We pray. We need a great deal of Grace and Wisdom from God. Be patient – for now. I am not suggesting we storm Westminster, or that we start a riot. And I’m not advocating for Civil Disobedience. Maybe in time that will come. There is some legitimate push back from some quarters. Remember, frogs that are slowly boiled eventually die (or submit). We should resist thinking an online church is a true expression of the church at worship. It isn’t.

Whatever happens, even if we never physically meet together again, the Lord has promised to build his church (Matt 16:18) in the face of the severest opposition, as we see in other countries today. And He will. The Lord has done exactly that in times past when in Cyprian’s day ‘the blood of the martyrs was the truly the seed of the church (Tertullian).’ However He will do it, He (The Lord Christ) continues to build His church. and will build it. And ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied….’ (Isaiah 53:11)

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.’ (Romans 1:16)

The call is to be discerning and ‘Know the times.’

The cancellation of Franklin Graham’s tour events is a seminal moment for the UK – TheWeeFlea.com

I’ve been blogging about Freedom of Speech on and off for over 10 years and have watched it slowly but surely be eroded away. The pace of that erosion seems to be quickening. David has asked that we might share this post of his. So that’s what I’m going to do. This is an important article. Please read and share.


This is my latest column for Christian Today – you can read the original here. I am grateful to Christian Today for having the courage to print this. For me this is a really key tipping poin…

: The cancellation of Franklin Graham’s tour events is a seminal moment for the UK – TheWeeFlea.com