Saturday, 8 December 2012

Life - God's Precious Gift.

Truly life is a precious gift of God; He gave us the life we have, and He can take it back again whenever He wants.  It is His gift to us, not something we got or did for ourselves.  

But as long as He sustains our life, He expects us to live for Him.  Indeed, because He gave it to us as a free gift, He wants us to give it back to Him again, if for no other reason than for safe-keeping in a wicked world.  We are to "offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable worship" (Heb.12:1).

Remember, He's worth it!

Avoid Spiritual Vertigo

Looking at things from a different perspective can be a frightening and unsettling thing because we do not know where it will lead us, and potentially upsetting of personal relationships.  Even scholarly people tend to 'play safe' and stay within their ‘comfort zone.’  It would be too costly for them to go outside the ‘received wisdom,’ so what invariably happens is that the same old thinking tends to be regurgitated over and over again with no new or fresh thinking impacting on or providing clarity to the precious truths of the Gospel.  
This is particularly true when dealing with the atonement.  It is not so much a matter of us dealing with the atonement but rather the atonement taking a radical dealing with us.  Approaching such a divinely-charged doctrine slays ‘the old man’’ and the ‘old nature’ in man, a situation that can cause theological dizziness and spiritual vertigo.  So to avoid this some Christian thinkers prefer to stay safe, delve into the unrevealed mysteries that God has kept to Himself,  and not scale the heights of revealed religion.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Christian Marriage Under Political Attack

Despite promises by government ministers at Westminster and also by the Justice Minister, David Ford, MLA, in Stormont, Northern Ireland (Mr Ford, a ruling elder in 2nd Donegore Presbyterian Church, Northern Ireland) voted in support of same-sex marriages in the recent Stormont debate on the question), that churches would be protected by legislation if they did not want to perform such 'marriages,' there will be no protection whatever, if David Cameron gets his way.  Mr Cameron has today (Fri. 7th Dec. 2012) backed a huge policy change to introduce same-sex marriages in churches.
The media is reporting that the Government will confirm its intention to force through the redefinition of marriage.
Introducing same-sex weddings in churches and other religious premises is a radical departure from the consultation proposals.  More than that, it is a radical departure from the traditional understanding of marriage as held by virtually all churches and religious bodies throughout history.  Government Ministers promised that religious believers could not be forced to hold homosexual weddings because it would not even be possible to register them in churches or other religious premises.  Mr Ford also confirmed that churches would be protected by legislation.
But now that promise has been broken.  It is not that Mr Cameron & Co have had a change of mind; I believe that it was always their intention to proceed along this road and that this 'announcement' is but the making public what was already covert in their proposals.  Christians, Jews, Muslims and others will be exposed to the legal nightmare of equality and human rights laws, as well as the intrusion of the European courts.  Ministers We have no confidence in so-called ‘safeguards’ Ministers will offer.
This could well have the effect of destroying the Christian church and religion altogether.  It is another attack of the liberal establishment of church and state to rid the eartyh of these people called Christians, and of other faith groups that hold to a similar understanding of marriage.
But this is going to come up against an irresistible force - the power of Almighty God.  His Son , Jesus Christ, has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church that He is building on earth.  Mr Cameron & Co has decided to take on the Lord God of hosts, and we'll what becomes of that.  He and they are standing on most precarious ground.  His wrath is upon them.  They are hanging over the pit of hell and it is only the mercy of God that prevents them falling to their eternal loss and misery.
C4M has taken legal advice from leading human rights lawyer, Aidan O’Neill QC, who has made it clear that the only completely safe course for churches will be to stop hosting weddings altogether, a massive change to Britain’s social landscape.  This attack on marriage is therefore an attack on the Christian church.  It is a way of squeezing the churches to such an extent that to perform marriages as understood and practices by Christian Churches will be for them to act in an illegal manner.  The QC has also shown that, quite apart from the issue of buildings, individual people from any background who believe in traditional marriage face damage to their careers or even dismissal from their jobs, especially teachers, chaplains, foster carers and others in the public sector.
It is clear that this is also an attempt to drive as many Christians out of the workplace as possible.  It is persecution by another name and means.  It is a form of ethnic cleansing of believers from the workplaces and churches of our country.
The Bill to redefine marriage will be published in the New Year. We understand there were behind-the-scenes attempts to publish a wafer-thin Bill next week to avoid proper scrutiny of the details by Parliament. Thankfully that seems to have been prevented by internal arguments.
When any government has to do its work behind closed doors because it knows how unacceptable its proposed policy change is, then that is further evidence of Satanic inspiration behind this move.
We are monitoring developments hour-by-hour and will bring you further news as it emerges.
Please be assured that C4M will do all it can to stop these massively unpopular plans.  Christians and all others who are concerted about these nefarious developments must be alert and aware of what is being done by our government.

If you are planning a wedding, why not have a look at this website for ideas about how to organise it.

Church Society Director Corrected

The following article seeks to correct the misleading figures for ejected clergy under the 1662 Act of Uniformity.  This is to set the record straight.  Lee Gatiss is currently director of the Church Society, London.  He was one of the speakers at this year's Westminster Conference, held in London this past week. 
As Lee Gatiss appears intent on pressing his figure of 936 ejectees in 1662 (see his recent blog posting), it might be helpful to recall what A. G. Matthews says in fuller detail, in his Calamy Revised (Clarendon Press, 1934), on whose authority Lee says he is content to rely. The following is taken from Matthews’s ‘Introduction’, p. xiii-xiv.

It is true that the figure that Matthews gives for ministers and lecturers ejected in 1662 is 936. However, that is not the whole story. In addition to those 936, Matthews gives the figure of 695 for those ejected in 1660 and a further 129 for those ejected ‘at uncertain date’. This gives a total of 1760. Calamy notes that 171 of these ‘afterwards conformed’.

It is important to note, in view of Lee’s comments during his paper at the Conference, that Calamy makes clear that duplication (because some were ejected twice) has been eliminated from these figures – each individual is counted only once, even if they were ejected twice.

Also, the 1660 figure includes those (290 in all) who lost livings due to the restoration of previous incumbents or due to other disqualifications under the 1660 Act for Conforming and Restoring of Ministers.

Calamy notes that a further 149 men were ejected from academic and scholastic posts in 1660 or 1662.

This produces a total of 1909 men.

Essentially, the difference of course is simply that Lee is taking 1662 figures only (as he does say) and is ignoring the 1660 and ‘uncertain’ figures, as well as the academic ejectees.



Robert Strivens

London Theological Seminary
104 Hendon Lane
London N3 3SQ
020 8346 7587

Stinking Apostasy? Or Is It?

Dale Ralph Davis is an American Presbyterian Old Testament theologian, minister and author who has the uncanny knack of using commonplace turns of phrase to open a window into biblical truth and principle.  One of his phrases caught my eye, and it's this: "Whether apostasy stinks depends on how it is pitched," [1 Kings, (2002), 140].

Error can be presented in such a way as to lull hearers into a false sense of security.  Error unrecognised and not repented of leads inexorably to apostasy.  Theologians have become so clever in their communication skills that they can present the worst of religion and theology in such a way that they have people 'eating out of their hands.'  They could 'sell snow to Eskimos.'  They package their message up in such a way that they can convince people that Jesus actually married the two Mary's and also Martha, and provide 'biblical' evidence for their assertions.  They focus on how they communicate, and not on what they communicate.
Theological and all other forms of liberalism is as deceitful as could be because it is fundamentally opposed to the biblical methodology.  Paul stressed that he passed on to the Corinthians what he had received - conservatism!

These liberals can convince their people that Roman Catholicism is a truly Christian Church and that Islam is but another way to God.  And many believe it.  I remember a former colleague telling me that when he was being considered as assistant minister in a church, he was told in no uncertain terms that "there would be no conversionism here."  And this is in a church that professes to be Christian.  Such a view is held widely within that church, and no one seems to give a toss that such spiritually dangerous nonsense is being preached to their fellow Presbyterians.  Is that a sign of apostasy?

Yes, Davis is correct - it all depends upon how it is packaged.  Package it with appeal, and you will succeed in winning people to your point of view.  In such cases, apostasy simply does not stink.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

From Calvary With Love

Why is good Friday so called?  After all, the Son of God was crucified on a cruel Cross on Calvary’s hill outside Jerusalem.  But why?

The answer might frighten many, but it was there where God was bearing in His Son the sins of the whole world.  “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” (Isa.53:6).   This was the greatest possible demonstration of two things – God’s intense hatred of and opposition of human sin; it was also God “demonstrating His own love for us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom.5:6).  It was God’s love letter to a lost race sent from Calvary and written in the blood of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ. 

This love of God was certainly not of the sentimental variety; that can do no one any good.  The love of God was/is redemptive; it was saving love because it was sin-bearing love. 

At the first Christmas, God sent the Son of His love into the world for a special purpose.  He was sent to die for your sins.  That means that your sin was responsible for the death of Christ.  It also means that God will hold you responsible on that great Day of Judgement for what your sin did to His Son.

But what was done on the Cross was done so that your sin might be pardoned.  You see, the Cross is inextricably linked with forgiveness, so much so that there can be no forgiveness without the death of Christ.  The atonement is essential for forgiveness.  Forgiveness requires Calvary.

Further, when Christ was born and then died on the Cross, He did it all voluntarily.  He didn’t have to die for you, but He did.  He willingly came to do God’s will as an obedient Son, because He loved His heavenly Father; and He also loved you and me.  There is no greater sign of the love of God for the human race than Calvary.  “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” (Jn.15:13).  But look; when Jesus died on Calvary, it was not for His friends that He died, but for His enemies.  He died for sinful people like you and me.  He died for all. 

So Calvary is God’s love-letter to you and to me.  He sent His One and Only Son to dies for us and to take away our sin.  It was and is His letter sent FROM CALVARY WITH LOVE.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Traditional Nativity Story Challenged

Luke records that Christ was laid in the animals' manger, strongly suggesting that He was born in a stable.  From King David's time about until sixty years ago, most Israelite village homes had two rooms - a family room and a guest room. The family room had an area, usually four feet lower than the living room; here the family donkey, cow and two or three sheep stayed at night. Last thing at night the animals were brought into the house and taken outside again first thing in the morning.  They ate from mangers dug out of the stone floor of the raised family living area. 

The katalyma was the room reserved for guests and visitors, the quest chamber. Again, and contrary to  traditional views, Mary was not at the point of birth when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. It was while they were in Bethlehem that "the days were completed for her to be delivered,” Luke 2:6. It was while they were there, that the time came for her to give birth.  There was a time lapse between the couple arriving in Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.  So it is very strange how we could ever have concluded from Luke's Gospel that Mary was actually in labour when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem looking for accommodation.  The idea may have its origin in an apocryphal work of fiction from the second-century AD where Mary is said to have asked Joseph to take her down from the donkey because she was about to give birth. 

But this is purely apocryphal, pure conjecture, and not an authentic part of the Gospel record.  Wouldn't it be great to see a change in this regard?  However, ministers tend to stay in a safe place where they will not come into any criticism, either from church members or church authorities.  Its the same as the situation with the atonement issue where ministers keep to the philosophy that determines what they believe theologically, namely, that the atonement was limited in intention to the elect.  So traditional beliefs exercise an inordinate influence on what people choose to believe, so the tendency is for believers to believe what is safe rather than what is true.

The Nativity must be re-examined in the cold light of sound exegetical principles, and the light/truth followed wherever it leads.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


A 350th Anniversary Commemoration of the Norwich & Norfolk Ministers Ejected from their Churches by the Act of Uniformity, 1662. 

Dr Alan C. Clifford
Norwich Reformed Church

Remember those ... who have spoken the Word of God to you, 
whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct - 
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and for ever.
(Hebrews 13: 7-8)

We now attempt to understand why around 2000 Puritans—including all our local heroes—refused to submit to the Act of Uniformity in 1662. Since he was part of the later history of British Nonconformity, we allow Alexander Drysdale to summarize the issues for us.

[for Drysdale's scanned summary, see the attachment]


Dr Edmund Calamy (1671-1732)—the ‘Nonconformist Champion’—commented on the deception resulting from defective translation as it relates to Acts 20: 28. Had the AV men used ‘bishop’ rather than ‘overseer’, the whole ‘PC’ Episcopalian case would been blown out of the water, since the Ephesian ‘elders’ (= ‘presbyters’) are therefore ‘bishops’. This is why Presbyterians always opposed Anglican-style bishops. Calamy further demonstrates that, to avoid the irrefutable Presbyterian case, the readings from Acts 20 and 1 Timothy 3 used in the ordination of Priests in the 1552 BCP (also in the 1549 and Queen Elizabeth’s 1559), were confined by the Restoration Anglican churchmen to the ordination of Bishops and Archbishops in the anti-Puritan 1662 Prayer Book.  

Regarding Acts 20:28, the NKJV wrongly follows the AV, which likewise agrees with Tyndale. Even the Geneva Bible is defective at this point. In this respect, the NIV is consistently accurate in using ‘overseer’ for ‘episkopos’. 

‘I cannot find that in Scripture the word Bishop ever signifies one that is superior to other ministers in power or jurisdiction, or any way above them, unless when it is applied to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Bishop of Souls...For which reason, I have often thought it could not be without design that our translators have in my text used the word Overseers rather than Bishops. For had they rendered it as they should have done in this manner: ‘Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you Bishops’, these words spoken to Elders or Presbyters, might have filled them with thoughts not very favourable to the Hierarchy...In the sense of Scripture, I can find no difference between Bishops and Presbyters. Our blessed Lord Jesus appears not to have made any difference between them;...nor does St Paul seem to have known any differences between Bishops and Presbyters’ (Edmund Calamy, Sermon Preached at the Ordination of Mr John Munckley, 1717, pp. 18-19, emphasis mine).

One is inclined to ask if all this matters any more. Lee Gatiss, the Director of Church Society states that ‘the old seventeenth century debates over church government or ceremonial may not divide as they once did’, having said in the beginning of the sentence that ‘the established church persists in refusing to recognise non-episcopal ordination and confirmation’ (The Tragedy of 1662, London: The Latimer Trust, 2007, pp. 55-6). This surely means these issues are still alive and highly divisive if Nonconformist ministers are not regarded as true pastors, as surely as the Roman Catholic Church does not recognise Anglican orders! However, if Dr Calamy’s case is as solid as it appears to be, that the Bible sets the standard for valid ministry, then neither Roman nor Anglican priests are valid in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ. This, in fact, is the high theological ground demanded by the Truth of God.

Iain Murray tends to minimise the importance of all we’ve considered when he concludes:

We should greatly underestimate the seriousness of 1662 if we imagined that the cleavage which then took place was only over phrases in the Book of Common Prayer and forms of Church order. These things were involved, but the Puritans regarded them as only a part of a much wider issue, namely, what is the nature of true Christianity? The Nonconformists believed that in acting as they did they were acting for the Gospel’ (Sermons of the Great Ejection (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1962, pp. 7-8).

It seems more correct to say that the Puritans objected to more than ‘phrases’ in the BCP.  They took issue with dominant features of the book precisely because they viewed them as a denial of ‘true Christianity’. At best, because of most (but not all) of the Thirty-nine Articles and many good features of the Prayer Book, it was an unholy mixture. Baxter and his brethren could not therefore give ‘unfeigned consent to all and everything’ in it, as agreeable to the Word of God. This is serious. It can only mean that if the Puritans ‘acted for the Gospel’, then the conforming Anglicans and their Episcopal lords were acting against the Gospel. One cannot imagine a more serious charge, when today’s Nonconformists—especially those involved in the former-BEC AFFINITY umbrella body—seem to have grown weary of their distinctives just when a highly lax and compromised evangelicalism seems more firmly ensconced than ever within the present confused and corrupt Church of England.

Forsyth and Lloyd-Jones

Dr P. T. Forsyth’s influence on DML-J is seen at this fundamental level where the Cross is not to be viewed in sentimental terms. The Cross is crucial in God’s plan of salvation for the world and the Cross must be preached and preached about in our evangelistic preaching.  DML-J’s departure in 1955 from preaching doctrine per se may be put down to the influence of Forsyth on his thinking because mere academic discourses do not lead to edification and mere edifying sermons without doctrinal instruction becomes feeble and ineffectual.[1]  DML-J saw this danger and successfully avoided falling into this trap.  Preaching and theology must therefore be finely balanced.  DML-J defined preaching in terms of theology coming through a man who is on fire.

How then did Forsyth understand the atonement?  Let him speak for himself.  He sees the work of Christ in its truly cosmic dimensions when he writes, “God ... is saving ... a whole world of human society.”[2]  A universal aspect of God’s work in the world is hereby set forth.  He sees cosmic significance in what God accomplished in Christ.  Indeed, he goes so far as to attribute the world’s existence to the death of Christ.[3]  His was a death on behalf of people within whom the power of responding positively had to be created.[4]  Man is dead in trespasses and sins and until he is quickened, enlivened, regenerated,[5] he will not make a positive saving response to the overtures of the Gospel, for two reasons: he will not therefore he cannot.  Christ’s death was not a mere display of simple heroism; it was a demonstration of redemption. 

[1]    Forsyth, The Work of Christ, 1909:3.
[2]    Forsyth, 1909:6.
[3]    Forsyth, 1909:11-14.
[4]    Forsyth, 1909:15.
[5]    Eph.2:1.

Monday, 3 December 2012

True Nativity Plays Urgently Required

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, it was neither in a town nor a city where He appeared. Even though Bethlehem was the city of David, it was simply a village located in a backwater.  This village was so small and insignificant to have an inn or hostelry, so from a historical perspective and also from an exegetical perspective, it was not in an "inn" that the Son of God was born.

The misunderstanding here is due to the translations in our English Bible's. Luke uses the Greek word, katalyma, which means upper room or chamber so it was wrong to have translated it as “inn,” as was done in Luke 2:7. John Wycliffe’s 1395 translation of Luke 2:7 uses the word "chaumbir."  English Bibles which came after Wycliffe's Bible opted for “inn” rather than “chaumbir”.  Those who are firm supporters of the KJV have been promoting error down through all those years. Only The New English Bible and The Jewish New Testament translate the Greek word accuratelyThe NEB translates Luke 2:7 as: “... no room for them to lodge in the house.” The JNT renders Luke 2:7 as: “ space for them in the living quarters.”  They had to use the area used by the animals.

While no doctrinal issue is raised here, it is unfortunate that such inaccuracy has been perpetuated for so long.  There have been numerous nativity plays written for and performed by school children, thus promoting what is factually untrue.  There never was an innkeeper because there never was an inn for anyone to keep in Bethlehem!

For this to stop, someone must have the courage of his convictions, perhaps a well-respected minister whose theological and evangelical convictions are beyond question or suspicion, to stand up and tell the truth.  Perhaps new nativity plays must be written for schools and Sunday schools that will portray accurately what the Gospel record says.  

Is there anyone out there listening and prepared to take action?  

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Mind the Over-Sixties, Please!

My current bedtime reading is Dale Ralph Davis' excellent commentary on 1st Kings.  This American Presbyterian Old Testament theologian and preacher has the ability effortlessly`to get to the crux of any passage of Scripture.  His comments on 1st Kings 11:1-13 are most apt at this particular juncture.  Writing about Solomon in his later years he says, commenting on v.4:

"We must take a moment to be frightened.  'When Solomon was old...'  How that ext ought to goad older believers to pray the last petition of the Lord's Prayer (Mt.6:13a).  Is there not a warning to churches as well, who have a fixation on youth ministry and a love-affair with young marrieds and/or young families?  Need we not exercise far more vigilance over our over-sixties crowd, many of whom will doubtless meet the major troubles of their lives in their final years." (Christian Focus, Ross-shire, Scotland, 2002:113).

What a reminder to the many evangelical churches today that seem to neglect the over-sixties in favour of the worldly-minded and almost exclusive concentration on younger church members and adherents.  Today, the entire church service has to accommodate the YP groups.  The praise has to be modern and contemporary, and never must traditional hymns and Psalms be used.  In many evangelical churches, the thing that meets the eyes first when you enter the church is the church orchestra positioned at the front left or right hand side of the church and pulpit.  In earlier days, the first thing that caught your eye was the pulpit with the Bible on it; or a reading desk with open Bible positioned at or just above church floor level.  But today, it's the church band, or worship band.  What a change!

There are multiple organisations for every age-group but not much for the over-sixties (though some churches have a monthly meeting for the 'silver threads' age group.  But the church's fixation with youths and their worldly culture is increasing as it is nauseating.  Her love-affair with young families to the exclusion of older families is staring any objective observer right in the face.

But if Davis is correct, and I suspect he is, then the church has a pastoral responsibility for those of riper years who, like Solomon, might find themselves being drawn away from the Lord by other things.  And it starts in the 'heart.'  It is a matter of the heart.  This term appears five times in verses 2-4.  The heart!  This is a hidden departure from the Lord that may not be seen for years; but it is nonetheless real, and very dangerous spiritually.  But the churches, with all their well academically qualified and trained ministers do not seem to recognise this as a pastoral reality.  The 'oldies' just do not matter.

But let everything be done for the young people.