Search This Blog

Monday, 17 December 2012

The limits of Philosophy

What is Philosophy?
Answers to the great questions of life, such as Who am I? Where have I come from? Is there any meaning to life? What happens after death? Etc.

But as it is presently defined in the West, Philosophy is the answers to all these questions without God, or without 'revelation'. There is no good reason under heaven why it should be defined this way, but it is: philosophy is defined, in practice, as finding the great answers of life and death using the human mind, without introducing God or anything supernatural.

So the philosopher sits down without a Bible (or any 'holy book' for that matter) and ponders a subject: war, marriage, and so on, using whatever tools are around her...... are five immediate limitations she comes up against:

Limit #1: Experience is a limited guide
One tool she will use is Experience: she will draw on her experience. Trouble is that being finite and located in only one family, one culture, one nation and one short span in history, her experience will be tiny. Any philosophy based on it will inevitably be open to revision and change in the light of a broader experience.

Limit #2: What 'is' may not be what 'should be'
Another source of philosophy would be the way we find things around us in the world. If you were born into a culture that glorified violence (the Roman world, for example) or tolerated slavery or tolerated abortion, you could easily grow up assuming these "ares" were "rights" (plenty of mothers, yes mothers, fought against the eradication of chimney sweeps, a cruel occupation for a child if ever there was one. Why, because that's just the things "were" to them.).  If a person feels attracted to someone else of the same sex, one might easily say that this "what is" is "what should be." But who is to say that one can move from 'is' to 'should' that easily? There may be a world of difference  between what we find around us in the world and what is actually right: 'is' is no necessary guide to 'should be'. What if something has gone wrong with the world which means what 'is' is a distortion of what 'should be'? But, without revelation, how would a philosopher know that what 'is' is not "right"?

Limit #3: The experts may be wrong
Suppose we go to the experts to form our philosophy. They could also so easily be wrong. New textbooks are written every year for exactly that reason. What the experts say in one decade is overturned in the next. Sometimes, as in the case of Marx and Mao, not before considerable carnage has been done to and by the followers of these false systems.

Limit #4:  The balance of truth
What if in our age or particular culture (or just in us personally!) there is a really big imbalance in perspective? In a recent book called "The Master and his Emissary" the author Iain Mcgilchrist suggests that present Western culture, unlike Eastern cultures, is dominated by left-hemisphere brain function, with potentially dire consequences for the future. What if there are other imbalances which we simply do not see, all of them skewing our philosophy away from the truth?

Limit #5: There may be things unknowable by human research
Suppose there are keys or key pieces of information that simply cannot be known without 'revelation'? Suppose there are secrets which only the Creator can reveal to us, information which simply can't be found by us, no matter how big the research programme? Any philosophy which did not take them into account would be faulty.

For all these reasons philosophy has severe limitations. 

The overarching reason all human-without-God philosophy is flawed is this:  the people who create it are tiny and finite and in the Great Scheme of Things, they simply don't know that much at all: none of us do, that's why we need revelation.

Philosophy is like a bridge that gets us partway to the land of truth. But we need revelation to get over to the other side - I don't mean attached to the partial bridge of philosophy I mean making the whole span.  If we walk over the philosophy bridge thinking it will lead us to truth, we'll end up stumbling off and into the river of error.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Thank God for Richard Dawkins!

The latest UK Census
Religious Views in 1000's UK Census 2011
Over here in the UK, the government runs a census every decade or so, and the results of the 2011 one have just come out. All sorts of interesting facts emerge, not least on the subject of "religion".

"We're not Christians"
One interesting result is the sharp decline in those calling themselves 'Christian' over the last ten years. In 2001 72% (or 37 million) said they were Christian but in 2011 only 59% (33 million) classify themselves as Christians - a decline of 13%.

In the same period the number of people saying they belonged to "no religion" doubled, no doubt in part due to a publicity campaign to encourage people to be more honest about which box they tick (see right).

Based on this 13% drop one group estimated that less than 50% of the population of the UK would be "Christians" by 2018.

Among the many reasons offered for this decline is the campaigning work of people like Richard Dawkins, through his book "The God Delusion" and various campaigns, such as his  London poster campaign (see below).

Should we be concerned?
If you believe in "Christendom" you should probably be afraid. If you believe there is such a thing as a "Christian nation" you'll be disappointed - after all, we are clearly becoming less of one.

But if you can't see for the life of you where the idea of a "Christian Nation" comes from, you will probably be encouraged, oddly enough. (In the New Testament there is no such thing as a "Christian Nation", just a new people, a new community, called the church, despised and scattered across the world).

Why be encouraged?
Because, at last the census is becoming more realistic. In a nation dominated by the false idea of "Christendom" people tick the Christian box because they think that you become a Christian by being "born one". If you are born into a Muslim home or Muslim country you are a Muslim, if into a Hindu home or country, a Hindu, etc.

This may well be true of religion, but it is wholly untrue of Christianity. To be a Christian you have to be born again - a miracle the Holy Spirit does at some point in life, rarely at birth, through the Word of Christ. Being born in a Christian home or a "Christian country" makes you no more a Christian than being born in a birthing pool makes you a fish (or an amphibian).

So, at long last, the statistics are becoming more realistic and honest. My own guess is that the stats are going to have to go down much further  before they reflect the proportion of people who are truly Christian.

True Christianity is on the way
And as we become secularised we will become persecuted, and to call yourself a Christian will be costly. All of this will deter people even more from putting an X in the "Christian" box. Finally, perhaps at a few percent we will have an accurate idea of how many in the UK are true believers.

And at that stage, as a persecuted minority - the norm for the history of the world by the way - we will again become effective and bold in preaching the Gospel to our already-lost culture.

So, though I never thought I'd say this, thank you Richard Dawkins for making the statistics in the UK a little more honest and realistic.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How to enjoy reading your Bible

Why do I find a novel more 'attractive' than Scripture?
Many Christians who want to read their Bible find it a struggle. A real struggle.

But why?

Why should a novel or newspaper one day seem more attractive than the Bible?

Because reading the Bible is spiritual warfare at the sharp end of  battle. Scripture is not the shield or helmet, but the "sword of the Spirit", and when we read and meditate on it we are engaging in offensive warfare against the evil one.

And so the enemy tries to make that novel, newspaper - or even that new Christian book - more attractive than the Bible.

Tips to enjoying Scripture
Recognise the battle. Remember that you are about to engage in battle before you read - and prepare for it. That way, you'll understand the distractions thrown across your path, or the sudden tiredness that may descend.

Remember what the Bible is. Scripture is food for the soul! Scripture is one half of the relationship between you and God (the other half is prayer). Scripture is light for your path and Truth for understanding the most important things in life. So as we read Scripture we will grow up in faith, get to know God better, have light cast upon our daily path  - and we will understand everything important in the world far better.

      What incentives to read!

Remember that there are no 'reading rules'..... The very worst way to read the Bible is to set up for yourself a list of rules or expectations that you may never be able to keep: "I will read it for two hours a day". The problem with making rules is that when you break them guilt comes in, and nothing will kill your enjoyment of Scripture more than a guilty conscience. The Bible gives no rules; how could it when we are encouraged to delight in the exercise? (Psalm 1).

...but have a plan. "No rules" doesn't mean no discipline or plan. If you aim for nothing, be sure you'll hit it. What will you read and why? Perhaps you will use some Bible Study notes, perhaps you will use one of those 'read through the Bible in a year' plans, perhaps you will decide to read a book you've not tackled before.

Find a place and time to read. Decide when you will read and where.Will it be every morning or evening (some are larks, some are owls - what are you?) Will you read it every day or three times a week? Will you read it for 10 minutes or 30? It is all up to you (how much blessing do you want?).

Read to benefit from, not to race through. The big problem with the yearly plans is that you can find yourself racing through the Bible rather than benefiting from it. The word the Bible uses in Joshua 1 and Psalm 1 is "meditate", chew over, reflect on.  It is far better to read one verse and benefit from it, than to read 100 verses but digest none of them.

Read with Jesus to find. Jesus Christ showed two followers on the road to Emmaus that he was everywhere in the Bible. So look for the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ and his Gospel on every page you read.

Read to obey. Before you read ask God to show you wonderful things. The Spirit who first inspired the word can alone unlock it.  After you've read, pray over what you've read. How does God want you to respond?  Has he taught you something new about himself? Some old sin to repent of, some new virtue to put on? Someone to forgive, someone to encourage? Well then, pray through and then act!

The believer who meditates on God's word will become strong and fruitful....

    "like a tree planted by streams of water 
        which yields its fruit in season 
             and whose leaf does not whither. 
       Everything he does prospers...." 

                 (Psalm 1)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Archbishop Rowan Atkinson?

The tragic state of the Church of England
This week has revealed the sorry state of the Anglican church like rarely before. After the vote went against ordaining women bishops, the Archbishop, Rowan Williams, said this, quoted from the BBC website:

"Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society - worse than that, it seems that we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities in that wider society."

He revealed in this short statement a fundamental flaw of the Anglican church - it prefers public opinion to Christ's word. In other words, for him the embarassing thing was that the Anglican church was running against the "trends and priorities" of the world.

If we were to ask why so much of the Anglican church is weak, we need look no further than the Archbishop's words......

Why should Christian discussion be intelligible to the world?
Why should Christian theology be intelligible to the world, whose thinking has become futile (Romans 1:21) and is in fact foolishness (1 Cor 1:20). And since the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world, why should they understand what we are on about? What is more, on the very subject of women bishops, how can the world understand the basic principle that lies behind God's order between the sexes, that there can be order without hierarchy (see later)?

Why should we follow the trends and priorities of the world?
I don't know if this is an 'established church' society-pleasing blind-spot, but the Archbishop has got things exactly upside down. The church is never to follow the world. We are called not to love the world or the things that are in the world (1 John 2:15-17), or the thinking of the world (Psalm 1:1). Rather we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). In fact if the world is demanding something, it's a pretty good bet we are called in the opposite direction, for they are still in the dominion of darkness from which we have been delivered (Colossians 1:13). We are to expect hatred from the world, not applause or rewards, because it hated Jesus first (John 15:19).

It is truly disturbing to find the Archbishop lamenting the unpopularity of the church in the eyes of the world. He should instead be applauding the church for her stand.

Theology by Weathervane?
If we were to follow the Archbishop's logic, the church would meekly follow the world like Mary's little lamb. What shall we do next? Let us ask the present (and passing, for their opinions will change tomorrow) world what to do and believe?

There are lots of atheists out there, so let's abandon our belief in God!

There are some of anti-miracle scientists out there, let's abandon our belief in the Resurrection.

There are lots of pedophiles out there, and who is to say that one day the world will not recognise their practices as it has come to recognise the practice of  homosexuals? (If you think this is far-fetched, it's you that has the problem, not me: just pick up a history book, or check out the web article below. Present history alone proves the case: fifty years ago it would be unthinkable that a Prime Minister would be at the forefront of advocating the gay agenda. That is how fast social mores can change).

So should the church, following the world yet again, then acknowledge their practices and welcome unrepentant pedophiles into membership?

Doing theology by weather vane or the Mary's little lamb principle, you see, is a treacherous business. 

Women Bishops?
But what about the issue behind the vote? Should women become bishops? How do we determine such an issue? If we reject the Archbishop's method - ask the world what it thinks - what should we do instead? We should go to the Word of Christ, surely. And there we find a clear pointer, which the world will and can never understand.

Equal but different
Men and women are equal in God's eyes, both made in the image of God, but their differences go beyond physiology. According to Genesis 1 & 2 there is an order between men and women. God created man first, he gave his word to the man, he created the woman for the man, he created her out of the man. He gave responsibility to the man, for when Eve usurped that responsibility by replying to the serpent, God blames Adam for listening to his wife.

Adam and Eve are equal but there is an order between them. 

The world can never understand this, because it has no model to grasp the principle: that there can be order without a hint of hierarch. But we in the church have a wonderful example: the trinity.

In the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit are co-equal, they are each God, yet, there is an order between them. The Father sends the Son, but the Son never sends the Father. The Father and the Son send the Spirit, but the Spirit never sends the Father or the Son. The Son constantly obeys the Father, but the Father, does not obey the Son.

Order but no hierarchy
Because of the abuse of power and position in the world, it cannot understand that there can be order without a hint of hierarchy. But there is perfect order without a hint of hierarchy in the Godhead. And this model is found between men and women in Scripture.

The husband is the head of the wife, says Paul, Ephesians 5:22-24. That does not mean he can go around bossing his wife hither and thither; no, he is called to love his wife and care for her.

And right throughout the New Testament, without a single exception, men are called to both lead the church and to be its teachers. Jesus, who was Mr Counter-cultural, could have chosen 6 men and 6 women, but he didn't. Paul could have chosen two sisters to lead his churches, but he chose Timothy and Titus. Without a single exception, all the leaders of the NT church are men. Women play an amazing and wonderful role, but they don't lead the church or preach to men.

Why? Because the creation order is expressed, not only in husband-wife relationships, but in church relationships too (it would be very strange if in the home life, a woman had to acknowledge the headship of her husband, but could then go and express headship over other men in the church).

Declining attendance
Perhaps the reason attendance of the Church of England is in decline is that she is so much like the world.

Why go to church when you can hear the same "doctrine" on the box, in the Sunday newspapers, or on the internet - and in the comfort of your own home, without going out to a cold breezy religious building?

Thankfully there are some Anglican churches and Anglican pastors who are faithful to Christ. We ought to pray for them. And pray that the next Archbishop might be more concerned about the honour of Christ than about pleasing the world.

The true underlying tragedy
The tragedy, for me, is that the Archbishop said not one word about Christ or his Word in his closing statements. His only concern was to be right in the eyes of men. If he had argued the cause of women bishops from Scripture, I wouldn't have written this blog - I would have disagreed with him - and done so in love.  But all he was worried about was what the world thinks.

I don't know whether we should laugh or cry.

If we thought that the cause of Christ in the UK was tied to the Anglican church we might weep.

But since that is not the case, perhaps we should laugh: I didn't get the Archbishop's name wrong in the title.

 A disturbing article about academics advocating "intergenerational intimacy" (read pedophilia). (It's not the only one)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Spared from injury or death in Kenya - why?

A "missions" trip
Four of us from our home church have just returned from a 'missions' trip to Kenya. Inverted commas, because if anything it is reverse missionary work for the westerner. We must never think of ourselves as some great white "bwanas" out there to help the poor "natives".  That is not just imperial contempt, it is spiritual self-deception. African Christianity probably has more to teach us than we will ever teach it. Why? Because suffering for the sake of Christ, rather than knowledge, riches or organizational abilities is the badge of true Christianity - and African Christians know what suffering for Christ's sake is all about.

With that common misunderstanding off my chest, there are perhaps some things westerners can contribute to the Africans, as well as the more numerous things they can contribute to us. Perhaps we can encourage local pastors-leaders to train other pastors so that the "mile wide and inch deep" African church may mature itself by the grace of Christ.

The art of ART
This is where African Rural Trainers comes in. Established by Jeremy and Jan Peckham, it seeks to equip three full-time men to train other pastors. 150 pastors are due to complete their training next year and 500 more may sign up for the second round next year. 

Two elders from Manor Park church went with Jeremy and Jan to do a lot of learning, a little teaching, and to be an extra pair of eyes and ears for Jeremy and Jan.

We went for ten days, and on day four we were spared from serious injury or even death....

The accident
the car after rolling
The brief account is this: on the B3 from Narok to Bomet we were hit from behind by a truck which caused us to spin 180 degrees and hit the car in front. The car in front then came off the road but managed to come to an uneventful stop. After being hit, our Toyota Voxy (a big eight-seater MPV) rolled over and over, landing driver side beside the road in a wide rain ditch. One of our number was thrown out of the car as it span but was not crushed by the car as it came to rest right beside her.

Another came out of his seatbelt. (For the physicists among you, he was seated at the pivot of the spin where the g-forces are smallest and so his seatbelt did not lock.) On the last roll the top half of his body, but not his waist and legs, was thrown out of the window and he saw the car roof falling to his chest - but it came to rest just inches away from him and he was able to clamber free.

Miraculously no serious harm was sustained to the six of us apart from minor cuts, bruises and aches. We were shaken and sobered, but we are still in the land of the living.

the car after being turned right
Looking at the written off car (below, right) a few days later we wondered how anyone could have emerged without serious injury or even death.

The saddest part
Tragically, after hitting us, the truck went on to smash into a car coming in the opposite direction. All three occupants were called from time into eternity in the twinkling of an eye.

Two of the three who died were pastors - for all we know, rural pastors.

the car at the police depot
Sober thanksgiving and reflection - why were we spared?
A few days later we returned to the sight of the crash to pray - and reflect.  God spares us for a reason, and one of those reasons is to renew our vows to walk upright in his sight:

I am under vows to you, O God;
    I will present my thank offerings to you
 For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God

in the light of life. Psalm 56:12-13
praying at the scene days later

But why were six believers spared while three were lost? Perhaps God has further purposes and plans for our lives. For sure, it has nothing to do with the merit of the six or the sinfulness of the three. Rather it has everything to do with God's mercy on the one hand and his inscrutable purposes on the other. 

We were enabled by God's grace to continue with the trip and found ourselves just perhaps, a little bit more fit to speak to God's suffering people in Kenya.

We pray for the families of the three who lost their lives, and for the two congregations who gathered at the police compound a few days later to mourn and wail the loss of their dear pastors.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Doing Theology, Age Ten

Every Christian a 'theologian'
The word "theology" is not in the Bible, but the idea is. Theology comes from two Greek words, 'theos' for God, and 'logos' for reason. In the same way that biology is the study of the biosphere, theology is the study of God and his ways. For a believer this means the study of God's ways in his Word and world through the Scriptures.

A different way of learning - and different conclusions
Placing theology alongside biology or physiology or whatever other 'ology' is however, dangerous. There is a world of difference between studying the world around us and 'studying' God, and if we don't grasp the difference we'll soon go astray. For one thing, theology is worship. It is unthinkable that we should study God and his ways as some kind of intellectual exercise! Only a reverent attitude of humble worship will suit the Majesty of the Subject. A second difference with theology is this: studying God? What an insult to God, as if he were a subject and we were the object! As if we were 'up here', the analysing mind, and he was 'down there', the subject to be explored.  As if the object/subject relationship in all other branches of learning could be applied to God and us! If anyone is the Object it is God, if anyone a subject it is us. A third reason for a great divide between theology and every other 'ology' is that learning without obedience is impossible. In any other discipline, how you behave probably doesn't affect the learning process, but in theology, obedience and learning go together, "I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts" Psalm 119:100. A final difference is this: no 'student' of theology rises to any appreciable height. So high and mighty are God's ways, so past finding out, that we always remain in kindergarten, forever in kindergarten.

After saying all of that, every believer ought to desire to know God and his ways better, to love him with their whole beings, body, soul and mind. And this happens through God's Word.

My ten year old theologian!
Last week my wife and I went to one of those parent-teacher evenings for our ten year old son Caleb. As we sat waiting to see the teacher (why are they always delayed by 20 minutes?) we read through his writing books.

One little sentence caught my eye, and lifted my soul.

The class had been asked to write a piece on animal-testing for medical purposes. And this is a paraphrase-from-memory of what Caleb wrote:

Although I love animals to bits and don’t like any experiments on them, God made man in his image higher than the animals, so provided steps are taken to make the pain as little as possible, I think it is better if animals die to help humans to live.”

Apparently he had some heated debates with other animal lovers that day! Now what pleased me was the way he was applying his theology to life. If God made us in  his image but not the animals, it follows that we are far more valuable than they, and provided we cause minimal suffering to them, it is OK to use them to alleviate the suffering of God's higher creation. He might not have his biblical ethics on animal testing all sorted out perfectly but this was a good start.

The alternative world-view flows from naturalism and evolution. If we, like the animals have evolved, then there is no reason to place us above the animals and 'immoral' to experiment on them. Caleb hadn't bought into these modern myths, and for that I thank God.

The blunt fact of the matter is that the Biblical viewpoint alone is true: human beings stand head, shoulders and cliff-face above every other creature. There is no gradual incline from amoeba to monkey to man. There is a sharp discontinuity between all living creatures and us. This is very easy to show, especially when an instance of so-called likeness between animals and ourselves ('look the monkey is using a tool') is examined in elementary detail. (Example: 'tool' is an anthropomorphism used by ape-loving communities; the stupid ape is using a stick for one tiny little purpose, it is unable to use it in any other way: it is not a tool, it's a stick. "Using a tool' is an insult to the word and idea tool.)

Don't misunderstand me, the monkey stands infinitely above rocks and sand: it's not the lowliness of monkeys, but the nobility of man we are talking about here.

The point: a renewed mind
But here is my point. Every Christian should be doing theology: applying God's Word to the issues that surround us in the world. If our thinking is not renewed in this way, by God's Word, it will, by default be conformed to the pattern of this world, and we will be thinking and acting like the world which passes away.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The best way to talk

Have we got it right: modern ways of talking?
In the church of Jesus Christ, love is the greatest; deep loving, understanding relationships central. It is out of these relationships that the world will see that we are followers of Jesus Christ.

But all relationships feed on communication, therefore how we communicate, affects our relationships. Are we in danger of using harmful, or at least inadequate, forms?

Ways we communicate
Many of our ways of talking are electronic: texts, phone-calls, e-mails, Facebook, Skype, and so on. But as helpful as these means are, they all fall short of the ideal.

God's method of communication
..... God sets the gold standard of communication. He has spoken to us through his Son, who is The Word. All previous ways of communicating, whether prophets or visions, are superseded by God's supreme Word to us.

What is so significant about God's ultimate disclosure was that it was personal, face-face. How do we know what God is like? We walk around with Jesus Christ through the Gospels and see him in action and through his words and actions learn what he is like.

God could have chosen to send down a set of gold plates from heaven with his words inscribed upon them, but instead he chose his Son, The Word, incarnated as a living, beating human being, to speaks to us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

God has spoken to us in glorious flesh and blood 3-D. 

Our template...
There is something about 3-D that trumps all the other forms of communication we use today, including blogging. For one thing, it is harder to misunderstand one another when we are in person. For another, it's "hard to hate when you get that close" (to steal a line from Harry Chapin).

I don't know what all of this means for we who believe, apart from the need to make face-to-face our primary means of communication, and other means very much secondary.

Stuart Olyott's "Don't phone me" plea
I will never forget a former pastor of mine, long before the days of e-mail and Facebook, telling his congregation not to phone him but to talk to him in person. He recognized that even a 2-D phone call (one up from text, for moods can be detected) did not match 3-D human communication.

Stop reading this blog and let's go for coffee at Caffe Bolero....

Friday, 12 October 2012

Myths for Breakfast and Myths for Supper too

Myths for Breakfast.......
I spent some hours yesterday morning reading "Exhortation to the Heathen" by Clement of Alexandria. In this second century book, the pagan convert to Christianity, Clement, exposes the absurd and impious myths of the Greeks. These myths had entered the cultural consciousness of the people and  provided the worldview from which people were able to answer where things came from, how they should behave, and so on. They weren't challenged by the populace but widely accepted.

But then Clement, who absorbed these myths as a child, gets converted to Christ who is the truth. And now he begins to question the myths he has been brought up on and here is the important bit - he exposes them for what they are:  absurd and impious.

He does a great service to his culture and the church.

..... and myths for Supper
Later that very evening, I watched Stephen Hawking's "Universe". And I was flabbergasted with how low-on-fact and high-on-philosophy/myth the programme was. I could not help thinking exactly what I'd thought that very morning, "What a bunch of foolish fables!"

Two thousand years hasn't changed the human heart.

And nor has science.

The central myth of the programme was that natural laws unaided by any kind of  external intelligence can produce the beautiful, complex and fine-tuned universe we live in.

But the evidence for intelligence - the need for intelligence to describe nature - has been pouring in over the last few decades, in Hawking's field as much as in other fields.

Take for example, the many physical constants in nature which are "set" at a certain, specific value. It turns out that you cannot alter these values by very much or there would be no universe at all. Like the cogs in a clock, a small change in a cog's size or number of teeth, quickly renders the clock useless.
This fine-tuning points to an intelligence.

The fables of today
Today, of course, our fables can't contain mythological men and monsters, they have to be clothed in science. But they are fables just the same for they are designed to explain where we came from, how we should behave etc., etc.

The real problem with these modern fables is pride. The idea that modern science/ scientists can answer all the questions of the universe.  Hawking revealed this hubris (probably unwittingly - which makes it all the more tragic) when he said:

                   "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, 
                     why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

As if a mere puny small human mind can grasp the mysteries of the universe.

There is a great need for modern day Clements who will expose these empty myths for what they are, and save both the world and the church from their vacuous lies.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Eight characteristics of cultish groups: Beware!

The heydey of cults
When I was a teenager, it was common to be warned against cults like the Moonies, Children of God, JW's and Scientology. Today this warning is not heard sufficiently, even though Satan is as active today as he was in the seventies (...of course!!)

We need to be on our guard, however, not only against the overt cults, such as those listed above, but groups with cult-like characteristics. The New Testament warns us against what we might call cultish groups and individuals who will prey on the young and the vulnerable.

Hallmarks of a cult or cultish group
Here are some of the marks of a cult, or a group on its way to becoming a cult:

David Berg - leader of Children of God cult

(1) Cultish groups are run by strong personalities. If you are young and immature their commands can sound like "spiritual authority", when you've been around the block a few times you see it for what it is: wolfish behaviour. Take the example of Diotrephes who loved to be first (and only) in the church (3 John). Diotrephes couldn't stand the apostle John or any of the brothers hanging round his church, so he refused to have anything to do with the apostle John (yes, that's right, he would have nothing to do with an apostle of Christ!), and did not welcome other Christians.

Cultish groups are dominated by powerful (but ultimately insecure) personalities.

(2) Cultish groups actively seek out the naive and vulnerable. They may quite literally go from church to church looking for the weak and vulnerable. Here is how Paul warns us:

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way.....Keep away from them..... By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." (Romans 16:18)

When they are on the hunt, they do not speak to elders or pastors - these they studiously avoid (not least because shepherds are aware of wolves) - but seek out the naive and the vulnerable. Perhaps a young person full of zeal who they could easily deceive and twist to their cause.

(3) Cultish groups use flattery. Of course, none of us should be prone to flattery, for all of us should have a healthy view of ourselves which forces flattery to flow off our backs. In other words, should God ever be pleased to use us, we think it is nothing but amazing, since we know our sinfulness too much to think the blessing had anything whatsoever to do with us. But when you are young and immature, and someone says to you, "You are the most passionate disciple of Christ I've come across in years" or some such deliberate flattery, you have limited experience or self-knowledge to help you deflect the lies away. 

Good old John Bunyan warned us about The Flatterer many years ago, with these sober words:

A man approached them clothed in a light robe who asked them why they stood thus. When the pilgrims informed him of their predicament, the man said, "Follow me, for I too, am going to the Celestial City, and am well acquainted in these parts."
Accordingly, they followed him, for he seemed a pleasant man and was full of compliments and fine sayings.

Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the road on which he was taking them turned away from the straight and narrow path; but being absorbed in listening to the fine things their companion was saying about them, they did not notice this deviation, and soon their faces were turned away from the Celestial City.
Suddenly, before they were aware of it, he led them into the compass of a large net in which they were so entangled that they could not, in spite of all their efforts, extricate themselves. Then the robe fell from the man, and they perceived he was a dark man whose name was Flatterer.
As they lay crying in the net, Christian groaned, "Now do I see myself in an error!"

(4) Cultish groups play nasty. Because they are not followers of  the Jesus who was filled with grace and truth, cultish leaders put no restraint upon their vitriol towards those who disagree with them. They freely damn all people who do not buy into their gnostic myths.  These leaders follow in the steps of the Pharisees, of whom Jesus said,"you travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." (Matthew 23:15).

(5) Cultish groups have a powerful myth which supports their 'theology'. From the outside, the views of cultish groups look absolutely absurd. And indeed every 'doctrine' is very easily dismantled - they don't hold water, Biblically, theologically, historically or philosophically. But on the inside, supported by group-pressure, the myth seems powerful, even overwhelming. The myth works in the same way as a conspiracy theory works: in a large bank of 1000 pieces of data it is quite possible to select 100 pieces which can be used to support your view. All the other information of course is excluded or conveniently re-explained. But put 100 pieces of data together, and my it looks impressive, especially when it is reinforced by powerful personalities.

(6) Cultish groups are gnostic in theology.  A gnostic is someone who thinks that due to certain   knowledge they have acquired, they have become a member of an elite group of "Christians". The underlying problem with gnostics, however, has nothing to do with the supposed knowledge. The problem is always a spiritual, never a knowledge problem. And the spiritual problem is spiritual pride. All of a sudden they stand above all the other "compromising Christians" in the world. They may even tell you how much they have grown spiritually since they have acquired this knowledge and how poor they were beforehand. All of this is a delusion.  The apostle Paul deals with this error in Colossians 2 in a thorough way - he tells the gnostic (of whatever stripe) that he has actually lost contact with Jesus Christ. 

But Paul's words sound ludicrous to a cult member because....

(7) ....Cultish groups always think they are more zealous than others. Others compromise, they don't. And they boast about all the great sacrifices they have been prepared to make to remain faithful to the truth! They have lost churches, families, jobs and what nots. The truth is this: their zeal is without knowledge, and is more akin to fanaticism than holy zeal.They have lost friends through folly, not on account of truth.

(8) Cultish groups always separate from others. This is one of the chief characteristics of a cult - as soon as you become a member, you must sever all links with former friends. There are only two kinds of people in the world now, those who are in and those who are out. Those who are in are friends, those who are out, enemies.

Any group that bears these  marks is a cult, or on its way to become a cult.  

How should we respond to cultish groups?
(1) Warn fellow Christians. You will need to be specific if you are a church leader. Gather the flock and warn them.

(2) Do not engage with them directly. This is a great temptation but a grave mistake. People under bondage to a satanic suite of lies, are beyond logical argument. All that will happen is an endless string of unpleasant debates - be warned you will never win the debate. 

(3) Use spiritual warfare - pray. I had a relative who got caught up in the Children of God cult, in the sixties (David Berg was the cult leader). I remember the great pain of  relatives as they saw family members come under that powerful and satanic delusion. But the family prayed and he was delivered from the cult.

We have a God who is able to deliver his people from delusions, great or small. If you have a family member who has been drawn into a cult, it is probably best not to argue with them. So powerful is the delusion, they are incapable of seeing past it. In fact arguing will probably confirm them in their view that they are right (they are being persecuted) and confirm to them that you are an outsider. Gently warn, and then get on your knees and pray that the God who could humble Nebuchadnezzar and shatter his delusion, will deliver your loved one too.
See separate article on Gnosticism:
 "Gnosticism" old and new

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Wonderful Case of Johnny Lennox

Who is John Lennox?
John Lennox is a professor of Maths at Oxford, who is "at the top of his game." Until a few years ago he was largely unknown. But today he is fast becoming one of the world's top apologists for Christianity (a man who is able to defend the truth and explain the Gospel effectively in today's culture). He takes on all the big atheists and demolishes their arguments in a flurry of gracious responses. He is the author of four apologetic books, his first one "God's Undertaker" came out in just 2009.

Why call him "Johnny"?
I heard John Lennox speak recently and what struck me was his ordinariness. He walked on stage with trainers and loose-fitting shirt, covering an ample middle, no tie, no posh hair-styles, no attempt to be anything other than the ordinary, laid-back happy Christian bloke he is.

This in fact is the reason he is so effective. He does not need to put on a suit to hide who he really is. He does not need to hide behind some false image. He does not have to live up to some kind of pattern. He's just himself.

Lessons from John Lennox
I couldn't help think that we have something to learn from this gracious man of God:

(1)  Serve God faithfully, and in God's time, your time will come. Until around 2009 John Lennox was largely unknown in Christian circles. But in the background, he has faithfully served Christ, and just at the right moment, in his sixties!, God has given him a world stage on which to share the Gospel. Too many Christians want to succeed before their time. And boy do they make a hash of it! But if you wait, like Joseph, your moment will come.

(2) Be yourself. Many of Lennox's debating partners, whether Peter Atkins or Richard Dawkins are uptight and nervous - no wonder! - they have an image to preserve, a fan-base to please, a cause which hangs on them alone. None of this applies to Lennox, who knows he is merely a servant of the King, and while he wants to please the King, the King's cause does not rest on the small shoulders of one man.

(3) Listen to others. Lennox stands out as someone who is passionate to listen to the question, and the question behind the question. We too quickly think we know what the question is, but often we don't, for behind the question is the real question. Lennox suggests that if we talk more than 50% of the time, we haven't listened.

(4) Be honest about your views. Lennox does not pretend to be anything but a card-carrying evangelical Christian. He puts his cards on his table, rather than pretending to be what he is not. There is much to be said for this in an age where we can too easily hide our true colours for fear of ridicule or misundrestanding.

(5) WYSIWYG. I've already said this, but What You See Is What You Get with John Lennox. A professor wearing trainers, making no attempts to impress.

Listening to this brother in Christ reminded me more than once of Jesus himself, who, according to Isaiah 53:2, had nothing about him to attract us to himself. In an age of hype and image, we need more honest and more Christ-like men like Johnny Lennox.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Problems with Facebook

New Technology is Good
A theology of creation (which we evangelicals don't do well) demands that we view most new technological developments as, in themselves, good. They are a reflection  of the creativity of God (because we are made in his image) and a sign of his goodness (because they do us good).

Radio, TV, Internet, Twitter, iPads and Facebook, are all good.

Of course, in a fallen world, good gifts are twisted to evil ends, but we should not call the good gifts evil themselves for that reason.

Facebook is Good
So facebook is good. Think of all the good that can be done through it. You can keep in contact with friends, let people know what's going on in your life, and for a believer, glorify God through righteous and loving posts.

But in recent weeks I have been pondering two problems with this technology....

The Problem of Omniscience
You and I were never meant to know everything about everyone. This is true even of our closest friends. God alone knows all things, for a very good reason. None of us could handle omniscience. I am not thinking quantity of data, I am thinking sin. The famous American preacher AW Tozer once said about the celebrity culture taking hold in our churches, that if we knew all the thoughts of the man or woman we most admire, we would not even cross the street to greet them! He wasn't arguing for or defending unrighteousness, he was doing a realism check, doing a Paul who said that in him no good thing dwelt. Only God in his infinite mercy and patience can handle every piece of knowledge about his beloved children.

But today people are so unbelievably free about what they write on facebook, their thoughts, their movements, their arguments and so on, that we know people much better than before. (Or do we?, I hear you ask. Because it is quite possible to deceive others and put on a show.)

Add to that question, the fact that knowledge brings responsibility. What if you discover that someone is up to no good? Perhaps facebook opens up our lives to one another. Perhaps it forces admonition upon us in a new way.

In short, the first problem of facebook is, What do I do with this new glut of information about A, B or C?

The Problem of one-dimensional relationships
There is something about flesh and blood which no written text or photo can convey.  We say things with our bodies which we don't express in words. Embodied creations as we are, fullness of communication can't take place without face to face conversations. I can hide pain or embarrassment from you if I communicate merely by text, for example.

If the full revelation of God came through the incarnate flesh and blood Jesus Christ, God is telling us something about how to communicate. True, he has spoken in a book - so words are important - but he has most fully spoken to us in the 3-D flesh and blood person of his Son.

And so we must insist that the only way to fully communicate with another human being is through face to face conversations.

If, therefore, facebook is the only way we communicate to someone, it is wholly inadequate. If it is an additional way, a supplementary way, then it can help.

The fear is that some people might resort, in the comfort of their rooms, to communicate wholly through facebook, which means they will never really know or be known.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

"Gnosticism" old and new

What on earth is gnosticism?
"Gnosis" is Greek for 'knowledge', and gnosticism was an ancient error which said "I have access to some kind of knowledge - often secretive - which gives me a hot line to heaven, which puts me a few rungs of the ladder higher than you, dear brother. If only you knew what I know...."

So, straight up, gnosticism is daughter to spiritual pride, or to put it another way, a son of Satan. Of course, of course, of course, of course, no gnostic will ever put it that way. Has anyone ever come to you and said "I am a proud person?" They will come with feigned humility, "I am an unworthy sinner, but God in his great mercy to a miserable sinner has shown me thus and thus...."

We laugh at the silly tales of early gnosticism. Irenaeus, the second century Christian writer makes an endless list of stupid fables believed by various gnostic sects of his time in his book "Against Heresies". But gnosticism is not merely an ancient error, it's around and alive in the churches today.

Any view which says "I have knowledge which puts me one up on you" is a gnostic error. Any view which says "If you only knew what I knew" is a gnostic heresy.

And there are lots of them around today....

Modern Varieties of Gnosticism
"I know about first century history". This is a big one today, coming through the works of people like NT Wright. It says that unless you are a first-century historian and know all about the social setting of the New Testament you can't possibly understand the New Testament. Poor you. The key to understanding the New Testament is being a first-century historian. 

"I have been to Bible College". This view teaches that going to Bible College puts you one up on the poor plebs in the pews who haven't had that privilege. Somehow your greater knowledge makes you more spiritual, a better interpreter, etc. 

"I know Hebrew thought." Slightly more subtle is the view in some Christian-Jewish circles that teaches that unless you understand Jewishness, Jewish thought, idiom and tradition, you can't really get into the Old Testament. 

"I only use the XYZ translation." Again, more subtle, but all too common. I have secret knowledge which shows me that only my translation is God's Pure Word. Your translation is perverted, and if you only knew the background to your perverted translation (yes they use these extreme words), that I know, you would never open it again, and you would immediately use mine. 

"I get messages from God." God leads me by his Spirit in all I do. Talk about one-up-manship!  You languish, my friend, in the low-country of Scripture, where you hear God's voice indirectly. I have a hotline to heaven. 

"I have been baptised in the Spirit." You are a carnal Christian, having only repented and believed. I have had an experience which takes me far beyond you. (Everyone who repents and believes has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them - Acts 1:38).

The fundamental error of all forms of gnosticism
The fundamental error of all varieties of gnosticism is sinful spiritual pride. For the Scriptures teach that every believer has been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3). There are no Class B Christians, we are all Class A. You don't need to have any kind of knowledge apart from Christ to be complete in him, and any extraneous knowledge you may have doesn't put you one up on your brother or sister.

Of course no gnostic has ever spoken in such proud terms for Satan is no fool. He hides the hook of gnosticism inside the bait of  (sham) humility. Pride has to be unmasked. The apostle Paul had to unmask pride like this:

"Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels (weird ancient gnosticism) disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen (read, goes into great detail about what he has read, what she has studied, etc., etc.), and his spiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions." (Colossians 2)

Talk about a balloon popper! This person's mind is not filled with spiritual notions, but idle notions! Some readers of Colossians would have been mad - and so will some readers of this blog. But then comes the coupe de grace, the final chop, the death blow, when Paul says that such a person who thinks he is more in contact with God, is actually disconnected from Jesus!

 "He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body supported and held together by its ligaments grows as God causes it to grow." (Colossians 2)

Gnosticism - all forms of it - belongs to the basic principles of this fallen world, and as such we should be done with it.

How to refute gnosticisms
You may think you have to go into great detail and listen to a gnostic's knowledge / dreams/ whatnots in order to examine their case. But this is wholly unnecessary, time consuming and futile.

All you need to establish is this: Do they think thy have privileged knowledge that most people in the church do not have? A knowledge that puts them in a class apart from the church? Above everyone else, privileged?  (This form of 'aboveness' may come in many forms, but often it results in separation from others.  They won't be able to mix with others, who they now see as beneath them).

Don't worry about the details of the error (historical / visions / translations / etc) - the details are irrelevant.

All you need to tease out is the answer to the forgoing question. Then pray that God will humble them. Don't you humble them, but ask the God who was able to humble a Nebuchadnezzar to bring them to their senses.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Books Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

Life is short....
We can't read everything, so every book requires careful selection. You could read all the 'in books'. But if you do, you'll read an awful lot of pages that will be unknown in 2022, let alone 3022, should the Lord tarry....

The pros and cons of the New 
You should read some new books because they deal with live subjects, explain modern findings or apply old truths in new ways. In a very few cases, they do break new ground, for God has more light to shine from his Word. Some of us must also keep up to date with new heresies - which always turn out to be old heresies in new garb, of course.

The disadvantage of new books is that you simply never know if they are worth reading. You can rarely trust a review because you don't know if a mate of the author wrote it; whether one sentence or paragraph so helped the reviewer that he encourages you to buy the book; whether promotional machinery behind the book is the reason it is being reviewed in the first place. An experienced bookworm lamenting the dozens of useless books he'd read over his lifetime, once suggested to me that no-one should write a book till they are over fifty to take advantage of  that wisdom gained by age. (That advice applies, of course, only to books where life experience is required.)

As you can see, this cynical blogger has read one too many of the New Books.....

The pros and cons of Old Books
....don't get me wrong a whole lot of rubbish has been written in the past. And if you randomly buy books of yesteryear you will also waste a whole lot of time.

But one great filter of  Christian literature is time. If a book is still reprinted decades or centuries after it was written, tis a good sign. (Not a sufficient sign, for some publishers only publish old books - but a good sign!)

Actually, although time seems to be the filter, the real filter is the church: over decades and centuries the church sifts out the good from the bad.

The Church, after all is the pillar and ground of truth.

What should one do?
For every new book read three good old ones? Five old ones? Ten old ones? One hundred old ones? Whatever, Just make sure you read lots of old stuff. And of course, make Scripture the first Book on your list and in your heart.

Example 1: Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.
Born in 1628, John Bunyan, a tinker (fixed pots and pans) from near Bedford, England, ended up in prison for preaching "illegally" (if it happened before....). His twelve years in prison were not wasted, because he wrote this great allegory of the Christian life. He imagines a pilgrim on his way to heaven. On his way he meets all kinds of characters,  from Atheist to Talkative, the kinds of characters a believer will meet on their journey. With masterful insight Bunyan explains how these people must be dealt with. Not only does Pilgrim meet people, he passes through experiences of all kinds, from doubt to guilt; once again Bunyan masterfully explains how we work through these problems. The reasons Pilgrim's Progress is still read today, some four centuries after being written, is singular: it is filled with Scripture. That is the reason any Christian book is read years after it is written; it is filled with Scripture Truth. 

Example 2:  "Irenaeus - Against Heresies"
Here's an example of a good old book (don't let the halo stuff put you off, those who publish old Christian books can't seem to resist "catholic" images). Writing somewhere in the second century, we learn many interesting things from this ancient "church father".

First, we learn that there are no new heresies under the sun. The Shack, Love Wins, etc., etc., etc., it's all been touted before. Second, you find yourself amazed at how consistently based on the New Testament such an ancient writer is. Although the canon (the list of 27 books in our New Testament) is not yet 'fixed' all he quotes from and all he recognises as Scripture is what we recognise. Third, you are amazed at the stability of the New Testament Greek Text over 2000 years, because all of his quotes (translated into English for us) are immediately recognisable to us. There are no jarring surprises or shocks, such is the providential oversight of God over the Greek text. Fourth, you are grateful that we live now not then, for the number of errors today are  less (and more easily recognised): 1900 years have enabled truth to become settled orthodoxy. Fifthly, you learn that good old Irenaeus didn't get it all right. How could he?  He suggests in one place that Jesus lived until 50 years old because he had to experience all the seasons of life we experience (and 50 in those days was old age). But, hey, that's a small error (we assume now it is an error).

This old book gave me a renewed confidence in Scripture. That's one of many blessings an old book may give you....

So what old books would I recommend? I sense another blog emerging.... 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Holidays and Heaven

I have long seen some faint parallells with summer holidays and heaven...

The Similarities
For one thing you prepare for your holidays, sometimes months in advance, and  as the time draws nearer, so the pace of preparation increases.
Jesus encouraged us to prepare for heaven, for example by "laying up treasure" there, rather than amassing earthly possessions here.  The first way to prepare for heaven is to enter the narrow gate which leads to life. Have you done that?
Holidays are anticipated - they cast their light backwards in time and can brighten dreary days at work - weeks before we go. They produce a kind of temporary hope.
In the same way the return of Jesus Christ and the prospect of eternal life fills - or ought to fill - our daily lives with hope. We wait for the blessed hope, the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are enabled to persevere through all kinds of trials, filled with the anticipation of that blessed age to come.
Holidays are days of rest. Away from the forced routine of the normal - and sometimes painful or onerous - duties of life, we are able to slow down, take stock, and rest.
Heaven is described as "eternal pleasures at God's right hand" and as "rest". Away from the struggles of this passing world, away from our battles with sin or doubt or sadness, we will rest eternally with new resurrected bodies in a place where there is no unrighteousness.
Holidays are with family. One of the reasons holidays are relaxed is that we go away with people we most know and love. It could be stressful to spend a week with strangers, where mental and emotional energy would be spent getting to know and adjust to them. No, we go on holiday with loved ones. Heaven will be with the redeemed people of God whom we love and who love us -  and who perfected in glory will be free of all their flaws and sins! Above all we will be with our elder Brother, who loved us and gave his life for us.

The Differences
Heaven will be with Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is with us by His Spirit in this world, but not in body.  But in heaven we will see him as he is. He is the Sun and Light of heaven, the One who will shed his holy light everywhere.

Heaven will be perfect. Every human holiday is marred, for we live in a fallen world. But that world without the curse will be perfect because we will inhabit the new heavens and the new earth. We must not think of perfect in Greek or human reason terms (angles, shapes, substances), but most supremely in relational terms: it is here that the lion will lie down with the lamb and perfect peace will reign.

Heaven will be for ever. We have to come back from holiday to 'the real world'. And not many days afterwards we can scarce imagine that we had been away at all, except for the photos (and tan?)! Indeed the prospect of the return itself clouds the latter days, for we are winding up to face the world back home.

But one day we will enjoy to the full what David had begun to experience in Psalm 21: "you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence" and hoped for in Psalm 23, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Secrets of a Forgiving Heart

The Joseph of Genesis
There is hardly a character in Scripture (apart from our Saviour whom this person foretells), who displays more compassion towards those who have offended him than Joseph of Genesis. Sold into slavery at the age of seventeen by his own older brothers who should have protected him is a hard pill to swallow.

But it is clear from Genesis chapters 41-50 that his heart towards them has grown soft, by the mighty power of God. And from Joseph we learn  some of the secrets of a forgiving heart.

Secret 1: "Time heals"
Joseph did not have to face his brothers until 20 years after they had sold him into slavery. Twenty years to ponder the ugly offence. Twenty years for anger to subside. Twenty years to ponder his own role in their offence (do you really have to tell other people your dreams?) We do not often move from unforgiveness to forgiveness in one move. Normally it's through steps that move from "I can't stand them/unforgiveness" to "I like them" to "I love them". Allow yourself time to forgive.

Secret 2: Ask God for a soft heart
The very worst outcome of an offence is a hard heart of bitterness or hate. And the trouble is that unlike the physical one full of different chambers, the human heart is a single pool. One drop of bitterness can make a whole heart toxic. We know that Joseph's heart was soft, because he is often moved to tears when he hears or sees his brothers. Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life, and ask God for a soft heart towards the person who has offended you.

Secret 3: Learn not to retell the injury to others
This is a thermometer of forgiveness. On two occasions, Joseph refuses to name his brothers as the culprits (before the cup bearer and among his officials, whom he sends out of the room). You know God is growing forgiveness in your heart if you no longer tell the tale. 

Secret 4: Be prepared to do your enemies good
Joseph is bountifully good to his brothers: he gives them free food, he takes care of their donkeys, he invites them for a lavish feast. We may not get the opportunity, but if it came our way, would we be prepared and willing to love and feed our enemy? And thereby demonstrate that we are children of our Father in heaven?

Secret 5: Remember that in the good providence of God, even this offense is a servant
Joseph had begun to understand the Greater Hand that had sent him to Egypt, there to become a 'saviour'. And this helped him to take the pressure off his brothers, for it was not them, but God who sent him to Egypt. In some remarkable way, the offence will be turned around for our good, the good of others and the glory of God.

Secret 6: You have been forgiven the greater - find it in your heart to forgive the lesser.
Joseph wouldn't have seen this as clearly as we can. But in the parable of the unmerciful servant Jesus taught the logic of Christian forgiveness. The sum is this: if we have been forgiven by God the enormous debt of our sin, then we ought to find it in our heart to forgive the tiny debt (by comparison) owed to us by the offender. Perhaps, if we are struggling with unforgiveness, our root problem is that we have forgotten the magnitude of our own sins which have all been forgiven by God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It's not that forgiveness is easy, but by the grace of God we can come to a place where it is possible.