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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

We're all against "Christendom"

The "community of Christians" and "Christendom"
There is a world of difference between the community of Christians, which the Bible calls the Church - made up of every true believer in the world today and in all past ages - and Christendom (which we'll define for this blog as the marriage of the word "Christian" and the word "kingdom", meaning earthly kingdom.)

Christendom, is any grouping that calls itself "Christian" but possesses political power. A Christian who is a politician isn't necessarily part of Christendom  - that may be his or her life calling from God. But a bishop who sits in the house of Lords, and wields political influence because of instituted religious power, is.

From the days when the Roman emperor Constantine "became a Christian", Christians began to confuse the church and the state. From then onwards they began to wield political power over unbelievers. Time came when over generations these religio-political leaders ceased to be true believers and they began to abuse their power and use it to oppose unbelievers. 

From this confusion the name of Jesus has been dragged through a thousand pools of mud as He has been associated with the Crusades, Witch Hunts, Inquisitions, and numerous other atrocities.

In fact it is probably impossible to speak favourably of the name of Jesus to a secular historian, before first denouncing the heinous crimes committed in the name of Jesus. We need to explain that true religion can go to seed - and in Christendom is certainly has. We need to explain that we find true Christianity in Jesus and the New Testament, not in Christendom.

We need to disassociate ourselves completely from all alliances with political power, for Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world, and Jesus told Peter to put his sword away, and Jesus went to his death rather than calling down angels to protect him.

Here's the way it goes: 

In true Christianity, pagans persecute and Christians suffer. 
 In false Christendom, Christians persecute and pagans suffer.

Friday, 5 June 2015

The best book I've read this year....

The best till last

I've been reading many books on Gender and the Gay issue recently; this was the last book on my list, and frankly with an incomprehensible title, I was not looking forward to reading it.

Dreadful title, but an amazing book.....

What the book is about

Ed Shaw, the author, is a Christian who finds himself attracted to men - but he refuses to give in to same-sex temptations and lives a celibate life. This in itself, of course, is absolutely ludicrous in the eyes of the present passing western culture (denying yourself? - crazy, man) - but here's the value of this book - this book explains why such a life of celibacy is increasingly seen as crazy in the eyes of the church. And why so many  young Christians are falling for same-sex marriage errors.

What's happened is that the church (and I'm thinking of evangelicals) has failed to teach certain key doctrines or overemphasised other key doctrines, and the inbalance thus caused has resulted in Christians with a same-sex attraction falling for same-sex marriage errors. 

The moment you understand the lacks in certain teachings and the overemphasis in other teachings everything falls into place and the Christian who is of same-sex attraction can stay - blessedly, cross-bearingly, gloriously, freely, painfully, wonderfully - celibate.

So unlike all the other books on the gay issue I have read, either blatant attempts to argue that black is white or same-old same-old reminders of the "7 proof texts", this book is overwhelmingly positive and addressed as much to the church as to the struggling Christian. 

The missing doctrines

So  what's the church NOT been teaching in recent years?

(1) We have failed to teach that our primary identity is in Christ as a son or daughter of God. We have failed to big up our primary identity, which is the enormous privilege of being a child of God. And as a consequence allowed the world to answer the question: Who am I? with lies such as "I am gay" or even "I am straight." Our primary identity is nothing to do with our sexuality, and everything to do with our adoption as sons of God.

(2) We have failed to teach that our primary family is the people of God, not husband and wife + 2.4 kids. Jesus taught that his true family was made up of those who obeyed God, not his flesh and blood relatives. The NT radically downplays the nuclear family compared to the OT and bigs up the church as the new family of God. 

(3) We have failed to teach the doctrine of creation and fall. Our people have no theological tools with which to answer the "If I'm born gay, it must be right to be gay" tagline. They have bought into the world's teaching that "What IS is RIGHT", that you can argue from IS to OUGHT. But we know that what IS, is the consequence of the FALL and to determine what is RIGHT we need to turn back to Genesis 1-2.

(4) We have failed to teach that what makes us happy is what God says makes us happy, not what we tiny humans think makes us happy. Out there in the world what I think makes me happy is what I should pursue. But what if what I want to pursue actually won't make me happy (in the end)? What if staying in that difficult marriage might be the best thing for me? What if denying myself something my fallen self wants might be the best thing for me? Because God just happens to know better than little 'ol me? In failing to teach that "what makes us most happy is the will of God" we have left a vacuum which the world has happily filled.

(5) We have failed to teach that intimacy is more than sex (we have lost friendship).  It is possible, as David and Jonathan knew, to be very close to someone and yet not have sex with them. The world thinks this is mad and so reads sex in any and every close relationship. There is more to intimate friendship than sex. We need to teach friendships.....

(6) We have failed to teach the abiding differences between men and women. As we have bought into the "men and women are equal" mantra of the world, one of it's hidden corollaries has been that genders are interchangeable. Of course if a man and a woman are the same why not swap them over? A bloke and a bloke will do just as well as a man and a woman. We have failed to preach - and explain - the differences between men and women.

(7) We have failed to big up celibacy. Which I think we all have to agree is not a bad state, since both Paul, and more importantly, Jesus, were celibate. Paul says that he wants folk to be free of concern - a freedom which comes from being single. Some of the greatest Christians and some of the biggest contributions  to mission  have been made by single Christians.

(8) We have failed to preach the value and place of suffering. We have failed to teach that true Christianity is cross-carrying. So in not teaching this we have allowed our Christian folk to buy into the myth that if anything causes you to suffer (such as you imagine, celibacy will) run a mile from it.

I would add to these, the overwhelmingly heterosexual nature of Scripture. The case against same sex marriage does not rest on "7 fragments" but on the whole of the Bible, which is heterosexual because the Gospel is heterosexual - Christ (groom) died for the Church (bride).

The exaggerated doctrines

And what doctrines has the church been bigging up?

(1) We have exaggerated the heterosexual family.  We have - wrongly - held up the heterosexual family as the paradigm all Christians should aspire. In so doing we have undermined not only the church family (we are all brothers and sisters), but the single state.

(2) We have suggested that godliness=heterosexuality. Actually, godliness is likeness to Christ, and it is possible to find godliness in the life of a same-sex attracted celibate Christian as much as a heterosexual Christian. The effect of this identity (godliness=heterosexuality) has been a sense of real failure in the hearts of many Christians born same-sex oriented.

When all these teachings are put into place / corrected, you don't have to trot out the seven "Don't Passages" to make the case, you just have to live in a fellowship which preaches and lives the truth and automatically you will feel in your heart and now in your mind that same-sex practise is not the way to find true happiness.

Thank you Ed Shaw......

Monday, 1 June 2015

Raising Teenagers

Western Youth Culture is Pagan Culture

You don't need to be a prophet to recognise that the culture of our teenagers today is basically a pagan culture - pre-Biblical and post-Christian. Little of the Gospel - doctrine or practise - filters through the web to their smartphones or laptops.

This makes the task of raising our teenagers in the ways of the Lord all the more urgent and demanding.

The unique challenges of the age of youth
The particular challenges of youth, according to the Scriptures, are threefold. First, young people have the bodies and growing minds of adults without any of the experience of adults. The young prodigal runs off with half his father's wealth (Luke 15) but without the wisdom that comes with experience wastes it all.

Second, youth is a time when God can so easily be forgotten, because life is filled with so many new and exciting experiences (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Third there are particular evil desires that inflict young people more than older people (2 Tim 2:22) - and these go further than sexual temptation and include vanity and zealousness - Saul was a zealot in his youth (Acts 7:58) -  what church has not experienced a young zealot going off the rails in their midst?

Youth, on the other hand, can be a time of great spiritual usefulness and growth. Samuel led God's people from his youth (1 Sam 12:2), David killed Goliath in his youth (1 Samuel 17) and Daniel plus his three friends stood up for the Lord in their youth (Daniel 1-3). Youth need not be a time of wastefulness and wandering - but it so easily can be.

So how should we guide our young people?
We ought to pray for them - and for ourselves so that we might be granted wisdom to bring them up wisely.

We ought to be patient with them, knowing the enormous changes taking place in their lives, not exasperating them (Eph 6:4), picking our battles and allowing many lesser things to pass by.

We ought to talk to them about God, since they so easily forget him in this season of life, but now seeking more creative ways to speak of him, such as those encouraged in Deuteronomy 6.

We ought to love them unconditionally, like the prodigal's father, who waits every morning for his son's return. Love must involve commending them for the good they do.

We must talk to them explicitly about gangs and sex and so on - if we don't talk explicit, we can be sure someone else will - and that someone will likely be the pagan WWW. Every Christian parent ought to make a detailed study of Proverbs 1-7 and there learn how to talk to their teenager. We have the experience they don't have, and we have an obligation to pass it on.

Finally, they need to be taught about and protected from the real dangers on the internet. Parents need to wake up to the wickedness freely available online - before their "dear pure child" is potentially polluted and corrupted by the world.

Some internet guidelines
Here are some guidelines to protect your child from the dangers online:
  1. talk openly about these dangers
  2. only have an ISP which will block evil at source - and then block it
  3. have accountability software on ALL devices - especially smartphones (Windows phones don't do accountability software well, so go for Android or Apple). "Accountable2you" and "Covenant Eyes" are two companies that will serve you well
  4. Install Google safesearch across all your browsers
Parents must do this first for themselves, of course, and then - and only then - can exhort their children to follow suit.

What we do in our home - one example

We have used Talktalk's Homesafe since it came out years ago - it stops evil at source

We use "Accountable2You" software which gives a report on all websites viewed with a simple colour coding system (red, orange)

We use Google safesearch which blocks any remaining images or websites: