Dricoll’s tips I want to remember 2,4,6,11
Driscoll’s tips I need to remember 3,9,10,15
On the same day that the nation woke up to the news that Christopher Hitchens had died our Prime Minister gave a speech in Oxford to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
That these two items of news should have followed on from one another on the BBC 10 o’clock news was striking.
Hitchens in his book God is not great argued that religion poisons everything. For Hitchens religion is not just wrong it is dangerous and damaging to society.
Cameron’s speech flatly contradicted everything Hitchens stood for when he said:
We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so.
So who is right?
It is important to read Cameron’s speech in full to understand what he is and isn’t saying.
1. He was NOT saying that the majority of people in our country are Christians (although we should not entirely disregard the fact that in the 2001 census 71% of the British population chose to define themselves as Christian). It is not particularly clear in what sense Cameron regards himself as a Christian for example.
2. Nor was he saying that Britain as a Christian country is intolerant of people of other faiths. Quite the opposite it is Christian countries that have demonstrated a tolerance for other faiths.
Those who say being a Christian country is doing down other faiths simply don’t understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity.
The tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths too.
That could certainly not be said of Muslim countries where freedom to convert from Islam to Christianity is illegal and those who do face severe sanctions.
And although I have no way of assessing his claim it was striking that Cameron also said:
Many people tell me it is much easier to be Jewish or Muslim here in Britain than it is in a secular country like France.
What was Cameron’s point then?
Essentially it was this:
The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country. Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible.”
Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love, pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities these are the values we treasure.
Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.
So David Bentley Hart in his work Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its fashionable enemies rightly concludes:
Even the most ardent secularists among us generally cling to notions of human rights, economic and social justice, providence for the indigent, legal equality, or basic human dignity that pre-Christian Western culture would have found not so much foolish as unintelligible. It is simply the case that we distant children of the pagans would not be able to believe in any of these things – they would never have occurred to us – had our ancestors not once believed that God is love, that charity is the foundation of all virtues, that all of us are equal before the eyes of God, that to fail to feed the hungry or care for the suffering is to sin against Christ, and that Christ laid down his life for the least of his brethren.
It is very hard to imagine what the world would have looked like without Christianity. The nearest we can get is by asking how are countries that have long history of Christian faith and worship different from those that do not.
This post can’t possibly do the work of establishing that Christianity has had a profound influence for good that we all benefit from whether we acknowledge that origin or not. For that you must look elsewhere. Perhaps with Bentley Hart’s book or maybe this one God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam which has been short-listed for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books 2010
How should we respond as Christians to the speech?
At least three things come to mind.
1. David Cameron in his speech gave Christians ‘permission’ to openly acknowledge the God who has blessed our nation in ways not even we Christians easily remember. It is often the case that it is those who have emigrated to our country from other parts of the world who can see what we take for granted. They rejoice in the rule of law, freedom of speech, human rights, isn’t it time we thanked God for them too!
2. Christians also have been given permission by Cameron to challenge Government positions that would seek to undermine this all to valuable heritage for instance in the proposed attempt to redefine marriage.
3. The speech was also a repost to the new atheism which wants to rewrite history by distorting the contribution of a thousand years of Christianity in our country. Such a denial of history creates a culture in which scepticism flourishes. Cynic and doubter alike would do well to be reminded, and we can help in this, that the life that we enjoy and celebrate is simply NOT to be found in nations that are not built on a Christian foundation. There are uniquely Judeo-Christian values and at least in that sense Britain remains a Christian country.
Always controversial and an outspoken atheist his ideas have impacted and infuriated many.
His entry in Wikipedia notes that he was included in ‘The Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll’ The poll ‘was conducted in November 2005 and June 2008 by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (US) on the basis of responding readers’ ballot. The objective was to determine the 100 most important public intellectuals who are still alive and active in public life.’
I remember watching the documentary Collision which followed Christopher Hitchens (author of God is not great) and Doug Wilson as they debated ‘Is God good for the world?‘. It’s not a particularly good documentary in some senses but what you can’t miss as you do watch it is what a friendly relationship they enjoyed.
In an article in Christianity Today on the death of Hitchens Wilson writes ‘During the time we spent together, he never said an unkind thing to me—except on stage, up in front of everybody. After doing this, he didn’t wink at me, but he might as well have.’
As we reflect on the death of a godless man we remember the word of the Lord in Ezekiel:
‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?’
Google’s top 10 search lists for 2011 has just been released and for all those who feel the need to keep up to speed with what everybody is thinking they are an invaluable source.
There are top 10 fastest rising searches for 2011, fastest rising people (at least 5 of whom I’d never heard), a top 10 ‘how to’ list which includes at number 2 ‘how to snog’ and at number 7 ‘how to flirt’ and top 10 celebrities.
So if you’re desperate to look up-to-date on all things cool or you’re looking to understand the priorities and concerns of a nation you now know where to look.
So Richard Dawkins is guest editing the Christmas edition of the New Statesman – a smart move on their part which is guaranteed to boost the sales.
Like all fundamentalists Richard Dawkins can be infuriating. His resistance to reason and his refusal to engage with the world of ideas has driven many an atheist mad let alone the Christian. Again like many fundamentalists his rhetoric is often full of vitriol and demonstrates a sometimes scary intolerance for any who disagree with him – no matter how reasonable. But I for one am still glad he’s in the world. Why?
1. Is there anyone who does more to keep religion in the public eye than Dawkins? The secularist agenda is to marginalise people of faith by keeping God-talk out of the public sphere. Dawkins functions as a secret agent subverting the secularist agenda by insisting on discussing matters of faith. When others go on and on about X-factor he just can’t stop talking about God! He’s done more for the church, in the public sphere, than any religious figure since the time of CS Lewis.
2. It follows from the first point that Dawkins is responsible, both directly and indirectly, for opening up many a conversation as matters of God, faith & science continue to be discussed in the media. Just this last week Brian Cox distanced himself from Dawkins views on Radio 5 Live.
3. Dawkins does a great deal to reassure Christians that their faith is reasonable and credible. His refusal to debate Christian apologist William Lane Craig in Oxford a couple of months ago, even at a time that he was promoting his own new book through a show at the Royal Albert Hall, was a massive own goal. His unwillingness to defend his own ideas has been exposed by a number of atheist Philosophers.
4. Dawkins provides some great quotes to highlight the bankruptcy of atheism. His own (albeit qualified) support for infanticide, his admission that he has no idea how life began on the planet, his own recognition that for the atheist there is no good and evil all demonstrate how unliveable atheism is and how dark its conclusion are.
5.Dawkins compels Christians to think and to think deeply about their faith. As we take seriously the call to provide a reasoned defence for what we believe gets us back to our Bible and to good books.
6. Dawkins reminds us of the danger of fundamentalism in all of its forms. He is a warning to us all of how ugly it can be and how by contrast Christians need to think, speak and behave differently.
Francis Schaeffer was right when he said ‘the greatest apologetic of all is love’.
So happy Christmas Richard Dawkins and keep up the good work!
John Piper makes the case for reminding the people you are leading of your vision. There is a need for renewing, restating and rejoicing in your vision as a church.
‘It is the job of the leader to articulate the vision over and over again’ – Piper.
1. In regular patterns for church at large eg. a preaching series, business meetings, church weekends, vision nights
2. Every time leaders meet
3. When making changes such as multiplying a small group
4. Every time people are considering membership
5. Every time you (as leaders) introduce change
6. Every time you recruit volunteers
‘For the skilled leader, every day brings “insertion points” for vision. They might be when a church member talks to a neighbor — a vision casting moment. It might be a teaching, transitioning toward application — another vision casting moment. It might be the children’s director inviting someone to be on the team….’
Being a parent at Christmas is probably one of the biggest challenges of the year. But Jen Hatmaker’s post The Christmas Conundrum is quite simply the best thing (on web or in print) that I’ve read for parents seeking to navigate through the priorities and pitfalls of Christmas. If you read one thing on parenting this Christmas this is it.
‘We all know it. We all feel it. Every year we bear this tension. Each December, the world feels off kilter. But in the absence of a better plan or an alternative rhythm or – let’s just say it – courage, we feed the machine yet again, giving Jesus lip service while teaching our kids to ask Santa for whatever they want, because, you know, that’s really what Christmas boils down to.
I just cannot take it anymore, yall. I cannot.’
Happy reading, and of course, a happy Christmas.
(HT: Aimee Bentall)
There is a sense in which WWJD is the wrong question to ask. A better question, when it comes to grasping the message of Christianity is what DID Jesus do? It is his life of perfect obedience and his death as a sin-bearing sacrifice that alone brings us into relationship with Christ. As the Apostle Paul says ‘God justifies the wicked’ Romans 4:5. So when it comes to answering the question what gets us right with God WDJD is a better question.
But in another sense once restored to a relationship with God through Christ WWJD is a good question.
Philippians 2:5 (NIV) says ‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.’
1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV) says ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.’
Ultimately we are called in the strength of God’s spirit to follow the example of Christ. Luke 9:23 ‘Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”
Tony Reinke’s book Lit! Contains a load of practical advice on how to read widely and read well. The final chapter Raising readers is a superb chapter on encouraging children to read. Some of them are most obviously directed at parents but there’s a lot that grand-parents, God-parents, aunts and uncles can glean.
The headings are taken from the book as is anything in italics.
1. Fill your home with books.
Nothing encourages children to read than readily-accessible books. A home full of books is a home that demonstrates the importance of reading.
To save paper (or money), take them regularly to the library.
2. Read to your kids. Make daily reading with them a priority.
3. Don’t stop reading to your kids.
I found this a thought-provoking suggestion. Reike makes a case for reading out loud with your children from birth through to college!
That may seem a bit much but there are ways and means of making reading a family activity. See some of the points below and what about listening to audio-books together especially in the car on longer journeys ( see 7 below) and then re-reading extracts on return as a highlight.
4. Read your own books in front of your kids.
Seeing that reading books is a high priority in your own life will motivate them.
Neil adds: I would add try to engage your kids with some of the content of what you’re reading. Tell them what you’re reading and why it’s important to you or entertaining to you.
5. Teach your children to read.
As you train them in the basics of reading, find ways to motivate your children. We have motivated our children by offering to buy them brand new books when they can being to read simple sentences. And we encourage them by offering to take them on ‘dates’ to the local library.
6. Push entertainment into the background
Reinke offers this advice from Thomas Spence’s How to Raise Boys who read
The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple – keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.
7. Listen to audio books in the car
8. Hunt for the best books
Look for books that will engage your kind of child and ask others for recommendations.
Neil adds – it may even encourage your child to read it if it is borrowed from a good friend who’s also enjoyed it.
9. Anticipate new books
Be on look out for new titles by an author your child has enjoyed and you have appreciated.
10. Celebrate the classics
Find ways to get significant dates from your favourite books, and the birthdays of your favourite authors, into your calendar so you can celebrate.
Neil comments: We’ve enjoyed reading our own copies of books we read as children to our 6 year old son. It’s special if they know that you loved the same book when you were their age.
11. Cultivate your child’s moral imagination
Imaginative literature like myth or fantasy is not only permissible for children, but it provides us with an opportunity to cultivate the moral imagination of our children. Our family has been blessed by the moral lessons in C.S.Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The rich spiritual and moral lessons in these books make rereading them a priority in our home.
12. Help interpret worldviews as you read to your children
Reading literature together allows parents to read about sin and evil and goodness and beauty – and to pause and help the child interpret those realities in light of Scripture.
13. Read your favourite excerpts to your children
Even young children can enjoy edited extracts from your own reading
14. Invite your children to read to the family
I will buy [my oldest son,9,] as many books as he can read, so long as he agrees to mark his five favourite pages in each book, bring those marked pages to the dinner table, explain the context, and read them to the family. This practice models a love of reading for his younger brother and sister.
15. Challenge your children to improve books
I particularly appreciated this idea! Encourage your children to engage with the books they read by suggesting alternative endings or better story-lines or even to bring the themes of the book in line with a Christian worldview.
16. Most importantly, read the Bible together as a family.
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