Browsing articles in "Transforming Society"
Feb 18, 2011

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Matthew Parris is a former MP and now journalist for The Times. In an article written for the newspaper on the 27th December 2008 he wrote:

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi….It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do.  Education and training alone will not do.  In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

Parris is a journalist known for his refreshing honesty and this piece is a fine example. What’s not clear to me is, as an atheist, what Parris attributes the profound change in people’s hearts that he observes to and what therefore he means when he says ‘the rebirth is real.’  My prayer is that he and many others will not only recognise the life-change that alone the gospel can bring but see it for what it really is – the work of a gracious God.  My hope is that he will see and come to share the sure and certain knowledge that at the heart of this universe is a God of love who in his Son has loved us and through his son offers us life and peace, joy and hope and that this message is not just the need of Africa but the need of all nations.  That the gospel is the power of God to not only forgive sins but to transform people, societies and the world.

Feb 4, 2011

Praying for those who ought to protect us

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. –
1 Tim. 2:1-4

Have you ever thought what extraordinary words those are? When Paul wrote them there was not one King anywhere in the world who was a Christian ruler. For Paul then there is no secular government and that means for the Christian there cannot be secular government.

What is even more extraordinary is that Paul’s prayer focuses on the fact that God has put secular rulers in place not just for the common good of man but God calls upon the state to serve the church by upholding freedom and justice and thereby allowing Christians to get on with their lives and their evangelism!

We find other early church leaders calling on Christians to pray in the same way.

Clement writes in the second century:
Grant them Lord, health, peace, harmony and stability, so that they may give no offence in administering the government you have given them.

Tertullian writes in his Apology:
We pray also for the emperors, for their ministers and those in power, that their reign may continue, that the state may be at peace, and that the end of the world may be postponed.

If we are to learn how to pray for the state the heart of all of these prayers is the recognition that rulers are appointed by God to rule in such a way as to enable Christians to ‘live peaceful and quiet lives’ and by so doing enable the church to be God’s agent in the world bringing salvation as it preaches and lives out the gospel.

John Stott writes:
Here is important apostolic teaching about church and state, and about the porper relations between them, even when the state is not Christian. It is the duty of the state to keep the peace, to protect its citizens from whatever would disturn it, to preserve law and order and to punish evil and promote god (as Paul teaches in Rom. 13:4), so that within such a stable society the church may be free to worship God, obey his laws and spread his gospel.

There is therefore a great deal at stake in how a government governs. Paul’s prayer implies that when a government fails to uphold the freedom of the Christian it is actually failing in its God-given duty! For many Christians around the world this failure of the state to live up to it’s calling is all too apparent. In recent months in the middle-east in particular the state has failed in its role of protecting the church from harm. Witness recent bomb attacks on churches in Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt.

Whilst the church should and must turn to God in prayer at such times the leaders of other nations do have the opportunity to challenge government that is failing to protect it’s people, including Christians.

Yesterday a friend pointed me to an article in the Daily telegraph in which Baroness Ashton whipped up a storm in her refusal to use her position to come to the aid of the church.

The article reports:
A meeting of EU foreign ministers failed to agree on a condemnation of sectarian attacks over the Christmas period that targeted Christians in Egypt and Iraq.
Talks ended angrily when Italy accused Lady Ashton, the EU’s foreign minister, of “excessive” political correctness because she refused to name any specific religious group as a victim of attacks.

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, demanded an EU response on the persecution of Christians after a New Year suicide bombing at a Coptic church in northern Egypt in which 23 people were killed.

The Egyptian bombing followed attacks in Baghdad and fears, expressed by the Vatican, of persecution leading to a Christian exodus from the Middle East.
Mr Frattini, backed by France, said it pointless to issue statements defending religious tolerance without any references to the specific minority, Christians, that was under attack.

Continue reading »

Jan 21, 2011

12 reasons why I’m blogging

After two months of blogging I thought I’d share some of the reasons why I’m still going:

1. Christianity is not just for Sunday. BIogs can help people connect their faith to what is going on in the world around them Monday to Saturday and yet do so in just a few minutes a day.

2. Nothing in the world is going to encourage Christians to keep thinking great thoughts about Christ through the week. Blogs can help lift our eyes so that we set our hearts and minds on Christ.

3. We need a Christian perspective and sometimes a Christian corrective on much that is broadcast in our media. Blogs offer a forum for a Christian response which would only come after a number of weeks for regular Christian newspapers.

4. Blogs help us in our evangelism by offering an apologetic against bad arguments and godless ideas as well as a response to hot topics (see 3 above).

5. Blogs can be a place for evangelism offering a shop window into the Christian faith as non-Christians stumble across our site.

6. Blogging as a form of public journaling keeps the author thinking and keeps their thoughts fresh as they write. Blogging is therefore a good discipline for pastors amongst others.

7. Blogging is a great way of teaching on topics best digested in bite-size pieces. So a series of posts on say parenting may work best over a short series with maybe one key application a day to work on and pray through.

8. Blogging can start a conversation on a topic that enables people to take it further. A review of a book encourages people to read it, links to other sites deepens an understanding by providing complimentary perspectives and more info.

9. Blogging can help you continue a conversation. Maybe you can develop applications from a sermon or field some thoughtful questions that came out of a sermon.

10. Some issues are not for everyone so rather than a spot in a church meeting people can pick and choose from a variety of topics by using for example the tag cloud.

11. Blogging is a way of creating awareness of issues unknown to us eg. highlighting the needs of the suffering church.

12. Blogging is a great way to share ideas and develop ministries. eg. You might make new connections as you share what is going on in your own church with others.

Jan 20, 2011

The Criminalisation of Christianity in Britain?

As the result of a judgement in the county court in Bristol on Tuesday it is now a breach of the law for Christians to run a B&B establishment according to Christian principles. In effect many might say that Christians have now been criminalized for seeking to operate a business in accordance with their faith.
The judge in his judgement concluded:

this decision does affect the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genunily held belief

A judge has ruled that the Christian owners of a guesthouse have acted unlawfully for restricting their bookings policy for double rooms to married couples only.

Judge Andrew Rutherford has ruled that committed Christians Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who are being funded by The Christian Institute, acted unlawfully when they denied two homosexuals, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008.

The homosexual couple claimed that the refusal to allow them to share a bed was a “direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation”. Their legal fees were paid by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The judge made his ruling in a written judgment at Bristol County Court and ordered the payment of £3,600 in damages to the homosexual couple. He stated that under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, introduced under the Labour Government, it was unlawful for Mr and Mrs Bulls to restrict the use of double room accommodation to married couples only and deny a double room to two homosexual civil partners.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

Bed and breakfast owners have now become another category of people in the UK who will be penalised if they try to serve the public without compromising their religious conscience. Under the guise of equality, the restrictions on Christians in the public sphere keep getting tighter. We are heading towards a two-tier society where only those who subscribe to secular, humanistic values will be able to operate in many areas in the public sphere.

Mrs Bull, the Christian owner of the B&B commented:

‘Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody. It was applied equally and consistently to unmarried heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, as the judge accepted.’

Jan 1, 2011

Maximum Sex

Who would have thought that the Independent would have reported research that shows that:

Couples who avoid sex before marriage end up having happier, more stable relationships and a better time in bed, according to psychologists. An American study backs the straitlaced view that sex should wait until one’s wedding night.

Compared with those having sex early, couples who waited until they were married rated the stability of their relationships 22 per cent higher. They also claimed 20 per cent increased levels of relationship satisfaction, 12 per cent better communication and 15 per cent improved “sexual quality”. The findings appear in the Journal of Family Psychology.

One of the co-authors Dean Busby commented in businessweek  ‘the take-home message is that sex is a powerful experience. It really bonds us to one another and so it may be important before we go down that road to take the time to see if you can talk to this other person — see if you have similar personalities and similar directions in life — to see whether or not this is a relationship that can last.’

The warnings of God in the Song of Solomon seems to find its confirmation in this research

Chapter 8v4.

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

The context for sexual love is in the bonds of a permanent relationship – that of marriage;

Chapter 8:6

6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.

Dec 19, 2010

How the world is changing

A few thoughts on this really interesting video:

1.  I wonder what the visuals would look like if we tried to map the growth of the church over the same time period? Certainly it would be much more dramatic with the growth of the church in China and the developing world against the decline in Europe.

2. Is he being wildly optimistic in his prediction that all the nations will head up the graph? As Christians do we share his confidence?

3. As Christians do we recognize and thank God for his common grace? As we reap the benefits of living in times of peace, prosperity and long life do we acknwoldege him or do we enjoy the blessings and fail to thank our creator who has gifted men and women in ways that lead to scientific and technological advancement? What reasons do you have to thank God for in the light of this short video?

4. As a culture why are we no more happy even though we have so much more stuff and live longer, more comfortable and healthier lives? For statistical evidence that we are no happier see for example Oliver James’s Affluenza.

Nov 19, 2010

it is not just what you do, it is what you are excited about

Earlier this week I attended an event organised by Church leaders and attended by over 2000 Christians. The meeting was a call for Christians to step up and play our part in serving our city; working with other agencies to redeem our communities.

What was striking was that at a gathering of Christians not once was the name of Jesus mentioned by any of the hosts and when it came to songs all we were invited to sing were soul classics such as James Brown’s ‘I feel good’.

Did those who organised the event love Jesus? I’m sure they did. Do they desire that many would come to share their faith?  Absolutely. So what was it that most troubled me? Simply that the call to Christians to engage in social action was made without Continue reading »

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