Mar 24, 2011

I set fire to my Bible

Peter Hitchens is a journalist and author. He is also the brother of new atheist Christopher Hitchens. But whilst Christopher continues to attack God at any and every opportunity, Peter has experienced a remarkable conversion to Christianity.

He describes how atheism led him to faith and to the discovery that what as a boy he had rejected, marked by the burning of his bible, was in fact right all along. He joins a number of prominent atheists who have abandoned their atheism in recent years in favour of belief in God, including AN Wilson, Julie Birchill and Fay Weldon.

What was it about new atheism that particularly grated? Not least, he says, that it is ‘self-satisfied, arrogant, intolerant, completely resistant to any kind of outside argument and contemptuous of it.’

Hitchens has now written on the subject in a book entitled The rage against God.

Mar 23, 2011

Husbands stop ducking the issues! Should moms go back to work when the kids come along – part 3

Who decides whether moms return to work and how should dads do their work differently?

In my experience as a pastor it’s the women who worry about whether or not they should return to work after kids come along. It’s women who feel guilty (whether they do or don’t) and it’s women who talk about it, a lot. And the men? Well I can’t remember having one conversation with a Dad about his views on the matter!

What does this say about the dads? If men are to lead in the home and manage their households well and if men and to love and service and cherish their wives then they can’t abdicate responsibility and delegate it to their wives.

Husbands, whether or not your wife goes back to work is not your decision alone but it is your responsibility alone. Are you playing your part and praying your part?

Four questions then to the dads

1) Husbands are you leaving your wives to make the decision?

2) Husbands are you supporting your wives once the decision has been made. Are you affirming it as a JOINT decision? Are you anticipating and dealing with the guilt your wife is no doubt feeling?

3) Husbands might you be the one responsible for your wife going back to work because you want her money to support a lifestyle you want? Or are you ready to sacrifice, financially to protect her place in the home.

4) Husbands do you know you wife? Do you understand her desires and capacities? Are you speaking the gospel into this situation to ensure that gospel thinking is driving the decision?

How men should do their work

The question of how to ensure that the family thrives isn’t just about the wife’s work but how the husband does his work too. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy for mum to give up work to be available for her children but for Dad to be no-where to be seen. For wives to sacrifice their working lives but husbands not even to change their working patterns when raising the same children.

So 10 reflections for the Dads on the way you work when kids come along.

1. Are you an absentee father? Children need their fathers as much as their mothers.  A wife at home is not an excuse for a life at work.

2. Agree a time (if at all possible) when you’ll be home that day. It gives something for your spouse to work towards. Don’t think ‘just another half hour at work’ without also thinking what impact might it have on my wife.

3. Do you get home from work to see your children, play with them, ask them about their day and most importantly read the Bible and pray with them? You need to take the lead in spiritual matters.

4. How do you sacrifice in your work for the sake of your wife and children? Do you think they notice?

5. Are you quick to share responsibilities in the home when you return? Do you look for ways to help out? Do you ensure your wife gets at least a short break from the kids?

6. Are you pro-active in asking your wife how her day has been? Do you take a genuine interest?

7. Do you take a genuine interest in how the children are?

8. What about the weekend. Is your job Monday to Friday but your wife’s job Monday to Sunday? Do you give your wife a break by taking the children out for a morning, day, etc. on a Saturday?

9. Do you lead in the marriage in spiritual matters by praying with and for your wife in her new role?

10. If your wife works for money might you consider dropping a day a week at work to care for your children?

Mar 22, 2011

Spare a thought for the atheist, it can’t be easy.

How frustrating must it be to the atheist to see yet another atheist state fail in its attempt to secularise society. No matter how many generations of children are raised to believe the materialist mantra that there is nothing worth believing in except that which can be seen and measured and understood by science God doesn’t seem to play fair. He just won’t go away.

According to a recent article in The Economist there are now more Christians in China than there are members of the Communist Party. 73 million atheists makes up the ruling party there are somewhere between 70 and 130 million Christians!

Even an official Chinese study suggests that 1 in 3 Chinese people are religious.

Maybe it’s the personal struggle to accept that your life is of no significance or maybe the sociological darkness of deliberate oppression and outright hostility to faith of atheism or could it be the philosophical barrenness of embracing a hostile universe as home that creates the perfect environment for God to work? I’m not sure. But spare a thought for atheism. It just doesn’t seem to work.

The Apostle Paul writes:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Mar 21, 2011

‘Jesus didn’t come to tell us how to get to heaven’ or ‘what happens when you switch off before the end of the story Jesus is telling.’

We don’t spend enough time thinking about heaven so any book that devotes 40 pages to the subject is a good thing, or at least should be. Rob Bell’s book Love Wins is a book that wants to take a fresh look at the Church’s understanding of heaven and hell. The promotional video that kicked off a huge debate did so by raising a variety of questions that Bell sets out to answer in the book.

Rob Bell – Love Wins. from Hunter Hampton Richards on Vimeo.

Bell’s claim is that the church has got heaven and hell wrong and that it is time to set straight the story Jesus came to tell and to reclaim it.

There are a growing number of us who have become acutely aware that Jesus’s story has been hijacked by a number of other stories, stories Jesus isn’t interested in telling, because they have nothing to do with what he came to do. The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.

I’ve decided to start my review with the chapter on Heaven.  Why? Well it’s the longest in the book, easily the best chapter in the book.and also the least controversial. There are still serious problems with even this chapter 3 of which are highlighted below.

How should we think about heaven?

Bell starts by questioning the evangelical understanding that he inherited as heaven as somewhere else; as somewhere other-worldly, disconnected and unrelated to our present lives.  In the chapter he challenges two big assumptions evangelicals carry around with them.

Heaven as somewhere else.

Heaven as something else.  Something unreal. ‘harps and clouds and streets of gold, everybody dressed in white robes.’ Heaven as a never-ending church service!

Bell turns to Jesus and his encounter with a rich young man in Matthew 19 . The man asks Jesus a great question ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?

Bell is curious as to why Jesus doesn’t simply tell this man the ‘gospel’. Why doesn’t he call on him to repent and believe in Jesus but rather say ‘if you want to enter life, obey the commandments

He suggests that maybe Jesus bottled it and ‘blew a perfectly good ‘evangelistic’ opportunity? (p.29)

But here is Bell’s surprising conclusion:

When the man asks about getting ‘eternal life,’ he isn’t’ asking about how to get to heaven when he dies. This wasn’t a concern for the man or Jesus. This is why Jesus doesn’t tell people how to ‘go to heaven.’ It wasn’t what Jesus came to do. (p,30)

Jesus, Bell suggests, is not interested in heaven as much as he is concerned to teach about ‘this age’ and ‘the age to comeContinue reading »

Mar 20, 2011

no fear in death – how the hope of the gospel meets extreme situations

A remarkable testimony of the power of the gospel to deal not just with our past but to prepare us for our future.
And a true testimony to how God’s grace is sufficient even in unimaginable trials.

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

A Story | Tears of Hope from Adam Kring on Vimeo.

Zac Smith went to be with the Lord in May 2010.

Mar 19, 2011

Why do women return to work? And should they?

A. Why do women return to work after children?

In the following list I’m not trying in any way to pass comment on the reasons women return to paid employment, merely to identify them.

1. Financial necessity

For many the option of choosing to stay at home is not open to them. Economic necessity means at least some part-time work to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. In parts of the world it would be beyond the wildest dreams of any family to survive on a single income.

2. Financial improvement

For others work is a choice but a choice in which economics plays a big part. It might be possible to live for a few years on one income but going back to work is about ensuring a better quality of life for a family. It’s about having enough not just to pay the bills but to enjoy a nice holiday, etc.

3. Missing the world of work (maybe even a grief over loss of independence)

Someone described stopping work to look after a baby as a form of grief; the loss of a life, of a world, in which so much energy, time and commitment had been given and so many rewards had been received. For some it feels as if a life has ended and it’s not too strong to think of those first few months at home as a grieving over a loss of independence.

There are friends at work you don’t see any more and then there is the enormous challenge of  leaving something you’re good at to do something you don’t feel very good at.

The goal for some women is to re-enter the work-place and resume the career ‘as soon as’.

4. Escaping the isolation of caring for a baby

‘When I became a mother I found myself for the first time in my life without a language, without any way of translating the sounds I made into something other people would understand.’ Rachel Cusk writes in ‘A Life’s work’.

Someone else commented:

‘I went to a dinner party on Thursday. And I had nothing to say. I was out of it. I couldn’t talk about the only things that mattered to me.’

Raising children full-time at home when everyone else is out in the world of work can be an isolating experience.

5. The embarrassment of staying at home ie peer-pressure

It’s inevitable that people will start to ask ‘are you coming back to work’ even before the birth. In a culture (see below) that has created the expectation that mothers will work it can be a little awkward to tell people you’re not.

6. The cultural expectation is that women should have it all.

Good bosses desperately want to keep good employees and do their utmost to keep women in work.

The culture creates favourable terms to ensure women can work (and thus fosters the expectation)

The law protects a woman’s right to return to work after the birth of a child.

‘Policy makers urgently need to face up to the fact that the values underlying much social policy may not match the desires of women not the extent that they have assumed.’ Professor Geoff Dench

7. The battle to prove that you can have it all

Almost the definition of the modern woman is to have it all. Those who choose to give up work to raise children feel that they are not

B. Should Christian wives go back to work?

1. The bible’s model of a godly woman or ‘an alphabet of wifely excellence’

Proverbs 31:10-31

The wife of Proverbs 31 is a purposeful, energetic, wise, successful, strong, capable wife.

She cares for the family, she earns an income.

‘Wise daughters aspire to be like her, wise men seek to marry her, and all wise people aim to incarnate the wisdom she embodies, each in his own sphere of activity.’ Waltke


There is nothing unbiblical or sinful about a mother working alongside her duty to her family.

This woman works in a way that keeps the priority of being a wife and mother.

2. The priority for wives

Titus 2:3-5

teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

i) The primary Christian duty of wives and mothers, according to Paul, is that they should ‘love their husbands and children’.

Love, as defined by God’s love is measured in sacrifice and service.

ii) Busy at home – John Stott comments: ‘It would not be legitimate to base on this word either a stay-at-home stereotype for all women, or a prohibition of wives being also professional women. What is rather affirmed is that if a woman accepts the vocation of marriage, and has a husband and children, she will love and not neglect them.’

iii) Such a biblical understanding of womenhood should bring:

  • Blessing to the home
  • Fulfilment to the wife
  • Honour to God

iv) Our culture of ‘liberation’ works to undermine God’s priorities and replace it with a secular agenda

  • Feminism makes the mistake of equating equality of status with equality of role.
  • Feminism encourages women to forsake their calling to care for husband and children in pursuit of self-fulfilment in a career outside the home.

3. What is the Biblical principle that should be at work in the decision?

“In what way can I best love those God has called me to love (especially my husband and children) as I love and serve Christ? By working outside the home or by working inside the home? By working part-time, full-time or not at all.”

Key conclusion: The answer to this question will be different for

i) different families

ii) in different situations and circumstances

iii) with different gifting and capacities

iv) and even for the same family in differing seasons of life.

Our natural inclination is to polarise the debate by reducing everything to a simple ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ view on moms going back to work.

What we need to recognise is that in our churches there will be a spectrum of positions. A scale shall we say between 1 and 10 in which 1 is a decision to choose to work (there is no economic necessity no need other than a self-motivated decision to seek a career) and 10 a decision to choose to stay at home (again a situation in which the income of a wife plays no part) and then a 5 represents the woman who willingly or unwillingly has to look for paid work to pay the bills.

For the most part it won’t be obvious to us where any couple sits on this spectrum and that usually means that we are not in a position to judge the motives of those who work and those who don’t.

In the next post we’ll consider:

What are the dangers in women trying to hold together the world of work and home?

What part should husbands play in all this?

Mar 18, 2011

Must listen: Martin Bashir discusses the Rob Bell interview & his own faith

Mar 17, 2011

Pakistani Christian Prisoner dies in cell

Qumar David was a Pakistani Christina serving a 25-year prison term for blasphemy. He did not receive a fair trial.

He died in his prison cell on Tuesday. His lawyer says he is ’100 percent certain it was murder’.

The Post reports:

Regional prison chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo said the prison doctor believed Qumar David, 50, died of a heart attack on Tuesday in Karachi Central Jail after complaining of chest pain. An autopsy is due to be carried out on the body in the presence of his family members.

Two prominent Pakistani politicians have been murdered this year for their campaign to change blasphemy laws that make it a capital offense to insult Islam. Critics say the laws are widely misused to persecute Christians or settle scores in the mostly Muslim country.

Human rights groups say Christians convicted under the law have been murdered by extremists.

David’s lawyer Pervez Chaudhry says he is “100 percent” certain it was murder but was unable to offer evidence. Chaudhry said both he and David had received death threats during the trial in 2010.’

Mar 16, 2011

12 lessons Rob Bell has taught me

1. Heaven and hell really do matter. It’s important that we talk about it.

2. Heaven and hell matter because God’s reputation is at stake.

3. When you write a controversial book be sure to get your history right. Especially if you want to claim someone is on your side. If you misrepresent someone’s view chances are it will be spotted.

4. ‘Asking questions’ is NOT asking questions if you ask them in such a way that suggest there is only ONE reasonable answer.

5. Ambiguity only leads to confusion. Write to be understood. If in doubt say it again.

6. Releasing a provocative video with provocative questions that you intend to wait four weeks to answer will only damage the church. It might also suggest you’ve written the book to make a name for yourself rather than bless the church.

7. Asking questions is good but setting forth Jesus’ answers is better. Jesus didn’t intend to confuse us about heaven and hell. Ask self ‘have I said everything Jesus says about hell in my book?’

8. Be careful who you let interview you – especially if they are theologically sharp and don’t intend to let you get away with not answering the question. In fact it may be best to avoid interviews altogether.

9. Pray that you might be more passionate to save people from hell than you are to prevent people teaching wrong doctrine about hell.

10. Don’t enjoy falling out with other Christians and don’t even give the impression that you do.

11. Mourn over division in the church whos unity brings glory to Christ.

12. There is no love where there is no truth.

Mar 15, 2011

Who is the better theologian Martin Bashir or Rob Bell – you decide

Famous for his interview of Princess Diana, Bashir is not so gentle with Rob Bell in this one!

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