Friday, November 20, 2009

Packer and Noah's Ark

Over at Helm's Deep, the always-instructive Paul Helm has begun to look at why Jim Packer is an Anglican, using Packer's own words whenever possible.

Both Packer and Helm make me want to ask 'Well, yes - but...', but the blog is definitely worth a read.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A question

Why are British ministers so depressed? So low? So negative? So sure nothing much is going to happen? It may not be true of all (I hope not); but it seems to be 'the general tone' amongst the Reformed.

It came home to me with some power when I was at a well-known ministers' conference earlier in the year. I asked one friend - young, at the beginning of his ministry - what he thought to the conference and as far as I remember his answer was 'It's great to be among so many men who are as depressed as I am!' He wasn't joking.

So perhaps it's Calvinism? Perhaps it has a depressing effect?

Hardly: Spurgeon suffered from depression triggered by gout, but was not by nature (or grace) an unhappy individual. Nor, for that matter, is Piper. Ah, Piper - yes, he's American.

In fact, reading 'Young, restless and reformed' suggested to me that it's only British Calvinists who're so miserable. Across the Pond, Calvinists have great conferences, joyous conferences, with thousands in attendance and a vision of the glory of God that virtually forbids misery. Nobody there would say 'It's great to meet so many depressed people.'

So - it's a serious question. Why are British Calvinistic ministers so depressed? And what can we do about it?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When forgiveness is wrong

The news today reports the tragic story of a teenage rapist - tragic, that is, for his victims. He raped a seven-year old boy and was tried. The seven-year old's parents - committed Christians - said at his trial that they forgave the boy and wanted his sentence to reflect that. He was given a three-year community order. Eight days later, he raped a five-year old boy whose father says the crime has destroyed the whole family.

We've become familiar with such stories of forgiveness, often the 'forgiveness' of terrorist attackers and often, if not usually, because the victims are Christians. It's hard not to admire the grace of those who offer forgiveness under such circumstances; harder still to criticise them.

But they're wrong. Scripure commands that we are to be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Does our Father in heaven forgive? Yes, of course. Who does he forgive? Those who repent, and only those who repent.

Sin, according to the Bible, must be punished. And it always is punished - either the sinner himself is punished in hell for all eternity, or the Saviour is punished in the sinner's place on Calvary's cross.

Crime, too, according to the Bible, should be punished: the state wields the sword (Romans 13:4) as God's representative for that very purpose. The state has no duty to forgive, and no right to forgive, either, as far as I can see.

When the well-meaning Christian mixes his 'forgiveness' with the weakness of the State in punishment, the innocent are bound to suffer. And the sufferer may only be five years old.

For more on forgiveness, from a truly Biblical perspective, see Chris Brauns' book 'Unpacking Forgiveness'.