Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spurgeon - from a different angle?

Well - who’d have thought it?

The following quotes are taken from ‘Why did the English stop going to church?’ by Dr. Michael Watts, then Reader in Modern History at Nottingham University.  It formed the 1995 lecture of the Dr. Williams’ library.  Watts does not appear to be evangelical, making his comments all the more illuminating.

The liberalisation of Christianity was intended to make the faith relevant to the men and women of the modern world.  It had instead the effect of making the churches irrelevant to the needs of twentieth-century men and women. (page 11)
How… can we explain the difference between the religious histories of England and the United States?  The answer seems to be that the American churches, to a far greater extent than English churches, have held on to the doctrines that produced the upsurge in popular religion in both countries n the first half of the nineteenth century: the doctrines of the sinfulness of man and of his ultimate destruction in the fires of hell unless rescued by the blood shed by Christ at Calvary… conservative churches grow and liberal churches decline because liberal churches offer commodities such as ‘fellowship, entertainment and knowledge’ which are also provided by secular organisations, while conservative churches offer ‘the one incentive which is unique to churches’: salvation, the ‘promise of supernatural life after death’ (page 13).


Furthermore, and fascinating for Spurgeon fans, Watts writes
I began my study of Nonconformist history many years ago with an examination of the career of the great Baptist leader John Clifford.  Inevitably, in the course of that study, I had to spend a good deal of time on the Down Grad controversy of the 1880s.  In that controversy Spurgeon argued that the liberalisation of the English Presbyterians in the eighteenth century had led to the decline of Old Dissent and he warned that the liberalisation of Victorian Nonconformity that was occurring in his own day would, if not checked, issue in a similar conclusion.  Clifford, as president of the Baptist Union in 1888 and as the most prominent of the Baptist liberals, had the task of defending his fellow Dissenters from what many of them regarded as Spurgeon’s libellous attacks.  My own sympathies in the controversy were entirely with Clifford.  It was not surprising that a young researcher should have scant sympathy for Spurgeon, the man who took some pride in his later years in the accusation that it would take a surgical operation to get a new idea into his head.  Yet, a hundred years after the Down Grade controversy, I have to confess that both in his interpretation of history, and in his prognosis for the future, it was Spurgeon, not Clifford, who was right.

Well, who would have thought it?  Abandon the gospel, and churches die…

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kathy Kirby

Back in the 60s, it was (occasionally) possible for singers of enormous talent to emerge seemingly from nowhere.  Kathy Kirby was one; she died last week aged 72.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Death of a Giant

On April 27th this year, David Wilkerson died in a car accident.  Most famous for 'The Cross and the Switchblade' his ministry touched many thousands.  This is how his son Gary writes of him

On Wednesday afternoon my father, David Wilkerson, passed away in a car accident. We grieve the loss of a beloved father, a faithful husband and a holy man of God. My mother, Gwen, his wife of 57 years, was in the car also, but we are told she will recover fully.

Dad’s 60-plus years of ministry have impacted the lives of those closest to him and extended to millions around the world. Today we feel a personal loss, but at the same time we rejoice knowing Dad lived life to the fullest, obeying God with devotion and loving Jesus radically.

He was known for his unlimited faith. He believed God could change the lives of gang members and transform the most desperate drug addicts. He believed that a dynamic church could be launched in the heart of Times Square, New York City. He believed he could be a man who loved his wife and children well. And he did.

Dad was not one for fanfare, acclaim or ceremony. He turned down invitations to meet with world leaders yet would give everything he owned to support a poor orphan or a widow in distress.

Like King David of old, Dad served God’s purposes in his generation. He preached with uncompromising passion and relentless grace. He wrote with amazing insight, clarity and conviction. He ran his race well and when his work was done, he was called home.

That's some testimony, isn't it?  "He turned down invitations to meet with world leaders yet would give everything he owned to support a poor orphan or a widow in distress."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mind, Heart, Will - Lloyd-Jones

There is a form of preaching that specializes in appeals to the will.  It possesses little intellectual and doctrinal content, and there is nothing about it that ever moves the emotions; but tremendous pressure is brought to bear on people in the realm of their wills.  They are made to ‘decide’, and to do something – all the pressure is on the will.  The point I am making is that any of these partial emphases is unworthy of the name of the Gospel, this Gospel which the Apostle describes elsewhere as ‘the glorious gospel of the blessed God’ [1 Timothy 1:11].  It is so big, it is so great, that it takes in the whole man, it engages the entire personality.  If our minds and hearts and wills are not engaged we are not Christians.  ‘Thank God’, says the Apostle, ‘ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered you’.  The whole personality of these Romans was involved in this change.  You cannot be converted in your mind only, you cannot be converted in your heart only, you cannot be converted in your will only; if you are truly converted and born again, the three are involved, the whole man is involved.[1]

[1] The New Man, 208/9

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Message to Richard Dawkins

Don’t be intimidated!

The Daily Telegraph has reported that you will not debate with a foremost Christian apologist, William Lane Craig.  It has even reported that one of your fellow Oxford atheists – Doctor Daniel Came – has suggested it looks like cowardice on your part.

Cranmer – once an Anglican Archbishop, now a Catholic blogger – has even gone so far (scroll down to May 15th) as to attack your credentials:

  • So, when we hear the shrill voice of Dr Richard Dawkins bleating about Professor Craig’s ‘relentless drive for self-promotion’, and rejecting the debasement of his eminent CV by debating with the distinguished Christian apologist, we should remember this: Richard Dawkins never contributed much to science; his Oxford chair was bought for him by a rich admirer; and the scientific ideas upon which he built his reputation are increasingly discredited. Those beguiled by his diatribes are listening neither to the voice of reason nor science.

Well, Dr Dawkins – here’s my advice.  Don’t be intimidated; don’t let these people bully you into the debate.

It is better by far to refuse to debate and let people think you’re a coward, than to debate and let them know without doubt that your arguments (not to say your credentials) don’t stack up. 

What God doesn't know

Tim Keller, preaching on Exodus 14 at the 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference, quotes a hymn I've never heard:

Well may the accuser roar
Of sins that I have done
I know them all - 
And thousands more -
Jehovah knoweth NONE!

He also points out that 'Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord' is, in Hebrew, basically 'Stand still and see the Yeshua (Jesus) of the Lord.'

Worth meditating on.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Virgin Mobile Customer Service - well, I never!

Every now and again we're taken by surprise.  In a world of rudeness, and big companies who don't seem to care for their customers - well, I never.

At the beginning of April we responded to what looked like an excellent deal from Virgin Media on a new mobile phone for Elaine.  When the phone arrived, we couldn't use it to get on the internet, for whatever reason. Just very slow access, I think.  But at the time I thought I was doing something wrong and we'd sort it.  As a result, we let the fourteen-day 'cooling off' period go by.  

But it turned out I was wrong; the internet access on this model was very slow, and there was nothing anyone was going to be able to do to change it.  So I phoned Virgin, and they said - quite reasonably - that the 14 days had passed and there was nothing they could do.  Frustrating - but fair enough; that is (after all) what their contract said.  My bad, as they say.

Still, I thought it was worth another try.  I found an address to write to in Trowbridge, and wrote what I hoped was a nice letter explaining my problem and asked them to reconsider: would they change the handset for a different type that I already knew well and was satisfied with?  

Almost immediately (if you allow for the Bank Holidays) I got a call from a delightful-sounding young lady who identified herself as Chrissie from Virgin Media.  She told me that the folks I'd already spoken to at Virgin were right  (I knew that).  Still, on this occasion they were prepared to help (I've been with VM for a good long while).  Not only did Chrissie give us what we asked for, but also (tell no-one, OK?) she gave us more than we'd asked for.  She offered us a better phone - the one we wanted -  or (if we preferred) just to cancel the contract.

Less than 24 hours later, a new phone arrived; it's all set up now, doing exactly what we want it to do and we're delighted.

I tell you, I'm sticking with Virgin.  If you want good customer service, they're the folks to go to.  

If I knew how to get hold of Richard Branson, I'd be telling him, too.

Well done, that company!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Summer memories

Ah, those were the days.  Clark - remember this?