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Archive for April, 2012

The lecture dates for next year have been finalised though the titles may need a little tweaking. Here’s the dates for your diary.

February 11th 2013. Richard Brooks, Octavius Winslow 1808 – 1878

March 4th 2013. Daffyd Morris, Subject TBA

April 8th 2013. Geoff Thomas, Cornelius Van Til


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Latimer – God’s Bulldog. The Audio for this lecture is from Jeremy Walker now available. Go HERE to download via Bulkington Congregational Church.

Or, for this lecture and many others from my website HERE.

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Monday evening we had great lecture given by Pastor Jeremy Walker with the title ‘Latimer – God’s Bulldog. It was a pleasure to meet Jeremy in the flesh for the first time after communicating via blogs and email. We’ll have to get him back for 2014.

As soon as the Audio for the lecture is available you can be sure I’ll have a post to notify it.

We had put before us a real man, not a fantasy figure that bears no resemblance to reality but as Cromwell said the picture was painted with ‘warts and all’.

The lecture was presented in a lively manner and through the account of the execution quite moving – and why not! You could almost smell the musty cell, hear the crackle as the faggots began to burn and feel the heat of the fire as the flames licked those Holy men of God (Ridley was next to Latimer).

One of the human qualities of Latimer was how he didn’t come to the Reformed faith with a fully worked out theology as in fact few of us do. We mull things over in our mind; try to make connections and to piece it together to eventually emerge with a fuller theological conviction and knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. How we need people who will bear with us as we journey towards a greater understanding. It’s a blessing indeed to have someone come with us and not jump on our feeble and sometimes downright wrong and incomplete understanding.

Another quality that Latimer had was his earthiness and a consistency of manner and preaching. He was the same man wherever he was and his character consequently endeared him to all but those that sought to silence his plain Gospel preaching. And this is what he was primarily – a preacher. I wondered if those same earthy and endearing qualities would be ‘intellectualised’ out of men that go through ministerial training – I hope not!

All in all a great lecture and I commend it to you.

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Millions of people all over the world wear a cross. A lady here in the UK has been ordered not to wear her cross at work. There is a campaign running and according to the campaigners the case has received considerable media coverage highlighting freedom of expression and the freedom to wear symbols of the Christian faith.

I received an email linking to the campaign. Here’s some of the blurb from the Not Ashamed of the Cross Website:

act now to protect christian freedoms.

Shirley Chaplin was barred from wearing her confirmation cross after nearly thirty years in front line nursing. Now hers is one of four landmark Christian freedom cases going to the European Court of Human Rights. Yet the British Government is not supporting Shirley and has even suggested that the cross is not a generally recognised form of practising the Christian faith.

Please contact the PM and your MP to urge the Government to support Shirley and historic Christian freedoms.

The cross is undeniably a symbol of the Christian faith but wearing one round the neck isn’t. And neither is wearing one a requirement of the Christian faith. I do not find a text anywhere in the Bible that says wearing one is either a symbol of the Christian faith or that wearing one is required of Christians. So on the one hand the campaign is laudable especially in terms of free speech yet on the other it completely – or potentially – misrepresents the Cross of Christ.

What the Bible does speak about very clearly is the ‘Offence of the Cross’. This explicitly refers to the Preaching of the Cross – and it’s this preaching of the Cross that is so hugely offensive to the natural man. My fear about this campaign – I’m aware good people will be involved – is that it may protect the freedom to wear one as a Christian symbol but forbid the preaching of the Cross itself. Why is this so?

We must not and we cannot confuse the cross as a symbol (worn around the neck) and the Preaching of the Cross as revealed to us in the Bible. I’m certainly not ashamed of the cross but wearing it round the neck has nothing at all to do with the Christian faith – that is the Gospel of Christ.

The message of the Cross of Christ tells us very clearly that God Himself has provided the only unique means whereby sinners may be saved from the wrath of God. To first century Jews and Gentiles (everybody else) this message was massively offensive and it is no less so today.

I also fear the campaign at best will give Christians the freedom to wear their faith symbol in the marketplace of ideas, in a society that propagates diversity and where all religions are equal – which of course they are not. Christianity is either true or it isn’t. And as it is in fact the truth ALL other religions are false. Modern sensibilities will not allow this, but is what people and governments need to hear but do not want to hear and will not listen.

What was the cross? It was an instrument of torture, of brutality, of humiliation, of utter degradation! It was a place reserved for criminals, a place of excruciating agony and a place of bloody agonising death! This is the true Cross where my dear Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ stood in my place to suffer the wrath of God upon His holy and righteous soul. The Cross is the only way of Salvation, there is no other! We are either saved by the cross of Christ or not at all.

The Apostle Paul said, ‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1Co 1:18). It’s the word or the message of the cross not a symbol that’s needed.

If Shirley wins her case and is allowed to wear her cross, how will this advance the Gospel? I think not at all. I wish her well, I wish the campaign well, but I believe it’s a backward step as far as the Gospel of Christ is concerned. Let us therefore not be ashamed of the preaching of the Gospel and as God gives us opportunity let us speak of this cross, this place of propitiation.

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Listening again to the tortuous BBC Radio 4 Sunday program where during the last item a lively discussion took place about the Gay / Ex Gay bus campaigns. As seems the norm these days Free Speech only seems to work one way – in opposition to Christianity. I can do no better than point you to Archbishop Cranmer for two excellent posts.

http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/christians-fight-back-on-stonewalls.html

http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/stonewall-cries-bigotry-and-grabs-boris.html

If you can stomach it go to the BBC for more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17693947

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Dr Nick Needham will be coming to Bulkington Congregational to give an extra Church History Lecture. Normally we have the three lectures in February, March & April but as he will be preaching on the Sunday he has kindly agreed to give an additional lecture. It will be great to renew fellowship with Nick and to hear him lecture. His subject will be:

‘Puritans in the Furnace: the Great Ejection to the Glorious Revolution’

The Lecture will be at Bulkington Congregational Church, Monday June 18th at 7.30. If you are in the area why not come and join with us.

To listen to previous lectures from this year and many other Church History Lectures going back to 1976 go HERE.

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Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Geoff Thomas kindly forwarded ‘An Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics’ by Ian Clary. It doesn’t go into an enormous amount of detail but is well worth a read to get a taste for the Presuppositional method.

After a brief introduction Clary outlines The Task of Apologetics as fourfold going on to briefly summarise the three schools of thought, Evidential, Classical and Presuppositional. On the apologetic task Clary writes:

John M. Frame explains that there are three aspects to apologetics. First, apologetics is proof; it presents a rational basis for the Christian faith and proves it be true (cf.  John 14:11). Second, apologetics is defense; it answers the challenges of unbelief (cf. Phil. 1:7). Third, apologetics is offense; it attacks the foolishness of unbelief (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). In addition to this tripartite understanding of apologetics William Edgar adds that commending the faith is just as important as defending it. Therefore the command to evangelize is integral to apologetics. “Evangelism and apologetics are seamlessly linked and together function under the rubric of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).”

The bulk of the article considers Some Basic Tenets. There are four of these and I’ll briefly try to summarise them, using Clary’s order. It’s in the introduction to this section where we find ‘This list is not exhaustive, but will hopefully give an adequate basis for understanding what one writer has called “kung-fu” apologetics.”

Not only can ‘Kung Fu’ be dangerous for an opponent but a little knowledge can be dangerous for the practitioner. So we need to be careful that we do not use this method inappropriately, or think we are some kind of Apologetics ‘Martial Artist’ only to get battered in our first encounter. The need for humility and graciousness is paramount.

Antithesis

This section is concerned with two diametrically opposed views. Here’s a section from the article that puts it well:

The notion of antithesis is reflected in Scripture, as seen in the 1 Corinthians 2:14 passage noted above. Paul could ask in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 what relation does righteousness have with lawlessness, or light with darkness? Here, Paul likely builds on the teaching of Jesus in Mark 9:40 who said, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” And of course, the antithesis can be traced all the way back to the garden of Eden after the fall where God said to Satan in Genesis 3:15 that he would put enmity between he and the woman, between his offspring and hers.

Point of Contact

I have heard people misrepresent PA by saying there is no point in evangelising and there is nothing in common with the unbeliever. On the contrary there are two very powerful points of contact. This is not talking about a common interest like DIY or stamp collecting but a theological ‘common ground’ a point of contact. These are two-fold and extremely powerful. Everyone lives in God’s world and the evidence for this confronts the unbeliever every moment of every day wherever they are. The Bible tells us quite explicitly that God has made it plain, His eternal power and divine nature are ‘clearly seen’ because God has made it so. Clary puts it this way,

Experientially, the non-Christian lives in God’s world and is confronted daily with general revelation. God’s revelation is clear whether an unbeliever observes creation from the farthest galaxy to the smallest cell. The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 1:20 when he says that God’s invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—are “clearly seen” in the created order.

The second point of contact is internal to each and every person as we are all made in the image of God. We have a conscience and there is a knowledge of God though suppressed in unrighteousness. Clary again,

Alongside revelation in the external world, the unbeliever internally has an experience of God: in conscience. Immediate knowledge of God, since conception, renders the unbeliever without excuse. This knowledge is a result of the unbeliever bearing the image of God and the implanted sensus deitatis. Paul says in Romans 1:21 that unbelievers “know God” but do not glorify him. Therefore every apologetic appeal is to something already known by the unbeliever. If by God’s grace that knowledge is brought to remembrance, then conversion occurs. However, if the unbeliever continues in hardness of heart, the apologist has still accomplished his or her task of showing the unbeliever that deep down inside, they truly know God. This only furthers unbelievers’ responsibility to believe.

Ultimate Commitment

This point is to do not just with authority, but with final authority. Once all the layers have been peeled away what is it we are standing on. One of the criticisms of PA and Van Til according to Clary is that of ‘circular reasoning’. We answer this by saying, doesn’t every one do that. I have posted on this before but this to me is the very power of the method. I must assume my conclusion because it’s my Ultimate Commitment or Final Authority – if I didn’t it wouldn’t be my final authority it would be something else. As a Christian surely my final authority, my ultimate commitment must be to Christ and His Word. Here’s a passage from Clary’s article,

The real issue comes down to justifying one’s starting point. Can the non-Christian substantiate their autonomous reason as a legitimate and rational epistemic foundation? To do so, he or she must first assume reason before it can be proven to be a justifiable authority. This is what Van Til called a “vicious circle.” He could also say, “To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting-point, method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.”

Transcendental Argument (TAG)

This is the one that is the most difficult to get my head around. I can see it, but have difficulty explaining it. So I obviously haven’t got a clear grasp of it – yet. So I’m not going to attempt an explanation at this point but to merely give some tasters from Clary and tempt you to check out the full article. And if you have a simple way of explaining this then I would love to hear it. Here’s a tempter from Clary,

Van Til once wrote, “At the outset it ought to be clearly observed that very system of thought necessarily has a certain method of its own.” For Van Til, the only cogent method of apologetics, from the Christian perspective, is the transcendental method. The most significant contribution that Van Til made to apologetics, what has been called a contribution of Copernican dimensions, is the “transcendental argument” for the existence of God.

Hope that helps someone that’s as new to this as I am. Come back to see if I am making progress.

You can find the full article at Apologetics Journal. There are a bunch of footnotes I have left out that you will be able to check out in the full article.

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