Monday, June 29, 2009

Cultured Christians

Photo by Neil Cullan McKinlay)
Is it just me or is the contemporary church growth movement teaching the churches to become more like the world in order to attract the world?

If it's true that "culture is religion externalized" then what will happen to the churches if they start adopting the culture of those they are trying to reach in order to reach them? Aren't the people who make up the Lord's Church on earth supposed to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world"? (see eg, Matthew 5:13-14).

When the churches adopt the culture of that outside the Church instead of the other way around, then isn't this the salt losing its saltiness? Is it any wonder then why we Christians (at times such as these) get trampled underfoot by men?

Yes, the Reformers made sure that the Bible was translated into the ordinary language of the people in order to reach the people. The Westminster Confession of Faith says of the Scriptures, "...They are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner...."

For the Lord's Church to shift from having a priest with his back to the congregation mumbling words in Latin to bread and wine, to actually speaking to people in their own language and giving them a copy of the Scriptures to see if these things are so - is a real culture shift in the culture of Church. But somehow I don't think this is the same as the contemporary Church, eg, ditching the singing of the Psalms and the old hymns and getting with the program of reaching the unchurched by singing all the latest Christian ditties to techno-pop tunes in order to bring em in!

But out of what are we bringing em? And into what are we bringing em if we have become just like em so as not to offend em? Are we bringing em out of their culture and into our Christian culture? Or are we bringing Christian culture to bear on them?
What is Christian culture anyway? O, it's our religion externalized, isn't it? But what's so distinct about our religion to say, the religion of the people we in the West are trying to reach with the claims of Christ outside the doors of our churches? Well, apparently it's not to be in our use of the common language - we've not to use words like "justified," "sanctified" and "glorified" etc, (you know, the words you find used in the Bible!) And it's certainly not to be in our music and the lyrics we sing! We've to scrap anything pre-yesterday!

And, the latest thing we're being told is that we don't come to "church" on Sundays to worship God. Apparently we've had that wrong for the last two thousand years or so! We now come together (regardlss of whether it's Sunday or not) first and foremost to be edified! Ah, culture IS religion externalized! Yes, let's adopt the culture of those who don't come to church to worship God, which is to say, let's keep God at a very safe distance!

Am I being fair in my observations about the latest fad sweeping the churches in the West or am I just one of them old fuddy duddy Calvinists venting his spleen? What do you lot out there think?

Regardless, the fields out there are still white for harvest!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness?

I've just got back from an outdoors expedition where I didn't get to bathe or change any clothes for days. For others at the same exercise it was weeks! "Ripe" might be the soft adjective!
Observation: When I lived in Canada it was impossible to buy anything but white eggs from the supermarkets!
In Australia I think I have yet to see anything other than a brown egg in any of the the supermarkets. Yes, we've got barn-laid, free-range, organic, etc., etc., eggs. There's every other sale's gimmick for eggs, but still not a white egg in sight! (By the way, in Australia you can tell the organic eggs because they are the ones that still have bits of chicken droppings sticking to them!)
Observation: In Canada public toilet doors invariably open outwards. In Australia they invariably open inwards!

Observation: Sadly not everyone who uses public conveniences washes their hands!

Problem: How to open public toilet doors! It seems to me that those hand blow-dryers (if they are actually working) are a deterent to washing hands. They take too long and are useless if you have to wait to use one. I like the facilities that have paper towels. I can also utilize them to open doors avoiding the bare touch.

Question: Am I being too much like "Monk" in the old TV show?
Comment: When I read Leviticus (written some three and a half thousand years ago or whatever), I see that God deems our cleanliness and personal hygene as important in preventing the spread of disease among other things.

Comment: The phrase "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" no doubt has its source in the Bible. Of course it does! However, it apparently comes through the pens of Francis Bacon and then John Wesley in one of his sermons.
Observation: I reckon Canada with its white eggs and outward opening "wash room" doors has to be the more Godlier!
Solution: I might be walking on egg shells here, but please think about these things before you shake my hand!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Earth Steward

(Photos by Neil Cullan McKInlay)
Who owns the planet earth? Us, our grandchildren? The birds, animals, and fish? Wee green men from Mars, perhaps? Should we really care? Of course, the proper answer is that God owns all things. However, He has entrusted it into our care. It's part of what's called the Dominion or Cultural Mandate. The basis of our involvement in the Cultural Mandate begins in Genesis:

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He creatd Him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" Genesis 1:26-28.

So, if the Triune God owns the planet earth we are not trying to preserve it for our grandchildren, birds, animals, fish, or wee green men from Mars. We are trying to cultivate it to the glory of God. Therefore Christians are the true earth stewards, commissioned by God.

However, ever since Adam, our one time federal head and covenant representative before God, raided God's orchard and ate the stolen fruit, mankind has not always been the best earth steward. To begin with, it was Adam's wife Eve (at the instigation of the ventriloquist Satan) who plucked that forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband who knowingly ate of it in spite of God.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to be left alone. "You shall not steal" 8th Commandment. Adam and Eve had the pick of every other fruit tree in the Garden, but they coveted the forbidden fruit. "You shall not covet" 10th Commandment. And thus Adam broke his probation as he broke the Law that God had written on his, Eve's, and our heart by eating stolen goods.

However, the mandate still stands. We are to continue to have dominion over the fish, birds, and every living thing that moves on earth (see eg, Genesis 9:1-7). We are still to be fruitful and multiply. We are still to fill the earth and subdue it. This means that we are to cultivate all things to the glory of God. For even before the Fall (while still on probation), Adam was commissioned to tend and keep the Garden.

Like us, Adam was to, as God says: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it." 4th Commandment.

Notice that the 4th Commandment has as much to do with work as it has rest! Tending (cultivating) and keeping (guarding) things requires us to work. But for whom do we work? Us, our grandchildren? The birds, animals, and fish? Wee green men from Mars? Surely we work for the Triune God.

But notice that the 4th Commandment also tells us to rest the creatures under our dominion for one day every week. And, we are to give rest to our employees male and female, those who lodge with us, and whatever animals do work for us (eg, sheep dogs, guard dogs, cattle and elephants where they're used etc.)

It was the LORD who made the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. In the Bible even the fields, crops, vineyards etc, get to enjoy yearly sabbaths (see eg, Lev. 25:1-7). There is good news for us, for "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9.

What's happening in our own time as the secular humanists are given their fifteen minutes of fame? Who living today hasn't heard of the phrase 24/7? The big shopping malls are now open seven days a week giving no rest for the wicked! They've forgotten the sabbath that was included in the Cultural Mandate.

The Good News is that there is now a new federal head, a new covenant representative before God, the Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus. He is the new replacement Man, the Last Adam (see eg, 1 Cor. 15:45,47). Scripture says that God has given all things to Jesus Christ. Therefore, He now has dominion over creation and is presently busy in the process of progressively subduing it by His Spirit and working through His followers, "For He has put all things under His feet... Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" 1 Corinthians 15:27-28.

We can trust the new Man, the Godman, the new Earth Steward, to be obedient to His Father and to have all creation subdued to the glory of God before the Last Day. Therefore, let us all be good earth stewards in Him!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why I'm Glad I'm a Christian!

(Photos by Neil Cullan McKinlay)
I don't know about you, but with all the scare-mongering going on in the world today, I'm glad I'm a Christian! Global Warming? When I lived in Winnipeg with its long minus 40+ winters I used to pray for global warming! But before you blame (or bless?) me for it all, I lived in Canada during the time of Global Freezing and Acid Rain of the 70's. I kid you not, in the 70's we were being told to worry about the planet getting colder. I suppose if I lived in Australia back then I would have been welcoming Global Cooling! Och, you can't win!

Mind you, the Chicken Littles are still running around around like, er, chickens with their heads cut off yelling, "The sky's falling! The sky's falling!" But what happened to the Chicken Flu? Ah, that is so-o-o last year! Bird Flu is all old fodder. This year it's Swine Flu we've to (not) panic about! "Don't panic, Jonesy! Don't panic!" (it's from the old Dad's Army television show - in case you don't know). I mean, they're even trying to cancel big stadium football games here in Australia - lest we catch this Swine Flu. The Roman Catholic Church in Australia has begun (again) to withhold the cup from the laity lest its parishioners contract the dreaded Swine Flu!

No, Swine Flu is not to be sneezed at. But it's not a Terrorist Bomb we've to fear at the football venues, let's see, it a case of Swine Flu that tends to be a lot less potent than the ordinary flu (which I've had three very achingly memorable times!) Yes, apparently people have died from Swine Flu. And yes, our hearts go out to those who have suffered/are suffering from this blight. However, the boy who cried wolf will need to fill us in with lots more scary details before I'll start to panic about Swine Flu not to mention Global Warming. Mind you, I don't appreciate people telling me to wear a surgical mask and that it's my old Toyota that's melting the icebergs!
However, before you think about writing me an (angry?) response, hear what the Psalmist says about it all:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with swelling." Psalm 46:1-3.

So there you go, put that in your pipe and smoke it! Oops, let me now tell you about the dangers of smoking... not!

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

World Tour of Surfing (sort of)

My mate Dave was back in his native Queensland for a wee holiday last summer. He treated me one day by driving me up to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane. There he rented us a couple of surfboards. Next he gave me a few lessons. Brilliant it was! I had never surfed before in all my entire life. Sad, eh?

With our board-shorts on (plus our T-shirts as sun and surfboard protection) and with our waxed-up (rented) boards we were headed for the beach. The sun-baked tar and concrete scalded our bare feet as we rapidly tip-toed across it. We then rushed from one shaded part of the road to another. Scarpering across a hot frying pan (with bacon, egg, square sausauge, black-pudding, tattie scones etc. in it) springs to mind. What a comical sight!

Having made it to the beach, first we were to practice on the hot dry sand. Dave showed me how to get on the board with a quick flip. Onlookers suitably entertained by our antics, next, it was all King Canute stuff. We waited for what we thought was a break in the breakers and with a Highlander Charge (blood curdling cries included!) we went for it. The onslaught of the waves beat us back many times, but we pressed on regardless, eventually winning the day!

As we slowly but surely swam out to sea I had to learn very quickly how to dodge my board which, even though tied to my ankle by a rope, by the able assistance of the breakers kept on insisting on trying to crack me about the head! But I've had worse on the school playground!

I was up on the board, yes, a wee bit shoogly, but I conquered those bone-cracking waves! Yes! I felt as proud as a twelve-pointer stag as I headed back to the shore line. I sat on the hot golden sand patting myself on the back while watching Dave ride the crest of wave after wave.

Dave then treated me to lunch where I devoured the best Aussie pie I've ever tasted while we discected blow by blow our great victory over the raging Pacific. Indeed, we had turned its raging anger against it and placed our feet on its neck!

I'm sorry to say that none of this was caught on film, (therefore, Dave can tell you his own version of events!)

However, if you don't mind shoogly camera-work, I did manage to video some surfers on a Tasmanian beach. I suppose I should let you know that I fairly recently arrived back in Queensland after living in Tasmania for close to five years:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hekyll & Jekyll

(Photos by Neil Cullan McKinlay)
I’ve been (re)visiting some of the old classics and not so old classics. I entertained myself by reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Rob Roy.” The book was nearly finished before Rob Roy made an entrance proper! I lapped-up George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” after which I sat in my room and read his “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. I must admit that that one had me looking over my shoulder as I read it!

Next, I paid Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) a visit. I’ve just finished reading his “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and look forward to reading about pirates and parrots in his “Treasure Island.”

However, about Jekyll and Hyde…

Is Mr Hyde simply Dr Jekyll regressing to some supposed less evolved stage as at least one commentator alleges? Or, like Hyde’s heavy walking-cane, is not Stevenson writing about our old nature trying to rain down death-blows upon our new nature – as per Romans chapter 7?

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:21-25.

Stevenson was a gentleman well-dressed in Bible attire. Scriptural allusions come by the beaker full in his writings as he betrays his Calvinist parentage on page after page. Therefore Hyde may resemble this or that wild animal, but this does not Stevenson an Evolutionist make! any more than it does the arch anti-Evolutionist Jesus Christ when He compared some people to a “brood of vipers”, “serpents”, “bulls of Bashan”, “dogs”, “lions” etc. (see eg, Psa. 22:12-16; Matt. 23:33), – (by “Evolutionist” we have in mind the frog to prince belief-system).

Indeed the Bible says that all human beings “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” Romans 1:18b. In other words we inwardly “hold down” or “keep a lid on” the truth of who God is and who we really are, ie, the image (albeit the distorted image) of God. Of course, the Good News is that God by His grace alone saves people by His Son’s cross and regenerates and converts them (see eg, Eph. 2:8-10).

But here’s the rub: For the Christian there’s a residue of sin that remains, a “Mr Hyde” if you will lurking around in those dark recesses of our hearts and minds. Dr Henry Jekyll was in many ways the regenerated man, ie, the Christian, dragging around with him the foul- and death-smelling carcass of “Mr Hyde.” By drinking the poisoned potion he was lowering Dr Jekyll into his grave while “resurrecting”, ie, digging up the body snatcher Mr Hyde – Yes, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

The late great Calvinist Christian Apologist Cornelius Van Til showed us the philosophical and spiritual advantage that we Christians have over non-Christians. Van Til taught us to address “Dr Jekyll” when speaking to “Mr Hyde.” You see it is not only the Christian who has a Jekyll and Hyde wrestling-match going on within, so also does the non-Christian.

The non-Christian carries Adam around with him in his innermost being, ie, try as he might he cannot completely get rid of his pre-Fall Adamic nature. For even though fallen man, like Jekyll’s face after he drinks the bubbling potion distorting his former image by his sin, the former image remains within. Otherwise Scripture would not continue to call fallen man the image of God (see eg, Gen. 1:26; 5:1; 9:6; James 3:9). Thus the Christian knows that the non-Christian is simply lying, ie, "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” when he denies God and His grace as revealed in His written Word.

The Holy Spirit works with the Word, the Gospel, when Christians involve themselves in the ministry of the salvation of others. Therefore Mr Hyde’s days on this earth are clearly numbered. Which is to say that if he does not repent and believe in the Gospel he will perish, for “the wrath of God abides on him” John 3:36b. But, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Thus all is not lost for the murderous Mr Hydes of this world who repent and believe the Gospel! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

Yes, revisiting the classics no doubt has its own rewards. However, Sir Walter Scott when he was dying asked Lockhart to read to him. Lockhart asked which book? “There is but one book!” replied Scott.