Thursday, April 23, 2009

Highland Host on the Radio!

Well, internet radio. Yesterday I had the honour of having a sermon played on Chris Rosebrough's Fighting for the Faith programme on Pirate Christian Radio. My thanks to my brother and fellow-contributor at Free St. George's, Hieraeth, for pointing to this particular sermon as the one to send, and to Principal Philip H. Eveson of the London Theological Seminary who was responsible for my obtaining the Parker sermon volumes which I refer to as being in part responsible for the outline of this sermon. Also to Rev. Chris Bennett of Wilton Community Church, Muswell Hill, my New Testament and Greek tutor at the LTS, whose essay led me to the Parker sermon.

MY thanks also to Jason, for transcribing the prayer that opens this sermon here. I would recommend the reading of the Book of Common Prayer if you want to improve the quality of public prayer. Not to use the words, but to see how the Reformers prayed. I was brought up on the old BCP, as it is affectionately called, and that has a great influence on people. Former Anglicans can recognise each other!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

Owing to a spectacular FAIL on the part of Blogger's spam-finding robots, Free St. George's has been locked. I have complained about this, and hopefully it will be unlocked by them in due course. Quite how the 'bots could have thought that the blog was a spam blog is beyond me, but there you go.
This being so, I shall have to post my upcoming preaching engagement here instead. God willing, this coming Lord's Day morning I shall be preaching at Tabor Baptist Church, Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taff (not to be confused with the Llantrisant near Bridgend, an error that was apparently once made by a visiting preacher). The services are at 11 AM and 6 PM.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'If it isn't True...'

I Corinthians 15.3-20

3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4And that he was
buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater
part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8And last of all
he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9For I am the
least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I
persecuted the church of God.
10But by the grace of God I am what I
am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured
more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with
11Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye
12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how
say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13But if
there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have
testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that
the dead rise not.
16For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ
17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet
in your sins.
18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are
19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all
men most miserable.
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and
become the firstfruits of them that slept.

Last Lord's Day I was preaching at Bethel Chapel, Guildford, Surrey. My text in the evening was I Corinthians 15.13-20, which I give above with the preceding verses. Around the corner from Bethel is the building shown above. I have always thought it must have been a chapel, but only recently was my old suspicion, that it was the Unitarian chapel, confirmed. Now the Unitarians deny the resurrection of Christ. They hold that He was a mere human teacher who probably died on the cross and remained dead, but that his teaching is still very valuable and wise. Nonsense! He is true Almighty God, the eternal maker of all things. He rose from the dead on the third day, confirming all that He did.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is nonsense! It is a Satanic lie. As Paul says:

"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what
advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we
die. " (I Cor. 15.32)

If it's not true, then we are all hopeless and helpless. Without the resurrection, Jesus died as a blasphemer, and He was nothing more - no more nonsense about Him being a 'wise teacher', please!

And that is where this old chapel comes in. It's a youth centre now. And quite right too! If Christ has died and is still dead, then close the churches, turn them into something useful!

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."

This is a fact! the Christian confession is not "you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!" No, at the risk of conflating two hymns, it's: you ask me how I know He lives? The Bible tells me so! Gresham Machen makes the point in his article 'History and Faith':

"History is relentlessly plain. The foundation of the Church is either
inexplicable, or else it is to be explained by the resurrection of Jesus from
the dead. But if the resurrection is accepted, then the lofty claims of Jesus
are substantitated; Jesus was then no mere man, but God and man, God come in the
flesh." (Selected Shorter Writings of J. Gresham Machen (Presbyterian
and Reformed, 2004), P. 105)

The Unitarian, rejecting both, is powerless, and it was only natural for the chapel to close. No Easter, no Pentecost, no Church.

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that

Jesus lives! thy terrors now

can no longer, death, appall us;

Jesus lives! by this we know

thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bible Depot, Cardiff

Continuing In Many Bookshops with Mr. Charmley, we come to The Bible Depot, Cardiff Market. The Central market in Cardiff is a large covered structure, and in addition to the stalls on the ground floor, there is a broad gallery around all four sides on the building, containing additional stalls; among these gallery stalls is the Bible Depot. Despite its name, this is in fact a Christian bookshop that stocks far more than just Bibles, although they stock Bibles. The stock is small, as should be expected in a small shop. Nevertheless, it has been carefully selected for usefulness, containing far more of substance than the average Wesley Owen shop - not that that's difficult! The Bible Depot is a little gem, packed with good books of all types. There is a small second hand stock, but the emphasis is on new books.

I liked the Bible Depot, and it was not like the Churches Together Bookshop, where I liked the staff more than the stock - I like the stock here as well!

[This is a highly opinionated blog post and reflects only the opinon of the author. To come, God willing: Swansea and Newport Christian bookshops!]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

'Dethroning Jesus' By Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace

The success of the Da Vinci Code book and film took many of us by surprise. After all, the book, despite its claims, was extremely sloppily researched, and made no new claims. But then we overlooked the sad fact that the majority of people don't have the sort of historical grounding to discern fact from fiction in the book. So a number of Christian authors, scholars and pastors, wrote well-researched works answering the claims advanced by Dan Brown. A lot of serious research was done, answering a book based on extremely poor research - but that is so often the nature of apologetics, anyone can make an ill-informed claim, but it takes serious research to anwer them! Yet the nature of popular fiction is that last year's best-seller is this year's remainder-bin bargain. So books on The Da Vinci Code are just not selling any more. The research that was done for those books now has to be put in a form that is widely useful.
Dethroning Jesus (Thomas Nelson, 2007) is one of the books based on this research. It sets its sights wider than just one book, and focuses on, as the subtitle says, 'Popular culture's quest to unseat the Biblical Christ'. Like Timothy Paul Jones' Conspiracies and the Cross, this book surveys a number of claims that have been made in popular culture that deny the Biblical Jesus. Six claims are treated, including the corruption of the text of Scripture, the Gnostic gospels, the Paulus und Jesus theory (memorize the term so you can reply to anyone who claims that Paul is the real founder of Christianity 'Oh, the Paulus und Jesus theory is so ninteenth century!'), and the claim that Jesus' tomb has been found, proving He did not rise from the dead. Bock and Wallace are two very careful scholars, and they have treated the six claims they address in this book with fairnesss and devastating clarity. The book unpacks attempts to have a 'Jesus' who is not the Jesus of the Bible, and shows that all of these attempts fall short.
This is a well-presented book as well, a small hardcover with a nice cover. It is well-written, and quite readable. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone dealing with those claiming that the Biblical Jesus is not the Jesus of history.
Dethroning Jesus is available from Christian bookshops, and from

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Churches Together Bookshop, Cardiff

Continuing In Many Bookshops with Mr. Charmley, we come to the Churches Together Bookshop, Cardiff. Formerly the SPCK bookshop, the shop suffered in the takeover of SPCK by St. Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and the subequent collapse of the organisation. It was bought out and re-opened as the Churches Together Bookshop.

It is located at the liturgically West end of the City URC, and as the name suggests, it is an ecumenical bookshop that sells all sorts of things. Now, Cardiff has a Catholic Truth Society bookshop, so the Roman Catholics have their own shop, and therefore this shop is fairly liberal. Cardiff has three Evangelical bookshops, and they will most likely have what a Reformed Evangelical would be looking for. The Churches Together shop probably won't, although it's just possible that they may.

Nevertheless, this shop has some good points. The first is the staff, who I found extremely friendly and welcoming, ready to help. They made me feel welcome in the shop, and I am sure that they would do their best to help any customer. Second, they have a good selection of second-hand books. I got a copy of Leon Morris' The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross at a very reasonable price here. So I liked the shop, even though I did not find a lot of good material there. Nice but vague, a wonderful description of liberalism! But then, it did say 'Churches Together Bookshop' on the front, so what can you expect?

[NB. This is an opinionated blog post that reflects the opinions of the author and probably no-one else]

Friday, April 3, 2009

'God's Strange Work'

William Miller is a fascinating figure of American history. Usually referred to in the context of religious hysteria. The idea of a crazed preacher prophesying the end of the world and his followers selling all and climbing mountains to await the Second Coming, only to be disappointed, is a story that amuses most of us. But Miller was far more than a mere religious crank, and his followers more than just a few crackpots and victims of hysteria.
God's Strange Work (Eerdmans, 2008), by David L. Rowe, is an excellent and sympathetic study of a man who is more often caricatured than understood. Rowe shows that Miller was far from the two-dimensional character so often presented. In this book we have the life of a man who in many ways presents a typical American type of the period. Miller threw off a strict religious upbringing and embraced rationalism. He was an officer in the war of 1812, and it was only after that, in middle age, that he was converted. Thus Miller was a middle aged respectable gentleman, hardly the sort of youthful convert that religious fanaticism is usually connected with.
Nevertheless, this respectable gentleman farmer became America's first great prophetic teacher, complete with his chart of the end-times events! He comes across in this book as an honest man who made a mistake, and thought that he had discovered the date of the Second Coming of Christ. He was, of course wrong, and the thousands who were influenced by his books were disappointed and shocked, as was Miller himself. He was not a rogue, but he was sucked into prophetic speculation and built for himself a house of cards which fell so easily. His speculations split his church, and discredited him and his followers. And he was an honest man, just sincerely mistaken.
I enjoyed this book, although the ending is of course tragic. I hope it will go a long way towards putting Miller where he deserves, and in perspective.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

'A Passion For Souls'

It is almost impossible to move in Evangelical circles today without coming across some influence of Dwight Lyman Moody, even if the influence is a negative one in that a group has reacted against Moody! But in general, Moody is a sort of Evangelical saint, and like the Medieval saints, his biographers have often fallen into the trap of writing hagiography.
For this reason a book by Lyle Dorsett on Moody is extremely welcome. A Passion for Souls (Moody Publishers, 1997), is a major biography of Moody. Already a decade old, it is an authoritative work. Dorsett is a careful, balanced historian who does not whitewash his subjects. His biography of Billy Sunday is extremely honest, and he deals frankly with the failings of his subjects as well as with their good points.
Moody was the sort of man whose faults were as plain as his excellencies, and Dorsett reveals that the evangelist had trouble controlling his temper at times. he was also perhaps too ready to tell others that they ought to go into full-time Christian work when they felt no call to it. The title of this book reflects what was the driving force of D.L. Moody, a desire for the salvation of sinners to Christ. And no-one can qiuestion his sincerety. Yet it becomes apparent that Moody, for all his passion and his hard work, had serious weaknesses. He had no formal theological education, and unlike C.H. Spurgeon, he had little informal theological education. Thus he tended to take others' professions of Christianity at face value. For this reason, even when Henry Drummond began to go seriously off the rails and to teach a fusion of Christianity and evolutionary philosophy, Moddy stood by him. He did not see the danger of Roman Catholic teaching, and as a result he was somewhat ecumenical in his influence. Moody seems to have been one of those men who find it easier to take charge rather than delegate. In one sense this was a strength, but it could also be a problem, when he over-extended himself and decreased his effectiveness.
This book is deeply worrying in some ways, in that it is brutally honest about Moody's faults. Apparently no Calvinist himself, Dorsett gives to Moody part of the credit for the decline of Calvinism in Britain and America. If so, then Moody may have added many to the churches, but in his ecumenical compromise, his promotion of liberals such as George Adam Smith equally with such Evangelicals as F.B. Meyer, and his Arminian teaching, were all contributions to the great decline of the Western Churches in the 20th century.
A Passion for Souls is available from ICM Books

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Many Gospels of Jesus

In recent years, unless you have been under a rock somewhere, you will have heard the claim, peddled by the Da Vinci Code and such like, that there are many gospels, and that our four Gospels were selected from a huge list of alternatives. How are we as Christians to respond to these claims?

It is in order to help the average Christian reader to sort out this issue that Philip W. Comfort and Jason Driesbach have produced The Many Gospels of Jesus (Tyndale, 2008). In this one volume we have twenty-one different ancient writings that could be called 'gospels' in some sense. By far the longest of these are the four canonical Gospels. The other writings are some of the other contenders. This allows the reader to compare the different writings, and as we do, something immediately becomes apparent - the vast difference between the Canonical Gospels and the other claimants, and the broad similarity between the four canonical Gospels, even between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. What is more, the 'lost gospels' all disagree one with another in what they teach. They present a Jesus who is radically different from the Jesus of the canonical Gospels, and a religion that is based on esoteric knowledge and a bizarre metaphysic, quite different from the religion of the Canonical Gospels. This book will be extremely useful for Christians who want to know more about the so-called 'Lost Gospels'. Its value is further enhanced by the essays that introduce the volume, dealing with questions such as 'What is a Gospel?', and 'What is Gnosticism'.

What are the pitfalls of this book? Principally that the Gospel text is given in the New Living Translation, which is a version I am not terribly keen on. Other than that, this is an excellent resource, collecting as it does such important documents in one volume. It has a good cover and is well-presented as well, which is always a bonus.

The Many Gospels of Jesus is available from Christian bookshops.