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Showing posts from August, 2008

Discipleship is about the battle to win the human heart to the gospel, with the gospel, for the gospel.

My two abiding images from the Olympics. Firstly, Usain Bolt coasting to victory, effortlessly breaking the world records. Reminds me of the disciples in Luke 10v17, sent to preach coming back rejoicing that even demons have submitted to them. Jesus affirms that this happened and then diverts their joy to something else. There names are written in heaven, because of the cross to which he's walking, they belong in heaven.

Why point them there? Partly because life is unreliable for joy. The second image I remember is Debbie Flood. She gave it all, so much so that she was unable to speak when interviewed by the BBC. All that effort and no reward. Secondly, because there is something better than even the most extravagant evangelistic exploits. An eternity with Jesus beats anything else. John Newton longed for it: Christ who called me here below, will be forever mine.

Discipleship is about people and Jesus. Discipleship is caught from watching people. Discipleship is taught from beholdin…

The West Wing and the battle for my affections.

The West Wing is possibly the greatest TV series (up there beyond 24, Heroes and House). And now I find myself battling with self-control: All seven seasons, all 44 discs of The West Wing for £73.97 (reduced from £208.99). Thankfully I can't quite bring myself to splash out that kind of money on DVDs... even that kind of a bargain. I feel the battle for my affections in the click of a mousepad...

Confessions time, we decided this could be a Christmas present. Last luxury for a while, and a delayed gratification for a few months. Imperfectly working things out. Funny how some days I could probably pay £73 for something without blinking and other days it's difficult... somedays you have to spend more than that on a set of tyres for the car.

It's good to say no. Good to engage with the question of whether or not to spend money on something. There's something joyful about being able to enjoy the creativity of other people, something joyful about the responsibility of spendi…

The World's Best Bible Reading Program (by Dan Edelen)

If you were discipling a someone who wasn't a Christian...

...and you saw something in their lives that was sinful, should you point it out?

Firstly, about time we Christians got on with making disciples of non-Christians. Otherwise known as evangelism. Great idea.

But, secondly, no. The problem a non-Christian has is that they're not a Christian. Their life is fundamentally opposed to God and any other sin in life is merely the fruit of that bigger sin. The heart needs to be changed before anything else can happen.

This is fairly widely understood - note the football pundit's disbelief as Joey Barton again claims to have turned over a new leaf, to have changed his ways. Maybe he can reform a bit, but he - like all of us - needs a new heart.

If we start targetting the apparent sins of people who aren't Christians the best we do is to replace 'sin' with the sin of self-righteousness. That's no progress at all. This was the tragic approach on Channel 4's Make me a Christian. More like, Make me a whitewashed tomb.

Show peo…

The Shack (Digested read at The Guardian)

While Christians fall over themselves in joy about the bestseller: 'The Shack', John Crace is hilarious in The Guardian, as always with his digested read:
The Shack. The digested read, digested: God moves in utterly predictable ways.Mark Meynell gives a more thoughtful review Relishing the trinitarian dynamic, passing time in The Shack.

Andy Larkin on Facebook vs. Mark Driscoll's review of The Shack.

Love the church: it's better together (with help from Tim Chester and Jonathan Leeman)

A common gospel summary, composed by Tim Chester: “God made you to know him, but you have rejected God. Your sin cuts you off from God and brings you under his judgement. But God sent his Son to die in your place and reconcile you to God. Now you can know God and look forward to being with him after death”1. This is ok except that it's utterly individualistic. We might assume because of our culture.

2. Jonathan Leeman argues that the issue is not individualism but our anti-authoritarianism. That's to say we think individually "me and God" because we don't want to be subject to the effects of other Christians upon our lives.

Some propose community as the solution, but all the people who believe the individualistic gospel above are probably church members. They go to church. They serve in church. But, they're most likely not to make decision with reference to church, and they'll probably like to sing with their eyes shut - just them and God. And when there ar…

Matthew Henry on The Song of Songs, or Love the Church!

Taking a lead from Daniel Newman, after Matthew Mason and Ros Clarke I've been enjoying Song of Songs by accepting this proposal from Matthew Henry:"The best key to this book is the 45th Psalm, which we find applied to Christ in the New Testament, and therefore this ought to be so too. It requires some pains to find out what may, probably, be the meaning of the Holy Spirit in the several parts of this book; as David's songs are many of them level to the capacity of the meanest, and there are shallows in them learned, and there are depths in it in which an elephant may swim. But, when the meaning is found out, it will be of admirable use to excite pious and devout affections in us; and the same truths which are plainly laid down in other scriptures when they are extracted out of this come to the soul with a more pleasing power." CCEL, Introduction to Commentary on SOSAnd so we observe in chapter 7, Christ's love for his bride. His love for the church:The complacen… (Eric Turbedsky)

When I went to the USA at Easter this year one of the natives I met was Eric Turbedsky of Grace Church San Diego. He works with Mark Lauterbach who was the blogger to read until he stopped blogging.

Eric has put together a great blog for the small group leaders at his church, well worth making use of more widely.... including articles and audio such as Alfred Poirer on The Cross and Criticism, CJ Mahaney on the Adventure of Leadership, David Powlison on Jesus is not 'one size fits all'.

Eric Turbedsky preaching on Acts 12 - Glory

Heroes of faith? No. It's about Jesus.

Introducing the SW Team 2008/9: Relay (aka The Beautiful People)

Today the South West Relay for 2008/9 start their 10 month programme of grace-saturated discipleship training in a student context. These seven fresh-faced graduates take the place of the infamous Wayne Grudem Karaoke Champions and we'll expect a good performance in January. But, more importantly they're here to grow in grace and engage in pioneering mission with students.

They are Alex Sharp and Becs Williams in Falmouth:

Steve Carkett in Plymouth:

Cat Hare and Matt Herring in Exeter:

Tim Pinkstone and Jen Haydock in Bristol:

SteffyB on what RELAY is (ht: Mo)

Word-driven movements

Timmy Brister: Upon a cursory glance of the early church in Acts and through the letters of Paul to the churches he planted, I found a reoccurring theme of a word-driven movemental Christianity. It was not defined by speed but by the Word, not validated by pragmatic measuring sticks but authenticated by transformed lives faithful to the gospel and mission.

Convictions developed by following the threads through the book of Acts (and beyond): Acts 2:41, Acts 4:4, Acts 6:7, Acts 8:4, Acts 8:14, cf. 8:25, Acts 10:44 cf. 11:1, Acts 11:19, Acts 12:24, Acts 13:5, Acts 13:48-49, Acts 14:1, 3, Acts 15:36, Acts 16:31-32, Acts 17:11-12, Acts 18:5, 11, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:20, Acts 20:32

This is how the church will make progress. This is how we'll grow the local church through Christian Unions in Universities. Let the word of God spread... let God speak and then things change.

Introducing the SW Team 2008/9

Working in the student missionfield is a matter of constant change. A third of the missionfield, and a third of our missionaries leave every year replaced by freshers. Likewise in UCCF as we serve the students things are ever changing. From last year Kenny Robertson, Jim Walford, Alex Banfield Hicks, Claudia Chan and myself remain. Last week Su Ann Ward left the South West Team and has been succeeded by Hannah Cordle, a Bristol graduate who joins us as the new Christian Union Staffworker for Bath. Hannah will work with the Christian Unions of Bath Spa and Bath Universities as they set out to be pioneering mission teams, student-led partnerships of local churches who seek to reach students and so grow the local church as students become Christians.

God gave us truth-laden Stories (Probably my final post at Digital H20)

The Faithful Elder is to exhort by sound doctrine

Ed Goode now lives in the USA and is preaching Titus:
...the faithful Elder is to exhort by sound doctrine. He is to protect and prosper the spiritual life of his people. To preach that Jesus is the point of creation, the lovely, glorious, champion of every single page of the Bible. To stir up love for Him from them by preaching. Doctrine is for joy. Doctrine is not a dull, old fashioned, divisive thing that should be kept inside the class room. The most glorious, joy giving, sweet tasting, promises exist in this book, and they come to us if the form of doctrine. And Elders of the church are to exhort those in the church with it. Given the fearful warnings found in scripture, no one would presume to teach without a clear call from God, and no one in their right mind should preach anything other than what’s in this book.

Driscoll: from Newfrontiers to the Sydney Anglicans...

Sydney Anglicans interviewing Mark Driscoll (video)

On a British evangelical perspective this crosses a classic boundary that has stood between charismatic evangelicals and 'conservative' evangelicals.

If conferences represent movements then John Piper has crossed this before by speaking at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly (from the Sydney Anglican camp) and for Newfrontiers.

My dream is that New Word Alive will grow to represent a coming together of both groups and a recognition that if both 'sides' can value the ministry of Mark Driscoll and John Piper maybe we can value one another, partner together and learn from one another more than we might imagine.

Top 10 posts: what people read from the blog archives

One of the downsides of blogging is that it's utterly instant - articles are on your frontpage for a few days and then they disappear into archives until someone uses google to find something. Off the frontpage these are the most accessed pages here in the last few months...

1. The Wayne Grudem Song
2. Teach the Bible or Preach the Christ
3. Our God is a Great Big God - Romans 9
4. The Grace of My God by Matt Giles
5. Preach the gospel and if necessary use words
6. Michael Ramsden mp3
7. All I have is Christ
8. The Myth of Secular Neutrality
9. Without doctrinal clarity movements become bad institutions
10. Blogging influence by Technorati

DISCO is why I don't do evangelism...

There are all sorts of reasons why I don't do evangelism.

1. Delusion. I convince myself that it's not necessary. This could be for any number of reasons such as thinking people don't need Jesus, thinking Jesus is unimportant or irrelevant. Denying hell. Being unimpressed with Jesus. As Adam Beattie says - "delusions are lies, we need the truth". Giving me training in skills wont help me to overcome delusions. I need a heart captured by the gospel - changed by the great doctrines of salvation and revelation.

2. Inability. Sometimes I can't work out how to explain things, how to translate into language that can be understood or how to engage with the issues others have. I need some skills training, but mostly I need a more thoroughly Biblical worldview so that I can see how the gospel engages with all of life. And, I need doctrine of grace so I can go and give answers that may not be brilliant but which would be ok. I need freedom to fail.

3. Sin. Sometimes I'…

Goodbye to The Class of 2003

Yesterday we said goodbye to the UCCF Christian Union Staff Worker class of 2003. This is my class. UCCF Staff work for between 3-5 years normally. Not all that many complete five years...

We lost Phil Marshall who quit, moved and married Linda early on. Nat Ayling, Alice Jackson and Andy Weatherley left a while back to study and do global and local church ministry... Pod, Clive and I switched to other roles within UCCF without completing our full five.

Which left Cathy Midmer, Mark Stone and Kath Arnold who left yesterday. It's been a joy to serve alongside them. Many memories, and having just returned from the latest new staff Orientation yesterday it does genuinely feel like a very long time sine the dozen or so of us fresh-faced staff gathered at Hothorpe Hall in August 2003. That week Martin Downes challenged us from Paul's last words to the Ephesian elders to discharge our ministry and teach the word.

The UCCF family has changed since then. Once a staff worker always a staf…

Crazy conference season begins

In the next six weeks I'm going to spend time at five conferences. I'm not really a massive fan of conferences, with some exceptions I'm happiest either studying alone or getting out doing the stuff rather than sitting in lots of sessions. But, for all that I'm still kind of looking forward to what's ahead.

1. UCCF New Staff Orientation. Less a 'conference' and more a training event for our new staff. I'm going to this for about 29 hours which includes giving some training on Evangelism with Nay Dawson. I'm looking forward to catching up with guys we interviewed earlier this year now that they're starting work. Good to be able to work with other members of the Leadership Team.

2. Relay 1. First of the residential conferences for our ministry interns. Another brief visit, this time to teach on Discipleship with Claudia Chan. I love Relay and I love Relay conferences because everything is about grace. Somehow, this will be my 16th Relay conference.


Damaris: Tools for Talks

Mark Driscoll challenged Newfrontiers leaders to watch everything to learn about culture... this is a bit of a shortcut for some of that. It wont help you understand culture fully but it will give a supply of film quotes, clips and illustrations to help demonstrate the way that the gospel engages with people where they are. It's already relevant and knowing where people are coming from helps us show that more clearly.

Damaris: Tools for Talks

The Evangelical Vote: Can Christians engage with politics without sinking into shibboleth debates

Andy Shudall at The Coffee Bible Club: Never mention politics, ethics or anything controversial? writing off the back of the recent Obama, McCain, Warren forum at Saddleback and ahead of the New Zealand elections.
"As His Church we must live in this world and speak loudly and prophetically His Word with all the energy He gives us. But can we discuss issues like abortion, the politics of US foreign intervention, the economic impact of globalisation, interventionist and free market economics, the impact of Israeli politics on the stability of the middle east, the rights of the individual and the obligations of society, the ethics of policy and politics in any given nation with a keen gospel ear and a clearly tender heart?"

Video-preaching: Is there a preacher in the room?

Mark Driscoll does it. John Piper does it.
Bob Hyatt critiques the idea of running multiple venues with one preacher.The celebrity church must die. And doing anything – like video venues – that prolongs its life, even in the name of the lost, runs counter to the best interests of the Church in all its expressions, big and small, and its mandate to see more people not only reached, but gifted, trained, and sent.I have to say I'd feel somewhat short changed just to watch a preacher on screen rather than actually in the room. I don't know anyone in the UK who is doing this, but I imagine someone will. It feels odd to me because it surely encourages us to be person centred, I can't see how it helps raise up future preachers. I know there are advantages in terms of coherence between congregations, and I know that Driscoll uses campus pastors to do everything else - and that those guys preach 3 months a year. But why not all year?

We need more churches, but let's build them ar…

Ted Kluck, Fight Club Revisited

Ted Kluck rewatched Fight Club.
I loved this when I saw it as a 21 year old in my final year at University. I've not seen it for several years, partly because I remember it as my favourite film. I keep thinking of rewatching it but wonder if it will have aged well. The same question could be asked about similar big films of 1999 like American Beauty and The Matrix.

Conference preparation and other blogs to read

Second day back at work, continuing to work on seminars I'm doing at conferences in the next few weeks. Today - working on 3-4 sessions on Galatians!

New to the blogroll this week: Philippa Wilson, about to go and do student work in Nice, France. This is part of the UCCF Relay homestart programme.A Path Less Followed, team blog from some Newfrontiers womenAnd highlighting a two who have become colleagues of mine this week: Gareth Leaney, new CU Staff for Reading/Guildford - my old job!Chris Oldfield, new CU Staff in London.And one who ceases to be a colleague, don't forget them... Kath Arnold, 'hoveactually' or more like Brighton now

Charismatic sanity is restored by focus on Jesus

Dan Edelen is spot on in his analysis of the needs of the charismatic movement: Problem: In our rush to regain a proper pneumatology, today’s charismatics abandoned a proper Christology. Solution:We need to get the focus back on Jesus. Problems: Too much of the charismatic movement is self-centered. People rush around looking for a spiritual fix for selfish reasons. Too many are obsessed with more power. Too many leaders lack even the most basic humility. Solution:Get the cross back into the pictureProblem: The movement is awash is Old Testament rituals or theology that were fulfilled in Jesus. Solution: Get back to the New Testament and its New Covenant. Problems: Too much of the charismatic movement is self-centered. People rush around looking for a spiritual fix for selfish reasons. Too many are obsessed with more power. Too many leaders lack even the most basic humility. Solution:Get the cross back into the picture. Problems: Discernment of any kind is sorely lacking at all levels…

On Preaching Christ (Mark Driscoll @ DWELL London)

Six questions:

1. What does the scripture say?
2. What does this mean, i.e. to the original audience and to us?
3. How can I make it memorable?
4. The apologetic question—How are people going to resist this? (which takes time 45mins+, “Some of you are thinking this . . .” which stops people walking away from what you've said.)
5. The missional application—What does this mean for our community?
6. The Christological Question—How is Jesus the hero?

ht: Adrian Warnock

Seven things

David Capener interviews Hugh Bourne about newfrontiers etc.Contemplating charismaticism at Digital H20Yesterday, I tidied my office, and my very lovely wife suggested I should buy more commentaries... since I don't really have any on my favourite Old Testament books (Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes). Recommendations anyone? Particularly on Song of Songs - I'm keen to study it with people in 2009 but I'm no-where near knowing what to do with it yet.Second week in Jonah at our church. Mp3s not online yet. I love this book. Basically, I love everything in the OT. Usain Bolt. 9.69, and he didn't even sprint the whole way... Phenomenal.Back to work on Monday. Three and a half weeks off has been very refreshing if not especially sunny (except for the week in Guernsey). I'm now well up for the new year and bracing myself for crazy conference season - what a privilege to be employed to teach God's word.Kate Adie on journalism - observing a …

Mark Driscoll on harsh language

The main critique put to Mark Driscoll seems to be about his use of language. He's speaking on the subject at the upcoming Desiring God conference. Doug Wilson's book on humour, A Serrated Edge makes some similar observations. John Frame isn't convinced and suggests that if you read Wilson's book you 'don't try this at home'.

And John Piper on why he invited Mark Driscoll to do this:

FREE Resources

Downloadable resources to accompany the UCCF Gospel Project are now available. The project itself which aims to put 400,000 Mark's gospels into the hands of students, launches at the Forum conference from 1-5 September.

Included in this suite of resources is Stay FREE - a course for new Christians which I've written. This is a set of four studies to work through with a new Christian whilst taking them to your local church.

Also available FREEDOM by Maurice McCracken, studies to help Christians get to grips with Mark's gospel. More resources coming soon.

Dawkins Purple Logic: "Atheists must assume the existence of the Creator... even while they argue so forcefully against him"

Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer surely outwit Professor Dawkins with some help from a blogger... …what is ‘purple’ is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am utterly convinced that everything in the universe is purple and operates on the principles of purpleness. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-purple as we can make it. I approve of looking after the poor (very un-purple). I approve of universal medical care (very un-purple). Richard Dawkins, meet Francis Schaeffer (or irrational rationalism)

Before 'In the beginning'

"Something existed before creation and that something was personal and not static; the Father loved the Son; there was a plan; there was communication; and promises were made prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth. (a claim Schaeffer support from 6 texts) ...the whole conception is rooted in the reality of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, Christianity would not have the answers that modern man needs... God could create by a free act of the will because before creation there was the Father who loved the Son and there was also the Holy Spirit to love and be loved." (p18+26, Genesis in Space and Time, Francis A. Schaeffer, IVPUSA, 1972)Francis Schaeffer sets out to show how the Book of Genesis sets the scene for man to live. Assuming that we will at least consider the claims of the Bible, he stacks up Biblical arguments to make his point convincingly and shape our concept of what reality is. This challenges modern theories and yet presents a more compelling story t…

World changing: how to restore the church to her glory

CH Spurgeon: If we pant to see the Word of God increase, multitudes added to the disciples, and a great company of those who are least likely to be saved brought in, there must be an adequate instrumentality. Nothing can avail without the operation of the Holy Spirit and the smile from heaven. Paul planteth, Apollos watereth, and God giveth the increase. We must never begin our catalogue of outward means without referring to that blessed and mysterious potentate who abides in the church, and without whom nothing is good, nothing efficient, nothing successful.

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove, with all thy quickening powers. O Spirit of the living God, if it were not for thy power we could not make the attempt, but when we rely upon thee we go forward in confidence.

As for the ostensible means, would any church prosper, there must be much plain preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been struck lately in looking through the history of the Reformation, and of the times before the…

The world came into existence by virtue of a sermon preached by God.

"The world came into existence by virtue of a sermon preached by God. We live in a day when some would ask, is preaching still relevant, is preaching still necessary. It is, only if you are Christian. The Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God being the first preacher. Creation comes into existence by God's proclamation. We see God is our creator. He creates by preaching. Ten times, God said. And seven times, God saw. When God's word goes forth it accomplish. It accomplishes life. We are following in the example of God. In his image and likeness. Which includes preaching. It reveals God. It creates order. It brings life. It creates an environment in which life can come into existence. The preached word brings the church into existence. It divides. It has authority. It accomplishes what it was intended to do. In Genesis 3 there is another preacher. The serpent. He preaches to our first parents. He undermined God's word, God's authority, bringing death. The question is …

Go Wayne Grudem!

Mark Driscoll has been talking to Grudem. Noticed a bit of fresh blog traffic for the Christian karaoke classic, posted here earlier this year: The Wayne Grudem Song!

Martin Downes on Young, Restless, Reformed (Collin Hansen)

Martin Downes can be relied upon to bring substance and history to the table. From his review of Collin Hansen's Young, Restless, Reformed...
This is not yet your grandfathers Calvinism:
The encounter with Calvinism often begins not with Calvin, or Edwards, or Spurgeon but with Moses in Exodus, with Jesus in the gospels, or with Paul's letters. Testimonies are provided throughout the book of young people who encountered Calvinism in the preaching, or the reading, of the Word of God. And they met it when they saw that the things of first importance, and how they impact a life in conversion, are shaped by Reformed adjectives. Depravity is total, grace is irresistible, election is unconditional. Is there more to Calvinism than this? Of course there is. However, for many who are new to Reformed theology, it is met not in its grand historic vision or presentation (as found in the great churchly statements of the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Confession) but in relation to t…

All about God: Trinity (Adrian Reynolds)

Adrian Reynolds' basic English systematic theology is coming! Here's an extract, on The Trinity:
God is three persons in one
We are one person. Sometimes we may have different feelings, but they all come from inside the one person. One of the most important ways that God is different from us is that he is three persons. This does not mean that God is three different beings. Time and time again, the Bible calls God One. But as One being, God is also the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – all at the same time.

This is, of course, very difficult to understand. We should not be surprised that understanding God is difficult – it is all part of him being different to us. In fact, the Bible does not try to explain how God can be three persons in one. Instead, it simply shows us it is true. How do we know God is more than one person even though he is one being? Sometimes God uses the words “we” or “our” to describe himself. The Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) also uses…

Make me a Christian / The Genius of Darwin

Tom Price reflects on Richard Dawkins' latest attempts to proselytise for Darwinism. As Tom notes some of the logic is fine, and yet it doesn't prove the case for Dawkins' religion. This evening I watched Make me a Christian, reflections at Digital H20 which is at least as disturbing an attempt at proselytising, following in the footsteps of last years Make Me A Muslim.

Feeding on Jesus in the first 39 books

Over at Marcus Honeysett's Digital H2O here's what I'm mostly writing about... Squirrels and such likeThe Old Testament is about JesusProving from the scriptures that Jesus was the ChristIf we only operate with a 27 book Bible we rob ourselves of the roots and foundations on which the gospel stands. Our gospel will be flimsy and appear 'new' when it is rooted in everything God has ever said, the God who reveals all this plans. Amos 3v7: For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. That's spoken into a context where God's people were silencing their prophets, and so robbing themselves of the life-giving knowledge of God. We do the same to ourselves if we silence the law and the prophets by not permitting them to sing their true melody, about the Christ.

I want to thank Ed Goode for the prompt to write on this theme this week over at Digital H2O.

Ole Hallesby on Prayer

Hallesby (1879-1961) wrote: "Jesus comes to a sinner, awakens him from his sleep in sin, converts him, forgives him his sins, and makes him His child. Then He takes the weak hand of the sinner and places it in His own strong, nail-pierced hand and says: 'Come now, I am goig with you all the way and wil lbring you safe home to heaven. If you ever get into trouble of difficulty, just tell Me about it. I will give you, without reporach, everything you need, and more besides, day by day, as long as you live.' Prayer, p30.

The Dark Knight with overtones of atonement?

Pete Myers: One of the big themes, it seems to me, is the hero/anti-hero... with the play off between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. Who will be the real hero for Gotham? With the Macbethian slide of Harvey from near-perfection to crazed madness, and the true colours of the Batman tested to the limit, the crucial twist at the end of the movie is the Batman taking the guilt of Harvey's fall from grace upon himself. Of course, this for me defeats the entire moral point the whole film is trying to make. The most unbelievable moment of the film, I felt, was when the people of Gotham are travelling on two ships, each armed with explosives. They have the detonator for the other ship. Unless they blow the other ship, the Joker threatens to blow them both up at midnight. Thus, this cinematic reversal of the prisoner's dilemma allows the writers to fire home their one big point about the nature of mankind: we're (well at least most of us) essentially good. But... if that's true..…

How should we feel about hell?

Sometimes evangelicals get described as advocating a caricature of God as mean and vengeful. Some will never accept that God would judge sin - though we do all seem to want justice. The difficultly of people accepting this is compounded by the perception of how those who believe in hell consider it. The idea being that we somehow speak of hell either with glee or cold detachment. I'm sure that happens. I've heard people do it, and probably been guilty of the latter myself. It shouldn't be this way however.

I think there are two key emotions with which to speak of hell, in no particular order.

Firstly, we should consider hell with anguish. On the one hand, the idea of people facing divine judgement forever is horrible. When Paul writes about this in Romans 9 he does so with unceasing anguish. It's a tearstained chapter. From a people-centred approach hell is heartbreaking. There's also a struggle in the heart of God who we know desires the salvation of all the people …

On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)

I'm a fan of Ian McEwan's writing, his descriptive language draws the reader into the moments he creates, slowing down time to allow us to take it in.

This is probably best evidenced in the opening of his Enduring Love, but also in Atonement and this his most recent book On Chesil Beach.

It tells the story of Edward and Florence on their 1962 wedding night, watching the awkward virgin couple whilst slipping away periodically to explore the stories that have led them to this moment. The events happen ahead of the apparent sexual revolution of the 1960s that makes these circumstances appear to be from another world - and I'm guessing that a wedding night on which husband and wife both engaging in sexual intercourse for the first time is probably quite rare outside of most religious marriages today. History would say the awkwardness is avoided by not waiting.

What I find most striking in this story is the way that the couple are fatally bound by the cultural pressures around th…

Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre)

God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that’s happened, the inkles ain’t easy anymore. I mean - what kind of..... life is this?

Jesus Navarro commits suicide in the Texas town of Martirio (Martyr) after carrying out a massacre. Vernon Little becomes the scapegoat, and goes on the run to Mexico as he tries to work out what life's about. DBC Pierre's debut novel won the 2003 Booker Prize, and is apparently the book most unfinished by British readers. That was me too until this morning, having bought the book several years ago in a 3 for 2 along with Life of Pi (Booker Prize winner in 2002) and something else.. At first I wasn't sure whether I liked this book at all. The language takes a bit of getting used to "written in contemporary vernacular - with the use of foul satirical language and a witty irony" and Vernon is hard to warm to. The story is, however, intriuging enough to have kept me …

"In a well-crafted book there would be a plot."

John C. Wright, writes about "The Golden Compass that points no where". Wright gives an interesting analysis of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials - contending that the books are neither good stories or really atheist. I think Wright makes some interesting observations about the plot and the lack of atheism...

What I find more interesting today is Wright's analysis of the nature of stories and storytelling.

(It should be said I'm probably out of my league in writing about story and I'm a bit way about any claims to define the formula of what a story should be. I dropped English Literature after GCSE, which I regret. I enjoy reading. The last fiction book I read was Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, which I found to be a deeply engaging and moving story. I'm still ploughing through Dostoevsky's vast The Brothers Karamazov, and on a rainy morning last week I read Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, because there was a copy where we were staying... Could th…

"The Joker is the only character who isn’t crazy"

"What’s fascinating to me is that the Joker rejects the belief of secular humanism that man is basically good. He believes that all that is needed to reveal man’s depravity is a little push." Matt Fudge, ht: Erik Raymond.

A Splendid Theatre

Tony Reinke has a starbucks cup from John Calvin:
"In the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures on high and below, but never more brightly than in the cross, in which there was a wonderful change of things - the condemnation of all men was manifested, sin blotted out, salvation restored to men; in short, the whole world was renewed and all things restored to order."

With a sense of mischief, Marcus gave me his keys

So last week Marcus covered for me while I was on holiday. This week I'm covering for him. A mutual friend commented privately: "I love the way in which Marcus says stuff - confidently, assuredly and quite often with a sense of mischief". The worrying thing is that I'm not sure there's anyone I know personally who has had more influence on me than Marcus. Anyways he's given me the keys for a week so I thought I'd start with this: Breaking out beyond expections

"I wish I was a universalist"

Ever since I became the topic of a conversation on xmedia I've popped in occasionally to see what's being argued about, this one has been there for a while. Felicity writes:

"Someone please convince me! I'd be the happiest person in the world if I thought everyone was going to heaven, but it doesn't seem to be the case. I can't cope with hell, the thought horrifies me and I almost lost my faith over it. Keep thinking surely if God is loving and powerful he could fix it for everyone? It just seems so hard to have faith, why would God make it so hard and uncertain if eternity hangs in the balance? I'm just clinging to the possibility that God will do something as people die, or maybe even in between death and the last day..." In September I'm preaching on part of 2 Corinthians and the issue arises in the text. Paul writes of himself, before exclaiming 'who is sufficient for these things' (who can handle this responsibility!): ..we are the aro…

Blogging Influence: Technorati Rankings ranks blogs by their influence through linking. Influence comes by
a) Writing good stuff that others pick up on and link to.
b) Linking to good posts. Commenting is good, so is picking up something, highlighting it to your readers and interacting with it on your own blog.

Mine is messed up at the moment due to the recent URL change, though they only consider the last six months so that'll right itself in time. So my ranking is currently 179,694 and 59,167 - probably should be more like 100,000ish (98,472 on Sept 18th). I thought I'd see where my blogroll ranks... Influence, reader quantity and content quality aren't necessarily related. These just cover the current ** blogs by technorati influence which are the ones I read most. Brits in bold.
1,747: Tim Challies
1,868: Justin Taylor
10,948: Abraham Piper
12,337: Bob Kauflin
15,716: Adrian Warnock

17,460: Thabiti Anyabwile
32,225: Tony Reinke
42,931: CJ Mahaney
47,001: Colin Adams
62,133: Ray Ortlund
85,957: Tim Cheste…