Route 66 – navigating life with the Bible (book review)


ROUTE 66
A crash course in navigating life with the Bible
By Krish Kandiah
Monarch. 192 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 0 85721 018 0

What a very clever and useful little book this is. Krish Kandiah has produced a series of daily Bible readings which, taken over the course of eight weeks, would introduce a sample of all the main biblical genres, with the plot and the gospel in place too.

Each day has simple but well-constructed comments on how we read the different genres, the passages to be read, and then some questions for reflection and stretching application. So this is a set of daily readings, to take a quick drive through the Bible
But in addition, there is weekly group discussion material, and this makes for a good home-group series, integrated with the members’ daily quiet times. Throw in at the back a challenge to read the whole Bible in eight weeks and some resources to help take a reader’s Bible knowledge to the next level, and this is a very good little package.

I’m going to be recommending it for our groups at church. A little more work from us, and it could be co-ordinated with the preaching programme over a couple of months as well.

I expect every EN reader would benefit from this book, but I suspect we are not the target readership. Kandiah is trying to reach the people who have never read, or tried and struggled with, the Bible, and to help them. This is a basic book, and much needed. It is consistent with his work in Evangelical Alliance, and the Biblefresh initiative it is promoting, and if this is typical of the level and quality of resource they are producing, we should be very grateful. If it is not for you, there will probably be plenty of people in your church who need such a starting guide, and would use it.

The title, Route 66, obviously builds on the idea of the 66 biblical books, and just as obviously it uses the metaphors of driving and travelling consistently throughout, although I am not sure if the subtitle is a joke or a mistake. A gentle warning: if the phrase ‘Route 66’ means nothing to you, do a bit of research before you introduce it in conversation at church. People might start to have very high expectations of the band.

Chris Green,
Vice Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London

Prayer fuel: News in the UK


Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the August issue of EN. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.

Curbing internet porn
Parents are to be asked whether internet pornography should be automatically blocked on computers, Government ministers revealed in June, with Children’s Minister Tim Loughton saying that the internet industry needs to do more to help families control what their kids see online.
On June 28, the Government launched a ten-week public consultation, proposing three possible solutions, one of which would involve a default ban where users who wished to access adult material would need to ‘opt in’ to do so. The Christian Institute

Banking code of conduct
On July 3, the Association of Christian Financial Advisers (ACFA) expressed support for a mandatory code of conduct for the banking industry in the UK.
Barclays, and other banks, submitted false figures to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a body that charges interest on loans taken out by one London bank from another leading London bank. Bob Diamond’s resignation has been regarded as ‘honourable’ by the ACFA and a call to go back to basics — to eradicate such issues as collusion, an acceptance of doubtful practices and a sales mentality which puts high value on bonus maximisation, and to have ethics put back high on the list of priorities. Christian Today

Olympic recording?
An exhibition on the life of John Newton is being held from July 30 to August 10 at St. Mary Woolnoth, London, EC3V 9AN.
Newton was educated in Stratford, Essex, close to the site of the Olympic stadium, which seems fitting, as his hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’, holds the world record as the most recorded song in history. www.johnnewton.org

For more news and prayer fuel from around the UK, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Editors commentary: Soft-pedalling hell?


In late June, the latest banking scandal concerning the rigging of market rates erupted in Britain.

At around the same time, a sociological study was published with the title Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates.1 When corruption and antisocial behaviour is evident at every level of society, from the MPs’ expenses fraud, to phone hacking journalists, to the rioting and looting in our cities last summer, the article makes interesting reading.

Supernatural punishment
The paper, by authors from the Universities of Oregon and Kansas, begins by affirming that research across the social sciences supports the long-held claim that religious belief generally benefits society. However, investigations show that not all religious beliefs are equal in this respect. In particular, their data indicates that ‘the degree to which a country’s belief in heaven outstrips its rate of belief in hell significantly predicts higher crime rates’.

The authors affirm: ‘The same pattern emerges in three out of the four continental zones for which there is sufficient data — namely, Africa, South and Central America, Europe plus Canada and America, Australia and New Zealand’.

The authors recognise the limitations of their research. The findings are only correlational and have not established that belief in hell causes less criminality. However, they say that numerous other laboratory tests point in that direction.

They explain that the threat of supernatural punishment tends to be a more effective deterrent than that of human punishment towards antisocial behaviour. Human monitors cannot see all transgressions, human judges are fallible, human police forces cannot apprehend every transgressor. Divine punishment, especially that of the omnipotent and omniscient God of Scripture, does not suffer from any of these deficiencies.

Thus, it seems that an atheistic society, which believes in no life beyond death and no future punishment, is more likely to see higher rates of lawbreaking and antisocial behaviour. Sound familiar? Furthermore the research would also appear to imply that, where religious belief majors on heaven but minimises the reality of hell, there will also be higher rates of offending.

The human condition
The first thought which occurs is that, although we are dealing with generalisations, this research underlines the Bible’s teaching about the depth of rebelliousness of fallen humanity. Though idealists tell us that people ought to do good for its own sake, the outlook of the human heart is evidently very far from that. If the thought of benevolence to others had the greatest effect in curtailing criminality, perhaps we could entertain the idea that mankind is basically good. But, when we find that it is none other than the threat of the severest form of punishment imaginable which makes the largest difference, we must surely see that there is something desperately wrong with mankind. ‘The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so’ (Romans 8.7). Perhaps this research concerning the threat of hell actually indicates something of the justice of hell? How much mankind needs the Saviour!

The second thought is that besides misleading people about their eternal future, any toying with universalism, or annihilationism damages society. This is as true for evangelicals as it is for anyone else. In 2011 a study showed that undergraduates who believed in a God who only forgives were more likely to cheat than those who believe in a punishing God. Another, by Harvard University in 2003, found that gross domestic product was higher in developed countries when people believed more strongly in hell. Perhaps the bankers at Barclays and many more of us would benefit from some hell-fire preaching.

1. Shariff, A.F., Rhemtulla, M. (20122), Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates, PLoS ONE journal 7(6)

31 things to pray for your children… and a few other things!


Enjoy the following links!

Gospel Coalition – What should when we start going to a new church?

The Good Book Company – 31 Things to pray for your children

A Faith to live by – Is it really wrong to want what others have?

Desiring God – For the wives and mothers… “What if I had stayed in the workforce?”

Tim Challies – 5 reasons to read ‘Lit’ … and for EN’s review on the book click here.

Same-sex marriage: stability or disaster?


In Sweden, where same-sex marriage is legal, family life is slowly dying.

According to Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Policy Center in the US, ‘Same-sex marriage (SSM) has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern — including ‘gay’ marriage — is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the ‘gay’ marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has. More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; ‘gay’ marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; ‘gay’ marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian ‘gay’ marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable’.*

UK warned

We in the UK should be warned. But the central problem with the government’s proposals for SSM lies with their irrelevance — to the institution of marriage, and also as a political issue for something like 98% of the British electorate as opposed to the tiny minority of ‘gay’ activists. The real debate is about the nature of marriage itself, and whether it should be redefined.

Firstly, and as it has been pointed out, when the Attlee Government legislated to regulate marriage, ‘it simply presupposed that it could only ever be the union of one man and one woman. No one said anything, because it was so obvious’.

Secondly, as others have noted, the SSM proposals are essentially deviations away from all long-held and universal understanding of marriage. The whole ethos of marriage beginning with the process of friendship, to courtship, engagement, to normal heterosexual marriage, sex and the gift of children, cannot by definition be extended to the artificial concept of a same-sex couple. Thus, on the basis of biological compatibility alone, it must be wrongheaded. At best, the minute proportion of potential SSM marriages, even within the ‘gay’ community, will be so small as to be statistically negligible. Why then this massive political, social, legal (and costly) revolution, when there is already civil partnership available?

Other kinds of ‘marriage’

Mr. Cameron has the impossible self-inflicted task of trying to explain away the normality of traditional marriage — one man, one woman for life, in order to attempt forcing into it a fictional meaning that will make little sense or relevance to the great majority of men and women who habitually marry in the traditional way.

In doing so, he will attempt to smuggle into Parliament and then the nation the Trojan Horse of SSM, telling us that it really is a very normal sort of a horse. But be warned, it may well give birth to some strange and unwanted creatures in years to come, as polygamists, bigamists, bisexuals, polyamorists (multiple sexual partners) and others clamour to be recognised as eligible for ‘marriage’. Toleration of these would be entirely destructive of the family values which this and all governments profess to support. That is the inescapable logic of legalised SSM and the hypocrisy behind the proposed legislation.

Children?

However, what is more alarming is the failure by government to understand the impact of this upon the most vulnerable of all, namely children. For them there are all manner of complications in store if SSM is legalised — not least that they may well be separated from their own biological parents through a complex minefield of legal interpretations of new marriage laws.

This potential plight of children in a sexual free-for-all appears to be the very important but missing element in the government’s thinking. So the central and natural place of children in a normal marriage would be replaced by the unnatural and artificial rights of the homosexual community in a new state-created concept of marriage.

To think about

Fortunately, many opponents of SSM have thought through the issues rather more clearly than the government, and prominent among these is Dr. Jennifer Morse of the Ruth Institute (USA). Dr. Morse gives some sound reasons why SSM is both irrelevant to real marriage, and particularly, as she reasons, for its largely forgotten and potential child victims. Here are a few of some excellent points made by Dr. Morse and edited for application in the UK context in the light of these proposals. These might be useful to readers as they meet with or write to their MPs on the issue.

She states first of all the basic and foundational premise:

* The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach a mother and a father to their children and to one another. Given this, then every child is entitled to know and be known by both parents.
* Adult society must protect the child’s right to affiliation with both parents. Without man/woman marriage there will be no institution specifically protecting the rights of children to be in relation with both parents.
* Research shows that children have the best life chances when they are raised by their biological married parents.
* Man/woman marriage provides children with access to their genetic, cultural and social heritage. By contrast SSM changes marriage from a child-centred institution to an adult-centred institution.
* SSM is a creation of the state. Man/woman marriage is an organic institution built into nature and specifically ordained by God.
* SSM, once instituted as legal, affects everybody because the legal definition applies to everyone with all the immense changes implied, not just the tiny minority of homosexuals.
* SSM amounts to a hostile take-over of civil society by the state on ideological grounds. But we do not vote MPs into office for them to impose their own private ideological beliefs on the majority of the population.
* SSM leads to relational chaos and opens the door to children having more than two legal parents.
* SSM and the redefining of marriage will be an extremely difficult concept for children themselves to grasp, and especially for the very young. Why should they be made to grapple with such newly-created problems of adult making? And why muddy the clear waters of the familiar ‘mum and dad’ figures, which for them are normal and natural — well established in our Christian based culture?

Indoctrination

Further, why should parents and children be forced to abandon a traditional view of marriage, and children be indoctrinated into an alien SSM ideology, when their parents may wish to teach them according to their own values and worldview? Is there a single sound reason why our Christian, or for that matter traditional secular, or educational cultures should all be abandoned at the whim of politicians?

Finally, SSM is yet another frivolous, unnecessary and expensive piece of social engineering for which the government has been given no mandate by the electorate.

* Published by the Catholic Education Resource Centre

Acknowledgements to Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and the Ruth Institute, USA, http://www.ruthinstitute.org

Graham Wood

Never give up on your dreams (book review)


NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS
By Mary Weeks Millard
Day One. 102 pages. £5.00
ISBN 978 1 846 252 716

A gifted nine-year-old’s dreams of becoming an Olympic swimming medallist are dashed after a serious accident, but her recovery is so wonderful that she is able to participate in the Paralympics.

Did she win a medal? This is a gripping read for children in Years 3 to 6, which includes a strong presentation of the gospel. Maybe Mary Weeks Millard is a natural successor to Patricia St. John?

Those looking for children’s books would do well to look at this latest addition to the Day One ‘Fact Finders’ series.

Val Maidstone, 
pastor’s wife and former teacher, Dorking, Surrey

Breaking the chains of injustice: Adrian Reynolds tells of a life-changing friendship


I first met Ramraj (meaning kingdom of Ram, seventh Hindu incarnation of Vishnu) on a trip to India in 2003.

I was with a team from the Cornhill Training Course, part of the Proclamation Trust. We had travelled to Delhi as part of a mission week to see Christianity in a different culture and teach and train some of the young men who were being raised up there. It was a formative moment in my Christian life, not least because of the people I met and friendships I formed.

Ramraj was one of these. As you will know if you watch the DVD that came with the EN April 2012 issue*, Ramraj was born a Dalit, what we sometimes call an ‘untouchable’ and what the Indian government calls ‘a scheduled caste’. There are nearly 170 million in India, with further small populations in Nepal and Pakistan. Life for a Dalit is miserable. Persecution due to caste is illegal in India, yet Ramraj’s story is not untypical.

Burning injustice

It’s a story of injustice that makes any Christian heart burn with righteous anger. Never mind that he was a Hindu, and a militant Hindu at that.

We believe in the God of justice and we are made in his image, so injustice — whether in the form of forced labour, beatings, rape, lack of access to education or whatever — makes us cry out to the sovereign God of the universe.

Worse, if Dalits become Christians they actually lose out because the government reserves a certain proportion of jobs for scheduled castes but Christians do not count in this category. Miserable though the plight of a Dalit is, in social and financial terms a Christian Dalit can be worse off.

Ramraj felt this injustice and fought against it, sometimes physically. He became the leader of local Red Army Communist cell and developed a reputation as a fixer — sorting out injustices by force whenever he heard about them. But he knew that, as fast as one situation was dealt with in a certain place, another occurred somewhere else. It was a losing battle.

Meeting Jesus, changed by Jesus

That was when he met Christ, or rather Christ met him. Three former comrades had become Christians and they came to tell Ramraj about Jesus. What bravery! And how significant their actions were in the kingdom economy, better than they might ever have guessed. Ramraj was born a Dalit, but as a result of their visit he was born again into Christ. And his new birth changed him completely. In his own words, ‘my hands were used for violence, now they are used for good’.

And what good! Ramraj is a great teacher, trainer and encourager with a vision for his people to know and believe the gospel. I have watched him in action and marvelled at the way he is able to interact with students and fire their imagination as they prepare to serve Christ in villages across North India.

And what of the injustice? Does it disappear on conversion? No, a Christian Dalit still suffers injustice. But he or she is able to see it differently. He or she is able to bear up under it. He or she is able to entrust themselves to ‘him who judges justly’ just as Jesus did. And so its power is smashed. The injustice may remain, but its chains are broken.

The ultimate goal

This is why the gospel is the ultimate answer to such injustice. We can (and should) do what we can to stop such terrible situations. We can lobby. We can persuade. But what Indian Dalits really need is the gospel of Jesus Christ which gives them eternal hope and presents them with divine and everlasting justice in the work of the cross, the place where wrath and mercy meet. This is the kind of ministry which we must keep investing in and never forget.

Since 2003 I have returned to India many times and, God willing, will do so again with a Cornhill team ten years on in 2013. One of the people I most look forward to meeting is Ramraj. Not only is he a willing, godly, diligent, joyful servant of Christ, he is a living example of how the gospel of Christ breaks the chains of injustice and he gives me assurance that the task of mission remains unchanged: to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ by spreading the good news of his death and resurrection wherever we can.

Adrian Reynolds is Director of Ministry, The Proclamation Trust, and Honorary Associate Pastor, East London Tabernacle Baptist Church.

The former comrades who told Ramraj about Jesus were from the Delhi Bible Institute. DBI is supported by the UK registered charity Partners in Service.
* If you want to know more about DBI, or if you would like to receive a copy of the DVD that went out with the April issue of EN, please contact Partners in Service on 01225 427428 or email admin@partnersinservice.org.uk