Don’t call it a comeback (book review)


DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK Don't call it a comeback
The old faith for a new day 
Edited by Kevin De Young
Crossway. 252 pages. £10.99
ISBN 978 1 433 521 690

I begin with an apology. This book should have been reviewed in EN a couple of years ago. It first appeared in 2011 and is one of the best books I know that gives an exposition of Reformation Christian faith as it relates to the contemporary world.

God has blessed the US in recent decades with a wonderful array of faithful evangelical leaders from whom we have all benefited. Don Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper spring immediately to mind. But these guys will not last forever and a new generation of thoughtful and gifted young men is on the rise. It is from among these whom God is raising up for the future that the contributors to this book have been chosen. Kevin De Young, whose recent books, Why we’re not emergentWhat is the mission of the Church?The Hole in our Holiness, have helped so many, is the editor.

Principles and practice

The book divides into three. In part one, the brilliant Collin Hansen gives an overview of the history of evangelicalism, while De Young looks towards our future. Part two has chapters on all the distinctive doctrines of evangelical Christianity — the nature of God, penal substitution, new birth etc. The chapters by Andy Naselli on the reliability of Scripture and by Russell Moore on understanding the kingdom of God I found outstanding. Part three looks at evangelical practice. The headline issues and tricky challenges are addressed, from homosexuality and abortion through to why we need local churches.

This book will warm your heart, clarify your thinking and stiffen your resolve to live for Christ. We should have brought it to readers’ attention sooner.

John Benton
 

(This article was first published in the August 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

Interconnected disconnect


Interconnected DisconnectIn spite of dangers, the internet offers tools that can be used for the gospel. In just the last few years, there have been huge technological changes.

Only ten years ago there was no YouTube, Skype or Smart phone. Facebook was nowhere on the radar, nor was Twitter, Pinterest, or Google. Along with these technologies, or perhaps because of them, there have been changes to the way that people communicate and relate to each other. Today, young people in particular post every detail of their lives online for everyone to see.

Will you be my friend?

In this environment, it is hardly surprising to find that young people may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, and followers on Twitter, seemingly able to quantify how popular they are! They are highly connected, but at the same time, tragically disconnected from the physical interactions that are so crucial to growing up, connections with parents, family and friends, in the church and in the world.

One author1 explained that, while young people may be regular in their attendance at church, ‘what lies beneath their attendance, their easy laughter and even their occasional moments of seeming to pay attention to what you say, [is that] they are experiencing a longing to be known, to be taken seriously, to be affirmed and acknowledged and to be loved’. Tragically, social media can never do this.

The psychological impact

Evidence is mounting that there are significant psychological impacts of mass internet addiction — if you think the word ‘addiction’ is too strong, try asking a young person to spend a week without the internet … better still, try it yourself!

Researchers note that, because of our more ‘connected’ society, ‘children now spend a very limited time with family and actual friends’. ‘There is weakening of family bond and limited real life social interaction resulting in distorted social skills and social cues.’2

The spiritual impact

‘No wonder social media is so addicting — it’s all about you’, or so goes the headline from one recent study3. In a typical face-to-face conversation, people spend 30-40% of the time talking about themselves. On social media, that rises to 80%. Here lies the conundrum. While young people have been called the ‘me generation’, they also crave to be noticed, cared about.

It is also interesting to note the way that young people receive and use information. Vast stores of knowledge are available at the touch of a button, but the way that information is explored is by going from one hyperlink to another — click, click, click every few seconds! We are so easily distracted. We might be looking through information on a particular topic, but then something pops up, maybe another link, a video or an ad, and captures our attention, then off we go along a completely different track!

YouTube reinforces the visual (concrete versus abstract) development of the brain for a generation that has been brought up with videos at any time and anywhere. Experience reigns supreme — as long as it lasts no more than 2-3 minutes!

What should we do?

Recognising where young people are, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, is the first step in reaching them. The Bible itself reinforces the need to understand ‘where people are’, and not where we wish they might be. When the apostle Paul spoke in a Jewish setting, he presented Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy (Acts 13.16-41). When in Athens, he spoke of the ‘unknown God’ to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17). Nor is there anything new about presenting the gospel in highly visual and direct ways. We can imagine the greatest preacher who ever lived, the Lord Jesus, pointing to a field and asking his congregation to ‘consider the lilies’, or to think about how Solomon was clothed (Matthew 6.28). J.C. Ryle, the famous 19th-century bishop, writing about George Whitefield, one of the greatest preachers of all times, noted his ‘singular power of description’, quoting an Arabian proverb: ‘He is the best orator who can turn men’s ears into eyes’4.

Technology can be a vehicle for good, though we need to be aware of its danger — in particular, its addictive nature — and emphasise the need to make and sustain real (physical) friendships. Young people are still in the process of maturing skills such as self-control, so ‘technology-free zones’ might be a good idea, particularly at specific times during youth meetings such as Bible talks.

Much has been written about the negative effects of technology. But it also offers new ways to reach and help young people. While the apostle Paul went into the marketplaces to meet people, in our day the ‘marketplace’ is increasingly digital! If we want to reach young people, we will probably find them ‘attached to their device’! There are amazing examples of innovative uses of video or other technologies to reach young people5. Take a look at a video promoting a university mission6, a flash mob used to advertise a carol service7 or a montage based on asking students to write down what Jesus means to them8.

In New Testament times, the apostles used what was available to them to reach people — whether a common language (Greek) or the wide-ranging network of Roman roads. Today, the internet offers tools that we can use. This should energise our efforts and stretch our imaginations! Videos (typically no longer than two or three minutes) can be a great tool, along with Twitter, Facebook and other social media. The possibilities are endless.

Nothing new under the sun…

At the end of the day, however, the internet is just a tool. Like the printed page, it can be hijacked by the devil, or used to glorify God. History teaches us that there is ‘nothing new under the sun’.9 Interactions between people changed fundamentally as recently as the Industrial Revolution, with the effective breakdown of the extended family. Or, for those who think that young people spend too much time on the internet and not enough time reading, consider that in the Roman Empire literacy rates were probably under 10%10. Throughout history, Christianity has always been the biggest driver of positive change.

Technology may change, but the human heart does not, and our challenge is communicating in a way that can be clearly understood, using the tools at our disposal. The Roman highway may have been replaced by the Superhighway, but ‘The Way’ has not changed!

But the greatest is love…

There is a better way. Much of what we see on social media stems from the need to be noticed, understood, appreciated; above all, to be loved. This is at the very core of the Christian gospel (Matthew 24). The interconnected disconnected may choose an online medium to express their feelings, with everything out in the open, but to us, as ambassadors of Christ, this presents an amazing opportunity to show the love of Jesus. As the world changes, we still communicate the same love that brought Christ to earth so that ‘whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life’. The toys may be smarter, smaller and faster, but the heart is no different. People don’t change nor does the love of God. Because of God’s love to us, and through the power of his Holy Spirit, we also love the young people we interact with. As Jesus said: ‘By this shall all men know that we are his disciples, if we have love one for another’ (John 13.35).

David Clark is the author of You, Your Family and the Internet published by Day One (http://www.dayone.co.uk).

This article was originally printed in the USA in the YouthWorker Journal, and is used with permission.

Footnotes

1. Chap Clark, YouthWorker Journal, Oct. 2 2012
2. From a study by Karishma S. Ramdhonee, a child psychologist with the Mauritius government. The study is found athttp://www.gov.mu/portal/sites/cert/sid2012/Psychological%20Impact%20of%20Internet%20usage%20on%20Children.pdf
3. ‘Stress of modern life cuts attention spans to five minutes’, The Telegraph, November 26 2008.
4. A sketch of the life and labors of George Whitefield, J.C. Ryle.
5. My special thanks to my son Tim for these ideas! He has just spent a year working among students as UCCF Relay worker — http://www.uccf.org.uk/relay/
6. http://www.vimeo.com/58774066
7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICh1stcvuc0&feature=youtu.be
8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOCXYkH1UUY
9. Ecclesiastes 1.9
10. http://www.tektonics.org/tsr/tilliteracy.html

 

This article was first published in the Aug 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Notes to growing Christians from David Jackman: After the carol service


We are approaching Christmas. It’s the time of each year which provides us with some of our greatest opportunities to talk about our faith with our friends who do not yet share it.

A Christmas carol service is not a difficult ask. Indeed, it can be a very popular one, for all sorts of reasons. But what about after that? It is worth underlining how important it is to get an interested friend into reading one of the Gospels and, if at all possible, to do it together on a regular basis, so as to deal with all the questions they may have. The New Year provides a natural point at which to start doing that, but to get there you may need to be prepared to deal with some current misconceptions about the Bible.

Obviously surprised

I was preaching evangelistically on Isaiah 53 recently, when a thoughtful, professional man came up afterwards to ask: ‘Where do you get all this Isaiah stuff from?’ As I explained the historical provenance of Isaiah’s life and prophecy, he was obviously surprised, since he had the impression that the Bible had been written by the church, centuries later, perhaps in the Middle Ages. That would explain why Isaiah 53 could provide such an amazing portrait of Christ crucified.

It set me thinking about how widespread such misunderstandings may be. Apparently, over 50% of several hundred teenagers surveyed a couple of years ago, thought that Jesus was a figure of fiction, that he had never lived. But then they thought the same was true of Winston Churchill as well! So, there is quite a quantity of brushwood to be cleared away before the Bible door can be opened.

Historical foundations

The historical foundations of our faith are particularly under threat at Christmas, with the fantasising, Disneyfication of the story. The appearance of Santa Claus is often contributory to a childish, mental image of God, the old man with the long, white beard, which mitigates any serious consideration of his nature. But even ‘jolly old St. Nicholas’ peddles a works theology, of rewards for those who have been good and no goodies for bad children, which is the polar opposite of the gospel of God’s free grace which broke into our world at Bethlehem. What a confusion and muddle it has all become; but what an opportunity to challenge the nostalgic sentimentality with the hard facts of history!

For the Christian faith is nothing if it is not historic. It was Rousseau who said that if Jesus Christ had not existed, then the mind that made him up must have been just as great as his mind was, and whose mind was it? The detailed historical documentation of Jesus’s birth, in terms of time, place and genealogy, by Matthew and Luke, are not incidental, or of minor importance. Yet we may need to help our friends to understand why these ancient documents are worth their consideration. They can be assured that in reading a quality modern translation they are being put in touch with an authentic first-century document.

They need to know that the best extant manuscripts of the classical literature of the Greco-Roman world are several centuries later than those of the New Testament and that the many biblical manuscripts, both in Greek and in translations, from the early centuries of the Christian era mean that, by cross-checking and comparison, scholars have been able to establish an accurate and highly reliable text. Of course, this does not automatically make the Gospels true, but it validates both their authenticity as original witnesses and the worthwhileness of reading them, for a critical, modern mind.

More detail than other faiths

They describe historical events in more detail and quantity than the founding documents of other faiths, because they are rooted in the great event which makes Christmas such a powerful witness.

In John Betjeman’s words:

The Maker of the stars and sea
became a child on earth for me.

That is the heart of the message. Christmas celebrates the great intervention, which, in God’s time, culminates in the great exchange, as, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5.21). We must never allow the critics and sceptics to erode the historical foundations of biblical faith. It matters that the Christmas story is told in its factual historical simplicity, for these are immutable facts, which are not open to some sort of ‘development’ or distortion, like a TV soap opera. So, whatever people around us may like or dislike about the additions to Christmas, let’s bring them back to the reality of a real birth, a real child, a real human identity with its haunting question, ‘What child is this?’ and the glorious angelic response, ‘A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’. Wouldn’t it be good to pray that this Christmas we shall each have an opportunity or two for a natural but meaningful explanation of the gospel? For, ‘where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in’.

David Jackman is the past President of the Proclamation Trust and writes the ‘Notes to growing Christians’ column for EN.

This article was first published in the December 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Links worth a look!


Enjoy some of the links we thought were worth a look!

Desiring God – How will you make this Advent special?

A Faith to Live By – Living out same-sex attraction

Girltalk Conversations – A Christmas gift idea for your pastors wife

Trevin Wax – Train your leaders

Gospel Partnerships – Share you life – because Gospel ministry is caught as well as taught

If you come across something yourselves you think we’d like to share with our readers – let us know. We always love hearing from you.

Creation Care


Creation careMy son Tom is not yet a Christian. He provoked me recently by saying that he felt that we Christians are living lives of what he called ‘delusional necessity’.

He claimed that we have convinced ourselves that all the creation-damaging activities we do each day are necessary or inescapable and hence acceptable. We think that our low-cost holiday flights, overheated homes, cheap food, two or even three cars and all the other trappings of a consumer-focused 21st-century society are necessary for a fulfilled Christian life. Thanks for saying this, Tom. I believe you’re right. And here’s why.

In all my reading about Christians and the environment I have not once read about sin. I realise the difficulties — people don’t like it. Even many Christians don’t like it. The social norms of individualism and relativism discourage making judgments — at least in certain areas of our lives. We are comfortable saying that things like prostitution, exploitation of children and murder are sinful, to name just three, but when it comes to topics such as consumerism and the environment we are much less happy about making similar judgments. In mitigation, there is also a vigorous debate questioning the reality impact of humankind on the environment especially over climate change.

Of course I recognise that humans are damaging the earth and as Christians we are encouraged to try to ‘do something about it’. As with many others, we are happy to go along with that. Christians buy fair trade coffee, recycle as much as we can, use the bus to go here or there, buy solar panels if we can afford them and forgo strawberries out of season. But if, for some reason, we don’t follow this slightly simpler lifestyle then it’s not likely that anyone will say anything. No one will suggest that maybe we shouldn’t do this, that or the other. There will be no visit from the church leaders suggesting that perhaps that luxury holiday to the Far East is out of order.

Using different words

It is as if lifestyles that lead to environmental destruction fall into some kind of behavioural limbo. Some behaviour is obviously not good. In fact, it is clearly bad, but we resist saying that it’s sinful. Instead we use different words and create patterns of thinking and ways of behaviour that allow us to continue doing just what we want to do! In the developed countries we benefit from a high impact consumerist lifestyle which the remaining two-thirds of the world’s population aspires to match. Our challenge is not to return to a subsistence farming Stone Age but to engage our technological capability to create sustainable, improving standards of life for the whole world.

The predictable result of this debate and complexity is that generally Christians have been weak in tackling the ecological crisis we are facing.

Complacency

Surely we have been lulled into a false sense of what is right and wrong when it comes to ecological lifestyle issues and that’s why I agree with my son Tom that we have fallen into a number of areas of complacency. I have described some below — there may be more!

The first is that we don’t think that the impact of our lifestyles have on God’s creation is really that important. It’s sometimes not a case of wilful neglect. It’s just that caring for creation in a meaningful way is not something that Christians have traditionally thought about, other than to marvel at God’s creation, power and nature’s beauty.

But now we know the huge damage that humankind is doing and there are no excuses these days for not knowing about the effect we have on creation. There is plenty of information around and an increasing amount of Christian writing, but despite this the majority of Christians don’t think seriously about our responsibility to live lives that demonstrate care for creation. Our role should be to act ourselves and alert the wider world to the desperate issues we all face.

Doing enough?

The second complacency is that as Christians we have convinced ourselves that we are doing enough already. It’s true that our lives are much more ecologically minded these days. No thanks to Christians though — most of us are just doing what most other people do, aren’t we? But that’s exactly the problem! We somehow convince ourselves that, because we have made a relatively small number of creation care efforts — recycling, eating some organic food and cycling to church now and then, all this is enough. Of course these are all necessary things to do but not at all sufficient to demonstrate real obedience and creation care. I wonder, in what other areas of our life would we be happy with such low standards? In what other areas of our life would be happy knowing that actually those who are not Christians are probably doing much better than we are at caring for creation?

Perhaps the enormity of the challenge has caused Christians to lose the radical edge that should be changing our lifestyles and convincing the world. As one non-Christian author has said: ‘Being less bad is not the same as being good’.

Can’t help it?

A third area of complacency is that as Christians we seem to have convinced ourselves that we can’t help our behaviours with negative environmental impacts It is true that life in the 21st century is incredibly complex and to some extent it is true that it impossible not to commit creation care sins in normal day-to-day life. It’s the way our economy and society have been designed. Life is complicated, but that is no reason for not trying to do something about the behaviours we do know are harmful. God will forgive us if we have no choice or don’t know about our creation care sin. But what about when we sin knowingly and could easily avoid that sin?

Even in our complex lives there are lots of things we do know about and can avoid and avoid easily without reducing the quality of our lives one little bit. In some areas of our lives it is so easy not to sin! We have choices and we don’t always make the right ones because we are afraid of calling these behaviours what they really are.

Questions

A final complacency is that is that we forget to ask key questions about our creation care lifestyles — questions we ask about other aspects of our lives. When someone approached Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life he was told: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself”’ (Matthew 22.37-39).

So the questions we should be asking ourselves are:

* How does my lifestyle reflect my love for God and his creation?

* How does my lifestyle reflect my love for my neighbour?

These are simple but quite radical questions in relation to creation care. When we love somebody it means a whole range of emotions and actions, but, basically, it means wanting the best for that person — making their lives better in some way through our actions. Why is it, therefore, that when we think about our creation care behaviour we sometimes seem to accept that, as long as we ‘do no harm’, that’s acceptable? Surely, if we are meant to love and care for God’s creation as he does, then ‘doing no harm’ is not an option — we should actually be doing good!

Love your neighbour

Creation care behaviour for our neighbours is even more radical. In a very real sense our lifestyles in the richer Western countries of the world have a direct impact throughout the whole earth. Climate change is possibly the best example: rising sea level flooding communities, changing weather patterns causing droughts and rising temperatures causing biodiversity loss are just three examples that affect not only God’s creation but God’s people — usually already very poor people at that.

So there we have it, Tom! Christians may be complacent about creation care and thanks for highlighting the dangers. But, being positive, we can through God’s strength do something about them now we know, so that hopefully Christians in the 21st century will be remembered for our actions on creation care, much as those in the 19th century are remembered as leading social reform not just by reforming their own homes and factories but by tirelessly working to change the whole society. As Christians we have to take up the same challenge to be salt and light in care of our God-given world.

James Hindson is a member of Shrewsbury Baptist Church, a part-time teacher and runs his own small organisation called ‘Sense&Sustainability’ —http://www.senseandsustainability.co.uk — working with different groups looking at sustainability issues.

 

This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

St. Helen’s Bishopsgate Preaching Matters: Andrew Evans on the real Jesus


Here is another instalment of the video series from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate designed specifically to ‘equip, encourage and inspire those who teach God’s word.’

‘In November’s edition of Preaching Matters Andrew Evans, Pastor of Christ Church Liverpool introduces us to the real Jesus from Matthew 21-25.’

How has this helped you as you teach God’s word?

Is there a case for SSM? (book review)


IS THERE A CASE FOR SSM? Is there a case for SSMarriage
Questions of eligibility and consequences
By R.S. Harris
Anglican Mainstream and Voice for Justice UK. 102 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 0 957 506 602

This little book packs a punch. Written primarily for a secular audience, it pulls together the key arguments against the legalisation of same-sex marriage (SSM). The aim is to persuade those who may not share a biblical worldview that there are good reasons for opposing the move.

Its premise is that SSM simply does not meet the historic legal tests of eligibility for what marriage is, and that the ‘love and commitment’ argument is not sufficient to replace those tests — not least because it does not in itself preclude a wider definition of marriage, e.g. between more than two people.

The argument then runs that the concept of ‘equal’ marriage is a category error which fundamentally mistakes the benefits of marriage as an institution as being separable from the nature of marriage as intrinsically heterosexual. There is then an in-depth analysis of whether gay relationships tend to regard monogamy as a virtue, with the implication that SSM intrinsically undermines the exclusivity of the institution. The author is honest about the inconclusive nature of studies into the effect on children of same-sex parenting, and rightly takes that as a cue for caution. There is also fairly substantial treatment of the negative health effects of some sexual practices between men, and of the possible impact of SSM legislation on freedom of religion.

Harris covers a lot of ground in a small space. Readers will need to look elsewhere for more detailed treatment of some of the underlying issues, for example in relation to the trend towards gender choice as a social good, the nature of equality, and the commoditisation of children that is inherent in the debate about SSM. It would not be fair to expect a book of this size to deal with those issues comprehensively — though perhaps some more space could have been made for them. Some crucial assumptions are made, in particular about society’s expectations in relation to monogamy and the undesirability of widening the legal definition of marriage even further.

Throughout, the book assumes the ‘givenness’ of marriage to explain what defines it, and why government does not have authority to redefine it. This is both its strength and its weakness — indirectly, it points to the Giver. But, for many, the assumption that marriage is a ‘given’ is the very point of challenge.

Caroline Eade, 
lawyer, member of Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge

 

(This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)

The heroine who said nothing – a Christian missionary who saved Jewish children from the Holocaust


Heroine who said nothingIt is a great privilege to belong to a church with a history.

This year held a great surprise. Surrey Chapel, Norwich, has its own Holocaust heroine! The story first emerged when London barrister Professor Philippe Sands was researching his family history following the death of his father. He opened an insignificant suitcase belonging to his mother. Out fell a yellowing scrap of paper, with a handwritten note which reads: ‘Miss E.M. Tilney, “Menuka”, Blue Bell Rd., Norwich, Angleterre’. After careful research, this clue brought a fascinating story to light.

Confronting the Nazis

The address referred to Miss Elsie Tilney (1893-1974). She was one of a cohort of doughty missionaries sent by our church to far away places in the early years of the 20th century. Her initial calling was to North Africa, but over time she felt drawn to the Jewish people. As the Nazi shadow darkened over Europe in the 1930s, she found herself in Paris. Occasional messages to the church described her ministry of practical and spiritual care to the numerous Jewish refugees accumulating from Germany and Eastern Europe. When Paris fell, she was interned, and, when finally freed, she returned home saying little or nothing about her experiences.

Only now do we know what she was up to when she was in France. Elsie had form when it came to facing up to the Nazis. Days before war began, a Jewish refugee had asked her to travel to annexed Vienna to extract his baby daughter. This she did — risking freedom if not perhaps life at this point — and giving her a first taste of confrontation with Fascist authorities. In July 1939, baby Ruth came to Paris, survived the war in hiding with her parents in France, and eventually became the mother of Professor Sands.

Choosing to remain

Meanwhile, with the fall of Paris imminent, Elsie chose not to flee, but to remain with people she loved. She was imprisoned in Vittel, an internment camp for foreign nationals. These included hundreds of Jews with foreign passports, some obtained through the black market. Theses passports gave protection for a time — ironically, Nazis were sticklers for bureaucracy. Elsie, in her 50s, worked in the prison administration; we suspect this enabled her to help hide the true origins of Jewish internees. Vittel was not a concentration camp; life was bearable in a converted hotel — but for Jews it did not last.

Train to Auschwitz

In 1944, the Final Solution began in earnest; no longer could a mere passport protect you. A train to Auschwitz was due, and hundreds of Jews were to depart. With great consternation in the camp, Elise’s greatest act of courage took place. Sashe Krawech, a young Polish machine-gunner who had survived the Warsaw ghetto because he was ‘South African’, somehow missed the train… It turns out Elsie had hidden him in her bathroom. This continued for the next five months.

Working in the camp office was no holiday — it was a daily life-or-death test of nerve. (‘Is there a Jewish girl in your room, Miss Tilney?’ ‘No, there is no Jewish girl in my room, Herr Commandant.’ Very truthful people, Surrey Chapel missionaries!)

To be discovered assisting Jews by the Nazi authorities at this time would be to die with them. But she did not; and when the Americans liberated the camp, Sashe emerged from the bathroom — distinctly green, but definitely alive!

And so lives were saved and a heroine was born — almost immediately to be forgotten. Elsie later moved to America to live with her brother (who trained body-builders, funnily enough, including Charles Atlas). And, in common with many ladies of her ilk and generation, she said absolutely nothing about it. It was, after all, for God’s glory, not hers, and she will get her reward. So why have we unearthed it? It’s for his sake and for ours, not hers, that we remember the story.

The people God uses

What kind of heroes does God use for his purposes? Read the Bible casually and some famous names appear: David, Moses, Samson…. Big, hairy and male, they famously saved the people of God by their mighty deeds. But please read it again more carefully; look for some other heroes, less well known. You have heard of Esther, I’m sure. But how about Shiprah and Puah, Jochebed and Jehosheba? Look them up. They only get one or two Bible name-checks (guess why?) — but their heroic roles were just as crucial in saving the people and purposes of God as David or Moses. Without them — no people of God, no line of David, no Jesus Christ, no salvation.

In heaven, the ordinary, humble, unsung heroes will outnumber the superstars by several million to one. They reflect God’s glory with equal splendour. And they may include you or me, even if there are no Nazis involved.

So what does it take?

First, Elsie was a lady of character — and let’s not pretend it was all smooth perfection. Sashe Krawech, so it is said, found her so annoying that he was almost driven to giving himself up to the Gestapo! Imagine that young man trapped in the wardrobe or the bathroom of a life-long missionary spinster intent on converting him. It is quite likely Elsie was, shall we say, ‘of a sort’. But it was not the perfection of her personality that made her useful to God; it was her devotion to him that made a heroine. Anyone can do it.

Secondly, Elsie was a lady of compassion and courage. She was willing to risk and sacrifice herself for others — and, of course, in this Christians have no monopoly. By God’s common grace, this human ideal remains evident in people of all convictions and none. We cannot say: ‘As a Christian, Elsie was more compassionate and courageous than others’. But perhaps what we can say is: ‘As a Christian, Elsie was more compassionate and courageous than she would have been otherwise’.

But, thirdly, Elsie had a calling. Everyone deserves compassion — but why was Elsie in Paris with the Jews and not back home in Norwich? She felt a specific call, in her case to the Jewish people, and it was to convert them. She was motivated by her theology to see them come to Christ, not just escape from Hitler.

This may be an embarrassing truth today, but it remains the Christian mission. We are to ‘make disciples of all nations’ by a gospel which is ‘first for the Jew, then for the gentile’. She believed that through the Jews all peoples would be saved. One survivor recalls how, as a teenager, Elsie had met her in a corridor, knelt before her and sworn to do all she could to protect her as a member of God’s Old Testament chosen people. Elsie saved life because of her specific calling, not general humanitarian ideals. So what are mine?

Holocaust Memorial Day

I am glad we have unearthed our own Holocaust heroine. But there have certainly been hundreds of other stories in my church that remain untold. Perhaps most have never risked their physical lives for Jesus, but they certainly gave their lives to him, for him to use day by day, month by month, year by year. And I look forward to hearing all their stories one day.

On January 27 2013, we had the privilege of being joined at Surrey Chapel for Holocaust Memorial Day by Professor Philippe Sands and his family, including his mother, Ruth Sands (74), and Shula Truman (89), who knew Elsie in Vittel.

Professor Sands’ account of Elsie’s life can be downloaded here:http://www.schapel.org.uk/LiveVersion/Sermons/files/2013-01-27_PS_Elsie_Tilney.mp3

Tom Chapman

This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Why all scientists believe in God


 

Why Scientists Believe in GodThey may not know it, but all scientists, in effect, believe in God.

They have to in order to do their work. That’s the claim.

It may seem very cheeky to include atheists and agnostics. But sometimes, by their actions, people let slip that in a sense they know things that they say they don’t believe in. An adulterer may well say that there is not another woman, but the perfume on his collar tells a different story. What scientists actually do in their work of research and scientific method means they act as if God is there.

Yes, if you believe in a ‘God of the gaps’, a God merely there to account for the present voids in scientific explanation, then of course, as science advances and there become fewer and fewer gaps, the role of God diminishes.

But if, as Professor John Lennox of Oxford was quoted as saying in The Times last year, ‘He’s not the God of the gaps, but the God of the whole show’, then things look completely different. And the only God the Bible knows anything about is the God who is the God of the whole show (Genesis 1.1).

The laws of science
According to Scripture, God is involved in those areas where science does best, namely in areas of scientific laws. That is areas of reality involving regular and predictable events, repeating patterns. He brings forth the starry constellations in their seasons (Job 38.32). By his word, the Bible tells us, he governs the snow and the frost and the division of a living cell.

So-called ‘natural laws’ are really the laws of God or word of God, approximately described by human investigators. And the work of science depends completely on the fact that there are these regularities in the world. If there were no regularities, if randomly water sometimes flowed uphill and rhinos bred rabbits, there would be no pattern to study and scientific prediction would be impossible. But reality is not like that. There is order and pattern.

Romans 1.19,20 tells us that all people have a knowledge of God by observing the created order. Truth about God is clearly seen from what has been made. And, of course, scientists above all other people spend their time observing, letting themselves be confronted by the created order. What do they see?

Not mere coincidences
Let’s get back to those regularities on which science depends. What are they? They are more than coincidences. You might get a run of weeks in which in Guildford it always rains on Thursdays. If the sequence goes on long enough you might think you had found a scientific law. But you haven’t. It’s just a coincidence. The regularities which scientists are looking for are more than coincidences. They want to know whether the pattern, the recurrence is somehow constrained, whether it must always happen, whether it occurs according to a general explanatory principle which governs the occurrence so they can predict. And they find out that the rain is not to do with Thursdays, or Guildford; rather it is due to a certain concentration of water vapour and temperature and air pressure conditions, whether it’s Thursday or not. These general constraining principles are what we call scientific laws.

And all scientists — even the atheists — believe that these laws are ‘out there’ as part of reality. They are something independent of themselves. You don’t ‘invent’ a scientific law, you ‘discover’ it. It’s like a pot of gold buried in the ground. You uncover it. You don’t dream it into existence. And you uncover it through probing reality with experiments and considering whether your results follow a constraining principle, a law.

The method gives them away
The secular scientist discovers these laws, but he/she says they are simply brute facts. ‘That’s just the way things are.’ And they insist this is ‘Neutral’. But what they have discovered and how they have gone about discovering it actually points in a totally different direction. What they have done in essence betrays a ‘belief’ in God, and a kind of ‘seeking after’ God.

First, they set out with the idea that the universe, nature, is understandable, penetrable to the human mind. Why should that be? They offer no answer, yet they assume it. Cows or insects are able to exist perfectly happily without understanding science or mathematics. It is not necessary that we can do science to exist. But the scientist believes that for some reason the laws of the universe are penetrable to human thought. In other words, they assume that we and whatever the universe came from speak the same language in a way which is not true for other creatures. But we are personal / rational. Or, putting it another way, scientists assume that scientific law can be expressed, communicated and understood through human words / logic. But such things as language and rationality are attributes of personality. They do not belong to rocks, trees and sub-personal entities. So the assumption that scientific laws can be discovered and articulated by us actually indicates a belief in a personal origin of the universe; in other words God.

Laws and God’s attributes
Second, the characteristics of scientific law turn out to be very like the characteristics which we normally associate with God. Scientific laws are universal in time and space. For example, Kirchoff’s law concerning electrical circuits, (current arriving at any junction = current leaving) only applies to electrical circuits, but it applies to electrical circuits at any time in any place. There is an omnipresence (all places) and a kind of eternity (all times) about these laws. Newton’s laws do not apply to very small objects, or to speeds near the speed of light, but given those restrictions they do apply everywhere at all times. The laws do not change with time, applying as much today as they did 350 years ago, when Newton discovered them. They are immutable — like God. Further, these laws are almighty. They cannot be violated (except by the Creator himself, hence miracles). We have already seen that the laws have a personal character, in that they are rational and expressible in human language.

Many scientists and mathematicians comment on the elegance, simplicity, beauty of scientific law, all of which are attributes of God (Psalm 27.4). And in scientific law there is even a reflection of the unity and diversity of the Trinity. Things like Newton’s laws are one in that they apply across the universe, but that unity embraces diversity too — e.g. the law of gravitation applies to oranges as well as apples, planets and stars as well as cricket balls.

So, in seeking out these laws, scientists are in effect seeking all the things that characterise God. In that sense too they ‘believe’ in God.

Now in saying that scientific laws show something of the attributes of God we are not saying that the universe or that ‘nature’ is God. But we are saying that through his creation and upholding of the world God shows himself; a reflection of him, like in a mirror, is seen. The heavens declare the glory of God, the universe tells us something about the One who made it (Psalm 19.1). Scientific law is not God, but it is God revealing himself. This chimes in with what Paul says: ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse’ (Romans 1.20).

Suppressing the truth
If this is the case, why don’t more scientists say they believe in God? It is because they, like us all, are sinners. Therefore they suppress the truth (Romans 1.18). They conceal from themselves the fact that ‘law’ is personal and implies a maker/lawgiver to whom they are responsible. To acknowledge God would be morally too painful. Instead they either pretend that law is impersonal or they substitute something like ‘Mother Nature’ to fudge things. But basically they evade what their actions tell you they know.

John Benton

In writing this article, I am much indebted to Verne Poythress’s book Redeeming Science, published by Crossway, 2006.

This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Church – born again!


2013_12 Dec Cover

A church plant that almost failed has taken off and goes independent in January.
Billy, Justine, Gill, Emma, Gary, John, Maggie, Amy are just a few of the many who have come to faith over the past six years at Shepherd Drive Baptist Church on the Chantry and Pinewood estates in Ipswich. If you have never been to the ‘far east’, Ipswich is a historic sea port on the river Orwell with a couple of large marinas full of posh yachts. Now just over an hour from Liverpool Street station in the City of London, it is also a rapidly growing commuter town.

Making a mark for God
Situated at a key point on this expanding housing development, the church is starting to make a real mark for God among the many young families who live round about. It was, however, back in the 1970s that a Christian nurse living on the estate first felt a burden to reach the local children with the gospel. In due time this led to a church plant, which, in spite of sincere efforts and a good building, never really impacted the area as it might have. After a closure of around three years, the fellowship was re-launched in 2007 with a specific aim of reaching the un-churched.
To head up the work with suitably gifted people, the overseeing church at Cauldwell Hall Road had invited Simon and Christine Robinson from Caterham in Surrey and also sent Matt and Sheryl Brett from its own leadership to work alongside them.

Focused on evangelism
Simon’s brief was specifically to focus on bridge building and evangelism rather than assume the role of a traditional pastor. From the outset of the new mission, this was and remains his and Christine’s priority. Incidentally, Matthew, himself a local lad who attended the children’s events in the early days, had subsequently been converted and eventually became an elder at the sending church.
As these things were taking shape, John and Marion Skull, who had just retired from many years in full-time pastoral work, moved to their new home a few minutes walk from the Shepherd Drive building and threw in their lot as well. The leadership team has now grown further with the addition of Peter Newton as a pastor/teacher and his wife Sheri who was previously a UCCF staff worker in the area.

Surprises
Finance for the mission has been generously supplied from a number of sources, specifically the Particular Baptist Fund and the East Anglian Grace Baptist Association, as well as other churches and individuals. From January onwards it will be a self-supporting independent local church.
It is evident that behind the scenes the invisible hand of God has been at work bringing people to himself, and together, in some surprising ways.
The work has advanced through a combination of straight gospel preaching and down to earth friendship evangelism backed by numerous Christianity Explored courses of all shapes and sizes. There is a massive and vibrant Tots and Tinies group as well as frequent events for the men, usually involving sport and food. A smart sixth form college has also opened a few hundred yards away and a new community centre shares the same car park as the church. All these things, in the providence of God, dovetailed around the same time and give many reasons to press forward.

People converted
With around 90 regularly meeting together on a Sunday morning, it is the new converts who give the greatest cause for the church’s thanksgiving.
Here is Gill: ‘My Christian journey started a couple of years ago when my friend Maggie asked me if I wanted to read her granddad’s book about his missionary life in India. It was an amazing story. She then invited me to Shepherd Drive and I felt at ease with everyone right away, as they were so welcoming and friendly. Then, one Sunday morning in 2012, as another friend was giving her testimony, I knew that God was calling me too’.
And Gary: ‘Initially it was money and a good job with a shipping company that led me away from my early church interests and not until 20 years later when my wife brought our son to the Toddler group at Shepherd Drive that everything changed. Here I too found the friendship very real and in due time joined a Christianity Explored group, where I really began to see the wonder of grace.’
Then we have Billy and Justine, an army couple who were initially helped by the padre on their base, but, having moved to Ipswich where Justine (who had once been a dancer on a cruise liner), became friendly with Christine started coming to the newly formed fellowship. Both were powerfully touched with a sense of their sin, baptised and, while now serving in the forces overseas, are looking forward to serving an even higher cause on their return.

This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057