Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Thursday, June 28

Predestined to eat cake

Culture in our office is that you bring cream cakes in on your birthday. Now there's about 350 people here, so the way it is done is that you buy enough for your team and close friends, and then a few extra.

You then put the cakes on a tray near the aisle, in full view of everyone. You tell your friends and team to dig in, and you might also send out an email to a wider group of friends. (One guy today sent a global email to the whole office).

Your friends and team therefore get all the cake they want, sometimes seconds as well. But if anyone you know and forgot to invite passes by you give them a shout 'come and have a cake'. The cakes are also next to a communal area, so anyone that doesn't know you can also have a cake. If you don't know the person, common courtesy is that you check its OK before grabbing. Usually the people that don't know you, walk on by and don't ask. But if they do it will not be refused and you have a new friend.

This is how I see the Biblical doctrine of predestination. When you buy the cakes you know who they are for, but anybody can have one. Those that love you, that the cakes are intended for, take them eagerly. But you will be very happy if others accept the open invitation and become your friends too - they are not excluded.

Christ died for everyone. Some he has predestined to be saved, others will reject the open invitation of salvation and friendship. There is a theoretical category of people who have not been predestined who do take up the offer, but I'not sure how this works theologically and in practice I think this category is virtually non-existant. People who do take up the open offer usually discover afterwards that they were in fact already on the list, so to speak. And those that reject the open offer were not excluded from the opportunity, its just that they tend to be those who did not want the friendship anyway.

Any illustration is bound to be full of flaws, but this is the best way I have come across for explaining how I understand predestination.

Tuesday, June 26

A God who answers

Mrs Roman Catholic in my workplace prayer group attributes the 'miraculous' healing of her mother to my prayer at last week's meeting. Well, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who prayed, but it's nice to get this kind of feedback.

Her Mum had gone through surgery many years before and since they stick a tube down your neck as part of the general anasthetic and she has a small windpipe, she was injured and could not eat solids for 12 months. She recently had another operation, and [I don't quite get this bit] didn't tell the anesthetist about the previous problems. So, after she woke up, she found she could not eat any solids again - hence our prayers last week. And now, the 'miracle' is that within a week of that prayer, she is eating virtually normally agian. ie 7 days compared to 12 months.

[I have used inverted commas around 'miracle' etc since that is what we are calling it but I can't prove that that is what it is]

Monday, June 25

The rollercoaster calms down

We have done a bit of research.

It seems that many of our worries are a consequence of the early signs of menopause, rather than anything else.

This is good in some ways and bad in others. The irregular periods are not a series of mini-miscarriages or failed implantations, they are just irregular periods. And quite a lot of the sensations may be menopausal rather than fertilisation, implantation, etc. So our emotional rollercoaster can now ease off a little. Fewer false hopes, fewer let-downs. The bad news of course is that there is a reduced chance of pregnancy – it’s harder to get the timing right and conditions in the womb are less favourable. But this also means that the possibility of two eggs being released is slightly greater, which might render the twins she wants.

Thursday, June 21

Shrek and Disestablishment

I don’t normally do film reviews, but Shrek has been on telly again recently.

I love Shrek. It’s great having kids as an excuse to repeatedly view it.

Shrek tells us a huge amount about misjudging people based on first impressions and prejudices, based on half-heard and misconstrued conversations, about tolerance, about the layers of personality, about walling oneself in.

And all of this is wrapped up in a fabulously good yarn, a great fairytale. There will come a time in the future when people don’t realise that this is a relatively new creation and not a genuine fairytale passed down from our ancestors. It has all of the makings of a classic that will not fade and be forgotten.

The only force against this is the number of references to popular culture, television programmes and songs, which may become dated. And yet although in general I hate detest and despise musicals in the strongest language, it is largely the songs that make me like it. The peaceful music while Shrek eats his tea, Fiona’s song that bursts the bird…fantastic. But greatest of all is the application of “I believe”. My kids think I am mad, as join in loudly, mixing the songs theme of belief in love with my own belief in Christ.

My only misgiving about the film is a very subtle nuance at the end. Fiona’s marriage to the evil dictator was in what is clearly a depiction of a Christian church, lead by a priest in a bishop’s mitre. But her marriage to Shrek takes place in the woods. And so the image of a pagan nature-wedding is subtly promoted over a Christian wedding. And the paganism is very subtly presented as being the right way, in contrast to the heavy handed dry state church.

This is so subtle and nuanced that I am probably the only person in the world to think his way.

Perhaps it is a consequence of the association of Church and state. If the state is evil, so is the church. If you rebel against the state, you rebel against the church.

Christ said “My Kingdom is not of this world”.

I don’t want a US style separation of Church and State, each blind to the other. Neither do I want church where a potentially Muslim prime minister appoints the bishops, and where a bunch of pagan, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic and atheist and even some actively anti-Christian MPs approves the prayer book. There has to be a middle way, where the church is independant of secular authorities, but where there is dialogue between them.

Monday, June 18

After Alpha, and baptism II

Well, it seemed to go OK. I, in my role as "Mr Anabaptist disguised as Anglican" was able to explain my position to the group, while accepting that otehr views exist. "Mrs Roman Catholic" also stated her case, and "Mr Elder in a URC church" also spoke a lot. "Mr Former Baptist now Anglican Church Warden despite not being confirmed" was very supportive of me. The Alpha Candidates were all completely new to the idea of believer's baptism, so they have learned something new at least, even if it is only that there is a range of views.

Perhaps more profitable was a pre-session chat about who and what are angels, from a question from a candidate.

So - if you prayed for the session, I think you can safely say your prayers were answered. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 12

After Alpha, and baptism

Our workplace Alpha course has been a success. Of the five candidates, two have had to stop attending owing to work commitments covering for sick colleagues - sounds like an excuse to me - but the other three are really solid. At the end of Alpha they didn't want to stop, so we have been carrying on with a general beginner's bible study group leaders book.

We are starting to make plans to merge this group with the pre-existing prayer group whose members organised the Alpha course. Step one, make the meetings on separate days so that attendance at both is possible.

It's my turn to lead the study group next Monday - session three, Baptism. The first paragraph of this book asserts the need for baptism after coming to faith, discounting infant baptism as a post-Constantinian invention. Personally, the author must have read my mind. But I don't own the group which is much more ecumenical and includes a Roman Catholic and several other Anglicans, and so I will have to lead the session with due respect to the pro infant baptism members while somehow maintaining my own integrity.

Even if you strongly disagree with my views, plese pray that the session will be marked by unity rather than controversy, and that while the whole spectrum of opinion is discussed the conclusion may be in line with what God wants rather than with our own theological agendas. Or yours.

Mortgage blessings

My long awaited mortgage advance has been approved in principal, so now I can refurbish the basement and make it 'habitable' to local authority building control standards, and let my kids sleep somewhere that doesn't have damp encrustation on the walls.

Work today II

Today I was told "It's just not good enough".

Monday, June 11

Tight Schedule V

Lead the 9:30 this sunday. Generally went well, but I forgot the Lord's prayer and had to tag it on after the sermon. Also, because I am nervous, I look very down in the mouth. I need to learn to smile reassuringly, even if I am in a panic.

I was supposed to be distibuting communion in the 11:00 service, but since Church of England rules require an ordained minster to officiate (Where is that in the Bible?) and they were all away at the Curate's ordination, the congregation was deprived.

I was preaching in the evening service. It seemed to go down well, though of course people that weren't impressed don't say so unless they disagree strongly. But the Vicar seemed happy with it, so i feel happy too.


Recanting recanting.

I was telling my son about Cranmer putting into the flames the hand that had signed a document recanting his protestant faith.

I was about to recant some of my previous post - it was too harsh, to critical, with not enough room for variety in the church. But then I read in the Church of England newspaper that some senior American theologian with support from her bishop has said she sees no reason why a muslim could not be a minister in the Epsicopal Church, and that the Jesus she has been following has been leading her into Islam. So does she not understand Islam, or does she not understand Christ? Or more likely, neither?

So I recant recanting. I believe what I believe, and if your core beliefs are congruent with mine we can have fellowship, and if you believe something else, then obviously fellowship can't exist becasue we were never fellows, regardless of labels that try to lump us together..

Saturday, June 9

Am I a Christian?

Well, yes, but only in a co-incidental sort of way - it's not a label I pay too much attention to.

Let me explain.

I believe the stuff in my 'Bullets of truth' down at the bottom of my sidebar. I believe that God, incarnate in Jesus, took on himslef the punishment he had decreed for my rebellions agianst him, on the cross, and that this is revealed in the Scripture, together with an indicatio of how I should respond.

Having decided all this, I then take stock and look around, and find that this set of beliefs falls within a very broad set of religions collectively known as 'Christianity'. So i am a Christian.

But I also find that there are a lot of people, whose religion is fundamentally different to mine, or has only some peripheral overlap with mine, who are also called Christians, becasue the definition of 'Christianity' is so broad that almost anyone born coincidentally in Europe or America fits in.

And then, beacuase Jesus appealed for unity, i am expected to be united with this bunch of people who are really members of different religions, which just happen to have the same label attached.

And if I make noises that, well, I'm not actually the same as them, it sounds as if I am promoting schism. But i'm not - I never was anything to do with them, I just wonder how it is that the same labels came to be attached. I'm not asking for division, I'm aking for it to be recognised that I was never united to them. I'm not asking for divorce, i'm asking for annulment. There was never a valid marriage. Apart from a broad belief in Jesus - which even demons share - I'm nothing to do with them.

I have the beliefs I have stated. I have fellowship with those that share them or something reasonably similar (Although I recognise that often they will not express them in these terms). People that don't share them, are (frankly) a different religion. Please don't put me in the same basket.

Friday, June 8

Health and Safety

If I want to visit a site to get my tape measure out and find out how wide a channel is, I now have to complete 4 (F O U R) health and safety forms and send them to the site 5 days in advance.

Fixed Penalty

Yes, I got one.

I could argue the mitigating circumstances - that the gap I went for closed up on me and I had to take evasive action or get smashed (which is why the police saw me shoot between the cars) and that was why I was still going to fast when we got to the roadworks. However, I have had it coming for a long time, and even if it was a bit unfair today, i accept it for all the times I have deserved it and got away with it.

But in the light of current discusion as to the nature of Christ's atonement, and whether the penalty he paid was a simple consequence of our sins or a judicial punishement for our breaches of God's law, perhaps I should have asked the policemen whether the my fixed penalty notice was a judicial punishment for breaking the speed limit or whether it was just nature taking its course.

(I suspect the natural consequences of speeding would be a traffic accident, whereas a fine seems strongly judicial).

Put simply - in common language and in theology a 'penalty' is a punishment for breaking the law.

Tuesday, June 5


Imagine the scene.

Following several high-profile cases of child abduction, rape and murder in the UK a few years ago, there was a media campaign to name known peadophiles. Vigilante mobs of outraged parents scoured the streets looking for them. A lady doctor, advertising as a paediatrician, had bricks thrown through her windows becasue the mob confused peadiatrician and peadophile.

Now, strange as this request may be, place yourslef in the mind of the paedophile. He cowers in his home, hearing the angry mob outside and seeing bricks come crashing in. and understand that this man - foul though he is - represents you. Yes his sins are more identifiable than yours, but sin is sin. And the mob outside is an embodyment of God's own outrage at the sins of the paedophile. (Not that God is a vigilante - he acts within the law - it's just the sense of justified outrage that I'm trying to picture)

So there we have it - the sinner confronted with the anger his sin has caused.

At this moment, in my picture, Christ appears in the house. he takes on the appearence of the peadophile, opens the door, and walks out. The shrill roar of the crowd reaches a crescendo, and christ is enveloped in a flurry of beating hands, kicking feet, spit, sticks, bricks - until his lifeless body is dragged away.

This illustration has many serious theological flaws eg having a wild mob to represent God's wrath, and it plays to the Girardian atonement concept that I have criticised before, and doesn't mention resurrection - but the picture of Christ taking my deserved punishment has been powerful for me these last few days.

Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Monday, June 4

Suicide risk post abortion

Follow this link for information about the increased risk of suicide following an abortion.

The article contains some statistics which i believe are misleading. it compares suicide rates among women who give birth and women who terminate. Not surprisingly, those who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide, and as a conservative evangelical christian you might expect me to jump up and shout "that proves it" - but i am skeptical of statistics which neglect the act that the ones opting for abortion were coming from a much more stressed condition to start with - otherwise they probably wouldn't be asking for the abortion in the first place.

I do believe that the balance of counselling in the UK is biased towards abortion and neglects its negative consequences, and I support the idea that women should know the full picture before making a choice. But I don't think one can seriously expect women to become experts on the issues and long term effects and make a balanced decision when the clock is ticking towards the legal limit.

In fact, whenever i hear about thsi kind of thing it is usually "ms X made the very difficult ecision to terminate"....and it usually makes me wonder if choice is really in the woman's best interest ...should we be dumping these difficult choices on them at their most vulnerable time?

In the end, although everyone always says "It's the woman's body", the child is not - it has a different genetic make up and has its own life and history and existance.

The other thing that really winds me up is the double speak that goes on. If a child is wanted, it is always refered to as 'the unborn child'. For example, if a woman 14 weeks pregnant is murdered, the news reports will say that she and her unborn child died in the attack. The child is included as a victim. But, if the woman has decided she doesn't want the baby, all of a sudden and quite irrationally, the language is changed (although the baby does not) and it is suddenly referred to by impersonal medical terms such as 'foetus'. Isn't this dehumanisation of the victim the way armies and terrorist groups justify their actions and pursuade their mebers to kill?

So it is this double speak more than anything else that tells me that in the final analysis abortion is murder.

But having said that, in the Bible, lesser punishments are prescribed for killing a foetus than for killing a baby after birth. so although it does have a right to life and its killing is wrong, it does not share the same rights as a baby after birth.

I'm enjoying writing this but I must stop and go home.

Biblical inerrancy.

Rev Sam put me on to this, which I have found to be very helpful.

It shows that in some of my posts and comments on other blogs on the topic of inerrancy I have fallen into the usual pit of interpreting American words in a British context. The inerrancy i have been defending is not the same as the inerrancy that has been attacked.

Tight Schedule IV

I managed to swap my warden duty from the 10th to the 3rd of June. this worked great - in fact the other guy phoned me first asking for exactly the same swap!

I didn't have to lead the service, but I was still on the rota for intercessions. I was preparing these, but kept getting called away for stuff and never managed to meet the church pastoral assistant, who normally updates me with appropriate matters for the intercessions. And so my prayers were very good in themselves, but not very comprehensive.

In the second service they were having a Bolivian theme, since we are sending a group of peolpe there this summer to support our missionary's work with the children of prisoners that have to live in the jail with teir parents. So there were Spanish songs, and they asked me to do the Lord's prayer in Spanish. Well, I managed to convince most people that I speak the language.

Friday, June 1

Find Madeleine

Tiny Madeleine McCann was abducted while on Holiday in Portugal. Her parents and family are devastated, and nations mourn with them.

If you have any information that might help, please get in touch at

Obviously she is not the only child to be abducted. If you can re-unite any child with its parents, please don't stay silent!