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Saturday, 27 January 2018

What's Missing in the Sauna...

Sitting inside a sauna hot-room only yesterday, two other occupants, a man and a woman, were in a discussion about dating websites. I just listened as I lay on my back gazing at the pine panelling which made up the ceiling whilst saying nothing. It was after the female had walked out of the cabin to cool herself off that I pulled to sitting position and announced that such websites I steer well clear of, or for that matter, from any dating media. Fortunately, I met my future wife on a face-to-face encounter without the need for any intermediary organisations. With such an announcement I made to him, the rest of the conversation went something like this:

"As a matter of fact, it was she who noticed me first, and decided there and then that I was the man for her to spend the rest of her life with."

Where did you two meet? He asked.

"In church." I answered.

I don't mind going to church from time to time. But what I cannot stand is anyone trying to push religion down my throat. 

Then I responded, "Going to church for me is not religion. Rather it's more like calling at a friend's home for a chat. Only a bit more reverently."

The chap seemed impressed, which makes me believe that he had not heard it come across this way before. Yet coming to think of it, I now wished that I have use the words to celebrate rather than for a chat. But I can't turn back the clock. However, I continued,

"I am committed to Jesus. After all, for him to be crucified, buried, and then rose again from the dead in order to give me eternal life - well, how could I refuse such an offer?"

With that, he quickly rose and walked out of the sauna cabin, leaving me as the sole occupant. 

I can't stand anyone pushing religion down my throat. As I sat there alone, I was wondering whether I had done just that, when my intention was to testify about God's goodness to me, and not tell him to turn or burn forever! So with his sudden departure, I felt somewhat deflated. And nursing the psychological soreness brought about by the burden of Biblical instructions to Go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature...(Mark 16:15) - there are times that I'm feeling squeezed into a corner by a supposed privilege I find very difficult to keep, if not impossible. Maybe it's that subconscious obligation of carrying out the task properly and efficiently enough to "win souls to Jesus" - or better still, to make disciples of all nations, which makes me think that at the Judgement Seat of Christ, the Lord will approach me with the question: Why did you neglect, or make such a mess of the Great Commission I gave you? Indeed, suppose I told the fellow sauna user to turn or burn with a severity of a warning, would that had gladdened his heart towards changing his mind? Or strike him with a fear of a possible eternity in hell? Or instead, would have created a barrier of hostility? I can't help feeling the end would have been the third option.

Was all this coincidental of being in the same week as a report I read about concerning a whiteboard at Dollis Hill station on the London Underground? On it was scrawled the commemoration of a grand evangelistic campaign where four thousand Zulus were converted to Christ by a few British missionaries who were all glowering with the love of God for these indigenous people, and as the story goes, the entire tribe thundered their praise and thanksgiving to God Most High for their wonderful revelation and receiving of their salvation, along with the mass baptisms which followed.

Er, no.

Rather, the commemoration was of a battle which took place at Natal, South Africa, which is about a British garrison, known as Rorke's Drift, of just 150 British troops defeating 4,000 Zulu warriors on the 22-23 January, 1879, after invasion on that same month and year. Following the battle, eleven men received the Victoria Cross. This battle was the setting for a 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine. The whiteboard notice attracted singer Lily Allen via a Tweet, who immediately condemned it. Soon after the criticism, a member of the Transport for London staff wiped the board clean after apologising to all who were offended by it.

Allen's criticism of past British colonialism may have made herself a hero in the eyes of her fans, but it's anathema to apparently to the majority in our nation, who hold these victories as their height of national pride and glory. And so, according to The Daily Mail's version of the news, the comments forum which follows underneath contains venomous condemnation of the singer along with praise for those troops. As I pour down the column, every single contributor says the same thing - glorifies colonialism whilst demonising Lily Allen. It didn't take long for me to notice something conspicuously missing in both the main article and the comment forum alike: The British invading a foreign land and then killing its inhabitants who wanted to fight for their own rights, their own land, and their own families. And the victory the British won over the far greater number of Zulus must be down to far superior weaponry. After all, how could bows and arrows match up to the guns, and most likely cannons too? Oddly enough, this little detail was omitted from these media reports.

The whiteboard notice at Dollis Hill Station 

To enter a foreign country to spread the Gospel of salvation out of God's love for these heathen is one thing. To invade to kill, set up a colony and to rule over the remaining indigenous in their own land is quite another. Yet it is patriotically praised and hailed as national glory. But when these same indigenous inhabitants came over here in the UK in the 1950's and 60's and were happy to take on jobs no-one else really wanted, there was discontent and racism. 

And I'm sick of it all, yes, sick of it all. With all this talk of Brexit "to regain our national sovereignty from the European Union", I need to ask: Am I witnessing hypocrisy here on a massive scale? I ask this in the light that the Rorke's Drift Garrison was supposed to be ambassadors of a nation holding a Christian constitution, with the King, the Head of State, standing in the intermediary between the country and God. It is all a mystery to me, or am I the one who is so blind? Perhaps I can ask: What is the real difference between the British Empire and that of the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, or the Babylonian Empire? Does having a Christian Constitution make British colonialism right after all? Especially when other more ancient empires are portrayed as cesspits of evil?

The guy I spoken to in the sauna was by no means hostile, but he did give me a warning that he does not like religion forced down his throat. And so when I thought about testifying instead, he quickly got up and left. It makes me so sad. I am not only a member of a local church, I represent the Body of Christ, a living letter of Christ, one bearing the Light of the World, according to 1 Corinthians 12:27, 2 Corinthians 3:3, and Matthew 5:14 respectively. Where am I failing? Where about in our local church failing? Where about in the universal church failing?

Maybe Paul the Apostle may give a clue to the answer in 1 Corinthians 13, which is the chapter often read at weddings:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

It seems to me that the fellow at the sauna had contacts with churchgoers. He may even share his office space with one or several. I did not ask, I'm only assuming. He did, however, express his association with Christians one way or another. Perhaps, and I can't be dogmatic here, there might well have been times he was witnessed to, but quite likely in the form of "turn or burn" or a very flimsy presentation of Christ whose words were contradicted by their beliefs in Theistic Evolution. But whatever it might have been, there is one issue where I could be more certain, and that is, this chap was not able to discern the true love of God. 

I guess I need to be cautious here. Jesus expressed the perfect love of God, yet he was rejected by Israel, that is "his own received him not" according to John 1:11. According to what I have read in the first five books of the New Testament, it looks as though Jesus and his followers were rejected by mainly religious people. In both Matthew's Gospel and Luke's Gospel, I can read about Jesus standing outside the city of Jerusalem, and with his arms extended forwards as if his wanting to embrace the whole city, he wept in public. Wept in public. At least twice - the other occasion was when he learnt of Lazarus' death (Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 19:41-44, John 11:35).

And you may well disagree, but I think this is a major problem here in Britain. Emotional restraint especially where love should flow more freely for the benefit of the recipient. To show emotion here is a sign of weakness and a lack of masculinity among men. This brings something of an oddity. Jesus publicly showed his emotions to the point of shedding tears. Wasn't he masculine, then? It's no surprise that I have heard that Jesus was a cissy, a wimp. The type who may cuddle children but withdraw his hand from any type of heavy manual labour or from military activity. Sure enough, Jesus may have come across as a cissy, but throughout his late part of his ministry, he headed doggedly towards Jerusalem, even foretelling to his disciples that after arrival he would be tried, crucified, and to rise again on the third day. Despite his foreknowledge, and discouragement from Peter, he kept going. 

And after arriving in Jerusalem, he stood on a hill and wept for the city, most likely with arms out extending. Yet he raised no protest, no defence when he stood before Pilate. Crowds of people below were shouting in anger and bitter envy. He stood there before Pilate with not a single word of protest said. Instead, he went to the Cross without a single struggle against his oppressors. Now that is masculinity!

Which makes Jesus Christ much stronger than I could ever be. Emotional strength, mental strength, and after his Resurrection, physical strength. And my need for him. My need for his love. My need for his assurance. My need to be embraced by him. To be hugged tightly by the Son of God! Oh, to shed this British reserve! This stiff upper lip nonsense. This cowardly attempt held by some churchgoers "to be to all men". Cowardly, because it's way to hide in the mist, to go with the flow, to stand in the shadows, should anything otherwise should attract attention and meet disapproval. And oh yes, this British bulldog nonsense. Nonsense? In a sense of false masculinity, then yes - nonsense. But if this entity actually exist as an evil spirit hovering in the air, deceiving so many Brits and sending them to a lost eternity, as the apostle wrote about in Ephesians 6:12 - then this is no nonsense. This is a serious issue!

According to my experience, the average male British Christian lives in a different world from the world I live in. Having graduated after a spell at university, they settle in the office where there are many other "nice people" working there. Dressed in shirt and tie, they can barely discern what mud looks like, let alone having it all over their hands. There is never any profanity, no need for smut, as that sort of thing tends to come out from those of low self-esteem. And very emotional restrained, and therefore presenting the ideal Christian morality. It becomes virtually impossible to fault them. So according to more than four decades of church experience.

This middle class culture is quite a world away from where I have been and what I have seen and heard. Working in an all-male furniture factory as an apprentice wood finisher between the years 1968-1973, not only did I had to take on the most basic of dogsbody tasks, but I learnt everything about sex in the most smutty form it could ever take, with swear words I had not even heard of before. As for Jesus, one elderly employee and war veteran, after hearing about a 4,000 year-old corpse excavated fully preserved in ice discovered in China, he shouted, Jesus? They haven't even found his balls! I now wished I replied that if Jesus Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven, without doubt he would have ascended complete with his scrotum and both testicles. Instead I stood rather spellbound in horror.

This smutty talk continued on into the late seventies when I began to go to the sauna. In those days men bathed entirely naked, as their sessions were on different days of the week from the women's sessions. As a result, throw in a group of working-class men into one hot-room and sooner or later familiarity and a club spirit will breed such vulgar and crude jokes. And I took it all in without a single squeal of protest.

And what did Jesus say to the religious and highly moral? I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. For these tax collectors and sinners will enter the kingdom of God before you.
Luke 5:32, Matthew 21:31.

Maybe that is a true word for today's Brits throughout the whole social class strata.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Forgiving - For MY Benefit!

I think it was around 1991 or 1992 when this very good-looking, slim fellow arrived at our church in Ascot. The timing of his arrival is based on the fact that my 1994 stint in Israel hadn't yet occurred, let alone the 1995-1998 long haul backpacking trips which were still to come. Estimating to be around 6'2" or 6'3" 1.88 metres tall, he towers over my own healthy 5'11" 1.80 m height. Sporting a moustache, this young man, whose name turned out to be John, has a wife and at that time, two pre-teenage sons. At our first meeting, John and I had hit it off well, and I became acquainted with the whole family, even to the extent that John invited me, while I was still single in those days, to his home for Sunday lunch after the morning service.

John is a few years younger than I am, but well ahead of me with his marriage responsibilities and raising of a family. After dinner, the table was set for a family quiz-based board game which was similar in style to Trivial Pursuit. Some time later, I sat at another table with the two boys, each of us contributing towards the completion of a jigsaw puzzle. The serenity created in the atmosphere whilst each piece was fitted into place had earned praise from the wife by commenting that I was good with children. He became a member of the church's music team with his trumpet or similar brass instrument until he left our church in 2006 or 2007 for a period of time before returning in 2012.

But before leaving our church, John and I were good friends. By then I was married to my dearest Alex, and we already have our firstborn two-year-old daughter Rosina, and another was on its way, when at a house-group meeting, I made a confession of financial hardship due to various difficulties arising in my domestic window cleaning business, particularly with delays among clientele paying their fees. It was John who pulled out a sum of money which turned out to be a great help in making ends meet until all my customers paid up. And that sum of money was a gift and not a loan. This was another gesture I have not allowed myself to forget.

Alex's second pregnancy with Louise progressed well - until one early Spring morning in 2004, whilst relaxing in the sauna after a tiring week's work, a staff member informed me that I had to return home straight away. When I got home, I found that Alex had gone into early labour. I called for an ambulance and also contacted my in-laws, who offered to take care of our daughter Rosina. What followed was an admission into the labour ward of Royal Berkshire Hospital to await the birth. 

The rest of the day turned into evening, and then into the night. I sat on a chair beside my wife's bed. Nothing happened, except the constant rapid beating of the fetus' heart amplified through a monitor, with which I tried to imagine as being on board a Ferrovie di Italia train as it travelled fast along the Paris-Dijon section of line towards Italy, as I recall such a journey made so clearly in 1973. This imaginary metamorphosing of the fetus heartbeat to that of a moving train helped me through a tense, sleepless night. By daybreak, Alex was transferred to a prenatal ward, where I stayed with her until evening. Then, as night drew in and there seems to be no further progress towards delivery, I decided to get a train home for a night's rest.

By eleven at night I was stripped naked when the phone rang. It was from the labour ward with the news that Alex was about to deliver. I almost panicked. There were no more trains into Reading at this time of the night. And even if there were, the journey back would be far too slow for such an emergency situation. So I made a phone call to John and explained to him the situation. In next to no time he knocked on my door. His wife waited in the car as we began to set off to the maternity block some twelve miles away. The journey was fast as we all sensed the hurry. When John drove up to the drop-off point, we said a simple prayer and I then jumped out of his car and made a dash to the entrance of the building and ran up the stairs to the labour ward. No fuel fees were asked as the couple made their way back home.

My daughter was born just ten minutes later at 11.50 pm. Had it not been for John, I would have missed the birth of Louise and therefore scuppering our birth plans we made weeks earlier. The wonderful favour John and his wife did for us on that night is forever etched on my mind. Furthermore, after the birth, John would collect me for a weekly trip to a local pub, where we had deep discussions on just about anything to do with family upbringing and theology. It was during these pub socials that I discovered how his Arminian stance on a person's salvation disagrees with my Calvinistic view of the believer's Eternal Security.

And so after John returned to our church after his exile, he returned minus his moustache and with a very different attitude towards me. Having gained weight, he is to this day rather imposing. Being taller than me, he could - quite literally - knock me out cold. And so at a men's Curry Club one evening a couple of years ago, he growled at me when I tried to sit next to him. Scary stuff. His hostility towards me has been on-going to this day. I felt cornered whenever he is around. Until last Saturday.

The Kerith Centre at Bracknell holds a Band of Brothers meeting for all men in that church. A very good post-graduate friend of mine who holds a doctorate in genetics and is a regular at the Kerith, is a direct link between the Band of Brothers group and myself, an outsider, allowing me to attend such meetings whenever it takes place, which is usually three times a year. Last week, the topic was about forgiveness, and even after four decades of being a Christian believer, the preach was an eye-opener. Something I had never realised before then!

Because up to then, I cannot see any benefit the wrongdoer would receive if I forgave him long after he had moved away, or after he died. The issue behind such wrongdoing remains forever unsolved, and if ever the perpetrator have thoughts about me, or memories of me, it will always be felt with a degree of hostility. So why forgive? He would never have the chance to apologise nor would he nurture any positive feelings for me. And the grave would cement the hostile issue forever.

But the preach centred on forgiving someone does not benefit the wrongdoer or perpetrator. Rather it would benefit me. I'm the one who would benefit, not the perpetrator. After this we were all challenged to close our eyes and think of anyone who had wronged in the past, and forgive him, her, or them. As the room fell into silence, I began to think. Then I remembered John. But how could I forgive him? The dispute between us is ongoing. Then I began to recall those good times we had together - the money given during hard times, the late night lift to hospital, the pub socials. With such good memories, to forgive John was made a lot easier, believe me. To forgive him means to have no ill-feeling for him whatsoever. Rather, my hand of friendship is extended. It's now up to him to take hold of it.

Such an eye-opener immediately reminds me of a passage of Scripture that I have been familiar with for years, but I had never applied it to my own sake. Here it what it says:

Therefore say to the house of Israel, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do those things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone."
Ezekiel 36:22.

Then the passage continues on about removing the heart of stone from their flesh and giving them a heart of flesh, and filling them with his Spirit, so that they will all follow my decrees and keep my laws out of love for God, and not by fear of punishment. Also Psalm 106:8 says that we are saved for his sake rather than ours. If the honour for his name lies behind our salvation, then this seems to endorse the truth of Eternal Security. But I can understand from where the Arminian get his ideas from. For example, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, he included the phrase, forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. He then embellished on this particular issue by saying that whether the Father will forgive your sins is dependent on whether you will forgive anyone who has wronged you (Matthew 6:14-15).

Also another powerful lesson on forgiveness delivered by Jesus to his disciples is found in Matthew 18:21-35, which is the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Then after telling this fascinating story, it is given the final conclusion that this is the way the Father will treat everyone who does not forgive his brother from his heart. The average Arminian will most likely use this as an answer on whether a Christian can lose his salvation or not. Simply put, if you don't forgive your brother's sins, then God won't forgive you of your sins. However, since this was spoken before the Atonement was made on the Cross, for the believer at present, in regards to the afterlife, this presents some problems.

First of all, the believer's salvation depending on how he is treating his fellow believer is a contradiction to being forgiven for God's sake and for his name to be honoured. Instead, the mercy bestowed is entirely grounded on the recipient's heart attitude. Secondly, as I can see, in the parable the servant's debt, and a very large debt at that, remains unpaid. Instead, it is cancelled. This is very different from being paid off by someone else substituting for the servant. If the debt remains unpaid, then justice has not been fulfilled. The master can call his servant back in at any time to reckon his account and demand the money back. And at the end that is exactly what the master does. But if someone pays the entire debt on the servant's behalf, then he is truly free from debt. The master has his money and nothing else is owing to him. The servant is free indeed. 

Left to ourselves, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to forgive someone from the heart. Even worse if during a lifetime there are many sources for grievance. If God's mercy depends on our performance in forgiving others, then everyone is in some kind of trouble, whether small or great. Heaven would be empty of people. That's why, I believe, Jesus gave this parable. To show that we are all indebted to God and unless someone steps in to pay off our debts on our behalf, we'll all be in big trouble.

But having said that, the parable does have a purpose for today's Christians, as does the Lord's Prayer. Because to forgive someone is very beneficial to both mental and physical health. This could be the intent on why the unmerciful servant was thrown into jail whilst still alive here on Earth instead of at some postmortem hellish confinement. Forgiving or not forgiving will affect our well-being. According to Dr. McMillen,* there are many diseases and poor health resulting from ongoing anger, bitterness and resentment. Refusing to forgive, according to this Christian medic, destroys one's health, and this could be one of the main reasons why our National Health Service is under strain, as reported daily on the Media. If the doctor was correct in his estimation, the lack of bed space within hospitals is not so much of an increase of the ageing population as the large numbers of bitter and resentful hearts. 

For a Christian believer refusing to forgive a transgressor, this carries the risk of debilitating health resulting from emotional stress arising from bitterness and anger. Also he cannot enjoy the fullness of God. True, he will still go to heaven after he dies. But often with the case of embittered Christians, they often experience a premature death, followed by the Judgement Seat of Christ, and to suffer the deprivation of rewards awarded to everyone who obeys the Holy Spirit living within. One near-striking example was the case of Moses. He was so embittered by the rejection thrown at him by his fellow Hebrews (Exodus 2:11-15), that even after forty years in the wilderness, he refuses to fulfil his Hebrew custom to circumcise his son Gershom (Exodus 4:24-26). The Lord was about to slay him, and to face the Judgement Seat, had his wife not quickly intervened. Such is the price for refusing to forgive.

For me to forgive John for any resentment and rejection he has for me will not benefit him. Instead, I'm forgiving him to benefit myself, and this is good advice for anyone who has been wronged and wishes to enjoy his walk with God. Forgive, and let go of the transgressor. 

*S. I. McMillen MD None of these Diseases, Marshal, Morgan and Scott, 1963, 14th impression 1980.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Rock of Ages - Yes Indeed.

I was alone in the house during a stormy evening of Spring, 1973. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled outside. I sat on the sofa with a King James Bible in my hand and I was curious to find in it how it had all started. As an avid believer in Evolution, I thought of no other alternative, as this was taught at school, along with stories of a six-day Creation and a family saving themselves in a boat shared with animals all confined to a fanciful myth.

Before that evening, I have read books on Darwin's theory. This was true especially during schooldays, when the weekly Look and Learn magazine-type periodical appeared in the newsagent's shelf alongside other magazines - TV Times, fashion magazines, cooking magazines, periodicals on domestics, Women's Own, as well as DIY and car magazines. I recall having Look and Learn delivered through the front door with the daily newspaper. For several weeks, it had a big, central feature on Evolution with colour illustrations spanning two whole pages, covering several weeks.

The artist based his pictures on the same site, with a large rock protruding from the ground at one side. The first set of pictures were based under the sea, with sponges, ammonites, trilobites, and primitive-looking fish, all flourishing around the submerged rock. In the next picture came fishes, including large, shark-like predators. After this the rock was on a beach crawling with amphibians. The following week, the boulder was located in thick jungle where a Brontosaur reached its long neck towards a nearby tree. After this, a carniverous Tyrannosaur crashes through the foliage, followed by mammals grazing in grasslands, and eventually Stone Age Neanderthals having set up home near the same rock, still on the same site surrounded by treeless ground which is covered with snow, and woolly mammoths can be seen sauntering in the background. Surely, by now the permanently fixed lump of stone can be referred to as the Rock of Ages as well as having a very long story to tell! 

Although the huge colourful illustrations and accompanying text were both informational and delightful to look at, the periodical was published with an authoritative, schoolmaster's format of communicating. The very front page title, Look and Learn was blazoned across the page with the intention of driving home some useful knowledge into the brains of us apathetic, out-of-school, leisure-minded teenagers of the mid-sixties. Yet I was fascinated by such a presentation of prehistoric life. The very illustrations were inspiring enough for me to have separated these pages from the rest of the magazine and tape them on the wall above my bed headboard, where they stayed on display for months to come. Never for a moment had it ever crossed my mind that any typical Uniformitarian Geologist would have disagreed with those pictures from the moment he would have set eyes on them. The constant presence of the exposed rock would have caused dissension.

Because the whole theory of Evolution has always been based on fossils found in stratified rock layers. So how was it that the rock protruding from the seabed throughout the whole of the Cambrian Period was not buried by layers of sedimentary rock by the time good old Brontosaur was grazing in the jungle during the Jurassic Period, let alone during the time the Neanderthal was lighting bonfires in the blizzard during the Quaternary, some 500,000,000 years later?* Going by what historical geologists would have insisted, this particular rock should have been buried underneath tens, maybe hundred of feet of sedimentary rock layers by the time the Neanderthals were walking around. Never mind. I was enthralled with primeval life on our planet. It gave me something to believe in, to be committed to, and even comparing and sharing my knowledge and interest with another pupil in our classroom. However, one thing that I instinctively knew: that favouring Darwinism was incompatible with religion. Without knowing why, somehow I could not mix evolution with anything to do with religion, especially Christianity. Not surprisingly, I had already declared myself to be a teenage atheist. In truth, deep in my heart there was no genuine questioning of God's existence. Rather, I hated him due to my Roman Catholic upbringing with the constant threat of Hell.

And so I should not be too surprised that the other, more intelligent classmate David, who also had a greater knowledge of Dinosaurs than I had, especially the carnivorous species, was also an atheist who debunked religion. And therefore, my youthful fascination with palaeontology walked hand-in-hand with my teenage rejection of religion, which I believe to be a setting to be looked back upon which is to be the underlying bedrock, so to speak, for the near-universal rejection of God in our country at present.

The Grand Canyon is an example of sedimentary rock strata.

And so, according to a video I watched recently on website, one answer was given for why such a large contingent of mainly younger people leave their churches every year. For example, according to a faith survey website, the numbers who regularly attend church here in the UK has declined significantly between the years 1980 to 2016. The Roman Catholic Church number of attendees declined from 2,064,000 in 1980 to a mere 608,000 by 2016. That is a loss of 1,456,000 in 36 years. Likewise, the Anglican Church numbers declined from 1,370,400 to 660,000 - a fall of 710,400 in the same time period, and looks to be totally nonexistent by the year 2033. Our denomination, the Baptists, had an attendance number totalling 286,900 in 1980. Thirty six years later it had fallen to 226,000 - a drop of just 60,900. This is small compared to the others, but still in the wrong direction. Likewise, the Methodists suffered a fall from 606,400 attendees in 1980 to 200,000 in 2016 - a fall of 406,400. On the positive side, however, it is the Pentecostals who has enjoyed an increase in the past 36 years, from 221,000 in 1980 to 298,000 in 2016, which is an increase by 77,000. To total up, the total loss of church attendance among the four listed denominations is 2,633,700 in 36 years, or averaging 73,158 annually. And all these statistics apply to the UK only.

A video on had listed the belief in Darwinism as one of the main reasons for the decline. And if going by my own experience is of any value, then the belief in evolution over divine creation can destroy the faith of one who grew up in a Christian household. I can see the connection. With secular websites such as Wikipedia calling Young-Earth Creationism a pseudoscience, I can't help how adult believers at work in an office would feel if he was to admit his belief in such Biblical revelation. Among all the suited colleagues, he would be regarded something of an idiosyncratic, or a nutcase, and he would not be taken seriously. There is a possibility of even losing his job. If the office employee can feel rather foolish in believing in Young-Earth Creationism, along with a universal Flood with a family and all land animals confined in a large barge, then such embarrassment can be justified in an environment populated with secular graduates. This could be the backbone behind the thinking of young Christian graduates I have associated with in the last four decades.

Their "Halfway House" belief in Theistic Evolution looks to me to be an escape, or at least a partial escape, from office embarrassment. In regard to his Christian faith, if he was asked his opinion on what he perceives to be the dawn of history, he would answer with some confidence that he does believe in Evolution, albeit theistic. Saves a lot of embarrassment that way! Just about every graduate I have crossed paths with inside the church building believed in theistic evolution, which is essentially Darwinism under the control and supervision of God, as opposed to pure chance. Ironically, it is atheists such as Richard Dawkins who has greater respect for the literal Young-Earth Creationist than for one believing in Theistic Evolution. Furthermore, I have been around long enough to realise that the graduate's belief in Theistic Evolution has robbed him of any spiritual vitality, which was meant to set him apart from the secularist, and to live out his life as a citizen of Heaven.

Therefore I have found it difficult to tell the difference between a Christian graduate from a non-believing academic. Both are well-educated, both are in respectable professions, both are patriotic, both are conscious of social class, which leads to both being cliquey and having an in-group/out-group subconscious need to mix with and fellowship among those of the same characteristic model. Or in other words, I never felt that I truly belonged, but kept to the fringes of the fellowship, with any opinion or contribution offered not taken with any higher degree of seriousness.

I'm convinced that rejection of literal Divine Creation for Theistic Evolution, or even straightforward Darwinism can have devastating repercussions. Belief in Evolution, theistic or otherwise, undercuts faith in Jesus Christ who was Crucified, Buried, and Resurrected for the Atonement of our sins gotten through the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is a major foundation for the faith which can only be borne from Divine Creation. Many offspring of Christian parents, who grew up believing in Evolution, having been taught this at school and endorsed at home, more likely tend to have hearts resembling rocky ground. The word of God from the pulpit may fall on such ground, and lacking proper soil for the shoots to take root properly, when social pressure builds, they quit, leaving the church and renouncing their faith (Matthew 13). And believe me, I have seen it.

The acceptance of Young Earth supernatural Creation is what makes a believer a true Christian. Such a believer in Divine Creation will know that every person he sees and relates with is a creation of God and the one whom Jesus died for. This changes all perception of fellow human beings. Just by reading Psalm 139 should be enough to eradicate any thoughts of inequality, whether it'll be racial, cultural, or national. Also believing in Divine Creation will eliminate any thoughts of Eugenics, an offshoot of Darwinism, as discussed last week. This is serious stuff, so much so that God himself had to challenge me.

Referring back to that stormy evening back in 1973. I was alone in the house. The thunder rolled outside. I opened the Bible I had on me, and turned to its beginning, and read the first three chapters of Genesis. I reeled back in wonder. It was then when I felt the Lord as if confronting me with a stark choice. What am I to believe? Divine Creation or Darwin's Evolution? One or the other, there was no halfway house. No option for Theistic Evolution. Immediately and without hesitation, I chose the Divine Creation revelation, and completely repudiated Evolution. Just like that. But there was no other option. God would not allow it. But once the decision was made, I knew that I had to stick with it. This meant being fully open about it among work colleagues. According to experience, I have found factory shop floor workers to be more tolerating of my Creation conviction than had I worked in an office among clerical employees. From time to time I had serious discussions with work colleagues on the shop floor. At worst, they may have poked fun at me, which is not as bad as having a feeling of ostracism and being ignored - even by fellow church-going graduates.

And so with the new revelation about supernatural creation, I had to accept the truth about the universal, earth destroying Deluge. And so I had no quibbles in my acceptance of such a revelation. From 1973 onward I entered into studies for geological and biological evidence of Creation and the Flood, alongside for the tangible proof for the veracity of the Bible by visiting the Holy Land, particularly Jerusalem. But even if I had never set foot in Israel, being sure about the truthfulness of the Bible would have still make me stand my stead among mocking unbelievers.

And to round up, when it comes to browsing Google Maps on the laptop, or better still, browsing at Google Earth, I was astonished at the sight of a dendroid image of undersea river courses flowing across the edge of the continental shelf exactly southwest of the Irish Republic.  If you were to switch to Google Earth, and pan the satellite version of the map to an area of the Atlantic Ocean directly southwest of Cork, you will come across a valley, now partly filled in with silt, but with river courses forming underwater canyons emptying out into the abyss. In the past there were many of them, even up to 300 km 185 miles long, all eventually joining to empty at the one mouth. But over the course of time, silt has filled in the majority of these canyons, with only a couple still visible south of the valley. The depth of the valley is from 1,400 feet to 10,200 feet 430-3,110 metres approx below the surface, which strongly suggest that that part of the Continental Shelf was once above sea level. Is this now submerged valley an echo of the later stages of Noah's Flood, when the floodwaters gushed into the oceans as "the mountains rose and the valleys sunk down" of Psalm 104:6-9?

Maybe so, maybe not. But whatever the case might have been, this has stronger correlations with the truthfulness of Holy Scripture than Charles Darwin could have ever come up with.

*John C. Whitcomb Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood, Baker Book House, 1975, page  133.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Oh Heck!

The waters thundered as it cascaded over a hidden curved cliff of Horseshoe Falls. The very shaking of the ground emphasised the intensity of the force generated as the waters of Lake Erie falls into the Niagara River, leading to Lake Ontario, which is 51 metres lower in elevation. So after standing at the edge for a considerable time, this young and slim 24-year-old backpacker made his way downstream to the start of Rainbow Bridge which spans the Niagara River, which flows to the lake. Sectioned off from the main, traffic-bearing international highway by a steel barrier, is a footpath, from which one can look back towards Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, and the less impressive Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls, both near the city of Buffalo, New York State.

Halfway across the bridge there was a double line painted across the path. By sitting astraddle on the lines with one foot in Canada and the other in the USA, for a moment I felt truly international. When I got back up on my feet, I was able to proceed along the footway towards the passport control on the American side. And because I had the passport on me, which back in 1977 carried a valid US visa, I could have passed through into the USA proper there and then. But I didn't, because I knew that the very next day I'll be on the Greyhound Bus on an overnight journey from Toronto to Chicago, crossing the border at Detroit in time for a breakfast stop before switching busses for Chicago, if I can remember, arriving at "the windy city" on the shores of Lake Michigan somewhere between twelve to fourteen hours after boarding the bus at Toronto Greyhound terminal.

Nevertheless, on the southeast end of Rainbow Bridge, I was as much in New York State as anyone in the city of the same name. Sitting on the painted line was something big for me. It represented a spirit of internationalism, something I have always fervently believed in. And in this case it was between Canada and the US, each with its own Head of State - Canada with its Governor, a Commonwealth representative of Her Majesty the Queen, and the other, a President, Head of a Republic (in 1977 it was President Jimmy Carter occupying the White House.) Two very different nations yet sharing the same English language. At least I could be understood easily in either.

It was even easier for the apostles of the risen Christ to travel from one country to another, as far as I know, there was no such thing as passport controls. I guess that at any port around the Mediterranean, one can disembark from a ship, straight onto the street as easily as one stepping off a bus at a High Street bus stop. Even recently in the seventies, all railway stations in Italy were open stations. There were no ticket barriers, and I recall backpacking Italy between 1973 and 1975 and stepping onto the platform from the station concourse without passing through any gates, turnstiles, or barriers. A very different system to that in the UK, where the presence of barriers manned by scowling ticket inspectors made me feel that I couldn't be trusted to board a train without first paying the fare. 

It is a universal culture of inclusiveness. And among the Diaspora, the Jews living in foreign lands of former exiles did not feel any different from those living in and around Jerusalem. And on special occasions they all showed unity despite speaking multiple languages. On one Pentecost festival, Jews from up to fourteen different nations identified themselves (Acts 2:7-12) yet they were all united in worship and purpose. But far more important than this is how the Crucifixion, death, burial, and the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was the beginning of a unity of all God's people - Jews and non-Jews - into one body of Christ.

Poor Peter! He was already given by Jesus "the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" of Matthew 16:13-20. He preached the very first sermon after the Resurrection, and three thousand Jews were converted. So it can be said that the apostle used his keys to open heaven to the Jewish people en masse for the first time in church history. But a later incident took far more effort on God's side. Peter had to be shaken by a series of visions before he felt comfortable enough to use his keys at the house of a Roman centurion, with the apostle somewhat reluctantly witnessing the first Gentile conversion since the Resurrection (Acts 10). Some time later, Peter could be seen sitting, or more likely, reclining very tentatively at a table in Gentile company at a house in Antioch. But even then he had some fellow Jews with him, including Barnabas and Paul, among others. Although Peter was not alone in an ethnically diverse company, he was feeling ill-at-ease. Then, when a house servant announced that men sent by James had just arrived, Peter and Barnabas suddenly arose and separated themselves in fear of the new arrivals (Galatians 2:11-14).

The sternest rebuke Paul could deliver to his fellow apostle demonstrates the removal of the ethnic barrier which before separated the Jew from the non-Jew. Peter's fear probably arose from a couple of incidents when just before Jesus healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman, to whom Jesus himself called a dog, and then told her that he came to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:21-28). Also Jesus, in sending out the Twelve, specifically instructed them to avoid the Gentiles and the Samaritans alike, and minister to the house of Israel only (Matthew 10:5-6). Therefore I can imagine how cautious Peter must have felt being in Gentile company, without fully realising the effect of the Cross in removing the ethnic barrier. It was after the Cross and after his Resurrection when Jesus instructed his followers to "Go out and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:18-20, also Matthew 10:8). No doubt in my mind, Peter thought that his Lord meant to go out and make disciples of all the Jews living in the furthest corners of the Earth. And his retention of such a belief restricted him to minister to the Diaspora, even if as far away as Babylon in modern day Iraq (1 Peter 5:13).

But Paul's rebuke to Peter has shown that the Cross has removed all ethnic barriers, even to the extent that he later wrote,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28.

Therefore, when a poster appeared on Facebook earlier in the week, I thought, Oh heck!

The poster was a lobby to have Toby Young fired from his post as University Regulator. What was quoted was a real shocker for a responsible person who suppose to represent a country with a Christian constitution. For this is what the poster read:

Toby Young - Theresa May's new university regulator - thinks state school undergraduates are "stains", wheelchair ramps are an example of "ghastly, politically correct inclusiveness" and children with learning difficulties are illiterate troglodytes.

Toby Young, University Regulator.

Oh heck! It took me a while to recover from the shock. During that moment I actually signed the lobby to have him kicked out by the Government. But it was afterwards, when I realised "I'll shoot first, then ask questions" - that I decided to investigate further into such accusations. Although the right-wing national newspaper The Daily Mail had shoved such statements under the carpet and defended his right to keep his job, I had to turn to The Guardian newspaper to try to dig into the facts. On his views of of state school undergraduates being "stains", he was referring to students from state schools entering prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge without achieving the "proper" qualifications for admission. As I see it, if all state school students can be so generalised, then that gives the impression that only privately educated students are clever enough to study at Oxford and only they should be admitted. If this attitude does not have a connection with eugenics, then what does?

But most hurtful was his perception that wheelchair ramps are ghastly, and children with learning difficulties are illiterate troglodytes. The meaning of the word troglodyte is that of a caveman, a Neanderthal Stone Age entity totally deprived of any civil and academic attributes. This is the basis for the science of eugenics which was the groundwork for the slaughter of the Jews during Adolf Hitler's holocaust. And here is Toby Young, a staunch English Tory, a self-confessed snob, and of course, a devout Brexit supporter and voter. It is my desire that Toby Young will never set his eyes on my beloved wife, who is confined to a wheelchair whilst out of doors.

Eugenics and its Dire History.

Lately I have been reading in a journal* about the history of eugenics. In the light of the above revelation, it is an interesting study. 

I have always been aware of the Roman Catholic Church's hostility towards the Jews since the fourth Century. During the eleventh and twelfth Centuries, Catholic Crusaders have a history of persecuting Jews, even to the point of locking them inside their own synagogue and setting the building alight. Rome offered a choice of two options: Convert or die. Not surprisingly, the Jews preferred death in order to keep their race and their faith alive. Even after the Reformation, Martin Luther took a hostile attitude towards the Jews for killing Jesus instead of submitting to him, and called their meeting rooms "Synagogues of Satan." As a result, the Church's hostility towards the Jews became the initial bedrock for the rise of predominately German eugenic scientists and academics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The first of note was Englishman Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. He advocated Social Evolution, the advancement of human intelligence for the betterment of society with the consequential elimination of people with lower intelligence and hereditary physical impairments. This is the basis of eugenics, and such a concept drew in a number of brilliant followers, especially from Germany. These included Professor Ernst Haeckel of Jena University, who specialised in zoology, and was a devoted follower of Charles Darwin. In the 1860's he wrote a book, Die Weltratsel (The Riddle of the Universe). In it, he advocated the killing of those with bodily defects, cretins, the crippled, the retarded, along with others who don't match the ideal model of the human race. 

Nineteenth Century Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau used Darwin's theory to discourage the interbreeding of different races while advocating the superiority of Northern European peoples. His works resonated with anthropologist Alfred Ploetz, who was the founder of the German eugenics movement. Ploetz wrote The Fitness of our Race, a book which had heavy influence on future Nazi leaders and intellectuals, along with his 1904 work, The Journal of  Social and Racial Biology. Other disciples of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, J. A. de Gobineau, and Alfred Ploetz included Fritz Lenz, Ernest Rudin, Karl Pearson, Charles Davonport, August Forel, and psychiatrist Wilhelm Schallmayor. #

All these were German and English intellectuals who laid the groundwork for the rise of Nazism, and gave Adolf Hitler the sceptre to "solve the Jewish problem" for the advancement of his own Germanic Aryan Race. Along with the elimination of the Jews, those on the death roll also included the Slavs, along with the imbecile, slow learners, the cripple, the hereditary deformed, the homosexual, the negro, and anyone else who did not fit the ideal model of perfect human society. And whether you may agree with me or not, I cannot help see a connection or continuation of the spirit behind these past academics and that in the likes of Toby Young. 

Darwinism, to my mind, must be thoroughly unchristian because we can see the fruits of it above. Indeed, Toby Young is no Christian, yet he is highly respected by both Government and intellectuals, and many among the middle classes would honour him with a curtsy, I guess, including those who attend church - if they are unaware of his creeds. By such reading and research into his ideas, I can't help but come to the conclusion that Darwin, Galton and Young are out and out against the teachings of Jesus Christ in reference to caring for the poor, the lame, and the needy. Paul's nine fruits of the Spirit is dynamically opposed to Young's philosophy, along with Hitler's. These fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Self control. And these are all apt between every race, every nationality and between every physical state of health and looks.

The Yad Vashem, for the Jews killed in Hitler's Holocaust.

And furthermore, Darwinism is a direct denial of Jesus Christ and his atonement made on the Cross. Evolution denies the historicity of Adam and Eve, their Fall and the beginning of death for all mankind. If death was in existence before Adam and Eve, then the death Jesus suffered has no relevance at all. Instead, if he had ever existed, then he died in vain. 

Jesus instructed his followers to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:5-8). Something Toby Young can certainly learn.

*Journal of Creation, Vol. 31 (3) 2017, page 103.
# Ibid, page 107.

Correction of error: Chicago is on the shores of Lake Michigan, and not on Lake Superior, as I have originally stated on paragraph #2. This has now been corrected, and I apologise for the original mistake.