Archive for the ‘Culture and society’ Category
Scotland is heading to the voting booths. The people of Scotland will shortly declare whether or not they wish their country to remain part of the Union, or secede. It is, by all accounts, a momentous decision with consequences which can in some measure be accurately predicted, some which can at least be observed coalescing, and some which no-one will have expected. The campaigning, especially as the vote looms, has become strident, even violent. Impassioned pleas ring out from both “Yes” and “No” camps. And many Christians are making what seems to be a watertight case as to how they and others should vote. And some are saying, “Yes,” and others, “No.”
We can and should recognise with thanksgiving the peculiar heritage of the United Kingdom and its constituent parts, with the blessing of genuine Christian influence upon some elements of our national systems and structures. At the same time, I aver that the United Kingdom – in whole and in its parts – is not and never really has been a Christian country. At times, more “a people of the Book,” but not a Christian country. There are Christian individuals, and there are Christian churches, and there is Christian influence, but there are not Christian countries. It’s just not how it works.
So, what difference does this make? What difference might it make in Scotland? In the rest of the Union? In Europe (geographically and politically)? Across the globe?
Andrew Fuller’s brief sermon on “Christian Patriotism” from his collected works is always a helpful read at such a time, whether one considers oneself English, Scottish, Welsh or British. Whichever dog we think we have in the fight, Fuller puts it on a proper leash.
The outcome of the Scottish vote will, in some measure, in the shorter and longer terms, change the circumstances in which the saints go about their business. But our business will not change. We are all still citizens of a heavenly kingdom. When all these things are shaken, as they are in time and most certainly will be when the end comes, the kingdom of Christ remains. Our hopes for the kingdom are not shackled to any particular country or individual or system of government. Our fears need not rise or fall with any fall of rise of any person, party, policy or process, need not be yoked to any particular nation-state. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world – not absolutely of any part or portion of it, but throughout it and above it.
As Christian citizens and Christian patriots, we have genuine and legitimate interests in such questions as those now being posed. Our responsibilities and concerns as Christians in particular nations are many. There may be pains and pleasures, profits and losses, progress and retreat, as an apparent or untraced consequence of the vote in Scotland tomorrow, one way or the other.
However, when the voting is done, and the dust has settled, and the fallout begins, Christ himself remains our peace. He has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And he came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
While, of course, Paul is not speaking about the English and the Scots – whose enmity, it might be said, sometimes seems to rival that of the Jew and the Gentile – the principle surely stands. What saints from every country have in common transcends all that divides us. When the end comes, these will not be the things that last and they will not be the things that matter. There will come a time when we shall behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Until then, all our wrangling and wrestling, all our voting and investing, should be conditioned by these heavenly realities. After all, whatever afflictions we suffer here – up to and including being (un)shackled (together) – they are but for a moment, and they are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Fix your eyes there before the vote. Consider it well when you or others vote. Hold fast to it after the vote. For we do not set our minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standeth fast:
God abides, His Word unchanging,
God alone the first and last.
Many Christians in the UK will be aware of one or more of the various campaigns opposing the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill currently passing through the Houses of Parliament. There was significant opposition to this legislation in the House of Commons, though the Bill did pass its Second Reading and is now heading for the Committee Stage (keep up at the back). After this it will pass to the House of Lords, where their lordships will hopefully give it a good kicking.
Anyway, one of the campaigns seeking to muster principled Scriptural opposition to the Bill is called Keep Marriage Special (other campaigns are available). This particular campaign deliberately maintains a narrow focus on the teaching of Scripture with regard to marriage, avoiding other concerns (however legitimate). They have been having some technical issues with their online petition, but it is now up and running here.
The petition is for UK residents only aged 16 and over. Anyone answering this description can sign even if one or all of the other similar petitions have been signed (there are also printable petitions for download for those who may wish to sign up but who do not have ready access to the interweb). So, if you are interested, please check out Keep Marriage Special.
Spurgeon offers an antidote to the epidemic of haziness in the allegedly-evangelical would-be mind:
Know what you know, and, knowing it cling to it. Hold fast the form of sound doctrine. Do not be as some are, of doubtful mind, who know nothing, and even dare to say that nothing can be known. To such the highest wisdom is to suspect the truth of everything they once knew, and to hang in doubt as to whether there are any fundamentals at all. I should like an answer from the Broad Church divines to one short and plain question. What truth is so certain and important as to justify a man in sacrificing his life to maintain it? Is there any doctrine for which a wise man should yield his body to be burned? According to all that I can understand of modern liberalism, religion is a mere matter of opinion, and no opinion is of sufficient importance to be worth contending for. The martyrs might have saved themselves a world of loss and pain if they had been of this school, and the Reformers might have spared the world all this din about Popery and Protestantism. I deplore the spread of this infidel spirit, it will eat as doth a canker. Where is the strength of a church when its faith is held in such low esteem? Where is conscience? Where is love of truth? Where soon will be common honesty? In these days with some men, in religious matters, black is white, and all things are whichever colour may happen to be in your own eye, the colour being nowhere but in your eye, theology being only a set of opinions, a bundle of views and persuasions. The Bible to these gentry is a nose of wax which everybody may shape just as he pleases. Beloved, beware of falling into this state of mind; for if you do so I boldly assert that you are not Christian at all, for the Spirit which dwells in believers hates falsehood, and clings firmly to the truth. Our great Lord and Master taught mankind certain great truths plainly and definitely, stamping them with his “Verily, verily;” and as to the marrow of them he did not hesitate to say, “He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;” a sentence very abhorrent to modern charity, but infallible nevertheless. Jesus never gave countenance to the baseborn charity which teaches that it is no injury to a man’s nature to believe a lie. Beloved, be firm, be stedfast, be positive. There are certain things which are true; find them out, grapple them to you as with hooks of steel. Buy the truth at any price and sell it at no price.
Avram Grant’s story is an incredible one. We know him as the quietly spoken man who took Chelsea to within a John Terry penalty of the Champions League title in 2008.
We know him as the boss at West Ham and the man who gave the passionate speech to Portsmouth fans on the brink of relegation and administration in 2010.
His own story – the son of a Polish Jew who married the daughter of an influential Iraqi lawyer who was forced to flee to Israel – is remarkable, but the history of his family is as rich as it is tragic, as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking and as inspiring as it is dark.
My brother blogs movingly about football manager Avram Grant’s family history and sense of the past.
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Same-sex marriage
You must be aware that there are many Christians in this country who are experiencing a variety of reactions to the proposal (or is it decision?) to permit same- sex marriage. Reactions include disbelief, that such a major change in the family and social structures of this country could go through without a serious debate about the issues, or at least get a mention in your party manifesto to put people ‘on notice’; disillusionment that political power is being used to override the sincerely held convictions of millions on a major issue; and disappointment at the way our very valid objections and questions are being sidestepped or met with contempt or abuse. . . .
Read the rest of Mostyn Robert’s thoughtful letter to the PM here.