Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Studies in the Scriptures. sounds good...?


[...] we are deluded if we think we can read the Bible alone by ourselves. All interpretation of Scripture is built upon what has gone on before us. In the nineteenth century a small group in the United States decided to have done with the historic teaching of the church and study Scripture for themselves from scratch. They published a journal recording the results of their Bible study called Studies in the Scriptures. And so the sect known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses was born. Bible study torn asunder from the teaching of the historic Christian church is a recipe for deviation. As it transpired, the Jehovah’s Witnesses did nothing really new; they merely reproduced the fourth-century heresy of Arianism. – (italics original) p18, The Work of Christ byRobert Letham

Monday, 24 October 2016

Christianity is not a tool for a greater goal

[For] if one thing is plain it is that Christianity refuses to be regarded as a mere means to a higher end. Our Lord made that perfectly clear when He said: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother . . . he cannot be my disciple" (Luke xiv. 26). Whatever else those stupendous words may mean, they certainly mean that the relationship to Christ takes precedence of all other relationships, even the holiest of relationships like those that exist between husband and wife and parent and child. Those other relationships exist for the sake of Christianity and not Christianity for the sake of them. Christianity will indeed accomplish many useful things in this world, but if it is accepted in order to accomplish those useful things it is not Christianity. Christianity will combat Bolshevism; but if it is accepted in order to combat Bolshevism, it is not Christianity: Christianity will produce a unified nation, in a slow but satisfactory way; but if it is accepted in order to produce a unified nation, it is not Christianity: Christianity will produce a healthy community; but if it is accepted in order to produce a healthy community, it is not Christianity: Christianity will promote international peace; but if it is accepted in order to promote international peace, it is not Christianity. Our Lord said: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." But if you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in order that all those other things may be added unto you, you will miss both those other things and the Kingdom of God as well.  -- p127–128, Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Life, sickness, and death

Today we celebrated my daughter Noelle’s 3rd birthday. She’s a lovely little girl, full of sweet and amusing character, even if she seems quiet at times. But when she was born, there were a few complications, one of them being particularly serious, potentially life-threatening. The doctor took me to a side room to explain her condition, and I did not know what he was saying, but I understood perfectly well that whatever her condition was, it was quite serious. Long story short, after a few weeks in NICU, Noelle came home with a very positive outlook. We are thankful to God and all those who prayed for us.

During those times of uncertainty and fear, I knew God was in control. Whether He takes her life or not, whether He brings a life-long disability on her or not, God would do what is right. I knew He was never malicious. He was trustworthy, and He was all-powerful. But the Bible never specifies how long a man’s life would be (or a girl’s, in this case). So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and there were moments when I was more afraid than I wished to be.

But there was something I didn’t doubt. Actually there were several things I could say that I didn’t doubt. But one thing I want to say here is that I never doubted that the doctors and nurses would do anything intentionally to harm our little girl. They may be a little incompetent (some did seem incompetent to my untrained eyes), or careless (we are all human after all and make mistakes). But I never doubted that they would do everything they could to make our girl better. I fully assumed and trusted that their sole intention for my little girl was that she would survive by whatever medical actions they took. Some tests, like Lumbar Puncture, looked scarier and more dangerous than others, and the medical staff sometimes looked tired or uncaring (at least from the point of view of this hyper-sensitised dad with his daughter in NICU, his wife in a post-labour recovery room, and a toddler to take care of!). But it never crossed my mind that they would ever intend to do something to harm or even kill her. I don’t think I was wrong to assume that and trust the medical staff. And thankfully, all their hard work was not in vain. As I mentioned, our little Noelle got better, and she is now a sweet 3 year-old girl.

And then this podcast. I listened to it just now.
Here are some keywords. Bio ethics. Medical ethics. Euthanasia. “Right” to die. Hippocratic Oath. Assisted suicide. Organ harvest. Death culture.

Whether you are familiar with these terms or not, I strongly recommend you listen to the podcast. I felt sick in the stomach, disgusted at the state of the culture we are in and where the so-called ethicists are trying to take us. I cannot do justice to the content by summarising it. But here’s the thing. If the majority of bio-ethicists would continue to have their way, what I described above about my daughter would have looked very different. I would not only be worried about my baby daughter’s well-being, but I would be forced to weigh her life’s worth and her chance of survival and calculate it against some number, probably in monetary value. It would be na├»ve to assume the intention of the medical staff, because they would have done their own calculations, and they may as well make a very different conclusion from my own about the worth of my daughter. What’s more, if my daughter or any of my children ever become disabled or have a mental disorder, I will no longer be able to trust the medical staff, not because they lack knowledge or skills, but because they may have a different intention towards my disabled child. And it’s not just the medical staff, of course. It’s the whole society, people you meet on the streets, people you share your struggles with, people to whom you tell about your daughter’s sickness. If the majority of bio-ethicists would have their way for few more decades, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to imagine a situation where you share with someone about your depressed teenage daughter, whom you love and care for and are worried about, and get a response, 'Have you thought about taking her to an assisted-suicide clinic?’ Too far? Too disgusting? I’m glad you feel that way. I do, too. But know that not everyone feels this way. If you doubt this, again, listen to the podcast. And I invite you to pray to God to act in mercy, to give us wisdom and courage to do something about this.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Christianity is the religion of the broken heart

Machen writing in 1923:
[...] a remarkable change has come about within the last seventy-five years. The change is nothing less than the substitution of paganism for Christianity as the dominant view of life. Seventy-five years ago, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies, was still predominantly Christian; today it is predominantly pagan.
In speaking of "paganism," we are not using a term of reproach. Ancient Greece was pagan, but it was glorious, and the modern world has not even begun to equal its achievements. What, then, is paganism? The answer is not really difficult. Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature' whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.In saying that Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, we do not mean that Christianity ends with the broken heart; we do not mean that the characteristic Christian attitude is a continual beating on the breast or a continual crying of "Woe is me." Nothing could be further from the fact. On the contrary, Christianity means that sin is faced once for all, and then is cast, by the grace of God, forever into the depths of the sea. The trouble with the paganism of ancient Greece, as with the paganism of modern times, was not in the superstructure, which was glorious, but in the foundation, which was rotten. There was always something to be covered up; the enthusiasm of the architect was maintained only by ignoring the disturbing fact of sin. In Christianity, on the other hand, nothing needs to be covered up. The fact of sin is faced squarely once for all, and is dealt with by the grace of God. But then, after sin has been removed by the grace of God, the Christian can proceed to develop joyously every faculty that God has given him. Such is the higher Christian humanism--a humanism founded not upon human pride but upon divine grace.
But although Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with the broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin.
(italics mine; p56–57, Christianity and Liberalism)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Slandering God and the knowledge of God

Why should we be indignant about slanders directed against a human friend, while at the same time we are patient about the basest slanders directed against our God? Certainly it does make the greatest possible difference what we think about God; the knowledge of God is the very basis of religion.  - p48, Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Where do we learn obedience?

Far from being a distraction, the ordinary affairs of life – crying babies and cars that will not start – are in fact the context of God's call to ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12). The fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) are not born in a vacuum. It is precisely in the maelstrom of life that we learn obedience.  – p78, Stuart Hitting theHoly Road by Stuart Coulton