Friday, 8 December 2017

Reaching beyond the memories

"Memories... you're talking about memories".
Dekkard - Blade Runner.

"When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature 
of all flesh that is on the earth".
Genesis 9:6.

Isn't it strange - particularly as we get older - how the past can have such a hold on us. We recall moments, places and especially loved ones with deep affection and often a longing for 'such times' once more. Strange, perhaps, because we know those moments are gone, and yet, something about them still holds us, even defines something of who and what we are.

Recently, I began to realize that they matter because they're actually part of the miracle that is life.

Some of you might recall my recent posting which touched on, what was for me the unequalled cinematic masterpiece this year - Blade Runner 2049. The original Blade Runner movie raised questions about what makes us human, seeking to explore our relationship to how memories often shape us, comfort us, but the new film goes much deeper - a scene in the film's opening section leading to a very different resolution for this story's detective, revolving around the fact that what truly makes "us" distinct and human is no less than a miracle. 


Underpinning all our moments here, we are, on occasion, truly aware that there is more going on. We know, deep inside ourselves, that what we experience and encounter resonates with the truth that we have meaning and value, and when we recall moments which enriched us, we often "hear" and know something of that truth afresh - that's why certain memories are so palpable and so defining.

Christmas is a time when we can choose to participate in what we could think of as a 'collective' memory of a piece of human history that truly defines the term 'miracle'.  Most of us know what the festival is supposed to be about, but we can perhaps forget how it ties in to a much bigger picture of God's relationship to us.

The verse I've quoted above is part of what happens after the flood. Noah has re-committed life to the Lord who has rescued them, and God responds by stating that from now on, there's going to be an ongoing reminder - the rainbow - of this key moment when heaven and earth are re-united by confidence in the mercy and goodness of God.

Notice how God uses this moment as a marker, not only to us, but to Himself, that a moment has been reached where God and humanity will commence life in a new relationship - the bow of heaven reminds us, and God, of this.

Advent is that moment writ large forever.

One of the most gorgeous moments in the new Blade Runner movie is set in the midst of the arrival of snow. It's a moment filled with pain and difficulty, but it's also the dawning of a day of assurance, joy and affection, because everything has changed.

Memories tell us that amongst the trauma, there is something precious to be known. Miracles tell us what is profoundly true about this life, and that is what makes it worthwhile.

God, in Christ, is the promise-keeper, changing this realm by the miracle of His being with us.

Let's recall that goodness in this special season.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Seasonal seasoning (to engage some useful thoughts).

The festive season, when hopefully many children will know the joy I treasured in  those long off days, of entering the realm of Narnia, will soon be upon us, but for those of us a little further on in years, here's a superb piece on how those kind of rich truths can still be a source of wonder and joy this Christmas.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

"Dark Sands"*

"Try and catch the deluge in a paper cup".
- Don't dream it's over.

"You ask and do not receive because you ask according to your selfish passions"
James 4:3.

During the last part of the engagement for the liberation of Europe, just prior to the battle of the Bulge, the German Wehrmacht activated one of its most insidious weapons. Special units of German troops, principally those who had lived in America, infiltrated behind enemy lines dressed as American soldiers, and proceeded to cause chaos amongst allied forces by miss-direction through bogus communications, changing road signs to deploy forces to the wrong locations, and even direct killing when and where that was viable or expedient.

The tactic has been known since warfare began, but has taken on a new and often devastating impact in modern engagement in the form of 'false flag' activity - actually inciting a particular conflict by the pretense of being another country or militia, thereby making someone else responsible for the consequences that follow.

It is most certainly the case that scientism is now employing both tactics, as has been evidenced so clearly in the past months.

Earlier this year, popular writer and Astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson made an impassioned plea to Americans that they needed to grow up and become far more "scientific" about the way they saw the world.
What is fascinating about this appeal is how it not only views "science", but how Tyson and many others in the naturalistic camp desire the current generation to view this subject.

Here's a few false flags and fifth-column deceits the video makes:

When seeking to answer the question how did America become so great, the answer provided is, essentially, science. Now why it is most certainly true that invention, technology and development of ideas had a huge part to play in progress, wasn't there something even more fundamental to America's beginning and success than this? Wasn't the ideals laid down in the very origins of the United States, particularly with regards to freedom of expression and to follow new ideas what facilitated this manner of growth?
This isn't a minor point. Without that cultural identity, American history would be very different, so why doesn't this video begin with that premise?
Because that would allow for the very divergence in thought and lifestyle which, though allowed in the American constitution, is contrary to the manner of scientism that this video advocates.

This is seen in the second, and for me the most telling section of the production -
Tyson seeks to define what is "true and what is not" in regards to science; he advocates those he sees as defining the right science (what you should believe) of our times. He sees those who 'deny' this manner of defined rightness as dangerous (powers that will dismantle "our informed democracy"), so join up or stay silent is, in essence, what's advocated here.

First on his hit list - anyone who advocates doubt about Darwinism.

To stand against this, he growls, is to stand 'in denial' of science, period.
No if, or buts or maybes here (though Darwin himself expressed many, and things have become a lot, lot worse for his theory since then) - it's science, so just get used to it.

His reason for being so adamant comes in the next point - science is purely an exercise in finding what is true, and so, we are presented with the standard scientific method, but hold on a moment... where is that empirical method applied to Darwinism? If it is, doesn't the data we have discovered (like the fossil record) validate what the late Stephen J Gould stated about this - that all the various basic types appeared suddenly and (in geological terms) very quickly, without any period for transitions? Isn't that a major argument against what the current naturalistic scientists deem as irrefutable?

This is fascinating to me because recently, I was watching Mr Tyson on an american TV show saying that the reason he wasn't sure about God was because there really wasn't any evidence for God's existence. I quickly found myself wondering why he was of such an opposite opinion to others who had fairly recently made such ground-breaking and vital discoveries in his own realm - astronomy - like Arno Penzias (nobel prize winner... one of those who discovered the back-ground radiation of the big bang) who, to quote Robert Jastrow, understood that "the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy". 
Again, this matters, because the Hebrew used in the first verses of the book of Genesis shows how God used a first cause to bring about creation - the word. 
The astronomy of the 1930's and 40's verified that the universe had the manner of "beginning" Genesis affirms, but it cannot provide us with a material, sufficient, first cause. Theology shows us why that cannot be provided (the cause wasn't material!), so given this is the true state of play, why does Tyson and others want to silence such perspectives as "dangerous", especially when naturalism cannot provide us with a solution?

The problem in this plea's line of thinking is that we are moving into a time of a "new emergent truth", fostered by science, contrary to those 'dangerous' (uninformed) modes of thinking that have held sway in darker times, but this isn't so. As quickly touched upon above, there is far more to unpack here than the very narrow (essentially cave-like) path that Tyson is asking us to walk - he simply isn't looking hard enough, or deep enough, at what the very realm of science can say to us.

The false-flag thinking presented here is there is no other way to look at things - science has given something that is "irrefutable".  The road sign points this way, because "scientists" say it does, so there you go. The problem is how many voices in the very same field are not being heard when he makes this statement.

The video then goes on make the argument that the science regarding the warming the planet should inform political action, and that certainly needs to be taken in earnest, so long as that isn't the chain of events that should be followed on the issue that really concerns me - that we define "us" the way Mr Tyson has here - the quirky result of a chance process, not the handiwork of the divine.

And this isn't just me firing off another "anti" salvo - science provides us with some really astonishing data about the nature of where we are and how stunning it is that we're here, but that doesn't give the "scientist" the right that this plea is claiming - it isn't the case that what we've discovered has silenced theology. When considered soberly, the hard data makes the case that when it comes to why we're here, it most certainly appears that we are dealing with the miraculous.

That is why Genesis begins with an absolute and sufficient first cause; with the Spirit of God animating what was formless and void.

To leave us seeking to value our planet or ourselves on the basis of we're just a cosmic (evolutionary) fluke, with no true future beyond a brief spell as futile creatures going no where before the universe burns up, doesn't seem to get us very far.
Why stop us from going extinct... isn't that natural?

Without a higher purpose, without the inference of intent... of design... we really are lost, and Mr Tyson's "science" cannot help.
Christianity wants us to know that there is more than just these 'scientific passions'.

*Title taken from the report this week that NASA has come to the conclusion that the areas believed to show signs of water on the Martian surface are in fact merely areas of darker surface materials - probably sand.


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Blessed are those... who are washed up

So many people simply have no time for Christianity.
Here's one of the major reasons why.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Here's what counts...

Came across this new item on Mockingbird this evening. Pure truth. Enjoy.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Gold

Eric Metaxas on life and faith Well worth a watch.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Crying in the wilderness

As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
Psalm 84:6

Most of my life has been lived within the realm of evangelical Christianity - The Jesus Generation of the 70's, The Charismatic "renewal" of the 80's, attending a Reformed then Evangelical churches in the early 90's, until I finally reached home through Reformational (not "reformed = Calvinistic") truth over the last twenty years. What made all of this possible was the fact that in my late childhood, I understood that God was certainly there, and by "hearing" about Him (particularly in the marvelous works of C S Lewis), recognizing that He was most certainly there for us.

I mention this because making this journey was far from easy. Most of the manifestations of church I journeyed through here in the UK were principally about what I needed to do, and as a result, it repeatedly become obvious that I wasn't cutting it - I could talk the talk, but behind that routine was the real me - the me that still sinned, still failed, still had plenty of fears and doubts and wasn't anywhere near making the "spiritual" grade so often being set up in countless sermons, ministry times and studies.

It all came to a head in the early 90's. Church history had taught me enough to know there was a better way, but where was that being talked about, offered to the modern church?

The weary state of affairs changed when I discovered an American radio broadcast - The White Horse Inn - which sought to place the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15)  front and centre and apply this to the present church. Within months, the dislocated parts of my spiritual life came back into place and as I started to read afresh the works of Luther in particular, I began to understand who I truly was as a Christian and what church was really meant to be all about.

The Good News of  the Gospel (Romans 3:21-26) had furnished a way in the wilderness.

Notice I said that this is still a wilderness journey, and its often filled with groaning and weeping of soul, because whilst discovering the riches of God's grace is liberating, it also allows you to see and feel the poverty of the world around you, and puts what often passes as "christianity" into sharp relief.


Amidst the celebrations of Luther's titanic work these past few months, I have often found found myself keenly aware of the emptiness of other beliefs (road to no where ideology that amounts to 'have a good time now - it's all you've got') and the total folly of church which thinks the Gospel is something we 'trip' over to start with, and then get on with the "deeper" stuff of being spiritual. It all amounts to "let's make our own gods", because as exiles from the garden, that's what we believe we're good at.


There was a very telling quote made recently:


“During his time at Union Seminary, Dietrich Bonehoeffer famously remarked that American Protestantism has never gone through the Reformation, so, the dominant theme in American Christianity is pietism. This continues to be the case – both evangelicalism in general and Protestantism in particular perform the Gospel, preach law in ways that manifest either as  moralism on the one hand or legalism on the other, neither of which bring Christ into focus or close the abyss between God and us.

What most hear week after week is some flavor or variety of this – it’s time to become a better you or to invest in a better world. We’re entirely engaged in exhausting people on the treadmill of the law, with expectations that, by the very nature of their content and intent, grate against the good news of the Gospel that they are justified by grace entirely and only, ever, reckoned righteous in Christ alone, forever”.

(Jason Micheli)

There really is only one thing necessary to continue to 'pass through' the desert valley and see these arid places refreshed and transformed into a place of delight. It isn't all the tug and tussle of our pietistic spirituality, or our grand notions of being wise in our own estimation - it's Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and raised for our justification - it all begins and ends there.


Church and life are about orbiting this star of righteousness, this sole splendor of our world - if we break away from here, we become abandoned in the void of the abyss of burning up and fading away.

Let's look away from anything and everything that distracts from what God has given to our broken world.