Saturday, May 29, 2010

Who do you see in this man?

The New Yorker, of all things, has published an article about Jesus.

Its author, Adam Gopnik, essayist, commentator and New Yorker staff writer, appears to be an outsider looking in. He comments on recent books published by Diarmid MacCulloch, Paul Johnson, Paul Verhoeven, Bart Ehrman, L. Michael White, John Dominic Crossan, Philip Jenkins and Philip Pullman, almost all of whom delight in rubbishing the gospel record.

"The more one knows," says Gopnik, "the less one knows." Scarcely surprising, after reading books like that. Mark's Gospel, he says, makes intolerable demands on logic.

His conclusion seems to be that after this length of time, Jesus' life, if not a myth, is a mystery "never to be entirely explored or explained."

Albert Mohler points out
that it all depends on whether you hold to the divine inspiration of the Bible. If you don't, then the Bible is just a piece of ancient literature, and you can believe or disbelieve which bits you choose.

Either the Bible is just an ancient book and we have no real knowledge of Jesus or the Bible is the word of God and the Bible demonstrates a Jesus who can give forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

C. S. Lewis, who was a believer in an inspired Bible, puts it rather well in Mere Christianity: "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

The only observation I want to make is this. Is it not interesting that people who do not believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be are still fascinated by Him? Is it not remarkable how people who don't believe in His deity still can't leave Him alone?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Living life. . . to the last

I have one or two heroes, and one or two heroines. One of my heroines is a lady named Ilora Finlay. Please don't tell her. She would probably be embarrassed.

Ilora Finlay is a member of the House of Lords. A baroness, no less. She opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, and argues eloquently against their legalisation.

What some people didn't know as she vigorously opposed an assisted suicide bill in the House of Lords a few years ago was that her 84-year-old mother, who had advanced breast cancer that had spread to large areas of her pelvis and lower back, was lying in a hospice wanting to die.

The old lady didn't want to be dependent. She didn't want to be a burden. And if assisted suicide were legal, it was clear, she would go for it. The situation, Lady Finlay said, was tearing her in two.

I'm a professor of palliative care. I have dedicated my career as a physician to improving the care of the terminally ill - and yet here was my dreadfully sick mother, stopping just short of asking me to help her die. . .

It was the hospice chaplain who unlocked the door. Wise enough to realise there was no point talking about God to this agnostic lady and experienced enough to know we all have a story, he quietly and patiently asked Mum to tell him hers.

And so he sat, this quiet, unassuming man, and listened, soaking up the years, as she told him her views and philosophy on life.

And it was in this telling that it dawned on Mum that her decrepit body still held an active mind. Suddenly, she realised that if she wasn't going to be allowed to kill herself, she had better make the most of what time remained. . .

Day by day, she took more pain relief, which first enabled her to get out of bed and then to take a few tentative steps with a Zimmer frame. Every day, she tried to take a few steps more. . .

And then, almost miraculously, the radiotherapy began to work, her pain disappeared and she was able to leave the hospice and go home.

My mother would go on to live for another four years and it's no exaggeration to say that those four years were almost more precious than the 84 that had preceded them. . .

Carers came every day. Friends visited, took her out, shared meals, laughed with her as she decided to get out of her wheelchair, using it as a walker and then dispensing with it altogether. She remembered that she had a story to tell, and began to tell it to her children for the first time.

She saw the birth of her first great-grandson, and relished playing with him. She was determined to stay involved, reading story books to him about steam engines and teddy bears. Then she cradled her second great-grandson in her arms.

Eventually illness came back, and she had to return to the hospice. But this time there was a difference: While she did, on occasion, long for the end, Mum did not ask for help to end her life this time. Any anger at her dependence and illness had gone and now 'Thank you' was her most uttered phrase.

Eventually death came. Says Lady Finlay: Of course, there are regrets - of times not spent together, of disagreements, of unappreciated times, of failing to call, of speaking in anger and in haste.

But I will never regret that our law protected her; preventing her from ending her life when she was vulnerable to despair.

Those four years we shared were the most precious gift. Without them, Mum would have missed what she described as some of the richest times in her life and we would have missed understanding just what an amazing person she was.

I'm so grateful for the fact she was 88 when she died and not 84. But best of all? So was she.

You can read the full account, originally published in the Daily Mail, right here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Power from on high

It used to be called Whitsuntide, and it used to be a public holiday. The UK Government did away with the name and they did away with the holiday. But they can't do away with its significance. Tomorrow, 49 days after Easter Sunday, is Pentecost Sunday, when we remember how those early Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit.

On the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:20). Thomas wasn't there on that occasion, but he was there a week later.

Then he said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."

And Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed"
(vv27 - 29).

What does the Bible say are the things necessary for salvation? If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9). Can anyone doubt that those disciples were believers at that point?

But they did not yet have all that they needed. They were to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49), for, said Jesus, you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:5).

They waited from the days of the Jewish feast of Passover, when Jesus died and rose again, to the Jewish feast of Shavuot, or Pentecost. And when the day of Pentecost had fully come. . . and they were all in one place. . . there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind. . . and forked tongues, as of fire. . . and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1 - 4). Frightened believers were transformed into believers ablaze for God.

Peter explained that the promise of the Holy Spirit is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (v39) - not just to the disciples there at that time, but to future generations, to people in other places, to every one who is called to God's salvation.

Some say that you have everything when you are born again, regenerated, come to faith in Christ. Don't believe that.

There's more. Oh yes, there's more!

Safeguards that don't work

There are people in the UK who are continually pushing for the legalisation of euthanasia. Whenever they speak of legalising euthanasia, they say there would, of course, be adequate safeguards.

On the subject of safeguards, bioethicist Wesley J. Smith points out on his blog Secondhand Smoke two things that are happening in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal. First, only something like 25 per cent of cases of euthanasia are being reported, as the law requires. Second, last year there were 40 per cent more reported cases than the year before.

He says:

This is what happens when a country jumps off a vertical moral cliff.

First, the euthanasia numbers are climbling dramatically. Secondly, the guidelines become virtually meaningless. As we have seen in the Netherlands, once a society countenances medical killing by doctors, the [doctors] tend to do anyone they think should be euthanized regardless of the guidelines, and then just don't report their own lawbreaking.

We are told that legalizing euthanasia makes it all so transparent. We are told it will be strictly restrained by legalization to only the most intractable cases. The pretense is clearly not working in Belgium. But will that cause the country to backtrack? Not on a bet. Once medicalized killing is accepted, the details cease to matter.

So much for adequate safeguards.

Don't you fall for it

The Bible tells (in Gen 25:27 - 34) how Esau fell to temptation:

Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field: but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.

And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary.

And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom.

But Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright as of this day."

And Esau said, "Look, I am about to die; so what profit shall this birthright be to me?"

Then Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day." She he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.

And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

The stupid man, you might say. How ridiculous! Fancy going and doing a thing like that!

Esau's thought at the time was probably something like "I'm dying of hunger here. I've got to have some of that, and we'll worry about the consequences later."

(There were consequences, of course. You will remember that the Bible says later of Esau, in Heb 12:17: You know that afterwards, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.)

We need to understand a little about temptation. Can we say that temptation is a deliberate attempt to entice us to do something that we know God does not want us to do? The enemy will carefully arrange a time when we are not at our best, place something in front of us, perhaps unexpectedly, which is very attractive to our carnal nature, and ask for an instant response.

Says Selwyn Hughes: "Temptation involves a definite enticement to immediate self-gratification. The dictionary says 'To tempt someone is to beguile them to do wrong, by promise of pleasure or gain.' Temptation motivates a person to be bad by promising something that appears to be good."

You don't want to fall for that? Decide you are going to hate sin because God hates sin. Make a firm decision that you are going to produce a loud and definite "No!" when temptation comes. And here's an important key, in the words of Rom 13:14:

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts.

Don't let yourself get into a state where you're likely to be tempted. Don't allow yourself to be in a situation or a place where you're likely to be tempted.

Remember that what the tempter tempts you with is never worth a fraction of what he's trying to get from you.

And don't be too quick to condemn Esau. There's a bit of Esau in us all.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good news all round

The Christian man arrested in Workington, Cumbria, and charged with a public order offence for saying that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin - about whom I wrote here and here - has had some good news.

The Crown Prosecution Service has written to Dale Mcalpine (and his name is spelled Mcalpine and not McAlpine - newspapers please note!) saying the case has been dropped because of a lack of evidence. Mr Mcalpine says he is relieved.

Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, which has been assisting Mr Mcalpine, says the police must be held to account.

"Cumbria Police can't just walk away from this," he said. "They have arrested and charged an innocent man for no other reason than that he has peacefully expressed his Christian beliefs. And it's happened in other parts of the country too, so there is clearly a problem with the system, and it has to be put right."

There are a number of questions still rolling round in my mind. Like - for example - would the case have been dropped if Mr Mcalpine had not had an organisation to fight for him? And would the case have been dropped - and so promptly - if details of the case had not been all over the media on both sides of the Atlantic?

Christians have been everybody's Aunt Sally for long enough. That Christians are beginning to fight back is nothing if it's not good news.

'Safe' sex or no sex?

David Toma, the 12th child of a Christian mother, was a detective on the vice, narcotics and gambling squad in crime-ridden Newark, New Jersey. He became a master of disguise in order to infiltrate drugs gangs.

He made thousands of arrests without ever firing his gun, though he was himself hospitalised numerous times with shot and stab wounds. He had a 98 per cent conviction rate. He was given the title "The World's Greatest Cop" by fellow policemen. Two series of television programmes were based on his experiences.

He has spent countless thousands of hours speaking to audiences about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. He has received numerous humanitarian awards and several honorary doctorates.

Denny Hartford quotes on his blog something of what David Toma has to say about teenage pregnancy:

Kids are having kids! Eleven year old, twelve year old and thirteen year old kids are having babies! Why? Because they are having sex! Unfortunately they don't think that having sex will lead to getting pregnant. Kids don't think about their consequences, they just want to have sex. And that's the problem.

My 50+ years of experience, talking to millions and millions of kids, tells the story: teen sex leads to babies, teen sex leads to unwanted pregnancy, teen sex leads to suicide, teen sex leads to drug addiction, teen sex leads to alcoholism, teen sex leads to Aids and HIV, teen sex leads to STDs. Teen sex is not only a moral issue, it's a health issue and it's a national health issue! . . .

Parents, what are you going to do about this national crisis? School administrators, what are you going to do about this national crisis? Local government and health agencies, what are you going to do about this national crisis? Some 'experts' preach non-abstinence based on the theory that kids will have sex anyway, so why not teach them to have safe sex. These experts haven't seen what I saw on the streets as a detective. They haven't heard the personal stories, thousands of them, that I heard while a beat cop in Newark, New Jersey.

Parents have given up on teaching total abstinence to their kids. They take their daughters to the doctor to get them birth control pills, so they won't get pregnant. Well guess what? They get pregnant anyway! There is no birth control pill that is 100% safe, and many have dangerous side effects, like blood clots that lead to death! Condoms are not 100% safe either. Protected sex is not the answer, total abstinence is. I am a parent and now a grandparent and guess what my wife and I taught our kids and are now teaching our grandchild? Total abstinence. Was it easy? No! But I will not surrender to complacency. I did whatever it took to make sure my kids knew that premarital sex was not an option. . .

The 40,000,000 (that's right, forty million!) kids I have talked with over my career gives me the expertise to tell you that absolute abstinence is the only thing that works. I have heard personally the horror stories of back alley abortions that went wrong. I have personally visited kids in the hospital who tried to kill themselves and their unborn babies because they were too scared to tell their parents they were pregnant. Imagine being so afraid to tell your parents you were pregnant that you would rather kill yourself and an innocent growing inside you! I have held young girls in my arms as they died from Aids which they contracted from having oral sex. They thought that oral sex was safe sex! I have counseled thousands of girls who were gang raped because they had a reputation for being easy.

My twenty years on the streets as a cop and then as a detective made me see things I still have nightmares about: mothers throwing their babies off bridges into freezing rivers, babies killed by their teenage mothers because they wouldn't stop crying, babies in dumpsters, babies thrown away like garbage! We are in a throwaway society and we throw our babies away too! I have seen it all!!!

Don't tell me that non-abstinence and sex education are the answer, because you are dead wrong. The only answer is absolute abstinence. . .

I have preached absolute abstinence for over 50 years. I will not surrender to popular theories by people who are supposed experts who don't have my background and don't know what they are talking about. I can absolutely guarantee you that your child will not get pregnant, will not get Aids, and HIV, will not get STDs, will not end up killing themselves when you teach your children the value of a strong moral code of conduct. . .

Let me tell you that when I talk to kids at schools about absolute abstinence, I get a standing ovation. They want to hear more about how to live a good clean life and how to live the right way. They want someone to love them and discipline them. They know I love them, and they know I know what I am talking about. Your kids want your guidance, your kids want your love. Love your kids enough to teach them absolute abstinence.

Well, you can't argue with that, can you?

Incidentally, you'll find David Toma's website at

Friday, May 14, 2010

'Rejoice with Jerusalem!'

Some heartfelt words from Jerusalem from journalist Stan Goodenough. He quotes Isa 66:10 - 13, with its command to rejoice with Jerusalem and its reminder of the city's eventual glory. He goes on:

Children from across the nation descended on Jerusalem Tuesday - filling the parks, crowding the sidewalks, clambering up the slopes of Mount Zion and flooding in through the gates of the Old City.

Their presence added reams of youthful color and vibrancy to the many-thousand-strong crowds of Jews and their friends here to celebrate 43 years (by the Hebrew calendar) since the Six Day War saw their ancient capital returned to Jewish hands.

And it
will be festive: The next 24 hours will be marked by ceremonies and speeches on Ammunition Hill and in the Tower of David, hora dancing in the city's public squares, marches through the streets, all night music concerts and prayer meetings at the Western Wall.

Organised tours will show off the massive development and growth that has taken place in the city under Israeli sovereignty. Modern high-rises, new residential developments and ambitious transportation projects will vie for attention with the famous historical sites and legendary biblical landmarks that make Jerusalem an engrossing magnet for millions, nay billions on the planet.

But while it enthralls multitudes - there is only one nation that loves this city, only one people that has longed to return here and remained faithful in devotion to Jerusalem for thousands and thousands of years.

The Jews' veneration of Jerusalem hugely outstrips the feelings any other nation has for its capital. This can be said without exaggeration or apology.

Which other people has acclaimed a single city for 30 solid centuries - or even a third of that time? What city has Chinese or Russians or Britons, or Norwegians or Indians or Africans or any other nation or people group prayed daily for generation after generation to return to? What other nation - violently driven from its land, and enduring hundreds of years of what it calls "captivity" in exile - clung to, and drew hope from, their belief in their ultimate restoration to that land, and to the pulsating city that was its heart?

Indeed, the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, followed by the return of Jerusalem to the Jews, should be reason for rejoicing by all men and women of goodwill.

But as music fills the air and drumbeats echo off the golden walls across the valley from my home, people in other capitals around the world are watching these celebrations through glowering, resentful, even hate-filled eyes.

Jerusalem Day 2010 has been preceded by intensifying gentile efforts to force Israel to stop building here. Spearheaded by the increasingly openly hostile Obama administration, the international community is galled by the "effrontery" of Jews' administering, developing and growing their own flagship city.

Israel's claim to Jerusalem flies in the face of the world's plans to turn half the city into the capital of a new Arab state called Palestine. Instead of acknowledging that Muslim violence, threats and incitement against Jews is the primary reason for the failure of their "peace process," the world blames the Israeli government for building up its own home.

As I write, US special envoy George Mitchell is here, trying to get some form of shuttle diplomacy under way in order to "jump start" the repeatedly discredited diplomatic process with the Palestinian Arabs.

In an attempt to get some traction, Mitchell claimed last week that the Israeli government had agreed to freeze building in northern Jerusalem for two years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have denied that there is any freeze on construction in the city.

As Israel tries to resist the pressures of its "friend and ally" across the Atlantic, Washington - which has realigned the once pro-Israel United States with the Arab/Islamic world - is expected to get nasty.

Let it. The superglue of their entire history holds the Jews to Jerusalem. Any nation trying to remove it from them will only injure itself.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Prison for preaching God's truth?

Whether his name is Mcalpine or McAlpine is a mystery still. But his arrest in the Cumbrian town of Workington became international news, with reports and comment both sides of the Atlantic.

Dale McAlpine (or is it Mcalpine?) is a Christian. From time to time, he preaches from a stepladder in Workington's shopping precinct. When he isn't preaching, he hands out Christian leaflets to individual passers-by, with perhaps a few words of conversation. "He is not aggressive or threatening," said a shopworker in the precinct. "He is gentle. He hands out leaflets, he says his piece, and then he leaves."

The story, as I understand it, is this. While handing out leaflets one day Mr McAlpine had a conversation with a woman shopper about his faith. He mentioned a number of sins listed in 1 Corinthians, including fornication, adultery, homosexuality and drunkenness.

As the woman walked away, she was approached by a police community support officer, who spoke with her briefly. The PCSO walked over to Mr McAlpine and identified himself as a homosexual and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police. He said a complaint had been made. Mr McAlpine admitted he did sometimes say that the Bible says that homosexual behaviour is a sin. The PCSO warned Mr McAlpine he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language.

Mr McAlpine began his sermon - during which he did not mention homosexuality. While he was preaching a wagon arrived with three policemen, he was arrested, placed in a police cell for seven hours and charged with an offence against the Public Order Act. He appeared before a magistrates' court and is awaiting the date of a full hearing.

Sam Webster, a solicitor-advocate with the Christian Institute, said case law had ruled that the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual conduct is sinful is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society. "The police have a duty to maintain public order but they also have a duty to defend the lawful free speech of citizens. It's not for the police to decide whether Mr McAlpine's views are right or wrong."

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the USA, made some interesting comments:

The Telegraph's report includes the ironic and chilling explanation that Dale McAlpine was arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin and for doing so "in a voice loud enough to be heard by others." Is not the purpose of any speaker to be heard by others? Are we to assume that the British police would suggest that Dale McAlpine hold fast to his beliefs, but mutter them only under his breath?. . .

We are witnessing the constriction of Christian speech and the criminalizing of Christian ministry. The Bible clearly condemns homosexual behaviors, and the Christian church has been clear about this teaching for twenty centuries. But now, the statement that homosexuality is a sin can land a preacher in jail.

We will soon learn which nations truly believe in religious liberty and freedom of speech. Cases like this are inevitable when the logic of hate speech and special rights for "sexual minorities" prevails.

Do not for a moment think that this troubling development is of consequence only for street preachers in Britain. The signal sent by this kind of arrest reaches right into every church and every nation where a similar logic takes hold. . .

We will soon learn which nations honor religious liberty - but we will also soon learn which preachers are determined to honor God's truth, whatever the cost. Paul's command to preachers to preach the Word "in season and out of season" is about more than when preaching is more and less popular. It may well mean preaching the word in jail or out of jail.

Just ask Dale McAlpine.

So where will the next attempt come to silence the Christian voice in public? It's difficult to know. But it will be interesting to see.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Much ado about Something

I have long said that if there were no God, it wouldn't be necessary for atheists to try to disprove His existence.

I like the way Jack Kinsella puts it. He says that if you speak of the things of God to a sceptic, one of the first things he will do is to challenge you to prove that God exists in the first place.

And he says that is the wrong way round: because if there is no Creator, then we came from nothing - and the one thing we know does NOT exist in the physical world is nothing. Nothing, you see, is the absence of something.

We live in a material universe. . . But the entire argument from the point of atheism is that nothing - which cannot exist in a material universe - is responsible for the existence of the material universe. . .

A sceptic cannot prove God does not exist, because that demands proving a negative. God could exist, therefore it cannot be proved He does not. Conversely, nothing cannot exist, a philosophical, scientific and logical principle long established to be true. . .

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good" (Psalms 14:1). The sceptic's blanket statement that God does not exist stands as sufficient testimony to the truth of the Psalmist's words. So do all of the sceptic's arguments, when broken down into their component parts.

To begin with, none of them are in support of their own position, to wit, "
nothing is responsible for creation." They can neither defend nor explain the existence of "nothing." Instead, the sceptic's argument MUST come in the form of an attack on Something, to wit, a Creator God. . .

Make no mistake, they also believe in God in some sense, or logically, there would be nothing on which to base the discussion. They just don't want to believe and they are seeking justification for that disbelief.

The atheist needs to sucker you into the positive position of proving God exists, because he cannot prove the negative proposition. . . The sceptic's argument doesn't offer alternative answers - it only raises questions in the hope you can't answer them either. . .

There are libraries full of books attempting to prove the existence of God or to argue against the existence of God. There aren't very many books that attempt to prove the existence of nothing.

The very concept of nothing is something. Since the concept of nothing is itself something, the existence of nothing is therefore disqualified. . .

Does God exist? Well, if He didn't, there would be nothing to debate. And nobody debates about nothing.

Isn't that something?

You can read the whole thing right here.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Christians and the law

Gary McFarlane is a Christian who worked as a relationship guidance counsellor for Relate. When he qualified as a psychosexual therapist, he raised concerns about a potential clash between his work and his Christian views. He was unwilling to give sex therapy to homosexual couples.

A lawyer concerned with his case said Mr McFarlane wanted his religious beliefs to be accommodated by his employer, "which in the specific facts of the case was not unreasonable." Instead, he was sacked.

He complained to an employment tribunal, which decided he had not suffered religious discrimination. Mr McFarlane, who said that his treatment was "without a doubt" an example of Christians being persecuted in modern Britain, asked the Appeal Court for permission to appeal the employment tribunal ruling.

Last week permission was refused. Lord Justice Laws said legal protection for views held on religious grounds was "deeply unprincipled."

"In the eye of everyone save the believer," he said, "religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true, but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society.

"Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who alone is bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims.

"The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, a preferring of the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary."

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, concerned with other senior church leaders that in past cases judges had disparaged Christianity and had in effect called Christians bigots, had asked that the case be considered by judges with an understanding of religious issues. The judge rejected his request also.

Lord Carey said the judgment heralded a "secular" state rather than a "neutral" one. "It says that the sacking of religious believers in recent cases was not a denial of their rights even though religious belief cannot be divided from its expression in every area of the believer's life.

"While with one hand the ruling seeks the right of religious believers to hold and express their faith, with the other it takes away those same rights."

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said the judgment was "alarming" and in effect sought to rule out Christian principles of morality from the public square. It seemed a Christian who wished to act on his Christian beliefs on marriage would no longer be able to work in a great number of environments.

Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, said the judge arrived at his conclusion by cherry-picking human rights law. He said human rights law conferred upon believers the right to "hold or express" religious views, when in fact the European Convention on Human Rights gives people the right to manifest "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" through "worship, teaching, practice and observance."

Writing in the Telegraph, Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, said Lord Justice Laws' judgment "has driven a coach and horses through the ancient association of the Christian faith with the constitutional and legal basis of British society.

"Everything from the Coronation oath onwards suggests that there is an inextricable link between the Judeo-Christian tradition of the Bible and the institutions, the values and the virtues of British society. If this judgment is allowed to stand, the aggressive secularists will have had their way.

"We have already had a rash of cases involving magistrates unable to serve on the bench because of their religious beliefs, registrars losing their jobs because they cannot, in conscience, officiate at civil parnerships, paediatricians unable to serve on adoption panels. . . Will this trickle gradually become a flood, so that rather than conforming to the Church of England, the new discrimination tests will involve conforming to the secular religion as promoted by Lord Justice Laws? . . .

"I fear that we are entering an absolutist era where there is no room for believers."

The day after news of the judgment came news of a 21-year-old Muslim's appearance in court for defacing a war memorial in Burton-on-Trent with graffiti proclaiming "Islam will dominate the world," "Osama is on his way" and "Kill Gordon Brown." The court was told his actions had nothing to do with religious belief and he was given a conditional discharge for criminal damage.

Then Dale McAlpine (described in some newspapers as Dale McAlpine and elsewhere as Dale Mcalpine) was arrested in Workington, about which more shortly. . .

Thursday, May 06, 2010

War in the Middle East soon?

Some political commentators are predicting war in the Middle East before the end of the summer.

I think what has held war back, said one, is that Israel is unwilling to provoke an enemy that is armed to the teeth, and the Arabs are so busy building up their armoury of missiles they don't have time to attack Israel. That might sound flippant, but it might contain more than a little truth. The general concensus of opinion is that never in its history has Israel faced a threat of such magnitude.

Israel needs the United States. It is evident that President Barack Obama blames Israel for the Middle East problem. Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been appallingly treated on his visits to Washington. Leading figures in the Obama administration have gone so far as to say that Israel's insistence on new building in Jerusalem is endangering US lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US is reported to be insisting that Israel bans all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the forseeable future, that Israel must make more concessions to the Palestinians (without the Palestinians being required to make any concessions, including recognition of the Jewish state), and that Israel must not attack Iran's nuclear facilities without US permission. Meanwhile President Obama is doing nothing about preventing the nuclear threat from Iran, widely considered to be the greatest single threat to world peace.

President Obama is said to have thought better of his idea of imposing a solution on the Middle East problem and to be leaving Israel and the Palestinians to sort it out between them. He said in a speech, possibly with the intention of placating Jewish Democrat voters in the US, that the friendship between the US and Israel was safe. Israelis were unimpressed.

The situation is certainly a dangerous one. Hamas is reported to have rockets that can reach Israel's nuclear facility in Dimona. Hezbollah has tens of thousands of rockets in Lebanon. Syria is thought to have the most powerful scud missiles in the world and to have passed scud missiles to Hezbollah. (One writer said Israel's Prime Minister faces danger on so many fronts, he must have the hardest job on the planet. I would be hard pressed to disagree with that.)

God has made some remarkable promises to preserve Israel, and those promises have not been annulled. Look at 2 Ki 21:7; Isa 43:1, 2; Amos 9:14, 15; and particularly Ezek 28:25, 26.

What would you do if someone tried to touch your eyeball? Zech 2:8 says that he who touches you touches the apple of God's eye. It wasn't speaking to the church. It was speaking to Israel.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.