Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I do not think Peter Tobin is Bible John

Although Tobin looks a bit like this newspaper artists impression from the time of the Bible John killings:






He does not look like the official police photofit:





In fact, witnesses at the time thought the suspect was tall with red hair. Tobin was short with brown hair.

The killer quoted from the bible and spoke about a religious upbringing:
In the taxi, John spoke politely about his religious upbringing, quoting at ease from the Bible."I don't drink at Hogmanay," he said, "I pray." (Full Article)

This suggests it was someone from a protestant rather than catholic background. Catholics in Scotland did not routinely study the bible until after Vatican II and even then it only became common in the 1970's. However, the police have said recently that this aspect is more of a media creation and the witness who had reported it had described it as a passing comment not a repeated subject of conversation.

Tobin's age at the time of the first Bible John murder was 22 which is within the age range of the suspect.

The current police position on the Bible John killings seems to be that they were probably carried out by different people and they are all separate crimes. This is why they have been reticent to speak about any potential connection with Tobin and could explain why the photofit and the artists impression are so different. They may be of entirely different people.

Apparently there is DNA evidence from one of the crime scenes so the Police may be able to settle this question finally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Which member of the royal family was being blackmailed?

The royal blackmail story is going to run and run. British journalists already know who it was because it was read out in court. They can't report it, but eventually foreign media will.

Circumstances suggest that it was a man so here are a list of all the male members of the Royal Family. Make of it what you will!

Direct Members of the Royal Family (all of whom have been ruled out according to BBC sources)

  • HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
  • HRH The Prince of Wales
  • HRH Prince William of Wales
  • HRH Prince Henry of Wales
  • HRH The Duke of York
  • HRH The Earl of Wessex
  • HRH The Duke of Gloucester
  • HRH The Duke of Kent
  • HRH Prince Michael of Kent

Relations or spouses of members of the British Royal Family, some of whom barely consider themselves to be royal:

  • Peter Phillips (The Princess Royal's son) (also ruled out in the BBC report)
  • Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence (The Princess Royal's 2nd husband)
  • Viscount Linley (The Queen's nephew, son of the late Princess Margaret)
  • Earl of Ulster (The Duke of Gloucester's son and daughter-in-law) and their son
  • Mr Gary Lewis (The Duke of Gloucester's daughters husband)
  • Earl of St Andrews (The Duke of Kent's son)
  • The Lord Nicholas Windsor(The Duke of Kent's younger son)
  • The Lord Frederick Windsor(Prince Michael of Kent's son)
  • James Ogilvy (Princess Alexandra's son)

And now the really obscure royals known as "collaterals" mainly descendants of the younger children of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, and King George V plus all their children and grandchildren if they happen to be female:

  • The Earl of Harewood (grandson of King George V through his daughter Mary, Princess Royal), his second wife, and his children, and grandchildren, as well as the children and grandchildren of his now deceased brother, Gerald Lascelles.
  • The Duke of Fife (female-line great-grandson of King Edward VII) and his children and grandchildren
  • The Lady Saltoun (widow of Alexander Ramsay of Mar, a female-line grandson of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, the third son of Queen Victoria), and her children and grandchildren
  • The Marquess of Milford Haven (grandson of George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, and great-grandson of H.G.D.H.
  • The Countess Mountbatten of Burma (elder daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, youngest son of H.G.D.H. Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, and her family

Another interesting issue is that the person had crested stationery in a private residence in London which would rule out some of the above.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why the discover channel documentary Conspiracy Test: The RFK Assassination adds nothing to the investigation.

There are two problems with the presentation of this apparent evidence of a second gunman:
  1. The audio engineers did not differentiate between the sound balloons being popped (which was happening in the pantry at the same time) and the sound of gunshots. Both would give spikes in a spectrographic readout, yet they counted all the noteable spikes as gunshots.
  2. The audio engineers quickly discounted a ricochet because the end of the room is too far away to produce a ricochet sound as quickly as it is heard on the tape. However, the bullet could have ricocheted off any of the metal surfaces anywhere in the pantry, not just off the far wall. The police even identified a ricochet mark on the ceiling.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Over Egging the Pudding - The Increasing Intellectual Demands of Contemporary Christianity

When I first became a Christian in the 1980's it was a fairly simple proposition:

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."

But since then Christianity has become more complex.
First it was "you need to be pentecostal to be a proper Christian" then "you need to be a creationist to be bona fide" then "you need to be into the Toronto blessing to be genuine" then "you need to be a premillenialist and believe in biblical prophecy that the second coming will be soon" and more recently "you need to accept that God has a special purpose for Israel".

What happened to the simple gospel?

Everything has become far too complicated and much too difficult for most people to accept.
This might be one reason why the Church is struggling.

For many people, including myself, It has become a little bit like swallowing a gnat while straining on a camel.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Walking away from church.

Well I have finally decided to stop going to church after just over a year in the same church, not having been committed to any church for a few years.
There were two things which made me make the decision:

1. Having been on holiday and then unwell I had not been at church for a few weeks so I did not know that there was going to be an induction for the new minister. Nobody told me and after it had happened and other people had told me about it I asked the church secretary who said it was my own fault for not being at church to hear about it.

2. Last week the new minister preached a message that the church is mainly about new people not existing members and that this was where our future lay. That was afair enough point, but I had a few issues (one of them being about corporate fasting) and someone suggested I speak to him about it after the service. He refused to engage with my questions and said I just had to accept by faith that what he was saying was correct. I then asked him how fasting could work as a lever to persuade God. He replied that fasting showed God that you were serious about what you were asking him for, to which I replied "well surely God would know that as he knows whats in your heart, and is that not the same argument used by some christians for self flagellation?". He then said he had to go and speak to a new person who had come along and just left me and my friend standing there. Maybe I am just too forthright.

The thing that surprises me most is how other people in the church can think that this sort of behaviour is proper.When I trained for the ministry I was taught that the way to deal with difficult questions was to buy time by arranging to see the person later or to be honest and say you needed some time to go away and think about it. he just walked away.

I felt quite hurt with the dismissive way it was dealt with and the comments from other people since, that the newly saved are more important. That may or may not be true, but I felt deeply hurt that I was being expected to agree to things without there being any reasonable explanation for them and without any attempt to convince me - just accept and do it.

My doubts and my drifting away are probably more difficult to deal with than a new fresh person so in some ways its understandable from a purely marketing point of view, but stopping the significant churn in church members should be getting addressed as well IMO.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A couple of problems with young earth creationism

Here are a couple of very obvious problems that people who promote young earth creationism can't deal with:



  1. The earth must be older than 6000 years because 6000 years is not long enough to contain all of the known human history. 6000 years ago was the middle stone age.
    People had existed for a lot longer than that and we have cave paintings and other archaeology to prove it. Young earth creationists actually believe that civilisation has developed in only 4500 years (the period since the flood). This does not match up with known history.


  2. If the dinosaurs were wiped out by a world wide flood and humans and dinosaurs coexisted why are there no fossilised people, just fossilised dinosaurs? Why are there no fossilised mammals in the same strata as the dinosaurs? The answer is that the different types of animal lived at different times. Dinosaurs came first, then mammals and then man, long after the dinosaurs were fossilised.


  3. We know that 90% of all species that ever existed are now extinct. They could not all have coexisted in a stable ecosystem therefore they did not exist at the same time, therefore one must have followed from another.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Miracles, healing and hypnosis - the signs and wonders movement

Compare these two videos and decide which one is hypnosis:

1. A pentecostal church healing crusade in Australia:



2. Hypnosis being demonstrated on the TV show mythbusters:



The signs and wonders movement uses altered states of consciousness to create a state of suggestibility in those taking part. The altered states of consciousness are induced using long periods of rhythmic music, physical movement and then very strong commands when the person is disorientated.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How old is God?

Many Christian hymns talk about god as being "eternal", meaning he has always existed.. However the bible does not actually make that claim.

I had a look through the Bible and could find these words relating to God being eternal:

Hebrew "kedem" meaning ancient, translated in most bibles as "eternal". Deut 33:27

Hebrew "olam" meaning literally concealed, closest to eternal I could find Isaiah 60:15 but does that relate to the messiah rather than Yahweh?

Greek "aionios" as in "eternal life" Matt 19:16 when clearly eternal life here means something that has a start rather than being preexisting from eternity. Also used in "eternal judgement" Heb 6:2 which must mean everlasting from the point the judgement is made.It seems that at the time of Jesus this word was used to denote a fixed period of time Matt 25:46 everlasting punishment clearly can not start from eternity it has to be endless from a fixed starting point.

Greek "aidios" closest to the idea of everlasting as from all before times Rom 1:20
Philo used it to mean "endless"
The septuagint translates olam as aidios whih is interesting but not conclusive as to meaning when the OT context rules out pre existence. The only usage of aidios meaning eternal in the sense we are talking about is in Romans 1:20 which I am prepared to accept talks about God's power being eternal, but its only one verse on which to hang a rather large idea and its a passage about fidelity to God rather than idol worship, its not addressing the nature of God except as a byline.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What do liberal clergy actually believe in?

Most protestant ministers believe in the idea of their being a God, but do not actually believe that there is aa all powerful personal entity called God. I can say this with some authority because I trained as a minister in the early 1990's, during which I read Divinity at Edinburgh alongside many people who are now in the midst of careers as priests and ministers.

In spite of the very liberal application of source criticism and modern thinking by the faculty staff which meant that most students did not believe in the necessity of the virgin birth and many other tenents of traditional (or as they saw it outdated and old fashioned) Christianity, they all graduated with implicit faith in "Godness".

I call this a belief in "Godness" rather than belief in "God" because it sees a desirability in believing that if there was a God then this would make life better or more meaningful. It could also be described as wishful thinking, self deception or, dare I say, delusion.

These Christians see the apparent moral good which religion does for those who are involved in it. Of course that could be a case of "birds of a feather flocking together", but you do get cases of people's whose behaviour is modified due to the influence of Christian thought or Christian community.

From an evolutionary stand point there may well be some benefit to the group of passing on moral teachings from one generaton to the next. The church (especially in Scotland) has tended to concentrate on passing on moral teachings rather than belief in an ultimate being called God, which is why I think that belief in "Godness" has become predominant here. It may also be the legacy of some of our great thinkers like David Hume.

This belief in "Godness" cannot be shaken by rational argument, because even if science was able to prove without doubt that there was no God, this could not affect someones belief in the idea of their being a God. The idea itself is the object of faith rather than God himself. This explains why liberal clergy like Richard Harries continue to stick to their apparent belief in God in spite of their denial of many traditional Christian teachings and their accpetance of science. They do not believe in God, they just believe in the idea of their being a God.

Another aspect of belief which I noted during a brief flirtation with pentecostalism was a very close parallel between romantic love and faith in Jesus. I say faith in Jesus rather than God because this does seem to introduce a personally knowable aspect to the Yahweh. Indeed thats what Christians claim about Jesus. There seemed to be a lot of sublimated sexuality going on in charismatic worship when I was involved in it. This is one reason why it attracts so many young people who are believers, especially young women. Because they have decided to be chaste and not have romantic relationships with other people until they find a prospective husband, Jesus becomes a substitute lover or husband (as it is less kindly put by others a "subby hubby"). Certainly in my own life I have seen periods of marital estrangement bring me apparently closer to Jesus, yet as the relationship with my wife improved I seemed to become more estranged from Jesus. Looking at it dispassionately I can now see a clear connection between romantic attachment and faith. In fact CS Lewis wrote about his problems with the idea of romantic love at the same time as he was writing about his problems believing in God. Interestingly he came to believe in God and romantic love at around the same time.

It could well be that belif in a personallly knowable God (Jesus) could be a misfiring of the Darwinian need to form a monogamous emotional attachment to one person for the purpose of rearing children.This could explain why Christianity has become so successful in the west, although I am also sure that the belief in life after death was a huge selling point for Christianity in the aftermath two world wars which involved great loss of life.

There were noteably a number of religious revivals in the 1920's 30's and late 40's in the USA and Great Britain. Its also noteable that Spiritualism had large periods of growth after each world war with even Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding becoming a leader in the spiritualist movement after having to deal with so many of his men dying in combat.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Jonathan Edwards - Christian athlete turned athiest.

This article from The Times about Jonathan Edwards' "deconversion" makes interesting reading.


Interesting article, but I can't imagine having faith without doubt.
The two go hand in hand surely?

If I had a free choice I would prefer not to believe in God and sometimes I go through periods of estrangement, but when all is said and done, to say that God did not exist (for me) would be like saying that grass was no green and the sky was not blue.
It would just be wishful thinking.

I considered this recently when I was wondering why two of the three people baptised at the same time as me no longer have faith.

Luke Chapter 8 may have the answer:

Luk 8:13 "And those on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a time, and in time of trial draw back."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What does it mean to become more Christ like?

I was rather disturbed recently by a discussion in a bible study group about what it means to become more like Christ. To me this has always meant to be more compassionate; more caring; more willing to serve others and more able to love the unlovely. But in the discussion I seemed to be in a minority of one. Other people felt that becoming more Christ like was becoming more able to "move in the miraculous" or more able to do mighty spiritual things.

This has led me back to the bible to see what sort of person God want us to become. One of the passages that deals with this is:

1Co 13:12-13 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall fully know even as I also am fully known. And now faith, hope, charity, these three remain; but the greatest of these is charity [love]."

So while we are living our mortal lives we have faith, hope and love and the greates of these is love, not doing great spiritual things. In fact Jesus specifically condemned people who did spiritual things at the expense of showing love to others:

Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but the ones who do the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; "depart from Me, those working lawlessness!""

Lawlessness refers to sin and sin includes not doing things we should as well as doing things which are unrighteous.

The will of the father is that we should actively care for others, and if we do not this is against his will for us.
These are the words of Jesus:

Mat 25:31-46 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory. And all nations shall be gathered before Him. And He shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. And indeed He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats off the left. Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You? Or thirsty, and gave You drink? When did we see You a stranger, and took You in? Or naked, and clothed You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You? And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it to Me. Then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they will also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He shall answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life."

The course of our life is dictated by how we treat others. Specifically we are to care for those who are poor, either financially or spiritually and for those who are outcast from our society. Jesus has a special heart for the poor of spirit:

Mat 5:1-10 "And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain. And when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn! For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek! For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness! For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful! For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart! For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers! For they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are they who have been persecuted for righteousness sake! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."

Again there is nothing here about doing great spiritual works. Those will be blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness even if they are spiritually poor.

Paul tells Timothy:

2Ti 4:6 "For I am already being poured out, and the time of my release is here."

and there is a sense in which the lives of all Christians should be poured out as an offering of service to other people.

It seems to me that Jesus was compassionate, forgiving and serving and we are all called to be like that.

  • We do not need a special impartation of the holy spirit.
  • We do not need the impartation of a specific gift.
  • We do not need God to send a revival.
  • We do not need to go to special conferences.

The great thing is that we can all do this right now if we really want to.

I really think that parts of the church have become deluded into thinking they are without power, when the greatest, most powerful gift is available to all Christians - Love.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Justification by faith alone - is it biblical?

Justification by faith alone is not a biblical teaching.

James 2:24 "You see, then, that a man is justified out of works, and not out of faith only."

What the bible seems to teach is that faith and works are equally a gift from God and good works are themselves a sign of faith. In fact faith and goodness are both listed as fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22.

However, the bible also teaches that works on their own are not enough:

Eph 2:8 "For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, that not anyone should boast;"

So we are saved by God's grace as the result of faith and works because if someone claims to have faith but does evil or fails to do good then Jesus will not accept them on the day of judgement:

Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but the ones who do the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; "depart from Me, those working lawlessness!""

Or indeed:

Mat 25:31-46 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory. And all nations shall be gathered before Him. And He shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. And indeed He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats off the left. Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You? Or thirsty, and gave You drink? When did we see You a stranger, and took You in? Or naked, and clothed You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You? And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it to Me. Then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they will also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He shall answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life."

The reason why people don't like to think too much about works is that it is hard going to deny yourself and live for others. I personally fail at this every day to some extent. It would be much easier to take a once saved - always saved position instead of treating salvation as a process, but its just not what Jesus taught and not what most people who identify as Christians (regardless of denomination) believed until the 19th century.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What's wrong with Exobus?

Exobus is a Christian charity which encourages Jewish people from eastern Europe (mainly the former Soviet republics) to emigrate to Israel. They provide the cash and advice necessary to make this happen. They raise money through infommercials on christian TV channels in the UK.

At face value this looks quite reasonable but there are three rather disquieting features of the way they operate:
  1. Most of these people are not practicing Jews. They are people who have Jewish ancestors who stopped practising their religon because of persecution or other pressures. Often on the Exobus infommercials you see special meetings where people are being reintroduced to their jewish roots. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing and if Exobus was a Jewish organisation I would be all in favour. However, Exobus is a Christian organisation and they are presenting a God without Jesus in a sort of Jewish evangelism. This itself is not well done because it is being done from outside mainstream Judaism.
  2. There is an element of economic migrancy here, with very poor people embracing their ancestors religion as a way of getting a visa for Israel, which they see as an affluent western country.
  3. When Exobus are asked to help orphans they help them until documents can be found which proves they are Jews. If it turns out they are not Jewish then they stop helping them. Is this not the opposite of what happened in Nazi Germany? How does this compare to the compassion of Jesus which was extended to all children: "let the children come to me, so not try to stop them".

    These things don't make sense as something a Christian organisation would be doing unless you understand the subtext: that the second coming will not happen until all of the Jews have returned to Israel, even if they didn't know they are Jews and even if that means ensuring they do not hear the gospel message. It goes against what Christians have believed since the beginning and it is causing people to be treated in an un-christlike way, especially children.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gilbert Deya Ministries

A film by BBC Scotland examining Gilbert Deya's claim to produce miracle babies, including a 52 year old woman who claimed to have several babies in six months.

Further information can be found on BBC news here.

Click Here and scroll down the page for the video.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Argument Therapy

It might work?


First century christian beliefs and theology

Belief about the eucharist:

Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD (a direct student of John the apostle, appointed Bishop of Antioch in AD 69):

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again... Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
(Epistle to the Smyreans)


Belief about the canon of scripture:

The first century Christians used the Septuagint which has more books than the Jamnian canon which was not agreed by the Jews until AD 90.

Clement did not consider the writings of the apostles to be scripture (see 1 Clement, c AD 70-95) and this seems to have been the standard accepted position.


Belief about baptism:

Did not need to be by full immersion and should be proceeded by fasting.

Didache (50-100AD):

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.


Conclusion
What we can learn from this is that the modern day "restorationist" movements are not seeking a return to 1st Century practices. If they were then we would not have any New Testament scriptures, as these were collected and defined as scripture in the second century. They would include the Apocrypha as part of the old testament. They would also be preaching a belief in some sort of real presence of Christ in the eucharist (which they are not, normaly being Zwinglian) and they would not be rigidly insisting on baptism by full immersion. The Eucharist would only be presided over by a priest who was appointed by a bishop, not by any elder or deacon.

What the restorationists have is a view of the first century church as some sort of "Camelot". A perfect court where all was chivalry, miracles and earthly perfection, quite unlike the church described in 1st Corinithians or the churches described in Revelation.

In fact, the 1st Century church sounds closer to the Roman Catholic Church of today than the restorationist sects.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reasons to love Canada

As Monday is Victoria day (One of the main Canadian public holidays) I thought I would publish my list of reasons to love Canada:

  1. Cape Breton
  2. Tucows Inc
  3. The Crash Test Dummies
  4. William Shatner
  5. They have the same queen as us
  6. They let me into the country without making me feel like a criminal

(OK that last ones a bit personal but I hate US immigration)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why are some churches growing?

This is the text of an email I sent to a friend this week, but I thought it was worth publishing as it is probably of wider interest:

Dear xxx

I have been reflecting on some things we talked about when we met. I have looked at a number of churches I know of that are growing to see if there is anything that can be learned. These range from places like Carrubbers (which is fairly hard line) to Hillsong (which is totally charismatic).

The reasons they are growing seem to be threefold:

1. They are preaching a message which appeals to a specific group of people. These are not geographical groups but socio economic groups. It could be students, it could be young professionals, it could be people with young families. Like attracts like and the churches are geared up for the group they are targetting.

2. These churches all have a close sense of community. Everyone is encouraged to be involved as soon as they start coming and church is not something that is only for Sundays.

3. These churches all have an emphasis on mission and evangelism as a core function of why they exist. This creates the work that the members are involved in, which in turn increases their sense of community.

I suspect that Baptist churches would have a problem adapting to work this way because they do have a strong sense of being "local" churches with geographical areas to reach rather than reaching types of people.

The further I have thought about this the more I am convinced that different personality types are attracted to different types of church. All the classical musicians I know who are Christians are Anglicans. All the sales reps I know who are Christians go to independent charismatic churches.

There must be more to this than coincidence. It might be a question of working out what "type" your church appeals to most naturally and then mining that seam, which in reality is what a lot of successful churches are doing.

This then leads me onto whether there is a role for para church organisations. The first part of the churches mission has to be to present the real Jesus and the real church because as Bishop Fulton Sheen said:

"Few people reject Christ or even hate the church, but many reject and hate false notions and erroneous ideas about Christ and Christianity."

I think there is a role for organisations that can break down these barriers, and get people along to hear the gospel when they won't not go inside a church.

The problem with para church organisations is that they usually do not have sufficient links with local churches in order to get people grounded in an appropriate church. This is one of the (many) problems with BMF. It might be that a group of churches running a seperate mission to men would be more successful than the churches doing it together or a totally independent mission like BMF. BMF is also very specific to narrow range of Pentecostal doctrines and a very particular presentation of the gospel (which could be described as "victoriousness" e.g. you won't ever hear me give my testimony at BMF because I have continuing health problems which don't make a good testimony).

I think in Livingston we have some very specific problems reaching people because of the way the town is set up and the culture that exists. This is why nobody is really making any headway. The two pentecostal churches are waiting for God to do something, but as I said to someone from the AoG church last week "God can't steer a stationery vehicle". I also don't think any of us can justify maintaining churches with 20 or 30 members each. Its not viable and its a bad witness to the town.

Gordon

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Switching from Windows to Linux

I had an old P2 750 PC that I wanted to give away on freecycle but it needed reformatted and reinstalled. It had originally been Windows 98 and had been upgraded to XP so I no longer had the correct disks. I decided to install Ubuntu Linux to see what would happen.

Ubuntu is the Linux distribution being used by Dell. My last attempt at running Linux on a desktop PC was under Redhat and it was torture getting it all to work properly. I downloaded the ISO and burned the install CD, stuck it in the machine and it installed. Everything appeared to be OK. It picked up the network internet connection OK. I couldn't really believe that there had been no problems so out of curiousity I put my pen drive in one of the USB sockets on the back (it has 1.1 on the motherboard and a seperate 2.0 I had fitted at one time so I tried the 2.0 one thinking that would bound to be not recognised). It opened the files up and displayed them. I clicked on one of the word documents and it opened it instantly in open office (which it installs by default).

The machine is working 100% and is many times faster at doing everything than it was on Windows. Its like getting a new machine. In fact I am probably going to use it for something now rather than give it away!

Encouraged by this I took the install disk home and put it in my old Toshiba laptop which was also due to be disposed of because it was taking half an hour to launch Windows and stabilise itself.Remarkably it installed perfectly on that, even detecting my PC card wireless adaptor and installing it. The DHCP did not work at first but eventually it started up. I think this was just down to the machine needing rebooted. The power management function gives an estimate of how long it will take for the battery to charge which the old windows did not.Its now a fully functional machine with a new lease of life.I even managed to install Radmin (a windows application) under Wine (emulator) on it so I could access Windows machines on the network.

Oddly I can access shared files on a Vista machine on the network with the laptop when the Vista machine is invisible to all my XP machines.

So, if anyone has a low spec scrap PC that you want to get going again for word processing, spreadsheets (open office is compatible with excel) or general internet use then I can recommend Ubuntu.It doesn't need much disk space either and it warns you of software updates which is useful.I don't know what amateur radio software is available for it (its Debian Linux basically so anything that says it will work on Debian will work on Ubuntu).

More importantly I am fed up with Windows. The cost of upgrading systems and software due to Vista is getting very silly and I need to break out of that cycle of upgrading and throwing out perfectly good gear. I still have a few issues like how to play DVD's on Linux (have tried a few things and not found them to work but the solution will be out there somewhere). There is a Linux GUI called Beryl which is very like Vista in the way it operates if you real want fancy things and have a good machine to run it on.

(confession time: I actually use Linux professionally but on servers not desktop machines. This may have given me a head start as I understand the file structures and was able to tweak the machines to suit the way I do things by logging into the shell, but out of the box the installations all run perfectly. Anyone could have done those installs and got the machines running with no prior knowledge).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Worship can be boring.....

Peter Cook as the Devil and Dudley Moore from the film Bedazzled (1967)


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Definition of "another level" as used by Christians

Definitions and criticism of some teachings found in the "word faith" movement.

Definition:
This is the idea that there are several levels at which a person can expereince a relationship with God. It is possible to move through these levels towards greater knowledge of God and greater spiritual enlightenment. For example, the initial level would be someone who had put their faith in Christ. The second level would be someone who has received the holy spirit. The third level would be those who have an even more intimate relationship with God and have overcome any problems in their life. This list is not exhaustive, but the underlying idea is that it is possible for some people to be closer to the divine than others. In this way it draws on teachings from the holiness churches and ideas from the catholic tradition. It is generally suggested that once you are in the next level you will not be able to go back down to a lower one. Often there is some sort of initiation involved (formal or informal) to get to the next level, often involving an act of faith, sometimes donating money to a particular ministry.

Criticism:
Whilst some people are clearly closer to God than others there is no idea of a definable progression given in the bible. The bible is clear that faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation and that the evidence of that faith is the fruit of the holy spirit (seen in good works). There is no suggestion of hidden knowledge or hidden experience only available to a few who have been exalted. That idea came much later in Gnosticism.

Definition of "breakthrough" as used by Christians

Definitions and criticism of some teachings found in the "word faith" movement.

Definition:
This is the idea promoted by preachers alligned with the word faith movement that suggests that your life is held back by something. If you can overcome whatever this is you will suddenly become closer to God and all aspects of your life will immediately get better. The most common areas this is linked to are finances (that you do not have enough money) or some form of suffering (relationship problems or physical illness) or that your immediate family are not "saved". The overcoming usually involves some act of faith, often giving money to the ministry of the person suggesting you are going to get a breakthrough.

Criticism:
The main difficulty with the idea of "breakthrough" is that nowhere in the bible are we promised trouble free lives. If we were then there would be no need for all the teaching on suffering and hope. It also suggests that those not experiencing a breakthrough are deficient in their faith or their relationship with God is not at the right level (see "another level").

Friday, January 19, 2007

Speed up your wireless network.

These two graphs show the before and after signal strengths from my desk to the wireless router upstairs.




I managed to increase the signal strength from six to nine and stop dropouts by simply putting the antenna attached to the PC on top of a blank CD. The metal disk in the CD acts as a ground plane for the vertical antenna as it is about a quarter wavelength in radius. The results were very surprising but the effort was worthwhile.