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).