Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

postheadericon TV historian admits that he was wrong about Christianity

Tom Holland, the TV and radio historian and author of the prize-winning Rubicon, says he had the completely wrong idea about Christianity. Holland realised that his false ideas about God had been cultivated in him by the works of Edward Gibbon and other writers of the Enlightenment. He now sees Christianity as a revolutionary idea which has changed the world, and calls it the “principal reason” behind many of our most deeply-held values.

‘Christ crucified’

Central to the changes in his thinking were the Apostle Paul’s words: “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (I Corinthians I :23). In his article for the New Statesman, Holland wrote: “Nothing could have run more counter’ to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. “The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive.” “In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.”

Egoism

Holland writes that he had a Christian upbringing and attended Sunday school, but eventually turned his back on Christianity, preferring to explore his fascination with dinosaurs and ancient empires. He was drawn into what he saw as the glamour of the Greek and Roman gods, preferring their ideology of egoism to biblical values. “If they were vain, selfish and cruel, that only served to endow them with the allure of rock stars”, he explained.

Value of life

But eventually he came to realise that these societies invariably promoted cruelty and dominance. He highlighted the Spartan practice of murderous eugenics, and Caesar’s slaughter and enslavement of the Gauls. “It was not just the extremes of callousness I came to find shocking, but the lack of a sense that the poor or weak might have any intrinsic value”, he said.

Revolution

Holland concluded that countries once part of Christendom “continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents”. He calls it the “principal reason” that such societies take for granted that “it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering”.

The Christian Institute 19th September 2016

postheadericon Uplifting pro-life ad backed by watchdog

Uplifting pro-life ad backed by watchdog after complaints are investigated

An advert highlighting the estimated 100,000 lives saved under Northern Ireland’s abortion law has been cleared of ‘misleading the public’. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) undertook a thorough investigation after receiving 14 complaints, but today say the number is legitimate.

Pro-life group Both Lives Matter created the advert for billboards in Northern Ireland, and says it is “delighted” with the result. At the time, the group said: “Whatever your view on abortion, there are 100,000 reasons to pause and ask some big questions about where our culture is going.”

Unlike in England, Scotland and Wales – where abortion is widespread – in Northern Ireland abortion is not allowed, except to preserve the life of the mother. Dawn McAvoy, of the pro-life group, said campaigners now want to work for better crisis pregnancy care, safeguard the current law and “create a life-affirming culture”.

The row broke out after Both Lives Matter produced a 20-page report estimating the number of people alive today because of Northern Ireland’s law. An advert in January this year featured the claim and a link to the group’s website. But the ASA investigated after receiving complaints. Over five months, and with the help of expert statisticians, it considered whether the figure was accurate.

In its report, published today, the Authority said: “On balance, we concluded that the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so.” McAvoy said: “We are delighted with this result. Our opponents said we could not substantiate the claim despite us producing a robust report. The ASA have examined our calculations and backed our figure.”

Over the summer. the Westminster Government said it will to pay for abortions for women from Northern Ireland. In a letter from equalities minister Justine Greening to fellow MPs, she said: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment, and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen.” But The Christian Institute’s Head of Communications, Ciaran Kelly, said: “The Equalities Office clearly doesn’t believe in equal treatment for unborn children.” He added, “our political leaders in Westminster should follow Northern Ireland’s lead and protect the most vulnerable people in society”.

Christian Institute 2nd August 2017

postheadericon BBC commissions drama from author who wants to ‘kill God’

BBC commissions drama from author who wants to ‘kill God’

The BBC is set to air a drama based on novels from Philip Pullman, the author who has previously said he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief”.

BBC One announced on Tuesday [17th November] that it was commissioning a drama series based on Pullman’s book, His Dark Materials, but is yet to give a date for transmission.

Pullman has repeatedly attacked the Christian faith, at one point saying his books are about “killing God”, and that God should be “put down” if he is as Christians describe him.

“Overthrow God”

BBC News has said that the His Dark Materials trilogy tells of “a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God”, while The Guardian says the books cast “original sin in a positive light”.

Jane Tranter, who is leading the BBC project, dismissed the idea that religious groups may object to the upcoming drama. However Pullman himself said in 2008 that the Christian response to a film version of one of the books “did influence a number of people not to go to see it”.

Toned down

The Golden Compass film, which was released in 2007 featuring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was intended as the first instalment of the trilogy. Many of the more explicitly anti-Christian themes of the first novel were toned down for the film version, but its Director said these would emerge in later films. So far the other two books have not been adapted for cinema.

Rebel

Pullman has told The Washington Post, that he is “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief”, while The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Pullman said: “My books are about killing God”. In 2002 he told The Sunday Telegraph: “if there is a God and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against”.

Christian Institute – 10 November 2015

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postheadericon True Martyrs


For by the sacrificial death of Christ we are set free,

our sins are forgiven.

Ephesians 1: 7

Wickersley Parish Church’s patron saint, a man called Alban, is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the Roman town of Verulamium around the end of the 3rd century, who gave shelter to an itinerant Christian priest, later called Amphibalus. Alban was impressed by his guest’s message and after a time he received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Soon afterwards a period of persecution, instigated by the Emperor, brought soldiers in search of the priest whereupon Alban exchanged clothes with him so as to enable the priest’s escape. Believing Alban to be the priest the soldiers arrested him instead.

At his trial, with his true identity revealed, Alban was urged to prove his rejection of Christ by making offerings to the Roman gods. He refused and defiantly declared his faith in “the true and living God who created all things”. He was condemned to death, led out of the city, across the river and up a hillside, where he was beheaded.

The martyrdom of Christians did not begin and end with the Roman era. Christians have suffered for Christ in every generation since. Most Christian martyrs lost their lives in the 20th Century and conditions are not improving for many Christians across the world.

On Wednesday morning, 18 April 2007 in Zirva, Eastern Turkey, three Christian men, Tilman Geske, a German missionary, Necati Aydin, a Turkish pastor, and Ugur Yuksel, met to study the Bible. On the other side of town ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they believed undermined Islam. The Christians attending the Bible study had met these Muslim men previously and believed them to be ‘seekers’; they readily welcomed five of the group when they turned up at the Bible study. However, their guests had not come to learn about the Christian faith but to kill the infidels. Equipped with guns, bread knives, ropes and towels they tortured the Christians for almost three hours before murdering them in a most grotesque way.

It is right that we should be shocked by this account of martyrdom, but we should not be surprised because Christ warned that such things would happen. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 15: 18, 16: 2-3)

Christians who live in the UK read such accounts with a mixture of horror and relief that we enjoy the freedom to practice and proclaim our faith. No one is likely to arrest us or try to kill us for believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and were we to experience opposition from individuals or officialdom we may well consider it unseemly to complain when our fellow Christians are suffering such terrible persecution. That said, it would be unwise of us to ignore the change in the climate of tolerance towards Christians in the UK.

Recent months have witnessed what can only be described as the escalation of human rights abuses against British Christians. The arrest of a Christian street preacher in Cumbria shows how serious the situation is becoming. Dale McAlpine, when questioned by a woman, read from the Bible a list of sins, which included homosexual behaviour. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, graphically describes the event:

‘Terrifying as this may seem, the attempt to stamp out Christianity in Britain appears to be gathering pace. Dale McAlpine was preaching to shoppers in Workington, Cumbria, that homosexuality is a sin when he found himself carted off by the police, locked up in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour. It appears that two police community support officers — at least one of whom was gay — claimed he had caused distress to themselves and members of the public. Under our anti-discrimination laws, such distress is not to be permitted. And so we have the oppressive and sinister situation where a gentle, unaggressive Christian is arrested and charged simply for preaching Christian principles. It would appear that Christianity, the normative faith of this country on which its morality, values and civilisation are based, is effectively being turned into a crime.’

Given the politically correct consensus between our new government’s coalition partners the next decade is likely to bring more arrests of law-abiding Christians. This dire forecast begs the question ‘How should Christians respond to this increasingly oppressive secularising culture?’ We could complain but our complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears.  Not many of the 70% of Britons who ticked ‘Christian’ on their census forms are likely to take to the streets over the dismantling of the last vestiges of Christian Britain.

Our second option is to compromise with the prevailing culture. It would guarantee us less hassle but we could no longer, with any integrity, claim to be truly Christian.  A third option is to challenge the prevailing culture through word and deed. The message of the Gospel is freedom from oppression and sin but also freedom of conscience, thought, speech, and practice (little wonder tyrants wish to silence it). By proclaiming Christ and living out our creed with neighbourly love we serve as salt and light to our nation and emulate the many Christian men and women who countered tyranny with love as they defiantly declared their faith in “the true and living God who created all things”. Their example points us to the example of the Lord they loved and served. Jesus Christ, who defied tyranny, died in gentleness of spirit, and gave his life for the world.

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postheadericon Manhattan Declaration

So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion

and his praise in Jerusalem

Psalm 102: 21

The making of New Year’s resolutions can have a positive effect on our lives. However, I suspect for most of us they are more a source of despair as we fail to keep them. I came across a series of resolutions made by someone who was ‘keen’ to be a frequent worshipper at their local church.

2006: I will go to church every Sunday.
2007: I will go to church as often as possible.
2008: I will attend the Christmas Carol service.

2009: I will try to watch Songs of Praise.

It is understandable that as we fail to keep resolutions our future resolutions are likely to be less demanding. That is unless our situation becomes desperate and will only get better if we are resolute, motivated, and uncompromising.

It is the opinion of a good many Christians in America that their situation is desperate. The moral decline of their nation has accelerated markedly under their new president. The sanctity of life, the married family, and religious freedom are being gravely undermined by a totalitarian agenda dressed up as choice, diversity and equality. In the face of this moral challenge Christians of all denominations have united to make the Manhattan Declaration. They say:


Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

1.the sanctity of human life
2.the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3.the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defence, and to commit ourselves to honouring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (www.manhattandeclaration.org)

And the list of religious leaders who support this declaration is quite possibly the most formidable ecumenical gathering in US history, consisting, as it does, of eminences, graces, archbishops, bishops, reverends, professors, doctors, pastors, presidents, CEOs, deans, directors, founders, editors, not to mention a ‘TV Host’.

The US is not the only theatre for the culture war. Writing in the Telegraph, Gerald Warner highlights its international dimension:  ‘In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful (similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada), the European Court of Human Rights has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance (the Manhattan Declaration) is more than timely.’

Perhaps we could take a leaf out of the American Church’s book and make a similar stand for truth, righteousness and justice by endorsing the sentiments of the Manhattan Declaration. It concludes:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo­-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-­life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

So, as true followers of Jesus Christ, let’s emulate the spirit of the Manhattan Declaration with a New Year’s resolution. Not one about meeting for worship frequently, although we should, nor a promise to watch Songs of Praise, which should always be optional, but to fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and under no circumstances to render to Caesar what is God’s.

Happy New Year!

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Regular services

Sundays
8.15: Holy Communion
10:30: Family Worship, communion twice a month
6:00: Evening Service, communion twice a month

Thursday
10.00: Holy Communion