Friday, 31 August 2007

Better parenting

Seen on Tim Blair's blog:

Are your children going through that awkward phase when all they want to do is kill Jews and impose Muslim law? Yes? Then join Terry Hicks next weekend at the Mullumbimby Fatherhood Festival to hear him discuss “challenges in parenting”.

Spot the party wear

Matilda is a creative, sweet child who loves to think of presents for people.

From time to time—quite often really—our daughters will get it into their heads to work on some small creative project. A painting, a drawing, a story, a model.

So this morning I found this slightly crushed birthday card under Matilda's bed while vacuuming. It is the start of a birthday card for our next door neighbour's boy. On it is a picture of Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Darth Vader wears a party hat. Princess Leia has a party blower in her mouth.

The writing says "HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Can you spot the party things on each carecter?"

On the bookshelf

I just added a virtual bookshelf on Facebook. What a great application! People can look at my books (you need to add me as a Facebook friend) and I can look at yours.

Some of the books I hoped to be able to put on the virtual bookshelf aren't available through Amazon yet (a prerequisite), but I was pleased to find Hella S. Haasse's In a Dark Wood Wandering there. Great story to go with it too. She wrote it in Dutch, years ago (1949), and sent it off to a translator. But she was too shy to follow the matter up, and her (untranslated) manuscript was found in one of the man's cupboards when he died—some 45 years after she'd posted it to him.

So they translated it and published it. Well worth the wait. Agincourt, Joan of Arc plays a minor role, French medieval politics, stuff.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Knowing people

"Of course a minister must know people, but he learns this by being a person."

This whimsical, apparently obvious and typically teasing quote from Knox (see post below) reflects his understanding of the image of God. Calvin's got a similar take on it at the beginning of the Institutes:

Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain.

-Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion I.1.1

Oh, and this from the next paragraph:

On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.

Calvin had been reading his DBK.

Another Broughtonism

On ministry priorities and sermon preparation:

...these days ministers are so busy building up their congregations by every other method than by the preparation of their [sermons] that they have no time to prepare properly. Twice this last week I have heard the miserable sophism that the best preparation for a sermon is knocking around the parish getting to know people. Of course a minister must know people, but he learns this by being a person.

-D. Broughton Knox, "The Priority of Preaching: Prepare and Preach Properly or Perish", in Selected Works Vol II.

Refugee deaths

It's important we remember them, as Steve Biddulph says here.

I do hope and pray that Christians will keep speaking out on this important but unpopular question. The government keeps finding ways to make hide the problem of how we treat genuine refugees.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

More on church decimation

Actually, I have seen first-hand examples of gospel growth that have led to church decimation.

The Bible has been preached.

The leadership of the church have hated what they heard.

They have moved to muzzle the particular teaching of the Bible that they objected to.

They have been successful, and the church has shrunk.

It's a bit painful to watch it happening to good friends, but you have to believe in the circumstances that it is the Word of God doing its work, and praise him accordingly.

Church growth, gospel growth and church decimation

I like church growth as much as the next man. Who wouldn't? If it's your own church, you love to see people coming under the sound of the gospel, and even if we don't like large numbers, that is easily solved by taking 30 people out of the congregation and using them to start a new church when things get too big.

But the only sort of church growth that is of interest to Christians is gospel growth. Acts 6:7, speaking about the booming church in Jerusalem, encapsulates this idea beautifully:

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

So the question naturally arises, can you have gospel growth without church growth? After all, if the word of God is going out, you would expect churches to be growing in size, wouldn't you?


Here is Isaiah hearing what the result of his gospel ministry will be:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

A dreadful shock, really. The word of God is preached faithfully, according to God's instruction, and the result of this word going out is a judgement that results in devastation. Even verse 13, which speaks of a remaining stump, pictures a stump that has been doused in petrol and then burned, just to be on the safe side.

Those who are church growth afficionadoes (CGAs for short) may well respond that this is a unique event in the history of Israel, bearing no relevance to the situation of our growing churches today.

Perhaps, perhaps not. But it is hardly unique.

Jesus picks up this very passage to describe his own ministry in Mark 4 and elsewhere. After Jesus' death and resurrection, Paul applies it to his own ministry in Acts 28, and uses it more broadly in Romans 11 to describe the current state of gospel ministry amongst Jews and Gentiles.

The one comfort CGAs may still draw from this is that the devastating judgement that accompanies gospel growth appears to be linked in all these passages—Old Testament, Gospel and Epistle—to the particular sin of the Jewish people.

So it may well be that the sin of the Jewish people is specific to them, and has no relevance whatsoever to the Gentiles. Indeed, in this biblical scenario, the Gentiles end up benefitting from the sin of the Jews, because Jewish rejection of the gospel means that the preachers of gospel truth go on to speak to the Gentiles about the salvation and restoration that they can find in Jesus.

Unfortunately, the sin of the Jews doesn't appear specific to them.

Indeed, in the early chapters of Isaiah, their sin is greed, idolatry, materialism, addiction to alcohol, complacency, apathy and lack of concern for widows, orphans and foreigners, religious hypocrisy, failure of leadership, haughtiness amongst women and a murderous spirit amongst men.

Perhaps it will be OK.

Perhaps when God pays close attention to people in London, Durham, Pittsburgh, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Johannesburg, Singapore, and Perth, he will not discover greed, idolatry, materialism, addiction to alcohol, complacency, apathy and lack of concern for widows, orphans and foreigners, religious hypocrisy, failure of leadership, haughtiness amongst women and a murderous spirit amongst men.

On the other hand, he may discover just these things. And if so, we should be very anxious when we hear about gospel growth, because if the gospel grows as it did in Isaiah 6, then it may well mean not church growth but church decimation.

Friend for dinner

Chicken legs.
Ice cream.

We already have soy sauce and honey, so no need to worry about that.

A brief moment of anxiety when I checked in the fridge to discover that it was pineapple juice and not orange juice, as I had imagined.

But we have seven oranges sitting in the fruit bowl, so that should be enough for the cous cous, providing I can distract the girls from them at afternoon tea time. But the sushi guy brings his prices down to $7 for 4 rolls at about the time school finishes, and the girls will be pretty happy with either that or donuts, or finger buns, since Wednesday is donut day.

And what with me having Fifi's left over pizza for lunch, the truth of Matthew 6:31-34 is once again confirmed.



Sydney winter day.

edit to add: actually, on reflection, it is not so much iridescent as glary. Sorry if this introduces a note of confusion for overseas readers. I wrote this post quite early and had the impression of iridescence creeping in through the windows, which had the blinds lowered.

I wouldn't just want to be seen as a booster for all things Sydney, here. If it is a beautiful, glorious or iridescent day, you will know the truth of it. If on careful reflection things turn out to be overcast or gloomy, you need to know that this is a blog which will correct its inevitable mistakes.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Aquarium or desert?

All my fish swam away.

Or, they were eaten by the shark someone gave me.

I don't like sharks.

Other fish always welcome.


Wilberforce might have abolished it, but we're working out new ways to reintroduce it.



Sydney winter day.

Stem cells that work

This report in today's Sydney Morning Herald has some seriously promising results on the use of stem cells to help repair the hearts of sick human beings.

Note, however, that the stem cells concerned are taken from adults. They are not embryonic stem cells; they come from the bone marrow of the patients with the heart problems.

For all the hoop-la and over-hype surrounding embryonic stem-cells, there have been no similar research breakthroughs with the cells taken from unborn babies (which also, up until now, has involved the death of those babies).

Monday, 27 August 2007


A tinkling piano in the next apartment,
those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant...

Dum dum de da da daa...

A biblical, Pentecostal, mega-church?

In this post I was racking my brain, trying to think of examples of really big churches in the Bible and came up with the one at Sinai in Exodus 19, 600 000 men plus women and children. In the comments, Michael K promptly suggested the Pentecostal mega-church in Acts 2. I dismissed this as being, really, a church of 12 plus a few friends, who ran a successful impromptu (pneuma-prompted?) evangelistic rally.

But I was wrong, as Acts 2:41-47 clearly shows:

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42   And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

By Acts 4:4 the mega-church has grown to 5000 men, plus women and children, and is described in ideal terms in Acts 4:32-35

32  Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Even in Acts 5:14 growth continues. "And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women." And Acts 6:7 says "...the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith."

This last reference is fascinating, because the growth that Luke highlights here is not so much numerical growth as growth of "the word of God".

So I am going to eat my words here, thanks to Michael's observation. I am aware of one successful megachurch in the Bible. It grows solely in response to systematic biblical exposition (the Old testament, to be precise), highlighted by Luke's editorial comment of Acts 6:7 that "the word of God continued to increase." The sermons we are aware of are all, without exception, expositions of Old Testament texts (Acts 2:14-36, Acts 3:12-24, Acts 4:8-12, Acts 4:23-31, and the longest one of all, Acts 7:2-56).

This church lasts until Acts 8:2, when it is disbanded by persecution. Nothing like it arises in the rest of the New Testament.

So I am forced to reconsider my earlier suggestion. It is possible for a church to grow to greater than 1000 and not be of the anti-Christ. Such a church will be founded only and solely on systematic exposition of the Old Testament, to which we can add the exposition of the inspired New Testament texts.

Car parking, comfortable seating, good toilet facilities, a well-run creche, a large building, and music of any sort would appear to be optional extras. Social welfare programmes are advisable.

And if God decides not to repeat the one New Testament example of a mega-church that we have in our present church experience, then our answer is to be thankful for what God has given us, keep preaching his word, and wait patiently for the mega-church that goes under the alternative name of "the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23)



Sydney winter's day.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Rudd—just a regular guy?

Last week the papers were full of the news that Federal Opposition leader Kevin Rudd had visited a New York strip club in 2003. He did not, however, remember if he had indulged in inappropriate behaviour because by his own admission he had been too drunk on the night to recall anything he'd done.

On Friday night Craig Schafer asked me to speak at a men's dinner at Springwood-Winmalee Anglican on the subject "How Would Jesus Vote?" Chatting to some of the people afterwards we got to talking about how some of the people defending Kevin used the defence that the strip-club incident had helped, since it showed that Kevin was just a regular guy.

I don't know how many regular guys go to New York to meet Rupert Murdoch and while over there, get drunk and visit a strip club. But as Craig (another Craig) at the dinner said, "My next door neighbour's a regular guy. If I wanted a regular guy as Prime Minister I'd vote for him. I don't want a regular guy running the country!"

I'm sorry it spent so much time in the news, though. The story reflects badly on both Kevin Rudd and whoever leaked it.

Maxine McKew

Maxine only needs a 4% swing to win the seat of Bennelong off the incumbent, John Howard. Polls have her sitting on 7%.

So yesterday John Howard spent two hours at my alma mater, Eastwood Public School ("Onwards! Each can serve!" sung to to the tune of Men of Harlech) meeting and greeting. No money exchanged hands, however, and the hoped-for grants for the water tanks and computers did not materialize.



Sydney midwinter day!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Large churches

All the evidence that I'm aware of suggests that individual congregations above the size of 1000 are of the antichrist. At least in Australia. I suppose in the US or Korea things may be different.

Craig Schwarze has a discussion going on about it here.

Biblically speaking, the only really large church I am aware of is the one that met at Sinai in Exodus 19—600 000 men or so plus women and children (referred to as the 'church of the Lord' in Deuteronomy 5:22). It was a very big church, although of course any mega-church leader worth their salt would scoff at such numbers today.

Be that as it may, they all without exception heard the voice of the LORD through his personally selected preacher, and all without exception died in the wilderness for their disobedience.

So I don't know if I'm being untheological here, but it's the small church for me. Anything above two hundred starts getting ridiculous.

Slept in

Does 7.25 am count as sleeping in? These days it does. I'm a bit tired lately, having preached 2-4 times a week for the last month as well as battling family colds and flus and continuing on with the usual writing load at Matthias Media.

The coming month should be a bit quieter. But I will miss my Saturday morning sleep in, as Matilda's Little Athletics is starting up again.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Moore Theological College

The theological requirements for teaching and leadership at Moore College frequently come under heavy criticism, so this important response from Vice-Principal Bill Salier, on what actual requirements are in place, is both overdue and welcome.

CS Lewis

Seems everyones a fan. That's OK, I used to be a fan too, and still don't mind him in small doses. In human terms he was partially responsible for me becoming a Christian.

But he never accepted that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, and he seemed to think that reason and an intuitive perception of beauty could lead you in the direction of Jesus. Which they can't.

And his Narnia stories are irritating, but please don't tell Fifi or the girls that I said so. They're just a bit gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say. And they leave the door open to universalism.

As for his sci-fi stories. My goodness. Don't get me started on their overweening pedagogic dullness.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Six steps—the idea of 'six'.

Why Six Steps to Encouragement?

No reason really. I wrote a course, I looked back over my shoulder and discovered that I had taken six steps or so.

Six is a nice number for a course though.

It falls one short of perfection.

It is half way to a twelve step recovery programme.

You can fit it into a ten weeks of Bible study term, allowing for two prayer nights, a social night and a missionary focus night.

So we followed it up with a 'Six Weeks to Talking about Jesus' course, which seems to have worked.

And I am trying to think about 'Six Steps to Reading the Bible'. If it can't be six, I will have to think of why it has to be five, seven, nine, or twelve. But six steps will be a good run-up.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Collaroy Centre, NSW

You look out to sea. The lovely people there look out for you, and you get on with having a meeting about Matthias Media products for the next three years. Or whatever it is you are meeting about.

But if you don't turn up when you say you will, they will still make you pay!

The Bible

The Bible is comprehensible, that is to say, even if you can hear someone speak it to you, or if you are a Daily Tele reader who hates reading anything other than the stuff you have to, you can read (or hear read) the bible and understand it.

I have to write a six step course about how you can understand it, and the first thing to do is to articulate this assumption.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Trivia nights

Life's too short for 'em. There's the social aspect I suppose, but even then to really make it worthwhile you'd want to bring your laptop with wireless connection and spend the evening on facebook, just in case the people at your table turned out to be boring or ignorant.

Trivia's a fairly binary thing anyway. You either know it or you don't. If you know it, so what. If you don't know it, what in the name of tarnation is the point of getting to the stage of actually knowing it? Will people think more highly of you if you know it than if you don't? Or will their estimation of you perhaps even sink slightly, as you develop a reputation for being a crashing boor who knows a ballast load of stuff that no-one else could be bothered knowing. And if you betrayed even the faintest hint of smugness about it, it would be just one more nail in the coffin of your deserved social death.

I ask you.


Lots of them about now. Fifi makes a smashing dip involving avocado, orange juice, garlic, and coriander all pureed in the blender. It is just the best ever!

[edit responding to comment]:

Hmm, exactitude. OK, 1 avocado, 1 level teaspoon of curry powder (forgot to mention that, soz), 1 clove garlic, and enough orange juice to make it the consistency you want. Fifi thinks she used too much orange juice last night, so it was a bit damp and a bit orangey.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

May I come in? If I want.

Just about anyone can come into your house any time they want, if they have a clipboard and the right ID.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Mike got a job.

Great stuff too, and not before time.

Why is it that some gospel preachers who are slightly beyond bland find it hard to get consistent employment even in Sydney diocese?

Thankfully people like this aren't in it for the money.

Sex and sensuality.

Could be just me, but I think Isaiah's song in Isaiah 5 is about sex and sensuality. At least at first.

Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.

Could just be reading stuff in. I have less than 24 hours to make up my mind before releasing my thoughts onto the hapless five o'clockers at St Paul's Carlingford. Thoughts welcome.

Friday, 17 August 2007

John on John

John Dickson writes about demented episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong, here.

Credit to JD not only for writing the article but for having the patience to interact with Spong above the level of a dismissive one-liner. You would think that if people were going to be sceptical about Christianity, they would find a more credible exponent for the cause than Spong, whose primary value appears to be as a propagandist.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A Broughtonism

The late Broughton Knox, former principal of Moore Theological College, was a cheeky soul. Yesterday John Woodhouse (current principal of MTC) gave us a quote from Broughton to Peter O'Brien; the biblical theologian to the New Testament exegete. "The difference between you and me is that you study the Bible to find out what God says. I already know what God says."

God's word spoken and God's word written

Is there a difference between God's word spoken and God's word written?

Well, yes. One is spoken and one is written.

But apart from this, what is the point of making such a distinction? I would have thought that it is both technical and nugatory, given that the only sure access we have to God's word spoken is God's word written.

And I am deeply suspicious of why you would not only want to notice such a distinction, but in any sense talk it up as worth paying attention to.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Genocidal torch relay

There is a torch relay going on through places that have been victims of genocide by China.

I enjoy watching the Olympics but I'm also aware of how they are used by the host country to showcase what they would like other people to think that country is all about. In the case of China, the human rights violations are very much a part of the picture, including against my own minority—evangelical Christians. So if the Olympics are used to highlight some of these abuses, that is right and proper and has a certain poetic justice about it.

Too soon to write off John Howard

We're much too far from the election to write off John Howard, who is as cunning as a rat with a gold tooth.

The voters in Howard's electorate of Bennelong (I'm one of them) tend to agree.


It's a bad one this year.

We are all sick, again.


The word 'croquet' sounds a bit like the word 'croaky'.

Do crotchetty croquet players sound croaky when they eat croquettes?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Monday, 13 August 2007


Gave two sermons yesterday with a sore throat and croaky voice. The speech therapists would say this is a bad thing.

There are alternatives, I suppose. There's that classic Dylan clip where his voice sings but he stands in front of the camera holding up the key words on placards, casting them aside as the next words come up.

Given that I have a fairly full text in front of me as I speak, another possibility is to sit down and let a good reader take over.

Or, if I gave my laptop to the PowerPoint guy, (and readers of this blog will know that I love PowerPoint), the whole congregation could read the sermon aloud together.

Anyway, it seemed appropriate to be speaking (in the morning) about how words are very powerful things, and that God uses even our weak and cracked efforts to bring about his glory. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 was a good passage to be reminded about.

Christians versus fairies

In this opinion piece, Janet Albrechtsen hoes into the Democrats for their leader's attack on the idea of Christians in politics.

I knew a woman from a church I used to go to who used to be in the Democrats, and she was (and is) a Christian. Largely because of her I would have considered voting for the party. It was enough to make me take a serious look at their policies.

But nowadays about the only time I notice the Democrats is when they are campaigning for some anti-Christian initiative like getting rid of Scripture in schools. The internet poll they ran on this question earlier this year was a farce, and ended up getting pulled when they realized that too many Christians were voting in it. The results were never released. you run a public poll to show people that you are interested in their opinions, you advertise its existence, and when you realize that the wrong sort of people are offering their opinions, you quietly hide both poll and results from public view.

On the evidence of this and of other statements I've read and heard from their current elected representatives, it seems to me that we are now dealing with a group of anti-Christian bigots. My former Democrat friend can hardly be impressed.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

The English Standard

Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest:

I was privileged to act as General Editor of the English Standard Version, and now that I look back on what we did in producing that version, I find myself suspecting very strongly that this was the most important thing that I have ever done for the Kingdom, and that the product of our labors is perhaps the biggest milestone in Bible translation in certainly this last 50 years, and perhaps more. Perhaps I ought to be saying 100 years—I think I should, actually—because it was almost 100 years ago that the paraphrase renderings of the Bible began to present themselves, as they did, as the version that you ought to read if you want to understand the Word of God. I think that, while in the short term it was not false entirely, did set the world of Bible translation and distribution off on what long-term was going to prove a false trail.

-J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God.

[thanks to Justin Taylor, via Craig Schwarze]

quite quiet.

I need a quiet day today.

So the word of the day is mezzo piano, mp, quite quiet.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Rolling back civil liberties

Here's one area where I love the idea of rolling back civil liberties. People should not be allowed to post internet pornography or trawl for pedophilic experiences without being called to account, and their Internet Service Providers should be part of the process of censorship.. They profit from the traffic, and they should be careful about what it is that they are trafficking.

Anyone remember the original hopes held out by the Grateful Dead, the WELL, and the brave new world of freedom of speech?

Didn't really work the way it was hoped, did it.


Porridge makes your tummy feel warm.

-Lily, age 4.

In other words, it's not necessarily what you want to be eating on ANOTHER...beautiful....Sydney midwinter day.


The weather in Sydney is glorious.

As I like to say to my girls...ANOTHER....beautiful...Sydney midwinter day.

And it makes me think of another one of my favourite words.



Say it. You'll like it.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

What are you afraid of losing?

Michael Jensen has some great, if typically highbrow ;-) thoughts about Augustine here.

It's an insight into the human psyche from a man who'd tried the lot (not Michael, Augustine). If you don't love the person who gave you everything, then when you have what you have, you live in terrible fear of its loss.

This is surely one of the reasons why we are going to keep seeing civil liberties rolled back in Western society with only the barest whimper of complaint. Fear of losing the good things we have somehow acquired will override concern for the weak and imprisoned neighbour.

It also helps us understand certain aspects of so many other things—hedonism, nursing homes, cemeteries, hospitals, fitness, drug taking...

Too much alcohol?

I think so.

This would be less worrying if Australians as a society found ways to socialize where alcohol wasn't a part of it.

I drink alcohol but whenever I read articles like this I think about switching to tea, another drug of addiction with considerably less damaging consequences.

Apologetics and idiot drivers

There's a story behind the latest op-ed piece that I did for the Daily Tele on Paris Hilton.

I e-mailed Justin at the Tele and asked if he wanted a piece on Mohammed Haneef, the cousin of the man involved in the failed Glasgow bombing attempt. Haneef was arrested last month under our new terrorism laws and interrogated for nearly two weeks before being released and deported without being charged.

His e-mail back said, thanks for the offer, but our readers aren't that interested and I wouldn't want you to waste your time. But you could do something on Paris Hilton or idiot drivers.

Hence the Paris Hilton piece.

Now I am a great fan of apologetics and see my writing for the paper in this category—apologetics here defined as using arguments to defend a Christian world view or attack a non-christian world view, with the ultimate intention of winning a better hearing for the gospel. In fact I've just finished a four week session with a group from 5.00 church at St Paul's Carlingford on just this subject (Thanks Chris F and Tracy G for the help!)

But this e-mail exchange with Justin was a good reminder of what I already believe, which is that apologetics is always going to be a handmaiden to evangelism—that is, it should take second place to telling people the gospel. There are a huge number of people out there who just don't have a great interest in the outside world; or at least, not the sort of things that Christian apologists sometimes feel they ought to be interested in. To destroy a person's unsustainable and damaging world view by clever and intelligent argument is a good thing to attempt. But there will be a good proportion of the population who will rise from the ashes to say " who do you reckon will win the game on Saturday?"

In Romans 1:16 Paul insists "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." [italics mine]

There is a lot to be said for cutting straight to the chase and just telling people the simple, unadorned news that in Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, the full forgiveness of sin is available to those who repent and trust him as Lord. If Justin at the Tele was a Christian, he would tell you that's pretty much what the readers need to hear (not to mention the rest of us).

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The next pandemic

We are long overdue for a major pandemic along the lines of the Spanish flu of 1919, which killed 50 million people worldwide.

Having little children makes me constantly aware of the fragility of life, something I just didn't think about when I was 20 years old but now think about most days. The threat of influenza is one of the things I'm aware of, among other possibilities.

This piece in today's Herald talks about responding to pandemics, and is what started me on the current train of thought. Not something we enjoy contemplating. It put me in mind of Ecclesiastes 7.

Eccl. 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.

Earthly calamities and the associated mourning are, of course, just a foreshadowing of eternal judgement, which could easily come upon us before the avian influenza does. Whether for that reason or for another, I find I spend even more time thinking about coming judgement than I do about coming diseases.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Sydney housing

Sydney housing prices are crazy. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald says that for those living in Sydney, the next generation will be the first to live in a lower standard of accommodation than their parents.

Expect a boom in Bathurst!

It would be easier to bear if the public transport in this city was slightly above atrocious.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Amnesty International and abortion

Amnesty International have decided to support abortion rights, according to this piece in today's Australian.

And the way they have done it looks pretty underhanded. From the article:

The new policy remains absent from Amnesty websites. A process of damage control appears to be in place. British Bishop Michael Evans, author of Amnesty's prayer and 30 years a member, describes this secretive process: "Amnesty seems to have tried very hard to keep the decision secret, stating that the policy would not be made public at this time, and that no Amnesty section or structure was to issue a press release, public statement or external communication of any kind on the decision."

The previous position on the abortion question was 'neutrality'.

I don't see how this can possibly be spun as an argument for human rights. Christian supporters of Amnesty should let them know what they think.


This article in today's Sydney Morning Herald argues a case for elitism.

From the article:

Because of this reluctance to acknowledge intellectual differences, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift, and that they are not superior human beings but lucky ones. They are never told that their gift brings with it obligations, and that the most important and most difficult of these obligations is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.

and again

The encouragement of wisdom also requires mastery of analytical building blocks. The gifted must assimilate the details of grammar and syntax and the details of logical fallacies because these are indispensable for precise thinking at an advanced level. They also need to be steeped in the study of ethics, starting with Aristotle and Confucius. It is not enough that gifted children learn to be nice. They must know what it means to be good. And the encouragement of wisdom requires an advanced knowledge of history. Never has the aphorism about the fate of those who ignore history been more true than it is today.

It's not a bad article as far as it goes, which is not far enough. No mention that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10), which reminds us that Aristotle and Confucius were fools.

So in the end, it is not a good article either.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Why I miss Melbourne #46

This article in today's Sydney Morning Herald reminds me of one of the (many) reasons why I miss Melbourne.

From the article:

MELBOURNE - a land of skivvy-wearing, chardonnay-drinking book readers - is fundamentally different from Sydney in its drinking culture.

So says the NSW president of the Australian Hotels Association, John Thorpe, who has come out swinging against a plan by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, to encourage more Melbourne-style boutique bars in Sydney.

"Melbourne is Melbourne. Sydney has a different outlook," said Mr Thorpe, a fierce critic of the City of Sydney's plans to make it easier for hole-in-the-wall bars to gain permission for extended trading. "We aren't barbarians, but we don't want to sit in a hole and drink chardonnay and read a book."


Cr Moore has said she wants to encourage a more cosmopolitan Melbourne-feel for the city, but Mr Thorpe, a gruff, straight-talking publican of old, views these Melbourne types with deep suspicion.

"People can sit down, talk about history, chew the fat and gaze into each others eyes and all this sort of baloney but it's pie in the sky stuff," he said. "That's not what Sydney wants."

You think it bad, sir, but it makes me glad.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Paris Hilton

I wrote an editorial about Paris Hilton for today's Daily Telegraph, here.

THIS morning I was thinking about Paris Hilton when a topless lady stood next to me.

Thinking about Paris Hilton is easy, when you’re in a job like mine.

She’s done time and in the middle of it, professed a religious conversion. Religion is what I do, so when somebody has something to say about it, I want to know what gives.

The topless lady was my six-year-old daughter, and as I was shovelling porridge in my mouth she was looking for her clothes.

Paris and my daughter are related topics, as I hope to show.

Let’s start with Paris. In my opinion and for what it is worth (which is precisely nothing in this case) Paris Hilton’s conversion to Christianity comes across like another makeover job that is all just a part of the Paris entertainment bandwagon.

So convincing me of its actual value in terms of either news or religion is always going to be pushing brown substances uphill with a stick.

I don’t know why the media are interested in it. I don’t know why I’m writing about it. I don’t know why you’re reading about it.

But there is great value in thinking about shame, and even though that is one of my least favourite feelings in the world, I am thankful to Paris and my six-year-old for making me face that terrible emotion once again.

Basically this is the story. If I even for a moment lift my mind’s gaze away from Paris and back onto myself, I’m not pleased by what I find.

Why would I be interested in the latest news of someone like her? Who, if I reflect on it for a moment, seems confused, out of control, and hypnotised by behaviours and a lifestyle that are mainly hurting herself whilst playing up to the voyeur and scandal monger in each of us.

How would I be thinking about it differently if she was my six-year-old daughter, grown up and in the full glare of the publicity machine? I can tell you I wouldn’t be happy.

That’s always assuming that any of the stuff we hear about is actually true. I have a pretty low opinion of people who would report this stuff as news, and my opinion extends even to include their capacity to get the details right and not make stuff up.

My low opinion is really only tempered by the slightly shameful feeling that here I am, writing about Paris as well.

Enough of that then. Here’s how Jesus dealt with people’s shame, especially when he crossed paths with various women who may or may not have said or done things they felt ashamed about.

Without exception he treated them with respect.

He was so respectful that he would’ve treated Pauline Hanson with respect. If he hadn’t been so smart and insightful and compassionate as a human being, his high regard for losers and outcasts would have set him up for regular public mockery.

Well, actually, it did anyway, since his enemies kept trying to link him to the losers and outcasts that he spent time with, and suggest that he was pretty much the same as them.

Jesus, for his part, had quite a lot to say about those hypocrites who wanted to push losers, outcasts and women of questionable reputation and morality across his path and onto centre stage.

None of it was good.

These hypocrites acted for a reason. They wanted to see Jesus’ reaction. They knew that if he was seen to condone immorality, then he was exposed - shown up as being just another of the immoral people he was seen to spend time with.

But if he was seen to condemn it, then he would lose his popular following amongst the crowds quicker than you could say "Brangelina" or "weight loss scandal".

But they missed out on both counts. Because in Jesus, men and women found a man they could depend on to treat them well.

Possibly where they’d never been able to trust someone before.

Paris, I hope you find what you’re looking for. I pray that your trust in Jesus, if real, will grow.

If it’s not real I pray that your contact with the fake and nauseating religion of the American self-help variety won’t put you off the true God. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

The rest of you losers who have taken an interest here.

Can you just leave Paris alone, and while you’re at it, make sure that the world is a place where my six-year-old daughter doesn’t have to face the same treatment.

They allow comments on the article at the Daily Tele, so you might like to have a go.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Timeline on my Masters.

Dave recently asked me how long I took to finish my Masters (which technically, still isn't finished as the markers will probably hand it back for fixing—not enough pictures, remove coffee mug smudges, change font to wingdings, that sort of gear). Anyway I thought all you people out in blogland would be wanting to know this as well, so here's what I said to Dave when he asked:

Hmm, let's see. I suppose you have to take into account the three subjects I did in 1988, which seems so unfair to me. OK, 19 1/2 years.

1988-89 M.Th at Moore.

1989 pull out of M.Th on Charles Sherlock's advice, and enrol at Melbourne Uni M.A, with Ian Breward supervising.

1997 receive humiliating letter from Melbourne Uni saying something to the effect of how pathetic I am, and not only am I dropped from being their student but it is now unlikely that I will ever win Wimbledon.

1998ish *thinks to self* hmm, I'm sure that the folks up at Moore would love to see me back there.

1999-2007 Various comedic moments, including the letter I got at one stage from an administrator saying "You've been doing this M.Th for 16 1/2 years! Hand it in in 2 months or you will fail for sure!!" That adminstrator has for all I know gone the way of all flesh. But my Masters lived on, deathless and in semi-suspended animation.

2007 Hand in M.Th. a few weeks ago. Waiting, waiting... *Thinks* I can't believe they're taking this long to mark one stupid essay!


I just sent an e-mail to a friend in the UK in which I used the word 'Smashing!"

Do you know, I am never tempted to use this word in everyday conversation, ever. I have no idea why it popped into my head just now. Still, it is an absolutely top-hole word and I may try and work it into a few conversations this weekend.

My goodness, did I just say 'top-hole'?


Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman, the great Swedish film-maker, has died aged 89.

"[K]onsten förlorade sin livgivande betydelse i det ögonblick den skilde sig från kulten. Den skar av navelsträngen och lever ett egendomligt sterilt andrahandsliv, avlande och degenererande sig själv."
Ingmar Bergman, 1954

And some English words

(Thanks David McKay for the reminder to post about it)

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Ministry Training Strategy

Today I'm continuing work on stuff to do with MTS, the Ministry Training Strategy.

I'm often told off for over-using hyperbole, or as Fifi calls it, 'being a drama queen'. Ruby's recent response was a confused, "But he's not a drama queen, he's a drama king!" To which I can only say, Preach it, sister!

All of which is a preamble to saying that I really consider it a most wonderful privilege to be allowed in the door, so to speak, and to do some stuff to help out MTS. And—without hyperbole, seriously—that I consider this to be one of the greatest gospel organizations currently operating on the planet. Why? Because they are so sharply focussed on doing just one thing, expressed in this verse:

2 Timothy 2:2 " ...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful [people] who will be able to teach others also. "

In other words they are training up the next generation of gospel preachers by teaching them the gospel.

There is a lot more to it than that bald proposition, but that expresses their mission well. Check their website:

and if you are in gospel ministry, or considering your options for the future, then get along to one of their conferences next month if you possibly can.