Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Praying for the G20 meeting in London

April 1, 2009

tearfund rallyOur world has been living beyond its means, financially and environmentally, while the most vulnerable suffer the consequences.

This financial crisis means radical policy changes are being discussed at the forthcoming G20 summit in London tomorrow.

Right now is a unique opportunity to pray for a fairer, more sustainable world.

Tearfund is calling on Christians to put God first and join the movement asking for jobs, justice and a greener economy.

Billions of dollars have been made available and ‘thrown’ at bankers in recent months by Western governments despite their frequent failure in the past to meet aid targets.

There is anger about these double standards in developing countries.

World leaders have the chance to build economic policies that will sustain the environment and will limit the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable communities.

Pray for the G20 leaders and finance ministers as they focus on how to respond to financial crisis and formulate new global financial arrangements
Pray for all Christians to show their concerns at this crucial time through prayer, fasting, marching and simple advocacy approaches to local and national leaders. We worship a God of justice and power. Let’s place our hope in him to work through world leaders at this time to bring about justice and change.

Tearfund

Can you praise God through Coldplay?

March 30, 2009

coldplayIs it possible to worship God through secular music? Can one have a deeply moving spiritual experience through secular music? It’s something I have thought about for a while and I have come to a conclusion.

In my post Doxology, Mars Hill and Wales, which I published here back in February, Steffan, a friend from Aberystwyth, left a comment saying:

A lot of what is described as “the Holy Spirit moving” sounds to me just like what I experienced recently when I saw Wales beat Australia, or when I saw Coldplay play in front of 20,000 people.

That is a very interesting comment from Steffan. I would say that those deep feelings of happiness, even praise (?), you get in non-Church context could actually stem from God. Common Grace and the Joy of Creation, man created in the image of God, can work sometimes in un-regenerated rock stars, in the writings of un-regenerate poets, in the visions of un-regenerate film producers etc. etc.

Although the present state of man and creation is fallen the true natural state of man and creation is good because the earth and all on it including man are made in the image of God. God didn’t leave the fallen earth and fallen humanity to rot from eden onwards; God instantly made a new covenant, the covenant of Grace and he set a plan of regeneration, of transformation and restoration. Salvation is personal, yes, but salvation should never be seen as private. God wants to save and restore us as individuals on one hand and as a humanity and as a creation as a whole on the other.

In the words of Calvinist Louis Berkhof:

[Common grace] curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.

coldplayThe various aspects of God’s common grace to all mankind may be generally gathered under four heads:

Providential care in creation – God’s sustaining care for his creation, called divine providence, is grace common to all. The Bible says, for instance, that God through the Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:2-3; John 1:1-4). God’s gracious provision for his creatures is seen in the giving of the seasons, of seedtime and harvest. It is of this providential common grace that Jesus reminds his hearers when he said God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). We also see evidence of God’s common grace in the establishment of various structures within human society. At a foundational level, God has ordained the family unit. Even pagan parents typically know that they should nurture their children (Matt. 7:9-10) and raise them to become responsible adults.

Providential restraint of sin – In the Bible, Paul teaches that civil authorities have been “instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1) to maintain order and punish wrong-doing. Although fallible instruments of his common grace, civil governments are called “ministers of God” (Rom. 13:6) that should not be feared by those who do good. God also sovereignly works through circumstances to limit a persons sinful behavior (Gen. 20:6, 1 Sam. 25:26).

coldplayIn man’s conscience – The apostle Paul says that when unbelieving people “who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, . . . They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Rom. 2:14-15, ESV). By God’s common grace fallen mankind retains a conscience indicating the differences between right and wrong. This may be based on the fact that human beings, though fallen in sin, retain a semblance of the “image of God” with which they were originally created (Gen. 9:6: 1 Cor. 11:7).

Providential blessings to mankind – Human advancements that come through the unredeemed are seen as outcomes of God’s common grace. For example, medical and other technological advancements that improve the lives of both the redeemed and unredeemed are seen as initiated by common grace.

Music, along with art, science, technology etc. are gifts from God; they can be used and they can be misused. Coldplay, and all our favorite secular music artists, are often referred to as “gifted songwriters”. But who gifts them? God of course, praise the Lord!

Speak up for for the rights of all who are destitute

March 23, 2009

It’s been a busy month so far, but after this week things start winding down for easter. The main project I’ve been working on is this first final chapter of my PhD thesis. I finished the first draft last night, I hope to get it to my supervisor before the end of the week then proceed to start work on the next chapter before Easter if at all possible. On the preaching front it has been my busiest month yet; I have preached every Sunday this month so far. March 1 at Trefor, March 8 at Bangor, March 15 at Llanberis and March 22 (yesterday) at Llangefni.

On the social/political involvement side things are relentless too. Have I mentioned before that I’m the Vice-Chair of the Welsh Language Society? And to add to the pressure Menna, my trusted companion, is the current Chair! At the moment two campaigns are in overdrive, the campaign for equal status and civil rights for Welsh speakers in all sectors of life and the campaign for a new Wales-wide institution to provide Welsh medium eduction in the Higher Education sector.

Menna and Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru, at a recent public meeting to discuss the LCO at Caernarfon

Menna and Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru, at a recent public meeting to discuss the LCO at Caernarfon

At the moment the Welsh Government in Cardiff are trying to pass an LCO (Legislative Competence Order) which would transfer law making powers in relation to the Welsh Language from Westminster to Cardiff. Since 2006 Wales has had it’s own law making powers of sorts but it still has to get a nod from London in the form of an LCO to do anything! I know, imperialism it still alive and kicking! The Welsh Language Society, along with many other institutions from Wales’s civic society including, interestingly, The Presbyterian Church of Wales, have demanded the LCO transfer “all power” in relation to the Welsh Language to Wales. The moral right to legislate in relation to the Welsh Language should reside with the Welsh people themselves, it’s common sense.

But British unionist MP’s, both from the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, are determined to weaken the LCO in Westminster and return it to Cardiff with limited scope. A weak and toothless LCO would mean that the Welsh Government then couldn’t pass a legislation that would give Welsh speakers equal rights in all spheres of society. It seems that the LCO, at best, will give rope for the Government in Wales to legislate to give Welsh speakers some more rights in relation to the public sector but if Westminster gets it’s way the LCO will not give enough meat for the Government in Wales to legislate so to give Welsh speakers equal rights in the private sector, the sector we live most of our daily lives in!

Anyway, the LCO is going through the consultation process at the moment and the Government in Cardiff and the Select Comity in Westminster are inviting people to bring forward evidence for and against the full transfer of power in relation to the language to Cardiff. Menna gave evidence in Cardiff last week and today she is traveling to London to give evidence to the Select Comity at Westminster this afternoon.

Please pray that the Spirit will lead Menna boldly so she can ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:8-9)

I’ll say more about the other issue of Welsh medium education in the HE sector in the next post I think.

Rhys Llwyd took the “Anglican Identity” quiz and the result is: Modern Evangelical

March 18, 2009

Facebook is the hub of community life these days, sounds odd I know, but in a post-community world Facebook is the closest you get to the real thing unfortunately. And it’s on Facebook tonight that I entered a rather deep theological discussion with a friend of mine. So interesting that i thought it would make a blog post. Tom will be entering the ministry through the Anglican Church and he came out as an “Anglo-Catholic” on the quiz on Facebook. Here’s how the discussion unfolded:

Me: i got “modern evangelical” in the anglican quiz!

Tom: hmm, do you think it fits?

Me: well, it depends what other categories there were? If I’m “modern evangelical” rather than “fundamentalist evangelical” then I’m happy with the label i was given!

But personally I try to avoid the “evangelical” label because of the unfortunate connotation attached stemming from the marriage between evangelicalism and the political right in the US 😦

Tom: Hmm, I think in modern Wales the denominations are quite blurred, though something of a Church Chapel divide still exists. I once went to a chapel funeral and afterwards I met an American Evangelical Missionary hoping to set up “missions” in Wales. He was from Bob Jones University apparently.

Me: yes, your right. Most of the activities I’m involved in are post-denominational (meaning all nonconformist denomination and non-denominational churches are involved) but Anglicans are never on the scene, thats odd really. Have the Anglicans got their own youth/young adults networks perhaps? Or do they generally lack that demographic group full stop? Not a loaded question, just a’n honest interest!

Tom: Personally, I dont think Anglican Churches get involved enough with social justice. Did you meet John Butler the previous Anglican Chaplain? In my home diocese of Birmingham there are quite a few youth groups and they tend to cross varying churches, for instance there is a Church in the centre of Birmingham which acts as a sort of hub for fresh expressions. The Cathedrals tend to attract the largest proportion of people and so tend to have groups for varying age ranges. Generally, parish churches have youth groups if they have any youth and on the whole that demographic is quite small.

Me: Interesting. I believe in the one universal catholic Church but within that I think we need different congregations, I believe it’s healthy and it goes to show the strength of the body of Christ. Unity in diversity is a model we see over and over again in the New Testament. The ecumenical movement tried to get unity through union, the movement failed because in my opinion it wasn’t a Biblical model. True unity can only be forged by a willingness to respect and tolerate diversity and to do that it’s naturally to have a choice of congregations: evangelical and high-church, traditional and charismatic, pedo and baptists, congregational and presbyterian etc. etc.

Tom: Well I see the Biblical model for church as being part of a universal church too, that church is part of one body that is in a particular place and carries a particular character according to the people of that place. For instance, the Church IN Corinth and Paul adapted his ethics to the issues facing the people of Corinth rather than seeking a universal ethics applicaple to all churches. I think the same applies to communion, that seems to be used as a means of recognising the validity of certain churches. So the ecumenical movement attempted to bring all churches into communion into with each other and that of course required a universal doctrine about communion, clearly this does not work as doctrine forms to time and place.

Me: yes, the requirement of universal doctrine was the nail in the coffin of the 1980/90s ecumenical movement. The movements leaders condemned evangelicals for damaging unity because they wouldn’t let go of their doctrinal stand point but what the ecumenicals were blind to their own dogma which stated that doctrine was not important – but that standpoint in-itself was a doctrinal one!

Very interesting discussion, must head to bed now! Take care. Rhys

Stop Press: Tony Campolo visiting Wales this summer!

March 17, 2009

Tony Campolo, well-known American pastor, author, sociologist, and public speaker is coming to Wales this Summer! He is best known for challenging Evangelical Christians by illustrating how their faith can offer solutions in a world of complexity. With his liberal political and social attitudes, he has been a major proponent for progressive thought and reform in the evangelical community. He has become a leader of the movement called “Red-Letter Christian”, putting the emphasis on the reported words of Jesus, found in many Bible publications in a red font. He is, one of my present day heros.

He’s the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Baptist Union of Wales to be held at Carmarthen on the 11th and 12th of June. As i understand the Friday night meeting will be held at Tabernacle Chapel and attendance is open to all with a request for a £5 donation. The Saturday event needs people to pre-register – i have no more information about the Saturday event yet.

This is very exiting news indeed!

Report from WalesWide conference (part 1)

March 16, 2009

Please forgive my neglect of this blog again. It’s been a busy few days, trying to finish a chapter of the PhD by next week, and was preaching on Sunday at Llanberis and I had to work on an article for an academic journal over the weekend too! So don’t you believe those who say that PhD students are lazy wasters who don’t want a proper job! If I worked any harder people might start calling me a Puritan! (if you don’t get that joke, don’t worry!)

Addoliad - Praise

Anyway, here is a chance to say a word about the WalesWide conference I attended last Thursday. It was nothing short of an honor to be there. I arrived a big late – it was quite a drive down to Newtown from Bangor. When I got there i was astonished to see the car park packed, i walked into the building and into the main hall and to my astonishment there were the three hundred strong crowd shouting praise to the Lord. God’s people who turned despair into hope. People who turned their concern for Wales into a hart opening intercede before God. There was a deep sense in this conference that God can revive his Church in Wales, even a belief that the renewal had already started.

So who or what is WalesWide exactly? Waleswide facilitates the planting of new churches in Wales and the strengthening of existing ones where appropriate. They sense urgency from the Holy Spirit for this being felt across the various Christian networks in Wales. Waleswide seeks a cooperative effort among Christians throughout Wales in order to encourage the multiplication of Bible believing Christian churches throughout the nation. They work with church groupings and networks that share their values and doctrinal distinctives whether Anglican, Baptist, Reformed, Charismatic, Welsh Language denominations or independent. They are not seeking to form a new denomination or church grouping of their own.

Elfed Godding a David Ollerton

Jesus is ever intent on building His church (Matthew 16:18).  We live in a day of opportunity, resources and freedom to spread the Gospel and start new churches without hindrance. As society fragments, lawlessness increases and secularism breeds despair the living church of Jesus Christ stands out for truth, reconciliation and hope. The world at its worst needs a church at its best. At the start of the twenty-first century many areas of Wales are rapidly becoming a spiritual wilderness with ageing congregations, closing buildings, the Gospel rarely preached and little expectation of an improvement. It is time for obedience to the great Commission. A hundred and fifty years ago the majority of people in Wales were listening regularly to Biblical preaching.  Seventy years ago the chapels had more members than ever in their history. Today less than 2% of the population can be described as evangelical. Dozens of towns and hundreds of villages have no Bible believing church, and many that do have are seeing relentless decline. Stronger churches in other parts of Wales are doing much in their immediate area, and overseas, but few have a clear commitment and strategy for their own nation. Waleswide believes that the Lord Jesus would see healthy, Bible believing churches established in all areas of Wales including the inner cities, valley communities, mid Wales and Welsh speaking communities.

That is the vision of WalesWide, and that was the vision that was shared during the conference. The post has gone a bit long now so I’ll reserve the rest of my say for the next post.

Pictures of WalesWide conference

March 13, 2009

Yesterday I went to the WalesWide Church planting and transplanting conference. It was an awesome day filled with inspiration from the Spirit. I’ll try and find time over the weekend to write a detailed post about the conference but for now just a post to share some brilliant pictures i took at the conference:

David Ollerton

The rest of the photo set

Should we explain or change the world?

March 11, 2009

I spent a good part, at least six months, of the first year of my PhD researching the Puritans. At first that might seem odd considering my PhD thesis is about the Christian political philosophy of a 20th Century man. At the time I did feel that I had wasted six months of my precious research time but now three years on it’s becoming ever clear to me that to understand politics and nationalism from a Calvinistic perspective one must start with the Puritans. Dr. Pope, my research supervisor, I forgive you.

Just a quick post today to share a brilliant quote I re-turfed from the big PhD box file today. Ironically it’s not a quote by a Christian it’s a quote by atheist marxist historian Christopher Hill, but it’s a brilliant quote about the Puritans:

Previous theologians had explained the world: for Puritans the point was to change it.

Magic isn’t it? That Puritan ethic is massive encouragement to Christians today; with all the new violence in Northern Ireland, the immorality of our economics and the sad sad news about the shootings from Germany, the puritan ethic spurs us on to bless and change society with the gospel.

R. Tudur Jones’ Christian Nationalism

March 9, 2009

R. Tudur JonesAfter the Second World War, the feeling that Welsh identity was in danger increased. For the Welsh Congregationalists this conviction exploded to the surface in the Undeb Ystradgynlais in 1950. The Undeb was the annual gathering of Welsh Congregational Churches who were members of the Union of Welsh Independents. The story is reported in the Tyst newspaper (the Tyst was and is the denomination’s weekly newspaper) in June 1950; this utopian report is in the June 15 edition:

The armies of Catholicism, Philistinism, materialism and totalitarianism are marching boldly and presumptuously. But among the principalities of the heavens, angels of ideals are at work. The country is waiting for the denomination’s unconditional declaration that it is on the side of the angels.

The following week, more flesh was put on the bones as the Tyst reported that the Reverend R.G. Davies had proposed that:

…in the face of the serious condition of the language in many of our churches, and also the constant threat to its prosperity in areas that are completely Welsh, this conference brings to the serious attention of the churches the appropriateness of establishing a branch of Welsh speakers in every church…

Promoting culture had been part of the denominations’ agenda for a long time, however Reverend Owen Williams’ next motion proved to be very controversial. He said:

That we the representatives of the Congregationalist Churches of Wales, firmly declare our conviction that we are acting according to God’s will in demanding self-government for Wales immediately.

Although it is not reported in Y Tyst, and although it should not surprise anyone, there are grounds for believing that Gwynfor Evans was partly responsible for the motion. The Congregationalists turned to R. Tudur Jones in 1952 in order to calm the storm of objections that rose against the Congregationalists’ stance on self-government for Wales. The pamphlet ‘The Congregationalists and self-government for Wales’ was published by Tudur Jones. In this publication, the young theologian makes his beliefs and convictions public to all.

Let us consider what Tudur Jones had to say about nationalism in this pamphlet. A key question that nationalists have to deal with is ‘why the nation?’ What is so special about the nation that measures need to be taken to protect and sustain it? First of all, Tudur Jones turned to Genesis 11, and the story of the Tower of Babel and the mixing of the languages and he argues that God destroys imperialism and places diversity as the order for the earth. He said: ‘Where men constructed uniformity, God demanded diversity.’ He said that uprooting the Welsh nation ‘…in the name of a kind of shallow internationalism’ repeated the crime of those who built the Tower of Babel. He is certain in his conviction that nations are part of God’s order and considers that his role, as a Christian, is to safeguard and protect God’s order to the extent that in 1972 he declared that promoting nationalism was ‘…one of the many ways of declaring the glory of the one who took us from darkness.’

Placing R. Tudur Jones on the theological spectrum

March 4, 2009

R. Tudur JonesHere is a little introduction to Tudur Jones’s place on the theological spectrum.

R. Tudur Jones was born in the Cricieth area in Eifionydd, North Wales, the son of John Thomas and Elizabeth Jones. The 1904-1905 revival had a profound influence on his parents and so we can take it for granted that religion was more than a cultural custom for his family. Although he was brought up in a Christian family, Christianity did not become a real experience for him until he attended an evangelistic crusade in the Promenade Pavilion in Rhyl in 1939. As he stated in a documentary on S4C in 1994, Christianity came alive for him during that meeting; he said ‘…a day comes when the match is lit, and that’s what happened to me in the Pavilion that night…’ The preacher in that meeting interestingly was the evangelical leader Martin Lloyd-Jones.

Dr. Tudur was a reformed Protestant rather than a liberal Protestant. He is of J.E. Daniel’s line rather than that of John Morgan Jones. In addition to the influence of the greats of the reformed faith such as Calvin, and Thomas Jones of Denbigh and Thomas Charles in Wales, Tudur Jones was also influenced by Dutch Calvinist theologians. Individuals such as Abraham Kuyper, who was the Dutch prime minister, developed Calvin’s doctrine on the sovereignty of God, ‘…Kuyper had to be practical. As Prime Minister he had to consider education, promote the arts and the relationship between the overseer and the servant etc…’

One of the Calvinistic teachings that Kuyper emphasized, and which attracted Tudur Jones, was the doctrine of common grace. The common grace doctrine states that grace ‘…falls on everyone with no exceptions’ – God doesn’t discriminate between who can receive the general blessings of grace. The aspect of the common grace doctrine which is relevant to my PhD thesis (i.e. the politics of Tudur Jones) is the concept that the blessings of grace means that justice is possible on this earth, at least at a civic level. The theologian Louis Berkhof said:

Common grace enables man to perform what is generally called justitia civilis, that is, that which is right in civil or natural affairs… Reformed theologians generally maintain that the unregenerate can perform natural good, [and] civil good…

Considering the social and spiritual condition of Wales in the twentieth century, it is understandable that the Dutch Calvinistic school of though with its reformed orthodox theology on one hand and its practical implications on the other was so attractive to Tudur Jones. Of Kuyper he says: ‘He took the challenge of secularism to the national life of the Netherlands very seriously’ and that his doctrine on

…Christ’s kingship echoed some of the fundamental ideas of Frederick Denison Maurice, the founder of the Christian Socialists in England.. And there is a striking similarity between Kuyper’s teachings on sovereignty and the radical and collective nationalism of Michael D. Jones

On the theological spectrum, Tudur Jones would therefore place himself close to Kuyper and the Dutch Calvinists but he was his own man. He was enough of a thinker to come to his own conclusions. Densil Morgan said: ‘…Kuyper and his followers corroborated the ideology that he already had, and Tudur was never slavishly indebted to them.’ It should also be noted as well that I don’t think Tudur Jones would necessarily commend and agree with Kuyper’s political views (for example Kuyper was an imperialist and he held unfortunate views on race and supported apartheid); it was Kuypers rational towards the political sphere that he agreed with rather than the politics itself.

Tudur Jones’ theology therefore was to do with this world as well as the next world.