Signs of the Times

We are living in interesting and significant times, with a number of notable anniversaries co-inciding.

31st October 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Martin Luther unwittingly commenced the Protestant Reformation when he posted his 95 Theses for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Europe and the world benefitted from the liberation of Christian conscience through the recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Balfour Declaration is a paragraph in a letter by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on 2/11/1917 informing the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland of the decision of the British War Cabinet in London, which on 31/10/1917 took a final vote in favour of establishing a Jewish National Home for the Jewish people.  By the evening of the same day, the charge of the Australian Light Horse was completing the victory in the Battle of Beersheba, the first victory in the campaign of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) to re-capture Jerusalem and Israel during World War I.  On 11/12/1917 British General Sir Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem, without a shot being fired, becoming the first Christian to control the city in centuries, and being the first time since the Jewish Diaspora that a friendly power occupied the land.  It was of immense global significance and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said: “The moral effect of the victory was tremendously important. It was an earnest of the fulfilment of the Balfour Declaration.”

Allenby entered the Jaffa Gate after dismounting his white horse and walked into the city for the official ceremony on the first day of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.  He refused to enter “booted and spurred into Jerusalem where my Lord walked.”

14th May 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of the nation of Israel – “Who has heard such a thing? who has seen such things? Shall the Earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?” Isaiah 66:8.

6th June 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem and flying the Israeli flag on the Temple mount.


What is Islamic Reformation?

Tonight, 14 Feb 2017, BBC Newsnight’s Viewsnight carried an opinion that Islamic State is a Reformation in islam.

Canadian author Graeme Wood compared the similarities of the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) with the Protestant Reformation under Martin Luther, pointing to 1. the call to return to the original sources (the Bible and Quran) to read it for oneself, bypassing the priestly class and mainstream clerics, giving back power to the people, and 2. using the latest technology to appeal to the masses against officialdom (the printing press in the 16th century and the internet and social media in the 21st century).

Thus Islamic State (ISIS) was compared to the Protestant Reformation, an intellectual convulsion that is re-making the muslim world, calling muslims back to the original sources in the Quran. He called them Islamic Protestants.

However, Wood makes an important mistake. He pointed out that the Protestant Reformation led to a bloodbath, and so has ISIS, as if there was not only moral equivalence but also causative equivalence between the two. He failed to point out that the bloodbath at the Protestant Reformation was at the hands of officialdom, but the bloodbath by ISIS is at the hands of conservative muslims against officialdom – an important difference.

It is astonishing that this mistaken historical perspective is so easily publicised on national television.

Rather, Islamic State is the death-throes of koranic islam as it feels threatened by more rational islamic voices interacting with the love and toleration of Christianity. The islamic reformation is on the other foot and began many decades ago. Salman Rushdie’s Islamic Verses was a challenge to the authenticity of certain verses in the Quran. This led to a fatwah against him. Interaction with western civilisation over several decades has diminished islamic attachment to the details of koranic teaching, so that westernised islam distances itself from the blood-thirsty teaching in the koran.

ISIS is actually a bloody Counter-Reformation to moderating and reforming muslim teachers, comparable to the 16th century Roman Catholic bloody Counter-Reformation with its Inquisition and manipulation of the authorities to do its dirty work for it.  It is not comparable to the liberating Protestant Reformers who gave to the world modern Parliamentary democracy, the right of private judgment and the freedom of thought and religion.

15/2/2017: Tariq Ramadan gave another perspective on Viewsnight tonight in which he contradicted Wood’s view and claimed that quiet reform is already happening among muslims, who “are trying to liberate themselves from both Arab and Asian patriarchy and Western cultural imperialism.” At least it confirms to some extent what I have written above.

Patrick’s Places – the difference between Law and Gospel

Patrick’s Places – the difference between Law and Gospel
by Patrick Hamilton, 1527.

Patrick Hamilton was Scotland’s first Reformer and martyr, burned at the stake by Roman Catholic cardinal Beaton at St Andrews in 1528 for preaching the Gospel. Of noble birth, he graduated MA from the College of Montaigu, Paris, in 1520 and enrolled in the University of St Andrews on the same day that John Major was received as Principal of St Mary’s College on 9/6/1523. In 1527 he was one of the first students in the new University of Marburg founded in 1527 by Landgrave Philip I of Hesse. The same year he wrote Patrick’s Places in Latin, translated by John Frith into English who named it Patrick’s Places ‘for it treateth exactly of certain commonplaces, which known, ye have the pith of all divinity.’

The nature and office of the law and of the gospel

The law showeth us our sin, Rom. iii. 9-20.
The gospel showeth us remedy for it, John i. 29.
The law showeth us our condemnation, Rom. vii. 23, 24.
The gospel showeth us our redemption, Eph. i.
The law is the word of ire, Rom. iv. 15.
The gospel is the word of grace, Acts xx. 24.
The law is the word of despair, Deut. xxvii. 15-26.
The gospel is the word of comfort, Luke ii. 10.
The law is the word of unrest, Rom. vii. 24.
The gospel is the word of peace, Eph. vi. 15.

A disputation between the law and the gospel; where is shown the difference or contrariety between them both.

The law saith, Pay thy debt.
The gospel saith, Christ hath paid it.
The law saith, Thou art a sinner; despair, and thou shalt be damned.
The gospel saith, Thy sins are forgiven thee, be of good comfort, thou shalt be saved!
The law saith, Make amends for thy sins.
The gospel saith, Christ hath made it for thee.
The law saith, The Father of heaven is angry with thee.
The gospel saith, Christ hath pacified him with his blood.
The law saith, Where is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction?
The gospel saith, Christ is thy righteousness, thy goodness, thy satisfaction.
The law saith, Thou art bound and obliged to me, to the devil, and to hell.
The gospel saith, Christ hath delivered thee from them all.

Dr Donald M. Boyd

New pope of Rome answers questions

I used to say that the pope of Rome never answers questions, and is not accountable to others.

At least, he now answers questions.

During the resignation of Ratzinger from the Roman papacy, the discussion on BBC Scotland asked the question whether the job was too much for one man. A papal advisor, Professor John Haldane of the University of St Andrews, suggested that some parts of the papal office may be split off from the Roman papacy. Another question asked if it was the beginning of the end of the Roman papacy. This was too much for Haldane, who denied that such a thing was possible. His Roman theology was very likely clouding his reading of Scripture and providence.

This may be the beginning of the unravelling of the Roman papacy. It is happening on cue, just in time for the Millennial advent. However, the international commission which will sit in judgment on the papacy Dan 7:26 has yet to be established. The openness of the internet era led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Roman papacy will not be far behind. The exposure of Ratzinger’s involvement in covering up paedophile priests was shown by BBC 4 on 10 June 2013, which along with “the murky world of Vatican finances“, have been reasons postulated for Ratzinger’s sudden and unexpected resignation. The Black Pope resigned not so long before this.

It is possible that we have witnessed the last pope of Rome to die in office. If Ratzinger does not die as the pope of Rome, does he die as an ordinary Roman Catholic? If future popes of Rome resign before death, although death in office is always possible, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the Roman papacy.

7/4/2012: Questions and answers in congregational life.

2012: Mea Maxima Culpa documentary.

10/6/2013 BBC Four: “Maxima Culpa: exposing the abuse of power in the Roman Catholic church and the cover-up that winds its way from Wisconsin, through Ireland, to the Vatican.” It was a hard-hitting exposure of the Vatican’s cover-up.

Presbyteries or Church Courts?

It is very common to hear people speak about church courts.

However Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods and General Assemblies become church courts for specific cases.

This legal terminology is now so common that people fail to see that ecclesiastical assemblies are for the mutual support and oversight of the people of God.  It is no wonder that an adversorial approach has developed in presbyterianism which is interfering with its usefulness.

“In the multitude of counsellors there is safety”  Pro 11:14; 24:6

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established”  Pro 15:22

Calvin’s Calvinism

Calvin scholars often tell the story how William Farel hastily visited John Calvin as he passed through Geneva on the night of 10/7/1536, and detained him in Geneva with the solemn curse of God upon his literary studies if he did not stop in Geneva to help forward the work of the Protestant Reformation in that city.

Calvin was on his way to Strasbourg, and this stop-over has been called “the most fateful detour in history”.

However, if one suggests to these Calvin scholars that they should be more involved in Christian politics, they want to get back to their books.  Ouch! that hurts.

Scotland needs a Reformer.

“I sought a man among them, that should stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” Ezk 22:30.

YouTube Pastor

A Happy New Year to all my readers. 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible – the world’s best seller of all time and also known as the Authorised Version or AV. It has taken a hit in recent times from other versions, but it is holding its own.

The Queen made it a major theme of her christmas day broadcast, although the media focused on her other theme of sport, which she used to promote international co-operation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also picked up the theme in his New Year’s Day address. He said that people should read the King James Version of the Bible.

So many people are unaware of the influence of this version of the Bible that the archbishop of atheism, Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion advises people to read it. Peter Hitches, the brother of that other populariser of atheism, Christopher Hitchens, also thinks that people should read the King James Version, as a more robust version. Christopher also reads the Bible and doesn’t like what he understands of it.

The Queen – the Archbishop of the Church of England – the archbishop of atheism – the world’s most religiously contrasting controversialist siblings – all recommend reading the King James Version of the Bible. Quite a combination.

The Bible is not so difficult to read, and on this 400th anniversary of the Book which popularised English as the worldwide language, everyone who benefits from the worldwide language of the internet might pay homage to it by at least reading it.

May God bless you in 2011.

YouTube Pastor for a short New Year message on the humbug about the difficulty of reading the Authorised Version.

Events for 2011. The King James Bible Trust and its website has hit the road running since its launch on 23rd November 2010, at which the chairman said: “The aim is … to make sure that that legacy continues over the next 100 years so that the country is well prepared for the 500th anniversary of the King James Bible.” It is good to see the planning for a proper commemoration of this significant Bible translation by events which will continue throughout the whole of 2011, although it shows up the failure of Scotland to similarly commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation in 2010.

Examples and history of the influence of the Bible on the English language.