American Independence Day

Today, American Independence Day, reminds us of ‘no taxation without representation’.  This was the principle on which the American War of Independence was fought.

It was not simply a desire for independence, but a revolt against undemocratic control.

Another blow for freedom was struck exactly 200 years later on 4/7/1976, when the Israel Defence Forces stunned the world by the iconic rescue of Israeli hostages at Entebbe Airport, Uganda.  The new state of Israel showed the world what it could do. Shortly afterwards, in the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, the Americans bungled a similar rescue of Americans held hostage in Iran when two of its helicopters crashed into each other in the desert.

Between 4/7/1776  and 4/7/1976 the world had changed dramatically.  The USA has become the world’s dominant power and, of biblical significance, the state of Israel has come into being.  The greatest advances have been in science and technology, and the worse changes have been the ungodly abandoning of Christianity, leading to the two world wars and horrors of the 20th century with massive slaughters promoted by atheistic regimes, notably in Russia and China.

However, in the realm of governmental democracy, celebrated by American Independence Day, it is pleasing to note that while there were only 11 democracies in the world in 1941, in 2017 there are about 123 democracies out of 192 countries in the world.

This governmental shift is consistent with the biblical teaching on the change in governmental principles that will be evident in the Millennial period of human history.  Christ’s mandate for the world is on target – “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” Mat 6:10.

 

 

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.

 

The majority of mankind will be saved

It is not uncommon to hear the depressing and unbiblical doctrine that only a minority of the human family will arrive in heaven.

Various biblical texts are wrongly used to support this unbiblical idea.

  1. Jesus was asked: “Are there few that be saved?” Lk 13:23.  Jesus replied with neither Yes nor No to this, but that many would be too late, out of complacency, and to make sure that you are not among them.
  2. Jesus said: “Narrow is the way which leads to life, and few there be that find it” Mat 7:14.  However, Jesus does not say that there will always be few.  There were few in His day, and there may be few in your locality, but it is not always so.
  3. “A remnant shall be saved” Rom 9:27.  Paul wrote this in the context of there being many unbelieving Jews in his day.  It will not always be so.  Paul was dealing with the small number of Jews in his day who believed in Jesus as the Messiah  by showing that it was predicted by Old Testament Scripture.  This is not a comment on the whole number of the saved.
  4. Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock” Lk 12:32.  The disciples were a little flock in Christ’s day, but He went on to say, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  The little flock is not a comment on the whole number of the saved.
  5. Jesus said: “When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?”  Lk 18:8.  This is commonly misinterpreted to mean that the world will get worse and worse and so the Christian church will always be in the minority.   Rather, Jesus is speaking about the international apostacy at the end of the world after the Millennium – see Rev 20:7-8 – so that Jesus will then come quickly on the last day Jn 6:39,40,44,54 and Jn 12:48 to judge mankind.  So Lk 18:8 is not a comment on the whole number of the saved.

The Bible teaches the opposite of this depressing doctrine.

  1. Believers inherit a kingdom Lk 12:32, whereas the devil and his hordes are consigned to a pit Rev 20:3 and then a lake of fire Rev 20:10 and Mat 25:41.  “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” Jn 14:2.
  2. There is an innumerable number of saved human beings already in heaven Rev 7:9.
  3. Even the majority of angels are on Christ’s side Rev 12:4.
  4. World population is growing exponentially and there have been more human beings living on Earth in the 20th century than in all previous centuries put together.   In the Millennium Rev 20:2-7, the kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” Rev 11:15.  This Millennium will be more than enough time for the Lord’s people to outnumber the ungodly on Earth.
  5. It is possible and even probable that untold numbers of babies miscarrying in the womb, and infants dying in infancy, have arrived in heaven.  See Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermon on 2Kings 4:26, who supports this view in spite of his two unbiblical comments against infant baptism.  A more definitive treatment of the subject is The Theology of Infant Salvation by R. A. Webb, 1907, reprinted by Sprinkle, 1981.
  6. Jesus will have the majority at last: “And He is the head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” Col 1:18.  Jesus will not be beaten by the devil and his hordes.  Jesus is a winner, not a loser.  “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” Jn 17:12.

The ungodly will find themselves belonging to a minority of losers, on the wrong side of history, to their everlasting shame and dismay, while the godly will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world Mat 25:34.

The ungodly are hazarding this gift of eternal life through their supercilious unbelief.  Jesus challenges them: “If I say the truth, why do you not believe Me?” Jn 8:46.  Jesus invites them to examine themselves and to look at themselves in the mirror.

RBS and the SNP

Can someone explain why Royal Bank of Scotland, bailed out by the tax-payer, is held accountable for shareholders losing their money after being duped by Fred Goodwin and co?

If RBS had not been bailed out, it would have failed and shareholders would have lost out.  Being bailed out by the tax-payer, it is essentially a different bank.  Why are tax-payers paying for investors being duped? paying once to rescue the bank and second to rescue those to whom they are not responsible?

The logic is similar to the SNP’s blaming Westminster for Scotland’s ills.  We remember Alex Salmond supporting Fred Goodwin in his disastrous and uncosted take-over of Dutch bank ABN-Amro after Barclays bank dropped out of the takeover battle.

The RBS bail out was not the only time that England helped out Scotland.  The Darien scheme was another financial disaster which contributed to the Act of Union so decried by the SNP.  But they had only their fellow Scotsmen to blame for it, just as RBS shareholders have Fred Goodwin and co to blame, not the tax-payer, to whom they should be thankful that they did not lose absolutely everything, although near enough.

Nor do Scottish schools teach our young people about England helping out Scotland at a critical stage in the Scottish Reformation, which led on to Scotland becoming the most literate nation on earth and contributing to the development of the British empire.  Scottish children are told only a selective part of our nation’s history, and although Germany has spent ten years preparing for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s inauguration of the European Reformation on 31/10/1517, Scotland’s Reformer is unceremoniously ignored by its populace.

 

Denial and post-truth – the real problem with faith

The film Denial has been recently released in British cinemas after its premier at the Toronto film festival on ‘9/11’ last year and its UK premier on Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January 2017.  It gives the outline of the libel trial brought by notorious Holocaust denier David Irving against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt for her calling him a falsifier of history in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.

Denial (2016 film).jpg

The UK judge found Irving to be a Holocaust denier, an antisemite and a racist who had deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence, and ordered him to pay more than £2m in legal costs.

There are many issues raised by the libel case, and many have commented on the timely recollection of it in view of false-truth and its spread through social media.  Historian Richard Evans, president of Wolfson College in Cambridge and involved in the research behind the trial, draws parallels between Nazi propaganda and our era of ‘alternative facts’.

False-truth is the end result of a generation of spin and of acceptance of lies in public life, particularly in the political process.  Eventually it reached a tipping-point and it is now the norm.

One can understand people changing their mind when circumstances change, but this has developed into saying one thing and doing another in public life.  The backlash against the ready acceptance of this behaviour has resulted in the popular revolt against ‘the establishment’ in its various forms.

However Denial finishes by raising another question which is not addressed and needs to be addressed.  It ends with David Irving continuing to deny the Holocaust when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight.

Why do people not change their beliefs, or rather hold on to their beliefs?  This is the real issue raised both in Denial and in much current public debate.  Richard Dawkins frames the issue the wrong way round.  He says that people adopt their beliefs when they are young from their parents and teachers.  There is nothing surprising about this, although he uses this to buffet religion and to accuse parents of child abuse.  Rather, the really surprising thing is, not that children adopt the religion of their parents but, why they rarely change it.

This psychological prejudice is so common to the human condition that it merits more study and comment in public life.

However it is A-B-C to those Christian preachers who spend much of their time explaining the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who taught the need and difficulty in changing people’s beliefs.  He taught that it was so difficult that when it came to true religion it needed nothing short of the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit of God – this is what Jesus meant by ‘you must be born again’.  Human prejudice is too strong to change from the outside; it must come from personal awakening, personal conviction.

Government tries strong arm tactics using the law and sanctions to force conformity to its secular morality, but ‘he that complies against his will is of his own opinion still’.  In addition, there are not enough law enforcement officers to be effective, as the police are discovering with paedophiles now numbering in the hundreds of thousands, more than the immigrants coming into the UK, and the justice system cannot cope with the number of law-breakers of the growing number of laws.

Law enforces conformity through sanctions, but the Christian Gospel of love gives motivation to keep the law, is cheap and effective through the self-policing Christian conscience, as well as giving peace of conscience for daily living.  Try it – it begins with changing your beliefs about Jesus Christ.

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.

Addendum:
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
3/10/2016