Friday, 29 June 2012

Latimeritis Strikes Again

Rev David Latimer, a Presbyterian Minister from Londonderry who has formed a friendship with Martin McGuinness, attended McGuinness' meeting with the Queen.

The clergyman said the royal handshake was historic.adding that Martin McGuinness is a peacemaker.

He added that McGuinness is wanting to shape things so that both communities will be able to move closer together, to become friendly allies and never again need to think of becoming warring adversaries.

But words are very cheap, especially when they come from an easily and willingly deceived Presbyterian minister.  This is the peacemaker who has never once condemned the terrorism that his organisatiuon, the IRA, perpetrated, and still perpetrates through its contemporary clones, the falsely so-called dissident republicans.  His terrorism was acceptable because it was needed to create the circumstances in which he and his would have positions of state in the country they are trying to destroy; and these are stepping stones to their ultimate goal of a re-united Ireland that is independent of the UK.

The media made so much of this handshake, as did those who were promoting it.  Clearly this was for purely political ends, something Rev. Latimer denies.

He said he knows him for the past six years period and that if McGuinness is doing something, he’s "doing it because he believes in it. And I trust that man totally, because we built up that kind of relationship.”

During the past six years, how persistent has Mr Latimer been in pressing on McGuinness the demands of the Gospel?  Has he called him to repentance?  Has he urged him to trust in Christ ALONE for salvation?  What place has the Gospel of Christ, Who is the world's only Saviour, played in these interactions?

The 'former' IRA commander has never repented of his involvement in violent republican terrorism so as an unrepentant terrorist who shares the same outlook as Rev Latimer, a strange cocktail has been created.

What it is that McGuinness believes in?  Well, his Roman Catholicism is set squarely against the Reformed Faith and the reformed churches.  His devotion to the cult of Mary is well known therefore his love for the Gospel does not exist.  How can it?  Can two walk together unless they are agreed? 

If David Latimer is now walking comfortably with McGuinness, one of them has changed, and it's not Martin McGuinness.  He is true to his religious faith and Rome never changes.

There can be no doubt that what is happening in Northern Ireland is real; but is it good?  Does it honour God and His Son, Jesus Christ?  Will it help promote the Gospel throughout Ireland and the world?

When Hitler organised the German people into a united front, something was happening, but was it good?  When Saddam Hussien was elected unanimously as President of Iraq, something was happening, but was it good?  Just because something is happening is not the important thing, but it is that is happening and why?

Surely, if a thing is morally wrong it cannot be politically or ecclesiastically right! 

Mr Latimer ought to know that "money can make anything moral."  Money can make the never do-able, do-able!  Something gigantic has beennoffered to the IRA otherwise they would not do what they are doing today.  What further treachery has been committed behind closed doors where no one can see what's going on? 

This is yet another episode of infective Latimeritis; interestingly I have not heard one word of criticism from his church or from any of his colleagues!  They, by their silence, are complicit in his gimmickry.

This high level gimmickry will gain the applause of the undiscerning, but those of us who can see what's happening a bit more clearly can see something very different.  And what we see is not good!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Mind Your Language - a Response.

The important contribution to my blog by Rev. Dr Alan C. Clifford is both urgent and timely. Within the churches today there is a clearly 'protected species' - the elders.  Whilst there is biblical warrant for such protection, this teaching has been frequently abused.  

For instance, I have heard some of the filthiest langauge that can proceed out of a man's mouth being spoken by a Presbyterian elder.  I have heard our precious Lord Jesus Christ being blasphemed by a Presbyterian elder, and some of the dirtiest stories belign related by a Presbyterian elder.  But these men kn ow they are protected by the church authorities.  One reason for this is that senior management within that church prefers non-Christian elders to Christian ones, because that makes their lives easier.  It allows all sorts of unfaithfulness to the Gospel to be supported by the elders, who always outnumber ministers in the various church courts.  Ministers will be persecuted where necessary by the church in a bid to keep the elders on board.

Further, church members who are clearly not Christians - they have made their profession of faith, and that means they are real Christians - are also protected by the church for precisely the same reasons.  They are needed to support the church's institutional infrastructure and keep the funds coming in.  Senior churchmen will bring as many into membershaip as they can irrespective of their spiritual condition because this increases the number of contributors to church funds and eases the drain on central funds.  These people can be the filthiest men in the country but because they keepm the show on thew road, they are protected.

Blaspheming, cursing, swearing elders and church members are common in Northern Ireland, sadly.  Their language is not the more sophisticated kind that Dr Clifford refers to, but the coarsest most vulgar language it is possible for a human being to use.

My challenge to ministers and to all who are concerned about this situation is to ask each elder face to face to confirm that he never uses bad language or blasphemes the holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Record their answers and ask them to sign the truthfulness of what they say.  Then go and speak to people who know then well outside of church and in the work or social context and get their views.  Both they and the elders might have to be pressed for a response.  Record what they say.  Then compare the responses.

Next, take the elders in turn and discuss with them what your findings are.  Give them the opportunity to reply to whatever allegations are made.  Given that these are officers of the church, their verbal behaviour ought to be treated in exactly the same way as stealing or adultery - instant dismissal without appeal.  

The same procedure should be taken concerning the matter of womanising elders.  Oops!  This might mean that many churches will be left without any elders; but that might not be a bad thing really.

If this will not be done, then those ministers might feign concern for and support of the church, but that is all it is - mere lip-service.  Because they care nothing for the spiritual health of the church they display their hypocrisy when they refuse to take brotherly criticism of their church from others.

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE! What your talk says about you.

We live in an age of irreverence. Is anything not turned into a joke and ridiculed? When vulgarity and ignorance abound, what is sacred is devalued and decried. This is especially so where speech is concerned.
Whereas filthy ‘four-letter’ vulgarity reflects ignorance and bad taste in ordinary conversation, swearing and blasphemy indicate enmity against God.

This evil tendency is highlighted in the Holy Bible in the Third of the Ten Commandments: ‘YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN, FOR THE LORD WILL NOT HOLD HIM GUILTLESS WHO TAKES HIS NAME IN VAIN’ (Exodus 20: 7).

Words are more than mere sounds. Together with actions, they express our inner thoughts and feelings, attitudes and dispositions. As bad grammar and vocabulary suggest ignorance, so blasphemy and swearing reveal rebellion towards God. The word reveals the heart.

As we speak respectfully of those we love, so God should be spoken of with reverence and majesty. It is common to speak well of friends and badly of enemies. Thus we indicate what is valuable or valueless in our
estimation. Thus, ‘to take God’s name in vain’ reveals that God means nothing to us.

It is remarkable that swearing usually violates the sacred names of Christianity: ‘O my God!’, ‘Good Lord!’ and ‘Jesus Christ!’ are common.  Why is swearing confined to these? In the increasingly multi-faith west, we
don't hear ‘O Buddha!’, ‘Good Vishnu!’ or ‘Mohammed!’ Sometimes, ‘Good Lor!’ (from ‘Good Lord’), ‘Gorblimey!’ (derived from ‘God blind me’) and ‘Crikey!’ (derived from ‘Christ kill me’) are seen as less irreverent substitutes.

It is not uncommon for bishops and other clergy to use these expressions in an attempt to be ‘trendy‘. During the 1960s, John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich attempted to update our understanding of God with a heterodox book entitled Honest to God. An orthodox reply was called For Christ’s Sake. Pleas for social action by clergymen have often included such expressions borrowed from the language of irreverence and blasphemy.

The fact remains that an evil tongue reveals an evil heart. Filthy talk reveals filthy thoughts. Swearing is a symptom of a spiritual disease. Let us see how the Bible uses the tongue to diagnose our true state:

1. The Lord Jesus Christ compares our nature and inclination to a hissing snake! ‘Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things’ (Matt.12: 34).

2. Quoting from Psalms 5: 9, 140: 3 and 10: 7, the Apostle Paul exposes human sin similarly: ‘Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practised deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness’ (Rom.3:13-14).

3. The Apostle James doesn’t waste words exposing religious hypocrisy: ‘But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so’ (Jas.3: 8-10).

Notice how the snake or serpent is invoked in every case. Satan assumed this form in the garden of Eden (see Gen.3:1-15). Human nature is infected with his poison. Thus to blaspheme and swear is to side with God’s enemy. Hence Christ could say, “You are of your father the devil...there is no truth in him...he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn.8: 44).

Since the ultimate falsehood is to blaspheme God’s holy name, it is no wonder that human guilt is specifically measured in these terms in the third commandment. A godless tongue, reflecting a godless heart, is the source of atheism and all utterances against the being, majesty, holiness and goodness of God. Even to speak of other deities and prophets in language applicable only to God in Christ is to take His holy name in vain!

Since sins of the tongue define our guilt so specifically, our need of salvation is sharply focused. A Christian is one whose heart has been purified by faith (see Acts 15: 9). When the Holy Spirit brings us to repentance and faith in Christ, a change of speech reflects a change of heart: ‘for if you confess with your mouth the
Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation’ (Rom.10: 9-10).
Confessing Christ as Lord and Saviour is thus the way we are acquitted from guilt. Sinful words of unbelief are cancelled out by righteous words of faith: ‘But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned’ (Matt.12: 36-7).

Cleansing from sin and truthful speech are linked by the Apostle John (see 1 Jn.1: 5-10). However, every Christian knows that believing hearts are far from perfect (see Matt. 26: 74). Hence we must pray with David, ‘Unite my heart to fear your name’ (Ps.86: 11). Our hearts struggle with falsehood still, like an ongoing civil war within (see Paul’s experience in Rom.7: 13-25). Hence the Apostle John describes Christ as our ‘advocate‘: he speaks with perfect righteousness and judgement before God on our behalf (see 1 Jn.2:2). Thank God for the Lord Jesus ‘who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth’ (Isa.53: 9; 1 Pet.2: 22). Those who speak for Christ may be sure that Christ speaks for them. Those who love his name are beloved of him. Those who hate to take his name in vain will never trust him in vain!

Dr Alan C. Clifford

Monday, 25 June 2012

Can Church Failure Last?

Evangelicals in the mixed denominations must take responsibility for two things. First, they must seek to convert those who do not preach the Gospel and teach the truth; and second, on failing that they must condemn them and their teaching for the good of the Church and the glory of the Church's Great Head and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

To fail here is to fail everywhere.

Having succeeded in those two essentials, they must then remove every member from the church role and start again.  John Wesley's method might prove a good guide here.  Not only must prospective church members profess their faith in the triune God, they must also give evidence that their faith is alive and that they are assured of their standing before God.

To fail here is to compound failure everywhere.

Barnes and Noble Ebooks - Hazlett Lynch

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This is my ministry and only means of support.  Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

English Defence League, Norwich march: Dr Clifford responds

Since Norwich City Council's ban of Norwich Reformed Church is cited as a reason for the planned EDL march (Norwich Evening News, 21 June 2012), I wish to provide the following clarification:
1. I have no connection with either the EDL or the BNP, even though they rightly endorse my Christian criticisms of Islam.
2. My objections to Islam are ideological not racial. Indeed, I have more affinity with Asian Christians than English atheists.
3. Opposed to both 'Left' and 'Right' political extremism, my stand on the Islamic threat is faith-inspired.
4. Norwich City Council's intolerance towards me is to be blamed for the planned EDL march. Extremes provoke one another.
5. The appalling collapse of Christian conviction in the UK is also to be blamed for Muslim encroachment. 
6. Cowardly 'PC' Christian capitulation before the Muslim menace, is to be blamed for political fringe activity.
7. The liberal-secular dismantling of the UK's Christian heritage is to be opposed by all lawful means, religious and political.
8. The only hope for a harmonious, prosperous and peaceful society is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Revd Dr Alan C. Clifford

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Man-Made Confessions OK, But Man-Made Hymns Not OK!

There is an irony, is there not, when certain churches refuse to use what they describe as man-made compositions in the worship of God, but stick rigidly to man-made confessions to measure a man's or church's orthodoxy? 

Man-made confessions are used to ensure a particular interpretation of Scripture but man-made hymns must not be used under any circumstances.

In fact, they would fight and argue against, and demonise, those who say a wrong word about man-made confessions, defending such man-made confessions to the hilt.  However, they do not defend the use of hymns (also, in their view, man-made compositions) in the worship of God.

How do they differentiate between these two practices?  The only way is by using verbal gymnastics to convince those who are still undecided, and they do it to their own satisfaction.

Never Preach From Notes!

Dr Clarence Edward Macartney was quite a remarkable man.  From Scottish stock, his family moved to North America.  Approaching his final year in theological seminary, he was determined to follow the two precepts given to students by Dr David J. Burrell, which were:

"always have a clear outline and never preach from notes or with a manuscript."

Where would this leave some of us, I wonder!  In an eariler post I had stated that probably the reason why so much preaching is powerless is that the preacher places too much reliance upon his study preparation than upon the Lord's gracious enabling at the point of sermon delivery.  

Macartney never preached from notes and in 1946 he published a book entitled, Preaching Without Notes.  This book was reprinted by Baker Books in 1976. 

My challenge to preachers and to myself is to preach without notes.  To make this a bit easier, take only the briefest outline into the pulpit with you, and allow the Lord by His Spirit to give you the message He has for the congregation on that occasion.

What a challenge!  Are you up to it?  Am I?

Charles Simeon's - Don't Be A System Christian

The great Cambridge theologian and preacher, Charles Simeon, told his students not to be system to

"Be a Bible Christian and not a system Christian."

How needed this counsel is today, a day in which a Christian's orthodoxy is assessed by whether or not he adheres to a theological system, however revered.

Not only this, but it depends upon which system a man prefers.  If he adheres to the Westminster system of theology (with its theological children and siblings), then he is truly orthodox.  However, if he subscribes the Three Forms of Unity (Canons of Dort, Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession), all thoroughly reformed confessional standards, then he is regarded as sub-orthodox.  How strange.

For many 'reformed' men, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion do not even appear on the Richter scale of confessional correctness, but nevertheless teach reformed and biblical doctrine.  This gets rid of people like Jim Packer, Alec Moyter, Dick Lucas, etc.

These doctrinal standards are all slightly different in their theological emphasis but they all are reformed in emphasis.

DMLJ was not sold on Westminster theology, so he ought to be written off as a reformed man, but he is not.  What some reformed men do is that because his major publisher is the Banner of Truth, the unthinking assumption is that he holds strictly to its doctrinal standards.  This is manifestly untrue. 

There is a great tendency within the reformed constituency to assess a man's theology with the man-made confessions of history and not with the Scriptures themselves.  The irony is that a man can be totally faithful to Scripture in his theology but not in total compliance with a confessional standard, yet it is the man-made standard that is the canon for assessing the situation.

Despite the 'rule of faith' for many churches and denominations which claim that the supreme standard of this church is the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and that confessions are subordinate standards.  In reality and in practice, however, the reverse is rather the case.  There is urgent learning required by ministers as to how they might maintain the supremacy of the Scriptures while having their confessional standards.  Confessions are good and helpful but only in so far as they reflect the clear teaching of Scripture, which is accept as perspicuous.  When scholastic philosophy is used to reinterpret clear Scriptural statements, such as , Jn.1:29; 3:16; 1 Jn.2:2; Heb.2:9; 2 Pet.3:9; etc, there is a serious problem afoot.  Where a man in convinced in his heart that the confessional standards of his church are wrong in some respect or another, then he is obliged by his ordination vows to submit conscience to no other authority than that of Christ speaking in the Scriptures.

I appeal to all evangelical ministers not to be system Christians but Bible Christians. 

I think Simeon has got it just right - "Be a Bible Christian and not a system Christian."