Stockport Evangelical Church

Stockport Evangelical Church
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9 KJV)

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Biblical Womanhood

A Christian Home-Educating mum told me a story about how she had taken her little daughter to the Doctor's. In the course of the examination, the female GP asked the little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up; the little girl thought for a moment and then said, "a mother!" In that instant, two very different worlds collided. 

Young Christian women today, suffer immensely from the pressures of our society, to conform to an ideal that God never intended them to endure. They are sexualised by the media and the fashion industry at an early age (and many Christian writers have spoken intelligently and with justified condemnation about this) and yet there is another danger that is perhaps not as explicit as the first. They are encouraged in the pursuit of a confusingly androgynous identity; a hybrid of masculine and feminine characteristics and the idea that to be truly independent and happy, they need to emulate men.

Today, young women are encouraged to be "empowered" into acting, thinking, working, drinking (or even dressing) like men. The government is doing all they can to get mothers "back to work." They are horrified by the idea that some mothers may actually want to stay at home and bring up their children themselves. What! Bring up young children without professional help and guidance! And who would want the terrible drudgery, nay slavery of being a Housewife!
A culture that sees children, not as a blessing, but as an economic inconvenience, is at odds with the word of God. 

These days, the aging spectre of feminism is still attempting to groom young women to feel dissatisfied with marriage and motherhood. What is surprising is that those attitudes have even started to make their way into the church, to the extent that some Christian women (and men) are identifying themselves today as "Christian (or Jesus) feminists," despite feminism representing the antithesis of everything the Bible teaches about the role of women; particularly married women and mothers.

The antithesis to Biblical womanhood.

Here are some extraordinary, and revealing, feminist quotes:

  • “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage." Sheila Cronam, feminist Leader.

  • “The end of the institution of marriage is necessary for the liberation of women; therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not live individually with men. All of history must be rewritten in terms of oppression of women. We must go back to ancient female religions like witchcraft." Declaration of feminism 1971

  • “The most merciful thing a large family can do to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Article, "Women in the New Race", Margaret Sanger, feminist and founder of Planned Parenthood, USA's largest abortion clinic business.

If there was ever a time that Christian women needed to find their identity, it is now.

Proverbs 31: 10 says, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."  A virtuous woman is truly a woman of strength, though not as the feminists define strength.
Matthew Henry comments, "the weaker vessel, made strong by wisdom and grace, and the fear of God...who has command of her own spirit...a woman of resolution, who, having espoused good principles, is firm and steady to them." This is strength indeed.

A Christian woman does not need to marry in order to have worth. There are remarkable women whom God called to serve as missionaries and to live celibate lives; women like Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael. They expressed their strength in inherently feminine ways; such as being effectively mothers to the children whom God had entrusted to their care and confounding violent and dangerous men, with "a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
Amy Carmichael with some of he girls she saved from temple prostitution.

 Also, women like Hester Ann Rogers, of whom it was said,

"Though she devoted much of her time to religious duties in public and private, yet nothing seemed to be left undone which could make her children comfortable and happy. She even prevented all their wants; and was equally, nay, if it were possible, more attentive to Mr. Roger’s children by his former wife, than to her own." (The Character and Death of Mrs Hester Ann Rogers - Reverend Thomas Coke.)
The challenge for Christian women today, particularly young Christian women, is to find themselves in the Scriptures.

One thinks of the great women of the Old Testament: Esther, Ruth, Hannah and Sarah; the self-sacrificing lives they lived. They put their people, their families and yes; even their husbands, before themselves and were commended for doing so. They gave all for God.

It is absurd for Christian women to attempt to identify with politically and socially driven, non-Christian movements, like the Suffragettes. Today's politically correct history books often gloss over the fact that the Suffragettes, at times, behaved outrageously and unlawfully. Historian and Journalist Andrew Marr reminds us, that at the height of the Suffragette's protests, "The Prime Minister, Asquith was punched, had an axe flung at him and had slates thrown at his car. Winston Churchill was attacked at Bristol railway station by a riding-crop-wielding woman who hit him on the face." (The Making of Modern Britain.) Hardly the epitome of Christ-likeness!

It takes much boldness to be a Christian woman today. Particularly in a society that sees meekness as weakness, home-keeping as slavery and "modest apparel" as just plain weird! Once again, Christians have to choose between following the world, or following the love of Christ. As Amy Carmichael once observed:
“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”   

Paul Jennings.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Standing Up to the School Bullies

A successful Christian school could face closure for failing to uphold “British values”. The Telegraph reported that the small independent Christian school was told by Ofsted that it was not in step with new rules intended to teach “British values," because it was not trying to promote other faiths. Trinity Christian School, a small independent school in Reading, was rated “excellent” for its provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in November last year. However, following an inspection this month it was deemed not to be meeting the revised Department for Education requirements introduced in late September. (Source: The Christian Institute.)

So let's see, last year the school was deemed excellent for meeting a whole variety of pupils' needs, this year it faces closure for not being British enough. Is it un-British to be a Christian?

Take an independent Christian school, the foundation of which, amongst other things (quite obviously) is to preserve and teach children the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith; salvation in Christ alone, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, love thy neighbour etc. and Ofsted's observation is, "you don't seem to be promoting other faiths." Ofsted's solution, by the way, is beyond absurd; they told the school to invite an Imam to lead assemblies! Genius!  What's next? How about advising Jewish schools to introduce pork-sausage making in their cookery class; or Muslim schools to offer bacon "butties" at break-time? Why not offer free contraception to Roman Catholic schools, or invite Marilyn Manson to open an assembly at your local C of E primary! There seems to be a gross ignorance here of what tolerance actually is. Tolerance is "the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with." That does not eliminate our right to criticize ideology, or object to practises we find repugnant; but it does mean that people are entitled to be different. This government seems to think that "tolerance" means manipulating minorities through legislation and coercion until everybody thinks the same... and then we can tolerate them!

 And what exactly are "British Values?"  Shouldn't that be for Britons to decide, not the government? The whole thing smacks of McCarthy's "Un-American activities." But this is nothing new for Christians in Britain. Attacks against Christian values and the marginalisation of Christians themselves is becoming more and more prevalent in the sphere of education.

Here are a few examples.
Christian Values Under Attack
According to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Nurseries are at risk of being taken over by "religious extremists," (even though there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.) She announced that toddlers are to be taught “fundamental British values.” In the England, all three and four year olds, and some two year olds, can receive free part-time early education, which is mainly delivered by school-based nurseries or those run by private and voluntary sector organisations.  However nurseries that teach creationism as scientific fact will be ineligible for taxpayer funding, under the new rules.
Secular Marginalisation
The National Secular Society (NSS) said schools shouldn’t be allowed to admit pupils according to religion, and said schools should be stopped from holding assemblies “associated with a particular set of religious beliefs”.
Moral Marginalisation
Sex between 13-year-olds is “natural, healthy and a part of growing up”, claims a sex education resource funded by the Department for Education. The resource describes acceptable behaviour for 13 year olds as “having sexual or non-sexual relationships” with people of the same or the opposite sex (despite the legal age of consent being 16.)
The resource for teachers was created by pro-abortion sexual health charity Brook. I find this advice utterly outrageous, not just from a Christian moral point of view, but also because the government funded "resource" is telling teachers to endorse young people breaking the law!
Professor David Paton, an expert on teenage pregnancy rates, described the resource as “both misleading and potentially dangerous”.
Stonewall Attack
Ruth Hunt, the new head of homosexual pressure group Stonewall, says she wants to put pro-gay books into all preschools.
The pro-homosexual storybooks include titles like The Sissy Duckling and a book about two princes who fall in love and live happily ever after as King and King.
It also suggested that primary schoolchildren could act out such books as school plays.

No wonder many Christians in the UK are turning to Home Education as one of the few morally palatable alternatives left!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Don't Waste Time On Internet Ignorance

New Religious Icke-on?

As I sat drinking an Americano in one of Stockport's nicer Coffee shops, I grappled with Anselm of Canterbury's Ontological argument for the existence of God. Since most people are not typically sitting in Coffee houses up and down the UK, wrestling with theological/philosophical conundrums, I can see how this might sound a bit pompous. However, time is a precious resource and frankly, there are far worse things to do on a wet Wednesday afternoon!

"Dark" Disney.

On a table not too far away, I could hear a conversation between two people whom I would guess were in their late thirties, or early forties. The conversation revolved around whether or not the X-Men (Marvel comic book characters) were becoming less "dark" and if they were, what was the reason for it? The man leaned over to his female companion and in hushed tones explained how everything had changed since they had been taken over by Walt Disney. "No!" She exclaimed, obviously mortified. He looked to his left and right and then (in even quieter tones) began to explain how he had heard of a conspiracy about to be worked on the unsuspecting peoples of the world, with far reaching and cataclysmic consequences of fiendish skulduggery! As I looked down at Anselm's Proslogion, I began to reflect upon the mental and spiritual chasm between God's people and the people of this world. Not in terms of intelligence, but in terms of focus. Christians are taught to have a single eye; an eye that is solely and intently fixed on Jesus Christ.  We have neither the time, nor the inclination to follow the ways of worldly men. Now, one cannot express surprise at unsaved people being caught up with the things of the world; yet more and more, I am hearing professing Christians speaking in the same hushed tones, about the same/similar conspiracies with a kind of "one day you'll thank me for this," nod and wink.
Pink Pedagogue?

There have always been conspiracy theories. As Andrew Marr reveals in his book,"The Making of Modern Britain,"  during the First World War, an eccentric aviator called Pemberton Billings, claimed that "the Germans had a Black Book containing the names of 47,000 highly placed perverts and that the Kaiser's men were undermining Britain by luring her men into homosexual acts." Implausible though this may seem, it does not sound a lot different from many of today's outlandish internet theories, such as claims that Hitler was a Gay, Jewish, Satanist who "invented the state of Israel!"

Whilst we may laugh, it is sadly the case that many professing Christians are wasting their time on the internet, reading and then checking and verifying (then rereading, rechecking and reverifying) claims such as these in the belief that they have tapped into a vast Satanic conspiracy. There are sadly "Ministers" who are only too ready to exploit the gullible (Paul warns about men who "became fools" and women who became "silly women") giving sermons, seminars and entire conferences divulging the latest doomsday developments of diabolical intrigue.  I remember one of them preaching against triangles (about time, eh?!!) He said that wherever a triangle is seen, this is an indication of satanic activity, particularly when used by a church. Really? Do you think it might be possible that they were just looking for a simple geometric shape that symbolised the Trinity; and that maybe they thought the Greek letter "Delta" (the capital of which is a triangle) would be a fitting emblem? I have been astounded and horrified at the simplistic conclusions espoused by some conspiracy preachers. One said, "The Devil wants to bring opposites together, but God wants to keep 'em apart." Well, that's not what the Bible teaches, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) Those sound like opposites to me! I think it is highly dangerous, that Christians are being drawn into an area of fascination and interest, previously the domain of Branch Davidian supporters like Alex Jones and Theosophical, neo-occultists like David Icke! Is your eye still single?

There is something in the pride of man, in the corruption of his flesh that likes the idea of being privy to some "special knowledge." This is how the Occult works, the promise of knowing things that others are ignorant of can be a powerful temptation, "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." But is that how Christians should be "redeeming the time?"

Redeeming the time.

In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Do you spend as much time thinking about things that are true, lovely, of good report etc. as you do thinking about the Illuminati? Are you as much an expert on Free Grace, as you are on Freemasonry? Please answer honestly.

Study the Bible, not the internet.

As I prepared to finish my coffee and leave, I overheard the woman say to the man, "Well, that's just what someone has said on the internet, we've no real way of proving that." How true, yet question the validity of the conspiracy and you become part of it. How clever the devil is! As the man got up to leave, he nodded in agreement with the woman. Very occasionally, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

Paul Jennings.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Once Saved Always Saved, Does It Make Sense?

“Calvinists, who deny that salvation can ever be lost, reason on the subject in a marvellous way. They tell us, that no virgin’s lamp can go out; no promising harvest be choked with thorns; no branch in Christ can ever be cut off from unfruitfulness; no pardon can ever be forfeited, and no name blotted out of God’s book! They insist that no salt can ever lose its savour; nobody can ever “receive the grace of God in vain”; “bury his talents”; “neglect such great salvation”; trifle away “a day of grace”; “look back” after putting his hand to the gospel plough. Nobody can “grieve the Spirit” till He is “quenched,” and strives no more, nor “deny the Lord that bought them”; nor “bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Nobody, or body of believers, can ever get so lukewarm that Jesus will spew them out of His mouth.

“They use reams of paper to argue that if one ever got lost he was never found. John 17:12; that if one falls, he never stood. Rom. 11:16-22 and Heb. 6:4-6; if one was ever “cast forth,” he was never in, and “if one ever withered,” he was never green. John 15:1-6; and that “if any man draws back,” it proves that he never had anything to draw back from. Heb. 10:38,39; that if one ever “falls away into spiritual darkness,” he was never enlightened. Heb. 6:4-6; that if you “again get entangled in the pollutions of the world,” it shows that you never escaped. 2 Pet 2:20; that if you “put salvation away” you never had it to put away, and if you make shipwreck of faith, there was no ship of faith there!! In short they say: If you get it, you can’t lose it; and if you lose it you never had it. May God save us from accepting a doctrine that must be defended by such fallacious reasoning!”


( John Wesley, in A. M. Hills, Fundamental Christian Theology: A Systematic Theology (1931), Vol. II, pp.280?-281; cited in Daniel D. Corner, The Believer’s Conditional Security: Eternal Security Refuted (3rd ed., 2000), pp.673-674.)



Monday, 4 August 2014

Arminius on the Authority of the Bible.

Jacob Arminius
The rule of Theological Verity [truth] is not two-fold, one Primary and the other Secondary; but it is one and simple, the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptures are the rule of all Divine Verity, from themselves, in themselves, and through themselves: And it is a rash assertion that "they are indeed the rule, but only when understood according to the meaning of the [Belgic] Confession of the Dutch Churches, or when explained by the interpretation of the Heidelberg Catechism." No writing composed by men -- by one man, by few men, or by many -- (with the exception of the Holy Scriptures) is either "credible of itself," or "of itself deserving of implicit credence," and, therefore, is not exempted from an examination to be instituted by means of the Scriptures.

It is a thoughtless assertion that "the Confession and Catechism are called in question when they are subjected to examination:" For they have never been placed beyond the hazard of being called in doubt, nor can they be so placed. It is tyrannical and Popish to bind the consciences of men by human writings [of which the Dutch, Dortian Calvinists were overtly guilty] and to hinder them from being submitted to a legitimate examination under what pretext soever such tyrannical conduct is adopted.[1]

The authority of the word of God, which is comprised in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, lies both in the veracity of the whole narration, and of all the declarations, whether they be those about things past, about things present, or about those which are to come; and in the power of the commands and prohibitions, which are contained in the Divine word. Both of these kinds of authority can depend on no other than on God, who is the principal Author of this word; both because He is Truth without suspicion of falsehood, and because He is of Power invincible. On this account, the knowledge alone that this word is Divine is obligatory on our belief and obedience; and so strongly is it binding that this obligation can be augmented by no external authority.[2]

In what manner or respect soever the church may be contemplated, she can do nothing to confirm this authority: For she also is indebted to this word for all her own authority; and she is not a church unless she have previously exercised faith in this word as being divine, and have engaged to obey it. Wherefore, in any way to suspend the authority of the Scriptures on the church is to deny that God is of sufficient veracity and supreme power, and that the church herself is a church.[3]

[1] James Arminius, "Certain Articles to be Diligently Examined and Weighed," The Works of Arminius, the London Edition, three volumes, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 2:706.

[2] Arminius, Disputation VI: "On the Authority and Certainty on the Holy Scriptures," 2:324-35.

[3] Ibid., 325.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Did Emergent Church start in C of E, Sheffield?!

The Nine O'Clock Service was a youth-oriented alternative Christian worship service conceived in the wake of a 1985 John Wimber Signs and Wonders conference in Sheffield, in 1986. At St Thomas' Church in Crookes, Sheffield, United Kingdom  a group of Christian musicians and artists wanted to "do something different," and experimented with light, sound and projections to ambient music. The service, and the group associated with it, grew to national prominence, but was shut down in 1995 following allegations of running a cult within the established church and sexual and emotional abuse. How could a respectable and established institution like the Church of England, have become embroiled in a sex scandal, a destructive cult and virtually invent what we would today call, "The Emergent Church?"
Beginning as a simple alternative format service under the leadership of Chris Brain, the group responsible for it developed a leadership structure that was endorsed by St Thomas' church leadership. The average age of the members was 24 for much of NOS's life. The membership was significantly from non-church backgrounds.
Starting with about 10 people who worked on designing and creating the services, the congregation grew to almost 600 members while resident at St Thomas' Church. Main themes included care for the planet and concern about its abuse, simple lifestyle and development of relationships with non-churched people.
By 1988 the Bishop of Sheffield sanctioned the moving of the Nine O'Clock Service to a new site at Ponds Forge Rotunda in the centre of Sheffield. At the same time Chris Brain underwent training to become a Church of England priest. The Planetary Mass at Pond's Forge was marked by both bold liturgical experimentation and naive hopefulness. The suspended Roman Catholic priest and American Dominican theologian Matthew Fox was consulted. Fox visited the NOS team and was so impressed, that he took many of these ideas back to the States, where he further developed them in the mid 1990s.

The number of community members stopped growing and service attendance plateaued at about 300. A significant practical weakness in terms of duty of care was the lack of accountability for NOS and its absence from diocesan accountability. This was allowed because of its perceived international significance, which in the end came to nothing. Plans for communities elsewhere were in talks.
In 1995 a number of complaints began to surface of sexual abuse by Chris Brain on women in the group. After an investigation by the Diocese of Sheffield the group was shut down in August 1995. The Bishop of Sheffield demanded Brain's resignation after he confessed to having sexual relationships with young women in the congregation. There were also calls from former members of the congregation that he be defrocked. The Archbishop of York banned Brain from acting as an ordained priest. Initially refusing to step down, Brain eventually resigned in November 1995, the week before a documentary on the abuse scandal was aired. He then checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. The Diocese of Sheffield, through a seconded pastoral team led by Rachel Ross, the Reverend Andrew Teal and the Reverend Peter Craig-Wild, attempted to manage the pastoral care both of Brain and members of the community wounded by the scandal. A remnant of the community continued to meet, under different leadership, for some years afterwards in Sheffield.
What lessons can be learned from such a disaster? Primarily, for any church leadership, it should be that simply filling church buildings, regardless of the methodology we use, is a very dangerous route to take. Embracing modern culture and recklessly abandoning Biblical means for evangelism may fill a church building, but at what cost?