the newsletter of Solas Centre for Public Christianity February 2013
© 2012 Solas - Centre for Public Christianity, 4 St. Peter’s Street, Dundee DD1 4JJ. Phone: +44(0)1382 525021, Email: email@example.com
Hope & Glory? What a great country! Turn-of-the-year reviews have been basking in the glory of Olympic success and royal Jubilee. To win 65 medals at the Olympic Games and 120 in the Paralympic Games, and come behind only the US and China in both, is a remarkable achievement for our relatively small United Kingdom.
Written by David J. Randall, Solas Trustee
And as for the Queen’s Jubilee – what a wonderful time of celebration that was. I’ve just watched footage of the Thames Pageant, with a choir sailing along on a barge and singing out (undaunted by pouring rain) ‘Land of hope and glory’.
“It’s a country where one in three children live in single-parent households and it is estimated that family breakdown costs the country more than is spent on its defence budget. ”
Such reviews might give the impression of a country on the crest of the wave, but of course there’s another side of British life, isn’t there? This is also a land where poverty rules for an increasing number and where many, especially among the young, find life so pointless and frustrating that they turn to anti-social action and rioting. The number of (especially young) people taking their own lives has risen. Almost half of babies are now born to unmarried women. It’s a country where one in three children live in single-parent households and it is estimated that family breakdown costs the country more than is spent on its defence budget.
It’s also a country where our governments, in defiance of the declared will of the people who elected them, are planning to ‘redefine’ marriage (as if it was theirs to do with as they choose). Even apart from arguments about morality, they steadfastly resist all warnings that such moves will lead to otherwise law-abiding and responsible citizens losing their jobs and facing criminal proceedings. So, there are two sides to the picture of life in our time. It’s like the wheat and the weeds growing side by side (Matthew 13:25). The way Jesus put it is that ‘while everyone was sleeping’ an enemy came and sowed seeds among the wheat – which may cause us to ask questions about the weakness or complacency of Christians heretofore. But if there is presently a shaking of the foundations, what we can do in the face of it? In Psalm 11, David resists the advice to withdraw (‘flee like a bird to your mountain’) and insists rather that he will continue to bank on the God who reigns in heaven and whose day of reckoning will come (the day when the wheat and the tares will finally be separated).
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The call is for God’s people not to withdraw from life in despair or hopelessness, but to seek to be salt and light even in a decaying and dark society. Our country desperately needs to turn back to the Lord. Commenting on the recent census analysis, Melanie Phillips has referred to those who rejoice that (as they think) Christianity is ‘on the way out’: ‘Well, this is tantamount to rejoicing that Britain and western civilisation are on the way out’! She went on to refer to the unrepresentative elites in government and public life who view Christianity as an embarrassment or worse, and, although not a Christian herself (she is Jewish), she wrote, ‘Without this particular religious underpinning, our society will lose “Without this the moral bonds that instil respect and care for other particular religious human beings . . . Without that culture, our society underpinning, our would be a savage and uncivilised place, governed by society will lose the moral bonds that instil selfishness, self-centredness and narcissism.’
respect and care for other human beings ”
She regards it as ‘not surprising that the alarming slide in Christian belief has gone hand in hand with both the relentless coarsening and brutalisation of our culture and the progressive flight from rationality’. Obviously non-believers can act morally and considerately, but the question arises as to where their values come from. This view has been succinctly expressed in an article in The Briefing: ‘The west is post-Christian, not post-something else.’ As Jesus said (translated into Scots by Professor of Greek, William L. Lorimer): ‘Ilkane at hears thir biddins o mine and dis them is like a forethochtie man at biggit his houss on rock. On dang the renn, and the spates cam doun, an the winds they blew an blaudit yon houss: but it fellna, because its founds wis set i the rock. But ilkane at hears thir biddins o mine an dis-them-na is like a fuilish chiel at biggit his houss on saund. On dang the renn, and the spates cam doun, an the winds they blew and blattert yon houss; an doun it fell, an sic a stramash as that wis!’ For those who need it translated into English, it’s found in Matthew 7:24-27, and as Jesus said in closing the parable of the wheat and the tares, ‘He who has ears, let him hear’.
Defending the truth in Lyon Jonah Haddad Who would have guessed that a simple invitation would incite such laughter, sneers, and mocking? Who would have imagined that an invitation could provoke in its recipient a rebuttal so passionate that he would physically shake with zeal? Who would have fathomed that a simple call to think would be met with the iconoclastic and book-burning fervour so indicative of a less civilized time? When the Evangelical Reformed Church of Lyon (Église Réformée Évangélique de Lyon) organized a series of community apologetics talks and printed thousands of flyers to publicize these events, opposition is Page 2
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exactly what we expected. An invitation to reflect on life’s ultimate questions is not always welcome, especially when the answers to those questions reveal the realities of the human fallen condition and our need for repentance. In the autumn of 2011, our church hosted the first of an ongoing series of evangelistic talks intended to provoke reflection on the basic truth-claims of the Christian faith. For our first event we addressed the historical reliability of the Bible – a book that is viewed by the average Frenchman as little more than an outdated superstition manual. The success of this first event, which attracted at least a handful of curious nonbelievers, led us to follow up with presentations on faith and science, the existence of God, the end of our world, and the problem of evil. At the core of each discourse is the proclamation of the gospel message and an invitation to each visitor to leave with a free Bible to read at their leisure. Our desire is to create a non-threatening environment where people can come and hear a 20-25 minute discourse on One of the outreach event posters translated: “The God of the Old Testament - Cruel Tyrant and Genocidal?” a given subject. This is followed by a brief pause where the audience is encouraged to write down any relevant questions using paper and pens provided by the church. The moderator of the event then presents the most pertinent questions or solicits questions from the crowd. In this way, those present are encouraged to respectfully join in the debate and share any objections to which they would like an answer. Again, 20-25 minutes are given to the question time, which is followed by some concluding remarks and an invitation to stay for a time of refreshments and further conversation. The biggest challenge we face is in promoting each event in a way that appeals to its intended audience. Printed flyers, which make up the main bulk of our publicity, must contain a provocative title and appealing format. These are distributed in strategic parts of the city. If our theme is the historicity of the Gospels then we will do our distribution among students of the liberal arts who may have an interest in the subject by nature of their own studies. Likewise, the theme of faith and science might have a greater appeal among physics students. In December of 2012, when we presented a talk on the Mayan calendar and the end of the world, we distributed invitations in neighbourhoods where esoteric bookstores and occultism are commonplace. But in spite of these efforts, the response has been minimal. A thousand personal invitations yield little more than a few responses. Only the most adventurous will For many Frenchman, endeavor to make their way into the rented basement room where we the mere idea of host these events. The visibility of our subterranean meeting room has Evangelical Christianity incites images of proven less than ideal.
deranged American religious fanatics...
Further challenges include finding speakers who are credentialed, qualified and at ease exchanging ideas with sceptical audience members. We want our conference lecturers to be native French speakers who can relate both linguistically and culturally to their listeners. For many Frenchmen, the mere idea of Evangelical Christianity incites images of deranged American religious fanatics, and anything we can do to break such stereotypes (as unjustified as they might be) helps
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convey the message of God’s grace at the core of each event. Our audience must see authentic French believers who desire to give a reasoned defence for the hope they have in Christ Jesus. Over the last eighteen month our list of contacts has grown and our supply of Bibles has diminished, and though we are yet to see a profession of faith made by any of the inquisitive sceptics who have come to debate our message, we are hopeful for what God has already done. The good news is that thousands have been invited to give Christianity a second thought, dozens have heard a reasoned defence of the truth of the gospel, and a few have come back for more. One young man is seen occasionally at church services, another has continued the dialogue through e-mail and conversation with us at a local café. Through all of these exchanges our prayer is that we would be faithful in challenging falsehood and in proclaiming the gospel. For the rest, we must trust God.
Director’s Report David Robertson
November’s annual Solas ‘Out of the Silent Church’ Conference was superb. I won’t give a whole report on it (that is elsewhere) but let me make a couple of observations. I felt it was the best one yet in terms of it being integrated and realistic. One man coming out said to me, ‘I’m not quite sure what that was – worship, teaching, mercy ministries, evangelism, apologetics, fellowship, art – but it was brilliant.’ The other is that for me I was very glad to be there – given that at the previous year’s I was in a coma! We are already planning for next year – more details to follow. Since then I have spoken at Abertay CU, at a school in Edinburgh, at DNA in Aberdeen and, by the time you read this, at Cornhill in London and taking part in a debate in Glasgow Uni, DV. Glasgow Uni CU had some difficulty in getting an opponent for me (debating The God Delusion) because some of the secularists were encouraging people NOT to get involved. My favourite quote was from the man who declared, ‘Have nothing to do with him because he is a religious homophobe extremist… he knows nothing and he will win.’ Unpack the psychology behind that! One of the reasons we debate is not to win arguments but to be able to present the Good News of Jesus Christ. Continue to pray “One of the as we get these opportunities. One major area of concern for Solas is education. In one school I was in some teachers are furious at any kind of Christian involvement and do their best to disrupt and prevent. The Christian teachers (and other non-Christians who are less militant) find this difficult. But there is no doubt that education is a key battlefield. We need to pray and act about this. Solas is currently thinking about how we can develop this.
reasons we debate is not to win arguments but to be able to present the Good News of Jesus Christ. ”
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Upcoming engagements: • • • • • • •
Feb 21st – Banchory ‘Café Controversial’ March 2nd-3rd – Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in Bangor March 16th – Navigators in Glasgow March 23rd – The Joshua Project, Hillbank Church, Dundee April 13th – Free Church Spring Conference, Aviemore April 20th – Porterbrook, Edinburgh April 29th – Edinburgh Bible College
Finally, the shake-up in church and society continues. Both the British and Scottish governments are insisting on pushing through same-sex ‘marriage’ as quickly as possible. Sadly, when they succeed it will not end there. Further regressions and complications will arise. It has also been very disappointing to see a leading ‘evangelical’ in England, Steve Chalke, speak out in support of SSM. It was no surprise to those who have observed Steve Chalke’s ‘journey’ to see him go this route. It is more disturbing that, in seeking to confuse and emotionally blackmail the church, he has been aided and abetted by other Christians who now seem to think that this is an area of Christian teaching which is up for grabs. It is little wonder that the world does not listen to the church when we speak with such double standards. That is why Solas seeks to present the teaching of Jesus Christ to both Christians and non-Christians. We must not speak with an uncertain sound. Yours in Christ, David
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Conference Media We hope you found the Confident Christianity Conference helpful if you were able to come. Why not share the conference with other members of your fellowship? By purchasing the DVD set you could run the talks again at a series of midweek events. The Powerpoint presentations are all recorded clearly on the DVD and the talks would be an excellent discussion starter for either home group or fellowship events. If you missed the conference altogether and would find it difficult to find time to watch the DVDs, then you could buy the audio and listen in the car or whilst you jog! The talks are available in a variety of formats either as discs or downloads. Order online at: http://www.solas-cpc.org/index. php?option=com_content&view=article&id =145&Itemid=5
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Published on Feb 14, 2013