Category Archives: small thoughts

On controversy

Here are 3 posts on 3 controversial issues. Read with an open heart and a critical mind:

on having a dual-practice credobaptist church

on being accused of being ‘new perspective’ in Sydney

on the defining features of New Calvinism

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Christian suffering in India

Watch this:

I used this passage to do what he said at the end:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return;
when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

(1 Peter 2)

How to look good naked

Verse 1
God gave me the sunshine,
Then showed me my lifeline
I was told it was all mine,
Then I got laid on a ley line
What a day, what a day,
And your Jesus really died for me
Then Jesus really tried for me

Verse 2
UK and entropy,
I feel like its ****in’ (beeped out) me
Wanna feed off the energy,
Love living like a deity
What a day, one day,
And your Jesus really died for me
I guess Jesus really tried for me

Bridge:
Bodies in the Bodhi tree,
Bodies making chemistry
Bodies on my family,
Bodies in the way of me
Bodies in the cemetery,
And that’s the way it’s gonna be

Chorus:
All we’ve ever wanted
Is to look good naked
Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection,
I want perfection

Verse 3:
Praying for the rapture,
‘Cause it’s stranger getting stranger
And everything’s contagious
It’s the modern middle ages
All day every day
And if Jesus really died for me
Then Jesus really tried for me

Outro:
Jesus didn’t die for you, what do you want?
(I want perfection)
Jesus didn’t die for you, what are you on?
Oh Lord
(Jesus really died for you) Ohh
(Jesus really died for you)
(Jesus really died for you) Ohh

Above are the lyrics to Robbie Williams’ new single, Bodies. I have to confess I was a keen Robbie Williams fan back in the day. Anyway I thought this was an interesting song – it seems to show a serious head-on collision between 21st century British celeb culture and Christianity.

Perhaps the most striking thing is that Robbie is singing ‘Jesus really died for me.’ But in the second verse it’s ‘if Jesus died for me’. The song ends with the question, ‘Jesus didn’t die for you, what do you want?’.

What’s going on? Is Robbie a born again Christian now or is he singing about a flirtation with Jesus that he ultimately rejects?

It’s difficult to say, but it’s clear that there’s some kind of struggle with Jesus. Initially things look good (V1 and 2), but in V3 the strangeness of Christianity becomes clear (the ‘rapture’ is the idea that some Christians hold that they’ll be ‘raptured’ up to heaven at some point, leaving what’s left of the world to everyone else). It’s true that in many ways being a conservative Christian is a bit like living in the modern middle ages. You think men should be leaders, capital punishment’s God-given, governments should be submitted to, not necessarily voted in, etc. That’s a shock to most modern people’s system.

There’s two ways of hearing the chorus. The first one is that Robbie is exemplifying the concerns of modern pop culture, which, believably, is all about wanting to ‘look good naked’. Robbie wants a perfect body, and he doesn’t have it, hence the struggle with Jesus, who offers his followers little in the way of physical perfection now (at least that’s the feedback I get when I ask the ladies!). Ultimately, Jesus can’t heal our narcissism.

The other way of seeing it – which I just thought of while writing the last para – is that Robbie’s referring to the effects of the Fall, which we happened to be looking at in our bible study group at church a couple of weeks ago. After Adam and Eve disobey God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge, they realise they are naked and hide when God comes:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

(Genesis 3)

On this view, the human condition is all about wanting to good naked, but realising that you don’t – that you can’t stand naked and unashamed in front of God. Even as you look at yourself in the mirror you know you’re not up to much, and that it would take perfection to sort you out. But that’s what Jesus provides: a hope of being able to stand before our Creator, knowing that because of Jesus we are perfect in him.

Adam and Eve

And in Christ, there is even the hope of having perfect bodies:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

(Philippians 3)

So maybe Robbie is telling us how Jesus deals with the central problem of pop culture. Rather than Jesus being defeated by our narcissism, as it fails it drives us to him.

I don’t know how honest this song is, and the ending is as ambiguous as the rest of it, with backing singers repeating ‘Jesus really died for you’. But I pray that Robbie, and his generation, would have the humility to recognise that we are not able to ‘look good naked’, and to trust in Christ, who will one day transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.

That’s my effort at working out what he’s talking about – thoughts? I have no idea what the bridge is about…

All the better for it

I was just sitting on the bench in the garden having lunch, and some thoughts about brokenness and fixing occurred to me.

You see, the bench used to be broken, and looked like a sad tangle of spars. But soon after I moved in we managed to fit all the pieces back together, and drill some screws into it. It’s almost as good as new, and I take an almost absurd pleasure in sitting on it.

It’s the same with my bike. I really enjoy the freedom of cycling around, but for a couple of months I’ve been stranded by a puncture. I finally got round to replacing the inner tube last week. After finishing the process of taking off the wheel, removing the tyre, pumping up the new tube and replacing the wheel, it feels better than ever to be rolling round East London.

It’s like that in the Bible too. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories about lost things being found. A shepherd loses a sheep. A widow loses a coin. A father loses a son. But in each story, what was lost is found. And because it is found, life is better than ever. The shepherd calls his mates to say ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ The widow calls her girlfriends to say ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ The father celebrates and kills a fattened calf, saying to his other son ‘It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’

When what we lost is restored to us, life is better than ever. Jesus said ‘there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than 99 righteous persons who need no repentance’.

We all know the hurt broken things can cause. Broken homes and broken relationships look ugly and leave us stranded.

But Christians know that God is a fixer. They know that he’s remaking the world, slotting every broken spar into place. When he’s finished, life will be better than ever. Paul writes to the Romans:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

When broken things are fixed, it’s a beautiful thing. Whatever happens to the broken things of this world, one day the whole world will be fixed. And it will be all the better for it.

Our freedom is sweeter because we were stranded. Our rest will be more satisfying because it was lost.

And God will rejoice in a people who are his, who once were dead, but now are alive. Who were lost, but now are found.

What theology is, and what it is not

Good quote here from John Frame (author of an excellent introduction to systematic theology):

We need a clearer understanding of what theology is. Many, I think, regard theology as discovering something within the Bible, sometimes called a “system.” On this view, the challenge of theology is to see who can reproduce this system in the fullest detail. In our circles, many assume that Calvin and the Westminster Standards did it best; they got the system right. So our theology must be a reproduction of theirs. This concept of theology encourages, I think, the “golden age” view of things and the necessity of holding rigidly and in detail to past models.

Let me suggest instead that the work of theology is the work of application. It takes the Scriptures and uses them to answer our present questions and to meet present needs. This is Paul’s concept of doctrine: teaching that is sound (health-giving) (1 Tim. 1:10, 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:3, Tit. 1:9, 2:1). Thus, as Jones says, its focus is upon the present and future, not only the past. And so theology is bound to the mission of the church.

Read the whole thing.

(As an aside, Frame really needs to start publishing these articles directly to his blog!)

Well, what are friends for?

The mark of true godliness is an anxiety to have our faults pointed out.

Charles Bridges

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27