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Bethel Presbyterian Church


Vox Christiana

In an age when the voices of secularism and atheism are clamouring for attention – at least in the Western world – the Christian Voice [Vox Christiana] is increasingly drowned out. But it still speaks and this Blog is intended to speak into the issues of our day, in both the spiritual and secular spheres, from a Christian point of view.

17:02.16: New Church Worker/Evangelist for Bethel
12.12.15: Happy Christmas Michaelston!
05.08.15: Making Sense of our Humanity
21.07.15: Is the Church past its Sell-By Date?
04.07.15: Wimbledon Sundays
12.06.15: The Cost of Caring
09.06.15: Anxious or Depressed?
14.05.15: How Secure is Your Home?
24.04.15: Who am I?
03.04.15: Jesus and the Theory of Everything
24.03.15: You've gotta Serve Somebody
14.03.15: Getting Perspective


17:02.16: New Church Worker/Evangelist for Bethel 

Bethel has just appointed Rev John Woolley as Church and Outreach worker for the Michaelston/Ely area. He joins us with a view to enabling the church to serve its local community more effectively.

John is originally from South London. He worked there as a teacher for several years before serving as an Evangelist with the London Embankment Mission for seven years. This brought him into contact with a wide variety of needs – both social and spiritual – and gave him many opportunities to be involved in caring for people in a very diverse part of the capital.

In 1995 John left the Mission to become the Pastor of East Street Baptist Church in the Walworth area of London. He worked there until moving to Wales in 2003 to take on the ministry of a church in the Gabalfa area of Cardiff. During that time he has been a Board member of the Evangelical Magazine of Wales, as well as being involved with the work of Coram Deo, an agency that supports church-planting, conference and publishing work in Italy.

John’s role in Bethel, in part, will be to work with existing church activities that cater for different needs in the local area. These include the Tiny Tunes – a Friday morning music group for parents and toddlers that is held in the church – and the Explorers kids’ club for primary school children, held on Friday evenings. Both of these activities are offered at no charge and have no waiting list.

He also hopes to explore ways to bring the church to the community and give people an opportunity to find out about the Christian faith. It is hoped there will be a range of events laid on in the church as well as in community venues that will be open to the public.

The Bethel congregation is excited by the prospect of building stronger links with the local community and better serve the needs of people in the local area.

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12.12.15: Happy Christmas Michaelston!

The festive season is upon us once again and Bethel Church would simply like to wish you and all the residents of Michaelston/Ely a very happy Christmas!

To those who are sad and feel the loneliness of this time of year we wish you happiness. To those who are troubled and fearful because of all that’s happening in the world and in your life, we pray you will know peace. To those for whom financial crisis has brought extra pressures and worries, we trust that you will find contentment. To those who are disillusioned by the hype and hollowness of the season, we hope you will find reality.

For those for whom Christmas is merely Xmas – who try to make it mean something through office parties, drinks and spending; but never think of God – we encourage you to use this Christmas to see it in a new light. Come along to one of our Christmas events in church and hear the message that lies behind what still is a Christian festival.

All the things we would so much like you to enjoy – peace and joy and a prosperity that is more than money can buy – are found in the gift God gave the world at the first Christmas. He gave us Jesus Christ to be our Saviour. His birth on earth was greeted by a hymn from heaven: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom God’s favour rests!’ – That’s the good news of Christmas!

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05.08.15: Making Sense of our Humanity

‘What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!’ So says Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play. He was simply expressing the fact that for all the faults and failings of our humanity, there is something that makes us unique. Man is not, as Desmond Morris once suggested, just The Naked Ape.

The Bible very quickly makes it clear that human beings are indeed unique and special. That is so primarily because they were created by God (and are not merely an accident of evolution). And it is true also because human beings – both male and female – were made in the image of God. They are equal in his sight and they were made for the highest purpose in his world and universe. As soon as they were created he gave them the mandate to explore and care for the whole of his creation.

The Bible also shows that human beings could only function as they were meant to function when they were in relationship with God. We were never meant to be autonomous creatures. Our highest joys and deepest pleasures in life are bound up with living in harmony with God. So getting the best out of life could never come through our ‘going it alone’ as a race but living under God’s wise and loving direction. That leads to real freedom. 

If we put all this together, several things follow. If human beings are made by God and made for relationship with God, then we actually need God to find fulfilment in life. But it also means that if God made us, then we are accountable to him and must one day meet him. If we are to get the best from life, we need to know him as our Father and our friend!

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21.07.15: Is the Church past its Sell-By Date?

If we observe the trends and look at current statistics, things do not look good for the church in Britain today. Attendance is declining, and its influence is on the wane. On the other hand, the new atheists and those who hang on their coat tails have more than found their voice and they are gaining an audience in almost every sphere of life. It is tempting to think the church is past its sell by date.

It might sound strange, coming from a churchman, but the apparent ‘decline’ of Christianity in the West may not be a bad thing. But that is because not all that claims the name ‘Christian’ is really what it says it is. Far better that what is ‘Christian’ in name only evaporate and disappear, than be a distraction to what is real. Too much Western ‘Christianity’ is nothing more than a Christianised version of Western culture as opposed to what is actually found in the Bible.

The curious thing about these declining trends is that despite them all, people from all kinds of backgrounds keep turning up at churches looking for answers to those big issues that always seem to lurk just under the surface in life. ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where have I come from?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ (Not to mention the, ‘Where am I going?’ question that tends to get put off until it’s almost too late.) It is perhaps Prof. Richard Dawkins’ greatest irritation in life that despite all the answers he and his fellow neo-atheists have provided, people still believe there is a God. They still want to hear what the Bible has to say and the challenge for churches (if they are to survive) is to actually present its message in a way that shows it’s got something to say.

Perhaps ironically the appeal of the Bible’s message has nothing to do with its being popular, because it finds its focus in the cross. Not the cross as a piece of jewelry or a religious symbol; but the real and ugly cross on which Jesus Christ died almost two thousand years ago. The message of the cross has had and continues to have an almost inexplicable spiritual magnetism that draws people to put their trust in Jesus Christ from every corner of the cultural universe. How can that be so? 

The answer comes in two parts. The first being that the whole purpose of what Jesus did on the cross was to deal with our alienation as human beings. It is not just that we are in so many ways estranged from other people and even from ourselves, but that at the deepest level we are estranged from God. On the cross Jesus dealt with that estrangement, as St. Peter puts it, ‘to bring you to God’.

The other thing that gives the cross its unusual appeal is that, unlike other religious messages, it is not about what we must do for God to get back to him, but what he has done for us to get us there. He offers a restored relationship, not as something we can earn, but as a gift he freely gives – all on the basis of what Christ secured through his death.

We live in a fragmented and fragmenting world. Yet all over the world – and throughout the UK – people are discovering there is a way to reverse that fragmentation and it begins by understanding what happened on the cross. As long as the church sticks with the message of the cross, it will always have something to say.

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04.07.15: Wimbledon Sundays

 Towards the end of last week I heard a priceless comment from one of the senior grounds men of the Queen’s Club, Wimbledon. A BBC interviewer had asked him why no tennis was played on the middle Sunday of the Wimbledon fortnight and he answered, ‘Because it [the grass] has to rest on Sunday: it needs to be well watered to recover and be refreshed for the week ahead.’

When I heard his response I couldn’t help but think on the one hand how right he was; but on the other, that the very same principle applies to players, staff and spectators as well. They too need to recover and be refreshed after six days on and around the courts in order to be ready for the week ahead in the tournament. But more than that, this pearl of wisdom the television reporter latched onto with some interest was anything but novel, but simply echoed the ancient wisdom of the fourth commandment.

It was hard not to sense the rather tragic irony of the fact that this remark was made in the face of the huge pressure that is being brought to bear on all sectors of society to enshrine Sunday as the high day and holy day of sport. This individual from within the world of sport (who was speaking, not from any Christian perspective, but purely from within the sporting community) saw the need of rest for the grass on which his particular sport is played.

I have spent the past 30 plus years of my life as a pastor observing and responding to the lifestyle choices people make and the often unintended consequences to which they lead for themselves and their children. In the midst of this the area of Sunday sport stands out as carrying more potential for harm than people realise. Activities that are meant to be recreational and relaxing too often end up being all consuming and corrosive both to the individuals concerned and to their family life as well.

The keeper of the grounds at Wimbledon spoke more wisdom than he could have imagined during that interview. If the grass on which our beloved sport is played needs to rest one day in seven, how much more the sportsmen and women (as well as their kids) the same.

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12.06.15: The Cost of Caring

The second week in June was National Carers’ Week: an opportunity to raise public awareness of the 7 million or so people in the UK who are caring for family members with health needs. 

As with so many things in life, the idea of the ‘cost’ associated with caring is often portrayed in financial terms. (The Guardian newspaper estimated carers represent a saving of around £119 billion to the national economy 4 years ago; so today’s figures will be incrementally higher.) But is that the only way to measure the price tag attached to caring?

You only have to ask anyone who has found themselves in that role to realise there is a far greater cost involved. To try to quantify that cost merely in terms of its monetary value would be a grave oversight.

There are all kinds of sacrifice bound up with caring for others. At a very basic level it means a loss of personal freedom. Time spent caring for those who cannot care for themselves means less time available for personal pursuits. (The statutory 15 minutes for personal care visits provided by local authorities is somewhat derisory by comparison.)

On top of this there is the cost to a wider social life, as well as the emotional cost of being involved with needs that never go away and usually are getting worse not better. And this is not to mention the physical, psychological and even spiritual weariness that is an almost inevitable component of the ‘care package’ freely provided to loved-ones in need.

The amazing thing, however, is that despite the hidden cost of caring one rarely hears the carers complaining. And the reason for this is that theirs is a labour of love. The people they care for are people who really matter to them. Whether they are ageing parents, disabled children (old as well as young), or family members who struggle with chronic physical or mental health issues, they are family.

The larger challenge, however, is the fact that the idea of ‘family’ has been so eroded, redefined or simply abandoned in recent times that growing numbers of people in need simply have no ‘family’ in the traditional sense of the word to look after them. Who, then, steps in to care for them?

Sometimes it comes in the form of foster families; but the supply of such families is struggling to meet the demand of the numbers of children and young people needing their care. All kinds of agencies, such as Age Concern or Scope, provide an excellent service to particular sectors in the community. But historically it is actually the church that has played the longest-standing role as carer for those who cannot care for themselves.

From the earliest times of their history in the Roman world, Christians stepped in to care when families and the State abandoned people in need. From babies abandoned on town dumps and women abandoned by their husbands to the sick and dying abandoned to the ravages of plague, the church stepped in to look after them.

The motivation and reason behind such intervention is rooted, not in the fact that Christians are ‘nice’ people, but in what it means to be a Christian and belong to the church.

In the Old Testament, we are told God cares for the alien, the fatherless and foreigners seeking asylum among them. The God of the Bible is a God who cares and he expects his people to do so as a reflection of his character. Interestingly, it also says, ‘God sets the lonely in families’ (Psalm 68.6). That has to mean more than just the families into which they happen to have been born, but is a reference to the wider ‘family’ of God’s people on earth.

The ultimate proof of God’s love and care is seen in the price he was willing to pay to truly secure the future of people in need. He gave his Son, the Lord Jesus, for them. He ‘so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3.16).

With the rising challenge of care facing today’s generation, the church has an increasingly important part to play, not just in caring for people in need, but supporting and caring for carers as well.

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09.06.15: Anxious or Depressed?

A recent survey in the UK discovered that three in four of us either are, or have been anxious or depressed at some point in our life. Its authors also suggest that when the national or world economy situation worsens, these numbers inevitably go up.

There are many kinds of anxiety and depression and many different causes that lie behind them. It would be simplistic to try to lump them all together in a few short paragraphs like this. But there is a place for offering a few general observations on the problem.

The first would be that it seems that more people suffer in this way today than has normally been true in the past (except perhaps in times of war and national crisis). Despite all the good things we have built into life in our day to make it easier, it has actually become harder and more complicated. That would suggest that the peace and contentment we crave in life have more to do with our inner life than the outward circumstances on which we instinctively focus.

The second observation is this: our generation has chosen more deliberately than others to squeeze God out of life, yet statistics also suggest that people who are religious are less troubled by stress and anxiety than those who are not. Should this not raise a question in our minds with regard to the widespread rejection of religion in general and Christianity in particular in the Western world today?

These thoughts are meant to be nothing more than conversation-starters and if they do get one going, they strongly suggest there should be a place for some thoughts from the Bible factored in to how we discuss this issue. Mental and spiritual wellbeing are not unrelated.

Jesus says, ‘Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11.28). St. Paul says, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4.6-7). Why not think about these issues with the Bible in mind and talk it over with a friend?

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14.05.15: How Secure is Your Home?

Home-ownership for all who aspire to it, with the security associated with it, was a prominent issue in the recent General Election. Despite recent surveys that suggest a swing away from owning to renting (because the bottom rung of the property ladder is beyond many people’s reach), the dream of having ‘a place of my/our own’ lingers on. And even if renting is the preferred option, being able to rent long term is more preferable to having to relocate every six to twelve months.

Of course the idea of 'home' has much deeper associations than just the bricks and mortar around us, and a roof over us. It carries the notion of having somewhere to belong – a place where we are loved and accepted. It is perhaps with that thought in mind that we find the Bible using the language of home to help us understand the deepest needs of our soul.

The message of the Bible begins in a place where the human race was perfectly 'at home'. There was a real sense of peace, not just because the environment was stress-free, but because God was there with our first ancestors. He was there as Father to his children and his presence and acceptance meant more to them than anything in the world. But then the peace and tranquillity of that home was shattered because the children rebelled and God was forced to expel them from his presence (Genesis 3.23). The 'home' that God intended this world to be became a broken and an insecure home.

The good news is that God did not intend it to stay broken. Even as he spoke the words that would send them from his presence, God promised he would do something to bring people back into his family. He said that he would send someone to deal with the root of the problem of evil and rescue those whose lives had been ruined by it (Genesis 3.15). The person he sent was none other than his own eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus explained the ultimate purpose of his mission as being 'to prepare a place' for those who are his children (John 14.2) – an everlasting home where people would have never-ending peace. He was talking about the new heaven and earth that will one day replace this world and universe which has been ruined by a race in rebellion against its Maker (2Peter 3.13).

So the Bible talks about our natural life and the natural world around us in terms of a home that is not safe. Our bodies are like tents that must one day be dismantled in death (2Corinthians 5.1) and our world like a city which, by its very nature, simply cannot last forever (Hebrews 13.14). But in the same breath it tells us of a home that provides true security – the home we are brought into when God takes us back into a loving relationship with himself.

That happens when we stop depending on ourselves to make something of life and instead put our hope and confidence in Jesus as the Saviour God has sent. He himself says that he is the only way by which we come to God (John 14.6)and he is the one who gives us life in all its fullness (John 10.10).

When we come to know God in this way we suddenly find ourselves in an amazing new spiritual home. We can call God 'Our Father', Jesus becomes our elder brother, the Holy Spirit assures us of our new status as God’s ‘adopted children’ (Romans 8.15) and we discover the great number of brothers and sisters who together make up the family of God. We enter a home from which we can never be evicted and which can never be taken from us (Romans 8.31-39). It is the home of the everlasting love of God.

How secure is your home? – Not the house or flat you happen to be renting or buying, but your life and the little world in which you live? Could it be that it is crumbling all around you for a host of different reasons? God, through his Son Jesus Christ, offers you a true and lasting home – a place in his family – that he guarantees for time and for eternity.

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24.04.15: Who am I?

Apparently the most popular title for poems written by teenagers is: ‘Who am I?’ They’ve hit that stage of life when they begin to become aware of themselves and the world in which they live and it triggers an identity crisis – one that is best expressed in verse, not prose. The fact this same title doesn’t continue at the top of the popularity tables for adult poetry probably has more to do with adult honesty (or lack of it) than where our deepest struggles lie.

 Yet ‘Who am I?’ is the most natural question we could ever ask. It affects not only our sense of identity, but also our sense of security and purpose in life. So, if we really believe that the answer to the question is, ‘I am the result of a cosmic accident’ (as many do) then it’s hardly surprising that people have major issues over the meaning of life.

 If we let the Bible answer that question for us, we get a very different story. Far from being here by accident, our world and race exists because of the wise and loving purpose of God. And far from being mere sophisticated apes, human beings are made to be God’s children and enjoy him as Father and Friend in the world he has given us. But there is more to it: even though we as a race have managed to ruin these gifts God has given, he has not left us in our mess. He sent Jesus to rescue, restore and remake us.

 There is almost always a note of angst running through teenage ‘Who am I?’ compositions and it’s not hard to see why. For those, however, who put their faith in the Christ whom God has sent, angst gives way to peace!

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03.04.15: Jesus and the Theory of Everything

The dream of there being a ‘Theory of Everything’ is very much back in the news again. In part because the Large Hadron Collider at the heart of the CERN project on the French/Swiss border, is being fired up again with double power. But perhaps more so because Eddie Redmayne won this year’s best actor Oscar in his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. It is an idea that has fascinated not only great academics for centuries, but also ordinary people trying to make sense of the world we live in. There is a connectedness throughout the known universe that cries out for a coherent explanation.

There are many facets to this connectedness, but one that has fascinated scientists and philosophers alike has been the concept of ‘fine-tuning’. The fact the basic physical constants needed to sustain life in the universe are found only within a remarkably narrow band. And this range of constants involved is so complex that to account for it on the basis of mere probability goes well beyond the realm of credibility.

These observations have led scientists from all kinds of philosophical and religious backgrounds to conclude that behind the irreducible complexity of the universe there has to be some kind of intelligence. One that has designed it in such a way as to not only account for the origin of life, but also for the fact it is sustainable.

Not all scientists would suggest that such a claim requires us to believe there is a God behind it all. And, on the basis of logic on its own, they are correct in reaching that conclusion. There are other ways of explaining an intelligence behind the universe other than that of a deity – like that of alien design – but the problem with all of them is they have the effect of virtually deifying whatever the source of this super-intelligence might be.

Since this brief post is not intended to be a thesis on the subject, just a way of planting a thought, there is not space to explore it at length. But I do want to offer some brief reflections.

One is the observation that the ferocity with which some scientists, like Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, reject the possibility of a divine intelligence behind the finely tuned universe in which we live seems rather odd. It is as though their claim to objectivity in reasoning collapses at this point and gives way to unreasonable prejudice. St. Paul speaks about such an attitude as lying at the very heart of the human problem. We noted it in the last blog entry where Paul spoke about people who ‘suppress the truth’ (Romans 1.18) as a deliberate rather than a rational act of rejecting God.

Another is to note the Bible’s frequent references to the link between Jesus and the world and universe of which we are a part. That is, Jesus as the Son of God who took on our humanity and entered our world to join himself to our race and link himself to creation in a way that had never been true before his incarnation.

St. John tells us that he not only existed before the world was made, he was also at work in the act of creation itself (John 1.1-3). This echoes a rather enigmatic statement in the book of Proverbs that speaks about ‘Wisdom’ being God’s agent in creation (Proverbs 3.19-20) – often taken to be an allusion to the role of the God the Son in creation.

St. Paul adds another dimension to our understanding of the divine involvement in the world and universe. He speaks not only of God as Trinity as Creator of all things (Romans 11.36), but in particular of God the Son in the role he played and continues to play in the cosmos. He is not only the agent of creation, but also the One in whom ‘all things hold together’ (Colossians 1.16-17). A thought that is echoed in the letter to the Hebrews where it says, ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Hebrews 1.3).

In other words, the Bible presents a view of the cosmos which does not merely attribute its existence to the wisdom and work of a Creator God, but which also points to the ongoing, interested and intimate involvement of that God with all he has made. He is not the God of the 17th Century Deists who saw him as a cosmic Watchmaker who, having made the universe like an intricate timepiece, stepped away from it to watch it gradually run down and disintegrate. Instead he loves it in its entirety and is committed to its wellbeing. 

The fine-tuning of the universe speaks not merely of the intricacy of its origin, but also of how it is maintained by its Maker. He is not the absentee landlord of the cosmos, but its ever-present Caretaker.

Regardless of what a person may believe about how the world and universe came to be and how they manage to continue to exist, it requires faith. Whether it be faith in a theory or faith in a divine being. But the question every expression of faith must answer is whether or not it is reasonable. That is, does it take into account all the aspects of complexity – philosophical, moral and spiritual, as much as material – that confront us in the cosmic entity? It would be unreasonable to try and answer that question by completely excluding the Bible.

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24.03.15: You've gotta Serve Somebody

I’ve only heard Bob Dylan live on stage once. It was back in 1982 when he played in the Spectrum Arena in Philadelphia – home to the 76ers basketball team. It was a memorable evening, not least because it was during his Christian phase and he was not only playing great music, but also making some interesting comments on stage.

One of the songs included in his set that night was You’ve gotta Serve Somebody – the song from the album Slow Train Coming for which he had picked up a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocalist in 1979. Its lyrics are striking because they basically run through every permutation of what a person might be in life, but with the refrain,

           But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed; You’re gonna have to serve somebody                                     Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord; But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

No matter who you are and no matter what you do, Dylan says, you are serving somebody and that ‘somebody’ boils down to one of two options: either the devil or God.

Interestingly, the master of the protest song was not being original in this lyric – nor was he pretending to be. He may have phrased it with a twist to the wording and set in a provocative context, but he was actually reaching for an idea that is as old as the Bible and older again.

It is the fact that as human beings we are neither self-existent nor self-sufficient. More than that, there is something deeply embedded in the human psyche that makes us live for someone or something else in order to find our meaning and fulfilment in life. On the surface of things that can be anything from living for pleasure to living for work, living for family or living for self-gratification; but Dylan (and the Bible) want to make us realise that there is a layer to this that goes deeper again.

St. Paul speaks about it in his letter to the Romans where he talks about human beings – in response to the devil’s tempting power – having exchanged truth for a lie. He puts it this way:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is for ever praised. Amen. (Romans 1.18-25)

The point Paul is making in this was that in order to understand what is wrong with us we must understand what lies beneath the surface in our lives. When we do that we see who or what we’re really living for. Paul goes on in the rest of Romans to show that we were made by God and designed to live for him and only in so doing can we discover what humanity was meant to be. But more than that, he spells out the good news of the gospel which speaks of Jesus Christ as the Saviour God sent to restore our humanity by bringing us back into a genuine relationship with the God from whom we are estranged.

Bob Dylan, despite all the twists and turns of his life, has been well described as ‘the voice of every generation’. He has posed hard questions and given some interesting answers. And the lyrics of this song are among the most perceptive of them all. The question for him and for everyone is, ‘…but whom?’

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14.03.15: Getting Perspective

The first word on any newly launched blog has a significance all of its own. It sets the tone for what will follow and, explicitly or otherwise, lays down certain markers as to where its contributions are coming from.

This is all the more significant when it comes to a blog that calls itself Christian Voice. The name is not original – even when it’s written in Latin (Latinisms just seem to lend a little gravitas!) – it has been and is being used elsewhere. But, significantly, it does not carry the hubris of suggesting it is the only Christian voice. There is a breadth to Christian opinion. A breadth that is not always legitimate, because it exceeds the boundaries set by the Bible, only authentic source from which those claiming to be Christians can speak. So, straightaway whoever is reading these words will ask, ‘What kind of Christian is this?’’ – where does he (or she) fit on the spectrum of Christian opinion.

Well from the outset let me declare which Christian stable this voice belongs to and what that ought to mean for the blog offerings that will follow. 

First and foremost I am a ‘Christian’ in the sense I understand the Bible to define that term. The label ‘Christian’ was coined, not by Christians, but by people in the city of Antioch who did not share their faith but wanted a means of identifying these people. Previously they had been known as ‘followers of the Way’; but since ‘the Way’ they were following was Jesus Christ of Nazareth, it seemed appropriate to label them with his name.

It stands to reason, then, that whatever a Christian is, Jesus has the right to define it in its essence. And he declares that it involves two things as a bare minimum: receiving the gift of new life from God – being ‘born from above’ (John 3.3) – and believing in Jesus as God’s promised Saviour (John 3.16). The sub-label that has come to define this view of Christian faith is ‘evangelical’.

In the second place I am a catholic Christian. This is a time-honoured adjective that pre-dates the point in history when the Roman Catholic Church commandeered it for its own private use, to the exclusion of those it affectionately calls ‘the lapsed brethren’. To be ‘catholic’ is to simply identify oneself with all true believers throughout the history of the church and in its worldwide expression today.

Thirdly I am Reformed. That is, my understanding of the Bible has been shaped by the teachings classically expressed by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century and their successors in Britain who were nicknamed ‘the Puritans’. It reflects a history of interpretation that can be traced back to Augustine and indeed to the Bible and the way it explains itself. 

One of the striking features of this expression of the Christian Faith – epitomised in the teaching John Calvin, its best known exponent – is that it sees Christianity as touching every aspect of life, not just the spiritual.

So, although the various posts that will appear here will indeed address issues of faith and salvation, they will also offer comment from a Reformed Christian perspective on a whole range of issues from arts and culture, right through to current affairs.

I hope you’ll look in from time to time see what’s being aired each month and if you have questions about any of the posts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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