Tuesday 18 December 2012

A Christian's Common Sense Guide to Christmas

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

When I was a very new Christian I was asked to dress up as Santa Claus and give out presents to children. This innocent and joyful job was heartily taken on by myself but in the afternoon beforehand a more mature Christian told me that "Santa" is Satan spelled differently and I should not do it. As a new Christian my conscience was tender and I thought "Oh no, I do not want to disobey God". Maybe you have faced similar challenges from people who may have said that Christmas is pagan or Christmas wreaths are celebrating death, and so on, or that Christmas is a Roman Catholic feast.

These issues really bring to the forefront of our minds the necessity of common sense in our Christianity and also that of the need for Christian maturity. These kinds of issues have always been around and they always will be. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 8:7-13 we read about matters of conscience: "However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble".

The church over the centuries have sought to honour two significant events in the life of Christ: The Incarnation and the Passion of Christ. It is true that Jesus was not literally born on December 25th, and tinsel and worldly Christmas activities such as drunkenness or revelling have nothing to do with the gospel. But to honour the incarnation of Christ or sing hymns that celebrate these truths are not sins.

My common sense advice for Christian's towards Christmas is to enjoy this time with our families, a time of rest and a time to remember the miracle of the incarnation, while being on our guard against excessive materialism. Let us do all things for the glory of God.

Ps I did dress up as Santa, even though he is a fictional character. Let us not forget that we must not restrict our remembrance of the incarnation of Christ to the Christmas season but throughout the year we have liberty to magnify this precious truth.

Monday 10 December 2012

An Open Letter to the British Prime Minister David Cameron concerning the British Government's Intention to Redefine the Law on Marriage

10 December 2012

Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street

Dear Mr Cameron,

I have held back in writing to you for sometime and I believe that I can no longer remain silent. I am specifically writing to express dissent to your policies as a Conservative Party and as a Coalition government to forcefully push through legislation to redefine marriage in order to obliterate long-held views in our country. I honestly do not believe that your advisors and yourself have intelligently thought through the long term implications of these policies. My suspicion is that on the basis of Mr Osborne’s somewhat hollow comments in the Daily Telegraph (Saturday 8th December) where he stated that “he was ‘proud’ to be part of a Government that planned to introduce a law to redefine marriage” that this is indeed your determined goal.

Such an assertion indicates that the top leadership in the Coalition, though they may have a grasp on fiscal policies, that they have little or no grasp of Christianity, faiths of all kinds, social theory and the potential long-term divisions that this legislation will produce, long after this Coalition government ceases to be in office. To attempt to reshape British law with respect to marriage, does not redefine marriage, it simply places UK law out of step with the historic understanding of marriage. This political move will “cross a line” that will cause regret for years to come. In a democracy, vulnerable minorities should always be protected, however, in contemporary British society, active discrimination is pursued against those who hold differing moral viewpoints to the political elite. A deliberate scheme of anti-marriage and other propagandas are pursued in the public sphere. I dissent to this political move by the Coalition in three areas.

1). The Judeo-Christian understanding of my country on marriage is based on the teaching of the Book of Genesis which states: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. To attempt to amend the definition of marriage is a serious mistake.

2). To interfere with the Church of England, and all other faith based groups, which is the intent and implication of your leadership, is politically wrong. Our historic creed in this country believes in the liberty of conscience in matters of faith and practice. Why do you “cross a line” to interfere in matters of Christian religion when you are not ordained as a Christian minister or theologically equipped to do so? To change the law on marriage will cause deep divisions in society. To assert that a church should marry people of the same sex is beyond the jurisdiction of any government.

3). The end result under Tony Blair’s government, and now this Coalition, is to “fence off” people in the public sphere, so that anyone who disagrees with the government concerning this “new morality” is effectually side-lined, excluded and forbidden to speak out. The next step will no doubt be, to make it illegal for anyone to discriminate on the basis of the new marriage proposal and then to to promote this redefined view of marriage within the education system. To this, I and others dissent.

I have a single question for you that I sincerely would value a written answer to. Will it become illegal to voice an opinion in the public sphere, including within schools and universities, to make it known that the government are wrong concerning their new legalised revision of marriage and that marriage should only be between a man and woman?

If it becomes illegal, then you have “crossed a line” again, of which faith-based groups will not be able to back down upon. The Bible transcends culture, gender, new social fads and atheistic morality. I do sincerely hope that this government intelligently takes the time to think things through in order to reconsider their actions and then permanently abolish the notion to redefine the current British law on marriage.

Yours in concern,

Dr Kevin J. Bidwell

Friday 7 December 2012

A Covenantal View of Baptism and Its Relationship to Evangelism

Christian baptism is in urgent need of being revisited by the evangelical church. This essay explores a covenantal view of baptism and its relationship to evangelism. The doctrine of baptism as put forward by the teaching found in the Westminster Standards is upheld. It is contended that there is a connection between God’s covenant and God’s signs of the covenant, which in the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The shadow of baptism in the Old Testament was circumcision: whereas circumcision involved the shedding of blood and therefore it pointed forwards to the future shed blood of Christ, baptism points backwards to the shed blood of Christ and Christ’s completed atonement. Baptism in the new covenant is to be administered using water and the new covenant name of God, “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19); and it is to be applied to Christian converts, and the children of believing parents.

This is the introduction to an article that I was requested to write for Affinity in the UK. The full article is available on their website or for downloading onto a PDF. The link is: http://www.affinity.org.uk/foundations-issues/issue-63-article-3-a-covenantal-view-of-baptism-and-its-relationship-to-evangelism

Let us pray for a recovery of a covenantal view of baptism as presented in the Westminster Confession of Faith.