Thursday 14 February 2013

Back to Basics: The First Three Chapters of Genesis

The main reason why I got involved in blogging originally, was a desire to "fan the flames" of reformed doctrine. This is something that is badly needed among Christians. The doctrinal content of the faith is absolutely essential and reformed Christianity offers a rich content of the faith. Christianity is not simply an emotion, it is not just a way of life, but it is faith which is built on truth. It is the truth that God is the Creator and Redeemer. This is one of the reasons why the first three chapters of Genesis are vital to the Christian message and the Christian church. Let me summarise the first three chapters of the Bible

Genesis Chapter 1

God created everything, out of nothing, and in the space of six days. Genesis 1:1 reads: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". In Genesis 1:1, 1:21, 1:27 and 2:4, the word "created" is used six times. There is not the slightest hint of evolution or a compromised hybrid to somehow combine evolution and creation together. God is the Creator and sustainer of all things. This Creation narrative is repeated in summary in Genesis 5:1-2.

Genesis Chapter 2

This chapter reveals what life was like in the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve. We are told facts about the Creation of Adam and his wife who was called "woman" prior to the Fall. Adam and Eve are historic persons, they are never treated as myth in the Bible. The Garden of Eden was a real, historic place where a "covenant of works" bound Adam to perpetual obedience to the Lord. Genesis 2:16-17 reads: "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis Chapter 3

Here we learn of the historic Fall of humanity. Eve ate of the fruit and then gave it to her husband. They broke the one law which God gave them to obey and sin entered the world. All humanity are descended from Adam and Eve and therefore all humanity are affected by their Fall. People are not sinless but they are born in sin and their nature is to live in sin and rebellion against God Almighty. In Genesis Chapter 3 we get the first Gospel promise when the Lord preached to the serpent and Adam and Eve were the congregation. The Lord God said: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”.

The Christian message cannot be rightly understood without these biblical foundations. So much more could be said of God's plan for marriage and the family which are also plainly taught in these opening chapters of the Bible. I recommend that any person reading this blog, that they should simply go back and read the first three chapters of Genesis and think of how many biblical truths are contained in these chapters.

Monday 4 February 2013

The Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As a result of being involved in a church planting work in Berlin, German church history is of great interest to me. In the first church planting study in September 2012, we had a PhD student who joined us at the study who was doing research on Bonhoeffer's ecclesiology. He recommended a biography to me called "Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance" by Ferdinand Sclingensiepen (this is accurate and scholarly). There is also a similar biography by Eric Metaxas, which I am told is very good and it is perhaps an easier read.

While we may not agree with all of Bonhoeffer's theology, he and other German Christians stood up to Nazism at great personal cost to themselves. I did not realise it until I read this book, how much German Christians suffered under Nazi rule and how many Christians and ministers were imprisoned and killed for the their commitment to the Gospel of God. It is perhaps a little known truth of World War II.

One thing that struck me was that Hitler would pass new laws and then make it illegal for anyone to hold a contrary opinion. This struck me. Why? Ironically, we face a similar situation in the UK and many Western nations today. Our governments offer subliminal persecution and ostracism to anyone who dissents to their value system. Whether it be evolution, atheism, homosexuality or other matters. It is virtually illegal in the UK today to stand up and say that homosexuality is wrong or sin (as the Bible teaches) and to do so is to be accused of being homophobic. Freedom of speech has fast disappeared in the name of "freedom of licentiousness".

As a young person I grew up under the threat of nuclear war between East and West. Russia and the East were presented as evil and mainly this was due to their atheistic communism. The bizarre scenario today is that communism has mainly collapsed with the exception of China (where it pursues materialistic communism but it is still atheistic), and yet our own Western governments have taken on the same agenda of secular atheism. Perhaps the West has had good times for too long and the church is already facing persecution as an EU rule against Christians who want to exercise liberty of conscience in their jobs has recently proved. In this respect Bonhoeffer has much to encourage us with.

The church are called to be "Salt and Light" (Matthew 5:13-16) in every generation, no matter what the pressures are to come against the truth of God. Jesus said "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 5:10. Christ Jesus also promised his disciples that: "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). In many ways Bonhoeffer has much to offer us, to strengthen us in our witness, to encourage us to persevere in the faith, to be bold as a Christian, and to refuse to compromise in the face of anti-Christian teaching.