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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Manchester - Social Class Exposed!

As an adult who was a decade ago to be considered by a psychologist to possess above-average intelligence, I took advantage of such a revelation about myself by pushing hard at something I already enjoy doing. And that was writing, a beautiful art in expressing myself in words of thought, feelings, and will. When I was a boy attending a primary school around 1960, not only was I tasked by the teacher to show other children in the classroom how a word was read and pronounced, I also had relatives living abroad at the time, and I enjoyed writing letters to them. Unlike with the negative attitude shown a few years later by the majority of male classroom colleagues, I did not find writing as a burden, something which had to be done to avoid discipline from the staff, but rather something which left much room for development.

And so efforts to improve on the grammar, spelling and flow came mainly by reading books and newspapers, and noting how experienced authors expressed themselves. Books included fiction as well as mainly theological issues after conversion to Jesus Christ towards the end of 1972. Believe me, there were times when grappling with the grammar wasn't easy, although attending voluntary evening school and achieving a G.C.E. O Level pass in English Language was a big help in itself. In addition, there was a time, before acquiring the internet, when I was offered help from a professional writer from South Africa when I felt a strong desire to write a dossier about Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion. My friend, who has since moved to Northern Ireland to be close to his elderly mother, actually printed several copies of the book, one of them he kept for himself, and another I posted direct to Richard Dawkins who was still at the time lecturing at New College in Oxford. All this was somewhere between ten to eleven years ago.

Therefore throughout these blog posts published here, yes, I often throw a wobbly at certain academics. Writers such as Katie Hopkins, Richard Littlejohn, and even Stephen Glover, all contributors to the Right-Wing newspaper The Daily Mail, I have expressed my disagreement with them here. But not over their writing skills, but rather their attitude towards certain issues, namely their support for national superiority, and particularly Hopkins' view of ethical and political diversity as cockroaches and monkeys respectively. So I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that within the last 24 hours, she was dismissed from L.B.C. Radio for posting a tweet calling for a holocaust of all Muslims living here in the UK. Not surprising, however, is the rather loud silence of the newspaper itself, unlike the clear announcements from Yahoo website and The Guardian newspaper when the news of Hopkins' dismissal from the radio station was still at its breaking stage.

But given any unbiased journalist, reporter, or writer, I have admiration for him. Maybe even a form of worship. After all, part of worship, if not all of it, is an acknowledgement of the entity having greater intelligence, greater skills, greater powers and greater knowledge than what I have or could ever have. Maybe I can't help with the admiration, which engenders greater respect. Perhaps I can illustrate a practical example here. Let's suppose that we own our home, and we have a spare bedroom. So we decide that an extra source of income from a lodger would be beneficial. After posting an advert in the local paper, two applicants arrive at our door. One is dressed in a suit and is fresh out of university, and he is a budding writer or accountant. The other is a bricklayer or electrician, and he is casually dressed although still having a clean and tidy appearance.

Although I despise the class strata in our country, my instinct would still favour the first candidate. This is most likely due, in addition to a greater feeling of admiration along with a sense of privilege in having him in our home, it's also due to the fact that his university training and his employer has relocated him miles away from his family home, and this would justify his need for accommodation. The other candidate would far more likely to be still living at home, and yet desires some independence, maybe a break from his controlling parents, or more likely, not wanting to be seen by others as clinging to his mother's apron strings whilst watching friends of his age already married and raising a family, or taking months off to backpack the world. So instinct would tell me which one to choose to lodge with us, ensuring us that his income remains stable as long as he satisfies his employer.

The snag with all this is personality. Although the graduate, at least by outer appearance and profession, would be the ideal candidate, chances would be that the bricklayer would be a far better lodger in the sense of loyalty, camaraderie, and his willingness to conform to our way of life. Conversely, there is that greater possibility that the graduate may start feeling ill-at-ease lodging with us, as he sees us as beneath himself. This may lead to more frequent nights spent elsewhere, maybe at the home of an office colleague after a party, a supper, or a get-together over TV, but still keeping up with his regular payments. In all, there could be little social cohesion between us, with his spare evenings shut away in his bedroom, glued to the front of his computer, except for his brief visit to the kitchen to prepare his meal or coffee. Then after a month or so, he walks into our lounge with an announcement that he has found alternate accommodation more suited to his needs or closer to his place of work.

The bricklayer would most likely make an effort to be more cohesive and socially interact with us. Maybe an evening or two spent in a pub, or even include us among his fellow workmates over a drink. There is a good chance that he becomes interested in my past travel experiences, and would like to give it a try for himself. After all, I would explain that throughout my own long-haul travel career, I lived in a rented apartment which I was responsible for, and therefore did not live with or got any help from my parents, yet I was still able to travel. Then again, I would explain to him, there were certain advantages with living at home if long-haul travel was his intention. I would tell him of the Irish bricklayer I met during the month I was lodging at the backpacker's hostel in Israel, back in 1994. We had a hour-long chat as he shared his experience of a building contract during the year he spent overseas. Then I would relate about the Australian bricklayer I shared a hostel bedroom with while I was in San Diego in 1995. He too spent twelve months or more in the USA on a building contract, so he had told me. They both still lived at home, along with one or two other long-haul backpackers who were away for months rather than weeks. Maybe by living with us have added a level of zeal to his life and has helped him to set off in a clear direction. Who knows.

Perhaps this concept of birds of a feather flocking together has a ring of truth to it. What has really shook me about the Manchester incident was not so much about a deranged bomber inflicting carnage to a predominantly young female audience at the Manchester Arena. Rather, what I have found astounding was the reaction afterwards. Just before the blast there were two homeless beggars reclining near the entrance of the venue, a common spot, as the Arena was next to a railway station. After the blast, both gave themselves to assist and rescue the injured casualties, staying with them until they were collected by the paramedics and ambulance crews. One of the beggars, Stephen Jones, even admitted his disgust as he watched men in suits stepping over the injured so to hurry their journeys home. Meanwhile, the second homeless beggar, Chris Parker, bravely rushed over to the blast site and held an injured sixty-year-old woman, who died in his arms. Then he rushed over to a child who had lost both legs in the blast until she was picked up by the ambulance crews. He then tells of the tears he shed over the two casualties. Their dedication towards the injured was not only a reflection of a Christ-like compassion towards the unfortunate, but they both won public admiration for their efforts, and I believe were rewarded with enough resources, including six months of rent-free accommodation, to enable them leave a life of begging and find a job with a decent enough income for proper civil independence. And ironically, Steve Jones, before ending up as a homeless beggar, was a bricklayer.

Homeless rescuer Stephen Jones

Homeless rescuer Chris Parker

Although those two homeless beggars showed incredible courage and bravery, empowered by compassion, this comes only two days after writing and publishing my last blog, Clever? That's All Right Then! - where I referred to the arrogant Oxford University undergraduate, Lavinia Woodward, whose "talents" persuaded a Court judge to spare her from a prison sentence for stabbing her boyfriend in the leg during a pub disagreement. As I have expressed last week, Woodward came from a privileged upper-middle class family, and has successfully entered Christchurch College to train to be a cardiac surgeon. Full of herself and having no consideration for anyone else, her ferocious temper has landed her in trouble with other students in the past, causing at least one fellow-student to relocate her college accommodation. With such a black-and-white contrast to the Manchester beggars, would I have been willing to take her in as our lodger? Here lies the danger: If she had turned up at our door, and we were impressed with her university background and a promising medical career, we might have taken her in, totally unaware of her past, while at the same time turning away a homeless beggar such as Stephen Jones or Chris Parker. What I find so startling is that after just a few days with Woodward lodging at our home, I could well be lying in hospital with my face slashed by the sharp edge of a piece broken from a plate which was at first struck over my head in a screaming fury. On the contrary, Stephen or Chris could be enjoying a quiet drink with me at a country pub located a few miles out of town.

Should this blog appear to have a sexist slant, then it is worth mentioning here of another student, this time a male who was studying at Cambridge University. He was mentioned in one of my blogs written just a few weeks ago: What A Contrast! He is Ronald Coyne, the smartly dressed member of the Cambridge Union of Conservative Association. Having gotten himself stoned with alcohol during an evening out, he then passed a homeless beggar who was asking for a contribution of some spare change. Coyne took out a £20 note and holding it in front of the beggar's eyes, he also took out a cigarette lighter and set the note on fire. As the beggar watched the money burn, Coyne shouted out, There is your change! When his behaviour was discovered, the student was expelled from the Conservative Association, fearing the damage this could cause for the political party's reputation. Had he came to our front door, one look at us and he would turn his back to us and quickly walk away, perhaps with nothing more than a hesitated apology, if even that. To him, we would be seen as nothing more than parasites infesting the land.

Cambridge student Ronald Coyne.

If these issues have any truth in them, it makes me wonder about our perverted sense of class preference, and probably this includes myself as well. It looks to me that the wearing of a suit and tie does not change the wearer's evil character. Instead, all the smart clothing would do is polish up on the outside, to engender respect. Otherwise the heart remains the same. Couldn't this be any more appropriate? In Revelation 3:20, a vision is given by the Apostle John of the risen Jesus Christ standing at the door and knocking. He is waiting for the door to be opened, and he will enter through the door and have supper with the host. No discrimination there. The Lord is willing to enter the house of anyone who is willing to provide lodgings, which would change the host's eternal destiny forever.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Clever? That's All Right Then!

Something came up on the Media this week which, I have to admit, had made me feel very apprehensive! It was a case of a female medical student, Lavinia Woodward, of Christchurch College in Oxford, a very middle class cocaine addict, who was spared an immediate jail term by a judge, because having such a conviction recorded on her CV would destroy all her hopes of becoming a cardiac surgeon. The day after reading the article, I posted a message on Facebook saying that as a patient, I would not want her within a mile of the theatre whilst holding a scalpel.

Did she merely receive a parking ticket? No, it was much worse than that. Rather, she was guilty of grievous bodily harm, or GBH. During a disagreement with her boyfriend, a student from Cambridge, she stabbed his leg with a knife, threw a laptop at him, and also a glass, whilst together at a pub. Not that this was the first incident she was involved in. Despite the judge concluding that this was a one-off incident, fellow students at the college accommodation unit has testified of her violent behaviour occurring several times in the past, with one male student becoming frightened of her, and another female student asking the college authorities for a relocation of her residence, which was immediately granted.

Christchurch College, Oxford.

And so her sentencing was postponed, "for further investigation" by the Court, with a high probability that she would be spared jail in order for her to complete her studies and afterwards pursue her career as a cardiac surgeon. Imagine that. A cocaine addict with a scalpel, to whom you entrust your life and hope to come through the procedure with a healthily beating heart and everything else all hunky-dory. All because of her wealthy, middle-class background (her father also attended Oxford) and her brilliant learning abilities, there is a high chance of a reprieve. And that despite the universal opinion, by both Media and public alike, that had she been a shelf-stacker at Tesco's, then she would without doubt be inside already. The same applies if she had been male.  

Among my regular readers who are familiar with my lashing out at our Englishness, I hope this case will drive the nail into the coffin once and for all. It is nothing more than class favouritism, an attitude condemned by the Apostle James in his letter. I find it rather incredulous that despite calling our nation a Christian country, or at least one with a Constitution based on Christian principles, the vast majority holds the Bible as an ancient, obsolete book filled with myths and legends, even if regarded with a degree of respect, but no longer applicable to us on a day-to-day basis, especially in the realm of Science.

The reverence shown to academics and to successful professionals has made me think just where our priorities lie. Is education and career success the be-all-and-end-all of reverence and respect? Let's make a fictional illustration here. A middle class couple raises their son who successfully makes it into university. Then after graduation, and now in the world of work, he starts on the low rung of the ladder as a clerical assistant at a local office, but then rises rapidly into a managerial position, and eventually ends up among the Board of Directors, all within less than a space of twenty years. It can be said that this is Evolution symbolised in a miniature, personal scale. However, not long after leaving university, he marries his sweetheart he had met at college. But within their first decade after their wedding day, their marriage falls apart. Yet despite this, his parents beam with pride with their son's professional achievement, and even boasting about this to their peers, while at the same moment they brush aside the failure of his son's marriage as just one of those things which didn't work out, and therefore considered as barely relevant.

So what is the point of the story? Mainly this: Really, our culture, respected by many British church-goers, has turned God's priority on its head. Where all human accomplishments, including success in the office, will one day be destroyed by God himself. In turn, a healthy marriage has eternal implications, especially among Christian believers. Marriage between man and wife was instituted by God himself at the dawn of history when he married Eve to Adam, and sanctioned it. Unfortunately, now living in a fallen world as a result of Adam's transgression, marriage is something which takes effort to work out, rather like steering a ship through stormy waters, an endeavour, figuratively speaking, taking the efforts of two people. Really, by our experience of being one of a married couple, robustness of marriage is attained by a 100% commitment to each other. That is, for example, for me no longer living for myself, but to live for my wife's best welfare and interests. Because our God is love (1 John 4:8) - I believe in the importance of relationships way above career achievements, and no finer illustration is used in the Bible as comparing the love between husband and wife to that of Jesus Christ and his Church. This is, I believe is the most important lesson which people such as Lavinia Woodward must learn. Unfortunately for her, despite her high intelligence and learning, she is totally lacking in godly wisdom which her future profession will require from her.

Oh yes, the mention of Adam and Eve brings me back to the subject of Divine Creationism, now held to ridicule by all unbelievers, and even diluted to the level of Theistic Evolution by academic Christians. At present, at my daily Bible reading, I'm going through Revelation of St John, the last book in the Bible. At least in three places it is stated specifically that everything we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell are all created specifically by God. The first reference is found in Revelation 3:14 where the Lord addresses the church at Laodicea. The second reference if found in Revelation 10:5-6, when a mighty angel, with one foot on land and the other in the sea, has a private conversation with John, revealing an oath to God who made the heaven and everything in it, the earth and everything on it, and the seas with everything in them. And then, in Revelation 13:6-13, there is the threefold testimony from three angels who literally fly around the skies, apparently fully visible to all mankind. It's the first angel who exhorts the human race to worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the seas, and springs of water. 

I love it when revelations of God's truth often comes in threes. Three Scripture references, the three tiers of Creation - heaven (that is, the Universe), earth (meaning land rather than the whole planet) and the seas. The three angels flying across the sky proclaiming the everlasting Gospel, and then in addition to heaven, it's the earth, seas, and springs of water. The revelation of the number three seems to endorse the source of all life as the one God of three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

As I see it, these Scriptures speaks volumes! Because such events such as 144,000 Jews called to preach the Gospel to the whole world - chapter 7, the slaughter of the two witnesses and their physical resurrection three days later, in the sight of the entire human population - chapter 11, as well as the rise of the two beasts (these are men of great power and therefore not actual animals) - chapter 13. None of these events had ever occurred so far in history. And so accepting that these future events will occur during the last days of human history just prior to the Second Advent indicates a thorough rejection of the record of Divine Creation worldwide. So much so, that it takes an angel from heaven to declare the truth of it, giving all mankind an opportunity to repent (Greek, metaneo - to change their minds about Creation and the truth of Jesus being the risen Christ and Creator). Such is the grace of God - something Lavinia Woodward needs to learn about, along with every scientist and advocate of Evolution.

Whether because I am a believer of the risen Christ, or whether it's instilled in the mind of every human being, I cannot but help recognise the awesome power of God whenever I see scenes of natural beauty. Deciding on the three favourite beauty spots I have visited both within the United Kingdom and worldwide wasn't easy, as there are plenty of candidates. Within the United Kingdom, I would place - in no significant order: In England, the Dorset Heritage Coast, the Lake District National Park, and Duncansby Stacks on the northern tip of Scotland. Worldwide, again in no significant order, I would place the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and the Great Barrier Reef as top places visited. Other potential candidates would include Mt. Etna in Sicily, where I stood on the rim of its active crater, Blue Mountains National Park near Sydney, and the Red Sea coral reefs at Eilat, Israel. In the UK, other sites of natural beauty which I visited would include Loch Ness in Scotland, and the Rhossili coastline in Wales.

Duncansby Stacks, Scotland.

The Evolutionist loves the Grand Canyon! To him, the cutting through of the Colorado Plateau by the river of the same name has exposed a near perfect evidence of the Geological Column consisting of sedimentary rocks laid one upon another in sequence by water. Never mind that a billion years of sedimentary strata is missing at the Unconformity Zone, where a more recent stratum is resting comfortably on metamorphic and granite bedrock, without showing any evidence of erosion that was meant to have taken place before the rest of the upper strata were laid down - yet the uniformitarian geologist will still use this fascinating natural beauty as proof that the truth of Divine Creation is safely debunked. Rather, whilst I was there in 1995, standing on Tonto Plateau halfway down inside the Canyon, I could not help notice the raised beaches with which the plateau consists, separating the rim of the Inner Gorge from the base of the cliffs defining the Outer Gorge. If these are raised beaches, then how much more powerful must the River have been in ancient times, compared to the under-fit river system we see at present?

Rhossili Beach and Worms Head, Wales.

Tonto Plateau inside Grand Canyon. Raised beaches?

These areas of natural beauty tells of the awesome power of God, as Paul testifies in his letter to the Romans (1:18-20). The Apostle could not be more accurate when he wrote that although creation testify the truth of God, men prefer to push away the truth. This is a crying shame. Because the truth of God is replaced by a knowledge which constitutes to be a lie. Gain a degree, or better still, a doctorate on this kind of knowledge, and he will be highly esteemed by the world. And even if he, or in this case, she, commits a formidable crime to the victim's hurt, the defendant's academic greatness will reprieve any punishment justly due, which would have been bestowed on everyone else with less wealth, brains and learning skills.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Father God I Wonder...

The above title is also the title of one of our wedding songs: 
Father God I wonder how I managed to exist without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving Care...
I am aware that such a statement would be scorned to intensity by anyone who was not brought up by a church-going family, even by those whose parents did bring to church during childhood and are at present committed atheists, also by those who cannot justify the presence of a "Fatherly loving God" to a world full of suffering, war, starvation, disease, poverty - whilst the few who are well-off financially, who are also well educated and hold a good job - are more likely the ones who attend church and acknowledge a Fatherly loving God. In a city such as London during the 1970's, a man dressed in a business suit walks hurriedly past a beggar besotted by alcohol, pretending not to see him. The beggar is slumped there, not because he was foolish enough to throw away his life, but because of the yet-to-be-recognised mental illness known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. 

PTSD after spending six years fighting in a global war. Probably knowing that some 383,700 British military personnel had never made it through such a horrible conflict. His thoughts constantly going back to his days at the barracks. His days when he was lean, strong, muscular, clean-shaven, among his closest friends, and maybe with a special friend who was closer than a brother - very much like David and Jonathan. And the one he had to watch die from his war-wounds as he lay in his arms and listening to his last, gasping breath. And forever remaining shocked by such an experience, he never properly adapted to civil life, especially with food rationing lasting some years after that, he remained unemployable and eventually homeless, ending his days forlorn in the streets. Indeed, by the 1970's, the sight of some well-dressed people marching by, holding up high a banner which read, God Loves You stirred only revulsion. Even worse if the banner read, Prepare to meet your God! After such trauma, especially after the loss of such a close companion, anything religious or with any spiritual slant had as much appeal to the beggar as finding a live maggot in your food.

I guess I was very fortunate to have been born during the Baby-Boom generation. Just young enough to miss the obligatory National Service, as the compulsory side to it was abolished by Harold Wilson's Government by May 1963, when I was just eleven years old. Indeed, as I see it, this was God's grace, although many would disagree, blaming the doing away with National Service with the gradual decline of discipline, especially in schools, along with the de-masculinization of the average British man, a trend so deplored by many Right-leaning newspaper journalists and columnists.    

Probably I can understand why the love of God towards the world is so misunderstood or so difficult to grasp. By entering a Gothic church or cathedral, whether Anglican or Catholic, yet remains a constant reminder of our own shortcomings, and being in the presence of a holy God, to whom we all will eventually give an account. So, as a boy, conversation was in whispers, as if afraid to disturb God from his sleep (actually it was so not to disturb anyone deep in prayer, often seen in Catholic churches). And the need to dress smartly. After all, the invention of the term Sunday Best was by no means accidental, as if God would be offended at a shirt worn without a tie, the sight of denim, or trousers with a hole at the knee, or the sight of a damp circle under the arms, or for a woman to wear a top or dress with a low neckline, or heaven forbid, she arrives without wearing a hat or bonnet. And dare if you accidentally and embarrassingly let out a belch, or even a resounding fart in church! And so such a concept of who God is, with his rather judgemental, punitive character does not warm the average human heart to himself, but from the more timid he raises fear, or at least some form of apprehension.

And at school, that was exactly how God was perceived, and not only a number of boys became "atheists" but I too. Or to be more honest with myself, a God hater. Could this be the real reason why a biologist, after reading a recently-published book by Charles Lyell, The Principles of Geology, the scene was set to launch perhaps the most anti-Gospel philosophy a man can think of, and after a visit to the Galapagos Islands, he himself wrote, On the Origin of Species, which made its author a household name. No doubt, Charles Darwin grew up in a very similar religious environment as I did, maybe more so, for after growing up as a Unitarian, part of his higher education was at the University of Cambridge to train as an Anglican clergyman. Apparently, he couldn't have been that impressed with the character of God either, with his emphasis of holiness, accountability, and judgement, but rather thin on his love and redemption through Jesus Christ, for he never made it to the profession. So instead, his love of biology grew, and he eventually dared to challenge the record of Divine Creation as revealed in the early chapters of Genesis.

And so his theory of Evolution became the source of truth rather than that presented in Holy Scripture. And it should not be a surprise since Darwin was an Englishman, and even voted as the Greatest Briton of all Time by BBC Correspondent Andrew Marr not long after the turn of the Millennium, and in addition with Charles Lyell being a Scotsman, it's no coincidence that the United Kingdom has become the motherland of Uniformitarian Geology and its younger biological sibling.

The social repercussions of this Lyell/Darwinian theories could not be more devastating. Racism is linked to evolution, which is why in time past, particularly in the 1980's, bananas were thrown at black players at a football pitch by white supremacists and mimicking monkey sounds at the stands. And according to Internet sources, this still happens at parts of Europe to this day. And let's face it, I believe this form of racism is still present here, although in the subconscious rather than outright. Maybe, as I once watched on TV, there were City employers who secretly messaged their agencies not to send black candidates for job interviews. And how could I not mention The Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins referring to everyone who would have preferred to remain in the European Union as one of a population of monkeys, as an indication and a yardstick that English patriotism is linked to evolutionary advancement?    

And professing ours to be a Christian country as opposed of being Islamic, our culture still lacks the Fatherly love of God engrained in its consciousness, but still rather perceived to be more of a divine bully who has respect for those higher educated toffs who dress well for church, but has little, if any regard, for others who don't quite fit the ideal model. And yet I can hear the pages of the Bible rustle like leaves of a tree rustling in the wind. The apostle James devotes the whole of his second chapter of his letter specifically to this issue. He wrote against showing special favour to the rich man who enters the house-church (as they were in those days) dressed in purple and fine clothing, whilst at the same time showing contempt for the poor man in rags who also walks in. Oh, its all very well believing on the intellectual level that only one true God exists (in contrast to a pantheon of idols and lesser divinities) but what is that to the watching world if showing neglect to the one who is cold and hungry, even to the point of publicly dishonouring God?

James concluded that you see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone, and just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead - (James 2:24, 26). Sure, I'm aware that anybody has the capacity for doing good. Richard Dawkins was quite specific about this. The trouble is: Atheists such as Dawkins evaluate the motives behind these good deeds as more genuine within those who are irreligious, but more out of fear of eternal punishment within the religious group. And I have to say that he is right, at least in part. Because during the last forty-plus of being a Christian believer myself, I have come across teachings indicating that fear should be the correct motivation for Christian commitment, simply because our love for God and for each other is not yet made perfect. And this hadn't come from a church layman but from a Cambridge-educated and Bachelor of Arts graduate, church pastor, itinerant preacher and author of several books. It is unfortunate that although this scholar has given great credit to the Bible, its historicity and truthfulness, I have wondered what kind of impact has he made to the unbelieving world. Are favours and good deeds done to others out of fear or even out of apprehension for the possibility of eternal punishment really that virtuous?

Indeed, this sort of thing brings the whole of the Christian faith into disrepute in the sight and hearing of outsiders. Good deeds done out of fear. This is like petrol fuel being thrown onto the fires of atheism! As I once read in the spiritual section of a gay website, one contributor wrote in the forums that the trouble with religious people is that their so-called "goodness" is done out of fear of Hell, and therefore his atheism is justified, especially where churches hold a high condemnation rate for all homosexuals. I wanted to write a reply to defend my faith in Christ and save its credibility. I wasn't able to write anything. Why? Because I knew that he was right, and I had nothing to say. But even worse than that, the idea of God  as a fatherly figure is hardly given any credit, but instead perceived as a strict moralist and a sky-bully. Little wonder that he is looked upon as a kind of spaghetti-god in the heavens, a candidate for the most abusive ridicule from the gay community.

The true Christian lives in love, love for his heavenly Father and love for others, especially other believers. That is the main emphasis of John's first letter. Even in his Gospel, Jesus is recorded as giving a new commandment for all believers, and this new commandment is to love one another, because through this the world will know that they are Jesus' true disciples, that they love each other as he loved them, right to the point of laying down his life for the one loved, as Christ himself laid down his life for a sinning world - John 13:35.

Perhaps this was what Jesus meant when he says that we are the light of the world and a city built on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16) - so let your light shine so by your good deeds men may praise God in heaven. The only way that God could be glorified is for the sinner to repent - to change his mind from unbelief to believing in his heart that this Jesus is the risen Christ, and so he receives mercy, is justified, and given eternal life. Every sinner saved brings glory to God. And everyone who lives in genuine love can call God his Father, and convert the sinner from his ways. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A Maverick in Oxford.

As I walked into a newsagent, I could not miss the page-size photo of Prince Philip occupying the front page of each newspaper stacked on the shelves. And not just one newspaper but at least three: The Sun, The Daily Express, and The Daily Mail, three of Britain's highest selling media. These newspapers, all of them supporting the Conservative Party holding the keys to 10 Downing Street, just poured heaps of praise to this elderly gentleman, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband to her Majesty the Queen. Just think of it: the national applause for seven decades of hard work with loyalty to his wife. Men and women across the land doffing their hats, so to speak, and taking a curtsey bow, "Well done, Sir. Your retirement is well deserved."

No doubt, at age 95, he deserves a restful retirement. True enough, in 1939 aged 18, he joined the Royal Navy and served through World War II, and remained in the Navy after the War ended in 1945. He then wound up his active service after thirteen years of military action in 1952, then aged 31, after marrying Princess Elizabeth in 1947. After this, his work consisted mainly of shaking hands with dignitaries and keeping a few paces behind his wife wherever the couple were out together in public. Not for him would "hard work" consist of lifting heavy boulders, bricklaying, cement mixing, pushing a wheelbarrow of concrete, pneumatic drilling of a hole or trench across the road, nor for that matter, rewiring a house or installing plumbing. Perhaps this could be the key to his longevity, by contrast to many labourers in the past who stepped off this planet before ever reaching seventy. Then to add to this, it takes only an infection within part of the Prince's anatomy, and the whole nation would seem to be in a grip of panic! But good for him, he has reached the middle of his tenth decade of life. A very good achievement, may I say. After all, if it wasn't for the skills of a cardiac surgeon just over two years ago, I would have considered myself very fortunate ever to reach seventy years of age, and at this time of writing, I still have over five years to go before my seventieth birthday.

Philip during his days in the Navy

The Duke of Edinburgh about to retire.

I see something of an phenomenon here. Here is a mortal who is held in very high respect, if not actually worshipped by much of the nation. So it is not much of a surprise that news of his retirement is splashed across the front pages of newspapers, such an announcement has gone far and wide across the globe. In the meantime, an unseen, anonymous luggage handler, who spent his working life ensuring that all your departing airport baggage are safely stored within the hull of the correct airline, finally reaches his moment of retirement, and yet not a single passenger would ever be aware of his special day. Elsewhere, someone may indeed bow in obeisance to the Prince, then once alone behind the wheel, inwardly curses the workman with his noisy pneumatic drill for being the cause for crawling traffic and journey delays. And just to add here, if I was present before the Prince or even the Queen herself, I would willingly bow in obeisance, as instructed by the Apostle Peter in his letter:

Show proper respect for everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.
1 Peter 2:17.

But as the apostle himself has instructed, the honour given to the king should never be at the expense of disrespecting men of all other social standing, or not loving fellow believers.

Yet there is this uniqueness about the human heart. After all, we may have a high regard for the Royal Family, as well as contrasting opinions for Government ministers. And as politics go, there are those who love the Tory Party and its leader and despise the Labour Party and its leader, accusing them all of incompetence. And there are those who feel totally opposite, having a preference for the Labour Party. And there are devoted Labour voters who are at present disillusioned with its leader. The same can be said about the Conservatives. Then again there is nothing new about all this. It is said that ancient Egypt, for one, exalted their Pharaoh to deification, and the divine ruler ordered his people to build a pyramid as a lasting memorial to his reign. The men who built the Pyramids were not slaves, as once thought, but paid workers. And I wouldn't put it past any of them that while Pharaoh was alive, many of the builders adored him, whilst others actually despised him, accusing him of being an equivalent of what we call a nerd or a prat today with his cruel, bullying dictatorship, as they scorned at any idea of him being divine. But these dissenters had to keep all this to themselves whilst carrying on with their work, in order to stay out of trouble.

Yet despite the mixed feelings among the ancient Egyptians, the work put in towards the king's tomb was felt generally by Egypt as a source of national security, taking in social coherence, military strength and economical stability. The presence of the king was their salvation, especially among the Pyramid builders, but also for everyone else too. As the Egyptian Pharaoh was the intermediary between the people and the heavenly realm, so it was with the Roman Caesar who was regarded as divine as well, the Emperor of Rome being the mediator between the Romans and the heavenly realm. Therefore as I see it, it cannot be a mere consequence that the Queen holds a threefold role of Head of State, Head of the Church of England, and Defender of the Faith. With being the head of the national church, history books tell us that she is the replacement of the Roman Pope as intercessor between her people and heaven. Little wonder that I have heard churchgoers say that our God is the God of England. Indeed, from Ancient Egypt, through to Rome, and onwards towards modern Britain, the need for an intercessor between the human heart and the divine realm has never seemed to have changed over the millennia.

And here lies the rub, with just a few active, church-going Christians of both past and present, fortunately not many. I am strongly disliked by them for debunking the value of Englishness, including the social class system and culture, and saying that all members of the Royal Family, along with all celebrities, and people of distinction are all mere mortals, and fulfilling all natural body functions as all humans and beasts alike do. And talking about the animal kingdom, I had to smile a couple of years back when our former Prime Minister David Cameron ignored the advice of his associates and went out to swim in the sea infested with jellyfish. Sure enough, he was stung, and he came out of the water looking and feeling like a right fool. The offending marine creature ought to have known that this particular human was the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and should have regarded him with the same respect we fellow humans had for him! But no. When threatened, the jellyfish had no alternative.

It was the same when I noticed the V.I.P. entrance to London Zoo as I walked by. This was separate from the main entrance, where the rank and file have to queue up at the ticket booths. Then I imagined the celebrity, or "very important person" - including the Queen herself, standing at the Primate cage, and watching the monkeys swinging from one branch to another in complete oblivion to her presence. Despite being our closest cousins, according to the Evolutionist, I doubt very much whether the presence of Royalty would have made any difference in the primate's behaviour. The same applies to all the animals in captivity.

To tell the truth, I find the concept of England being God's country very malodorous. There seems to be a bad smell to it. Perhaps its culture with its fanaticism for the class structure is far more tuned into the theory of Evolution, a concept borne out more from denial of God's existence, his creation and judgement, rather than from verified scientific research. Maybe as I see it, Her Majesty is more advanced in her evolution towards godhood than all of her subjects. This has allowed her to advance to the level of divinity where she can be the suitable representative on behalf of her country and its Commonwealth, by being head of the Church of England. And how parallel is all this to the lie in Eden, where the serpent offered a form of divinity to Adam and Eve if they disregard God and follow him instead?

And so as I was born into a family close if not at the bottom of the social ladder, I grew up with an independent mind, rather like my late Italian father, a Republican and devoted Labour supporter and voter, and who possibly had never properly understood why the English were so devoted to their beloved Queen. But he did have a deep respect for university graduates, especially those at Oxford and Cambridge. Maybe in those days of my boyhood, these were the only true institutions recognised for higher learning, and only a small percentage of the student population made it in. And so my father looked upon these venues with the greatest of respect.

And so as I pushed my wife Alex's wheelchair through the streets of Oxford, primarily for a combination of clothes shopping and a day out, I could not help feel somewhat intimidated by such beautiful architecture of these limestone-built colleges. But what has always struck me was that it was difficult for me to see these buildings as colleges. Instead they looked more like churches, or better still, cathedrals. And this brings me back to the Natural History Museum in the London borough of South Kensington. This is one of the most popular museums in the UK, and its architecture is not unlike one of many colleges in Oxford. But walk inside the main hall, and its interior has a striking similarity to that of any cathedral. And enthroned at one end is the statue of Charles Darwin, you could say, literally replacing the Cross of Christ.

As I stand in awe of these magnificent college buildings in Oxford, I can't help feeling small and insignificant compared to the students who are deep into their studies inside. When I was a boy, I had a longing to be a medical doctor or a journalist. Unfortunately, my slow learning at school has forever extinguished such dreams. Nowadays, as I look upon such buildings, my sense of unfulfilled dreams became more acute, and the feeling of weakness in my knees whenever a student is seen entering or exiting the college. How speechless would I have felt if one of these students, say a promising NHS surgeon or a rising writer and journalist, was to extend his hand in a friendly greeting?
Many Oxford Colleges resemble Cathedrals.

Today I had attended a men's half-day conference at a local church in my home town of Bracknell. The three sermons were excellent, Spirit-inspired discourses, but I wonder just how much these preaches would really be life-changing, or merely mulled over before slowly passing out of memory as the daily issues of life continues. Because in reality, it was the two breaks between sessions which held the real clue about what life in Christ is really about. Whilst most of the other men formed cliques suited to their interests, I sat alone at a nearby armchair, contemplating the street view outside. This made me think just how would I have been perceived as an individual if I held a degree. Because for some, I was no stranger, but someone well known for years, decades even, but without ever attending Grammar School and gaining a degree at university, there was little to talk about, having practically nothing in common. One Grammar School-educated graduate even felt reluctant to talk to me because, as he puts it, "We are in different circles." And I knew this English guy for as far back as 1978.

But a stranger did approach me with a genuine interest of who I am. When he mentioned his occupation relating to outdoor activities, by mentioning my hiking experiences at the Grand Canyon, we had stirred quite a conversation between us. Suddenly I felt a sense of belonging, even if he admitted that he is from South Africa. It's through this interpersonal uplift which gave fulfilment to the whole conference, rather than the preaching.

One of the sermons was about not allowing anyone to label us, except by God himself. Thus being a maverick is a good thing, a virtue. A maverick is someone with an independent mind. As I wrote I Stand Alone at Easter, I will always believe in a Thursday Crucifixion rather than on Good Friday. I will always confess the death, burial, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to atone for our sins, defeat death, and to give eternal life to every believer. I will always believe in Once Saved Always Saved. I will also stand up and insist that traditional Englishness is not allied with the Scriptures, neither is our national culture a mirror of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, going by what I have read and heard in the Media over the past twelve months, our national culture has a tendency to lean towards the occult - parallel to the Lie in Eden, where a false hope of deification was offered to our first parents, as such deception, at present, sending countless numbers into a lost eternity. Furthermore, I will declare the 6 x 24 hour days of supernatural Creation as historical fact, in opposition to the general held belief in Evolution as a theory. I don't care if everyone else thinks I'm a Creationist nerd and not to be taken seriously. I will always stand up for Jesus Christ and the historicity of Holy Scripture.

And I always will insist that there is nothing wrong with a man crying in public. Jesus himself did it at least twice during his ministry, and both incidents are recorded. And there is nothing wrong with two men greeting one another with a hug. Not British? Sure, but it's very beneficial to health and well-being. Yes, the preach I listened to earlier today was a confirmation of what I have suspected over the years - that I am a maverick, an independent thinker, and the consequence of this is that I have made a few enemies within the church as well as a greater number of friends.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Source for Assurance...

As we all have to endure the daily stresses of life, I believe that the majority of the Western population takes for granted that the human world will continue for years, decades, centuries, even millennia of years to come. And so we see ourselves evolving on a gradual upward spiral towards a kind of godhood or divinity, probably not much unlike the Karma of Buddhism or Hinduism where by means of many, many incarnations, one will eventually reach a divine realm of Nirvana. Except that whilst Nirvana may be some heavenly realm of the Blessed, the divinity reached by a typical Westerner remains firmly on the ground through by means of Science and Knowledge.

And so science continues to accelerate. Who would ever believed, merely thirty years ago, that I could send a message electronically to someone living halfway round the world, and the message would be received in an instant, therefore eliminating a trip to the Post Office to buy a stamp for the seven-day journey for my letter to reach its destination. And even then, believing that it would take a week for the letter to reach Australia from the United Kingdom was rather optimistic. Anything could have arisen on its long journey to have caused delays to its arrival. Not so with email. And just as an insight to our present teenagers: Yes, those red cylindrical pillars with an elongated rectangular slot, cemented into the ground at the High Street or shopping mall, is a letterbox, where letters are posted for the start of their "snail pace" journey to their recipients, whether just a block away or as far away from the UK as New Zealand.  

Email has eliminated much of this, and as a result there were talks of the Post Office going out of business, if it wasn't for the massive rise in both domestic and commercial parcel deliveries, which are made by orders carried out through none other than the Internet. But then again, I remember a time when receiving mail from distant relatives was always something of anticipation. Nothing was more exhilarating for my mother, for example, than to receive that unique envelope with its characteristic green and red striped edge, and then sitting down to enjoy a good read of the ballpoint pen script, handwritten by her parents living in Italy. And then afterwards, having written a response, off she went to post her letter at the local red letterbox, which back then involved some walking.

With the advance of instant communication, I find it sad that such nostalgic simplicity of letter-writing, along with the extra effort required to post it, is now confined to the past, leaving any post arriving at my door arousing anxiety for that dreaded brown envelope which within formal typewritten contents on a single sheet reminding me of a payment now due. But the advance of Science is not all about reminiscence, or the nostalgic simplicity of the past. Rather, it's due to the advance of scientific knowledge which enabled a team of surgeons to literally save my life when I had to submit myself for a major cardiac operation two years ago. And it is amazing that a regular taking of prescribed medicine can allow a patient such as myself to live normally, free of any symptoms. No doubt, I'm so glad that we are living in an age when Science has made our lives immeasurably easier. But there is always the tail side to the coin. Fears of a nuclear holocaust, developed by advanced science, wiping out the whole of mankind to extinction seemed to have aroused anxiety among a large percentage of the population.

Hence the rise of Pseudoscience, which began to make a prominence during the sixties and seventies. This followed the 1962 Cuba Crisis when both the USA and the USSR were a hair's breath from nuking each other, which would have posed a threat of virtually wiping out all human civilisation. This threat over Cuba took place some seven years into the American involvement of the Vietnam War, which was to continue into 1975. With mainstream scientists communicating mainly among themselves, including those in the field of Archaeology, the average man in the street was left wide open for unscrupulous writers, such as Erich Von Daniken, making a mint in writing popular science books intended to attract the public's attention and refute mainstream archaeology. Although Von Daniken had written several books on related subjects, his most famous was Chariots of the Gods? which scored quite a hit in university campuses, as well as in High Street bookshops. The book advocated an alternate theory explaining the existence of various ancient artefacts found around the world of having extraterrestrial origins rather than being the work of humans. This, according to Von Daniken, is the result of ancient astronauts visiting our planet around 40,000 years ago, and along with leaving behind such tell-tale artefacts. It is also thought that these ancient spacemen even tinkered with the genome of some primates, giving evolution a boost towards the rise of Homo Sapiens. The high reception of the book by undergraduates (I guess mainly in the USA) as well as the general public, indicates the need to save us from ourselves as we make a headlong journey towards a global nuclear catastrophe.

Prehistoric rock painting, Tassili - Ancient astronaut?

The Palenque "Astronaut" Mexico, according to Von Daniken

Despite its popularity, such books - and there were quite a number on closely similar themes by different authors - were dismissed as nonsense by mainstream scientists, even to the point of totally ignoring them in their research of their particular disciplines. But the snag was that by the mid 1970's, I was beginning to accept this pseudoscience as proper science and history. And yes, it is possible as a committed Christian believer to swallow pseudoscience as historical fact. For example, concerning the giant statues of Easter Island, in a documentary broadcast some years ago, the BBC has even listed Von Daniken's theory of extraterrestrial origins alongside that of mainstream archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl, who was a specialist on those statues.  

And so as I read this morning's issue of the Daily Mail newspaper, I came across a major article which could be considered as related to Von Daniken's idea, the only difference being that instead of the rise of the Homo Sapiens, this is about when the world may be destroyed by an asteroid impact, as the Earth is due to pass through the Taurid meteor stream around the year 2030. So according to eccentric archaeologist Graham Hancock, a highly advanced civilisation was destroyed by a mini Ice Age following a comet impact around 13,000 years ago. After discovering an ancient site in Turkey, he wrote a book Magicians of the Gods, based on his findings at Gobekli Tepe, which featured limestone pillars bearing ancient carvings of this bygone catastrophe.

A Pillar at Gobekli Tepe.

And this stream of future world catastrophes come and go. From Erich Von Daniken's need for advanced space gods to save us from ourselves, to Graham Hancock's warning from the ancient past that as our planet is due to pass through a meteor belt, to Jehovah's Witnesses and their prophecies with movable dates on the global Battle of Armageddon sent by God to wipe out all civilisation not affiliated with the Watchtower Society. Then not to mention the more realistic extinction of mankind by a global pandemic of a virus or bacteria totally immune to antibiotics. Or for that matter, a nuclear holocaust, perhaps between the USA and North Korea, including a strike at the UK, wiping us all out.

Local disasters? Yes, as living in a fallen world, local catastrophes are part and parcel of everyday life. But something that would annihilate the entire human species? Definitely not! Because the Bible itself reassures us that for a specific reason, such a worldwide annihilation will never occur. And that despite that most mainstream scientists who debunk pseudoscience also debunk the historicity of Divine Creation and the Global Flood of Noah's day. So what is this important reason that I find absolutely reassuring?

It is God's covenant with Israel. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, we read such wonderful words as these:

And the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying,
Thus saith the LORD; If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and there should not be day and night in their season;
Then also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.
And as the hosts of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea be measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister to me...
Thus saith the Lord; If my covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;
Then I will cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.
Jeremiah 33:19-22, 25-26 AV.

Here is the cast-iron promise - God's covenant with the people of Israel. As long as Israel exists, there will never be a worldwide annihilation of all mankind. In fact, there seems to be that the throne of David will be restored in the future, with his son sitting on it to reign. This person cannot be Solomon or any of his past descendants, for this was written after the collapse of the kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, in 586 BC. Then after seventy years, the Jews returned to their land to rebuild Jerusalem under the authority of governors Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah. Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, who was a descendent of David and Solomon, but he was no longer the king of Israel or Judah. Neither was Zerubbabel, nor any of his descendants right down to Joseph husband of Mary. Therefore the promised son of David yet to reign in Jerusalem must be none other than  the risen Jesus Christ himself.   

Jesus Christ reigning on David's throne in Jerusalem! This is the same Lord who was crucified to atone for the sins of the world, was buried, and on the third day risen from the dead, physically - the first person in the whole of history to do so. When his reign begins, the whole planet will be transformed into a paradise, which is the restoration of the Garden of Eden, only this time it will be global. On top of this, according to Isaiah 30:26, the sunlight will be seven times brighter than at present. This will bring physical healing to all, and will also intensify the joy of everyone alive. It will be a far cry from the possibility of total annihilation of the human race. 

I can rest in these promises as every Christian believer can as well. These promises brings wonderful assurance that God is sovereign, and if sovereign then his omniscience also. It is these characteristics of God which allows me to believe in Once Saved Always Saved. 

Let all mainstream scientists debunk the historicity of the Bible, especially the early chapters of Genesis. But the Bible will endure, with all truth and historicity intact. It is like an anvil. It is solid and stable. When struck by a hammer, it it is the hammer that will break, not the anvil itself. Likewise these unbelieving academics will also break eventually if they continue to push away the Bible.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Nasty Lie Exposed

Oh gosh, what a week this has been! Our Prime Minister Theresa May calling for a snap election to be held on 8 June. No! No! No! Not again! Please! Fifty days of inter-party wrangle flooding our TV screens, continuous online fodder waiting to be clicked on by the electronic mouse, and endless covering of the front pages of every newspaper. It is not too difficult to fathom out why she has made such a decision whilst on her Easter break in Wales. As an unelected PM, May felt the lack of moral backing in her attempt to get Article 50 on the move, to take Britain out of the European Union. As a fully elected politician, she will have that extra power to "Fulfil the will of the people" despite the rather thin majority of 52% of Brexit voters over 48% of Remainers.

And the Remainers have by now been referred to as Remoaners, and thanks to Katie Hopkins, Daily Mail columnist, we are now also referred to as Remainiacs. And so the slur is boldly published in a national newspaper which will not only circulate across the whole of the UK but around the world as well - not to mention the online browsing in addition. Really, come to think of it, do these journalists really reflect the attitudes of the English? No, I don't think so, because what I have seen and heard around me in real life over the past year, the majority of the public don't display any of that kind of attitude. Only these well-educated journalists at the computer keyboard. And when I say well educated, I'm referring mainly to both Grammar School and Public School education such as Eton, followed by great institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge (although Magdalen College at Oxford has rejected Hopkins at her admission interview - a possible cause for her on-going inward bitterness). But their influence is without doubt must have, for example, played a key part towards the hostility of the crowd of English European Cup football fans in Marseilles in June 2016, to charge aggressively through its streets shouting insults at the French - their hosts - as well as towards Russian fans who were also fellow guests at the tournament.
Oh such emotive shouting. And such hatred! But it does look as though patriotism spawns hatred towards all foreigners, both at home and abroad. And emotive expressions is an issue Hopkins is hard against, but not against the hatred shown by the England football fans, as I believe she would have been happy enough to have been involved in the street aggression. Rather, it's more to do with one of her latest articles, exalting and praising the elderly Royals for their ice-cold, unemotional stoicism, the ideal model of English reserve and stiff upper lip. So not surprising that she had ordered both Prince William and Prince Harry to "put a sock in it" after Harry admitted that he attended counselling sessions after twenty years of torturous feelings bottled up after witnessing the death of their mother Princess Diana at a road tunnel accident in Paris during August 1997.

But what either escaped Hopkins' attention, or she had deliberately omitted from her articles, was Prince William's concern about the biggest killer of all young men in the UK: Suicide. This is where William was directing his concerns; that the keeping a stiff upper lip for the sake of British stoicism is unwise if it's a compromise to the person's health and well-being. But Hopkins would have none of it. Instead, if someone can't hack it, then let him kill himself. Why would she care? Such a patriotic attitude is a classic example of Darwin's evolution through natural selection - the survival of the stoical strong in expense of the emotional weak.

Prince Harry - attended counselling.

As if all this was not enough to digest, as one who has retired from nearly half a century of honest working life, there was I, relaxing at a coffee bar, itself incorporated into our local branch of Waterstones Bookshops, along with a cappuccino and a day's copy of the Daily Mail newspaper. It featured an article written by columnist Stephen Glover. He was accusing a literacy author and fiction writer Julian Barnes of hatred, hysteria, and lies, leaving me with no other option than to believe that this Julian Barnes is a devout Remainer.

Wait a minute! Julian Barnes? He is not totally unknown to me. I recall 1997, having flown overnight on a cross-Pacific journey from Sydney to Los Angeles, on a route once featured in The Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest non-stop passenger flight. After a week spent in scenic San Diego, I boarded a Greyhound bus heading north to Los Angeles, to change buses there for my final destination of St Luis Obispo, a non-touristy town set some distance inland from the south-central Californian coastline. I chose this town because of its lack of tourist tat found in larger, more famous cities. I wanted to experience a taste of the typical American suburban life unhampered by famous locations and their visiting crowds. And the small backpackers hostel was nothing more than a normal suburban home with several bunk beds squeezed into two of its bedrooms (one for each gender) and registered with Hostelling International.

It was from this hostel which I hired the home-owner's bicycle to pedal the ten miles to Avila Beach, where I spent the day in pleasant weather before a fast burn-up cycle ride back to the hostel. The next day, with some free time, I sauntered into the local library. There, on one of its shelves, I spotted a book which title attracted my attention: History of the World in Ten Chapters - oh yes - and a Half - by Julian Barnes. I sat down to read the whole of the first chapter, which was a ongoing commentary of life inside Noah's Ark whilst the storms raged outside, as narrated by two stowaway woodworm. I was impressed with his literary imagination and ability.

That was twenty years ago. Reading Stephen Glover's article lashing out at whatever Barnes had written has not only aroused memories, but also curiosity on what this famed author had exactly penned. After noting the location of his original article from which Glover had quoted, it wasn't difficult for me to find Barnes' Diary in The London Review of Books website. I was intrigued by its length. If you think my blogs are long, they are indeed miniaturised by comparison to Julian's. It was actually a mini-novel about certain families from Germany, Belgium and France interacting with the English. Then, nearing the end, he gets to the point. Categorising The Daily Mail newspaper as the Pravda of the right, he brings up the case of the murder of Labour Member of Parliament and Remain supporter Jo Cox, by right-wing maniac Thomas Lair. Glover heavily criticises Barnes for accusing the newspaper of publishing a minor report of the killing after thirty pages of other news. Glover then emphasises that the Daily Mail had devoted its first page to the murder, then pages four, five, six, and seven, thus calling Julian Barnes an outstanding liar and promoter of fake news to prop up his support for the UK to have remained in the European Union.

Julian Barnes.

It was by first reading Stephen Glover's article in the Daily Mail, then arriving home, I was prompted by wonderful memories of my backpacking days to search the internet for the actual article by Barnes himself, from which Glover had quoted. What I have read was a shock to me! Because by quoting what Glover had written and then comparing his words to what Barnes has actually written, an inconsistency can be easily seen. A dishonest twist to Barnes' words by Glover intended to deceive his readers. Here is the comparison:

Stephen Glover: Referring to the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox a week before the referendum, Barnes claim "the Mail, which gave its readers 30 pages of more important news before deigning to report Jo Cox's murder."

Julian Barnes' actual wording: The Mail, which gave its readers 30 pages of more important news and comment before deigning to report the conviction of Jo Cox's murderer, and which has itself been deleted as a source of reliable information by Wikipedia.

The conviction of Jo Cox's murderer. That is what Julian Barnes actually wrote. Thus the reader of Stephen Glover's article is deceived. And the journalist's intention to deceive was most likely founded on his own principle of the reader's trust in his authenticity, as it was assumed that none of his readers would have bothered to check the source for themselves. However, the fact is that the murder took place on Thursday 16 June 2016, and I have no reasons to doubt that the Daily Mail did devote five of its pages to the case, including its front page headlines. But the conviction of the murderer himself took place at the Old Bailey on 23 November 2016, more than five months after the shooting occurred. Therefore if Barnes was referring to the conviction of Thomas Lair rather than to the crime itself, then it is within plausibility that the newspaper treated the case as a minor report thirty pages in from the front.

Therefore within a space of just two or three days, the inner dark secrets of the supposed virtue of patriotism are revealed. The first outlandishly against the apparent mawkishness and emotional sentimentality of two Royal brothers who both believe that sharing of emotions is beneficial and a possible antidote for the high rate of male suicide here in the UK. And this reflects the attitude of a bitter female journalist who had the most privileged of social status denied her by a committee sitting at Magdalen College in Oxford. Quite likely it was this loss of opportunity to gain a PhD degree, which initials would have trailed her surname. It makes me wonder whether her desire for the military was a way of getting her revenge, disguised by a "love" of our country offset by her hatred of Remain voters and demeaning them as monkeys, her disdain for public emotion, her wanting to throw out all immigrants from the UK, and her obsession for the social class divide.

The other journalist shows his patriotic love for Brexit by using deceit by deliberately misquoting another writer, a highly intelligent and eloquent Remain supporter. Then after ensuring that his deceit is well camouflaged, he has the audacity to accuse the Oxford-educated Remainer of being hateful, hysteric and a liar! And here is the irony: Stephen Glover received his degree at none other than Magdalen College in Oxford, as did Julian Barnes before him, yet the same rejected Katie Hopkins some years after Glover's graduation. In all, does the love for the economic, government, and social well-being of our country need to depend on lies, hatred, xenophobia, and partiality?

Loyalty to one's homeland is good if all its indigenous honoured God and obey his commandments, which includes a high respect for both home-born and foreign-born inhabitants. At the moment I can think of three Biblical characters who were very loyal to their nation, that is the nation Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, a city where God has forever placed his name. King David took Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it his capital. Later he wrote psalms echoing his loyalty and devotion to Jerusalem. The whole of Psalm 122 is a good example of the King's loyalty to Jerusalem. Then the prophet Jeremiah shows his devotion to Jerusalem, and how its fall under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was the source of his grief which inspired him to write the book of Lamentations. But the most striking is the prayer delivered to God by the prophet Daniel, which is recorded in Daniel 9:1-19. Although he pleads for his people Israel, his land, and his city Jerusalem. But we read nothing of hatred, social class, national superiority, or xenophobia. Nor any appeals for imperial expansion either.

Instead, he pleads for God 's forgiveness for both himself and for his people from their sins, making a confession that God was very good in delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to give them their land promised to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who was re-named Israel. And yet his patience having endured for his people, despite living for centuries in constant rebellion against God's holiness. Daniel expresses his own sense of unworthiness, along with the unworthiness of his people. He honestly blames himself and his people for the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of his people to Babylon. Then he pleads with God for his gracious forgiveness and undeserved goodness, along with the restoration of the nation and of the city where God's own name is written. The prophet's pleading is a good example of standing under the shadow of the Cross. When in that godly state, any differences between indigenous and foreigner becomes totally of no importance, as with the evils of nationalism, social class, and xenophobia are all washed away. In their place, everybody becomes aware of his own sense of unworthiness before the throne of a Holy God. And this sense of unworthiness brings everybody together in unity, all in desperate need for God's love and forgiveness, along with the need for reconciliation.

How wonderful it was when Jesus Christ came, who is the Truth, the Way, and the Life (John 14:6). He death, burial, and resurrection has not only brought forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to a Holy God, but has broken down every barrier which existed between Jews and non-Jews, nation against nation, class against class, even the gender divide. Total reconciliation is what Jesus Christ of Nazareth has brought to everyone who believes. On the face of Truth, lying, hatred, division, and patriotism surely cannot stand a chance!

Ancient men of faith knew this very well. Enough to eliminate all sense of patriotism well out of their lives. Men of faith of both the Old and New Testaments. This we know, for in Hebrews 11, a list of faithful men is given, which is sometimes referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. The writer then concludes with this:

All these people were living by faith when they died. They did not see the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13-16.

What a difference between these great men of faith and the likes of Katie Hopkins and other strong-minded Brexit voters, both within journalism and those of other professions and vocations. The two classes could not be more pole-opposites! I can't help believe that if these hate-filled, lying patriots continue to swallow what the Devil offers them, then eventually they will all be swallowed by the Devil himself, and suffer a lost eternity.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

I Stand Alone at Easter

Easter weekend has arrived at last, supposedly bringing a temporary end to the chilly Winter days until they return once again on the approach to Christmas. Unfortunately, as it's always the case here in England, the weekend of warm sunshine was during the previous week, when at last everyone ventured out into the streets, shopping malls, parks, and other attractions free from the heavy overcoats, jackets, scarves, and carrying an umbrella on the ready, all which epitomise public life in general here in the UK. But as I ventured out earlier this morning for my weekly dose of Starbucks cappuccino and a copy of the Daily Mail newspaper, once again the sight of overcoats, jackets, scarves, and the potential of catching sight of an umbrella were back on the agenda. For according to the Met Office, the Easter weekend will actually be chillier than Christmas Day 2016 by about a couple of degrees. Thanks to a persistent polar wind blowing in from Iceland.

But that did not stop the lengthy traffic congestions building up on our motorways and major trunk roads, as British families with characteristic stiff upper lips head for the coast for the long weekend, with full knowledge of the dreary holiday weather. Within many family cars, fathers silently curse the driver of the car in front under his breath whilst mothers attempt to calm their boisterous children with a promise of more Easter egg treats after arrival at their sea-side Bed & Breakfast hotel. Other vehicles stuck in prolonged stationary traffic hide their bored kids at the back seat from the outside world, whilst both parents try to engage them into a game of I Spy, using the first word beginning with "C" - with the five-year-old immediately guessing correctly by submitting his word, Car.

Well-to-do Dads who were not so slavishly addicted to the steering wheel were taking their families to the coast by express train, where without doubt the family would be more relaxed. Promises of more chocolate treats or the need to play I Spy may not have been such a necessity, as the kids, sitting by the window, were enthralled at the scenery as it whizzed past at a speed no car could ever attain, not even illegally. Then there were those who cannot hack the British holiday climate, making their way to the airport. But even here the traffic on the roads leading to the terminals were so congested with like-minded sun-seekers, that some frustrated drivers had literally abandoned their cars for a quicker way to the check-in desk. If there was one crisis that would melt the stiff upper lip to butter and cause the lower lip to tremble in rage and frustration - it's the risk of missing the flight.

And so Easter comes and Easter goes, and the pulse of life beats on. After three months of driving to work and ferrying the kids to school in the cold, wind and rain, Easter is perceived as the gateway for the coming Summer months. Perhaps the egg is the perfect symbol of this. It stands for the beginning of new life when the weather at last warms up, the chick hatch, the trees bud, the daffodils blossom, the sheep in their lambing season - and at last, heavy Winter clothing are once again stored away in the wardrobe and chest of drawers. A time for optimism. But did I leave something out?

According to a You-Gov poll, nearly half of the UK population do not prioritise the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the real reason for the long weekend. Rather, it lies in fourth place after the confection, the long weekend being a statutory holiday and therefore the need to get away. Yet, Easter is meant to be the most important festival in the Christian calender, even more so than Christmas, even if the former lacks the commercial glitter and party joviality which goes with the latter. And for many years I accepted without question that our Lord was crucified, died and was sealed in a rock tomb on a Friday, remained dead all day Saturday, and came back to life before dawn on the Sunday, even though I had found it hard that the total of 38-39 hours of non-life can equal three days - if 3 x 24 hour days adds up to 72 hours. Somehow, even from childhood, the figures did not seem to add up, which caused serious consequences in my perception of God and of the Christian faith. 

This was important to me, even back then. Because even after conversion near to Christmas 1972, I perceived God as loving his Son so much more than he loves me, that he wasn't patient enough to keep his body lying lifeless in the tomb for the full duration of 72 hours, so he cut the time short, so to speak, leaving me with a subconscious conclusion of my unworthiness, and that I had to "complete" the atonement by means of personal merit - something which is actually endorsed by the Catholic Church in which I grew up. To conclude that God loves Jesus much more than he loves me has left me in the state to question whether He loves me at all. Was God's character really like my father's and of the school teachers, who only perceived any act of kindness from me as a means of wanting something? In short, the Friday Crucifixion has made me doubt God's love. 

Then when I began to read the Bible after conversion, sooner or later I came across that one verse in the Gospels, and it was Matthew 12:40, which reads:

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

This verse stands alone in the entire New Testament, there is no repeated statement found in the other three Gospels, nor in any of the letters. Therefore this left me to check out the prophet Jonah and see for myself exactly what actually took place when he fled on board a ship from God's presence. In Jonah 1:17, the narrator states that the prophet was in the belly of a large marine creature "for three days and three nights" - apparently with no qualification for a shorter or longer duration. That is a bare minimum of sixty hours if only a few minutes of either a third day or night is considered. The maximum duration would be 72 hours - if nothing of a fourth day or night is included. And that is why I have considered the late Dave Hunt and the Berean Society he founded, a group committed to "Searching the Scriptures daily to see whether it was so" - as stated in Acts 17:11. In his book, How Close Are We? he advocates a Thursday crucifixion. This means that if Jesus died around 3.00 pm on a Thursday afternoon, was buried, and by dawn on the Sunday he was already risen, then the duration of his death would have been in the region of 63 hours, which is within the acceptable time frame of 60-72 hours, when considering that he was dead during the last three hours of the first day, by the normal reckoning of Hebrew numeracy.*

What does this all mean to me? By accepting a Thursday crucifixion rather than the traditional Friday execution changes everything, especially my perception of God's character and his steadfast love. And that despite that I stand alone in my church and in the wider Christian community. Although I am familiar with three other churches in my own town, plus up to ten other churches within a radius of thirty miles from home, I have not heard a single preach advocating a Thursday crucifixion. However, I did have two Christians at different times and at different places having spoken to me in likely agreement.

All the Elders at my regular church in Ascot believe in a Friday crucifixion. I was there with them yesterday, a Good Friday, worshipping God among a people I love dearly. I don't dispute this matter with the Elders. Instead I submit to them, as the Bible itself recommend. If at the Judgement Seat of Christ, I am asked by God himself why I dared to simplify what he had set up to be a very complex issue, then I will answer this to God alone, and I will not deny my responsibility.

A Thursday Crucifixion changes everything. With this I can be assured that God does what he says he will do. There are no short cuts with him, no renegade on his word. Instead, God's love for the likes of one as myself can be reassured by the keeping of his promises. The beautiful offshoot of such divine character is my assurance of salvation, Eternal Security, Once Saved Always Saved. If the concept of the Friday crucifixion causes me to question the love of God and his assurance of fulfilled promises, then how can I possibly believe in Once Saved Always Saved? Really, I'm beginning to wonder whether there is a connection between the Arminian idea that salvation can be lost with the lack of assurance of God's promises properly fulfilled. But on this issue of a Thursday Crucifixion, I will stand firm, even if all alone.

Just as I will stand alone, if necessary, in believing that both our planet and the entire Universe are no more than six thousand years old, and which came into existence by God's spoken word. Yes, I'm willing to stand alone in this, as I am ready to stand alone with Holy Scripture endorsing the historicity of Adam and Eve, and the Scriptural fact that the Atonement made by Jesus Christ on the Cross was because of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, endorsed as historic by both Jesus himself (Matthew 19:1-12) and by Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12-21). In short, if Adam and Eve had never existed, then the whole of the Christian faith is fit only for the trash-bin. All the words in the Bible will not be worth the paper they are printed on.

And the same applies to Biblical semantics. I'm willing to stand alone in my conviction that the English word Repent means A change of mind, so verbally demonstrated in Peter's sermon narrated throughout the whole second chapter of Acts. I am ready to stand alone with the historical fact that in the Fourth Century AD, St Jerome mistranslated the Greek word for Repent to a Latin word for Penitence, thus changing God's plan of salvation from simply changing your mind about Jesus being the risen Christ, to the need to forsake sin, which involves works performed to exonerate the believer from his sins, and then to remain faithful afterwards in order to be saved. I will stand with this opinion that the Roman Catholic Church, along with quite a number of Protestant and Reformed churches, were never freed from St. Jerome's mistranslation, even if this great scholar did not make such a error with malicious intent.

And with these things I stand, even if no one takes any notice. And yes, I'm very much used to all that. Thanks to that great psychologist Cyril Burt who, in the early 1940's, composed a theory that innate intelligence could be measured at eleven years of age. This led to the 1944 Education Act, bringing in the eleven-plus exam for all primary school children, thus pigeon-holing every pupil according to how he performed in the test. Bright kids who passed were selected for Grammar School education, followed by University graduation. Those who failed ended up at the Secondary Modern school, back then known as the academic trash-bin, and geared for vocational and manual labour occupations. Ironic, coming to think of it. What I have found to be rather surprising was whilst the Alliance, including the British forces, were up against Hitler's Nazi powers, much time and attention were given over to such matters such as child intelligence and schooling. Of course, not only did I fail the eleven-plus, but came rock bottom, and condemned to sit at the slowest learning class in the whole school between the years 1964 to 1968. This resulted in four years of my life wasted. How come? Because all I received in secondary education was a re-hash of everything I had learnt at primary.

The snag was that if a student fails the exam by just one mark, he would be classed as a failure. Meanwhile, another student just scrapes through, and he would be categorised as a genius, and both go on to their respective schools.  Unless out of a stroke of good fortune, it does not allow for the chance of later mental development. However, I'm very happy to say that conversion to Jesus Christ as Saviour and exploring the Bible and reading it freely has vastly improved my intelligence and academic quality! And I'm not exaggerating. The Christian faith has done more than merely save my soul from eternal loss. It has made me a new man, a better person, here and now.

But this is England, blessed England. A land with its culture where the fate of an individual is determined before his twelfth birthday. Failed the exam? Then I must know my place. And sad to say, most, if not all, of our churches go along with this British culture. For example, fresh young leaders and preachers will always hold a degree. In the whole of the 45 years as a Christian believer, I hardly recall any exceptions. Rather, I do recall the Junior Church department at my home town fellowship, which was staffed by graduates, all of them believing in Evolution. They were most prominent throughout the late 1970's and well into the Eighties. In addition, the Church of England has always relied on the gene pool at Oxford and Cambridge for future leadership. As for Cyril Burt, it takes the opinion of just one doctor to decide the fate of countless numbers of students over the decades, without leaving room for later development of academic ability and intelligence. 

Canterbury Cathedral - Head of the Church of England.

This means that although I'm accepted and loved by my regular church, and even held at a high esteem by at least two of the Elders as well as by some of the students who attend, I doubt that I would ever be given a chance to teach, even though I might have a gifting for it. Some years ago, back in the early/mid nineties, a family suggested that, with my then knowledge of the Bible, I should teach a class, with themselves being willing students. But when I presented the idea to one of the Elders (no longer with us) - he said that this responsibility belongs to someone out of university and therefore better trained. Little wonder that, for a very different reason, he was defrocked by the congregation, and soon afterwards moved across the Atlantic to Florida.

It was to the likes of Cyril Burt that our schooling culture is at it is to this day, with the likes of me remaining unqualified for such responsibilities within the local church, whilst forever watching young graduates take their place at the pulpit or teaching a group. But nevertheless, I make my stand, even if it means standing alone.


*You can read more on why I believe in a Thursday Crucifixion by clicking here