I enjoy a good argument. However, I do try to restrict my arguments to those issues which are important. So although I have some views on, for example, the Second Coming you will not find them argued out here. I'm not saying that the Second Coming is unimportant, but our human arguments about the details are usually not very helpful.
The issues you will find here relate to what it means to be a Christian, and the provision God has made for us in the Holy Spirit. I am increasingly clear in my own mind that some of what most people teach on this is wrong. This is not abstract theology, but a matter of life and truth. The truth sets people free, but error enslaves. I believe that most Christian teachers simply teach what they have been taught, yet they sincerely believe that they take their beliefs straight from the Bible. Fortunately, for those who try to take the Bible seriously, much of what they have been taught is true so seekers can find salvation in all sorts of churches.
In addition, I want to put straight those people who claim that faith in God is incompatible with science. I am a physicist, and an evangelical Calvinist charismatic Christian - I feel no conflict within myself over this. I believe in the value of the scientific method and the authority of Scripture. I believe in the real objective existence of electrons and angels. I know God as both my Saviour and my Creator.
I have a tendency to be blunt, so if you don't like having your views challenged then this is the point to stop reading! I have good friends from various Christian backgrounds, so my aim is to attack error rather than people.
Many people would say that a Christian is a follower of a religion, namely Christianity. This is not the idea given in the Bible. It would be better to say that a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, but even this is not enough as it still places too much emphasis on what the person does. I believe that the true answer must involve some action on God's part; we can't simply decide this for ourselves as left to ourselves we would never do it! I have summarised my understanding of what it means to become a Christian. How can we learn about God?
I have been part of several churches over the years. All have been more or less evangelical in doctrine, but with quite different 'flavours'. My current one is St. Neots Evangelical Church (known as SNEC), which is an independent conservative evangelical church (affiliated to FIEC). This emphasises the authority of Scripture, and the importance of a personal relationship with God. My previous church, Solihull Christian Fellowship (SCF), could probably be described as a charismatic house-church. This emphasises the power of the Holy Spirit in giving supernatural gifts, but also the necessity of a relationship with God.
What would my ideal church be like? Will I ever find it? If I do, will I spoil it by joining?
There are many issues on which Christians disagree among themselves. An issue which concerns me, perhaps because of my personal history, is the division between conservative evangelicals and charismatics. In some areas one of them is right; in others they are both wrong! Receiving the Holy Spirit is one such area, so I have added my two penn'orth to the debate! This issue is sometimes mixed up with Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Does God still speak today (for example, in prophecy), or is the idea of listening to God in prayer a category error?. What about the gift of tongues? Perhaps a defining difference is the issue of cessationism; is it biblical? I hope and pray for a convergence - if they all get closer to the truth then they will inevitably get closer to each other. However, there may be dangers in continuationism. Some church leaders try to hurry people along, apparently believing that human pressure can bring in God's Spirit to a church. The result is often disastrous.
Having been part of several quite different churches, it is interesting to compare preaching styles. To some extent these illustrate doctrinal ideas. It is always fascinating listening to someone trying to explain that the Bible does not mean what it appears to say. This usually occurs when a verse or passage contradicts a party line. I guess 'explaining away' the Bible is preferable to ignoring it altogether. An example I recently heard is that Paul does not encourage us to be continually filled with the Spirit, but filled by the Spirit. Both sides seem to believe things which are not true. I call them myths: cessationist myths and charismatic myths.
I have written a little story to make you think. Are you driving or pushing?
Most conservative evangelicals like to hear 'sound' doctrine, by which they think they mean biblical doctrine but in reality may actually mean the teaching they have heard many times before. New ideas may be accepted from someone they trust, provided that an apparent proof text can be found or the new idea appears to be sufficiently positive about Christ or sufficiently negative about Christians. People may happily believe unbiblical ideas and teach them to others. This problem is not unique to conservative evangelicals, but they are particularly blind to it as they define themselves as being first and foremost biblical Christians. Sometimes people are puzzled that God does not seem to be at work in them in the way they expect.
A recent example I heard is the idea that everything we Christians do is tainted by sin. This appears to be a conservative (or Reformed?) extrapolation of the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. What kind of commander tries to encourage his troops by telling them that everything they do is not good enough so they can never please their Captain? Is it surprising that conservative churches sometimes need to run seminars on keeping going even when you don't feel like it?
A related issue is whether it is correct for Christians to habitually refer to themselves as 'saved sinners'. If we are saints, does that mean that a Christian can't have a demon?
Most charismatics Christians like to see what they regard as God at work by his Holy Spirit. In reality some of this is mere human froth, and from time to time may be even worse. New ideas are readily accepted from anyone who comes claiming to serve God; novelty is regarded as intrinsically good. Doing daft things is encouraged as it takes people 'out of their comfort zones'. People may happily believe unspiritual ideas and teach them to others. This problem is not unique to charismatics, but they are particularly blind to it as they define themselves as being first and foremost Spirit-filled Christians so expect to always be able to sense when something is of God or not.
Sadly, some charismatics seem to believe that there is a cosmic power source we can 'plug in to' by 'having faith in faith'. This is not a good way to view the Holy Spirit of Almighty God.
There is a lot of nonsense spoken these days about the relationship between science and faith. There seems to be more heat than light in the arguments, and some people appear to be astonishingly keen to expose their own ignorance in public. I have started to add my own contribution to the debate about science and faith. From time to time Darwinists get a bit twitchy and try to defend their position; are these really evolution gems?
Evolutionists often claim that creationism makes no testable predictions so is not valid science. I beg to differ! Here are some testable creationist predictions, some of which have already been found to be true. OK, that makes them explanations rather than predictions.
Some Christians try to claim that they can be faithful to Scripture and also embrace evolution. One example is 'The Language of God' by Francis Collins. Part of the confusion arises because theologians don't know much science (and some don't know much biblical theology!), biologists don't know enough physics, and evolutionists misunderstand what creationists actually believe. Some light has been introduced by 'Should Christians Embrace Evolution?' - in case you are wondering the authors agree that the answer is an emphatic "No!". This is written mainly by theologians and scientists, some of whom are qualified in both fields.
A few years ago I wrote a worship song.
I have started putting sermon summaries on my website.
Back to home page, Links
updated 11 Jul 2010: add notes on evangelicals, and continuationism