The Prodigal God

James Spinti has got me thinking with a series of posts about Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God, recently published in the USA and soon to be here in the UK. Each post consists of a quote from the book and one of James’ “idle musings”. These posts start here, then here, here, and here, with probably more to come as James seems to be less than a third of his way through the book.

Keller, and James, manage to put their fingers on some raw spots in today’s church life and perhaps also in our personal ones. Here is an example of Keller’s writing, from this post:

We see that the elder brother “became angry.” All of his words are dripping with resentment. The first sign you have an elder brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter. Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try to live up to standards.


The Parable of the Unforgiving Bankers?

Sally wonders whether bankers, who have been forgiven debts of billions of dollars, will now forgive the debts of small borrowers in difficulties, or whether they will play the part of the unforgiving servant in Jesus’ parable, Matthew 18:23-35. It seems from the report Sally links to that our Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking the part of the king in that parable, but I wonder if he will be able to enforce his will as firmly as the king did.

Bargain of the Week

Last week I bought for a friend a book, through an reseller, for 1p (plus £2.75 shipping). It is a paperback novel, the kind one might expect to find for 10p at a jumble sale. The reseller had probably received it as part of a clearance lot and was glad to make the pound or so profit on the shipping.

But just now I went back (just for interest!) to look at the availability of another copy of this book. The best price now is £228.40 (plus £2.75 shipping)! That is more than 20,000 times what I paid, or 2 million per cent inflation!

This was not entirely chance. My friend had been looking out for this book to buy as a Christmas present (I won’t name the book in case the intended recipient reads this), and hadn’t been able to find it as it is known to be rare and hard to find. The seller’s mistake was not to recognise this rarity among a pile of rubbish.

Has anyone out there bought a better bargain than this?

The 4-Variable IQ Test

As many of you will know I am a bit of a sucker for online personality quizzes. So I took another one recommended by Sally: The 4-Variable IQ Test (warning: after taking this you are required to register to view your results). And I am not surprised that the result was as follows (not sure if the picture of Einstein at a blackboard will come out):

Your result for The 4-Variable IQ Test


15% interpersonal, 20% visual, 20% verbal and 45% mathematical!


Brother-from-another-mother! Like mine, your highest scoring intelligence is Mathematical. You thrive on logic, numbers, things representing numbers, and sets of things that are sets of other things,  with numbers nowhere in sight.  You probably like the online comic called XKCD, and if you don’t, check it out.

You probably knew you’d score “Mathematical” as you took the test, and mathy types are usually super-high scorers on this axis, and low on the others. Why? Because you (we) yearn for math.

Anyway, your specific scores follow.  On any axis, a score above 25% means you use that kind of thinking more than average, and a score below 25% means you use it less. It says nothing about cognitive skills, just your interest.

Your brain is roughly:

15% Interpersonal




Dawkins abandons atheism!

Shock news of the week: one of the world’s reputed leading apostles of atheism, Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, is no longer an atheist!

Doubts about this were first raised a few days ago in the responses by several bloggers to a story reported by the BBC: Dawkins has put £5,500 of his own money towards the costs of an advertising campaign with the slogan “There’s probably no God”. “Probably”? That doesn’t sound like the statement of the true believer atheist Dawkins that we Christians have come to know, love, and vilify. OK, the word is an allusion to the “Probably the best lager in the world” advertising campaign and so is mocking the advertising rules which allow unverifiable claims to be made if this word is added. But I think it left many people puzzled that he is prepared to endorse and support such an ambiguous campaign – one even welcomed by the Methodist Church, and indeed by myself for making people think about God.

But now Melanie Phillips, writing in The Spectator (thanks to Damian for putting a link to this on David Ker’s Bible Behemoth feed), gives confirmation that Dawkins is no longer an atheist. She quotes him as saying, in a debate in Oxford this week which she attended,

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

She continues:

This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn’t believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal God of the Bible was just like believing in fairies. Nevertheless, to acknowledge that ‘a serious case could be made for a deistic god’ is to undermine his previous categorical assertion that

…all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection…Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

In Oxford on Tuesday night, however, virtually the first thing he said was that a serious case could be made for believing that it could.

In other words, Dawkins is not an atheist but an agnostic, one who is not sure whether there is a God or not. Melanie suggests that his thinking may be following the same path as that of the formerly atheistic professor Anthony Flew. Dawkins previously ridiculed Flew’s arguments for the existence of God, but now he seems to be accepting that there is a serious case for Flew’s position.

Meanwhile Dawkins is continuing his virulent attack on the divinity of Jesus. So there is some way to go before we can welcome him into the evangelical Christian camp. But he does seem to have taken the first step on that path by recognising the weakness of some of his famous atheistic arguments.

Update: David Keen, John Richardson and Mark Meynell got to this subject first, but I hadn’t seen their posts when I wrote mine.

Pete Broadbent lets off gay wedding vicar

Bishop Pete Broadbent, fresh from his fence-sitting over the Lambeth Conference and GAFCON, seems to have put this experience to good use. According to a blog post by Ruth Gledhill (see also her article in tomorrow’s The Times, thanks to John Richardson for the link), he has been left in charge of the Diocese of London while his boss, Bishop Richard Chartres, is on holiday. Among the responsibilities delegated to Broadbent was the poisoned chalice of dealing with Rev Martin Dudley who, in May, performed a high profile “gay wedding” of two Anglican priests, of which Ruth has now acquired some pictures (to see them clearly, click on the small versions in her post). And Broadbent seems to have used his skill to find a middle way through this situation, to avoid a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” choice.

This seems to be what happened: Dudley was persuaded to write in July a letter to Bishop Chartres, initially confidential, about the gay wedding ceremony. In this he wrote at length in support of his own position, but also the following:

I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media. I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service, …

and then referring to the directive from the Bishop which he had disobeyed:

I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships.

Now an uncharitable bishop might have considered this letter very far from an adequate response to the situation. Indeed, as Ruth notes,

Dudley is careful not to apologise for anything, in particular the service itself.

Chartres demanded Dudley’s permission to publish the letter, threatening further action if permission was not given. Broadbent, however, has shown extreme charity in calling it “the Rector’s full and frank apology”. He also writes:

Bishop Richard has considered the matter and has decided to accept the Rector’s apology in full. The matter is therefore now closed.

So, in Ruth’s words, Dudley

is to escape any form of discipline or reprimand.

And Broadbent has shown some episcopal wisdom, some Anglican compromise, and some Nelsonian turning of the blind eye to the actual contents of the letter, in allowing this senior priest to flout episcopal authority as well as God’s standards, refuse to apologise properly, and go unpunished. Perhaps by doing this he has avoided a damaging split in the diocese, which unlike the rest of the Church of England is experiencing consistent church growth. But is this God’s wisdom in such a situation?

A Complementarian's Disappointment with CBMW

Here is something which I would have posted (perhaps without the final comments!) at Complegalitarian, except that last week moderator Wayne Leman turned it into a non-blog by disabling all comments. As I have written before, I have no interest in so-called blogs which are in fact the blog owner’s monologue.

“Blue with a hint of amber” blogger David Matthias writes of his Disappointment with CBMW, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, whose website he reads regularly (although he doesn’t seem to have discovered their real full name). As David is an elder in a Newfrontiers church it probably goes without saying that he is a complementarian. But it is interesting to see how critical he is of the complementarian position as promoted by CBMW.

His main issue with CBMW seems to be over their teaching on authority, an issue I am continuing to look at in relation to my review of Reimagining Church (I haven’t given up on it!). David quotes from a CBMW article which argues that women should not preach because that implies that they are exerting elder authority. But, as he notes, his church allows visiting preachers even if they are not elders of any church, because they are acting under the authority of the elders. In a particular case a visitor

did not preach as an elder, he preached as a servant to God’s word and our church vision laid down by our eldership. Did we falsely allow him to exert elder authority by letting him speak?

Isn’t this what preaching should always be like? So, to take David’s argument to a conclusion which he doesn’t quite spell out: why shouldn’t even those who believe in male eldership allow the elders to delegate authority to preach to their own church members, male and female?

David also criticises CBMW’s blanket condemnation of feminism, pointing to the clear benefits brought by some varieties of feminism. He finishes with this discussion of another passage from the CBMW site:

“Perhaps more than ever before, it is clear that this debate is unfolding as a contention about the authority of scripture itself.” is a difficult statement to read. I appreciate greatly the work of Grudem, Piper et al and find is sad that CMBW is drawing a line where it is. It excludes any that uphold male headship but define it more softly, and uphold male eldership but define church preaching differently, and it appears to label anything not four square in its position “egalitarian” and then imply that egalitarianism is the product of feminism, and feminism and christianity should not be mixed.

That is a massive wedge to drive between two churches who believe in male headship but define it slightly differently.

David, it is interesting to see how you are becoming disillusioned with complementarianism. Perhaps you will soon also see the weakness of CBMW’s basic argument for male headship. It seems that they are already labelling you as an egalitarian. How long will it be before I too can welcome you to the egalitarian camp? 😉

"God made me this way", or did he?

John Meunier offers an intriguing look at the “God made me this way” argument used to justify homosexuality and indeed all kinds of behaviour often regarded as sinful.

We all need to realise that we are not now entirely as God made us and intended us to be. Our personalities and our bodies have been affected by sin – our own, that of others around us, and the more general sin which has made our environment so much less good than God originally made his creation. So we should never assume that we are as God intended us to be in any particular area of our lives. Instead we should assess that area in the light of God’s standards to see if there is anything there that we need to work on changing, or asking God to change for us – or if there are limitations in ourselves which we have to accept in this life while we wait for perfection in the life to come.

Tominthebox gives news of Todd Bentley

Tominthebox News Network announces in its usual satirical style that Todd Bentley is returning to revival ministry, but using a “Probationary Podium” to keep his feet on the ground!

One thing in this report does seem to be true: the Lakeland Outpouring has officially ended, just over six months after it started in April. Ignited Church in Lakeland kept the nightly meetings going in their own building even after Todd left in August. But their website now says:

Welcome to the Ignited Church, the epicenter of the Lakeland Outpouring. It began April 2, 2008, and continued through October 12, 2008.

Sarah Palin Fulfils Prophecy

Today I have had drawn to my attention an astonishing prophecy given by Sharon Stone in Glasgow. Here is the text, as recorded and annotated by the Elijah List, with their varied emphasis:

The following is a prophecy given by Dr. Sharon Stone in Glasgow, Scotland in the summer of 2008. The notations in RED are fulfillment of the word, but are not part of the word given.

September is a Turning Point

“September is a turning point and a sign of the times. It is all about those who have made Godly alignments in this season being blessed with revelation and information in the midst of world crisis.

“I see more banks will suffer: a USA world bank’s shares are in trouble (Lehman Brothers files bankruptcy, September 15, 2008). I see government in the USA bailing out mortgage giants (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – Federal takeover, September 7, 2008) and the government in England cutting house purchase taxes for the sagging housing crisis (Stamp Duty Tax change announced, September 2, 2008) to no avail.

“I see a European airline failing with no notice (XL files bankruptcy, September 12, 2008). I see the eyes of the world looking to see, ‘Who is this coming out of Alaska?’ (Sarah Palin announced as McCain’s running mate, August 29, 2008). And I see smoke coming from the Chunnel (Fire in the Chunnel, September 11, 2008).

“As I see these things, I hear the encouragement of God to His Isaacs in the earth who sow in the times of famine and reap 100 fold in the year. I’m not a prosperity preacher, I’m a prophet. And God is saying that September will convince you that you must connect to His economic system. There are always the few that are greatly blessed when the majority are shaken, threatened and fearful.”

God says, Have you positioned yourself for THE NEW? Your storehouse is not an earthly bank. Hold on and I will bail you out of your mortgage issues. Am I not better to you than any government? I will not leave you stranded on foreign soil, and I will carry you above the circumstances better than any plane or jet. And your hope is not an Alaskan saviour, but Me.” I know that sounds strange, it does to me also.

England, the smoke I saw coming out of the Chunnel is a warning for your intercessors to arise and cut off the enemy’s plan to sabotage and siege England’s favour in trade. Let him who has ears hear….

“God, I release an Isaac anointing upon us now!”

The Isaac reference, by the way, is to Genesis 26:1,12.

I note here six quite specific prophecies which were fulfilled in September, including that the eyes of the world would look to Sarah Palin (announced as a candidate in August, but infamous only in September). One or two of these might have been guessed at, but not all six. Can anyone possibly claim that there is no Christian prophecy today?

As for Sarah Palin fulfilling the prophecy, it is perhaps significant that her emergence from Alaska is listed with five disasters! Anyway, as the prophecy continues, our hope is not to be in an Alaskan saviour, nor for that matter in a Hawaiian one, but in God.

But prophecies like this are not given for entertainment, nor primarily to convince unbelievers that God speaks to today, but as warnings and encouragements for his people (1 Corinthians 14:3). The warning here is to the intercessors of England to pray. A day of prayer for the world’s economies has been announced for 29th October, with events being planned in London (I can’t find online information) as well as New York. My church is considering how to get involved.