If by grace what I say has in any respect any validity,
it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich.
JRR TOLKIEN, 'On Fairy Stories', 1939.
I was out for a walk this morning – probably about 11 miles of Cornwall passed under (or stuck to) my boots. After about an hour and a half of being oblivious, I started to notice that nature is busy having babies: daffodils (some out, most not), buds appearing on the hawthorn, catkins on the hazel. As you can see.
Theological application: many of the things we have been hoping for, praying for, acheing for have already begun. They are already here. Don't be overwhelmed by the absence, keep your eyes open for the presence.
I want to share the quote because of its unbelievably defective view of the nature of God, and because often it's easier to see what is good and true by contrast. Read on:
Allah did not create man so that he could have fun.
The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer.
An Islamic regime must be serious in every field.
There are no jokes in Islam.
There is no humour in Islam.
There is no fun in Islam.
There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.
If you wish, you could (and probably should) compare with this:
It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.
Please Lord, may I be foolish.
Cos when men are wise they're not satisfied.
Please Lord, may I be lonely.
Cos when men have friends, they're reckless.
And please Lord, may I be helpless.
Cos when men are strong, they're dangerous.
And please Lord, put a tiny little spring in my step…
John Stott died last summer: a man with huge influence and authority – the present healthy state of evangelicalism within the CofE is in no small part down to him – and someone of whom I was naturally suspicious, mainly due to the people who claimed him as their leader. Plus he really didn't get postmodernism.
But when you actually get to read the guy, he was clearly a brilliant, original and orthodox believer; the kind of person, in short, who is worth following. Chris Wright said, 'He was, for all of us who knew him, a walking embodiment of the simple beauty of Jesus, whom he loved above all else.'
Here are some examples of his thoughts:
'Christianity is not primarily a theological system, an ethical system, a ritual system, a social system or an ecclesiastical system – it is a person: it’s Jesus Christ, and to be a Christian is to know Him and to follow Him and believe Him.'
'To become Christian is in a real sense to become human… But to assert joyfully that salvation includes humanisation is not at all the same thing as saying that humanisation (rescuing men from the dehumanising process of modern society) equals salvation.'
'The debate about the rival merits of evangelism and social responsibility is never necessary. It expresses an unbiblical dualism between body and soul, this world and the next.'
'Every Church should be engaged in continuous self-reformation.'
'Before Christ sent the Church into the world he sent the Spirit into the Church. The same order must be observed today. Without the Spirit, the Word is a lifeless and dead letter.'
'What people want is an easy-going syncretism, a truce in inter-religious competition, a mishmash of the best from all religions. But we Christians cannot surrender either the finality or the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. There is simply nobody else like him; his incarnation, atonement and resurrection have no parallels. In consequence, he is the one and only mediator between God and the human race. This exclusive affirmation is strongly, even bitterly, resented. It is regarded by many as intolerably intolerant. Yet the claims of truth compel us to maintain it.'
'The devil hates the gospel and uses all his strength and cunning to obstruct its progress, now by perverting it in the mouths of those who preach it, now by frightening them into silence through persecution or ridicule, now by persuading them to advance beyond it into some fancy novelty, now by making them so busy with defending the gospel that they have no time to proclaim it.'
'We have the means to evangelise our country; but they are slumbering in the pews of our churches.'
'Listen to the world’s many discordant voices: the cries of the poor and oppressed, the questions of the bewildered, the sighs of the hurting… We are called to double listen. We listen to the Word of God to believe and obey it and we listen to the modern world to sensitively understand it.'