Archive for category The Bible
In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.
To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.
Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.
Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.
Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.
It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.
Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.
At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.
However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.
Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.
Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.
I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.
During the Coronavirus Pandemic, a lot of people, Christians and none believers, have been asking a lot of questions. Many Christian spokesmen, leaders and organisations have been expressing their views concerning Covid-19 and its relation to the Christian worldview.
As is common, some views I have agreed with others not. However, it appears that eschatology has become quite topical and many take the viewpoint that we are in the ‘end times’. And in some sense, I would agree.
However, the New Testament is clear that this world has been in the “Last days” (ages, aeons) since the time of Christ. This is stated very clearly in Hebrews 1: 1-2.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, who He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.
The Epistle of Hebrews was written prior to the events of AD 70 and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Titus. This means that the original author of Hebrews, understood the “last days” as an age that had already begun in his day. However, this right understanding is not always mentioned by dispensationalist thinkers. On the contrary, many Christians understand the “last days” as though it either specifically relates to now or our future, but rarely as a period that began 2000 years ago and could span thousands of years.
When I was a young Christian, the majority eschatological opinion, more often than not, conditioned that term ‘last days’ as expressively related to a time in the distant future when the antichrist would sign a peace treaty and a seven year tribulation would follow. This interpretation is taken from Daniel 9: 27.
But not everybody has subscribed to that interpretation.
When I was a young Christian and newly baptised, I was often presented with a then recent publication called ‘Approaching Hoofbeats’ by Billy Graham. The book was popular back then and the dramatic title intrigued me and although I never read it, I often left the Book of Revelation alone through some form of unease.
Well meaning Christians would say ‘We are in the last days’ and read passages to me relating to ‘antichrist’ and a ‘rapture’. “One will be taken, one will be left” (Matthew 24: 40-41) Yet no one ever referenced any other viewpoint, or mentioned the many contrasting interpretations of those passages.
Eager to read the Bible for myself, I grew up, and after reading the Bible from start to finish, I eventually reached an opposite view. I read the Gospel of Matthew in its original context and could not see any reason why our Lord Jesus Christ would warn, or inform, 1st century believers about events that would happen in Jerusalem thousands of years later when they would be no longer on earth.
This is also true of the Book of Revelation. I still see no reason why John would write to Seven Churches in Asia Minor about events that would happen thousands of years later after those original readers were all dead.
It was then that I realised that this common ‘end times’ theology radically took the original 1st century readers out of the equation.
To cut a long story short, I can now comfortable state that I reject Premillennial and Dispensational eschatology. I view this theological system as incredibly inconsistent with the original meaning of many Bible passages and what Scripture reveals Christ achieved during His Life, Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension.
Now days being in the Conservative Evangelical wing of the Church of England, I need not listen to ‘Premillennialism’ since the majority view, (if it is ever discussed) is ‘Amillennial’.
I have now reached a point in life where I am ready to engage in the eschatological debate and challenge this idea of ‘Premillennialism’ with Scriptural and historical facts.
Having said that, I accept that eschatology is in no way a salvation issue and I do not look down upon other Christians as half Christians for believing something different than I. But I have no doubts that many other Christians will not offer me the same in return.
On May 6, over 450 years ago, William Salesbury published The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms, newly translated, into Welsh.
This 16th century prayer book had been previously written for use within the Church of England by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Book of Common Prayer would become an important spiritual ingredient in the daily diet of Christians throughout England, and beyond, and continues to be used by Anglicans, even to this day.
The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms has been deeply revered within Christianity, and a majority of English Bibles were printed and bound with it from the 16th century up to the 19th century. It was that important.
Early 19th century editions published by the British and Foreign Bible Society are among some of the earliest Bibles to exclude the BCP. But earlier printed Bibles such as the Geneva Bible and King James Bibles, all contained Cranmer’s Prayer book.
In the year 1567, William Salesbury had translated his version into Welsh under the title; Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin. Back in those days Parliament was Biblically minded and Westminster had given Salesbury the deadline of 1 March 1567 (St David’s Day) to publish his translation. Sadly that deadline was missed. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms into Welsh did not appear until May 6. But it was not without its opponents.
Anger had outburst by opponents of the Welsh tongue, and people had aggressively demanded that the translation be utterly abandoned. But such opposition was unfruitful. Salesbury did not give in.
Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin was published on 6 May 1567. But Salesbury was the translator, not the author.
Cranmer’s original Book of Common Prayer had been a work of absolute genius and Christian devotion. Rather than divide the Church, Cranmer sought to unify her through Scripture and Prayer.
Cranmer’s prayer book is a very special gift and people would always do well to read it. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms is a monumental work that has echoed on through the centuries and has fed the Church of God with Scripture, through with Prayer.
It is not a book of ‘prayers’, it is a book of prayer. We need more of that today, perhaps more now than ever.
2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Welsh Bible and the 500th anniversary of the traditional birthdate of Welsh New Testament translator William Salesbury.
According to tradition, William Salesbury was born in 1520 and died sometime around 1580 or 1584. He was from a small town in North Wales and became one of the greatest scholars and Christian hero’s Wales has ever known.
He became an Oxford scholar and withdrew into seclusion during the reign of Mary Tudor between 1553-1558. In 1567 he published a Welsh translation of the New Testament which became the foundation for the 1588 Welsh Bible by Bishop William Morgan.
2020 also marks the 400th anniversary of 1620 Revision of the Welsh Bible by Bishop Richard Parry and Dr John Davies and events around Wales will be held to commemorate this event.
My documentary “William Salesbury, The Man from Lllansannan” marks the dawn of my journey into the history of the Church in Wales and Welsh Christian history. This documentary is my contribution to the life and legacy of this most excellent and dedicated Christian man. Of whom Wales owes so much.
Throughout the Bible, people read, spoke and heard people speak in their own languages. Jesus read the Scriptures in Hebrew, one of His own languages (Luke 4: 16). At Pentecost, the people were confounded because they heard people speak in their own languages (Acts 2: 6). The Apostles and New Testament authors wrote in languages people could understand and the early Church translated them into the common tongue.
Let us remember those who were once in great need of reading the Scriptures in their own languages and remember those who gave their lives and dedication to seeing the most important Book in the world translated into the common tongue.
Recently I visited the ancient City of Kameiros on the Greek island of Rhodes. This is now an archaeological site.
In ancient times Kameiros was one of the three ancient cities of Rhodes and today has some evidences of the spread of early Christianity on the island. Here the city was built upon three levels. There was a Temple of Athena, a Stoa and an Acropolis. There was even a reservoir.
Here, hundreds of people once lived in terrace type houses. On my visit I greatly admired an area where these ancient houses once stood. Here, archaeologists affirm many early Christians once lived.
This is interesting because the first and only time Rhodes is mentioned in the Bible is in Acts 21: 1 and my documentary explores that passage of Scripture. However, it must be pointed out that before the time of Paul’s visit to Rhodes in the AD 50’s, there is no evidence for Christianity on the island. We can only imagine that Christianity must have spread from either Rhodes town or Lindos, after the Apostles visit.
Here in Kameiros early Christians would have had to live amongst pagan temples and the worship of other gods. However, in 142 AD an earthquake destroyed the city. Today it lies in ruins.
Much of ancient Kameiros is yet to be excavated, some of the finds are in the British Museum. But what I learned from this visit was that Christianity was present on Rhodes very early. This is interesting because clearly someone brought the Gospel to Rhodes in the early days of Christianity. I propose that archaeology and history affirms that Luke in Acts was correct and that he and Paul brought Christianity to Rhodes on Paul’s third missionary journey.
The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended, is a classic hymn, greatly upheld as a favourite in Britain and the Anglican Communion, and is sung in many Churches of other denominations.
It was written in the 19th century by Church of England minister, John Ellerton (1826-1893). The story goes that in 1870, the Rev Ellerton was walking home after teaching classes at the Mechanics’ Institute and noticed how beautiful the night was. He wrote the lyric based upon that inspiring moment. Being customary in the Anglican Communion to give thanks to God ‘Morning and Evening’ the lyrics reflect 1 Chronicles 23: 30 and Psalm 113: 3. Christians from the earliest days of the faith, gave thanks to God both in the morning and the evening. This hymn reflects that practice.
It is easy to assume that the words and music of such great hymns were written entirely by one person, but this is not always the case. The melody for The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended is actually set to the Hymn tune known as St. Clement, in 98. 98. meter. This tune is generally credited to Clement Cotteril Scholefield (1839-1904) and first appeared in a hymnbook in 1874. This publication was known as Church Hymns and Tunes.
This inspiring and uplifting melody sets the lyrics in motion for an ever flowing waltz of affectionate love. These are no mere words of a self focused individual, but from the soul of a person devoted and affectionate to the One true God. They ascribe to God the honour and praise as the One who gave the sinner the gift of each day and night. The knowing that God hears the praises of His people. They give thanks to Him continuously for His provision and building of His Church. That she is unchanging, and “unsleeping” as the world worries its way through life. That men’s empires pass away, but the Kingdom Christ has established, will never pass away for He is her King.
For me, the lyrics “Thy Kingdom stands and grows forever” reflect the constancy of the Kingdom of Christ and the sovereignty of His reign. The word “Thy” reflects the singular focus upon the Kingship and person of Christ. “Thy Kingdom stands and grows forever” does not relate to any supposed Kingdom to come in our future, or during any futuristic millennium, but the identity of Christ’s Kingdom, being His Church, was expected and prayed for during the lifetime of Jesus (Matthew 6: 10). That the reign of Messiah (upon the Throne of David) was proclaimed, by the preaching of Peter, that the prophecy concerning the throne of David was fulfilled by and at the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2: 30-36). Who’s Kingdom knows no end (Isaiah 9: 7, Luke 1: 33).
The lyric speaks of the continuing growth of Christ’s everlasting Kingdom. That His people are everywhere beneath the “Western skies” and such can never be destroyed.
The hymn has continued to be sung in Churches everywhere and today it remains the official hymn of the Royal Navy and has also been included in many editions of the Scottish Psalter, and Methodist hymnbooks.
When I recorded instrumental versions of this melody for use my documentaries, I explored the melody from a purely musical perspective. I let the notes raise my soul to the spiritual realms of musical praise. Where music can take the soul into places where words cannot enter. Many modern chorus’ and so-called ‘praise and worship’ songs do not have the power or depth to attain that.
I love the idea and sound of traditional Anglican Church music, and although I have yet to ever attend a service where this hymn has been sung, it has quite possibly become my favourite hymn.
While on the Greek island of Rhodes, I revisited the site of Acts 21: 1. This location is Rhodes Town, the site of the Colossus of Rhodes and St. Paul’s Gate. Here Paul and Luke landed in the 50’s AD.
It is quite easy to miss but within the walls surrounding the Gate of St. Paul, there is a 15th century image of the Apostle high up on the wall.
The image itself is faded and undefined. But it represents the familiar image of the Paul we know.
This is Paul the elderly and powerful. His left arm is raised. His right arm is carrying a sword. Representing the sword of the Spirit. His head is leaning to the left.
The Gate of St. Paul was constructed during the 15th century and fortifies an area of the harbour known as the Kolona Harbour. The locals of Rhodes town generally accept that this was the precise location where Paul and Luke landed. This location satisfies me as the site of Acts 21: 1.
Once again, as always, it was wonderful to stand in the places written about in the Bible. The message is clear, keep our eyes fixed upon the Apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2: 42).
Many years ago I read ‘The Sovereignty of God‘ by A. W Pink. This book is a well written work presenting the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God from the the Calvinistic perspective. It is well worth the read.
In this book the author affirmed the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘. Because of the sheer weight of Scriptures Pink presented, I believed the doctrine as very Scriptural.
A. W. Pink was from Nottingham and in my opinion, Pink was the most consistent Calvinist I have ever read. He was a brilliant man and an excellent Christian Theologian. He proclaimed the doctrines of Calvinism to the fullest with no weakness on his part. Obviously it is not difficult to realise that a man of such Scriptural knowledge would have his collisions with the Church of his day. His biography shows us examples of that. But most of it may relate to his Calvinism.
A. W. Pink should be admired, even by his Theological opponents, because he did not shy away from the proper logical conclusions to the clear teachings of Calvinism. These observations (in my opinion), separate him from the more common, inconsistent and unconvincing Calvinist revisionist preachers and writers of our day.
When I read Pink, it would not be long before I became persuaded by the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. Over time however, and through the clear lens of openly reading Scripture, the impact of Calvinism lost its flavour with me. I began to see too many Scriptures contradicting the system and Calvinistic apologists failing to explain the contrasts with proper exegesis or convincing argumentation.
In answer to my title, the reason I once believed in ‘OSAS’ was because of the selective Scriptures which Calvinists use to affirm their doctrine. I am convinced, if people simply read the Bible and never listened to Calvinistic preachers, they would see that eternal security is conditional and apostasy is possible for true believers. Christians have the duty to abide in Christ and no one can abide in Christ if they never were truly saved to begin with.
As a person who once believed the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’, I understand it, not merely from knowledge, but from experience too. It is a very persuasive doctrine. However, over time I could see the natural progression of doctrinal bondage developing. Fear of departing from accepted doctrines and the teachings of popular preachers became easy to break when I digested and trusted the words of Christ “the Truth will set you free“.
The truth be told, people who believe in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ very rarely arrive at that conclusion by simply reading Scripture alone, but by listening to their favourite preachers or their pastors, or biblically external books. For many people and preachers, the doctrine of ‘OSAS’ is Scripture itself and for an individual to deny it either makes a person a half Christian or simply not born again. These opinions however are absolute none sense. No one need accept such attitudes or permit themselves to be bullied into beliefs that contradict Scripture.
Obviously I would not regard those who teach the doctrine as false teachers, but I would say that without their rhetorical skills, the doctrine has little Scripture to authenticate it. The facts remain, as I have written in a previous article, the doctrine of ‘OSAS’ is a historical anomaly and was not taught in the church until the 16th century. John Calvin was probably the first person to have properly taught the doctrine. As I have previously argued in an earlier article, the doctrine likely has Gnostic origins rather than Scriptural foundations.
Over recent years I have repeatedly re-examined the doctrine and the more I read the New Testament from this perspective, and explored the contexts and the Greek, I saw an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidences to claim the doctrine has little weight to it at all. In fact, there are so many Scriptures that contradict the position, many Calvinistic apologists and preachers are left scraping the barrel for argument, so much so that they are in danger of getting splinters under their finger nails.
The truth be told, there are over sixty or so verses in the New Testament which speak as warnings to Christians to remain loyal and in the faith and to abide in Christ.
It seems quite clear that the Calvinist claim that any believer who departs from the faith, was never truly saved in the first place, may well have some accurate Scriptural examples, but the majority of the doctrine is a violation of the plain reading of Scripture.
Over recent times I have been made aware of the ever growing trend of “rebaptism”. For some, “rebaptism” by immersion is baptism, nothing else. Modern ‘rebaptisers’ claim that there is only “one baptism” and the reason they baptise someone for a second time, is because the first baptism was not legitimate at all.
As always with all my beliefs and Christian practices, I claim that I do not believe or affirm anything in the name of Christianity, if it is not in the Bible. But these days almost all Christians claim that. Some ‘Christians’ claim they hold to ‘Scripture alone’, yet their doctrines are so broad, and unorthodox that it is difficult for me to read or hear them with a straight face. Others have so many variant doctrines, that I have absolutely no idea where their beliefs come from? All I know is they do not come from the Bible.
One of these ideas is the growing trend of ‘rebaptism’ by immersion. An unorthodox practice that is largely associated with ‘Oneness Pentecostals’ and ‘Southern Baptists’ and ‘youth groups’. This ‘baptism’ by definition is a baptism of a person who has been previously baptised, but some denominations or individuals do not accept previous baptisms as valid, because they were done in other churches. The common claim is that the person who has been previously baptised, did not actually fully believe in Jesus when the previous baptism occurred. The proposal is that the person must be “rebaptised” or simply “baptised”.
This trend of ‘rebaptism’ is absolute none sense! The facts remain that there is not a single reference in the entire New Testament for anyone to be ‘rebaptised’ or baptised more than once in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus the answer to the rhetorical title: “Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?” the answer is a direct no. ‘Rebaptism’ simply denies Colossians 2: 12 and the power of God to raise a person up from being dead in sin unto new life, regardless of where that person was spiritually when the baptism occurred.
The harsh and real truth is, baptism by immersion is irrevocable. If someone is foolish enough to get baptised, and yet that person did not truly believe, then that person should take responsibility for their unbelief and actions and seek God for forgiveness. A minister should not allow his congregation to move beyond the realm of Scripture and orthodoxy because a false convert or persons in his congregation have previously made a foolish mistake of being baptised while they have an evil heart of unbelief.
Likewise, a person who goes into a new church and is pressured into being ‘rebaptised’ because the minister or teacher has convinced them they are not really saved, should search the entire Bible first. All people who experience this pressure should ask their pastors why there are no rebaptisms or repeated baptisms, or two baptisms in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Bible.
Likewise people should ask why there are no denominational rebaptisms in the Bible? Is a single baptism in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit insufficient?
Likewise, the idea of rebaptising false converts is also destroyed by the Bible. In Acts 8 when the sorcerer was baptised, and after ward tried to purchase the Holy Spirit with money, Peter told that person “your money perish with you” (Acts 8: 20). Peter told the man to repent and seek God for forgiveness, in the hope that God may forgive him (Acts 8: 22). Peter did not mention anything about a rebaptism and neither did Luke the author of the Book of Acts.
What is clear is that the modern unorthodox revisionist and emotionally charged practice of ‘rebaptism’ by full immersion in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is nothing less than fiction.