Archive for category Theology
The English word ‘Church’ has come to mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The most common is a building, a place of worship, of bricks and mortar, history, structures and things. The original English word however is derived from the Greek adjective Kyriakos meaning ‘the Lord’s House’.
Church in the New Testament however is from the Greek Ekklesia, meaning Congregation. Tyndale’s 1526 and 1534 Translations immediately spring to mind here. For Tyndale, the Christian Church was never a building or a hierarchy of bishops, popes and prelates, but a collective of equal souls, united in faith and bound together through the Bible. This concept is entirely Biblical, and even though the early New Testament Church did not have the entire Canon of Scripture, they had the Apostles teaching.
For them, the Ekklesia, was not merely a gentile thing, but was known and lived among the Jews.
While there certainly were many ‘Churches’ scattered throughout the cities of the New Testament, most, if not all of them were house Churches. I have visited many ancient sites throughout the Biblical lands and a majority of early ‘Church’ buildings were constructed centuries later. Despite this, the New Testament recognises there is only one Church. The modern ideas of pulling out of one Church and setting up your own is alien to the New Testament. Likewise, the idea of popery and one man leadership is unknown. What we see is a plurality of elders and deacons and a collective of equal souls.
In the New Testament, whether a Church be in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus or Rome, it saw itself as one body. It was a heavenly reality, being built in this world and on this earth, where Jesus Christ is exalted at the right hand of the Father and in the midst of the Church (Hebrews 2: 12) and is head over her (Ephesians 1: 20-23)
Today however, because of false teachers and false doctrine, divisions are as common as muck. Because of circumstances, historic divisions, tribalism, the idea of one Church (in a context) simply does not work. I say this because no person who actually believes the Bible and knows that truth, can abide with a fake unity that excludes truth. As though right doctrine can be set aside, and categorised as unimportant in the cause of unifying people. It really doesn’t work!
But in Acts 21: 20, when they heard they glorified the Lord and many thousands of people believed. Other Churches grew and when Peter wrote his epistles, Churches had scattered to the south coast of Black Sea, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Peter 1: 1) and this is in the context of persecution.
Thankfully, in England, we do not have any set persecution. Individuals may seek to undermine the faith and push down conservative values, but that will get them nowhere in the long run. A democratic society must be founded on freedom of conscience, belief and speech, otherwise we are not a democracy. So long as Christians do not attempt to force their beliefs on others, we are free to maintain them. If anyone seeks to force their beliefs and ethics upon us, they are guilty of doing what they condemn others of. Simply let them do their worst and their own extremist mindsets will expose their deeds.
This is actually quite a picture of the Church in the New Testament. Believers lived their lives, had families, met together, and the world did what the world always does. The New Testament Church never persecuted anyone, but visa versa. When read in this context, Romans 13: 1-7 makes perfect sense. The Church influences society, and works with the governments, but does not not rule them.
This is where todays independent Churches have got it right. However, I have come to understand that the idea of independent churches is unknown to the New Testament. Christ did not say I will build my churches but “I will build My Church…” (Matthew 16: 18). New Testament Churches may well have been established in various cities, but they were still part of one Church.
Thus, to answer my question, are independent Churches in the New Testament? My answer is no. But again, that is just my opinion.
my mother Joyce Sutherland went home to be with the Lord on February 17. I have dedicated this precious hymn to her. Joyce was a wonderful mother to me and all her children. I will never forget her and I will honour her memory and legacy for as long as I live.
Joyce Sutherland was not only my mother, but was a singer who worked with me from my earliest days and until the final moments. In the 1960’s Joyce and my father met Johnny Cash in Manchester. In 1991, Joyce met Johnny Cash once again, only this time, with me. She was loved by everyone she knew. Joyce had seven children and after the death of my father, spent her remaining years serving her family, friends and everyone she met with kindness, love and friendship.
Joyce became a Christian in 1972 after an experience with Christ that she told repeatedly throughout her life. I was the first born after she became a Christian. Joyce sang with me on most of my recordings and appeared in my live concerts, the last few being the UK’s only Bob Dylan Festival.
Joyce Sutherland’s story will be told.
This wonderful Anglican hymn was written by John Ellerton in 1888 while walking home from his Church in Cheshire. The lyrics are set to the tune of St Clement. The hymn is a national favourite and has become a theme song for me and I have used it in every documentary I have made. When I was in Paphos, filming my first documentary, I asked the Lord what music He wanted me to use for my documentary and immediately the brass band behind me broke into that tune. When I arrived back in England I hummed the tune, as I do in the recording, and asked my mother what the hymn was, and she said she knew it and sang it to me. I have used this hymn ever since and I will use it again. I have dedicated this version to Joyce and I hope it is a blessing to you.
Joyce Sutherland passed away peacefully in her sleep.
“Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. From dust we came and to dust we shall return.”
Today we often hear claims that the Church of England was formed in 1534 by Henry V111. Often these claims are followed by repeated references to the lifestyle and apparently tyrannical ways of this king of England. By all accounts, the popular claim presents Henry V111 as the boogeyman.
The problem is, it is not true. It is only a fraction of the story.
The historic truth is that the Church of England was not formed in 1534 by Henry V111 because he wanted a new wife, it was actually formed in 597 AD by Augustine of Canterbury. The history shows that while visiting the Forum of Rome, Gregory saw some slaves and was fascinated by their hair and after inquiring of them, learned that they were in fact Angles (people who settled in Great Britain). Being burdened, Gregory met Augustine (of Canterbury) in a monastery in Rome and Augustine mentioned his desire to be a missionary in Britain. Gregory granted permission for Augustine to go to Britain, and in 597 he established a Church in Canterbury where he baptised a quantity of persons. This mission is known as the Gregorian mission and this is the date and event that marks the formal history of the Church of England. Today, Canterbury Cathedral stands in the location associated with that event.
So in answer to my rhetorical title “Was the Church of England formed in 1534?” the answer is no! What happened in 1534 was the Act of Supremacy, being brought about as a response to years and years of doctrinal division and the false usurping of unbiblical teaching and unholy living of Pope’s and clergy, past and present. If you will, it can be likened to a 16th century ecclesiastical Brexit. Just as England and Britain have existed long before the EU, so the Church of England existed long before the creation of Roman Catholicism at the East-West Schism (Great Schism) of 1054.
The reality is the 1534 Act of Supremacy was an engineered event. 16th century reformers William Tyndale, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer knew full well what they were doing, and they used and engineered Henry’s desire for a new wife as a Nosus Decipio to get this 16th century Ecclesiastical Brexit Done.
Did everybody agree? No. There was and always will be remainers and Brexiteers. But thank God for William Tyndale and for Thomas Cranmer.
The original 1549 Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer is a wonderful and historically significant Christian book. In Rylands Library I have had the honour of reviewing and researching ancient original copies of this work, in the original prints and wording.
The original Book of Common Prayer supports the claim to universal redemption as a consistent Christian truth. The text of reads as follows;
“First, I Leanne to believe in God the father, who hathe made me and the worlde.
Secondly, in God the sonne, who hath redeemed me and all mankind.
Thirdly, I God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the electe people of God” (The Book of Common Prayer. 1549. A Cathechisme.)
The proposed questions which I set forth are these;
Q. does this article consider the possibility that the world does not mean ‘the entire world’? That is the entire human race?
A. No it does not. The text clearly states in clear basic terms for simple Christians in England during the 16th century, not to view the world as meaning only the elect or the people from within the world, but all the world. If God made all the world and this means ‘all’, then it follows that when the passage speaks of redeeming “all mankind”, that it means ‘all’ and not only some.
Q. Does this imply universalism? Or does this imply universal offering of redemption?
A. I think the word “redemption” states that the passage refers to universal redemption, that is in the sense of Christ regaining possession of mankind, in the context of a payment. It does not imply universalism. I think there is not even a hint of limited atonement within this article.
Q. But does not the text say “sanctifieth me, and all the elect”? Yes, it does. That those whom have the Holy Spirit are elect and are sanctified by Him and when the Holy Spirit is given, His work is effectual for those who believe. But that belief must be present, active and continuous. A person need not be understood as ‘elect’ because he or she has been determined by God to be elect in order to believe, but that he or she is elect because they believe.
Once again we see further proofs in favor of my claim that the Calvinistic doctrine of ‘Limited Atonement’ need not be understood as pure reformed teaching.
We must consider that if Christ has died for all, He must have made a way for all to receive Him, as communicated throughout the New Testament. But Calvinism cruelly offers salvation to people when in reality it knows all too well that unless a person is determined to believe, he or she cannot receive the grace of God unless that soul has been predestined and elected to salvation by the deterministic power of ‘God’. It offers a man bread only to give him a stone.
It is a very cruel doctrine that is somewhat deceptively diluted by many modern Calvinist preachers and presented as reformed. Yet the 39 Articles of Religion (1562) do not teach it. On the contrary, Article XXX1 (31) states the following;
“The Offering of Christ once made it that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.”
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.
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.
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.