Re: Approaching death with faith
Thanks so much Colin for your thoughts on approaching death with faith. This is an edifying and helpful article. I would add that resurrection hope also includes the resurrection of the body and the joy of living in a new heaven and a new earth. Too often we miss how exciting it will be to live clothed in the resurrection body in a transformed creation.
Re: Theology through the lens of the marginalised
Like members of Michael Shaw’s church in Devonport, I too was brought up in a poor area of a dockyard city. My home city happens to be Portsmouth (Pompey to those in the know). I was brought up not far from ‘Pompey’ dockyard. It was a flat fronted two bedroomed terrace house. We had no bathroom (the metal bath hung on a hook in the garden and was brought in every Friday and filled from a gas-heated copper). Our loo was also outside in the garden. My dad was ‘working class’ and a labourer in the ‘Yard. Money was always short. A lot of our clothes came from jumble sales. In short, life growing up was hard.
When I left secondary school, guess what? I worked in the dockyard, as did my dad and his dad before him. At no time do I remember feeling disadvantaged or thinking that life had cut me a bad deal. I think Michael has a rather patronising attitude towards ‘working class’ people like me I- manual work is to be valued. I note that in his piece that he especially singles out the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement and says that working class people, just like me, cannot identify with it because it has socially negative overtones and is associated with boss against worker and feudalism. Let me tell him that it was this doctrine that led this ‘working class lad’ to surrender his life to the Lord Jesus Christ (not a travelling hobo) at the age of twenty. When I heard the message that because I was a sinner and in danger of the wrath and judgement of God and that Jesus loved me and willingly bled and died for me, as my substitute, my life was changed dramatically, just like the lives of Wesley and Spurgeon were changed when they heard the truth of the gospel.
All I can say is that there must be an awful lot of hymns that are not sung in Michael’s church! Rather than disparaging and caricaturing the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement like Michael does, I believe it is the glory of the gospel. The atonement is the ransom price that sets Christ’s people free from their sins. PSA is the biblical doctrine that is at the heart of the Christian gospel. All who embrace this doctrine believe with Isaiah that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and that by His wounds we are healed. They recognise with the apostle Paul that Christ bore the curse so that we would not have to, and that we are justified through His blood and saved by Him from the wrath of God. Unlike Michael, this is the God that I believe in and follow.
Finally, I have to say that Michael is guilty of teaching ‘another gospel’ especially when he says, “I err towards original goodness, because it says we are not evil by design, by default, we have just done bad things”. This kind of teaching is pure Pelagianism and was rightly condemned by Augustine as heresy. He is right to infer that his brand of belief (unbelief?) would lead to a lack of invitations to preach at most evangelical churches (at least those that have not already embraced ‘woke’ism and post modernism).
I think that Michael is in danger of inventing a ‘god’ in his own image. A privileged/underprivileged background has nothing to do with coming to faith. We are saved because we are chosen by the grace of God. I am always amazed that he should choose me. In fact, I’m amazed that God would want to save anybody because the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it? We are all dead in trespasses and sins. Not almost dead but dead! The great American18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards said: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” We are saved by the sovereign grace of God. The scriptures alone tell us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and to the glory of God alone.
Tom Taylor, Devonshire Avenue Baptist Church, Southsea, Portsmouth
Re: A tree to remember
This is even more striking when you actually see it!