On Nationalisms, Christian, Scottish, and British

Can ‘nationalism’ ever be Christian? Brian Stanley has recently answered that question negatively in a blog for the Edinburgh Centre for World Christianity. He defines nationalism as ‘the elevation of one’s own nation over all others’, which I suspect many who call themselves nationalists would not recognise as an account of their position. He rightly highlights, however, that the two presently-plausible outcomes of the present Westminster election both involve a nationalist party holding some measure of the balance of power: If the polls are even close to correct, and if they do not shift significantly in the next thirteen days, then it seems that a Labour minority government, relying on the support of a large SNP block, and perhaps also...

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At Lazarus’s Tomb: An Easter poem

He wept, the man who I had learned to trust, And spoke: ‘he who believes will never die.’ My brother, who for four dead days did lie, Rose, stripped, and lived again. This we discussed Endlessly – how could we not? The years went by He married, prospered, then, as all men must Grew old. He stooped and sickened. Returned to dust. And now once more we watch his tomb and cry. ‘The resurrection and the life’ he said, But I await the last of days again. ‘Though die, will live’ – strange words he spoke, and hard; What has he changed, who on the cross once bled? He rose. And rose. Made gates of death, through pain, A door held open by the hands still scarred.

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Faith in faith and valuing values? Reflecting on David Cameron’s Easter message

The Prime Minister has issued an ‘Easter message’, which makes for interesting reading. It has rather less (that is, no) reference to cross, resurrection, or indeed the name of Jesus than I suppose is normal in Easter messages; The claim that ‘Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children’ might raise more than a few eyebrows; Easter always used to be all about ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’ (to borrow what is possibly John Owen’s only truly memorable line). My friend Danny Webster has blogged on this, and I pretty much agree with everything he says. I cannot imagine any positive reception for this piece; Mr Cameron has (once...

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‘Sodomy’, celebrating the Eucharist, and other disgusting acts

One evening few weeks ago I tried out the perspective I have been developing over the past couple of years on a Christian ethics of sexuality on a lay audience for the first time (previously, I’ve aired it before academics and/or ministers); the general response was pleasingly positive, but, inevitably, there were folk who were not prepared to travel with me. One stood up to ask a question. ‘Dr Holmes [always a bad sign], what we are talking about here is sodomy. Do you not find sodomy disgusting when you think, when you really think, about what people are doing?’ Now, it was news to me that we were talking about sodomy: I’d talked a lot about marriage, a bit about fallenness, quite a bit about love, and a lot about asceticism, nothing...

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Why TED talks are far less interesting than revival sermons

I like good oratory. I teach public speaking regularly. I source and buy or download examples of great (imho…) examples of the genre, from business, politics, cinema, and the church. I watch the best of them over and over, making notes on why they work. I go over videos almost frame-by-frame with classes and seminars, pointing out this hand-movement, that inflection, the use of eyes, the deployment of silence, and of course two dozen or more classical rhetorical techniques, which I name easily in Greek and English. I like good oratory. A while ago, at a dinner party, the conversation turned to TED talks. I admitted, truthfully, that I have never yet watched to the end of one. It turned out that another guest was VP of a firm that sponsored one of the...

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On repentance, forgiveness, and the Church of the Second Chance

My friend Natalie Collins wrote a piece a few weeks ago for the (excellent) preachweb.org site responding to an earlier piece by Martin Saunders; both reflect on how a preacher might deal with the simmering news story concerning the footballer Ched Evans, who has recently been released from prison on licence for a rape conviction, and is looking for a club to resurrect his career. He is (or was) talented enough that a number of clubs are tempted; his crime, his refusal to acknowledge his guilt, and his public lack of remorse, are together sufficiently sickening that the opinion of the public and (perhaps more crucially) that of a significant number of financial sponsors is set against at having him at any particular club. As a result a rolling story is being...

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‘A dirge for the down-grade?’

I recently had a meeting in London at the Oasis Waterloo centre; arriving slightly early, I stayed on the tube for one more stop and went to the Metropolitan Tabernacle bookshop, which I frequent fairly regularly, mostly for its republications of older Puritan and Baptist material that is not easily available elsewhere. I picked up, amongst other things, a slim paperback promising Spurgeon’s original source materials on the ‘Down Grade’ controversy, the event that led to his withdrawal from the Baptist Union, and to several strained relationships. The volume is not complete (most obviously to my eyes, MTP2085, ‘A Dirge for the Down-Grade’, is missing; that said, I had the privilege of discovering and cataloging Spurgeon’s own...

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