An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Banksy vs the Bristol Museum

After a two hour queue - and this was midweek and before the kids have broken up from school - we managed to get in to see the Banksy exhibition. Banksy is a Bristol graffiti artist. It now looks like he has become mainstream; all the postcards were sold out.

Is this art? Is it a joke? or is it both? I'm not sure. There is no doubt that there is creativity and much playfulness involved. What was interesting is that he is subverting many popular art forms and making a comment on society - and in some respects his art works like Jesus' parables.

This was a take on Jean-François Millet's The Gleaners (1857) with the subtitle - agency work.

Or this:

The captions read: 'Does anyone take this kind of art seriously?' 'Never underestimate the power of a big gold frame'.

Loads of photos from the exhibit are available on flickr see here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

All of life redeemed update: Skillen and Zylstra articles

Added to the Jim Skillen pages:

Christians Organizing for Political Service: A Study Guide Based on the Work of the Association for Public Justice APJ Education Fund, 1980.
This is an excellent introduction to a Christian view of politics.

Confessing Christ and Doing Politics APJ Education Fund 1982
Chapter 5 “Public Justice and True Tolerance” pp.54-62
Chapter 7 “Christian Action and the Coming of God’s Kingdom” pp.88-103

Added to the Bernie Zylstra pages:

1970. The crisis of our time and the evangelical churches. In Out of Concern for the Church Toronto: Wedge Pub. Foundation. pp 75 ff.

Monday, 20 July 2009

A redeemed horror film: The Spell

Mark Roques comments:
This new film by Owen Carey Jones is a 'redeemed' horror film and you will enjoy the trailer.

Owen is doing what we say Christians should be doing. He is a culturally transformative Christian. I've seen the film and it really tells a great and poignant story in a subtle Christian way.

The film is a based on a true story and is out in September.

The film's website is here.

Faith + politics = the wrong approach

Proper Christian faith concerns all of life. It has no limited meaning that can be isolated from the political, agricultural, economic, and artistic lives of Christians and non-Christians. Likewise, politics is never purely secular from a biblical point of view. Nothing in this creation (in this world or this age) has a life and meaning of its own, independent of the Creator’s will and purpose. Biblical revelation and political life, Christian faith and human government are intimately connected from the start in God’s single creation. It is a mistake to think that we should be trying to connect two experiences which have never been disconnected.

James W. Skillen in Christians Organizing or Political Action APJ, 1980 (forthcoming on allofliferedeemed)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Colossians 3 - it's all about holiness

These are the note and slides for a talk I did tonight. The title was 'It's all about holiness'.

Two cars are waiting for a traffic light. The light turns green, but the man didn't notice it. A woman in the car behind him is watching traffic pass around them and go through the light. She begins pounding on her horn and yelling at the man to move. He doesn't.

The woman is going ballistic inside her car, ranting and raving at the man. The light turns amber and the woman flashes the finger and screams a stream of profanities and curses at the man.

The man looks up, sees the amber light and accelerates through the lights just as they turn red. The woman is beside herself, screaming in frustration.

She is in mid-rant when she hears a tap on her window and looks up to see a policeman.
The policeman orders her to get out of her car. She is cuffed and taken to the police station where she is put in a cell.

Later a policeman takes her back to the booking desk where the original officer is waiting with her personal effects.

He hands her the bag containing her things, and says, "I'm really sorry for this mistake. But you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you, and swearing at him. Then I noticed the: 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper sticker, and the fish emblem on the back of your car. So, naturally . . . I assumed you had stolen the car."

So, what does it mean to be holy? What does Colossians 3 have to say?

First we need to look at the context - the whole context is the scriptures. An important hermeneutical principle is that the scriptures don't contradict each other. The next context is the NT, then Paul's writings and finally the book of Colossians and the cultural, political, economic, cultic context. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go into all the detail but the immediate context is ch 2:20

20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22-23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

Dos and don'ts don't help - so what does Paul suggest?

We have died with Christ – our old selves are dead – so why live as if they aren’t? Holiness doesn’t come from working at it. Holiness is not something we can accomplish.

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

The key words here are since then… we died in Ch2 and now in Ch3 we are raised with Christ.

But then we have something a little strange – forgive me while I make a little but important digression:

One of the things that I’m totally convinced of is that there is no dualism in Christianity. Dualism is pagan contraband imported into Christianity. Nothing is more spiritual than anything else - all of life is spiritual, we can’t split things up into spiritual and non-spiritual.

And yet here Paul seems to he appears to make a dualism of things above and things of the earth. What’s going on?

The issue here is one of direction. It is useful to make a distinction between structure and direction. I know I’ve said it before – but all I’m doing is reminding you. Structure is the way God has made things – he created and it was good. Creation is good. However, then came sin … there is now two directions: the God way and the other way. Direction is all about how we take things.

The distinction here is in terms of the old age of self and the new age in Christ. The kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.

Paul goes on to expand on what he means by things above and earthly things. One thing he is not doing is decrying the physical this is no hair shirt asceticism that Paul is advocating. He has been at pains to point that out in chapter 2. Neither is he advocating a head/ heat dualism – heart good, head bad. In fact he stresses the unity of the two here:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

The direction, where we are looking to and where we are going are important.

He defines what he means by earthly things:

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other,


It has nothing to do with culture, art, music, maths, science, business, law or any other aspect of creation. The ‘things above’ do not mean that the physical is decried.

So, what does it mean to be holy?

Look at Amazon data: How many books with holiness, miracle, sex, power in their titles?

It says something about what sort of books Christians will buy. We get the publisher's we deserve!

For many holiness is conjures up asceticism, an attempt to get away from worldliness by abstaining from things. One such acetic was Simeon Stylites. He lived for 37 years at the top of a pillar becasue he wanted to get away from the world. A rather drastic approach!

Simeon became very serious about his religion at the age of 13, at 16 he joined a monastery and beagn fasting for a past-time! He became too austere even for the rest of the monks so they kicked him out. So Simeon went and lived in a hut, he also went without food and water for the whole of the Lent period. It was regarded as a miracle and Simeon gained a large number of followers and crowds came to seek his advice. That's when he decided to live on top of a pillar in an attempt to escape the world and put down the body. This has nothing to do with holiness. It is a misconception of holiness.

Holy comes from the word separate - many Christians see it as a separation form the world and culture an other worldliness. But can we be holy without living in a hole? Without sitting on a pillar and escaping the world - we are not called to an other-worldliness but a worldly holiness, a holy worldliness.

God is holy, He is involved he didn’t try to escape the world he became involved, he became flesh, he became physical.

Holiness is not something that we do - it is something that we are. Herman Ridderbos says ‘it is necessary to recognise that it does not in the first instance have a moral content’.

Colossians 3 we see the source of holiness: new life in Christ. Living in Christ.

We have died with Christ, we are also raised with Christ.

The image used here is that of a garment. The old garment is the old life but in Christ we now have a new garment.

v 5 Put to death
v 6 rid yourselves of all such things A Putting Off
v10 taken off your old self

v 10 put on the new self
v 12 clothe yourselves A Putting on!
v 14 put on

A change of direction.

In Christ we have a more radical solution to holiness than legalism or attempting to escape from the world.

Our old selves have been dealt with - they have been nailed to the cross and in Christ we are raised to a new life. Like an old garment they need to be taken off and discarded. We are united in Christ - we died with him and we are raised with him. We are holy, set apart, because of what he has done.

Being made holy we are called to live holy. We must reject a cheap grace that means we can live as we wish, likewise we must reject a legalistic set of dos and donts.

Gordon Spykman:
The summons to sanctified living calls, therefore, not for superficial moralistic acts of self-exertion, but for a sturdy kind of ‘worldy’ holiness, rooted in wholehearted dedication to the Lord in all our Christian callings. It calls for covenant faithfulness, kingdom loyalty, in full reliance on an unfailing divine initiative. Such a life of obedience is motivated and directed by a faith which finds God's grace its source of strength.

The final verses of this chapter show that holiness needs to be worked out in the house and at work, for husbands, wives, children, slaves and masters.

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

And in case we didn’t get it the first time – Paul repeats himself:

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Holiness embraces all of life - we can have a political holiness, an academic holiness, economic holiness, artistic holiness, business holiness, a workplace holiness. Let’s not limit the gospel … the gospel is for all of life. Holiness is not about what bumper sticker we have, it's about what car we drive, it's about how we drive, how we live and work in the market place, the workplace, it's about the whole of life. It's about the whatever of life.

Let us pray. Father thank you we can be holy without living in a hole or on top of a pole.
Thank you you have done it all in Christ – we are holy because of what you have done for us. Help us to be holy in all areas and aspects of our lives. Help us to put on Christ and to image you and not to restrict your gospel. Open our eyes. Amen

Music for a Sunday morning

Friday, 17 July 2009

At Home in God's World - B J van der Walt

I'm pleased to announce that Bennie van der Walt has a new book published in August/ Sept: At Home in God's World: A transforming paradigm for being human and for social involvement.
ISBN: 978-1-86822-570-5


Preface: Prof. J. J. Venter
Recommendations: Dr Samson Makhado and Revd Isaac Mutua
Introduction: Why and how to be at home in God’s world

The biblical basis of a Christian worldview and philosophy

1. The directives of God’s Word for ethical/moral behaviour
2. How to read the Bible to hear God speak and understand our social responsibility

Christian-philosophical basics

3. John Calvin (1509-1564) the father of a transforming Christian worldview
4. An overview of the global presence of a Christian Reformational philosophy and scholarship
5. A new paradigm for doing Christian philosophy: D. H. Th. Vollenhoven (1892-1978)
6. God’s ordinances: providing direction in a crisis of norms and values

A multidimensional Christian view of being human

7. John Calvin’s struggle to attain a truly biblical view of the human being
8. The biblical perspective on being human
9. The human heart rediscovered in the anthropology of Dirk H. Th. Vollenhoven
10. Imaging God in the contemporary world
11. Even death cannot separate us from God and his creation

A Christian social philosophy

12. The biblical foundations and historical development of a Christian paradigm for social involvement
13. A systematic exposition and practical application of a transforming Christian social philosophy
14. Towards a normative practice
15. A partnership model for transforming development cooperation in Africa


Monday, 13 July 2009

Planetwise - a review

Dare to Care for God's World

IVP, 2008
156pp £7.99
ISBN 978-1-84474-251-6

Recent years have seen a proliferation of books on a Christian approach to environmental care. We have had Russell, the Hodgsons, White and Spencer, Berry and Bookless. Why the resurgence of interest? What is interesting is that most of these authors have imbibed a neocalvinist framework: creation, fall and redemption. Many via Tom Wright and his amplification of the three stage into a five part play. Such is the case of Bookless in this book.

Bookless was throwing away some rubbish while on holiday when he felt God spoke in an inner whisper to him 'How do you think I feel about what you are doing to my world?' This book is the result of careful thought about that revelation and shift in perspective. As he puts it: 'God spoke, creation groaned, and worship could never be the same again'.

Bookless is the National Director of A Rocha UK, a Christian environmental group, so this book is the result of thought and action. This is no armchair theorising.

He starts by utilising Tom Wright's five acts framework of Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus and the present future age. These form the first five chapters of the book. He writes in an engaging and helpful way. Though I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the cultural mandate. His approach is very accessible and readable, each chapter ends with a three questions which aid reflection and discussion. The influence of another Wright - Christopher J. H. - is also evident here. Not only in the number of triangles but with the emphasis on land.

The remaining chapters, 6-9, all look have the title: 'Living it out: X as if creation matters'. Where X is discipleship, worship, lifestyle and mission. Here we see these important topics in the light of creation. He makes an important observation: 'Can you spot Christians by the cars that they drive (not just the the bumper stickers)...?' p.117. There are many wise practical and attainable ideas for how we can make our discipleship and lifestyle consistent with our beliefs and he manages to do it in a way that is not guilt inducing.

Unfortunately, there is no index, but there are three pages of end notes and two and a half pages of useful resources.

This is one of the best of the recent spate of green books. Highly recommended!

Book website

Available in the UK from:
book depository
eden books
wesley owen

Friday, 3 July 2009

Christians the reluctant greens (1989)

This s a piece I wrote for the Christian Ecology Group (now Link) magazine Green Christians (Feb-April 1989). It formed the outline for a chapter in The Earth is the Lord's. The section I wrote on eschatology was edited out.

Christians: The Reluctant Greens (1989)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Spykman on sanctified living

The summons to sanctified living calls, therefore, not for superficial moralistic acts of self-exertion, but for a sturdy kind of ‘worldy’ holiness, rooted in wholehearted dedication to the Lord in all our Christian callings. It calls for covenant faithfulness, kingdom loyalty, in full reliance on an unfailing divine initiative. Such a life of obedience is motivated and directed by a faith which finds God's grace its source of strength
Gordon Spykman, Reformational Theology p. 497-8.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Towards a biblical view of environmental care

Here's a piece I wrote in 1989 on environmental care. It was published in the British journal Evangel. The editor then was Gordon McConville.

Towards a biblical view of environmental care (1989)