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.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 8


Blocher, original sin and evolution Richard Mortimer

Mortimer has recenlty completed a PhD on different interpretations of the fall. Here he looks at Henri Blocher's view of the fall and original sin.

Original sin has been described as 'lack[ing] biblical warrant, is incoherent, unscientific and unhelpful' (p 174) Blocher's work, Mortimer notes, is important because 'Blocher asserts not only the scriptural validity of the doctrine but also its positive value' (p. 174).

Mortimer provides an excellent summary of Blocher's views. 'Blocher affirms the historical schema of creation, fall and redemption. It is the historical fall that is remedied by the historical cross' (p. 183).

Mortimer then looks at the evolutionary challenge to Blocher's views. He takes issue with Blocher's monogenism - the idea that 'Adam and Eve were a literal couple from whom the human race derives' (p. 187); a view he sees as 'inadequate' (p. 191). Polygenism - humans developed in several lines and so not all have Adam as an ancestor - is more in line with the evolutionary synthesis Mortimer maintains. And he is keen to defend polygeneism but hold on to a historic Adam and Eve. (A similar view is held by R J Berry in chapter 2.) To do this he suggests two possible options. One is to see Adam as a federal head, following Derek Kidner and Douglas Spanner; the other is to see, with Karl Rahner, Adam and Eve as representing a population rather than as a couple. Mortimer favours the latter option, but acknowledges it does need to be developed further.

It is a shame that Blocher hasn't responded to this paper. It does seem, from the previous chapter, that Blocher's views have slightly changed; he no longer sees the evidence for Adam and Eve as Cro-Magnons around 40 000 BC as conclusive.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 7

Theology of the Fall and the origins of evil Henri Blocher

Blocher starts by stating that he is a theologian and an amateur when it comes to science. Nevertheless, this is an issue that he has written about and considered over a number of decades. Not least in his In the Beginning (IVP, 1984).

I was particularly pleased that he spelled out how he sees science and the Bible interacting. We must take the Bible first, in the light of the original intention of the author and then 'Only secondarily should we reflect on the modern relevance of the meaning and any confrontation with contemporary scientific opinion' (p. 150).

He is right to remind us that 'science' is not 'immune from errors, frauds or ideological slant' (p. 151). This is particulalry true to remember in the light of the recent climategate e-mails. One wonders how much we are also kept in the dark about other scientific theories?

It is refreshing to see him unequivocally state that 'Whatever the tensions, the non-historical interpretation of Genesis 3 is no option for a consistent Christian believer' (p. 155).  He briefly discusses James Barr and Christopher Southgate and Moltmann and dismisses their objections and interpretations.

Again, he stresses: 'The issue of historicity here is no peripheral matter for hair-splitting theologians: it is vital for the biblical message - it is the heart of the message' (p. 158); also: 'The issue is not whether we have a historical account of the Fall [no scare quotes here], but whether we have the account of a historical Fall (p. 159).

He then looks at palaeoanthropology and sees what light this can provide in light of the fact that 'A historical Fall is a non-negotiable article of faith' (p. 169). He notes that 20 years ago it looked like human origins could be traced back to 40 000 BC from one centre, but this no longer seems the case. Hence, he concludes that we need not be embarrassed that we have scientific uncertainties we can trust the Creator and Redeemer.

Odds and sods

IVP have a website to complement an interesting book: Should Christians Embrace Evolution?
61 free apps - a useful list from lifehacker
A review of John Walton's Lost World of Genesis One by C John Collins [HT Reformed Academic]
So who created the Internet?
An archive of The January Series lectures at Calvin College is available here. HT Jamie K A Smith, who is the Jan 2010 lecturer.
Baptism debate audio some links from R Scott Clark here.
Swalesy has posted the slides from his recent talk on the idolatry of science and technology here.
The billion pound o-gram a brilliant visual illustration of where our money goes.
Shed loads of apologetics mp3s linked here at Apologetics 315
Byron Borger's list of marriage books
More H Evan Runner resources on-line links via the Runner blog




Friday, 27 November 2009

Buy Nothing Day




[HT Tony Jones]


Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 6


Irenaeus on the Fall and original sin  A. N. S. Lane

I wasn't too familiar with Iranaeus's (c. 115-221AD) view of the fall so this chapter was a welcome addition.

Lane is keen to defend the Irenaeus's view against a number of recent commentators who seem to have misread/used Irenaeus. These include the Dominican Denis Minns.

Irenaeus held that Adam and Eve were not created perfect.  But, this does not mean that they were sinful. He also distinguishes between the image and likeness of God. Adam was created in God's image but the likeness was something he had yet to attain. The likeness was lost and is something that Christ restores.

Minns maintains that for Irenaeus Gen 1-3  was in part symbolic and is thus more in tune with modern understanding than Augustine (p. 140). However, Lane argues that 'Irenaeus's theology is undermined more than most others by the suggestion of a non-historical Adam' (p. 141).

Lane then looks at three important questions when considering the nature of the Fall:
  • Was the world perfect?
  • Were Adam and Eve perfect?
  • Were Adam and Eve immortal?
Lane maintains that the traditional view is not scriptural (p. 143)! His response following Irenaeus is 'No' to each of the above questions. Before the Fall Adam and Eve were not perfect they were on probation, they did not fall from a great height: 'Rather, they were setting out on a path of moral testing and at an early stage they took a wrong turn' (p. 144).  It is not clear from what Lane says that this is a denial of a cosmic fall. He suggests that the language of 'fall' is misleading; it is a wrong turning rather than a fall from a state of perfection.

What concerns me most is that Lane suggests that we ought to be more sympathetic to a nature-supernature approach (p. 146). This might leave the way open to avoid a science-theology conflict over Genesis 1-3, but it would result in more problems than it would solve.

It would have been interesting to have considered why Augustine's view has been the dominant paradigm in theology through the centuries. Why is it that now Irenaeus's view is being reconsidered now? Is it an apologetic response to Darwin? Or is it a fresh understanding of the scriptures? I suspect the former.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 5

"Original sin and the Fall: definitions and a proposal" T. A. Noble

As Noble rightly states: 'The doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of the Fall are inextricably linked in historic Christianity'. He identifies and briefly discusses ten facets of original sin:
  1. Universal sin
  2. Fallenness
  3. The original act of sin
  4. Original guilt
  5. Original sin as a vitium or disease
  6. Heredity sinfulness
  7. An inner disposition, tendency ot 'bent toward sinning'
  8. The propagation of sin through sexual desire
  9. The flesh
10. Corporate sin

It was good to have these different aspects spelled out; though, of course not all of them - particularly point 8 - are biblical facets. But these concepts have been associated with original sin throughout the ages. As Noble points out this analysis can help towards constructing a more 'concise and coherent' doctrine of original sin.

He then looks at the Fall examining three aspects: alienation, death and sin. He makes an excellent point, that is often forgotten, that we need to interpret the Fall in the light of the New Testament.

The Fall for Noble is an event, a 'spiritual and ethical' event. It can't be seen as an explanation for evil, as evil is 'inexplicable'.  The Fall is not a theodicy, it's not part of apologetics but of dogmatics. It is also an event in time. He unequivocally states that: 'we must maintain a temporal Fall even though the language is prophetic and full of imagery' (p. 115). Though he thinks we may not be able to date it since it 'may not be open to our historical inquiries' (p. 115). Again, 'Quite why Noble thinks this not not quite clear. It may be that he wants to maintain a complementarity between science and revelation. He draws paralles between the parousia and the Fall, both are known through revelation and neither can be known by 'natural human insight, research and investigation'. He almost gets into a sacred/ secular dualism here. He summarises his perspective:

In short, from the viewpoint of natural science and the historical-critical method, both of which methodologically project present conditions into the past and future, the world must look as if it has been fallen and always will be (p. 119)

He then tursn to death. As he rightly states 'death came through sin' (Rom 5:12) 'seems to fly in the face of scientific investigation..' (p. 120) He warns again of taking the doctrines of Christian faith 'as if they were scientific theories'. 

He comes back to consider sin. He sees it as important that we discern two aspects to sin: the acts of sin and the condition of sinfulness.

He concludes by making an excellent point: Darwin 'has created an apologetic problem for the Church, but Christian theology must resist the temptation to be driven by apologetics' (p. 129).  Which begs the question: how much is this book being driven by apologetics in the light of Darwin?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Badger ale, pork pies and guinea pigs



What do the above have in common? Check out Jon Swales on science and technology here to find out (Evening service 22.11.09)

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 4

God and origins: interpreting the early chapters of Genesis Richard S. Hess

Hess raises the question: 'What does the Bible say about origins?' There is no mention of Darwin or even biology, he focuses solely on the biblical text and of Genesis 1:1-2:4 in particular.

He first places Gn 1:1-2:4 in its literary context and then compares it with other creation stories. The major difference between the biblical and other creation accounts 'is that only Genesis describes one God acting alone without reference to or acknowledgement of other deities' (p. 91).

The first verse of the Bible he sees as a title - 'it does not describe and initial event followed chronologically by the events of verse 2' (p. 93). He gives careful and considered support to a creation out of nothing.

He then turns to the creation of humanity and the terms image and likeness. He understands them as synonyms; the terms are used to describe a statue that represents the king's royal authority. Humans are not statues of God but they do represent his authority, they are to continue his work. They are to continue 'the divine act of creation'.  I appreciated this emphasis as it serves to underline the importance of, in neocalvinist terms, the cultural mandate.

Jesus is the true image of God and in his proclamation of the kingdom the challenge to develop creation is passed on to the church.

He summaries his key points:


  • creation is cosmological
  • the days of creation are logical not chronological
  • creation is not primarily ontological but concerned with life
  • creation climaxes on the seventh day - as a day of rest
  • creation is meant to be 'led and guided by 'adam who is created in God's image as male and female'.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Jubilee 2010

Jubilee from Jubilee on Vimeo.

Check out the jubilee 2010 website and the living jubilee blog



Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 3

Theological challenges faced by Darwin Darrel R. Falk


Falk identifies three theological problems that faced Darwin: a good God bringing forth new species through processes that involved pain and suffering; the implications for God's providence: is God present in random chance events?; and the death of his ten-year-old daughter Annie.

Falk makes a good point that none of the challenges are new.  They are problems of 'natural theology'.  He goes on to claim that Darwin's theory raises no new theological barriers. That may be the case, however, it does, though, bring into sharper focus some issues. for example, it means that suffering is 'natural', evolution depends on suffering. As Berry put it in the preceding chapter: 'physical death was a part of the creation from the beginning' does this mean that suffering was too? This issue has so far been unaddressed.

Friday, 20 November 2009

"If God doesn't exist, everything is permitted"

This is a quote often attributed to Doestoevsky. Apparently, he didn't write or say it. David E. Cortesi has tracked down its origins to Jean Paul Satre who seemingly inadvertently attributed it to Doestoevsky:

"The existentialist...finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven....Dostoevsky once wrote, 'If God did not exist, everything would be permitted...
Unfortunately, he couldn't find a source for Satre's quote!

So, if anyone wants to quote this saying, perhaps it would be better to write: 'As Doestoevsky didn't say ...'




Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 2

2. Did Darwin dethrone humankind?  R. J.Berry



This is the longest chapter in the book and it deals with a number of important issues. Not least the issue of a historic Adam and the meaning of the image of God. Before examining these two important issues Berry looks at the varied reactions to Darwin's theory. He then goes on to look at the 'special nature of humankind in the face of evolutionary science' (p. 61). As Berry notes 'The Fall is the place above all where biology and theology conflict' (p. 72). In this chapter he attempts to reconcile the adam, the fall and evolution.


He suggests that it may be possible to distinguish between humanness emerging gradually and its instaneous 'instantation by God'. These are interesting ideas but he doesn't really develop them fully. He then looks at the question 'Did God make a single person (or pair) in his image or did his image appear in a group of individuals?'


James Dunn suggests that Adam is to be understood as 'collective humanity' but John Stott, James Barr and Leon Morris stand by a historical Adam. The choice of commentators that Berry cites is limited and I would have expected other commentators ideas to be added to the mix here. (However, to be fair to Berry this issue alone would require a full monograph or PhD!) It's not clear, from this chapter, where Berry stands. But he does suggest that resolution 'must be left to theological debate', which sounds like a hollow answer as he has bought science into it! It raises the question how are Bible and science related? This is an important question that Berry doesn't examine.


He does, however, suggest that science can bring two insights into the presumably theological debate. First, the imago if 'conferred on an individual, there is no reason why it should not spread by divine fiat to all other members of Homo sapians at the time.' (pp 65-66). Second, 'death' that entered was separation from God; and that physical death was part of creation from the beginning, as seen in plants eaten by animals.


Some, such as Teilhard de Chardin, Julian Huxley and C. H. Waddington see the Fall as an upward leap - Berry rightly sees this view as erroneous as it does damage to 'the biblical meta-narrative'. (p. 67) We are not improving morally.


What are the effects of Adam's disobedience? Is the next question under discussion. For Berry 'The Fall [here the scare quotes used previously - "The Fall" - are discarded] is not primarily about disease and disaster, nor about the dawn of self-awareness. Rather it is a way of describing the fracture in relationship between God and the human creature made in his image' (p. 70).

Again, there are some snide remarks about intelligent design (ID): 'at best it can be regarded as little more than Deism reborn' (p. 73). This is hardly a comment that will aid dialogue. In fact it probably says more about Berry than ID. 

A small point but the authors seem to persist in shortening the title of Darwin's 1859 book from On the Origin of Species to Origin of Species, though this may have been a copy-editor's rather than authors' error.

There are some nuggets in the footnotes (of which there over 100):

I was interested to read that Popper had retracted his comment about his view of Darwinism as a metaphysical research programme rather than a testable scientific theory - his retraction was apparently in New Scientist 87 (1980): 611 (p. 48, fn 40)


Berry thinks that Gosse's Omphalos idea is the only (albeit unfaithful to reality) alternative to evolution (p 42-3 fn 30).

Berry has made some good points in trying to reconcile biology with origins, however, I feel there is still much more work to do here.

Other writings by Berry on these issues include:


M Northcott and R J Berry (eds)  Theology After Darwin (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2009)
God and the Biologist (Apollos, Leicester, 1996).
God and Evolution: Creation, Evolution and the Bible (Regent College Publishing, 2001)
'This cursed earth. Is "the Fall" credible? Science and Christian Belief11 (1) (1999): 29-49; 165-167.
'The fall of history' Science and Christian Belief 12 (1) (2000): 53
'A cosmic fall?' Science and Christian Belief 19(1):78
'Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution' Science and Christian Belief 18 (1)(2006): 23-29
'Eden and ecology: evolution and ecology' Science and Christian Belief 19 (1) (2007): 15-35

Monday, 16 November 2009

Jim Belcher: Deep Church (audio book, MP3, CD) - christianaudio.com

Jim Belcher: Deep Church (audio book, MP3, CD) - christianaudio.com

Posted using ShareThis

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: chapter 1

'Worshipping the creator God: the Christian doctrine of creation' David Wilkinson

The opening chapter fittingly deals with the creator. Wilkinson looks to Colossians 1 rather than Genesis 1 to present a Christocentric vierw of creation.

There is much I loved in this chapter; not least:

  • the Christocentric perspective;
  • the emphasis that the universe cannot be fully understood without reference to God
  • his endorsement of creatio ex nihilo. (Interestingly he cites May as a detractor from this view - though Copan and Craig in their Creation out of Nothing have dealt with their views and found them wanting. Surprisingly Copan and Craig's view was not referenced);
  • the emphasis on science as 'a Christian vocation rather than a secular threat' (p. 25) and as a Christian ministry;
  • and the endorsement of the view that imaging God implies responsible stewardship.

This is slightly detracted by the times Wilkinson caricatures other perspectives, for example he implies that Intelligent Design is an approach that 'look(s) for gaps within the scientific account' (p. 21) and that some six-day creationists argue 'Now that I have proved Genesis is correct, then the whole of the Bible follows' (p. 20). This is similar to asserting that some theistic evolutionists argue 'Evolution shows that there is no fall, so there is no fall'. Indeed some do, but certainly not all.It's easy to tarnish all with the same brush.

Nevertheless, this is an inspiring chapter and one that glorifies and exalts Christ.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Darwin, Creation and the Fall: Introduction


Darwin, Creation and the Fall: Theological Challenges
Edited by R. J. Berry and T. A. Noble
Leicester: Apollos, 2009
ISBN 978-1-84474-381-0
£9.99 208pp pbk

Not surprising - being the of the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species - 2009 has seen the publication of many books on Darwin. This one is an attempt to address the theological issues and challenges raised by Darwin's theory. Four theologians and four scientists address many of the key issues. The book had its origins in a Tyndale Fellowsip and a Christians in Science conferences. All the authors are evangelicals and 'accept the contemporary scientific picture of the world' (p. 12).

Evolution raises a number of important theological and biblical issues. Not least the following:
  • What are the implications for a fall and original sin?
  • How are we to understand good and evil and evil and suffering?
  • Is suffering intrinsic to the world?
  • Is it possible for humans to be fallen without a Fall?
  • How are we to understand humans as being created in the image of God?
  • How are humans different to other animals?
  • Is it credible in the light of science to believe in a historic Adam and Eve?
  • Should science shape the Bible or Bible science?

The Fall has been a problem for theistic evolutionists and until recently little has been written on this important aspect. Hence, this book is a welcome addition to the literature. I hope in subsequent posts to look at some of the key issues raised in this book. In the meantime here is a table on contents:

Foreword - R. J. Berry and T. A.Noble

1. Worshipping the Creator God: the doctrine of creation David Wilkinson

2. Did Darwin dethrone humankind? R. J. Berry

3. Theological challenges faced by Darwin Darrel R. Falk

4. God and origins: interpreting the early chapters of Genesis Richard S. Hess

5. Original sin and the Fall: definitions and a proposal T. A. Noble

6. Irenaeus on the Fall and original sin A. N. S. Lane

7. Theology of the Fall and the origins of evil Henri Blocher

8. Blocher, original sin and evolution Richard Mortimer

Epilogue: the sea of faith – Darwin didn’t drain it R. J. Berry and T. A. Noble

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Pi and mathematical reductionism

Last night I watched the film Pi (details here)

Here's the trailer.



It's a fascinating film. The 'hero' Max is a mathematical reductionist - and it screws him up. Idolatry does that.

A theology "quiz"

Jake Belder tagged me in a facebook quiz - here are my responses:

1) What's your favourite theology book?
Difficult to choose one - but probably Reformational Theology by Gordon Spykman

2) What Christian(s) book has been most influential in your thinking? Why?
Mark Roques and Richard Russell have been very influential in helping me to break out of a dualistic worldview. Two books Transforming Vision by Walsh and Middleton and Creation Regained by Al Wolters.

3) Where do you attend church?
St Mike’s, Stoke Gifford Bristol

4) What is your denominational affiliation?
Anglican - but not by choice!

5) Who is your favourite theologian/Christian philosopher?
Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, D H Th Vollenhoven, Lesslie Newbigin, N. T. Wright, Gordon Spykman, Roy Clouser, B J van der Walt et al.

6) Who is your favourite preacher?
I don’t get off much on preaching - I’d rather read a book. I used to enjoy C J Mahaney in my house church days - I had loads of his tapes. I enjoy listening to Tim Keller; and Mark Roques is always good value. Si our vicar isn't too bad either :)

7) What is your calling as a Christian (if you've figured that out!)?
There are many - husband and father primarily.

8) What spiritual virtue do you desire most?
‘Spiritual’? Not sure I understand the question, all of life is spiritual! Perhaps a lack of pedantry?

9) What is the greatest challenge to the church today?
To fully understand and implement the implications of the all-embracing kingdom of God.

10) What bothers you most about the local church?
The fact that many people don’t get the full implications of the gospel.

11) What encourages you most about the local church?
The potential for the kingdom

12) Pre, post, or Amil?
Amill unless I read Revelation (then I'm historic pre-mill - definitely not dispensational)

13) Antichrist...past or future?
Yes.

14) If you could only keep 5 Christian books with you on a desert island, what would they be?
Bible
Concordance
Herman Dooyeweerd’s New Critique of Theoretical Thought - in case I’m on the island for a long time.
Kuyper’s Principles of Calvinism - for inspiration
Herman Bavinck’s complete works - I’d love to have the time to read it!

15) What got you thinking theologically?
Reading George Eldon Ladd’s The Presence of the Future - I didn’t know theology could be so exciting!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Some great music

Sigur Ros's Heima (all 94 minutes) from 2006 is available to watch on Pitchfork this week.


And The Lantere Rouge's The Last Place EP is now free to download here.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Glenn Friesen's 95 theses on Dooyeweerd

The current issue of Philosophia Reformata looks at Glenn Friesen's '95 theses on Herman Dooyeweerd'. There are responses from Theo Plantinga, Henk Geertsema and Gerrirt Glas.

Glenn has also responded to Geertsema and Glass here. Glenn's paper can be found here.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Idolatry: narcissism


When I was asked to speak on narcissism I thought you must be joking - can’t I just talk about myself?

Last week we kicked off this series with an introduction to idolatry and he looked at 1 Cor 10 to identify some characteristics of idols. What I’d like to do tonight is look at one idol in particular – the idol of self. Or if you want to be flash about it narcissism.


But first I want to underline some important points about idolatry.


Bob Dylan sang:

You gotta serve somebody
It may be the devil
or it may be the Lord
But you gotta serve somebody

He was right. We all serve somebody – the question is who or what is it?

We are all worshippers, that is the way we are created we all worship someone or something it is in our very nature to do so. The Bible is full of injunctions not to serve other gods, primarily because it is so easy to do so! Idolatry can be very subtle, particularly contemporary idolatry. Since the fall it is a human disposition to worship the created rather than the Creator.

Idolatry is misplaced allegiance. The Lord our God is a jealous God: he demands our complete and total allegiance. He will not tolerate being displaced by a rival, therefore he demands that we are to keep from idolatry. (Cf Ex 20: 5 (Deut 5:9).)

History is a story of idolatries. We are so fickle: we find the lure of other gods so tantalising. And yet God is a jealous God.

Implications

There are several important implications for today:

• Idolatry is not an old problem. It is not a byproduct of a primitive worldview. Contemporary idols are not things we put on our mantelpieces and bow down to; they are often concepts and ideas.
• Idolatry is very subtle: it creeps up on us without us noticing.
• We become idolaters by a process of osmosis, slowly absorbing ideas.

1. Idolatry is a consequence of being a worshipper: we all have to worship something.
There may not always be a cultic or ceremonial aspect to our worship, but it is worship nonetheless.


2. Idolatry is worship of the created rather than the creator.
It is elevating something in creation to a place it was not meant to have. Treating the good – no mater how good it is - as God.

3. Idolatry is misplaced commitment.
It is putting our trust in something other than the Lord. It may be something laudable and worthwhile, such as the family or church or even the Bible, and yet if it takes a place it was not meant to have it can become an idol.


4. Idolatry dehumanises and we image what we worship
Ps 115:8
Such is the nature of idolatry that it distorts us and shapes us into their image.

[Daily Mirror piece: Computers turned my boy into a robot] Paul Bedworth – the first person to be convicted under the Computer Misuse Act, charged with hacking.

Anyway, enough about idolatry, let’s get back to me … I mean narcissism.


If we want to know what our society idolises look at its adverts.

Here’s one:
Cheryl Cole advert: You’re worth it!



I’m worth it.
It’s all about us – it’s all about me: narcissism

We have become a society that is self –focused.

I mentioned Bob Dylan’s song – You’ve gotta serve somebody.  John Lennon, responded to that with a song of his own: “You got to serve yourself”

Have a guess: How many books are there on amazon with “self” in the title?

Over 1/3 of a million!

And Friday’s Telegraph had this story [see slides]

Narcissism was first used to describe this self-love by the psychologist Carl Jung. It is named after a Greek myth. (Most heresies can be traced back to the Greeks!)

Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and destroyed himself in self-absorption and self-love. He withered away staring at his own image. He was so much in love with himself that he couldn’t do anything else. Idolatry is like that it dehumanises us.


Sociologists like to classify different generations; one way of classifying them is by letters.

The generation born between 1961-1981, the baby boomers, were known as Generation X

Post 1981 as Generation Y, but a better term for those born between 1981 and 1999 is the iGen or even Generation Me a generation shaped by shaped by technology.
We had friends reunited (remember that?) bebo and my space then along came facebook; we had blogs and now twitter.

Blogs – online web logs or journals told anyone and everyone what we were doing.

Facebook used to ask us ‘What are you doing?’ now it’s ‘What’s on our mind?’ – it’s all about us. Our thoughts and feelings can be transmitted around the globe with the click of a button. We matter or so it seems!

It was Jean Twenge who was one of the first to call it the Me generation – or generation Me.

She includes everyone between the ages of 9 and 39. The generation that takes it for granted that self comes first.


We have expressions like:
Be yourself
Believe in yourself
Love yourself
Express yourself
Stand up for yourself
If it feels good to you do it!

This cartoon sums it up well.

Typical characteristics:
Me first
It’s all about me
Self-esteem
Self-actualisation
Unwillingness to take personal responsibility
Focus on celebrity and money
- usually me as a celebrity (blog, twitter, facebook, X-factor, Britain’s got Talent) and me as having money


Narcissism is a worldview. Every worldview is the product of faith commitments. Every worldview provides answers to key questions such as:

Where are we?
In a world that has no meaning or purpose other than what I choose to give it.

Who are we?
I am me!

What’s the problem?
Society, family, everything but me

What’s the solution?
Be me – be myself, do what feels good!


How can we respond to this idol of narcissism as Christians?

The narcissist responds to the question: who are we with: I am me – the Christian responds to the question what’s wrong with: I am.

As Paul Vitz puts it “For the Christian, the self is the problem not the potential paradise. Understanding this problem involves an awareness of sin”.

A few decades ago The Times asked several prominent authors to answer this question: “What’s Wrong with the World?” G K Chesterton responded:

Dear Sirs,

I am.

Sincerely yours,

G. K. Chesterton

The solution to living for self is to die to self.
What does it mean to die to self?
It is putting others before our self.

Dead to self - alive to Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian: Jesus and not self is on the throne.
It is being a living sacrifice.


However, dying to self, it is not wearing a hair shirt or living on a pillar to escape the world. It is not a total denial of self.

Self is a creation and as such it is good.
Idolatry consists of the good becoming a god.
Taking a place it was not created to have. A partial truth becomes the whole truth.

This is the sort of thing that happens.
The creator and the creation are different and distinct. As C S Lewis puts it:
To say that God created Nature, while it brings God and Nature into relation also separates them. What makes and what is made must be two, not one.” (Reflections on the Psalms p. 80)

Self is a good aspect of creation – however, self starts to become more and more important, it starts to distort the whole of reality and eventually self becomes a counterfeit god, an idol. It becomes absolutised.

It is important that we have a good self-image and that we have self-esteem, but that is not the be all and end all. We need to know who we are in Christ – that is where our self-image comes from, not the type of shampoo we use or clothes we wear.

What are we in Christ:
  • We are joint heirs
  • Sons of God
  • Adopted as sons
  • More than conquerors
  • Set free
  • The power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us
  • In Christ we have abundant life – that comes with dying to self and living for Him.



Exposing idols

These few points are no solution to escaping idolatry, but they may help:

• Ask God to reveal any idolatrous areas in our lives.
• It needs to be a communal activity: we are blinkered by our own idolatry. It is often easier to see the splinter in our neighbour’s eye than the plank in our own (and very often the splinter is a reflection of our plank)!
• Read critiques of our culture by adherents of other worldviews.
• Watch out if an area of life tries to take over.
• Go to other cultures and return.
• Watch adverts critically.
• Say YES to the Jealous God who demands full allegiance.

Music for a Sunday morning

Monday, 2 November 2009

Happy Birthday M1 - 50 years old.

It was built for 14,000 vehicles per day - ten times that use it now. It cost £50 million and was 193 miles long.