Demise of Christianity?
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has declared that Christianity “is nearly vanquished” in Britain. What he, of course, means by “Christianity” is that form of religion which, under that honoured name, is being peddled by Rome “with all deceivableness of unrighteousness” and is, in reality, rooted in ancient Babylonian worship. He is in truth alarmed at the decline of Roman Catholicism, fully aware of the fact that he was delivering his address “against a relentless decline in attendance at Mass and a shortage of priests”.
Having, we hope, the glory of the Saviour in view and motivated, we trust, by love for our fellow men and a sincere desire to see them set free from Babylonian bondage, we pray that that decline will continue and even accelerate. But we also lament the fact that materialism, secularism, polytheism and atheism have taken such a hold on our nation and that, alas, multitudes are living in ignorance of what true Christianity is. Last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his alarm. “A tacit atheism”, he said, “prevails. Death is assumed to be the end of life. Our concentration on the here-and-now renders the thought of eternity irrelevant.”
This year, in responding to Murphy-O’Connor’s speech, we are told that he said that “there was nothing to worry about”. Is he not concerned over the fact that Church of England congregations are dwindling while, according to The Daily Telegraph, mosques and temples of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are thriving in comparison? There has been a dramatic growth of Islam in the past 40 years, with the number of mosques rising from 10 to 1600, and the Muslim population increasing to 2.5 million. In the same article, the President of the Council of Mosques is reported as saying: “Every Friday most mosques are full, and they are full of young adult people”. These statistics are, in our view, ominous and particularly so when we bear in mind the destructive Islam-inspired terrorist attacks on America.
Is not Archbishop Carey himself, together with recent predecessors in the same archbishopric, to be held responsible in great measure for this state of affairs by presenting Christianity as just one faith among many, by fraternising with Rome and by failing to remain faithful to the Church of England’s own Thirty-Nine Articles? There is certainly no room for complacency but Christianity is not going to be vanquished. We are assured that it shall continue as long as the sun and moon endure and that, notwithstanding adversaries, the gospel shall yet prove to be the “power of God unto salvation” in the experience of multitudes of our fellow men, with “the kingdoms of this world” eventually becoming “the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ.”
The Bible and the Mystery of Religion
Bishop Richard Holloway has again reached the headlines, confessing that he now reads more Scottish poetry than Scripture because it exalts him. He suggests that the Church should listen more to the poets and less to the Bible. This would rejuvenate what he describes as “the mystery of religion”, which he thinks Christianity has lost, having become “bad science rather than good poetry”. What attracted him to religion was what he perceived to be its uncertainty and doubt. He rejects any certainty based upon revelation given by God in His Word. Post-modern man, he claims, cannot believe in the existence of God, in creation, in miracles, or in dogmatic statements regarding original sin, hell, grace, forgiveness and resurrection and the way people should live, on the basis that they are revealed in the Bible. The bishop seems to value the Bible only in so far as he thinks it corresponds to the works of the poets and in so far as it raises rather than answers questions in the human mind.
The Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, reviewing Bishop Holloway’s latest book and outlining his reinterpretation of Christianity, writes: “Because a transcendent God cannot be scientifically verifiable, Holloway confines himself to proclaiming only the poetic power of story to move the heart to pity. The great symbols and narratives of religion he sees as human creations which express the depths and struggles of our own nature.” The Moderator adds: “Not a lot is left in the Christianity Holloway describes”.
Bishop Holloway associates mystery with uncertainty and doubt and prefers to seek rather than to find. But the Bible is God’s revelation of the greatest mystery – a purpose hidden in God’s mind from all eternity, revealed in its fulness in the Person and saving work of Jesus Christ, His eternal Son, and communicated through inspired prophets and apostles (Eph 3:1-12). “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim 3:16).
The revelation of this mystery is the foundation of certainty and of assured confidence for those who receive it. When opened up by the Holy Spirit, it brings God to men, and men to God and to the experience of life eternal. Instead of leaving men to flounder amidst uncertainty it provides them with means of answering the most urgent questions which philosophers and theologians who reject the Bible are unable to resolve. It provides them with absolute standards for all the relationships of life. It also creates in their souls the true sense of mystery, and fills them with adoring wonder as they contemplate the unsearchable glory and grace of the “high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy”, who dwells “in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Is 57:15).
It is to be deplored that multitudes even of church-going people are being deprived of the opportunity to become acquainted with the saving, soul-satisfying and mind-satisfying, God-honouring and worship-creating doctrines of the Word of God by preachers who have themselves, by their own confession, never known the wonder of sinners brought to see in Jesus “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” dwelling among us, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
If the Church of Rome’s influence is waning as far as her laity is concerned, there is certainly no evidence of any diminishing of her influence and power in the world of politics. Are we to assume that it is merely coincidental that all three leaders of Britain’s main political parties are now very much under her influence? Or are we seeing the result of careful planning over many years? We now have Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative Party leader, described in the Daily Telegraph as being the “first Roman Catholic to lead either of the two major political parties in the 172 years since followers of the faith were allowed back into Parliament”.
It is a well-known fact that Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is of the same faith and Tony Blair, leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, even if he is denominated an Anglo-Catholic, regularly attends mass with his wife. He had his youngest child baptised in the Church of Rome, his older children attend a Roman Catholic school and, faced with these facts, there is only one conclusion we can draw as to where his heart really is. In addition we have the first Roman Catholic Speaker of the House of Commons since the Reformation.
It has been observed that Rome plans 50 years ahead and accordingly there must be, at this time, a lot of quiet satisfaction in Jesuit circles. We cannot but regard the present situation in Westminster as ominous and a threat to our Protestant constitution and throne. Our only encouragement lies in the hope that He who reigns in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth is almighty and able to bring to nothing the best-laid schemes and plans of men.
Encroachment on Parental Rights
Recently in Ontario, Canada, local government officers forcibly removed children from a Mennonite community because their parents were not prepared, on religious grounds, to give an undertaking that they would not discipline their offspring for wrongdoing by any physical means. This made newspaper headlines and it has, understandably, caused a great deal of concern to some of our people in Canada.
Now Mr Jim Wallace, the Scottish Executive’s Justice Minister, has given Christian parents in Scotland every reason to be concerned. It is becoming evident that if all the provisions of the new Criminal Justice Bill become law, it could be deemed a criminal offence for parents to discipline their own children, in particular if they happen to be under three years of age. It is understood that this is being introduced in order to prevent child abuse, and we would fully support the introduction of any reasonable measures which would have that effect. But these proposals infringe basic parental rights and are contrary to the teaching of the Word of God, where clear direction is given to parents: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Prov 13:24). “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die” (Prov 23:13). It is clear that God’s system, which ought to be our pattern and standard, is usually ignored in modern theories of education. Within His household, the rule is: “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth . . . for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Heb 12:6,7). For rod, we are to read discipline in general, but it is to be lovingly exercised; Charles Bridges says, “The rod without affection is revolting tyranny”.
Many right-minded people have expressed concern over the Justice Minister’s proposal and have declared it to be misconceived. They include Colin Hart, Director of the Christian Institute, who said that the police, “instead of chasing abusers, will be wasting their time looking into allegations against perfectly respectable and decent parents. The answer of Christian parents to Mr Jim Wallace and the Scottish Executive is perfectly clear: “We ought to obey God rather than men”.
“An infertile woman could have a child fathered by her brother through artificial insemination at a London clinic”, says a recent disturbing report. Even though the egg would be donated by another woman, questions have been raised about the morality of a woman having a close male relative’s child, and to accusations of “social” incest. Professor Ian Craft, a British fertility expert, has called it “bizarre and distorted.”
Not only so, it is confusion in the solemn Biblical sense. In Leviticus 20, we read about those who committed incest: “They have wrought confusion”. Some of the sins of uncleanness listed in that chapter are described as wickedness and abomination, but one kind of incest is not described as such, as one might expect, but confusion – that is, a horrible perverting of the order which God has appointed.
It is shameful that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has offered no objection to this perverted procedure and states that it is permissible under British law. The Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, appears to be abdicating responsibility by declining even to comment on the case.
Sad to say, our sophisticated generation rejects those requirements, prohibitions and safeguards regarding sexual morality which God has laid down in His Word. The consequences are serious, and painfully obvious. May our nation be brought in mercy to the realisation that, as Andrew Bonar says in his commentary on Leviticus, “all these safeguards are needful to secure the peace and purity of human society.”