Tag Archives: the truth

The search for someone to blame for the Pandemic

The Guardian had a headline recently Revealed: UK ministers were warned last year of risks of coronavirus pandemic. The article offered the diagram above as evidence for its case. The implication was that these dreadful Tories had ignored what everyone was telling them, so are unfit for office and should resign. Unfortunately digging a bit shows that Guardian is proving that IT is unfit for its role, is indulging in cheap, alarmist, journalism, and should apologise for sinking to the level of the red tops.

About 25 years ago there was a brilliant TV programme called ‘Hypotheticals’ where current or recently retired ministers, officials and the like discussed situations put to them by the moderator. In one concerned with a leak of a pollutant into the water supply, it was revealed that an engineer had warned of such a possibility in a formal memo. To which the response of the senior staff was: ‘You will always find such a warning from someone’.

In our case this briefing – above – offered a large number of these scenarios. The question that arises is: ‘How much should we spend to address them?’

Newspapers’ agenda

Newspapers make their crust by finding things that will get a reaction from the general public. Criticising the government for ‘obvious mistakes’ that no-one had foreseen is always an easy food source for a Fleet Street feeding frenzy.

In this case: how do we decide whether our government made a reasonable set of decisions? What about: ‘How did other governments with the same information do?’ Outside East Asia, no-one else got it spectacularly right, so believing we should have done thus becomes highly questionable. Add the blatant partisan motivation of political opponents always seeking blood, and thus not thinking hard about what it is reasonable to expect, and you have the present scenario.

So no: evidence that ‘you were warned’ is not sufficient to prove that you should have done better. Indeed, we were told – by others – that we were well prepared. We weren’t – but in the light of such assurances, the government can honestly claim it was acting in accordance with the best advice it was being offered.

Perhaps we need to extend the aphorism:

If I can, I do

If I can’t, I teach

to add:

If I can’t, and want to avoid all responsibility, I become a journalist.

Why this matters

Our modern society is used to everything working right, first time and quickly. We don’t expect things to go wrong, and when they do, we look for someone to blame. This is deeply unhealthy, and plays into the hands of populists who claim that ‘if only I was in charge, everything would be fine’. Where there are valid grounds for criticism, we should indeed be critical. But there will always be occasions when a decision that made total sense at the time is shown to be horribly wrong because of unexpected circumstances. If we are not prepared to defend people who make such decisions from the wolves, then we are endangering ourselves.  To the extent that we are coming to expect our politicians to get it right all the time in everything, we are merely ensuring that our brightest and best will avoid the career like the plague, leaving us with the inadequate; indeed I think we can argue that has already happened.

 

The wrong Jesus?

Ultimately we are saved by God’s grace, by accepting His mercy having recognised our need for forgiveness because we HAVE sinned. Jesus’ first proclamation was “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1), and his last was ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28).

So as Christians we are called to obey God. If we’ve got the wrong Jesus, we’re likely to make bad decisions about what He requires of us; this is the root cause of the scandals in church history where the pretty much the whole church ended up supporting behaviour that we now abhor. Yet, as the war over the gay issue reveals, the church has to try to get things right – and is still failing. The failure is over theology, and is a reminder we need to do it right.

History’s examples

There’s nothing new in this. 85 years ago appeasement was widely endorsed in Christian circles as the Christian way to respond to Hitler. 200 years ago slavery and racism were entirely ‘Christian’. 400 years ago the state’s persecution of heretics was endorsed on almost all sides; quite apart from Rome’s burnings, Luther and Calvin welcomed the execution of Anabaptists, the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers executed Quakers, until told to stop by Charles II, whilst in England, apart from executing Catholic priests for being emissaries of a foreign power, the Papacy, seeking to overthrow the government, the Church of England merely jailed Baptists (e.g. John Bunyan) and Quakers (e.g. George Fox) as well as harassing early Methodists. Passing swiftly over the Inquisition and the Crusades, we come to the divide over icons, which led to civil war in the Byzantine empire, the New Testament epistles are replete with theological divides, and the gospels reflect the divide of Pharisee v Sadducee. If we take our theology seriously, then there WILL be divisions over issues.

Defining theology

We ALL have a theology; the only question is whether we’ve got one that’s in decent nick, or one that is incoherent and not fit for purpose. We have a duty to apply our minds to this – Jesus reminds us that we are called to worship God with our minds – when he endorses the words of the scribe: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10). However, as a starting point, it’s crucial to realise why we are doing it: because we want to know, serve and love God better. When a theological idea doesn’t offer this, we have to question its value.

Authority in theology

A primary question in theology is: ‘on what basis do I make my decision about whether this belief is true?’ There are four main sources; on a good day they all line up and everyone’s happy, but in practice there is often conflict. At the risk of offering a caricature, I offer these outlines.

  1. Obey the church. Although usually associated with Catholics, who can simplistically emphasise the role of the Papacy, especially with Vatican I, there are elements of this visible in the New Testament, most obviously the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, but also in Paul’s expectation of being obeyed because of who he is. It is also important to recognise that in practice much of church life operates on this basis; we are members of a local church whose leadership needs us to accept their authority to keep operating reasonably efficiently.
  2. Tradition One element of this is summarised by the Vincentian Canon: ‘Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.’ An alternative way to understand this is to express it in terms of having faith that the Holy Spirit has been able to guide the church down the centuries, so an idea radically opposed to what the church has always believed is likely to be wrong. It’s a powerful challenge to some of the wilder new ideas that fly around in some circles.
  3. Logic and ‘reason’. This is problematic because it often allows the beliefs of the present age to overcome the claims of the other sources. An ancient example is Arius’ use of logic to deny the full deity of Jesus because that status doesn’t make logical sense. More recently those seeking equal status for gay relationships have often focused on the claim that ‘God is love, gay relationships are an example of love, therefore God must endorse them’. Both Arius and pro-gay campaigners have a point, but their logic is inconsistent with the conclusion of other sources of authority, so is not acceptable. Similarly, modern philosophical systems are offered which are inconsistent with traditional Christianity, so the teachings of Christianity are tested against these systems, and the bits that don’t fit are ejected. Note that this implies that human philosophy can be constructed in a way that ignores the evidence of the Christian faith, a strong claim on its own.
  4. The bible. This, of course, is what Protestants claim as their unique authority and, on a bad day, claim that it’s the only authority they will accept. A moment’s thought reveals that this is inadequate: the bible can’t tell us what time to meet on a Sunday morning and what passage should form the basis for the sermon, let alone the totally problematic issue of what books should be IN the bible. It’s a sad sight watching Evangelicals try to solve that one.

Nulla contra scriptura v sola scriptura

Or, in English, nothing against scripture v only scripture. The genius of the Reformation lay in the use of the bible – and particularly the translation from the original Greek rather than the Latin of the Vulgate which was St Jerome’s translation into Latin from the Greek and Hebrew – to challenge the accretions and errors that had arisen in the Medieval church. This wasn’t entirely new – both Wycliffe and Hus had done the same in previous centuries – but this time the new understandings weren’t suppressed (Wycliffe) or contained (Hus) with only limited impact. Yet it is important to realise that both Luther and Calvin were not wholly dismissive of the Catholic church, instead seeing it as a seriously corrupt institution but ultimately still a means of God’s grace to some. Their test was scripture – but only to strain out the false, not as the only basis for the true.

By contrast a latter generation of Protestants understood the New Testament as being the limit of what was acceptable in the church, developing a tendency to reject anything not explicitly in it. Some, therefore, rejected any of: all special feast days; the use of instruments in church worship; any hymns apart from the psalms; paid employment of local church leaders and buildings set aside for worship. However as far as I’m aware they don’t ban their paid evangelists from travelling by air, and they do tend to wear wedding rings, a church tradition with zero biblical basis (no, a signet ring is NOT the same thing – someone tried to sell me that line when I challenged him over it).

protected church

The central point

MacArthur has an important point here, and the collapse of many ‘Evangelicals’ into a pro-gay stance is, to my mind, evidence of a deep rot in the quality of what has been going on in our churches. Yet the danger is that we become heresy hunters: far more interested in getting our THEOLOGY right than actually obeying God or ‘knowing’ Him. Jesus’ words need to ring in our ears:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

It’s interesting to note that Jesus immediately continues on to say:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

(Matthew 7)

Paul offers an insight when he states:

‘all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God’. (Romans 8)

Our aim is to be accurately led by the Holy Spirit to be obedient to all that God is commanding for us. Good theology is a vital means to this end – but is never an aim in itself. I am confident that we will be surprised by who will be with us in heaven; many whose theology we struggled with on the earth will be there because they ‘knew God’, whilst many whose theology ticked all the right boxes in our not so humble opinion will be missing. There are no easy solutions here; we need to keep listening, keep reading ALL the bible, keep thinking, and keep praying that God will go on granting us the grace to continue faithful to Him until our last day.

The Good Place

Warning – spoilers!! If in doubt WATCH IT FIRST. It’s a fun show…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series – it presented some wonderful characters and played with them brilliantly. However its final episode showed that a cynic who refused to watch it on the basis that it was ‘religious propaganda’ was correct; it was presenting a Buddhist critique of the traditional misunderstanding of Christianity – also seen in Islam – that your eternal fate is determined by whether on balance you lived a life good enough to deserve to be in ‘The Good Place’. The main conceit of the show is that the main human characters are in hell – but in a new version; this is presented as heaven, but is designed by a radical new ‘architect’ (a demon called Michael who appears to be a kind older man) to make them torture one another, in contrast to the simplistic approach previously adopted in hell. The first series is about their progressive realisation that they’ve been deceived – a discovery which renders Michael’s project a failure, resulting in being reset, with a loss of the memories of the humans.

It is slowly revealed that the system has been perverted by the demons to prevent ANYONE making it to heaven, and when this information is received by the angels of heaven, they prove unable to address the issue meaningfully, organising bureaucratic steps of zero value in response to the news. So the four humans, abetted by Michael who has become uncomfortable with his role, and Janet, a computer type being able to provide anything the residents require, challenge ‘the judge’ – another relatively feckless character – to allow an alternative approach. This proves to consist of humans getting lots of chances to improve – with a vague idea of what they got wrong – and, as a result, the humans do make it to heaven, which proves to be a disappointment. This is because the residents have become jaded and bored with having no further challenges. The philosopher of the group determines that this is because there is no possibility of death, and, after an appeal to the judge, an option of self-annihilation – being absorbed back into the universe in the same way that a wave is absorbed back into the sea – is allowed; this is, of course, the traditional understanding of Nirvana, and the scriptwriters even admit to its origin within the Buddhist tradition. The show ends with most of the humans choosing Nirvana – including Shakespeare whose 4000 plays in the afterlife proved to be a disappointment – although the demon Michael is given the chance to live as a human and enter the cycle of rebirth until he gets the chance of Nirvana.

It’s a fun show – it has rightly attracted a lot of awards, and its victory at the Hugos for the best single episode (series 2 episode 5) with ‘The Trolley Problem’ was entirely deserved. Yet its theology is obnoxious, and it’s important for us to engage with why it is SUCH a fail. Part of it is that taking seriously God’s warning that ‘all have sinned’ and ‘the wages of sin is death’ is tough. We wish it weren’t true; both the ‘balance of good and bad’ – also visible in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods – and the Buddhist ‘Keep going till you get it right’ are more attractive; both emphasis that humans can do well enough to satisfy the requirements imposed. That, of course, gives status and legitimacy to human self-confidence, whereas the Christian claim is that we need God’s grace – a claim that is far less attractive to humans. One of the virtues of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was that the services start with a confession of sin; it’s an unusual Evangelical service to do so explicitly.

One place the show departs from the Buddist mainstream (in as far as there is one – Buddhism is notable for its range of beliefs) is in leaving a period in paradise at the end before humans chose Nirvana i.e extinction. The show suggests that this is because the residents are bored; they’ve done everything that appeals to them. This again reflects a man centred understanding of the universe; given that our creator is so vastly greater than we are, the idea that we will get bored with all that He offers is a failure to take Him seriously. It is interesting to note that Adam was given a task to fulfil: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ The implication of Genesis is that the earth’s development was the duty of humanity; by no means a trivial task. We don’t know what wonders God has for us in eternity, but getting bored seems unlikely to be a serious risk.

Good and Evil

A persistent feature of this show and indeed most Hollywood material is that it fails to take good and evil seriously enough. The ‘good’ in ‘The Good Place’ are incompetent, whilst the evil succumbs to the logic of the heroes and ultimately ally themselves for the common good. There is one moment where the evil agenda is blatantly expressed; the lead demon says: ‘I don’t care if everyone loses as long as you lose’, encapsulating the nature of evil in seeking to destroy the good, regardless of the cost to itself. This seems to reflect a hatred of the good that is visceral, reflecting Jesus’ comment: ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.’ John 10.

Within the context of the show therefore ALL are shown to be open to getting better; by the end, the demons of hell have become part of the team working to provide humans with the means to improve; even they’ve been revealed to be capable of changing for the better, an explicit denial that they were ever truly evil in the first place.

Conclusion

The danger of such material is that we lose our confidence in what God has said, instead coming to believe that we know better. Such was the temptation of the Garden; the apple looked nice, God was treating us badly in refusing to let us eat it. If God is God, then the rational, sane and only thing to do is to obey him, fully. ‘The Good Place’ – along with much else that Hollywood produces – offers a beautifully presented and attractive packaging to an evil deception. We all need to think carefully as to whether we are wise to fill our minds with this sort of material, and if we do, then we need to pick out the poison to neutralise it. The enemy is as concerned to propagandise for his truth as we Christians should be for ours. Let’s be careful out there.

Clifford Hill’s The Reshaping of Britain

Clifford Hill The Reshaping of Britain (London: Wilberforce Publications 2018)

[This is a substantial summary, with my occasional reactions and comments in these square brackets. I record his comments about himself as being ‘Hill’ rather than ‘I’ for the sake of clarity. At times the structure of the book results in duplication, because he hints at some developments from one perspective before presenting the same material in a different context].

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – Archbishop Donald Coggan
  • Chapter 2 Community based Evangelism
  • Chapter 3 The Nationwide Initiative on Evangelism
  • Chapter 4 The Evangelical Alliance and the National Congress
  • Chapter 5 Reviewing the seventies
  • Chapter 6 Four movements of social change
    • Cultural Revolution
    • Spiritual Revolution
    • The Political revolution
    • The sexual revolution
  • Chapter 7 Understanding the times
  • Chapter 8 Seeking the Word of God
  • Chapter 9 Archbishop Robert Runcie Feb 1982 – Jan 1991
    • Faith in the City
  • Chapter 10 Reviewing the 80s
    • Warning signs
  • Chapter 11 The Charismatic Movement
    • Aftermath of the Excel meeting
  • Chapter 12 False teaching
    • Appraisal of Toronto
    • Some common misunderstandings
    • Some of the things that were / are wrong with the Toronto blessing
  • Chapter 13 Family matters
    • Sex education
  • Chapter 14 Archbishop George Carey April 1991 – October 2002
  • Chapter 15 Reviewing the 90s
    • Sexual Sin
  • Chapter 16 Rebellion against God
  • Chapter 17 Social Action
  • Chapter 18 Archbishop Rowan Williams
  • Chapter 19 Reviewing the Noughties
  • Chapter 20 Social Change in Church and State
    • Cultural
    • Spiritual
    • Political changes
    • Sexual Change
    • Understanding the Times
    • Political activity
  • Epilogue
    • The Social Revolution
    • The secular society
    • Collapse of law and Order
    • A biblical comparison – Jeremiah v the royal establishment
    • Post war Britain
    • A new creation

Introduction

This is a personal reflection [containing much first-hand reporting]. Hill was well placed at the heart of the political and spiritual changed and was accepted by many because of a lack of denominational label [he was a Congregationalist, and refused to join the URC when it formed in the 70s, leaving him largely unaligned in practice]. Hill enjoyed personal friendships beyond his official status with many of the leading players.

Hills earliest ministry was at a large Congregationalist church in Harlesden in North London in the 1950s, Hill sought to get the church to serve the new immigrants from Jamaica. This was repeated in Tottenham, where an eclectic congregation came to reflect the local community. A local magistrate arrived to find a black family sitting in HER usual seat – they walked out and never came again! It was a large church with up to 1000 people on a Sunday.

After 10 years they moved to the East End, looking to develop concepts of ‘community based evangelism’ and ‘community development’. The book starts here, with his challenges at that church.

Hill declines the label ‘prophet’, because he sees the OT prophets as ministering to a nation in a covenant relationship with God [although Jonah’s ministry is to the Gentiles, the term is used in the NT for Christians, and there’s a sense in which there IS a covenant between God and the UK, reflected in the Coronation Service. But I get his point, as it probably helps avoid fights that aren’t worth having]. Instead Hill uses the term ‘exercising a prophetic ministry’ and ‘being a watchman’: seeking to identify significant issues and events. Hill is unclear how far this is all from his sociology training and how far from revelation. [It’s probably a mistake to get too hung up on the issue]

Discerning the origins of an idea – God, human imagination or an alien spirit is crucial [though I’d question the need to distinguish too clearly what is of God and what is human creativity; perhaps seeing all truthful claims as being of God is a solution]

A watchman is:

  • Seeing what is happening
  • Recognising the significance of the events from a spiritual AND social perspective
  • Identifying what needs to be done in response.

God wants the church to be priest and prophet to the world: priest speaking on behalf of the nations to God, whilst the prophet speaks to the nations on behalf of God. Note Moses’ pleading with God to save Israel when God had had enough of them.

Liberalism is the form of biblical study from an erroneous standpoint that results in material that is destructive to faith. Thus liberalism is synonymous with unbelief.

Chapter 1 – Archbishop Donald Coggan

After six years of work, the Newham Community Renewal programme had bought together some 40 churches ‘sharing resources and enjoying the benefits of a united vision for outreach’. The model in Newham was to work in teams focusing on different social groups: children, young people, senior citizens, different ethnic groups; they were seeing lives transformed. [More details in chapter 2]. This came to the attention of the Archbishop, who wanted to see similar developments as a pattern for evangelism across England as part of his personal ‘Call to the Nation’ initiative. This derived from his concern at the moral libertarianism and his conviction that salvation is found only in Jesus. This generated a lot of popular support, and not just from old people; this was a time when Christian Unions at universities were BIG. Yet his call faced strong opposition from the CofE’s liberal bishops who threatened that they would seek to block any Evangelical at Canterbury if he didn’t make it more broad.

Initially Coggan gathered evangelicals to plan an evangelistic campaign, but in the end succumbed to the pressure and made the group more ecumenical and inclusive – to act as a ‘Council of Reference’ for the ‘Nationwide Initiative in Evangelism’, but in practice this was the death knell of a national gospel outreach. Members included Dr Kenneth Greet, General Secretary of the Methodist church, who opposed any form of overt evangelism(!) and Bishop David Brown of Guildford, chair of the CofE board of Mission and Unity (a combination Hill regards as perverse). Specifically both opposed moves to invite Billy Graham.

Coggan’s approach was a reversion to the counsels of ‘Towards the Conversion of England’ – the William Temple period report that was lost sight of in the Fisher era – of encouraging local churches to share the gospel. Specifically in his broadcast introducing his initiative, Coggan called for groups gathering to ask themselves:

  • ‘What sort of society do we want?’
  • ‘What sort of people do we need to be to achieve this?’

Thus returning attention to the moral responsibility of the individual.

The broadcast was followed by a pastoral letter read in in every CofE church calling on all to:

  • Pray steadily, persistently and intelligently for our nationwide
  • Think about those questions
  • Cooperate with Christians of every allegiance and others willing to help us influence society in a positive and helpful way
  • To live out the faith we profess that God reigns and God cares.

The positive response reflected a spiritual hunger and there was a readiness for a national initiative to communicate the gospel and a fresh presentation of biblical standards of personal and corporatate morality.

Bishop Mervyn Stockward responded with an attack published in the Morning Star (the newspaper of the USSR aligned communist party) arguing that Coggan should have focused on the system in Western society that shapes individual, and claiming that pornography and other evils of London would be cleared up overnight under a socialist system. The discussion thus descended into politics – revealing the disunity of the CofE and this signalled the beginning of the end of Coggan’s hopes.

Hill’s involvement started after Canon John Poulton from the Lambeth staff came to visit. This drew Hill into the Lambeth world, introducing him to the realities of ecclesiastical politics both in the CofE and more widely. He was interviewed to be leader of the initiative, but the Anglicans on the committee all rejected him, including his initial contact at Lambeth, John Poulton, who soon after this confrontation had a breakdown and was retired off to be a residentiary canon at Norwich. Hill returned to the East End bruised and battered.

At the Lambeth Conference, of Anglican bishops from across the world, in 1978, Coggan said:

Some of you have given up believing that God still speaks to the church. God forgive us. We would not admit it, it would shock our congregations if we did. But we have stopped listening to God and our spiritual life has died on us, though we keep up appearances and through the motions… Many in our congregations know that God does speak, and that He makes His mind known to his followers.

Poulton admitted later that his commitment to Anglican unity led to his casting the crucial vote at the interview panel for Hill, having believed that Hill’s credibility as an academic and inner city service would bring them round. In practice the destructive powers of darkness driving liberalism and its hatred of evangelicalism and biblical truth was too much.

Chapter 2 Community based Evangelism

Hill was the minister of the Congregationalist / Methodist church in Wakefield Street, East Ham. Involved in the inner city, he found church closures and sales problematic, as they deprived the community of facilities, as resources were focused on ‘viable’ suburban congregations. This represented a failure of mission in the inner city. [Indeed – but taxing growing congregations to keep open failed venues is equally unhelpful when that means that an open door for the gospel is ignored as a result.]

The inner city churches were deprived of leadership by the ‘redemption and lift’ experience of new Christians moving out to the suburbs when their economic and social status improve after conversion.

Hill’s involvement came after the Congregationalist element of the joint church invited him to share with the Methodist minister. However they had to find their own financial support; therefore Hill got himself a lectureship at London University.

On the day they moved into East Ham an 18 yo boy was stabbed to death on the pavement outside their house. Despite this their three children flourished, blessed with divine protection and ending up as strong Christians; a daughter in law and a grandson are entering the CofE ministry.

Growing from one grant funded post in 1970, by 1974 there were 22 staff and 40 linked churches including 4 redundant church building being used for social outreach. One closed Presbyterian church developed to serve 1000 people per week, having been rented to the project subject to a condition of NOT being used for Sunday worship. Doesn’t mean it can’t be used for Charismatic ‘Prayer Praise and Healing’ events on other evenings for up to 800 people.

The visible success of the ministry attracted national interest, financial support from affluent churches in Surrey and Sussex, including exchange visits and student placements from theological AND social work educational institutions

Evangelicals were sceptical at first, but saw that the work DID build bridges for the gospel. The larger unit enabled the obtaining of grants and running things like children’s holiday clubs. Openness to ethnic minorities was effective and Hill mediated at police stations over iffy arrests under stop and search. Hill achieved full indigenisation in the community, but used his ‘Dr Hill’ status to good effect at Town Hall and Police Station, giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless.

The combination of evangelical and full commitment to radical social change was unusual. Identifying and developing local talents was part of the plan – by involving local people in activities and giving them responsibility. Being trusted – perhaps for the first time – opened people to the gospel. [cf Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson]

Despite its focus on segmented service of specific demographics, it also crossed those barriers with, for example, young people learning a serving mindset in carrying out practical jobs for the elderly.

Monica modelled ‘church growth’ – a new concept at the time – by taking over redundant churches and using them as Christian community centres, with at least one congregation meeting there, often an ethnically based church. The starting point was a canvas of the local area to identify needs, such as a lunch club for the elderly, an after school club, including the ‘elderly’ as volunteers, a youth disco using local young people to lead it and repair the building, creating local ownership and control. This, led by local Christian young people led others to Jesus.

One on occasion after a group of 15 year old girls became Christians and confessed to a series of burglaries and to using the area under the church hall’s stage to store the stolen items. The goods were returned but the girls were not required to go to the police.

Forty years on a celebration revealed five congregations now based at that one church, as well as Hindu and Muslim community users; the fact that it had been used for the teaching of the Qu’ran was less unwelcome news, rather than the purported ‘community meetings’!

Chapter 3 The Nationwide Initiative on Evangelism

The alternative view of the non-appointment of Hill to the post of Executive Secretary to the project was that he “might” stamp his own characteristics on the initiative and be difficulty to control to to remain within the committee’s thinking… they wanted to go only at the pace of agreement among the members.

The person appointed instead was a businessman with no experience of church leadership. His responsibility was to put the initiative on a firm administrative basis and to establish links to the Home Missions boards of the denominations involved. However those relationships failed to flourish, and the initiative was ended after four years somewhat as a result.

When the conservative evangelicals involved with the initiative asked for a definition of the gospel, the committee was unable to agree one – a statement reflecting massive disunity.

A compromise statement on Jesus presented Him as having ‘Willingly borne the brunt of society’s hostility to his goodness’ and ‘He identified himself with us in our sins in order to reconcile us to His Father’ – i.e. there is no statement that he forgives our sins because of the cross.

Evangelism becomes ‘When we humbly but joyfully reflect God’s reconciling love for all humanity in friendship and mutual respect, the Holy Spirit uses our words and service to make God known’.

The committee’s role as activist – organising things itself – v being reflective – resourcing others’ initiatives and enabling good practice was contested. Coggan opposed a Billy Graham campaign in 1977, but rumours that it was the NIE’s focus were a persistent suspicion for non-Evangelicals.

Gavin Reed produced a report arguing that the NIE was defined purely by negatives, and that this led to its death:

  • Not to invite Billy Graham
  • Not a national campaign
  • Not an evangelical takeover
  • Official BMU representatives not to be Evangelical
  • Not to initiate action
  • Not to identify a clear, authoritative gospel
  • Not to bypass synodical oversight

[Perhaps the propensity for theology to be done as negatives had leaked in]

[The role of synodical / denominational oversight reflects the collapse of the historic CofE model of church, of letting 1000 flowers bloom with minimal central control.]

Hill believes Poulton’s decision to reject Hill’s candidacy reflected Poulton’s desire for unity and didn’t want responsibility for causing division. Whilst unity is good, if truth is sacrificed to achieve it, it becomes a form of institutionalised idolatry. If the institution is blocking the gospel…

Two of the leading opponents of Hill were removed early from church ministry: Bishop David Brown died in 1982 of a heart attack and Dr Harry Morton suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak in 1981. Was this God’s judgement on them?

The National Assembly that the NIE organised before it died did some good, networking people and groups together and establishing county level support meetings for evangelism that were a useful resource.

The NIE died following the withdrawal of CoE funding, following quickly by other denominations.

The evidence is that there were Christians in all denominations who would have embraced a coordinated locally based movement of social action to meet local need on the model of Hills’ work in Newham, which WAS effective evangelism, and still thrives.

Coggan could have faced down the liberals by going ahead on his responsibility, but allowed fears for unity to prevent this. The emerging Charismatic movement was a sign that God was on the move. But the leaders missed God’s timing, and the chance was gone.

Chapter 4 The Evangelical Alliance and the National Congress

When the NIE declined to employ the Hills, they were offered posts at the EA as ‘Secretary for Evangelism’ (Clifford) and ‘Secretary for Church Growth’ (Monica). Their hope was to do, on a more partisan basis, what the NIE had sought to do, but the partisanship was painful for Hill.

Meanwhile church growth at the time was seen as a function of evangelism, and was relegated to a minor role. Monica therefore ended up establishing the ‘British Church Growth Association’.

Hill was the first charismatic at the EA, and from a very different culture to the middle class Conservative Evangelicals who dominated the EA at the time.

Hill also received a pastoral appointment at a Cheltenham church which seems to have liked the idea of his having a high status national position with the CofE. When they ended up with the EA instead, the tensions at the church boiled over, and he was booted out after six month [such are the joys of a congregational polity]. Some members continued to support the Hills financially; and the EA church growth work rented a redundant school and a Sunday congregation gathered. The Hills only remained 18 months in the area, but the church has persisted.

The Hills moved on to St. Mark’s Kennington, back in the smog with ordinary working people.

The EA’s National 1980 Congress on Evangelism featured a tennis match of anti-Charismatic comments by Dick Lucas in the morning bible reading being responded to by David Pawson in the evening sessions. The tension between Charismatics and others was one of the tensions in the wider church scene that was new to the Hills.

The congress offered seminars on many Evangelism related topics, including the Hills’ concern for church growth and community based evangelism. The vision was to move the church [or at least Evangelicals] on from maintenance to mission, with themes of ‘Lifestyle, culture, renewal and strategy’.

Three major concerns emerged:

  • The nation was in a critical period of social change to which the church must respond by adjusting their presentation of the gospel to the nation.
  • The spiritual unity of the church [perhaps liberals were reflecting a real concern, just badly!]
  • A commitment to prayer for repentance and renewal

Dick Lucas argued that the spirit of the age rejects certainties and praises open mindedness. One temptation is to trim the message so as not to offend, and this will not lead to national repentance or spiritual growth.

David Watson saw the West’s greed as its biggest weakness, which will lead to severe economic decline. The members of the church focus their attention on our material comforts and this discredits the call to ‘seek the kingdom of God’ FIRST.

Hill predicted three possible ways forward for the country:

  1. Political revolution from the Left
  2. Social chaos leading to oppression and persecution of Christians
  3. Christian revival

His expectation was 2; we appear to be heading there now.

Donald English said church leaders need to confess that Christians have followed the values of society rather than those of the kingdom of God. We seek instant solutions, and need to seek God’s forgiveness for this.

David Pawson said that God was weeping at the weakness of the church, in a society where:

  • 1 in 3 marriages fail
  • Vast numbers of children are without two parents
  • There have been more abortions than victims of the Holocaust.

Luis Palau was surprised and disturbed by the destructive cynical negativism that pervaded the UK and seeped into the churches. The nation was ready for harvest, but the churches were not ready. [Challenging: we aren’t a lot better now!]

It was commented that Christians’ withdrawal from politics, the Mass Media and the Trade Unions was unhealthy; the absence of unity love and vision were striking

Hill added: the need was for change, repentance to see our powerlessness and responsibility as Christians for the state of the nation – God want to heal our land, but we must get our relationship with him right, based on tears of penitence and and openness to His power because our hands are seen as empty.

The Decade of Evangelism was launched, but the EA council was fixated on top down, big name campaign evangelism and sought to start with that, rather an start local, mobilising local people. The Hills’ experience of the other was ignored; the Billy Graham’s preaching at Harringey in the 1950s was seen as normative, failing to realise that Britain was now very different. The Hills resigned quietly from the EA to avoid any harm being done and because they rated Graham and Palau highly personally.

Pentecost Sunday 1980 saw a large rally / gathering in Trafalgar Square, with Colin Urquhart, the late Ian Petit OSB, Hill and Jeremiah McIntyre, a black church leader from a black majority church; this caused a split in the EA, because not only the charismatics, but Ian Petit as a CATHOLIC!! Hill was wholly confident in his Evangelical(!) faith [and having heard him speak, I am equally confident; the charismatic movement taught many to be open to the insights of Catholicism – a prejudiced rejection of everything Roman is as unhelpful as an undiscerning acceptance of everything charismatic!]

1980 saw Hill publish ‘Towards the Dawn’ – this warning of the secular force gathering momentum to replace the Christian beliefs with a secular humanism which would destroy Western civilization; meanwhile the church was disabled by liberalism.

Leaving the EA left them financially insecure – but God provided, and the British Church Growth Association was registered in 1981, with Derek Tidball as Chair, Eddie Gibbs as President and Monica as Executive Secretary

An early finding of by church growth practioner Christian Schwarz, a German, offered eight characteristics for Natural Church Development:

  • Empowering Leadership
  • Gift Oriented ministry
  • Passionate Spirituality
  • Functional Structures
  • Inspiring worship Services
  • Holistic small groups
  • Need oriented evangelism
  • Loving relationships

If nothing else, this provides a health check for churches!

Chapter 5 Reviewing the seventies

Hill, as a lecturer at the LSE was told that when certain colleagues in the sociology department were absent, a strike at the Ford works at Dagenham would ensue. This proved to be the case – making him doubt how much the unrest really came from the shopfloor.

Heath’s entry into the Common Market was achieved by his not “not telling the whole truth when he assured the nation there would be no loss of sovereignty”.

Economically a wages and prices freeze in 1972 was a sign of the economic problems. Church attendance fell steadily, continuing from the 60s, partly caused by people having far great leisure opportunities as well as the ‘swinging sixties’.

Liberal theology in clergy training schools produced a generation of clergy with reduced confidence in the bible’s truth, leaving them unable to resist secularism. A survey in the states US National Council of Churches ministers – that’s the mainstream Protestants – showed that only 70% of those in pastoral charge were confident of life after death, 27% of the Virgin Birth, and 24% of miracles in general. Those in administrative posts were less confident than those.

The 1968 Theatres Act ended censorship of the theatre, leading to a backlash with the 1971 Festival of Light gathering of 100,000 people in Hyde Park, yet this gained no response from the government. There was also a physical attack by the Gay Liberation Front on a meeting associated with it. Both Mary Whitehouse and Malcolm Muggeridge ended up as personal friends of the Hills; Clifford prayed with Muggeridge the day that he died.

The 1971 census revealed a massive rise in divorces following the 1969 act which allowed ‘irreconcilable breakdown’ instead of specific marital offences as grounds; this allowed divorce after two years of agreed separation or after five years of abandonment.

The economic chaos, insurgency in Ulster, the Vietnam War, the expulsion of 80,000 Ugandan Asians and Watergate all formed a shaking of the nations. This was the background to Coggan’s ‘Call to the Nation’ also inspired Carol Owens ‘If my people’ musical that encouraged personal spiritual renewal.

The 70s still had a residual knowledge of Christianity that could have been built on to create evangelistic opportunities – but the chance was lost. The 1976 drought ended when a Prayer Meeting at Dunstable Gowns occurred. Only Stanley Jebb took an umbrella to it! There was a hint that the Charismatic movement could have enabled a real revival; instead it got confused by bad teaching.

The formation of the URC, bring together the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregationalists saw many Evangelical Congregationalists stay out of the merger. Hill was subsequently the 4th national President of the Independent Congregational Federation.

Events in the late 1970s included the death of Mao, the fall of the Shah and the American Embassy occupation, the UK Winter of Discontent and Maggie’s arrival in Downing Street.

The failure of political leaders to cope with the economic crisis led to disdain for political leaders and an opening for the gospel if it had been active locally.

Chapter 6 Four movements of social change

The speed of social change is unparalleled in history.

For the past 50 years Evangelicals and Charismatics have believed in the prospect of an amazing revival – creating an atmosphere of expectancy that lowered the threshold for accepting new teachings from various sources. This was also true of the secular world!

The world emerged weary from WWII looking for justice and equality of opportunity for all as well as peace and normality. This led to a rejection of the traditional institutions in Britain, and along with them the moral values based on the bible, leaving the field free for the social changes of the 60s onwards.

Family breakdown leads to inadequate socialisation of children and therefore mental health problems. Hill expects the end point for all this to be the legitimation of paedophilia and all forms of sexual perversion, the abolition of the Monarchy and the House of Lords, the disappearance of the traditional aristocracy and the disestablishment of the CofE, with Britain declaring itself to be a secular society. This will be achieved by mid 21st century unless Islam or Christianity fight back.

Four social movements can be separated out:

  • Cultural – Rock and Roll music
  • Spiritual – The New Age movement
  • Political – Atheistic Marxism
  • Sexual – Promiscuity, LGBT

Cultural Revolution

The cultural shift was a function of the full employment of the 1950s, with young people earning relatively high wages for the first time. Capitalism responded with material to attract them.

Elvis Presley’s background was Christian, but was influenced by the Theosophist Helena Blavatsky. The Beatles similarly adopted New Age beliefs.

Roy Livesey asserts that “the Rock beat, long used for calling up spirits by the pagan tribes of the world, was now applied on a vast scale in the music of the West.” [I remain entirely unconvinced of this claim…] “What we have is pagan deceptions hung on Hindu philosophies and based on the worship of false gods as seen in the East for thousands of years.”

[Roy Livesey More understanding of the New Age Chichester: New Wine Press 1990, 87]

The social changes resulted in the Race Relations Act 1965, which outlawed discrimination in the workplace, was notable as the beginning of curbs on free speech which have now flowered into the delegitimation of ‘hate speech’.

Spiritual Revolution

The New Age movement – bedecked with ideas from Gnosticism and Hinduism. The Theosophist Helena Blavatsky launched her society in 1875, and Anne Bailey (d. 1949) predicted ‘The Age of Aquarius’ from 1975 – a ‘new age’ of peace and prosperity.

The CofE’s St James’ Piccadilly hosted meetings offering ‘Alternatives’. In 1990 Matthew Fox – the former Dominican – was welcomed there – who believed that humans go up through stages of advancement until they reach an ultimate stage of divinity; he labelled this belief ‘Creation centred spirituality’, enabling people of different religions and cultures to find their common roots in Earth and Cosmos, and release their creative energy for the healing of the planent and creating dignity of life for all people.

Meanwhile Holy Trinity Brompton was hosting Paul Cain and later the Toronto Blessing’s uncontrollable laughter and animal noises. Sandy Millar justified a group of women who were mooing like cows as evidence that the Ark of the Covenant was coming back amongst God’s people reflecting the way that oxen returned it from the Philistines.

A 1597 Act called for the expulsion of ‘divers blackamoors’ because of overpopulation. After that the next restrictions on commonwealth immigration starts in 1962, but the South Asians “send their children back to India or Pakistan for a spouse when they reach marriageable age so the immigrant population rises with every generation. Therefore demographically the non-white population will come to be the majority. This also led to the arrival of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam on a large scale.

The loss of social significance of Christianity in the UK is simply because white Britons are abandoning the Judeo-Christian heritage.

The Political revolution

Marxism starts from Hegel’s idea that the dynamic of social change was to be found in the integration of the ‘Divine Idea’ into the physical world. He saw the pattern of this change in the dialectic – the synthesis of thesis and antithesis – which gave his understanding of history.

Marx changes this dialectical idealism into dialectical materialism in an atheistic context as the key to reality: ‘matter in motion’ replaces ‘the Divine idea’. This leads to economic determinism, which sees thought as conditioned by matter, because it is matter in motion. Therefore we can only understand history (i.e. culture, philosophy, art and religion as well as political life) by seeing it in the context of the material conditions in which human beings are living – i.e. human beings are purely the result of their environment.

=> it is shifts in social structure that cause social movements, not human choice. Without that understanding, humans cannot control the processes of change. Religious enlightenment and cultural change do not trigger social change, but rather changes to the material basis of life.

Modern society is a conflict between the bourgeoise – the owner class – and the proletariat. Capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction as power is transferred and a new synthesis emerges. Specifically: to keep wages low employers want a surplus pool of labour so labour is available cheaply. Unemployment and poverty are thus essential to the maintenance of a capitalist system.

Marx believed that workers had nothing to lose but their chains, and revolution is the only answer, although the classless society would require a transitional period when the revolutionary party must take control and rule as a dictatorship of the proletariat until full democracy emerges. [Note that this can justify Marxists lying about their intentions because they know what the people really want, and anything that helps achieve that aim is justified.] In practice the period of dictatorship had been long extended in the USSR and in China it continues.

Atlee’s social reforms were generally agreed by the wartime coalition government, and its liberal socialism dominated, with growing class conflict, until Thatcher.

Today the vast mountain of personal debt creates uncertainty in the economy as a rise in interest rates could cause many bankruptcies. The 2008 crash demonstrated the fragile state of the world economy; there is no apparent solution – capitalism is nearing the end of its life.

[Hmmm – depends what you mean by capitalism. Private individuals and corporations controlling investment decisions seems inevitable and the most efficient solution. Reducing debt piles – a more interesting challenge.]

The sexual revolution

The 60s sought to establish a permissive society where all kinds of sexual expression were allowed. Freud is credited with teaching about the harmful effect of repression. Birth outside marriage exceeded 10% in 1980, for the first time [in the 20th century], but across the west births outside marriage were become far more acceptable.

Kinsey’s reports – particularly giving high figures for experience of homosexual activity, set the agenda. The report claims 37% of his sample as having had some homosexual encounter, whereas the current consensus is that 1.5% of males in the population of the UK would identify as homosexual; Kinsey’s claim was 10%. [Note that these figures are relating to different things]. This set the agenda for the gay pride movement.

Easy divorce, with the contraceptive poll on the NHS, and abortion, in the 60s moved sex far beyond the marriage bed with the primary purpose of procreation to a leisure activity separated from family and marriage.

Feminism emerges more actively in this area, with ‘a woman’s right to choose’, and ‘women’s rights over their bodies’ meant that sex should not just be to give pleasure to men, justifying the Pill on the NHS for unmarried women, and the taboo on unmarried mothers collapsed. This also strengthens the LGBT perspective, one of whose stated aims is, the destruction of the traditional family, which was said to be ‘the source of our oppression’.

The Conservatives’ Clause 28 sought to prevent ‘material designed to promote homosexuality’ and banned from maintained schools any material that sought to suggest the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretend family relationship. This was repealed in 2003. Today the declared policy is that all schools encourage acceptance on LGBT issues as well as race, gender, disability, faith and belief; all parties supported this policy in their 2017 manifestos. The long term aim ‘could’ be the legalisation of sexual activity with children of any age.

In 1981 Philip Vanderfist argued that the aim of the political and sexual revolution was the same, saying: ‘They wish to destroy the present social order and build a new one upon its ruins. This cannot be done unless the restraints imposed by morality, property and family are swept away’.

Strong family life is seen as a barrier to ‘progress’, as it is means by which the values of bourgeoise society and male supremacy are groomed (sic) into children. Control of schools will enable this to be reversed, using Darwinian evolution and LGBT sex education to discredit the biblical values of Christian families.

The transexual agenda – destroying the difference between male and female – is a direct assault on God’s act of creating humans ‘male and female’.

The primary motivation of gay activists in seeking equal marriage was to defeat God, by destroying the institution of marriage as upholding the integrity of a love relationship and providing a secure environment for the raising of children.

The failure of church leaders to understand this strategy that seeks to destroy the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western civilization reflects both sociological ignorance and a lack of spiritual discernment.

Chapter 7 Understanding the times

Hill’s community renewal project got the attention of the Home Office, which led him to speak to police officers, offer training to senior officers, including mixing in his faith. This led to his hearing stories about the impact of pornography on unregulated video cassettes. A meeting at HTB led to an invitation to a meeting at the House of Lords which established an enquiry into their impact; reports from Head Teachers showed this was an issue and questions revealed kids had access to films which were then being seized as illegal, forming the basis of a formal report. This attracted front page coverage, and generated a strong backlash from the industry challenging the data, but the next stage of the report showed that the findings were secure.

Secular humanist libertarians – backed by the film industry – fought back, with the Guardian running an article ridiculing Hill as Dr. No, and he even made it onto Spitting Image. In the end the restrictions, imposing age categorisation and outlawing some material entirely, passed the Commons with no MPs voting against [it’s extraordinary to consider that there was any doubt about its passage.]

The report’s specific finding was that 45% of children between 7 and 17 had seen one or more videos which would have been classed as ‘obscene’ and therefore illegal on account of the morbid, sadistic, repugnant nature of the violence that they portray.

A survey of consultant psychiatrists which showed increases in anxiety symptoms, sleep disturbances and depression as well as in behavioural disorders. Teachers also reported a rise in violence on school premises.

A bonus of the publicity was that it links Hill with intercessor groups who asked questions about biblical prophecy and ‘was this the end times?’ This led to the creation of Prophecy Today, which used finance from Marshall Pickering which it had set aside for a magazine, but didn’t have the vision for. Marshall Pickering therefore provided the printing, publishing and distribution for it.

PT started at 5,000 copies, and rose to 20,000, reaching an audience of some 100,000 because copies were shared. It avoided speculative articles on eschatology or biblical mathematics, focusing on challenging the ‘noise’. The aim was to rescue prophecy from the morass of false teaching from Daniel and Revelation, instead offering a biblically based commentary on current affairs, series on the ‘writing prophets’, though NOT Daniel, who is classed as wisdom literature.

The aim was to declare the word of God not to foretell events. Only about 20% of OT prophetic material is about future events. Meetings around the country attracted large attendances, showing that people were hungry for the Word of God when secular humanism was appearing to be triumphing. This also reflected the failure of local churches to meet this need; PWM were filling the gap. How God dealt with Israel provides a source of lessons for our times.

Chapter 8 Seeking the Word of God

Overall world news was ugly. This concern led to the Carmel international gathering, which assembled with minimal advertising; the right people heard about it, bringing together people exercising a prophetic ministry in many different nations, coming together in Spring 1986. The leadership group was 153 [the number of fish in John 21]. The Carmel gathering was at a centre for Holocaust survivors, which had developed into a conference centre as the numbers had declined. Two of them accepted Jesus during the conference week after He had appeared to them in dreams.

After 24 hours of silence, the consensus was Haggai 2:6-7, which is repeated in Hebrews 12:26f. This is the warning of another shaking of the world.

Lance Lambert and Hill started by reading their prophecies, to be followed by others, with calls to the church for repentance and cleansing.

Lambert warned of God judging by:

  • War and Civil War
  • Monetary collapse
  • Earthquakes, shortages and famines
  • God giving people to their own ways – lawlessness, loveless selfishness, believing a lie, false religion and an apostate church,

He also spoke of signs in the sun, moon and stars.

The warning was given to let us be prepared and so stand firm. ‘I purpose that you may become the means of encouraging and strengthening many who love me but who are weak.

A Chinese leader commented that the spiritual growth there had occurred after the missionaries had been expelled and they ceased to rely on human resources.

The expectation was a time of shaking affecting creation as well as political and social upheaval, leading to persecution of Christians even in the West, who would also suffer economic hardship and social breakdown. Carmel was a warning to the church to prepare.

[Yet it just hasn’t happened – at least not yet here in the UK to a massively painful extent. We’re some 33 years out, and most biblical prophecy is fulfilled within 40 years. OTOH the potential for persecution is far clearer now than it was then.]

The central theme of the larger gathering in Jerusalem, which had an attendance of 5000, was: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says the Lord’ – Zech 4:2-3. Hill foresaw a great shaking for the USSR particularly – this was three weeks before Chernobyl, let alone the fall of the USSR. There was also a hint that it was 70 years since the Russian Revolution – judgement was going to begin.

The PWM team did a lot of meetings around the UK after the meeting [though not in Manchester!] The focus was based on Haggai 2 and Hebrews 12 with a call on God to give boldness

The image of a Gideon’s army being prepared, and PWM had the role of the prophet giving Gideon the context (Judges 6:7-8). The expectation of such shaking was widely accepted in most Evangelical circles, but many charismatics clung to their expectation of revival and did not participate in the follow up Days of Repentance meetings.

In effect this shaking is a continuation of the events of 1914, which massive changed power across the orld. The Prussian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires all fell, the British and French were shown to be fading. The message for the UK was that change was going to go on happening; the question was whether it would be:

  • Political revolution
  • Social revolution
  • Spiritual revival.

Chapter 9 Archbishop Robert Runcie Feb 1982 – Jan 1991

Probably the most theologically liberal man ever to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Notable for consecrating Jenkins to Durham, and the resulting lightning strike. Runcie denied that it was a specific act of God, despite the fact that the weather of the day was clear except for a single cloud from which came a lightning strike that overwhelmed the modern lightening conductor of York Minster. Runcie denied that God every did things like that, and said that God had no control over the weather. Apparently to admit that it was an act of God would have invalidated the insurance policy!

Runcie faced Coggan’s problem of a divided church, and therefore persisted on the fence on most issues, although the row over the Falklands service in St Paul’s did point to some depth in an area that he knew about, as he’d earned a Military Cross during his service in WWII.

His seeking of better relations with Rome did nothing for his status with Protestants. His multifaith views were liberal: ‘We need to recognise that other faiths are genuine mansions of the Spirit with many rooms to be discovered… the Spirit of God must have been working with Hindus, Muslims and others [over the centuries]’

On a visit to India he commented: ‘the sheer diversity of the divine was disconcerting. God somehow seemed greater than Western monism. We have lost something that other faiths may help restore to us’ [There is a small truth here, to the extent that other faiths may illuminate a biblical truth that we’ve lost, God can use them but that doesn’t make them salvific.]

He condemned a missionary in India who dismissed Hindu piety with: ‘Well, there’s noone there to hear’, commenting, ‘that simple finality has no place today’. [Of course they’re both wrong; the demonic presence at such shrines is a reality that Evangelicals need to accept]

He went so far as to deny: ‘No one comes to the Father except by me’ with ‘Christians have to abandon any narrowly conceived apologetic based on a sense of superiority and an exclusive claim to truth’ [Note that our sense of superiority IS a danger, but we need to affirm Jesus is THE way. Exclusive claims to truth are tricky’. To the extent that other religions are true, we must recognise this]

Runcie questioned the historicity of the incarnation by referring to ‘the historical circumstances in which this belief took root and developed’.

Having visited a Kali temple used by Mother Teresa’s order to serve the poor, he claimed: ‘the love of Christ was given and received by men and women of all faiths and none alongside the goddess [Kali] who symbolises a mixture of destruction and fertility’. This is syncretism, pure and simple. How can those who have never accepted the gospel reveal His love to others?

[They can because God can work through pagans to reveal his truth and love – but that NEVER justifies failing to evangelise unambiguously.]

Runcie commended a ‘prophecy’ by Arnold Toynbee suggesting that the great interpenetration of Eastern religions and Christianity will give rise to the great universal religion of the third millennium.

He attended a conference of Evangelical Anglican clergy after Prophecy Today excoriated him for these comments but neither Hill nor any of the clergy there challenged him publicly. Very polite, very British; no one wanted to rock the boat and cause a split; unity at all costs was the priority.

Overall: Runcie showed no evidence of a relationship with the God of creation.

Faith in the City

Hill sees the report as accurately describing the plight of people caught in the urban poverty trap, but its ascription of this to recent Tory policies meant it was dismissed as ‘Marxist propaganda’, whilst its emphasis on demanding government action rather than commending community development projects like the Hills’ in East London. It also failed to recognise the church’s share in the blame for the present state; whilst the Church Urban Fund was useful, the opening for effective work had closed, and Runcie’s lack of credibility was a further barrier.

Overall Runcie’s legacy was a church dominated by church officials and senior clergy with little or no commitment to biblically based mission.

Chapter 10 Reviewing the 80s

Despite being ‘the Decade of Evangelism’, nothing significant emerged, despite Billy Graham and Luis Palau’s visits, although national gatherings did create some networking opportunities. [It did see the birth of the Alpha course, which has been an effective approach]

The decade saw industrial conflict (Miners’ strikes etc.) and racial rioting in London and elsewhere from a complex of unemployment, racism, poor housing and police harassment. IRA terrorism was a running sore. Mary Whitehouse tried to fight the rising tide of pornography, but made little impression. The March for Jesus events gave Christians some visibility, but led to no reports of revival. The final one in 2000 saw 60 million Christians in 180 countries involved.

The was steady church growth in poor countries. ‘Prophecy Today’ commented: ‘There will be no revival in the West until we are prepared for the cost of revival in repentance and brokeness. Specifically the church must confess its need; for the Spirit to cleanse and empower us.

Warning signs

Jeremiah 7 offers six warning signs:

  • False Religion
  • Injustice
  • Idolatry
  • Oppression
  • Immorality
  • Murder (shedding of innocent blood)
  • False religion: York Minster’s fire after the consecration of David Jenkins.
  • Idolatry: Bradford city fire
  • Immorality: AIDS, to which the response was ‘use a condom’ not challenge promiscuity.
  • Injustice: the sinking of the ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’

Overall church attendance fell faster in that decade, down by 500,000 overall.

  • URC -18%, CofE -9%,Rome -14% Methodists -11%
  • Pentecostals +8% Independents +42% of which house churches +144%

Overall by 1989 some 10% of the adults in England were regular church goers and a further 9% had a significant link.

CND and Greenham Common protests derived from a lack of security in God. Yet for Christians the signs that God was shaking the nations reaffirmed the sovereignty of God.

Chapter 11 The Charismatic Movement

Trevor Dearing and Colin Urquhart were CofE vicars who experienced the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit and took it / them / Him into the mainstream churches. Elsewhere Christians started to meet spontaneously and these gatherings grew to create new churches. Untrained, some of the early teaching was problematic!

The Restorationism of the Charismatic Movement has always had very high expectations of what God will do SOON, yet the outcome has been disappointing.

The restoration of the four fold ministry of Ephesians 4 is expected to lead to society’s recognition of the apostles and prophets because of signs and wonders; exercising ‘Dominion’. [This provides a mechanism for the achievement of the the post millenialist vision of a world made good BEFORE Jesus’ return]. Those aspects of charismatic theology are not biblical.

John Collins at HTB and David Watson at York made the charismatic movement mainstream; they could not be ignored. These were less likely to endorse the dominionism, revivalism, and triumphalism of the Restorationists. Only in 1990 did HTB ally with the Kansas City prophets.

The PWM team’s message was that God was shaking the nations was revelatory – explaining in biblical terms what was happening – and evangelistic, equipping God’s people with a message for friends and neighbours. This was part of Hill’s vision for evangelism which the liberals in the church has squelched.

More generally this saw prophecy once more defined correctly, biblically, as ‘declaring the word of God for our times’, of which foreseeing the future was a minor component. Given that the root causes of the social, economic and political crises are spiritual, the answer is the Gospel. ‘The nations need to hear the word of God’.

In 1990 deception came from the church. John Wimber came to England offering the nostrum of ‘power evangelism’, which to Hill contradicted the Zech 4:6 emphasis on the Holy Spirit NOT power ensuring the glory goes to Jesus.

Douglas McBain of the Baptist Union organised a conference to present Wimber to UK leaders in 1984, but found his claims lacking reality. Wimber ‘appealed to the circus mentality to which many charismaticatic and evangelicals are so easily attracted’. Power Evangelism – and later Dominion Theology – was especially attractive to a church faced with marginalisation after centuries of high status.

Wimber became linked to the Kansas City prophets, whose ‘latter rains’ theology was derived from William Branham. This group taught that children born since 1973 would be the last generation before Jesus’ return, would be given greater power than the apostles to round things off, subduing the nations and establishing the world wide reign of God, centred on the Kansas City prophets and John Wimber. [One looks at this now and are amazed at people succumbing to it. We need to resist similar foolishness from speakers we come across]. The expectation of power for the powerless ws heady stuff, but caused division and confusion in many churches open to the ideas.

Bob Jones offered a new ‘translation’ of Ps 12:1. In the NIV it reads:

‘Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.’

Jones claimed that Jesus gave him a new translation:

‘Help Lord, release the champions, the dread champions’

‘Dread champion’ is a phrase otherwise unknown in scripture, but appears in Paul Cain’s teaching about the final (post 1973) generation; he also taught:

‘They can’t kill you… if you’re really in the Vine… the life sap from the Son of the Living God keeps you from cancer, from diseases… from dying They will have imperishable bodies, an early fulfilment of 1 Corinthians 15. [Of course it’s true that if God wants to protect you from these things, He will do so, but the idea that it’s in any sense automatic implies that those who suffer these things are not in Jesus, as implied by John 15.]

Hill visited Jones’ home in Kansas City, and was not impressed, feeling a demonic presence. David Pytches, by contrast, was a fan, writing the book ‘Some said it thundered’, which Hill condemned in a review in Prophecy Today.

Hill – with David Forbes and Nicolas Rivet-Carnac had a meeting with Wimber and Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Sandy Millar and David Pytches just before the October 1990 Excel centre meeting which Wimber and his group were promoting as the start of a major revival in the UK. Wimber warned Hill that God’s judgement would fall on Hill if he didn’t support Wimber’s ministry. Hill responded he would rather God take him out of ministry if he wasn’t speaking the truth. Hill believed that the immorality, unbelief, and false teaching of the churches in Britain left them unready for revival. God’s call was to repentance, not a promise of revival.

A larger meeting heard admissions of error by the Kansas City leadership, and they admitted that many of the stories in ‘Some said it thundered’ were untrue.

Being committed to the Excel centre meeting, Wimber claimed Paul Cain was never wrong and they were convinced revival would break out. However when the meeting occurred, nothing happened. At the end Wimber was commanding the Holy Spirit to come – but to no avail, as with the prophets of Baal whom Elijah confronted.

Shortly after this Wimber got throat cancer and died in 1997, having broken his links with the Kansas City prophets. He also cut his link to the Toronto Airport church, where the Toronto blessing took off. He ws reconciled to Hill, repenting of his hard words before he died.

Aftermath of the Excel meeting

The failure of the leaders who had commended Cain’s ‘prophecy’ of revival to visibly repent is problematic. Hill sees HTB as having a mixed record therefore; Alpha has been a major blessing, but its endorsement of Dominionism was problematic and divisive.

Overall the British tendency to brush such embarrassments under the carpet means that lessons are not learnt about how to resist deception in the future [and wrong teaching can reemerge more easily than if it’s been unambiguously condemned.]

Chapter 12 False teaching

[Thus it was that] despite its association with the Excel fiasco in 1990, similar ‘new rains’ teaching rapidly emerges in 1993 via Rodney Howard Brown and Kenneth Copeland [consider this ‘prophecy’ from 1995 by Copeland about God taking control of the US federal government, though Copeland gets kudos for its still being on his website]. The new promise is that ‘the day of glory of the Lord coming in great power’ as ‘you step over into the supernatural’.

The idea of a church of glorious and victorious Christians in the end times can be traced back to William Branham and others in the 1940s. There is no biblical basis for a large end times harvest.

Shortly after the Excel meetings, Bob Jones was exposed for gross sexual sin, shaming the British leaders who had commended the KCF leaders as men of exemplary character.

1994 saw the Toronto Blessing, first visible at the Toronto Airport church,* and manifesting at HTB and Vineyard churches in the UK. The Church of England Newspaper interpreted as ‘revival’ – possibly accepting this claim less critically after the disappointment and disillusion of the 1990 fiasco. [* the ultimate origin of the Toronto blessing appears to be Rodney Howard Browne and South Africa]

Copeland identified the blessing as the first waves of the great and final outpouring of the glory of God on the earth: ‘You can count his return in days not just in decades and years’.

The stories of animal noises and disorder match Jeremiah 51:38 where it describes the occult spirit phenomenon of Babylon. This combined with the identity of the proponents – the usual suspects from Excel – was solid grounds for scepticism.

A lot of the terminology used reflected the language of the ‘Latter Rains’ movement. The promise of great power from God is faulty exegesis – Jesus will be doing the conquering [hmm – that’s a fail! Hill is failing to recognise the church as the present body of Christ]

Browne warned: ‘Don’t try to work it out with your natural mind for the things of the Spirit are foolishness’. Which Hill interprets as a condemnation of any attempt to test what was going on. [If so, then this is bad, but it’s not necessarily the way that sentence must be interpreted.]

Appraisal of Toronto

The major criticism of blessing – which led to a decline in the use of the term ‘revival’ – was the lack of conversions. It’s notable also that outsiders trying to interpret it to non church goers struggled to do so.

Hill tells of how before news of the ‘blessing’ broke, he saw sheep fighting to the death in a flock; he saw this as evidence of an alien spirit in the flock. A video of an early meeting showed Browne telling the bouncers to silence a man praying audibly: ‘Father, let your will be done’. Browne’s comment was ‘Only I speak’.

David Noakes’ conclusion after a visit to Toronto was that it was a mixture of blessing and deception, with Arnott making no attempt to distinguish between the work of the Holy Spirit and what was of the flesh or demonic. Johannes Facius recorded Arnott as saying it was ‘children coming to the Father to play’, endorsing a willing to accept no growth in Christian disciples, despite NT calls for it.

The argument that the ‘natural’ mind cannot receive the things of God is based on 1 Corinthians 2:14 in the NIV, but Paul’s emphasis is on the natural man (i.e. the unconverted) being incapable of assessing it. However Browne used this verse to demand submission to it. We have a duty to test with our minds. Maturity is NOT a gift of the Spirit – it comes from prayer and study of the whole of the bible (Hebrews 5:14)

Travelling to Toronto to ‘catch the Spirit’ is a denial of Haggai 2, which makes clear that only God can bestow blessings, but corruption does get passed on [this isn’t one of Hill’s better moments, showing his Protestant roots; it’s clear from Acts and Epistles that sometimes God does use ‘ordination’ and a human role in giving the gifts of the Spirit, but the point is worth giving consideration to]

On Noakes’ return to London and after seeing a video of a Copeland Browne double act, he prophesied:

‘What you are seeing is not the first wave of deception that is to come, nor will it be the last. Satan is establishing an increasingly strong and broad powerbase in the churches of your nation in order to draw people away after false hopes of a cheap and illusory glory of the flesh in this age. Do not look to the men who seem to be the principal instruments of the deception. They are false prophets who come and go like shooting stars. Their judgement is in my hand and I will execute it in its due season. They prophesy by Baal but I will surely vindicate my Holy Name.

Be concerned rather with the faceless shepherds of the flocks of my people. For an illusion of glory and success, they sell the sheep of my pasture into the hands of the deceiver. False and deluded, they do not know my voice, for they do not reference my word. Puffed up with selfish ambition and vainglory they lead my people into false ways. Thinking that they see in their blindness, they lead those who trust them into a ditch. They are as the Pharisees of old who love the places of honour and the applause of men, and they gain it at the expense of leading gullible men and women into ways which have an appearance of light but are in truth are a highway into deepest darkness.

Beware of such men. False shepherds and blind guides… This wave of deception will recede and with it those who now falsely prophesy. But the false shepherds amongst my people will remain as a danger, ready to grasp hold of the next wave when it comes, for surely it will do so. Each wave will be deadlier than the last and will attract more of those whose feet are not firmly grounded on the rock of my Word….

Pray that the deaf may hear. Pray that the blind shepherds may yet see. But remember that it is only my Spirit which convicts of sin and guilt and of judgement to come. The task of the watchman is to warn. If you will fulfil that task you will have served your master well.”

Finally: a remarkable and common after-effect of Toronto was a twitch that some suffered.

Some common misunderstandings

A common error at the time was to believe that Christians filled with the Holy Spirit could not be deceived; actually being open to experiences makes us more likely than cessationists to fall for errors, especially if they are new believers without much biblical knowledge.

Another was claiming the protection of the blood of Jesus as a ‘prophylactic’ which would prevent any evil spirits activities in a collective way. Such collective protection has no biblical basis. [A different question is the promise of Jesus that God won’t give a stone when His people ask for the Holy Spirit. (Mt 7)]

Praying TO the Holy Spirit is unbiblical. We are to ask the FATHER to send the Spirit, and our eyes should be focused on Jesus, not ‘the Spirit’.

Some of the things that were / are wrong with the Toronto blessing

This is a summary of an evening’s teaching with David Pawson and Rob Warner

You know something is wrong when:

  • New teaching is based on contemporary revelation instead of on the revealed word of God in the bible
  • When doctrine is based on experience instead of experience based on doctrine
  • People travel half way round the world to get a blessing instead of falling on their knees where they are
  • When people talk of imparting a blessing from one to another when the bible says that the only thing that can be passed on is corruption, not blessing
  • People are told to not use their minds nor to test the spirits as the New Testament instructs
  • When scripture is reversed and its upsidedown meaning is given as new teaching
  • Prophecies of imminent revival remain unfulfilled year after year
  • Meetings are advertised as spiritual spectaculars
  • People chase after signs and wonders, which is contrary to to the practice of Jesus who said: ‘an evil and adulterous generation looks for miraculous signs’.
  • People exhibit uncontrollable physical symptoms and the NT teaches that self control is a fruit of the Spirit.
  • Those who introduce new teachings charge those who wish to test these teachings biblically with being divisive.
  • Those who claim to have been filled with a new love for Jesus pour out the vilest abuse on those who question their teachings

[The failure to discern issue with the Toronto blessing means that a genuine revival would have been rapidly derailed by deceptions]

The restorationist and Latter Rains movement has its origins in Gnosticism, which also offered ‘secret knowledge’, which became the basis of doctrine, with eisgesis of scripture to prove their claims.

Hill credits Yongi Cho of South Korea and Korean Shamanism with importing the visualisation of gospel scenes to enter a closer relationship with God. [However it’s a substantial feature of Ignatian spirituality. Is he equally dismissive of Loyola? Or, indeed, did the concept get to Loyola via previous generations’ monastic links with the East? Loyola is not usually credited with innovation but providing effective packaging and legitimation]

Another feature of Gnosticism is special revelation to interpret scripture – a feature of charismatics seeking to short circuit biblical study.

By the end of the 1990s Toronto was being recognised as not a revival, but the hope was that it was a prelude. Certainly testing its fruit – often summarised as ‘their love of Jesus increased’ – is impossible to measure [though the claim of ‘refreshing’, if that can be shown to have reinvigorated tired / collapsing ministries, might be more measurable, as might be any increase in obedience / release from besetting sins.

Dennis Wrigley’s conclusion is that there can be no revival unless there is a fusion of our wills with the grace of God in an act of repentance. Revival starts not with choruses but prayers of repentance.

Chapter 13 Family matters

Hill reran the questionaire from 1979, finding that porn was now far more acceptable, but there was a continuing belief that it encouraged sexual violence, and that portrayals of violence encouraged violence. [However actual sociological research casts doubt on the role of the portrayal of violence in encouraging violence]

A report encouraging strengthening family life with the involvement of Home Office staff generated a green paper giving four year olds free child care and 3 months of parental leave on births – but no measures to strengthen family life. A report Hill was involved in producing showed the long term impact of family breakdown on children including more likely to be unemployed, homeless, in low status jobs or divorced themselves.

98% of children involved in youth crime come from broken homes

The report predicted future rises in emotionally disturbed children, behavioural problems in school, and sexually transmitted infections among young people.

Despite the involvement of the government in its preparation, there was no action by government in response, indeed 1999 saw the ending of the married persons allowance on the ground of ‘equality’.

To develop this issue, PWM spun off the ‘Family Matters Institute’ that Hill headed to produce quality research. Evidence of teenage pregnancies led to offering contraceptives not abstinence teaching. Teenagers reported that it was peer pressure that encouraged early sexual activity [Fear of missing out?] 75% of parents of sexually active 13 year olds didn’t know their child wasn’t a virgin.

The ‘Cost of Family Breakdown’ report of 2000 estimated that the direct cost at £15bn a year in 2000 and that that would rise to £40bn by 2015. Seen as largely responsible for the housing crisis – broken families need two households – as well as the mental health crisis.

Sex education

25% of sexually active 13 year olds claimed to have had 4 or more sexual partners. Government policy remained focused on safe sex and informing of all sexual practices rather than valuing marriage. The rise in social issues because of family breakdown was obvious, but politicians pretended otherwise, ignoring the research on the value of a stable family background for producing happy and healthy adults. Instead Labour policy was to endorse equality, implying all family arrangements were equally valid and arguing that teaching the superiority of marriage discriminates against children from other backgrounds.

Children are the victim of this approach: children from unmarried homes are twice as likely to suffer adverse outcomes in education, emotional and physical health, employment and personal fulfilment. Yet political correctness rejects these observations.

Specifically when an amendment was moved in the Lords to endorse monogamous marriage in school teaching as the ideal, nine bishops voted against, causing its rejection. This was the secularists’ victory, and the church colluded.

Chapter 14 Archbishop George Carey April 1991 – October 2002

Thatcher appears to have encouraged this choice. Although an Evangelical, he was active in ecumenism with Rome, and in favour of remarriage after divorce, although was conservative on homosexual relationships, and involved himself with the Parliamentary group of which Hill was the convenor. He was strongly identified with letting women be priests in the Church of England; he thus was alienated from all groups to some extent and widely excoriated in the press. Although numerical decline continued, there were some policies that sought to address issues, particularly non-stipendary clergy. There was also some evidence that keeping churches open was boosted attendances. [i.e. if you don’t kick them out of the door, they’ll go on dragging themselves along for a few more years, but if you deprive them of their shrine, they won’t make the effort to transfer to another? And, perhaps more significantly, the resources released by closing churches don’t achieve significant church growth by being allocated elsewhere.]

Carey had had links with Monica and the church growth movement since his Durham days, and was interested in church planting, a largely new concept for Anglicans who seldom though beyond their own parish. However his involvement ceased on appointment as Archbishop [though the CofE did come to get church planting over the next few years].

Carey inherited a Lambeth staff appointed by his predecessor, and their liberal agenda appears to have skewed his approach [his refusal to follow most Archbishops in accepting the status of President of Church’s Ministry among the Jewish People – one of the church of England’s missionary societies – accurately seeing it as inconsistent with his role on the Council of Christians and Jews – was a new low for the CofE]. The record shows that he failed to address sexaul allegations against Bishop Peter Ball, who was later imprisoned for 16 months (32 month sentence) including witholding evidence against him because he believed the allegations to be false.

In Jerusalem he initially accepted but then cancelled, at the last minute, his involvement with the 150 year celebrations of Christ Church Jerusalem, the home of a significant Messianic Jewish congregation, presumably under pressure from the Arab diocescan bishop, whose cathedral is very liberal, with its bibles excluding, in the Psalms, all 65 references to Israel, replacing them with ‘the land’. Ray Lockhart, then Rector of Christchurch, was at college with George, and his failure to visit when in Jerusalem – they walked past the Rectory on their way to the Armenian church – felt like a snub. Overall Carey was a disappointment to Evangelicals.

Chapter 15 Reviewing the 90s

The 1990s saw high expectations of ‘revival’ in the Pentecostal and charismatic churches: the Elim ‘Jesus in Me’ campaign talked of 250,000 conversions, and the Reinhardt Bonke pamphlets generated a mere 16,000 responses from 25 million delivered. Hill believes the 1990s saw the charismatics building their own houses rather than seeking God’s timing and what He is saying.

Interfaith events became common in the CofE: a ‘March for Jesus’ gathering outside Canterbury Cathedral was told to keep quiet because it was disturbing the singing of Hindu songs inside.

Sexual Sin

Stories of Christian leaders falling into sexual sin were very common. Families continued to break down frequently – with three of the Queen’s four children divorced, two remarrying. The lack of sympathy at the destruction of Windsor Castle by a fire in 1992 led to the Queen agreeing to bear the cost (at £36m) by opening Buckingham Palace after government plans to use taxpayers’ money were unpopular.

Spectacular Christian growth occurred in the many places except the West. Visiting Indonesia and given her title as Director of the British Church Growth Association, Monica Hill was asked by a group of church elders whether they should appoint a pastor to the church that had grown to 750 in three months – should they wait till it reached 1000?

The UK saw continuing decline in church attendance and social influence of the church.

Chris Smith – a openly gay man – was the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the Blair government, which seems to have subtly allowed him to inject LGBT values into society.

In 2017 a report revealed that 12% of BBC staff were LGBT, compared with 1.7% of the wider population. This led to the normalisation of gay people’s visibility in a wide variety of popular programming. The BBC’s role in reshaping the tradition Christian heritage towards a more secular model is impossible to measure.

Chapter 16 Rebellion against God

The four revolutionary movements of social change that hit Britain and the West post WWII had a number of common characteristics. All were anti-creationism. Some were anti-Semitic. All sought to destroy the traditional family and see the collapse of the Judeo-Christian value system that was foundational in Western society.

Being hit by all four at the same time was a unique historical phenomenon. The roots can be seen in the 18th century enlightenment, as well as moves to deny God’s being creator, as seen in the theology of Matthew Fox. The emergence of Pentecostalism before WWI was part of God’s preparation for this coming storm – yet Lutherans in Germany formally declared it a heresy in 1911. Were the World Wars God judgement on Germany for saying the Holy Spirit was demonic?

In Britain Pentecostalism was largely ignored by the wider church; the Evangelical Alliance was closed to Pentecostal leaders until 1980 or so, though this was corrected soon after that, not least enabled by the Charismatic movement. Note also that the Charismatic movement showed some elements of the rebellious spirit of the age in disdaining the structures of the past as hopeless [unlike in previous generations, there was no attempt to offer a biblical criticism of them, just a pragmatic ‘this is failing’ approach. This isn’t however a proof that it’s not of God.

The Charismatic emphasis on personal relationship with God is pure Evangelicalism, but tended to individualise it to the exclusion of corporate community; the gifts become personal possessions and prosperity doctrines start to appear; properly gifts should be seen to be given to equip the CHURCH, not for personal aggrandisement. Basic moral values can also get lost; its anti-legalism can allow sexual licence. The servant element of discipleship can also fade: service to those outside the church by the corporate church becomes absent.

Prophecy needs to be tested; for example a Cardiff church introduced a pattern of close intercessor / prayer partnerships for everyone as a result of a prophecy, and reaped a harvest of adulterous relationships, including the pastor.

The attraction of POWER is an issue here; we need to be cautious.

A specific criticism by Hill of Wimber focuses on his suggestion that adversity ‘could’ be due to demonic activity. Hill is dismissive. [Wimber’s claim is fair – the challenge is to be sceptical without being wholly dismissive]

By contrast with the Wimber ‘power’ approach, Hill’s PWM team taught that repentance was necessary in the church before any revival; specifically a recognition that the drift away from biblical values and the world setting the agenda for the for church. In 1990 Hill asserted that revival will not come until both the nation AND the church are broken, and he’s been calling on the church to prepare for darkness, not revival. [God has been merciful so far, but a set up like CCM with its strong commitment to fragile church plants may be in for a more rough time than it could be if we were more expectant of persecution.]

In the context of the 1990 flop, Toronto was ‘A new hope’ – that largely failed. The question asked was ‘Does it work?’ not ‘Is it of God?’ Maybe there were ‘refreshments’ but certainly very few conversions.

Overall the Charismatics did good work challenging the dead weight of tradition and bringing new life into the churches, but the fruit of the movement has been disappointing. To see more we must have repentance from the world to God. If we continue to fail God may allow our institutions to fail, and use others to bring His message to Britain. [The growing presence of ‘reverse missionaries’ is a hint that that strategy is on the starting blocks.]

Hill claims that Cameron’s endorsement of same sex ‘marriage’ ended his political career after a period of grace of several years. [A claim I find to seriously defend]

Brexit is part of God’s shaking of the nations, working people were reacting to declining prosperity as economic power went to China. [In the same way as Hill criticises church leaders over their lack of sociological understanding, the ‘economic decline’ is more complex. China may have damaged Western industries but the Great Recession of 2008 was entirely our own fault, as is the failure to ensure all marginalised / damaged communities have had the investment necessary to turn them around]

Brexit was an expression of people’s anger at the greed of the elite. It was also because Christians prayers to reveal the secular humanist forces of darkness driving the EU towards destruction [hmmm – the idea that the UK is in a better place on this seems dubious]

The married couple IS the best for children’s development, and the social science studies support this. Only this sort of family can spontaneously produce the social form necessary to link autonomous individuals to the macro structures of modern society.

Homosexual lifestyles explicitly challenge the church because for many of those in them demand the church affirm God’s approval of them.

Welby has ambiguously spoken of ‘looking forward to a ‘radical new Christian inclusion in the CofE. [Whether this is an indicator of his hopes on the gay sex issue is unclear.]

The Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden was forced to resign as Chaplain to the Queen after condemning the reading in the Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow of Qu’ranic verses denying the divinity of Jesus on the feast of the Epiphany. He said later:

‘The CofE hierarchy has become so politicised that it matters more that you are a feminist than a theologian. The CofE is more comfortable with politics and power than it is with the Holy Spirit. The CofE has opted to be a kind of ‘spiritualised socialism and feminism in opposition to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 17 Social Action

The aim of ‘Transform UK’ was to change society to give hope to those depressed and hopeless – beyond just soup kitchens, though not rejecting their role. This led to the founding of the Christian workplace forum, and links to the UCCF, seeking to link college CU and workplace.

The CWF – was, by 2005, linked to 85 Christian associations in a variety of professions, commerce and industry. Such groups tend to replicate ‘church’ their workplaces with little vision to change the workplaces. However this is a hope for the future. The aim was recognition by employers to allow them to contribute to management and wider activities among all employees if appropriate [The Christian Trade Union, common on the continent, finally arrives in Britain?]

To mark the 200th anniversay of the ending of the [Atlantic] Slave Trade, a replica of a slave ship that had been used for the film biography of John Newton was moored in the Pool of London, with a focus on reconciliation. This attracted significant publicity and catalysing conversations within UK Afro-Caribbean families who had never shared their history before; the school systems of both the UK and the Caribbean had tended to airbrush its details from the history being taught.

Boris Johnson expressed interest in the project during his campaign for London Mayor, but on election his interest appears to have evaporated.

In response to the economic crash of 2008, a meeting occurred recognising the role of greed and corruption, the abandonment of ethical standard – in the crash.

The day of prayer of 28th February 2009 recognised that God was shaking the nation, but sought God on the basis of Jeremiah 18:7 where God promises that He will relent of any foreseen catastrophes if they repent. The church needsd to be more clear in declaring the principles and values of the Kingdom of God, and living it ourselves so that the world could see what had gone wrong.

2009 also saw the Jimmy and Carol Owens’ ‘Heal Our Land’, the sequel to ‘If my people’.

Chapter 18 Archbishop Rowan Williams

Rowan’s involvement in a Druid ceremonial was a red rag to evangelicals, but Rowan saw it as celebration of Welsh culture rather than a religious event.

Hill first met Rowan in the car park of a school where the Anglican Renewal Group for Wales had just been addressed by Rowan, then Archbishop of Wales, and before his translation to Canterbury, and Hill was about to speak. Hill arrived just in time to catch Rowan about to drive off, chatted for a bit and then Rowan asked Hill to pray for him. Hill then heard God say that Rowan was to the next AbC, and having told him, then prayed for him and revealed various issues and suffering in his future; Hill was weeping at times during this, which isn’t usual for him at all, and he struggled to describe what he was being shown.

When Rowan’s appointment was announced, he contacted Hill and a friendship ensued. Hill offered Rowan material for various sermons and speeches, and they discussed much, with a LOT of bible study, focusing on the biblical prophets and their relevance to today.

The Jeffrey John fiasco when Rowan had to refuse the appointment of John, who was publicly in a celibate gay relationship in the Deanery of St Albans, to be a suffragan bishop after both John and Richard Harries of Oxford refused to stand down in the interests of unity [interesting how liberals use ‘unity’ to shut down Evangelicals but don’t live by it]. This was costly for Rowan.

Following John, the US Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson – a man in a gay relationship who had abandoned his marital vows to his wife.

Hill’s involvement with Rowan cost many friends and ultimately involvement with Prophecy Today, which ended his role in the magazine that he’d founded after Hill chose to have Rowan speak at the celebration of Moggerhanger Park.

Much of what Rowan writes is orthodox, but the complexity of his presentation makes it hard to follow for the average reader. e.g: ‘At the centre of things, the Scriptures provide the first test of unity and coherence, to which all else is brought to be judged’ is an admirably conservative statement, but it doesn’t communicate!

When given the chance to address senior Islamic scholars in Egypt, Rowan chose to focus in the Trinity rather than offer a statement of the gospel, or Hill’s suggestion of focusing on the atonement. They listened attentively but it led to no further dialogue.

Similarly Rowan’s statement about the relevance of Sharia law to Muslims in Britain was seen as an undermining of British law. This was a misunderstanding of what he said [but at some point the communicator becomes responsible for his listeners lack of comprehension.]

Overall Hill was confident of Rowan’s love for Jesus.

Hill organised a seminar of biblical scholars from the Messianic Jewish community, which Rowan chaired. This was Rowan’s first encounter with that group and resulted in his clear support for them.

The rising number of Jewish believers in Yeshua is a challenge to replacement theology proponents. Rowan was clear in his rejection of replacement theology, but has no made no clear statements about it, leaving the CofE a problem for many. [As ever the idea that the CofE has a clear view on anything that is of any major significance is a mistake.]

Hill now recognises that he was trying to get Rowan to fulfil Hill’s vision for the role, rather than accepting Rowan’s different gifts and supporting him in the fulfilment of his vision. For Rowan being AbC was a painful job, but he carried on until the end of his term.

Chapter 19 Reviewing the Noughties.

A Telegraph poll suggested that only 24% of the population realised that the millennium had anything to do with the birth of Jesus.

Fear of hell had largely disappeared – only 40% of Christians believed in it.

The founder of the Christian Resources exhibition approached Monica as director of the British Church Growth Association. He was conscious that the CRE had become largely commercial; her suggestion was to give free space to new / innovative Christian ministries, who could gain visibility. This helped bring the Tressel Trust – of food bank fame – Street Pastors and many others to wider visibility.

Intercessor groups have grown in number around the country.

Secular humanist got the unfounded assertion that all kinds of family are of equal value for raising children to be part of the school curriculum
Attempts to encourage support for faithful marriages failed to get solid support. The need was for clear support for traditional marriage, but that wasn’t acceptable.

Civil partnerships were allowed from 2004; 2006 saw the establishment of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, bringing UK law into line with EU Equal Treatment directives.

Chapter 20 Social Change in Church and State

The four areas of social change: cultural, spiritual, political and sexual. This chapter looks at how things have changed since the 60s.

Cultural

The music industry exercises a controlling influence over the minds of young people. Rap songs are currently dominating minds and form a powerful subculture.

The internet provides access to porn, violence, hate speech and bullying. It does allow access to much good of course!

Immigration has led to a multi-religious society.

Secular humanism’s popularity means that 50% of the population agnostic / declaring they have no religion.

Society’s values have altered enormously. The value of life, redefinition of family, abortion, pressure towards euthanasia, and the ending of taboos about divorce and unmarried mothers .

Spiritual

New Age is mainstream. Overt Satanism is more common in music and art. Abortion is a function of disdain for for God’s creation; it and euthanasia are statements of rebellion. Theological liberalism is the usual pattern in universities, which offer destructive philosophical concepts that undermine faith. Loss of faith in the pulpit leads to unbelief in the pews. Secular humanist values are widely endorsed instead.

Doubts and uncertainties have led to controversy and confusion, resulting in many abandoning denominational churches for new groups or isolation.

Political changes

Far left and far right have benefited from populism all over Europe; in the UK, Corbyn and Brexit are its fruit. Political correctness is a legitimation of limitations on freedom of speech in a society that rejected its traditional concepts of politeness, good manners and deference to age and gender.

Truth has become the casualty of all this; Trump’s boasting of dubious achievements was justified by the statement – of others – ‘we all massage the truth to fit our narrative’. Truly Jeremiah’s comment: ‘truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips’ applies to our land.

Sexual Change

The Abortion Act, and the decriminalisation of homosexual practice are the outward statements. [Hill asserts that average life expectancy for gay men is far less than others, but this is likely to be flawed because older men are unlikely to be recorded as such when they die, skewing the figures massively] He suggests this reflects the health risks of homosexual sex, which are seldom discussed.

Understanding the Times

There is clear evidence of a destructive spirit driving the nations today. This is, primarily, the activity of human beings who, unless led by God, are driven by evil, destructive spirits.

What is God doing? He is using the shaking of the nations to work out his purposes. This is not to say God approves of the atrocities, just that he is in control. The present shaking is revealing corruption and unrighteousness. The prophecies of Matthew 24: ‘nation will rise up against nation’ and Isaiah 24:3: ‘the earth will be completely laid waste’ remain unfulfilled. In our times? We can’t say for sure. This exposure MAY be a preparation for an advance of the gospel round the world. Believers need to understand what is happening, based on serious bible study and prayer.

Church leaders have been a bust over the past 60 years, with no prophetic voice from either the CofE or the non-conformists being heard. Since William Temple there has been no clear voice. His reputation is as a social reformer – yet was clear that ‘If we have to choose between making men Christian and making the social order more Christian, we must choose the former’. However he asserted ‘there is no such antithesis’.

Ramsay – the AbC in the 1960s – ignored all the liberal measures going through parliament, being far more interested in ecumenical efforts with Rome, Orthodoxy and Methodism – to minimal effect. The non-conformist preachers of the past who created the ‘non-conformist conscience’ of the past have not been replaced, partly because experience became dominant over great preaching.

[Really? There’s something else going on here. The churches still exist, they just haven’t had worthy successors it seems. Given it doesn’t need many, what is this about? They don’t exist – or the people don’t respond any more?]

The destruction of the non-Conformist denominations by the liberalism that came to dominate their theological colleges is not to be dismissed; traditional churches were adrift in stormy seas without vision or hope, struggling to maintain decaying buildings with declining congregations and income.

So what went wrong?

Too many church leaders were simply unbelievers lacking confidence in the Bible as the ultimate standard of truth. And they didn’t understand what was happening.

Then of course as Donald Soper comments: ‘The trouble with the clergy is that we’ve only got the laity to recruit from’

Overall the church has been reshaped by the world and her prophetic voice has been silenced. In as far as Welby wants the church to be ‘inclusive’ on the world’s terms, it will be an apostate church offering a Christianity without Christ without a gospel of redemption.

Political activity

Despite the many changes of legislation in a secularist direction, the church seriously none except Sunday Trading, and were especially notable for their staying separate from the Trade Unions, which increased alienation from the working class. Politics in general was seen as a dirty game, discouraging Christian involvement. This culminated in 2017 when Tim Farron abandoned his leadership of the Liberal Democrats over his rejection of gay rights personally, and the mess he made of the issue in the election.

The best clergy have tended to avoid the rougher areas, making the church less relevant. However in 2007 black Anglican clergy reported to Hill that they were only offered inner city parishes.

Scripture teaches that spiritual leaders are responsible to God for the nation [or at least God’s flock – Ezekiel 34:10 – which Hill quotes]

Part of the problem is the loss of belief in the sovereignty of God [by which I assume he means that God will judge, not in a Calvinist sense!]

Hill suggests that the forces of Babylon have been destroying His people since the 60s and tha the 70 year point will see the wickedness and cruelty exposed. At the moment several institutions are being shown up [#MeToo etc]

Is God also losing patience with the denominations?

With the rejection of the creator, Romans 1:18f points to a descent into depravity, worshipping anything. This is Britain since the 1960s.

The ability of the church to respond has been finessed by its lack of discernment given the lack of confidence of preachers in the record of what God has done in the past.

The breakdown of the family is the big issue, as the equality agenda offers legitimation to inadequate forms of family. Gangs are the result of families failing to give identity, security and belongingness, due to absent fathers, as is much of the behavioural failings of schools and overflowing prisons [but again – that’s not what the rest of Europe is seeing – why not?] Increased stop and search powers are the offered solution rather than proper family life!

Hill ascribes the breakdown of families to the LGBT agenda [I suspect it’s far more because there’s no expectation of sticking to your marriage and the promises made, and there’s no willingness to challenge personal immorality]

The government green paper ‘Supporting Families’ stated that marriage was the most reliable framework for raising children – but an attempt to include this in a bill in the Lords in 2000 was lost when nine bishops voted against it, tipping the balance to defeat.

If the present trends of rising mental illness disabling people from being employed continue, the burden on the economy of such welfare along with more and more pensioners will become unsustainable.

Political correctness promotes today’s ignorance and tomorrow’s folly

The growing shaking of the nation will offer new opportunities to evangelise; the Jews in Babylon and the church under Roman persecution grew spiritually. The populism that is prevalent today is a sign of public disaffection with the establishment; we must find God’s strategy to respond appropriately to the present chaos, ensuring we recognise that it is HIS battle.

Prayer led to Britain voting for Brexit; we can see God bringing real change by effective evangelism – but it will be despite denominational leaders if it does happen.

The sociological factor that needs to be recognised is the reshaping of the nation in the past 50 years not been ‘Darwinian social evolution’ or merely the outcome of secular humanist agenda. Rather it has been a demonic, anarchist agenda seeking man’s self destruction.

The celebrations of the pro-abortion activists when the May 2018 Irish referendum went their way was the work of the spirit of the age celebrating the prospect of having babies in the fire.

The only hope for Western civilisation is early repentance before God. Will our secular leaders recognise the dangers, be open to the truth and call upon God for help?

The hope of the church lies in small gatherings of Issachars that God has drawn together outside church structures praying and studying the bible together. Like Jehosophat we must hear the Lord say:’Do not be discouraged at the vast army, for the battle is not yours but God’s’. 2 Chronicles 20:15.

In China the church has grown spectacularly. Likewise Indonesia – both in the face of opposition. God is waiting for the faithful remnant to recognise their dependence on him and cry out to Him for help. Undoubtedly when that happens He will open the windows of heaven sweep a multitude into the kingdom.

Epilogue

Since the middle of the 20th century we have seen a social revolution in the nation and a slow suicide of the church.

Society’s value systems have come to reflect a combination of:

  • Darwinian philosophy
  • Marxist economics
  • Hegelian idealism – from the Enlightenment

The church has seen an abandonment of biblical values by its leaders to become a compliant church seeking to be ‘inclusive’ and not offend anyone.

The Social Revolution

We have seen the disintegration of the family life; the family is the lynchpin that holds together all other social institutions. In Britain 1000 plus years of Christian stucture regulated and sanctified the covenant relationship of love and faithfulness.

It’s notable that China’s renewed entrepreneurism is family based.

Talcott Parsons argues:

‘The basic and irreducible functions of the family are: the socialisation of children, so that they can truly become members of the society into which they have been born; the stabilisation of the adult personalities of the society.

Because feminists and homosexuals saw the family as repressive, they united to challenge it.

The secular society

It has taken only 50 years to destroy 1000 plus years of Christian heritage. The process of normalising the abnormal has extended to primary schools, where ‘Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools’ uses heart warming stories to indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality and gender transition.

Militant secularisation via such indoctrination leaves other views largely marginalised and onlya few Christian households will be hold outs.

Collapse of law and Order

The destruction of the family results in:

  • Drug addiction
  • An epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections among the young
  • Formation of gangs, which provide an alternative family
  • Rising levels of crime [though there’s an issue here with why elsewhere in Europe does better here]
  • Rise in hate rate, self harm, mental breakdowns and suicide.

Families provided stability at times of crisis and support in times of economic hardship. Any similar crises today without that substrate may not end so well; if an economic crisis ends welfare payments, police services will loose control. So how did we sink so far.

A biblical comparison

Jeremiah faced a similar collapse in faith in God despite all that He had done for His people. He saw: ‘All are greed for gain: prophets and priests alike practice deceit. They dress the wounds of my people as though they were not serious’ Jeremiah 6:17-18.

He saw impending catastrophe but the leaders of both state and religion were unaware.

Post war Britain

William Temple recognised a ‘sickness in society’ as early 1943, arguing that the church must approach the issue of social change by fastening on what is akin to its own message of God creating men and women for fellowship with Him and one another. The aim of the church is thus the development of persons in community – based on adequate housing, food and education to 18.

‘The church will never conceal its aim – the fashioning of men and women as children of God in community with God the Father, made known to us in Christ.

Church leaders unbelief since then has left us with an institutional church outside the protective cover of God. None of the Archbishops of Canterbury since Temple have had the dynamic leadership to bring real change.

The CofE is modelled on democratic politics – not a community of believers under the Lordship of Jesus. The structures create a clergy class who are to be accepted as having divinely empowered authority – but fail to deliver it.

By contrast the New Testament has no one man bands – it didn’t suffer institutionalisation [however sociology indicates that institutionalisation is inevitable]

Church unity has become a high priority – to minimal benefit and at the cost of any commitment to the truth. The biblical model is spiritual not institutional unity – where believers are of one heart and mind, not part of one institution. [Hill’s probably trying too hard here; the role of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts in providing a clear answer to a substantial pastoral problem indicates that there is more ‘institutional unity’ than we tend to recognise]

This can be traced to the adoption of the term ‘church’ for the translation of the Greek ecclesia rather than assembly or congregation; in 1611 the Puritans on the group preparing the KJV bible resisted ‘church’, but King James ruled in its favour, perhaps valuing the affirmation of the institutional pattern of the Roman Catholic church this offered.

Thus the CofE is an institution rather than a fellowship of local based assemblies [This is Hill’s congregationalism background coming out] and all other non-conformists have gone the same way. The crumbling of these unhelpful institutions should be a cause of rejoicing that God is refining these institutions; everywhere informal groups of Christians are gathering to study the bible.

A new creation

“Forget the former things; I’m doing a new thing! I will pour waters on a thirsty land” Isaiah 43:18, 44:3

God is the God of recreation – often the seed must fall into the ground and die to give new life. We have to get to a point of total dependence on God; because human strength and cleverness will NOT work. Then we cry out, and God moves.

This is seen in the defeat of the enormous army coming against Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehosophat prays in desperation and his enemy is defeated entirely without the army engaging.

In ‘Towards the Dawn’ (1979) Hill warned that there would be no revival until disaster struck Britain. Lance Lambert’s prophecy of 1986 promises that we will be equipped for the time of darkness. Since then Hill’s team have warned that every institution that is not of God – including ‘churches’ – will be shaken. Note that we must be careful not to ask for protection from such shaking – it is God’s work, and we may therefore end up praying against what God is doing. Rather, according to a David Noakes prophecy, we need to learn to ‘walk on water’ in dependence on God, not trust to the existing boats which are too rigid and inflexible to survive the wind and waves that will hit them.

Hill’s persistent rejection of the hopes of revival made him unpopular – like Jeremiah.

In ‘Tell my People I love them’ Hill tells of a time at a ski resort where he and many others watched a little girl sliding down the hill towards a cliff edge. Suddenly her father rushed out of the crowd, ran down the hill and grabbed her, saving her yards from the edge – at massive risk to himself of falling over as well. ‘Did you see how that father did not hesitate to risk his own life for the sake of his child? That is how much I love my people.’

There were scores of people in the crowd, but one ran after here – her father. In a land of family breakdowns and fatherlessness, this is a model of fatherhood we need to model and proclaim.

In summer 2018 Hill finally heard God talk about revival; in the midst of the disruption of the church, social breakdown and Brexit chaos; the pieces fell into place: we’re getting desperate, we’re close to the brink, the conditions are there to fulfil the Carmel prediction: ‘In the midst of these judgements multitudes upon multitudes will be saved’, a prophecy that also predicted that Israel’s hardening will be melted.

But this is for the true church, not the ones that have bowed the knee to Baal or succumbed to false teachers. Repentance must begin in the House of God.

In the midst of the judgements, God will bring revival, not of the corrupt old structures but to touch men and women who recognise the mess of the nation and long for better. This new openness will be a great opportunity for Christians to declare to friends, family and neighbours that this is God’s way.

‘Turn to me and be saved, for I am God and there is no other…. in the Lord alone are righteousness and strength’ Isaiah 45: 22-24

A Christian friend has died

It’s obvious to be sad; we’ve lost a friend, a colleague, a fellow soldier in the ranks of God’s army. And that’s fine; it’s a real loss. Yet I’m also envious. He’s got his promotion to glory. He’s got his discharge papers from the battle down here. He won’t have to put up with the presence of evil around him any more. He won’t have to carry on the daily struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. Instead he’s in glory. He’s with Jesus. All those things are past. The fighting is done and he’s home. As the song says:

‘Hear heaven’s voices sing;
Their thund’rous anthem rings
Through em’rald courts and sapphire skies.
Their praises rise.
All glory, wisdom, pow’are,
Strength, thanks, and honor are
To God our King, who reigns on high
Forevermore.

And there we’ll find our home,
Our life before the throne;
We’ll honor Him in perfect song
Where we belong.
He’ll wipe each tear-stained eye
As thirst and hunger die.
The Lamb becomes our Shepherd King;
We’ll reign with Him.

There is a higher throne

Yes I’m envious. We have a gospel to proclaim; this is the good news – we have a greater, more wonderful, home than we’ve ever experienced. We have a caring Father who will wipe away every tear. And until we get our promotion, it is our duty to tell people about it. A sudden death is a reminder of what our life is really about, what’s really important. But we live in a society that avoids death as much as it can, and on a bad day we in the the church can end up conforming to that attitude. We are going to live for ever. This place of tears will be a distant memory, if it comes to mind at all. We need to tell people about this everlasting hope. So let’s HEAR these words:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun/son
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever—forever worship You

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?

Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

THIS IS OUR HOPE. Let us rejoice in a life well lived. Let us celebrate his promotion. Let us allow ourselves a little envy – and a little sadness. And let us go on from here seeking to serve Jesus more faithfully, more lovingly, more commitedly until we get OUR promotion.

Fight Club at 20

*** Spoiler Alert in the linked article: Fight Club at 20 ***

I watched ‘Fight Club’ again recently. The interesting question is how the church should respond to its implicit challenge – that for so many life is meaningless. The comfortable family answer – men should be defined by their family responsibilities – has some validity, but is ultimately incomplete. There is a fascinating verse hiding in Judges 3:

‘Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan’ (RSV)

suggesting that God is in favour of His people having experience of war; it is a feature of Old Testament that prosperity causes them to lose sight of their commitment to God, whereas conflict forces them to seek Him. This matches the image of the Christian as a soldier, that is common in the New Testament, and which is still visible in the CofE baptismal liturgy, which includes the instruction to the candidates:

“Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ,
against sin, the world and the devil,
and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.’

though a more recent version has toned this down to:

‘Stand bravely with him
against all the powers of evil,
and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.’

This is a liberal reinterpretation that rejects the biblical teaching – and leaves Christianity as all about being nice, and totally unattractive to men who are looking for a proper outlet for their desire for victory. Paul is clear that ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ (Eph 6) – although both Jesus and he are unambiguous in using the language of warfare as word searches for battle, enemy, fight etc will reveal.

Of course the politically correct understanding of ‘jihad’ offers a similar emphasis on fighting! Perhaps this is an example of where we need to use another religion’s insight to help us know our own better.

The climate crisis brings out the worst in our political system.

Today’s headline in the Guardian: ‘Corbyn and Sanders vow to crack down on fossil fuel firms’, demonstrates this point overwhelmingly; they looking for a scapegoat for the excessive use of oil in our economies, rather than address the disease, let alone the symptom. Targetting the oil companies will achieve almost nothing in reducing current and future emissions; the people have cars and will want their petrol. So what are our leaders proposing to do about that? Talk about the oil companies. The right solution is a steady increase in petrol prices over the many years into the future – 10% a year would probably get the balance right between excessive pain and creating effective incentives to change. But the last time this was attempted, the Labour government was overwhelmed by popular anger in the UK and surrendered. So our politicians have a realisation that they can’t do the right thing. But they need to do something – so they find a scapegoat to blame. It’s great politics. It does relatively little harm. It excites their supporters. And it does zero for the cause of climate change.

There’s a reason why many people despair of politics and politicians. The scary question is whether it is possible to do anything significant about the climate crisis without breaking our democracy completely.