A few months ago the Girl Guides changed the oath that girls are expected to make upon joining. Rather than promising to serve God and country instead the girl guides now promise to be “true to myself and develop my beliefs”. It probably wasn't the intent of the girl guide organisation but they have unwittingly provided a devastating critique of Western secular society.
We live in the age of Me, an age where morality is determined, not by any objective standard, but by the fickle reason of our egos. All that matter is being true to "myself". We see this in the issue of transgender individuals insisting that biological gender is second place to the decision of Me to be the gender Me wants. We see this in the issue of abortion where Me chooses to rid Myself of an unnecessary inconvenience rather than valuing the life of Another. We see this in society's attitude to sex where the only moral consideration is the consent of two Mes. We see this in the consumer society where Me has to appear better, richer, cooler than anyone else. And we see this in the greed and selfishness which typifies so much of human existence – Me gets what Me wants over the opinions and actions of any other.
When did narcissism become such a sure decider of right and wrong? Yet listening to the moral debates that are had by our society reveals that the only factor under consideration seem to be doing what Me wants as long as it doesn't harm another. But we are deluding ourselves if we think that such a compromise is possible. The wants of Me will inevitably conflict with the wants of another Me. The desires of Me will eventually only be fulfilled at the expense of another.
With my final ever university exam tomorrow and a desperate need to engage in some form of productive procrastination I was trying to think of a suitable topic to write about when Good Omens sprang to mind. It’s a fantasy book written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, before they were both famous, which I picked up a good five or more years ago. It’s something of a cult classic and they record in the foreword that many of their readers have dropped the book in the bath or some form of liquid. Thinking: “What a bunch of idiots” I then proceeded to do exactly that.
The story is a mix of Just William and the Apocalypse, where the ‘Anti-Christ’ is an eleven year old boy called Adam Young, who was meant to grow up the son of an American diplomat, thus setting him up for a life of pure festering evil but due to swapping the wrong children around he ends up being brought up in a quiet British village by normal parents. At the same time, Crawley, a demon, and Aziraphale, an angel, are both trying to stop the end of the world from occurring having grown fond of humanity and, more importantly, developed their own working friendship.
The first time I read it some years ago it made me uncomfortable as, though it is a fantasy book, it borrows heavily from Christian imagery, striking a little too close to reality. But this second time, I’ve found it easier to view it as pure fiction, no different than reading Harry Potter or any other fantastical work. And like all such works, it has a message, a grand point to make about human nature.
There’s a lot to say about the book but I’m going to concentrate on what’s probably their main point. It comes as Adam Young faces up to the forces of Heaven and Hell and argues for the continued existence of humanity, without any interference. Crawley says about Adam: “He grew up human! He’s not Evil Incarnate or Good Incarnate, he’s just… a human incarnate-” (italics not mine). This sentence is packed with worldview implications and it’s worth exploring them.
Considering all the major moral issues that demand an informed biblical viewpoint then piracy might seem minor in comparison. But life is, for the most part, made up with a series of small scale decisions for holiness and while many of us are unlikely to find ourselves tempted to murder someone then the temptation to pirate stuff is a much more ready threat.
In many respects I could clear this issue up in just three points:
1) Proposition 1: We should obey the government in everything except that which contradicts God: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Romans 13 v 5)
2) Proposition 2: Piracy is illegal.
3) Conclusion: Christians shouldn’t pirate.
There we go, job done. But while this does present a sufficient case for Christians not pirating stuff it’s worthwhile engaging in an extended ethical discussion over the issue. The first matter is to define piracy; I would say it is two things. The first is copying a piece of work you have no right to copy. The second is watching something online you have no right to watch. Going on the internet and downloading a copy of a music track, film or book without paying for it and without the owner’s permission is piracy. So is watching stuff online on dodgy Asian websites where it is obviously being replicated without the owner’s permission.
Let’s face it, we all know what piracy is! We know when we do it – anytime that we get something for free when it is not officially being given away from free. There are many things wrong with this. And we have an equal number of excuses in doing it.
The Christmas season is one of the few times of the year when people who ordinarily would not be seen dead in a church will go and sing some carols because, hey, it's Christmas! Sadly, such are the times that we live in that it is likely that they will go to a church that does not preach the gospel; or rather they will preach a gospel but it will not be the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but a false gospel that instead of pointing them in the direction of salvation will usher people towards hell.
This is a great evil, as Paul writes: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1v8) It matters not if the intentions were good or if the church has the most noble of purposes, if a false gospel is preached then the speaker heaps condemnation on himself.
What follows are some of the common false gospels that will be preached in churches this Christmas. I probably should add from the start that most are fairly subtle but that makes them all the worse for they are more likely to be believed. It must be of great delight to Satan that even when people do go into a church they only hear a corrupted gospel that does not proclaim the truth has is found in the Bible.
If you pop over to my church's website right here then you'll find three great sermons to listen to.
The first is on Satanic Oppression and the reality of the unseen powers we fight against but how God limits them and Christ is victorious over them!
The next is on God's Fatherly discipline of his people for their holiness and how we should not grow weary under the difficulties of life. Based on Hebrews 12.
And the third is on Repentance - it's a two part-er on Psalm 51 and David's repentance over his adultery and murder.
These sermons, in my biased opinion, perfectly illustrate the reason why Reformed theology is so needed and that the evangelical church misses so much by straying from its doctrines.
The reason I say this is because these sermons deal with the hard reality of Christian living. Behind each sermon is a recognition that we are, even as those saved, still extremely sinful! More, that Satan is a very real and present danger and that God's love for us compels him to take action against the sin in our lives.
I've felt the need of being encouraged recently and these sermons have been a real meeting place of the soul with Christ, by his grace we feasted together and I have gone away refreshed!