Last week saw the release of the first trailer for Noah - a film, based on the very same Bible story, starring Russel Crowe, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and a ton of CGI effects. It's due in the cinemas in March and it will without a doubt provoke a “flood” of internet debate. “Water” lot of fun that will be. Ahem, sorry for the puns I'll stop now.
I can already see how this is going to pan out. The charismatic church will embrace the film with open arms, arrange church trips to go see it and delight in the fact that we can at last pretend to be “relevant” and maybe even “cool” (as though Christianity could ever be cool). The broader evangelical church will probably recognise some of the problems with the film but will likely go watch it anyway as it's only a bit of “harmless entertainment”. This film could well become a staple for evangelistic film nights everywhere, for which I am tempted to deeply apologise for. In contrast, the Reformed church will largely produce thoughtful, intelligent, discerning articles about the movie and whether Christians should support or avoid it but there will be some more angry rant pieces as well. Oh yes, and the media will highlight any number of whacko fringe groups reacting against the Noah movie as though it's the biggest sin of mankind since the fall. Any intelligent discourse will be drowned out (this pun was unintentional, I promise!) and the general message that all Christians are either a) hypocritical or b) crazy will be safely maintained.
Ok, this is a very cynical response to the whole affair and I would love to be proved wrong about it. I would also like to put out my thoughts now, before the debate probably begins. Obviously, having only seen the trailer I'm not working from a position of full information so these are just early thoughts. But what I've seen is enough to raise some concerns; as such I have ten questions I want to ask.
An hour from now I may lose my life wrestling with an escaped bear. I know, it sounds unlikely (I’d win for starters), but bear with me in my point. As human beings we experience the now and can remember (to some degree) the past but we are always blind to the future. After all, the future is very resistant to prediction. The twists and turns of our lives make complex patterns that we can never fully follow, predict or anticipate. For Christians, as we deal with the ups and downs of life, we face an added layer of struggle which is the battle between sight and faith.
We all know this fight well. Something bad happens and sight, that is our immediate experience of the event, says: “I can see no good in this.” while faith quotes Romans 8 v 28 and says: “ALL THINGS FOR GOOD!” Faith being unnatural to us, we will by default place greater store on sight. It is an interesting condition: being limited finite creatures unable to see how the future will pan out, we place greater trust in our own limitations than we do in God. Oh the folly of unbelief!
For what we are prone to forgetting is that faith is always the wisest option, it presents to us the most accurate picture of what is going on, it presents to us certainty while sight presents to us mere predictions of uncertainty.
In the book of Hebrews faith is described in the following way: ““Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is a sure and certain thing! While sight is not so sure and most definitely not certain.
Primarily, this post is a reflection on the recent actions of the Church of Scotland but I’ve taken it as an opportunity to try out a new rhetoric style I call, because I am pretentious, temporal displacement writing. That is to say, I’m writing as though present events are being reflected on as happening years ago. In this context I’ve chosen to do so through an essay question. It may work, might not, feedback appreciated.
I’ve taken a certain amount of imaginative license in dealing with future events. All past events are, to the best of my knowledge, accurate.
Church History Exam 2025
Q3: How integral a role did the St George’s Tron play in the demise of the Church of Scotland?
Five years ago the Church of Scotland was disbanded, the great domination brought to a premature death with a speed that surprised many. Even as late as 2011 many expected the decline of the state church to be a prolonged and gradual affair taking at least a generation. There is a common misconception that it was St George’s Tron departure from the Church of Scotland in June 2012 that was the stone that caused the proverbial avalanche to fall. This essay will argue that this represents a false narrative and that it was not until the actions of the Kirk in October 2012 that the bell sounded on the beginning of the end of the Church of Scotland. Beforehand October little concern was shown either by congregations or ministers into the reasons for the Tron’s departure. The actions of the Kirk changed this and created the Separatist movement that was so vital to the eventual demise of the Church of Scotland.
The reasons for the Tron’s departure are readily apparent. Shocked by even the airing of a debate about homosexual ministers and frustrated by the General Assembly’s obvious move to prolong the debate as long as possible the congregation of the Tron under the leadership of Rev Dr Philip voted to secede from the Church of Scotland. In his press release Rev Philip spoke of his disappointment in the attempts of the General Assembly to normalise the issue of homosexuality. In a strongly worded statement he said:
“In doing so the highest court of the Kirk has marginalised the Bible, the written Word of God. We believe the Church of Scotland is choosing to walk away from the biblical gospel, and to walk apart from the faith of the worldwide Christian Church.”
The reaction to my last post on ‘This Little Light’ was mixed. Some liked what I had to say, other didn’t, some felt guilty and one person told me I was a rubbish Christian. It might have been more effective if he/she had had the courage to leave a real name. Someone else complained I’d watched an old video so I watched the new one and realised that a) selling the ‘gospel’ through back flips were still there b) the morality/good works gospel was even more evident and c) it was still resoundingly pathetic and d) it was three times more ethnically diverse.
Anyways, I thought to try and clear the air a bit and in an effort to persuade people just how shallow ‘This Little Light’ is I’d look at a contemporary song that was also successful. Say hello then to ‘East to West’ by Casting Crowns.
Just as a quick point – this is far from the best Christian song I could have chosen. There are many others which are even better. But I chose ‘East to West’ because it was released recently (2007), was a success (25th in US charts) and is by a popular Christian band.
Oh, oh, oh, I know this one, I know this one: No.
Of course not, it is a ridiculous idea that a dead person could ever choose to be alive. Why then am I asking this question? Have I grown so tired of my blog I’ve taken to asking self evident questions in the hope that someone will try and block my site for abusive content again?
Not quite. But there are some in the church who maintain that dead people can indeed choose to come alive. Here, let me explain:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
Ephesians 2 v 1
We see Paul repeating a common theme that non-believers are dead in their sins. By this he doesn’t mean physically dead but spiritually dead. As if to reinforce his point Paul says a few verses later:
“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
Ephesians 2 v 12
The truth matters to people. It matters to people a lot. It has been held in such high regard that people have fought for what they believe is the truth, people have died for the truth, people have spent their whole lives looking for the truth. Take the Iraq war for example. What annoyed people more than anything was the fact that they had been lied to by Bush and Blair about WMDs. How often have you felt hurt because your friend lied to you?
Human beings love the truth. We hold it dear and above all we want to know the truth. We want to be in possession of it. We hate not knowing the truth. We hate being deceived.
This means that a lot of people get really angry when Christians claim to hold the exclusive truth in this world. They splutter indignantly and say “How can Christians claim to hold the exclusive truth?” little realising the irony of their statement.
So here is the first of two posts on Truth. In this post I’ll look at the defining attributes that all truths hold and in the next I’ll apply them to Christianity.
Truths can never contradict each other
This makes logical sense. If two ‘truths’ said the exact opposite of each other then one of them must be a lie. If two men look at a blue pen and one says “it is blue” and the other “it is red” then only one is speaking the truth.
All truth is exclusive
Truth excludes all other possibilities. If the pen is blue then this excludes the truth that the pen is red. Truth by its very nature creates a division between the fact it proposes and everything else. There is no such thing as a non-exclusive truth. The blue pen cannot be red.
All truths must agree with each other
This connects back to the first point. If two truths contradict each other then they cannot both be true. One must be a lie. Similarly if someone was to make multiple truth claims then for everything they said to be truth everything said would have to agree. If you have two pens of different colours they cannot both be called blue.
The existence of one truth means the existence of many lies
If there is something that is true it must mean that anything that is contrary to it is not true i.e. a lie. The pen is blue is the truth so the pen being white, black, red, orange, yellow, purple, etc are all lies. Lies will always outnumber truths.
Your opinion on the truth does not make it any less true
If I have a blue pen and you insist it is a red pen then that does not make the blue pen turn red. It just makes you wrong. Even if no one believed in a truth it would still be true. For example everyone once thought the world has flat but that did not make the truth of the Earth’s spherical nature any less true.
I’m sure I have you complete agreement so far. It’s all pretty obvious isn’t it? The difficultly comes when we move from the truth about colours of pen to the realms of spiritual truth claims.
Spiritual truths claims are any truth claims that seek to explain the supernatural world. We have Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, New Age-ism, etc, etc, any religion. But spiritual truth claims also include atheism which explains the supernatural by explaining it away and it includes every philosophy out there as well which seeks to fill the void left by there being no spiritual reality.
Now let’s apply our attributes of truth to spiritual truth…
There can only be one spiritual truth
We have Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Buddhism, New Age-ism, Humanism, etc, etc A vast array of opposing belief systems and truth claims. They cannot all be right! Truths cannot contradict each other. They are not all talking about the same truth. Atheism and Christianity cannot both be right. Islam and Christianity cannot both be right.
You may object that all religions say the same things anyway and make the same spiritual truth claims. I beg to differ; if you study religions you would very quickly realise that their truth claims are so different and diverse for it to be impossible for them all to be right. Sure, they may agree on the existence of a God/gods but they differ wildly in who god is and what god does. To say all religions say the same thing would be like asserting that all economists say the same thing because they all talk about economics.
There can only be one true belief system in this world because every other belief system contradicts all others. I’ll repeat myself. There is only one spiritual truth. Logically this is undeniable.
There are many spiritual lies
Since we know there can only be one truth then it makes sense that considering the variety of different spiritual truth claims there are many lies. If Atheism is true then everything else is a lie. If Christianity is true then everything else is a lie. The existence of such a large number of lies is not evidence to the fact that the truth is not true.
Everyone has what they consider to be an exclusive truth
This is what is so ironic about people asking Christians how they can insist they have the exclusive truth. Because in the very act of asking they are implying that Christianity is not true and therefore that they have the truth. This truth excludes the possibility of Christianity being true and is therefore exclusive.
Sorry if this is making your head hurt. Let’s use an analogy. James has a blue pen. He tells Jack it is blue. Jack asks him how he can be so sure that the truth of the blueness of the pen is exclusive. In doing so Jack is saying that the pen might not be blue. In other words he’s implying that the real truth is that the pen is another colour. Jack has just made a claim to an exclusive truth.
Your opinion on spiritual truth doesn’t make the truth less true
If God is true then your opinion on that truth will have no affect on it. You might not want there to be a God but the truth will still remain. You can say you do not believe in God but if his existence is true then his existence is true. You cannot change the truth simply because you do not like it.
In the same way if the Atheists’ claim to truth is correct then though I may not like it I am still wrong.
Spiritual Truth claims matter
By this point some of you may be wondering why people get so bothered by spiritual truth claims. You may be ‘agnostic’ or apathetic to these claims. You may struggle to care either way.
But now you’re asserting your own claim to exclusive truth. You are asserting that Atheism, Christianity, Islam, etc are not worth bothering about. You’re asserting your own truth that these subjects are fruitless to discuss and that they don’t matter.
Yet if you consider the claims all belief systems make then you should care. All spiritual claims make assertions about what happens when you die, Heaven and Hell, how you should live you life now, what God wants you to do and much more. Even Atheism asserts some extremely important truth claims – there is nothing after death, morality is bunk (ok, I’m being purposely annoying here to my atheist friends; my critique of Atheism will be another post.)
All spiritual truth claims involve faith
Whoa! Slow down Benjamin, you say. And I realise what I’m saying here so bear with me. Let’s first of all answer the question: what is faith? Well as the Oxford English dictionary puts it:
Faith, n, complete trust or confidence; firm belief esp. without logical truth; spiritual apprehension of divine truth apart from proof
Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”
Hebrews 11 v 1
I’m sure you’ll all accept that religious spiritual truth claims require faith. I could argue over the logicalness of faith but in general faith is being certain of what we do not see. The question I’m sure you’re asking is: how does Atheism involve faith?
Well, Atheism’s spiritual truth claim is that the supernatural, unseen, spiritual world does not exist. Atheism works on a what you see is what you get principle. It makes this claim because science is a logical tool that deals only with the natural world. It can offer no say either way on the existence of a supernatural world. That falls out of its boundaries. Atheism says that because science can offer no opinion on the spiritual world and spiritual realities then they do not exist. If science cannot explain it then it cannot exist. This then is a claim to faith. Atheism requires there to be faith that this conclusion is correct rather than say the conclusion of Christianity which it that science offers no opinion, these realities still exist and are explained to us in the Bible. Atheism makes a claim that cannot be proved and therefore involves faith.
What have we established?
First is that only one spiritual truth can exist because truths can never contradict each other. Second is that since truth is exclusive by its very nature the Christian claim to exclusive truth is entirely logically. Third is that everyone makes claims to exclusive truths. Fifth is that your opinion on spiritual truth does affect the truthfulness of said spiritual truth. And lastly we saw that all claims about a spiritual truth rely on faith.
In my next post I’m going to look at and explain Christian truth claims. I welcome any criticism and I’m well aware that this was only an introduction to a potentially vast subject.
We live in a godless age, a day of outright rebellion against the Lord, a day where the average guy on the street knows nothing about the Bible, knows nothing about the things that really matter in life. What’s more, it seems as if the average guy doesn’t care that he knows nothing. We live in an age of apathy.
So, as Event’s Week draws ever closer I think it would be helpful to take a look at what the Bible says our unconverted friends know. This is not what they say they know, this is not what we think they know, this is what God says they know.
This topic is extremely important for it provides us both with encouragement and a due sense of our own inability to convert our friends. The greater we understand this the more we realise how little we do and how much God does. So turn if you please to Romans 1 and we’ll begin. (Do actually open Romans 1 I quote from it extensively)
They know God exists.
“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” 1v20
All men know God exists. They have no excuse. Our friends know that God exists. If they say they are agnostic or atheists they are deliberately denying what has been made clear to them.
They know God is holy
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” 1v18
Our friends know that God is both holy and that he hates sin.
They know he is worthy of worship
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” 1v21
They know that God deserves thanks for all things. They know that the Lord Almighty is deserving of all praise and glory and worship.
They know their sins deserve eternal punishment
“Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” 1v32
Death meaning both physical death and eternal damnation.
They know God’s laws
“…since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” 2v15
God’s law is both in men’s hearts and reinforced by their consciences. All men know right from wrong. Good from evil.
These truths are obvious
“…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” 1v19
Our friends, all unconverted people, know these things about God and his nature and man’s nature. This should encourage us as when we speak to our friends and tell them the gospel truth they know what we say is true. Deep, deep down they know we speak the Truth. We merely repeat to them what they already know. Their conscience is our ally!
Unconverted people have to know these things
“And where there is no law there is no transgression.” Romans 4 v 15
If unconverted people did not know that God existed and did not know his laws then they could not sin. But as Romans chapter 1 proves unconverted people DO know God’s law and therefore DO sin.
HANG ON A MINUTE! My friends give no sign of knowing any of this. They deny or would deny all this. What are you talking about?
An excellent point. Let me quote Dr Shedd on this exact subject:
“It is one thing to know the law of God, and quite another thing to be conformed to it.”
Knowledge of God and his holiness does not by any means equal repentance and faith. I know this to be true – I grew up in a Christian family, I was taught about the gospel from a young age but until my conversion (around the age of 14/15) I did not accept it in my heart. Indeed, a rebelled against what I knew and tried to earn my way to Heaven through works but that is a story for a different time.
As James says:
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.” James 2 v 19
The Devil knows that God exists, he knows God commands, he knows that sin deserves eternal punishment. Yet still he fights with God. Still he rages against all that is holy. And our friends, to a lesser degree, do the same.
But why? Why is this so?
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1 v 28
Because man decided that it didn’t like these truths it rejected them. It is as simple as that.
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” 1v25
Men do not like the idea of a holy God so they create false gods that are immoral. Men do not like the idea of salvation by grace so they create religions based on work instead. Men do not like the idea of God so they create Atheism. Men know the truth but hate the truth so they reject it for a lie.
What are the consequences of such actions?
“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” 1v22
God gives men the ability to believe the lies they create. Why is evolution so popular? Because unconverted men have become fools. I once heard a friend put it like this: “Evolution conveniently removes responsibility and accountability from the equation, thereby releasing the conscience from being guilty before God. If there is no one to be accountable to, no one to judge us, then what we do doesn’t matter - no right and wrong”
All false religions and philosophies are created to achieve this same purpose – a removing of man’s responsibility to God.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” 1v24
“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” 1 v 29 - 31
This is the penalty that our friends are under for refusing to accept the truths that God has made clear to them. This is the penalty that we were under until the Lord worked that miracle of grace in us and gave us new hearts that accept the truth!
You may wonder why I call these truths encouraging for they seem the opposite. Our friends are transformed before our eyes from ‘nice’ people to deniers of truth. And in God’s eye that is a terrible evil. To exchange the truth of God for a lie is one of the vilest and morally reprehensible sins that can be committed. And all of humanity commit it.
Where then is the encouragement?
1) Our friends know what we say to be true. Speaking to our friends about God can feel like banging our heads against a brick wall. Their refusal to see what we see as an obvious truth is disheartening. Yet we should draw encouragement from the fact that our words are not wasted. We confirm the truth to them. God has made his nature and laws clear to them and we remind them of what they already know! In this godless age this should strengthen our spirits – even the most atheistically inclined person knows there is a God.
2) We should expect to have the truth rejected. They already have rejected it! When we speak to our friends they have already rejected what we have to say. It is not because we are explaining things badly it is because our friends are deliberately exchanging the truth of God for a lie.
3) Taking these two facts into consideration only one course of actions remains: trust God. Only God can reject their rejecting of him. Only God can open their blind eyes. Only God can make them accept the truth. Only God can convert sinners. We can do nothing. Wonderfully, gloriously, majestically, our actions are useless. It is all God. Therefore pray to God for your friends. Pray that they might see the truth that is so clear to them.
That said, we must remember that just because we are useless isn’t an excuse for not speaking to our friends. Only God can convert. Yes. But he might convert our friends through using us.
From what they already know to what they need to know
We have established that our friends know a lot more than they will ever admit but there remains one exceeding important fact which they do not know – Jesus. Their knowledge of God’s law merely points out that they are sinners. They still need to know Jesus!
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
John 17 v 3
It our duty, privilege and delight to point our friends towards Jesus, towards the cross and towards salvation. We need to proclaim the gospel of grace!
So let us stand firm during Event’s Week, let us stand firm in the knowledge that God is with us, let us stand firm in the knowledge that we speak the truth that all mankind knows to be true and let us stand firm in the glory of salvation by grace, bought by the blood of Jesus and his death on the cross.
Event’s Week is a great light into this dark world of ours and Satan will love nothing more than to dim the light as much as possible. Therefore, we should ready ourselves for Satanic oppression, prepare ourselves for spiritual assault and take comfort from this:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8 v 38 - 39
And as Jesus said at the end of the Great Commission: “And surely I will be with you to the very end of the age.”
Ben would like to thank Tom Johnson for reading over his post and suggesting improvements. He also like to suggest that you post names of friends you would like prayer for in the comments section below.