Here’s my notes from hearing Andy speak yesterday:

Andy is a comic, and a Christian, and a communicator. He said he wasn’t a preacher, but he was preaching – so I guess that makes you a preacher?

He kept being funny too, couldn’t help himself. I thought he was very funny. But you had to be there so I’ve not put the jokes in.


Means to give a defence – based on idea that Christian worldview makes sense. 1 Peter tells us how to do it.

Some people think Christian faith is nonsense from the start, that’s their default. Others are trying to make sense of it but have issues (often the same ones) with suffering, science, harm caused by religion in history etc. Apologetics can help, but not convert.

People say, ‘There’s no proof for God.’

But they mean evidence. Evidence is not proof. They are right that there’s no proof for God. Like you can’t prove love. You can put forward a good case for it, but can’t prove it. And I don’t refuse to marry based on my limited knowledge of that probability.

Anyway, God’s primary aim is not that we acknowledge he exists, but that we engage with him in relationship.

You can put forward a good case for atheism – but that doesn’t disprove God.

Science is about process – how things happen

The Bible is about purpose- why things happen

We don’t need to defend religion – Jesus never set himself up as starting a religion! Religion doesn’t have to be a force for good, we argue for Christ and his resurrection.

Moral argument – we all know the holocaust was wrong, there are some things we all agree are objectively not right. Where did that rightness and wrongness come from? If it’s just about biology and naturalism – where do you root morality? It’s totally subjective, home made rules that suit you now where you are – open to review at any point.

Christian faith rides or falls based on the resurrection.

New Testament scholars (who may or may not even be believers) agree there are 4 facts to deal with:

1) Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea

2) Women were the first witnesses (which strengthens the historicity)

3) multiple appearances post resurrection

4) Despite every apparent reason not to believe anymore after the cross; something happened to change them so that the church started. something they were willing to die rather than renounce.

Christians aren’t perfect. We aren’t saying we are right, we aren’t even good or perfect.

But Christianity confirms & affirms what really matters about the things that really matter.

About love, beauty, hope, purpose

It speaks to all these areas.

Let’s affirm what science can and can’t do.

Side note:

At one point in the talk Andy was challenged from someone sitting in the congregation. He’d said that he didn’t believe it was necessary to believe Adam and Eve were real people and the literal Creation account rather than evolution and still be a Christian. The challenger took issue with this and there was a little back and forth on it. It’s the kind of question you could endlessly bat around and some people delight in doing so unprofitably – nobody really wants to change their minds just air their views.

Unfortunately this could be the only thing many people who went there end up remembering and talking about, rather than the rest of the talk which in my opinion was excellent, well prepared and graciously given.  That’s why I think good manners should dictate one doesn’t interrupt a preacher (especially a guest) if one disagrees with them, unless they set it up as a discussion.

FAITH in God is reasonable. Faith in atheism is not. (John Lennox)

Notes from lecture at RZIM by John Lennox

Reasonable Faith.

When he started at Cambridge – someone said to him, ‘Oh you’re Irish, you all believe in God, and fight about him.’

He started to engage more with non believers. Has done so in unusual places. Eg communist atheism.  Russia. More recently debating eg. Hitchens and Dawkins. Comes from the conviction that Christian faith is not only helpful, but TRUE. And if we do not stand up, secularism or atheism will appear to win.

1 Peter 3.13 Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry about what people might do. Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ.  You are better off to obey God and suffer for doing right than to suffer for doing wrong. Christ died once for our sins. An innocent person died for those who are guilty. Christ did this to bring you to God, when his body was put to death and his spirit was made alive.

This passage’s context = FEAR! We all contend with it. Subtle, peer pressure. Looking the odd one out. Not knowing your stuff. PC.

We are told to ALWAYS be ready to give a DEFENSE.

A REASON – a logos…

In the context of fear – nevertheless, get on and do it.

Apologetics is not a subcategory of philosophy. It is just what Christians have always been supposed to be doing. To clear up misrepresentation, misunderstanding. Not just to say WHAT, but WHY. To engage with our society and give REASONS.

Number 1 reason in survey why people don’t come to church = ‘They are not answering the questions we’re asking.’

The precondition for giving a defense is not how many books you’ve read. It’s ‘in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.’ That requires WORK.  Sanctify him,’ set him apart.’ Then you get the courage to break through the fear. When we start doing this, we’ll get into trouble. In Acts, the gospel is on trial time and again. The apostles were put on trial. Laws these days from Europe etc are looking to outlaw anything that looks like an exclusive claim, we’ll have to contend that Jesus is THE way.

Paul’s answer when under pressure? He described how he encountered the risen Christ. He was NOT a believer, but then he met Christ. So he stands before Agrippa (who accuses him of being under the God delusion – this is not a new challenge!) and gives his testimony and then says, ‘I’m not insane, what I am saying is TRUE and REASONABLE.’ Our world resembles Paul’s world more than any other age has, politically, philosophically and socially.

FAITH in God is reasonable. Faith in atheism is not. Atheists don’t regard what they have as faith. They think faith is an evil. Dawkins damns it, ‘Faith not based in evidence, is the principle vice of any religion.’ The clamour is for the eradication of religion because it doesn’t want to look at the evidence.

The claim of new atheists goes like this:

Faith = belief nor based on evidence

Science = belief based on evidence.

Many accept that without question. But Faith can be evidence based.

We have to look at terms. Dawkins definition of faith is wrong! Oxford English Dictionary. Faith = from Fides. Trust at its heart. Pistis (Greek) = trust. Faith = “Belief = trust. Confidence. That which produces belief, evidence and trust in it.” And this is how we usually think of the word. People used to believe in banks. But they showed there is not much basis to trust them with your money. If you are going to trust anyone, you have to have evidence or you are a fool.

Faith/trust/ belief. The Question is – what’s the evidence for it?

People say, “I won’t believe anything unless you can prove it.’ But in a mathematical sense? Logical? You’ll have infinite regress. It’s ONLY available in pure maths. Nowhere else is proof in that narrow sense. Not certainty. But in ordinary life, we have trust enough to put our life on it. Cf Flying a plane. Trusting your wife.

When you leave your field of expertise, you must check with the experts. What Dawkins/ Hitchens call and dismiss as faith = what we’d call ‘Blind faith.’ And that is of course dangerous, especially when linked with autocratic religious structures.

Is the faith required by the Christian system unreasonable?

Why was gospel of John written? In order that belief can be BASED on it. These statements are based in historical reality.

Paul at Mars Hill did not offer the resurrections as PRODUCT of faith, but a REASON for it, a basis. The resurrection as a fact is the basis on which the Christian can trust in Christ as the Son of God. Not a leap in the dark, but a step into the light, based on evidence.

It’s useful to notice that we use faith followed by  THAT or IN.

Faith in my wife

Faith that London is the capital of England.

One = faith in a fact. One = in a person. You usually need more evidence to trust a person than a fact.

So as Christians we don’t just have faith in a theory, or a worldview (it is all that) but its faith in a person.  A husband on wedding day has faith enough to trust in his wife, without knowing everything. We don’t know everything about God, but we have enough to get started – and as the relationship develops, so does the trust.  Trusting in relationships is multi levelled. Shared interests, etc – multi-orbed. Faith in God is too. There is evidence of all kinds. Can be built up. So the first thing that’s wrong with thenew atheists view of faith is that wrong.

Dawkins has said in discussion with Lennox, “Atheists have no faith.” The answer to that? “So you don’t believe it then?”

Hitchens says: “Our principles are not a faith, our beliefs are not a belief.’ Hmmmm….

They put all religions in the same pot, because they are all dangerous aberrations. That’s a failure of scholarship, because it’s obvious that not all religions are the same.

One of the main accusations new atheists make is that God is communicated out of the barrel of a gun, leads to violence etc. How do we answer that?  Look at the stance of Christ. Jesus was accused of terrorism by Pilate. That’s why his trial is so important. And he was exonerated. ‘My kingdom is not of this world, otherwise my followers would fight.’ The message you can’t defend with a gun is the one where you command them to follow the Prince of peace.

They also point out the unreasonableness of Christian faith, and say atheism had nothing to do with the massacres of Stalin, Mao etc., blame everything on God and nothing on atheism. We need to know our history!  Dawkins says he cannot imagine an atheist who would bulldoze a cathedral. Well Stalin used dynamite. Beware revisionist history.

Lennox endorses David Robinson’s book ; The Dawkins letters.

Also response, the new atheists are outside their area and trying to rewrite history.

Dawkins says, “We are all atheists with regard to Odin and Zeus. It’s causing no problem to be A-Woden, what’s the problem with A-theist.’  He says its a negative and so can’t harm anyone. It’s no accident that he concentrates on A-Theism, denial of God, because he has a naturalist agenda.

In terms of the unreasonableness of faith he calls in the psychologists. However, Andrew Sims (President Royal college of Psychiatry) has written, “Is faith delusional?” and states that religion doesn’t damage but greatly helps mental health!

Freud saw faith = projection of your longing for a father.

Manfred Lutz says, ‘If there is no God, the Freudian explanation is spot on. But if there is a God, Freud will also show that there is in atheism a great desire for there NOT to be a God!’  That doesn’t deal in any case with the question, ‘Is there a God or not?’ For that, we have to look at EVIDENCE.

The idea that faith does not appear in science is wrong. All scientists are believers. They have to trust. They are commited to the idea that the universe is rationally intelligible, otherwise science is useless. The one incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible ‘ (Einstein).

So it’s not science vs religion. It’s materialism vs theism. Dawkins wants to argue science must lead to materialism. Not so!

Some say our brains are end product of a mindless process. From that, we get beliefs. Why trust that proposition? Logically incoherent to say that. You can’t do any science until you believe there’s reasonableness. it’s that belief in God which has inspired modern science.

Ford Car or Henry Ford. Which do you believe in? Choose! (that’s what the atheists want to say)

Ford car = laws of combustion.

Ford = designer and maker.

Two different categories!

The old chestnut is, “Who created the creator?” and so on…

Well you are there thinking about a created God, by definition. You are thinking of a created being to start with.

We agree, created Gods are a delusion. (idols). But there is an ETERNAL God.

You can choose to disbelieve that there is an eternal God.

You believe the universe created you? Who created your creator?!

The materialist’s ultimate reality – mass energy created everything. We believe God did it. Look at the evidence.

There’s just not enough abundance these days

Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him. Luke 8:18

Do you have an abundance mentality or a scarcity mind-set?

The way the world is reported right now it’s easy to dig into a bunker ; focus on what we don’t have and what’s the worst that could happen. In Jesus’ famous parable of the talents, the one talent guy came to the Master with his report, saying,

‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.”

His problem was in what he THOUGHT he knew about God. But he had that all wrong. The one talent guy had a bad attitude. He felt his master was out to exploit. In order not to be cheated, he stifled his own potential.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Another translation says, ‘Do not rely on what you THINK you know).

Dr. Stephen Covey has written that developing an abundance mentality, “…opens possibilities, alternatives, and creativity.”

Those who possess an abundance mentality can find contentment and options where others find competition and envy. People with a scarcity mind‐set resent the successes of others, even people who are on their own team (this happens a lot where it should happen least – between churches! Leadership guru Jim Collins once advised church leaders, ‘Your competition is NOT other churches, it’s anything else someone could be doing Sunday morning).

People with an abundance mentality know that a candle loses nothing from lighting another. When change happens – and it will till the day you die – do you look for what everyone gains or focus on what might be lost? There are forces in life that have been designed to limit us – to keep us where we are. But God’s desire for our lives is that we make constant progress. We were not designed to be contained or restricted. He wants us to be fruitful. He’s determined to bless the determined who persevere. This is evidenced in God’s first words to man in Genesis 1:28. It’s there in John 15:4, Jesus spoke about bearing much fruit.

Half full or half empty?
Half full or half empty?

So today… check your mental dialogue. Do you see limitations or possibilities?

Do you focus on what you don’t have or what you do have?

Do you see problems as insurmountable obstacles or creativity challenges? Do you see the mountain or the One who can move them? Do see that even if there’s less, that doesn’t mean there’s none. Do you see that there’s enough to go round, as long as you don’t try to hold on too tight.

Go forth – and multiply!

PS – for a facinating link to how global microfinance genius Muhammed Yunus sees the global financial crisis creating opportunity to help the poor; see this link reporting on his recent speech at Davos.

God on the fridge door

A nursery school teacher was observing her class while they drew.

As she walked observing each child’s artwork, she asked one diligent and very focused little girl what her drawing was.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher smiled and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

Without looking up from her drawing the girl replied, “they will when I’ve finished!”

May our lives in 2009 paint for others a picture of God’s love in His world.

Wise enough to know our limitations

Proverbs 30 is ‘the sayings of Agur son of Jakeh.’

That’s all we know for sure about him, except that :

1) He was wise. A keen observer of nature – he philosophised from and about it. He drew sharp analogies about life from observation of (for example) ants, fire – even locusts, lizards and leeches! (three great Ls for a preacher there… ). The name ‘Agur’ means collector – he compiled knowledge wherever available. I bet he’d have loved the internet!

2) He was willing to admit what he didn’t know: There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand…

Only three or four? Wow – good going! I’m sure there was more, he was perhaps saying, “Today, I’m struggling to get my head around these particular things…”

I read a great book, “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci.”

The author notes how that great polymath was continually curious, asking questions and learning to applying knowledge in practical situations and learning from mistakes. He honed all his senses to observe in a way that combined science and art and formed connections between different observations and problems. The book has fantastic suggestions throughout to help us grow in such wisdom utilising Da Vinci’s techniques – for example, carrying a little notebook everywhere to record your thoughts, questions and ideas.

Leonardo was of course famously centuries ahead of his time – but the unknown Agur was ahead of him!

The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It starts when we know what we don’t know. Agur had the humility to know that however clever he was, he still had a lot to learn about the God who made the lion and the lizard: He starts:“I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.”

He finishes by warning of the danger of self exaltation.

“If you have played the fool and exalted yourself….clap your hand over your mouth!”

Wisdom indeed. But I think I’ll keep quiet.

The Great Hyacinth Mystery

IN THE beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. (Amplified Bible).

Thus starts the beginning of the book of the beginning, Genesis 1:1. All kinds of theories exist about how that happened, but the problem the theorists have is that however clever they are, they’re not eye witnesses – they were not there at the time when time started.

Just next to my house is a field. In the field is a patch, 40ft square, where the most beautiful hyacinths are just starting to flower. Driving past, like many visitors to the village, you might wonder why this patch just happens to be there in a farmer’s field. How did that come about? Who planted them?

It just happened!

What you can't get (obviously) is the fragrance - fantastic!

What you won’t think is, “That ‘just happened.’ ”

In the words of physicist/ cosmologist Paul Davies, ‘….the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.’ Not just matter and energy, but physical space and time came into existence at the Big Bang. You either believe that Someone created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo), or, as Gerald Coates contends, you can believe that nothing created nothing out of nothing!

Atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen wrote, ‘Suppose you suddenly hear a loud bang, and you ask me, ‘What made that bang?’ and I reply, ‘Nothing, it just happened.’ You wouldn’t accept that. In fact you would find such a reply quite unintelligible.

Well, what’s true of the little bang is also true of the Big Bang. It must have been caused. From the very nature of what was made, this cause would have to be uncaused, immaterial, changeless, timeless, and enormously powerful.

But we have to go beyond looking at the creation and acknowledging there was a Creator, that’s doesn’t require faith – just a lack of ignorance (Too harsh? look at 2 Peter 3!).

The white ones are my favourites!

Going back to the hyacinths, I happened to be walking by that field last year when I saw a man digging rows in a field. The ex policeman in me was suspicious! I went over and (nicely) asked what he was doing. Wiping his brow as he had been digging away in the heat, he told me. Seems some rare hyacinths were likely to be doomed as a result in the change of the landscape in a different part of Britain they naturally grew in, as a result of the awful flooding around the Cheltenham/ Gloucester area.

This near neighbour I hadn’t met before, is an expert on hyacinths, and discovered this particular field is perfect for them, he was preparing the ground for the bulbs reception!

The butterfly liked these too!

It didn’t just happen!

Someone made it happen!

I met him!

He communicated!

He cares enough about creation – to do whatever it takes to rescue it!

And that, by the way, is the gospel.