Welcome to Banbury Evangelical Free Church

Banbury Evangelical Free Church was founded in 1984, as a Bible-based, Christ-centred congregation seeking to proclaim the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve Christ in every aspect of our lives, both as individuals and together.

Monday, 31 October 2011

There was no Dawkins!

“There’s probably no Dawkins. Now stop worrying and enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.” This was the slogan on 30 Oxford buses for 2 weeks in October. It was correct – Professor Dawkins was not at the Sheldonian Theatre on the occasion of Professor William Lane Craig’s lecture on the subject, “Is God a delusion?”, though a chair was provided for him in the event of a last-minute change of mind. However, many others were there – the 1,000-seater auditorium was almost full.

Dr Peter Millican, Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, and himself an atheist, chaired the meeting very fairly and with good humour. Dr Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, California, gave a fine lecture addressing Professor Dawkins’ supposed demolition of various arguments for the existence of God. He dealt with the cosmological (everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence), moral (you cannot explain morality without God), teleological (the argument from design) and ontological (a method of a priori proof) arguments. Members of the audience without a basic background knowledge of philosophy may have struggled at some points, but Dr Craig very courteously but effectively demolished Dawkins’ arguments, and showed that while the Professor may be a leading biologist, he is at best an amateur philosopher.

In Professor Dawkins’ absence, following the lecture a panel comprising an agnostic, a theist and an atheist each gave a 10 minute response. The weakness of the responses of the agnostic and the atheist was quite significant – the agnostic, himself a Professor or Philosophy, said we really couldn’t know, and the atheist, a Professor of Medicine, simply argued that God’s existence had not been proved (essentially an agnostic argument!). Dawkins would have been disappointed with their performance – but at least they had had the courage to attend! Meanwhile, the theist, Stephen Priest, tutor in Philosophy at the Roman Catholic Blackfriars Hall, gave an entertaining cameo suggesting that Dr Craig needed to have addressed three further questions: “Why is now, now?”, “What is being?” and “Why is something you?” He also observed that if people had an experience of God, there would be no need to spend an evening debating God’s existence.

In his follow-up response, Dr Craig gave short shrift to the agnostic and atheist, but took the time to deal with Mr Priest’s arguments. He felt the first question was simple: now is now, because it follows what was before – a more profound question is simply, why is now? With regard to the second, he argued that God is a being, because he has being, while the answer to the third, which Dr Craig re-framed as “Why do you exist?” was simply, “Because God made you, and has a purpose for your life and you had better find out what it is.”

A short break followed, during which the audience had opportunity to submit questions to the chairman for Dr Craig or the panel members. One of the questions from the floor referred to Professor Dawkins’ claim that Dr Craig defends genocide: in response Dr Craig gave a masterly defence of the Biblical account of the conquering of Canaan, exonerating the Bible from such a charge. Regrettably, the question time was cut short at 9.45pm owing to lack of time.

At the end of the meeting, the chairman asked for a show of hands as to how many of the audience were sure there is a God, how many were convinced that there is not, how many did not know, and how many did not care. The overwhelming majority believed that there is a God: however, the failure to carry out such a survey at the start of the meeting leaves unresolved the question as to whether Dr Craig had overwhelmed doubters by his sheer force of argument or whether he had simply been preaching to the converted throughout!

Monday, 23 May 2011

You need to be ready!

Harold Camping, already identifiable as a false prophet from his earlier predictions that the world would end in 1994, has again been exposed as a charlatan, when the rapture which he predicted for 21 May failed to materialise. While most people were not surprised (though Mr Camping himself is said to be “somewhat bewildered”), and while it is easy to write him off as a crank, it can be argued that men like Camping are dangerous. His failed prophecy concerning the end of the world can leave people all the more complacent with regard to any need to be ready for the return of Christ.

Addressing this issue yesterday, I preached from Jesus’ words in Matthew 24.44a. Notwithstanding Camping’s false prophecy, I pointed out that there is indeed still a need to be prepared for the end of the world (or the end of our lives, if that event happens first):

  • Because, whatever cynics may say, Jesus is coming again;
  • Because His coming may be sudden;
  • Because His coming will be unexpected by many;
  • Because no one knows when it will be;
  • Because His coming marks the end (of this world);
  • Because His coming marks the beginning (of the next);
  • Because Jesus Himself tells us to be ready!

Concerning what it means to be ready, I outlined 2 aspects:

  • We need to be at peace with the One who is coming, so that we know we can expect his smile and not his frown when He comes;
  • We need to be looking forward to heaven. Not living each day as if it were our last (that is impossible in practice), but living each day such that, if it were our last, we would have nothing of which to be ashamed;

Turning to the practical question of how you can be ready, the following points were made:

  • You need to seek the Lord today, at a time when He may be found (Isaiah 55.6, 7);
  • You need to repent of your sins. God’s goodness in extending your life until now should lead you to this (Romans 2.4);
  • You need to trust in the Saviour God has provided, before He who is preached as Saviour now returns as Judge;
  • Seek a close walk with God that you may anticipate with joy His appearing.

Harold Camping is a false teacher who’s made himself & his followers look foolish. But don’t let his foolishness cause you foolishly to reject what Jesus has said. There is a day coming when the Lord will return, and gather all those who are ready to be with him in heaven. Will you be there?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

A Note from Kenya

I am writing this in Nairobi while visiting David & Liz Anderson who are serving as missionaries in Kenya. My fellow-traveller, Pastor Chris Hand of Crich, Derbyshire, and myself have been made very welcome and are greatly enjoying the Andersons' fellowship and hospitality. We flew out overnight Thursday night 24 February and hope to return to the UK on Wednesday 2 March. Although “Christianised” more than some other countries there is a great need for the clear preaching of the gospel in Kenya, and for the gospel to be demonstrated by the lives of those who profess to believe it. David's great concern is for the raising up of and training of indigenous pastors to lead the churches in this country, as well as for the spiritual needs of the many children in this predominantly young country. Please pray that this work may go forward and prosper.

Monday, 10 January 2011

A spiritual feast

What do the following have in common: William Carey, bioethics, evangelism & world mission, and the hypostatic union of the divine & human natures in the person of Christ? They were all subjects (together with a couple of others) of papers given at the Carey Conference last week! This conference, named after the pioneer Baptist missionary whose 250th birthday is celebrated this year, is my favourite conference each year – not least because it is the only one that my wife is able to attend with me. This year’s papers constituted a real feast, with rich theology that was both mind-stretching and heart-warming, together with papers of a very practical nature. One of the good points of Carey is the lively question & answer sessions that follow most of the papers, arousing discussions that often continue over the meal-table. I am very grateful to the church here for enabling me to attend this each year, and I returned with a reinvigorated sense of the privilege of serving the Lord at this time in this place, and of the need to seize whatever opportunities He may provide for the spreading of the gospel in our spiritually needy world.