Tim Parker

Monday, April 28, 2008

Irenaeus, Against Heresies: (4.39.3)

And intersting reflection of the Justicse of Hell

But God, foreknowing all things, prepared fit habitations for both, kindly conferring that light which they desire on those who seek after the light of incorruption, and resort to it; but for the despisers and mockers who avoid and turn themselves away from this light, and who do, as it were, blind themselves, He has prepared darkness suitable to persons who oppose the light, and He has inflicted an appropriate punishment upon those who try to avoid being subject to Him. Submission to God is eternal rest, so that they who shun the light have a place worthy of their flight; and those who fly from eternal rest, have a habitation in accordance with their fleeing. Now, since all good things are with God, they who by their own determination fly from God, do defraud themselves of all good things; and having been [thus] defrauded of all good things with respect to God, they shall consequently fall under the just judgment of God. For those persons who shun rest shall justly incur punishment, and those who avoid the light shall justly dwell in darkness. For as in the case of this temporal light, those who shun it do deliver themselves over to darkness, so that they do themselves become the cause to themselves that they are destitute
of light, and do inhabit darkness; and, as I have already observed, the light is not the cause of such an [unhappy] condition of existence to them; so those who fly from the eternal light of God, which contains in itself all good things, are themselves the cause to themselves of their inhabiting eternal darkness, destitute of all good things, having become to themselves the cause of [their consignment to] an abode of that nature.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I had to smile when I read on the Macsween haggis makers website that "vegetarian haggis is particularly delicious served with roast meat..."

and was rather suprised to hear that veggie haggis’ account for a quarter of all Macsween’s haggis sales.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Church History...

As part of my studies at Wycliffe I am going to be doing some church history. Much of this will be new ground to me. Like I suspect many evanjelicals, my working knowlage of church history stutters to a halt around 100AD and dosn't really recover till the reformation.

Hence I find my reading list filles wuth rather thick books with titles like "Patristics", "Early christian centures" and so on and so forth.

Just as my heart was sinking I can across this remark made by MacCulloch which rather made me smile.

The ancient Greeks created a goddedd called Clio to look after historians, who ort to remember that she started the career as a goddess of song. Wo betide them if they forget that they are supposed to entertain and delight as well as to instruct

I think I am going to enjoy reading his book

Monday, September 17, 2007

Arived at Wycliffe

Moved in to Wycliffe hall this afternoon...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ascension Day (17th May)

Ascension Day is when the church especially remembers our Lord being taken up into heaven at the end of his earthy ministry. Luke gives this account of the event:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:50-53)

As Luke’s gospel draws to a close, we are given this wonderful picture of our risen Lord and savior stretching his hands out in blessing on his people. The esponse of his people is one of joyful praise and worship of their ascended King. Charles Wesley combines these joyful themes in his hymn ‘Hail the day’:

Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, the lamb for sinners given, Alleluia!
Enters now the highest heaven, Alleluia!

There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!

See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!

Still for us He intercedes, Alleluia!
His prevailing death He pleads, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
He the first fruits of out race, Alleluia!

Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking Thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Simon from Cyrene

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. [Luke 23:26]

Normally, the condemned man was forced to carry his own cross, both a physical and a mental torment. Like building your own gallows or digging your own grave.

But Jesus was, at least in part, spared this fait. Why? We’re not told. I doubt the soldiers were motivated in any way by compassion. Probably, they just wanted to make sure Jesus didn’t die before they got the chance to crucify him.

But whatever the reason, this is the occasion for Simon from Cyrene to meet the Lord Jesus.

Simon, was ‘on his way in from the country’, probably that means he was a pilgrim, coming to Jerusalem for Passover. Coming to meet with God at the temple.

But here, in verse 26, Simon comes face to face with the living God in the person of Jesus Christ, as he his forced to walk with our Lord to Golgotha.

That is all we are told here, but almost certainly, this is not the end of the story for Simon. You see, we are told his name.

In fact Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us his name. Mark even bothers to tell us he names of his family… why go to such detail about a man who had just been dragged into the cross story on the whim of a roman centurion?

Surly it must be because Simon of Cyreni was known to the early church. Surly it must be that Simon of Cyreni Father of Alexandra and Rufus became a Christian.

In fact, it looks likely from the names recorded in Acts and Romans, that Simon’s whole family became dedicated servants of Christ. And all began because Simon happened to be walking in to Jerusalem just at that moment and found himself caught up in the drama of the cross.

Praise God for such acts of providence.

And of course, this should come as no surprise to us. The hole of church history is littered with examples of ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives but then suddenly, having a chance encounter with Jesus and his cross. Encounters that change everything. Encounters that brings life where there is death, because of that first Good Friday.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Let’s Study Revelation

As Carson points out in his survey of New Testament commentaries, most generations produce far too many commentaries on the book of revelation. It is a little-known fact that the Puritans, for instance, produced far more commentaries on Revelation than on any other book, most of them eminently forgettable and mercifully forgotten.

In our own time too, their seems to be no end to the amount of exotic dribble written on the book of revelation, especially at the popular level.
Recently I have come across a very promising commentary on Revelation in the "Let's Study" series.

This lesser known series of commentaries is published by the Banner of Truth tries to expound the text in a non technical way and apply it to our lives today.

In writing his commentary, Derek Thomas, wares his scholarship lightly, appears to have done a superb job of handling the text.

Thought I have not read it in its entirety, I am already confidant in recommending it to others. The following is an especially useful quote from his introduction, and is an example to the down to earth clarity he brings to the text:

And in case you need something to hold on to as you study this amazing book of Revelation, remember that at any point in the book, the message is about a Great Throne, a Lamb who is actually a Lion, and a fearsome foe who always threatens more than he can deliver and whose doom is certain. Keeping those three things in mind will keep you on track.

Let’s Study Revelation
Derek Thomas
Banner of Truth, 2003
ISBN: 0 85151 837 3
RRP £7.25

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lambs, Lambs and more Lambs

The new testament has brought very mixed blessings to the animal kingdom.

On the one hand, temple sacrifices are done and dusted... but as passages such as Acts 10: 13 point out, bacon and other porky delights are now officially back on the menu.

I bet Lambs are very glad we are now in New Testament times... Below is a very helpful comment from Philip Ryken (Exodus, 2005) on the development of lamb sacrifice in the bible as a picture of salvation by substitution.

At first God provided one lamb for one person. Thus Abraham offered a ram in place of his son Isaac. Next God provided one lamb for one household. This happened at the first Passover, when every family in the covenant community offered its own lamb to God. Then God provided one sacrifice for the whole nation. On the Day of Atonement, a single animal atoned for the sins of all Israel. Finally the day came when John the Baptist ‘saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). God was planning this all along: one lamb to die for one world. By his grace he has provided a lamb — ‘the lamb that was slain from the creation of the world’ (Rev.13:8).

The painting is Caravaggio's 'Sacrifice of Isaac'. At the last moment, when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, a ram is provided in Isaac's place. The impact of the sceen enhanced wonderfuly by Caravaggio's use of light, highlighting the powerful psychological drama as God's promise is delivered.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Remember the lamb

Below is a useful remark made by Liam Goligher in his book “The Jesus Gospel” about the slaughter of the passover lamb.

When I was a boy, I realised what this meant as I was reading this story. I too, was a firstborn son. And I loved to see lambs playing in the fields near our home. I imagined what it must have been like for the firstborn sons of Israel, children like me getting to keep a lamb in the house for four days before the night God had appointed. I knew I’d get attached to it and that I would be heartbroken when eventually it was slaughtered. And I imagined what my father would have said to me, ‘Son, either the lamb dies or you die.’ That takes us to the heart of it. God gave up his own Son, the lamb of God to die, so that I might never die eternal death but have eternal life.

Understanding the significance of the lamb death in the place of the first born was not an adult only affair. It was something in which the whole covenant family were to understand. Latter, when God's act of gracious rescue was remembered in the passover meal, children are again expected to be present, sharing in the meal and being instructed about the Lord's salvation brought about by the death of the passover lamb.

The same must be true today. Children are never to young to learn about to substitutional death of the Lord Jesus for sin. One of the ways that children of the covenant were to be reminded about and taught about this in the Old Testament was through the passover meal. Ort not the same to be true for the Lord's supper today?

In many of our churches, children's place at the Lord's table is orquard. Some times the thinking (resulting form a distorted understanding of the Communion) is that they will 'get in the way' and disturb the contemplation and solemnity of the Communion. However, even in bible believing Churches, I see little evidence of the Lord's supper being part of the children's ministry in any way.

Even if a church decides that children should not receive the bread and wine, I can see no reason why baptised covenant children should be excluded from witnessing and being a part of the communion.

It appear to be increasingly common in Evangelical services for children to remain in Sunday school for most if not all Communion services. This to me seems to run the risk of giving children to impression that the Communion is some sort of Adult only "religious" activity that is secretive and not for them. Where in reality, nothing could be further from the truth!

I intend to write further on this topic, please leave you comments and thoughts.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I am under obligation

A Talk on Romans 1:14-17 (New years eve service)

Do more exercise, lose some weight, and be more enthusiastic about evangelism…
Yes you’ve guessed it, these are my New Year resolutions. And if you like you can keep track on my progress though out the year.

On the first two of them, I’m not expecting much progress. But with regard to the last one, tonight’s passage has given me much cause for optimism.

Evangelism is as a concept is so simple. It is sharing the Gospel with people. Sharing the Good news of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.

Defining it is easy, but putting our heart and soles into it is often much more difficult. We may find it hard to find the motivation. Hard to keep going when our message is met with rejection. Easy to convince ourselves that it isn’t really that important.

Yes to know what evangelism is is easy, but for that understanding to become our practice is much more difficult. But verses 14-17 of our passage are of great help here.
I’d like us to notice these verses 3 attitudes of Paul towards evangelism, then to see what their origin is so that we can copy in our own lives.

Firstly evangelism is Paul’s obligation. We see that in verse 14, Paul says “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish”. Now we will worry in moment about this business of Greeks and non-Greeks, but for now let’s just notice that Paul is under obligation to preach the Gospel.

It is an aspect of evangelism that we probably don’t appreciate enough. Often we think of evangelism as something over and above the call of duty, an optional extra in the Christian life. Something we can choose to engage in or not.

And then if we do decide to become involved in the whole evangelism thing, then it is so easy to begin acting as if we have done some sort of favour for God.

You can imagine the quiet time: Hi God, it’s me, you won’t believe how much I have done for you to day. Well for a start, there was the cross link leafleting, and I even did number 24, you know the one with the yappy dog and the scary looking man with the BO problem. Then I spent an entire hour chatting to that lady from number 46, she is so boring but I did it any way and to top it all I even rustled up to courage to invite my neighbour to beyond belief…

But this attitude to evangelism is completely to alien to Paul’s thinking. Evangelism is not a favour he is doing for God but an obligation.

And notice the surprise in verse 14. Do you see it?...

Paul’s obligation is not to God, but to his fellow human beings. “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish” says Paul.
Dose that strike you as strange? Wouldn’t you have expected Paul to say something like “I am under obligation to God… … … to go and tell the whole world the gospel”.

But he doesn’t and let’s understand why.

The key is in the in word obligated. Paul is under obligation. The word is used in Greek to describe someone who is in debt. In fact, the old King James bible translates this verse just like that, “I am a debtor” says Paul, “to both Greek and non Greek”

But what dosed he mean?

Even for students, there are in fact only two ways of getting into debt. The first is to borrow money from somebody; the second is to be given money for somebody.

For example, suppose I were to borrow a hundred quid from you tonight, now don’t worry I’ve no intension of doing so, but if I were, I would be in your debt until I paid you back.
But on the other hand, suppose I meet a friend of yours and they gave me £100 to give to you, then I would also be in your debt

In the first case, I have got myself into debt by browning. In the second case it is your friend who has put me in debt by giving me something to pass on to you. And it is in this sense that Paul knew he was indebted or under obligation.

Paul hadn’t borrowed anything that he had to repay, but God had given him something that he had to pass on to the world. Paul had received from God the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. And by receiving it, Paul had become a debtor, had been put him under obligation to the world.

And in the same way, we too are in debt to the world. If the gospel has come to us and we have received it then we are under obligation to make it known to others, who ever they are.
Notice how Paul describes those he is under obligation to. Paul could have chosen to say “I am obligated to everyone” but instead he speaks of Greeks and non-Greeks, wise and foolish. Paul is wanting to emphasise the universality of his Gospel obligation.

The Greeks were the epitome of culture and refinement. To be Greek, in the sense Paul means it here, didn’t necessary mean you came from Greece but it means to be middle class, of good social standing. On the other hand, to be non-Greek was to be unrefined, uncultured, of lower class.

And Paul is saying that he is obliged to both. He is in debt to the well-spoken businessman just as much as the market stall owner; to the lawyer, just as much as the bath house attendant.
And in the same way Paul is obliged both to the wise and the foolish.

And it is the same for us. We too are indebt to the world. We have an obligation to pass on the gospel irrespective of a person’s social background, educational background, religious background, political background, racial background or any other difference you care to mention.
Evangelism was Paul’s obligation to everyone. And it is the same for us.

Secondly, notice with me Paul’s attitude to his obligation in verse 15. Paul is eager to preach the Gospel.

How different Paul’s attitude is to many Christians today. So often, our evangelism is caricaturised by reluctance rather than enthusiasm.

Not so with Paul! Already in this letter, we have been told how Paul prayed he would get to Rome, verse 10, how he longed to get to Rome, verse 11, how he made his plans to get to Rome, verse 13 and in verse 15 how he is was eager to preach to gospel to those in Rome.
Wouldn’t it be great if we shared Paul’s eagerness? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we like Paul were constantly preoccupied with how we could share the Gospel with the world, making plans to speak to people about Jesus, continuingly praying that God would bless those plans?

That would be terrific wouldn’t it? But why has Paul got that enthusiasm and I haven’t? What is the source of his eagerness? What has made Paul so committed to the task of evangelism?
Well it’s not hard to figure out because Paul tells us himself directly. Verse 15 begins “That is why in am so eager…” ... What is why?... Verse 14 is why! Paul’s obligation is why he is so eager to preach the gospel in Rome.

Paul knew he was in debt and so he was eager to discharge that debt.

Let’s go back to the example of borrowing money. If someone gives me something to pass on to you, then I am in your debt. Now suppose that something is a cheep bottle of wine or t-shirt you left behind or something equally worthless… like a ticket for the 5th day of the test match. If it is something of little worth then I hope you won’t be surprised if I don’t rush to pass it on.

But if that something is of great value then my attitude will be completely different. If I am given a massive diamond or a Gold Rolex or something like that to pass on to you then I will be desperate to fulfil my obligation to you because I appreciate the magnitude of my obligation.

That is the source of Paul’s eagerness. By receiving the Gospel he has become obliged to pass on the Gospel (verse 14) and he is eager to do that because he understands the value of the gospel, which we will see in verse 16.

But there is another reason for Paul’s eagerness, and we find that at the start of verse 16. “I am not ashamed of the gospel” says Paul.

Why is it necessary for Paul to tell us this? Well Paul knows very well what real gospel ministry is like. Often, instead of receiving the gospel with joy, the world dismisses it. The cross of Christ is ridiculed, faith in Christ crucified is considered foolishness and those trusting in Christ are treated with contempt.

If Paul is to be eager to preach the Gospel against such opposition then not only must he appreciate the obligation of the Gospel but he must also not be ashamed of the Gospel.
And the origin of this (and of the other attitudes of Paul to evangelism) lie not in the character of Paul, but in the Nature of Gospel itself. It is a powerful Gospel of salvation from God

Paul is going to outline the nature of the Gospel in the verses that flow. And incidentally, it is the nature of the Gospel that will be Paul’s theme for the rest of the letter.
In verses 16, 17 and 18, Paul is going speak of the Power of God, a righteousness from God and the wrath of God.

Let’s engage Paul in conversation through these few verses and see how these ideas fit together:

Paul, you say you are not ashamed of the gospel… why not?

Paul: Well, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. This promise was made to the Jews first and now is for anyone.

But how is this going to happen Paul?

Well because in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed that is received by faith.

But why’s that necessary Paul?

Well because the wrath of God is against all wickedness is revealed.

That is the essence of the Gospel: God powerfully rescues us from his wrath by giving to us his righteousness when we believe and trust in Jesus.

No wonder Paul says ‘i am not ashamed of Good news like that!’

No wonder Paul feels obliged to pass to warn people that the wrath of God on sin. No wonder Paul is eager to tell people about Jesus Christ crucified for sins.
It is because he knows that the Gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

And it is this fact that we must keep in our minds and in our hearts. Because above all it is a correct understanding of the Gospel that produces a correct and sustaining attitude for spreading the Gospel.

Before we finish, let’s bring out a couple more things from verse 16. one an encouragement and one a warning.

Let’s start with the warning, and the warning is this, We mustn’t change the Gospel, Why? Because we have no authority to change it and we have no power to change it.
The gospel comes from God and so it’s not ours to change!

Many have been tempted over the years to try and change it. Sometimes with good intensions sometimes with bad.

No doubt out multi-faith society would dearly love us to proclaim a gospel that is something other than salvation by faith Christ alone!

And do doubt we ourselves have sometimes have been tempted to do that. When we are faced with a friend who seems unmoved by our message or worst still, their reaction is one of revulsion and contempt at the truth of Christ crucified for sin.

But we have no rite to change the Gospel, because it is a gospel from God.

But the encouragement is this: We have no need to change the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation and there is nothing more powerful than God. No change we make to the gospel message could possibly make is more potent or powerful, because it is not us at work in the Gospel, but God.

And that is perhaps the greatest assurance of all in these verses. Our evangelism is not dependant on our how cleaver we are, or how eloquent a speaker we are but on God, on his power in the Gospel.

Surly that is the greatest encouragement we can receive.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Limited atonment foreshadowed in passover account?

I have recently be writing some bible studies on Exodus. As one would expect, this Old Testament account of God's people experiencing the gracious salvation of God contains much which points to the greater salvation brought about in Christ.

Preparing the studies has once again made me marvel in wonder at the God who saves.

On thing I have never really pondered before is the passover instructions in Ex 12:4.

The Passover regulations in verse 4 specify that the Lamb was to be just surfactant for the people who were to be eating it. If this was misjudged, leftovers were to be destroyed (v10). Later on we are also reminded that the Passover meal is only for God’s people (v43).
On the face of it, this preoccupation with leftovers seems a little odd. However I wonder if this emphasis on the sufficiency of the Passover lamb for God’s chosen people and God’s chosen people alone points to a doctrine of limited atonement?

Maxwell's equations

Saturday, December 16, 2006

That's not a Covenant!

I have not been sure what to make of the “Covenant for the Church of England”

From the way it has been described by its supporters, it should be the sort of thing that I as an Anglican Evangelical would welcome. It has been signed by all the ‘right’ names and is accredited by all the ‘right’ Church pressure groups.

When I saw The Revd Dr Richard Turnbull’s remarks about the covenant, I couldn’t wait to read a copy:

We welcome the responsible and thoughtful initiative represented by this Covenant. It recognizes the depth of concern across the traditions of the Church of England of hose who seek to teach and live by the Scriptures as their ultimate authority, and makes a serious effort to address the current issues within a challenging but workable framework. We believe the process of consultation with all parties concerned has been thorough and transparent. We applaud the Covenant’s overriding commitment to mission and biblical and theological orthodoxy. We pray that where arrangements suggested by the Covenant should prove necessary, the good news of Jesus Christ may flourish.

Fantastic! Committed Anglican evangelical’s coming to the rescue with “a challenging but workable framework” and “overriding commitment to mission and biblical and theological orthodoxy.”

Just what the doctor ordered!

Unfortunately my optimism was short lived.

A full text of the covenant be found here.

It is considerable less impressive than I had at first hoped and with each reading I get more concerned. A very good initial response to the covenant has been made by Tom Write and can be found here. It echoes many of my own feelings, though I think I am a little more generous than he is regarding the motives behind the covenant.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fulfilment of Prophecy in Christ

Many would try and 'prove' the authority scripture by pointing out that what the bible promises, happens. This is not an unuseful line of discussion with non-christains, though I prefer to use it as a source of comfort and encouragement to Christians.

What ever the case, I very much like the beauty of J J Gurney remarks below:

When a lock and key are well-fitted, a fair presumption arises, even though they be of a simple character, that they were made for each other. If they are complex in their form, that presumption is considerably strengthened. But if the lock is composed of such strange and curious parts as to baffle the skill of the cleverest mechanic, if it is absolutely novel and peculiar, differing from everything which was before seen in the world — if no key in the universe will enter it except one, and by that one it is so easily and exactly fitted that a child may open it, then, indeed, are we absolutely certain that the lock and the key were made by the same master-hand, and they belong to each other. No less curiously diversified, no less hidden from the wisdom of man, no less novel and peculiar, are the prophecies contained in the Old Testament respecting Jesus Christ. No less easy, no less exact, is the manner in which they are fitted by the Gospel history. Who, then, can doubt that God was the author of these predictions, of the events by which they were fulfilled, and of the religion with which they are both inseparably connected?

J J Gurney

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Doubting Thomas?

Although it is not always popular or understood in evangelical circles, I am quite a fan of religious art. In this area I very much like the work of Caravaggio who painted in Italy around 1600. I especially like his calling of Mathew.

Another of his more famous works is Doubting Thomas:

Though it is a great work of art, I haven't liked it as a religious work of art until recently.

The bible narrative (John 20:24-29) tells how Thomas, not being present at the risen Jesus' appearance to the other disciples, demands proof before he will believe. He will not accept the account of the (soon to be) apostles, he wants nothing less than to see the nail marks in his hands. But even this is not enough, he wants to put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into his side. Only then will he believe.

From what follows, I think John wants us to see that this is not what Thomas needs in order to believe. In verse 26-28 we read:

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Thomas doesn't need to put his hand into Jesus wounds, and despite of verse 29, I don't think Thomas even needs to see the wounds with his eyes.

The evidence alone might make Thomas say "Jesus is Risen". But for him say to Jesus is "My Lord and my God" takes something more.

What Thomas actually needs is Jesus' command to "stop doubting and believe". It is Jesus who commands Thomas' confession of faith, not the evidence that commands it.

That is why I don't find Caravaggio's painting helpful as an artistic exposition of scripture.

Caravaggio's' Thomas is examining the scared Christ, something that isn't recorded in scripture. Thomas' finger, probing for truth, guided by the hand of Christ, is the focus of the work. Peter and Matthew(?) watch on. But their expressions are not ones that say "See Thomas, it is true, Jesus has risen". There faces watch with anticipation as the finger approaches to wound. They too are desiring the assurance that Thomas' investigative experience promises to give.

By painting it in this way, we too are being invited to put our hand in to the side of Christ and receive assurance, the assurance that all three men are wanting for.

But no matter how much you reach out in Caravaggio's world, all you will touch is oil and canvas.

Recently, instead of thinking of Caravaggio's work as a picture of "Doubting Thomas", I have come to think of it as a picture of the much more contemporary character: Mr. "Not so open minded" Sceptic.

I was started on this train of thought when I saw John Granville Gregory's brilliant reworking of Caravaggio's master piece entitled "Still Doubting"

The Thomas of Gregory's painting dose not look like an honest enquirer. He looks like a man, who having investigated will now stand up and say to his companions: "Well, that was very interesting. Of course, I don't believe a word of this Jesus stuff".

Gregory's work makes me think of the person on the Christianity explored table who, after being confronted with the best evidence still continues to happily ignore what appears plain to see.

There is after all, no such thing as an open minded sceptic. Until God works in the heart of a sinner, that heart is hard and closed to Christ and it will not be evidence but the holy spirit ministering the word that will bring about change.