Tim Parker

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tolerant of what?

In our staff meetings we have been going over "The Gaging of God" (D.A. Carson)

The book sets out to offer "an in-depth look at the big picture, shows how the many ramifications of pluralism are all parts of a whole, and then provides a systematic Christian response."

There are lots of usful insites in the first chapter alown and most importantly of all, the are linked back and applyed to the contempory christain minister.

One insight I espeshaly found usful was:
under the impact of radical hermeneutics and of deconstruction, the nature of tolerance has changed. In a relatively free and open society, the best forms of tolerance are those that are open to and tolerant of people, even when there are strong disagreements with their ideas. This robust toleration for people, if not always for their ideas, engenders a measure of civility in public discourse while still fostering spirited debate over the relative merits of this or that idea. Today, however, tolerance in many Western societies increasingly focuses on ideas, not on people.

The result of adopting this new brand of tolerance is less discussion of the merits of competing ideas—and less civility. There is less discussion because toleration of diverse ideas demands that we avoid criticizing the opinions of others; in addition, there is almost no discussion where the ideas at issue are of the religious sort that claim to be valid for everyone everywhere: that sort of notion is right outside the modern “plausibility structure” (to use Peter Berger’s term), and has to be trashed. There is less civility because there is no inherent demand, in this new practice of tolerance, to be tolerant of peoples and it is especially difficult to be tolerant of those people whose views are so far outside the accepted “plausibility structures” that they think your brand of tolerance is muddleheaded.

Carson, The Gagging of God, (Apollos, 1996), p32

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Below is a shot serman that I preached to our 8am BCP congrigation on Mat XVIII 21-35.

Peter asks “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?”
Peter is actually quite switched on here. Sometimes in the bible we see Peter really putting his foot in it. But this time, he starts out on the right track. He doesn’t ask ‘should I forgive my brother’ or ‘must I forgive my brother’ but ‘how many times shall I forgive my brother’. Peter has already realised that forgiving one another is a necessary part of our lives as followers of Jesus.
And Peter’s really on form this morning, because he’s realised another thing too. Peter asks “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?”.
Peter’s not living in a fantasy world. He knows that in a fallen world; a world in which relationships are marred by sin, there will be times when even our brothers and sisters in Christ will sin against us. And often, it is the sin of the fellow believer against his brother that is the most cutting and painful to bare.
And Peter asks how many times should he forgive that sin.
The religious teachers of the time had decided that 3 times was the appropriate limit to forgiveness and no more. Peter however suggests 7 times. Maybe Peter was being genuine with his suggestion, or may he was he just pridefuly trying to impress Jesus.
Who knows? It doesn’t matter, because as Our Lord’s answer reveals that Peter has not understood the foundation up on which the command to forgive is built.
“Not seven times” is Jesus’ replies, “but seventy-seven times” and from it’s Old Testament context and because of what comes latter, I think we are to take this as meaning that forgiveness should be without limit, again and again.
So, for Peter’s Correction, and our instruction, Jesus tells the parable of the forgiving king and the unforgiving servant.
It is a parallel in three parts. The first of which reminds us of the unimaginable and gracious forgiveness that God’s people enjoy.
Jesus tells of a King who has decided to settle accounts with his servants. One of his servants comes before him owing a debt of ten thousand talents.
This is an enormous sum on money.
King Solomon, who has was, we read in 1Kings chapter 10: “Greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings on the earth”, He received a mere 666 talents a year.
In the ancient world, one Talent alone was enough to buy back a condemned man’s life.
But here is a servant owing 10,000 talents: a massive debt; millions of pounds in today’s money. A debt that is completely unplayable.
The man breaks down and pleads with the king. He makes the impossible promise to the King that he “will repay the debt”.
And the King’s response at this point is not to pull out the calculator and work out a repayment schedule. No, the kings response is to act in grace and write off the debt. “The servant's master” verse 27 “took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.”
It is an unimaginable act of forgiveness. A lifetimes debt and more, wiped out with a word.
And it is this picture of God’s forgiveness that Christians must hold on to if we are have any hope of living out our Lords command to forgive again and again.
And let’s just remind ourselves of how amazing that forgiveness is:
It is a costly forgiveness: In the parable, the cost to the king is a treasury worth of Gold, but as the blood of Jesus testifies, the cost to God of our forgiveness is nothing less than the death of his son. It’s costly.
Secondly, the parable reminds us that God’s forgiveness is complete. There is no partial settlement here. The debt isn’t reduced to a manageable amount, it is cancel, completely, with immediate effect. And it is the same with God. He does not just forgive some of our sin but he forgives all of it.
Thirdly, we see that is unearned. We aren’t told that this forgiveness came as a reward for a life times service but that out of mercy the debt was candled. And it is Just so with God. The costly and complete forgiveness of God is given freely to the repentant believer. Unearned and undeserved.
And this costly, complete and unearned forgiveness has been received by everyone who has put their trust in Jesus.
We will not be able to live lives of forgiveness unless we first understand the forgiveness that we have freely received from our heavenly king and then seek to copy it.
What a shame that the servant in the parable didn’t learn that lesson
Jesus tells us that instead, the servant goes out and finds one of his fellow workers who is indebted to him, ceases him, demands repayment.
The servant refuses to forgive or to compromise and has the man thrown in prison. Completely failing to imitate his masters character of grace in any way.
And in the final part, Master and unforgiving servant are brought face to face, and the kings judgment is clear: 'You wicked servant,' he says, verse 32, 'I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'
It is the king’s expectation that his servants will be imitators of their master.
The wicked servant has not, and so he faces the consequences, verse 34: “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”
And as Jesus’ words remind us “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
It is our calling as Christians, as God’s forgiven people, is to display the character of God in our lives.
It is therefore necessary and expected that who has received the forgiveness of God, is to show the forgiveness of God in their lives.
It is not an easy thing to do.
But since when has the calling of the Christian been easy.
It is all too easy to forgive someone in word only instead of from the heart. It’s easy to only forgive the little things or to expect people to earn forgiveness.
But what a useless forgiveness that is.
What use would it be if God had only forgiven us in words, what use would it be if God still held our most grievous sins against us, what use would it be if God’s forgiveness came with strings attached.
No, God forgives from the heart and so must we.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lesser known delight

It has been a long time since I’ve seen Blue Wenslydale.

We have cistercian monks to thank for this lovely cheese and although though now days almost all Wenslydale is of the white variaty, it is well worth putting in the effort to track down it’s blue brother.

Requiring six months to mature it has a full mellow flavour with a slightly sweet aftertast. Its texture I smooth and velvity but still firm.
I like eating it with semi sweet oat biskets or on weat crackers.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Williams in surch of God?

I realy was quite optermistic about the new radio 4 mini series “John Humphries in surch of God”.

It was billed as: John Humphrys as you've never heard him before - talking with religious leaders about his unfulfilled desire to believe in God.

What a great opportunity. Half an hour for a Christian leader on national radio, essentially being told ‘Ok, I’m interested in what you have to say, evangelise me’

Admittedly, my optimism was a little shaken when I herd that Canterbury was going to be the faith leader interviewed, but I was still confident that some good would come out of it.

I think that John Humphries and the production team should be applorded. The progmam came across as being honest, open and with no hidden agenda.

And Rowan Williams too was sincere, mainly understandable to the lay man, and avoided giving the ‘off the shelf’ answer that so often fails to truly engage with the person answering the question.

I think that there was also some truth in much of what Rowan Williams said. But it was a totally wasted opetunity.

He did't make any meeningful referance to the person and work of Jesus Christ during the interview. In the way he presented it, Rowan williams gave the impression that is was quite posible to have Christianity without Christ.

This is unbeleavable, espeshaly when a major part of the interview centered on the question of suffering.

The Christian claim is that we know God through the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. We can not talk meaningfuly about God with out talking about the revalation of God to men, Jesus christ.
Christ must be at the center of all our theology. It is not cleaver arguments that reconsile men to God, but christ Christ crusified. It is not phylosophy that deals with the problem of evil and suffering but christ curcified. It is not fine sounding asurances that people need to hear but Christ curcified.

John Humphrys said to the archbishop in the interview that: “I want to believe, I want to believe in the sort of vague God, if you'll forgive me, that you do”.

I hope and pray that he will come to believe in the God who has “spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Heb 1:2-3)

You can read, listen to or download the interview at:


Monday, November 06, 2006

Amazing Grace meets the animals

I am generally a fan of ‘singing one hymn to the tune of another’. Mainly because I find changing the tune occasionally stops me going into autopilot and often brings a new freshness to the words.

One great example of this is singing “We have a gospel to proclaim” to the tune of Jerusalem. One less successful reworking involves the unfortunate combination of “Guide me, O thou great redeemer” and the tune of “Oh my darling Clementine”.

This weekend I was introduced to singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “House of the rising sun” (famously covered by the animals). I was rather impressed with the result and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone who uses hymns in their personal devotional time. The cords are:

Am C D F
Am C E E
Am C D F
Am E Am

If playing on the guitar I suggest the folowing:

Am...... C....... D....... F....... E ......
e:------ e:--0--- e:--3--- e:--1--- e:--0---
b:--1--- b:--1--- b:--2--- b:--1--- b:--0---
g:--2--- g:--0--- g:--3--- g:--2--- g:--1---
d:--2--- d:--2--- d:--0--- d:--3--- d:--2---
a:--0--- a:--3--- a:------ a:------ a:--2---
e:------ e:------ e:------ e:------ e:--0---

I was also reminded that there are some additional verses. I espeshaly like the referance to the promis of God in what I think is the original 4th verse:

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

For all the Saints?

Today, as it happens is all saints day. A day in which, as the prayer book collect reminds us, we thank God that he “hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy son Christ our Lord” and we pray that God will “Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and Godly living, that we may come to those unspeakably joys, which though has prepared for them that unfailingly love thee; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

All well and Good: thanking God for the salvation of those who have gone before us in faith and asking that we to might do the same.

However as I was looking through my church diary I noticed that tomorrow is all souls day, a day on which we are to commemorate the faithfully departed… This seemed to me to be somewhat redundant. Given a reformed and Anglican understanding of saints as all of God’s elect, then the faithfully departed have already been remembered the day before.

Maybe I should just settle for the standard evangelical practice these days of just ignoring both…