Thameslink

I am thankful that there is a train that takes me to work.  I really am.  But does it have to be like this? People were crammed into this dirty space with such little understanding of where they were that they had to ask others what station the train was at.

I was tempted to say ‘Paris’ but even  my sense of humour has recognised the wearing nature of the pathetic bleat at most stops on the line, most days, most carriages. “Please move down – I need to get this one!” or the unanswerable logic, “can you move down there please – if you’re reading your phone you can make more room!” Or the argument that rumbled on this morning for a couple of stops which everyone hoped wouldn’t result in physical violence – mainly because that would make us all late.

Roughly 43o hours of this per annum – that’s over a month of 12-hour days standing or sitting with some of the most astonishing bad breath (just caught some now) and other effluvium to enjoy.

It could be worse, but it could be better too.

Do everything without murmuring or complaining, says the Good Book. OK.

 

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Running the race

Illustrations for a talk on Hebrews 12, placed by a master illustrator in Hebrews 11…

By faith, what did each do?

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Oh and he was out of order…

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Bethesda

Don’t sin anymore, in case something worse happens to you? An untidy miracle or a provocation of the chaps who can’t bear to see a doorbell rung on the sabbath? 
  

Typing Chimps

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I promised someone this on Twitter, then took so long getting round to transcribing it that the person’s kind offer of a place to post it lapsed.

I’m therefore posting it here as otherwise all that typing practice will go to waste.  It’s my own peculiar verbatim style of transcription, which I trust will be excused. Only the [square brackets] are my editorial comments – the others are his.  The late AEW-S had a very plummy voice (a bit like Peter Sellers) so it helps complete the experience if you bear that in mind while reading.

 

AE Wilder-Smith – Oxford Union Debate 1986.

..Let’s go to the last point… in this august city where I was born (and I haven’t been back for 35 years) there was a debate in 1860 between Soapy Sam (Wilberforce) and …TH Huxley.  Huxley listened to Paley’s natural theology from Soapy Sam, got very very short with the poor old man, he says “Look we don’t want to say that because there’s a creation, there is a creator.  Let’s forget that, because I’m going to prove to you that can forget it”.  So Soapy Sam said “Do so”.  And he did it like this (TH Huxley).  And I’m going to use the same example to show the flaw in his thinking, as far as I can, and leave it to you to decide what you want to do with it.  He said “let’s take the 6 eternal typewriters” which you know all about – you’ve all read TH Huxley, haven’t you on this?  6 eternal typewriters, we’ll put 6 eternal apes on them who’ll never die, and we’ll let them strum on these things and they’ve got endless amounts of paper and endless amounts of ribbon, and endless amounts of ball-bearings so they never go to pieces.  OK?

Now he said at the end of eternity, or when eternity’s almost by (and I have great difficulties about that one, but that’s what he said). He said “when I look at the nonsense that they typed throughout all eternity, I find in the papers that they wrote, the 23rd Psalm.  ’The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’”.  Now Wilberforce got very annoyed about that, he said “It’s impossible”.

So Huxley said to him, “Look you’re a professor of mathematics, aren’t you?” So he said “Yes”.  Well he said don’t you know that the probability formula says that where T is infinite, and the amount of matter is infinite, the probability is 1.  That is, you will certainly get all events to take place if you have time and matter enough.  Now the earth is very old, we’ve got lots of time and lots of matter in the universe, therefore the probability is 1 that you, Bishop Wilberforce, are like the 23rd Psalm – you were formed without an author.  Because the 23rd Psalm was formed by strumming, you see, without David as the author.  Now as David’s Psalm was produced without David, said TH Huxley, so you according to probability law could be produced without a creator.

Now that argument is still recognised as valid today.  There was an article in The German [Scientist?] quite recently about it – it said anybody who didn’t know [..indistinct..] was ignorant.

Let’s take the flaw in the argument now.  May I ask you to look at this ever so carefully.  It is very difficult to see.  It took 40 degrees of frost in Chicago when I was crossing a pedestrian crossing when it suddenly flashed on me where the flaw in the argument was.  I got out of a train at 30 degrees centigrade and it was 40 degrees below outside and it suddenly dawned on me what had gone wrong.

Take not 6 eternal typewriters like Huxley had, you take one of those [indistinct] typewriters.  These are special typewriters which have a special lever in them.  When the lever is pushed to the left, they type like an ordinary typewriter.  That is when ‘A’ comes into my mind, or into the ape’s mind, he presses the key A, and A goes through the machine, onto the paper.  And there it stays.  When B comes into my mind, B goes down my arm, through the machine, onto the paper and it stays on the paper.

That’s how he got his Psalm, you see, by machines like that.

Then if you push the lever … round the other way, the machine types like this: A comes into my brain (or the ape’s brain – I don’t mind you comparing me with one) as you push the A key down, the A goes through the machine, onto the paper, stays there for a finite time, (did you listen carefully?) stays there for a finite time, then rises without trace from the paper, and goes back through the machine and into the ape’s or my brain.  That is, the machine types and untypes in a finite time – it is completely reversible (it was before the days of word processors).

Now if you had apes on a reversible typewriter like that, how long would it take to type the 23rd psalm on such machines?  Well obviously, if everything went back where it came from, they could type until kingdom come (for the theologians) and you’d never get anything out.

If that’s the case, remember this, that all the reactions on which the body works (chemically) are reversible, because they’re enzymatic reactions, and the enzymes only catalyse reversible reactions.  They are reversible typewriters.

Now you can’t do any synthesis unless you can do as [unclear] says – you’ve got to put any reaction to get structurisation [unclear] far away from equilibrium in order to do it.  Now information – surprise effects – in the genetic code, does it.  But to derive structurisation, evolutive speciation and biogenesis from natural law is just not science today.  You can’t do it.  You can only derive if you add to natural law, matter plus information, and if you think information comes from stochastic chemistry, then I’m afraid you’re beyond medical aid.

Thank you.

Marshall Meek remembered…

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I was checking into the very good John Stevens blog this morning and saw a post I’d missed that mentioned Marshall Meek – delightfully as an example of someone who saw the need to innovate or die in the ship building industry, and to learn from competitors rather than look down on them.

The post (19 October) is worth reading and it links to Marshall’s obituary in the Telegraph.  Being so out of touch, I didn’t know he was so recently with the Lord, but not-so-exclusive-ex-exclusive-brethren even get a mention – which isn’t an everyday occurrence.

I only met Marshall Meek once – 23 years ago, but I remember him as the first person I knew who had a helicopter whisk his daughter away from her wedding – most impressive to a teenager.  So impressive it was that I made calls to Redhill aerodrome to see if I could pull the same stunt on my wedding day years later.

CropChopper

I’m glad I went for something more innovative in the end.

I thought Steve B or Roz would like that.  I overheard it was Marshall that arranged the uplifting exit, but it might have been Arthur, or both.  Apologies for the very hurried sketch.

But enough of that – the main point of John Stevens’ post is a vital one – some things are fundamental and some things have to change.

Telling the difference is hard but not impossible, and we’re required to do so.

Mr Bacon’s Easter Story?

Waitrose have got a bit of a cheek, haven’t they?

Waitrose Easter

They sent this to me after a while of being a member of their loyalty scheme (which is great, I might add).

I opened it, and was put right off a perfectly good company.  Why?  They had my name on the front, Easter was the theme, and inside there was just food on sale.  If any moneychanger’s table needed kicking over, surely this is ripe candidate, where the events of Jesus Christ’s arrest, mockery, trial, death by crucifixion, side being pierced, the veil of the Temple being rent, Christ’s burial, the weeping of Mary, the resurrection, events that drove Christianity through successive bloody persecutions and on through the past 2,000 years are reduced to Lamb and Anchovy, Zesty White Wine and a delicious pud?

That’s not my Easter Story!  Don’t put my name on that please, O Waitrose Marketing Department!  Don’t worry about me kicking over any of your tables during my lunch hour – the only man who had a right to do something like that is synonymous with the word ‘Easter’.  Isn’t it just a very slight miscalculation if you use the mental image of that man being nailed to a cross to sell lamb and wine?  I got strong Monty Python-like impressions of you standing next to the events saying “Get your passover kit here!”  “Albatross, get your albatross!”

Well – their odd marketing has worked to some good. I felt Mr Bacon here had better put his Easter Story out there.  Not as tidy as the John Lewis Partnership’s, but maybe a bit more thoughtful.  It’s a mind map of events, covering some of the points in a connected way, because those historic events were indeed connected.  Nothing can improve on the words of the Bible, but I thought I should explore it for his sake, who went through it all for me.

Click on the pic below, and it should take you to the map I’m working on.  It will be updated in future as there is endless depth to add, but it did help to think through that ‘stolen pagan festival’ thing for starters.

Easter Mind Map

Happy Easter, Waitrose!  No hard feelings, on account of what Easter’s really about.

The Righteousness of God

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Apologies for the poor picture quality, that was done on the 7:56 to London Victoria, and it’s from memory.

The memory is from nearly 20 years ago, lying on the top bunk of another train – the sleeper from Nairobi to Mombasa, and after I did it I went online to see how accurate my memory was. Not bad, the windows were similar but opened down, the beds would have stuck out past the window, and I probably wasn’t wearing trainers come to think of it.

That was the moment when the truth about righteousness in the Bible clicked into clear focus – to an extent where I almost gasped at how God had planned and executed my salvation.  Like the memory of the scene, my memory and grasp of that truth has become flaky and like the sketch I struggle to communicate it, but I know the clarity is still there to be had, it’s undisturbed by all that’s been said since and I want it back.  Something of the feeling I retain is summed up in the hymn:

 

Oh mind divine! so must it be

That glory all belongs to God

Oh love divine! that did decree

We should be part, through Jesus’ blood

 

In the picture above I had already been on holiday for a week, wasn’t stressed, had nothing disrupting my train of thought, and was reading a piece with this post’s title by someone whose name I’m not going to tell you until later, in case I am deafened by the sound of the steel roller-shutters of your prejudices heading for the bare toes of my online presence.  If you thought that was a long sentence, it was nothing on this chap’s English prose.  My wife tells me that my communication has suffered from having picked up his (often parenthetical) style.

However, even with all the books that have been published since, some of the sermons I’ve sat through, the controversies that amnesiacs keep recycling, and the draughts of hot air off the internet, I haven’t come across anything better than what this article managed to set out in just 27 pages.  The problem is, it doesn’t look like anyone has read those 27 pages.  I know they seem dry, but for those of my family and friends who know who wrote them, have you read them?  I’ve met plenty of people ready to criticise and even jeer at that author for his views, but have so far only met critics that haven’t read what he said.  I’m pretty safe if you try Googling the title – you won’t find my source, but you might get this:

Google Righteousness

Many very well read people have tried to set out what they think the Bible is saying on the point, but when a friend pointed me to this article outlining a controversy between NT Wright and John Piper and when I saw a YouTube clip of John Piper having a go, and got tweets from respected sources telling me that people’s faith could be undermined, I thought the time had come to try and communicate some Biblical points that have helped me, and might be humbly offered to help others too.  If people aren’t going to read the original, why not outline what it says as positive truth rather than bicker about what others are saying?  If it’s so good, why not try to make it more accessible?

The question is, can I?  For all the people whose full time job it is to teach these things, I’m not hugely impressed with the outcome.  In some places the comparison chart in the article can be ‘ticked’ on both sides, but neither is a very good summary, some points are wrong, they trip up on semantics and even together they may miss the whole picture.  I respect the learning of both – one was a professor at Wycliffe Hall, and the other’s books are read worldwide and they could both teach me much.  There are other greats such as Luther and Calvin to whom we owe a huge amount and whose comments are fiercely defended.  However, one only has to read him to realise that Luther wasn’t quite on the button all the time, and the same can be said for some of Calvin’s conclusions – leaving outlooks that still hang around unjudged to this day.  I am painfully aware I’m only a Surveyor trying to translate for a dead man while on the train to and from work, so my limitations are great.

Great also is my time poverty. I no longer have large chunks of relaxed time like I had on that holiday in Kenya.  I only woke up a short time ago and in a short time I shall be at my desk at work.  That’s swiftly followed by the reverse – I only left work a short time ago, and in a short time I shall be asleep. Just this post took me a couple of days to put together.

I’ll have to work with what I’ve got, and remember the overall picture that I was only born a short time ago, and in a short while (if the Lord doesn’t return before), I shall be asleep.

So get on with it, Bacon.  I’ll leave us with Albert Midlane’s hymn which will do us for now – best sung to ‘Deep Harmony in my opinion.  That link has sound.

 

1 THE perfect righteousness of God
Is witnessed in the Saviour’s blood;
‘Tis in the cross of Christ we trace
His righteousness, yet wondrous grace.

2 God could not pass the sinner by,
Justice demands that he should die;
But in the cross of Christ we see
How God can save, yet righteous be.

3 The judgment fell on Jesus’ head,
‘Twas in His blood sin’s debt was paid;
Stern Justice can demand no more,
And Mercy can dispense her store.

4 The sinner who believes is free,
Can say, “The Saviour died for me:”
Can point to the atoning blood,
And say, “This made my peace with God.”

More to come.