The Stones Will Speak Out

Jesus mentioned the stones speaking out when the Pharisees told his disciples to keep quiet (Luke 19:40). Someone, or something, must testify to the truth, and if the disciples will not be permitted, then the very rocks will speak out. This bit of irony is typical of Jesus in his criticism of the religious leaders of the day.

As Darrell Bock comments, “Creation is aware of Jesus, but the leadership of the nation is not. That which is lifeless knows life when it sees it, even though that which is living does not. Luke portrays their rejection as a tragic, stinging indictment of their lack of judgment.”

Jesus also spoke about the lack of recognition that he received from his own people: “A prophet is not without honour except in his own country” (Mark 6:4). Jesus describes the hostile reception he received in his own homeland. Many followers of Jesus have experienced similar treatment.

These two passages nicely summarise what is taking place in the West in general and the UK in particular. Indeed, the UK is in a very precarious state at the moment. And those who should be guiding the nation through the fog are in fact often contributing to the malaise.

I have mentioned three sad episodes recently on this site: the case of a British Bishop comparing global warming scepticism with paedophilia; a British vicar who penned a new collection of Bible stories, informing us along the way that no one knows what they actually mean; and the head of the Anglican church suggesting that aspects of sharia law may be inevitable in the UK.

When the religious leaders of the day abandon their prophetic role, and instead become part of the problem, then things are in a very sad condition indeed. Fortunately God is able to raise up stones to utter prophetic words of truth and sense into the situation. And in this case, it took an import from Pakistan – of all places – to get the job done.

Writing in the June issue of standpoint.online, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has said the collapse of Christianity is resulting in the ruin of Britain and the decline of the family. He said the British disease of secularism and “endless self-indulgence” has left the nation defenceless against the rise of radical Islam. With the collapse of Christianity, militant Islam is poised to rush in and fill the moral and spiritual vacuum.

His lengthy prophetic piece is well worth reading, and I can only present snippets of it here. He reminds his readers of the central role which Christianity played in forming the nation: “as with the rest of Europe, it cannot be gainsaid that the very idea of a unified people under God living in a ‘golden chain’ of social harmony has everything to do with the arrival and flourishing of Christianity in these parts. It is impossible to imagine how else a rabble of mutually hostile tribes, fiefdoms and kingdoms could have become a nation conscious of its identity and able to make an impact on the world.”

He goes on to describe the very real ways in which Christian influence led directly to so many of the great and noble features of English life, governance and society.

“One was the discovery of conscience. If the individual is morally and spiritually responsible before God, then we have to think also of how conscience is formed by the Word of God and the Church’s proclamation of it so that freedom can be exercised responsibly. Another result was the emergence of the idea that because human beings were moral agents, their consent was needed in the business of governance. It is not enough now simply to draw on notions of God’s justice for patterns of government. We need also the consent of the governed who have been made in God’s image (a term which comes into the foreground). This dual emphasis on conscience and consent led to people being seen as citizens rather than merely as subjects.”

This has been played out in many ways, and has borne great fruit. Consider the notion of freedom:

“The idea of liberation is as fundamental in the Bible as that of creation. The freeing of enslaved Israel from its captors has inspired many other captive or oppressed peoples to struggle for their freedom. Freedom, however, has to do not only with political or social liberation. It also has to do with respect for conscience. Once again, this is rooted in the insight of Reformation times that everyone had the right to read the Word of God in their own language and to be formed by it. The freedom and the responsibility of such a citizen are closely related to the development of conscience in the light of the Scriptures.”

So too equality: “Equality is another leading value which we use in a just ordering of society. On the face of it, human beings are not equal: they are rich and poor, black and white, differently abled, male and female. So what is our basis for saying they are equal? During the period of white settlement in Australia, Christian missionaries, in the face of settler opposition, again and again referred to Acts xvii 26: ‘Out of one blood hath he made all the nations of men’ as the basis for the equality of the aboriginal peoples with the white and Asian inhabitants. Equality, then, is also rooted in the biblical world-view and extends to the whole of humanity. It is not restricted to those who may belong to a particular faith, ideology or ethnicity.”

But secularisation has changed all this: “It is this situation that has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves. While the Christian consensus was dissolved, nothing else, except perhaps endless self-indulgence, was put in its place. Happily Marxism, in its various forms, has been shown to be the philosophical, historical and economic nonsense that it always was. But we are now confronted by another equally serious ideology, that of radical Islamism, which also claims to be comprehensive in scope. What resources do we have to face yet another ideological battle?”

While the Archbishop of Canterbury may think the arrival of sharia law to be inevitable, the Bishop of Rochester is less confident, and is more willing to call us back to our religious roots. The Bishop concludes, “Christian faith has been central to the emergence of our nation and its development. We cannot really understand the nature and achievements of British society without reference to it. In a plural, multi-faith and multicultural society, it can still provide the resources for both supporting and providing a critique of public life in this country. We have argued that it is necessary to understand where we have come from, to guide us to where we are going, and to bring us back when we wander too far from the path of national destiny.”

Why it must take a Pakistani-born believer to speak some common sense into the UK scene is unclear, but many are glad that he did. If the church in the UK is going downhill fast, then we must be grateful that some voices of sanity still prevail. The UK, like the rest of the world, needs more prophetic voices like that of the Bishop. May he inspire many more to speak out.

www.standpointmag.co.uk/breaking-faith-with-britain?page=0%2C4

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19 Replies to “The Stones Will Speak Out”

  1. It seems as though there never has been such a time as ours, ever since Augustine arrived on British shores in 597 A.D., when the legitimacy and place of the Christian faith in daily life has been questioned so aggressively. One only has to listen to debates in Parliament, let alone in the mass media, to hear two things happening.

    On one side there is taken as read that Christianity has nothing rational, or relevant to say with regard to real life and that legislation, brought in since the sixties has replaced unenlightened and irrelevant laws, based on the Ten Commandments that went against human rights, progress and the needs of the twentieth century. It is therefore taken for granted that everyone unquestionably accepts abortion, no fault divorces, trading on Sunday, feminism, civil partnerships, promiscuity, homosexuality, drug taking and the disappearance of the family because all these point to liberalisation and a progressive soceity.

    On the other side, Christians are increasingly withdrawing and censoring themselves. Whether talking in private or in the public sphere, they play down what they believe for fear of offending and being branded as fundamentalist extremists. As Peter denied Christ, when he was confronted by a slip of servant girl, so we, when confronted with what we believe regarding, for example, homosexuality and Islam, back pedal furiously – not only out of fear that our comments will be regarded as narrow-minded, ignorant and hateful, but also that we will be seen to be criminal. Indeed the government only recently failed by a hair’s whisker to bring in a law, the incitement to homophobic amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, that would effectively have made anyone criticising homosexuality liable to a seven year prison sentence.

    Many Christians mistakenly believe in a ministry of justice that will automatically defend traditional values but, as we have seen recently in Britain, bishops, pensioners, headmasters, firemen, magistrates, foster parents, those running charities and youth work – all those in fact who try to maintain the fabric of society – are increasingly falling on the wrong side of the law.

    Frequently on a Sunday, Christians barricade themselves behind their church walls, bravely sing “We want to see Jesus lifted high, A banner that flies across this land, That all men might see the truth and know, He is the way to heaven, Step by step we’re moving forward, Little by little taking ground, Every prayer, a powerful weapon, Strongholds come tumbling down and down and down”

    I don’t know how we can sing such choruses when it is so patently obvious that these strongholds in government are far from tumbling down. It is time for us to unashamedly declare what we believe.

    David Skinner, UK

  2. Thanks David

    I was in fact thinking about you as I penned this article. You, and others like you, are the surviving remnant of a once glorious and mighty faith, that has now dwindled, withered and often sold out. But God always works through a minority, a remnant. You are part of that dedicated group of believers to whom our Lord will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. So I exhort you to keep on keeping on, to remain faithful, even if you are the last one in England to do so. But I am sure there are many others like you who are still fighting the good fight. It is to you folk that I dedicate this ministry. It is people like you who encourage me to keep going. I salute you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Dear Bill, All of us value your wisdom and help in this war. You are a base where we can come, set our bearing straight, dust down and get out there again. God Bless and keep you and your family.

    David Skinner, UK

  4. I enjoy your concise eloquence Bill. I’ve started a blog up again, yet it’ll take me a long time to refine my speech to make it as coherent as possible. I hope you don’t mind me linking to your site.

    I think all of what we see can be found in Scripture, for those patient enough to seek. It feels like the devil’s final push, I’ve never seen such a deathgrip on the world. He has total control economically, very soon politically and he’s given power back to the beast of Islam and foments this green religion, not to mention the sheer hedonism of the West.

    Never has society eroded this far at such levels. Its unbelievable how many people in the U.S. for example, are communists and do not know it. Keep your wits about you.

    Stay on the good fight.

    Hrvoj Mori, US

  5. Agree with all the above. I am looking for a new and creative word that deflects the arrows of ‘racist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘homophobic’.

    As one who has been statistically allocated in the top five percent in the nation in secular achievement, I am suddenly on the cringe fringe when after some research and reading I have a considered position and try to share the findings and understanding.

    Instead the return is slogans as mentioned above.

    The only slogan / jargon word that I come up with is ‘protectionist’ – one who is validly promoting and protecting self, family and society from a lying spirit driving the secular and religious world.

    Must say that I am not as yet comfortable with the word ‘protectionist’ as it appears to be defensive when I believe we should be on the offensive without being offensive!?

    Ray Robinson

  6. Hi Bill
    I am English and can assure you that there will never be a collapse of Christianity in the UK. The Christians I know in the UK will give their lives for the cause, God has established His Church there, I am talking about Spirit filled Christians not the Church of England. Yes the Church may suffer persecution but it will never fade away!
    Melissa Holtam, Melbourne

  7. Hi Bill,

    I haven’t spent much time in the UK so can’t comment on the situation there. I’m a recent emigrant from the USA now settled in Australia, which is indeed the lucky country!

    I share your concerns but there is an issue that bothers me. You speak of prophetic voices but how are we to identify false prophets?

    In the US there has been an emergence in recent years of a more strident and shrill brand of evangelicalism which at times has truly frightened me, to the extent that I have wondered whether some leaders there are prophets or mere profiteers. I have seen pastors share the podium with military men and gun advocates advocating revolution and transformation, by force if necessary. They demonise unbelievers as a sub-human underclass to be dominated, and in some cases eliminated. It has frightening similarities with what happened in Germany 70 years ago, and I fear for the future of America if these people get more political power.

    The homeschooling trend in America is another concern. I was frequently cajoled about homeschooling my kids so as to remove them from the influence of secularism. But I always found the teachers to be kind and caring professionals, which seemed a far cry from the way they were painted by my pastors. Some of the parents I knew who were homeschooling were not well educated themselves, and I wondered what kind of education they were giving their kids. Many of the books used seem more like indoctrination than education.

    I could go on with many more concerns, but I’d like to get back to my original question. How are we to know which pastors, including the megachurch “celebrities”, are genuinely godly and Biblical? I could mention a few names, but it’s probably best that I don’t.

    In some ways I yearn for something like the Catholic system, where they have strong leadership, authority, hierarchy and discipline, which would seem necessary to prevent heresy. In many ways the American “free enterprise” gospel tradition seems to encourage the involvement of smooth-talking snakeoil salesmen, and the folk in the pews are often not well enough informed and educated to discern whether they are being manipulated.

    I’d be interested in your views.

    Juliana Simbroski, Darwin

  8. Thanks Juliana

    You raise some important issues. Your last one, about how do we determine who are genuinely godly and biblical is a large issue, which probably needs a whole article to tease out. So stay tuned. But a short answer would be, Jesus said you would know them by their fruit. Is the fruit of the Spirit in evidence? Are they preaching sound doctrine? Do they just seem to go on and on about money? There are various tests which the Bible gives us. And we are to test all things, and to make sure what we hear and see is of God. So this is a genuine concern, and as I say, it deserves fuller treatment.

    As to some of your other concerns: some of the more militant and extremist groups I would simply ignore. They do not represent mainstream Evangelical Christianity, even in America, and are a clear fringe minority.

    As to homeschooling, I think it is a legitimate option, and often it may seem like the only option, with public schools in such a bad way, and often Christian schools losing the plot as well. And tests have found that homeschooled kids are often among the brightest and best trained, and many prestigious secular universities actually enjoy having home-schooled kids.

    But I have friends with kids in all four camps: some in public, secular schools, some in church schools, some in independent Christian schools, and some in homeschooling. Each parent must prayerfully decide what is best for their children.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  9. Juliana Simbroski says of some of the homeschooling textbooks that they “seem more like indoctrination than education“. Surely the same can be said of many ‘secular’ school textbooks which often overtly teach an anti-Christian worldview.

    And I’m also sure that many public school teachers are indeed “kind and caring professionals“, but this doesn’t alter the fact that they are (sometimes unknowingly) brainwashing our children with the false religion of evolutionary humanism.

    And for the Christian parent it shouldn’t matter in the slightest if homeschooling parents seem less well educated than ‘secular’ public school teachers, since the eternal destiny of our children should matter far more than their academic achievement.

    Ewan McDonald.

  10. Hi Ewan,

    Your views surprise me. I’ve encountered this kind of view back home in the USA but not here before. I’ve generally found Australian Christians have a more pragmatic view about the value of a good education. We certainly do have to be concerned about the eternal destiny of our children but I think it is irresponsible of parents not to give their kids a solid well-rounded education. After all, we still have to live in this world for a long time so we might as well make the best of this life that we can. Wouldn’t God want us to do that?

    Exposing my children to scientific conclusions about earth history doesn’t worry me in the least. I’m well aware of the conflict with a literal reading of Genesis, but perhaps Genesis wasn’t meant to be read quite that literally.

    Juliana Simbroski

  11. We are certainly witnessing our days growing ever darker for the Christian Faith, and how quickly. I must admit though I am encouraged by it. Doesn’t Scripture teach that the end time days will be spiritaually darkened as in the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorah. The western church has been asleep and she is being awkened and the wheat will be sorted from the chaff. As Christians we are being called to stand up and be a light to this darkened world and even salt to season the world. We know what happens when salt gets in the eyes. That is why people get so upset with the truth. It smarts their conscience and self will and they don’t like it. Jesus said of Himself “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. We can put our trust in His promises and couragously stand up for Jesus. We were forewarned if they hated Him they will hate His disciples but rejoice because our names are written in the Lambs Book of Life. The west has become a harvest field for God’s Kingdom where many have been brought up not hearing the gospel. God will call them too the light and they will taste and see that the Lord is good. It will take more courage today then it was 30 years ago but remember, it is a spiritual battle that out Captain has aready won. Let us conduct our lives believing this and ask what can God do through me for the Kingdom of Heaven?
    Keith Lewis

  12. Juliana, if you don’t see that the public school system is brainwashing Children with false religious worldviews to such an extent that the vast majority of Children who come from Christian families and who are educated through the public system are deserting the faith, then there is probably not much I can say to change your mind on the merits of homeschooling.

    It is also very telling that you appear to reject the Genesis account of creation in favour of what you call “scientific conclusions about earth history”. Presumably by this you are referring to the popular idea promoted by secular humanism of evolution and millions of years.

    I’ve encountered your kind of view too, and unfortunately it appears an all too common feature of the church in Western nations.

    Ewan McDonald.

  13. P.S. God forbid that He finds the need to speak through the stones because that would mean His Church failed Him.
    Keith Lewis

  14. Thanks Juliana

    You seem to make some assumptions about public education which may not be warranted. You refer to public education as good, solid and well-rounded. Well, sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not. And you also seem to assume that these positive qualities are somehow absent in home-schooling. Again, sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. As I mentioned, home-schooled kids often out-perform public school kids in various academic and college placement assessments.

    And while no believer wants to downplay a good education, it depends on what you mean by that. There is – as I have documented in various posts here, especially in my education section – often as much indoctrination, propaganda and proselytising in the public school system as there is genuine education.

    And secular humanism is the prevailing worldview in public schools, and many decidedly anti-Christian ideas and concepts are being force-fed to our students there on a daily basis. Indeed, often our kids are coming out of our public schools illiterate and underachieving in basic life skills. But they may well know all about sex-ed, and drug-ed, and death-ed, and a whole realm of PC themes. Many will certainly be steeped in moral relativism, the idea that there is no objective truth, and a decidedly secular bias. So again, care must be taken here.

    There are some very good public schools, and some very good public school teachers, but we can never divorce these facts from the awareness of an overriding worldview – often inimical to biblical Christianity – which pervades public education. Indeed, everyone has a worldview and a philosophy of life. This is as true of schools and schools systems as of individuals. All parents need to be aware of these worldviews.

    As to science in public schools, no one minds a genuine education in science. But often it is scientism, and philosophical naturalism, that is being palmed off in our public schools. That is not the same thing as science properly understood, and parents really need to be aware of these differences.

    In sum, yes, God wants his people to be well-educated. But being well-educated is not at all the same as simply being inundated with a worldview that is often at odds with both knowledge and values which are biblical based. There is, in other words, such a thing as false knowledge, and wrong beliefs.

    From a biblical point of view, there is no such thing as morally-neutral knowledge. All knowing is tinged by values and worldviews. And not all values and worldviews are ones which we as believers should necessarily embrace and endorse.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Hi Bill,

    I agree that we need to be careful about which values and worldviews we should embrace. But I think we need to be well informed about other worldviews before we can properly criticise them. Too many pastors I know have little understanding of science, yet are quite happy to demonise science and scientists as anti-Christian. In my own working life (as a medical researcher) this is an unwarranted generalisation that is not borne out by experience.

    As for public education vs. homeschooling, I still maintain that it is better that our children are exposed to secular views, so that they can better deal with them when they become adults. If we wrap our children in cotton wool for all of their formative years, how will they deal with the real world once they leave school and enter the workplace or university?

    Our faith needs to be strong enough to withstand criticism and I think that can best be achieved by being on an equal footing with unbelievers in our knowledge of the material world. I honestly don’t think that can be achieved in a homeschool environment, because parents cannot possibly be fully informed about all subject matter. I would also worry about children’s physical and social development if they are not able to participate in school sport and mix with a range of other children.

    Bill, I haven’t personally experienced philosophical naturalism being forced upon my children (high school age), either here or in the US, but I accept that your experience may be different.

    As to Ewan’s question about earth history, yes I am totally in agreement with the scientific view about ages, because the evidence is beyond dispute. I don’t see any conflict with my faith either, since Christ made no comments about this matter, and Genesis is open to alternative interpretations about ages.

    I respect your right to hold an alternative view, Ewan, and I’d ask that you also respect mine. This question has been debated endlessly by Christians, and I don’t see any point in repeating such a debate either. We each come to our opinions through our life experiences, knowledge and education, and I think as Christians we need not be too dogmatic about which view of God’s creation we endorse. I can’t see that the issue has much to do with salvation.

    Juliana Simbroski, Darwin

  16. Thanks Juliana

    But of course there are plenty of pastors who are informed about other worldviews and are not anti-science (they may well rightly be anti-scientism however). You seem to make unnecessary dichotomies here.

    As I said concerning homeschooling, parents should be free to choose what is best for their own children. And I know of plenty of home-schooled children who are well-rounded, bright, articulate, socially aware and culturally literate. You seem to have some sort of animus against homeschoolers which does not square with reality here.

    And it cuts both ways. Many parents worry about a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development in public schools where often they know all about – from firsthand experience – drugs, promiscuity, profanity, political correctness, and so on, yet come out of the school system more or less illiterate, unemployable, and so on. There are exceptions in both camps of course, but you maybe need to meet some people who have been homeschooled who are now doing great as successful adults.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  17. Juliana, you say we “need to be well informed about other worldviews before we can properly criticise them”. I totally agree. But you clearly are not well informed about philosophical naturalism and the role it plays in modern scientific theories of evolution and the age of the earth. How else could you claim that the current scientific paradigm of an ancient age of the earth is “beyond dispute”.

    The ironic thing is that your blindness to this worldview bias is probably something you were indoctrinated with during your presumably ‘secular’ education. An education that you now claim is benign to Christianity when it is in fact a direct challenge to it.

    And whilst I can agree with you in part that issues such as the age of the earth do not determine salvation, they most certainly do have a direct impact on an issue like the authority of Scripture. And when the authority of Scripture is undermined then the message of the Gospel is weakened. We see the evidence for this all around us today in the way that the influence of Christianity is declining in the West.

    Ewan McDonald.

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