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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Ongoing War on the Gospel

Mar 2, 2017

When Jesus warned his disciples that they would be dragged before local councils, magistrates, rulers and authorities (see eg., Mark 13:9; Luke 12:11-12), he made it clear that the world hates him, and the world will hate his followers. Persecution and opposition are always the mark of the true disciple.

For many decades now in the West a comfortable Christianity has cosied up to a more or less tolerant pagan culture. But things are now again heating up with many Western jurisdictions declaring war on Christ, Christians and the gospel. Increasingly we are finding radical secular rulers cracking down on Christian activities, including sharing the gospel in public.

bristol 2Street preaching goes way back of course – back to the first century. Jesus and the disciples went all over the place preaching and teaching. Of course that resulted in plenty of opposition, hostility and hate. But that is the way it is when biblical truth confronts secular lies.

I have written repeatedly of contemporary examples of this occurring in the West. We of course expect it in Muslim majority countries and in hellholes like North Korea. But the real worry is we now find this happening more and more in what were once free and democratic nations.

One of the most recent – and worrying – cases comes from the UK where several street preachers in Bristol were found guilty of public order offences, with fines imposed. Details of the story are found in various places, including this report from the Bristol Times: www.bristolpost.co.uk/live-verdicts-expected-after-bristol-street-preachers-arrested-in-front-of-cheering-crowd/story-30168142-detail/story.html

The preachers proclaimed basic biblical truths, including on homosexuality, and also entered into dialogue with Muslims and others who were present. The four-day trial resulted in guilty verdicts for two of the Christians involved. One report says this:

Two street preachers have been convicted of public order offences, after a public prosecutor claimed that quoting parts of the King James Bible in the context of modern British society “must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter”. The prosecutor had argued that free speech must yield to multicultural reality in modern Britain, and that there was a clear threat to violence due to the words of the preachers and the criticism of Islam.
Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell were convicted today (28 FEB) at Bristol Magistrates’ Court. On Friday (25 FEB) the court dismissed the case against a third man, Adrian Clark, ruling that there was no case to answer. The men were found guilty under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, for using “threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, thereby, and the offence was religiously aggravated.”

Another report began:

A magistrates court in Bristol has convicted two Christian preachers charged with public order offences. The case against two other men collapsed. Justices of the Peace Mr Robert Stacey (Chairman), Mr Gerry McDermot and Mrs Josephine Ramsden gave judgment on Tuesday 28th February 2017. The justices rode roughshod over principles of freedom of speech set out in a catalogue of previous cases. They imposed a fine and costs on each convicted totalling £2016.
The case arose over an outreach in Bristol city centre last July (2016). Four preachers were setting out the Gospel in front of John Wesley’s Chapel in Broadmead. Out of the four, Don Karns had charges laid and then withdrawn. Having heard the prosecution case against Adrian Clark, their worships decided he had no case to answer. That left Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell who were found guilty today.

There are plenty of problems with this trial and the outcome but perhaps the biggest shocker of all was when the government prosecutor actually said this: “To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”

Wow, now we have a (presumably) pagan legal eagle weighing in on theological and philosophical questions, pontificating on the nature of metaphysical truth! Of course two millennia ago another big cheese leader cross-examined Jesus on the same matter, asking him the question, “What is truth?”

Sadly it seems he did not stick around to hear the answer. Given that this was one of the most important questions a person could ask, and it was asked of the most important person on earth, what a missed opportunity. But this modern day Pilate has decided that he already knows the answer, and that the gospel truth claims cannot be right.

So this was really a theological trial. The gospel was on trial here, and the state decided that Christianity is false, Jesus is wrong, and Christians must not proclaim the very heart of their faith. That is mind-boggling. This was a heresy trial in other words.

Now the secular state will determine what is the gospel and what is not the gospel. They will decide what is truth and what is not truth. In the old days we arrested thieves and rapists. Now we arrest and put on trial those who dare to proclaim the Word of God in public.

Others have commented on this deplorable show trial. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the street preachers, said this:

The Bible and its teachings are the foundation of our society and provided many of the freedoms and protections that we still enjoy today. So it is extraordinary that the prosecution, speaking on behalf of the state, could say that the Bible contains abusive words which, when spoken in public, constitute a criminal offence. Today’s ruling, in effect, states that the Bible is offensive and contains illegal speech which should not be shared in public. This is a very serious state of affairs and the men will be considering next steps to challenge this decision.
‘Offence’ is a very subjective thing and is easily manipulated to shut down viewpoints that people simply don’t like. Any suggestion that there is a right not to be offended must be strongly resisted. In today’s democracy, we need the freedom to debate, challenge and disagree.
Mike Overd and Michael Stockwell were saying nothing that wouldn’t be heard at speakers’ corner in Hyde Park – presenting the claims of the Bible, answering the crowd’s questions and objections and responding calmly to abuse which was hurled at them. For a court to rule that this breaks the law is extraordinary.

This case is not unique by any means. We are seeing plenty of similar cases taking place. The words of Jesus I quoted above may seem to be for a faraway people of a faraway time. But what he warned about is happening right here and right now.

Perhaps the only good thing about this overt persecution and anti-Christian bigotry is it will help to separate the sheep from the goats. Only real-deal Christians are willing to pay the price for staying true to Christ and his Word, while fake Christians will simply slither away and hide in the background, refusing to open their mouths for Christ.

And Jesus had a few words to say about those folks as well: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

christianconcern.com/our-concerns/freedom-of-speech/street-preachers-convicted-for-quoting-bible-in-modern-day-heresy-tri?utm_content=buffer23335&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
www.christianvoice.org.uk/index.php/bristol-magistrates-convict-preachers/

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17 Responses to The Ongoing War on the Gospel

  • Sleepers, wake! This is definitely something the church in the west needs to know about—thank you Bill for drawing it to our attention. May this article go ‘viral’. (And what a fantastic turn of phrase: “fake Christians will simply slither away”.)

  • May the English trio be an Acts 5:20 event. As believers pray.

  • This is unbelievably crazy and sad. Similar cases in Pakistan against Christians prosecuted and found guilty of “blasphemy” for reading or quoting the Bible are commonplace but for this to happen in Great Britain is shocking.

  • The church I now attend has a street team who regularly go out on the streets of Frankston to speak about the gospel to anyone who wants to listen. I wanted to take part, but haven’t been well enough over the past year. They have had a very positive response, including people giving their lives to Christ, many healed and lives changed dramatically. So far there have been no complaints, and many favourable comments. But it’s more one-on-one conversation rather than ‘soap box evangelism’. But don’t worry, I even took part in that when I was a teenager. Our meeting place was outside the Trocadero Theatre in Footscray – an area that, back then, was fairly rough! There were always a few drunks who kept interjecting! We also did a few weeks of ‘street evangelism’ when I was studying at BCV (now MST), and after that I was a member of a street team that used to meet outside Ringwood station.

  • Proverb says “Ignorance is bliss” But ignorance of God’s word is foolishness particularly of those in authoritative positions such as the Magistrates. Day will come when they will realize too late that to oppose the Lord and His word is indeed foolishness! May the Lord have mercy upon their ignorance.

  • When reading this article made me think of a friend of mine who witnessed to people about Christ at Rundle Mall in Adelaide many years ago. I saw with my own eyes that he was handcuffed and taken away by the police. He was bold and courageous in his witnessing for his Master. It is so true that persecution is the mark of the true disciple. So many armchair Christians today are too ashamed of their Lord and their Master who saved them from their sins. The apostle Paul was not ashamed of His Lord and the Gospel of His Master at all. Our Lord truly said, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Lord Jesus! Help us not to be ashamed of you and your saving and powerful Gospel. Lord, give us – your servants, boldness, courage, power, authority, and compassion to be your witnesses for this lost and dying world!”

  • So what about the Queen’s Christmas message? Other faiths might be offended….. No doubt about that! Is she committing a “crime” these days??

    It’s a bit rich when Common Law is based on the Bible….. what does it say about our judiciary in the West?

  • Yes Christian Le. Let’s not forget that brave people have been arrested for many decades years in the West for preaching the Gospel in public. The only difference is that the charges were more obfuscations to achieve the same ends – nowadays the charges and the verdicts are a direct and blatant attack on free speech & the freedom of Christianity (not necessarily “freedom of religion”, just Christianity).

  • In the case of Mike Overd, we need to remember he was arrested and charged last year for the same offence and was convicted by a Shariah judge, who told Mike that he was not permitted to use certain passages of the Bible in Britain [1]
    This time around Mike has been convicted by a Freemason Judge [2]
    A few years ago Paul Weston was arrested for reading in public the words of Winston Churchill on the subject of Islam [3]

    As for the Queen, ever since 1967 she has renegaded on her Coronation Oath by giving her royal assent to over three thousand pieces of legislation, much of it godless, resulting in the broken Britain that we see today. Her anodine, Christmas day message to the nation would not have hurt a fly. Her description of Jesus Christ as being an inspiriational character who came from nothing and yet influenced over two billion people would have fitted Mohammed as well [4]

    [1] www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/freedom-of-speech/muslim-judge-in-street-preacher-mike-overds-case-to-serve-on-sharia-c
    [2] www.christianvoice.org.uk/index.php/magistrate-convicted-preachers-freemason/
    [3] www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB7en-eu0X8
    [4] www.youtube.com/watch?v=zscqxgDc9f8

    David Skinner UK

  • When they talk of Queen Elizabeth as being the servant Queen [1] not much is said about her fabulous wealth [2]. Nor the state of Britain today.
    Those of us of certain generation, who have a memory of life fifty years ago would never have dreamed that Britainn would have slid into such moral anarchy, resulting in the broken society we see all around us: the continued dismantling and dismemberment of marriage and family; the murder of eight million babies in the womb through abortion; the spread of AIDS, HIV principally amongst the gay community and a raft of sexually transmitted diseases; drug addiction; mental problems and suicide; a break down in discipline in schools and millions of children either being sexually abused or abusing other children; hundreds of thousands of children wrenched from their parents, put into social care and sold off through the adoption agencies; sex trafficking; paedophilia; satanic ritual buse, a rocketing violent crime rate, a fundamental breakdown in societal trust and loyality and finally a prison population that is the largest in Europe. All these characterise Britain in 2017.
    When the Queen comes to give an account of her life on Earth, I cannot imagine what she will say to defend herself.
    God save our gracious Queen indeed.
    [1] www.youtube.com/watch?v=HotafToOhqY
    [2] www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzX3h7XXDgM

    David Skinner UK

  • David Cameron, who until last year was Prime said, in 2011, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible,

    ‘It’s great to be here and to have this opportunity to come together today to mark the end of this very special 400th anniversary year for the King James Bible. …….as Prime Minister, it is right to recognise the impact of a translation that is, I believe, one of this country’s greatest achievements.
    The Bible is a book that has not just shaped our country, but shaped the world…..

    The King James Bible is as relevant today as at any point in its 400 year history.
    And none of us should be frightened of recognising this…….we are a Christian country.
    And we should not be afraid to say so…….what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today……..
    Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.
    The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option……..
    The Bible runs through our political history in a way that is often not properly recognised. The history and existence of a constitutional monarchy owes much to a Bible in which Kings were anointed and sanctified with the authority of God…
    Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible.” ……. Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that….
    Shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality…has actually helped to cause some of the social problems that lie at the heart of the lawlessness we saw with the riots…Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong.“Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles. To be confident in saying something is wrong…is not a sign of weakness, it’s a strength….. we’ve got stand up for our values if we are to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations.
    We need to stand up for these values.To have the confidence to say to people – this is what defines us as a society….…and that to belong here is to believe in these things. I believe the church – and indeed all our religious leaders and their communities in Britain – have a vital role to play in helping to achieve this.
    To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions. So I don’t think we should be shy or frightened of this……The values we draw from the Bible go to the heart of what it means to belong in this country'[1].

    Queen Elizabeth II at her Coronation in 1953, made solemn oaths to protect the Protestant faith, protect her church ministers and the customs and traditions of the Commonwealth countries. But where is she and David Cameron when Christians stand on the street proclaiming God’s word from the King James Bible and are vilified [2] arrested, fined, gaoled [3], suffer violence [4] and sent to prison [5] ?
    Both of them remain aloof in their wealthy and splendid isolation, like Pharisees, passing by on the opposite side of the road.
    Jesus Christ had a word for them which was to depart from His presence, since He never knew them. May God have mercy on these hypocrites.
    [1] www.youtube.com/watch?v=-olA7Si9rWQhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0Nmfnf0yEYhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWqb6ArKQdo

    [2] Tony Manio
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWqb6ArKQdo

    [3]
    i) www.youtube.com/watch?v=-olA7Si9rWQ
    ii) www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/freedom-of-speech/muslim-judge-in-street-preacher-mike-overds-case-to-serve-on-sharia-c
    iii)
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0Nmfnf0yEY
    [4] Harry Hammond
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Hammond

    [5] Ted Atkinson
    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/4750647.stm
    www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/europe/item/13978-pro-life-activist-81-persecuted-in-uk-as-liberty-wanes

    David Skinner UK

      

  • Dear Bill,

    Thank you for the article. I am old enough to remember when it was not unusual for Catholics to preach the Catholic Faith on street corners and they gained many converts that way. I remember hearing them as a child in Doncaster England where I was born. A friend of mine who died a few years ago said when he was a young man he would come up from the country town where he lived and preach the Catholic faith as a Knight of the Southern Cross in Forest Place Perth in Western Australia. It was unheard of to move them on or arrest them.

    The Legion of Mary still encourages door to door evangelisation and book barrows wherever they are allowed to put them and over the years as a legionary I have engaged in this sort of work. Frank Duff the Legion’s founder in the twenties laid down sensible instructions for this apostolate as he did for the weekly meeting which consists of prayer and spiritual formation and the allocation of the required two hours work.

    Like other organisations in the Western world both secular and religious, membership in the Legion is ageing and I now find it too exhausting to do full justice to the organisation”s apostolate. For me door to door evangelisation involves too much walking. It is either too hot or too wet or there are too many homes where no one is in. Therefore many legionaries like myself tend to engage in less strenuous tasks such as visiting nursing homes and running piety stalls.Sadly, whilst these are worthwhile tasks it is hardly spreading the faith amongst the masses of unchurched as it was once so faithfully spread.

    Even the Catholic religious processions in Western Australia are not as common as they once were.

    These days Christians often turn to modern means of communication like this web site and opportunities can always arise in casual encounters with people so all is not lost.

    It is sad though that when Christians ARE brave, energetic and enthusiastic enough to stand on a street corner witnessing to Christ and his Word that they get arrested!

  • Early Quaker, George Fox was not gaoled multiple times for providing public declarations of support for the decadent morality of 17th-Century English society – or for supporting the prevailing rampant ecclesiastical corruption of mainstream English Christendom… Quite the reverse… Some of his letters from prison are so confronting and potent in their calls for England to repent of its sins, that it’s a miracle he was released from prison as often as he was.

    ” “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in their guilt. “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:17-19 [NIV]

  • So now the question must be asked, 1. although the Parliment and the Judiciary are and should be totally independent, it still looks bad when the House of Lords are not bothering to do anything in these matters. That House, where many members have been appointed because of their service in the Church are failing their calling.
    2. As the Head of the Church of England, the Queen must be in a position to bring some measure of propriety on the Judiciary. Blackstone must be doing cartwheels in his grave, as the whole British legal system was based on the Word of God and Blackstone gave it its foundation.

  • If Donald Trump has given us nothing else, he has given us the expression, “Drain the Swamp.” and one swamp that needs draining badly is the House of Lords , next the House of Commons and then the royal family and their Saudi friends who own half of London , whilst hard working families cannot afford even to buy a modest house in London,.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYndJV6iepQ

    David Skinner UK

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