The modern tower of Babel

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.

Genesis 11 v1-7

A story written thousands of years ago, for a radically different people, with no relevance today. Or so it would seem to many. But it’s worth digging a little deeper, first to understand the story, and then see the parallels with modern life.

What was really going on here? Why were they building a tower, and why did God come down and mess it up? Remember that God sees the heart. And what, under other circumstances, might be understood to be a good endeavour – an expression of our creativity – was not, because of what lay at its heart. They were building themselves a city, reaching towards the heavens, and seeking to make a name for themselves. Ultimately this came down to another manifestation of the very first transgression -‘wanting to become like God’ – in our own strength. And so whilst there may be an element of judgment from God in this, there is actually a bigger element of mercy. By imposing limitation on human endeavour, the worst excesses implicit in the tower were also limited. One of the acts of the Holy Spirit – to restrain – was seen in play here.

So, how then does this relate to us? Well, over the past centuries we have slowly recreated the Tower of Babel; a new tower, not built of bricks and mortar, but of scientific discoveries, of technology, of engineering, of multinational organisations, companies, economies, military, social and other forms of cooperation. Of an internet that spans the globe, connecting us all, and allowing us to communicate and trade instantaneously. Of instant translations that allow us to understand each other.

Now, this new tower is not all evil – far from it! So much of the new building has improved our lives, such that many of the problems our ancestors faced are but a dim and distant memory. If I had been born 100 years ago, I would have been a squint-eyed cripple. The benefit of modern medicine is real. Similarly in so many other areas of our life.

However, there is another side. Taking medicine as an example, the advances that allow us to cure diseases have also facilitated the murder of millions of our own children. The same technology that blesses we have also used to curse in ways that were never before possible.

Each advancement brings the shadow and well as the light. And as we build higher the contrast grows greater – we create new highs, but also manage to introduce darker depths. Take a more modern example. AI doesn’t frighten me. AI in the hands of humans does.

The building of this tower seems to be increasing exponentially, and as it reaches its zenith we must see where it will end. Where it was always going to end. At the pinnacle, the tip of the tower, exerting ourselves with the might of our technology to make ourselves ‘gods’. In a way, I do believe we will succeed in this endeavour – but our shining triumph, which will seem marvelous to so many, will contain in itself a shadow darker than we have ever beheld, or ever will behold again. We will then see in fullness where our godless desire for godhood has led us.

The truth is, the wish to be like God was never wrong, just perverted. Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection has provided the Way and through repentance and surrender we can receive what we have always desired. But there is always a choice. Always. And for those that reject His offer, He has allowed us to build this Modern Babel – named In Ourselves Do we Trust. This Tower, He will not restrain and will permit us to build it to its pinnacle, and see it completed. Only then will it fall under the weight of its own contradictions and darkness – and terrible will be that day.

But there is another structure being built. This structure is disregarded by the world – both the cornerstone and the living stones rejected as worthless. But it is a structure that will outlast the Ages. In which place will you be found on the day all buildings will be tested?

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Ps 118 v22-23
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Thoughtcrime is now a real thing

In a bit of a “we got here first” totalitarian leap, the UK has introduced a first of type thoughtcrime law. Yesterday, parliament voted to criminalise any form of “influence” outside of abortion facilities – including in the form of silent prayer. Bizarre, but true. In fact, MPs specifically voted against a measure that would have protected consensual conversations and silent prayers.

Lest this seem something for the “it could never happen here” award, it already has. Twice.

Whether or not you agree with the views expressed is kind of not the point. This is more about the society we are becoming, and it is as far from healthy as is possible.

Mind you, inquiring minds wonder how this will actually be enforced, if the person is not prepared to divulge whether he/she is actually praying. That could end up being a tragicomedic legal process.

And I’d also say, in the battle between the power of prayer, and the power of the state, I know where I’ll place my money….

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Prior to the vote at the Church of England General Synod, the Archbishop of the Province of Alexandria spoke clearly and forthrightly about what the vote would mean for the wider Anglican Communion. You can watch that here:

Specifically, he said:

In our understanding of marriage and sexuality there is a red line we will never cross. Crossing this line of blessing same-sex unions will alienate 75 percent of the Anglican Communion and endanger the ecumenical and interface dialogue. This shift in practice will lead eventually to impaired and broken communion.

We inherited the traditional orthodox faith of the Church of England so please please do not surrender your unique possession as the mother Church of the Anglican Communion. It is your choice.

Speaking as he did just before the vote was taken, nobody – not Bishops, not Clergy, nor Laity – could have been in any doubt as to the gravity of the decision being made. But yet, they went ahead regardless.

In times to come, it is quite likely that those of an orthodox Anglican faith will be accused of schism because of actions of differentiation taken in response to this vote. However, be crystal clear – the real schismatic act was the choice made in the vote yesterday.

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I have found that, when following Anglican synods both sides of the pond, that the Lord has a way of creating a testimony that can be seen by those with eyes to see.

So, even in the midst of the CoE decision to turn away from God and to follow the world, comes todays lectionary reading:

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

‘This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called “woman”,
    for she was taken out of man.’

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:18-25

We can ignore and reject the truth, but we cannot ignore the consequences of rejecting the truth.

All that comes now will be the sad and painful result of the schismatic decision today.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.

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There are none so blind….

I read an article recently on adoption, and this part stood out.

Penny Green, an ex-charity worker from Bedfordshire, created the Facebook group for people who were born or have a link to The Haven, a mother and baby home run by the Baptist Church, after being born there herself.

The 62-year-old explained unmarried mums applied to go there to give birth and their babies were adopted – often forcibly.

“The theory was back then that they were doing all these unmarried mums a favour because it was not the done thing to be an unmarried mother,” she said.

We don’t suffer the sins of the 1960s. No, these days we take care of the problem at source… What it is to be a more enlightened generation!

Next on the list of enlightenment, simple injections to take all the pain away, for ever. The Netherlands and Canada have shown us the way.

So much suffering taken care of so cleanly, so efficiently.

All it costs is our humanity.

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We are not the righteous

There may be a bit of an uptick on Anglican focused posts this year. The news from the Church of England bishops last week comes as no surprise. Last November I said the writing was on the wall, and here we are. For me, having lived through events in Canada it is a bit like rereading a book. Same sex blessings was then avant-garde, now it is presented as a compromise between theological positions. Much is now being written, talking about synod votes, legal challenges and suchlike.

Honestly, the die is now cast. Whatever precise direction the path takes, the end point will be the same. Rather than talking about that, I’d like to present a different perspective.

Firstly, be at peace. There will be a lot of inflamed emotions and things said that, in more sober moments, will be regretted. This is nothing that God does not already know about, and indeed will be just part of His intent. Ichabod is still the judgment, but in the midst, God is building up His Church, His body, ready for the times to come.

Secondly, hear the heart of God. It is full of sorrow, for a bride turning her back, taking a pinch of incense and worshipping at the altar of the world’s idols. We cannot move forward until we have plumbed that heart of sorrow for those who have turned away to run after other gods.

Lastly, and so very importantly for this next chapter, please hear this. We are not the right-thinking righteous ones. Oh, I know we kind of know that. But it will be so easy, so insidiously easy, during the period of separation to slip into the role of the Pharisee, thanking God we are not like those other men.

No, we are not the righteous ones. Rather we are the miserable failures. We are the ones who let this happen. We are the ones who abandoned our flocks to the wolves. We are the ones who were silent when the world blared lies, because we were afraid, because we wanted to be liked, or at least ignored. This happened on our watch, and we are all culpable. Woe to us, for we did not preach the whole gospel!

This is the unvarnished truth, and may be hard for some to hear. But the thing is, unless we acknowledge the truth we will remain hard of hearing as far as God is concerned. And we really, really need to hear from Him in this season.

We need to repent. There, I’ve said it. A word we maybe don’t hear too much these days. We need to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, miserable wretches that we are. Because He is merciful, and gracious. And while we were still studiously ignoring the elephant in the room, he has made a way. I mean, He IS the Way. How could it be other?

In all humility and contriteness of spirit, knowing we have royally messed up, let us follow our merciful Lord. He knows we are flesh, just a passing breeze. He knows we are small, fickle and easily cowed. And He is sufficient. Hear this. He. Is. Sufficient. For this time, which is merely the harbinger or foreshock of the times to come. He is sufficient, and His grace is outrageously abundant!

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The light of Christ

We live in a culture that worships immanence, and for whom transcendence is something barely recognised. Our eyes have become so dimmed, we can only occasionally see. We have been taught by the spirit of this age that nothing really matters, only our changing and drifting whims. To be Christian, becomes very much a minority opinion.

But though many turn away, as it has always been foretold, yet some will see. For in a growing darkness, the light of Christ will shine ever brighter. For this is the light of the King, the Saviour who has both loved and overcome the world. Capture this light in your souls, while you still can – for today is the day of salvation.

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The Bishop of Oxford made the news recently, making clear his views on same sex marriage had changed and he was now advocating that the Church of England embrace this practice. He apologised for causing distress and pain to LGBTQ+ people.

This evolution of views is presented as an act of contrition, compassion, love and understanding. But in truth it is none of these things. Rather, it is betrayal and deceit. Strong words. To understand why this is so requires a little background.

The traditional position of the Church on matters of sexual morality is, and has been for millennia, that the best functioning of society and families can be found in the joining together of one man and one woman in marriage – forming the stable core to raise children and contribute to a healthy society.

The Church of England’s current position could most charitably said to be somewhat muddy. We jettisoned the historical position decades ago, tacitly approving adultery and fornication under the guise of pastoral care. Approval of same sex marriage is just the latest in misguided compassion. Come as you are, stay as you are, it’s all good. Only it isn’t all good. And we know that really. A Jesus who comes to pat us on the head and mouth gentle platitudes is no Christ at all. If we have no need of saving, we have no need of a saviour.

Rather than the comfort of a false cocoon, we need to be faced with the reality that our unredeemed nature is inherently disordered. Just because we want something, feel something, desire something, ‘are’ something – doesn’t make it good. And that is often so hard to see. Especially when our whole identity – the very essence of ‘who we are’ gets wrapped up in our inherent disorder. Then any challenge, however gentle, becomes an attack on our very selves. We are diminished and turned in on ourselves, and we can’t see it. We are called to be so much more.

A Christian sexual ethic isn’t restrictive, old fashioned, bigoted – though all these epithets and more will be thrown at the Church. Rather it is compassion – true compassion – not the cheap sort that leaves you as you are. Genuine compassion is the love of a friend to challenge the path we are on and point us in a new Way. Whether or not we accept it is then up to us.

So, back to betrayal and deceit. Why so?

It is a betrayal of those who are same sex attracted and for years have endeavoured to live according to the Christian sexual ethic. Who have denied themselves, so that they might follow Christ. It says to us, well, all your sacrifices were completely pointless. Because we have discovered a new truth which just so happens to conform to the spirit of the age. It is not wrong, or hyperbole, to call this a betrayal.

It is a deceit to leave people where they are, and say everything is good. It is the false compassion of cheering on, celebrating and comforting someone whose path leads to the edge of a cliff. It is the deceit of the snake, whispering in our ears the message that we want to hear: “did God really say….?”

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12 v2

The Church isn’t called to bless whatever society is doing right now. We’re not called to be popular or liked. Rather Jesus said we will be hated because of Him.

We’re called to be salt, to be light. Which means being different. If the salt loses it’s savour, what then is it good for? This is a question the Church of England will have to answer in the months ahead. The writing is on the wall.

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The hope beyond

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will have probably come away with the message that difficult times are imminent (and are now here in some respects) for the church in the West, and that we need to be prepared, dug deep into the Rock of Christ. But also hopefully you’ll have heard the message that within and amidst these times of trouble, will come times of blessing and joy.

How can this be? This is because we are a people of hope. We must not be misled, there is a Golgotha road to travel. But beyond that road, beyond the cross, is the promise of life – life everlasting “to him (or her) who overcomes”.

And we do not walk this path alone. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”. Whatever man may find in his heart to do, God can and has done so much more. So take heart – neither you or I are able or capable. But we serve One who is.

So many times in the New Testament we are exhorted to patient endurance – as Romans 5 testifies, this is the virtue that, in time, produces the very hope we all need to survive.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12 v1-3
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The desecration of the land

They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to false gods.
They shed innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
    and the land was desecrated by their blood.

Psalm 106 v37-38

The importance of blood and what it represents seems to be something rarely talked about these days. We know about the blood of Jesus, but it is often removed from its context and full meaning.

The life of the living was established very early on to reside in the blood, and it is clear what happens when blood is shed unjustly:

“Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.

Numbers 35 v33-34

Innocent bloodshed is regarded by God as something that pollutes the land. The exile of Judah in 786BC was actually precipitated by this sin.

Understand that timing of the Lord’s response is not the same as ours – Manasseh’s wicked reign began in 687 BC, but Jerusalem did not fall until just over 100 years later. But this judgment fell even after Josiah’s reforms and repentance. As Jonathan Edwards wrote:

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose.

The shedding of innocent blood cannot go unanswered – sooner or later it requires a reckoning. It is so serious that it leads to the desecration, or desolation, of the very land itself.

This brings us then to Jesus. In the shedding of His blood, He answered and satisfied the required atonement. The ultimate reckoning He took upon Himself . This sacrificial atonement of blood, the very essence of life, was fulfilled in Jesus, when He shed His blood in our place.

But, there still remains a choice. This is a sacrifice that has to be accepted. He can only be in us, and we in him if we surrender our lives to Him, as He did for us. Atonement for bloodshed is either found through Jesus, or it is required from the hands of those who shed it.

All this is crucial to understand the times in which we live.

In 2021 approximately 112 million people died. Nearly 43 million of those were babies killed in the womb. Abortion is the leading cause of death globally. Let that sink in for a bit. In 2022 the butchery continues – at the time of writing 61 million have died, of which 26 million are babies murdered in utero.

Oceans of blood are on our hands. There was a time where we may have understood what that meant. Though our understanding has faded and been corrupted, it doesn’t change our culpability.

Can we seriously imagine that God is indifferent to our industrial scale butchery?

Our land is drowned in the blood of innocence, the cry reaches to heaven, and the only answer that suffices – the atoning blood of Jesus – is ignored or despised. The only thing that might give us a chance.

The unconscionable murder of so many innocent human beings requires a response. God is not unjust; he did not ignore Manasseh’s crimes, is He any more likely to overlook our comparably more heinous offence?

Perhaps we don’t even need to talk of judgment, but consequence – what happens when we abandon the only One who can cover our offense. What happens when the restrainer is withdrawn. “Your will be done”, God says to us. There is no more profound judgment than that. God did not cause what then follows. We do. We choose death, and death chooses us.

This is the reality, this is the time in which we live. Which is why my heart hurts to see so much of the Church asleep! Indifferent, unaware, slumbering, careless in the face of approaching disaster! Our eyes are closed just as were the Israelites prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. We don’t want to hear anybody speaking an uncomfortable message. We don’t want to face the winds of our pagan culture head on; we’d rather hide in our buildings.

If we don’t, or won’t, understand the times in which we live, how will we be salt and light? Rather, we can expect to be tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind. Having so little appreciation, we run the risk of being like the foolish virgins with no oil for their lamps. We won’t be able to shed any light for ourselves, let alone anybody else.

And shedding light is the desire of God for us. To be awake, sober, understanding and ready. Lamps full of oil and wicks trimmed so the light of Christ may shine brightly in a world racked by turmoil. Ready to be His hands and feet, ready to rescue those who can no longer rescue themselves. To guide to safe harbour as the storm gathers strength. To put our lives on the line, because we are no longer our own. To see past the current desecration of the land to the future of hope – the new heavens and earth that He promises for those who endure and overcome in the blood of the Lamb.

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