Jesus is… alive

Life, Sola Panel, Thought, Sola Panel

It’s the central claim of Christianity: Jesus is alive.

Not just that his memory lives on in people’s hearts. Not that his teaching still inspires people today. But that Jesus rose from the dead—flesh and blood, in time and space. (more…)

Man of Sorrows

Bible Brief, Life, Sola Panel

My favourite Easter hymn is “Man of Sorrows” by Philipp Bliss (1838-1876). Its first line and title comes from the most famous Old Testament prophecy of all, one of Isaiah’s so-called Servant Songs. (more…)

Interview: Majoring on the majors

Everyday Ministry, Pastoral Ministry

God gives different gifts to different people. The important thing is not the gifts we’re given, but what we do with them. Being a godly man, Chappo always used his gifts for the gospel, and always for other people. (more…)

Give working families a rest

Sola Panel

Work is a profoundly social activity. Few if any of us function as single subsistence farmers, disconnected from everybody else. We all work in a large complex network of relationships. From the suppliers of raw materials, to the manufacturers, the marketers and sales people, the distributors, the wholesalers and retailers, to the purchasers and delivery agents—interpersonal relationships in the division of our labour is normality. A well ordered society can feed, clothe, house and entertain millions of people in safety, comfort and justice every day. Indeed the evolved modern market place is one of the testimonies to human ingenuity that no central planner could have devised. (more…)

Romans 12:1-2

Bible 101

One of my favourite classes at university was medical ethics. As is often the case, it was because of the lecturer. He would introduce us to a medical case that raised an ethical issue (e.g. euthanasia), and he would ask us: “What would you have done? Why?” Then he would argue with us. He would debunk our arguments and destabilize our presuppositions, and he always seemed to win in the end. At one level, the experience was satisfying. He wanted us to become thoughtful clinicians who could appreciate the complexity of medical ethics. But at another level, it was dissatisfying. There was no anchor for our ethics. We were cast adrift upon a sea of endless questioning. (more…)

→ Where are the honest atheists?


From a fascinating article by Damon Linker at The Week on the continuing crop of ‘new atheists’:

If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

(h/t Jean Williams)

Chappo and the magic potion

Pastoral Ministry, Review

I’m not sure John Chapman would have approved of this article, on two counts. For a start, it speaks more positively of him than he would have been comfortable with; but more particularly, this article tries to do two things at once, a vice that Chappo decried in many a trainee preacher. (more…)

St Patrick the Irish Evangelical


St Patrick’s Day is a Saint’s day. There is nothing wrong with celebrating saint’s days, though there is nothing particularly right either. As our Apostle says: “One man esteems one day as better than another while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

Legendary stories make it hard to know the truth about early saints. We do not know anything about some saints, like St Valentine, and what we know about other famous ones, like St Nicholas, is contradictory and confusing. Even for some Biblical saints there is very little information, like St Matthias or St Bartholomew. (more…)

On second thoughts

Sola Panel, Thought, Sola Panel

I am having second thoughts about my recent post on playing the ball and not the man.

The first stirrings of misgiving came from Tom’s comment, when he suggested that ‘to play the man and not the ball’ originally related to soccer, where it is far more obvious when you are playing the man not the ball—that is, because the ball usually runs somewhat free of the man. And so it is theoretically possible in soccer (although still uncommon) to have contact only or mainly with the ball, and avoid contact with the man. In fact, making contact with the man is often a ‘foul’. Does this better present the kind of lofty ideal that I proposed in the first half of my article: that it is desirable where possible to discuss ideas on their own merits, without reference to the person putting them forward? (more…)

Playing the man and not the ball

Life, Thought, Sola Panel

I’ve been pondering the unwelcome reality of disagreements with friends.

My recent Briefing review of Michael Jensen’s book on Sydney Anglicanism* reflects a difference of opinion between Michael and me that we are still in the midst of discussing. I’m also in the process of writing something in response to John Dickson’s ebook on women and sermons, and this too will highlight disagreements with John about some important issues. (more…)

A cry of hopelessness

Life, Sola Panel, Sola Panel

What I’ve written here is not all that can be said about suffering: far from it. But I’ve published it, somewhat hesitantly, because I think suffering will drive all of us to this point sooner or later.

flickr: Pink Sherbet Photography

I sit there stony-faced, staring out the windscreen, driving in automatic, lips pressed together. I’ve had enough. I don’t want it any more: this struggle and these doubts and these unanswered prayers. I’ve had enough. It’s been a long week – a long year! – and there’s nothing left. I’ve had enough.

My 12-year-old son sits next to me. (more…)

Leviticus 16:30-31

Bible 101

“For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.”
I must have been around 11 years old when one of the rabbis at the synagogue I attended taught us something I previously had been unaware of. He told us that being forgiven by God was very important. He was quite serious: 20 years later I still remember his sombre tone as he exhorted us to make amends for any wrongs we might have on our conscience. (more…)

The preaching of John Chapman

Everyday Ministry, Pastoral Ministry

When John Chapman came to your church in the 1970s, it was like the evangelical circus had come to town. I don’t mean that it was entertainment (though he was gripping) or that there were clowns (though he was hilarious) or even that it was a spectacle (though he was larger than life). I mean that it was the best day of the year. (more…)

The first 50 lessons are the hardest

Everyday Ministry, Pastoral Ministry

While not exactly Chappo’s words, “The first 50 lessons are the hardest” is more than a faint echo of something we often heard him say. I’m going to share with you something of Chappo’s legacy in the area of evangelistic practice. He taught me at least 50 lessons. Here are my top ten.

Idolatry and the God of History


I love art. I have to say that because nobody believes I do when I speak on idolatry. It’s the same with music. I have to protest my love of music whenever I question something about the use of music in Christian life. My protestations matter little to those who have art or music as their idols. However, I hope that you, dear reader, will not dismiss my criticisms as the mere prejudice of a Philistine. I do love art. (more…)