UPDATED 16th January 2017

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AUDIO SERMONS BY TONY & PATRICIA HIGTON:

Tony and Patricia met at theological college and have spoken together in many places around the world for many years.

RECENT SERMONS:

We must crucify the old nature Gal 5:1, 16-25 (Tony 26.06.16, 18 mins)

 New birth, living hope, eternal inheritance 1 Peter 1:3-9 (Tony 03.07.16, 18 mins)

 Getting to know God better Col 1:15-20 (Patricia, 17.07.16, 15 mins)

 God is in Christ, Christ is in us Col 2:6-15 (Tony 24.07.16, 22 mins)

 Listen to God, Submit to God then God will provide Psalm 81:1, 15-16 (Tony 28.08.16, 20 mins)

 How to be a true disciple Luke 14:25-35 (Tony 04.09.16, 18 mins)

 The Bible 01 – Inspiration 2 Tim 3:16-17 (Tony 25.09.16, 14 mins)

 The Spirit of power, love and self-discipline 2 Tim 1:1-14 (Tony 02.10.16, 17 mins)

 The Bible 02 – How to interpret Scripture – Different types of literature (Tony 09.10.16, 19 mins)

 The Bible 03 – A glimpse at the first five books of the Bible (Tony 23,10.16, 21 mins)

The Bible 04 – A brief look at the historical books in the OT (Tony 12.11.16, 25 mins)

The Bible 05 – A glimpse of the prophetic books in the OT (Tony 27.11.16, 24 mins)

The Bible 06 – An overview of Paul’s epistles (Tony 08.01.17 25 mins)

EARLIER SERMONS

“The vital importance of prayer” 1 Thess 5:17 etc (Tony 16 mins 11.10.15): A church must pray together other than in services.

“God’s plan for the universal church” (Tony 18.10.15 19 mins): God wants a united church not a conglomeration of individuals.

“God’s plan for the local church” Acts 2:42-47 (Tony 01.11.15 13 mins): God wants the local church to be a deeply committed fellowship

“The church as the Body of Christ” John 17:11-23 etc (Tony 01.11.15 17 mins): Jesus prayed that each church would experience deep unity in diversity.

“Baptism is not enough” 1 John 5:9-15 (Tony 06.12.15 11 mins): We must also invite Jesus into our lives.

“The church is the bride of Christ” Rev 21:1-14 (Tony 13.12.15 17 mins): The church must constantly prepare for the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb

“Gentiles are heirs together with Jews” Eph 3:1-12 (Tony 03.01.16) 17 mins)

The gifts of the Spirit are important for the church” 1 Cor 12:1-11 (Tony 17.01.16 19 mins): The gifts of the Spirit are available today.

“We have a glorious Lord” Luke 9:28-36 (Tony 07.02.16 15 mins): The Transfiguration shows how awesome Jesus is.

“The many ways Satan tempts us” Luke 4:1-13 (Tony 14.02.16 22 mins).

“As God’s chosen people put on love” Col 3:12-17 (Tony 16.03.16 19 mins)

“Knowing Christ” Php 3:4b-14 (Tony Mar 13th 18 mins)

“Taking sin, the Cross and Resurrection seriously Acts 10:34-43 (Tony Mar 27th 20 mins).

“Overcoming fear” John 20:19-31 (Tony 03.04.16 19 mins).

“St John’s understanding of Jesus as God” John 21:1-4; Rev 5 (Patricia 10.04.16 15 mins).

“The new heaven and new earth” Rev 21:1-6 (Tony 17.04.16 18 mins).

“Overcoming fear” John 20:19-31 (Tony 03.04.16 19 mins).

 “St John’s understanding of Jesus as God” John 21:1-4; Rev 5 (Patricia 10.04.16 15 mins).

 “The new heaven and new earth” Rev 21:1-6 (Tony 17.04.16 18 mins).

 “Longing for more of God” Psa 63 (Tony 01.05.16 13 mins).

“Living by faith” Luke 7:1-10 (Patricia 18 mins 29.05.16)

“The priority of loving God” Gal 2:15-21 (Tony 16 mins 18.06.16) There is a lot of loving neighbour in society but little loving God.

 Go to http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/sermons.html and click the appropriate link.


 

1. TO ENCOURAGE A SENSIBLE APPROACH TO ESCHATOLOGY (THE DOCTRINE OF THE END TIMES, THE RETURN OF CHRIST, ETC).

Many Christians (including Christian leaders) neglect this, either because they don’t feel competent to deal with it or because they are embarrassed by unbalanced extremists. I want to help rectify this by providing Christian teaching and also comment on current events and trends, with particular reference to anything relevant to Jesus’ teaching on the signs of the End Times. I try to take a constructively critical, extensively researched approach. I have completed the main (systematic) section with teaching on the subjects listed below. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/eschatology.html for both a Full (more detailed) Version and a Summary Version.

However you will find Updates on Eschatology on the blog below (which have also been incorporated into the main website above) and you are welcome to comment on them here.

2. TO INFORM PEOPLE ABOUT THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

For a number of years I lived and ministered in Jerusalem, leading an international organisation whose aim is to share the gospel sensitively with Jewish people and leading Christ Church, Jerusalem. Since then I have been seeking to inform Christians about the need, pain and fear on BOTH sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, because God loves both sides. See http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/index.html. My recent newsletter on the Israel-Gaza conflict is at http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/newsletter.html.

3. TO MAKE CONSIDERED PROPHETIC COMMENT ON CURRENT EVENTS AND TRENDS.

See below on the blog.

4. TO PROVIDE FREE, PRACTICAL, USER-FRIENDLY RESOURCES FOR CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS

These include apologetics (defence of the faith), biblical material, church development, church issues, devotional articles, doctrinal resources, evangelistic, interfaith and pastoral issues. Additions will be made to these materials. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/

ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES) SUBJECTS COVERED
The signs of the End
Will there be a sudden, secret “Rapture” of believers to heaven?
The ‘Great Tribulation’ and the Antichrist
Secular eschatology – What secular scholars are predicting about the future of the world
The Battle of Armageddon & Cosmic signs
Old Testament Eschatology
The return of Christ
Will there be a literal Millennium?
End times judgment
Approaching death
Resurrection
The destruction of world
The truth about Hell
The hope of Heaven
Appendix: Understanding the Book of Revelation
Appendix: The Place of Islam in the End Times

What about the Good News?

I am aware that, in focusing on eschatology and prophetic comment on the news, I frequently major on bad news rather than good news. Does that mean I’m only interesting in doom and gloom? No, not at all. However, there is a lot of doom and gloom in New Testament eschatology, and we must take it seriously alongside the love, joy, peace and eternal life which results from the gospel.

Jesus himself told us to watch for negative signs of the time: wars and rumours of wars, famine, disease, earthquakes, persecution, church decline and apostasy, false prophets and messiahs, great distress (tribulation) and worrying events in the heavens. The rest of the NT has a fair amount of doom and gloom about the End Times. After all, the Book of Revelation is hardly light-hearted

So I major on giving updates on some disturbing “signs of the times”: artificial intelligence, church decline, genetic engineering, global warming, Islam, oppression & persecution of Christians, secularisation & societal decline, matters of sexuality, significant political developments, terrorism and war, world poverty, etc.

We have to take note of such things if we are to obey Jesus who said: “Watch out that no one deceives you … keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt 24:4, 42-44).

Having said all this, I do come across Christians who take eschatology seriously but read almost everything in society and the church negatively – it’s all doom and gloom. And I don’t believe that is correct. There is a huge amount of good in the world (theologically-speaking, it is the result of God’s “common grace” or the “general work of the Holy Spirit”). We need to maintain the balance and I do seek to share some good news amidst my main emphasis of keeping watch and noting the “signs of the times.”

What is on this site?

NEW ON THE BLOG

Update on Secularisation (January 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/update-on-secularisation-january-2017/

Update on Persecution (December 2016) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-persecution-december-2016/

Update on Church Decline (Nov 2016) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-church-decline-nov-2016-2/

Update on Anti-Semitism http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/update-on-anti-semitism/

Update on World Government and Oppression http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/update-on-world-government-and-oppression/

Update on Global Warming  http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/disease/update-on-global-warming/

Update on war and terrorism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/war/update-on-war-and-terrorism/

Is the UK more Christian than the rest of Europe? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/european-union/is-the-uk-more-christian-than-the-rest-of-europe/

Is the UK more pro-Israel than the rest of Europe? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/anti-semitism/is-the-uk-more-pro-israel-than-the-rest-of-europe/

Update on the decline of Christian Belief. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-decline-of-christian-belief/

What should be our attitude to the European Union? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/what-should-be-our-attitude-to-the-european-union-2/ 

Update on Pandemics. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/update-on-the-danger-of-pandemics/

Update on Middle East tensions. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/update-on-middle-east-tensions/

I agree with Peter Tatchell over Ashers Bakery! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/i-agree-with-peter-tatchell-over-ashers-bakery/

An update on social decline. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/update-on-social-decline/

An update on Secularism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-secularism/

An update on anti-Semitism and some dangers in combatting it. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/an-update-on-anti-semitism-and-some-dangers-in-combatting-it/

World inequality. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/world-inequality/

Richard Dawkins speaks positively about Christianity! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/apologetics/richard-dawkins-speaks-favourably-about-christianity/

Update on the Oppression of Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/update-on-oppression-of-christians/

Further update on terrorism and war. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/further-update-on-terrorism-and-war/

How do we recognise God’s judgment? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/how-do-we-recognise-gods-judgement/

Update on the serious implications of terrorism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-the-serious-implications-of-terrorism/

Update on the Church of England. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchdevelopment/update-on-the-church-of-england/

Update on homosexual issues. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchissues/update-on-homosexual-issues/

Update on trends towards world government. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-trends-towards-world-government/

Secularisation and non-religious spirituality. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/secularisation-and-non-religious-spirituality/

Why the church fails to teach about eschatology. See
http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/why-the-church-fails-to-teach-about-eschatology/

Chair of the Islamic Society of Great Britain says the next coronation should be Christian. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/chair-of-the-islamic-society-of-great-britain-says-the-next-coronation-should-be-christian/

Good news: Palestinian rescues 5 Jewish students under attack in the West Bank. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/good-news-palestinian-rescues-5-jewish-students-under-attack-in-the-west-bank/

“Jesus will return this month”. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/jesus-may-return-this-month/

Jesus preached the present and coming Rule of God. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/jesus-preached-the-present-and-coming-rule-of-god/

“Street preachers must not preach about morality”! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/street-preachers-must-not-preach-about-morality/

Christians and others under antichrist rule. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/christians-and-others-under-antichrist-rule/

John the Baptist said Jesus would baptise in the Spirit AND judge the impenitent. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/john-the-baptist-said-jesus-would-baptise-in-the-spirit-and-judge-the-impenitent/

Update on war and the threat of war. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-war-and-the-threat-of-war/

Former imam who attacked churches converts to Christianity. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/former-imam-who-attacked-churches-converts-to-christianity/

Tory MP says use anti-terror laws against teachers who say gay marriage is sinful. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/tory-mp-says-use-anti-terror-laws-against-teachers-who-say-gay-marriage-is-sinful/

The Bible predicts Jesus will rule over Israel. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-bible-predicts-jesus-will-rule-over-israel/

Update on Secular Eschatology. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-secular-eschatology/

“Birth pangs of the Messiah”. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/birth-pangs-of-the-messiah/

Iraqi Christian leader refused entry to US to advocate for persecuted Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/iraqi-christian-leader-refused-entry-to-us-to-advocate-for-persecuted-christians/

Homosexual baker strongly disapproves of homosexuals bullying Christian bakers. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/homosexual-baker-strongly-disapproves-of-homosexuals-bullying-christian-bakers/

The Middle East situation and its effects on Christians and Israel. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/the-middle-east-situation-and-its-effects-on-christians-and-israel/

So the government wants to relax Sunday Trading laws. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/secularisation/so-the-government-wants-to-relax-the-sunday-trading-laws/

You personally can combat ‘Islamic State’. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/you-personally-can-combat-islamic-state/

Persecution is coming in the West. See
http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/persecution-is-coming-in-the-west/

Church growth and decline. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchdevelopment/church-growth-and-decline/

Anti-Christian attitudes in Britain: Tim Farron. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/anti-christian-attitudes-in-britain-tim-farron/

Muslim imam raises money for church vandalised by young Muslim. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/muslim-imam-raises-money-for-church-vandalised-by-young-muslim/

Former MI5 boss says Counter-Extremism Bill could be used against Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/ex-mi5-boss-warns-counter-extremism-bill-could-be-used-against-christians/

David Cameron doesn’t understand religion. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/secularisation/david-cameron-doesnt-understand-religion/

Thank God for this Muslim leader’s comment. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/thank-god-for-this-muslim-leaders-comments/

Belfast Pastor to be prosecuted for saying Islam is Satanic. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/belfast-pastor-to-be-prosecuted-for-saying-islam-is-satanic/

Bishop encouraged Osama bin Laden. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/bishop-encouraged-osama-bin-laden/

What about the Irish referendum on gay marriage? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/what-about-the-irish-referendum-on-gay-marriage/

The Belfast “gay cake” controversy. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/the-belfast-gay-cake-controversy/

Serious trends in the present situation. See  http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/serious-trends-in-the-present-situation/

Will Artificial Intelligence be the end of the human race? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/will-artificial-intelligence-be-the-end-of-the-human-race/

Why we should take note of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/why-we-should-take-note-of-wars-famines-earthquakes-pestilences/

Update on the Signs of the End: Anti-Semitism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/update-on-signs-of-the-end-anti-semitism/

Update on the Signs of the End: Pestilences. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=837

Update on the Signs of the End: Nuclear Terrorism & War.  See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=842

Update on Signs of the End 03 – Persecution & Oppression. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=871

Update on the Signs of the End 04 – Preparation for the End: Movements towards World Government.See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=875

Update on the Signs of the End 05 – Global Warming. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk.blog/?p=883

Update on the Signs of the End 06 – Turning away from the Faith. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk.blog/?p=886

INDEX OF RECENT ADDITIONS

ATHEISM (SCIENCE & RELIGION)

Why have atheists started their own church? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=263)

A response to Stephen Hawking’s atheism (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=172)

Has science squeezed God out? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=93)

Hawking finally disproves God – or does he? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=70)

BIBLE

The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/Inspiration&AuthorityOfScripture%2001.pdf)

The nature of God in the Old Testament (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/NatureOfGodInTheOldTestament.pdf)

An outline of the Old Testament (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/AnOutlineOftheOldTestament.pdf)

The wind could have parted Red Sea for Moses (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=79)

CHRISTIAN LIFE

·         BIBLE READING

Why read the Bible? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=46)

·          FEAR OF GOD

There is no fear of God http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=333

Miserable Sinners? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=36)

·         FORGIVENESS

God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive everyone (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=156)

·         LOVE

Love is complicated – but good for you! (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=91)

·         PRAYER
·         RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

What does it mean to “know” Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=154)

CHURCH GENERAL

What is the best form of worship? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=60)

Why join a prayer group? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=40)

CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Is the Church of England in terminal decline? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=164)

Should we have women bishops? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=56)

CREATION & EVOLUTION (GENESIS)

How does the Genesis account of the Fall of Man relate to Evolution? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=186)

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on Creation & Evolution (Genesis) http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=307

ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES)

Should we be thinking frequently about the Return of Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=224)

Hastening the return of Christ (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=222)

Can we ignore what the New Testament says about signs of Jesus’ return? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/CanWeIgnoreSingsOfJesusReturn.pdf))

Some thoughts on the Book of Revelation (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/SomeThoughtsOnTheBookOfRevelation.pdf)

The meteor/asteroid coincidence – what does it mean? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=256)

GOD & THE WORLD

How God operates in the world (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=181)

HOMOSEXUALITY

What about ‘gay marriage’? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=237)

Church of Scotland approves Ministers in homosexual relationships (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=168)

ISRAEL & MIDDLE EAST

Is it right to divide the Promised Land? http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=284

My attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=277

The decline of Christianity in the Middle East (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=88)

World Council of Churches statement on the Middle East http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=398

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on Israel (and the Palestinians) http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=309

 

JUSTICE

Innocent until proved guilty (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=158)

OTHER FAITHS

Respecting Muslims (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=73)

Christian Unity and Other Faiths (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=34)

My attitude towards Islam and Muslims http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=389

RECONCILIATION

Listen to both sides (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=43)

SCIENCE & RELIGION (SEE ATHEISM)

SECULARISATION OF SOCIETY

Is Britain anti-Christian? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=95)

·         DISCRIMINATION v CHRISTIANS

Discrimination against British Christians (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/DiscriminationAgainstBritishChristians.pdf)

Discrimination against British Christians: Update 1 (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=179)

GENERAL TOPICS

 “Watching violent videos encourages violence” – fancy that! (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=86)

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on General Religious Topics http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=305

 

“Britain is unusually irreligious” what the polls say

 

There is a lower proportion of religious people in Britain than in 58 other countries according to a 2015 poll.[1]

 

The number of Britons identifying as Christians has fallen by almost 5% between 2011 and 2016 according to a Lord Ashcroft poll. In August 2016 the percentage stood at 51.4%. The number self-identifying as having no religion has risen from 35.8% to 40.5% in the same period.[2] A YouGov poll put the percentage of Britons with no religion at 47%.[3] In January 2016 weekly Church of England attendance fell below one million for the first time.

 

However, the polls do not all agree with one another. The 2016 British Social Attitudes Survey shows that the decline of religion in Britain has levelled out. They actually show the percentage is lower, but also shows that there was a 1% rise in Britons describing themselves as Christian (42% to 43%) and a 1% reduction in those claiming to have no religion (49% to 48%). It added that, according to its research, the proportion of Britons describing themselves as Christian is the same as seven years ago. However experts say that this is a temporary halt before the oldest and most religious generation dies out. The number of people claiming to be Church of England dropped from 22% in 2006 to 17% in 2015.

 

Whichever poll one looks at, the percentage of nominal Christians is very low, and polls of church attendance show a far lower percentage of the population.

 

Theresa May stirs up controversy over her Christian faith

 

In a recent interview, Theresa May was asked by a journalist how she dealt with the difficult decisions a prime minister has to make. She responded: “It’s about, ‘Are you doing the right thing?’ If you know you are doing the right thing, you have the confidence, the energy to go and deliver that right message … I suppose there is something in terms of faith. I am a practising member of the Church of England and so forth, that lies behind what I do.” Her father was a vicar. She attends church regularly.

 

Bob Morgan “a commentator on society and politics” wrote an article criticising the prime minister for speaking in favour of Christianity. The main significance of the article was to show his embarrassing ignorance of Christianity. It was entitled “Theresa May’s Christianity – Another Way Of Dividing The Country.”

 

Stephen Evans, Campaigns Director of the National Secular Society commented: “The Prime Minister would do well to remember that she governs on behalf of everyone, including those of minority faiths and of course the majority of citizens who are not religious. While it is fine for Theresa May to have a faith, what she mustn’t do is abuse her position to promote Christianity or impose her own religious values on others.”

 

Ignorance and uneasiness about Christianity

 

On the other hand, Baroness Warsi, who was Minister for Faith in a previous government, urged Theresa May to reinstate the post of faith minister which was quietly dropped after the last election. As a Muslim, she said that the decline of Christianity in Britain was having an adverse effect on other faith groups. “I said back in 2012 Europe needs to be sure about its own Christian heritage for me to be able to understand my minority faith and for that heritage to be accurately reflected. It was an argument I consistently made in government. It wasn’t particularly popular in an ever secular society – an ever secular government.”

 

Sadly, she added a comment showing the hostility towards religion in Whitehall circles. “When I was the minister for faith there was a great catchphrase, they used to call me the minister for fairies, goblins and imaginary friends.”

 

David Isaac, chairman of the Equalities and Human Right Commission, recently encouraged employers to allow Christmas parties and decoration, sending Christmas cards etc., rather than thinking this was offensive to people of other faiths. He said: “Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and it shouldn’t be suppressed through fear of offending.”

 

An editorial in the Guardian laments the fact that people such as David Isaac (and Theresa May) feel they have to say that people should be able to speak freely about their faith and to celebrate it. It says it is a symptom “of a deep unease and confusion about the role of Christianity in British life.” It adds: “The nervousness over Christmas, or even over expressing religious belief, is an absurd expression of a real void at the heart of soulless technocracy [i.e. society controlled by technical experts].”[4]

 

UN moves to remove compulsory school worship

 

In June 2016 The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child produced a paper recommending that the government repeals the requirement for compulsory attendance by children at school worship at publicly funded schools. The Rev Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England responded: “Children flourish when they can develop spiritually and emotionally as well as academically.  We believe time set aside daily to be still, contemplate life’s challenges and learn about faith in action is crucial. It is possible to opt out of collective worship but in our experience this very rarely happens not least because children themselves enjoy this time of the school day.” I am aware that some schools do not really hold public worship and others may not hold helpful worship. But it is sad if children have no experience of worship as part of their education. They are being deprived of an important aspect.

 

Paranormal activity

 

Sadly, although there has been decline in religious observance, there is widespread superstition in British society. The growing popularity of Hallowe’en shows this. A recent survey revealed that half of Britons clam they have experienced paranormal activity in their home. One third say they have been frightened by it and one in eight have moved out of a house because of this. One in six claim to have seen a ghost. 62% won’t buy a house near a graveyard.[5]

 

Atheist beliefs

 

It is interesting that some atheists believe in life after death.

 

A survey conducted in 2013 by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture found that 32% of atheist or agnostic Americans believe in life after death and 6% believe in bodily resurrection. (Also 79% of those who are spiritual but not religious also believe in life after death and 17% believe in bodily resurrection).[6]

 

Also Andrew Singleton, a sociologist of religion at Melbourne’s Deakin University in Australia, did a survey in 2015 and reported: “The analysis reveals that afterlife belief is varied, individualistic and mainly arrived at with little to no reference to orthodox religious teaching. People variously believe in heaven, reincarnation, life on another plane or something more abstract. Those who follow faithfully a religious tradition are largely ignorant of detailed theological doctrines about life after death and like other kinds of believers, exercise their own authority and judgment over matters of belief.”

 

He found that some believed in heaven, others that some aspect of their being survives death and others believed in reincarnation either as a human or other species.[7]

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21704836-britain-unusually-irreligious-and-becoming-more-so-calls-national-debate

[2] http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/The-New-Blueprint-Full-data-tables-Sept-2016.pdf

[3] https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/08/14/funding-farmers-lose-memory-personal-importance-re/

[4] Editorial: The Guardian view on Christianity in Britain – neither here nor there, Sunday 4 December 2016.

[5] http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/724495/Haunted-British-homes-paranormal-activity-research

[6] http://relationshipsinamerica.com/religion/do-people-still-believe-in-life-after-death

[7] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13576275.2015.1099521?journalCode=cmrt20&

Having mentioned the recurring reminders that he will return to earth – false messiahs, wars, famines, earthquakes etc., “the beginning of birth-pains,” Jesus mentions extensive persecution as one of the later signs. Extensive persecution is an indication that the return of Christ is beginning to draw near. And there certainly is extensive persecution of Christians in the world today. Our first concern should be to pray for and support our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. But we should also see it as a sign of the End Times.

 

2015 was widely seen as the worst year for persecution of Christians ever.[1]  Estimates vary between 100 million Christians facing persecution (Open Doors[2]) and 200 million (Christian Freedom International). They suffer torture, rape, imprisonment and death.

 

Open Doors reports that 7100 Christians were killed in 2015 (up 3000 from 2014), 4028 of them in Nigeria. These are conservative estimates and exclude North Korea, Syria and Iraq, where accurate records do not exist. 214 churches and similar Christian buildings are destroyed per month and 722 Christians (in addition to the above 7100 figure) suffer violent treatment every month.

 

At least 53 countries place restrictions on religion. Many are Muslim (35 countries) but extreme Hindus also persecute Christians. It is reported that one Pastor is beaten and one church burned every week in Hindu areas.[3] A “Religious Freedom Bill” is being introduced in India to “prohibit conversion from one religion to another by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means.” “Force” is defined as “including threat of divine displeasure.” This bill will outlaw basic Christian doctrines, such as salvation, heaven and hell.[4]

 

In India, the Hindutva movement within Hinduism argues that every Indian must belong to a religion which has originated in India. This view has become increasingly popular and is now a dominant force in Indian politics. Mob attacks on pastors and members of congregation, with attempts to force them to convert to Hinduism, have increased greatly, so much so that there was an average of one incidence of violence against India’s Christians for every day in 2015”[5]

 

Russia is now placing serious restrictions on Christians (and other religious groups). Religious activities can only take place on Christian property, not private homes (except private prayers) or secular land. Neighbours are obliged to report any breach of this law. Teaching about Christian beliefs can be carried out by clergy and directors of Christian organisations who have a state permit. Even private prayers in a home must not be said if a non-believer is present. Evangelism is banned even in church buildings. Encouraging an unbeliever to convert to Christ is illegal.

 

Pope Francis describes all the persecution as a third world war. Speaking about the Middle East, he said: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place.”[6]

 

Cardinal Nichols and the Bishop of Leeds said that Christians are the most persecuted people.[7]

 

The Roman Catholic organisation Aid to Church in Need said that Christians are fast disappearing from entire regions in Middle East and Africa.

 

In summer 2012 the International Society for Human Rights based in Frankfurt … estimated that 80% of all acts of religious discrimination were against Christians. In terms of outright persecution, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMEVE) resported that 75% was against Christians. But controversy surrounds reports that up to 150,000 Christians are being killed for their faith every year …

 

In France March 2014 Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Seko of Baghdada said: “Interventions [by the West] in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have not helped to solve the problems of their peoples. On the contrary, they have led to chaos and conflict that do not bode well for the future, especially for Christains…. 1400 years of Islam have not been able to take us away from our lands and our churches; now Western policy has scattered us to the four corners of the earth. More and more Christians are being victimized, and their exodus from the Middle East appears upstoppable.”[8]

 

Leaders of the European Parliament commented that the persecution of Christians around the world is not getting the attention it deserves. The President, Martin Schulz, said: Europe cannot afford to continue ignoring the fate of Christians, who are ‘ clearly the most persecuted group’ in the world.” The Vice President Antonio Tajani commented: “No religious community is as subject to hatred, violence and systematic aggression as the Christians. The West must break the silence on the persecution of Christians in the world and Europe must promote a model of society in opposition to religious radicalism and brutal and criminal projects, such as creating an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and then extending its tentacles into Libya.”[9]

 

We need to pray regularly for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and to support them where we can. We can also remember that Jesus spoke of greater persecution pointing to the drawing near of his return.

[1] Open Doors http://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/trends.php

[2] http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/stories/world_watch_150108.php?ref=storylnk1

[3] http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/press_releases/pr_160112_worldwatch.php

[4]http://www.christiantoday.com/article/india.plan.to.ban.religious.conversion.sparks.fears.of.heightened.attacks.on.christians/68638.htm

[5] Barnabas Aid Sep/Oct 2016

[6] http://tribune.com.pk/story/918279/third-world-war-pope-deplores-genocide-of-christians-in-middle-east/

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/we-must-stop-shilly-shallying-about-the-fact-that-christians-are-most-persecuted-people-says-a6785211.html

[8] https://issuu.com/acnusa/docs/p___g_2015_executive_summary_webver

[9]http://www.christiantoday.com/article/european.parliament.leaders.call.for.end.to.western.silence.on.worldwide.persecution.of.christians/72573.htm

Church growth and decline

 

Churches with a conservative view of Scripture who treat the Bible as the Word of God grow faster than those with a liberal view, according to a new report. The report, “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy,” was based on five years of research amongst churchmembers and clergy in Ontario.

 

It discovered that only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches. I’m tempted to ask what planet those clergy from declining churches are living on. But it is more serious than that. I would not like to be them on the Day of Judgment.

 

The report also discovered that:

  • 93% of clergy and 83% of churchmembers in growing churches believed in the bodily resurrection of Christ compared with only 56% of clergy and 67% of worshippers in declining churches.
  • 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.

 

However, it is not true that all conservative churches are growing. If they don’t have a strong corporate prayer life, an openness to and experience of the Holy Spirit’s power and a practical commitment to evangelism they won’t grow.

 

There are, of course, other factors. A UK report entitled “Going Deeper: Church attendance statistics and clergy deployment” published in January 2016 states: “An increase in clergy is associated with the likelihood of growth in attendance, while a decrease in clergy is associated, on average, to a decline in attendance.” However, at present rates the number of stipendiary clergy will decline from 7,400 in 2016 to 6,300 in 2035 (it was 8,300 in 2012). 25% of clergy are over 60.

 

There has been an 11% decrease in attendance in the Church of England over the past decade with an average decline of just over 1% a year. 100,000 worshippers have been lost in that period. J John recently pointed out that in 7 out of the 43 dioceses 40% of worshippers are over 70. He added that attendance is declining in 37% of parishes but is growing in 10%.

 

The church and homosexual practice

 

It is important to keep the issue of homosexual practice in proportion. In October 2016 The UK Office for National Statistics published its official figures that only 1.7 per cent of the UK population are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

 

Obviously, every individual and every minority is important. But we need to relate this very small percentage against the enormous effect it is having on society and on the church. This effect is out of all proportion to the numerical size of the problem.

 

So why is it happening? Although there are important non-sexual evils in society, it is clear that there are spiritual forces using sexual sin – heterosexual and homosexual (including promiscuity, adultery, easy divorce, etc) to undermine the family which is the fundamental unit of society. Enormous damage is being done to individuals, including children (quite apart from child abuse) and that has and will have huge negative effects on society.

 

Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, wrote about rapid cultural change. She said: “American culture has become more individualistic and more focused on the self and on equality.  For society to become more focused on self is very damaging. She added that from 1973 to 1990, the percentage of adults who approved of same-sex relationships rose from 11% to 13%. But in the last 25 years, the figure has risen to almost half of all adults.

 

Damage is also being done to the church and there is discrimination against individual Christians. One example is the case of Barry Trayhorn who was chaplain at Littlehey prison. He was disciplined for quoting 1 Cor 6 which condemns various sins including homosexual practice in a sermon. He explained that he wanted to assure the inmates – many of whom have committed horrific sex abuse crimes – that God could bring forgiveness. The prison authorities said he had broken equality laws by quoting a ‘homophobic’ passage.

 

In recent times the following events have happened which show an increasing acceptance of homosexual practice by the church:

  • The vicar of St. Peter’s, Brighton, an evangelical church planted by Holy Trinity, Brompton said he was very supportive of a gay pride march. He added that many of his churchmembers would take part. They had a lot of LGBT people in the congregation and were very supportive of them.
  • The Anglican Church in Canada approved of gay marriage and the Diocese of Toronto elected an “openly gay, partnered bishop.”
  • The evangelical Bishop of Liverpool said the insistence that homosexuals must be celibate to practise their faith should be dropped and that he had “learned to respect the experiences of people who want to celebrate and express their sexuality, and be within the church.”
  • GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) published a list of clergy who have entered into same-sex marriages and remained in office. One of those clergy, a member of General Synod commented on the recent ‘conversations’ between synod members who have different views on homosexual practice. He said: “I came away with the strong sense that Synod is ready for change … what I experienced and heard was a recognition that the current stance of the Church is untenable.”

On the other hand, the Church of England Evangelical Council stated:  “The blessing of same-sex relationships would be a de facto change of Church of England doctrine.” Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and a member of the CEEC, said “The House of Bishops are still engaged in conversations about the nature and shape of pastoral provision in this area. Many evangelical Anglicans would agree with the analysis and the concerns expressed in the CEEC document that any move towards further liberalisation would bring to a head the divisions in the Church of England and might well cause a split. My role – and that of my colleagues in the House is to do all that I can to prevent a split and to hold people in the Church of England – though that will not be easy, given what is at stake.”

 

 

How should we respond to all this?

 

We should welcome gay people to church

We should welcome all sinners – heterosexual or homosexual – to come along to church to hear the gospel and to experience the reality of the presence of God. In fact, we can only welcome sinners to church because they are the only people available! We’re all sinners. But the New Testament says that those who persist in serious sin should not be regarded as members. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul gives the example of a person in an illegitimate sexual relationship. (We should note, though, that he also says those persist in greed, idolatry, slander, a drunkenness or swindling should not be regarded as members 1 Cor 5:11).

 

Andrew Brown, a secular journalist, points out a serious inconsistency in the Church of England: “In effect, there is one standard for the laity – which is to conform to the liberal norms of society – and a double standard for the clergy who are supposed to be celibate, even when they live with same sex partners, if not heterosexually married. It is perfectly in order for clergy and even bishops to be civilly partnered.”

 

However the Church of England (like other churches) is making fundamental mistakes in its approach to the homosexual issue. It has not yet changed its basic position that homosexual practice is incompatible with the teaching of Scripture but it is gradually weakening its position in the following ways:

 

We want to be seen as nice

It is trying too hard to be seen as kind and relevant to society. It needs to re-read James stark warning “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” In following Christ and his word we have to be willing to be unpopular and deemed irrelevant and outdated. Whereas we should take trends and opinions in society seriously we should not allow them to dictate what we believe and preach. We should try to communicate as effectively as possible with our secular society but we should stick to our guns on what we believe.

 

We apologise too much

Of course we need to avoid any negativity towards homosexuals as people. We should love our homosexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. But loving our neighbour doesn’t mean we have to love their behaviour.  Clearly there have been Christians who despise homosexuals as people – and that is wrong. It is true that there could have been comments and discussions in the church which have been unloving towards homosexuals as people. But the church has now become obsessive about apologising to them. Time after time we have church leaders apologising. It wasn’t helpful that the Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “constantly consumed with horror” at the way the Church treated gay people and that he lay awake thinking about the issue. In their naivety church leaders don’t realise how this excessive apologising comes over to society. It gives the impression we are uncertain of our basic position and we are apologising for it. By all means apologise, but don’t keep on doing it.

 

We give the impression that the moral issue is simply a matter of opinion

I have been involved in a great deal of dialogue with homosexuals and it helps develop inter-personal understanding. But the Church of England General Synod may not be aware of the impression it has given to society by its recent “conversations.” The impression is that both opinions are equally legitimate – those who approve homosexual practice and those who don’t. The further impression given is that, in a true Church of England way, we’ll eventually decide that both sides have won and both shall have prizes. The message that should be conveyed is that, whereas discussion is valuable, the official position of the church, as decided by a 98% majority of the General Synod in 1987, is that, like fornication and adultery “that homosexual genital acts … are … to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion” and those who disagree are mistaken. Also the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops agreed “This conference, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.”

 

We think we might be able to bless sin

We are considering the possibility of blessing gay relationships. If such relationships are not sexually active there is no problem. But if they are sexually active we should not bless them. The weakness in the position that we can bless sexually active homosexual relationships is that God will have no part in it – and he is the one being asked to provide the blessing.

 

So we contribute to the moral decline in society which is doing enormous harm to adults and children. May God forgive us.

 

Conclusion

The church needs to return to the clear teaching of Scripture in the power of the Spirit and we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring revival in the church and society

 

Sadly, there was an 11% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in the first half of 2016 compared with 2015. 557 ‘malicious acts’ against Jewish people was the second highest ever recorded for a January-June period, most of them verbal abuse but 41 of them violent. The worst time was in April – June when anti-Semitism in the Labour party was highlighted in the media.

Brexit, the UK’s decision to leave the EU has not helped because it has destabilised the EU and brought right wing views and xenophobia to the fore. Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, told the European Parliament that Jewish people felt they were standing on a dangerous train track with “trains coming at each other with ever increasing speed … One train is the train of radical Islam and Islamic terrorism… The other train is the anti-Semitism of old Europe, the extreme right.” He went on to say that 22% of Jewish people in nine European countries avoided Jewish events or sites because they feared for their safety. 40% of Jewish people in France and 36% in Belgium said they avoided wearing symbols that identified them as Jews for fear of attack. Tens of thousands of Jewish people have emigrated from France and Belgium.

 

Baroness Jenny Tonge spoke in a House of Lords debate on the living conditions of Palestinian children. She accused Israel of “creating a generation of terrorists who will have a justified grudge against Israel and the countries who support her.” Jonathan Sacerdoti, of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, responded: “By suggesting there would be Palestinian terrorists ‘with a justified grudge’ against Israel, she is effectively justifying the terrorism that is aimed at Jewish people in Israel and around the world by Hamas and other terrorist organisations.” Baroness Tong has a history of making anti-Israel comments and was forced to resign from the Liberal Democrat party in 2012.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party, claims to be against racism but in 2013 he attended an event organised by Paul Eisen who is a Holocaust denier. Corbyn also praised Sheikh Raed Salah and Islamist who believes in the old ‘blood libel’ (that Jewish people have murdered Christian children and used their blood in rituals).

 

Ken Livingstone, a well-known Labour politician defended Labour MP Naz Shah who suggested Israeli Jews should be transported to the US. He also claimed that Hitler was a Zionist. He said on the Arabic TV station Al Ghad Al Arabi : “The creation of the state of Israel was fundamentally wrong, because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2,000 years …  We should have absorbed the post-Second World War Jewish refugees in Britain and America. They could all have been resettled.” Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party for these comments.

 

In March Tom Harris, a former Labour MP, wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Labour does indeed have a problem with Jews. It can acknowledge that problem’s existence, confront it and deal with it. Or it can shrug, mutter something about UN Security Council resolutions and continue to court the support of those on the far Left who are the source of the problem.”

 

The co-chair of the Labour club at Oxford University resigned saying the club had “some kind of problem with Jews”. He said that one club member had organised a group to shout “filthy Zionist” at a Jewish student whenever they saw her. Some National Union of Students delegates applauded speeches opposing the commemoration of the Holocaust.

 

 

In March 2016 Lord Jonathan Sacks, former UK Chief Rabbi, wrote an article entitled “Anti-Zionism Is the New Anti-Semitism” in Newsweek. He said:

 

“Criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic. …. It is, though, a front for the new anti-Semitism, an unholy alliance of radical Islamism and the political left.

 

“What then is anti-Semitism? It is not a coherent set of beliefs but a set of contradictions. Before the Holocaust, Jews were hated because they were poor and because they were rich; because they were communists and because they were capitalists; because they kept to themselves and because they infiltrated everywhere; because they clung tenaciously to ancient religious beliefs and because they were rootless cosmopolitans who believed nothing.

 

“Throughout history, when people have sought to justify anti-Semitism, they have done so by recourse to the highest source of authority available within the culture. In the Middle Ages, it was religion. In post-Enlightenment Europe it was science. Today it is human rights.”

Jonathan Sacks shows the irrational nature of the evil of anti-Semitism. It makes little sense. I have concluded that the only explanation for it is that it is demonic. God has not finished with the Jewish people and the New Testament predicts a massive turning to Jesus as Messiah by the Jewish people. Satan would love to destroy them to prevent this being fulfilled.

 

Concerns here are not only about the replacement of democratic national governments by remote world government but also about the danger of oppression inherent in world government.

 

Reaction against globalisation

 

Supporters of globalisation point out its economic benefits. However global economic growth has fallen from 3.5% to 2% since 2008. Also there is an awareness of rising inequality, e.g. the wealthy pay less tax proportionately than the poor. The banks have been producing money which, instead of funding wages and job growth, has found its way into the assets of the rich and is pushing up prices. In Britain, whilst wages rose by 13% the stock market rose by 115%. World trade talks have been disappointing and the issue of immigration has come to the fore. Globalisation has produced a volatile economy. Industries, jobs and careers which used to be secure are no longer.

 

In fact, there is a growing trend against globalisation, and in favour of nationalism, led by right-wingers such as Donald Trump. Experts say that ISIS wants to induce western countries to become more right wing, nationalist, intolerant and xenophobic so that many citizens turn against Muslims, and therefore encouraging greater radicalisation, providing more terrorists and suicide bombers. Closer economic integration is seen as to some degree incompatible with national sovereignty and national democracy. There is a growing anti-establishment movement. Successful re-election of existing political leadership has virtually halved since 2008. Brexit is one evidence of a reaction against globalisation.

 

On the other hand, many issues call for close global co-operation, e.g. terrorism, global warming, world poverty and undermining of human rights. Also economists warn that anti-globalisation will worsen the global economic slowdown we are experiencing.

 

Despite the current reactions against it, the trend towards globalisation will not go away.

 

Disturbing definitions of ‘non-violent extremism’

 

This is one of the most serious areas of concern and could lead to government oppression, including over those (including Christians) who teach conservative values.

 

Britain is at the forefront of preparing legislation to prevent violent extremism. Theresa May, now prime minister, has been a leading figure in this process. Yet the government proposals have been subjected to very serious criticisms. In July 2016 the Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the proposals:

  • gave “no impression of having a coherent or sufficiently precise definition of either ‘non-violent extremism’ or ‘British values’”.
  • Would give the authorities “wide discretion to prohibit loosely defined speech which they find unacceptable”.
  • would “potentially interfere with a number of human rights including freedom of religion, expression and association”.

The committee also said that the government assumed “that there is an escalator that starts with religious conservatism and ends with support for jihadism”. They expressed “very grave” concerns about proposals to compulsorily register out-of-school education settings, such as church youth work. It said this could penalise Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews and others who have conservative religious views but do not promote violence.

 

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton warned that Sunday Schools and other church groups could still face inspections by the school regulatory body Ofsted. Several MPs have warned that the legislation could be used to target Christian groups that teach marriage is between a man and a woman.

 

Simon Cole, Chief Constable of Leicestershire, said the plans risked creating thought police – judges of “what people can and cannot say.” Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said the definition of extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” could be used against those who oppose the government, believe the monarchy should be abolished or disagree with same-sex marriage. He added that it would only be a matter of time before the powers are used in a way for they were never intended.

 

Commenting on the government emphasis on “British values”, the Bishop of London said: “The business of the State is to ensure that the living traditions in our pluralist society have space to flourish without the State itself being drawn into the role of an ideologically driven Big Brother, profligate with ever more detailed regulation.”

 

In February 2016 a Hampshire school called the police after a 15 year old pupil viewed the UKIP website on a school computer. He was interviewed by police for viewing “extremist views.”

 

The Scottish Government Named Person Scheme

 

In a very disturbing move, the Scottish Government proposed to assign a state guardian to monitor every child’s ‘wellbeing.’ This would undermine the parent-child relationship. It would also allow public bodies to share sensitive private information about children and parents without their knowledge or consent. Christian parents would be particularly concerned that such a system would undermine the Christian upbringing of their children.

 

Fortunately, in July 2016 five judges of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the scheme was unlawful. However it is a cause of deep concern that the Scottish Government ever embarked upon this oppressive course of action and it shows the danger of such ideas being repeated in the future.

 

 

Alongside seeking to take seriously biblical teaching on eschatology it is instructive to take notice of what is sometime called secular eschatology, i.e. secular predictions by scholars of serious disasters which the future could hold. Global warming is one such.

 

Scientists have warned that there would be a climate crisis in the second half of this century but there are warnings that the crisis is already here. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 143% since pre-industrial times. 2016 is likely to be the hottest year ever measured. 2015 broke the record for temperature as did 2014. In fact 15 of the 16 warmest years ever recorded have occurred this century. Arctic ice now covers a smaller area than ever recorded. Because of unusual thawing of ice in Siberia the bodies of animals which died in the 1941 anthrax epidemic have caused an anthrax outbreak. There have also been very serious droughts in India and bleaching of coral reefs.

 

Although thermometer records only go back to 1880, scientists are able to examine ice cores, corals and tree rings showing the earth is at its hottest for 5000 years. But CO2 levels are the highest for almost a million years. Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany says the rate at which humanity is emitting CO2 is the fastest for 66 million years. CO2 is the main cause for the extreme weather in 2016 but scientists also say that about one fifth of the temperature rise in recent months is due to El Nino (the climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean which goes through cyclical changes).

 

Rahmstorf added: “What is happening right now is we are catapulting ourselves out of the Holocene, which is the geological epoch that human civilisation has been able to develop in, because of the relatively stable climate. It allowed us to invent agriculture, rather than living as nomads. It allowed a big population growth, it allowed the foundation of cities, all of which required a stable climate.”

 

A 2014 report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs said the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined.[1] The author stated: “Preventing catastrophic warming is dependent on tackling meat and dairy consumption.” That is hardly a popular warning!

 

Europe will experience extreme weather causing severe wildfires, river floods and windstorms. The UK government has hopefully woken up to the fact that severe flooding is likely to recur.

 

Greenhouse gases have caused the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, the largest area of warm water in the world, to increase in size and temperature. This has led to five small islands in the S Pacific disappearing. The pool is known to oscillate in size and temperature over a 20-year period but researchers have discovered that it has grown by one third in size and 0.3C temperature in the last 60 years. Because it is so big (9000 by 1500 miles) this has a huge effect. Scholars have said only 12-18% of the temperature rise has been caused by this cycle and the rest by global warming.

 

The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers almost 5.4 million square miles at the South Pole and contains about 61% of all the fresh water on Earth. The effect of global warming on this ice could raise sea levels by almost three metres.

 

In 2015 thousands of people died of heatwaves in Europe and Asia. Scientists predict that if the temperature reaches two degrees above pre-industrial level some countries in the Middle East and N Africa could experience daytime temperatures of 46C by the middle of the 21st century. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms could render some regions uninhabitable. One study predicts that by 2100 temperatures in countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain could occasionally reach 74-76C which could cause fatalities.

 

In 2009 The Lancet medical journal published a report commissioned by University College, London which predicted that global warming could so affect the quality of food that between 300,000 and 700,000 people could die each year by 2050. In particular they predicted that by 2050 climate change would seriously reduce the amount of fruit and vegetables and processed meat. They called climate change the greatest threat to health in the 21st century due to floods, droughts and increased infectious diseases. They added that it could reverse 50 years of progress in medicine.

 

The World Economic Forum recently published a report by 750 experts which saw climate change as the biggest threat to the global economy. Cecilia Reyes, the Zurich Insurance Group chief risk officer, said: “Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks.”[2] The World Bank said that 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of climate change, in addition to the 703 million who are already in extreme poverty. Global warming leads to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty.

 

The Paris Agreement to tackle global warming

 

In December 2015 177 nations agreed to try to prevent the world’s average temperature rising more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial level (it is already 1.3C). They will set targets every five years after the agreement comes into force in 2020. But analysts have said that the measures they have actually agreed so far would mean a rise of between 2.6C and 3.1C by 2100. This, of course, breaches the 2C limit beyond which scientists have predicted there will be catastrophic and irreversible droughts, floods, heatwaves and se level rises.

 

The rich countries promised to provide $100bn (£66bn) to help poorer countries switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and to protect them against dangers such as increased flooding.

 

The agreement also includes aiming at having “net zero emissions” during the second half of the century. This means that any CO2 produced would need to be captured and disposed of or offset by planting huge numbers of trees. However, in a joint letter to the press, British climate experts[3] stated: “This involves rapidly growing trees and grasses faster than nature has ever done on land we don’t have, then burning it in power stations that will capture and compress the CO2 using an infrastructure we don’t have and with technology that won’t work on the scale we need and to finally store it in places we can’t find.”[4]

 

Already Ban Ki-moon’s climate change envoy has accused the British and German governments of backtracking on the agreement by providing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It is also not encouraging that Theresa May has abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due to meet in Geneva this month (August 2016), to discuss ways to implement the Paris Agreement. Scientists are talking of the need to close down all coal-powered power stations by 2025 and to abolish the combustion engine (petrol/diesel engines) by 2030.

 

Professor Chris Field, of Stanford University, said that the 1.5C goal looks impossible or very, very difficult and he warned that closing down fossil fuel plants before renewable alternatives are established would mean there would be insufficient energy and people would suffer.

 

Many scientists say the only hope is to develop new techniques of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere as most of the current possible techniques are unworkable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] ‘Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector – Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption’, December 2014.

[2] http://www.policyconnect.org.uk/appccg/news/economists-label-climate-change-biggest-threat-global-economy

[3] Professor Paul Beckwith, University of Ottowa, Professor Stephen Salter – Edinburgh University, Professor Peter Wadhams – Cambridge University, Professor James Kennett of University of California, Dr Hugh Hunt – Cambridge University, Dr. Alan Gadian -Senior Scientist, Nation Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, University of Leeds, Dr. Mayer Hillman – Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Institute of the Policy Studies Institute, Dr. John Latham – University of Manchester, Aubrey Meyer  – Director, Global Commons Institute, John Nissen –  Chair Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cop21-paris-deal-far-too-weak-to-prevent-devastating-climate-change-academics-warn-a6803096.html

The Global Peace Index 2016 reported that there are only 10 countries in the world which are actually free from conflict (Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam).. This is worse than at any time in the last ten years. In some countries the conflict is the threat of terrorism and acts of terrorism.  The troubles in the Middle East, the huge refugee crisis and terrorism mean that 2016 is less peaceful than 2015 and considerably less than 2008. Political instability has worsened in 39 countries from 2015 to 2016.

 

Nuclear Terrorism

 

Terrorism is, of course, a serious threat. But nuclear terrorism is a huge threat. The Luxemburg Forum for Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe met on June 7th-8th 2016 and warned that ISIS is actively trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moshe Kantor, head of the Forum, said: “ISIS has already carried out numerous chemical attacks in Syria. We know it wants to go further by carrying out a nuclear attack in the heart of Europe. This, combined with poor levels of security at a host of nuclear research centres in the former Soviet Union, mean the threat of a possible ‘dirty-bomb’ attack on a Western capital is high.”  The Brussels suicide bomber brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui had originally planned an attack on a nuclear site in Belgium and filmed the routine of the head of the country’s nuclear research and development programme. Isis member Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris terrorist attack, also had nuclear files stashed in his flat

 

Former MP Des Browne, said at the Forum: “It isn’t that hard to build a ‘dirty bomb.’ They may not kill that many people with such a bomb, but the effect on the environment, the infrastructure and the psychological impact on people would be devastating. They can also use cyber warfare to target a nuclear facility.”

 

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists comments on what nuclear terrorism really means.[1] It says it would be difficult for terrorists to acquire and detonate a nuclear bomb. But they could “set off a ‘dirty bomb,’ a weapon made of radioactive material attached to conventional explosives, sometimes referred to as a radiological dispersal device or RDD. Executing this scenario would be so easy that many experts are surprised it hasn’t happened already.” Alternatively, they could sabotage a nuclear facility.

 

The Bulletin points out that there are thousands of sites in over 100 countries which contain the sort of material required for a ‘dirty bomb.’ The International Atomic Energy Agency reports 2,734 incidents of radioactive material being lost, stolen etc., between 1993 and 2014.

 

Between 2010 and 2015 the FBI foiled plots by five criminal gangs to sell nuclear material to ISIS. The problem is that some of Russia’s huge store of radioactive materials have reached the black market. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who helped develop Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, confessed in 2004 that his network had sold nuclear know-how on the black market to states such as North Korea and Iran. In 2015, India’s defence minister warned that Isis could obtain a nuclear weapon from “states like Pakistan.” Isis has also claimed it could buy its first nuclear weapon but that is unlikely.

 

President Obama has warned of the danger of a terrorist nuclear attack. At a nuclear security summit in April 2016, he said: “Just the smallest amount of plutonium – about the size of an apple – could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It would be a humanitarian, political, economic and environmental catastrophe with global ramifications for decades. It would change our world. So we cannot be complacent. We have to build on our progress.”

 

The UK Office for Nuclear Regulations said in March 2016: “The threat of terrorism in the nuclear sector will continue to be managed proportionately and effectively through national and international capabilities. The capabilities of potential adversaries to operate in cyberspace will continue to grow.”

 

Nuclear Powers

 

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that there are some 15,850 nuclear warheads spread between nine nations: Russia (7,500), USA (7,200), France (300), China (250), UK (215), Pakistan (100-120), India (90-110), Israel (80) and N Korea (less than 10). China, France, Russia and the UK are either developing or deploying new weapon systems. Obviously, an extremist state like N Korea is a real danger as it develops nuclear weapons.

 

Moshe Ya’alon, who was the Israeli Defence Minister, said: “We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb.” He did not provide evidence but it is well-known that Israel spies on the military activities of Islamic countries.  

 

China

 

There are tensions between China and the US. The US has hypersonic glide missiles capable of hitting China in less than an hour. China is prepared to send submarines armed with nuclear weapons into the Pacific for the first time.

Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Non Proliferation Programme commented that there is a danger of the two sides fatally misunderstanding each other’s intentions.

 

China has also deployed surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

 

Russia

 

In May 2016 General Sir Richard Shirreff, who was NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe between 2011 and 2014, said that an attack on Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia – all NATO members – was a serious possibility and that the West should act now to avert “potential catastrophe”. He warned of the danger of nuclear war and pointed out that Russia had invaded Crimea, Georgia and the Ukraine.

 

North Korea

 

N Korea has recently threatened China with a “nuclear storm” because of its involvement in UN sanctions against N Korea. It also threatens the US but could probably not currently launch a successful attack. The problem is that N Korea is constantly trying to upgrade its nuclear capabilities.

 

Jesus predicted “wars and rumours of wars” but these are not signs of the End. Rather they are “Birth pangs of the Messiah” – reminders that he is coming back (See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/birth-pangs-of-the-messiah/).

 

Pray that the Lord will have mercy and protect the world from nuclear attack.

 

[1] http://thebulletin.org/what-does-nuclear-terrorism-really-mean9309

Some British Christians who believe God still has a purpose for the Jewish people, oppose remaining in the European Union because they believe the EU is much less favourable towards Israel than Britain is.

 

A Israeli view

 

Ironically, there is a strong hope in Israel that the UK will remain in the EU.  Anshel Pfeffer, an Israeli journalist, wrote in the “Jewish Chronicle on-line” in March 2016: “Israel does not want to lose Britain – one of its more dependable allies – as a strong voice arguing its case in Europe. Whatever the diplomatic differences between London and Jerusalem, Israel has usually been able to rely on whoever is occupying Downing Street, as well as other senior cabinet ministers, to fight its corner. Post-Brexit, Israel would have less backing in Europe. Notwithstanding occasional disagreements, David Cameron is uniformly seen as one of the most pro-Israel British prime ministers, and has a very good relationship with Mr Netanyahu. The Israeli government would not like to see his downfall following a referendum vote.”[1]

 

Similarly, an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in April 2016 stated: “A Britain outside the EU means Israel will lose an important insider voice and critical traction in the shifting and sometimes hostile EU debates about what policies to adopt toward Israel.”[2]

 

Ilene Prusher, another journalist at Ha’aretz, referred to the UK as “one of the world’s friendliest countries to Israel.”[3]

 

A 2014 BBC World Service Poll discovered that 50% of Israelis have a friendly attitude towards the UK.[4]

 

Is the UK more positive to Israel?

 

It is certainly true that the current UK government is particularly positive towards Israel which is why some Israelis regard the UK as more positive than the rest of the EU and one of its strongest allies. In March 2016 the UK abstained on two UN resolutions on Palestinian rights. It applied pressure to the Palestinians to remove reference in the bill to constructing a list of firms which trade with Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory and warned that retaining it could affect aid to the Palestinian Authority. When the Palestinians refused the UK also abstained on another resolution about accountability and international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In October 2015, the Conservative Party said that the government would introduce “new rules to stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel”.

 

The EU, however, tends to be less positive towards Israel. For example, in October 2015 France presented a Security Council resolution on behalf of the Palestinians calling for international observers to be deployed in Jerusalem. Israel and the US opposed it.

 

On the other hand, there is a great deal of negative opinion about Israel in the UK. Recent polls have discovered that:

  • 66% of the British surveyed have a “generally negative” view of Israel.[5] This was the highest “generally negative” view in Europe. Only Spain equalled the UK figure.
  • A year later a similar service found 69% of British people have a negative view of Israel.[6]
  • Israel, along with North Korea, ranks third behind only Iran and Pakistan for “negative influence” in the world.[7]
  • 4% of British people polled agreed with the statement that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians….”[8]
  • 9% of British people agreed with the statement that “considering Israel’s policy I can understand why people do not like Jews…..”[9]
  • Israel was top of the list of 24 countries where people would “least like to live”.[10]
  • It was also the country considered by those questioned to be the “least deserving of international respect”, and also thought to be among the world’s “least democratic countries”[11]
  • two thirds of British people think that ordinary Israelis reject the idea of a Palestinian state.[12]
  • two thirds of British people think that Israel has never offered to give up land for peace.[13]

 

A 2014 YouGov poll asked people which side they sympathised with in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. 27% of Britons said the Palestinians compared with 18% of French. 12% of Britons and 11% of French said Israel.

 

In 2001 Conrad Black, a member of the House of Lords, strongly criticised the attitude of some British papers towards Israel: “The BBC, Independent, Guardian, Evening Standard and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are rabidly anti-Israel.” He also wrote that “wittingly or not, are stoking the inferno of anti-Semitism.”

 

Britain’s attitude towards Israel is clearly mixed. Public opinion is often negative but Israelis deem the British government to be more positive towards Israel than the EU.

 

The 2014 BBC World Service Poll found that:

  • 64% of the population of France
  • 61% of the population of Spain
  • 67% of the population of Germany
  • 72% of the population of Britain

were “mainly negative” to Israel’s influence.[14]

 

What is the EU attitude towards Israel?

 

Israel has had a special economic relationship with Europe since the 1960s and signed an economic agreement with the European Economic Community in 1975. In 1996 Israel and the EU signed a trade and cooperation agreement. Also in 1995 Israel was accepted as the first non-European member of EU’S Fourth Framework Research and Development programme. Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner.

 

However, one factor is that the EU practises realpolitik – an approach based on practical rather than moral considerations. So it seeks to maintain a good relationship with Arab countries despite the lack of democracy, civil liberties, oppression of women etc., in these countries. This approach can, of course, strengthen an anti-Israel approach.

 

The UN Human Rights Council has virtually passed more resolutions condemning Israel than it has on the rest of the world combined!  In July 2005 Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, commented: “Europe’s voting record at the United Nations shows a longstanding anti-Israeli bias. Every year the UN General Assembly passes between 18 and 22 anti-Israeli resolutions. …. The Europeans abstain in some cases, but mainly support these resolutions …” He added: “The European collective is frequently neutral on issues at the UN. Then often in meetings of the EU diplomats the French ambassador tries to break the consensus and move the entire group in an anti-Israeli direction. Rather than pressure France, the Europeans tend to be dragged along with its position. Therefore, France plays a particularly negative role in the formation of an anti-Israeli European position at the UN.”[15]

 

Allison Kaplan Sommer, an Israeli journalist writes:When asked by Israel for an explanation of their votes, the Europeans say they feel a responsibility to balance the pro-Israel stand of the United States and to defend what they believe is a distinction between armed struggle and terrorism.”[16]

 

Conclusion

 

Influenced by the media, a high percentage of the British population holds negative views towards Israel, sometimes in excess of the percentage in other EU countries. However, because the current UK government is quite positive towards Israel it is viewed by Israelis as one of the more friendly countries and they hope it will stay in the EU to counteract the anti-Israel views held by members, particularly France.

 

 

 

 

[1] Anshel Pfeffer, “Why Israel wants Britain to stay firmly inside the EU,” Jewish Chronicle on-line, March 3rd 2016

[2] Jacques Lafitte and Denis MacShane, “Why a British Exit From the EU Should Worry Israel” Ha’aretz 04.04.16

[3] http://time.com/3506269/israeli-palestinian-conflict-british-vote/

[4] BBC World Service Poll 3rd June 2014. See http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/country-rating-poll.pdf

[5] BBC World Service public opinion survey, 2011

[6] BBC World Service Survey May 2012

[7] Ibid.

[8] Friedrich Ebert Stiftung survey results, April 2012

[9] Ibid.

[10] January 2005 Daily Telegraph YouGov Poll.

[11] Ibid

[12] Populus poll – May 2011

[13] Ibid.

[14] BBC World Service Poll 3rd June 2014. See http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/country-rating-poll.pdf

[15] http://jcpa.org/article/europes-consistent-anti-israeli-bias-at-the-united-nations/

[16] http://bama.ua.edu/~afi/monthly_article.htm

Some British Christians seem to imply that the UK’s Christian heritage will be undermined by remaining in the EU. It would be naïve to ignore the fact that the political leadership of the EU, like all political leadership might go wrong, or become undemocratic. But it is not true to say that the EU is less Christian than the UK. In the following statistics many of those claiming to be Christian may, of course, not be practising. Nevertheless the comparison of percentages in the various countries is useful in answering the question “Is the UK more Christian than the rest of Europe?”

 

According to the 2011 Pew Forum, the percentage of people calling themselves Christians in a number of other countries is greater than in the UK. The UK had 72.6%. Italy had 85.1%, Spain 78.6%, Greece 89.5%, Ukraine 83.8%, Poland 94.3% and Romania 99.5%. Other countries included Germany with 70.8% and France with 63%.[i]

 

A 2012 Eurobarometer Poll found that 72% of EU population call themselves Christians.

 

A 2010 Eurobarometer Poll found the following percentages of population don’t believe there is “any sort of spirit, God or life force”

Greece 4%

Poland 5%

Italy 6%

Austria 12%

Portugal 12%

Spain 19%

Denmark 24%

UK 25%

Germany 27%

Netherlands 30%

Sweden 34%

France 40%.

 

Some British Christians point to the rich Christian tradition of the UK but don’t seem to realise that other EU countries also have state churches.

 

England has an established state Christian Church, the Church of England, of which the Queen is the supreme governor on earth and similarly Scotland has the Church of Scotland. But the following EU countries also have state churches:

Armenia (Orthodox)

Denmark (Lutheran)

Finland (Lutheran and Orthodox)

Greece (Orthodox)

Greenland (Lutheran)

Iceland (Lutheran)

Liechtenstein (Catholic)

Malta (Catholic)

Monaco (Catholic)

Switzerland (Catholic and Protestant according to canton)

Vatican City (Catholic)

 

Norway had a state church until 2012 but the monarch must still be a Lutheran. Sweden ceased to have a state church in 2000. The Spanish state church was disestablished in 1978. Austria has no state church but regards the church and state as partners.[ii] Germany and Italy have no state church. France and Belgium are secular.

 

The issue isn’t whether the UK is more Christian than the EU but rather that the whole of Europe needs an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Revival.

 

[i] Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population, Dec 2011. See http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-regions/

[ii] http://www.austria.org/religion/