The death of Dr Gordon Wilson, former leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who took a public stand for Christian moral values in society, was mentioned in the BCN (7 July).
A memorial service for him was held in St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, on 5 July. It was conducted by the minister, the Rev David Robertson. Prominent figures in the Scottish Parliament were present, including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Deputy First Minister, Mr John Swinney, who gave the eulogy. The service followed the modern fashion of fulsome praise of man, informality and a degree of humour and laughter. Hymns, readings and prayers were intermingled with the tributes from the family and others but there was no sense of solemnity.
The most disturbing aspect of the proceedings was the participation in the service of a Roman Catholic clergyman, Bishop Vincent Logan. He began his read prayer by praying for the soul of the departed. Towards the end of the service, Mr Robertson spoke briefly on Christ as the only way to the Father but later, on his blog, he had to give a kind of an apology for the contribution of the Bishop as follows:
‘The Roman Catholic view of salvation is not as full as the Protestant (Biblical). Bishop Vincent Logan is a lovely man who has served Christ for many years but in his prayer, he reflected something that was really quite sad. He prayed that Gordon being called from this world would be brought safely home to God’s kingdom and that he would be cleansed and given a place at the heavenly banquet. In this he was reflecting the Catholic doctrine of purgatory and that believers don’t go directly to heaven. But the biblical view is “today you will be with me in paradise.” He was praying for something that Gordon already has. When he came to believe in Jesus he was given eternal life.’
This sad incident calls for several observations: (1) How was a Roman Catholic clergyman permitted in the first place to take part in the service? In this year of the commemoration of the birth of the Reformation in 1517 are we saying it was all a mistake? (2) How can the Bishop be described ‘as a lovely man who has served Christ for many years’ when by his teaching he has been dishonouring Christ by withholding the glory due to Him as the only Saviour of Sinners? (3) This is not the first time that Mr Robertson has revealed his ignorance of the nature of the papacy. On the 16 September 2010, on BBC radio Scotland, he welcomed Pope Benedict to Scotland as ‘a fellow Christian’ (see What Would John Knox have to Say to Us Today? (2014 p4). When will Mr Robertson’s associate ministers and colleagues in the Free Church of Scotland recover from their apparent laxity in dealing with those who deviate from the Westminster Confession? (5) The entire proceedings lacked a vertical dimension and therefore virtually no impression of the things of spiritual and eternal could have been left on the minds of the state dignitaries and others. Oh for a John Knox-like voice in Scotland again!
(By permission of the author: Rev John Murray, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
“I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honour of God. But since God not only regards as fruitless but also abominates, whatever we undertake from zeal to his worship, if at variance with his command. The word is clear, “Obedience is better than sacrifice” (1Samuel 15:22). “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Every addition to his word is a lie. Mere will-worship (Colossians 2:23), is vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate”
“The Bible must be accepted as absolutely inerrant and authoritative on all matters with which it deals at all. Otherwise, it is not really the word of God! If any man, or group of men, are empowered to tell us authoritatively what God’s word means, then we may as well entrust them with a commission to write the Bible altogether. Man seeks to become God if he (whether he is a theologian or scientist or anyone else) insists that his wordmust be accepted authoritatively as to what God’s word means.
We do not question that God “speaks” through his creation, but such natural revelation must never be considered equal in clarity or authority to his written revelation, especially as it often is “interpreted” by fallible human scholars, many of whom do not even believe the Bible. The Scriptures, in fact, do not need to be “interpreted” at all, for God is well able to say exactly what he means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. This applies to their abundance of “factual” information as well as to their religious and practical instructions.
By the same token, we must also recognise that God’s world must always agree with God’s word, for the Creator of the one is the Author of the other, and ‘he cannot deny himself’ (2Timothy 2:13). God’s revelation in nature can often amplify and illustrate his word, but his written revelation must always inform and constrain our interpretation of nature.
With such premises to caution us, we soon see that the Bible contains numerous statements affirming that God does, indeed, speak to us through his creation. A few of these, for example, are abstracted from such scriptures as the following:
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Whom among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? Job 12:7-9).
“The heavens declare the glory of the God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
“Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
God’s revelation in nature, therefore, must always supplement and confirm his revelation in Scripture. It cannot be used to correct or interpret it. If there is an apparent conflict, one that cannot be resolved by a more careful study of the relevant data of both science and Scripture, then the written word must take priority….Even though the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it does speak authoritatively on the fundamental principles of science. Furthermore, it speaks correctly even on details of science whenever it refers to them at all.” (Henry M. Morris)
It is the argument of atheists that the state should have nothing to do with personal behaviour. Marriage law (until recently upheld by ‘Christian’ countries) stands on the same basis in Genesis 2 as does the seven-day cycle. Both should be upheld by governments. That contempt for God and the ten commandments brings judgments on nations is a clear truth in Scripture. And the common form of such judgment is the removal of spiritual blessings (2Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 17:27; Lamentations 2:6; Ezekiel 22:26-31). An observation that William Hewitson once made in Germany has universal application: ‘Germany tells me, that if Scotland loses her Sabbaths, she will lose along with them her religion and her God.’ Some believe that for Christians to bear witness to the fourth commandment in an unsympathetic world would be to impede evangelism. The reverse has tragically proved to be true. Bishop Ryle understood what would happen in England if Sunday became as any other day: “Break down the fence which now surrounds the Sunday, and our Sunday Schools will soon come to an end. Let in the flood of worldliness and pleasure-seeking on the Lord’s Day, without check or hindrance, and our congregations will soon dwindle away. There is not too much religion in the land now. Destroy the sanctity of the Sabbath, and there will soon be far less…It would be a joy to the infidel, but it would be an insult and offence to God.” It is true that civil law can only restrain public disregard for the Lord’s Day, but to argue against the limited use of law to no use at all has been proved folly.
I’ve interacted with Muslim’s in different parts of the world. The one question asked by the majority of them, at some point is, did Jesus ever say that he was God? The short answer, yes. When he refers to himself as the ‘Son of Man’ it is, I think, misunderstood that he is speaking of his humanity, as opposed to his deity. I once thought that way myself. But it is incorrect. To understand the phrase ‘Son of Man’ we must needs go back to the Old Testament, and the book of Daniel:
” I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
The ‘Son of Man’ here is given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom…an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Other successive kingdoms, empires were represented by the figure of some appointed beast, but their reign was temporary (Daniel 7:12). In contrast with such this one’s kingdom shall appear in the vision as a man. And his kingdom shall be everlasting. The Jews of Jesus’ day knew and understood the term ‘Son of Man’ and that’s why they were so filled with rage when he used as appropriate for himself. They understood that the ‘Son of Man’ would be their deliverer, that he would indeed come “with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13), and be the final judge of all mankind. Jesus applied this title to himself, and thus incurred the wrath of the Jews. It doesn’t simply identify him as a man, apart from his divinity. It identifies his as the heavenly Person who would “come with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13), and finally judge the world in righteousness. The martyr Stephen confirms this for us does he not:
“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).
He, Stephen, is seeing the same vision Daniel saw and prophesies in Daniel chapter seven. The heavenly Person, the ‘Son of Man’ appearing in the glorious presence of God. Jesus himself confirms this:
“Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). And, “and then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).
So make no mistake as the meaning of this phrase, the ‘Son of Man’ as Jesus applies it to himself. The contrast to his humility clearly expressed in his earthly sojourn, suffering and death (Philippians 2:5-8), is intentional. It speaks of his stupendous dignity that correctly belongs to him, the ‘Son of Man.’ He is man’s Creator, Law-giver, and final Judge. Make no mistake, he is God manifest in the flesh (1Timothy 3:16). He is the transcendent heavenly man of Daniel’s vision and he’s coming soon with the clouds of heaven, and to finally judge the world. To usher in his everlasting kingdom. Jesus Christ, there is no other God but he.
Time and again we in our modern society hear of street preachers coming into conflict with the police authorities. It is important that those who engage in this method of evangelism know what their rights are, but also know how God himself would have them to conduct themselves in such circumstances. So if the police approach you what is your response? First and foremost you do what they tell you to do. If they ask you to stop, then stop. Listen carefully to what they have to say. You may disagree with what they are telling you to do, but that doesn’t give you a right to argue with them or be disrespectful towards them. They are in a position of authority and the gospel you proclaim has something to say about your attitude to those are in authority (Titus 3:1). You can reason with them, but ultimately you must obey them.
Your Name and Adress:
So, do you have to give your name and address to a police officer if requested? This has become a regular issue regarding street preachers here in the United Kingdom. It is by no means as black and white as some would have us believe. Handling the police correctly when they come to you, can save you a lot of time and grief.
“Under section 50 of the Police Reform Act, the police DO have powers to take your name and address (but not a date of birth) IF they reasonably believe you have engaged in an anti-social manner. The anti-social behaviour (ASB) is defined as doing something likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others. Yes, fairly arbitrary. Section 50 powers are sometimes used by the police as a routine or blanket means of obtaining names and addresses, especially during stop and searches. But if the police do not have a genuine and reasonable belief that the person they are dealing with has been involved with ASB, the use of this power would be unlawful.
If you are told to give your details under ‘section 50’:
You need to clarify that they are using the s50 Police Reform Act. If possible, record them saying this. In some circumstances the police have subsequently denied using s50 powers, claiming that people gave their details voluntarily. Ask them to tell you exactly what they believe you have done that constitutes anti-social behaviour. They must have a reasonable belief that you did something likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
If possible film what they do, or record what they say on your mobile phone.
It is not enough for the police to say they believe you are ‘going to’ engage in anti-social behaviour. Section 50 powers do not apply to possible future actions – only if a person ‘has been acting, or is acting in an anti-social manner’.
Refusing to give your details under section S50:
If you refuse to give your name and address you may be arrested, but this is not always the case. Even though the police may threaten to arrest for not providing details they do not always do so. If you are arrested, you may be taken to a police station and charged with an offence under s50. However, in some cases, the police have been known to ‘de-arrest’ if a person gives their details after an arrest. If you are prosecuted, the police will have to provide some evidence to the court that they reasonably believed you had been engaged in the said anti-social behaviour. If they cannot do this, you should not be convicted. If you are convicted you may be fined, but you cannot be imprisoned for breaching s50. Giving a false or inaccurate name and address is also an offence under s50.” “There are a number of laws which make refusal or giving a false name and address to a constable a crime. All have a maximum penalty of a fine. There are also heaps of bye-laws that can penalise you for refusing to give your details. We say all this is incompatible with article 10 & 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The anti-social behaviour is defined as behaviour likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress” the same as the offence under s5 Public Order Act 1986. A “reasonable belief” of anti social behaviour is all a police officer requires.”
The law is supposed to protect us against arbitrary action by police officers, but it is fairly arbitrary. But the way things are going with street preachers now I think it is important we know and understand where we stand with the police. To “cause harassment, alarm or distress” can and does amount simply to preaching that all men are sinners. We are prey to the general public and in many instances to a wide difference of opinion amongst different police forces, and even police officers themselves. They don’t all use the same yardstick.
I recall back in the day, nearly thirty-five years ago, I was preaching here in Stoke On Trent when a police officer asked me to move. I did. I phoned the chief of police when I got home. I still remember his surname, Spencer. He said emphatically, “Jimmy, we are not against you, but for you.”But if one of my officers tells you to do something, do it, I will always back my officers.” “But if he is wrong we can and will rectify it afterwards.” I have always worked on that basis since. I refuse to develop an attitude that the police are my enemies. They are servants of the public (though I know they don’t always act that way, or get it right). And I do believe we ought to give them due respect. If they tell me to stop preaching and get down, then I do so. Seeking to defuse the situation and respectfully and reasonably to speak with them, without being intimidated. If I believe that what they tell me to do is wrong, then I will most definitely use the necessary channels to make a complaint. But when you start to argue with a police officer before the public you are not going to win. You could end up with an unnecessary arrest and court case. However, if there are specific complaints, i.e., homophobia or Islamaphobia, and a subsequent arrest then that’s a whole different ball game, as we say. I believe as a Christian if I am asked a question pertaining to my faith I must answer it honestly and uncompromisingly and if that gets me in trouble then so be it.
What is a CBO:
The prospect has now arisen of the police possibly applying to a court for a CBO to be placed against a street preacher. “The CBO is an order on conviction, available following a conviction for any criminal offence in the Crown Court, magistrates court, or youth court. A CBO: “Prohibits the offender from doing anything described in the order (which might include a condition preventing specific acts which cause harassment, alarm or distress or preparatory acts which the offending history shows are likely to lead to offences (for example the individual entering a defined area); It requires the offender to do anything described in the order (for example, attendance at a course to educate offenders on alcohol and its effects).
Obeying God is paramount:
As our Lord counsels us, we need to be, “as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” In these dark days in which we find ourselves the task of the street preacher is not an easy one, our backs are against the proverbial wall. We must not arrogantly stand upon our rights. Remember the One who surrendered his rights to save us from our iniquities (Philippians 2:1-11). We must simply obey the police, afterwards if we have a legitimate complaint we can pursue it through the necessary channels. IF YOU FIGHT THE LAW THE LAW WILL WIN. You may end up with an unnecessary court case, a fine, a CBO even. And may even be guilty of bringing the gospel into disrepute. If you expect people to submit to the authority of your preaching, you yourself must be under God’s authority. That means sent by God mediately by the church and therefore under the authority of your church’s Minister and elders. It saddens me to say but it must be said, there are far too many young men who take up this work on their own accord, not and never having been under the authority of the church nor sent by the church. This is not good nor pleasing to the Lord. Beloved, we ought to be exemplary citizens and above reproach. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities” (Titus 3:1). “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” 1Peter 2:13-14).