Books Read in March 2006 – IV

Leadership
by Rudolph W. Giuliani (Time Warner, 2002) 394pp.

Giuliani was coming to the end of his second term as mayor of New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Thus the event served as a focal point for explaining what he had learned about leadership in the years beore. He makes the case that had he not tackled the problems of the city in the way he did, New York would not have been able to handle 9/11 the way it did. Though this sounds like trumpet-blowing it does not come across this way. Besides, the numbers for crime reduction, employment, social care etc seem to speak for themselves.

The book is a mixture of simply stated principles he worked by, which served as springboards for telling many little stories about his experiences as a law graduate, US Attorney, Republican politician (he started as a Democrat!) in a Democrat city, and Mayor. So the book is part didactic, part biographical. This does make it a little clunky. I would have liked this book to be one thing or the other. Nevertheless, the principles were helpful and there was enough biography to keep my interest. I found it it quite moving as he wrote about his experiences in the aftermath of 9/11. Though in charge of a massive organisation, he made a point of making time for people, especially those who lost loved ones. I was able to feel the tension of pressing on to manage the situation while also having to handle intense feelings.

On the whole pretty enjoyable, informative and helpful.

Books Read in March 2006 – IV

Our Doctrine of the Sacraments Signifies More Than We Think

It is often said that teaching on the sacraments is not clearly spelled out in the Bible. Therefore since it is unclear, we should not get too worked up about differences. However, I wonder if there is more to this question than meets the eye. Pierre-Charles Marcel, in his The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism, writes:

The celebrated dogmatician H. Bavinck has well remarked that the doctrine of the sacraments has always been the shibboleth, the touchstone, of every dogmatic system. It is there that the principles from which one sets off in the Church and theology, in questions of faith and life, find there practical and concrete issue. The doctrines of the affinities of God and the world, of creation and regeneration, of Christ’s divine and human natures, of the modes of action of the Holy Spirit, of sin and of grace, of spirit and of matter, are all more or less present and implicit in the doctrine of the sacraments. The diverse roads of theology converge, whether one wishes it or not, sooner or later, consciously or unconsciously, in the highway of the sacraments. It is necessary to take this into account. (p.17)

I have felt for some time now that in any debate on baptism, for example, there is limited value in discussing the mode and the recipients by reference to NT texts without first going over some other, perhaps more basic ground. For example, if someone says to me, “Just read the New Testament!” when discussing the recipients of baptism, that says to me that there may be a difference between us in our doctrine of Scripture. It will also hint at the perceived relationship between the epochs of biblical history and the God-given covenants. And so it could go on.

So, rather than the sacraments being unimportant details, they point to more deeper questions which cannot be considered unimportant.

Our Doctrine of the Sacraments Signifies More Than We Think

Something Got Tangled

Preached on Paul’s thanksgiving in Philippians 1:3-8 last night. I thought it went OK. However, while discussing it afterwards with Susan it became clear that on one point she had got completely the opposite message that I had intended to convey! I am hoping that it was just her, so I need to do some more research to find out what others heard. Humbling. Looks like I have some mopping up to do…

Something Got Tangled

The Predicament That Abdul Rahman Is In…

If you want to get an idea of the view of moderate clerics in Afghanistan to Mr. Rahman’s conversion to Christianity, read this quote from a report in the Jerusalem Post (HT: ASullivan):

Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that Rahman must be executed and if the government caves into Western pressure and frees him they will incite people to ‘pull him into pieces.’ Four senior clerics interviewed by The Associated Press in their mosques in Kabul agreed Rahman deserved to be killed for his conversion.

‘He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian,’ said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.

‘The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.’

‘He is not mad. The government is playing games. The people will not be fooled,’ said Abdul Raoulf, cleric at Herati Mosque. ‘This is humiliating for Islam. … Cut off his head.’

Raoulf is considered a moderate cleric in Afghanistan.

The Predicament That Abdul Rahman Is In…

More on the Great Fire of Sinfin

The fire was pretty serious and is the major local news story. Susan, a deputy head, came home exhausted today after a day working with the head teacher and the other deputies to sort out the organisational chaos. It seems that arson was a possibility (read “likelihood”! – SD.).

The BBC has a load of pictures here. The local rag has more here.

Some people at Woodlands have been good, phoning to check Susan is OK. That means a lot – to Susan especially, but also to me.

More on the Great Fire of Sinfin

Persecution

I believe this story briefly made it on to the home page of the BBC News site. It concerns Mr. Abdul Rahman, an Afghan and a Christian converted from Islam 16 years ago, who is now under arrest in Afghanistan for converting from Islam and possibly faces the death penalty. Of course, the BBC being the BBC, gives no background to the case and comments on it from the standpoint of international politics. The only matter of personal interest is that some consider him to be mentally unstable. Of course this may be a loophole which allows the Afghan government to meet its declared obligations to human rights conventions while also upholding Sharia Law. If he is seen to be in his right mind, making a clear declaration of his faith in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – then there is no hope for him.

A better human perspective is given on Persecution.org. The man has had to face a long struggle since conversion. He has been cut off from his family, separated from his children who are now brought up by his parents, and endured detention centres in various Western countries while seeking asylum. Finally he was deported back to Afghanistan in 2002 (what kind of system would do that?!). Only after attempting to be reunited with his children in Afghanistan did his own Father report him to the authorities. Now he is undergoing trial for his life.

Mr. Rahman’s case reminds us of the plight of many Christians converted from Islam in Islamic countries. Their life is intolerable, being subjected to the greatest of indignities, and their courage staggering. By contrast in this country Christians are subjected to wave upon wave of apathy and yawns. We think we have it bad because churches are small and it’s hard to keep things going sometimes. But at the same time we are free to go about our worship, business and pleasure, indulging ourselves as we please, wherever we please like everyone else. But Mr. Rahman’s plight reminds us that the gospel of Jesus Christ was once worth giving up family for, even dying for, in this country too.

Persecution