Thursday, 6 October 2016

Strangled for Scripture : A tribute to William Tyndale

480 years ago today, one of the greatest Englishmen to have ever lived was first strangled, then burned at the stake in Flanders.
William Tyndale's terrible crime was to have translated the New Testament, and large parts of the old into the English language. His mission, simply for ordinary Englishmen to be able to hear the scriptures in their own tongue, and therefore understand the gospel for themselves.

Tyndale's big idea was a terrible threat to the Catholic monopoly, their need for control meaning that most of the population never understood a word that was being said by Priests. More significantly than just understanding the words spoken, the gospel itself was shrouded in medieval mystery and superstition.

That psychotic monster Henry VIII was the worst player in all of this. Remembered wrongly for his reforming zeal, Henry's earlier years were defined by a robust defence of the Pope and violence against reformers. The royal title,'Defender of the faith' which remains to this day, arose from Henry's own flawed theological ramblings as the head of a steadfastly Catholic English nation.

The irony for Henry is that within a year of murdering Tyndale, he was publishing Tyndale's Great Bible in English anyway. This effort watered down a little for the preference of weak Bishops, but made up almost entirely of Tyndale's earlier banned work! No one has shaped our English bibles, and perhaps the English language more than William Tyndale, who died a traitor's death in exile, away from the country who should have lauded him.
Today, Mr Tyndale, we salute you!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Voting remain for a new European reformation.

Back in March of this year I drafted these brief notes to consider why I intended to vote 'no' to a Brexit. On the eve of the referendum, my view hasn't changed. 

My decision should be defined by a gospel paradigm more than personal preference or political sensibilities. We have a higher governance and a more important consequence than just fears over the economy, sovereignty, trade or migration.

History shows us missionary movements always push outward more readily with open borders. The gospel spread rapidly in the Roman Empire. It was possible to travel freely and relatively safely to modern day Iraq from the north of England. That's certainly not the case today. Neither was multicultural Britain a new phenomenon either. An inscription from the 2nd century at the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall attests to the tender affection between a Syrian and his British wife Regina.

Open borders are always better for the gospel. The spreading flame of the Reformation was fuelled by the printing press, old borders of slow communication overwhelmed with rapid reproduction of pamphlets, tracts and books, the speeding proliferation of ideas and freedom of thinking an important ally to freedom of movement.

Again, we see movement within the British Empire and our former colonies and faster sea crossings bringing momentum to the emergent missionary movement. From George Whitefield's multiple trips to New England, to the exponential growth of missionaries into India and China in the two centuries which followed. Trade routes over huge distances being freely travelled in both directions, cultural exchange. The same was true within other old European empires and their colonies.

Later, the train, the spread of Christianity to the western states of America. Then even faster sea crossings, planes and the rapid rise of Pentecostalism in the global south. 
To the present day, we now recognise the internet era and the immediate exchange of ideas, is developing an increasingly shared word culture. 

Closing borders will slow the free movement of people, ideas, trade and refugees. We can't go back, we can't shut ourselves in. History shows we have never been a little England, and thank God for that for the gospel's sake! 
This brief span of history demonstrates that ideas, trade and refugees are three of the primary ways that the gospel spreads, grows and takes root in new territories most readily, from The Acts 8 persecution which unsettled the comfortable Jerusalem church onwards.

Europe needs a new reformation. We are part of a church planting movement. Why would we vote for anything which makes this harder, introduces restrictions on travel, work, rights to stay, problems of currency? 

Our current united European rights are a boon to church planters. Inevitably there are good people making a good case to leave, there are genuine concerns for reform that need to be addressed from our seat at the table. My contention from history though is that broader fears of multiculturalism, immigration and open borders are not proven, and cannot trump the need for the gospel to take root more freely and deeply in modern, multicultural old and new Europe. That's why I'm voting to remain on June 23rd.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Animation map of the spread of the gospel.

As someone who loves church history, missiology, geography and maps, this short animation about the spread of Christianity across the planet ticks all my boxes!

There are obviously some approximations and generalisations that will frustrate the detail pedants. Questions too over the spread eastward and of course the recognition that much of what we call Christianity today may be miles wide but only inches deep. For sure, no serious missiologist or church planter is looking at the final map of Europe and thinking that we've got the job done!

However, as a general overview, this is a hugely encouraging and stirring map which will help people in praying for the continued spread and growth of the gospel across planet earth. The speed and spread into the global south since the Pentecostal revival of 100 years ago should be a stimulus to all of us as we continue to pray and work for breakthrough into the 10/40 window and secular Europe. So also should the rise and fall of regimes and rules which threatened Christianity so strongly at the time, and yet now are wiped from the map.

The good people at Gospelmap.com and their researchers have done an excellent job. Thanks for encouraging us with this animation. Enjoy!