Monday, August 27, 2007

God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

New book out from LionHudson on 7 September 2007.
With new atheism loudly gaining more and more media attention, and religion seemingly being backed into a corner with nobody to stand up and rationally defend it, John Lennox’s new book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is a much needed addition to the science and faith debate.

God’s Undertaker is an intelligent response to the claims of new atheism, which, based on the evaluation of modern scientific evidence, argues that theism sits more comfortably alongside science than atheism.

Written by John Lennox, a well respected academic and mathematician, the book has received acclaim from top scientists as well as respected figures in the religious community and will provide a thought provoking and fresh basis for discussion.
I have already pre-ordered a copy. The author is a friend from my time at Cambridge University (1966-1969).

The linked page also gives details of a public debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox, to be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA on 3 October 2007.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Atheist Delusion and Richard Dawkins

The Atheist Delusion website is a useful compilation of critiques of Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion.

The welcome page begins, "Richard Dawkins, the world's most famous atheist, makes his home in Oxford, England. It was in Oxford, back in 1978, while sitting in a biology class in Magdalen College School, that I was first exposed to Richard Dawkins' favoured theory of human origins - Darwin and Wallace's idea of 'evolution by natural selection'. Sitting in one of the biology labs of a School founded in 1481 and attended by the likes of Sir Thomas More, William Tyndale, Cardinal Wolsey and John Foxe, I learnt of an idea that, according to Richard Dawkins, makes it possible to be 'an intellectually fulfilled atheist'."

The webmaster is Michael J. Penfold of Bicester on Oxforshire.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost - Sunday 27 May 2007

Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathed
His tender last farewell,
A Guide, a Comforter, bequeathed
With us to dwell.

He came in semblance of a dove,
With sheltering wings outspread,
The holy balm of peace and love
On earth to shed.

He came in tongues of living flame
To teach, convince, subdue,
All powerful as the wind He came
As viewless too.

He came sweet influence to impart,
A gracious, willing Guest,
While He can find one humble heart
Wherein to rest.

And His that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of even,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear,
And speaks of Heav’n.

And every virtue we possess,
And every conquest won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone.

Spirit of purity and grace,
Our weakness, pitying, see:
O make our hearts Thy dwelling place
And worthier Thee.

Harriet Auber (1773-1862)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna

Dear friends,

This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German Christian and father of three Tilmann Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye and taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, “Goodbye, son. I love you.”

Tilmann rented an office space from Zirve Publishing. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord’s presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as “seekers.” No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it’s like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o’clock.

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilmann’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they brutally tortured our brothers for almost three hours.

Neighbors in workplaces near the print house said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.

Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. “We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there,” he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone’s background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, “Police, open up!” Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.

Tilmann and Necati had been slaughtered. Ugur’s throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against ‘missionaries’ who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targetted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public’s attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to “buy their children’s souls”. Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers in Malatya. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, “We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here.”

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, “he will serve time for Allah.”

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say the case will fall apart if he does not recover.

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as dozens of believers and pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media. When Susanne expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya there were many complications. However, in the end Tilmann was buried in an old Armenian graveyard on April 20th.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig on April 19th, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.

Necati’s funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati’s funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, hundreds of Turkish Christians and workers came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati’s wife Shemsa told the world, “His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor.”

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati’s funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Geske in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Geske has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.”

Many Christians in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city. The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverence,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.

Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.

We don’t know the details. We don’t know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.

But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilmann Geske, who gave his life as a foreign Christian in Turkey, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Details in this letter were obtained through various news and media sources based on preliminary press releases and interviews. The court cases are pending and specific evidence and autopsy reports from the crime are not yet available to the public.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (01 May 2007)


Please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can, in as many countries as you can. Please always keep the heading as “From the Protestant Church of Smyrna” with this contact information: //

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The device formerly known as the mobile phone

This phrase was repeated several times by Sir David Brown during the course of his presenting the prestige Mountbatten Memorial Lecture in Manchester earlier this evening, under the auspices of the IET. It was a fascinating presentation, with some lively observations about history and technology changes since (Lord) Louis Mountbatten was born in the year 1900 AD.

So many things are coming together in the latest generation of mobile phones that even a few years go were unimagined. The title of the lecture was Ringing The Changes - The Then, Now And Wow! Of Seamless Mobility.

He presented some visionary ideas on how technology and society is changing, and will continue to change in the near future, some of these having far reaching effects on our lives. He concluded his talk by outlining how businesses like Motorola (of which he is the chairman here in the UK) are driving down the prices of mobile handsets such that they will be affordable in developing countries to more than the small governing elite, with the contracts for the low cost handsets setting the pace to overcome the "digital divide", and bring untold economic and educational benefits to millions of people.

I came away thinking how much the Church of Jesus Christ is given a great open door by means of these changes to bring the Gospel as the water of life to a thirsty world. All of us can each play a small part in ensuring that these technical developments may become more a force for good than a means for increasing wickedness and unrighteousness. Pray for all those involved in the enabling and steering of these changes, whether in business, science, technology, engineering, government, as well as for those disciples of Christ who are seeking to use these means to further the kingdom of God.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Albanian Go Bible for Java enabled Mobile Phones

Since my earlier posts about Go Bible and ThML Viewer, I have successfully used GoBibleCreator 2.2.2 to make the Albanian Go Bible for Java enabled mobile phones. I have installed this on my K750i model and it works seamlessly.

A copy has been sent to Jolon Faichney, the owner of the Go Bible site, so I trust it will not be long before it becomes available for download.

In closing I should say that I also used the same method to create Go Bible versions as follows:
Haitian Creole Translation
Spanish Reina Valera Translation
French Darby Translation
Greek NT (Stephanos 1550)
Korean Translation (untested)
Some of the other ThML files I downloaded using the ThML Reader program have given rise to problems which have not yet been resolved. These can be classed as follows:
Greek (Modern) Translation - Philippians was missing!
Croatian Bible, Latvian NT, Maori NT, Latin Vulgate - all gave parsing errors.

Mobile Daily Devotions on your Java enabled phone

Though I am not generally one who makes a lot of use of "third party" daily devotional material, other Christians may find this link helpful, if it gets them more into the Bible each day.

From Mobile Daily Devotions you can download various daily reading applications to your Java enabled cellphone. These include:

* Our Daily Bread
* Global Prayer Digest
* Daily in Christ
* Streams in the Desert
* Devotions by Warren Wiersbe

If anyone comes across the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Calendar as a Java application, please leave a comment here with details.

Friday, May 11, 2007

ThML Reader

ThML Reader is a free Windows program for reading files that are formatted in ThML which denotes Theological Markup Language.

I tried installing this on my new Acer Aspire 5630 (Windows XP Media Edition with IE7) and the program stopped responding when I tried to open any library item. However, I also installed it on our older Dell Inspiron 2500 (Windows ME with IE6) and everything worked fine. I have reported the problem to Christian Scholar, I suspect there is an incompatibility with IE7 that needed to be addressed.

ThML public domain catalog items include the complete Bible in several languages. For example, yesterday, I installed the Albanian Bible mainly out of curiosity. cf. One of my fellow alumni of Trinity College Cambridge is Founder and Director of the Albanian Evangelical Mission.

Here's the opening verses of Mark's Gospel in Albanian.
1 Fillimi i Ungjillit të Jezu Krishtit, Birit të Perëndisë. 2 Ashtu si është shkruar tek profetët: ''Ja, unë po dërgoj lajmëtarin tim para fytyrës tënde, i cili do të përgatit udhën tënde përpara teje. 3 Ka një zë që bërtet në shkretëtirë: "Përgatitni udhën e Zotit, drejtoni shtigjet e tij"''.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ReadManiac - Bookreader for mobile phones

While I'm on the topic, I'll mention this free Java application too. It's a bookreader that can read files stored anywhere on your cellphone's memory stick as well as having the capability to make dedicated readers for particular eBooks downloaded from the network.

Wattpad - read and share your stories on your mobile phone

Another great freeware application for Java enabled mobile phones. It's not just for sharing personal stories. Already most of the public domain texts from Project Gutenberg have been uploaded. You can download these for reading on your cellphone.

I've recently uploaded three books by Rev. William Haslam (1818-1905).

Go Bible for Java enabled Mobile Phones

Free downloads of Bibles are available in several languages which can be installed easily on Java enabled mobile phones. I am seriously impressed with this. Worked very smoothly with my new Sony Ericsson K750i model.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Original Published Works of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

In May 2006, D.R. Booker did a fine service in his Running Well blog by providing a PDF download of the items by Robert Murray M’Cheyne that were published in the Scottish Christian Herald, a periodical that appeared in the years 1836 to 1841. Booker wrote,
Many eminent Scottish ministers had original works published in TSCH, including Robert Murray M’Cheyne. In all, M’Cheyne published twelve original pieces, many of which, have not been republished since, and have laid hidden within the pages of these rare volumes for well over a century.
Visit Original Published Works of Robert Murray M’Cheyne for further details.