Is Africa Cursed?: Meditations on Marikana

This is the latest Culture Watch article by yours truly.

“Is Africa cursed?” This startling question was put to Dr. Wayne Grudem by a Nigerian couple who wanted to better understand the reason for the seemingly perpetual poverty and economic malaise that Africa finds itself in. (1) Sadly the recent, tragic events in Marikana have again highlighted the socio-economic problems in our own land. According to the Gini Index South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world with a Gini Index of 63.6%. (2)

So what is it that causes one nation to prosper and another to continue in poverty? Very simply it is the degree to which a country implements and abides by biblical principles. This does not mean that a ‘non-Christian’ country cannot prosper. One only has to look at countries like Japan and Germany to see this. However, these countries prosper because of the biblical principles that are at work, whether they acknowledge them or not. This is God’s world and He has ordained the principles that will bring success and prosperity. (cf. the whole book of Proverbs)

According to William Gumede the Honorary Associate Professor of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand:

South Africa does not have a system based on meritocracy, which rewards hard work and excellence. As a result, a small black elite, from the ranks of the ANC and its trade union ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), has become fabulously rich through shares in long-established white companies, winning government contracts and holding top posts in the public sector – all under the guise of black economic empowerment. (3)

Professor Gumede’s statement about meritocracy gets at one of the basic requirements for prosperity in any society and that is individual responsibility. Any society that moves away from the truth of individual responsibility is heading for sustained poverty. When people are no longer punished for their crimes but are rather seen as victims or when someone who does succeed is seen as ‘lucky’ then that society is no longer operating within biblical parameters. Throughout Scripture we see that God holds people accountable for their actions. Consider this passage from Ezekiel:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)

For South Africa or any country to prosper people need to begin to take responsibility for their actions. This brings us to our next point, the role of government.

Government is a gift from God! Paul writes that Rulers are God’s servants who bear the sword in order to punish wrongdoers (cf. Romans 13:1-7). The government is meant to punish wrongdoing wherever it is found. They are to hold individuals responsible for their actions. They are also to be free from bribery and corruption (Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 16:19). Sadly as Sir Fred Catherwood writes, “Corruption almost always starts from the top.” (4)

All people and especially Christians should vigorously oppose bribery and injustice in the spheres in which God has placed them. Christians should be light and salt, exposing corruption and acting as preservatives against the natural tendency towards moral decay (Matt. 5:13-16).

History has shown that the rise of the Protestant work ethic which flowed from the Reformation was directly responsible for the prosperity of the West. As people began to see that all work, no matter how menial (Jesus Christ worked with His hands as a carpenter!), was sacred and should be done to the glory of God so they began to work diligently and with integrity.

May God be merciful to us and use the preaching and practicing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring about a true reformation that impacts Africa and brings her out of grinding poverty and insidious corruption.

Soli Deo Gloria

1) From a very informative lecture series by Dr. Wayne Grudem entitled 50 Factors Within Nations that Lead to Sustained Economic Growth or Continual Poverty. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/za/itunes-u/50-factors-within-nations/id378880087
2) The Gini Index is the standard economic measure of income inequality varying between 0% (perfect equality) and 100% (perfect inequality). An Hodgson, “South Africa – The Most Unequal Income Distribution in the World,” accessed 5 September 2012; available here http://blog.euromonitor.com/2012/06/south-africa-the-most-unequal-income-distribution-in-the-world.html
3) William Gumede, “Viewpoint: Will South Africans’ Anger Boil Over?” Accessed 5 September 2012; available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19355104
4) Fred Catherwood, Light, Salt and the World of Business (Singapore: Excel Print Media, 2007), 13.

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank) by Rachel Jankovic

I just came across this excellent article by Rachel Jankovic on the Desiring God website. Available here.

A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”

She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”

Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

A Rock-Bottom Job?

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?

It’s Not a Hobby

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

Run to the Cross

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.

The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.

The Question Is How

The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?

It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.

Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.

Hands Full of Good Things

When my little girl told me, “Your hands are full!” I was so thankful that she already knew what my answer would be. It was the same one that I always gave: “Yes they are—full of good things!”

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

Are we Preachers or Witchdoctors? by Conrad Mbewe

The latest post from S.A. Culture Watch.

I came across a pamphlet today. It was given to me at the traffic lights while waiting for the lights to go green. It read as follows:

My name is Stella Mwanza from Sinda (Eastern Province). I used to read in newspapers and listen to the radio about how different people were testifying concerning Pastor Elijah and I was so impressed with his healing powers that I decided to try him as I had a lot of problems.

First, my husband was divorcing me as he accused me of having an affair with another man and even doubted our lastborn child. Pastor Elijah prayed for me and this calmed down my husband and now we’re happily married with our kids.

I introduced a friend of mine to the same pastor who had an unstable marriage because her husband was sexually weak and had a tiny manhood. She was going out with other men to satisfy her sexual desire though she loved her husband. Pastor Elijah invited the couple to his place and prayed for both of them. Now they are back in a good relationship. Thanks to Pastor Elijah.

Also meet Mr James Siame from Batoka: “I am a businessman who has been doing business for the past 27 years. At first my business was doing well but as time passed on I had some breakouts in my business, as my capital was finishing. Pastor Elijah prayed for me and my business has flourished and is working well now.”

Through his prayers, Pastor Elijah also helps people with the following problems:

1.Financial problems, including increase in salary, promotion at work, poor business turnover, debt demands, and customer attraction

2.Sexual problems

3.Diabetes, asthma, body pains, the symptoms of AIDS, and the control of blood pressure

4.Win court cases

5.Protection of property

6.Deliverance for bewitched people

7. Removal of bad luck

Actually, the pamphlet was not about a Pastor Elijah but about a Professor Elijah—a witchdoctor! The only reason why I replaced “professor” with “pastor” (and medicines with prayers) is because this witchdoctor’s claims are precisely the same as that which I am now hearing from my fellow African pastors in their tens of thousands everyday. It is all about the body and the pocket. There is precious little about the salvation of souls.

This is a very sad day indeed for the church on the African continent. The unique gospel that pioneer missionaries brought us, which speaks about repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins is hard to come by these days. It has been traded in for a message promising deliverance from financial, sexual, and bodily problems. We are now merely another option to witchdoctors—peddling the same temporal benefits. With all due respect to the modern understanding of Mark 16:17-18, etc., this is not what Jesus sent us to do as preachers of the gospel.

Mark 16:17–18
17“These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;
18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

As long as our publicity to the outside world is nothing more than that which witchdoctors are using, we can only have the same impact. Are our churches full to overflowing? So are the consultation rooms of witchdoctors. Numbers prove nothing. What matters is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). We cannot bear this fruit until men and women are made to face the fact of their rebellion against God and the need for them to trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross in order to be reconciled to God. The rarity of this message from African pulpits today is a modern day scandal.

What good is it, if men and women have full pockets, sexual satisfaction, and healthy bodies but in the end go to hell? We are sent out to preach messages that will prepare souls for heaven. The gospel transforms lives so that they hate sin and live for righteousness—whether they have full or empty pockets. It is the absence of this life-transforming message that has resulted in so many churches around Africa but little or no moral effect on the society. We preachers are to blame for all this! Today’s preachers on the African soil need to answer this one question: Are we preachers or witchdoctors?

Steve Jobs, Apple, Pixar and Bob Dylan

I have just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s 571 page tome on the late Steve Jobs. When the book was first released I didn’t think I would care to read it; I am not the biggest Apple fan. However, a few weeks ago I saw an interview with Walter Isaacson and he mentioned that Steve Jobs had trained himself to look at people without blinking, to literally stare them down! He did this so that he could intimidate others and get them to do his bidding. After hearing that I thought, ‘I have to read that book!’

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book and could hardly put it down. I learnt so much not only about Steve Jobs but about Apple, Pixar (I never knew that Jobs was one of the founders!), Bill Gates, iTunes etc. In the beginning I really saw Jobs as an arrogant, self-centered jerk, which he was, but by the end of the book I was quite moved by him and his life. This was not because he was actually a nice guy but because a life lived without the knowledge of Christ is such a tragic thing.

One example from the book will suffice to show what sort of a person Steve Jobs was. One of his romantic interests, before he married Laurene, was a lady named Tina Redse. They had quite a stormy relationship but later in life she said that Jobs suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She went on to say that this ‘diagnosis’ “fits so well and explained so much of what we had struggled with, that I realised expecting him to be nicer or less self-centered was like expecting a blind man to see.” (266) In fact when Jobs was confronted by others as to why he was often so callous and rude he would reply, “This is who I am, and you can’t expect me to be someone who I’m not.” (565) With this statement Steve Jobs unwittingly spelt out what the Bible teaches about human nature. We are not free to change intrinsically. Real change, heart change, is only possible through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what was it that made him successful? In Scripture there are various reasons for the success and prosperity of men and women. People can achieve material wealth and success through stealing, bribery etc. Or they can prosper because they follow certain Biblical principles. For example; working hard, doing things properly, paying your debts etc. (Read Proverbs) Jobs was not an honest man, he often reneged on his contracts but he was a hard working perfectionist. He was even concerned about the aesthetics of the screws inside Apple products. Listen to his reasoning:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” (134)

I think that Christians should also have this mentality when it comes to their work. Jobs’ example of a carpenter reminds me of the Great Carpenter, Jesus Christ. One can easily imagine Him working in this way.

One of the reasons for the huge success of Apple was Jobs’ obsession with marketing. Perhaps the clearest evidence of this is the famous 1984 advert (see below) which was a play on George Orwell’s book 1984. In 1984 Big Brother seeks to control everyone and conform them into a sort of one-size-fits-all mould. All liberty is taken away and even your thoughts are monitored. In the advert Apple sets itself up as the truly free company that is fighting the ‘Big Brother’ world of IBM and other giant corporations. The irony is that Apple is now the biggest company in the world and under Jobs become incredibly totalitarian. In fact Jobs was very anti open source and sharing of operating systems, he wanted to control everything. Apple products are designed so that it is virtually impossible to repair them or even just change a battery. Apple has in a certain way become what they criticised.

One of the most poignant parts in the book is when Jobs and Isaacson are listening to the music on Jobs’ iPad; this occurs during Jobs’ third medical leave for cancer, so he knows the end is near. They listen to some Bob Dylan, The Beatles and then some versions of the ‘Goldberg Variations’ by Glenn Gould. The first one was performed in 1955 when Gould was 22 while the second version was performed in 1981. Jobs said, “They are like night and day…The first is an exuberant, young, brilliant piece, played so fast it’s a revelation. The later one is so much more spare and stark. You sense a very deep soul who’s been through a lot in life. It’s deeper and wiser.” Isaacson then asked Jobs which version he preferred. “I used to like the earlier, exuberant one. But now I can see where he was coming from.” (413-4)

Jobs realised his mortality and it affected him but sadly there is no evidence that he turned to Christ. He summed up his view on Christianity like this:

Religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it…I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.” (15)

Reading Jobs’ biography rekindled my enjoyment of Bob Dylan (Jobs was a huge fan of Dylan) and so I started listening to a few of his songs. In 1979 Dylan released an album entitled Slow Train Coming, one of the songs on that album is Gotta Serve Somebody. Here are a few lines from that song:

You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

If only Jobs had listened a little more carefully.

Soli Deo Gloria

Old Testament Law and The Charge of Inconsistency by Tim Keller

Old Testament Law and The Charge of Inconsistency by Tim Keller

 This is a recent, helpful article by Tim Keller. Many Christians over simplify the role of the Law by either saying that only what is repeated is binding or else only what is abrogated is not binding. I believe the biblical way is to interpret the Law through Christ as Keller does below. 

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I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” What I hear most often is “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”
 
It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.
 
First of all, let’s be clear that it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality. The New Testament has plenty to say about it, as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12 that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that, (v. 12) persons should abstain from marriage and from sex. 
 
However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the OT that are no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this. Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament:
 
The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices that were to be offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshippers could approach a holy God. As part of that sacrificial system there was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification. 
 
But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them. (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Psalm 50:12-15; 51:17; Hosea 6:6). When Christ appeared he declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19) and he ignored the Old Testament clean laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies. 
 
But the reason is made clear. When he died on the cross the veil in the temple was ripped through, showing that the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its clean laws had been done away with. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us “clean.” 
 
The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray ‘in Jesus name’, we ‘have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus’ (Hebrews 10:19). It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we were to continue to follow the ceremonial laws. 
 
The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live. The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love, and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships, and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11.) If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.
 
Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments. Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties. 
 
But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments. The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff. and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11.) Why this change? Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples. 
 
Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.
 
So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.
 
One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question—“Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”
 
 
Soli Deo Gloria

Why ‘Culture Watch?’

The following is an article by Tim Cantrell (Pastor at Antioch Bible Church) marking the genesis of a fortnightly article on worldview issues in a South African context. I will be a contributor; the other contributors are listed at the end of the article. Pray that the Lord will use this forum to bring true cultural awareness and sensitivity to His Church as well as radical cultural change.

Enjoy!

What is it about culture that demands watchfulness? No one would question the need for vigilance against other threats, like infection, crime, fraud, or computer viruses. But how could culture be that dangerous? There was a time when culture was safe, perfectly harmless in the Garden of Eden. But not anymore.

Oxford Dictionary’s first definition of culture is: “the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organisation of a particular country or group”. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Except that this all requires culture-makers, i.e., people. No people, no culture. And wherever you have people, you have sinners (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:9-23; Eph. 2:1-3).

In fact, culture has never been neutral. Unfallen culture in Eden had a bias toward God and holiness. Fallen culture today has a bias away from God and holiness.

Because human culture has been infected by sin, it has a blinding effect on us. Someone has rightly said, ‘Culture is what other people have, not me’. We think we’re the norm, and its others cultures that are weird and have blind spots! Just like previous societies who for centuries saw no problem with cannibalism, nudity, infanticide, slavery, widow-burning, racism, etc. Only when the gospel came to these cultures were their eyes opened. Only then did they become watchful to sift out the old, sinful aspects of their culture and replace them with new, godly practices. Unless someone sounds the alarm of God’s Word for us, our own culture tends to lull us to sleep and numb us to certain sins.

Despite all that multiculturalism and relativism tell us today, every culture has flaws that should be exposed, not preserved (1 Pet. 1:14,18; Php. 2:15).
Culture will always reflect its cultivators, who are born slaves to sin and hostile towards God and one another (Jam. 4:1-3; Titus 3:3). Behind all of this is the chief culture-destroyer and deceiver, Satan, who allies with this world’s fallen system to make culture all the more dangerous, enticing, and blinding to us (1 John 2:15-17; 5:19; Jam. 4:4,7).

By God’s grace, humanity still bears His image and is able to build rich and beautiful cultures and great civilisations. There is much we could say, and much that Scripture says, about enjoying life amidst fallen cultures (cf. Eccl. 2:24-26; 3:22; 5:18; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 6:17). Christians are not anti-cultural; but we must be countercultural (Rom. 12:2, 9b).

Until Christ returns and the curse is removed and the groaning ends and Paradise is regained, culture will remain dangerous and require watchfulness. Each culture poses its own unique opportunities, threats and challenges to the Christian Church. This column, CULTURE WATCH S.A., aims to specifically alert you to trends in South African culture & media and equip you with biblical responses.

Think of how often Jesus and the Bible command us to “Awake, keep watch, take heed, beware, be on guard, stay alert, be sober-minded/temperate”1. Watchful against what? Can life really be that dangerous? Absolutely! Here are some of the top threats that Scripture warns us to be vigilant against: God Himself in His jealous holiness; our own prone-to-wander deceitful, depraved, idolatrous hearts; false teachers and false gospels; doctrinal error; division & hypocrisy in the church; temptation; worldliness; distractions to prayer; Satan’s trickery.

What is the one place where all of the above dangers can be found? In culture, every human culture that exists. That makes culture anything but neutral, harmless, or safe.

But the good news is that full protection is available! Christ is Lord over every danger, and in Him and His Word we have the ultimate security system and every necessary defence (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 John 2:18-27, etc.).

This is why we are launching this CULTURE WATCH S.A. column. We will be aiming, as often as possible, to be a faithful watchman on the wall, blowing the trumpet of God’s truth and rallying Christ’s troops to stand firm amidst various cultural pressures that are mounting. Through various local writers, we will seek to give a clearer understanding and biblical response to such issues as: current ethical challenges; attacks on the Bible, gospel, and Church in South Africa; social justice; attempts to redefine marriage, family and gender roles; rise of Islam; resurgence of African traditional religion; trends in education, etc.

We believe that CULTURE WATCH S.A. could be more important that any news feeds that you get, because we are going to select for you the most important local issues that Christians should be thinking about. Our prayer is that Christ would use this column to strengthen His Church in this land.

Please pray with us to that end.

Yours watchfully,

Tim Cantrell

on behalf of the Biblical Worldview team of writers:
Mark Christopher
David de Bruyn
Clint Archer
Gus Pritchard
Tyrell Haag
Michael Rogers
(Plus other occasional guest writers)

[1] Exod. 23:21; 34:12; Deut. 4:9, 15, 23; Ezek. 33; Prov. 4:23; Mark 13; 14:32-42; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:15; 1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Tim. 3:2; 4:16; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8; 2 Tim. 4:5

Audio Biography of John Stott

I recently gave a biographical sketch on the life of John Stott. While preparing for such talks I like to listen to others and see how they arrange the material. However, when I tried to find an audio biography on John Stott I couldn’t find any! So perhaps my one will help someone.

You can listen to the talk here and on the Heritage Baptist Church, Johannesburg podcast on iTunes.

Soli Deo Gloria