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WRF500 – Reformation in Islam; The Reformed and the Roman Catholics; Evangelising Atheists and Neo-Pagans; A Worldwide Church and Vision.


Luther and Mrs Luther!

Friday was an intense day – six full talks – I don’t know how people lasted the pace!Two were outstanding – of which more later – but first of all we kicked off with  yours truly speaking on evangelising atheists and neo-pagans.  From my point of view the talk did not go well…it was too rushed, too long, too broad and there was no opportunity for questions and discussion (which is more my style).  Anyone who is a speaker will recognise that dreadful feeling when you sit down embarrassed and think of all the things you could and should have said!  From my point of view I felt that I had let the Lord down…and I also felt that it might be a bit simple for most of the people there..however the response was good (I think more than just politeness) especially from the South American, African and Asian brothers and sisters!   One man commentated afterwards ‘you are the Scottish Tim Keller’ – I think he meant it as a compliment!

Reformation in Islam

Then we heard an outstanding lecture from Dr Christine Schirrmacher (the wife of Thomas) on Islam and the need for a new reformation.  It was thought-provoking, informative and very helpful.   She looked at the current crisis in the Middle East, the connection between religion and politics, Islam in crisis, various Islamic theologians, political Islam, Reform in Islamic history, the role of violence, what is the alternative to secularism?   She argued that we should not view immigrants as the rabbit watches the snake and urged us to make a clear distinction between our Muslim neighbour and political Islam.   This was a stunning lecture from a brilliant woman…and for me personally, very helpful.

Friday Afternoon –

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali – spoke on the Challenge for the West.  At that point I did not feel too well and spent the afternoon resting.

 Revolutionary Protestantism?!

Friday Evening – The Reformed and the Roman Catholics

This was another provocative and brilliant talk…so much to agree and disagree with.  I love going to conferences where you are not just told the stuff you already believe or that you agree with.  In that sense this talk was superb.  Dr Thomas Johnson from Prague spoke about European culture, the Reformation, the impact of religious wars, Marx, Freud and Neitzsche, and a renewed relationship with Roman Catholics.

In what ways should be looking for collaboration with Roman Catholics in Europe today? We must avoid the strong condemning language….whore of Babylon….anti-Christ… Some Roman Catholics use incredibly strong language about each other…. We have hundreds of millions of Christian brothers and sisters within the Catholic church….. The situation is always complicated depending on the local situation and authority. The Catholic Church cannot repudiate what they have said before….lots of Catholics don’t know what their churches teach.

Principles for how to co-operate with Roman Catholics. If I hear a Roman Catholic confessing Christ I know that I can probably work with that person. Co-operation with Roman Catholics will be a real problem with some Protestants.  We must practice visible love towards Roman Catholics….(but shouldn’t we do that anyway?) We need to develop a joint conservative Protestant/Catholic effort to articulate a Christian philosophical basis for society.

1) Reestablish credibility of Christian Worldview.

2) Firm up Christian foundations of Western Societies.

3) Help Western societies.

What was apparent that cultural context (the strength and power of the Catholic church in one’s own area) coloured the different perceptions of the Catholic church today.  The Europeans and the Americans tended to be more open to what Johnson was saying – the South Americans and Asians less so.  For the Africans and Westerners – Islam and secularism were seen as common foes and Catholicism as an ally.    In this session I felt that Johnson opened a can of worms….it would have been good to have had more of a diet!

Overall View of WRF 500

I did not expect this conference to be as good as it has been.  The quality of some of the talks is about as good as I have heard.  The Schirrmachers and Carson were the pick of the bunch.  I think most of all it was good to have fellowship with people from

Flip Buys and Mwaya Kitavi
Black and White Africans together

throughout the world – with different perspectives and a common unity.  When the WRF started I was critical because I thought it would be yet another American/European dominated ‘world’ organisation which paid only lip service to the rest of the world.  I am delighted to have been proved wrong. I apologise for my initial cynicism.   The WRF has real potential – whether that will be realised is something that has yet to be seen.  It needs younger leadership (whilst retaining the wisdom of the older), more resources and a clearer and greater vision.  But what we have seen these past few days has been very encouraging and several steps in the right direction.  I am sorry that we have to go home early and will miss tomorrow and Monday….but I have a suspicion that there will be fruit from this conference that as yet we do not know.


PS.  It was good to see the Free Church so well represented with three of the speakers – Iver Martin, Fergus MacDonald and yours truly.

Don Carson on Sola Scriptura, Iver Martin on Scottish Mission, Benjamin Intan on Secularism in Indonesia and Thomas Schirrmacher on the Suffering Church – @wrf500

The Gospel Impact of the Reformation – #wrf500


  1. In this session I felt that Johnson opened a can of worms….it would have been good to have had more of a diet!

    A Diet of Worms, perhaps. Except that Worms is pronounced Vorms, not Wurms.

  2. The Catholic Church cannot repudiate what they have said before…
    That’s not quite right. If you are talking about matters which the Church has declared to be taught infallibly then the statement is correct. No Pope can, for example, declare that Mary was not conceived without original sin. People very often have the notion that the Pope decides the Church’s teaching. The reality is that the Pope is the chief guardian of the deposit of faith. Within the limits of the development of doctrine he can declare something as being worthy of belief and if done according to certain rules this is deemed to be infallible. But he cannot reverse a doctrine so defined. Once a dogma has been defined by a valid authority then it cannot be repudiated.
    But outwith that limitation what the Church has declared is not beyond repudiation. A famous example is the trial of Galileo.
    In Laudate Si, Pope Francis has declared:
    “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.”
    There are plenty of Catholic scientists who will repudiate most of that statement. They are entitled to do so. Laudate Si is not part of the Church’s infallible teaching.
    You also need to define more carefully what you mean by ‘the Catholic Church’.

    .lots of Catholics don’t know what their churches (typo for Church?) teach.
    That is absolutely right. I know someone who went through Catholic Primary and Secondary schools. He was unable to answer the following quiz question: What did the First Vatican Council declare the Pope to be? One of the reasons that many Catholics in the USA are vulnerable to Evangelical proselytism is that they are so poorly catechised that they are unable to defend their faith. They are easily given a false version of that faith and encouraged to reject the false version. Like saying Catholics worship Mary.

  3. Just confirm what David wrote about ‘lots of Catholics’, I just happened to come across this:
    When I was in the seminary in the early 1960s, we were indoctrinated in the notion that the harsh discipline of the Church over the centuries would be a thing of the past following Vatican II. Supposedly, none of this harshness had ever really worked to safeguard the teaching of the Church, so a new softer approach was needed.

    A half-century later, the results are in – and it’s indisputable that the softer approach didn’t work. In addition to the exodus of priests, nuns, and religious, there’s been a massive loss of knowledge among ordinary lay people about what the Church teaches. And no wonder, since there’s been little effort to make Church teachings clear in the flight from the bad old days of “harsh discipline.”

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