"Then the king said to his men, "Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day?" (2 Samuel 3:38).
These words came to mind as news came of the death of our dear brother Melvin Tinker. It's strange how someone you have never met can have such an impact on your life. Melvin (as other testimonies on this website have indicated), will be sorely missed. He is deeply loved not only by his family and congregation, but by many of us in the wider Church. He showed us how to stand for truth graciously.
I know that it is customary for people to speak well of the dead – and it is sometimes hard to distinguish the bland and the waffle from the genuine – but believe me when I say that there are many of us who are heartbroken that a great man has fallen, and that the Church in the UK is poorer for that.
Melvin's outstanding legacy – apart from his family (pray for his widow Heather and their three sons, Christopher, Michael and Philip) and congregation (St John's in Hull which grew to 500 people and was one of the largest in the north of England) – are his writings, especially That Hideous Strength: How the West was Lost.
The genius of the book, which was just 117 pages (although the second edition was expanded to 177), is that it takes CS Lewis's prophetic novel, That Hideous Strength, and shows how prescient Lewis was.
Tinker applies the biblical teaching about the Tower of Babel and shows how we can bring down Babel today. He identifies 'cultural Marxism' as the principal ideology of That Hideous Strength (the anti-God alternative) in today's West. It is ironic that the rot is sometimes so deep into the Church that even using the phrase 'cultural Marxism' has been mocked and derided by some Christians.
Tinker talks about how language has been changed and abused; and how authoritarianism and intolerance have come in, in the name of tolerance. His summary of how political discourse is conducted today is brilliant – especially as it pertains to social media: "Forget argument and reason, assume your opponent is just wrong or stupid (or both) and explain his ideas away by appealing to pseudoscience."
The book goes on to look at the gender agenda, education, the destruction of the family, and how biblical cosmology is being taken over by a pagan one. He finally goes on to helpfully, practically and biblically demonstrate how we can challenge this evil with the truth of the Gospel. We should commend the truth, culturally engage, and courageously refuse! We need faithful Christian communities that are a praying people, a literate leadership (biblically and culturally) and a changed community.
"Wilberforce used both hands, the right hand of proclaiming the gospel, and the left hand of refuting present-day ideas and values, using all the means at his disposal to effect change. This took great courage," he writes.
David Wells calls it "a very brave, fine book written with keen insight", andI totally agree. As I wrote in commendation, That Hideous Strength is an essential primer for any Christian in seeking to understand what is going on in society today. The first edition was outstanding but limited because of its size. The newly expanded edition overcame these limitations without becoming unwieldy or too heavy. It is a book that should be on every church bookstall and every Christian's bookshelf.
When a famous singer dies, often their albums will enjoy a boost in sales, and they will re-enter the charts. What a fitting tribute it would be if the publishers had to reprint many times That Hideous Strength, not for the money but for the glory - the glory of Jesus!
I was so impressed by this book that I did a series of articles based upon it. And then discovered how courageous Melvin was because shortly after I wrote the first one, he was banned from speaking at the Derby Christian Union carol service.
As Jesus reminds us in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." Sadly, if the Church is worldly then it too joins in that hatred. No matter how mild, gracious and loving Melvin was, those in the Church who could not bear truth, banned him. He was not welcome in several cathedrals and was a thorn in the side of the Establishment until he left the Church of England a year before his retirement.
As well as his 17 books, Melvin's work will live on through YouTube. There are many examples, but I loved doing this discussion with him and Steve McAlpine about the church. It was such an encouragement. As it happens, I was preparing to do another video with him on his latest book, The First and the Last: The Comfort of the Triune God in Revelation. He wanted to do it knowing he was dying. That discussion will have to wait till eternity!
At the end of this book, Melvin cites Jonathan Edwards in a quotation that beautifully sums up his current state: "God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honour and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world ... the glorious excellencies and the beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast."
Amen. Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.
David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia, where he runs the ASK Project. He blogs at The Wee Flea.