The Galley Slave Analogy

Follow me in this analogy and see if it helps you catch fresh insight into some Bible truth. I find that different ways of explaining things suit different people, so the use of analogy often helps open up a truth to people in a fresh way.

The Galley Slave

Imagine that you are a slave on board an ancient black ship, and you are among a group of slaves who must row the boat. That is what a galley slave is, and you are one of them, for the purposes of this analogy.

Imagine, further, that there is a sea battle, and your ship is being attacked. While the enemy attacking your ship has no particular dislike for you, you are nonetheless under attack because the ship you are in is under attack.

You row as hard as you can and you hope with all you have that your ship survives the battle. If your ship is sunk you will sink with it, since you are chained to your seat. Remember, you are a slave on this ship.

The Back Story

For the purposes of this analogy we need to consider how you came to be a galley slave on that particular ship. This is what the movie-makers call the back story, filling the viewer in on what led up to the present predicament.

It turns out that there are only two options for people in your world. Both options involve being a galley slave. The choice is which ship to row for. There are the Black ships and the White ships, which are at war with each other.

As a child you have opportunity to consider which ship you will row for. But most people do not make the decision consciously. They are tricked into their choice by actions which they think are innocent.

A child may be playing with friends or exploring the market or just walking down the street, but end up being tricked into slavery. They are given a choice to make, which seems quite innocent, such as stealing a small piece of fruit, or telling a lie. When they make that choice the choice of ship has been made for them, by their actions.

At some point you were dragged off to the Black ship and chained in place. You did not remember choosing to row for the Black ships, but you discover that your selfish choices at a younger age were unwittingly your choice to row for the Black ship.

The Ugly Facts

Once you became a galley slave for the Black ships you learned some ugly facts. The Black ships are deemed to be pirate ships and are pursued and frequently sunk at sea by the White ships. You didn’t want to be a pirate or to suffer the punishment of a pirate, but now you are a galley slave on a pirate ship.

You cannot jump ship and you cannot change your choice. You are now forever in fear and forever tormented by the possibility of being pursued and sunk at sea.

These ugly facts make you desperately sorry for your careless actions as a child. You rebuke yourself for not realising what was going on and for allowing yourself to fall into the trap of your own selfishness.

The Escape

One of the galley slaves rowing near you tells you that he heard of a galley slave on a Black ship who cried out for mercy during a battle. He was rescued from the Black ship and set free from all his past wrong choices.

Inspired by this story you wait for the time when your ship is under attack and you too begin to cry out loud for mercy. Those around you treat you with scorn and taunt and mock you, but you are determined to be saved and so you keep calling out despite their rebukes and physical blows.

Suddenly your ship is broken open by the bow of a White ship and someone jumps down and pulls you free as your Black ship sinks.


As you stand, saved, on the deck of a White ship you swear your allegiance to the white fleet and breathe the fresh air of freedom. You are now no longer linked to the pirate fleet and you will now not live under the constant fear of death.

You are then escorted to the galley of the White ship where you are given a place to sit and row. This time you are not chained to your seat, so you can stand and move around. You could even abandon ship if you wished to. You now have the privilege of service to the White fleet, as a voluntary slave, in gratitude for your freedom.

Jumping Ship

Some time later you feel a compelling urge to be free of the oars completely. You feel a powerful urge to be free of all slavery and free of all responsibility. You feel a strong urge to jump ship and achieve a new level of freedom that does not include the responsibility to serve on the White fleet.

When the ship is in dock one day you quietly slip over the side and sneak away on your own. When you are clear you run as fast and far as you can to get away from the coast and all ships.

You finally collapse and sleep, dreaming of your new-found freedom from all slavery and responsibility.

Back to the Black

When you wake you find that you have been caught, not by the White fleet which you abandoned, but by the Black ship again. Your rejection of the White ship responsibilities turns out to be a choice which makes you a Black ship slave again.

You struggle and protest. You did what you did to be completely free of slavery, not to be dragged back into it. But once again you have been ignorant of reality. Everyone is a slave. The choice is not between slavery and freedom, but to which fleet you will be enslaved.

The White fleet saved you from the pirate fleet and its fearful fugitive existence. But in the White fleet you were still a slave, a love slave dedicated to serve as an act of your free will. When you rejected that responsibility you gave in to selfishness again and that action brought you under slavery to the Black fleet all over again.


I trust that I don’t have to unpack this analogy for you. I hope its significance is clear. However I will take the time in a future post to unpack the Galley Slave Analogy for you, and to remind you of the points I have sought to make in this little story.

John Wycliffe Gives England the Bible

John Wycliffe died on December 31, 1384.

He was born of sturdy Saxon stock in Ipreswell, Yorkshire, England, somewhere around the year 1320 (the date range is from 1320-1330, but 1324 is the date often chosen). It was in an age of spiritual darkness – and 200 years before Luther would shake the church with his reforms.

But Wycliffe saw the apostasy into which the Church of Rome had fallen. “The Church,” he said, “should return to the poverty and simplicity of apostolic times.” The Pope he called “the Anti-Christ, the proud, worldly priest of Rome!” (Church in History, by B. Kuiper, page 143).

He occupies a distinguished place in the history of the Christian Church, first as a scholar and champion of theological reform, but primarily for his translation of the Scripture into the English language. His followers, known as the Lollards, went out two by two, covering England with Protestant teaching. Many of them met fiery deaths.

Wycliffe was a scholar and theologian with a teaching position at Oxford, from which he was ultimately expelled. His Lollardy movement, sending itinerant preachers across the countryside, was also ultimately stamped out.

From his position at Oxford, Wycliffe first saw himself as a reformer, expecting to encourage the church back to its Biblical simplicity. He was first concerned that ecclesiastical leaders (popes, cardinals, church councils, etc) exerted authority over kings and civil governments. He saw this as abuse of power and argued that civil government should be performed by God’s appointed civil leaders in accordance with Biblical instructions. At the time Popes were dictating to kings how they should prosecute people who the church disapproved of.

Wycliffe also opposed the holding of lordly positions by church leaders and the holding of property by church organisations, such as monastic orders. He believed that Christianity was most pure when its servants were poor and simple, not living luxuriously or holding large properties.

He asserted that Christ was the head of the Church and that people did not need a pope or papal appointee to administer their faith. He declared that “Our Pope is Christ”.

He feared that some people appointed as popes and cardinals were not even true members of the Church of Jesus Christ. He had high hopes for Pope Urban VI as a “true” pope, but was ultimately disappointed in him.

As the Church of Rome grew in opposition to him, Wycliffe hardened his position on the Pope and the organised church, ultimately identifying the Pope as the Anti-Christ.

He was motivated to create an English Bible for the common people by his belief that they could establish a strong personal faith through nothing more than the Word of God. His army of Lollard priests fulfilled his vision of poor men whose only interest was the truth delivered to people’s hearts. Thus these Wycliffeites were called “Bible men”.

Wycliffe’s position was complicated by the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, for which he was blamed. This was an uprising against the oppressive nobility, particularly the ecclesiastical nobility. On November 18, 1382 Wycliffe was called to defend himself, but he was weakened by the first of several strokes, which ultimately claimed his life.

Note that Wycliffe’s translation was hand-written. Assistants and the Lollards copied his translation by hand. Thus hundreds of copies of the scripture were made. 150 manuscripts or fragments remain from Wycliffe’s landmark work.

Note also that Wycliffe had to work from the Latin Vulgate version, since that was the only version available to him. So he translated the English from Latin.

Schaff comments: “It becomes evident that in almost every doctrinal particular did this man anticipate the reformers.” History refers to him as the “Morning Star of the Reformation”.

On December 28, 1384 Wycliffe suffered another stroke and died on the last day of the year, 1384. He was buried in the church graveyard at Lutterworth.

Thirty years after his death, May 4, 1415, the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic, decreeing that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed. In 1428 his body was exhumed and burnt, and the ashes thrown into the nearby Swift River.

This act of desecration, as viewed by the Roman Catholic Church who instigated it, is seen in a different light by many Protestants. To them it was prophetic. For as the river took Wycliffe’s ashes to the sea, so his message spread from shore to shore until the Protestant Faith was firmly established around the world.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Rudyard Kipling Pens Lest We Forget

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, on December 30, 1865, and many of the stories for which he later became famous bear the marks of that Indian background.

His father was a teacher of arts and crafts and Rudyard was raised by a maid who taught him Hindustani as his first language. However, at age six he was taken to and left in Swansea, England for five years at a foster home. There he confronted English discipline, including beatings, for which he was ill prepared.

At age thirteen he entered United Services College to prepare him for a life of military service. This ambition was thwarted by his short-sightedness. At that time his family connections with pre-Raphaelites influenced his writing.

When he returned to India in 1882 he pursued a career in journalism, to suit his bookish interests. He wrote many short stories which were well received in England where he was hailed as a literary luminary.

“Ruddy”, as he was know in younger years, glorified the English soldier in various situations and overseas duties in the British Empire, particularly India and Burma. He wrote mostly for or about military personnel.

He also wrote wonderful stories for children, including The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book.

In 1892 he married Caroline Starr Balestier, the sister of an American publisher with whom he collaborated. The marriage was apparently not an ideal one, as Caroline struggled with some of his character qualities. Kipling became a more difficult man to live with after the death of his daughter when they lived in Vermont, USA.

His son, John, who also had short-sightedness, managed to get into the military, but was killed in World War One, at the Battle of Loos, at age 18.

Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, and was the first Englishman to receive that prestigious award.

Certainly there is no Christian message in his books, although the heroes are always men of high ideals. Nor is there any indication that Kipling was ever converted. An active Freemason, he is sometimes spoken of as the Masonic Poet. His stories express a sense of Imperialism and pride in the prominence of the British Rule, as if it were by divine mandate. He did not question the quality of that rule or its implications.

But in 1897 he wrote a hymn for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – a hymn still to be found in most hymnals and often sung on patriotic occasions:
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line –
Beneath Whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget.

Australians will recognise the words “Lest We Forget”, since they are invoked each Anzac Day, April 25, in memory of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in battle. The hymn is most likely to be heard on Anzac Day. The words also adorn the Returned Soldiers’ League (RSL) buildings.

Rudyard Kipling died in London of a cerebral haemorrhage on January 18, 1936, aged 70. He was buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Christian Music Primer 2

I have already opened the contentious topic of modern Christian music for your consideration and in this post I want to start building a basis for thinking through some of the divergent elements to find a means of assessing, understanding and directing what we are dealing with.

Christian Music

I pointed out previously that there are battle lines about Christian music in many churches, involving the style of music and how it is used in the church. One of the hot issues is volume, but that is only part of a rich tapestry of musical elements which work together to create a style or idiom or genre of music.

Some churches maintain ancient traditional values in their music, whether accompanied or a cappella, psalmody, chants or historic hymns. Other churches only use the latest songs from the top music houses, disposing of songs as fast as they can get new ones. Other churches have created a mix of old and new, fast and slow, based on their traditional background and the major musical influences which they have subscribed to.

Because of the wide ranging diversity and the general lack of real principle behind most church music choices there is little in the way of reference points which churches, home groups and music lovers can use in their personal and ministry related musical choices.

Back to Basics

Before we get entangled in argument about preferences, age related tastes, and so on, we are best to go back to basics and look at some of the underlying musical and spiritual considerations. Whatever you build you are wise to have a solid foundation. So let’s see if we can’t get some foundational thinking in place on which to build.

The three most basic elements of music are melody, harmony and rhythm. This is where we will start. For those who are well educated about music, please excuse my simplified descriptions of these elements. I need everyone to have a clear idea of what we are talking about so I will give a basic description of these basics, to get everyone on the same base.


The melody of a song is the series of musical notes that we sing. It is the part that identifies a song, when you hear it being whistled or you hum it to your self. The melody is the purest element of the song. It IS the song.

Many songs share the same harmony and chords and many share the same rhythm. But what identifies one song from another is its melody line. If you hear someone singing something to themself, they will almost certainly be singing the melody.

A melody can be sung slow or fast without destroying the melody itself. It can be sung or played as a tune and it can also be only partially used but still be identified as the same song. That is why I say that the melody IS the song. Just as YOU are yourself. Whether you are happy or sad, energetic or worn out, clean or smelly, healthy or sick, you are still you. The same is true for the melody. You can present it many ways, yet people readily recognise the song.


When two or more musical notes are played together they will either blend and make a complementary sound or they will clash and spoil each other. Harmony is the mixing of multiple notes together to create a pleasing enrichment of the melody.

There are many ways to mix musical sounds and the mixture can create happy or sad feelings (major or minor), soothing or grating effect, fulfilling or plaintive emotions and so on. Therefore harmony is very powerful. Good use of harmony can give powerful charge to the melody and can particularly emphasise the message in the lyrics. A sad song will have sad and doleful harmonies. A celebration song will not have any of those harmonies in it.

Major key harmonies are brighter and more positive in the emotions they evoke. Minor key harmonies tend to be more reflective and sad.

Different harmonies can written for the same song, changing the feeling of the song. Basic harmonies using the three primary chords tend to give a song a childlike simplicity, while complex chords tend to give a song a more alluring quality.


Rhythm is the pace at which the song moves forward. Pace does not only refer to speed, but also to the kind of steps taken. Imagine, for example, a toddler running, compared to a professional sprinter. Their individual pace is not just the speed of their movement but how big and even the steps are.

Imagine then a horse with one lame leg, or a lame person pushing a chair forward then taking awkward steps toward it, before pausing to push the chair forward again.

All of those examples give you a sense for rhythm. And another way to get a feel for it is to speak a line of poetic verse. Say, “Pushes ev’ry purpose out of mind”. You will most likely emphasize the push / pur / and mind. Every syllable will probably be given the same amount of time, like a run of even steps. That’s rhythm at work.

Rhythm and Beat

Rhythm involves the beat of the music, but I hold off reference to beat until you have a sense of rhythm without a notion of beat. Beat has been abducted by the rock and roll phenomenon and some people are distracted by the term. Allow me now to clarify the place of beat.

While just about every word has its own natural rhythm and music reflects the rhythmic realities of nature and language, rhythm also has the quality of picking the music up and carrying it along. In the absence of a strong beat music might tend to run along happily, with rhythm undergirding the melody and harmony. But for marching music the movement of the music is meant to provide a clear beat to march to. The beat is them more pronounced, while not obliterating the melody and harmony, to give a stronger sense of momentum and regulation to the music.

In rock music, rap and modern dance music the beat has become highly pronounced to energise the dancers or to impress a listener who seeks that more strident input.

Balancing the Basics

I trust you can see already that these three key elements of music stand separate but complement each other in the building of a musical experience. We cannot do without them. They are not evil. They each have their place. They are ideally woven together in a happy balance that enhances the musical experience.

Now that we have an idea of the natural elements of music we are ready for the next consideration, which is how spiritual realities impact music and how music impacts the spirit. That will be part three in this series of the Christian Music Primer.

William Ewart Gladstone as England’s Christian Prime Minister

William Ewart Gladstone was born “into an evangelical Liverpool (UK) family” on December 29, 1809, as the son of a prosperous merchant.

Educated at Eton and then Oxford University he was elected to Parliament in 1832. He spent his life in British politics, becoming Prime Minister of England for four terms and Chancellor of the Exchequer three times.

Starting as a Tory, in Peel’s government of 1834-35, he became a cabinet member in Peel’s 1843 Conservative government. When the Conservative Party split in 1846 Gladstone stuck with Peel, taking part in the formation of the Liberal-Conservative party.

In 1859 he changed parties again, to the Liberals, and became their leader in 1867 and Prime Minister for the first time, the following year.

In the years that followed he saw his share of political upheavals. One of his enduring political ambitions was Home Rule for Ireland. He was unsuccessful.

This “grand old man” of the House of Commons, as he was called, maintained strong Christian convictions throughout his lengthy career.

Dr John Clifford (Spurgeon’s nemesis), claims that Gladstone was “from first to last evangelical, clinging to the great realities of personal sinfulness and personal salvation through the cross of Christ” (Typical Christian Leaders, page 50).

And Dr Boreham gives us this quote from Gladstone himself: “I commend myself,” he writes in his will, “to the infinite mercies of God in the Incarnate Son as my only and sufficient hope” (Faggot of Torches, page 243).

In his 424-pages book, The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture, (1890), Gladstone defends God’s revelation to man. He locks horns with evolutionists and higher critics. True, some of his points may not suit all evangelicals today, but the book reveals one who knows and loves the Word of God.

He was a High Churchman, devout and regular in his worship. The claims of the Church of Rome he strongly denounced.

Death came on 19 May, 1898, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: