On Reform – short thoughts

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Reformers may, in addition to being reformers, also be innovators. However, the essence of Reform is not innovation.

I say this thinking especially of the 14th-16th century movements in European Christianity (which were the fruit of centuries of momentum building within the Church). Reform is a call to put things right, not to start something new. There have been many reformers whose call to reform was accepted by the Catholic Church, and there have been reformers whose call to reform was not accepted. But Christian reformers, those who are now called The Reformers, were thoroughly conscious of their actions as part of an organic unity with the church catholic, and a desire to reform it.

Those Christian movements that have arisen professedly wanting to do a new thing, whatever their virtues may be, cannot be considered heirs of the Reformation. It was precisely because of the concern that the Church was doing far too many new things that Reform was called for.

Glenn Peoples

Episode 050: So what?

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Here we are – episode 50! In this milestone episode, I ask the question – So what?

Throughout the life of this blog and podcast I have rather obviously attempted to offer a Christian perspective on the subjects that I cover, even having the audacity to commend a Christian outlook as sensible, defensible and (gasp) true! But why bother doing that? What’s it all about – what difference does it make whether or not Christianity is true? You’ll have to listen and find out!

Glenn Peoples

 

Minimalist Christianity

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Minimalist Christianity is not only tactically and pastorally wise as well as charitable, but it’s also biblical.

Now for me to sell this claim, which may take a bit more work! I’m not sure how to categorise what follows. It’s not (really) theology. It’s not philosophy either. Maybe it’s somewhat “pastoral” in nature (but I’m no pastor). Take it as advice (and as advice that happens to be true, I might add). Continue reading “Minimalist Christianity”

Nuts and Bolts 013: Mere Christianity

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I started the “Nuts and Bolts” series as a way of explaining some of the basic / common concepts in philosophy as well as theology at a fairly introductory level. Sometimes this is prompted by the realisation that online, often people refer to those concepts – even criticising or commending them – without actually having a firm grasp on them. It was an example like this that prompted me to start the series.

This instalment, on “Mere Christianity,” was prompted in a similar way. John Loftus over at Debunking Christianity doesn’t think much of the notion of “Mere Christianity.” In fact he really doesn’t think there is such a thing. Continue reading “Nuts and Bolts 013: Mere Christianity”

Auckland Anglicanism, Same Sex Unions and Ordination

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Yesterday on Saturday the 3rd of September 2011, the Auckland Synod of the Anglican Church in New Zealand passed a motion that people involved in sexual relationships outside of marriage but within committed same-sex relationships would not be impeded from being ordained into ministry.

The mover of the motion was Glynn Cardy, notorious for his parish (St Matthews in the City) displaying billboards openly mocking historic Christian belief (I mentioned this a whole ago). Not terribly surprising I suppose!

Here is the motion:

That this Synod
[1] Holds that sexual orientation should not be an impediment to the discernment, ordination, and licensing of gay and lesbian members to any lay and ordained offices of the Church; and further
[2] persons in committed same-sex relationships likewise should not be excluded from being considered for discernment, ordination, and licensing to any lay and ordained offices of the Church.
[3] commits to an intentional process of listening to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, organized by the Archdeacons in consultation with the gay and lesbian community.
[4] commits to an ongoing discussion with the ministry units, asks the Archdeacons to facilitate this, and invites responses to those discussions to be submitted to Diocesan Council by 31st March 2012; and
[5] commits to support the process and work of the Commission to be appointed by General Synod Standing Committee, as resolved at its meeting in July 2011.

It’s absolutely crucial to state: Prior to this motion being passed, there was no ban on homosexuals becoming ordained. None whatsoever. This is not about the church’s willingness to include people who identify as homosexual (some popular misrepresentations notwithstanding). This is about whether or not the church is right to refuse to ordain people who are living in a sexual union outside of marriage, something that the Christian faith has always disapproved of, regardless of anyone’s sexual orientation. Continue reading “Auckland Anglicanism, Same Sex Unions and Ordination”

Nuts and Bolts 010: Theological Liberalism

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I thought it was high time we had another “nuts and bolts” blog, part of a series where I unpack some of the basic terms and concepts used in either theology or philosophy. This time we’re in theological territory, looking at the question of what this thing called Liberal Theology (or “theological liberalism”) is.

As I’ve noted before when discussing the issue of inerrancy, Martin Luther said that the Bible made statements that weren’t correct about the number of people involved in battles. John Calvin said that the Bible made statements that weren’t correct about a bright star in the sky when Jesus was born. Charles Hodge* said that when it comes to truth and error, the Bible was like a marble building, where marble is truth and sand is not. Sure the building might contain the occasional speck of sand which isn’t marble, but we can still call it marble overall.

Now as I look around the world of conservative evangelicalism, I notice that nobody calls Luther, Calvin or Hodge a liberal (or at least, nobody that I am aware of). And yet for expressing this sort of thought about the Bible myself (namely that everything it teaches is true, but it contains incidental claims that are not factually correct), I’ve recently been called a theological liberal (albeit by a very small number of people whom I can count on the fingers one hand and still have a couple of fingers left over). Theological liberalism is the movement represented by the likes of John Shelby Spong, Lloyd Geering in New Zealand, or historically by folk like Rudolph Bultmann or Friedrich Schleiermacher. I wonder how these guys would feel at being lumped in with Calvin and Hodge?

Moving on to the issue of the afterlife, well known evangelical scholar John Stott claimed, on exegetical grounds, that the lost will one day be no more and that only those people who have eternal life in Christ will live forever. The same position was expressed by other evangelical authors like Michael Green, Philip Edgecumbe Hughes and John Wenham. The church father Arnobius of Sicca taught the same thing (this is just meant as a tiny list of examples).

And yet, for defending this same doctrine – on the basis of detailed exegesis of many parts of Scripture – I’ve been dubbed by one or two people in recent times a theological liberal. I wonder how John Spong would feel being told that he was in the same camp as John Stott!

Of course as many readers will see right away, something has gone askew here. All of this is just a case of confusion. Unfortunately there’s a tendency for some evangelicals (although fortunately not the majority) to think that their stance on any theological issue is the default conservative one (naturally!), and that if a person doesn’t hold their view then they must (obviously) hold a view that makes them a liberal. What’s on display when this happens is actually just historical ignorance of what theological liberalism actually is, combined with confusion over the difference between erroneous beliefs and a theologically liberal stance. As I said when I started the “nuts and bolts” series, rather than just getting frustrated at ignorance, it’s better to become part of the solution. So today I’ll be answering the questions: what is theological liberalism, and how is it distinguished from say, error or heresy? Continue reading “Nuts and Bolts 010: Theological Liberalism”

Deal Breakers and Christian Essentials

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Lately I’ve been seeing some pretty unpleasant discussions at blogs where Christians have been positioning themselves in opposition to other Christians because those other Christians didn’t hold some doctrine that was essential to the faith, or else they did hold it, but they didn’t regard it as essential to the Christian faith. The example I have in mind is the rough treatment that William Lane Craig has received for not holding that an Augustinian take on original sin was essential to Christianity (even though he seemed, in that discussion, to think that something like it was still true). Think about that term: “Essential to the Christian faith.” Essential. Necessary. You can’t have Christian faith without it. Required. Continue reading “Deal Breakers and Christian Essentials”

Theological Liberalism and Street Cred

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John Dominic Crossan, the late Robert Funk, John Shelby Spong, or New Zealand’s own Lloyd Geering.  All call themselves Christians, none of them believe that God exists (except in some emotive or mythological manner), and all are adamant that Christianity should change. It should give up belief in a personal creator, in myths about miracles, in nonsense about bodily resurrections from the dead, and so on. Christianity must get with the times and become relevant, and in our day and age people just can’t believe in such silliness.

One of the goals of liberal theology is to give Christianity a modern acceptability. People can’t believe in ancient superstitions these days, we are told, but they can believe in “God” if by God we mean the goodness in the world. People can believe in the resurrection of Jesus, if by “resurrection” we mean the survival of (some of) his moral teachings in the lives of his followers, and so on.

These folks don’t want to abandon Christianity, according to them. Not at all. They want to see Christianity get real, they would tell us. They are making the Christian faith credible. Or are they? Continue reading “Theological Liberalism and Street Cred”