Liberal Anglicanism’s love of confusion

THE RECENT Wellington Anglican Synod provided another example of how progressive Christianity is a beneficiary of unclear and confused thinking. Brothers and sisters on the left of the theological spectrum, I love you. But this is a problem you have.

I’m Anglican. I also oppose the liberal tendency of some Anglicans to want to constantly update the theology and practice of the Church to bring it “up to date” with the progressive concerns of the day, and one of the main such concerns of the day just now is the church’s view of sexuality and marriage. Continue reading “Liberal Anglicanism’s love of confusion”

Episode 055: The Direction of Change

Earlier this year, the Synod of the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Polynesia made the decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships alongside marriages (but not to perform same-sex weddings, because they aren’t marriages – yes, it’s a confusing position). The Sunday after this decision was made, it was my turn to preach.

I took the opportunity to remind us all that yes, change occurs when people come into contact with the Church. But it’s not supposed to be the Church that changes.

 

 

 

Kephalē in the New Testament: A survey

I backed out of writing this series about those biblical passages about women in ministry not too long ago. It wasn’t because the evidence is hard to find or interpret, but it was partly because I had so little hope of anybody listening. They’d agree, I assumed, if they already held an opinion that they saw me affirming, and they’d disagree if they saw me affirming a view they didn’t already hold. The evidence rarely seems to really matter on this issue. People will find a way – any way – to make it fit an ideology. What would be the point of writing about this? But here I am, venturing into that series.

After a cautionary introduction post on what I am about to do (which I insist you read before you read this blog post), this is the first of my blog explorations of the contentious biblical passages about men and women in the church. Any comments you make on this post or any posts in this series must conform to the guidelines I gave in that cautionary post. Talk about the evidence and the issue strictly defined by the blog post. That’s all I’m prepared to allow. Behave or I’ll kick you out. I’m deliberately being boring so as to discourage the elements that make this issue frustrating.

Why would I want to be boring? Here is why: You will probably have seen people who get caught up sharing exciting links on social media about scientific issues. Vaccines cause autism! The earth is flat! Homeopathy cures cancer! Climate change isn’t happening! Quoting what people have said, citing anecdotes, attributing evil motives, citing cultural or traditional pressure, complaining about vested interest – these are all the sorts of things that fly thick and fast in discussions about theories like these. What is less common is the boring approach of slowly, slowly, slowly checking every relevant piece of data. It is not sexy. It does not make for good Buzzfeed articles. But if you want to know what is true and what is false when it comes to the theories that should only be formed after the ponderous work has been done, this is how you do it. The boring way. I am going to write several blog posts about the meaning of one Greek word, kephalē. Fun times.

Alright. Here we go.

Continue reading “Kephalē in the New Testament: A survey”

Pope Francis is an annihilationist

Based on the evidence currently available, we should view Pope Francis as an annihilationist, and attempts from within the Vatican to downplay this fact are unconvincing. The current Pope does not believe the doctrine of eternal torment, affirming instead the biblical doctrine of conditional immortality: That the saved will have eternal life, but the lost will not live forever – not in hell or anywhere else. Continue reading “Pope Francis is an annihilationist”

I didn’t write that series on women.

I’ve had this post sitting in draft for a few days as I pondered whether or not to post it. Obviously I decided to press that button.

A long time ago I announced that I was going to write a series of articles on the various New Testament passages tied up in the issue of the role of women in the church, specifically when it comes to ordination and preaching. Shortly thereafter the blog fell relatively silent. Plenty of people have been accessing the material that’s already here, which is great to see, but my output is negligible.

I won’t go into all the reasons this happened, because my life is my own (well, it’s God’s and self-ownership is a lie so I suppose I mean that some parts of my life are private) and I don’t intend to share it all. But one of the main reasons this series was not forthcoming is the same as one of the reasons why my writing output here plummeted. This blog post, which will hopefully signal the start of a bit more activity here, is about as close to a window on my psyche as you’re likely to get in writing. It’s partially a vent, and certainly not designed to persuade you of anything, nor is it an invitation to argue about whether or not what I say here is true. Here’s the reason:

Human beings are terrible. Continue reading “I didn’t write that series on women.”

Episode 054: Life is Good!

Here’s a talk I had the pleasure of giving at Mardon Road Church in Hamilton, in December 2017.

Do you really need a sermon to convince you that being alive is being better than dead? Well if you weren’t sure, hopefully I can talk you around!

 

 

 

THOSE Bible passages about women

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

I’m about to write about what the Bible says about men, women, and the church, and I do so with a sense of weariness at what might follow.

I have come to truly, truly hate the conversation among Christians about what the Bible says about the sexes and their roles (or lack of specific roles) in the church. I don’t say that about many conversations. People put their hand to the plow of biblical exegesis and then look back. Actually that’s possibly too kind – people put their hand to the plow of biblical exegesis as a gesture because they know that Christians are supposed to do biblical exegesis, but they are looking back the whole time. They are looking over their shoulder, away from the text and at the values they already hold. They are looking away from the text and at the world, fearful that they will look backwards or insufficiently progressive in the eyes of others. They cannot, at least as far as I can tell, make any distinction between “this is what I, a Christian person with my values, believe and is important to me” and “this is what this piece of text, external to me and written by somebody else, means.”

The Bible might convey things that you find offensive.

As an individual Christian person with your own beliefs, values and priorities, you must be willing and able – not just with your lips but with your actions – to reconcile yourself to the fact that when you are interpreting a piece of text, even a piece of text in the Bible, you might not agree with it. The Bible might convey things that you find offensive. You need to be willing and able to shut up, keep your voice out of it, and let the text speak even when it violently rides roughshod over what you would have said if you had been the author. Even when it sounds bigoted in your opinion. Even when it’s embarrassing. Shut up and listen. Continue reading “THOSE Bible passages about women”

Progressive Christians would have shamed Jesus

Partly a product of social media, the way we talk about those with whom we disagree has changed a lot.

In particular, at the risk of sounding partisan, here is the way I see those who view themselves as “progressive” (what a terrible name to give yourself) engaging religious conservatism: Instead of talking to people about why they disagree and why they think people of a conservative bent should change their minds or behaviour, they talk about them to the world. When they do so they are not critically engaging  with them (even if they tell us that this is what they are doing). Instead they are serving the social function of shaming them, not so that they will change their mind, but so that they will be afraid of speaking.

Many progressive Christians, if I have observed things correctly, think that they are the real followers of Jesus (who, we are told, was an inclusive, tolerant, liberal-minded progressive), while religious conservatives are more like the religious hypocrites from whom Jesus distanced himself. Sweeping generalisations are usually wrong if taken as hard and fast rules. This description is true of many religious conservatives, no doubt There are plenty of them, after all. But to a large extent it is self-flattering nonsense. While many progressives like to say that religious conservatives “pick and choose” which commands of Jesus they follow, sometimes it’s helpful to hold up a mirror to this outlook, if only because of its irrepressible self-confidence in being real, authentic, pure-as-the-driven-snow, Jesus-following Christianity, along with its current occupation of a position of social power, something Christians are justified in being suspicious of (let’s remember that it’s not just a worrying combination when it’s manifested in the religious right).

Progressive Christianity, had it existed in the first century, would have found opportunities to shame Jesus himself. Continue reading “Progressive Christians would have shamed Jesus”

Christian Today got loads of clicks with this one weird trick

Note: When this article was first written it made reference to Christianity Today. This was an error. In fact the website in question is Christian Today. My apologies for the initial error.

Clickbait. Clickbait is everywhere. What happened next will blow your mind. You won’t believe what this guy said. Personal trainers hate this guy for telling everyone this one weird trick to lose weight. OMG, #5 on this list gave me chills!

Sometimes clickbait is blatant, as in examples like those. Other times it’s in the wording, where you can argue that there’s a sense in which the headline is true, but the writer knows quite well that people will understand it to mean something that is blatantly false yet titillating.

I expect clickbait from some places, as well as headlines and even stories that spin things so extremely that they basically amount to what is being dubbed fake news. Yes, Huffington Post, I mean you.

Now here’s a recent tweet from Christian Today:

That looks pretty clear, right? Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is going to express remorse over The Reformation. I don’t think there’s any honest doubt about what those words will be taken to mean by most readers: The Archbishop of Canterbury, to a considerable extent at least, regrets that the Reformation happened. Typical. What a wishy-washy, Ecumenical liberal who doesn’t think theological distinctives matter. He’s basically a Catholic! Anglicans, huh? What else would you expect?

Bait laid. Next come the clicks for which the bait was laid. And when you click on the link, you’re taken to the story, with this headline:

Oh. So… he doesn’t regret the Reformation. He regrets that it was accompanied by violence. Well. How about that?

Actually, CT used as its source a story from the Daily Mail (yes, really), which is entirely about violence and people being burned to death etc, something Welby regrets.

Decide for yourself whether or not this constitutes clickbait. The answer will shock you!

 

With the spirit and with understanding: Tongues part 2

This is part two of a series on “speaking in tongues.” In part one I looked at the idea that there’s an angelic language, and those who speak in “tongues” might be speaking in the language of angels. There really wasn’t any good evidence that St Paul thought that way. However, most of what he wrote about speaking in other languages appears in 1 Corinthians 14, so that’s where we’re going to look in this article. I’m going to walk through part of that chapter here. Some people think that St Paul described speaking in tongues as the gift of speaking in a spiritual language that we do not understand, as a way of building ourselves up spiritually. Those who think this way, I maintain, need to read Paul a bit more carefully. Continue reading “With the spirit and with understanding: Tongues part 2”