We have a tendency to think our own sins aren’t that big a deal, or to find ways to downplay them or overlook them, while taking serious issue with those awful people on the other side of ideological divides. I’m something of an Evangelical Christian, and I’m very aware that it happens here in abundance.
Speaking of Evangelicals…. It’s cool to hate Evangelicals. You probably know that. I entered the word “Evangelicals” in a search of Twitter, to see what results I got. I got this:
Now it’s just a tweet, a random individual’s prejudice on display. I know. But everyone who spends time on social media (and doesn’t inhabit a circle of friends numbering in single digits) knows that actually, what you find is an absolutely constant, voluminous stream of a mixture of all sorts: Vitriol, contempt, general slander, obviously unreasonable generalisations, conspiracy theories, revolting claims, and so on. Don’t take my word for it. When I carried out this search, this is what I saw immediately. I did not have to go looking for these. These were among the first results:
Don’t think that you, a Christian, can avoid the teaching of the historic Christian faith by saying “but that’s just what conservative Christians think.” Christianity is conservative.
It was a year or two ago, and I was having a conversation with a young Christian with an impressive degree of unearned confidence (and let’s be honest, many of us have been that guy at some stage). We had talked briefly about universalism, a view he holds and I do not. Due to the generally unproductive nature of the exchange, I didn’t commit many of the details to memory. I had little hope of a fruitful conversation, I’ll admit, due to his (somewhat justified) reputation among his social media peers for disagreeableness and dismissiveness, along with extraordinary disdain for those he dubs “conservatives.” A couple of comments did, however, stand out to me. They raise an issue that I have often thought about in other contexts.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C S Lewis
Interesting – and wonderful – things are happening in the Anglican Communion. I’ve been slow to acknowledge – actually, slow to see – that these are not isolated events, but part of a wider movement.
There are a couple of things I want to say about some of these recent developments. Some of it is on the more sorrowful side, as we see ugly outpourings of bitterness, misrepresentation, and ill-will from some quarters (sadly, from the leaders of the Church to which I belong) as they see the reach of their power shrinking and God’s Church growing beyond it. But that can wait. First, I want to hesitantly and cautiously invite you to rejoice and give thanks. I’m hesitant and cautious only because I’m only just beginning to see and to realise how good these developments are – I am sure that my confidence will grow. Continue reading “Anglican Renewal”→
Don’t create a church’s stance on marriage in order to make people happy or stop them from leaving.
In early 2017 (when I started writing this article, since which time it has sat gathering dust) the general Synod of the Church of England voted on same-sex marriage. Well, sort of. The General Synod voted not to endorse a report by the House of Bishops on Same-sex marriage. The report affirmed the biblical and historic Christian view that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. To be specific, there are three houses in the General Synod. The House of Bishops voted in favour of the report. The House of the Laity voted in favour of the report. But the support of all three houses is required, and the House of Clergy alone voted not to endorse the report, confirming the widely-suspected reality that the clergy are the more liberal element of the Church of England.
There were many issues discussed at the time and obviously I wasn’t present. On Twitter however I encountered a speech by activist Lucy Gorman. When I saw it I raised a criticism of it, but Lucy quickly blocked me so I can no longer see the portion of the speech that was shared there. Ever the believer in dialogue, I found this a little disappointing (especially since she had initially asked me for my view on the suicide of people who felt hurt by the church, but then told me that she didn’t really want to talk about it with me and blocked me).
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”→
At the recent meeting of the Anglican Primates, the issue of same-sex marriage rose to the surface. In a refreshingly conservative, faithful and courageous move, the Primates have issued a statement declaring that the Episcopal Church in America, because of its unilateral choice to part ways with the Anglican Communion by solemnising same-sex unions in contravention of both Scripture and the teaching of the Church (which welcomes all people and celebrates marriage as taught in Scripture), is no longer a representative of the Anglican Community. Things will remain that way for three years, giving the Episcopal Church a chance to get things in order. Continue reading “The Primates Oust The Episcopal Church (for now)”→
Dear Charlie Hughes, the (former?) vicar of St Michael’s Anglican in Henderson…
You don’t know me, but I saw your story in the newspaper. You’re disappointed by the direction the Anglican Church has taken in announcing that it will establish a process by which those ministers who wish to do so may bless same-sex unions, without actually performing same-sex weddings. I’m disappointed by this development as well. You’re so disappointed that you’re leaving the Anglican Church, and pursuing ministry elsewhere.
Charlie, I really appreciate the difficult spot you were put in, and I totally understand your call to move on. You’re right, the Synod got this wrong (Anglicans are allowed to say that, and very often do) and is catering to a vocal minority, setting aside what is, let’s face it, pretty clear biblical teaching. In case there is any possibility that I might give you some pause (if it isn’t too late already), I’d like to make my pitch. Continue reading “Should Evangelical Ministers Respond with Fight or Flight?”→
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
 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
 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.
 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.
 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
 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”→
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”→
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.