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Evidence for the Resurrection

April 15th, 2014 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

By Ian Paul

When considering the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, we need to separate two issues. First, what are the historical facts that require an explanation? And, second, what is the best, most plausible, explanation for those facts?

What are the facts to consider in relation to the resurrection?
First, Jesus died on the cross, a victim of Roman execution as a common criminal. The Romans were very experienced at this, and knew how to check that someone was dead. If they had not died soon enough, then they broke the legs of the victim who would then suffocate, unable lift themselves up on their legs to take a breath. In John’s gospel, this is recording in some detail.
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. (John 19.31–34)
What is fascinating about this account is that the writer sees the water and blood as having symbolic significance; it proves that Jesus promises, of giving ‘living water’ to those who believe (John 4.10) and that ‘living water will come from his side’ (John 7.38). We now see this as medical evidence of Jesus’ death, as the red blood cells and serum have separated after the heart has stopped beating—which John has quite inadvertently recorded.
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It’s Back — The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and the State of Modern Scholarship

April 14th, 2014 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

By Albert Mohler

he so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is back in the news and back in public conversation. The story first broke in a flurry of sensationalism back in September of 2012 when Smithsonian magazine declared that a papyrus fragment had been found which would “send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship.” Well, it didn’t jolt much of anything.

In 2012 Professor Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School announced that a papyrus fragment that had come into her supervision made reference to Jesus having a wife. Professor King announced that the papyrus fragment included the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” Smithsonian, which also produced a major television program on the finding, promised that the fragment would “send shock waves through the Christian world.”
As might be expected, numerous major media outlets jumped on the story. The Telegraph [London] ran a headline that stated: “Ancient Papyrus Could Be Evidence that Jesus Had a Wife.” In reality, even if the fragment is authentic in terms of dating to ancient times, the fragment revealed nothing that would have jolted anyone familiar with the early centuries of Christianity. The fragment of papyrus contained only about 30 Coptic words in eight fragmentary lines of writing.
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Jesus did not mention the Good Samaritan’s ’sexual orientation’

March 29th, 2014 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

By Julian Mann

The Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer has certainly caused a stir with his post last Wednesday: World Vision: The Parable of the Gay Samaritan.

Through a modern retelling of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, as recorded in Luke 10v25-37, Cranmer sets out to present as latter-day Pharisees those who objected to the decision by evangelical children's charity World Vision USA, now reversed, to employ professing Christians in same-sex marriages.

The bad guys are three American conservative evangelicals who publicly objected to the original decision. They pass by on the other side when faced with 'a six-year-old starving boy and eight-year-old trafficked girl' who were attacked by 'fanatical militia' whilst 'going down from Djibouti to Hargeysa in Somaliland'.

The good guy is a gay guy in a civil partnership:

He went to them and gave them bread and water, and bandaged the girl to stop her bleeding, hugging them both to comfort them. Then he carried the weeping girl and put the boy on his own bicycle, and brought them to a World Vision shelter and took care of them. The next day he took out $100 and donated it to the charity. ‘We must look after them,’ he said, ‘and I'm happy to reimburse World Vision for any lost sponsorship you may have as a result of your employing me.’

Two points need to be made in response to this:

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IRELAND: Anglican Priest Denies Doctrine of Original Sin and Blames God for Eve’s Actions

March 5th, 2014 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

by David Virtue, VOL

Referring to Original Sin as "one of the biggest elephants in the room in Christian and especially Protestant theology," the Rev. Canon Stephen Neill describes the doctrine as a "distortion of the divine human relationship and, indeed, the relationship between humanity and the rest of Creation." He described people who believe in it as being "defensive" and "elevating it to the level of Scripture rather than interpretation."

Citing Stephen Burke's A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, Neill said that the implications of this doctrine for unbaptized children was "fascinating" and blamed people for trying to keep their religious systems intact…even when the sacred texts are silent.

On the subject of God's handiwork in creation which God called "good", Neill asked, "Is God's Creation so terribly marred by the sin of Adam and Eve that what was fundamentally good only a couple of chapters earlier has become fundamentally flawed?"

Neill rips God saying, "Is our God really so petty and unjust that he would tell Adam and Eve that what was fundamentally good only a couple of chapters earlier has become fundamentally flawed? Is our God really so petty and unjust that he would tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and then leave it in temptation's reach just so that he could punish them when they inevitably transgressed, having not previously had the knowledge of good and evil?"

Neill went on to write, "I find I cannot reconcile that with the understanding of a God who went to the cross for us in and through his Son and I actually don't think that a reasonable and orthodox understanding of Jesus' death and resurrection depends on a model of Original Sin which portrays a God who punishes his creatures for falling short of perfection.

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A brief outline of the case for treating the defence of Christian sexual ethics as a major priority for the church

February 14th, 2014 Jill Posted in Theology, sex Comments Off

(Reposted in the light of the forthcoming 'facilitated conversations')

By Professor John Nolland

Christians are still trying to live down the unfortunately negative attitude to sex of parts of our Christian history. This, and the British tendency to be embarrassed easily about conversation in this area, make us reluctant to talk much about sex.

In Christendom the church could connect people with the love and judgement of God and work to motivate a heart-based fulfilment of a generally accepted ethic. Not so any longer, but we have inherited and continue to some extent with patterns that assume the values of Christendom.


Despite attempts to dispute this, sex ethics are high priority for the OT (defining the place of sex in faithful marriage, over against Caananite fertility religion), Jesus (he mentions sexual matters more often than either love or use of money and attitude to the poor) and Paul (sexual sins are among those that exclude one from the kingdom of God).

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The Modern Project

January 30th, 2014 Jill Posted in Philosophy, Theology Comments Off

by Fr Stephen Freeman

When I was doing a graduate degree in theology, it was not uncommon to hear discussion of the “project of modernity.” It was an academic catch-phrase to describe the social/philosophical/political/religious efforts to construct the modern world. The Enlightenment (17th-18th centuries) brought new ways of thinking into the mainstream of Western culture (and now the world). It newly imagined the meaning and construction of the State; it pondered and reinvented Christianity; most importantly, it re-imagined what it meant to be a human being. We are the heirs of that legacy. The most uneducated person in our society shares the assumptions of the “modern project,” regardless of whether he is even remotely aware of it. We are the modern project.

In the modern project, human beings are autonomous centers of consciousness whose choices and decisions bring about their self-actualization. I will explain:
We are autonomous centers of consciousness. My identity is rooted in the fact that I am conscious and aware. It is the center of my self and belongs to me alone. I may choose to share with others and make common cause with others – but I am defined only by myself. This is the heart of individualism.
Our choices and decisions bring about our self-actualization. Who I am in the world is a product of my experiences and the choices and decisions I make. Those decisions create my identity – they are my means of actualization. My decisions and choices are what determine the meaning of my life. I am who I choose to be.
When you look at these critical ideas, it is easy to understand why the primary driving force of modern history is freedom. This definition of what it means to be human makes a certain version of freedom the most essential part of life. Anything that restricts freedom becomes an enemy of individual existence and self-actualization. Only if I am free to choose am I able to properly exist as a self-actualized individual.
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“The Only Intelligible Explanation of the Incarnation”—A. T. Robertson on the Virgin Birth of Christ

December 31st, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

by Albert Mohler

The Christmas season comes each year with the expected flurry of media attention to the biblical accounts of Christ’s conception and birth. The general thrust of the secular media is often incredulity toward the fact that so many people still believe the Bible’s accounts to be true. This year, the Pew Research Center released a report on Christmas Day indicating that almost 75% of the American people affirm belief in the virgin birth of Christ. Meanwhile, the Public Religion Research Institute found markedly lower levels of belief, with just under half affirming the historical accuracy of the biblical accounts. The PRRI research indicated that four in ten Americans believe the virgin birth to be part of a “theological story to affirm faith in Christ.”

In truth, the virgin conception of Jesus, which most respondents know as the “virgin birth,” is no latecomer to controversy and rejection. On April 11, 1823, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams in which he discussed his views concerning Jesus Christ. Jefferson was already known for his denial of miracles and other claims of supernatural intervention in history and nature. In this letter to John Adams, he predicts the collapse of all belief in the virgin birth of Christ:
And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.
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Monty Python’s Life of Brian ‘extraordinary tribute to Jesus’, says theologian decorated by Pope Francis

December 31st, 2013 Jill Posted in Media, Theology Comments Off

by John Bingham, Telegraph

Life of Brian is more historically accurate in parts than some films about Jesus, says first non-Roman Catholic to receive the Papal award dubbed the theological ‘Nobel Prize’

It was once denounced as blasphemous and an insult to Christians, but one of Britain’s most respected theologians insists that Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is in fact a “remarkable tribute to the life of Jesus”.
The Rev Prof Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London, and a member of the Church of England's General Synod, said that those who called for the satire to be banned after its release in 1979 were “embarrassingly” ill-informed and missed a major opportunity to promote the Christian message.
Prof Burridge, whom Pope Francis recently presented with the Vatican’s top theological award, the first non-Roman Catholic to receive it, said that the film’s depiction of faction-ridden messianic movements in First Century Judea was probably a more accurate portrayal of the historical context than many Hollywood films about Jesus.
He was speaking as Michael Palin devoted a slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, which he was invited to guest edit, to reliving the controversy over the film.
Palin and John Cleese were publicly castigated by the then Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Mervyn Stockwood, and the Catholic journalist Malcolm Muggeridge in a high profile televised confrontation over the film. The bishop remarked that they would receive their "30 pieces of silver" for it.

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Homosexuality in Church and State – Mapping the Issues

December 8th, 2013 Jill Posted in Homosexuality, Theology Comments Off

by Paul C Burgess

A Compendium of Issues and Arguments Surrounding The Same-Sex Debate

NOTE: This is a condensed reference work, not intended as an easy read on the subject!

'Homosexuality' in the text of this overview may refer either to orientation or to behaviour depending on the context, which usually should make clear which meaning is meant.

This overview provides material in the area of human sexuality to help those committed to a biblically orthodox (as opposed to a culturally determined) understanding of sexuality to think clearly, distinguish issues accurately and articulate arguments convincingly in the home, with friends and colleagues, and in the public arena.

Information and arguments on both sides, with brief quotes, are given in bullet-point form. Homosexual views are quoted from homosexual sources wherever possible.

Examples have not been limited to the UK, but are taken from countries around the Westernworld since homosexuality and gay activism are world-wide inter-connected phenomena.

It is offered as a resource manual to provide a ready reference compendium of facts and issues related to the societal changes faced by Christians in this area of human sexuality and relationships, for developing:

1. A Christian apologetic for today (to explain the Gospel in terms that relate to our sex-conscious culture).

2. An educational programme for congregations (to teach a Biblical view of sexuality and equip church people to speak up for Biblical teaching in this area in the face ofhumanist / secular / revisionist opposition). Part of this programme must surely include a positive challenge to develop:

3. A mission to reach out to those caught up in homosexuality.

Read here (pdf)

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Canberra’s Sarah Macneil to become Australia’s first female Anglican head

November 23rd, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology, Women Bishops Comments Off

By Peter Jean, Canberra Times

With a real sense that she is answering God's call, Sarah Macneil will next year be installed as the 11th bishop of Grafton and the first woman to head an Anglican diocese in Australia.

The announcement of the Canberra priest's appointment comes as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse begins public hearings into the Grafton Diocese's response to claims of child sexual abuse at a Lismore children's home.

Dr Macneil is married, a grandmother and a former Australian diplomat.

She is a former dean of Adelaide and archdeacon in the diocese of Canberra-Goulburn.

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Read also:  Australia’s First Female Diocesan Bishop – we should ordain homosexuals and the Cross does not save by David Ould, Stand Firm

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The Great Tradition—the Essential Guidance System for the Church

September 16th, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

by Robert Benne, Juicy Ecumenism

Before writing his famous book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis was told by many advisors that ordinary Christians would not be interested in theology, that “dry old stuff,” but rather in plain, practical religion. He countered that he really didn’t think such ordinary readers were so foolish. He thought they would welcome the study of theology, which means “science of God.” “Any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?”

He goes on to liken theology to a map. Theology is not first-hand religious experience or direct reading of the Bible, both of which are very important. Rather, Christian theology is a map based on the experiences and readings of thousands of intense and educated Christians throughout the centuries who really did experience God and read the Bible avidly. Their thinking provides a clear outline of what key teachings about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the Christian life are essential to biblical Christian faith and what ideas and claims are not, including those that are genuinely mistaken. A map guides you in the proper direction and marks those departures that lead you astray from classic faith.

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Shellfish, slavery and same-sex marriage: How not to read the Bible

September 7th, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

Archbishop Glenn DaviesBy Glenn Davies, ABC Religion & Ethics

In recent days a number of strange claims have been made about slavery and shellfish in the Bible.

The line normally goes something like this: although the Bible prohibits God's people from eating shellfish and also endorses slavery, we can disregard these ethical instructions because we have come of age and can see things differently – indeed, more clearly – with our advanced knowledge and superior wisdom concerning what is right and wrong. Therefore, when it comes to novel concepts such as redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex, we can simply abandon the teaching of the Bible, and in particular, even the teaching of Jesus, on the grounds that the Bible has been superseded by the moral insights of the twenty-first century.

This confused way of handling the Bible springs from an ignorance of the Bible's own narrative. The Bible's story is a progressive one, unfolding through the lives of Noah, Abraham and Moses (and the nation of Israel) and culminating in the arrival of Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, not only of the Jewish people, but of all people – from every tribe and nation.

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The Great Tradition—the Essential Guidance System for the Church

September 5th, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

by Robert Benne, Juicy Ecumenism

Before writing his famous book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis was told by many advisors that ordinary Christians would not be interested in theology, that “dry old stuff,” but rather in plain, practical religion. He countered that he really didn’t think such ordinary readers were so foolish. He thought they would welcome the study of theology, which means “science of God.” “Any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?”

He goes on to liken theology to a map. Theology is not first-hand religious experience or direct reading of the Bible, both of which are very important. Rather, Christian theology is a map based on the experiences and readings of thousands of intense and educated Christians throughout the centuries who really did experience God and read the Bible avidly. Their thinking provides a clear outline of what key teachings about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the Christian life are essential to biblical Christian faith and what ideas and claims are not, including those that are genuinely mistaken. A map guides you in the proper direction and marks those departures that lead you astray from classic faith.

When he then proceeded to write Mere Christianity, Lewis did not just write any old—or new—theology. He aimed with great success “to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” Further, he said, “I am not writing to expound something I could call ‘my religion,’ but to expound ‘mere’ Christianity, which is what it is and was what it was long before I was born and whether I like it or not.” In other words, he was trying to articulate the Great Tradition—those bedrock beliefs of the Bible, the early church, the creeds, the Reformers, and orthodox Christians throughout the ages.

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God is a Liberal Democrat?

August 27th, 2013 Jill Posted in Politics, Theology Comments Off

By Alexander Boot, from Cranmer's blog

Whenever complacency sets in and one begins to think one has heard everything, our politicians provide an instant cure. Especially when God Almighty comes up in conversation.

Exponents of vile political creeds have always tried to co-opt the deity to their cause. For example, in1794, having murdered hundreds of thousands, France’s Committee of Public Safety decreed worship of a Supreme Being.

This wasn’t the personal God of the Christians, you understand, but the Cartesian clock-winder, the hands-off chap who got the world going and then lost all interest. He then regained some of it when, according to Robespierre, the time came to do mass murder:

“Is it not he whose immortal hand, engraving on the heart of man the code of justice and equality, has written there the death sentence of tyrants?” Of course it is. Who else could have possibly inspired Robespierre and his friends to drown the Vendée in blood and wipe out whole social classes?

Then back in the ‘60s we were told that Jesus was a revolutionary, a sort of Che Guevara of Galilee. Didn’t Jesus say, “I came not to send peace, but a sword”? There you go then: Jesus came with a sword, so did Che. What other proof do you need? They are both revolutionaries.

Yet the contemporaneous flower children disagreed. Jesus, according to them, taught making not war, but love. God is love, isn’t he? So is sex. Ergo, syllogistically speaking, God is sex. Every time we go at it like rabbits we assert our faith.

Hopeless reactionaries among you may feel that such lines of thought are somewhat remiss in theological subtlety. But that only goes to show that you (and, regretfully, I) are fossils who don’t belong in the modern world.

If you have doubts on that score, the point was made abundantly clear by Minister of State for Pensions Steve Webb. In his introduction to the book Liberal Democrats Do God, Steve claimed God is a fully paid-up member of his party.

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True Story

August 15th, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

Bishop Nicholas SykesBy Bishop Nicholas Sykes

Note from the author: This is a work in progress and is not to be taken as complete at this stage.

“The truth is like a lion, You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”
– St. Augustine

1. The remarkable end of the second millennium.

A millennium is defined as a time span agreed or assumed to be one thousand years. The AD (or CE if you prefer) period that we live in now may or may not have been counted accurately (and whether it has or it hasn’t is a “whole other story”), but the end of the first decade of the period would be the end of the last day of the year 10 AD, the end of the first century would be the end of the last day of the year 100 AD, and the end of the first millennium would be the end of the last day of the year 1000 AD. And, of course, the end of the second millennium would be the end of the last day of the year 2000 AD. Just in the same way that a child counts his marbles, so we count the years: “1,2,3 …” For those familiar with the rosary, each “decade” consists of ten beads, and one counts them from one to ten.

We might be inclined to say that a child had lost some of his marbles if, when counting ten marbles, he arrived at a number less than 10.

My friend and cousin, who I refer to as IC (intelligent correspondent) remarked to me in some exasperation, “Does it in the least matter to God, Jesus or mere mortals whether Jesus was born in 4 BCE, year zero or 1 CE?” I would answer that the truer the story we can tell about an event, the more it matters that we tell it the way we know it is. We may not know the significance of telling stories inaccurately, but if we get a matter of fact wrong, we are aware that what may appear to be an unimportant inaccuracy can have a distorting effect upon the story we wish to tell that matters very much.

What IC was actually getting at, I assume (because he was responding to something I had written), was whether it really matters whether the end of the second millennium was the end of the last day of 1999, or whether it was the end of the last day of 2000. Viewed as an isolated datum, he might arguably be right to think that it has no significance. Others have underlined his view by pointing out that we are not certain when the “real” end of the millennium was, if it has yet occurred, in any case. How accurately have the first two millennia been dated? Are we sure that the “Dark Ages”, for instance, have been correctly dated, seeing that some of their supposedly contained history “went dark”?

And all this is true enough, though it is only tangential to the issue at hand of the meaning of a millennium. Yes, we can be no surer that the end of two thousand “real” years of the AD period was at the end of 2000 than at the end of 1999. But the use of the word “real” is important to us. It shows us that there is some truth locked away in this that we would like to find out about and tell about.

For the truth matters, even more than anything else, when we are telling a story.

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What do Anglicans think about God and the church?

August 14th, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

by Andrew Symes

Two articles and a letter in last week’s Church Times sum up the confusion in Western Christianity but also perhaps point to some hope for the future.

First, an article (page 11) on how the church should embrace the “smaller state, big society” vision, becoming a major player in community-based care as government support inevitably shrinks due to budget constraints. Instead, the authors complain, the church is “absorbed in its internal agendas”, for example the “preoccupation with gay marriage”. Although the article does not go as far as recommending the abolition of church services, there is an assumption that this is now a marginal pursuit of a few diehards, and more or less irrelevant to the main job of community-based social action in partnership with other stakeholders. Any spirituality is to be “inclusive” – although this is not defined, it appears to mean not creating any borders or boundaries between believers and those outside the church. Perhaps a sort of general feeling of hospitality and goodwill and wellbeing?

While this kind of thinking is seen as the latest cool idea in some circles, its not new, and it’s worth reflecting on what it is saying. Worship and theology are seen as irrelevant. I’ve searched the article in vain to find any mention of God or Christ, salvation, prayer or even mission – these are presumably the church’s “internal agendas” which are so embarrassing to the new social entrepreneur type of clergy in his or her engagement with other local service providers. Gay marriage? Who cares, and what right do we have to tell people how to run their private lives? God? Who is he? The Bible? Does it have anything to say about micro businesses, credit unions or social housing projects? We can take those bits, otherwise its not relevant!

A few pages later we have a continuation of this awful internal preoccupation of the church, gay marriage, in the letters page (p13). A Revd Dr Plant takes issue with Revd Frais, who in turn had attacked Jeffrey John’s defence of gay marriage. The same old chestnuts turn up again – the use of proof texts, the meaning of “natural relations” in Romans 1:26-27 and “arsenokoitai” in 1 Corinthians 6:9, the fact that Jesus did not explicitly condemn homosexuality, the patriarchy and unreliability of Paul, and then the classic put-down, pulling academic rank: “read [the Bible] with scholarly discernment rather than inherited prejudice”. Essentially Dr Plant is saying this: we have found very clever ways of interpreting the Bible so that we can make it say the opposite of what it actually says. You conservatives – Stop arguing about homosexuality and just go away: the church should just follow society in fully endorsing the new sexual ethics. The complete redefinition of marriage, now with no reference to gender or fidelity or natural biological ties to children, the early sexualization of children through exposure to confusing sex education, the threats to freedom of expression for teachers and others who do not agree with the agenda, and the wider problems of health issues and breakdown of family life as self expression is encouraged and self discipline derided – none of this matters as long as we have our street pastors and our food banks and after school clubs to show how nice we are.

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Change is possible

August 10th, 2013 Chris Sugden Posted in Theology Comments Off

by Canon Chris Sugden

In our church culture we are very used to the language of conversion and of people changing.

God delivers people. God brings people in Christ from darkness to light. But our familiarity can prevent us realising how radical and even disturbing a challenge this is.

Our culture in England has been shaped by Roman Law. We favour what is predictable and applicable to all. It means we like systems and institutions. Once a law has been passed we feel bound to obey it. That is why we sometimes have difficulty with membership of the European Union where we think some people love to promulgate laws but have no intention of obeying them.

The Old Testament speaks of the importance of law. The law was given through Moses specifically to ensure that the oppression and poverty and injustice that the Hebrew slaves had known in Egypt was not replicated in the promised land. Deuteronomy 15: 4. It was accompanied by blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. These curses found their fulfilment in the exile of all the tribes of Israel to Babylon.

But over all this reigns the judgement and sovereignty of God. Law is not an inflexible rule – it is an expression of God’s character, will and purpose. So it is subject to his action. Therefore in the Old Testament reading that goes with this Psalm and Colossians in the lectionary Hosea writes of God:

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Misunderstanding the past: the meaning of ’sin’

August 10th, 2013 Jill Posted in Theology Comments Off

Dr Peter MullenBy Dr Peter Mullen, from Cranmer

[...]  We moderns make the mistake of thinking that our predecessors were preoccupied with the same things which engage us; that they faced similar problems, asked similar questions and, if they were really clever and 'ahead of their time', came up with answers remarkably like ours. This mistake is perpetrated even in the most venerated academic traditions such as philosophy and the history of ideas. It works like this: someone says that Plato was an idealist. And, before you can say 'perfect world of absolute forms', someone else has immediately introduced those other philosophers Kant, Berkeley and F.H. Bradley as similar idealists who were therefore preoccupied with the same issues as those of Plato. As if Plato and Berkeley might walk into the pub and each immediately know what the other was talking about. Not so.

In order to understand the past it is necessary not simply to ogle it as if one were wandering in smart casuals with Lucy at Bolsover. We have to try to get inside the heads of our forebears and predecessors and ask what the answers might be which made them ask the particular questions they did ask. Then we must try to ask those questions again for ourselves. History consists in asking this: “What must the truth have been and be if it appeared like that to people who thought, spoke and wrote as they did?” Not, “What do we 21st century guys make of it?”

When we do this, we are in for more than a few surprises. It’s worth the effort for we might even emerge with the hint of an education. It throws a completely different light on Our Lord’s parable of the sheep and the goats, for example, when you discover that the local sheep around in the Galilee of that time were pretty well indistinguishable from the goats. And next time we hear the word 'sin', we shouldn’t think it just means sex or having a few too many – let alone one of our more exotic-bureaucratic sins of contemporary political-correctness such as 'racism' or 'homophobia'. If we wish truly to discover what the Christian faith has to say about sin and its possible cure, we have to ask ourselves what the biblical writers and the Fathers made of it. Let us take this very example.

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Misrepresenting same-sex marriage: The Bishop of Salisbury

June 1st, 2013 Jill Posted in Gay Marriage, Theology Comments Off

by Andrew Goddard, Fulcrum

When those with power seek to pass legislation explicitly contradicting church teaching and thus face strong and united opposition from denominations across the Christian church, one tactic is to seek out one or two Christian leaders who are happy to disown their church’s teaching in order to provide support for the views of the political elite. It is, therefore, no surprise that Lord Alli of Norbury, in the week before the Marriage Bill is debated in the House of Lords, should seek out a bishop who might be willing to contradict the Church of England’s clear, consistent and critical voice, a voice which will doubtless be raised by bishops and others during the Lords‘ debate.

It is also, in one sense, no surprise that Lord Alli should turn to the Bishop of Salisbury given he has previously expressed his support for same-sex marriage. The tensions that intervention caused in the diocese and with partners in Sudan had, however, led him to reaffirm his commitment to “supporting marriage as it is currently understood”. It was therefore far from certain Lord Alli would get the response he sought. He was, however, supplied with a short two-page statement in the form of a letter, quickly made public, including on the diocesan website. This sets out “why I am sympathetic to the possibility of equal marriage and have a different view from that stated in the Church of England’s response to the Equal Civil Marriage consultation”. Unfortunately for Lord Alli, the statement is flawed in almost every area it addresses and so simply confirms the weakness of the Bishop of Salisbury’s case.

Its main weaknesses relate to five central areas in the debate: history, theology, theological method, the character of human sexuality, and logic.

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Response to the Bishop of Salisbury

May 30th, 2013 Chris Sugden Posted in Homosexuality, Theology Comments Off

Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden

The Bishop of Salisbury, reported today in the Times and the Daily Telegraph, has argued that “Before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. In South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church supported apartheid because it was biblical and part of the God-given order of creation.  Now no-one supports either slavery or apartheid.  The biblical texts have not changed. Our interpretation has.”

It should be noted that the two movements that the Bishop cites were not faithful biblical expressions of the Christianity but were cultural accommodations.  Their views were not the views of the whole church throughout the ages or throughout the world. They were out-of-kilter with the rest of the church’s understanding.

It is unfortunate that Bishop Holtam seems to be engaging in exactly the same cultural accommodation as those he criticizes – in this case setting aside the clear teaching of the Bible, acknowledged by the whole church, to accommodate the church’s situation in a culture that has become sexually morally lax.

He concedes that those who believe that homosexuality is a choice rather than an innate characteristic could argue that same-sex marriage would detract from its heterosexual counterpart. And this argument is with good reason for there is no evidence that same-sex attraction is innate. Eight studies  of identical twins reported today demonstrate that same-sex attraction is not genetic. 

To base an argument and change an established law that has enabled families and communities to flourish for generations on such ill-founded evidence is not acceptable, especially for a church leader.

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