Dear Richard Coles, w(h)ither the Church of England?


Dear Richard

I really enjoyed your honest reflections in The Times on Sunday April 17th in the light of your retirement this week. I felt as though I ought to respond in the second person, writing to you rather than writing about you, for several reasons. First, we are fellow clergy in the Church; we have taken the same vows, and to that extent share the same call to ministry, so surely we ought to be able to talk to each other, and not (as many seem to these days) talk about each other.

I suppose I feel I know you a little too. Like many, your lyrical wit has become part of our weekly routine, as we have breakfast in bed, read The Week, and listen to Saturday Live on those Saturdays when my wife doesn’t have an additional morning surgery (which seem to have become more frequent of late). A few years ago she heard you speak at Greenbelt, and found your testimony of coming to faith both engaging and compelling. We consistently appreciate the way, in your interviews, you grant your guests the grace of attention and interest, entering empathically into their stories and experience. And, though we have not yet met in person, we have had some unusually respectful exchanges online about the C of E and the vexed question of sexuality—unusual in the sense that people like us, sitting at different ends of the debate, don’t often have that kind of exchange. I still hope that, one day if you are passing up the M1, we might turn it into a conversation—though perhaps sitting in the garden drinking tea might be easier. You would be very welcome to do either, and I think you might enjoy the roses here. And, as it turns out, we appear to be the same age.

And, of course, you have written so movingly of your grief at the loss of your partner David—though that does not allow me to know you any better than your other readers.

But I wanted to write to you because your article says some important things about ministry and the future of the Church—but also raises things that need more reflection.


You articulate with honesty the challenges faced by many clergy during lockdown. I was delighted to hear that you ignored the foolish and over-reaching ‘guidance’ (as it turned out) for clergy not to enter church buildings. You were not alone in finding new energy in social engagement—nor were you alone in the reluctance to engage with online worship. I am not sure that either were the radical change that some claimed at the time; as bodily creatures, we find there is no substitute for physical gathering, and it is that coming together in the community of faith which provides the vision and motivation for the going out to engage with the wider world.

You also express well the unusual privilege of parish clergy, who remain for many years in one place, the involvement in their communities, as they see the rites of passage of one generation to the next. Because my own calling has primarily been to theological education and national roles, I have seen less of that than you, but encounter it more at second hand through relations with my clergy colleagues. But as a GP, my wife has seen something similar in her practice over the last nearly 20 years. The stability of communities is both more and less prevalent than we imagine. It is still the case that half the population dies in the local authority area where they were born; yet our towns and cities have always been more fluid than our villages and rural areas.

But all this raises the question: why do clergy still have a privileged status in the community? Why are we recognised and, to some extent at least, still held in regard and treated with some kind of deference? My wife continues to be esteemed in her role as a doctor, since it is clear that she still has expert knowledge (though this is constantly eroded by Dr Google) and that her work has some utility—though she spends as much time listening to people as she does prescribing for them.

What of clergy? I suspect you are right that our remaining recognition is due to ‘a deep cultural memory’ at a time when fewer and fewer people have any connection to church. But the problem with memories is that they fade; and the problem with cultural memories is that they don’t fade gradually, they drop off the edge of a cliff, as the next generation don’t own the memory that their parents had. That is what the C of E is experiencing just now. Memory is not going to sustain us.

And that memory actually came from somewhere. It came, I would suggest, from a time when clergy did exercise actual authority, because they stood for something that people did in fact believe was true. They made claims about transcendental, spiritual reality which shaped people’s lives, their habits, their ethics—and their wallets. This was why people put up the money to pay for the buildings which we now find such a financial burden. When you believe things, with confidence, it changes everything.

When we celebrate the social standing and role of clergy, but don’t address the question of the radical claims that Christian faith makes, it is as though we are polishing the car and admiring its leather upholstery and walnut dashboard—without noticing that the engine no longer works.


This leads straight on to the question of the future of the Church. You are a lot more honest than many of your fellow travellers when you admit candidly:

The churches that are viable — by that I mean growing in numbers and income — tend to be conservative, punchy, fundamentalist in matters of scripture, rigorous in matters of doctrine, and about as likely to offer choral evensong as I am to do the 400m hurdles.

The research evidence backs up your observation. David Goodhew recently offered a stark analysis of where the C of E is headed, and it is mostly towards continued declined, with extinction in some areas now on the visible horizon. But there are key lessons to be learnt, first from the contrast between London (growing) and Southwark (declining):

First, London prioritized congregational growth over decades. That might sound obvious. But you’d be surprised how easy it is to evade the obvious. Large sections of the C of E see the growth and multiplication of congregations as unnecessary or impossible…

Second, London protected and sought to increase the number of parochial clergy…

Third, London was led by Anglo-Catholic bishops who supported often evangelical parish clergy. I’m not saying that is a guaranteed way to grow dioceses, but it is intriguing that when Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals work together, good things can happen.

These lessons mirror what can be seen in the growth of other denominations, something that the Church of England might find even harder to learn from:

Many churches in Britain are growing, But most of the growing churches are not Anglican. Immigration is a significant driver of growth, but not for every growing church. Alongside this, historic denominations such as Methodism and Presbyterianism are collapsing.

The primary common denominator is theology. Those trimming faith to fit in with culture have tended to shrink, and those offering a “full-fat” faith, vividly supernatural, have tended to grow. This is as true of the ultra-liturgical Orthodox as it is of the ultra-informal Pentecostals.

I understand that the Church of England you love is of ‘liberal sympathies’ and ‘of broad inclusion’. But this is the Church which does indeed have a strong tendency to ‘trim faith to fit in with culture’. I don’t quite understand the logic of this; after all, British culture was very different 30 years ago from what it is now, so if the Church fitted with culture then, why does it still fit with culture now? Is it so malleable? And, if people experience something similar on Sundays to the kind of things they experience Mondays to Saturdays, why bother? Why make the effort to get up on Sunday morning rather than have a lie-in or go for a walk, or do something much more entertaining?

And the question of which theology ‘we prefer’ raises a stark question. Which matters most: my own ‘preferences’; or the call of God? I confess that there are things about evangelical (or just historic Anglican) theology which I find difficult. Temperamentally, there are some things that just don’t fit very well for me. I was nurtured in a faith which prioritised evangelism, but I discovered after some painful episodes (for others as well as me) that, despite the way some people see me, I am actually not an evangelist. It’s awkward. I wish it were different. But evangelism needs to happen, because people who are no longer connected with the Church need to hear about the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus, and that will only happen if someone tells them. Not very Anglican I know!

I quite often have conversations with friends who were once zealous evangelicals, but for whom their faith has now ‘matured’ and ‘broadened out’; they have embraced an inclusive engagement with other traditions. So I ask them: ‘What brought you to faith?’ and they comment on the enthusiasm, the clarity, the conviction, and the challenge of the evangelical faith they encountered. Then I ask ‘And where you are now—how are people coming to faith there?’ There is often an embarrassed silence. Going on this kind of journey is like joining a party, then closing the door behind you. The choice for many clergy, not least our bishops, is will we work for a Church that we ‘prefer’, or will we work for a Church that has a future?

This saying of William Temple is often quoted: ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members’. This is nonsense in two regards. First, any organisation that provides a service (such as the NHS) exists for the benefit of those who are not its members. Secondly, the Church is not merely a service provider, as if we were an extension of Social Services, though this is the way that it is often used. But it is true in one regard: the Church exists for the benefit of those who are not yet its members by proclaiming confidently the faith of Jesus, so that trust and new life in him might become a reality. This is the sense in which Paul describes his ministry as ‘priestly’ in Romans 15.15–16; it is the primary way that you and I are ‘priests’, and it is the way in which ordinary congregations share in the priesthood of Jesus—by offering to God those who come to faith as a result of our ministry, testimony, and life of service.

But that can only happen if ordinary members of the Church of England learn how to express their faith and live it out—in what feels like an increasingly hostile culture—and are willing to invite their friends and colleagues to ‘come and see’ for themselves. That is happening in some places, but mostly not in places that have ‘liberal sympathies’ and would prefer to avoid ‘zealous devotion’.


And that takes us to the thorny question of gay relationships, which you comment on next. I am aware that your comment here forms only one part of your longer piece, but (like Justin Welby’s comment on Government policy on asylum seekers in his Easter Sunday sermon) it will be the main thing people note, comment on, and take away. I am also aware that, since I am not gay, I have a different kind of interest in this question from you. But it still touches on some pretty central questions of faith, culture, and the future of the Church, so it is not unreasonable for me to comment.

You make some bold claims in one paragraph. First, you claim that those who believe in the Church’s doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman ‘are shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’. I think you probably know this isn’t true; that Scripture consistently rejects all forms of same-sex sexual relationship is recognised by reputable scholars across the whole spectrum of ethical and theological views. Here are some reminders:

Diaspora Jews had made sexual immorality and especially homosexual activity a major distinction between themselves and gentiles, and Paul repeated Diaspora Jewish vice lists. I see no reason to focus on homosexual acts as the one point of Paul’s vice lists that must be maintained today.

As we read the conclusion of the chapter, I should remind readers of Paul’s own view of homosexual activities in Romans 1, where both males and females who have homosexual intercourse are condemned: ‘those who practice such things’ (the long list of vices, but the emphasis is on idolatry and homosexual conduct) ‘deserve to die’ (1.31). his passage does not depend on the term ‘soft’, but is completely in agreement with Philo and other Diaspora Jews. (E P Sanders, Paul: the Apostle’s Life, Letters and Thought (2015) p 373).


It is very possible that Paul knew of views which claimed some people had what we would call a homosexual orientation, though we cannot know for sure and certainly should not read our modern theories back into his world.  If he did, it is more likely that, like other Jews, he would have rejected them out of hand….He would have stood more strongly under the influence of Jewish creation tradition which declares human beings male and female, to which may well even be alluding in 1.26-27, and so seen same-sex sexual acts by people (all of whom he deemed heterosexual in our terms) as flouting divine order. (William Loader, The New Testament and Sexuality, p 323-4)


Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct. (Walter Wink, “Homosexuality and the Bible”)


This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity. (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700, p 705)

See also the comments of feminist Bernadette Brooten, liberal John J Collins, or Pauline flavour of the moment Douglas Campbell—and of course the whole raft of Catholic, orthodox and evangelical commentators. Questions keep being raised about ‘what the biblical texts really mean’, and doubt is fostered either by repeated questioning, or by borrowing from the discredited work of John Boswell from the 1980s—but few serious commentators see the texts as anything but clear and consistent. This is surely the root of the reason why ‘reconciling my view with the Church’s traditional teaching on sexuality is problematic, to say the least’.

You then claim that ‘Same-sex relationships are all those things and more, just like everyone else’s, a fact so obvious it cannot be denied’—but I am going to deny it, because it is not true. There is no doubting that gay relationships offer the kind of companionships, intimacy, solace and assurance that other relationships do, and you have expressed this with moving eloquence. But at the same time, same-sex relationships, in comparison with other-sex marriages, eliminate bodily difference (and therefore also do away with well-established psychological differences between men and women), eliminate the structural possibility of procreation, and fundamentally reorganise our anthropology. Identity is no longer established by bodily form as male and female, but by our pattern of inward desires and orientations. This inward turn has been a long time gestating, but has been brought to full flower by the strange combination of the rise of the internet (so that we can relate to people in completely disembodied ways) and the dominance of the affective in cultural discourse.

There is no denying the importance to you of your relationship with David, and we reflected on this in our last online exchange. And here we touch on the heart of the debate. On the one hand, you (along with many others) ‘cannot believe that relationships that are open to grace and holiness and healing can possibly be contrary to the will of God.’ Yet the consistent teaching of Scripture, including the teaching of Jesus (who, like Paul, shared Jewish rejection of ‘sexual immorality’) and its consistent reading across the Church down the centuries, says something different. This is the circle we are trying to square. In the end, we have to decide whether we discover the truth about ourselves by looking to what God has said to us in scripture, in Jesus, and in theology, or by looking at our own convictions about ourselves. At one level, this is a false dichotomy—but when the answers are so diametrically opposed, as they are here, we have to decide which is our primary authority in telling us the truth.

From this you claim that you are not really welcome in Church, or if so, only as a second-class citizen. But other gay friends of mine say something different. Those who do accept the call of Jesus, the teaching of Scripture, and the discipline of the Church, and so live single, celibate lives (though in the context of vital friendships) disagree with you, and in fact often find those arguing for change in the Church’s teaching the most hostile to them. Other gay friends have discovered the possibility of living out of the reality of being human, made in the image of God, as male or female, and not primarily as straight, gay or something else, and have married and had children. Many of these are church leaders, theological educators, and key voices in this discussion.

That is not to say that many churches have much work to do in this area, so that gay people really are made to feel welcome. But I think it is different work from what you are suggesting, and it does not depend on conflating welcome with affirmation of a particular way of living. After all, God’s welcome to us all does not simply affirm everything we are, but calls and equips us to live differently in all sorts of ways.

This question is intimately connected with the previous one of church growth and viability. I am not aware of a single denomination or national church which, having changed its understanding of marriage, moving away from the consistent teaching of Scripture and affirming same-sex relationships as on a par with male-female marriage, has done anything other than accelerate in its decline. Are you?


Finally, I would like to offer an observation about power and influence. You are a person who exercises considerable power—not the ‘hard’, institutional power of someone in charge of an organisation, but the ‘soft’ power of someone with prominence in the media, in our media age. You have position, and influence, and a voice that many people listen to.

And you are not unusual in this. I find it striking that, whilst probably about 1.8% of the population are gay, in the sense of having a settled sense of attraction to someone of the same sex, and those who have legally requested a change in their recognised gender number fewer than 6,000 to date, these issues dominate our cultural narrative. (A good indicator here is Denmark, which was the first country to put in place same-sex civil partnerships, and has full cultural acceptance of same-sex relationships; same-sex marriages are around 1.5% of all marriages.) By contrast, 9% of our MPs in Parliament are LGBT+, and (as you are probably aware) more than 12% of senior leadership in the BBC (though apparently this is still not enough). Our entertainment seems to be dominated by this issue; think of the number of gay presenters in the mainstream media. You might feel frustrated and marginalised in the C of E, but you are with the dominant voices in our culture.

And this is a context where a colleague of mine, a chaplain in a school with a Christian foundation, was reported to the police by the school’s head merely for explaining to pupils the teaching of the Church of England on marriage. And where ordinands in training in quite a number of contexts don’t feel they are in a safe space to express their belief in the Church’s current doctrine. What a strange situation we find ourselves in.

Your retirement location sounds delightful, and in a beautiful part of the world. But I wonder what will happen if you find yourself in a parish where the theological tradition is one of those that ‘tend to be conservative, punchy, fundamentalist in matters of scripture, rigorous in matters of doctrine’, where the vicar is one of those evangelicals? In that context, how will you use your voice, your power, and your influence?

But your final comment gives me great hope:

It is Easter. Jesus’s followers go to the graveyard thinking everything is over but what they find there sends them running out into a world transformed.

I think your confidence here is actually out of step with ‘liberal sympathies’ you identify with. Historically, these traditions have had little confidence in either cross or resurrection, saying little about the first (or dismissing past understandings as ‘cosmic child abuse’) and dismissing the second as a ‘conjuring trick with bones’.

If you can find it in yourself to work well with those who also have this confidence in the transforming power of Jesus, risen from the dead, even if their tradition and style of worship is not to your liking, then perhaps there is a future for the Church after all.

sincerely

your brother and colleague

Ian


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329 thoughts on “Dear Richard Coles, w(h)ither the Church of England?”

  1. I agree with you Ian on the reasons why those churches ‘trimming faith to fit in with culture have tended to shrink’. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ the great and the good turned up every Sunday to listen to the clergyman Mr Collins even though he was a snob and a buffoon – simply because society demanded church attendance by the great and the good. But there is no social kudos today for being a churchgoer. So the reality is that, if we go to church and hear stuff that replicates what we read in the columns of the Sunday Times, on Sunday mornings more and more people are simply going to give up church and lie in bed and read the paper – especially if someone as charming and urbane as Richard Coles is the columnist.

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  2. It is interesting that in the Genesis account of the creation of our material world we have a veiled reference in Genesis 3:22 to a spiritual realm (that Revelation 5:11 indicates is vast in number) —but it seems that they do not possess a sexuality (Matthew 22:30).

    In contrast, the primal couple’s complementary sex differences seem to be part of their very essence. And this is certainly worked out in the Bible’s marital imagery where God/Christ are the husband/bridegroom and the elect is always female. This heterosexual marital imagery goes to the root of our salvation in Christ, for example, as expressed in Ephesians 5:31–32.

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      • Hi John,

        I think most Hebrew Bible scholars today would accept Gordon Wenham’s analysis: ‘“Let us create man” should […] be regarded as a divine announcement to the heavenly court.’ Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, WBC 1. (Nashville, Tenn.: Word, 1987), 28.

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  3. Thank you Ian.

    Below I seek to clearly reveal how scripture shows that sex differences are a primary issue of faith (using three passages of scripture) – titled PASSAGE 1, PASSAGE 2, and PASSAGE 3.

    Then I seek to flesh out what may not be immediately obvious from the passages – titled IMPLICATIONS.

    Then I make a couple of comments to Ian – TO IAN.

    Finally I consider how these truths assist us to understand what is happening among those who profess a faith in London and in the UK generally – OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE UK.

    PASSAGE 1

    1 Corinthians 11:3 – shows that the created order is God Christ Man Woman.

    ESV
    But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

    This verse speaks only of married men and women however later in the passage we are told that women is made for man and man for God (vv7-9). If man and woman are part of the created order – as much as Jesus is – then male and female differences cannot be considered to be a secondary issue of faith. To undermine male and female differences (when doing so is knowing and committed) is the same in heart as undermining the place of Jesus in our being right with God.

    PASSAGE 2

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10: – shows that practising homosexuality is a sign of not being saved – yet sex within marriage is not by its very nature sin. What then differs between the two?

    ESV
    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    The difference is only the sex of one of the participants. (If the key difference also or instead lay in the fact that in biblical marriage there is a public commitment of the partners then it would be the same as saying that same sex marriage sanctifies gay sex – an idea which is expressly ruled out in the way in which marriage is defined in Genesis 2).

    PASSAGE 3

    Romans 1:18-32 – shows that our turning away from God is directly linked to practising homosexuality.

    This passage was pointed out to me by Ian – one way in which people’s turning away from all the truth is expressed is in practising homosexuality. Verse 21:

    “For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

    And then in verse 26 we see that one sign of people’s turning away from God is homosexual activity (verse 26):

    “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error”.

    IMPLICATIONS

    We discover from these passages that those who knowingly persist in having an issue with man and woman don’t in fact have an issue with man and woman but an issue with submission to God. Since this is so it follows that we should expect to find signs of people who have a problem with one part of the created order having issues with other parts. For example I put it to you that if you look closely you will find that those who disagree with male and female will often undermine the place of Jesus in the created order. They might for example do this by speaking in a way that either directly or indirectly says that God’s love is tolerant.

    The only other point I wish to make about the created order is that we need to make sure we don’t treat the created order as having a top half (God Christ) and a bottom half (Man Woman). It is all one – proven by the fact that for example someone could undermine the created order by saying that though Jesus appeared to be human that he was in fact only God. This would break the connection between Christ and man and woman. It may not be the common means of undermining the truth now but things change – undermining male and female was not the common way of undermining the truth thirty years ago. We need to make sure we are grasping and embodying each of the links in the created order.

    Next I wish to point out that there are two ways in which we can violate the created order. We can do it either by denying any part of it in the content of what we teach – or while expressly assenting to all of it we can violate the HEART of it. Mars Hill church believed in the created order – and they didn’t preach tolerance – but they violated its heart. It follows that it is not enough for us to simply speak consistent with the created order – we must seek to reveal how man and woman relates to the character of God – and therefore the glory of God.

    I put it to you however that the typical path in the UK is to say that there are male and female differences but to believe that the differences aren’t enough to relate to God’s character and glory – this being expressed in people’s refusing to obey sex specific directives in scripture.

    TO IAN

    Thank you for the article Ian. You continue to direct us to subjects which really matter – which are directly related to the prospering or demise of those who profess a faith.

    You said:

    “This question is intimately connected with the previous one of church growth and viability. I am not aware of a single denomination or national church which, having changed its understanding of marriage, moving away from the consistent teaching of Scripture and affirming same-sex relationships as on a par with male-female marriage, has done anything other than accelerate in its decline. Are you?”

    I believe I have shown above why this is the case – knowingly walking away from the truth about sexuality and sex differences is walking away from ALL of the truth.

    My challenge to you – for the reasons I just explained in IMPLICATIONS – is to seek to understand the HEART behind the created order and then present to us your findings. How does male and femaleness relate to the CHARACTER – and therefore glory – of God? Why is it a primary issue of faith? In making this challenge I am not claiming to be more than somewhat enlightened – and only recently. For most of my Christian life of more than 45 years I acted as male and female was a necessary distinction to obey scripture but I did not recognise the link between sexuality and the heart of the gospel. I hold you to no higher standard than to fully explore that link now that it has become more obvious to all of us. But now that we all have evidence that sex differences are directly related to what it means to submit to God I challenge you to do more than point out that they relate to the success or demise of churches.

    OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE UK

    I encourage people to look past the reported statistics about churches in the UK to in some cases see PROOF as to their state of health in their doctrine and practices. Whilst people’s speaking correct doctrine is not proof of people’s righteousness their knowingly continuing to speak wrong primary doctrine is ALWAYS evidence they are up to no good. And their not behaving in alignment with their correct doctrine is also proof. We don’t need to go on a witch hunt – delving into the private lives of preachers to find evidence of wrongdoing – their teaching is at least some of the time a window into their souls.

    If we do examine church health with the created order in mind I put it to you that it will lead us to conclude that while London is bucking the trend in terms of numerical decline this shouldn’t lead people to assume that prominent London Church of England churches are evangelical – that they join other London churches in bucking the trend. It may not show immediately in their numbers – since for a limited period these churches can be filled with the liberal children of their less than faithful believing parents – or with those who wanted to add spirituality to their multi-faceted identity via Alpha – but it won’t last. I experienced HTB spirituality first hand – I attended HTB for eight months in 2017. There was no community – people were all busy realising their personal ambitions – to my amazement not just outside but also inside the church. Other prominent London C of E churches refuse to be aligned with the heart of the truth. KXC at Kings Cross teaches tolerant love all the time – their leader believes in total annihilation – a logical part of his minimising the reality of sin. All Souls Langham Place says all the right things (on the subjects they cover – don’t expect charismatic gifts to get discussed any time soon!) while operating in perfect harmony with those who have destroyed the Church of England. And whilst there are others I am not sure enough about the details concerning them that I will leave it at that.

    I notice as I read people’s comments on forums that they still consider churches like HTB to be on the evangelical line of the divide. They do even as HTB stands in support of Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell as they seek to dismantle biblical teaching on sexuality – never taught on it beyond misusing Galatians 3:28. HTB has never believed in man and woman in any respect relevant to upholding the character of God. If you were gay and involved in practising homosexuality and you walked into HTB church you can be sure that there would NEVER be a time where any leader would walk up to you and point out to you that you cannot be faithful and continue in your current lifestyle. Archie Coates – vicar of St Peters Brighton – is taking over from Nicky Gumbel. His appointment was aligned with the announcement of Nicky’s departure in order to ensure that HTB could continue uncontested on its liberal pro gay path.

    I explained above that we should expect to see signs of people who break one part of the created order being willing to break it all. This is absolutely true of Nicky Gumbel and HTB – it doesn’t stop with man and woman. Nicky has never preached on a single doctrine which would prevent the love of God from appearing tolerant – God’s holiness, justice, judgement, hell, mercy and the need for repentance. So enough already – HTB is NOT evangelical. And Alpha – in being overseen by HTB – and now with the increased involvement of Nicky Gumbel in his stepping down at HTB – is not either. I suggest that churches who use Alpha are – whether knowingly or unknowingly – acting like Europeans who buy Russian energy – you are sustaining the liberal voice in London. And we should all take some responsibility for ensuring that believers beyond the UK understand this.

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    • Some might be tempted to believe that we should simply accept male and female as part of accepting God’s right to rule. However this is not the case – we don’t obey God because he is “in power”. We obey him because his character makes him alone worthy of all praise – he is the only one who uses power ONLY to act for the best welfare of others. Calvinism – in suggesting that God irresistibly saves people – suggests that our responses to God are not founded in our first having his character revealed to us (since how can God’s character be revealed in his embracing the unrepentant sinner?). Calvinism says that what God does is good by definition of God being the one to do it. Whilst there are moments when we must bow before God without seeking further knowledge (whenever his holiness and justice compels us to immediately act) this does not prevent us from also having to judge God by his own words. If for example he says in Acts 10:34-35 that preventing some people from coming to him would make him partial we must require him to live within that constraint by his choice.

      God doesn’t believe in submission for submission’s sake. His plan is that we are brothers and sisters with Jesus in heaven. That completely blows my mind. Consider that – consider the fact that we will have the same nature as Jesus in heaven. God only wishes to exercise his sovereignty enough to ensure that his character be the standard over all relationships in creation. His word reveals that he desires our submission for no other reason than his glory – and our best welfare – the two being one.

      We must therefore seek to understand how male and female relate to God’s character and glory.

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        • Hi Jock,
          I’m not happy with the idea of saying that “the main problem with someone is they believe X” – because unless we have a basis for knowing otherwise we should operate as if people’s believing something which isn’t correct could be evidence only of their being ignorant – or wrongly taught.
          I seek to refute Calvinism wherever it is presented (I don’t understand why if liberalism is logical Calvinism (the liberal says that if conversion is God embracing the unrepentant sinner then why not all the time?) people treat it as a secondary issue) – it hides the heart of the gospel – which is that there is new life only AFTER – and IN – death – (Acts 3:19). However I raised Calvinism here only in as much as it was relevant to the issue of whether we should submit to God only because he is “in power”. I did because I think that the belief that everything that God does is good by definition of his doing it – even while his supposed actions contradict his word – encourages people to feel obligated to accept biblical truths without relating them to God’s heart.

          Reply
      • Another false dichotomy’

        We accept him because he is in power (is sovereign AND because of his character. There are many many verses that could be adduced to prove that part of God’s glory is his absolute power and sovereignty.

        When God uses his power to cast the rebellious into hell is he acting for the welfare of those who are so banished?

        You misuse Acts 10. The point is simply that God is not saving only from the Jewish nation but from every nation.

        God does believe in submission for submission’s sake. He believes we should submit to him because he is God. He believes wife’s should submit to husbands and children to parents. In the eternal kingdom Christ will deliver up the kingdom to his a father. We read,

        For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

        Throughout eternity we will be in subjection; he is God and it cannot be other. But you are right Benjamin this subjection is for his glory and our blessing. This is how all things are ordered.

        Reply
        • I will leave it to you John if you wish to demonstrate from scripture that God’s being powerful relates to his glory. I say that God’s glory is related only to his character. One point of clarification on that – I am not saying that the Bible doesn’t revel in God’s being powerful – I am saying it doesn’t do so for its own sake – it revels in God’s power only because it relates to God’s being able to outwork his character.

          You asked “When God uses his power to cast the rebellious into hell is he acting for the welfare of those who are so banished?” I have already asked you that question John under the article about God’s wrath being satisfied. I asked you which attribute of God’s character you believe is the one which feels anger at wrongdoing? I explained that since God’s justice is not an emotion that it cannot be his justice. I said it was his holiness. Do you agree? And if you do agree do you also agree that God’s holiness is part of his love? Under the other article I explained why it must be – because the summary of the law of Christ is to love God and love neighbour – and part of that involves our being both holy (1 Pet 1:15) and just (Matt 23:23).

          So – you asked me “When God uses his power to cast the rebellious into hell is he acting for the welfare of those who are so banished?” And my answer is that his actions are not inconsistent with his acting for people’s best welfare. Gods holiness and justice are two components of his love – hell is their being applied to someone who refuses to be reconciled with them. I cannot see any view which makes any sense other than that – God is not love some of the time. He isn’t both good cop and bad cop.

          I didn’t misuse Acts 10. The passage isn’t about partiality in respect of two particular groups – it’s about what partiality is. To believe the passage is about Jews and Gentiles but not about each individual in each group would be the same as believing that if all Gentiles in the world were killed by a meteor which struck earth that the verse would not apply to the one Gentile left. Or the ten. Or the million (since according to Matt 7:13-14 most people who have ever lived will not be saved. I disagree – it would apply even if there was a single Gentile.

          Reply
          • Benjamin

            I’m not convinced that God’s righteousness is less or more emotional than his holiness. Nor that his love must always be conceived principally on emotional terms (though emotion is an aspect of it). I think there is sufficient correspondence between God’s character and ours to draw comparisons. We are capable of being fundamentally loving yet our righteous and holy character makes demands that mean we must subordinate our love to our righteousness. If my son whom I love commits murder then my righteousness (even my love of righteousness) insists that I punish my son; my love of righteousness trumps my love for my son. If my son should be a serial killer I may reach the stage of being so nauseated by him that I strongly desire his punishment. He has become a cause of deep shame, deeply depraved, an abomination. My commitment to his punishment is not driven by love but by loathing.

            This picture needs to be further tweaked. I am not simply his father but a judge in the Supreme Court. My duty is to uphold justice, something that as a person of integrity I love to do. God’s banishment to eternal judgement is not as far as I’m aware predicated on his love but his holy justice… even called his vengeance. Hell is by no stretch God acting for peoples best welfare it is his righteous anger and fury against the ungodly. Sometimes the destiny of the damned is framed in the context of unrequited love. At other times it is framed in the fury of righteous indignation and fury.

            God’s glory is every aspect of his being and not simply his moral character. It includes his wisdom, his omnipresence and omnipotence. This seems to me to be axiomatic. Often the principal focus is on his power or sovereignty though it may be this sovereignty is tied to some event but this is true of all God’s attributes… they are not pages in a systematic theology but truths for faith to apply to everyday life.

            2 Chron 20:6
            Yahweh, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven,and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You.

            Ps 115:3
            Our God is in heaven
            and does whatever He pleases.

            Prov 16:4
            The Lord has prepared everything for His purpose—
            even the wicked for the day of disaster.

            Isa 43:13
            Also, from today on I am He alone,
            and none can deliver from My hand.
            I act, and who can reverse it?”

            Jer 27:5
            By My great strength and outstretched arm, I made the earth, and the people, and animals on the face of the earth. I give it to anyone I please.

            I can agree with your modified or clarified statement. Of course God’s power always acts as an expression of his character. However, to say that the Bible revels (or rejoices) in God’s power is just another way of saying that God’s power is part of his glory and a cause for worship.

            Acts 10 is making the point that salvation is no longer limited to Jews but embraces all nations. All within these nations (as with Israel) who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him. Salvation is always of individuals but the primary focus here is all nations and not just the Jewish nation.

            “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

          • You speak as if without two different descriptions of God (father and judge) you would not be able to adequately summarise his character.

            Does God being father imply that he is in some way not fair – not just (and therefore we need to at that point introduce God the judge)? Of course not. Is his mercy a form of injustice? Is his grace a form of injustice? No – the cross shows that mercy and the fullness of grace (to which we gain access by faith – Romans 5:2) only ever exist on the other side of God’s justice. Either we must pay for our sin – or Jesus must – God’s justice is unchanging. God’s justice isn’t reserved for when he is angry – it is part of his love. And so is his holiness. Does a father not feel anger towards his son’s wrongdoing, knowing that it will hurt his son and those the son wrongs? And if the son is evil doing (free, knowing, and wilful sin) the father’s anger is directed towards his son. These are all part of the actions of a father. God’s holiness and justice are love – they aren’t bad cop God who emerges when it is time to judge the non-elect. But you disagree – you say that when a father feels those emotions it is because his righteousness has taken precedence over his love for his son. You believe that God is love unless he gets angry. Which is the perfect description of an abusive human father.

            I presume that we can agree that if God was unfair this would not be love. But you are asking me to imagine that the opposite of God being unfair – his being fair – is also not love. I cannot.

            God is one God – the same God to the elect and the non-elect.

            You are saying that God’s righteousness and his love co-exist but they are at tension – at particular moments one is overruled by the other. In believing this you believe in a God whose character is in conflict instead of united.

            You didn’t respond to the point I was making about Acts 10. Let me make the point a different way by asking you a question. How many in number must the Gentiles be in order to guarantee that God is not being partial against the Gentiles? One? No – because the one Gentile may not be part of the elect? Two? No – because two Gentiles might both be part of the non-elect. A billion Gentiles? No – because there are many more than a billion Gentiles – all billion Gentiles in the group called Gentiles may not be part of the elect. There is no way for Acts 10 to make sense if it isn’t related to God’s being impartiality in respect of each individual (ruling out Calvinist predestination and election).

          • If God’s righteousness and love are at tension why isn’t the tipping point the moment when the believer sins IN ANY WAY? Why if they are at tension does God’s righteousness not completely erase his love? Presumably because the cross has not only satisfied God’s justice but also his holiness – ensuring that someone who professes a faith can having standing before God even when unrepentant. But if that is the case God NEVER gets angry at sin. (It seems that your only choices – based on your logic – lead to God either having to ALWAYS get angry instead of being love when someone sins or to NEVER get angry at any sin. Any middle ground would suggest that God’s not being angry at sin was his showing tolerance towards it – to a point.

          • Hi Benjamin

            Having read over my two previous comments I see a number of typos (twitched – tweaked etc) and more importantly a fair number of places where I am not as clear as I thought I was. I am the pot calling the kettle black. My fault is dashing of a reply too hurriedly without sufficient care. I hope you have been able to make sense of some clumsy sentences.

            Some responses

            1. God as Father and Judge. Since the Bible describes God as Father and Judge we must assume that these two metaphors (along with others) are necessary to do justice to who God is. Judge is often used to describe his activity in judgement and is a very helpful image for us to grasp issues of justice. Words like Father and God could be misconstrued unless their meaning is filled out. Titles like Judge, Bridegroom, King etc all help to do this.

            While I agree that God’s attributes are not in ultimate conflict and work in conjunction so that we can speak of his love as holy and his holiness as loving nevertheless this is not always so and these are discrete qualities and may be independent. Thus when God’s patience runs out and his love is withdrawn severe judgement flowing from outraged holiness and righteousness may follow. When God assigns humanity to eternal judgement it is not an act of love. God is not acting as an outraged and corrective Father he is acting as a Judge filled with wrath and a desire to righteously punish. There are any number of descriptions in the prophets of God acting in fury and vengeance against his enemies. These are not images of an angry Father but a holy God. Justice is not always loving but it is always just.

            While God’s righteousness and love are not in ultimate conflict they are in a tension only resolved at the cross. I do think (in opposition to some brands of theology) that in permitting a fallen world God willingly accepted inner conflict. His love and his righteousness exist in tension for his love is extended to sinners for whom his righteousness and holiness demand judgement. The OT often expresses this inner conflict. Hosea is one example.

            Hosea’s call to marry a prostitute or promiscuous women is so that Hosea may experience the agonies of thought and feeling that God does with Israel, his wife. God clearly sees a correspondence between how man made in his image may feel and how he feels. Hosea will better understand and prophesy about God’s heart for Israel if he has a similar experience. He will understand unrequited love. He will know jealous love. He will experience the desire for vindication and justice. His righteousness will be offended. Hosea 11 is an example of this inner conflict.

            “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
    How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.

            I will not carry out my fierce anger,
    nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
    the Holy One among you.
    I will not come against their cities.
            10 
            They will follow the Lord;
    he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
    his children will come trembling from the west.
            11 
            They will come from Egypt,
    trembling like sparrows,
    from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
    declares the Lord.

            Notice, here love overcomes fierce anger. Unrequited love aroused anger. Compassion will assuage it. However, this is God’s relationship with his people where love always underlies and always has the last word (at least for the remnant). This is not so for others where his wrath comes upon them completely. However anthropomorphic the language here and elsewhere may be it expresses a real conflict in God. I’m sure the cross produced conflict in the heart of God. He delivered up his son for us all is language intended to express the emotional pain God felt. The whole point of the cross was to resolve the conflict within God. It is the place where ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’. (Ps 85:10). That is, these values meet and find harmony in the cross.

            2, ‘Presumably because the cross has not only satisfied God’s justice but also his holiness – ensuring that someone who professes a faith can having standing before God even when unrepentant’

            This is part of a short comment you made Philip. It is one where you start speculating in ways that to my mind go far beyond Scripture. Your comment above is a case in point. When a believer sins he confesses his sin and is forgiven. If he continues sinning in a high-handed way and is unrepentant he will be judged by God, indeed the likelihood is he was never converted in the first place.

            Perhaps you mean God embraces an unrepentant person with no real faith. While his love still reaches out to sinners and like Christ he is willing to sit and eat with them he does not embrace them as his child until he has worked within them the new birth.

            Perhaps you are disputing the ability of a holy God to give heart surgery to an unholy sinner. If so this seems to me like a problem of your creation rather than one found in the Bible. The indirect answer is to ask how can God contaminate himself by enlightening and enabling. Or how could Christ mingle with tax-collectors and sinners. However, the simple and direct answer is that he does all of this through the cross. At all times the only way a holy God can mingle with unholy people is through blood sacrifice. But beyond that I think your just asking questions that are speculative.

            3. Righteousness and holiness

            The ideas of God’s embracing an unrepentant sinner must imply one of the following two things:
– that God tolerates wrongdoing – that he is the opposite of holy OR
– that the cross not only satisfies God’s justice but also his holiness as well.‘

            I’m losing where you are coming from Philip. The cross does satisfy God’s righteousness and holiness. I have never suggested otherwise. As far as I know.

            When I said i was unclear about the distinction you were making between righteousness and holiness I was not saying there was no distinction. I was saying that I did not know the distinction you were making and, I may add, for what purpose.

            I don’t quite agree with your distinctions but we are not so far apart. For me righteousness is God’s moral response to all he is in himself; he in himself is the determination of what is righteous. In that sense righteousness is a derived attribute. His holiness is who he is in himself. His righteousness is the moral requirements of his holiness. God’s righteousness is satisfied at the cross. The cross enables God to be just yet justify all who believe in Jesus. The cross puts God in the right when he forgives. At the cross the righteous requirements of God against sin are met (satisfied). At the cross God’s holy demands against the polluting effects of sin are also met. All unholy things are cleansed by blood.

            Words like ‘righteousness’ and ‘holiness’ belong to different images. Righteousness/justification is a legal word belonging to the law courts. Holiness is a religious word belonging principally to the language of the levitical system (Religious cultus where cultus is neutral) Both express largely the same truth from different images. Differences shouldn’t be exaggerated.

            Satisfied. I think that even in God being revealed as he really is there is satisfaction. God is in some sense satisfied as he is glorified. Thus as his wisdom is displayed in the place of human folly he is satisfied; when his power is revealed in human weakness he is satisfied etc.

            Calvinists believe the cross deals with all sin. But thy do not believe Christians can continue to sin in a highhanded way with impunity. The proof that we believe in and participate in the cross must be seen in a holy life. You have strange ideas about what calvinists believe. Incidentally, a moderate form of calvinism is held by most biblical commentators. While I am defending these calvinistic doctrines I am not really a calvinist. I don’t belong to a Reformed church and never have. I am a calvinist with a small ‘c’ not a capital ‘C’. Calvinists do not see the cross as a licence for sin

            4. Re Acts 10, God’s impartiality is in making the gospel/salvation available to all people (previously it was limited to Israel and a few proselytes). This says nothing about who will actually be saved. They will be a great multitude from every tribe and nation. It seems likely (given the relative numbers) that gentiles will outnumber Jews (Isa 54:1-6). In this multitude partiality will have been shown – they will be a remnant chosen by grace.

            5. Total depravity. Total depravity means that every part of our being is tainted by sin. Sin permeates everything. It does not mean we are as evil as we could be but that sin/evil affects everything. This is expressed most clearly in texts like ‘the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked’ (Jer 17:9) and ‘the flesh is opposed to God, it does not submit to God and indeed cannot’ (roms 8 paraphrase). Before you become a Christian God was not your greatest joy and his glory your greatest quest. You were in darkness and loved it while hating the light. Everything you did was sinful for none of it had God’s glory as its goal. Your motives were never holy.

            6. So which is it John? Is God’s treatment of the non-elect love or not love?

            It is both. I think I have already dealt with this so I’ll be brief. Because we have rebelled God has no obligation to love. Yet he loves the world of sinners nonetheless. He reaches out in love to save. Yet he hates men too. He hates them for their rebellion and evil. He hates all evildoers (Ps 5:5). I can live with ‘loves the sinner but hates the sin’ though it doesn’t quite express the sharp distinction in Scripture.

            Philip

            I’ve made a fair stab at answering your objections. I’ve probably misunderstood you at points and missed out some things you would have liked addressed. I suggest, that if you wish to continue discussion you limit our discussion to one point at a time. I shall endeavour to do the same.

            John

          • Hi John,

            I read your reply carefully. I am going to take your advice and raise only one issue with you.

            I am wondering how you came to conclude that human beings don’t have free will. I presume that you never have made a conscious decision on the issue from scripture since you have not presented a passage which shows either that for God to be sovereign free will cannot exist – or a passage which shows that even if not that free will does not exist. I therefore presume that the reason you believe that free will does not exist is because your beliefs about free will were acquired while addressing other questions. For example you might have considered whether Jesus died for everyone or only some people – and then historical doctrines associated with that question led to your believing that free will must necessarily not exist.

            If I am right then you must set aside your belief in the non-existence of free will as you look again at passages of scripture instead of acting as if you have proved it already – you must verify that your conclusions on issues related to TULIP are not due to your having concluded free will cannot exist.

            I have already pointed out that verses like Job 42:2:
            ESV
            I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

            don’t prove that God’s purposes require people’s free will not to exist for them not to be thwarted. But my raising this verse isn’t a request for you to FIND verses – only to remind you of the kind of verses don’t address the question.

            PS I didn’t intend to imply above that God’s being for example father and judge is proof of his having two characters. I agree that there are many descriptions of God in scripture – each adding to the picture of God’s character – and without introducing internal conflict. Once I read what I wrote back it was uneditable!! But let’s not divert to discuss that now.

      • Benjamin

        Perhaps I shouldn’t respond to your comments about calvinism. We can’t keep crossing swords over the issue. My problem is you make sweeping statements that are mistaken.

        ‘ Calvinism – in suggesting that God irresistibly saves people – suggests that our responses to God are not founded in our first having his character revealed to us (since how can God’s character be revealed in his embracing the unrepentant sinner?). Calvinism says that what God does is good by definition of God being the one to do it. Whilst there are moments when we must bow before God without seeking further knowledge (whenever his holiness and justice compels us to immediately act) this does not prevent us from also having to judge God by his own words’

        ‘ suggests that our responses to God are not founded in our first having his character revealed to us ’… this is simply wrongheaded; it is neither biblical nor logical. People respond to God precisely because his character is revealed to them. No calvinist would claim otherwise. If God ordains the end (to save someone) he also reveals the means to the end (the revelation of God in Christ in the gospel).

        ‘ Calvinism says that what God does is good by definition of God being the one to do it. ’ Agreed. Good is defined by who God is. Good here means righteous and upright. I am not happy with language that says we ‘judge’ God. We do not sit above God as his judge but below him as his subjects… who are we to judge God?

        Romans 10 says God is impartial in the sense that all nations are equally accceptable to him. He is impartial in the sense that the gospel comes to ‘whosoever’ equally. But he is partial in that he chooses Isaac and not Ishmael, Jacob and not Esau, Jerusalem and not Babylon. Why will you be in heaven Benjamin? Will it be because you had the good sense to trust in Christ while others didn’t? Will you have a reason to boast before God? Will that flesh of yours in which the bible says there is nothing good and which it declares hostile to God, unwilling and unable to submit to God… will that flesh do what the Bible says it cannot do and submit and believe? Will it produce the good that it cannot produce – faith and trust in Christ?

        As Jock asks, what has calvinism to do with Jenkins. Or what has it to do with male/female distinctions? I wonder if you are more drawn to calvinism what you are prepared to admit, even to yourself?

        Reply
        • Hi John,

          You quoted the following part of my post – “Calvinism – in suggesting that God irresistibly saves people – suggests that our responses to God are not founded in our first having his character revealed to us” and you said it is wrongheaded.

          Can you explain how God’s embrace of an unrepentant person leads the one embraced to respond by being the opposite – by being holy? The ideas of God’s embracing an unrepentant sinner must imply one of the following two things:
          – that God tolerates wrongdoing – that he is the opposite of holy OR
          – that the cross not only satisfies God’s justice but also his holiness as well.

          Although Calvinists never get to saying it they believe the latter. That they do is proven by the fact that they consider ALL sin covered by grace – they believe that even when those who profess a faith freely, knowingly, and wilfully sin they are covered by grace. This has to mean that God’s holiness was satisfied by the cross – making his holiness a practical technicality. I therefore ask how if this was the case it would lead a sinner to be under a sense of obligation to live a holy life.

          You ask me lots of questions about whether I believe I will get into heaven because of anything I have done. I believe you do because you imagine that it is impossible for God to have full credit for my salvation while I also have free will. But it is not. I believe I have already given the analogy of a person drowning in the ocean when a boat comes by – those on board throw a raft in the water – laying it below the person drowning – and then begin to inflate it. Does the person in the water do anything to save themselves? No. But do they have free will? Yes. They can swim clear of the raft if they wish to. Repentance is RECEIVING something – it is allowing oneself to be placed in a situation – as the person drowning was – where to receive help will involve having to admit that one is in debt to the rescuer for life in a way that cannot be repaid. This acceptance leads to God granting a person access to the resources which will allow them to align their life with their accepted state of indebtedness. So the answer John is that if there are times when I don’t trust in my salvation being solely God’s work the cause isn’t the inevitable result of my believing in free will.

          Reply
          • Benjamin

            Let me firstly say I think you need to firstly believe what you read in Scripture before fitting it into a system. You read and rightly read all the verses about human responsibility and human response to the gospel. But you seem reluctant to hear all the verses that teach Gods sovereignty in history and salvation. The Bible teaches both. From where I stand you either ignore or relativise or don’t see the verses that teach God’s sovereign choice.

            Do you pray for people to be saved? I’n sure you do. Yet the most you can pray is that God will present the gospel to them. As soon as you ask God to convict them of sin by his Spirit you are asking God to ‘manipulate’ them. When is ‘persuasion’ acceptable? We pray for God to save people because we believe he can do this. His Spirit convictions, creates repentance and faith… the new birth.

            The same applies in providence. Is it right to ask God to overthrow evil men. Is not this God manipulating people? Was God right to raise up Cyrus the Great who overthrew with the Lord’s enabling the nations of the north and Babylon?

            Receiving is an action. Repentance and faith are actions. You repent, believe and receive. I have no problem with that but the Bible teaches these are actions that God wills and enables us to do. In your analogy such is the hatred of your heart for the folks on the boat that you’d rather drown than accept help. You would cast away the lifebelt. This is in fact what the majority of society does and you would have done so too were it not for the special love that God had place upon you. It is the partial love that a father has for his son or a bridegroom has for his bride.

            I am not sure how far you perceive God acting on the human will (saved or unsaved) to fulfil his purposes. It seems that you so construe free will that God is not free to act on it in any way (though Satan and the world both do).

            True freedom is freedom to live as God intends us to live. In heaven this freedom will be realised. We will be so changed that we will be unable to sin (not a comfortable bit of surgery if you champion human autonomy). Our hearts will have been so transformed that to please God will be their only desire… this transformation has already begun but presently we have still indwelling sin/ the flesh until this is surgically removed we will be in a constant battle with sin. We are called upon to live as those who have died to the flesh.

            ‘ Can you explain how God’s embrace of an unrepentant person leads the one embraced to respond by being the opposite – by being holy? The ideas of God’s embracing an unrepentant sinner must imply one of the following two things:
            – that God tolerates wrongdoing – that he is the opposite of holy OR
            – that the cross not only satisfies God’s justice but also his holiness as well.’

            Well the first thing we can say is we know God loves sinners. And we also know he does not tolerate wrongdoing – or, at least, not forever. It’s mistaken language to say God embraces the unrepentant sinner. He works spiritual surgery in the unrepentant heart to renew it. He takes a heart of stone and makes it a heart of flesh. He takes a sinner and makes him a saint. Only a new heart can repent and trust; these are not activities of the flesh but of life in the Spirit.

            I’m not clear on the nature of the distinction you are making between God’s justice, better, God’s righteousness and his holiness. The cross does satisfy both of these. Romans focusses on God’s righteousness where the underlying metaphor is forensic. Hebrews focusses more on the holiness associated with God for the metaphor is derived from the cult (the levitical system). The cross enables God to take the unrighteous and declare him righteous while remaining himself righteous. Equally the cross enables God to take the unclean and unholy and make him holy without any compromise to God’s own holiness.

            Ultimately the cross reveals and satisfies every aspect of who God is. God, as he is in himself, is seen at the cross more than anywhere else. It is the place where he is most glorified. But, of course, it is also the place where he is supremely satisfied.

          • Hi John,

            Please find below your words quoted in segments with my response under each segment:

            “Let me firstly say I think you need to firstly believe what you read in Scripture before fitting it into a system”.

            I presented an analogy to show you that our having free will doesn’t have to imply that we play a part in our being saved. I didn’t do so in order to say “this is the perfect analogy to show what biblical salvation is. Have you to this point admitted that the analogy shows that the very idea of believing in free will doesn’t imply that we play a part in our salvation? Not that I recall. I believe it helps us to see one aspect of biblical salvation – that repentance is receiving – it is accepting an new identity – not holding on to any other identity before God.

            “You read and rightly read all the verses about human responsibility and human response to the gospel. But you seem reluctant to hear all the verses that teach Gods sovereignty in history and salvation”.

            No, I’m not reluctant. Present me with a verse which ESTABLISHES the fact that God’s sovereignty proves the elimination of free will. I know of no such verse. I’ve already presented you with a passage (Acts 10:34-35) which shows that there must be free will or if not God’s not leaving people unable to turn to him would see all saved (contradicting the rest of scripture) – I have therefore shown that the passage contradicts Calvinist predestination and election. I have showed that your interpretation of the passage – which is that it is specifically about Jew versus Gentile partiality (as if there was such a thing distinct from partiality towards individuals) – but still preserves God’s choosing some and not others – cannot be right – by asking you a question which I believe has answer which aligns with Calvinism (this may be why you have yet to answer it). How many in number must the Gentiles be in Acts 10:34-35 in order to guarantee that God is not being partial against the Gentiles and in favour of Jews? One? No – because the one Gentile may not be part of the elect? Two? No – because two Gentiles might both be part of the non-elect. A billion Gentiles? No – because there are many more than a billion Gentiles – all billion Gentiles in the group may not be part of the elect.

            “The Bible teaches both. From where I stand you either ignore or relativise or don’t see the verses that teach God’s sovereign choice”.

            Again, show me a verse. Non-Calvinists don’t believe in free will INSTEAD of God’s sovereignty. They believe that God’s sovereignty allows for free will – God has made a world in which people’s free will is not incompatible with his being fully represented as God.

            “Do you pray for people to be saved? I’m sure you do. Yet the most you can pray is that God will present the gospel to them. As soon as you ask God to convict them of sin by his Spirit you are asking God to ‘manipulate’ them”.

            No I’m not. I believe that the Holy Spirit must enlighten people, and enable them – so that their repentance becomes a free choice – not subject to sin. Enlightening and enabling is not manipulating someone.
            “When is ‘persuasion’ acceptable? We pray for God to save people because we believe he can do this. His Spirit convictions, creates repentance and faith… the new birth”.

            Persuasion is acceptable when it still honours free will. Again – show me a passage of scripture which rules out our having free will – since – as things stand – I have already shown you a passage which if it is to mean anything must mean that Calvinist predestination and election must be unbiblical. And if Acts 10:34-35 is not enough I remind you of another passage which I have already presented and to which you have not responded – Romans 5:18 – which says that the cross is Jesus’ sacrifice FOR ALL MEN.

            “The same applies in providence. Is it right to ask God to overthrow evil men. Is not this God manipulating people? Was God right to raise up Cyrus the Great who overthrew with the Lord’s enabling the nations of the north and Babylon?”

            No God’s punishing evil doing is not his manipulating people – his punishing people does not remove their freedom to go on sinning against him if they chose – unless the punishment is death (but even then putting someone to death did not violate their right to choose as they wished for as long as they were alive).

            “Receiving is an action. Repentance and faith are actions. You repent, believe and receive. I have no problem with that but the Bible teaches these are actions that God wills and enables us to do”.

            I say – contrary to my understanding for a long time – and consistent with the fact that the Bible says we play NO part in our being saved – that repentance is our receiving a new identity in which we are indebted to God – in which we have nothing we have done which can save us.

            “In your analogy such is the hatred of your heart for the folks on the boat that you’d rather drown than accept help. You would cast away the lifebelt”.

            You are saying that total depravity is true – you believe that before I believed every inclination of mine and yours was towards sin. But the foundation you have for that belief is that my inclination towards sin in every thought is due to original sin. You believe that God hates people for their sin as a result of their sinning as a result of their having a tendency to sin from birth. The circumstances in which people come to sin is considered irrelevant to the Calvinist – I have even heard that the Calvinist believes that people go to hell not because they are culpable but only because their sin (which isn’t proof of their culpability) is proof of their alienation from God. Your beliefs align with the fact that if a person was kidnapped by a gang – and then addicted to drugs against their will – then stole from people to get a fix – that this would make them worthy of life in prison without parole. You believe that sin and evil are two words for the same thing. You believe that when the disciples fall asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane instead of continuing to pray that Jesus – who describes their sin as their wanting to please God but their flesh drawing them away – feels the same anger towards their sin as he does the free, knowing, and wilful sin of the Pharisees.

            “This is in fact what the majority of society does and you would have done so too were it not for the special love that God had place upon you. It is the partial love that a father has for his son or a bridegroom has for his bride”.

            Show me where the Bible says that God specially loves the elect. How will any verse you quote overcome Romans 5:18 – which informs you that Jesus’ death is for all men? What special love is there over and above the cross? (Haven’t I raised this verse with you – and aren’t you yet to explain how it doesn’t contradict limited atonement?)
            ESV
            Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

            “I am not sure how far you perceive God acting on the human will (saved or unsaved) to fulfil his purposes. It seems that you so construe free will that God is not free to act on it in any way (though Satan and the world both do)”.

            Never mind me – you don’t believe that Satan impinges on free will – you believe that God does by designing a world in which all people are subject to evil through no choice of theirs. Whereas I believe that Genesis 8:21 and Romans 5:12 reveal the fact that our coming to sin is INTENTIONAL not due to INCLINATION – that it is EVIL not SIN – and that it is FROM ONE’S YOUTH (when we are capable of knowing right from wrong – Deut 1:39) – and as a result of others sinning against us and around us.

            “True freedom is freedom to live as God intends us to live”.

            You don’t believe that. You believe true freedom is “freedom to live” the way God irresistibly causes us to live.

            “In heaven this freedom will be realised”.

            If God is the one who brings freedom about – if we play no part – what’s the delay? It’s not as if by your beliefs our waiting develops patience – or suffering develops character (you can’t believe they do when you believe that all sanctification is the result of God’s irresistible decisions)?

            “We will be so changed that we will be unable to sin (not a comfortable bit of surgery if you champion human autonomy)”.

            To the section in parentheses – no-one who is saved will be someone whose life is set to contradict being in God’s likeness. And to the first part not in parentheses – you believe we are already unable to sin now – without God’s predestining it.

            “Our hearts will have been so transformed that to please God will be their only desire… this transformation has already begun but presently we have still indwelling sin/ the flesh until this is surgically removed we will be in a constant battle with sin”.

            You already believe that everything we do and don’t desire is predestined by God.

            “We are called upon to live as those who have died to the flesh”.

            Yes!

            “Well the first thing we can say is we know God loves sinners”.

            This next section is you responding to my point that Calvinism doesn’t allow for repentance being our response to God’s character because God’s uniting with the unrepentant sinner doesn’t cause people to respond by being intolerant of evil.

            You start by saying that God loves all people. But where is that evidenced in your theology? Do you agree that if a person in this life was subjected only to strict justice without mercy by God that he will end up becoming a monster? That this is what leads people to punish people by cutting their hands off etc. Do you not recognise that for God’s godness to be upheld he must be unchanging in both justice and mercy, in holiness as well as grace? Yet you believe that God – with the exception of some temporary kindnesses revealed in creation – treats the non-elect only with justice – and you call that love. No – love is a summary of the law of Christ – tt is towards God and neighbour – and it requires us to be holy, just, merciful, and gracious – just as God in loving us is all of those things. God’s mercy towards the elect is what you call God’s special love – implying that when he applies his justice alone to the non-elect that it is God’s ordinary love. And yet in another post to which I replied you don’t concede to God’s holiness and justice being poured out on the non-elect as being part of God’s love. So which is it John? Is God’s treatment of the non-elect love or not love?

            “And we also know he does not tolerate wrongdoing – or, at least, not forever”.

            God’s providing people with the opportunity to repent – his patience – isn’t tolerance towards wrongdoing. Tolerance towards wrongdoing is an idea which is indistinguishable from corruption. His patience is mercy. Are you okay with it being called mercy? I ask because if it is it requires you to believe that God planned before creation to pour out his justice eternally on the non-elect – creation then inexplicably interrupts this plan for a meaningless period of time in respect of eternity – and then God again gets back to his plan to subject the non-elect to justice without mercy. (Recognising that whatever mercy he shows while the non-elect are on earth doesn’t include allowing them to have the opportunity to turn to him).

            “It’s mistaken language to say God embraces the unrepentant sinner. He works spiritual surgery in the unrepentant heart to renew it. He takes a heart of stone and makes it a heart of flesh. He takes a sinner and makes him a saint. Only a new heart can repent and trust; these are not activities of the flesh but of life in the Spirit”.

            The issue isn’t about what God does to convert a human being – the issue is whether he is able to bless an unrepentant sinner when he is holy – and if so how?

            “I’m not clear on the nature of the distinction you are making between God’s justice, better, God’s righteousness and his holiness”.

            I’m not making the distinction – the Bible says that God is both holy and just. I recognise that God’s holiness is not a character attribute like his justice. It is instead his want for all that aligns with his entire nature and his abhorrence for all that does not. It isn’t a word which reveals alone what his nature is – we have to look at his principal character attributes to understand that – his nature is justice, mercy and grace. Instead it is a word which explains how God outworks his nature – the answer being that he outworks it passionately – and intolerantly. So holiness and justice are not two words for the same thing. What I am raising is whether the cross causes God’s intolerance towards sin to be in some way destroyed by the cross. It can’t really be satisfied because unlike his justice which is proportional there is no limit to it). With there being agreement between us that the cross satisfies God’s justice (even if we disagree for who) this is why I moved to the issue of how God is able to accept unrepentant people – who – whilst having their past sin paid for – stand in opposition to him – a matter which has to relate to his holiness.

            You refer to God’s righteousness as if it is another word for his holiness. I have tried to explain why it is not. It sums up all of God’s character – it doesn’t reveal the manner in which God outworks his character. The issue we are discussing is whether the cross enables God to act towards people as if their unrepentance is no obstacle.

            “The cross does satisfy both of these”.

            I just explained that there is no sense in which God’s righteousness is SATISFIED by the cross – it is only REVEALED in the cross. The issue is how a holy God is able to show grace to an unrepentant person even though there is no limit to God’s hatred towards evil. Calvinist beliefs align with the fact that there is a limit to it and that it therefore can in some way be paid for. He believes that not just at conversion but forever God offers grace to those whose sin is free, knowing, and wilful (although the Calvinist thinks of it only as showing grace to sin – all sin being alike – the Calvinist doesn’t recognise freedom a factor when it comes to sin). The Calvinist believes sin and evil are the same – he believes that Jesus feels the same revulsion towards every person he encounters in scripture as he does for the sin of the Pharisees.

            “Romans focusses on God’s righteousness where the underlying metaphor is forensic. Hebrews focusses more on the holiness associated with God for the metaphor is derived from the cult (the levitical system)”.

            I don’t understand what you mean by this. You will need to use different words for me to understand.

            “The cross enables God to take the unrighteous and declare him righteous while remaining himself righteous. Equally the cross enables God to take the unclean and unholy and make him holy without any compromise to God’s own holiness”.

            See my comments above – the issue is not how the cross satisfies the requirements of God’s justice for people’s past sin – the issue is whether the cross has for all intents and purposes destroyed God’s holiness in respect of the elect.

            “Ultimately the cross reveals and satisfies every aspect of who God is”.

            The cross is a revelation of who God is. It is an OPEN DOOR to relationship with God. But just as people in the Old Testament did not thank God for forgiveness by offering a sacrifice – but instead made offerings IN ORDER to be forgiven (see Lev 4:20) – so must we also appropriate the cross for ourselves individually – in order to be covered by its sacrifice.

            “God, as he is in himself, is seen at the cross more than anywhere else. It is the place where he is most glorified”.

            I agree. God is fully revealed in the cross – and we can only come to know him in the cross.

            “But, of course, it is also the place where he is supremely satisfied”.

            I don’t understand why you are using the term satisfied to apply to anything other than God’s justice. For example it doesn’t enable God to in practical terms be not holy towards the elect. It doesn’t enable the elect to live unrepentantly and be under grace.

          • The words “by asking you a question which I believe has answer which aligns with Calvinism” should have been (note added upper case word) “by asking you a question which I believe has NO answer which aligns with Calvinism”.

          • If you don’t wish to reply to everything I said John why not start with these three critical things (which are all related to directly examining scripture):
            – explain how Calvinism’s limited atonement can stand in the face of Romans 5:18 which says that Jesus’ sacrifice if for all men.
            – explain how many Gentiles there must be to ensure that your interpretation of Acts 10:34-35 can stand – your interpretation being that the passage is about partiality to Jew over Gentile – not about partiality of any individual over any other individuals? Do you agree that even if there are a billion Gentiles that they might all be part of the non-elect – causing the verse to have no possible meaning?
            – present a verse – since I have presented two to show the opposite – that ESTABLISHES the fact that God’s sovereignty overrides all human freedom?

          • Hi Benjamin

            Re Acts 10. It is a good example of the dilemma we face in communicating. To me it is obvious that the primary point Acts 10 is making is that in the outworking of God’s salvation plan his salvation is no longer limited to the nation of Israel but now embraces all nations; gentiles as well as Jews now receive salvation. It is not simply that individuals are being saved but that these individuals are gentiles. The implication by the way is that previously when salvation was limited to Jews (relatively speaking) God was in some sense ‘partial’. If he was partial he has the right to be partial. Salvation is owed to no-one; it is all of mercy.

            I have no difficulty with the view that now salvation was available for all who fear God and do what is right. Many Scriptures make this point. Notice, however, that only those who fear God and do what is right are saved. Elsewhere this may be expressed as repent and believe the gospel (where repentance and faith imply fearing God and doing what is right).

            In this passage (Acts 10) the stress is largely on human response in belief yet the event that occasions this is a sovereign act of God; the Holy Spirit and manifestations of the Spirit come upon Cornelius (a gentile). This sovereign act of grace brought the gentiles into new covenant blessings. The new covenant made exclusively with Israel now includes gentiles. It often amazes me how both human responsibility and divine sovereignty blend into the same story.

            Limited Atonement

            Limited atonement is an unfortunate term. Particular redemption is perhaps better because the issue is not the extent of the atonement but the purpose of the atonement. I would argue the atonement had a variety of purposes one of which was to specifically redeem those God had elected for salvation. In terms of humanity the atonement was sufficient to save all and in one sense all are ‘bought’ by the sacrifice of Christ. However, while the atonement is sufficient for all it is efficacious for the elect. There was an intent in the atonement that was focussed; Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

            Roms 5:18
            Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

            I think this verse has no bearing on the extent of the atonement or if it has it favours atonement for the elect. Paul is describing to heads of two humanities – Adam and Christ. The act of the head has consequences for the humanity that derives from him.

            Adam’s one trespass brought condemnation for the whole Adamic humanity. Notice Adam’s disobedience did not create potential condemnation or potential death. Adam’s one act of disobedience resulted in condemnation and death.

            The parallel stands good with Christ. His one act of righteousness (his death) results in justification and life for all who are united to Christ. If to be ‘in Adam’ brings condemnation and death to be in Christ brings justification and life. Justification and life are not here potential gifts for all men but actual gifts for those who are in Christ.

            For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

            ‘The many’ are those in union with their head. In the following chapters Paul will show how the death of Christ takes us out of Adamic humanity and places us in the new humanity in Christ; this is because the death of Christ is not simply an event in which we trust but is one in which we participate – we die with Christ (Roms 6:5,6).

            My defence of limited atonement is only in this narrow sense. Christ is the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep – for his own sheep (Jn 10:14-17). Jesus will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21). Frequently this narrower group is singled out as the special possession of God and Christ. Jn 17 Jesus says to his Father,

            As You have given Him (the Son) authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

            The point is that there are a special group that belong to the Father and are given to Christ – earlier these are the sheep for whom he died. For ‘his own’ there is a special care shown at every point. All that are given come (Jn 6:37-40).

            Exclusivity is found often in Scripture. In the OT it is Israel who is both God’s Son and God’s bride. It is Israel who is specially loved. (Hos 11:1; Mal 1:2,3; Deut 7:7,8, 10:15). Indeed we face the stark statement ‘Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated’ (Roms 9, Mal 1). By naming Israel ‘Jacob’ he is making the point that He does not love the nation because there was anything good in them to love; they were ‘Jacob’ the schemer and supplanter full of guile. Their story was one of rebellion and idolatry and eventually they murdered their Messiah. Yet they were loved and given the promises; salvation is of the Jews. We should not be surprised that the atonement has exclusive dimensions too; again, Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

            Benjamin, I have given a fair number of texts that stress God’s sovereignty. At the flood God overrides all human freedom. At the confusing of tongues at Babel God confounds human freedom. God raises up leaders like Cyrus the Great to punish Babylon and other nations. Again and again we discover God directs the inclinations of leaders. At the end of history God will thwart all who oppose him and bring upon them eternal judgement. He is God and he does exactly as he wants. The following verses make this point but since Ive cited them before I don’t expect you to find them persuasive.

            2 Chronicles 20:6 He said:
Yahweh, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You.

            Job 12:13-14 
Wisdom and strength belong to God;
counsel and understanding are His.
14 Whatever He tears down cannot be rebuilt;
whoever He imprisons cannot be released.

            Job 42:2 I know that You can do anything
and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.

            Psalm 103:19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.

            Psalm 115:3. 
Our God is in heaven
and does whatever He pleases.

            Psalm 135:6 Yahweh does whatever He pleases
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all the depths.

            Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has prepared everything for His purpose—
even the wicked for the day of disaster.

            Proverbs 16:9 
A man’s heart plans his way,
 but the Lord determines his steps.

            Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the Lord’s decree will prevail.

            Proverbs 21:1 
A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand:
He directs it wherever He chooses.

            Proverbs 21:30 
No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel
will prevail against the Lord.

            Isaiah 14:24 The Lord of Hosts has sworn:
As I have purposed, so it will be;
            as I have planned it, so it will happen.

            Isaiah 14:27 The Lord of Hosts Himself has planned it; 
therefore, who can stand in its way? 
It is His hand that is outstretched,
so who can turn it back?

            Isaiah 40:23-24 
He reduces princes to nothing
and makes judges of the earth irrational.
24 They are barely planted, barely sown,
their stem hardly takes root in the ground
when He blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind carries them away like stubble.

            Isaiah 43:13 Also, from today on I am He alone,
and none can deliver from My hand.
I act, and who can reverse it?”

            Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness,
 I make success and create disaster;
I, Yahweh, do all these things.

            Isaiah 45:9 Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
            a pot among earthen pots!
            Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’

            Isaiah 46:9-11 
Remember what happened long ago,
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and no one is like Me.
10 I declare the end from the beginning,
and from long ago what is not yet done,
saying: My plan will take place,
and I will do all My will.
I call a bird of prey from the east,
 a man for My purpose from a far country.
Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about.
I have planned it; I will also do it.

            Isaiah 64:8. “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

            Jeremiah 27:5 
By My great strength and outstretched arm, I made the earth, and the people, and animals on the face of the earth. I give it to anyone I please.

            Lamentations 3:37 Who is there who speaks and it happens,
 unless the Lord has ordained it?

            Dan 4:11 the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

            Daniel 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing,
and He does what He wants with the army of heaven
and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can hold back His hand
 or say to Him, “What have You done?”

            Romans 9:18 So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.

            Ephesians 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will

            These verses show that God is sovereign and his will prevails at all time. This involves him in shaping the directions of human hearts. He is the potter who makes people as he wishes to to make them. He sends the flood and the famine, the drought and the deluge. He raises the Assyrian and the Babylonian to attack Israel. The nations to him are but a drop from the bucket. The fall of the dice is determined by him. Every breath we breath is from him. In him we live and move and have our being. He raises kings and nations and he brings them to nothing. They are puny he is powerful. They are for a moment he is forever… and so on. Unman freedom, if by this we mean being sole captain of our own destiny, is a chimera. Again, in him we live and move and have our being. He and he alone does whatever he pleases.

          • A large part of the response you sent me John is a list of verses about the sovereignty of God. My challenge to you wasn’t to provide me with a list or verses about God’s sovereignty (I explained in my previous reply that non-Calvinists believe in the sovereignty of God) – my challenge to you was for you to show me a verse or passage which established the fact that God’s sovereignty erases free will instead of operating alongside it. Any verse which shows that God limits free choices – for example God when God floods the world and most die – doesn’t prove that God’s sovereignty has designed a creation where people don’t freely choose. Can you please tell me which of the list of verses you intended to be proof that God’s predestines all human actions – whether it’s one of the list – or a different one?

          • On Romans 5:18 and limited atonement you say:
            “I would argue the atonement had a variety of purposes one of which was to specifically redeem those God had elected for salvation. In terms of humanity the atonement was sufficient to save all and in one sense all are ‘bought’ by the sacrifice of Christ. However, while the atonement is sufficient for all it is efficacious for the elect”.

            In what sense are “all…bought by the sacrifice of Christ”? Are you saying that Jesus died for all people or aren’t you? If you aren’t are you saying that there is something that the cross achieves for all people which isn’t payment for their sin? What would be the purpose of Jesus dying for the sin of all people if God controls all the choices of human beings and never intended for his death to cover the sin of those he never enables to come to him?

            I accept that there are verses in scripture which talk about the cross being the means by which the elect come to God. But that isn’t the issue – the issue is whether the cross opens the possibility of all CHOOSING to come to God.

            When specifically referring to Romans 5:18 you attempted to do what I understand Calvinists typically attempt to do with the passage – to interpret as if it means the following:

            “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all those who are in Adam, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all those who are in Christ”.

            As if the writer meant what I wrote above but in some way had his hands tied behind his back. The important thing with this verse is to make sure to correctly handle “the left side” of the verse in order to correctly understand “the right side” of the verse. But you aren’t careful – concerning the left side you say:

            “Notice Adam’s disobedience did not create potential condemnation or potential death. Adam’s one act of disobedience resulted in condemnation and death”.

            That isn’t responsible. Because you don’t end up concluding what the left side of the verse concludes – that Adam’s trespass leads to condemnation FOR ALL MEN. Not all men in Adam – but all men. It therefore becomes a straight forward exercise to mishandle the right – you only need to make it match the left by saying that it refers only to those in Christ.

            If it wasn’t this verse that defeated you it would be 1 John 2:2:
            ESV
            He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

            I ask you – instead of to attempt to do the impossible – to give up. You cannot make either verse mean what it doesn’t say – that Jesus died only for the elect – and if you consented to the verses saying that he died for all people you haven’t explained what he does for all people if not open a path for all to God. Yes, there are verses which show that Jesus’ death achieved forgiveness for the elect – but none of those verses cause the verses in scripture which show that Jesus died for the sins of all men – for the sins of the whole world – to disappear.

            I’ll reply to your Romans 10 comments in a separate post.

          • John, I have broken up the first three paragraphs of your most recent reply – which concern Acts 10 – into separate quote segments which I reply to beneath each.

            “Re Acts 10. It is a good example of the dilemma we face in communicating. To me it is obvious that the primary point Acts 10 is making is that in the outworking of God’s salvation plan his salvation is no longer limited to the nation of Israel but now embraces all nations; gentiles as well as Jews now receive salvation”.

            I agree – that is the direct intention of the passage. But my claim is that the passage reveals the principle of God not being individually partially indirectly. You disagreed. In order to demonstrate that the passage must ALSO show that any choosing between individuals is partiality I presented you with a question. The question was – how many Gentiles must there be in the Gentile group for the verse to preserve God’s being impartial in respect of Jews and Gentiles? If there was only one Gentile the Calvinist couldn’t be sure that the Gentile group existed. So what about ten Gentiles? Still can’t be sure – they might be all the non-elect. What about a billion Gentiles? Again – we can’t be sure – all billion Gentiles could be the non-elect. This proves that the Gentile as well as Jew principle relies on there being no partiality of one individual over another for it to have any permanent standing. You haven’t in your reply responded to the questions I asked and have just answered myself.

            “It is not simply that individuals are being saved but that these individuals are gentiles. The implication by the way is that previously when salvation was limited to Jews (relatively speaking) God was in some sense ‘partial’. If he was partial he has the right to be partial. Salvation is owed to no-one; it is all of mercy”.

            It’s clear – because Paul leaves us in no doubt – that God’s choosing ethnic Israel should not be understood to be consistent with Calvinist election (Romans 9:6- 8ESV):
            ESV
            But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

            We should not interpret God’s choosing of Israel through whom to reveal his greatness to the world as Calvinist election – or any election! Non-Jews were always able to be right with God through faith.

            “I have no difficulty with the view that now salvation was available for all who fear God and do what is right. Many Scriptures make this point. Notice, however, that only those who fear God and do what is right are saved. Elsewhere this may be expressed as repent and believe the gospel (where repentance and faith imply fearing God and doing what is right)”.

            I don’t have any problem with it either – but we both don’t because it isn’t central to the issue we are discussing – that being whether Christ’s death pays for the sin of all people and whether it opens the chance for all to turn to God.

            “In this passage (Acts 10) the stress is largely on human response in belief yet the event that occasions this is a sovereign act of God; the Holy Spirit and manifestations of the Spirit come upon Cornelius (a gentile)”.

            Every act of God is a sovereign act of God if God is sovereign. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists believe in a sovereign God.

            “This sovereign act of grace brought the gentiles into new covenant blessings. The new covenant made exclusively with Israel now includes gentiles”.

            Yes!

            “It often amazes me how both human responsibility and divine sovereignty blend into the same story”.

            But you don’t’ believe this – you believe that what appears to be human beings having to be responsible is in fact God’s prior pre-determinings.

            So – I return to my first comment in this post. Can you please address the point I have made that if there was individual partiality (or if you prefer if God chooses some individuals to be saved but not others) then there would be no way in which Jew vs Gentile partiality would not be practically undermined by its presence?

          • Philip

            My apologies for keeping referring to you by your surname which in my senility I had entrenched in my mind us your Christian name.

          • Hi Philip

            Some responses to your comment.

            General

            1.. I feel that a measure of impatience has crept into my own responses. I think it grows out of frustration but that is no excuse. I apologise and hope to be more gracious even if frank.
            2. Frustration comes from a couple of sources. A) Sometimes I don’t understand what you are saying. Your meaning/reasoning is not clear to me. This is often more about syntax than the argument itself. I have no doubt the reverse is true too for you. Blog comments are often written hurriedly and are not as coherent as we may wish. B). In reading your comment I don’t know the background landscape of your thinking and so addressing the material point is more difficult. The same I assume is a difficulty for you. C) It is difficult to find a point of traction. The interpretative grid with which we approach Scripture is often (in these matters) profoundly different. This has been seen in the two texts you cited (Roms 5 and Roms 10) where our interpretations differ considerably. I find it hard to persuade you of my interpretation because as with many texts our interpretation depends also on our wider biblical construct. D) I often find the logic with which we work is quite different. Something I find self-evident you don’t.
            3. I do dare to consider that my views are normally more mainstream historical evangelicalism than are yours. For me this is important. I am reluctant to embrace any interpretation that does not have the support of a good number of well regarded evangelicals in support. For you I suspect this is much less important. I recognise I have limited abilities and do not wish to go out on a limb in private interpretation.

            Specific

            Philip…. This is a response to your long post.

            Your analogy. As I expressed I think the analogy needs twitched. The person in the water is hostile to the person who offers the lifeline. He will reject it unless persuaded to accept. God ‘persuades’ through his Spirit, externally by the message and internally by creating conviction and conversion. The sinner hears properly and responds properly and all of the Spirit; God works within both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
            You asked for verses that show the elimination of free will. I gave you a number of verses that express God’s absolute sovereignty in history. He works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11). This implies that humanity is not free. It suggests humanity is not only externally restrained and guided but is also inwardly guided; God takes the human will and shapes it in the directions he wishes. This is clear in texts such as ‘the kings heart is in the Lord’s hand. He directs it whatever way he chooses ‘ (Prov 21:1) and, ‘Many are the plans of a man’s heart but the Lord’s decree will prevail’ (Prov 19:21) and ‘a man’s heart plans his way but the Lord determines his steps’ (Provs 19:21). The Lord’s shaping is clear in the metaphor of the potter… so clear that the vessel says ‘why have you made me thus (Isa 45, 64; Roms 9). I mentioned the raising up by God of the Assyrian, the Babylonian, and Cyrus the Great. In all these cases we are specifically told God raised them up directing them to fulfil his purposes. If you mean by ‘free will’ that these people did what the wanted to do then I have no disagreement. All men do what they want to do (according to their God-given opportunities) but what they want to do is controlled by God. He turns the heart, controls the dice and rules in the kingdoms of men. He is the potter.
            Acts 10. I have responded to this text already. “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’ We are told specifically that the message once limited to Israel (was this partial?) is now available for all nations. I am, however, quite happy to say that this reveals a gospel of ‘whosoever believes’. The text is simply saying that God will accept any who turn to him in faith. A calvinist has no difficulty with this text. He will point out that the free offer of the gospel goes out to all but adds that none of their own volition will respond to this in believing faith. They cannot because the human heart is evil above all things and desperately wicked. Every human being is born with a sinful nature called ‘the flesh’ which will not submit to God and indeed cannot. Flesh, the only nature we know until the new birth, is hostile to God (Roms 8). What you claim for Acts 10 I do not think it supports.
            How many in number must gentiles be..? This is an example of a comment where I can’t work out what you mean nor the point you are making. You’ll have to make that clearer Philip.
            I’m glad you believe God enlightens people Philip. Do you believe he enlightens them all to exactly the same extent. If not he is partial. And what of those that God decides he will harden? It’s a matter of simple fact that God has not given gospel enlightenment to all men in history. Yet Scripture says that it is only through the preaching of the gospel that people hear and are saved (Romans 10). There is no record that people can be saved through the light of creation and no record that any were. Here again we seem to have partiality; some hear the message and others don’t.
            Enlightening and enabling are not manipulation. Of course they are. When you train a child how to think and act you are manipulating him. It is good manipulation but it is still manipulation. You are bending and shaping his mind. All information does this. The world is seeking to frame us in its mould all the time. In principal I see little difference between God shaping our thinking with external stimuli and him shaping it internally.

            I have to stop at this. I’ll continue later.

          • Hi Philip

            Continuing from where I left off commenting on long comment.

            Human sovereignty and divine sovereignty. In my view philosophically if you do not allow that God controls and orders human behaviour not only through circumstances but also through his involvement in human thoughts and reactions it is impossible for divine sovereignty and human sovereignty to exist side by side. God is only sovereign in the absolute way that the bible says he is (see verses cited) if he controls apparently autonomous human wills. The human will cannot be sovereign and God sovereign. There can only ever be one sovereign.

            2. You never really answered the question as to whether you ask God to save someone? The most you can do is ask him to enlighten even convict (though this is getting fairly heavy persuasion). When does persuasion not honour ‘free will’? All of this is a matter of degree. When I pray for God to save I do so because I believe he can actually save; the final decision is not mine but God’s; he opens my deaf ears and my blind eyes. He enlightens my darkened mind. He softens my stony heart. He brings about the new birth. It is liberating to pray knowing God can turn any heart in the way he pleases.

            3. Free will. There is a discussion to be had about free will. I think I want to leave it for another time though it does seem to lie at the heart of your difficulties with calvinism. At this point I would simply say it is more a secular concept than a biblical concept. Where in the Bible do you see free will taught as a virtue? Where does it even preach there is such a thing as free will? The will is simply an expression of the heart and the heart is deceitful and sinful. The heart is a heart of stone. This is the universal condition; there is none that does good or seeks after God. Men love darkness rather than light. They hate the light and will not come to it lest their works should be exposed. The flesh is hostile to God. It cannot and will not submit. Notice the ‘cannot’.

            The human will is not free it is in bondage. There are many forces that impinge on human ‘freedom’ denying it ‘freedom’. Not least are the big three, the world, the flesh. And the devil’. It is why humanity is described as ‘in darkness’…’enslaved’… ‘dead’… ‘blind’… ‘deaf’ etc

            The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:13,14).

            The ‘natural person’ is simply anyone who is not a believer indwelled and taught by the Spirit.

            What you call human freedom the Bible calls bondage. It holds out in the gospel the only freedom worth having. Jesus said, ‘know the truth and the truth will set you free’… ‘know the son and the son will set you free’.
            The ‘freedom’ you are anxious to defend – the freedom to sin – is not the freedom the Bible defends or champions. The freedom the Bible advocates is the freedom of slavery to God (Roms 6). It is the freedom not to be self-determining but to be ruled completely by God. This is the only freedom worth having.

            4. ‘I say – contrary to my understanding for a long time – and consistent with the fact that the Bible says we play NO part in our being saved – that repentance is our receiving a new identity in which we are indebted to God – in which we have nothing we have done which can save us.’

            I’m not sure I’m understanding this but you seem on the surface to be saying that repentance and faith are works of God that he creates in our heart. If that is so I say ‘amen’ and ask what we are wrestling over. I would probably say that repentance and faith are actually signs of the new birth rather than causes of it. However, that is for me a very secondary point if we agree that repentance is a gift granted by God.

            5. Total depravity. As you express what you think calvinism says you often throw in comments that misrepresent calvinism. For example you say ‘the circumstances in which people come to sin is considered irrelevant to the calvinist’. I don’t know where you get your understanding of calvinism from but the source is poorly informed. Calvinism admits there are degrees of sin and extenuating circumstances. You are assuming I and others believe things we don’t. I do not believe the disciples falling asleep was sin; it was human weakness. Flesh and spirit in this context are not capital Flesh and capital (Holy) Spirit; they are not the opposing powers of Gals 5 (flesh as a hostile power and God’s Spirit as the power of godliness. In the garden ‘flesh’ is simply a reference to the needs of the human body and ‘spirit’ is a reference to the human desire or will. At least that’s how I understand it. However, be assured, calvinists believe in degrees of sin.

            Lk 12: 7 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.

            6. God’s special love for the elect. My contention is that there is a sense in which God loves the world or the whole of humanity (Jn 3:16) but there is a sense in which he has a special love for the elect, for his chosen ones, for his own. This is not a difficult idea for us to grasp since work with different kinds and levels of love. The nature of love depends upon its object. We may love; creation; a novel; humanity; our neighbour; our spouse; our children. In each case the love is of a different kind and degree. So it is with the love of God.

            The distinguishing love of God is revealed in the statement

            And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9).

            Hosea conveys this distinguishing love

            ‘When Israel was a child I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son’. (Hos 11:1)

            The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jer 21:3)

            It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers (Deut 7:7).

            John speaks of the shepherd’s love for his (own) sheep and Christ’s love for ‘his own’. The flock or his own are those given by the Father. Everyone the Father gives will come and he who comes he will not cast out (Jn 6:37). Notice his people are a gift from the Father.

            The metaphor of bridegroom and bride also implies exclusivity. In Ephesians we are told ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself for her’.

            Romans 8 is perhaps not the best passage for me to point to since I’m sure you will have problems with my understanding of the passage.

            ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.’

            My point is that this is a passage showing at every stage God has taken the initiative in salvation. It is intended to reassure God’s people that their salvation is absolutely secure for at every stage it is in his hands. It is a statement of the salvation love of God for his people. The word ‘foreknew’ is key because it carries the idea of ‘fore-chosen’ or ‘fore-loved’. Notice it is not ‘what he foreknew’ (the act of trust) but ‘whom he foreknew’. It is people he foreknows. It is the knowing of intimacy. Just as Adam ‘knew’ his wife so God ‘foreknew’ his people. He says in Amos ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore i will punish you’

            The act of election is an act of love (Jacob have I loved…). Our salvation is based not on our love for God but on his love for us (1 Jn 4:10.11). God’s choice of his people is prior to any choice they make for him. Thus we are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The text could read ‘in love he chose us in Christ…’ (Eph 1:4-6). The point however you read it is to underline our unique place of love in Christ.

            Divine choice implies divine love.

            7. God designs a world where all people are subject to evil through no fault of their own. From where I sit it seems at times you misrepresent my position by refusing to see what I am saying. You create a caricature of what I say. I have already said (I believe) that God created a good world. It was Adam the head of the human race who chose to rebel and with him the whole humanity in him. This is the parallel at work in Romans 5. Paul envisages to men (Adam and Christ) two acts (an act of disobedience and an act of righteousness) and two outcomes (condemnation and death and justification and life).

            Let me ask a question. How do we become believers with a new standing (justification) and a new state (life)? Christ came and in an act of obedience died for us upon the cross. How do we become Christians? Do we see the death of Christ as something that is simply an example for us to follow? Of course not. We recognise that his one act has salvation implications for his people. His one act justifies us and gives us new life. Our standing and state flow from him. He is our head and ‘in him’ lies all we have become. The corollary is true with Adam, He is a head of humanity. His one act of disobedience plunged all the humanity linked to him in condemnation (standing) and death (state). If the new life (and nature) I have is sourced in Christ then the old life and state of death (a sinful nature) is sourced in Adam. I inherit Adam’s guilt and Adam’s now sinful humanity just as surely as I inherit Christ’s righteousness and holy nature. Your quarrel Philip is not with me but with the Lord and with Romans 5.

            A moments thought should make this truth obvious (or so it seems to me). I inherit from my parents my characteristics. Why should I think this inheritance is free of their sin. Only Christ had an immaculate conception. Only of Christ could it be said, ‘that holy thing that shall be born of you…’

            8. True freedom is to live as God intends us to live’. This is an abstract statement defining freedom. It is not a discussion of how this comes about. I do believe God works the miracle of the new birth giving us a nature that cannot sin and is always pleasing to him. I am happy to say that he does this ‘irresistibly’, Jn 6 captures this.

            No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

            However, while this ‘drawing’ has an ‘irresistibility’ about it, in practice this may well not be obvious. Without our conscious knowledge he changes our affections and thoughts. He renews our heart and alters our will. He renews us. And so one person hears the gospel for the first time and gladly embraces it. Another hears it for many years before it makes inroads into his life. Another seems to be brought kicking and screaming into the kingdom. God acts in different ways to bring those he has chosen to himself but the great truth is they come and only when they have come do they discover the kind of freedom that God in grace wants them to have.

            9. I can’t follow your reasoning about God’s justice. Nor am I sure what you are accusing me of believing. You write,

            ‘Do you not recognise that for God’s godness to be upheld he must be unchanging in both justice and mercy, in holiness as well as grace’
            The first thing I would say is that God owes humanity nothing. Absolutely nothing. According to the strict standards of divine justice he would be quite justified in wiping out the whole of humanity as he did at the flood (bar eight) and he will do in the future by fire (bar the redeemed).

            God is answerable to no-one. He need justify himself o no-one. Because all of humanity is sinful (a virus on the planet) it has forfeited any rights it had. Its only right is judgement. That is why when God told Israel to wipe out the nations in Canaan down to women and children – to spare none. They must not leave alive any that breathed he was acting righteously. This destruction was not simply of the ‘evil people’ but of babies too. God could only righteously order this because babies too are fallen in Adam. They are part of the rebellion and give them time to grow and they will prove it. Strict justice calls only for condemnation and death.

            Mercy however is another matter. Justice is deserved mercy is undeserved. There is no claim on mercy. God is free to show mercy to whoever he wishes and to harden whoever he wishes (Roms 9). That is his prerogative as God. Mercy is a sovereign choice. God has no duty to be loving or merciful. Why should God be loving towards treasonous people who have tried to unseat him, refuse his rule and murdered his son? Why should he be merciful?
            Yet God shows his love and mercy every day in his provisions as creator. He shows them every day in his withholding of judgement. He is patient not willing that any should perish. He demonstrates them in the giving of his son that whoever believes in him should not perish. It is not his justice or holiness that leads him to love, it is his love. He loves because he loves.
            Yet this love demonstrated in creation and revealed in the gospel is despised by fallen humanity. The story of humanity is universal rejection of God and the worship of anything and everything but the true God (Roms 1). All have sinned (there is no suggestion of exceptions) and fallen short of the glory of God. None seek God. None is righteous. Not so much as one. Universal sinfulness is the response to God’s kindness and love.

            And so we read of God’s choice. He has determined that he will have a people for himself. They are those he chose and loved before the foundation of the world. They are those who are the ‘seed’ of the servant (Isa 53). Those that he promised to Abraham (Gen 12,15,22). Those that he loved with an everlasting love. Those that he chose to love and make his own… a chosen generation. In my view it is impossible to read Scripture and miss this sovereign selecting, discriminating love. And it is wonderful we were no more deserving of this love than any others; yet from the same clay he has made a vessel to honour (those he saves) and vessels to dishonour (those he hardens in their sin).

            I’m going to sign off for the moment Philip. I will try to address your other main points tomorrow. I have answered a little selectively trying to deal with the foundational points and leaving the more secondary. I would love to see your eyes opened to see these truths for they are liberating and give an enlarged view of God. But of course it is God that opens eyes.

          • The extent of the atonement

            I believe there is a sense in which the atonement is both universal and particular. I don’t find this easy to pin down. I remember two there are various dimensions to the atonement. For instance it seems clear that at the cross the forces of sin, Satan and death are decisively defeated. This defeat is absolute and will be seen to be in the future. However, the benefits of this victory belong only to believers. Believers are free from the reign of sin, Satan and death. Non-believers are not free from these forces. Thus Christ’s victory is realised only in believers. A universal victory has particular application.

            The same seems true for the propitiatory accomplishment of the cross. Christ’s sufferings were sufficient to remove wrath for all but the focussed group who will benefit are those who are his own.

            Christ died as a bona fide sacrifice for all. The offer of the gospel is genuine. God offers salvation to ‘whoever will’. Any who come will benefit from his death. However, God’s offer of salvation will not be chosen by any. Only those whom God calls in a special effective way will come. Only they will be justified and only they will benefit in a saving way from the cross.

            Romans 5:18

            The first thing with Romans 5 is to see the wider historical-redemptive background that informs it. The drama of redemption is played out in two men. Both are heads of humanities. Adam is head of a humanity. All of humanity is found in Adam. Adam is our forefather and because we are found in him we are condemned (5:18) and die (5:12). Condemnation and death come to all men because all are united to Adam. This is the story of history until the arrival of the last Adam, the Second Man. He came to begin a new humanity. Salvation for Adamic humanity only lay in being taken out of Adam and being placed in Christ. Adamic humanity must die and be raised to a new life i Christ. If Adamic humanity, because of Adam’s one act of disobedience, found itself in condemnation and death then through grace God began in Christ a second humanity which gave all united to him justification and life. For me this is the thrust of Paul’s argument.

            Surely Philip you are not arguing that justification and life are experienced by any other than those in Christ. And surely you are not arguing that the results of each head of humanity (Adam and Christ) is merely potential. Adam’s trespass did not potentially make all condemned, it made them actually condemned. Just as surely, the justification and life in Christ is realised and not potential.

            Romans 5 explains why sin is universal in Roms 1-3; it is because all of humanity are children of Adam. Given Philip that my views here would meet almost universal approval in the commentaries I really think the burden of proof lies firmly with you to prove that your idiosyncratic view is right. I think you are being too dismissive of a very reasonable interpretation.

            I Cor 15 says ‘As in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ Here the language is explicitly ‘in Adam’; all die who are united to Adam. So ‘in Christ’ are all made’ alive’. This is not a reference to the resurrection of everybody, the just and the unjust. This is a reference to the resurrection of all who are ‘in Christ’. 1 Cor 15 is concerned only with the resurrection of believers. The ungodly do not rise to ‘the resurrection of life’ but to the ‘resurrection of judgement’. The ungodly in resurrection are not ‘alive’ in this 1 Cor 15 sense; this is the justification and life sense of Roms 5:18

    • ‘This verse speaks only of married men and women however later in the passage we are told that women is made for man and man for God (vv7-9). If man and woman are part of the created order – as much as Jesus is – then male and female differences cannot be considered to be a secondary issue of faith. To undermine male and female differences (when doing so is knowing and committed) is the same in heart as undermining the place of Jesus in our being right with God.’

      Benjamin, I am with you on male/female distinctions but I think the matter in 1 Cor 11 is more focussed – it is patriarchy (male leadership) that is in view and its expression to God’s glory. Since patriarchy is virtually(wrongly) rejected today by society and Christians how it can be expressed is a conundrum. If a professing Christian does not accept male female distinctions and the binary categories of male and female there is good reason to think he is not a believer (since he does not believe something very basic). This will be clarified if he/she advocates homosexual normativity.

      However, if I am right and patriarchy rather than sexual distinctions (implicit of course in patriarchy) is the issue in 1 Cor 11 then would you say it is a first order doctrine? I suspect not. I wouldn’t either. Yet patriarchy lies in 1 Cor 11 and its imprint is everywhere in Gen 1-3: humanity is named ‘man’; man created first; woman sourced in man; man names woman; Adam, not Eve, is given instruction not to eat the forbidden fruit ; Eve not Adam is approached by the serpent and Eve, not Adam, instigates eating the forbidden fruit; It is Adam God calls to come out of hiding; Adam is held accountable for heeding his wife rather than God; It is ‘the man’ that is expelled from the garden. Primary responsibility lay with the man. Patriarchy is stamped all over Genesis 2. My point is we must be careful what we call a first order doctrine. That a doctrine is creational does not necessarily mean it is a first order doctrine. I believe the earth was created in seven days but would not wish to make that a first order doctrine. These are not easy issues. To have problems with a young earth or patriarchy in creation does not imply problems with justification by faith.

      That being said, your analysis of HTB is disturbing if correct.

      Reply
      • He’s right – HTB have been ‘quietly’ affirming on same-sex relationships for several years now. But the HQ church has always been more about personal fulfilment with a bit of Jesus talk (and a yoga mat under one arm) than the take up your cross type of thing.

        Reply
      • Hi John,

        If practising homosexuality – which is a breach of individual sex based responsibility – is a sign of not being saved – I cannot see how either the denial of sex based responsibilities – or any other kind of breaches of sex based responsibilities – if either is knowing, wilful and persistent – can be considered to be anything other than a first order issue.

        I wasn’t seeking to comment on whether the Corinthian issue is first order disobedience. I only referred to 1 Corinthians 11 in order to point out that the created order mentioned there is shown in the other passages I commented on (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1) to be a barometer of godly submission.

        I didn’t refer specifically to our living justly or not justly (which is a first order issue – the gospel being founded on justice) but I could have. The justice of the cross must be outworked corporately (to bless society as a whole – and paying attention to systemic injustice) but also individually (which must include sexual morality and individual sex based responsibilities).

        Reply
    • I am afraid I find these extremely long comments making all sorts of sweeping claims unhelpful and impossible to engage with.

      You need to make shorter comments, and focus on the article. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Sorry Ian

        Im afraid we got caught up in a side debate. You’re right we have gone considerably off piste. Apologies.

        Reply
  4. “I find it striking that, whilst probably about 1.8% of the population are gay, in the sense of having a settled sense of attraction to someone of the same sex, and those who have legally requested a change in their recognised gender number fewer than 6,000 to date, these issues dominate our cultural narrative.”

    But it’s YOU who keeps talking about it, Ian. Again and again.

    Most lesbian and gay people are just living their lives.

    As for the Church of England. Fact: at least half the membership accepts gay and lesbian relationships. The Church is (at least) divided down the middle. Most people in ordinary parish life just want to get on with… helping their neighbours, visiting the sick, supporting the elderly. Most people are not obsessed with SEX!

    Reply
    • But it’s YOU who keeps talking about it, Ian. Again and again.

      This is a very odd thing to say about an article which is in response to an article which brings the point up.

      Or to put it another way, the author of this article wouldn’t have mentioned it if the Revered Coles hadn’t mentioned it first. So surely it is the Reverend Coles who ‘keeps talking about it’.

      Reply
    • ‘But it’s YOU who keeps talking about it, Ian. Again and again.’ What an utterly bizarre claim!

      I am responding to a strong claim made in a national newspaper by a well-known gay priest who wants the Church to change. I did not raise the subject!

      And I am not the one doing relentless campaigning!

      Reply
      • “And I am not the one doing relentless campaigning!”
        The most bizarre thing here is your denial that you are the one talking about it and you are not the one doing relentless campaigning. Your whole reason for being on GS and the AC is to prevent any change in this area. Your attitude in refusing to receive communion with others on AC speaks volume about your relentless campaigning.

        At least have the honesty to admit to what you are up to with this one but slightly underhand letter.

        Reply
        • Your whole reason for being on GS and the AC is to prevent any change in this area.

          That’s not ‘bringing it up’ though. That is reacting to others bringing it up. It would not be necessary for anyone to be on any body in order to prevent change if others didn’t keep agitating for change, so surely if you want to blame anyone for bringing the subject up it must be those who won’t stop agitating for change. They are the ones who, as they say in the playground, started it.

          Reply
        • This discussion appears to be proceeding on the assumption that it is wrong for anyone to actively propagate their views in an environment where there is disagreement – because it is unloving. But it cannot be – since the view that the person might be wishing to propagate might be that it’s always important never to propagate views when there is disagreement! In other words – the test of what is and is not loving lies not in whether it is actively promoted – or spoken only when replying to someone – but whether it is right – and whether it is primary (see my very long comment above concerning the last factor).

          People on this forum disagree all the time – they do so both in replying to the article and in response to each other. I believe that having recognised the nature of the problem we face – that that there is sin in all of us – that we are all Pharisees and liberals in some measure – this has seen a greater humility be expressed here – and because of that I believe there has been good progress – iron has been sharpening iron.

          Reply
          • I make my final comments recognising that knowledge will for the person wrongly positioned never be a blessing.

    • Ian talks about it because it is a major source of apostasy in the C of E and because society is aggressively pursuing an agenda to normalise what the Bible anathematises. You only need to look at a tabloid newspaper (or even a broadsheet) and a television programme guide to see whether society is obsessed with sex.

      Reply
    • People will accept anything the more it is presented as normal in their culture by the media who are able to be opinion formers. The only time it is accepted as normal is when the media concertedly prepare the way for that eventuality.

      Reply
  5. Theological matters aside, I wish I could afford to retire somewhere nice at the age of 60. I’m 50, been ordained 25 years. During that time the pension has been both reduced AND pushed back further. Housing provision in retirement isn’t what it was, either.

    Someone once said to me that Richard Coles was “playing at being a Vicar”. I violently disagreed. Still do. Horrible, hateful thing to say and untrue to boot. But for those long-term, full-time clergy like me — ordinary parish priests who’ve never done anything else, have no assets or other income retirement and never got the episcopal purple payslips — retirement will be further off and less leafy.

    Well, God bless Richard in this new chapter of his life. I wish him well. And I wish I had that to look forward to myself.

    Pax Vobiscum

    Reply
    • I work in the public sector and at a stroke the Government increased the pension age by at least 7 years (from 60 to 67), increased employee contributions to the pension scheme by a factor of 3 or more, and did away with a lump sum (except for what you had already built up in the previous scheme). Even under the old scheme the most anyone could have in their pension was 1/2 their leaving salary (after 40 years service) and I thought Anglican clergy could receive a higher %?

      Given that many clergy are given free housing (at least rent/mortgage free) I would have thought most could afford to invest in a property given the savings they should have with no rent or mortgage to pay on the current home, so that in retirement they would have a property to live in or sell (and could rent it out to cover any mortgage)? I appreciate it would very much depend on where you live and the local housing market, but I find it hard to believe that many clergy cannot do that.

      Peter

      Reply
  6. Let’s just be realistic. The Church of England is divided on whether we should affirm gay sexuality or condemn it. There’s no use throwing the rattles out of the pram. That just is what it is.

    For over 50 years these discussions have been going on, and there is a ‘logjam’. There’s no point saying “The Church of England believes this…” or “The Church of England believes that…” Some believe one thing, some the other thing.

    So… if you really don’t like that… if it’s impossible to just love your fellow Christians with their diverse views… I guess there’s a door that says “EXIT”.

    But schism is SO not a good thing. So what way out of the ‘logjam’?

    There is only one: to love each other, and co-exist.

    After all, it’s not all about SEX!!

    And that means, as I was saying to the bishops today actually, that we need to find our Unity in Diversity. In the end there will be no other way. I actually respect that a Christian may oppose gay sex in good conscience. I don’t want you to leave. Just don’t have sex with a guy, and don’t marry two gay guys if you don’t agree with it. Let local churces decide, and we’ll get on with life in the Church of England with two sets of consciences, and two integrities, but in normal parish life just getting on with what we DO agree with: love, service, worship, sacraments.

    You can moan on and on and on about sex, but trust me, most people in this country, and probably most people in the Church of England just don’t care.

    Most people don’t obsess about the sex thing. They just live their lives, whether hetero, gay or lesbian. Are you willing to go through the EXIT on this issue? Because, to be sure, that’s the logic. Or we can hang in together and, you know, do that weird thing… LOVE each other.

    Reply
    • There’s no point saying “The Church of England believes this…” or “The Church of England believes that…” Some believe one thing, some the other thing.

      Technically the Church of England does not and cannot ‘believe’ anything. It is an institution, not a person, and believing means to think something is true; and an institution cannot think as it has no mind. Only a person can ‘believe’ something.

      The Church of England can teach things; it can have a position on things; it can resolve things; it can hold things. But it cannot ‘believe’ things.

      So the question is not what the Church of England believes, it is what the Church of England teaches and what doctrinal positions the Church of England holds. And there is a point in saying that, because there are official documents setting out what the Church of England teaches and there is, as I discovered in my discussions with Mr Godsall, an official body (General Synod) with the authority to determine what doctrinal positions the Church of England holds. So it doesn’t matter that some believe one thing and some another; what matters is what your General Synod has resolved.

      There is only one: to love each other, and co-exist.

      Is that not a bit tricky when you disagree on what ‘loving each other’ means? Consider an issue other than sexuality… smoking, say. Imagine half the church thinks that the damage smoking does to one’s lungs is so severe that no one who loves another person could allow that person to smoke. This half therefore thinks that not only should the church and the halls be non-smoking, but that all church events — even those outdoors — should be non-smoking, and if any member of the congregation catches another member smoking in the street, or in their own homes, they should report it to the minister who will have a word with the smoker and remind them that smoking is bad for them. It is, after all, the only loving thing to do, right? It wouldn’t be very loving to let them keep on damaging their lungs.

      And the other half think that it’s up to each individual whether they smoke or not (provided, of course, they don’t inflict their second-hand smoke on anyone who doesn’t want it). Some of them might even be smokers themselves, and not appreciate the constant nagging. They don’t find it very loving and they wish that those who claim to love them would demonstrate that by leaving them alone to smoke in peace.

      How can this difference be resolved by the principle of ‘LOVE each other’? Each side thinks that they are doing what is loving, and that to change would be to become less loving.

      Just don’t have sex with a guy, and don’t marry two gay guys if you don’t agree with it.

      Can you insist that two gay guys aren’t actually married, if you don’t believe that such a marriage is a valid marriage? Because if you can’t — if the rule is ‘you have to publicly accept a same-sex marriage is valid even if you personally disagree with it’ — then that’s not ‘agree to disagree on equal terms’, that’s one side winning but tolerating the presence of the other.

      we’ll get on with life in the Church of England with two sets of consciences, and two integrities,

      You can’t have have ‘two integrities’. You can’t even have ‘one integrity’. ‘Integrity’ is not a count noun.

      Most people don’t obsess about the sex thing.

      I do agree here. Indeed ‘the sex thing’ is probably the least important, and very much the least interesting, issue on which the Church of England is split these days. I can think off the top of my head of:

      * universalism

      * deism

      * the authority of scripture

      * salvation by works

      I would suggest trying to sort out at least one of those.

      Reply
      • S – the `smoking’ example is one that actually happened. A friend of mine who smoked (now dead – smoking related disease) belonged to a Brethern group. The others in the group took the view that this wasn’t very good.

        They designated one of their group to approach the smoker and the conversation went along the following lines:

        `Brother, you know that the apostle would not approve of what you are doing’.

        (That was the way they spoke).

        My friend replied, `And the apostle would be right. But, you see, brother, I have fallen.’

        Reply
        • the `smoking’ example is one that actually happened

          How interesting. I promise I wasn’t surreptitiously referring to any particular event, but intriguing to find out my hypothetical situation actually happened. Makes it even more interesting to find out what people’s reactions to it as compared to the ‘sex thing’ are.

          It sounds like in the case you’re aware of the person on the sharp end of the rebuke actually agreed that those condemning their behaviour were in fact being loving?

          Reply
          • Yes – he agreed that they were being loving in their way.

            I think that the problem here was that he had been born and brought up in a Brethern family and, through some sort of inertia, never actually left. But I don’t think he believed in any of it; he simply played the game.

            His son was an absolute atheist, went completely off the rails – and reached a bad end, but that is a different story.

      • Good S. I like your smoking analogy. Unfortunately those who wish to allow smoking not only think it is a matter of freedom of conscience but believe smoking must be celebrated; it is harmless and some are simply made to smoke. They deny all the evidence that God forbids it and it is harmful.

        The divide is deep as you say. It is the divide between light and darkness. Between these there can be no fellowship.

        Reply
    • I actually respect that a Christian may oppose gay sex in good conscience.

      But that’s no more or less an ‘option’ than loving each other. Why the language of personal choice for one thing and not the other?

      Reply
    • ‘Let’s just be realistic. The Church of England is divided on whether we should affirm gay sexuality or condemn it. There’s no use throwing the rattles out of the pram. That just is what it is.

      For over 50 years these discussions have been going on, and there is a ‘logjam’. There’s no point saying “The Church of England believes this…” or “The Church of England believes that…” Some believe one thing, some the other thing.’

      That’s untrue; the ‘Church of England’ has a clear doctrine of marriage, between one man and one woman. We have for decades connived with deception, ordaining people who just don’t believe the doctrine of the Church. I think that is a problem.

      The members of the C of E are divided on whether we need to revise that doctrine or not. If the C of E is to have any continuity with its own identity, then we should change if and when, and only then, there is a clear consensus that Scripture mandates the change. Given the strong consensus amongst scholars on this matter, I think that is unlikely.

      Reply
      • U hope your right but suspect that if the Scriptures can be disregarded so too will any scholarly consensus. It is not a desire for truth driving this but a desire for acceptance by society. It is pathetic.

        Reply
      • If after a long time there were to be an adjustment, it would be on the level of a tweaking. What is being proposed is a total makeover that affects every aspect.

        Not only that, but there is no foundational mandate for any such thing.

        Not only that, but the proposal foundationally counts as actually sinful.

        Are there analogous proposals that have been centrally adopted having previously classified as sinful?

        Not only that, but the proposals seem to fit squarely within the prevailing culture, and to be explained by it, rather than being anything more profound.

        It is amazing the question is even being asked. It is a bit like Russian roulette being debated as a serious option.

        But we all know that if people keep chipping away, anything that is oft mentioned becomes seen as viable and plausible and normal in proportion to how often it is mentioned.

        Reply
        • “Are there analogous proposals that have been centrally adopted having previously classified as sinful?”

          Marriage in Church after Divorce

          Ban on Christian funeral after suicide

          Marriage in Church of those co-habiting

          Reply
          • Good points. They all have one thing in common, that people want to press so that they can enjoy their carnal and/or selfcentred lifestyles and still be officially on the side of the angels. Win win (??!). Now who with any knowledge of human nature would have suspected that people would do a thing like that?

            I totally except from this the deserted and abandoned.

          • Christopher you clearly have no experience of those who have, in extreme circumstances, taken their own lives.
            And you have proved in these pages time and time again now little understating you have of human sexuality so pardon me if I disregard your comment above.

          • Agreed S

            In my view divorce is the single greatest contributor to the dysfunctional ills of society today. Coming some way behind in second place I think is the media much of which is putrid and tragically I think the church is almost as blind to this as the world.

          • Andrew, it seemed rather manipulative to me to see suicide included in that list. Your point could have been made by listing only divorce and co-habitation.

          • John, glad you can see this point. It has always seemed obvious to me. I rank ‘d’ second behind abortion.

        • “Are there analogous proposals that have been centrally adopted having previously classified as sinful?”

          Lending money at interest.

          Reply
          • Another example of self interest being the driver. The mediaeval sequence was:

            (1) Jews prized by the authorities because they unlike Catholics were permitted to lend at interest.

            (2) Jews forbidden to lend at interest in conjunction with Italians for the first time being allowed to do just that.

            (3) Jews starving to death.

    • Susannah

      The Church of England is not filled with Christians. It is filled with professing Christians. Some of these are real Christians, some are nominal Christians and some are apostate Christians – wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.

      True Christians love people with homosexual tendencies as they love people with tendency to hate, violence, self-righteousness, heresy, pedophilia etc. Christians love people with every conceivable sinful tendency. They accept them as people but they do not accept them into church membership. They do not accept them as Christian brothers and sisters for that is reserved for those born again. It is for those who have been washed and cleansed from their sins and become slaves of righteousness. Church membership is for those who accept the faith once and for all delivered to the saints – the apostolic message.

      Reply
      • Yes, of course true Christians love people with homosexual tendencies, just as they love people with heterosexual tendencies.

        As for sinful tendencies, if not having any is a necessary condition for being accepted into church membership, then all churches might as well close down.

        Reply
        • I should have made clear that when sinful inclinations are indulged and with a high hand church membership is impossible. Or should be.

          Reply
    • Susannah, your use of headcount as a valid way of deciding issues means your stance falls at the first hurdle.

      Reply
    • “I guess there’s a door that says “EXIT”.”
      There is, and so many have taken it that the Church of England, its Archbishops, Bishops and Priests no longer represent, or inform, a majority of Christians in England.
      In our seventies my wife and I have taken that door and now attend a planted evangelical church and how different to the CofE it is.
      Our pastor has a Theology degree rather than a ministry orientated degree. He can read Ancient Greek and Ancient Hebrew and he gives us the Word unsullied by his opinions or unnecessary tradition; no priest stands between us and the sacrament. The music is modern and the church family is whole church rather than cliquey groups.

      Reply
  7. As I was saying…to the Bishops.
    This I’d suggest corroborates a main point of Ian’s open letter – a minority with a geatly disproportionate and vociferous influence, inside an outside the church.

    Reply
    • And all the while making no attempt to address the whole canon, biblical and theological, touch -points, substance of the post, perhaps treating them as present day irrelevancies.

      Reply
  8. “Historically, these traditions have had little confidence in either cross or resurrection, saying little about the first (or dismissing past understandings as ‘cosmic child abuse’) and dismissing the second as a ‘conjuring trick with bones’”

    In fairness to David Jenkins, he wasn’t denying the resurrection when he said this (at least, not on this particular occasion, he may have done on others), rather, he was actually defending it’s authenticity as a ‘literally physical’ event. There are a great many criticisms of him, but it is rather unfair that he’s become the ‘poster boy’ of resurrection-deniers.

    I only make this rather trivial point because I recently had to write an essay for my degree countering that very quotation. 😉

    Reply
    • In fairness to David Jenkins, he wasn’t denying the resurrection when he said this (at least, not on this particular occasion, he may have done on others), rather, he was actually defending it’s authenticity as a ‘literally physical’ event.

      So Jenkins did believe that Jesus’ body was, literally, not in the tomb; and that He later, literally and physically, walked and talked and ate with his disciples and was touched by them?

      Did he ever actually spell this out anywhere?

      I ask because he does seem to be quoted unambiguously as stating that he didn’t believe in the virgin birth (‘ I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if he wanted, but I very much doubt he would’* — which I suppose puts him one up on Mr Godsall, who doesn’t believe God is capable of arranging a virgin birth)

      * https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37093551

      Reply
      • Oh I most certainly do believe that God arranged a virgin birth.
        As I’ve said many times, I don’t have any need to cross my fingers when saying the creed.
        But maybe you mean my father – Mr Godsall. I’m not sure what he believed about that. And he’s long dead now.

        Reply
        • Oh I most certainly do believe that God arranged a virgin birth.

          Fascinating; your incoherence increases. I don’t want to flood this page as has happened to some others, so perhaps a quick one-word answer on another Jenkins-related topic: do you think Jesus walked on water?

          Reply
          • You’ve made claims about what I do and do not believe before Geoff and had to issue a public apology. Please provide any evidence or withdraw your slur.

          • Did you or didn’t you make comments on Ian’s blog at that time, in support of the very Reverend?
            It may still be there ( if retained by Ian) as evidence.

          • Produce your evidence Geoff. Or withdraw your stupid claims.
            Thank God you were never my lawyer

          • And Andrew, if you do believe the physical bodilyvresurrection took place in time, space and place, on what is that belief based? Scripture? The historicity of the New Testament accounts?

          • Produce evidence or withdraw your claim Geoff.
            You have had to apologise in these pages for your libellous nonsense before.

          • Andrew G,
            Having looked at Ian’s archives, my recall was incorrect. I was mistaken. It was someone named Andrew Lloyd. I apologise.
            However, these questions remain unanswered.
            A simple yes or no will suffice to question 1.

            1 Do you believe the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus took place in time, space and place?

            2 If yes, on what is that belief based, founded?

            3 Is it on New Testament accounts?

            4 On the reliability, the historicity of those scriptural, eyewitness based, accounts?

          • Your apology is accepted Geoff. Thank you.
            All of those questions I have answered here before and don’t find it necessary to answer again. But for ease of reference

            1. Yes.
            2. The belief and lived experience of the earliest Christians as inherited by the Church.
            3/4. Scripture records the understanding of those in 2 . As do the creeds.

          • (This is why now I always ask Mr Godsall ‘do you think that X really happened’ rather than ‘do you believe X’ because I suspect that his answers to the two questions might differ on vital matters because he interprets ‘believe’ as meaning something like ‘be willing to assent to X as a creedal statement’ or somesuch)

      • “(the Resurrection) is real. That’s the point. All I said was ‘literally physical’. I was very careful in the use of language. After all, a conjuring trick with bones proves only that somebody’s very clever at a conjuring trick with bones.”

        This is a quote from an article in the Independent where he was interviewed, which seems to be the original source for this phrase. The point I am making with my challenge to Ian is that when Jenkins used it, he was doing so in the context of defending a resurrection that was A) categorically a physical and not spiritual event, and B) not a deceit either.

        This is not evidence that Jenkins is an Orthodox theologian, far from it, as he seemed to have said quite a lot and most of it inconsistent, but the dismissal of the resurrection as a ‘conjuring trick’ was not an idea Jenkins personally held, it was the one he challenged.

        I only have hearsay about the Virgin Birth denial, and his writing on other subjects is something I’m unfamiliar with.

        Reply
        • I missed that you had already commented below with the same quote, albeit from a different source. Disregard my comment above, I will try and reply below a bit later or tomorrow, in the proper place.

          Reply
        • when Jenkins used it, he was doing so in the context of defending a resurrection that was A) categorically a physical and not spiritual event, and B) not a deceit either.

          Sorry how can you interpret that as Jenkins ‘defending a resurrection that was categorically a physical event’ when it was said as a defence of his statement that:

          “To believe in a Christian way, you don’t necessarily have to have a belief that Jesus was born from literally a virgin mother, nor a precise belief that the risen Jesus had a literally physical body.”

          https://www.christiantoday.com/article/the.jenkins.controversies.can.you.be.a.christian.and.not.believe.in.the.virgin.birth/94685.htm

          That seems to me to be unambiguously saying that it is not necessary, to be a Christian, to think that the resurrection was a literally physical event.

          Reply
          • They are two separate points.

            The first is whether or not the resurrection (or virgin birth) was a physical event, and not a trick, or a christian experience.

            The second is is the degree to which this matters, or is conditional as a salvation issue.

            Jenkins talks about them together.

            To do the latter first, I agree with you. The context of the quotes, and from other things Jenkins wrote, show clearly that Jenkins didn’t think it mattered that much; you could be ‘imprecise’ about what happened, and still be a Christian. I think he was fundamentally wrong about this, in case that’s not evident. 😉

            But as for the first one, I read the statement(s), with it’s dismissal of the trickery arguments and emphasis on an affirmed physicality, albeit with huge ambiguity, as something much closer to orthodoxy. He is not denying anything, at least not openly, and he is not suggesting that the conjouring trick is a positive paradigm, it is the straw man, the contrasting example to the ‘literally physical’ comment.

          • But as for the first one, I read the statement(s), with it’s dismissal of the trickery arguments and emphasis on an affirmed physicality, albeit with huge ambiguity, as something much closer to orthodoxy.

            Hm. Could you explain where you see this ‘emphasis on affirmed physicality’? I don’t see that. Every reference Jenkins makes to physicality is either to downplay it (saying it’s not necessary) or dismissive of it (saying the empty tomb could have been the result of a ‘conjuring trick’). I simply don’t see anywhere Jenkins affirms a physical resurrection at all — the only word he uses affirmatively is ‘real’, whatever that means — let alone emphasises it.

            He is not denying anything, at least not openly,

            Yes, that’s the bit which could be considered intellectually dishonest: he’s denying a physical resurrection but he’s not being open about it, he’s obfuscating using terminology — he’s doing a Sir Humphrey, in other words.

            and he is not suggesting that the conjouring trick is a positive paradigm, it is the straw man, the contrasting example to the ‘literally physical’ comment.

            No, I think you’s misread, what he contrasts to ‘literally physical’ is ‘real’. He sets up a dichotomy where the resurrection can either be ‘real’ (ie ‘a series of experiences’) or ‘literally physical’ (ie a ‘conjuring trick’) — and then, obviously, in those loaded terms, he comes down on the side of ‘real’ (and therefore, in the terms he’s set out, not physical).

    • Mat, I am quite surprised at your comment here.

      I am sure that Jenkins did not at all believe that Jesus’ body breathed again and was raised to new life. As the BBC obituary notes:

      ‘He also said that the resurrection was not a single event, but a series of experiences that gradually convinced people that Jesus’s life, power, purpose and personality were actually continuing.’

      He sits in a long line of scholarship shaped by German existentialism: ‘the resurrection’ is not the corporeal, objective event that happened to Jesus, but an existential realisation in us.

      Reply
      • Yes – I remember Eric Idle’s version of `The Little List’ song (from the ENO production of The Mikado, directed by Jonathan Miller). The first part of his line about `bishops who don’t believe in God, police constables who do’ was directed towards David Jenkins (I can’t remember the identity of the policeman).

        Reply
      • I have found more context:

        ‘ Two months later he was recorded in an interview in the library at Auckland Castle saying: “To believe in a Christian way, you don’t necessarily have to have a belief that Jesus was born from literally a virgin mother, nor a precise belief that the risen Jesus had a literally physical body.”

        Pressed on this, he said that the Resurrection was “real”. “That’s the point. All I said was ‘literally physical’. I was very careful in the use of language. After all, a conjuring trick with bones proves only that somebody’s very clever at a conjuring trick with bones.”’

        https://www.christiantoday.com/article/the.jenkins.controversies.can.you.be.a.christian.and.not.believe.in.the.virgin.birth/94685.htm

        That seems to me to be quite explicit that when he said ‘conjuring trick with bones’ it was in the context of claiming that the resurrection was not ‘literally physical’ (or at least, that it is not necessary to believe in a literally physical resurrection to be a Christian).

        Reply
        • …. when he was made bishop, the cathedral was struck by lightning. I remember that `The Sun’ of all newspapers picked up on the significance of this.

          Reply
          • No one but nut cases believed that York Minster was struck by lighting because of the ordination of David Jenkins as a bishop.

          • Andrew – back then, I seem to recall that The Sun had a readership of approximately 10 million. That’s an awful lot of nutcases. Admittedly, most of the readers weren’t interested in the religious section of the newspaper and bought it for the content of Page 3.

          • You are claiming that all 10 million readers believed what the Sun might have suggested? What did the story the Sun ran *actually* say Jock? Let’s read it please.

          • Andrew

            It was ‘nutcases’ that made him bishop. And anyway, who is to say God did not register his disapproval. He does it often enough in scripture.

          • Andrew – I’d love to – but unfortunately it was from the days before the internet existed and I couldn’t find it on-line when I tried searching.

            It therefore only exists in my memory – I picked up the newspaper, looked at it, got entertained by it and put it back down again.

            I do believe that there were (still are at least) 10 million people who would have believed anything that The Sun suggested – even if they had run a headline stating that scientists had discovered that the moon was made of cream cheese and had purple hedgehogs running all over it.

          • “…even if they had run a headline stating that scientists had discovered that the moon was made of cream cheese and had purple hedgehogs running all over it.”

            And you would call them nutcases.
            But hey, it sells newspapers which, remember, is what The Sun was wanting to do

          • And anyway, who is to say God did not register his disapproval. He does it often enough in scripture.

            Remember Mr Godsall has a very odd (and logically inconsistent) idea that things God is recorded as doing in scripture, God is actually incapable of. So for instance God is recorded as causing earthquakes in scripture but Mr Godsall thinks God is incapable of causing earthquakes. See https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/are-trans-people-on-a-sacred-journey/#comment-406455 et seq

          • I don’t think Jenkins/YorkMinster is necessarily in a totally different category to the jinx on those who had been involved in filming The Omen (and also The Exorcist? I forget.) and on stage productions of (ahem) the Scottish Play masterpiece.

          • The Archbishop of York at the time wrote a letter to The Times which expresses clearly the issues raised here.

            Sir,
            I read with astonishment some of the letters in today’s Times (July 11), the first copy I have been able to obtain since reluctantly leaving York Minster at 5am on Monday morning after hearing the reassuring words that the fire was out.
            I feel I must point out the disturbing implications of those letters which somehow seek to link the fire with some remarks made by a bishop-elect on a TV discussion programme. What kind of a god do your correspondents believe in?
            I grant that if we still lived in biblical times, and if it was customary to treat thunderstorms as some kind of messengers from God, then the connection might seem inevitable…
            But to interpret the effect of a thunderstorm as a direct divine punishment pushes us straight back into the kind of world from which the Christian Gospel rescued us. Is illness a divine punishment? Ought we to ask after a car crash whether the car was carrying some outstanding sinner?
            Yours faithfully,
            ✝ JOHN EBOR,
            World Council of Churches,
            1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland.

          • Andrew – thanks for this. Ah ha – I see that it wasn’t only for readers of The Sun (to give them something in addition to Samantha Fox on Page 3); it looks as if The Times was also reporting it and at a similar level.

            Sure looks as if Rupert Murdoch had it in for the Bishop of Durham!

            Yes – I see what he is saying in the letter – if it really had been a sign of God’s disapproval, he wouldn’t have been content with a wee pretendy fire that got put out relatively easily – there would have been an event of more biblical proportions.

          • Umm not quite Jock. He’s saying that Christ showed us what God was really like. And God is not like the anthropomorphised angry old man who treats human beings like puppets.

          • You really don’t have any grasp of what the incarnation is all about do you? You think it’s just a conjuring trick with wombs.

          • You really don’t have any grasp of what the incarnation is all about do you?

            Why don’t you explain it to us the ?

            How about you start with this simple question: did the Y-chromosomes in Jesus’ cells come from a human man? Or not?

            ’Cause I have a very strong feeling that when you say ‘I believe in the virgin birth’ you don’t actually mean that you think the man Jesus had no human father.

            Is my feeling right?

          • Ah yes I’m sorry I forgot that. You think the incarnation is a conjuring trick with a womb and chromosomes.
            Just as you think the miracles are merely magic.

          • Ah yes I’m sorry I forgot that. You think the incarnation is a conjuring trick with a womb and chromosomes.

            So you do think that Jesus had a human father. Right.

            So in future when you challenge anyone to ‘provide the link to where I have denied the virgin birth’ then they can provide this link right here because you have, in fact, just denied the virgin birth.

          • No denial there and no affirmation that Jesus had a biological father. So sorry to disappoint.
            Now be a dear and go to the nursery. Mummy says it’s time for your nap. You know how grouchy you get if you miss your sleep dear.

          • No denial there and no affirmation that Jesus had a biological father.

            So why don’t you answer the simple question: did the Y-chromosomes in Jesus’ cells come from a human man?

            If you didn’t deny the virgin birth it would be simple to answer. Your evasion is answer enough.

          • A little work on the term homoousion is needed S.
            Christ was of the same substance as the Father.
            God of God. Light of Light. Begotten not made.
            It’s all in the Creed.

          • Christ was of the same substance as the Father.
            God of God. Light of Light. Begotten not made.

            Not an answer to the question. It’s quite simple: did the Y-chromosomes in Jesus’ cells come from a human man? Or not?

            Though as I wrote above, we don’t need you to answer. Your evasion has given us all the answer we need: you do not think that Jesus was born of a virgin. If you did you would not need to squirm and evade, you could just answer the question. If this were a court, the jury would be able to convict you by your silence.

            You seem to think that as long as you don’t admit publicly in plain terms what you really think then you have not denied the virgin birth, but it doesn’t actually work like that.

          • Goodness you really don’t know anything about the Nicene Creed or me do you?
            And have no idea what homoousion means.
            And no understanding about the incarnation.
            No wonder you don’t understand the first thing about John’s Gospel.
            If you did you would not ask such stupid questions.
            You are extremely boring whoever you are and not worth bothering with any longer.

          • If you did you would not ask such stupid questions.

            What’s stupid about the question?

            Jesus was fully human (cf Chalcedon). He wasn’t God wearing a human suit. And He was male. So He must have had Y-chomosomes. Yes?

            And in every other human male born of woman, those Y-chromosomes for from the baby’s human father. Yes?

            So if Jesus was born of a virgin, then His Y-chromosomes must not have come from a human man. Yes?

            So it’s not a stupid question at all, but a perfectly reasonable one: did the Y-chromosomes in Jesus’ cells come from a human man? Or not?

            If you really do think that Jesus was born of a virgin then you need only respond, ‘They did not come from a human man’.

            If you do not respond in that way we all know why: it’s because you do not think that Jesus was born of a virgin, without a human father. And that means you deny the virgin birth.

            You are extremely boring whoever you are and not worth bothering with any longer.

            Don’t get cross at me because you can’t answer the question without giving yourself away.

          • Oh and I’ve just noticed that you have only used ‘Christ’ and not ‘Jesus’. Now of course this may be perfectly a innocent choice between synonyms; or it may be something more sinister, a heresy like Richard Rohr’s distinguishing between ‘Jesus’ who is simply one human manifestation of ‘the Christ’.

            So can I just ask you to explicitly rule out the Rohr heresy by stating in terms that you think that Jesus, the man born of Mary in Bethlehem, was the one and only Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, incarnate in history, and that ‘Christ’ is just a synonym for this man Jesus?

            And could you explicitly state that you’re not trying to draw some kind of distinction between the two by saying that you think ‘the Christ’, the universal principle, had no human father but that you think that Jesus, who was one human manifestation of the Christ-principle, did have a human father?

          • Once again, I find the tone of these exchanges unhelpful and pointless. I do wish you could find a better way to engage with each other, and a better place.

          • Once again, I find the tone of these exchanges unhelpful and pointless.

            Sorry. It is getting repetitive, isn’t it? I will try not to engage in this subject again and if it’s brought up to link to the previous discussions rather than taking up another page with the same points.

        • But if David Jenkins is not a significant thinker in the first place, why analyse his words?

          It reminds me of the PC I once met who took the stance that used to be common that if you wanted to know about God-related matters you should ask the local vicar. Not the professor or the published author, in other words.

          Reply
          • David Jenkins was of course a Professor of Theology and published author prior to being a bishop – not everyone reading may be aware of that.

          • Yes, he falls victim to my (not entirely irrational) bias against theology (of the speculative sort, and of the 1960s at less than exalted levels) being regarded a proper subject. As opposed to, say, NT studies (a branch of classics) or philosophy of religion (a branch of philosophy).

          • New Testament studies is a branch of theology at every University in the UK so far as I can see Christopher, and not a branch of classics at any of them.
            University of Oxford – part of the faculty of theology and religion
            University of Cambridge – part of the faculty of divinity (theology)
            University of London – divinity/theology …..

            I can’t find any where it’s a branch of classics.

          • Philosophy of Religion is likewise part of the theology faculty at UK Universities and not a branch of Philosophy. Unless you can find an example Christopher

          • theology

            Tell me Mr Godsall, which of these do you think better describes theology?

            (A) the study of God

            2. The study of humanity’s search for the divine

          • Hi Andrew

            But I already said ‘theology (of the speculative sort)’ rather than ‘theology’. You are writing as though I had said ‘theology’.

            For a branch of study to be kosher, there needs to be some way of determining what is a good or bad argument, what sort of thing would advance the discussion – rather than having a succession of people rehearsing their favourite congenial ideas.

            Also you are taking no account of the fact that ‘theology’ as in ‘theology department’ and as in ‘discourse about God which assumes God’s existence’ are two different things, albeit overlapping. A theology department involves itself in many more things than discourse about God. For example: considering whether or not there is a God, studying what others have said about God historically, events of Church History.

            See it as like ‘The London Borough of Harrow’. Harrow is actually only one place within that area, but when it comes to choosing a name for a larger area like a borough, people are then thrown back on selecting one of the important subsections of the geographical area to bear the load of the entire geographical area. So we have 2 uses of the term ‘Harrow’ and 2 uses of the term ‘theology’.

          • Christopher what absolute rubbish you talk sometimes.

            Please point to any Classics department that offers NT Studies courses.

            Please point to any Philosophy department that offers Philosophy of Religion courses.

            To continue your analogy, what you propose is that we have a London Borough of Harrow that actually doesn’t have Harrow within it. By your reckoning, Harrow is actually in the Borough of Wandsworth.

            And of course all University Schools are of the speculative type. That’s how scholarship is advanced : speculation followed by research and evidence based accumulation of knowledge. But I sometimes forget that we are on a chat room where little evidence is ever advanced.

          • But I sometimes forget that we are on a chat room where little evidence is ever advanced.

            Much evidence, and logical argument, is advanced; but Mr Godsall is not interested in argument or evidence, only argument from authority (and then only authorities who agree with him).

          • But I never once mentioned the idea that University Departments put Philosophy of Religion under Philosophy and or Philosophy/Theology (albeit some do) or NT Studies under Classics. All I said was that Philosophy of Religion is a branch of Philosophy (for which the clue is in the name) and that NT Studies is a (regional) branch of Classics. I was slightly inaccurate in the latter (I should have said NT studies is a regional variation upon Classics) since Classics is limited traditionally to Greece and Rome though it regularly includes study of the whole Ancient Near East.

            As to Harrow, no. Theology as an overarching subject does have doctrine/theology as one of its components. It certainly did when I studied it.

            Speculative: There is nothing intellectual about speculation per se – anyone can easily do it. Only about informed speculation, and for that to take place one needs a strong and coherent theoretical basis.

          • But I never once mentioned the idea that University Departments put Philosophy of Religion under Philosophy and or Philosophy/Theology (albeit some do) or NT Studies under Classics.

            You must remember though that Mr Godsall is incapable of thinking for himself. He will entertain no stray thought or idea that has not been thoroughly vetted by the academy, and if a university puts Philosophy of Religion under Theology then Mr Godsall thinks that must be where it belongs, because that’s what he’s been told by The Authority.

          • I do indeed think that the academy is *one* authority. As does Christopher, I am relieved to say.

          • The academy will often group things in a certain way for historical and traditional reasons, rather than purely logical reasons. So ‘anything to do with God’ / ‘anything that would be relevant to ministerial training’ finds itself in one particular ‘box’, which allows such matters to receive the attention due them. Long may that continue.

      • Evidently I opened a can of worms, which was not my intent.

        To clarify, I was simply stating that the phrase ‘conjuring trick with bones’ was never by Jenkins to describe the resurrection, but rather a parody of it, and one that he was challenging. The phrase was certainly not used in the casually dismissive way it is often quoted as meaning..

        Don’t misunderstand, I am not defending Jenkins as such, he certainly did have a lot of well-known and well-documented, how should we say, unorthodoxies, in regards to the resurrection, but I do not think it is true that he considered the event a trick or deceit, which is what the phrase suggests he did.

        I think Jenkins was wrong, damaging and taught dangerous theology. I do not think him intellectually dishonest.

        I am sorry for creating a lot of heat and little light in the comments section btw. The letter is excellent.

        Mat

        Reply
        • To clarify, I was simply stating that the phrase ‘conjuring trick with bones’ was never by Jenkins to describe the resurrection, but rather a parody of it, and one that he was challenging.

          Exactly what do you think Jenkins meant by ‘a conjuring trick with bones’ then?

          Because it seems clear to me he meant by it ‘that Jesus’ body was really not in the tomb’.

          Specifically it seems clear to me that Jenkins absolutely did not believe in anything miraculous or supernatural. Therefore for him there were only two possibilities: either Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, or someone snuck in and secretly removed it, and that was the ‘conjuring trick with bones’, a secret removal of the body just as, say, Paul Daniels was secretly removed from a box before swords were stuck through it.

          So what Jenkins meant, it seems clear to me, is that anyone who believes the tomb was empty on Easter Sunday — any actual Christian, in other words — must have been fooled by a conjuring trick with bones.

          So his comment that he doesn’t think it was a conjuring trick with bones is his way of saying that he doesn’t think the tomb was empty. He thinks that Jesus’ body stayed resolutely dead in the tomb, decomposing away while the disciples had ‘a series of experiences that gradually convinced people that Jesus’s life, power, purpose and personality were actually continuing’.

          It seems to me clear that this is what he meant, unless you have evidence to the contrary. Does that count as ‘intellectually dishonest’? Well, only insofar as he refused to come out and say that in public in plain language but instead dissembled. That seems quite dishonest.

          Reply
        • Mat

          I heard him use the phrase on TV in a dismissive supercilious way. He was denying physical resurrection and revelling in the notoriety. He was a celebrity for 15 minutes.

          Reply
      • When Coles says he doesnt really feel accepted as a gay person in the church, is he not meaning a gay person who lives his life as an ‘active’ gay person, ie in a relationship with another man?

        But even if he means simply by being gay, ie attracted to other men rather than women, I have sympathy with such a feeling. I think many Christians still feel such people, like myself, are ‘other’ and ‘different’. Or in need of ‘healing’.

        I dont know if you have watched the Netflix series ‘Coming Out Colton’ about the ex-NFL player who came out after appearing on The Bachelor (!). It was interesting to see the reaction of different people. In one episode simply called ‘Church’ he returns to meet up with some old Christian friends to tell them. Although they come across as loving towards him, he clearly feels to some extent rejected because he knows they cant accept his new way of life. I think many feel like that. Anyway it is quite an interesting watch.

        Reply
  9. Peter

    I am sure you are right. I’m sure there will still be some distaste for people with homosexual leanings. I wonder if that acts in reverse. For myself what I find hardest are camp affectations. I suppose most believers with homosexual leanings are free of those.

    I think its important to say that homosexuality is not your identity. You are a man in Christ and that is your identity. Homosexual leanings belong to the ‘flesh’ that you have put off and died to. You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. You are not by identity ‘a homosexual’ though you may have to struggle with these feelings and sometimes no doubt find the struggle difficult and lonely. Re the Netflix I would make a sharp distinction between accepting the person and accepting a way of life as I’m sure you do.

    Remember, although others may not be tempted by homosexual inclinations we are all disordered by sin and have to grapple with sinful tendencies most of which we are unlikely to tell others. In one sense, you are not alone; this is not to dismiss how deep some feelings run.

    Reply
    • “I think its important to say that homosexuality is not your identity. You are a man in Christ and that is your identity. ”

      I think that statement is absolutely correct.

      Reply
      • That’s not saying much though, is it Chris? You could also say:

        “Being heterosexual is not your identity. You are a man in Christ and that is your identity.”

        Truth is, being heterosexual can be an aspect of your identity as a man in Christ.

        And, though you may have a different view, being gay can be an aspect of your identity as a man in Christ.

        In my view, it must be, because I know some wonderful Christians who are gay and in caring and intimate gay relationships.

        The statement seems to gloss over the fact that God made each of us, gave each of us identity, and uniquely created each of us, with many aspects of identity, all of which may be used to love other people and open us to God. Who we are matters. If a person is gay, he’s gay. You can be a man in Christ, and still have many God-given aspects to your identity, all of which ideally find their completeness in relationship with God.

        The arguments go round in circles. Face it. Some Christians believe gay sex is wrong. Some Christians affirm gay sexuality as blessed. We either have to live with one another, or stalk off in a strop. The whole discourse goes nowhere, unless we are prepared to co-exist.

        We’ve had BREXIT, where the country (well… England) decided they wanted to leave rather than co-exist.

        Are you willing to do a SEXIT, and leave the Church of England. Because, for sure, lesbian and gay Christians are part of this Church and not leaving it.

        We need to move on, and focus on the many and pitiful other needs facing us in our parishes. And just respect other Christians have the righ to have their conscientious views, even if they differ from ours.

        Reply
        • Of course not. Because you think ‘Some Christians believe’ is weighty evidence. It is no evidence at all. Because you have neither (a) measured the coherence nor the accuracy nor the informedness of their evidence, if any, and (b) you are approving people jumping to conclusions/beliefs, so focussing on the conclusions rather than (as is proper) the arguments used to arrive at those conclusions.

          Many things that are called views, beliefs and conclusions are nothing of the sort. They are the opposite: ideologies and preferences. And because you have done nothing to distinguish between warranted and unwarranted beliefs, it is obvious that your stance fails. But we can always look instead to those who have tried to make this distinction.

          Reply
          • Listen Christopher, I respect your desire to follow God and your conscientious conviction that gay sex is wrong. And I don’t want you to leave the Church of England (if you are in it).

            But what you, and Ian, and others seem to be in denial about is that, actually, it is now a minority of members of the Church of England who believe gay and lesbian people should stay celibate all their lives.

            I am pretty sure there is now a majority of members in the church of England who now want to move on from this 50-year long soap about gay sex, and who are basically okay with gay people in the Church and okay with their private sex lives.

            This reality has firmed up, to a point where the ‘status quo’ is now pastorally unsustainable… because people simply don’t believe that ‘status quo’… and besides, are sick of all the controversies about sex, and want the church to move on to all the other pitiful needs in parishes up and down the land.

            That’s just the reality you are faced with.

            So that then leaves you, or Ian, or anyone else with the ‘SEXIT’ decision. If other people’s expressions of love are so anathema to you (and you presume, to God)… then you’re faced with a choice to stay in the Church you believe in, or EXIT.

            What really can’t hold, is a minority trying to impose a belief on a majority of the Church of England who simply don’t believe in it.

            That’s the situation in the Church of England today.

            I respect right of conscience if a person thinks God is opposed to gay sex. I expect the same right of conscience to be respected for the majority in the Church who want to live and let live, and who really don’t want gay and lesbian people to stay celibate all their lives.

            Is Ian, and are you, willing to co-exist in a Church with two different views on sex? Are you still willing to pray for the flourishing of parishes and parish ministries, up and down the land, even when they affirm and celebrate gay relationships… because we are One in Christ?

            The primary imperative is always the same: LOVE one another, LOVE our neighbour, LOVE our God in whatever way we believe we can or should.

            If we talked more about LOVE, and what binds us together, instead of calling out very decent people like Richard Coles or, as mentioned in these threads, describing gay people as ‘anathema’… if we just sought grace and love to co-exist, and respected there are different views in our Church on the sex thing (which there are, end of)…

            Maybe a blog like this one (which has some really helpful bible studies besides the polemics, and I do feel protective and almost maternal towards Ian for his ardour and love of God) would become an instrument for union rather than division.

          • Hi Susanna

            ‘Live and let live’
            Not a well known teaching of Jesus. But a well known teaching of secularism, and a well known imposition by those who want their own desired acts to be formally approved.

            ‘Conscientious conviction’
            I never mentioned any conscientious conviction. People of conscience never have any convictions unless they are evidence-based and logic-based rather than conscience-based: this is because it would be dishonest and obstructive to do so. This is a misunderstanding of (or a failure to read) what is being said.

            I answered the point on your doubtful use of the word ‘believe’. What you mean is not that they believe any such thing but rather that that they opt or vote this way, which could be for any reason intellectual or nonintellectual. As that point has not been addressed, then once again we must wait for it to be addressed.

            ‘In denial’
            I can scarcely be in denial about something I affirm!!

            You seem to think that the majority is always right. What is such an extraordinary belief based on?

            You also don’t seem to acknowledge that the majority changes its stances widely.

            Or that these changes are at present media-related and narrowly culture-related. They often arise from people being terrified to be in a minority among their peers. None of these points do you address so far – but you can.

            I have again to repeat the main point. Holding a position has no authority or significance whatever. The arguments your position is based on, and how these measure up to any competing arguments, have plenty of significance.

            Denominational allegiance – What is significant about being an Anglican when you can actually be something really exciting, like a Christian?

            LOVE – one of the least self explanatory words, as you probably know. There are 4 different words in NT Koine Greek each of which could be translated ‘love’. But they don’t at all mean the same as each other. So which of the four do you mean, and why are you treating the English word love as selfexplanatory. Or as meaning licence or tolerance of anyone acting as they wish? Which is very far indeed from NT agape, which puts people’s longterm interests at the heart. Almost its opposite.

            All the respect you direct at people would also be directed at Jesus. You respect him (which is a sop) but think he is wrong.

          • It seems that all the attempts at persuasion, have been abandoned.
            We now have to a scolding *listen* to what amounts to, “not live and let live”, but to demands to get on with it or go.
            Yet again, there is no consideration of the breadth of scripture which is of itself an admission that particular argument is lost, that it is extra, or sub Biblical, to be trumped by one sided, imposed, over – riding sinless conscience.
            It all comes across as
            simmering resentment and desperation.
            Is there really a commonality of belief in the same God of Christianity, as revealed in the whole canon of scripture? In the same life transforming, converting, Good News of Jesus the Christ. A commonality of belief in the need for salvation and for sanctification, holiness? And lets not forget, that deeply offensive word: sin, a word expunged from Christian morals and ethics in streams of Christian, biblical, theology and life lived.

        • I think it is. I agree that our identify is in Christ whether we are heterosexual or homosexual. However, what our lived behavior shows is quite different and needs to be compared to what we find in Scripture and what God has declared to be good in terms of sexual relationships between humans. From Genesis to Revelation, the whole import is the sexual differentiation of male and female and sexual relationships between them and not between those of the same sex. Even Jesus and the Church is painted in the same metaphor, Eph 5:28-32 being one of the strongest indicators, although I wouldn’t expect you to accept this.

          I have much more respect for those whom argue for SSM on the basis that the Bible is simply wrong on SSM then those who try to square it with Scripture. They would do much better starting from that position.

          And where is your evidence that the majority of parishioners affirm same -sex marriage? If you are referring to the biased and unbalanced survey issued by the egregious Ozanne Foundation (that wishes to criminalize those that disagree with them), then that was effectively de-bunked by Peter Ould on this blog.
          I can’t imagine they want to co-exist with others in the Cof E who regard their behaviour as being wrong and sinful and should be prayed for -do you think?

          It won’t be ‘SEXIT’ Susannah, rather it will be ‘SPLITsIT’.

          see https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/do-we-know-what-anglicans-think-about-same-sex-marriage/

          Reply
          • Chris, I actually DO think the metaphor of Christ and the Church being compared to sexual union IS incredibly beautiful and meaningful. Union with God is the whole trajectory of our souls. Moreover, union is blissful. It’s a wonderful and helpful metaphor.

            Secondly, my personal view is that, on the surface level of the text, the Bible DOES portray man-man sex as sinful and forbidden. I don’t try to find alternative explanations for the text. However, as you can probably expect, I am not fundamentalist or literalist in my approach to Bible narratives. Like many others, I read the Bible as the contextual views of its authors.

            Thirdly, this is what I mean by denial: trying to claim that most people in the Church of England think gay and lesbian people should stay celibate all their lives. I believe you would find that most people these days are okay about gay and lesbian intimate love, and I believe that includes members of the Church of England.

            I believe that the condemnation of gay sexuality is a minority view in the Church of England today, albeit still a fairly sizeable one: 30%? 40%?

            That does not mean that I disrespect someone who in fidelity reads the scriptures in a more literal way (a) because I respect the right of conscience; and (b) because if read that way, then I believe the condemnation of gay sex is coherent.

            However, I am trying to ‘front up’ the reality that the Church of England is profoundly divided on this subject, and that either we resolve to co-exist or dissatisfied people could (as you put it) ‘split’.

            I believe that would be a great shame. I respect the love of God that people can have, and the lifetime faith, and the service… even if they hold different views to half the Church of England on this subject. I believe the challenge to LOVE one another is greater and more primary than the (frankly impossible) challenge of everyone holding a uniform view. It isn’t going to happen. And it’s not happening now.

            My underlying question, I guess, is ‘Would you prefer to split from the Church of England, to maintain what you believe is doctrinal purity?’ or… ‘Are you willing to co-exist, in a diverse church with diverse views, and get on with one another across the church and get on with meeting the huge needs of our parishes?’

            But as for your fidelity, regardless of the sex thing, I pray God blesses you. I really do. I am happy to co-exist with Christians I disagree with on sexuality. Are Christians who disagree with my same-sex relationship (and all the others who accept gay and lesbian sexuality) happy to co-exist with me/us.

            If not, what can I really do about that? Except keep trying to be friendly? It’s not like I’m leaving the Church of England, because most people in the Church of England accept my sexuality. They really do.

          • Susannah,
            Thank you for your gracious reply. To respond to a few of your comments:

            ” I actually DO think the metaphor of Christ and the Church being compared to sexual union IS incredibly beautiful and meaningful.”

            No. What Ephesians is saying here is the metaphor of Christ and the Church compared to the sexual union between a *man and his wife* IS incredibly beautiful and meaningful. In the context of this passage, any other human sexual union would imply the union of the church marrying the church, or Christ marrying Christ which would be meaningless.

            “Secondly, my personal view is that, on the surface level of the text, the Bible DOES portray man-man sex as sinful and forbidden”

            Well I am glad you have theological integrity to see that. But what makes you think that conservative theologians don’t read the Bible contextually? I am sure Ian Paul and many others of a conservative bent who expound on this issue do.

            “I believe you would find that most people these days are okay about gay and lesbian intimate love, and I believe that includes members of the Church of England.”

            I am sure that some member of the CofE do, but I would question your previous assertion as to whether the majority are okay about it.

            “That does not mean that I disrespect someone who in fidelity reads the scriptures in a more literal way (a) because I respect the right of conscience”.

            Pleased to hear you say that. However, the same cannot be said of the Ozanne Foundation who are one of prime movers in trying to get SSM accepted in the CofE and its historic teaching on marriage changed.

            “My underlying question, I guess, is ‘Would you prefer to split from the Church of England, to maintain what you believe is doctrinal purity?’ or… ‘Are you willing to co-exist, in a diverse church with diverse views, and get on with one another across the church and get on with meeting the huge needs of our parishes?’”

            Well I am sure you would like to co-exist. I don’t think the Ozanne Foundation would however.

            As it stands, I am a Baptist and not an Anglican. We have similar issues in own denomination although on a smaller scale, but because of the very high level of self-autonomy that Baptist churches possess and a lack of episcopal authority, not to mention a dearth of credal formularies, it does not effect us (yet) to the same degree. Although I might add there exist growing tensions in the Baptist Union over this issue that potentially threaten the Union.

            If I was a prophet (and I am not), then I would say that the current trajectory of the C of E is one that is heading for fragmentation and disestablishment and these pressures will accelerate after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in the near future with SSM all in the mix.

            -although I might be wrong.

        • We either have to live with one another, or stalk off in a strop.

          I don’t want to attend a church where the truth is no longer taught. If the truth is clearly taught and the congregation ignores it, that’s a different matter.

          Reply
          • I don’t want to attend a church where the truth is no longer taught.

            What would even be the point of a church where the truth is no longer taught? The whole point of a church is to teach the truth. Once the church no longer even pretends to try to teach the truth, but instead allows two mutually contradictory doctrines to be taught, everybody might as well just pack up and go home, right? What reason would such a church even have for existing?

  10. I was interested, Paul, that you should suggest that you would rather speak ‘to’ than ‘about’ Fr. David Coles; when clearly, on your blog, you are objectively speaking about him!

    Also, I find your rejection of the wisdom of Archbishop Temple, here, rather misplaced:

    “This saying of William Temple is often quoted: ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members’. This is nonsense in two regards. First, any organisation that provides a service (such as the NHS) exists for the benefit of those who are not its members. Secondly, the Church is not merely a service provider, as if we were an extension of Social Services, though this is the way that it is often used. But it is true in one regard: the Church exists for the benefit of those who are not yet its members by proclaiming confidently the faith of Jesus, so that trust and new life in him might become a reality.”

    What the good archbishop was speaking of is the important place of SERVICE for which the Body of Christ was instituted by its Found, Jesus. In a society of rules and regulations, Jesus brought the charism of unconditional acceptance of everyone – except those whose hubris tended to rate their own importance above that of the people they ought to have been serving in God’s name – the Poor, the Humble, the Meek, the disenfranchised, and those who – though sinners – longed to know the Mercy and forgiveness of their Creator, God.

    “Bums on Seats” did not have much appeal to Jesus. I suspect that what he was looking forward to was the culture of his disciples each being like ‘a beggar showing other beggars where to find Bread’ – the Bread of Life for ALL in Christ Jesus – given without any conditions laid upon them but that they knew and acknowledged the Source of all Good.

    What all Evangelicals need to realise is the deeper meaning of Jesus’ last plea on behalf of ALL Sinners (that’s ALL of us) from the Cross: “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do”. (This plea was offered by Jesus on behalf of ALL Sinners, not just Evangelical Christians). What the Church needs is SERVANTS not Dictats.

    Christos Anesti!

    Reply
    • ‘In a society of rules and regulations, Jesus brought the charism of unconditional acceptance of everyone’.

      The trouble with this summary is that, to me, it looks like a liberal projection of an antinomian ideal which strips Jesus of his Jewishness.

      Jesus was a Torah-obedient Jew who called others to the heart and intention of the law. As I have explored a number of times on this site, the gospel is unconditioned, in that it calls to all, but it is not unconditional. ‘Whoever comes after me must take up his or her cross…’

      Reply
  11. Ananias and Saphira were struck dead but subsequent sinners were not. They were set up as examples. The events surrounding the Bishop of York also set an example. God does have good timing it seems to me. Ba-boom!

    Reply
    • Our church building has an electricity sub-station in the grounds just before you enter the doors, with a hazard sign of a man being struck by a lightning bolt. I like to point it out to people when they go in..

      Reply
      • …. and does the man in the picture look at all like David Jenkins?

        I remember he was indeed a figure of fun. I remember a `Bishop of Durham Blues’ on `I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ which went along the lines of

        I woke up one morning
        and found the bishop of Durham sleepin’ in my bed.
        I said to him, `this ain’t no place for you to rest your weary head’

        (can’t remember how it continued …..)

        Reply
          • I imagine some people, friends even, of Ananias and Saphira, probably put their untimely deaths down to coincidence.
            “Children” of Jezebel probably decided to wear protection in the circumstances they found themselves in.
            Funny how ‘acts of God’ can always be taken to be coincidental or the finger of God.

          • S – did you notice in that scene from `Yes Minister’, where they are deciding on the new bishop, that the `joke’ theology department is Exeter?

        • One joke that was contained on (perhaps?) Radio 4 Week Ending (or Stop the Week?) concerned the contemporary sprinter also called David Jenkins. 1984 or 1985.

          ‘And now over to David Jenkins for a comment on this sprinting-related issue.’

          David Jenkins: ‘The 100 metres does not exist. It is, in a very real sense, a most powerful metaphor for the 200 metres…’ – pause as wire is cut.

          ‘Sorry, wrong David Jenkins.’

          Reply
          • Michael Green’s name went forward for both Durham and Winchester (2 of the top 5, posts suitable for an academic bishop). The irony. We could have had outstanding intelligent leaders (who thoroughly believed in their product and inspired internationally) throughout the 1980s and 1990s had Stott and Green been appointed ABC.

          • There were very good reasons why John Stott and Michael Green were passed over for episcopacy. Neither of them had the vocation to the order.
            A quick read of ‘Not the Church Times’ would tell you why. Grichael Meen as he was affectionately known, had several books published by Dodder and Stumble. They revealed that the C of E was a large sea but that all the noise was, as Bob Runcie once remarked, in the shallow end. It still is….witness this ‘open’ letter from Ian.

          • They would both have been much better archbishops than bishops because of their vision. It is natural that John Stott turned down bishoprics because of the breath of his international ministry and he would probably also have turned down ABC – that becomes a hypothetical because the former never happened.

            I have always said individual international stature and intellect are two things the absence of which quickly makes itself felt. The leader should have both in spades, if possible. And thirdly should be a figurehead. And fourthly should be one who is objectively recognised internationally as a leading Christian that others can bond with in Africa, SE Asia, N & S America, and so on. And fifthly should not be a committee person, a yes person, a management (of decline) person, or a cipher.

          • A very snobby remark from RR which (to make things worse) does not even square with the facts, as one searches in vain for his own significant qualifications and publications, by comparison.

          • Shallow end? And noise?
            Witness the assymetrical and widely disparate platforms of influence between R Coles and his multiple media outlets for his voice, and Ian Paul, with an open letter on his own blog, responding to a national uppier tier newspaper article.
            Witness Jayne Ozanne and her national voice to outlaw prayer.

  12. In the previous post, I suggested that there was a danger in over-preoccupation with the topic of *wrath* that we lose sight of current obsession with *love* and just how far a biblical understanding is disappearing in a fog of “my truth” subjectivism!
    Witness Susannah Clark: “The primary imperative is always the same: LOVE one another, LOVE our neighbour,LOVE our God in whatever we believe we can or should.”

    Now compare the with the following: “In this the love of GOD was made manifest, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved him but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins [1 John 4:9,10].”

    Now contrast a statement where the starting point is GOD; not us. Moreover a statement where the “primary impertative is GOD and HIS love, not “whatever we believe we can or should ???”
    Surely the profundity of the contrast here should arouse even the most soporific of minds and consciences that what we have here are (at least) two incompatible *systems* of belief! Compatibility does not exixt.

    Reply
    • Colin – completely off-topic – do you know David W. Torrance personally? (You know about the book he published in 2007 and you know that he is still alive and of a great age). If so, I’d recommend that you pay him a visit – I can’t imagine he has any reasonable `theological’ company where he currently is (and you seem to have strong appreciation of his work).

      Reply
  13. You write: “First, you [RC] claim that those who believe in the Church’s doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman ‘are shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’. I think you probably know this isn’t true…”

    Why do you phrase it that way? You don’t have any access to RC’s mind and intentionality. You claim you want to be courteous and yet here you are at the beginning of what is the main point of contention by saying you think RC is dissembling, setting out to deceive? Even if you are right in your exegesis (and I don’t think you are), why not treat RC as writing in good faith, but mistaken?

    Others have praised you for your courtesy, and your register intends to be calm and fair. But here, surely, you fail?

    Reply
    • Thank you Patrick! Some honesty at last. The letter is condescending, patronising, self righteous and just plain self congratulatory in places. If it has any courtesy, it’s like the courtesy of Brutus ….

      Reply
      • Thank you, Andrew Godsall.
        I do see why you say that, and you may be right.
        For now, all I want to say is that the article, adopting the register it does, at a number of points nevertheless uses sleights of hands, that I want to question.
        In this context, you may want to know that I asked (on twitter) IP if he’d engage with an Open Letter in response, from me, a fellow priest (IP having said that it’s better to write *to* rather than *about* a fellow priest), and, after about a day’s evasions, said: “No. Why should I?..”
        If I say his cordiality seems to be something given on his terms, I think we are in agreement.

        Reply
        • To be fair, why would IP engage with an open letter from you which is a response to his open letter to RC? I would have thought if there are any further ‘open letters’ a response should come from RC as the original letter was directed at him.

          I do however agree with your point as to what IP’s words imply. But then perhaps that is what he thinks, that RC is presenting a picture which is not true (depending on one’s understanding of ‘conservative’) and he knows it is not true given his own theological training and education, but for his own reasons wants to present such a picture to those reading the article. I dont know. Im not a mind-reader.

          Peter

          Reply
          • PC1,
            IP is under no obligation to engage with an open letter from me. When he stopped evading my question and answered bluntly: “No. Why should I?” I took that, of course. It was simply that he was clear that the reason he was writing his was that it is better to write “to” than “about” a fellow priest. He’s perfectly entitled to be inconsistent on the merits of that point. I am perfectly entitled to point to the inconsistency.

            Indeed, IP may believe that RC is lying. I allow for that. I just wanted to know why he chose to share that surmise – surmise, since it is based on written text and has no corroborating evidence – in a text claiming to be respectful. It doesn’t strengthen his argument, that RC is wrong, in any way. It just needlessly impugns RC’s character.

      • You are welcome here to engage in discussion. You are not welcome to come here to trade insults. Your comment is outside the guidelines, and if you don’t edit, then you need to take them elsewhere.

        Reply
    • Why do you phrase it that way? You don’t have any access to RC’s mind and intentionality.

      The Reverend Coles doesn’t have any access to the minds of those who disagree with him either, yet felt able to claim that they ‘ are shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’. If you’re going to criticise the article’s author for presuming to read the mind of his opponents surely you have to criticise Coles for doing the exact same thing? Otherwise you’re operating a double standard, aren’t you?

      Reply
      • Hello S
        Is that really the same thing?
        RC interprets remarks as being in one pattern of remarks, namely the “conservative”. He may be wrong, and can be challenged.
        IP claims that it is probable RC is setting out to deceive, knowing one thing but claiming another. He has already said he does not know RC. It is his surmise.
        One is finding parallels; one is mind-reading.
        The parallel fails.

        Reply
        • Is that really the same thing?

          Both are purporting to intuit the psychology of their opponents. So in that sense they are the same, yes.

          RC interprets remarks as being in one pattern of remarks, namely the “conservative”. He may be wrong, and can be challenged.

          Well, I can’t read the actual article by Coles, so all I can go on is the following statement:

          ‘First, you claim that those who believe in the Church’s doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman “are shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture”’.

          This looks to me like a report of an attempt at Bulverism. If accurate, it seems like Coles is trying to claim that those who believe in the Church’s doctrine do not do so for intellectually honest reasons — such as that they are convinced by evidence or by logical argument — but just because they are ‘shaped’ by external forces. He thus deprives his opponents of intellectual honesty, of rigour, and of agency.

          This is a pretty serious claim to make without any evidence, at least as serious as any made in the article above.

          One is finding parallels; one is mind-reading.

          Coles is definitely mind-reading: he claims not just to know what his opponents believe, but why they believe it (and indeed possibly to know why they believe it better than they know themselves). So that’s definitely, in your terms, ‘mind-reading’.

          The parallel fails.

          The parallel is good.

          Reply
          • You can’t read the actual article.

            No, and obviously that is not ideal; but unless the responding article above completely misrepresents it, my point stands.

            If you would like to claim that, you can quote the ‘ shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’ line in context and we can see.

          • Hello S

            The presupposition is that we are all shaped by external forces, in one way or another, whether we like it or not. Sometimes, indeed, we own these. It really isn’t mind-reading to say that a certain point of view is shaped by a certain way of viewing things. It really isn’t. It is just making connections. I can say that Marx was influenced by Hegel, even though I never met either of them.

            To claim to know that a person is lying rather than simply mistaken – based on nothing but written text – is mind-reading.

          • The presupposition is that we are all shaped by external forces, in one way or another, whether we like it or not.

            Indeed, and it’s a big presumption. Some people are shaped by outside forces; some are not. After all if everybody was always shaped by outside forces then nobody would ever have an original idea. And yet people do have original ideas. So not everyone’s thinking is always shaped by outside forces.

            And more to the point, just because someone comes to the same conclusion as someone else, it doesn’t mean either that one was ‘shaped’ by the other or that some external forced ‘shaped’ them both. They may simply have looked at the evidence and come, independently, to the same conclusion.

            To claim that all people who have come to a certain conclusion have done so not out of independent thought but because they were all, like clay, simply shaped by forces acting upon them is, quite frankly, staggeringly arrogant and very very rude.

            I can say that Marx was influenced by Hegel, even though I never met either of them.

            You can — but you’re making a presumption. What if it turned out that Marx had never read Hegel?

            To claim to know that a person is lying rather than simply mistaken – based on nothing but written text – is mind-reading.

            To claim to know that I hold my views simply because I was ‘shaped’ by external forces, making me out to be a dumb puppet with no thoughts of my own, is not only mind-reading but supercilious, insulting nonsense to boot.

          • Hello S
            You are adding the words “always” and “simply” to the idea that we are shaped by external forces. I neither used them nor implied them. They are not in RC’s argument, nor in mine. But you need to add them to absolutise my point, for yours to be valid. What you object to is not what I am saying.

          • You are adding the words “always” and “simply” to the idea that we are shaped by external forces. I neither used them nor implied them.

            The quotation we have, which is all I am able to go off until and unless someone with access to the article gives more context is:

            ‘ are shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’

            That’s an absolute statement. Your defence would work if the line were

            ‘ are sometimes shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’

            or even

            ‘ are often shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’

            or perhaps

            can be shaped by a conservative reading of Scripture’

            But no: just a bald ‘are’ is a universal statement. If I were to say, ‘Frenchmen are cowards’ then you would agree that is an insult to all Frenchmen, right? I don’t have to say ‘Frenchmen are always cowards’ or ‘Frenchmen are simply cowards’ to be insulting; just the bald unqualified statement is enough.

            Same applies here.

          • Sorry S.
            Your claim is semantically false.
            I know you want it to be true.
            But it isn’t.
            Gd bless you.

          • Your claim is semantically false.

            If it were you would be able to explain what my claim is and show it to be false. Because you cannot you are reduced to empty bluster.

          • That’s also not what “bluster” means.
            Just type “is shaped by” into a search engine, and see how the phrase is actually used – it typically means “has as one influence”.
            Gd bless you.

          • Just type “is shaped by” into a search engine, and see how the phrase is actually used – it typically means “has as one influence”.

            Bulverism.

    • Do you really think that R Coles, who has a personal, subjective interest, was not careful is his use of category of ” conservative” to make a particular theological political point, while at the same time having little or no understanding of biblical theology and its consistent history of cinstruction down the centuries.
      Does he make any concession and adimission as does Sussanah Clark above, that scripture is clear in its plain meaning? Even if she then wrongly (again with deeply personal subjective personal self interest lens of eisegeisus) claims it
      to be limited to culture, time and place and perhaps even to the so called limited understanding and ignorance and context of the human writers. (And at all times iradicating God’s involvement in scriptures construction).
      Is Coles really being mistaken, in ignorance? Or deliberate in his choice of words?
      It would be interesting to know Coles canon of interpreting scripture. Even more, to know what he thinks scripture is, what it is for, in the life of the church, in the lives of Christians.

      Reply
      • Hello Geoff.
        You write: “Do you really think that R Coles, who has a personal, subjective interest, was not careful is his use of category of ” conservative” to make a particular theological political point, while at the same time having little or no understanding of biblical theology”.
        No. I do not really think that. I do know Rev’d Richard Coles, and know him to take a scholarly approach to the NT, having talked about his studies with him.
        Thank you for asking.

        Reply
        • Hello Patrick,
          What is that scolarly approach?
          Is it the scholarly approach of Honest to God, John Robinson, of NT Wright.
          What are the methodologies?
          What are his pre-supposition?
          What are his canons of construction of interpretion. And to repeat, what does he think scripture is and its purposes? Is it only a human construct?
          Who are his biblical and philosophical influencers scholarly influences? Post- modern deconstructionist. As it has morphed: an outworking of *conservative academic* Higher Criticism and all it tributaries. And perhaps mixed with a generous helping of having a purpose of his own vested interest to serve, that is the employment of the primacy of subjective personal interpretation?
          As you will be aware, truth is based on correspondence to reality, to what is. If what was stated, claimed by Coles doesn’t correspond with reality, it is a false claim, not true.

          Reply
          • Geoff,
            Good questions and I agree with your closing proposition.
            It’s not relevant to my point though, which is why IP presumes that RC, who believes something else to be true, is dissembling rather than just simply mistaken (in IP’s eyes).

    • No, Patrick – to say that reading the words as they are is ‘conservative’ is something that no-one can possibly think to be true. It is just reproducing that which the words say, so it is neutral – it is letting the words speak for themselves. This kind of thing (deliberately, though not honestly) shifts the middle ground so that even someone who claimed that the first word of my present comment was ‘No’ (which means the opposite of Yes) would be thought to be making a conservative claim.

      Reply
      • Mr Shell, I think it to be true. I posit that I am not lying. I may be mistaken, but I give you my word I am not lying. I do not believe the exegesis which IP offers, and which for you is simply reading the words. I have my reasons. It’s not arbitrary. It is based on study. You may well need to educate me further, and I am open to that. But if you presume to know that I am lying, then of course, we will have to agree to disagree in silence. Am I lying?

        Reply
        • Christianity is for clever people and not clever people. Our coming to an understanding of the truth isn’t reliant upon our being clever or our having a PhD on the subject. Five year olds who come to God in humility find him and eighty year old university professors who do not do not.
          It seems obvious to me from the range of people intellectually that God does not intend primary truths of scripture to be understood only after considerable study.
          If you read my longest and highest up comment here you will see that I lay out three passages which show how sexuality and sex differences are primary issues linked to the heart of the gospel – that there is no way in which anyone is able to separate sexuality and sex differences from the heart of the gospel and what it means to submit to God. I believe that I am able to make these kinds of conclusions without having a theological degree – I don’t believe such conclusions are the sole possession of people who are clever.

          Reply
          • Indeed, Christianity is for clever people and not clever people. And all kinds of Christians disagree on this point. All kinds of Christians are minded, at least at times to say: “But if you were a proper Christian, you would agree with me on this point, because when I read Scripture, I read it right.” And, alas, Christians – all kinds – go on disagreeing. Difficult, isn’t it? Gd bless you.

          • I said something quite different to what you said in your reply Patrick.

            All believers have the Holy Spirit guiding them into all truth – (John 15:26). To believe wrong primary truths involves having an active war with the Holy Spirit.

            God’s intention is that the bible be understood by ordinary folk. When despite this and the presence of his guiding help people fail to receive the Bible’s plain meaning on primary truths it isn’t God’s fault. People will be held account in respect of what they believe on primary matters of faith.

          • Philip,
            Yes and I disagree that your reading is the plain meaning.
            I understand that means to you that I am at war with the Holy Spirit.
            I reject that too.
            I am a believer, with Peter, that we should give an account of the hope that is within us with humility and reverence.
            I don’t find your certainty that you are right and those who disagree with you are malign does that, quite.
            One day, we will find out.
            Until then, Gd bless you!

          • You say you disagree with what I consider to be the plain meaning. Of which passage? This?

            1 Cor 6:9-10 ESV
            Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

            When people ask me my opinions on various issues I just read them passages of scripture without saying anything else and they immediately know what I believe. If on matters of primary truth it isn’t possible to take the plain meaning of scripture then obviously at that point faith has become the possession of the more intellectually able.

            I quoted from the ESV here but it wouldn’t matter which translation I read from – my belief would still be obvious to anyone listening. Try it yourself Patrick – when someone asks you what your view is about homosexuality just read this passage to them and see whether they come to the same conclusion as you.

          • Thank you Philip

            Actually I would go back to the Greek. You do know there is no NT Greek word for “homosexuality”, right?

            Presumably if someone asks you the Christian view of burial, you simply quote Luke 9.60? Anything else would be inconsistent, and you wouldn’t want to avoid the plain meaning of the text, just because it’s counter-cultural (even against Christendom’s culture), right?

        • No, I do not think you are lying. I think you are repeating unthought through tactical cliches which you have inherited from others. Anything at all which is Christian will be called ‘conservative’ by ideologues – unless you can think of any exceptions.

          Reply
          • Thank you, Mr Shell. I am not lying, but mistaken. In the same vein, IP should not assume that RC was lying, unless he has access to RC’s mind in ways he has not shared – which is difficult, since he says he has never met him. Gd bless you.

          • Patrick,
            Could it be suggested that there is a distinction between something being untrue, factually incorrect, that is, not corresponding to reality, and lying!

          • Patrick,
            I don’t see that Ian Paul has accused Coles of lying. Indeed his bread crumb thread of explanation, history would suggest the contrary, giving him the benefit of doubt.
            Nevertheless, there could be reasonable grounds for forming an opinion that Coles would would be aware that his categorisation of belief was not limited to those he termed as present day church conservatives. Ian Paul then went on to demonstrate, how Coles was incorrect : certainly was not showing scholarly balance, even within the limits of a national, upper -tier, newspaper article and editorial confines.
            I doubt Coles would have been afforded any national newspaper column inches were it not for his relatively high multi- media profile.

          • Geoff.
            You are right that IP did not accuse RC of lying.
            He came close, but stopped short.
            A reminder: “I think you probably know this isn’t true”.
            That is to impugn RC’s character, whatever you want to call it. And it is not based on any evidence.

            I know you think that no well-meaning theologically trained Christian might actually share RC’s position here. But we can! We may be in error. But impugning us is not going to win us round, now, is it?

            Why not start with a presumption that both/all parties are being honest, assuming that it, that you wish to convince us that we are actually in error, and are not just speaking to your own tribe?

          • Geoff,
            apologies if you get 2 versions of this response. 1st attempt seems to have gone missing.

            You are right that IP does not accuse RC of lying.
            He comes close, but stop short.
            Here is the actual quotation again:
            I think you probably know this [statement you, RC, have just made] isn’t true.
            So IP does think RC is “probably” dissembling.
            And he offers no evidence for that – that RC is not simply mistaken – yes, stupid maybe, just not dissembling.
            Why impugn his integrity when it adds nothing to the argument that RC is wrong.

            Geoff, can you accept that my sympathy/agreement with RC is in good faith, honest and the result of prayer, study and reflection? Do you want to win me round by showing me my error, or would you rather I was defensive and so protective of my current position?

          • But this is not what I said. The possibility of lying still remains *one* of the live possibilities. It certainly does not seem to be the correct one in your case, but it is axiomatic that it is one of the options. If someone calls something fairly universally Christian and clearly biblical by the name ‘conservative’ rather than ‘Christian’, then the options are: lying or being devious or manipulative (so as to shift the perceived middle ground, perhaps as part of a strategy), being unintelligent, being culture-bound, or repeating parrot-fashion things that do not make sense.

          • Thanks Christopher

            I reject the premise, and so the options do not arise.
            1. Nothing can be “fairly universal” – you betray the weakness of your case by this nonsensical language.
            2. That this is “clearly biblical” is precisely what is in contention here. You can short-circuit the argument if you wish, but it has all the force of “I cannot be wrong about the Bible, so you must be”, which will win around not one soul.
            RC and I do not think this position is “clearly biblical”.
            We need *some* language for those who call some things “clearly biblical” which others in good faith dispute. “Conservative” is one word which might do. Some means of setting out the territory of honourable disagreement is necessary. What word would you use?

          • Hello Patrick, Thanks for the response.
            I don’t think the whole articles of Ian Paul impugns the integrity of Coles. Coles is in effect an advocate for his position, and as such is pressing his case, without presenting to the Court of Public Opinion, both sides even any theological and/ or scriptural argument.
            As such he does not grasp the nettle, and makes no concession
            unlike Susannahh Clarke.
            I think Ian’s article has unsettled some, by the very fact that it has found favourable support and traction.
            I know nothing about you, save your comments on this article, so I don’t know about winning you around, knowing nothing about your theological and philosophical underpinned foundations and beliefs, presumptions, testimony, maybe even starting with scripture and hermeneuticsics, but my view is that siding with Coles, there has been an overreaction to the article by a less than careful reading.
            I see Ian’s offer of hospitality and conversation with Coles as genuine.
            A corrective caution for all of us is that sincerity of belief and understanding is not a measure of correctness.

          • Geoff

            I too do not think the article as a whole impugns RC’s integrity (if that is what you mean). I do still think that the clause cited here does. And it is unevidenced, and unnecessary for any claim that RC is wrong. I may be wrong, but one thing I am not, in drawing attention to this, is “careless”. A bizarre claim.

            Thanks for engaging. Gd bless you.

          • Thanks Patrick,
            Not being careful in the detail and drift, is not the same as being careless. In context I’d suggest that it is not being dispassionate, impartial in reading.
            Every blessing in God, our, the, Father, in God the Son, in God the Holy Spirit.
            Geoff

          • ‘Fairly universal’ just means that something is found almost everywhere. If ‘almost everywhere’ is meaningful, which it certainly is, so too is ‘fairly universal’. This is a hair splitting point.

            Marriage as a lifelong union of one man and one woman? Scripture certainly never says it is of other genders or of more than 2 people. It is just reflecting biology. So what is conservative about that? As to the lifelong bit, the d-word is hateful (‘foul’ is a word I have heard aptly applied) in both testaments (Malachi; Mark). But this is a matter of logic. One cannot later say something real and glorious is somehow unreal and nonexistent. That is to lie and also to get the nature of time wrong. If you say you disagree on either of these 2 point that is worth nothing. It is a mere assertion. Only your arguments for why you disagree, if you do, are worth something, provided they are coherent.

          • Dear Christopher

            Thank you for engaging. “Almost everywhere” means something. One of the things that it means it that it is *not* universal. There are places where it does not apply. We cannot proceed with disentangling the emotions and presuppositions involve on all sides in this discussion unless we are careful in language, and willing to call each other when phrases become meaningless. I am sure you would do the same to and for me! The charge of “hair-splitting” does not apply.

            You write: “Scripture certainly never says [marriage] is… of more than 2 people.” Gently, I ask you if you want to stand by that claim?

          • Why be so dramatic and use words like ‘gently’? Polygamy I have understood to be lots of different 2person marriages.

    • I say ‘I think you know this isn’t true’ because I know that Richard has an MA in biblical studies, that I suspect he reads widely, and that the views I mention are very well known and are pretty central in the scholarship on this area.

      You appear to be assuming that he is ignorant, which I think is a much worse insult.

      Reply
      • Ian
        Those are not the only two options. Even very learned people can make misjudgements, have blind-spots, make errors. Even you!

        The imputation of dissembling is worse than making a misjudgement.

        As it happens, I also have an MA in Biblical studies, have read widely on this subject, researched it, studying under, inter alia, Prof Gert Jeremias and Prof Jimmy Dunn, and I think Richard is right. I ask you to believe I am not dissembling when I write this. Do you?

        Reply
          • I’ll have a go, S. But first I am waiting to hear if Ian thinks I am dissembling.

            You’ve now heard whether Ian thinks you are dissembling, so whenever you’re ready to have a go.

        • ‘Even very learned people can make misjudgements, have blind-spots, make errors.’ Yes indeed.

          I don’t know whether you are dissembling. But if you think differently from the scholars I list, then I would be interested to know on what grounds you think they are wrong, or can point me to someone who has engaged with their arguments and evidence and shown where they are mistaken.

          I have not yet come across someone putting a coherent case for reconciling SSS with the NT who has done this. Most of them either side-step these issues or offer spurious arguments.

          Reply
          • Ian
            In all Christian charity, can you please say: “I have no reason to think you are dissembling”? This is my request.
            The impugning of ill will to people who think differently from us – even when they actually are thinking wrongly – is an ugly thing.
            It surely led to Christianity’s ur-schism, that with Judaism.

          • It surely led to Christianity’s ur-schism, that with Judaism.

            Um what? Surely that was nothing to do with ‘impugning ill will’ and entirely due to a disagreement over a specific matter of fact (namely, whether Jesus was God incarnate or not).

            If you think He was then you simply can’t agree with someone who thinks he wasn’t, and vice versa. Ill will had nothing to do with it.

            What you Earth do you think ‘ill will’ had to do with it?

          • S,
            I am thinking of how Christians from earliest days thought that Jews who did not affirm Jesus as the Messiah must be doing so out of ill will, as part of their (alleged, not real) carnal nature. The only honest way of reading the Old Testament (they said) was to see it as a treasury of types of and promises of Jesus. Everything else is an insincere reading at best, and quite possibly a demonical reading. It’s all there. It’s what we Christians said, before there was a clear “parting of the ways”.

            Thanks for asking.

          • Patrick, I have not suggested you are dissembling, so I have no reason to state that I don’t think you are.

            I am not interested in supposed offences that need soothing. I am, though, interested in the substance of the issues. Can you point me to arguments, of your own or others, which engage with and demonstrate the problem with the large majority of commentators, a number of whom I have listed and quoted above?

          • I am thinking of how Christians from earliest days thought that Jews who did not affirm Jesus as the Messiah must be doing so out of ill will, as part of their (alleged, not real) carnal nature. […] It’s all there. It’s what we Christians said, before there was a clear “parting of the ways”.

            Yes, but that isn’t what led to the parting of the ways, is it? It may have meant the parting was more rancorous than it might otherwise have been, but when one lot says that Jesus is the Messiah and the other doesn’t then there’s no way they can go forward together. The schism can be friendly or various degrees of unfriendly, and maybe without the assertion of ill will the schism might have been friendlier, but when two world-views are mutually incompatible on such a foundational matter, a schism there must be, correct?

          • Thank you, Ian

            I am really only interested in a conversation between disciples where both start out assuming the good faith of the other. This means that when an allegation of dissembling on the part of one side has been made, it needs to be withdrawn – or evidenced, of course. You cannot do that. I bow out. It’s not a matter of my taking offence or otherwise. It is about how Christians (and here, fellow-priests) exercise due process.

            Pity, as I have a number of challenges.

            God bless you. Christ is risen!

          • I have nowhere alleged that you are dissembling. I have, though, invited you to put forward your case. I don’t really understand why you seem so unwilling to do so.

          • S,
            I am talking about what actually happened, not what might have happened. Christians assumed the ill will (usually carnal, not infrequently demonic) of their Jewish interlocutors. They didn’t have to, but they did. It was sinful.
            Take care.

          • I am talking about what actually happened, not what might have happened.

            You wrote:

            ‘The impugning of ill will to people who think differently from us – even when they actually are thinking wrongly – is an ugly thing.
            It surely led to Christianity’s ur-schism, that with Judaism.’

            But as I have explained, this is false. The imputing (you mean imputing, not impugning) of ill will is not what led to the schism with Judaism. The incompatible views of the nature of Jesus is what led to the schism.

            I don’t know how much clearer I can be; I always like to assume good faith but with your shifting of goalposts and evading questions I am beginning to think perhaps you are not engaging in good faith.

          • with your shifting of goalposts and evading questions

            And your refusal to engage with substantive issues unless people bow to your demands that they apologise for imagined sights using exactly your specified forms of words obvs.

          • “I have not yet come across someone putting a coherent case for reconciling SSS with the NT who has done this.”

            I don’t think man-man intimate sex is congruent with what the NT (or OT) says, at the literal level of the narrative, IF you presuppose that what it says is for all cultures and for all times.

            However, as you surely know, Ian, not all Christians accept that presupposition, and may attribute some of the literal words as contextual to the culture and limitations of the narrators.

            It may be more “coherent” in relationship to the Spirit, and conscience, and encounter with God in our own time and society… to believe revelation may also prompt us to prioritise the primary imperative of LOVE (and compassion)… which is itself a very coherent response to Scripture, even if those Christians don’t share the same paradigm when it comes to assumptions of how the Bible should be read.

            You have fabulous insights into biblical text, which I am often grateful for, but your platform seems to be a view of Scripture that elevates it for handling at a more literalist level, with a reluctance to consider some of its statements as provisional and context/culture bound.

            One reading of the strictures against man-man sex in the Pauline epistles, for example, is that Paul was trying to emphasise the importance of holiness (which we’d agree is an eternal call and imperative) but that he referenced man-man sex as an example of the ‘unholy’ because in his time, in the conservative religious culture he was attracted to, it was culturally seen as bad.

            Using the more literalist paradigm of how to read the Bible, this would make gay sex ‘verboten’ for all time. Using a more context-conscious paradigm, and also acknowledging the way the Spirit of God can speak today to our God-given consciences and open our hearts to love and compassion, some Christians might believe gay and lesbian sex is actually better cited today as illustrative of covenant, sacrifice, tenderness, and giving of self… and find that view coherent with a less literalist or less fundamentalist way of reading the Bible and treating it with respect.

            Your coherent view merits attention, out of respect for your conscience and sincerity of believe. Given what I take to be your paradigm around Scripture, I’d agree: the Bible does (literally) seem hostile to man-man sex. But I believe the alternative paradigm/approach some Christians start from, also merits attention and respect. It is not incoherent. That would be simplistic and dismissive.

            Not trying to open this endless debate here though: just responding to your claim you know no coherent cases for “reconciling SSS with the NT.” I feel pretty reconciled with the NT, and I suspect countless others do too. After all, probably half the membership of the Church of England (including many bishops) believe it’s coherent to affirm gay sexuality as congruent with a mature reading of the Bible. Ian, you know that much is true, don’t you?

            Christians just read the Bible in a variety of ways. The starting paradigms are pretty important. What do we even mean by ‘The Word’? Is it literal text or the ongoing creative call of God to our hearts… to feel, to respond, to open, to grow? To use our consciences, today, in the face of better understanding of the nature of sexuality, and its variety? To cohere that to the primary imperative of the Bible – to love. To open to the possibility that in gay sexual relationships, people may give, love, cherish, engage, serve, sacrifice, commit, grow, be happy, and flourish? And still be good Christians.

          • Susannah, thank you for stepping into the breach left by Patrick’s strange refusal to engage, and for confirming, with the vast majority of commentators, that you cannot reconcile man-man sex with the prohibitions of the NT. S has also commented helpfully.

            But you then say ‘One reading of the strictures against man-man sex in the Pauline epistles, for example, is that Paul was trying to emphasise the importance of holiness (which we’d agree is an eternal call and imperative) but that he referenced man-man sex as an example of the ‘unholy’ because in his time, in the conservative religious culture he was attracted to, it was culturally seen as bad.’

            I don’t think that is a persuasive account of Paul’s reasoning, and e.g. Bill Loader makes that clear above. Paul gives two explicit reasons for his rejection of man-man sex: it rejects God’s creation of humanity as male and female in distinct bodily forms; and the Torah, in Leviticus 18, confirms this. Paul’s effective citation of Lev 18 and 20 in 1 Cor 6.9 shows this.

            So if we are going to reject this NT text as ‘culturally limited’ would involve us extending that to the core creation principle as well as the prohibited relations in Leviticus, so we also have to reject Jesus’ use of ‘porneia’ in the gospels.

          • Not trying to open this endless debate here though: just responding to your claim you know no coherent cases for “reconciling SSS with the NT.”

            You haven’t laid out such a case though. You’ve laid out a case that accepts that SSS is not reconcilable with the New Testament, but then goes on to argue that the New Testament is culturally bound, not for all people in all times.

            And that’s a perfectly fine thing to do! Then we can discuss the merits and flaws of your case for the New Testament being for one particular culture in one time and place, rather than being of universal applicability!

            But that is a different thing to arguing that you can reconcile SSS with the New Testament.

            There’s actually a good typical example of this. Our Prime Minister has recently found himself in moderately hot water over some things that happened while the Coronavirus Act was in force. His response has been to try to reconcile those events with the provisions of the Coronavirus Act: to claim that what he did was actually allowed. This is like trying to reconcile SSS with the New Testament.

            But there was another route that could have been taken. The events in question all took place in government buildings. There is a legal argument — how strong no one knows because it has never been tested — that the Coronavirus Act never applied to government buildings. The Prime Minister could have defended himself by saying that it didn’t matter whether the events in question were illegal under the Coronavirus Act, because in the places he did them, the Act did not apply. This is like your argument that although SSS can’t be reconciled with the New Testament, it doesn’t matter for us, because we are in a time and place where the New Testament doesn’t apply.

            See?

          • “S”: ‘your case for the New Testament being for one particular culture in one time and place…’

            To be clear, those were not my words. I do not believe the New Testament in its entirety (which your words suggest) was for (just) one culture in one time and place.

            What I was saying was that we need (intelligently) to take cultural context into account, because **some** statements (such as comments about man-man sex) may be culture-bound.

            There is difference.

            Of course, you might then (reasonably) ask: “How do we know **which** statements are provisional and culture-bound like that?

            To which I’d answer, “We don’t. Not everything is neatly boxed up. We have to work that out as a Church. And in doing that, opinions may diverge.

            The ‘de facto’ reality is that they have. It’s just the way things are.

            Exercise of conscience, and openness to the Holy Spirit, is key.

            And then you might ask: “Well how do we know that ANY of it is true, if some of it isn’t?”

            Of course, sometimes we have to look for underlying truth behind narratives that are cultural. But just because certain parts aren’t literally true for all time, does not mean that NONE of it is.

            Faith involves uncertainties and the Bible is not ALL a literal text, and some of it may be culturally-bound and temporary in application. But with grace, we can believe many aspects of the NT narrative and who God is, so I certainly wasn’t saying everything in the NT is just for one culture, time and place.

            Obviously we may not agree on this approach to how the Bible should be read.

          • Patrick,
            At law, in England and Wales, in Civil matters cases have to be set out by both sides, in pleadings. The legal authorities have to be furnished to the court, both for and against your own position, (conceding where needed) and addressed by argumentation.
            I’d don’t see any of that from Coles, nor indeed from you, notwithstanding an invitation to you to do so.
            If you look to bona fides, I’d suggest that it needs to be asked; to whom or what is the duty of good faith due? And how is it to be discharged?
            For what it is worth, a lawyer has a duty to act in the best interests of the client/client’s case, without any undisclosed conflict of interest, and a duty – a higher duty- to the Court, in the interests of justice, not to mislead the Court, And where the client/clients case leads to a potential breach of that higher, overriding duty, the lawyer is professional obliged to withdraw.
            And if I may add, there is an adage that a lawyer who acts in his own case, has a fool for a client! Why? There is no disinterested, objective weighing, where discernment is likely to be despoiled; no balance, being heavily weighted to serving a purpose of their own.

          • To be clear, those were not my words. I do not believe the New Testament in its entirety (which your words suggest) was for (just) one culture in one time and place.

            Okay, yes, I could have been more precise, at the cost of less brevity.

            But the point is that we have established that we can all agree that the New Testament rules same-sex sexual activity, and the point of disagreement is whether that applies here and now or whether it only applied to a particular time and place.

            Which is why I keep saying that the argument isn’t really about sexuality, or even about what the Bible says. It’s about the what the Bible is. The rest is mere details.

          • Hello Susannah,
            Your openness to concede that the New Testament is clear is to be applauded. It seems to be rare in this matter.
            1 Do you think that Holy Spirit had any role in the construction of the whole canon of scripture?
            2 Do you think that Holy Spirit would contradict himself by going against himself in your subjective interpretation.
            3 How do you know that it is the Holy Spirit leading and guiding you in subjective, interpretation.? It is to be tested against scripture! Scripture interprets scripture! Uncorrectable.
            4 By what measures or tests do you employ to discern it is the Holy Spirit and not wholly you?
            5 Would God, the Holy Spirit, ever deign to contradict you? In Tri-unity?
            6 What is the Holiness of thrice Holy, Holy, Holy God?
            7 What is sanctification; whole life? Let alone salvation?

            But, it does indeed condense to what scripture IS.

          • S: ‘Which is why I keep saying that the argument isn’t really about sexuality, or even about what the Bible says. It’s about the what the Bible is. The rest is mere details.’

            Correct.

            Though I wouldn’t describe it as ‘mere details’.

            The implications are significant in scale, potential harm, and effect.

            From a ‘conservative’ perspective, the potential harm of gay and lesbian sex is people will go to hell, be damned, be cut off from God.

            From a ‘liberal’ perspective, gay and lesbian people are being demonised as anathema for their sexual practice, are being marginalised, being stigmatised, and the depths of that harm is profound.

            Bottom line for most gay and lesbian people: we are just living our lives. It is other people who are problematising us for the way we love our partners. From the liberal perspective, it is so-called ‘conservative’ Christians who have the problem, who seem obsessed by sex, whereas as a lesbian Christian I am just living, loving, getting on with all the other aspects of trying to be a Christian.

            S, I appreciate your precision in this exchange. In reality though, there is no resolution to what are two different ways of regarding and using the Bible.

            That reflects the logjam there has been in the Church of England over human sexuality for over 50 years. Therefore I believe in accepting the integrity of holding either view of Scripture, and then resolving to move on, co-exist, and try to build Christian communities in parishes up and down the land, some more socially ‘conservative, some more socially ‘liberal’.

            Because what other way is there, apart from schism?

            So I am a proponent of ‘Unity in Diversity’ and two-way mutual respect for the consciences of those we disagree with, and an ‘EXIT’ door if people at either polarity really don’t feel they can live with that and make that journey of faith.

            In reality, most people in the middle just want to get on with parish life.

            But you are right, I think. The core issue isn’t sex. It’s how people read and interpret the Bible. Of course, sex doesn’t go away for gay and lesbian people – any more than it does for heterosexual people.

            It’s just who we are, and just people living their lives.

          • ‘It’s just who we are, and just people living their lives.’. I recognise the sincerity of this claim—but it isn’t actually true for any of us.

            If we live our lives in a way which requires people to completely rethink their understanding of the body, anthropology, and morality, then that affects many people.

            In particular, the claim that there is some ‘true gender’ which is located in our interior and leads to us surgically or medically changing our bodies, that has profound implications for all.

          • Good evening Geoff,

            Thank you for your questions. I’m afraid that’s too many questions for me to fire-fight all in one go, and I am going offline shortly, and ending my engagement here, because of heavy commitments I have in the coming month in the world beyond theological discussion.

            You conclude: “But, it does indeed condense to what scripture IS.”

            Agreed.

            You note that at literal level of text, I believe the Bible does not (in my view) endorse man-man sex. I just don’t think the Bible writers think man-man sex is okay. I’m not prepared to go through the translation and cultural contortions to argue that it does think it does.

            Your first question or two really ask me what role I believe the Holy Spirit has in the production of the Bible texts. To me, the Holy Spirit was at work each time one of the authors experienced an encounter with the living and eternal God. The Spirit opened the minds of the authors to those encounters.

            What happened then was they tried to make sense of those encounters, and account for them. I don’t doubt that the Spirit also interacted with them in that stage, as they re-opened their minds to what they recollected, but they wrote as fallible human beings, to the best of their understanding, and within the limits of their culture, their scientific knowledge, and so on. What they wrote was their best attempt at making sense of the ‘Holy’ which they had encountered. As we all know today, it is not easy to have total understanding of God. They were not automatons being dictated to by God word for word.

            The Bible is the outcome of their genuine encounters with mystery, holiness, encounters (including perhaps encounter with Jesus Christ).

            Then, what happens when we read the Bible 2000 to 2500 years later is: that the Holy Spirit kicks in to action again. The passages of the Bible awaken us to our own encounters with God. I have experienced that so many times. I’m sure you have as well.

            And so there is a second wave of the Holy Spirit in action, as we open our hearts and minds to encounter.

            To me, the ‘Word of God’ is primarily the breaking through of Jesus Christ into our lives, into our understanding of who God is – the God we encounter as we read passages from scripture. More than that, He is not only the literal words on the surface, but the living God who day by day calls us into our being, our growing, our opening up to God and to the flow of the Love of God. The ‘Streams of Living Water’ which flow through us (out towards others). That’s the Holy Spirit. And that is the ‘Word of God’ at work, calling us into our being, not just through bible passages re-activated as we read them, but through our consciences, through music, through beauty… in our opening up to Jesus Christ.

            The Bible is a conduit for the Holy Spirit and the flowing power of love… for the opening of our own minds to encounter… and that happens in our own lives, in our own experience… and the Bible is this fallible human document, part cultural and temporary in some sections of text… part profoundly eternal… all operating to open us up, in turn, to encounter with the living God.

            All operating to open us up to the flow of God’s Love.

            How do we know if we open up to that Love in the right way?

            We have conscience. We’re made with it by God. We’re meant to use it. The Bible is fallible on a cultural level, on a scientific level (Noah’s ark anyone?)… but read that way, rather than as wrapped up literalism and quasi-fundamentalism, truth-seekers in the secular world may afford it more respect.

            My fear and concern is that the majority of people are actually alienated from the wonderful gospel by fundamentalism, and elevation of a magic book to verbatim literal (sometimes alas nit-picking) boxing up of everything. I don’t think God’s really boxed up that easily. Fundamentalists who peddle certainties will always attract some groups of followers, but they alienate more.

            They alienate the young when it comes to vilifying gay sexuality. And that’s an awful shame. It disgusts decent people when their gay or lesbian friends and relatives are vilified that way. Telling them to stay celibate all their lives, for many of them is an unnatural perversity. Or young people just find that risible.

            It’s taking the Bible too literally, when part of the author’s writing is set in their cultures.

            The true work of the Holy Spirit, both through the Bible and beyond it, is to open our hearts and minds to encounter with God.

            This is my final post to this article, because of my other commitments.

            Thank you, Geoff, for your sincere questions.

          • Though I wouldn’t describe it as ‘mere details’.

            The implications are significant in scale, potential harm, and effect.

            However big the implications might be, they are limited to the span of a human life on this ephemeral Earth, which is as nothing compared to eternity — and the the nature of the Bible is of fundamental importance for discovering the cosmological truth of eternity. So ‘mere details’ is the correct description.

            S, I appreciate your precision in this exchange. In reality though, there is no resolution to what are two different ways of regarding and using the Bible.

            Yes, correct. The two positions are irreconcilable. They are mutually incompatible. Which is why this surprises me…

            Therefore I believe in accepting the integrity of holding either view of Scripture, and then resolving to move on, co-exist, and try to build Christian communities in parishes up and down the land, some more socially ‘conservative, some more socially ‘liberal’.

            How can there possibly co-exist within the same church two utterly irreconcilable views of the nature of reality?

            A church isn’t a political party. A political party is a coalition, sometimes broader, sometimes narrower, but in general it can include all people focussed on a single goal, such as a small state; whatever the philosophical foundations which led them to that goal, they can co-operate to achieve the goal.

            A church isn’t like that. A church is supposed to teach people the truth about the universe. So how can two utterly irreconcilable views of what that truth is co-exist within the same church?

            A while ago on this web-site I asked what the purpose of the Church of England is and got the answer: ‘To point to and sign the way for the kingdom of God.’ ( https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-does-the-c-of-e-think-the-laity-are-for/#comment-405531 )

            Well, what good is a signpost that points both left and right, because it can’t make up its mind what the truth is? How can the Church of England point to God if it holds two, or more, utterly irreconcilable ideas of what God is?

            In reality, most people in the middle just want to get on with parish life.

            I hope not! This is just the old stereotype of the Church of England as full of people who are there for the flower arranging, or the social activities, or the community programmes, but who don’t actually believe in anything very much. The Church of England as social club, as per Sir Humphrey.

            I had hoped this was an unfair stereotype; but you seem to be saying it is the major reality!

          • Andrew – I’m not interested in the issue of grotesque-uses-of-the-John-Thomas here; I want to pick up on one claim you made that `Jesus did not speak Greek’.

            I find this highly unlikely. Greek was the `lingua franca’ and I’m therefore convinced that pretty much *everybody* had a smattering of it – just as today, broken English seems to be the `lingua franca’.

            Greek may not have been his preferred option, but I’d be very surprised if he and his disciples didn’t have a smattering of it – enough to order a cup of coffee, or convict people of their sins, basic things like that.

  14. OK – I confess that I had never heard of Richard Coles until I read this. In general, with Radio 4, I always switch off if some religious figure comes on; I’m convinced a priori that the person will be talking vacuous nonsense at best and dangerous untruths at worst. Maybe I’m too cynical about Radio 4, but I get the strong impression that if there was the slightest danger that somebody might expound the doctrines of life and call people to repentance and faith that the crucifixion and resurrection really was for them and the newness of life that comes through Him, then they would never actually be invited onto Radio 4.

    Before we start discussing the view that Richard Coles takes on carnal relationships, I’d like to know if there is any convincing testimony by him where he states that he has been saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.

    If there is such a testimony from him, then it may be valid to start discussing his views on other matters, but if there is no such testimony, then I don’t see why we are wasting our time.

    Reply
    • Could it be suggested Jock, that it is a necessity that there is a push-back against the church being encultured, a need for those like Ian Paul to put their heads above the parapet. Ian, who in the recent past has had his ministry been subject to Church internal processes, mentioned on this blog some 2-3 years ago. There is a cost to him.

      Reply
    • In response to the vote to allow women bishops being lost, Richard Coles tweeted, “OK. Deep breath. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Everything else is secondary. 6:22 PM · Nov 20, 2012”.
      This may not satisfy your requirements, but I can remember being encouraged by such a statement coming from someone perceived as being “liberal”.

      Reply
    • Hi Jock
      It’s great here at the Psephizo Bar, in the Anglican Gastro Pub. Did you know it used to be called the Carpenter’s Arms until it was taken over?
      I sit here often and earwig the conversations. See them over there? They love arguing over the dish they’ve chosen. “It’s lamb” says one. “No. It is sheep” says the other diner.
      And them? I don’t know why they come. They sit back to back and complain about everything set before them. But I suppose it’s the ambiance, the oldy-worldy atmosphere they love. They’d prefer something modern to eat. Vegan chicken nuggets probably.
      Now Look! An argument has broken out between an old hippy and the New Management. He only ordered tap water but seems to have brought his own red wine to drink. That’s not going to go down too well. He’ll be thrown out soon enough.
      I’ll pass on the juicy dish du jour. Sexuality? Not something to eat in public. I’ll join you in some bread and wine at the bar though.

      Reply
    • Hi Jock

      I dont know his story except he used to be part of a pop duo where both were gay, and he subsequently left and went into ministry.

      I dont think it’s appropriate to imply he’s probably not a Christian (as you seem to be?) – a significant number now believe it’s perfectly ok to be gay and in a sexual relationship and be a Christian. Whilst some may very well not be ‘genuine’ believers, I doubt that applies to all with such a view. They have typically interpreted Scripture differently from the ‘traditional’ understanding. Of course their motivation is because of their sexuality, but that does not negate their salvation.

      As OT scholar Tremper Longman, who confirms the traditional view, has said, “I am unwilling to deny that non-celibate gay people have a relationship with God through Christ (any more than I am willing to deny that people who have divorced on unbiblical grounds and remarried, those who are living together without being married, alcoholics, or people addicted to painkillers are Christians, and the list could go on).”

      One of the few organisations that still advocates celibacy for Christian gay people is True Freedom Trust. I read with interest that its founder and ex-director, Martin Hallett, now believes that God does not condemn all sexual relationships between the same sex and that he would be willing to be involved in such a relationship. I have to admit I was surprised and disappointed that after decades leading such a ministry he had changed his mind, perhaps particularly as I had personally corresponded and met with Martin during his time at TFT. But that, I think, does not cast doubt on his own salvation, even if as I believe he has been misled by Biblical ‘reinterpretations’.

      Peter

      Reply
      • I dont think it’s appropriate to imply he’s probably not a Christian (as you seem to be?)

        I didn’t get the impression that Jock was implying the Reverend Coles was not a Christian, just that Jock was suggesting the Reverend Coles’s views on theological and ethical matters may not be well-founded; and that, for instance, if the Reverend Coles is mistaken on such a foundational doctrine as that of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, his views on other matters would be highly suspect.

        None of that would suggest the Reverend Coles is not a Christian. Of course one can be a Christian, and be saved, while holding erroneous views. But that is why not all Christians are given the authority to teach the faith.

        Reply
      • Peter – I don’t know this fellow from Adam.

        To summarise what I am saying:

        1) Is there a testimony from him stating that the cross, the abandonned and crucified Christ is at the centre of his life? Has he testified that in the cross he sees his own redemption?

        2) I find 1) extremely unlikely. This has *nothing whatsoever to do* with matters pertaining to his sexuality; it is 100 percent connected with the fact that he appears from time to time on Radio 4. I *do* know enough about Radio 4 to understand that if anyone were in the slightest danger of proclaiming the doctrines of life there, they would not be allowed on. I *do* know enough about Radio 4 to understand that religious programmes there, pertaining to be `Christian’, are invariably a total joke.

        1) and 2) have nothing whatsoever to do with his views on carnal matters – they are independent of this. They have everything to do with my low view of Radio 4 and its religious content.

        3) If there is such a testimony from him, that he sees himself as a repentant, forgiven sinner and has faith that the work of Christ at Calvary was for him, then I would very much like to see this testimony.

        4) If there is such a testimony, then his views on carnal matters and sexuality really is small potatoes as far as I am concerned and, if there really is such a testimony, then he has my sympathy and support (although, of course, I’d disagree with him on this point).

        Reply
        • For someone you do not know from Adam you are very certain of your judgment of him Jock. But it is not hard to find out what he believes. Try googling or read his books. In one of his many interviews Coles speaks of the centrality of the crucified Christ for him – especially in times of struggle and suffering. ‘When you encounter suffering in life, if you want to really grasp it then you must look to the image of the crucified Christ because, no matter how awful things become, it cannot take one iota from what has been done for us in Christ’s death on the Cross. Christ is very central for me; and without that figure at the centre for me, Christianity really falls apart.’

          Reply
          • Thanks David – well, that is useful information.

            I think you misread what I said – I didn’t state anything in judgement of Coles – as I said, I don’t know him from Adam.

            I stated quite clearly that I *have* judged Radio 4 and what it produces in the name of religion – their religious output is pure codswallop and the exception is as rare as a dog that speaks Norwegian.

            I believe you – and if what you say is correct, then it doesn’t correspond to what I’ve come to expect of Radio 4.

          • In one of his many interviews Coles speaks of the centrality of the crucified Christ for him – especially in times of struggle and suffering. ‘When you encounter suffering in life, […]’

            Maybe I’m missing something but there doesn’t seem to be anything there about redemption or even sin? It reads like something from a self-help book on ‘how to get through suffering’ than anything Christian.

            Which would explain why Radio 4 were interested, of course.

          • He lived in an ongoing homosexual relationship. This puts him beyond the pale just as Karl Barth’s mistress living with him in the family home puts him beyond the pale. By their works they shall be known (Matt 7).

          • John Thomson – OK – I googled Barth and adultery and was amazed to discover that what you said about him is right.

            I found the following article:

            https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/october-web-only/what-to-make-of-karl-barths-steadfast-adultery.html

            which seems to explain that `dialectical tension’ is actually better than viagra.

            I’ll quote one paragraph out of the article:

            In other words, he’s saying that he and Charlotte had no choice but to live in this dialectical tension between obeying God’s command about marital fidelity and what felt right to them. I would have liked to have seen the face of his wife, Nelly, when he explained that to her. Parents who hear a child argue, “I know I’m not supposed to steal, but it felt right to take that candy bar from my brother,” rightly send him to his room after explaining that it didn’t matter how he felt. We’re not talking about dialectical tension as much as simple disobedience to God’s gracious command.

          • The Bible speaks clearly of those who profess faith in Christ but live in open denial of its precepts.

            2 Tim 3:5

            having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

          • John Thomson – what we now understand of Karl Barth really does cast him into outer darkness and is much, much worse than anything Richard Coles ever (claims he) got up to.

            Yes, you’re right, Holy Scripture prohibits carnal relations between two men. In the case of RC, I understand that the two men in question both actually agreed to this – and there is no evidence that they were fooling about with multiple partners. Looks to me like driving at 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.

            The worst aspect of what we have from Karl Barth is the way he treated his faithful wife Nelly. This is utterly unforgivable and puts it at an entirely different level.

            It certainly puts a new, and completely different perspective on everything – absolutely everything – he wrote.

          • John Thomson – yes – related to Karl Barth, I agree with you entirely on the 2 Tim 3:5 verse – this is utterly repulsive. It instantly changes an awful lot of what he wrote from a theology of hope to the theology of a sad deluded loser, who exchanged the truth for a lie.

            For R.C., I’m not so sure. I emphasise that I’d never heard of him before – the only things I know about him are what Ian Paul wrote above and what people have posted here. Looks as if he’s struggling to make sense of his own identity – looks as if he is deserving of sympathy rather than condemnation. He has a difficulty-of-life that you and I have never experienced and we frankly have no knowledge or understanding of what it is like.

        • Thanks for the clarification. But I think Ian Paul may have appeared on Radio 4 before?! He has certainly appeared on the BBC.

          Reply
          • Oh my goodness! Well, stone the crows! (as they say).

            Then the BBC is better than I thought – I’m very happy to hear this!

      • Peter

        I.m afraid I must strongly disagree with you in this instance. If you engage in an ongoing and unrepentant gay relationship then there is every reason to believe you are not a Christian. If you co-habit as a heterosexual having been told God accepts only marriage then you have no reason to be considered a Christian, Addictions are also barriers to being authentically Christian; an alcoholic should not be allowed to be a member of a local church.

        I am not saying that I am without sympathy for some of these situations but sympathy is probably not what is needed. Tough love may be what is required. In any case, these are sins that debar from fellowship and if persisted in debar from heaven

        I am very sorry to read that Tremper Longman takes such a weak view of the transforming power of the gospel and the holiness of life it demands. Like you I am sorry to hear of Martin Hallett’s slippage. I doubt if either person should be in church fellowship as they are giving a green light to gay relationships which is not helpful to any gay believer seeking to live a celibate life.

        When I was young I know a good few Christian women and some men who were unmarried. Most would have liked to be married but it didn’t happen for them. They lived celibate single lives and seemed happy and fulfilled. They were included in social evenings with couples etc. We have become far too reluctant to accept that the gospel involves hardships. We have given sexual fulfilment far too significant a role in the achieving of human happpiness.

        Reply
      • Thank you for that information concerning Martin Hallett: I wasn’t aware of his change of view. It’s gratifying to learn that he has finally seen the light.

        Reply
  15. Jock

    Richard Coles was one half of the secular pop duo ‘The Communards’. This and his identity as gay catapulted him to fame when he became a C of E vicar. Society loves vicars who echo its prejudices. I suppose in part such ministers of the gospel assuage any underlying angst that they may one day be judged. Have any biblically conservative vicars been darlings of the establishment? I suspect not. Billy Graham, a non-Anglican, was feted but not embraced – his gospel was too demanding.

    IP’s wife was clearly impressed by E Cole’s testimony which time has unfortunately shown to be a still birth.

    Reply
  16. You state “And the question of which theology ‘we prefer’ raises a stark question. ”

    The word ‘prefer’ is not one that Richard Coles uses in his article.

    Reply
    • True. But, as I mentioned to you on Facebook, he talks about the ‘kind of church I like’ rather than one that stands for what is true, historic, or Anglican. I don’t think that is an uncommon approach amongst either clergy or laity; as I get older I notice how much of theology is actually psychology, and how often we all stick with what we prefer or like, rather than what is compelling or true.

      Reply
      • “as I get older I notice how much of theology is actually psychology, and how often we all stick with what we prefer or like, rather than what is compelling or true.”

        I think that is a very astute observation and can apply to liberals and conservatives alike. When I was at university, the Philosophy group there advertised a talk entitled ‘The God I can Believe in Now” by a notable cleric whose name now escapes me.

        Clearly the one he had before wasn’t to his taste.

        Reply
        • There was a book called ‘The God I Want’.
          Another title which left something to be desired was ‘What will happen to God?’
          All the time, people are asking ‘Who could believe in a God who would…?’ when the presupposition is that God will fit their specifications. I can’t think of anything less likely than that God would fit any of our specifications. So far, so obvious.

          Reply
  17. It seems to be coming down to an explicit shoot-out between liberals and evangelicals over sexuality: This church ain’t big enough for the both of us. The evangelicals cannot lose, because if they leave then what would be left is not the church, even if it claims to be and even if it has the worldly wealth.

    Reply
    • It seems to be coming down to an explicit shoot-out between liberals and evangelicals over sexuality

      It’s not really over sexuality of course. It’s over epistemology, soteriology and perhaps most of all theological anthropology. It just looks like it’s over sexually because sex makes headlines.

      Reply
    • Scenario 1: The evangelicals leave and the remainder scramble over what’s left (a lot of valuable property, cultural status and all the other stuff that keeps narcissistic individuals happy). They should probably leave earlier than later as no revival will happen in the midst of the current shambles.

      Scenario 2: The evangelicals surrender to their own narcissistic impulses (because control freakery leaders tend to rise to the top in evangelical churches) and suddenly all ‘focus on the family’ churches decide that two mums/dads are just as viable (socially acceptable and fill the coffers) as any other respectability set-up.

      Reply
      • suddenly all ‘focus on the family’ churches decide that two mums/dads are just as viable (socially acceptable and fill the coffers) as any other respectability set-up.

        In which case fortunately other denominations are available.

        Reply
  18. The sexual issues dominate because they are the ones where the liberals most of all (for lifestyle reasons) want to press and press for change till they can have the dream scenario of living exactly how they wish while being simultaneously officially on the side of the angels. Not at all surprising in our have your cake and eat it society.

    It is exactly the same tendency recognised in the Moses ‘joke’ (‘Good news: I got Him down to ten; bad news: adultery’s still in.’).

    Reply
  19. And the Ten Words still includes the last: covet.
    Of course that has been removed, made respectable, replaced, in the name of equality.
    And of course there’s that pesky one , something about father and mother. That is so conservative, out of date.
    What it really means to me…….?

    Reply
    • Ah yes,
      How remiss of me, how could it have slipped my mind. That is not the same God of Christianity at all…
      Signed,
      Marcion and his neo- disciples

      Reply
  20. The comments made above that (a) sexuality is not the key issue here and (b) that sexuality is being employed for self – justificational purposes are both spot on!
    However there also exists a subtle danger in using specific situations as a basis for what, in reality, is a form of Pharisaical self – righteousness.The Christian response should not only be theological/doctrinal but pastoral and non-judgemental. Remember John 8 – especially verse 7:
    ” If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone –.”

    Reply
      • No John! I am saying that, given the *theological* significance ( specifically Genesis chs. 1 – 3) there are people out there who are genuinely wrestling with a variety of related issues. But secondly, there is a danger in this blogsite of a smug judgmentalism that treats this and other topics as academic brickbats.

        Reply
        • Colin – I see exactly what you are trying to say and I agree with it 100 percent. I’d say, though, that `smug’ and `judgemental’ doesn’t hit the mark.

          First of all, you are one hundred percent correct about the theological significance, the creation ordinances of Genesis 1 – 3. Also, when it comes down to grotesque uses of certain parts of the anatomy, well, this is clearly – shall we say – grotesque and, furthermore, as Ian Paul has pointed out, it is condemned in Holy Scripture as exceedingly sinful; the very thought of participating in it is something that really should not cross a believer’s mind.

          At the same time, what if? What if a believer smokes cigarettes, knows that is is wrong, but nevertheless can’t stop doing it anyway? What about addiction to alcohol? What about a believer who is a depressive who simply cannot `snap out of it’ and is surviving on prescription drugs?

          In discussions such as these pertaining to depraved sexual conduct, most of us (this includes me) are talking about things about which we have no knowledge. Not only do we not do these things, it doesn’t even occur to us that they might be attractive; we are not tempted. What about somebody who is not only tempted, but seemingly unable to live without it? (And, of course, does the natural thing for someone in that position – reads Scripture in a strange and allegorical way – so that in some clever intellectual way they come to the conclusion that this is not sinful).

          Reply
          • My dad could remember London smog. Smoking neither added nor subtracted from life expectancy. Alcohol back then created problems but life was short anyway.
            The modern world has cleaned up a lot of filthy aspects, and made some dangerous ‘lifestyles’ possible.

            When the 4 horsemen reported back to the Lord in Zechariah they said that the world was a peace.
            This worldly peace was soon to be disrupted. Today the peace of the West is likewise soon to be overturned.

  21. It is now a good few days since this article/letter was published, and I am interested to know if anyone can confirm if the Rev Coles has seen it, or had the chance to engage over the questions it asks; however briefly that is likely to have been?

    Reply
  22. As an occasional visitor to Ian’s blog I’ve always enjoyed the argy-bargy that his posts generate, despite being a theological novice. I was particularly interested in his response to Richard Coles’ piece in The Times about feeling rejected within the Church of England because of his homosexuality, but thought Ian’s position, based on the importance of scriptural authority, glosses over the fact that social, political and cultural attitudes both inside and outside the Church (as well as the theology that informs them), have changed over time. Context is important and attitudes change: historians take this as a given.

    For example: the COE supported slavery, ie they owned a significant number of slaves and plantations and their bishops (12 in the House of Lords) opposed the Bill to abolish it. They used Biblical chapter and verse to endorse their position, and their clergy preached it from the pulpit. Historically, most of the COE were for the disenfranchisement of dissenters and against the emancipation of women. All too often they have often been against changes that would have brought about a more just society, preferring to endorse tradition and the maintenance of the status quo. Not for nothing have they been called ‘the Conservative Party at prayer’.

    Thankfully, from my point of view, there is a different tradition (according to their website) within the COE: the Liberal tradition, which “has emphasized the importance of the use of reason in theological exploration {and] stressed the need to develop Christian belief and practice in order to respond creatively to wider advances in human knowledge and understanding and the importance of social and political action in forwarding God’s kingdom.” It means we are repulsed by the killing of Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:3), and don’t agree that slavery must be borne with fear and trembling (Ephesians 6:5). Nor do women think much of the idea that they must keep quiet in church (1 Corinthians 14:34). Times change and what might have been, sadly, acceptable in one era is no longer the case today: reason and compassion prevail. This is the ‘Liberal tradition’, built on greater knowledge and understanding.

    My hope is that reason and compassion will prevail with the issue of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and related matters, and that the CoE will be, at last, an inclusive place where Richard will feel truly at home. I’d be the first to welcome him.

    Reply
    • Dear Steve, glad you enjoy the argy-bargy; I usually find it irritating!

      I don’t think you are correct on your statement about the C of E ‘supporting slavery’. I am sure some did, but most did not, and certainly in this history of the church globally, Christians have been a major force in opposing it. That is a main reason why it disappeared in the Roman Empire; Aquinas outlawed it in mediaeval Europe; and it only re-emerged through Islam and the practices of African tribal leaders. To support slavery from Scripture you really have to ignore the consistent depiction of humanity, much as you have to do so to support same -sex sex.

      Sampling awkward proof texts doesn’t really help the argument. Are you suggesting that this is how we should read scripture, or are you claiming that that is how people like me actually read it? If not, then I am not sure what point you are making here.

      I have asked Richard and other repeatedly to make the case for SSS from scripture, or point me to people who do so by engaging with the commentators I cite above; none have been able to do so. See Patrick Morrow quickly drop out of the discussion at that point in the threads above.

      My hope is that Scripture and God’s good news about sex, our bodies, and the meaning of holiness will prevail. If so, we might actually see the church in this land come to life again. Richard is quite clear that it won’t if we end up with the church of his liking.

      Reply
      • Hi Ian, I think you may have over simplified the history of slavery but my point is that what was acceptable at one time is not later on. Whether the CoE’s bishops voting against the abolition of slavery counts as “Christians being a major force in opposing it” is a moot point, but might we both have ‘sampled’ history to suit our argument?

        I offered a few passages from the Bible to demonstrate its moral inconsistencies but, although they are alarming, I’m sure they can be read in more nuanced ways. I hope the same leeway and nuanced understanding will be given to the issue of an individual’s sexual preferences; and often wonder if the strident, judgemental tones of some of the Church’s heterosexual community, who gather on the moral high ground, might be different if they were gay themselves.

        As for the future of the CoE, I think it might do better if it made itself relevant to all our lives, and ‘spoke to our condition’ as the Quakers would say; but then it would have to be a radical force for change as well. Can it do this?

        Reply
        • ‘my point is that what was acceptable at one time is not later on’. Well, yes and no. There has been a consistency in what Roger Olson helpfully calls ‘the Great Tradition’. It simply isn’t the case that the church has changed its mind on things, or when it has, that that was the right thing to do.

          So I don’t think noting this helps us at all in relation to SSS. Should we change our doctrine of marriage? What is at stake? Are the cases of slavery, divorce, and women’s ministry any kind of parallel? Once we look at the detail, I would suggest ‘no’.

          ‘I hope the same leeway and nuanced understanding will be given to the issue of sexuality.’ But that is what this whole debate is about. It is not a question of picking out individual verses: it is Scripture’s deep rooted, consistent anthropology that we are made bodily male and female in the image of God.

          Reply
  23. Susannah

    I agree the issue of homosexuality raises the question whether the prohibition is culture specific. Actually I think there is very little in the NT that is culture specific but there are some things.

    God’s desired sexual ethics seem to be consciously rooted in creational norms. Thus marriage between a man and a woman for life is the biblically mandated model for all marriage unions in any society at any point in history this side of the Second Coming. , Divorce is permitted only on very narrow grounds. Heterosexual marriage is the only permitted context for sexual activity (Matt 19). Homosexual relationships do not fit within this creational model thus we shouldn’t be surprised that they are uniformly condemned on any occasion they are mentioned.

    I believe this is so plain and unambiguous in Scripture that any who deny it, assuming they have read Scripture, are wilfully blind. They have ears that will not hear bad eyes that will not see, This is a very serious state to be in for it incurs the judgement of God. It is deliberate rebellion by those who ought to know better, The Bible calls it .an abomination’. This is language reserved for serious sin.

    Even without divine revelation the human conscience knows homosexual relationships are wrong. Only the severely seared conscience abandoned by God does not recognise this. It is clear to all who can see that the homosexual sex act is disordered and contrived; the bits don’t fit. The rampant promiscuity particularly among men associated with homosexuality further contributes to exposing its sinfulness.

    To engage in homosexual relations is deeply sinful, To approve of those who do is almost equally sinful (Roms 1). Neither group should be permitted membership in the church. The church is holy and the promotion of homosexuality is profoundly unholy.

    This is not an issue of conscience it is a matter of church discipline. It is an issue of eternal destiny. Those who practise it and those who encourage them will bot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6).

    Reply
    • Do you engage your brain before writing? Do you not realise how offensive you are to gay people? We can all quote negative verses from the bible. In fact I’ve got a couple for you: Judas went and hanged himself. Now go and do likewise.

      Reply
  24. It must be that time of the month again when the ‘Rev’ publishes his monthly hate article about us.

    Objecting to anyone who gets mildly upset or saying we’re irritating really takes the biscuit. I wonder if he’s mentally ill? What sort of person would regularly publish hate material objecting to a minority yet gives warnings to people who get agitated?

    I hate to admit that I do agree with him about biblical teaching though. Maybe it’s the only time we agree about anything. In the same way I always remember the arguments for women priests many years ago. I always thought they were a bit desperate, trying to bend scripture to what they wanted it to say. The bible is very clear, women should not have authority over men, and they should remain silent. That is what it says. And the new testament is clear that gays deserve to be killed. At least the so called ‘Rev’ doesn’t want to kill us, as far as I know!

    The thing which irritates me though is the hypocrisy of these people. The ‘Rev’s lifestyle with his own personal rose garden and GP wife’s salary is hardly that of the homeless carpenter he claims to model his life upon. Like most of us he has ignored the teachers commands of poverty, the teacher who said it’s impossible for rich people to get into heaven. But like the Pharisee, has judged other people who have also ignored a 2000yo document.

    The hypocrisy makes me sick. It’s discipable that someone would write insulting diatribes about minorities every month, yet complains when anyone objects. I hope he eventually to repents, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Reply
    • To rescue something central from the middle of all the anger here:

      ‘I hate to admit that I do agree with him about biblical teaching though. Maybe it’s the only time we agree about anything. In the same way I always remember the arguments for women priests many years ago. I always thought they were a bit desperate, trying to bend scripture to what they wanted it to say. The bible is very clear, women should not have authority over men, and they should remain silent. That is what it says. And the new testament is clear that gays deserve to be killed. At least the so called ‘Rev’ doesn’t want to kill us, as far as I know!’

      I am glad we are agreed about the biblical teaching. As a Torah-observant Jew, Jesus appears to have both accepted and confirmed the OT rejection of same-sex sex, and when Paul makes that explicit, he is simply following the teaching of Jesus. I think it is very hard to avoid this. The question then is whether the Jesus of the gospels is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. I have many gay friends who believe he is, and who live happy and fulfilled lives following him in this way.

      But it isn’t true either that the NT says gays should be killed, something Jesus clearly rejects, or that women should not have authority over men. Paul says just the opposite in 1 Cor 7.4, where wives exercise authority over their husbands bodies—the only place in teh NT which makes reference to authority between men and women. (“head” in Greek was not a metaphor for ‘authority over’ is it is in Hebrew and English).

      So the two issues are not comparable. Anyone who is committed to Jesus will be committed to accepting his teaching, and many have found it life giving.

      Reply
  25. “But it isn’t true either that the NT says gays should be killed, something Jesus clearly rejects, or that women should not have authority over men. Paul says just the opposite in 1 Cor 7.4, where wives exercise authority over their husbands bodies—the only place in teh NT which makes reference to authority between men and women. (“head” in Greek was not a metaphor for ‘authority over’ is it is in Hebrew and English).”

    Ian, we have disagreed a long time over the ordination of women. I will not again set out all my arguments but just say two things. Firstly, the ball is in your court to reply to my latest post on this subject, as you must know. Secondly it is not true that 1 Cor 7:4 is ‘the only place in teh NT which makes reference to authority between men and women’. In Ephesians 5:24 Paul writes, ‘But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their husbands in everything’.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • My quote from Ephesians 5:24 (which I see as one of the texts that rules out the ordination of women) is challenged by Andrew Bartlett February 13, 2021 at 2:04 pm on thread “Beautiful Difference: The Complementarity of Male and Female” as follows:

      ‘Philip Almond’s comment on Ephesians 5:21-6:9 proposes that Paul is there writing about a hierarchy of authority. However, a convincing reading needs to grapple with (1) Paul’s apposition of ‘saviour of the body’ with ‘head of the church’ in 5:23, (2) the theme of saviourhood, not lordship, in 5:25-33, (3) Paul’s use of Genesis in 5:31, and (4) Paul’s use of ‘but’ (Greek ‘alla’) as the first word of 5:24, to signal a strong contrast between v23 and v24.
      The hierarchical reading does not fit these features. See pages 50-60 of Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts.’

      In my reply I wrote:
      “I agree that the adversative ‘alla’ is sometimes very significant as in Romans 5:14 but I don’t see a strong contrast between 5:23 and 5:24 in the overall context of 5:22-24:
      ‘The wives submit (implied from 5:21) to the(ir) own husbands as to the Lord, because a man is kephale of the woman as also Christ [is] kephale of the church [him]self Saviour of the body. Alla as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to the(ir) husbands in everything’

      I now realise that this reply of mine is not satisfactory. I should have said that I agree that ‘alla’ as the first word on 5:24 does indeed ‘signal a strong contrast between v23 and v24’ but this supports my view rather than undermining it. It is true that Christ is the saviour of the body, but (alla) (contrary to what we might expect, it is also true that) as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to the(ir) own husbands in everything. Just like in Romans 5:13-14 it is true that sin is not reckoned not being law; but (alla) (contrary to what we might expect, it is also true that) death reigned from Adam until Moses even over the[ones] not sinning on the likeness of the transgression of Adam.

      I should also have pointed out that Ephesians 5:31 ‘…shall cleave to the wife of him, and the two shall be for one flesh’ and the exhortation to wives to be subject to their husbands are also both true. It is both and. The supporters of the ordination of women don’t seem able to accept this.

      Phil Almond

      Reply

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