Do we ‘encounter Christ in those on the margins’?

Last week, I enjoyed the rare chance to have some decent theological discussion on Twitter (of all social media platforms) which was sparked by a Tweet from the Archbishop of Canterbury arising from an event with Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin’s in the Fields. Here is my response in case you want to follow the whole thread:

In amongst the discussion, some responded by applauding what they saw as the ‘universalistic’ stance of the original statement:

Good questions. I’ve certainly encountered the presence of God in atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans. In fact every human being I encounter has something to teach me about the nature of God if my eyes, ears and heart are open to receiving.

Others roundly rejected the statement for similar reasons—either because it was ‘universalistic’ or because it was just ‘wooly theology’. Still others offered more nuanced theological reflection, as is often the case, Andrew Davison, Mike Higton and Zachary Guiliano led on this. From Davison:

Maximus the Confessor approaches it in terms of logos/tropos: the human logos or basic nature is not changed by sin but out tropos or manner of living or expressing it is….God is also present to each creature as a cause is present to its effects: not as part of any creature, as Aquinas says, but “as an agent is present to that upon which it works”, being the source of the creature’s being at every moment that it exists (ST I.8.1).

I think that distinction between being present ‘as a cause is present to its effects, not as part of any creature’ is really key, as we shall see. Mike Higton offered a fuller account:

Well, as Justin Welby says, everyone (even those who reject God) is made in the image of God, so when I see them I am (in some sense) seeing something of the image of God. But if you want to fill that out, try this:

Everyone – even those who reject God – is loved by God, so when I see them I am seeing an object of God’s love. If I can’t learn to see them with the same love, I am missing something of God’s love. If I can, I am learning something more of God. I learn more of God by learning to see what is loveable – what reflects God – in each person. There’s no conflict between saying any of this and also speaking about people needing saving; there’s no conflict between saying this and also talking about the Body of Christ.

As I responded at the time, that’s precisely the language I would use—and precisely not what the original statement said. The image of God is not the presence of God; loving our neighbour is about emulating the indifferent graciousness of God, not finding his presence in the other.

Others, (including Guiliano) pointed to Roman Catholic teaching on this point, and in particular the teaching emerging from the Second Vatican Council in the document Gaudium et Spes (‘Joy and Hope’) section 27:

27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.(9)

In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

There are at least three very interesting things to observe about this statement. The first is that it is very useful to have these kinds of authoritative statement from a Church, since it can be appealed to in resolving misunderstanding or ambiguity arising from isolated statement. Secondly, the following paragraph addresses exactly the kind of misunderstanding that can arise from the statement I was questioning: Gaudium et Spes 28 immediately addresses the possible tension between treating all with dignity, and speaking the truth of the gospel and its call to repentance and faith.

28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.

This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.(10) God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.(11)

Whilst I am not suggesting that we should move to a Catholic-style magisterium, the Church of England could certainly be helped by having this kind of clarity of statement of its teaching and understanding!

But the third thing to notice is that the statement here leans quite heavily on the widespread (mis)reading of Matthew 25.40 ‘the least of these my brethren’ as a reference to the poor in general, the ‘marginalised’, and (without knowing the full discussion between Justin Welby and Sam Wells) I suspect that their discussion might have owed something to this reading as well. I have explored briefly why this reading is mistaken in another post, agreeing with R T France that the reference is actually to those who follow Jesus, becoming as they do so like their master who ‘had nowhere to lay his head’. France points out that the common reading is actually fairly novel, against those who claim it goes back to Augustine. US evangelical Denny Burk helpfully looks at the evidence here, as gathered by Sherman Gray is his monograph on the subject.

Gray argues that commentators over the centuries have interpreted “the least of these” in one of three ways: (1) a narrow reference to Christians, (2) a general reference to the poor, or (3) an unspecific identification of “the least of these.” Here’s a closer look at each historical period:

In the Patristic Period, you can find the narrow interpretation in Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Jerome, Ambrose, the Venerable Bede, and (most notably) Augustine. Augustine’s towering influence is well-known. He refers to “the least” 44 times in his writings, and “nowhere does Augustine specifically state that ‘the least’ are the poor in general… it is obvious that the Christian poor are meant” (p. 69). Whereas some of the patristics are inconsistent in their references to “the least,” Augustine is consistent in identifying “the least” as Christians. Thus, “Augustine comes down clearly on the side of those who hold a restrictive viewpoint” (p. 71).

In the Medieval Period, the narrow interpretation is found in Anselm of Laon, who says that “the least” are not the poor in general, “but only those who are poor in spirit who, having put aside their own will, do the will of the heavenly Father” (p. 168). It is also in Bonaventure, who “clearly identifies ‘the least’ as Christians” (p. 175). The most influential theologian of this period is obviously Aquinas, and he also comes down clearly identifiying “the least” as Christ’s disciples (p. 180).

In the period of the Renaissance and Reformation, you can find this interpretation in a number of figures including Erasmus, Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin. Of course, the latter two are the towering figures of the Reformation, and so it is significant that both Luther and Calvin are clear that “the least” are Christians (pp. 203-206, 208).

Returning to the original statement, I was struck by how attractive the claim is in our current social context. If God is present in the marginalised, that is a strong stand against both the active exploitation of others that we find so commonplace, but (perhaps even more importantly) the insidious devaluation of people that is inherent in the utilitarianism of the dominant models of economics, culture and government. If, for example, the importance of education is about ‘adding value’, and that this ‘adding of value’ is measured in the improvement of exam grades, then the assumption is that those with lower grades have had less value added, and so must (educationally at least) be of less value.

I was also struck by how this statement makes people attractive in the care with which they approach others. If, indeed, we ‘see the presence of Christ in the marginalised’ then we will naturally treat people with care and dignity, and in my experience those who make this kind of statement are indeed people of compassion whom I wish to emulate.

But neither of these factors makes the statement true. To think more clearly, we need to reflect on the theme of the temple in Scripture, since the temple is consistently seen as the place of God’s presence in the world.

There is now widespread agreement that the shape of the creation narrative can be understood as depicting the world as the temple of God’s presence, with the implication that humanity as the ‘image and likeness’ of God (Gen 1.27) take the expected place of the statue of the god in the temple of the world. But the narrative of the ‘fall’ in chapter 3 (and in fact running on to chapter 11) disrupts this intension, and introduces a radical discontinuity between the presence of God in the world and the presence and activity of humanity. In God’s plan of restoration, he calls Abraham and his offspring into renewed relationship with him, and as part of that plan there develops a recognition of particular places which resonated with a distinctive sense of the presence of God in his holiness. This develops into the theology of the tabernacle in the wilderness, which becomes (as the people settle the land) the settled presence of God in the temple. These places of holiness have a double function, as both connecting the heavenly presence of God to the earth and drawing God’s holy people to himself, but also has making clear the continued disjunction between a holy God and a sinful humanity.

In the New Testament, the incarnated presence of God begins to displace this understanding of God’s presence in the temple, so that both the kingdom of God and the King of that kingdom are found in the ministry and person of Jesus. To reject God’s presence (his ‘visitation’ in Luke 19.44) in the person of Jesus means, ultimately, rejecting the tabernacling and ‘templing’ presence of God amongst his people (John 1.14) which is why the New Testament writers consistently see the destruction of the Jerusalem temple as connected with the rejection of Jesus by the people he first came to. But now, as those who acknowledge that Jesus is indeed Lord become, in some mystical way, incorporated into him, so that believers are the ‘body of Christ’ or are simply ‘in Christ’ (see all of Paul’s letters!), then they are built into a new, living temple of God’s presence in the world (1 Peter 2.5). And our final destiny is to be a temple people, reunited with the templing presence of God in a New Jerusalem; the cube-shaped city (12,000 stadia long and wide and high) is both completely filled with the people of God but also (replicating the holy of holies in the original temple) completely filled with the presence of God, restoring the unity of creation that was destroyed by human sin.

There are, of course, a good number of ‘universal’ statement about the presence of God in the world, all through the Scriptures. The psalmist sees the whole of the created realm as testifying to the truth of God in Psalm 19, where nature is one ‘book’ of testimony set alongside the other ‘book’ of testimony found in the law, and Paul picks up on this idea in Romans 1. In the consecration of the temple by Solomon, the king realises the tension in suggesting that God’s presence is located in one place (1 Kings 8.27, 2 Chron 2.6). And Paul is aware of the all-pervasive power of God sustaining the world (Acts 17.24–28, Col 1.15–20), as is the writer of the letter to the Hebrews (Heb 1.3). But in all these cases, the tension between the universal and the particular is not collapsed—and indeed the universal power of God functions as a call to respond to his particular presence, in temple, in Messiah or in the people of God.

All this means that is it in the people of God that we encounter the presence of Christ, whether we recognise this or not—and it is the fit between this large narrative and the ‘narrow’ reading of Matt 25.40 which is the most convincing argument for this reading.

There are many objections to this reading of what the Bible says about the connection between the people of God and the presence of God, not least that many outside the church find it objectionable, since it appears to be a claim to superiority. As one person responded on Twitter:

Disturbing post – the idea that God doesn’t rest /abide amongst “believers “ and “non believers” is so alien to my understanding of God TBH it’s this sort of stuff that turns so many away from God – the us and them etc

And this objection is quite right insofar as Christians claim this truth as a privilege and merit, rather than a sign of God’s gift and grace which is available to all. But this theology of God’s presence is consistent throughout Scripture, and it is impossible to make sense of the teaching of Jesus or the letters of Paul (and other New Testament writers) without it.

Coming back to the original question: we should be moved with compassion when we encounter the marginalised not because we see in them the presence of Christ, but because we feel in us the presence of Christ by his Spirit, and that presence stirs us up to have compassion on those created in the image of God, whom God loves and for whom God gave us his Son—and whom God longs to invite into his temple presence.

I think that should be motivation enough.

The main picture at the top looks like a photograph, but is described as a charcoal drawing. It is by a US artist called Dean Wittle, whose work (in painting and photography) looks really interesting.

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30 thoughts on “Do we ‘encounter Christ in those on the margins’?”

  1. Very interesting, and I concur about ‘the least of these brothers of mine’ being Christians, though poor Christians primarily. In terms of motivation to help people in need, I think you’re right about the motivations you set out for motivating care for non-believers. However for believers the clear meaning of Matthew 25:31-46 (and what has been generally affirmed throughout Christian history, including in the writers you reference) is that Jesus is adding to that general motivation a special motivation for showing mercy to fellow believers, namely recognising the presence of Christ in them. This special consideration we find in other places in the NT, in Jesus’ command in John for us to love one another, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, Paul’s teaching to do good to all especially those of the household of faith (for whom Christ died), and James’ teaching about the treatment of poor brethren.

    The ‘least of these’ are Christians, but they are also the poor ie poor Christians, and Matthew 25:31-46 is about exhorting and motivating Christians to be sure to care for the poor among their number by recognising the presence of Christ in them.

    • Yes, I would agree…though there is more of an expectation that Jesus’ followers would be poor than perhaps we realise. I still value Bruce Longenecker’s volume ‘Remember the Poor’ in which he explores Paul’s commitment to helping the poor, and examines the wider question of socio-economic stratification in the empire more generally.

      • Thanks – yes, that expectation is there much more than we are perhaps willing to admit. But even so, the fact that Jesus speaks in v40 of ‘the least of these my brothers’ suggests that he is speaking about a subset of his brethren viz the least, the most in need.

  2. Many thanks for this excellent piece. Image or likeness is not a presence. Neither Adam nor Eve were the presence of God, in the “temple-garden.” A photo image is a likeness, not the presence of a person.,
    Yes, we may say that Christ became poor, homeless, leaving the riches of heaven. The poor , homeless may be a reminder of Christ, not an encounter with his presence. It does not rule out however, God working through them, however unkowingly, on their part, to reveal something of himself. They may however be an Angel, but that is another, different topic!

    As a none theologian, it reminds me of the theological discussions and contrasts arise therefrom over the beatitudes. They describe the Christian, what a Christian is, not how to become, be, one.

  3. Yes, an excellent analysis.

    One other thing bothers me though, even if we were to take the Archbish’s statement at face value:

    Each of us is made in the image of God. That’s why we have the chance to encounter Christ in every person we meet – especially those on the margins

    It’s that ‘especially’. If the reason we ‘have the chance to encounter Christ in every person we meet’ is that all of us are ‘made in the image of God’, then why do we ‘especially’ encounter Christ in some people more than others?

    I mean, if the statement had been ‘That’s why we have the chance to encounter Christ in every person we meet – especially other Christians’ then it would have been, as explained above, more theologically defensible — but there would have been uproar!

      • Actually thinking about it more: is the ‘especial’ nature of the encounter of God with those on the margins causal, or merely correlated?

        And if causal, in what direction? Is there something about being on the margins that causes an especial presence of God? If so, what? Or is it that having an especial presence of God causes one to get pushed to the margins? If so, why? Is it that having an especial presence of God makes you more likely to be rejected by the majority of society and pushed to the margins, or does having an especial presence of God cause you to want to flee the majority of society, with their lesser presence of God, and therefore seek the margins?

        Does this especial presence of God subside in all those on the margins? I mean, child sex offenders are pretty firmly on the margins; do they have an especial presence of Christ?

        Or is it not so much that the presence of god resides especially in those on the margins, but that it is the act of going to the margins which makes the encounter special? So if two people who are both on the margins meet, do they have an especial encounter with the presence of Christ (because the presence of Christ is especially strong in both of them) or do they not have an especial encounter with Christ (because the thing that makes it special is that journey to the margins, out of our comfort zone, and they haven’t had to make any such journey)?

        I mean, these are important questions that must have answers. Unless the original statement was just a wishy-washy platitude with no content that was just meant to sound caring and nice. but that would not be worthy of an Archbish, would it?

        • I don’t see Matthew 25:31-46 as teaching that Christ is especially present amongst poor Christians, only that he is present and therefore to neglect to show them charity is to neglect to serve the Lord himself. The poverty creates special need to show charity, but not a special presence.

          On the other hand, the Beatitudes teach that the kingdom of God/heaven belongs to the poor (Luke 6:20)/poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). So there appears to be something specially blessed about the condition of being ‘poor’, which I think has usually been linked to a penitential and humble condition of heart (e.g. of knowing and acknowledging need before God).

          • Will….

            “specially blessed about the condition of being ‘poor’,” Do you think that’s the best understanding of “blessed are the poor…”?

            It reminds me of the way Mary is sometimes thought of as possessing grace when it is that God’s grace was directed towards her. So there’s nothing intrinsically blessed about her rather that she is the recipient of blessing.

            I’m not sure my take necessarily clarifies things much.?

          • Hi Ian

            Happy to be corrected, but I believe the word for blessed refers to a state of the person being described, sometimes translated happy or fortunate. It means I think a blessed state.

      • (And if one has been on the margins, but then is brought into or moves to the mainstream, does one retain one’s especial presence of God, or lose it? What about if one is in the mainstream but is then pushed to the margins, does one gain an especial presence of God? Etc etc. )

      • We can and must (where appropriate) say things which the general population finds distasteful:

        (1) First, because majority opinion can lurch so sharply according to the whims of the fashion-leaders (pipers) that it is doubtful that majority opinion has been formed either honestly or by independent thought or analysis. It is more a case of people being desperate not to be in a minority (Noelle-Neumann, ‘The Spiral of Silence’). And opinion trends seem to be suspiciously culture-specific (though this is leavened by the effect of the internet and global village).

        (2) Second, because not to do so would be to lie about what our position is, and lying is one of the Ten Commandments and one of those whose absence would be surprising had it been omitted.

        (3) Third, because to force other people to lie as in (2) is a very wrong thing to do. No-one has the right to encourage Christians or anyone else to keep quiet, still less to lie. Their motives for doing so are in fact obvious, self-centred, and impure.

        (4) Fourth, because otherwise we would have the unedifying double whammy of *both* those with impure motives speaking freely *and* those with pure motives being muzzled.

  4. This is a complex subject. I would prefer some definition of what Justin actually means by ‘on the margins’. Could it be true that we interpret who fits that category through the prism of our ‘middle-class privilege’ or ‘guilt (I really don’t like the prevalent popular negative use of the word ‘privilege’, but I suppose it could have a value in this context)?

    The moral quality which ‘on the margins’ could imply would surely be humility as, for instance, expressed by Isaiah: “but on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word”. By contrast the rich tend to be arrogant which obscures the image of God in them making it harder to discover. But I am sure there are well-off people who are humble. Of course that was where the Quakers got their nickname – ‘who tremble at my word’. They were particularly strong on seeing the image of God in all people: Jesus being “the true light which enlightens every man who comes into the world”.

    We spent 20 years working with homeless, drug addicts, parole folk, etc which involved them living with our family (and others). This experience does make one realise how complicated the situations (and minds – many have mental health issues) of these folk are. Whether or not I encountered Christ in them more readily than in anyone else I don’t think I could honestly say. When one has had to deal with threats of violence or self-harm, or being burgled by someone you were helping, you become pretty pragmatic.

    If there is a difference between encountering Christ and encountering the presence of Christ in others, I found the presence of Jesus was experienced greatest in those who had recently been transformed by a converting encounter with him. I’ve seen people who radiated Jesus after the Holy Spirit had seemed to invade them – even the memory of it now brings Jesus closer. The most memorable occasions are probably of those who would be described as ‘on the margins’.

    • Thanks for that interesting reflection on your experience, and thanks too for your model of ministry here.

      I agree with you on the importance of the newly converted–and this makes all the difference in the local church. It reminds those of us who are long in the tooth spiritual what our inheritance actually means.

    • Alasdair Roberts wrote a few months ago about victims and “victimology”. Many on the margins are victims and I think this could therefore carry across: “The Christian recognition of the class of the victim involved a slowly dawning moral concern directed towards those who were the scapegoats and persecuted of society. However, the fact that victims should be the object of our moral concern should not be taken to mean that victim classes themselves are peculiarly moral, which is increasingly the case. In one of the more perceptive and challenging sections of his writing, René Girard remarked upon this modern distortion of the Christian regard for the victim into a twisted ‘victimology’, which he argues has become our ‘absolute’”

  5. Good analysis with which I totally agree.

    Thus surely, is akin to or actually idolatry :

    “Disturbing post – the idea that God doesn’t rest /abide amongst “believers “ and “non believers” is so alien to my understanding of God TBH it’s this sort of stuff that turns so many away from God – the us and them etc”

  6. For something shorter than Sherwin Gray’s monograph, but which clearly takes down the popular contemporary view of Christ being present in all (or in the poor generally) in Mt 25:31-46, see the Jesuit Martin Tripole’s journal article, ‘A Church for the Poor and the World: At issue with Moltmann’s Ecclesiology’ in Theological Studies 1981 no. 4, pp 645-659. My supervisor Richard Bauckham pointed me to this article when my research into ecclesiology and eschatology led me into sustained dialogue with Moltmann’s ‘The Church in the Power of the Spirit’, in which Moltmann not only claims Christ is present in the poor, he then links that to ‘ubi Christus – ibi ecclesia’, thus claiming that Christ and his church are present with/located in the poor. Of course, liberation theologians such as Sobrino make similar mistaken claims to those of Moltmann.

  7. I think you’re being a bit hard on the Archbishop. If God breathes life/spirit/wind into man to make him a living soul, isn’t there some of God the Son in everyone? Also, I’m intrigued by the statement that there is “widespread agreement” that the creation narrative shows the world as God’s temple. I love the idea, but I’ve been going to church and reading Bible notes for about 45 years, and I’ve never heard it before. “Widespread agreement” not shared with the laity?

    • Well, as I mention, there are some ‘universalising’ themes in Scripture…but these never outweigh the ‘particularising’ ones. Whenever Scripture mentions the universal sustaining power of God, it appears to always then challenge that with the particular presence of God in temple, people or Messiah, and invite response.

      “Widespread agreement not share with laity?” As always. It often takes 20 or 30 years for a view to percolate down…hence the need for blogs which connect scholarship with ministry! A well-known advocate of this view is John Walton; a review of his book can be found here;

    • I think I’m right in saying that God also breathed life into the animals, not just mankind. But few would argue animals exhibit the presence of God.

  8. Penelope,
    How about the Jesus command, the must be born again, born from above, not of human flesh?And Jesus as the last Adam, from and through whom there comes a new humanity alongside the old fallen humanity?
    I’m unsure whether the understanding of the garden-temple narrative is widespread (and I’m unsure that Ian Paul’s post is propounding that) but for a book on the topic: “The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology) ” by GK Beale.
    Year ago, AW Tozer had a book/essay entitled “Man- the dwelling place of God” God indwelling believers, not humanity in general.

  9. From my experience of ministering in the inner-city for 16 years I can say that folk on the margins are no different from folk anywhere else. Some are good and generous, others not. It is easy for the Church of England to romanticise such people when by and large its culture mostly excludes them.
    I wonder if the issue is a confusion between common grace and special grace. By the common grace given by God all bear the image of God and we cannot deny He is at work in the world. But, as one confession, puts it, we have marred the image of God and we need the special grace revealed in Jesus Christ to save and transform. That is why I am suspicious of the definition of mission as “seeing what God is doing in the world and joining in”. Mission arises from the gift of the Holy Spirit given to believers to send out with the good news of Jesus Christ. To say that those who have never received the special grace of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit already somehow reflect the presence of Christ fundamentally distorts the nature and practice of mission. And in my experience as an inner-city the one thing folk on the margins want to hear more than anything else is the gospel. They certainly know that Christ isn’t present in their lives and they don’t want to be patronised with the nonsense Christ is already with them and they are already blessed. Because the reality of their daily lives certainly suggests otherwise.

  10. I wonder whether “finding Christ in the margins” sounds wonderfullty humble, tolerant and attractive but in fact is one of those deceptively cruel concepts. Paul doean’t seek to find Christ in others so much as to be an ambassador for him. We go because we have already found Christ. We find Christ in his word and we know him in our lives because he is present through the Holy Spirit. Trying to find Christ in someone or something is really abput my need for some kind of spiritual experience – hence self centred

  11. Nb Great to see Tim Buckley’s comments. I think that hits the nail on the head. The romanticisation of the marginalised by those who often don’t know Christ but want to do good and/or may or may or may not know Christ but are not engaged properly in Gospel wprk as part of local churches in our inner cities and on our estates is a frustration!

  12. You may all be right that “the least of these” means only those already members of the Body of Christ: certainly I dare not believe, in the light of plain Scripture, that every soul who ever lived will be saved.
    But the same Scripture we are on here equally plainly tells us that there will be more than a few surprises when we find out who they actually were. And we are not, elsewhere, encouraged to make that determination for ourselves.
    So I think I will continue to try and help, donate for, pray for, and campaign for, all without distinction in the hope that by doing so I will surely include whoever He meant – and perhaps witness to those yet to come in. I wouldn’t be the first privileged to “serve angels unawares”.
    And perhaps it’s the least we owe Him in counter-witness to that horrid disgrace to our Faith: “Kill them all, God will know His own”.

  13. “Whilst I am not suggesting that we should move to a Catholic-style magisterium, the Church of England could certainly be helped by having this kind of clarity of statement of its teaching and understanding!”
    “And in that uproar lies the dilemma for the C of E as ‘established’. Are we able to say things which the general population finds distasteful?”
    Articles 9-18 and 31 and certain of the Homilies clearly state the CofE doctrines that God is angry with sinners, that we all face from birth onwards the anger and condemnation of God and that the death of Christ did satisfy the wrath of God and the judgement on the unsaved at the final judgement is judicial retribution.
    All who have made the Declaration of Assent are committed to believing and preaching these truths. The problem (as I think, I know I can’t prove it and would be humbled but glad to be proved wrong) is that only a minority of ordained persons are thus committed.
    ‘When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood’.

    Phil Almond


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