Responding to Dominic Cummings

It is not often that a single story dominates everyone’s online conversation—yet that is what happened over the weekend, when I found that just about all my Facebook friends were commenting on the same issue. And it is not often that the bishops of the Church of England appear to speak with one voice on a controversial issue. Yet this is what Dominic Cummings has achieved by his ‘lockdown’ trip to Durham in April. It is quite a feat!

So I thought it worth reflecting on why this has become such a dominant story, why bishops have been commenting on it, and whether Christian faith has anything particular to say. A number of questions need to be addressed in turn—and a number of features of the debate might be noted.

First, did Cummings break the law by disregarding the regulations of lockdown that were put in place? I think the answer is pretty clearly ‘Yes, he did’. The Guardian offered a fairly straightforward analysis, before yesterday’s extraordinary press conference, which I don’t think materially changed the facts of the matter. (Don’t discount this just because of the source; that is an ‘ad hominem‘ argument.)

On 26 March, regulations were introduced in England that made it an offence to leave home without a “reasonable excuse” and to gather in groups of more than two. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 gave police powers to forcibly return those who refused to comply with the lockdown to their homes and issue fines to dissenters…

Whether he contravened the regulations depends on the definition of “reasonable excuse”. The regulations do not define the term but they do provide non-exhaustive lists of reasonable excuses to be outside, such as shopping for necessities, doing exercise and travelling to and from work…

Asked by reporters on Saturday for her reading of “reasonable excuse”, the deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, suggested “extreme risk to life” would fit the bill. “If you’re symptomatic, you stay at home, take yourself out of society as quickly as you can and stay there, unless there’s extreme risk to life,” she said at the daily press conference.

Downing Street’s statement says Cummings travelled 260 miles north “owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell. It was essential … to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.”

The regulations are clear that had Cummings been stopped by police en route to Durham, officers could have directed him to return to London and fined him. The wording of the regulations says police only need to “consider” (ie believe) that someone had left home without a reasonable excuse in order to send them back.


The outcome will be devastating for the government’s attempts to carry people with them. Public opinion has been noticeably steady through the pandemic. Most people have proved cautious, rule-abiding, risk-averse. Even now, pressure to loosen the restrictions only comes from a minority. It was entirely predictable that the public’s judgments about Cummings this weekend would be overwhelmingly negative. So it has proved. YouGov found that across every region of the UK, and among leave voters and remain voters alike, the majorities are all emphatically against him.

What happens to Cummings is important. But the real question posed by the furore goes further. Johnson’s credibility over the handling of the biggest domestic crisis faced by any recent government is in the balance. That credibility is vital in the next phases of the response to the pandemic, which are scheduled to be launched this coming week – a week in which parliament is in recess, a typical Cummings touch. But the implications extend to the Johnson government’s authority in the post-pandemic political world, too.

Joshua Penduck observes that a different kind of response in yesterday’s press conference might have diffused the issue:

I panicked. I was afraid for my family and I wasn’t thinking clearly. It was a stupid thing to do at the time and I regret it. I’m sorry. I know a lot of people are angry with me, and that’s very understandable. People have been making huge sacrifices. In a moment of stupidity I messed up.

But that is not Cummings’ style, and nor is the bizarre idea that he could take this decision without proper consultation—so at the moment not the style of this Government, and that has some serious and objective consequences. It is why both David Walker, bishop of Manchester, and Rose Hudson-Wilkins, bishop of Dover (in a rather good interview with Channel 4 News though erroneously styled as ‘Dr’), noted the importance of consistency and coherence in Government.

This also highlights the inconsistency and incoherence of the regulations the Government has been issuing. A doctor I know well often comments that different aspects of the regulations are simply not based on proper understanding of how viruses are transmitted. I think there are multiple pointers to show that it was ‘social distancing’ (what an ugly term) and not lockdown that actually stopped the virus spreading— and not many people have noted that social distancing is actually very little different from lockdown in cities (for example, in London prohibiting travel on the Tube or buses, and preventing any gatherings for sporting events), but has a differential impact on big cities, smaller towns, and rural areas in just the way that is needed to address the differential spread of the virus in these different contexts.

I think the prohibition on visiting friends and relatives close to death was just inhumane—there must have been a way to allow this to happen, and the prohibition was unnecessarily stringent. The most stupid part of the guidance was that ‘You can meet with one person from another household, but not two’ which makes no sense at all. And how is it that I can take exercise in a public space, and meet strangers at a social distance—but not meet friends there at a social distance? The general policy has been to control the population by slogan and fear, rather than by understanding and empathy, as has happened in other parts of the world. Which all makes the Cummings saga something that was always likely to happen.

As my friend Prudence Dailey put it:

In a nutshell: The primary issue at stake is not whether Mr Cummings’ actions were intrinsically reasonable, but whether they were in line with the unreasonable restrictions which he was complicit in imposing on everyone else.


All that leads us to the question of responses, and particularly the unusually broad response from bishops in the Church of England, helpfully gleaned from Twitter here. For those who think bishops shouldn’t comment on such questions, I found this overall summary of the situation from a friend quite helpful:

1) The guidance from the government was repeatedly don’t leave home. He did.
2) Mrs Cummings wrote an article about them being in lockdown which didn’t mention Durham.
3) The government themselves said a week or so ago that the family were isolating in London.
4) The government said a few days ago he hadn’t been on a trip to Barnard Castle
5) I would love to hear support that a good way to test your eyesight is by driving on a 60 mile round trip with your family
6) Is it right and ok as Christian leaders to hold others to account?

Yes, of course Christian leaders should hold others to account. That, in itself, is not a demonstration of being partisan, and is surely appropriate. For some people, who detest Cummings and resent what he has contributed to Brexit, then this furthers their agenda. But it is notable that even Conservative politicians on the right of the party think he has to go.

There is much at stake here, both at a personal level and in relation to government in a time of crisis—so surely Christian leaders have something to say, and Christian theology has something to bring to the table? Emma Ineson, bishop of Penrith, touches on the personal issues:

Whilst Philip Mounstephen moves from this to the more structural issues of how government works:

But two of the episcopal comments struck me as particularly curious. David Walker, bishop of Manchester, expressed his concern in traditional terms of repentance for sin:

He (rightly) defended this use of language as being perfectly appropriate for a Christian leader:

I think, though, the difficulty is not in the language used in relation to this issue, but the perception that the language has only been used here, and not in relation to other issues in our culture, which might not play so well in the public realm. So I gingerly asked in response:

I don’t know what the reply will be, but the reason I asked is the perception that the bishops as a whole lean in a certain direction politically, and are out of step in that regard with those who attend the C of E. I commented previously on the question of bishops and politics:

C S Lewis once said that people find his views on politics as a Christian very puzzling, since on issues of society and government he looked rather left wing, but on issues of personal morality he looked rather right wing. I find it very strange that church leaders seem quite happy to make public pronouncements on tax and society—but I cannot remember a single bishop every commenting on questions of personal morality, the importance of personal responsibility, or issues which have been the home territory of traditional Christian ethics, such as the family and the importance of fidelity in marriage…

For all these reasons (and I suspect there are more) I think Christian leaders should avoid making pronouncements that align themselves with particular economic or political policies. I cannot remember anyone ever saying ‘Oh, I see that that bishop votes Labour—I think I had better find out more about this person Jesus’.

The second episcopal comment I thought was odd came from Viv Faull, bishop of Bristol:

The reason I find this odd is that the language of ‘the bonds of peace’ and ‘our common life’ explicitly refer within Christian theology to the unity and commitment that the people of God have for one another, effected by the reconciliation of us to God and so us to one another that can only come about through the sacrificial death of Christ for us on the cross, and the new life that is now ours through the resurrection. The first phrase is a direct quotation (probably via liturgy) of Eph 4.3; this is a work of the Spirit in us. To apply that to society as a whole, or Government in particular, is either a throwback to Christendom, or a strange kind of universalism. I observe the same kind of odd extension of the language of redemption to an unqualified universalism in the recent comments of Justin Welby:

As a Christian, I believe that God is with us, even in the darkest of times. In our isolation and fear, Christ, who suffered on the cross, deeply understands any pain we may feel. In his resurrection, he makes all things whole again.

Surely we need to say here: because of his resurrection, he can make all things whole again. But that is neither certain nor universal apart from faith; the resurrection does not mean (as a senior bishop recently said on BBC TV) that ‘we will get through this together’.

You don’t need to lapse into an anti-clerical rant like Douglas Murray to see that there is an issue here. The moderate and reasonable Tom Holland also thinks there is a problem when ‘bishops talk like middle managers’—or like politicians, for that matter.


The pandemic and our response to it has functioned as a kind of judgement. Things that have been hidden, or that we have got away with, have now been tested and exposed. There is potential for us to realise what matters and what is of true importance, and our various strategies, assumptions and attitudes have been put to the test. The Cummings saga has shone a light on things we already think and do, including our anger and frustration with the current situation, and the way others have responded to it. Commenting on this in public is a complex business, and we need to think carefully about how our comments might contribute to existing assumptions and concerns.

In his new book On Death, Tim Keller observes this about contemporary society:

Many have pointed out that today our society is as moralistic and judgmental as it ever has been [talking about our current secular society]. We live in a “call-out culture” in which people are categorised reductionistically to good or evil and then are publicly shamed until they lose jobs and communities. People are charged for what used to be called sins and are punished and banished in ways that look remarkably like religious ceremonial purification rites. (p.22)

In all we say, we surely want to engage in a different way.


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361 thoughts on “Responding to Dominic Cummings”

    • Thanks–that’s an interesting thought! I think I was thinking of diffusing it, that is, removing him as a sole focus.

      But I suspect Joshua in his comment did write (or mean) de-fuse.

      Not sure which is the best metaphor…!

      Reply
      • Pedantry corner maybe…but I thought ‘diffuse’ means to spread more widely? ‘Defuse’ is to calm a situation so Richard is correct surely?
        In friendship, Blair

        Reply
  1. I agree with your main points and Cummings has made some poor choices, but I think that Cummings has made so many enemies in the media (as well as within the Conservative party) and particularly to do with Brexit coupled with the way he is painted as a Machiavellian figure, that there are issues that involve more than just the fact that he broke the lockdown rules going on here.

    I rarely agree with Giles Fraser but his recent comment about the press behaving as wolves is an accurate one. They scent blood will not stop until they have taken him down.

    Reply
    • I am not so sure how true that statement is Toby. I don’t think the press is all us. I think it is largely down to what editors think we like and also their ability to shape and manufacture news as a product. However, I agree that it does cater for a section of society that likes to demonise people which in the internet age, is unfortunately increasing.

      The media is rarely objective, have their own agenda are are largely responsible for what we hear and how we hear it. They very largely define the narrative.

      I was struck by the virtual non- reporting of the large TV screen parked outside Cumming’s house and the effect it must have had other inhabitants within.

      And what about the no-comments on the complete absence of social distancing by reporters and cameramen when he appeared outside his house? No one batted an eyelid about that except Cummings apparently.

      Reply
  2. 1. Remarkable, what is remarkable in this Cummings farrago is the lack of self reflection of the self righteous, ” weeping and wailing and nashing of teeth,” which is but a reflection of living in “outer darkness”, Hell itself.
    From one section, in the eyes of many representing the Church of England, and speaking with such unknowing, presumed certitude, from their respective localised IVU’s, (Intensive Vacillation Units) are the Bishop’s riding on their donkeys of humility to the the rescue of…? As they call, crucify him. How apt, as they pontificate , what is truth, and pre – judge before he, Cummings, has uttered a word.
    Such leadership: a one that doesn’t repent and acknowledge the gospel of Jesus, in public, in many cases, it being a private matter, nor do they abide by the laws and rules of scripture, all being a matter of interpretation, personal choice.
    Yuck.
    2. Evidently there has been an “outcry”over the movie, “Paddington 2” on BBC 1 TV, being displaced by the live broadcast of Cummings explanation of events!
    3 Death of Death, Death of Fear
    All this Covid-19 takeover of life, has caused me to mull over some of my life:
    My mother had a totally irrational fear, a fear that she’d die at the same age as her mother; 56. She didn’t but that fear was a big contributing factor in spoiling health and life and some of her later years. It only exacerbated her chronic depression, which necessitated two periods of hospitalisation for ECT.
    She wasn’t a Christian, and at her death in hospital, she tried to escape over the bed rails, tubes and wires trailing. She died with a mask of terror on her face. If someone had said that hell din’t exist, I’d have responded, “don’t insult my intelligence!” I wasn’t a Christian and the effect on me manifested three years later with full blown clinical depression, Consultant diagnosed, existential, meaning -of – life depression, with a cotton wool, shutting- down brain, monosyllabic speech, barely able to grunt a word. Hell on earth. Hell in death, was hardly an exaggeration.
    It resulted in loss of my business, as lawyer, and house, unable to look after myself let alone clients. But three or so years later, the death of my dad was so different, (God was in it – but that is another story, part of a whole life testimony) and led to my wife and me coming to know Jesus through the offices of the vicar, who carried out Dad’s funeral service, suggesting Alpha.
    I mention this to show that what follows is not without understanding or compassion. It was for the unlikely benefit of an online, at times rabid, anti-Christian atheist.

    4 Death of Death, death of fear.
    I’m old enough to have seen men walking around the city centre with clapper boards over their shoulders: THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH.
    That has been replaced by dystopian personal and finger pointing pandemonium YOUR END IS NIGH.
    Why “rage, rage against the dying of the light” if personal mortality does not induce fear.
    Why weep and wail and mourn when our lives are failed by following the science? Which science?
    Why, when our lives are but a breath in the light of eternity, are of no ultimate significance, forgotten, wiped out, never a part of history, unknown.

    Our last heartbeat carries the weight of the incredible lightness of being. Transient from first to last, our hearts yearn, ache for significance, glory, permanence; long for eternity, not dust. It is dust we fear; it carries no comfort, no glory.
    It’s not meant to be this way. Death is unjust we write in tears, so rage, rage, fear, fear.

    And maybe, just maybe, it is a justified fear of the Enemy of all Enemies, Death: responses of flight or fight falls and flails.
    Flee to Christ. He’s the only escape. He brings the exodus of all exoduses, from death to life.
    Flee to Christ. He’s been there done that, got the battle scars and with his aching, yearning heart for us to be with him, where he is, says, “Come to me… And I will give you rest”.
    In his resurrection and ascension to Glory he brings us with him, joined to him, brings many sons to glory- the everlasting undimmable glory we are desperate for.

    “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! . . . He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes.” Psalm 113:4–8
    And,, though I’m not on twitter and don’t follow him I came across this tweet on Andrew Wilson’s. It is apt –
    (“I received a letter this morning informing me that I have come into the inheritance of unimaginable wealth. I am the legal heir now, will enjoy the best part of it the moment I die, and the rest when Jesus comes. I understand the same letter has been sent to millions.-” John Piper)

    Reply
  3. To further the input from the Bishops:

    I assume every bishop who has commented are also spotless? In lockdown, never been within 2m of somebody (say in a supermarket where people constantly just push through or quickly pass because they do not want to wait, I assume they have never been one of those people), never done a slight detour on their ‘exercise’ to wave at somebody etc. Or even outside of lockdown, that these bishops have never gone against the teachings of the Church or ecclesiastical law?

    If they have, then surely according to their own standards they must resign? I can’t imagine all these bishops are spotless.

    Also, excellent post as usual Ian Paul.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the encouragement. But I think your accusation of hypocrisy is misplace.

      No, I have never pushed past people and compromised social distancing. Waving at someone whilst exercising is not against regulations.

      And one of them suggested they were superior; they pointed out that Cummings failed to keep his own rules. I think that is worth pointing out.

      Reply
  4. First, did Cummings break the law by disregarding the regulations of lockdown that were put in place? I think the answer is pretty clearly ‘Yes, he did’.

    That’s not at all clear. The whole case turns on whether ensuring that there would be someone able to care for the child would count as a ‘reasonable excuse’ and I think it’s clear that it would. There doesn’t need to be ‘extreme risk to life’; one situation that was explicitly discussed at the time was whether it was okay to transport children in shared custody arrangements between the houses of their parents. The explicit guidance (and we must remember to distinguish between the law and the guidance) on that situation was that it was reasonable to travel to move a child between its two places of custody.

    Given that, it would also obviously have been reasonable to move a child which normally lived with its father and its mother on alternate weeks, say, outside the normal schedule if the parent with which it was currently staying feared for some reason that they might suddenly become incapacitated. I hope no one would disagree with that?

    And if it’s reasonable to travel to move a child from one household where they might not be able to be cared for to another household where they would, surely it is also reasonable to move to another building in order to make sure that in the event the parents become incapacitated, that the child can be cared for by people who are not in an at-risk group?

    Lots is being make of the ‘260 miles’ aspect but neither the law nor the guidance has ever had any kind of distance restriction, explicitly unlike in some European countries where one was required not to go more than a certain distance form one’s home when exercising. In the UK there has never been any restriction on how far you can travel as long as you have a reasonable excuse and, as above, ensuring that a young child is not left without anyone to care for it is surely a reasonable excuse if anything is.

    Reply
    • The regulations are here:

      http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/2020-03-26

      Perhaps you could point out which section you are using to justify your assertion. The only mention of child care that I can find are (my emphasis):

      6 (2) (i) to access critical public services, including—

      (i) childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);

      (j) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child;

      Reply
      • Perhaps you could point out which section you are using to justify your assertion.

        Certainly.

        ‘6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse. ‘

        The list of reasonable excuses given in section 6 (2) is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be exhaustive, and this was made clear at the time the regulations were passed.

        Reply
        • Prominent on his desk in chambers were two tomes, the Green Book and the White Book , authoratative civil, County and High Court practice and commentary as he decided and directed cases before him.
          One phrase comes to mind that the Registrar (Judge) used on occasion was, ” rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men.”
          In this present instance it is worth recalling that the Crown Prosecution Service has made it known that there have been wrongful charges and convictions during lockdown as a result of the rushed nature of the emergency laws and pressure of the pandemic.
          What was the main purpose spirit of the legislation. Without looking it up was it not to stop or control the risk of spread of infection?
          From Cummings account it seems there would have been little or no risk of spread, perhaps other than the child attending hospital, presumably on medical advice or parental judgement.
          And, importantly, what were Cummings intentions in all this? That he was above and beyond the law? That he was reckless, negligent?
          It would seems that a submission that he was careful to comply with the spirit of the law, applying the mischief rule of construction, that is the purpose of the law, the mischief it was passed to prevent, minimise – the spread would carry weight.

          Reply
          • Thank you. The internet too often seems to value its own opinion as if it were expertise. There may well be a moral case here, but any legal one looks fragile at best and disingenuous at worst.

  5. Thank you for an interesting post, as always… I would love for you to continue with a reflection on Cummings as a hate figure in relation to (a) the role he played in the Brexit conflict and (b) his role in the wider right-wing conspiracy (of which Brexit is a key part) backed by Matthew and Sarah Elliott and others, a conspiracy theory which encompasses Cambridge Analytica, Trump and Putin – as described so well by Carole Cadwalladr and others.

    In other words – if you are thinking of moving into the realm of political commentator you’ll find no complaint from me – I really enjoy your writing. I just suspect there are much bigger power plays going on here than the presenting issues. e.g. How many people have noticed that Cummings is trying to remove long-standing and experienced senior civil servants to replace them with party approved appointments, in much the way Trump has been doing?

    I fear there is a lot of corruption behind the scenes… I am glad at the statements the bishops have made, but I might wish that we all aimed at the deeper issues. Perhaps your voice and reach within Christian circles could help to bring this to wider attention?

    Many blessings and keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • his role in the wider right-wing conspiracy (of which Brexit is a key part) backed by Matthew and Sarah Elliott and others, a conspiracy theory which encompasses Cambridge Analytica, Trump and Putin – as described so well by Carole Cadwalladr and others.

      Don’t forget the Reptilloids from the Earth’s core, the 5G masts, Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder’s father.

      Reply
  6. Dominic, Boris, Donald, Vladimir, Viv, Nick, Rose, you, me, we are all siblings in Christ. Who are we, feeble, accident prone, deluded, to judge others? By judging do we close the door on the capacity of others to change? Metanoia and epistrophe, the most constructive thing we can do is pray for them and for ourselves.

    Reply
    • Well, I wasn’t aware that Cummings and Johnson were Christians.

      And by failing to render judgement, I think we really fail those who have put themselves in distress by obeying the rules, only to see them flouted by the very people who wrote them in the first place.

      Don’t you think we ought to stand up for them? Or should we just kow-tow to those in power?

      Reply
      • And by failing to render judgement, I think we really fail those who have put themselves in distress by obeying the rules, only to see them flouted by the very people who wrote them in the first place.

        As I point out above, it is really not clear that Mr Cummings ‘flouted’ any rules.

        On thign I find confusing is those who cite the distress of people who, for example, did not go to see their loved ones in hospital. Well — neither did Mr Cummings. Or those who missed the funerals of their loved ones. Well — so did Mr Cummings (his uncle died while he was in isolation in Durham and he missed the funeral). It’s not like he was off on a jolly, enjoying himself while others suffered.

        One sometimes get the unedifying impression that there is envy at work here, that the real problem some people have is that not everybody has a remote isolated cottage on their parents’ estate conveniently close to potential teenaged childminders to which they can retreat to minimise the chances of them spreading the virus while still ensuring continuity of care for their child.

        But just because some people don’t have those resources and doesn’t mean that those who do have those resources should be denied the use of them. Otherwise we’d be demanding that people who have gardens should not have used them at the height of the lock-down because some people live in flats and therefore had no access to outdoor space to relax in at all.

        Reply
          • It is really clear he flouted the rules

            But he acted within the law (except possibly for the trip to the castle). That has been confirmed by the police. How can he have ‘flouted the rules’ if he acted within the law, ie, the rules?

            Are you suggesting the police are in error and he actually did break the law? That’s not inconceivable — the police have been known to make mistakes in the law, that’s why we have the CPS — but it would be good if you would say explicitly if that’s your claim.

      • Ian,

        My understanding is that Dominic Cummings was against the lock down regulations – so can we be sure he had any role in writing them? And how are we in a position to judge his personal confessional position? Many of my Christian left-wing Guardian reading friends had a personal hatred of Margaret Thatcher which they promptly transferred to Theresa May. Two Prime Ministers that had the clearest Christian professions? Political tribal loyalty trumped any judgement that we should think the best of any possible fellow Christians until proved otherwise? I am sure there are many exceptions, but in my experience most of the people who make these judgements of people “in power” have no experience of managing, and taking responsibility for, large complex organisations.

        Colin

        Reply
        • Cummings is political adviser, so is in effect part of the Government structure. A cabinet minister couldn’t flout something agreed by cabinet on the basis that he voted against it. Yes, pull out all the ad hominems…but you are still left with a problem.

          Reply
  7. Ian

    I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter since Sunday afternoon because the lies and elitism we have seen are so clear and dangerous that l believe they must be kept on the front pages. And of course I’ve seen some of your comments and ‘likes’ so I reckon our views aren’t a million miles apart.

    Notwithstanding comments above I have no hesitation in saying that the man in question ‘broke the lockdown rules’ – he flouted them without any credible excuse. I have no hesitation in saying that he, his wife, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster have deployed a web of lies and deception in hope of deflecting criticism. It is clear that government ministers are tweeting prepared responses in his defence without reasonable concern for truthfulness. And I’ve written to my (Johnson loyalist MP) in those terms.

    I acknowledge that as a ‘remoaner’ I am prejudiced against this government and as you quote C S Lewis saying, if we speak up too often in the same direction our comments are the more likely to be dismissed by people with different allegiances – a consideration heightened when politics are vital and divided.

    It’s true there have been lies on all sides in our politics and there is no good in pretending otherwise – even where there are differences of scale and importance. I don’t like to see anyone jostled by journalists on their doorstep but neither do I like the look of a SPAD giving a press conference in No. 10’s rose garden and perhaps giving a little smirk as he walked away. I’ve got kids and some grasp of fatherly instincts but resent the implication that keeping the rules is for fools when the most effective action against the spread of the virus may have been people’s acceptance of ‘Stay at home’ even when dealing with sickness, work pressures and autistic children (I agree there could have been a clearer message about different ways social distancing could work out but ‘Stay at home’ was probably this government’s best and clearest communication).

    My fuzzier (than yours) theological brain warms to what you quote from Justin Welby – reading it as language of invitation: ‘this is true, you might like to get inside it’ – roughly my approach to funerals. Thy Kingdom Come brings us back to prayer and the presence of God sharpens our concern for the world around us. What do we do?

    I think this has been a long way of saying that your article above left a slightly subsiding feeling at a moment when my instinct is we need to stir each other up to shout louder. There could be a better way forward for God’s faithful people than being seen to acquiesce with the state of UK governance. Their could be an opportunity to have better people brought into our government than some who have served us badly.

    I enjoy your blog and probably ought more often to acknowledge it when depending on it in sermons. And, I once sat next to Giles Fraser on a Southwark clergy do and thoroughly enjoyed his company … so it was easy to respond to a tweet of his saying I think he’s lost the plot on this one!

    Part of my TKC praying will be with an eye on Twitter and political news. If the Daily Mail is willing to criticise this government there must be something seriously wrong.

    Steve Pownall

    Reply
    • PS – what about Johnson needing glasses since Covid-19, but writing in the Mail in 2014 that he was ‘blind as a bat’ and needed glasses all the time? What about the prescience of the SPAD at needed to be clarified by altering his blog on returning from ‘London lockdown’ in Durham? And so on!

      Reply
  8. I’m afraid that the comment on the Wee Flea blog is incorrect. As per their statement yesterday, Durham Police have clarified that they did not advise anyone in the Cummings family on the Coronavirus regulations.

    “We can confirm that on April 1, an officer from Durham Constabulary spoke to the father of Dominic Cummings. Mr Cummings confirmed that his son, his son’s wife and child were present at the property. He told the officer that his son and son’s wife were displaying symptoms of coronavirus and were self-isolating in part of the property. We can further confirm that our officer gave no specific advice on coronavirus to any members of the family and that Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required in that regard. Our officer did, however, provide the family with advice on security issues.”

    Reply
    • I guess when people give contradictory statements there’s some wisdom in being a bit sceptical about both … even if it’s the Durham Constabulary. If they didn’t advise on Covid-19 they may have spoken as to any other member of Joe Public about the understanding that people displaying symptoms should not leave their homes (London).

      Reply
      • “If they didn’t … then they may have …”
        Well, I suppose men have been convicted on weaker suppositions than these, but only in the Stalinist Soviet Union.
        “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” – Lavrenty Beria

        Reply
          • Seriously, who cares? The Durham police have confirmed – after the bishops’ outburst and condemnation – that they knew the Cummings were there and didn’t think they had broken any law. That’s really the end of the matter.
            Which is a good thing – because the British police have acted abominably in so many cases throughout the land, harassing people acting sensibly in public and even in their own homes. Which bishops have spoken out against this? None.

          • I think the family who weren’t able to go to their son’s funeral when he died of Covid 19 might care about Cumming’s exceptionalism.

          • I think the family who weren’t able to go to their son’s funeral when he died of Covid 19 might care about Cumming’s exceptionalism.

            Why? Cummings didn’t break the law or go to any funerals (including his uncle’s which took place during the relevant period), so what difference does it make to them?

            If they had needed to move for child-care reasons they could have done, just like Cummings. There was no exceptionalism.

          • The law was that you should stay in your main residence and only drive as far as you would exercise at the end of the drive. You were not supposed to drive to a second home and stay there overnight. The only exceptions were for cases of domestic abuse if a child or parent were in danger.
            Most people without access to gardens, childcare and the countryside have observed these restrictions.
            You have still not explained why a child was safer in a concrete block in Durham than in a house in Islington, given that, until Cummings took his selfish trip, there was no mob outside his house.

          • The law was that you should stay in your main residence and only drive as far as you would exercise at the end of the drive.

            No it wasn’t. The law is at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/regulation/6/made

            I suggest you read it.

            You were not supposed to drive to a second home and stay there overnight.

            Where is that in the legislation?

            The only exceptions were for cases of domestic abuse if a child or parent were in danger.

            Read the legislation. Section 6 (2): ‘ a reasonable excuse includes’

            ‘Includes’. Not ‘is limited to’. ‘Includes’, ie, these are reasonable excuses; there are others’.

            (and domestic abuse isn’t mentioned at all, by the way).

            Most people without access to gardens, childcare and the countryside have observed these restrictions.

            Good for them. Mr Cummings also observed the restrictions, as contained in the legislation. Again I suggest you bother to read it. It is after all the law of the land.

            You have still not explained why a child was safer in a concrete block in Durham than in a house in Islington, given that, until Cummings took his selfish trip, there was no mob outside his house.

            There have been protesting mobs outside his house ever since he entered government, increasing since the general election last year.

            And I’m really not sure what the construction material of the building has to do with it. We’re talking about a virus, not a big bad wolf that will huff and puff and blow our houses down.

          • Nope, not one of Cummings actions permitted

            You have misread the legislation then. To be permitted an action doesn’t have to fall under one of the specific examples; it just have to have a ‘reasonable excuse’. That’s what ‘includes’ means in the heading of section 6. (2).

            Note that even you realise this as you said it was permitted to move due to domestic violence, but domestic violence is not mentioned in the list of examples. So you must realise that there are reasonable excuses which are not in that list; domestic violence is one, and Cummings’s acting to ensure continuity of care for his child is another.

            As confirmed by the police statement which was issued yesterday, which states in black and white that there was no offence committed by Cummings and his family relocating to Durham (though there may have been a minor offence committed by the trip to the castle).

          • S, see my citation of the Full Facts analysis in response to Richard Bauckham above. It is very clear that he breached the rules in multiple ways. That is way the rest of the population have avoided doing the kind of thing he did.

  9. To misquote Frasier, “At Cornell University they have an incredible piece of scientific equipment known as the tunneling electron microscope. Now, this microscope is so powerful that by firing electrons you can actually see images of the atom, the infinitesimally minute building blocks of our universe. If I were using that microscope right now, I still wouldn’t be able to locate my interest in this issue.”

    Reply
  10. Whilst questions should be asked about his trip to the castle, he used his common sense in moving to Durham to be beside relatives if he really believed his son was in danger if his parents became very ill. It’s a shame others haven’t used their common sense. You have to ask what was the purpose of the lockdown? It was to stop a severe increase in infections. By putting his family in his car and driving to Durham he was putting no one else in danger of catching the virus.

    Am I the only one that finds it the height of irony that the media persecuting him are sending their reporters to stand outside his home like a bunch of hyaenas totally ignoring the social distancing rules?!

    Reply
    • Peter,
      Context.
      The Barnard Castle visit.
      Not sure where Cummings visited, (see his statement) but it is a town with a castle ruin, a town surrounded by countryside, including wooded areas.
      It seems to me that Cummings was being sensible, testing his ability to safely drive the distance to London, after being unwell, possibly weak, by carrying out a short drive.
      Have any of us been bleary eyed, on waking, not seeing with usual clarity, or during or recovering from illness when daylight seems brighter than usual?
      He seems to have the much lauded protestant work ethic, evidencing a high duty to return as soon as possible, when many would still have been signed off, on the sick.
      It’s worth repeating that in criminal law the burden is on the prosecution, to prove, and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, that is until it is sure.
      I’m not a support of Cummings, I don’t know the man. It not a question of politics. It’s not a question of speaking truth to power. It is a question of the rule of law.
      While all come under, for example, the Theft Act, it is applied individually, to circumstances of each case.
      As, a slight aside, I wonder how Sir Keir Starmer would have approach this as DPP, in this political appointment, during the Labour Government?

      Reply
      • It seems to me that Cummings was being sensible, testing his ability to safely drive the distance to London, after being unwell, possibly weak, by carrying out a short drive.

        To be honest I am not sure how sensible that was.

        But was at least unwise, and at most a breach of road traffic legislation.

        What it wasn’t was a breach of the coronavirus regulations, which is the whole reason for demanding his resignation — that he ‘flouted’ regulations that he himself helped draw up.

        Nobody demands special advisors, or MPs, resign for such things as speeding offences (unless they try perverting the course of justice by lying under oath about who was driving), and the test drive is clearly in the same category as those.

        Reply
        • Surprisingly, none of the journalists at the No 10 rose garden press conference asked whether Mr Cummings’s wife could drive.

          Reply
          • none of the journalists at the No 10 rose garden press conference asked whether Mr Cummings’s wife could drive

            Apparently none of them are capable of asking anything other than the exact same question the last one asked.

        • Problem is that it was a breach of the regulations to go out driving except for an emergency. And there were other breaches, like going back into work. It is also important to know if his wife could drive, because if she could then the test-drive was unnecessary. Public officials should not dissemble and the last several weeks have seen dissembling, and failure to answer questions. He was not lying under oath, but it is apparent that there are half-truths, partial truths, and probably deliberate omissions of important elements. When the senior adviser who developed such stringent guidelines breaks them, bends them, interprets them for himself (without checking) and then avoids challenge, should we not be glad we have a press that can seek out the truth. Speaking truth to power is a good thing!

          Reply
          • Problem is that it was a breach of the regulations to go out driving except for an emergency.

            No it wasn’t. It was a breach of the regulations to go out driving without a reasonable excuse, such as going to work if your work couldn’t be done from home, or going to exercise, or taking a child to its other parent.

            There was never any requirement that it be ‘an emergency’ (nor, for that matter, was there ever any requirement that only ‘essential workers’ go into work: as long as you didn’t work in a business that had been explicitly shut down you could travel to any work that couldn’t be done from home).

            should we not be glad we have a press that can seek out the truth. Speaking truth to power is a good thing!

            It would be nice if we did indeed have a press that would speak truth, but at the moment the only person we know for sure has lied in this whole affair is the journalist who falsely claimed that Mr Cummings made a second trip to Durham. I am not aware of any apology for that lie, so frankly the media doesn’t exactly have a leg to stand on when it comes to ‘speaking truth’.

  11. Thanks for this helpful piece, Ian.
    I’m particularly struck by the hypocrisy of a good number of bishops who appear to be entirely silent and even approving when their own clergy (with whom they are in a far clearer relationship of responsibility and oversight) openly breach the Church of England’s doctrine and guidelines.
    All of a sudden integrity is now something to be honoured.

    Reply
  12. Ian, Thanks for raising these issues in your interesting piece. I don’t usually comment on these matters, and I’m no fan of Brexit or Cummings but have been surprised by the simplicity of the judgments people are making in this case by stating so absolutely that in taking his family to Durham he broke government guidelines and think I can spot an ideological witch hunt when I see one. I apologise in advance for the length of my comment.

    First, your assumption, based on The Guardian account, that the case is fairly clear needs to be queried. I’m afraid one is right to be suspicious of the source, not just because it has always despised Cummings but because throughout Covid-19 it has been relentlessly and irresponsibly negative about almost everything this government has done. In this case the account you relay has missed out the crucial factors of the exceptions allowed in the guidelines in relation to issues of childcare. Whatever one makes of the Barnard Castle event and whatever emerges about other aspects of his behaviour, on the substantive issue of taking his wife and child to Durham, like it or not, Cummings appears to be right.

    An exception was allowed for families to be able to help out with childcare in the situation of both parents falling ill and this has been confirmed and clarified twice by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. What follows is based in particular on the account on the BBC website (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52784152) and on the Govt website in the section “If you are living with children” (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection).

    Official guidance published on March 12 on the govt. website says, “it is very important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home.” However, it acknowledges that it is not always straightforward when children are involved. It states: “If you have children, keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.”
    The day after lockdown began, 24 March, well before any issue about Cummings arose, the deputy chief medical officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, clarified who could look after a child if both parents or carers were incapacitated. She said: “Clearly if you have adults who are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance. And if the individuals do not have access to care support – formal care support – or to family, they will be able to work through their local authority hubs.” Cummings did not have access to family support in London that he judged he could employ without putting them at risk of infection. However he was fortunate enough to have family members elsewhere, the younger members of which had volunteered to take that risk should it become necessary. So he drove to make use of that situation, knowing that he and his wife would be able to stay isolated in the process and that he would not need to burden the local authority hub, where a volunteer would have needed to come into contact with his child.
    Later on May 23 Dr. Harries also stated at the daily press briefing that any of the government lockdown guidance can be overruled by safeguarding concerns, or prevention of harm. She used the examples of an elderly person with no supply of medication, or a child with both parents too unwell to provide medical care. Arguably, then, in going into self-isolation near Durham, not in a second home but with relatives nearby, Cummings remained within the guidelines.
    Certainly his actions in this particular case do not appear to merit the simplistic and self-righteous judgment of much of the press and the media and now even of some bishops, including those for whom I normally have great respect! Hatred of Cummings has led to an inability to tolerate any interpretation of guidelines and instead the wish to treat them as absolutely clear rules that allow no interpretation for particular circumstances even when the guidelines themselves explicitly make such allowances. One might have hoped bishops might be skilled in seeking the truth and educating people in how to interpret and apply texts.

    One final point, if I may. There are few less appealing sights than that of an angry mob baying for blood. Whatever the eventual rights and wrongs of the Cummings case turn out to be, the reactions of a public and the self-righteous media reporters who are stirring that public up appear to be those of a crowd seeking a scapegoat. To many, Cummings was already a figure of hatred. They disagreed with his politics, especially if they had been Remainers in the Brexit debates, they resented his influence on the Prime Minister, and apparently, if they had had personal contact with him, found him arrogant and dismissive. The Guardian and Daily Mirror in particular have been gunning for Cummings well before any corona virus pandemic and ever since it became known he had the ear of the slightly less hated Boris Johnson. Having been locked down since the middle of March with a variety of degrees of suffering and sacrifice, the public has no longer been able to be patient. Its pent up frustration and anger cannot be directed at an impersonal Covid-19 but has needed a more visible scapegoat. Cummings’s decision about how to combine the demands of self-isolating and safeguarding a four year old child has provided the perfect opportunity for much of the nation to pour out its wrath. Blinded by a pre-existent dislike and a sudden moral omniscience, many have been unable to see any nuance or complexity in the actual decision Cummings made and its outworkings. They already knew he was a hypocrite and had to be sacked.
    If Boris Johnson has failed a test, as the opposition leader has put it, that test is not so much an ethical as a pragmatic one. In refusing to be bullied by a press that has sometimes distorted the facts of the case, he has failed to judge the mood of the nation and the depth of the desire for blaming and scapegoating. That means he may also have taken his eye off the bigger picture, namely, the task of getting the nation through the Covid catastrophe. We seem to be unable to get past what, in the light of the enormous and complex project of saving something of our society, must be seen to be petty tribal politics. Sadly, to maintain the necessary public backing for what will always be an inadequate attempt to get society functioning again, it may also be necessary to give in to the misdirected desire for only the most simplistic interpretation of guidelines and for scapegoating. Does the latter remind anyone of Girard and the scapegoat mechanism where the death or expulsion of a victim is deemed useful as a restoration of communal peace? Girard thought it crucial that in this process, going back to the earliest human societies, the victim must be thought of as a monstrous creature that transgressed some prohibition and deserved to be punished. In this way a society deceives itself into believing that the victim is a cause of the communal crisis and that the victim’s elimination will eventually restore peace. If this captures anything of the present situation, one might have hoped that instead of joining in the unnuanced scapegoating, the bishops might have preferred the opportunity to proclaim a message that tells us why we no longer need a scapegoat!

    Reply
    • he would not need to burden the local authority hub

      A relevant consideration also is that the ‘local authority hub’ was made up of the people who this week have been standing outside his house screaming abuse at him and his family (and who do things like follow Jacob Rees-Mogg and his son shouting ‘Do you know what people hate your daddy?’).

      It seems perfectly reasonable that he would not want to leave his child with such people while he was incapacitated.

      Reply
    • That is a very concise and fair analysis. At the centre of this was the welfare of a child which seems to have been forgotten by the media.

      Reply
    • What a pity then that Cummings had neither relatives nor staff nearby in London to help out, that there was no community in Islington already helping people who are self isolating and that he had to drive 260 miles to another house where he received no help from his family. Most exceptional.

      Reply
      • that there was no community in Islington already helping people who are self isolating

        This would be the ‘community’ that has been out all this week screaming abuse at him and his family? Made of the same sort of people who follow Jacob Rees-Mogg and his son shouting, ‘Everyone hates your daddy!’?

        Yeah if I was him I would drive much farther than 260 miles to stop them getting their hands on my kid.

        (‘staff’? You think you can dump a four-year-old on a work colleague? I’m glad I don’t work with you.)

        Reply
        • You clearly missed the message from the Islington Covid support group who are helping people in lockdown.
          There are other kinds of staff. I wasn’t suggesting leaving the child with a colleague. But colleagues can do shopping and help out otherwise. One of my colleagues offered this only a few days ago when my husband was in hospital.
          Can’t see the point in driving 260 miles to be in your own in a concrete block when you have Covid symptoms and an autistic child. And there wouldn’t be a mob outside his house if he hadn’t done this (not an approval of witch hunts).

          Reply
          • You clearly missed the message from the Islington Covid support group who are helping people in lockdown.

            Yes, made up of people like the ones screaming abuse.

            There are other kinds of staff. I wasn’t suggesting leaving the child with a colleague. But colleagues can do shopping and help out otherwise. One of my colleagues offered this only a few days ago when my husband was in hospital.

            Wouldn’t have helped if both parents became too ill to look after the kid, though, would it?

            Can’t see the point in driving 260 miles to be in your own in a concrete block when you have Covid symptoms and an autistic child.

            The point was that his teenage nieces were within reach and could have popped over to take the child to their parents (the child’s uncle and aunt) look after it if the two of them have become too ill to.

            And there wouldn’t be a mob outside his house if he hadn’t done this (not an approval of witch hunts).

            There have been mobs outside his house before; Jacob Rees-Mog and his son was harassed were harrassed last year long before any of this. his neighbours hate him because of him role in winning the 2016 referendum; I wouldn’t leave my child with them in that situation either. The child wouldn’t have been safe.

          • Why do you think that Cummings’ ne ifhbours who deliver food and medicine to those in lockdown are a howling mob?
            Why do you think Cummings’ nieces are more competent to look after his child than family a couple of streets away?
            Why do you think self isolating in a concrete block in Durham is safer than in London?
            Why do you think Cummings drove to Barnard Castle?
            How do you think single parents with Covid and no access to gardens, family, long car trips look after autistic children?
            What excuses the exceptionalism of privileged white males?

          • Hi Penny

            Your singling out of ‘white males’ would be fine if in other circumstances you were seen to single out ‘black females’ or other equivalent groups without fear or favour. Otherwise it is simultaneously racist and sexist in the same way that someone speaking about ‘black females’ in a similar context would be simultaneously racist and sexist. It is, “however,” in fashion.

          • Why do you think that Cummings’ ne ifhbours who deliver food and medicine to those in lockdown are a howling mob?

            Because I’ve seen them; the videos are all over the inter-net.

            Why do you think Cummings’ nieces are more competent to look after his child than family a couple of streets away?

            Because they’re family, and therefore rather less likely to harm the child than a family who would be out in the streets screaming abuse at that very child.

            Why do you think self isolating in a concrete block in Durham is safer than in London?

            That would depend entirely on the individual circumstances. For someone without a child to think of, London might well be safer. For someone with a child, nearer to family might be safer.

            Why do you think Cummings drove to Barnard Castle?

            I have no evidence that he isn’t telling the truth about the motive for that journey. If you do, the Guardian has a crazy cat lady who would love to hear from you.

            How do you think single parents with Covid and no access to gardens, family, long car trips look after autistic children?

            How is that relevant to what someone who did have access to those things did? Are people supposed to cut off their arms because amputees exist?

            What excuses the exceptionalism of privileged white males?

            There was no exceptionalism. Anyone in the same situation as Cummings could have done the same thing and it would have been entirely reasonable.

          • S
            You will say anything to defend the indefensible.
            A weird assumption that Islington neighbours, a community helping those in crisis, are a baying mob?
            A weird assumption that nieces 260 miles away are better child carers than Cummings nearby family in London?
            A weird assumption that if both parents became I’ll, nieces 260 miles away are a better recourse than family nearby?
            A weird assumption that all his neighbours hate him?
            Go on digging….

          • A weird assumption that Islington neighbours, a community helping those in crisis, are a baying mob?

            Have you not seen the pictures? Did you not see the pictures of Jacob Rees-Mogg and his son being harassed last year? A baying mob is exactly what they are.

            A weird assumption that nieces 260 miles away are better child carers than Cummings nearby family in London?

            I don’t know the family; that seems entirely plausible to me.

            A weird assumption that if both parents became I’ll, nieces 260 miles away are a better recourse than family nearby?

            The whole point of moving was so that the nieces weren’t 260 miles away, they were close enough to help.

            A weird assumption that all his neighbours hate him?

            Have you not seen the pictures? What would you call that if not hate?

          • No, Christopher
            Whiteness and maleness are the unmarked categories in western society and together convey privilege. A black man or woman driving from London to Durham under lockdown would have been much more likely to be stopped by the police.
            A black man has just been murdered by a white police officer on video in the US. That is white privilege. That is racism

          • Hi Penelope
            You’ve made an assertion (on privilege), without giving evidence.
            You’ve stood by a racist statement.
            You’ve stood by a sexist statement.
            You have implicated an absolutely huge and diverse artificial conglomerate of people in the sins of a few (sins which may have nothing to do with gender or colour).
            And not addressed the question whether you would say the same sort of thing about (for example) ‘black females’ in a situation where they were disproportionately responsible for something in particular.

            So much for equality and so much for avoidance of aggressive stereotyping.

          • Christopher
            I think you are having problems understanding the concepts of privilege, racism and sexism. If I was discussing something like, say, single parenting I would or might observe that black women are more likely to be single parents.
            I wouldn’t claim that black women are privileged because they aren’t.
            White male privilege doesn’t mean that all white males are privileged. It means that impoverished and vulnerable white males are not poor and vulnerable because they are white and male.

          • I imagine you’re talking averages.
            I think you are very unwise to talk this way which seems to overlap with sexism and racism, given that we live in an age of identity politics wherein being female, black etc ipso facto is held by some to put you on the side of the angels.

          • It doesn’t put you on the side of the Angels. It simply means that your life is likely to have worse outcomes.
            As I said, white, male, straight, cis are the unmarked categories.
            Calling Cummings a privileged white man is not racist.
            As someone has observed, we aren’t less racist, we simply video it now.

          • Calling Cummings a privileged white man is not racist.

            Racism is being prejudiced against someone because of their perceived race. So if you assume someone is privileged because of their race then that is racist, by definition, because you have pre-judged them according to the race you perceive them to be.

          • No S, racism is prejudice based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
            White male privilege is the epitome of unconscious bias.

          • No S, racism is prejudice based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

            Ah, so if you act on prejudice based on the belief that your own race is inferior, that’s not racism?

          • S
            Correct. That is not racism. The members of those races who might consider themselves ‘inferior’ are subject to the racism of their colonial masters, of slave traders, and, sometimes sadly, of missionaries.

          • Correct. That is not racism. The members of those races who might consider themselves ‘inferior’ are subject to the racism of their colonial masters, of slave traders, and, sometimes sadly, of missionaries.

            Or, of course, they are white people who have been brainwashed by wokeness into thinking that their race is inferior because it is uniquely evil in the course of history and the source of all oppression and evil in the modern world.

          • No, S,
            Guilt about the evils of colonialism and the slave trade is not the same as feeling inferior. I doubt that any white people (or, indeed, those of other ‘races’ who consider themselves to be morally, culturally and intellectually superior) feel at all inferior to the races they have exploited.

          • I doubt that any white people (or, indeed, those of other ‘races’ who consider themselves to be morally, culturally and intellectually superior) feel at all inferior to the races they have exploited.

            Have you just pre-judged the thoughts of an entire race of people based on their skin pigmentation there?

            But that’s not racist. Oh no.

          • I don’t think you understand the concept of racism at all.

            It’s about prejudice based on race. Which is exactly what you’re displaying.

          • No, S
            As I explained, racism is prejudice based on the notion that one’s own race is superior.

          • As I explained, racism is prejudice based on the notion that one’s own race is superior.

            And that’s not correct. Racism is prejudice based on perceived race.

          • S
            No. Perhaps you had better find one of those dictionary definitions you’re so fond of.
            I’ve already explained that is prejudice based on the belief that one’s race is superior.

          • I’ve already explained that is prejudice based on the belief that one’s race is superior.

            Yes, and you are still wrong.

          • And you S are still chary of research which may not confirm your ill informed prejudice.
            You would like your definition to be accurate. But it isn’t.

  13. Comparing today with the Census of 1851, Anglican church attendance today (at its most generous estimate) is about 20% of what it was 170 years ago. In 1851 there were about 5 million persons attending C of E churches, today it is some way south of a million.

    Meanwhile the population of England has much more than doubled.

    While the number of Anglican bishops has doubled since then.

    Very crudely crunching the numbers, in 1851 there was one bishop to every 100,000 attenders of Anglican churches.
    Today there is about one to every 10,000.

    So what are they doing all the time? Obviously not confirmations and ordinations – the former has almost disappeared while there are fewer than half the Anglican clergy than in Victorian days. Bishops are expensive entities. They have to be housed and staffed and they don’t come with an income-generating parish, so all of this has to come out of central or diocesan funds.

    In other words, the Church of England has walked into the same trap that bedevils modern education and healthcare, the triumph of managerialism, in which expensive middle and upper management posts proliferate, taking people out of the primary service (and source of income) of a job – teaching, healing or extending the Church – and instead getting them to control and “evaluate” the poor bloody infantrymen. Somehow “work” (usually committee “work” on this or that vital report that nobody will read) expands to fill the staff and time available – while the church declines relentlessly.

    It was very telling that in cash-strapped Liverpool diocese they wanted badly paid front-line clergy to take unpaid leave to alleviate the finances! Did any bishop volunteer to do this?

    The 100 or so Church of England bishops definitely need something more useful to do than enlightening the world via Twitter on their (rather monochrome) political opinions.

    May I suggest instead that they devote their gifts and energies to the historical calling of bishops in England – to be Frontier Evangelists and Church Planters? Heaven knows, the field is out there, not least in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.

    Reply
  14. I think part of the reason why he is attracting so much anger is not simply because he broke the rules. Cummings broke rules that were put in place because of his fatal handling of Britain’s delayed lockdown which has resulted in the highest rate of Covid 19 deaths per million of population in the world presently. 10s of thousands of people have died before their time because of this Government’s botched handling of this global Pandemic: a Government to which he is the Chief Adviser.

    Reply
    • One would think Cummings was in charge. And there’s me thinking it was the PM and the front bench of MPs! They all had their own brains to use based on the medical advice. It is they who should be held accountable.

      Reply
    • Cummings broke rules that were put in place because of his fatal handling of Britain’s delayed lockdown which has resulted in the highest rate of Covid 19 deaths per million of population in the world presently

      It’s not possible to know whether that was the case, but the evidence, for example from Sweden, is against it, and suggests that the effect of a full legal lockdown versus voluntary social distancing measures is actually very slight.

      Far more deaths were probably caused by the mistaken assumption in early March that the disease was not already rampant in hospitals and that therefore patients without symptoms would be safer discharged to care homes where they could be isolated — when in fact, unknown to the doctors who signed off on their discharges, they had already been infected and took the disease with them to the care homes — than any varying of lockdown time by a couple of weeks in either direction (and that’s even assuming that the population would have submitted to a lockdown before everyone as terrified by the pictures form Lombardy’s hospital corridors: I know I wouldn’t, I was in a theatre for the last performance of Leopoldstadt before they were shut down).

      And even if the timing does matter, you’re implying that you know for sure that Cummings delayed it; when there have been reports that he was one of those urging a legal lockdown sooner than it actually happened.

      Reply
    • Cummings broke rules that were put in place because of his fatal handling of Britain’s delayed lockdown which has resulted in the highest rate of Covid 19 deaths per million of population in the world presently

      ‘Now in its tenth week, Britain’s lockdown has been around long enough for it to develop its own founding myth.

      […]

      The founding myth of the lockdown is almost the opposite of the truth. Science did not triumph over politics on 23 March. It would be more accurate to say that the strategy which preceded the lockdown, unpopular though it now is, was based on science whereas the decision to go into lockdown was political.’

      https://thecritic.co.uk/the-lockdowns-founding-myth/

      Reply
      • I would agree with that. When politicians read the (unreviewed) Imperial report, from a team which has a very mixed past reputation, which said ‘thousands will die and people will see it as your fault’ they panicked.

        The fact the SAGE meetings do not have public minutes meant that they went into a groupthink without proper reflection.

        Reply
  15. One thing that seems not to have been commented on (much) is that whether or not he broke guidelines, he must have known it was a grey area and potentially worrying. Therefore he could and should have taken advice. He had possibly more access to scientific expertise on the science, and the legislation, than anyone else in the country.
    Also he risked his child by driving a long distance in a very confined space.
    I agree so much with the person who said he could have acknowledged that his behaviour was born out of (undderstandable) panic and was stupid.

    Reply
  16. Andrew Lincoln makes a lot of apposite points. This is really displaced anger against Brexit and Johnson. I don’t recall a chorus of episcopal tweets against Stephen Kinnock MP, demanding his resignation when he travelled from Wales to London to visit his father on his birthday. Which bishop condemned Prince Charles when he headed off to the Highlands when he felt ill?
    How Mr and Mrs Cummings chose to look after their child is frankly no business of anyone but the Cummings. They broke no law and harmed nobody. The Government has no right to micro-manage and interfere in the lives of citizens on the grounds that there is a remote chance of infection with a disease which most people will have without any symptoms at all. We are not talking about the Black Death but a sars infection in which 90% of the mortalities have been over 65 (43% over 85) and most of these with underlying conditions. There has been a collective loss of common sense and clear thinking, and the response to the pandemic has been more destructive – in all kinds of ways – than the awful loss of life from the disease itself. The thousands of needless deaths in care homes and the untold number who will die from untreated cancers and heart conditions will be the legacy of this woodenhead policy, to say nothing of the thousands of small businesses and livelihoods destroyed in the name of “science”.
    Foremost among those who have responded poorly have been the English bishops. In their Stakhonovite zeal to prove themselves “good citizens setting an example to the nation” they did more than the Government asked and more than church law or a sound pastoral heart allows.
    -They closed churches illegally, even banning clergy from praying there (but not from doing repairs or maintenance). Why is it safe to change a fuse but not to pray?
    – They forbade funerals for grieving families in churches – but not in local authority owned crematoriums! Why in heaven’s name? Because their writ doesn’t extend to the crems?
    – And they forbade clergy over 60 from seeing the sick and dying in hospital as chaplains – but not the Archbishop of Canterbury who donned PPE to do stints at St Thomas’s. When all this is over, it is the English bishops who will have some ‘splainin’ to do.
    In ganging up to demand Mr Cummings’ head, isn’t there some first principle in Christian life that they have forgotten?

    Reply
  17. I wonder if the deeper thread on this blog is whether and if so when (and how) bishops should get involved in “political” or divisive issues. And how to deal with the person who is so caught up in the political issue?
    Whether or not going to Durham was within the Guidelines, going back to work suspecting there was covid in the family was not; nor is a 60 mile round-trip to a well-known beauty spot, to test eye-sight. I suspect not informing your boss or his staff that you were not coming in the next day is also not good practice. The papers asked for an explanation as to why Cummings was in Durham weeks ago but received no answer; his wife had however written a piece which implied they were in London and which is at variance with his own account. I have seen no reason given why his wife could not have driven home. The account from Cummings has clear examples of where the core Guidelines were not followed, and his “defence” is that he made a reasonable judgement, (though without any checking), all based on the priority of child-care. That (lack of) judgement has led to the current crisis, almost entirely of his – and the government’s – own doing in hiding the truth from the press and even telling untruths at times.
    Error of judgement not to tell boss
    Error of judgement not to check and agree plans for isolating (and I suspect that someone that senior would have received a government car to get them to where was agreed “safe” – and back home, if eyesight was really a concern, and he so indispensable)
    Error of judgement not to get actual story out there quickly to defuse the issue rather than try and bury it
    Error of judgement not to understand that even an unelected Adviser is still accountable
    Huge error of judgement not to see the damage being done to the national response to the virus (this one shared with the Prime Minister)

    So on the basis of continued poor judgement (and its impact) a ‘reasonable judgement’ from many would be that the Adviser should be let go – especially when two senior medical / academic advisers have had to resign.

    Accountability and responsibility are core – they are core to the work an adviser does, so when these are lacking then the person has to resign or be fired. And there are several factors – a) there ARE several clear instances of the guidelines being broken, b) the attempt to cover it up (including his wife’s version of events and the government refusing to respond) and c) the lack of understanding responsibility and accountability in his ‘press conference’ (since when does an unelected adviser get to do a Press Conference and turn up late for it?) all point to one answer. Politically the government is damaged not least in this current crisis, and this is happening in support of an unelected official who has a remarkable (lack of) sense of accountability.

    To call for accountability is not the same as calling out a sinner. Maybe some of the bishops did muddy this in their language. To claim that the bishops are politically motivated, or politically biassed may be true (are not we all?) but is not pertinent; to say bishops should be concerned for personal morality (as well) is a separate issue. I am intrigued at the anger of some to the bishops, when the degree of obfuscation, half-truth, and avoidance from senior politicians is of a completely different order of magnitude. To pick the bishops up for a somewhat ill-chosen phrase and to be silent on the daily ignoring of questions by the ministers seems peculiar to say the least.
    The government do have to share the responsibility here – in that they and Prime Minister in particular have connived to try and bury this story which has made it worse still. Cummings is both an architect and a victim, but not an innocent victim. We may like to find scape-goats as Andrew Lincoln reminds us, but this is a wandering goat not a scape-goat.

    Reply
    • The position is neatly summed up in these four sentences of a comment article by Marina Hyde in The Guardian:
      “The thing about Johnson is that he desperately wanted to become prime minister, and he desperately wanted to have been prime minister. It’s just the bit in between he struggles with… Anyone who imagines his defence of Cummings is born of loyalty is unfamiliar with the concept “Boris Johnson”. This is actually a simple story: man with no ideas is too terrified to sack his ideas man.”

      Reply
      • This is actually a simple story: man with no ideas is too terrified to sack his ideas man

        Or maybe he wants to establish the principle that — unlike previous Conservative administrations, such as over the shameful handling of Roger Scruton — he won’t give in to any baying mobs demanding scalps for no good reason.

        I assume we all can agree that it would be good if the tide were to turn such that being at the centre of a righteously woke Twitter storm no longer automatically led to someone losing their job, and if Boris standing behind someone who has done nothing wrong rather than taking the politically easier option of letting him go to end the story can help with that then that will be at least one good result of his premiership.

        Reply
      • Hi David,

        Were these comments posted on the wrong blog? This is, I thought, a christian (Anglican) theological blog? The comments might reflect something of Anglican opinion – but to me they seem not to be either ‘christian’ or theological – or for that matter even political – simply a personal assassination.

        Colin

        Reply
        • I think though that it is going to be the case that

          (1) the figurehead most likely to win the popular vote is not doing to be the same individual that is the best consolidated strategy-person, nor are they at all likely to be;

          (2) it will make sense, with a frantic in-tray, to centralise strategy within one adviser (or two in Theresa May’s case).

          Reply
    • Some minute analysis of the health, mental processes, and family dynamics of someone you don’t even know and whose family circumstances are none of your business nor anyone else’s. Who appointed you a judge of someone’s fitness to work?
      Of course the Barnard Castle story is absurd – as are most of the lockdown “regulations”. I have happily broken many of these neo-fascist infringements on my liberties, and it dismays me (but does not surprise me) that those on the political left – who were the first to denounce Thatcher’s use of the police in the 1980s and whose watch cry was always “Liberty” – are now the first to applaud the shocking house arrest of the whole nation for the flimsiest of reasons.
      Whatever happened to the Freedom-loving Radicalism of the Left?
      David Walker’s blustering tweet was fatuous posturing from a man who has closed churches to clergy and banned funerals in them, while agitating against Christ’s teaching on marriage and the sanctity of life. David Ould is spot-on in his comment on Walker’s hypocrisy.
      It would be better if Manchester Diocese devoted its energies to bringing the Gospel of Christ to the people of Manchester, most of whom are never seen in church.

      Reply
  18. Many of the commentators, and Ian, liberally (no pun intended) quote the Guardian. I think this explains their viewpoint and possibly their opinion.

    I think Dominic Cummings was right. He followed the guidelines as he saw them. He was caring for his child. He put no one in danger. His actions were common sense and reasonable.

    I think Boris Johnson was right to stand by him. That is what a good leader does – look at the facts and then judge accordingly.

    What disappointed me about the bishops was their readiness to judge before the facts were clear. Their partisan attitude on this and other occasions makes it increasingly difficult to be a member of the CofE with anything other than liberal left political views

    The comment addressed to The Bishop of MANCHESTER is apposite: why be selective in calling for repentance? There are far greater evils in society, and MANCHESTER, that have never elicited this reaction from him. Abortion, sexual immorality, and the serious cases of Pakistani Muslim rapist gangs that have targeted vulnerable white children.

    Cumming’s and Johnson’s failures are easy targets that serve the useful purpose of bolstering ‘the right’ moral credentials. No thought has been given to the enormous physical and mental stresses they were facing.

    So much for a compassionate Gospel. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, and he who has walked in their shoes and suffered the horrendous abuse and exposure they face daily.

    Bishops in their ivory castles have served the church and gospel poorly. But then that seems to be the norm now.

    Reply
    • ‘Many of the commentators, and Ian, liberally (no pun intended) quote the Guardian.’ I see my explicit comment ‘Don’t respond with an ‘ad hominem’ was a bit of a waste of time then.

      I also often quote the Spectator. What does that tell you about me? Btw the Spectator has just published an article saying that Cummings should go.

      What about the compassionate gospel? What about compassion for people who have put up with the things that Cummings refused too?

      Reply
      • The light of the body is the eye. What I read influences me, unless I am very careful to distinguish between fact and opinion. That is true of The Guardian and the Spectator. I am easily influenced and I try hard to look out for it.

        I listened to what Dominic Cummings himself said, not what others say they think he did, or what his motives were. That’s the grounds for my plea for compassion.

        I’m sorry if you felt I was attacking your motives, I was trying to point out that perspective depends on where you are standing. Bishops especially need to be aware of this, as they often are not standing in the same place as the people in their care. Then words like arrogance and elitism start to be bandied about.

        Reply
      • I also often quote the Spectator. What does that tell you about me? Btw the Spectator has just published an article saying that Cummings should go.

        The Spectator makes a point of publishing a wide range of views and quite often will have two articles arguing the opposite sides of an issue right next to each other.

        The same can hardly be said of the Guardian.

        What about the compassionate gospel? What about compassion for people who have put up with the things that Cummings refused too?

        Do you think that those of us with gardens should have not used them during the period of strict lock-down out of compassion for those who have to put up with not being able to go outside and enjoy green space?

        If not, what is the difference between that and what Cummings did?

        Reply
  19. It’s a pity that a party political interest is being served on this usually excellent site under the guise of a petty dissection of some ambiguous and temporary guidelines for preventing spread of a virus. It is of course no surprise that the usual suspects among our bishops have once again soiled themselves publicly in the most unpleasant of ways over this issue but one can only observe that few among the faithful and even fewer among the general public probably take any notice of these characters anyway. Leaders they are not.

    Those of us who take an interest in politics know exactly what underlies all this: essentially it’s a ‘gotcha’ story which has been cooked up by a mainstream media which no longer possesses interest in finding out and exposing facts, preferring instead to campaign (subtly and overtly) for its globalist vision of how the world should operate. A good many (most) journalists now are either ‘big name’ presenters whose political views are shamelessly displayed or low level copywriters who churn out second-hand information rather than spend time out in the real world investigating what’s actually going on. Courage to expose the truth, and original thinking, are conspicuously absent; in-depth knowledge and the ability to present it in context and proportion are in short supply. Instead we have endless trivial news snapshots spun in the most hyperbolic of terms.

    And it comes at a perilous time for our country, not because of a nasty virus but because of national loss of confidence in its own ability to deal with a new challenge. I’d suggest this has come about due to a mix of politicians with little experience of life outside of politics, poor institutional management, our previous rundown of manufacturing capability, and the aforementioned unhealthy state of the MSM. And when confidence is lost, people who lack grit and perspective rapidly turn to blame and even unwarranted personal abuse. This is not a good basis on which to reshape and rebuild the country following our exit from the EU and now the huge task of rescuing our economy from the damage done by lockdown.

    Good national leadership is urgently required. For all sorts of reasons I hold a brief for neither Boris Johnson nor Dominic Cummings (nor any other of the present crop of politicians). But Boris has only just survived death: it is beyond foolish (and lacking in compassion) to expect him to bounce back quickly to full health and top performance. Yet he is the leader we have. It is almost wickedly cynical and destructive to use the present situation and his ill health as ripe for settling political scores or attempting to undermine the great rebuilding task which faces the government. Delighting in national discomfort and using it as a political weapon with which to beat a government or individuals may come easy right now; it may well offer favourable political polling. But if it serves the nation ill, it is a wrong thing to do.

    One would have hoped that our C of E leaders might have been big enough people to recognise their responsibility in this regard. What is that responsibility? Surely it is to discern for themselves exactly what is going on here and what is needed (both for the state and from the church), to keep private their own political agendas, to call for calmness of mind, steadfastness of will, and generosity of spirit across communities and the nation, and to lead the nation in prayer and support for our Prime Minister and those who serve alongside him and advise him. Given how our bishops (some of them at least) have just behaved, I struggle to see how they can do that with any sincerity.

    Reply
  20. “One would have hoped that our C of E leaders might have been big enough people to recognise their responsibility in this regard.”
    But why would one hope this? C of E bishops are all pretty uniform in their social and political outlook, and it bears little relation to the outlook to that small part of English society that still goes to Anglican churches. The fact that EVERY bishop except Mark Rylands (who opted instead for parish life) is anti-Brexit while self-described Anglicans voted for Brexit by a beastly margin of 66.6% tells you all you need to know about the disconnect between the hierarchy and the actual membership. Plainly only people who already fit that outlook will be considered for bishop. It’s a closed loop, like the old Soviet Nomenklatura – or Britain’s own political system today.
    I have no problem with people like Walker, Baines, Broadbent etc. expressing their partisan political views. They have the same rights as any citizens. But they shouldn’t do so as if they were the Party of God (‘Hizbollah’, as some might say) speaking implicitly on behalf of churchgoers. A bishop (qua bishop) may only speak in public as a Teacher and Proclaimer of the Gospel of Christ. If they wish to condemn Boris Johnson, let it be (like John the Baptist to Herod) for Johnson’s adulteries, violation of marriage vows and having a child outside wedlock. But if they did so, the list of MPs and other people in public life to be similarly condemned would be very long indeed.
    But if their disagreement is really political and not theological, then let them resign their offices and become Labour politicians instead. I do not think they would be worse than the current crop and in many ways they would be an improvement.

    Reply
    • If they wish to condemn Boris Johnson, let it be (like John the Baptist to Herod) for Johnson’s adulteries, violation of marriage vows and having a child outside wedlock.

      Yes! I would love to see a strongly-worded bishops’ letter about that.

      Reply
    • Hi James and Don,

      All I can say is, exactly. I have had a long career in the public and private sector holding high office in both. As I see it, so many of these comments are from people who know not of what they speak. Being a Christian and a Guardian reader is not necessarily synonymous.

      Colin

      Reply
      • My comment, which is awaiting approval, makes the same point. Most of the comments, and Ian’s articles liberally (no pun intended) quote the Guardian. Clearly it’s regarded as a serious work of reference for some people. Please grow up.

        Reply
      • Nor is being a Christian and a Telegraph reader.
        I can’t see the point of this comment.
        As Ian has pointed out, the Spectator thinks Cummings should go. The Daily Mail has also criticised him.
        Neither is left wing.
        I know Christian’s who are right wing and Christians who are left wing. Don’t we all, unless we live in a bubble?

        Reply
        • As Ian has pointed out, the Spectator thinks Cummings should go

          No it doesn’t. The Spectator has published an article arguing Cummings should go. The Spectator has also published articles arguing that Cummings should stay.

          This is because the Spectator treats it readers like adults who deserve to hear both sides and then make up their own minds, not children to be spoon-fed the correct opinions.

          Reply
  21. “I think the prohibition on visiting friends and relatives close to death was just inhumane—there must have been a way to allow this to happen, and the prohibition was unnecessarily stringent.”
    Hmm…maybe straying into medical guidance and infection control issues slightly goes beyond the scope of the expertise of the author? There are many responses to this, but at a very basic level, the shortage of PPE for medical staff, let alone multiple visitors would prohibit this.

    “The most stupid part of the guidance was that ‘You can meet with one person from another household, but not two’ which makes no sense at all. And how is it that I can take exercise in a public space, and meet strangers at a social distance—but not meet friends there at a social distance?”
    Again, the policies were made by people with a little more expertise in transmission dynamics. All of the guidance focuses on limiting duration of contact and viral load – you are not at risk at all from jogging past a stranger in the park, but a friend/family member you are engaging with, even with social distancing measures in place for a period of time, increases your potential for infection.
    “The general policy has been to control the population by slogan and fear, rather than by understanding and empathy, as has happened in other parts of the world.”

    I’m sorry, but these policies were replicated in multiple other countries, often even more stringently eg Spain and France. These are subsequently being relaxed as the level of risk has reduced with less community transmission.

    Reply
    • I am very interested to know why meeting one person from a household but not two is affected by transmission dynamics. In commenting on these, I am drawing on medical opinion. I don’t think the Government guidance has been following medical sense; the cases of France and Spain cannot be cited without mentioning Sweden, Japan and South Korea, none of which did lockdown and all of which are doing better than us.

      I think all this is part of the background dynamic to this affair.

      Reply
  22. Cummings is an easy target. Why on earth are the Bishops tweeting against a man who acted lawfully, if in some people’s minds, irresponsibly & selfishly. Hardly Apostolic.

    1Cor 5:12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

    Reply
    • But some, like Philip Mountstephen, were judicious, and rather than criticise an individual, he highlighted the consequences for confidence in Government.

      Reply
      • True – and +Philip’s was the best of a bad bunch of tweets

        Ross Clark’s Telegraph piece reflects what I suspect many think inside n outside the Church: ‘I had almost forgotten that the Church of England had bishops. After all, here is a list of just of few of the moral issues on which they have remained mostly, if not entirely, silent: fornication, binge-drinking, social abortion, human embryo research, gay marriage, gluttony, knife crime and gang violence, blasphemy, usurious rates of interest charged by High Street banks on overdrafts. But it turns out that we do have some bishops after all, and they have rediscovered their zest for public preaching. What has suddenly inspired them to abandon their trappist silence on the issues of the day – indeed causing them to work themselves up into a state of righteous indignation? The case of a man and his wife who travelled 260 miles to secure care for their young child…. ‘

        Reply
  23. The Govt. regulations on lockdown include the following:
    “6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.
    (2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need— ….

    (d) to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 F3, to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;”

    That sounds pretty clear to me. A four year old, with or without autism, is certainly a vulnerable person and not I nor anybody else who has commented on this thread is competent to judge what is best for that child. Anglican clergy of all people should be defending the rights and duties of parents. The same regulations say attending a funeral of a household member or friend is OK. As well as the other rules regarding places of worship which the Bishops of the Church of England trampled on. I know of one large Anglican church where, as everywhere else in England (but not the rest of the UK and Ireland) there is no livestreaming of services from the church (the vicar does it from his living room) but where there are several people in it each day preparing food parcels that are send out to families in need. So individual prayer is apparently a danger to health but a group making up food parcels is not. Are Church of England bishops devoid of self-knowledge? Or contrition? Does David Walker understand the meaning od ‘repentance’ – metanoia – ‘think again’?

    Reply
  24. What puzzles me, Ian, about your discussion is that you say nothing about the extreme language used by the tweeting bishops. I was shocked when I read their tweets. Even if one agreed that DC broke the rules, what they said was ludicrously over the top. Recall they were reacting to Boris’s press conference statement on Sunday, before BC’s press conference on Monday. Before Boris spoke about it it was very unclear what DC had actually done and why. There were a lot of stories in the press that subsequently turned out to be untrue. The bishops, of course, had already made up their minds before Boris spoke about it. Only that explains why they could then accuse Boris of lying and suchlike. In other words, they already decided the issue when reliable information was scarce and impossible to distinguish from media speculation.

    There has been an interesting contrast between the bishops and the media. The media’s focus is on bringing DC down. The media hate him because of his contemptuous about the media. They will stop at nothing to bring him down.

    But the bishops quite explicitly went for Boris, not Cummings. Surely it is obvious that they loathe Boris because of Brexit and this was their first significant opportunity since the election to vent their ire at him. I’m sure they all thought they were engaged in prophetic critique of power, but the extreme language (including threats not to work with the government again if Cummings is not sacked) shows that, perhaps subconsciously, there was much more to it. To say, as my old friend the bishop of Willesden did, that “Johnson has now gone the whole Trump,” or, as my former student the bishop of Ripon did, that this shows that this government is only interested in power and couldn’t care less about the people is outrageously stupid. I felt ashamed that we have such episcopal leaders when I read their hasty and intemperate chorus, rushing to judgment where angels ….

    Reply
    • Dear Richard

      The reason I didn’t comment on the use of language is precisely because I wanted to avoid criticism of individuals. I don’t think I would disagree with your observations—but what I wanted to focus on is the broader theological questions of leadership, viz, if bishops are calling certain things out as ‘sinful’ and needing ‘repentance’, where else have they used that language? And what is the significance of using redemption language in a political context?

      Reply
      • Hi Ian – I am grateful for Prof Baukham’s weighty post.

        But with you I am so disappointed that a Bishop would use the language of redemption in this situation – calling the government to ‘repent’ in its response to Cummings, who did not break civil law even if he stretched the spirit of the rules. I guess they think they are ‘speaking truth to power’ – meh – I would prefer they focussed on preaching the gospel truth in the power of the Spirit.

        After 9 weeks in lockdown I would have hoped the Bishops were coming up with prayed through strategy for renewing their dioceses and advancing the kingdom in the face of their numerically withering dioceses and imminent financial bankruptcy.

        Covid19 has been the greatest tragedy in this nation in a generation. How has the church responded. How will she be remembered? Probably for shutting her doors before asked to – and for some Bishops opening their mouths and instead of speaking and ministering comfort, hope and gospel life, snarking at a scared individual acting self interestedly. Repent may be the right word, but judgment begins in the house of the Lord.

        Reply
      • It is perfectly in order for bishops like David Walker of Manchester to call for repentance from the kind of things that Jesus and His apostles condemned in the New Testament, viz. sexual immorality (fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, prostitution), divorce, greed, the taking of innocent life (abortion), drunkenness (and by extension drug-taking), unbelief, idol worship etc. If Bishop Walker has called for MPs to repent of these things, he has my full support. Let the tweets begin!
        … alas, the only crickets we will hear this summer.
        As for “significance of using redemption language in a political context”, we have been here many times before: 1933 in Germany, the co-opted Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, the Three Self Movement in China ….

        Reply
  25. Dear Richard,

    If you are the Richard Bauckham I think you are, whose extensive academic work demonstrating so often an incisive clarity, I have greatly benefited from, I am so encouraged by this challenge to the use of language by those on the left of centre, and the tribal monochrome analysis of complex situations. My close Christian friend, many years a pastor, who has served for years in a missionary organisation, feels free to say in various Christian groups he has not met before, without embarrassment, that he endorses Mary Beard that the Americans had it coming to them in the 9/11 disaster, and that Jo Brand was right to say that she fantasised about throwing acid on Nigel Farage – and that the only newspaper he would buy is the Guardian. (But like so many of my friends he does not actually buy it – he reads it free online – which is the Guardian’s existential problem). He is not alone among my Christian friends in thinking that his views are the Christian consensus. As I say above in this blog I have held the most senior positions in the public and private sector and the situation many feel free to comment on is often far more complex than portrayed in the knee-jerk reaction we see expressed by so many people whose life experience, I dare to suggest, is fairly limited.

    Colin Hamer

    Reply
  26. What shocked me most was not the views being expressed about the government (I am accustomed to the House of Bishops not sharing the political views of about half the country) – it was the insulting and derogatory tone. Not impressive.

    I’m afraid it’ll make it harder to get back to the day job of being a focus of unity.

    Reply
  27. Cummings may have acted selfishly & irresponsibly, but he acted apparently legally and
    understandably. Regardless, what is it to do with our Bishops? Hardly an apostolic role to rebuke government advisers. Paul is clear 1Cor5, we do not judge those outside, only inside.
    Let the Bishops lead us into sound doctrine, a holy House and the advance of the Kingdom.
    Sniping from the sidelines at political advisers is not what they were consecrated for

    Tom Holland recently said to Gavin Ashendon “I don’t understand why the Church is so ill at ease with its competence and experience of the supernatural. Of the whole dimension of heaven and hell; of angels and demons. It’s the one thing you bring to the public table that nobody else knows anything about? Why does it insist on trying to offer a political discourse that everyone else does better?”

    Reply
    • Because the sad and rarely acknowledged truth is that more than a few senior Anglican clerics don’t have a very strong grip on, you know, The Thing.
      After all, what is the Church’s basis for talking about “the whole dimension of heaven and hell; of angels and demons”?
      Answer: some writings from the First Century whose authority and truthfulness are rejected by the very class that English bishops want to be accepted and respected by: the BBC, The Guardian, the faculties of Russell Group universities, the heads of Rich and Important Corporations. Add to this the bishops’ acute embarrassment over the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and the uniqueness of Christ as Saviour (what does that say about Muslims, who outnumber churchgoers in places like Manchester and Bradford?), and you can understand why they are more comfortable talking – on TV or to local papers – about religion-free “justice” and “the kind of society we want to be”. The trouble is that a generation reared on cultural Marxism or other kinds of humanism doesn’t invoke religion at all into its ethics, while looking askance at the vigorous alternative that Islam offers.
      Yes, at heart it is a lack of confidence in the Gospel.

      Reply
      • James,

        Yes. The clerics should stick to what many believers think should be their day job. DC is merely an adviser who did not, as far as I am aware, lecture others about the lock-down as he did not believe in it himself. In this time of national crisis the Anglican clerics in their comments have surely only strengthened the opinion of many (most?) that the C of E is an irrelevant mouthpiece of the secular established left.

        Colin

        Reply
        • Since the majority of the population think Cummings should resign, I would infer that they agree with the Bishops and are, perhaps, pleased that they are showing some moral fibre.

          Reply
          • Since the majority of the population think Cummings should resign, I would infer that they agree with the Bishops and are, perhaps, pleased that they are showing some moral fibre.

            Be nice if they showed some moral fibre over, say, Professor Neil Ferguson’s adultery. That being an actual sin. But no, they were silent on that, weren’t they? Wonder why.

  28. I note this morning that the BBC has issued an apology and rebuked the Newsnight presenter for her comments on DC. Some sanity at last? She spoke of “the nations fury and contempt.” Really? Who made her my spokeswoman? She previously apparently gave a monologue on the programme criticising those who said the virus was a great ‘leveller.’ The BBC emphasises there will be no disciplinary action. Indeed. In the real world in the private sector there certainly would have been. The BBC choose to pay her on our behalf £260,000 per annum.

    Reply
    • The reason I mention the salary, as most probably realise, is that the theme of the two monologues was inequality. This is part of the virtual signalling of the privileged elite on the left (I include some of our bishops) – if Ms Maitlis wanted to sort that inequality out it could be done in one phone call.

      Reply
      • The BBC will never allow their news gathering teams to be personally disciplined. The recent appalling treatment of Sir Cliff Richard which left a fine for the BBC (paid for by the licence fee payers) is a case in point. As far as I am aware the perpetrators are still in post and drawing their salaries. If it was a business organisation they would have been out on their ear.

        Reply
        • Indeed, the crimes facilitated by the culture of the BBC go back a long way – Stuart Hall and most egregiously Jimmy Savile.
          But the treatment of Cliff Richard was utterly vile and indefensible and triply offensive because it was defended at the cost of the licence payer.
          Did any bishops condemn the BBC for this? Did David Walker tweet about the need for ‘repentance’ and question whether the Church of England could continue to “work with the BBC”?
          Or do they have a cosy relationship? Nick Baines is always posting his talks on Radio 2 and local BBC in Leeds. I imagine they still think it’s some kind of National Treasure.

          Reply
  29. As all of this rolls on, is any thought given to prayer, pray for (not against) Cummings and his family, for Johnson, the Cabinet, MP’s, Starmer, all those in opposition, the media, the church and last but perhaps most of all, how this reveals the heart of our own darkness, in our, thoughts words, writings, that can be so offensively odorous, stinking. Even our prayers will reveal our hearts, deceitful above all things, that truly reveals we are all in this together. Yes, we are, as our hearts condemn us , as we condemn, as we point the finger, pile on prejudice in our superiority over those on our side and against us.
    Where is this love, love our enemies, which otherwise oozes out of our every pore in unrestrained times, this largess of we lovelies.
    Our Lord is shining his light on our hearts of darkness, our true selves, the centre of our bottom line beliefs and faith, our motives, our deepest desires, of first order importanc and habits of heart, envy, superiority, hatred, which has been revealed both in the actors and first responders, commentators. Can we, do we want to be changed? Do we seek sanctification and it’s wise counsel- a supernatural work of God, indeed.

    Reply
  30. So, Ian, your contention that DC’s relocation to Durham was a clear breach of the rules is not shared by Durham police. They say they would not have fined him and sent him back to London.

    Reply
    • Well I was quite surprised at their comment on that—though strictly that is outside their jurisdiction. One of the big problems in all this is that different police forces have interpreted the rules quite differently from both one another, and from the comments made by ministers.

      The Full Fact assessment is pretty thorough. https://fullfact.org/health/dominic-cummings-lockdown-rules/

      ‘Guidance from Public Health England said that if someone in a household has coronavirus symptoms, “all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill”. It adds, “You and all household members should remain at home. Do not go to work.”…“I thought there was a distinct probability that I had already caught the disease.”’

      Cummings breached that.

      ‘At the time, the government guidance on travel said that people should “avoid travelling unless it is essential” and specifically stated that “Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence.”’

      Cummings breached that.

      ‘In order to make it possible to stay at home for 14 days, one of the “main messages” of the PHE self-isolation guidelines was for households with a suspected case of Covid-19 to “plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home and consider what can be done for vulnerable people in the household”. They added that people should also, “ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home”.’

      Cummings breached that.

      ‘PHE’s social distancing guidelines at the time said that if you are reducing social contacts you should, “Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home.” This appears to suggest that self-isolating people were supposed to get help from their families at home, rather than travelling to them.’

      Cummings breached that.

      Overall, he appears to have just decided what he wanted to do for himself, without really paying any attention to the actual guidance, in relation to the trip to Durham.

      On the outing to Barnard Castle, I think everyone concedes that he clearly breached the rules, and if driving without being sure that he was capable, probably broke the law here as well.

      In the piece, I didn’t really want to focus on the question of whether Cummings breached the rules, since I thought it was so obvious that he had. I confess I have been surprised at the number of people wanting to contest this point, and struggle to understand why. Imagine if everyone who was worried that they had the virus traveled to the other end of the country?

      I don’t agree with the vilification by media or individuals. And I have a very qualified view of how the bishops might have commented. But Johnson’s support for him is doing much damage at every level.

      Reply
      • ‘Guidance’ is not law. Cummings appears to have acted (with the possible exception of the trip to the castle) at all times within the law, which is the same as is expected as any of us.

        One of the big problems in all this is that different police forces have interpreted the rules quite differently from both one another, and from the comments made by ministers

        Yes. This has been an ongoing problem, such as the police office who went around checking ‘the non-essential aisles’ at supermarkets.

        However it has nothing to do with the case of Cummings, who acted as all of us are expected to act: within the law.

        Imagine if everyone who was worried that they had the virus travel[l]ed to the other end of the country?

        But that’s not the issue. It’s ‘Imagine if everyone who was worried that they had the virus, and had a young child, and had no usable childcare near them, and had access to a home conveniently located next to family members who are not at risk from the disease who could help them, travelled to the other end of the country?’

        And I’d be perfectly fine with that. Because individual circumstances matter. Which is why the law was written as it was, with the requirement for a ‘reasonable excuse’, specifically to allow the circumstances of each case to be taken into account (consider the similar principle that someone being attacked may use ‘reasonable force’ to defend themselves, because there is no set of rules that could possibly determine what force is ‘reasonable’ for every combination of victim, attacker, and situation).

        The guidelines are just that. Guidelines. Not law.

        Reply
        • But you might have missed the point: the guidelines were issued by the Government to control the pandemic. They asked everyone to comply. One of the key men responsible for them didn’t. Others have done so at great personal cost.

          So a central figure in Government has shown disdain and appears to think he is above doing what he has asked others to do.

          That is the issue, not whether he is a criminal. I am a bit puzzled by people who cannot see the importance of this.

          Reply
          • They asked everyone to comply

            Exactly: they asked people to comply with the guidelines to the best of their ability. What people had to do was as defined by the law. What they were being asked to do was the extra in the guidelines.

            The point being that the guidelines supposed were to cover the majority of people in most circumstances; not exceptional circumstances like the possibility that a four-year-old child might be left to fend for itself with both parents incapacitated and no local childcare where the child would be safe.

            It would indeed be different if Cummings had indeed ‘gone on a jolly to see his parents as if the rules didn’t apply to him when other people who were staying away from their family’. But he didn’t.

            (And indeed it would be astounding if he had, as he knows more than most the danger he would have been exposing his parents to if he did, his boss having ended up almost dying fro the virus.)

  31. Not sure if they would have done that at the time. But now it is highly that they will have discussed this with the DPP, before making the statement it being a high profile case.
    I very much doubt that Starmer would have taken any other view in his former post of DPP.
    But, on the 1.00pm BBC 1 news, the breaking news headline, reported from Durham Constabulary was merely that Cummings MAY have broken the law,(and it was left at that) but our “man on the ground” said the statement said that he had broken the law in relation to Barnard Castle, but as the risk (of spread, presumably ?) was minimal (or non) there’d be no action.
    Maybe there’ll still be gnashing of teeth. Evidently the folk of Barny (Barnard Castle) and Durham support Cummings. Not sure if the Bish of Durham will recant or double down.
    Such is BBC news reporting!

    Reply
    • Yes, it seems as the dust is settling that DC “might” have committed a “minor infringement.” This according to Emily Maitlis has provoked the nation’s “fury and contempt.” When Jeremy Corbyn admitted on live television in an interview with Andrew Neil that there was a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour party but refused to apologise for it – where was the “fury and contempt” from the left? My left wing friends without exception gave excuses for it or simply said Jeremy Corbyn is wrong. But he should know? And when Andrew Marr on live television questioned John McDonnell about his statement that his aim was to destroy British capitalism – John McDonnell did not deny it and simply moved the conversation on. Where were the bishops then? Should we have had a blog on that? The potential Chancellor of the Exchequer with the aim of destroying institutions built up in our nation for centuries. No, instead it was the DC trip to Durham that got the left excited. I do not position myself either on the left or the right. But is this not a breath taking – and to my mind – inexplicable lack of proportion and double standard from what otherwise seem to be intelligent and fair minded people?

      Reply
      • “…But is this not a breath taking – and to my mind – inexplicable lack of proportion and double standard from what otherwise seem to be intelligent and fair minded people?…”

        Yes, it absolutely is – staggeringly so from a couple of them

        Do we think the Lord is as angry about DC’s panic inspired drive North as some of these Bishops?

        Reply
          • “I find scripture full of God’s anger at injustice and corruption. Don’t you?”
            Yes – but I actually believe the Bible is the Word of God and not a mixed bag of old ideas about God, some right and some wrong, that modern people have to sort out into the right piles. That’s the standard modern liberal (even liberal catholic) view of the Bible. You’re on record here as saying you think one-night stands can be OK for Christians and that you reject the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, so I’m surprised that you accept the Bible’s view (Christ’s as well) of a God angry at sin. Most liberals think this is an outdated mistake. That you actually *know* that God is angry with Dominic Cummings for driving to Durham is really remarkable and highly specific prophetic insight worthy of Samuel. Can you tell us what God thinks about abortion and homosexuality as well?

          • Gosh, James, you do sound angry.
            Yes, I am on record as saying that, in certain contexts, a one-night stand can be a moral choice. Those who are outraged by this frequently forget the particular context.
            I am not on rec6as saying that I reject the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. The Bible has as much to ‘say’ about homosexuality as it does about the internal combustion engine.
            I do not share your view that the Bible is the Word of God. Christ is the Word of God. Scripture is words about God, inspired yes, but not free from error.
            The God of scripture is angered by injustice and hubris, so I assume She’s a tad cross with Cummings.
            As for abortion, scripture is not as clear as you seem to think. Judaism, reading the same texts comes to rather different conclusions from some Christians.

          • Yes, I am on record as saying that, in certain contexts, a one-night stand can be a moral choice. Those who are outraged by this frequently forget the particular context.

            Nope. I remember the context perfectly. It was the context of a soldier going off to war.

            I then asked you for an example of a one-night stand that you thought was immoral, and what you considered the morally relevant differences between the two contexts that meant one was moral and the other immoral, and you have so far not provided any answer.

            The God of scripture is angered by injustice and hubris, so I assume She’s a tad cross with Cummings.

            The God of scripture is also angered by fornication though (and not just in particular contexts), and you seem to think that bit’s not right. So why do you think the bit about being angered by injustice and hubris is right?

          • James has not clearly not met many (of those he calls) ‘standard modern liberals’ or he would not be so surprised to find himself in agreement with one on what the bible teaches about God, sin and injustice. Oh, to be sure there are some daft views to found at the farthest end of that spectrum. But there are at the conservative end of things too. Both ends need urgently treating for their piles.
            And for what it is worth I followed the original discussion about ‘one-night stands’. It did indeed have a very precise (and compassionate) pastoral context which I for one understood and supported, but which has been misinterpreted and recycled here at regular intervals as ‘evidence’ of Penelope’s supposedly unbiblical, liberal, permissive agenda ever since. I completely understand why Penelope chose not to respond further. I would have done the same – then and now.

          • It did indeed have a very precise (and compassionate) pastoral context which I for one understood and supported,

            Okay, well if you understood it perhaps you could explain the principles which make in that context not immoral what would in other contexts be immoral, please?

            Because I cannot understand what the relevant distinction could possibly be.

          • Don’t patronise me, Penelope, or pass comments on how you think I “sound”.
            On point after point you have conceded that you reject traditional catholic and evangelical teaching. Your ‘She God’ – whoever She is – is not the God whom Jesus Christ calls Father, so I cannot comment on your religion.
            That’s your choice. I am an ordained minister of the Church of England and have sworn to uphold the teaching of the Bible in my ministry and to worship God as Christ has revealed Him. If you think your ideas are what Jesus teaches, you are quite wide of the mark.
            You may of course cherry-pick your beliefs but you will discover that is a self-defeating procedure, especially for the self-described “liberal catholic”. At one point – perhaps sooner than you realise, you will find yourself agreeing with the position Richard Holloway ended up in. You simply haven’t been consistent enough in your liberalism. That was the point I was making about your professed “knowledge” of God’s inner feelings.

          • David – so do you then support soldiers having sex with prostitutes before going off to war the next day? That’s what I understood Penelope to think a morally acceptable ‘one night stand’.

            What this thread shows is that those on the theologically liberal side are morally outraged by Cummings’ stretching of the spirit of the civil law whilst being happy to sit rather loose to those things the Bible clearly does condemn as immoral and the source of God’s indignation and wrath. Whilst those who are more Biblically conservative in doctrine and ethics – who would not be comfortable calling Father God she, or supporting sex with prostitutes, think Cummings may have been wrong in action and response, but the call for his sacking and the religious language employed to support such, was far far worse.

          • Simon. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I will not be engaging further with this. It got nowhere last time – and responses like this remind me why I’m afraid. This is not the easiest place for some of the discussions we need to have across differences – but mercifully it is not the only place either.
            I also want to say that if the other, very personal, attack on the faith and integrity of an individual here are considered acceptable here (not least from a minister of the gospel) I prefer, with regret, to explore these and other discussions elsewhere.

          • David – come on – you challenged the position of others and you defend Penelope, and then when countered you absent urself?

            “…very personal, attack on the faith and integrity of an individual here are considered…” what exactly was said by whom – moi? about Penelope?

          • Simon. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I will not be engaging further with this.

            Then what on Earth was the point of you engaging in the first place?

          • I understood Penny to mean with betrothed, but am probably totally wrong.

            No, the question was specifically about a one-night stand, ie, a sexual encounter with someone one has never met before and has no intention of ever meeting again.

            So it can’t have been about someone betrothed.

            It was not however necessarily about a prostitute, contra above; as I understood it Penelope’s view was if a soldier about to go off to war met for the first time a girl in a bar, and the two of them had sex with no intention of ever seeing each other again, that would not be immoral.

            The world still awaits what exact is the different between this situation and another one-night stand that would be immoral.

            And I mean this is hardly a moot point or an abstract question. If I were considering having a one-night stand, which I gather is something plenty of people do on a Friday night, at least in more normal times than these, then I would obviously want to make sure that it was a moral one-night stand and not an immoral one-night stand. Penelope apparently holds the key to being able to distinguish between the two; I think its unfair of her to withhold her wisdom from those who are therefore having to make such decisions on whether to have one-night stands or not without the benefit of her guidance on making sure they are acting morally.

          • James
            I said you sounded angry. I apologise if you find that patronising.
            I find it patronising to have my beliefs traduced.
            If it’s good enough for scripture to give God feminine attributes and for Mother Julian to speak of God as Mother, it’s good enough for me.
            If I was being rude and patronising I might observe that worshipping scripture is bibliolatry and figuring God as male is idolatrous. But since I’m not, I won’t.

          • Simon and S (and Christopher)

            From what I can remember of the original post, I did not clarify the nature of the one-night stand. I did not, I think, mention a sex worker, that is the inference which you (though not Christopher) have drawn from this.
            Of course it’s possible to have a one-night stand with someone you have known for a long time. Christopher is nearer the mark: I was thinking of a couple having sex before a battle, when they would otherwise have abstained until marriage.
            However, for complete clarity, I would not regard a soldier on the eve of battle having sex with a sex worker, as ‘sinful’.

          • If that’s the case then it’s hard to express the extent to which you don’t ‘get it’ – one aspect of which is your ignoring of the entire discussion we previously had over whether the expression ‘sex worker’ held water or was coherent.

            Pre-battle betrothed or pre-impending-death-of-terminally-ill betrothed are quite another ballgame, given that sex *is* marriage.

          • Hi Christopher

            I do, indeed, remember the entire discussion. Am I to infer that you thought your arguments persuasive or that you ‘won’? I didn’t find them so, and will continue to use the term sex workers.
            If you believe that sex constitutes marriage, then the soldier having sex with his girlfriend or with a sex worker is married. So, that’s OK then.

          • You know it is not OK. They are not married in advance but only by virtue of their union. A bad sort of marriage therefore, in the case of what you call the ‘SW’.

            This is a precious girl or lady we are talking about with a good future and destiny. You want to sell her the lie that this – of all things – is her continuing identity and calling. Talking about selling her short. You also secondly want to provide temptation for men who will thereby have their sexual histories mucked up with all the ramifications that will have for their own character and future unions and children and relatives.

            Aren’t those things obvious?

          • Of course it’s possible to have a one-night stand with someone you have known for a long time.

            That’s not what is generally meant by ‘one-night stand’.

            See:

            https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=one%20night%20stand

            ‘Hooking up with someone for one night of sex with no strings attached and hoping to never see them again. It is important not to exchange any personal info with them so they can’t track you down and stalk you later.’

            But thank you for clarifying. So am I safe to assume you would agree that a soldier, who was not betrothed to anyone, on the eve of battle having sex with a girl he had never met before and had no intention of ever meeting again would be immoral?

          • S
            I clarified what I meant by a one night stand. If my definition of it differs from the urban dictionary, so be it.
            I added, for complete clarity, that I would not regard a soldier having a one night stand with a sex worker on the eve of battle as ‘sinful’. What part of that statement are you finding it difficult to understand?

          • Christopher
            I have no idea what you mean by ‘this…is her continued identity and calling’. Are you suggesting that once a woman has a one night stand or loses her virginity, she is somehow spoiled? Or that she will decline into a life of incontinence?
            Likewise, why should a man losing his virginity, or having a one night stand have their sexual intimacy ‘mucked up’?

          • I clarified what I meant by a one night stand. If my definition of it differs from the urban dictionary, so be it.

            Indeed; but when you use a word or phrase in a non-standard way you can’t be surprised if people misinterpret you by assuming you meant the common definition. So thank you for clarifying.

            I added, for complete clarity, that I would not regard a soldier having a one night stand with a sex worker on the eve of battle as ‘sinful’. What part of that statement are you finding it difficult to understand?

            I want to get away from the spurious introduction of prostitution, which you didn’t originally intend and I didn’t assume.

            So for clarity I assume you’d agree that if a solider on the eve of battle met a girl — not a prostitute — that he had never met in a bar and they had sex, never intending to see each other again, that that would be immoral?

          • Likewise, why should a man losing his virginity, or having a one night stand have their sexual intimacy ‘mucked up’?

            Because he can no longer have a sex life of lifelong monogamy, as is proper, obviously.

          • S

            Goodness, what nitpicking! You may take it that I would argue that a soldier having sex with a single woman on the eve of battle, whether he had known her from childhood, for only a few weeks or days, had just met her in a bar, or paid her for her services, would not be immoral.
            Can you think of any more hypothetical examples?
            A person may have many one-night stands and/or affairs and then go on to a lifetime of faithful monogamy. Why would you think this impossible?

          • If you check, you will see it was of the SW example that I was speaking.

            However, your perspective is that if something is merely *possible* then that is fine. Things can be *possible* even if 99% of the time they are not actual. It is possible that someone whose faithfulness is non-existent becomes a faithful person (almost anything is *possible*), but they do not have the foundation to do so which is probably why that sort of life-story is such a rare one.

            Quantity of pre-16 sexual partners is related to annual quantity subsequently. See What Are They Teaching The Children? The root (early-life behaviour) is liable to determine, to a large degree, subsequent fruit (subsequent behaviour) – as ever.

          • Christopher
            I do not know what you mean by SW example. Perhaps I am being dense.
            But I really don’t know from where you dredged up your pre 16 statistics. Did I specify at what age my hypothetical persons might have lost their virginity (such an interesting construct don’t you think?) or embarked upon love affairs and yet gone on to have happy and successful marriages?

          • Both hypothetical and actual people will do all kinds of things in a world of 7.5 billion people – but you present the doings of a small minority of them as though they were the entire picture, or the only part of the entire picture to which we need to notice (says who?). Is that because the large majority of the reality produces a different outcome?

            Yes, there may be (in fact, is) a small minority that behave the way you suggest. Of what relevance is that when you have not got to the stage of commenting on anyone outside the small minority?

            There are all kinds of alternative small minorities that could be singled out, and it does not take much to guess why you privileged this particular one and ignored the others; that is even before we get onto your ignoring of the larger groupings whose early behaviour affects their later behaviour as roots affect a tree.

            SW refers to your ‘sex worker’ idea. *What* is an interesting construct? Within a life of 70-90 years there are only a few watershed moments that most people have in common.

          • Goodness, what nitpicking! You may take it that I would argue that a soldier having sex with a single woman on the eve of battle, whether he had known her from childhood, for only a few weeks or days, had just met her in a bar, or paid her for her services, would not be immoral.
            Can you think of any more hypothetical examples?

            Okay. So that’s an example of a one-night stand that you think is not immoral. Now, I believe in the past you have indicated that you believe some one-night stands are immoral.

            So could you please explain what it is that makes the not-immoral one-night stand you have described there different, morally, from one night stands that are immoral?

            Basically: what are the criteria you think are relevant in determining whether a particular one-night stand is moral or not?

            I’m not after a complete classification of all one-night stands, but we have one example you think is definitely not immoral, and presumably you can come up with an example that definitely is immoral, so we have one clear example of black and one clear example of white, without any of the things which might be in the grey area.

            So please explain what the moral distinction is that makes this one-night stand immoral and that one not immoral?

            (This is, as I wrote, quite important to know for anyone considering having a one-night stand who wants to make sure they are behaving morally).

            A person may have many one-night stands and/or affairs and then go on to a lifetime of faithful monogamy. Why would you think this impossible?

            It can’t possibly be a whole lifetime of faithful monogamy, can it, if they’ve had one-night stands or affairs? Because by definition then they will have had more than one sexual partner in their lifetime, ie, not lifelong faithful monogamy.

          • S

            I think you’re playing games, but I will treat your question seriously.
            I don’t think anyone needs my guidance on sexual ethics. But for the sake of clarity:
            I think most one-night stands that are not due to some extreme exigency – such as impending death – are, probably, immoral. I say ‘probably’ because I cannot ever entirely know or understand someone’s motives. But, casual sex is not ethical and probably not healthy.

            One can embark on a life of lifelong monogamy after having one-night stands and/orclove affairs. Many people do.

          • Christopher
            How foolish of me. My husband always says that I can’t think laterally. Of course, SW is sex worker!
            But I don’t really understand the rest of your comment. Who or what is the small minority and the large majority? Are you suggesting that people who have sexual relationships before marriage are in a small minority? Surely not, in the west and the so-called developed world?
            The odd concept to which I referred is virginity. Strange that it can be ‘lost’. What is loss?

          • I think most one-night stands that are not due to some extreme exigency – such as impending death – are, probably, immoral.

            Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. So my next question is: why does impending death make a difference? If something is immoral when your death isn’t impending, why do you think that it can become not immoral simply because death is impending?

            One can embark on a life of lifelong monogamy after having one-night stands and/orclove affairs. Many people do.

            No one can’t. Because ‘lifelong’ means ‘lifelong’, not ‘lifelong, starting now’.

            I mean would you say that Charles Manson was a ‘lifelong non-murderer’ because after doing all those murders and ending up in prison he embarked on a life of not murdering anybody else? Of course not. Once you have done a murder you can no longer ever again claim to be a ‘lifelong non-murderer’. Similarly once you have had sex with more than one person you can no longer claim to have been monogamous for your lifetime.

          • S

            You may be getting somewhere. I’m just getting tired of your trivial questions.
            My example is a case of situation ethics. And no, I do not want to have a long conversation about the evils of situation ethics.
            A bit difficult to adhere to your definition of lifelong monogamy, since one cannot marry until the age of consent and may remarry after death or divorce.

          • You may be getting somewhere. I’m just getting tired of your trivial questions.

            You have no good answer, in other words.

            My example is a case of situation ethics. And no, I do not want to have a long conversation about the evils of situation ethics.

            We don’t need a long conversation about the evils of situation ethics. I just want to know what advice you would give to someone considering having a one-night stand who came to you to ask what factors they should take into account to be sure they were acting morally, and to justify why those factors are relevant.

            You have given one such factor already: you would tell such a questioner that the one-night stand they were considering would not be immoral if they or their partner were facing impending death.

            So I am asking for your reasoning behind why you think that is a relevant factor. Because it doesn’t seem very relevant to me. If anything I would think that when facing impending death one should be even more concerned about one’s standards, not relax them. So why do you disagree? What would you say to the person who had come to you for advice about whether their one-night stand would be moral to convince them that impending death should make a difference in their moral calculations, if they were skeptical?

            A bit difficult to adhere to your definition of lifelong monogamy, since one cannot marry until the age of consent and may remarry after death or divorce.

            It’s perfectly easy to stick to my definition of lifelong monogamy. One simply has to not have sex with more than one person in one’s life. This is hardly difficult.

          • S

            I don’t tend to give people advice on sexual ethics. They don’t ask for it. And it’s not my place to give it.
            So, presumably you don’t believe in remarriage after the death of a spouse?

          • I don’t tend to give people advice on sexual ethics. They don’t ask for it. And it’s not my place to give it.

            But you clearly do have views on when sexual acts are immoral and when they aren’t (because you’ve given examples). So if someone did come to you asking your advice, would it not be unfair of you not to give it? After all, by refusing to help them you might cause them to act immorally where, if you had explained to them, you could have saved them form committing an immoral act.

            So, given you have these views on when sexual acts are moral and when they are immoral, could you explain why you think impending death is a relevant moral consideration? Because I really can’t for the life of me (ha ha) see why it should be. But you seem convinced it is. Why?

            So, presumably you don’t believe in remarriage after the death of a spouse?

            I think one oughtn’t to remarry after one’s spouse is dead, indeed. I think the Biblical allowances for doing so were because of a culture where widows were not otherwise taken care of, and are unnecessary now that widows, like widowers, can survive independently.

          • S

            I told you – situation ethics.

            Why on earth do you think abstinence after a spouse’s death is a moral imperative? Not very biblical. Even Paul allowed it.

          • So the wedding day and night which is such a key moment that all the past leads to it and all the future leads from it – you find no significance in it and your only response to those billions who do is a philosophical obfuscation and a no comprendo. This gulf between ultimate significance and no significance nor understanding – it is a large gulf. But I think deep down you do find significance in what most people find significance in.

          • Christopher

            What is the significance of a wedding night?
            If the couple are already living together?
            If they are not?
            Bloodied sheets?
            Why is this significant, in a society where a woman is not an object to be owned?

          • I told you – situation ethics.

            Even situation ethicists require some principles by which they guide their actions. You have agreed as much previously by saying that you regard, for example, injustice as immoral. So in any situation you judge what course of actions by seeing what, in that situation, would cause injustice, and you say that is immoral. That’s how situational ethics works.

            And you have said in this particular circumstance that you regard impending death as a morally relevant consideration. Presumably you don’t see other situational factors, like ‘feeling horny’ as morally significant.

            So my question to you is: in your situational ethics, why do you see the situational factor of impending death as morally relevant to this question when other situational factors are not morally relevant?

          • And my question to you was what is immoral about marriage after the death of a spouse?

          • And my question to you was what is immoral about marriage after the death of a spouse?

            I’ve been asking my question for many months now, so how about you answer it rather than trying to derail the conversation?

            If you have an answer that is.

          • S
            I’ve already explained. Situation ethics. The likelihood of impending death makes what might otherwise be an immoral action, a moral choice. Others seem able to grasp this. There is no way to generalise this, otherwise it wouldn’t be situational.
            Now answer my question.

          • The likelihood of impending death makes what might otherwise be an immoral action, a moral choice.

            Yes I know that’s what you think, but why? What is it about impending death that changes the moral quality of the action?

            It’s as if you’d claimed that, say, a one-night stand was okay if it was on your birthday, and when I asked what the moral relevance was of one’s birthday you’d just said, ‘situation ethics, that’s why’.

            What is the morally relevant difference between impending death, and one’s birthday, that makes one an excuse that makes a one-night stand not immoral and one not such an excuse?

          • S

            You believe, or seem to, that conversation about ethics and sexual morality is about catching the other out, instead of being enlightening or informative.
            Stop playing games. It’s not grown up and it probably isn’t Christian.
            You could easily infer my reasoning. But you prefer to interrogate in the hope you will ‘catch me out’. Which you may. Who is always consistent in their reasoning?
            Look at it this way: I am to be executed tomorrow. I am allowed to choose my last supper. Now I know foie gras is farmed cruelly. But I love it and I am to die tomorrow. So I order foie gras and a bottle of Chateau du Layon.

            You still haven’t answered my question.

          • You believe, or seem to, that conversation about ethics and sexual morality is about catching the other out, instead of being enlightening or informative.

            No; I believe it is about finding the truth. The way to find the truth is to rigorously attack every idea to expose its weaknesses. Same as scientists find the truth by testing their theories to destruction by coming up with experiments to expose whether they are false.

            You could easily infer my reasoning.

            But whenever I try to infer your reasoning I always turn out to be wrong and we end up talking at cross purposes, which is very frustrating. So I clearly am very bad at thinking myself into your mind.

            So to avoid misunderstandings could you explain please your reasoning?

            Look at it this way: I am to be executed tomorrow. I am allowed to choose my last supper. Now I know foie gras is farmed cruelly. But I love it and I am to die tomorrow. So I order foie gras and a bottle of Chateau du Layon.

            And you think that would be moral to do whereas it would have been immoral for you to eat foie gras if you weren’t going to be executed tomorrow? Again, I don’t see what the moral difference is.

            I mean I can see why you might say, ‘if I’m going to die tomorrow I don’t care about being moral, I will just act immorally’. That’s understandable. It would still be immoral but I could sympathise with acting immorally in that situation.

            But that’s not the issue. You didn’t say that a one-night in the face of impending death was immoral, but understandable. You said it was not immoral in that circumstance. And I still can’t see how your reasoning goes that makes something immoral become not immoral simply because of the impending death.

            So because I don’t want to make assumptions and misunderstand you, could you explain your reasoning?

          • It would still be immoral but I could sympathise with acting immorally in that situation.

            I mean, I might even do that myself in that situation. If I knew I were to die tomorrow.

            But I would still be acting immorally and I would still condemn myself for doing so (even as I did whatever it was).

            So I can understand why you might do it but what I don’t understand is why you think that makes it not immoral.

          • S

            True, it’s an analogy. Which isn’t an exact equivalent.
            Eating foie gras might still be wrong, even on the eve of death, if one believes that farming geese and ducks for their livers is cruel.

            The difference between this and the one-night stand is that what could be a moment of sin, or selfishness, or cruelty can become a means of grace: an expression of love, generosity, vulnerability, and unselfishness.

          • Penelope, your reply is the saddest and (even to a non-depressive) most depressing thing I have read in a long time.

            The difference between the shy anticipation of one couple on the big day and the bored and jaded we’ve-seen-it-all-before-and-didn’t-wait-to-unwrap-our-presents-thereby-killing-the-magic is a whole universe.

            Is it true that people really cannot see that?

          • Christopher

            The difference between a shy couple might be frigidity and failure – have you read On Chesil Beach?
            Whilst the more experienced couple who have lived together before the ‘big day’ may relax in the anticipation of conjugal, practised bliss.

          • Hi Penny

            Situation ethics? Impossible to define, and infinitely complex, which is exactly how some people like it. Because then they can claim to be ethical whatever they are doing, and what they are doing may well be purely pleasure oriented.

            If you speak of situation ethics as though you were speaking of something clear, you are wrong. Whereas if you realise it is unclear it becomes impossible to use the phrase.

            Chesil Beach – very much the narrative we are supposed to believe. The somewhat amoral novelist has duped you into taking some random instance as normative. But the good thing is that whoever gets married has decades ahead of them.

            You concentrate on individual couplings. There is no such thing. They redefine who one is and create soul ties. They are all in context, and confusion earlier is the best way of ruining stability later not just for yourself but for all your loved ones too.

          • True, it’s an analogy. Which isn’t an exact equivalent.
            Eating foie gras might still be wrong, even on the eve of death, if one believes that farming geese and ducks for their livers is cruel.

            Right. Exactly. So if a one-night stand is wrong then it is still wrong on the eve of dearth, just like eating foie gras, unless there is some morally relevant consideration.

            The difference between this and the one-night stand is that what could be a moment of sin, or selfishness, or cruelty can become a means of grace: an expression of love, generosity, vulnerability, and unselfishness.

            Could you explain? I’m not following you. So far what you have said is that a one-night stand that would normally be immoral is instead moral if performed on the eve of impending death. I asked what was the relevant moral difference between doing it not on the eve of death and doing it on the eve of impending death, and you relied with the analogy of the foie gras which it seems does not prove what you want it to prove and you now say does not in fact apply.

            So are we agreed that we forget the foie gras analogy? So you still need to provide a morally relevant difference between the one-night stand on on the eve of impending death and on the eve of impending death.

            So could you explain precisely — not in woolly terms — what that morally relevant difference is please? What precisely makes something an ‘expression of love, generosity, vulnerability, and unselfishness’ that is lacking in the one-night stand not on the eve of impending death that is present on the eve of impending death and how exactly is it morally relevant?

          • S

            If you cannot understand how an act of sexual intimacy can become a means of grace, a moment of generosity and unselfishness, an exchange of love and a gift, then I am afraid I am unable to explain it to you.

          • Hi Christopher

            I don’t see the sexual intimacy before the wedding instance as an example of situation ethics.
            I offered Chesil Beach as an example of what can and often does go wrong when the couple are virgins on the wedding night. I do not think McKewan (spelling?) is a good novelist, but I wouldn’t call him amoral.
            And I don’t believe in ‘soul ties’.

          • If you cannot understand how an act of sexual intimacy can become a means of grace, a moment of generosity and unselfishness, an exchange of love and a gift, then I am afraid I am unable to explain it to you.

            No, I can’t understand what it is about impending death that makes ‘an act of sexual intimacy […] a means of grace, a moment of generosity and unselfishness, an exchange of love and a gift’.

            Remember, your claim is that the proximity of impending death is what makes the moral difference between a one-night stand that is immoral and one that is not immoral.

            So according to you the only factor which is morally relevant — that makes the distinction between the two cases, immoral and not immoral — is that one takes place on the eve of an impending death and one doesn’t.

            (Or if you think there are actually more factors, but you haven’t mentioned them yet, then please spell them out).

            So therefore you are claiming that the thing which turns a one-night stand from an immoral to a not-immoral act — which makes it ‘a means of grace, a moment of generosity and unselfishness, an exchange of love and a gift’ — is the proximity of impending death.

            And I’m asking: how does that work? What is it about the proximity of impending death which has such a profound influence on the moral quality of an act?

            Especially as you’ve previously agreed that the proximity of impending death doesn’t always have such a profound moral impact (if eating foie gras were immoral then the proximity of impending death wouldn’t make it moral, according to you).

  32. “I cannot remember anyone ever saying ‘Oh, I see that that bishop votes Labour—I think I had better find out more about this person Jesus’.“

    So true. It just invites contempt. Willesden, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester are the worst offenders.

    Reply
  33. Ian,
    I was wondering if you have studied law as well as theology in the light of the presumption
    of innocence that appears to have been left a long way behind in all this? Article 6 of the ECHR clearly states, ‘Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law’. Whatever happened to the rule of law and, also, giving people the benefit of the doubt?

    Reply
    • Thanks David. No, I am not a lawyer, though I have friends who are and am drawing on their views.

      This isn’t a legal case; the only court is that of public opinion. But there is a widespread view that DC has breached at several points regulations that he was a part of forming, and as a close adviser to the PM, has a duty of solidarity to adhere to.

      His (at the very least) pushes things to the boundary or (more likely) seeing himself as not constrained by them cocks a snook to ordinary people who are in much more challenging situations than he is.

      Full Fact offers an objective assessment of the situation, which does not put DC in a good light.

      https://fullfact.org/health/dominic-cummings-lockdown-rules/

      Reply
      • Thanks David. No, I am not a lawyer, though I have friends who are and am drawing on their views.

        I hope when you do you are remembering that it is the very definition of the job of a lawyer to be able to argue convincingly either side of a case.

        This isn’t a legal case; the only court is that of public opinion. But there is a widespread view that DC has breached at several points regulations that he was a part of forming, and as a close adviser to the PM, has a duty of solidarity to adhere to.

        That a view is widespread doesn’t make it correct; such should be clear to a Christian in today’s world!

        His (at the very least) pushes things to the boundary or (more likely) seeing himself as not constrained by them cocks a snook to ordinary people who are in much more challenging situations than he is.

        From all the evidence so far he has (with the possible exception of the trip to the castle) acted precisely within the letter of the laws. This is unsurprising if he was involved in drawing them up and therefore knew better than most exactly what the limits of the law were, but it’s not like the letter of the law was hidden (as it would have been in earlier times) because anyone could have checked the law themselves on the government’s legislation website and then acted exactly as Cummings did, knowing themselves to be within the law.

        As someone put it quite well, ‘being informed is not a crime and ignorance does not give you the moral high ground.’

        There was definitely a failure in the government’s communications not making it clear that the guidelines were just that — guidelines — and were not binding. The only thing a government can expect people to follow is the law, not ‘guidelines’.

        Reply
        • It is a legal case and a question of the rule of law.
          As I’ve put it quite clearly, I believe, in comments above, it’s a question of law, distinguished from guidelines, of criminal law, the purpose of the legislation, the burden of proof and standard of proof as it applies to each individual case. It’s a question of actus reus (criminal) plus mens rea (criminal intent). To convict both are necessary to be proved, unless it is of strict liability, such as exceeding the speed limit , when intention to break the law isn’t necessary.
          This is simple, GCSE law.
          (And I’ll repeat, it is likely that Durham Police will have discussed this with the Crown Prosecution Service at a high DPP level, before making the statement, though I stand to be corrected.
          I doubt that Sir Keir Starmer in his former role as DPP would have decided differently.
          I find it quite disturbing that those who are otherwise intelligent, seem to be unable to recognised this, seemingly based on little other than a sense of grievance and political affiliation.
          Particularly I’d suggest reading the full statement from Durham Police:
          “On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.

          Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.

          Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.

          Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this, and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.”

          But, of course, no one will listen to a lawyer unless they are told what they want to hear. I know that as a former solicitor, who worked in criminal courts, as a defence legal aid practitioner and on other occasions as an agent of the Crown Prosecution Service.

          Reply
      • Thank you Ian.
        I wonder if you are drawing on the views of lawyers who would argue in his defence? This is the point of deciding things in a legal manner with proper procedure that enables a fair hearing.

        As far as ‘widespread views’ are concerned, why not classify this as ‘lynch mob’ or ‘mob rule’? This is indeed a legal case. The issue at stake is whether Cumming’s broke legal ‘regulations’. If this is not so, then why did you even draw on the views of lawyers?

        Reply
      • Ian
        I am puzzled by your comment that DC ‘pushes things to the boundary’ or ‘[is] (more likely) seeing himself as not constrained by them [the regulations].’

        Could you expand? In what sense is staying inside the law ‘pushing things to the boundary’? Is 29 mph cocking a snook at the law in a 30mph zone?

        Alternatively, what evidence do you have that he ‘more likely’ sees himself as ‘not constrained by’ regulations? That is a very sharp accusation to level at any public figure, and I am curious to know how you judge it to be likely. Are you deducing it from his action in driving to Durham, or from some other evidence?

        Reply
        • Ah, I have just glanced at the Church Times, and see that +David Walker claims that for society to protect itself against the virus, that means ‘not just keeping to the outer limits of the law; it means keeping to the spirit of the law’. Presumbably he feels the law was badly drafted and that what he regards as its outer limits are in fact dangerous if we are to keep the virus under control, and that each person must make their own mind up about the spirit of the law and keep to that (though we must not use our ‘instinct’ to do this)

          I am wondering, do you agree with +David – that Cummings can be fairly criticised even if he did keep the law? – because he was using its ‘outer limits’, and that is unacceptable?

          In which case, all findings of legality are irrelevant; all that matters to +David is +David’s view of the spirit of the law. Or in your case, your view.

          If you agree, you can of course withdraw your accusation that Cummings ‘more likely’ sees himself as ‘not constrained by regulations’. You can accept that he does seem himself as constrained by regulations, but that he broke some undefined spirit of the law.

          Do you agree with +David?

          I

          Reply
          • I’ve argued above that DC did comply with the spirit of the law.
            There is a need to identify what it is, before anything more can be said.
            Simply it is the purpose of the law, which I’ve said, was to control, contain , the risk and spread.
            From all I’ve read, most importantly from DC’s statement, which has the ring of truth to it, giving info about Barnard Castle is an example, DC did comply with the Spirit of the law.
            As guidelines are there to follow the principle, not to set or define the principle, they are to serve the principle, not replace it.
            While this has been looked at through the lens of criminal law, let’s consider civil law such as law,such as the law of torts, and with a generality that belies most of nuance, the tort of negligence, which has three main aspects, 1 duty ( is there a duty and if so to whom) 2 breach of duty ( standard or level care, competence) 3 damages (appropriate level and type of compensation for breach).
            For the sake of brevity, let’s accept DC has duty to his employer, to the Government, to the public.
            The next question is, was he in breach of that duty, what is the standard that is to be set? This is the nub of all the brouhaha.
            In negligence, it is (or should I say was, as I’m not up to date) that of a reasonable standard of a practitioner.
            Once again, I’d argue that DC was not in breach, for reasons set out in total in my comments, above, and more particularly fleshed out by Andrew Lincoln, which are particularly appropriate when considering DC in the light of the law of torts, negligence and breach.
            The rest is a political decision, which is what what rankles a lot of folk.
            And, if I may add, complaints against the Chief Constable of Durham, and against Durham’s acting Police and Crime Commissioner who seems to have asked to a police investigation into DC.
            The church should stay out of law and politics.
            Lawyers do in their day jobs!!?? They don’t make the law?

  34. I notice that the Full Fact assessment quotes the word ‘should’ in the guidelines, which differs significantly from the word ‘must’. How a person would understand the difference between these two concepts could vary greatly. Also, Full Fact employs the words ‘It appears that…’, which is hardly a conclusive statement. It seems to me that we find what we seek when we survey the guidelines. Without a legal ruling, are we not simply right in our own eyes?

    Reply
  35. The trouble with the “court of public opinion” in this case is that is informed by what they glean from the media. How many people actually watched DC’s full explanation of his conduct? The media are overwhelmingly hostile to DC because, as well as his role in Brexit, he has made very congruous remarks about the media. Reporters and commentators don’t have to be left-wing to hate DC. I have been very struck by reporting of the result of the Durham police’s investigation. Mostly (Nick Watt is an honourable exception) reports have ignored the fact that the statement said he did not breach rules by relocating to Durham and reported only that he did by driving to Barnard Castle (and often without the qualification that this was only a minor breach). Now some of them are saying that even if DC didn’t do anything wrong, Boris should sack him because public opinion requires it, ignoring the fact that the media have largely created that public opinion. Constantly saying that people will not take the rules seriously if DC isn’t sacked is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, if people keep hearing that from the media they will cite DC as an excuse for their own inclination to break the rules. Finally, the Barnard Castle trip is the same kind of bending of rules (if it was) that a huge number of ordinary people have also done. So public fury of the “one rule for him, another for us” variety should not apply.
    A very good reason why Boris should not sack DC is that the media, with its own grubby reasons for this campaign, should not be allowed to win.

    Reply
  36. Curious to read today that the witness who claimed to see DC in Durham made it up and altered the app on his phone to make it look as if DC was there at a different time.

    Waiting to see how many of the journos who were so keen to point out his faults will pick this up and set the record straight..

    Reply
    • When journo crowd around DC like a scrum, restricting his movement, shoving cameras n recorders in his face – standing not 2 meters away but 2 feet away -are they breaking the spirit of the lockdown law?

      Reply
    • Yes, Nick Baines and Pete Broadbent have commented. You can find their comments just after their tweets calling for Rosie Duffield MP and Stephen Kinnock MP to resign from Parliament for breaching the lockdown.

      Reply
  37. Methinks some protest too much. The storm ain’t necessarily from where it’s said to be from.
    1. Congratulations to Ian on a blog that has changed some alliances among commenters.
    2. Whether Dominic Cummings broke the law or not is peripheral to the anger he stirred up. In the government’s own words “Stay at home” was not “advice” but an “instruction” and many people took it seriously.
    3. ‘Lockdown’ and ‘Stay home’ may not have been the best possible policy but may well prove to be a redeeming feature of this government’s response to the crisis.
    4. Without condoning sin of any kind Jesus’ strongest language seems to have been directed at abuses of power rather than e.g. sexual transgressions.
    5. Has anyone said what allegations made against Cummings were “false”? Whether he broke the rules is disputed, which is not the same thing.
    6. The brutality of a number of American police officers seems to have been a great political gift to a government sacrificing the trust of its people.

    Reply
    • Your protests don’t make sense, Steve.
      #2 “Whether Dominic Cummings broke the law” is ENTIRELY the issue and to say he “stirred up anger” is a grotesque way of looking at things. The fact that the police said he did NOT break the law should be the end of the matter. Have you condemned the mob camped outside his home? Anger is as much a reflection of the people who get angry, it shows what is in their hearts.
      #4 A quick lexical search of the New Testament will answer your question about where Jesus’ “strongest language” was directed. “Abuse of power” was not one of them.
      #5 Yes, the claim that he went to Durham twice was a lie that an enemy of Cummings told and many believed and repeated.
      # 6 What has that to do with this?

      Reply
  38. Steve – thanks for your summary – Cant agree with ‘4. Without condoning sin of any kind Jesus’ strongest language seems to have been directed at abuses of power rather than e.g. sexual transgressions.’

    Jesus elevated Moses law by making lust the same as adultery – Jesus commanded the woman caught in adultery to ‘leave your life of sin’. Jesus of course was speaking through Paul in Romans1 when sexual immorality is on two archetypal sins, 1Cor6 where Paul is particular against sexual sin as being against the body and of course Gal5 where sexual immorality is the first in the catalogue of sins and 4 of the 9 sins of the flesh are sexual. I would be careful to avoid making a hierarchy of sin, but it seems Jesus speaking through Paul puts sexual immorality and idolatry at the head of the list. Penelope above is blaze to what the Bible considers serious and sinful.

    Reply
    • I can’t find “abuse of power” in the list of sins that Jesus condemned (perhaps it’s there somewhere under a different name), but a quick check of the NT shows he does have a great deal to say about: lust, marital unfaithfulness, envy, faithlessness toward God, reviling speech, greed, obsession with wealth, an unforgiving spirit, hypocrisy, anger, sloth etc.
      To imagine that Jesus thought sexual sin a trivial matter shows woeful ignorance of the New Testament and is to create a Jesus of one’s own imagination – as someone said, “to look 19 [now 20] centuries down a well to see your own reflection.”

      Reply
        • Penelope – come on – you are playing semantic games here
          your sexual ethics are not those of the Bible
          you trivialise and justify what the Bible condemns

          Reply
          • Simon

            How very rude. I have never condoned adultery, incest, paedophilia or promiscuity. I do not trivialise and justify what the Bible condemns. You may disagree with what you would no doubt call some of my more liberal ethics. That is your right, but you have no right to tell me that I am playing semantic games.

          • How very rude. I have never condoned adultery,

            You’ve condoned remarriage after divorce, haven’t you? So you’ve condoned adultery.

            incest, paedophilia or promiscuity.

            And you’ve condoned one-night stands, so you’ve condoned promiscuity and fornication.

            I do not trivialise and justify what the Bible condemns.

            So yes you do: you trivialise and justify adultery (in the context of remarriage) and fornication, both of which the Bible condemns.

          • S

            Ah, but I am a ‘member’ of the Church of England which recognises the remarriage of divorcees. So I do not condone adultery.
            You may have a different definition of aduktery, I see below that you do not consider the Matthean exception, nor Paul’s views on divorce. Fine, it’s not mine.
            Nor do I condone promiscuity or fornication. People who live together before the wedding (most Christians in the west) are, of course, already married in the sight of God.

          • Ah, but I am a ‘member’ of the Church of England which recognises the remarriage of divorcees. So I do not condone adultery.

            Yes you do, you just hide behind your denomination’s condoning of adultery.

            Nor do I condone promiscuity or fornication. People who live together before the wedding (most Christians in the west) are, of course, already married in the sight of God.

            So you would agree that someone who lives together with someone, then leaves them and lives with someone else, then leaves them and lives with someone else, and then leaves them and lives with someone else, and then leaves them and lives with someone else, and then leaves them and lives with someone else, and then leaves them and lives with someone else, who they then marry, is promiscuous and therefore behaving immorally?

            (I would agree with you that a couple who live together before getting married are not behaving immorally provided neither of them has ever had sex with anyone else and neither of them ever has sex with anyone else until they die, because they are then practising lifelong faithful monogamy. But if either of them has ever had sex with anyone else then they are not practising lifelong faithful monogamy and are therefore behaving immorally.)

          • No S
            I simply don’t agree with your definition of adultery.
            Some people live with the person whom they will ‘marry’ in an entirely exclusive relationship, i.e. neither had any sexual experience before they met. This is very rare in the west, even among Christians. But much to be admired. Perhaps.
            Others have several affairs or even a marriage before they find faithful, monogamy. You may judge them. I’m certainly not going to.

          • Some people live with the person whom they will ‘marry’ in an entirely exclusive relationship, i.e. neither had any sexual experience before they met. This is very rare in the west, even among Christians. But much to be admired. Perhaps.

            Moral behaviour is very rare, yes, and immoral behaviour very common.

            Others have several affairs or even a marriage before they find faithful, monogamy. You may judge them. I’m certainly not going to.

            So you do not think the person who lives with many others, sequentially, is behaving promiscuously, and therefore immorally? Good grief. What is your definition of ‘promiscuous’ then? You’ve said you agree promiscuity is immoral so you must have a definition of what it means.

          • S
            I said I wouldn’t judge them. Sequential monogamy is common. It always has been.
            Promiscuity is the practice of indulging in sexual activity frequently with different partners. That is not serial monogamy.

          • But Penelope, you do justify what the Bible condemns

            It specifically condemns fornication = sex outside marriage (whihc presumably includes one night stands you think morally ok)

            It specifically condemns sex with prostitutes which you have stated is not sinful

          • Simon

            I doubt your, and others, arguing with me here, exegetical skills.
            I wrote that couples living faithfully together before the wedding are married in the sight of God. Not fornication.
            I wrote of one case of a one-night stand which I would regard as not immoral. One specific example.
            I wrote of people having love affairs. I did not argue that these are moral. I wrote thatnitbus not my place to judge. I believe that reticence is biblical.

          • I said I wouldn’t judge them. Sequential monogamy is common. It always has been.

            Yes — immorality is and always has been much more common than morality.

            Promiscuity is the practice of indulging in sexual activity frequently with different partners. That is not serial monogamy.

            How frequently? If someone changes partners every week, is that promiscuity? Every month? Every year? Every decade? Is there a ‘promiscuous / non-promiscuous’ cut-off, in which case where is it and why, or is it just a continuum where (as I would say) those are all just different degrees of promiscuity?

          • I wrote of one case of a one-night stand which I would regard as not immoral. One specific example.

            But God — at least the God of the scriptures — regards all fornication as immoral. Not ‘fornication except in the face of impending death’ — all fornication.

            People who want to claim that God is okay with remarriage after divorce in some circumstances can at least point to Matthew. But there is no scriptural basis at all for an exemption to God’s view that all fornication is immoral, certainly not one for ‘it’s okay if one of the parties is about to go off to war or otherwise faces impending death’.

            So you have, right there, attempted to justify something that the God of the scriptures regards as immoral, haven’t you?

          • The God of the scriptures gives general rules but then treats everyone who comes to him as an exception. Read the story of the woman caught in adultery …. what is it Jesus says ..”neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more…”

          • S
            I told you, it’s not up to me to judge.
            That is for the God of the Bible.
            As Andrew says, God is a God of surprises. Romans 8.34ff

          • The God of the scriptures gives general rules but then treats everyone who comes to him as an exception.

            Which makes no sense: if everyone is treated as an exception then ‘treat everyone as an exception’ is a general rule and there can be no general rules, not even that one.

            It’s like claiming that there are no universal truths: that can’t be true because if it were then ‘there are no universal truths’ would itself be false because it is a universal truth.

            So you are talking rubbish there.

          • We’ve been round this conversation before S. You were wrong then and you are still wrong now. No point in going over it all again.

          • We’ve been round this conversation before S. You were wrong then and you are still wrong now

            Well, let’s put it this way. If God treats everyone as an exception, then nothign can be immoral because everything is an exception.

            However Penelope has stated that certain things are immoral, such as promiscuity.

            So Penelope cannot agree that everyone should be treated as an exception, because then she would have to treat every promiscuous (in her terms) person as an exception to the general rule ‘promiscuity is immoral’ and therefore she would have to say that promiscuity was not in fact immoral.

            So while you might be able to claim that everyone should be treated as an exception, Penelope can’t, at least, not if she wants to maintain that some things, like promiscuity, actually are immoral.

            So Penelope: either you say you don’t think promiscuity really is immoral (because all promiscuous people are treated as exceptions to the general rule that promiscuity is immoral) or you admit that you have said that fornication is not immoral in some circumstances even though God holds it to be immoral in all circumstances.

            Either way you have been caught out in justifying something that God has condemned, haven’t you? You’ve justified either promiscuity or fornication, both of which God condemns.

          • So, when Jesus says ‘Neither do I condemn you’, you think Jesus was talking rubbish as well? Or is that bit just more ‘scene setting’?

          • S
            I’ve told you I don’t take it upon myself to judge.
            That is for the God of the Bible.
            Who is a God of surprises.
            And from whose love we cannot be separated – Romans 8.34ff

          • I’ve told you I don’t take it upon myself to judge.

            So you don’t think promiscuity is immoral then? But above I thought you said you did? Which is it, you do or you don’t? Do you take it upon yourself to judge the promiscuous and say that what they are doing is immoral, or don’t you?

          • S

            As you have demonstrated, you do not understand Andrew’s point about exceptions.
            Yes, I believe promiscuity is immoral. No I could not condemn most individual cases of promiscuity because, like Elizabeth I, I do not make windows into men’s [sic] souls.
            There are obvious, public cases of sins whether sexual or not, which I would condemn, and do.
            But it is still not my place to judge the individuals involved. That would be to usurp God’s place. And between the stirrup and the ground…

          • As you have demonstrated, you do not understand Andrew’s point about exceptions.

            Then perhaps he should explain it more clearly.

            Yes, I believe promiscuity is immoral. No I could not condemn most individual cases of promiscuity because, like Elizabeth I, I do not make windows into men’s [sic] souls.

            I don’t understand what you mean by ‘condemn’ then. If you think promiscuity is immoral, and someone is acting promiscuously, then how have you not ‘condemned’ them?

            If I think rape is immoral then I have condemned all rapists, even if I have never, to the best of my knowledge, met a rapist, haven’t I? It make no sense to say ‘I think rape is immoral but I do not condemn most individual rapists’. I have condemned them simply by virtue of thinking that what they have done is immoral.

            But this is tangential to the point, which is…

            There are obvious, public cases of sins whether sexual or not, which I would condemn, and do.

            … right, so you condemn certain sins. But you do not condemn fornication in the face of impending death. The God of the scripture condemns all fornication, whether in the face of impending death or not. Therefore you justify what God condemns.

            That is the inevitable conclusion unless you want to claim that either (a) you don’t justify fornication in the face of impending death (but you have pretty much nailed your colours to the mast on that one) or (b) the God of scripture makes exceptions in His condemnation of fornication for ‘on the face of impending death’ (in which case please present your evidence).

          • S

            Rape is very poor analogy. Rape is always, without exception, immoral and sinful.
            Consensual sexual activity is sometimes moral and sometimes immoral.

            You claim that the God of the Bible condemns fornication in all instances.
            1) what is fornication?
            2) how do you know that She condemns ‘fornication’ in all instances, without exception?

          • Rape is very poor analogy. Rape is always, without exception, immoral and sinful.
            Consensual sexual activity is sometimes moral and sometimes immoral.

            Rape is a very good example of sexual activity that is sinful (because it is non-consensual). Fornication is another example of sexual activity which is sinful (because it is outside marriage).

            In order to not be sinful sexual activity must be, among other things, within marriage (so consensual fornication is immoral) and consensual (so rape within marriage is immoral).

            Or in other words, both consensus and marriage are necessary, but not individually sufficient, conditions for sexual activity to be moral.

            You claim that the God of the Bible condemns fornication in all instances.
            1) what is fornication?

            Sexual activity outside marriage.

            2) how do you know that [H]e condemns ‘fornication’ in all instances, without exception?

            Um because any time sexual activity outside marriage is mentioned in the Bible it is specified as sinful?

          • Why do you believe that all sexual intimacy outside marriage is fornication?

            OED: ‘fornication, n. […] Voluntary sexual intercourse between a man (in restricted use, an unmarried man) and an unmarried woman. In Scripture extended to adultery.’

          • S

            And the word in Greek is porneia which does not necessarily equate to the word fornication.

          • Penelope

            [“why do you believe all sex outside of marriage is fornication’? ]
            because fornication is a synonym for sex outside marriage – it is the basic interpretation of Porneia and is condemned in Scripture – see BDAG

            [“I have never written sex with sex workers is morally OK”]
            Really, but did you not state sex with a sex worker is ‘not sinful’ – which is a synonym for moral, thus you wrote that sex with prostitutes is morally ok

            You criticise our exegetical skills whilst you create a sexual ethic that flies in the face of the Bible – and for good measure you call God She – who is that, certainly not Yahweh? The only she gods in the Bible are the Asherim.

            I never quite know whether you are teasing or working out what you think through dialetical argument or in fact believe this stuff.

          • “…and for good measure you call God She – who is that, certainly not Yahweh? ”

            Come off it simon. You must be aware of the long tradition around this. As Stephen Tomkins has written:

            The Christian Church has always had a bit of a problem with God’s gender. He doesn’t have one, but – as that statement demonstrates – it’s hard to talk about God without giving God a gender. To talk about God we have to call God something, and avoiding pronouns altogether is cumbersome, as I’ve just demonstrated again. “It” seems a bit rude, talking as if God was an impersonal force like gravity or inflation. So God has to be “He” or “She”, and in a patriarchal society there’s no contest. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “God is neither man nor woman: he is God”.

            Other Christian groups have gone further than this though. A church in third-century Syria seems to have been in the habit of praying to the Holy Spirit in female terms. One of their holy books, the Acts of Thomas, tells of St Thomas presiding over a communion service, and calling on the Holy Spirit, saying: “Come, she that manifests the hidden things and makes the unspeakable things plain, the holy dove that bears the twin young. Come, the hidden mother… Come and communicate with us in this eucharist”
            Though this was a long way from the outlook of the established Church, Christian writing that is entirely accepted by the Church has also seen a feminine side to God. Julian of Norwich – an English recluse – in her 14th-Century Revelations of Divine Love says: “Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother”. She talks about “our precious mother, Jesus”. She speaks of the Trinity, usually described as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in these terms: “Our Father desires, our Mother operates and our good Lord the Holy Ghost confirms”.

            St Anselm, the 11th-century Archbishop of Canterbury, prayed to “Christ, my mother” and called God “the great mother”. St John Chrysostom called Christ our “friend, and member, and head, and brother, and sister, and mother”.

            Penny will argue – and I totally agree with her – that it is a strand of our tradition and if it was ok for Anselm and Julian, then it’s ok for us. Calling God by exclusively male terms is just as bad as using exclusively female ones. Neither describe God adequately, but are helpful to us rather than descriptive of God.

        • “As you have demonstrated, you do not understand Andrew’s point about exceptions.
          Then perhaps he should explain it more clearly.”

          I explained it very clearly on another thread. Nothing more to be said.
          What you haven’t done is answered my question about whether you think Jesus was talking rubbish when he said to the woman caught in adultery ‘Neither do I condemn you’.

          If you don’t think he was talking rubbish, why was he not condemning adultery? After all, it’s a pretty clear commandment isn’t it?

          Reply
          • What you haven’t done is answered my question about whether you think Jesus was talking rubbish when he said to the woman caught in adultery ‘Neither do I condemn you’.

            If you don’t think he was talking rubbish, why was he not condemning adultery? After all, it’s a pretty clear commandment isn’t it?

            I assume you mean ‘why was he not condoning adultery’ and the answer is that he then tells her to ‘go and sin no more’; ie, he reiterates that the way she has been living is sinful and she should not return to it.

            To condone her adultery would be to say, ‘Neither do I then condemn you, because there is nothing to condemn; your life is not sinful and you may return to it.’

            Instead Jesus condemns her adultery by warning her not to return to her life of sin.

          • Um no. Jesus says “Neither do I CONDEMN you”. What did he mean by those words do you think?

          • Jesus says “Neither do I CONDEMN you”. What did he mean by those words do you think?

            That he wasn’t going to carry out the sentence of stoning. That is not at all the same as saying she hadn’t done anything wrong; she clearly had, she knew she had, and Jesus emphasises that she had when he warns her not to go back to her life of sin.

            What Jesus does is the equivalent of granting a pardon: he commutes her sentence, but he does not remove the conviction. She is still guilty and what she did was still wrong; she just isn’t going to be punished for it.

          • So in other words, he recognises the general rule, but treats her as an exception.
            See? You did understand.

          • So in other words, he recognises the general rule, but treats her as an exception.

            No, he doesn’t treat her as an exception. He points out that her adultery was sinful, just as the general rule states, and tells her not to return to it.

            An exception would be if Jesus said, ‘I know that normally adultery is sinful, but in your case, your husband was abusive, so what you did was okay.’

            He doesn’t. He reminds her that her behaviour was sinful and warns her not to repeat it.

            No exception is made.

          • Of course an exception is made! The general rule was that she should be stoned! Jesus was clear that the rule did not apply.

          • Andrew – it was an act of mercy and of divinity – the rule did still apply – Jesus was clear he was the one who could break or make the rules – but the rules were not negated

          • “Andrew – it was an act of mercy and of divinity “
            Exactly. Your whole post supports my point. There are general rules but in his mercy and divinity God treats us an exception.
            Or are you one of those who still thinks that adulterers should be stoned?

          • Of course an exception is made! The general rule was that she should be stoned! Jesus was clear that the rule did not apply.

            The general rule was that adultery is sinful. Jesus does not make an exception. He confirms that what she did was sinful and he tells her not to do it again.

          • The rule was that she should be stoned. That’s the reason the pharisees brought her to Jesus, to ask him exactly about that. He doesn’t say anything about adultery to them. He says ‘who is going to cast the first stone then?’ Then he says ‘neither do I condemn you to the stoning.’ He makes an exception to that rule.
            Or do you think she was actually stoned and the bible is wrong??

          • The rule was that she should be stoned. That’s the reason the pharisees brought her to Jesus, to ask him exactly about that. He doesn’t say anything about adultery to them. He says ‘who is going to cast the first stone then?’ Then he says ‘neither do I condemn you to the stoning.’ He makes an exception to that rule.

            No, the general rule is that adultery is immoral. The stoning is merely the assigned punishment. Jesus commutes the punishment, but he doesn’t make any exception to the general rule that adultery is immoral and sinful.

            The woman escapes punishment, but that doesn’t mean that what she has done has been declared okay. So Jesus doesn’t make an exception to the general rule that adultery is sinful.

            What she did was still wrong. She just wasn’t punished for it. But what matters is her guilt — which Jesus does not make any exception for — not the punishment.

            The guilt is the essence of the thing. The punishment is a mere accident. If someone is pardoned, which is the analogy to what happens here, then they don’t undergo the punishment but they are still guilty and therefore no exception is made to the general rule that adultery is sinful and immoral.

            You seem to be trying to say that if someone isn’t punished then they are declared not guilty, but I hope you realise how silly that is when it’s put like that.

          • You are complicating something quite simple S. The ‘general rule’ that Jesus is asked to adjudicate is not about the rights or wrongs of adultery. It’s about the assigned punishment. The rule is that she should be stoned. Jesus does not follow that rule.
            It’s really that simple S.

          • You are complicating something quite simple S. The ‘general rule’ that Jesus is asked to adjudicate is not about the rights or wrongs of adultery. It’s about the assigned punishment. The rule is that she should be stoned. Jesus does not follow that rule.

            Yes, that is what Jesus is asked to adjudicate. He is not asked to adjudicate on the general rule of whether adultery is sinful (because none of those involved would have question that it was) but on the specific instance of punishment in front of him.

            So he does not question the general rule, and indeed, as I have repeatedly pointed out, re-affirms it.

            Indeed even his method of saving the woman from her punishment gives the lie to your idea he ‘treats everyone he meets as an exception’. For if he were to treat everyone he meets as an exception, then he would also have to treat every member of the crowd who have gathered to stone her as an exception, too, and say that they also are excepted from the general rules which render whatever they have done sinful.

            But he doesn’t do that, does he? No, he reaffirms the general rules which convict each and every one of them, like the woman, as sinners.

            He does not make an exception for the woman; quite the reverse. He stops the crowd in their tracks by showing them that they could only stone her if they saw themselves as exceptions, as not being sinners like her.

            Jesus’s genius in the encounter is not that he makes exceptions to the general rule, but that he forces the crowd to face the fact that there are no exceptions to the general rules, not for the woman and not for them, and therefore they are all just as guilty as she.

            No exceptions are made in the story. Quite the opposite: the generality of sin, the fact that no one is an exception and all are guilty, is reaffirmed in the strongest possible terms.

          • No one is questioning that people do wrong: that’s a general rule. The exception is not excusing sin but about what is the punishment.
            And in this case an exception is made.
            She is forgiven. Punishment taken away. Exception to the rule made. Nothing further to be said.

          • The exception is not excusing sin but about what is the punishment.

            Ah, okay, so you agree then that Jesus does not excuse the woman’s sin. So He does not treat the woman as an exception to the general rule that adultery is immoral, and that she is guilty of sin.

            So Jesus does not treat anyone (and certainly this woman) as an exception to the general rules that make some things (in this case adultery) sinful. And Jesus does not excuse those sins (you say do above).

            He forgives sins but He does not excuse them: the sinful things people who have availed themselves of Jesus’s forgiveness did were still sinful, even after they have been forgiven and the stain on their souls washed away.

          • General rule: adultery punishable by death by stoning
            Jesus: makes an exception when presented with the real case of a real woman really committing adultery.

          • General rule: adultery punishable by death by stoning
            Jesus: makes an exception when presented with the real case of a real woman really committing adultery.

            General rule: adultery is immoral and sinful.

            Jesus: when confronted with a real woman really committing adultery, tells her to go and sin no more.

            No exception made.

          • Clear exception made: she isn’t stoned which is what the law – the general rule – required.

          • Clear exception made: she isn’t stoned which is what the law – the general rule – required.

            She is held guilty for her sin, which is what the general rule — that adultery is immoral — required. No exception made.

          • Ah yes she was guilty. No exception there. But she wasn’t given the requisite punishment. So exception WAS made there. But go ahead and dispute that if it makes you happy. You have no evidence mind you.

          • Ah yes she was guilty. No exception there.

            Right. Yes. Exactly. Jesus didn’t treat her (or anyone else) as an exception to general moral laws, and so neither should we.

          • You must be reading a different text to me S is all I can think. The law was that she had to be stoned. Jesus makes a clear exception in her case.

          • You must be reading a different text to me S is all I can think. The law was that she had to be stoned. Jesus makes a clear exception in her case.

            I don’t care about the law. Laws vary from time to time and place to place.

            The universal moral rule is that adultery is sinful. That is what matters and Jesus makes no exception to that, and so we must not either.

          • Jesus seemed to care about the law a great deal…..but made exceptions to it, as in this case.

          • Jesus seemed to care about the law a great deal…..but made exceptions to it, as in this case.

            And he never once made an exception to the general moral rules, so He obviously thought the general moral rules were more important than the law, so so should we.

            Jesus never made an exception tot he rule that adultery is always immoral, wrong and sinful.

          • Just waffle S. Jesus made an exception to the law. In the case of the woman caught in adultery. She wasn’t stoned.

          • Just waffle S. Jesus made an exception to the law. In the case of the woman caught in adultery. She wasn’t stoned.

            But He did not make an exception to the universal moral rule that adultery is sinful. Which is what matters for us, as we don’t live in the legal context of first-century Israel, but we do live in the moral context of the universe.

            Anyone who commits adultery now is committing a sin, just like the woman Jesus saved from capital punishment: no exception to that was made by Jesus for her and likewise no exception is made for adulterers today. They, like her, must repent and seek absolution in the redeeming power of Jesus’ blood.

          • What matters here is how we are dealt with according to our sins. And the passage doesn’t leave much doubt

          • What matters here is how we are dealt with according to our sins. And the passage doesn’t leave much doubt

            No, not at all. What matters is that we are guilty of sin, because that is the stain on our eternal souls. Whether we suffer temporal punishment or not is irrelevant because this life is insignificant and meaningless in comparison.

            Jesus may have commuted the woman’s punishment until the law of this world, but if she doesn’t repent and turn away from sin far far worse awaits her than a mere stoning: that’s why he warns her to go and sin no more.

            And as he makes plain, there are no exceptions to the universal moral rules, and those are what matters. Not the punishments meted out by the ephemeral authorities of this world, who can at most damage our bodies.

          • What matters here is how we are dealt with according to our sins

            Besides which, I would hope you’d agree that the reason we should avoid sinning is not because of how we will be dealt with. We should avoid sinning simply because it is the right thing to do.

            Someone who avoids sinning because they are scared of the consequences isn’t actually acting morally, are they? As Jesus pointed out: someone who is angry with his brother is just as guilty as someone who murders him. So even if you avoid murder because you’re afraid of how murderers are dealt with then you are still guilty.

            So no: what matters is not how we are dealt with. What matters is the stain of guilt from our sins. How we are dealt with is, frankly, irrelevant.

          • S

            Romans: we enter the kingdom by God’s Grace, not by our own efforts

            Parable of Dives and Lazarus, Luke’s gospel (nothing to do with the raising of Lazarus in John).

            Samaritan woman at the well: discourse with Jesus. Where is the evidence that she repented?

            Clue: must have repented isn’t in the text. Which is reliable, remember.

          • Romans: we enter the kingdom by God’s Grace, not by our own efforts

            Yes, because repenting means accepting God’s grace, so those who accept God’s grace (by repenting) are saved by it and those who refuse God’s grace, aren’t.

            Parable of Dives and Lazarus, Luke’s gospel (nothing to do with the raising of Lazarus in John).

            I’ve never heard of this parable or anyone called ‘Dives’ in the Bible. Are you sure?

            Samaritan woman at the well: discourse with Jesus. Where is the evidence that she repented?

            Where is the evidence that she was admitted to the Kingdom? The dying thief Jesus says will be admitted to the Kingdom but he doesn’t say anything like that to the Samaritan woman. Maybe she remains damned? If you’re insisting that nothign that isn’t explicitly mentioned in the text can have happened, where’s the evidence she wasn’t still damned?

            Clue: must have repented isn’t in the text. Which is reliable, remember.

            Another hardline double-predestination Calvinist! You’re really coming out of the woodwork in unexpected places.

          • >What matters is the exception to the rule (aka law) that Jesus made.

            But as we’ve established and you admitted above, Jesus didn’t make any exception to the general rule that adultery is immoral and sinful. And that is what matters.

          • S: I think Jesus had a rather nuanced view of adultery. Mt 5:27-28
            We will have to agree to differ here.
            And as I don’t think anyone is bound for eternal damnation, let alone pre-destined for it, you will need to think again!

          • Absolutely sure. Luke 16.19ff.

            Oh, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man? Well of course I know that. But there’s nobody called ‘Dives’ in that. Or, as far as I am aware, in the rest of the Bible. So what on Earth are you on about?

          • S: I think Jesus had a rather nuanced view of adultery. Mt 5:27-28

            That doesn’t make any exception to the general rule; to the contrary, it extends the general rule, showing that it is even more general than people thought.

            (In general any time Jesus differs from the prevailing morality of the time he makes it clear the truth is stricter, not looser).

            And as I don’t think anyone is bound for eternal damnation, let alone pre-destined for it, you will need to think again!

            Well, you’re just wrong in all sorts of ways, aren’t you?

          • “But there’s nobody called ‘Dives’ in that.”

            Dives and Lazarus is the traditional name for this important and unique parable S. Google it. There is even a folk song called Dives and Lazarus.

            Dives comes the Vulgate version of the bible and means’ rich man’. It is not the name of the person.

          • “Well, you’re just wrong in all sorts of ways, aren’t you?”

            Oh, in your opinion I am, of course. Just as you are wrong in my opinion.
            But none of this changes the fact that as recorded in the bible, Jesus made an exception for the woman caught in adultery – she was not stoned to death, which the law required. .

          • Dives and Lazarus is the traditional name for this important and unique parable S. Google it. There is even a folk song called Dives and Lazarus.

            Well, I had never heard of it before this thread. It’s not in any translation of the Bible I’ve ever seen. According to the inter-net it’s a mistake based on a medieval misunderstanding of the Latin word for ‘rich man’ as a proper name. I don’t think such ignorant error should be propagated.

            But none of this changes the fact that as recorded in the bible, Jesus made an exception for the woman caught in adultery – she was not stoned to death, which the law required. .

            And none of your bleating changes the fact that as recorded in the Bible, Jesus made no exception to the general rule that adultery is immoral and sinful — something that even you admitted above you were wrong about.

            Salvage some dignity, man.

          • “Well, I had never heard of it before this thread. It’s not in any translation of the Bible I’ve ever seen. ”

            Look at the Vulgate then. And listen to some old English folk tunes.
            And read this from Oxford Biblical studies:

            Dives
            Unnamed rich man. Luke 16: 19–31 is the only parable of Jesus in which a character is given a name (Lazarus) and it has become usual also to attach the name Dives to the other actor in the story. It is from the Latin Vulgate (dives = wealthy).

            As to salvaging dignity: simply read the story of the woman caught in adultery. It’s really pretty clear.
            General rule – stoning
            Jesus rule – neither do I condemn you. go and sin no more (which is what i have been saying from the very beginning).

            Jesus sets us free from our sins S…. it’s official…it’s in the bible!


          • Dives
            Unnamed rich man. Luke 16: 19–31 is the only parable of Jesus in which a character is given a name (Lazarus) and it has become usual also to attach the name Dives to the other actor in the story. It is from the Latin Vulgate (dives = wealthy).

            Right, so, a stupid and wrong-headed tradition based on an error in reading the Latin which has been rightly ignored by all English translations.

            Let’s not encourage such idiocy by perpetuating it.

            As to salvaging dignity: simply read the story of the woman caught in adultery. It’s really pretty clear.
            General rule – stoning
            Jesus rule – neither do I condemn you. go and sin no more (which is what i have been saying from the very beginning).

            It’s very clear indeed.

            General rule – adultery is sin.
            Jesus rule – go and sin no more.

            But then there’s none so blind as those who don’t want to see.

          • “But then there’s none so blind as those who don’t want to see.”

            You are becoming Self perceptive in your old age S ✌️

        • Thanks Andrew
          yes, of course I am aware of the female Biblical metaphors, and I am aware of the semantic questions of Ruach as feminine in hebrew and Spirit as neuter in Gk – and I am aware of the idosyncratic eccentric and rare tradition addressing God as mother. It is not normative in tradition because it is not normative in Scripture.

          I still balk when I read God called she because that is never directly employed in sacred inspired Scripture as such. We must speak to and of God in the language God gives us to speak of him in his self disclosure. Pannenberg says that if we call God she we are not referring to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I agree. We cannot move so quickly from a descriptive female metaphor of God as Eagle or Hen to addressing or describing him as she. Even the metaphors we must be careful in handling – I dont think the Bible is saying God is like a Hen or like a Eagle – I think its the ‘action’ of protecting or carrying its chicks thattakes the weight of the metaphor – God seeks to protect, God carries aloft, it is not the ‘female’ nature of the bird that is being used to describe God but the action of the bird.

          I have always admired the Orthodox Jews who so honoured God that they did not want to diminish him, seek to utilize him by inappropriate use of his name – changing it to Adonai and then changing it to Hashem – ‘The Name’.

          I find the move in more radical church circles for calling God she in conversation or liturgy is either trivial, provocative or driven by gender politics.

          I am currently reading a brilliant provocative fat tome by Prof Douglas Campbell – he has chosen for both culturally pragmatic reasons, as well as the tradition of regarding the Spirit and Wisdom in Jewish thought as feminine, to call the Spirit ‘She’ – but that is careful, considered and I think justified.

          Reply
          • “We must speak to and of God in the language God gives us to speak of him in his self disclosure.”

            Well – that’s basically saying that God *only* self discloses in scripture. Which I can’t agree with.

          • Thanks Andrew

            well, not quite my view – I am not ‘Sola Scriptura’ in a narrow sense precisely because Scripture itself says God self discloses through the kerygma, creation, conscience, charisms and historical contexts (forgive the preachers’ alliteration). But, that revelation wont be different than that in Scripture and certainly not contradictory for God cannot change. So, for me the test of any claimed revelation must always be through a reading of the Scriptures and an attentive listening to tradition & its interpretation of such – conscious we can misread the text and tradition can be wrong.

            If you can show me from Scripture that I can call God she, I of course will – but not if it’s driven by culture, human sensibilities, mystic revelations and not warranted by the handling of the texts.

            Anyway – that’s my approach –

            Back to sunday’s sermon and I’m bored with my own thoughts – kyrie eleison

            si

          • …but makes the basic error of thinking that grammatical gender has anything to do with biological sex.

            (And DC is just a little bit bonkers…!)

          • Simon

            All language about God is insufficient and provisional. I too agree with Jews who call God HaShem, because the divine name is too sacred. Normally I try not to gender God and refer to God as Godself. But, yes, I a, being provocative when I refer to God as She. It is done to draw attention to the idolatry of figuring God as male. Which is why the feminine/maternal attributes given to God in scripture and tradition become so important.
            Perhaps God is male in scripture because the texts were written by men, who wrote first of a tribal God, who, like other gods, had a wife, Asherah. As Judahite religion became more monotheistic the idea of goddesses became more abhorrent. A bit simplistic, but….
            I did not write that sex with sex workers was not immoral. I wrote of one instance where it might be moral.
            It is not clear that porneia unproblematically = fornication, or that sex outside marriage is always wrong except, perhaps, for cultural reasons.
            Enjoy Douglas Campbell. I was taught by him, and came to love Paul through his influence. A hero.

          • Ian
            DC is not bonkers. Not agreeing with James Dunn and Tom Wright is, I would have thought, a sign of sanity!

          • And of course, it has only just occurred to me, somewhat belatedly, that God is quite keen on sex workers and adulteresses.
            Look at Matthew’s genealogy.

          • Thanks Penelope – forgive me if n where I did you a disservice

            Ian – DC is certainly edgy, unusual, provocative, iconoclastic even – I found myself saying “ah, brilliant” and “wot? cant agree with that!!!” in equal measure.

            When DC speaks of God’s love he moves me. It is beautiful. At times he’s definitely channelling Barth. I rather like his lack of respect to the received NT traditions. I would love to have a beer with him, you n Penelope – now that would be something!

            Calling Spirit she intrigued me and not offended me, although someone else highlighted the basic error in linking grammatical gender with biological sex. But that’s not where he puts all his weight and I found him stimulating.

          • I did not write that sex with sex workers was not immoral. I wrote of one instance where it might be moral.

            If you think there’s an instance where it might be moral then — by definition — you don’t think that it is per se immoral, do you?

          • And of course, it has only just occurred to me, somewhat belatedly, that God is quite keen on sex workers and adulteresses.
            Look at Matthew’s genealogy.

            Inclusion in the genealogy does not imply approval. King David is in the genealogies, and God most certainly did not approve of his sex life.

          • But you have said you don’t think the genealogies are at all accurate though S. You think they are just ‘scene setting’.

          • But you have said you don’t think the genealogies are at all accurate though S. You think they are just ‘scene setting’.

            That’s irrelevant to what I wrote. Whether accurate or not, inclusion in them clearly does not indicate approval by God of the person’s sex life.

          • I see. So this an an exception to your general rule that if the gospel is unreliable in one part then the whole of it must be unreliable.

          • I see. So this an an exception to your general rule that if the gospel is unreliable in one part then the whole of it must be unreliable.

            I don’t understand you. How does pointing out that inclusion in the list does not imply approval make anything unreliable?

          • But the whole list is unreliable according to you.

            Whether or not it’s historically accurate is totally unrelated to the issue here, which is whether inclusion on it indicates any kind of approval of the person so included’s sexual behaviour. Please stick to the point.

          • I thought your whole point was that if one part of the gospel is unreliable all of it was unreliable. Sorry if I have Misunderstood that.

          • I thought your whole point was that if one part of the gospel is unreliable all of it was unreliable. Sorry if I have Misunderstood that.

            My whole point here is to refute Penelope’s claim of 5:05pm on the 5th of June that:

            ‘God is quite keen on sex workers and adulteresses. Look at Matthew’s genealogy.’

            by pointing out that the genealogies contain people who sex lives God was categorically not quite keen on, to the extent that He sent actual prophets to tell them so, so inclusion in a genealogy certainly does not mean that God was ‘quite keen’ on someone’s sexual behaviour.

            If you have anything relevant to say to that then please write it below, but otherwise I suggest you walk away.

          • Oh ‘quite keen on’ can mean many things.
            What I suspect it means here is that God used such people. As he used Noah…….David…all kinds of people with ordinary failings. And errors. and faults. Like the gospel writers….like the epistle writers…
            All humans. All used By God.

          • Oh ‘quite keen on’ can mean many things.
            What I suspect it means here is that God used such people. As he used Noah…….David…all kinds of people with ordinary failings. And errors. and faults. Like the gospel writers….like the epistle writers…
            All humans. All used By God.

            Oh yes. God uses all sorts of sinners. Mainly because He doesn’t have any choice, if He wants to use anyone. He uses thieves and rapists and murderers and all sorts.

            So if we’re saying that prostitutes are sinners that God uses, like the murderers, rapists and thieves that God also uses, then yes, yes they are.

            Matthew 21.31

            ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.’

            Only the ones who repent, though.

          • Only the ones who repent, S?
            And the text saying this is?

            No one can get into the kingdom of God without repenting. Or do you not think that’s true?

          • Well – I don’t see anywhere that the thief on the cross repents…..

            He certainly admits his sinfulness, though. So clearly the tax collectors and the prostitutes (and everyone else) will only get into the Kingdom if they admit their sin. Claim that their behaviour is fine — or ask for an exception — and they’re not getting in.

          • I think you said:
            “No one can get into the kingdom of God without repenting.”
            But admitting you did wrong is not the same as repenting is it?

          • Romans 8.34ff

            ‘Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.’

            Yes, Jesus is interceding for those who have repented, that’s the point. That’s why those who have repented get into the kingdom. They couldn’t get in if Jesus wasn’t interceding for them.

            Dives and Lazarus

            I know Lazarus was raised from the dead, but I’m not sure what relevance that has or who is diving?

            The Samaritan woman at the well

            Again I’m failing to see the relevance. Can you explain?

          • I think you said:
            “No one can get into the kingdom of God without repenting.”
            But admitting you did wrong is not the same as repenting is it?

            No, it’s not, but it’s a necessary first step before repenting. The thief’s repentance isn’t explicitly recorded, but he obviously did or he wouldn’t have got into the Kingdom.

            Unless you are saying that you don’t think repentance is necessary to enter the Kingdom? Is that the official position of the Church of England?

          • S: there is only one way in to the kingdom, and that is to be found out in your poverty. We can do nothing. It’s the grace of God. So I think you are completely wrong.

          • S: there is only one way in to the kingdom, and that is to be found out in your poverty. We can do nothing. It’s the grace of God. So I think you are completely wrong.

            Oh, you’re a hardline double-predestination Calvinist? I didn’t think that, but okay, it’s a respectable and intellectually coherent position, even if I happen not to agree.

    • Thanks Simon
      I don’t intend to suggest a ‘hierarchy of sin’ but have in mind Jesus’ language in speaking to the Pharisees (a powerful ‘conservative’ faction?) in Matthew 12 & 23 and most obviously his forceful condemnation of those who pile up burdens on others that they are unwilling to help carry. “Woe to you …”. By contrast I’ve always read “leave your life of sin” as firm and gentle: “neither do I condemn you …”.

      Reply
      • … and (if follow ups are allowed), NT scholars please comment: Jesus seems to be on the front foot in speaking truth to power (ful people) but in John 8 the woman ‘caught in adultery’ was brought to him. No hierarchy of sin – but is there a pattern of dealing differently with the sins of ‘ordinary folk’?

        Reply
      • You may be right

        The story of Mary who anointed Jesus and the woman caught in adultery does have a tenderness that Jesus doesnt evince to the self righteous religiosity of Pharisees
        (simon beware)

        Reply
    • ‘S’
      Just to be clear – can you clarify whether you believe that the Bible is crystal clear that divorce is never permissible under any circumstances and if it is, then remarriage is never possible and is always adultery?

      Reply
        • “It did seem a stupid little video but you are the one who linked to it. Why did you link to it, if you now say it in fact is as stupid and pointless as it originally appeared?”

          But I have not said that the video is ‘stupid or pointless ‘ S. It is you who have said this. . I merely pointed out that the video does not do full justice to what is a complex issue concerning divorce and remarriage. I hoped it would stimulate you further to look into Instone -Brewers arguments and written works to see if you would be prepared to reexamine your own views. It is not stupid or pointless at all.

          Not all conservatives take the view concerning divorce and remarriage that you hold and very many would disagree. It is not an exclusively liberal position and you could be wrong in the view you currently hold.

          However, from the various conversations I have seen you have with me and others over the history of this blog, the impression I get is what really matters to you S, is whether people agree with what you consider to be the ‘right view’ and not whether they are conservative or liberal.

          For this reason I think any further conversation with you would be largely futile and profitless.

          Reply
          • “It did seem a stupid little video but you are the one who linked to it. Why did you link to it, if you now say it in fact is as stupid and pointless as it originally appeared?”

            But I have not said that the video is ‘stupid or pointless ‘ S. It is you who have said this. . I merely pointed out that the video does not do full justice to what is a complex issue concerning divorce and remarriage.

            Then why did you link to it as if it were in any way a useful contribution to the debate?

            I hoped it would stimulate you further to look into Instone -Brewers arguments and written works to see if you would be prepared to reexamine your own views. It is not stupid or pointless at all.

            Why would what you admit is a simplistic under-analysis stimulate me to look further into its author’s arguments? If you want me to be interested then link to something which actually engages with the issues in a convincing way.

            Preferably in the sensible form of text, not a childish video with plastic figurines.

            Not all conservatives take the view concerning divorce and remarriage that you hold and very many would disagree. It is not an exclusively liberal position

            Again, that is irrelevant. View are not ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’; they are simply true or false. That is all that matters.

            and you could be wrong in the view you currently hold.

            I could. But that video give no reason to suggest it. Perhaps the person has more convincing and deeper arguments. If so, link to them, not a silly video.

            However, from the various conversations I have seen you have with me and others over the history of this blog, the impression I get is what really matters to you S, is whether people agree with what you consider to be the ‘right view’ and not whether they are conservative or liberal.

            What matters to me is the correctness or incorrectness of ideas. You are right that I care not a jot for labels like ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’.

            All that matters is truth.

            For this reason I think any further conversation with you would be largely futile and profitless.

            That is entirely up to you.

          • “I could. But that video give no reason to suggest it. Perhaps the person has more convincing and deeper arguments. If so, link to them, ”

            Here is a link to most of his scholarly works and references S that include divorce and remarriage. I leave you to look through them
            (or not ) as the case may be.

            https://tyndalehouse.com/staff/david-instone-brewer

          • Here is a link to most of his scholarly works and references S that include divorce and remarriage. I leave you to look through them
            (or not ) as the case may be.

            Okay the one on divorce and remarriage appears to be a book, which I am not willing to pay for. I shall see if I can find it in a library when the libraries reopen.

          • Hi Chris.

            There is a fatal flaw in one of David Instone-Brewer’s main arguments: namely, that Matthew is redacting Mark (whom in parallel passages he follows closely) rather than adding new historical snippets. Any author who added new historical snippets would not do so in the form of a change or modification of *wording*, but in the form of new information or a new story.

            The argument in question is re Matthew adding the words ‘for any cause’. Matthew was more rabbinic than his co-evangelists. So why would he just so happen to have a floating snippet from Jesus that so happened to cohere with his own distinctive tendencies?

            So we should regard ‘for any cause’ as redactional. That means it is irrelevant to what Jesus thought.

            Which is not surprising because Mark gives a coherent simple message which Matt then complicates. Things become clearer when we drop Matt’s redaction.

            As for ‘conservatives’ ‘believing’ or not believing XYZ, people (or at least honest people) are ‘conservative’ or otherwise as an end result of their assessment of evidence. Not in advance – which would be a mere ideological ‘position’ and of no worth.

            You may say, how can someone be ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’ etc when there are so many millions of issues in the world which need to be assessed one by one rather than as a package deal. Well – precisely. Which is why S together with thinking people disavows terms like conservative and liberal apart from when referring to people who might be suspected of being ideological rather than truth-seeking.

            S is correct in agreeing (as I take it) with the position in my last 2 paras here.

          • Christopher,
            I was using the terms conservative and liberal in rather a loose and imprecise manner as many commenters here use these terms. What some people regard as liberal others think of as conservative and vice versa so I think you are right so the terms can be rather meaningless. what matters I think is the robustness or otherwise, of an argument and the premise on which it is constructed.

        • As for for your comment on Instone-Brewer and redaction, then I think he does cover your point somewhere in his writings however, he also makes great use of references to rabbinic traditions in understanding divorce (in which he has done a great deal of scholarly research) that were contemporary to Jesus’ time and I am sure would have been understood by Matthew (and Jesus) , but I think you would need to ask him!

          Reply
      • can you clarify whether you believe that the Bible is crystal clear that divorce is never permissible under any circumstances and if it is, then remarriage is never possible and is always adultery?

        I think Mark 10:11-12 is pretty clear, yes.

        Reply
        • Thank you for your clarification S. Although Penelope clearly thinks so, I think it needs to be said that remarriage after divorce is not an exclusively liberal position and many conservative commentators take a more nuanced view although many of course, would take your own.

          An example is David Instone-Brewer who is no liberal, and is probably the best exponent of the permissibility of divorce and remarriage although I am sure there are others who concur and are non -liberal. I think Ian may even have covered it on this blog somewhere. Have you considered the validity of these arguments?

          Instone- Brewer gives an outline of his arguments in ‘Playmobil’ form here

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRiC0LEoDaM

          But you need to read his books to get the full depth of his exposition including the context of the verse from Mark that you quote.

          Reply
          • An example is David Instone-Brewer who is no liberal, and is probably the best exponent of the permissibility of divorce and remarriage although I am sure there are others who concur and are non -liberal. I think Ian may even have covered it on this blog somewhere. Have you considered the validity of these arguments?

            I find the video unconvincing. For a start it doesn’t consider Mark 10:5-9 which repudiates all Mosaic causes of divorce as being merely concessions to human sinfulness.

            And also it doesn’t separate divorce and remarriage. It could certainly be necessary to legally divorce for example an abusive and financially controlling spouse in order to stop them having a claim over one’s property; but that doesn’t mean one is free to re-marry without committing adultery. The Christian sexual ideal is lifelong faithful monogamy (or lifelong celibacy, of course); in order to stick to that ideal then one should not re-marry even if one did have to sue for a divorce for a good reason.

          • Chris

            You are, of course, right. I shouldn’t have claimed that my position on divorce is an exclusively liberal one.

        • S, You would need to delve further into Instone-Brewer’s written works than just the brief video. The issue of whether remarriage is possible after divorce is one he goes into in considerable depth and the video does not do this particular question justice. However if you have already made up your mind I doubt if it is likely to convince you.

          What I really wished to know if whether you accept that divorce and remarriage is not an exclusively liberal position and can be found among conservatives who may share many of your approaches to scripture.

          Reply
          • S, You would need to delve further into Instone-Brewer’s written works than just the brief video.

            It did seem a stupid little video but you are the one who linked to it. Why did you link to it, if you now say it in fact is as stupid and pointless as it originally appeared?

            What I really wished to know if whether you accept that divorce and remarriage is not an exclusively liberal position and can be found among conservatives who may share many of your approaches to scripture.

            Why did you wish to know that? Claims are to be judged on their merits, not on the identities of those who hold them. It doesn’t matter if those who hold the view are conservative, liberal, or little blue men from Mars, all that matters is whether the view is correct.

  39. … and (if follow ups are allowed), NT scholars please comment: Jesus seems to be on the front foot in speaking truth to power (ful people) but in John 8 the woman ‘caught in adultery’ was brought to him. No hierarchy of sin – but is there a pattern of dealing differently with the sins of ‘ordinary folk’?

    Reply

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