What is the vision and strategy of the Church of England?


The graphic attached here recently caused a bit of a stir in the Anglican social media airwaves. It was included as part of a document presented to the Archbishops’ Council, and was leaked (on its own, within the accompanying explanation) to social media, where it attracted mostly scornful comment, including comparisons with washing machines (going round and round—though of course washing machines to that to some purpose) and plugholes (as in going down the…). It was then presented again at last month’s General Synod, in an engaging presentation by Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, and we considered it once more at this week’s meeting of Archbishops’ Council. I think it is going to shape decision-making in the Church of England for the next few years in important ways, so it is worth reflecting on. So I would like to offer seven brief questions with reflection.


First, we ought to ask why the Church needs such a thing. Surely we already know what we should be doing, if we look to the teaching of Jesus, Scripture more widely, the creeds, and our own formularies? That is a fair question that might be raised for any local congregation which devises its own slogan, mission statement and strategy—why do we need them? And there are several good answers.

The first is that the picture of the people of God in Scripture is complex and diverse: at times we are likened to a holy temple; at others to the bride of Christ; then we are described as a disciplined spiritual army; then again as the body of Christ consisting of diverse members who all look different; and so on. Different aspects of this multi-dimensional vision will be important in different context and at different times, and part of this exercise is about (both locally and nationally) asking: what is God particularly calling us to be in this time and this place?

A second part of the answer involves being honest about what the Church of England is. Yes, it is part of the ekklesia of God in this land, and in the context of global Christianity, but it is also a complex institution with regulations, legal constraints, budgets, boards and meetings. It is not very easy to read off exactly how, for example, the Church Commissioners should be dispersing their income from the pages of the New Testament! Vision and Strategy statements like this, at their best, function as mediators between theological understanding and practical decision making.

But the third part of the answer is that, at the moment in the Church of England, there does not appear to be very much agreement as to what our priorities ought to be, and a good many ways of answering that are not working very well—as the annual Statistics for Mission show us rather clearly. Some have responded to this diagram by saying ‘The Church is dying, and instead of living in denial, we ought to allow it to die gracefully’. That might be an adequate response if the Church was only an institution—but it is more than merely that. God is a God of the living, not the dead, and where the kingdom of God is present, then there is life and growth. If we are not seeing that (and others are, both within and beyond the C of E) then we cannot allow ourselves the complacency of the ‘death with dignity’ response.


Secondly, we need to ask: is this any good? It was evident in the social media response that there are plenty of naysayers out there, and it is worth remembering that criticism is cheap, especially on social media. There were also some extensive critiques offered, but as far as I could see their main aim was to communicate how very clever the critics were, which doesn’t really get us very far. I think there are a number of very good things about this as a focus of our priorities.

It is very good that this diagram is focussed on the person of Jesus—and you might think that this really ought to go without saying. Yet the Church of England is often rather reluctant to talk about Jesus; if you do not believe me, then just listen to many of the Anglican contributors to Thought for the Day on Radio 4! One of the things I have valued about Justin Welby’s time in office so far is the fact that he is very happy to mention Jesus, and bring the focus back to him, including in his testimony about coming to faith as a Cambridge undergraduate. I recently spoke to a friend who is seeing exciting growth during lockdown, in part because he felt God was leading him and members of his team to visit door to door in the parish, after posting a note the previous week, to ask two questions: How can we help you through the winter during lockdown? and Do you know Jesus personally in your life? The result has been some remarkable conversations about faith—but I suspect this is not a widespread strategy in the C of E at the moment.

A second striking thing about this diagram is the inclusion, in the first inner ring, of the phrase ‘a church of missionary disciples’. This is hugely significant, in part because the vision of ‘disciple-making disciples’ has been central to a whole range of reflections on church planting and church growth, and in part because there has been strong resistance in the C of E even to the language of discipleship in any form. Embedding this in our current vision and strategy is a major shift in perspective, and one that many people will have seen for some time as essential.


A third question flows from this: how much of this diagram is rooted in theological thinking, and how much of it is naked pragmatism? Being pragmatic is not in itself a bad thing. When the fuses blow, or a water pipe springs a leak, or the ship is sinking, then pragmatism is the order of the day. The danger, of course, is that when we think ‘Something must be done’ and we are then offered ‘something’, we do it without proper reflection.

One of the early criticisms of the central slogan was that it fell into a naive adoption of the Nestorian heresy, in which the human and divine natures are separated in the person of Jesus, rather than being a ‘hypostatic union’ as affirmed by the Council of Chalcedon. In fact, I suspect that the separation of terms in ‘Jesus shaped, Christ centred’ arose simply from the attraction of alliteration—and the danger of this is shown by the popularity of the nonsense phrase ‘From Maintenance to Mission’. Stephen Cottrell responds to this, and the other criticism that we should be focussed on the Trinity, in these terms:

We make no distinction between ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus’. The two phrases are simply a shorter way of saying we are called to be Jesus Christ centred and Jesus Christ shaped. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, fully God and the one through whom we have access to God. It is in Jesus Christ, and therefore in the Trinitarian life of God, that we root ourselves. We also know the Son of God as Jesus Christ, Mary’s son, the preacher and healer from Nazareth, who is still the same Jesus Christ, the one we read about in scripture, the man who shared our life on Earth, lived a life like ours, taught and healed and showed us what our humanity could be, who died upon the cross for our salvation and whom God raised to life.

This is far more productive than vague and theoretical appeals to the life of the Trinity, not least because of the widespread use of quite misleading understandings of the interior life of the Trinity as a model for social organisation, which are either heretical or infinitely plastic, and in either case unhelpful.


So here is the fourth question: will we take the theology here seriously, and will we think theologically about each of these issues? Some of the language here already has plenty of theological potential: will we take that seriously?

Stephen Cottrell observes the way that, at different times in the Church’s life, different biblical texts have had a particular importance, and in this case those involved in this process have settled on 2 Cor 5.17: ‘When anyone is in Christ, there is new creation’. This could be read pragmatically: God always gives us a second chance; we can always turn over a new leaf; there is always hope of change one way or another. But to read it in this way is to ignore the enormous theological ideas that Paul is articulating here. The language of ‘new creation’ is part of the apocalyptic outlook of Paul (and Jesus, and the other writers of the New Testament), in which there are two ages, this age, and the age to come (root in Old Testament prophetic/apocalyptic language of ha-olam hazeh, and ha-olam habah). Although there is some continuity between these two ages, there is mostly discontinuity; in this present, evil age, Satan reigns, sin abounds, and there is no hope, whilst in the age to come, God has triumphed, holiness is restored, and we live in the light of the presence of God.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for his kingdom to come, and whilst we might see glimpses of that realised in our current situation, we are mostly praying for the old age to pass away and this new age to be fully realised. That is the centre of Christian hope, not least in this season of Advent. The age to come was initiated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, which defeated Satan as the ruler of this world, and brought an end to the power of sin. We participate in this new life through baptism (Romans 6) and the life in the Spirit is a foretaste of that age to come. All this means that we should expect the church of God to be, in many respects, out of step with the world in which it is situated, whilst still being embedded in it. Is the Church of England, established by law, ready to be this kind of ‘new creation’ church? Are we content to be faithful to this theological vision, even when our approach to community, ethics, and culture might thus scandalise wider society? The early followers of Jesus were content to be so, and as a result they were mocked, challenged and often marginalised—but they saw growth and life.


The converse of this is my fifth point of question and reflection. Are we ready to use distinctively Christian language to express even the practical concerns and pragmatic responses? Some of the language appears to straddle the divide here. There have been questions about the terminology of ‘mixed ecology’, either wondering what this means or seeing it as a cloak for smuggling in the destruction of the cherished ‘parish system’ (whatever that means). The language of ‘mixed economy’ has actually been around in the C of E for some time, as a way of making space for non-parochial church plants and other ‘fresh expressions’, alongside existing structures. As Stephen Cottrell notes:

The Church of Jesus Christ has always been a mixed ecology. Every church was planted once. By using this phrase, we simply acknowledge what is, but also signal the fact that in the diverse smorgasbord of the different cultures and contexts which we serve in England today we will probably need a greater and more diverse expression of church life. Hence the proliferation of mission initiatives, church plants, fresh expressions, new religious communities, and this year the remarkable new communities of faith that have been established on-line. All this is a sign of how the Holy Spirit has been leading the Church of England in recent years, noting that the most vibrant and creative new expressions of church life nearly always arise out of healthy flourishing parish ministry. There is therefore no conflict between parish ministry and becoming a more mixed ecology church.

And I think that the move from the language of ‘economy’ to the more organic language of ‘ecology’ is very positive, aligning us as it does with Jesus’ organic parables about the life of the kingdom of God.

Yet there are other areas where we could do with moving away from pragmatism and offering a more theological grounding for the strategy. For example, becoming a church which is ‘younger and more diverse’ might be taken as not much more than a practical necessity, since some congregations are dying for no other reason than the members are dying, because we are all mortal and the average age is over 70! Yet there are some very rich theological ideas about God’s promises being ‘for you and for your children’, for the importance of the household as a place of nurture, for one of the primary contexts of being disciple-making disciples is in the home, and for the theological primacy of parents knowing how to nurture faith in their children.

The most pragmatic elements of the diagram are those in the outer ring, both the headings of ‘bolder, simpler and humbler’, and the accompanying slogans which appear to be almost pure pragmatism. Yet each of these has a rich seam of theological thinking with implications for discipleship—as explored, for example, in Richard Foster’s The Freedom of Simplicity which I found profoundly challenging and influential as a young Christian. I suspect that John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is doing something similar for this generation.

So I would love to see each of these areas given a stronger theological foundation so that we are clear that we really are committed to something distinctively Christian.


This leads to my sixth question: can we be clear and confident, instead of seeking to hold on to a thin popularity through the use of borrowed and ambiguous language?

We don’t need to incorporate controversial but widely-used slogans by talking of ourselves as a ‘church where black lives matter’; we have a rich enough theological vision of the racially diverse people of God for it to stand on its own two feet. (And including the BLM slogan only looks like virtue signalling.)

When we talk about ‘being bolder’, the primary example of this in the New Testament is the boldness of proclamation, the first mark of mission, the one that is consistently watered down and side-stepped in C of E documents, and the one looks rather conspicuous by its absence in this diagram.

When we talk about ‘diversity’, this is meaningless unless we are clear about diversity of what—culture, class, race, theology? Each of these has a quite different dynamic, different causes, and calls for different remedies. And the common applause for the idea of unbounded theological diversity (‘we are a broad church!’) flies in the face not only of the New Testament (with its repeated emphasis on the importance of good teaching and the refutation of error) but also of the formularies of the Church of England. When we are a church that, theologically, is a mile wide but an inch deep, we should not be surprised if people think us shallow.

Are we serious about ‘looking like the community we serve’? If so, then we need to take seriously the massively challenge to engage with working class culture, in all its variety, since this is the largest group missing from the Church. We will also need to step away from the dominance of questions of sexuality in our use of time and energy; for many at the moment, this is an indulgent concern of what looks like a metropolitan elite, when there are far more pressing questions to be dealt with.


Finally, the $64,000 question: will we follow this through in an integrated way? It is encouraging that this vision and strategy diagram and document have arisen from discussions in the House of Bishops, so we might hope that diocesan agendas will increasingly be shaped by it. It is also clear that this will lead to a reconfiguration of the Archbishops’ Council and its nine priorities, which will be rewritten for the next quinquennium (five year term).

But will we follow the goals here in a consistent way? I was very encouraged to read this early on in the commentary:

Therefore, there needs to be a strong call to the renewal of our life in Christ: a renewal of prayer and worship; a biblical and theological renewal where we grow in intimacy with God, and overflow with the love of Christ, and are able to give reasons for the hope that is in us. Our first priority is to be a people of prayer, rooted in the revelation of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, the one who died for us and rose again and who pours his Spirit into our hearts for our renewal and for the renewal of the earth. This revelation is given to us in the Scriptures that we cherish.

Will we take the ‘revelation given to us in the Scriptures’ as our guiding authority, not least in the LLF process? Prayer must be a priority—but for the early followers of Jesus so was the study of the Scriptures. Will we recover a vision of ordained ministry as that of shepherds who feed their sheep through teaching the Scriptures? And will ordination training play a key part in this ‘biblical and theological renewal’? Will the study of Scripture and doctrine return to form the centre weight of pre-ordination training, as it once did, rather than this precious time being swallowed up in the sands of pragmatism and practicalities?

I look forward to the developments that follow this with interest…

 


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369 thoughts on “What is the vision and strategy of the Church of England?”

  1. What a great commentary, thanks.
    While I’m on the phone, I can’t see the diagram well enough to identify the whole trunk as it were, let alone the center, or inner ring, to my mind, you have drilled down to the core of Christianity, of Christ’s called-out-ones; the church, the narrow way.

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Ian, and thanks for your cautious welcome. I’m a bit more enthusiastic! It’s the only time I found myself speaking in tongues whilst listening to a General Synod speech. It’s not a programme or a job description. It’s recalling us to the Lord Jesus the Christ, God the Son. I was, to say the least, ecstatic. I think there is chemistry between Justin and Stephen which is creative. Done well LLF will allow us to have some kind of liturgy for same sex relationships in 2022. These are exciting times for those of us who are Catholic and Reformed (ie an orthodox Anglican) and who sees evangelical Protestantism as a creation of modernity predicated on the Cartesian disaster and therefore bereft of good theology and scriptural roots. (Despite the propaganda, evangelicalism is less scriptural than most traditions, it just talks a lot of selected Bible texts, which is rather different.)

    The Gospel is that I am known by Christ. Not that I know Jesus. When I am known by Christ then I know Jesus too. Evangelical individualism originated with modernity, and it will die with it. It is already terminally ill, the CEEC video. white, middle class and full of Janet and John morality, was a symptom of this, and as modernity slips into chaos (2021 is going to be worse than 2020) so conservative Christianity will fade away, over time (probably quite a long time) like the Nestorians did. There’s nothing much less Chalcedonian than “do you know Jesus?”. But that requires good theologians to explain. It also requires a willingness to listen. My long experience ( 50 years) of conservative evangelicals is that their understanding of listening is waiting for a chance to put the speaker right.

    Reply
    • Well, I am glad that you are enthusiastic—but you include a lot of odd comments here!

      On the CEEC video, you appear not to have noticed the black, female, working class and gay contributors. That is rather odd since they were very prominent. Do you need to get new glasses?

      And LLF offers no promise at all that it will lead to ‘some kind of liturgy for same sex relationships’; in fact, it highlights some rather significant obstacles to that.

      It is rather extraordinary that you think evangelicals are less scriptural than other traditions. Have you read any evangelical theology?

      And we are not to know Jesus? Hmmm…Have you read Phil 3.10 ‘I want to know Christ…’. It is pretty Pauline!

      (also worth highlighting that the Jesus at the centre of the diagram is Jesus the first-century Jew, who in his ministry upheld Jewish sexual ethics and its rejection of pagan sexual ethics, and reformed it by promising the power of the Spirit to live holy lives in place of the blunt and oppressive instrument of legalism)

      Reply
      • Oddly enough, I am due for an eye test in January, as it happens, but I have an excellent pair of computer glasses in the meantime. And I can still drive without glasses. But that simply makes me ask… please can we tackle the ball, not the man? I also need a hearing aid in the one ear that works. But it doesn’t mean I don’t know how to listen.
        I’m afraid you’ve blown the cover of evangelicalism. Suggesting that simply having a variety of ethnic heritages taking part (which, amazingly, despite my dodgy oculars, I did notice!) somehow makes the CEEC video (which I’ve watched twice, incidentally) is not middle class, white and full of 1950’s moralism is nonsense. It wasn’t skin colour, but social idiom that was missing. But if I was working class (and arguably I am in my background, – farm worker’s son) I really wouldn’t find anything in it that was remotely good news. It would be seen as condescending, patronising and irrelevant. It may have been aimed at an evangelical audience. But that really doesn’t excuse anything. It’s a video full of text but not much scripture.
        I did get the fact there were gay Christians who chose celibacy. And they are entitled to and should be supported in that. What cannot be allowed is the awful idea that celibacy is the price gay folk have to pay for being what they were made. It is, apart from anything else, an insult to all those who freely chose celibacy over the centuries. Celibacy is a gift, not a punishment, or even a medication. How dare we insult the Religious whose lives have shown Christ more vividly than the rest of us for centuries?
        LLF doesn’t promise anything. Nor should it. But I do believe that when people see the truth of human relationships they will be set free. And it is clear who has the freedom of the children of God in the videos in LLF.
        I never said I didn’t want to know Jesus. On the contrary. But I said Christ knows us first. Then I know the Lord Jesus Christ. And do read the whole of Philippians 3. It’s instructive on this. The High Calling of God (v14). That, I suggest, is the controlling verse of the whole chapter. God calls, knows, loves us. Then we can know because we are born from above, born in Christ. All I can do is respond.
        And your point about Jesus the First Century Jew. Ok. But holiness isn’t morality. Jesus just kept raising the morality bar until it was ludicrously impossible. (Sermon on the Mount of course) God is not interested in our morality, as being moral is the biggest distraction from true holiness there is. That’s why Jesus kept the law by living way beyond it. And we can keep the law by living way beyond it too. Or so he promises, and I am inclined to believe him.
        In your open remarks you said I made an odd set of comments. Yet I did nothing more than remind you of the Anglicanism of Hooker and Taylor, of Andrewes and Donne, of Westcott and Calenso, of Temple and Evelyn Underhill, Charles Raven, Dorothy Sayers,T S Eliot, of R S Thomas, Michael Ramsey, John V Taylor, W H Vanstone, J A T Robinson, Angela Tilby, of Desmond Tutu, or Michael Curry. (Truly Godly men and women, with whom I’d have many a disagreement). One thing I’m not is original! But I do understand my Anglican tradition fairly well. I don’t think that any of those people could be appropriated by conservative evangelicalism!
        I am interested that you didn’t respond to the point I made about being a Charismatic. I was a conservative evangelical (almost) 50 years ago. So, yes, I read a bit of John Stott, Michael Green and Max Warren, Colin Urquhart – remember The Fisher Folk? I was there when they first arrived in the UK. I went, for a time, to the same Baptist Church as Greg Leavers who edited Mission Praise and I was at teacher training college with Nigel Bovey who used to edit The War Cry. I discovered the gift of tongues in St Paul’s Onslow Square. I guess I know just a little bit about evangelicalism. All so long ago, now of course. I am aware of Tom Wright and Alastair McGrath – McGrath is a decent theologian. I did my MA 30 year later sitting at Graham Cray’s feet. Great man.

        But I had grown. It’s what should happen to all Christians. If we stay in any tradition for too long it’s a problem of (dis)obedience, too often driven by fear. I know I defend Anglicanism but in many ways I am being called out of it to mysticism, a difficult act obedience demanding change. I guess that might be the last challenge before death.
        But until conservative evangelicalism learns that it has but a small grasp of the truth it will always be a discontented, self justifying, and unloving gang of like minded people unwilling, and therefore unable, to see what God is wanting to show them. Evangelicals aren’t all conservative, and that move is painful (it was for me, all those years ago) but they offer the Church a very different gift, one of life.
        Of course it’s easy to let this get personal. It’s passionate stuff. But I know conservative evangelicals are deeply loved by God. That means I can love them too! The cost, of course, is humiliation. And that, I’ve discovered, is just fine.
        PS I would critique liberal theology in a similar way.. see my blog (web site below)

        Reply
        • Hi Wyn

          Your remark about 1950s moralism needs a bit of critique. Any -ism champions the thing it is an -ism of. Moralism therefore champions morals. That makes it (by definition itself) something good, no? Neither bad nor neutral but good. SO if you are not in favour of things that are good, are you in favour of things that are bad? But if they were worth being in favour of, they would not be bad. Accordingly, that looks like an incoherent position.

          A second critique: you commit the well-recognised chronological-snobbery fallacy. How can something be good or bad by virtue of an irrelevant feature like its chronological date?

          A third: if you are to pursue dates for being so bad, choose some that are low achieving not the high achieving ones. 1957 was from 2 or 3 different angles measured as our happiest year of the 20th century; up till 1958 the divorce rate was less than one couple in 1000 per year. The 2 things therefore go chronologically together. When an era has even remotely comparable figures then it can start pointing fingers, but at present there are 4 pointing back.

          Reply
          • Thank you Christopher.
            I’m afraid you’ve made all your points for me.
            One of things I have learned from the Lord Jesus is to have no time for morality. It’s holiness or nothing. There really isn’t any connection between morality and holiness! Morality is the result of a sinful ego trying to to pretend it knows how to be good. Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a tad Augustinian, I guess, but hey ho.
            I picked on 1950s because of Janet and John (the Ladybird Books), not the date. I’m sorry, that wasn’t obvious enough.
            1957 was happy? Not if you were black, or Irish and wanting a place to rent. Not if you were in the United Sates and someone thought you were a communist. Not if you got pregnant outside wedlock. Not if you were homosexual. Not if you had mental health problems or were disabled. Not if you were in debt and could not afford to pay compound interest. Not if you had gone bankrupt, as you could no longer have a bank account. Not if you were a woman and didn’t want to be a sexual object for men. About 1958/59 I remember my aunt sobbing in our kitchen telling my mother how her husband beat her. And nobody did anything, because that’s how it was.
            You’ve proved my point, the 1950s were fine if you were white, middle class and had short back and sides (ie male). And the same is true for conservative evangelicalism today, the fruit of the zeitgeist. Yes I know there are women that support it. But you then have to ask yourself why! The answer is not pretty.

          • My point entirely. Average happiness is directly related to aggregate happiness. There are good and bad things in all eras, but there are more good and less bad in the times that rate highest on happiness. Anecdotal evidence is worth nothing because there is no indication of how typical or atypical, how representative or unrepresentative, the anecdotes are. Prime candidates(on average and on aggregate, not just on anecdote) for high rates of abuse in relationships are:
            Unmarried boyfriends-girlfriends
            Same-sex
            Live in uncles and stepfathers
            -all 3 of which living arrangements / lifestyles are greatly increased by the sexual revolution.

            Janet and John were not published by Ladybird at all. But Peter and Jane were. Both (together with Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna) should be forever condemned for their wholesomeness. How dare they? They should have been smoking and playing punk music.

            I very very much doubt you prefer your immoral (or even your amoral) neighbours to your moral ones.

          • Dear Christopher,
            Thanks for your reply, but it doesn’t seem to address any of my points (Janet and John,… yes, fair enough, but I was using a cultural stereotype to illustrate a point, so I not really bothered – and I notice you have used this quibble to avoid the substantial part of what I’m saying.)
            But the rest of what you say also seems to avoid my argument. The “anecdote” swipe is meaningless. Who says that I’m basing my argument on anecdotes?
            The bottom line is you can’t argue with my description of the negative side of the 1950 for the simple reason it is all rather well documented in film, photography, books and academic research. And my aunt’s tears weren’t anecdotes, they were real.
            I have no idea which of my neighbours are moral which aren’t. It’s not our place to judge. So just have neighbours!

          • Who said tears were anecdotes? No-one. Straw man.

            Who ever thought there was any age with no negative side? No-one. Straw man no.2.

            All one can do is balance the positive with the negative for a reasoned assessment. That is exactly what the 2 relevant happiness surveys tried to do. Result: 1957 came top.

        • Quote: “I did get the fact there were gay Christians who chose celibacy.”

          I fit the category of person you are referring to but I always thought (or I did after I became a Christian) that it was OK to be either single or married (to someone of the opposite sex) and choosing celibacy was something only Catholic priests and nuns did.

          Mind you, I have reached a point where I also think gay is a completely pointless identity for a Christian to adopt or hang on to. Others will disagree with the identity stuff (including some of those featured in the CEEC video) but that’s OK too.

          I’m an adult convert, so my ‘lived experience’ with regard to these matters is far from typical. Every other gay/ssa person I’ve met in church grew up in the Christian home and then had to come to terms with their sexuality from within a non-affirming culture. Do they pay too high a price in churches that continue to honour the traditional Christian sexual ethic? Some of them will say yes and push for ‘full inclusion’. Others will say no. But the ones who do say no aren’t particularly helped by claims that they have some special gift for celibacy.

          I’m also from a working-class background. Class is the main reason I still feel like a fish out of water in an evangelical setting. Most Christians hardly seem to notice that working-class people no longer do church.

          Reply
          • Thank you Joe, that’s a very brave, helpful, and honest, reply.
            Not only am I from a working class background (though of course I instantly became middle class as soon as I went to Teacher Training College), but I’m Welsh too! (Aboriginal, as I like to say!) I experience the CofE as increasingly middle class (it wasn’t always so) and with a superiority complex regarding the rest of the Anglican Communion, and it is totally unable to see it. Ian, to be fair, had a good blog about calss a couple of weeks ago. Having said that, I’m not sure what the answer is. But it might be something like not expecting working class folk to be conned by “candifloss and balloons” worship. Working class folk see through hypocrisy faster than anyone. Beautiful worship, not entertaining (euphemistically called “inspiring” in zeitgeist speak!) worship, might be what’s needed. But then I like a bit of high church 😉

    • Hi Wyn,

      thanks for contributing. I have some sympathy for your point about the individualism of conservative evangelicalism rooted in modernity, and the latter’s slipping into chaos. However, I would suggest that the whole issues around ‘identity’ which are causing trouble for the CofE are a more extreme example of the effects of (post)modernity. So a liturgy for the celebration of same-sex relationships is also pandering to the Modernist zeitgeist.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, David. I suppose my answer is yes… and, no! Identity is both complex and simple. The simple bit is that I am the one who is loved by God! The other bit, is, as you hint, complex and a long discussion.

        Reply
  3. One of the ‘Buzz phrases’ used in this diagram that I also dislike (following on from your 6th question) is “Social Transformation”.

    What do you think this means in the eyes of the HoB? Transformation from what(1) into what(2) exactly? The phrase itself is problematically neutral.

    Reply
    • I think that’s a good question. For my money, the most problematic, and potentially plastic, phrases are the ones around the outside. But this is only one diagram—and perhaps it is assuming that these things have already been explained elsewhere, and it is aiming to locate them in one big picture.

      Reply
  4. “And the common applause for the idea of unbounded theological diversity (‘we are a broad church!’) flies in the face not only of the New Testament (with its repeated emphasis on the importance of good teaching and the refutation of error) but also of the formularies of the Church of England”.

    “…but also of the formularies of the Church of England…………”.

    Well, what is the doctrine of the Church of England?

    According to Canon A5:

    “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”.

    This Canon is supported by Canon C15, which sets out the Declaration of Assent (which all Ministers of the Church are required to make) and its Preface.
    Are all agreed that these two Canons do enable us all to agree that the Doctrine of the Church of England does include the doctrines set out in the Articles?

    Alas, No.

    In two posts to
    Walking Together at Lambeth 2020? | Fulcrum Anglican (fulcrum-anglican.org.uk)
    I trace the trajectory from the Reformation onwards to water down the assent to the Articles and conclude that it cannot be assumed that all who have made the Declaration of Assent mean the same thing in what doctrines they believe.

    In the LLF book on pages 317-318 there is a section headed ‘The Articles of Religion’. It mentions the new form of the Declaration of Assent introduced in 1975 and quotes from the Preface to it and from the Declaration. It then concludes with

    ‘Opinions around the Church of England differ about the implications of this form of the Declaration for appeal to the Articles in disagreements like ours. Similarly, although the church’s canon law says that the doctrine of the Church of England is ‘found in’ the Articles and the other historic formularies, recent legal cases have raised similar questions about the implication of that wording for the Articles’ status in the church’s disputes. note 318’

    Note 318 reads “(Arches Court of Canterbury, In Re St Alkmund, Duffield: Judgement (2012) Fam 51; available at https://www.ecclesiasticallawassociation.org.uk/judgments/reordering/ duffieldstalkmund2012appeal.pdf (accessed 10/03/2020). Citing also Re St Thomas, Pennywell (1995) Fam 50, section 58; and Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross (2002) Fam 51, section 25)”.
    This refers to a Consistory Court appeal concerning an item of church furniture but includes several references to the Articles. This is an extract:

    “Then in Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross [2002] Fam 51 at para 25 the same chancellor said:
    “ … the Articles of Religion are now to be seen primarily in the same way as the other historic formularies, although Canon A 2 of the Canons Ecclesiastical 1969 states: “Of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.” They are no longer a definitive formulation of Anglican doctrine, even though they bear witness to that faith.”

    (h) In other words, “the Articles of Religion are no longer seen as definitive arbiters of the doctrine of the Church of England” (per Chancellor Bursell, QC in Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross at para 24). With this we agree and would point out that the view expressed by Sir Jenner Fust in this court in Gorham v Bishop of Exeter (1849) 2 Rob. Ecc. 1, 55; 163 ER 1221, 1241 (“Prima facie, …the Thirty-nine Articles are the standard of doctrine; they were framed for the express purpose of avoiding a diversity of opinion, and are, as such, to be considered, and, in the first instance, appealed to, in order to ascertain the doctrine of the Church.”) preceded the repeal of the 1571 Act and was necessarily based upon the wording of the relevant Canon then in force.

    25. It follows that, although Dr Pickles believes and is entitled to affirm (as he does) that his own theological position is still defined by the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, other clergy of the Church of England may equally affirm that those Articles are not for them the definitive arbiters of the doctrine that they are required to believe. This is of importance not only for all clergy who have to make the Declaration of Assent with a clear conscience but also in relation to the jurisdiction of the consistory court. In so far as it may, the consistory court must strive in the exercise of its faculty jurisdiction to ensure that any decision it makes permits the proper reflection of the doctrinal beliefs of the priest and congregation. Equally, however, it must strive to ensure that nothing is done in the exercise of that jurisdiction which may limit the proper reflection of the doctrinal beliefs of a different priest and congregation within the confines of the same ecclesiastical building.”

    So, what is the Doctrine of the Church of England?!

    Phil Almond

    Reply
  5. In one of his ‘Reflections of an Anglican Theologian’ titled ‘The Thing that Matters Most’ Dr. Martin Davie explains that he was prompted by Bill Clinton’s successful slogan ‘It’s the economy stupid’ to reflect on what should be an equally clear, brief slogan for the Church of England. He concludes:

    “When all is said and done, the Church’s core business is saving souls, and the only way that souls will be saved is if people come to realize that this life is not all there is, and that they need to put their trust in Jesus in order to avoid an eternity of damnation and enjoy an eternity of blessedness instead. The Church’s calling is to be God’s instrument to bring people to this realization, and for this to happen the leaders of the Church need to switch the focus of their message to the thing that matters most, the life of the world to come.”

    “It’s eternity, stupid”.

    Does the Vision and Strategy document at all agree with this emphasis?

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Well, I don’t agree with the phrase ‘savings souls’. This language is found nowhere in the NT; it is highly individualistic; and it is far too ‘other worldly’.

      Scripture tells us that we are to be saved as body-souls-in-community, full of hope for the coming kingdom in such a way that will transform our lives and our world now. So I think I would rather be more biblical than this!

      Reply
      • Mark 8:36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

        Sounds a bit other worldly and about saving souls to me!

        Reply
        • I’m sure that what Ian means is that if we have as a *central* buzz-phrase something that does not appear even *once* in the NT (Trinity, saving souls, asking Jesus into your heart), then we need to think harder about whether we are precisely on the ball with NT thought, or (rather) following some tradition.

          I happen to affirm all 3 as true to NT thought, but it requires some work to do so, not unthinkingness.

          The Greek for ‘soul’ (‘psyche’) overlaps with ‘mind’ but also (more perplexingly) might be thought to be easily confused with ‘spirit’ since it is an animating principle and is invisible. So there is a great deal of thought required, because as ever different cultures’ concepts do not precisely map onto one another (the main gripe is that ‘soul’ language is imposing Hellenistic thought on the Bible, though of course it was never fully absent from the Bible), and nowhere is that more true than in biblical-anthropology. Some writers on anthropology (Doctrine of Man) who have helped me are: Philip E Hughes ‘The True Image’; Anthony Hoekema; Witness Lee. Don’t knock him – some of his thinking is very precise and extensive.

          If anything, we could avoid the English word soul because, through time, it has become potentially so unclear – or, better, be more precise in definitions with more use of original-Greek terms.

          Reply
          • Can I come in on Ian side here? Ian is absolutely right. ‘Saving souls’ just isn’t scriptural. We are ensouled bodies (not embodied souls) (Genesis 1) We believe in the resurrection of the body – which of course turns out to be the Body of Christ, who will be all in all.
            But what is our soul? I have no idea except this: My soul is that which God loves eternally. And that’s all I need to know, really.

          • Ian
            You have picked out one phrase from Martin Davis’s ‘reflection’ – ‘saving souls’. I take your comment at 11.15 on December 11 to mean that you are not denying that you do ‘believe in individuals being saved – from their sins’, which I take to mean that you are affirming that individuals do need to be saved from their sins. Have I understood you correctly? Martin Davie is drawing attention to the fact that on Judgment Day those who are not written in the scroll of life will be cast into the lake of fire. Jesus taught the same terrible truth in Matthew 13:36-43. Martin Davie is saying that the Church has to teach and preach that warning alongside the wonderful promise of salvation to those who repent and believe, emphasising that what matters most is what happens after death. Don’t all evangelicals agree with that?
            Phil Almond

  6. Is “younger /more diverse” in the wrong place? Should “looking like the community we serve” be swapped with it? Isn’t it prior?

    This would help churches to focus on the real mission field where they are with their individual demographic. Parish populations vary considerably in age profile. Indeed some may have very few children and young people. Others will be hugely younger in profile. It’s not unknown for churches not to realistic about their surroundings. Trying to catch fish that don’t exist in their pond…

    Both age groups (being falsely binary) are largely untouched by the Gospel. Sometimes it seems no one really thinks a church full of old people would be thought of as doing well. A church of young families without any elderly people would be applauded…. I’ve led both ends of the spectrum.

    Reply
    • Do you know of many C of E churches where the age profile is *younger* than the surrounding context?

      And worth remembering that a church full of young people, if they stay, will in time become a church full of old people. A church full of old people, on the other hand…will eventually just disappear.

      Reply
      • I may have over egged my point…

        But I have known churches where the profile was “young” possibly because they were more gathered from outside the parish than inside. That also reflected in the social class being different from the immediate housing. Growing churches with young families can be a reflection of the local profile… which itself can change/grow old. I certainly know churches which seem reluctant to see what is under their statistical nose.

        Likewise, I’d venture, there are villages where there are few if any younger people…

        So my point is not that we should /should not be aiming at younger people but that an honest look at the individual context should suggest the priorities. That would cover not only age but every aspect of diversity.

        Certainly old people die… But services don’t always die as quickly as one might expect. 8.00am Holy Communion can survive far longer than one expects… Small doesn’t mean short lived. Whether it should is another issue.

        Reply
  7. Hi Ian

    A though provoking article, as ever.

    I agree with your support for the pragmatic: we can “reflect” on the issues, on our circumstances but sooner or later we need to get on with joining in with what God is doing in our own particular neighbourhood.

    It’s important (in my opinion) to plan when/where we can but never to the extent that we do not allow space for the Spirit’s movement or inspiration. In our own church we’ll try and make sure that we are doing “things” effectively since that will release us in lots of other ways to proclaim the Good News. Over the years, we’ve had one or two similar diagrams to the one produced by the Archbishops (the simplest was bring in: build up: send out) and they have helped to focus our working but, more importantly they have come together as a result of consultation and reflection: it’s what we all agree on.

    Perhaps the one thing that’s light here (or at least I haven’t seen it) is the evidence or broad consultation – which actually brings better understanding and greater ownership.

    Reply
  8. Hello Ian,

    Thanks again for raising some important and interesting points. Speaking of diagrams, doctrine and eternity, I’ve recently come across John Bunyan’s ‘map’ (google image “Bunyan map salvation”). I can’t help but wonder what the impact would be, and what conversations would be raised, were posters of this to be put up in our churches. Another interesting point about Bunyan is that, according to the preface of his collected works, his writings were “for many years so exclusively patronized by the poor”. Maybe the present day CoE can learn something from him.

    Sam

    Reply
  9. David Virtue has published a piece on his blog Virtueonline which puts this document in perspective. It is called “The Soft Totalitarianism of the Episcopal Church”. This document is in the soft stage, but there is only one trajectory and that is mirrored in the case of Bishop Love. I believe you were right Ian in your first comment on LLF – we cannot walk this road.

    Reply
  10. It’s quite easy to step away from the ‘dominance’ of discussions on sexuality (and gender).
    Firstly, don’t assume that these are the concerns only of a metropolitan elite. I have discussed this with rural, conservative communities who are completely at ease with SSM and same-sex parenting (and trans people).
    Secondly, stop insisting that one particular reading of the texts is ‘correct’ and thatvonly this reading leads to salvation. It’s Pelagian. Stop obsessing about what people do in their bedrooms, what genitalia they have, and what goes where.
    It’s prurient, it’s unseemly, and it does nothing to build the Kingdom.

    Reply
    • On the other hand doesn’t the church have a responsibility to remind Christians of what the Bible teaches for all areas of life? And because sexual ethics are a fundamental part of human living (with implications that extend to the very existence of stable communities and nations) it’s rather important to understand and accept the boundaries within which God intends us to live and flourish.

      While the experience of Christians may be that we are not immune from failure to observe those boundaries as we should, I’d suggest that there was little dispute about where God actually placed them until rather recently. So perhaps it’s a tad disingenuous to imply that those who remain content with where Christians have long accepted that God placed them are the ones who are obsessed?

      Reply
    • Penelope
      I have no wish to discuss genitalia. It is forced upon me by those who wish to change church doctrine and teaching to fit in with the degraded culture we now inhabit.
      Going down the route you advocate has not grown the Episcopal Church in America or in Canada. It is destroying these institutions.

      Reply
      • Tricia

        No one is forcing you to think, speak, or write about genitalia. When I and other so-called liberals discuss the theology of bodies, sexuality, and gender, we rarely, if ever, mention genitals.
        The only occasions in which I’m drawn into discussions about genitals is in response to some the conservatives commenting on here who seem to believe that dwelling on the dangers of anal sex and the high rate of STDs and HIV seen in some promiscuous male gay sexual activities has any relevance to faithful and stable same-sex relationships, including those among faithful Christians.

        On numbers, AMiE isn’t exactly flourishing, and it’s worth remembering that conservative evangelicals are a tiny proportion of the CoE. In many evangelical churches which hold, formally, to a conservative ethic on sexuality and gender, the congregations tend to have a much more liberal sexual ethic than the leaders.

        Reply
        • Penelope
          I commented on the trajectory of affirming churches as a warning. AMIE is a new body, which may or may not prove fruitful. However, ACNA in America is in growth. The fact that congregations tend to have a more liberal ethic is probably poor teaching and pressure from living in degraded secular cultures.

          Reply
          • Tricia

            If you think the surrounding culture is so degraded then the only logical thing to do is campaign for changes in culture rather than wasting time trying to change the Church. And the story of ACNA and AMiE would seem to bear that out. AMiE has 16 small churches. ACNA is beginning to break apart over the ordination of women. Churches are human institutions. Breakaway churches like ACNA and AMiE just cause fresh division.

          • I think Wyn has put it better than I could.
            I would not want to return to a time when blacks couldn’t find a room to rent, when homosexuality was illegal and marital rape legal, when children could be beaten by teachers or parents, when women were institutionalised for having babies outside wedlock, or for being impregnated by their brothers or fathers, when people were hanged, when sex workers were considered fair game for the Yorkshire Ripper……
            Give me today’s depraved secular culture, please.

          • If you think the surrounding culture is so degraded then the only logical thing to do is campaign for changes in culture rather than wasting time trying to change the Church

            Why? Culture, being of the fallen world, is always going to be degraded. Trying to make culture holy is never going to work. By its very nature culture will always reject holiness.

            Only the Church has the possibility of holiness. Therefore it is to the preservation of truth within the Church that our efforts should always be directed first. Possibly, if the Church is kept holy, some holiness might spill out into the culture. But to try to change culture first is just wasted effort.

          • Why S? Because the Church is called to be an agent of God’s kingdom, working for that to come on earth. Your approach makes the Church some kind of lifeboat calling people out of the world. It’s a denial of God’s holiness and the incarnation.
            Secondly, if the surrounding culture is so far removed from the Church, it will make Church an even more alien culture than it is for people already.

          • Because the Church is called to be an agent of God’s kingdom, working for that to come on earth.

            No: waiting for that to come on Earth. God alone can Bring about His Kingdom on Earth. The Church cannot, by its actions, bring the renewal of the Earth forward by even half of one second.

            Your approach makes the Church some kind of lifeboat calling people out of the world.

            Yes. Exactly. As the Church cannot bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth — that is for God alone to do — what it can do is what Jesus did when He was on Earth: warn people that God’s Kingdom is coming and they better get ready.

            Secondly, if the surrounding culture is so far removed from the Church, it will make Church an even more alien culture than it is for people already.

            That’s a good thing, surely? The more alien the Church is from the fallen, sinful, evil world, the better.

          • That’s a very odd and un-orthodox view of Church S, but you are, of course, entitled to your opinion.

            Like anyone else, I am only entitled to my opinion if my opinion is right.

          • There is, and always has been, a variety of opinions about what the Church is for S

            So wouldn’t you agree it is quite important to not rest until we discover which one (s) are right and which are wrong?

          • I think they all have parts to contribute to the whole. Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The view you outline above is, I believe, entirely wrong.

          • S: the classic text on this question is Avery Dulles – Models of the Church. Note that the word Model is plural. He has six models.

          • the classic text on this question is Avery Dulles – Models of the Church. Note that the word Model is plural. He has six models.

            Well, that’s his or her opinion.

          • You are getting the hang of this at last S!
            It is indeed his opinion, as is the case with any academic. I am glad that you can now see that academic arguments are opinion, rather than fact.

            Dulles provides substantial evidence and a well argued case, which has been well respected in the world of ecclesial theology. It is helpful that we have such a well respected book for reference.

          • You are getting the hang of this at last S!
            It is indeed his opinion, as is the case with any academic. I am glad that you can now see that academic arguments are opinion, rather than fact.

            If they’re true opinions then they are also facts.

      • Andrew Godsall
        Culture has become more degraded than previous generations. I am not the one trying to change church teachings and doctrine. The liberal wing is wanting the change and those who disagree are being gradually pushed out. Just as in America. Jane Ozanne has made it clear that all must submit.

        Reply
        • Tricia

          I just find it very difficult to believe that you would prefer to live in a culture where you could be discriminated against for being black, female, gay, poor, disabled, Catholic, non Conformist, Jewish…..,
          I also find it difficult to believe that you think church doctrine has been, and is, immutable.

          Reply
          • Penelope
            I am a female and have not been discriminated against. My grandmother was not discriminated against and neither was my mother – they did have the benefit of not being sent to die in wars as their menfolk did.
            Discrimination is the buzz word of this era, although no one seems much interested in the discrimination, rape and murder of Christian girls in Muslim countries. I have been fortunate to have lived in a Christian country where women have been valued members of society, certainly for the last hundred years.
            Christianity teaches that there is no black, white yellow people, only sinful humanity in need of a spSaviour. Breaking people down by race IS racist.
            I believe the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. That God loves us so much that Christ gave His life for us. The baptism promises are that We turn to Christ, Repent of our sins and Renounce evil. We TURN to Christ and do not make ourselves in our own image with a long list of alphabet letters. Our call is to Holiness, not self fulfilment.

          • Tricia
            I don’t know how old you are, but your grandmother could have been discriminated against if she couldn’t vote, and if she didn’t earn the same salary as her male colleagues.
            Your mother could have been discriminated against if she couldn’t take out a mortgage or a hire purchase agreement.
            Both could have been raped by their husbands with impunity until the late 20thC.

            It is also true that we are all one in Jesus Christ. But tell that to black people in apartheid South Africa or the southern states of the US. Fortunately, they were supported by Christians who loathed racism and fought and still fight to end it.

            We are all called to holiness. I see more holiness in my married same-sex friends than I see in many ‘heterosexual’ relationships. Interesting that, in your view, straight couples are allowed self fulfilment, but gay couples are not.

    • Secondly, stop insisting that one particular reading of the texts is ‘correct’

      But surely only one reading of the texts is correct? I mean, if your reading of the texts is correct then mine isn’t; if mine is correct then yours isn’t.

      I can’t see any way in which more than one reading can be correct, when the readings are mutually exclusive, as they are in this case. Can you explain how more than one mutually exclusive reading can be correct?

      and thatvonly this reading leads to salvation. It’s Pelagian

      You’re another double-predestination Calvinist! I don’t agree with you but I do respect your position.

      Reply
    • It makes no sense to think it’s bad to assume that one particular reading of the texts is correct.

      The ”reading” that is in line with the author’s intentions will always be the correct one, which by definition puts it far ahead of any other.

      You are therefore saying that ”readings” (so-called) which are against the author’s intentions are just as good as those which are in line with them.

      What on earth could be your arguments to defend such a position?

      Try that theory out on living authors, and see what they say.

      Reply
      • S and Christopher

        The Dean of Chelmsford writes:

        “The Bible itself never claims to be without error or inconsistency. That is a product of the Enlightenment. Richard Dawkins and contemporary biblical literalists are (tragically) singing from the same epistemological hymn sheet.
        The notion that texts only mean what they say is devastating enough for Jane Austen, and a complete catastrophe when it comes to sacred texts. For much of Christian history the Church has understood bibilical texts to have many layers of meaning….Contested conversation invites contemporary Christianity to re-enter this arena.”

        Reply
        • The notion that texts only mean what they say is devastating enough for Jane Austen, and a complete catastrophe when it comes to sacred texts. For much of Christian history the Church has understood bibilical texts to have many layers of meaning….Contested conversation invites contemporary Christianity to re-enter this arena.

          Layers of meaning, perhaps, but two mutually exclusive readings cannot both be correct, can they?

          Reply
          • S

            Genesis 1 and 2. Deuteronomy 23.1 and Isaiah 56.4. Ezra/Nehemiah and Ruth. The Synoptics Passion and Crucifixion and John’s version. Versions of Judas’s death. Versions of Paul’s conversion. 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.

          • Genesis 1 and 2. Deuteronomy 23.1 and Isaiah 56.4. Ezra/Nehemiah and Ruth. The Synoptics Passion and Crucifixion and John’s version. Versions of Judas’s death. Versions of Paul’s conversion. 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.

            Let’s take the first one. Can you explain how two mutually incompatible readings of Genesis 1 (say, a reading which says it is a literal history and the world was created in seven literal days, and a reading which regards it as symbolic liturgy) can both be correct please?

            Because as far as I can see if one of those reading is correct the other must be wrong. But you think both those readings can somehow simultaneously be correct? Please to explain?

          • You are succumbing to a Dawkins literalist, and reductionist, reading if the text. The term ‘correct’ is a category error. Watches may be correct, myths may be true but not correct.
            Genesis 1 and 2 are myths about the creation of the cosmos and the creation of humankind. They contradict each other. They were written by different authors/traditions, at different times. Genesis 2 is most probably the earlier narrative. They are not the only myths of origin which appear in the Hebrew bible. If you really believe that scripture is God breathed, there must be some reason why God intended two, or more, narratives of creation and origin to be included in the Canon. None of them is correct, but they may all be true.

          • Genesis 1 and 2 are myths about the creation of the cosmos and the creation of humankind.

            That is one reading, yes. Another reading is that they are literal history.

            Are you saying that the reading of them as myths is correct, and the reading of them as literal history is wrong? If so, are you not ‘insisting that one particular reading’ — in this case, reading them as myths — ‘is correct’? And are you not saying that the opposing reading — that they are literal history — is incorrect?

            Have you not therefore contradicted yourself when above you said people should stop insisting that one particular reading of the texts is correct, as that is exactly what you are doing: insisting that one particular reading is correct?

          • S

            You are succumbing to a category error again. A myth cannot be correct. But it may be true. I am not arguing that any particular reading is correct. I think there are many layers of meaning in the Genesis narratives. And I love discovering more. Hugh Pyper believes that they aren’t myths of origin and that they are more about food than sex.

          • You are succumbing to a category error again. A myth cannot be correct. But it may be true. I am not arguing that any particular reading is correct.

            Yes you are. You’re arguing that the reading of it that says it is a myth (as opposed to, say, a literal history) is correct.

            That is only one particular reading, and you are claiming it is the correct one.

          • S

            Please read what I write. I did not write that a reading of Genesis 1 and 2 as mythology is ‘correct’ as opposed to other readings. I wrote that myths may be true.
            Sacred scripture does not concern itself with what is correct, but with what is true.

          • Please read what I write. I did not write that a reading of Genesis 1 and 2 as mythology is ‘correct’ as opposed to other readings.

            But you admit, presumably, that the reading of that text as myth, and the reading of it as literal history, cannot both be correct readings? That — because the two are mutually exclusive — if one of those readings is correct, then the other must be incorrect?

            Hence, by maintaining that the ‘myth’ reading is the correct one (and therefore that the ‘literal history’ reading is incorrect) you are insisting that one particular reading (the ‘myth’ reading) is correct, are you not?

            Which is exactly what you were criticising others for doing, hence you are being inconsistent.

          • S

            We are going round in circles here. I wrote that a mythological reading of some texts may be true. But never correct. Because correct is a category error when we are considering mythology. And when we are looking at sacred texts. How can narratives andnoiems which tell of the inexpressible mystery of God ever be ‘correct’.

            Since we’re nearly there, the incarnation is a wonderful truth, but neither Matthew’s nor Luke’s narratives need be correct in all their details.

          • We are going round in circles here. I wrote that a mythological reading of some texts may be true. But never correct. Because correct is a category error when we are considering mythology. And when we are looking at sacred texts. How can narratives andnoiems which tell of the inexpressible mystery of God ever be ‘correct’.

            You seem to be confused between the texts being correct and readings of the texts being correct.

            Take the text:

            ‘The capital of Australia is Sydney’.

            A reading of that text which treats it as a recipe for muffins is an incorrect reading. A reading of that text which treats it as a factual statement is correct. The factual statement itself happens to be incorrect, but that has no relevance to the question of which reading is correct. The correct reading of that statement is that it is making a(n incorrect) claim of fact. Anyone of even nearing average intelligence should be able to understand the distinction.

            So: you complained that some people treat only one reading as correct. You then claimed that one reading — the reading as myths — is correct. This is exactly what you criticised, and therefore inconsistent.

            You’re now trying to row back by claiming you ‘wrote that a mythological reading of some texts may be true’. But that ‘may’ is new.

        • Oh dear – the Dean of Chelmsford carefully wrote this for the reader to grasp the one point he intended to make – he does not want us to find here in his sentences & proposition ‘layers of meaning’ but his intended meaning. He is not inviting contested conversation and offering layers of meaning. He wants us to read him one way – and yet, absurdly, he thinks we can all read the Bible in another way, and not as the authors of the Bible intended us to understand, but reading out what we read in.

          double standards epitomised

          Reply
          • Simon. I think the Dean is making an important point about the character of biblical revelation and therefore how it is read for meaning. Is your problem the whole idea of the bible as ‘contested conversation’? I have just read Jonathan Sack’s marvellous commentary on Genesis where he returns to this idea repeatedly. The evangelical tradition has always been a highly contested (and conflicted) one when it comes to reading scripture together – though in public we try to insist on its ‘clear meaning’. As to your final sentence I really think you have misunderstood him because I think it is a complete distortion of what he is saying. But if nothing else this illustrates ‘contested conversation’ by Christians around scripture doesn’t it?

          • Dear Simon

            I think that is unfair. The Dean ends by encouraging us to listen to voices which make us feel uncomfortable and reminds us that, whatever ensues, the future is secured through what God has done for us.

            I like the image of the Bible as contested conversations. It makes sense of those books which contradict each other and of contradictions within books. Like Jacob and the Angel, we wrestle for the truth. It is a Jewish mode of reading sacred texts and, perhaps, Christian until the dead hand of the Enlightenment produced, ultimately, literalist readings.

          • The evangelical tradition has always been a highly contested (and conflicted) one when it comes to reading scripture together – though in public we try to insist on its ‘clear meaning’.

            The point of arguments about the meaning of scripture are to advance closer towards the truth of what it does mean.

            Claiming that many mutually exclusive meanings can all be true can only take us further from truth.

          • The Dean ends by encouraging us to listen to voices which make us feel uncomfortable and reminds us that, whatever ensues, the future is secured through what God has done for us.

            How do you know that ‘the future is secured through what God has done for us’?

            It can only be from the Bible, can it not? There’s no other possible grounds for you believing that to be true.

            But how do you know that that is actually true, if the Bible can have multiple meanings? Maybe that’s one of the ones that isn’t true? Maybe you’d like it to be true that ‘the future is secured through what God has done for us’ but actually it isn’t at all?

        • Nothing to do with the point I am making. Of course, different questions can be asked of texts. How is that relevant to the facts that (1) interpretations can be undeniably wrong, and most possible interpretations are just that; (2) the author’s intention is not on the same level as various other kinds of interpretation but on a higher level?

          Reply
    • Your position may be psychological, I don’t know – I find it hard to make sense of otherwise, and also impossible to justify. It may be that you do not like to talk with people who are sure of their ground (as a result of their logic and research) and may not be fully able ( as I have found that very many are not) to distinguish between your personal like of a person on the one hand and considerations of truth on the other. It may be diplomatic and also social convention to be perpetually self-effacing and relativist about every stance under the sun, but it sure as anything is inimical to truth.

      Reply
    • Perhaps that was intended. As I note, it picks up the agricultural imagery of many of Jesus’ parables. And it is a way of encouraging all sorts of forms and organisations of local worshipping communities to flourish, neither just the ‘traditional’ parish model nor the ‘contemporary’ methods of church planting—but both, and everything in between.

      Reply
  11. Ian, my brother in Christ. I find increasingly that you live in a world that I, and many others who once lived there do not recognise. Sexuality is not a concern of “the metropolitan elite” as any survey of social media, and conversation with anyone under the age of 30 will attest. The church’s perceived homophobia is one of the first things I encounter when talking to those who are in the post Christian demographic in our nation. This was true when I worked in a Football Club and now when I work in a care home, amongst women and men, LGBT and straight. My experience in those places as well as former Polytechnics and prisons is that it really matters. This is because love matters, intimacy matters, and most of my friends have friends and family who are demonstrating love and experiencing intimacy in relationships that are not heterosexual ones. I am glad that people increasingly are finding a way that offers the joy and opportunities for growth of monogomous marriage to people who are LGBT. For me it is a pastoral care issue and a mission issue.
    The other point I need to make is that the humility to realise that our reading of scripture might be wrong is surely something we all need, this blog and the CEEC seems to have a feel that there is one right reading. We all know that our reading of scripture has changed over the centuries and that all our reading of scripture is influenced by our cultural context. I am happy to admit my cultural lenses so could my Evangelical brothers and sisters do the same. A more humble church would I hope be able to do this…
    Final point made from the cultural context I know and love best, that of Bristol a City steeped in Empire and with a history it is slowly coming to terms with of both slavery and institutional racism. I think a humble servant church would be a radical step towards authentic mission to many in our nation. We need to get off our metaphorical and sometime literal thrones, and join people at the table where decisions are made, not expecting preferential treatment in law, whilst offering a Way of love, and a vision of reconciled humanity which is certainly needed here in Bristol and I think perhaps in other places across our divided nation of nations.

    Reply
    • The other point I need to make is that the humility to realise that our reading of scripture might be wrong is surely something we all need, this blog and the CEEC seems to have a feel that there is one right reading.

      This contradicts itself. Surely for a reading to be wrong it is necessarily true that there is one right reading?

      Reply
    • I am sure that readings of scripture can be wrong, but they cannot be wrong to the extent that
      (1) all the critical commentaries are 180 degrees incorrect
      (2) the parts that are easiest to interpret aright are the very parts that are held to require an opposite interpretation (no-one doubts that there are points at issue in the said passages, but it would be a brave person who would deny the main clear and uncontroversial point that homosexual sexual acts are – rightly or wrongly, and in this case rightly [not because of any doctrine of scriptural infallibility but because of their fruits in unnatural behaviour, departure from biology, disease, early death and inevitable average promiscuity] strongly condemned).
      (3) all of this suspiciously happens at precisely the time the culture demands it.

      Reply
        • In the name of humility there seems to be a huge amount of chronological snobbery.
          But, yet again it is the place of scripture and what it is that the unbridgeable chasm opens up and with it who God has revealed himself to be.
          The doctrine of revelation is dismissed out of hand by Bultmann and his contemporary acolytes.
          Much of what passed as Christian theology has be reduced, evaporated to little more than anthropology, human centric.
          And the cult of Marion is pervasive.

          Reply
  12. “We all know that our reading of scripture has changed over the centuries and that all our reading of scripture is influenced by our cultural context. I am happy to admit my cultural lenses so could my Evangelical brothers and sisters do the same. A more humble church would I hope be able to do this…”

    Hmm. So if I have read your comments about Ian Paul correctly your post is asserting that:

    I. He has little or no humility- let alone understanding of LBGT issues and how they relate to scripture.
    2. He hasn’t really examined the claims of other readings of scripture on this issues.
    3. Has little or no awareness of the cultural lenses by which scripture is read and is not prepared to admit it.

    I beg to differ…

    Reply
  13. Chris. ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘my evangelical brothers and sisters’ … Philip is clearly, and graciously, challenging a whole tradition here (and for what it is worth I agree with him). It is you who are personalising this. You disagree. Fine. Why not say why?

    Reply
  14. David, I don’t think Philip Nott has said anything new. He seems to be taking the view that we can live and let live on these matters. His post to me comes across as somewhat patronising to Ian Paul. If he really thinks that Ian has not been challenged in his own ‘evangelical tradition’ and has not considered the alternatives to ‘reading scripture ‘ let alone having little or no appreciation of cultural contexts and the ability to evaluate them objectively and with rigour, then I think Philip seriously misunderstands him.

    Reply
  15. Ian, you ask us to use distinctively Christian language to express …. practical concerns and pragmatic responses. OK, here goes. Ephesians 5:18, Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another …. – we cannot speak to one another if our mission/program pretends that two-thirds of the “one another” don’t exist. And yes, the two-thirds of the “one another”, the LEPs and Catholics and Methodists and Hillsong and RCCG and FIEC and Vineyard, appear to be unseen by the C of E. See also (for example) http://www.open.ac.uk/arts/research/religion-in-london/resource-guides/black-majority-church
    The bottom right of the graphic has “partnering with other Christians” – Hallelujah! – but the idea is undeveloped – the detail for “mixed economy” reads merely “Fresh Expressions, Digital, Parish, Chaplaincy, Church Planting” – have the other Christians have already disappeared from view?
    I come back to my theological point. We cannot evangelise without the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit, we must talk to one another, and that includes the other two-thirds, however tedious and frustrating the ecumenical process may seem to be.

    Reply
  16. S

    How do I know?
    Because Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God.
    That is truth.

    Jesus may have been born in a stable or in family room. Or somewhere else. Which is correct? We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. The Incarnation does.

    Reply
    • Penelope
      I’m glad that you believe that “Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God
      That is truth.” But, surely, S ‘s point is that the Bible says that Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God.

      Phil Almond

      Reply
          • ‘No, S’s point is that some things in the Bible are correct or facts.
            Rather different from being true.’

            Penelope, I am unclear on what you mean by that second sentence. Could you expand on it a bit please? In what way are facts (let’s say they are facts) – different from being true?

            For example, if gravity say, is a fact, is it possible that it could ever be false?

          • Geoff: I’m not sure what kind of law you practised, but if you submitted the Genesis accounts of creation as evidence to a High Court judge I don’t think you’d be taken very seriously. They are not factual. But they convey truth.
            And the same with much of the Christmas story. I doubt a High Court judge would take shepherds, angels, kings, wise men, etc as facts supported by the evidence from the Gospels would they? Yet they convey truth.
            And if a High Court judge were presented with the two genealogies as facts. Could they be admitted? I suspect you’d be sent away pretty swiftly.

          • Andrew,
            I practiced as Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, in general practice.
            And as such I’m greatly surprised that your station in the CoE has not brought you to an understanding of Genesis not being different accounts, nor contradiction (this is basic stuff) and again basic, the point of the different genealogies – there are answers.
            In addition, your understanding of the doctrine of Revelation seems to be in need of polishing, as does the methodology of interpretation. Yours would get you nowhere in the law.
            But. Andrew, again and again and again we revert to the chasm that is at the heart of the CoE, the place of scripture, what it is, it’s authority, and the God that is revealed within its pages.
            We can acquaint ourselves with well used words and phrases, to pass easily in Christian society, and can study the Bible as a subject as we might study any subject, without getting to the heart of it, the purpose, and teleological mega-narratives.

          • Geoff: you avoid the question. Would the high court judge admit the Genesis narratives as factual evidence of the means of creation?

          • Would the high court judge admit the Genesis narratives as factual evidence of the means of creation?

            Do you think that it is a fact that God created the universe? Or do you think that is not a fact? Or do you not know whether it is a fact or not as you are not persuaded by the evidence either way?

          • S: I am asking Geoff if the Genesis narratives contain factual evidence about the exact means of God’s creation i.e. would his High Court judge accept the narrative of 7 days with a particular order as constituting the facts of the case. And would Geoff’s High Court judge similarly admit the genealogies, differing greatly as they do in detail, as fact. It is a response to Geoff’s comment, and I will gladly wait for Geoff’s answer before muddling it with further questions.

          • I am asking Geoff if the Genesis narratives contain factual evidence about the exact means of God’s creation i.e. would his High Court judge accept the narrative of 7 days with a particular order as constituting the facts of the case

            And I am asking you if the Genesis narratives contain factual evidence about who created the universe. Do you think they do?

          • S: I’m not sure which bit of this sentence you can’t understand – “I will gladly wait for Geoff’s answer before muddling it with further questions.” If you need your answer urgently, I suggest you ask Geoff to hurry up with his answer.

          • I’m not sure which bit of this sentence you can’t understand – “I will gladly wait for Geoff’s answer before muddling it with further questions.”

            It was the bit where you seemed to think you could give me orders, actually.

          • The answer to Geoff’s question is rather crucial for context S. But I do wonder if you, like Donald Trump, will not take the views of any court very seriously.

          • The answer to Geoff’s question is rather crucial for context S.

            Do you think the Genesis narratives contain factual information about who created the universe or do you think they do not?

            I don’t think that question requires any extra context.

          • Andrew,
            I spent some time sketching a response, but lost it.
            1. I answered a question of yours.
            2 My comment was to Penelope not you and related to this comment of hers:
            “No, S’s point is that some things in the Bible are correct or facts.
            Rather different from being true.”
            It is a comment that Christ Bishop picked up as has S.
            She seeks to separate fact and truth.
            Two recent high profile Court cases, Tavistock and the celebrity libel case demonstrate that the courts establish facts as truth, truth as fact.
            Questions of evidence are separate, as are burdens and standards of proof. The Courts have laws and rules of evidence and canons of interpretation.
            Truth is objective and exists outside sole subjectivity and relativity.
            As Jesus Christ is the Truth I’d start with who he is. Lawyers and far from limited to lawyers, down the years have accepted the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
            To be more comprehensive, I refer you today to you and Penelope.
            And I’ll close where I started and with S’s succinct point:

            ” Well, either the Bible does reveal some facts or it does not reveal any facts.

            I’m just waiting for us to get some nonsense formulation like, ‘that’s not a fact, it’s a truth!’.

            I credit you, Andrew, with more than sufficient intelligence for you not to get the point, to understand, but you seem to enjoy being disputatious for it own sake.

            O happy Incarnation, who is unadorned Truth, by revelation, by faith, trust in who Jesus, God/man -with-us, is. God in Christ, supernaturally, breaks through all closed material world view systems of belief and closed firmly shut minds.
            You seem not to know, the scriptures nor the power of God, Andrew.
            Now you can personally, subjectively deny and denounce the Gospel’s witness, the New Testament, that’s right “testament,”- testimony- can reject it as truth/fact just as many reject truth, but that does not prevent truth remaining objective truth, centring as it does in the present season on the supernatural birth of God the Son – Jesus- Saviour.
            Worship, rejoice and glorify Him.

          • It seems you are unable to answer a straightforward question Geoff. Let me put it to you once again. Your prevarication suggests reasons why you can’t answer, but let’s try one more time:
            would a High Court judge accept the narrative of 7 days with a particular order as constituting the facts of the case. And would your High Court judge similarly admit the genealogies, differing greatly as they do in detail, as fact.

          • I think I’ve misjudged you Andrew. You really don’t get it, do you, as you clearly persevere in obfuscation.
            Different evidences are admitted, if they are relevant, that is “logically probative of the facts at issue”. The different purposes of genealogies of Jesus would be admitted as complementary not contradictory. It is all to do with looking to determine authorial intent and purpose (including common law precedents), intent of the law and application, one of the canons of construction of the law.
            It is so far removed from the liberal canons of deconstruction, which you seem to be determined to impose on the text.
            Worship Jesus, Truth incarnate, praise him glorify him, for who he is, why don’t you? It is truly joyous.

            It might be known by heart but not taken to heart; sing with me, Andrew.

            “Hark! the herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the new-born King;
            Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
            God and sinners reconciled.”
            Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
            Join the triumph of the skies;
            With angelic hosts proclaim,
            “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
            2
            Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
            Christ, the everlasting Lord:
            Late in time behold Him come,
            Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
            Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
            Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
            Pleased as man with man to dwell,
            Jesus our Immanuel.
            3
            Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
            Hail the Sun of righteousness!
            Light and life to all He brings,
            Ris’n with healing in His wings:
            Mild He lays His glory by,
            Born that man no more may die;
            Born to raise the sons of earth;
            Born to give them second birth.
            4
            Come, Desire of nations, come!
            Fix in us Thy humble home:
            Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
            Bruise in us the serpent’s head;
            Adam’s likeness now efface,
            Stamp Thine image in its place:
            Final Adam from above,
            Reinstate us in Thy love.”

          • would a High Court judge accept the narrative of 7 days with a particular order as constituting the facts of the case. And would your High Court judge similarly admit the genealogies, differing greatly as they do in detail, as fact.

            So do you think the Genesis narratives contain factual evidence about who created the universe or do you think they do not contain such evidence?

          • Geoff

            I think I know which theological college Andrew attended. And I would be rather disturbed if they didn’t teach that the two Genesis narratives were written by different authors/traditions, at different times, with different purposes and with distinctive contradictions.
            This is not in the least controversial.

        • Is humankind made in God’s image?
          Was Eden a real place, were Adam and Eve historical figures?

          Is Christ the Word made flesh?
          Was there a census, stable, angels, shepherds, magi?

          Reply
    • How do I know?
      Because Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God.
      That is truth.

      But how do you know that is the truth? ‘I feel it in my heart’ is obviously not a reasonable answer as lots of people feel all sorts of nonsense in their hearts. The only actual source I can think of for those claims is the Bible. So presumably you think the reading of the Bible which reads it as making those claims is the correct reading, yes? So you are claiming (as you were criticising others for) that one reading is correct, aren’t you?

      Reply
    • Philip

      I think that’s the wrong question. Sacred scripture isn’t there to teach us ‘facts’, but to reveal truths.

      Reply
      • Ah yes,
        “Truths”. Discuss – who, what, where, when, how and why?
        It’s good that it is recognised that there is scriptural revelation of truth. All or part?
        There is also the evidential side, and historicity, material, aspect of truth, in space and time let alone epistemology.
        The word of God, scripture, judges, discerns the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. Hebrews 4:12.
        “God’s Word is not judged by us. God’s Word judges us. wWe do not asses it. It assesses us. We do not interpret it. It interprets us. We do not master it. It masters us…It is not a dead letter to be dissected – the Word is alive (and active) and the Word dissects us.” Glen Scrivener

        Reply
      • Sacred scripture isn’t there to teach us ‘facts’, but to reveal truths.

        Based on your writing above, you seem to think that the Bible reveals the fact that humankind is made in the image of God; do you not?

        Reply
  17. Penelope
    Well, either the Bible does reveal some facts or it does not reveal any facts. Your reply just evades the question. Are you going to answer the question? You have already said that it is true that Christ died and was raised to glory. Is that true even if the facts were that Christ’s body decayed in the tomb? Or are you content to say that we just don’t know what the facts were. There must have been some facts surely.
    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Well, either the Bible does reveal some facts or it does not reveal any facts.

      I’m just waiting for us to get some nonsense formulation like, ‘that’s not a fact, it’s a truth!’.

      Reply
  18. My dear Mr Gradgrinds

    A Fact is something which is verifiable. Which is why I am not evading the question, but you are stumbling into category error once again.
    I and, I suppose you, believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. There is evidence to support this belief. But, unless we can be transported back to 1st century Palestine, we cannot prove it. Resurrection is a belief, not a fact.
    Likewise, being made in God’s image. It’s not a verifiable fact. It’s evident when humans love and act sacrificially. But, until we meet God face to face, how will we know? (And face to face is a metaphor.)

    Reply
    • A Fact is something which is verifiable.

      No it isn’t, because if that were the case then there would be, for example, no scientific facts, because nothing in science is verifiable (things in science are falsifiable , not verifiable, as I’m sure you know as you will have read your Popper).

      So either you agree that there is no such thing as a scientific fact, or you agree that being verifiable is not necessary for something to be a fact. Which?

      Reply
        • I don’t know.

          You don’t know? You don’t know even the most basic definitions of the area in which you are opining?

          Why should anyone listen to you if you don’t even know?

          Reply
          • Marvellous thing Wikipedia. Like online dictionaries, most useful.
            This doesn’t change my point though.
            The resurrection cannot be verified or falsified. It’s not a fact.

          • Once again there seems to be a long ping-pong of comments which are achieving nothing here, since the two sides are not really listening to or engaging with each other.

            To dismiss the evidence for the resurrection with such a sweeping generalisation, flying in the face of detailed debates on this, seems to me to be completely pointless.

            I really don’t understand why you are all continuing with this…

          • I really don’t understand why you are all continuing with this…

            A very large part of it is because I think that people who do not think the resurrection (say) is a fact should be made to admit, in public and straight up in plain language, that that is what they think, rather than (as such usually do) hiding behind dissembling circumlocutions, constructive ambiguities and saying oaths with their fingers crossed.

          • S

            I have just admitted ‘in public’ if that is what this blog is, that I don’t believe the resurrection is fact. No hiding, no circumlocution.
            And, yes, I know, Ian, that there is evidence for the resurrection, nor do I dismiss it. I am simply arguing that ‘fact’ and ‘correct’ are the wrong categories for sacred scripture and show an alarming tendency to modernism in their adherents.

          • And BTW, the Creed starts with ‘Credo’, not with ‘I know for a fact’, nor ‘this is correct’.

          • I am simply arguing that ‘fact’ and ‘correct’ are the wrong categories for sacred scripture and show an alarming tendency to modernism in their adherents.

            Now you’re definitely getting things the wrong way around. It’s actually your rejection of the categories of ‘fact’, ‘truth’ and ‘correct’ when it comes to religion, and your substitution instead of the idea of belief as an irrational choice being what matters, which is quintessentially modernist; specifically you seem to have bought entirely into nineteenth-century existentialism in the Kierkegaard vein.

            Which is a pity as such existentialism is nonsense, but it’s definitely far more modernist — indeed it’s kind of the prototype of modernism that all twentieth-century modernisms descend from — than the more classical, pre-modernist ideas of truth, fact and correctness as being the important things, which I and others are here representing.

          • Gosh S I really wish you would pay attention.
            I wrote that the categories of fact and correctness were false friends, not truth.
            Nor did I ever say that belief is irrational.
            That, again is your modernist assumption.
            You have bought into a late 19thC fundamentalism. Facts and correctness are so post Enlightenment. Don’t try to insert truth into such an instrumentalist construction of epistemology.

          • S

            It’s a pity that you can’t acknowledge that there was no hiding, no circumlocution, just your misrepresentation of what I wrote.

          • I wrote that the categories of fact and correctness were false friends, not truth.

            So we’ve got to the nonsense formulation, ‘that’s a truth, not a fact’, as I predicted.

          • S

            Whilst you are being so triumphalist, you might acknowledge that I have never hidden or been circumlocutory in my belief that sacred scripture does not teach us facts.
            So your slur was false, incorrect and not a fact.

          • Whilst you are being so triumphalist, you might acknowledge that I have never hidden or been circumlocutory in my belief that sacred scripture does not teach us facts.

            Do you think it is a fact that God created the universe?

            Do you think the Bible teaches us that fact?

            If not, what does teach us that fact?

            Do you think it is a fact that God loves us?

            Do you think the Bible teaches us that fact?

            If not, what does teach us that fact?

          • It is tradition that affirms the profound truth that God is involved in creation. Tradition and reason also affirm that the creation continues to regenerate itself. A number of places in some of the books we call collectively the bible recognises all of this and affirms that tradition and reason.

            That God is love is a sublime truth affirmed by our religious tradition and a number of places in the books we refer to as the bible affirm that truth because they stand in the same tradition.

          • tradition that affirms the profound truth that God is involved in creation.

            So do you think it is a fact that God created the universe? Simple yes/no question. Stop hiding behind dissembling circumlocutions and constructive ambiguities.

            That God is love is a sublime truth affirmed by our religious tradition and a number of places in the books we refer to as the [B]ible affirm that truth because they stand in the same tradition.

            So do you think it is a fact that God loves us? Simple yes/no question. Stop hiding behind dissembling circumlocutions and constructive ambiguities.

            And of course the truth of God’s love is also known by personal experience.

            Lots of people claim to have personal experience of being abducted by aliens and having probes stuck up their nether regions. Is the truth of alien abduction therefore known by personal experience? By your logic it seems it is.

          • Firmly I believe and truly that God created the universe. Firmly I believe and truly that God loves us.

            Happy Christmas!

          • Firmly I believe and truly that God created the universe. Firmly I believe and truly that God loves us.

            So you do think it’s a fact that God created the universe and you do think it’s a fact that God loves us. Why couldn’t you just say that in the first place?

          • No, I said firmly I believe and truly. It’s a belief.

            So you’re saying that in your opinion it is not a fact that God created the universe, and it is not a fact that God loves us?

          • No

            So you are saying that you do think it’s a fact that God created the universe and you think it is a fact that God loves us?

            (Sorry for having to spell this out but if you’re going to give one-word answers it is necessary for me to expand on them so everyone can be clear exactly what you mean, in order to avoid you hiding in ambiguities.)

            So you do think the Bible contains facts, then? Specifically it contains those facts, at least?

          • Credo S

            Both may be facts.
            Neither may be facts.
            Fact is the wrong category for Sacred Scripture.
            As I keep writing.

            Happy Christmas

    • Penelope,
      1. There is evidence, eyewitness evidence for the bodily resurrection, in space and time. There is no need to be transported back to have personally witnessed.
      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again the gospels are akin to admissible eyewitness statements in Court.
      2. Say for example X killed Z, but there is no evidence that he did so. It remains an objective fact, the truth, that he did. It is not relative nor subjective. There is no error of category in this example.
      3 Errors of category:
      3.1 You have not explained what categories and errors are.
      The error is in merging the category of fact/truth with evidence.
      3.2 Another error of category is equating the doctrine of God with the doctrine of humanity, which seems to be evident in your comment: “It’s evident when humans love and act sacrificially”. How do you know God is love, rather than love is god.

      4 Knowing God.
      This has its roots in the doctrine of revelation.

      4.1 “It is vital to the Christian faith, basic to a proper understanding of
      a What we believe
      b Why we believe
      c Here we get our beliefs
      d Why we believe these beliefs are true

      4.2 The doctrine’s importance is shown as it is often the first subject in a theology text book
      4.2.1 Revelation is to theology what epistemology is to philosophy
      4.2.2 Epistemology is connected to reason, Revelation to what is Given.
      4.3 Revelation: the unveiling of absolute truth which had previously been hidden
      4.4 It is to do with the revelation of God himself and the truth about him
      4.5 God is therefore Knowable, and we can know things about him

      4.6 There is
      4.6.1 Non-Redemptive Revelation, given to all people generally
      This is innate, what we are born with and learned, what we observe
      It includes
      – image of god
      – conscience
      – reason
      – natural revelation; what people receive of God through nature: it can result in their refusal to acknowledge God
      It reveals God’s creation and glory

      4.6.2 Redemptive Revelation
      4.6.2.1 There are here TWO Inseparable instruments of this Special Revelation:
      – The Gospel which must be preached to all
      – The Holy Spirit who applies the Gospel to believers
      4.6.2.2 The content of the special revelation
      a) the Gospel
      – the person of Jesus – the God-man
      – the work of Christ-his obedience, death and resurrection
      b) the nature of God, his glory, his will
      c) the sinfulness of
      – our inability
      – our depravity (sinfulness)
      d) judgment to come includes
      -the second coming of Christ
      – the final judgment

      4.6. 3 Supernatural (above nature) Revelation as opposed to natural revelation
      6.3.1 The Bible, God’s revealed will, the OT and NT
      6.3.2 The Holy Spirit by which we know the Bible is God’s Word
      a) There are two ways people may come to accept the Bible is true
      – external witness, such as archaeological discoveries, personal testimonies etc
      – internal witness, by the Holy Spirit
      Holy Spirit works effectually in believers by
      – convicting of sin
      – revealing the gospel
      -creating faith and repentance
      – Convincing Of The Truth Of The Bible
      – showing god’s will in how to live

      6.3.3 The glory of Jesus Christ
      a) that he is God and man
      b) that he is Creator
      c) that he is the only Redeemer
      – that he is the unique Son of god
      – that he is the only way to God
      – that his death is saving for believers only
      – that he bodily rose from the dead, ascended to God’s right hand and reigns and intercedes for believers
      – that he is coming again to judge the world

      At the supernatural level the Holy Spirit works internally
      – by which we know the Bible is God’s Word,
      – that he has revealed himself supremely in his one and only Son.

      Reply
      • Geoff

        Eyewitness? Tradition, but none of the Gospel writers.
        Anyway, that is a beside the point, because I can see that you agree with me.
        Personal testimonies, internal witness of the Holy Spirit, revelation. All these may be true, but they are not factual.

        Reply
        • Personal testimonies, internal witness of the Holy Spirit, revelation. All these may be true, but they are not factual

          They may be true. They may also be — and usually are — false. How do you tell the difference between ‘personal testimonies’ which are true and those which are delusional nonsense?

          If you can’t tell the difference, how can you believe any of them?

          Reply
      • The error is in merging the category of fact/truth with evidence.

        Indeed. There seem to be people here who really can’t separate epistemology and ontology, which is weird, because most children learn the distinction by about five or six years old.

        Reply
        • Indeed, children can understand that stories communicate deep truth, but are not themselves factual. They understand quite quickly that facts are understood to be facts because they can be proven.

          Reply
          • They understand quite quickly that facts are understood to be facts because they can be proven.

            Well, why don’t you try it? Find a child. Tell them this story:

            Jill was playing in the living room when Socks, the family dog, bounded in, full of energy. Socks grabbed the loose end of a bit of tinsel and yanked it hard; despite Jill’s cries of, ‘No! Stop! Bad dog!’, Socks yanked and yanked until the whole tree fell over.

            As Jill stood, stunned, in the middle of the mess, Socks quickly absented himself from the scene of his crime, just before Jill’s mother, having heard the almighty crash, came to see what was up.

            Now, ask the child: given that Jill can’t prove that Socks, by this point running around the garden as if nothing had happened, was even in the room at the time, is it still a fact that Socks, and not Jill, pulled over the tree?

            I’m pretty sure that every child you ask will display a better understanding of the nature of truth than you, and inform you that it is a fact that Socks pulled over the tree, even though it can never actually be proven that that is what happened.

            Because children understand that a fact is what is, not what can be proven. Ontology is not epistemology.

          • That is not a story S. It’s an actual event. The proof is contained within it.
            I take it you’ve never had children. Try reading The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. That is a story with profound truths. But no facts.

          • That is not a story S. It’s an actual event. The proof is contained within it.

            You claim that a fact must be provable to be a fact.

            Jill cannot prove that Socks upturned the tree. She has no evidence Socks was even indoors at the time (we’ll assume the nannycam was busted).

            Therefore by your definition of ‘fact’, which requires provability, it is not a fact that Socks did the deed.

            Any child will be able to tell you that your definition is, therefore, nonsense. Facts are what happened, whether they can be proved or not.

          • That is not a story S. It’s an actual event. The proof is contained within it.

            So, same as the actual events recorded in the Bible, then? Like the resurrection?

          • That is not a story S. It’s an actual event. The proof is contained within it.

            Jill cannot prove that Socks upturned the tree. She has no evidence that Socks was even indoors at the time (we’ll assume the nannycam was busted).

            So by your definition of a fact as ‘something that can be proved’, it is not a fact that Socks did the deed. Because it cannot be proved. There is no evidence. Therefore, by your definition, it is not a fact.

            Any child will therefore be able to see your definition is nonsense.
            Because it is a fact that Socks pulled the tree over — even though it cannot be proved.

          • You are making vast generalisations about the bible again. You simply can’t say that the bible is all about actual events – hence my question to Geoff, which he refused to answer, about the events recorded in the accounts of creation.

            I’ve explained many times that I think the resurrection was an actual event. But it represents a profound truth. It’s rather more than a conjuring trick with bones – so it is more than about the facts. To reduce it to facts diminishes its importance.

          • It’s an assumption that Socks pulled the tree over. It’s based on circumstantial evidence. And because the parents trust the daughter is not lying when she says she saw the dog pull the tree over we can assume it’s a fact. It isn’t a matter of life or death, and we are not in court, so we have enough proof.

          • I’ve explained many times that I think the resurrection was an actual event. But it represents a profound truth.

            So do you think it is a fact that Jesus rose from the dead, or do you think that that is not a fact?

            And because the parents trust the daughter is not lying when she says she saw the dog pull the tree over we can assume it’s a fact.

            ‘We can assume it is a fact’

            Ah, and here we get to the heart of the matter. I say that ‘a fact’ is ‘something that actually happened’. You say ‘a fact’ is ‘something that can be proved’.

            Let’s try substituting each of those into that phrase, that you wrote, and see which one makes sense.

            You go first: ‘We can assume it is something which can be proved’.

            Well, no, we can’t. You have admitted as much. It can’t be proved: it has to be taken on trust.

            Now me: ‘We can assume it is something that really happened’.

            This makes sense, and it is clearly what you really mean: because we trust Jill, we can assume that her report is accurate, and that what she says happened is what really happened; that is, that it is a fact, even though she can’t prove it. Even though she has no evidence.

            So even you can’t consistently use ‘fact’ in your, peculiar sense, without slipping into the correct sense of the word ‘fact’: that is, ‘something that is true’.

            Regardless of whether it can be proved.

          • Nice try S. but no one really cares about the adventures of Socks. There is enough evidence to make the probability of fact.
            But your vast generalisations about the bible won’t stand up anywhere. I believe the resurrection is true.
            I believe God created the world.
            But the nuts and bolts of these things I have no idea about. We don’t have any of those facts or any method of proof. The belief that we have inherited, in the case of creation, and the testimony of the first witnesses in the case of the resurrection, gives us our ‘proof’.

            I also believe that Paul wrote what he did to the churches he was writing to. But, I have no idea whether Paul would write the same thing to the C of E or any other church today. Things have moved on 2000 years and Paul, if he were alive today, might think quite differently about things.

          • Nice try S. but no one really cares about the adventures of Socks. There is enough evidence to make the probability of fact.

            No, that won’t do. You claimed that a fact is something that can be proved.

            How can you have ‘the probability of something that can be proved’?

            Either something can be proved, or it cannot. If it cannot then, according to you, it is not a fact.

            So according to you it is not a fact that Socks is the Christmas criminal, because it cannot be proved.

            And as any child will tell you, that is nonsense. It is a fact that Socks knocked over the Christmas tree.

            As any child would also tell you, it is also a fact that Socks knocked over the Christmas tree even if he did it in the dead of night, when there were no witnesses whatsoever, so not even Jill’s word as evidence.

            Because what makes something a fact — as any child knows — is that is what really happened. Regardless of whether anyone saw it happen. Regardless of whether it can be proved. If it happened, it’s a fact.

            I believe God created the world.

            So you do think it’s a fact that God created the world? Or do you think that’s not a fact?

          • “As any child would also tell you, it is also a fact that Socks knocked over the Christmas tree even if he did it in the dead of night, when there were no witnesses whatsoever, so not even Jill’s word as evidence.”

            If there are no witnesses any child will tell you that all they can think is that Socks must have knocked the Christmas tree over because there is no other likely explanation. Once again, it’s about probability.

            The probability with creation is that things evolved. Do I *believe* that there is a God somehow behind all of it? Yes, I do believe. Can I prove it? No I can’t. It’s a matter of belief. I believe it to be true. Will scientists and others keep striving to find proof of the origins of life? Yes, they will. Why? Because it fascinates us and we’d like to know the facts.

          • P.s. Try reading The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde S. That is a story with profound truths. But no facts. As any child will tell you.

          • P.p.s S I think you will find this verse helpful

            John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
            I don’t need to cross any fingers when I take any oaths. I believe.

          • If there are no witnesses any child will tell you that all they can think is that Socks must have knocked the Christmas tree over because there is no other likely explanation. Once again, it’s about probability.

            No, it isn’t. As any child over the age of five or six could tell you, there is a difference between what people know, and what actually happened. Because children of that age know — which you seem to do not — that the room continues to exist even when there is no one in it, and the doors are closed.

            You, on the other hand, seem to be stuck with a mental age of about four where you think that when you can’t actually see something it doesn’t really exist; and anything that happens while you have your eyes closed didn’t really happen.

            The probability with creation is that things evolved. Do I *believe* that there is a God somehow behind all of it? Yes, I do believe. Can I prove it? No I can’t. It’s a matter of belief. I believe it to be true.

            You believe it is a fact, you mean. But you can’t prove it is a fact.

            Will scientists and others keep striving to find proof of the origins of life? Yes, they will. Why? Because it fascinates us and we’d like to know the facts.

            And again you contradict yourself. According to you we can never ‘know the facts’ about the origins of life, because it is impossible ever to prove how life originated, because it happened in the past and the evidence is long gone. So by your very use of the word ‘facts’ here again you admit that there are facts which can never be proved but which are, nevertheless, facts.

          • If the tree was knocked over in the middle of the night with no witnesses (but Socks was around), we may surmise that Socks knocked over the tree, but we cannot state this as a fact.

          • S I think you will find this verse helpful

            John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

            Do you think it is a fact that Jesus said those words? Or is it not a fact that Jesus said those words?

            If it’s not a fact that Jesus said those words, then why would I take any notice of them? Some fallible human might just have made them up, and so they could be totally wrong.

            I don’t need to cross any fingers when I take any oaths. I believe.

            Just a couple of weeks ago you confessed to mentally crossing your fingers when you said an oath (by having your own, deliberately contrary to the plain meaning, interpretation of what you were saying).

          • If the tree was knocked over in the middle of the night with no witnesses (but Socks was around), we may surmise that Socks knocked over the tree, but we cannot state this as a fact.

            You, also, seem to be stuck at the mental age of four where you think that if nobody witnessed something then it didn’t really happen.

            If Socks knocked over the tree in the middle of the night, then it is a fact that Socks knocked over the tree — even if nobody can ever know for sure that it is a fact. Because facts relate to what is, not what is known.

          • “Just a couple of weeks ago you confessed to mentally crossing your fingers when you said an oath “

            Please tell me where that was S. I don’t cross my fingers when I say any oaths.

            Do I know for a fact that Jesus said the words to Thomas? No, I don’t, as I have no proof. But it is the basis of the Christian faith. It has a profound truth about it.

          • Please tell me where that was S. I don’t cross my fingers when I say any oaths.

            https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-does-it-mean-to-call-myself-evangelical/#comment-388658

            Do I know for a fact that Jesus said the words to Thomas? No, I don’t, as I have no proof. But it is the basis of the Christian faith. It has a profound truth about it.

            Lots of things that ‘have a profound truth about them’ turn out, on closer inspection, to be lies. So if you don’t think it is a fact that Jesus spoke those words I ask again, why should I, or anyone else, pay attention to something that could, on your view, be something just made up by a fallible human being?

          • I don’t cross my fingers and have never said I did. Try again!

            Proof isn’t needed. Faith is. I can’t give you that S.

          • I don’t cross my fingers and have never said I did. Try again!

            Just a couple of weeks ago you confessed to mentally crossing your fingers when you said an oath (by having your own, deliberately contrary to the plain meaning, interpretation of what you were saying).

            Proof isn’t needed. Faith is. I can’t give you that S.

            So why on Earth do you put any faith in words that you think were written by a fallible human being, and that therefore might well be describing something that never happened, that that fallible human being just made up?

          • S

            So, I think you are an unreliable narrator. So what happened? And if you tell me, why should I believe you?

          • This is typical of the liberal approach. They claim to believe large things and be agnostic about smaller things – yet so often it is the smaller things that are easier to test or establish, and the larger things that rely on our prior research into the smaller things.

            Over and over again one gets this cliche: I believe X (doctrine) but as to the how and the mechanics I remain agnostic. X will usually be something quite vast and remarkable, so in order to see whether there is evidence for it at all, one has to look into the mechanics quite a lot. The liberal generally looks not at all, just jumps to the conclusion (the quintessence of bad thought).

          • Nope. I have never had to cross my fingers. I was quite clear that the 39 articles were an historic formulary and bore witness to the faith etc etc. What I said was that they didn’t bear a very good or reliable witness. No finger crossing ever needed.

            I put my faith in those words because they describe very truthfully what our faith and belief are about – something not seen. The whole of the Christian ‘tradition’ stems from that verse. Our whole tradition is largely about bearing witness to things unseen. I don’t need to know whether Jesus actually said that to Thomas or whether the writer of the fourth Gospel put the words in Jesus’ mouth decades later. It tells a profound truth.

          • Gosh S you are having problems with ‘evidence’. The tree was knocked over in the middle of the night. Socks was around. Probably. So, it is a ‘fact’ that Socks knocked it over 🙂

          • Nope. I have never had to cross my fingers. I was quite clear that the 39 articles were an historic formulary and bore witness to the faith etc etc. What I said was that they didn’t bear a very good or reliable witness. No finger crossing ever needed.

            Which is obviously not the intent of the words. So you are being exactly as honest as Bill Clinton claiming that he was not in a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, by interpreting the question to mean ‘are you having sex with that woman right now’, aren’t you?

            I don’t think it’s unreasonable to describe that kind of blatant dishonesty as mental finger-crossing.

            I put my faith in those words because they describe very truthfully what our faith and belief are about – something not seen. The whole of the Christian ‘tradition’ stems from that verse.

            So? All that means is that if that exchange didn’t happen — if Jesus didn’t really say those words — then the whole of Christian tradition is a lie built on a fallible human being’s made-up fiction.

            I don’t need to know whether Jesus actually said that to Thomas or whether the writer of the fourth Gospel put the words in Jesus’ mouth decades later. It tells a profound truth.

            Does it? How do you know? If it is just something a fallible human made up — which you think it could be —then there’s no reason to think it tells a profound truth at all, is there? You could quite easily be putting your faith in lies and mistakes.

          • Gosh S you are having problems with ‘evidence’. The tree was knocked over in the middle of the night. Socks was around. Probably. So, it is a ‘fact’ that Socks knocked it over

            Unless it was Mittens. The family cat. Who was also around.

            No evidence can ever prove which of the two knocked over the tree. But whichever one it was, it’s a fact that it was them.

          • Nope. It could have been the wind, or a poltergeist or Jill sleepwalking.

            And if it was a poltergeist then it’s a fact it was a poltergeist, isn’t it?

            And if it was the wind then it’s a fact it was the wind, isn’t it?

            And if it was a sleepwalking Jill then it’s a fact it was a sleepwalking Jill, isn’t it?

            We’ll never know.

            We’ll never know which of those is a fact. But one of them (or something else) is a fact. Because facts are facts even if no one knows they are facts.

            That’s what makes them facts.

          • S: I have been really clear and honest about the 39 articles. Many times. They are not taught. They are historic. They bear a very poor witness to the Christian faith. And I don’t, and never have crossed any fingers when making any oaths, mentally or otherwise. These are facts, You lack any shred of evidence, as usual, in saying otherwise.
            I’ve also been clear why I believe John 20:28 to be true. You have said in the past you don’t believe it.
            As to your Christmas tree – it’s a fact that it exists. It’s a fact that it’s on the floor. These are the facts. It may or may not have been knocked over. No one knows. It’s a matter of opinion, not fact.

          • I have been really clear and honest about the 39 articles.

            You haven’t been honest enough to refuse to make a public declaration, the plain meaning of which is that you accept the 39 articles as an accurate representation of the Christian faith. Instead you have you own private interpretation of that words that allows you to say them but mean something different, thus misleading those who hear you into thinking you mean something different from what you do think. That’s dishonest.

            I’ve also been clear why I believe John 20:28 to be true.

            Because of your experience

            As to your Christmas tree – it’s a fact that it exists. It’s a fact that it’s on the floor. These are the facts. It may or may not have been knocked over. No one knows. It’s a matter of opinion, not fact.

            So you really are sticking to the four-year-old’s world-view that if something happened and you didn’t see it then it didn’t really happen at all. The world only exists when you are looking at it; if you close the door and open it again and the tree is on the floor, it might well have simply blinked out of existence and then rematerialised in that position.

            I mean, such hardcore solipsism is a philosophical position, I guess, but it’s one most people grow out of quite quickly. I bet you think ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around, does it make a noise?’ is a really deep question, too.

          • The 39 articles are NOT an accurate representation of the Christian faith. I don’t know anyone who believes they are. I have never been asked to swear that they are.

            As to your Christmas tree. Of course it exists and of course it is no longer standing. You need more imagination about what might have happened. Stop being so literalist. It might have been knocked over. It might have been pulled over. It might have been blown over by a gust of wind. It might not have been put up straight and was teetering anyway. A branch may have collapsed and unbalanced it. Any or a combination of those things and others might have happened. The fact is that it is on the floor. How it got on the floor is a matter of speculation and opinion. No one actually knows.

          • The 39 articles are NOT an accurate representation of the Christian faith. I don’t know anyone who believes they are. I have never been asked to swear that they are.

            You’ve never said, ‘ I, […] do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness’? Really?

            As to your Christmas tree. Of course it exists and of course it is no longer standing. You need more imagination about what might have happened. Stop being so literalist. It might have been knocked over. It might have been pulled over. It might have been blown over by a gust of wind. It might not have been put up straight and was teetering anyway. A branch may have collapsed and unbalanced it. Any or a combination of those things and others might have happened. The fact is that it is on the floor. How it got on the floor is a matter of speculation and opinion. No one actually knows.

            No, how it got there is a matter of fact. One of those things happened, or something else did; no one knows which, but whichever of them happened, it is a fact that it happened. It’s a fact that no one will ever know, but facts don’t need to be known to be facts. They just need to be true.

          • I’ve told you lots of times that I have said that. I have never said that the 39 articles are a true representation of the Christian faith.

            And look! Whilst you were asking me, the Christmas tree is standing straight! I’m not sure it was ever on the floor after all! Panic over!

          • I’ve told you lots of times that I have said that. I have never said that the 39 articles are a true representation of the Christian faith.

            You don’t think that the plain meaning of those words, the intention of those who wrote them, and what most people who hear them understand by them, is that you do think that the 39 articles are a true representation of the Christian faith?

            <i/.And look! Whilst you were asking me, the Christmas tree is standing straight! I’m not sure it was ever on the floor after all! Panic over!

            Who was panicking? The point is that whatever happened, it is a fact that it happened, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter whether anyone knows what happened; if it happened, then it is a fact it happened.

            Unless you’re going to maintain your stunted solipsistic four-year-old’s view where if you didn’t see something then it didn’t really happen. Are you?

          • I’ve already said – I don’t know anyone who thinks that about the 39 articles.

            The Christmas tree never fell over. That was just a myth.

          • I’ve already said – I don’t know anyone who thinks that about the 39 articles.

            You’re not going to dispute that those are the plain meaning of the words, then? So you agree you don’t have the honesty to refuse to say words that you confess you think are not true?

            When people say words that they know aren’t true we usually call that ‘lying’. Are you saying you’re a liar?

            The Christmas tree never fell over. That was just a myth.

            So you’re saying it’s a fact the Christmas tree never fell over? Even though we weren’t looking at it all the time so we have no proof it remained standing?

            You really are the man who said, ‘God must think it incredibly odd if He finds that the tree continues to be when there’s no one about in the quad’, aren’t you?

          • It isn’t at all the plain meaning. As I’ve said before, they bear witness. They just do it very badly.

            Try not to read too literally S. you miss the meaning too often

          • It isn’t at all the plain meaning. As I’ve said before, they bear witness. They just do it very badly.

            You really think that the plain meaning of asking someone to declare that ‘ I, A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness’

            … is that the historic formularies bear witness very badly to the faith?

            You’re really sticking with that story?

            Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

            Try not to read too literally S. you miss the meaning too often

            Explain where I have missed a meaning.

          • The plain meaning of those words, the intention of those who wrote them, and what most people who hear them understand by them, is NOT that the 39 articles are a true representation of the Christian faith. A simple reading of the 39 articles will tell you that.

          • The plain meaning of those words, the intention of those who wrote them, and what most people who hear them understand by them, is NOT that the 39 articles are a true representation of the Christian faith.

            Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the words in question again:

            ‘ I, A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness;’

          • Yes indeed Ladies and Gentlemen. I fully agree that they bear witness.

            Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I invite you to notice the absence of the word ‘badly’ in the statement, and draw what conclusions seem proper from that, presumably deliberate, omission.

          • Ah yes indeed ladies and gents. But lots of things bear witness. Lord Peter Wimsey, the mediaeval building opposite the pub in the village, the Quaker meeting house in town, this website, and, for all we know, the little robin chirping in the garden. They all bear witness.

          • But lots of things bear witness. Lord Peter Wimsey, the mediaeval building opposite the pub in the village, the Quaker meeting house in town, this website, and, for all we know, the little robin chirping in the garden. They all bear witness.

            And yet none of those things are mentioned in the wording. Only the ‘historic formularies’ are. What do you think might have been the intention behind that? Might it have been to express that the speaker is affirming that the historic formularies, unlike ‘ Lord Peter Wimsey, the mediaeval building opposite the pub in the village, the Quaker meeting house in town, this website, and, for all we know, the little robin chirping in the garden’, bear true witness?

            If that’s not it, why do you think that the ‘historic formularies’ are mentioned and ‘ Lord Peter Wimsey, the mediaeval building opposite the pub in the village, the Quaker meeting house in town, this website, and, for all we know, the little robin chirping in the garden’ are not?

          • S: I’d be happy to continue discussing the question of the declaration of assent. But our time is up here. The offers for discussion I have suggested before remain open. Let me just draw your attention to a scholarly article that might help your concern about the matter. I quote from an article in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal about The Significance of the declaration of assent:

            ‘It remains unclear whether “assent” means a complete adherence to every doctrinal proposition, or acceptability of their main tenor, or preference for them as opposed to any other doctrinal statement, or else their acceptance as portraying the identity of the Church of England’.

            As has become clear, it has been about 100 years since the 39 articles were taught to clergy. That says something as well. I feel no need to cross any fingers, mentally or otherwise, when making the declaration.

          • ‘It remains unclear whether “assent” means a complete adherence to every doctrinal proposition, or acceptability of their main tenor, or preference for them as opposed to any other doctrinal statement, or else their acceptance as portraying the identity of the Church of England’.

            It doesn’t seem unclear to me, given the meaning of the word ‘assent’, but I guess if you desperately want something, however clear, to seem unclear, and especially if your livelihood depends on you convincing yourself of its unclarity, then you will perform whatever mental gymnastics are required.

            It is, as Upton Sinclair famously observed, difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upoj his not understanding it.

          • Probably best to take it up with the Ecclesiastical Law Society then S. As I have said several times, the mental gymnastics are yours, not mine. And I don’t have a salary dependent on any of the various meanings the lawyers give to that text.

          • Probably best to take it up with the Ecclesiastical Law Society then

            Did I not just?

            <i<As I have said several times, the mental gymnastics are yours, not mine.

            We’ll let the readers decide what the plain and obvious meaning of the word ‘affirm’ is, and which is the dishonest squirrelling. i think.

          • I definitely affirm. That isn’t in question, and that’s where your reasoning falls down. What’s in question is how accurately things bear witness. Lots of things bear witness, as I have pointed out. They don’t all bear witness as well as some other things. The BCP is another of the historic formularies that bears witness. But not that many churches use the BCP at all now, preferring the Common Worship series of services. Why? Because CW is better at bearing witness than the BCP I suspect.

          • What’s in question is how accurately things bear witness. Lots of things bear witness, as I have pointed out. They don’t all bear witness as well as some other things.

            The other things aren’t mentioned in the text though. Why do you think that is? What were the writers intending to convey by mentioning some things, and not mentioning others?

            Could it be… that they regarded the things they mentioned as being worth mentioning because those were the things they thought bore true witness?

            If not, why do you think the things chosen for inclusion were chosen, and the others excluded?

          • The BCP most definitely is mentioned in the text.

            Which presumably means that the writers intended that those who affirm they stand by the faith to which it bears witness thought that it was a true witness, does it not?

            Otherwise, why do you think they included it and not any of the other myriad things you mentioned that bear bad witness?

            Or on a higher level, what do you think the purpose of the affirmation is?

          • As I have said – The BCP is another of the historic formularies that bears witness. But not that many churches use the BCP at all now, preferring the Common Worship series of services. Why? Because CW is better at bearing witness than the BCP.
            You don’t seem to grasp that not everything that bears witness does so in the same way or with the same weight. It doesn’t stop them bearing witness.
            To sum up: the 39 articles bear witness but in a very limited way. And that’s why they aren’t taught anymore…..

          • ‘But not that many churches use the BCP at all now, preferring the Common Worship series of services. Why? Because CW is better at bearing witness than the BCP.’

            I think that is an utterly bizarre claim, and you don’t offer any evidence to support it. People prefer CW because it is in modern English; many are detached from their heritage; and still others think that CW is the least worst option, but could be a lot better.

          • You don’t seem to grasp that not everything that bears witness does so in the same way or with the same weight. It doesn’t stop them bearing witness.

            Of course I do. And so, clearly, did those who wrote the text we are discussing, because they included some things and excluded others.

            Why do you think they included some things and excluded others? If it’s not for the obvious reason — because they thought the things they included were the ones which bore true witness to the faith that those who repeated the affirmation were signing up to and the ones which they excluded are the ones which did not bear true witness — then for what reason do you think they did that?

          • Ask the people who wrote it S? I didn’t write it so anything I say is interpretation. You don’t like my interpretation. That’s ok – no one Is asking you to agree.

          • “I think that is an utterly bizarre claim, and you don’t offer any evidence to support it.”

            Evidence? The fact that since at least1927 there has been a whole movement of reforming liturgy. Where were you when Series 1 and 2 were around? They were not in modern language. That didn’t happen until Series 3! The ASB allowed both modern and Elizabethan Language, as does Common Worship. To say that it is simply a preference for modern language is totally bizarre and ignores every liturgical debate that goes on in GS. It’s about theology, and not language. The BCP is inadequate in expressing the theology of the Parish Communion Movement, the Tractarian Movement, the Charismatic Movement. Etc.

            I happen to like the BCP quite a lot and used the office of Evensong daily for ten years or more. But it represents a particular historical snapshot – just as the 39 articles do. They bear witness, but Neither bear full witness.

          • But you appear to be ignoring what the C of E itself says and does.

            Canon Law is quite clear that the formularies of the C of E, ie the BCP and its Ordinal, and the 39 Articles, define the doctrine of the Church.

            All liturgical revision has expressly been on the understanding that any new, ‘alternative’ liturgy should neither be understood as or be used to contradict the doctrine found in the BCP. That is what it is all ‘alternative’ and not a replacement.

            That is why 1927/8 Prayer Book was refused assent in Parliament.

            And that is why certain things, like the ‘offering’ of the gifts, was expressly omitted from CW, despite the proposal that it was included.

            The Parish Communion movement, the Tractarian movement, and even aspects of the Charismatic Movement, do not form in any recognised, official sense, the ‘doctrine of the Church of England’.

          • Ask the people who wrote it S?

            You’re the one who affirmed you agree with it. So presumably that means you agree with the intentions of those who wrote it, does it not?

            After all, wouldn’t it be totally dishonest if we could all just make up our own interpretations of things and then affirm them? It’s like toasting to the king over the water.

            If you disagree with the intentions of those who wrote it, the honest thing to do would be to say, ‘I can’t, in good conscience, sign up to this’, wouldn’t it? Not to come up with some private interpretation and then pretend that’s what you were signing up to all along.

          • S: the affirmation made by those taking the declaration is that they will take the inherited faith of the C of E as an inspiration and guide in making the faith known afresh in each generation. As I have shown, clergy are not taught the 39 articles. Presumably because they aren’t exactly a way of making Christ known afresh in our generation.

            In terms of the legal questions raised by making the declaration, I have copied one legal opinion. Here is another you might find useful:

            “…any disciplinary case involving the Declaration is likely to constitute a ‘reserved matter’, i.e an offence against doctrine, ritual and ceremonial (p.185). Reserved matters are still regulated by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963, not the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.

            To date, no prosecution has ever been brought under the 1963 procedure for reserved matters. There seems to be no reported case either under the 1963 Measure or the 2003 Measure concerning a breach of the Canon C15(1) Declaration.

            Although described as ‘The Declaration of Assent‘, the word ‘assent’ does not appear in the text of the Declaration. The Declaration is in the following terms:

            ‘I, A.B …

            [1] declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness and

            [2] in public prayer and the administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon’.

            It will be apparent from this wording that ‘the Declaration’ is actually two declarations, as to (1) religious belief and (2) compliance with the Church’s law of worship.

            The two declarations are significantly different in character. Only Declaration (2) is concerned with conduct. Declaration (1) concerns state of mind. Declaration (1) is expressed in the present tense. It affirms the clergyman’s religious belief as at the time it is made. It contains no guarantee of what the clergyman may or may not believe in the future. Declaration (2), by contrast, is an undertaking as to future conduct.

            It is difficult to see how Declaration (1) could give rise to disciplinary action, as it refers only to a state of mind. As Dr Johnson observed, ‘Every man has a physical right to think as he pleases, for it cannot be discovered how he thinks’.

            Fascinating stuff eh?

            For the umpteenth time, I don’t need to cross my fingers, mentally or otherwise, in making the affirmation/declarations.

            It’s been a blast S. but I can’t navigate this comments section anymore. You are repeating yourself. I am repeating myself. I don’t think there is anything more to be said that hasn’t been said already.

          • the affirmation made by those taking the declaration is that they will take the inherited faith of the C of E as an inspiration and guide in making the faith known afresh in each generation.

            No, it isn’t. You quoted it yourself; it’s:

            ‘declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness’

            The language is pretty clear: ‘declare my belief in the faith’. That’s fairly unequivocal, and a million miles away from merely ‘taking the inherited faith as an inspiration and guide’, isn’t it?

            If the writers of the text had meant that, then they could have written, ‘I declare that I will take the inherited faith of the C of E as an inspiration and guide in making the faith known afresh in each generation.’

            They didn’t. Why not? Could it be because that is not what they intended? Could it be that what they intended was to define what the Church of England (as opposed to the Roman church, the Orthodox churches, the Presbyterians, the Bapists, etc) believe?

            In terms of the legal questions raised by making the declaration,

            I’m not talking about legal issues, I’m talking about questions of honesty.

            Here’s another couple of questions:

            (a) do you agree that toasting to the king over the water was dishonest?

            (b) what is the difference between that and what you’re doing?

          • Sorry – I missed out a crucial bit of evidence. This is what the C of E prints about it in the Preface to its current service book.

            The publication of Common Worship is an occasion of great significance in the life of the Church of England, because the worship of God is central to the life of his Church.

            The forms of worship authorized in the Church of England express our faith and help to create our identity. The Declaration of Assent is placed at the beginning of this volume to remind us of this. When ministers make the Declaration, they affirm their loyalty to the Church of England’s inheritance of faith and accept their share in the responsibility to proclaim the faith ‘afresh in each generation’.

          • When ministers make the Declaration, they affirm their loyalty to the Church of England’s inheritance of faith

            Right, well, I can’t see how making this affirmation dishonestly by coming up with one’s own personal interpretation of what ones wishes it said, as you have admitted to, can be anything but highly disloyal to the inheritance of faith.

            Could you answer the questions about toasting the king over the water?

            (a) was it dishonest?

            (b) what is the difference between that and what you’re doing?

          • I absolutely affirm my loyalty to the Church of England’s inheritance of faith. That’s why I’m an Anglican and not a Methodist or whatever. It is a fascinating inheritance. I especially value its great breadth of expression.

          • I absolutely affirm my loyalty to the Church of England’s inheritance of faith.

            So you affirm your loyalty to the 39 Articles? That’s not what you’ve written before.

          • Ian: I’m sure all of those things define the doctrine of the C of E. But there is rather a difference between the doctrine God the holy trinity and the doctrine of homilies wouldn’t you say?

            “THE second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.”

            When did you last read them or hear them read, hm?

            As to the 1927/28 Prayer Book: the C of E made sure that Parliament would never again interfere in the worship of the church. And nowadays, Parliament wouldn’t be remotely interested in doing so.

            And if the 39 articles are such a shining example of doctrinal clarity, why are they not taught at any theological college or course? (And haven’t been for a very long time).

            The C of E does not really have ‘doctrine’ of its own. It is simply part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church – hence it uses the Nicene creed in its central act of worship. That’s what it believes. We don’t recite the 39 articles.

            And – from the C of E website about what Christians believe:

            God has revealed himself through the Bible. God has revealed himself *most clearly* through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ.
            God makes himself known personally to each believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.

            Not most clearly through the bible. Not most clearly through the 39 articles. But mostly clearly through Jesus Christ and in personal encounter.

  19. Penelope,
    Yes based on eyewitnesses accounts.
    We only agree, if you indeed would like to believe we agree, if you deliberately ignore, as is your won’t, all else written in relation to the doctrine of revelation, which you do not accept particularly in relation to scripture, truth and fact. An example would be Ephesians 1&2 where indicatives, truth/fact are revealed, made known through scripture God breathed.
    But enough, there is a world of difference between what we believe as truth/facts about God, revealed in the person of Jesus, The Truth incarnate Jesus, knowing him and scripture, no matter how it is put. I don’t see that we have a synoptic view on any of it. But would be delighted to be proved wrong.
    O happy incarnation day.

    Reply
  20. Penelope,
    Personal testimonies: if you read more carefully, they come within the category of “external witness”. It relates to eyewitness accounts to what is seen and heard, to what is known in courts as testifying, on oath, or giving testimony.
    You are clumping it together with, internal witness which could in fact, include scripture corroborating scripture.
    The whole point about internal witness, in it various parts needs to be read as a whole, to get the point, otherwise the whole point will be missed, as it has been by you, as you read it through your pre-supposed, pre- judged, pre-determined lens and categories.

    Reply
    • The witness accounts of the Gospels are more akin to what an American court might call ‘argumentative’ than witness statements. The intention of the Gospels is not simply to state facts, but to persuade the reader/hearer to believe.

      What would be an example of “internal witness” in a court Geoff?

      Reply
      • The witness accounts of the Gospels are more akin to what an American court might call ‘argumentative’ than witness statements.

        Have you ever been in an American courtroom or is this based, as it seems to be, on what you have seen in television programmes?

        Reply
    • Geoff

      They may be based on eyewitnesses – thank you Richard Bauckham – but they are not eyewitness accounts. In a court I assume they would be hearsay.
      Internal witness is very convenient concept, as is scripture corroborating scripture. That is a belief. It is not a fact

      Reply
      • Hearsay, you say? Do you know what that is?
        It is admissible in evidence as to what someone has been told, something that has been said to them.
        Internal witness: yet again you deliberately avoid the whole of the points made about internal witness.
        But to isolate the one point as you have, internal witness of scripture relates to consistency of themes across the whole canon of scripture, written at various times and people over the course of history: it is corroborative, it serves the purpose of God, not the the individuals, it meshes scripture together. It provides evidential weight to reliability. This is basic stuff.
        And if you want an excellent up to the minute example read Ian Paul’s latest article, above on “the annunciation to Mary in Luke 1.
        There is much else besides, such as “Reading Backwards” by Richard Hays.

        Reply
        • Thank you Geoff. Interesting that hearsay is admissible. But it is not eyewitness evidence and but is not ‘proof’. We have no proof that the resurrection happened, nor that it didn’t.

          Out of interest, what is your objection to the JEPD theory of the construction of the Pentateuch? Other than that it is dated?

          Reply
  21. You know so little of courts and process, and to say that witness testimony in court about what a person has seen and heard is “argumentative” so demonstrates how unknowledgeable you are. That point is in relation to external testimony
    Internal testimony is an additional, but different category, not related to the courts system of witness at all.
    Again read the the whole point about internal witness. You are once again being highly selective to suit your own purposes…which are?
    I agree the point you make about the purpose of the Gospels (and the whole of scripture) is to believe but it is to believe what? As Jesus says it’s all about him the whole of scripture, but it is so we come to him to have (eternal) life. And it certainly is not merely to state facts, but do state facts about the birth, life, death, bodily resurrection and ascension of the God-man Jesus. Facts are corroborative evidence in that regard, in respect of belief, are supportive. It’s not either or, but both.

    Reply
    • Argumentative

      An argumentative question challenges the witness about an inference from facts in the case.
      Example: Assume that the witness testifies on direct examination that the defendant’s car was going 80 m.p.h. just before the collision. You want to impeach the witness with a prior inconsistent statement. On cross­examination, it would be permissible to ask, “Isn’t it true that you told your neighbor, Mrs. Ashton, at a party last Sunday that the defendant’s car was going only 50 m.p.h.?”
      The cross examiner may legitimately attempt to force the witness to concede the historical fact of the prior inconsistent statement.
      Now assume that the witness admits the statement. It would be impermissibly argumentative to ask, “How can you reconcile that statement with your testimony on direct examination?” The cross­examiner is not seeking any additional facts; rather, the cross­examiner is challenging the witness about an inference from the facts.
      Questions such “How can you expect the judge to believe that?” Are similarly argumentative and objectionable. The attorney may argue the during the closing argument, but the attorney must ordinarily restrict questions to those calculated to elicit facts.
      “Objection, your honor. Counsel is being argumentative.” Or, “Objection, your honor. Counsel is badgering the witness.”

      And thank you for confirming that the phrase ‘internal witness’ has nothing to do with law.

      Reply
      • Andrew,
        I think you and Penelope have been watching to much Perry Mason on day – time TV or any other courtroom USA drama.
        Weird how you support each each other, nobly riding to the rescue, but fall into the hole you’ve dug for yourselves.
        We don’t agree on scripture nor who God of Christianity is and his knowability.
        I can’t convince you as it needs both external and internal witness.
        I’m really not interested in point scoring or trying to win an argument, none of us gains eternity, eternal life in Union with Christ that way.
        While it can be expected that there could be so much heavy lifting in discussions outside Christianity, it, to me deeply troubling to encounter it from those deep with and with influence in Christianity.

        BTW, while I’m not at home and on the phone, there are not two contradictory accounts in Genesis 1&2.
        First there is an account of the creation of all there is, ex nihilo, a big picture overview, an ‘exective summary’, as it were at the very beginning, a sequence, if you will of, then there is a specific focus, a zooming in, on the organisation by God of the Garden a place of dominion by man as co-creators, where there is stewardship, of agrarian cultivation and animal husbandry.
        There is no conflict, nor contradiction, nor different accounts, even if you have been taught it by disciples of higher critics.

        Reply
        • Geoff: the differing creation accounts come from different traditions and were written for different purposes prior to incorporation in the book called Genesis. This is A level stuff.
          Do you think either could be admitted to the High Court as witness statements?

          Reply
          • It’s not A level stuff. There is no reason to assert dogmatically that Genesis 2 was written ‘prior to incorporation in the book called Genesis’. It may also have been written as part of the book called Genesis.

          • I should have been clearer. It is A level stuff to be considering this is what I should have said. And it is.

        • Geoff. Evangelical theologian John Goldingay rightly points out how someone reading from Genesis 1 to 2 could feel confused – ‘Excuse me? I thought God made the plants first. What is going on here?’. He explains, “The answer is that Genesis 1-2 give us two complementary parables about creation. If you take them as would-be literally historical accounts you will have your work cut out to reconcile them, but that is unnecessary if they are historical parables. Parables don’t have to be reconcilable in that way.” (Genesis for Everyone). I agree with him. There are two accounts, emphasising different things, but belonging together.

          Reply
          • Thanks, David, I agree, they belong together, complementary.
            I don’t think I can take too much encouragement.
            “Everything was Good, but not everything was Garden” Ferguson
            At home now, I could link some articles that would, taken together, give, what seems to me a more comprehensive and composite answer and possibly detailed answer, but I think they’d fall foul of Ian’s protocols for links.
            I could, with some time, draw together the key points, but it would be a waste of my time, with minds seemingly so entrenched, minds that appear to have been educated in literary criticism, documentary hypothesis, such as JEDP, Higher Criticism, the various theories and revisions.

        • Geoff

          The Genesis narratives as I wrote above are two different and contradictory accounts, written at different periods, by different authors/traditions, for different purposes. They are not the only creation myths in the Hebree Bible. Agonistic accounts surface in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Job.
          Most scholars, conservative and liberal alike, would agree on this. This is taught at theological colleges. Indeed, I have taught it myself.

          None of this denies God’s sovereignty, no that we are made in God’s image. Nor that Christ is the Word of God. S made disparaging remark above about saying things with our fingers crossed. I don’t need to cross my fingers when I say the creed because I believe (credo) that Jesus was raised from the dead. But I can’t prove it. John 20.29.

          Reply
          • Penny. I agree with your first sentence except the word ‘contradictory’. I prefer ‘complementary’ which I think better reflects the intention in placing these two accounts together. I also find the word ‘myth’ unhelpful. It means too many things and is too easily heard as provocative. With Goldingay I prefer to call these accounts ‘parables’.

          • Penelope
            Going back to your December 16, 2020 post at 8:48 pm
            “How do I know?
            Because Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God.
            That is truth.”

            I would like to ask, please, do you believe that is the truth because the Bible says that Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God. Or do you believe that is the truth for some other reason?

            Phil Almond

          • Hello David

            Yes, the accounts are complementary, but they also contradict each other at several points. As do the Synoptics and John. I don’t regard this as troubling because I agree with the Dean of Chelmsford about contested conversations.

            I can see that the term ‘myth’ can be provocative. I have always had to explain it when teaching since, in common use, it has come to mean something which isn’t true! But I find it a profoundly meaningful term, in that mythologies (not just Christian and Jewish ones) contain and express deep truths about our human condition and our spiritual seeking and about God’s love for us.

          • Phil

            Thank you. I believe it is truth primarily because I read it in scripture, assisted by reason, tradition and experience.

            I have never asserted that the Bible doesn’t contain truths, rather that regarding it as a purveyor of facts is the wrong category for sacred scripture.

          • Penelope,
            Where do they contradict? Without specifics, it is merely an assertion, a claim?
            The burden of proof is on you!

          • Geoff

            In Genesis 1 humanity is the crown of creation, in Genesis 2 the earthling is created before the rest of creation and is, probably, androgynous until the creation of ‘Eve’. In Gen. 1 humankind is already differentiated, in the image of God. In Gen 2 the earthling has the ‘privilege’ of naming the animals and of deciding that none is fit to be a mate.

          • Penelope

            Thanks for your swift reply. I just now want, if I may, to focus briefly on this discussion about truth and facts. In another post you mentioned John 20.29 which ends the passage starting at 20:24.

            To make sense the passage depends on several facts: that Thomas was not present at the first meeting; that Thomas was present at the second meeting; that Jesus was present at both meetings; that at the second meeting the presence of Jesus was the proof that convinced Thomas that Jesus had risen; that Jesus did say the words of verse 29.

            I struggle to understand why you are so insistent that in conveying the truth to us the Bible does not reveal facts.
            Phil Almond

          • Phil

            Are they facts? I don’t know. Did they happen, exactly as John describes them?
            I don’t know, nor do you.
            But in that passage, the writer of the gospel expounds a profound truth, that we who have not seen, yet may believe.

  22. The most extraordinary thing about this thread is that, as it develops from Ian’s original post, the few liberals here (sorry, generalisation) are saying ‘trust scripture’, whilst the conservatives are saying ‘we demand proof’.
    Sometimes I wonder who is ‘Bible believing’.

    Reply
    • Penelope
      But you are not trusting Scripture. You are doubting some, maybe all, of what it says in John 20:24-29.
      We are trusting Scripture. We are not saying ‘we demand proof’.
      Phil Almond

      Reply
      • But you are. You are convinced that the Bible tells you facts.
        I am convinced that scripture tells us truths.
        I was the one who cited John 20. 24ff. I have no doubts about what it says.

        Reply
        • Penelope
          “Are they facts? I don’t know. Did they happen, exactly as John describes them?
          I don’t know, nor do you.”
          These are your doubts in your own words.

          Phil Almond

          Reply
          • Phil: do you believe that every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels was actually spoken by him? You have not answered Penny’s question.

  23. Penelope,
    Picture this:
    You are asked in Court the following questions and these are your responses (base on your consistent contention)
    Q Is it true that you have made comments on Ian Paul’s blog articles
    A Yes
    Q Just to be absolutely clear, so it is a fact isn’t it, that you made them
    A No
    To round it off, this is where I came in, above, with a comment – try running that past a High Court Judge.
    The world has moved on from postmodernism, which has sought to separate truth from fact, (witness the exponential growth of disphoria) even as postmodern fluidity, becomes set as entrenched reinforced concrete of the dogmatic stance that truth differs from fact even as it employs the redundant vocabulary of true facts) even as its exponents are in denial. The world shouts for facts, on a mission for facts but not just any old fact, but that new breed of intense and intensive, true facts, which of necessity is set against the arch enemy false facts.
    And logic is a fugitive from reality; the logic of correspondence that truth corresponds with fact.
    And yet, and yet postmodernist aver that that object that objective truth is inaccessible and that meaning reside not in external reality or texts but in the interpreter. Carl F. Henry. (Hello Andrew, ring any bells?)
    And yet, even while espousing the postmodern cry, there is no objective truth, Penelope, you find truth, which is what? Objective? True for you, subjective?
    But the position you hold, Penelope, is far from radically new. As you know it has been taught through form criticism , Bultmann and other who peddle the concept of myth and reject out of hand miracles and the supernatural: that the Jesus of faith differs from Jesus of history. But to press that to its limit, it is little more than believing a human invention, fiction, even if there is an attempt to lift it above the fiction genre of magical realism, by describing scripture as sacred, they would remain little more than fiction, as atheists contend, and faith would be based on fiction. There’d be no justifiable reason to accept any of it as true, if it never happened, even the encounter between Jesus and Thomas or if it is fiction. There would remain only faith in faith, faith without an object, not in the in God revealed in the person of Jesus. And the atheist would have a logical and strong case.
    And if Christ was not actually raised from the dead, faith is vanity is in vain and we are all wasting our time and may as well…switch the lights off, move out, lock up, sell up just as we have sold out, as we have nothing, not the living Jesus Saviour, nothing but a God is dead madness running hither and thither in fancy clothes: smells and bells and intoned cliche and a miniscule book club.
    Ichabod.
    Deep, deep darkness.

    It was for such a time as this that Glory shone around: the God the Holy Spirit, supernatural, miracle, INCARNATION of, (name given, not chosen), JESUS, SAVIOUR, true light coming into the world.
    Worship him, as the Truth, the Way, the Life.

    Reply
    • Geoff: this is basic stuff. Ian is a New Testament scholar. He will not believe that every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels was actually said by Jesus. It’s quite clear that is not the case. Those who believe that are giving a complete gift to the atheists.

      Reply
      • Ian Paul
        Assuming that Andrew’s post today at 9:16 am is referring to you, it would be helpful if you would comment at this point please!

        Phil Almond

        Reply
    • Geoff

      I am really rather surprised that, as a lawyer, you have such difficulty with understanding evidence.
      Yes, if I was asked in a court if I had made comments on Ian’s blog I would answer yes, correctly. That I comment here is a fact.
      But as I, and Andrew, have attempted to explain a courtroom has a very different telos from sacred scripture.
      Courts enquire after facts, not truth.
      Scripture reveals truth, it does not teach facts.

      You also seem to have missed the evidence that I believe in the resurrection, so telling me that if Christ is not raised my faith is in vain, is a bit pointless really.

      That isn’t postmodernism – which you also misrepresent – it’s as ancient as the Church Fathers.

      Nor is it at all influenced by Bultmann, who had his day, but whose scholarship has rather gone out of fashion.

      But it can’t all have happened, since the gospels themselves contradict one another. And whether Jesus actually appeared to Thomas or cooked a barbecue on a beach isn’t really the point, is it.

      Reply
      • Courts enquire after facts, not truth.

        Courts don’t enquire after truth? Then why do they make people swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

        Reply
        • Beyond reasonable doubt and credible evidence do not determine truth.
          People are asked to swear or affirm because there wouldn’t be much point if their evidence could not be trusted.

          Reply
          • Nothing in a court of law.
            I was writing about courts.
            So I have no idea what your ‘what does’ refers to.

          • Nothing in a court of law.
            I was writing about courts.
            So I have no idea what your ‘what does’ refers to.

            What does determine truth?

            You’ve said there are things which you think are true. And you’ve said that ‘being true’ doesn’t mean ‘proved beyond a reasonable doubt’.

            So what does ‘being true’ mean? What do you mean when you say, ‘it is true that God created the universe’ (if you would say that).

  24. Basic, Andrew? Too true! if by basic you mean fundamental.
    Unbelieving biblical scholarship is a drain on the church, and that is being charitable. That is my truth.

    Reply
    • It isn’t unbelieving at all Geoff. I know that Ian is a faithful believer. The same with Christopher Shell. Both are fully aware that not every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels was actually said by Jesus.

      Reply
      • Andrew,
        In the context of my two latest comments today, above comments, I’m making a distinction between believing biblical scholars and unbelieving biblical scholars.
        Ian Paul’s latest article is marvelous, drawing worship and praise and knowledge of God.

        Reply
        • And I should add, the article brings a deeper appreciation of scripture and its intra – connectedness and its internal
          consistent witness and even an illustration of scripture interpreting scripture.

          Reply
  25. Both are fully aware that not every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels was actually said by Jesus. It’s learned by every student very early in their studies.

    Reply
      • So Christopher you believe that every word attributed to Jesus in all of the gospels was spoken by him – word for word as written?

        Reply
        • You utterly astonish me. Never has a conclusion borne less relation to what was written. I was talking about employing the critical spirit (don’t believe everything you hear and read) from which you somehow deduce that I believe everything I hear and read.

          Reply
          • I was not deducing anything of the sort Christopher. I was asking you a very specific question, which you have answered in a long way, but ultimately mean no, you don’t. Thank you.

        • 1. It is easier to remember what people do (though not necessarily in what order: Mark, according to Papias’s Elder, did not always know what order Jesus did things in) than what they say.

          2. In the case of Jesus what he did was even more important than what he taught.

          3. Even what people say could have been expressed in different words: therefore what is important is the substance of their teaching, their broader message(s).

          4. Both Matthew and (after him) Papias see it as a given that teaching/oracles of Jesus can be extracted from books like James and 1 Peter.

          5. This supplements the teaching (on divorce, on how the natural world e.g. the seed cycle shows the way things are, and so on…) that we find in Mark.

          6. Lex orandi lex credendi applies to Jesus. We learn his teaching/doctrine partly from how he lived.

          7. Mark lives at a date when it’s important to write down about Jesus before those who heard him / his key followers all die. John is 10 years later and Matthew and Luke a further decade later. John writes in the equivalent of our year 2070 (a bit like someone writing about COVID 50 years on, or like us writing now about events of 1970), Matt in the equivalent of our 2075-80, Luke in the equivalent of our 2085. We call material unique to Matthew ‘M’ and material unique to Luke ‘L’. John and ‘L’ are generated by the overall OT structural template schemes decided on by the authors in advance of writing. ‘M’ is more complex, because Matthew in his newly-introduced sayings of Jesus is in part trying to work backwards from the digested teaching of Jesus found and presupposed especially in James and other Jewish/Hebrew writers, to recast that into ‘implied’ sayings of Jesus. No wonder the less clear portions of the end result – I always think of Mt 7.6 as the classic example, though Luke 22 is chock full of this sort of ‘generated’ material – had to be interpreted by each person as best they could (as Papias’s Elder says – an exact commentator on his fellow evangelists who shows both praise and censure towards them where he thinks each is due).

          Reply
        • A category of Jesus-sayings that is always worth considering for strong claims to authenticity (and the more so wherever Peter/John was present) is the ones that are part of a narrative and/or the circumstances that occasioned them are stated. Such as: Follow me and I will make you fishers of men; How can Satan drive out Satan; these are my mother and brothers; only by prayer and fasting; whoever is not against us is for us; the camel and needle’s eye; my house shall be called a house of prayer etc; the widow’s mite; Eloi Eloi.

          Reply
          • I ought to add: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’. And probably numerous others I have forgotten.

            I don’t know that the dating of John has changed in the last 40 years, unless from consensus (90-110) to lack of consensus. Don Carson opted in the end for a date around 80, and I agree, always trying to posit dates on the basis of an interrelated dating of all NT books using the broadest possible amount of intertextual data.

            JAT Robinson ‘Priority of John’ thought John was *a* first gospel. He even, preposterously, saw independent development of Matt and Luke alongside Mark, so that all 4 are independent to a degree. I do not agree. John is not *a* first gospel but writes in the light of Mark. John is the second gospel. (It is even possible that 2 Peter 1.15-18 is a sort of Shakes-vs-Shav showdown on the relative merits of Mark and John from a Markanist.) However, John is written by Papias’s Elder and Papias’s Elder noted that Mark did not always know the right chronology. All the more reason to be interested in the places where John alters Mark’s chronology, since in those cases John has a good case for being the more accurate. These tend to cluster around the Jerusalem sections (John being very familiar with Jerusalem places and personnel but not with Galilee), wherein John is, in general, chock-full of info not in Mark. Places where John adjusts Mark’s chronology are: Temple cleansing; sequence of anointing and Entry; dating of Last Supper; hour of crucifixion (albeit timings are vague and can be theological).

          • Christopher: have you read Stephen Smalley on John Robinson’s work?

            ‘But it is crucial that the nature of the case itself should be properly understood. Despite the title of this book, and the totally misleading claim on its dust-cover, Robinson is not arguing that ‘the Gospel of John was the first Gospel to be written’. He is examining instead the possibility that John’s underlying tradition is primitive; that the fourth evangelist drew on sources which are independent of the synoptic witnesses, and therefore deserve to be considered as valuable historically as the equally independent traditions Mark, Q, M and L. In Robinson’s own words, his aim is not to prove that his is the only tenable position, but the more modest intention of trying out an hypothesis, exploring ‘what happens if one reverses the prevailing presumption that John is not a primary source’

          • But I already said the same thing. Robinson did not argue that John was the first gospel but (in common with most of his contemporaries) that it was independent, and therefore that it is a ‘de novo’ gospel.

            Where he differed from his contemporaries was in commonsensically thinking that if John was indeed independent it could scarcely be much later than Mark etc otherwise it would have come across them. Whereas most of his contemporaries did not grasp that nettle, so their position was unsatisfactory (independent, yet also late?? – and somehow ignorant of those writing in the same genre???).

            I disagree with the excellent Dean Smalley on his characterisation of G, M, and L as sources or even as existent.

            M is composite: it is Moses material; Aesop material; folk-legend material such as is found in Herodotus; Jesus-sayings material quarried from James, Peter, John etc..

            L is largely composed through tingeing the former material with Samson/Samuel/Ezekiel/Isaiah 61/Elijah [& Elisha]/Deuteronomy 1-26/Joseph. Not a source, therefore. Just as M is not a source.

            Q is non-existent. Luke uses Matt just as Matt uses Mark.

            Radical independence of the sort that I believe is being proposed is the only way that all these could be equally valuable historically.

            Radical independence? Equal historical value? All this when what we have before us is nothing less than the most similar documents in the ancient world. So I don’t agree.

            As for trying out a hypothesis, I believe it, and this is typical of Robinson. But (as with Redating the NT) he could have been much clearer about how far he was simply trying out a hypothesis and how far he really believed that hypothesis. Redating the NT, Dennis Nineham told me, was written subsequent to the suggestion of an elder male relative of Robinson – presumably father or uncle – that it would be good to see how far the NT could be dated before 70. (Or was Robinson just backtracking in the direction of his interlocutor the liberal Nineham – the sort of social compromise that is widespread? Would he have said something different in the presence of a different sort of interlocutor? There are politicians and even churchpeople that say different things to different audiences, depending on what will please them – but I don’t know that Robinson was one of those.)

            As for the value of the exercise of pushing an hypothesis as far as it will go, I believe in that. Finding that hypothesis A will take you only so far is a helpful finding; so is finding that it will take you a long way; so is finding that it will take you hardly any way at all. But isn’t it even better to view different hypotheses synoptically as though in a ‘race’ with one another?

  26. I think that when understanding Scripture, particularly the OT, it is important to comprehend and recognise the various ancient genres of the Bible by comparing and contrasting then with similar writings from the ancient world to and try to learn what the contemporary expectation of the literature was then, than trying to impose a modern reading on them.

    So for example in the book of Jonah -was this narrative supposed to be read in the ancient world as literal history? – or as CS Lewis believed (who understood a great deal about the nature of literature) – it was not meant as a ‘factual’ account as such but to be read in a genre corresponding to a Jewish morality tale in which the inherent truth was to teach something about the nature of forgiveness and revenge? This does not seem to me to make it any less inspired if you you take this view.

    I am not sure if this is what Penelope is trying to say when she differentiates between ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ but I think we do Scripture a disservice if we do not have a proper understanding of the contemporary genre when we come to read it with modern eyes.

    But then perhaps this is what theologians like Ian are for- is it not?

    Reply
    • Hello Chris,
      If you are not aware, while he does not self identify as a scholar, but as a Practitioner, could it be suggested you have a look at Tim Keller’s book on Jonah as a contemporary book on Jonah, based on, I recall, his sermons over the years: The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy, which I have.
      A recent commentary on Job I don’t have, but which has been highly praised, is by Christopher Ash.
      Christopher has endorsed the work of Greg Beale with his underpinning whole canon longitudinal biblical studies.
      You’ll be more than aware that there are others, such as Richard Hays, Richard Bauckham, NT Wright. Others are available.
      All have probably been subject to the pervasive teaching Andrew refers to.

      Reply
    • Hi Chris,

      Something like this. My take: The Bible has many different genres. Some books, like Luke, are meant to be read as history, although I believe the gospels are more theological narratives than historical ones (though, of course, they contain history!).

      Genesis and Jonah are myths, or parables, which David prefers.
      Some books are poetry, or hymns.
      There is prophecy, erotica, law, letters, fables, novels……a vast richness of stuff.

      Reply
  27. Andrew,
    I’m well aware of what is being taught, from my time of study in the Methodist Church and as I have over the years garnered resources on postmodernism and philosophy and critiques of higher criticisms, and the dead end street of the Jesus Seminar, which has brought about something of a U turn towards
    covert skepticism and unknowability of the truth, denial of the law of noncontradiction, perusing infinite regress, but with the continued influence of Kant, Derrida, Foucault, among others.
    In relation to my two comments, of 1:56pm and 2:14pm and in direct contrast, I have not found one jot or tittle of any comment from your or Penelope, over the time I’ve visited this site, as a non-scholar, that would engender such responses or edify.
    I find it is at once tragic and troubling.
    All the while, paradoxically, perhaps in direct opposition to their intended purpose to undermine, those contributions get to work as a bolster of my faith and worship of our Triune God, even as they gnaw away, without even one positive contribution that I can recall.
    Amen and amen, truly, truly.

    Reply
    • Geoff

      I’ve answered you already. You haven’t responded. But if you want me to respond to your comments on Ian : yes, he is a fine biblical scholar (though I haven’t read his post on the Annunciation).

      Reply
  28. Andrew and Penelope

    While we wait to see if Ian Paul will reply:

    In response, Andrew, to your December 19, 2020 at 9:18 am post:
    “Phil: do you believe that every word attributed to Jesus in the gospels was actually spoken by him? You have not answered Penny’s question” I will reply ‘Yes I believe that’ and see how you respond. I’m not sure what Penelope’s question was. Can you just point it out please?

    But I comment on this disagreement as a whole as follows (I have further comments later): Penelope posted on John 20:24-29 “But in that passage, the writer of the gospel expounds a profound truth, that we who have not seen, yet may believe”. I agree. This is a quote from verse 29 which the Gospel writer states that Jesus said. But when asked by me “Did Jesus say what the Bible states he said in John 20:24-29?” she replied, “I don’t know. And nor do you”. I think it is reasonable to assume (you or Penelope can correct me if this assumption is wrong) from this reply that it refers not only to what Jesus is stated to have said in this passage but also to all his stated words in the whole of the New Testament. So it would appear that Penelope’s view of all Jesus words in the New Testament is that he may have said all or some or none of them. We just don’t know which of these alternatives is true. I think our previous disagreements on other threads indicate that your view is the same as Penelope’s view on this. Is that right?
    If it is right I am wondering how you both deal with the warnings, the promises, the commands, the teaching that the words of Jesus in the Bible set out. Could either or both of you answer that question please?
    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Hi Philip

      I am fairly sure that many of Jesus’ sayings are authentic: multiple attestation; hardness of teaching (e.g. on divorce) etc. But I am less sure about others (bearing in mind that I am by no means a Jesus scholar). I don’t know if Jesus actually said exactly those words to Thomas, but they are, nevertheless, true. So much of Jesus’ speech in John’s gospel is so very unlike anything in the Synoptics; I find it unlikely that the gospel records Jesus’ exact words.
      Similarly, I think Paul’s speeches in Acts are largely a Lukan invention – a common device in contemporary histories.

      Reply
      • Phil: Penny puts it very clearly and states a very classical and broadly held position on New Testament scholarship. I concur. I might just add that we may interpret some of the terrible warnings as relating to events that occurred within the lifetime of Jesus disciples.

        Reply
        • Andrew,
          I’m losing track of the comments, and don’t always look back, but thank you for the link to Smalley’s review. Intriguing but with much theory and speculation.
          I have Smalley’ book on John, from years ago, which I can’t recall much about, other than I wasn’t sufficiently impressed to spend time re-reading, but that may be doing him an injustice.
          But a book I did find helpful and edifying at that time was this book. I’ll link a free PDF if Ian Paul permits: He Walked Amongst Us, by Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson (372 p) It was more in line with my knowledge and experience of the law and evidence of eyewitness accounts. Particular pertinent was how police collected and collectively recorded their accounts of what they saw and heard, particularly when there were a number of officers at the same scene. And it was so far from the method of scholars who almost overwhelmingly theorized that the gospels were constructed by communities, even to the extent of Q being a non evidenced fact.
          As for scriptural genres of the whole canon, I that agree that they are inspired, God breathed and inerrant, as with the rest of the Holy Scripture
          His “New Evidence that Demands a Verdict” 760 pages
          It contains much scholarly critique of biblical higher criticism.

          https://s3.amazonaws.com/jmm.us/Books-Downloadable/He+Walked+Among+Us.pdf

          All of this was encountered after my supernatural conversion to Christ, and it is through the lens of that conversion that I seek to weigh any authorial work, with the Christian sphere. It was only then as a believer that I started to read and study the Bible, as a solicitor.

          Reply
    • Andrew and Penelope
      As far as I can see, neither of you have answered my question about how you both deal devotionally and with a determination to obey God and Christ with the warnings, the promises, the commands, the teaching that the words of Jesus in the Bible set out.
      Are you going to answer or shall I move on to my next point?

      Phil Almond

      Reply
          • Penelope
            I have found the 3.12 pm you refer to. I will tell you what I have tried to say to Jayne Ozanne but as part of a longer set of observations that I am preparing, trying to pull together what Ian, you and Andrew have said on this and other threads and trying to position it in what I believe is the wider, deeper debate about what is the thing that matters most and what is the doctrine of the Church of England – see

            Mapping the Terrain for Engagement on Human Sexuality | Fulcrum Anglican (fulcrum-anglican.org.uk) for two of my posts there

            Phil Almond

          • Thank you Philip

            I cannot see any allusion to Jayne in your posts on Fulcrum.
            But what you may try to say to her is not my question.
            Would you tell Jayne that her faith and her heart are surer guides than her intellect?

          • Penelope
            The posts on Fulcrum are about what matters most and what is the Doctrine of the Church of England. In my next post I aim to tell you what I have said to Jayne Ozanne which hopefully answers your question in my own way, before moving on to these wider and more important issues (hopefully with Ian’s approval)
            Phil Almond

          • Philip

            I don’t want to provoke Ian’s ire so I will just say that Jayne is an example of someone who is regularly criticised by conservatives for allowing her faith and her heart to guide her.

            Yet you recommend that I do just that.

  29. Andrew and Penelope
    Just to be clear: by ‘deal with’ I meant in a personal devotional sense as you read and meditate on the Bible and try with the Spirit’s help to obey God and Christ (as I am sure you do).
    Phil Almond

    Reply
  30. Hello Christopher Shell,
    Many thanks for your comment of 19th at 7:49pm, which I’ve just read.
    This is not to be taken as patronision, but I find your comment on hypotheses spot on and the rest of that comment reminded me of what I found as non scholar deeply unsatisfactory about Smalley’s book on John and why I found McDowell’s book He Walked Among Us, far far more compelling and cogent, a book while not targeted at scholars, appeared to be well researched, referenced and argued.
    A PDF of the book is linked, above in my comment to Andrew, above.
    In a similar vein, I found McDowell’s New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, a treasure, again seemingly well researched and referenced, in taking on, deconstructing as it were, form critics, higher critics etc which seemed to go unchallenged in recycled scholarly circles. Your comment reminded me of some names I encountered.
    As for scholarly edification. I found Brown’s two volume commentary on John of far greater value than Smalley.

    Reply
    • Geoff: you have presumably noticed that Christopher does believe that every word attributed to Jesus in all of the gospels was spoken by him? (Which is one of the normal conclusions of NT scholarship).

      Reply
    • And Christopher, I noted from one of your comments somewhere your reference to Witness Nee. I’ve heard some of his teaching on John, which I found had a rare spiritual depth, though it would probably raise an eyebrow or two in evangelicalism.
      Early in my Christian life, some of Watchman Nee’s books were important in my Christian walk, such as “Sit, Walk Stand”, “The Spiritual Man”, “The Normal Christian Life”. They’d probably put me outside the evangelical camp and I don’t know what I’d make of them now, if they were to be re-read.
      Colin Urquart, Trevor Deering, David Pytches, John Wimber, David Watson were also of significant influence.
      All of that will see me as an outlier from many circles of categories for those who like to inhabit such spaces. But I was born again into the Anglican Church, and that is where I have returned. I suppose New Frontiers is more of a theological fit, where we were for a season, due to health circumstances. But maybe because we are retired the more structured service with good preaching/teaching and a mix of ethnicities, enthusiasm from young professional families and young reformed, unstuffy, ministers is of great encouragement even as we are age demographic outliers.
      Thank you for your comments on this site, over the time I’ve visited. It’s appreciated.
      As is Ian Paul’s patience in permitting any comment from me, as I don’t fit the profile of the target group.
      Perhaps I should adorn victim status as my beliefs and comments are harangued and disparaged as GCSE level or standard on the one hand while my knowledge and understand of the law, and courts, even qualification (ie what sort of lawyer are you?) is mocked, by those who may be highly educated in other fields of study, but as someone who has also lectured O and A level law, I find it the comments reveal a sub- GCSE level of knowledge and understanding of law, evidence and practice.
      While I understand that the style of my comments and spelling and English may no longer be up to scratch, especially with this infernal text correction which acts as text replacement, on the phone, and after a stroke, it may seem to be of insufficient quality, it perhaps needs to be stated that it is against the law to falsely claim qualification as a solicitor, that I once was, but no longer am. It is a matter of public record. I could have continued to pay a none practicing fee purely for status, but that is not for me and I moved into senior management in the NHS.
      It may be claimed that disparagement has been a two way street, and for that I apologies. Frustration can bear sour fruit and patience is tested by trials. And I’m so grateful that the Saviour paid the unpayable price for my sin, for me and, astonishingly, gifted the Holy Spirit as guarantor.
      I’m done here, now.
      Thanks Christopher.

      Reply
      • Thanks Geoff. Brown’s commentary on John is marvellous isn’t it. Gold dust. More for the fullness and richness of the individual comments than for any compelling overall vision.

        I am also a fan of Stephen Smalley’s introduction, which I was glued to in my mid20s.

        I heard Trevor Dearing speak last year – in his latter 80s. When you consider that Trevor Dearing, David Hathaway, Clifford and Monica Hill, the late Michael Green, no doubt Colin Urquhart and others have (all in their mid to latter 80s) far more motivation and drive than Christians of any other age mostly have (with honourable exceptions like Andrea Williams), does that not tell us that they have something that we do not have, quite different to what we have.

        Reply
        • Surely you don’t mean Andrea Minichiello Williams?
          Not a scholar. Not even a mainstream Anglican.
          Certainly not honourable.
          Far from it.

          Reply
          • To the contrary, she is perhaps the greatest fighter for Christ in the UK (as suggested by the very large number who subscribe to CC’s updates), an admirable mother of 5 and one who retains the zeal of her youth and has not been compromised like so many alas have. In common with the people we read of in the history books, she is not content to lie down and let bad forces override, but is proactive.

            As for not being a scholar, you should speak to those who were at school and college with her – she was/is a whiz at law. To this day, her analyses of the culture of death tend to get to the heart of the matter.

          • She is, perhaps, the greatest fighter against Christ in this country, may have been a whizz at law school but is strangely articulate and loses most of her cases, employs unqualified people who are criticised in court for their ineptitude, promotes the criminalisation of homosexuality abroad, supports gay conversion therapy and defended that hateful and inaccurate video featuring Ben John.
            She may be a good mother, I don’t know. But having five children is a proof of fecundity, not virtue.

          • And certainly did a great service to those in favour of ordaining women to the episcopate in the manner by which she opposed it.

  31. Andrew,
    Yet again and again and again this whole interminable thread shows how central the doctrine of scripture is to the future of the Church.
    My conviction is grounded in
    1 my conversion to Christ
    2 the doctrine of God
    3 the doctrine of revelation
    Not in what I consider to be the dead letter from the dead hand of
    some, not all, scholastismm that seem to be your guiding lights.
    If I were pressed (although the three points combine) it is the doctrine of revelation that is foremost, a doctrine that has been shown the door, it seems to me, in the academy and swathes of the CoE.
    Off now to church to worship and celebrate the joyful incarnation of the God -man, Jesus. God the Son.

    Reply
    • Oh sorry Geoff I missed out a word in my original post this morning. It should have read:

      you have presumably noticed that Christopher does NOT believe that every word attributed to Jesus in all of the gospels was spoken by him? (Which is one of the normal conclusions of NT scholarship).

      Reply
      • Andrew,
        I did understand that the “not” was missing, in the context of your comment. The intention of the author was apparent, notwithstanding the scribal error!

        Reply
        • It is not normal for NT scholarship to frame matters in an all-or-nothing approach as Andrew does. ‘Not every word’.

          It is normal to concentrate on criteria; to seek relative likelihoods for all the sayings; and to be impressed with the amount that we do have compared with other figures of the same period. The constructive approach of (e.g.) Sanders.

          After all, ‘not every word’ would still apply in a 99.9% scenario. And equally in a 0.01% scenario. Between which there is the whole world of difference, literally. This is typical of the negativity (which I have elsewhere described as technically parasitic, in that there is nothing constructive or inventive about it) that comes up with words like ‘post-evangelical’. It is critical of positive stances (of which scholarship is generally full); it has nothing positive (i.e. nothing actual) to propose in their place – has no theory in other words. It reminds me of when I was shoved off Thinking Anglicans. My stats-oriented approach made things simple. If my stats were wrong, then replace them with more accurate ones. Not a bit of it. They just criticised the ones I gave (because they were unwelcome not incorrect) – an entirely negative approach, which was parasitic and contributed zero to knowledge. They then failed to propose other stats in their place. But they banned me anyway.

          Reply
          • Christopher: your sleight of hand is clever. But you ignore the origin of the matter.

            The issue arose simply because Geoff and S and Phillip (and no doubt others) have claimed that if we deny that Jesus said the exact words that are recorded in the bible, then the whole bible is devalued. The bible is 100% reliable, they claim, and if even one sentence Jesus uttered is unreliable, then the whole thing is unreliable. Hence the claim, made by those people, that every word, exactly as recorded, was spoken by Jesus. This devalues NT scholarship, as you have helpfully explained.

          • Sleight of hand is employed by dishonest people. You ascribe sleight of hand to me. Therefore you categorise me as a dishonest person. I am not a dishonest person but a person who strives to be honest. Therefore what you say is wrong.

            We can’t generalise about 66 books of disparate date, authorship and genre. Nor can we prioritise dogma over research.

          • No, Sleight of hand is used to say someone plays a trick and quickly moves to make you think one thing is the case, when another really is the case. In this case you make it seem, for effect, as if I have raised the whole issue, which has in fact been raised by others.

            As we have agreed many times before, it is simply not possible to generalise about a library of 66 very disparate books. Likewise, it is not possible to generalise about words ascribed to Jesus by writers with different audiences and styles of writing.

          • But I knew the origin of the matter, I was just commenting on a different matter.

            Having treated me as dishonest once, you now do so 5 more times: ‘plays a trick’, ‘quickly moves’, ‘to make you think’, ‘make it seem’, ‘for effect’.

            None of which is accurate. But also you compound your suggestions of dishonesty by the equally unlikely suggestion that you can read another person’s thoughts and intentions. In my experience, those who think (worse: assume) they can do that are (not surprisingly) almost always wrong. My theory is that they are thinking what their own intentions would have been if they had written thus (though probably they would have been too honest actually to write thus).

            My intentions are in reality simple: to find and spread accurate truth; and what I write is to that end.

          • Sleight of hand (also known as prestidigitation refers to fine motor skills when used by performing artists in different art forms to entertain or manipulate. It is closely associated with close-up magic, card magic, card flourishing,

            Nothing about dishonesty.

          • Nonsense. Illusionism and trickery are expected in a magic show -the audience is not going to object to them. You are saying that a debate operates by these same rules and expectations that a magic show operates by. Well, of course it doesn’t, and everyone knows it. Debate is more like a court of law, where precision and exactitude and transparency and logic are important. Could not be more different from a magic show.

          • If you want exactitude you would refer to the claims of S and Philip Almond and others that every word recorded in the gospels as being uttered by Jesus was actually uttered by him. Your sleight of hand was simply omitting that origin of the debate. No matter: if this is more like a court then I have got that on the record.

            And for the record you may easily ‘google’ sleight of hand to discover the origins of the phrase, which I have given above.

          • The bible is 100% reliable, they claim, and if even one sentence Jesus uttered is unreliable, then the whole thing is unreliable. Hence the claim, made by those people, that every word, exactly as recorded, was spoken by Jesus.

            It is not necessary for every word to have been spoken exactly as recorded for the Bible to be reliable. It is quite normal for an interviewer to edit the words of their interviewee, for example, by removing ‘um’s, or reordering words to better express what the interviewee meant. Provided the sense of the interviewee’s words are maintained, and nothing is actually inserted to imply the interviewee said something they didn’t mean, and the interviewer doesn’t put words in the interviewee’s mouth, then this process doesn’t make the representation of the interviewee unreliable.

            For example, if (as I suspect happened) Jesus went around making similar, but slightly different, speeches in various different places, (as He probably didn’t have a single memorised sermon that he delivered word-for-word in every town), and if the gospel writers took the memories of various people who had heard Him in various places and synthesised them (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit making sure no errors crept in) into a single event, then that is still a reliable representation of Jesus’ teaching, despite Him never having spoken exactly those words in exactly that order in exactly that place.

            However if the gospel writers went around being fallible human beings making up entire events that didn’t happen and putting sentiments in Jesus’ mouth that He never expressed like ‘blessed are those who believe without having seen’, then that would cast doubt on the reliability of their entire testimony.

          • S

            I’d have a word with Christopher Shell if I were you.
            You’re not going to believe Andrew or me and Christopher knows his NT.

          • You can certainly have a word with me as I think my ideas are jolly good – but if you think they are representative of gospel scholarship that is a startling idea, for they rarely are – I am usually in a minority and frequently in a minority of 1 (although I always plead that it is fine to be in a minority of 1 if you are the only person to have thought of something).

          • However, given that my ideas are so unrepresentative, I am not sure why Andrew and Penny are recommending them.

            Alas probably because they are to some degree congenial, not because they have grounds for approving the scholarship behind them, which is chapter and verse which I have not provided.

            Who could approved something merely because it was congenial? That is an irrelevant factor. I remember on Maggi Dawn’s blog years ago, a participant asked for recommendations limited to non-complementarian writings (!). Talk about ”deciding” the issue in advance before you have even started studying it!

          • Thanks Christopher
            I don’t think your scholarship is representative nor congenial.
            You do not believe in Q, for example, and believe that John was earlier than M and L.
            You do, however, believe (if I am not misrepresenting you), that Matthew’s teaching on divorce is an elaboration (probably not the right word, but bear with me) of Jesus’s harsher – and original – teaching in Mark.
            I thought this might demonstrate to S and Philip, and maybe others, that it is not just lax liberals who do not believe that every word ascribed to Jesus is authentic.

          • Do listen to my views, which are so non-ideological that to any ideologue (of whom there are so so many) they would appear to be puzzlingly all over the shop ideologically. (That is, of course, because I forswear and loathe ideology.) Sometimes said ideologues behave almost as if this is the first time they have encountered someone honest, which it can’t be. Independence per se is not a virtue, but can be a sign that one is not dancing to anyone’s tune, but is a truth-seeker.

            As for Jesus/ Mark being harsh, I don’t know where to start. Tell that to the loving, peaceable deserted one.

            I start at the other end from where you say many do, because I am very enthusiastic about all the good Jesus material that we do have. It is increased not diminished by our possession of the synoptic parallels and our very useful ability to see thereby the directions/trajectories in which the traditions developed.

          • I thought this might demonstrate to S and Philip, and maybe others, that it is not just lax liberals who do not believe that every word ascribed to Jesus is authentic.

            But what has that got to do with pointing out that something can be reliable without being totally accurate?

            Andrew Godsall seems to think that believing the Bible is reliable means believing that it is completely accurate but as I point out above, this is not the case. Something can be reliable but not accurate (and conversely something can be totally accurate but not reliable, if, say, accurate recordings are edited in such a way as to give a misleading impression).

          • S, your problem is that you make vast generalisations about the bible. You can’t generalise about a vast range of books in many different genres written over the course of several thousand years and then copied and translated a number of times.
            What you appear to be saying, however, is that what is not totally accurate may still be true. I’m delighted to agree with that!

          • S, your problem is that you make vast generalisations about the bible. You can’t generalise about a vast range of books in many different genres written over the course of several thousand years and then copied and translated a number of times.

            Of course I can; because those books, and only those books, in all those genres, over all the thousands of years they were written, have one thing in common: they are the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and guarded through time by God’s providence to ensure they are a reliable guide to the truth. That common attribute sets them apart from every other thing ever written by human hands.

            What you appear to be saying, however, is that what is not totally accurate may still be true. I’m delighted to agree with that!

            No; it can be a reliable guide to the truth. Slight, but very important, difference.

          • How then do you know it is a reliable quide to the truth? Is that a dogma? In which case you do not know it but imbibe it or mouth it uncomprehendingly. Is it something that you are expected to say by faith? (Faith as the secularist envisages it.)

            Truth as opposed to falsehood is incredibly bound up with accuracy, and therefore with facts.

          • “How then do you know it is a reliable quide to the truth?“

            Tradition and experience. As a former Archbishop once said, “I’ve seen the kingdom of God, and it works”.

            How do you know?

            How could the writers of, say, Genesis, know all of the facts about creation?

          • Someone may well have seen the kingdom of God, and it may well have worked, but how does that make a diverse 1500 page collection of documents collectively ‘true’?

            It is a bit like the people who say ‘God is love’, know nothing else, and treat that as an adequate interpretation of the Gideon story, for example. To say that there is more to be said is an understatement.

          • One can differentiate truth and facts conceptually BUT

            (1) at the expense of one’s definition of truth being intolerably vague, unscientific, and unfalsifiable.

            Considering that scientists are in the business of discovering truth, this is a fatal problem.

            (2) one cannot avoid the overlap between truth and facts on a Venn diagrem being large.

          • Christopher, you avoided answering my questions to you.
            1. How do you know the bible is a reliable guide to the truth?
            2. How would the writers of Genesis know all of the facts about creation?

          • Of course it’s a reliable guide to the truth. Absolutely. It just doesn’t have all of the *facts*

            Not all of the facts, no. It doesn’t record what Jesus had for breakfast the day he was executed. But it has all the important, relevant facts, such as the fact that God created the universe. That’s what being reliable means.

            “How then do you know it is a reliable quide to the truth?“

            Tradition and experience. As a former Archbishop once said, “I’ve seen the kingdom of God, and it works”.

            You don’t trust tradition, though, when it disagrees with you, do you? For example as it does on same-sex marriage. So you can’t really think tradition is a reliable guide, can you?

            So does the experience of those who claim to have been abducted and experimented on by aliens mean you believe Mulder and Scully are running around protecting us all, then? If not what’s the difference between their personal experience and yours?

            How could the writers of, say, Genesis, know all of the facts about creation?

            They obviously didn’t know all the facts; but they knew the important facts. And that’s what matters.

          • The sweeping and (more importantly) unevidenced generalisation that everyone is an ideologue is a slur on the honest.

            Some are less so – potentially much less so – than others because they deliberately insert biases to prevent ideology. Or they train their minds. Or they care not two hoots for what they or anyone else wants, because they value the truth too highly. But these points have been consistently made, and ignored, which does not reflect well on the ignorers.

            Andrew’s questions are as ever to be met by piecemeal investigation of individual cases. For the historical, cosmological etc evidence for assertions. Sometimes clear answers are at present attainable, and sometimes not. But all investigation furthers our understanding of the balance of evidence.

  32. You have attributed to me something I never claimed Andrew, and I find it almost tediously incomprehensible that you persist with what I am struggling to describe as something other than mendacious misrepresentation.
    As I’ve already state I was drawn into this by Penelope seeking to separate, or distinguish between truth and fact and a simple comment I made was, “try running that past High Court Judges!” – something that seems to have rattled. But hardly surprising really, given you take on truth, evidenced, yes evidenced in other threads.
    What seems to me to be clear is that there is little to no recognition by you of whole canon meta -narratives or any idea of what they may be.
    Please stop it. We do not agree. And move on. The last word is, as always, yours, have your way.

    Reply
  33. “You have attributed to me something I never claimed Andrew”
    Ah I am sorry Geoff. I am pleased to know that. I could have sworn that you subscribed to biblical inerrancy as per your post at 7.47 yesterday evening. I am pleased to know that is not the case and must have misunderstood. I apologise.

    Reply
    • You continue, to make straw man and perpetuate what Christopher has said you do, unstitingly, and I credit you with more than enough intelligence that you know what you are doing, doing it deliberately, misrepresentation with your previous comment about what I said
      You clearly have next to little of understanding inerrancy, but maybe it is more scribal error on your part.
      Stop it.

      Reply
      • To be charitable about the notion of inerrancy: a view that scripture purveys divine truths more so than facts. Which I think is where we came in.
        Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.

        Reply
        • ERROR ALERT- ERROR ALERT-ERROR ALERT

          “A COMEDY OF ERRORS”

          “A True Parable of Fact Truth Error Causation Consequences and Cost”

          “The Case of the Error of Experts of Professional Negligence”

          They were distraught, bereft, the owner, the woman and young daughter.
          Told to their advocate, it had been booked in. It was precious loved and valued bringing great joy to their lives. The dog with severe and painful tooth decay had been booked in for an extraction and overnight stay.
          Returning the next day the dog was returned to them castrated.
          From extraction to castration.
          Expertly mutilated, lost in interpretation, lost in error.

          Compiled from memory without contemporary file notes, from more than 30 years ago.

          Different style, genre, voice, same author.

          Ian Paul, thanks for the laugh Ian. I inserted a different name GE and this comment was moderated. Thanks for emphasizing the point!

          Reply
  34. With Ian’s permission I would like to say several things which may take more than one post.

    As I have posted to Penelope, this is my attempt to pull together what Ian, Penelope, Andrew and others have said on this and other threads and to position it in what I believe is the wider, deeper debate about what is the thing that matters most and what is the doctrine of the Church of England – see
    Mapping the Terrain for Engagement on Human Sexuality | Fulcrum Anglican (fulcrum-anglican.org.uk) for two of my posts there.

    But first I want to address two specific things.

    First: the debate about truth and facts:
    It is easy to misunderstand one another in these debates. I suspect there may be a misunderstanding somewhere, so I am trying to be as clear as I can. My view is that there are facts in everyday experience. One kind of fact is being born. Another kind of fact is dying.

    In her December 16 2020 8.48 pm post Penelope posted
    “How do I know?
    Because Christ was born, died and raised to glory. He is the resurrection, the truth and the life. And nothing can separate us from the love of God.
    That is truth.
    Jesus may have been born in a stable or in family room. Or somewhere else. Which is correct? We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. The Incarnation does.”

    And in her December 18, 2020 at 2:40 pm post she posted

    “I have just admitted ‘in public’ if that is what this blog is, that I don’t believe the resurrection is fact. No hiding, no circumlocution.
    And, yes, I know, Ian, that there is evidence for the resurrection, nor do I dismiss it. I am simply arguing that ‘fact’ and ‘correct’ are the wrong categories for sacred scripture and show an alarming tendency to modernism in their adherents.”

    The first of these posts affirms it is the truth that Jesus was born, died and was raised to glory. Every time somebody is born a fact has occurred. The person comes out of the womb. Every time someone dies a fact has occurred. The person was alive and then died. So it is in the case of Jesus Christ. We do not need a time machine to go back to the first century to verify these facts. The facts of Jesus’ birth and death are verified by the very nature of the case: all births are facts; all deaths are facts. A similar line of thought can be applied to the resurrection and ascension. What happened to Christ’s dead body? Either the corpse decayed after the manner of all flesh, either in his grave or elsewhere or it was raised to life. To ascend to glory it must be the latter and therefore the empty tomb must be a fact.

    Of course the birth, death and resurrection of Christ are much more than ‘just facts’. They are ‘profound truths’. I don’t think anyone is denying that, are they? They are more than facts, but not less. No one is ‘reducing it to facts’ (see Andrew’s post December 18, 2020 at 12:00 pm).

    Second: what I have tried to say to Jayne Ozanne – that, holding the views that I hold about same-sex attraction and practice, I need to examine the beams in my own eye. One beam is this: Have I, consistently, tried since I became a Christian, really tried, tried to the point of agony, to be content with food, shelter and clothing and give the money saved to the poor? – No, I have not so tried. All of us have the life-long agonising struggle to put to death our members on the earth, guided by the word of God, and seek those things which are above, guided by the word of God.

    I suggested the possibility, Penelope, “Perhaps your faith and your heart are surer guides than your intellect?” because I got the impression from some of your other posts that there was a time, perhaps when you were 7 years old that you were on the right track but have been led astray intellectually by these “liberal” arguments. Please forgive me if I am wrong and have spoken out of turn. I think Jayne’s situation is different.

    In my next post I would like, if Ian does not shut me up, to start to discuss ‘the thing that matters most’ and ‘What is the Doctrine of the Church of England’ – see my posts to Fulcrum mentioned above.

    Reply
  35. What is the vision and strategy of the Church of England?

    As I have suggested in my post to Fulcrum (echoing Dr. Martin Davie in his ‘Reflections of an Anglican Theologian’) the most important part of that strategy should be for the Church to switch the focus of her message to the thing that matters most, the day of Judgment and the eternal life (or eternal retribution) which awaits each of us after death. ‘It’s eternity, stupid’.
    Ian Paul posted on November 30, 2020 at 10:41 am (not sure which thread):

    “And there is the issue. Do we understand the canon of Scripture to be God’s word written, to be ‘God-breathed’, to offer apostolic testimony to Jesus, to be the authority for all matters of life and faith?
    I do; you appear to see it as a collection of people’s opinions. That is the issue at stake here, and always has been”

    I agree with Ian’s assertion about the Scripture being ‘God-breathed’.

    Repeating what I have said before on various threads, I will try to briefly set out what I think a ‘God-breathed’ Bible reveals which have a bearing on ‘The Thing that Matters Most’:

    Because of the Fall, Original Sin and our own sins we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God. That is the fundamental diagnosis of the human condition.

    As well as revealing this diagnosis, the Bible gives us many terrible warnings about our condition as well as many wonderful invitations and promises to those who repent and submit to Christ in his atoning blood and life-giving resurrection; who submit in repentance, faith, love and obedience. To be faithful the Church must believe, teach and preach the condition, the warnings and the invitations and promises. It is best to teach and preach the diagnosis, warnings, invitations and promises in the words used in the Bible.

    It was my intention to set out the passages from the ‘God-breathed Bible’ which support these doctrines, and I will do that if needed. I could start referring to posts from Penelope, Andrew, Ian and Christopher which give their views on these doctrines but I think it best for the moment just to ask them and anybody else who wants to comment to what extent they agree that the Church should switch the focus of her message to do what I have described as the faithful thing to do which focuses on the thing that matters most.

    Phil Almond

    Reply

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