What does it mean to love our bodies?


Paul Adams writes: Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality is a robust and compelling cultural apologetics text. The scope is large dealing with a range of highly controversial subjects such as abortion and infanticide (chapter 2), euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, animal rights, genetic engineering, transhumanism (chapter 3), sexuality and the “hook up culture” (chapter 4), homosexuality and same-sex lifestyles (chapter 5), transgenderism (chapter 6), and marriage and family (chapter 7). Despite the immensity and magnitude of these topics, Nancy Pearcey does not promise an exhaustive treatment (what book could?) but instead exposes the primary weaknesses that lurk behind the secular worldview that drives them. My remarks highlight only some of the topics addressed.

The Introduction and Chapter 1 establish the foundation for her argument and provide the apologetic footing that grounds the entire book. Those exposed to Pearcey’s previous work will find the familiar fact/value split or the two-story framework as first outlined by Francis Schaeffer. The dichotomy is used to reveal a wedge driven between what it means to be a human being with a body versus what it means to be an embodied human person with inherent value. In brief, the logic deployed by the secular worldview runs like this:

  1. Values are not inherent in but conferred on material objects by persons.
  2. The human body is a material object and distinct from a human person.
  3. Therefore, the human body is a material object that has no inherent value.

After all, “to be biologically human is a scientific fact. But to be a person is an ethical concept, defined by what we value.” Values are not facts; only facts can be known with certainty and conviction; therefore, what it means to be a person is detached from biology, is arbitrarily assigned by culture, and is not a given fact, or so goes the secular mindset. The result is a “fragmented, fractured, dualistic view of the human being” (p 19, emphases original). This two-story framework gives rise to the notion that the material makeup of the human is, at best, morally irrelevant or, at worst, denigrated and devalued. Pearcey argues that “if our bodies do not have inherent value, then a key part of our identity is devalued” and this “denigration of the body is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related issues” (p 20). Moreover, with the advocacy of Darwinian evolution and the rejection of design and purpose for the cosmos, Pearcey opines the pernicious effect of this ever-expanding wedge extends to the entire material universe.


Chapter 2 condemns the culture of death as portrayed by the abortion industry. Here, Pearcey unravels the pro-choice movement and levels some persuasive arguments against it. She exposes the feigned neutrality of the secular position, thus illustrating that it is not unbiased or wholly objective. The secular position

rests on a highly contentious, two-level view of human nature that involves a crassly utilitarian view of the body (lower story) along with a subjective, arbitrary definition of the person (upper story). Nothing neutral about that.

She keenly and rightly calls for transparency when it comes to exposing the presuppositions that uphold our views and deeply held convictions.

The problem is that worldviews do not come neatly labeled. No one says that bioethical controversies involve two conflicting views of human nature. Instead people fall back on stereotypical phrases—science versus religion, facts versus faith. When we hear that kind of language, we should press everyone to put their worldview cards on the table. Only then will there be genuinely free and open debate. (p 63)

In a surprising twist of irony, Pearcey contends “a culture that engages in abortion, infanticide, and sexual license is a culture that disrespects women.” Why? Because “to achieve higher goals of education and professionalism, women are required to suppress their fertility with birth control—to neuter themselves with toxic chemicals during their peak childbearing years” (p 74). While this may seem alarmist, she insists the data support her claim.

A culture that respects women’s bodies will create more flexible career trajectories that allow women to have their families at the time that is biologically optimal. It will create education and work patterns that fit around family responsibilities. When we do that, we will reduce a major motive for abortion (p 76).


Chapter 3 takes on euthanasia, among other ethical issues such as surrogacy, embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering and the like. Pearcey’s thesis continues: Given a two-story view of what it means to be a human being (detaching the concept of personhood from biology), and given there is nothing standing outside humanity or the cosmos to give material reality meaning, purpose, and value, then the human animal can do with human material whatever is expedient or financially beneficial. Dispose of, sell for profit, or mix in cells from other species with the human and what does it matter? There is no objective viewpoint from which to evaluate the morality of such actions and, therefore, no moral consequences to navigate. Nothing special, nothing sacred.

Pearcey concludes the chapter with some inspiring examples and practical solutions to combat a culture of death. They are well worth pondering and are sensibly practicable.

The “hookup” culture, or what I would dub promiscuous sex, is the subject of chapter 4. I found this especially alarming because “hooking up” so radically and poignantly expresses the body/person duality that is at the heart of the secular worldview. It’s clear upon reflection that without a solid line drawn between body and person, hooking up would be something more, something deeper. And yet, the hookup culture insists that emotional ties or personal commitments constitute an investment that goes well beyond the goal of merely having sex. Seemingly, the only values shared in a hookup culture are the pursuit of physical pleasure and consent. This naturally stems from a materialist view of human nature that insists “our bodies are products of purposeless, amoral Darwinian forces and therefore they are morally neutral” (p 121). “Have at it!” seems the attitude of those who hook up.

I was astonished to learn what occurs physiologically when two people hook up. Essentially, Pearcey insists that, despite one’s intentions to disassociate all emotional connections with a hookup partner, the sheer act of a sexual union entails making an unintentional “promise” with your body that necessarily involves emotions. She writes

even if you think you are having a no-strings-attached hookup, you are in reality creating a chemical bond—whether you mean it or not….Sex involves our bodies down to the level of our biochemistry….The main neurochemical responsible for the male response in intimate sexual contact is vasopressin. It is structurally similar to oxytocin and has a similar emotional effect. Scientists believe it stimulates bonding with a woman and with offspring. Vasopressin has been dubbed the monogamy molecule. (p 127)


“The Body Impolitic: How the Homosexual Narrative Demeans the Body” portrays the subject matter of chapter 5. Spring-boarding off Nietzsche’s slogan “facts do not exist, only interpretations,” Pearcey extends this philosophy to the current culture of homosexuality stating that “biological facts do not exist, only interpretations.” It follows that, if we interpret “our identity as persons … with the freely choosing self,” then “anyone who experiences same-sex desires has discovered their authentic self, and they will be most fulfilled by openly affirming it as their true identity” (pp 165-166).

Of the many problems about this “gay narrative,” Pearcey observes that far too much traction has been gained by sexual attraction. It’s as if our sexual desires define us as human beings. More importantly, the deeper issue is in promoting choice to the status of a god where the autonomous individual decides what is authentic and true. Where biology, tradition, or even culture may say otherwise, it is choice at the end of the day that rules and reigns one’s sexual identity.

Echoing noted author and pastor Tim Keller, Pearcey avers:

we do not get our identity simply from within. Rather, we receive some interpretive moral grid, lay it down over our various feelings and impulses, and sift them through it. This grid helps us decide which feelings are ‘me’ and would be expressed—and which are not and should not be….Humans are not self-creating, self-existent, self-defining beings. We all look to outside sources to inform us about who we are and how we should live. (p 168)

Although I agree with this reasoning, it should be noted that it is as a Christian theist that I am able to do so. The secular atheist or radical agnostic might not so readily agree. Seemingly, a preliminary belief set — reasonable belief in the existence of a God who has communicated moral standards on human sexuality — must first be in place before one can follow Pearcey’s conclusion. Still, given the existence of a God who is intimately involved in his creation and deeply cares about value, dignity, and sexual identity of his creatures, and given that our identity is to be interpreted through a biblically responsible worldview, this line of reasoning should resonate with many and be used to engage substantive discussions about human sexuality.


Chapter 6, “Transgender, Transreality” should be read in tandem with the previous chapter. The body/person duality motif continues, bringing to light postmodern culture and even laws now supporting the notion that a person can be born into the wrong body. Biological facts do not matter, birth certificate pronouncements are inconsequential, and traditional social boundaries are irrelevant when it comes to the autonomous choosing self who is solely authorized to declare one’s gender identity. The objective body is subordinate to and under the rule of the subjective subject. Gender is not “a fixed attribute but a free-floating variable that shifts according to personal preference” (p 201). Once again, choice has been promoted to godlike status; if individuals are empowered to choose gender, then they can equally change it.

Numerous (in my estimation, shocking) examples are given and won’t be rehearsed here. An apologetic strength in this chapter is the progression Pearcey traces in how we got to the contemporary trans narrative (see her Total Truth for a fuller treatment of this progression). From biological evolution comes a cultural evolution where ideologies are ever-changing with no fixed truth or moral principles. In fact, there is no “stable, universal human nature.” The trans script heartedly insists

if you claim that any moral principle is congruent with nature, you are committing what [is called] the fallacy of “naturalizing.” It is a fallacy because…no morality is natural. All morality is a historical construct, a product of a particular culture at a particular period of history. Postmodern theorists say their goal is to “de-naturalize” gender, which means to deny that it has any grounding nature. (p 206, emphasis original)

How does one respond? Pearcey offers much wisdom and grace. First, it should be pointed out that the trans script “undercuts itself.” If sexuality and gender are merely social constructs and there is no truth to be claimed here because it is ever-changing, then how can this claim itself be true? Second, in feigning high regard for women’s rights, those in favor of the trans script actually cut off their intellectual nose to spite their ideological face. After all, sex-based oppression presupposes the distinct gender and sexuality of women! “To protect women’s rights, we must be able to say what a woman is.” (p 211).  One can hardly stand hard against that which is fluid and amorphous. Third, to “de-naturalize” parenting, replacing terms like “father” or “mother” with “parent” or the like, is to leave the status and definition of family to the state. Perhaps most astonishingly, “no one has a natural or biological sex now; all citizens are defined not by their bodies but by their inner states and feelings” (pp 210-214). It is to recognize legal rights as the sole rights with no regard for any natural rights. When this move is in full swing and adopted by societies, then, Pearcey warns, human rights are no longer “unalienable” but are at the whim of the state.

Many more implications are annotated in this chapter and should not be missed. The conclusion makes a brief appeal to all Christians to ensure “casualties from the sexual revolution can find hope and restoration,” rather than the often tragic responses (pp 225-227).


Following on in chapter 7, Pearcey makes some important pronouncements about the reductionist view of relationships as mere social contracts driven by choice, instead of using biology and commitment as a baseline for relationships. Leveraging biology with regards to adoption, she astutely notes that “the reason adoption works is that parents take the natural family as the norm. They strive to treat their adopted children as if they were biological offsprings. Adoption does not deny the value of biological bonds but presupposes it” (pp 229-230, emphasis original).

In a contractual view of relationships, choice and emotional commitment are what binds a connection between adults. Biology is irrelevant and even irreverent. Nature, and the biology that undergirds it in the ability to procreate, is a negative constraint on independence. The Obergefell decision of the Supreme Court essentially legitimized not only same-sex marriages but demotes all marriages to an emotional commitment with legal recognition. Therefore, the state defines marriage and detaches it from its natural element (viz., procreation).

One alarming and ironic implication, Pearcey argues, is that “every forward movement of the secular moral revolution is hailed as an advance for freedom from the oppressive moral rules of the past. But in reality, every step empowers the state” (p 254). Consider: with abortion, the state defines personhood. With marriage it is the state that severs it from biology and re-defines marriage. With gender, it is the state that is increasingly declaring gender to be a state of mind. With parenthood, the state gets to decide who qualifies. And the irony is that “the concept of contract is sold to the public as a way of expanding choice. But in reality it cuts us off from natural, created [and pro-creative] relationships and hands over power to the state” (p 255).

Before offering some sober and important solutions, Pearcey nails the gist of the problem …. and it’s not the state or politics. It is competing worldviews.

In every decision we make, we are affirming a worldview. We may think we are just acting on our feelings of the moment, but in reality we are expressing our conditions about the cosmos. Either we are expressing a biblical worldview or we are being co-opted by a secular worldview. The secular moral revolution is built on the conviction that nature has no moral meaning, and that we are inherently disconnected, autonomous atoms connecting only by choice. (p 256)


One of the main strengths of Love Thy Body is Pearcey’s utilization of reason and analysis to make her case rather than Scripture. To be sure, her case is a biblical one, but she does not use the inspired text as a hammer or the only tool in her toolbox. Instead, her thesis is grounded in a vigorous philosophical system first introduced to her through the L’Abri Fellowship and its founder, Francis Schaeffer. She has honed and refined his framework and made it her life’s work to deliver those Schaefferian constructs and presuppositions that have proven to withstand the strongest opponents. Too often, Christians’ only weapon of choice is Scripture when in fact many or most unbelievers have not even adopted a belief in the existence of the God of Scripture, much less one who has spoken! It is my hope that believers will see the value of reason and research, analysis and critique, and choose to fight fire with fire (so to speak). Unbelievers must be met on their own turf to win an ear for dialog and encourage a heart of understanding. Pearcey’s book is a tremendous resource to these ends.

I’ll conclude by saying that Love Thy Body provides a rigorous analysis of secularization and the resulting secularism of Western culture. Nancy Pearcey takes on some of the most vexed and disputed topics of our day and she masterfully and convincingly defends the inherent dignity and value of all. The book is well-documented with a helpful study guide that would be ideal for small group discussions. May it be read not only by likeminded people, but especially by those who are not in agreement. Here there is no hurling of rhetoric or thoughtless polemics so often present in these controversial topics. Instead, her thesis is well-reasoned and her work deserves careful consideration. Sincere learners may not come away persuaded by everything, but rest assured they will come away informed!


After retiring from the United States Air Force Academy Band (guitar) and successfully completing a B.A. in sociology (with honors, Chapman University) and the M.A. in philosophy of religion from Denver Seminary (with honors), I have worked in the IT industry, taught full-time as adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies, and served for many years as Board Member, Director of Information Technology, and Trip Leader with ConservationVIP®, a non-profit dedicated to the sustainability of some of the world’s greatest landscapes, cultural sites, and biodiversity.

I hold memberships in the Society of Christian PhilosophersEvangelical Philosophical Society, and the Evangelical Theological Society. My wife, Patty, and I are active members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. This review was first published at my substack here.


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465 thoughts on “What does it mean to love our bodies?”

  1. This book will be worth a look if her book from a few years ago, Total Truth is anything to go by, influenced as it was by Francis Sheaffer’s ministry.

    Reply
  2. “homosexuality and same-sex lifestyles”…

    What exactly IS a same-sex lifestyle?

    A gay or lesbian couple live culturally almost identical lifestyles to heterosexual couples. They have to do the washing. They have to cook. They have to do the shopping. They have to go to work to earn a living. They may or may not have a dog. They may or may not support a football team. They may or may not suffer from cancer.

    I fail to see what the expression “same-sex lifestyle” means. Anyone help me?

    Reply
    • This point is made word for word ad nauseam, giving one the sickening feeling of a debate that is not progressing yet could progress.

      Same sex lifestyle refers to those many dimensions of life wherein same sex duets behave notably differently (or to notably different degrees) when compared to husbands-and-wives and/or other groupings.

      Reply
        • Susannah – I’ll try to help you out. There are differences.

          For example – I remember once hearing a speech at a Burns night do, where the speaker posed the question `What if Robert Burns had been gay?’

          He came up with some answers, along the lines of: `we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight eating haggis – we would be eating Quiche Lorraine.’

          Reply
          • I’m lesbian, not vegetarian, adore haggis, and actually my wife and I celebrated Burns Supper on the day of our legal wedding at the Clachaig Hotel in Glencoe.

            So, being absolutely straight with you, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

            Surely, heterosexual people choose to be vegetarian too.

            Num num… I even have a haggis in my fridge – having it on Monday with neeps and tatties.

            I’m still waiting to hear: what exactly IS a same-sex ‘lifestyle’.

            Come on folks, you can do better than this!

          • “He came up with some answers, along the lines of: `we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight eating haggis – we would be eating Quiche Lorraine.’”

            You mean he purveyed some awful and offensive stereotypes? That’s your argument?
            No wonder this discussion never gets anywhere…!

          • Andrew – loosen up a little (unless, of course, you’re a professional offence taker). Nobody (including those of gay orientation) got offended – and a great time was had by all.

          • Jock – it isn’t necessary to loosen up when people promote offensive behaviour. It’s necessary to point out that offence is deliberately being given .

          • Andrew – offence was not being given – either deliberately or inadvertently – everybody had a good time (including those present of a gay disposition). Of course, people were careful not to invite the po-faced to the occasion.

        • Yes please be specific Christopher. It would be ridiculous to talk about opposite sex lifestyles and so it is ridiculous to talk about same sex lifestyles.

          Reply
          • I think the term ‘lifestyle’ is deployed to insinuate that being gay is some kind of hedonistic choice and dodgy way of living.

            Gay and straight people generally just live normal lifestyles. As I mention to Jock, some straight people are vegetarian, some gay people are carnivores. We all have to work if we can. We all do shopping. We all have to wash our clothes and our dishes. We all have elderly relatives.

            Our lifestyles are the same.

          • Andrew – well, following information John Thomson gave me about Karl Bart, I have been thinking a bit about his opposite-sex lifestyle (where he persuaded his wife that it was OK for him to have his mistress living in the same house, because he found it of crucial importance for his work) – and I’m not sure I like it very much. Suffices to say that I now understand various passages which don’t seem to make much sense, but where the prose style does reach some sort of crescendo. But best not to go down there.

            I just want to point out that I did give some thought to opposite-sex lifestyles. I kind of agree with you – it was ridiculous of me to waste time thinking about this.

          • Anyone with more than one gay male friend will know that the pattern of their romantic life does differ from lesbians (and those two groups will happily tell jokes about each other) and straight couples. Those differences remain even when the couples are Christians.

          • Susannah: I think the term ‘lifestyle’ is deployed to insinuate that being gay is some kind of hedonistic choice and dodgy way of living.

            It can be used that way. It can also be a simple acknowledgment that men and women are different. The idea that gay men have now settled down to imitate the heterosexual dating pattern is wishful thinking. You will always be able to find one couple who seem to live out that ‘ideal’ but really get to know more than 10 gay men and the spell will be broken. And, of course, Christian gay men will be under intense social pressure to not admit any of this in public (they don’t hold back when they are around other gay men).

        • Susannah Clark

          The Greek philosopher Aristotle advised that if you want to know the truth, ask the right question:

          How is a homosexual marriage consummated?

          Reply
      • Same sex male pairings are have totally different averages from male-female in terms of:
        ability to procreate
        STIs
        promiscuity
        unsafe sexual practices (as implied by the STI level)
        requirement to use contraception in order to stay safe or semi-safe
        agreement with Christian doctrine or Christian membership.

        Reply
        • Christopher: that’s just generalised waffle again. None of that is true in stable same sex relationships. And what you claim is true for opposite sex couples who are promiscuous.
          Also see Susannah’s points below. These have been put to you before – certainly by me – and you have no answer.

          Reply
          • Hence, of course, the term ‘average’.

            That is what ‘average’ already meant, for hundreds of years.

            But people who knew what ‘average’ meant would not have needed to answer as you did.

            And statistical information is the opposite of waffle, as all will agree (anyone who does not agree, do comment).

          • It is a bit like men and women in speed or strength. You would say: many women are as fast/strong as men. You would also say: many men are of a more typically female speed/strength. Both times you would be right. And, having just given a small percentage of the total picture, you would then stop!!
            Go on….

          • ‘None of that is true in stable same sex relationships’
            -oh-kay. The point is, that the stable ones are stable and the unstable ones are unstable.
            No-one would ever have guessed that.
            But it is irrelevant to the discussion since our topic is relative proportions.
            Intelligent people contribute things that are relevant, showing that they understand which points are and are not being made.

          • Indeed Christopher. Your points had very little intelligence and certainly zero emotional intelligence which is a considerable part of the whole picture here, as everywhere.

          • Anton

            Yes, we know this. Sex can be risky. Pregnancy can be risky. These are risks many people are willing to take.

          • Sex does not bring the risk of dangerous bacterial infection if a man and woman are in a monogamous relationship and were healthy beforehand. There is a significant such risk in the analogous case of two men, because of where faecal bacteria may spread to, and this risk is not conveyed to children in PSHE lessons.

          • Anton

            So sex which leads to women dying in childbirth is OK
            But consensual sex with some risks, which of course has its own telos, is not OK

          • I really don’t understand why you all keep making these cheap attempts at point-scoring. It doesn’t take the conversation anywhere—and it is in breach of the comments etiquette.

          • If you are going to put words in my mouth and then dissent from them, it has nothing to do with me.

          • OK Ian. I’m bowing out.
            But why you allow the egregious homophobia and transphobia from some commenters here, I do not know.
            Unless you agree that weaponising certain beliefs to ‘other’ Christian siblings is OK.

        • Even by this blog’s standards, that’s pretty low. STIs are prevalent in those who sleep around, it doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality. This is obvious because you only catch STIs if you have more than one partner!

          Reply
          • Bacteria in faecal matter can get, via the male organ, into the bloodstream of a penetrating male. The same organ is also liable to damage the wall of the rectum – which is far thinner than the vaginal wall – and let those bacteria through. This practice is more dangerous than vaginal sex even if the two men have no other sexual partners.

    • I agree with you, Susannah, even though I disagree with your view on same-sex relations, that so called ‘same-sex lifestyle’ is pretty much meaningless. Perhaps in the 70s or 80s there was a certain hedonistic ‘life style’ associated with some gay men, but that’s hardly the case now, or at least it’s no different from the behaviour of many straight people and shouldnt be singled out.

      Given the acceptance of same-sex marriage I have no doubt that such gay lives are essentially the same as their straight counterparts.

      Peter

      Reply
      • Thank you Peter.

        I don’t pre-suppose that you or anyone else has to agree with gay or lesbian relationships. Opposition to them can be a legitimate theological position, held in good conscience and faith.

        However, the lived reality today for most gay or lesbian couples is incredibly domestic and probably at times boring too, in the same way it is for heterosexual couples. It is just life being lived.

        I therefore feel it is unfair to try to suggest that gay people (no mention even made of lesbian people) lead debauched and hedonistic lifestyles as a norm. They simply don’t.

        And where *some* are hedonistic, well what about heterosexual men (to stick to the male slant)? Strip clubs. Prostitutes. Porn. Affairs.

        Meanwhile most people are just living their lives.

        I am in to women’s football (goalkeeper). I love mountaineering. I like cooking. That’s what defines my lifestyle, along with cooking, washing, shopping, working, children, friends.

        Gay and lesbian people, like heterosexual people, have lifestyles.

        It’s not all about sex (which tends to be a religious obsession – no offence intended to you Peter, and thank you for your civility).

        The article referred to the ‘same-sex lifestyle’.

        I just think that’s really out of touch with the lived reality. We’re just living our boring lives.

        Susannah

        Reply
        • Susannah

          I’m sorry you have embraced a homosexual relationship. You know the texts that place those who engage in such relationships outside of the kingdom of God and salvation. Romans One seems to suggest that at heart you know such relationships to be wrong.

          ‘ Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.’

          Reply
          • John,
            It may or may not help to realise that Susannah, who has contributed comments for 3 or more years, converted from a man to woman (as an adult), is now married to a woman and is now, here, self identifying as a lesbian, who I think has fathered children as a man.
            So that, even the title of the book, of itself, may be somewhat discordant.
            But I don’t want to misrepresent, so this is open to correction.

          • You’ve made this absurd and offensive comment before. And it is a pathological assumption.
            At heart I and all of my gay Christian friends and allies know that faithful, committed, loving relationships are a gift to the couple and to the community whatever genitals the couple have or have not and whatever they choose or choose not to do with those genitalia. Which is neither your business nor mine.
            Misusing Paul to underscore your distaste for gay sex (not that there is such a thing) is deeply unpleasant and has no place in a grown up conversation, especially when directed at a gay woman.
            If you want to go to St Paul for your theology (a very good thing to do) be aware that the greatest of these is charity. You seem to have scant regard for that virtue.

          • Using Geoff’s terminology, maybe I am straight!

            For those who seriously want to learn about transition, my stuff is all out in the open, and shared with 500 churches and the bishops, as part of my participation in LLF. You can see it here: http://www.transition.org.uk

            Sample responses (including 7 bishops):

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            “A very constructive and helpful contribution to the ongoing conversation we are having.”

            “I will share with our church community and with our primary school. Every blessing to you in this important ministry. There is too much ignorance and lack of grace.”

            “Thank you so much for this excellent website. I currently have young people exploring gender identity. This will be a great resource for opening up discussions and promoting understanding. So Thank you!”

            “Thank you for sharing this. I will reference your resource in our newsletter.”

            “The conversation is fascinating to read and it’s a really good resource to help bring clarity to this issue.”

            “Thank you for these questions and answers, and especially for their honesty and integrity. A really helpful resource.”

            “I will forward it to our Living in Love and Faith Advocates. I appreciated the tone and sensitivity with which it was written.”

            “I am grateful for this important resource. I will share it with the Next Steps Chair and group.”

            “Your website will be a very helpful resource for me in my ministry. Thank you for taking the time to put it together.”

            “Thank you so much for sending this link, it is so helpful, especially at a time when many are encountering these questions. I am so grateful for your openness and honesty in answering the questions.”

            “Thank you very much for this and the resource that it is for the church. Thank you too for your wider helpful comments on the LLF process.”

            ” I very much appreciate your website and the time and thought you have put into it. It is immensely helpful to hear directly from your own experience. Thank you for the tone in which you have written and for your theological reflection.”

          • The whole idea that what people do with their genitalia is a matter of indifference is, of course, leagues away from anything biblical. In the Bible sex is of highest importance. And it intertwines with the rest of life to a high degree.

            This assertion does however remind me of an unthinking cliche of our culture. Which gets repeated often presumably because people think oft-repetition makes things truer. Oft-repetition certainly makes more people believe and repeat things.

          • Thanks Geoff

            Penelope

            You’ve managed to highlight a few tropes in a short comment; gay Christians; faithful committed loving relationships; neither your business; misusing Paul; grown up conversation; especially when directed at a gay woman; a lack of love.

            Its all there, isn’t it. You missed out our obsession with sex probably because Susannah included it. The religious left has its polemical tramlines every bit as cliched as we on the conservative side are accused of being.

            We are not, of course, obsessed with sex, we are forced to discuss sex more than we might wish because our culture is obsessed with sex as any mainstream media shows only too clearly. The debate is at its most heated when it is sexual behaviour in the church that is to the fore. Here, those who have a more permissive view about sexual behaviour are really on a hiding to nothing for outside monogamous marriage the Bible does not permit any sexual behaviour. This is so glaringly obvious that it requires a special kind of blindness to miss it and insist on the contrary.

            Such blindness reveals God is hardening the heart. Spiritually it is a desperate position to be in. It signals God’s abandonment. When what God calls an abomination we call ‘faithful committed loving relationships’ it is clear how far we have fallen.

            And yet, and yet, God whose patience far exceeds ours still calls to repentance and renewal. I wonder if you visited Becket Cook’s podcasts or listened to any podcasts with Rosaria Butterfield? Both were active in the American Gay community and both were converted to Christianity and have been persistent evangelistic voices and witnesses to the cleansing power of the gospel. Laura Perry is a woman converted to Christ from a transgender lifestyle. She says,

            One night Jesus asked me, “If you stood before me tonight, what name would I call?” I didn’t know how to answer that. I knew that God would have known who I was no matter what name I called myself.

            This is the bottom line. God’s judgement. God’s assessment. God’s command. When this perspective is paramount all questions simply dry up for all but those invincibly hardened in sin.

          • John

            There is no such thing as a ‘transgender lifestyle’. The notion is utter nonsense. The sort of rhetoric employed by Putin.

            I’m afraid it is you and Christopher who are obsessed by sex. What people do with their genitals isn’t of the least importance, unless they don’t it in the street and frighten the horses.

          • Penelope

            What do *you* take to be the implications for sexuality of the later part of Romans 1, please?

          • Anton

            Well, either it is the words of the false teacher, whom Paul immediately rebuts in Romans 2. Douglas Campbell.
            Or, it is a polemic against gentile sexual excess, linked, a common trope, to idolatry.
            Neither interpretation has anything to say about faithful, loving gay relationships.

          • Penelope: If Paul is quoting another then that other is in total accord with the Old Testament view. If Paul is writing in his own inspired words then he is condemning specific sexual acts, not the number of partners they are done with.

          • Anton

            Well if (1) Paul was not above critiqueing the Hebrew Bible,
            If (2) ‘their women’ suggests that these are not gay men but what we we call straight men engaging in ‘unnatural’ practices, i.e. acts which are unnatural for them. The women comment may not refer to lesbianism but to women taking the more active role in male/female sex (considered very dirty, apparently).
            Romans 2 of course points out that this is nit picking because we are all sinners, Jew and gentile alike.

          • Yes of course we are all sinners; so let us use our freedom in Christ not to sin. And let us use the scriptures to tell us what that involves.

            Sexual acts that God prohibits are no small matter, if you look at the levitical penalties prescribed for ancient Israel.

            Nowhere in scripture will you find the notion of gay or straight: rather, certain actions are prohibited. Michel Foucault noted the absence of these categories before the 19th century in vol.1, part 2 of his History of Sexuality.

          • Anton

            Indeed. So, I hope we’re all clear about what constitutes sin.
            No mortgages or loans, for example.
            Nice to see Foucault getting a mention here without being derided.

          • It struck me that quoting a paedophile intellectual rather than a Christian might be harder to dismiss on the subject. (Foucault was outed as a paedophile by Guy Sorman last year.)

            And you need to check your Torah. There was no ban on Israelites lending at interest to gentiles.

          • Foucault was outed as a paedophile by Guy Sorman last year

            Hardly ‘outed’, didn’t everybody know he was a predatory kiddy-fiddler back in the sixties? It’s not like he made any secret of it, because he didn’t think it was wrong.

          • You mean you don’t believe Sorman, Penelope? He claimed to have visited Foucault in Tunisia and seen him paying Arab boys to meet him in the local graveyard at night for sex, while other Arab boys complained at being excluded and not paid. Sorman said that French journalists were present on the same trip but did not wish to publish material that would harm their careers in view of the French reverence for intellectuals.

            In 1977, Foucault was a signatory of a petition to the French parliament calling for the decriminalisation of all ‘consensual’ sexual relations between adults and minors below the age of fifteen, the age of consent in France.

            You used the passive. Who discredited Sorman and how?

          • Anton

            Yes, Sorman ‘claimed’ which has been discredited.
            I’m in Greece and away from my sources so you may have to Google it.
            And, yes, I am aware of the petition and its other famous signatories. It’s the question of how can we separate the author/artist from their beliefs, CF. Eric Gill, T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin, Wagner etc.

          • Obviously you can answer what you mean by ‘discredited’ without need for a link. Please do so.

          • Ok Anton, at your service.
            Sorman’s veracity has been questioned. He wasn’t in Morocco (?) When he said he was and couldn’t have witnessed the scenes he described. But I don’t have the source here.

    • A gay or lesbian couple live culturally almost identical lifestyles to heterosexual couples.

      Almost but not identical. They live out the contemporary moral system which is limited only by autonomy + consent. The Christian moral system does not negate autonomy + consent but it is not based on those factors.

      Reply
    • I think it’s obvious what it means: lifestyles (plural) that involve same-sex relationships (sexual and / or domestic). Many things are the same as with heterosexual lifestyles, but many are different. In particular, same-sex couples mostly don’t have children, and if they do then they are not both biological parents. They are also much less likely to be monogamous.

      Reply
  3. You haven’t mentioned which of those things is relevant to lesbian women.

    Lesbian women can procreate.
    Lesbian women can catch STI’s but so can heterosexual women.
    Lesbian women can be promiscuous, but so can heterosexual women.
    Lesbian women’s sexual practices are as safe as heterosexual women’s.
    Lesbian women need contraception less than heterosexual women.
    Lesbian women can be good Christians.

    You seem to be focussing on SEX.

    Lifestyle involves so many other things than sex.

    Was Sir Edmund Hilary’s lifestyle all about sex?
    Was Paula Radcliffe’s lifestyle all about sex?

    Gay and lesbian people do not have ‘same sex lifestyles’.

    They just have ‘lifestyles’.

    Along with heterosexual people, we just live our lives.

    Reply
    • This post was in response to Christopher on May 13, 2022 at 1:23 pm.

      I must have omitted to press the ‘reply’ button.

      Reply
    • Christopher is simply rehashing his all too familiar tropes about STIs, promiscuity etc. among some gay men.
      It’s inaccurate and offensive and bears no resemblance to the quotidian lives of gay men and women which are as simple as the lives of straight people. As you say: shopping, cooking, reading, going on holiday, having children and/or pets.
      But in Christopher’s mind it is, to quote James Anderton, a cesspit.
      Although, he can be ridiculous and offensive, I think we should pity Christopher.

      Reply
      • A converted gay man (Becket Cook) said recently in a podcast that the driving forces of gay men are alcohol, drugs and sex. I would have thought aesthetics were very important too. Relationships tend to be shorter term and open. He saw relationships as very conditional, depending on the partner bringing status to the relationship. Clearly this is a generalisation also he moved in more rarified Hollywood circles.

        Reply
        • John, I respect that your beliefs are sincere.

          However, I don’t think that alcohol and drugs is a driving force of gay men any more than heterosexual men.

          Some men in both categories drink too much alcohol, and get addicted to drugs.

          Most don’t.

          Reply
          • Some/most – yes, but that avoids the question, which is percentage discrepancy or otherwise.

            What you say would be true even if it were 1% of one lot and 99% of another lot. (Alert: That is a hypothetical example not a news item.) Which just goes to show how little distance your point goes along the road of analysis.

        • I dont think quoting a gay man in Hollywood of all places is useful when discussing the general population! One could legitimately say much of Hollywood is based on alcohol, drugs and sex (just watch the Johnny Depp trial, both of them heterosexual btw) and indeed power.

          I think the acceptance and proliferation of gay marriage will negate many of the comments being posted here, something of course which the straight ‘community’ has had for millennia.

          As you know Im not for gay sexual relationships, but let’s stop with these stereotypes, applied to people who are, in the end, looking for love and acceptance.

          Peter

          Reply
          • There was a time when the sexual reservations of women severely restricted the desires of their male counterparts. This has probably changed significantly though I suspect women remain to some degree the more moral gender (I hope so for when female sexual restraints go society is in a bad way).

            In male homosexual relationships the all male participation points to a high level of promiscuity. In the past ten yers male homosexuals with partners were 28 times more likely to contract AIDS than their heterosexual counterparts. This has recently changed. Homosexually inclined women apparently tend to be more gender fluid.

            I see the rise of LGBT as a way of normalising biblically forbidden practices. In turn LGBT helps to create a climate of sexual freedom and promiscuity. This permeates the heterosexual section of society too. It is there because the numbers are so much higher and family life is involved that the societally devastating effects of sexual promiscuity are felt. Sexual unfaithfulness contributes to something between 20-40 % of divorces. From these divorces all kinds of destructive behaviours arise. Feral children flow from absent fathers.

            But my aim is not to judge but to appeal to those enmeshed in what the Lord detests to see the freedom to a holy and pure life to which the gospel liberates us. My position is not one of holier-than-thou, far from it – we are all sinners in need of salvation by grace.

        • Becket Cook is not a “converted gay man”. He’s quite open that he is still sexually attracted to men and this has not changed.

          Reply
          • Becket Cook is not a “converted gay man”. He’s quite open that he is still sexually attracted to men and this has not changed.

            Um, so he is a gay man who converted to Christianity, right? So he is a ‘converted gay man’, yes?

      • I’m one of those poor people who does not think reality is the way I say it should be, and has to rely on (and acquaint myself with) stats in order to see how reality actually is.

        Should I repent and say – sorry, actually, reality is whatever we want it to be, and research is not needed – my mistake.

        Reply
        • “In the Bible sex is of highest importance” – really? im pretty sure neither Jesus, Paul nor anyone else claimed that. Very odd.

          Reply
          • It lies at the root of some of the most basic purity assumptions. It could not have been thought of with anything but the utmost seriousness, therefore. But in reality is no ‘it’. What we are talking about is the entire raison d’etre of male and female within a world that has male and female as its most basic dichotomy (as evidenced by pronouns).

          • For pleasure within marriage. Women tend to find sexual fulfilment within a committed relationship. Men are relatively free of such constraints. As society disintegrates restraints break down and chaos results.

          • Thank you John. An answer. Most people swerve this question.
            Although I think the differences between the sexual outlooks of male and female, though genuine, are overstated. Much has been owing to cultural expectations.

      • They are familiar because they are true, and would be less familiar and repeated if people addressed them and did not ignore them. The more they ignore them, the more this ignoring (breaking of the rules of debate) will be exposed by repetition.

        Reply
      • But if you say what I say is inaccurate, then give the stats to prove that, otherwise withdraw it, since peer reviewed stats oft-repeated such as the many I quoted in WATTTC indicate the accuracy to a degree beyond dispute.

        Reply
    • Those are the aspects of their lifestyles which are most different on average, and therefore it is those that I mention, in answer to the question.

      Of course members of different groups show similar behaviour *sometimes* (just as sometimes they don’t, as well) – how could it be otherwise? I don’t understand your point. How does this mean that these two groups have the same statistical *averages* in these matters, or even close? And if we don’t use averages, what is the alternative means of comparison (other than averages) that is being proposed?

      Longevity of pairing is another area where averages are discrepant.

      Reply
      • Christopher,

        The promiscuity of some gay people does not invalidate the fidelity of other gay people.

        The promiscuity of some heterosexual people does not invalidate the fidelity of other heterosexual people.

        What both sets of partnerships have in common is the possibility and potential to love and care for a partner tenderly, sacrificially, lovingly, and with fidelity.

        If ‘failed’ examples invalidate the relationships of those who love with fidelity, then – given the millions of heterosexual people who divorce, have affairs, look at porn… all marriages should be banned.

        You’re citing the imperfect as if that makes all gay and lesbian relationships invalid and somehow debauched. They are not.

        Reply
        • Not at all. Treating homosexual partnerships as kosher is a one stop shop to lowering average fidelity. This then makes the presupposition of fidelity crumble in the other sectors, including most importantly the largest sector, marriages. I do not know any societies which are exceptions.

          As recently as the 1990s there were 3 separate USA (yes, USA of all countries) studies which all agreed with each other that 80% of married people had never been unfaithful within their present marriage. But that was before the present disintegrative madness.

          Reply
          • So what youre saying is that straight people can blame their own sexual behaviour on others, it’s all the fault of the ‘gays’. Bizarre.

            What is terrible about the current state of marriage is that so many end in divorce, and not even because of adultery. When straight people get married, they typically make life-long vows to each other. Perhaps they need to go on a course as to what that actually means.

          • Not at all.

            What I am saying is this:

            The normalisation of sex outside marriage was a step leading towards chaos sooner or later. So far it has led to pansexuality in a short space of time.

            Second, if sex outside marriage is ok, that includes homosexual sex. So that too is ok.

            But homosexual sex among men led the way in terms of extreme promiscuity.

            That means that a kosher practice involved extreme promiscuity.

            But that left out all the other types of relationship (now regarded as equal, no better and no worse) and they didn’t see why if one type of relationship could have extreme promiscuity and be thought of none the worse for it, why they could not do the same (potentially, only if they wanted to).

            So some of them did.

            A 6 stage process in other words, not the 2 stage process you said.

        • Susannah, don’t waste your time. Really. Many people have argued this with Christopher.
          He is ideological and confused. He argues that straight marriage sanctifies carnal lust, but that gay marriage cannot do so. He cannot see that one (the?) remedy for temptation/promiscuity is the discipline of marriage for both gay and straight couples. We know that many marriages fail, but, according to Christopher, gay couples should not even be allowed to try. The number of happy, holy, faithful, loving gay couples we all know are merely ‘anecdote’. Nothing will convince him because he is ideologically invested in his somewhat eccentric views.

          Reply
          • It’s okay, the sun is shining, it is so beautiful outside, and we need to keep in perspective that this is a blogging site, and we are all here chattering. Speaking for myself, my life is so happy, my walk with God is precious, and I think we all need grace to respect a range of views, reflecting the same range of views in the Church of England as a whole. Have a lovely weekend!

          • Practically everyone before 10 years ago in throughout every country of the world was eccentric, then.

            What is the blip – the 10 years or the 1000s of years?

            ‘He argues that straight…’ – I have never said such words in my life.

            ‘We all know’ – do we? How can one know such a thing? Count them. Most people only know a few hundred people altogether so how can we all know so many that happen to belong to this minority among minorities?

            Anecdote (small-scale) and large-scale – these matters are determined by statistical studies. They are the large scale which you (in defaiance of sense) dismiss in favour of the small and not necessarily representative. Yet the large scale includes the small scale anyway.

            But how does talking about others in the 3rd person not the 2nd attract us to your discourse? Or is it othering?

          • Susannah – speaking for yourself, I am sure that is true.

            You matter. A lot.

            But everyone else also matters equally. So, as a result, you are only a minuscule percentage of all that matters.

            I wish my 10 year old was the only person who was struggling with percentages, but she clearly is not.

    • I am focussing on sex because my comment was about homoesexual men (on average).

      The pride march sees them placing sex at the very centre of what it is to be homosexual and male.

      So does the present dispute at John Fisher School. The author seems befuddled that any gay author could possibly (be expected to) write a book that was not full of sex.

      Reply
    • I notice Susannah that you do not comment on the unusual and unnatural sex act that both male and female people who practise homosexuality necessarily engage in.

      I agree, however, that the life of people who are homosexual is not all about sex. It is one reason why it is important to say ‘a person who has a homosexual relationship’. For identity is not bound up in sexuality. We are certainly more than our sexual proclivities. Nevertheless our sexual behaviour is part and an important part of our over all behaviour. It is also something about which God in Scripture expresses some clear and strong views that allow for no quibbling.

      Reply
      • Penelope – don’t worry about it. Those know don’t need to ask and those who need to ask don’t need to know.

        Reply
        • Jock, unless you and John are into kink and know a great deal more than I, there is not one sexual act unique to gay men and lesbians. Straight couples practice all those too. As I have pointed out many times on this site.
          Unless you and John and others here believe that the only licit sexual activity is PIV sex.

          Reply
          • Penelope – what on earth is PIV sex? Sounds kinky! (no – you don’t need to answer that – I probably prefer to remain ignorant).

          • Dear me Jock do you really need to ask? Let me put you out of your curiosity, and use the basic biological terms. PIV = Penis in Vagina.

            Now please tell us the unnatural act that gay men and women engage in (which straight couples do not)? Basic biological terms are fine.

          • Andrew – I said that I didn’t really need to know – just had breakfast. You know – I’m not really an expert in these matters – you’d be better off addressing your questions to someone else.

            I did imagine that piv was somehow related to the word piwo for beer or piwnica (which means cellar – where one keeps the beer) and therefore imagined that it was related to drunkenness and debauchery.

          • Jock you really do need to know. It’s a basic bit of biology.
            Now you claimed that there was some unnatural act that gay men and women engage in (which straight couples do not)? So please either name it or withdraw the claim. Because I don’t think you can substantiate it.

          • And what is just having had breakfast got to do with it? Are you saying that sex is somehow distasteful? Because if you are saying that then I have no idea why you are commenting at all on such a basic area of human life. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve heard in this whole debate and I’ve heard some weird things.

          • Andrew, as you know Christians should not be doing PIA – regardless of orientation. Would PIA even be a thing for heterosexuals (outside of a niche fetish scene) if a porno culture hadn’t been ushered in by the same restricting of sexual morality to autonomy + consent that gave rise to modern gay rights movement?

            It’s all connected. Bodies now have no inherent value – no God given design – other than to be used or modified at will. Some people will be tamer in that use than others (trans go to the extremes of denying that sexed bodies matter) but even the sweet old couple who only do PIV are still being encouraged to adopt the same no-God-given-design moral framework.

          • Andrew – point to where I made this claim. I really have no idea what other people get up to – and I’m not aware of claiming that I did.

            There are several things I want to understand in this life (e.g. how to play the Goldberg Variations, how to grow a magnolia – I could list others), but understanding what sort of sordid things people get up to isn’t really one of them.

          • Joe
            I’m tired of repeating this but
            a) anal sex isn’t novel. It’s been happening for millennia and, more recently, particularly in Catholic countries as a means of birth control for straight couples
            b) isn’t the only sexual activity enjoyed by gay men and some gay men don’t like it
            c) lesbians don’t (on the whole) participate in anal sex

          • Jock: if you think sex is sordid – your very words – then seriously you need some help. Beautiful. Creative. Joyous. Messy. Fun. Loving. Lovely. Satisfying. Life giving. All those things, yes. But…. Sordid?
            And yes, scroll up and you will see how you supported such a claim. But I’m glad to hear you withdraw it……

          • Penelope,
            a) I never claimed it was novel. The Christian sexual ethic (which prohibits anal sex) supplanted the Roman one. Judging by their decorative arts, the Romans knew a thing or two anal sex.
            b) True – not all gay men have anal sex. Also true – some gay men do have anal sex because their options are limited by only two questions: Is it something I want to do? and Is it consensual? Now those two questions are the basis of the taken-for-granted sexual morality of most people today (including many Christians) but the historical Christian sexual ethic requires other additional things to be taken into consideration.
            c) Same as (b) above. Autonomy + consent are not the only things Christians should take into account. I’m sure many lesbian couples are blissfully happy and are cherished by everyone in their church communities. Nobody needs to know exactly they do in bed. But if their relationship is sexual, it is sinful.

          • Joe

            You stated that straight couples are attracted to as be side of porn and the licence issued in recently by gay men. I argued, as you now seem to agree, that as has been normal for centuries.
            Consent and mutuality are the criteria by which we judge the morality of sex. Christians and some other religions would also add within the discipline of a faithful, loving relationship and with a commitment to generative – but not necessarily procreative – love.
            It is your belief, based upon your reading of scripture, that gay sex, even within the confines of stable, mutual relationships is sinful.
            It is my belief, based upon my reading of scripture and tradition, that it is not.
            You and others may state, without caveat, that it is sinful. Your belief and its expression does not make it so.

          • Andrew – forgive me, but I’m beginning to build up a picture. You’re an Anglican priest. In church services, do you take your readings from `The Joy of Sex’? Do you close your worship with the well known hymn by Johnny Rotten about various activities in the rigging (whose title I do not recall)? Just wondering …..

          • Penelope, I did not mean to imply that straight couples now engage in anal sex because of porn or the influence of gay men.

            Rather, all of these things have been normalised because almost everyone assumes what you do… that “Consent and mutuality are the criteria by which we judge the morality of sex.”

            The modern gay rights movement was made possible by the sexual revolution. The 98% heterosexual majority decided that autonomy + consent was the only thing that mattered and homosexuals then said “We can do that too!” And, of course, they can.

            You can tack on love and commitment but that still isn’t the historic Christian sexual ethic.

            I don’t expect the new moral framework will be overturned anytime soon. It is more likely that even evangelicals will go with the flow and accept the consequences of the sexual revolution – and their emphasis on the necessity of marriage will be reconfigured in theraputic terms such as “healthier” or “good for society”.

          • So what is the ‘historic Christian sexual ethic’?

            A set of cultural innovations that a small Jewish sect introduced to the Roman empire. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. But I guess Rome – just without the slavery – is what some Christians call progress today.

          • Joe
            So we agree about the Christian ethic.
            I can’t see how this proscribes anal sex, or oral sex or other activities which aren’t PIV sex.

          • Jock – as so often, you are being offensive and will claim that you are just being amusing. Please don’t be offensive any further. Very clearly you think that anything sexual is necessarily’sordid’ and should not be talked about unless with schoolboy humour and nudge nudge wink wink type comments. Grow up for goodness sake.

          • Joe: you claim that “Nobody needs to know exactly they do in bed. But if their relationship is sexual, it is sinful.”

            These are contradictory. You do want to know exactly what certain people do in bed.

          • Andrew You do want to know exactly what certain people do in bed.

            Not really. A relationship is either sexual or it’s not. We all know what that means without the details of the specific sex acts. Of course, people can always lie about these things.

          • I see. You don’t want to know any specifics. You just need to know whether or not it’s sexual – because of course that’s your business.

          • I guess most people would make a distinction between a romantic partner and a friend in ordinary conversations. If a guy introduces me to his boyfriend or ‘husband’ I don’t speculate on what they might be doing in bed together but I also don’t imagine he is trying to convey the message that his partner is just a friend.

  4. This all sounds rather polemical, a bit too much for my liking.

    I do agree that a lot of modern claims about theological anthropology and what it means ‘to be human’ are dubious and in need of critique, and nor do I find anything ostensibly false in the argument being summarised, but I am left with a handful of questions, not least of which is this one:

    Who is this book aimed at?

    The default tone seems to be robust and perhaps a little dogmatic, which might be effective for people who come to the book sharing some of it’s concerns and looking to reinforce their own apologetic, but from the parts you summarise I doubt it’s going to be well engaged with the people/ideas being written about. I doubt many opponents will be happy with the implication that they’re at odds with the fundamental nature of reality, and may dismiss engagement out of hand.

    Again, I’m not saying that’s not true 😉 , but it’s not a good way to create a dialogue of ideas. Is there a particular work that this book is best thought of as responding to, that might help frame things?

    Mat

    Reply
    • Thank you, Mat, for engaging the review in its entirety. I tend to agree with you that the tone and tenor of Nancy’s writing can be off-putting and may not open minds to consider her arguments. This is not atypical for much of Christian apologetics. Still, her arguments do merit consideration and, sadly, some (many?) cannot get past the tone to hear the reasoning. Then there are others who can’t get past the way a phrase is used because it offends where no offense is intended. Not everything is polemical and language becomes clearer when taken in context.

      Reply
      • Yes, this is a fair retort.

        While I stand by my comments about the tone, I would agree with you that it’s not gratuitous or deliberately provocative. At the very worst it’s slightly incredulous, which most people can handle.

        As I said in response to Geoff earlier, I am prepared to look past my initial impression and give it a chance.

        Reply
        • Part of the problem is finding a compassionate way to say clearly what is deeply unpalatable. The unpalatability tends to drown out and compassion to the hearer.

          Having said that, I did not find the quotations from the book lacking in compassion. To be sure they were clinical but I think this is acceptable in a book that seems aimed more for a fairly academic readership than a popular audience.

          I take the primary audience to be those sympathetic to her position (Christians) with the hope it may reach out to those unsympathetic.

          Reply
    • Hello Mat,
      This Amazon review might help to answer your questions.
      Ava C
      5.0 out of 5 stars Unravels the flaws in the opposing argument, so it crumbles from within
      Reviewed in the United States on 7 August 2020
      Verified Purchase
      One day I heard Nancy Pearcey’s interview on the Babylon Bee podcast, and it stuck with me for weeks. Eventually I listened again, and caught the name of the full book. The central idea of material bodies holding such a high value was very gripping to me. Early scientific writings, such as the discovery of DNA and stem cells, used to sometimes be written from a teleological perspective. It makes sense that material was created with purpose.
      I’m very much the intended audience of this. I’m a college aged Christian girl without enough conviction in this area. Everything about Christianity made sense to me except for sexuality and identity issues. None of my close friends are Christians, and I’ve been struggling with the logic behind sexual abstinence and the value of marriage for years.
      My best friend is an English major and a pro choice Athiest. We love having discussions together, especially about these types of issues, but it always feels as though we’re talking past each other. At one point identity politics came up again, and I tentatively mentioned that I read this book. She somehow immediately grasped that I wanted nothing more than for her to read it too. She read it on my kindle in a couple of days. Seeing my notes, she diligently kept her own notes with a discussion in mind. She had me read her essay on Medieval Christian dualism and oppressive sexist chastity as she read this book. It was described as a ballet, to show how beautiful the body is when it’s unconstrained.
      Reading the introduction, she was taken aback by the bold claims reframing the soul in relation to the body. She contested it, saying that many Christians don’t believe that. She thought for a minute and said “if I were to be Christian, this is the kind I’d be.”
      I expected a debate, but when the time came, it turned out to be the most productive conversation I’ve had since the pandemic began, and it was about 3 hours long. She had a list of specific passages and lines that didn’t make sense to her, and her questions really helped me to pinpoint and fill in gaps I had in my own theology. She said at one point that she would be mulling over her stance on abortion. We also talked about previously untouchable subjects such as homosexuality and what it means to be trans. We talked about sex and family and love and institutions. We talked about objective morality and Christianity’s role in the rights we know as true and just today.
      The arguments made in this book are so compelling. I see myself differently now by forgetting the learned dissonance between “myself” and my body. I had been slipping into gnosticism without realizing it. This book is a milestone for my faith. For more experienced Christians with a stronger network of believers these arguments might seem obvious, but I was unaware of how much I was conceding to a worldview so hostile to humanity.
      46 people found this helpful

      Reply
      • I sincerely hope it isn’t the case, but if I were pretending to be a liberal progressive commenting on how this book reformed my life and challenged by worldview, this is exactly the sort of thing I’d write. It’s all a tad too neat.

        However, it does seem to be reviewed rather well on Amazon and other places, and a lot of the other positive reviews sound more like real people, so I’m prepared to accept that this snapshot is colouring my first impression poorly, and I’ve ordered it to have a read later.

        Reply
    • Mathew – I get the impression that `love our bodies’ is a euphemism for `having it off’. I also get the impression that the `Living in Love and Faith’ booklet should be renamed `Having it off in the C. of E.’

      Reply
      • Jock,

        I don’t think ‘love our bodies’ is meant euphemistically. I suspect it’s meant to be a deliberate contrast with the mechanical/utilitarian view of the body, symptomatic of some modern philosophy, being challenged in the book.

        I’m also not sure about your suggestion of renaming LLF as ‘having it off in the CofE’, so may I humbly suggest an alternative title instead. How about:

        ‘Sex and the Synod’. 😉

        Reply
  5. Does she really believe it’s wrong for women to take the pill? As for nature, she should realise that God and nature has made the female body to be fertile from teenage years, is she advocating such young girls should be having sex and having children?

    I see she is an advocate of Intelligent Design, despite the overwhelming evidence for evolution in, you know, nature. That for me does not bode well.

    Reply
    • Maybe you need to check your cultural presuppositions, Peter.
      Is she really advocating young girls having sex?
      Macro or micro evolution? Creation? Intelligent design.
      Here is a lecture from Nasa scientist, and Bristol Uni, Dr Stuart Burgess on Intelligent.
      https://www.christian.org.uk/resource/the-design-argument/
      He has also published;
      Hallmarks of Design: Evidence of Design in the Natural World: Evidence of Purposeful Design and Beauty in Nature (Creationpoints);
      Wonders of Creation: Design in a Fallen World

      Reply
      • Geoff – she’s an advocate for the Discovery Institute which spouts nonsense.

        Evolution is pretty much proven. Ive noticed that more often than not those arguing against it are non-biologists, just like Burgess.

        Reply
        • To be honest, anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that we’ve evolved from previous species is a fantasist. Evolution is without doubt the mainstream scientific principle behind the emergence of species on Earth. Clearly there can be fine-tuned versions of the overall survival of fittest – in the small detail – but the basic principle is basically locked in and accepted by the vast majority of qualified experts.

          Reply
          • Susannah – I don’t think it has anything to do with particular theories here. If (thought experiment – hypothetical conditional -it’s unlikely to happen) a scientist could propose a law of nature – and present a convincing case for it – by which we *didn’t* evolve from a different species, but presented coherent laws of nature which explained things in a different way, then I’d take it seriously.

            What makes these ID people ridiculous is precisely that they *don’t* accept that the Good Lord came up with a coherent set of natural laws. They seem to argue that `natural law’ can’t explain everything – therefore there must be `intervention’ and this (somehow in their twisted way of thinking) proves that there is a God behind it ……

            The idea that beautiful laws of nature (for example Einstein’s general relativity – which leads to the red shift – which leads to the big bang – and ways of estimating when it happened, etc …) are eloquent testimony to a creator God doesn’t seem to occur to them.

            I haven’t really understood their way of thinking. ID basically came `on stream’ in a serious way after the 1980s (and therefore after I was more-or-less `out of the game’ as far as keeping in touch with the latest wacky theological ideas was concerned).

            But it does look like bad news – it looks like a replacement for `flat earth society’ thinking whereby God created everything in six days flat, took the seventh day off and then woke up with a hang-over on the eighth day – and that this took place roughly 6000 years ago. The lunatic fringe saw that they couldn’t get away with that – so they invented ID as a replacement.

          • Jock, I SO agree with you (even if we don’t agree on some other things!) and I love your expression ‘beautiful laws of nature’ because they truly are. Creation is magnificent.

            God is a God of order, and the laws of nature sustain us and we exist within them.

          • Jock

            I would have thought the burden of proof lies on those who say we have evolved from one species to another to prove their claim, not vice versa.

            I think if I were a thinking non-Christian I’d be skeptical of macro-evolution. The jump from one species to another seems immense and seems to lack any substantial evidence.

            For a Christian a question to ask is if there were no scientific evolutionary consensus how would we read Genesis One and other related texts. The answer to this may reveal where our interpretative arises.

            It appears that evolutionary theory cannot answer all the questions of origins. ID shows the weaknesses of the theory and says at the very least a more sophisticated paradigm is necessary.

            Jock, in your view I and many others belong to the ‘lunatic fringe’ for I hold to a young earth 6 day creation until I am forced to believe otherwise. Although I can see it is possible that the creation account is parabolic or mythical (because of a stylised Gen 1) I do not think it is probable. I think the biblical evidence is weighted in favour of a six day creation. The thing is many believe this and they are not crazy nor are they flat earthers. I think you’re being unnecessarily inflammatory.

        • “Geoff – she’s an advocate for the Discovery Institute which spouts nonsense.”

          Thank you Peter. Exactly so.

          Reply
    • PC1 – well, we’ve just had a post about Israel, anti-Semitism – and hence the Jews, now we’ve had a post that touches on gay people. Do you think that the next post will be about pianism?

      Because I think it was Horovitz who pointed out that all the greatest pianists were either gay or Jewish or both (he fell into both categories).

      I think he’s wrong there – because I don’t think that Paderewski, who was truly great, fell into either category – but counterexamples really are few and far between.

      I find myself in strong agreement with you on `Intelligent Design’ – it seems to be a replacement for the `flat earth society’ who tried to teach that God created everything in 6 days flat, then took the 7th day off – and all this took place approximately 6000 years ago.

      I noted with interest (when I read the introduction to Darwin’s Origin of Species) that he seems to take the view that if things happen `by law’ then this is some sort of argument against a creator God, while if they happen by `miraculous intervention’ then this would support a creator God – completely overlooking the obvious point that a Christian believes that God created the natural laws.

      As the opening of the Westminster confession points out, you probably first have to believe in God before you see that the natural laws are indeed something miraculous, while the `Intelligent Design’ loonies seem to be of the view that people can infer the existence of God through noting the beauty of the natural laws.

      My only difficulty here – while I believe that everything in creation is basically `by law’; I don’t believe in a God who somehow made a botched job of creating his natural laws and then had to continually intervene to get his elephants, giraffes, gannets, seals, dolphins in order, it isn’t completely clear to me that `evolution’ in the sense that Darwin proposed in his `Origin of Species’ does actually explain everything – and it wouldn’t surprise me if scientists at some stage came up with a better suggestion for a natural law.

      Reply
      • Im not sure what you mean by ‘everything’. As I understand it, evolutionary theory explains how life developed on earth. Of course, like any scientific view, it is open to amendments as further discoveries are made, but Im not aware of anything in the living world that negates the current understanding of the mechanisms of evolution. Time will tell, but just as I think it is highly unlikely that quantum mechanics theories or Einstein’s theories of relativity will one day be overthrown, neither do I think evolution will suffer a similar fate.

        Peter

        Reply
        • Peter – well, yes – I’m completely in agreement with you.

          Actually, when I first read your comment, I hadn’t read the article carefully and now I have.

          I think that the fact that this person is seemingly an adherent of
          `Intelligent Design’ is much, much more important, much darker and sinister than any dodgy views on having-it-off that she is (rightly) speaking out against.

          Read Section 6 of this one:

          https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022519320302071

          It is very clear that the ID people do not take the view that God created a beautiful set of natural laws which govern everything – they’re looking for statistical evidence that the underlying natural laws are unsatisfactory and that God keeps having to intervene to make things run properly.

          In my humble opinion ID is anti-Christian – and a much greater heresy than having a distorted view of the dos and donts of having-it-off.

          Reply
    • Peter

      It’s interesting that you and Jock should be so opposed to ID which is keen to show incontrovertible evidence of the Creator’s involvement. Surely this is a laudable aim. Moreover, if there is evidence that undermines the hegemony of evolution surely it should be presented. If ID undermines evolution then evolution is not as overwhelming as it may seem. As far as I’m aware there is evidence only of adaptation within a species and not of evolution into a new species.

      Evolution has a hard job fitting into Genesis One. Interpretations that find it there are possible but not probable (in my view). When I was young theistic evolution was a tenuous possibility in evangelical thinking but seems now to be the reigning paradigm despite a flimsy exegetical basis. I remain for the time being drawn to a maturely created creation… like the aged wine that Jesus created.

      Reply
      • “Evolution has a hard job fitting into Genesis One.”

        That’s because Genesis One is wrong, if written as literal scientific fact.

        It’s not a scientific text book.

        Exegesis doesn’t really start until you get past the idea that the authors of Genesis knew how the world began and evolved.

        They didn’t.

        It doesn’t matter. We can still trust God.

        Reply
        • The writers were intelligent enough to write symbolically and we’re dumb enough to read it literally!

          Reply
      • Hi John

        ID doesnt undermine evolution. It tries to but fails. I believe in a Creator God. Indeed it might very well take the divine spark for life itself to begin. Evolution simply describes the mechanisms of the development of life once begun. The evidence is overwhelming. The evidence for ID which typically proposes that different species were specially created by God is underwhelming. I do believe in design, the design of evolutionary mechanisms by which life developed on earth. I also think it is not a coincidence that the universe is ‘fine-tuned’ such that certain constants have values which make the universe as it is, with the development of life probably inevitable. Even Dawkins accepts the fine-tuning argument is reasonable, but then he toddles off in the direction of the so-called multiverse for which there is no actual evidence.

        The reason we cant typically observe the evolution of a new species is because that typically takes a very, very long time. Even some ID’ers accept so-called microevolution but not macroevolution. But macroevolution is really just microevolution over a much longer time span. But see this article:

        https://www.sciencealert.com/darwin-s-finches-evolve-into-new-species-in-real-time-two-generations-galapagos

        I used to want to understand Genesis 1 &2 as scientific textbooks, or at least as historical narratives (as if that is what you would have seen if youd been there with a video camera), but I came to realise that’s not how to view it, and fails to take into account the Near Eastern culture in which it was written and other creation stories with ideas against which Genesis acts as a polemic.

        Peter

        Reply
  6. Perhaps endorsements for the book from Anglican Sam Allberry and former doyenne and advocate for Queer theory, but now a converted robust Christian, Rosaria Butterfield, will stimulate autonomous, knee-jerk, unread, opposition to the book.

    Reply
  7. Why would you publish something which talked about “homosexuality and same-sex lifestyles”? Just the mention of “same-sex lifestyles” is a trope that bigots always roll out. It’s just so offensive.

    Reply
    • You’d publish it to appeal to that particular constituency. Like lots of stuff which appears and sometimes reaches the bestselling lists. It doesn’t mean we have to waste our time reading it.

      Reply
      • I assume in the first instance it is for an evangelical constituency. Having said this, how long and how widespread is the ‘offence’ of ‘same-sex lifestyle’? I was unaware of this objection though I admit I’m far from being up-to-date with the conversation. I confess I don’t really see what the fuss is about; it is mainly a statement of relationship and probably implied sexual expression. It may imply the promiscuity that exists with many gay men. It is also intended I think as a way of denying that sexual preference is a matter of identity and personhood.

        I appreciate you disagree.

        Reply
    • And, yes, the “same-sex lifestyles” trope is both offensive and hilarious. The dull monogamy of some of my gay friends compared with the hedonistic excess of some of my straight ones …

      Reply
      • You are right.

        If there are differences between gay and straight relationships then we should talk about those in as objective a way as possible (if appropriate to the context(1)). In that at least I do agree with Christopher. But the proposed existence of a difference is not in anyway a comment on the validity of said difference, and this is where we(2) seem to constantly get tripped up in the comments. One is a statistical comment, the other is a value judgement.

        Example. There does seem to be a higher statistical rate of promiscuity and marital unfaithfulness within the same-sex group(3), but there are, in contrast, higher rates of divorce in the opposite-sex group. The higher rates of a given activity or outcome in each group cannot be said to undermine the integrity of that group per se, unless you appeal to something else against which we can measure the validity, for example scripture, or human reason.

        ‘lifestyles’ is as useful a term for describing these differences as ‘immorality’ is, hence the constant debate about applying Pauline sexual ethics today. We would all benefit from a little more precision about exactly what we’re saying, and why we’re saying it.
        Mat

        (1) I’d argue the comment section of a boom review is not that place.
        (2) ‘We’ being the regular commentariat.
        (3) This is debated

        Reply
        • Social, cultural, legal acceptance is not the same as Christian acceptance. Morality is a component of Christian *validity*. The pragmitic *is* is not to be confused or conflated with the *ought*.
          The metrics here are scriptural, theological, teleological and Godward, in relation to the immutable Holiness of God in his aseity.
          Not having read the book but being formerly familar with Pearcey’s earlier book and Sheaffer’s presuppositional framework, this Godward, or *upper storey* level is where this whole topic is to be grounded.

          Reply
          • Of course I understand this Geoff. That Christians have a particular view of morality, one that may be at odds with a secular (or other) morality, is hardly controversial.

            My point was simply that we could do with a little more precision.

          • Mat,
            I think there is sufficient clarity, precision, in scripture, Godward, in the upper level but it is met with obfuscation at the lower level an obfusation that admits no precision, definitions, but mere descriptions.

  8. There are those who have commented negatively, honing in on one particular aspect, who have converted from man to woman, and who are vigorous proponent of Queer theory, almost viscerally (in reaction to the title?) as if comments here will counter 338 pages of the book, taken as a whole.

    Reply
  9. I will put a toe in the water of the intelligent design debate simply to note that ID is at least in part an endeavour to highlight that at least some aspects of existence are not possible merely through evolutionary mechanisms. If this is indeed so direct creatorial engagement is implied which is consonant with the biblical account of origins.

    Whether with origins or the ordering of human sexual relationships Christians are led by the teaching of Scripture. It is Scripture that is our authority and provides a clear path.

    Reply
    • John – so what you are saying is that ID people endeavour to highlight that God duffed up when He created the natural laws – some aspects of existence are not possible merely as a result of the natural laws that God created when He created the universe.

      I can’t see how they can draw that message from Scripture.

      I’m reminded of Woody Allen at the end of his movie `Love and Death’ (after he has been executed and is being led away by Death) saying, `Well, if there is a god, then he is clearly an underachiever’. From what you have just written, that would seem to be the basic line of the ID people.

      Reply
      • Whilst trying to achieve a random design tiling the kitchen I turned all the coloured tiles upside down and picked then randomly. The effect was not pleasing. Too many of the same colour appeared together so I had to interfere with evolution and swap some around.

        Perhaps, in the big picture , different sorts of infinity need to be managed. Perhaps intelligent design needs to be employed to stop the stutter of infinity?

        Reply
        • Steve – perhaps this explains an awful lot. Perhaps instead of ID, the Good Lord uses RD (random design) – and perhaps your kitchen, even though you weren’t exactly impressed with the effects, might have a divine perfection about it.

          Reply
          • But in truth, it does seem rational and intelligent to recognise that since life on earth began 3.5 billion years ago, life forms reproduced again and again, and those best suited or ‘fit’ for survival… survived.

            That is natural selection.

            Where diversification of species happened, it was because through successive reproductions new models survived, diverging until they became separate species.

            I really don’t think this is too hard to understand, unless someone is so ideologically driven that they refuse to accept the science in front of their eyes.

            It all just happened: the fabulous natural order that has resulted in our amazing diverse life forms on earth. We don’t know how rare we are as a planet, and there are quite possibly other planets with life as well, but in our own solar system, evolutionary processes – operating within the laws of nature – have resulted in the stunning range of life forms our planet has.

            As for homo sapiens, we first appeared in Africa 300,000 years ago, having evolved from earlier humanoids, and certainly our present brains and bodily identities have existed for 100,000 years.

            This is why it is offensive to truth-seekers to claim, like fundamentalists, that the ‘first man’ was created without ancestors, or that the female of the species was formed from a rib of the male, or that any of this happened within any reach of recorded or even handed-down history.

            The Bible offers us myth, and if people literalise that, they reduce its truth and depth of meaning.

            As Christians believe in truth, we should never run away from science. By far the most credible theory of how we came into existence is that we evolved from earlier species – through the principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ – and that ‘Adam’ had ancestors, contrary to the literal reading of the Bible that he did not.

            We don’t really need theories of Intelligent Design, because Evolution is wonderful by itself. The vastness of the universe even more so. “The heavens proclaim the glory of God” etcetera.

            Beyond all other wonders, I’d say that sentient consciousness and capacity to love is the greatest wonder of all. In all the vast wastes of space and time, and a billion billion stars and their planetary systems… here we are, alive, able to open to love… to the flow of love that comes from God.

            We should let that love flow through us today.

          • Susannah – I basically agree with this. Out of interest – where did you get the 3.5 billion years? Because I seem to remember 4 billion years as the figure that Feynman suggested in his lectures on physics, published in the early 60’s. While the general principles for how-to-date have remained solid, I thought that scientists had been continually re-assessing the mass of the universe (quantities of dark matter) and consequently re-assessing the length of time since the big bang and I’d heard some different numbers suggested.

            I don’t know much about biology – I’m coming at this from a `physics’ point of view and I was very privileged to hear Peter Higgs giving us a course on Special Relativity in my 2nd university year and a course on General Relativity in my 4th year. So I basically understand something of the principles of how we got from big-bang to here, but I’m not `up’ on the biology side and John Thomson makes a very good point below that if we pursue the Darwinian point of view then, well, over the last 150 years people haven’t discovered too many fossils and skeletons indicating much in the way of gradual changes from one species to the next – so there is a weakness in the experimental evidence. So if someone came up with a different suggestion for `law of nature’ I’d be open to it.

            But on this – I think we’re more-or-less in complete agreement (barring some very minor details).

  10. Jock,
    Your view of God’s aseity is substantially lower than mine. Maybe even defamatory of him.
    Certainly God doesn’t “duff – up” no matter how florid your language me be. It is also reveal of your presupposition of who God IS. As opposed to how we may think he ought to be.
    Woody Allen also quipped, what makes God laugh? Tell him your plans for the future. Prompt – further lengthy tangential theological, scriptural thread.
    Getting ready to meet follow Christians worshipping our Triune God. Blessings in Christ Jesus. Geoff

    Reply
    • Geoff – None of my comments question God’s aseity – precisely the opposite. I believe that God created a set of natural laws which are perfect – and that he doesn’t need to keep intervening. Yes – that is my presupposition of who God IS.

      Reply
      • Jesus said His father is working and He is working. This statement intimates that the laws of nature has not been left to run without supervision. Just like I said about tiling, if I simply plastered the walls with random tiles there would be rows of same colour or whole blocks . To make it look random a certain amount of ID has to be applied. If epochs were tiles we might still be in the Precambrian. God must be intervening all the time. Society goes in cycles , like in The book of Judges. This liberal phase will end when draconian measures are imposed. That’s not a value judgment, it’s a fact. Not something to look forward to either.

        Reply
        • Steve – I don’t see it like that. Scripture indicates that (a) creation was *completed* and that (b) at the same time, one of the creation ordinances in Genesis 2 was work.

          I see three creation ordinances in Genesis 2: work, Sabbath rest and marriage. Perhaps I’m missing something else. Hence, during the 1980’s, I took it very seriously when large quantities of unemployment arose largely due to government policy (I’m naturally conservative, but this put me right off the Conservatives).

          So I see the bible tells us that creation was completed and God said it was very good, yet God was still working, because work is all part of the creation ordinance.

          Maybe this doesn’t make complete sense, but it’s more-or-less my guiding principle.

          Reply
          • Completed? I think maintenance is still in order. Like the Severn Bridge. Your penultimate para contradicts the first..?
            Genesis is a fractal image in miniature of the whole story. It’s the frontispiece. Work, rest , betrothal, overcoming obstacles. Marriage, New Family bond: Quadrinity.
            But hey, I do indulge imagination too much.

          • Steve – work is a creation ordinance. I take that to mean that, when all is said and done, the function of creation is completed, we have passed from this life to the next and are in heaven with Him, all the eschatological things of Revelation have come to pass, we will still have work to do – and so will He, because work is all part of a good order.

            I have no idea what this work is, but I can’t see that it has to do with creation (because there will still be work to be done after the function of creation is entirely fulfilled).

            You’re right though – there is a contradiction (or perhaps not so much a contradiction as a lack-of-clarity in my own head).

          • If creation is completed does that mean that evolution was completed?

            I think God working is not related to creation. God looked out on creation and rested in what was intended to be an eternal sabbath (it had no evening nor morning) delighting in all he had made. However, sin entered the universe and God was required to start working again to redeem, to bring about a new creation. It is in the context of redemption that Jesus says, ‘My Father works until now and I work’.

            Is not the functioning of creation much more than natural laws? Are miracles a breaking of natural laws? Does Gen 1 or the rest of Scripture encourage us to look for natural laws as the binding of creation?

            In fact Gen 1 breaks even the expectations of early humanity. Light exists before the sun for example. I want to permit macro evolution but I do so most reluctantly; I can’t think of anything in the Bible that points in that direction.

  11. Jock

    We’ve not defined what are ‘natural laws’. I am prepared to accept that there is evolution or adaptation within a species but I am very chary of views that there is evolution across species. I am, however, pretty ignorant in this field and rely very much on the guidance of others. I think the Bible most naturally reads as a six day literal creation but (reluctantly) accept the possibility that the creation account is presented in a metaphorical way. I certainly am not convinced that it articulates easily with theistic evolution. As a result for me as a layman the evolution of an eye seems improbable since it involves centuries /millennia of minuscule evolutionary change before achieving the desired end (the eye). This seems to give the evolutionary process an intelligence it lacks. Until there is firm evidence to the contrary I am happy to accept direct creation. Micro- evolution is one thing; macro-evolution another.

    Jock, I may have said nothing for I can be a bit over scrupulous but Geoff’s comment prompts me to agree; I think you make good points but sometimes I wonder about the language you use in expressing it. Geoff’s ‘florid’ may be a good description. You may not agree. It is something to think about.

    Susannah

    John 7:17 – “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

    One of the things Rosaria Butterfield discovered is that understanding in the Bible often follows rather than precedes obedience. Obedience helps us to see things as God sees them. We all need to grasp this.

    Reply
    • I suggest you read
      Chrissie Chevausutt
      Rachel Mann
      Linn Marie Tonstad
      Alex Clare Young
      Jarel B Robinson
      Marcella Althaus Reid
      Jeremy Pemberton
      Helen King
      Miranda Threlfall Holmes
      Shelly Rambo
      Karen Bray
      Gerard Loughlin
      James Alison

      Just a few gay, trans and cishet Xians who disagree with you and Butterfield

      Reply
    • John – Firstly, Geoff’s comment really didn’t make much sense.

      Secondly – that’s basically what I was getting at in my comment to Susannah further up the thread – yes – there are huge holes in `evolution’ as it currently stands – but I believe that God has created beautiful natural laws which we should endeavour to discover – and I don’t believe that we’ll end up discovering that he has to continually make interventions to get things working.

      Yes – for Romans 5 to make sense Adam has to be a real person – I haven’t really worked out how to reconcile that yet.

      Reply
        • Andrew – now you are talking about something really interesting! Can you explain this? For Romans 5, Christ was a real person – and I can’t see how the contrast between Adam and Christ can make sense if one of them was mythical and one of them was real.

          Reply
          • Maybe Paul ‘thought’ Adam was real, but was wrong…

            or

            Maybe Paul just used the terminology in a theologically structural form, as Paul was trying to build a system of Christian belief, on the back of the OT narratives, so ‘Adam’ becomes terminology, whether real of not, and indeed Paul might have even supposed that Genesis 1 was written as myth, but I have my doubts.

            Personally, given that Paul lived more than 1000 years before the theory of evolution started to be developed, I suspect he just believed Adam was a literal person. You can’t really blame him for that, but in the light of modern science you *can* blame modern Christians if they still think he wasn’t the product of previous evolution, with a mum, a dad, and grandparents.

            The Bible is written by fallible humans, writing within the context and limits of their own time and culture…. they’re just trying to make sense of encounter with God, same as we do.

            Very many Christians don’t identify as ‘fundamentalists’ literalising everything. Not all the Bible has to be factually correct. It’s written in contexts. Sometimes those are contexts of scientific shortfall, sometimes those contexts are cultural traditions of their own time…

            We should not be afraid of that. But people are. Some people are desperate for everything to be locked up and boxed in with certainties. But God is bigger, wider, more mysterious than that. As a contemplative trained and rooted in the religious life of convent, I see ‘uncertainty’ as a spiritual maturity… or at least, one pathway of opening to God… because in uncertainty and ‘not knowing’ we have to grow ‘trust’ in God.

            People counter-argue “If one little bit of the Bible is wrong or not true, how do we know that ANY of it is true.”

            My answer is: TRUST.

            We open to God, because we trust what we learn about God’s love and deep commitment to us. That’s how we grow.

            We don’t have to believe in Noah’s Ark. We don’t need to believe in an ancestorless ‘Adam’. We don’t even have to believe that 1st Century culture is identical to our own. There are loads of contexts involved.

            But what we CAN do is TRUST that God is good and loves us, and wants us to open to God, and to the power of God’s love.

            Before dawn in convent, I sit in darkness in chapel, and I gaze toward God through the cloud of unknowing. God is there. I know that in trust. But there is so much I don’t fully know about God – because God is both personal and reclusive. What I do know is that in Jesus Christ God came to dwell with us, and give God’s own self for us, in Jesus’s life and Jesus’s utter givenness and love… to the point of no turning back.

            We don’t have to box in all the facts in literalism. We need to trust. We need to trust that God, in Jesus Christ, wants to give all love to us, all the way to sacrifice.

            That’s how much and how far God loves us.

            Come, let us worship.

          • Susannah,
            It sounds like, in your myriade of words, of maybes, you are seeking to worship a god of your own construction, who played no part in the construction of scripture, in his self revelation, his aseity, and his immutable holiness. And maybe, just maybe there is a glimmer of neo- Marcionism in your belief structure.

            Certainly, this book review has goaded the usual suspects. And as usual it ends with who God is, and what scripture is.
            Where for instance would Joel 2:1-14, which was our scripture today, preached, along with a reading from Peter, fit in your theological paradigm? even as it was central in our communion service worship today?

          • Susannah

            We don’t have to believe in Noah’s ark… or the flood… or coming judgement… or the supernatural birth of Isaac… the crossing of the Red Sea… the prediction of Cyrus the great… the virgin birth… the resurrection… the second coming…

            In fact, we don’t need to believe anything the Bible says especially if it is uncomfortable. We simply TRUST. And not in the God of the Bible for what it says is unreliable. Uncertainty is maturity and certainty is really egotism. We can only know that God is good and loves us? How do we know this? This is only the view of a deeply flawed tome bound book. The evidence that God is good without the bible is not at all obvious. Hardy’s malevolent God who is creating an iceberg to sink her just as men are building the Titanic is a more plausible view in a world with no certain revelation of redemption.

            Trust for you Susannah is not in the God of the Bible and the Jesus of the Bible for you bypass much of who they are and what they say. Your trust is in a Jesus of your choice. Your Bible is a bible with pages torn out.

            I say this with no relish. I say it because if your view should prevail then Christianity would soon barely exist. It is the prevalence of your view that is presently emptying churches; why should people bother going to a church that simply echoes secular thinking.

            You reveal a good spirit in discussion. I want to do the same but I am forced to be blunt too because I think eternal destinies are involved and not least your own. I would urge you to read (again) some of the writings of Alberry, Cook, Butterfield and others who have accepted God’s revelation. Listen to God’s word. Listen to conscience.

          • John, I really appreciate the kindness and care behind your admonitions. I see that in you. I respect that.

          • I suspect Paul thought ‘Adam’ was real and the father of all mankind. Without any modern knowledge of biology, it would ahve been logical to conclude. If, when looking around himself, he asked, where did all these people come from, he would argue, well that person was born from a set of parents, his parents were individually born from sets of parents, and so forth. It would be logical to conclude there was an original pair.

            Having said that I think there were various understandings of Genesis in Jewish thought, eg representative etc.

          • It’s obvious that Jesus Christ was a real person. It’s obvious that Adam simply represents what it is to be a human being – one of us. Jesus Christ didn’t just come to save and redeem Adam, but all of us. That’s what Romans 5 is getting at.
            Paul may have believed Adam was a real ‘type’ of person but it’s very clear to any thinking person that the human species didn’t come into being in the way that a literal reading of Genesis might suggest. But Genesis was not intended to be read literally.

          • So what was not obvious to Paul is now obvious to us?

            You cannot build historical original sin around a mythical character. I doubt you’ll be happy with original sin but the bible seems to be. The creation story is an embarrassment to liberal churchmen. Six day creation; Adam and Eve; heterosexual monogamous marriage; patriarchy; the fall etc all run counter to current thinking.

            It is certainly the case that Gen 4- 50 is intended to be read literally and I can see no compelling reason in the text why ch 1-3 should be exempt.

          • Genesis is a composite book diverse in genre, so how to say ‘it’ is not intended to be read literally. There is no’it’. We would have to go through it bit by bit.

          • Indeed so Christopher. We agree. But it is obvious that the creation narrative is not intended literally. And it was to that which I was obviously referring.

          • Which is what I mean about the parasitic nature of liberalism. So many of the assertions are uninformative negative assertions that firstly require no brainpower and also leave us none the wiser.

            Having said not-literal, why on earth stop there of all places? – one then has to say what category positively fits. Therein lies the difficulty, because most of those proposed work even less well. But ‘literal’ is not a genre, albeit there are literal genres.

          • Are you seriously suggesting that a sophisticated mythological narrative (or, rather, two distinct mythical narratives) are meant to be read as historical?
            You truly believe that creation narratives were written as history?
            You truly believe that the world is x thousand years old, despite geological and cosmological insights?
            You truly believe the authors of Genesis 1 and 2 – written centuries apart – believed they were writing ‘history’?
            You truly believe Genesis 2 teaches ‘monogamous’ marriage, even though the concept of marriage is not mentioned in the text (nor throughout much of Genesis)?
            You truly believe that sophisticated authors conceived wonderful myths of generation and being, so that millennia later some modern fundamentalist might read them as ‘fact’?

          • That’s just very generalised and unintelligible waffle even by your standards Christopher.
            Penny raises the questions here but I won’t be holding my breath for any actual answers from you.

          • What is so incredible in this whole debate is the ignorance displayed about the history of creation mythology in particular and a faithful approach to literary genre in general.
            Questions about biblical literary genre are not some ‘liberal’ plot. Look back at the way people like Origen and Augustine in the earliest centuries of the Church approached the question. They knew full well that the writers and compilers of the earliest books of the Hebrew bible were trying to express something that was beyond understanding. They did not believe that Genesis expressed some literal account of creation. They knew that it was an attempt at mythological writing – which is not a fairy tale. They knew that other ancient Near Eastern myths existed. They knew that those accounts which found their way into the Hebrew bible were intended to lead people to faith in God, not faith in a literary genre.

          • Penelope

            Jesus seems to believe these things you find incredible.

            Andrew

            Questions about genre are not some liberal plot but the answers you supply are. There is nothing in Gen 1-3 that leads naturally to the conclusion of myth. Rather the most obvious reading is that this is historical narrative which is how other OT and NT texts understand it. Your understanding has nothing to do with the chapters themselves and everything to do with what you believe to be the assured scientific understanding of the universe.

            I understand the pressure of the latter but please be honest about what is driving interpretation; it is not genre but science. Science that seems happily to be disregarded when defining male and female.

          • Jesus didn’t have the knowledge revealed by Darwin and others. He was fully human, remember.
            The Hebrew Bible is full of myths of origin, some of them more dependent on near Eastern archetypes than Genesis. They were never meant to be taken literally. That is a category error. Any casual reader of Genesis 1 and 2 can see that the two myths contradict each other. And of course, if they were historical, we would all by the product of incest!

          • Hi Penny

            You say 7 questions each beginning ‘You truly believe…?’.

            Can you quote to me where I in my comment said I truly believed any of the 7, or said anything close to that?

            Quote, please.

            Your approach seems to continue to be impossibly binary. There are 2 stances only, each extreme. Are there indeed?

          • Christopher

            This was addressed to John who appears to believe that the creation accounts are historical facts.

          • Good afternoon John,

            I hope your day is going well. Its dark and thundery here, with massive downpours of rain!

            If I may quote a comment you made above:

            “There is nothing in Gen 1-3 that leads naturally to the conclusion of myth. Rather the most obvious reading is that this is historical narrative which is how other OT and NT texts understand it.”

            I’d respectfully suggest a slightly different version:

            “There is nothing in Gen 1-3 that leads naturally to the conclusion of myth. Rather the most obvious reading is that this is historical narrative which is how other OT and NT texts BELIEVED it should be understood. ”

            They had no knowledge of Darwin or Evolution, or geological knowledge of the age of the Earth, or of the absence of a flood in the past million years, higher than the highest mountains. They didn’t have the advantaged viewpoint we now have.

            It was excusable if they believed these early narratives were historical narrative (though personally I think they were probably capable of recognising myth themselves)… it is not excusable for us to cover our ears… sing la-la-la-not-listening to the science… simply because we want the whole narrative to be literal.

            More than that, can readers not see that parables, myths, stories, have the ability to speak to our imaginations, and open profound truth that way. Noah’s Ark, for example, is opens profound truth when read as myth. Not everything about God is intellectually cerebral. God is mysterious and in many ways unfathomable. Sometimes God may want to open us up to imaginative feeling and even encourage open-endedness… not everything has to be pinned down in word-by-word literalism.

            The challenge to what I’m saying (being honest) comes mostly in what Jesus himself says… when he refers to the days of the Flood, for example… but Jesus did not write down and explain those words… Jesus may well have chosen to explain teaching, using the platform of myth he knew people used. We simply don’t know.

            But God has given us a ‘sound mind’ and is a God of order. I just don’t think God wants us to run away from science as it unfolds to us in history: science can be part of truth… and a gift… and, as I say, in my view early Genesis as myth is more powerful than literalising it. Feel it. Receive its ‘story’ imaginatively. Wonder, like a child wonders as a story is read.

            Sometimes Christianity tries to be too cerebral… and yet so much of what we’re called to is feeling, compassion, and love.

          • “please be honest about what is driving interpretation; it is not genre but science. “
            No true at all. It’s reason. The whole structure of those creation stories in Genesis is mythological.

          • I think that’s probably correct Christopher. And that’s hardly surprising for the reasons Penny points out.
            But…Do either of the creation accounts strike you as historically accurate accounts? Is that the intention of those writings?

          • Hi Penelope

            Just in a belated answer to your questions.

            I do not believe Gen 1-3 is mythological. I can see however a highly structured even stylised account of creation. I can see that it may be poetic however, the comment by Moses in Ex 20 and later NT descriptions of creation strongly suggest a literal reading,

            I believe ch 2,3 are historical. I believe they are intended to be understood literally. Certainly the NT on more than one occasion speaks of a literal Adam and a literal Eve. Jesus takes the creation stories at face value. I believe the vast majority throughout the history of the church have taken these stories as historical accounts.

            I believe the universe may well be around 6,000-14,000 years old. We neither know the distorting effects of a universal flood nor what it would mean for God to create a mature creation with all the signs of age. Jesus created aged wine in seconds. Any ‘’scientific’ study of the wine would have dated it as much older.

            I very much believe that Gen 2 teaches monogamous marriage, I think the ‘is’ of creation creates the ‘ought’. Jesus bases his teaching on marriage and objection to divorce on Gen 2. Paul bases part of his teaching on marriage on Gen 2. Incidentally marriage features quite largely in the rest of Genesis.

            The rest of the Bible builds upon the original creation stories to explain the ‘ought’ of life.

            I would have thought that even if viewed as myths these myths were intended to teach a cosmogony and the shape of human culture. What do you think they teach.

            Incidentally it is not merely a modern fundamentalist who treats them as fact. Throughout history many have done so. Many who do so today are intelligent able theologians.

            I feel the pressure of evolution but so far do not feel the case is sufficiently compelling to abandon my ‘fundamentalism’. I think ,however, it takes greater incredulity to believe you are a Christian while rejecting much of what the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible teaches than it does to believe the universe was probably made by God in 6 days.

          • I believe the universe may well be around 6,000-14,000 years old. […] Jesus created aged wine in seconds. Any ‘’scientific’ study of the wine would have dated it as much older.

            This is a fascinating idea, and of course it is true that God could have created the universe at any point and it would appear to have a history up to that point — up to and including, indeed, this morning.

            The sticking-point I always have with this is: why would God do it that way? Given that God could create the universe such that time began 14 billion years ago and unfolded up to the present day; or He could have created the universe 6,000 years ago but in such a state that it is as if it had existed for 14 billion years prior; why would He do the latter, given the former would be just as easy for Him and would not have the slight whiff of duplicitousness about it?

            Of course I don’t want to set myself up as judge over God’s reasons, and maybe He did have a good reason for doing it that way. It’s just that as I can’t see one, then I fall back on the popular understanding of Occam’s razor — the principle that the simplest explanation is often the correct one — and therefore my working assumption is that God did create the universe by carefully setting up the laws of physics and the correct initial conditions such that 14 billion years would get it to the situation He wants it to be in today.

          • S

            I understand your point and it may well be right. I would counter by saying that Adam was created a mature man and presumably had the hallmarks of this maturity about him. Would he have appeared under scrutiny as if created yesterday? Is not maturity a necessary hallmark of the newly created universe? I am simply positing a question I cannot definitely answer.

            Genesis 1 does not sit easily with Evolution. Also when Jesus speaks of ‘in the beginning’ he locates the ‘beginning’ at the creation of Adam and Eve. There is little sense of billions of years. Evolution also suggests violence and death in the natural realm before the fall. I wish to leave the door open but biblically there seems a good case for a young earth.

          • John

            I simply cannot comprehend how anyone reading the two creation narratives can read them as literal, historical fact. For a start, they contradict one another.
            Not why anyone should need to believe that the earth is only 6000 years old. The wonders of stars being born and dying millions of years ago and the long and complex history of our planet, maybe the only one to sustain carbon based life, is for me, truly awe inspiring.
            I do think that Genesis mandates marriage (or at least coupling, since marriage isn’t mentioned), but in Gen 3 after the Fall, where marriage and procreation appear to be the result of sin.
            I don’t know of any biblical scholars or theologians who are young earth creationists

  12. The author’s observations on contraception raise huge red flags.
    Uncontracepted sex during a woman’s fertile years will (probably) lead to numerous pregnancies and offspring which could be harmful to the mother and intolerable to the parents. Especially in societies where infant mortality is low.
    I could not recommend this book to anyone on that belief alone.
    It seems dangerous and potentially abusive.

    Reply
    • Thank you, for your comment. I’m unconvinced that Pearcey would insist on uncontracepted sex; only that the use of contraception during fertile years has a downside. If Pearcey does mean as you intimate, then I agree with you, but would not not recommend the book on that account alone.

      Reply
    • In that case, 99.9% of human history was ‘dangerous and potentially abusive’. As Jesus said. Not.

      Reply
      • Christopher: pregnancy and childbirth always have dangers for women. As does poverty if you have too many mouths to feed. And not only that, but if women’s adult life is framed in successive child-bearing, while a modest number of children may be lovely, we’re into Taliban country if we reduce women’s fundamental functions in adulthood to bearing babies all the time. That attitude would be disrespectful.

        Reply
        • Since I was born yesterday, this is news to me. However, the stat still stands, and if anything is understated. My only point is that you have written off practically the whole of history that does not belong to your own lifetime.

          Reply
      • Well, your stats are, as always, mere hyperbole. But, yes, childbirth has always been dangerous, forced pregnancy/birth is usually abusive.

        Reply
        • ‘As always’? If specific ones of the multiple statistics referenced in my published work are incorrect then sue. Anyone can say ‘as always’ but that is the easy bit. Without chapter and verse we will have to regard you as not-to-be-believed.

          Reply
          • 99.9% of history was dangerous and abusive. Would you like to cite your sources for that statistic?

          • I don’t think it was.

            But you seem to, since 99.9% of history had successions of pregnancies (quite unlike today when desire seems to have evaporated to unprecedented levels in our brave new world) during fertile years.

          • There are two answers to the successions of pregnancies:
            1) well-fed, often elite, women had successive pregnancies and often died on childbirth or prematurely from the complications of numerous pregnancies
            2) poor, ill-fed women menstruated less and were often sub fertile. Menopause was also often early – if they lived that long. Childbirth was still dangerous for both mother and child.
            We do not have to undergo this now D.G., do any attempt to limit contraception or deny it to men and women is, indeed, harmful and abusive.

  13. Christopher,
    Is it a complete fantasy of mine to extrapolate backwards and think that Adam was born to a hominid in a similar way to the virgin birth? If he was it would explain the fact that other ‘people’ existed . Then there is no myth to contend with. I also imagine that the first chapters of Genesis are the highly redacted remains of an oral tradition that stretches back 12,000 years or so.
    This is I hope not just idle speculation. I want to believe the Bible is completely reliable without using blandishments like “it mythological.” Otherwise it would be like a beautiful but completely map of Mordor to get myself across the Sahara.

    Reply
    • You don’t need a literal Bible to get you across the Sahara, Steve.

      You need Jesus.

      “Love the Lord your God with all your heart. love your neighbour as yourself.”

      Jesus is the Word. The Bible is a supporting act, more like a pipeline through which the Holy Spirit can speak to our hearts.

      There is no need for contortions like ‘Was Adam born to a virgin birth, rather than the normal way with a normal mother and father?’

      And no need to invent 9000 years of oral tradition, when actually homo sapiens humans have been around for 300,000 with no evidence of change in brain/body over the past 100,000 years. That would be a looooong oral tradition, even if it was true, which it really isn’t. Adam had a mum and dad. Eve was not made from his rib, and she couldn’t have been the first woman anyway, because Adam could not have been born without a mother.

      If you just accept the common sense in all this – that the story is a myth with theological lessons, and a brilliant myth at that – then none of these intellectual contortions are necessary.

      Ask yourself: why am I so scare of accepting that there are myths in the Bible that are not literally true? would my faith collapse? can I not trust that my relationship with Jesus is real? To try to insist on fundamentalism, could be said to be driven by fear, and a lack of sufficient trust in God.

      Just trust God. You don’t have to know all the answers. God is in control.

      Besides, God is allowed to use myth or metaphor if God wants to. After all, the parables of Jesus were not literal.

      God bless you. I love that you have ardour for the living God.

      Reply
      • Well thanks for replying. I’m not fundamentalist in in thinking. As soon as I became a Christian I asked these sorts of questions. the six days are six moments in time when the creations in progress reached their apogee. Fish swam, birds flew. There will not be a time when fish fly or birds reach outer space. Creation is fixed… until Jesus returns. The assurances given in the narrative are like the deeds of a house . A tick list of finished works.
        Also, the Bible is a fixed work built on this fixed framework of creation. Scripture is The Word. But Scripture is not God. Jesus is The Word.
        Yes Creationism is built on fear. All Christian heresies believe the Bible + a work of indispensable value. Eg the Book of Mormon, The works of Joseph Smith, endless I D books and websites for Creationists. I know nothing about liberal theology but I suspect it has its Bible +[manifesto]. Best I think to believe the Bible, then work out one’s faith. Eschewing all clever stuff written by ‘beardy weirdo’s’ as Alexey Sale won every said.

        Reply
      • Perhaps Susannah there is a need to define myth.
        As did CS Lewis, who knew a thing or two about myth. It would reveal an underlying principle or irreducible truth/reality.
        Sure, a parable is a parable.
        The problem arises where Higher critics express much of the New Testament, not as historicity, but as parable. The question to them, then becomes, did Jesus even say what the gospel writers attribute to him? Did he do and act as they write? Lord of creation?
        And that has extended to the farce that was the Jesus Seminar, even as it continues in practice, if not name.
        There then is no reason to trust scripture as God revealing God, nor trust the Word made flesh, Jesus.
        Jesus, upbraided some of his hearers: you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.
        We are all fundamentalists, as the comments here expose. It’s just that we disagree fundamentally, over what the fundamentals are.

        Reply
      • I want to believe the Bible in its totality but the line between fact and metaphorical allusion seems to be blurry. As soon as I decide that God created the world in 6 days I muse on what exactly time was before humans came on the scene. I conclude that time only started when humanity started to measure it. It almost feels like time is a byproduct of the fall. As soon as Adam and Eve stepped outside of Eden they had something to regret and therefore as the gap widened the enormity of what they had done made them realise their mortality. This is how we understand time. And so , yes, I believe God made the world in his own time but from a scientific pov, to understand the world we live in , an evolutionary perspective seems to work.
        I believe Jesus turned water into wine. He could take clay and turn it into flesh. From a modern perspective one would think the easy way would be to tweak the dna inside the egg of a hominid and bring Adam into the world. I can only assume that for Early Sumerians a simpler , truncated, shorter story was more suitable.

        So it appears I am doing what I disapprove of, namely adding my quasi scientific bolder dash to the cannon of scripture.!

        Reply
        • I conclude that time only started when humanity started to measure it.

          Wait what? Time doesn’t require the presence of humans. If every human were to die tomorrow, time wouldn’t stop (at least for that reason), would it? The Earth would keep moving though space, and motion needs time.

          Reply
          • Apart from which, the light from many stars is only now reaching the Earth, after travelling for a billion years, so there must have been time a billion years ago, when the stars were burning and sending out their light. Yet Homo Sapiens or even earlier hominids were not around then, and definitely not ‘Adam’, so I don’t really think time started recently because of the Fall. Even dinosaurs were around long before any ‘Adam’, as we know from fossil records, and that’s an issue too, if death only came into the world as a punishment for Adam’s sin, since they clearly died before that, as did all other creatures, including Adam’s ancestors.

            Given that we don’t want to run away from science if we believe in truth, I suggest that understanding the early chapters of Genesis as brilliant myth is far more credible and coherent. Non-believers could respect that, but the danger of repudiating so much of scientific learning is that it makes the Bible seem at odds with basics facts they know, and that alienates people.

            What’s wrong with using myth, anyway…

          • Susannah

            When Jesus turned water into wine the wine was immediately aged and mature. Why would he not do the same with the universe? He could create with light already travelled; trees with rings of age already present. Adam and Eve were mature adults. A mature universe is not at all improbable.

            I confess I’m out of my depth when talking about current cosmogony theories, however, I still want to say that they seem still to be largely theories. They seem still to build on uniformitarianism which takes no account of the catastrophic effects of a universal flood and of course cannot posit the creation of a mature universe by the deity.

            I am not sure where dinosaurs fit into the picture. I am aware that fossils seem to be found in clusters which is difficult for evolution.

            Why not mythology? Firstly because Gen 1-3 does not read like mythology. There is no hint that it is other than sober history. Even more important the rest of the Bible treats it as historical. In Ex 20 Moses says in six days God made the heavens and he earth and all that is in them. Jesus speaks of ‘the beginning’ when God made male and female and constituted marriage (Matt 19). In Acts 17. Paul says from one man God made all the nations. In Romans 5 he identifies Adam as the head of the first humanity.

            I believe that Jesus and Paul are authoritative. They bring the word of God. I believe that taking genre etc into account the Bible is true in what it says and is to be believed; it is the word of a God who cannot lie.

          • If time is part of the created universe then before humans arrived God made everything entirely to his own satisfaction. Who’s to say how time operated before we were here. Perhaps time was more malleable before the Fall. Perhaps because we are trapped in sin we are also trapped in time, only experiencing the present. Is this is why Eternity is in our heart but sin explains why we can’t fathom it? I think humanity has introduced corruption into every sphere so even if we were to be wiped out the universe would go on as it is. That’s why not only sin has to be dealt with but but the whole created order needs to be remade.

          • Steve – doesn’t time depend (somewhat) on your inertial reference frame? Serious issue for the `big bang’ theory.

          • doesn’t time depend (somewhat) on your inertial reference frame? Serious issue for the `big bang’ theory.

            Can you explain how it’s a problem? I can’t see it.

          • No – not a problem at all. Just pointing out that, to define time, you need to specify the inertial reference frame. For example – when testing Einstein’s theory, scientists took two synchronised atomic clocks. They put one on board an aeroplane and flew it round the earth, while keeping the other at a fixed point. After the experiment, the one that had travelled in the aeroplane was a fraction of a second behind the one that had remained in the same place throughout.

          • Just pointing out that, to define time, you need to specify the inertial reference frame.

            No, you don’t need to do that to define time, the concept.

            You need to do it to get specific numbers to feed into the equations if you want to work out how particular things move relative to each other.

            But you don’t need to specify a particular inertial frame to define the concept of time any more than you need to specify a particular latitude and a particular longitude to define the concept of space.

          • S – of course, you’re absolutely right that you don’t need an inertial reference frame to define the concept of time.

            But suppose, relative to us, God were travelling at almost the speed of light when he created everything in 6 days (according to his own inertial reference frame). This could mean that it took millions of years according to our own inertial reference frame.

            I’m just trying to point out that some things connected with time are pretty much meaningless.

          • But suppose, relative to us, God were travelling at almost the speed of light when he created everything in 6 days (according to his own inertial reference frame).

            But that’s just nonsense. God doesn’t have an inertial reference frame, because God isn’t in the universe. What you wrote is like saying ‘suppose Shakespeare were living in the basement of Elsinore’. It’s a category mistake.

          • “…like saying ‘suppose Shakespeare were living in the basement of Elsinore’. It’s a category mistake.”

            That made me smile, because I love intelligence.

          • that is *exactly* what I am getting at!

            Well now I’m totally confused because that has nothing to do with initial reference frames.

          • That made me smile, because I love intelligence.

            I cannot take credit for the analogy; I got it from either Lewis or Sayers.

        • Steve – I see it like this: we don’t really have much of a clue of what the `natural laws’ that God created really are. Scientific investigation throws up some fascinating theories and maybe gives us a glimpse.

          When we eventually pass from this life to the next and get to heaven, God will reveal everything to us – whether or not the whole thing was governed by natural laws which He created – or whether a series of `miraculous interventions’ were necessary.

          The issue here is that some people seem to see events happening by `natural law’ as somehow contradicting the idea of a creator God – and, based on this idea seem to think that they can actually prove existence of God by pointing to where `natural law’ doesn’t seem to explain things (as far as they are concerned) and where a `miraculous intervention’ is required. Their idea seems to be to point to these `miraculous interventions’ and describe them as `intelligent design’, which somehow proves existence of God. They somehow see `natural law’ as the big bad enemy – God continually has to intervene to over-rule `natural law’.

          I (for one) consider this to be a very serious problem – much more serious than the problem that the book review is all about. As I indicated earlier, I do have a strong aesthetic preference for a God who created everything by implementing a beautiful set of natural laws, but if (when I get to heaven) the Good Lord explains to me that this was not the case and He indicates that He required lots of `miraculous interventions’ then I’ll be happy to accept this. What I do not accept is the idea that creation through creating natural laws and letting them run somehow runs against Scripture; I don’t accept the basic underlying idea that `natural law’ is somehow the `big bad enemy’ that has to be over-ruled (which seem to me to be what ID is all about).

          Reply
          • Hi Jock,

            You have put it very well. I agree. I like John’s answer too. In the end we hope that God who raised Jesus from the dead will restore everything… entirely to His own satisfaction!
            And us .

  14. Also,
    When Jesus said, “see you in Galilee” he meant Galilee, Sea of Tiberius, Palestine. Not some state of mind after a lot of contemplation.

    Reply
  15. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was under the impression that this article was a book review, not an episode of Jerry Springer or something from Answers in Genesis. 🙂

    Reply
    • Mat – I feel your pain. There are two discussions going – a) unorthodox ways of having-it-off (discussion of the pros and cons – together with all the lurid details) and b) the opening of Genesis. How these both appeared on the same thread is a very good question. It’s because the author of the book, who has strong views about a) also takes a rather eccentric line on b).

      Reply
      • Jock: we realise that you have a serious problem with sex – calling it sordid- but please stop using school boy phrases. It’s very ignorant and immature.

        Reply
        • Andrew – I’ll try – but it’s awfully hard. Susannah asked a question earlier `is this a porn site?’ and I don’t think that we can equivocally give an answer of `no’. I’ve read descriptions here that I never expected to see on a Christian web site – and there is some sort of a mixture of horror – fascination – sheer entertainment …. which I’m processing in my own way.

          Reply
          • Susannah asked that because John was making impertinent assumptions about her sex life.
            He still hasn’t answered my questions about which particular acts he is referring to.
            Frank discussion of perfectly quotidian sexual activities isn’t pornographic and I wonder why you are do squeamish about sexual discourse.

          • Not exactly. I said it in consternation, because I was being asked about sex acts and I didn’t want to discuss that. I think the sex acts being implied were so far outside my experience that I couldn’t comment anyway, but open as I am in some ways, I do have limits and some degree of modesty. So saying “Is this a porn site” was just my way of fobbing it off, because I really don’t come here to talk in detail about ‘sex acts’.

      • People will always try and bend a conversation around, be that to focus on their particular vested interests, or to distract from uncomfortable truths. Let the reader decide which one they are.

        Reply
  16. I think the most troubling thing about the book and this review of it is expressed by this sentence from the book itself –
    “Either we are expressing a biblical worldview or we are being co-opted by a secular worldview”
    – and by the reviewer suggesting that this sentence “nails the gist of the problem”.

    That is the most disturbing trait of the conservative movement. It’s a total denial of the working of God in the world. In the view of the book’s author, and that of the reviewer, ‘the world’ is a bad evil place and the only escape to be had from it is to go to some other world. And the only way to this other world is to follow what they posit as a ‘biblical’ worldview.
    There is of course no such thing as a single biblical worldview. The bible was written over centuries and to suggest that it has a single coherent ‘worldview’ is to make it a book of magic rather than a story of faith in and searching and longing for God.

    There is also no sharp divide between a biblical worldview on the one hand and a secular worldview on the other. The story of faith is that the secular is sacred – something Dorothy L Sayers pointed out many times. One doesn’t adopt a biblical worldview by abandoning a secular worldview or vice versa. We know only one world and it’s clear that the world we know is part of a greater cosmos/universe – greater than we possibly imagine. To talk of *either* a secular worldview *or* a biblical worldview in the light of even that is ridiculous. It’s simplistic to the point of being infantile. There are probably as many ‘worldviews’ as there are people.

    The serious problem with the ultra conservative theological position is that it puts faith in what it calls ‘biblical’ as being of much greater importance than faith in God. ‘Biblical’ is such a vague term that it can never be defined. It’s simply used as a punchline with the implication that if you actually believed in things that were biblical then you wouldn’t even question what it meant. It’s a form of Gnosticism. And that’s what this book and this review seems to uphold.

    Reply
    • Well said, Andrew. And often, behind this ‘biblical’ world view there is a capricious and angry God who demands absolute obedience to some biblical laws, but is quite content to overlook others. Amateur psychology is dangerous but I do wonder about the backgrounds of people who choose such a violent and abusive deity.

      Reply
      • All scientists must resign, because they have been labouring under the illusion that reality is as we discover it to be, whether we like it to be that way or not, rather than as a healthy psychology would project it to be.

        Reply
        • Could you possibly translate that in to English Christopher? It sounds important but also meaningless without some further work.

          Reply
          • He’s saying that you are an idealist, who judges the world according to standards of their own design while ignoring reality.

          • Sorry, I should also say thank you for bringing the content of the book back into discussion. 😉

          • “He’s saying that you are an idealist, who judges the world according to standards of their own design while ignoring reality.”

            In that case he is quite incorrect and hasn’t bothered to engage with what I have been saying. By the evidence of his own comments he must be writing about his very self

          • To rephrase: PCD says we ”choose” deities. It would be nice if they would spring into existence at our bidding and (moreover) according to our specification, as well.

            However, it seems a highly unlikely theory, a contender for unlikeliest of the year.

          • Christopher that is not at all what is being said. It is, rather, that people ascribe qualities to God which they think God ought to possess. They create God in their own image. One sees it here all the time

          • Precisely.
            And the test is whether they ever even once allow God to be uncongenial.
            Any God who is actually God will be as they will be. And that will obviously not coincide with our hubristic specification. Any honest person will say that God will sometimes/often not be as they might wish. That is the test.

          • Yet of course it is those who are conservative on the matter who are absolutely convinced they know what God is like. Those who are more liberal are far more likely to say, with some of the early church fathers, that ours words are merely helpful to us and not descriptive of God.

          • Yet of course it is those who are conservative on the matter who are absolutely convinced they know what God is like. Those who are more liberal are far more likely to say, with some of the early church fathers, that ours words are merely helpful to us and not descriptive of God.

            This is, might I say, a bit rich from someone who sets himself up as judge and jury with the entitlement to decide whether God’s actions are justified or not.

            In deference to our host I won’t engage in any more dicussion or repeat what has been gone over ad nauseum, I’ll just say that anyone interested can read the following threads (among many, many others):

            https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/what-kinds-of-questions-do-people-have-about-the-bible/#comment-395358

            https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/are-trans-people-on-a-sacred-journey/#comment-406531

            https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/where-is-discontent-in-the-church-of-england/#comment-405940

          • Andrew

            You seem pretty sure of what God is not like. Those of us who have incidence in what God is like base our conclusions on what he has revealed of himself in Jesus. Given your lack of confidence in the Bible it is little wonder you don’t know what God is like – this makes you a blind leader of the blind.

            Since Ian’s blog comes from a position to your right and mostly those who comment are still further to the right I wonder why you want to come and comment. Is it that you get a perverse pleasure out of trying to debunk, shock and undermine. I’m sure you must at some point have made a positive and constructive comment but it escapes my memory. Even Penelope is occasionally positive. Your supercilious attitude has little to commend it while your heretical views are poisonous.

            I wonder how many people your church has seen converted over the years (excluding defecting evangelicals).

          • Thanks John. I find your heretical views poisonous as well.

            As to not knowing what God is like. Yes, Jesus Christ shows us that. Absolutely. Jesus Christ is the word of God incarnate. The bible isn’t that. The bible recognises that Jesus Christ is God’s Word.

            Beyond that you might like to look at the apophatic tradition – which is of course thoroughly Orthodox – and which is where my own theology is rooted.

            Love and best wishes to you

          • Jesus Christ is the word of God incarnate. The bible isn’t that.

            The Bible is, however, unless you have a time machine, your only source of information about Jesus.

            Every single thing you can possibly know about Jesus, you can only know because someone who actually met Him either wrote it in the Bible themselves, or told someone else who then wrote it in the Bible. Every time you say, ‘Jesus said’, you are relying on the people who heard Him to have heard those words accurately, and the people who wrote them down to have transcribed them accurately, and the scribes who copied the manuscripts to have faithfully reproduced them.

            Because given you have no other way of knowing what Jesus actually said than what is in the Bible — unless you have a time machine — then is any of them made a mistake, or embellished even a tiny bit, then your idea of Jesus would be wrong, wouldn’t it? It would be like you trying to form an accurate idea of the Queen’s character based only on works of fiction like The Crown, wouldn’t it?

            But — you say the Bible is unreliable.

            So how can you possibly know your idea of what Jesus was like is right?

            Do you have a time machine?

      • Really? I think you misconstrue and misrepresent the Trinity and the whole canonical sweep from Genesis to Revelation, either systematically or the schema of Biblical Theology.
        And I certainly think employing either or both frameworks, as opposed to Higher criticism and developed post – modernism, roots a biblical world view.
        Which is opposite to the Queer theory, world view, that you espouse and promulgate.
        Sheaffer’s life works and books stand in direct opposition to your comment, where he generously, shared his life and conversation with all seekers and questioners of all faiths, philosophies (world views) and none, as he delved into and pre-suppositional apologetics.
        An invitation to become acqainted with his works will no doubt be declined.
        His trilogy was instrumental in my infant (as an adult lawyer convert) Christian toddling, along with CS Lewis.
        From none of his works would anyone conclude with your cartoon caricature of God and evangelicals.
        In his book “True Spirituality”, he describes his doubts and struggles of faith.

        Reply
        • Thanks. But I still stick with the scholars I listed above.
          Not keen on Lewis either, as a theologian. Too platonic for my taste.

          Reply
        • And I don’t have a ‘queer theory’ worldview. Which wouldn’t be possible anyway. It’s simply one hermeneutical tool I employ.

          Reply
          • And your distortated cartoon characterisations, based on your pre -formulated- higher- critical, post modern derived, queer theory, hermeneutical, lens, presuppositional, world view.

      • Andrew

        I notice you felt you had to respond in kind. Liberal Christian love is less than skin deep and has no sense of the other cheek it seems.

        Actually I think before the 39 articles, the book of common prayer and the homilies I am likely to withstand the heresy test much more ably than you. Though liberals are so expert at speaking with their fingers crossed when it comes to issues of orthodoxy that no doubt you have managed to convince yourself you are an orthodox anglican.

        How far does your negative theology allow you to evade the positive and plain teaching of the Bible? Can you affirm God hates sinners? Can you affirm that Jesus is the lamb full of wrath from whom the peoples of the earth seek to to hide in desperation? Can you affirm that God is utterly sovereign and both raises and crushes nations? Can you affirm that the Bible is less the story of searching for God and more the story of the revealing of God?

        Can you affirm the authority of the Holy Scripture in all it teaches? Can you affirm that anything other than monogamous heterosexual marriage is condemned by God?

        I imagine you will be able to find fingers-crossed ways of affirming most of these. I imagine you have a hermeneutic that can twist them to suit yourself.

        Do I sound angry. I am. I am outraged at how you treat Scripture. I am jealous for God’s glory which you besmirch and his word which you corrupt. I am angry that you are leading others to hell along with yourself and doing so with a smug confidence. I am nauseated by your hate of the one true God and your determination to remake him i your own image.

        I pray that God will yet break your proud spirit and reveal himself to you through his word that at the moment you treat so lightly. It is as the 39 articles affirm this word that is able to make you wise unto salvation – I pray it will.

        Reply
        • John

          I have no idea what you mean by ‘the Right’ in this context, especially if your assumption is that Ian is right wing.
          Like Andrew I can say the Creed without crossing my fingers.
          Like Andrew I follow an apophatic or via negativa way. Any other appears presumptuous.
          I couldn’t assert most of the claims you believe are tests of orthodoxy.
          They seem rather skewed and in the image of a capricious deity.
          Unlike you, I am not angry about that. There is a wideness in God’s mercy and I’m sure you too will be saved.

          Reply
          • There is a wideness in God’s mercy

            Isn’t that a positive statement about God? I thought you followed a via negativa way that meant you thought it was wrong to make positive statements about God? Would you care to rescind that remark, or else explain the apparent contradiction?

        • Ah John. The BCP and 39 Articles are historic formularies and we give general assent to them. As has been shown here before several times, there is no requirement of expectation that people believe all of the articles. The Homilies are interesting but not part of Declarations made by clergy. None are taught in an detail to ordinands, and that is true across the whole range of traditions.

          I can’t possibly affirm that God hate’s sinners, no. Sin grieves God but God loves people and the Gospels show us the love of God in action through the life of Jesus Christ. Look at the thief on the cross. Look at the woman caught in adultery. Love is shown, not hate.

          I too am nauseated by your corruption of the Good News. But I wish you every blessing.

          Reply
          • The BCP and 39 Articles are historic formularies and we give general assent to them. As has been shown here before several times, there is no requirement of expectation that people believe all of the articles.

            What do you think ‘give general assent to’ means? When it comes to, say, a contract, to ‘give assent to’ it means to agree to be bound by its terms. In the context of a proposed course of action, to ‘give assent to’ it means to agree to carry it out.

            But in the context of a statement of belief, what exactly are you doing when you ‘give assent to’ it?

          • Psalm 5

            For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
            evil may not dwell with you.
            5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
            you hate all evildoers.
            6 You destroy those who speak lies;
            the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

            Psalm 11:5

            The LORD tests the righteous,
            but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

          • Yes, great poetry. So Jesus directly contradicts his Father, according to your thinking?

          • I don’t see the contradiction Andrew. People of faith first believe the Scripture and then see if they can reconcile it with other Scriptures that seem contrary. The truth remains that Jesus spoke in the sternest of terms to religious leaders pronouncing on them eternal woes. He says they are children of hell, of their father the devil, blind guides, hypocrites etc. Jesus tone at this point was not love.

            He spoke of coming judgement and of eternal judgement. He denounced hard hearts and blind eyes that could not see the glory in front of their eyes… woe to you Bethsaida…

            God loves sinners but when he sees them in terms of their sin his anger is aroused… he hates the proud, the violent, the liar.

          • Well quite clearly John in the two instances I have quoted – the woman caught in adultery and the thief on the cross – Jesus doesn’t do any hating of those two people. To the thief he offers paradise. To the woman he says ‘neither do I condemn you’.
            There is absolutely nothing about hate, and there is very clear love. That is what transforms lives.

          • Well quite clearly John in the two instances I have quoted

            And what about the many more than two instances quoted where Jesus talks about judgement? Do you just stick your fingers in your ears and sing ‘lalala’ when they are read out in church?

            To the thief he offers paradise.

            To one of the thieves he says ‘you will be with me in paradise’. The other thief rejects Jesus, rejects paradise, and (so far as we know) goes to Hell.

            You keep bringing up the one thief but you never mention the other thief, who was right there.

            By the way are you ever going to explain what it is you think you are doing when you give assent to the 39 Articles?

          • John: I forgot to say that I have referred to this several times before here but it is worth saying again that a variety of views about the Articles both corporately and individually are permitted. I have quoted this before:
“In 1968, a report on Subscription and Assent to the 39 Articles was produced by the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine. Focusing in particular on the approach to Scripture set out in the Articles, it called for the then current Declaration of Assent to
be changed, so that it would ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’ “
            The Declaration of Assent was changed to allow this variety of interpretations. So whilst you may appeal to the Articles as a norm, I’m free to say that they present an historical view from which we have moved considerably.
            When it comes to the BCP, it is again an historical document. You will often say that our doctrine springs from the way we pray. The truth is that hardly anyone uses the BCP, especially in its original version. Most of those in training for ordination will experience the BCP, typically, at Choral Evensong when they go to the Cathedral in preparation for their ordination service. They will never, or hardly ever use the BCP Communion service in its unadulterated 1662 version. Much less will they use the Marriage service in its 1662 form. My guess is that you have probably never used it much either. I have been asked for it once in 33 years, and when I pointed out exactly which words would be used it transpired that the couple really wanted 1928/Series 1.
            Our liturgy and doctrine in the C of E has moved on a great deal since 1662. Any appeal to that era as the norm for what should be believed by all in 2022 is mistaken in the same way that asking people to use only handwriting with quills and never use a word processor or any form of social media is mistaken. The medium shapes the message. The medium in the C of E is no longer the 39 Articles and the BCP.

          • So whilst you may appeal to the Articles as a norm, I’m free to say that they present an historical view from which we have moved considerably.

            So when you say, ‘I assent to the 39 Articles’ what you actually mean is, ‘I recognise the 39 Articles as historically important but representing a view from which we have moved considerably’?

            Is that correct?

            Do you think that’s a reasonable interpretation of the words ‘I assent to’?

            (Clearly the writers of the report you refer to thought it was a reasonable interpretation, but it seems to me that they were obviously wrong and anyone normal hearing the words ‘I assent to’ would not understand them to have that meaning.)

          • John : And the words of this declaration in the C of E are as follows, just to give this some context.

            The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?
            Declaration of Assent

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

          • 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;

            So what you are saying, Mr Godsall, is that when you say this you mentally insert the word ‘false’ between ‘bear’ and ‘witness’?

            And you somehow think this isn’t dishonest, and doesn’t count as crossing your fingers?

            Uh huh.

          • Oh gosh no – they certainly do bear witness. Most certainly.
            The C of E is clear that the Declaration of Assent does ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’ “ It’s all perfectly clearly laid out by the C of E for you to read.

          • Oh gosh no – they certainly do bear witness. Most certainly.

            So previously you wrote: ‘As I’ve said before, they bear witness. They just do it very badly.’

            https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-is-the-vision-and-strategy-of-the-church-of-england/#comment-389895

            So what you are saying, Mr Godsall, is that when you say this you mentally insert the words ‘very bad’ between ‘bear’ and ‘witness’?

            (Feel do free to explain the fine distinction you are drawing between ‘false’ witness and ‘very bad’ witness)

            The C of E is clear that the Declaration of Assent does ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’ “ It’s all perfectly clearly laid out by the C of E for you to read.

            The C of E is being incredibly dishonest and it should be ashamed of itself. If it felt that the Declaration of Assent was no longer correct or necessary, the proper thing to do would have been to no longer require it; to replace it with weasel words so that the form of the thing is maintained, implying that the changes were merely minor and cosmetic, but in fact make it so that people can choose what they actually mean by it, is duplicitous in the extreme.

            It’s basically the same as President Clinton’s ‘it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is’ defence, isn’t it?

          • No.
            We are all bad witnesses, striving to do better. The 39 articles are no exception to that.

          • We are all bad witnesses, striving to do better. The 39 articles are no exception to that.

            Ah so you have decided to literally ape President Clinton and redefine the word ‘are’.

            Squirm squirm

          • It seems you are the one squirming. No redefining needed. The C of E did the defining some time ago. It’s all there, quite clear.
            You don’t have to belong to the C of E. No one is making you squirm.

          • It seems you are the one squirming. No redefining needed. The C of E did the defining some time ago. It’s all there, quite clear.

            Yes, the original dishonesty was the Church of England’s; you are merely opportunistically taking advantage of it. But you don’t have to do so; you are voluntarily choosing to participate in the fraud, so you share the guilt.

          • Been watching this conversation unfold.

            “Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth.”

            That is what a priest is expected to affirm in the Church of England, with regard to various attempts to express faith over the centuries.

            When we bear witness to truth, as we are fallible, we each do that to the best of our ability, but fallibly – in part, because none of us can be 100% sure that everything we believe is true. God is far deeper and far harder than we can ever ‘contain’ in our minds.

            The historical attempts bear witness to Christian truth, but it’s perfectly reasonable to suppose that they do so in their own historical contexts. Enough of the witness in each document is regarded as accurate for them to be said to bear witness that Christianity is true and Jesus Christ is God and many other things. But that doesn’t mean that every last iota has to be correct, true and applicable for all time. Much of it will be, but some things may not be.

            The heart of the assent is that all these documents, attempts by fallible authors to make sense of why Christianity is true and how it opens us to God is:

            “this inheritance of faith [is to be] your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation.”

            The documents are ‘inspiration’ and ‘guidance’. And their purpose is to help priests bring a message of grace and truth of Christ in their own day.

            S, I can understand why you might think that Andrew is playing with words – but the real point is the other one that you raise: that it’s the Church of England, not Andrew, that has worded things deliberately, so that the assent can be interpreted and lived out in various ways.

            But surely, we have all realised, that from early on the CofE, in trying to avoid narrowly dogmatic protestantism… and trying to leave doors open (eg Elizabethan Settlement)… has tried to word various statements so that it did not develop in a narrowly puritan way or become another Calvinism. It veered that way under Edward perhaps, but that was corrected, and to this day the Church of England has horrified ‘independent protestants’ who feel it has sold out to liberals, catholics, (and whoever else to the list).

            The C of E has historically tried to tread a Via Media, and that is exactly why I advocate a policy of Unity in Diversity to resolve the sexuality issue, along the lines of Anglicans in Scotland, also evolving in Wales, and of course the USA. This is in line with the Church of England’s ‘broader than puritans’ church, finding Unity in Christ rather than an imposed uniformity for everyone.

            Now, many of you here may find that abhorrent, but that’s the way it is, and the way it may be going. Andrew finds the historical documents do indeed bear testimony to faith in Christ, and so do I, but that does not make them infallible, nor is the statement of assent intended to make them some kind of dogmatic and theological straitjacket… very much the opposite.

            Instead of rigid dogma, this approach throws us back on the need for God’s Grace, and the exercise of love and tolerance of one another’s consciences.

            I’m prepared to stay in a Church with Ian’s theology and views in some churches within the broad church of the C of E. Is Ian prepared to stay in the Church with the views and theology of Andrew or myself, and a significant part of the Church of England’s membership?

            Andrew has spoken true to how the declaration is framed. It’s the declaration that’s imprecise. It’s deliberately imprecise. I’d say that makes Andrew congruent with the Church of England when it comes to his assent.

            YMMV, obviously. You’re intelligent enough to recognise the institutional ‘duplicity’ if you want to call it that. Indeed you already have. But in fact, it’s an approach that stands back from insisting everything remains set in aspic for all time, so we stay living in the Tudor church. It allows for change, by keeping the door open for evolving revelation, in relationship to contexts that did not exist at the time of Cranmer, with regard (for example) to science.

            The Church of England is a Broad Church. That requires a load of grace, and it tests how we love one another, and keep respecting and loving those with different views to our own.

            To me, that way lies Christian maturity. But as I say, your mileage may vary. Duplicity of careful wording is actually designed to accommodate diverse views, while wanting to uphold those diverse traditions for people to live according to their (fallible) conscience and fidelity.

          • Thanks Susannah. Thank you so much . That is absolutely what the C of E is all about. I’d defend to the last Ian’s right to believe and express his belief as he does because we are, by our very foundation and definition, a broad, welcoming, inclusive Church.

          • Duplicity of careful wording is actually designed to accommodate diverse views, while wanting to uphold those diverse traditions for people to live according to their (fallible) conscience and fidelity

            Constructive ambiguity, in other words? A church by Henry Kissinger. Sounds like a great idea.

            Look, if the Church of England wants to declare that you don’t have to believe in any particular thing to be a member or a minister, then that’s fine. But it should be honest about it. It should come out and state openly that it has no fixed doctrine, and that anything goes. It should stop making people have to assent to anything, rather than continuing with the outward show of assent while actually making it meaningless.

            To do otherwise — to carefully word statements so that they look like they are saying one thing (that people believe in a particular set of doctrines) but actually are interpreted by those who administer them and those who take them to mean something else (that they recognise those doctrines have been held by some people in the past but they don’t hold them themselves) is fundamentally dishonest. It’s fraudulent. It’s basically the same as having two weights in your bag, one heavy and one light, isn’t it?

            And we know what God thinks of people who use two weights, don’t we? So how can you possibly defend a church that acts in that way?

            You want a church that doesn’t believe in anything, so that anyone can be a member of it, whatever they believe. Fine. But find a church that is open and honest about it, not a two-faced one that lies about it.

          • S, I do agree that the Church of England should come clean and be honest, and say ‘We believe in Unity in Diversity’ – at least on some issues. In a way it does, to an extend, on some issues like male-only priesthood. But I think there needs to be more openness.

            Over the past 4 years I have confided with most of the bishops, and had exchanges with over 50 of them. Many of them would like to be more open about where they think the Church should go on sexuality. But they express fear that a portion of socially conservative churches might schism.

            That’s not an excuse, but it’s a view that’s been confided to me. Obviously I’m not saying who says what. Rod at Maidstone has also been forthright with me, and it’s something I respect about him.

          • Many of them would like to be more open about where they think the Church should go on sexuality. But they express fear that a portion of socially conservative churches might schism.

            So instead they lie about what they really think, in oder that they don’t lose their positions of prestige?

            They sound like utter scumbags. Sorry, that’s offensive to scumbags. They sound like politicians.

          • Andrew and Susannah

            Thank you for this frank explanation of the requirements of the C of E regarding faith. I am not in a position to argue with you. If you are right then it is a tragic policy and explains how you can comfortably be accepted in the church.

            I wonder if low churchmen or even high churchmen would agree with your analysis?

            My contention of course is based on my understanding of the Bible as the infallible (even inerrant) word of God and the only authority in matters of faith and practice.

            I found myself agreeing with the observations made by S.

          • I wonder if low churchmen or even high churchmen would agree with your analysis?

            My strategy for dealing with Mr Goddard (see the last couple of years passim) has always been simply to try to get him to spell out precisely what he actually believes, because left to his own devices he will use ambiguity and equivocation to obfuscate and obscure his actual positions so that he sounds like he is describing Christianity when actually he is setting out a form of Marcionite Deism.

            This is because I believe — well, more hope, I suppose — that the average normal member of the Church of England would, if they knew what Mr Goddard actually thinks, recoil in horror; and that the efforts he goes to to disguise his real opinions are because he knows this too.

            Maybe not, though, and the Church of England is already lost. But. I think there’s enough out in the open now that I can just point people at the relevant bits of this web-site so they can get the measure of the man.

            Then it is up to you dear reader to make your own judgement.

          • or a typo, surely?

            No, not a typographical error — there are no typographers here for me to blame — but a mistyping because I am too stupid to keep two different people named ‘Andrew G—something’ straight in my head.

          • “My contention of course is based on my understanding of the Bible as the infallible (even inerrant) word of God and the only authority in matters of faith and practice.“

            Fundamentalism rears its head so often it seems.
            Scripture – tradition – reason – experience
            Thank goodness that is what the Anglican tradition espouses

          • Scripture – tradition – reason – experience
            Thank goodness that is what the Anglican tradition espouses

            Because if you don’t like what scripture says, you get three more chances to make up something you find more congenial?

          • S, the bishops are mostly decent people, some of them very much so. They are just, like others, trying to find a way to hold the Church of England together, in love and grace, and with respect for people’s very diverse views and consciences. Their views are not uniform. There is no general conspiracy. If they hold back at all (or hesitate) it is maybe because people at the extremes of opinion tend to be tetchy and even belligerent, and also – to be fair on the bishops – they are feeling their way as well, trying to discern what should be done about wide differences of view in the CofE. A concern, absolutely naturally, is that some at the extreme take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach, and seem unwilling even to see people with different views be allowed to practice and live out their faith in conscience. Those (what I’d call) ‘absolutists’ insist that the conscientious view they hold must be imposed on everybody else’s conscience. That is probably going to be an untenable position to take, given that the ‘absolutists’ are in a minority now, and a majority in the Church of England now think gay and lesbian sex is okay. In a sense, bishops may be trying to find ways of accommodating this socially conservative minority, and I think it’s a really difficult and sensitive situation. I can only speak for myself, but I have found the clear majority of bishops (both those I’ve engaged with by mail, and those I’ve met face to face) to be decent and pastorally concerned. Collectively, I am maybe less impressed, as I think there should be more freedom for individual bishops to feel they can speak out their individual views. I feel pressure is sometimes applied to keep to a party line in statements and decisions.

            But I do not approve of using the term ‘scumbags’ about Christian brothers and sisters, committed to their work, and trying to live in a conscientious way. I appreciate that was spoken in frustration. My own cousin, who was until lately a bishop, is decent, gentle, good and kind.

            I respectfully feel that most people in the Church of England put more emphasis on parish life and practical pastoral care, than on theological rectitude. Even among evangelical churches in the CofE, not all take an ‘absolutist’ position on human sexuality, and some evangelicals are inclusive and affirming.

            If a very unwanted refusal to ‘cohabit’ with a Church of England that allowed conscience on these issues took place… I suspect the number of churches that split would not be that large, and the rest of the CofE would carry on, in parish life… but even so, I think the bishops and most people would rather there was not even that small departure.

            Please bear in mind that I am reporting this as from my own encounters and conversations. It is not up to me. I am a nurse, my spiritual life runs around parish, convent, understood vocation of prayer. I am not involved in decisions of any kind.

            I just want the Church of England to try to find its way to loving co-existence. I think the bishops largely want that too. Co-existence does not mean one group dominating the consciences of others. It means trying to build respect for people to hold different views, and to let them. If Scotland can do this, if Wales is going to do this (and external to Anglicans) if the Church of Scotland decides to do that next week… then so can England.

            The present situation which officially teaches that gay and lesbian people must stay celibate all their lives – that is now a minority view I believe – and pastorally unsustainable.

            No-one is forced to stay in the Church of England, but they should be welcome. For sure, we need grace towards each other, but we cannot dominate one another.

          • Ah, and now my own mistyping:

            “theological rectitude”… I had intended to write “theological rigidity”

          • But I do not approve of using the term ‘scumbags’ about Christian brothers and sisters, committed to their work, and trying to live in a conscientious way. I appreciate that was spoken in frustration.

            I assure you it was not written in frustration at all.

            My own cousin, who was until lately a bishop, is decent, gentle, good and kind.

            And, I hope, honest. If not honest then I will stick with ‘politician’, which is much worse than ‘scumbag’.

            I just want the Church of England to try to find its way to loving co-existence. I think the bishops largely want that too.

            Nothing wrong with that — provided that it doesn’t come at the cost of honesty. I hope you would agree that if co-existence is only achievable at the price of being dishonest, then it would be better for the Church of England to split than for it to continue united but dishonest.

          • Andrew and Susannah

            Don’t feed the troll (not John).
            It only makes him spew up more libellous bile.

          • Indeed Penny I knew it was a stupid and futile mistake. I always think conversation will work. But it’s futile.

    • Thank you, Andrew. I sincerely appreciate your words here and agree with them, in principle. Terms really do need to be defined; throwing around “biblical” as if that carries some kind of epistemic or moral authority only begs questions and often shuts down discussions.

      By no means did I intend to say that the world is a “bad evil place” nor lean toward any gnostic view of things. Still, I think most would agree that the world we live in is not optimal and it is this angle that the book focuses, so it is naturally critical of those behaviors and beliefs taken to be contrary to a Christian (dare I say?) “worldview.”

      Speaking of which, there is such a thing as a “worldview,” a singular lens through which people look and from which they interpret meaning and significance of the empirical and ideological world. Indeed, you even labeled this review as “Gnosticism,” which is a certain view of the world. Without getting into the anatomy of what constitutes a worldview, it seems to me that the Enlightenment gave us a mechanism whereby reason is set in opposition to religion such that all religion (Christian or otherwise) is either suspect or entirely false. This is what is meant by “secularism” but it does not entail that the material world is a “bad evil place.”

      Reply
      • Thanks Paul for your gracious reply.
        I don’t think that is what the enlightenment did for us. What it did was say that a religious worldview has to account for itself in the public square as much as a non religious one. It took away the privilege that came with a religious world view. And one only has to look at, for one simple example, Anglicans in South Carolina to see that religion doesn’t always give a very good account of itself.

        And what I said was that the opinion which suggests there is one single biblical worldview in opposition to a secular worldview is like a form of Gnosticism. And I stand by that. But of course there isn’t one singular biblical worldview and it’s good to hear you acknowledge the problems with suggesting that there is.

        I don’t think the world we live in is optimal. Neither do I think the several worlds portrayed in the bible are necessarily optimal. I think that following Jesus Christ is optimal, but the bible is only one source of information for following in that way, and that it is necessarily flawed in its testimony. Paul was a human being. Not a super Christian. He even reminds us of that himself. His letters were written for specific groups of followers 2000 years ago. He would very likely say some things differently today.

        Reply
        • Thank you to both Andrew and Paul for the courtesy (and interesting content) of your conversation.

          Personally I don’t regard ‘world values’ and ‘Christianity’ as being a dichotomy. There is plenty about the world we live in that informs our understanding, develops medicine to help people, promotes creativity and some beautiful music etc which can perfectly well be embraced and affirmed by Christians. The World is not all dark.

          Andrew, I thought your comment and reference back to the book was great. As for the Enlightenment being seen as bad towards religion, you wrote:

          “I don’t think that is what the enlightenment did for us. What it did was say that a religious worldview has to account for itself in the public square as much as a non religious one.”

          Absolutely. Prior to the Enlightenment, Christianity claimed expertise in areas where it turned out it was wrong and needed what the Enlightenment could offer to make it stronger in overall understanding. It was good that Christianity had to defend itself, AND accommodate some new learning, rather than staying in the bronze age or 1st Century. After all, we should not be afraid of the truth, if science reveals new things (compare medicine today and medicine in the 1st Century if you’re unsure).

          My concern would be if Pearcey exploited idea that the World is dark, to dismiss respected and increasingly mainstream scientific and psychological work. The summary you provide on Chapter 6, Paul, (and thanks) points to the utilisation of the overarching premiss of the book to trash widespread acknowledgment by the medical establishment that gender transition can frequently be extremely beneficial. Pearcey’s opposition, frankly, is ideological – with appeal to populist reaction. But if we learn anything from the Enlightenment as Christians, it is that sometimes we need to listen to professionals with more expertise than religious preachers on some subjects.

          You report that “biological facts do not matter”. Pearcey is presumably playing on the idea that a woman is defined exclusively by genitalia. That’s convenient, it’s the view of SOME feminists, but it’s very simplistic. I oppose that, because biological facts DO matter. I refer you to this here: http://transition.org.uk/question37.htm (What is a ‘woman’?)

          Pearcey talks about ‘preference’ and ‘choice’ as if trans people are just opting for some (hedonistic?) lifestyle as a kind of pick and mix choice of personal indulgence. They aren’t. Gender dysphoria is no-one’s ‘preference’. It’s terrible. The great thing about science is that it can actually provide means for a person to transition from suffering and gender dysphoria (which takes lives or diminishes lives) so they live more authentically in line with who they are in conscious identity and how they feel. The outcomes can be life-changing and are often affirmed as such (yes, of course, there may be exceptions – but care and time are professional expertise… not religious ideology… are recognised as important).

          If there’s any ‘preference’ at work, it is the preference to flourish, and the main medical and psychological organisations, along with the Law, recognise that transition can do that. It is a transition from deep suffering to greater wholeness and flourishing. (Again, exceptions apply – they always do – not every patient is happy with a knee operation etc.)

          The problem is that writers like Pearcey (who is also uncomfortable with evolution) are trying to impose religious ideology on aspects of science that challenge that ideology or are inconvenient to it. Transition works for many people who need it. The sad thing is that populists try to subvert and trash its efficacy, and transforming effects in many cases.

          As with evolution, I feel from what you report about Pearcey, that she is trying to get across an ideological agenda. I don’t get the impression she is a reliable witness to promote. I’m sorry she’s been promoted here.

          Reply
          • Thank you for your thoughtful comments and keen insights. I will take them under consideration. I do recognize that Pearcey is promoting an ideology that, like all promoters, does not take into account positive research on the points opposed by the ideology. Then again, what book can? Still, what it means to be human and to flourish as human are the heart of the matter; Pearcey’s book only begs those questions.

        • I think that following Jesus Christ is optimal, but the bible is only one source of information for following in that way

          Surely the Bible is (apart from a few references in Josephus) the only source of information we have about Jesus Christ, what He did, what He said?

          What other sources of information about Jesus Christ have you been hiding all these years, and can we see them please?

          Reply
          • No other sources of information about Jesus Christ. But that wasn’t what I said. I said the optimal thing was following Jesus Christ. We have the lives of the saints to help us with that. Think St Francis …St Augustine… St Theresa….
            scripture – tradition – reason – experience

          • No other sources of information about Jesus Christ. But that wasn’t what I said. I said the optimal thing was following Jesus Christ. We have the lives of the saints to help us with that. Think St Francis …St Augustine… St Theresa….

            What sources of information about Jesus Christ did they have, other than the Bible?

            If the answer is ‘none’ (as it is) then how can we learn anything from them about Jesus Christ that we can’t learn from the Bible — because after all, that is where they must have learnt it from themselves?

          • Oh I see, you don’t think the lives of the saints are inspirational for us.
            Fair enough. Not very Orthodox however.

          • Oh I see, you don’t think the lives of the saints are inspirational for us.

            Did anyone see where those goalposts went? Anyone? I think they might be in the next county.

          • Yes, I saw that you moved them. What I was talking about, as is clear from my original post is that- and I quote – “I think that following Jesus Christ is optimal, but the bible is only one source of information for following in that way”.
            You moved the goal posts to talking about information about Jesus Christ, which is different. The saints give us examples about following Jesus Christ. That’s Orthodox Christianity.

          • Yes, I saw that you moved them. What I was talking about, as is clear from my original post is that- and I quote – “I think that following Jesus Christ is optimal, but the bible is only one source of information for following in that way”.
            You moved the goal posts to talking about information about Jesus Christ, which is different. The saints give us examples about following Jesus Christ. That’s Orthodox Christianity.

            How is it possible to know what following Jesus involves, other than by knowing what He said and what He did? How do you know, for example, that following Jesus involves taking care of orphans and widows? Only because of what He said; and you only know what He said because it’s recorded in the Bible.

            Insmuch as the saints knew how to follow Jesus Christ, they must have learnt it from the Bible.

            So if the saints give us examples then they give us examples of people who followed what they learnt from the records of Jesus in the Bible. They are not independent sources of information of how to follow Jesus that we have in addition to the Bible; they are secondary sources working, like us, from the primary source which is the Bible.

            It all, always, only, comes back to the Bible.

          • “It all, always, only, comes back to the Bible.“
            Yep, that’s fundamentalism alright!

          • Yep, that’s fundamentalism alright!

            It doesn’t matter what label you put on it; the only thing that matters is that it’s true (and indeed you have no counter-arguments).

          • Andrew originally said: “I think that following Jesus Christ is optimal, but the bible is only one source of information for following in that way”.

            He did NOT say the Bible is ‘not a source’ of information. He said it was ONE source. He asserted that there are other sources too. I agree with that.

            The Bible reports the life of Jesus, and attempts to communicate the words and teaching of Jesus. That’s really precious, albeit there is huge enigma in trying to understand and report encounter with the living God. It provides us with enough to start opening our hearts to our own encounters with Jesus Christ. But opening up to God may involve other input as well: the lives of other Christians… and also, our own personal encounters with Jesus. Beyond these encounters, we also come to experience Jesus in our lived lives, through the Holy Spirit interacting with us. That grace provides us input too, in the realities of the lives, and crises, and people we reach out to… as we learn more about following Jesus. Jesus is not absent when the Holy Spirit is at work in our daily lives. Very much not. We may also grow to know more about Jesus through lives of prayer, and relationship.

            None of this means that the Bible isn’t indeed, as Andrew said, ONE source of information, with other inputs as God sees fit. Revealing of God, and Christ, does not end with the Bible. God is revealing to us, day by day, as we walk with God through our life experiences… speaking to our consciences… showing us new understanding… touching us in our hearts in so many different ways that inspire us to follow Jesus Christ in opening to love, giving/devoting ourselves to the Love of God, dying to self in the way we live (imperfectly), and given to God being led by the Holy Spirit into grace, kindness, compassion.

            There are many sources of inspiration for following Jesus. Andrew is not saying the Bible is not a source. He is saying it’s ONE.

            If you recall a time before you knew Jesus personally, was your knowledge of Jesus at its limit then? Or have you grown to understand, and trust Jesus even more since then, through other Christians, through life experience, through the Holy Spirit, and things beyond the Bible on its own?

            I have. I think faith grows, through a multiplicity of inputs. Some of these may change the way we first understood the Bible and how we read it. Jesus is not ‘just in a book’. He lives in us, in others, and through the Holy Spirit dwells within us, revealing more and more.

          • He did NOT say the Bible is ‘not a source’ of information. He said it was ONE source. He asserted that there are other sources too. I agree with that.

            Then please name one other source of information about Jesus of Nazareth. I can think of the Bible, Tacitus, and Josephus. Name another.

          • Why do you think the Church is called the body of Christ? Tradition, the Church, the lives of the Saints, is what gives us further information about how to follow Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit works through those things.

            We won’t convince you S but neither will you persuade us otherwise.

          • Why do you think the Church is called the body of Christ?

            Because it is?

            Tradition, the Church, the lives of the Saints, is what gives us further information about how to follow Jesus Christ.

            And where did Tradition get its information about Jesus from?

            The Bible.

            Where did the Church get its information about Jesus from?

            The Bible.

            Where did the saints get their information about Jesus from?

            The Bible.

            Unless you think otherwise?

          • As I say, fundamentalism, pure and simple. And we know how dangerous and life threatening that is.

          • And of course I think otherwise. As I have said, many times, God didn’t stop speaking when the canon of scripture was fixed.
            Scripture – tradition – reason – experience

          • As I say, fundamentalism

            As I say, it doesn’t matter what label you put on it; the only thing that matters is that it’s true (and indeed you have no counter-arguments).

          • And of course I think otherwise. As I have said, many times, God didn’t stop speaking when the canon of scripture was fixed.

            You think God spoke to the saints like He spoke to Moses?

            (Wait, just to be clear — is that one of the bits of the Bible you think is made up?)

            Is that what you’re saying?

          • I think one of the ways we learn more about God (and therefore about Jesus) is through suffering. Our suffering, and the suffering of others. That doesn’t end in the Bible. There is more to be learnt through suffering encountered or experienced in our own lives. We cannot learn fully about suffering as an academic study in a book. Even the Bible. The Bible does indeed show us what kind of God we have, in the description of Jesus’s suffering. That, of course, was also passed down to the Christians who followed, by word of mouth, and from generation to generation. But until we experience suffering ourselves, I don’t think we’re full informed about the compassion of God and the extent to which God went. It has to be lived.

            I think faith is the same. It has to be lived, to find out all about it.

            We also need to open our hearts, like a mansion with many rooms, and we open up some doors readily, but we keep feelings locked up in many others. Yet God longs to flow through them all with God’s flow of powerful Love. The Bible is ONE source that can open us up to the Love of Jesus, so we understand it more fully through that opening, but there are other ways in which God opens us up more to understand Jesus, to feel Jesus, to grow in trust in Jesus.

            It is not only through the Bible that Jesus is revealed to us.

            I agree that it is a vital historical source. It is a precious source for finding out about Jesus. But there is also word of mouth, witness, divine intervention, lives of saints, encounter in collective worship, prayer, repentance and forgiveness, healing, supernatural events… above all, I know Jesus more than anything else – as a person – through personal encounter.

            He doesn’t just stay in the book – He isn’t just history. He is alive, and we can meet with Jesus, and thereafter, meet again, and grow in recognition… though in this life we shall only see in part.

            None of what I say stops us using the Bible as an invaluable source. It’s not like the Bible doesn’t matter. That’s not the same as saying it’s the only thing we have for encountering Jesus, growing in relationship with Jesus, praying with Jesus, sharing suffering with Jesus alongside.

            Just because the Bible is an invaluable source, does not convert to meaning it is all totally inerrant and infallible. That needn’t follow.

            Literalism and fundamentalism are things to be guarded against. That doesn’t mean there’s not a whole lot right with the Bible. It doesn’t stop it being a conduit (a very human, fallible conduit) for God. It would be my one physical book I would take with me on a one-way trip, if I could only take one book.

          • It is a precious source for finding out about Jesus. But there is also word of mouth, witness,

            Surely the only word of mouth and witness that we have about Jesus is that recorded in the Bible? There’s no other word-of-mouth chain from Jesus to us that’s in any way reliable, is there?

            divine intervention,

            How does divine intervention give us information about how to follow Jesus? Say someone is miraculously healed by divine intervention. That is good, but I can’t see how it gives us any such information. And in the case of healing specifically we already know that Jesus healed from the Bible, so a healing doesn’t give us any information that wasn’t in the Bible.

            lives of saints,

            As above, the saints got their information from the Bible just like us, so they can’t pass on any extra information than they which they got from the Bible.

            encounter in collective worship, prayer, repentance and forgiveness, healing, supernatural events…

            Again as with divine intervention (and some of these are subsets of divine intervention) I don’t see how any of these can give us information about how to follow Jesus. Can you explain what you mean?

            above all, I know Jesus more than anything else – as a person – through personal encounter.

            Except that other people who claim to have had personal encounters with Jesus have come away with the exact opposite ideas about how to follow Jesus as you have. How can that be if you both encountered the same Jesus? It can’t, so presumably one of you is wrong about having encountered Jesus. But which one of you is wrong? We can’t tell. Given that, the informational value of anything you discovered from this ‘personal encounter’ must be nil as we don’t know whether or not you really did encounter Jesus.

    • It is possible to have a spritual experience and then find that your beliefs are confirmed by what is written in the bible – although it’s more common to hear of someone claiming that they have some new insight that isn’t supported by the bible.

      Reply
      • Yes. When I experienced being born again, and repented after a car crash, and met Jesus in a personal encounter… I had not at that time had the details of the gospel explained to me.

        I phoned up the minister of a local charismatic house church (I was living in the Scottish Highlands at the time) and, very embarrassed, said: “Excuse me, I think I’ve just become a Christian, could you help me. I had a car crash at midnight last night, and today I’ve been overwhelmed by shame for my life, and then … well… I think Jesus was here in the house and I had an experience of this light” (I couldn’t explain it) “and I think I need help.”

        He paused, and then said, “That’s strange, at that very time last night, one of our fellowship says he was overtaken with speaking in tongues in intercession, and it went on for an hour without stopping. Could you come round tomorrow and we’ll talk?”

        So we did. He opened up the scriptures to me, going through it all. I joined the house church. A few months later, I experienced baptism in the Holy Spirit and tongues, but the best thing of all was sense of Jesus being with us, among us, and quietly with me at home as I read the whole Bible step by step, starting with John’s Gospel.

        Admittedly I had been a chorister for several years, which might have made me amenable to the Gospel, but most importantly I had a great aunt who prayed for me and my 4 brothers all through our childhood and adolescent years. So yes, Joe, I believe one can have spiritual experience and then find it confirmed in the Bible.

        Reply
        • My conversion was somewhat similar: A very close brush with death (car crash) led to a year of introspection – then Jesus appeared in a dream – which then prompted me to go to a church service for the first time in my life.

          I eventually settled in a conservative evangelical church and shrugged-off the “spiritual experience” stuff. In hindsight, I think that was helpful (the focus was then on what was written in the bible) but recently I’ve considered joining a more charismatic church.

          Reply
          • Hello Joe,
            I’m from a charismatic background. I’d just counsel some caution. Who or what gets the focus, the credit, the glory, And how is it to be tested, with discernment, against scripture, and Jesus doesn’t get a look-in.
            There are some churches that are robust in doctrine and spiritual gifts. Some New Frontiers churches spring to mind. Some are reformed, none cessationist.
            If I remember correctly, Mat Sheffield could add more about New Frontiers.
            A son of friends is a leader in an NF church in S Wales and I have been loaned RT Kendal’s book Holy Fire, yet unread, though I have some familiarly with a number of his books, including his 3 volume Understanding theology. Doctrine ans scripture matters to him; it is not either/or. From his writings, I’d suggest he is reformed charismatic.

          • Joe, I give thanks that God used that car crash, and intervened. Spiritual experiences can indeed be a distraction, if people go looking for spiritual experiences, when really we should be looking for God, not thrills, however lovely. Nevertheless, God is a supernatural God, and does choose to intervene, sometimes in special ways. My attitude is ‘don’t go looking for the supernatural (and *never* for the dark kind). Just walk with God in life, and pray, and be receptive to God’s daily approaches. And if God chooses, then that’s fine because God is sovereign, but the most worthy supernatural experience is opening our hearts to the flow of God’s love. Everything else is up to God. Just my thoughts. Mainly wanted to say it was joyful that God stepped in, in your life.

          • Hello Joe,
            Your testimony reminds me of a similar one.
            A team member on a Through Faith Missions, mission in Tunbridge Wells was a lovely lumbering Cornishman, with a thick accent that could curdle cream, and size 12 feet.
            His dad was a Christian Minister. But he’d rebelled and became a hells angel biker. He crashed, was critically injured, had a metal plate put in his head, and his mobility was now greatly impaired, but Jesus and his cross came to him in an *unconscious* dream.
            He now wanted to tell everyone Jesus. And the kids loved him. He was such a lovely humble man and punctilious over the integrity of scripture.
            But his conversion also brough heartache in him marriage with his unbelieving wife, married before his accident.
            As a team we had great fellowship together as we slept on the floor of a church hall.

          • Geoff I’m from a charismatic background. I’d just counsel some caution.

            I understand why you might say that.

            I was from an unchurched background so the more reserved worship style of an Anglican conservative evangelical church was easier to deal with until I got my bearings. The vicar of the church I joined was very dismissive of charismatic churches. I accepted that at first but now I’m questioning some of it.

          • Susannah: Spiritual experiences can indeed be a distraction, if people go looking for spiritual experiences, when really we should be looking for God, not thrills, however lovely.

            100% agree but my conversion was an experience – so I cannot easily shake off that part of ‘understanding’ the Christian faith.

          • Absolutely, Joe.

            I think God brings people to faith, and opens their hearts, in a variety of ways. For myself, and for you, it seems like God used quite specific experiences – a car crash and then an intervention and encounter with God.

            I find I have to be careful, not to think it is like that for everyone else in the Church. Some people can’t put their finger on exactly when or why they started believing in Christ.

            One friend put it like this to me: I always went to church with my family, even though I didn’t have a personal encounter with Jesus. Over the years, it came to a time when I realised that it was Jesus I trusted in, and Jesus I knew.

            He likened it to walking across the moorlands between England and Scotland. You know at some stage that you must have crossed over the border and entered Scotland, but there was no sign up there on the moorland, no boundary fences. But by the end of the day, you knew you were there.

            God works with people’s different personalities in different ways.

            I think *feelings* matter in our relationship with God (tempered by reason and a sound mind). I think God *does* want us to experience aspects of God’s supernatural love and reality.

            Personally, I think that often comes, unexpected, in the context of prayer. But it may also happen, all unexpected, when we turn the brow of a hill and see a wonderful view.

            My general approach (in the 42 years since I was ‘born again’) has been *not* to go looking for experiences, because if we try to live with openness of heart for God, then it’s up to God what ways God’s love and personal revealing will take place.

            It’s just that I think we shouldn’t rule these things out.

            The most important thing is quiet spirit, and a quiet walk with God, framed in a routine of prayer, and an attempt to love God and do the best we can to love our neighbour.

            I think God does seek quiet times together with us. Times when quiet spirit meets quiet spirit. Often we are not quiet though. We carry our anxieties. Release in praise is one way I have found God spies the openness of heart and comes flooding in.

            God bless whatever path God gives you, Joe, understanding and caring about you, and one more thing I feel for sure in all our uncertainties, and it is this: the desire to please God pleases God. The attitude of wanting to please God is something God surely recognises and likes, even when we’re not sure how to do it. God often gives us little signs of grace, to lead us on the way.

            Sorry for sounding preachy! Just trying to share.

            Susannah

          • Hello Joe,
            I say I’m fr a charismatic background, but that is as a Christian, converted on an Alpha Course as an unchurched 47 year old lawyer. And yes it is more than well recognised that conversion can be an experience, as it was with me and my wife, who was far from unchurched: local methodist as child Anglican run local school and Assemblies of God as young adult. But it wasn’t until the Alpha course did she realise that she hadn’t been a Christian. The Holy Spirit away day was a significant point on the course, though we had seen God’s supernatural intervention at my dad’s death. The charismatic local vicar taking the funeral service invited us onto the Alpha Course.
            Around that time, the so called Toronto Blessing and Brownsville. Penescola (USA) and Sunderland revivalism, was prominent in the Christian world I then inhabited.
            Discernment is greatly needed.
            And when I was invited to train as a Local Preacher in Methodism, I came across Higher Criticism, which even on the face of it was grounded in unbelief. Through study I came away from Methodism and was persuaded towards reformed teaching, biblical and sytematic theology: now part of an evangelical Anglican Church, subscribing to the Creeds and 39 Articles as a long in the tooth geezer.

          • The Jesus who turned up in a dream was more than an image. It you could stare into the sun and not be blinded by it, that’s what it was like. His image was also rooted in absolute power. It was similtaneously the most beautiful and terrifying thing I have ever seen. Fear tipped the balance in the end and I turned away from him in abject misery.

            That has been etched on my mind ever since. I can dismiss it as just a dream but not for long. It persuaded me change a great deal in my life but atheistic doebts still come and go when I approach Christianity as a purely ‘academic’ exercise.

          • It persuaded me change a great deal in my life but atheistic doebts still come and go when I approach Christianity as a purely ‘academic’ exercise.

            The problem I have with basing faith on experience like this is that I am aware of at least one person who became a Christian because he had an experience of deep joy and peace that it seemed to him could only have been produced by contact with the divine.

            However, later in life he suffered from depression. And he realised that if something physical in his body could produce such overwhelming lows, that seemed beyond all human bounds, then it must have been possible that his earlier experience was, likewise, of entirely natural and not supernatural origin. So he stopped believing.

            And I think he was completely right. I could not argue against him.

            But if your faith is based not on experiences but on reason, then — however much doubts might come, and they will — you know that it still must be true unless it can by reason be proved to be false.

            C.S. Lewis has some good stuff on this, on how modern people misunderstand ‘faith’ as being the ability to force oneself to believe something irrational, whereas actually it’s the ability to keep hold of a rational faith in the face of irrational, but powerful, doubts.

            Faith, in other words, is not the ability to believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden; but the ability to remember that rationally you know that whatever that noise you hear in the middle of the night is, it isn’t a dread monster creeping through the shadows to tear you limb from limb. However had that is to believe in the dark.

          • S: “And he realised that if something physical in his body could produce such overwhelming lows, that seemed beyond all human bounds, then it must have been possible that his earlier experience was, likewise, of entirely natural and not supernatural origin. So he stopped believing.”

            I fully understand that point of view. But I no longer think that the natural is at odds with the supernatural. I turned away from an entirely atheistic worldview but I’m not chasing thrills. I accept the authority of the bible but also accept that doing so isn’t an entirely rational enterprise.

            My favorite conversion story is by John Wesley – a person raised in a society where everyone was a professing Christian but one day he felt his heart strangely warmed.

  17. And there are those who will be triggered and troubled by anything that run counter to their world view. And if you think both Sheaffer and Pearcey are unthinking and infantile, you are plain wrong.
    Certainly from a one who has embraced the teaching of John Robinson, and has been influence by higher biblical criticism, that comment is not in a “higher” category. Annoyed category, yes.

    Reply
      • Let us all be mindful of this one:

        “If we do not show love to one another, the world has a right to question whether Christianity is true.” Francis Schaeffer

        I appreciate those people here who, while disagreeing powerfully with my views, have maintained courtesy and patience. I wrote to one person here last night, because I had felt touched by their love.

        If our faith is true – even if we speak with conviction and challenge – there needs to be grace as well. At the point we lose touch with grace, we are losing touch (at least in that action) with God.

        We may even be right… but if we have not love…

        I know times when I fall short. Grace is not just what happens when we are saved. Grace is also what we need to inhabit us, and we all know that isn’t always easy.

        Reply
      • Geoff – all these quotes from Francis Shaeffer are very nice – I’d agree with all of them 100 percent.

        I’m not at all sure what you mean by pre-supposition or pre-suppositional, because I’d have thought that is *exactly* the criticism that I’d level at the `Intelligent Design’ people.

        I (for one) very strongly like the idea of a creator God, who created everything along the lines of the picture we get from science – namely, a `big bang’ where he had organised everything so beautifully that everything evolved from there according to the beautiful natural laws that He had created.

        But if, when I get to heaven, he says, `no, no, no – it wasn’t like that at all – I did it in 6 days flat’ then I, for one, would be quite happy to accept this – and then if I ask about the dinosaurs, I’d be quite happy to accept a reply along the lines of `well, work is a creation ordinance and I had to give the paleontologists something to do.’

        This is not the attitude of the ID people – who see things progressing `by law’ as something that somehow opposes God as creator – and they want evidence that things did not proceed `by law’, but needed an awful lot of intervention, against the natural laws to get the right result. This, indeed, seems to be the thrust of the paper from `Journal of Theoretical Biology’ that I linked to earlier.

        So I see the ID people as the ones who have the pre-suppositions – and their basic pre-supposition seems to be that there is something wrong if everything is progressing according to the beautiful natural laws that God created.

        Reply
        • We all have presuppositions, Jock. I’ve made the point corroborated by John, there is a difference between macro and micro( adaptations) evolution. Did you listen to and look at the references to Stuart Burgess, rather than dismiss it out of hand because of a category he is placed in. The key idea as I understand that there is an *irreducible complexity” ordering to the material world, universe that could not come about purely by material forces, plus time plus space. Or creation ex nihilo.
          I don’t accept that biologist are the only ones with input, William Lane Craig writes and speaks about it as does John Lennox, in his books and debates with Richard Dawkins. Whether they would come into the class of intelligent design, I don’t know.

          But this is nether the time or place, and I see it as a huge divergence and distraction from the book and it’s review. It may be a straw man.

          Reply
          • Geoff – well the dividing line on ID is well defined (so we don’t need to go into it further), but I don’t see it as a distraction – I see it as something very serious and more important than what the book review was about.

            The book doesn’t seem to make any points except for the obvious (I’d agree with all of them)- and it’s clear from the reaction of those who don’t agree that the book won’t convince them.

            But its starting point is suspect: `the secular worldview runs like this:

            1. Values are not inherent in but conferred on material objects by persons.
            2. The human body is a material object and distinct from a human person.
            3. Therefore, the human body is a material object that has no inherent value.

            I think that if you ask anybody who is contesting the position that the book takes here you’ll find that they don’t accept that this syllogism describes their position. Penelope and Andrew don’t like the book and I think you’ll find that neither of them see their position described by this syllogism – so the whole thing starts on a false premise.

            If this were a pub discussion, one might be inclined to say `your argument is fallacious since it is based on licensed premises’.

            I’m not sure if syllogisms (major premise, minor premise, conclusion) are such a good way of going about it, because they sound rather trite. Here is an example of a syllogism to indicate that they don’t always work:

            Nobody’s perfect;
            Jock is a nobody;
            Therefore Jock is perfect.

          • Here is an example of a syllogism to indicate that they don’t always work:

            Nobody’s perfect;
            Jock is a nobody;
            Therefore Jock is perfect.

            Actually syllogisms do always work. That ‘example’ is not a syllogism because the word ‘nobody’ is being used in different senses in the two premises.

  18. Hello Susannah,
    It is good that you took a look and perhaps now have a better idea of Schaeffer than beforehand, and not blocked him out with a retort. Thanks.

    I’d add these quotes from Schaeffer, to your personal selection, for a fuller more rounded flavour, all from the same site (and there are some more). There are some that are particularly prescient and pertinent to today, eg numbers 6, 14, 19. And for a definition of presuppositions. world-view, number 22:

    1 Truth always carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation, regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.

    2 If there is no absolute moral standard, then one cannot say in a final sense that anything is right or wrong. By absolute we mean that which always applies, that which provides a final or ultimate standard. There must be an absolute if there are to be morals, and there must be an absolute if there are to be real values. If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judge between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. We are merely left with conflicting opinions.

    3 The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.

    4 There is a sad myth going around today – the myth of neutrality. According to this myth, the secular world gives every point of view an equal chance to be heard. And it works fairly well – unless you are a Christian.

    5 One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary.

    6 Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years.

    7 If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today.

    8 If Christians win a battle by using worldly means, they have really lost.

    9 The beginning of men’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.

    10 No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. The Christians had that absolute in God’s revelation.

    11 We as Bible-believing evangelical Christians are locked in a battle. This is not a friendly gentleman’s discussion. It is a life and death conflict between the spiritual hosts of wickedness and those who claim the name of Christ.

    12 Reformation is a return to the sound doctrine of the Bible. Revival is the practice of that sound doctrine under the power of the Holy Spirit.

    13 Belief does not change what is.

    14 Any denomination or church group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It is impossible to prevent the surrender of other important doctrinal teachings of the Word of God when inerrancy is gone.

    15 Christianity is not just involved with “salvation”, but with the total man in the total world. The Christian message begins with the existence of God forever, and then with creation. It does not begin with salvation. We must be thankful for salvation, but the Christian message is more than that. Man has a value because he is made in the image of God.

    16 In passing, we should note this curious mark of our own age: the only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute.

    17 Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.

    18 Sadly enough, there is a kind of an anti-intellectualism among many Christians: spirituality is falsely pitted against intellectual comprehension as though they stood in a dichotomy. Such anti-intellectualism cuts away at the very heart of the Christian message. Of course, there is a false intellectualism which does destroy the work of the Holy Spirit. But it does not arise when men wrestle honestly with honest questions and then see that the Bible has the answers. This does not oppose true spirituality.

    19 If Christianity is really true, then it involves the whole man, including his intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just ‘dogmatically’ true or ‘doctrinally’ true. Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole man in all of life.

    20 The ordinary Christian with the Bible in his hand can say that the majority is wrong.

    21 We must stress that the basis for our faith is neither experience nor emotion but the truth as God has given it in verbalized, prepositional form in the Scripture and which we first of all apprehend with our minds.

    Presuppositions defined:

    22 People have presuppositions… By ‘presuppositions’ we mean the basic way that an individual looks at life- his worldview. The grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. A person’s presuppositions provide the basis for their values- and therefore the basis for their decisions.

    And with a nod to Ian’s following article –

    The great distinction of a true Christian is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How careful should he be, lest anything in his thoughts or feelings would be offensive to the Divine Guest.!

    Reply
    • Thanks Geoff,

      There’s a lot here to digest. Straight off, reading through them, I am stirred by 5 – “One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary”; and 10 – though that one takes a lot of courage, to face down a dictator… which of course factors in number 17. Your final comment or quote, about the indwelling Holy Spirit is particularly thought-provoking… by God’s very presence we are like temples.

      You know and I know that there are *many* differences in our theologies. No point being false about that.

      Even so, thanks.

      Reply
      • But theology is not a very scientific subject at all!
        You say grandly that you have a theology, but how is that different from having a wish, a delusion, or a dream scenario?

        Reply
    • The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.

      Good line. Well worth repeating.

      John

      Reply
  19. ‘You know and I know that there are *many* differences in our theologies. No point being false about that.’

    Susannah… your comment is the truth of it. We are really talking about different gospels. Andrew, Penelope and you have a gospel with liberties that some of us believe make it a false gospel similar to that of the false teachers in 2 Peter 2.

    I read your story (here and on your link) and I am both perplexed and saddened. I am sure gender dysphoria is very difficult to live with. Indeed I cannot imagine just how difficult. Yet I think your solution was the wrong one from a gospel perspective. It has led to efforts to be what it is impossible to be, a woman. It has meant a divorce and now a relationship/marriage that the bible forbids – effectively a lesbian relationship. I cannot imagine that this is what your aunt prayed would be your story. I know it is not a story acceptable to God.

    It remains my prayer that all three of you will come to trust in the Bible for contrary to what you say to have faith in God is to have faith in his word and his word is the Bible. Scripture and the Spirit act in tandem and neither contradicts the other. If the Spirit speaks to you it is to call you to repentance and turn from this serious sin and false gospel.

    Reply
    • John – Samson was a man of God. He was also a fornicator and when I read the narrative I actually find myself sympathising with the Philistines.

      If he came along to your church, would you let him in? I personally probably wouldn’t – I’d advise him to go along to Andrew Godsall’s church where he might experience a warmer welcome.

      But this would be a mistake. He was (after all) a man of God.

      Reply
      • Hello Jock,

        I think that is a too easy and false, flawed comparison and presuppositions? Here is a rather lengthy why.

        1 “The book of Judges has been described as, despicable people doing deplorable things. – a history of few highs and more lows; of murder assassination and massacres: of immorality, lawlessness and unfaithfulness.

        2 It is the story, set in the biblical longitudinal canonical history of redemption.

        3 “It tells of Israel’s *judges* or Deliverers saving the people again and again from the cruel oppression around them. (And false gods worship)

        4 “The heroes become increasingly flawed and failing. So what’s it doing in the Bible?

        5 “The answer is crucial. It’s the gospel!

        6 “Judges like the rest of the Bible is not a book of virtues, not a series of inspirational stories to imitate; it will not present us with a moral code.

        7 “It *is* about the God of mercy and long-suffering, who continually works in and through his and for his people, despite their constant resistance to his purposes, then and now. A time like now where the people were surrounded by the offer (worship and satisfaction) of false gods.

        8 “There is a repeated cycle
        1) the people rebel
        2) God is angry and hands them over to their enemies
        3) When Israel is in distress and groan God raises up a leader, *judge* deliverer to rescue them
        4) Under the judge’s rule, things get better with minor *revivals?*)
        5) Judge dies and the cycle begins again, except sin gets worse, and the *revivals* get weaker and weaker.

        A repeat refrain is the “the people did what was right in their own eyes.”

        9 SAMSON

        9.1″When we get to Samson, the last judge, it is seen that the greatest danger, as now with the church, is becoming just the same as the surrounding culture.

        9.2 “He is the most flawed judge; violent, impulsive, sex-driven, ungodly , complacent.
        He uses his Spirit given strength selfishly, to extricate himself from the trouble his weaknesses get him into.

        9.3 “He is a *picture* of the state of Israel as a whole – virtually indistinguishable from the pagan Philistines, and quite happy to exist under their rule instead of God’s.

        9.4 “He, in his birth and death, is a shadow of the Lord Jesus. Samson, a flawed deliverer pointing to the flawless deliverer, the Lord Jesus.

        9.5 “Samson teaches us how *not* to follow God in
        -complacency
        – selfishness
        – being directed by our feelings
        – an implicit resentment of the role God has given us
        -mistaking possession of spiritual gifts for spiritual growth
        – using our gifts for our own ends
        – sexual immorality

        And end point of the book of Judges is that Israel had no King.

        And the message for today, as then, everyone did what was right in their own eyes; making up our own religion and ruling ourselves., own lives. The results are horrendous.

        We need the rescuing, forgiving, delivering Flawless King Jesus.

        From “Judges, The flawed and the flawless” by Timothy Keller. the good book guide to Judges

        Reply
        • Geoff – but Samson was (ultimately) faithful to God.

          I take it that if he rolled up at your church and wanted to join your fellowship, you wouldn’t be entirely enthusiastic about letting him in?

          Reply
          • Jock, thanks for the opportunity to let Keller explain this further to you. Hope you get it.
            Samson ultimately shows reliance on God, praying humbly in reliance.
            He recognises that Hod is Sovereign, the one to who he owes obedience, and that he is Lord. He asks God to remember him knowing God has every right to ignore him.
            He is willing to die with his enemies.
            This is the only time Samson recognised his weakness and was made strong, an expression of his faith. (Hebrews 11v32 -34).
            It cost Samson lis life to fulfill his God given mission to ” begin the deliverance of Isael from the hands of the Philistines” (13v5).
            It is in his death where he shows the impotence of the god Dagon.

            Victory was through his death, pointing to Jesus who was,
            1 betrayed by ssomeone who acted as his friend.
            2 handed over to gentile oppressors, Philistines/Romans
            3 were rejected by Israel -Judah/ the religious leaders and the crowd.
            4 appeared completely crushed by their enemies
            5 Reversed the apparent triumph of God’s enemies, Dagon/Satan
            6 were alone as they did their work of salvation
            7 were not asked for.
            8 had to die to win their greatest victory.

            The death of Jesus was even greater:
            A) Samson was in temple of Dagon as a result of his inability to live under God’s rule – his downfall was due to his disobedience.

            Jesus died in the cross in obedience to God’s rule. His death was a result of our disobedience, not his.

            B) Samson’s death only began Israel’s deliverance. Jesus death achieved deliverance ” once for all” (Hebrews 10:10)

            C) with Samson’s death, his life was over, his rule at an end, with his burial.
            Jesus did not stay dead and rose to rule beyond the grave.
            How about answering your your own question. It may be difficult if you are not part of a church. If he were a church leader would you stay?

      • Jock

        He was not always a man of God. His commitment was compromised and often disgraceful. In his death he proved himself to belong to the covenant community but there was much in his life that debarred him from that community in life, indeed he had little interest in it.

        But it is a bad hermeneutic to go to OT saints as reliable examples of what is acceptable in the new covenant. We must ask what the NT writer required as signs of authentic life. If Samson came along he would be refused fellowship. It anyone in a relationship outside of marriage came seeking fellowship then they would be refused – not coldly and harshly but with grace and guidance on the way forward. David and not Samson reveals the way to deal with the Philistines.

        Often we find ourselves sympathetic to the philistines but that reveals more about us than it does about the narrative. A proper moral perspective means we will hate the Philistines for they are the enemies of God and his people who if flirted with will lead into sin and destroy. We need to think alongside the grain of the narrative.

        Reply
  20. Hello Geoff,

    In answer to your question (above) about Samson – if Samson rolled up to any church where I were a church member, I would, without hesitation, exclude him from the fellowship – but this might be a mistake. Similarly, if he were leader of some fellowship, I’d take one look at it, decide they were the `prophets of Baal’ and not have anything to do with them. Again, this might be a mistake.

    All the points you made about Samson (and the book of Judges) based on Keller are points that have occurred to me, but I think it misses something. The something is that people during the time of the Judges were no different from people today. They are presented as caricatures, the `bad stuff’ brought out graphically, some of it quite horrendous. But one of the themes seems to be God dealing with people where they are – and bringing them forward. When he has finished with them, even though they *are* people of God, they still look like rotters.

    There is no magical before and after from the move from Judges to Kings; while there was the occasional revival during the time when the kings reigned, there seems to have been an awful lot of depravity, rejection of God and worship of the Baals.

    So – in short – I would be one of those who would kick Samson out of the fellowship – and I wouldn’t darken the doors of a fellowship where he were leader – but at the back of my mind I wonder if this isn’t a mistake.

    Reply
    • Ah Jock,

      Come and join our Jephthah church. Great man of faith. Children welcome.

      BTW. What you said about God as the pov or inertial ref. Is what I’m driving at. So we agree I think. What the problem is I think is the value we place on historical over metaphorical. History was being teased out of the metaphorical. God’s metaphorical was more real then. Not like it is today, a dried shell from which the butterfly of reality has long since burst.

      Reply
      • Steve – yes – I had Jephthah in mind – he committed a great sin when he made his vow (and he did understand full well the vow he was making) and he committed an even greater sin when he actually fulfilled the vow. He was a man of God – but seemed to have very little understanding of God ……

        Reply
        • I’m not sure if Jephthah offered his daughter as a human sacrifice. Perhaps his intention was to offer whoever came out his door as someone dedicated to God. After all he must have expected it to be a person that came out of his door and the high probability was it would be someone he loved coming to welcome him.

          Sacrifices of people were forbidden by the law of Israel. ‘Whoever’ suggests Jephthah was referring to/expecting a person coming out the door – yet not his daughter.

          An important point is that Jephthah is included in the list of people of faith in Hebrews 11.

          A strange incident.

          Reply
          • John – yes, exactly – included in the list of people of faith in Hebrews 11. I also think that Steve makes good points about him below.

    • “awful lot of depravity, rejection of God and worship of the Baals…”

      There seemed to be a lot of depravity even when they weren’t rejecting God…

      Jephthah murdering his daughter, for example.

      Reply
      • They were rejecting God!
        Not at home, don’t have resources to answer more fully. But it has been answered already above ny Tim Keller, disguised as me, and John.
        Not sure I want to indulge further in this frolic of our own making.
        It is important for the Gospel understanding in the Old Testament, which is all about Jesus, in history, types, shadows, themes echoes, unless our resurrected Lord never did have the conversation on the road to Emmaus, in space, time and fact.

        Reply
    • (St) Paul would exclude, with the underlying purpose of it possibly leading to repentance, would he not?
      But I’m with John. It is a poor hermeneutic to use Sampson as a moral example. Or indeed any example to be like/don’t be like, be like David, don’t be like David. Sin always has consequences to self and others, individually, corporately/nationally. There is a darkness in the heart of all, pointing to the need for Christ.
      God gave the people a king of their choice, then a one of his Choice, but it was all within God’s covenants, finally worked out in the New covenant, in the blood and body of Christ, the King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Lord of all.

      Simul Justus et Pecator.
      The only righteousness we have before God, is Christ’s, all else is filthy rags, despite worldly appearances and common grace, marvellous and unacknowledged though that is.

      Reply
      • Geoff – I don’t think anyone was suggesting Samson (or David) as a moral example (or an example to `be like’).

        Indeed, this is one of the contrasts between Christianity and `modern society’. Modern society seems to think that people (for example children) should look to `role models’ and that some people should *be* `role models’.

        Christianity says (with lots of example in Scripture) – if you’re looking for a role model and need a role model to follow, you’re guaranteed to be awfully disappointed.

        The issue is whether or not these people – with all their flaws – belong to the fellowship or not.

        Reply
        • Not without repentance, not without a turning from a perpetuation of sin.
          But there is something of perpetuity in these comments.
          If you don’t get it Jock, join a church fellowship with known
          unrepentant known adulterers etc. In fact any church fellowship, to come under church authority and discipline.

          Reply
          • Geoff – you are aware (by now) that for me, repentance, through Christ, is at the centre. But I get the impression that you (and John) don’t really get it. The repentant heart and mind is capable of terrible blind spots and besetting sins. Neither of you have really factored that in.

            I think that Chris Bishop has made some very good comments here about what is going on in his own fellowship – he (clearly) does get it.

          • And lastly Jock,
            Without church discipline and accountabilty there is disruption and dissolution and dishonour.
            I’ m aware pf a local independent fellowship where the leader entered into an adulterous relationship and the fellowship disbanded.
            Recent gobal church events bear witness to the damage of unaccountable, rougue elephant leaders, with Mark Driscoll, Ravi Zacharias, and Hillsongs church, and others. It brings heartache and brokeness to the body of Christ ( the church) and to the dishonour of the name of Jesus the Christ.

          • Jock,
            You are wrong about me. Have you really, carefully, read all I’ve written here. We are all sinners. Some repetant, some not, some repetedly confessing, turning from sin, tirning to Christ.
            Indeed, the heart is deceitful above all things, desiring everything before and above God. It is an idol factory.

            I’ ll throw out one challenge to you Jock. You can’t be a lone star Christian, can’t be a Christian without, being part of a physically meetonh together fellowship.
            Perhaps that will kick start a whole new thread. It is important, but not not, not here.

          • Geoff – you can take it from me – I’m well enough connected – just not with anything local. One major issue here is that I don’t exactly parley the lingo (and the Good Lord hasn’t endowed me with the gift of understanding tongues) – but I’m not by any means a `lone star Christian’ as you put it.

            I do get all the `general theory’ that you’re stating. As I said, I’d throw up my hands in horror at the unrepentant sharing fellowship – and would definitely want them kicked out – but I do wonder about it and whether we can be (and indeed often are) over-zealous with this.

          • Hi Jock

            I agree with Geoff. All three of us see the need for repentance. However, where serious moral or doctrinal sin is persisted in the individual should be excluded from church fellowship until such time as they repent (1 Cor 5). God’s church is holy. It is God’s temple. Sin cannot be tolerated. Rev 2,3 shows us how Christ judges his church when it is sinful. Speaking to the local church at Corinth all says.

            Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

            This is why Samson or many others cannot be given a place in it. Sometimes you seem to be on this page Jock and then at others you seem to swing and give too much license. I have no desire to be hard on Susannah, Penelope or Andrew but I cannot accept them as if we are all one in Christ for we are not. I would love if we were. Oneness in Christ does not require sinlessness and absolute alignment in doctrine but it does mean that serious sin (moral or doctrinal) makes fellowship impossible. What fellowship has light with darkness.

            I am not sure why you are not part of a local fellowship but with Geoff I’d encourage you to find one if possible. A local fellowship keeps us grounded, provides checks and balances, accountability, encouragement to holiness etc. All this presupposes it is a fellowship of believers. If there are no nearby churches at least place yourself under some solid online preaching. John Piper for example.

          • John Thomson – the basic idea is to get people saved and by far the best example I saw of this was a Baptist church which had a Salvation Army man in the congregation. He went to the worst parts of the city and down to the docks and brought people to the church. He explained the gospel to them in a basic way and they professed their faith.

            I can also tell you that, from a middle class `proper’ point of view, there was much about those whom he brought along that would really make you roll your eyes and the effect could actually be disruptive. But really – everybody agreed – much better to have them in the church (even though the Apostle Paul might have disagreed). God took them where they were, some sort of miracle happened when the Salvation Army man approached them, invited them along to the church – and they accepted the invitation, God brought them forward to a much better place than they had been in before – but I’m not at all sure they would `make the grade’ in an establishment with any degree of rigour; I’m not at all sure that they would have reached the Pauline standards.

            This is the only church I have been involved with that wasn’t basically middle class intellectual – and it did have Spiritual life about it.

          • Hi Jock

            I have no problems with tough and ready or any kind of sinners. It is sinners Christ came to save I’m glad to say. And he gives time to change. What I have a problem with is those that do not wish to change and call sin holiness. These are an altogether different matter,

  21. Geoff,
    I agree, Jesus is our righteousness, He is not a role model. The beatitudes are His manifesto not rules to try and obey. I suppose the thought at the back of my mind is this: Corporate salvation of Israel vs individual salvation themes. The latest blog about The first Christians in Europe makes me wonder as Dominionism seems to suggest peoples and nations get ‘saved’ as much as individuals. Seems dangerous. Seems to elevate Christian culture . Big topic. I’ve not got a handle on it.

    Reply
  22. One last comment…
    Jephthah was out on a limb, driven into isolation on account of his mother, a prostitute. His own should have been looking out for him. They are as much to blame.
    I feel isolated at the moment. Our pastor left in a hurry after an adulterous affair. I don’t feel like participating in fellowship now. I’ll get over the disappointment. In 50 years I’ve been through 11 pastors. 2 were adulterers. Another was too but it was a church I only went to on a Sunday evening. I still do stuff to help etc but close fellowship for me is , this time, a bit more difficult. I suppose the reason I comment here is a sort of compensatory activity. Not the real thing.

    Reply
    • Steve

      Very sorry to hear of your situation. I had a friend who experienced adulterous pastors and authoritarian pastors. It has really affected his faith. With my Brethren background I’m not 100% enamoured by the system of pastors. The less formal structures are in place the more I think pastors can be a problem. Perhaps you should try to listen in to some good online preaching. Try Charlotte Chapel Edinburgh. The preaching is down to earth and edifying.

      Remember too Christ is the focus and not people. God bless Steve

      Reply
      • It’s impossible to pursue every ‘theology’. Reconstructionism which I think is dominionism is for me a bridge too far. As far as I know a theonomist view that the aim of the gospel is to create a Christian culture structured around OT law. It is essentially post-millennial and perceives the Christianisation of society. It is a view that although once popular has (rightly) fallen on hard times.

        I can see nothing in Scripture that anticipates the gradual Christianising of the world through the gospel. Rather opposition to the gospel will grow and finally become concrete in a a final antichrist. Even less probable is a society based on the mosaic covenant which was always an interim covenant and a mere shadow of life in Christ.

        I think there is little evidence of nations getting saved. Certainly at times nations may have a great urning to Christ however the nation turns as individuals; faith is always individual however many believe.

        Reply
    • Steve – very interesting to get your perspective and experience. I’m surprised, because I didn’t think that adultery by pastors was something that happened in `real life’; I thought it was restricted to American tele-evangelists (where it seems to be endemic).

      Well, from everything I have seen here, I get the impression that if advice is to be given, then you should be giving me advice – and not vice versa.

      I think my `ideal’ fellowship would be some sort of Salvation Army group, where the people leading it all live by the word and that is what they proclaim we should be doing; most importantly, a clear gospel message of Christ crucified and risen and repentance to remission of sins through Him. At the same time (and this is very important) showing infinite patience to those who come along and – well – don’t live up to the mark. God takes people where they are and moves them forward to something better – but this something better doesn’t always seem good to the idealist.

      As I’ve said, I more-or-less saw something like this in action once.

      I don’t think this blog is any substitute for `the real thing’, though. I was drawn into this thread through a mixture of horror, fascination and sheer entertainment about what they were talking about. Other threads do lead to very good spiritual discussions – so it does have some value.

      Reply
  23. Hello Steve
    It is with a heavy heart, i read your comment, and would echo John’s comment. There are other reliable guides, (that I have needed in times of illness and lockdown) I add into the mix, such as Colin Smith, Sinclair Ferguson ( with his easy depth and spirituality) and , Martin Lloyd -Jones (though his language is of its time). Sam Storms, perhaps. (A local independent evangelical church has pedo and credo – baptists in eldership!) Can’t think of many Anglicans. Ive enjoyed and been edified by Dick Lucas ( even as I have had to get over his accent!) with his humour.
    Yours in Christ,
    Geoff

    Reply
    • Don’t know if there are an Glenn Sceivener sermons online?
      There is also Tim Keller.
      But I prefer, if possible,
      whole Services, with prayers and praise.
      I recall hearing Dick Lucas saying that something to the effect, that he didn’t really understand/appreciate scripture until it came to him having to prepare to preach it! ( I think it was a sermon on part of Hebrews).
      Yours,
      Geoff

      Reply
      • Hi Geoff, John and Jock,
        The unfortunate episode came to a head during the pandemic. At first I shrugged it off thinking , well, seen it before, and carried on with church online etc. I could explain more but this is not the place. Thanks for your concern, I appreciate it.
        I wrote some more then deleted it as irrelevant.
        BTW , got Glenn Schrivener. Keller. Inspirational.

        Reply
  24. 1. Values are not inherent in but conferred on material objects by persons.
    2. The human body is a material object and distinct from a human person.
    3. Therefore, the human body is a material object that has no inherent value.

    Would you ‘Adam ‘n’ Steve’ it?

    Thanks to the liberals, the West is ripe for a return to Fascism.

    Reply
    • D. Singh – yes – but I’d very much like to hear a liberal stating that this syllogism actually describes their position. I think there is a bit of straw-man-ism here, whereby the author of the book makes her own judgement of what `the other side’ thinks – and then takes it from there.

      I agree with her conclusions – I’m not convinced by her starting point since I’ve never met any `liberal’ who would agree that this syllogism describes their position.

      Reply
      • Jock,
        Indeed they would- gender is assigned at birth is their mantra. It can be reconfigured, re-valued.
        It is not assigned by God, in conception, in the womb. It is of no value, in the womb.
        That is what it is all about.

        Reply
        • Geoff

          Excellent.

          1. Values are not inherent in but conferred on material objects by persons.
          2. The Jew is a material object and distinct from a human person.
          3. Therefore, the Jew is a material object that has no inherent value.

          Reply
      • Jock

        ‘I’m not convinced by her starting point since I’ve never met any `liberal’ who would agree that this syllogism describes their position’.

        Yes you have.

        1. Values are not inherent in but conferred on material objects by persons.
        2. The child in the womb is a material object and distinct from a human person.
        3. Therefore, the child in the womb is a material object that has no inherent value.

        Nine million abortions, and counting.

        Reply
        • Therefore, the child in the womb is a material object that has no inherent value.

          In particular note that those on the progressive/liberal side are pretty explicit that they regard the value of a child in the womb as entirely dependent on whether it is wanted or not. A miscarriage of a wanted child at twelve weeks’ gestation is regarded as a tragedy; an abortion of a unwanted child at the exact same stage is something to be celebrated.

          You couldn’t really get a clearer example of the idea that living human things have no inherent value but that which people place on turn.

          Reply
          • S – clearly a Christian would never consider an unborn child as `unwanted’. So are we talking about people pretending to be Christians here (and their weird ideas of self-justification) – or are we talking about people who are openly hostile to the Christian faith – and simply couldn’t care less about the next life (and who therefore place zero value on themselves)?

            I begin to see what the syllogism is all about – so thanks to you and D. Singh for pointing me in the right direction – but I still remain unconvinced (at the level of who is the book aimed at? Is it preaching to the converted – or is it trying to change peoples minds?)

          • So are we talking about people pretending to be Christians here (and their weird ideas of self-justification) – or are we talking about people who are openly hostile to the Christian faith – and simply couldn’t care less about the next life (and who therefore place zero value on themselves)?

            Um, the three points were introduced with:

            ‘ In brief, the logic deployed by the secular worldview runs like this:’

            Which I think makes it clear who is being described.

            I begin to see what the syllogism is all about – so thanks to you and D. Singh for pointing me in the right direction – but I still remain unconvinced (at the level of who is the book aimed at? Is it preaching to the converted – or is it trying to change peoples minds?)

            Well, the book is introduced as: ‘ robust and compelling cultural apologetics text’, so the intended audience is presumably Christians and the intended aim is to equip them with arguments to rebut secular assaults on Christianity (the definition of ‘apologetics’ meaning ‘to respond to objections’).

          • S – so, in other words, to equip Christians for the sort of verbal fist-fight which never changes anybody’s mind – and never converts anybody.

          • to equip Christians for the sort of verbal fist-fight which never changes anybody’s mind – and never converts anybody.

            If done well, to enable Christians to respond with calm, logical reasoning to objections like, ‘how can you believe in a good God when there is so much evil in the world?’ without getting flustered, losing your temper, or undermining your own case by lapsing into Deism.

            It’s a vital undertaking. And it helps advance knowledge, because after all, how do we know what we believe is true if we can’t show why the arguments against it are flawed?

          • (And as for converting people — no, it doesn’t do that directly, because apologetics isn’t about proving something true; rather, it’s about showing the flaws in the arguments why it must be false. So while apologetics alone will never convert anyone, it can play a vital supporting role in someone’s conversion if, for example, then think that the arguments for Christianity are pretty convincing but they just can’t see how to square it with, say, modern neuroscience. In that case a good apologetics argument showing how modern neuroscience does not in fact disprove Christianity can remove the stumbling-block and lead to the person’s conversion. Or indirectly, just the fact that Christians have all these convincing answers to people’s objections can suggest that there might be something in it and, again, set someone on the road to conversion even if some other argument in the end provides the clinching proof.)

          • S – actually, what you wrote makes sense, but I’m not sure who has this secular world-view. D. Singh brought out the example of abortion – and you elaborated on this. Yes – in principle I strongly agree with both of you.

            You’ll probably find that the overwhelming majority of those who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies (and deal with it by getting an abortion) don’t actually think about `value’ at all – and certainly don’t think about it in this way. I suspect that – basically – they don’t really think of *themselves* as having any value at all.

            I’m not disagreeing with you; just trying to see how the apologetic fits in.

          • “You’ll probably find that the overwhelming majority of those who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies (and deal with it by getting an abortion) don’t actually think about `value’ at all.”

            I suspect the decision to have an abortion is a crisis and a torment for many women, and you’d have to listen to them to know what it meant to them to go ahead with it.

            This is why I think many of these women need sympathy not hostility. I say that, although I personally believe that life begins at the moment of conception.

            As Christians, I think we owe compassion to the women as well as the babies.

          • but I’m not sure who has this secular world-view.

            Well, I mean, it’s the world-view espoused in public by about 90% of those who work in the media, for example (I don’t know what they think in private but this is certainly what they say in public).

            D. Singh brought out the example of abortion – and you elaborated on this.

            And there are many other examples too. For instance the transactional view of romantic relationships where the point of being in such a relationship is entirely for the happiness it brings you; the relationship itself (and the other person) has no intrinsic value beyond that which you imbue it with. And so on and so forth.

            You’ll probably find that the overwhelming majority of those who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies (and deal with it by getting an abortion) don’t actually think about `value’ at all – and certainly don’t think about it in this way. I suspect that – basically – they don’t really think of *themselves* as having any value at all.

            Very few people think explicitly about value, but the way everyone acts shows what they implicitly value. Read up on ‘expressed preferences’ versus ‘revealled preferences’.

            I’m not disagreeing with you; just trying to see how the apologetic fits in.

            Okay then, how about a concrete example? Say a Christian expresses discontent about some aspect of her marriage, and a non-Christian says to her, ‘If your marriage isn’t making you happy any more, you should just leave him.’ The Christian responds, ‘I can’t do that, I’m a Christian and I think marriage is for life.’ The non-Christian says, ‘Well Christianity sounds pretty stupid then.’

            A cultural apologetic would provide the Christian with the arguments to rebut that objection by showing that the non-Christian’s worldview was based on false premises about the only value in a relationship being in whether it makes you happy.

          • I suspect the decision to have an abortion is a crisis and a torment for many women, and you’d have to listen to them to know what it meant to them to go ahead with it.

            I would have suspected that too but apparently we would both have been wrong because https://shoutyourabortion.com/ exists.

          • S

            Outstanding!

            Please bear with me whilst I further drive the return to Fascism point home.

            In particular note that those on the pro-slavery side are pretty explicit that they regard the value of a slave in on the plantation as entirely dependent on whether it is wanted or not. A fatal accident occurring to a wanted slave at twelve years’ labour is regarded as a tragedy; a hanging of an unwanted slave at the exact same stage is something to be celebrated.

            For me, this is like studying the destruction of confidence in the Bible by German theologians in the 19th century.

            This was followed by the application of humanistic ethics.

            That in turn led to the destruction of the disabled.

            Which led, in turn, to the destruction of Jews and Bible believing Christians.

            If only the liberals (Prof. Peter Singer?) could see where this is all heading.

          • If only the liberals (Prof. Peter Singer?) could see where this is all heading.

            Oh, I think Professor Singer knows exactly where this is heading and has fully reconciled himself to it. Indeed my most successful argument against those of a Utilitarian bent is to say, ‘You realise that the logical conclusion of what you are saying is that you have to become Peter Singer, right?’

      • Jock,
        Above, you rail against middle class intellect “theory” in church, but here you are engaging in it.
        You are presuming I am middle class, maybe because of qualifications. Granddad was a coal miner. My Dad was a factory forman; raised on a council estate, attended local grammar school. You presuppose far too much. I live in and church is in a working class area. All churches I’ve been in, Anglican, Methodist have looked to help those in need, and some have sent university educated, middle class members to spread the Gospel abroad. It is a strange case you seek to make.
        In Scotland, evangelicals are working together in a group known as 20, schemes, into working class communities. Converted to Christ from within those communities, their hearts are for them to spread the Good News of Christ.

        Reply
        • Geoff – I can’t imagine why you thought that that was directed against you – this wasn’t intended. If anything, it’s against myself, for precisely the reasons you state.

          I was blessed with a very good ministry during my student days – which happened to be Church of Scotland – but however much I enjoyed the ministry and however much Spiritual nourishment I personally got from it, retrospectively – I frankly don’t see that sort of ministry as a starting point for revival.

          I’m not trying to make much of a case for anything, but I simply observe what revival was like when it came – and where it came from. If I do learn sufficient of the language here to make participation more worth while, then it’s the Salvation Army for me.

          Reply
  25. Psephizo quotes Pearcey on how the ‘liberals’ address Natural Law:

    ‘if you claim that any moral principle is congruent with nature, you are committing what [is called] the fallacy of “naturalizing.” It is a fallacy because…no morality is natural. All morality is a historical construct, a product of a particular culture at a particular period of history.’

    That argument would apply to pansexuality too, and therefore it too can be dismissed as unnatural. Which would incite fury from the ‘liberals’ but would also undermine Judeo-Christianity.

    If there is no such thing as Natural Law, then how come people from different faiths, cultures and nationalities understand and enjoy the works of an English playwright who died four hundred years ago?

    William Shakespeare.

    How come an English school boy, living in the 21st century can snigger at the satires of Juvenal?

    C.S. Lewis advised us to examine any encyclopedia of religion and ethics to discover the remarkable similarities in ethics and law in different cultures set in different periods of time. The discovery holds true.

    If the ‘liberal’ is correct (that all is relative) then all that matters is power, pistol and prison.

    With the collapse of Judeo-Christianity in Great Britain and as people accept that there is no Natural Law principles nor God to appeal to (natural universal ideas) – should we expect conflict within social media; the streets and MPs’ surgeries?

    Is this the price of ‘liberalism’?

    Reply
  26. Message to S
    If Saint Smythers the Discombobulated passed on a garbled gospel that was believed surely the Holy Spirit would confirm the new convert. No Bible employed. Psalm 145:4 says one generation declares to the next. Again, no bible , no written Testimony. It is therefore entirely possible that the bible is superfluous but exists entirely as an act of grace.
    St. Paul in Philippians said roughly, from memory, “if you don’t agree with what I say the Holy Spirit will make it plain to you” sometimes ,even Paul, trusted that a true believer could work out their own salvation.

    Reply
    • If Saint Smythers the Discombobulated passed on a garbled gospel that was believed surely the Holy Spirit would confirm the new convert. No Bible employed.

      Um, maybe? Is this a version of the ‘righteous Calormene’ theory where someone can be saved by their heart being aligned towards God, even though they do not know the gospel? In which case fine, but they still have no information about how to follow Jesus, do they?

      Psalm 145:4 says one generation declares to the next. Again, no bible , no written Testimony.

      That’s general revelation, not specific revelation, though.

      It is therefore entirely possible that the bible is superfluous but exists entirely as an act of grace.

      Superfluous in the sense that people can be saved without reading the Bible? Well yes, because people were saved before the Bible was finished (St Stephen, for example) so clearly you can be saved without reading the Bible.

      But superfluous in the sense that there is another source of information about Jesus and what it means to follow Him? No, I don’t think so.

      Reply
  27. Hi S
    I don’t want to bring CSLewis into it.
    Ps 145 is not about general revelation. At the time it induced faith in the hearers. They spoke to encourage each other in their faith.
    I mean the Gospel as we understand it today could be passed on verbally . The test of authenticity would then be how your lifestyle changed , not what doctrine one could reel out to tickbox club membership.
    For instance, many Muslims come to faith by first seeing a vision and then hearing a testimony. Like Cornelius.
    Of course without the plum line of the written word we would all be in an unimaginable mess. Exceptions prove the rule I suppose.

    Reply
    • Steve: I don’t believe that the scriptures would ever be superfluous. The point is that the Holy Spirit works through the heart and mind of the reader or hearer as well. And the lives of the Saints are a source of inspiration to the reader of hearer of scripture. And the tradition of the Church over 2000 years (the body of Christ on earth) helps to guide those who hear and read the scriptures as part of that fellowship. And the reader and hearer of scripture also has their God given reason to help work out the message of those texts as they apply to their one lives.

      Hence we have four sources working together: scripture, tradition, reason and experience. None are superfluous. Scripture is foremost. But the others can not be discounted. The work of the Holy Spirit carries on.

      Reply
      • …yes. scriptures were probably copied and studied by groups of prophets set aside for the purpose. citation needed!
        He therefore knew the first 5 books, probably by rote.
        I recon each generation added some stories and redacted others. Abraham probably knew the first two chapters of Genesis but as part of a much larger body of work he brought with him from Ur.

        Um, short answer… dunno

        Reply
    • I don’t want to bring CSLewis into it.

      Too late.

      Ps 145 is not about general revelation.

      What specific revelation is it about then?

      I mean the Gospel as we understand it today could be passed on verbally

      Yes, of course it could, but only from someone who got it from (someone who got it from someone who got it from …) the Bible. There is no other primary source of information about Jesus, what He said, and therefore what following Him means. Everything we can know about Jesus comes, ultimately, from the Bible, whether directly thorough reading it or indirectly through other people who have read it.

      For instance, many Muslims come to faith by first seeing a vision and then hearing a testimony.

      And where did the person giving the testimony learn about Jesus? From the Bible, either directly or indirectly. Because there is no other primary source.

      Reply
  28. Andrew,

    S seemed to be saying scripture is indispensable, without it no one could come to a knowledge of the truth. Hypothetically not true as you point out. If any one of the four sources was missing the Holy Spirit would make up the lack. Chinese converts have been known to come to faith, pray, and then receive a Bible. The Bible is indispensable. God wants us to have it. It’s a shame that so many Christians spend so little time reading it, entrusting pastors and priests with interpretation instead of their own , God given reason.

    Reply
    • S seemed to be saying scripture is indispensable, without it no one could come to a knowledge of the truth

      I think you have misinterpreted. The Bible is our only primary source of information about Jesus. Without it no one could know the truth. That doesn’t mean everyone has to read the Bible themselves (they should, but it’s not always possible) but it means that if they can’t read it themselves turn in order to know the truth they need someone who has read it (or someone who got it from someone who got it from etc someone who read it) to tell them.

      Reply
      • Hi S
        I just think it is entirely possible hypothetically for the story of Jesus to have been transmitted down to us word of mouth only. In the book ‘Heavenly Man’ the Chinese author remembers having heard about a supreme god called Jesus and his book called the Bible. He prays to the unknown deity and a short while later two men arrive at his door in the middle of the night and deliver a Bible! Clearly the Bible is indispensable but his journey of salvation started by the memory of some tale about Jesus.
        I then suppose that it might be possible to live ones whole life impoverished but saved by simply believing. I’m not trying to justify people trying to live in the real world completely experientially, relying on feelings and flattering words of their piers.
        Yep, I agree with you about the Bible being our only source material. It is the plumb line to which all fancy ideas need to be compared to.

        Reply
        • I just think it is entirely possible hypothetically for the story of Jesus to have been transmitted down to us word of mouth only.

          Of course it is. I just don’t see the relevance. The fact is that that is not how God choose to work. He could have; but He didn’t. And that is the point I was making.

          Clearly the Bible is indispensable but his journey of salvation started by the memory of some tale about Jesus.

          A tale which can only have ultimately come from… the Bible! Yes? You’re making my point for me.

          Reply
    • Hi Steve

      Without doubt the bible is indispensable and is our foremost source of information and guidance. But there has been a long – and not always friendly – discussion about whether anything else can be a source in addition – not instead of. Just Google sola scriptura and you will get a flavour of that discussion. Clearly, there are those who subscribe to the sola scriptura approach today.
      But that is not the approach the C of E takes. It has always had tradition – hence the 39 articles and the liturgical and other formularies. It has always relied on the use of reason. Hence we have a synod where matters are discussed and reasoned out. It has always said that the experience of Christians through the ages is an essential witness.

      And of course our understanding changes. It was thought that we could only eat certain things. But the Holy Spirit revealed to the earliest Christians that this was not true. It wasn’t scripture that revealed it. But the direct revelation of God.

      The same would be true about the ministry of women. Paul is clear that women were not permitted to speak in church.

      And there are things that the bible alone doesn’t address.

      So we need other sources in addition to, it never instead of, the bible

      Reply
      • just one point of interest to me;
        ‘It was thought that we could only eat certain things. But the Holy Spirit revealed to the earliest Christians that this was not true. It wasn’t scripture that revealed it. But the direct revelation of God.’

        That’s the first council of Jerusalem I suppose where they decided to let the gentiles eat anything except that which was strangled, ie, with the blood left in? Decided in a committee, not by divine vision. That is, not Peter’s vision of critters on a sheet.
        And the committee were all in agreement on the descision.

        Reply
  29. The case against ‘sola scriptura’ is founded on the fact that the Bible is not our primary source.

    Jesus is.

    For years after the life of Jesus, the New Testament had not yet been written. And yet, the early Christian community believed in Jesus. That was the start of witness and tradition. They bore witness to what they had seen and encountered – certainly a deep mystery but also a person – and passed that on to others by word of mouth.

    Jesus himself was the primary source, and then people started to pass on their memory of what they encountered.

    That still happens.

    Before I understood the gospel and the need for repentance and conversion, it was the witness of a Christian woman – just her presence (indwelt by Jesus) and her grace… she never shared the gospel with me, but I knew she was a Christian – that prepared me for encounter with Jesus.

    Then the car crash, next day the tears and repentance (without knowing what was going on) and then… encounter with Jesus. Actual encounter with Jesus, in person. It was only a further day later, that a minister sat me down, and showed me in the scriptures the pattern of what had happened to me.

    Jesus is always our primary source, whether at point of conversion, or in our continuing prayer life and relationship.

    As Andrew and Penny have rightly said, that does not mean we write off the Bible as valueless. It is a hugely valuable resource. But it is not the only source through which we grow in knowledge and relationship with Jesus, and open more and more of our hearts.

    There is also the witness of others who have met with Jesus, and the witness of Jesus working in their lives; that word of mouth has been handed down in accumulating witness, and a tradition of faith, firm at its core, evolving in its response as we respond to new knowledge, new circumstances, guided by the Holy Spirit.

    In addition there are direct encounters with Jesus.

    And, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus addresses and interacts with our God-given consciences, which we were given to use, as we navigate our daily lives.

    Experience – Scripture – Tradition – Reason/Conscience.

    If we elevate scripture above all the other ways of knowing Jesus, and make the scriptures rigid and too literal in application for all societies for all times… we run the risk of a kind of idolatry… because then, we scarcely need to exercise conscience, reason… we just anaesthetise our consciences and obey… and then (as been said above) scripture becomes our primary source.

    Scripture is a second-line of source material. None of it was written by Jesus.

    The original and first-line of primary source material is the person of Jesus himself. Scripture can indeed be used to see what early Christians reported… as they tried to make sense of the often enigmatic and deep (because God) nature of this person… their handed down attempts at understanding, were a kind of ‘word of mouth’ as well… though the primary source in the early Christian community was word of mouth and witness, that was going on before NT texts were written. And yet even then, they believed in Jesus. They met with him in faith.

    We can too.

    I absolutely love the Bible. It is a dynamic conduit that can open us, as we read it, to our own encounters with Jesus, and that is, with God. The Bible is not an academic text book. It is a collection of witness attempts to make sense of encounter with a mysterious, holy God. And when we read those witness attempts, the Holy Spirit can urge and incline us to open to our own encounters as well.

    The text itself is set in culture, it is limited by the scientific knowledge of its time, it may be struggling to understand things, it has no knowledge at all of some other things (computers, evolution, modern scientific understandings of sexuality and psychology, cosmology etc).

    But it is a conduit, like a portal if you like, through which the previous encounters with God resonate to us, through which the power of the Spirit of God can reach through to us, and through which we can open to our own encounters as well. It doesn’t have to be perfect, inerrant, or infallible. It can assert things that we no longer accept today. But in essence, it is people trying to make sense, and it’s all about encounter… encounter with the love of God.

    We can also open up through witness of people today, through witness of saints in the past, through God’s presence in the sacraments, through tradition and ritual, through prayer, through lived experience, and challenges to our consciences, in such ways as open us to compassion.

    Jesus, by whatever source, is the primary source. The original source. We can meet with Jesus personally today if God grants us grace. We can encounter Jesus in the lives of other people. The Bible contributes to all this, but is not the only conduit for encounter.

    ‘Sola Scriptura’ in my view is not the principle on which the Church of England operates. Some in it do. But I believe that paradigm is limiting, and in a sense too automatic. It tends towards the fundamentalisms we see in other faiths as well. I believe we have God-given reason and conscience for a purpose – and that is to grow more open to God, and to think and feel for ourselves, and confront conscience issues ourselves… not have it all pre-programmed for us.

    We cannot box God up inside the Bible. God is (fallibly) witnessed to in the Bible. But God is not the Bible. Jesus is more than the Bible. Jesus himself is our first and original source.

    Reply
        • Actual encounter with Jesus, in person.

          Yeah, no. I do not think you actually encountered Jesus in person. I realise you firmly believe you did but I think you must be deluded. And the reason I think that is that, as I am sure you are aware, other people also claim to have had personal encounters with Jesus, but have come away with opposite understandings to yours.

          Now, as Jesus would not tell one person one thing and another person the exact opposite, clearly you can’t both have actually had personal encounters with Jesus. And we can assume that neither you nor they are lying — that both of you fully believe you had personal encounters in which Jesus told you things.

          So the only remaining possibilities are:

          You really did encounter Jesus, and they are deluded.

          They really did encounter Jesus, and you are deluded.

          Neither of you really encountered Jesus, and you both are deluded.

          Given that at least one of you must be deluded, we know that being deluded about having a personal encounter with Jesus is possible. And if it’s possible, then it seems much more likely that any given person who thinks they had a personal encounter with Jesus is deluded than that they really did have such an encounter (that’s not to say that such encounters never happen, but, in the Bible, personal encounters with God or Jesus other than between His birth and ascension are very rare — Paul, for example, never seems to imagine that anyone else he’s writing to might have had an experience like his).

          Therefore it seems to me the most likely explanation is the last, that you are both deluded.

          If you disagree then you have to explain why we should think that your experience was real and the other person’s was the delusion, and bear in mind that the vividness of your experience, or the strength of your conviction, is no such evidence because the other person’s experience was just as vivid and their conviction is just as strong as yours, and you’re arguing that they are delusional.

          Reply
          • “If you disagree then you have to explain why we should think that your experience was real and the other person’s was the delusion.”

            No I really don’t have to. Not least because I suspect Ian (for example) places different emphases to me on how to read and understand scripture, but I don’t for a minute think his experiences of Jesus are delusional.

            It’s possible for sincere Christians – Christians who encounter Jesus – to have different opinions. And that’s it. Different opinions.

            Only God at the end of time knows where we were each going in our hearts and whether our understanding was more or less attuned.

            For each of us… we are fallible human beings… and so were the authors of the Bible… so are all Christians.

            Half the Church of England’s membership is okay with gay sexuality. By your reasoning, none of them can be real Christians, because they don’t believe the same as you.

            But I think, and strongly advise, that we leave judgment to God.

            We all need grace, but God may choose whoever God wills… to meet with us, to have relationship with us. Even if we are not perfect in some people’s eyes.

            The unmentioned fourth ‘remaining possibility’ – one which I would suggest is more generous – is this:

            “Both groups of Christians really did encounter Jesus, and neither of them are deluded. They just have different opinions on how to make sense of it all.”

            Final comment – may have been typed in error or haste – the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’. But I think you know that.

          • “Is the Holy Spirit a fickle flibbertigibbet, changing its mind every five minutes?”

            Just noticed, my final point alludes to this separate comment of yours, which was posted at 7.41pm.

            Because (S)he is often self-effacing, and can manifest like a rushing wind, I think it’s easy for any of us to slip into calling the Spirit an ‘it’, as if (S)he was some kind of impersonal force; but the Spirit is a person, as Jesus is a person. Deeply personal.

            Personal encounter is at the heart of Christian experience, though in different ways for different believers. And there’s no hierarchy about that. But I don’t think highly personal encounters (and relationships) are rare.

          • It’s possible for sincere Christians – Christians who encounter Jesus – to have different opinions. And that’s it. Different opinions.

            Okay, but if two people have mutually incompatible opinions about what the truth is, then at most one of them can be correct. Yes?

            Half the Church of England’s membership is okay with gay sexuality. By your reasoning, none of them can be real Christians, because they don’t believe the same as you.

            What? Can you explain what you think ‘my reasoning’ is here?

            The unmentioned fourth ‘remaining possibility’ – one which I would suggest is more generous – is this:

            “Both groups of Christians really did encounter Jesus, and neither of them are deluded. They just have different opinions on how to make sense of it all.”

            Okay. But in that case you’ve given up on your original claim that personal experiences can give us information about how to follow Jesus, haven’t you? For if personal experiences are — as you seem to be suggesting here — basically kind of Rorschach blots that people can interpret in different ways, then you can’t at the same time claim that they can provide reliable information about the correct way to follow Jesus.

            Final comment – may have been typed in error or haste – the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’.

            Yes it is. It’s not a he or a she or a they, so ‘it’ is the only option left (in English, I don’t know about other languages).

          • “Now, as Jesus would not tell one person one thing and another person the exact opposite, clearly you can’t both have actually had personal encounters with Jesus.”

            See, you can indeed have a personal encounter with Jesus, have a relationship with Jesus, and be a Christian… yet hold different opinions on particular issues to another Christian.

            I don’t know if you’re suggesting that my conversion encounter with Jesus Christ was delusion, because I maybe hold different views to you. If so… where does it end?

            Take the Church of Scotland.

            Today they voted to allow ministers to take marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-61547729

            “The Church of Scotland has voted to allow clergy to conduct same-sex marriages for the first time.

            Members of the General Assembly in Edinburgh voted to change church law following years of campaigning.

            It means same-sex couples will be able to marry in church in services conducted by ministers.”

            That may not be in line with your views. Does that mean you’re calling their personal encounters with Jesus delusional?

            If so, then add the “not Christians” of the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, half the Church of England, the Quakers, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in the USA, and soon the Church of Wales as well.

            But if you’re saying “I have encountered Jesus, therefore their claims to have encountered Jesus, and be Christians, are deluded”… if you’re claiming, as some have on these pages, that they are “not Christians”… then I would simply reply:

            “Only God knows.”

            People can be Christians and have different opinions on lots of things. So I recognise people of sincere and real Christian faith in all those aforementioned churches.

            And I’m willing to attribute the same to you, and Ian, and others here.

            I think it’s up to God, how God chooses to work.

            Maybe these church traditions have something to teach the Church of England. I believe so. But I strongly believe people with strong socially conservative Christian views have a right to respect as well, and a right to be recognised as Christians, and a right to be part of the Church of England. Just… they can’t hope to impose their views on everyone else, on other people’s conscientious beliefs… they can be part of the Church of England but not all of it.

          • Susannah.

            I can see what S is getting at. My encounter with Jesus made me, for the first time in my life, question the ‘morality’ of gay relationships. That wasn’t a point of view I was used to hearing or thinking. I went with it but it also lined up with what I subsequently discovered was written in the bible – and (absent of any further encounters with Jesus) that mattered.

            How do any of us, regardless of what we experience, discern what is the from the Spirit?

          • “Okay, but if two people have mutually incompatible opinions about what the truth is, then at most one of them can be correct. Yes?”

            Susannah this is where S tries to go every time and is the error that trips S up every time. As you try to explain – and thank you for it – we can only glimpse the truth this side of the grave. St Paul makes this point beautifully. Now I see through a glass darkly….

            When it comes to information about God then none of us have the truth.

          • “Okay, but if two people have mutually incompatible opinions about what the truth is, then at most one of them can be correct. Yes?”

            Susannah this is where S tries to go every time and is the error that trips S up every time. […] When it comes to information about God then none of us have the truth.

            Um, you appear once again to have not read what I wrote. I wrote ‘at most one of them can be correct’; that is, I explicitly acknowledged the possibility that both might be wrong. So the thing you say ‘trips me up’ is in fact something I explicitly considered.

          • See, you can indeed have a personal encounter with Jesus, have a relationship with Jesus, and be a Christian… yet hold different opinions on particular issues to another Christian.

            But at most one of you can be correct, right?

            I don’t know if you’re suggesting that my conversion encounter with Jesus Christ was delusion, because I maybe hold different views to you.

            NO! I am not suggesting your encounter with Jesus was delusion ‘because [you] maybe hold different views to [me]’!

            I would just as much suggest your encounter was delusion if you held exactly the same views as me!

            My reason for thinking all ‘personal encounters’ with Jesus are probably delusion, if you re-read it, is totally independent of the views of those who are claiming such encounters.

            That may not be in line with your views. Does that mean you’re calling their personal encounters with Jesus delusional?

            If any if them claimed to have had personal encounters with Jesus, I would call them delusional even if they agreed with me 100% on every single issue. Do you not get that?

            But if you’re saying “I have encountered Jesus, therefore their claims to have encountered Jesus, and be Christians, are deluded”

            I have never encountered Jesus. And if I ever thought did then I would check myself into the mental hospital.

            People can be Christians and have different opinions on lots of things.

            Yes they can. But what I am saying is: at most one of their opinions can be the truth, the only thing that matters is figuring out what the truth is, and claimed ‘personal experience’ is no supporting evidence for a particular opinion being the truth.

            So I recognise people of sincere and real Christian faith in all those aforementioned churches.

            So do I. But the point is that people can be sincere and wrong. Sincerity is no guarantee against error.

            I have never and would never question your sincerity; you seem to me to be totally sincere in your wrongness. Unlike Mr Godsall for example you have never tried to use constructive ambiguity to make it appear that there was agreement when there was none.

          • Once again S you trip up. The point is that both could only ever be partially correct. Even if one was correct, their understanding would be incomplete. Now we see through a glass darkly….
            So …The likelihood is indeed that both are correct in part. And both need to respect that until all is revealed we shall all miss part of the whole picture.

          • Once again S you trip up. The point is that both could only ever be partially correct. Even if one was correct, their understanding would be incomplete. Now we see through a glass darkly….
            So …The likelihood is indeed that both are correct in part.

            Two mutually contradictory statements cannot be ‘both correct in part’. Either one is correct and the other is incorrect, or both are incorrect. That is what ‘mutually contradictory’ means.

          • What if God accommodates the views of both people, if their heart is sincere and they want to lead a holy, devoted life?

            Isn’t it possible that God is more generous-spirited than a rigid dogmatist, and even allows people to walk two non-identical paths towards God, providing their heart is motivated towards God, whether they understand everything (they don’t) or not?

            Hasn’t God got the leeway to be magnanimous like that?

            If so, doesn’t unity in diversity imply we should not be obsessed with dogmatic exactitude, imposed on everyone, but should seek the heart desire, the longing for God, and the priority of opening to the Love of God rather than puritanical insistence that everyone’s pathway with Jesus to God is the exactly the same?

          • What if God accommodates the views of both people, if their heart is sincere and they want to lead a holy, devoted life?

            Two mutually contradictory statements still cannot both be true.

            Isn’t it possible that God is more generous-spirited than a rigid dogmatist, and even allows people to walk two non-identical paths towards God, providing their heart is motivated towards God, whether they understand everything (they don’t) or not?

            It is not possible that two mutually contradictory statements can both be true.

            Hasn’t God got the leeway to be magnanimous like that?

            God has not got the leeway to make two mutually contradictory statements both be true.

            If so, doesn’t unity in diversity imply we should not be obsessed with dogmatic exactitude, imposed on everyone, but should seek the heart desire, the longing for God, and the priority of opening to the Love of God rather than puritanical insistence that everyone’s pathway with Jesus to God is the exactly the same?

            It is a simple fact that two mutually contradictory statements cannot both be true, and the important thing in life is to seek truth.

          • Hi S,

            Whether or not two mutually contradictory statements can both be true, I’m making the point that maybe God has the magnanimity of heart to accommodate both person’s opinions, even if they seem contradictory or are contradictory, providing on the most important thing of all, they are journeying to God, and with God, and opening their hearts to God. Opening their hearts to God’s love.

            I seem to recall that it was you who introduced this issue of two contradictory things not both being true.

            However, I’m making the case for two people, believing in God, in relationship with God, interacting with the Holy Spirit in many aspects of their lives, nevertheless… having different opinions on some things.

            I’m saying that maybe God is willing to accommodate both these people, knowing that they both long for God, and are making their fallible ways toward God.

            Maybe God is bigger than our divisions and contradicting opinions, and has deeper agenda than doctrinal exactitude, to do with opening our hearts to God and to love, each in our fallible ways, and opening our hearts to the love of our neighbours.

            Maybe first we need to be drawn into givenness and union in Christ (however fallible and different we are), and then God leads each one of us on our journeys toward the eternal union.

            In this way, perhaps doctrinal uniformity is less urgent as we seek Unity, than all devoting themselves to Jesus Christ, and rooting their Unity in Christ alone, through that givenness and relationship.

            If we waited for exact doctrinal uniformity before we had Unity, we would be waiting almost forever. What God desires is the human heart, fallible and limited as our understanding may be. God seeks the heart that will open to Love, whether we are so-called liberal or so-called conservative or pentecostal or catholic or baptist. As for the different opinions we may have, I think God is big enough to accommodate our differences, if the intentions of our hearts are sincere and we genuinely seek God.

            The question, in the context of the Church of England, is: are we willing to accommodate one another? Even when we disagree? Are we willing to love one another enough to do that?

            Your view on human sexuality may be contradictory to mine, but are we given in our hearts to God, even if one, other, or both have incomplete understanding of various things?

            I think a really important thing is to try to have compassionate respect, and that’s how I feel towards Ian. I probably disagree very strongly with some of his words and actions around sexuality and gender. But I feel compassionate towards him, because I see a man who loves God (as I do) and even if I think he is sometimes wrong, I can still see that good in him: that desire to please God and help others to God.

          • Whether or not two mutually contradictory statements can both be true, I’m making the point that maybe God has the magnanimity of heart to accommodate both person’s opinions, even if they seem contradictory or are contradictory, providing on the most important thing of all, they are journeying to God, and with God, and opening their hearts to God. Opening their hearts to God’s love.

            I don’t understand what you mean by ‘accomodate’ here. If two statements are mutually contradictory they simply cannot both be ‘accommodated’ within the truth. If one is true then the other cannot be ‘accommodated’. This is just how things work.

            I seem to recall that it was you who introduced this issue of two contradictory things not both being true.

            Yes, to show why ‘personal experiences’ are not reliable evidence of anything.

            However, I’m making the case for two people, believing in God, in relationship with God, interacting with the Holy Spirit in many aspects of their lives, nevertheless… having different opinions on some things.

            I don’t know why you feel you have to make that case. Of course two such people can have different opinions. But the fact is that if those opinions are mutually contradictory then they cannot both be true. And the important thing in life is to seek truth, so when presented with two mutually contradictory statements what we must to is try to work out which is true, or indeed if both are false.

            And in that quest for truth, whether or or both claim to have ‘personal experiences’ cannot be evidence.

          • I think a really important thing is to try to have compassionate respect, and that’s how I feel towards Ian.

            That is an important thing but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to seek truth, constantly and fearlessly.

          • Well you are certainly pretty fearless 🙂

            And, come to think of it, rather constant!

            Hope your day goes well, S.

            I have to leave this thread now. Life beyond the internet etc.

            Thank you for the dialogue.

          • Thank you for trying Susannah. Of course both are likely to be partially true because both are only seeing through a glass darkly. Both will have a limited understanding of the truth because they are human – and so necessarily fallible. It is therefore important that both – and sometimes more than one – opinions are held in tension so that as full an appreciation of the truth as possible can be found.

          • Of course both are likely to be partially true because both are only seeing through a glass darkly

            If both can be partially true then — by definition — they aren’t mutually incompatible. All of what I wrote above applies — AS I REPEATEDLY POINTED OUT EXPLICITLY — when the two statements are mutually incompatible.

            If two statements are mutually incompatible, then they can’t both be partially true. They just can’t. That’s what ‘mutually incompatible’ means.

            You can’t just make up your own logic, Mr Gosdsall.

          • Any statement about God is always provisional, so by definition is only partially true.

  30. Yes, I hold a very similar view. It is a shame when after talking to someone they seem to only understand the trinity in terms of The Father, The Son and The Holy Scriptures.
    This verse springs to mind again:
    Philippians 3:15 “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
    We are all on a journey, we can’t hold all the truth in our heads. It is not wise to be over zealous…as Solomon warned.
    We live in a paradox. We know the wine was water 2 minutes ago but how it has aged!

    Reply
    • We are all on a journey, we can’t hold all the truth in our heads. It is not wise to be over zealous…as Solomon warned.

      So when two people each claim that the Holy Spirit spoke to them, but one says the Spirit told them the exact opposite of what the other says the Spirit told them, what do you think has happened? Is the Holy Spirit a fickle flibbertigibbet, changing its mind every five minutes? Or is one of them mistaken? If so, how can we tell which one is mistaken? But if one can be mistaken, couldn’t they both be mistaken?

      Reply
      • Conundrum.
        Let only one person speak in tongues and have someone to interpret. Strange that the Spirit moves everyone but self control is still needed to bring order out of chaos.
        How so? Another paradox.

        Reply
          • It’s more than a conundrum, it’s a paradox.
            Despite exhibiting various fruit we sometimes still lack Self control. As Peter said we have to ‘make every effort to add to our basic faith’ working towards Love. Then Paul says we end up with Self controll coming back. ..sort of.
            Paradise is not a formal garden is it?
            Sorry..I’m distracted and not in the right mood

          • It’s more than a conundrum, it’s a paradox.
            Despite exhibiting various fruit we sometimes still lack Self control. As Peter said we have to ‘make every effort to add to our basic faith’ working towards Love. Then Paul says we end up with Self controll coming back. ..sort of.
            Paradise is not a formal garden is it?
            Sorry..I’m distracted and not in the right mood

            None of that burbling makes any sense. It’s a simple question. If two people both claim to have been spoken to by the Holy Spirit, but they each claim that the Holy Spirit said opposite things to them, how do you interpret that?

            Just give a straight answer, don’t give meaningless burbling about ‘paradoxes’ when you don’t seem to understand what a paradox is.

        • Steve

          Paradox, eh?

          Self-control is a virtue that the New Testament encourages you to exercise.

          You are required to take responsibility for your acts of commission and omission.

          Reply
  31. Okay S
    One or both people are obviously wrong, deluded, wicked etc.
    But if it is something like the decision between Agabus and Paul, or overexcited prophets in Corinth all wanting to have their say. Not so straightforward. A pastoral problem. Perhaps baptism in the Holy Spirit looks chaotic but some people need shaking up as much as other people with chaotic lives need healing.

    Reply
    • One or both people are obviously wrong, deluded, wicked etc.

      Okay good we agree on that.

      Now: how do you deterimine which one?

      See I would say one starting point is to judge what they say the Spirit told them against the Bible. If what they say the Spirit told them does not fit with the Bible then it cannot really have come from the Spirit.

      But people here seem to be wanting to use people’s claimed words from the Spirit to overturn the Bible. So that rules that out.

      So: if two people say the Spirit spoke to them, but they both say that what the Spirit told them is incompatible with what the Spirit allegedly said to the other, how do you work put which, if indeed any, is giving you the true opinions of the Spirit?

      Reply
      • I don’t think it can be worked out here in hypothetical space. It would be something to choose from in real-time. I would like to conduct all this argument using only the Bible, without resorting to tradition or reason. For example , Jesus seemed quite coy about gender issues. He said some are eunuchs, some choose to be single, some get married, etc . He seems to have had the opportunity to be vigorous but chose instead to be vague. Therefore, from that, I too choose to be disinterested. Romans 1 highlights the contrast from their past to their present condition. It’s not a recipe for Rightwing Christians to impose laws on everybody else. As for visions and special revelations. Even if an Angel of light….etc.
        Susannah uses a lot of the same language as myself, except on the (s)he pronoun . God has many attributes but that’s too far for me. But for someone who is genuinely androgynous seeing the Holy Spirit in terms of Hegai and the seven maids or Abraham’s Chief Steward may be helpful. Not everybody’s an angry, middle aged, conservative, beardy weirdo…like me.

        Reply
        • Steve – you’re absolutely right about the `hypothetical space’. I’ve seen people with great rigorous theory who seem to be lousy in the application – and people with duff theory whose witness seems extraordinarily good – and who might be in danger of bringing people to Christ. And probably best to leave it at that (at least for now).

          Reply
        • I don’t think it can be worked out here in hypothetical space. It would be something to choose from in real-time

          Okay but that’s a very very very bad idea, because there’s a real danger that if you don’t work out the criteria by which you will judge in advance but wait until you are actually presented with someone claiming to have been given a word from the Spirit then you may you end up judging their claim based on on objective criteria but being swayed by how charismatic and persuasive they are, or on how well what they are saying fits your preconceptions or what you want to be true.

          Reply
          • I have a bible for such eventualities. A lot of it in my head. It’ll come together if and when I need it. Are you suggesting that you are trying to create a new body of work to add to tradition?

          • I have a bible for such eventualities.

            But the situation we are discussing is when someone claims the Holy Spirit has spoken to them and told them that the Bible is wrong. So if you even admit that they might possibly be correct then you are saying that the Bible cannot be the final authority. So how does your Bible help?

        • Steve

          ‘But for someone who is genuinely androgynous seeing the Holy Spirit in terms of…’

          As you are seeing it from that point-of-view – then your vision is distorted as the androgynous is a defective state.

          Reply
  32. I n that case you have done your best. The rich young ruler walked away from the Word. Jesus watched him go. Don’t throw pearls after him.

    Reply
  33. S
    I’ve been working and have just caught up.
    Had a great chat with a neighbour about God. Gave him John’s gospel.
    Last final comment from me…
    Jesus IS the truth. In every circumstance.
    When I listen I weigh everything I hear and seek to discern. Perhaps you should seek the gift of discernment or knowledge or tongues.

    Reply

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