How ‘inclusive’ is the New Jerusalem?

Sam Wells, vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, wrote an interesting and significant piece in last week’s Church Times, calling for a change in focus in the way that the call is made for the Church to be ‘more inclusive’. The article was a shortened version of his address to the annual meeting of the organisation Inclusive Church, and the full version can be read on their website. The change he calls for is a shift from looking back to creation principles and arguing for an inclusive understanding of God’s intentions in creation, and instead looking forward to an inclusion vision of eschatology and the new creation. Wells is a very popular write and commentator, though I have previously found some surprising omissions in his thought, so I was intrigued to read what he had to say.


Wells begins by noting the range of current strategies deployed in the call for an ‘inclusive’ church, and wants to set them aside by moving the debate to a new question.

My counsel to those who are glad to bear the epithet ‘inclusive’ is not to shout their answer louder or longer than the opposition, or give examples of the pain and suffering the opposing answer has caused, or suggest that the arc of history bends towards their position, and thereby win the argument; it’s instead to ask a different question.

He notes the problems with questions around ‘where do you come from?’ from practical experience and within the current differences in response to Brexit (drawing on the research of David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere) between ‘Anywheres’ and ‘Somewheres’. This observation shifts the debate from one of location to one of identity:

The great debates of our day aren’t fundamentally about human rights or economic benefits or legitimate migration or coarsening public discourse: they’re about profound identity…

Into this question Wells then brings the shift of identity that we find effected by faith in Jesus in the New Testament. He rightly picks up on Paul’s language in Philippians (a letter written to people living in a Roman colony), where this change of identity is explicitly expressed in terms of citizenship.

In the midst of controversy over the person of Jesus Christ and over what kind of lifestyle was faithful to his legacy, Paul announces a revolution in our notions of identity and belonging. He says, ‘Our citizenship is in heaven.’ (Php 3:20) I want to pause for a moment to recognise how transformational those words really are, for Anywheres and Somewheres alike. Paul literally shifts the centre of the universe, from this existence and our daily reality, to the realm of essence, the things that last forever, the habitation of God and of those whom God has called to share the life of eternity.

Wells is spot on here; this is the fundamental shift we find all over the New Testament. It is expressed in one way in the letter to the Hebrews, in another way in 1 Peter, and of course it is implicit in Jesus’ language about the kingdom of God/heaven in the gospels. It is why Luke is at pains to connect the coming of the kingdom and the growth of The Way with the empire-wide realities of his day, and it finds it sharpest contrast in Jesus’ trial with Pilate in John’s gospel: ‘My kingdom does not come from this world’ (John 18.36). One of the great debates in academic biblical studies in the English-speaking world is the whole question of the gospel and empire—to what extent, implicitly or explicitly, should we see the proclamation of the ‘good news of the kingdom’ as a rival to or displacer of the ‘proclamation of the empire’ (noting that, in Greek, ‘kingdom’ and ’empire’ are in fact the same word, basileia)?


Wells then notes two consequences of understanding this issue of citizenship in heaven, one general and one specific.

The general one is something that will garner wide support, and is language that others have already been using.

So being a Christian transforms our identity. No longer are we trying to assert our assumptions as normal… Now we’re a people pooling our resources for a journey we make together to a place none of us have ever been. There are no experts, because we’re all citizens of a country we’ve never visited and longing for a home we’ve never known. How do we prepare for that journey?

An unanswered question (at least in this piece) is the extent then that he sees ‘identity in Christ’ as obliterating other subordinate identities, including ‘gay’ and ‘straight’; this is a staple of many in the ‘traditionalist’ position, and is why some people refuse to be called ‘gay’ but rather self-describe as ‘have same-sex attractions’. This position is usually firmly rejected on the ‘revisionist’ side. But Wells does draw out some important implications of this, including this intriguing comment about what we might call ‘law keeping’ in relation to traditional Christian disciplines:

It means keeping Sabbath, because Sabbath is a constant experience of not striving to secure our own salvation but resting in the grace that all the real work has already been done by God.

He then specifically addresses his Inclusive Church audience, and asks that they rethink their strategy for seeing change in the Church:

Having made a plea that we transfer our attention from where we’re coming from to where we’re going, I want to suggest that at the same time we transfer our emphasis from the wrongs we’ve suffered to the glory that awaits us.

This means abandoning the theological appeal to creation (perhaps in the form of ‘this is way God made me’), in part because it is not very fruitful, and in part because it can easily lapse into an appeal from pity.

The key theological theme of what we might call the inclusive movement in the church has been the doctrine of creation. The simple message has been to point out that all things are bright and beautiful and God made them every one. It’s an attractive message but it’s a flawed one because there are clearly things God’s made that aren’t bright or beautiful, both in the actions of the created order and the dynamics of human desire. What the inclusive message is really doing is to highlight significant elements that have long been attributed to the fallen creation and reallocate them to the original creation…The strategy works by appealing to reactions on a spectrum from pity via tolerance to justice, all of which are problematic.

What I find interesting here is that Wells has correctly identified a theological issue, and noted that the debate around this issue has not been very fruitful. He is sceptical about whether this creation-focussed approach could ever be fruitful, since ‘The doctrine of creation has been used to justify many deeply perverse things’, and I don’t think I share his scepticism. It is interesting, though, that he does freely talk about ‘fallen creation’, which in my experience is something that those arguing for change are reluctant to recognise. But on one point he and I are in complete agreement:

[I]n pointing to the need to include minority identities, they collude with the false distinction between the divergent and the normal, and with the noblesse oblige argument that the privileged and normal should do the decent thing and allow the divergent and strange a place at the table.

As far as I can see, this applies particularly to the debate about disability, and many current arguments for the inclusion of the disabled are built on an fundamental distinction between the ‘able’ and the ‘disabled’, arising from social pragmatics, which I have argued doesn’t actually exist. Instead, Wells argues, looking forwards and not backwards, to eschatology rather than creation, offers hope not only for an ‘inclusive’ church but also for more productive conversation.

In the flawed creation, it’s never clear how our different shapes and characters and experiences and convictions will ever find peaceable coexistence. In the kingdom, God draws us into resurrection life, in which difference is translated into complementarity, polyphony into symphony, discordance into harmony, discord into concord, and dissonance into resonance…

It’s no use to protest that treatment of certain identities has been unjust, unfair, heartless, cruel and sometimes criminal and worse. This is true, but it has the truth of lament rather than of aspiration. It leads to authorities and those of diverging convictions making grudging acknowledgements, procedural claims and evasive promises. It seldom changes hearts and minds; on the contrary it often wearies and antagonises, as the phrase ‘Are you calling me a bigot?’ illustrates.


I will be fascinated to see whether Wells’ appeal actually wins over those arguing for ‘inclusivity’, not least because he says some fairly brutal things about much of the argument from the ‘inclusive’ side so far deployed. But the real test of his argument is whether he is right about the ‘inclusive’ nature of eschatology, as understood in the New Testament and Christian theology. There are several things worth noting here.

The first is that Jesus’ own preaching and ministry was essentially eschatological—something it is easy for us to forget, since we read the gospels in the context of the way that history unfolded, with the growth of this Jewish renewal Jesus movement into something we now call ‘the church’, and 2,000 years of history in between. But when Jesus announced ‘The time has been fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand!’ he was, in OT and Jewish terms, announcing that history was about to come to an end—at least in the minds of most of his hearers. This is about the fulfilment of all God’s promises; it is about the people of God being rescued from the hands of their enemies; it is about the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’; it involves the Spirit being poured out on all flesh; it is when the ‘one like a son of man’ comes to the throne and receives an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7); and so on. No wonder many struggled to understand Jesus’ teaching when the world appeared to continue on its course, including Jesus’ own disciples in Acts 1. Eschatology does indeed matter—as Wells says, what is important is where we are going more than where we are coming from. But we should in fact read all of Jesus’ teaching as eschatological.

In particular, Jesus appeals to eschatology when answering a question about marriage and (Levirate) further marriage in Mark 12.25, Matt 22.30 and Luke 20.36. The reality of the eschaton relativises the importance of sex and marriage, and the coming of that future into the present in Jesus’ own ministry means that this new form of relationship, where ‘family’ now refers to spiritual kinship (‘the rest of his brothers’, Rev 12.17) as well as to literal kinship. It is this that allows both Jesus and Paul to be single! Robert Song has argued that the coming of the kingdom allows for a new kind of non-procreative covenant relationship, which is the basis of his acceptance of same-sex sexual relationships. But in fact Jesus and Paul got there before him; the new kind of (literally though not metaphorically) non-procreative covenant relationship is in fact single celibacy finding fellowship in the community of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

(This also raises the interesting question as to whether we should actually read OT law as eschatology. That might sound rather odd, again because we are used to seeing law (Torah) as in the past, not only in relation to our own position chronologically, but also in relation to the New Testament—which is, after all, new. And yet in an important sense the law that God gave Israel was future in orientation—not only in the narrative sense, that it is described as though it is law given for a future occupation of the land of promise (whether you believe that is the case of whether you see this as a literary device). The law points God’s people to a way of life that is both a restoration of God’s intention in creation (hence the connections between the elements of law and the early creation narratives) but also a picture of what humanity’s future might be when all people hear the invitation to know God. That is why Wells is able to point to the Sabbath as a picture of the eschatological rest we now find in Jesus (as Hebrews 3 and 4 points out)—and in principle this could be extended to any aspect of the law. Because we, instead, see law as something in the past, we struggle to make sense of Jesus’ teaching that he fulfils the law, and Paul’s own appeal to the teaching of the law in his ethics of the kingdom.)

This then raises the question as to whether Jesus’ eschatological teaching of the kingdom was ‘inclusive’—or, rather, in what sense was it inclusive? Jesus certainly appeared to redefine the boundaries of who might be included in the kingdom, and this was not merely in social terms (those on the margins of society) but it was also certainly in religious terms—those who appeared to fail the test of religious conformity and ‘holiness’. But, alongside this, we need to note the purpose of Jesus’ boundary-breaking. Just as his proclamation of the kingdom demanded both negative and positive response (‘repent and believe’) so his table-fellowship with ‘sinners’ has the goal of inviting them to repent:

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5.30–32)

Note that Jesus is here calling ‘sinners’ the ‘spiritual sick’ to whom he comes as physician to bring healing. So Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’ was not simply a question of hanging around with undesirables, or even welcoming them, but being prepared to take the risk of being with them in order to preach the good news of the transforming power of God’s presence in his kingdom. If anything marked him out from the Pharisees, it was his belief that even these ‘sinners’ could change and be transformed. This is typified in the encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. In this encounter, Jesus simultaneously confronts the hypocrisy of the accusers, pronounces forgiveness to the woman, and affirms the possibility of change and transformation: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ (John 8.11).


We need also to note the eschatological context of Paul’s ethical teaching. When dealing with a range of issues of sexual immorality in his correspondence with the Christians in Corinth, a central part of his appeal is to our future destiny in bodily resurrection:

The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. (1 Cor 6.13–14)

The whole of chapters 5 and 6 are replete with references to eschatology and our future destiny—and (as Wells agrees) for Paul this changes the nature of how we understand our identity, which in turn shapes the way we think about how we use our bodies. This future orientation is key, and I think Wells is right that it can change the register of our discussion. Much debate about the language of 1 Cor 6.9 is focused on what it looks back to, and the way that Paul takes up phrases from Leviticus. But perhaps even more significant is the context within Paul’s looking forwards to the new creation. In Jesus, because of his resurrection, this future has now been brought into the present, and it has transformed the identity of the Christians in Corinth: ‘such were some of you. But…’ baptism into the eschatological reality of Jesus has effected a change in your identity, and as a result a change in the way you live.

The same is true in Paul’s contrasting of the way of life ‘in the flesh’, prior to baptism and incorporation into Jesus, with what characterises ‘walking in the Spirit’ and the fruitful life that it brings in Gal 5.16–26. The eschatological gift of the Spirit effects the holiness in Jesus that the law pointed to and outlined, but could not effect because of human sin. Now that our sin has been crucified with Jesus, not only have its consequences been dealt with, but its power has been broken, and the work of the Spirit in us is to form the eschatological holiness that the law anticipated—itself as a foretaste and anticipation of the life of the New Jerusalem.

This, finally, brings us to the picture of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. It is a picture that constantly mixes elements of what we might normally call ‘inclusion’ with ‘exclusion’, and (as with the whole text of Revelation) this is communicated in a careful sequence of images that sit in tension with one another.

It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates…The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl…On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21.12, 21, 25–27)

Both commentators and artists struggle to deal with this symbolism. (I could not find a picture online that accurately represented what the text actually says, hence the general picture of pearls above.) The gates are not iron gates with pearls adorning them, as in the popular imagination. Nor are they open entrances which great pearls close off; the very gateways into the city are vast pearls, with the hole in the pearl, in normal use allowing pearls to be threaded together, functioning as an ever-open gateway. These vast pearls come as a gift from God in contrast to the tawdry pearls adorning the great prostitute Babylon, whose treasures have been gained by violence and exploitation—but the contrast in size is so great it is almost comic.

On the one hand, these gates are unexpectedly ‘inclusive’; unlike human cities which are anxious about security and safety, and so close their gates at night, this city of God has no such anxiety, and welcomes all who will accept the free but costly invitation to drink from the river of life and feast at the wedding banquet of the Lamb. The ‘nations’ and the ‘kings of the earth’, whom we thought had been lost in their captivation to the power of the beast, make a surprising appearance in the city.

But on the other hand, these gates are also unexpectedly ‘exclusive’: ‘nothing impure will ever enter the city’. Most artists omit to include the angels that are stationed at each gate—stationed to check the passports of those who enter, whether their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. As the text then makes clear, to have your name written there involves having made the change from ‘what some of you were’ to the ‘But now you have been washed’ of Pauline theology—’for their good deeds go with them’ (Rev 14.13). And the list of vices that are excluded in Rev 21.8 and Rev 22.15 (excised by the lectionary) have an obvious relation to the vice lists in both Paul’s and Jesus’ teaching.


Given all these observations, it might seem odd that Sam Wells, as a skilled theologian, has missed, bypassed or dismissed all these observations. In fact, he has done this before; in his call for us to ‘rethink hell’, he offers some very odd construals of Jesus’ teaching, of the question of judgement, and of the world as part of fallen creation, which then leads to an odd construal of what Christian living and ministry is about.

I think Wells is right to draw our attention to the importance of eschatology in Christian ethics, and I think he is also right to think that this could make the discussion more productive. But more careful attention to the nature of the New Testament’s own eschatological approach to ethics means that I think he will be disappointed in the outcome.


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196 thoughts on “How ‘inclusive’ is the New Jerusalem?”

  1. Paul in 1 Cor 10.32 seems to be making three distinctions as to which class people belong to. This hardly seems inclusive language to me.

  2. God does not obliterate identity. God fulfils it.

    God helps us open up to this. To everything we are. Identity is wonderful!

    Each of us is unique, and our vocation is to find ourselves more and more in God, and to open up to that so our uniqueness gets fulfilled, as God created it to be fulfilled. And in opening up to the flow of God’s love, should we not open up to one another as well? Should we not love one another and learn that – just as God the Trinity lives in eternal community, we too are invited to live in community as well?

    With regard to backward looking and forward looking, surely it can be both? Yes, I wholeheartedly believe in our call to the eternal household of God, and the community of the Holy Trinity, but why does that negate calling out the harm that exclusion may do in the church as it is today? I don’t see it as either/or. You can’t just rub out the harmful effects of vilifying gay sexuality. You can’t just rub out Lizzie Lowe’s tragic death. You, we, the church, need to confront it – and then as you say ‘go and sin no more’. Looking ahead to our eternal citizenship does not mean we wash our hands of injustice here and now. It’s clearly not the dichotomy that seems to be being insinuated in your article.

    Best wishes and love in Christ to you, Ian.

    • Thanks–but I don’t really see how this comment engages with anything I have said here about eschatology and inclusion.

      Have I misread the texts? If so, how? If not, how do you respond?

      • I thought you seemed to be reading the texts pretty well, Ian, but I was trying to engage on your subject of inclusion, and it seems to me that your own “eschatological approach to ethics” might be an issue, when it comes to pre-conceived views on some people who the Church is reluctant to adequately include. Implicit in your article (correct me if I’m wrong) is the pre-conceived view that gay sexuality (to take the obvious issue) constitutes grounds for ultimate exclusion from God’s household. That is a problem, and however much you lead in with approval for Sam’s focus on eschatology, you conclude by critiquing Sam’s more inclusive ethical views in this area. (For example, I rather doubt you would have been invited to be lead speaker at Inclusive Church’s AGM.)

        Whether inclusion is championed in a retrospective way (reviewing all the harm exclusion does) or in a forward-looking way – or, I would argue, both – if your ethical pre-conceptions vilify gay sexuality, that immediately colours what you say here about inclusion.

        You earn my respect for fidelity and good intent. But from the experience point of those who are excluded, it seems like same old same old.

        • Implicit in your article (correct me if I’m wrong) is the pre-conceived view that gay sexuality (to take the obvious issue) constitutes grounds for ultimate exclusion from God’s household

          I think previous articles have made clear that the author does not think that ‘gay sexuality’ is even a concept which exists in Biblical understanding, so clearly if it doesn’t exist it couldn’t be grounds for inclusion, exclusion, or anything else.

          But specifically with regards to this article I think you have misread it; indeed, you seem to have got it backwards. The question is asks is: ‘if we approach the text without any preconceptions (ie, without preconceptions about who should be excluded or who should be excluded) then what conclusions do we reach?’

          The article is (if I have read it correctly) suggesting that the conclusions reached when starting from no preconcpetions at all might not be those which would be wished by those who would like to start with preconceptions about what sorts of things will be included (into which category the Reverend Doctor may fall).

          • Fair point actually. Thank you.

            In one sense ALL our preconceptions only find fulfilment, vindication, fruition, adaptation, or repudiation, as we open up to the eternal perfection of the risen Christ.

            Much about God is buried deep in mystery, and so much of God and God’s grace is hidden from our sight. And yet, the eternal reality is always there, and indeed the eternal reality of ourselves, who we are, who we become, and how we are loved.

            Maybe this is what Geoff means by living our lives backwards from our position in Christ.

        • Yes, I think S above has confirmed my point for me.

          ‘you conclude by critiquing Sam’s more inclusive ethical views in this area’. No, I conclude by seeing what the texts say, and noting not only that they don’t really confirm his conclusion—and indeed that he does not appear to have taken these texts into proper account at all, which is odd considering his argument.

    • Your comment seems very sure about ‘God’ and God’s nature. But (1) I thought that of all topics God is not the easiest one simply to pronounce on, to put it mildly; (2) I thought liberals were supposed to be less sure about such things not more; (3) if the God in question bears any relation to the God of the Bible then given your previous comments I thought we were meant to sit light to what the Bible says.

      • Christopher, you label me a ‘liberal’, and as someone who is socially progressive in some things, that may be true in specific case by case issues.

        However, I am deeply conservative in certain central ways, at the core of my Christian faith and spirituality.

        Therefore, although I apply scrutiny and conscience to my reading of the Bible texts, I do indeed have strong conviction and trust in the nature of God.

        This does not mean I fully understand God, but by grace I am given sufficient grounds to *trust* in God – in God’s care, God’s fidelity, God’s givenness, God’s presence, God’s knowledge of us, God’s power to help us open up to love and grace.

  3. This has a marvellous and necessary wide sweep of the whole canon of scripture and Biblical theology to it.
    There are some observations I’d offer which corroborate what you’ve set out.
    1 The end can not be separated from the beginning, or does the end hang untethered from the beginning, as far as God is concerned. It is remarkable how those who would look to set aside the beginning would look to enjoin the end (as they see it) in their present day theological end times construct on sexuality/gender presuppositions or lens.
    2 Scripture encompasses time and space from eternity to eternity – as is our Triune God.
    3 Scripture, even as it is grounded in time and space, “looks both ways at the same time” to the past and future. We live our lives, as Christians, backwards as it were, from our position in Christ, where he is now.
    4 Identity: You have identified a new identity “in Christ” as key. “obliterating other subordinate identities”. This encapsulates, inauguration of the new creation, a new humanity in Christ Jesus, the Last Adam – at once looking back and forwards. It is transformative.
    4.1 Tim Keller draws out the different levels or layers of identity, such as career, birth place , wealth, poverty, sexuality etc, “dog owner, chocolate lover-Ian?) , but then drills down to emphasise, “A shallow identity is one that prevents us from truly seeing ourselves…I’m acceptable because I’m welcomed by the,… making something else god and orbiting our lives around that… things to which we give ultimate allegiance…
    4.2 God and his love in Christ has not gone deep enough into hearts it not the fundamental, foundational identity”: Timothy Keller: The Prodigal Prophet
    5 Revelation: there is an interesting harking back to Genesis, where the cherubim and a flaming sword are placed that “turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Gen 3:24
    As a matter of preference I favour the theology of David Well over Sam Wells, if the above is anything to go on.

    • Thanks for these comments.

      I did, too, wonder about the connection of angelic function—but I didn’t include it for two reasons.

      a. There does not appear to be any textual evidence for a parallel

      b. The angel with the flaming sword in Gen 3.24 is keeping *all* humanity out and *after* the fall. In Rev 21–22, and angels are only keeping *some* things out, and there is a sense of the garden, with its tree of life (only one tree here) being restored, though a garden of paradise, walled within the palace of the king.

      • Thanks Ian,
        I too don’t think it is a direct parallel, but I’m basing it on the a proposition that eschatology starts in Genesis, perhaps more specifically the conjoined curse of death and promised seed of God through Adams now named wife, Eve, “mother of all living”.
        The seed, who is Christ, in whom and from whom eternal life
        new life, not death resides.

  4. I wonder if Wells is effectively arguing that it doesnt really matter how we live our lives on earth as we are citizens ‘of heaven’? But that would go against much of Jesus’ own teaching and that of Paul’s and indeed the other writers of the NT.

    ‘In Jesus, because of his resurrection, this future has now been brought into the present, and it has transformed the identity of the Christians in Corinth: ‘such were some of you. But…’ baptism into the eschatological reality of Jesus has effected a change in your identity, and as a result a change in the way you live.’

    – how does this apply, for example, to those gay Christians who have sexual relations?

    ‘But on the other hand, these gates are also unexpectedly ‘exclusive’: ‘nothing impure will ever enter the city’. Most artists omit to include the angels that are stationed at each gate—stationed to check the passports of those who enter, whether their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. As the text then makes clear, to have your name written there involves having made the change from ‘what some of you were’ to the ‘But now you have been washed’ of Pauline theology—’for their good deeds go with them’ (Rev 14.13). And the list of vices that are excluded in Rev 21.8 and Rev 22.15 (excised by the lectionary) have an obvious relation to the vice lists in both Paul’s and Jesus’ teaching.’

    – I have always thought that your name was written in the book if you were a Christian. If you sin and repent, you are forgiven. But what if you sin (in God’s eyes) and continue to sin, and indeed even claim your behaviour is ‘good’ – what then? Will you be one of those excluded?

    Peter

    • ‘I have always thought that your name was written in the book if you were a Christian. If you sin and repent, you are forgiven. But what if you sin (in God’s eyes) and continue to sin, and indeed even claim your behaviour is ‘good’ – what then? Will you be one of those excluded?’

      Can you ask me this again in about 35 or 40 years? I have attained by then the vantage point where I am able to know the answer…

      • Well that was helpful Ian lol. Are you expecting a long life? Your answer reminds me of the conversation between Spock and Bones in ST IV, following Spock’s ‘resurrection’:

        Leonard McCoy: Perhaps we could cover a little philosophical ground? Life, Death, Life. Things of that nature?
        Spock: I did not have time on Vulcan to review the philosophical disciplines.
        Leonard McCoy: Come on Spock, it’s me, McCoy! You really have gone where no man has gone before. Can’t you tell me what it felt like?
        Spock: It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.
        Leonard McCoy: You’re joking!
        Spock: A joke is a story with a humorous climax.
        Leonard McCoy: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?
        [Listening to communications earpiece]
        Spock: Forgive me, Doctor, I am receiving a number of distress calls.
        Leonard McCoy: I don’t doubt it.

        But being serious, I would have thought the NT should be able to answer this question. It is a serious question that has obvious ramifications today.

        Any serious answers would be welcome.

        Peter

    • I have always thought that your name was written in the book if you were a Christian. If you sin and repent, you are forgiven. But what if you sin (in God’s eyes) and continue to sin, and indeed even claim your behaviour is ‘good’ – what then? Will you be one of those excluded?

      Well, to your hardcore Calvinist, of course, it doesn’t matter: God picks those whose names are written in the book of life entirely regardless of their own personal merit. If God elects to save someone who sins and continues to sin, and not to save someone who sins and repents, then the unrepentant sinner is included and the repentant one excluded, and that is that.

      (Which is why no one should boast about being saved: it doesn’t mean you are a better person than the unsaved, not at all. You didn’t do anything to deserve being saved, and the damned are no more deserving of their damnation than you would be if you were in their place. It just means God picked you so you should be grateful.)

      It’s like the labourers in the story who object to those who turned up late getting their full pay. God decides who’s included and excluded, not us, and we won’t know who is in which camp until the end of the day. And we might well be surprised.

      Me, I’m more of an Arminian — I like to think we have a choice — but I can’t quite entirely dismiss the Calvinist view, much as I would like to find a flaw in it.

      • “If God elects to save someone who sins and continues to sin, and not to save someone who sins and repents, then the unrepentant sinner is included and the repentant one excluded, and that is that.

        Er, no. The P in the Calvinist acrostic, TULIP refers to the Preservation of Saints. This is not only from the ultimate penalty of sin, but we are also being saved from its power: “”He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

        When we exercise a choice for Christ, it’s because God in Christ chose us first (John 15:16; Rom. 8:29 – 43; Eph. 2:9)

        • The P in the Calvinist acrostic, TULIP refers to the Preservation of Saints. This is not only from the ultimate penalty of sin, but we are also being saved from its power: “”He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

          I thought it was perseverance, not preservation? Means pretty much the same thing anyway.

          But yes, you’re right, the idea is that the elect once regenerated will never fall away. What I meant was that people clearly get regenerated at different times in their lives. It is entirely conceivable for someone to live a life of sin, continue to sin, and claim that their behaviour is in fact good… only to then be regenerated just before their death and so end up included in the heavenly city, not excluded from it.

          Hence the story of the labourers, some of whom came early, some who came late, all of whom got the same reward, because bestowing the reward is entirely up to the giver, and not dependant on the labourers themselves.

          So that was in answer to the question, ‘But what if you sin (in God’s eyes) and continue to sin, and indeed even claim your behaviour is ‘good’ – what then? Will you be one of those excluded?’ Not if you’re a Calvinist and the person in question is one of the elect and is regenerated just before death.

          But even if you’re not a Calvinist and you believe in choice made possible by grace, there’s still always the possibility of a last-minute repentance, isn’t there?

          So I think the answer to the question has to be: ‘not necessarily; only God knows.’

          After all any other answer is getting dangerously close to salvation by works, isn’t it?

          • Mostly agreed, S.

            ”Hence the story of the labourers, some of whom came early, some who came late, all of whom got the same reward, because bestowing the reward is entirely up to the giver, and not dependant on the labourers themselves..

            To some extent. The immediate purpose of this parable was to curtail the resentment of Jews who sought to live by the demands of enforcement under the Old Covenant for His later lavishing of Gentiles with the far more generous reconciliation of the New Covenant.

            Even Jonah fell prey to this kind of resentment and had to be corrected by God (Jonah 4:11)

            The point made by the employer is that negotiating certain terms with one set of workers earlier in the ‘day’ (as Paul explained: “Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” (Rom. 10:5)) should not limit his prerogative to extend more generous terms to those who arrive later: (Rom. 10:6-9)

            In contrast, the analogy doesn’t quite work as a comparison of faithfulness and recidivism among Christians, who, according to the parable, might have only turned up for work at 3:30pm and 4:30pm respectively.

            Then, the point of the parable becomes that those who (compared to those under the morning agreement) were so generously rewarded, despite joining the workforce late, really don’t have a legitimate case against their employer for even more generously rewarding those who joined far later than they.

            They’re just envious, resenting anyone who receives more.

    • “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand’ (John 10:27-28).
      So Christ’s sheep are absolutely secure in the hand of the Good Shepherd.
      But we should note that His sheep are of a particular breed; they are distinguished by their ears and their feet. They hear the Shepherd’s voice, and they follow Him.
      If someone is not hearing the Shepherd’s voice, or if, having heard it, he is not following Him, is it not possible that it is because he is not one of His sheep?

  5. Sometimes you are really interesting. I’m not altogether clear what you’re saying with these words though and I’d be grateful for further clarification (only if you want to):

    “We live our lives, as Christians, backwards as it were, from our position in Christ, where he is now.”

  6. You note that the eschaton is both radically inclusive and yet exclusive: “And the list of vices that are excluded in Rev 21.8 and Rev 22.15 (excised by the lectionary) have an obvious relation to the vice lists in both Paul’s and Jesus’ teaching.” And those vice lists concur with the broader range of biblical teaching on sinful human behavior as well. And despite gates that remain open, “outside” is still a fact for people characterized by those vices.

      • Peter,
        This would be the start of an answer to you S, (and there is a distinction between justification and sanctification).
        Don’t know if you’ll be able to get the 5 hours of talks by Dr Ray Ortlund at this years, Keswick Convention, on Romans Chapter 8. He’s Baptist, I think. 3 of the talks can be viewed here, starting Romans 8:9-15
        https://www.clayton.tv/find/search/results/0i0/5677/?topic=&book=&author=419&keywords=Romans%208&page=1

        Hello S,
        I don’t think that this correctly reflects, the reformed position, rather a bit cartoonish Calvinism:
        “If God elects to save someone who sins and continues to sin, and not to save someone who sins and repents, then the unrepentant sinner is included and the repentant one excluded, and that is that.”
        It presupposes what repentance is and isn’t. Those who repent, turning away from sin, turning to God is evidence of being chosen before the foundation of the world. It is part of being in union with Christ.
        Helpful books I’ve found are “Christ Our Life” by Dr Mike Reeves and “The Whole Christ” by Dr Sinclair Ferguson.
        I’ve moved from a so called follower of Arminius to what is known as Calvinism, after much wrestling through self -study, as no one I knew in church wanted to discuss it (though a local New Frontiers church did accept the teaching, but not cessation of gifts). Others I know have said they accept 4 points as being scriptural (could be wrong but I think Dr RT Kendall came into that category). It became firm in my understanding of what scripture points to when I was asked to teach it to an individual in church. We spent over 18 months meeting weekly for 3 hours at a time, going through the arguments and scripture for and against. I came out of that to understand that the identified 5 points held together as the digits on one hand.
        You’ll be aware of Luther’s saying: simul justus et pecator.
        But this isn’t the place to indulge this important topic: the biggest problem to Arminians seems to be single v double predestination: sin = sickness or sin=death to put it too simply. Or mix it with Pelagianism, with no Fall. (That is not the position of the Anglican 39 Articles of Faith as you know.)
        To end this comment, God furthered his kingdom through Wesley and Whitefield, even though they were at loggerheads over this.
        It is often said that we never realise that Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have.
        The question becomes, not who are you?, but whose are you?
        This is to be enjoyed: Before the throne of God above: Kristin Getty
        https://youtu.be/LULK2nZ6sCc

        • Those who repent, turning away from sin, turning to God is evidence of being chosen before the foundation of the world.

          Right, but as I understand the Calvinist position, the repentance is caused by the salvation, not the other way around. That is, one repents because one is saved. One is not saved by repenting.

          Moreover the repenting and the saving cannot be coincident in time, because the salvation happens before the beginning of time, but people observably repent at different times: some as children, some in their early adulthood, some not until near their death.

          Imagine, say, someone who dies as a baby. Obviously they will never have had time to repent (and obviously we’re giving no house-room to any ‘age of accountability’ nonsense: babies are born as guilty as anyone). However, if they are one of the elect, then they will be saved. Presumably that means that had they lived they would have repented, as a consequence of their salvation. Which is all fine. But then move the death-date forward; they could die at age five, say. Perhaps had they lived they would have repented at forty. Again, they are still saved, but die before they repent.

          This is a problem (not an insurmountable one, but still a wrinkle) for any theology where salvation depends on repentance, but not for Calvinism where repentance depends on salvation. But it establishes the principle that for a Calvinist, someone can be saved, yet die before repenting (or at the very least shortly after, possibly a split-second after, repenting).

          Which is the point I was making above.

          But this isn’t the place to indulge this important topic: the biggest problem to Arminians seems to be single v double predestination: sin = sickness or sin=death to put it too simply.

          It’s a tangent sure but it interesting, perhaps our host will indulge us. I’m not sure about what you mean by ‘sin = sickness or sin=death’ but certainly for this Arminian the issue isn’t single vs double predestination; indeed I regard the difference to be illusory, mere sophistry. As far as I am concerned there is no single or double predestination; there is only predestination, or not. Any predestination implies total predestination.

          For me the issue is entirely the resistability of Grace. Does God offer us a choice, or does God save those He wishes to save whether they want to be saved or not? (saying ‘God changes their nature so that they are oriented towards Him and want to be saved’ is a cop-out: ‘reprogramming’ someone so they want X is effectively imposing X on them without giving them a choice).

          Assuming we agree that salvation is limited, then it must either be limited in intent, or limited in efficacy; it must either be intended for only a few, or it must be intended for all but then some must be able to refuse it.

          It seems to me that is the crux of the matter, not single or double predestination which, as I say, I regard as not a real distinction.

          Or mix it with Pelagianism, with no Fall. (That is not the position of the Anglican 39 Articles of Faith as you know.)

          I don’t, I’m afraid; not being an Anglican I have not studied all 39 articles. However I am aware the resistable grace is open to the charge of being semi-Pelagianism (but not full Pelagianism, as grace is still required to even allow fallen human nature to have the option of choosing to embrace the offered salvation).

          • God’s grace always comes first, and is known by God in all eternity, but I don’t think that precludes it operating in interaction with our own free will and conscience. Yet God who knows us, knows what the outcome will be.

            As I said earlier, I don’t believe God obliterates identity. God makes us with powers of conscience and self-determination, so that we may choose to respond and open up to grace, and find our fulfilment and calling in God.

            It is still free-will in action, if God chooses to make interaction the modus operandi, out of care for our identity – in each case, a unique identity which God has created us with.

            As to who is saved, that is entirely up to God. Christians know how desirable it is that we repent when that opportunity arises. There are interaction points in our lives, when we make choices from within who we are, in response to God. Some of these choices may be conscious. Some may be subconscious.

            But grace and free will collaborate. In a loving relationship, we have to have the capacity to give to one another. I believe God has made us with that in mind.

          • God makes us with powers of conscience and self-determination, so that we may choose to respond and open up to grace, and find our fulfilment and calling in God.
            […]
            As to who is saved, that is entirely up to God.

            These two statements are mutually exclusive (that means that they cannot both be true).

            If we have power to choose whether or not to accept grace, then who is saved cannot be entirely up to God. God might wish to save someone but that person might reject His grace.

            On the other hand if who is saved is entirely up to God then we cannot possibly have the power to choose how we react to grace, because it is entirely up to God whether we accept or not.

            Your position appears to be logically untenable and you must pick one or the other. Both simply cannot be true at the same time.

          • Two lines that appear separate and parallel as far as the eye can see, may converge somewhere far beyond the horizon.

            That’s what I think of your black or white, either or, view of salvation.

            We simply don’t know who’ll be saved, and whether that results from our choice and decision in the here and now, or the beckoning grace of God in eternity (or, as I believe, both).

            What I believe is that salvation involves a two way interaction and relationship, and a decision of both parties to give themselves to one another in love, out of free choice. The bestowing of salvation is entirely God’s… we are dependent on God… but I believe salvation is contingent on each party making a choice to give themselves to one another. That is the basis of a relationship of love.

            Anything less is puppetry.

          • Two lines that appear separate and parallel as far as the eye can see, may converge somewhere far beyond the horizon.

            Only if they are not actually parallel. If they are actually parallel then they will never meet.

            In this case the two ideas ‘who is saved is entirely up to God’ and ‘we may choose whether to respond to grace’ don’t merely appear to be mutually inconsistent, they actually are. They cannot both be true.

            What I believe is that salvation involves a two way interaction and relationship, and a decision of both parties to give themselves to one another in love, out of free choice. The bestowing of salvation is entirely God’s… we are dependent on God… but I believe salvation is contingent on each party making a choice to give themselves to one another. That is the basis of a relationship of love.

            In which case you don’t believe that who is saved is entirely up to God, do you?

            If ‘salvation is contingent on each party making a choice’, then it can’t be entirely up to God who is saved, can it? God can offer grace but if those to whom it is offered can reject it, then it’s not entirely up to God who gets saved, it’s only partially up to God, and it’s partially up to the choice of those to whom grace is offered, isn’t it?

            God might want to save me, but if I am able to reject that salvation (ie, if I have a choice), then it’s not entirely up to God whether I get saved, is it?

          • I suspect when AI crosses the singularity, beyond the horizons of our human understanding, we’ll be presented with plenty of paradox.

            In some ways I think it is the same with theology.

            Ultimately, the heart of relationship is not knowledge, but trust. Living in a world filled with pain, made by a God whose love we choose to open up to, we are confronted with a whole lot of paradox, and in the end we have to fall back on givenness in trust.

            “Who is saved is entirely up to God” but God may choose to let us choose as well in response… to make the whole thing (the relationship) contingent on interaction, and exchange of love. God chooses us and we choose God.

            The ensuing salvation is bestowed by God, because only God has the power to bestow it. We are recipients, but our whole relationship is based on mutual choice and givenness, a bit like if I marry a rich man and he pays for the house.

          • The interaction is the key. Not who makes the choice first. In eternity it all kicks off in the interaction itself.

            I do appreciate that in providing you with two contradictory statements I am presenting you with paradox.

            Our faith hovers, if we are honest, between certainty and doubt. But that is exactly why trust is the key, and givenness is the key, and love is the key.

            Yes it may present as paradox, but two choices converging on each other may both be true and the interaction at the point of convergence is love on a platform of trust.

            This is the contemplative experience.

            God is entirely in control, but does not obliterate our autonomy. Rather, salvation – bestowed by God – comes through the convergence and the interaction.

            Salvation is a relationship of two-way trust and givenness.

            I’m sorry if I am being difficult.

          • I suspect when AI crosses the singularity, beyond the horizons of our human understanding, we’ll be presented with plenty of paradox.

            Well (a) that’s not going to happen and people who think it is don’t understand how computers work, but more to the point (b) no we won’t be presented with paradoxes, because the rules of logic won’t change.

            Ultimately, the heart of relationship is not knowledge, but trust. Living in a world filled with pain, made by a God whose love we choose to open up to, we are confronted with a whole lot of paradox, and in the end we have to fall back on givenness in trust.

            No, we don’t. Because we are rational beings who can understand logic. We do not have to ‘trust’ that the angles of a triangle on a plane add up to a straight line. That is a necessary fact about logic. No trust necessary.

            “Who is saved is entirely up to God” but God may choose to let us choose as well in response…

            And if God chooses to let us choose, then it’s not entirely up to God who gets saved, is it? God has, i that case, chosen to give up control over who gets saved, hasn’t He? So it’s no longer entirely up to Him, is it?

            The ensuing salvation is bestowed by God, because only God has the power to bestow it. We are recipients, but our whole relationship is based on mutual choice and givenness, a bit like if I marry a rich man and he pays for the house.

            Did you have choice of whether or not to marry the rich man? If you did, then whether you live in the house isn’t entirely up to him, is it? It’s partly up to you.

          • I do appreciate that in providing you with two contradictory statements I am presenting you with paradox.

            You’re not ‘presenting [me] with paradox’, you’re simply talking nonsense.

            Yes it may present as paradox, but two choices converging on each other may both be true and the interaction at the point of convergence is love on a platform of trust.

            It cannot be true both that who is saved is entirely up to God, and that we can choose whether or not we are saved. That’s not a ‘paradox’. That’s simply nonsense. And as C.S. Lewis pointed out, ‘nonsense remain nonsense even when we talk it about God’ ( https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/28243-his-omnipotence-means-power-to-do-all-that-is-intrinsically ).

            This is the contemplative experience.

            You’re not selling it.

            God is entirely in control, but does not obliterate our autonomy.

            Yes it does. And if we have autonomy, then God isn’t entirely in control.

            To say otherwise is like saying you can have a flat triangle with angles that add up to 120 degrees.

            I’m sorry if I am being difficult.

            Not difficult. Just talking nonsense.

          • Hello S,
            Not sure whether or where this might be posted in the cascade of comments, always dependent on Ian’s forebearance and grace, even if he is of a contrary persuasion, which I know not. In reality, it is far too long and outside the burden of Ian’s article.

            Please don’t see this as patronising, nor as a hand-off. After a stroke my brain battery never seems to fill, and drains rapidly. The notes I made after delving into this were hand written, drawing together a number of sources, from systematic theology and biblical theology. Many have struggled to merge both streams.
            The questions you ask are the ones I wrestled with while I looked to discern the “whole Counsel of God” as best I could from reliable guides. From the contributions of your comments, you appreciate brain exercises, mental gymnastics. I found that I was stretched, but not contorted out of shape, all the while meeting resistance to the teaching, either implicitly or exercised with hostility, such as the teaching is Satanic.
            The acronymTULIP, is just that, a short form, shorthand . aid memoir. Some theologians have used other acronym to express the same theology.
            Most helpful to me was look at it from an “Order of Salvation”position an order that rearranges the TULIP into TILUP. Although his name is anathema to many in the evangelical world I have John Piper to thank for the rearranged order. But is was quite easy to get drawn into what I found to be salami slicing in the details of the order in which we are saved. Piper’s case is simply put here:
            https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism
            At the time of delving into this there were a couple of main protagonists, among many, intellectual sparring. arm wrestling: Piper in one corner, Roger Olson in the other. One of the main points of their contention was the part humans have in their own salvation, hence my earlier point: is sin a sickness or are we dead in our trespasses and sin. If we are dead we have no part to play in our regeneration and salvation is of the LORD all all the glory and credit goes to the LORD, bringing us to our knees in grateful humility.
            A quite recent book which is highly recommended by the reformed crowd is the one I mentioned above: “THE WHOLE CHRIST: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance- Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters” Sinclair B Ferguson.
            Yes I know, I didn’t know about it either, but is grounded in and 18 Century debate in the church in the Scottish Borders. While not covering all of Calvin’s points it deals with grace, the law, sanctification, what the Gospel is, repentance and more.
            Here is a link to a semi review, not just for preachers, with quotations, which may surprise many who are set against what is seen as intellectual Calvinism. It come from a warm pastoral heart and a strong biblical and systematic theology intellect.
            https://www.monergism.com/5-takeaways-preachers-sinclair-ferguson’s-whole-christ
            The book addresses some of your questions. I found it intellectually stimulating and Spiritually satisfying.
            Here are a couple of quotations that address one of your questions about repentance: It is from a synopsis of the book

            “So, what gives a sinner warrant to believe in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation? Is it the quality or length of the sinner’s conviction, contrition, or repentance? No. The warrant for believing in Christ cannot be anything in the sinner. The warrant for faith in Christ is Christ himself—Christ alone. Paul said that while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6-8). Ferguson asks, “What conditions were met in us in order for God to send his only Son into the world to die for sinners? None” (65).

            The brooding pastoral concern behind this issue is whether “the chief focus, the dominant note of the sermons I preach (or hear) is ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’? Or is the dominant emphasis . . . focused somewhere else, perhaps on how to overcome sin, or how to live the Christian life, or on the benefits to be received from the gospel?” (50). Thus Ferguson suggests we say to sinners: “I do not offer Christ to you on the grounds that you have repented. Indeed I offer him to men and women who are dead in their trespasses and sins” (65). If you’re only willing to offer the gospel to people who have made themselves eligible for it, then you’ll be left with no one to offer it to at all.

            Another way to frame the issue is to ask the question: “how is evangelical repentance related to faith?” (100) While keeping them together, Thomas Boston still affirmed that “gospel repentance doth not go before, but comes after remission of sin, in the order of nature,” so that, as Ferguson puts it, “faith then directly grasps the mercy of God in [Christ], and as it does so the life of repentance is inaugurated as its fruit” (101).

            We should all be this clear. We do not repent in order to be forgiven. We repent because we believe in Christ, and we’re united with Christ. If repentance can precede faith, “either logically or chronologically,” then it ceases to be evangelical repentance (101) and begins to resemble Catholic penance—a work performed to merit grace. ”
            Taken from this synopsis: https://www.9marks.org/article/book-review-the-whole-christ-by-sinclair-ferguson/

          • It’s not nonsense to say that both parties can choose to love each other, even if in the end, it is up to God to accept or decline our choice, and that’s entirely at God’s discretion. But God chooses to, because it’s all part of God’s intention. Can we mess up God’s plan and autonomy? I don’t think we’re powerful enough to do that. God just knows who will choose to accept this sharing and givenness. But the crunch is in the interaction and that involves two parties, like any relationship does. God helps us in our growing towards that choice, and that opening to trust. God does everything for us, really, but we still have autonomy.

            If we can move on from our disagreement, can we at least agree that this is incredibly romantic? Well I think it is, anyway. I feel such joy and love for God, and isn’t that to be expected? And maybe God feels that way too, as we open up, as we choose.

            So can we agree on that, at least, and then maybe step back, and let inclusion be the focus again. That’s amazing too: that God chooses to include us, and share with us. God calls us to live in the eternal household, the eternal country, and above all to live in God. To exchange givenness and covenant love.

          • It’s not nonsense to say that both parties can choose to love each other, even if in the end, it is up to God to accept or decline our choice, and that’s entirely at God’s discretion.

            No, that’s no nonsense. What’s nonsense is to say that it is both true that who is saved is entirely up to God, and that we have some choice in the matter. Those two things cannot both be true. If we have any choice in the matter at all, then who is saved is not entirely up to God (because God might want to save someone who rejects the offered salvation). But if who is saved is entirely up to God then we cannot have any choice in the matter (because if God wants to save someone they cannot have any choice as to whether to accept or reject).

            Can we mess up God’s plan and autonomy? I don’t think we’re powerful enough to do that.

            So now you’re saying we don’t have any choice in whether we are saved or not. You’re contradicting yourself.

            But the crunch is in the interaction and that involves two parties, like any relationship does. God helps us in our growing towards that choice, and that opening to trust. God does everything for us, really, but we still have autonomy.

            If there are two parties and they have to agree for something to happen, then neither is entirely in control. So now you’re saying God isn’t in control and we do have a choice. You’re contradicting yourself again!

            If we can move on from our disagreement, can we at least agree that this is incredibly romantic?

            No, we can’t. Contradicting yourself isn’t romantic, it’s just nonsense. It makes no sense. It’s like saying God is both good and evil, or that God is both alive and dead, or that God is both a triangle and a square. It’s not even wrong, it’s meaningless.

            So can we agree on that

            No.

          • Okay, then we disagree. I have to end this conversation here (and thank you) because we’re way off the track of the central topic. I think we can choose God. And I think God can choose us, and does. Like any other dignified relationship. Only God alone, being God, can choose to offer salvation to us. God knows the outcome before it begins, and that we live in God’s household forever. And yet, the loveliness for God is that we choose to. We learn to trust, we open to love, we experience grace in all kinds of ways, and respond. God’s grace always comes first in our interactions, and yet we still have autonomy and choose to love God back.

            That must be a very sweet thing for God.

          • Okay, then we disagree. I have to end this conversation here (and thank you) because we’re way off the track of the central topic.

            That’s never stopped you before.

            I think we can choose God. And I think God can choose us, and does. Like any other dignified relationship. Only God alone, being God, can choose to offer salvation to us. […] God’s grace always comes first in our interactions, and yet we still have autonomy and choose to love God back.

            So you’re saying here that God is not entirely in control of who gets saved: that God alone offers salvation and that we can choose whether to accept or reject that salvation.

            Which all makes perfect sense. But it totally contradicts what you wrote above, where you said that God was entirely in control of who gets saved! Can you not see that? If we have autonomy can choose whether to accept or reject God, as you write here, then God can’t be entirely in control.

          • The questions you ask are the ones I wrestled with while I looked to discern the “whole Counsel of God” as best I could from reliable guides.

            That’s a lot of reading and I’m afraid you’ll have to give me a chance to get time to go through it. But I will, because as I say, I have never been able to find a really good argument against Calvinism.

            The main issue is that I really want to leave room for human free will in the ultimate choice, and I can’t see that Calvinism, with its insistence on irresistible grace, allows that room.

            One of the main points of their contention was the part humans have in their own salvation, hence my earlier point: is sin a sickness or are we dead in our trespasses and sin. If we are dead we have no part to play in our regeneration and salvation is of the LORD all all the glory and credit goes to the LORD, bringing us to our knees in grateful humility.

            I certainly agree that we are dead in our sin; it’s not merely a sickness which we can fight off ourselves. We need God’s grace to enable us to repent.

            But even if we are dead, and the Lord’s grace quickens us — could we not then still refuse that grace, flee from God and (by our own choice) return to that dead state, something à la The Great Divorce? A sort of spiritual suicide?

            I will read those references, thank you.

  7. After wading through that theological quicksand, I discovered that the interminable harangue was the abridged version: thank heaven for small mercies, I guess!

    Who’s this aimed at? It appears to be liberals, but offers no advice on strategy, let alone how to address conservative objections. Whatever the merits of this eschatology-fixation, we actually need to achieve policy change to see them. How does this change in focus help us do that?

    We need incisive strategy delivered in fiery rhetoric that guides and inspires, only for our supposed leaders to serve up donnish meandering. No wonder the inclusive cause is so directionless.

    • Just to add, for the avoidance of any doubt, that grouchiness was aimed at Wells’ apocalyptic musings, not Ian’s forensic dissection of them, which I enjoyed far more. 🙂

    • James, everyone is looking for that silver bullet which decides the issue once and for all. Fiery rhetoric can be an effective persuader but, for those who genuinely seek the truth (and surely all Christians should fall into that camp), it must necessarily be critiqued with open Bibles and calm objectivity. We’d probably both agree that Ian does pretty well at that kind of thing!

      But, from only reading Ian’s piece here, it does seem as if Sam Wells hits on the crux of the matter when approaching the issue of inclussivity: can we use our understanding of how things will finally be to tell us how we can behave now in this journey between our fallen creation and heaven? While he appears to be thinking ‘perhaps we can’, others of us would say ‘unfortunately we can’t, and there’s a whole Bible of revelation and reasoning to tell us why’.

      • Interesting musing in the abstract, but Ian identifies the problems that arise soon as it’s confronted with the relevant particular: Revelation clearly lists sexual immorality among the sins that exclude, and we know that the 1st century authors would understand that category to encompass homosexuality.

        So, it won’t persuade any conservatives.

        As for liberals, I suspect that most reject traditional Christian eschatology wholesale, so what does it offer them besides a scriptural curio?

        We will never, ever agree on this, ’cause we come from such radically different theologies. That being so, why waste time conjuring up ever more ingenious approaches with no practical use? Instead, we’ve gotta find a way to manage the disagreement. Converting either side is a pipe-dream.

        • Totally agree with this comment. There is no uniformity, so unity needs to be found (if at all) beyond the impasse of the sexuality debates. Our deeper unity is found in Jesus Christ, and I believe that we need grace to acknowledge different opinions on some things, and respect the conscience and good intent of one another, and pray for each other’s flourishing in all the aspects of Christian ministry that are not to do with the sexuality debate: you know, stuff like poverty, the sick, the abandoned, the bereaved, the lonely, not to mentioned our shared longing and desire to open to the love of God.

          You’d think it was simple maturity really. Especially, you know, given that LOVE is the great commandment.

          • Totally agree with this comment. There is no uniformity, so unity needs to be found (if at all) beyond the impasse of the sexuality debates. Our deeper unity is found in Jesus Christ,

            Sigh. I realise our host’s patience is wearing thin, but just one more time.

            The problem is not sexuality. The problem is that the two sides have different views on the Bible, and therefore inevitably different views on Jesus Christ.

            You can’t say ‘our unity is in Jesus Christ’ when the two sides mean totally different things by ‘Jesus Christ’.

            That’s not a real unity at all: it’s a lying unity, a hypocritical unity. You’ve heard of the term ‘constructive ambiguity’, right? When you try to resolve a disagreement by coming up with some fudged language, some ambiguous form of words that both sides can sign up to even though they mean totally different things and still disagree at a fundamental level?

            That’s what you’re trying to do here. You’re asking people to sign up to a lie, to pretend they agree when really they don’t, at all.

          • “The problem is not sexuality. The problem is that the two sides have different views on the Bible…”

            I think I agree with S here. Which presumably is why S is not a member of the C of E. The Church of England does not teach inerrancy or infallibility of scripture. Those views expressed on here that tend towards a fundamentalist approach to the bible are not views that are held by the vast majority of those in the church. They are a long way from it.
            But the C of E has always been broad and allowed a lot of latitude. I am sure it will continue to do so.

  8. This quote concerns me:
    “[I]n pointing to the need to include minority identities, they collude with the false distinction between the divergent and the normal, and with the noblesse oblige argument that the privileged and normal should do the decent thing and allow the divergent and strange a place at the table.”
    I find these words disturbing – it is hard enough knowing you are different (in my case an HSP Highly Sensitive Person/empath) without being called divergent and strange.
    Plus the grouping all minorities together as if somehow there is a core group who are normal and privileged. I assume that group is white, middle class, extrovert, straight male?

    I know that my identity is in Christ and my citizenship is in heaven but that doesn’t negate the fact that I struggle to fit in the Body of Christ here on earth. You cannot reduce these arguments to mere rationality and logic as if the heightened emotions those of us who are ‘different’ feel don’t matter. It is not either/or between hearing personal stories and theological argument. Both matter but we all read this with our personal bias whether we feel/believe that we are part of a minority or are normal.

    • Hi Jo, I don’t think I quite understand your concern.

      You are quoting from Sam Wells’ address to Inclusive Church. Are you suggesting that this group is white, middle class, extrovert and straight male…?

    • ” It is not either/or between hearing personal stories and theological argument. Both matter…”

      So true.

      Because personal stories may influence and extend theological argument beyond the understanding people had before. And because personal stories are authentic, whether they neatly fit preconceived theology or not. Sometimes the theology or language may need to change. Personal stories can help us to *feel* our way forward theologically.

      People often don’t listen enough. Too often they just try to squeeze things into their own concept of normality. The theology and dogma can make people rigid, and then there’s a risk that anyone “not like us” is classified as abnormal, divergent, or (in some cases) delinquent. They can become inconvenient truths or ‘problems’.

      Feelings are hugely important. At the heart of relationship, feelings motivate, and trust grows deep through love. Talk about God cannot be reduced to mere logic and theological structure. It must be difficult being hyper-sensitive (I have no idea) but we are each unique and there is precious gift in the capacity to feel and exchange love.

      • The importance of emotion in faith is why I’ve long ago learned to shrug my shoulders and say, “Whatever gets us through the night.”

        With one crucial caveat: we must find a way to enact mutual toleration, then we can both be free to follow our own paths.

        • The importance of emotion in faith is why I’ve long ago learned to shrug my shoulders and say, “Whatever gets us through the night.”

          But but but… what if what ‘gets you through the night’ is a comforting lie?

          Surely it’s more important to face the truth, hard as it may be, than to get through the night?

          • Absolutely, but since there’s no objective way of measuring theological truth, to avoid much bitter strife we must ultimately agree to live and let live.

          • Absolutely, but since there’s no objective way of measuring theological truth, to avoid much bitter strife we must ultimately agree to live and let live.

            There are some objective principles, though. For example, something that is logically impossible cannot be true. So we shouldn’t ‘live and let live’ with someone who believes the logically impossible beause they must be mistaken.

          • But of course theological truth and logical possibility/impossibility are by no means the same thing.
            S – your ‘theological truth’ about this issue is not a logical one – it is simply your belief and your interpretation of the bible. So it is subjective.

          • But of course theological truth and logical possibility/impossibility are by no means the same thing.

            They’re not the same thing, no, but anything that is logically impossible cannot be theologically true, so checking for logical possibility is a good first step.

            If it is logically possible then it could still be theologically false, so it’s not the whole story, but at least you’ve ruled out a whole swathe of things that cannot be theologically true at the outset.

            Basically ‘things that are theologically true’ is a strict subset of ‘things that are logically possible’.

          • It’s logically possible that Paul could be:
            a: mistaken
            b: limited by his time
            c: limited by his culture
            d: might write something quite different in a letter 2000 years later

            UNLESS you ascribe to the view that the bible can’t ever be any of the above – which is a subjective theological truth which can’t be measured for objectivity, as James observes.

          • It’s logically possible that Paul could be:
            a: mistaken
            b: limited by his time
            c: limited by his culture
            d: might write something quite different in a letter 2000 years later

            Yes, those are all logically possible. I have ever said they aren’t. Not everythign that is logically possible is actually true, of course, and I don’t think they are true, but they are certainly logically possible.

            What is not logically possible is that we both have free will, and who is saved is entirely up to God. Those two things cannot both be true (though they could both be false).

            UNLESS you ascribe to the view that the bible can’t ever be any of the above – which is a subjective theological truth which can’t be measured for objectivity, as James observes.

            It’s not a ‘subjective truth’ — there’s no such thing. It’s an objective statement which may be true or false, just like ‘Paris is the capital of Germany’ is an objective statement which is either true or false.

            There’s no such thing as a ‘subjective truth’. If something is true it is true for everyone, so it’s objective, not subjective. If something is false it’s false for everyone, so again, objective, not subjective.

          • OK – it is a theological truth which can’t be measured (James’ phrase) for objectivity. Let’s not use the phrase subjective truth.

          • it is a theological truth which can’t be measured (James’ phrase) for objectivity

            Which puts it in the same class as claims like ‘Julius Caesar was Emperor of Rome’ and ‘Abraham Lincoln was shot at the theatre’ and ‘the moon landings were faked’ (not to mention ‘yesterday I had a cheese sandwich for lunch’), which are all also claims to truth which cannot be measured for objectivity.

          • Quite different classes of things. One is about what God thinks about something. The others you mention are statements of fact.
            We can’t know the mind of God. (Though ‘S’ I respect the fact that you think you do….)
            But if you knew the mind of God, then you’d be like God….and wait…wasn’t that a problem in the garden of Eden?

          • Quite different classes of things. One is about what God thinks about something. The others you mention are statements of fact.

            What God thinks of something is a fact, isn’t it? Indeed ‘what God thinks of something’ is, if possible, even more of a fact than the others, which are merely historical happenstances. Whereas what God thinks of something is an eternal truth.

          • “What God thinks of something is a fact, isn’t it?”
            Well that begs all kinds of assumptions. Does God have a mind? Does God think?
            We can’t know those things.

            And even if God did ‘think’ in that way, we still wouldn’t know what God thought, so it’s not measurable in the same way the other things are.
            So we are left with James’s original observation: “since there’s no objective way of measuring theological truth, to avoid much bitter strife we must ultimately agree to live and let live”.
            (Or at least agree to differ about whether we can know the mind of God – whatever that statement might mean) .

          • “What God thinks of something is a fact, isn’t it?”
            Well that begs all kinds of assumptions. Does God have a mind? Does God think?

            Whether God has a mind is a fact, isn’t it? Whether God thinks or not is a fact, isn’t it?

            And even if God did ‘think’ in that way, we still wouldn’t know what God thought, so it’s not measurable in the same way the other things are.

            That’s mere epistemology.

            So we are left with James’s original observation: “since there’s no objective way of measuring theological truth, to avoid much bitter strife we must ultimately agree to live and let live”.

            And again I reply: there are objective ways of narrowing down what theological claims might be true. For example, we know that anything which is logically impossible cannot be a theological truth, don’t we?

            So if both sides beleive things which are logically possible, then indeed, there may be no way to tell which of them is correct and they have to live and let live. But if one side believes something which is logically impossible, then they should not ‘live and let live’ because that side is definitely wrong and that must be pointed out.

          • “Whether God has a mind is a fact, isn’t it? Whether God thinks or not is a fact, isn’t it?”
            I don’t know. No one knows. It’s mere anthropomorphism. It’s like saying God has biceps because God is powerful. So your whole premise is negated.

          • “Whether God has a mind is a fact, isn’t it? Whether God thinks or not is a fact, isn’t it?”
            I don’t know. No one knows. It’s mere anthropomorphism. It’s like saying God has biceps because God is powerful. So your whole premise is negated.
            And if you think something James or I have said is logically impossible then the burden of proof is on you.

          • “Whether God has a mind is a fact, isn’t it? Whether God thinks or not is a fact, isn’t it?”
            I don’t know. No one knows.

            That’s just empistemology again. Knowledge is irrelevant to facts. No one has ever seen the centre of the earth, but what is there is a fact. No one can ever know for sure what happened in the instants after the Horrendous Space Kablooie, but what happened is still a fact. Just because no one knows something doesn’t stop it being a fact.

            It’s mere anthropomorphism. It’s like saying God has biceps because God is powerful. So your whole premise is negated.

            God either has biceps or He doesn’t. Whichever it is, is a fact. Similarly God either had a mind, or doesn’t. Whichever it is, is a fact. God either thinks, or doesn’t. Whichever it is, is a fact.

            We may be unable to know which of the two is true. But that doesn’t make them any less facts. A fact that no one knows (like, for instance, whether the light in my fridge switches off when I close the door) is still a fact.

            And if you think something James or I have said is logically impossible then the burden of proof is on you.

            Oh yes, I agree, the burden is always on the person claiming something is logically impossible to show that it is so, as I have shown that it is logically impossible for it to be true both that who is saved is entirely up to God, and that we choose whether to respond to grace.

          • If no one knows these facts then knowledge is extremely relevant. If no one knows then it can’t be proved.
            And the concepts of mind and thought might not apply to God and so the concept of fact might not apply.

            But it can of course be both theologically true and logically possible that God approves of same sex relationships.

          • If no one knows these facts then knowledge is extremely relevant. If no one knows then it can’t be proved.

            That doesn’t make it any less a fact.

            And the concepts of mind and thought might not apply to God and so the concept of fact might not apply.

            Don’t be silly, of course the concept of fact applies. How could the concept of fact not apply? A fact is simply something that is true. God is the ultimate truth, so of course the concept of fact applies: in fact (so to speak) God is the ultimate fact.

            But it can of course be both theologically true and logically possible that God approves of same sex relationships.

            It could be. It isn’t, though, unless you think the Bible is unreliable, and if you think the Bible is unreliable you really shouldn’t be a Christian.

          • I think you will find that it makes it an unproven theory without any evidence and therefore not yet a fact.

            And that you think it is not both theologically true and logically possible that God approves of same sex relationships is just your subjective opinion based on a particular view of the bible, not based on any fact.

            Which is why we agree that it actually all comes down to a difference of opinion about the bible rather than sexuality.

          • I think you will find that it makes it an unproven theory without any evidence and therefore not yet a fact.

            I think you’re deeply confused. Facts describe the world as it is, and are totallly independant of theories. For example, the general theory of relativity wasn’t thought of until the twentieth century, and evidence was gradually accumulated to prove it.

            However general reativity itself has been a fact since the beginning of time. It was as true in the twelfth century that gravity distorts space and time as it is today. It was a fact in 50AD that germs cause disease, even though nobody then knew what a ‘germ’ was.

            Which is why we agree that it actually all comes down to a difference of opinion about the bible rather than sexuality.

            Yes. And which of our opinions is correct (or if neither of them is correct) is a stone-cold fact.

          • And I’m afraid I think you are deeply confused S:
            “In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.”
            And…
            “… facts are the subset of truths that have been verified. There are an infinite number of truths waiting to be discovered and verified. When they are, they become facts. ”

            You can not yet verify anything you have said. So they are not facts.

          • And I’m afraid I think you are deeply confused S:
            “In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.”
            And…
            “… facts are the subset of truths that have been verified. There are an infinite number of truths waiting to be discovered and verified. When they are, they become facts. ”

            So are you really claiming that it wasn’t a fact in the first century that germs cause disease? That germs causing disease only became a fact in the nineteenth century?

            ‘Cause that seems to be what you are saying. Are you sure you want to go there? You’re seriously claiming that it wasn’t a fact that germs caused the Black Death, because it couldn’t be verified at the time?

            You can not yet verify anything you have said. So they are not facts.

            Copernicus couldn’t verify that the Earth orbited the sun; it took more than a century for instruments to be made, and arguments to be forme, that were sufficient to verify his idea.

            Was it not a fact, then, that the Earth orbited the sun?

            I mean I suppose you could say it wasn’t… but you’d be using a very odd and idiosyncratic definition of ‘fact’, I think you’d agree.

          • Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow. (From the National Centre for Science Education)

            Your facts about the earth, black death, disease and so on became facts once they were proven.

            Your other ‘facts’ about God, the bible, etc, are not facts as they are not proven.

            And do note that what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

          • Your facts about the earth, black death, disease and so on became facts once they were proven.

            Okay, so you’re doubling down on the claim that it wasn’t a fact in the thirteenth century that the Earth orbits the sun.

            Wow.

            Okay, not much I can reply to someone who is determined to go there.

          • Oh let’s be clear. I’m saying it became a fact once it was proven. I’m going with the definition of fact I’ve given you from the national centre for science education – you know, a definition that is scientific and so on.
            So your other ‘facts’ would be factual if you could offer some proof. Otherwise things are just as James said they are. No objective way of measuring your ideas to give them some theological basis.

          • Oh let’s be clear. I’m saying it became a fact once it was proven.

            Right. So it wasn’t a fact in before it was proven. You’re saying that it was not, in the thirteenth century, a fact that the Earth orbits the sun. That is what you’re saying.

            Maybe you don’t think that sounds silly.

            And going back a bit:

            And do note that what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

            Do you think that when that happens something that was a fact stops being a fact? Or do you think that, rather, we discover that something we had thought was a fact was, in fact, never a fact at all?

            Was it a fact in the eighteenth century that wood contained phlogiston? Did it stop being a fact later on? You seem to be saying that it was a fact and it stopped being a fact. Really?

            I mean I would say it was never a fact, it was wrongly thought to be a fact for a while, but then people realised it had in fact never been a fact.

            But you seem to want to claim that it actually was an actual fact in the eighteenth century that wood contained phlogiston. I repeat: really?

          • What I’m saying S is that you need to have some objective way of measuring your ideas to give them some theological truth. At the moment what you claim to be facts are not facts.

          • What I’m saying S is that you need to have some objective way of measuring your ideas to give them some theological truth.

            No, the truth or otherwise of an idea is independent of whether it can be measured. As I keep pointing out, it was true that the Earth orbits the sun before anyone had any instruments capable of measuring any evidence for that, wasn’t it?

            Truth doesn’t come from measurements. Truth exists first.

            At the moment what you claim to be facts are not facts.

            So far the only thing I’ve claimed to be a fact is that it’s logically impossible for it to be true that both God is entirely in control of who is saved, and that we have a choice as to whether to respond. And that is a fact.

          • Hmm..I think you have claimed it as objective fact that:
            God wrote the bible
            God thinks those who engage in same sex relationships are eternal sinners
            God will exclude those in same sex relationships from God’s kingdom

          • Hmm..I think you have claimed it as objective fact that:
            God wrote the bible

            No, I’ve claimed that it is irrational to think the Bible is unreliable and still be a Christian. And it is.

            You can be an atheist and thing the Bible is unreliable: that makes sense. I couldn’t argue with an atheist who thinks the Bible is unreliable.

            But it makes no sense to be a Christian if you think the Bible is unreliable because if the Bible is unreliable you have no good reason to think that any of the claims of Christianity are true.

            God thinks those who engage in same sex relationships are eternal sinners

            Well, they are, but then so is everybody else too. Some people are redeemed sinners, it’s true, but they’re still eternal sinners. So that one is a fact yes.

            God will exclude those in same sex relationships from God’s kingdom

            I certainly haven’t claimed that because I don’t think it’s true. As I believe I have written, I have Arminian leanings. I don’t think God excludes anyone from His kingdom. I think God offers grace to everyone, but a lot of people reject that grace because they would rather go to Hell than submit to God. They exclude themselves from God’s kingdom by that choice. God, on the other hand, doesn’t exclude anyone.

          • Hmm..S I think you claimed on a previous thread that the bible wasn’t just inspired by God but actually written by God. Maybe you have changed your mind in the last couple of weeks.

            Still, there is no objective way (as yet) of measuring theological truth.

          • Hmm..S I think you claimed on a previous thread that the bible wasn’t just inspired by God but actually written by God. Maybe you have changed your mind in the last couple of weeks.

            I think it was, yes. If you like then yes, I think that it is a fact that it was. Just like you think it is a fact that it wasn’t. Do you have any evidence for your view?

            Still, there is no objective way (as yet) of measuring theological truth.

            There are many ways. For example, we know that nothing which is logically impossible can be true. So that is an objective way of determining truth, even of theological matters.

            (Your phrasing is really weird. Firstly, the idea of ‘measuring truth’: truth is binary, it can’t be ‘measured’, like temperature. Something is either true or it’s not. It can’t be, say, 76.4 degrees true. And secondly the continued references to ‘theological truth’ as if there are different kinds of truth, which there aren’t. There is only one kind of truth, which is, well, truth. There isn’t like ‘theological truth’ and ‘biological truth’. There’s just truth: a claim is either true or false, and that applies in exactly the same way to theological claims like ‘God is a gas’ as to biological claims like ‘Cats are invertebrates’. Is this weird phrasing deliberate?)

          • S: I’m sorry but I think both the content and style of our exchanges make it impossible to hear each other. So unless it can be done differently I fear there is no point in continuing.

            Your last exchange has rather proved my point. The only type of truth and facts are those that can be repeatedly proved in the way the definition from the national centre for science education that I gave just up the thread indicates. The authorship by God of the bible can be neither proved nor disproved so can never be in the realm of ‘fact’. It just doesn’t compute. It is the realm of theological belief. You believe one thing. I believe another. This side of the grave neither of us will find proof. And what happens the other side of the grave is a profound mystery.

            I respect that you see things differently. I disagree that therefore I am not a Christian. Fortunately you don’t get to decide that.

            The only solution, as James has observed, is to live and let live.

            I wish you well. But I find it fruitless engaging with you I’m afraid and unless we – you and I together – can change that, it will never change.

          • Your last exchange has rather proved my point. The only type of truth and facts are those that can be repeatedly proved in the way the definition from the national centre for science education that I gave just up the thread indicates.

            You are confusing episemology and ontology. The domain of what is true and the domain of what can be known or proved are totally separate.

            Do you really not recognise that there are things which we cannot prove to be true but which nevertheless are true? For example, in the twelfth century people couldn’t prove that the Earth orbited the sun — they didn’t have sufficiently good equipment. And yet it was still just as true then as now, wasn’t it?

            Similary, there are things which are true now which we do not have the capacity to prove but which, as our instruments improve, we may be able to find evidence for that was previously hidden. But those truths are still true now, aren’t they, even though we can’t prove them? They are truths that are waiting out there to discover them. They don’t spring into existence, or become true, once we are able to detect them. The universe isn’t like a Warner Brothers cartoon, with an artist frantically painting in truths just ahead of what we can see. the truths, the facts, are true now, even if we won’t be able to detect them for a hundred years, five hundred.

            Even if we will never be able to prove them. A true fact is true even if we can never know it for sure. That is what truth means.

            The authorship by God of the bible can be neither proved nor disproved so can never be in the realm of ‘fact’.

            No, whether it can be proved or disproved is a statement about epistemology: what can be known. Whether or not it is a fact is a statement about ontology: what is. As above, they are totally separate domains. There are things that are true (or false) that we cannot know to be true (or false); they remain true (or false) nevertheless.

            I respect that you see things differently. I disagree that therefore I am not a Christian. Fortunately you don’t get to decide that.

            Why are you a Christian, though? How do you justify being a Christian to yourself, given you have — so far as I can see — no reason to think that any of it is actually true?

          • S: do take up your concerns, such as they are, with the National Centre for Science Education. I find that I prefer their definitions of truth and fact to yours.

          • S: do take up your concerns, such as they are, with the National Centre for Science Education.

            I don’t think I will, because it’s not my nation. What nonsense foreigners talk is up to them.

            I find that I prefer their definitions of truth and fact to yours

            Even though by their definition it wasn’t a fact that the Earth orbited the sun in the tenth century?

          • S: I was once a Platonist – in my later teens and early 20s. I found that I got over it……

            As to the earth and sun: hindsight is generally a wonderful thing isn’t it?

          • I was once a Platonist – in my later teens and early 20s. I found that I got over it……

            I’ve never been a Platonist.

            As to the earth and sun: hindsight is generally a wonderful thing isn’t it?

            I don’t understand, can you explain what you’re trying to mean by this?

          • Well you exhibit a lot of Platonist thinking.
            I will happily explain face to face. But for here and now, I think this discussion has gone quite far enough. (See my comment of 8.13am)

            Vive la difference!

          • Well you exhibit a lot of Platonist thinking.

            Do I? What thinking have I exhibited that’s distinctively Platonist? I’m pretty sure on most contested questions I don’t side with Plato. With regards to form and matter I’m firmly on the Aristotelean side rather than Plato’s, for example.

  9. Thank you so much for tackling this article. It is exactly what I had hoped for – a careful analysis of the theology. However, I’d be glad to know your thoughts on his statement that the Christian life is about the future, not the past. It’s a seductive thought, but how truthful is it? Surely the past contributes to and feeds into the future, both theologically and personally? If that’s so, then how, given the change of identity that Christ offers?

    • I think, in broad terms, I would agree, in that the Christian faith is about living the resurrection life (which strictly belongs in the future) now in the present. We are living in the overlap of the ages (see my Grove booklet on eschatology).

      As some have commented on social media, you actually cannot disconnect the past from the future quite so easily, since what is new is in fact new *creation*. So there is continuity with the past as well as discontinuity.

      I think I have found it helpful to reflect on the way that Paul’s ethical argument actually looks back as well as forwards. There is no doubt that he is reaching for the language of Leviticus in 1 Cor 6.9—but he is doing so in the context of the transformation that comes through encountering the eschatological kingdom *now*, knowing that that decisive transformation will be completed in The End when Jesus returns (compare Phil 1.6).

      • I think Ian is absolutely right to posit the Christian life lived in creative polarity looking backward and forward, to creation & consummation. I think Sam Wells may legitimately focus on the consummation, and inclusion is certainly an eschatological motif. However, so is ‘exclusion’ and Wells choses to ignore crucial ‘future’ texts that make it very clear that God excludes several categories of persons – including the sexually immoral. How does Sam Wells think it acceptable to emphasis embrace in one part of the Revelation of John whilst dismissing exclusion in the other? The question of course is: who are the sexually immoral excluded from the future life? The answer, as Ian rightly shows, is predicated on a backward look to creation.

        • That was one of the points of my question above. In today’s western societies, a significant number of people who claim to be Christian are endorsing, for example, same sex sexual relations, either by arguing the church’s understanding of Scripture over the last 2000 years has simply been wrong or that it doesnt apply today. Will they be excluded?

          Sadly it seems Wells like many others ignores those texts he doesnt personally like or agree with.

        • “who are the sexually immoral excluded from the future life?”

          Those who are unfaithful? Those who have lustful thoughts about beautiful women? (That’s most men and if we’re brutally honest.)

          But really, isn’t it up to God to make the judgments on these issues?

          What different societies regard as sexual immorality varies, but covenant fidelity to your partner seems to be the purest context within which to express intimate love.

          So I think that’s the best. What falls short of the best may just be fallibility (like the guy who self-pleasures from time to time) and personally I would cut him some slack, but fortunately it’s not up to me to judge people, unless they are abusing their partner, or having sex with a child, in which case society expects criminal intervention.

          As to exclusion from future life, that’s not our call, that’s God’s.

          What we here on earth have more difficulty doing is ‘including’ so I think Sam Wells is absolutely right to prioritise that. That includes recognising sacred covenant in gay relationship.

          Judgment belongs to God, not some Christian morality police.

          God still calls us to open our hearts to love, and the invitation is ‘Come to Me.’

          • ‘Judgment belongs to God, not some Christian morality police.’

            Sure it does, as I say above. But those who are ordained have take a solemn vow to warn people of sin and call them to repentance. As the ordinal says:

            ‘They are to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord; they are to teach and to admonish, to feed and provide for his family, to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations, and to guide them through its confusions, that they may be saved through Christ for ever. Formed by the word, they are to call their hearers to repentance and to declare in Christ’s name the absolution and forgiveness of their sins.’

            If scripture warns of the dangers of sin, church leaders are failing in their role if they do not do the same.

          • Susannah ‘ Judgment belongs to God’
            Indeed, and God has told us who he judges, how he judges and on what basis. The Revelation exclusion texts reveal something of this judgment.

            Susannah – ‘The invitation is come to me’ – yes it is, and how do we come? We repent of the sin that separates us from him. And he, not we, determine what that sin is. And he has told us, in his Word.

            Susannah ‘That includes recognising sacred covenant in gay relationship’
            Where exactly does God sanctifies and makes Holy such?

          • Different ways of interpreting and understanding the Bible, and its relationship to other forms of revelation, will lead people to divergent views on what is sinful or unholy.

            This we know very well through observation in the Church of England today. We’ve gone over this again and again.

            It is insufficient to assume that there will be a uniformity among priests on how they should moralise. Some priests celebrate gay sexuality, seeing in this intimacy the expression of covenant, care, love, fidelity etc. Other priests vilify it.

            This is simply how things are in the C of E. No uniformity. So we can only seek our unity by opening more to the love of God. God will judge what was right and wrong. As a Church we clearly disagree, even in fidelity and conscientious love of God.

            But there is far more that we can agree on: because the imperatives of love are greater than our differences. Those differences are not insuperable with grace.

          • “If scripture warns of the dangers of sin, church leaders are failing in their role if they do not do the same.”

            Ian I’m curious about how you follow this through yourself. You are a member of the Archbishop’s Council. Prominent church leadership role. Yet you sit on that body in the full knowledge, as you have disclosed on here, that other members of that body are in same sex partnerships.
            Secondly, that body, of which you are a member, allows lay people in the church who are in same sex marriages and partnerships to be full members and have leadership roles.
            How can this be?

          • “but covenant fidelity to your partner seems to be the purest context within which to express intimate love”

            Is” fidelity “a stand-alone virtue? Adding the word ” covenant “doesn’t make it so despite the general biblical connotations.

            Fidelity to God as primary (and, logically to his” truths”) is the only foundation on which anything thing can be safely built…. or judged against. Plenty of people have been/are faithful to that which God has condemned. That seems a dangerous stance by which to view one’s eschatological security.

            But, as I’m not clear, do you believe anybody will not be saved from the judgement of God? It’s not about setting oneself up as the Christian morality police…. though you got dangerously close with “it’s not up to me to judge people, UNLESS…” (my capitals obviously)

          • Hi Ian (Hobbs),

            I think we all face the fire of God’s judgment because God is a holy God.

            Before we do anything else, we need to confront that about ourselves.

            As to God’s judgment of others, I do not pretend to know what will happen to any one individual after death. Not even Hitler. Only God truly knows the human heart.

            But ALL of us face judgment, and indeed, in this life too we may be confronted with the judgment of God. I have experienced that very painfully.

            On ‘fidelity’ I think that is a quality of God. But where we see fidelity in this world, it may make us wonder if it is a sign of a God-like quality.

            On judging others, human and civil judgment IS necessary in the case of vile crimes against other people. I don’t think anyone would deny that, and that’s hardly being the ‘morality police’. It’s defending widows and orphans, so to speak. Even then, I don’t pretend to know the goodness that may still exist in a criminal’s heart: and as a former Prison Governor I have seen a bit of that.

            Forgive me if I don’t engage further. I’m trying to withdraw from this article because I’ve already written so much.

            May God bless your day. Susannah

      • “Different ways of interpreting and understanding the Bible, and its relationship to other forms of revelation, will lead people to divergent views on what is sinful or unholy.”

        Yes, but no amount of grace will if such views are mutually contradictory and one side views them as gravely sinful. If one party views an innovation like SSM as grievous error and sin then it is bound to resist it. The opposite side will try and promote it. What you seem to be saying in a rather long -winded way is ‘lets agree to disagree and try and get along.

        A kingdom divided against itself will not be able to stand.

        • “A kingdom divided against itself will not be able to stand.”

          Can’t see any way that the CoE, let alone the Anglican Communion, can hold together. Differences are simply too great. All I’m interested in now is finding the least painful road to a parting of the ways.

          I’ve seen no move to end the Porvoo Communion, in which the CoE’s in fellowship with several Lutheran churches that marry same-sex couples, so clearly some kinda ties are acceptable to conservatives. It’s simply a matter of finding a mutually-acceptable replica for the various factions in England and the wider Anglican Communion.

          • Here we don’t agree, James (and I think you know we have similar views on some things such as the condemnation of man-man sex in the Bible).

            But my view is that most church goers in the Church of England do not want schism. They do not care enough one way or the other about the sex debate to want their church to split from the national church. They mostly want to carry on their cycle of eucharist, fellowship, helping the community, old people’s teas, visiting the sick in hospital and coming before God on Sundays.

            I think it is a far smaller number of people who drive this opposition to some forms of human sexuality as ‘a salvation issue’. I think most people don’t care that much on this single issue.

            And so I foresee the bishops and Synod gradually endorsing blessings at the local level, on a church by church basis. If some people say, ‘well we will leave’ a la Gafcon’s threats, well that would be a real shame which I would regret. I don’t seek that. I seek living alongside one another in our diversity, and still loving each other, and I believe that’s what most people want to do.

            Most Church of England people do not want the dismantling of the Church of England. They just want to continue their lives and way of serving their local communities. That’s the way I see things going.

          • I agree that equal marriage isn’t a deal breaker for most English Anglicans, Susannah. Problem is that the minority for whom it is have a veto on any change. If bishops start conducting blessings, they’ll get the Jeffrey John treatment toot sweet. Even if they weather it, how many decades will this take?

            Some kinda managed schism would both speed things along, avoid much rancour, and make the resulting successor organizations far stronger than the current CoE. Besides, why does unity of one particular denomination matter? England already has an array of protestant churches within her borders: what’s one more?

          • Some kinda managed schism would both speed things along, avoid much rancour, and make the resulting successor organizations far stronger than the current CoE. Besides, why does unity of one particular denomination matter? England already has an array of protestant churches within her borders: what’s one more?

            Except the issue is the same as the problem with splitting, say, the Labour party: each side wants the other to be the one that leaves, and them to stay as the recognised successor organisation. As long as that remains true, and one side hasn’t shrunk in numbers and importance to the extent that it can simply be expelled by the other 1662-style, then there cannot be an amicable managed split.

          • We didn’t split over the ordination of women, because there was no appetite to split (apart from a small number who refused to accommodate other people’s views and consciences on the matter).

            I believe the same holds true on this issue. Most members of the Church of England have no appetite for a split. They don’t want a split. Yes, a few dogmatists may refuse to accommodate other people’s views and consciences and may choose to split. But most people want continuity in the Church of England, and the service of their communities, and the life of the National Church. It’s a way of life thing, and an instinct for the grace and goodness in the Church.

            As for the Church of England ‘just being another church’, James. I don’t believe that. Our history, calling, charism, and mission is as the Established Church, part of the nation’s fabric, and a nationwide conduit of the grace of God, living in tension with God, with the community, with the Queen, with Parliament, and with one another. I believe this Establishment has stopped the C of E veering off into being ‘just another protestant sect’. It’s intermediary role and status, rather like that of a priest, has necessitated a broader kind of church, and the need to co-exist with diverse views inside the church, making us depend more on grace and love.

            Most parishioners in the Church of England want to remain in the Church of England. And it does so much good. The problem is not just the different views people hold – that has often been the case in the C of E’s history – but rather it is an issue of maturity. It is immature, in my view, to “do a GAFCON” and threaten to schism. It avoids the greater challenge to love and co-exist and live with difference. It bottles out. It does a runner.

            But I believe that most parishioners, and most bishops, and Parliament… do not favour a split, and it is highly likely (and I pick this up in discourse with bishops) that a compromise will be reached, somewhat along the Scottish lines. ‘Unity in Diversity’ requires maturity and grace. A few may baulk. But I think it’s the way we’re heading.

          • I absolutely agree with Susannah about this. There needs to be grace in finding a managed unity in diversity option in just the same way there was with the ordination of women. There will be some – but not a great deal – of fallout. But the longer it takes to reach this, the worse the damage will be.
            Martyn Percy’s recent lecture in Salisbury Cathedral is inspiring.

            “The answer from the churches to such questions – say on issues of gender, sexuality and equality – is frequently, ‘no’. The church will not receive the progressive truth, justice and change that the world has undertaken and adopted. The church resists the change. It resists contemporary culture. It does not believe that the Holy Spirit could be at work, independent of church leaders, in our contemporary culture; and could use that cultural change to reform and renew the church. So, the world, slowly but surely, backs away from the church, and leaves it to live in its own bubble of self-justifying rhetoric and self-shaping strategies. This gets the church nowhere, of course. Just further up the creek without a paddle. And as for evangelism, only the converted are left to be preached at. “

          • The church will not receive the progressive truth, justice and change that the world has undertaken and adopted.

            But this begs the question! The whole point at issue is whather the progressive change is in fact true! You can’t start by assuming it is true when that is the whole heart of the debate.

            So, the world, slowly but surely, backs away from the church, and leaves it to live in its own bubble of self-justifying rhetoric and self-shaping strategies. This gets the church nowhere, of course

            If the world is going in the wrong direction then it gets the church exactly where it should be. You’d prefer we followed the world into Hell?

          • But most people want continuity in the Church of England, and the service of their communities, and the life of the National Church. It’s a way of life thing, and an instinct for the grace and goodness in the Church.

            Which is more important: a ‘way of life’, or truth?

            The two sides’ views (and it’s not about sexuality, it’s about much more important issues like the nature of the Bible) are irreconcilable. They can’t both be true.

            Surely the first job of a church is to figure out which is true and cleave to that — not to provide a social club so its memebrs can continue their ‘way of life’?

            After all if it was ‘way of life’ that was important, and not truth, then Jesus would never have calles his disciples away from their ‘way of life’ fishing, tax collecting, and burying their fathers.

          • True: which is why the entire structure of the CoE needs to be changed, so neither group has to leave or lose face.

            I’ve previously suggested something like the provisions over ordaining women, but have been told that, because homosexuality’s viewed as a “salvation issue,” an equivalent would be unacceptable.

            However, the continuing acceptance of ties with the Nordic Lutherans show that some level of institutional connection’s acceptable even for salvation issues. Just a question of what form it’ll take.

          • I’d be overjoyed if some kinda compromise could be found without sundering Anglican churches & the wider communion (TEC’s gruesome split’s enough for one lifetime). Specifics just leave pessimistic about it, and that being so, if there is a schism, at least let it be amicable.

            I admit, so far as ecclesiology goes, I’m laissez-faire: so long as churches give people a holy space, all to the good.

            Ironically, the CoE’s diversity’s its Achilles: since Scotland’s overwhelmingly mainline/liberal Catholic, her tiny evangelical contingent had no chance of vetoing change. England’s facing a much tougher road than the Piskies.

          • James, it is the most obvious thing in the world that there are some situations where compromise is possible and others where it is not. Why it is that you cannot see that?

            Is the idea to force everyone to say that the present case *has* to belong to the first category? Why does it have to? It is also perfectly possible that it belongs to the second category. Why shouldn’t it?

          • Christopher, my whole point was that compromise likely isn’t possible here! (I’d love to be proved wrong.)

      • “Can’t see any way that the CoE, let alone the Anglican Communion, can hold together. Differences are simply too great. All I’m interested in now is finding the least painful road to a parting of the ways.”

        Quite, James.

  10. Imperatives in scripture are based on indicatives, including the indicative to repent.
    As Ian has shown, Christ has the last word in and through the indicatives and the following-on imperatives in the book of Revelation.
    Perhaps you should meditate on the “to the church at Pergamum”
    To the Church in Pergamum
    12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

    13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith[b] even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ Rev 2: 12-17 ESV
    No doubt Ian could pull out a number of indicatives with accompanying imperatives from the book of Revelation.

  11. The “inclusivity” of the New Jerusalem, that is, its open gates, are intended not for the cause of inclusion but for the cause of tribute. The nations will learn from and benefit from the messianic empire centered in Jerusalem but they will still be subject to it.

    • Good point Alex – the inclusivity shows the universal kingship of Christ
      It most certainly is not an image promoting the rejection of Biblical moral principles

  12. This is from mobile so it’ll be more error strewn than usual.
    1 From the toing and froing above the divergence is deeper than scripture We worship different God.
    2 I accept scripture, as from God, after conversion, not before.
    3 Words like inerrant are bandied about without definition
    4 A friend, a retired Dentist, has simply said, “if the Bible is not all revelation, by God it is nothing”, even after formative years at University, imbibing Albert Schweitzer, Jung, and Simone Veigh. He is right.
    5 It’s about Who God is, the knowability of God, not just theological truth and it’s knowability. There are many P Pilots here.
    6 If we can’t gather round a Creed with any semblance of integrity of belief, there is is in reality, no communion, there is no oneness, unity in Christ, unity in the Spirit, if there are no basics, no mere Christianity, there is no commonality of belief, and we may as well meet around the water cooler, in the office (for it would hardly be around a builders brew on the site hut, for the CoE).
    7 If scripture is not accepted, why cite it at all, why Sam Wells using it except to further his own purposes. It could be seen as a disingenuous waste of time, a pandering to the theologically inept or ignorant, to popularity.
    8 It certainly is a waste of time for those of his flock, or persuasion who don’t believe in a transcendent after life, let alone new heaven and earth.
    No heaven nor hell,or if there’s heaven everyone will be there, doing their own thing in perpetuity
    9 Let’s have a thought experiment in theological reductionism:
    9.1 There is a new Canon. The whole Bible is redacted to this:
    GOD IS LOVE (but that is not inclusive Does not included the God of Islam, and irradicates Hebrew scripture.
    9.2 there is a new hymnody, including but not limited to-
    – All you need is love, Beatles
    – Love the one you are with, Steven Stills
    – Imagine, John Lennon
    – Helter-skelter, the Beatles
    – And for dismissal, enter, nave left, “Money, money, money” an Abba tribute with Andrew Godsall leading as abba’s child.
    Come on we can all join in.
    Encore, encore and more.
    We can even do it outdoors, joining hands in a in a stone circle, daisy-chain.
    Yippee, yippee, yippee to replace Hallelujah .
    No smirking at the back, you know those gowns, are our heritage, it’s just that we’ve repurposed them and remade them in lycra to facilitate our progressive credentials. We can now go with the flow with abandon, and replicate the worship of our forebears at Sinai. Those guys really knew how to party.

        • S, it was a Christian wedding. Why would we imagine there’s no heaven? What does that remark even mean, if you are a Christian? I’m not going to trigger another long debate. I just love the Beatles song ‘All you need is love’ and we played it at our wedding, and we were joyful and so was everyone else. You had to be there to feel it. Everyone was included. Everyone opened, and shared, and celebrated. And love abounded. Love and inclusion and givenness before God – my final comment on a topic about inclusion.

          And just for the record, we were married in Scotland. Amid the snowy mountains. But we celebrated in England as well, and my marriage is a gift, a grace, a blessing.

    • “If we can’t gather round a Creed with any semblance of integrity of belief, there is is in reality, no communion, there is no oneness, unity in Christ, unity in the Spirit, if there are no basics, no mere Christianity, there is no commonality of belief, and we may as well meet around the water cooler, in the office (for it would hardly be around a builders brew on the site hut, for the CoE).”

      Oh I’m sure we can gather round a Creed. Since when did the creed say anything about marriage (same sex or otherwise)?

      I think that’s the point Susannah and I are making: same sex marriage is not a salvation issue. The creeds define what those are.

  13. Andrew
    This post reminds me of the one time I heard Jim Packer speak, at a DEF meeting long ago. He said something about the Articles defining Anglican doctrine and a clergyman (who remarked on a subsequent occasion that he felt uncomfortable among ‘all these Bible-punchers’) in the audience suggested that the Creed was enough. Packer replied, if I recall correctly, that he would want to add the doctrine of Justification by Faith Only.

    Packer’s point should be extended. What do all those gathered ‘round the Creed(s)’ mean by (for example) ‘born of the Virgin Mary’, ‘descended into Hell’, ‘judge the quick and the dead’, ‘life everlasting’, ‘salvation’, ‘suffered’, ‘giver of life’, ‘remission of sins’, ‘Perfect God and perfect Man’, ‘everlasting fire’.

    As I keep on asserting, we don’t all mean the same thing by these phrases. In fact, as witnessed by other threads we disagree deeply about what we need saving from and how that salvation is achieved, and what happens to those not saved.

    Phil Almond

  14. “As I keep on asserting, we don’t all mean the same thing by these phrases.”
    Phil – welcome to the Church. It’s been that way since the Church began. That’s why the East and West split. That’s why the Reformation happened. That is why there are hundreds of denominations.
    And within the CofE there have been differences of emphasis and meaning since the 16th century. What makes you think it will change now?

    • Andrew
      Because the creeds are inadequate to define vital truths we need the Articles. And the Declaration of Assent and Preface (Canon C15), coupled with Canon A5, should not be made by anyone who does not believe that the Articles define the doctrines of the Church of England, like the punitive wrath of God that we all face, doctrines that should be believed and preached now, by you and all other ordained Ministers.
      Phil Almond

      • Phil: we’ve been here many times before and take a different view of the significance of the Articles and whether or not they are infallible – which I certainly do not believe.
        I’ve been ordained 31 years. I have never been required to preach your interpretation of them, taught to preach that, or felt inspired to do so.

        The Articles are a particular expression of political and religious turmoil following a turbulent time in the religious wars of this country. Their anti catholic stance is quite contrary to our understanding and expression now. That is what I was taught about them. That is what I have heard several bishops I have worked with say about them. That’s what I have heard said in General Synod about them. They define that religious turmoil well. I would have hoped we were over it…..

        • Phil do you REALLY believe “The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.” You believe that?

          • Andrew

            Yes, I do. But, more importantly:

            God reveals himself in the Bible as Someone who is both Terrible and Wonderful. And the Gospel He proclaims in the Bible has two parts: a terrible warning that we all face the eternal retributive justice of God on the Day of Judgment, because of Original Sin and our own sins; and a wonderful command, invitation, exhortation to submit to Jesus Christ in repentance, faith, love and obedience, – submit to him in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and thus be delivered from that terrible condemnation and punishment, to be forgiven, to be adopted into God’s family, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, to do good works, to be conformed to the image of Christ, to be given a new resurrection body and to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

            The Articles express these vital truths.

            It is my paramount hope and prayer that this terrible warning be preached and that God will send his breath from heaven to breathe upon these slain that they may hear, believe, respond and live.

            You are right that the Articles and Prayer Book disagree with Rome on certain things, like Original Sin ( e.g. re Concupiscence) Justification, Free Will and Holy Communion. But the Trent Decree on original sin is emphatic that the sin of Adam damaged all his descendants and transmitted to them that sin which is the death of the soul.

            Phil Almond

          • Philip
            I’m sorry but I think your God who wants to save you from what he will do to you if you don’t believe in him is a monstrous idol.

          • No Phil
            He is a god you have conjured from some scriptural texts and made into an idol. He is a god of conttsctual love not a god of prodigal love. He is a marcionite creation. Monstrous.

          • He is a marcionite creation. Monstrous

            Certainly not Marcionite; Marcion’s error was claiming that the God of the Old Testament is different form the God of the New. But the God of the New Testament is just as much concerned with Judgement as the God for the Old.

            It’s weird to write ‘monstrous as well, as if God were some cruel tyrant deciding to punish people, as if He had a choice in whether to exercise judgement or not. When in fact the very nature of the thing is that judgement follows sin as sticking your hand in a fire is followed by a burn.

            Do you then call the flame ‘monstrous’?

            God, on the other hand, has done all He can to save us from that inevitable judgement. He has sent a lifeboat. If we are too proud to get into it, that’s on us, not Him.

          • Yes S
            I see you are an idolator too. God sends us a lifeboat to save us from what he will do to us if we don’t believe in him.
            Yes, monstrous.

          • I see you are an idolator too.

            Love it.

            God sends us a lifeboat to save us from what he will do to us if we don’t believe in him.

            No, God sends a lifeboat to save us from what we are doing to ourselves by sinning.

          • Penelope
            I am willing to have a serious debate on our recent exchange. Below is an exchange of posts we had last December. I can’t remember on which thread it was. If you want a serious debate I suggest we start with a discussion on the Fall and Original Sin. I suggest we start with Romans 5:12-21 – what Paul says and what he means. Please let me know if you want such a debate and which thread it should be on.
            Regards
            Phil Almond

            • Penelope Cowell Doe
            December 17, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Reply
            Dear Phil
            I apologise for not responding to your previous comment and again for not having the time at present to go back and reflect upon it. I see the result of the Fall (I do not believe in a literal Fall) as our inability to live in harmony with nature and each other and our inability to discern truth simply and transparently.
            I do not know whether there are physical results of the Fall, many diseases have evolutionary purposes, and certainly precede humankind. I also think it’s problematic to assume that people who have ‘dis’abilities or non-normative conditions are in any way ‘lesser’ than the able bodied and able minded.
            Hi Penelope
            Thank you for this reply. I hope you might be able to respond more fully at some point because, repeating myself, I do see disagreement about the doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin as the fundamental disagreement among Anglicans and others; not just in their bearing on the same-sex disagreement but more fundamentally in their bearing on the whole doctrine of Atonement and Salvation. I will reserve comment on what you have said in this post until you have time to set out your view in full.
            Phil Almond

          • Oh Penelope – has it come to this? Mocking of a normative and valued metaphor to understand the atonement, albeit one you whittle of essential elements and thus parody. If indeed the human condition can be shown from Scripture to be metaphorically like that of one drowning – and if indeed God can be shown in Scripture to have acted to save us in something of the way of the lifeboat metaphor you despise and dismiss, then in fact it is God and his ways that are repugnant to you and whom you slur. In that case, it is not those who subscribe to some form of this metaphor that are idolators but those who reject and insult his ways and craft a different God. What you call monstrous others call righteous.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_OfAX5LLOI

          • He is a god of [contractual] love not a god of prodigal love

            Can you define what you mean by ‘prodigal love’ please? Just to check it isn’t that which is the false idol (eg that you are not proposing the heresy of universalism).

          • Simon
            I’m not mocking a metaphor. Though I don’t thinking it is a good metaphor for the atonement.
            I am mocking belief in a God who comes only to save us from his wrath if we don’t believe in him correctly. That is monstrous and heretical.
            God became human that we might become divine. A perfectly orthodox doctrine.

          • I am mocking belief in a God who comes only to save us from his wrath if we don’t believe in him correctly. That is monstrous and heretical.

            No one but you has brought up ‘believ[ing] in him correctly’. The God described came to save us from the consequences of our sin.

            God became human that we might become divine. A perfectly orthodox doctrine

            No, orthodox doctrine is that God came to save us. What do you think He came to save us from, if not the consequences of sin?

            The idea that God came to make us divine is the heresy here. It’s a pagan belief, more like Roman emperors or Egyptian pharaohs being apotheosised than anything Christian. Christians become sons and daughters of God, they do not become gods.

          • Theopoesis. Athanasius. Perfectly orthodox

            Still sound pagan to me. Becoming gods? Really?

            Anyway, the more improtant point is; what did Jesus come to save us from, if not the consequences of sin?

          • Well it might to you S.
            And Athanasius didn’t say ‘gods’, he said divine.
            He also safeguarded the doctrine of the Trinity by opposing Arianism, and was impeccably orthodox and one of the great Church Fathers.
            Trinitarian doctrine is not, of course, biblical in the sense that we see it fully formed in the New Testament; it was shaped by tradition.
            Your model of atonement is only one of many. It is not ‘the’ only doctrine, and not one which all orthodox Christians share or have shared.

          • And Athanasius didn’t say ‘gods’, he said divine.

            You’ll have to explain the different to me, I’m clearly too dim to see it.

            Your model of atonement is only one of many. It is not ‘the’ only doctrine, and not one which all orthodox Christians share or have shared.

            Maybe, but if not our sin, what do we have to atone for? Basically, in your sinless Christianity, why did Jesus have to die?

          • S
            I never claimed that the world was sinless. Indeed that’s rather the point of theopoesis. That we are corrupted.

          • I never claimed that the world was sinless. Indeed that’s rather the point of theopoesis. That we are corrupted.

            Right, so, leaving aside this pagan, heretical idea of apotheosis, you do think that Jesus came to save us from the consequences of our sin — exactly as I and others have been saying?

      • Not sure if or where, this may turn up,
        PHILIP ALMOND,
        As you are aware, time and time again as the follow on comments show , it does indeed rest on this: we worship different Gods, that is it reduced to its unalloyed, unglossed truth.
        There are those who are more concerned with foot-fall than the Fall, those that assert a moral superiority over God, who is the same God who reveals himself, and it is only by supernatural revelation, throughout the canon of scripture. That is a major, Grand Canyon, unbridgeable fault line: Revelation of and in scripture, for TODAY, by a Triune God without, not within, and not within a closed system, material world view, a God who transcends. who descends in word and Spirit and Son, and continues to do so and will again return.

        In contrast, here we go again, it is a “helter skelter” human construct that descends into liberal theology. confusion and entropy so , perhaps that Helter -Skelter structure does, in fact, reveal the heart of the theology.
        BTW, a covenant made by God, is a far cry from a mere human contract with it’s constituent parts and even if the difference is not known. I’ll leave others to explain.
        But true to form, and unsurprisingly, there has been a deliberate digression away from the core of the matter, which you honed in on, with your questions to Andrew Godsall,(AG) which I’ll copy for repeated emphasis:

        What do all those gathered ‘round the Creed(s)’ mean by (for example) ‘born of the Virgin Mary’, ‘descended into Hell’, ‘judge the quick and the dead’, ‘life everlasting’, ‘salvation’, ‘suffered’, ‘giver of life’, ‘remission of sins’, ‘Perfect God and perfect Man’, ‘everlasting fire’.

        AG speedily moves away, sidesteps the questions, doesn’t answer and concentrates on what he perceives as a weakness, to ask you a question.
        It is the usual liberal methodology. But it always fails to recognised that far more is revealed in the silence, the avoidance, non answer. Any jury will tell you how important that is in the conclusions correctly drawn.
        Andrew Godsall is concrete in his absolutes of interpretation, of his absolute truth that subjectivity is relative, the absolute of relative, subject interpretation. That is in fact, indeed a truth claim to an absolute of interpretation- his own to dominate.
        The RESULT is that we would all stand there reciting our own truth claim to each part of the Creed. RESULT : we’d all be worshipping our own self-constructed God.
        Again and again: there’d no communion, no unity of belief, no unity in Christ (who was not physically raised according to Andrew’s creed I do recall) no unity in the Spirit, NO BELIEF IN THE SAME GOD.
        But IT’S WORSE than that : the God you’d be worshipping, the Triune God of scripture, of the Creeds, would be MORAL MONSTER, (to follow the comments from Andrew and Penelope) Jesus Christ of the communion service , a moral monster, to follow their theological deductions to that end point.(At the same time, in effect traducing, the burden of Ian Paul’s original article)
        In that case can there be anything other than a sham, hollow-man , style and form, outward appearance, of commonality of worship rather than substance of communion of the creeds and communion in Christ Jesus, the revelation of the true Triune God?
        It seems, again following this to a conclusion that the God you and I worship described, if not in these words, as a repugnant, hating, hateful monster, those who are this persuasion, being people of integrity ought to recuse themselves and withdraw from communion together.
        MY God, my Saviour, my Triune God, my Jesus Christ, not welcome here, and neither an I, excluded. It is a two -edged sword, cutting both ways.

        • Geoff: just for clarity. I have no problem with any of the statements of the creed. I have been taught them, examined in them, bishops have been assured of my learning of them, and I have never denied any of them. I have explained that to Phil before. So no question was evaded.
          Phil asked specifically about some of the Articles of religion. Those don’t form part of theological teaching or examination for clergy and we are not required to subscribe them. I don’t. For reasons I have always made clear.
          Are you another who, like Phil, believes in capital punishment?

          • And for other clarity I agree with Penelope that Phil’s god is a monstrous anthropomorphic idol

          • Andrew,
            You’ll have to elucidate. Are you equating capital punishment with propitiation, substitutioary atonement?
            You say this:
            “And for other clarity I agree with Penelope that Phil’s god is a monstrous anthropomorphic idol.”
            This is a direct contradiction of your assertion that your beliefs adhere to the Creeds: that the God of the Creeds is a monstrous anthropomorphic idol.
            I suppose that the god of yours will not execute Judgement.
            And how does it he or she fit with the whole burden of Ian Paul’s original article which I don’t think you’ve addressed. Could be wrong. It seems so long ago.
            We worship different Gods. My God My Saviour, my Triune Saviour God my Jesus.
            AND you seem to have taken no account of a Christians Union with Christ as being key in salvation, Good News.
            Come on Andrew, what is the Good News of the Gospel? It is clearly not beyond you, your wit, intellect, training and clerical position?

          • Geoff: are you familiar with the 39 articles of religion of the CofE? Article 37 is expressly supportive of capital punishment. That’s what I am referring to. Nothing to do with atonement, substitutionary or otherwise.

        • Geoff
          I believe in a triune God who became human that you and I might become divine.
          That is a perfectly orthodox doctrine

          • I believe in a triune God who became human that you and I might become divine.
            That is a perfectly orthodox doctrine

            No; it’s a pagan heresy.

          • You are all over the place. First a self identified evangelical, now self described in the following blog post.
            Now you are divine. How? Never heard that from you before now on this blog. (No don’t, I’m not really interested.)
            Where on earth did you get the idea that it is perfectly orthodox doctrine.? It is doctrine of demons. Anyway, thought you didn’t accept orthodoxy at all.
            Anglicans who contribute on this blog can waste their time with you, and should counter this pagan heresy, not S nor I.
            My conclusion from all your comments on this blog is that I don’t trust what you say, there is no credibility. It a bit of a pantomime.
            Bye.

          • Geoff

            I have never identified as an evangelical. I have no idea where you got this extraordinary idea from.
            As for my quotation from St Athanasius, who defended trinitarian orthodoxy against the Arians, I suggest you look up the perfectly orthodox doctrine of theopoesis or theosis before dismissing something which you clearly don’t understand, as heresy.
            Furthermore, I suggest that you don’t try to colonise orthodoxy, thank you. I say the Nicene creed. I am an orthodox, biblical Christian.

    • Wow Simon, that short video was a real eye-opener! Thanks for sharing. It shows how utterly twisted the liberal agenda of TEC is.

      BTW, loved your talk at New Wine on dropping the cross and losing the plot. Thanks. Inspirational and sobering. On a lighter note, I chuckle every time I see bird’s feathers in the garden now, usually the gruesome evidence of an assassination attempt by our cat.

    • Thanks for the link…. I found it encouraging and depressing at the same time. Three cheers for the RC Bishop…. Exasperation over the Anglican (in name only? ) one. Why she’s lauded I’ve no idea. Biblically and, I dare say, intellectually vacuous.

  15. Penelope

    S (August 20, 2019 at 2:51 pm) made a good point with his “No one but you has brought up ‘believ[ing] in him correctly’. The God described came to save us from the consequences of our sin”, as you can see from my post which kicked off this debate, ‘And the Gospel He proclaims in the Bible has two parts: a terrible warning that we all face the eternal retributive justice of God on the Day of Judgment, because of Original Sin and our own sins…’.

    In my view the most important (not the only) result of the Fall is set out by Paul in Romans 5:12-21 where he says that the sin of Adam has resulted in condemnation for us all and that salvation comes to those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. He confirms this in Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. From this it follows that there is condemnation to the ones not in Christ Jesus.

    The Greek word katakrima occurs only 3 times in the New Testament. Twice in Romans 5 and once in Romans 8:1. Strong defines katakrima as
    Definition: penalty
    Usage: punishment following condemnation, penal servitude, penalty.

    Can we all agree that we all face katakrima until and unless we ‘receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness’?

    Phil Almond

    • Phil
      People are always bringing up correct belief in these threads. You have just done it yourself.
      It is crypto Pelagian.

      • Penelope
        I don’t know what you mean by ‘crypto Pelagian’. Could you explain please? It would be good if you could interact directly with my post about Romans 5 and 8.
        Phil Almond

        • Phil
          I mean that you (and others) argue that ‘correct’ belief in original sin, the atonement, sexuality and gender (for example) will save us. We are already saved you the faith in f Christ. Believing in PSA isn’t going to ‘save’ us.

          • I mean that you (and others) argue that ‘correct’ belief in original sin, the atonement, sexuality and gender (for example) will save us.

            I don’t think anybody’s argued that. That would indeed be Pelagianism, but I don’t think that; does anybody? Or are you tilting at straw men?

            We are already saved you the faith in f Christ.

            I think your keyboard has mangled what you meant to type there.

          • Penelope
            I am sure S (August 21, 2019 at 11:18 pm) is right. I believe that Christ bore God’s just retribution my sins deserve when he died on the cross, thus delivering me from His just wrath and condemnation. But I am saved not because I BELIEVE that but because Christ DID BEAR that retribution. I point out that anyone who is a Christian (if (emphasised IF) they are a known-to-God-to-be -a-Christian,) is saved from wrath and condemnation by that same fact, even though such a person may intellectually deny these doctrines and describe those who believe them as worshipping a ‘monstrous idol’.

            Phil Almond

          • S

            Commentors on these threads constantly argue that correct belief is salvation issue.
            PSA, the Fall and ‘man’s’ depravity, sexuality. Liberals are endangering people’s immortal souls by being ‘lax’ on this last, allegedly.
            A tad pelagian.
            You are quite right about the typos. It should have read: we are saved by Christ’s faith.

          • Phil
            That’s OK then. And presumably we leave the ‘knowing’ to God, i.e. God sorts out the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares.
            I would not subscribe, however, to the belief that only Christians get saved nor to your penal model of atonement.

          • Commentors on these threads constantly argue that correct belief is salvation issue.

            I really don’t think anyone has argued that.

            PSA, the Fall and ‘man’s’ depravity, sexuality. Liberals are endangering people’s immortal souls by being ‘lax’ on this last, allegedly.

            A I see your confusion. No, I don’t think anyone’s ever argued that people’s souls are being endangered by not believing the correct things.

            The issue with sexuality is that the conservative side sees the liberals not as making an honest mistake, but as being unwilling to submit to God’s plan because they would rather follow their own selfish impulses, and the whole liberal theological edifice as being the intellectual post-hoc justification they construct in order to rationalise their embrace of their base desires.

            That is, the problem with liberal theology is not the beliefs, it’s the motives. It’s not what liberals believe that damns them, it’s why they believe it. And by teaching liberalism they endanger people’s souls because they tell them that God doesn’t really mind them following their own desires, which encourages people into the mindset that their desires matter.

            I don’t think anybody believes that a liberal who had made an honest mistake of fact would be damned because of that. But I think that most conservatives are suspicious that liberals have not made an honest mistake of fact but are engaged in motivated reasoning: they know they result they want (basically, that God is okay with them doing the things they want to do anyway) and are therefore being intellectually dishonest.

            And that dishonesty is the problem. It’s not what they believe; it’s that they believe it for the wrong reason, a sinful reason.

            A tad pelagian.

            Semi-pelagian at most.

            (Pelagianism proper is the belief that we don’t need God to save us: we can be perfect and sinless by our own efforts. It’s definitely heretical. Semi-pelagianism is the idea that we are able to resist God’s efforts to save us, so savlation — thoguh it would not be possible without God’s initial effort — requires our co-operation or at least acquiescence. Whether that’s heretical is less clear. Certainly in the Bible we seem to find stories of people making choices to follow or reject Jesus or God, which would support a semi-Pelagian view.)

            You are quite right about the typos. It should have read: we are saved by Christ’s faith.

            What are we saved from if not the consequences of our sin (including the sin of trying to reinterpret God’s word to fit in with our own desires)?

          • S
            Perhaps you believe that. But commenters here frequently argue that sexuality is not adiaphoria, but a salvation issue. I do not believe for one moment that they are right.
            But, if it is a salvation issue, as they argue, this means that my same-sex partnered and married friends, and those who, like me, supprt equal marriage, are going to hell.

          • Perhaps you believe that. But commenters here frequently argue that sexuality is not adiaphoria, but a salvation issue. I do not believe for one moment that they are right.

            The ‘salvation issue’, surely, is whether one is prepared to submit to God even when it means doing something one does not want to do, or not doing something one does want to do. I’m pretty sure that is what every conservative Christian believes, but if you’ve seen someone claim anythign else then provide a reference and I’ll believe you.

            But, if it is a salvation issue, as they argue, this means that my same-sex partnered and married friends, and those who, like me, supprt equal marriage, are going to hell.

            Not if they have made an honest error of fact (ie, they started with an open mind, worked in good faith and came to the wrong conclusions); only if they are refusing to submit to God because they would rather follow their own desires, and then trying to come up with a theology that justifies that (ie, they started with the result they wanted and then looked for a way to read the Bible so that it said what they had already decided to conclude).

          • “What are we saved from if not the consequences of our sin?”

            Well I’m not saying we aren’t saved from the consequences of our own selfishness – hopefully in God’s eternal household we will be made whole and freed from selfishness, and ideally we try to resolve the consequences of things we do wrong in the here and now, here on Earth.

            But to answer your question “What are we saved from if…”

            Mortality?

            Loneliness and isolation?

            Fear of lostness in a vast universe, and the meaninglessness of life?

            Sickness?

            Pain?

          • Plus…

            God has a crush on us and thinks we’re so precious and beautiful.

            And wants to save us so we may return that love and live in relationship with God.

            That’s a pretty big plus. The positive reasons for salvation, as opposed to limiting the concept of salvation to ‘sin’.

            We are born with original beauty as well as with original sin. We are attractive and beautiful to God.

            We are saved because God created us to be saved. We have souls where God dwells, awaiting us, awaiting our recognition of God there. We are saved, by grace, and by the faith of God in us. We are saved because of so many positives about us.

            Selfishness needs to be dealt with too. We need to grow, and learn, but always… the banner God puts over us is love.

          • But to answer your question “What are we saved from if…”

            Mortality?

            Loneliness and isolation?

            Fear of lostness in a vast universe, and the meaninglessness of life?

            Sickness?

            Pain?

            None of those are why Jesus died to save us.

          • God has a crush on us and thinks we’re so precious and beautiful.

            No He doesn’t. Don’t be silly. You’re making God sound like a lovestruck teenager, which if not actually blasphemy is pretty damned close to it.

            How do you know?

            Well, for a start, if He did, then He was a dismal failure, because Christians still experience all those things. So you seem to be saying that Christ’s death was a failure — which again is pretty blasphemous.

          • S,

            You seem to have a very dark view of humanity. It all seems to be unrelenting sin in your outlook.

            I believe in judgment of our faults as much as the next Christian, and I can assure you I’m aware of too many of my own, and times when I have badly messed up. But…

            People also have loveliness, kindness, beauty in mind, beauty in actions, heroism, sacrifice, goodness, compassion, creativity, amazingness.

            Sin and selfishness are constituents of any human being, but so are other far more positive and lovely qualities.

            Jesus came to live alongside us, to show solidarity with us, to teach love and givenness – and in all his life and his death he lived out that givenness. He showed us the way and the very best we can be.

            We are saved to grow whole. It’s not all about how horrible we are. We are saved because God loves us, sees our beauty, calls us to grow in all the good ways we have been made, and we are being saved not only to escape imperfection and sin, but to enter the wholeness of life shared with God, and to fulfil the original beauty and imago dei with which we were made: to open to the love of God, and the way of the Cross, which teaches that love involves death to individualism, and burial of all except dependency on God, and then the renewal of our lives as we open to the flow of God’s love.

            We’re saved for all that – and yes God crushes on us: read the Song of Songs. God loves and is thrilled by us.

            A very different aspect of salvation than what I feel is sometimes a grim and Calvinistic pre-occupation with unrelenting sin.

          • We’re saved for all that –

            What are we saved from?

            It’s not any of the things you list because those still happen to Christians; indeed some of them Jesus specifically did not come to save us from but to make worse, such as temporal suffering, which we have to endure more of because we belong to Him (Matthew 24:9).

            So what is it you think Jesus came to save us from? What fate awaited us, that would have been inflicted on us if Jesus not come and died?

            and yes God crushes on us: read the Song of Songs

            You don’t make things better by dragging Scripture into your blasphemy.

          • I will repeat, S,

            We are saved from mortality – by which I mean that ultimate mortality which means we are no more. Death, as Penny pointed out, is described in the bible as the last enemy, and we are saved from that enemy, because we do not actually die when our body perishes: we live. So our mortality does not occur – we are saved from it.

            We are saved from it, because we are created to be eternal members of God’s household, and because we are loved… deeply loved… personally loved. It is not blasphemy to say that.

            Do you have a personal relationship with God? Do you know that you are loved? Treasured?

            You’re saved with the purpose of entering into the fullness of that relationship.

            That’s what Jesus does. He is the living God, opening the way to an eternal loving relationship, by giving God’s self to the point of no turning back. Totally given to us. That’s what happens on the Cross.

            It is a covenant sealed and demonstrated in blood. It is a covenant of love. It is a covenant of God’s givenness to us.

            The purpose? Relationship. Covenant givenness to each other. Love. Wholeness of being. Union with God.

          • We are saved from mortality – by which I mean that ultimate mortality which means we are no more.

            Ah, right. Not temporal mortality but eternal morality. Yes. Exactly.

            So: what causes our eternal morality? Why — had Jesus not died on the cross — would we be facing eternal death?

            As you point out, we were created creatures of eternity, to live with God forever. And yet somehow we ended up creatures of death, domed to spend eternity in the darkness and death of Hell. So Jesus had to come to save us from that.

            What happened? Why did creatures creature for eternal light end up in eternal darkness from which they needed to be rescued by a glorious sacrifice?

            Could it be… because of sin?

            So Jesus died to rescue us from the consequences of sin?

          • God wills redemptive temporal suffering for humans?
            Now that is blasphemous!

            It absolutely is blasphemous. But an accurate paraphrase of what I wrote it most decidedly is not.

          • S
            You wrote
            Jesus does not come to save us from temporal suffering but to make (some) things worse.
            Tosh. And dangerous tosh too.

          • Jesus does not come to save us from temporal suffering but to make (some) things worse.

            I did.

            Tosh. And dangerous tosh too.

            Not tosh at all. Accurate. For by following God we become members of the resistance, opposed to the values of this world. That means we are bound to suffer, just like dissidents in communist countries (indeed, a lot like dissidents in communist countries because a lot of them were persecuted for being Christians).

            Jesus calls us to stand against the evil of the world. That inevitably means the world is going to try to destroy us, and as the world is where we live and store our stuff, that’s going to mean we suffer in ways that we would not if we instead just went along with the world’s values of hedonism and its fake fluffy version of of ‘love’.

          • Penny, I am not sure Amy Carmichael would have agree with you on this one.

            Hast thou no scar?
            No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
            I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
            I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
            Hast thou no scar?

            Hast thou no wound?
            Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
            Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
            By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
            Hast thou no wound?

            No wound? No scar?
            Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
            And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
            But thine are whole; can he have followed far
            Who hast no wound or scar?

  16. Penelope
    Your reference to sheep and goats and wheat and tares leads me to think that you believe Jesus did say the words recorded in the NT.
    I am glad about that. I point out that those on the left hand, the cursed, are sent away to eternal punishment, and the wicked, the tares, into the furnace of fire, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. This is the terrible warning that the Church is commanded to proclaim alongside the wonderful news of salvation through Christ. And it clear from what I said in my post about Romans 5 and 8 that we all face God’s condemnation and punishment from birth onwards.

    Phil Almond

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