Comments: opposing equality

I'm a long-time reader of this blog (informative and knowledgeable, tugs forelock) - but now feel compelled to add to the comments.

Yesterday, I was discussing this matter with my lawyer wife, and used the exact expression "No Jews, no blacks, no Irish" in relation to the stance taken by the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship. I find their briefing strange - in that they seem to want to decide who gets access to justice and who doesn't - and odious - in that they are using bad theology to actively promote prejudice.

They would, like the EA and the Christian Institute, be the first to the barricades if "No Christians" signs went up - or for that matter, if a homosexual solicitor refused to write a will because the clients intended to leave money to the church.

I'm left agreeing with Stephen Bates that I'd boycott any commercial company that discriminated in such a way. Since I attend a conservative evangelical church with close links to both Reform and the Christian Institute, imagine how many other churchgoers this will alienate?

Posted by Simon Morden at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 2:16pm GMT

"But then I thought that perhaps it would be better after all to be allowed to hang a sign saying No Gays outside one’s door. Then at least those of us who don’t choose to associate with such bigots will appreciate that we wouldn’t wish to spend the night in their establishments."

So, absent a No Gays sign, how do you spot an evangelical hotel or boarding house? A little fish outline discreetly displayed? And how would an evangelical establishment otherwise distinguish itself from the common run of hotels? Instead of wine at dinner, tiny plastic thimblefuls of grape juice?

Are there Anglo-Catholic hotels and boarding houses? Would they have a tastefully positioned thurible on their highway sign? Would your wake-up call be a Sanctus bell? Just wondering.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 4:42pm GMT

I think that the Church needs to get hold of a biblical doctrine of the state.

Over all the history of atrocities committed by Christian governments (who made the dark ages dark?) the Christian church didn't speak out. Whereas now the Church is mobilising for the right to discriminate and against society's moves to remove discrimination.

Various scriptural injunctions tell us to be subjected to the government, to those who are in authority.

When these injunctions were first given the state was a military dictatorship (surely the worst kind of government), yet obedience was ordained and Romans 13 talks about governments being ordained of God.

So all talk of special opt outs for Christians seems quite perverse from a biblical point of view and the idea that our human rights inclined democratic governments are the worst form of government we've ever seen is clearly out of kilter with reality.

Too much of Christianity has been infiltrated by the idea (both from the Roman Catholic side that has difficulty adapting to modernity, only recently accepting democracy and from the Religious Right in the US with its take over of the Republican Party) that our raison d'etre is to gain a hold over the State and to try to rule over it, as though we had a special right to do that.

We don't and all of this has been a terrible perversion of what the Christian message has been all about.

I support the need for reasonable exemptions for religious belief and practice but more importantly the Christian Church has got to get the virus of ill-will out of its system. Love and hatred can't truly co-exist and this contamination of Christianity needs to stop unless Christianity is to become a poisoned well for our society and for future generations of believers.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 5:01pm GMT

Hi Craig,
Interesting comments. I agree that we need a Biblical doctrine of the role of the state and I agree that the Church hasn't always had a brilliant track record on that. But let's not forget Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Wesley, Carey, Titus Salt, Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boon etc.

A Biblical doctrine of the State certainly needs to include our responsibility to submit to Law but also needs to consider the responsibility to obey God before man and the recognition that actually Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him. We also are entitled to get involved in a discussion as part of the democratic process which is what is happening now.

I'm not sure how committed our "democratic governments" are to either democracy or to human rights. Some liberals here might be suprised to see such a high view of Tony Blair! But that's a political point

I don't like this negative image of Christianity anymore than you do but sadly it's only when Evangelicals talk about sex or bishops that we seem to get an audience from liberals! The topic about the EA's statement on Christian social involvement got FIVE comments to the many on other matters! I didn't see big headlines about Evangelical involvement especially through TEARfund in the climate change day. I'm sitll waiting for the comments about how many Evangelical individuals and churches got involved in Make Poverty History -but maybe that doesn't register on the radar because its not seen as "Evangelical"

Posted by dave williams at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 6:56pm GMT

To set the record a little differently following from Stephen Bates' piece in CEN. This letter appeared in the 17th November edition of CEN.

Language and policy.
Sir, Let me first own up to be being the "smartly dressed" (others may beg to disagree) individual in Stephen Bates' last piece (October 27, "Non-Discriminating?"), whilst at the same time express utter surprise at being referred to as a "coloured man". In the modern political lexicon of race and cultural discourse it's rather impolite (to put it mildly) to refer to black people as "coloured". One expects better from a Guardian writer. Indeed, more should be expected from a piece in The Church of England Newspaper, a church with growing numbers of black congregants.
The launch I invited Mr Bates to was not "a campaign to persuade the Government to exempt evangelical Christians who run hotels and boarding houses from having to accept homosexual guests", rather it was to launch a major report on Faith & Nation. The report has 100 recommendations on a range of issues including human rights and religious freedom, constitutional reform and disestablishment, citizenship and social justice. I am more than happy to discuss these with Mr Bates, as well as the use of language and the politics of difference in race and religious discourse as we prepare for the Bicentenary of the Act to Abolish the Slave Trade and get behind the work of Set All Free.
Dr R David Muir.
Public Policy Director Evangelical Alliance.

So how did Stephen Bates get it so wrong? As a regular 'Guardian' reader I am aware of some of his hang-ups! I cannot recall whether he ever wrote about that fascinating report.

Posted by Ken Sawyer at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 8:10pm GMT

"“Am I not a man and a brother?” was the abolitionists’ catch-phrase in the 1790s. Not if you’re gay, matey, seems to be the Evangelicals’ response in the first decade of the new millennium."

Touche', Stephen! (And published in CEN, no less---bravo! :-D)

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 8:31pm GMT

Ken
That's interesting: the copy of the text above does not use the word "coloured" and it is an exact copy of what the author sent to the CEN. Maybe the word "black" was changed by the CEN subeditor?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 11:33pm GMT

I'm not even sure why it is important that he was black or smartly dressed!

It's just very odd that there are two such sharply contrasting reports. Unless there were two EA people at the event? Maybe the event didn't happen at all but rather was a mythical concept that got turned into an oral tradition and then a number of sources put into writing. The next stage is for us to redact it into one story so that later on someone can come and unpick it back into its various sources again

Posted by dave williams at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 12:55am GMT

One of the Dave Williams’s wrote “A Biblical doctrine of the State certainly needs to include our responsibility to submit to Law but also needs to consider the responsibility to obey God before man and the recognition that actually Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him. We also are entitled to get involved in a discussion as part of the democratic process which is what is happening now.”

Is what you are saying here, that you want to be able to use the Coercion of the State against others, but reserve the right to decide when it is to be used against yourselves?

and further: “… it's only when Evangelicals talk about sex or bishops that we seem to get an audience from liberals! The topic about the EA's statement on Christian social involvement got FIVE comments ….. I didn't see big headlines about Evangelical involvement … in . climate change . I'm still waiting for the comments about ……… Make Poverty History - but maybe that doesn't register on the radar because its not seen as "Evangelical"

Maybe just the shock of n o t hearing you talk about sex and bishops…

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 8:22am GMT

I noticed the discrepency between "coloured" and "black" in the letter as quoted, and as printed on this site. As I cannot at present, without donating some of my filthy lucre to CEN, see the article as printed, I must, presuming the word appears as alleged, wonder if the change were not either a deliberate misrepresentation of Mr Bates' writing or a sign of the insensitivity of the editorial staff at CEN. Either way, it is a poor reflection on CEN.

Now, what precisely *was the EA press conference about?

hpb
Austin, TX

Posted by Oriscus at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 9:06am GMT

Dear Goran,
You wrote "Is what you are saying here, that you want to be able to use the Coercion of the State against others, but reserve the right to decide when it is to be used against yourselves?"
No the teaching of Jesus Christ in the NT affirms the condemnation of same-sex sex throughtout the Bible, it is the right to hold that view that is being sought.
Also any evangelcial who doesnt believe in Jesus Christ is not a Christian, I would not necessarily say the Roman Catholic church is 'evangelcial' but it does recognise same-sex sex is wrong and not God's purpose. Your definitions are confused.

Posted by DaveW at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 9:46am GMT

The other problem is that the definition of homophobia forced in by gay and lesbian rights activists includes being against homosexual pracrtice which makes all true Christian believers in this matter homophobic.
I mean I follow Jesus Christ not sex. I am gay the joy of the Lord is my strength and when I hold on to His teaching my joy is complete. John 8

Posted by DaveW at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 9:50am GMT

Dont use evangelcial in this instance. The Roman Catholic church recognises that same-sex sex is wrong but it isn't necessarily 'evangelical' The Christian objection to same-sex sex is Christian and not 'evangelcial' A Christian is not going to stop loving a sinner but they are not going to support sin. The danger with this legislation is that gay and lesbian activists may not only disgaree with the Christian view on same-sex sex but also prevent them from entertaining same-sex sex.

Posted by DaveW at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 12:46pm GMT

Goran,

Honestly, we really don't talk about sex and bishops all that often when left to ourselves. It's just no-one seems that interested in our views on other things! Personally I would love to talk about this wider range of things!

With regards to the doctrine of the state. No I'm not saying what you suggest there. Just simply that

a. We are entitled to use the means invovled in a democratic society
b. We do happen to have the words of the one who has final authority over governments and so our desire/prayer is that governments will want to follow God's ways is their counsel. That's something every Anglican prays for every Sunday in England isn't it? One day they will have no choice but to obey him but until then we live in the world as it is
c. If we lose the argument on specific laws and they are implemented and we believe obeying them means disobeying God's law then we take the rap! The point is that those laws aren't laws yet.

Does that help?

Posted by dave williams at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 1:37pm GMT

I had better own up that it was me who changed coloured to black before letting Simon have a copy of my article. It was the only change I made, but it was indeed in response to Dr Muir's complaint in his letter to the CEN (which was published three weeks after my article originally appeared, so it took him a little while to get round to it).
It was my fault originally too, to describe him as coloured (I am sorry, I am of an age where I sometimes get confused about which words are acceptable and which not these days). I take full responsibility. Funnily enough the CEN never does change my monthly column so they are a writer's dream, until that is they leave in something that ought to have been changed....
The press conference indeed took place, as Dr Muir concedes, as did our conversation. It was held at Methodist Central Hall on 16th October and no, I did not subsequently write about the campaign launch in the Guardian because by the time it was held I was in Pakistan covering Prince Charles's official visit there.
What slightly surprised me about Dr Muir's letter was that at our meeting it was he himself who chose to select and raise with me, out of all the 100 recommendations he mentions, the one about hoteliers being allowed to discriminate against gay guests. That was the one he singled out (with some relish) in our brief conversation at the press conference. I would not otherwise have known about it, not having seen the report. I found it quite remarkable that that was the issue he most wanted to highlight, but perhaps he now finds it somewhat embarrassing to admit it in print.
Close textual analysis of his letter indicates that he did not actually deny that that was one of the report's recommendations. And indeed the campaign against the Northern Ireland regulations and the Government's decision to postpone them does appear to centre on evangelical opposition to the provisions for homosexuals.
I suppose we all have hang-ups, Ken. What a curious way to describe my evident distaste for the way homosexual people are treated by some who call themselves Christians. Just a tedious peccadillo on my part, I guess.
As for Cynthia's query about how to spot an evangelical establishment - yes, indeed, similar dilemma to theirs, about how to spot a gay guest.

Posted by stephen bates at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 3:57pm GMT

Christ is not 'ruler over the nations', as far as I can see. Nor am I persuaded that it would be desirable. For that matter, I do not know what this could mean. (I have read Watch Tower publications, though.

I thought we were beginning to 'get over' the morphing of the Jesus of history into the (feverishly)imagined 'Christ the ruler, conqueror etc'. These previous attempts having turned out to be spiritual poison ( the Spanish Inquisition, the genocidal treatment of indigenous peoples,languages & cultures the world over, by chritians conquering in the name of their 'Christ the ruler, conqueror etc' in whose rulership they believed themselves to be partipants. This certitude enabled these genocides of peoples, languages & cultures to procede without a second thought).

How about 'Christ the inviter' ? or 'Christ the seducer' ?

(at least no one dies )

Posted by laurence at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 6:11pm GMT

'..sadly it's only when Evangelicals talk about sex or bishops that we seem to get an audience from liberals!...'

I wouldn't be so sure !

Posted by laurence at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 6:15pm GMT

Stephen Bates wrote of the EA Faith and Nation report: "I did not subsequently write about the campaign launch in the Guardian because by the time it was held I was in Pakistan covering Prince Charles's official visit there."
Could have left a report behind!
Would/should have been an improvement on the one in 5th November edition of "Sunday Telegraph" headed "Christians ask if force is needed to protect their religious values." Written by Jonathan Wynne-Jones, sometimes writer in the CEN (!), it was a very moderate piece of journalism picking out from a long report one section and then totally distorting a careful historical consideration of the Christian Church's about civil disobedience.
My observation about what I regard as a hang up of SB is that the word or title 'evangelical' appears to be considered as an undifferentiated set of people. Yet I guess that there are not a few evangelicals amongst the Graudian's and therefore Stephen Bates's readers!

Posted by Ken Sawyer at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 6:56pm GMT

I simply find the supposed commitment of evangelicals to oppose homophobia utterly unconvincing,

When they start supporting civil equality rather than opposing just about every legal change ever suggested, and recognise that their own religion is inherently homophobic, then I shall start to take them seriously

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 8:30pm GMT

Thank you, Stephen, for this clarification.

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 10:39pm GMT

Laurence,

Sure Jesus as inviter and even seducer within the context of his Church as his bride. But yes he is the rightful king as well. It goes with being God! That is the story of the Bible that humanity is in rebellion against her rightful King.

It's a bit late to worry about anyone dying -He already did.

As far as it not being desirable to allow Christ to be ruler of the nations -who would you rather was?

Posted by dave williams at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 10:59pm GMT

'..sadly it's only when Evangelicals talk about sex or bishops that we seem to get an audience from liberals!...'

I wouldn't be so sure !

Well I'm posting on what do to about racism (in the light of the Church Times article about Trevor Phillips and the BNP), food allergies, Wesley on money and Christians and film on my blog at the moment. Would love to see more discussion on those topics

Posted by dave williams at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 11:08pm GMT

Dave Williams,

I'd have no trouble with accepting Christ to be the ruler of the nations. I would have trouble if there were intermediaries attempting to interpret his rule - because they would be imperfect and unjust, but using God's name to enforce their imperfect and unjust interpretations on me, and everyone else.

I understand this to be the form of government called Theocracy. I also understand it to be highly undesireable.

Posted by Simon Morden at Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 11:35pm GMT

To be perfectly honest, Dave, I'm not concerned with what evangelicals think - as I have no intention of ever agreeing with them.

The main problem is that evangelicals and liberals share the same denomination. There is no sense nor logic in this.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 12:16am GMT

Dave Williams,
"Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him."

I don't think it's all governments that will have to submit to Him. Nations and governments are not the same thing. I rather suspect that at the parousia, all human governments will cease to be. Christ will be ruler of the nations, not the governments. We have a right to comment on society and its ills, indeed, but to base that right on Christ's kingship, and today of all days(it's Sunday as I read and type this), is off the mark. Others believe in the supremacy of their God as well, and have just as much right as we do to speak to government. We believe our claim is true, well so do they. Christ will claim His Kingdom when the time comes. It is not for us to set up a government of our making and call it the Kingdom. It's been done. It failed. Have we learned nothing?

And,
"That is the story of the Bible that humanity is in rebellion against her rightful King."

No, the story of the Bible is that human willfullness led us to disobey God. This enslaved us to the powers of sin and death, and brought about the Fall of all Creation till He came to ransom us, and all of Creation, back. All Creation is redeemed, Dave. It's a Cosmic event. The Orthodox speak of God seeing humanity suffering under its yoke and coming to free us. This does not deny the sinfullness of our disobedience, nor our need for grace and forgiveness. Nor does it deny the need for atonement, BTW.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 12:29am GMT

One of the Dave Williams wrote: ” No the teaching of Jesus Christ in the NT affirms the condemnation of same-sex sex throughout the Bible, it is the right to hold that view that is being sought.
Also any evangelical who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ is not a Christian, I would not necessarily say the Roman Catholic church is 'evangelical' but it does recognise same-sex sex is wrong and not God's purpose. Your definitions are confused.”

My definitions are confused?

The right to hold any view is established since Creation (not to mention that it would be very difficult to dis-establish ;=). What we are talking about is what one d o e s with one’s “views”.

The acting out – and to some extent what one is encouraging with one’s views.

But no, there is no “teaching of Jesus Christ in the NT (that) affirms the condemnation of same-sex sex throughout the Bible”. None whatsoever. But yes, you are free to hold such a view – but don’t expect applause!

“affirms the condemnation”?

and perhaps another Dave Williams wrote: “we really don't talk about sex and bishops all that often when left to ourselves. It's just no-one seems that interested in our views on other things!”

Well, maybe this might have something to do with what you are saying when you talk about sex and Bishops?

and “Personally I would love to talk about this wider range of things!”

No one is hindering you. Just do it!

And as to your point b., No, it certainly does not help!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 7:51am GMT

The story of the bible is God creating a creature that was capable of forgetting, ignoring or defying God. Yet loving that creature anyway, and then seeking to bring them back into an active relationship with God. It is an unfolding uncompleted story. Jesus was a huge milestone in that journey, but he wasn't the first nor will he be the last "big thing" that God does.

On the stuff about governance, the state, and the church. It has been a relief to see think tanks being set up to consider this more thoroughly.

We are part of the state and what happens to the state happens to us, if the state goes well, we go well and vice versa. We can be as Joseph and Daniel and help the state and its rulers foster moral and good management, or we can be corrupt courtiers out to service our own needs and stuff everyone else. We are meant to contribute to the state, but we are not meant to idolise the state.

I was reading Chronicles 2:10 today. The lesson there is that any ruler (religious or secular) that is too greedy or violent will find itself without a kingdom to call its own. It might be left with a loyal remnant, but if one looks at the advice that Rehoboam heeded from his remaining remnant, he would have been better off leaving with the ten tribes.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 9:54am GMT

Ken Sawyer obviously does not read me very carefully, because I do differentiate between evangelicals. Indeed if he reads my book A Church at War he will see at least one chapter which defines the differences. And he'd also spot in that that my connection with evangelicals runs even closer than he supposes: my wife is an Anglican charismatic evangelical and my three children are being brought up in the evangelical tradition. So I do not need to be told what an evangelical is and when I write about the faction in the Church of England I always refer to conservative evangelicals. On this occasion I was referring to the Evangelical Alliance, which is an umbrella body, though it seems to be getting increasingly conservative.
As for writing the story up before I went, the report was not vouchsafed to me before publication.....

Posted by stephen bates at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 11:59am GMT

I agree with your first part, Cheryl, but not the second statement. God has done, is doing, and will do great things, but the redemption of Creation in Christ is a fait accompli, and the most important event in history. Nothing can be greater, nothing can have the Cosmic impact, of the Incarnation(in which I include everything from Gabriel's message to the descent of the Spirit).

And, Merseymike, tolerance is neither senseless not illogical. It is what we as Christians are called to. If the Anglican Church falls apart because of lack of tolerance, then we will have failed as Christians. Our pride, our desire to be right will have gotten in the way. And it is about tolerance, and not just towards gay people. The true difficulty is to be tolerant of the views of those who hate you and pretend they don't. Love your enemies and bless those who hate you.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 12:30pm GMT

It would be good to have a policy (as numerous guesthouses have done) of not accepting unmarried couples - but why regard homosexuals as a special case here? They are no more nor less married than the others.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 1:18pm GMT

Ford,

I'm not arguing for us setting up our own government! I think you're reading a lot more into what I'm saying. Yes at the parousia all governments will go. But if we are going to have a Romans 13 doctrine of the state then that state owes the authority that it does have to God

I'm not sure why your last paragraph is meant to be a correction to mine? I'm not disclaiming that redemption is cosmic, nor that we are enslaved to sin and death I'm not sure if you're trying to open up another discussion on atonement theories? It' probably more helpful to talk about one topic at a time -although I would again love to discuss the atonement with you!

Posted by dave williams at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 1:40pm GMT

Goran,

It's not about hindering. The point is I'm not setting the agenda on TA. TA happens to want to talk about bishops and sex. All I can do is invite you to look at my own blog which has covered the range of topics I mentioned and note the fact that over the weekend I checked a couple of other conservative blogs and none of them are particularly talking about bishops and sex either!

Posted by dave williams at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 1:46pm GMT

Dave Williams,
I'm not trying to open up debate on theories of the atonement, I do enough derailing of threads as it is. I would certainly benefit from such a discussion, all the same. I am merely pointing out that the idea that the story of the Bible is thought of in other ways than as human rebellion against our "rightful king". That is one way of looking at it, and a valid one, but it smacks of the Imperial Church. We are talking about the relationship between humanity, whose pride and arrogance caused the Fall, and God, who loved so much He became one of us in order to bridge that gap. We can see it as our rebellion, or simply refer to our pride and self will. We can see it as our need for repentance or as God's love reaching out to us. All these are valid images, but it isn't wise to limit our contemplation fo redemption to one particular model, and the rebel/criminal model isn't one I find helpful in the course of my self-examination. It seemed to me that this was informing your understanding of the political role of the Church. It was also linked into what I read as your idea that Christians have some sort of special right, above that of other religions, to inform the political debate. We have no more, and no less, right to political influance than any other religion. All any of us have is faith, so how does our faith give us special rights?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 3:59pm GMT

Dear Laurence,
I would have to disagree with you. Christ is 'ruler over the nations' as far as I can see Matthew 12:18, Matthew 12:21, Matthew 24:7-9, Matthew 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Dear Merseymike,
You wrote "To be perfectly honest, Dave, I'm not concerned with what evangelicals think - as I have no intention of ever agreeing with them."
Well I don’t necessarily disagree with liberals on every point but as to non-believers Merseymike, I don’t believe non-believers are even Christians let alone Anglicans.

Posted by Davew at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 8:31pm GMT

Christopher Shell wrote: "It would be good to have a policy (as numerous guesthouses have done) of not accepting unmarried couples - but why regard homosexuals as a special case here? They are no more nor less married than the others."

It would seem to me that being able in law to marry but not wanting to, is not quite the same thing as wanting to marry but not being allowed to in law.

So I would say both more and less... ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 9:02pm GMT

Ford,

Firstly I'm not arguing for one model on its own, I was picking up one aspect of the redemption story as it was pertinant to here. If I'd tried to cover every angle I'd probably have ended up sounding like Rowan. I guess we need to allow each other a bit of "shorthand allowance" in these short comments.

Secondly maybe I need to put in some over emphasis the other way . I am NOT claiming that Christians should take over the government, stamp our feet until we get our way, blackmail with numbers, march on Westminster, create our own political parties or anything like that. Indeed the sooner they kick the bishops out of parliament the better :o)

I'm simply saying that if we have access to God's authoritative word then we have a responsibility to share it. We should do that in reasoned, gentle but clear and firm discussion. We do so knowning both that our understanding is imperfect but also that the Holy Spirit can use is now and we do it knowing that one day God is going to sort it all out when we'll probably all be in for some surprises.

Posted by dave williams at Monday, 27 November 2006 at 9:19pm GMT

Dave Williams - the problem here lies with the notion that your interpretation of "God's authoritive word" trumps mine, and that if I disagree with you, I disagree with God (whilst not being, of course, a True Christian).

There is a market place of ideas - my faith leads me to oppose some of the ideas that your faith proposes. But let's not pretend that either of our approaches is "God's way".

Posted by Simon Morden at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 12:19am GMT

Just glad this thread lives on!

If we have "access to God's authoritative word" and a "duty to share it" does that inlcude the death penalty, slavery and the presecution of other faiths as well as a core part of what we ought to be sharing?

If not why not and how are we to differentiate between the bits God does and doesn't want us to follow?

Again the spiritual leaders in Iran and the former Taliban - as well as many other countries - were doing exactly that - they have access to (as they see it) God's word and they are authoritatively sharing it with their fellow peoples and believe that very bad things will happen if people are allowed to deviate from that.

Well that's one line of reasoning. But more importantly than this is a failing in the basic structure of argument. Can we not see what is happening here - instead of preaching a gospel we are indeed attempting to place ourselves as judges over others and instead of the good news of spiritual grace we are attempting to resurrect varying versions (as seems expedient at any given time) of Old Testament social legislation instead. Its a corruption of Christianity pure and simple, possibly creeping in to Christianity at the time when the Roman Empire became entwined with Christianity and the religion became obsessed with bringing about the right social legislation (usually of a persecutory nature) - not what Jesus did at all.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 2:21am GMT

Dave Williams,
Yes I agreee. But Muslims would say they have the authoritative word and have a responsibility to share, indeed impose, it. When you said:

"Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him"

you seemed to be saying that Christians have special rights because of what we believe. This is what I was responding to.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 3:43am GMT

No blackmail with numbers???

Dave Williams wrote: "We do so knowning both that our understanding is imperfect but also that the Holy Spirit can use is now..."

Perhaps you should ask yourself/ves individually exactly why the Holy Spirit whould "use" you - and for what?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 6:26am GMT

Dear Simon Morden,
The key point here is that if the Bible is the word of God then the Holy Spirit does remind us of all Jesus taught and did because Jesus taught this and gave the Holy Spirit.
Most people have faith in something, its what they have faith in that counts. God's authortitive word is recorded in the Bible for those who believe it. Quite clearly an interpretation of a text can only be based on what the text says. We have to be careful we dont call disbelief 'interpretation'.
So for those who believe there isnt a marketplace for ideas, Jesus dismissed alternative ideas to His teaching in no uncertain terms.

Posted by DaveW at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 11:16am GMT

DaveW - this is hubris, pure and simple. However you dress it up, you are stating that you believe you have the correct interpretation of God's word, and anyone who disagrees with you, disagrees with God.

You are free to believe whatever you want, free to organise your churches in accordance with those beliefs. But when you attempt to marry the legislative power of the State with those beliefs, the situation changes dramatically and dangerously.

My faith in God and understanding of scripture leads me to oppose you. However, since I have no hesitation in acknowledging my understanding is incomplete, this leaves me open to attack.

If only I was more certain, I could dismiss you as heretical and refuse to engage in the argument!

Posted by Simon Morden at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 12:57pm GMT

Davew Thanks for putting me right! : - )

All those delicious quotes I'd never read before...

Posted by laurence at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 2:08pm GMT

"God's authortitive word is recorded in the Bible for those who believe it."

DaveW, in this sentence replace 'God' with 'Allah' and 'Bible' with 'Qur'an'. You now have a statement a Muslim would agree with. In the discussion about religion and the state, how would you convince a Muslim that we Christians have some special right to influence government?

"Quite clearly an interpretation of a text can only be based on what the text says."

An interpretation of a text can also be based, at least in part, on what we know the tradition to be and how the text agrees with the tradition. That's what the Church believed for 1200 years. It took a Reformation to change that. Sola scriptura is an innovation of the Reformation, Dave, we don't all accept it, and that doesn't mean we're not Christians. We must indeed be careful that we don't call disbelief interpretation, and, more broadly, we mustn't use the Bible to support what we already believe or want to believe. We must also be careful not to put too much authority where it doesn't belong just because we have lost faith in the traditional authority. That's one of the mistakes the Reformers made.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 2:11pm GMT

Guys,

So many points! And let's face it we can't deal with these things justly in 400 word answers. and I get the feeling I'm just going to end up repeating stuff I've already said here and elsewhere!

So all I can do is repeat my invitation -if you seriously want to know what a conservative evangelical believes on these issues come read and comment on my blog!

Posted by dave williams at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 4:34pm GMT

Strongly agree, Simon. The point is that conservative evangelical Christians are a very small minority group and have no right to impose the tenets of their faith on those of us who reject it. They are welcome to continue to believe as they will, but not discriminate against others in civil society in doing so.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 6:35pm GMT

Simon

It is fair to point out that they have chosen to act as gods and pass judgment. Because that is exactly what they do.

Then let them live with the rewards of men who would be gods and pass judgment. As they judge, so they will be judged.

They reject variance, therefore there will be no tolerance of variance within their camp.

They reject fallability, therefore fallibility will prove they are not gods.

They reject abusive behaviour, therefore their collusion to impose or hide abusive behaviour will condemn them.

They reject the words of compassion and Zion, therefore Zion will reject them.

If creation and souls as the potter made them are not "good enough" for them then they can go sit in their little box with like-minded, self-flattering souls. Personally, the more who take themselves to that "pure" space the better for the rest of us. Much less fighting in the streets, or taunting from the pulpit, or abuse in our homes. Good riddance, I say.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 6:38pm GMT

Dear Simon Morden,
You wrote "...you are stating that you believe you have the correct interpretation of God's word, and anyone who disagrees with you, disagrees with God."
On the contrary I have clearly stated, and I will repeat it, that the Bible has the word of God, so anyone who disagrees with it is likely to have the wrong interpretation. Now for those who believe it, it tells us we can receive from Jesus the promised Holy Spirit which helps us interpret it.
As to the state, the decisions of the state will depend on the number and infulence of Christians within its leadership.
You wrote "My faith in God and understanding of scripture leads me to oppose you." How can you oppose me when I have proposed scripture is correct? You seem focused on me and not the scripture I am referring to. The scripture I am referring to is about who I believe in and follow, Jesus Christ, its all about Him and not me.
God Bless

Posted by DaveW at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 8:43pm GMT

If only there was a little "banging head against wall" smilie, like on Ship of Fools...

DaveW - you are correct that I'm focussing on you and not scripture. You seem incapable of comprehending that we can have a different view on the same passage of scripture - and thus my argument is not with God, not with scripture, but with you.

Whether you like it or not, you interpret scripture through a lens of tradition, culture, hope, fear, prejudice even. As do I. So I can oppose you from an equally scripturally (un)sound base.

I read the same Bible as you, trust in the same God as you, follow the same Jesus as you. But I do try to make being mean-spirited towards homosexuals not part of my faith.

Posted by Simon Morden at Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 9:45pm GMT

Dear Simon Morden,

As I have said before we can do and should have different revelations from the same passage of scripture. What we cant have is interpretations from the scripture that are opposite to what the scriptures say.
Whether you like it or not, I believe the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the way the life and the truth and there is no other until He returns or calls us... which is what He says. Incidentally on the topic of homosexual practice, if Jesus is right it obviously wasn’t God’s purpose even in creation Matthew 19, Mark 10, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 7 and from creation for all time so I interpret scripture as being for all time and through the cultures it has always been through.
You need to come up with something to offer the debate as to date you have no evidence to cite for your argument. Cite some scripture that countenances same-sex sex for a start.
As to fear and prejudice I have none it is you writing these words, the mouth is the overflow of the heart.

Posted by DaveW at Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 12:08pm GMT

DaveW - again (again!) it is not the Bible I oppose, nor Jesus, it is your attitudes. Prooftext all you want - if I believed that God proscribes same-sex sex (I've nowhere said that I don't; your prejudices are showing) I would *still* oppose your mean-spirited attacks on homosexuals and support equal access to services for all.

Why? Apart from the obvious that it is the correct, Godly thing to do, it is the enlightened self-interest that these regulations safeguard my rights as well as theirs. But it seems being nasty to gays is now part of living the Christian life.

Posted by Simon Morden at Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 2:49pm GMT

"As to fear and prejudice I have none"

This statement seems to be contradicted by the following statement of yours:

"I have to choose between perversion or homophobia I choose homophobia".

To be fair, I may be misunderstanding your meaning, and have, on the pertinent list, asked for clarification. It may have been something said in a moment of frustration. God knows I've done that before.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 4:34pm GMT

Dear Simon Morden,
Well if the Bible condemns same-sex sex as against God's purposes how then can it be a Godly thing to support the promotion of it?
Prooftext that same-sex sex is wrong versus no prooftext is a clear undisputed certainty.
I am sorry you find my attitude "mean-spirited attacks", not much I can do about that I have in mind my friendships with those with homosexual desires and am wondering what your problem is.
As to equal access to services for all I think thats a good point, but should a Christian hotel owner refuse an adulterer a room? I hope not, should a Christian hotel owner refuse an adulterer and his mistress a room to carry out adultery. I think they have a right to if they wish. In the same way this is where an agressive gay and lesbian lobby cant be trusted. http://www.christian.org.uk/rel_liberties/index.htm
A believing Christian church like te Anglcian Communion cannot offer out a hall to a gay and lesbian group.. its an offence to God.

Posted by DaveW at Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 5:00pm GMT

DaveW:

Firstly, the SoR is not about promotion of same-sex, different-sex, or any-sex sex. It's about equal access to services. I can believe same-sex sex to be wrong, and still support the SoR. You are mistaken to conflate the two issues.

Secondly, yes: I believe you need to rethink your attitude to homosexuals. They are (last time I looked) full members of our society, with all the rights and responsibilities that that entails.

Thirdly, do you believe that Christians should be discriminated against? Do you believe that a pagan hotel owner should be able to turn you away? Do you believe a Muslim IT engineer should be able to refuse to fix your computer? Perhaps you do. "Do unto others" is in the Bible, after all.

Fourthly, what the Christian Institute know about the law regarding religious liberties could be written on a postage stamp and still leave room for the Lord's Prayer. You do yourself no favours by bringing them to your support. I go to the same church as Colin Hart...

Posted by Simon Morden at Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 7:17pm GMT

DaveW, the point is that just because your literal interpretation of Scripture leads you and your coreligionists to claim that offering out a hall to a gay and lesbian group is an offence to God, others would say that, in the spirit of the Gospel, your attitude is an offence to God. You are free to your beliefs, you need to be humble enough to acknowledge that you don't speak for all of Christianity.

Posted by For Elms at Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 7:23pm GMT

Simon,

Last time I checked, people can discriminate for all those reasons. Shops CAN choose who they serve goods to. In effect this law is about not giving a specific reason for doing the discrimnation.

Posted by dave williams at Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 6:20pm GMT

Dave Williams
Discrimination in shops is already unlawful on grounds of sex (refusing to serve males, for instance) or race (refusing to serve Caucasians, for instance) and in general also on grounds of disability (refusing to serve blind persons, for instance). As far as religion is concerned, the regulations in Part 2 of the Equality Act 2006 ( the same Act which in Part 3 authorises the preparation of the regulations under discussion here) will also make religion a similar unlawful ground. Those regulations in Part 2 will also come into effect next Spring.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 6:55pm GMT

Simon,

All those provisions don't actually change the fact that a shop keeper is able to serve who he chooses to and who he doesn't -just as someone is capable of employing who he does and doesn't want to. What he can't do is tell that person that the reason he isn't going to serve him is because of x, y, or z.

Posted by dave williams at Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 11:03pm GMT

On a practical level, Christians who air bigoted views might consider how deeply off-putting these are to those of us who are searching for faith. I attended a women's meeting recently at an Anglican church I was thinking of joining but I have now decided never to go back after one of the women launched into an anti-gay tirade. I am not gay myself but I find this sort of unloving attitude rather hard to take.

Posted by Susannah at Thursday, 7 December 2006 at 11:25am GMT

Susannah,

Yes and no -if you walk away every time you hear a bigoted tirade you don't agree with then we are all going to do a lot of walking!

Posted by dave williams at Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 8:06pm GMT
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