Comments: Wycliffe Hall: a couple of items

Wycliffe took the decision to ban Reform meetings about 7 years ago under Alister McGrath, and the article that wannabepriest links to seems to be dated 2005, when Alister was just leaving. Perhaps that's the measure of just how far Wycliffe has moved, and what saddens those who remember it as being open.

Posted by Jeremy Fagan at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:40am BST

Biased, provocative stuff from Mr Fraser.
No defence of free speech or freedom of conscience from him here - although I am sure he would defend others on these grounds.

I wonder if he prefers the Anglican training institutions which mainly attract middle-aged people, teach them to have little confidence in anything and send them out to shrink churches all over the country?

Anglicanism does not have to be wishy-washy - it can defend its beliefs (as found in the Bible and also the Prayer Book) - even if that means being unpopular with Oxford dons or The Guardian....don't remember getting the approval of the liberal establishment was a great aim of Christ.

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 10:35am BST

NP - which institutions did you have in mind, or is your post actually hopelessly ill informed?

Posted by Frozenchristian at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 10:51am BST

I think what we have is an attempted putsch by fundamentalists. Anglicanism in England has to decide what sort of church it intends to be - established, with a national responsibility, broad and encouraging questioning, or just another fringe protestant sect which the vast bulk of the population would have no affinity to at all - even a residual one.

If it is the former, then there is no place for either oak Hill or Wycliffe. They should be removed as suitable places for Anglican priests to train. There are many other evangelical colleges which nevertheless have avoided the Taliban mentality, such as St John's , Bristol, and Ridley

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 11:16am BST

These dangerous institutions seem to be flourishing in the Roman Catholic world as well, notably in the USA. It is not a question of freedom, for the indoctrination of cultists is a threat to their maturity and freedom.

We saw in Moscow the other day that Russian Orthodoxy, for all the beauty of its liturgy, is a hotbed of fanaticism and hatred -- a warning, surely, to be very careful about encouraging anything that savors of sectarianism or bigotry.

Broad and serene theology is needed, if we are to prevent the Churches from playing the role Richard Dawkins assigns to them, as factories of benightedness and violence.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 11:45am BST

I am no evangelical, nor do I have any problem with a Church suppressing or correcting its own teaching institutions whose instruction or practice contradicts its dogmas. But, if it does so, it should certainly cease claiming that it represents some sort of "inclusive" community where all views are respected. You can't have it both ways.

Posted by rick allen at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 12:01pm BST

NP, I don't remember Jesus getting the approval of the liberal establishment either.

I do read of Jesus repeatedly condemning those who elevate themselves above others, those who pride themselves on being the most correctly and fanatical religious leaders of their day, and it is this fanaticism which is frighteningly paralleled in what I read about Oak Hill and Wycliffe.

I doubt Jesus would have approved of people who wanted to conduct a witch hunt against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, who actively encourage prejudice and diminish our humanity, nor do I think Jesus would have advocated headship and been a reactionary against the move towards full and proper equality for the place of women in our church.

Posted by Colin Coward at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 12:02pm BST

I seem to remember that Giles Fraser is entitled to be refered to as 'Dr.' If NP does not wish to call him Father Fraser on grounds of churchmanship, when politeness might invite it, he could at least use an academic title.

The Principal of Wycliffe Hall would, I suspect, take the 'strategic' decision to have Dr Fraser silenced. Or at least dismissed from the Hall, were he on the staff. Fortunately for Dr. Fraser, and for the Church in general, he is vicar of a thriving (numerically impressive) church in Putney.

Posted by Anglicanus at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 12:15pm BST

Don't ditch Wycliffe yet! I was there just a few short years ago when it was relatively sensible and intellectually respectable. There was even a liturgy tutor (though she did used to advise that, after the liturgy, we consume the leftover elements reverently with some soup. But that's besides the point.).
What's really needed is a change of personnel on the Hall Council. Bring back Tom Wright and Oliver O'Donovan, and perhaps it would be worth bringing in Nigel Biggar (the new Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Philosophy at Oxford, formerly on the teaching staff at Wycliffe) and also, dare I say it, David Wenham? And please, no more Covenant signatories.

Posted by Sarah at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 12:50pm BST

NP - by your own logic, you should agree with Fraser, should you not? "What is there between Athens and Jerusalem?" is an ancient cry (or indeed, on these shores, 'Quid Hinieldus cum Christo?').

Wycliffe should, you seem to be arguing, cut its links with the perfidious Oxford ivory tower and pursue its course of scriptural fidelity: the same conclusion as Fraser, though arrived at from the opposite direction.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 1:06pm BST

Banning something is a sign of being 'open'? Which dictionary are u using? :o(

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 1:09pm BST

Merseymike - you do realise that those vicars who follow your sort of idea have seen decades of shrinking congregations in England??

Sorry, I think the growth in Alpha, Reform and Fulcrum churches in England are more persuasive than your assertion that you know the mind of the British people......the evidence is not with you.

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 1:11pm BST

It all looks very painfully familiar to this American. Such institutions do not exist for the sake of education so much as Basic Training, a kind of boot camp for religious militants. Wycliffe sounds a lot like Pat Robertson's Regents University whose alumni fill the ranks of the Bush Administration; whose qualifications are not professional expertise, but religious and political loyalty to the White House Ideology. Twenty and thirty year old Bible college graduates serve as the satraps of Imperial America, running the American Raj in Baghdad with command over experienced generals and colonels, as well as Iraqi quislings. We are currently in the middle of a Congressional inquiry into the role such folk played in hiring and firing Federal Prosecutors on the basis of political loyalty and not professionalism. There is an ongoing scandal in the Air Force Academy about officers attempting to coerce the enlisted men and women into converting to conservative evangelical Christianity, aided and abetted by ties to to ConsEv groups in nearby Colorado Springs, a beautiful town at the foot of Pike's Peak that has become a mecca for the religious and polical right wing.
My advice is to nip this thing in the bud before it metastisizes into government policy, like it has over here.

Posted by counterlight at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 1:19pm BST

Wonderful, an article in defence of academice excellence that makes it point by disgraceful insinuations (cell of religious extremists is calculated to make us think suicide bombing jihadists) and completly unsubstantiated assertions - Oak Hill's academic standards have gone up and and up under David Peterson (don't take my word for it, ask the Bishops Inspectors, or the plethora of Oxbridge graduates and PhD holders among the current student body).

If this is Giles Fraser's idea of a model of academic argumentation, then it doesn't say much for the current standards of the institution where he is lecturing...

Posted by Phil A at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 1:31pm BST

So Wycliffe was open... when it banned Reform from meeting? Some unconcious irony in Jeremy's comment, I think.

Posted by Stephen Walton at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 2:22pm BST

Chris Sugden also made the contrast on Sunday between a sort of church planting orientated college and an academic college. You can have such, but then an attachment to a university is inappropriate. In a university, Theology as a subject has to be fully open and critical and is not just something "passed on".

However, actually, education and training these days is in a hopelessly confused mess. A lot of education now is little other than training, and a lot of ways to pass even academic exams (especially in the school system) is a kind of points acquiring memory exercise where quantity matters (how much work students do today!) and the statistical returns are given publicity.

Some of us stand for liberal education in the sense of critical enquiry, and that this should include priests and ministers who should understand the faith in all its complexity and all its enquiry, enquiry to be passed on to those who have not attended such courses so that they in turn can develop. Each person should enounter the material and be able to make up their own minds.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 2:46pm BST

a state church supporting groups that oppresses others while enacting legislation that tries to protect the same very people seems a bit backward.

NP The Anglican fundies here believe in "my way or the highway." I've been told by some that they fear I'm going to go to hell. My response is, "maybe, but looks like I'm going to plenty of company!" The state should support all people.

Posted by BobinWashPA at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 2:50pm BST

The evidence of 95% of UK citizens not attending church at all, NP, me being one of them at the moment, suggests very much that I know the mind of the British people more than you...

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 3:08pm BST

I am very sorry I missed this article from Dr Gerald Bray in 2005. I would have written offering my full support.

It is ludicrous to "ban" meetings of students in a University College because the College Council might not like what it stands for - I am amazed they got away with it.

Dr Bray quite rightly argues:
"Reform is an organization in good standing within the Church of England, and is even listed as such in the Church's official Yearbook. It does not appeal to everyone and is actively disliked by some, but so are many other societies which have not attracted anything like the same amount of opprobrium. To ban an organization from meeting while the case for or against it is still pending seems to be an extreme step, especially when one considers that it is a fundamental principle of English justice that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty."

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement shares all the qualifications mentioned above and we are keen to contact students at the college to arrange the formation of a new LGCM group there. Even more so now we hear there are "false accusations of homophobia" flying around from former staff. If anyone from Wycliffe that visits TA is interested - please get in touch.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 3:21pm BST

I am very proud to have been trained at Wycliffe and continue to be proud of its accomplishments and commitment to training men and women for ministry. It is that ministry that is the key.

The ministry we are trained for is the planting of churches, the conversion to Christ of the people of England (and beyond) and the training of Christian disciples who will in turn make disciples.

In western society in its post Christian situation this means a restoration of the New Testament models of life, witness and evangelism. The West is no longer the effective home of the imperial Church whose role was to bless government and the clergy simply to be the chaplains of the nation. We are now in a time of need for aggressive and bold witness and ministry.

I thank God that Wycliffe continues to see this as her primary calling and mission. Wycliffe is placed in Oxford both strategically and properly. When I was there it was one of three Anglican Colleges (the year before there had been four but Ripon was joined to Cuddesdon) in order to give training in definitive Anglican spiritual traditions. Wycliffe was then delightfully Evangelical and conservative and her ministry has contiued to produce top notch clergy trained evangelically and a little later, charismatically to follow the call of Christ the Lord to evangelize and make disciples.

It was proper then as it is now to keep the staff/faculty doctrinally focused on the need and task that is Wycliffe's vocation. I am immensly proud of Wycliffe's desire and intent to bring the Scriptures and the Great Commission to the context of English society in its post Christian situation and also to confront the Church where the Church has compromised the Gospel for the sake of either inclusion or status in that society.

Posted by Ian Montgomery at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 3:27pm BST

Hello Colin Coward

The Jesus in the Bible says to ALL of us "go and sin no more" as he accepts us......he would say the same to Reform and LGCM today because he had no tolerance for unrepentant hearts.

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 3:57pm BST

I suspect Reform and other groups have raised as many questions by their implicit presupposition of special domininist or reconstructionist privileges for just their own sort of believers - the ongoing campaign to save other believers from asking questions, for example - rather than because of their loyalties to legacy believerhood as such. But people closer to the UK may speak better about that hunch.

How odd that the traditional Anglican intellectual thrust towards acknowledging and juggling just the views in tension - towards finding ways to discover implicit common ground that lives still with tension and difference and questions - is so consistently declared contrary to both essential faith (and contrary to Anglican ethos) by various conservative posters here.

I do not come to the Lord's Table nor to prayer nor to preaching, hoping to find pat/closed faith answers to possibly everything under the sun; but rather to find support for living as ethically as possible with my particular sort dealt from among the human condition's contradictions, ambiguities, uncertainties, injustices; and to bear witness in common with others, as thankfully and joyously as possible, that we have and hear ourselves being called to live differently in the midst of all the dim and fitful candles of church and world which whip in the winds and go out, nearly at every opportunity these days.

I seek to ever renew some passing and persistent human and embodied ability to love anew, because I hear and respond to the news of God's great love in Jesus of Nazareth whom I recognize - soley by faith and not by any pat system of doctrinal platitudes or by Magisterium or by any certainty - as Risen Lord. I am literally and figuratively betting on something, other than the power, fame, greed, possessions, and idols of religions or states or marketplaces - in part by trying to use all things, including myself and others, differently than these various paltry systems of domination and abuse order me to do.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 4:11pm BST

Phil A's comments don't quite hit the mark. Sectarianism is not incompatible with intelligence, so it is perfectly possible(say) to hold a D.Phil and to be a member of the Free Free Presbyterians. A noted feature of the Leeds landscape in the 70's was a fundamentalist preacher who traded on his being Professor of Human Joints at the University — he may have been an excellent clinician, but to use it as he did was disingenuous.

That Oak Hill's academic standards are higher than once they were is something of an irrelevance - the issue is whether something recognisable as non-sectarian Anglicanism is being offered to those training there (or at Wycliffe).

If bishops came to believe the training offered did not lie within the Anglican tradition (and I know of at least one who is now unwilling to send candidates to train at Oak Hill), then the entire student body could be made up of Nobel Prize winners without invalidating that decision.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 4:39pm BST

Dear Mynster - I would hope Oxford, like my old place, would continue to value freedom of thought and conscience. I am sure it will.

Merseymike - no, 95% of the people in this country are not like you at all - you may share their lack of belief but, unlike you, they are getting on with their lives and not bothering with church affairs.....their position is quite rational.

The good news is that lots of them are becoming Christians in England ...but not in the type of Anglican church of which you would approve.

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 5:17pm BST

NP: They're not becoming Christians though: 95% are still non-Christian. Just because you disagree, doesn't make the statistic wrong.

Many Evangelical type churches grow by poaching Christians away from other congregations. Everyone knows this. If your church has grown 100% in a year, 80+% of them are probably from other Churches!

Posted by ash at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 8:03pm BST

NP, since my understanding is that you are based in Australia, I'm not sure how you can so confidently tell us all back in England what is going on in our English churches.

Posted by badman at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:04pm BST

NP: "The Jesus in the Bible says to ALL of us "go and sin no more" as he accepts us......he would say the same to Reform and LGCM today because he had no tolerance for unrepentant hearts." Then can we imagine a sequel to the story where Jesus himself picks up the first stone and hurls it at the woman because she sinned again, proving she hadn't sufficiently repented? I rather think not. Then let's stop throwing stones, period.

The words "Neither do I condemn you" precede the words "Go and sin no more". It all depends on where you place the emphasis, doesn't it? Few people would have any doubt that a woman who cheats on her husband is doing something wrong. But I do not think a committed same-sex couple is doing anything wrong. That is not being "unrepentent", it's being unconvinced. NP, do you ever wonder "What if I'm wrong? What if I'm the one who needs to repent?" What are you going to tell your Lord , NP, if it turns out you are? Don't worry, I'm sure he'll still say, "Neither do I condemn you."

This reminds me of something on Louie Crew's website:

"Now if you want any help from me, you've got to take responsibility. You got yourself into this mess, and you need to confess that very loudly and clearly so that no Gospel writer will forget to underscore it. These men have a perfect right to stone you, but if you will make a loud enough confession, I'll see what I can do to help you. But don't you ever, ever commit adultery again! Do you hear me!?
-- Jesus did not say this to the woman taken in adultery

Posted by Brian MacIntyre at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:20pm BST

Ash makes a serious point, particularly worrying for UPA evangelical churches. There is a 'honeypot' near here which has (apparently) trashed congregations , not at the local middle of the road/liberal/ anglo-catholic emporia, but at the poor urban evangelical churches and chapels. 'Deckchairs', 'Titanic' and 'rearranging' are words which come to mind. I believe there is evidence to suggest that most parish Alpha attendees are already church members seeking to deepen their faith (a laudable thing) rather than converts.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:55pm BST

For years the bishops thought they could keep conservative evangelicals safely in the Oak Hill Ghetto, now they are losing Wycliffe Hall to conservative evangelicals too the situation has become serious. What's happening at Ridley these days?

Posted by flabellum at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:55pm BST

All fine and dandy here at Ridley thanks. We're still decidedly 'open evangelical', worshipping and learning alongside Methodists, URC, Anglicans at Westcott, and the good women from Margaret Beaufort RC.

Posted by Simon at Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 11:42pm BST

Actually. This is a delightful concept.

Since by their theology and conduct, they have proven that Eve (and thus all women) are never to be forgiven (not in 1 or 2000 or 20000 years), then they don't really need Eve to dwell with them.

All they need is a name that they can use as an excuse to justify everything that has gone wrong in the world and why it still okay to continue to use tyranny against others. All they need is a name that they can use in their temper tantrums with God that the world is not good enough or not attractive enough.

Therefore it doesn't really matter where God sends Eve.

If the only theologies that humanity can countenance are misogynistic, elitist and genocidal, then Eve doesn't have to hang around to be insulted.

Maybe they should just get on with lobotomising all women, that way we would all be just walking wombs who happen to be capable of cooking and cleaning.

They will then have their perfect world, with women just as they should be.

Pray hard boys, pray hard.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 12:45am BST

_We are now in a time of need for aggressive and bold witness and ministry._ Ian Montgomery

There is no time for aggressive anything. When I was at Luther King House, there was a weekly eucharist about which I was on the outside. We identified it as a high pressure event, and indeed it was almost aggressive in a way that perhaps insiders would not see.

This idea that somehow some sort of macho, aggression is required is, for me, an irreligious attitude. I'd rather sit down and meditate. It strikes even of desperation, to have to be aggressive.

People are mixed bags. Sometimes all we want is someone to listen and someone to value us. A calm space is so valuable. People are not objects to be 'converted' in some sort of manipulative manner, reminiscent of Richard Turnbull's "strategic" approach to "capture" generations. It is dishonest in motivation and unethical. Gentleness, conversation, patience: people who matter and not ideologies. I'd say if Wycliffe is turning ever more clearly into this manipulative and aggressive place then it is ethically suspect and pastorally inept. The reason it is a good thing to have broad and trained sensitive ministers is because people are. Life is awkward and difficult enough without having some manipulator coming along.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 1:21am BST

NP wrote, "Sorry, I think the growth in Alpha, Reform and Fulcrum churches in England are more persuasive than your assertion that you know the mind of the British people."

Uh, yeah...because such a huge percentage of your fellow Britons attend church every Sunday.

MM will be proven correct in the long run. There will, unfortunately, always be a certain number of people to whom literalistic fundamentalism will appeal. But turning the CoE into just another hardline, fringe Protestant sect is the one, sure way to completely kill any chance it has of attracting your increasingly secular countrymen (not that I'd blame them, if you had your way).

Posted by David H. at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 1:23am BST

NP, we *get* it already: membership roll increase = Godliness to you, while membership roll decrease = apostasy [Note, I am not even getting into the debate re how one properly *measures* membership].

Can you PLEASE understand that not every Anglican accepts your paradigm? [And yet is no less "biblical" thereby?]


"it should certainly cease claiming that it represents some sort of "inclusive" community where all views are respected. You can't have it both ways."

rick, rick, rick: *false dichotomy*. "Inclusive" means inclusive of all *persons*, in their God-given diversity. NOT inclusive of "all views"! (e.g., white people welcome, Klan membership ain't)

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 6:13am BST

Roman Catholic Comment: Of course O'Leary would regard the current Pope as benighted and reactionary!

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 6:33am BST

no, badman - based in wet, old England.

ash - you may want to ask yourself why people are leavig some churches and flocking to others?

fabellum - don't worry - nothing much has changed at WH and it is very similar still to Ridley and its evangelical brothers....all that has happened is that an anonymous insider has not liked the views of the Principal and has sneakily got the press to publicise supposed concerns......which are not likely to be backed by much evidence or the person may have had the courage to speak openly and publicly - they obviously do not believe they have a strong case, hence the anonymous poison-pen

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:14am BST

I find it disheartening to see again and again you incorrectly portraying the views of evangelicals.
Of course there are tiny minority who misuse an evangelical belief to be sexist or homophobic, but most don't (Most of us really don't like a certain Mr Bush). I read the view of people like Dr Giles Fraser and some of your posters here, and they show the same bile and hatred for us, based on their straw men.

As evangelicals we believe the Bible is the Word of God and is inerrant. Therefore we believe in the reality of heaven and hell as real eternal places, of sin as offence against God and that salvation comes by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. To understand our beliefs you need to see them through this framework, and to criticise, label and stereotype you need to understand us. Otherwise you are just making straw men.

Grace and Peace,


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 11:01am BST

Using the framework I posted earlier means that when the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, that we believe that. We don’t hate homosexuals, nor are we afraid of them, we want to show them the love of Christ, that does come though with the command to repent. You don’t have to agree with our belief in the Bible, or our interpretation of it, but you should at least be able to respect it for being sincere and not guided by other factors. As well as seeing that we don’t act in the ways you portray us.
Cheryl you rant on and on about feminism, and you just don’t get it. Yes some of us disagree (many evangelicals hold to egalitarian views too) but it isn’t a sexist view. After humbly reading the Scriptures, we believe that men and women have equality of importance and value, but differing roles. Just as the Father and the Son do. Doesn’t mean we think the Father is more important than the Son, or the Spirit, they are equal but different. Now again, you don’t have to agree, but please stop saying we are sexist and want to banish women. It is clearly not true, we perhaps even appreciate our differing genders more, as we recognise the diversity, and the unique skills and gifts which many women have that men don’t. To suggest that we want to banish women to child rearing, cooking and cleaning clearly shows ignorance, deliberate or otherwise.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 11:08am BST

What is this Taliban mentality you speak of? Where are the parallels with evangelicals wanting to impose ourselves on the whole UK? Yes we would like the whole of the UK to put their trust in Christ, but we know that forcing people doesn’t equal heart change (and we don’t want to force change). Where are the British evangelicals asking for laws forcing people to believe in Christ and go to church, aren’t they just trying to stand their ground and be allowed to follow their conscience and beliefs?
Richard Turnball spoke of influencing the next generation of ministers to win the nation for Christ. It is clear that this is a totally different way of acting. We want to tell people the good news and for them to believe it and be saved. Not that we want to force them to live like us. It is natural that students will be influenced by their teachers, and if you see the decaying numbers of church goers, then it is natural that you want to help change that. Now the gospel is an offensive message, telling us we are sinful and that we can do nothing to earn our salvation, and that God should be king of our lives. Of course people are going to reject it, but that doesn’t mean we should change it, it is the power by which we are saved. So we don’t just want to see the ‘95%’ come to church by any means, but to believe the truth.
I also can’t understand where you get this idea that no teaching happens at Oak Hill and Wycliffe. Just because you don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean that they don’t intellectually study the Scriptures. Students make their own mind up on whether they agree or disagree; they are not forced to ‘tow the party line’. They also have apologetics tracks. CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and William Lane Craig among others, are men who believed in Christ and engaged with the world. Evangelicals don’t run away and hide from the world, if anything we are more inclined to want to rigorously explore the reason and evidence for our faith.
You do yourselves a huge disservice every time you try and peddle these half truths and straw men built on rare extreme examples.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 11:22am BST

Finally, since when has Church planting been Christian marketing? It again needs to be seen through the evangelical framework, or sin, heaven and hell and the gospel of Christ. We believe it is hugely important that people come to faith in Jesus, and we shouldn’t always expect people to come to us, Church planting is going and living among them, loving them and showing them ‘church’ (1 Thessalonians 2:8 ring any bells?). Dr Giles Fraser’s views are misguided at best, and a deliberate twisting at worse.

We all disagree, that is clear, and so we have to consider the case if we are right, and also the case if we are wrong. That is how rights need to be dealt with. When people talk about the SORs they just assume the Bible is wrong and out of date. While that is their choice to believe and they should be free to do so, it isn’t their choice to enforce their view on me. So we have a tension. We need to consider the case where the other is right, as well as the case if they are wrong, to find a fair balance.

This is something that we should as Christians be leading the way on. In one way liberals are very good at it, in that you clearly are trying to interact with the world and show love to them. You seem to show nothing of the sort to your evangelical ‘brethren’ though. You also the let the Bible yield to the trends of the day, which I also, obviously, disagree with.
As an evangelical I see the importance of loving our neighbour through social action, but would see mission as sharing the love of Jesus with people. That involves love in practise and the proclamation of the gospel.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 11:34am BST


Well played. That is what the world needs right now.

My only comment is don't forget that the bible has been edited by males (and the Koran dictated by the male angel Gabriel - as noted by the female Shechina).

Look up the books of Enoch and Susanna, for example. They have lessons that are profoundly important for these times.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 12:55pm BST

Alex: would you please expand (for the sake of clarity) what you understand 'inerrant' to mean?

To capture (or attempt to capture) eg 'salvation by grace' for evangelical Christianity is itself a it of a straw man tactic (even if unintentional) - the rest of us probably share that belief!

"We Anglo-catholics believe in the Incarnation and Resurrection. To understand our beliefs you need to see them through this framework...." See what I mean?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 12:56pm BST

Would you say that the evangelicals who regularly post on this site are a fair representation of evangelicals in your eyes?

I think the rather negative view some of us have of evangelicals has been reinforced by some of the more extreme posters here. If they are not representative, and if you believe that it is possible to believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible while emerging as not sexist and not anti gay relationships, then please say so.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 1:10pm BST

I posted my last comment after you posted your subsequent ones but before they had appeared on TA.

I now see that you are supporting the well known view that you can assign women different roles from men, even if they ask for the same ones, and that you can tell homosexuals that thy are inherrently a second class sub section of creation who can only be accepted if they deny themselves the life you would take for granted for yourself. How convenient for heterosexual males who will never find themselves in either position.

If it isn't sexist and homophobic, then the outcome of it is exactly the same as if it were.

You hide behind Scripture, quoting verses that condemn abusive and unequal sexual relationships and without a further thought "prayerfully" discern that they inerrantly apply to stable faithful same sex love. And you fail to engage constructively with the Scriptural arguments made by the liberals.

In my eyes, the assertion that it is all done "lovingly" and with my best interest at heart sounds smug to me and only serves to make you feel good about yourselves.

To quote Tom Ehrich (On A Journey: free trial at "Each body of truth-definers clings to its perch as if the entire divine enterprise depended on preventing other viewpoints."
Only in this case, the one paying for your viewpoint is me.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 1:53pm BST

The Bible does not conform to a unilinear reading of it that Alex interprets. Indeed, it is a collection of layers of interpretation itself. Only by having an enlarged view of authority across it, by smoothing out these layers, does it become a book of rules. So much of the evangelical case is Pauline, and even then is selective and treats books not written by Paul as equal to those that were. And so what if they are written by Paul - he himself is imposing a salvation scheme on Jesus. And then it is selective even up against the text. It is not faith alone, for example, even if Luther thought it was. And, more up to date, Richard Turnbull spoke about "capturing" the theological colleges, about generations of ministers, and like a person dealing with guilt, transferred his own strategy on to what the liberals apparently do.

If there is full biblical scholarship in these colleges, then these colleges should expect some of the more innocent and naive ordinands to come along from their evangelical churches, seriously study the Bible and scholarship, find that it aint quite like they thought it was, and for many then have crises of belief and faith - and subsequently sort it out in their minds. If this does not happen to a proportion of those who have received only certainties from pulpits, then it will mean that once academic colleges have become only training institutions for marketing in this sort of aggression towards others that a poster wrote about previously.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 2:27pm BST

"bishops came to believe the training offered did not lie within the Anglican tradition (and I know of at least one who is now unwilling to send candidates to train at Oak Hill)" I am intrigued by this comment made by Mynsterpreost. Im glad you only know of one bishop in that position. our church history class were asked if anyone had been actively discouraged in their selection conferences from reading the 39 articles (you can't get closer to the anglican foundations can you?) and three were - whereas NONE were activly encouraged to read them (thats in a class of about 20 ordinands.)

Posted by Paul at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 3:09pm BST

Pluralist writes:
"People are not objects to be 'converted' in some sort of manipulative manner, reminiscent of Richard Turnbull's "strategic" approach to "capture" generations. It is dishonest in motivation and unethical."

How sad to mischaracterize and caricature evangelism and the Great Commission imperative to see conversions happen, baptism and discicplship, as manipulation, dishonest and unethical. While I accept that some folk may be over the top (peddlars of God's word) most accept St. Peter's dicta that we are "to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." (ESV)

This is a question of obediently taking on the task of converting the world for Christ in the knowledge that not all will listen or respond. We do this by witness, by preaching, by evangelism, thus bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to this suffering world that mostly knows not the redeeming and saving love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is the sacred task given by our Lord to his disciples prior to his ascension. Dare we say no?

Posted by Ian Montgomery at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 3:24pm BST

"As evangelicals we believe the Bible is the Word of God and is inerrant."

Is this another example of the attempt of Conservative Evangelicals to claim total ownership of the term "evangelical"?

Because I know plenty of evangelicals and by no means do they all believe that the Bible is inerrant. Conservative Evangelicals believe this - but your average, common or garden evangelical doesn't necessarily. Even the phrase "Word of God" is not 100% accepted - as people rightly point out that in the Bible it is Jesus who is the Word.

Alex, are you suggesting that "true evangelicals" believe in scriptural inerrancy? Or was it just a slip of the tongue (electronically speaking of course)?

Posted by David Chillman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:01pm BST

Alex - so THAT'S how you get around the 400 word limit! :)

Posted by Brian MacIntyre at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:04pm BST

Re: mynsterpreost

Thanks for your comment. I apologise for being unclear. I wasn't meaning to say evangelicals were the only ones who hold to salvation by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone. Just that we do hold to it, and that is what we need to be understood in the light of.

Re: Inerrancy

I am not sure how to concisely explain my views on the Bible best. I believe that the Bible is the word of God, and contains no error. It is also clear that it is made up of different types of literature, historical narrative, poetry, letters, apocalyptic etc. This means I don’t take everything literally (I am not on the look out for multi-headed beasts). When I read the Psalms I understand that they are poems, and interpret them in that light. For the same reason I don’t hold to a literal six ‘24 hour day’ creation, as it seems more poetic, with the main points being God made it and it was good.
I also believe that Jesus’ ministry on earth was the defining point in history, his coming should effect how we read the Old Testament. We need to look at it through the lens of the cross. So therefore I do eat pork, and have no idea how many fibres my clothes are made of.
This is clearly very short and so feel free to quiz me on any details.

I have put a link below for a definition. I haven’t read all they have said, but I have used the site before and it has been helpful.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:05pm BST

Re: Cheryl

The canon is a subject I am very interested in, and very ignorant about. I am hoping to look at it among other things during the summer once I have finished my exams.
I do though believe that the Bible is as it is supposed to be, and that the canon wasn’t something that man initially set out to make, but rather was just recognised over time, and therefore I believe influenced by God.
I am also not an authority on Islam, but as a Christian see the Bible as the Word of God, so I have no interest in defending the Koran. I do have interest in studying it, so I can understand my Muslim friends better.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:12pm BST

Re: Erika

I am quite busy, especially now at exam time, and so don’t always get to read TA and all its comments, so I can’t comment for everything.
I do think that one thing that needs to be understood is the vitriol and anger that seems to often be pored out, either in the linked articles or the comments, against evangelicals. Nice as we can be, after a while it does start to irk! This can lead to us reciprocating in sort and for that I apologise, but hope you can see that we deal with a lot of the same, for which I bear no grudge.
It is also hard, particularly when communicating by written text, to convey your meaning and tone correctly. I try to err on the side of being extra loving, and so that can cloud clarity. Others might try to be really clear with their points, and it can seem unloving.
I think that generally I would agree with most of them, I can’t remember something I have really disagreed with. Occasionally I have read things and seen my sinful tendencies displayed in what is written, in sarcastic tone etc – this I often see among the liberal comments too.
I can only really tell you and uphold my own views though. I personally know no Christians, that I would claim are sexist or homophobic. I am shocked, considering societies attitude to women and homosexuals, the number of my non-Christian friends who regularly make inappropriate jokes, or use gay as an insult etc.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I am skirting the issue, but it was a rather hard question.
Feel free to point to specific examples (e.g.: peoples comments) if you wish.

Grace and Peace,


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:25pm BST

Re: Erika

On your final point, I do believe it is possible to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, including seeing homosexuality as a sin and believing in Biblical headship and a Complementarian view of gender (As I do indeed believe in), and not be homophobic and sexist.
I tried to explain this in one of my previous posts, with more of an exasperated tone than I had intended, apologies.
You said anti-gay relationships. Well I am that (not how I’d choose to express it, mind), as I do believe gay relationships are sinful, as I explained previously. I believe this and say this because of the framework I gave earlier, and what I believe the Bible says. I don’t believe this is homophobic. I know people who are gay, and I know that their biggest problem is they don’t know Christ.
I don’t want to see everyone live a nice moral (as laid out by the Bible) life, but not know Christ, that is not what the gospel calls people to. The gospel is a message to sinners saying that they have wronged a holy God and although they justly deserve hell, God loves them so much he sent his son to die for them, so they might be forgiven and bought into a relationship with him. Then out of love, and knowing that God has our best interests at heart, we live to follow him. Not perfectly, but we accept his view of sin, and if we succumb to temptation we cry out in repentance, to the ever forgiving Father. By his Holy Spirit we have the power to change from our sinful ways of life. I am a proud and lazy man, among my other vices, and I can see God working powerfully to change me. It is slow, because I am stubborn, but his power is changing me.
Now again, you don’t have to agree, I am not trying to dictate, but these are my views, and I don’t think this is homophobic.
Hope this is clear, feel free to query the bits you disagree with/don’t understand.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:45pm BST

Why should a selection conference actively encourage anyone to read the 39 articles, for heaven's sake? Even the Ordinal only nods towards them as historic witnessing formularies, no longer requiring allegiance to them.

There are much more important current 'Anglican Foundational' things around, methinks: the theological colleges should have a look at the 39 articles (and Newman's Tract 90, just for fun), but I hope they're also looking at the oecumenical councils and the obligation on all Christians (under Chalcedon) to call Mary 'Mother of God' or face anathematisation:-)

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 4:51pm BST

Response to Alex, part two:
The protestations of respect for others followed immediately by statements that those who are not Fundamentalists have no faith at all, the delusions about the origins both of Christianity as well as Christian fundamentalism, the blatant judgementalism that refuses to even countenance the possibility that one might be mistaken, the total lack of self criticism that cannot see in their Pharisaical behaviour the very things about which Jesus spoke with the greatest condemnation, the obvious desire to make the AC into some kind of community of likeminded pure ones, the ease with which they have been brainwashed into believing that there is currently a war between the pure fundies and the Godless left, and if one is not a Fundie, one must fit into the other camp, the force with which they condemn what they believe to be sin in those they decide fit into that "other" camp, while defending or downplaying equally sinful behaviour in those they agree with, all these things confirm my bigotry and are what in Orthodox theology would be called "entertaining the Passions", or in RC parlance, a "near occasion of sin" for me. Witness the kinds of things I have just said. Seriously, how can anyone honestly claim that Gene Robinson ought not be a bishop because of his sexuality while having no problem with an arrogant, oppressive power seeker like Peter Akinola who is easily comparable to the Medieval Popes they love to despise? It'd be laughable if it wasn't such a danger to the Church.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 5:01pm BST

OK, so three parts!

Add to that the fact that I believe Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism to be in grievous error with regard to the nature of Church, Sacrament, Redemption, Biblical authority, and pretty much everything else to do with Christianity and you can understand, I hope, my reluctance to further engage with them. My God, one poster here thinks I am a liberal, largely I think because I have asserted the historical truth that Evangelicalism as a doctrine is no more than 500 years old, PSA is dodgy theology at best and is equally recent, and Gene Robinson, right or wrong, was duly elected! That he cannot see that not agreeing with a consEvo position does not make me a de facto liberal is telling, as is his, and others, inability to see the sinfulness of their own behaviours towards their fellow Christians. I actually share many of his attitudes (yes, this is you, NP) yet he has swallowed the persecution myth in toto. If one is not a Fundie, one is a liberal, there are no other categories. Posting here leads me to act equally sinfully. Frankly, I have not benefitted from trying to engage with Fundamentalists on this site, I have merely become more frustrated and have behaved shamefully towards my fellow Christians, and yes, I do believe Fundies/Evos ARE Christians. Elsewhere, I have met Evos who do not fit this stereotype and I benefit from being in their online company. I have one question: since your ecclesiology and pretty much everything else are more in common with Pentecostals or Baptists, why are you Anglicans? I mean, I can tell you clearly why I, an Anglo-Catholic, have not gone to Rome, but I am at a loss as to why you have not joined those more like yourselves? This is not some huffy dismissal, but a sincere question, I honestly don't understand.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 5:24pm BST

Re David:

Sorry it was based on my previous (incorrect) understanding of inerrancy (I just thought it meant something similar to what Pete Broadbent has exposed as his view of scripture).
I personally don’t like labels like evangelical, liberal etc. My identity is as a child of God, and 1 Corinthians 3, seems to show that we shouldn’t seek to define ourselves by who we follow.
In my theology I would be a reformed Christian, I don’t want to capture any category, as I am not a fan of them as labels.
So yes a slip of the electronic tongue, sorry,


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 6:50pm BST

Re: Erika Again:

The difference between us, seems to be that I can accept you disagree with me, and I can accept you have reasons for that. I don’t agree with them, but I am not going to say you are stupid, or tell you to go and read your Bible etc.
You on the other hand won’t believe that I have looked into and prayed about why I believe the Bible is inerrant. You imply that I am just a nasty little bigot who has found an excuse for my views. You accuse me of smugness, without ever seeming to question your views, despite that being the charge you hold against me.
That is hypocrisy plain and simple.
By all means provide your reasons, from scripture or otherwise, that disagree with what I have said. Why should I be expected to interact when you give me nothing to interact with?
I don’t think of homosexuals as second class citizens, nor do I think of women as second class citizens, nor do I think of non-Christians as second class citizens. I believe we have all fallen short of God’s standard, and are all in need of his grace. I am no better than anyone else. I have explained why I believe that, so if you want you can try and persuade me otherwise, but to question my motives is hardly fair or very loving.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:00pm BST

I appreciate that you do not like the tone of this debate and that you wish for misrepresentation across the whole spectrum to stop. I agree with much of what you say.

Regarding your views on same sex relationships, however, I appreciate that you would not condone the term "gay" as a swearword - but the fact remains that you consider your position to be "biblical", and mine, by implication, non-biblical. I can't help but see disrespect for my views in this distinction.

I repeat - for people to quote passages against abusive relationships and then insist that they apply to loving stable relationships is not immediately obviously "biblical". You need to make a careful case, especially as the sacrifice you call on is all mine.

Even if I agreed that the bible is inerrant, we would still have huge scope for debate what that means in any particular context. Simply selectively citing biblical verses is not sufficient.

Like you, I hope that evangelicals and liberals can have this conversation politely.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:02pm BST

Re: Pluralist

I have not tried to tell you what to believe, only what I have believed. You just say I am wrong, as your starting point. I believe the Bible is harmonious and that you don’t have to crush parts of it, for it all to make sense.
Just because you disagree with Wycliffe & Oak Hill’s view on the Bible doesn’t mean they aren’t scholars. They will have reasons for their belief and have studied, they would I am sure be willing to explain and discuss them with the students.
Pluralist for someone whose name implies you look for the truth in all areas, if indeed there is one, you seem to portray a very absolute truth.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:06pm BST

NP: I would suggest the reason people leave their churches for new ones is two-fold:
a) some people seem to move churches every few years whenever they get bored/ disillusioned/ offended. So Don't be suprised if they move from your church.

b) Some people move churches because they have fallen out with their leaders, or don't like the music anymore.

I think these two groups make up the majority. And I used to be involved in leadership in a Charismatic Evangelical, growing church.

A small number of people will come for more genuine reasons, and those are likely to be the people who remain at the church long term (unless they move to a new area).

Posted by ash at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:18pm BST

"rick, rick, rick: *false dichotomy*. "Inclusive" means inclusive of all *persons*, in their God-given diversity. NOT inclusive of "all views"! (e.g., white people welcome, Klan membership ain't)"

I think under that definition practically every Christian church, communion, and denomination would be considered "inclusive"--all are welcome who share the "view," the dogmatic, moral, and cultic norms of the community in question.

So our hypothetical klansman will be welcomed to both our churches, but in both he will be told that his racism is unacceptable, and it will (and should) make him uncomfortable, and if he declares this "Klan Sunday" and shows up at the altar in his dress whites, he will be, and should be, denied communion.

But if two churches differ as to sexual morality, and one considers homosexual acts sins, and the other considers treating homosexual acts differently itself a sin, then, again, both will welcome all, and both will make some uncomfortable and challenged who do not acccept the community's particular norm. But the difference in the two is not that one is "inclusive" and the other not, but that they differ as to what sin is, and make different demands in that respect.

Posted by rick allen at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:25pm BST

Re: Ford (part two)

NB: I can only see part two and three, so I don’t know what you said in one, apologies.
I do as you point out ask for respect from others, by which I mean an understanding that our views have basis. I would welcome criticism here, as either it will be helpful to think through or it would show me to be wrong. But where do I say that those who don’t believe the same as me have no faith at all?
Again, if I am deluded then spell it out. Where is this judgementalism? Haven’t I asked to be engaged with? Haven’t I said that we both need to consider that we might be wrong, yet you claim I won’t even consider I am wrong. The lack of self criticism? Did you not read where I said I am ignorant (on the canon)?
So after your verbal assault I am struggling to see what stands, did you even read what I said? I was asking for some understanding, while providing some back, and not expecting you to agree with my views.
Pharisaical behaviour? Again where? I am claiming that I am a wretched sinner saved by Grace. I am not claiming to have all the answers, or be definitely right. I am not making special categories of ‘sinners’ for people, as I acknowledge that everyone sins. This is not like the Pharisees.
Like minded pure ones? Again, I never said anything about that. Brainwashing? Already covered, engage with me (loving next time please). After reading your post I feel like I have been in the verbal trenches of a one way war!
I mentioned nothing about Akinola. I don’t know much about him, so I wont comment on him.
It is a good point though, and something that Cons. Evan. (So I don’t hijack terms) often make mistakes with. Just because we agree with someone on an issue, we ignore their failings and hold them up as being right.
So again, and not talking specifically, you are right in that we tend to build up issues (e.g.: homosexuality) and focus on them, and so ignore others flaws.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:31pm BST

Re: Ford (Part 3)

I didn’t read your part three before posting my previous response to you, so sorry for anything I overlooked.
I take your last point to be an apology, whether directed at me or not. I too would apologise for when I have seemed sharp, although I try and reread to check I am not on a character assassination mission.
I can understand if you are fed up that you don’t want to engage anymore, that is your prerogative, but surely that should rule out belittling one liners about grievous error, if you aren’t willing to back it up? You could just use less strong and emotive language.

Re: historicity. Have you read the sources on (link below)
Have they made them up? Have we misunderstood them?
I hope I have made it clear that I can see some of my own sinfulness, of course the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and it is easier to see the speck in our brothers eye, than the plank in our own (Matthew 7:1-6), so I know I miss a fair share.

Funny you should ask about being an Anglican. I believe in paedo-baptism and believe that every true believer has the Spirit in them, so there can be no baptism of the Spirit, and so wouldn’t agree with Baptists and Pentecostals on doctrine. On the other hand, my CofE church at Uni and at home, have taught me much that I am grateful for, and give me opportunity to interact, ask questions and grow in my knowledge of God. They also encourage me to transfer learned theology to doxology and a practical outworking of that truth.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 7:51pm BST

Mr Freeman wrote: "While that is their choice to believe and they should be free to do so, it isn’t their choice to enforce their view on me."

Calling the kettle black, as it be...

Mr Freeman wrote: "We need to consider the case where the other is right, as well as the case if they are wrong, to find a fair balance."

I seems to me that you need to consider the case where you are r i g h t, Mr Freeman - and I expect all of you to CRY if you do, not to gloat as I have seen you do all my life - and you equally need to consider the case where you are w r o n g - in which case, of course, you needn't cry ;=)

But you also need to understand that what you call "gospel" is rejected by (the by now famous) 95% - and that that means that they do not come to us either...

You need to u n d e r s t a n d this (I'm sure you can if you try).

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 8:36pm BST

"I don’t want to capture any category"

Which is nonsense, since you do that by defining yourself as a reformed Christian, which means that there are Christians who are not reformed, and also that you think your beliefs to be preferrable, else why hold them? Perhaps you do sincerely feel that we all have a responsibility to fix the "sad divisions" of the Church, but refusing to recognize the things that divide us is no help, it just makes you look sanctimonious. I don't get the feeling you want to look that way.

The fact is that the Catholic faith, whether as expressed in Rome, Constantinople, or Canterbury, contains some very basic differences from Western Protestantism, in terms not only of authority, but of attitudes towards the world, the Incarnation, and how God actually interacts with the world. We don't even speak the same language. You can't simply ignore these things, they are basic and must be part of any discussion. How can you understand where I am coming from if you won't even discuss the differences between us?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 8:38pm BST

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not an inerrantist. Inerrantism is an import from the USA, and was never part of evangelicalism on this side of the pond until fairly recently. Evangelical Anglicans will speak of scripture as inspired, authoritative, supreme, determinative, perspicuous, containing all things necessary to salvation. The evangelical tradition in the CofE has always regarded itself as standing in the reformed catholic tradition of Hooker, Jewell and Cranmer. Nor, pace Ford Elms, is it to be equated with fundamentalism.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 10:25pm BST

Even the Jews acknowledge that parts of the bible are subjective and open for intepretations in context with the times

e.g. which concludes with this comment "The "good advice" of the Sages is hardly as precise as most of what the Mishna concerns itself with. Pirkei Avos deals with inexact and sometimes relative statements of morality and proper behavior -- and this too makes it appear less authentic then the real meat and potatoes of Judaism."

They also say that it is okay to have fierce debates with alternative positions e.g. As long as all parties are genuinely trying to get to the truth, then things get sorted out in the wash. That is also why they have a tradition of recording minority positions, often what seemed insignificant at one time becomes fundamentally important later on.

For example the debate which ripples up into even the angelic orders about the best ways to deal with humanity. The patriarchial authoritative perspective seeks to build and expand "best practice" and reward good behaviours. The matriarchial laissez faire perspective recognises that children need to learn to walk for themselves and will make mistakes as they go along. The former is working towards being elevated in heaven, the latter is working towards making heaven manifest on earth.

In reality the world needs both strategies. Too much authoritative perspective leads to tyranny and unsustainable growth. Too much laissez faire leads to narcissm and hedonism.

God is trying to teach humanity that we need more than one tool in our baskets, and also that we need to recognise which tool to use when; and also when to sit back and let the children sort it out for themselves or when to directly intervene.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 10:55pm BST

My posting on forgiveness went missing. It puts some context on yesterday's posting which was a muse following the first posting. Sigh.

Jesus' example of refusing to stone the woman is excellent.

Another useful passage is Matthew 18:21-35. Here we see Peter trying to suggest a human limitation how many chances a soul should be given. Jesus refutes this attempt by saying you forgive as many times as are needed. Jesus actually goes further, Jesus states that those who are forgiven but then refuse to forgive will void their own forgiveness.

Basically, forgive others as you wish to be forgiven yourself.

Also, it is pretty hard to ask for forgiveness on being born female. That's just how the potter moulded me.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 11:01pm BST

I'm sorry if I offended you. I am guilty of many things, a hypocrite I am not.
I admit that your sentence "I believe in the inerrancy of the bible" immediately bracketed you in my mind with all the other evangelicals on this forum I have debated with, and I suppose my answer was directed at "them" instead of aimed at your particular post. I apologise for that and I do not want it to imply that I am not taking your personal views seriously or that I would not want to engage with them.

But, please, as a corollarly, accept that I have made the same points here many many times, and that they have been rejected by evangelicals in a fairly formulaic fashion many many times.
I'm sure you're not like that, and I hope we will become good conversation partners.

Sadly, at the moment, pat points like "being anti gay relationships and anti women teaching is not mysogynistic or homophobic, but being biblical" are a little like a red rag to the bull for me, for reasons I pointed out (in a rather ill tempered fashion) earlier.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 11:36pm BST

Hello Alex (again)

There is an odd time lag in which posts appear on TA today, although they are later slotted in the right sequence. That makes conversation quite difficult!

Having just replied to you, I have now re-read your replies to me. And, Alex, in the spirit of true Christian love, I must admit I deeply struggle with:

"I believe this and say this because of the framework I gave earlier, and what I believe the Bible says. I don’t believe this is homophobic. I know people who are gay, and I know that their biggest problem is they don’t know Christ"

Can you see how you are implying that:
a. if I have a different view I don't know what the bible says.
b. if I'm in a same gender relationship my biggest problem is that I don't know Christ.

Now, imagine that I believe myself to be a deeply committed Christian who reads the bible but interprets it differently from you. According to your arguments, my definition of myself is “wrong”... and you have pulled the rug from underneath the feet of a possible genuine, respectful and loving Christian conversation.

If I told you that I know Christ and that I read the Bible, although I come to different conclusions reading it - would we still have a basis for true conversation, or would you already judge me as not being on the right track?

Fortunately, ordination has never been a serious possibility for me, so I don't feel personally affected by your views of women's role in the church. Nevertheless, as a woman, and as someone who worships in a parish with the most wonderful woman priest, I do seriously take issue with you - also on biblical grounds.

If you believe your views are "biblical" and I believe mine are too - can you really call me hypocritical and assume that I have never examined my beliefs?
Or are you not, rather, arguing from a point of view that you are right and biblical, and anyone who disagrees is to be loved, respected and accepted but is nevertheless wrong?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 12:23am BST

I have yet to study Greek so I can't comment on the original language, only the words I have in an English translation.
The amount of words it has taken just to try and move away from the straw men at the start, means we haven't even approached individual issues.
While I do consider my position Biblical, and therefore yours not, surely your counterpoint implies I am not Biblical. This is inescapable.
I am not trying to claim to be the only one to take my views from the Bible, I am not saying that everyone who looks at the Bible agrees with me.
What I have been trying to show is a sincerity of belief, which while you don't have to agree with the outcome or the method, you can at least understand and critique the approach.
I hope that is clear,

Goran, I feel I have been clear enough on these matters, and if you want to make a different point, you will have to be clearer. I appreciate that English isn’t your first language.

Ford, to repeat for the hard of hearing, my identity is as a child of God. My theology happens to form under a reformed banner, so it is a convenient banner to use to summarise. Of course I would think my beliefs to preferable, just like you with yours, but they don't define me, my relationship with God does.

Sorry if you felt I portrayed you inaccurately, as I said it was based on a previous faulty definition of mine.

This is me done until at least the weekend, as I have two exams. I hope the combination of tiredness and tedium hasn’t led to this post being unclear or unloving. Saying that I am sure someone will be able to find something, legit or otherwise.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 1:05am BST

Ford Elms asked a question of Anglican fundamentalist/evangelicals who are seeking to purge from the Anglican Communion those who are not in agreement with them, and he posed a question:

"...since your ecclesiology and pretty much everything else are more in common with Pentecostals or Baptists, why are you Anglicans? I mean, I can tell you clearly why I, an Anglo-Catholic, have not gone to Rome, but I am at a loss as to why you have not joined those more like yourselves? This is not some huffy dismissal, but a sincere question, I honestly don't understand."

I believe that they want to hold onto most things liturgical within the mainstream of Anglicanism, and, most importantly, to take control of everything temporal aggregated by Anglican provinces not within their favor, and I also believe that they even find some parts of the extreme fundamentalist communities, particularly the fringe elements, embarrassing. Hence the desire of many of them to reformulate historical Anglicanism into some kind of Talibanglican perversion.

That, I contend, is what so many around the Anglican globe (no, not the Jim Jones cult-like masses in some provinces) are beginning to understand, and to appreciate the risk to historical Anglicanism, and to ultimately reject.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 3:25am BST

Ian Montgomery asks Dare we say no? regarding the Great Commission. Yes, I would.

The Great Commission (esp. Matthew 28, and Luke 24, and Acts 1) is unlikely in origin to be the words of Jesus. These are diverse and are unlikely to go back to Jesus.

The instruction to make disciples, baptize, and teach reflects the construction of the Church and its activity reflected in the way Matthew was written and in Matthew's style. It has a a proto-economic trinitarian formula and reflects the thought of emerging Christianity. Jesus was not launching a mission to the world, but addressing fellow Jews about the end time and what to do with what was to come.

If Jesus gave this command to the apostles, how come the first actions were confined to Jews? Why would anyone have opposed the admission of the Gentiles if the words were from Jesus? Why was there a lasting more conservative side? The Jerusalem Church obviously weren't listening. Answer - because the Great Commission is later and a particular view of some early Churches.

Jesus did not make baptism a condition of discipleship. Jesus did not use trinitarian formula (and elsewhere after his death baptism is confined to his name alone). Indeed the understanding of Jesus went through a process of exaltation and futher inflation of titles, before being regarded as divine well after his death. Matthew paired heaven and earth in a statement about all authority.

Here is just one reason why the Bible cannot be regarded as inerrant or historical (Alex). The words were put into Jesus' mouth.

Should the early Church be followed then? Not if it amounts to manipulation, not if it is out of character with Jesus.

Conversation not manipulation. Aren't we liberals irritating for showing where Bible inerrancy is impossible?

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 4:09am BST

Erika said .. “I now see that you are supporting the well known view that you can assign women different roles from men ..even if they ask for the same ones, ..and that you can tell homosexuals that thy are inherrently a second class sub section of creation who can only be accepted if they deny themselves the life you would take for granted for yourself. How convenient for heterosexual males who will never find themselves in either position.”

It’s what God wants that matters, not what you want Erika .. and we are ALL born sinful, whatever our orientation .. and none of us are carrying more than we can bear.

Posted by Rosemary Behan at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 5:06am BST

Maybe I've been too quick to judge you again, but my experience with evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of the bible is that they also believe that their particular interpretation of any issue is the only correct one.

I believe that your views are based on how you read the bible. If you can believe that mine are just as genuinely based on how I read the bible - if there is a genuine respect for my views, then we have a basis for conversation.

But you're right in that I do struggle to respect your views as I'm the one who pays the price for them. Since I've lived openly with my parnter I have had to give up everything I love in my church. It seems to me that your views have already cost me dear, whereas mine aren't costing anyone anything.

Loving is very hard when it costs one side everything and the other nothing.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 8:11am BST

you're missing the point. Yes, we're all born sinful. But by saying that homosexuals are inherently more sinful and therefore are not allowed to lead the kind of life that heterosexuals take for granted, we are actually saying that God created two kinds of people.

If you believe that this is so, then please provide biblical evidence for your view. Quoting passages that criticise abusive and unequal sexual relationships is not enough - I think we're all agreed that they're wrong.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 8:15am BST

".. and none of us are carrying more than we can bear."

What unbearable smugness!
Tell that to Davis Mac-Iyalla who has lost his church, his job, his family and his country, and the many like him who have also lost their lives.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 8:40am BST

1. I meant exactly what I said, “We’re all born sinful.” I did NOT say some were ‘inherently more sinful.’ Those are your words.

2. In giving up his church, his job, his family and his country, is Davis Mac-Iyalla doing what God has asked him to do, or what he feels is the right thing to do? If the former, what scriptural warrant has he? If the latter .. what scriptural warrant is he using?

Posted by Rosemary Behan at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 10:58am BST

Rosemary said
"none of us is carrying more than we can bear."

Do I hear the old theology of 'God will never test us beyond our capacity'? I thought that had gone out of the window after WWII.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 11:57am BST

Rosemary: perhaps you need to do a little research into Nigeria and realise that the sort of liberties we take for granted here are hardly apparent there. His life was in danger, as a result of the homophobia caused directly by Akinola and your conservative mates in the Church. They have blood on their hands.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 12:38pm BST

Davis Mac-Iyalla seems to me to be walking that path of the suffering servant. Er, quite an important biblical model.

Alex is concerned with exams, so just as a general point. Being a Pluralist means indeed finding truths in various places but does not mean not having any critical apparatus. The difference is that whereas Alex as a Christian sees the Bible as the Word of God, and declares up front no interest in defending the Qur'an, I read the Qur'an to see what value it does have and what contradictions it displays. The Bible has normative value for Christianity, but it is not privileged, and whilst the Qur'an does not have normative value, and is not privileged either, nevertheless its content and construction is important. Nor is the Buddhist Dharma privileged either, but I do happen to regard its clear and logical method and the claimed connection between attachment to the transient and unahppiness as compelling. Therefore my Christianity does happen to be joined with a Buddhist view of spiritual action. Equally I'm not formed as some Anglo-Catholic but it does make sense in its symbolic connections as a liturgical process whilst, lurking about, is also a direction for cooler clarity. This makes me Pluralist.

Pluralist is a name derived from Unitarian days, a sort of 'party' position and better description of religious humanist, as whilst religious humanism was important it was only one aspect, and it tended to draw a line against Christianity, and I did not.

After all, I am one of the few lay people here and out of part of Australia who has taken a Eucharist service! How is that for irregularity?

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 1:21pm BST

Hi Erika-

It is not always possible to say that one very specific interpretation of a bible passage is correct. What is often possible, however, is to rule out certain interpretations as definitely incorrect. These are two separate points.

What troubles one is this: The range of interpretations of said Romans and 1 Cor passages I broadly see as being possible are more or less those which have been agreed by commentators or exegetes to be possible. You on the other hand suggest an interpretation which no qualified commentator or exegete has held - and one moreover which just so happens to fit in with your own preferred lifestyle. Is this a remarkable coincidence or is it that the lifestyle preceded the 'interpretation'?

What percentage likelihood would you assign to your interpretation of Romans 1, and on what grounds? What percentage likelihood is there that you are wrong? What are your qualifications to speak on matters of bible exegesis? And (my final query, you'll be relieved to hear) what evidence is there in the text that Paul is speaking specifically of abusive relationships, and that he affirms stable ones?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 1:24pm BST

Sorry. The first part of my post must have been too long, which is probably just as well.My comments were in response to what I took to be a general question:
"I do think that one thing that needs to be understood is the vitriol and anger that seems to often be pored out, either in the linked articles or the comments, against evangelicals"
I recently decided not to frequent this site as much, precisely because of the behaviour of some Evangelicals. I have had many bad experiences with Fundamentalists, and have been trying to get over that for quite some time. Posting here does not help. My comments were general, and came from a place of strong emotion and frustration, they were not aimed at you personally, but were an attempt to explain why this one Christian just can't engage with this any more. You need to realize that the kinds of things I talked about are, in my experience, normative behaviour for Evangelical/Fundamentalists, people like yourself are, as far as I can see, extraordinarily rare. And, Pete, you have given me a starting point to understand the difference, though space here prevents me from questioning, perhaps later?
Alex, I see now that I put my comments in such a way that you would naturally see them as applying to you. I apologize. I do feel you are open to discussion, and I would welcome that, however, I will be limiting my presence here, for the above reasons.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 1:29pm BST

Re: Lengthy comments premised on the dubious concept of Biblical inerrancy - A Simple Fable

Joe believes the earth is flat, but Jane believes the earth is round. Their opinions differ. Let them discuss it. Joe will tell Jane why he believes what he does and vice versa.

Joe says he believes the earth is flat because it clearly states that in the Bible, and Joe believes the Bible is inerrant. It is inerrant because it is the Word of God. Joe knows it is the Word of God because he has faith, and presumably Jane doesn't, or Jane too would believe the earth is flat.

But Jane doesn't believe the Bible is inerrant. Jane doesn't believe that any amount of "faith" makes it so. Full stop! There's no point in them discussing this any further, is there.

Incidentally, Jane reads the Bible regularly, attends church weekly, and finds deep meaning in her faith, whatever Joe might think of her. Jane might provide Joe with a reading list to help him understand where she is coming from, but she will probably not want to talk to him again until he gives some indication that he understands her position.

Joe on the other hand doesn't feel the need to do this, and will continue to harangue Jane on a regular basis. He also insists that Jane admit that he's basically a nice guy.

The Anglican Church I was raised in wasn't fundamentalist (which, whatever spin you try to put on it, is intellectually and morally untenable) and I will fight to see that it doesn't become so.

Posted by Brian MacIntyre at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 1:48pm BST

"In giving up his church, his job, his family and his country, is Davis Mac-Iyalla doing what God has asked him to do,"

This is breathtaking. Surely Mr.MacIayalla is not "giving up" these things, but has had them taken from him, no? You might say that all he has to do is repent of his sinful homosexuality and everything would be all right, but what gay person would trust that? Sorry, but the evidence of history shows that when we trust these things, the people who make these statements are only too happy to kill us. This must have come out when your parish obeyed the stated will of the Church and carried on dialogue with gay people, that was the purpose of the exercise, after all. Also, who decides the adequacy of his repentance? Experience tells me there are few of your mindset who would leave that judgement to God, after all. You are also assuming that the Church has the right to deprive an sinner of his job, family, and country. Sure, we have the ability to excommunicate, but the other things? Really? Which kind of Christianity gets this right? Is this limited to some sins and not others? Is it only the Evos, or the Romans, or the charismatics who get to define the sins of others which may be punished by loss of "his job, his family and his country"? There are times I wish we Anglo-catholics were given that right, I can tell you what sinners I would want fired, disowned, and banished!

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 2:05pm BST

Alex: 'The Bible is the Word of God and is inerrant' Please explain what you mean by this. Is it possible for Moses to write an account of his own death? Or do you treat the Old Testament differently from the New Testament? Therefore you didn't mean the whole Bible, you were excluding the Hebrew Scriptures from the 'inerrant' collection. Do you distinguish between the gospels and the epistles? After all the gospels give differing accounts of the early life of Jesus. All versions cannot be 'inerrant'. And in his epistles the Apostle Paul does express different opinions at different times about the same topic. Does 'inerrant' mean always choosing the right thing to say at the right time and in the right place, as opposed to consistency and an objective truth?

If the Bible is 'inerrant' do you require that were my brother to die without issue I am required to have sexual intercourse with his widow and procreate on his behalf? I realise that's an extreme example, but your language would seem to invite it.

In the context of Wycliffe Hall, a permanent hall of the University of Oxford, I would hope that 'inerrant' could not be used in this loose way.

Posted by Anglicanus at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 2:40pm BST

I understand you are in the middle of exams, but when you get a chance, you might want to read more than John Stott on Atonement. No-one denies that there are penal images used in Scripture as one way of understanding Atonement, but if you are going to claim a Scriptural basis for PSA, you have to explain why it was not formulated till well after the work of Anselm on which it was based, and why the Eastern churches don't accept it at all. Furthermore, there is surely nothing in Scripture that demands that the penal images we DO find there are to be taken as the sole way of understanding the Atonement. I have heard Evangelicals argue that they don't actually demand that it be seen as such, but there ARE Evangelicals who do demand exactly that, and those who don't still stress that it is the key to all other understandings, that it alone is not some metaphor, or various other statements that reveal that, for them, there effectively is no other theology of Atonement. Indicating that some early Christian thinkers used penal imagery while ignoring the other imagery they also used in reference to it is simply dishonest.

Posted by FordELms at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 4:49pm BST

Barr suggested 'inerrancy' was a hermeneutical device to be used within the conservative evangelical fold.

This enabled, not as one might expect, a literal reading but a non-literal one. 'Inerrancy' meant that the Bible could not be 'wrong' (a category no scholar has ever used), and when some aspect of the Bible was found to be indefensible (eg flat earth, divine sanction for genocide) then its 'clear meaning' became non-literal to preserve inerrancy. The classic one on this was the 'days of creation', clearly envisaged as 24 hour periods in the text, but infallibilised by reference to the psalms.

It only works as an internal phenomenon, though. And a Christian faith wedded to it inevitably suffers a death by a thousand qualifications - compare and contrast successive editions of the IVP Bible Commentary. The hermeneutic is arbitrary and inconsistent, but if you're inside the movement and need to be soothed to sleep, I guess it works. It's like the 'as originally given' ploy - it only works as an analgesic for the insider.

Most evangelicals I know reject both categories as dishonest and unhelpful.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 5:40pm BST

Ford Elms wrote that penal substitution: "was not formulated till well after the work of Anselm on which it was based." There is a great website to refute this - here is one quote it makes from Eusebius of Caesarea c. 275-339: "And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us."

An argument which the book on which this website is based makes is that there are many of these references in the early church - see some at

And yet they are always passing references - why would they only make a passing reference to something so contraversial? Answer: it was not contraversial - the penal substituionary death of Christ was an established doctrine.


Posted by Paul at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 7:54pm BST

Mr Freeman wrote: "Goran, I feel I have been clear enough on these matters, and if you want to make a different point, you will have to be clearer. I appreciate that English isn’t your first language."

Funny this. I have only ever heard Calvinist complain about my English. And on sites like this one at that.

After 35 years there would be a few things to complain about, no doubt, but I don't think I am quite mistaken if I regard their complaint as a form of Evasion (considering Evasion is one of the favourite sectarian power techniques ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 8:19pm BST

Brian MacIntyre: Your analogy fails on the grounds of partiality. You have unfarily put evangelicals on the back foot from the word go as you posit the evangelical (Joe) to believe something already established as untrue. Evangelical christians are not contending for anything that has been proved to be unture, we are contending for things which humans don't like to hear - this in no way makes the things we contend for blind fables (like a flat earth).

May i suggest another analogy: Joe believes Christ had to die, bearing God's wrath on sin, in order for the way to heaven to be opened for sinners (Romans 3:23-24). Jane believes it is inhuman to suggest God might get wrathful at those he loves - but has no basis on which to make this claim than human rationalism (i use the term rational in a loose sense, how rational is it to suppose a good God would not want to punish evil?).

Then can we apply your maxim: Joe believes in penal substitution because it clearly states that in the Bible, and Joe believes the Bible is inerrant. It is inerrant because it is the Word of God. Joe knows it is the Word of God because he has faith, and presumably Jane doesn't [have a biblical faith - everyone believes something], or Jane too would believe that Christ died as the penal substitute for all that would trust in him.



Posted by Paul at Thursday, 31 May 2007 at 8:51pm BST

Paul -

I did not suggest that Joe was an evangelical, I suggested he believed in Biblical inerrancy. He may, for all I know, be an Orthodox Jew rather than a Christian. My point was not especially to suggest that Joe was wrong, but that he was using the concept of Biblical inerrancy to support his (as it happens, erroneous) belief that the earth is flat. My actual point was to bring out that Joe and Jane differ on fundamental principles of interpretation and until they come to agreement on that there is not much point in them arguing with each other about anything that depends on those principles.

You might have fairly objected to me insinuating that fundamentalists believe that the earth is flat. None that I know do! But isn't that odd? Because the Bible *is* fairly clear on that point, and if it's never in error... (Let's leave it at that shall we.)

Better minds than mine can dispute your point about "penal subtitution theory" being clearly stated in the Bible. I'd suggest you try James Alison (he has a website with a number of helpful articles on the Atonement) or a book called "Saved From Sacrifice" by S. Mark Heim. According to them, the penal substitution theory is not only incorrect but does not have good scriptural basis. I used the "flat earth" analogy because I didn't want to get into deep waters - however, you have ably enough waded in, and your second and third paragraphs have absolutely proved my point! Thank you for that.

Posted by Brian at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 1:04am BST

"I meant exactly what I said, “We’re all born sinful.”"

Within the "framework" of a sectarian teaching this means: "I am a good and humble christian"

(and also: "I shame you with my humility" ;=)

Within the "framework" of a sectarian herarchy this means:

"I have the right to critizise you, but you do not have the right to question me!"

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 6:12am BST

So there is Eusebius of Caesarea +339 and there is Dr Johannes Calvinus + 1564?

Still looks like a minority opionion to me. Not the teaching of the Church.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 6:38am BST

"I meant exactly what I said, “We’re all born sinful.” I did NOT say some were ‘inherently more sinful.’ Those are your words"

No, Rosemary, I think you're still missing the point.
It's not that we're all sinful, there can be no doubt about that.

But God created man and then gave him woman so he would not be alone.
And what you're saying is that God created another category of people who will have to be alone, because being in a life long loving relationship is sinful for them.

It is that you have to make a biblical case for.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 9:13am BST

I would wish to read in context the passage Paul cites from Eusebius before making any comment, and I do not have ready access to Migne. However, the Pierced for Our Transgressions website does cite a passage from Justin, and I have a text of the Apologists to hand. I don't believe it can bear the interpretation which the authors put on it. Not only do they take it out of context (the previous chapter must be read to catch the drift of the argument) but also they ignore the many other passages in Justin's works which point to a different understanding of the manner of redemption. And as Barnard points out in his study of Justin, the incarnation is more significant for redemption in his theology than the cross.

It's all a bit like "proving atheism" from scripture by citing Psalm 14:1b

Posted by cryptogram at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 9:20am BST

Well, I Googled PSA, I read about atonement in New Advent, and I am trying to find more, but as far as I can see, Anselm's ideas were considered to be new and insightful, but I may have misread. Anyway, Anselm didn't go all the way to PSA by a longshot, suggesting to me that it DIDN'T already exist as doctrine, pace Paul. And the need for Atonement and the fact that God brought it about might be doctrinal, but can we say that about ideas as to HOW it happened? And surely the Eastern Churches, of all of us, would have maintained something that was " an established doctrine" at the time of Eusebius. And I don't think that the Scriptural nor Patristic penal images are "passing references". The Fathers knew the penal imagery and used it, they just didn't make it into the litmus test of purity modern Evos do. I'm not arguing that it is wrong, merely that it doesn't seem to have the history Evos claim for it, and, given their attitude that pretty much everything between the death of the oldest Apostle and the Reformaton was a progressively more corrupt "following the traditions of men", why would they want to make such a claim? Also, I find it interesting that Evos, in defence of PSA are willing to make reference to the Fathers, since I have read Evangelicals refer to the Fathers as "ordinary Christians" as though St. John Crysostom were no better than me! So why do Evos like PSA so much they are willing to actually deny what is, ISTM, historical fact, and also ignore the ideas of pretty much every non-Evangelical Christian to claim it as an ancient, and, for many, the ONLY doctrine of Atonement? Judgement? Pleasure at the idea of those they don't like suffering eternally? Or is it just that the EHBLs (Evil Hell Bound Liberals) don't like it? I really don't get it, and neither do a significant number of Christians, I'd consider all those in communion with Constantinople to be "significant", no? Unless, of course, Evangelical=Christian, in which case all Christians believe it, I suppose.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 12:21pm BST

What does seem to be the case is that Stephen Bates has been following his hard-to-quench (but shallow) journalistic instincts:

All this stuff about 'A senior evangelical bishop says, and I am going to give as many hints as I can without actually naming him, but many of you would be surprised to hear who he was, and he often features on this blog, and did I mention he is senior' - aha! secrets and intrigue. A journalist's dream

Likewise the overall picture has to be stereotyped. 'All the best-loved staff members' have left. No, actually - the longest serving is still there, and I have no knowledge that the others who remain are unloved.

The picture of a polar dispute is (as has been noted) not matched by actual staff appointments. Of course, there is in theory no duty to balance appointments in any case, if the best (best-qualified) candidates are from one particular part of the spectrum.

And the picture of a deeply divided college? Whst is Oxford without debate? Why is it that 3 student's union presidents, presumably people of integrity, dispute this stereotyped picture so strongly in to day's CEN?

Answer: Because journalists live in a stereotyped world, which is not the real world (the real world being an unstereotyped place). For a journalist, the world has to conform to a prearranged pattern, where the religious are constantly in dispute, where the faithful are Taliban, and so on.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 12:43pm BST

"where the faithful are Taliban"

You want to qualify this? You see, there are a lot of faithful people who would not be considered Taliban, Christopher.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 1:14pm BST

Ford Elms - thanks for that, just to clear something up though ... evos are citing church history on two grounds, neither of which makes them hold to a doctrine contra sola scritura. Firstly we have lots to learn from christians in the past (im sure you agree). Secondly, because the charge has been made that PSA was not a theologically accepted propostion before Anselm, and it is good to defend the truth.

Contra Goran here is the list proposed at at

They provide the links there, ive put this list here to prove we are talking about more than Calvin and Eusebius

JUSTIN MARTYR (c. 100-165), Dialogue with Trypho
EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA (c. 275-339), Proof of the Gospel
HILARY OF POITIERS (c. 300-368), Homily on Psalm 53 (54)
ATHANASIUS (c. 300-373), On the Incarnation
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS (c. 330-390), The Fourth Theological Oration
AMBROSE OF MILAN (339-397), Flight from the World
JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c. 350-407), Homilies on Second Corinthians
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354-430), Against Faustus
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (375-444), De adoratione
GELASIUS OF CYZICUS (fifth century), Church History
GREGORY THE GREAT (c. 530-604), Morals on the Book of Job

Posted by Paul at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 1:21pm BST

Cryptogram - great! can you point me to those Justin passages?

Posted by Paul at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 1:23pm BST

Paul; the problem is Joe's religion, If a religion promotes the blood sacrifice theory then it is not worth believing in - it is objectively abhorrent. Thus, it needs revising or rejecting. There are no other sensible outcomes.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 2:23pm BST

Not wanting to start the PSA argument all over again, but 'Pierced for our Transgressions' is an attempt to defend PSA, not an attempt to establish an overview of Atonement models.

I don't have the ten-metre run of the Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers on my shelves (for some unaccountable reason) but my modest library lists a large number of models current in the early Church, including some clearly incompatible with PSA - Gregory of Nyssa and Basil - when released from the snappy one liners - demonstrate that the debt is in some way paid to the Devil, NOT to appease the wrath of God (see eg catechetical oration 25). Disquiet with that model was one of the reasons for the rise of PSA, of course.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 2:32pm BST

your second before last last query first - I am no theologian, so you might consider me to be completely unqualified to interpret the bible.
But I do read and I'm reasonably capable of understanding what I read.

You know as well as I do that there are many liberal theologians who have made very good cases for a liberal interpretation of Romans 1.

You may not agree with them, but they exist. Rowan Williams himself is among them, and I don't think anyone doubts his qualifications as a theologian. Others you can find if you research the archives of this blog - there seems little point in rehashing all the references every time this conversation come up again.

A very general overview of the different theological views can be found on

As for assigining likelihood percentages - I haven't a clue! But I don't ever argue like that anyway.
The bible is not an inerrant piece of legislation. And sola scriptura has never been a basis of Anglican scholarship.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 2:50pm BST

Paul asked: "can you point me to those Justin passages?"

Not without a certain amount of work, for which I don't have time at present. But you could look up the section on "salvation" in Barnard's "Theology of Justin Martyr". While I have some reservations about Barnard's work on some points, I have none at all about his summing up in this section.

Posted by cryptogram at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 2:50pm BST

"because the charge has been made that PSA was not a theologically accepted propostion before Anselm,"

Where? I believe the charges being made are:
1. That metaphors for the understanding of something so profound as the Atonement are ways of developing some understanding, not 'doctrine', but I need a definition of doctrine. You started off calling it established doctrine, now you are calling it a theologically accepted proposition, not the same thing and I disagree with the former, not the latter,
2. That the penal imagery used in relation to Atonement was but one of several understandings in all of Church history,
3. That PSA as currently pushed by Evos does not predate the Reformation,
4. That the majority of Christians, unless you claim that only Evos are Christians, still do not accept it either entirely or even as one metaphor for redemption.

I refer you to the thread Wycliff College Responds, and then Google my reference to the River of Fire, if you want to see a truly Orthodox, if quite anti-Western, opinion of PSA. My post points out a proof of one of the assertions there, and, frankly, something I think Evos will have to answer for.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 3:08pm BST

"So why do Evos like PSA so much they are willing to actually deny what is, ISTM, historical fact, and also ignore the ideas of pretty much every non-Evangelical Christian to claim it as an ancient, and, for many, the ONLY doctrine of Atonement".

Ford, not being an evo I obviously don't have a real answer to this, but it seems to me that the psychology fits.

The posters on many of the conservative blog sites, and many on this forum, are very heavy on sin, punishment unless you believe in their version of God, who seems to be a perverted version of an angry old man rather than a wise loving God. His evo followers appear to be rather tense and angry people if the majority tone of their postings is anything to go by.

I suppose to hold on firmly to this view your God has to have a punishing approach also to redemption. Give in that one corner and the whole edifice is in danger of crumbling.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 5:28pm BST

"The bible is not an inerrant piece of legislation. And sola scriptura has never been a basis of Anglican scholarship."

You should know the folly of making these arguments. I have a broken computer screen (figuratively) to prove it. We can all write down what the answers will be.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 5:31pm BST

Ford - I'd be interested to know what you think "PSA as currently pushed by Evos" is and how it is distinct from, say, the idea that Christ was "substituting himself for sinful men, shouldering the penalty which justice required them to pay, and reconciling them to God by his sacrificial death".

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 9:36pm BST

Erika - Rowan Williams thinks that Romans 1 doesn't help "liberals" (his term for those who want to affirm same-sex sexual relationships) because homosexual behavior was "as obviously immoral as idol worship or disobedience to parents." Nor does it help "conservatives" (his term for those who castigate those who engage in same-sex sexual activity) because Romans 1 was not written to condemn others. I am not sure this amounts to a "liberal interpretation of Romans 1" (your phrase).

One revisionist interpretation which is heard quite frequently claims that the word paraphysin refers to action which is uncharacteristic for that person: "When the scripture is understood correctly, it seems to imply that it would be unnatural for heterosexuals to live as homosexuals, and for homosexuals to live as heterosexuals." (C. Ann Shepherd; the second half of this sentence may be meant as an application rather than part of the exegesis). I don't know of any NT scholar who considers this a plausible reading of the text and I would be delighted to be pointed in the right direction. (I have no urge to castigate.)

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 9:46pm BST

Ford (and Erika) - shall I do you the favour? I myself find little use for the term "inerrancy" and have never heard anyone call the Bible "an inerrant piece of legislation" before... But let me be awkward by pointing out first of all that the inerrancy of Scripture is affirmed not only by "fundamentalists" and most conservative evangelicals but also by many Roman Catholics, including biblical scholars. There are of course competing definitions and interpretations of "inerrancy". There is little chance of conversation, if on hearing someone say "inerrancy", we attribute to them the beliefs Anglicanus listed.

And to be really provocative: one or two definitions of inerrancy may well cover the theology of, say, the 39 Articles better than much that goes for traditional Anglicanism in this part of virtual reality.

Same for "sola Scriptura" - you have a better case here for the simple reason that many evangelicals seem to misunderstand the phrase as well. See Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001), for its traditional understanding which again captures the theology of the early Reformed Catholic CofE rather well.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 10:07pm BST

you're right, of course. But what is the alternative? Other than allowing ourselves to be silenced?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 June 2007 at 10:45pm BST

I’m sorry Erika .. perhaps I DO have to try and explain myself a little better.

In the first post I answered, you implied that what “we desire,” is the pre-eminent criteria. So the implication was, as I understood your post, that if a woman desired the same role as a man, that desire is important.

I was trying to point out that as we are all sinful, and as Christians we are constantly but imperfectly seeking Our Creator’s Will for our lives .. that our wishes and desires are a] sinful .. and b] secondary to those of Our Lord.

You have since focussed almost entirely on the homosexual issue with regard to what I said .. well, the Doctrine of Original Sin again is extremely important to me as a Christian.

This will be my last post here, I don’t think I’ve ever come across such an unfriendly atmosphere or people so inclined to tell me what I’m REALLY saying and thinking.

Posted by Rosemary Behan at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 2:42am BST

"I'd be interested to know what you think "PSA as currently pushed by Evos" is and how it is distinct from, say, the idea that Christ was "substituting himself for sinful men, shouldering the penalty which justice required them to pay, and reconciling them to God by his sacrificial death"."

Because 1st Millennium thought about at-one-ment in the terms of Trade; Christus Mercator, as Augustine of Hippo said. Christ exchanged Death for Life, Sin for Righteousness.

1st Millennium academics focused on Change, on difference, on movement.

2nd Millennium academics into Scholasticism and New Humanism were infinitely more Neo Platonist than 1st Millennium ones.

To them change was a scandal. They had an Indian and Neo Platonist view of God as The Highest Being; un-chageable, un-affected, and of God's willed Creation as lost beyond redemption.

So they focussed not on the change, but on Hierarchy (painting God as a Germanic chief and humans as non-capable, with Anselm) and Sin (painting God as Demiurge and humans as un-worthy, with Calvinus).

Good spell, Bad spell, Evil spell.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 7:55am BST

In the Lutheran tradition Sola scriptura means "nothing beyond what is written may be required of anybody" cf 1 Cor 4:6 and Dr Hooker.

Which is exactly what the anti-moderns are up to changing Gnosticist/Philosophical theachings from Alexandria on the Spilling of Sperm into Fertility Cult Heterosexism from Colorado.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 8:01am BST

Things not stated in the holy scriptures (always in the plural) of the Church are not "values", not even "core values" but adiafora and may never be made compulsory, or required in any way.

Everything is OK as long as it is OK - but may never be made into an Idol!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 8:06am BST

Rowan also said that his analysis of Romans 1 would not help the conservatives. It is neutral.
Previously he has had more liberal views. We're in the middle of moving so I have all my books in boxes, but maybe someone can remember the sermon coming out of a book called "A ray of darkness", which concludes that stable and faithful same gender love is possible.
In any case, I had not intended to cite him as an absolute supporter, but merely as an example of a well known theologian who does not hold a rigid anti view. It was meant to show Christopher that other views are possible.

in your first reply to me you focused on "orientation" and I therefore took your post to be about same gender love. I'm sorry if it wasn't. If you simply meant to say that we're all sinners.... yes, of course.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 9:29am BST

Rosemary Behan wrote: "I don’t think I’ve ever come across such an unfriendly atmosphere or people so inclined to tell me what I’m REALLY saying and thinking."

Poor sweet Erica provoked this? :0

(my own answer to "I mean exactly what I said" was much sharper than Erica's, honestly - but then you need to have experienced the aggressiveness of sectarian pastors being challenged, to know what it's like ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 10:43am BST

Rowan Williams has not written any New Testament scholarship in his life, as far as I am aware - nor does he have the training to do so. There are plenty of other areas in which he is more than competent: he has written on systematics, patristics, mysticism, Orthodoxy etc..

What we are (still) looking for is a New Testament scholar who takes the said position.

Even if we found one, there would be a thousand (of all faiths and none) opposing them. And scholars, though not always even handed, can be relied on to be more even handed, balanced and dispassionate on average than the man in the street.

So: let's name some names.

Hi Erika-
You misunderstood me - I was not taking a sola scriptura position. I was merely opining that those (e.g. Richard Holloway) who consider Paul was wrong are more honest (albeit still very misguided) than those who claim he was misinterpreted.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 2:01pm BST

Re PSA being seen as the only atonement theory:

I don't know of anyone who sees it in that way: so, best to name names again.

There are many who see it as the *central* one. This is partly because it appears more literal and less metaphorical than the others. There was no literal visible battle. There was no literal visible lawcourt. There was no literal visible slave market. But there was a literal visible death, and a literal audible cry of dereliction.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 2:05pm BST

Take your point, Christopher - but the way (say) that UCCF put it across ('Sinful human beings are redeemed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of their representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between them and God')is that all other refinements are optional, PSA is the core doctrine which must be believed.

As for the literal audible cry.... Well, perhaps, though GJ and GL differ, implying (one might argue) a different NT theology at this point, one which would not underpin PSA.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 2 June 2007 at 11:05pm BST

Mynsterpreost - even in the UCCF statement you get references to redemption and sacrifice which transcend any narrow PSA account. Maybe the most distinctive aspect of patristic thinking about the atonement missing here is reference to the devil. The redemption is from the power of sin, not explicitly from the power of the devil and the redemption in the UCCF statement need not be a ransom, let alone one paid to the devil. So what is missing may be remarkable but does the claim that the Reformers invented PSA (so often heard here) really amount to nothing more than saying that they put the "realist" account (Kelly) at the centre of their reflection on what the atonement means? Or would you want to argue that the majority of church father would not have been able to affirm what the UCCF statement says?

Posted by Thomas Renz at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 9:03am BST

Thomas: I think the form of words would have been acceptable, but that the interpretation of those words would probably differ greatly.

I also think the word 'penalty' is a significant one in UCCF-speak (it's not a translation of 'lutron' for starters) and the natural inference from the word is one of judicial punishment. That does push hard against the Fathers' interpretations which do not seem to imply the punishment comes from the Father. Does any Father use 'penalty' do you happen to know?

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 12:04pm BST

A colophon: UCCF's website has an intriguing quote:
'the Doctrinal Basis has, amongst other concerns, a particular eye to a correct view of the work of Christ on the cross, and to the authority of his word, the scriptures, doctrines that are especially under threat today.'

'A correct view' 'under threat today' That sounds quite prescriptive, and implies the rejection of some, perhaps all, other Atonement models.

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 12:08pm BST

New Testament scholar: The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John's doctorate was in Pauline Theology.

Posted by lapsang at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 5:39pm BST

Another new testament scholar (professor of said subject) is L William Countryman who has written on Romans 1 in Dirt, Greed and Sex (esp. see chaper 6 'Paul and Purity').

Posted by lapsang at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 6:27pm BST

Mynsterpreost: the Fathers spoke of curse (and punishment) more than penalty if English translations can be trusted but the latter is used is in Eusebius of Caesarea's Proof of the Gospel:

"And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us."

Also in Cyril of Alexandria, De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate ("we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us"). The Fathers talk about the Son fulfilling the Father's will but not much about the Father punishing the Son (Justin Martyr: "His Father caused Him to suffer these things", cf. Ambrose of Milan: "nothing was done contrary to God’s sentence").

Posted by Thomas Renz at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 8:44pm BST

Thank you, lapsang. I had not realised that Jeffrey John's doctorate was in Pauline theology. I found his "Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-sex Partnerships" weak. I will try to have another look at Countryman's "Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament" before long.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 8:50pm BST

Please, for someone not theologically trained but interested, could you please explain why you found Jeffery John "weak"?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 3 June 2007 at 10:59pm BST

Thomas Renz quotes Justin Martyr. I wonder whether the piece he quotes can bear the construction which he (and the authors of PFOT) puts on it. The Greek has these words in a conditional clause (For if even his Father caused him to suffer these things on behalf of the human race, you yourselves did not carry it out because it was the will of God) and the word translated "caused" is the slightly unusual energesen, with its undertones of strengthening and the operation of grace.

Furthermore, Justin cites Deuteronomy 21:23 in the next chapter of the Dialogue as prophetic of what the Jews would do to the Messiah - "not because the crucified one is cursed by God, but because God predicted what would be done by all you Jews and others like you...) (tr. by Falls). That seems to me to steer quite decisively away from the PSA view. This is strengthened by the passage at the end of ch.94, which sets the Deut. passage against Num 21: (quoting Falls translation again) "As God ordered the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet is not guilty (sc of violating the second commandment) so in the law a curse is placed upon men who are crucified but not upon the Christ of God, by whom are saved all who have committed deeds deserving a curse"

But application of selected quotations is not helpful: Justin was not writing systematic theology. He was setting out standard Christian proof-texts against a hypothetical Jewish opponent. You need to understand Justin's method of argument before you can grasp the content.

Posted by cryptogram at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 10:34am BST

Do you mean that you didn't agree with it, Thomas, or that it was not written in 'theological' language? I think the argument is strong enough, but clearly it wouldnt be so for an evangelical or conservative as your basic starting point is so different.

I know that the book was quite deliberately aimed at a lay audience - Jeffrey is very talented at communicating complex ideas in a way people can understand, unlike certain Archbishops...

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 12:29pm BST

I haven't been able to access the site recently, and by now much of what I think has been said. My biggest problem is that it makes God the enemy, and this is what is new,IMNSHO. Under PSA, it is God from whom we must be saved. My understanding is that older theories of the Atonement were troublesome in that they somehow or other implied that God paid a debt to Satan, thereby implying the Creator COULD be in debt to the created, or implied some rights or other on the part of Satan. I think PSA goes too far the other way, see above, and I also feel that it is a major reason for Western society's rejection of Christianity. The idea of God as the "Sky Bully" who justifies murder in His name and who will torture us for all eternity with no hope of the release of death if we screw up, while telling us such a thing would be immoral if we were to do it is the norm among the people I associate with. They know and hate the image of God presented in PSA. They also believe it is the only one, they know no other image of God.

And Christopher,
"This is partly because it appears more literal and less metaphorical than the others."

I've felt for a long time the Western priests suffered from a diminished capacity for abstract thought and a mistrust of the supernatural and the mystical, but I don't think these deficiencies should be allowed to influence doctrine.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 12:40pm BST

Merseymike and Erika - what I meant is that I found Jeffrey John's reasoning weak. I do not take issue with a more popular presentation but I am happy to be pointed to a more scholarly work which presents the argument in greater detail. There is of course the factor that my starting point is different. I grant that.

From previous discussions I had assumed that you, Merseymike, would agree with me that if we define "homophobic" in its broad sense (disapproval of sex outside heterosexual marriage), then the natural reading of the Scriptures make them appear "homophobic". Your starting point leads you to reject the authority of Scripture as a consequence; mine leads me to disapproval of sex outside heterosexual marriage - not out of fear or disgust but because this is what I hear God speaking through Scripture.

Jeffrey John, if my memory serves me well, would seek to persuade both of us that we have misunderstood what the Scriptures say.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 2:32pm BST

Before I engage in conversation about Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho at a later point, I would like to clarify very briefly my own current understanding:
(1) There are various ways of explaining the achievement of Christ’s death on the cross (and Christ’s resurrection and ascension should not be neglected in discussing more fully what Christ has done for us).
(2) The idea that Christ suffered the divine penalty for sin in our place is found in various strands of NT teaching - along with other ideas.
(3) The penal substitutionary dimension of the cross is found also in patristic literature - along with other dimensions.
(4) The idea that Satan was defeated and the powers of evil overcome on the cross became the ‘classic’ view (principal idea) through much of Christianity.
(5) Calvin and theologians in his tradition considered penal substitution to be foundational for our understanding of the atonement.
(6) The ‘subjective’ view of the atonement (that sinners are transformed and inspired by Christ’s sacrificial love) was affirmed by many moderns at the expense of the ‘objective’ view (that God the Father is reconciled by Jesus’ action on the cross).
(7) Evangelicals often make much of PSA (a) because they consider it the most comprehensive or foundational of the various ways of explaining Christ’s achievement and (b) because its denial in favour of an exclusively ‘subjective’ view of the atonement is seen as a denial of the Gospel itself.

Let me add to this that I am not aware of any evangelical who explicitly denies the ‘classic’ or the ‘subjective’ views of the atonement. It can be argued that in practice these do not feature as much as they should but -frankly- the attacks on PSA are at least partly to blame for that. While the Reformers have been more developed in their understanding of PSA and have given it greater prominence than the church fathers, I remain to be convinced that their understanding is substantially different.

Some popular expressions of PSA leave things to be desired but this should be no reason (a) to caricature "the conservative evangelical doctrine of PSA" in words which the supposed proponents of this "doctrine" do not recognize and which could not be backed up by references to standard evangelical descriptions (e.g., Stott, Packer) or (b) to deny the truthfulness of the penal substitutionary model altogether - not as the only model but as one with explanatory power.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 2:39pm BST

"if we define "homophobic" in its broad sense (disapproval of sex outside heterosexual marriage),"

What!?!?!? How is it homophobic to disapprove of a man having sex with a woman to whom he is not married? Who ever suggested such a bizarre thing? It's kind of like the line from The Simpsons where Nelson is so desparate for something to taunt someone over that he teases Bart with "Kissing girls, that's so gay!" You mentioned "reading in" before, Thomas, I would suggest the you, like NP, have subsisted far too long on the diet fed you by people like the ACC and Essentials. If you are going to discuss and even argue with those who disagree with you, you have to oppose their actual ideas, not the stereotypes given to you by fearmongers who are manipulating you to garner support for their very worldly agenda.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 3:19pm BST

Ford - I think I see where you are coming from and yet I wonder whether your problems are not with a statement of PSA which exists in the writings of its opponents more than anywhere else. Evangelicals tend to stress that we have been enemies of God but "God our enemy"? Where would I find that? Evangelicals tend to stress that we need to be saved - but "saved from God"? Where would I find that idea?

"Western society's rejection of Christianity" could be a whole new thread - my own feeling is the reverse: the people who reject (traditional) Christianity like to paint Christianity in a way which makes their rejection look obvious and natural. I am sure that's not the whole story but maybe worth pondering? After all, a number of TA posters seem to be doing precisely that with regard to evangelical Christianity: paint them black - makes it easier to ridicule and reject.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 3:48pm BST

Cryptogram - you have pointed us to Barndard’s study. So let me cite Barndard by way of trying to avoid proof-texting: “[Christ] saved men by submitting to all that men deserved for sin, that is, the curse pronounced on all who did not keep the Law; therefore he was crucified, because the curse lay on crucifixion; but he was no more under God’s curse when he endured our curse than was the brazen serpent, which was ordered by God although he had condemned all images. God saved of old by an image without violating the second commandment. he saves now by a Crucified those who are worthy of the curse without however laying his curse on the Crucified.”

I think I can see the difference. Many evangelicals would be more willing than Justin Martyr to say that Christ was under God’s curse - precisely because they are not usually engaged in anti-Jewish polemic! But what we mean by that is that Christ bore our curse - not that the Father cursed the Son (try to find an evangelical writer to prove me wrong!). My reference to Justin Martyr was by way of responding to the dissociation of punishment from the Father. “This Cross and suffering the Father willed for man’s sake that on his Christ might fall the curse of all men.” (again Barndard summarising Justin). Cf. C. D. Allert, Revelation, Truth, Canon and Interpretation: Studies in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (Brill, 2002), pp. 118-119 (see also pp. 236-238 on the recapitulation of the curse).

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 3:51pm BST

Sorry, Ford, I did not mean to re-define "homophobic" but to acknowledge Merseymike's argument that the etymology of the term is no longer functional but in doing so I was jumping ahead to a place where Merseymike is not either (in other words, he would take issue with this "definition" as well). Change "disapproval of sex outside heterosexual marriage" to "disapproval of homosexual sex".

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 4:20pm BST

Thomas, thank you for your comments - and for the time spent researching them. My involvement in Justinforschung is now some 30 years old, and so I haven't come across the Allert book you refer to.

I wonder how Justin conceived the nature of the curse? Subjection the the demons, I suspect - (on the cross Christ "broke the power of the Serpent which occasioned the transgression of Adam") - so we are back to an early form of the Christus Victor emphasis. But once again I would stress that it is a fool's errand to search for systematic theology in Justin. There are some of the foundations of it, but just as some have dismissed his Christology as subordinationist, when in reality is simply isn't developed enough to be dismissed in that way, I suspect that his theology of the cross is more a matter of trying to make sense of Old Testament testimonia, some of which were thrown back at the Christians who used them.

My point in raising Justin at all was simply that you quoted him (with others) as cited on the PFOT website. I have, as you realise some reservations about whether he can legitimately be called in aid as PFOT does.

Posted by cryptogram at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 4:32pm BST

If PSA doesn't say that we are to be saved from a wrathful God who punishes us, not merely for our own wrongdoing, but for the wrongdoing of
our allegorical ancestors, then it is being badly preached, since this is precisely the image of PSA that every single one of my friends has, indeed, they wouldn't recognize "PSA" but "Christianity" in this description. If PSA doesn't say we are to be saved from the wrath of God, then who imposed on us the punishment? As to your 7 points, #4 is true of pretty much any undersanding of atonement I am aware of, and to have issues with PSA doesn't at all mean rejecting this statement. I don't care if Calvin thought it was central, I'm not a Calvinist. #6 and #7, "subjective" versus "objective"? I don't know what that means, though it's ridiculous to say that rejecting PSA is rejecting the Gospel.
Furthermore, here:

is something I have posted here before, from an Orthodox theologian, very anti-Western. You might say that this is an image of PSA painted by an opponent of it. But it is exactly the way most people I know think Christianity to be, it is certainly spot on the money when it comes to the comments one can find on most sites that deal with Christian discussion. So, if this is not an accurate portrayal, I would suggest Evangelicals themselves need to reassess how they preach it, since this is the way it is seen.

Posted by FordElms at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 8:04pm BST

For the record, I am also uncomfortable with the ways people try to explain away 7 or 8 verses of Scripture. I think a bigger issue is with:

"what I hear God speaking through Scripture."

because God speaks in many ways. God also speaks through the Spirit guiding the Church, and sometimes that guidance is in opposition to Scripture. So be it. This is only a problem if you consider Scripture to be the only place God speaks, or the sole repository for authority. I do not believe either of these things. This is why this whole process is so distressing. We are not trying to discern God's will, because some of us are more concerned with being defenders of the downtrodden, some with apprearing cool, some with maintaining an older societal status quo, some with preserving their right to judge others, some with ensuring they have clear rules to obey so they can be sure of God's love in their obedience to the rules, some with propounding that we ALREADY know God's will because "it's in the Bible", and some just hate fags. No-one is listening to the Spirit, it seems, we are all more concerned with making sure that the Church we end up with is the kind of Church WE can live with, and not the kind of Church God wants us to be, so we are already dividing the spoils without even bothering to listen to God.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 8:34pm BST

Ford - earlier in this thread you encouraged Alex to read more than John Stott on the Atonement. Now may I suggest to you that if you want a first hand evangelical account, you could do worse than reading The Cross of Christ. Here. more than twenty years ago, you find the following citation from William Neil:

"It is worth noting that the ‘fire and brimstone’ school of theology who revel in ideas such as that Christ was made a sacrifice to appease an angry God, or that the cross was a legal transaction in which an innocent victim was made to pay the penalty for the crimes of others, a propitiation of a stern God, find no support in Paul." (Apostle Extraordinary, pp. 89-90).

John Stott comments: "But of course this is neither the Christianity of the Bible in general, nor of Paul in particular. It is doubtful if anybody has ever believed such a crude construction." (p. 173).

Maybe John Stott’s doubts were not justified, maybe there are those who believe and preach "such a crude construction". But it is certainly not justified to tar all those who consider PSA as a valid way of explaining the achievement of Christ’s death on the cross with the same brush.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 10:28pm BST

Denials, denials, pretence, pretence , denials...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 11:07pm BST

Cryptogram - Justin may well have seen subjection to demons as a consequence of curse but I do not remember him making such a link in the Dialogue with Trypho (I have not consulted any of his other writings) and, as you rightly remind us, he was not writing a systematic theology of the atonement. As you know, in the context of the Dialogue the issue arises because Trypho is -apparently- prepared to accept that the Messiah had to suffer but not that he should suffer the dishonourable "death cursed in the law", namely crucifixion, and so Justin proceeds to explain why Christ precisely had to be crucified rather than suffer some other form of death. But given that Jews in the synagogue were solemnly cursing Christ and Christians (three times a day according to Epiphanius, Haer. 1.9 and Jerome on Isa. 52.5), Justin is keen to avoid saying anything which may suggest that God himself is cursing Christ.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 11:20pm BST

"God also speaks through the Spirit guiding the Church, and sometimes that guidance is in opposition to Scripture. So be it. This is only a problem if you consider Scripture to be the only place God speaks, or the sole repository for authority."

This is not actually true. The question whether God only speaks through the Holy Scriptures or through other sources as well is one; the question whether God's Spirit may guide the Church in opposition to Scripture is another. Many of us who believe that "it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another" do not think that biblical exegesis is all that matters when it comes to discerning God's voice.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 4 June 2007 at 11:33pm BST

Thomas wrote: "Justin is keen to avoid saying anything which may suggest that God himself is cursing Christ."

And there is the rub. For many non-cosevoes HEAR Conservative Evangelicals arguing precisely that God did lay on Christ the curse due to all humanity, citing Galatians 3:13. But then, of course, Paul wasn't writing systematic theology either!

Epiphanius and Jerome are surely a bit late to be cited as evidence for WHY Justin argues as he does? But I think that's enough of all this...

Posted by cryptogram at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 9:41am BST

"it is certainly not justified to tar all those who consider PSA as a valid way of explaining the achievement of Christ’s death on the cross with the same brush."

But this "crude construction" which Stott doubts anyone ever believed is precisely the way that it is most loudly presented. I have never heard it interpreted any other way, and I certainly do not live in some sort of closed Anglicatholic bubble. I grew up around a lot of Evo/fundies who believe exactly the "crude construct". I agree I have to learn more, even discussing this with you has softened my view, but you can't deny that, while my attitude might be a charicature of PSA, it is what most people understand not just PSA, but Christianity, to be about, so I'd suggest it is the duty of those who believe it is somehow key to explain themselves better. I'll stop calling it near blasphemy, though.

"the question whether God's Spirit may guide the Church in opposition to Scripture is another."

Surely you aren't suggesting that the Church teaches nothing against Scripture? We have compromised the Gospel many times, it's just that we did it so long ago, we accept these things as normal. Unless you believe it is OK to kill somebody.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 1:18pm BST

Cryptogram - I cited Epiphanias and Jerome for the "three times a day" claim only. Justin says himself more than once in the Dialogues that the Jews are cursing Christ and the Christians and it is very evidently his context. Sure, Paul was not writing systematic theology either but there is a gap between this observation and the implication that the phrasing of Gal 3.13 should have no place in a systematic formulation which seeks to express (one aspect of) the truth of the mysteries revealed in the Scriptures.

Or am I meant to hear you saying that systematic formulations / doctrine are fine in the area of theology and Christology but not in the area of soteriology because the Fathers were rather unsystematic about the latter?

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 2:58pm BST

Ford - I have heard myself presentations of PSA which made me cringe but I do wonder why non-evangelicals rarely defend PSA against its distortions and so regularly condemn this model of the atonement as an evangelical or Protestant invention and do so without reference to standard evangelical or Protestant accounts.

My impression is that the attacks on PSA have come from people who object to the language of curse and divine wrath and Christ bearing sin found in the NT and in patristic literature and not merely to the way "conservative evangelicals" have put them together.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 3:17pm BST

No, I am not suggesting that "the Church teaches nothing against Scripture". I wish it were so. But I do believe that the Church *should not* be teaching anything against Scripture. I am not really interested in re-opening the "shellfish", "usury", "slavery" and "women's ordination" arguments. But not to avoid it, let me state plainly:

If I was convinced that the Scriptures (read as a unity and in ways which do not make one part repugnant to another) instructed me to refrain from eating crabs, I would want to cease eating them. If I thought that having a bank account which accrues interest is contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I would want to call my bank and terminate my accounts. I do not believe for a moment that the OT or NT orders, recommends or encourages "slavery" as we commonly understand the term. I do not think that I am partying company with the apostle Paul when I favour the ordination of women.

I am not against "listening to what is going on in the world". I am not against "taking on board new insights". I am not against reflecting again and hard on what the Scriptures are saying. I have changed my mind on a number of things in the past and I am prepared to do it again - although it has been painful on some occasions. But I want to me convinced that I understand the Scriptures better when I change my mind and I want to be a faithful interpreter of both the Word and the world - my approach is not unlike sec. 65 of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, even if I frequently disagree with the details of his interpretation of the OT text.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 3:43pm BST

Thomas, since you ask a direct question I will not be so rude as to ignore it!

My comments about Paul and Justin not being systematic theologians is simply a warning that we should be careful not to imbue their words with the full weight of later doctrinal formulations. it's nothing to do with soteriology as opposed to any other area of doctrine.

In a similar way, I wouldn't wish to use Matthew 28:19 or 2 Corinthians 12:13 as "evidence" of the full-blown doctrine of the Trinity in the NT. The first steps on the way to the formulation, indeed, but "triadic" rather than necessarily Trinitarian. Someone with a different understanding of inspiration might argue in a different way.

And, for the record, I am not one who would rule out substitution from the doctrine of atonement: I consider that some evangelicals fall into the opposite error of making it the only significant element. To me, atonement in scripture and in the Fathers is considerably richer.

Posted by cryptogram at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 4:02pm BST

Thomas, thank you for your most recent post. I come from a very different tradition (I believe you are of Lutheran background) in that I am Affirming Catholic. I would not disagree with anything you wrote, and I have enjoyed our own dialogue, which was somewhat more eirenic than Justin's! I commented somewhere that that particular dialogue reminded me of the contest of the poets in Aristophanes' Frogs. I'm glad we managed better.


John de Crypt (which rather unpacks the cryptogram...)

Posted by cryptogram at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 4:46pm BST

Cryptogram - glad to hear the negative reply and the positive affirmation. I agree with much you say although I want to add something on the positive side with which you may or may not agree, namely that biblical and patristic authors were not entirely unconcerned about being logically coherent and that inchoate belief in the Trinity can still be counted as belief in the Trinity. To use another example, the biblical authors do not talk about two-natures-in-one-person and thus no biblical references are proof that they subscribed to a full-blown Chalcedonian Christology. But it can be argued that someone who seeks to be coherent and to take all pertinent Scriptural references seriously cannot but hold a belief of the kind expressed by Chalcedon and that no biblical author has written anything which would prevent them from "signing up" to Chalcedon. (This is not to say that such a case would be uncontroversial but that it can be made - and can be made well.)

Similarly, the Fathers did not systematize in the area of soteriology as much as elsewhere and so they clearly do not propound the fully orbed model of PSA found in later authors. But given the language used in passages such as the one cited above from Eusebius of Caesarea, it can be argued that they would not refrain from affirming the validity of the PSA model (as one among others) in the form presented by later authors. I would argue this on the grounds that (a) they are concerned to argue logically and thus demonstrate that they value logical coherence, and (b) as well as using the language of substitute and penalty, they do not shy away from associating wrath and punishment with God.

This is not to say that the Fathers would accept each and every form of PSA, let alone the ones painted in the colours of its opponents, but it is to say that the case is still to be made against the claim that the model of PSA found in Calvin etc. is anything other than an organic development of motifs found much earlier.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 5:31pm BST

And I agree that "atonement in scripture and in the Fathers is considerably richer" than some of the things heard from evangelical pulpits - even if, again, this is less applicable to the best interpreters of the tradition. I also think that the greater systematic attention given to soteriology from Anselm onwards has had its benefits as well as shortcomings and the lack of imagination sometimes found in reflecting on the atonement is mostly not the result of too much but of too little hard thinking.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 5:37pm BST

"I do not think that I am partying company with the apostle Paul when I favour the ordination of women."
But many would claim you are! If I understand you correctly, if the Church were to support "full inclusion" you would accept it? I stand ready to do so, despite my misgivings, or to accept no inclusion if that is the will of the Church. But how will we know if we ever have obeyed the will of God in this? Everybody is yeling their own opinions too loudly to hear the Spirit.

I believe the Church should not be teaching anything against the tradition we have received, as Paul admonishes us. If this does not agree with Scripture, this is surely a warning that we should be certain that we have heard the Spirit, but it doesn't mean that we are wrong.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 6:16pm BST

Cryptogram (John de Crypt) - it was a pleasure and a way to avoid the pressing task of marking exams for a little longer. I have learned a few things.

PS: I was indeed raised Lutheran although there were many other theological influences which were arguably more prominent - herein hangs a long tale. I have been Anglican for a while now and not just for seeking to identify with the local Landeskirche but this story also needs to wait for another day.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 6:50pm BST

I sympathise. I was for 20 years an examiner at A level (rather bizzarely in your speciality, not my own). June was a non-month - but it paid for a family holiday in July.

John (

Posted by cryptogram at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 7:31pm BST

Ford, by way of a somewhat roundabout response: Believing in the *one, holy,* catholic and apostolic church leads me to pursue communion beyond the group of people who agree with me on all points of doctrine - as is true for many of us here and as you have put it eloquently to Merseymike.

Believing in the one, holy, *catholic* and apostolic church invites me to listen to the whole church of all times and places and to treat dissent from anything which can lay claim to represent the consensus of the church very seriously.

Believing in the one, holy, catholic and *apostolic* church makes me study the word of the Apostles with all diligence. This is because I understand apostolicity to be about agreement with apostolic teaching, now enshrined in the NT. (I consider apostolic succession to be a sign of this which, if exercised in faith, should put the church in touch with the reality of conformity to the apostolic teaching.)

More specifically in answer to your question: I cannot accept in conscience something which I consider to be contradictory to the apostolic teaching. I will not be such a fool as to think anything "apostolic teaching" which is merely my private opinion. Where I disagree with a very significant part of the church, as, e.g., on the ministry of women, I seek to make doubly sure that I have understood the apostolic teaching well, using the best of biblical scholarship in doing so.

As a biblical scholar I argue the case, as I see it; as a minister I submit to the discipline of my church in not teaching anything contrary to its doctrine or practice. Where the church seeks to *impose* a belief on me which I consider to be contrary to Scripture, I need to leave – sadly and in the hope that the breach will be healed one day. This is why I am not Roman Catholic but Reformed Catholic.

Breaking communion with the wider church for the sake of being with like-minded, enthusiastic people who share my aims is a move away from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Knowingly departing from the apostolic teaching for the sake of communion is unthinkable because to the extent a church departs from the apostolic teaching, it separates itself from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 8:06pm BST

Just to say, I haven't forgotten that I have left things hanging, but with my last three exams this week, and a further explosion of comments, I didn't have the time to reply at the weekend.
I understand if no-one will be around to read them, as it won’t be before the 12th, but I thank you for the dialogue. Thomas' and Cryptogram's discussion was particularly interesting.

Oh and a brief reply to Brian's fable. Although the reasoning given for belief in inerrancy will be true for some evangelicals, for most it is the reasoning that is the fable.
I think that there is good historical evidence to support the accuracy of the Bible manuscripts, lots of the references made in the text to people or places, have been proven to be true despite being widely doubted. This lends authority to the events occurring being true, and prophecy (as well as Jesus' acknowledgement of it as Scripture) for the OT and Jesus' miracles for the NT, then give basis for it being God’s truth. From there I would believe what the Bible says about its self. Not just because it says it, and my parents told me, but because it has proved (I am not claiming indisputably) its trustworthiness.
Some very brief food for thought.

Grace and Peace


Posted by Alex Freeman at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 9:39pm BST

Amen to every word on your contribution at Posted by: Thomas Renz on Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 3:43pm BST

And thank you all for the fascinating conversation!

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 5 June 2007 at 9:41pm BST

"Where the church seeks to *impose* a belief on me which I consider to be contrary to Scripture"

OK, so what about usury? An old argument, I know, but still valid, I think. What about "Thou shalt not kill"? No specification there about the government telling you it's ok in certain instances. My point in bringing these up is that we compromised these away very long ago, yet there was a time when each was considered incompatible with Scripture. No-one would dare to claim that a soldier coming back from war must publically repent of his murdering of others before he is allowed the sacraments. No-one would excommunicate a banker whose whole income is based on usury. Ought we to do so? If not, why can we not also justify inclusion of gay people? Perhaps because we have forgotten that we ever considered them sinful in the first place? There was once a time when people argued about these, and no doubt there were those who felt the Church was seeking to impose a belief they considered "contrary to Scripture". We no longer do. What has made them acceptable when they used not to be? Is there a parallel?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 4:48pm BST

Ford - "usury" is one of the examples where the Biblical texts were studied hard in the light of new developments. It is worth reading Calvin's discussion which led him to conclude -reluctantly- that the Scripture does not prohibit all forms of charging interest (and so the church should not either). See

Exod 20.13 is difficult to translate. "Thou shalt not kill" (KJV, cf. standard German translations) is too broad because the Hebrew verb used does not refer to each and every "taking of life". "You shall not murder" (most contemporary English translations) is too narrow because more than murder is prohibited. Details in commentaries. The death penalty on murder (Exod 21.14) demonstrates that there is permitted and prohibited taking of life even within the immediate context of the passage in question.

In other words, I do not accept the narrative according to which all of us have compromised. In the light of subsequent discussions I fear that a number of people in General Synod have voted in favour of the ordination of women *in spite of* Scripture but many did so *in line with* a better understanding of Scripture.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 9:32am BST

""usury" is one of the examples where the Biblical texts were studied hard in the light of new developments."

So why aren't you willing to allow the same process for homosexuality? Allowing usury in its day was surely as revolutionary as what is happening now, so why was the process of hard study acceptable then when it isn't now?

Even after Calvin there were those who opposed it. And what makes Calvin so special anyway? I'm not inclined to give any respect to ideas that can lead to TULIP!

Also, the idea that military service was incompatible with the Gospel is very old. You cite OT sources to justify some admittedly limited taking of a human life. Is it in the Gospel? The Epistles? Did the early Christians consider the taking of human life compatible with the Gospel, that is until we made our deal with Constantine? Given that it was usually stoning in OT times, might it be considered part of the "ritual code" that Evangelicals often claim, inexplicably, that we don't have to follow while the "moral" parts of the Mosaic Law still apply? (that's sarcastic, since I don't believe the distinction is of any value except to allow some people to feel more moral and holy than others))

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 2:10pm BST

Ford - but where did I say that I am not willing to study hard and reconsider the Scriptures with regard to homosexuality in the light of more recent developments?

I referred to Calvin because his name comes up more often than others when "usury" gets raised and because he seems a good example for the kind of careful consideration of the text which I would commend -- see the thread to which I have linked above. (By the way, it would be quite something if you could show how permission of interest taking leads to TULIP. If, however, you mean that you are unwilling to learn from someone who holds doctrinal views you find abhorrent - is not that supposed to be a feature of "conservative evangelicals"?)

I assumed that you were quoting Exod 20.13 and this is why I answered in the terms I did. The idea that military service is incompatible with the Gospel is indeed old - whether it is correct would deserve another thread. In my view, each of these issues deserves to and needs to be examined in their own right.

For the threefold division of the law I refer you to the discussion at and (if you want more)

Posted by Thomas Renz at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 4:47pm BST

Thomas, I made an incorrect assumption, it seems, that you were like most on the right and would not welcome any debate on this issue, as Scripture clearly decides the matter. I was wrong about you. But the discussion is not happening, and both sides are at fault for that. My statement about TULIP was hyperbolic, dramatic, actually. In the minds of most Evangelicals, Calvin appears to be given a place equal, for instance, to the Fathers. I don't believe he deserves this. I read the links you provided about the threefold division of the Law. I have read similar arguments before, and I always wonder what they would have sounded like to a first century Jew. I also am amused by the way one side can creat elaborate justifications for its particular position on an issue, while deriding the equally elaborate justifications of their opponents as "fudging the issue". I remain unconvinced that such a division is anything more than a convenient justification for judgementalism.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 7:20pm BST

Ford, having read the previous threads, you will know that I have reservations about the threefold division of the law. It has its uses as a shorthand for explaining how the OT law might feature in a NT context but it is certainly not a panacea for helping us discern God's will.

What a first century Jew might have made of it would of course also depend on whether this Jew followed Jesus Christ or not. Those who followed Christ would have been faced with basically the same issues of continuity and discontinuity as we are and might understand the rationale behind the threefold division. Those first century Jews who rejected Jesus as Christ would have had other issues to reflect on, certainly after the destruction of the temple.

By the way, I think you are right when you observe that among evangelicals the Reformers are usually given greater prominence than the Fathers, although attention to patristic writings seems to have something of a renaissance. But in evangelical self-understanding the theology of both the Reformers and the Fathers needs to be tested and measured against Scripture - in the worst cases this means tested against the interpretation of Scripture advanced in one's own little community but more often against the whole range of arguments. If you want to challenge evangelicals, you explain to them how their reading fails to do justice to the text.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 10:23pm BST

"basically the same issues of continuity and discontinuity "

Is it really fair to say that first century converts to Christianity had the same understanding of the Law as modern Evangelicals? I'm not suggesting they didn't think there was an appropriate Christian way to live one's life, just that they might have understood it differently in terms of obedience vs. freedom. From what I've read here and elsewhere, implicit in the Evangelical position is that obedience to the Law (those parts that apply) is actually necessary for salvation. Now this is roundly decried as justification by works, which it is, but it is there practically. No doubt you can point to Evangelical theologians who have a more nuanced view, or refute it entirely, it's just my impression.

"tested and measured against Scripture"

So Scripture is meant to be the gold standard against which all else is judged. If Tradition disagrees with Scripture, Tradition must be wrong. This idea arose in the crisis of faith that fuelled the Reformation, if the tradition had gotten it wrong, there was nowhere else to go for authority but Scripture. I feel this to be misguided. Today there may be the appearance in some circles of short shrift being given to Scripture, but the Reformation era solution of swinging the pendulum in the other direction is just as wrong now as it was then, IMNSHO. The argument that "the traditions of men" can be wrong is equally applicable here. There are many different interpretations of what "the plain word of Scripture" means. I don't think the idea that Scripture trumps Tradition was anybody's attitude up to the Reformation, and I have as much mistrust of it as an Evangelical has for the "traditions of men"..

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 1:31pm BST

Ford - saying that first century Christians were "facing basically the same issues" and would likely have been able to understand the rationale behind the threefold division of the Law is not claiming that they had "the same understanding" as modern evangelicals. There are different ways of conceptualizing the place of the Law in the Christian life among evangelicals and the threefold division of the Law is in any case common to many Christian traditions.

I do not dispute your impressions of bad evangelical theology. Bad theology, while not a prerogative of evangelicals, is certainly found among us. But, as with my point on PSA, the issue is not so much that I am able to point to Evangelical theologians who have a more nuanced view, but that you and others fail to cite Evangelical writings which articulate the views frequently attributed to "evangelicals" on TA. But I do not want to press this point, as I can see that you wish to be fair.

I agree that what many evangelicals understand Sola Scriptura to mean is not the position found in the early church - it is not found among the Reformers either; it is more recent than that. For details see Keith A. Mathison (The Shape of Sola Scriptura) referred to above. He demonstrates that Sola Scriptura (or Tradition I as it is called in the book; Sola Scriptura as understood by the Reformers) is the early church's position.

Is not the kind of attitude to Scriptures spelled out in sec. 65 of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho, rather typical of how the Fathers deal with the Scriptures? Which of them would be prepared to say that the Scriptures were wrong on any given issue? Interpretations of Scripture can be wrong of course - but this is best addressed by offering a better interpretation of the texts, having listened to tradition, arguing with reason, and not dismissing experience either.

"Sola Scriptura" affirms that the Scriptures are a sufficient and final court of appeal in matters of faith and morals. It does not imply that we may ignore all but the text of the Scriptures nor that the interpretation of the Scriptures is purely a matter of an individual's conscience.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 2:55pm BST

"we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings" (Gregory of Nysa, On the Soul and the Resurrection) - may serve as a neat summary.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 2:59pm BST

"He demonstrates that Sola Scriptura ..... is the early church's position."

First of all, don't assume theological knowledge on my part. I'm just an opinionated layman who reads and is working out my salvation in fear and trembling. So I can't speak to Justin and Trypho. There are things that come down to us from the earliest times that are categorically denied by Evangelicals, however, so the above quote would seem to be spurious. Granted that by the time of the Reformation the Church needed reforming, but mere reform would, I think, mean that the "reformed" product would represent the unreformed original with it's errors removed. Instead what we get is something entirely different. If modern Evangelicalism follows in the tradition of the early Church, why does it not share the things that come to us from that tradition? I don't believe that everything that the reformers jettisoned at the Reformation was error. I think the Reformation went too far in every instance, even in England, and in most cases swerved entirely off the path.

Is it true to say that early Christians would have understood the rationale for threefold division of the law?

More importantly, how does your approach to Scriptural interpretation differ from those with whom you disagree on, say, "the gay issue"?

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 6:02pm BST

Hi David R

Re cry of dereliction: It wasn't Mark's fault that Luke and John came later. he didn't ask them to. How does their writing later diminish the historicity (or otherwise) of his own account? On the contrary, it is completely unconnected to it.

Re the possible primacy of PSA theory or something similar: If something such as death happens to someone in the flesh, there are endless metaphors that can describe it, but only one literal description: death. This sets the literal apart as 'special'. Not only that, but the metaphors can be quibbled about, being subjective, whereas the literal description can't be, being objective.
There are endless individual ingredients which seem to make PSA a likely theory: the many references to the blood of Christ in the epistles (cf Isa 53); the Jewish understanding of teh efficacy of blood sacrifice; the innocence of the passover lamb and scapegoat who nevertheless were the bearers of others' sins; the fact that God has wrath and is wrathful against sin; the fact that forgiveness and covenant are both understood to require blood; the fact that the passion predictions recall the suffering servant passages; the Gethsemane agony; the cry of dereliction. What is not spelt out is the Father's wrath against the Son in so many words. All these things verge on it and tend to suggest it, and it is difficult to find another controlling theory which makes sense of these data even half so well. But if you can come up with this better controlling theory I will buy it. Also I am sceptical of those who try to define the matter too precisely in trinitarian terms.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 6:28pm BST

I do not deny the penal imagery. But how does the idea of blood sacrifice equate with PSA, ie how does the shedding of blood remit sin? I don't believe the Passover Lamb was considered to bear the sins of the people, but I may wrong? I do not argue with any of the things you cite, I do not deny that there had to be a "bearing of sin" in some sense. I also do not see an objective punishing of anyone by God in the Crucifixion. I see an unjust execution. The Romans put Him there. God may have allowed it, but is it right to say that God is the one doing the executing, not the Romans? That seems like saying that because God allows a child molesting murderer to do do what he does, then God is molesting and murdering the child. That because Christ can be physically seen to die in an act of judicial execution does not mean it is God who is doing the executing. I see a metaphysical struggle that manifested itself in physical disturbances in the world: the earthquake, the rising of the dead, the tearing of the veil, the darkening of the sun, all of which would speak of something so foundational it upset nature itself, no surprise since the One who made nature was dying, something sung about eloquently in the Orthodox liturgy for Great Friday. I do not understand the current drive to centralize PSA in our understanding of Atonement. As PSA is currently presented to the world, it is doing untold damage to the faith. It pains me that a God that I know to be profligately loving and unbelievably merciful is being presented most loudly to the world in a way that makes Him out to be a vengeful, niggardly, judgemental, cruel torturer who will inflict eternal punishment on anyone who does not follow the law that He claims to have delivered us from, and who punishes an innocent man, who is also Himself incarnate, in order to satisfy His offended honour.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 8:06pm BST

Granted: the Reformation was not simply a restoration to what the church had been in the second, fifth or twelfth century. Granted: some developments during the Reformation period and afterwards led to something quite different.

But my respect for the (mainstream) Reformers relates directly to my belief that they have indeed, by and large and not without mistakes, recovered the genuine article and have passed on the catholic and apostolic faith.

With regard to the place of Scripture in theology the Reformers were not particularly innovative nor in their exegetical methodology. A review of "Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation" is available at and can provide an insight into contemporary research. (And there has been more in the last ten years!)

At I sought to characterize very briefly the different hermeneutical approaches of Eck and Calvin (1 March 2006 at 3:47pm). I suspect both approaches are still around, as well as a few more.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 9:35pm BST

I am not sure the centralising of PSA is a particularly current thing.
There is a sense in which all sacrificed animals bear sin in a subsitutionary/replacement manner: ie they suffer death while innocent to the end that the humans who are guilty should be forgiven.
Otherwise where does the NT idea of 'bearing sin' come from? Solely from the scapegoat?
A central point, one oft-repeated: The way we would want God to be is (obviously) irrelevant to how he actually is. God is independent from us. There is no guarantee that we will either approve or understand his actions.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 9 June 2007 at 12:21pm BST

"my belief that they ...... the catholic and apostolic faith."

I disagree, but then so does Rome and Constantinople.

"The way we would want God to be... no guarantee that we will either approve or understand his actions."

Right back at ya, Christopher! This is a pretty accurate description of what the right is doing. I read once that reading Scripture is like looking down a well, we tend to see ourselves looking back, and that from a "liberal"! And I am not disagreeing with the premise that Christ's death on the Cross was a bearing of the sins of the world.

"Otherwise where does the NT idea of 'bearing sin' come from? Solely from the scapegoat?"

Not really a great analogy. When we call Christ the Lamb of God, it is not a reference to the scapegoat. Are there any such comparisons? He is the Lamb of the Passover, not a sin offering at all, which should prompt, I think, some doubt as to the ideas that see Christ's bearing of our sin in these terms. If He is not understood as a scapegoat, then He doesn't bear our sins in the way the scapegoat did.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 10 June 2007 at 12:35pm BST

But what I don't get is: In what sense can he be said to 'bear' 'our' sin if the substitutionary element is missing? How do you understand the words 'bear' and 'our' in a nonsubstitutionary way?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 11 June 2007 at 11:37am BST

I didn't say the substitutionary element is lacking! It is not PSA or everything else, it is simply that PSA is one way of understanding Atonement, an incredibly complex concept. I am saying that PSA is one of many metaphors for Atonement, that we can maintain the clear Scriptural concept of punishment for sin without making PSA the sole/core understanding. Is sin spiritual 'crime' in some sense? Is it about breaking the Law? Eastern Christians would say otherwise. I don't understand atonement. I do understand that the penal element, while definitely present, is only one way of understanding it, perfectly valid but not exclusive nor core. Your ideas as to Christ's objective death do not, to me, make PSA any less metaphorical than anything else.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 11 June 2007 at 1:16pm BST

That would be all very well but:

(1) You are then setting yourself up against the very many who deny that PSA is a valid metaphor and/or description at all - so long as you are happy with that.

(2) What are your criteria for identifying an invalid metaphor? This seems to me tricky ground. Yet if none is invalid, none is valid either.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 12 June 2007 at 12:30pm BST
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