2 May 2013
No one asked Willem-Alexander what he wanted to be when he was older. When he was born, his grandmother Juliana was Queen of the Netherlands, and his mother Beatrix was heir to the throne. Everyone knew that, all things being equal (which they haven't been for his younger brother), he would one day become King. Two days ago, to be precise.
I was born into a society in which respectable people don't think it is right for someone's destiny to be mapped out at birth. No one asked me if I wanted to be born into that society. Almost from birth, we are bombarded with that question, "What do you want to do?" Most of us don't know what we want to do. Or if we do, we are either made to feel like failures for our lack of ambition, or we sooner or later find that we can't do what we want to do, for reasons that ultimately boil down to the accident of our birth. The destiny we receive at birth, then, is to search restlessly for contentment and a sense of belonging, and never to achieve that. No one asked me if I wanted to be shouldered with that burden.
Still, I don't think I'd want to switch places with someone else. Others, whether kings or those born in poorer parts of the world, may have a sense of identity and belonging—and even contentment—which I can only dream of possessing. But their lives are poorer in other ways.
Whatever role a hereditary monarchy may have in modern Western nations, it does have at least one function. It reminds us that we are all shaped enormously by the circumstances of our birth. And that, in itself, is no bad thing.
23 Apr 2013
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld" (John 20:22-23, ESV).
These verses link together the gift of the Spirit to the church with the authority of the church to pronounce on whether someone's sins are forgiven.
What on earth is this about?
Some might take these words to mean that, when a Christian commits a sufficiently serious sin, they absolutely must make confession of that sin to a minister of the church, otherwise that sin will not be forgiven. However, these words of Jesus (and similar words elsewhere) are certainly not sufficient to establish such a practice, nor do we read of such a thing happening anywhere in the New Testament. Now, it may well be valuable for us to confess our sins to one another, and to assure one other of Christ's forgiveness. But it is difficult to see that as the primary meaning of these words.
Others might take them to mean this, and nothing more than this: that the disciples were commissioned to proclaim that whoever believes in Jesus will be forgiven, and whoever does not believe will not be forgiven. But, if this was all that Jesus intended to convey here, it is difficult to see why he didn't express it more clearly. His words seem much more specific, and seem to give the disciples the role of saying of particular people, that their sins are forgiven, and of other particular people, that their sins are not forgiven.
So what do these words mean?
Jesus' words are a promise. Jesus promises that there will be a correspondence between what the disciples say is the case (in terms of forgiveness) and what is actually the case (in terms of forgiveness). It seems to me that what Jesus is promising here is precisely what we find happening in the book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38, ESV), and then we read of 3000 who were added to their number that day. Presumably, given Peter's words, those 3000 were baptised, and their baptism was taken to be a sign that their sins had been forgiven. So Jesus' promise would mean that this sign of forgiveness was not an empty sign, but that the sins of those 3000 people really had been forgiven.
It seems to be the case that, in Acts, people responded very clearly and powerfully to the proclaimed word. People heard the word, responded with faith, received the Holy Spirit, and showed undeniable evidence of that. It was abundantly clear that some people had received forgiveness, and that other people had not received forgiveness. (Take Cornelius and his companions for an example of the former.) Jesus' words, therefore, I take to be a promise that the initial preaching of his word would be accompanied with a powerful work of his Spirit, such that the disciples would be able to declare accurately and with conviction that the sins of certain people had been forgiven, and that the sins of certain other people had not been forgiven.
What about today?
It should be clear that things are not always so clear! There are many in the church, who have received the sign of forgiveness in baptism, who show no evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and who therefore show no evidence that they really have been forgiven. We still administer the sign of baptism, on a credible profession of faith, but it can be many years after receiving someone into the church that it becomes undeniable that the outward sign has been accompanied by an inner transformation (or not!). So might it be the case that, in building his church, there are times when Jesus makes his true church abundantly visible, and times when he allows his true church to be somewhat hidden from view? Certainly in the apostolic age the true church was made powerfully visible. And I'm sure that is also the case today in other situations of persecution or of mission or of revival. But that is not necessarily the case in every time and place.
Perhaps we should be laying hold of Jesus' promise, and praying that, by a work of his Spirit, his true church may become more visible in our own day? The whole creation is longing for such a day, and shouldn't we? "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19, ESV).
16 Apr 2013
I couldn't resist a few more quotes from James K.A. Smith's Desiring the Kingdom, this time on the theme of worship:
One of the first things that should strike us about Christian worship is how earthy, material, and mundane it is. To engage in worship requires a body—with lungs to sing, knees to kneel, legs to stand, arms to raise, eyes to weep, noses to smell, tongues to taste, ears to hear, hands to hold and raise. Christian worship is not the sort of thing that ethereal, disembodied spirits could engage in (p.139).
This down-to-earth practice of Christian worship has within it an implicit understanding of the material world and its connection with God:
Implicit in the materiality of Christian worship is this sense that God meets us in materiality, and that the natural world is always more than just nature—it is charged with the presence and glory of God. Thus the very performance of Christian worship cuts against both dualistic gnosticism, which would construe matter and bodies as inherently evil, and reductionistic naturalism, which would construe the world as "merely" natural (p.143).
It is this infusing of the material stuff of creation with the grace of God its Creator that Smith describes as "sacramental". In this sense, the whole world is "sacramental", but in Christian worship, "[t]he sacraments, we might say, are particular intensifications of a general sacramental presence of God in and with his creation" (p.141).
And it is because the whole world is sacramental that God takes up nitty-gritty things like bread and water and wine to function as sacraments, special means of grace (p.141).
I long for a recovery of this sense of the whole created order being "charged with the grandeur of God" (Hopkins), and particularly a sense of Christian worship being that part of the created order in which God most powerfully and tangibly reaches down to us, in word and sacrament.
4 Apr 2013
I finished reading Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith last week. It's a superb book, with a broad theme and a narrow theme.
The broad theme is the question of what drives us as human beings. In many Christian circles, the assumption is that we are most fundamentally thinking-and-believing creatures. We have a worldview, which is a set of our basic beliefs and convictions, and our lives derive their direction from this worldview. We are shaped by our exposure to ideas. So, in order to grow as Christians, we need to tackle false ideas and have our minds informed by solid Christian thinking, to help us to formulate in our minds a coherent Christian view of everything. Smith challenges this, arguing (persuasively) that we are more fundamentally desiring-and-loving creatures. We all have a vision for the good life (or the "kingdom"), and it is our love for that vision that drives us and shapes our lives. We are most deeply shaped, not so much by the ideas we encounter, but by participating in powerful embodied practices ("cultural liturgies"). So, in order to grow as Christians, we need to recognise the cultural liturgies of the world around us (such as the consumerist liturgies that train us, mind and body, to love shopping) and we need to engage in the embodied practices of Christian worship, so that our minds and bodies can be formed in such a way that we grow to love the kingdom of God with all of our being.
It's a powerful and important message with implications for all sorts of things. For more, see my post from September, which contains a video of Smith speaking about this broad theme from his book.
But it's the narrow theme of the book to which I should like to call your attention in this post (despite appearances to the contrary!). This is the theme of Christian education.
What is a Christian education?
Following the "thinking-thing" model for anthropology, a "Christian education" would be an education characterised by Christian ideas and Christian perspectives. Smith's concern is that this may be woefully inadequate:
Could it be the case that learning a Christian perspective doesn't actually touch my desire, and that while I might be able to think about the world from a Christian perspective, at the end of the day I love not the kingdom of God but rather the kingdom of the market? (p.218)
But what might a Christian education look like, if we recognise that people are primarily lovers, rather than (primarily) thinkers?
It will be an educational experience in which Christian formation is central, rather than merely Christian information.
Its goal, I'm suggesting, is the same as the goal of Christian worship: to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city who, communally, take up the creational task of being God's image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation—but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus's cruciform cultural labor (p.220).
Smith provides three examples of what this could mean in practice.
- An important role for the university chapel as "a kind of 'mediating institution' between the university and the church" (p.225). "[T]he role of the chapel is not to stir our emotions or merely fuel our 'spiritual' needs; rather, it is the space in which the ecclesial university community gathers to practice (for) the kingdom by engaging in the liturgical practices that form the imagination" (p.224).
- A whole-life rhythm of communal Christian living. This provides an alternative to participating in the powerful and formative secular liturgies of consumerism or of typical undergraduate life. "What if we saw the wider environment of the university as also a space for fostering Christian practices, including liturgical practices? The unique nature of residential higher education provides an opportunity to create intentional communities within the dorms that not only gather for Bible study and prayer but also engage in a range of full-bodied Christian practices, including liturgical practices such as prayerful observance of the Daily Office or 'Divine Hours'. Such intentional community could also include commitments to common meals; Sabbath observance; works of mercy in the neighborhood, weekly acts of hospitality for students, faculty, or those outside the university community; fasting together once a week; worship together at a local parish; a yearly service project; and more. Together these practices would constitute a rich fabric of formation that would nourish the imagination and prime the community for thinking Christianly in their learning and scholarship" (p.226-7).
- Embodied learning. The first two examples haven't touched on the actual teaching that goes on within the university. How might that be affected? Learning needs to move beyond "read and talk" courses to include some embodied practices. For example, while reading philosophical texts discussing hospitality, students could also be given assignments requiring them to engage with the poor, homeless and needy to extend (and receive) hospitality. This kind of learning would be formative as well as informative.
Smith is writing within a North American context, where there are plenty of explicitly Christian universities and colleges. Such things are not so common in the UK, and most Christian undergraduates study at "secular" universities. However, having read Smith's book, I'd like to pose a question: Is it possible to get a 99% Christian education at a secular university? I suspect the answer might be "yes". If a fully Christian education is, say, 95% about formative practices and 5% about Christian ideas and perspectives, then it seems to me that a "secular" university in the UK leaves plenty of space for Christian students to fill their lives with Christian practices (1 and 2 above), to find creative ways of supplementing their "read and talk" studies with embodied learning (3 above), and also to do some "Christian perspective" private study on the side. And maybe this kind of Christian education within the secular university is a better model for Christian engagement in the world than having separate institutions for Christian higher education?
If we really grasp this vision for embodied and formative Christian university education, this could have all sorts of exciting implications not only for Christian faculty, but also for churches, chaplaincies and organisations working with Christian students... Comments welcome!
Finally, I can't resist quoting from the final paragraph of the book, in which Smith touches on the issue of Christian scholarship, linking it with the role of worship in shaping the imagination:
If our theorizing and scholarship are going to be informed by Christian accounts of the world, our imaginations must first be fueled by a vision of the kingdom, and such formation of the imagination takes place in the practices of Christian worship, which carry a unique understanding of the world ("I worship in order to understand") (p.230).
20 Mar 2013
Last year I wrote a post entitled Spiritual reductionism, about a view of reality in which the only things that ultimately matter are God and human souls. I think this spiritual reductionism has a very powerful influence among Christians.
Today I want to ask, If we adopt this spiritual reductionism, then what happens to our understanding of the church? Let me describe what I think happens when this view is taken consistently. (Fortunately, people are not always consistent!)
- The universal church becomes invisible. It no longer matters whether or not there is an identifiable group of people living out God's new creation life on the earth. Our bodies don't matter, and the earth doesn't matter. The only things that matter are God and human souls, and these things are invisible and spiritual. So the universal church is thought of in entirely invisible and spiritual terms. Membership of the universal church is entirely invisible, personal and spiritual. If you are a member of the universal church, you can personally be confident of that. But it is impossible to really know someone else's heart. So it is impossible to know whether or not someone else belongs to the universal church.
- The local church becomes disconnected from the universal church. The universal church on earth is not visible, so "the local church" (as it is called), being a visible institution, is in no sense part of the universal church. It is a category mistake to ask whether a local church is part of the universal church. They are different kinds of things.
- The local church becomes pragmatic. The local church now exists simply to facilitate the growth of believers in their spiritual relationship with God and with each other. A local church is a local community that provides heart-felt worship, good teaching and mutual encouragement so that Christians can grow in their faith. Any connections between local churches exist only to support that goal. For example, they might pool resources, support each other, and plant new local churches. There is no longer any sense that God's ultimate purpose is to have a visible and global community of his disciples on the earth. Local churches are a means to an end, not part of the end in themselves.
- The local church becomes a community of people who may or may not be in the universal church. Since there is no way of knowing for sure whether or not someone is a member of the universal church, it is not possible to structure local church life around the assumption that a certain group of people belong to the universal church and other people do not. (Or, if you do so, it becomes a very select and inward-looking group.) So local churches are ordered such that it is possible to participate in most areas of the life of the local church without giving decisive evidence of belonging to the universal church. And there is no problem with this: if the local church is a pragmatic tool, serving the goal of growing disciples, it will tend to appeal to people who belong to the universal church anyway, and unbelievers may well be drawn to membership of the universal church through their active participation in the life of the local church.
- The beliefs of the local church become the beliefs of the church leaders only. The local church, being a mixed community, cannot profess a shared faith. But the teaching of the local church must be the kind of teaching that helps individual believers to grow. So it is important that the leaders in the local church profess to believe the essentials of the Christian faith (articulated however the local church chooses). This is partly so that individual believers can exercise discernment when they join a local church, and so that local churches can partner together, particularly through joint events and church-planting initiatives.
- The local church ceases to be a professing community. Only the leaders profess to believe what "the church believes". The rest of the people in the local church may or may not believe what the leaders profess to believe, and it would not be a good idea to put pressure on them to make false professions of faith. So it is no longer seen as important for local churches to express their beliefs corporately by reciting creedal statements. And, pragmatically speaking, very few people find that reciting creeds helps them in their personal, spiritual relationship with God, so it is no great loss if they are no longer used.
- Baptism ceases to have any connection with local church membership. Baptism becomes a profession made by the individual believer that they are confident that they belong to the universal church. It is no longer a visible sign that the person belongs to the universal church, because the universal church is entirely invisible, and it certainly doesn't, in any sense, make someone part of the church! The local church has a separate thing called "membership", which is, to be honest, largely a formality about voting in church business meetings. The two are entirely disconnected. Baptism doesn't make you a member of the local church, and not being baptised doesn't disqualify you from membership of the local church.
- The Lord's Supper ceases to have any corporate role. The Lord's Supper (along with everything in the life of the local church) is about supporting our spiritual relationship with God. It no longer has a role in forming and marking out a visible community of God's people on earth. Anyone can partake, if they would like to, whether or not they have been baptised and whether or not they are a member of a local church, and there is little sense that if you take the Lord's Supper and I take the Lord's Supper, then we are expressing any kind of solidarity with each other (unless I know you personally and have some confidence that you belong to the universal church). It is no more a corporate act than eating in a crowded restaurant is a corporate act.
Now, I've deliberately taken this to an extreme, but does it sound familiar?
Is spiritual reductionism causing us to miss out on God's purposes for the church on earth?
(Further reading: The Body of Christ is the Body of Christ, by Peter Leithart.)
16 Mar 2013
In Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith describes the mall (shopping centre) in religious terms (see here for a previous post and video). He sees the mall as inviting us to participate in certain "liturgies", which instil in us a certain "understanding of what it means to be really human" (p.94).
The mall has its own strategy for outreach and evangelism, as do many other religions. Through the massive advertising industry we are surrounded with images of the good life, which reinforce in us the belief that if we visit the mall and "worship" by purchasing the products on offer, then we too can have perfect bodies and happy and fulfilling lives.
This is particularly striking when we consider the way women's bodies are portrayed in advertisements and the media in general. Smith mentions the Killing Us Softly documentaries by Jean Kilbourne in connection with this. Here's the trailer for her 2010 documentary, Killing Us Softly 4:
14 Mar 2013
At this time of change for the Roman part of the Catholic Church, it seems appropriate to pray for the whole church on earth: the "church militant" (as opposed to the "church triumphant" consisting of those who have died and are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies at the return of Christ to the earth).
So, in powerful (if somewhat archaic) words from the Book of Common Prayer (1662)...
Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church militant here in earth.
Almighty and everliving God, who by thy holy Apostle hast taught us to make prayers and supplications, and to give thanks, for all men: We humbly beseech thee most mercifully to receive these our prayers, which we offer unto thy Divine Majesty; beseeching thee to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord: And grant, that all they that do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity, and godly love.
We beseech thee also to save and defend all Christian Kings, Princes, and Governors; and specially thy servant ELIZABETH our Queen; that under her we may be godly and quietly governed: And grant unto her whole Council, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently minister justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue.
Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and Curates, that they may both by their life and doctrine set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments: And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace; and specially to this congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear, and receive thy holy Word; truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
And we most humbly beseech thee of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succour all them, who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.
And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom:
Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate.
13 Mar 2013
Violence could become a thing of the past, thanks to a new Nuclear Holocaust app.
Studies of violence in various contexts have shown that, in general, attacks happen only when the perpetrator is confident that the victim does not have adequate means for self-defence. This has been a constant feature of life, with violence occurring when one person has a bigger fist than another person, or a bigger knife, or a bigger gun, or a bigger tank, or a bigger fleet of drones. The new app, which was released today, could put an end to that.
Alec Johnson of the Campaign For World Peace Through Universal Nuclear Armament is behind the app. "It became clear that only when everyone has the same level of protection would it be possible to eliminate violence once and for all. So the app guarantees world peace by giving everyone the same ability to cause the sudden destruction of the entire human race through a nuclear holocaust."
The app connects a person's mobile phone to a global network of nuclear warheads, which are constantly armed and ready to destroy the planet. One click on the red button will cause the weapons to detonate. It is estimated that within 15 minutes the human race would be extinct.
The scheme has been piloted in an area of Memphis, Tennessee, which has seen dramatic reductions in all kinds of violent crime. At first the gangs continued to threaten people with guns and knives, but when they were met with threats of a nuclear holocaust in return, they immediately realised that such violence would be futile. The gangs have now been disbanded, children can play safely on the streets, shops and homes are left unlocked, and the police no longer have any work to do in the area.
"I now feel so much safer," said one participant in the pilot scheme, "knowing that I can trigger a nuclear holocaust if anyone threatens me or my family. It seems that a new era of peace and prosperity has begun!"
Johnson added, "All that it takes for evil to triumph is for the good guys to be inadequately armed. Today marks the final triumph of good over evil."
7 Mar 2013
To deal with a surplus of deer and apples in the UK and an increasing demand for imported venison and apples from New Zealand, the government has announced that 50% of UK deer and apples will be exported to New Zealand and subsequently re-imported to the UK to be sold in expensive restaurants and supermarkets.
Announcing the move yesterday, George Osborne was optimistic that the new trade would provide a much-needed boost to the economy: "The new exports will make basic food products more expensive for the unproductive layabouts in the population, who will then need to take out bigger loans in order to survive, which will transfer yet more wealth to the highly productive financial markets, thus boosting GDP. Moreover, we propose to fly the apples and deer from Heathrow, which will provide a stimulus to the oil and aviation industries, while clogging up the roads, trains and airports, and providing more demand for airport expansion, and new and faster means of transferring people and money from the rest of the country to the City of London, thus boosting the economy still further. We'll sell any excess venison to Romania to be incorporated into beef burgers, thus providing another scandal to boost the newspaper industry while creating a new market for bad jokes about eating deer."
East Anglian farmer Ted Giles expressed his tentative support for the scheme: "You'd have thought it would make sense to sell our apples and deer on the local market, but if the Markets tell us to send them round the world first, then I suppose we'd better do what they say. Don't want to upset the Markets, do we?"
5 Mar 2013
We live in troubled times. Worldwide poverty, environmental degradation, widespread terrorism: the problems are massive and potentially catastrophic. As we face these global crises, is it possible to react with hope rather than despair? Is disaster inevitable and beyond our control, or Is it possible to get under the surface of these issues and begin to see new possibilities for our world?
Hope in troubles times (2007) was written by Dutch professor and former MP Bob Goudzwaard, Canada-based writer and social worker Mark Vander Vennen, and US-based professor David Van Heemst. The bulk of the content comes from Goudzwaard, building on his 1984 book, Idols of our time. The main text (205 pages) is accessible to the general reader, while the notes (35 pages) make it suitable for academic readers too.
The authors' contention in the book is that we find ourselves in the grip of powerful modern ideologies. These ideologies first latch onto a worthy goal (such as prosperity in the face of extreme injustice and poverty, or security in the face of potential attack), then propose a means by which that goal can be reached (such as the operation of free markets, or weapons technology), and then seek to reshape the whole of reality in the service of those means. The means then function something like a traditional idol: we create something, we entrust ourselves to it, and then we find it seems to have a life of its own, demanding greater and greater sacrifices while the good things that the idol promised become more and more elusive.
[V]enerating a certain force or type of knowledge as something that by definition brings prosperity or security implies that in specific circumstances we may be prepared to place our lives under the control of such a power, a power that would not exist without our efforts. At the heart of that transfer of control may be a need for certainty, an urge to feel as though there is a power greater than us that can regulate our lives. It may be born out of fear that we have little or no control over our world. And for some today, following the dictates of the market, technology, or the state may offer that sense of security. But then the ultimate irony, the role reversal characteristic of idol worship, has been achieved: what we ourselves have created ends up controlling us. The instruments must be obeyed, even if they require sacrifices—such as damage to health, deterioration of the environment, the loss of privacy, the threat of unemployment, or the perilous undermining of peace. In principle, every ideology is able to summon its own tools or instruments, either forces or institutions, whose exacting demands elude scrutiny and critique (p.43-44).
Three contemporary ideologies dominate the book:
- Identity. When a group of people have their identity threatened, an ideology can emerge in which the preservation of their identity becomes an absolute end. Violence is employed to secure that end, but violence can become an idol, and there is soon no limit to the amount of violence that can be legitimately used in service of the goal. Examples of this ideology in practice are apartheid, Islamism, terrorism, most conflicts in the world today, and the Israel/Palestine conflict, in which "both sides adhere to a very similar ideology: the preservation of a people's identity and their threatened land" (p.79).
- Material progress and prosperity. In the face of widespread hardship, the operation of the free market is trusted as the saviour from poverty. This can become an idol.
[W]e live, to a greater or lesser extent, in the grip of a powerful, largely Western ideology: the ideology of a restless commitment to unlimited material progress and prosperity (p.93).
Obsessed by an end (rising material prosperity), we have off-loaded our responsibility and allowed various forces, means, and powers in our society (such as untrammeled economic expansion) to become gods who dictate their wills to us (p.28).
In addition, a remarkable sense of fear radiates from these [financial] markets, fear of what they might do to us. The predominant question today is, How do we behave as a corporation or as a nation so that our actions become acceptable in the eyes of the financial markets? The question in and of itself suggests that money and financial markets have taken on a life of their own: a feature of idolatry (p.97).
A remarkable table (p.158) shows how a blind adherence to this "market fundamentalism" has led to a host of undesirable outcomes, as a consequence of an obsession with those sectors of the economy that can increase in efficiency at the expense of those sectors of the economy that are "characterized by virtually fixed levels of productivity" (p.90). So the operation of the free market mechanism has led directly to "unemployment, environmental problems, stress … Increasing need for care; increasing inability to pay … Loss of home markets, increase of poverty" (p.158), and yet the only solution that seems available (particularly to the Coalition government in the UK!) is to sacrifice more and more to the free markets, in the hope that they will give us that prosperity that we long for.
- Guaranteed security. Following the Second World War, it was clear that there was a great need for security. Military power was trusted as the "idol" to give us security. And—particularly in the USA—this has been taken to extremes. The only answer to threats to security is to accumulate more and more weapons. The weapons end up controlling us.
The means take control. The strategy no longer holds the weapons in check. Instead, the progress of weapons technology determines the strategy (p.110).
Even when the accumulation of weapons ends up destroying the very freedom it was supposed to deliver, the answer is still to accumulate more weapons.
Absolute freedom requires absolute force to accomplish, secure, and guarantee that freedom. The end (freedom at all costs) justifies every possible means, including unprecedented force (such as unlimited military power, a profound curtailment of civil liberties, and the violation of international law). The requirements of that force gradually diminish, curtail, and ultimately destroy freedom (p.120).
The outcome is truly hideous.
"The subject matter of this book is hardly uplifting" (p.169), particularly when these ideologies are exacerbated by globalisation, or when they are seen to reinforce each other (as in the global arms trade) or to collide with each other (as in 9/11). What room is there for hope?
Perhaps the greatest opening for hope is simply the unmasking of the idols of our age. They are not autonomous powers beyond our control. We have put them in place, and it is within our power to dethrone them.
[T]he so-called end of our history is by no means in inescapable fate. Today's general feeling of insecurity is actually not a sign that the powers now dominating us are beyond our control. On the contrary, it is a sign that we have abdicated our human responsibility (p.170).
Drawing richly on biblical insights, the authors then sketch out some steps that could be taken towards "widening ways of economy, justice, and peace". They are optimistic that by "turning away from today's steps of despair" (p.178) and by taking even small steps towards hope, it would be possible to counter "today's ominous, devastating spirals of terror" (p.157) and to "launch an upward-moving spiral, one that lifts us from the depths that threaten to engulf us" (p.188).
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says in his foreword to the book,
If apartheid can fall in South Africa, then ideologies of identity, materialism, and security can end too. God is dreaming of a world where all people, black and white, rich and poor, clever and not so clever, are drawn into one family, a world where all of us participate as agents in God's inexorable transfiguration of evil into good. How can we lose? (p.11)
22 Feb 2013
The Green Party is celebrating its 40th birthday this weekend in Nottingham at its party conference. I'll be there (from tomorrow). It will be my first ever political party conference, so I'm quite excited. Here are some of the things I'm hoping to get out of it…
- I've been in the Green Party for almost 18 months, but I still don't feel I really know how the party actually works. I'm looking forward to learning more about that.
- I might even get to vote on things that might even make a difference to what the Green Party does in the future!
- I'm looking forward to meeting other people in the Green Party and learning what makes them tick. I'm sure there will be plenty of fascinating people there.
- I'd like to learn more about how the party sits with respect to Christian faith. On the one hand, green politics seems to fit very comfortably with Christian faith, not least in its care for the world in which we live (and here and here and here). But, on the other hand, the Green Party seems quite anti-Christian on various issues (such as abortion [and here] and a view of human identity that has nothing to do with biological gender, hence the party's strong views on same-sex marriage). It's probably not possible to answer the question of what the party as a whole thinks of Christian faith. But I'd at least like to hear a few individual perspectives, to see if there is anything approaching a general consensus, and to figure out which issues are influenced by this. I'd certainly love to see the party making a more conscious effort to appeal to people of various faiths.
- I'm sure there will be quite a buzz at the conference, and I'd like to pick up some enthusiasm!
- Finally, I've given in to pressure from the surrounding culture, and I now have a (second-hand) "smart" phone. So I'm looking forward to feeling cool by tweeting from my gadget during the conference sessions and adding a few pence (and only a few pence!) to my mobile bill with The Phone Co-op.
Maybe see you there!
18 Feb 2013
I gave a brief children's talk at our church yesterday. It went something like this...
What is this a photo of? (A rubbish dump.) Would you like to go there later? (No. Or yes!) Why not? (It smells. Seagulls are like dogs and they will eat you alive.)
Near where we live there used to be a rubbish dump. But now it looks like this:
It's a nature reserve with a play area. Would you like to go there? (Yes.) Why? (Fun, nature.)
Here's a verse from the end of the Bible:
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5, NIV)
One day Jesus will come back to the world, and through him God will make everything new. Just like that rubbish dump that is now a nature reserve, it will be like that with the whole world when Jesus comes back!
(Produce a globe with PostIt notes on.)
What is this? (The world.) What's wrong with this world? (It's got stickers on!)
(Ask volunteers to take stickers off and read what is written on the back: "death", "sickness", "famines", "wars", "selfishness", "sadness", "pain".)
For each sticker: In the world now ... But when Jesus comes back to the earth and when God makes everything new, there won't be any more X.
(Produce a separate sticker, "you and me".)
What about you and me? Sometimes we are selfish, we fight with other people, we hurt other people, and we make the world a bad place. We need someone to make us new if we will live here when God makes everything new.
There's good news in our second verse:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV-2011)
If Jesus takes away all the bad things we've done, and makes us new, then when he comes back we'll be here for ever with him, when God makes everything new. (Put sticker on the world.)
Sing a version of the Lord's Prayer by Ian Smale: when we sing "may your kingdom come, may your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven" we are asking God to make make everything new.
18 Feb 2013
Your goal in life is to be free.
Free from nature.
You were born with a particular body, into a particular family, into a particular geographical, social and cultural context, and you were brought up in a particular way.
Your goal in life is to escape from that, and to discover your true self, independent of the constraints of nature.
It's striking how many aspects of our culture can be construed as attempts to do just that.
- We assert our freedom from nature by moving away from our town (or country) of birth, and by following a career path different from that of our parents.
- We value technology because it allows us to escape from our own "natural" existence, to forge our own identity, to be whoever we want, wherever we want, with whomever we want, whenever we want.
- Money sets us free, because with enough money we can escape from where we live and be anywhere on the planet within a few hours.
- Money sets us free, because we can change our bodies so they reflect our true identity. We can even change our biological gender.
- We perceive our true identity as having absolutely nothing to do with nature (particularly our biological gender), and it is discriminatory to suggest otherwise.
- We assert our freedom to control our bodies, even to the extent that anything that might depend on our bodies for its survival must, by definition, not be another human being.
This kind of attitude finds its way into the church too. Most obviously, in the liberal segments of the church, attempts are made to re-interpret the faith as if our identity as human beings is essentially genderless. But this attitude also finds its way into the more conservative evangelical segments of the church. To pick three bees from under my bonnet:
- We tell the gospel as the good news that we will one day escape from nature entirely, to live in an ethereal, heavenly paradise.
- We find is easy to reconcile the evolutionary narrative with the biblical narrative, because it doesn't matter to us whether agony and death are hard-wired into the present created order: after all, nature is inherently evil, and we are looking forward to escaping from it when this created order is discarded in favour of something completely different.
- We see environmental concern as a distraction from the work of the Kingdom, because this present created order is of no enduring value, and because our goal in life is to escape from it.
There are philosophical underpinnings for this battle between nature and freedom. I need to delve deeper into them, but for a starting point, read about the Nature-Freedom Ground Motive, as described by Andrew Basden, based on the writings of Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd.
6 Feb 2013
Would you like a punch?
"Punch" is an example of a word with more than one meaning. It might look like this in a dictionary—and you'd better be clear which I mean before you answer!
punch n. 1 a hit or a strike with a fist. 2 a device for punching holes. 3 a drink, generally warm, fruity and alcoholic.
"Marriage" is also a word with more than one meaning. That has been the case for a long time, but until recently it hasn't been important to distinguish between the two. Here's how it might look in a dictionary:
marriage n. 1 the voluntary sexual and public social union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. 2 an honour bestowed by the state on certain relationships.
Until recently, it has been possible to use these definitions more or less interchangeably. The state would bestow the honour of "marriage" only on relationships that were "the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others", and you would never meet anyone who seriously expected to be treated as married who hadn't received the honour of "marriage" from the state. "Marriage" as a union and "marriage" as an honour given by the state overlapped perfectly.
In fact, so close have the two definitions been, that probably most people think of "marriage" as having but one definition: an honour bestowed by the state on certain relationships.
But now those who hold to this double definition of marriage need to be careful to make it clear which definition they are using.
- When a church says they are running a marriage preparation course, they need to be clear that they are preparing couples to enter a union of one man and one woman (definition 1). They are not preparing the couples to receive an honour from the state (definition 2).
- When a church has a marriage service, they need to make it clear whether they are recognising the union of a man and a woman, or whether they are acting as agents of the state in bestowing on two people the state honour of being "married". Or, indeed, if they are doing both, and if so, how the two are connected. (It might be better to make a clear distinction between the two by having two separate ceremonies, as Jonathan Chaplin suggests.)
- When a Christian school-teacher is required to promote the value of marriage, he or she needs to be clear that they are required to promote the value of the legal institution of "marriage" (definition 2): the legal benefits that accompany the honour of being "married" in the eyes of the state. They are not (it seems) required to promote a particular kind of relationship, but merely the benefits of having that relationship legally recognised.
- When we use language such as "redefining marriage" or "introducing same-sex marriage", we need to be very, very clear that we are talking about marriage as an honour bestowed by the state (definition 2).
I'm convinced that most of the kerfuffle about the issue of same-sex marriage is caused by failure to distinguish between these two meanings of the word "marriage". Once we start being clear about the distinction, it might be possible to approach the issue with some sense of perspective.
We might even be able to stop (metaphorically) punching each other, and manage to "live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18, NIV).
23 Jan 2013
Stephen Neill (1900-1984), Anglican missionary, bishop and scholar, presents an appealing picture of Anglicanism in his 1958(*) book, simply titled, Anglicanism.
One of the things I've been trying to un-learn while reading it has been the idea that it is perfectly normal for there to be numerous churches and denominations, all formally independent of each other.
At the time of the Reformation, there was but one church—one Catholic church—in the Western world. This church was in desperate need of reform, and so great was the need for reformation that some parts of the one church took it upon themselves to enact various reforms on a local level. Other parts of the one church weren't happy about this, and made that clear. So the consequence was, not multiple churches, but still one Catholic church, albeit with impaired fellowship between the different parts of that one Catholic church (for example, the Roman part of the one Catholic church, and the English part of the one Catholic church).
It's not a familiar way of thinking, but Neill presents the history of the Church of England in that light (and charts the subsequent spread of this English style of Christianity around the world, in the global Anglican Communion).
This view of the (capital-C) Catholicity of the Church of England runs through to the final chapter, "What then is Anglicanism?". It's a pleasure to read, but whether it is as believable in 2013 as it was in 1958 is perhaps not easy to say.
What are the special theological doctrines of the Church of England and of the Anglican Churches in fellowship with it?
The answer is that there are no special Anglican theological doctrines, there is no particular Anglican theology. The Church of England is the Catholic Church in England. It teaches all the doctrines of the Catholic Faith, as these are to be found in Holy Scripture, as they are summarised in the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, and as they are set forth in the decisions of the first four General Councils of the undivided Church. Firmly based on the Scriptures as containing all things necessary to salvation, it still throws out the challenges: 'Show us that there is anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture that we do not teach and we will teach it. Show us that anything in our teaching or practice is clearly contrary to Holy Scripture, and we will abandon it.' … [T]he faith of the Church is to be found in the Bible and in the Prayer Book; and on that faith the Anglican Churches have, in the four centuries since the Reformation, never compromised (pp.417-8).
(Was that really believable in 1958? Is it very different today? Still, it's a good ideal to aspire towards.)
Anglicanism is therefore very hard to define. However, Neill identifies various elements "on which Anglicans throughout the world would probably agree as characteristic of their own faith and experience" (p.418). I counted ten:
- "the biblical quality by which the whole warp and woof of Anglican life is penetrated",
- that "Anglican churches are liturgical churches",
- an "intense sense of continuity" with the church throughout history,
- "the Anglican insistence on episcopacy and the episcopal ministry" (but note that "Good Presbyterians who fear prelacy would be much consoled, if they could realize how little it is within the power of the English bishop to be prelatical", p.440),
- "the Anglican tradition of theological learning",
- "a general Anglican willingness to tolerate for the time being what appears to be error", recognising that "heresy trials" generally cause even greater harm,
- a "confidence in the truth that makes the Anglican Churches demand so much of the faithful",
- an appeal "particularly to the conscience", expecting people "to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God",
- "the unbroken tradition of saintliness in the Anglican Churches", which nurture people of "diligence, humility, humour, and a transcendent holiness", and
- that "From the beginning the Church of England has tried to be comprehensive", seeking to hold together "those who are agreed on the fundamentals of the Christian faith", while leaving room for "a measure of latitude in interpretation" (pp.418-426, emphases in original).
On that last point, it is worth quoting (as Neill does) from the Report of the Committee on Unity of the Church of the Lambeth Conference of 1948:
The co-existence of these divergent views within the Anglican Communion sets up certain tensions; but these are tensions within a wide range of agreement in faith in practice. We recognize the inconvenience caused by these tensions, but we acknowledge them to be part of the will of God for us, since we believe that it is only through a comprehensiveness which makes it possible to hold together in the Anglican Communion understandings of truth which are held in separation in other Churches, that the Anglican Communion is able to reach out in different directions, and so to fulfil its special vocation as one of God's instruments for the restoration of the visible unity of His whole Church. If at the present time one view were to prevail to the exclusion of others, we should be delivered from our tensions, but only at the price of missing our opportunity and our vocation (p.427).
This goal—of the visible unity of the whole Church in agreement on the fundamentals of the Christian faith—is one to which we should all aspire. But to me it is an open question whether Anglicanism (or English Anglicanism, to be more specific) is journeying in that direction. I think it might be, but it's hard to say, and it could well be said that "the Church of England is no longer defined by its confessional and doctrinal basis, but is defined much more by that caricature that Neill abhors—perpetual compromise and an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable", as Jake Belder expressed it in a recent post discussing this same book.
(*) I have the second edition, 1960, in which "No extensive rewriting has been possible" (p.8). I believe there were subsequent editions in 1965 and 1977, but I don't know whether they were significantly revised, and I can't persuade Google Books to show me…
21 Jan 2013
Great video from the Christian conservation charity A Rocha. It's a few years old (2006), but still has an excellent set of questions and an excellent line-up of contributors (two of whom are sadly no longer with us). See below for the video itself, or here's a summary:
First, John Stott (evangelical leader extraordinaire) commends the work of A Rocha. Then some questions are addressed...
Why should Christians care for creation?
- Alister McGrath (theologian extraordinaire): The world belongs to God, and has been entrusted to us by him, for us to care for it and to pass it on to those who follow us. "If God made the world, then it's something he cares for. ... If we love God, we must love what God has made. And that means other people, but it also means this environment in which we live right now."
- James Jones (Bishop of Liverpool): "Anybody who ever prays the Lord's Prayer and says to God, 'Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,' has to be concerned about their environment. That prayer is about the 'earthing' of heaven. ... We should be as concerned as God is for his creation."
- John Stott: "Dominion" does not mean a licence to destroy: it is absurd to think that God first created the earth and then gave us an instruction to destroy it. We should care for creation as God does, exercising responsible stewardship. "Christians should be in the vanguard of those who are seeking to arrest climate change, and seeking also to protect habitats where wildlife lives." We share in God's care for the environment.
Isn't "Mission" all about evangelism and saving souls, rather than saving the earth?
- Alister McGrath: (1) The gospel is about conversion of us as people, but that means a changed lifestyle, and a changed attitude towards God and towards the world in which we live. Part of our discipleship as Christians is right behaviour towards the environment. (2) Caring for creation is an act of witness. "Every time we care for the creation we are proclaiming the Creator to the world."
- Rob Frost (Christian evangelist): "To be a true Christian in this day and age you need to be committed to saving the planet." God has made us stewards of all that he has made. When people see the transformation Christian organisations such as A Rocha are bringing about, they ask why, and begin to discover that "our ecology is based in our gospel". The link between ecology and mission is very strong.
With so many pressing needs such as poverty and AIDS, isn't creation care a luxury?
- Vinoth Ramachandra (Christian lecturer and author): War, poverty and ecological degradation often go hand in hand. We have to deal with them together.
- Stella Simiyu (conservationist): The rural poor depend directly on natural resources. We must invest in the environment, for the sake of the poor.
How serious is the environmental crisis?
- Ghillean Prance (ecologist extraordinaire): Really serious. As well as changes in patterns of migration of birds and flowering of plants, there are huge extinctions of animals and all over the world, and exceptional climate conditions are happening, just as predicted by the climate change modellers.
- Simon Stuart (conservationist): "The world is certainly facing the worst environmental crisis there ever has been." Huge numbers of species are facing extinction. There is increased pollution. We are moving into uncharted territory. It's an experiment that we should never have been conducting.
Isn't the world going to be 'destroyed' anyway? Why bother?
- Vinoth Ramachandra: The whole Bible is one story, from creation to new creation. "The new creation is the old creation renewed, restored, transformed, so that every part of this creation is now filled with the presence of God. And that's the goal to which God is taking human history. So he calls us as his redeemed people to live today as if the future is already present, to live as signs of that future kingdom, which is the restoration of all things. And because that restoration includes the non-human creation as well as the human creation, our care for the non-human creation is a sign of God's coming kingdom, and in that way we are witnessing to the Lord of all creation."
How does this theology shape the work of A Rocha?
- Ghillean Prance: Christians who practise conservation do so because they believe there is a Creator, and that they should combine their faith with positive action.
- Simon Stuart: "Christian theology is based on the premise that Jesus Christ reconciles all ... things to God. ... Human beings, cooperating with Christ, can be agents in the restoration of nature—of that nature that we humans have messed up."
15 Jan 2013
Heart-warming stuff from Michael Green, presenting the good news of Jesus Christ in its rich fullness (in 18 minutes!) to a group of Christian leaders exploring the question, What is the Gospel? Enjoy!
13 Jan 2013
A bit of audience participation for the churchgoers out there...
What are the main reasons you go to church?
- To hear good teaching? (But why not stay at home and listen to sermons online or read books?)
- Because I really like the music?
- To chat with friends after the service? (But why not have an extra hour in bed and show up just in time for post-service refreshments? Or why not just arrange regular informal times of fellowship?)
- Because my church is small, and the services are like small group meetings in which everyone contributes (groups discussions, etc.), and I find that participating in them is the best way for me to grow in my faith?
- Not for my own benefit, but to welcome unbelievers who may show up, and to share the gospel with them?
- For the food?
- Reluctant and grudging obedience?
- Some other reason?
- I'm really glad I do, but I can't explain why!
Answers in the comments below!
3 Jan 2013
"I believe in ... the holy catholic church," we say in the Apostles' Creed.
So where is this "holy catholic church"?
One answer: the holy catholic church is nowhere. There is no church which is perfectly holy. And there is no church that functions perfectly as a coherent whole (cat-whole-ic).
Or perhaps better: the holy catholic church is not yet. When Christ returns, the church on that day will be perfectly holy, and perfectly catholic.
But what do we do now? Where is the church in the meantime?
The church today is becoming holy and catholic. It is tempting to choose one or the other: to look either for a holy church, or for a catholic church:
- First approach: the church should be as holy as possible. This leads naturally to a separatist kind of independency. I seek personally to be holy, and I join the holiest local congregation that I can (within reasonable practical limits). And that local congregation will associate loosely with other like-minded congregations. And as far as I'm concerned, that is the church. I am at liberty to ignore all other so-called "churches". I have no need of them. Holiness is the overriding consideration.
- Second approach: the church should be as catholic as possible. This leads naturally to the ecumenical movement. I want to identify with as many other Christians as I possibly can. So I will join a congregation of a large denomination. And within that denomination, I will seek to immerse myself in ecumenical activities. The goal is to have all people who call themselves Christians closely connected together within one "church". Doctrinal and ethical considerations are secondary; what matters is the unity of the church, and nothing should be allowed to threaten that. Catholicity is the overriding consideration.
I hope it's clear from those descriptions that I don't particularly like either approach. One's approach to church should show commitment both to holiness and to catholicity. What does this mean in practice?
- Catholicity should not be neglected. There should be some tangible efforts to love the unlovely. Perfect (or near-perfect) holiness should not be a prerequisite for Christian fellowship. Within a congregation, those who are immature in their faith should be welcomed and loved into maturity. The same is true between congregations and between denominations. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Corinthians 12:21, ESV).
- Holiness should not be neglected. There should be some tangible efforts to maintain the purity of the church. It should not be the case that every kind of error and vice is embraced and affirmed as being good. "But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one" (1 Corinthians 5:11, ESV).
My own context is England, and the conservative evangelical part of the church. What might be the implications for me? I think the main danger within the conservative evangelical part of the church is to neglect catholicity. Conservative evangelicals tend to be strong on holiness, both of doctrine and of life, but most of these congregations seem to associate as little as they possibly can with congregations that wouldn't fit the conservative evangelical mould. And that seems to be true both outside and inside the Church of England. (Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the impression I get.) Efforts surely need to be made to express some kind of interdependence with congregations that are not (yet!) conservative evangelical congregations. This presumably means associating in a non-trivial way (more than the bare minimum possible) with congregations that wouldn't belong to the FIEC or a Gospel Partnership or Affinity or Church Society or Reform. Unless "conservative evangelical" and "Christian" are taken to be synonymous (and I don't think anyone claims they are), then a commitment to the catholicity of the church must surely be demonstrated by some kind of recognition of Christians outside of the conservative evangelical camp.
Speaking personally, I find myself somewhat drawn towards the Church of England as a result of this. It is (currently!) possible to be a conservative evangelical within the Church of England—in fact, most of the major conservative evangelical congregations in England belong to the Church of England. And being in the Church of England forces you to associate at least a tiny bit with the wider body of Christ. So if a conservative evangelical wanted to express some kind of commitment to a wider catholicity, it seems that being in the Church of England would provide a good starting point for that (better than being in an independent congregation).
Perhaps in a sense I'm saying that a greater commitment to catholicity will lead to a growth in holiness. Holiness comes as a consequence of the (catholic) church building itself up, and without some measure of catholicity, there will be very little growth in holiness. Individual Christians grow in holiness not primarily in isolation, but primarily through belonging to a local congregation. And as congregations recognise that they belong to each other, there will be a similar growth in holiness and maturity.
Comments very welcome...!
31 Dec 2012
Bloggers traditionally indulge themselves with a bit of introspection and ego-boosting on 31st December. Now, I'm no blogger (Ceci n'est pas un blog, of course), but here goes...
I've made 70 posts this year, most of which contain very little original material.
Apparently I've had 155,081 visits to this site in the past year, made by no more than 59,474 visitors. It makes me really happy to know that tens of thousands of people are clinging onto my every word... Or not. Most of those are probably robots and spam-bots, and the serious readers of this blog will have probably have read the posts through something like Google Reader—or some other method available through clicking on the "subscribe" link to the right—and these don't show up on the number of vist(or)s.
But here are some other stats that may be slightly more meaningful.
Over the year, I've had 336 clicks from Twitterfeed. Probably this captures most of the traffic to my blog from Twitter. This demonstrates my ability to deceive people into clicking on a link. Here are the top five (not that my best posts are necessarily the most-read ones; these are just the ones that caused the biggest stir at the time):
- Coalition For Marriage: an open letter to fellow Christians, 108 clicks
- Is it un-Green to oppose same-sex marriage? 30 clicks
- Why work? 22 clicks
- John Stevens on baptism, 18 clicks
- Why Christians should be environmentalists, 14 clicks
Slightly more useful would be the number of comments I've received. Most people who leave a comment have at least read a few sentences of what I write. In fact, the standard of comments left here is remarkably high, compared with the more, well, popular regions of the internet.
Bear in mind that probably almost half of the comments on my blog are my own (generally in response to comments by other people, I should add), so you might want to divide these numbers in half for a more representative figure...
Also bear in mind that the ability to write things that generate comments is not the same as the ability to write things that are worth reading. Most comments are of the "What a load of rubbish!" variety, rather than the "Thanks, I'm glad I read that!" variety.
My posts in 2012 generated a total of 253 comments. Top five posts:
- John Stevens on baptism, 31 comments
- Global warming sceptics convinced, 22 comments (one sceptic wasn't convinced!)
- A biblical case for female pastors? 19 comments
- Should infants be baptised? 17 comments
- =Coalition For Marriage: an open letter to fellow Christians, 15 comments
=Can infants be baptised? 15 comments
Plus a few comments on Facebook, which would take far too long to count up.
Perhaps what I'm trying to write is a list of my best posts, but that would require me to read them all, and I've got far better things to do with my time. Probably you have too!
Happy New Year for tomorrow, to (both) my loyal readers!