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  1. I would like to know, both as she perceives it and in reality (if the two are different), what in fact she is fighting for.

    We are told to fight for the Culture of God, yes –

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

    But it seems that she is pursuing the second half whilst neglecting the first half, which is in fact somewhat of a prerequisite to the second half. Or, in the least, they are inextricably linked. You cannot do one without the other.

    I just wonder if she’s got things a bit mixed up?

    A courageous fight, for sure, but wasted effort? I don’t know.

    It would be great to have a sit-down chat with her and understand more fully where she is coming from.

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    • The passage I referred to at the start of the post contains the encouragement from Peter to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15) which he follows up with an expectation of how this is to be done: With gentleness and respect in order than those who criticise will be shamed.

      This, as far as I can tell, comes from an attitude in the Church which does not presume upon the rights of the Christian to say or do whatever he or she pleases. It is for this reason I find the approach of Christian Concern so frustrating.

      Wasting effort? Well, they are making changes. How would one asses the success of a Christian initiative. What would a successful Christian political engagement look like?

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  2. To me, successful Christian political engagement would look like having our efforts prioritising standing up for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable and the oppressed; above our concern for our own comfort.

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  3. I agree Ian that the call of a Christian is not to get involved in this world’s system. There are only two kingdoms in this world – God’s and satan’s. This world system is by nature corrupt. We cannot and should not attempt to change this world’s system – that can and never will work. We are called to be ambassadors of a different kingdom and to reconcile people to God – to get them to join the different kingdom which operates on different principles. The system of governance was just as wrong in the times of Jesus and the apostles – yet not once in the bible are we told that Jesus attempted to change the rules of the Romans, and not once did Paul and the others write and advise us to stand up for ourselves against the government of the day – quite the opposite in fact.

    We should not waste our time trying to change the rules of satan’s kingdom – that will never work. We should introduce the option of joining a different kingdom. Wilberforce “abolished” slavery – but there are more slaves in this world than have ever been. How much more effective would it have been for Wilberforce to preach the gospel and win souls for the kingdom. If the whole government and population of this country became believers who loved, trusted had faith in and feared God and hated evil – we wouldn’t need to change legislation – people would love their neighbour as themselves and laws would not be necessary!

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    • It is certainly controversial to suggest Wilberforce would have better spent his energies in spreading the Gospel as a preacher, but of course that was an era of massive Evangelical awakening, even in a nation which claimed a Christian allegiance. The problem of course was that many well to do members of society, committed churchgoers even, believed slavery was right. So to argue that preaching and sharing faith would have been sufficient to create a society of justice might be impractical, at least so long as we live in a world gripped by the futility of sin.

      I would like to refer to Ben’s reply above, prioritising the protection of the vulnerable above our own comfort.

      I think that ethic is consistently Christian, and has implications for our engagement with the political process. In Wilberforce’s day, as now, there are vulnerable people without a voice of their own. We must do what we can to protect such people, and in our society we are granted the freedom to shape our national policies. Is such an engagement TOO much of an engagement? Or are we being responsible with our power when we use it to protect the weak?

      Absolutely love the way you mention the two kingdoms. I think it is very appropriate to this discussion and we would do well to remember that we are citizens of a greater nation, and just sojourners in this land.

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    • I’m afraid I am, predictably (once more) inclined to disagree Beverley. Not entirely, but particularly the point about Jesus not trying to change the rules of the Romans.

      I think Jesus tried to change the rules of not only the Romans, but of the world so dominated by the power known as Satan. Jesus suggested that instead of an eye for an eye we should love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, love our neighbour, lend without expecting return, give to the poor generously and welcome the excluded. These are all changes to the rules of the Romans and this world. They speak of the hope of a transformed world. Some theologians suggest this world will be renewed and restored when Christ returns, not that it is a lost cause. This helps us to remember to care for our world and help all who share it with us. I think this is a truer reflection and a more holistic view of what the gospel means. This is a gospel which brings hope to a world ruled by Satan, and light to the darkest places. This is the gospel which is truly good news and which transforms lives now, allowing us to grow as Christ dwells in us.

      Christ in me, the hope of glory.

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      • I think you have missed my point. Of course Jesus introduced different ways of living – because he was introducing a different kingdom. But he never expected the government of the land to change their rules to match his expectations and he certainly never never tried to change the rules of the land. He just asked people to join his kingdom and reap the benefits – to live a different life – even in the deepest darkest surroundings of the earthly rule.

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  4. Ah, Christian Dominionists… an older breed, and an insidious, though ultimately fair-weather threat to secular society. They rely on the idea of majority rule, but (in the UK) patently have no chance of chiming with the mainstream religious, except on matters related to enshrining religious privilige in law.
    However.
    The third-way moral relativist politics of the last decades often produce a climate of ‘your faith is as good as my evidence’, and what I call a culture of hurt feelings where the state seems to have to pretend that wildly incompatible ideas about the world are all in some sense ‘correct’, or at least neutral.
    Bah. It is this sort of doctrine which these sorts of lobbying groups exploit and assault, connive and burrow into.

    The nasty part of me likes to imagine that these sorts of measures are the memetic death throws of this paradigm I disagree with so. The cautious part of me remembers that all it would take is a few generations of messed up education or oppressive laws to turn the country into something puritan and ugly. We’ve seen it happen elsewhere…

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  5. To be mildly more constructive: I don’t wish to derail what is so far a promising thread. The question of what a successful Christian political engagement would look like is one I am interested in, so far as Christians’ definition.

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  6. Sorry Ben nothing to do with the label Christian Dominionist – everything to do with God’s truth. Whether or not a group of people believe something is a good idea or not, truth is still truth. You seem to be unaware that this world order is currently ruled by satan (who masks himself well but always overplays his hand).

    Regardless of what you or I think, or indeed what you or I desire – there will be a time (and I feel in the not too distant future) that Jesus Christ will be returning to rule this earth as a Dictator – albeit the best dictator (the only perfect dictator) there’s ever been. So not so much an ideology or a theology just fact.

    Ian – love to explore more with you what you feel are our duties on this earth given that we are just ambassadors and not nationals.

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    • I shall respond to both Ben and Beverly in this comment:

      Ben: I totally agree with your assessment of the morally relativist policies of the recent governments. It’s frustrating to me that the government would try and reduce religion to a set of practices, on the one hand and a set of morals on the other. They seem to believe if one sets aside the specifics of religious practice, there will exist some moral shared ground.

      Such a dualism is infuriating to those who recognise the intimate connections between what we practice, and what we believe.

      I would find it more helpful if the government asked what the different faith-groups wanted to accomplish, and where they think it beneficial to the society, offer the hand of partnership. That way, there will be a far more honest partnership.

      As it is, religious bodies are practically cheap labour for the government.

      Beverly: I think the above comment implied a lot of what I think would be good Christian engagement with society, including government involvement.

      More specifically: We have been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) and charged to make disciples (of Jesus) from all people (Matthew 28). Reconciliation is on the one hand an objective reality: We are alienated from God and must be brought near, reconciled to him. But also it is subjective, in that often we believe our communities to have some cohesion. When we investigate, we might find deep areas of conflict which our calling compels us to reconcile.

      Can we use government policy to do this? Maybe.

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  7. Beverly, thanks for reminding me of Christ’s supreme (leader) love. It helps me remember why I abhor Christianity and your brand in particular. You’re always a great paragon of such… clarity.

    Of course, I’m not ‘unaware’ as you call it – I simply think you’re somewhat (okay, rather more than somewhat) mistaken about that point as a matter of fact. Please grant me that small concession (that I might honestly disagree). The ‘you believe in Christ really’ gubbins is rather hackneyed.

    Onwards and upwards.

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    • Ben I entirely respect your (God given!) right to have your own opinion. He gave us free will. I am merely pointing out that your opinion and indeed my opinion doesn’t ever change absolute truth.

      The question is not what is your opinion or my opinion but is there absolute truth.

      I didn’t make up my own truth – by the power of the Holy Spirit living (and in daily evidence) on the inside of me – I have been led to understand absolute truth. Whether I like it or not (and believe me there are bits I struggle with!) it still remains absolute truth.

      Still I don’t want to get away from the point of this thread – which I believe to be – should Christians be involved in social reform?

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      • Yes! Christians should be involved in social reforem. As you pointed out above Beverley, and I agree with this, Jesus gave us a set of kingdom values to live by. Although you suggest that Christ did not ask for these to be government policy, I think if government policy reflects kingdom values that would be a good thing. I suspect there are some issues there, but I cannot imagine them to outweigh the benefits of kingdom living.

        Ben – thank you for making your point so eloquently.

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      • Thanks for apology over my name – don’t worry – everyone does it. My parents assumed that with an E at the end was the boy’s way of spelling it (turns out it wasn’t!).

        Not sure I see where you are coming from biblically in either your comments on government policy or absolute truth.

        a) whilst it would obviously be “ideal” if government policy reflected Christ like values – no amount of legislation will ever make this kingdom UK – which belongs to satan) into God’s kingdom – because God’s kingdom requires new birth – which is spiritual not practical. Interestingly there were times in the UKs past where government rules far more accurately reflected biblical principle – but I don’t think that made much difference to the moral code of the country (I site the victorians – who were so “moral” above the surface yet still well and truly living in satan’s kingdom below the surface! ) Given the choice of spreading the gospel (which as Paul found is a full time job!) and social reform – I would rather be in my Father’s business of facilitating change of life into new creations rather than change of outward appearance by trying to make the law insist on outward right living. If I can obey my Lord’s instructions by spreading the gospel and discipling people – then naturally as new creations they will live kingdom principles and no law will be required to make them- as the Word tells us – we are free from the law and live by grace.

        b) absolute truth – you say you do not believe it is possible for us to fathom it completely – and yet the Bible clearly tells us that the more we seek it (HIM) the more we will find – and also tells us as Christians that the mysteries have now been revealed and are there for us (through the HOLY SPIRIT) to be known and understood. After all we have the mind of Christ living on the inside of us – therefore through the Holy Spirit we can know what Christ knows (which is surely everything about Absolute Truth?) – Please don’t hear me saying I KNOW IT ALL !!!!!! (yet)

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      • I think there is something intrinsically transformative in the spreading of the Gospel, and the building up of churches. Such communities always change the context in which they reside.

        And in that sense, does it not seem reasonable that the laws of the land should eventually reflect the community which dwells within it? And if that community has a strong moral direction, would it not be logical that the laws should respect that?

        It seems to me that this would be a far better grounding for Christian engagement with policy. Instead of – to quote PM Cameron – returning to biblical morals (whatever THOSE are), the Christians begin to model the life they want others to live.

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      • Beverly, I’m going to have to pull you up on your claim that YOU have alighted on ‘absolute truth’; as that is itself merely an ‘opinion’.

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  8. Feel free to pull me up hard on my claim Ben – that is your choice. Do you believe in absolute truth?

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    • I should apologise for constantly spelling your name wrong Beverly – sorry.

      I do believe in absolute truth, but I do not believe it is possible for us to fathom it completely. I’d be interested in what others think too.

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    • Bev: Yes, probably, but in a practical sense, not really. I think there is a gradient of philosophical/ontological distance which puts that concept at a remove from the everyday knowledge-seeker.

      Philosophical naturalism and empiricism in general seem the best games in town, in my opinion.

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      • But Ben- if there is absolute truth out there – then surely your opinion (and my opinion) doesn’t count? If there is absolute truth – then we should all be seeking the absolute truth. Absolute truth by its very nature insists that if it is true for one then it is true for everyone – and therefore we should all be seeking it surely – not just living life in the way that suits us personally?

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      • Beverly, read my words again. I’m not explaining myself a second time.

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      • I did indeed read your words Ben and notice you quoted your opinion. I merely pointed out that if there is absolute truth – which you subscribe to in theory if not in practice then it is pointless you (or I) quoting our opinion.

        Fluffing your answer using fancy words doesn’t really answer the question of whether if there is indeed absolute truth shouldn’t we all be seeking after it – because if it exists it would be the only thing relevant to any of us in any of our lives.

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  9. Absolute truth certainly won’t derive from the dusty and inconsistent tomes of Israel (it particularly seems implausible to equate absolute truth with these deep inconsistencies, historical, geographical, moral and otherwise). If there is absolute truth ‘out there’ somewhere, we certainly haven’t found it yet, and it’s unlikely we will in any practical sense. In this case we’ll do better to put our tools of reasoning and discovery to use in order to understand just what we can from what surrounds us. Empirical methods of understanding look at the facts and draw conclusions from them. The brand of idealism we’re looking at here presupposes a conclusion and attempts to prop it up on shaky scaffolds and patch up the holes with wet plaster.

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    • Is it at all feasible Kyle that people could have been misled and deceived by a spiritual power not wanting people to understand there is a spiritual world and indeed is absolute power?

      Not sure how we got onto this!! Thought we were discussing what Christians should and shouldn’t do in connection with whether we should try and change this current world or just introduce people to God’s Kingdom.

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  10. Well I don’t think Beelzebub is sniggering in the corner somewhere, pitchfork in hand, tricking people to go on with their lives in a moderately progressive and open minded manner, if that’s what you mean. We got here because of some mess to do with absolute truth, I believe. Perhaps we’d better get out of here if we can’t clean up the mess…

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    • “I merely pointed out that if there is absolute truth – which you subscribe to in theory if not in practice then it is pointless you (or I) quoting our opinion.”

      So: cease.
      Let’s get back onto the matter of Christian political activism.

      “Fluffing your answer using fancy words doesn’t really answer the question”

      I’m sorry, should I use smaller ones? You complained about my occasional archaic atavisms before, once. Should I modify for someone listening whom I DON’T respect enough to attempt to give a full and frank answer to?

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    • On the whole, I refrain from these discussions, in case you hadn’t noticed.

      My reason for doing so is not that I don’t believe in such a thing as truth, it’s just that I place the substance of truth and my trust in such truth elsewhere.

      Yes, we can discern facts from careful study in an ever-improving process. However I do not think it helpful to equate fact with truth. Many Christians would disagree, wanting to cite proposed facts about the faith as truths.

      I on the other hand want to hold truth in a manner that it becomes something wonderful, captivating and transforming. Truth, unlike fact, has in my mind an intrinsic moral worth.

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      • Well I suppose it’s harder to talk about truth if we’re bidding for different definitions. In which it’s probably best we leave it (right now).

        Back on board with the original discussion, I think it’s important to recognise that some of the individuals at the forefront of Christian social movements include Ricks Perry and Santorum. I find it more than a little disconcerting that vying world leaders such as these use biblically derived hatred at the helm of their campaigns with their political motivations playing second banana to their intrusions into the bedrooms of others. Christian movement from the top manifests itself almost invariably in these forms. From the bottom, it is hopeless. As you said in a previous post, Ian, laws of the land ought to reflect the views of the community within that land. And an increasingly secular community is no bad thing, bear in mind. Secularisation ensures no one religious group claims precedence over any other, thus avoiding the problem from the top I outlined above. To avoid this problem, spread the word from the bottom if you must, I just wouldn’t trust many to listen, and it’s not remotely clear to me why they would need to.

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      • Eloquently put.

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      • It makes me wonder, sometimes, how words can hide so much.

        One speaks of right, and of wrong. Yet in life I find there to be so many more variations, such a broad spectrum of choice, that right and wrong don’t seem to hold so much meaning in most ethical enquiries. Instead one uses the words ‘most’ and ‘least’ and one finds oneself dithering and confused.

        When one discovers assurance it can be positive, or negative for the people around them. For they might be assured that it is absolutely right to kill people with brown hair.

        Then again, they might be assured that it is absolutely right to listen to others, to give generously to those who need and to love others. Yet these words seem useless written down. Yet in life, unlike ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ which seem to possess power in written form, words like listening, giving and loving find their proper meaning.

        Therefore I think the more people at the ‘bottom’ who live lives according to such apparently nonsensical words might gain an audience because these words have changed their life and the lives of those around them. Perhaps this is why people who try to follow Jesus the most successfully seem to speak an awful lot less than those who generate hatred. Words which seem to have power when written or spoken have little say when it comes to real life.

        In essence, I am saying actions speak louder than words. It seems I have reduced myself to old idiomatic proverbs. Yet they may ring true.

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      • Once again: eloquently put.

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  11. well I missed most of the comments as they came, just tried to read them all – slight brain overload but good to see a number of contributors.

    I’ll start off by getting straight to the point on the lady’s view of ‘assault’ on Christian values and the consequences: I generally agree with her. Not sure if I would want to take the actions she advocates, its not a decision I have had to look at so far on a personal level. I started here because most of the commenters have made their standpoint (whether Christian or secular) equally clear 😉

    I’m happy to be British (well lets be really controversial eh?!) because I feel its true we have a fairly tolerant and free speaking society. That, I think, is a good legacy of our heritage – democratic, church and personal crusading heritage. I know there are many aspects of British heritage which we might struggle to cherish: however, as our lady speaker put it – “And how do you think we got here”.

    I am uncomfortable with any idealogical grouping who fail to respect this……secular or religious. Free speech, protest even – thats fine by me. I don’t agree with the muslim anti war demonstrators, I don’t agree with the EDL pro English demonstrators (both groups hit the news because they are pretty extreme in view) but I’m happy that our nation manages to allow such views and the law tempers any view which becomes racist.

    These groups I have mentioned don’t really feature in Ians chosen debate here. I could have picked on groups which are equally polarised in the Church/Secular debate. What is concerning to me is that some of these groups show a lack of respect to our society.
    So, our pencil skirted lady has a fair point to make, but I really hope she does not expect her point to be forced onto others. Equally, I hope those who disagree with her will not deny her free speech or expect the law to make her views somehow illegal.

    I find support for my views in a Christian faith which teaches that everyone is important, God loves each and every piece of His creation. I hope that is ‘bottom up’ and a captivating truth, to draw on previous comments.

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