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January 21, 2013



Malcolm, this is superb. Thank you.
We must have something left to offer to this world.

mark polden

We preach and live the word of God without fear or favour, every jot and tittle as william tyndale translated matthew 5:18. That should be every christians goal. The problem is that we as christians have created organisations which of perceived financial necessity crave public and institutional acceptance. This is where unfortunately steve chalke like icarus flew too close to the sun. This is also why we havnt yet seen the full force of Gods church in this country because the Church of England has not yet been released from its establishment chains.

Jonathan Bacon

AW Tozer once said "The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him".

When asked what was the most important commandment, Jesus replied by saying, "`Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

My concern is that I am finding and increasing tendency in the church to be placing its primacy on the 2nd commandment, rather than the first When we do this, instead of looking like Christ, we end up looking like humanists.

When my wife and I married, she made me promise that I would always love God more than her. She said that only by doing this could I love her the way she should be loved. The same is true of the church. If we are truly to have God's perspective in our love for others, then we need to start by discovering the God of the bible, his purposes and loving him with everything we have.

Justin Tattersall

Malcolm, another great piece of writing that has stimulated and stirred my soul. Like you, I have been so pleased to see the dialogue over the issues raised in your previous blog. I also feel a real affinity to what you were referring to when you mentioned the fear of rushing towards an inclusive gospel at the expense of a radical one. When I reflect upon the people who have made our church their home, many have been impacted by a Gospel that is generous enough to welcome with wide arms and hearts yet radical enough to call an individual to repentance and transformation.

Brian Davison

I sincerely hope we do not have a new Downgrade Controversy. It was charaterised by fear over the general direction of the church, sweeping statements about general groups of people, and has run and run in effect in the divide between liberals and evangelicals throughout the last century, with certain groups of evangelicals accusing others of going liberal.

Jonathan Bacon, discussing this on Malcolm Facebook page, has helpfully observed this dimension of the sexuality debate, which has probably been the most visible so far.

However there are in fact two debates going on here around the same issue. The first is that age old liberal / evangelical divide which has run for ages. This was the core division when the matter was discussed for example in the URC. It could be characterised (simplified) as whether we put aside the authority of the bible, in which case there is no reason not to affirm gay sex. The liberals would of course accuse the evangelicals of putting a book or dogma above people's lives and needs.

However there is a second line of division around this issue, between evangelicals who hold scripture to be authoritative, but who are divided over how it actually applies to this very particular issue.

The danger, and the indicators towards a new downgrade controversy are the tendency to assume it is the same, old, conversation, that those who advocate blessing same sex unions are joining the liberal or slightly liberal camp & down grading the authority of scripture.
For some it is, but there are scholars who still take the highest view of scripture arguing that this is about what scripture says into this new question: That scripture knows of promiscuity in hetero and homosexual forms and condemns it. It knows of faithful love, but only the hetero kind - so what would it say of faithful homo love which was unheard of in it's day?. (And why is Jesus silent on it?). This is a very brief simplification of the argument, please do read it properly expounded as I doubt I have done it justice. (Or Baptists could ask a BU trainer to come and help you explore both sides in detail).

Whatever conclusion people come to on that question - and it's not as simple as it looks, I hope folks can see that for many in the BU and the EA, this isn't the old evangelical / liberal divide, nor is it a new downgrade with evangelicals becoming liberal, but a debate between evangelicals about what the authoritative word says to this new phenomenon.

My point is that each side should respect fellow evangelicals wrestling with a problem of interpretation, rather than assume that those asking the searching questions or challenging the traditional interpretation have ceased to be evangelical.


Brian, you say that we 'should respect fellow evangelicals wrestling with a problem of interpretation.' There are issues which tax the minds of even the greatest scholars but on this I don't think that there is a problem. I, like others, have spent many hours researching the evidence but the Biblical teaching still seems clear and unambiguous to me. It's the application of that teaching which I am wrestling with, not the teaching itself. How do we make the church a place where people who are gay feel welcome, even loved, even though we do not condone their lifestyle? Tony Campolo says that we have convinced gay people that God hates them but now we have to convince them that He loves them. There's a lot of work which needs to be done.

Brian you say 'I hope folks can see that for many in the BU and the EA, this isn't the old evangelical / liberal divide, nor is it a new downgrade with evangelicals becoming liberal, but a debate between evangelicals about what the authoritative word says to this new phenomenon.' As a friend and fellow Baptist minister, I know that this is how it seems to you but I think Malcolm could be right. I was saying to someone only yesterday that I think that the church is facing a challenge to hold firmly onto scripture in the midst of the current storm. I believe that we need to be alert without being alarmist.

Dianne Tidball

Really appreciate the courage and clarity of this writing. Please keep sharing your heart and your mind with us. Thank you.

Graham Wilkins

Amongst all the rhetoric, name-calling and bad blood there is seen over this issue, most evangelicals are indeed honestly struggling to find where scripture may support gay relationships. We understand the inclusivity of the Gospel, and to accept, even support, monogamous same-sex relationships would be easy in our society's current climate. But for most of us, it seems, we cannot find that support in the Scriptures, and all the social arguments in the world cannot override Scripture.
There is an assumption in out current society's thinking, that what I want, I should have. Contrary to observation, we have this view that life should be easy, trouble-free, pain-free. If I am gay, should I not be able to love and have sex? Our own experience, I am sure, is that life is not easy, we don't always get what we want, many of us live with deep pain through long periods of our lives. Yet God seems to have a different agenda, where "what does us good" may not be what we want. It is often through grief and unresolved pain that God meets us, and builds the person He loves. Our society will never understand this. I do not put this forward as "an answer", but just to prod at a hidden assumption that underlies the drive towards acceptance of gay relationships.
As our society accelerates down the hill of ever-increasing sexual liberty, at what point do we draw a line in the sand?

Graham Heath

Malcolm, thank you for articulating so clearly and graciously what at least some of us believe, but are struggling to express, because we're not sure how to do it without pouring fuel on the fire, or getting drawn into empty arguments about words.

living fear free

Thanks for speaking our minds on this post. Very articulate and well written. It makes me think of how might I improve myself in sharing the gospel.

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