Church Future
Church of England

Discerning the future of the Church is not an intellectual exercise

When I was at university studying Architecture, we were given the hypothetical brief of designing a new chapel for the campus. Having looked forward to it initially, it actually became the most problematic project during my entire time there. I was familiar with the use of the existing chapel and the Christian groups on campus. Consequently I felt I had a good understanding of the needs of those using the designated place for Christian worship. I produced my designs accordingly.

What I had failed to take into account was that our professor who had set the brief had a very different view of what a chapel should be and how it should look. He was an open atheist, but had an interest in ecclesial architecture. However, it became apparent that he was more interested in architectural forms and particular aesthetics than what would be of most use to the chaplains and students. It resulted in some heated words and, unsurprisingly, I was the one who lost when the marks were handed out.

The experience taught me a valuable lesson: that academia detached from practice can lose its grip on reality if it holds its opinions too highly.

All of this brings me on to the Westminster Faith Debates which began another series of public events this week. The Debates began in 2012 as part of the £12m Religion and Society Programme. They bring together leading academics and public figures to debate the latest research on religion and values conducted by the programme. It has covered a wide range of areas revolving around religious belief in this country and beyond, analysing views and trends on such hot topics as assisted dying, gay marriage, faith schools, religious freedom and radicalisation. The findings at times have been substantial and have regularly been picked up by the media.

These Debates are organised by ex-Labour Home Secretary, Charles Clarke MP and Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University, who has been described by Matthew Taylor, head of the Royal Society of Arts as “one of the world’s leading experts on religion”.

It is commendable that Clarke has become involved because of his desire to improve the way religion is understood and dealt with by politicians and public figures. Having followed these debates for some time, it is obvious, though, that they are the real baby of Linda Woodhead. Her contribution to the understanding of how religion continues to play a part in our lives in the UK should not be underestimated. Much of it has focused on the state of the Church of England and its demise (at least in attendance and affiliation) over recent years. The research has been solid, but numbers only reveal part of the story. How they are framed and interpreted is just as important, if not more so.

Through the press releases, interviews and articles which Professor Woodhead has presented, a narrative has emerged that describes a Church of England where its leaders are increasingly out of touch with regular Anglicans and detached from society at large. Her argument is that, in order to survive, the church must allow itself to be moulded by societal views rather than seeing itself as the “sole repository of truth“. She is also keen to see the CofE reaching out more to those who describe themselves as Anglican, but have no contact with a church or even necessarily any tangible belief in God. Instead of paying so much attention to the attitudes of the “God fearers” who attend churches weekly and have a living faith, the views of those 87% of Anglicans who do not come along regularly should be given more weight in order to attract them into the fold.

In much of her analysis, Professor Woodhead has drawn sound and incisive conclusions, as you might expect. But when it comes to the future direction of the Christian faith, her personal views would appear to take her down a certain liberal route that sees the Church as being a man-made institution, rather than is the embodiment of God’s kingdom on Earth. She is right to draw attention to the Church’s role beyond its congregations: Jesus commanded his followers to be missional and to get out into the world and share the Good News with everyone. Reaching out to those who identify themselves with the Christian Faith is as good a place to start as any. Beyond that point though, I start to get worried. Yes, the Church of England is the Established Church and that brings certain responsibilities, but if any church starts to take its eyes off Jesus and puts anything else on an equal standing or even above Him, it is in deep trouble. Rather than being inclusive to the point of not taking too much interest in what those attending might believe in the hope they will stay, the Church of England – or any other church for that matter – would do better pointing out that being a Christian is much, much more than just believing there could be a God or having some family connection with a church. You can’t leave salvation out of the equation, even if it’s not politically correct.

Part of the reason church numbers have declined so much is that people have realised that going to church for no reason beyond habit or tradition is a boring and unfulfilling exercise. If you look at the churches that are growing in the UK, you’ll find that they are full of ‘Godfearing Churchgoers’ and those serious about finding out more, both of whom have little interest in woolly niceties. They are much more interested in having a life-changing encounter with the living God. Leaving people to think that being a Christian or an Anglican isn’t anything worth taking seriously does both the Church and those it should be engaging with a huge disservice. Jesus regularly emphasised that following Him was a big commitment and that being a hanger-on wasn’t a credible option.

Ian Paul, who is both an academic theologian and also the Associate Minister at St Nic’s Church in Nottingham, sums this up well in one of his many excellent Psephizo blog articles:

What has gone wrong here is that theology has been subordinated to sociology, instead of sociology – with its crucial insights as it holds up a mirror of reality to the institution of the church – being shaped by and serving a theological vision. The worst thing the church could be, from a sociological point of view, is a ‘sect’… But Christian distinctiveness is the lifeblood of the people of God; without it, we wither and die.

This week’s Westminster Faith Debate centred on the future of the Church of England’s parochial system, which, by all accounts, is becoming near impossible to sustain in some parts of England due to falling attendances, lack of clergy and the cost of building maintenance. In a pre-event interview with ex-Times religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, Professor Woodhead said that the Church of England is on its “last chance”, saying quite rightly that the system, where every square foot of England falls into a delineated parochial area, and the tradition of the Church paying for clergy accommodation, would all have to be reexamined: “The Church of England is one of five great British cultural institutions, but it is in crisis. If it is to survive it needs an urgent injection of fresh thinking and radical reform.”

This radical reform is already happening, and it looks very different from Professor Woodhead’s vision. There is a growing movement within the Church of England that, rather than looking to secular culture to inform its direction, is firmly based on biblical principles with the desire to grow God’s kingdom at its very heart. This is the found in the Fresh Expressions stream which is having considerable success raising up new congregations and injecting fresh life and thinking into the Church of England. The Alpha course has had a massive impact on the growth of churches around the country, and there is a new movement in the training of leaders (many of whom are young adults) with the formation of the increasingly influential St Mellitus theological college.

There is much more, too, that could be added, but little of this is reported through the work of the Westminster Faith Debates programme. Perhaps it is because this is outside the field of interest, or maybe because it does not fit the ‘right’ narrative. But ultimately it will not be academics who determine the future of our churches; it will be those who are inside them who are putting a vision grounded by faith into place.

This is not to say, by any means, that academic study in this area is of no value. But unless it embraces the principle that the Church is nothing unless God is at the centre, it runs the risk of becoming little more than an intellectual exercise.

  • Rodney Dobson

    Only catch is that we don’t KNOW what God wants. Jesus didn’t write his own records and it is hard to escape the idea that much of what IS written is written in terms to suit a particular time and place (in much the way that large tracts of the OT make eminent sense when and where written but are marginally relevant today to any but historians).

    Not all of course.

    It’s just that I find it difficult to believe that the almighty is overly concerned with what people do in the privacy of their own homes: except, possibly, that it upsets people of a different persuasion. Divorce might be bad because of a knock-on effect on offspring: and even there He may well be just as concerned with the knocking-on engendered by marital disharmony. Millstones and all that.
    In as much as we do have a record of Jesus’ views on such matters there is the tale of the much re-married widow – was it ten brothers? – where His response might be paraphrased as “daft lot” demonstrating a relaxed, even humorous, approach to the matter: some things are important – others not.
    And as for the great Anglican (inability to) compromise, the fruit of THAT spirit is backbiting, lack of charity, and all the symptoms of the nastier type of politics. By their fruit ye shall know them.

    • carl jacobs

      Rodney Dobson wrote:

      Only catch is that we don’t KNOW what God wants.

      This is the Second Pillar of Liberal Religion. It is a direct assertion that God hasn’t spoken in any knowable sense – whether because He won’t or can’t makes little difference. What then do we know of God and his do we know It? We actually don’t know know anything, and all that we think we know is actually our own groping after an unknowable divine. We are like the blind men examining the proverbial elephant – except we don’t even know if we are examining the elephant.

      The advantages to man are obvious. He gets to decide what is relevant. He gets to decide what God is overly concerned about. The entire exercise becomes in essence man’s revelation to himself about what man thinks God would want. Not surprisingly, the revelation reflects the heart of the revelator. For all intents and purposes, religion becomes self-examination of the image in the mirror. We both listen to and worship our own reflection.

      How could it ever be otherwise if we don’t know what God wants? “Lord, to whom shall we go?” suddenly becomes a much different question. We discover to our distress that we are asking ourselves that question, and we don’t have the words of eternal life.

      carl

      • Rodney Dobson

        Purely out of curiosity, what is the FIRST pillar of “liberal religion” (and I refuse to dignify that with capital letters)?

        More seriously, I am not a regular poster here but even I know better than to argue with a biblical literalist: though even taking the texts at face value there is the atheists’ jeer about reading black and white. Though I do feel that arguments like these allow one to evade the issue.
        What concerns me is that the core of the Anglican Church is compromise: originally between Puritans and Roaming Catholics in the days of Elizabeth and through the ages to even include Evolutionists and Creationists. Extreme positions drive a wedge between followers of God much as between the various Jewish sects in Jesus'[ day: and I seem to remember He was unsympathetic to both parties.
        Mostly these Anglican – and other faith’s – divisions revolve around sexuality: all I can say there is that if you REALLY believe that God is overly concerned with what you do in bed then you should follow your beliefs (and on a purely personal basis I should say that I have absolutely no axe to grind here).
        In practice I doubt if any of this matters to those outside the church and looking in: they see petty backbiting over secondary issues and want no part in it.

        • carl jacobs

          Rodney Dobson

          The First Pillar is the Presumed Goodness of Man – without which all this introspection about what we think God would require if he could or would actually communicate would collapse into despair. After all, if man is actually the revelator, and the revelation must reflect the heart of the revelator, then the heart of the revelator had better be fundamentally good.

          But, honestly, don’t you see the complete incoherence of your position? You say:

          Extreme positions drive a wedge between followers of God

          How do you follow that which you do not know?
          You begin by effectively saying “We don’t know what God wants” and yet now you think it important that there be done form of unity among those who follow Him. Why? What is the unity that division might threaten? What binds together those in this church of the unknowable god?

          The difference is not over what people do in the bedroom. The difference is over authority and anthropology. Sex becomes a major battle ground because that is one area of life over which autonomous man desire to be freed of conventional boundaries. Sex is a stalking horse for much bigger issues.

          But perhaps you should tell us what you think a “biblical literalist’ is. Because there is a high probability that I am one according to your definition – although not according to mine. For the sake of full disclosure.

          carl

          • Rodney Dobson

            Two fairly quick comments. Well, two and a half…….

            1. To me a Biblical literalist is one who believes (knows?) that every syllable in the bible is literal truth: no more, no less: in extreme cases this is confined to the KJ version. The term is usually used by unbelievers – the principle being that anybody believing that to be literally true cannot be taken seriously and demonstrates the falsity of their religion. The usual target is the beginning of Genesis.

            The literalist believes the bible is ‘logos’ rather than ‘mythos’….. and if there is another description I’ll be happy to hear it.

            2. Quote: “Extreme positions drive a wedge between followers of God

            How do you follow that which you do not know?”

            I’m not suggesting that you can. I think that people should accept that others may believe otherwise and tolerate them: that they put aside their differences and work together – as opposed preferring the church to be destroyed: that people should agree what is REALLY important.

            ………..and the half comment: I believe we were created with brains and that we are expected to use them.

          • carl jacobs

            Rodney Dobson

            I believe we were created with brains and that we are expected to use them.

            What a phenomenal insight. I would never have thought of that.

            I’m not suggesting that you can.

            Then what is the point of the church? Are we just playing a game with an ethical abstraction?

            So, let me see if I understand this. You are very concerned to protect the church of a God you cannot follow in order to get people in the church to work together on the REALLY important stuff that each individual will define differently according to those differences you want them to put aside. You are concerned that the church might be destroyed, but you haven’t even come up with a reason for it to exist yet. And all this is the result of using the brain with which you were created – created of course by a God whom you can’t even say creates.

            It’s all very confusing.

            carl

          • Rodney Dobson

            Much as I used to be confused by “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence”. Now I’m not so sure.

            Still it is always – er – interesting to be told what one thinks. I spent an amusing period trying to work how you got from what I actually typed to what you say you found confusing, but I did eventually manage.
            This whole correspondence reminds me sharply of the reason I drifted away from the church fifty or more years ago. For a complicated – rather amusing – variety of reasons I have recently felt a renewal of interest but maybe I was wasting my time: church attendance figure suggest that I am not alone.

            I could explain that but I am reasonably certain that you would not be interested. I would, however, be curious to know in what way you would define yourself as a “biblical literalist” if not the thing I sketched above.

          • carl jacobs

            Rodney Dobson

            I’m sure you would be interested to know many things. If you want to know what I mean by “biblical literalist” then go search on “Chicago Declaration.”

            I’m not sure what you expected to find here. You come onto a Christian site and immediately insult 80% of the commentary by saying:

            I am not a regular poster here but even I know better than to argue with a biblical literalist

            Well, what did you expect to find here? If you want to find people who think Scripture is mythos then toddle over to ‘Thinking Anglicans.’ They’ll receive you with open arms. They will also explain to you all about liberal religion, since they represent it and live it out.

            I asked you what you meant by ‘biblical literalist’ to give you the benefit of the doubt – to see how broad you would cast that condescending net. You didn’t surprise with your answer. Your definition is so broad, it easily covers every self-identified Christian on this board. So why are you here if you know better than to argue with the kind of people who represent almost everyone here? Are you going on some sort of anthropological expedition to see how primitive people live?

            You began with a bald assertion that “we don’t know what God wants” without any apparent understanding of how radical that statement is. You assert the value of a church that of necessity can have no knowledge of God. You denigrate the concept of “liberal religion” when you are manifestly speaking its doctrines. You assert that people should set aside their different beliefs to work on “important” stuff without any apparent recognition that what people believe drives what they think is important. You show no awareness that people can have mutually exclusive understandings of what is good, and therefore might find it impossible to work together. And then you throw in this line about having a brain and using it – as if using one’s brain is identical to sharing your presuppositions. It’s not an impressive effort.

            You have shown nothing on this thread but arrogant condescension. I am not a child that can be intimidated by your bullshit or your put-downs. If you had trouble following that tissue of contradictions you presented, then think how well felt having to go through the effort to sort through it.

            carl

          • Rodney Dobson

            Tempting though it is to reply in kind I’ll stick to facts:

            1. Coming to this thread I expected to find traditional Anglican doctrine seeking to live with both ‘Anglican Mainstream’ and ‘Thinking Anglicans’. The on-line expressions of this doctrine go back only to 1880-odd but the origins go back to the days of the first Elizabeth (and gained particular importance after the mutual slaughter c.1650). So far as I can tell the US Anglicans subscribe to the same

            2. Thank you for your reference to ‘The Chicago Declaration’. It enables me to focus my definition of ‘biblical literalist’ to one who cannot accept that part of the declaration which says “….So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth”. In my terms that is ‘mythos’ but, whatever you call it, it clearly doesn’t require belief in the ‘literal’ meaning.

            3. “We don’t know what God wants”? Perhaps I should have included the word “always” but apart from that either there is room for disagreement about the meaning and application of scripture or a sizable number of devout people are ignoring the word that God explicitly gave. I am petty sure the Chicago Declaration doesn’t go that far.

            4. I’m all too aware that “people can have mutually exclusive understandings of what is good, and therefore might find it impossible to work together”. Not only is this a complete contradiction to the whole History and Spirit of Anglicanism but I’m forced to remember that a house divided against itself cannot stand – and, implicitly, that such divisions are the work of Satan. At the very least the lack of love ignores Jesus’ direct instructions.

          • grutchyngfysch

            “…or a sizable number of devout people are ignoring the word that God explicitly gave. ”

            Yes, that’s the really troubling one that we so often raise in order to gloss over. Not all generations have done right in the eyes of the Lord.

        • dannybhoy

          Good observations, but I’m not sure that sex is the real issue.
          As Christians we seek to reconcile the guidance and commands of Holy Scriptures with our lives and the world we live in, and how we should live our lives in an increasing secular and multifaith society.
          I believe the only way to God is through the Son Jesus Christ. Other faiths contain truth and we can learn from them, but only by Christ can we truly know God, forgiveness and renewal.

    • IanCad

      Rodney wrote:

      “—we don’t KNOW what God wants.”

      To take this as written, it is the most astonishing statement.

      We have clear teaching in the Holy Scriptures.

       

      A few wants:

       

      Ecclesiastes 12:13:

      “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

       

      Micah 6:8:

      “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

       

      Matthew 28:19: (The Great Commission)

      “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

       

      John 14:15:

      “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

       

      I’m always a bit uneasy when quoting biblical texts and am mindful that when pointing a finger three are aiming back at me, but the scriptures are clear.

      Ian

    • dannybhoy

      I think there are four clear aspects to being a Christian. Repentance, Renewal, Witness and Service. In a sense Christians believe in Holy Spirit guided, Biblically grounded “situation ethics.”
      My experience is that people for whom Christ’s act of atonement has been received personally will be drawn to others in whom the Holy Spirit is at work. They will want to share, to praise and to worship with others.
      The denomination is only important to those who worship the denomination or the building.
      In our Cof E church we are very fortunate that our two clergy just want to see people come into a living relationship with God, whether they stay with our Church or find another. I can work with that, and in return I try to respect and observe the Cof E’s way of doing things. My observation though is that there is much in the CofE which is irrelevant to the ordinary person, archaic and bureaucratic and the onus is often more on fund raising than on reaching out.

  • carl jacobs

    The West is falling away from God because:

    1. It is objectively rich and comfortable – especially in terms of the prospect of imminent death.

    2. It has internalized the logic of the revelation from the academic Priests of Modernity that all things have a naturalist explanation.

    3. The combination of 1 and 2 offers man the prospect of moral freedom by establishing man as his own god.

    The West is drowning in the idolatry of self. This recommendation to allow society to mould the church is a direct assertion that the church should adopt the doctrines of the religion of self. But people don’t need a church to worship themselves. They don’t need an organization to hold up a mirror and say “This is the god you worship.” The benefactors of such advice would be those who want to silence the actual church. They aren’t interested in the church’s survival. They are interested in shutting up God.

    carl

  • Graham Wood

    “Only catch is that we don’t KNOW what God wants.”

    This is the Second Pillar of Liberal Religion. It is a direct assertion that God hasn’t spoken in any knowable sense.
    Carl. Good answer to this faux spirituality. How sad that Mr Dobson seems not to be aware of the existence of God’s full and final revelation in Jesus Christ. Does he not have a Bible? Even a cursory reading of John’s Gospel should dispel Mr Dobson’s complaint. “If any man will, do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John.17:7)

    • dannybhoy

      I spoke to a Bishop last year who didn’t believe any of the Bible was strictly true…more like religious stories with grains of truth.
      Which was surprising, but if you accept that then of course you won’t know what God wants.

      • carl jacobs

        Christianity is an historical religion. If it isn’t historically true, then nothing about it is true. In the absence of its historical foundation, there is no possibility of a ‘grain of truth’ being contained therein. Those who would say otherwise are importing an externally-derived truth into the pages if Scripture.

        • dannybhoy

          Agreed Carl.

      • If you’re an adulterer, abortionist, homosexual ……. (insert habitual sin) ……. what would you prefer? That God had made His Will known? Or these issues were all up for negotiation and discussion?

      • alternative_perspective

        And it then becomes very difficult for said Bishop to send Christ centred, Bible believing, spirit filled people to training. If doubt characterises good religion then surely good ministers of the same are desirable. Suddenly we see the apostasy of the church within a generation or two.

        • dannybhoy

          Having doubts is a part of having faith I think. The CofE in its quest to promote peace and concord is busy destroying its own foundations.

  • “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    • carl jacobs

      “… and his righteousness.” Not ‘justice.’

      • Douay-Rheims translation ….

        God’s Word translation:

        “But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.”

        This society aim for the closest natural equivalent translation seeking to express that meaning naturally, in a way that a native English speaker would speak or write. Finally, it expresses the meaning with a style that preserves many of the characteristics of the source text.

        • carl jacobs

          Jack

          You know, it’s ironic. I thought you had just mistakenly typed it wrong. But then on a lark I checked Douay Rheims at Bible Gateway. And there it was… I knew you would say this.

          Texts derived from both the Alexandrian and Byzantine text types use ‘righteousness.’ The Latin Vulgate is not an autograph.

          carl

          • The Know translation is use by New Advent. Give that a try !
            Speak to a person in the street and say: “You must behave righteously” and see how they react. What it means is doing what God wants us to do. It’s like preachers who use the term:“conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit” to mean the awakening of our God given consciences.

  • Graham Wood

    Gillan.

    Firstly, I have a problem with your conflating the word, or concept of “church” with the C of E.
    Your context seems to refer to the latter, and if so then the loose reference to church should be dropped. The true church of Christ is not described in the NT as a religious denomination! We commonly use the word “church in which it is never used in the New Testament.
    There, the “church” means either the whole body of believers in Christ or a local congregation in a specific place.

    You assert that “radical reform is already happening”. But where is the evidence for this? I am not aware of any. There are several “reform” movement in the C of E some of which have existed for years but without any much needed tangible change in the denomination – e. “ReNew” and “Reform”.
    Another is cited: – “Fresh Expressions”, but a visit to their website to find out what they believe under heading ‘Guide” can only be described as a counsel of despair. There is found references to “Researchers”. and “Knowledge Integrators” and under “Co-ordinators” the following priceless piece of churchy bureaucratic gobbledegook:
    “Senior managers relate to stakeholders, secure agreement on the organisation’s goals, and design and maintain systems to achieve these goals. Leadership is increasingly about systems design”. Say no more!

    • Uncle Brian

      Graham, take a look at this sentence: Rather than being inclusive to the point of not taking too much interest in what those attending might believe in the hope they will stay, the Church of England – or any other church for that matter – would do better pointing out that being a Christian is much, much more than just believing there could be a God or having some family connection with a church. The word “church” occurs three times, once with a capital C and twice with a lower-case c. I think Gillan has been scrupulously careful to follow the rules of English grammar.

    • alternative_perspective

      Fresh Expressions is very much alive but is not a church per se but an approach to doing church, a challenge to conventional thinking.

      In reality many FE churches have become independent of their local parish, often for good reasons; as the local incument is often a little stuck in the mud. In my opinion all ministers need to be pioneers. The flip side though is such movements can become alienated from the wider body of Christ and end up lacking any grounding as distinctively Christian.

      I’ve seen various samples held up as worthy of consideration but too often they align more with seekers of new spirituality run by Christians as social outreach than a transformative Christ orientated people. And sadly I include the Methodists and their bread making initiative in Liverpool.

      Many of these supposed churches would be better ran as pioneering ministries of an existing church.

    • Linda Woodhead often talks about the CofE when perhaps she should be referring to the wider church and vice-versa. Sometimes I talk about the Church of England specifically and sometimes about God’s Church of which the CofE is a part.

      Sadly the Fresh Expressions site is not great at showing what is happening on the ground (usual CofE problem), but I can assure you that lots is. I spend a lot of time finding out about new movements in our churches and hearing and seeing stories of God at work. This sort of stuff doesn’t make the headlines, but I am in no doubt at all that it is happening.

  • carl jacobs

    BTW. For what it is worth, “Fresh Expressions” is another way of saying “Emerging Church.”

    • Marie1797

      Fresh Expressions, is that a new type of salad?

      • Or maybe a novo method of breast-feeding !

        • dannybhoy

          🙂 !!

      • For cafeteria Christians who like to pick and mix.

    • SeekTruthFromFacts

      Not really. “Fresh Expressions” is a very wide remit. For liberals, it usually means Messy Church, which is just a rebranding of old-fashioned toddlers’ groups. For conservative evangelicals, it means church plants like Inspire London and St Peter’s Barge. For some liberal evangelicals (=ex-evangelicals IMHO), it means Emerging Church, but I suspect they would be a (noisy) minority.

  • Discerning the future of the Church ? Jesus answered this: despite the efforts of Satan, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It has to acknowledged, these days Hell is making a very strong move in the West.

    Many, in all denominations, who are called to lead are spreading confusion and outright distortion.

    “No plant but must be rooted up, if my heavenly Father has not planted it. Let them say what they will; they are blind men leading the blind, and when one blind man leads another, they will fall into the ditch together”

  • len

    A seismic shift has happened in the West as regards Christianity which is now regarded by many people as’ irrelevant’. The reason for this is that the Judeo Christian Foundations of our society have been undermined and all but destroyed in the minds of many people.Evolutionists(sometimes aided by the Church) have attacked the Foundations of the Bible and have replaced(in the minds of many) Creation with Evolution.Atheists have seized upon this and spread this theory throughout those ‘Churches of Atheism’ our education system.The media is constantly attacking and denigrating Christianity because Christianity is opposed to those who run’ this world system ‘.
    Our Society having turned away from God resorted to ‘idols’ and we can see this is the pattern throughout history.Man needs someone to worship and if not God he will put man on a pedestal and worship him.
    The nature of fallen man is that of a rebel and he will do all he can to rule out the creator and’ do his own thing’ even when it is leading him to destruction unless he has some sort of revelation of his true condition and returns to the Creator and the original plan He had for humanity.

    • Graham Wood

      Len. Absolutely right, and Psalm 11:3 reminds us of the dilemma for Christians – “if the foundations be destroyed………

      As for evolution, were you aware that the D of E has now decreed that school science lessons must teach evolution as a scientific fact? And that permitted from the Education minister who is a professing Christian.

      All who value and believe God’s witness to the fact of his creation should write and protest at this gross distortion of his Word, but also a distortion of real and true science

      • Rodney Dobson

        Evolution IS a scientific fact.

        Evolution by natural selection is a hypothesis and thus quite a different matter. Would you REALLY have schools teach that the stories in Genesis are “scientific fact”?

        Unless, of course, you believe Terry Pratchett – that all those fossils were left behind by an ineffable deity to mislead us and to keep him entertained!

        • Royinsouthwest

          Evolution by natural selection is an observable fact. Many antibiotics are becoming less effective because some kinds of bacteria have developed resistance to them. That is an example of the survival of the fittest.

          The purpose of scripture was described by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16.

          All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

          Where in the Bible does it state that scripture is given for instruction in science?

          • Rodney Dobson

            I said it was a hypothesis not that it didn’t happen: but I suppose I’m being over-academic (picky about definitions). In general, I’m not a biologist: it was my impression that the simple (Darwinian) idea had been superceded, not disproved. Much as Newton’s laws had been superceded by the successors of Einstein.
            As for NOMA, you’ll get no argument from me: my reply was to Mr Wood and those who believe as he. Personally I’ve never really understood the problem.

        • Graham Wood

          Rodney to reply to your question “Would you really….?

          Answer, yes of course. If creation by a sovereign God is a fact as taught explicitly in Genesis and implicitly in very many other books of the Bible, then yes, one would want children taught soundly and not tell them theories or lies – i,e, facts not the anachronistic evolution by natural selection as held by Darwin – a Victorian theorist.

          You say “Evolution IS a scientific fact.” In the very limited sense of very minor evolutionary development within a few species, yes that is so, but relatively unimportant. What is significant is that there is no scientific data for evolution BETWEEN any species, including homo sapiens.
          What part of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, do you not understand?

          • CliveM

            What part of your biblical quote excludes evolution?

          • Graham Wood

            Clive. This sounds like an exercise in semantics. The two claims of God initiated creation and that of man’s theory of evolution are mutually incompatible. They cannot both be true. I could have quoted John’s Gospel 1:3 or Psalm 19:1 or countless other similar. Biblical truth claims that the issue of origins is factual, being based on revelation and veracity of God.
            By contrast the theory of evolution, not being verifiable by empirical testing remains unscientific and a philosophical assumption. As a Christian I believe God’s words on the issue as opposed to the theories of fallen men.

        • wilfthebison

          Rodney, Evolution is just Spontaneous Generation in a fancy clown suit. It still contends that everything sprang out of nothing for no reason. Evolution is centred on a belief that everything can be explained by cause and effect, but it’s foundation is an effect without a cause.

          • Rodney Dobson

            It’s not evolution that contends that everything sprang out of nothing for no reason – that’s cosmology. And the whole of science is based on a belief of cause and effect – which belief has yet to be disproved in terms science can accept – but the belief itself is a matter for philosophy rather than science. The belief is pretty universal of course – the most extreme religionist presumably accepts God as the cause.

            And before any genuinely competent biologist or cosmologist jumps down my throat – yes I know that the above is simplified close to if not beyond the boundary of inaccuracy. I never wanted to get into this and only my conscience keeps me trying.

          • wilfthebison

            Hi Rodney
            As a Christian, I have the luxiury of being able to accept or discard evolution. It’s a secondary issue the Bible is largly silent about. People get themselves into difficulties trying to come up with an age of the Earth, by adding up lists names, when the Bible doesn’t say that you can do that.
            To my mind, if you accept that God could have made the universe at all, it seems pretty silly to then set time limits that He must have created it in more or less time. If He could do it at all, He can take as long as He likes!
            As you say I am secure with a Creator, in my universe of causality.
            The issue for an Atheist, is he can’t choose, he must have evolution with spontanious seneration as it’s starting point or all his arguments are lost.
            An Atheist finds himself in a universe of cause and effect, with a lost cause. 🙂

          • Jack up-voted your comment but disagrees with this:

            “the most extreme religionist presumably accepts God as the cause”.Follow the philosophical reasoning and there must be a First Cause – nothing comes from nothing – and this we recognise as God.

            Yes, teach evolution as a theory backed by convincing evidence. Yes, ensure children are taught about God as Creator. These are not opposed. They promote an understanding of the means God chose to make us who we are.

          • Rodney Dobson

            “The most extreme religionist…..”
            Sorry, I expressed myself sloppily. I agree with your phasing completely.

            As for the Papal quotations…..I am amused to find myself somewhat confounded.
            I occasionally need to remind myself that though I cannot accept the Pope as ultimate authority yet I should still accept his wisdom as a teacher and/or pastor. I have seem enough posts from atheists to realise that many proponents of evolution have a non-scientific agenda but, myself, I have never thought of it as other than the best material explanation of physical evidence. Nor have I really understood why so-called fundamentalists should get so upset about it.

    • alternative_perspective

      As an individual who came to faith from studying evolution I must disagree.

      The foundations spoken of by Graham Wood is the replacement of divine vocation with naturalistic action.

      Here the church has missed the point which the Psalmists understood: “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” Ps 104.21
      We have strayed from the holistic, unified thinking of the ancient Hebrews and fallen into the dualism of the Greeks. We separated the sacred and the secular. The former happily sustained in harmony the apparent “naturalistic” action of the universe as an act of divine providence but the latter separates the two in to different classes. Once separated one no longer needs the latter to explain the former.
      The Church ought to have fought this way of thinking. Most of us have experienced divine appointments: serendipitous Kingdom moments. Evolution is little more than an extended Kingdom moment for creation. In human experience it is not as though God usually commands both people to meet at a certain time and place BUT orders events around us and inspires our conversation to bring the people together: so, I believe, it is for evolution.

  • Darter Noster

    Anglican scholarship has for decades tried to equate itself with secular scholarship, such that there is really very little difference between books written by Anglican theologians and books written by secular academics studying theology from a purely secular outlook. Studying religious texts and ecclesiastical history has been seen as something that must be done from an ‘unbiased’ viewpoint; which is all well and good for a secular academic, but for those actually trying to run a church is counterproductive. The two can and should learn from each other but pure academic neutrality over crucial issues of faith does not help a church; trying to ‘out secular’ the secularists is a very bad idea.

    • Old Nick

      Really ? Have you compared Rowan Williams’s academic stuff (e.g. the Arius book) with his devotional (e.g. the stuff on the Desert Fathers). Or read John MacQuarrie, his predecessor in the Lady Margaret Chair and as academic as they come, on Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament ?

      • Darter Noster

        Old Nick,

        That wasn’t quite my point, and I apologise if I didn’t make it very clearly. There are plenty of Anglicans doing lots of good theology, and much of it reflects their personal faith.

        What’s lacking, as far as actually running a church goes, is a unifying set of dogmatic principles and boundaries separating ‘Anglican theology’ from ‘theology done by Anglicans and others’. There’s little or no attempt to establish anything as definitive or confessional for Anglicans to believe.

        Some think that’s great. Others, whilst we appreciate the need for secular academics (whatever their personal faith) to do their job scientifically and without in-built assumptions, think that the Church of England needs to define acceptable standards of belief and interpretation if it to maintain any sort of coherence. Questioning everything is a much more useful thing for an academic to do than it is for a

        • Darter Noster

          …clergyman.

  • Rasher Bacon

    There is another meaning to the word ‘professor’. If we want be all academic in our examples, we can go back to the Donatists, whose dislike of the traditores centred around these Christians who only professed faith, but handed over their scriptures to escape Diocletian’s persecution…

  • Rasher Bacon

    Just to be clear, the Donatists (to avoid long and bitter arguments with Albert over whether they were right to apply their tedious sacramentalism in a different way to Rome) were sponsored by Krispy Kreme.

    • Darter Noster

      Lol.

      The Donatists, it must be admitted, had a point at the beginning. If I was a heavily persecuted Christian would I be happy to just suddenly submit to the authority of a collaborator? No of course not. They handed over the sacred books without question whilst you risked death for the faith; now they’re in charge. Screw that.

      But, the Donstists became much more than an anti collaboration protest movement.

      • Rasher Bacon

        I agree Darter Noster [odd not having to cite addressee and time of comment]. Never mind what they became – you’ll only get roundabout discussion on that from me with no central substance.

        To get back to The Point They Had At The Beginning, I’m sure this was found in a cave on the north African coast, and “studies have shown” it may have been written by a traditore. I have had it translated from the Latin:

        And this is Law, I will maintain
        Until my dying day Sir
        That whatsoever King shall reign
        I will be Vicar of Bray, Sir.

        • Nick

          I think there is a lot of truth in the esoteric Vicar of Bray poem you have found. But you understand that the poetry refers not only to vicars and kings? It can also be applied to those who are unwilling to criticise a Tory Government because they are personally thriving (and may continue to thrive under Labour). In many ways, people like that are like the Vicar of Bray too.

      • Correct – schismatic heretics, is the term.

        The Church decided to forgive those who lacked the courage to withstand persecution and faithfully repented. These rigorists wanted them permanently excommunicated and all clerics amongst them stripped of their status. Rather than comply with their fellow Bishops, they stubbornly separated themselves from the Catholic Church.

    • Why say this of Albert and characterise him so?

      The dispute, amongst other matters, was not about the application of “tedious sacramentalism”. It was about the validity of the sacraments as channels of grace if the minister was in a state of grievous sin – ‘ex opere operantis’ versus ‘ex opera operato’ – quite a different matter.

      Nothing tedious about this. It also centred on the authority of the Pope as the centre of Christian unity, exercised through authority conferred by Christ and passed down through valid Apostolic succession.

  • Nick

    There is a good future for the Church (an inclusive one), but I do wonder how things will pan out in the event of an end of the world scenario. I don’t think that the tribulation is imminent, but I worry how we will all react when it does eventually happen.

  • Rasher Bacon

    I think dear Linda Woodhead has been upbraided a few times on Twitter for suggesting that Christian doctrine be put out to the popular vote. This puts me in mind of the words of Isaiah..

    They that form a graven image are all of them vanity, and their delectable things are of no profit; and they are their own witnesses: they see not, nor know;—that they may be ashamed.

    This (for context) is right next to the origin of certain wooden heads:

    The worker in wood stretcheth out a line; he marketh it out with red chalk; he formeth it with sharp tools, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of man: that it may remain in the house.

  • preacher

    Excellent post Dr Cranmer.
    Sadly much of the Western Church has lost touch with it’s founder & the gospel that He purchased at great cost & personal suffering. His last commission was for us to “Go into all the World, Preach the gospel & make disciples of all Nations, baptising them in the name of the Father the Son & the Holy Spirit”.
    That’s it! I see many social welfare groups being formed under the banner of Christianity, a veritable avalanche of entertainment & activities in the Churches, but sadly few warnings of the eternal future of those folks who reject God’s mercy that cost Christ so much to procure for us.
    If we the Church fail to share the gospel with the lost & challenge the members of our congregations to repent & return to Christ & his gospel. We will be guilty of every lost soul that would have otherwise been saved & will be held to account on the day of God’s judgement to our eternal shame & sorrow.
    Jesus Christ came to make restitution for mankind’s sins. He is the only redeemer & way to Heaven. Anything that attempts to replace Him, however laudable is in my opinion, Another Christ, (or Anti-Christ to be specific).

  • All these theological divisions, different interpretations of scripture and endless squabbles about how to pastor to Christians, makes Jack’s head spin.

    God, in His wisdom, established an Apostolic Church and invested it with His authority to lead His people and resolve disputes.

    • Rasher Bacon

      Happy Jack – I hereby give you the final word.

    • len

      God in His Wisdom gave us the Holy Spirit to carry on the work that God had initiated through Jesus Christ…
      Corrupt men tried to turn this work of God into’ an institution’ for their own corrupt ends.God calls this Church’ a whore’ because it has sold itself for a price..

      • You really believe it was God’s intention to give every man free reign to determine Truth for himself without a person with real authority to hold His Church together when disputes arose? Look at the chaos that ensued down the centuries. Imagine where we would be today if early Christianity had adopted this idea. There would be no worldwide Christianity – just a series of competing sects.

        Look at the he Orthodox communion. It is fragmented and divided into a set of autonomous churches which are often in conflict because the system of patriarchs is insufficient to knit their union together effectively as there is no one to adjudicate disputes. Then there are thousands of different protestant denominations with such a kaleidoscope of different ideas and structures it is mind boggling.

        It is effective leadership which has allowed the Catholic Church to grow and hold together and to preserve doctrine down the millennia. This Church you call a ‘Whore’ was established by Christ and is led by a Pope who is, and has always been, its ecumenical centre, its unifying force. This shows Jesus Christ’s wisdom in establishing leadership to function in his absence and to assure it of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and protection.

        • Royinsouthwest

          Do you think that every single one of the popes was a genuine Christian?

          Many Jews in the earthly time of Jesus seemed to have the same attitude to Abraham as some Roman Catholics do to the popes.

          “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up sons to Abraham.” Luke 3:8

          • Surely this was directed at those Jews who believed salvation was a birth rite for descendants from Abraham?
            No Catholic worships the Pope or believes the man as a man is invested with sainthood. Jesus never promised Popes would be impeccable and many were undoubtedly sinful men. However, Jesus did promise the “gates of hell” would not prevail against the Church and this is understood as not presenting a false Gospel.
            Notwithstanding the corrupt nature of some Popes, on matters of doctrine and morals Catholics believe God will just not allow the Church to err and lead the faithful astray. Men may corrupt the application of doctrine and abuse their office, and have done so. Some may be unwise or foolish. However, it’s not the character and faith of the person who is Pope that counts but the charism of the office and the oversight of the Holy Spirit in protecting Truth. This is guaranteed. God is infallible and so too is His Church.

        • len

          The RCC is the cause of the divisions in Christianity IF it had stuck to the Bible there would have been no need for the reformation.
          The RCC is a false religion whci has deposed Christ and replaced him with a man who has proclaimed himself ‘as god’.
          Hope you wake up sometime Jack and realise you have been duped.

    • CliveM

      Happy Jack

      There have been serious theological disputes since the earliest days of Christianity. The Reformation was neither the first dispute or the first schism. Without boring everyone with details they already know, the East and Western Churches have been in schism since 1054. The arguments and the drifting apart went on for Centuries prior to this.
      Except in a very narrow sense the Church has been in schism since it’s earliest days.

      • Nick

        That won’t always be the case (If Christ’s great unanswered prayer is to be answered) although I do worry about the level of antagonism towards Catholics that many Protestants hold these days. It amounts to prejudice and I think it is one of the few prejudices which is still acceptable.

        • CliveM

          Nick

          I am not antagonistic to the RC’s in the slightest. If asked I will always defend the as a Christian Church, guided (like other Churches) by the Holy Spirit.

          I was simply putting the present state of affairs into a wider historical context. We can be a little parochial in the west!

          Yes hopefully Jesus’s prayer will be answered soon. If we are around to see it, I suspect we will all be a little surprised by the outcome.

          • Nick

            Sorry Clive. My mistake. Yes, as you say, Christ’s prayer will be answered (but will ours?).

            A while back I researched an article on the media portrayal of Christians and found mixed results (approximately 75% negative and 25% positive in film and soaps). What I also discovered was that a lot of the time it was the Catholics who got the most negative portrayals. Then I found that a lot of these negative stereotypes were embraced by Protestants online. I suppose unity is about trying to understand all sides, including the vocal anti-Catholics (or else nothing will be inclusive and discussions on unity would cause even greater division (which would be an irony too far imo)).

          • CliveM

            No problem. I have to say it seems to me that on this site it is the poor, old CofE that gets it in the neck most.

            If you exclude some of the weirder outreaches of the Church, I think all the Churches reflect both Gods truth and Man’s fallen nature. Unless and until we can all start looking to the future and understanding (in relation to the past) that we have all sinned and have all fallen short, it will be hard to have any meaningful reconciliation at a structural level. Although at an individual, local level some Churches and leaders seem to be able to work together fruitfully.
            I think man is to much of a fallen creature for the unity we would prey for to be achievable this side of Christ’s return.

      • SidneyDeane

        Of course, because neither side has anything to draw on.
        Its like one side supporting unicorns and the other dragons.

        • CliveM

          Lazy, very lazy. I’m sure if you think about it, that even if you consider this issue through the prism of atheism, that was a very poor analogy.
          As I’m sure your teacher must of said on numerous occasions, must do better.

    • IanCad

      O how many times have we been here Jack?
      Your claim that the Church of Rome is in any way reflective of the simple apostolic faith is a nonsense.

    • alternative_perspective

      Yep and then Rome abandoned orthodoxy to set up its own “catholic” sect and look where that left us. 😉 I rib my wife with this too.

      • And your wife will simply say …………

        Send her Jack’s regards and says he understands the trials she faces living with a heretic !

    • dannybhoy

      Can’t go with that Jack, although I accept of course that there are many true Christians in the Catholic church, and if you accept their presuppositions a case can be made for their claims.
      I just don’t argue that stuff much nowadays. The Lord knows those that are His. The only thing I now ask is “Where do you stand with Jesus? Do you love Him, know Him as your Lord and Saviour, do you follow Him in your daily life?”
      If the answer is yes, then we can fellowship together.

      • “Where do you stand with Jesus? Do you love Him, know Him as your Lord and Saviour, do you follow Him in your daily life?”

        Who would disagree with such an ecumenical statement? Break the components down however, and the divisions begin.

        • dannybhoy

          There’s an obvious answer to that Jack,
          “Don’t break it down!”
          Seriously.
          Let’s accept that all denominations are human interpretations of Scripture. We build a case for our denomination by gathering evidence and example from the Bible.
          If for example, I started from our Lord’s pronouncement in
          Matthew 16:18,19
          “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
          19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

          a case can indeed be made for the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church.
          By accepting the idea of succession (similar to Shia Islam) a further case can be made for the God sanctioned authority of a Pope, and what the Pope decrees is as God decrees.

          Now obviously I don’t accept that for lots of reasons. Your observation about ‘Christian chaos’ is in a sense irrelevant because that ‘chaos’ started from the earliest days of the New Testament Church.

          Paul shows that to be the case in chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians.

          Frankly different churches are as much about differences in human beings as they are about doctrine. I would fellowship and pray with a Catholic, and I would refuse to fall out over matters of doctrine because as St Paul says in Romans 14

          “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
          11It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ 
          12So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

          • Danny, you’ve just made the case for the final authority of the Pope in saying:

            “Let’s accept that all denominations are human interpretations of Scripture” and “Frankly different churches are as much about differences in human beings as they are about doctrine.”

            And Jack is judging no one. Click on the link below and have a read of this article by an ex-Calvinist.

            http://jimmyakin.com/the-papacy-gods-gift-to-the-church

          • dannybhoy

            Happy Jack,
            I know you’re not judging anyone. You’re a good and kindly and wise man. A saint already!
            As I said, we shall all one day stand before the Lord and give account of ourselves, and I refuse to get into these kind of arguments. Many years ago I heard or read somewhere
            “One can win an argument and lose a brother..”
            Why should I want to change you if you have already shown to me that you love Jesus?

          • See Danny, there’s your Protestantism suggesting Jack is “A saint already!”

            Is Happy Jack saved? The Catholic answer:

            “As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).”

          • dannybhoy

            Do you love Jesus?
            Do you ask for forgiveness of your sins and truly seek to live as a new man in Christ by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit?
            Do you believe that salvation is by faith in the finished work of Christ and that faith results in fruitfulness and witness?
            You’re a Saint in the making then.
            Why do you wanna make it harder?

          • Harder? Because that’s the way God planned it.

            We have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and being right with God isn’t imputed, it is infused. We each have to maintain this relationship and cooperate with the Holy Spirit to become right with God.

            Jack just doesn’t believe we are justified by faith in Christ alone. And the Catholic Church places a different emphasis on ‘Penal Substitution’ and the understanding of God’s Wrath being poured on Jesus. We also understand the meaning of Jesus’ words “It is Finished” differently, with a different understanding of Grace and how the Holy Spirit works in us.

            Christ has merited for us the grace of justification. However, we are only formally right with God through our own personal holiness and not simply covered by Christ’s. This holiness is a gift of grace through the Holy Spirit and not earned or acquired independently of God’s salvific work. We do have to exercise free will and cooperate.

            The various Protestant denominations read and believe in a different Gospel.

            Does it matter?

            Happy Jack thinks it does matter.

          • dannybhoy

            “Christ has merited for us the grace of justification. However, we are
            only formally right with God through our own personal holiness and not
            simply covered by Christ’s. This holiness is a gift of grace through the
            Holy Spirit and not earned or acquired independently of God’s salvific
            work. We do have to exercise free will and cooperate.”
            Philippians 1:3-7
            “3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just
            as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in
            my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and
            confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.

            Semantics Jack! You pray for me that I will complete the race that is set before me, and I will pray that you will complete yje race set before you..

          • A very Catholic sentiment, very graciously expressed, Danny.
            The divisions between some protestants and Catholics is much more that semantics and represent fundamentally different Gospels. Jack has had to think very hard about these issues and, after much thought and prayer, reaffirmed his faith that the Catholic is the only certain means of salvation and that the Mass and other Sacraments are intended by God to help us complete the good work He has started in us.

          • dannybhoy

            “Jack has had to think very hard about these issues..”
            We all have to think very hard about what we believe and why Jack.
            I remain convinced that if we were to list what we believe are the essentials of our Christian faith it would be practically identical.
            As I say to our home group, if you believe in our Lord Jesus as your Saviour, if you believe that through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit you are being changed from glory to glory, purging away the old and carnal man, and you seek to share your faith and you believe in the Church as the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ; everything else is peripheral and up for discussion.
            Those differences should not become a cause of dissension or a breaking of fellowship.
            The only cause for dissension is the outworking, the results or fruits of our theological beliefs in our interaction with each other and the world..
            And that’s scriptural; read St James!

  • tiger

    If I may comment as a devout conservative Christian. I stopped attending Church in the early ’90’s. There were several reasons these being in order of importance;
    1. The services became a theatre of entertainment along the lines of an evangelical event. i.e. 3 ring circus
    2. Sermons failed to address religious teachings and became political statements about the poor and dispossessed.
    3.The priest was more interested in those with wealth than those most in need of his guidance i.e. preference by wealth rather need which contradicts 2 above.

    When I attend Church I wish to worship my God with reverence and respect. This worship is directed at Him not the congregation. I expect a thoughtful sermon that will remind me of my sin or possible trespass of Christ’s teachings and help me lead a better Christian life.

    The Church supply none of the above so why go there.

    • CINDERFLY

      I think you need to pray about why you go to church. The purpose of church-going is not an exercise in self-conscious individualism but worshiping together with your brothers and sisters in Christ. And the best and only way effectively and fruitfully to ‘lead a better Christian life’ is when we put aside our personal preferences and prejudices and make room for the Spirit of God – who will make us increasingly aware of our calling to be not a bunch of individualists but a Family. Whilst I can sympathise with 1. 2. and 3. above, I think you have missed the point of what going to church is all about. We can worship outside the church and seven days a week: always best in the company of our .neighbours’.

    • dannybhoy

      I agree mostly but I believe that God wants His people to fellowship together and show His love and salvation in the way that we treat and love one another.
      T’ain’t easy I grant, but if you’re on the Lord’s side then ask Him to direct you to church that ticks the basics.

    • grutchyngfysch

      I don’t much disagree with your opinions on what church worship ought to be focused on (but I wouldn’t suggest that the Church, with a capital C, ever in fact fails to supply the above – its supply of those things is its defining characteristic) – I would suggest that it might be worth considering looking at other churches in your area. No church is perfect, since no church is comprised of perfect people, but the Church is a work of people being perfected by Grace.

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