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Church of England

“Is Justin Welby not showing the world Jesus?”

Here follows Adrian Hilton’s response to Martyn Percy’s first letter:

Dear Martyn,

Thank you for your letter. I appreciated the account of your conversation with the “senior commentator on religious affairs”. Maybe exchanging anecdotes isn’t a bad place to start.

I received a phone call a few weeks after the selection of Justin Welby for Canterbury. It came from Lambeth Palace. Naturally, I thought it was a hoax, but it wasn’t. The Archbishop-Elect had been reading the Archbishop Cranmer blog for some time, and wanted to invite me in for a coffee. It wouldn’t be appropriate to share the (semi-remembered) details, but I recall, after about an hour of conversation, that he kept looking down at his watch. Mindful of his busy schedule, I offered to take my leave so he could get on with more important things. He apologised: it wasn’t that at all. He explained that his earliest priority had been to make Lambeth Palace “beat to the rhythm of a cathedral” (or a phrase very similar), and that his distraction was because he couldn’t recall whether he was rostered to preside over Holy Communion in the crypt on that day.

He said I would be more than welcome to join him, which I did. In the crypt was +Justin, his chaplain, a nun and me. It felt like a private Eucharist for a menial blogger; an archiepiscopal homily crafted specially for me, the manifest outsider.

I mention this because of ++Justin’s explicit desire that Lambeth Palace should “beat to the rhythm of a cathedral”. No matter what important business presses, the priority for the Archbishop-Elect was to kneel and pray; to feed on Christ. I don’t doubt that’s still the case.

I think it’s significant that he didn’t become a curate at HTB, but chose instead to focus on peace and reconciliation in Coventry. Is it not possible to have an HTB and public-school Oxbridge CU/Evangelical background and to owe a debt to The Rule of Benedict? Your ‘despite’ suggests they are mutually exclusive. Isn’t such a journey evidence of the continuing renewal of the mind and deepening spirituality?

You say that costs of participation in his Religious Order are “well beyond the means of most young people”. There’s actually no fee to join. They don’t reject anyone because of how little they can bring (nor do they accept anyone because of how much they can bring). The Community of St Anselm is about sacrifice, because (quite apart from the spiritual discipline) that’s the only basis on which its members can meet as equals.

You ask what is specifically Benedictine about ++Justin’s ministry. Isn’t it apparent in emphases and attitudes (“let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ” [Holy Rule, Ch LXXII])? He is a Benedictine oblate: his daily balance between work, prayer/worship, stillness, study and rest is Benedictine in itself. His spiritual director is Roman Catholic, and he’s steeped in Catholic Social Teaching. He also goes off on retreats with Chemin Neuf (I know it’s not all Benedictine).

I raised an eyebrow when he invited that group to move into Lambeth Palace. I wondered why a group built on the Jesuit foundations of St Ignatius should be chosen to pray and privileged to minister there. ++Justin clearly feels there’s much to learn from Ignatian retreats, which becomes a spiritual accompaniment to the Religious Order. It’s not very HTB/Oxbridge-CU, is it?

When you read the Community’s website, the emphasis is on the inspiration of St Francis: all members engage in face-to-face service to the most vulnerable in society as part of the commitment. It involves hospital chaplaincy, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, foodbanks, estate children/youth work… The overwhelming impression is that ++Justin is concerned profoundly with the principles of the religious life. It may not be perfectly or exclusively Benedictine, but it is a profound and broad spirituality.

You ask which part of ‘Reform and Renewal’ is shaped by The Rule of Benedict? I share many of your reservations about this programme – especially on leadership talent-spotting, fast-tracking, and training. Is it rooted more in business than any kind of theology? Possibly, but I’m not averse to the syncretism. I don’t quite agree that there is “no sense of theology being at the heart of the initiative”, not least because the entire House of Bishops believes this to be the way forward. Perhaps I’ll ask +Pete Broadbent to comment on the perceived lack of collaborative reflection and theological wisdom, because, if true, it would be a corporate omission; not simply ++Justin’s.

I was particularly interested in the Parris quotation, and your observation of a “marked absence of salient and resonant ‘God-talk’, or any persuasive public theology”. I think ++Justin would be the first to acknowledge that he’s no great theologian, but I’m not sure why an archbishop should be expected to be so. Perhaps what he once said (years ago?) about Stott and Alpha gives a clue to his mission: Christian basics; a paradigm of salvation set out clearly and unequivocally in a context of spiritual confusion and religious relativism. Does the simplicity not resonate (not, I grant you, with theologians, for whom things are always more complicated).

None of this persuades me that ++Justin is not pre-eminently concerned with God, Christ, and the inner life. I’m puzzled that if the plea is “for the church to talk less about its own concerns, and instead to dwell more on God”, to see that you are among those who urge focus on matters of gender and sexuality. ++Justin does talk a lot about God and Jesus: it just gets buried beneath foodbanks and gay marriage.

You ask “what is the most interesting thing the Archbishop has said about God?” Isn’t ‘interesting’ in the mind of the (un-)interested? What interests ++Justin’s 95,000 Twitter followers might not interest either of us, but how about the example Parris provides? That someone so elevated as the Archbishop of Canterbury is so candid about his doubts reverberated throughout the media and made him (and so his faith) more attractive to many. Asking “Where is God?” is saying something about God, isn’t it? And in this post-Christian, secular, postmodern-or-whatever-it-is culture we live in, it might reach more hearts and minds than any nuanced and media-misinterpreted paragraph that ++Rowan ever articulated. Indeed, in last week’s Spectator (3 Sept 2016, p24) Nicholas Farrell observed:

During his visit to Amatrice, Monsignor Domenico Pompili, Bishop of Rieti, was asked: ‘Where is God?’ He replied: ‘Perhaps we should connect that question to another: “Where is man”’ Pompili was talking about the corruption, negligence and incompetence..

I’m not sure an admission of doubt “drives the public further away”, as you say. Further away than what? Do you think ++Rowan attracted the public to the church? What did Carey or Runcie say “wisely and inspiringly” about God? Doesn’t it all rather depend on one’s own theological apprehension?

++Justin has only been in office for two years: it seems unfair to compare his ministry with his predecessors’ decades, but his theology appears to be a post-affilial one of service and civility; applied national evangelicalism. Perhaps ++Justin is the kind of bishop best judged by the fruit of his labours than the inspiration of his words. St Augustine said: “If you see charity, you see the Trinity.” Doesn’t what he is doing look like the missio dei? Is Justin Welby not showing the world Jesus?

God bless,

Adrian

  • Richard B

    This may be anecdotally apposite: in discussing the purpose of a proposed new church in the diocese a recently ordained director of an Anglican foundation mentioned to me his bishop told him that Justin tells bishops to preach Jesus – which is what one would expect.

    • Anton

      And it would be enough. But most bishops preach doubt aka liberal theology.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Quite. They can ‘preach Jesus’ without preaching Truth.

  • magnolia

    I don’t understand the assumed emphasis on a rule of life. Surely it is a personal aid for some, but we are not all built for them. Jesus’ core demands are to love God and your neighbour. He specifically did not set out a monastic rule of life that has been handed down, so why should it be assumed that a deep spirituality needs one?. Did St Paul or St John feel the need to formulate one? Do we suggest their spirituality somehow less broad or deep because it is based on personal encounter with Jesus, revelation, prayer, vision, and bible study? So why lay that unnecessary criticism on CUs, private schools, HTB, whatever?

  • David

    The last thing that the Christians of this country need is for the head of the established Church to express doubts about God in public. If he thinks that it will prove attractive to those who might become Christians then he is very wrong; indeed if he thinks that such a display of fashionable liberal doubt will be respected by non-Christians of all stripes, including atheists, Humanists or members of other faiths then, again he is quite wrong.

    • CliveM

      Do you never doubt? And if he does, is he to lie when he’s asked? If we cannot own up to doubt, how can our dialogue with God be honest?

      I’m sure the suicide bombers, the be headers and rapists of IS don’t doubt. I’m not sure that’s a good thing however.

      • Anton

        Can you name one leader of ancient Israel in the Old Testament or the church in the New who, holding such a position, spoke out his doubts to the people he was leading?

        • CliveM

          St Thomas

          • Anton

            He held no position of leadership at that time.

          • CliveM

            He was one of the 12 chosen. He witnessed the miracles, the resurrections. He heard the gospel from the mouth of Jesus and despite all that he doubted. And Jesus himself didn’t condemn. What then gives us the right?

            Do you never doubt. Remember also his comments were specific. He wasn’t suggesting he goes around generally in a fug of doubt.

          • Anton

            Look, I asked simply if you could name one leader of ancient Israel in the Old Testament or the church in the New who, holding such a position, spoke out his doubts to the people he was leading; and in response you gave a man who was not then in a position of leadership. I’m happy to widen the conversation, but you haven’t given any name that answers my original question.

          • CliveM

            Yes I have, you’re simply quibbling over his status. He was chosen the help lead the Church.

            However, even if I allow your point (which I don’t) so? I don’t think anyone, least of all Welby himself, has suggested he’s a David or a Saul or a Samual.

            David certainly wrote a psalm of doubt (13).

          • Anton

            Thomas was in no way a leader while Jesus was around on earth. But David answers my question; thank you.

        • len

          John The Baptist’.
          When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'” (Luke 7:20)

          • Anton

            John B was in prison when he sent that question, and therefore in no position to preach to the masses. The question certainly indicates doubts but it was sent privately.

          • len

            John had a lot of authority even when in prison while still in touch with his followers.

          • Anton

            Certainly. But can you provide any evidence that he had this doubt aired to his wider followers rather than merely to those who bore his question to Jesus?

          • CliveM

            It was public enough for the writer of the Gospel to know about it.

          • Anton

            A few decades later, yes.

          • len

            As Clive M says it was recorded in the Gospel, for a reason presumably?.

          • Anton

            PS John did not doubt any of the Old Testament or that the Messiah was coming; he wobbled over whether Jesus was He.

        • The Apostle, Saint Thomas ….

          • CliveM

            Been there!! Read on macduff.

      • David

        “how can our dialogue with God be honest?”
        Yes, to doubt is to be human. But you overlook the crucial point that the dialogue I refer to, was not to God but to the country, a country that lives in a world full of doubt and which needs reassurance that God exists, not expressions of further doubt from a lead archbishop. His pastoral responsibility is, whatever else he says, to conclude by saying something like, “yes, I truly believe that God exists”.

        • CliveM

          He has talked of his occasional doubts on a couple of occasions. On one of the occasions he concluded by saying;

          “We know about Jesus, we can’t explain all the questions in the world, we can’t explain about suffering, we can’t explain loads of things but we know about Jesus,” Welby said. “We can talk about Jesus – I always do that because most of the other questions I can’t answer.” Asked what he did when life got challenging, Welby said: “I keep going and call to Jesus to help me, and he picks me up.”

          Remember however he is answering a question put to him. Rather then lying he gives an honest answer. What else could he do.

          • David

            In public he needs to always stress his faith in Jesus – that’s his role !
            If he can’t he is in the wrong job.

          • CliveM

            I think he does. There is nothing in the quote I’ve shown that suggests he doesn’t.

    • Sarky

      I’m an atheist and I find his doubt makes him more relatable. He’s probably the only AOC I’ve got any time for. He seems like a genuinely decent bloke.

    • John

      The Psalms often give voice to struggles in faith where God’s apparent absence or silence are questioned but (with one exception – Psalm 88) they end with an expression of confidence in God’s goodness or sovereignty. So long as Justin is walking that path and ending with a testimony of trust in God, as he does when talking about the daughter he lost, I see no weakness in his straight answers to direct questions. They show honesty, integrity and humanity – the things we lament the absence of in interviews with politicians. God forbid that the ABC starts to sound like one of them.

  • Oisín mac Fionn

    Is Justin Welby not showing the world Jesus?

    I would say he is.

    Take his remarks about gay marriage, for instance. He’s apparently very challenged by the amazing quality (can’t remember if those were his exact words, but something very like) of some/many gay relationships, but still he tells us that they are not and can never be marriages, and that they are and always will be sinful.

    This seems very Jesus-like to me. He pronounces a one-size-fits-all rule that takes no account of human diversity, and then sticks to it dogmatically no matter how absurd the reality of our lived experience shows it to be.

    What more does anyone want from an archbishop? Should he be gatecrashing gay wedding receptions and overturning the buffet as he denounces the heretical nature of equal marriage? Should he be exhorting unrepentant adulterers like Prince Charles to put away their floozies and devote the rest of their life to prayer and good works? Should he be picketing abortion clinics and shaming the women who use them?

    What overtly misogynistic, homophobic, dogmatic, unyielding and exclusionary acts should Welby be committing in order to be more like his Saviour?

    • magnolia

      For instance? Isn’t it your only (ever) instance. Actually, regrettably, all statistical evidence show the instances of anger, physical abuse, physical illness, early death, mental instability and infidelity in these relationships are very high indeed. Jesus precisely doesn’t create a network of rules. He points us towards motives, and love. Real love, that is, which may or may not co-exist with sexual desire.

      • Dominic Stockford

        God’s Word, and Jesus words, are packed full of ‘rules’.

        • Anton

          But those rules are not the point, in Jesus’ case; they are what Jesus re-orients us to b able to keep, which we could not do without his help.

    • Anton

      Yes, he should be peacefully picketing abortion clinics (although it is scarcely about shaming their clients). What a message that would send!

    • The Explorer

      In ‘Luke’ 21 there is the story of the widow’s offering. No one else has even noticed her, but Christ identifies the proportional value of her gift and cites her for special praise. Can you explain how this is an example of a misogynistic and exclusionary act?

      • Oisín mac Fionn

        As far as I’m aware, Jesus merely states that the poor widow has contributed more than anyone else, the implication being that God judges gifts in proportion to their relative worth to the giver rather than their actual worth.

        So are we to understand that God is better pleased with the poor widow than the rich donors?

        He makes no such statement.

        He doesn’t call her better or holier than the others. He doesn’t exhort them to help her or relieve her poverty. All he actually does is instrumentalise her to prove a point to those he’s really concerned with – i.e. the rich and powerful – and then he forgets all about the poor widow. There’s certainly no mention of her getting any special treatment or favour. She’s merely a prop in a morality play.

        The implication must be that poor widows aren’t worth wasting valuable miracle-working time on. Blind men get their sight back. Dead men get their lives back. Poor widows get nothing.

        Misogynistic? Looks like it to me.

        • The Explorer

          John says (21:5) that much that Jesus did was not recorded. The gospel writers were constrained by what would fit on a scroll. The scene with the widow is just an illustrative cameo.

          However, with regard to Christ’s concern for widows, we might note Luke 20: 46-7 in which Christ criticises the teachers of the law who “devour widows’ houses”. Christ says they will be punished.

          In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives details about financial support for widows. If, for the sake of argument, we accept the Trinity, and that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then Christ gave Paul instructions about provision for widows.

    • Inspector General

      Having seen more than his fair share of images of same sex couples on a certain site he patrols, one is rather, shall we say ‘uneasy’, about how alike the two men frequently look. In fact, it must be more often than not. Really, some of them could pass as brothers, and somewhat unnervingly, even identical twins!

      We do indeed include narcissism among the list of problems of the homosexual condition. If you find yourself falling in love with the image in your shaving water, then off you go to find your doppelganger…

      Perhaps Welby can revisit his comments on the subject, and replace “amazing quality” with ‘embarrassingly all too obvious raison d’etre behind the relationship’…

      Do you know, when these relationships collapse, it is not unknown for one party to kill and part eat the other!! Hardly a worthwhile lifestyle then to support and encourage, don’t you think?

      • The Explorer

        Ayatollah Khomeini ruled that if you have sex with a sheep you should not eat the sheep. I applaud that. I think not eating your sexual partner is a humane principle, even for a sexually- liberated society such as ours, and should be observed by parties of all sexual persuasions.

        • Anton

          The book that that pronouncement appeared in was a compendium by students of Khomeini’s. He certainly didn’t write it; whether he read it before publication and okayed it is unclear, and I put quite a lot of effort into finding out.

          • The Explorer

            Do you mean the ‘Resaleh Towzih al-Masael’ of 1979?

          • Anton

            I’ve not kept the file giving details, but it was definitely this book:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahrir_al-Wasilah

            One would need to know a lot more about schools of Islam to say that it was definitely written, or countersigned after being read, by Khomeini. This is the kind of detail that outruns Wikipedia, at least when another language is involved. Someone who reads Arabic or Farsi might do better, although a scholar-friend having the former language didn’t.

          • The Explorer

            The one I’m talking about is also known as the Blue Book. It’s Khomeini’s guide to sexual matters and the 1979 edition has his picture on the back as the author. It was quoted by Oriana Fallaci, who interviewed Khomeini.

            There’s also the Green Book of 1980, which is a compilation by Khomeini’s students.

            The whole issue, and it’s authenticity, is dealt with in some detail in Mark Steyn’s ‘Lights Out’ Part V ‘Precepts of Ejaculation’.

          • Anton

            I think the Green Book is the one I mean, Tahrir ol Vasyleh, but thank you for the reference to Steyn.

        • Inspector General

          Nobody should eat the sheep…but it may well be a LGBT delicacy for all one is aware…

      • Oisín mac Fionn

        The level of senseless hatred in your remarks reminds me that brutish ignorance is alive and well and winning elections in both the UK and the US.

        People like you voted to put those they hated in concentration camps in the 1930s. They may well do it again. The difference between then and now is that the hated minorities know what happens when brutish ignorance is in the ascendancy. I don’t think they’ll let it happen again. Their lives depend on it.

        Of course minorities can’t hope to bring down a majority. But they can makes its life bloody hard to live unless it respects their basic rights.

        As Trump takes power and attempts to roll back hard-won freedoms, we should expect to see significant civil unrest leading to political and economic instability. A US weakened by internal strife will not be able to play much of a role internationally. In the ensuing power vacuum, other nations will rise to prominence.

        This election will be remembered as the moment the US withdrew from the world stage leaving others to fight for the lead role. Europe won’t be in the running, mired as it is in its own struggle between liberal and reactionary forces. Others will step in to fill the gap and become our new overlords – nations that don’t even pretend to respect democracy. Or religious freedom.

        Good luck to all Christians when whatever satellite government Beijing installs in Whitehall decides to take an interest in the Church.

        • Inspector General

          Hatred? Where is this hatred? Ridicule, yes, but hatred? And why not. Until Brexit and Trump, LGBT were poised to enter the classroom and recruit therein. It’s a cherished right of theirs, so they say.

          We have moved into a new era of right wing thinking. The very people want it. Not your darling pampered minorities granted, but the great ignored out there.

          Yes, Brexit and Trump. Not been a good year for you degenerates, has it. Let’s see what 2017 brings!

  • len

    Justin Welby is only a man .Just as the Pope is only a man. All religious leaders(with One exception) are only men.Man cannot ‘generate ‘ Christ only Christ can be Christ!.
    It is the Holy Spirit being revealed through Gods chosen that reveals Jesus Christ.
    We are all(as St Paul describes) ‘vessels’ to be filled with the Holy Spirit or just ‘ resounding gongs’ or ‘clanging cymbals.’

  • carl jacobs

    His spiritual director is Roman Catholic, and he’s steeped in Catholic Social Teaching

    Well, that certainly reassures the reader regarding the AoCs Evangelical foundation.

    • Dominic Stockford

      The reference to the Jesuit involvement completes the picture.

      • carl jacobs

        Jack’s a Jesuit spy, you know. You don’t suppose …

        • That’s why Jack based himself in Durham at one time, undercover as a “down and out” busker. You didn’t think that was a coincidence?

          • Inspector General

            Ah yes! The Inspector remembers that pathetic and dishonest deception well!

          • carl jacobs

            So … Are you responsible for the recently discovered large stock of gunpowder that had been placed under Lambeth Palace?

          • No, no. Justin Welby is one of “us”.

            (Jack may have to take steps to ensure you never repeat that)

          • carl jacobs

            I don’t believe the Court will accept that questionable defense.

          • Court?
            “We” never leave evidence.

          • carl jacobs

            And all that gunpowder is…

          • A distraction ….

          • carl jacobs

            “Honest, Judge. There wasn’t any gunpowder. And anyways the Protestants put it there. Jack was in Albuqu … Albu … Maine.”

          • “We” leave no evidence.
            There was evidence discovered.
            Therefore, it could not have been “us”.

          • carl jacobs

            “What do you mean ‘Guilty!’ Jack was railroaded! The trial was rigged! The judge was a Protestant! There is no justice! No justice at all! Jack’s a victim! A VICTIM! A VICT…”

            [Clank]

            … “Hey, guard. What’s this bucket for? “

  • Inspector General

    The Community of St Anselm: Would that be male only or mixed (with those pagan ‘prophylactic machines’ in the lavatories) and damnable guitar strumming at night into the early hours? Both whipable offences in the Inspector’s book.

    One is reminded of the monks at Caldey Island. These post reformation fellows started off as an Anglican community operating to the rule of St Benedict. In 1913 they converted to Roman Catholicism. Can’t blame them for that. Having got into it, it was to be the real deal they decided upon. No half measures or watery faith for them, what!

    Anyway, they eventually ended up in the beautiful surroundings of Prinknash (silent ‘k’) near Gloucester. An area long associated with the Benedictine’s before the king robbed them of everything. Of course, there would be red faces all round if the Lambert community walked to Rome, so Welby is a wise fellow to appoint himself to the these days normally elected position of abbot. However, even that may not satisfy entirely, so one imagines the community is riddled with ‘informers’ and the corridors bear witness to brief meetings between conspirators at quiet moments…

    Just saying..

  • I understand that theology can get nit-picking but the responsible evangelist must first have a solid workmanlike theology, otherwise what is his evangel? He may wish to preach Christ, but which Christ? He may wish to hold up God, but which God. I notice the Vatican has rebuked the Italian priest who saw recent earthquakes in Italy as a judgement from God. The Vatican seems to be insisting that the Christian God is not a vengeful God. This is pre-Christian pagan God apparently. Are they denying that the NT God judges sin in history and does so through, among other things, earthquakes etc. And then there is the evangel itself.

    It’s all very well to call for more evangelism but while the evangel remains undefined everyone can happily ‘amen’ this ambition. It is when the theology of the gospel is articulated that problems arise. Defining the gospel caused major trauma in the C1 church and has done so ever since. Yet it is vital.

    Where we have no basic gospel (theological) unity we have no unity. Gospels, other than the one Christ preached, do not give life and Paul pronounces a curse on them. Strong language indeed. Would any of our brave Church leaders today be willing to be so bold? Would many recognise a false gospel if they heard it?

    Theological definition is basic. The gospel is a theology. In fact, all Christians have a theology. It is either a good or bad theology. It is either piecemeal or thought-out theology. It is either sufficiently biblical to be wholesome and sound or it is so far removed from Scripture as to be unwholesome and dangerous.

    Where the gospel is clearly and biblically preached it will attract some and repel others. That is its intended effect. It sifts. For too long churches have been afraid of giving offence. Now I know sometimes unnecessary offence is given but there is a necessary offence for at every point the gospel is unpalatable and offensive to fallen humanity.

    It tells him he is a sinner. It tells him God not he is the most important person in the universe and in his life. It tells him all he believes that is good about himself is worthless to God. Worse, it tells him he can do nothing to help himself, nothing but cry to God for mercy and embrace Jesus as Saviour. And it tells him, hat this Jesus who saves does so through being executed as a criminal and then doing the impossible, estroying death by resurrecting himself to never die again. Finally it tells him, that salvation means embracing this Saviour as the one who has absolute say over all his life, both this life and the one to come. Given the human heart and this gospel it is no wonder the broad road is more attractive. The narrow road is too confining, too difficult. Few find it and those who do, do so because of a divine miracle of grace in their hearts. But I’ve said too much already.

    • Anton

      We are specifically told that there will be earthquakes as a prelude to the return of Jesus (Matt 24:8), in fact.

      • Sarky

        There have been 10,000 ‘strong’ quakes in the last 100 years.
        Where is he then?

        • Anton

          Have a little patience, Sarky, and be glad that the event is still some way ahead because the immediate run-up to it is going to be a dreadful time.

          If you’re serious, I’ll tell you roughly how far ahead I reckon it is, and why. (NB Don’t expect a year from me!)

          • Sarky

            Sorry Anton, I have no time for that ‘end times’ cobblers. Anyone who actively prays for the death and destruction of the majority of this planet has something wrong with them.
            Anyway, revelation is clearly a message to the people of the time in which it was written and is even more clearly a message of hope to those under the oppression of the Roman empire.

          • The Explorer

            If the the End Times were the death of everybody and the destruction of the world, then you’d have a point. But the point is that the dead come back to life in a new form of existence, and Heaven and Earth are remade. After the darkness of the night comes the morning.

            You’re giving a preterist interpretation of ‘Revelation’. It’s partly true: ‘Revelation’ is partly about Christianity’s conflict with the Roman Empire. But it’s also about ta whole lot more that the preterist view ignores.

          • Anton

            You may be reassured that I don’t pray for the death and destruction of the majority of the planet. I pray for the return of Jesus to enact universal just government. Look at how well man governs himself in most countries and imagine the difference.

            You didn’t ask for my estimate of timescale so I won’t press itupon you, but please notice that 2000+ years ago the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was prophesied, as was globalisation; and that 300 years ago neither looked remotely conceivable.

          • Dominic Stockford

            …desiring not the death of the sinner, but that they turn to the Lord in repentance for their sin and are saved…

          • Sarky

            Yes, but the return of jesus will bring forth death and destruction.
            Be careful what you wish for.

          • Anton

            No, the prelude to the return of Jesus will involve death and destruction. But that’s man’s fault and it’s not something I pray for. Human history is written largely in blood; how long do you want it to go on for?

          • Sarky

            It’s the same as it’s ever been and always will be.
            You pray for the return, you get the prelude. Why pray for that?

          • Anton

            The return of Jesus is prophesied and cannot be stopped. So is the ghastly time before it. What do you think a believer should pray for in the light of those things?

          • Sarky

            That the atheists are right!

          • Anton

            Pray for another 2000 years of wars, poverty and injustice? No thanks.

          • Sarky

            As opposed to an armegeddon that condems 95% of the world’s population to hell?

          • Anton

            The question of who goes to hell is unrelated to when the judgement is made. But I’ll add that we all deserve it (me included).

          • Sarky

            Speak for ourself!

          • Anna055

            Well I’d be interested. I get the general impression it might be 30 to 50 years myself…..if we haven’t all poisoned ourselves with Glyphosate, fracking chemicals in our water, plastic chemicals in the ocean, or something else like that before then!

          • Anton

            Too much has to happen politically – world government – for it to be a few years. On the other hand Daniel said that the end would come like a flood, ie acceleration feeding on itself, and people can feel this happening today, while globalisation was inconceivable before the industrial era just 250 years ago. So the timescale is less than centuries. A timescale intermediate between “years” and “centuries” is Decades. (NB This does not rule out a few more than 10 decades.) And that is as specific as I am willing to be, both in public and private, except to say that it will be in the autumn in the northern hemisphere, ie the Festival of Tabernacles.

          • Anna055

            Thank you!

      • David

        Indeed ! The alarm bell rang with me too.

    • chefofsinners

      These are the reasons why John Stott is good theology. It is sound, basic, scriptural, understandable everyman theology.
      Is it despised by those who who peddle and muddle the Word of God for profit? No mattter.

      • David

        Tom Wright, a retired C of E evangelical bishop, is my favourite, but for similar reasons to those that you cite for Stott.

        • chefofsinners

          NTW? Tantamount to salvation by works.
          Burn the heretick!
          In love, of course.

          • David

            “salvation by works”
            I am orthodox on that topic, as with everything else. But because I disagree with someone on one or even more than one topic I still listen on others.
            Anyway he lives in Scotland where burnings at the stake are now illegal.

          • chefofsinners

            Are they? How disappointing. Even for treacherous plotters such as Nicola, Queen of Scots?

        • Anton

          NT Wright hasn’t a clue about the endtime scriptures and has even been sarcastic about people holding what I take to be the correct view. Poor show.

          • David

            Agreed. But the end times are not often the subject of my sermons.

        • carl jacobs

          N T Wright is a Liberal.

      • Anton

        Apart from his denial that Zionism is scriptural.

        • chefofsinners

          Yes, true. He is a man of his generation in that respect.
          I am somewhat ambivalent about Zionism. While anti-Semitism is a great evil in which the church has played its part, full blooded Zionism also concerns me. Israel does many things it should not, as it always has. It should not be above criticism as some Zionist Christians would have it. Prophecy is clear that Israel will experience much judgment before a glorious eternity. And in denying that Christ is the Messiah, the Jews make themselves enemies of the gospel. Our response should be one of love, of course, and we should remember that the gospel is to the Jew first, but there are those who would bring the yoke of the law into the church once more. Replacement theology is not for me, either.
          There seems to a good deal of confused thinking in the area of the church’s relationship to Israel and passions run high.

          • Anton

            And a good deal of subtle antisemitism if you ask me!

            Zionism is about whether the Jewish people have the right to political self-determination in a plot of land approximating to Mandatory Palestine. I am convinced that the biblical answer is Yes. This is not to say that their government is not sinful; it is in that sense like other nations. And of course every Jew needs Jesus for salvation, just like every gentile.

          • chefofsinners

            Yes, if you define Zionism in that way then the scriptures clearly support Israel’s right to be there. Indeed, the toleration of a mosque on the temple mount seems absurd.

          • Anton

            But no Christian should support a rebuilt Jewish Temple designed to reinstitute the animal sacrifices.

            It is remarkable that, after winning control of Temple Mount in 1967 for the first time since the second century, the Jews handed day-to-day control of it back to the local Muslim council, the Waqf. Evidently the secular Israelis who made the decision didn’t want the religious rabbis getting too ambitious and starting plans that could well have triggered a world war. Jerusalem shall be downtrodden of the gentiles, until the time of the gentiles is over. Very nearly over, today…

            One of these days the Dome of the Rock (which isn’t technically, a mosque, although the nearby al-Aqsa mosque is) will be removed by somebody as part of God’s plan, for it is decorated with the most anti-Trinitarian verses from an early version of the Quran.

            I would not be surprised to see a multifaith facility erected on Temple Mount in which some future megalomaniac unifies the messianic strands of the world’s religions (and most of them have such a strand). That is my best bet for how the prophecies will be fulfilled.

            Some decent anniversaries next year: June 7/8th, ancient Jerusalem retaken by Jews (50th); early November, Balfour Declaration 100th; October 31st, Reformation 500th (Luther and the theses).

    • David

      Well said !

  • Inspector General

    For all those who believe Christ is about to return on the strength of a few predictable earthquakes, it is idiocy of seismic proportions…

    Thought one would get that in before some other clown did…

    • Anton

      In case you are responding to my comments, I simply quoted from Matthew 24 where a much more detailed sequence of events than a few earthquakes – events which lead to the return of Jesus Christ to this earth – is specified.

  • Inspector General

    Do as the Inspector does, Clive. He scours the pavements for vertical dog turds. On finding one pointing to the sky, he builds a shrine there using twigs, empty coffee shop drink containers and cigarette butts and scourges himself bloody with his cat of nine tails (which he always carries) for the sin of having been born…

    • CliveM

      Um…….. No thanks!

      • Inspector General

        But Clive, you’re missing out on so much. Talking snakes, original sin, the sin of teenage sexual feelings. The very disgust of being human…

        Clive? Where are you, boy? The Inspector’s coming, and he’s coming to get you…

        • CliveM

          In hiding………

  • Anton

    I’m glad to be a fool for Christ!

    • CliveM

      Wasn’t referring to you Anton!!

      • Sarky

        You talkin’ to me..? (adopts best de Niro accent)

        • CliveM

          Eeeeep……………

      • Anton

        Thank you!

  • I’m still struggling to work out where some are coming from on this blog. The inspector, for instance. I take it he doesn’t claim to be a Christian… not one of the bible-believing variety at any rate (a variety increasingly rare though the only genuine article). Is his interest a culture favourable to more rightwing views. Can someone enlighten me. Inspector?

    • carl jacobs

      The Inspector’s religion might appropriately be called “Inspectorism”. It uses some of the same words as Christianity, but otherwise has no tangible overlap. Perhaps that is why he is a faithful member of the Roman Catholic Church.

      Oh. Hi, Jack …

      • Many thanks Carl. That’s helpful. His lot in life then is to bear with fortitude the white man’s burden.

        • carl jacobs

          bear with fortitude the white man’s burden

          Funny you chose that exact phrase. The Inspector has some “unique” ideas about the origin of the species that relate to that subject.

          • Anton

            If only they were unique views…

    • Inspector General

      Certainly John. One tries to make sense of what we are in the eyes of God. Free of the ‘benefit’ of earlier men’s thoughts. Using a higher understanding that has been gifted to one. Do ignore the scallies on this site who will inform you that yours truly is not a Christian. Bestowing Christianity is not in their remit, but the way they go on, they obviously think it is…Let’s just say they care, and want to escort the Inspector back to the theological pen they dwell in…

  • dannybhoy

    Too subtle for me..
    The man requested prayer and I pray for him.
    Christianity is not about displaying one’s intellectual prowess whilst sparring with another brother in the Lord; it’s about communicating God’s love and forgiveness and His call to repentance.
    That’s what being an Archbishop of Canterbury should be about.
    Even if it means the CofE being drummed out of the Establishment Brownies. and losing our pass to soirees and State functions…