Sentamu Welby Rock Sand
Church of England

Left-wing political bias in the Church is preferable to dumbness

 

One of the perks of my writing on Christianity, politics and society is that each year I am invited to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s annual reception at Lambeth Palace for those involved in the media. It’s a chance to do a bit of networking and meet some new faces, but also to hear Justin Welby give a short speech that usually offers a small insight into his job. At his latest gathering last Wednesday he gave a reminder that when the press is always keen to find a story involving you, sometimes what you say isn’t reported exactly as you meant it and occasionally you don’t help yourself by not fully considering how your words and actions will be interpreted once they start being scrutinised in the public arena.

To illustrate this point, Archbishop Justin gave the example of the new book On Rock or Sand? edited by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. It brings together a collection of essays by experts from various fields on the moral state of the nation. It has widely been reported that the book has been used as a pre-election attack on the Coalition Government and its policies – and for good reason. Quoting Karl Marx and describing your opinions as ‘left wing’, as Dr Sentamu did in his interview with John Bingham for the Telegraph, did neither himself nor his book any favours, as His Grace quite rightly responded.

Archbishop Justin admitted that the reception of On Rock or Sand? hadn’t quite gone the way he had hoped. He sought to clarify that while it was always intended to be political, its aim was never to be partisan or deliberately to single out any of the political parties for criticism. Despite there being some valuable contributions, particularly his own chapter, few will get that impression following Dr Sentamu’s comments, irrespective of the book’s actual content. Another lesson to be learned…

This is always the difficulty when the Church makes political interventions. When it comes to morality, poverty has rightly been a major concern for churches and Christian organisations over the last few years. The opinions of bishops and leaders carry weight because Christians up and down the country are taking practical action to support those in need. This is as it should be: Christianity divorced from compassion is an empty shell of ritual, but helping others without considering the reason they need that support in the first place will only lead to exhaustion and frustration. It is impossible to carry out widespread action to relieve poverty without there being a political dimension. However, when the discussion turns to government cuts, the evils of income inequality and families not being able to get by, the danger is that we slip into a simplistic way of speaking that either directly or indirectly blames the government for all of our social ills.

It’s easy to say that the rich should be taxed more or that welfare for the poor should be increased. These might be partial solutions, but there’s a limit to how much they could fix. There is much more to poverty than just a lack of money. Take poverty of aspiration, lack of education or family breakdown for example. Then we have matters at a wider level of economics, growth and austerity. A genuine improvement in our response to poverty will only come when people are not only valued and respected whatever their situation, but also when we understand the bigger picture and consider it from all angles.

I recently spoke to a Christian journalist who was bemoaning the fact that they always struggled to find Christians willing to give comment on economic policy. Finding someone to talk about food poverty is much more straightforward. It’s partly because being short of cash to buy a meal is a lot easier to understand than government finances, but if the Church is serious about the politics of serving the poor then neither of these can be ignored because they are intrinsically linked.

I find it deeply concerning that, as a nation, we are so indebted that we’re paying £1 billion in interest every week. Based on current projections, these payments will reach £70 billion annually in the next three years, which is more than Britain spends on defence, schools and housing.

If this is the sort of thing that Christians should care about – and I believe it is – then we need to be willing to widen the conversation and openly deal with the inevitable disagreements that will go with it. There is no single right Christian answer for many of these issues, which is why different Christians find themselves supporting a range of political parties. Perhaps On Rock or Sand? would have been perceived as less party political, as Archbishop Justin had hoped, if it had done just that.

What we mustn’t lose sight of amongst any criticism is the need for the Church to continue doing what Dr Sentamu’s book is trying to achieve, and that is to move the political conversation forward and develop a vision for where we want to be as a society. Inevitably the Church will make mistakes and get things wrong, but the worst it can do is say nothing. In an age when disillusionment in party politics is running so high, we need the Church to be making a valuable contribution to restore hope – even if by doing so it sometimes ends up being accused of political bias along the way.

An edited version of this article first appeared at Christian Today on the 2nd of February.

  • hmm maybe. or maybe we could use a few senior churchman who didn’t see it as their duty to be cheerleaders for a bigger state. Pretending that it’s all a media misunderstanding rings false to me.

    • Anton

      Hallelujah!

  • Martin

    It isn’t the Church’s role to make political comment. It’s the role of Christians to firstly preach the gospel and a good point at which to start that is to point out sin. Unless the sinner can see their need they aren’t going to seek a Saviour.

    Income inequality is not evil, per se, but can often be a result of sin and can result in the sin of envy. Likewise food poverty is sometimes the fault of the sufferer. Did not the son who wasted his inheritance deserve the hunger that followed?

    We live in a society that does not view the gospel as important, that thinks that politics is about winning and persuading people to vote for you. Who ever is in government only does a partial job, either supporting the poor indiscriminately, or encouraging the market in like manner. And all the time seeking to enhance themselves. The fight is more important to them than the country and people.

    When those who rise to prominence in the churches abandon the preaching of the gospel for the promotion of their views they are failing.

    • Anton

      Martin, you say it isn’t the church’s role to make political comment. This plugs into a deeper debate, about Establishment. Ultimately I agree with your comment (which is partly why I shifted to nonconformism), but an Established church might be called to contain turbulent priests who speak truth unto power publicly. The trouble is that, while I don’t doubt the sincerity of its authors, I am not convinced that On Rock Or Sand speaks the truth.

      If the aim of this wretched document was, in Justin Cantuar’s own words, “never to be [politically] partisan”, why then did he not include contributions from a few people on the Christian Right? Why all on the Christian Left? Perhaps he has been outmanoeuvred by the latter in the form of John Sentamu?

      Gillan, I agree with you about our national interest payments. Repaying the debt so as to get out from under these is a higher priority than tax cuts (although some hope that QE applied to the currency in which the debt is denominated will inflate it away in real terms). But we must also live within our means so it does not recur. And also apply moral policies, which are emphatically not the subsidy of the consequences of sin which John Sentamu takes them to be. Subsidising sin causes it to proliferate.

      By the way, the rich – more like the squeezed middle, actually – already pay more tax, because it is levied not only as a percentage (the divine precedent in Mosaic Law, it is worth pointing out) but the percentages increase with income.

      • Dreadnaught

        Ian Paisley broke the mould on that topic when he founded a successful political party based on of his own religious convictions. Having Monarch as head of a hybrid Christian denomination is absolutely political.
        Christian Democrats were also a major political force in Germany and of course there is the State of Israel; etc etc.

      • Martin

        Anton

        And clearly the establishment of the CoE is not something that sits easily with what the Bible says. Perhaps I might see the point of the CoE if it were to be a bit more turbulent toward government on the subject of sin.

        As to subsidising sin, it is certainly a foolish notions but it is also a foolish notion to imagine God cannot rule the finance of a nation in the same way that He rules its weather.

    • magnolia

      Surely if nothing else the church should be calling for honesty in financial dealings and fair weights and measures. To achieve these alone from where the financial system is – monopolies, cartels, special interest groups, the military industrial complex, worldwide ponzi schemes, derivative insanity, computer bots setting off stop losses, manipulated markets where traders paint in chart patterns , just to name a few- would be a major revolution, though I am sure many in the Church are unaware of this.

      • Martin

        Magnolia

        And not just honesty, but a facing up to sin and calling it for what it is.

        • magnolia

          Yes, with the proviso that what we understand by sin is a theological definition which has largely bypassed the comprehension of the general public, for whom it seems that if you refer to anyone as a sinner they imagine a heinous criminal, s.o who murders or cheats on s.o with many others. Kind of lurid and melodramatic default!!

          • Martin

            Magnolia

            It was ever so, indeed Jesus felt the need to point out that there was only on who was good.

  • Rasher Bacon

    According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope..

    Given Sentamu’s previous comments on the importance if the gospel, why are the pages filled with political controversy? Why can’t he criticise left and right alike and be faithful to his own master? On his own profession this is his story and we still have dumbness. Look at the tags for your post Gillan – gospel isn’t among them, but Karl Marx is.

    Still no hope, just rearranging the furniture.

    Dumber than a bag of hammers.

  • Rasher Bacon

    Where do we want to be as a society?

    In heaven.

    Ephesians. 2: 5-7

  • sarky

    In the eyes of the majority, the church and politics is equally irrelevant. People have no faith in politicians and no faith in god. Why? Empty words and empty promises.

    • The Explorer

      No faith in God is fine if God doesn’t exist. Let’s assume for a moment that He doesn’t.
      No faith in politicians may be equally laudable, but the problem is that politicians DO exist. That’s something on which even you and I would agree. And so politicians are not irrelevant: the social and economic decisions they make impact directly on our lives: even when we didn’t elect them.
      (If God exists, then God also impacts on our lives, but that’s another discussion. Let’s confine ourselves for the moment to what we can see.)

      • Dreadnaught

        No faith in politicians may be equally laudable, but the problem is that politicians DO exist.

        Politicians need only to be suffered for limited periods and we get the politicians we deserve by not teaching that democracy fails when individuals fail to engage themselves in politics.
        One of the greatest threats to traditional democracy is evident in the running of Tower Hamlets where Lutfur Rahaman’s accolytes rigged the votes by telling muslims it was un-Islamic not to vote for re-electing his regeime. A Court case for electoral fraud is ongoing.

        • The Explorer

          The individual my be for a limited period, but the species isn’t. My point is that politicians are not irrelevant. They have ideas. And ideas have consequences.

          • CliveM

            And the more stupid the idea, the greater the consequence.

            Politics is simply about how we run society. We can be political without being party political.

            You are right Politicians are not irrelevant and we need to engage with them.

  • Arden Forester

    The national indebtedness is caused by governments allowing banks to create an economy based on slavish debt. It is modern slavery. But I fear Justin Welby and John Sentamu, sensitive as they are, cannot articulate this as they need the secular world on side for their own ecclesiastical endeavours. Paying £1 billion in interest every week is the price we pay for allowing our democratic representatives free rein. It is mammon in a modern setting.

    • Anton

      It’s actually the price we pay for a universal-suffrage democracy in which elections are between candidates who seek to outbid each other in bribery while still sounding plausible.

      What would be unfair about an electoral system in which only net contributors to the exchequer get the vote? (Not a rhetorical question, I welcome all thought-out responses.)

      • Arden Forester

        The first paragraph I agree with. The second is not based on the first exactly. What we need is truthful politicians who give us facts on which to base our voting decisions.

        • Anton

          The world has been looking for truthful politicians for several thousand years and the search is unlikely to be over at the next election, which is why I raised the question I did in the second paragraph…

      • bluedog

        If one looks at the rate of inflation in England/UK from c1250, using corn prices as a benchmark before other records became available, prices were largely stable until the 1920’s. Wars caused bursts of excess, but money was generally very sound. Since 1920 the compound rate of inflation is almost astronomical. The debasement of the currency is closely correlated to the expansion of the franchise. But how to restrict the franchise if universal suffrage is the problem? Currently the political class is marching grimly in the wrong direction and still seeks to widen the franchise further. One is never certain as to what extent the politicos think coherently, but on the evidence of the Scottish vote, their current unstated aim is to reduce the voting age to the age of consent.
        Perhaps this has an appealing symmetry to the political mind. In the opinion of this writer it is appalling rather than appealing. I mean, what does a 16 yo yoof know, about anything? This demographic will be the most easily bribeable one could imagine, and yet Cameron went along with Salmond’s plan for mob rule.
        It seems we can agree that the franchise should be restricted. Direct tax is almost certainly the wrong instrument. After all, if the politicians are forcing the franchise younger and younger, they are actually fighting a powerful demographic trend of ageing. Elderly pensioners pay very little tax but they are an essential counter-weight to 16 year olds. Even when drugged by the best NHS generics, one would hope that an OAP would be a more responsible voter than an equally drugged teenager. Indeed, as the profile shifts so that over 25% of the population is over 65, bribing OAPs may be the key to electoral glory. Cameron will be the last to work that one out.

  • Uncle Brian

    Was it ever the explicit intention of the writers and editors to persuade readers to cast their vote for one party rather than another? If so, was that the Labour Party? In that case, a better title might have been Anglicans for Ed, with those on the other side invited to publish a rival book called Anglicans for Dave. And why stop there? Why not an Anglicans for Nige and even an Anglicans for Nick?

  • Shadrach Fire

    Gillan,
    An interesting observation of the Churches view of the media’s view of the Church.
    I used to be a bell-ringer in my teens and apart from enjoying the occupation I now realize the significance of the activity in modern society.
    Some are called to preach and others to do other things. The summoning of people to church is similar to the town crier who bring the news to the people. Likewise the present day media (Town Crier) is out to catch our attention to dispense what they call the news.
    Go in to all the towns and preach the good news is our commission. What we are not doing very effectively is communicating the bad news of how our Parliament has deceived the people, the Church and denied the Lord Jesus Christ.
    We need integrity.

  • len

    As we move away from our Judeo /Christian roots there seem to be more and more problems occurring as we move off our moral and ethical foundations.

    On one end of the scale we have those described as ‘scroungers’ and’ spongers’ who have no intention of working and see it the responsibility of the State to attend to all their needs.

    On the other end of the scale we have the super rich who do all they can to avoid paying their taxes and contribution to the society that pours money into their corporate bank accounts.
    Both are equally immoral.
    But who can blame either party in a society that has accept the theory that there are ‘no moral absolutes’?.
    We have cast aside our moral foundation and its every man for himself…

    • Anton

      I agree that both sets of people are equally immoral. But to equate one set with Labour and the other with Tory would be far too simplistic.

      • Happy Jack’s provisional manifesto from an earlier thread:

        Initially he would limit the right to vote by: age, education, employment status and property ownership.
        Political parties would have local elections to nominate representatives to Parliament – no party lists or central imposition.
        Next he would focus on the family and review the options over: ‘no fault’ divorce, the availability of mass contraception and abortion on demand.
        Obviously, homosexual faux ‘marriage’ would be scrapped and all statutory recognition and protection of this group as a mollycoddled species with special “rights” would be binned.
        The welfare state would be replaced by charity run by the Church and based on voluntary contributions.

        He would consider a coalition with like minded people.

        • Anton

          I’m not necessarily against all of those criteria for voting, Jack, but multiple ownership of property is tricky and defining education is tricky (there are some degree courses around that actually make people worse members of society IMHO).

          To end the culture of entitlement I’d invoke divine precedent and use the Mosaic principle of combining (a) mandatory payments into a hardship fund on a fixed-percentage-of-income basis, with (b) handouts at the discretion of local community leaders who have personal knowledge of applicants, so that entitlement is not done by an amoral mathematical formula and some element of morality can be involved in decisions. (I know that this makes nepotism possible but in a fallen world no system is perfect and God is wiser than man; there can be a cap on payment to any one applicant, and decisions can be made by a council, not by one man.) Mosaic Law had that and personal charity to the poor, implying that God believes pure charity is not going to be enough.

        • Shadrach Fire

          Sounds like gerrymandering.

          • Always wanted to mander a few gerrys.

  • Doctor Crackles

    Gillan, do you really think it a ‘perk’ to be invited to a gathering where Welby talks about himself? What sort of life do you lead?

  • The Explorer

    Left-wing political bias = dumbness. Now there’s a topic for debate.

  • dannybhoy

    “This is as it should be: Christianity divorced from compassion is an
    empty shell of ritual, but helping others without considering the reason
    they need that support in the first place will only lead to exhaustion
    and frustration.”
    Quite so, and the reason being that nowhere in the Bible (or even Church tradition!) can a case be made for treating poverty -even relative poverty- in isolation.
    In a modern interdependent economy the Church has as much responsibility to argue for the provision of work as it has to help provide for those in enforced or state encouraged idleness

    In my opinion the Church has allowed itself to become a quasi governmental welfare agency emptied of the religious content which provides the motivation for helping and providing.

  • len

    The church is trying to find its position where it can be’ relevant’ in what is fast becoming a secular society with strong pagan undertones.

    So does the church compromise with the World or does the Church preach Christ , the Cross and risk offending people`s sensibilities?.
    The Church without the Cross of Jesus Christ is just another charity doing good works(not a bad thing in itself ) but that Church is no longer a threat to Satan so he will pass it by and leave it alone.Where we see a Church being linked with’ the world system’ growing and prospering we see a Church that has given in to compromise.

    Of course there is a fine balance to being a Christian living in the World but not of the world and the pressure to compromise to gain acceptance is always there.
    Probably the worst thing that ever happened to the church is when Christianity became’ the State religion’ and the State poured its corruption into the church .

    • Yes, to think, that ‘evil empire’ brought a combination of Greek philosophy, Roman law and Christian faith and values all across Europe and from there to the world.

      • len

        ‘Greek Philosophy ‘corrupted the Word of God .

        • In what way?

          • Anton

            For a start, the Hebraic worldview was conditioned by the many centuries during which the Jews lived under Mosaic Law; centuries in which the Jews (uniquely) had God’s priorities drilled into them. Much of the New Testament
            was written by Jews, and it shares the Hebraic outlook of the Old Testament. One aspect of that view is that the spiritual and the material are equally part of God’s creation, coming together in man. In contrast the ancient Greek view was that the spiritual is more exalted than the physical, and this has been transmitted into our culture. That is why our civilisation regards people who work with their hands as inferior to managers, although it is not the biblical view. Within the church, the Greek view that the spiritual is superior exalts the monastic life. But the biblical view is that your deeds inform your prayer and your prayer informs your deeds, so that a monastic life of prayer without deeds cannot be a full Christian life. To grow, faith needs practical testing. Jesus often went alone to the desert to pray, but he always came back, to do. The Greek view that the physical is inferior has also lowered the church’s view of the human body and sex (which Genesis 2 suggests is for joy within committed marital relationships, not exclusively for procreation). The Greek worldview is also why death can be seen as a friend, as a liberation from the body. Keats’ well known Ode to a nightingale was packed with Greek imagery and portrayed its author as “half in love with easeful death.” Scripture is clear that death is no friend but an enemy which ends relationships; and someday we shall be resurrected from the grave not as pure spirit, but with new bodies.

          • Hmmm … two of your ‘favourite’ topics – monasticism and birth control – which we have already discussed. Jack would dispute your analysis.

            Anyway, Len’s point was that Greek philosophy “corrupted the Word of God”. Jack disputes this. Some academics argue there is a strong possibility the Torah actually influenced early Greek philosophy and that Saint John’s Gospel and Saint Paul’s teachings brought the two approaches together.

            ““The difference between the revealed doctrines of the Jews and the philosophy of the Greeks consists chiefly in this, that in the sacred books of the Jews truth is expressed in symbols and figures, whereas Greek philosophy puts the figure aside and sets before us the thought which the figure expressed.”

            (Stöckl, Lehrbuck der Geschichte der Philosophie (Münster, 1870; Mainz, 1888). I, 183; English trans. (Dublin, 1887), p. 161.)

          • Anton

            Jack, the fact that we have already discussed them does not mean you have delivered a knockout blow, except perhaps in your own mind. I am content to let His Grace’s readership decide for themselves where truth is found in such exchanges. Granted that Len meant “Greek philosophy corrupted *the understanding of* the word of God”, the points I have made above in my post beginning “For a start..” are as yet unresponded to.

          • Lol …. Jack was not suggesting he had “delivered a knockout blow”. You are sooo competitive, Anton.

          • Anton

            Don’t pretend that you aren’t, Jack. I’m not sure what point you mean. Ask me a question that is obviously non-rhetorical and I’ll reply (although I’m about to go away for 48 hours and can’t guarantee a swift response).

          • len

            Jack seems to like’ the circular argument after a while he gets confused and says the church (or whatever subject he is on ) is ‘a mystery. ‘He plays this as his trump card when all else fails. Sometimes back up comes in the shape of’ ‘ Albert’ (who is a wizard with smoke and mirrors and all sorts of conjuring tricks)

          • len

            The only Knockout blow here was to Jacks sense of reason when he accepted the false doctrines of the RCC

          • len

            ‘The tremendous role the ancient Greek philosophies and mystery religions played in
            near-totally dis­torting Christian thinking is very important to recognize.’

            http://www.chrissherrerd.com/articles/article.cfm?ArticleID=29

          • Jack recognises these threats, Len, as did the early Church Fathers.

          • Old Blowers

            “However, it is not true to say “Greek philosophy corrupted the Word of God.”
            Then you have never fully apreciated the mundane ramblings and strange ‘logical’ philosophy therefore of Acquinas, as Uncle Albert and Old Jim have? *gigglesissimo*

          • Bugger off, you reprobate. How are you keeping?

          • Anton

            Actually, Blowers, a good deal of Aquinas is just what Christians need in secular democracies in order to make the case for laws that we consider moral.

          • Anton

            Jack, here is another way in which Greek philosophy has sadly marred the Christian message. The context for the New
            Testament is the Old Testament rather than the writings of the early church
            fathers, who were uniformly Greek in outlook. When the Greek philosophical viewpoint entered the church it did
            serious damage. The church is right to insist that God is Father, Son and Holy
            Spirit, and that Jesus Christ is both totally divine and totally human (which
            the ‘Arians’ denied, like those who today have a high opinion of Jesus but
            insist that he was just “a great moral teacher”). Christian philosophers then
            started to wonder how God was Trinity
            and how Jesus was both totally divine
            and totally human. They sought to penetrate these mysteries using human
            reasoning, and they ended up disagreeing. In the politicised church of the 4th
            century and after, that led to schism over things that the Bible is silent
            about. Attempts to understand how Christ is totally God and totally man are
            futile, because we would first need to
            know what unfallen man is and what God is. As these things are best learnt from
            Christ himself, the attempt to understand his nature involves circular logic. St
            Paul, the New Testament’s theologian, took Christ simply as his starting point.
            Early councils of the church
            nevertheless declared heretical the Christology of the large ‘Nestorian’ church
            movement that grew beyond the eastern borders of the ancient Roman Empire.
            (From a
            paradox – from mutually inconsistent statements – one can formally prove that
            any other statement whatsoever is true. Paradoxes exist involving the Trinity
            and involving Christ, indicating that these mysteries outrun mere human logic;
            but those paradoxes – also involving Christ’s humanity deriving from Mary –
            were used by Cyril of Alexandria to generate heretical statements from the Nestorian
            position, and then deny the faith of the Nestorians.) This movement extended to India and China,
            but it has been written out of most European church histories; you can read its
            1000-year tale in Philip Jenkins’ book The
            Lost History of Christianity. Then, in the 11th century, came a schism
            about details – which the Bible nowhere goes into – of the Trinity. This led to
            mutual excommunications of the Latin-speaking churches of Western Europe and
            the Greek-speaking churches of Eastern Europe. If ever you think that
            philosophical arguments about
            Christology and the Godhead constitute advanced theology, and worry that they
            are for an intellectual elite who are the most advanced Christians, don’t worry.
            God is not an object to ponder
            rationally – in effect, psychoanalyse – or to ponder mystically. He is a Being
            whom all believers may know.

          • Jack’s post below addresses much of these points. The Gentiles to whom Paul preached ‘got’ what he was talking about because of the philosophies they were used to hearing. Man is a rational being and wants to be able to explore and discuss his faith.

            Are you suggesting we do not need to makes attempts to comprehend the mysteries – Fall, Incarnation, God’s Nature, the Trinity and, as a Church, share understandings? Philosophic tools of logic and reasoning give us the means to do this if rooted in the Biblical revelation.

            As for schisms and disputes, these speak to the jealousies and rivalries of man rather than discredit theological approaches which use the discipline of philosophy.

          • Anton

            “Are you suggesting we do not need to makes attempts to comprehend the mysteries – Fall, Incarnation, God’s Nature, the Trinity and, as a Church, share understandings?”

            Depends what you mean by comprehend. I understand what the Incarnation was and that it happened (by a miracle) and it’s not clear that there is more to add to the Bible accounts. Ditto the Fall. The Trinity – most certainly a mystery, and one beyond the reach of man I believe. My gripe is that Greek-minded Christian philosophers have gone farther than the Bible in trying to comprehend the Trinity and have fallen out over speculative specifics that nowhere appear in scripture, leading to needless schism and mutual excommunication between sets of people who are all Trinitarian and believe that Christ is wholly God and wholly man. That is grievous and fractious and futile and it should never have happened. Such is what happens when God is treated as an object to analyse philosophically rather than someone whom we can know and love because he made us in his image. If you don’t see this immediately then the muse of Homer and Shakespeare would not communicate it to you, far less your humble correspondent. But it is tragedy greater than even they ever wrote.

          • A Triune God isn’t clear in the Bible. The understanding was arrived at via Genesis and Greek philosophy and reflection on:

            “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

            We are called to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

          • Anton

            A Triune God is not mentioned explicitly in the Bible but you don’t need abstruse philosophical tools to infer it. Elementary exegesis is enough. There is the Creator, whom Jesus called Father. There is Jesus, who is clearly identified as divine in the prologue to John’s gospel as you rightly point out. And there is the Holy Spirit unambiguously implied to be divine by Paul in 1 Cor 3:16. More than three? No: the definitive trinitarian verse is at the very end of Matthew, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

            In th eOld Testament there are hints: the plurality of the Hebrew word Elohim for God, and the fact that the Shema in Deuteronomy 6 says the Lord our God is one Lord, where the word for one is CHAD not YACHID. YACHID really is One, whereas CHAD can mean a plurality in unity. Husband and wife become one flesh in Genesis 2:24 and the word for One is CHAD.

            I could not agree more with you that we should love God with all of our minds too. There is too much dumbing-down going on in many churches today. But I suggest our minds are to be used in apologetics rather than speculation about the nature of God. Suppose that Jesus were to appear in person and settle the question of the filioque one way or the other. What difference would it make?

          • None of that leads to the unique Christian understanding that can be gleaned from an informed reading of Saint John. None of it leads to a proper Christology or understanding of the Incarnation. Greek and Jewish ideas came together in the New Testament. God wants us to know Him – that’s why He revealed His name – and to love Him.

            All this did make a very considerable difference in converting people’s from false faith systems to Christianity. It could do so again. The philosophical and theological structure of our beliefs are where people can dialogue. It’s no good waving our different holy books at one another and saying “we are right – you are wrong”. We need a means of dialogue.

          • Anton

            Jack,

            Suppose that Jesus had appeared in person and settled the question of the filioque one way or the other; and settled how He was both wholly God and wholly man (something else not in scripture which Christians have divided over after applying philosophical tools to Him). What difference would it make, or have made, to the practical outworking of the Christian faith?

          • Anton,

            Jesus doesn’t need to return tomorrow to explain all these things. He is with us in His Mystical Body, the Church. That’s why it’s One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic. Happy Jack is confident He would find the Catholic Church teaching reliably on these issues in as much as has been revealed by the Holy Spirit, who is guiding it to all Truth.

            The resolution of divisions over these issues were important to our faith. Jack wants to know who he is worshipping and he also wants the words to be able to explain it to others. The Greeks were converted because they understood the philosophical terms that the Christian theology revealed, clarified and enlightened. As Jack said we need to do more than quote from Scripture. And, as you know, some of the disputes in the Church have been very significant and serious; others were overstated or exaggerated for regional and political rivalries.

          • Anton

            At risk of repetition: Christians need to agree that anything beyond the Bible (or what simple exegesis can determine from it) which speaks of how God is triune, and how Christ is fully human and fully divine, is speculative, and that believers should not fall out over such things. Using the fallible human tools of philosophy to try to go further has led to tragic and needless disunity.

          • Anton

            Jack, we don’t need a means of dialogue, we need to agree that anything beyond the Bible (or what simple exegesis can determine from it) which speaks of how God is triune, and how Christ is fully human and fully divine, is speculative, and that Christians should not fall out over such things.

          • len

            Colossians 2:8

            See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ.

      • Anton

        To say that the Roman Empire “brought” Christian faith to Europe and the Mediterranean basin is somewhat misleading; more accurate to say that Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire in spite of pagan Rome’s best efforts to eradicate it. Jesus Christ knew what He was doing in coming at a time when travel was greatly expedited by the pax Romana and road system, but those things were not set up for that human purpose. And I entirely agree with Len that “Probably the worst thing that ever happened to the church is when Christianity became’ the State religion’ and the State poured its corruption into the church.” I suggest that Satan shifted tactics from persecution of the church from the outside to corruption from the inside, via his oldest trick of temptation to worldly influence and wealth, and that it met with greater success.

  • Anton

    Great photo Gillan!

  • magnolia

    Fascinating comment on how difficult it is to find Christians who will comment on macroeconomics. I find myself going to largely American sites and people for this- Ron Paul, G. Edward Griffin (“The Monster from Jekyll Island”, the group of contributors to King World News (many Christians there) and Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert (agnostic and atheist but moral and believers in free markets) on the Keiser report, all of whom are willing and able to speak.

    Of course it is a potentially dangerous area once you get too close and name names of malfeasants. It seems that you might get a hit and run or a case of the Boston brakes as Andrew Maguire and ( it seems most likely) the Rev. David Wilkerson, of “The Cross and the Switchblade” suffered, respectively.

    • Anton

      Are you suggesting that Wilkerson was murdered? I’d not heard that conspiracy theory but I wouldn’t scorn it if the evidence looks plausible. Have you details, please?

      • magnolia

        His car veered into the other carriageway. Some saw it as suicide due to the fact that he was having some disappointment with his church (aren’t pastors always?) or had cancer. But that is to my mind not the action of a risk taker (which was integral to his character), nor consonant with his teaching that morning, nor what a person who is altruistic does, nor what a man of faith who preached that morning does. Even had he despaired he would not have done it that way. You can not eat, or take medicines in unfortunate combinations or all sorts rather than that.

        It could have been sheer accident, but unlikely on a stretch he travelled regularly and when he seemed very sharp. On the other hand he had been having a go at anti-Christian influences in the US and had been very outspoken, so had accrued some very nasty enemies. I find it likely in the circs. that it was no accident.. (His sermon for the a.m strangely enough used those words, but regarding God’s economy, so I think that those who think he was inadvertently prophetic were a bit off.) Of course I could be wrong, but these brave risk takers often end up martyred one way or another as it goes with the territory. And sometimes people who are terminally ill throw caution to the winds….

        • Anton

          All I know about Wilkerson says it was not suicide. This is certainly disquieting information; thank you.

          • magnolia

            I think it is regarded as a mystery. He made some very interesting predictions. I don’t think he would have said “prophecies” as I believe he saw himself as a Watchman rather than a prophet. Here- hopefully- is a link:
            http://letscompare.blogspot.com/

            One of those cases where it is easy to think of further better examples of these things actually happening than those given, maybe due to the date of the link, I haven’t analysed it a lot.

            As for the autopsy, I see nothing definite on the internet, and it seems not to have progressed further than indefinite. There is one lady who claims to have had a common enemy and to have suffered and survived a similar car accident, and she certainly seems very angry, though it is hard to tell if she is an obsessive for mental or angry frustrated and determined reasons, if you see what I mean!

            Nothing more than circumstantial in any direction, but I think the evidence is tilted strongly one way, as I have encountered too many of the “awkward squad” who have been clearly “taken out” by the unscrupulous so and sos who would do such a thing to be surprised at the apparent high accident and suicide rates amongst such folk.

  • carl jacobs

    It would be nice to find a Christian leader who could comment knowledgeably on economics. It’s not enough to read the 5th chapter of Matthew and moralize. You have to know what you are talking about. So (for example) you don’t complain about the ratio of CEO compensation to minimum wage as if a man’s value in the workplace can be determined by fiat. You understand that a man’s value is determined by the marginal cost of replacement. You understand that a man’s market value has nothing to do with his intrinsic worth. If you can’t separate issues like that, then you shouldn’t be commenting on the subject.

    • Anton

      Well said. I have long struggled to educate myself on the subject. (The maths is not a problem as I am a theoretical physicist.) Most economics texts just plough in without really thinking about the meaning of the variables in the equations they write. for me the key was to ask myself the question “what IS money?” and not stop until I had satisfied myself. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was a huge help; wordy, dated – but brilliant. To use 18th century categories, economics is a “moral science” (ie about collective human behaviour) rather than a “natural science” (such as physics).

    • Phil R

      Not sure I agree with your economics mumbo jumbo

      I tend to pay good people above the market rate and reward things like pleasantness and reliability.

      I have of course sacked people for poor work or poor attendance. However, some are sacked for other reasons not connected with their worth. I sacked two good workers a few years ago for being disrespectful. (I just took a dislike to them). A number of years ago I sacked another guy (Excellent worker, with a family) just because my wife took a dislike to him, (She did not like the way he looked at her) and because he had to work with her most days, he had to go. The guy who replaced him was not half as good in my opinion, but my wife was happy with him.

      All three struggled to get work afterwards at the same rate. The one my wife disliked started his own business and did reasonably well.

      The point of all of this is that I don’t think that “worth” is really all down to skills, availability and how well you do your job. There are other factors that perhaps are equally important that determine how you are paid and how you rise. Most people need a patron of some description. (Even I suspect in the Church)

      Most CEOs have been given the opportunities to get to that level, either by family of friends. It is not solely down to their “worth”. I got to where I am by being at the right place at the right time and investing in the right things. I got more money than some by being lucky and not by being “worth” more.

      Life is far far more complex than you make it out to be Carl.

      • sarky

        You sacked someone because your wife didn’t like the way they looked at her?? Lucky for you they didn’t go to a tribunal!!! Why didn’t your wife just ask what the problem was instead of sacking the poor bloke?
        You really are a great advertisement for Christianity. NOT.

        • Phil R

          That was not the point.

          The point was the guy’s worth was determined by factors other than his work/skills

          Do you think I was so stupid as to tell him that he was sacked for staring at my wife?

          No I told him we were reorganising and offered him a months’ salary. Which he took and as it turned out was probably one of the best things that ever happened to him.

          I could not find a replacement, so my wife had organise 4 people do the work of 5. She ended up doing most of his job for over a year in addition to her own. She seemed to enjoy the challenge.

          • sarky

            You really are a despicable human being. You sacked a family man because you determined his worth by the way he supposedly looked at your wife.
            I now understand why you are against women, you are one of those impotent pussy whipped men whose lives are totally controlled by their wives.

          • bluedog

            I’m struggling. It was Phil’s wife who didn’t like the way an employee looked at her. So Phil did the right thing by his wife, defending his marriage in the process, and yet you say ‘I now understand why you are against women’. Huh?

          • sarky

            I was taking into account phils previous comments regarding women.

          • Phil R

            It would be handy to know which previous comment you are in fact referring to!

          • sarky

            Was thinking of the thread in which ‘walton boy’ called you a wanker.

          • Phil R

            So what us the atheist take on this. If a woman becomes a sack of potatoes through her own efforts. Should the man feign enthusiasm for sex or should he change her for a less neglected model?

          • sarky

            What happened to for better or for worse? To unconditional love?
            My wife put on weight after the birth of our children, did I love her less? absolutely not. The atheist view is that we are not superficial sexist pigs and that we love our women no matter what!

          • Phil R

            What is love if it is not tough when necessary?

            If you love someone you want the best for them. That is why it says for better or worse.

            As to the sexist pig comment. My Christian view is that you are making excuses.

          • Phil R

            For crying out loud man

            My point was that people get sacked for all sorts of reasons. My wife called him a creep and that was good enough for me at the time. Sorry if the real world offends you, but the reality is that I will get rid of an employee for whatever reason I like. Every employer is like that. At least mine have proper contracts.

            He was a good worker though and I still believe that it was a good idea.

            Here is another real world example. A few months ago I got rid of a guy, because I was not pleased with the quality of his work. I then employed a woman who does a better job for only 2/3 the salary. She wants time off to sort the childcare and I am happy because I am saving £10k. She can afford to work for £10k less because it is a second income in the family. She actually does more work than the other guy in less time.

          • sarky

            Sorry phil but I have problems with your morality. At least have the balls to tell the guy the real reason and not some snidy excuse that stops him getting rightful compensation.
            Also have problems with you seeming happy with yourself for paying the women 2/3 salary and then admitting she does a better job.
            People like you are why business has such a bad reputation.

          • Phil R

            You see I am always told by Atheists on this blog that their morals are their business.

            So on what basis can you object to my morals?

            “Also have problems with you seeming happy with yourself for paying the women 2/3 salary and then admitting she does a better job.”

            We are both happy, me with a lower wage bill and she with increased flexibility over time off. I think she would say that she is happier with this at the moment than more money.

          • sarky

            As christians you always claim the moral high ground!!
            Also dont liers have a place in the lake of fire? Prehaps you should have been honest with your employee as to why you sacked him.
            I tell you what phil offer this woman 10 grand more but with less flexible hours and see what she says. Pretty sure I know the answer!!

          • Phil R

            I don’t claim better morals. I am not saved because of my morals.

            BTW why should I pay more for this job to be done since a woman will work for 10k less. It is like Carl said the job is now worth what it is

            I am pleased to learn that you always buy your clothes and other goods from companies that have perfect ethical standards.

            Do you?

      • IanCad

        “–my wife took a dislike to him–“
        A similar story (In reverse) to Mr & Mrs Potiphar’s.
        And they talk about womens’ rights as a recent thing!

  • Dominic Stockford

    It would be impossible, in a sinful world, to prepare a genuinely Christian economic argument that would ever work.

    • CliveM

      It would depend on your definition of work and what you believed the outcome should be.

      • Dominic Stockford

        But whatever you put in place would be undermined by the inevitable result of a fallen world, the sins of men.

        • CliveM

          Well if the outcome needs to be perfect, then yes it’s impossible. However I think an outcome that is simply “better then now” would also be a Christian outcome and that shouldn’t be impossible.

  • Inspector General

    In a country where we have the benefit of democracy, why does the church need to get involved in politics? Have the 2 archbishops nothing better to do with their time than to be ignored by politicians.

    The Inspector has started doing missionary work on Pink News, as the bishops can’t be bothered.There’s so much pain and anger there, so much, sadness, wrath, well, you get the picture, that in the name of Christ, one must bring them some form of relief. One is certainly up against it. They are more savage than the blackamoor, and more surly than any arab. Some show definite signs of demonic possession, and will need seeing to with a red hot poker probably. (If anyone has a brazier lying around, do say)

    It’s a thankless task. You wouldn’t believe the language they use. Not the other day, the Inspector was called a shtbag, of all things. What caused them to sink to that level one asks…

    Anyway, the Inspector will return soon when the heathen have been enlightened.

    Toodle pip !

    • Politically__Incorrect

      Inspector, that’s very decent of you to devote your time to civilising the savages on PN. I’m sure they don’t appreciate it though. As you say, there is a lot of pain there, though I suspect a lot of it is on request.

      Sorry I don’t have a brazier, though I have a blow-torch and a hedge-trimmer…

    • “The Inspector has started doing missionary work on Pink News, as the bishops can’t be bothered.”

      Send greetings from Happy Jack to Bishop Alan Wilson if you encounter him among the natives, Inspector. Jack sees they have welcomed you to their little community and assigned you a couple of pet names. Terribly kind of them.

      • The Explorer

        I’m sure our good Inspector’s occasionally- robust discursive methods are duly appreciated over there. I trust that the names to which you refer are suitably affectionate?

    • The Explorer

      Inspector, I’m amazed. I can hardly believe anyone would think such a thing of you, let alone say it. And are there really people in the world who use that sort of language?

    • bluedog

      Capital show, Inspector, capital. Have you spoken to Benedict Cumberbatch about the term ‘blackamoor’? It may have been just the word he was looking for.

  • I recently spoke to a Christian journalist who was bemoaning the fact that they always struggled to find Christians willing to give comment on economic policy

    Well I’m amazed! I’d have thought that was the easiest thing in the world, especially while scoffing canapes at Lambeth palace. The difficult thing would surely be to find someone willing to talk about Christ.

    • Anton

      Ha ha!

  • Inspector General

    The Inspector thanks all those who wish him well in his quest to rescue them that are well and truly with the Devil. For any bishops or synod members who wish to make homosexuality one of the virtues, they can do no better than to go to Pink News and click on the ’02 Restaurant’ story and see what it is they are championing. Warning – It’s rather smelly there…

    • Dominic Stockford

      It is unpleasant – I shan’t be eating there…

    • Happy Jack wishes you well in the missionary position, Inspector.

      • IanCad

        Bad! Jack. Bad!

  • steroflex

    Words are cheap.
    Actions cost.
    Guess which is the more popular?

  • How appropriate that on the day this post was made, the Vatican finally announced that the cause of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero was finally going forward after being mired for decades in internal politics.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-31115837

    A quote from the above article – )”His concern for the poor led some to equate Archbishop Romero with Liberation Theology, a movement that encouraged Catholics to view material oppression as an affront to God which demanded radical action, not just prayer.

    Yet Liberation Theology was deeply unpopular in the Vatican, not least because it criticised hierarchical structures – including those of the Church.”

    In the 1980s, Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) even referred to Liberation Theology as “a singular heresy” and “a fundamental threat to the Church”

    Today we see Archbishop Romero finally honoured as he should have been in the first place

    Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us.

    • len

      Might be a good idea to cut out’ the middle man’ and go straight to Christ Speaking of Jesus, the writer to the
      Hebrews says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw
      near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for
      them” (Hebrews 7:25)

      • I don’t see it as an “either/or”, Len. After I have stormed Heaven with my prayers for whatever it is, then I see no inherent contradiction in addressing a saint and saying “and if you can jog this along a bit, please do” 🙂

        • len

          I would much rather talk to the Boss than an underling (especially a dead underling)
          But that’s just me .

          • Never underestimate what underlings can do, Len, given the number of times in this imperfect world I’ve solved a problem by being nice to the lady in the office rather than ranting at her boss. Now, I’m not saying that’s how Heaven works, but… 🙂

          • len

            I wasn`t suggesting ranting sister Tibs but isn`t praying to dead people not the done thing in Christians circles?.

          • I think God must have an endless tolerance for my rants, Len, he’s heard so many of them over the years. But Catholics don’t pray to the saints, we ask them to pray for us, rooted in our belief that they were people of such holiness on this earth that they are surely enjoying the Beatific Vision now, and as such perhaps have God’s ear. :). That’s why in the Catholic Church that canonisation used to require two miracles directly attributed to people’s requests that the saint intercede for them with God. Now, if you don’t believe any of it, that’s fine :). I’ll go on praying direct to God, but I will also chat to the saints. And if that’s unnecessary, then it’s only my own time I’m wasting 🙂

          • len

            Seems a shame to be wasting your time sister Tibs ?.

            ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)

            It seems the important word is ‘one.’

  • Bill Kenny

    At the same time as Rotherham Borough Council is revealed as being deficient of any kind of moral compass, the Archbishop of Canerbury is putting out press releases concerning businesses paying more tax. So what are his priorities,? What has been the response by the AoY? What experts has he recruited to write a book emphasising the case for moral re-armament in the Northern cities?
    Or is it just so much easier to act as the amen corner for whatever relativist cant will get you most attention in The Guardian?

  • bugalugs2

    If the bishops were seen to be letting their Christian faith inform their politics rather than trying to have it the other away around there might be less of a problem. And as CS Lewis suggested, getting involved in politics is not the role of a bishop, his role is to expound the gospels and Christ to politicians and let them take the Christianity taught into politics.

    When they are doing their job of preaching Christ to the world so well that the Church is strong, vibrant and growing, then let them take time out to pursue their own political hobby. But looking round at the moment they do seem to be rather neglecting their real job.

  • At what point will the Church of England speak up for the unborn?

    It’s socially easy to take pot shots at economic theories – it’s complex, and there’s lots of room for debate, and you can just talk about it forever.

    But, say “the lives of the unborn should be protected”, and that’s a difficult kettle of fish. Your faith might cost you something.

    I’m sure lots of people in the C of E do. But, it’s no accident that Rome (and I am a classical Protestant) is known for a clear position on the lives of the unborn (even though it fails to discipline politicians in its membership for not holding or practising it), whilst the C of E is largely known for having bishops who like to waffle about lefty economics. You get a reputation, after a while, for what you actually care about.

    • Leacock

      Indeed.