Michael Gove sugar-coats Jesus and preaches fake good news

This is a guest post by the Rev’d Dr Gavin Ashenden, former Chaplain to the Queen, who is presently in the (complicated) process of leaving the Church of England.


One of the first rules for mental health is not to believe in conspiracy theories. So perhaps there is no connection between the letter that the Times published suggesting that a belief in the Resurrection was a prerequisite for calling oneself Christian, and Michael Gove’s subsequent article defending Anglicanism against those who “mock it as insipid”.

But the article nonetheless was unworthy of a clever man, an honourable public servant and a kind Christian.

It contained some poor arguments and poor analysis.

Why does it matter in particular if Michael Gove got things wrong?

We live in dangerous times. Democracy itself is under serious stress. There are growing assaults on freedom of speech and freedom of thought. The benign Christian undergirding of democracy is in some trouble. The Church in much of the West is in free fall. The Church of England in particular, burdened by falling numbers, old age and lack of money, is unlikely to survive in the form we know it, even a further decade.

On the one side we have a new kind of cultural fascism imposing a banal but dangerous form of egalitarianism on society – a kind of upgraded  ‘Marxism 2.0’ – or, as we have learnt to call it ‘cultural Marxism’. And on the other side we have Islam, moving inexorably through Europe moulding cultural and political expectations as it beds in.

Many orthodox Christians share my view that only Christianity had the values, integrity and potency to defend our freedoms of action and thought in the face of both these threats. But if it is to do so it has to do so in its most vibrant form. Insipid is not enough. A diluted homeopathic version won’t be, and never has been, sufficient.

The first slip that Gove made was to claim that it was ‘Anglicanism’ which was being mocked as insipid. Anglicanism in its traditional form is in robust and energetic health all around the world. The majority of the 80 million or so Anglicans across the rest of the world evangelise, challenge their surrounding cultures, convert their neighbours, and respect the Gospels as authoritative in matters of lifestyle and morals. It is the Church of England, not Anglicanism, that is less confident in its biblical and historic integrity.

Should we ask how the piece came to be written? One of the last articles on this subject which Mr Gove authored was published in the Spectator, when he interviewed the Most Rev’d Justin Welby. It was a highly complimentary piece (if a little odd in its content). ‘Follow the money’ often produces results; the figures who were the most highly complimented were the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Is it conceivable that the well-qualified and sophisticated journalists recently purchased from Fleet Street by the Lambeth PR professionals asked Michael Gove to write something that bolstered the C of E?

That falls somewhere short of the conspiracy theory and not too far from just joining the dots, but if they did, they should have offered him more theological support and background editing.

Michael Gove begins his analysis by applauding the gentleness of the Church of England – “Because there is a gentleness and grace, a habit of listening and an ethic of understanding to Anglicanism which makes enthusiasm almost anathema.”

He generously credits it with having the confidence and capacity to listen and understand. That may be true. It is certainly the case that the C of E leans over backward to take into account the secular preferences of the surrounding culture and not to offend them. That may not quite be the same thing, but let’s allow the compliment without cavilling too much.

He then steps straight into the contested arena of ‘enthusiasm’. This is a code word for students of Church History or theologians. The most notorious time that ‘enthusiasm’ was used  by a Church of England spokesman was  in the 18th century when it had lost most of its spiritual raison d’être. A rather dry and ineffective rationalist bishop called Joseph Butler attacked John Wesley, who was trying to bring the C of E back to life. Butler condemned Wesley and his commitment to the rejection of the insipid. He thundered that enthusiasm “was a very horrid thing”.

This comment marks one of the low points in the whole of the history of the Church of England. In fact history tells us that Wesley and ‘enthusiasm’ were both (to echo 1066 And All That) successful and right, and Butler and the over-rational and ‘insipid’ failed and were all wrong.

When Gove compliments the Church of England on accommodating doctrinal difference, his compliment should be taken seriously. The Church of England, in its variety and spiritual and theological diversity, has had the potential to be the very best of all churches. But conversely, if it gets it wrong, the flip-side of this great potential is that it has the capacity to be the worst of all churches.

In its attempts and arguments over trying to both build a bridge across to an increasingly impatient, aggressive and self-indulgent secularism, while saying it wants to make space for those who have believe what Christians everywhere have always believed, it might have ended up by not building a bridge. It might have attempted the splits and fallen over.

The dominant force at present in the Church of England is an at intolerant liberalism that does exactly the opposite of what Michael Gove commends it for. It pretends at inclusion while practising exclusion. It pretends at relativism while enforcing dogmatism.

Over homosexuality, which is perhaps the central fault-line where the seismic shock of competing forces troubles the Church of England, Gove takes the liberal but under-informed critical stance. For him it presents a challenge of accommodating difference.

He doesn’t grasp that the issue of sexuality in the Bible does not represent an opportunity for ‘managing difference’. The Bible contains a vision and a call to purity that touches everything – sex, power, social relationships, family coherence, personal integrity, and even ensuing spiritual potency.

He has underestimated what the debate is all about, as so many do. It is the place where the Spirit is wrestling with self-indulgence; where integrity is being overcome by self-pleasing and decadent compromise. This is the place where the two incompatible interpretations of Christianity are set in such an opposition to each other that compromise is not possible without either losing all meaning.

The traditional view takes its understanding from the Bible; the secular one takes its analysis from surrounding self-indulgent culture. There are some areas in life, say, for example, in paedophilia or female genital mutilation, where accommodation between two opposing views is not possible. The pursuit of purity instead of pleasure is too closely geared to the integrity of the spiritual struggle to be a place of ‘managing difference’.

When Gove writes about “all the dark energy unloosed in this world and being driven by the absence of love” as a description of not giving way to the zeitgeist, he gets the analysis entirely back to front.

He rebukes the Church for “Agonising over the details of how people choose to love each other when there is a crying need to confront pain, loneliness, greed, addiction, despair and hatred — all the dark energy unloosed in this world and driven by the absence of love.” But in the Bible we find that it is exactly “how people choose to love each other” that leads to the pain loneliness and despair. The constant choice of the euphemism ‘love’ when what is really being described is comforting a series of romantic partners with the soothing of sex, obscures the moral choices that the euphemism hides.

It is not enough in our practice of sex to mean well. We are warned in the Judaeo-Christian tradition that sex is too powerful not to be contained within marriage between men and women who use it to co-create children. It is one of those areas where we either accept the teaching of Jesus, or ditch it to please ourselves.

And in fact the dark energies are not driven by the absence of romantic and erotic love. They are driven by rather more serious energies who use our misuse the romantic and erotic to cause the very pain and despair to which Mr Gove refers so movingly (Eph 6.12). But when he writes about the “painstaking way in which leaders of the Anglican Communion try to respect different views and honour the sincerity with which they are held”, he enters the land of ill-informed make believe.

Does he not know that the last Presiding Bishop of the leading liberal church, The Episcopal Church in North America, spent over $10 million in law suits to evict faithful congregations and priests who did not accept the new revisionist liberal agenda? Does he really not know how clergy gave up houses, pensions, stipends, and all they had worked for under the most serious institutional persecution? Tragically, he is writing the opposite of the truth. He enters into the realm of fake news. He slides over the seriously difficult problem of our own age, which is the illiberalism of the liberals, the intolerance of the tolerant. This is under-informed and tragic.

Gove’s next step in his argument is to write well of some of the Church of England’s leaders. Bless him. Let us assume their representatives did not commission the piece. He clearly means it. There is no need anyway to talk about personalities or personal competence. The issues at stake are so much more important than that. The bishops certainly mean well, but their judgement is nonetheless in question.

He sweetly moves on to complimenting the parish clergy. Bless him again. But such compliments cannot mask the fact that in this struggle between an aggressive secular culture and the Anglican Christian witness, the clergy are sinking ever more deeply into institutional decay and, for some, despair.

The average age of congregations is about 66. There are too few people and too little money to carry the Church of England past impending functional bankruptcy. The Church Commissioners will fund the bishops and the most prominent buildings with their ample funds for some time to come, but parishes and parish clergy will be increasingly swept from their unworried and unconcerned communities within the next decade.

Gove may be right when he describes the ministry of the C of E as being one where people occasionally and wistfully connect it with soothing music, nostalgic poetry or echoes of childhood certainties. But when you read the Gospels, it is hard not to notice that Jesus taught that his death and sacrifice on the Cross was intended to achieve rather more that the soothing of memories for the moneyed and educated middle classes.

“And it is that willingness to reserve judgment on others, while still holding fast to your own faith, that I admire so much in Anglicanism.” It is indeed a great virtue not to condemn others – an even greater one, perhaps, in a culture that resorts to ad hominem trolling at the drop of a tweet. But this is a classic straw man argument that obscures the heart of the issue.

This is not Christianity that Gove describes. It is a form of spiritually sugar-coated, 20th-century therapeutic truism. Why is it not Christianity? Because it does not reflect the teaching or the actions of Jesus.

Jesus did judge – all the time. He did not condemn, but he judged, he assessed, he critiqued, and to devastating effect. He gave people the opportunity to choose between the fake and the real, the illusory and the concrete, the good and the bad. He rebuked the Samaritan woman at the well for her serial ‘loving’ relationships. The moral, upstanding, rich young ruler, he warned to move from self-regarding moral probity to serious sacrifice. Nicodemus, a prestigious religious leader, was robustly confronted with his lack of apprehension of the deeper things of the Spirit. Peter was called ‘Satan’ when he adopted the strategy and values of the ‘other side’ unwittingly.

What kind of Jesus is Gove putting forward here? It’s not the Jesus of the Gospels.

“There is nothing irresolute or insipid about declining to join the crowd, refusing to stigmatise, asking for empathy. It is, rather, commendably brave and resolute and, in so far as I can know it, true to Jesus’s example.”

An interesting disclaimer. But since the question is raised, no it is not “true to Jesus’s example”.  So far from refusing to go along with the crowd, this supine universal affirmation, which is the spiritual equivalent of just the kind of bad education philosophy that Mr Gove refused to put up with when he was Minister for Education, is exactly going along with the secular crowd.

And that is the difficulty which faces the whole of the Church of England, because Michael Gove is speaking (by official request or certainly unofficially and informally) for a sub-Christian spirituality that is willing to sucks on the sweets in the Gospels and refuses the piquancy of the prophetic.

“For those of us all too conscious of our errors, aware that we are weak and selfish, who hesitate sometimes to call ourselves Christian for fear that we appear to be making some sort of claim to superior virtue, the Church of England offers a welcome this Easter. And I for one am glad.”

Again this is moving, but manages to describe only half of the picture. Yes, we are all frail, fragile and flawed. Yes, we hesitate to claim a superior virtue we have no right to lay claim to. But to be Christian we have to find a little more courage, and remind our fellow travellers that Jesus warns there are two roads; and one, the easier, the more popular, God save us, perhaps the Church of England’s, leads to destruction.

What if it were the vocation of the Church of England to warn the people we live amongst that Jesus came to save us from hell and the dangers of finding ourselves there? What if it were the vocation of the Church of England to offer people a different route – one to which they had to turn and change direction to find? This is not to claim superior virtue; it is to read the Gospels and be faithful to Jesus – the real one – the one who had hard words as well as easy ones.

Is it worth considering, just on a purely functional pragmatic level, that the easy going, multi-affirming, sexually inclusive, non-disturbing, socialist-sympathetic, there-for-you-on-whatever-terms-you-choose Church of England is not actually working? The C of E itself sometimes reminds one of Chesterton’s aphorism: “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it has been found too difficult and not tried.”

Mr Gove, 10 out of 10 for kindness. Those who asked you to write to shore up the C of E in the public mind will be grateful to you. But you may not have helped Anglicanism, or Christianity, or spoken for Christ, or done anything to help the Church of England out of the secular land-slip it has settled in.

The practice of the ‘insipid’ will stand up neither to the remorseless challenges of Islam, nor the anger of the atheists. Something a little more courageous and faithful to the Jesus of the Gospels is required. Jesus didn’t do ‘insipid’, nor should the Church of England.

  • donadrian

    To be fair to Bishop Butler, the ‘enthusiasm’ that he criticised in the early Methodists is not what the word usually means today, but refers to a particular set of beliefs about the action of Grace in the human soul, that nature is not so much perfected by grace but replaced by it.

    • Little Black Censored

      Quite right. Was Bishop Butler wrong to object to “pretending to special revelations of the Holy Ghost”? That does seem to me a fairly horrid thing.
      A splendid article by GA, however.

  • len

    A Church that’ bumbles along ‘is no longer fit for purpose in this climate of aggressive atheism and militant Islam, as you so rightly observe Dr Ashenden.

    To use common parlance the church needs’ to grow a pair’ and set its house firmly back on the true foundation which is Christ Himself(none of the RCC nonsense about Peter being’ the foundation,’ a very shaky one that would be)

    There needs to be a very severe shaking in the Cof E and to get rid of all the dead wood and the unbelievers posing as’ believers'(a certain M Percy comes to mind) even if this means severely reducing the numbers.
    A few good men could turn the Cof E around and make it a viable proposition again.
    If there are those in the Cof E who will jump ship and swim the Tiber I say “good riddance” these are people Anglicans can do without.
    So why the wait ,get on with it Anglicans. !.

    PS. Did I typo which came out as ‘Wanglicans’ seems a fitting name for some in the Cof E ….perhaps?.

  • vsscoles

    Dr Ashenden makes the critically important point that Jesus did actually go around judging people, some of them very harshly indeed, but the illiberal/liberals of the CofE (including many of its poorly educated bishops) either close their minds to that aspect of the Lord’s ministry and teaching, or they assume it does not apply to them and to the Frankfurt School which they have imbibed.

    • David

      Well said – a direct hit !

    • chefofsinners

      Except that they are very happy to
      judge thee and me.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Dr Ashenden makes the vital distinction between judging and condemning people. Jesus judged the woman caught in adultery – he told her to sin no more – but he also forgave her. This combination of judgment and forgiveness occurs throughout Our Lord’s acts.

      • vsscoles

        Unless you are a Pharisee, a Sadducee……

  • Jon Sorensen

    Religious guy preaches fake good news – another religious guy gets offended and blogs about it. What else is new? 😉

    • carl jacobs

      Atheist guy declaims as if he possesses authority. There is nothing new under the sun.

      • Jon Sorensen

        Well, at least atheist guy doesn’t get kill by the Christians anymore in the West even when carl talks as if he possesses authority.

        • Merchantman

          No and that hasn’t happened for around 500 years if then; but to be a Christian in 2017 is a far more dangerous proposition in today’s illiberal- liberal- atheist- secularist ‘in cahoots with Islam’ type of place.

          • Sarky

            but to be a Christian in 2017 is a far more dangerous proposition in today’s illiberal- liberal- atheist- secularist ‘in cahoots with Islam’ type of place.

            Are you mad??? You are in no danger at all. Try being a christian in Syria or Egypt. Get a grip.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “is a far more dangerous proposition in today’s”
            It’s always amusing to see privileged Christians to play their martyr complex. LOL. begin a Christian… dangerous… LOL

        • carl jacobs

          at least atheist guy doesn’t get kill by the Christians anymore

          Of course, that’s been true for a very long time and Atheist guy had pretty much nothing to do with it. At all.

          even when carl talks as if he possesses authority

          When have I ever said I possess authority? I can cite authority and you will reject it. Fine. Then give me an alternative authority. Oh, that’s right. You don’t have one.

          Well, besides power, I mean. Because you won’t want to cite that as an authority and for obvious reasons.

          • Carl I agree with you here of course. Yet you touch on a point that deserves reflection. Is not power the basis of authority? Is not God’s omnipotence the basis of his authority? Is it not integral to his ’godness’? It is generally his power that he cites when his authority is challenged. Who can resist the Lord?

            We cite the Word of God as our authority for it is the word of omnipotence. There is no greater power and therefore there can be no greater authority.

          • carl jacobs

            I’ve always wondered when someone would ask that question. The obvious answer is that God is not a man, but that’s not really a complete answer. So I’m kind of thinking out loud here.

            What is the lesson of the Book of Job? Is Job supposed to worship God in all circumstances because God is powerful or because he is God? Power is an attribute of God. Authority is an attribute of God. He isn’t God because He is powerful. He is powerful because He is God. We don’t worship Him because He is powerful or because He gives us things. He is worthy of worship simply because of Who He is.


          • I agree omnipotence is an attribute of God. It is however, a necessary attribute. Without omnipotence he is not God. Some attributes are not necessary. God is gracious but we can conceive a God who is not gracious, loving, patient etc but we cannot conceive one without omnipotence. If he is not all powerful then conceivably someone could be more powerful and would be God. So I’m inclined to say he is God because he is all powerful. No power can ever equal or better him.

            I would not say authority is an attribute so much as an implication of his attribute of power.

            A related though separate question question is, is what is right because God says so or because there is some external objective ‘law’ or moral code. Clearly there is no such external code. God is accountable to no other source. Righteousness is what he says is right. It is the expression of all his nature demands of the relationships in which he had placed us and has voluntarily placed himself. As made in his image we agree with his moral code. We see it’s goodness.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “When have I ever said I possess authority?”
            Such irony… I didn’t claim either but that did not stop you making your claim… and now you are offended.

            Only my God is the authority…

          • carl jacobs

            When you make claims asserting the truth of atheism, you are making metaphysical claims that can only me made from authority. Now would be a good time to state the authority by which you make those claims.

            Your problem of course is that you possess no authority. You are a finite limited creature and capital-T Truth is beyond your power to establish. Atheists generally admit that, you know. It’s that whole “There is no objective truth” thing.

            And, no, you may rest assured you have never offended me. You have exasperated me at times with your pointless rabbit trails, but exasperation isn’t offense.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “you are making metaphysical claims that can only me made from authority”
            Anyone can make claims, just like you did. Since when one needed to “state the authority”. This must a new apologist scheme…

          • carl jacobs

            Since when one needed to “state the authority”. This must a new apologist scheme…

            Yeh. Imagine citing an authority in an argument. What was I thinking?

            I asked for an authority because it’s an easy way to demonstrate that you don’t have one. I find it hilarious that atheists routinely make assertions that their worldview absolutely precludes them from ever having the capacity to make.

            But, hey. If you want to save me the trouble and just admit that you are blowing smoke out your … ummm … backside, then who am I to complain?

          • CliveM

            The word I think you’re looking for is ‘arse’.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Who gave you the authority to respond to my posts? Christians routinely make assertions without good evidence that their worldview is correct without the proper authority given to them by atheists. So rude…

          • carl jacobs

            Who gave you the authority to respond to my posts?

            You did. By posting here. That’s how these blog things work, doncha know. I could point you to some tutorials ..

  • magnolia

    Difficult to write a balanced piece on a church you are in the process of leaving. I feel that shows.

    • chefofsinners

      What use is balance? Make a case, make it well, make a difference.

  • ecclesiaman

    I will change my moniker soon as someone has used almost the same but without the ‘an’ at the end. No complaints but I want to be recognised and not be confused with another.
    Rev Ashenden has hit on some accurate points and exposed the poverty of the established C of E. Sadly there are many excellent clergy and churches (yes with all the flaws common to all believers, before I may be considered superior) who are let down by erroneous leadership and example.
    It is all of the Christian community which needs to be the salt and light of the Gospel not just the C of E. Not easy when Rev A refers to cultural Marxism and the assault on supposed freedoms that Mrs May tells us we have. Some enthusiasm is definitely required. Both Wesley’s and Spurgeon were derided in their day and it is to be expected that it will be no different for the faithful in our time. “In the world you will have tribulation…” and other verses well known to most here.

  • Anton

    If Anglicanism is in good health yet the Church of England isn’t, the question is raised of what underlying difference has caused this? Nonconformists cannot pin it on priestly ordination or episcopacy, since these are uniform throughout the Anglican communion. Two possibilities remain: (1) Differences in the culture from which the church recruits; (2) The CoE is Established whereas the Anglican church in many lands is not.

    I believe these reasons are related, because Establishment means that the CoE has to pander to everybody in England, nowadays including New Agers, militant secularists and Muslims. That is why there is pandering to secular humanists over homosexual relationships, and pandering to Muslims by having readings in cathedral services from the Quran (which denies Christ’s divinity). Yet it simply was not foreseen, during the Church of England’s formative era following the split from Rome, that a considerable proportion of England’s population would designate itself non-Christian. The notion of a Christian nation continued unchanged even though the New Testament is clear that the church is called out of “the world”, meaning the culture prevailing in every nation. The post-Constantinian era is not normative for the church. In the pre-Constantinian era the church wrote down its scriptures in order to make them normative for all future believers.

    To be faithful to Christ in a situation which its founders never foresaw, then, the Church of England must look farther back: to its earliest centuries, and above all to its scriptures. Dr Ashenden had to resign his position as one of Her Majesty’s Honorary Chaplains in order to speak out freely about the state of the church. He gains a greater honour for doing so. The Church of England might likewise have to give up its privileged position if it is to be able to speak out freely about the state of the nation.

    It is a matter for individual Anglicans whether to fight secularism within their denomination or move outside it. Those who, like myself, took the latter path, should support and not undermine those within the CoE who love Christ. But evangelical Anglicans should be warned: do not expect reform from above – any shaking is going to have to be done from below – and time is short, before the liberals use your consciences against you in order to evict you, as happened in North America.

    • bluedog

      On the other hand the profoundly Anglican Prime Minister represents a top-down influence that has the potential to transform the CoE. Her Easter address suggests that the TEC debacle will not be repeated in England, always assuming Mrs May increases her majority in the Parliament.

      • Anton

        May May campaign well in May!

        • Dominic Stockford

          In May May may win….

          • Anton

            Election day is in June, but in May May may campaign well.

          • Dominic Stockford

            May may campaign well enough in May to have won before June, thus in May May may win….

          • Anton


          • Pubcrawler

            May’s Day will be in June.

          • Anton

            Like May Week.

      • David

        May has form in failing to convert words into actions.
        Whilst in the Home Office she presided over ever increasing levels of inward migration, whilst making speeches against it !
        She is, above all else, a cunning careerist.

        • James60498 .

          And received standing ovations for speeches that seemed to be tightening up on Muslim extremists whilst the police and OFSTED went out chasing Christians.

          She was the inventor (or at least the original user) of the term “The Nasty Party” which as much as anything led to liberal Cameron.

          • David

            Quite ! She sells an illusion. What she says bears no relationship to what she does.

        • Merchantman

          In some ways you are right but she does speak out about her faith just as does QE2.
          Very difficult to stop inward immigration as promoted by the Globalists, the liberals,the Islamists and the EU. These as much as anything add up to the opposition. Oh I forgot the atheist secularists; and that leaves just about who?

          • David

            Actions speak louder than words Merchantman.

        • bluedog

          Increasing levels of immigration were a function of the EU’s open borders policy which Cameron tried and failed to modify.

          You have previously presented as a UKIP supporter. Now pre-Brexit, this writer could appreciate the value of UKIP and in particular, the dynamism of Nigel Farage in making the case for Brexit. In the dark days of the Cameron mis-government, Farage shone like a beacon of hope.

          But sadly we see that post-Brexit and post-Farage, UKIP has deteriorated to become a fractious and almost certainly irrelevant political rump. UKIP has never won a seat, let alone a quorum, in the Commons. Not even Farage could win a seat.

          Do you think UKIP will do better or worse than in 2015 in the coming election?

          • David

            Probably worse as I doubt if they now have anything to sell.
            I agree with everything you’ve said about Nigel’s stature.

            But despite that I used to be convinced that there was more to Ukip than Farage alone, but since he’s gone they have become a rabble. So with hindsight I think I was wrong, and he WAS Ukip.

            Really the job they set out to do has been done – mission achieved ! So well done !
            Ukip was really a political movement, that falsely believed themselves to be a party. But without their leader they appear to be a spent force. I don’t enjoy saying this, but I must be realistic.

          • Anton

            There was more to them than Farage, but they were a one-issue party that put themselves out of business by winning their issue. Let be glad!

          • David

            Mainly yes to that, but with a small no.
            Yes there was more to them that just Farage, but without his leadership, they fell apart. Yes I agree they were largely, a lone issue party. And yes let us be glad.

          • bluedog

            Good thoughts with which I agree. So the only viable option is to support Mrs May, who seems to have found release in the job of PM. Values and ideas she may have suppressed as a necessity in the Cameron cabinet seem to be bubbling to the surface. She may be a cunning careerist, but you don’t continually proclaim your Christian faith in the public square, as Mrs May does, unless you mean it. One senses a real greatness in the offing, very different to Thatcher, but equally significant in a moral sense.

          • Ivan M

            From a person who gave up of all things, potato chips for Lent, great things are most assuredly expected.

            But you are good reader of character. I recall that when everyone was picking the US elections apart, you had maintained or more accurately strongly implied that Trump will turn out to be a clinical case of a nepotist; which has in fact turned out to be the case.

          • bluedog

            Thank you for your kind remarks, Ivan M.

            Trump has not disappointed on the nepotism front, and one hears mutterings that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party are deeply concerned by the influence of Jared and Ivanka Kushner. Trump should not forget that it was the Republican Party who would have impeached Nixon if he had not resigned.

          • David

            Well I hope that you are right, but I am not convinced. Her track record is of saying one thing and doing, well nothing. Whilst in the Home Office she continually spoke of lowering immigration, whilst it steadily climbed !

    • Holger

      It’s too late. The CofE is shedding the last of its melodramatic dogma queens and grandstanding poseurs as it transforms into a modern church, the role of which is to take care of the buildings where private individuals go to practice their own particular faith.

      As part of those caretaking duties, the Church can act as master of ceremonies, but it can’t make pronouncements on matters of doctrine, because to do so would be to offend and alienate someone. So it has to rise above religion in the same way the monarch has to rise above politics.

      For most people, churches are nothing more than places in which births, deaths and marriages are celebrated. For a few others, they’re also places where they can go to act out the charade of the beliefs they have formed on the Internet in places like this blog. That’s where you’ll find the real church of the future. Or churches. Thousands, if not millions of them. The Church of http://www.MyBeliefIsBest.com has as many beliefs as it has adherents. It’s the apotheosis of schism, made possible by the unceasing efforts of a million opinionated bloggers and the acolytes they gather around themselves.

      All churches will fall prey to digital schism. The CofE is just one the first. Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox take heed. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

      • Anton

        Do you realise that your most persistent trait here, above the caustic words, is pretension to know the future? What does that say?

        • Holger

          Know the future? Nobody knows the future. But the development of trends is easy to predict.

          Of course this particular trend frightens you badly because 1) you can see it happening all around you, and 2) you recognise your own part of responsibility.

          By participating in blogs like this one and arguing with and contradicting your fellow Christians, you exacerbate the trend towards schism. You make the fate of the Anglican Church the fate of every Church.

          So much for the seamless robe of Christ. It’s been ripped to shreds by billions of online comments and the anger and disagreement they foster.

          Before the Internet there were hundreds of churches. Now there are hundreds of thousands. Tomorrow there’ll be millions. Dissolution of the pre-digital era denominations has set in and the CofE is just the first victim.

          • Anton

            There should be as many denominations as there are congregations, so that’s fine.

            I should have added that your second most persistent trait is pretending to know what others are thinking. You are as good at it as most…

            Extrapolation of trends is indeed easy, but it is inaccurate because it fails to take into account the growth of new complementary or competing trends. You can’t know. You can write with supremely confident rhetoric what you assert will happen, but you don’t know and we don’t know. What I don’t know is whether you know that you don’t know. But it makes no difference.

          • Lucius

            “By participating in blogs like this one and arguing with and contradicting your fellow Christians, you exacerbate the trend towards schism”
            That’s why our Lord and Savior gives us a Holger. To remind us that our differences are not that great in the face of those would relish seeing the Faith destroyed.

          • Royinsouthwest

            But the development of trends is easy to predict.

            That is what most economists, bankers, business people and politicians were doing – predicting trends until the Crash in 2008 when, to their surprise, the trend stopped.

      • Merchantman

        ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.’ Better a tolling bell than a long silence.

        • Holger

          There’s no long silence in Christianity. Just a cacophony of millions of different voices all shouting “Me! Me! I am god’s true prophet! Listen to me!”

          No one voice can be heard above the din. And the louder you shout, the harder it gets to hear anything except inchoate sounds of fear and anger.

          • Anton

            What you hear above the din is the gospel, the one thing which all Christians hold in common.

          • bluedog

            Exactly. No Christian claims ‘Me! Me! I am god’s true prophet! Listen to me!”. As usual, Holger’s got it wrong.

          • Holger

            What I hear above the din is hatred and anger, the two emotions common to Christians of every ilk.

            Condemnation, criticism and pure animus: these are what bind you together as a faith. You are defined not by what you believe, but rather by what you hate. This is what makes Christianity such a force for evil in the world.

          • Anton

            You need to change your hearing aid.

          • That sounds more like multi-culturalism to me.

            The C of E will become the fake church full of feminists and LGBTQWERTY squabbling over ‘rights’ whilst trying to erase all the bits in the Bible that don’t fit their narrative.

          • Holger

            Fabulous, isn’t it? And all sanctified by the state.

            Just think, all those evil multi-culti demons will be celebrating their blasphemous rites in the beautiful churches you once counted as your own. You, on the other hand, will be reduced to posting bitter comments on some random blog.

            Maybe your micro-denomination will be able to scrape together the wherewithal to rent a bleak community hall for a service once a month. Or maybe not. You could always meet up at Burger King.

            Funds permitting, of course.

      • Christian Orthodoxy is a way of life as well as having faith in God.
        It’s the substance that holds society together.

        People queue for hours for litres of Holy water from the Church to help with their health and wellbeing. The church provides hot tea and sweets while they wait as it’s minus 7′ degrees, or you can strip off to your swimwear and immerge yourself three times in a tank of Holy water.
        Appropriate foods for consumption during Lent are labelled in the supermarkets.
        They consecrate Easter eggs and cakes as seen in this video.

        Orthodox Russia is a channel made by a lady called Valeria living outside Moscow in a small town. She also does a channel called Different Russia. She reminds me very much of a friend I have in Germany.

        Real Orthodox Easter Procession in a Small Russian Town. Moscow Region, Russia

        Look at the turn out. What we in the UK are lacking is enthusiasm and effort to get up off our fat over fed backsides and attend events like this.

        • Holger

          Yes, your backside probably is fat and overfed, just as Christian backsides so often are. Gluttony and sloth are the two sins that Jesus gives his followers a free pass for, as long as they berate gays. Shriek hellfire and damnation at a gay and all your sins will be forgiven, apparently. So you can keep on cramming as much food down your gullet as you like.

          If Jabba the Hut is a homophobe, there’s a place for him in heaven. This must be why churches are full of his identical twins.

          I think you’ll find that ostentatious religious events of the sort that is commonplace in Russia are attended by all kinds of believers. Orthodox grannies who spend their lives on their knees in church and don’t so much as pass wind without a priest’s permission certainly attend. But so do Internet Christians whose church of two vaguely like-minded believers condemns all others as decadent heretics.

          As the grannies die off, there’ll be more and more Internet Christians squabbling and coming to blows over the subject of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Technology makes this not only possible, but inevitable.

          • Anton

            And a very good morning to you too.

    • Coniston

      Grace Davie, Professor of the Sociology of Religion at Exeter University, wrote ‘Europe: the Exceptional Case’ (2002). In it she advanced the idea that as most European countries historically had established churches, many people came to regard them as almost a kind of civil service (for hatches, matches and dispatches, so to speak), which led to declining religious belief. Thus there was a greater abandonment of religious belief in Europe than in other parts of the world, where there were no established ‘civil service’ churches.

  • David

    As usual Gavin Ashenden hits the nail squarely on its head. Thank you Gavin for your work of spiritual and intellectual leadership.
    I could quibble over one or two of his sentences, but in the context of the seriousness of the situation that exists, to do so would be petty, if not churlish, so I shall desist.
    Gove is not a bad man, but he is typical of the more intellectually well endowed members of the so-called “conservative” end of the liberal political elite, which runs across all the historic parties, sharing a close commonality of world view – a view which is embarrassed by ideas of revealed Biblical truth, and the stark struggle and choice between the forces of good and evil. His is essentially a sentimental attachment to the C of E, as an institution; whereas I support orthodox, conservative Anglicanism, a branch of the Universal Church of Christ.
    Given my views and faith, and the decades long and growing, effective separation of the views of the political elite from true, historic Christianity, I lean towards the disestablishment of the C of E. This will bring matters to a head, and will hopefully unsettle, and eventually unseat, the liberal hierarchy of bishops, all of whom have been approved by the state. Such a big change should provide an opportunity to challenge and then alter the selection methods for bishops, giving a far better chance of returning towards orthodoxy as part of the global Anglican partnership. But then most of my views are for a renewed, redesigned radical conservatism for everything, the nation and our historic church, so I expect few upticks for that stance.

    • 1649again

      Well you’ve got one from me David and would get plenty more if I were able..

      • David

        Thank you 1649.
        As you know, like many whose company I enjoy on this most excellent of sites, I don’t shirk from stating risky positions. So after uttering the disestablishment opinion, and not finding myself in a “backs to the tree chaps – shots required over a wide arc” I am rather pleasantly surprised.

    • Coniston

      ‘I lean towards the disestablishment of the C of E.’ So do I, but where will that leave the monarchy?

      • There can be a constitutional monarchy without an established church, as in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

      • David

        “but where will that leave the monarchy?”
        I recognise a very good question there. As a constitutional monarchist, it made me hesitant about disestablishment as well.
        But given the reality of where we are, I’ve concluded that, post -disestablishment, the monarchy would be put in a more honest position, as just the constitutional Head of State. After the Queen dies how many of the royals will be truly, hold a definite Christian faith ?
        This process has just happened in Norway, the home of one of my best friends. Arrangements can be entered into, as in Wales, where the C of E was disestablished under Lloyd George in 1919, if I remember correctly, for the C of E to offer a leading faith role in national or military events, in recognition that it is the historic faith of these islands.

        • Little Black Censored

          Ashenden believes that disestablishment would be too difficult to achieve, because the monarchy and the Church are so intertwined.

          • David

            He may be right.

  • IanCad

    A splendid post by Dr. Ashenden. Hits all the right buttons, and is entirely in sympathy with my own views of what the role of any Christian church should be. That said – and mindful of the gems of clarity in the piece – I find it difficult to understand why such a robust and manly priest should seek to leave the CofE.
    Does not duty require of him to redress the wrongs and shortcomings he perceives the church is practising, or tending towards?
    Wars are not won by leaving an army to start your own brigades; neither by joining factions where fundamental differences still exist.
    No! Stay and fight and preach. There are many out there who have not and will not bow the knee to Baal.
    As every Arab knows; Life is far easier having a strong-willed camel outside the tent than inside.

    • carl jacobs

      I find it difficult to understand why such a robust and manly priest should seek to leave the CofE.

      He left because he believes the CoE is mortally wounded and beyond hope of recovery.

      • IanCad

        Carl, I know I’ve used this quote a few times before but it does sum up the British character in a way that most Americans have difficulty understanding:
        “The British always leave things until it is almost too late.” Luigi Barzani
        Don’t write off the CofE just yet.

        • carl jacobs

          I am just telling you what I have heard him say. He left the CoE because he sees no hope for its recovery.

          • IanCad

            Then he needs to stand up straight, put on his sword and buckler and fight the good fight. A strong cordial may help revive his spirits.

          • Merchantman

            It is a Wesleyan response isn’t it? You receive a special Commission through personal Revelation and you can do nothing to deny it. The disciples were still devastated after Jesus was crucified and even rose from the dead and yet they remained frozen and ineffective until Pentecost came upon them.
            If the C of E in its greater part hinders this Commission it is for all intents and purposes stuck on tick over with the parking brake on. However there are some parts that have found the gear shift and yet…….
            Gavin Ashenden has brilliantly articulated in the clearest possible terms that which is wrong.

    • David

      Wars are not won by leaving an army to start your own brigades”
      But Ian, isn’t that exactly what Nigel Farage had to do when, still a young man, he left the so-called Conservative Party to fight for our independence using Ukip as the new delivery tool – and through taking that bold step he won the referendum vote.

      • IanCad

        But isn’t he going off to Rome?

        • David

          Rome ? I don’t know. He hasn’t said that has he ? In fact his reference to believing in “his orders” would imply the opposite.
          Legion ? No. It is essentially about one item – from where do we draw
          authority ? All matters come down to that single point.

          • IanCad

            You are quite correct – scriptural authority is at the heart of the matter.
            As to his going to visit the Tiber; certainly that is the impression I had – whether he will cross it or not is another matter. I hope he stays on this side.

          • Little Black Censored

            I think he is waiting for some international body of orthodox Anglicans to be formed, perhaps with some of the Africans, Bishop Nazir Ali and others. He has almost said as much in an interview (for Anglican Unscripted, I think).

  • carl jacobs

    Modern man rejects the concept of judgment because he rejects the concept of sin. He rejects sin because he denies moral accountability. He denies moral accountability because he claims that he is a product of blind chance. As a product of blind chance he gives himself liberty to recreate himself according to his own light. He thus becomes his own creator and his moral accountability extends no further than his own will. Modern man is literally deaf to the proclamation of the Gospel. He says to himself “On the first day, I created myself, and I am very good.” That is all he can hear. He begins in unbelief and ends in idolatry.

    It is a fearful judgment.

  • The Church in much of the West is in free fall

    European Christianity is reaping the reward of championing diversity over the best interests of indigenous Europeans, the people to whom it could, and should, have remained loyal. The reward is to be caught in a pincer movement between ‘Marxism 2.0’ and Islam, both of which display a ruthlessness which runs rings around tolerant, self-effacing Christianity.

    A senior representative of the religious wing of Marxism 2.0 made clear recently the importance Jews attach to diversity: ‘When there is tolerance for other languages, other cultures, religions, traditions, we Jews feel more accepted’, and a leading Muslim praised the part played by Jews in making Britain diverse, writing of the ‘Jewish men and women who had stood firm on the streets of our country against those who wanted a mono-faith and mono-cultural Britain.’

    That ‘mono-faith and mono-cultural Britain’ was the best environment for Christianity and for the British people, the same holding true for all the West. The diversity currently destroying that best environment is welcomed by the Church in what must be the greatest betrayal in the history of Christianity.

    • carl jacobs

      Christianity is not a device intended to serve “the best interests of indigenous Europeans”.

    • Anton

      The church is meant to be loyal to Christ. Nobody else.

    • Royinsouthwest

      Some immigrants from the West Indies and Africa, and some Asians too, are much better practising Christians than many white British church members.

      • @ Royinsouthwest—I don’t doubt you are right but the option of restricting immigration to exotic Christian folk was never on the table. The holy grail of diversity, the destruction of white Christian countries, requires the importation of Islam.

  • Mrs S wilson

    Well done, Archbp!

  • Lesley Hickling

    The place that the Church of England now finds itself is the product of a long journey over many years, I prayed about this and my answer was that they had become shop keepers. You can buy Jesus balloons, gossip 🙁 in a coffee shop, sing some rock songs, run a play group, make handbags, speak in tongues 🙁 🙁 messy church, have silly days, etc. Whereas for me Jesus is the light of this world and if you follow His teachings you will have a happy life living in the light – but the Church does not teach His teachings they are re-branding it to something else, Vicars do not want to mention Adultery and Lying and other things in the Ten Commandments less it offends – so what you end up with is a kind of clique group who do as they will, which reminds me of the hideous Alistair Crowley ”Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”.

    • David

      The C of E has many “rooms” within it. My local C of E church does quite clearly uphold traditional morality, as it is of the orthodox, evangelical branch. But to find either a traditional evangelical or Anglo- Catholic C of E local church does require a search, as there are so many counterfeit “luke warm” ones about.

    • Little Black Censored

      “He was a good man, Vicar. He always watched Songs of Praise.”

      • James60498 .

        According to my niece, who at the time was coming to the end of her RC school life, and just about do get excellent exam grades, “Amanda is a good Catholic because she helps out at Pensioners Club”

      • James60498 .

        “Amanda is a good Christian. She helps at Pensioners Club”. Is one I have heard from a supposedly intelligent late teenager.

  • chefofsinners

    In Michael Gove’s world there is one true Vine and one husbandman who tends it.
    The Church of England is merely the wire around which it wraps its tendrils. This article has very little to do with doctrine and everything to do with a desperation to regain favour with the prime minister.
    It is pitiful and pointless. Today’s announcement spells the end for yesterday’s men.

  • The modern heresy besetting all Christian churches is “moral proportionalism” or “consequentialism”, combined with freedom of individual conscience. Jack includes here the Catholic Church, lest anyone think he is scoring denominational points. It lies at the heart of the current latent schism in Catholicism.

    Simply put, it is possible to classify two broad approaches to moral thinking. They can be called, respectively, “proportionalism” and “the morality of principles.” Both approaches attempt to escape legalism and show that morality is not a set of arbitrary rules imposed without concern for what the human person is and longs to be. Both explain the moral teachings of Christianity in terms of love of persons. Both seek to be faithful to the larger vision of Scripture and Christian tradition, understanding that man was made not simply to keep rules but to serve God, intelligently striving to do what is really good and what love requires.

    Proportionalism emphases the proportion of good and evil in actions. According to proportionalism, an act which would otherwise be immoral can be justified morally if the overall good or evil involved in doing the action compares favourably with the overall good or evil which the available alternatives would bring about. Its basic principle can be called the principle of the greater good, or more
    commonly, the principle of the lesser evil. The morality of principles is so called because of its concern for unfailing faithfulness to the first principles of absolute morality.

    Proportionalism emphasises the overall outcomes of acts, evaluating them in terms of the principle of the lesser evil; and the morality of principles emphasises loyalty to principles that precludes overriding moral absolutes because of the overall good or evil the action brings about. Proportionalism says a person ought to choose a course of action which promises the greater proportion of good over evil. So, proportionalists believe that moral concern requires an assessment of all the good and evil involved in alternative possibilities for action. The purpose of this assessment is to determine, prior to choice, which of the alternatives promises the greater good or the lesser evil. This determination tells us which of the alternatives we morally ought to choose. “Consequentialists” tend to treat the principle of the lesser evil as the single basic moral principle. The most widely known form of consequentialism is utilitarianism. In its classical versions this secular form of ethics held that there is really only one good that human action pursues, pleasure; and it taught that men ought always pursue that which leads to “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

    Christian proportionalists are not pure utilitarians. The whole context of their thinking is Christian, not secular. They reject the oversimplified identification of the human good with pleasurable
    experience. They also reject any suggestion that individual rights can be subordinated to the interests of society. Most importantly, proportionalists acknowledge that there are some moral absolutes – for
    example, that one should never seek to lead another into sin. Thus, they admit limitations on the applicability of the proportionality principle.

    But proportionalists do hold that the most common moral absolutes traditionally taught by the Church are not valid. These moralists hold that not every act of contraception is immoral, that not every act of homosexuality or fornication is objectively wrong, that not every intentional taking of innocent human life is absolutely prohibited. For them, no kinds of acts are always wrong, or intrinsically evil. The proportionalist argues that a choice of what is “evil” can be morally justified if there is a proportionate reason – if choosing or intending that evil is the way to realise the lesser evil in a situation. The basic logic of the proportionalist method can thus reject much of Christianity’s received morality because it is possible to think of many situations in which the lesser evil will seem to require that one deliberately act “immorally”. Moral absolutes no longer apply. They hold that even though the Church has taught
    these things with such force for 2000 years, they believe they have been taught by infallible men and that it is licit to dissent if one has sufficient reasons.

    • 1649again

      Thanks Jack for that. I tend to agree, albeit recognise sometimes that a choice of two actions may both have evil consequences but one must be made, e.g. declaration of war in 1939.

      • In Catholic moral theology that is covered by the Just War doctrine – every person and every nation has the moral right and duty to protect itself from unjust aggression.

        Liberal-humanism and secularism has combined with moral proportionalism to give us the modern religion of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”:
        1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
        2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
        3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
        4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
        5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

        • David

          Because application of the the concept of Just War involves invoking such an exhaustive list of conditions that must be met before war is joined, ” necessary conditions”‘ in terms of formal logic, in practice, even God fearing decision makers are unlikely to adhere to all of its stipulations. But under premiership of Blair it was used in a totally unacceptably sloppy way, as a compliant pretext for war. In 1939 I believe that the just war set of conditions was satisfied.

          • CliveM

            This was understood in retrospect, but was it known at the time war was declared?

          • See above – the Vatican was certainly aware of this.

          • CliveM

            in the nicest possible way, I don’t think the Vaticans position played a big part and I suspect the niceties of just war theory didn’t play a a major part of the equation with regards the decision to go to war.

          • ” … the niceties of just war theory didn’t play a a major part of the equation with regards the decision to go to war.”

            America certainly ignored the conditions and Tony Blair blindly followed. The conditions for a Just War are not “niceties”. Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:

            1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

            2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

            3. There must be serious prospects of success;

            4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

            The responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to “the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” The Church’s role consists in enunciating clearly the principles, in forming the consciences of men and in insisting on the moral exercise of just war.

          • CliveM

            But you said it yourself Blair and Bush ignored the doctrine. I’m using the term nicety as it applies to politicians. Whatever the rights (or wrongs), it doesn’t play a big part in the decision making process.
            The question politicians ask is, is it in our national interest? Can we win?

          • Then we agree.

          • David

            Hhmm ! Good point. I’d like to believe that it was, intuitively by the people and reluctantly by a majority of the politicos. Churchill’s speeches were based upon a belief that we were defending Christian civilisation, and I retrospectively agree with him.

          • CliveM

            Essentially I agree.

          • The Vatican condemned the Iraq action as not meeting the requirements of the Just War doctrine. At the time, Pope John Paul II condemned a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, calling it immoral, risky and a “crime against peace.” John Paul insisted that war is a “defeat for humanity” and that a preventive strike against Iraq was neither legally nor morally justified. There was no justification on grounds of self-defence.

          • carl jacobs

            Yeh. We should have trusted Hans Blix and his Merry Men. Not that they could find their own zippers in a bathroom.

          • That’s as may be, but no one ever did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

          • carl jacobs

            That would be the “preemptive” part of preemptive war.

          • Just war recognizes that using force to pre-empt imminent attacks may be a form of justifiable defensive warfare. Humanitarian intervention, may likewise be permissible in just war theory as an outgrowth of just war’s natural law foundation and emphasis on Christian charity.

            The United States sought to make both pre-emptive war and the spread of democracy a reality when it invaded Iraq in March, 2003, with “regime change” as its object. The United States believed Iraq’s possession and pursuit of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons posed an unacceptable threat regionally, as well as to the United States itself. In addition, the Iraqi people lived under conditions that deprived them of basic human rights; and the United States believed that removing President Saddam Hussein from power and establishing a democratic government in Baghdad would alleviate those conditions.

            Arguable, at a stretch, certainly. And the other conditions?

            – All other means must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.
            – There must be serious prospects of success;
            – The war must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil eliminated.

          • carl jacobs

            Jack, not one of those criteria is either quantifiable or objective. They all turn on subjective judgments made by individuals using different weights. Do you think that we would agree on the gravity of evils produced? Do you think we would agree on the definition of success? You are hiding your own preferences behind a screen of alleged moral objectivity.

            War is a political judgment. The US went to war because the threat to US interests warranted it. It’s really not more complicated than that. What happened in Iraq afterwards was an acceptable cost given the nature of the threat that was mitigated.

          • “War is a political judgment”, yes, but the decision has moral dimensions. As Jack posted elsewhere, the responsibility for determining whether these conditions are met belongs to “the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” The Church’s role consists in enunciating clearly the principles, in forming the consciences of men and in insisting on the moral exercise of just war.

            “The US went to war because the threat to US interests warranted it.”

            That is not a sufficient basis for war and the evils it unleashes. The justification given was the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the impossibility of establishing this because of Hussain’s
            refusal to cooperate.

            “What happened in Iraq afterwards was an acceptable cost given the nature of the threat that was mitigated. “

            Acceptable cost to whom? Jack accepts hindsight is perfect vision but the threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction was non-existent and instability in the Middle East, the loss of human life, and the global threat from Islamists, have all increased.

          • carl jacobs

            enunciating clearly the principles

            These principles have no content, Jack. They possess neither boundary, nor threshold, nor scale. They simply contain empty definitions that must be filled by the one making the judgment. You entire argument presumes that your reading of these principles is in fact normative. It isn’t. I am not bound by your reading of proportionality, or prospect of success, or whether all means have been exhausted, or anything else. And certainly the US gov’t is not.

            That is not a sufficient basis for war and the evils it unleashes.

            In the first place the truth of that statement depends entirely on one’s reading of the relative evils unleashed. Once again, your reading is not normative. In the second place, the decision to go to war is entirely within the scope of authority of the US Gov’t. There is no supervising authority to which it is responsible. So if the US Gov’t thinks it in the interest of the US to go to war, then the US is justified in going to war. The polity of the US will decide if it agrees. You don’t get a say in how the US decides which interests are worthy of war. And that is especially true when you carry none of the risks that drive the decision for war in the first place.

            Acceptable cost to whom?

            To the United States. The decision for war is in large measure a decision to transfer consequences by force. The prospect of setting a huge proportion of the US military in the Middle East in perpetuity as a sitting fixed target for Islamic Guerrillas was far too great a cost for the US to risk. It would have meant perpetual war that could never be concluded, and never be avoided. It would have meant a bloody endless strategic entanglement when China is rising and do you think China wouldn’t love to have the US distracted from the Asia? Or would you rather the US had simply nuked Iraq if it ever detonated a weapon? Compared to that prospect, I don’t care what happened to Iraq. The US isn’t going to bear that strategic liability simply to satisfy your reading of Just War propositions. And you can be damn sure no one in Europe was going to carry that liability. What odds would you put on Britain deploying 200,000 soldiers to Saudi Arabia and Jordan in perpetuity backed up by Britain’s deterrent? Do you think Parliament would do that for the sake of Just War principles?

            Nothing that happened in Iraq was inevitable in 2003. It only became inevitable after Obama’s election, so you can’t even say that it was foreseeable. All you have is a lot of moralizing about how terrible things are in Iraq, and how it never should have happened. Whatever. You would be looking at a much different world if the US hadn’t fought that war. Better for Iraq? Maybe. Maybe not. Better for everyone else? Absolutely not. You just have the luxury being able to carp because you don’t have to face the consequences that would have accrued had the US not acted.

            I suppose you will say “The US could have fought the war at a later date.” Yes, at much greater cost and at much greater risk. That’s why I started by saying that war is a political judgment of prudence. Is your reading of Just War worth that extra cost and that extra risk? Not to the US Gov’t, it’s not.

          • Jack can think of many moral principles that require considered application and appear to lack specific content. Here’s an example:

            ” Love your neighbour as yourself.”

            As for: “That’s why I started by saying that war is a political judgment of prudence.” Jack concluded with this statement. The prudence consists in weighting the options and applying the principles of the Just War doctrine. Saying it suited the USA or things might have grown more serious, is insufficient.

          • carl jacobs

            I know what love is. I know who my neighbor is. The commandment is not empty. Tell me the scriptural definition of disproportionate suffering. Tell me the scope over which it should be applied. Tell me who I should consider in my analysis? Tell me the scriptural definition of reasonable prospect of success? Tell me when it should be measured and by what criteria it should be determined.

            Saying it suited the USA or things might have grown more serious, is insufficient.

            According. To. Whom?

          • These are the substantial questions to be addressed before the call to arms is given. All the principles of Just War are capable of discernment in particular situations. The pretext for the invasion was the unproven alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction. The actual reason, as you’ve outlined and as many understood at the time, was actually strategic global economic self interest.

            “According. To. Whom?”

            According to God and our ability to understand and apply Gospel principles in the sure and certain conviction that following His will is the only path to human happiness. That’s what the Old Testament teaches.

            So what is love and who is your neighbour?

            Jack often wonders whether the Calvinist principles that American culture was built upon distorts our scriptural understanding of the concepts of love and neighbour. If people are born totally depraved, with some being unconditionally elected and the rest damned, Christ’s atonement being limited to particular people, then are reprobate individuals and nations due our Christian love as neighbours? Do we stand in solidarity with all people, or just the saved? Humanitarian intervention is based on the principles of Christian charity and solidarity with others as created in the image of God, and the responsibility to protect innocent people from unjust aggression. One doubts the UN Security Council is capable of translating these principles into a tick box list of operational criteria. They are principles that have to be weighed in particular situations.

          • carl jacobs

            These are the substantial questions to be addressed before the call to arms is given

            You are arguing as if a consideration of these questions will produce consistent answers if only Just War criteria is applied faithfully. That won’t happen. There are no objectively correct answers to these questions because Just War criteria is not objective. Different people can approach these question in good faith and arrive at wildly divergent answers. You have stated the US didn’t apply Just War principles to Iraq. You don’t know this to be true. What you actually mean is “The US didn’t apply Just War criteria the way I would have applied it.” A third time I will say it. Your reading isn’t normative.

            The Second Iraq War was a preventive war intended to eliminate the possibility of a nuclear Iraq acting as hegemon in the Middle East. The presence of nuclear material was incidental to that strategic purpose. Except for concern over a nuclear Iraq, that war would never have happened. But what do you say of the First Iraq War. You don’t honestly believe the US fought that war to uphold the sovereignty of Kuwait. You know better. The US fought that war for its own geopolitical, economic, and strategic interests. That’s why nations fight. That’s why the US didn’t intervene in Rwanda. By your own logic, you should condemn the US for the First Iraq War because of wrong intent.

            Its not a mystery why your arguments have been so general. You know there is no definition to these principles. You know that if you tried to answer my questions you would be implicitly conceding my point. Once a specific definition is on the table, it can be debated. And you can’t allow that. It undermines your entire facade of objectivity. The argument will immediately be revealed as a difference over prudential judgment and the scope of matters that must be included in the analysis. And guess what? Economic, strategic, and geopolitical interests are going to be at the heart of that judgment. They have to be if you are going to command your citizens to fight and die. You have to possess a significant national cause to justify the sacrifice. Otherwise, you will never sustain the effort.

            War isn’t an act of International Liberal do-goodism, Jack. It’s much more elemental than that.

          • “War isn’t an act of International Liberal do-goodism, Jack. It’s much more elemental than that.”

            This is probably where we cannot agree.

            To understand just war theory, one must also understand general principles of Catholic natural law theory, particularly as they relate to human communality. In Catholic thought, God gave human beings, upon creation, access to God’s eternal law.’ Through likewise divinely endowed faculties of reason, and aided by scriptural revelation, humankind can know and use this eternal law to guide its decisions in matters where its will is free.’ Absent this guidance, human beings cannot live in harmony with their own natures, in domestic society, or internationally; through conformity to it, human beings can properly fulfill their nature, as individuals and collectively, in the manner ordained by God.’

            Just war theory presupposes this communal understanding of human fulfillment when morally evaluating war.” Just war posits that, if human beings are ordained to a common good, they therefore have a mandate to organize to defend that good from attack.12 The process of just war reasoning, then, is the process of inquiring whether, in the conduct of defending that good, humanity is observing the natural law. 3

            This a from a good article that Jack considers to be well balance, considering all the issues .


          • carl jacobs

            I am going to read this. I have it downloaded on my phone. But I have two immediate comments based upon the quotation above:

            1. The citation leads me to believe that a Just War is by definition a war fought for the common good. If that is a correct reading, then you have constructed a philosophy that has nothing to say to individuals facing real decisions in the real world. There has never been and there will never be a war fought “for the common good”. The US did not fight WWII “for the common good”. That may have been a collateral effect, but the US fought WWII to defend the security, liberty, power, position, and prosperity of the US. That’s why (for example) the US did not bomb Auschwitz. The protection of foreign civilians was not a US war aim. A mission directed away from the goal of ending the war was a wasted mission. Quite frankly, the lives of US servicemen in theater were considered more important than the lives of foreign civilians in Auschwitz.

            2. I now understand why you are so insistent on attributing British participation in WWI to the treaty with Belgium. The motivation of protecting Empire would raise troubling issues you would just as soon ignore.

          • Read the article …. in Jack’s view it actually lends support to a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq although it actually concludes this was not justified because it was premature and lacked UN support.
            As for WW1 – there are always a range of motives and factors in going to war. However, Britain did have a treaty protecting Belgium’s neutrality (as a line of defence against Germany) and Germany was the aggressor against a defenceless nation.

          • carl jacobs

            According to God

            Yes, you say that a lot but you haven’t even tried to substantiate it. When I ask for specifics, you become strangely silent.

            Humanitarian intervention is based on the principles of Christian charity and solidarity with others as created in the image of God, and the responsibility to protect innocent people from unjust aggression.

            And what nation has been willing to pay that cost? You are free to encourage the UK to wander about the world righting wrongs by military invasion. You will fail at the attempt, and cause more harm than good. Your principle achievement would be to get a bunch of British soldiers killed. Then you would watch public support for the war collapse. At which point, someone will ask “What was a that for, anyways?” But of course, the UK wouldn’t do it anyways.

            Nations aren’t people. It is a capital error to anthropomorphize nations and treat them as human moral agents. If you want to apply Scriptural principles to national behavior, you have to find imperatives in Scripture for the interaction of nations. You are free to show these to me.

          • carl jacobs

            BTW, Jack, have you ever heard of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)? That’s a subject on which I have read extensively. It uses the same Just War criteria you cite to justify military intervention for humanitarian purposes. People in the R2P community recognize that this is a problem, because those criteria can be used to justify pretty much any operation.

            So what the R2P community wants is for the UN Security Council to operationalize the criteria. They want thresholds established that will trigger automatic intervention. Why? Because they recognize that these principles must be given definition to make them meaningful.

          • No, they believed Saddam’s imminent use of the Euro to trade oil with as opposed to the Dollar was unacceptable. He had to go.

          • David

            Good. Yes thank you, although I was aware. So he was in agreement with a many of us in the UK.

      • Anton

        See if you can find the extended – and respectful – discussion between Jack and myself a year or two back about a WW1 officer who finds one of his men in No Man’s Land with his guts hanging out, in great pain and doomed to die within hours, who asks the Officer to look the other way while he pulls the Officer’s revolver from its holster for the obvious purpose. I would let him borrow it; Jack wouldn’t. I suggest that somewhere in the logic Jack has been taught to follow whatever is a hidden faulty assumption, one which is showing itself in this situation.

        • Jack would consider directly killing a person or to assist a person to commit suicide, as morally wrong, regardless of the circumstances.

          That said, it is for God to judge and Jack would not condemn a person who acted differently in this scenario as: “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.” (CCC 2282). This qualification does not make killing or suicide a right action in any circumstance as this is intrinsically evil and a breach of the absolute moral law i.e. sin. However, the person may not be totally culpable for the immoral action because of various personal conditions.

          • Anton

            You admitted during our discussion that you would have to stifle your heart not to do as I would do in that situation. Consider that as an indication that the heart may sometimes inform the head. The reasoning in philosophical arguments is seldom wrong but it often involves hidden assumptions, and in any case even the start point is arbitrary unless it is explicitly biblical.

            Jack would consider directly killing a person, or to assist a person to commit suicide, as morally wrong regardless of the circumstances.

            Except in war, once you have discussed the “just war” checklist with your C.O. as the shells fall??

          • The whole point of moral theology is not to let one’s emotions rule one’s informed conscience.

          • Anton

            No; I’m claiming that the exegesis of the concept which you have is not perfect and is shown up in this case.

          • … but it isn’t “shown up” at all.

            What would be the moral basis for killing this suffering wounded soldier or facilitating him taking his own life?

          • Anton

            What would be the moral basis for NOT letting him slip his hand to your holster?

          • Answer Jack’s question, please. You know his already.

          • Anton

            Rather than answer your question I’ll answer mine. There is no prohibition on suicide in the written Law of Moses. Murder means killing someone else, obviously. God’s silences are meaningful too, and significant in situations like this.

          • Lucius

            I would be careful finding affirmation by lack of direct condemnation. That line of reasoning has giving rise to all kind of heresies. Also, we have to be careful that an appeal to an extreme (i.e. soldier with mortal wound dying on the battlefield in agony) is not used to swallow the rule (i.e., suicide is sin). That said, our Lord and Savior advised “people will be forgiven for all sins … But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” (Mark 3:20-30). With this in mind, I think the better answer on suicide is that it is sin, but like all other sin, it is pardonable. How God weighs the circumstances (i.e. depression, grievous combat wound, terminal illness, etc.), I have no idea. But I would like to think (and hope) that he would find suicide pardonable in some instances.

          • Anton

            The Mosaic laws were laws given by God (ie, not some silly politician), and Jesus castigated the Pharisees for adding to the law.

          • Jewish views on suicide are mixed. In certain orthodoxies, suicide is forbidden by Jewish law. Judaism in the past viewed suicide as a sin. However, modern Judaism largely departs from this viewpoint (of suicide as sin) and instead recognizes the act as more akin to a death by a disease or disorder (except in cases of purposeful assisted suicide). Suicide is not expressly forbidden in the Talmud, and rabbinical scholars (certainly in the reformed movements) command compassion both for the deceased and the survivors.>


            In Jewish teaching, the prohibition of suicide is not contained in the sixth command­ment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20: 13 and Deuteronomy 5: 17). Obviously it does not follow from the fact that a man may not take the life of another that he may not take his own life.

            There is, in fact, no direct prohibition of suicide in the Bible. In the Talmud (Bava Kama 91b), however, the prohibition is arrived at by a process of exegesis on the verse: “and surely your blood of your lives will I require” (Genesis 9: 5), interpreted as: “I will require your blood if you yourselves shed it.” It is possible that there is no direct prohibition because very few people of sound mind would be inclined to commit suicide in any event.

            It follows from this that suicide and murder are two separate offenses in the Jewish tradi­tion, as they are in most cultures. Suicide is not homicide and is not covered in the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments]. In the usual rabbinic classification of duties, homicide would be considered an offense both “between man and God” and “between man and man,” whereas suicide would fall only under the former heading.

            Maimonides’ statement (Rotzeah, 2.2-3) that there is no “death at the hand of the court” for the crime of suicide, only “death by the hands of Heaven,” is puzzling, since how could a suicide, no longer alive, be punished for the crime by the court? In all probability, Maimonides formulates it in this way to distinguish between the two crimes of murder and suicide. Maimonides’ statement that a suicide is punished by the “hands of Heaven” no doubt refers to punishment in the hereafter; but the popular saying that a suicide has no share in the World to Come, which would cause a far more severe punishment to be visited on the suicide than on one guilty of murder, has no support in any of the classical sources. It has plausibly been suggested that the saying, though bogus, tended to be quoted as a warning to would-be suicides in stressful periods when there was a spate of suicides in the Jewish community.

            Suicide is considered to be a grave sin both because it is a denial that human life is a divine gift and because it constitutes a total defiance of God’s will for the individual to live the life-­span allotted to him. The suicide, more than any other offender, literally takes his life into his own hands. As it is put in Ethics of the Fathers (4. 21):”Despite yourself you were fashioned, and despite yourself you were born, and despite yourself you live, and despite yourself you die, and despite yourself you will hereafter have account and reckoning before the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.”


          • Anton

            The Christian Medical Fellowship website had an outstanding article on it as I recall. But I’d ask you this: you said months ago that you hoped you’d have the strength not to let the guy pick your pocket for your revolver. What lies behind your emotion in this instance?

          • Compassion for suffering and a reminder of what Christ endured for us on the Cross.

          • Anton

            Good answer…

          • As a side-bar, when Jack was researching Judaic teachings on suicide he happened across a Rabbinic tradition that justified suicide by those who had taken the life of others as an act of atonement and reparation to God. This opens up an interesting perspective on Judas’ suicide.

          • So you see nothing immoral in euthanasia or in suicide more generally? Man can morally determine the timing and circumstances of his own death. The moral precepts of the Divine Law is contained for the most part and summed up in the Decalogue. God’s Law is: “Thou shalt not kill”, unless the circumstances are prescribed by God.

            Suicide always constitutes a grave injustice towards God. To destroy a something is to dispose of it as an absolute master and to act as one having full dominion over it. Man does not possess full and independent dominion over his life, since to be an owner one must be superior to his property. God has reserved to himself direct dominion over life. He is the owner of life and He has given man only the right of use, with the charge of protecting and preserving life. Consequently suicide is against the dominion and right of ownership of the Creator.

          • Anton

            I’m sure you are essentially quoting others but I find those words dreadfully pompous. If somebody is in such distress that they prefer to hand their life back to God, who are we to condemn them?

          • If suicide is in the final analysis a failure of faith is it a failure to persevere in faith and so damning. It is those who persevere in faith who are assured of salvation. Suicide is a collapse of faith even if it presents itself to the depressed person as a step of faith.

            I struggle with depression from time to time and suicide can seem attractive in that situation. If I thought it was a certain and quick route to heaven I might be successfully tempted. I don’t think it is helpful to depressed people to give them licence to think that suicide will be forgiven. It may be, but it may not. Only God knows if the state of mind was so distorted to absolve of responsibility. This very uncertainty helps prevent an act which has devastating consequences for a wide range of people.

            The chilling reaction we feel at suicide (and euthanasia) should signal its moral and spiritual failure.

          • It’s an objective sin but condemnation belongs to God alone.

          • Anton

            Perhaps, like drunkenness, it carries its own sufficient penalty. (Drunkenness is repeatedly condemned in the OT but not forbidden in Mosaic Law.)

          • I’m with jack in this one. I am inclined to think the command not to kill doe include suicide. Saul’s ‘suicide’ is not viewed positively. In the final nlysis suicide is a figure to trust.

          • Anton

            No suicide is a positive thing, obviously. Saul’s was the end point of a long morality tale which is in the Bible for our edification. Suicide may or may not be a crime by the person who does it, but I disagree that it is covered by commands not to murder. What biblical evidence can you bring that murder does not include suicide?

          • ‘What biblical evidence… that murder does not include suicide ‘. Exactly. The burden of proof lies with he who says self-killing is not included in the command not to kill.

            But we don’t need a specific command for every evil. We have no specific command regarding paedophilia or cannibalism etc. Their evil is inferred from other general biblical principles and indeed from revulsion of conscience.

          • Lucius

            “But we don’t need a specific command for every evil”
            This is the problem with Scriptural interpretation that finds affirmation by lack of direct condemnation. Clearly, there is sin that may not necessarily be captured in the express language of the Bible, but is nevertheless in contravention to the spirit of the Bible and Holy Tradition.

          • Indeed.

          • Anton

            What you are ignoring is that Mosaic Law was a complete legal code.

          • Anton

            “Burden of proof” is playground stuff. Everybody’s image of murder is somebody knifing or shooting or strangling or coshing someone else, isn’t it?

          • No it’s not playground stuff. Far too dismissive. I agree with Lucius below (with the exception of holy tradition of course).

          • Anton

            Everybody’s image of murder is somebody knifing or shooting or strangling or coshing someone else, isn’t it?

          • IanCad

            A little late to this debate I know, Anton; but surely the words of Christ are there to guide us.

            “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

            “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

      • Damaris Tighe

        I see these terrible choices as a consequence of the fallen human condition. The recognition that sometimes whatever we do has evil consequences brought me to baptism and the Church which can mediate God’s forgiveness.

    • David

      A very good exposition Jack. I agree.
      I believe that we must uphold moral absolutes, whilst doing as Jesus did, which is to judge between right and wrong, but not condemn those whose actions fall short of high, absolute standards. So all true Christians must strive to uphold absolute standards, whilst accepting that all of us will inevitably, at some point, fail. In fact most of us will fail frequently. But to shift the standard down to where we are is, ultimately, to reject the authority of God, which no true believer must ever, knowingly do.

      • A Christian is called to judge behaviour but not to judge the soul of another person. Saint Paul certainly didn’t hesitate to do so – nor did Christ.

        Didn’t the liberals jump for joy at the ill-considered and misrepresented statement of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”

        • Lucius

          As my priest likes to say: “I am in sales, not management.”

          Liberals like to hitch to Christ’s admonition to the crowd, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” when the adulteress was thrown before Him. But they tend to leave out Christ’s admonition to the adulteress when the crowd disassembles, “now go your way and sin no more.”

          • Good one … just so long as he sells the product honestly and doesn’t misrepresent it.

          • 1649again

            Well it is a miracle product at very little cost.

          • There is a cost – but what a return!

          • Lucius

            Little monetary cost (i.e., no admissions fee). But true commitment entails major spiritual/lifestyle costs.

          • Jack certainly finds it a daily struggle to die to self.

          • 1649again

            The cost is immaterial considering the return. One of our problems in today’s consumer society is that for many the offer is too good value to be true.

        • David

          Indeed. The present Pope made a serious mistake with that terrible utterance. I was shocked – seriously.

          • Cressida de Nova

            Yes we were all shocked. It has had repercussions which are ongoing.

          • Damaris Tighe

            Sadly, the Holy Father has a tendency to speak before engaging his brain.

    • chefofsinners

      The flaw in proportionalism being that humans lack the wisdom either to judge good or evil, or to know all the outcomes of any action.
      Knowledge of good and evil, as obtained from the fruit of that tree, brings the temptation to proportionalism. God’s judgment on humanity in this state is “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

      • Pride and deceit of self.

        • chefofsinners

          Two of my favourite pastimes. Must try harder.

          • Please don’t. You’re trying enough as it is.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Good point. Proportionalism fails to see the problem of unintended consequences, which can take decades to be clear – except for prophets.

  • IrishNeanderthal

    I remember Michael Gove saying he would rather find his daughter reading “Middlemarch” than “Twilight”. I did not do Eng. Lit. at school, but I have the impression that “Middlemarch” is somewhat subversive. Am I right in that impression, and if so was it not a rather ill-judged thing for a Conservative Minister of Education to say?

    And do people here remember this cartoon? https://www.reddit.com/r/ukpolitics/comments/4qtm5b/bob_on_the_conservatives_leadership_race/

    • Rhoda

      Any sane parent would prefer their daughter to read Middlemarch rather than Twilight.

      • Middlemarch is not kind to evangelicals. George Eliot rarely is (Adam Beds being a possible exception). However, its basic morality reflects Christian values as far as I remember as most C19 novels do. If the films are anything to go by The Twilight novels won’t hold a candle to Middlemarch at any level.

  • Inspector General

    Greetings, Ashenden, old fellow. It’s a rum business alright, when politicians start having their say in the church, what!

    Meanwhile, north of the border, the assault on God’s houses is getting bolder…
    Church of Scotland to vote on same-sex marriage and apologising to gay people
    Apologies are required of us now. They will extract a mighty price from the church once they’re in. Some form of excommunication probably for the ‘haters’ which is what homophobic bigots like us and Christ have now become. All Christian (lite, reduced fat) protestant mainstream churches are going the same way. It’s just a question of time before these current high priests of society run the show…with the feminista ladies, of course. That might make sparks fly, once the LGBT start demanding unisex toilets. Still, you’re getting the hell out, and whom can blame you!

    • Lucius
      • Inspector General

        Move over Jesus, you’ve had your time…

        • Jesus is being modernised, repackaged and represented. After all, He didn’t have the benefit of a modern education and was a prisoner of the culture of a primitive “lesser race.” What did He know?

          • Lucius

            I call the new Jesus “Unicorn Jesus” or “Rainbow Jesus.” He’s magical, non-judgmental, and will totally support whatever makes you happy.

          • He’s the “Buddy Christ”.

          • Inspector General

            It’s no shame to talk about ‘lesser races’, unless, apparently, you are safely domiciled in Scotland and don’t give a fig about anyone else.

            This Inspector can walk down his street, and in doing so, knows the following:

            1) He will not be held up at gunpoint by a negro for the contents of his wallet. 2) He will not be beheaded for failing to grow a beard 3) He will not be filled with bits of explosive vehicle after a car bomb,

            Still smug?

          • As there were no guns or explosives in Judea or Muslims when Jesus walked the earth, Inspector, clearly His moral principles must have been unsuited to our times. He probably didn’t know about sub-Saharan Africans either.

      • David

        I am not an expert on all things American, but from my readings from the faithful bishops that separated from the ever more liberal Episcopalians, calling themselves simply, The Anglican Church of North America, the Episcopalians are in free fall in terms of church numbers whilst the faithful, who walked away from their churches, are growing steadily. Twas ever thus, with heresy dying and those led by the Spirit, receiving instruction from Revealed Truth in His Word, steadily growing.

        • Lucius

          I had a front row seat to this madness as a former Episcopalian. I have no figures in front of me, but I would generally agree with your assessment. In short, a lot of the faithful simply could not live with garbage espoused by Episcopalian clergy like this gem:

          How LGBTQ love saves Christianity: A priest explains Christianity challenges us to “queer” the lines that divide us. It should not be hostile; indeed, it’s queer itself
          Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman


          • David

            Were you in the US then ?

  • CliveM

    I wonder if the dissolution vote will pass. I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion.

    • chefofsinners

      Most MPs are dissolute already.

    • Anton

      All things will pass.

      • CliveM

        Hmm not really what I meant.

  • Endangered Anglican cathedrals prompt Church of England review.

    Most of the 42 Anglican cathedrals were built in the Middle Ages as Catholic churches, and were taken over by the fledgling Church of England following the English Reformation when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of monasteries. It is the maintenance and repair of these ancient buildings that is causing much of the cathedrals’ financial problems today.

    “Taken over”??

    Durham Cathedral, founded in the 11th century, the location of the shrine of St. Cuthbert, has an annual deficit of £500,000.

    Pope Benedict XVI

    A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. These are then announced in terms of so-called “negative tolerance”. For instance, when people say that for the sake of negative tolerance [i.e. “not offending anyone”] there must be no crucifix in public buildings. With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.

    When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom – for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation.

    In reality, however, this development increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion, which pretends to be generally valid because it is reasonable, indeed, because it is reason itself, which knows all and, therefore, defines the frame of reference that is now supposed to apply to everyone.

    In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.


    • David

      HJ. He is absolutely spot on of course !

      • What makes moral relativism so dangerous is its moral proportionalist allies in the Church who twist scripture and reason to accommodate it.

        • David

          Agreed !

  • David

    “One of the first rules for mental health is not to believe in conspiracy theories”

    Why ?

    Are we advocating a naiveté that says that our enemies always openly declare their eventual intentions and methods ?

    Quite clearly, to give but one example, theological and political liberalism advances ratchet stop by ratchet stop, gathering supporters on the journey without ever declaring the eventual destination ? Theirs is an ever moving frontier away from the normal, towards the abnormal, into ever stranger territory.

    And if we are to understand the process they are engaged in, the step by step, imposition of their illiberal world view, heralding the end of true tolerance, we must think beyond the immediate situation, to identify possible trajectories and vectors of movement – which sounds suspiciously like “doing” conspiracy theories !

    I find it surprising that a writer as sophisticated and educated as this would make such a challengeable statement. Anyone agree with me ?

    • Jack can’t attest to his own mental health (who can?), but he knows Lizards exist and are at work amongst us.

      • David

        You old shape-shifter you !

        • Not so much of the old, thank you.
          Jack sees Lizards.

          • David

            Yes m’ lad !

          • Holger

            “Jack sees Lizards.”

            The looking glass never lies.

            Only it isn’t a Lizard you see. It’s a dinosaur. On the verge of extinction.

          • You are under the control of the Master Lizard, Linus. Every hate filled word you write confirms this. It stems from pride and hopelessness.

          • IrishNeanderthal

            If anyone calls you a dinosaur, try this on him/her/it:

            “There are worse things than being extinct,” said the dinosaur sourly, “and one of them is being you.”

            from The Human Being and the Dinosaur, by James Thurber

          • What an excellent repost. Jack will keep this in mind. Thank you.

          • Holger

            Master Lizard?

            You really do live in lalaland, don’t you?

            There are no Lizards, old bigot. Just human beings with a firmer or looser grip on reality.

            Hatred exists though. Anyone who talks to you will realise that within seconds.

            As in object lesson in how religion corrupts and brainwashes, I suppose you have some value though. So by all means, keep on spraying your church’s hatred around you like a dog pissing up against a wall. Your stench gives you away and warns others to stay well clear.

          • The trouble is Holger the person I hear hatred and venom coming from is you. I and others on this thread hate certain beliefs and practices but we don’t hate the people who hold these. You on the other hand seem not only to hate what some of us may believe but hate us too. You quickly personalise it.

      • Pubcrawler
      • Anton

        Snakes, are, certainly: church liberals in high places.

    • 1649again

      Yet again I do David. Satan after all works covertly and never shows his hand.

    • chefofsinners

      No doubt Gove said something similar to Boris moments before announcing his bid for the Conservative leadership.

  • ChaucerChronicle

    Rev Ashenden

    As you know the CofE has elected to exercise political power as the gate and road to exercising spiritual power is: too narrow.

    You keep travelling the path you’re on, and one day, maybe, historians will call you ‘The Morning Gun of the Second English Reformation.’

  • bluedog

    ‘…or done anything to help the Church of England out of the secular land-slip it has settled in.’

    Expand that statement to include the United Kingdom. Just as Dr Martyn Percy preaches a version of Christianity that few of us here recognise, so he preaches that same essentially secular vision to his students, the future leaders of society. And Percy is not alone. Throughout the western world the new progressive morality dominates the thinking of the institutes of learning and spreads ever wider. A whole new way of human relationships is being propagated, involving marriage, abortion and euthanasia, the treatment of minorities, those with disabilities of any kind, and of course the homosexuals and alphabet sexuals. The Judeo-Christian moral values that have previously guided us are being aggressively expelled and replaced by the progressive morality, which is legally enforced. In supporting this transformation, the CoE has allowed itself to become the useful idiots, and that is a tragedy of great import.

    As others have suggested, we need Dr Ashenden within the Church, not as a powerless commentator without.

    • Mike Stallard

      Where will he go now though? I am genuinely interested.

      • David

        “I am genuinely interested”
        Me too.
        His leadership is greatly appreciated by me.
        I don’t think he will swim the Tiber, as he has said he upholds his orders. He supports GAFCON and the AMiE, like me, so maybe there’s a clue ?

  • Don Benson

    I suppose it is hard for a politician whose life is taken up with the giving of one’s own views and the receiving of other people’s views to understand about revelation. But if God is real he cannot just be another voice in the constant chatter of human discourse: what he says and what he offers is not up for debate; he cannot be made to fit in with the discourse. And, for Christians, God’s revelation is found in one book which, anchored in history, cannot change and is certainly not intended to change according to the social and political impulses of the day.

    To appreciate this fundamental difference between the revelation of truth and the endlessly changing trajectory of human ideas demands an internal surrender of the self as the final arbiter of what is true and what is false. It means the recognition that the affairs and the opinions of men and women are no more valid than a passing vapour and cannot be used either as the rock on which you build your life or the compass by which you decide which is the right direction to travel.

    Christians know that this can only happen within us by the work of God’s Spirit, and that, once received, He cannot be ignored when His promptings prove inconvenient to those who rejoice in the trends of the moment. But what might be assumed as a life-changing cost to one’s autonomy turns out to be the greatest of benefits in terms of freedom from the fear of what other people think of us; in fact it’s the gateway to fullness of life.

    That surrender may be hard for politicians, but it’s no less hard for all of us, and it’s just as hard for bishops and archbishops because they too are constantly tempted by the same Father of Lies who tempted Jesus out in the desert. He’s always trying to pull us back and it’s usually the half-truth which is the most effective lie. We are all susceptible and we constantly have to refer to that one book to test out what we hear – as Jesus himself did. And it’s the decoupling of a once faithful church from that book which presages the disaster we are now witnessing in the Church of England.

    • Damaris Tighe

      “it’s usually the half-truth which is the most effective lie” – spot on.

  • Manfarang

    I stayed at a small hotel near the Anglican St Andrews church in Darjeeling over the holiday break. It has a small dwindling congregation. Remember in Asia most hold socially conservative views.
    As regards Marxists, the Communist Party was out on the streets demanding Darjeeling be given statehood. It is part of West Bengal which was for many years ruled the Communists.

    • David

      Some years ago on our month long tour of northern India I found those small Anglican churches up in the hills very moving places, with their services in both Hindi and English and the very familiar prayer books. In the graveyards were the bodies of many English babies, infants and children, who not possessing the inherited genetic resistance of the local Indian babies, all too often succumbed to the local diseases – very sad.

      But what genuine warmth the locals showed to us English – quite heartening, and all around us the imperial infrastructure, railway, roads, drainage schemes, banks and post offices was still functioning – all quite amazing ! I lost ten pounds in weight in India as one tires of curry even for breakfast, and safe meat and vegetables are hard to procure. But being careful I was one of the few in our group to avoid contracting the dreaded stomach bugs. India is an amazing, but very strange place, to me an Englishman.

      • Manfarang

        I am not sure the vegetarian food was always as pure as they told me but I found it nice to be in such a vegetarian country. The drinking water can be the problem when it comes to stomach bugs. I have Indian, Thai Indian friends and grew up with Anglo-Indians. My father was there in WW2 so the place is not so unfamiliar. In Darjeeling porridge was for breakfast and some Indo-Chinese food available in other places. I hope to make another trip soon to Assam to visit churches there but of course I may need a travel permit.

        • David

          Then clearly you are more India savvy than me. For us it was a once only visit, which my wife was very keen to make. However because she suffered considerably from the stomach bugs, unlike myself, she does not want to return. I enjoyed it, but it is not my sort of territory, being essentially a mid-to-upper latitudes person.
          But I would have paid good money to have got my hands on some porridge ! The Indian diet was very unappealing I found, even in good quality hotels.
          Two years later we toured Bhutan, which being mountainous provided far better and safer fresh vegetables and even some scraggy but safe meat. I enjoyed Bhutan more than India.
          Stay safe in Assam.

          • Manfarang

            I did also go to Sikkim into the mountains to take a look at the Tibetan monasteries, although I am used to tropical weather the cool Himalayan breezes were welcome. They say next month it is going to reach 52 C in parts of India so they are expecting more visitors then.

          • David

            Pew !
            Those temperatures are not for me !
            We went to N.India in their winter, even though it costs more then, as it was more than hot enough for me.

    • I’m from Barcelona

      Paradoxically, witness the massive (yet orderly) queues,especially for Christmas services, at the Christian churches in places such as Shanghai.

      • Manfarang

        The Chinese love stability and harmony.

    • Ivan M

      India in parts, is not any longer the easy going tolerant place for Christians that it was until a couple of years ago. While nowhere near as bad as Pakistan, with the rise of the RSS in many of the remoter parts of India, the Christians are looking at ‘interesting times’ ahead. I was sanguine in my ignorance but now realise that the menace of what are called ‘right-wing Hindu fanatics’ can no longer be ignored.

  • Mike Stallard

    The CoE is our national Church, headed up by our Head of State – Her Majesty the Queen.
    Unfortunately our nation ain’t what it used to be. All our institutions are having to adapt to the change – more old people, less faith in ourselves (male pale and stale) rejection of our Imperial (and slaving) past, acceptance of a whole lot of people who do not hold our values (have we still got any?) and a birth rate which is plummeting (except for the new chums).
    The future (and my pension) look very fragile indeed. And I do not see my country changing back to its once glorious past either.
    Do you?

    • Holger

      “…and my pension…”

      And thus Christian compassion ever was, and shall ever be.

    • The CoE is our national Church… and herein lies the problem. Erasmian theology. Erasmian sexual proclivities are finding a nest in its branches too.

  • chefofsinners

    A parable…
    A certain church went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
    And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
    And likewise a Leaveite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
    But a certain Politician, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
    And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and wrote a friendly article about him…
    Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

  • Dominic Stockford

    Notable to see a good Christian man nobly manning the Government back benches late last night as all the other MPs went off to consider their futures. Well done David Burrowes.

  • len

    The Church needs to distance itself from politics and politicians.
    Render under Caesar and all that.
    But now Caesar is in the church and wants ‘to run the show.’
    God of course knew this would happen (past) will happen (now) and will continue to happen(future) but Jesus gave us the remedy for this in Revelation 2-3
    But who is listening to God when we have so many ‘experts’ to advise us ?.

  • magnolia

    “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. Or perhaps rather “history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

    Once upon a time there was a green baize door, now there is a green Bayes floor, or is that flaw?

    Perhaps there is a limerick in there? Enough double and triple rhymes to choose from.

    I slightly envy him insofar as he has clearly never chanced upon an episode of Jeremy Kyle and assorted low-lives….or he would be more …umm…nuanced perhaps?

  • Hi

    One thing I’ve picked up on is how the big fight isn’t between atheists and religions , but the internal spins of the religion, so liberal religion is worse than outright disbelief?

    • len

      The enemy within is far worse than the enemy outside.
      What the enemy of mankind cannot kill outright he corrupts.

    • Outright disbelief is at least honest. Liberal religion (that Dr. Ashden is talking about) tends to be lies dressed up in the clothes of truth. It’s much more dangerous.

    • CliveM


      the most vicious war is civil war and the least likely to end in reconciliation.

    • Anton

      Why are you Orthodox rather than Reform? (Sure you get the idea, from that question…)

  • wisestreligion

    Paul’s concern was for the church. It should be Holy and members should be held to God’s standards, whatever was going on in wider society. I Corinthians 5, the sexual sinner is to be removed from the congregation. Paul’s exclusive, discriminating church, as a fitting bride for Christ, grew rapidly in the face of harsh persecution to peacefully conquer the pagan Roman world.

    The church does not need, in Gove’s words, to divert its energies into “Agonising over the details of how people choose to love each other”. Scripture tells us already. Today’s C of E, however, takes its morality from the world outside. No wonder the world sees it as a declining influence.

  • reader

    Have heard, several times, preaching on the raising of the widow’s son at Nain. The point made was of two crowds who met: the funeral with death at the centre, and the disciples and followers, with Jesus at the centre. Doubtless, not all Jesus’ followers clearly grasped the significance of ‘their crowd’, but as long as they stayed close to Him (in His crowd?), they weren’t going to go far astray. That seems to be where the CoE Arch’ps are failing us, and the responsibility for the well-being of the flock rests with them.

  • IrishNeanderthal
  • IrishNeanderthal

    A few comments earlier, Hannah mentioned a fundamental conflict. If I understand Chesterton correctly, the quote following describes another fundamental conflict, between realsim and nominalism.

    What was the meaning of all that dim but vast unrest of the twelfth century; when, as it has been so finely said, Julian stirred in his sleep? Why did there appear so strangely early, in the twilight of dawn after the Dark Ages, so deep a scepticism as that involved in urging nominalism against realism? For realism against nominalism was really realism against rationalism, or something more destructive than what we call rationalism. The answer is that just as some might have thought the Church simply a part of the Roman Empire, so others later might have thought the Church only a part of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages ended as the Empire had ended, and the Church should have departed with them, if she had been also one of the shades of night. It was another of those spectral deaths or simulations of death. I mean that if nominalism had succeeded, it would have been as if Arianism had succeeded, it would have been the beginning of a confession that Christianity had failed. For nominalism is a far more fundamental scepticism than mere atheism. Such was the question that was openly asked as the Dark Ages broadened into that daylight that we call the modern world. But what was the answer? The answer was Aquinas in the chair of Aristotle, taking all knowledge for his province; and tens of thousands of lads down to the lowest ranks of peasant and serf, living in rags and on crusts about the great colleges, to listen to the scholastic philosophy.

    What was the meaning of all that whisper of fear that ran round the west under the shadow of Islam, and fills every old romance with incongruous images of Saracen knights swaggering in Norway or the Hebrides? Why were men in the extreme west, such as King John if I remember rightly, accused of being secretly Moslems, as men are accused of being secretly atheists? Why was there that fierce alarm among some of the authorities about the rationalistic Arab version of Aristotle? Authorities are seldom alarmed like that except when it is too late. The answer is that hundreds of people probably believed in their hearts that Islam would conquer Christendom; that Averroes was more rational than Anselm; that the Saracen Culture was really, as it was superficially, a superior culture. Here again we should probably find a whole generation, the older generation, serve doubtful and depressed and weary. The coming of Islam would only have been the coming of Unitarianism a thousand years before its time. To many it may have seemed quite reasonable and quite probable and quite likely to happen. If so, they would have been surprised at what did happen. What did happen was a roar like thunder from thousands and thousands of young men, throwing all their youth into one exultant counter-charge, the Crusades. It was the sons of St. Francis, the Jugglers of God, wandering singing over all the roads of the world; it was the Gothic going up like a flight of arrows; it was the waking of the world. In considering the war of the Albigensians, we come to the breach in the heart of Europe and the landslide of a new philosophy that nearly ended Christendom for ever. In that case the new philosophy was also a very new philosophy; it was pessimism. It was none the less like modern ideas because it was as old as Asia; most modern ideas are. It was the Gnostics returning; but why did the Gnostics return? Because it was the end of an epoch, like the end of the Empire; and should have been the end of the Church. It was Schopenhauer hovering over the future; but it was also Manichaeus rising from the dead; that men might have death and that they might have it more abundantly.

    An example of nominalism (as understood here) arose in the Macpherson report on how the police handled the muder of Stephen Lawrence. People made much fuss over the term “institutional racism”, but seem to have overlooked the devil in the detail that racism was to be defined from point of view of the recipient, apparently without taking account of how badly educated the recipient might be (somwhat in the sense of how Chesterton told the New York Times that replacing aristocracy with democracy was replacing rule by the badly educated with rule by the uneducated.)

    In 1992, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

    At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life…. people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail….

    Here he seems to be preaching nominalism in theory, but that “place in society” bit means in practice that the lot in vogue attempt to seize the power to define everybody else’s place in society.