Monthly Archives: January 2008

Bad theology

I don’t know about other ministers but I seem to spend quite a lot of time responding to bad theology. No I don’t really mean bad theology I mean appalling theology.

Is it just me or is there an increasing amount of bad theology about? At times it seems like a tidal wave of rubbish coming from satellite TV and from small circulation magazines. I could give two or three examples each week. One problem is the automatic and unquestioning authority people give to those who appear on TV or in print.

There are a number of common themes to the bad theology that abounds

  • Wide use of the book of Revelation with specific interpretations presented as if they are the actual text (eg Howitzers and Nuclear War are apparently specifically mentioned in Revelation).
  • Ignoring the gospels entirely
  • Re-writing history (one I heard yesterday was that various Popes rewrote the Bible)
  • The Trinity gets ignored or subverted into a hierarchy whereby neither Jesus nor the Holy Spirit is considered fully equal to God.
  • Prosperity teaching
  • Proof texting whereby whole articles are assembled from random quotes from scripture, ripped from context and often used to mean something entirely different, a technique  loved by those who read the Bible as if it is only prophesy for today.

I find Ephesians 4:11-16 so relevant here:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  13
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son
of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the
fullness of Christ.

    14 Then
we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and
blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and
craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.  16
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting
ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its
work.

I am a real believer in the importance of doing Theology in our Churches, of taking it seriously, of going deep. We are doing that together in both Raunds and Thrapston through small groups. But all the time I feel we are fighting this tide of flotsam that is so easy to receive, that encourages people not to think or reflect and which is focused on agendas that seem far away from the Misio Dei.

[Update]

Henry has linked to this in Threads from Henry’s Web » Prosperity Gospel is not Good News with the comment:

Dave Warnock, on his blog 42, wrote about bad theology,
and included the prosperity gospel as an example of such–rightfully so.
I’m aware that, as one of his commenters noted, this is debated. But
just because there is debate doesn’t mean that such debate is
justifiable. I don’t mind those who believe God will bless. Where I
think there is an unequivocal problem is where preachers and teachers
assure people that if they just give, even if they can’t afford it, God
will bless them multiply. That is not God’s plan for supporting
ministry.

Henry also links to Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Prosperity Gospel Victims with the comment:

From a somewhat different perspective, Ed Brayton wrote on prosperity theology,
and provided excellent examples of just why this is wrong. He brings up
the issue of just where we can begin to call this fraud from a legal
point of view. Since many religious claims are viewed as fraud by other
religious people, the religious liberty issue is difficult. But as an
individual, I have no such problems. The extreme claims of prosperity
theology prey on vulnerable people.

Ed’s post is worth reading, as are the comments.

[Update 2]

The problems of the prosperity gospel are doing the rounds at the moment. One good post is: Doing Theology from the Caribbean: The "Get Rich Quick" Approach to Religion.

Toothless Press Complaints Commission

I have heard back from the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in the Matt Parris case.

You may remember that on December 27th Matthew Parris, a columnist in The Times incited murder in: What’s smug and deserves to be decapitated?

A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists.

I wrote about it in 42: The Times incites murder!

In his next column he issued what I described as a Lame apology:

I offended many with my Christmas attack on cyclists. It was meant humorously
but so many cyclists have taken it seriously that I plainly misjudged. I am
sorry.

The response (given below) demonstrates the totally toothless nature of the PCC and their code of conduct. It is clearly totally unsuited to the modern age when newspapers (like TV news) do not report events but instead use opinions and views (which are not covered by the code of practice) to attack for entertainment.

As well as completing the complaint form for the PCC I also complained to the online editor of the Times from whom I have heard nothing (what a surprise!).

I am wondering whether to follow this up further with the PCC. Of particular concern to me is:

  • The lack of anything in the code regarding incitement to violence or hatred, only physical acts are covered.
  • The way "opinion" pieces are not covered
  • The use of the terms "professional standards" and "full spirit" in the preamble which are then restricted to a very limited reading of the 16 clauses.
  • The simplistic acceptance of an apology that did not apologise for the original offence but only for not realising it was offensive to incite people to commit murder.

I also hope that the CTC legal department will follow up on this case, they have already said any future articles will be pursued but I think the lack of an adequate response to this one means they have a role to play.

The Email from the PCC

Dear Dave Warnock

As you may know, the PCC received a large number of complaints about the Matthew Parris article about which you recently raised concerns.

The Commission has now assessed whether the article in question, headlined “What’s smug and deserves to be decapitated”, breached the terms of the Code of Practice (which can be seen on our website at www.pcc.org.uk).  While it acknowledged the deep concerns that many readers had about the piece, the Commission’s decision was that there was no breach of the Code and a full explanation is enclosed.  Please let me know if you would like further clarification of the reasons for the Commission’s decision.

Although the Commission has come to this view, we will be writing to the editor of the Times to let him know the scale of complaints we received about Mr Parris’ column.

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled – as opposed to the Commission’s decision itself – you should write within one month to the independent Charter Commissioner, whose details can be found on our website.

Thank you for taking this matter up with us.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Evenden
patrick.evenden@pcc.org.uk
Patrick Evenden
Administration Manager

The Full Explanation


Various v The Times

The Commission wished first to acknowledge the strong concerns raised by many complainants that the article was an incitement to violence against cyclists.  It was clear that Mr Parris’ remarks about decapitating cyclists – whatever his (presumably humorous) intention had been – had caused considerable disquiet.  Indeed, the Commission was pleased to note that he had apologised for his comments in his column of 3 January.   

However, suggestions that the article was, as a result of the remarks, a breach of the criminal law were not matters for the PCC.  As such, while noting the anger the article had caused, the question for the Commission to answer was whether it was in breach of the Code.  It concluded that it was not.

With regard to Clause 1 (Accuracy), a number of complainants had suggested that the article erred by claiming that cyclists were responsible for littering hedgerows along country lanes.  Complainants had argued that Mr Parris provided no evidence that litter he had seen was left by passing cyclists.  In dealing with this complaint the Commission emphasised the provisions of section iii) of Clause 1, which says that “the press, while free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”.  On this occasion, noting that the article was obviously marked as being a platform for Mr Parris’ own views and experiences, the Commission considered that the newspaper had sufficiently distinguished conjecture from fact.  It was undoubtedly the columnist’s opinion that cyclists were responsible for the littering he had encountered; he was entitled to present his view robustly.

Some complainants had sought to engage Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Code of Practice.  However, the Commission emphasised that this part of the Code relates to the physical behaviour of journalists and not to published material.  As such, the article could not constitute a breach of Clause 4.

The third Clause of the Code identified by a number of complaints was Clause 12 (Discrimination).  Here too, however, there could be no breach.  Clause 12 lists a number of things that the press must not refer to pejoratively when talking about an individual: race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability.  Preferred method of transport is not included in the list.

Some complainants, as well as referring to specific Clauses of the Code of Practice, had cited the preamble to the Code in their submissions.  The preamble, which sets the context for the Code, says that “all members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards” and explains that the Code must be honoured in the full spirit as well as to the letter.  However, the professional standards to which the preamble refers are encapsulated in the 16 numbered Clauses which follow.  Since the Commission had found the article not to breach any of those Clauses, it concluded that there was no breach of the Code of Practice overall.  The fact that complainants had obviously found the piece highly distasteful was not a matter for the PCC since questions of taste fall outside its remit.

Are the press starting to understand cycling benefits

The government is starting to wake up to the benefits of spending money on cycling see
£140 million Government support for cycling welcomed by London Cycling Campaign what is even better about this is that some of the press are catching on, at least a little bit, see Every cyclist saves £400 | the Mail on Sunday.

Every time a car driver converts to cycling, it saves almost £400 a year, a study showed today.

The savings, calculated for the first time, result from reduced costs to the NHS and employers through lower sickness rates and less congestion.

A 20 per cent increase in cycling would save more than £500million by 2012, said the report by Cycling England.

An increase of 50 per cent would deliver savings of more than £1.3billion.

These numbers (and many more) come from a press release from Cycling England, which is available as a pdf SQW and Cycling England report – Valuing the benefits of cycling.

Others point out: Cheap at the price: Velorution (as I have done in the past: 42: Proper Cycling funding) that this is still very low compared to some cities in Europe.

However, some positive national press does make a welcome change from the hate attacks that we are normally fed with.

How (not) to wash your bike

I went for a short ride on my fixie today. Just needed a bit of fresh air so I went down to Stanwick Lakes which is on the flood plain of the River Nene. Needless to say it is very wet at the moment and a lot of the paths are flooded.

So I rode along the flooded bits anyway. Soon had my feet wet on the Adventure Play Trail. A disadvantage of riding a fixie is that even in a flooded bit your feet have to go all the way round and thus into the water. The main path where it bypasses the adventure trail also had some significant flooding with one section running as quite fast rapids across the path, but the surface had not been completely washed away yet. On that same section the small wooden bridge that was installed last winter was doing a good job with no flooding at that point.

I went as far as the gates to the track leading to Ringstead (at at that point went along to see the river where the fishermen go. The upper lock gates were completely submerged as was the wall below the locks where you tie up your canal boat. Quite a deep bit of track at that point which came close to my bottom bracket.

On the way back it was starting to get dark so rather than return to the   main car park and come back on the main road through Stanwick I decided to see if the smaller path to Raunds (via bridge under the A45 and then Meadow Lane) was passable. I suppose the conclusion is that you can cycle it today (looking at the tide line I reckon the water levels have dropped maybe a foot from the maximum) as I did. However, it was quite deep! The first section after leaving the main path went over my bottom bracket, over my axles and about half way up my main frame (my water bottle was about 1/2 way under water and it nearly reached my knees). It was fortunate that I was on my fixie as the extra stability and control of a fixed gear meant I did not fall off. Plus there are so few moving parts to be damaged (2 wheel hubs, 1 bottom bracket, 2 pedal bearings and 1 chain). Still I think I may need to do more maintenance than just oil the chain at some point :-)

All in all a great way to have some fun getting your bike clean (although the ride up Meadow Lane got it pretty dirty again) but possibly not a good idea – definitely not recommended if you have a bike with expensive bits on it.

Oh yes one other thing. I proved my Ortleib back roller pannier is waterproof (at least to half way up) :-)

The Hypermobile Society

If this: The Hypermobile Society doesn’t make you think about lifestyle and the many implications of the amount of travel we do. Apparently:

in 1950, the average Briton travelled about 5 miles a day. Now we
travel an average of 30 miles a day. Our work, schools, friends, shops,
and gyms are all in different places, and we make 1000 journeys a year
back and forth between them all.

Food for thought.

Hat tip: The consequences of hypermobililty « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY.

Pacifism and the Good Samaritan

Personally I think Gentle Wisdom » Pacifism and the Good Samaritan illustrates how confused people are about the Gospel & peacemaking. I don’t mean Peter is confused as I pretty much agree with all he says.

So often we see pacifism confused with passivity or danger avoidance both of which are rubbish (certainly they have no support in the gospels). The death of Jesus is the classic example of being neither passive nor attempting danger avoidance. I also remember an Aunt and Uncle of mine (now both passed into glory) who were conscientious objectors during WWII. instead they spent a large part of the war driving a Red Cross ambulance around North Africa  – neither passive not danger avoiding but definitely pacifist.

The we see the argument that pacifism won’t work in situation X (Iraq as it is now being a current example), the problems with this argument are numerous. For a start it ignores the fact that the current situation in Iraq is a direct result of violent and military actions. Pacifism should not be judged on it’s ability to pick up the pieces after a war strategy that it stands directly against has failed. Secondly, it ignore the success achieved (on a very small scale admittedly) by Christian Peacemaker Teams even after a war.

In all these arguments against pacifism I believe we see a twisting of the message of the gospel. The Good Samaritan is used to justify war & violence to "rescue" people in Iraq.
Somehow we lose a critical message in the life, teaching and death of Jesus. His message is subverted into "the ends justify the means" which I believe runs completely counter to the gospel.

Throughout his ministry and in his death I believe there is a consistent and clear message from Jesus. "The means matter, focus on the means and let God worry about the ends". For Christians surely the critical impact of the gospel should be on how we live, on what we do not on it’s success or failure.

I therefore believe Christians & the Church must challenge the cultural acceptance that the ends justify the means. That view is incompatible with Christian faith and discipleship.

What kind of wine are you?


You Are Sauvignon Blanc


Engaging and energetic, you have a lot to offer the world – most of it they’ve never seen anywhere else!
You are the type of person who carves your own path in life… and you invite everyone else to come along.
The only thing predictable about you is that you could have anything up your sleeve.
You’re all about sampling all of life’s experiences. Both the savory and unsavory ones.

Deep down you are: Laid back and young at heart

Your partying style:  Anything goes… seriously!

Your company is enjoyed best with: Smoked meats or spicy food

Hat tip: Eternal Echoes: What kind of wine are you?.

The lights go out

During the night at around 3am we heard a bit of a crash, looked out the window but could not see anything odd. This morning we discover that someone has driven into the street lamp outside the front of our house.

They must have come up the steep street opposite us somewhat out of control and gone straight across our road, up the pavement and bang into the lamp post. Our fence and trellis seem to be the things that have stopped it falling all the way over onto our car. All the workings from the top of the lamp post are strewn all over our drive, two bits within 2 feet of the house (quite a long way to fly). Amazingly enough although the cars were surrounded by broken glass they do not seem to have been damaged.

Raunds is definitely an exciting place to be :-)

Ban Windows Vista, Office 2007 from British Schools

From: Windows Vista, Office 2007 Expelled From British Schools: InformationWeek.


The agency that governs educational technology in the United Kingdom has advised schools in the country to keep Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)’s Windows Vista operating system and its Office 2007 software out of the classroom and administrative offices.

"Upgrading existing ICT systems to Microsoft Vista or Office 2007 is
not recommended," said the British Educational Communications and
Technology Agency, also known as Becta, in a report issued this week.

Becta officials said a study the group commissioned found that
upgrading school systems from Windows XP to Vista and Office 2007 would
increase costs and create software compatibility problems while
providing little benefit.

"Our advice is to be sure there is a strong business case for upgrading
to these products as the costs are significant and the benefits remain
unclear," said Stephen Lucy, Becta’s executive director of strategic
technologies, in a statement.

Hat tip: Slashdot | Britain Advises Against Vista, Office 2007 for Schools.