Monthly Archives: November 2008

The kind of faith we want

Adrian Warnock quotes a South African New Frontiers leader

Do you want that kind of faith that pleases God … 
and violently advances the kingdom of God?

My response. Absolutely not.

My prayer is that we can learn from the Word, from Christ himself to renounce violence as he did. To learn from him that his kingdom is one of peace, mercy, compassion, love, faithfulness and hope where violence has no place.

Talk of violently advancing  the kingdom of God has no place whatsoever in Christian teaching. Not only is it not of the kingdom but in today’s climate it is positively dangerous. We only have to think about how many terrorists has believed they were advancing the kingdom of God.

To be as fair as possible here is a fuller quote to judge context.

“The Word will bring you faith. Romans 10:17 makes this one crystal clear. Do you want that kind of faith that pleases God, causes the impossible to become the possible, moves mountains, destroys satanic strongholds, and violently advances the kingdom of God? It comes from hearing and hearing and hearing and hearing the things that God has to say!

From: P-J Smyth – E-books and Sermons From a Newfrontiers Church in Johannesburg.

Oh and by the way we could also discuss much else about the use of this text. For example it separates Jesus and the Bible in an unhelpful way (one that is incompatible with the prologue to John’s gospel as one example). It also does not support the central point that he is trying to make (that it is the word that brings faith). See Romans 10:17:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

The “word about Christ” here cannot mean the Bible. The context surrounding it makes that clear, plus of course there is the minor detail that the Bible was not yet available (you have to take the very earliest possible dates of the gospels to believe any had even been written, given the lack of interest in any of the details of the life of Jesus it seems unlikely Paul was reading them).

Instead the focus is on faith coming from hearing about Christ. Hearing rather than reading.

No I won’t be rushing to read this book or listen to these sermons (at least not to help me grow in faith).

Circuit Mens breakfast

It is now 3:10am and in 20mins I will be driving five men from the Nene Valley Circuit away for a Circuit mens breakfast with a difference.

We are off to the Whitechapel Mission in London to cook breakfast for up to 200 people who are homeless.

Note five because that is all that is needed rather than all that is available.

The car is packed with clothing, food and toiletries from people all over the circuit.

Sadly it is rather foggy so not expecting a nice journey.

I will be back for the opening service of the 24/7 prayer room in Thrapston at 2pm.

[Update] 1:10pm

Back home. Cooked breakfast for 120. Busy but good time.

The end of Adrian Warnock on Penal Substitution

So today we have (at last) reached the end of another series by Adrian Warnock that attacks Steve Chalke.

When
you start critiquing a series that is in progress there is always the
worry that the best arguments will come last, that you will look a fool
for standing against the start of the series because the end is totally
convincing.

I want to thank Adrian for not embarrassing me in that way.

He
has been very careful to save no arguments of any substance at all for
the last two posts of this series. So if you were expecting Steve Chalke's Further Arguments Against Penal Substitution
to actually contain a rebuttal of a range of extra arguments by Steve
then you are going to be disappointed. In fact it reminds my of a large
firework display set to music where the fireworks run out just as the
most dramatic music for the climax to the show starts.

I would rebute the arguments in Adrians post, but there aren't any to rebute. Just waffle and an amusing misreading of Steve Chalke. Steve apparently wrote:

So, whilst I applaud these
attempts to manufacture a kind of “penal substitution theory lite”—some
of which will, no doubt, be presented in other contributions to this
book—in my view, what we need is not a reworking but a renunciation”

Adrian seems to struggle with the meaning of applaud as he writes:

Chalke and I do agree on at least one thing. PSA should not be softened.

No Adrian, read the sentence again, look up applaud in a dictionary and realise that Steve does not believe that PSA should not be softened. He believes that it should be completely rejected as while people are doing good work to reform it the job is impossible.

Adrian's other post is Steve Chalke and Neglect of the Resurrection
which could be titled "Steve is right on the neglect of the
resurrection by all evangelicals except me (Adrian), so buy my new
book".  Of course you need to remember that this book on the resurrection is being written by someone who stands almost entirely alone in believing that God killed Jesus: "Did God Kill Jesus?" Am I Really Alone?.

I will be getting a copy of Zondervan's The Atonement Debate so hopefully we can get a fuller picture of the other chapters and pick out a little more balanced view of Steve's chapter.

Boundaries That Protect

I left some comments on Role Calling: Boundaries That Protect Your Marriage but they seem to have not made it through moderation. So here are some thoughts.

Boundaries are vital, but they need to be there to protect more than your marriage! They need to protect all people involved in a situation.

I am concerned that several of the rules suggested in the post are not appropriate. The key concerns relate to confidentiality and discipline. Others relate to significant oversights and a perception of a dead rule based life

Much of the time it is important that people know that what they say will be treated in confidence. I cannot offer someone a confidential hearing and then discuss it with my spouse. Churches will learn very quickly if their confidences are respected by their minister, if the spouse knows things that were told to the minister in confidence then the trust relationship breaks down very quickly and it is very hard to recover from.

This is related to the issue of discipline. The spouse is not (generally) a paid member of staff, they are not covered by insurance. As they are not employed they are not covered by the disciplinary processes of the Church. People can say things to me knowing that I am under the discipline of the church, within its supervision. If I pass these onto my spouse they are no longer held within that authority and process. Nobody is accountable, nobody is protected.

Finally the whole set of rules make the huge assumption that everyone is only heterosexual. In other words a male minister only needs special rules for relationships with women and vica versa. That does not happen to bear much similarity with the world (even if many wish it were so).

Anyway a few comments on parts of some of the specific rules.

1. We will not ride alone in a car with a person of the opposite sex.
Okay, yes, I will ride alone with my mom, but you know what I mean. I
heard Dr. Daniel Akin say to a bunch of pastors, "You will never have
an affair if you are never alone with another woman."

If we quickly move on from the incorrect assumption that all pastors/ministers are male.

This rule is not practicable in a setting such as ours. I totally agree caution is needed in being alone but the nature of the work in this setting means it is inevitable. So instead we put in place safeguards (visibility, supervision etc).

I also want to challenge at least a little the model of humanity that underpins this rule. It seems to be a view that will lead to a very impoverished life.

2. We will not counsel someone of the opposite sex behind closed doors

a) I remain unconvinced that ministers/pastors should be counsellors (in the full sense)

b) Something more like "We will remain visible when with only one person." This seems to reflect reality (glass partitions) and avoids some clearly wrong situations that meet the rule (being upstairs in a home where there are bedrooms but thinking it is ok because the doors are open).

3. I copy my wife on e-mails to women

Absolutely not. This breaks confidentiality and puts my spouse in a very difficult situation where they will know things they should not know. Instead the church should have proper supervision, confidentiality and privacy policies and procedures.

4. I tell my wife about conversations that I have with women over the
phone. I lead a care group for our college ministry, so occasionally a
college girl will call to speak with me. I try to not be on the phone
long and direct all counseling to my bride.

Absolutely not. I wonder if this comes from a world where there are few women in the workplace. I speak to women on the phone all the time (funeral directors, headteachers, marriage registrars, mayors, organists, the chair of our district, local preachers, Church Members, people wanting funerals/baptisms/weddings…).

Neither I nor my spouse offer full counselling (not part of our calls or gifting and not part of the role of a Methodist Minister).

5. I have a weekly accountability meeting with a friend who is willing
to ask me any hard questions. My wife walks with a close friend 2 to 3
days a week, so she also has regular accountability.

I agree but would go further I believe that paid staff should have professional supervision, reflective practice groups and spiritual direction provided and paid for by the Church.

Sorry but I got bored with the rules at that point. Some people obviously have a lot more time on their hands than we do. The thought of Jane's reaction to a suggestion she edit Cycling Weekly before I read it or sit and watch the same films as me is very amusing (not that I am going to make the suggestion – far too dangerous). Not quite sure how I could do any work for half the day when Jane is out at work herself if I could not use the internet – on the other hand maybe it could be a good excuse to slow down a lot.

Sub-Biblical arguments against Steve Chalke

I wonder if you were wondering if I would do it again. Well the answer is yes, my excuse is that Adrian has done it again: THE ATONEMENT DEBATE – Steve Chalke Argues Against Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

This time we see Adrian's breath been taken away by Steve's audacity in using the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the New Testament.

Chalke sidesteps the issue of
the wrath of God by attempting to remove the issue of the sacrifices of
the Old Testament from the discussion

Well no. What in fact happens is that Adrian again tries to change the definition of Evangelical by claiming that infallibility is part of the definition. Sorry to keep doing this to you Adrian, but again check the Evangelical Alliance definition and you will discover infallible isn't there.

Then Adrian does several of those sub-biblical tricks we have come to expect.

First he ignores Scripture, missing out the parts that don't support his point. Try Amos 5:21-22, 24
    21 "I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
       I cannot stand your assemblies.

    22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
       I will not accept them.
       Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
       I will have no regard for them.

    23 Away with the noise of your songs!
       I will not listen to the music of your harps.

    24 But let justice roll on like a river,
       righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Or Hosea 6:6
    For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
       and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.

Or Isaiah 1:11,17
    11 "The multitude of your sacrifices—
       what are they to me?" says the LORD.
       "I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
       of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
       I have no pleasure
       in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

    17 learn to do right!
       Seek justice,
       encourage the oppressed.
       Defend the cause of the fatherless,
       plead the case of the widow.

Second, he ignores context and culture. In particularly what were the sacrifices for and how did they work (see J Denny Weaver "The Nonviolent Atonement" 2001 p58). Many sacrifices were fellowship offerings, for thanksgiving and celebration. The sacrifices included grain and for the worst offences sacrifice was not used but a scapegoat.

Thirdly, he misses any alternative interpretations for example simply note that in Hebrews Jesus is the High Priest ie the one who makes the offering not the one who is offered – in fact it is a self-offering. Again J Denny Weaver has plenty of properly cited evidence for a different reading of Hebrews to Adrian's simplisitc noticing the word sacrifice and taking that into Penal Substitution. Sadly for Adrian even the texts he chooses do not support his own case. Hebrews 9:26 makes it clear that we are talking about a self sacrifice not a punishment applied by God.

Near the start of his post Adrian writes:

One of my major concerns about this whole debate is what a rejection of PSA does to our view of the Bible.

Absolutely it challenges a simplisitic partial reading of Scripture in favour of a thorough and respectful dialogue with the whole of Scripture – a truely evangelical approach to scripture. What a wonderful idea that is, for me the wonder of opening up models of atonement and considering others besides Penal Substitution is that we find new ways of understanding God that are far more in tune with Jesus the Son of God as revealed in Scripture. Go on try it, I promise the view on this side of the fence is fantastic. What a wonderful loving God we serve!

News catchup

Lots of News from Raunds Methodist Church and the Nene Valley Circuit.

New Superintendent: Rev Peter McNeill will be joining the circuit on 1st September 2009 as Superintendent (subject to conference and wot not). Very much looking forward to working with Peter (who I met for lunch on Saturday) and his fiancée Julie. Peter is coming from the Southampton Circuit where his appointment has been divided between circuit ministry and University Chaplaincy.

No Sunday Service in Raunds on 23rd November. We are all going by coach to the National Methodist Youth Conference for morning worship as some of the young people from our church and circuit are leading the worship.

Raunds Town Carol Celebration: We have been busy ion discussions with the other Churches, Council, Temperance Band and Chamber of Commerce. We are delighted that the Town Carol Service will now take place in the Town Square at 4:15pm on December 7th just before the Christmas Lights are turned on. The Temperance Band will be playing.

CAP Money Course in Raunds. Raunds Methodist Church are working with the Surestart Childrens Centre to run a CAP Money Course in raunds in their building on Tuesday afternoons.Three sessions starting 20th January at 1pm.

Raunds Churches Christmas Card: Reminder to self, got to get done this week – eek!

[Updated] Corrected date of Carol Service – thanks Olive!

The problem of one way streets

In a comment (42: Back on form: disagreeing) “Blue, with a hint of amber” asks if I would let Adrian ‘Do the ”Why did Jesus die?” talk on your Alpha Course?

I have answered in quite a long comment but it reminds me that we live in a one way street and Adrian sees himself as a traffic cop keeping it that way.  What do I mean?

  • I have no problem with Adrian calling himself an evangelical BUT Adrian has many problems with me calling myself an Evangelical.
  • I recognise the ministry of pastors within New Frontiers and I will work with them BUT Adrian does not recognise the ministry of women Methodist Ministers and groups he supports (Together for the Gospel) will not work with them. My understanding is that NFI is mixed on the issue, it seems some pastors will work with ministers who are women from denominations but others won’t.
  • In every theological debate over the years Adrian has taken an exclusive position. He decides that traffic from positions he does not agree with will not be allowed along the street. I have tried to consistently do the opposite, I do not believe or accept many of Adrian’s theological positions but I have tried to never exclude him from any part of the Christian community because of our differences.

So friends from NFI (Adrian, Bwahoa, Phil, Bluefish etc) what about it? Can you answer Adrian’s question as I have?

how closely can we work together with people who vehemently disagree with us?

Are you going to let us in and along the street? Or is your Christianity all one way?

Development is not evangelical and other arguments of straw

I have discovered yet another reason why I am not an evangelical using the Adrian Warnock formula (motto: evangelicals are Christians who agree with me).

It all becomes clear when you read his latest diatribe on atonement: THE ATONEMENT DEBATE – Steve Chalke Confirms He Does Not Believe in Penal Substitution.

An underlying message is: You are not an evangelical if your faith develops especially if your understanding changes at all.

I could suggest some slogans:

  • Evangelicals don't change
  • Warning you are entering a no thinking zone
  • I used to be an evangelical but then I changed my views on whether bread should be sliced or not

This comes from Adrian's paragraph that attempts to tear apart Tom Wright and Steve Chalke. He tries to build something out of nothing by not recognising that all our views change and develop, we do not always present ourselves in exactly the same way. Adrian seems to be trying to drive a wedge between them by ignoring that fact that all our understanding is provisional and that those who think and reflect on their understanding of God will move onward in their theology. It appears that Adrian thinks such reflection and development is wrong.

One comment by Adrian "To be honest, sometimes Wright can be hard to fathom and it takes great patience to dissect him fully" reminded me of someone else. Ah yes 2 Peter 3:15-16:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear
brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these
matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand,
which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other
Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Remember that at this point Adrian is struggling for arguments. He has tried to claim that Steve Chalke cannot be an evangelical because he does not believe in penal substitution BUT that argument fails. The Evangelical Alliance (in their basis of faith, in their historical summary of what an evangelical is and in the book he is reviewing [see 42: Back on form: defining evangelical]) are consistent that Penal Substitution is not part of the definition however much Adrian wants it to be.

So now Adrian is hunting around for other reasons. Here we have had multiple arguments of straw.

  • Steve used powerful imagery ("cosmic child abuse") in presenting arguments against penal substitution. Solution: attack the language while ignoring the argument.
  • Steve may or may not agree with Tom Wright on Penal Substitution. Solution: Accuse them of changing their thinking. Accuse Tom Wright of being difficult to fully understand (a terrible offence because of course everything about the creator of the universe is plain and simple – well as long as you don't actually think about it).
  • He disagrees with a book Adrian likes. Solution tell everyone they must buy this book, pretend it answers all their questions. Make sure it is a thick book that is hard to get hold of and ignore the powerful critiques of it. Note I have read Pierced for our Transgressions, I wrote quite a few posts on it and totally agree with Tom Wright that it is deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical”. Interestingly enough in his post Adrian comments on how well John Piper dissects Tom Wright, interesting because I dissected John Pipers forward to Pierced for our transgressions in detail: 42: PFOT: The Foreword by John Piper and 42: PFOT: The Foreword part 2 it uses scripture in a way that I can only describe as bizarre.
  • Knowing that you hold an extreme view, ignore that and instead claim that almost everyone agrees with you "he then goes on to explain why he does not believe in PSA as almost everyone would define it." Of course be careful to to think about what a small subsection of society, of Christians, of protestants and even of evangelicals you actually mean by "almost everyone"

Tune in tomorrow because apparently there is more! Maybe we might even get a credible argument (please don't hold your breath – it could be dangerous).

Back on form: defining evangelical

One more post on Adrian's comment on: 42: Back on form through atonement. There Adrian wrote:

I think there is an interesting issue here about what is the definition of an evangelical

I don't agree and am going to respond first with a repost (see 42: Unattractive Restoration Confusion):

The "classic" view of what evangelicalism is. From the Evangelical Alliance: What is an Evangelical?.

Against
this historical and theological background, the following five points,
adapted from key studies of the movement by David Bebbington and
Alister McGrath, represent a workable summary of Evangelical
characteristics:

  • Biblicism – Through the Scriptures of the Old and
    New Testaments, the God who is objectively 'there' has revealed
    universal and eternal truth to humankind in such a way that all can
    grasp it.
  • Christocentrism – God's eternal Word became human in the historical
    man Jesus of Nazareth, who definitively reveals God to humanity.
  • Crucicentrism – The good news of God's revelation in Christ is seen
    supremely in the cross, where atonement was made for people of every
    race, tribe and tongue.
  • Conversionism – The truth of the eternal gospel must be
    appropriated in personal faith, which comes through repentance – that
    is, a discernible reorientation of the
    sinner's mind and heart towards God.
  • Activism – Gospel truth must be demonstrated in evangelism and social service.

Secondly, Adrian's post makes clear that it is entirely deliberate that the Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith does not explicitly mention Penal Substitution.

So no I do not think there is anything interesting at all in trying to change the commonly accepted understanding of evangelical in order to fit with Adrian's own view.

Thank you Josephine

Today was one of those days I dread.

Yes I had to go to the Dentist for some work to be done (2 fillings).

But now I would like to thank Josephine because she pumped so many injections into me that I did not feel a thing. In fact I think I must have dozed off during the process as I was vaguely aware at one point of a tap on my cheek and I thought I heard her say "Shall we wake him up?".

It might not be the mark of a good preacher to have people doze off, but for a dentist I don't think you can get much better!