PFOT: Feeling Nervous

Having started writing a little about the book "Pierced For Our Transgressions" I confess to feeling slightly nervous.

My feelings are based on my perception of some groups within the Evangelical Christian community. That perception leads me to fear their reactions to anyone who challenges them on Penal Substitution. I believe it is clearly demonstrated by the way that Steve Chalke has been treated by many (self labelled) Evangelicals.

Sadly it seems that often these groups have other traditional targets for their behaviour. One of those targets is women and the other anyone associated with people who identify themselves as LGBT (as well as very obviously LGBT people themselves).

My nervousness is therefore tempered by the thought that any such reaction would place me among good company, the sort of company where Jesus is to be found.

My nervousness is also reduced by the fact that I am somewhat used to this. Approximately 25 years ago when visiting potential universities I spent a night at Manchester (where I ended up going). At a social event which I think must have been organised by the CU I was told by a member that I was not a Christian, that was because I did not know the "proper" language to speak of my faith. Now I am the first to admit that I was not very confident or outgoing about my faith and that came from growing up in what must have been slightly liberal Methodism. However, that faith has grown over the years and I have self identified as an evangelical for many years, that despite such a setback which caused a lot of hurt and resentment for many years (to be honest it still hurts a little).

But what about the potential impact today of arguing against the penal substitution militants. I suspect the cost is not that high.

For example it is not as if I was about to be invited to speak at Word Alive (or likely that I would have accepted if invited – for starters the ban on women speakers means I would not support such an event ).

I am more concerned about the effects on my own ministry here as a Methodist Minister in the Nene Valley Circuit. As such I minister to Churches and Christians within them who cover a wide range of theological viewpoints. There are members who have been to Word Alive conferences at Spring Harvest. There are members who believe in penal substitution and those who don’t. Anyone in ministry is somewhat vulnerable to accusations about "soundness" and so given what I perceive as a tendency to wild accusations by the militant supporters of penal substitution  my ministry I guess I have concerns about the potential for pain and misunderstanding.

However compared to what Christ has done for me, in dying on the cross for me it is not as if the price or the risk is that high. I believe it would be more damaging to my integrity as a ministry if I did not speak out due to fear or bullying.

So watch out, there will be more to come.

8 thoughts on “PFOT: Feeling Nervous

  1. PamBG

    Well, that’s an incredibly honest and brave post. I certainly feel that way on a whole range of subjects!
    I would be reluctant to post my full and frank views on a number of subjects for worry that people might think that I’m denying the gospel.

  2. Peter Kirk

    It is sad that those in ordained (or nearly ordained) ministry feel under pressure not to be open about what they believe for fear of their congregation. Perhaps this is one of the problems with the whole concept of ordained ministry within a denominational context. But it is refreshing to see these people at least being open about their fears.

  3. Sean

    Hey, thanks for these posts, I appreciatte the honesty if I am not sure i agree with your views!
    Para 2 – How does anybody get labelled if not in some way by themselves at some point? You label your self as an evangelcial, so why is it wrong that others do this? Are we waiting for an objective evangelcial test that puts it all beyond a shadow of doubt?
    Para 3 – Traditional Targets for their behaviour? Like the mission field, reforming the church, care and passion for what the bible says, passion for the mission field, social involvement etc. Your points would be better made if you didn’t characterise those whom you disagree with. It would be easy for others to say a whole raft of things that characterise you in a certain way, which I am sure you would dislike.
    Para 4 – ?
    Para 5 – I am sorry this happened to you over the words you use to express your faith in Christ. I have experience of people saying how can you be a christian if you dont say particular cultural things or do certain cultural things such as loving Christian music(of all things…)
    Last comment – do you beleive in Penal subst already?
    I know this and other comments may cause you to think I am one of those people you have described, but I really dont want you to think that. Looking forward to more posts!

  4. Dave Warnock

    It is sad that those in ordained (or nearly ordained) ministry feel under pressure not to be open about what they believe for fear of their congregation.
    H’mm, I don’t think that is what I meant. My congregations are quite aware of what I think on many matters. There are 2 different issues here.
    1. My concern was that when the blogosphere goes crazy with wild accusations being made then that can have an effect on ministry and on the local congregations. Imagine the effect on Jeffrey John’s congregations when all over the internet and then into the physical world people are condemning him (usually without reading what he has said). Not much fun for them and damaging to the mission of the Church. It seems to me that this fear is perfectly valid for any minister who loves their congregations and the mission they share in together. I make no apologies for being concerned to not cause trouble for my congregations from outside sources.
    2. The second item is far more subtle. I recognise that it is not always considered wise in my tradition for the minister to make their own views clear. Doing so can discourage the congregation from exploring scripture and issues for themselves. In cases where a range of views is absolutely normal and valid within the church then it may well be better for the congregation to not know what the ministers own opinion is.
    I absolutely do not feel any fear for myself from Methodism or from my congregations (who are lovely and incredibly supportive).
    I absolutely do fear hurting or harming them (the ordination service is very explicit on this “Let no one suffer hurt through your neglect”)
    For me this combination of trust in the people and denomination plus the sense of responsibility is a critical part of being prepared for ordination.

  5. Dave Warnock

    re para 2. I am making the point that it is the self label that counts. With the label “Evangelical” there are always many who are eager to deny the use of the label by others (look at what has happened to Steve Chalke for example). There are many who absolutely do not accept a self-labelling. The UCCF are one example. To be a speaker at one of their events the self-label is irrelevant. You need to sign a statement of belief and also be scrutinised as well. eg Steve Chalke who considers himself an evangelical, who has signed the statement of faith but has failed the examination by the UCCF and so cannot be a speaker at their events.
    re para 3. Clearly I mean the behaviour that might make me nervous such as rejection, of calling someone a blasphemer etc. So far I rarely feel nervous about your list
    - the mission field [great, love this]
    - reforming the church [well here a bit nervous as all to often this shows itself as throwing out or splitting from those we disagree with, see Word Alive vs Spring Harvest]
    - care and passion for what the bible says [yes, unless that means denying the faith of those who interpret it differently from you]
    - passion for the mission field [see first item, the way this is done is important to me]
    - social involvement etc. [yes that would be good to see]
    Not sure what you think I don’t get characterised in ways I don’t like. That is part of the whole point. At the moment I either get characterised as an evangelical or as a liberal depending on which people like least :-)
    para 4. Not sure what the ? means. The Jesus I see in the Bible is more concerned about the outcasts (tax collectors, lepers etc) than about those who have a legalistic understanding of scripture. Therefore in this context I would find him among women (rejected as speakers by Word Alive for example) and LGBT folks (surely obvious).
    re para 5. Exactly why I am doing this so that we might move to a place which is rather more graceful.
    See my other posts to see if I agree with penal substitution or not.
    Your comments are welcome, don’t worry that I am going to put you in a particular box.

  6. Dave Warnock

    Just to confirm that I know Pam well, her sermons are available online and I am confident that she is not denying the gospel. Having spent time training with Pam I am confident in her call and ministry.

  7. Peter Kirk

    Dave, sorry if “fear” was too strong a word. You did use it at the end of your post, but in a more general sense. I certainly don’t want to suggest that you have anything to fear from your congregations! Your concerns, and Pam’s, are right and proper considering the situations you are in. I have my doubts about those kinds of situations, but that is a different matter.

  8. PamBG

    I personally believe that it’s vital for people in Christian communities to have personal, face-to-face contact with each other.
    Although I’ve only been blogging for over a year, I’ve been in internet discussion groups since 1999 and I’ve seen the gross misunderstandings between people that can arise from only reading the written word.
    There is “something” about face-to-face contact with others that diffuses a lot of this misunderstanding. I don’t think it’s just body language and tone of voice, but also the respect we develop for each other when we deal with each other in person. I’ve seen it happen many times that people find they disagree with each other on points of doctrine and then go through a process of “How can Joe disagree with me? I’ve seen his devotion to God and I’ve experienced his spiritual wisdom? Maybe there’s something in what Joe believes or maybe it’s OK for the two of us to disagree.”
    Over the internet, it’s easy to pass off someone as obviously not a Christian because she doesn’t believe this or that doctrine and because no genuinely Christian woman would think she had a call to preach (as an example). Knowing that individual in person might cause one to question these assumptions.
    I’m perfectly happy to say on the internet that I have huge problems with penal substitionary atonement and that these problems grow day by day as I study the bible. I’d like, however, my congregations to hear the details of that through me, in person.
    Otherwise, one just gets the sort of instantaneous reactions that Dave W got on another blog of “Well, obvioiusly Dave doesn’t believe sufficiently in God’s majesty and in the seriousness of sin.” Which, because I know Dave in person, I know to be two false statements about him.
    Dave, I’m not saying that you’re doing the wrong thing. I admire you for doing this; I’m just not sure I’m ready!


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