CULTURAL RESISTANCE

What’s going wrong? Scripture speaks clearly of the transformative power of the gospel; we have evidences throughout history of the gospel triumphing even when facing overwhelming odds. Yet look around at the West today, particularly in Europe, and you are confronted with a church in headlong retreat.

Ineffective Church

In Germany church membership is in free fall and those remaining seem apathetic. Only 3.2 per cent of the members of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, the main Protestant church, actually bothered to attend services in 2018. In one area attendance reached a new low of 2.2 per cent of members. In the UK in the 50 years up to 2019, 1,138 CofE churches were converted for other uses and a further 500 were demolished.

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This is not confined to Europe. The percentage of US adults belonging to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past two decades, hitting a low of 50 per cent, according to a 2019 Gallup poll. Continue reading “CULTURAL RESISTANCE”

THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND’S PRIORITIES

I have waited for the dust to clear a little before commenting on the case of the Revd Richard Cameron.

Mr Cameron, Church of Scotland minister of Scotstoun parish in Glasgow, hit the news last Wednesday after calling Jeremy Corbyn a ‘terrorist sympathiser’.

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Richard Cameron & Jeremy Corbyn

On a rare visit to Scotland, the Labour leader was campaigning in Glasgow when he was interrupted as he explained that the tartan scarf he was wearing had been given to him by the Who Cares Scotland charity.

Mr Cameron shouted at Mr Corbyn: ‘I thought you’d be wearing your Islamic jihad scarf. Who’s going to be the first terrorist invited to the House of Commons when you’re prime minister?’ Continue reading “THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND’S PRIORITIES”

SCRIPTURE UNION MAINTAINS STANCE ON SCRIPTURE

Clarity pays. It can be difficult at times, even cause problems, and there is always the temptation to fudge in order to keep everyone happy. In the end it is fudge that is fatal.

Just ask Theresa May. She tried to compromise in order to keep as many on board as she could, and only made divisions deeper. What is true in politics is just as true in the church.

The law is clear. Organisations with a distinct religious ethos can be exempted from some employment discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010. This covers churches, missionary societies and charities. Continue reading “SCRIPTURE UNION MAINTAINS STANCE ON SCRIPTURE”

WELBY WOBBLE BEATS BOGLE BUNGLE

Scotland’s national church and England’s established church are in competition to see which can produce the most inane response to pressure from the world. Until this week the Church of Scotland had what many thought was an unassailable lead over the Church of England.

In response to pressure from those who believe in the inerrancy of Guardian editorials rather than the Bible, the General Assembly of 2013 produced the Bogle Bungle which allows the admission of practising homosexuals to the CofS ministry.

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Continue reading “WELBY WOBBLE BEATS BOGLE BUNGLE”

THE WELLBEING OCTOPUS

When progressive Christians and progressive politicians walk hand in hand the results are liable to be weird.

What do you do when you have an unpopular piece of intrusive government legislation to sell? If you are the Church of Scotland you rush to support the SNP government by going full bizarro. Meet Calamari SHANARRI, the well-being octopus.

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This is the latest wheeze to emerge from the Church of Scotland. Crossreach, the Church’s Social Care Council, working with Scotland’s SNP government, is urging children to knit the octopus and make up stories and rhymes about it. This is in support of the Scottish government’s Getting It Right For Each Child (GIRFEC) initiative, which includes the controversial Named Person scheme, (of which more later). Inside the velvet progressive glove nestles a steel fist. Continue reading “THE WELLBEING OCTOPUS”

WHEN IS A CHURCH NOT A CHURCH?

It is not only in politics and the media that progressives have become the establishment. It is true also of the mainstream church.

What do you do with a minister who confidently proclaims at Christmas that the Incarnation is a ‘fairy tale’ and it is embarrassing to preach on it every year? If you are in the Church of Scotland you do the same as you do with minsters who deny the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, the bodily Resurrection of Christ and His return – you do nothing. And so the revisionists grow ever bolder.

Effectively the Church of Scotland, like many other mainstream Christian denominations, is devoid of doctrinal standards. They may exist on paper, but certainly not in practice.

The YouTube video below touches on the successful attempts by progressive Christians to turn once theologically confident denominations into pale reflections of society, with an added veneer of Christian language and symbols.

It seems likely that the Church of Scotland at its General Assembly in May 2016 will vote to allow the ordination of ministers in same-sex-marriages. Which raises the question: How much of Christianity, both in theology and in practice, can a church jettison and still remain a church?

THE CLUE IS IN THE NAME

Our western progressives are slightly more cunning than Basil Fawlty. Not a high bar you will agree, but an important one – it enables them to rewrite reality.

We remember the episode of Fawlty Towers where the hotel has a group of German guests. Basil is so terrified of giving offence that he warns all the staff, ‘Don’t mention the war’. Naturally he concentrates so much on this warning that he is soon goose-stepping around the dining room.

Basil 01

Western progressives are so much better. They warn us never to mention Islam in connection with any wrongdoing whatsoever, and they actually manage to do it, despite the reality.

September’s issue of Life and Work, the increasingly feeble denominational magazine of the fast shrinking Church of Scotland, has an article concerning persecuted Christians in Nigeria. Whilst glad that the magazine finds space to mention our suffering brethren the article is disturbing, and not just for what it says about events in Nigeria.

According to Life and Work those who burned houses and churches and killed Christians were ‘militants’.

Militants are trade unionists who call wildcat strikes for better pay and conditions. Militants are environmentalists who destroy GM crops. Militants are animal rights protesters who raid experimental medical laboratories. Murderous gangs who perpetrate atrocities are not ‘militants’ they are bloodthirsty terrorists bent on imposing a vile ideology by the most extreme violence imaginable.

Life and Work never mentions the source of the ‘militancy’ behind these atrocities. Perhaps they were militant vegetarians. Maybe militant aromatherapists. As far as Life and Work is willing to admit those who slaughtered Christians in Nigeria could have been militant morris dancers.

Give Into Our Demands Or We Will Wave Our handkerchiefs At You
Give Into Our Demands Or We Will Wave Our Handkerchiefs At You

Are the editorial staff of Life and Work afraid that if they admit that these atrocities were committed by Islamic terrorists then the good burghers of Brechin, Bathgate and Broxburn will be so inflamed they will immediately start setting fire to the Pakistani convenience store on the corner? Given the demographic of the CofS the members would probably be afraid their zimmer frames would melt in the heat.

Not only do well-meaning politically correct Christians insist on self-censorship. We have theological scholars amongst our leading politicians repeatedly assuring us that the murderous Islamic terrorist group ISIS is not Islamic. The reaction of most of us is simply, ‘The clue is in the name’.

Yvette Cooper, from the Labour front bench, has described ISIS as, ‘a perverted, oppressive ideology that bears no relation to Islam.’

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond assures us: ‘Isil’s so-called caliphate has no moral legitimacy; it is a regime of torture, arbitrary punishment and murder that goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.’

David Cameron, has explained: ’What we are witnessing is actually a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam on the other. These extremists, often funded by fanatics living far away from the battlefields, pervert the Islamic faith as a way of justifying their warped and barbaric ideology.’

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, disagrees with our home grown Islamic experts. Speaking of the Obama administration’s refusal to recognise the Islamic nature of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria he says:

“Please, if anybody in this administration is listening, stop telling us Muslims what is Islamic. I mean, so he’s saying this is compounding the sin? How about when he shakes and hugs the king of Saudi Arabia for their being custodians of the Holy Mosque and yet they have imprisoned apostates, liberal Muslims. They’re a mysogynistic nation that treats their women as third class citizens. Or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or the Islamic Republican of Iran. Hundreds of millions of Muslims running governments all over the world that line their prisons and torture Christians and Jews and Muslims, that’s Islamic? And ISIS came out of thin air? ISIS is a by-product of those ideologies. And to deny it and dismiss it, they’re trying to bury us reformers from having a seat at the table.”

The Reformation of the Christian church came from within, well-meaning Islamic, Buddhist or Zoroastrian political figures didn’t assure Luther, Calvin and the others that they were right and that those stuck in the past weren’t really Christian. If Islam is ever going to be reformed, and it won’t be without massive political dislocation and bloodshed, then their reformation must come from within.

Our progressive elites imagine that if we say nice things about Islam and refuse to mention Islamic intolerance of other religions then Muslims will roll over and become adorable puppies whose tummies we can tickle and take for a romp in the garden. In enabling Islamic theocrats and by not condemning the Wahhabi ideology that underpins the terror groups, western progressives undermine peaceful reform-minded Muslims and delay reformation.

We in the West devoutly hope that Islam will reform, for our own safety if nothing else. But we cannot expect Islam to reform whilst we support and sell arms to regimes like Saudi Arabia which exports the Wahhabi ideology underpinning groups like ISIS and Al Qaida. If we actively support misogynistic, bigoted and sectarian Islamic regimes then we cannot expect Muslims who wish to reform Islam to make any headway. We cannot hope to see reformation in Islam if we in the West refuse to challenge the source of the atrocities being committed daily throughout the world in the name of Allah.

By refusing to confront the vile ideology and those who fund and export it we find ourselves working against the very people who might reform Islam. If we wish to see a separation of mosque and state, if we wish to combat the oppression of women, if we wish to see a peaceable Islam, then we must name and crush the ideology which is the foundation of such evils. The ideology must be undermined, not ignored.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Everyone wants it. Obama and the Pope agree on little, but both want it. Big businesses proclaim their commitment to it, trade unions agitate for it. Hapless Francoise Hollande, embarrassed by last week’s French elections, claimed his humiliation was in part due to, ‘Not enough social justice’. Everybody from the Marxist SWP to the fascist BNP wants social justice.

Justice Calm

Even the dear old Church of Scotland wants it. Eager to jump on any passing bandwagon, the CofS declares concerning the coming referendum that it, ‘has welcomed the debate but insists that any constitutional change must bring about social justice benefits’.

Demands for social justice are especially appealing to Christians as God commands us to act justly. But is social justice the same thing as God’s justice?

Those demanding social justice all want different things. Depending on the source it can mean same sex marriage, women’s rights, income inequality, ‘British jobs for British workers’, child welfare, gender neutral toilets, abortion on demand, free school lunches, the list goes on. Social justice is one of those terms which actually means nothing because it can mean anything.

Ultimately it boils down to the adult version of the playground cry of ‘It’s not fair’, usually accompanied by the stamping of little feet. Social justice is little more than code, a campaign slogan churned out by the organisational publicity machine to elicit a favourable response from the public. After all, who could possibly be against fairness and social justice?

justice
The 19th century anarchist thinker Proudhon drew a distinction between transcendental and immanent justice. He saw transcendental justice as ‘external, objective pressure exerted on the self’, an immutable external code. Immanent Justice on the other hand was based on human conscience,  an imminent law inherent in the soul. For Proudhon immanent justice differs from the Christian concept in as much as it is purely human, more apparent as a feeling or emotion rather than as a fixed standard.

Proudhon’s concept of emotion based immanent justice has been adopted and rebranded by today’s more media savvy proponents as social justice. So successful is this that the UN can declare, ‘‘Present day believers in an absolute truth identified with virtue and justice are neither willing nor desirable companions for the defenders of social justice.’ Social Justice in an Open World (2006).

Thus if you believe truth and justice are absolute concepts independent of the wants and desires of whoever holds sway in society you are an opponent of social justice. Christians who identify justice as being in accord with the standards of virtue we find in the Bible as emanating from God are not even considered desirable companions on the journey towards social justice. At least the UN has a clearer idea of the ultimate issues involved than most churches.

Social justice can be unjust, being devoid of any absolute standard its deamnds for fairness too easily end in unfairness. We have gradually come to see the concepts of fairness and justice as coterminous. Yet justice to be just is blind, all must be treated equally; fairness to be fair is partial, one group has to be favoured over another.

Affirmative action is socially just but inherently unfair. Political parties, because of past unfairness, operate quotas when selecting candidates. In the case of all woman short lists this may be fair to women. But by being partial it is also unfair to those men who might wish to contest the seat, as it is to the entire electorate who do not get to choose between the best candidates, only the perceived appropriate ones. Social justice is imminent justice and without an absolute standard of justice we find fairness gradually slipping into injustice.

Perhaps the biggest problem with social justice is that the demand for social justice decreases compassion.

Cries for social justice always work from the assumption that the right people, the anointed few, can simply impose fairness, prosperity and any other good thing you can dream up. And the only institution capable of imposing social justice is the state. The greater the cries for social justice for the disadvantaged the greater the power accrued by the already powerful and the decrease of personal involvement.

In the Bible justice is about caring for the vulnerable because this reflects the character of God. It invariably involves right relationships. More than three dozen times the OT brings together mishpat or justice, meaning punishing wrongdoers and caring for the victims of unjust treatment, and tzadeqah or righteousness, the way we live before God. God’s justice demands personal involvement, it is not a matter of demanding that the powers that be do something about it, God’s justice demands that we do something about it.

One of God’s most off the wall decisions was to use us as His instruments of justice. Micah 6:8 says: ‘He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ We are God’s plan for doing justice in His world, and He hasn’t revealed a Plan B.

Too reliant on government due to the atomisation of society, family and church are no longer the hubs of the community, localism is to a significant extent dead. There is an expectation that the state will provide the aid and support once supplied by family and church. As individuals and a society we have outsourced compassion and given it politicians and social work departments.

In a situation where the support mechanisms within society have broken down, as they largely have, the state steps in to supply what is required. The more they do this however, the more society’s support mechanisms are weakened and the more the state needs to do. The state is an institution, as such it can only take and dispense, it cannot love.

God’s just requirement is that we love our neighbour, especially our vulnerable neighbour. No one pays taxes out of love.

 

RELENTLESS PRESSURE

So despite the fact that feedback to the public consultation was, as several MSPs admitted, ‘overwhelmingly negative’ the Scottish Parliament has enacted legislation permitting same sex marriage anyway.

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The debate was notable for its attacks upon Christianity. Patrick Harvie (Green) suggesting that opposition to same sex marriage was necessarily homophobic. John Finnie (Independent) equated opposing same sex marriage to religious groups who throw goats off towers to their death. Mary Fee (Labour) asserted that the Bible should not be used to attack same-sex marriage because the ‘Bible also supports slavery’, and prohibits cutting hair.

So far so bad. But, as usual, there is worse to come. A number of amendments to the bill designed to protect churches and other religious institutions from potential legal action or discrimination were all rejected. Protection for charities and registrars was deliberately omitted. The legislation was deliberately enacted with a weak opt in provision for faith groups or individuals which opens the door for further gains by the homosexual lobby. Churches at present can still refuse such marriages but if they wish to in the future they can opt in and provide same sex marriage ceremonies.

We should take this in conjunction with the statement from the CofS spokesman. Alan Hamilton, Convener of the Church’s Legal Questions Committee: ‘The Church of Scotland holds to the mainstream Christian belief that marriage is properly between a man and a woman.

‘Although there are a range of views on this issue within the Church, this will remain our view unless changed by our General Assembly, the supreme decision-making body in the Church, which meets each year in May.’

Technically accurate but what it means is that the GA is wide open to the redefinition of marriage, and in the present climate how long will it be before the GA reverses its position? We have ministers who whole heartedly approve of same sex marriage and will themselves take the opportunity to enter such an arrangement. Can we realistically see the GA saying it disapproves of their action or considers such to be un-Christian?

Some day in the not too distant future a homosexual couple will approach a carefully selected Church of Scotland minister and ask for a church wedding. If the minister complies, as is entirely possible, they get their wedding and the church gets a problem. The church will have to decide what to do about the minister. If they don’t institute disciplinary proceedings the church de facto accepts same sex marriage. If they do discipline the dissenting minister he or she will inevitably become a martyr to the cause and focus of dissent within the denomination leading to the eventual acceptance of same sex marriage. If a civil case were to be brought against the church by the minister can we be sure that in the prevailing climate the church would win?

It does not take the gift of prophecy to predict this, merely reflection on recent events. Whenever the homosexual lobby have campaigned for a gain it has been with the assurance that this would be all they wanted. As soon as they get what they want they move on to the next gain. We can all remember declarations that all that was desired was civil partnerships and that there was no wish for marriage.

This will happen because the homosexual lobby is relentless. Their view of freedom is that they should be free to say and do what they like and we should be free to agree with them. Dissent from the prevailing homosexual orthodoxy is not a permitted option.

Homosexual orthodoxy already has such a grip that many Christians find themselves in extremely difficult positions. I recently had a letter from a young friend asking for advice. A gifted classical singer, choral director and composer he finds himself under pressure if he wishes to continue working in his chosen field. The same letter, however, could have come from a teacher, a medic, a registrar, a couple wishing to adopt, from any of us. With his permission I include part of his letter.

‘I experience and have experienced first hand a form of militant liberalism from within and without the church which I find, frankly, terrifying. Having been a Christian all my life, living out my Faith as best I can, I suddenly find myself labeled as an extremist, a fanatic, and considered a danger to society. This is not an exaggeration! When I was a scholar in a certain episcopal cathedral, some of the beliefs I held were regularly described as abhorrent (though I must confess I was not, at the time, brave enough to profess them openly).

‘I would value any advice on how a young Christian with some influence should respond to the environment in which I regularly work. I must confess, I find myself increasingly living in fear of being asked direct questions which, answered honestly, could lead to me being black-listed at best and hated a worst. I am most afraid of being read wrong. For example, I have many friends and colleagues who are gay. How could I expect them to understand that their life-style does not make me love them any less, and yet I cannot agree that homosexual relationships are acceptable. And then the other end of the spectrum: I believe that God has given me a calling for working with children and I spend great amounts of time and energy on that calling. As a young, single male, you can guess how many of my peers view that calling…

“Any words of wisdom / scripture references and/or advice would be most welcome.”

What advice or help would you offer to a young Christian friend?

CHRISTIANITY AND ?

For an invigorating comment on the Time for Reflection stushie we can recommend the latest post on the always worthwhile Wee Flea blog where David Robertson opens up the issue in a very clear manner. There is more underlying this than a disagreement about education.

There is much that is frightening about the alliance between the CofS Church & Society Council and the Humanist Society Scotland. The official line from a denomination in frantic damage limitation mode is that this is merely a change in terminology. This is much more than the change of phrase from Religious Observance to Time for Reflection. Although of significance we should not get hung up on the semantics of the issue, it is much more serious than that.

There are committed Christians who see their calling as teaching children of all backgrounds about the reality of Christ and who seek to do this in a way which neither compromises the Gospel or the personal faith or lack of it of the children or their families. Some of them see the ‘rebranding’ of RO as an opportunity to create genuinely thought provoking experiences for the pupils in an inclusive manner whilst still being faithful to Christ. Such teachers who seek to follow Jesus in what is sometimes a hostile environment deserve our admiration and prayers.

Whether religious education in Scottish schools is termed Religious Observance, as required at present, or Time for Reflection, as proposed by the Humanist Society Scotland and the Church of Scotland, it is the content of the education which is important.

Surprisingly the Council has made common cause with the Humanist Society Scotland in their approach to religious education. As one office bearer in HSS remarked he could see where it was of advantage to his organisation but just couldn’t see what the CofS got out of it. A tiny organisation of less than 7,000 members who wish to see the end of direct Christian influence in Scottish education has in effect co-opted Scotland’s largest church.

As one secular organisation in Scotland has said, “We welcome the suggested removal of religious components from Religious Observance / Time for Reflection, a positive step for those who do not share the Christian faith …when you bring Jesus into it, it becomes offensive to people with no beliefs, and blasphemous to some with beliefs”. The secularists at least are clear about their beliefs and purposes.

There is an unequal struggle taking place in Scotland for the soul of the Church.

There are those who wish, in line with the historic creeds of the Church, to retain the authority of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ, the incarnate God who rose from the dead, as the only Saviour. They see the good life as being one based on Scriptural principles.

There are also those who have a totally different conception of what constitutes Christianity. They see Christianity as being at its core an open minded mystical religiosity, welcoming spiritual insights from any tradition without the trammels of biblical exclusivity. They place an emphasis on right living whatever the source of inspiration.

One group sees life as being built upon what they see as proper belief. The other group sees belief as emanating from what they see as a proper life.

In early 20th century USA during the struggle for the Presbyterian Church in the USA J Gresham Machen wrote Christianity and Liberalism. In this book, which cannot be recommended too strongly, Machen makes the point that two completely different views of God were contesting for the structures and very life of his denomination. Although many evangelicals seem unaware of it we are seeing the same struggle being replayed in early 21st century Scotland.

The real questions with regard to the Time for Reflection issue is which faith is going to be presented to the children of Scotland as Christianity, and which faith is going to be the faith of the Church of Scotland.

The CofS/HSS alliance has proposed that all external visitors must ‘agree’ with the equality and diversity agenda as approved by the HSS. This means that visiting chaplains who did not sign up to progressive orthodoxy, even if they never mentioned a red button issue like homosexual marriage, or never made their views known publicly, could be excluded from schools for the very fact of holding such views, thinking such thoughts. That until very recently such views were held by every Christian, and are still held by many, is immaterial.

The new tolerance is already very effective in silencing contrary views. The Scottish Secondary Teacher’s Association, the nation’s only specialist union for secondary teachers has already informed members that within school they must not voice opposition to homosexual marriage either to pupils or even to other staff. Any teacher who does so would be open to discipline by the local authority and if so the union will refuse to defend them or provide legal support.

Are we naïve enough to believe that it could never reach the stage where teachers who express a biblical view of marriage outside the school and in another context would be disciplined?

When it comes to the church we have already had a case of a CofS minister being removed from a school chaplaincy because of his traditional Christian beliefs. Early in January Donald MacInnes, minister of Gairbraid in Glasgow and chaplain of Glasgow Gaelic School was removed from his position at the school after a posting on Facebook in which he said he was opposed to legislation regarding same sex marriage. At the time a Kirk spokesman said he was sorry that Mr MacInnes was no longer the school’s chaplain, but also reiterated the Church of Scotland’s view that homophobia was “sinful.”

That a trade union will refuse to support a member who takes a contrary social/political position to the union is perhaps understandable. That a Church refuses to support and even smears as homophobic a minister who upholds a biblical position is incomprehensible.

In the meantime the denomination weakens. The Presbytery of Lanark has just lost its strongest congregation. Ian Watson and the bulk of committed members of his congregation of Kirkmuirhill have left the denomination. This comes with a disclaimer, Ian is a friend of mine. More than that he is one of those whom I would count it a particular blessing to have as my minister. I also know his congregation in South Lanarkshire and have spoken there when taking Grain on the road. They proved to be a welcoming group of committed Christians seeking God’s way in their lives.

They didn’t leave as The Scotsman paper suggests because of the Time for Reflection issue. It goes much deeper than that, they just saw no future in struggling for the Scriptural faith in a denomination in which they felt their beliefs being marginalised. How long will evangelicals in the CofS allow this to continue?