Tag Archives: culture war

The Cape Town drought and the primary lesson of Sodom

One of the arguments which the church has largely stopped even trying to defend is the claim that God actively judges nations today. This is a common-place of the Old Testament: the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is the most blatant example of this, and it is a passing theme in all the major prophets. Amos (cpt 1) starts with a series of judgements of the nations surrounding before bringing his focus onto Israel; a softening up exercise, but one recording God’s condemnation, and plans to punish, gentile nations; it is ironic that many liberal Christians love to quote Amos about social injustice, but would be very twitchy at engaging with the idea that God actually does do judgement.

At first sight the New Testament is less clear on the issue; it’s worth remember though that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD is foretold as a punishment for the Jews’ rejection of Israel. The book of Revelation presents the judgements on the world as an attempt by God to get their attention; the refrain is ‘they did not repent despite these punishments.

On the whole modern Christianity is allergic to the suggestion. In part this derives from bad theology: ‘how can a God of love bring active destruction on those He loves?’ – a question which the Old Testament struggles with and yet ultimately has no doubts about (e.g. Hosea 11). And it is better for people to hurt now than to end up permanently separated from God. However the bigger problem is that naturalistic explanations of the events that the bible describes as the judgements of God make it problematic to ascribe them to God: the earthquake / drought / invasion happened because of processes that we now understand so it can’t have been God’s work. This is, of course, to miss the way that God works through natural effects, as well as dismissing the ‘butterfly effect’ that means that a minimal intervention by God may have caused these events without it being visible to the outside observer.

The effect however is clear: suggest that a specific event is God’s judgement and you will be laughed at. So we don’t try. Of course part of the problem is that when you turn up AFTER the event and announce that it was God saying something, you have minimal credibility and will be seen as merely trying to pursue your particular agenda; add in a propensity to try and interpret the event as part of an eschatology and you’ve totally lost it.

Biblically the perfect example of the opposite is Elijah’s announcing the drought beforehand, and ending it when the people had changed. Modern attempts are generally unsatisfactory: David Wilkerson’s ‘The Vision’ is a mixed bag, Clifford Hill’s ‘Towards the Dawn’ and ‘The Day comes’ lack specific statements, and what was specific is now painfully long in the tooth, whilst David Pawson’s prediction that the UK will become an Islamic state, whilst still on track, is hard to focus on. Perhaps the biggest problem for the pessimistic prophets is that on the whole things are getting significantly better; internationally poverty is falling rapidly, and in the UK crime levels have declined steeply and in general there have been few major disasters.

Which brings us to the present drought in Cape Town. Amos seems to be unambiguous:

If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?….

I also withheld rain from you,
When there were still three months to the harvest.
I made it rain on one city,
I withheld rain from another city.
One part was rained upon,
And where it did not rain the part withered.
So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water,
But they were not satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me,”
Says the Lord.

Amos cpt 3, 4.

On the basis of that, are we justified in following the atheist assumption that the Cape Town situation is just coincidence, or is God trying to get their attention? Is it easier for us to avoid discussion of the truth that God CAN intervene in this way because it can make other arguments about God harder to sustain – or should we be willing to take the hit because people have a right to know? James 3 warns us: ‘let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.’ And note of course that the Cape Town situation DOESN’T imply that they are any worse sinners, given Luke 13’s warning on that.

So where do we go on this? It appears there is a substantial hole in the ministry of the church in warning the world of the judgements that God is proposing to bring:

‘Surely the Lord God does nothing,

Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.’

Amos 3

Of course we’ve had this hole so long that we don’t know what we are missing, but as the passage in Ezekiel about the watchman that is usually applied to evangelism reminds us: if we fail to warn people and they die in their sins, then God will require their blood of us. (Ezekiel 33).

Ultimately we need to hear from the Lord so that with Amos we can say:

A lion has roared!
Who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken!
Who can but prophesy?

Amos 3

May God provide us with the prophets that we need to see the church healthy and the world rightly warned.


Tactics in the culture wars…

William Booth complained that the Devil had all the best tunes – and promptly wrote Christian lyrics for some. At present those of us opposed to the pro-gay agenda which is so prevalent in many churches are faced with the ‘Inclusive church’ tag, which leaves us appearing otherwise. We must do better. ‘Inclusive church’ is a great tag, and when the gay agenda is appended to other, wholly uncontroversial inclusions such as disabled people, the tag become hard to resist. Yet resist we must; so the adoption of a suitable alternative tag could be helpful.

Four possible contenders spring to mind:

1) ‘Confessing church’ was the label adopted by the resisters to Hitler in the German Lutheran church. To adopt this would be surely be a step too far; we are not yet facing substantial persecution, and the evil of our society is less blatant, though the number of abortions does point to a similar scale of destruction; let us respect Godwin’s law and avoid parallels with the Nazis.

2) ‘Faithful church’. This picks up the phrase from Jude where we are told to ‘contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’. ‘Faith’ is a positive buzz word – even though in practice it implies no actual content; Prince Charles’ ambition to be ‘Defender of Faith’ exemplifies this. Sadly therefore the tag would probably be too easily adopted and therefore subverted by our opponents.

3) ‘Obedient church’. This perhaps goes to the heart of the debate; are we being obedient to what God has said, or are we seeking to bend the word of God to allow ourselves to do what we want? Sadly of course prioritising obedience is an emphasis that fits badly with much church ideology today; whilst this might be a barrier, it’s perhaps one that we should welcome. And of course much of the motivation for the LGBT person who chooses a celibate lifestyle is obedience, so we would be implicitly celebrating that choice.

4) ‘Loving church’. If we believe that having gay sex is inherently sinful – as is all fornication – then the loving thing to do is to be up front about it and challenge it. It may also generate questions about what we mean, in a way that the others probably wouldn’t. It would also act as a challenge: beyond the gay issue are we, as a church, worthy of the title ‘loving church’. Given that part of the experience of gay, single, people in many churches is that the church is NOT loving, it’s a challenge which church members may need to hear. Sadly however the way in which ‘love = sex’ is so standard in our society, the term may be unhelpful.

There are no easy solutions therefore – but it’s an issue that is worth consideration; having a ‘flag’ around which the opponents of the gay deception can rally, given the way in which the church is losing the battle, may be helpful. I suspect ‘obedient church’ is the right choice, but it would be good to at least see the conversation starting.

Verses I’ve never seen before (3)

 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1)

Paul describes his ministry as being to bring about OBEDIENCE. Not just reconciliation to God, forgiveness of sin, the establishment of the church, but obedience. We don’t do a lot of preaching towards that; when one hears a preacher describing God as ‘desperate’ that we should accept Him. I suspect he’s lost the plot. Jesus’ preaching starts with a call to repentance, and it’s a word that is found throughout the New Testament. We are called to become citizens of God’s kingdom, which implies obeying His laws. Not a popular message, but whatever else the reformation is about, it’s about doing what the bible teaches, not what is fashionable.

Note of course this is NOT a call to moral perfection for the sake of it; it is the obedience that derives from faith because God is worth obeying because of what He has done for us, not merely because He is the ruler of the universe.

Verses I’ve never seen before (2)

Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers,  who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God’s service. For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.” (3 John)

This is an interesting passage, indicating that the writer thought that accepting nothing from the heathen is a good thing, and that such self-denial should encourage us to be generous towards such. The issue of seeking support for ‘ministry’ from outside the church is one that we don’t often think through. Modern examples include accepting money for the repair of our buildings from the government – or just the local community – as well as the mess that the Salvation Army has got into with its fundraising, where the line between ‘evangelism’ and ‘social action’ has become totally blurred.

As the secular West becomes ever less tolerant of Christianity’s traditional teaching on many topics, it will become more problematic to become dependent on secular sources of funding for our good works. This is an area we need to think about clearly, recognising the issues.

Homosexuality as choice – another minefield

It is a commonplace that truth is the first victim of war, and in the culture wars the confusion over the facts about homosexuality is massive. Part of this is for good reasons; there have been times when the treatment of gay people has been appalling, and in reaction to that a delegitimisation of viewpoints that lead to such behaviour is not a surprise. However part of it comes from a desire to avoid hard questions that the full truth would otherwise force gay activists to engage with.

There is a widespread, though seldom articulated belief that gay people CHOOSE to be gay, and are therefore morally culpable for their situation. This is, almost entirely, untrue, although with some support within the gay community. But for most people it is a reality that comes into focus over time.

But this is where the fighting starts. For many people there is a phase of homosexual attraction and practice in their early years, yet many go on from that to heterosexual relationships. The most obvious example of this is the traditional pattern of the boarding schools of Britain, where such behaviour appears – from the hints of contemporary writers – to have been endemic. Were such practitioners gay, or merely self indulgent? Similar observations swirl about many single sex institutions…

The most extreme – and coherent – definition of homosexual focuses on a total inability to be sexually aroused by a person of the opposite sex. Yet that is not the one endorsed, at least by their attitudes, by most gay activists today. Instead the likes of Oscar Wilde and Gene Robinson are seen as exemplars, despite their both having children with the women they married before deciding they were gay.

A fascinating example is that of Tom Robinson. In 1978 he released the track Sing if you’re glad to be gay that speaks powerfully of the experience of alienation and persecution suffered by the gay community in those days. Yet in the early 80s he fell for a woman, whom he subsequently had children with and married.

So where does this all go? Sexuality is clearly fluid. Given the total confusion in the psychiatric profession about the causes and treatment of mental distress, it is irrational to suggest that we know anything about the causes or cures of homosexuality. As a result of the pillorying of those who defend the treatment of gay people is to adopt a politically driven certainty in an area where no certainty is justified. YET THEY HAVE A POINT. There was a time when barbaric practitioners used aversion therapy in an attempt to change people’s orientation; that was wholly illegitimate, and should be strongly condemned. However the dismissal of all modern, very different, therapy on the basis of the mistakes of the past, is more driven by a desire to legitimate homosexuality as normal than rational response to the evidence. This is part of the wider alteration of the mood music, which led to the psychiatric profession deleting homosexuality as a disease – because it was politically expedient to do so – resulting in the gay community claiming that this was objective evidence that it isn’t a disease. Good game…


More honesty is required on all sides. Christians need to be clear that homosexuality is a particular expression of sexuality that, if not actively expressed, is no more sinful than any other. We need to tell young people who are questioning that for many it IS a phase that they will go through – and come out of. And we need to defend the legitimacy of people investigating the possibility of change with the support of a counsellor, rather than accept that in this one area the psychiatric profession is right. But let love for the struggling sinner – from us struggling sinners – should be the first message heard.