In a superb response to the notorious and insensitive ‘Nashville Statement‘, released upon a hurting world by out-of-touch-with-reality Evangelical leaders at the end of August this year, other Christians – “…some of the queer, trans, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, gender-queer, asexual, straight, single, married image-bearing Christians at House for All Sinners & Saints (Denver, Co)” – wrote the ‘Denver Statement’; a point-by-point rebuttal of the Nashville Statement.
One of the replies to the blog post particularly caught my eye, from Kirk Leavens, a man of wisdom and compassion whose contributions to the Patheos blog are always well worth reading. Here is the quote; I think you will like it:
“The Nashville Statement on human sexuality is the latest attempt by the Religious Right to position male-female complementarianism, patriarchy and gender stereotypes as the Biblical norm for today, thousands of years from the culture in which male dominance and female subservience was the norm. One of the main problems with the belief that the Bible gives us a clear picture of “one man, one woman,” is…that it does not. The truth is conservatives must carefully pick and choose their verses to support their thesis, conveniently overlooking the much more numerous passages that portray the ugly side of complementarianism and submission.
“Contrary to most evangelical thinking, while the NT gives us excellent advice on loving our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves, the Bible, as a whole is a mixed bag on the issue of “Biblical Marriage.” With Biblical marriages involving polygamy, concubines, maid servants, spoils of war, sisters-in-law, rape victims, etc., conservatives must do a lot of cherry picking to come up with a definitive view of marriage.
“I am sure most of this is coming from the hard right of evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist fringe that grew into the dominant voice in conservative evangelicalism in the 80s and 90s during the takeover of SBC [Southern Baptist Convention]. What most evangelicals don’t know is that during this time period the moderates along with female teachers at Baptist universities were all forced out by the fundamentalist wing of the SBC. Evangelicalism has never recovered.
“This shift among the majority voice in Evangelicalism does not just condemn “homosexuality,” but would push a strong, hyper-Calvinism as the only “truly biblical” understanding of atonement, would severely limit divergent views such as Arminianism and Pentecostalism and has forced out moderates and postconservatives from teaching at their seminaries, as well as severely limiting women from teaching or using their spiritual gifts. This is not a group of people open to the work of the Holy Spirit. They are fundamentalists, period.
“The tragedy of the Nashville Statement is that it closes the door to dialogue about human sexuality, and attempts to rigidly compartmentalize gender stereotypes, ignoring the realities of gender and sexuality. It also closes the door to further understanding and reform amongst evangelicals. The door has been shut on careful consideration of the Biblical passages themselves, preferring a inerrant, literal hermeneutic that does not take into consideration a great many things: culturally bound materials, story as opposed to historical facts, and a general inability to differentiate Kingdom principals from cultural mores.
“In all of this we are to be schooled on marriage by a group of people whose heterosexual marriages end in divorce 50% of the time, differing little from the culture they pride themselves as being superior to. It has sadly become all too apparent that fundamentalists favor law over Grace, continuing over a century of vigorously defending indefensible attitudes towards race, women, violence and sexual minorities. This needs to stop.”
And I couldn’t agree more with what he said. Quite often you hear the phrase, ‘What is the world coming to’, and I often think the same thing about Christianity. It’s high time people professing Jesus as Lord began to confront the really serious issues of our time instead of wanting to install video cameras in other people’s bedrooms! Seriously, these people seem to think that the number-one big problem of our time is that some people have a ‘different’ sexuality. It’s not poverty, not North Korea’s nuclear program, not Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, not global warming; no, it’s what people do in the privacy of their own homes that is the number-one issue.
How twisted is that?
Anyway, enough of my ranting 😉 I’d like to also point my readers to Kirk’s complete article in which he expands on the points he makes in the quotation I have given above. Although you will recognise some of the paragraphs from above, there are some new and interesting points that he makes as well. Here’s the link*.
Finally, a word of explanation. My blog purports to be, on the whole, me doing what I see the Father doing; me saying what I believe the Father is saying. That’s what my header is all about and it’s the mission statement, if you like, for my blog. In these times, I see the Father doing a great work amongst and through the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex ‘community’. These people are going to play a major part in the next Revival; indeed, they are already doing so.
To quote Rabbi Gamaliel, in Acts 5:38-39, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Yep. Please consider this post prayerfully and hear what the Voice of the Spirit is saying to you 🙂
*In case the links here ever disappear (you never know!), I have generated verbatim copies of the originals on their own pages in this blog.
The heart of worship is to draw near to God; to see more of Him; to desire strongly His Presence, to kneel (literally or figuratively) before Him and tell Him how much we love Him.
It’s eleven months since we lost my lovely wife Fiona. And Fiona’s heart was always that of a worshipper. Worship was our way of life, staying close to God and singing His praises whenever the opportunity presented itself 🙂 As I said here, basically if there was any excuse for us to break into song, we’d be singing and making music in our hearts to Jesus.
As I have already shared in that article above, Fiona gave me this lovely Scripture from her favourite Bible translation, The Message – because she said it reminded her of me!:
“Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:18-20 (Message))
And I love that – ‘Any excuse for a song….’ and that’s just what we were like together.
Fiona is, of course, now in that place where she can worship with the full, yet still increasing, knowledge of what God is really like. She is in His Dwelling Place – the place where He is – and likely worshipping her heart out. It’s what she did, and I have no doubt that it’s what she does. Worship is not only what keeps me going, but it’s what I believe Fiona has gone to. Have you any idea what a tremendous comfort that is to me in my bereavement?
And so, once again, the brilliant Terry MacAlmon comes to my aid. As I listen to this beautiful worship song, Dwelling Places, once again I am transported into God’s Presence. How lovely indeed is His Dwelling, because that’s where He is. So in a very real sense, as my heart rises up in worship with this song, I am worshipping with the angels and with Fiona in the Throne Room of Heaven. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Sitting at Jesus’s feet and basking in His Presence.
So, here’s the lovely song ‘Dwelling Places’, by Miriam Webster, sung by Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson. Be blessed:
Lovely are Your dwelling places Thirsty I come after You Jesus, my joy, my reward Your love’s restoring my soul Now I’m Yours and You are mine And from my heart a song will rise
I love You, I love You, I love You I love You, I love You, I love You I love You, I love You, I love You And my heart will follow wholly after You
Jesus, there is none beside You Righteous, ruler of the earth Nations will come and bow down Name over all names I sing You praises And all that I can say to You is
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You And my heart will follow wholly after You
In the past, I have written on the subject of ‘Faith and the Suspension of Disbelief‘. The ability to accept and enjoy fantasy stories also confers on us the ability to believe more easily the stories we read about Jesus in the Bible, and the testimonies we hear from people who have encountered God in a special way.
We have another ability as humans, too. It’s the sense of Awe and Wonder. God is amazingly awesome and supremely wonderful – in that He’s full of Wonder. If we think about Him and His love for any amount of time, we find ourselves standing in awe and wonder at how amazing He is.
I want to share a picture with you that I find absolutely remarkable. Similarly to pictures in the post I made recently about various astronomical ideas, this photo too evokes in me a strong sense of awe and wonder.
This is a photo taken on the surface of Mars, by the Mars exploration rover ‘Opportunity‘. (You can see the original image and full commentary here).
Think about what that means for a moment. This photograph was taken on the surface of another planet. The camera was made on Earth and sent to Mars on an unbelievably clever piece of machinery, taking a good couple of years to get there. Then using more amazing technology, the camera was landed on Mars on a really clever little robot* which is even now, as I write this, driving around the surface of that alien planet just like something out of Star Trek, taking pictures like this one.
In this age where everything seems taken for granted, and incredibly awesome things are used for evil purposes – like how text messaging and Facebook are used to hurt others – I still find it incredible that people can be blasé about an image like this. This is incredible wonder and awe, right here in front of us. It’s another part of God’s Creation, where no human has yet set foot, but which we can explore by proxy by sending an incredible robotic probe hundreds of millions of miles to go and have a look round on our behalf. And God has given we humans the desire, the drive, the ability and the skills to make this happen. God is said to have made humans in His image. How well does this fabulous photo show us that indeed we are capable of such amazing feats; surely we are indeed made in the image of God!
Now is that not something incredible?
I realise that my title for this piece is also the title of a classic science fiction book by my late hero, the writer and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clarke. I just thought it evocative, so I used it, although I remembered shortly afterwards that Clarke had already coined the phrase. I like to create good titles for my blog pieces; it just so happened that this one had already been invented. Sorry, Sir Arthur, but also thanks…
*The Opportunity explorer has been working on the surface of Mars for longer than thirteen years, having been designed to function for only 90 days. For more information on this remarkable little robot, visit the Wikipedia page about it.
This is a gorgeous analogy by Stephen Morris. I will let it speak for itself:
“I love going barefoot. Everywhere. For me, there is no greater freedom than living life without the constraints of shoes. I may get some weird looks from people, but that is expected for people who live shoe-free.
“Going barefoot is an outward symbol of what is on the inside. I see shoes as religious performance. Feet in shoes tend to get hot, sweaty, and sometimes stinky. But you don’t really know how sweaty or stinky or hot your feet get until you remove the shoes.
“Same thing with religion. You really don’t know how imprisoned or stifled you are in your religion until you step out of it. When you are barefoot, your feet breathe a sigh of relief, because you brought them back to their natural state.
“When you’re in the wild, in the untamed world of grace, your heart and spirit finally breathe because you are now where you were always meant to be. That is why I go barefoot.”
My regular readers will be familiar with my strong emphasis on Grace. Grace is the undeserved, unearned favour of God; not that we don’t deserve it because of stuff we’ve done, but undeserved because we have not earned it – and indeed we don’t need to earn it! It’s entirely because of God’s Love, generosity, favour and just because He likes us that He showers – lavishes! – His Presence, His Love and His favour on us.
And this leads to freedom. The freedom of knowing that there’s nothing we need to do – indeed nothing we can do – to ‘make’ God love us any more than He does already. He already accepts us and loves us completely.
In this article, Mike Douglas explains how the ‘Cycle of Grace’ is the exact opposits of the ‘Cycle of Law’, and how it takes a mental attitude shift in order to enact this in our lives. I have heard that sort of ‘changing of the mind’ as being called ‘Repentance’; this is indeed what it is.
Over to Mike:
I have talked a lot in this blog about the difference between being a legalistic Christian and being a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to expand on that again in this blog post. I keep ‘harping’ on this as it is essential to live the life you are called to and to flourish in the love of Father. This blog will explain the difference between living under the oppression of a legalistic, do and don’t or else kind of religion and the freedom that comes when we understand it is about love and acceptance.
Falling back into oppression of ‘trying to measure up’ to God’s standard is alive and well in in many Christians. Despite what the Bible says and the character of our Father. Many live life of busy-ness, keeping the rules, believing they must earn God’s acceptance thru their efforts to be good and through service to Him.
We would never say that, but their actions speak it out loud and clear.
Deep inside we believe Salvation is free but Acceptance is earned. Consequently, many churches and Christians promote frantic workaholism. It’s a neurotic attempt to gain acceptance through achievement. It leads to unhappy, discontented churches and members.
Let’s look more closely at what happens when we don’t understand that we don’t have to work for Father’s acceptance.
Cycle of Law
Despite what we know in our heads and say with our lips many of us still live this understanding that God’s acceptance is something we must earn. It could not be further from the truth.
The consequences are a false sense of self, burnout, striving, insecurity and defeat. I don’t want that for you.
Worse still, once deceived into this ‘slavery’ we will lose sense of being a part of Father’s family and a brother of Jesus. You will lose your identity and probably give up under an overwhelming sense of failure and inadequacy. This is NOT what Father wants from you.
Will go around the circle the wrong way. The wrong way [the cycle of law] begins with achievement. If I achieve enough through service and good behavior, then maybe that will give me significance. Think status, self-worth, pride, running ahead of others.
We hope that will give us significance and that will sustain us during times we really screw up. ‘Yes, I screwed up today but look at all I’ve done for the church, all the money I’ve given, how much better I still am than all the other people in my church.’
All in a forlorn hope this will lead to acceptance by God. Sadly, we never achieve what we long for; accepted by God, others or ourselves.
I want better for you. So does Father. Please, please, please reject this form of Christianity. It will destroy you.
Jesus came from Heaven to earth to set us free from this type of religious oppression. In one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible, Jesus said that one of the reason He came was to fulfil all those religious requirements for us and then later told us the new way to acceptance by Father. Through faith in Him. And with that faith, you are now ‘part of the family’, fully accepted by God, just as you are.
If you need to, read that paragraph again. If you want to, read that paragraph again. If you want to jump for joy, read that paragraph again!
Why strive for something you already have?
Cycle of Grace
The cycle of Grace sets us free from the Cycle of Law. Note that in this circle the quadrants remain the same but the arrows are going in the opposite direction. To grasp this we, like the arrows, must reverse our path and understanding and head in the right direction.
Doing so will turn a discontented Christian [church] into a contented one. In turn, we will be profoundly attractive to discontented people.
Let’s look at the Cycle of Grace.
It starts with Acceptance! It is not something we work towards; it’s the starting point! We need to begin by understanding you are accepted by Father. Freely given thru Jesus and revealed by Holy Spirit.
It’s like this: If you are a parent, you know that your children do not have to earn your love and acceptance. You offer that simply because they are your children and you love then completely. It’s not conditional and it’s not earned. It is the same with your Father in Heaven! Loved and accepted because your family!
Now can freely approach Father with confidence because we are saved, and forgiven by faith and immediately adopted into the family.
That leads to Sustenance. As our understanding of our acceptance increases, it sustains us in life sorrows and the inevitable screw ups that will come. It releases us from striving, guilt and shame.
And it fills us with joy and peace. Joy in knowing we are love and accepted no matter what. And that will never change.
Acceptance and Sustenance now leads to Significance. Not from WHAT we are or WHO we are or WHAT we DO but from WHOSE we are. This conquers the need to strive. The search for significance ends because of our position as sons and daughters of God. What could be more significant?
Now we arrive at achievement. Because of accepted, sustained and significance from God, we are motivated to respond to that love, acceptance and significance.
Instead of striving to gain approval, we do good things because we know He approves of us and we want to respond to that love and approval. Not FOR approval but FROM approval.
We can see all this played out in the life of Jesus.
At His baptism, Father’s voice comes from Heaven saying, “This is My Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Acceptance – can you see it? “My son, whom I love”. He is saying the same to you.
This sustains Jesus throughout His ministry. Calls God “Abba”, which means ‘daddy’ in Hebrew. We can call Him daddy too!
Jesus’ significance or self-worth was centred in the value placed on Him by Father. Therefore, He is free to be Himself. So can we.
Now Achievement. He knows He has a job to do and at Calvary, cries out, “It is finished”. He could do all of that because knew He was accepted by Father.
We need to live in the same cycle.
Live knowing that Father accepts us. Not through achievement or trying to be holy, but by His adopting love. To do so, we must start out on [or back to] this right footing. We need to know are accepted by God because of His love. This must be the foundation of our lives.
Before all else, know in your heart you are loved by God. It must be the centre of who we are. Then we will be sustained in the right way.
Significance comes from POSITION not PERFORMANCE. WHOSE we are, not WHO we are, not WHAT we do. Here’s where we get our sense of value. Not approval of others but reveling in approval of Father. Then we respond and serve out of gratitude rather than for approval. We already have approval of Father.
My prayer is that you will embrace this wonderful truth.
Click this link or the image below to go to the original article:
Today, I want to make that a ‘trilogy’ and give you (and me) permission to not engage in nonproductive arguments!
You know, in 1Pet 3:15, it says, “Always be prepared to give a defence to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have, but do this with gentleness and respect”
And I think sometimes that many of us, myself included, take this as meaning that we are not allowed to pick our battles. Sometimes we need to say, ‘This is not a battle I should be fighting’, and this Scripture should not prevent us from saying just that.
We often think that unless we have an answer ready – and usually a shallow, trite answer will do – that we are somehow not obeying this ‘commandment’. And so we engage with every single demand that those who believe different things throw at us.
Well, let me tell you that actually that verse is not a commandment at all. St. Peter, or whoever it actually was that wrote that letter (there is apparently some doubt), was not in a position to give out commandments. Neither was St. Paul, for that matter. Neither of them was God. Anything in the Epistles that looks like a commandment, then, is nothing of the sort; they are more suggestions or guidelines or maybe just simple practical advice. Otherwise we’d all have to ‘take a little wine’ (1Tim 5:23) every time our tummy is unwell! Of course, guidelines in the hands of Legalists always turn into Rules, but I digress even more…
So, then, please remember this: you do not have to engage *every* naysayer, fake-questioner (those who ask ‘questions’ that are simply formulated to set you up), those who would question your salvation. You do not have to try to prove people wrong, prove yourself right, or indeed prove anything. Be sensitive to the Spirit of God within you; if you feel She is saying, Yes, speak a word in due season here, then do so. If you don’t get that prompt, do not engage. There are more important things to do than engaging in fruitless dialogue (or often it’s just two monologues going on).
Feel free to block people who annoy you. Civilized debate is one thing; nasty people is something else. This is not cowardice; this is sanity! I have decided that from now on I am going to block people freely – not those who disagree with me, for decent debate is great – but those who are destructive, energy-sapping and soul-destroying. To engage with these people is folly.
Don’t give dogs what is sacred (Mt 7:6), and that includes your time!
“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go”.
The supposed end-times event where millions of “True Believers” are whisked away in the twinkling of an eye, to be with Jesus. Those left behind have to pick up the pieces of a world left in chaos, and are subjected to terrible tribulations under a despotic ruler, known as the Antichrist. Then Christ returns (again) and destroys all the ‘evildoers’ left alive on the earth.
Well, it makes for good reading, and some great adventure stories. But it also panders to the religious fad of wanting to feel terror, a bit like watching a horror film. A Christian horror story, maybe.
You see, surely the Gospel is about peace and hope, not terror and destruction?
The whole thing smacks to me of money-making, fear-mongering religiosity. Many people have a dichotomy of fear: they know about a Loving God, and yet this Jesus who is supposedly so loving and turned towards sinners will suddenly become the most powerful destructive force in the Universe.
Of course, I don’t buy it. This is not the Jesus I know. Now, I have read the ‘Left Behind’ series in its entirety, and like I said, it is a great adventure story. But it needs to be left in the Fiction section of the library. The scenes at the end of the series where Jesus destroys people by shouting Bible verses at them (yes, really!) is blasphemous in the extreme (and I don’t use the word ‘blasphemy’ lightly), although if you read it as a fiction story it doesn’t feel so bad, but it’s still uncomfortable to read for someone who loves the real Jesus, not the fictional one!
The entire concept of the Rapture and what follows it is a fairly recent addition to Church theology, the earliest mention being in the sixteenth century. It does not appear to have been part of the belief system of the early Church – but it is certainly part of popular theology today and it hosts some of the most destructive, fear-mongering rubbish that it is possible to hear. The Rapture, if you really think it through with all its ramifications, is about as anti-Gospel as you can get. It omits Grace, majors on fear and worldly judgement, and paints a dreadful caricature of God as one who destroys rather than one Who heals and reconciles. Sounds more like the enemy to me.
Anyway, enough of my ranting. The book, “10 Reasons Why The Rapture Must Be Left Behind”, by Stephen D Morrison*, is a short, well-researched and highly readable book which dismantles the destructive Rapture doctrine with sound reasoning, proper Biblical exegesis, and historical and theological research. This is, in my opinion, the ‘go-to’ book on this terrible doctrine, both for people who would just like to know what it’s all about, and also the more serious theologian who wants it all set out properly.
This is not a book for people who are still in a theological rut, where you know exactly what you believe and are unwilling to change your mind (that’s called ‘Repentance’, by the way!) about things you are sure you know.
But if you have an open mind, a mind open to the teachings of Holy Spirit and also a mind for properly reasoned ideas (God likes that sort of thing!) then it’s for you.
Oh, did I mention it’s free? Ah, that got your attention… 😉 At the time of writing, the Kindle version of this book is free for download from Amazon.
Read it. Enjoy it. Live it. This is yet another book that contains pure freedom within its pages. Release from fear, release from a terrible image of god, release from the horror of the fear of the end-times. God is Good. This book states that clearly.
Click the relevant link below to go to the Amazon page for this book. If you’re not in the UK or the USA, just search ‘reasons rapture left behind morrison’ (omitting the quotes) on your country’s Amazon site. You should find it easily enough.
Here’s the brilliant Wendy Francisco on the Prodigal Son story:
“The story of the prodigal son is one of the most wonderful things on the planet. It asks us to have a little faith in humanity, and to think again if we feel our job is to judge and exclude. The dad knowingly provided funds for his son. His son left and the dad did not follow. When the son came back, the dad still said nothing about anything that happened. Some argue that the dad said nothing because the son had repented and come home, but they miss the point that while the son was out sowing his wild oats, the father was silent and un-intrusive.
“And then there was that other son. Are we that other son? The stay at home son wanted to exclude his brother from the blessing of his father. He was the one who cited all his brother’s faults and failures. He was kind of a hurtful jerk. And HE was the one whom the father gently corrected, for the purpose of uniting him with his wild brother (who he was probably jealous of). (In fact I like to joke that the stay at home son was probably why his brother left).
“This is a story that approaches life as if God is able to know and be God to everyone He created, without the interference of the stay at home son. It never crossed the father’s mind to reject either of his sons.
“The son who went out experienced all on his own, the poverty and shallowness of the world, and he was hurt by it to near starvation. Had the big mouth brother followed him pointing his finger as so many Christians do today, perhaps he would never have come back.
“The mistake we make is thinking that the Father is like the stay at home son. We are indoctrinated to think this, but nothing could be further from the truth.
“If the stay at home son had rejected his father’s words and summoned all the servants and proclaimed, “Whoever supports my prodigal brother and attends his party cannot stay in this household”, then that would have been the perfect mirror of the Nashville Statement article ten, a heartbreaking and terrible call to organized rejection and scapegoating. No wonder Jesus called the religious leaders of His day ravenous wolves.
“People are saying that we believe anything goes. Yes and no. When the Father handed his prodigal the funds to leave, it was anything goes. But when the people pleasing brother judged him, it was NOT anything goes.
On August 29th 2017, the grandiosely titled ‘Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’ * released a document called the ‘Nashville Statement’ **, a declaration of the position of over 150 American conservative church leaders on matters of human sexuality, including statements on morality, sex outside of marriage, and of course homosexuality.***
Rather than recite it for you, here is a link to a PDF file of the Statement (it should open in a new browser tab): Nashville Statement PDF
I respect some of those leaders (well, actually, just two whom I know of and have heard speak). I agree, would you believe, with some of what’s in the Statement, and I can understand (if not personally accept) their stance on homosexuality.
But Article 10 in the Statement came as a surprise to me. Here indeed is Article 10, screen-shot directly from the Nashville Statement referenced above:
I actually find this Article to be troubling, pretentious and arrogant. Troubling in that it places yet another burden on simple Christians trying to live out their life for Christ, and now that’s another legalistic straw placed on their proverbial camel’s back. Pretentious and arrogant in that, well, who do they think they are telling other believers that they cannot agree to differ?
According to this Article, you’re not allowed to be ‘undecided’, (whether you’ve studied all the arguments or not), you’re not allowed to sit on the fence, and you’re not allowed to agree to differ. ‘Otherwise faithful Christians’ implies ‘unfaithfulness’ but to whom or what? Jesus? Christianity in general? Fundagelicalism in particular? The Bible? Surely this is just another point of doctrine, and the freedom to agree or disagree is just as valid here as it is for such doctrines as Communion or baptism, whose practices vary widely within Christendom?
Essentially they are declaring this belief [in homosexuality being ‘wrong’] as a central tenet of the faith, without which you are an ‘unfaithful’ Christian, whatever that means and whatever threat that is supposed to convey. I would suggest, then, that Article 10 is saying that unless you believe the Bible the way in which we [the authors of the Nashville Statement; those 150+ leaders] say you have to believe it, then you’re not a ‘proper Christian’. That’s what I find troubling – but unsurprising. I suppose actually seeing it written down in black and white was what I found most troubling; they have always believed it, but maybe never actually written it down.
At its core, the Article reveals plainly the bibliolatry (worship of the Bible) of their position, in that they have essentially elevated a book – an inspired book, to be sure, but still a book – to a place above the position of the One Whom it reveals. Once again, the Bible has been given primacy over Jesus, Who alone is the Word of God. Once again, these people present a non-negotiable interpretation of a book that is neither inerrant nor infallible. The Bible is so vast and complex in its layers, meanings and teachings that I think it is true to say that none of us knows enough to say categorically that another brother’s beliefs are ‘wrong’. And so they attempt to ‘forbid’ the holding of an opinion that they don’t like, even if it’s Jesus Himself who given us that opinion. But, of course, we need to remember that these men are not the Gatekeepers of the Kingdom, no matter how much they might believe that they are! These people do not hold a monopoly of the Truth, nor of Jesus.
I think in some ways it’s also a matter of ‘Scriptural authority’. You see, some believers hold that a Christian has to believe (and enact/build into his life) all of the Bible, and that all of the Bible carries identical weight and authority. But that’s not how anyone actually lives it. You see, every Christian cherry-picks certain verses and decides that they apply, and that other verses don’t. It’s inevitable that this will happen, especially since the Bible is written by different people who all had different views.
For these people to say that affirming of LGBTQ+ people is ‘sinful’, well, I and my own conscience can be the only arbiter of that for me personally. (And it’s time they stopped their preoccupation with ‘sin’!) Paul is quite clear that what is beneficial for some is not so for others (1Cor 10:23, 1Cor 6:12). I can choose within my freedom as a Christ-follower what to consider is ‘sin’ as instructed by Holy Spirit. But I think that, deep down, and in their admirable zeal to keep their flocks ‘safe’, a lot of these leaders have a great difficulty with trusting a) God to speak to their people, and b) their people to hear God accurately for themselves. I understand that. But part of our freedom a believers is that we have been released into this freedom partly in order to learn how to hear the voice of God for ourselves. Sure, we will make mistakes, but God is gentle and patient with us in our learning curve, and He supports us all the way. In any case, the more they legislate, the more powerful ‘sin’ becomes. More Law is not the answer, because the power of sin is the Law (1Cor 15:56)!
I would also suggest that in agreeing to the latter part of Article 10, a person would be submitting his/her own conscience to the control, approval and permissions of men. And what human has that right or that privilege? And where do you draw the line? What would happen if they (or any other leaders) decided to forbid your conscience’s participation on opinions that you really do care deeply about? Sadly, I know from personal experience that such leadership does in fact exist in the church, and that sort of behaviour is part of what is known as the ‘cultic mindset’ – a mindset which is a million miles from the ‘glorious freedom of the Children of God’ (Rom 8:21), which is what Christ actually intends for us.
And there’s more to the troubling nature of that Statement. Wendy Francisco describes it as, “…a heartbreaking and terrible call to organized rejection and scapegoating”. And I have to admit that I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you know what, she’s right. It’s both heartbreaking and terrible, and saddening too.
You have probably gathered by now that I consider the Nashville Statement, and in particular Article 10, to be just so much hot air. They are saying nothing new. I also think that the Statement will soon be forgotten as yet another irrelevant Church proclamation. It’s so ‘behind the times’; it’s certainly not going to stop anyone from doing or believing what they are already doing or believing, or change their minds. But the Article 10 ‘call to organized rejection and scapegoating’ is indeed worrying. As always with these proclamations, all it’s going to achieve is to hurt and alienate people.
And the timing of the Statement’s release could not have been worse: it has been released at a time when the southern seaboard of the United States is a disaster area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and forest fires continue to rage unchecked in northern Montana. Talk about blinkered vision…
No, this is a presumptious piece of pompous church bureaucracy that will not help anyone. All they have done is to codify what they already believe – which is fair enough, but unnecessary – and also tried to overreach what little authority they have in producing the dangerous Article 10. My friend Ken Nichols put it like this:
“My greatest push back on this though is not about the homosexuality itself, but about their insistence that if you do not believe as they do on this issue, you are NOT a Christian. That should be pointed out, not to shame them or call them “sinners”, but to tell people watching on the outside that not ALL Christians believe like this.”
Well said, Ken 🙂
I would like to conclude this post by sharing a more positive outlook. My friend Julie Ferwerda (authoress of the book ‘Raising Hell‘) has made this counter-statement to the Nashville Statement:
Julie Ferwerda’s Nashville Un-Statement:
I affirm that marriage appears to be a plan of the Universe/God/Spirit to be a visible image of a loving, intimate experience of oneness. This relationship, when fashioned after genuine, Godly Love shall aim toward a physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually healthy union between people in a consentual, empowering, supportive partnership, intended to pattern the covenant love between a truly loving, non-biased God and his creation.
“I deny that God has limited such a relationship to be controlled or determined or dictated by legalistic, misguided religious affiliation based on sexual orientation, gender, nationality, ethnicity, or any other innate factor that is used as a divisive measuring stick. I also affirm that there is no such thing as “mere human” as separate from divine form. We are all expressions of God living out a unique role we have been perfectly made for, so long as we are striving toward genuine love and oneness.”
That’s a great place at which to finish, I think. For more reading on the Nashville Statement, may I recommend the following blog posts:
**Although it was called the ‘Nashville Statement’, this name was given it because the people who wrote the document finalised a draft of it in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Nashville’s mayor very quickly moved to disassociate her city from the naming, saying it was ‘poorly named’ and that it “…does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville”. Nashville is known as being an ‘island’ or ‘oasis’ of, shall we say, ‘free-thinking’ in the midst of the American ‘Bible Belt’. I wonder if that location for the conference was chosen with this in mind? 😉
*** Although they only mentioned homosexuality (so, Lesbian and Gay) and Transgenderism, I am assuming that all ‘different’ sexualities (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/questioning and other sexualities) are also intended to be encompassed by their declarations. It wouldn’t surprise me.
I love Astronomy; the study of planets, moons, stars, space and the Cosmos in general*. I am a member of my local Astronomy Society, and I have been passionately interested in this branch of science since I was about seven years old. Yes, you can blame the Apollo moon landings for that 😉
The amazing photo above is a time-lapse composite showing the Moon passing through the Earth’s shadow during a Lunar eclipse. That’s when the full Moon passes ‘behind’ the Earth and the Earth blocks out most of the light of the Sun shining on it, and so the normally bright face of the full Moon darkens and, usually, turns a dull red colour. It takes a few hours for the Moon to pass through the Earth’s shadow, so each of these Moon images in the composite shot will have been taken maybe an hour or ninety minutes apart. And you can clearly see the shape of the Earth’s huge shadow, stretching out into the blackness of space and away from the Sun. Anyone can perform this simple experiment given a suitable camera, a tripod and a clock. And also, of course, a knowledge of when the Eclipse is going to happen, but you can find this out easily on the Internet.
This, to me, is one of the reasons why I love Astronomy so much. To the naked eye, wonders like Lunar eclipses are visible manifestations of the wonders of the creativity of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands”. And, no matter at what level you explore the Cosmos, new and fascinating things keep being discovered. The discovery of water on Mars. The chance of life on Mars; Titan and Enceladus (two of Saturn’s moons); or Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons). Exotic objects such as quasars and black holes; things theorised on paper and mathematically are actually being observed as realities in the depths of space. And all this created by our God, and I think this exploration is actually a picture of how we will spend eternity exploring the amazing greatness of God our Creator and His Creation.
This is not a worldview that is incompatible with Science, either; incorporating God into a scientific worldview is not a problem, provided you don’t try to factor Him into your calculations!
One of the current fads that really annoys me, though, is the recent upsurge of the ‘Flat Earth’ (FE) movement; people who believe that the Earth is flat and not a huge ball as we know it is. I am not going to even go there as to why they think that, nor am I going to do their ideas the honour of trying to debunk them. I don’t argue with these people; sadly, one of the downsides of the Internet is that anything written on it seems to carry equal weight, whether written by a real expert, or some tosspot living over his mother’s garage who knows diddly-squat.
And these people will joyfully, freely and libelliously diss anyone who doesn’t agree with them. But to me the main problem is that they believe that there is a giant conspiracy afoot – which means they are essentially accusing whole swaths of the human race of lying. This is unacceptable. Their conspiracy theory is one where anyone who not only does not agree with them, but knows for a fact that the Earth is a globe, is ‘in’ on the conspiracy and is sworn to secrecy. So, they say that basically people like astronomers, Pilots, sailors, and especially NASA, the American Space Agency, are all part of this giant conspiracy, to keep their knowledge that the Earth is indeed flat a closely-guarded secret. In other words, everyone who is in a position to know this global Earth as a fact is automatically disqualified.
I can categorically state that nowhere in my Pilot training, any of the flying textbooks, lectures, teaching or anything else have I seen or heard anything stating that the Earth is actually flat, and that I have to keep that a secret. You simply couldn’t keep such a huge secret as that, with such a vast number of people involved. This is, in my opinion, the number-one piece of evidence that debunks their entire conspiracy theory completely flat, pun not intended.
According to these people, all the photos taken of the Earth from space are fake, as of course were the Moon landings. Satellites do not exist, neither does the International Space Station, despite these objects being visible to the naked eye. (Quite what they intend to do when next they switch on their satnav is beyond me).
Well, let me tell you, I have personally conducted experiments and observations to show that the Earth is a globe, and I have satisfied myself as to this fact. Anyone can do this, given the right methods, a bit of basic equipment, and a little knowledge. If you want to do this, just Google ‘how do I prove that the Earth is a sphere’ or something of that ilk.**
And don’t share your results with the Flat Earthers (FE’s). They will attempt to ‘destroy’ your evidence by saying various derogatory things about you, because that’s their only defence against facts. Interesting, as they often say on their sites, ‘Do experiments! Don’t believe what the Government tell you! Work it out for yourself!’ – but when you do, they don’t believe your results – unless, of course, your results indicate a Flat Earth. Idiots.
The worst thing of all is when FE’s call on the Bible and/or the Christian faith for ‘evidence’ supporting their daft ideas. Claiming, of course, Scriptural inerrancy and literalism (that is, that there are no mistakes in the Bible and the whole thing is true and literal), they claim the support of passages mentioning such things as ‘the four corners of the Earth’ and ‘He sits enthroned above the circle of the Earth’, that the Earth has ‘pillars’ for its foundations and it cannot be moved (try telling them that when there’s an earthquake!). So, why is this bad? It’s because it puts the Scriptures, and those rational believers who do not believe in Flat Earth but still believe in Jesus, in a bad light. Flat Earthers, by calling on the Scriptures for support, not only do the Scriptures a disservice in that they were never intended to prove anything scientific, let alone a Flat Earth, but they also make the Christian faith look less credible by their actions and claims. If this is what Christians believe, says the enquiring Astronomer, then I want nothing to do with it.
This is not a new problem. Indeed, even the renowned St. Augustine noted in 400AD that there were people bringing the faith into disrepute by doing exactly the things these FE’s are doing. To quote him,
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.
“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.
“The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
“Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
[Latter quotation from 1Tim1:7; this piece about Augustine found here]
I think that’s an absolutely amazing quotation. It tells us that even over 1,600 yeas ago, there were ignorant people (in its literal meaning that they are without knowing) who were discrediting the Christian faith by making unfounded assertions about certain things, purporting to ‘know’ stuff, and supporting it from Scripture – and that in the face of the experts of the day who really did know what they are talking about. Sounds familiar?
An education on the Internet is not a proper education. You not only have to know things, but you also have to know how those things fit together. And this is the problem with the FE’s. They don’t.
I’m sorry to go on about this; it’s not intended to be an extended rant. The only pictures the FE’s have are ‘artist’s impressions’. But when I see amazing pictures like the one at the top of this post, or like the beautiful pictures ‘The Blue Marble’ and ‘Earthrise’, I think, not only, what a shame that these FE oiks prefer to think of these wonderful images as fake pictures, but also that it is far simpler to believe the global Earth than to try to invent excuse after excuse as to why the Earth is flat. Some people need to go and get a Life. And Photoshop wasn’t available in 1972 or 1968…**
Here is the photo known as ‘The Blue Marble’, taken from Apollo 17 on December 7th, 1972:
…and the iconic photo ‘Earthrise‘, taken from Apollo 8 on December 24th, 1968:
The remarkable thing about Earthrise, one of the most viscerally moving photos in history, is that it was taken from a spacecraft which was in orbit around the Moon. In exactly the same way as our Sun comes up over the horizon every morning, so the Earth was rising over the horizon for the three men in the Apollo 8 spacecraft. Wow!
And finally, here’s the first ever photo of a rising Earth over the Moon, taken by the unmanned Lunar Orbiter 1 Reconnaisance Probe:
These are remarkable pictures and I have included them in order to finish this on, not only a positive note, but in fact an awestruck note. We began with the awe of the Earth’s shadow; we end with the awe of the whole planet.
So often in these days, we lose our sense of wonder over so much of what we see. Key to my loving being a scientist is that I have never lost my sense of wonder, and I never will. These photos have a Wow! factor unlike any other images in history – they show the crucible of the entirety of human history represented as a beautiful blue ball floating against the inky-black backdrop of deep space.
How’s that for wondrous?
I leave you with one final picture (and this time I mean it!); this one is an ‘artist’s impression’ (Like the FE’s have. Lollz). Here is what the Earth would look like from the Moon during a Lunar eclipse. The Earth would be eclipsing (covering) the Sun, in the same way as the Moon does during one of the solar eclipses that we are so familiar with here on Earth. The ground is a dull red colour because the Earth’s atmosphere transmits the red light better, and so the Moon’s surface appears red. And, seen from the Earth, as in the header image, the eclipsed Moon is indeed red. Here’s the picture:
*Astronomy, as distinct from astrology, which is essentially fortune-telling by the movements and position of heavenly bodies. That doesn’t fit with me, either as a scientist (it is simply unprovable) and as a man of faith (God controls things, not the stars)
**Oh, go on then. For a taster, take a look here. But this is not how I did it.
***Flat Earthers claim that the space photos from the sixties and early seventies, or indeed all space photos showing things they don’t like, are done on Photoshop. Which didn’t exist back in the sixties and seventies. Duh.
Comments have been disabled for this post, so no Flat Earthers can use my blog as a platform for their tripe 😉