Tag Archives: biblical liberalism

Liberal? What do you mean by that?

This is a kind of follow-up post to a comment I made in my attempt to summarise a few of the talks at Greenbelt. In particular, it was my note that Linda Woodhead’s definition of liberalism was little different from a statement of individualism. After posting it, I was pointed to Eddie Green’s blog on the subject where he made a similar objection to Linda’s usage. In it, he gives a very condensed history of liberal theology. Given the extent of that history, I don’t think anyone could do it justice in the space of a blog post, so I shan’t endeavour to improve upon Eddie’s take. Nor is this really a response to Eddie’s, as I partly agree with it, but it is more a launching pad to explain my own usage of the term liberal, particularly as it applies to theology and church life in general.

With the history noted, I first of all recognise that we are shaped by it, but need not be constrained by it. So some uses of the term liberal may have drifted from what they were originally intended to mean. Depending on the precise context, I tend to use it in one four senses, listed below. I think it is also helpful in each case to identify what we might mean by its opposite, as Eddie rightly notes, the term ‘conservative’ is not always apt. This is another example of a phenomenon I have tried to articulate before, whereby we define what we mean by means to saying what we don’t mean; a sort of chiseling away by means of ridding ourselves of various negatives instead of asserting a positive.

In what follows below, please note that I am not advocating a binary liberal/not liberal viewpoint on each topic. There are grey areas and people can be nuanced, complicated mixtures of each. So this comes very much with a sense of “-ish” about it, where I am aiming for a generally, well-rounded picture rather than pin-point precision within a narrow spectrum.

  1. Socially liberal

In this sense, I am referring to particular hot potato topics which tend to be divisive. One forum I am sometimes found at is the Ship of Fools, where such topics are referred to as ‘dead horses‘ and a whole discussion board is dedicated to them. These include whether women should be allowed to hold any and all positions within a church structure, views on homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, etc. I would also include, in a wider sense, the more individualist view, where one has the right to do as one pleases, provided it does not bring harm to another.

In this sense, I would call the opposite a ‘conservative’ viewpoint. Though it is worth noting that people may hold more liberal views on some topics than on others. For example, I would regard myself as liberal when it comes to homosexuality (you may find me on the list of members signed up to Accepting Evangelicals) and I endorse a fully egalitarian view of church leadership, yet I do err towards a pro-life position with regards to abortion to euthanasia. I say that quite deliberately, as I do not wholly agree with many a pro-life advocate, but I would support a sharpening up of the law to protect both women and children.

  1. Economically liberal

This can be a tricky one, as the term most often used is not really liberal, but libertarian. So while it doesn’t quite fit neatly (Hey? What does?) it ought to be addressed given the similarity of the terms. In reality, this is better described as a right-wing view.

As I wryly commented to someone the other day, a libertarian is someone who wants the freedom to economically oppress others. And if you advocate any measure that tries to stop them, they will retort by calling you an authoritarian.

The confusion when it comes to using the term liberal or conservative in this sense is that those who are most liberal/libertarian/right-wing are in fact those who are more likely to subscribe to the economic policies of the Conservative party, where the ultimate expression of liberty is to be found in free market, laissez-faire economics, such as that advocated by the likes of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman (or even Ayn Rand).

  1. Theologically liberal

This brings us back to Eddie’s analysis where I would take a slightly different, but not wholly contrary view. While it is the modern heir of the views of Friedrich Schleimacher, Albrecht Ritschl or Walter Rauschenbusch, it has moved on rather since then, for a variety of historical, philosophical and theological reasons – for good or for bad. Not least we have the rise of fundamentalism as a reaction against German liberal theology and then modern liberal theology arising as a reaction against fundamentalism. The subtle change this entails is that while liberal theology began as a methodology (c.f. hermeneutical liberalism in Eddie’s post) it is now more about the conclusions one reaches.

So when someone talks to me now of liberal theology, I am minded to think not of christians who are merely opposed to the fundamentalism, but those who have swung too far in the opposite direction and play fast and loose with theology, where a prerequisite is that one does not conform to a recognisable orthodox belief. A prime example of this would be the Jesus Seminar. One could look at one member from that group, Marcus Borg, whose views I have critiqued before. Or one could look at the catholic scholar, John Meier, whose epic look at the Jesus, A Marginal Jew, rules out, a priori, the idea of resurrection and where he joins in with the trend of presupposing that the historical Jesus must be different from the Jesus of faith.

In this sense, the opposite of liberal is not conservative, but orthodox. It is worth noting the warnings of Richard Niebuhr about overly-liberal outcomes:

“In a similar manner the idea of the coming kingdom was robbed of its dialectical element. It was all fulfillment of promise without judgement… In its one-sided view of progress which saw the growth of the wheat but not that of the tares, the gathering of the grain but not the burning of the chaff, this liberalism was indeed naively optimistic. A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

– H.R. Niebuhr (The Kingdom of God in America, my emphasis)

The above quote was made in an essay by J.B. Stump in The Routledge Companion to Modern Christian Thought. Yet he (Stump) continues:

“…before joining with him [Niebuhr], we should remember that Christian doctrine has not been static throughout its two-thousand-year history. There was significant development in the fourth and fifth centuries as the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity were articulated in the Greek language; in the Middle Ages, it was the doctrine of Atonement that underwent significant revisions…”

So we would be wrong to think of orthodoxy as something that is necessarily fixed. We must always reserve the right to be wrong and to be corrected. Rather, I think of orthodoxy as something that is faithful, but where a change of view may be necessary. The theological liberalism at the other end of the spectrum is one that looks at orthodoxy and declares it to be old hat, and must be in need of change or updating. So the belief in the historical, literal, physical resurrection comes under fire primarily because it has been a lynchpin of orthodox belief. Yet the older form of theological liberalism, arising out of the dust settling after the renaissance and reformation, need not have had a problem with miracles. Rather, it is naturalism (or hyper-naturalism – at the exclusion of other ways of looking at the world) that gives rise to problems with the resurrection and other miracles.

  1. Ecclesiastically liberal

This is the final sense which I use, which seems sensible to me, but which others consider to be slightly idiosyncratic. While the others have been more to do with beliefs, this is to do with praxis. In particular, a liberal church is one that has a free and open worship, informed by, but not tethered to, tradition. The opposite of this would be a traditionalist, or conformist, church, whereby the practice is very much as it has been for centuries.

Dropping into a Sunday morning service, one would be immediately struck by the differences between, say, a high Anglo-Catholic CofE church and a New Frontiers church. At first glance, one might wonder what similarities there are. Are they even the same religion? Well, to that, I would answer ‘yes’. What differentiates them are what aspects of that religion they choose to emphasise and to then display as the public face of their churches.

To give an example, my parents are very much post-Anglican but after moving house earlier this year went to an Anglican church and described it as like going back in time to the 1950s; nothing had changed in the last few decades.

Another hallmark that can be used to discern between liberal and traditionalist churches is whether they have, and if so, to what degree, any level of segregationalism. This tends to be a hangover from catholic clericalism whereby the church leaders are in any way segregated from the rest of the church. Any use of the rhetoric of ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ would be indicative of this, as would the requirement of the church leaders to wear special clothes which demarcate them from everyone else.

The more ecclesiastically liberal churches have less of this and, tending to have a more congregational approach where one may extend Paul’s great equality slogan of “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” to include “[there is neither clergy nor laity]” just as the more socially liberal (see above) may use “[there is neither gay nor straight]” and in areas where racial tensions may be running high, one might hear “[there is neither black nor white]”. Whether such paraphrasing makes for good biblical study may be answered differently by those who take differing stances on the question of theological liberalism!

So hopefully, you can see that all are in some way linked. Just to reiterate, I use these only as rough guides and recognise that individuals and groups have a variety of ways of expressing themselves and their beliefs which defy simplistic categorisation. To illustrate, let’s look at 3 case studies.

So what sort of person am I?

  1. Well, when it comes to being socially liberal or conservative, I would regard myself as broadly liberal. That doesn’t mean I adopt the label first and then, consequently, sign myself up to what might be consider THE liberal position on each issue. Rather, I consider each on their own merits, think about them and arrive at my own conclusions, and then look at who happens to be my nearest neighbours.
  2. In terms of the economics, I am left-wing. I’ve written about that before so shan’t further elaborate on that here.
  3. In terms of the theological, I would say I am mostly orthodox. The only chink in this is that I do not affirm the historicity of the virgin birth. I simply find the evidence for it to be unconvincing and that I do not think that it is a necessary prerequisite for an incarnational theology. It is not that I reject it as a consequence of the rejection of the possibility of miracles, as seems to be the case with some. Rather, my hermeneutical liberalism doesn’t lead me to the creedal conclusion. I’ve given a sketch of my theological approach before both here (recently) and here (a few years ago).
  4. In terms of ecclesiastics, I am most definitely liberal. I am no great fan of traditionalism and find freedom in worship to be far more preferable to liturgical chanting. Part of the reason I am part of the charismatic church rather than a conformist is because the charismatic gives more room for the Holy Spirit, whereas I’ve found more traditionalist churches, by dint of their rigidly scripted services, make no such room for the Spirit to move and may even, in some cases, verge on the warning of quenching the Spirit.

So that’s roughly where I stand. On the balance of the above, I would choose the epithet ‘liberal’ but I hold onto it very gently, willing to let go in case by doing so I end up aligning myself with views and practices which are less than helpful or faithful.

Another example

I had the mixed pleasure of visiting a different church a few weeks ago. It was a part of the Nigerian denomination, the Redeemed Christian Church of God. What sort of church were they?

  1. Socially fairly conservative – Though very welcoming on a Sunday morning, one need only do a little reading around to find that the official line of the church is at times very homophobic. That said, they do have egalitarian leadership. I’m not sure on their stance on other divisive issues.
  2. Economically right-wing – they place great value in personal wealth and seem little interested in matters of social justice. The posters currently adorning the front of the church depict a woman dreaming of a bigger home with a quote from Isaiah 55:8-9 above it.
  3. Theologically liberal. Linked to the above, they have taken a view that endorses the health, wealth and prosperity gospel. This is not something I would regard as orthodox.
  4. Ecclesiastically liberal. As with most pentecostal churches, their expression is about as far removed from the traditional idea of the English church as one could hope to find. This is loud worship, unscripted, with all joining in. It’s not for everyone, but one would be hard pressed to call it staid.

So here, we would see them mostly as ‘liberal’. Yet because of their socially conservative values, they are sometimes branded as just being a conservative church. Yet I hope that I have shown that it’s not necessarily quite as simple as that.

Yet another look

For further contrast, it might be worth looking at a very different kind of church. This is a description that I have gleaned from a number of conversations with a colleague of mine. He attends a very high Anglo-Catholic church in a fairly rural parish. The church is part of the sub-faction of the CofE known as Forward in Faith.

  1. Socially, it is rather conservative. They certainly adopt a pro-life stance and in the wake of the general synod’s decision to allow women the possibility of becoming bishops, there have been grumblings about the church crossing the Tiber and fully converting to Catholicism in protest. Their views on homosexuality are mixed, with some members being very set against it, others are more accepting and some are affirming.
  2. Economically very right wing. The colleague from whom this information is gleaned is a staunch Thatcherite and very much epitomises the idea of “the CofE is the Tory party at prayer”. I know that’s not true in the whole CofE, as it is a richer, broader church than just that. I’m just looking at one example here.
  3. Theologically orthodox. For the most part, anyway. My colleague is actually rather theologically liberal. As he puts it: “Well, it might be true. I don’t really know. I say the creed and I pray the Lord’s prayer, but that’s because you’re supposed to, not because I’m certain of it.” In some ways, he adopts a Pascal’s Wager approach to faith. As for his particular church, I get the impression they stick fairly closely to the Anglo-Catholic line, even if the Anglo part is rather quiet.
  4. Ecclesiastically traditionalist. This is VERY high church, or “smells and bells” as it’s sometimes called. The kind of church where one might well wonder, ‘do they realise there’s been a reformation or not’. Again, to quote my colleague: “Well, that’s what religion’s supposed to be, innit. It’s less about what you believe and more about what you do. Church without the ceremony just wouldn’t be a proper church.”

Wrapping it up

That’s turned out longer than I intended. If you’ve read this far, thank you for doing so. While I doubt many will agree with me wholly, I hope you’ve found it some of it useful, or at least thought-provoking. If anything, this should serve as a guide for any of you who interact with me regularly to have a clearer idea of what I mean when I use terms such as ecclesiastically conservative, theologically liberal or orthodox.

If anything, this should help explain why I find the epithet “conservative evangelicals” to be rather unhelpful. There are some ways in which evangelical christians are more conservative than others, but there are also some in which we are more liberal. And within evangelicalism, there is great variety and a richness of diversity, without necessarily causing division; as there is in other churches too. To some, single issues may define one as conservative, but that is not my view.

As people, as churches and as Church, we walk along the way to the kingdom of God. The path may be narrow and we may stray off course from time to time, both individually and collectively. I believe that Jesus is the way, not christianity. Christianity is the searching for the way. Sometimes we need minor corrections, sometimes we need big reformations and renewals where we’ve gone completely the wrong way or forgotten things. Even then, we don’t necessarily fix everything, sometimes making wrong that which was right. So of course, I may be wrong; or rather, I may well be wrong about a number of things, as you probably well know!

So, over you now.

  • Do you recognise these 4 criteria as being fair and reasonable, or do you think a different way of looking at things is preferable?
  • Are there any issues which ‘flip a switch’ and make one automatically liberal (or otherwise)?
  • How might you describe a) yourself b) your church in such terms – and is there a difference between the two?

Book Review: Whose Bible Is It? by Jaroslav Pelikan

This wasn’t a book that appeared on my reading list or that I picked up at random from wandering around a bookshop. It was a birthday present which I have only just got round to reading (my birthday was back in the autumn). My dad thought it seemed up my street as he had picked it for free in a clearance from a local Salvation Army centre.

The opening hypothesis poses this problem: a catholic, a Jew and a protestant walk into a bookshop and each says they want the whole bible and nothing but the bible. What does the bookseller provide to each?

Here, we come across a problem straight away which I must tackle. Pelikan regards catholicism and protestantism as two wings of one christianity, instead of being different faiths. For my part I always try not to conflate the two, so will hereafter refer to ‘catholicism’ and ‘christianity’ as being two distinct, though related, religions. (For more on catholicism, see here, for why I don’t use the term protestant, see here). He also uncritically uses the catholic (mis)understanding of Peter’s declaration of Jesus as being the Messiah as meaning that the church is to be founded on Peter, as opposed to the christian understanding that the declaration itself is what is foundational.

With that critique out of the way, what of the main substance of the book? For the most part, it is a history of how the bible has come about.  Having stated a critique, I must praise the writing style. Pelikan is great communicator and this is an excellently written book. It is well-researched and communicated in an engaging way. At no point did I feel bored or find the text to be turgid.

In terms of the details, what does Pelikan present us with? We open with “The God who speaks” where we note how the origins of the bible are in oral history and that to focus on written works is a relatively late development. Though it stops short of being a full-blown treatment of form-criticism, it serves as a useful reminder of the origins of belief where, unusually (but not unwelcome) for a nominally christian work, there is a highly sympathetic treatment given to the oral beginnings of Islam.

From here, the focus is the origins of Judaic writings, with a particular focus on the Torah and how it was used by the communities to which it related, along with the body of writings that accompanied it by way of interpretation. The challenge posed to the reader is an implicit dig at the notion of sola scriptura, though Pelikan is always quite sideways in his criticisms.

Moving from the Old Testament (including the Apocrypha) to the New Testament, there is disappointingly little with regards to the actual composition of the texts, with the focus more on how the canon of the New Testament slowly formed. Though the endnotes cite Bruce Metzger his work, monumental to this field of study, is never directly referenced; neither is F.F. Bruce, which seems rather odd. In the discussion itself, there is a distinct downplaying of the role of Marcion in the idea of forming a new canon in the first place. So while Pelikan presents a well-written account of the evidence he chooses to submit, this reviewer felt that the evidence was somewhat cherry-picked so as to suit the narrative that Pelikan had chosen.

Likewise, as he guides us through several centuries of work, with a particular (and right) emphasis on Jerome’s Vulgate, when we get to the reformation, we again find a distinct downplaying of the crucial modes of thinking that led to the more protestant views of the bible, not least as a reaction against the medieval catholicism that was prevalent at the time. So while we are presented with a vague discussion over Jerome’s poor translation, don’t expect many details and don’t expect an account of the murder of William Tyndale.

Up to now, we have been dealing with translations of translations. But even the most biased of historians could not avoid the influence of the renaissance on the reformation, where the cry of “back to the source” was shouted out loud. And so with reformed christianity came a desire to study the Greek and do the best justice to the original meanings, a task which continues to this day.

In conclusion, what we have is an incomplete account. Though well-written, I could not help but see massive gaps and an over-sympathetic treatment to the mistaken views of catholicism, though from a cursory reading about Pelikan it seems he adopted Eastern Orthodoxy about 10 years before writing this book. Though this has been a fairly critical review, I would recommend the book to you, not least to see how an anti-reformationist might think. Though for a more holistic take, I would recommend follow-ups with works of F.F. Bruce, Bruce Metzger and Alister McGrath.

The one point on which I would say I vehemently agreed with him was on the nature of prophecy not as being one of ‘foretelling’ but of ‘telling forth’ which he puts rather brilliantly.

Biblical literalism and liberalism

Having started to read Marcus Borg’s ‘Jesus: Uncovering the life, teachings and relevance of a religious revolutionary’ I began to write a review as I normally do. The trouble was, I got quite frustrated because it was getting rather long when I was only a quarter of the way through the book. Yet it was more that I wanted to respond to Borg than to merely review the book. So here, and hopefully in another post, I hope to explore some of the thoughts that have been triggered by his provocative writing. 

In this post, I want to look at Borg’s dichotomy of ways of reading the bible, the gospels in particular. Borg presents us with 2 ways of reading, the ‘earlier paradigm’ and the ‘emergent’, though he instantly notes that the ‘earlier paradigm’ is not at all earlier. It is essentially a fundamentalist viewpoint, or at least as Borg portrays it. In such a view, the bible is not a library of books, it is a single book, inerrant and which trumps any and all facts and truth, even if the evidence for these goes against a prima facie reading; biblical literalism, if you will.

Set against this is Borg’s own view, which he considers more enlightened. This view focuses solely on the metaphorical meaning of the gospels. In this view, you can take or leave whatever aspects of the gospels you please. If the wedding at Cana doesn’t suit you, just dismiss its historicity, call it a metaphor and then look at the consequences and meaning of an event that never happened.

What annoys me is the gross caricature of each and that I know many who could not be described as either. It is fair to say that I have come across a few who I would say are metaphor-phobic. Taking 2 Tim 3:16 to apply to the 66 books of the bible, they do subscribe to both sola scriptura and biblical inerrancy, a combination which leads to such viewpoints as young earth creationism, affirmation of the virgin birth as a core tenet of faith, belief in the rapture and a worrying interpretation of the book of Revelation. Though I would not go so far to say that belief in any one of these necessarily entails belief in any of the others.

As well as such metaphor-phobes I have also met some metaphor-philes, albeit fewer in number. Having looked at the more conservative end of the scale with some alarm, they are quick to run away as far away as possible. In this mindset, everything in the bible is a metaphor. Not only is the poetry of Genesis 1 recognised for what it is, but Abraham becomes a figure of legend, Moses becomes mythical and David is turned into an amalgamation of a variety of rulers. But again, my approach is that scepticism about one does not logically cast additional doubt on any of the others.

I don’t think it would do an injustice to Borg to characterise his view as that of a metaphor-phile. In his approach to Jesus he wishes to distinguish between the ‘Jesus of history’ and the ‘Jesus of faith’. The latter is referred to in reference to the metaphor-phobic worldview, where the Jesus of faith was born of a virgin, performed miracles of various kinds, spoke with Moses and Elijah during the transfiguration, was crucified and resurrected. To the metaphpor-phile, this view must be countered, so in order to assert their ‘Jesus of history’, such aspects of the gospels must, a priori, be rejected.

While the concept of ‘fully God, fully man’ seems to be superficially acknowledged by Borg, he claims that to accept the possibility that Jesus performed miracles is to be docetic. After all, he argues, how can one claim Jesus is ‘fully man’ if he can turn water into wine? With large sections of the gospels thus expunged, the ‘Jesus of history’ that we are left with is a teacher of aphorisms who gained a following which became a church which then invented a narrative around which the teachings of this mystic itinerant preacher were weaved.

Crucial to Borg’s methodology, which seems to be almost identical to that of the Jesus Seminar, the group to which Borg belonged and contributed during much of the time that the Seminar met. This methodology maintains an assumption that the early church misunderstood Jesus. Then, if any features of the gospels are found to coincide with early church history they are dismissed as later additions to the gospels. Of what remains, there must be multiple attestation. There’s a catch, however. Any material in Matthew or Luke which is also attested by Mark is assumed to have been copied from Mark and so cannot count as having been multiply attested. The material which is common to Matthew and Luke, but not to Mark, is assumed to have come from a single source, known as Q. The Q hypothesis is quite a good one, but it is one which I admit I am agnostic about. With such a set of assumptions, one wonders if anything could pass the multiple attestation test. Thankfully, Borg doesn’t actually stick to his own criteria, so his book (the review of which I hope to finish and post shortly) is not without merit.

Anyway, that’s enough of an outline for now. This is a place for the crystallisation of thoughts and I shall attempt to get them down on pen & paper (as I usually write my posts thus, before typing up, editing and proofreading).

Borg’s characterisation of the ‘earlier paradigm’ and the ‘emergent’, which I refer to as ‘metaphor-phobic’ and metaphor-philic’ is not one that I can agree with. To my way of thinking, to adopt a critical attitude does not mean a wholesale rejection of anything that may be hard to believe. In some ways, the rejection of gospel as history is itself an uncritical point of view, as it is as easy and lazy a way of thinking as the fundamentalism which such a view seeks to oppose.

Every claim must be assessed on its merits, the evidence supporting or countering it and the reasonableness of the consequences that follow. When considering the bible as history, we don’t have all the evidence we might like. To some, this means none of it can be accepted. To my way of thinking, we have to deal with the evidence we have. This means that our beliefs are provisional and uncertain but not unreasonable. Assurance is not the same as certainty. Doubt is not the same as disbelief. Holding assurance in one hand and doubt in the other is how I maintain balance.

An example – the virgin birth

By way of illustration, I will expand a little on claim in the gospels mentioned above and which I have touched on before without being too explicit. I do not affirm that the virgin birth as a core tenet of my faith. Neither, though, do I deny it outright. It is a topic about which I am agnostic, but which I do not think is of vital importance. Let me explain why.

To start with, there is the well known incident of the Septuagint mistranslating ‘young woman’ as ‘virgin’ in Isaiah 7:14 – with a possible supposition that this was an addition Matthew and Luke made to their accounts. To me, though, the question has to be ‘who was the eyewitness?’

It seems most likely to me that the Christmas narrative was not a fanciful work of fiction added to the oral history of Jesus’ life, but was rather a product of the same oral history. But it must have originated from someone who was there and remembered it, but who was also part of the early christian community. The person who best fits this description is Mary herself. Have a read of Luke 1 and ask yourself through whose eyes we are predominantly looking.

Jesus’ later ministry had many witnesses, most notably the disciples. They could correct each other’s recollections, a point well made by Kenneth Bailey in his seminal paper, Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels. The fact that there were fewer witnesses to the events of the nativity means that we must regard them as more questionable as the later gospels. When I did some reading on this a little while ago, it was interesting that FF Bruce, Craig Blomberg and Richard Bauckham all overlooked the nativity. Bruce and Blomberg are both more conservative in their approach than I am, and even they are wary of attesting the virgin birth. For me, there are just too many unanswered questions to be able to affirm it. Moreover, I don’t believe the evidence exists that could settle the question one way or another.

The next question then seems to be, ‘what might we miss out on if we no longer affirm the virgin birth?’ i.e. is there any hole in our theology which would warp the gospel? I’ve thought this through and cannot find any. To me, why the nativity is important because of the theology of incarnation, Jesus being wholly God and wholly man at the same time, hard though that is to comprehend. The scientist in me cannot help but wonder what a DNA test on Jesus would have revealed. Just as I affirm that God created the universe but am not a creationist, so I find no significant issue with regarding Jesus’ divinity without boldly stating that he was born of a virgin. The ‘how’ is less important. In this respect, I do side somewhat with Borg. To me, the core aspects of the gospel are unaffected: the proclamation of God as king, the identification of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the atonement for sins through the sacrifice of the crucifixion and the victory over death as the vindication of all the above through the resurrection. It is these things and their ramifications that I would rather spend time thinking about and discussing.


The Jesus of the faith that I hold to with a light grip is the Jesus of my best, though flawed, understanding of history. To be a christian is not to be the holder of all knowledge and understanding, but to be a disciple, grasping at the coattails of those of who have gone before us whilst treading out our own path. But to portray this as a solo activity is misleading. To be a christian is entails being part of a community in the form of church, though I shall spare you from my further thoughts on ecclesiology. I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. Let me know if you agree or disagree.