Friday, December 27, 2013

The Times blasts the Archbishop of Canterbury

Photo: Katharine Welby (adoring her father)
The Very Rev'd Dr John Hall is the Dean of Westminster. His Christmas Eve sermon was a healthy portion of erudite soteriology. He preached about the evocative comfort and peace of St Luke's account; the inspiration of the Christmas story to artists and architects over the centuries; the spiritual significance of art; the historical significance of Mary; the divinity of the Christ-child; the prophecies of His coming; the salvation he brings through Resurrection; and His transformational, unfailing love.

The Times reported nothing of this - not one word of appreciation or praise.

Dr Hall's Christmas Day sermon - which was broadcast to the nation - was a nugget of preaching perfection. He spoke about God's apparent absence from the world; of the psalmist's despair in the darkness; of the false gods which offer no answers; of the prospering of the wicked; of theodicy - the justification of God; of teleology - the reason and purpose of order in the universe; of kerygma - the proclamation of good news; of the case for believing in God in the face of the existence of evil; and of Christ, born as a baby in Bethlehem, and yet the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus was not God in disguise, but God as a human being - homooúsios - one substance with the Father, and yet destined to spend 30 years of his life banging nails into wood, then a few years preaching, and then dying on a cross for the sins of the world. And, again, Dr Hall illustrated this kenosis with art - God emptied and humbled himself to share his love: he suffered and died to redeem the world:
So, where is God? Is he really absent? No, he is with us in all the mess of our lives, in the pain and suffering, working his transformations for good from within. This great truth is what gives meaning and purpose to life and should give joy to the world this Christmas and throughout the years. God of God, Light of Light, lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb; Very God. O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!
The Times reported nothing of this - not one word of appreciation or praise.

But they did decide to blast the Archbishop of Canterbury: "Will Welby ever make the case for God?", asks Philip Collins, with Tim Montgomerie tweeting that the Archbishop is more obsessed with food banks than God, and lacks discipline.

The grandiose Times makes its high-and-mighty assertion that Archbishop Justin Welby is "undisciplined" in his preaching.

You can hear the pious and devout Tim Montgomerie now, shouting over the hills of Galilee, "Oi, Jesus mate! Cut the bread and fish a just preach the bloody gospel, mate! You've got one platform here, so use it!".

How dare the Archbishop of Canterbury refer to food banks in his Christmas sermon. How very dare he.

And yet, unlike the Dean's sermons, The Times devotes column inches to the Archbishop's homily - or rather to a crass BBC caricature of the sermon. And Tim Montgomerie tweets it out, with a pompous rebuke to the Archbishop for a lack of discipline.

The truth is that Justin Welby makes the case for God every single day - often more in deed than in word, though his words when they come are jewels of insight. But the contemptuous Times isn't interested in that, so it doesn't report it. The Archbishop makes the case for God in every sermon - often simply and straightforwardly in the vernacular. But the lofty Times prefers to carp about a passing allusion to food banks.

For those who wish to make up their own minds, here is the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon in full:
Isaiah looks forward to God rescuing His people, instantly recognisable, leading them in victory. Hebrews looks back at the great line of prophets and says this arrival is the climax to the whole of history. John starts with those words that send shudders up the spine, consciously echoing Genesis, "in the beginning..."

And what do we get? A few pounds of crying baby. Shepherds clump in and mutter approvingly at his size, or health, or shape of his nose, or whatever banal things we try and find to say when we meet a baby (Winston Churchill is reputed to have said when told that a grandchild looked like him "all babies look like me"). When God assumes flesh he does not take power, but vulnerability, need, dependence. God the baby is so small that he leaves room for all of us to ignore Him, to glance and pass on. The heart and origin of creation is easily overlooked. This is less Big Bang than faint cry. RS Thomas wrote:
"The moon is born
And a child is born,
lying among white clothes
as the moon among clouds.

They both shine, but
the light from the one
is abroad in the universe
as among broken glass."
God was born fully human. The witnesses are shepherds and magi, John the Baptist, the gospel writers and hosts of Christians through the centuries, in their lives and their deaths, in words and deeds. A witness of this birth is not like a witness of comet or an asteroid, which is seen and noted, but which has little or no effect on the one that sees it. If we respond, this small baby God that gives us so much space to ignore fills our whole world, changes what we see when we look, catches us up and takes us with him in life, through death and into all eternity. Belief, putting ourselves and trusting our lives into the power of this child, the man he became, the crucified saviour, the risen and ascended Christ, enables us to become children of God, our whole being changed.

God's way of being human shows us what being human means. According to the gospel of Jesus Christ to be human means being vulnerable, not safe. Our pride is humbled by God needing swaddling. Our wisdom is confounded by the foolishness of God's baby cries. Love is demonstrated not by grasping power but by lowering yourself so you can raise the fallen. The humility of God provokes us to seek to awaken what is best, in every person we meet, every group that we encounter.

God's vulnerability is seen in overwhelming self giving. When as individuals or societies we grab for power, compete for resources and neglect the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us we neglect Christ himself. Where people are measured in their worth only by what they can produce, what economic value they have, then Christ is denied and our own humanity corrupted.

The great icons of Christ for us are all those of vulnerability; a baby, a man dying abandoned on a cross, bread and wine that can be crushed and spilt. Yet from the vulnerability we get life complete, eternal.

The vulnerable God was born into a world that rejected him, and yet he loved it without limits. As we look around our world at injustice and conflict he calls us to His pattern of love: we see victims and perpetrators, and in loving them without limits we imitate Christ and challenge every injustice and any demeaning of human beings.

Today, singing of Bethlehem, we see injustices in Palestine and Israel, where land is taken or rockets are fired, and the innocent suffer.

We see injustice in the ever more seriously threatened Christian communities of the Middle East. The Prince of Wales highlighted their plight last week. Even this morning a church in Baghdad, where there have been Christians since the 1st century, was bombed and 15 more people testified to their faith with their lives. Christians in the region are attacked and massacred, driven into exile from an area in which their presence has always been central, undoubted, essential, richly contributing, faithful.

We see injustice in South Sudan, where political ambitions have led towards ethnic conflict. On Saturday I was speaking to a Bishop under siege, in a compound full of the dying. God's passionate love for the vulnerable is found in the baby in a manger in a country at war. If that was His home, today it must be our care.

We see injustices at home. Even in a recovering economy, Christians, the servants of a vulnerable and poor Saviour, need to act to serve and love the poor: they need also to challenge the causes of poverty. Prospect magazine had a poll this month that suggested the church is more trusted on politics than religion. But the two cannot be separated. Christ's birth is not politics, it is love expressed. Our response is not political, but love delivered in hope. The action of the churches in the last five years is extraordinary, reaching out in ways not seen since 1945. Yet no society can be content where misery and want exist, unless through our love collectively we also challenge the greed and selfishness behind it.

We will speak and act best when we are caught up in following the vulnerable God as His disciples in His way. Then His love fills us, His compassion drives us on, compassion for every person, at every point of life or wealth or power. When individual Christians and the church together believe, and act on that belief, every human attitude is challenged, especially about the poor, and the world changes.

We follow the God who is Saviour, whose word of love was found in action and word. We are called to act, whether at home or around the world, not just lament. Jesus rescues us from our brokenness and makes us carriers of life and light. He calls for that great line of witnesses that has swept down through the centuries to be continued today by a church that is confident in the message of God's love and truth. It will always be an untidy church because we are in a vulnerable, untidy, broken world. Yet when we see the fact of Christ's birth, hear the witnesses, receive the life he gives and respond in passionate discipleship then all our vulnerabilities, muddles and weaknesses are carried in His strength. The Christian meaning of Christmas is unconditional love received, love overflowing into a frequently love-lost world.
It isn't as polymathic as the Dean's, but it is about suffering, injustice, persecution, salvation and redemption. It is about poverty and need (about which Jesus preached occasionally). It is about the fundamental reason for believing in God (about which Jesus preached occasionally), with a call to respond (which Jesus did quite a lot). If all the pretentious Times can take from this sermon is 'food banks', then they plainly haven't read it or have purposely chosen to misrepresent it.

But at least they reported it and tweeted about it.

Carry on, Archbishop.


Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

Excellent post your Grace, well done. I enjoyed reading every minute of it.

27 December 2013 at 11:25  
Blogger The Gray Monk said...

It seems that the writers in The Times can't stand being reminded that in the midst of their comfortable plenty, there are far too many in our society who are falling through the cracks. 'Ignorance' I think describes their understanding of Christianity. The Archbishop has obviously struck a nerve with them.

27 December 2013 at 11:56  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Beautifully written, Your Grace, and thank you for taking the time and effort to continue your electronic ministry over this special time. We would be lost without you.

The establishment and the media hate the truth and wisdom spoken by Christian priests and ministers, from humble curate to Archbishop.

Although the press originated in order to make truth, alternative points of view and ideas disliked by the establishment, available, now the mainstream media is a tame creature, the lackeys for the anti-Christian, anti-British establishment. More and more people are realizing this, although I would conjecture that the "doubters" are still a very small proportion of the population. Many things in the UK are now dysfunctional and first and foremost amongst these are Government and the media.
In the long term those Churches that stick with the truth will be proven right in all fields. But how much worse does it have to become before we start to ascend the upward slope I ask? If I may be permitted to answer my own question, the answer is "a long while yet", I believe.
Happy St John's Day !

27 December 2013 at 13:07  
Blogger JohnH said...

I've read the Archbishop's sermon a couple of times and I'm still struggling to find his references to food banks.

What has The Times's columnist seen that I've clearly missed?

27 December 2013 at 13:39  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

I find it excessively awful that they appear not to have thought to supply a little bit of their focus to repeating his remarks about Syrian Christians. Maybe 50,000 Syrian Christians were held to be less important than a whinge towards a small and reasonable part which they thought would appeal to their readership.

I read "The Times" daily for several decades but gave up several years ago as they had completely dumbed down and it was not the paper it once had been. They just rehash Reuters largely, and have given up on any incisive criticism, brave journalism, investigative journalism or much with any depth. When William Rees-Mogg left that was it. Mostly you can guess which way they will take someone's utterances by what views they are deemed to hold on a very limited range of subjects on which the Times mafia feel strongly, hence the inane distortion.

27 December 2013 at 14:37  
Blogger Martin said...

So where did Justin Welby say why Jesus had to come to die? Where did he point out that mankind is dead in its sin and in desperate need of a Saviour?

If you don't point out people's sin it is pointless talking of belief, indeed what does he believe in apart from looking after the poor?

To say "God's way of being human shows us what being human means" is absolute balderdash! Welby clearly hasn't a clue. When he should be talking of the cesspit of life we live he is talking of God becoming a vulnerable baby! Does he really believe that Jesus could have died before He went to the cross?

But of course, what do we expect from a Church of England that is totally ineffective. A Church of England where half the people who go have an authority other than the Word of God. An organisation where you have wicked men like Jeffrey John in authority. Such an organization has lost its claim to be a Christian church.

27 December 2013 at 14:53  
Blogger Len said...

The inequalities in our society need to be highlighted as the media seems to say very little about this.
The gulf between the rich and the poor seems to be ever widening.
4 million children - one in three - are currently living in poverty in the UK, whilst those at the other end of the scale are getting fat bonus`s(even if they are' moved on' for being incompetent)
We have seen the greed orientated political class divert wealth to those who are in 'their club.

Should the Archbishop mention this disparity.?
Certainly, because to rule 'righteously' is something only Christ can do and this fact needs pointing out.We need Christian values and morals not the' no moral absolutes' anything goes morality of today.

27 December 2013 at 15:00  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Martin, Happy Jack says you should lighten up. Have you ever brought any person to Jesus with all that "cesspit of life" stuff? Do get a life. Christmas is a time of hope and joy and not doom and gloom. Before Jack was a believer, he knows what he would have said to your type of god botherer - and very often did.

Happy Jack thought the sermon by Justin was a very good one.

27 December 2013 at 15:10  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

That last comment has lost sight of the theme of the sermon, which I would say was vulnerability, and also God's self-emptying in the incarnation. In the vulnerability of the Christ child, and the anger of Herod, and the slaughter of the innocents are foreshadowed the vulnerability of the adult Jesus, also hunted, and finally slaughtered as well.

You talk of the sinful world in which we live. Can you not see that that is why the innocent and the pure ARE vulnerable; so you are arguing over facets of the same theology!! For in a perfectly kind and well ordered society there would not be vulnerability, would there?

"Jesus rescues us from our brokenness" he said. So what part of that suggests that we don't need a saviour, precisely?

I wonder whether you have just come from reading "The Times" or whether you read the transcript which His Grace was kind enough to provide us with?

27 December 2013 at 15:10  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

Sorry, under the weather with germs! Should never have put "that last comment" but rather "@ Martin".

27 December 2013 at 15:12  
Blogger Martin said...

Happy Jack

When thousands are heading for an eternity in Hell what do you think the primary purpose of a minister of the gospel should be?

Without Christ there is no hope, without the preaching of the wrath of God many will continue in their self deluded sinful state. Until that happens they cannot even seek God's mercy for they do not know their need.

27 December 2013 at 15:19  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

One’s mother, a professional housewife, brought up four children on her husbands wage. No, it wasn't easy and yes we did without. Impoverished ? Not at all, although one is sure we would be included in the poverty figures today. Poverty being a measure of material possession and not of the spiritual emptiness that grips the population today – something we didn’t have before...

27 December 2013 at 15:44  
Blogger Martin said...


So why should the theme of the sermon have been vulnerability? A sermon so broadly reported should have been about the gospel, God saving sinners.

God didn't 'self-empty' Jesus gave up what was rightfully His for a season in order to receive greater glory. He remained very much God for the period of His life on Earth, as the miracles demonstrate.

Why do I quarrel with his comment that "Jesus rescues us from our brokenness"? Because he never says what this brokenness is, and men do not understand that they are broken. All are wicked, from the leader of a nation to the infant, none are excused.

Actually I haven't read the Times, I rarely do, I'm just thoroughly fed up with the impostor claiming to be a Christian who is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

27 December 2013 at 15:49  
Blogger Martin said...


And the problem is the spiritual poverty. A poverty in a nation that has received great blessing in revival from the hand of God in the past.

27 December 2013 at 15:55  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

I cannot agree that most men do not know that they are broken. I think that most people do. Give them space, listen to their stories, and sooner or later the brokenness comes tumbling out, whatever it might be. Just get in a random selection of taxis if you doubt this!! ;-)

27 December 2013 at 16:14  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

As for self-emptying it is part of Orthodox Christian belief; the Greek word is kenosis and there is even a whole branch of theology called Kenotic Christology!!

How else could the Creator of Heaven and earth become a small baby within it!!

27 December 2013 at 16:16  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Martin, @ 15.49

Good afternoon, Martin.

Today, after making just one comment, I was just going to sit back, relax and read all the others. But I have been reluctantly stirred into writing again because I am amazed at your God like pronouncements as to who is, or is not, a Christian. He is an impostor you claim, truly a weighty matter on which to issue judgement. Who gave you such authority ?

You are right in saying that the C of E does not always preach the plain gospel as it should be delivered, I agree with you. I share your frustration, if it is that, that you are experiencing.

But to decide who is, and who is not, a Christian is to claim a facility that , I believe, only God possesses. But you are clearly made of higher stuff. Are you going to stay in the Judgement
Seat, or do you, on reflection, realize that it is too big for any human to occupy ? " Let him who is without sin cast the first stone......"

27 December 2013 at 16:19  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Quite Martin. Perhaps if the church concentrated on highlighting spiritual emptiness instead of whining about inequalities in income, the feckless might, just might, understand the Christ’s message of salvation. It’s all about a question of priorities, you know. Of course, when individuals in the UK are starving to death on a daily basis, it would be time to reverse the approach. But don’t hold your breath on that happening. Despite all the hair pulling and angst, the ‘abandoned’ don’t actually turn their toes up for want of food in this country. Quite the opposite in fact, they GAIN weight, if anything. Cunning blighters, they play us for fools you know. And the socialists, who want to turn us into state dependant serfs, they play us for fools too...

27 December 2013 at 16:20  
Blogger Albert said...


God didn't 'self-empty'

The idea of "self-emptying" is scriptural:

though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Granted, there is a question over what is meant by "self-emptying" - clearly the Son of God did not cease to be truly God in becoming truly man. But that point seems entirely consistent with Lucy's theology. Thus it seems to me that, at the moment, it is your position that is scripturally suspect, not Lucy's. I am sure you can clarify it, though.

27 December 2013 at 16:29  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Martin said @ 15:19
“When thousands are heading for an eternity in Hell what do you think the primary purpose of a minister of the gospel should be?
Without Christ there is no hope, without the preaching of the wrath of God many will continue in their self deluded sinful state. Until that happens they cannot even seek God's mercy for they do not know their need.”

Without Christ and his teachings there is no hope, you are right. But, when thousands either don't believe in God, don't care, or hold a rather sceptical view, the Church clergy need more engaging ways of communicating the messages and teachings of Jesus. Simply preaching of the wrath of God doesn't hit the spot any longer. We're not scared! But, people do need to see how their selfish, bad and at times evil behaviour if not corrected contributes to bringing society down. They need to understand the severity of and implications of the sins they commit and to want to try and strive to correct themselves. And in order to motivate the people to join this path of combating sin a lovely sermon like Archbishop Welby gave goes a long way. Those sinners at The Times need to read it and think again before they start writing destructive tripe.

27 December 2013 at 18:42  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Greetings of the season from the Inspector General. A humble taig before the Almighty, so he is. For those disappointed with Christ’s message as portrayed by weak CoE types, there is always the word as given to us by Catholic Monasticism. It will NOT be corrupted so long as they are around. Sure you’ll agree and are comforted thereby.

God bless you all...

27 December 2013 at 19:32  
Blogger The PrangWizard of England said...

I sympathise. I am looking for guidance and encouragement in these days when Christianity is under the most horrendous attack.
I need more assertiveness and a more robust defence and promotion of Christian beliefs from the
he Archbishop.

27 December 2013 at 20:35  
Blogger ianhutch said...

Would I guess correctly, Martin, that your theology is on the deterministic/Calvinistic/Augustinian wing? If so, & correct me if I'm wrong, those lost sinners you are so concerned about who need to hear about fire & brimstone have no chance anyway unless they are forced to change under the points of T.U.L.I.P.

Matt 7 v1 has very strong warnings about judging whether someone is a Christian or not so I suggest you tread carefully!

27 December 2013 at 23:24  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

ianhutch. Extreme Protestant belief as exposed by Martin and his ilk is the most unpleasant of heretical belief you can have. You see, the blighter has already pre-judged you on behalf on God, unless you align yourself to his way of thinking, and be bloody quick about it if you do.

It’s a damn disgrace ! No one should take it upon themselves to assume the Almighty’s mighty hand. No one !!

27 December 2013 at 23:53  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

28 December 2013 at 00:27  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


"I'm just thoroughly fed up with the impostor claiming to be a Christian who is the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Welby came to New Wine this year, the first AoC to do so. He spoke surprisingly frankly about many issues. Ones of which was that his job sometimes felt like he was just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

"God's way of being human shows us what being human means" is absolute balderdash!

I know you know the Bible so may I suggest that you may be acting like Nathaniel? Nothing good comes out of (the CofE)?

We want to think of ourselves as intelligent Christians and we try to establish that by ridicule and disdain. People like Welby we like to think of as not just mistaken, but out of step, not sharing our greater understanding, perhaps even intellectual midgets.

Martin, I this is where it gets difficult. I think that the "he is not preaching right" and "You should tell them they are hopeless sinners" approach, both kills any hope of a relationship with either fellow Christians or those you are evangelising to. If we did have a one size fits all approach as you advocate, we would have no creativity in mission at all!

When we roll our eyes at other Christians it is the same as when we do this in a marriage. A marriage can survive many painful things but generally cannot survive contempt.

Nathaniel (Initially) rejected Jesus because of where he grew up. We cannot reject a fellow Christians because he refuses to speak as we want him to speak. Don't forget, lots of people were very angry because he (Jesus) did not say the "right" things


28 December 2013 at 00:36  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Another point

The Bible constantly states that we should help and make provision for the poor.

I cannot see what the Times can object to in Welby stating that

"We see injustices at home. Even in a recovering economy, Christians, the servants of a vulnerable and poor Saviour, need to act to serve and love the poor: they need also to challenge the causes of poverty."

Absolutely. What is the Time's solution may I ask?


28 December 2013 at 00:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

28 December 2013 at 08:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all a bit too moral-influence theory of the atonement for my taste. Starts out well and then ends with focusing on our works rather than Christ's work on the cross. Sadly, a typical example of CofE preaching.

28 December 2013 at 08:10  
Blogger Roy said...

@ Martin

To say "God's way of being human shows us what being human means" is absolute balderdash! Welby clearly hasn't a clue. When he should be talking of the cesspit of life we live he is talking of God becoming a vulnerable baby! Does he really believe that Jesus could have died before He went to the cross?

The answer to your last question is that God the Father certainly believed that Jesus could have died before He went to the cross. Why do you think God warned Joseph to take Mary and the baby and flee to Egypt?

As for talking of the cesspit of life that is not what the angles did when the appeared to the shepherds, is it?

Perhaps you ought to read the story of the Nativity again. If you take the Good News out of the Gospel, there is nothing left.

28 December 2013 at 09:45  
Blogger Preacher said...

I feel that many have savaged Martin for his views & although I don't agree with his way of expressing them, I can sympathise with his frustration. Many of our Churches, both CofE & free seem to fear the loss of members if the gospel is preached. This allows the influx of various errors, i.e universalism as espoused by the 'Emergent Church' & the resultant belief that good works produce salvation.
Jesus fed the poor & hungry because of His compassion & love for them. But He also said the poor would always be with us.
His mission was mankind's salvation & because it's eternal implications were as important or even more so for all of us, rich or poor than temporary relief of suffering. We must not replace the gospel with works. We should first LOVE people & the provision for them will flow from our hearts.
If we Really love them they will respond to the care & love & listen to the greatest love story, God's love for them displayed on the cross.
We must be honest in presenting the Justice of God but also clear in showing His great love & mercy.
Thus we warn, rather than threaten & attempt to scare people into God's Kingdom.


28 December 2013 at 10:22  
Blogger Roy said...

I should, as Pope Gregory the Great put it, have written not "angles" but "angels" in my comment below.

As for talking of the cesspit of life that is not what the angles did when the appeared to the shepherds, is it?

28 December 2013 at 10:26  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Marie 1797 @ 18.42

makes an important practical point regarding sermons. Yes It's essential to preach the gospel of salvation, and it would be best if it could be delivered in a totally straight forward way. But nowadays cultural influences are such that people are not going to be influenced by narratives that are frightening, in effect if not intention. So other ways are needed to reach them.
Exactly how depends upon how the preacher judges the particular congregation that they are addressing.
The overall problem is that post-modernism has questioned all authority, mocked it in fact, so deeply, and to such an extent, that the best ways of conveying a sense of peoples estrangement from God's ways often include pointing to the results of "sin", selfishness and putting "number one" before everything, before God, before society. Then by inviting them to look at the results of this rebellion and then asking them whether they think the results are good, may not be impressive to listen to compared to the scary sermons of old, but such methods are more likely to work nowadays.
That is the judgement of most priests and ministers nowadays. Preaching hellfire and brimstone will simply have the congregation heading for the door, or at least not returning, is their judgement, and mine. Are there are examples to disprove this nowadays, in the western world ?

28 December 2013 at 10:46  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Oh be wary of reading The Jupiter! It panders to the bestial and sells copy by exposing feet of clay (real or imagined)... Sinners we may be, but remember the Prodigal Son and the harlot being stoned and remember Our Lord's words. The Bishop thinks, and I agree with him, that we need to remember the difficulties facing Bunyan's Christian on his long and arduous journey - or to put it another way - 'Nobody said it was easy.' Now my dears, it is tiffin time and one needs a hobnob.

28 December 2013 at 12:00  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

And there's not a day goes by without resisting the urge to throw rock buns at Signora Neroni (for I too am a sinner!)

28 December 2013 at 12:03  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Dear Mrs Proudie,

How right you are. Indeed it is a great pity, and a loss to all, that Bunyan's literary classic is now relegated to dust gathering duties. But the wheel will turn, it always does, although it may not rest at the same point on its circumference next time, I think.

Do enjoy a spot of tiffin.

28 December 2013 at 12:05  
Blogger Fat Sam said...

Wot, no food banks? I've read the sermon through twice. Did the ABC make his "passing allusion" in this sermon or a different one?

28 December 2013 at 12:55  
Blogger Frater minor said...

I agree with both David and Martin

We do need to present the gospel of good news of salvation, but I think it is a mistake if we try to present it as Bad News of damnation first.

I think the Hellfire / Brimstone preachers of old worked in a society where people generally did acknowledge that they were sinners in need of salvation.
It is different today - most of the unchurched have no appreciation of personal sinfulness, but prefer to think in terms of personal fulfilment, and excuse their foibles as 'mistakes' or some such euphemism.

The way to defeat darkness is to turn on the light.

Our Christian leaders should proclaim the light of the gospel, shining in the lives of individual believers, living lives that glorify God. This is a task for all of us, and is not to be delegated to bishops or preachers alone.

Frater minor

28 December 2013 at 12:58  
Blogger JW said...

Can't find those food banks either.

The sermon is actually very good as to its incarnational theology. But being C of E he inevitably loses the plot when he moves onto politics.

Sad to see the obligatory potshot at Israel ("where land is taken"). Given that Israel is the only nation in the ME where Christians actually celebrated this Christmas without fear maybe we should let the Israelis "take" a lot more land out there...

28 December 2013 at 13:09  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear David H, I do hope you are right. Do join me for afternoon tea - you can nibble my macaroons.

28 December 2013 at 13:14  
Blogger Len said...

IGO (27 December 2013 19:32)
That horse has long since gone.

28 December 2013 at 13:32  
Blogger Len said...

Perhaps we should not 'launch off' on our own when preaching the gospel?.

Jesus told all the apostles to wait till after Pentecost before going out to preach the gospel the reason being that we are not supposed to preach the Gospel according to our own 'reason' but under the power and the guidance of the holy Spirit.
so what might seem to be 'a good idea' to us will possibly turn out be not such a 'good idea' after all.
The Apostle Paul found how to preach the Gospel by hard experience, but be warned the Gospel IS an offence to many even to those within the church!.

How Paul preached to the Corinthians.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.(1 Corinthians)

28 December 2013 at 13:45  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Frater Minor, @ 12.58

Yes you have the point. It's horses for courses. It's missing the point, bemoaning that gospel preaching ain't what it used to be, or people are being "weak". The trick now, as ever, is to communicate, and to communicate in this post-modern society requires a totally different approach to the 18th or 19 th or even first half of the 20th centuries. So context is vital. The Apostle Paul understood that point very well, and he knew a thing or two about gospel preaching.

And Len makes the excellent point that the gospel is best "communicated" if one asks to be led by The Spirit, not by ones own "cleverness" or reason. And many , even in the Churches , will as Len says, not like the gospel, at all ! And our, ever so always right, media will certainly not like it. I can just see a headline like, "Backward Archbishop preaches primitive prejudice". Too much literation perhaps? but then I'm not a media look-alike, I hope !

28 December 2013 at 14:56  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Mrs Proudie,

Macaroons as well ! Goodness. That is so tempting.

Then I shall indeed visit on my next coach tour of the west country, when in the vicinity of your fair city. I shall remember to "announce" my arrival beforehand of course, as a courtesy, by way of my usual pigeon post.

28 December 2013 at 15:02  
Blogger The Explorer said...

ianhutch @ 23:24 expresses the problem of election, and its history, most succinctly.

When I first came across it via Calvin I rejected it out of hand as a misreading. Then I realised the problem had first been identified by Augustine.

It's not just a question of does God choose us or do we choose God?
As Augustine points out, if we choose God is it because God chose us first?

Article XVII is a typical C of E compromise, but also a wise one. Election cannot be ignored, but it's a mystery. At least, I think that's the essence. I am open to correction.

28 December 2013 at 15:13  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


" No one should take it upon themselves to assume the Almighty’s mighty hand. No one !!"

We have our disagreements, but in this we completely agree: you are absolutely spot on, and the consequences of this truth deserve to be meditated on by everyone who desires to follow God, regardless of where they begin from.

28 December 2013 at 16:17  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The Explorer @ 15.13

Like you I have struggled with the concept of predestination, at first rejecting it out of hand, emotionally. However now I concede that there may be a sense in which some were selected, as much as I continue to dislike that idea. But it's not about what I happen to like with my particular blend of traditional/ modernist and post-modernist melange of viewpoints.
Overall I am content to park the question in my zone labeled "mysteries of God". After all it is only the boastful and vain who think that they know and understand all things, whereas the Christian believes that his path is the way of truth, that he has hold of some of it now, but that much more will be revealed later. And anyway we are all at different points along that path of course.

And I agree that Article XV11 is a typical C of E compromise, which is, as you say wise, in the circumstances. Given the difficulty in knowing exactly what scripture, taken together, is saying exactly, points to a cautious and broader approach as being appropriate. Modestly claiming only partial understanding, as opposed to the confident assertion of being in possession of the absolute truth, is the wise course of action.

But of course "the world", and I'm thinking of the media, finds weakness in that modest approach, whilst paradoxically finding equal fault with Churches, typically the Catholic Church, for often being more definite about doctrine and teaching. That apparent contradiction is because our contemporary anti-Christian media will criticize Christianity whatever approach it takes.

28 December 2013 at 17:10  
Blogger ianhutch said...

The Explorer @ 15:13 If you start reading Romans 9 & Ephesians 1 with the understanding that it's the MINISTRIES & GOOD WORKS that are chosen/elected & not people being chosen for salvation, then those passages become coherent with the rest of Scripture & God's entreaties for people to come or return to Him.

I followed Calvinistic doctrines for decades until I started examining those passages through what Jesus showed us of God (Heb 1 v 1–2). I think one of the most amusing yet sad interchanges I had on-line with a ferocious Calvinist was their threat that I would lose my salvation if I denied Calvinism!

28 December 2013 at 17:18  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David @ 17:10

Thank you for your response.

If we invented God, then mystery is intolerable. If it's the other way round, then it's to be expected.

One of the reasons I find Christianity convincing is because some of its concepts are really difficult. An invented religion would get rid of the Trinity and Predestination both.

28 December 2013 at 17:23  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Apropos of nothing, I have been leafing through My Lord's copy of Malleus Mallificorum and discover, to my astonishment, there are entries for Harriet Harman and Mary Creagh, who seems to think Thomas the Tank Engine stops women from becoming train drivers. Proof positive I think that evil lurks at the heart of politics, and that the Church Miliband needs to be countered at every turn!

28 December 2013 at 17:43  
Blogger Roy said...

JW said:

Sad to see the obligatory potshot at Israel ("where land is taken"). Given that Israel is the only nation in the ME where Christians actually celebrated this Christmas without fear maybe we should let the Israelis "take" a lot more land out there...

The plight of Christians in many parts of the Middle East is terrible, but your attitude to displaced Palestinians is deplorable and is no advertisement for Christianity.

Despite persecution there is still quite a few Palestinian Christians around but even if they were all Moslems there would be no excuse at all for mistreating them

28 December 2013 at 17:47  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


If you are not chosen, then how do you know you are saved?

If you are not chosen, presumably you are saved through your own efforts...

So if you are saved in some part through your own efforts, then how do you ever know if you have done enough?

Worse, what is to stop you then showing pride for in some part "saving yourself"?


28 December 2013 at 17:52  
Blogger The Explorer said...


Yes, and I think the answer you give can be applied readily enough to 'Romans' 9. But I still remember reading through 'Acts' and being startled by 13:48 - "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed". It was then that I acknowledged there was a case to answer.

I've heard it said that Calvinism and Universalism are opposite sides of the same coin: God's will cannot be thwarted.

God wants everyone to be saved. His will cannot be thwarted. Thus everyone will be saved. Some are manifestly NOT saved in this world. They will be saved after death. (But allow for successful rebels, and that all collapses.)

28 December 2013 at 17:54  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Phil @ 17:52

You choose to respond, and believe you are saved through the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice. (Choosing to respond, surely, hardly counts as 'works'?) The indwelling Spirit manifests itself in the love of others.

Then Election complicates it all. You would not have chosen to respond if God had not chosen you.

It's certainly a mystery how/why some respond and some don't (and within the same family).

28 December 2013 at 18:02  
Blogger MARTIN HERNÁNDEZ said...

Hermoso sermón y muy aterrizado en una sociedad pluralista que sigue desconociendo a los más pobres, queriéndolos transformar de pobres a misersbles.
Cuando hace referencia a la vulnerabilidad del niño de Belén, se refiere al verdadero pobre, dependiente.
Ahora bien, cuál debe ser nuestra respuesta cristiana? Para tal fin tenemos el ejemplo de los pastores que son escatimar esfuerzos se dirigieron a adorar y servir al Salvador recien-nacido, neonato. Adoración y servicio en ka vida cristana son concomitantes.
Bendiciones en el amor del Cordero.

28 December 2013 at 19:03  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The Explorer @ 17.23

Yes, indeed ! Wise words. Good stuff !

A man derived religion, including its "god", would indeed be fully congruent with a wide range of "normal" human understanding, relatively easily grasped by the reasonably intelligent and fully "oven ready", by which I mean, compatible with a broad range of human societies, and its rulers ! The last point being rather important I think.

But Christianity is conceptually challenging, even for reasonably intelligent, educated people. It often runs contrary to human instincts and "commonsense". It challenges injustice, even when originating from rulers. Yet despite these clear disadvantages, for easy popularity, it grows, spreads, and makes good things happen in all sorts of society. Why it even grows in as inauspicious an environment as North Korea !

So it all points to something that is not readily at the command of Archbishops, but speaks of something literally unworldly. If one merely wanted to gain power, spiritually, over as many people, in all ages, as possible, one would not have devised orthodox Christianity. It is something beyond us all, and hence the existence of mysteries still, after 2000 years, and some of the brightest minds having worked on its doctrines for over 2000 years. So this really does not unsettle me, despite my restless curiosity, by nature. I trust that there must be a good reason why I've not been informed, yet.
Those theological "black holes", unknowns, go its authenticity I agree. A glib, "this faith answers all questions, folks", would be far less convincing.

I agree totally. Thank you for the thought provoking points.

28 December 2013 at 19:28  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I doubt it's any comfort to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but Pope Francis has also spent most of the year highlighting the Christian social justice agenda, and getting certain elements of the RCC very annoyed by it. I read the whole of the Archbishop's sermon and also see no reference to food banks. Go go BBC.

In the words of the famous quote made by Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara who was Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil. "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."

28 December 2013 at 21:07  
Blogger non mouse said...

Messrs. Hussell and Explorer -- on the matter of Election, I've found Boethius (The Consolation of Philosophy) helpful. You may remember "Philosophy's" ultimate argument that Eternal God [Omnipotent], being Omniscient and Omnipresent, sees all things in an eternal present.

Time and space, on the other hand, limit Man's perception and knowledge. Therefore, what we see as future, is in fact a part of God's Present.

Philosophy says: "God, who beholds all things from eternity, foresees all these things in his providence and disposes each according to its predestined merits" (Book 5, Prose 2, 104).
Thus: God already knows the outcomes we are busy using our free will to figure out. We still have to keep working at our salvation, though, because the work is part of eternity.

To illustrate the point, Philosophy distinguishes between 'necessity' and 'freedom' as seen when someone walks - nothing has to force a man to walk, but when he walks he has to move forward. "But God sees as present those future things which result from free will. Therefore, from the standpoint of divine knowledge these things are necessary because of the condition of their being known by God, but, considered only in themselves, they lose nothing of the absolute freedom of their own natures" (Book 5, Prose 6, 117-18).

Boethius, A. S. The Consolation of Philosophy. Translated by Richard Green. New York: Macmillan, 1962.

28 December 2013 at 21:26  
Blogger The Explorer said...

non mouse:

Greetings to you, and a most timely reminder on your part. It has always staggered me about Boethius that he could write so calmly while awaiting execution.

It's an excellent point on his part. Aquinas, I think it was, has another very helpful illustration: time as a winding mountain road with God looking down on it in a continuous present.

You clearly love ancient writings as much as I do. Keep up the examples. In me, at least, you will always find an appreciative audience.

28 December 2013 at 22:09  
Blogger Martin said...


If you imagine that many think they are broken, you should try conversing with the Atheists I debate with. Broken is the last thing they imagine of themselves.

Surely to build a whole theology on one verse, or rather one word in one verse, is dangerous. I think rather that the Son hid His Glory in human flesh, suffering the weakness of the flesh, only occasionally revealing Himself in miracles. After all did not John say they had seen His glory?

28 December 2013 at 22:30  
Blogger Martin said...


Should we not be able to tell who is a Christian and who is not? Are we not told to examine the fruit of their lives? How else can we decide who is suited to become an elder or a deacon? Indeed, how can we decide who is fit to be a member of our local church if we cannot tell who is a Christian and who needs to hear the gospel?

I'm afraid that whether we have the congregation heading for the door or not is irrelevant, there is a gospel to preach. If they don't like it, and they won't, it is not for us to change it.

28 December 2013 at 22:32  
Blogger Martin said...


I prefer this translation:

“who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7 NKJV)

For Jesus still retained His knowledge and power though they were hidden within His human nature, yet they shone out to those who knew Him, who saw the miracles and His understanding of Man.

28 December 2013 at 22:33  
Blogger Martin said...


We are not called to decide what is the best way of communicating the gospel, we have been told what to do, to preach. It is the Holy Spirit who will bring the result, we are to scatter the seed, God gives the growth. The ancient message is "flee from the wrath to come", there is no other and if they decline to flee the judgement is on them, not us.

28 December 2013 at 22:34  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Hear Hear !

I say Explorer, our non mouse is also avidly read by this man...

28 December 2013 at 22:34  
Blogger Martin said...


It is not our task to determine who is to be saved & who is not. We are to spread the message, that is all.

We must, however, see that those admitted to our churches, and even more, to positions of authority are Christians, lest we allow in the wolves among the flock. And God has given us the means to do that for we shall know them by their fruit.

And no, it is not the ministries and good works that are chosen but the person to perform them.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV) (emphasis mine)

28 December 2013 at 22:36  
Blogger Frater minor said...

Time and space, on the other hand, limit Man's perception and knowledge. Therefore, what we see as future, is in fact a part of God's Present.

It is a strange thing.

We creatures who live IN time and space, and can move freely through space (limited only by the laws of physics and by our technology), but can only move into the future and away from the past, can 'see' the past but not the future, and can change the future but not the past.
But God does not have these limitations. Glory to His eternal grace.

Frater minor

28 December 2013 at 22:36  
Blogger Martin said...


I can't say that Welby coming to New Wine fills me with confidence. As one who was involved with the Charismatic Movement as a young Christian in the late 60's I'm glad to have left such behind. But perhaps an ABC should not be arranging chairs but throwing the broken ones over the side.

I know of a number of good ministers who have come out of the CofE, and at least one who remains in it. The problem with the CofE is not what comes out of it but what is allowed to remain in it when they should have been thrown overboard long ago. In short the CofE is lacking Scriptural discipline and has done for years if not centuries.

Yes, preaching Hell, telling people they are sinners, does not gain you friends, but it is what God uses, as we have witnessed in the past. Would Whitfield have made inroads among the miners of Bristol by telling them of the vulnerability of God? Jonathan Edwards in his great sermon spoke of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, so should we.

There is no problem in making provision for the poor, but the Church is not called to preach that but the gospel, the offer of salvation to the sinner.

28 December 2013 at 22:38  
Blogger Frater minor said...

If you imagine that many think they are broken, you should try conversing with the Atheists I debate with. Broken is the last thing they imagine of themselves.

I find that debating with atheists convinces me more and more that predestination must be true.

They do seem to be a group that no amount of arguing and pleading can shift from their wanton unbelief.

Frater minor

28 December 2013 at 22:39  
Blogger Martin said...


Were not Joseph and Mary warned to leave before Herod decided on his bloody act? And the Nativity is only the start of the story. (and yes, I had a little giggle over angles)

28 December 2013 at 22:39  
Blogger Martin said...


I'm afraid that without the bad news no one will see a need of the good news.

Atheist, of course, are in denial. They know God exists, as we all do, but pride and rebellion lead them to pretend otherwise.

28 December 2013 at 22:41  
Blogger non mouse said...

Your Grace - thank you for this outstanding post; I was especially glad of the opportunity to read AB Welby's sermon in full.

Perhaps the Times prides itself on use of IT programmes which rejoice in their name of Word, and in their place among the Clouds. Wherever the newspaper's sense of omnipotence springs, however, the meconnaissance you posit seems a likely description of their response to Welby. And deliberate misreading is idolatrous business - for the accompanying deconstructive god is neither THE WORD nor His Truth.

I'm with Lucy Mullen in identifying the theme of the sermon, which I would say was vulnerability, and also God's self-emptying in the incarnation. In the vulnerability of the Christ child, and the anger of Herod, and the slaughter of the innocents are foreshadowed the vulnerability of the adult Jesus, also hunted, and finally slaughtered as well. (27/12 @ 15:10).

I believe part of the action AB Welby (and Christ) calls for involves limiting the vulnerability 'humanity' imposes on its world. As the most vicious predator the imposition is huge, and the race of men presently reaps the harvest of having turned power-seekers from the necessity of hunting other animals. Predators can now concentrate fully on hunting the rest of 'homo sapiens': as the Times has done here; as His enemies did to Christ.

Unlike those who think the Church should adapt its policies to suit a new and hitherto unknown world, I say nothing is new in human nature. Freud and his pals concentrated on the bits they personally recognized, but they also acknowledged building their ideas on past literatures. So do the present-day young build, whether they know it from the electronic games or computers. Style, not substance, has changed; but, as the AB says We will speak and act best when we are caught up in following the vulnerable God as His disciples in His way; and We follow the God who is Saviour, whose word of love was found in action and word .

As we continue to follow His words and action in the traditional way: through the stories of His life and ministry, and to His death at Easter ---- followed by His completely invulnerable Resurrection, we may reflect that the AB is right. We may even contribute to the occasional food bank --- without his having mentioned it, and certainly without the modern obsession for discipline or "Enforcement."

Incidentally, the CoE can't be doing all wrong: I've heard of record attendances at services in the North - for example, at Fountains.

28 December 2013 at 23:01  
Blogger Frater minor said...

I'm afraid that without the bad news no one will see a need of the good news.

Mmmmm, possibly.
It seems to me that Jesus' preaching to the lost did not include convincing them that they were lost.

Jesus did certainly teach about Hell and punishment, but this part of his teaching seems only to have been given when he was speaking with those who were already his disciples.

I cannot help thinking that a style of evangelism that starts by trying to convince people that they are sinners and in deep trouble is unlikely to be effective. I might be mistaken on this, though.
My impression of the style of preaching of Jesus and the apostles in Acts suggests that they proclaimed the new life that was available to those who would believe, and expected people to respond.

I do not think that I can convince anyone that they are a sinner - surely only the Holy Spirit can do that.

Frater minor

28 December 2013 at 23:29  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

28 December 2013 at 23:51  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


"Would Whitfield have made inroads among the miners of Bristol by telling them of the vulnerability of God? Jonathan Edwards in his great sermon spoke of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"

Both Whitfield and Edwards lived in different times and Jesus tended to be always very gentile with ordinary people.

BTW you and I seem to agree that we are chosen by God. Are we persuaded by scripture itself, or by God in the lives of Christians.

" CofE is lacking Scriptural discipline "

OK on the face of it I agree and it is clear to anyone who looks at the Anglican Church as a whole the parts that are growing the fastest tend to be poor and Bible based. The Anglican Church is still growing overall and in certain parts of the UK (Jesmond, Newcastle or St Barts, Bath) as fast as say Nigeria.

What is the solution Martin? We throw overboard the bad chairs? How do we decide who is a bad chair? (In Jesus' time it was easy? The woman at the well? a Samaritan? A Gentile?)

Before I joined the Anglican church I attended a number of very strict Churches who had split away from others to found groups of like minded, Bible believing "Christians". One sacked the Pastor for going to pieces after his son was randomly shot dead one morning. Another an elder wanted two wives and was prepared to argue his "case", another wanted to kill all Muslims.

In the Anglican Church a senior male clergy had a secret affair with a more junior female clergy (Both married) that the Bishop in his wisdom had allocated to the same Church. (I caused uproar by publicly saying that the Bishop should be sacked for being stupid, not the clergy, who had suffered enough already with the pain in their marriages (that survived) and had repented.)

We all sin Martin every day, me more than most. Does the sin feel nice? Yes it does. Do I repent? Yes I do, but I also look for what God is teaching me in my sin.

I do know that it is very easy to see other people's sins and say that they really need to do something about their sins.

I just don't think that tells them much about God, but it tells them a lot about you.


28 December 2013 at 23:57  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

29 December 2013 at 00:04  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Non mouse

"Incidentally, the CoE can't be doing all wrong: I've heard of record attendances at services in the North - for example, at Fountains."

Agreed, Jesmond Parish Church (Newcastle) on the expected challenges of catering for 2000 worshipers.


29 December 2013 at 00:05  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

It's axiomatic. The Gospel is about redemption from sin. That message must begin with the fact that each and every man is wicked at his very core. Otherwise what is the purpose of the Cross? Why should they turn if they are not evil?

A gospel devoid of sin frames man not as evil but as broken. He doesn't need a Savior. He needs a healer. Sickness after all doesn't imply moral fault. This is the central soteriological message of liberal Christianity.

The Gospel is offensive precisely because it begins here: "You are evil. In the eyes of God you are more vile than the worst criminal you can imagine. You can do nothing about this, and you wouldn't try even if you could." You can remove the offense by simply not saying that part. But then you empty the Gospel of its content, and reduce Jesus to a Personal Life Coach.

Stop worrying about offending the Unbeliever. Stop trying to frame the message to tickle his unbelieving ears. He is worse off believing a false gospel than no gospel at all. For he has deceived himself into thinking that God is well pleased with him.


29 December 2013 at 00:56  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Btw. This is why Election is so important.

1. The evangelist knows that God has chosen a people.

2. The evangelist knows that God will gather that people to Himself without fail.

3. The evangelist knows he is an instrument and not an intermediary.

4. The evangelist knows it is God who gives life and not the persuasive words of men.

We don't reason men to faith by clever argument or persuasive speech. Faith is rather a gift of God. We proclaim and God works. Nothing in the outcome depends on us.

Election means that there is no contingency in salvation. Man cannot thwart what God has decreed. No one in Hell will ever say "If only he had told me about God without all those offensive parts, I would have believed." The mistake of the evangelist will never change a man's destiny from heaven to hell. Never. God would be revealed a liar were this to be true.


29 December 2013 at 01:12  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


It is the "good news". I think the "you are a sinner" type preaching tends to forget that.

BTW if does not matter what the evangelist says salvation is Gods decision alone, then

A It does not matter if the Gospel preached is false or not


B We may at least try at least to show some happiness about what Jesus achieved for us on the cross.

Try thinking, Glass half full Carl. Come on it is Christmas!


29 December 2013 at 05:45  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

A thoughtful discussion. Agree predestination is hard to accept but the T for total depravity does have much explanatory power. Like other posters I wonder at the implacable refusal of atheists and others to even listen to sound reasoned arguments tor Christ. I know thta I want to think I 'got saved' by my morally correct action in repenting and intellectually correct work of believing, but the longer I live the more I suspect my conversion was more like an unconscious man being hauled into a lifeboat and resuscitated by a strong rescuer. Its a mystery to me.

Returning to HG's post, yes Welby is a fine and thoughtful fellow but must agree with posters who say the C of E needs to preach the Gospel of REPENTANCE be it ever so offensive even if it attracts hostility and resultsxin disestablishment. The failure to do so (Pilling report last straw) has contributed to my decision to finally jump ship. Off to Above Bar Church (independent Evangelical) this morning not without some sadness

29 December 2013 at 06:59  
Blogger The Explorer said...

In 'The Gagging of God', D A Carson points out the difficulty of evangelisation in a postmodern context.

Preaching the good news or the bad news is irrelevant: the point is, it's YOUR news. Your truth is not the recipient's truth.

The greatest hurdle is breaking down the view that there is no objective human situation.

29 December 2013 at 07:05  
Blogger starcourse said...

To be fair, Phil Collins' "point" was that Dawkins has "won the argument" which is ridiculously untrue at an intellectual level but a fair reflection of the "media view" because they don't report real top-flight scientists who are Christians like John Polkinghorne and big Dawkins (who hasn't made a single significant scientific contribution in a peer-reviewed journal) as a "scientist"

"Questions of Truth" gives a pretty up-to-date summary of the scientific and philosophical arguments for the existence of God.

29 December 2013 at 07:48  
Blogger William Lewis said...

Interesting Discussion

On the subject of evangelism, I particularly enjoyed Peter Hitchens more post-modern, yet salty, approach in his argument for the "God Does Exist" debate at the Oxford Union a while back.

Personally, I don't think we can be too prescriptive in how we evangelise, but often living the life and demonstrating the love seems to be the only way forward. I wish I would do it more often!

29 December 2013 at 09:05  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Rambling Steve,

The Pilling Report, as "the last straw".

I understand your feelings. My copy is sitting on my desk as the next book to be read. Like you I do not accept it's ideas at all and side with the excellent minority report from Bishop Keith of Birkenhead. There are excellent people like him in positions of authority and throughout the whole Church.
My instincts are to stay and do my little bit to lead it to a better state, as I believe that with a many cultural Christians attached to the C of E we will never convert the UK back to sincere faith without taking the C of E down the right path. But my personal decision is not written in stone. I will continue reviewing it from time to time as events unfold and ultimately I will follow God before Man.
I wish you well as you continue your journey.

29 December 2013 at 09:23  
Blogger David Hussell said...

My attitude to effective preaching style is still developing and I'll listen to other's arguments. In particular we need to learn by seeing what is working as this gives us clues as to how and where the Spirit is involved in this society.

However I do not believe that we can ignore the characteristics of the particular society we are in , and just launch in as if it were the 18th century. This is because as human beings we communicate one with the other by selecting language that the listeners understand, which is shaped, like it or not, by the culture in which our congregations lives their lives. We work out from what they are familiar with, what they know about, to the Good News of the Gospel. The truth is unchanging, but the WAY that we put it over must connect with the listener, otherwise they will walk out of the door before we have given them the good news. If they walk after the gospel is delivered fine, that's their choice, but if we lose them beforehand, our mission has not succeeded, faithful Christians though we might be.

That's my practical approach anyway, and I don't think it's that far from how Jesus or St Paul attempted to communicate.
Finally the message must be cheerful, there is after all a Good, before the News word ! Threatening them will not succeed in today's anti-authority post-modern society.

I am still learning about all this, but overall feel close to the viewpoints of Frater Minor and Phil Roberts regarding what constitutes the most effective preaching style in today's society.

29 December 2013 at 09:40  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Martin: "Atheist, of course, are in denial. They know God exists, as we all do, but pride and rebellion lead them to pretend otherwise."

Why do you persist in saying this nonsense? Does it make you feel a bit more comfortable with yourself?

29 December 2013 at 10:25  
Blogger grumpyoldcl said...

Much of the comments have been around what we think our society wants to hear and what the gospel requires us to say and the gulf between the two.

I was reading about the Pilling Report this morning and came across this:
[The Church needs to change]...because of the clear distance that has opened up between the church’s teaching and the wider culture, particularly among young people and the political and media elites. This can lead to a strong sense of cultural dissonance.

The sentence assumes that the gulf is between the Church and ... the young people and the political and media elites.
It occurs to me that it ignores the elephant in the room being the gulf between society in general, including the young people, ... and the political and media elites.
The political and media elites are also NOT in touch with where people actually are and what they actually think. There is a huge and growing cultural dissonance between society and the political and media elites. It is often now referred to as the democratic divide.

29 December 2013 at 10:37  
Blogger Len said...

Jesus`s primary message was of the love of God for His people.He revealed this through healing all the sick who came to Him and preaching the Gospel to them.And Jesus ultimately suffered crucifixion in our place on the cross.There can be no greater expression of Love than giving your life for another.
Certainly Jesus warned of Hell and if we did not change that would be our eternal destination.
But Jesus did not condemn anyone (except the religious hypocrites)it was the heart of forgiveness and mercy of God that Jesus was revealing to all who would turn to God.
The greatest problem today is that man is redefining 'sin' to make it 'more acceptable'.
Jesus fed the hungry and preached the Gospel perhaps that is what Justin Welby is trying to do also?.

29 December 2013 at 11:59  
Blogger David Hussell said...

grumpyoldcl @ 10.37

Yes, I agree, spot on.

But many of the elite of the C of E are in contact, and often sympathy, with the political and media elite you refer to, with their "cultural"l agenda. So therefore there is as much dissonance between the "establishment" bishops, almost all liberal, and the pew perchers as exist outside that Church, within the wider society. The malaise of being out of touch, still enthralled with destructive liberalism, and post-modernist relativism, including moral revisionism, doesn't stop at the boundaries of the C of E, or some of the other denominations.

A Church that is led by mankind, not God, is of course long term, if it continues unchecked, doomed to extinction. If there is little difference between "the gospel according to the world" and the "gospel coming from the Church", that Church has, effectively, nothing to say, so no one will listen.
The question is will the C of E revive, spiritually, led by the Spirit, possibly from the its constituent parts that are very much alive, or from outside sources, or will it slowly morph into some sort of "Big Society" social work program. Such social care work is good in itself, but to be truly an expression of the Christian faith, it needs to be the result of deep faith, not the social arm of the government within Churches.

29 December 2013 at 12:10  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Len @ 11.59,

I think that you have interpreted Archbishop's Welby's actions correctly. He is trying to reach out by BOTH preaching the gospel and demonstrating Christian concern for the needy, hoping that blend will find purchase in today's anti-authoritarian society. You can't tell people what to do any longer from an Archbishop's high pulpit, so he hopes that practical concern will be the vehicle for transporting the gospel of salvation.

Did not Mother Theresa not do the same, or the Anglo-Catholic priests of the 19th century in the industrial cities previously ignored by the established Church, but not the Methodists and Salvationists?

29 December 2013 at 12:16  
Blogger ianhutch said...

I feel sick when I hear people praising that demonic sermon by Jonathan Edwards 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" It is unscriptural, hate-filled and offers hope to no-one. Folk were known to have committed suicide after listening to that man. It comes from a man who was totally Reformed in his theology &, hence, could offer no hope to those he would have described as 'reprobate'. Nevertheless he spews forth a foul tirade which impugns the very character of God revealed in Jesus & claims that there are infants being tormented in the flames of hell. Just like the Spirit of Jesus—NOT.

29 December 2013 at 13:30  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Rambling steve

"Off to Above Bar Church (independent Evangelical) this morning not without some sadness"

Good luck, as one who has Church hopped a lot. My guess is that the new Church will eventually irritate you as well, but in new ways!


29 December 2013 at 13:36  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


It is the "good news". I think the "you are a sinner" type preaching tends to forget that.

It's not an either/or. You can't leave out either part. But, really now, the Good News is not "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life." The Good News is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Not just Law. Not just Grace. Both Law and Grace.

A It does not matter if the Gospel preached is false or not

It is God who chose to redeem by the foolishness of proclaiming the Gospel. We scatter the seed by such proclamation. God gives the increase.

B We may at least try at least to show some happiness about what Jesus achieved for us on the cross.

The word you want to use there is joy, I think. The joy we experience is a product of the freedom we receive. Freedom from sin and death. The magnitude of the joy is dependent upon the magnitude of the debt forgiven. He who is forgiven much loves much. That is why men must understand the reality of sin. It sets the context for everything else.

<>Try thinking, Glass half full Carl. Come on it is Christmas!<>

OK. I'll try.

"The glass is half full ... Of course it is also cracked, leaking, laced with ground glass, and spiked with arsenic. And it's surrounded by a flock of small bad-tempered carnivorous birds."

Hey, I did it. You know, this Christmas Spirit stuff isn't so bad.



29 December 2013 at 14:57  
Blogger Len said...

David Hussell
I do agree that there have been some really good works by Catholics past and present.
But I do not agree that many Catholics doctrines are scriptural.

I know that none of us are perfect and none of us have got everything right but if we stick to the Word of God then we probably will not go too far wrong.

I think the 'creeds' were a good idea and possibly we could all find some unity amongst the denominations with them?.

29 December 2013 at 15:20  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


"the Good News is not God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life."

Well he does have a plan and he draws us to a closer relationship with him by worship, prayer and avoiding sin through following his laws.

I think what we really mess up by breaking his law is the relationship with him. Sin is really placing something higher than God in your life. God gets very irritated with this and we soon find we cannot serve two masters.

I do believe that God has a wonderful plan for our lives. It may or may not include a prefect family nice house and car

It is called finding him. That is why the poor we knew in Africa smiled more in a day, than Europeans do in a week, even though they had nothing.


29 December 2013 at 15:55  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Why do you persist in saying this nonsense?

Presumably because he has read the first chapter of the Book of Romans.


29 December 2013 at 17:07  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Your argument shifts the ground to sanctification. That is a different topic. The discussion on this thread has centered on what should be said to the Unbeliever. What is the Gospel - the Good News - that should be presented to him.


29 December 2013 at 17:14  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Carl: "Presumably because he has read the first chapter of the Book of Romans."

It doesn't really matter what flavour of religion one looks at, there's always people willing to buy what's being sold.

29 December 2013 at 18:43  
Blogger Martin said...


And Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman, or the words he spoke to the man healed by the sheep gate pool? And remember too, what Jesus said of those killed by the tower?

How do people know they need a Saviour if the don't know they are sinners?

Did not the NT sermons require repentance and have you not read Peter's sermon where they are told they crucified the Messiah?

But we aren't told to convince the, that's the job of the Holy Spirit.

29 December 2013 at 19:09  
Blogger Martin said...


Whitfield & Edwards may have lived in different times but men and their sins are the same as they have ever been.

We are persuaded by God working in us, our natural inclination is to reject His mercy. It takes God to change that inclination, and we need to know our sin before seeing that there is good news.

I was talking about the CofE, not the Anglican communion as a whole. What needs to be thrown overboard is those for whom Scripture is not the rule, the authority. In Jesus' time it was the Pharisees & Saducees.

Those churches you mention are run by their members, who are responsible before God for their conduct.

It isn't a matter of seeing their sins but discerning whether they are truly believers.

29 December 2013 at 19:10  
Blogger Martin said...


It is a fact that all mankind knows God exists means, I'm afraid, so do Atheists.

29 December 2013 at 19:10  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Martin:"It is a fact that all mankind knows God exists means, I'm afraid, so do Atheists."

Perhaps you think the earth is flat too, mistaking beliefs or desires for facts? It's curious that you would assert that even Dawkins believes in your god but merely puts on a show for the world. The inconvenient fact that we tell you straight that we don't believe in your god is not enough to overrule your beliefs. Not the obvious fact that vast numbers of people in the world claim to believe in a different god, and sometines die for it, dents your confidence. Not even the argument that no-one who truly believed in your god with the attributes you define and the relationship between it and us would live as though he were an a-theist seems to sway you. You are indeed a Christian of your particular sect and no mistake.

29 December 2013 at 20:48  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

There is no god for DanJ0, but one does think he’ll still hang around this Christian site for now...

29 December 2013 at 22:09  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Martin.

Really if the semantics don't bother you they definitely should.

It is a known fact that most people do not understand the word "sin" in the theological sense that you do any more. You say "sin" meaning, I assume "that which separates man from God" or "any assented-to thought, word, or deed which is against the will and holiness of God" or a very similar definition. The man or woman on the street has a more tabloid definition akin to murdering your granny, or holding nazi-themed orgies. On that basis if he or she doesn't do anything grossly out of order and imprisonable qnd looks after his or her family he or she feels that anyone terming them a sinner is mad, and if clearly motivated by Christianity then they deem them to be a religious nut.

So that is one good reason to be careful when talking about sin. THere are no prizes for being obdurately unintelligible, and insisting that people come onto your semantic territory and understand it. A bit like insisting people come into your church and that you will never go out to meet them. It doesn't work.

You have to meet them where they are, as St Paul did when he preached about the monument "to the unknown God".

Also we all continually fall short so whilst useful to acknowledge objectively all the various ways, when speaking subjectively it is usually better to use "we" rather than "you"!!

Finally I fail to see what is wrong in saying that people need healing. Jesus said it. He said that people who are well do not need a doctor, I recall. He also healed a lot of people and in John Ch. 9 he spoke against those who associated lack of wholeness with a necessary connection to individual sin. We need all the healing going, so don't see why people are making problems and divisions where none need exist.

"I have come that you may have life- life in all its fulness". (John 10.10). It is that life that is on offer, and it is a liveliness that is desirable, so we do not need to bash people with a sense of despair and guilt that is overwhelming (or completely counterproductive) at all, and there are no records of Jesus doing it.

29 December 2013 at 22:26  
Blogger Len said...

I believe that people do know what is right and what is wrong according to God`s laws.
The means that they do this is by the God given conscience.
Justice and fairness are very important to most people.
Of course conscience can be denied and if one keeps on denying one`s conscience it can become 'deadened.'
So one has to persist in sin and to persistently deny the voice of conscience to shut it out.

So to oppose God is an action one must take and to deny God is to try and silence the voice within.

'For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although, not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them' (Romans 2:14,15).

30 December 2013 at 10:34  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


OK so you are saying.

I go down the pub and tell anyone who will listen that they are sinners.

They all know me for years and so know that some of them are far less sinful in their day to day than me.

So when they stop laughing and point this out

Then what?


30 December 2013 at 19:32  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


When they ask I talk quietly about my own experiences and say that no two people come to God in the same way

Picture it, Welsh pub, which is more likely to work?


30 December 2013 at 19:35  
Blogger Greg said...

The World Christian Encyclopaedia explains that there are 110 million Anglican Christians in this world. Not only can they be proud of their evangelistic success in the Global South, the matchless beauty of the classic editions of the Book of Common Prayer, the robust Biblical theology of the 39 Articles and the gifted and godly preaching of the Archbishop of Canterbury but they should also be very proud of this excellent blog. Well done "Your Grace"!

30 December 2013 at 23:26  
Blogger William Lewis said...


"Picture it, Welsh pub, which is more likely to work?"

I'm not sure that a Calvinist is too concerned with which approach will work, or rather they might say that whatever you do or say will work for those whom God has ordained it to work for and won't work for those He has not. As long as you preach the Gospel, you have discharged your duty, so far as the great commission is concerned.

31 December 2013 at 08:19  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


So you get in your can and find a pub that nobody knows you

You shout "sinners etc" and run like heck

Great Commission sorted.

I didn't realise that it was so easy.

Presumably that is why there should be two of you so one can have the car ready and idling outside the pub


31 December 2013 at 10:09  
Blogger William Lewis said...


That might be taking it too far :)

However, the question of who is ultimately responsible for the Great Commission is an interesting one, don't you think? For instance, do you believe that what we do or say can determine the salvation, or not, of others?

31 December 2013 at 10:28  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

31 December 2013 at 11:55  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


Yes I do.

Christianity must be attractive to people before they will listen. A person must come to the point of saying that is great, I wish it were true, but is it?

They will then listen and search for their own salvation/God calling them, depending on your viewpoint

I always use the feeding of the 5000. Jesus rejects time and time again the apostles saying that feeding these people is impossible, with their limited resources of just a few pieces of bread and fish. So they say, in effect, the situation is hopeless, we give up, so over to you Jesus... and this was logical, as Jesus could just have provided Manna or something else as God had done earlier. But Jesus made the disciples use their resources, bread and fish and made it into a miracle.


31 December 2013 at 11:56  
Blogger William Lewis said...


I agree with you that our methods are important and there can be no greater privilege than leading someone to the light. Whether they drink or not is ultimately between them and the Lord.

31 December 2013 at 12:35  
Blogger Martin said...


So who believes the Earth is flat, apart from that rather silly society who use that other nonsense, Evolution, to support their claims.

You will note of course that I don't say believe, but know. Everyone knows God exist but not everyone believes what God has said. Hence belief in God.

That many people create an external god, maybe out of wood, does not negate the fact that they, like you, have set themselves on the throne of their wills & become their own little god.

There ae no true Atheists for all know that God exists.

2 January 2014 at 10:04  
Blogger Martin said...


I say sin in the sense of disobeying God. And of course, most people compare themselves against their neighbour, who they denigrate anyway. So the first task of the preacher of the gospel is to point that out. They must realise that they are measured, not against their neighbour, but against the Holy God.

So how do we tell them about sin? Why, we point out that what they thought was good, or at worst a peccadillo, will lead them to Hell.

Their great sin is in pretending they don't know of God. What they thought was their honest examination of the evidence is a deliberate, wicked denial of the evidence.

That we all sin is to be admitted, as I do, but we are not examining our state but there's. They are dead in their sins. That is what Jesus meant by healing, he didn't mean the ailments of the body, which so often draw our attention, but the ailments of the soul. They need to be born again.

Until they despair why should they seek a solution? Do you go to the doctor when you are well? It isn't an enhancement to what they already have that Jesus offers, it is that which is new, new life for the dead.

2 January 2014 at 10:07  
Blogger Martin said...


Tell them that God judges them against His perfect holiness, not against their neighbour. And you tell them of the forgiveness of God that you have received, but they still need to understand their desperate need.

Christianity will never be attractive to people, they hate God, they know He exists but pretend He doesn't. The only way they will change is when the Holy Spirit works in them. But we are still called to tell them the bad news and the good.

2 January 2014 at 10:09  
Blogger Martin said...


It is not "110 million Anglican Christians" who save, but God.

2 January 2014 at 10:09  

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