Theology, ethics, and church growth: or, how to prove anything with statistics

It is an important part of the role of the academic, particularly the academic who chooses to comment in non-specialist arenas, to be very clear about precisely what is, and what is not, shown by a given piece of evidence. I picked up on a minor Twitter storm yesterday concerning claims and counter-claims about the linkage of church decline with a progressive/accepting stance on issues of sexuality.

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Moral arguments for independence

The Sunday Herald yesterday ran an advertisement carrying the names of thirty-four Church of Scotland ministers committed to a claim that a yes vote in the independence referendum would improve social justice in Scotland. Three individuals were quoted, two of them offering (what could be constructed as) moral arguments in favour of independence. Are they right? My judgement is that one might be, but it relies on an undemonstrated premise if it is; the other is wrong; both judgements depend on some interesting moral reasoning which is worth exploring.

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Why it’s WEIRD to be straight

A woman (Christian) I know told me a few weeks ago that she objected to being asked to tick a box on equal opportunities forms that said ‘heterosexual’. Married for over twenty years, she felt that ticking that box implied that she had erotic desires for people other than her husband, people defined by a particular characteristic (being male); this was not her experience of her own sexuality, and she resented being forced to suggest that it was. In the culture I live in this self-narration is deeply counter-cultural; but the culture I live in is weird, or better WEIRD, and that is extraordinarily important. The ‘WEIRD’ acronym was coined by psychologists who realised, rather late in the day some of us might feel, that performing...

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Of Baptists, General and Particular

A question occurred to me this week; Baptist historians are very accustomed to speaking of the ‘General Baptists’ and the ‘Particular Baptists’ to denote the Calvinistic and Arminian streams of the movement in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; but when did those terms become current? Thanks to the wonders of EEBO (Early English Books Online; an utterly magnificent research tool), I can say with confidence that the answer is ‘surprisingly early’. Thomas Crosby’s 1738 History of the English Baptists was my first try: vol. I, p. 173, says this: It may be proper to observe here, that there have been two parties of the English Baptists in England ever since the beginning of the reformation; those that have followed...

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Job opportunities in Durham, UK

I’ve been asked to advertise the following posts, and am very happy to do so. CODEC is made up of great people doing great work. CODEC are pleased to invite applications for three new posts within this exciting and pioneering Research Project based at St John’s College in the University of Durham. CODEC are looking for: Curator for the Digital Discipleship Project (full-time, Grade 6) Research Fellow in Digital Resources (full-time, Grade 6) Research Fellow in Biblical Literacy (full-time, Grade 6) Curator:  http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/codec/JDPSCurator.pdf CODEC is looking for a key creative person with a background in theology to develop and curate a major digital platform exploring discipleship in the 21st century, as well as to engage in research...

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Spiritus: A poem for Pentecost

Spiritus   De sensibili autem demonstratione spiritus sancti sive per columbae speciem sive per linguas igneas… (Augustine, De Trin. IV.xxi)   As dove to him you came; To us you come as fire. Soft, his soul, and smooth Conformed from conception To be your habitation.   We, though, are misshapen, Angular, deformed, refractory. Like agate eggs our hearts Are stone Lined with scattered, shattered spikes, That surround a light-starved void.   We must be Transformed Burnt clean Melted And then remade.   You sear and cauterize us, Holy Dove. You burn long-calcified layers of self; Blazing, you fill the space within, until Our molten souls are ready to be Reformed By some almighty potter Possessed of flame-proof hands.   But when our...

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‘Home for Good’

Home for Good began life as a campaign started by the UK Evangelical Alliance to promote church involvement in fostering and adoption. It has continued as a movement jointly sponsored by EAUK, Care for the Family, and CCPAS. It is now becoming a charity in its own right, to have a permanent existence. I’ve been on the council of the EA for about four years now, and a member of its board for the last couple; I’m honoured to be involved with a great organisation doing many wonderful things, and I’m proud of most of the things to which we, as a board, have been able to give permission, funding, prayer, and encouragement. But Home for Good is probably the one thing we’ve started that I am most inspired by. I remember the lightbulb moment when...

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