‘Sodomy’, celebrating the Eucharist, and other disgusting acts

One evening few weeks ago I tried out the perspective I have been developing over the past couple of years on a Christian ethics of sexuality on a lay audience for the first time (previously, I’ve aired it before academics and/or ministers); the general response was pleasingly positive, but, inevitably, there were folk who were not prepared to travel with me. One stood up to ask a question. ‘Dr Holmes [always a bad sign], what we are talking about here is sodomy. Do you not find sodomy disgusting when you think, when you really think, about what people are doing?’ Now, it was news to me that we were talking about sodomy: I’d talked a lot about marriage, a bit about fallenness, quite a bit about love, and a lot about asceticism, nothing...

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Why TED talks are far less interesting than revival sermons

I like good oratory. I teach public speaking regularly. I source and buy or download examples of great (imho…) examples of the genre, from business, politics, cinema, and the church. I watch the best of them over and over, making notes on why they work. I go over videos almost frame-by-frame with classes and seminars, pointing out this hand-movement, that inflection, the use of eyes, the deployment of silence, and of course two dozen or more classical rhetorical techniques, which I name easily in Greek and English. I like good oratory. A while ago, at a dinner party, the conversation turned to TED talks. I admitted, truthfully, that I have never yet watched to the end of one. It turned out that another guest was VP of a firm that sponsored one of the...

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On repentance, forgiveness, and the Church of the Second Chance

My friend Natalie Collins wrote a piece a few weeks ago for the (excellent) preachweb.org site responding to an earlier piece by Martin Saunders; both reflect on how a preacher might deal with the simmering news story concerning the footballer Ched Evans, who has recently been released from prison on licence for a rape conviction, and is looking for a club to resurrect his career. He is (or was) talented enough that a number of clubs are tempted; his crime, his refusal to acknowledge his guilt, and his public lack of remorse, are together sufficiently sickening that the opinion of the public and (perhaps more crucially) that of a significant number of financial sponsors is set against at having him at any particular club. As a result a rolling story is being...

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‘A dirge for the down-grade?’

I recently had a meeting in London at the Oasis Waterloo centre; arriving slightly early, I stayed on the tube for one more stop and went to the Metropolitan Tabernacle bookshop, which I frequent fairly regularly, mostly for its republications of older Puritan and Baptist material that is not easily available elsewhere. I picked up, amongst other things, a slim paperback promising Spurgeon’s original source materials on the ‘Down Grade’ controversy, the event that led to his withdrawal from the Baptist Union, and to several strained relationships. The volume is not complete (most obviously to my eyes, MTP2085, ‘A Dirge for the Down-Grade’, is missing; that said, I had the privilege of discovering and cataloging Spurgeon’s own...

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Why I don’t want to win many arguments

I have had a couple of conversations with (good, close, affirming, valued) friends recently in which I have been challenged to be less generous in argument: ‘truth matters, and we need to contend for it!’ – that sort of line. I confess that this makes me uncomfortable. Truth does matter, yes; that said, my present opinions are, I am certain, not truth. I hope that, in many cases, they approximate to it; in certain core cases I fervently hope that they approximate closely. I do not, however, want to confuse myself with the One who could say ‘I am the Truth’. Because of this, there is a proper humility and a proper provisionality in the way I hold my opinions; in all things, I acknowledge that I might be wrong. As to needing to contend...

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Abolishing the secular life

In our beginnings, Baptists did away with various traditional distinctions of Christian life. Although practising ordination, we denied it established any set-apart hierarchy within the life of the church; we also rejected the traditional Roman Catholic practice of recognising a particular consecration of certain people, clerical or lay, to ‘religious life’, characterised by the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience (in popular parlance, this is the way of life of monks and nuns, although that is to elide a number of important distinctions between (e.g.) sisters and nuns, or monks and friars). This was all narrated as a rejection of priesthood, and of the religious life, and, historically, we generally accepted those...

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Again, on conferences and statistics

Ian Paul, who I have never had the pleasure of meeting, but with whom I interact regularly online, posted some reflections occasioned by my blog post on his blog (I think it is better to describe it like that than as a ‘response’). I’m sorry to move back over here rather than responding directly there (not least because his blog is much more professional, much nicer-looking, and (I assume) much more widely read than mine), but this essay just got too long. Before I start, I should say that I respect Ian greatly, that we agree on most subjects (although he belongs to one of those strange sects that sprinkle infants…), and have made common cause together before now. Specifically, given the topic under discussion, Ian has been a committed and...

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