The place of the churches in society

In an article in the Independent newspaper this week, Mary Ann Sieghart (or her subeditor) announced that ‘You don’t have to believe in God to cherish the Church’, a proposition which she offered in response to the latest attack by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins produced a survey showing that many people who ticked the ‘Christian’ – perhaps particularly the ‘Church of England’  - box on the census showed few signs of basic Christian knowledge, and reported little participation in Christian practice. His figures were hardly surprising, of course: it is not news that the 70% of the population who claim to be Christian are not all at worship on Sunday morning. He drew from them the conclusion that self-identification should...

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The Holy Trinity

My book on the Trinity is now published in UK & RoW (US rights are with IVP USA – don’t have a date for their publication). Paternoster have it available for order here; No doubt Amazon et al. will catch up soon. The book is cast as a history of Trinitarian doctrine, with a heavy emphasis on the fourth and twentieth centuries; to give a flavour of the argument, it closes with these words, citing some of the authors I consider along the way: …we set out on our own to offer a different, and we believed better, doctrine. We returned to the Scriptures, but we chose (with Tertullian’s Praxeas, Noetus of Smyrna, and Samuel Clarke) to focus exclusively on the New Testament texts, instead of listening to the whole of Scripture with Tertullian,...

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The right place to Occupy?

Reading about the history of preaching, I tripped over these comments by W.J. Torrance Kirby: …unlike the royal Abbey of Westminster, St Paul’s was always perceived as belonging more to subjects than to princes, and this peculiar status was to acquire increased significance over time. From the earliest records it is clear that the cathedral churchyard was one of the favoured settings for popular protest, a place where public grievances could be aired. For centuries this was the meeting place of London’s folk-moot; royal guarantee of the liberties of the City was proclaimed here in the reign of Henry III; Paul’s Cross was also a rallying point for adherents of Simon de Montfort’s rebellion. In the sixteenth century this place was the acknowledged epicentre...

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Modesty wraps rock! Or, getting public theology right

Over the last couple of weeks I have become aware of a campaign in the UK to make ‘modesty wraps’ (that is, plain covers) compulsory on all magazines displaying sexually explicit content on their covers. I am not sure who started it – there was an earlier, and linked, campaign concerning the placement of such magazines in Cooperative stores – but my friend Carl Beech has been energetic in promoting it on Twitter and elsewhere. This strikes me not just as a campaign I want to support, but as an excellent example of the doing of public theology. Public theology, it seems to me, should always be a rather ad hoc activity: as I have argued in print before now, confession of belief in the Incarnation demands that we believe that theology does...

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‘If God is male…’

‘… then the male is God.’ So wrote Mary Daly in a – perhaps the – classic text of early feminist theology, Beyond God the Father (Beacon, 1973). Daly’s argument in the book was that the predominantly masculine imagery deployed for God in Judaeo-Christian traditions inevitably led to a patriarchal society in which women were multiply disadvantaged; the proper ethical response, in her view, was to reject all Judaeo-Christian religious traditions as demonstrably immoral and so unworthy of belief. (This is a too-brief summary of a brilliant book; I actually had the pleasure of discussing it briefly with Daly a few years before she died when she rang me up out of the blue – a long story. As an evangelical minister, I...

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