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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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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Baptists and sexuality

UPDATE: I reaffirm everything I said about BUGB handling this discussion astonishingly well, but I now understand that what I heard to be a change of policy was not…

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Preaching Dinah’s Silence

A few months ago we were preaching the life of Jacob in my local church, and I was given Gen. 35; as I came to prepare, I noticed that our preaching plan skipped over Gen. 34. On one level, no problem: in dealing with big chunks of Scripture we often do that; on another, though, I was uncomfortable. I’ve commented before in public about my concern over preachers – including me – silently passing over the several narratives of sexual violence that Scripture records; in view of this, I did not feel able to pass from Gen. 33 to Gen. 35 and silently ignore Dinah’s experience of rape, and the bizarre and violent events that followed. I read these texts again in my personal devotions this week, recalled struggling with how to preach them, and...

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