‘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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Jesus is my favoured suitor? Erotic spirituality in earlier ages

A good-natured, entertaining, and informative discussion occurred a week or so ago online, sparked by Carl Beech and Vicky Beeching, concerning the perceived ‘feminization’ of worship songs, resulting in a ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ spirituality in (some strands of) contemporary worship which (it is argued by some) might keep men away from the church. I don’t want to argue the subject at hand particularly, but some historical context occurred to me. I was typing up some songs for our evening service this afternoon, and came across a query from our musical director with reference to Isaac Watts’s ‘How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.’ One verse, in Newton’s original, read: Jesus, my Shepherd, Husband, Friend, My...

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The Ecclesiology of a Pilgrim

Talking with a student about Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress reminded me of the old canard about the basic problem of the book being its lack of ecclesiology. For all Bunyan’s brilliance, he paints a picture, the complaint goes, of a solitary Christian, working out his own salvation, with no mention of the church at all. This is a gross misrepresentation. There are images of the local congregation in the text: House Beautiful, for one. But the centrality of ecclesiology to the book is not found there. Throughout the text, Christian hardly walks a step of his way alone. His pilgrimmage is constantly shared with, and guided by, other pilgrims, notably Hopeful and Faithful, but also Evangelist, The Interpreter, Watchful, the Shepherds, the House...

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Emergent Puritan…

…sounds like it ought to be a blog title. There is considerable grass-roots interest in the Puritans amongst a certain slice of current Christianity. This is, of course, a good thing–any interest in church history is a good thing, and the Puritans represented a practical and doctrinally serious model of living the faith that deserves and repays reflection. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in some attempts to renew popular and scholarly interest in the Puritans, and applaud some others. However… I observe that most of those interested in the Puritans fall into the ‘golden age’ trap. Ignoring all that was wrong with the movement (and there was plenty), and even all the diversity in the movement (and there was even more),...

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