Saturday, 28 May 2011


There's been lots of chat on Facebook recently about the role of women based on what I'd like to suggest are some basic misunderstandings of scripture. Here's my take on it:

Adam was created first
Yes he was, but not as an indicator of role or supremacy!! Adam and Eve were both created in the image of God ('let us make man in our image'...male and female he created them), both were called to the same role (to go into all the world and disciple it) both were given authority to do the job (have dominion...)
The context of Adam being created first is really very simple and very obvious if we take off our preconceived male-dominated view of things... Every time God created something, he looked at it and declared it 'good' or 'very good'. There's a reason for that! When it comes to looking at Adam on his own, God declares 'it is not good...' God deliberately creates one sex before the other to demonstrate that even before the fall, we are created in such a way that requires other human intimacy. Which makes complete sense given the bigger context - God created us to be recipients and givers of divine love. Before the fall we had complete unhndered access to his divine love - but had no-one to give it to. So God makes the point graphically. Time after time he creates and says 'this is good' then with his ultimate creation (humankind) he creates one sex without the other and says 'this is not good'.  In fact to emphasise the point further, with this extraordinary ache in his heart, Adam is invited by God to look around at the diversity of this paradise and see if there is anything there (including God himself) that can satisfy this longing. And of course there isn't! So God creates Eve, the perfect other piece of the humanity jigsaw puzzle, the exact fit - that together, male and female, they might represent the fulness of God's loving image.

Man is the head of the woman as Christ is head of the Church
Remember the culture of the time - male dominance was the uncontested norm. Most women had no rights, no status, no protection. men being the head of the woman was not a revelation, not a surprising new concept, it was the ingrained pattern. So Paul says 'so, you reckon that men are the head of the women?' and everyone says 'er, yes, of course, why do you even ask?'. Then Paul goes on 'ok then, if you men think you are the head, here's your example, here's the pattern you're going to have to follow in that case. Go on, if you're so keen on this, you be head, but only in the same way that Jesus is head of the church'. That's when they wanted to kill him. Because Jesus is head of the church by way of a cross. Jesus is head of the church not through power, not through might, but by his spirit. Jesus is head of the church.not by dictation but by serving. This is the radical message that Paul announces: 'Men, you no longer have the right to manipulate, set your own agenda, selfishly promote your own interests. If you want to lead, you do so as a servant'. They wanted to imprison him, to kill him - in part because of these revolutionary ideas.

Wives submit to your husbands
Ever gone into a house where they have one of the cheesy Christian saying's on the wall? 'Footprints' or 'God Bless This Home' or some such? Well, Roman culture had their equivalent. There are literally hundreds of examples stil in existence. They were called 'household codes' and they were hung in the house so that everyone knew their place, what was expected of them. They differed a bit but they all followed the same format. The key relationships were listed followed by a statement of expectations. Typically; Husbands, rule your wives. Wives obey your husbands. Children obey your parents, Slaves work hard and be obedient. They always focussed on the rights of those who were important - never on those who were subject to authority. Now, Paul produces his own version of these ubiquitous household codes. Using the well known, familiar format he turns the world upside down. He starts by saying 'everyone should be subject to everyone' an utterly unheard of, ridiculous, destabilising concept. Then he takes the traditional household code statements and unpicks them one by one. He leads them in gently: 'wives be subject to your husbands'. Absoultely, all the men nod in agreement. Then the sucker punch... 'Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.' Paul places a requirement on the men - unbelievable. Worse, the requirement is to act in a particular way towards the ones they were traditionally supposed to lord it over.... And he does the same for all the relationships. Children obey your parents. Tick. As it should be. Parents don't be self-serving in your parenting. What? A demand placed on parents? The ones with authority? Ridiculous. Finally, slaves obey your masters, work for them as if you are working for God himself. Quite right too. Masters be kind and loving to those who serve you. Outrageous!

Paul is not reinforcing the old traditional views of heirarchy, he is dismantling them. Men are not over women, Christ is over all, we are all subject to one another.

Women shouldn't teach, they can't handle truth
Now if this was what was meant by Paul , why would he praise Timothy's female relatives specifically for teaching him about the faith? And more importantly, why would Jesus avoid meeting anyone after he was risen on easter Sunday until Mary came alone? Well where else do you have a woman in a garden being told something purporting to be true about God? In that first garden, Eve was deceived and she believed a lie about God. Since then the lie has been propounded - women shouldn't be trusted with truth. If the cross and resurrection is to be effective, that lie has to be overturned. So what does Jesus do? Meets this woman alone in the garden and entrusts to her the greatest truth in the history of eternity. Jesus deliberately avoids the men and waits for this fallen, looked down on, shamed woman, and commands her -'go tell the men'; woman, teach the men the greatest truth ever.... In this act he restores Mary and redeems the broken view of womanhood.

And finally!
Men can be so hypocritical in all this. A woman isn't allowed to teach 'in church' but she can teach the most vulnerable group - the children. She can't teach the men, but those same men can send her overseas as a missionary (where they won't go!!!) but when she comes back she can only tell the women's meeting! Hypocrites!! She can lead teams and plant churches when she's overseas, but woe betide her if she tries to do that here.

This is not just bad theology, it's self-serving, arrant nonesense!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ken Clarke

David writes:
I'm old enough to remember Kenneth Clarke when he was Kenneth Clarke - part of Maggie's henchmen. Now of course it's 'trust me', I'm an elder statesmen, national treasure, very warm and of the people 'Ken Clarke'.

I'm also a man and like Mr Clarke, wholly ill-equipped to talk credibly about rape. But like Ken, I'm going to anyway.

God is love. Love does not insist on it's own way. Anyone who insists on their own way is unloving and unlike God. Insisting on your own way is about control, which is at the heart of witchcraft - the very antithesis of God.

Sex was given as a gift to mankind as a means of expressing that love, over and above its function for reproduction. It is at the heart of marriage and marriage is the highest picture of God's desired relationship with us.

Moreover, God endued humankind with the humanity, the self-control not to act out of animal instinct, but out of compassion, kindness, gentleness and love.

Rape is the act of someone acting as an animal, out of instict rather than the humanity and self-control God gifted us with. It is a choice to act in a way that stabs at the heart of who God is and who He has made us to be. In Jesus we see one who, although He had the right to omnipotence, chose instead of controlling to be controlled. Jesus exercised the  most extraordinary self-control, the rapist seeks only to control.

Rape takes that which was intended as the joyful free giving of two people to one another and turns it into one person forcibly taking it from the other. It turns the most beautiful picture of what God has for us in relationship with Him and grinds it into the dust of mere pleasure seeking on behalf of the rapist.

Rape takes the heart of love - the ability to choose - and turns it to the most awful abuse, instead of seeking the best for the beloved it seeks only itself and controls everything else for that one end.Of course, murder takes away a persons choice for ever, but rape leaves the person living with the powerlessness, the godlessness of it.

Rape, Mr Clarke is perhaps the ultimate picture of a life given over to evil.

Catherine writes
Ken Clarke is ignorant - the problem is that ignorance from the top propagates silence. It encourages the old lie that leads to victims of rape thinking that they are stupid, that they should just get over it, that its just that they are weak, that these things happen, that they shouldn't have been so naive. But then the blame, the burden, the pain has nowhere to go but inwards.

Have you seen the silent pain of many,
whose heavy load of shame from past,
they should not have to carry
Have you seen the people who battle through each day
to keep living in this world
because of the self blame
Have you seen the way the body tries to deal,
by shutting down emotions so the pain
seems not so real
Have you seen the loss of trust when it is so abused
by people who make choices
that they are going to use
Have you seen people stopped from receiving love
because of people who have taken
what they shouldn't of

Have you seen the anger that has nowhere to go
the depression then to cope with it
the self esteem so low

But don't you see the people hiding in the dark
in silence because attitudes
subtley blame the ones so hurt...

Mr Clarke, this blog thinks you should resign.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The First Three Months

We spent the first three months of this new adventure up in Carlisle, working with the YWAM team there. Some of you will know that we were in Youth With A Misson, based in Harpenden, during the 90's and still have great affection for this amazing movement.

We've continued to serve in teaching and friendship since those days. So when we had our sabbatical from the church where David was on staff (SBC) it was natural to spend some of that time with YWAM. Whilst there the Base Leader challenged us to pray about the possibility of returning to Carlisle to oversee their next Discipleship course. This seemed impossibly unlikely given our staff role at SBC - and for many other reasons! So, almost inevitably that's what we found ourselves doing!

[caption id="attachment_88" align="alignright" width="200" caption="click image for more photo's of 'The Lakes'"][/caption]

It was a great time, working with some fantastic young leaders and great trainees in a very beautiful part of the world. If you want to read more about YWAM Carlisle click here!

Whilst we were there we were able to run a couple of "Thinking Allowed" live events in a local pub. These always provide great opportunities to engage with a wide range of people on significant faith issues.

A highlight for us particularly was to use the DTS staff and trainees in a production of "Mary's Diary" at a local church. It has opened up a new way of offering this and was extremely well received.

An extraordinary three months, a real gift to us!

Saturday, 7 May 2011


SBC (the church we are part of) has been going through a process defining, refining and clarifying vision. (For more on this exciting adventure click here)  It's made me think .... Without vision people run round like headless chickens (somewhere in bible) When there is no clarity of vision, people have visions but they are not in line with each other, energy is wasted, resources are wasted. etc. Vision is important, it says where to head, what part to play, what things to do (and what to give up/not do). So having vision, describing vision, is vitally important. And of course you have to explain it in terms that people understand.

But it seems to me that once it's been described and communicated, it's the work of the Holy Spirit to convince people of it. Trying to persuade people of something, leaves us exhausted. Worse, it takes energy from the work of actually achieving the vision. I can just see Moses at his umpteenth vision meeting with the tribal leaders trying to nail the final words in the mission statement to be presented to Pharaoh. 'Yeah, we've now got a 70% approval rating from the tribe of Dan, but Nephtali is insiting we change it to represent the democratic process. So we've scrubbed 'Let my people go', it's now 'The people, after long and detailed discussion have decide that it is in their economic interest to be allowed to move on at a mutually convenient time'

So here's some Thinking Allowed 'Pitfalls with Vision' Let us know if you agree!

1) God shows us where we are going to head, and we don't step in his timing
2)We have things that we think we are good at, and miss out on Gods plans cos we go it alone outside of his vision
3) we limit it to our own capabilities, and assume that where we are heading is impossible to do
4) We go it alone, see the whole vision as ours to do, take on all the responsibility, when often God wants partnership with other people/ team/ other giftings to come into play.
5) We want certainty when God wants relationship, trust and faith.
6) We use vision as a means to prove ourselves, and our abilities, rather than in love and relationship with God, and in his strength and power, under his direction.
7) We try and control the vision/manage it/ manipulate things to make it happen
8) We try and bolt the vision onto other things we are doing, ending up overextended
9) We have opposition and give up

Any others?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Who does God love?

I like logic. It's like lego for your mind. One bit added to another till you've built something amazing!
You can do the same with scripture too. Grab a few verses, fit them together and heh, before you know it, you've got a doctrine!

Or maybe you prefer 'ready, steady, cook'. You know the format, random ingredients, celebrity chefs, 20 minutes - amazing meal. Same thing - random selection of scripture, celebrity preacher, 20 minute sermon,  beautifully presented doctrine.

Trouble is when you start to ask 'what sort of God would God have to be if this were true? Does that stack up against what we see revealed in the breadth of scripture?'

Here's a topical example:

1. We are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that we have nothing to boast about
2. This means we can have no part in the process of our salvation
3. It all has to be initiated and accomplished by God
4. Because if not, we could point to the bit we did and say 'heh, look how good I am'

Where does this lead? Well, if it is all of God, we cannot be involved in the decision as to whether to respond to God or not. Because if we have to choose as part of the process of our salvation, then that in itself is a work in which we can boast. 'See, I chose God, what a great decision I made'

But if we have no choice in whether we are saved or not, God's grace / love must be irresistable - it must be so powerful as to overwhelm, to make our choice redundant. Thus if God chooses to love someone, it must inevtiably lead to them loving Him, it cannot be left to their choice. It is God's initiative, the person had no part to play except to respond in the way they had to - and therefore it is God's work not the persons. Salvation by grace.

What does God look like then?
Which is why I asked the question in the title. Here's some more logic:

1. Not all people believe
2. Everyone who God loves has to believe because His love is irresistible
3. God's love must actually only be given to those He has chosen will believe.

Add this conclusion to a superficial read of Paul's passages on election and predestination and you arrive at the classic the reformed position in which God has, for His own mysterious purposes, chosen ahead of time to save some and not others. Those He has predestined to eternal life He extends His irresistable love and grace to; they have no choice but to respond and are saved. Those who are not predestined for this cannot be saved but are under God's wrath and eternal judgment.

Thinking Allowed
Now, lets 'Think allowed' - does this sound like the God revealed in the Bible as a whole? A God who does not love everybody, or at least not enough to save them? Haven't we fallen into the same legalistic trap as the scribes and pharisees, boxing God on the basis of our logical extensions to his revelation of himself?

Surely when Paul talks about 'works' the natural connection to make given everything else he writes is with 'works of the law'. We are saved by God's goodness, not by ticking boxes of external behaviour. No amount of law keeping can substitute for a loving relationship, whereas of course a loving relationship will result in loving behaviour.

Love, Paul tells us does not insist on it's own way. God is love. God throughout scripture gives us choice. God's love is poured out equally on everyone. Whether we choose to benefit from that love is up to us. That's not a work for boasting, it's a choice for rejoicing.