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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The battles for the church


At a recent event the PM said, "At the centre of our society, perhaps more so than any other country I know in Western Europe, is the belief that churches and faith have a role. At the centre of our society is the belief that the legitimate public debate is how we interpret our Christian values and our faiths to make for a better society. At the centre of that is also a sense that families are important. What we can do to support family life in this country is absolutely crucial."

The Prime Minister went on to say, "...let us not forget that this is a country where the Christian values that were so important over all the centuries are still right at the centre of our national life. Never forget that, when we are reading newspapers or watching television, whatever you see day to day, there are issues far more important than the day-to-day coverage of individual events. They are the basic values that underpin our society."

I'd love to believe that. I'm just not convinced. I've been thinking about the wide variety of battles that the church faces in the UK, some internal and others external, some being won and others probably being lost. I've grouped them in a variety of categories:

The Battle for Truth
This is largely the ground for apologetics. Science and Faith, creation and evolution remains a constant battle. For many science has disproved God, the new atheists will continue to publicly declare that those who believe in a Creator are stupid and dangerous. Other fronts include the person of Jesus and the uniqueness of salvation through the Christ.

The Battle for Life
Fighting for the rights of the unborn remains one of the great tasks of the 21st century church. In the UK we've mostly given up the fight and having ceded the ground at the beginnings of life we are now facing a fight for the rights of the vulnerable and ill at the end of their life. The right to die will be again be hugely contested in the year to come.


The Battle for Holiness
This is an internal conflict and wars mostly over sexuality. The Church of England is the front line all across the world, which view of sexual ethics will win? But broader than that, many young Christians increasingly have no problem with co-habiting, sex before marriage and adopt materialistic lifestyles. Will the church heed the call for holiness?

The Battle for Doctrine
Another costly internal battle, but one that must continue. What will our view of scripture be? When we preach the cross, what will we mean? When we speak of sin, who will repent? When we talk of grace, will it be the costly or cheap version? When we talk of the church, baptism & following Christ, will they be truths that build the church or increase the similarity between church and world? Orthodoxy remains crucial.

The Battle for Credibility
On what does our ground for speaking to the world rest upon? For too long it has been our heritage and our history and that is being swept away. The Church should find it's ground somewhere else entirely - the vibrant alternative life of the Christ community, the good works it does caring for the poor, the lonely, the elderly, the addicted. The way it educates its children and spends its money (or maybe even doesn't spend its money), the qualities of its family life and the way it shares it with those around. The church does do an amazing amount in this area and the world doesn't always notice, but there is more good works planned for us to do.

All of these are important (and doubtless there are more), and we need evangelicals to be raising up the standard on all fronts. For me personally, the last one remains the one I feel most challenged by but I can't afford to ignore the others.

3 comments:

DaveW on 24 December 2009 at 00:09 said...

Not bad but I would like to see more of:

- The Battle for Justice

- The Battle for the Poor

- The Battle for Peace

These 3 could be summed up as the battle for Social Holiness (as a traditional Methodist view). I don't think credibility is quite right. We don't fight these battles because we want to be seen as credible. We fight them because that is the example and teaching of Jesus, because that is how we love our Neighbour and our enemies.

Then there is the Battle for discipleship or in Methodist terms Christian Perfection or Sanctification. Much more than holiness and far wider than sexuality.

Phil Whittall on 24 December 2009 at 08:57 said...

Hi Dave
Thanks for your comments - I certainly agree with those additions. On the credibility point, I wasn't suggesting we do it to be credible, but that at the moment there is an assumption we can speak into society based on all the wrong things. We can speak to society precisely because we stand for justice, care for the poor and fight for peace and not because we've been around a long time and bishops sit in the Lords.

DaveW on 24 December 2009 at 12:25 said...

Ah that makes the credibility make more sense to me. Thanks.

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