Think Theology says on it’s website that it is a collaboration of thinkers and writers who are passionate about the Church, and who enjoy spending time wrestling with deep theological questions and helping others to engage with them. We liked the sound of this, so we took a look.

Alongside the core team, there are some 35 well-known and respected Christian thinkers and guest writers contributing to the content of the site. These include Andrew Wilson, Chine Mbubaegbu, Jennie Pollock, Guy Millar and many others.

Find out more about Think Theology here.

The site looks at a range of topics and current issues. Key themes include apologetics, church history and hermeneutics. Within each of these, and beyond many famous theologians and commetators are referenced and difficult topics tackled such as culture, politics, coronavirus, ethics, Jesus, heidelberg catechism, books, church, prayer, sexuality and many more!

Below are shown the latest few blog posts from the site:

Think Theology Keeping up to date with papers and blog articles from the Think Theology website.

  • A Biblical Case for Surrogacy?
    by Matthew Hosier on 13th May 2022

    While teaching on ethics in the US recently, I repeated the observation that surrogacy is akin to slavery. In the current political climate of the States this was deemed too controversial and we decided to edit it out of the video footage of the sessions. So how about approaching the subject from a different angle? Rather than simply opposing surrogacy ( this statement summarises reasons for doing so) is there a biblical framework that might cause us to endorse it? Central to the Old Testament narrative is the essential place of having children. This really is essential because the generation of offspring is the way by which the covenant was enacted. Without offspring there could be no inheritance of the land and no holding onto the promises. This is why instructions and examples are given about family members stepping in to bear children for those who were themselves unable to – either because they had died or due to infertility. Levirate marriage (described in Deut. 25) prescribes how a man is to marry his dead brother’s wife in order that she may bear children in the dead man’s name. Does this provide us with a positive model for surrogacy? Probably not: if anything it provides us with a framework for polygamy! The first born son of such a marriage ‘belongs’ to the dead man but the biological parents of the child are married (there is no adultery), and the child will be raised by them (there is no maternal separation), and there is no donation of gametes from a third party (again, no hint of adultery). So this really doesn’t provide a model for contemporary surrogacy. What of cases where an infertile woman nominates a surrogate to bear children on her behalf? The obvious example of this is Sarah ‘giving’ Hagar to Abraham; and we might also consider the fertility arms race between Rachel and Leah and their two servants. This is the closest we get to a parallel with some contemporary examples of surrogacy. We might compare it with a sister who becomes pregnant by her brother-in-law in order to provide them with a baby. If a biblical ground for surrogacy is going to be developed this could be the strongest plank in the argument. Even here, though, there are some considerable issues to navigate. One is that this surrogacy strategy never ends happily. In the result, Sarah turns against Hagar in a brutal way, and the relationship between Leah and Rachel is dysfunctional, to say the least. Having a baby is a deeply emotional as well as physical reality so it is unsurprising if it carries significant potential for interpersonal rifts. Should we encourage this kind of potential? Also, in both these examples, the ‘surrogates’ were servants: in fact, it would perhaps be more accurate to think of them as slaves. There is no indication that either Hagar nor Bilhah or Zilpah had any agency in the decision to make them available to, respectively, Abraham and Jacob. As members of Abraham’s and Jacob’s households they were effectively chattels of the patriarch who then became a kind of wife to him once they entered sexual relations with him. Moreover, they were expected to remain within the household and raise their children themselves. Again, this is more argument for polygamy than surrogacy and it is unlikely that a contemporary surrogate would be prepared to enter a similar arrangement. A final biblical example that has been suggested to me is around the conception of Christ. This is very dangerous – and sacred – territory but was it a form of surrogacy when the Most High overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35) and she conceived? Without getting into the deep Christological issues here it should be obvious that the incarnation was of a completely different order from what we see in modern surrogacy. A key, practical, aspect is that Mary herself raised Jesus – he was not snatched away at the moment of birth to be raised by others. Rather, Mary willingly submitted herself to the Lord’s purposes in conceiving and raising her son (Luke 1:38). It is worth us teasing out these biblical examples as governments around the world increasingly legislate in favour of surrogacy. Christian couples will undoubtedly be caught up in the cultural tide and consider whether this is an appropriate way for them to overcome infertility. I hope that we might be able to withstand that tide.

  • How Should Christians Think About Gun Control?
    by Andrew Wilson on 5th May 2022

    A few weeks ago I had the privilege of debating Bob Thune over the issue of gun control, as the first of The Gospel Coalition's "Good Faith Debates." (The idea is to model civil disagreement on the issues which are dividing the American church in particular; other subjects covered in the debates include race, abortion, "wokeness," pronouns, and so forth.) We both made a ten minute presentation, and then had a moderated discussion about our disagreements. A video of the whole thing is here, along with the text of what I said: There’s a long and distinguished tradition of British people crossing the Atlantic and telling Americans that they should lay down their arms. We’re having this conversation just a few hundred yards from the Capitol building and the Presidential Mansion that my ancestors burned down two centuries ago. So it is probably worth clarifying that this paper is not motivated by a desire for you to surrender your empire, become loyal subjects of Her Majesty, and give us back our tea. If anything, it is motivated by the desire to save American lives, especially those of the most vulnerable in society, rather than to take them. You all know the statistics, I’m sure. America is a striking outlier amongst rich countries when it comes to gun deaths, and indeed homicide rates in general. Over 100 people are shot and killed every day in this country. 25 times as many people are murdered with firearms than in other rich countries, and 28 times as many women. Guns appear to substantially increase the total number of homicides: last year, there were as many murders in Philadelphia as in England, despite the population of England being thirty times the size. These deaths are disproportionately clustered amongst poor communities and African Americans, with black Americans ten times more likely to be shot dead than white Americans. One million American women have been shot at by a domestic partner. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children. And so on. I doubt there is anybody here who is not grieved by these statistics, or who does not see them as a serious problem. The question is whether anything can or should be done about them, and if so, what. Australia faced that question in 1996. After thirty-five people were killed in a mass shooting in Tasmania, the government took robust action, banning all semi-automatic and automatic weapons, imposing longer and stricter waiting periods and more rigorous licensing and storage restrictions, and requiring a “genuine reason” to own a gun (which included hunting and target shooting, but did not include self-defence). Since then the government has bought back one million semi-automatic weapons, halving the total number of gun-owning households in the country. The number of gun homicides has dramatically reduced in that time, and the overall homicide rate has halved. I mention the Australian example because Australia seems to me to share a number of cultural traits with the USA which European countries, including mine, do not—low population density, dangerous animals, a legacy of hunting, a Wild West, a popular culture of rugged masculinity—as well as a tragic recent history of mass shootings, and (interestingly) high popular support for tightening firearm restrictions. Of course there are additional political and legal obstacles to reform in the US which do not exist in Australia. But that will not trouble most people in this audience. Pro-life Christians in this country have a track record of advocacy for what they believe is right in the face of congressional and/or juridicial intransigence. My case today involves four claims, and I have already made the first two: 1) Gun violence is a large and tragic problem which afflicts America far more than comparable nations, and disadvantaged Americans more than anybody else. This is a grievous injustice. 2) International examples suggest that this injustice could be reduced if tighter gun restrictions were applied. Domestic examples do too: regression analysis comparing US states has shown that greater restrictions are strongly correlated with lower gun deaths, although unsurprisingly there is plenty of debate about the whys and wherefores of that. 3) The benefits of tighter gun controls, both for potential victims and the communities in which they live (and die), outweigh the limitations on personal freedom that they involve. (I will save #4 for now, for fear of losing my audience!) Let us assume for a moment that nobody here is talking about an absolute ban on all potentially deadly weapons for all citizens. I don’t propose a ban on carving knives, baseball bats or moving vehicles, even though they can be used to kill people. I don’t even propose a ban on hunting rifles or target ranges, both of which are legal in the UK, and both of which I have used myself. At the same time, I will assume that nobody here believes there should be no limits on the potentially deadly weapons that an individual can own. I would be amazed if anyone here thought private citizens should be allowed to own nuclear devices, cluster bombs, howitzers, or VX gas, on the grounds that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. In other words, I suspect most of us already believe that citizens have the right to bear some “arms,” and that the right to bear other “arms” should be infringed, no matter what the second amendment says. Put differently, there is a spectrum, with carving knives at one end and weapons of mass destruction at the other. At the light end, we might issue a warning on the packaging, refuse to sell them to children, or restrict their carriage in public spaces. At the heavy end, we would arrest anyone found making or owning one on suspicion of domestic terrorism. The “rights” in each case are not absolute. They are balanced with the “right” of other people to cut up steak or play baseball—or the “right” not to be blown to smithereens while walking home from work. We think the benefits of using carving knives are greater than the risks of being stabbed by them, whereas the personal freedom to own Molotov cocktails (?) is dramatically outweighed by the chance of killing and maiming innocent people. Our assessment of where something sits on that spectrum, I suggest, is a function of lethality (how many people it could kill), teleology (what it was designed for), and utility (what it is typically used for). So let me ask this: Where on that spectrum would we put assault weapons? Machine guns? AR-15s? The sorts of weapons that Australia banned 25 years ago? I put it to you that when it comes to lethality, teleology and utility, those weapons are clearly at the heavier end of the spectrum. They are designed to injure and kill people. They are used to injure and kill people, with appalling frequency. They are far more like a Molotov cocktail than a carving knife or a baseball bat. So if implementing Australian-style restrictions would half the number of innocent people being killed by them, or even close to it, then that benefit should take precedence over the personal freedom to own them. Nothing I have said so far is uniquely Christian. My first three arguments are based on the common good, and can be used in the public square, regardless of whether the audience is evangelical or even Christian. But my fourth and final claim is more radical. 4) Christians should oppose the use of deadly weapons on principle, because we are committed to the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, the practice of nonviolence. Followers of Jesus should oppose the use of AR-15s or machine guns in self-defence for the same reason that we should oppose land mines, drone strikes, capital punishment and abortion: Christians should never kill people. That’s a tricky case to make in sixty seconds, but here goes: Jesus never used violence against people, whether to defend himself or to defend the innocent. He teaches his followers to live the same way, not resisting evil, and turning the other cheek (Matt 5; Luke 6). Every time a disciple tries or threatens to use violence in the gospel, even in defence of the innocent, Christ rebukes them (Luke 9, 22; John 19). The apostles regularly present Jesus’s suffering as an example for believers to follow (Rom 12; Phil 2; 1 Pet 2). Disciples are commended for joyfully accepting the plunder of their property (Heb 10). Our struggle is not with worldly enemies or worldly weapons (Eph 6). Christians conquer not by killing but by dying: by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and not loving our lives even to death (Rev 12). And every church father before Constantine who addressed the subject—Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Athenagoras—agreed that killing image-bearers of God is always wrong. I’m not naïve: I know my audience will mostly disagree with me here. Be that as it may, there is a strong common good case for tighter gun controls in America, perhaps along Australian lines, which “Just War” advocates could also support. The stakes are high: ten Americans will be shot during this brief debate, whereas in Britain, we average one gun death per week. And the reason why, I submit to you, is encapsulated by Hilaire Belloc, albeit it in a very different context: Whatever happens, We have got The Maxim gun And they have not. Thank you.

  • They saw the God of Israel
    by Jennie Pollock on 14th April 2022

    "Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank."I have read Exodus 24 before. I know I have. Several times, in fact. But somehow I have never noticed this section before. It comes in the middle of lots of laws, and I suspect I have always just glossed over them - or my eyes have glazed over and my mind wandered as I ‘read’. I only noticed it this time because I spotted Joshua coming down the mountain with Moses in the golden calf episode, when I was sure it was Aaron who had gone up it. I scanned back through the chapters and eventually came to this one (there was a lot more ascending and descending the mountain than I realised!). This chapter begins with God telling Moses to bring Aaron and two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, up the mountain, with seventy of the elders of Israel. But he tells them the others must not come too close - only Moses may approach. Moses goes back down, tells everyone what God has been saying, writes down the laws he has given so far, then builds and altar and makes sacrifices on it. He sprinkles (or splashes) both the altar and the people with the blood of the sacrifices - the blood of the covenant, then ascends the mountain again with his brother, his nephews and the elders. I’m sure they did keep their distance - in chapter 19 even the priests weren’t allowed to set foot on the smoky, fiery, shaking, thundering, trumpeting mountain, and in chapter 20 the people were afraid to go anywhere near it. Yet wherever they were, this passage is quite clear, “they saw the God of Israel”. They saw him and lived. Not only did they live, but they sat (presumably) in his presence and ate and drank with him! I’ve recently been writing about the significance of food in the Bible, of meals, in particular. When God freed his people from slavery to the Egyptians, he gave them a meal to mark the occasion with. When Jesus made a new covenant with his people on the night he was betrayed, he gave them a meal to mark the occasion with, and ate it with them. And here is another meal eaten to mark a covenant. It seems probable that they were eating the meat they had sacrificed earlier that day. That would be consistent with similar meals before the Lord,  outlined in Deuteronomy. There are also two other occasions cross-referenced in my Study Bible - Exodus 18:12 and Genesis 31:54 - where people sat and ate together (though eating specifically bread on those occasions) as a way of making a ‘peace pact’ between two parties. I wonder if something similar is happening here. A resource from Our Daily Bread that explains what the sacrament of communion is all about, says: Even today in Arab cultures, there is a phrase, ‘There is bread and salt between us’ which shows a special loyalty between host and guest. To betray your host after sharing their bread (as Judas did in John 13:18) was the worst possible insult, and showed a shameful lack of integrity. The upshot is that two parties eating from one piece of bread made strangers—or even enemies—into friends. The Exodus passage doesn’t specifically mention bread, but it is clearly a meal that affirms a covenant, that speaks of loyalty between host and guest, that takes those who were once enemies and makes them friends. And it is eaten in the actual presence of God. What an incredible event! And not one I have ever heard preached on. I’ve heard about Moses seeing God’s back, and Jacob wrestling with ‘a man’ and realising in the morning that he has seen God and lived, and Isaiah seeing God in a vision - how is this passage not as familiar as those?! Also, I’ve been chatting with my mum about it on Twitter, and she pointed out that this was the same Nadab and Abihu who later offered ‘unauthorised fire’ before the Lord and were killed because of it (Leviticus 10:1-3). Another link to Judas - even those who sit in the closest communion with the Lord, eating and drinking of the sacrifices with him, are not immune from falling away. So much richness in three little verses hiding in plain sight in the middle of Exodus. How amazing. And that’s without even mentioning the fact that God’s glory was so inexpressible that all they were able to put into words was what the floor was like! Yet more amazing still is the passage in Hebrews 12 that points back to these chapters. It says that we have not come to such a blazing, shaking, tempestuous, terrifying mountain, but we have come to: Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. We don’t simply get a day of feasting in God’s presence, but by the blood of the once-and-for-all sacrifice, we are already in God’s presence - we have come to Mount Zion; we are where he is. When we eat our communion meal in celebration and affirmation of the covenant, we are eating it in his presence. We may, for now, only be able to see what his feet are resting on, but that is glory enough. One day we will see that pavement of sapphire, as clear as the heavens, but for now, let us Exalt the Lord our God;     [and] worship at his footstool!     Holy is he!               (Psalm 99:5)  

  • The Christian Veneer of a Sacred Journey
    by Andrew Bunt on 11th April 2022

    Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams caused a stir last week by adding his signature to a letter to the Prime Minster calling for the inclusion of trans people in the upcoming ‘conversion therapy’ ban. One particular paragraph in the letter has sparked a lot of discussion: ‘To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.’Several good pieces have been written pointing out how this perspective on trans experience is fundamentally unchristian (e.g. here and here). But what has also struck me is that the words of this letter perfectly illustrate the way that a Christian-veneer can be put on a fundamentally secular perspective. This observation chimes with a point I found really helpful when I recently read Trevin Wax’s Rethink Yourself. In the book, Wax explores different approaches to identity formation, critiquing the approach most common in our society and demonstrating why the Bible’s approach is better. Wax sums up the secular approach, deemed common sense by many in our culture, as looking in, looking around and then looking up. We start by looking in to find ourselves, then we display that to others and look around for them to affirm us in our identity, before looking up to add an element of spirituality to our existence, looking for God also to affirm the identity we have discovered and defined. Wax rightly notes that while the final step of looking up can give this approach an appearance of being Christian, it is actually just looking for a divine rubber stamp on a fundamentally unchristian approach. We are the ones who define who we are. We are in control. God follows our lead. The truly Christian approach, the one revealed in the Bible, Wax describes as looking up, looking around and then looking in. We start by looking up to God, allowing him to define who we are. Then we look around, displaying God to others, living out our identity as his image-bearers and receiving both encouragement and challenge from the family of God. Looking in is then the final step, and when we look in, we evaluate our desires in line with what God has revealed, seeking above all to foster our desire for God himself, the source of true life and joy. This is the truly Christian approach, and this is the approach we as humans are designed to take. God is the one who defines who we are. He is in control. We follow his lead. In describing trans experience – and I think the context suggests they are particularly referring to transitioning – as ‘a sacred journey of becoming whole’, the authors of the letter are taking the secular approach with its veneer of spirituality. They are suggesting that the way we find out who we are and how we can best live is to first look inside ourselves. We then look to others to affirm us in that identity. (‘Every church should be a safe space that affirms people in being who they are, without fear of judgement.’) And finally, we look up to God, assuming that he will also affirm us in our self-discovered identity, looking for his stamp of approval to make our journey into this identity ‘sacred’. Viewed this way, it’s striking that the authors describe the journey as being honoured and loved ‘by yourself, by others and by God’. Or we could rephrase it, by looking in, around and then up. (I don’t want to overplay this point as I suspect I too would have put God at the end of the list for rhetorical emphasis, but in context, it’s a revealing order.) The letter is a reminder of how easy it is to make perspectives sound Christian, even when in reality they aren’t. It’s also a reminder of how easy it is to persuade ourselves that we are living as a faithful Christian when in reality we aren’t. For those of us in leadership and those of us who get to teach other Christians, there are some helpful lessons here. We need to help people gain and maintain a deep understanding of biblical truth. People need to deeply know the real deal so they can easily spot the counterfeits. This specific example demonstrates that people need to understand biblical anthropology, what it means to be human and how we find who we really are. People need to understand true discipleship, the call to deny ourselves and what we find inside (the ‘in’), in order to live in obedience to God (the ‘up’) and love of our neighbour (the ‘around’). And people need to understand the primacy of God, that he is the one who designs and defines. If we don’t help people get these foundations firmly in place, the Christian veneer on perspectives such as that displayed in this letter will go unnoticed and people will instinctively add their own veneer onto fundamentally unchristian perspectives. I’d suggest that one of the greatest risks to the Church in the modern west at moment is that we allow secular perspectives to be baptised and given the appearance of being Christian. The danger is profound because the veneer disguises what’s happening. The shifts in thinking are significant, but they look small because they’re disguised behind Christian language. If we don’t become aware of this and seek to tackle it, we may look back in years to come and realise we’ve lost any semblance of true Christianity and it happened right under our noses. If we’re to avoid this, we need deep thinking, deep teaching, and deep faithfulness.

  • The Unexpected Impact of Sex Education
    by Andrew Bunt on 4th April 2022

    I’ve recently finished watching the Netflix series Sex Education. The series had been recommended to me as one of the best ways of gaining an insight into how the generations below me are thinking about sex and relationships. That recommendation was spot on. Once you get used to the very candid engagement with a wide range of sex-related matters, the series is incredibly enlightening about where some young people are at on those topics. It turned out to also be quite an enjoyable and engaging watch. But there was one element of the series that was very unexpected.I expected the series to be all about sex and romance. And it was. The premise of the show is that the main character Otis, the son of a sex therapist, inadvertently becomes a quasi-sex therapist himself, helping his peers at sixth form college with their many and wide-ranging questions around sex and relationships. There is no question that this is a series about sex and romance – or in some cases the lack of those. Every storyline revolves around them in some way. That did make me slightly apprehensive about watching the series and aware that I’d need to exercise some caution and wisdom in doing so. As a single, celibate, same-sex attracted Christian who wants to faithfully follow Jesus, storylines around sex and romance can be potentially problematic: they can aggravate some of the pain of the self-denial required in following Jesus and they can unhelpfully stir up temptation to stray from the way of Jesus. And yet neither of those was the main effect of the series on me. To be honest, in revealing the vast complexities of sexuality and of romantic relationships, the series actually reminded me of the many blessings of celibate singleness! And despite the fact that all the characters seem to believe it, the series is hardly a good advert for the idea that sex and romance are the route to fulfilment. But there was something else about the series that really did impact me. Something I hadn’t expected. That was its portrayal of friendship, and in particular the friendship between the main character Otis and his best friend Eric. The pair have been friends since childhood and though their relationship goes through some inevitable ups and downs across the three seasons, it is almost the one constant throughout. It’s the relationship with which the first season starts and the relationship with which the last season ends ­­– almost the only relationship to survive from start to finish. Otis and Eric’s friendship is a beautiful example of the blessing of true friendship. It’s a relationship of commitment – through good and bad the pair stick together, and they are deliberate in being there for one another when difficulty strikes. It’s a relationship of love – each clearly holds great affection for the other, clear in the way they greet one another, the way they talk and the way they support one another. And it’s a relationship of intimacy – there’s emotional and conversational intimacy as the pair share openly with each other what’s going on in their lives and how they are feeling, and there’s physical intimacy, not in a sexual way, but still in a way which expresses their love for one another – hugs, gentle affirming touches, an arm around the shoulder in moments of sadness or stress. If I’m honest, I spent the whole three seasons waiting for the point when the writers of the show would start to imply that there was more to the boys’ relationship than friendship. The idea that love and intimacy are always sexual is so prominent in our culture that I thought such a trajectory was almost inevitable for the storyline. Otis and Eric are a classic bromance ­– a friendship between two guys that is so close no one really trusts there’s not more going on. This expectation was only heightened when it was revealed that Eric is gay. And yet, to my surprise, the story never took that turn. From start to finish, Otis and Eric are just friends, but they show us how misplaced the word ‘just’ should be when it comes to friendship. Friendship is not small or insignificant. It should be a serious relationship of commitment, love and intimacy. In the end, Sex Education didn’t impact me in the way I thought it would. It did leave me longing for something, but that something wasn’t a boyfriend or someone to hook up with. And it didn’t leave me thinking sex and romance are where it’s at or that I miss out if those aren’t available to me. Rather, it left me longing for the sort of friendship Otis and Eric have. And it left me thinking how important and life-giving true friendship is. Watching Sex Education has challenged me to continue investing in friendships that are built on genuine, expressed love. And it’s reminded me that God hasn’t denied me anything I need. I don’t need sex or romance. I do need love and intimacy. And friendship is a context in which both are open to me, open to all of us. Perhaps to my surprise, Sex Education has done me good. If only all sex education was like this!

  • Decision Time
    by Matthew Hosier on 24th March 2022

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.Talking with other pastors there are some clear themes about how church life looks in this season. Does any of this sound familiar? There has been a lot of movement in congregations, with new faces in the pews, while familiar faces are absent. Some churches are still struggling to see people return while others have grown but in both scenarios there has been a lot of musical chairs going on. Pastors are tired, and asking serious questions about how to maintain spiritual vitality and emotional health. There is concern about the extent to which we have grown disciples or produced consumers. There is frustration at a lack of willingness in congregations to step up and carry responsibility. Many pastors are thinking about other job options. Here’s my take on all this: don’t make any big decisions. At least not now – wait until the summer. We all need a few months of more normal life to allow things to settle down before making those big calls we might later come to regret. Yes, it might be hard to see what ‘more normal’ might look like with the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis, but we need to get out of pandemic living at least. I’m concerned about pastors stepping out of ministry; about lead pastors saying they’ll stay on, but only as a team members rather than point leaders; about the amount of deconstruction taking place and the babies that are at risk of being thrown out with the bathwater. After what we’ve been through it is understandable that these issues are coming to the surface: if a pandemic doesn’t make us take a hard look at life and ministry then something is wrong. But that only increases my sense that now is not the right time to make big decisions that could harm us and those we are called to serve. Give it some time. Things could look very different by July. If you’re a church member thinking about moving congregation: don’t! Get back into the life of your current church and postpone any decision for a few months. Wait and see how you feel in July. If you’re a pastor thinking about giving up and doing something else: don’t! Trust God is with you, put your head down and push on. Wait and see how you feel in July. If you’re about to announce a major shift in your theology or ecclesiology: don’t! Allow those issues to bubble away beneath the surface while you get on with the vital work of proclaiming Christ and caring for his people. Wait and see how you feel in July. There are times when it is right to move congregation, to change occupation, to adjust our theology – but I’m not sure now is that time. Hold fast. Love and serve Jesus by loving and serving the church. Plant and heal and build. It’s that time.  

  • Praying in Response to Evil
    by Andrew Bunt on 24th March 2022

    There are some passages in the Bible that can leave us feeling a little uncomfortable. Often these are passages about God’s judgement. ‘Does God really act like that?’, we think. ‘Is that really fair?’, we ask. But then sometimes things happen in our own lives or in the world around us and we see something of the full horror of sin and evil. Our heart response in those situations gives us a little flavour of God’s just hatred of evil. And in the midst of that experience, those uncomfortable Bible passages can start to make a little more sense.I think Nahum 1 could be one of those passages for us at the moment. Nahum was a prophet speaking in the 7th century BC. He records God’s words about the Assyrians, the powerful empire who at this time had recently invaded and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Nahum’s prophecy speaks of the judgement and destruction that will soon come to Assyria for their sin and evil. But Nahum 1 opens with a much broader message. It speaks of God’s response to evil, rooted in who he is. God is one who is jealous, avenging, and wrathful; he takes vengeance on his enemies (Nahum 1:2). He is slow to experience or express anger, but this doesn’t mean the guilty will get away with their evil (Nahum 1:3). Even the sky and the earth and all who are in and on them are under his power (Nahum 1:4-5). No one can endure it when he pours out his wrath (Nahum 1:6). His promise is that he will make an end to those who set themselves against him and for evil (Nahum 1:8). God will not let evil go unchecked and unpunished. He cannot. This is God being God. We might often find these sorts of words difficult. But world events can help us to understand something of what is being said here. The anger and indignation we feel in the face of evil are a pale reflection of how God feels. Against the backdrop of such blatant injustice, the God of justice shines as a great light in the darkness, a beacon of hope in the hopelessness. But this isn’t all that Nahum 1 says. Because God isn’t only avenging, jealous and wrathful, He is also good (Nahum 1:7). In fact, it is because God is good that he is avenging, jealous and wrathful. God’s justice and judgement are an outworking of his goodness. And because he is good, God promises to be a safe place in the midst of trouble for those who will come to him (Nahum 1:7). This is God being God. These words in Nahum 1 are an outworking of who God is. They are therefore also promises rooted in who God is. And promises are good foundations for prayer; we take what God has said and we present that back to him, calling on him to act, partnering with him as he puts into action who he is. As we face the reality of evil in our world, we can take the promises enclosed in Nahum 1 and from them we can pray for our world. We can pray for the execution of God’s justice on evil – that God would be God. And we can pray for God to be a refuge to those who come to him – that God would be God.

  • Go Vegan & Electric? Unlikely – I’m an Environmentalist
    by Matthew Hosier on 12th March 2022

    It is only a few years until the production of vehicles with internal combustion engines ceases and the pressure to go electric is considerable. What is often not understood is that things are not as simple as ‘electric = good’.The greater environmental costs of producing EVs means there is a long catch-up time in their use until those production costs outweigh the environmental costs of manufacturing vehicles with ICEs. Batteries are expensive and difficult to produce and there are considerable environmental downsides in mining the lithium and cobalt they require. And then there are further difficulties of how to recycle degraded EV batteries. All things considered, keeping my fourteen year old gas guzzler running is almost certainly a greener option than it would be to purchase a new EV. The issues with veganism are similar. Much of global farming, as exemplified by the American feedlot system, has significant animal welfare issues and is environmentally disastrous. Yet the maxim that the antidote to abuse is not disuse but proper use holds true. Crops require fertilizer. This fertiliser comes either from animal waste or the petrochemical industry. The vegan choice of artificial fertilizer thus relies on the petrochemical industry – hardly an environmentally sound option. In a properly organised farming system animals supply manure that fertilizes crops (and improves soil health while artificial fertilizers impoverish it), and also supply us with milk, which we turn into cheese, the whey from which feeds pigs, who produce more manure, and give us bacon. A properly organised farming system minimises food miles (which veganism tends to maximise), improves soil fertility, and is respectful of the animals that are part of it. Vegans tend to be concerned about ethics, but in my part of the world – as is true in many parts of the UK – probably the most ethical food source is venison: local (minimum food miles), organic, free range, and adding economic value back into local communities – as well as being delicious and highly nutritious. As we watch the unfolding horror in Ukraine these contentious environmental issues become increasingly focussed. The impact on energy and food supplies and prices could have a devastating effect in communities across the globe and we will not be immune to their impact in the UK. As with the covid pandemic we are seeing that the global supply chains we unthinkingly rely on are more fragile than we might hope. What we need is shorter supply chains and more local resilience: it is hard to see how EVs and veganism will help with these. We see something similar in the experience of the church. During the pandemic many people were choosing to tune into online church where there could be no meaningful community or discipleship. The mega-church on the other side of the planet might have been able to produce a very impressive online service, but they couldn’t supply the things that body and soul really require. It is only in a gathered local church that we can be genuinely pastored, held accountable, known, loved, hugged, celebrate the sacraments. Online church is the spiritual equivalent of EVs and veganism – seeming to offer a ‘clean’ solution but in reality creating more problems than it solves. It is the ‘deep’ communities of the church that have power to sustain us. We are seeing something of this in Ukraine. Andrew Roberts has observed how, There is a large underground network of private, non-governmental groups – largely based on Christian groups with long-established family connections – that is transporting huge amounts of food and other non-lethal supplies into Ukraine. They are not taken by lorries that can be targeted from the air, but by van, and they are driven by extremely brave Ukrainians and Hungarians – often women – who take them as far eastwards as they can go. I thought of myself as a somewhat cynical old hack, but I was profoundly moved by their courage. Organisations like the Order of Malta, Order of St John and One Mission Society do truly wonderful work here, but it will be these more shadowy groups that will matter most should the Russians ever reach Ukraine’s western border. Unlike other NGOs run by volunteers, these groups are near-impossible to infiltrate because the relationships between the members tend to go back decades, generating a trust and loyalty that the new organisations coming here, such as the UNHCR and Red Cross, would be hard put to replicate. Dig deep. Choose community. Shorten the supply chains. Look beyond the easy answers. Our lives could depend on it.  

  • The Private or the Public – What’s More Important?
    by Andrew Bunt on 7th March 2022

    I’ve sometimes heard leaders talk to other leaders about the importance of our private devotion to Jesus being deeper than our public devotion: time spent on our own, in private, with Jesus, is more important than time spent with others, in public, with Jesus, and the latter should flow out of the former. When I’ve heard this in the past, I’ve tended to nod in agreement and have found it a helpful challenge. However, I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t quite the right way to lay down that challenge.One morning recently I was reading Matthew 23 – Jesus’ stark and sometimes uncomfortable words about the scribes and the Pharisees. As I reflected on the challenge of these words I began to pray through the woes – asking God to strengthen me and enable me to heed the warnings Jesus presents. When I got to the fifth and sixth woes (Matt. 23:25-28) I began to pray that I would not be like a cup or plate that’s clean on the outside but full of muck inside and that I would not be a whitewashed tomb, outwardly beautiful but inwardly full of death. And then I prayed that my private devotion would outweigh my public devotion – but at that point I stopped. I realised the private and public divide was not Jesus’ point. I could be just as much a half-cleaned piece of crockery or a whitewashed tomb in private as I could in public. The issue isn’t the context of devotion, but whether it’s more than skin deep. It’s about the inside aligning with the outside, not just the private with the public. It’s not that the private isn’t important in our relationship with God – earlier in Matthew Jesus has made clear that it certainly is. Giving, prayer and fasting are all to be done for an audience of one, our Father who sees in secret (Matthew 6:4, 6, 17). But even here, the key point Jesus is highlighting is whether we do these things for others or for God. When Jesus suggests a public-private contrast, it’s actually just a way of affirming the importance of the external-internal contrast. As I mused on all of this, it struck me that perhaps our preferencing of the private over the public is part of our general preferencing of the individual over the corporate. This latter preference can be seen all over certain forms of contemporary Christianity. It’s seen in our extolling of private devotions over corporate worship. And I think it’s even seen within much of our corporate worship: do the worship practices of contemporary evangelical churches actually allow us to worship corporately, or are we more like a bunch of individuals all worshipping individually just, as it happens, in the same place at the same time? In many of our songs we speak in the first person singular – it’s all about me and God. If we encourage those who can to raise their voices together employing the gift of languages/tongues, we’re all separately engaging in a practice that Scripture seems to indicate is, unless an interpretation is shared, between just the speaker and God. And when we bring a Scripture to exhort each other in worship or indeed when we seek to open up the Scriptures in preaching, we often read only vertically (God and me, here and now) rather than horizontally (God and us and our place in a bigger story through time). If this is so, I wonder if we might benefit from learning from traditional forms of liturgy. Prayers to be said together, the recitation of the creeds that unite us with Christians in other times and places, corporate confession and assurance of forgiveness, these are all worship practices that might help us to worship more corporately. We might also benefit from thinking about the Scriptures we choose to use in our corporate gatherings. Ian Paul has made a really helpful point about the three Scripture passages that are at the core of Anglican worship services: how they draw us to see our place in a bigger story of what God has done in Jesus and link us with the people of God throughout the ages. They help us view things in the key of the corporate as well as the individual. Maybe there’s something to learn there. And maybe reclaiming the value of the corporate might also help us to reclaim the value of the public. I do want my internal devotion to outrun my external devotion. I want what you see on the outside to be what’s there on the inside, but I want that in both the private and the public, the individual and the corporate.

  • A Prayer for Ukraine
    by Matthew Hosier on 24th February 2022

    This morning I stood by the bedside of our oldest church member, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Still sprightly at her birthday party, Dora has suddenly diminished. Diagnosed with leukaemia she is quickly fading away. By her bedside I read Psalm 46, my go-to scripture in such moments. God is our refuge and strength,   a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam,   though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,   the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;   God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;   he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us;   the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord,   how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;   he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God.   I will be exalted among the nations,   I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us;   the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah As Grace & I prayed the truth of this Psalm over Dora, proclaiming the blessing and security it contains, my mind was also filled with thoughts of what is happening in Ukraine. The hope we hold for a dying saint is the same hope we hold for the nations. Only God is the true refuge. Only God can bring a final end to war. He will be exalted among the nations. His people, from every tribe and tongue, will inhabit the city of God and know gladness. Come O God: break the bow and shatter the spear, and welcome your servant into the fortress of your presence.