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.
- Have Your Say on the Conversion Therapy Banby Andrew Bunt on 18th November 2021
Should a teenager who is a Christian and is also same-sex attracted be able to receive prayer and support to help them live in line with biblical teaching? Should pastors be able to offer the same kind of support to adults who want it without the fear that they might later face criminal charges for those activities? Should those working with trans-identified teens be allowed to help them explore whether there are ways they could become more comfortable in their bodies and thereby avoid life-impacting, experimental interventions? If you answer ‘yes’ to any one of those questions, you should be responding to the Government’s consultation on the upcoming conversion therapy ban.The recently released consultation is the latest step in an ongoing process as the Government seek to fulfil their commitment to end the practice of conversion therapy. The consultation outlines the Government’s proposals for legislative measures to be brought before the Commons next year. Throughout the process, the Government have stated that their intention is to ban coercive and abusive practices while safeguarding access to spiritual and other forms of support. This intention is reiterated in the proposals, but unfortunately it is far from clear that the legislation being proposed would achieve these aims. The Proposals and Problems The Government are proposing to create a new criminal offence for ‘talking conversion therapies’. Such activities would be illegal if practised on under-18s and only legal for over-18s if the individual concerned has freely consented after being fully informed of any potential risks. Ambiguities and weaknesses in these proposals mean they could introduce further discrimination for LGBTQ+ people and Christians could face criminal charges for activities that are a normal part of church and Christian life. Consider a few scenarios. A 15-year-old Christian comes out to their church youth leader as gay. They believe in the historic Christian sexual ethic taught in the Bible and request prayer and support to live that out. The youth leader helps the young person to explore the Bible’s teaching and walks alongside them as they wrestle with what Christian faithfulness looks like for them. This includes sharing with them ideas of things to read and praying that God would help them not to act on their same-sex desires. Under the Government’s current proposals, this could well be illegal. This 15-year-old would be denied the opportunity to receive the sort of spiritual support they want. They would experience discrimination because of their sexuality and be left alone and isolated while wrestling with their faith and their sexuality. (This could have been me. I’ve told more of my story and how this law would have affected me as a teenager here). A pastor preaches a sermon on God’s plan for human sexuality. Afterwards, someone who has been attending the church for a few months shares with the pastor that they are gay and that the sermon has challenged and helped them. The pair talk a little further and the pastor offers to pray for the individual. The individual says they would appreciate that, and the pastor prays that the individual would know how much God loves them and prays that God would strengthen them to steward their sexuality in line with biblical teaching. A year later, the individual has moved to a different church and comes to change their beliefs about sexuality. They accuse the pastor of coercing them into agreeing to the prayer and say that the words of the pastor’s prayer have played on their mind ever since, causing them to question who they are, and causing great distress. They report the pastor for an act of talking conversion therapy. It is plausible that the pastor in this scenario could be charged with a criminal offence under the new law. Once there were one or two cases like this in the media, pastors would become less and less willing to offer spiritual support to same-sex attracted people. LGBTQ+ people would end up being discriminated against and the freedom of pastors and Christians to offer spiritual support would be hampered. A young teenage girl comes out as trans. They want to start puberty blockers, with the intention of moving onto testosterone and having top surgery as soon as they can. The girl’s parents know that there could be various factors underlying her trans-identification. She went through a traumatic experience a few years before and has already been diagnosed with a couple of mental health problems. They want to help her to explore what might be at the root of her discomfort around her sex and gender in the hope she can find some peace without taking steps that might leave her with many negative side effects, including infertility. When the parents’ intentions become known, the girl is put under a conversion therapy protection order which instigates safeguards designed to ensure that no one seeks to change her from being trans. If her parents infringe the terms of the protection order, they could face a fine or even imprisonment. Under the criminal and civil measures being proposed, this sort of scenario could happen. The Government’s stated aim of ending coercive and abusive practices while safeguarding access to spiritual and other forms of support is a good one, but it’s far from clear that their current proposals will do the job. What you can do The consultation is our opportunity to raise questions and concerns with the proposals. By responding, we can help the Government to think more carefully about how to achieve their stated aim. We can help them better understand how spiritual support like prayer and pastoring operate and why they are so vital for so many. And we can help them to recognise that their current proposals would have a negative effect on some of the very people they are wanting to protect. To respond to the consultation, you’ll want to understand a little bit more about the Government’s proposals and the potential problems. The Evangelical Alliance have produced some helpful advice on responding to the consultation. If you want to think in more detail about the way that this legislation would negatively impact trans-identified teens, Transgender Trend have produced some advice for consultation responses specifically focussed around that issue.
- Parents, Youth Leaders and Trans Teensby Andrew Bunt on 4th November 2021
When I was leaving my teens and entering my 20s, I don’t think I knew anyone who identified as transgender. I’m not sure I would even have known what that means. Today, about a decade later, I can pretty much guarantee that any teenager in your family or church will know at least one, and quite possibly more than one, of their peers who identifies as trans or non-binary. In just this short time, trans-identification has become a huge phenomenon among young people, and the understanding of sex and gender among young people has changed radically.Against this background, many parents and youth workers are left wondering what’s going on, what to think of it, and how best to help their children and young people to navigate life in this cultural context. Some will also find that the topic comes much closer home when their own children start questioning their gender of identifying as trans. Sadly, despite the fact this has become such a prominent phenomenon among young people, there are very few good resources, and especially Christian resources, available to help parents and those working with young people. That’s why I was really pleased to recently be invited to teach an introductory session on transgender for parents and youth leaders. It’s only a starting point, but I hope it will be helpful for those seeking to best parent, lead, and love young people. You can watch the video of the session below and head over to the Living Out website for an outline of the talk, notes, and recommended resources.
- Not the Think Conferenceby Matthew Hosier on 2nd November 2021
Next year the Think conference is taking a break as Andrew is on sabbatical. However, we have a Think-like alternative happening, courtesy of another Andrew. On the 5th-7th July 2022 Tom Schreiner is going to be in Plymouth, hosted by Andrew Larkin, teaching through the letter to the Hebrews.Tom Schreiner is a well-known New Testament scholar whose commentary on Hebrews in the Evangelical Biblical Commentary series was published recently. He will expertly walk us through this letter in a way that will stimulate, encourage, and grow us in our knowledge of God and His Word, our love for Jesus through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Many of us know the importance and value of studying God’s Word but we often struggle to find the time to go as deep as we would like and, when we do, struggle to understand what we are reading. Those in leadership, particularly pastors, preachers and teachers are often prayerfully considering what to preach through next and would relish the opportunity to have help in having a solid foundation from which to plan a series and sharpen their understanding of the text. Hebrews is a book that shows us the supremacy of Christ, the Son in whom God has spoken His final word. It is a book written to those struggling in their faith and ready to throw in the towel and, through its rich blend of exhortation and encouragement, helps them, and us, to fix our eyes on Jesus and persevere to the end, the day of salvation. As such, it combines solid content and pastoral application – something we all need. Its weaving of several Old Testament themes, and how they find their culmination in Jesus, can be both daunting and richly rewarding for those studying the book. It is a book that many find difficult, yet contains many key theological themes that give a solid foundation to our faith and life. You can book your place here.
- Onions, Not Artichokesby Andrew Wilson on 1st November 2021
This is a zinger of an analogy (and a great piece in general) from the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, in The Times on Saturday:Over the past few centuries (although the roots go back further), in the West, we have largely lost our belief in God or any sense of a given cosmic order. As a result there is no longer any overarching “sacred structure” that holds the world together. So we are left on our own as individuals in a world without any pre-determined order that tells us who we are in that world, or that gives us a sense of security and “fit” within a wider scheme of things. Where, then, do we look to find moral guidance and direction? We look inside. We look not to the heavens or the hills, but into our own hearts. We stop looking outside ourselves to God, or the wisdom of the past, and start to look into our own inner emotions and desires, as Freud taught us to do. If only we were able to peel off every layer of expectation laid upon us by society, the artificial constructions of identity, gender, class and occupation, the irritating demands that others place upon us, we would find our true selves hidden within, like a cook preparing an artichoke, peeling away the rough leaves to find the hidden tender heart inside. Yet what if we are in fact more like onions than artichokes? What if, when we peel away the expectations of others, the roles we play in society, when we get to the centre, there is nothing there? What if there is no mysterious “self” waiting to be discovered, no essence of “me” that is stifled by the people who expect me to play roles prescribed for me? In an onion, the layers are not disposable intrusions to be jettisoned to find some inner core — they are the onion itself. What if the relations and roles we play — as citizens, neighbours, spouses, friends, partners, parents — do in fact make us who we are? ... When Jesus was asked the question “what is the greatest commandment?” he didn’t say: “Be Yourself.” He said: “Love God and love your neighbour.” The Christian wisdom is that paradoxically we find our true self when we lose it, by being turned, not inwards in self-obsession, but outwards in love for the God who made us and our neighbours who need us. (HT: Jennie)
- Plant a Tree, Have a Baby, Build a Houseby Matthew Hosier on 28th October 2021
Martin Luther famously (although apocryphally) said that if he knew the world were ending tomorrow he would plant an apple tree today. Apocryphal or not, that saying could be the motto for the COP26 summit.Even before it begins expectations for the summit are being ratcheted down: neither the Queen nor Xi Jinping in attendance, anticipated strikes on the railways and by refuse collectors, the impression that Boris has overpromised and will underdeliver. I was in Glasgow recently and there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm amongst the local population about the disruption COP26 is causing to their lives as large sections of the city are shut down. But we all know we should be following Luther’s advice and planting trees. From an environmentalist perspective tree planting is about trying to stave off the end of the world. From a Christian perspective it is a statement of faith – which is why Luther’s statement makes sense and isn’t merely oxymoronic. Christians plant trees because we have faith, for today and tomorrow, regardless of whatever signs of gloom and doom we might be surrounded by. It is future-oriented hope that enables the Christian to overcome existentialist fear. It means we invest in life. We plant trees, have babies, and build houses as statements of faith: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen…We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. It is future hope that provides us with the faith to invest in life now. This is very different from the despair that afflicts a faith-less view of the world. As one writer anticipating COP26 expresses it, If I have children, I can’t protect them. It’s that simple. I can’t protect them, not just from the amorphous dangers that have always kept parents awake, not even just from the severe and multifaceted effects of climate collapse, but also from the all-pervading dread that comes with the looming prospect of climate disaster, which drains every part of life and worsens by the year. There is a certain logic to this argument: if the planet really is headed on an irreversible trajectory to environmental destruction than having babies is the worst thing we can do. (Of course, the nihilist flip side of this is also true: if we’re all doomed regardless we might as well feed, fight, and reproduce to our hearts content while we have the chance - less hair shirt, more long haul flights and champagne.) That logic can be challenged on rational and scientific grounds – even the most alarmist climate change predictions do not suggest that the planet will become uninhabitable: in economic and lifestyle terms we’re more likely to find ourselves in the equivalent of the 1970s than the 970s. The response of faith, though, is much more positive than simply a weighing of possible climate outcomes. We have hope, now and forever. We believe! So we plant trees, have babies, and build houses. These are statements of faith, a prophetically lived demonstration of our confidence in the Lord to bless us and keep us. Whenever the world might end, it’s always the right thing to plant a tree.
- No Plato, No Scriptureby Andrew Wilson on 25th October 2021
"Without a good dose of Plato, it becomes difficult to retain the teaching of Scripture," declares Hans Boersma in his deeply thought-provoking new book, Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew. "The Bible cannot be interpreted without prior metaphysical commitments, and we need Christian Platonism as an interpretive lens in order to uphold Scripture's teaching." It's a bold claim.What is Christian Platonism? Boersma follows Lloyd Gerson in summarising it with five ideas, which tend to stand or fall together: 1. Anti-materialism: bodies and their properties are not the only things that exist. 2. Anti-mechanism: the natural order cannot be fully explained by physical or mechanical causes. 3. Anti-nominalism: reality is made up not just of individuals, each uniquely situated in time and space, but two individual objects can be the same in essence (e.g. both canines) while still being unique individuals (distinct dogs). 4. Anti-relativism: human beings are not the measure of all things; goodness is rather a property of being. 5. Anti-scepticism: the real can in some manner become present to us, so that knowledge is within reach. Most of us probably have no problem with #1, #2, #4 and #5, and wouldn’t see anything particularly Platonic about them (though Boersma would say we are probably wrong about that). The one we find unfamiliar, even incomprehensible, is #3. Modern people (including modern Christians) are generally nominalists, who deny the existence of universals, as opposed to realists, who affirm them. Boersma insists that we need anti-nominalism as much as the others, and that this is true for our doctrine of salvation as well as our doctrine of God. In theology proper, it is easier to see that the existence of universals matter, and Boersma quotes Gregory of Nyssa to explain why: the distinction between one ousia and three hypostases depends on it, and without it we would be dangerously close to having three gods. But it matters for our understanding of the gospel as well. Without universals, it would be very difficult to make sense of our participation in Christ, or of Christ’s recapitulation of Israel’s story: A nominalist metaphysic, which continues to be the (often unacknowledged) go-to approach of much biblical scholarship, cannot account for Saint Paul’s participatory soteriology. The apostle’s theology operates with a metaphysic in which we are ontologically linked together and in which we genuinely become one new humanity, and it is only a realist metaphysic that is able to do justice to this ... What could it possibly mean to be “in Christ” on the assumption that the human Jesus is his own person and that we are persons ontologically separate from him? Only a realist metaphysic can robustly claim that human beings are saved through a participatory or real sharing in Christ. This is bound to bother people. The idea that we require any categories from Greek philosophy to make sense of the Scriptures always sparks allegations of Hellenism drowning out Hebraism, pagan philosophy trumping biblical writings, and so forth. So it was delightful to read Joseph Ratzinger’s remarkable insight in the conclusion: The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”—this vision can be interpreted as a ‘distillation’ of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
- Theological Compatibilismby Andrew Wilson on 13th October 2021
Were Christians to teach a doctrine of inspiration that truly and directly taught divine dictation, the Divine would be understood to destroy the human through its own manifestation. The human mind would be annihilated, replaced by the Divine Word, a searing and molten Presence that extinguished all creaturely thought and word.Were Christians to teach that the Incarnate Lord had no true human nature, that he wore his human nature “as a livery,” a disguise or covering, thinly stretched over the Divine Reality, then the Divine Presence would be conceived as a local Power that could brook no creaturely competitor. Were human acts to be replaced by the Divine Working, God’s Grace or Election destroying human agency and vitality, then Divine Presence would be seen as the Sole Cause, the Sole Power, and human beings truly that stock caricature of Lutheran justificatio , the stone or log or dead thing, destroyed by Grace. Were Christians to teach that God was self-evident in a fashion Augustinians never dreamed of, directly visible to the eye, spread out on the horizon of creation like a fiery dynamism, human belief would then be impossible, surrender alone possible. But in fact, the Lord God is not such an annihilating Presence. He is not the Destroyer. He is not the Proud One who dwells only with his Glory, exterminating all the lowly and humble who stand in his way. The One free, holy Lord is rather the lowly Lord, the Humble One, who comes under our roof. He comes as the invisible Presence, compatible with his creatures. - Katherine Sonderegger, The Doctrine of God
- How (Not) To Ban Conversion Therapyby Andrew Bunt on 12th October 2021
Imagine for a moment a pastoral scenario: a young person shares with you that they are experiencing attraction to people of the same sex. They’ve come to you as a youth leader and as part of the conversation you explain your belief that faithfulness to Jesus in this situation would be to recognise the reality of the attractions but not to act on them. You explain that the options available to them if they want to faithfully follow of Jesus are to enter into an opposite-sex marriage or to live as someone who is single or celibate – the same options available to all followers of Jesus. At the end of the conversation, you offer to pray for the young person, and your prayer includes asking that God would help them to steward their sexuality in line with biblical teaching.There would certainly be better and worse ways that we could have that conversation, but I’d guess that most of us would see it as fairly unproblematic and as standard Christian pastoral care. It’s the sort of pastoral care that I received, first as a teenager and then as an adult, care that was hugely helpful to me as I worked through how to reconcile my experience of same-sex attraction and my desire to faithfully follow Jesus. Many of us would see this scenario as unremarkable. And yet, within a year, that exact scenario could make you liable to conviction for a criminal offense here in the UK. I’m not joking, and I’m not overexaggerating. This scenario is taken from the recently released Cooper Report, a document in which some of those campaigning for a very broad ban on ‘conversion therapy’ (or in the report’s language ‘conversion practices’) outline the form they believe the ban should take. The Cooper Report is the latest release in the debate about how the government should fulfil its pledge to ban conversion therapy. The report describes itself as ‘Recommendations on Legislating Effectively for a Ban on Conversion Practices’. It’s one of the most detailed and sustained explanations to date of what campaigners are wanting. Reading through the report, there are a few encouraging points, but the report also reveals the many problems with what is being proposed. Some positives It’s worth stating upfront, as I’ve written previously, that Christians should be in full support of legislation that seeks to protect people from things that are coercive, abusive, and harmful. Sadly, some of what the report defines as conversion practices, including some practices perpetrated by Christians, fall into this category. We should support a targeted ban on such practices, a ban that can truly play a part in protecting people. The fundamental aim behind this report – to protect LGBTQ+ people – is one we should share in full. There are a few suggestions made in the report that are encouraging and seem sensible. The report suggests that the ban should ‘be limited by the requirement that any act be “directed against another person or group of persons”’ (p.3). This is specified as being necessary to ensure that people aren’t guilty of performing criminal practices against themselves. This means people like me could pray for ourselves to have the strength to resist same-sex sexual temptations without worrying that we are breaking the law. The report also notes that this would go some way to protecting freedom of religious and cultural expression as it would be legal to hold certain views on sexuality and gender and even to express them (for example in a preach), so long as they are not specifically directed at an individual or group (e.g. case study 1 on p.A2). The report also states that ‘Prosecutions are an essential part of the tool kit to ban conversion practices, but they should be the option of last resort and/or reserved for the most serious cases’ (p.10). This seems sensible. Some problems Sadly, despite these few positives, the report reveals the many problems in the sort of ban campaigners want to see enshrined in law. Here are just a few of those problems. Evidence of harm The harm done by conversion practices is central to the argument of the report: the harm done by such practices requires their immediate criminalisation and justifies necessary limits on freedom of religion, belief, and expression. However, the report fails to cite much evidence of this harm. There are only two references offered to support the claim of widespread harm from conversion practices. One reference is in a summary of an article recently published in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. The paper referenced does claim that conversion practices cause harm, but it contains no direct evidence of this harm and is primarily a paper arguing that proof of harm is not necessary to render conversion therapy practices as worthy of state intervention. It isn’t a great support for the claim of harm. The second reference is to the ‘Conversion Therapy and Gender Identity Survey 2020’. As I have shown elsewhere, this research has several significant weaknesses which render it unable to offer us any reliable sense of whether harm is caused by various practices deemed to be conversion therapy. We all agree that we want to reduce harm, but The Cooper Report makes repeated, sweeping statements about the harm caused by a wide variety of practices without actually offering any reliable evidence to support this claim. I also fear that the approach taken by the report is itself harmful. For example, when offering the illustration of a practice that seeks to suppress sexual orientation – the illustration of the young person talking to a youth leader with which this article opened – the report adds that the young person ‘leaves and later that evening tries to commit suicide as she believes that she will never know the joy of intimacy or love’ (p.A1). This is a classic example of how suicide is irresponsibly weaponised in this and related debates. A young person who hears this story is being told that if someone shares with them life advice that they may not like or may find hard to hear that could lead them to suicide. Given that we know young people are particularly susceptible to suicide contagion and that the causes of suicide are always complex and multifaceted, this is an irresponsible use of a (fictional) suicide story. In this way, this example goes against Samaritan guidelines. We do need to identify practices that are harmful, and we do need to protect everyone from any such practices, but claims of harm need to be based on good evidence and must be handled in responsible ways. The purpose of prayer The report is very clear that a ban must include prayer. The authors claim that prayer can be very harmful, potentially resulting in ‘deep shame, low self-esteem, and internalised self-hatred leading to profound mental health problems’ (p.7). Unfortunately, the report offers no evidence to support this claim. What is most problematic, however, is the insistence that the ban must cover prayer that has a ‘predetermined purpose’ (p.8). The vast majority of prayer has a predetermined purpose, and the teaching of Jesus would seem to suggest that it should (e.g. Matt. 6:7-8). What would prayer without a predetermined purpose look like? The report clarifies that the ban would still allow ‘any prayer that seeks to help an individual come to a point of peace and acceptance about their sexual orientation or gender identity, that is which does not have a predetermined purpose’ (p.8) But seeking to help an individual come to a point of peace and acceptance sounds quite like a predetermined purpose. It seems regulating prayer is not as simple as is claimed. Confusions over transgender One of the many complicated elements of the conversion therapy debate is the way that practices related to gender identity are being equated with those related to sexuality. This is both inaccurate and unhelpful (as Preston Sprinkle has recently explained). The Cooper Report reveals many problems with the proposed ban and its impact on those who identify as transgender. The authors raise and offer a solution to concerns that a ban would stop affirmative care for trans people (since some, understandably, have noted that transition looks quite like a form of conversion), arguing that affirmative health care wouldn’t be caught by the ban because ‘it is founded on the position that no gender identity, expression or experience is any more valid, “natural” or “normal” than any other’ (p.1 n.1). But they also define affirmative care as that ‘which seeks to help people come to a consensual, comfortable, and self-accepting place with their gender identity’ (p.1 n.1). This perspective surely expresses a view that one gender identity is more valid, natural, or normal than another – the gender identity that one feels themself to be inside is more valid, natural, and normal than, for example, a gender identity that may be dictated by their physical anatomy. It seems arguable that affirmative care, as the report defines it, would actually be covered by the ban for which the report is calling. One very legitimate concern has been raised about the proposed ban but is not explored in the report (although it is subtly rejected in the case studies). This is the worry that the ban might stop professionals from being able to offer teenagers experiencing gender dysphoria the opportunity to explore potential roots of their dysphoria (such as mental health, trauma, internalised homophobia) which, if addressed, could help them to lessen the distress they are experiencing without having to embark on invasive and life-altering medical procedures at a relatively young age. There is increasing evidence from referrals to GIDS and the growing number of young detransitioners that this approach could be wise in many cases. The report makes no mention of detransitioners but does talk about an interesting parallel: ‘There is now a vast library of testimonies from members of faith communities who have denounced conversion practices following their participation in them. These are individuals who actively sought out and “consented” to these practices who have since provided evidence of the severe, long-term, negative psychological impact such practices have on people regardless of their desire to suppress, “cure” or change their own identity at the time.’ A footnote notes a collection of 11 testimonies. (So a relatively small library.) An almost identical statement could be made about detransitioners: ‘There is an ever growing number of stories (easily accessible online, many linked to here) of people who now denounce the transition practices they participated in having once actively sought them out and consented to them but who now report severe, long-term, negative physical (and sometimes psychological) impact from them regardless of their desire to change their identity at the time.’ If we must listen to and learn from the stories of those who have undergone forms of conversion therapy and now regret them, we must likewise listen to and learn from those who underwent transition and now regret it. The ban proposed in this report would make that hard, if not illegal. Freedom to explore The report is very clear that the ban ‘must not inadvertently impact the ability of individuals to safely explore their sexual orientation or gender identity’ (p.4). I agree that that is important. I myself have benefited from the freedom to safely explore the reality of my sexual orientation. But the ban being proposed in the report would actually make it more difficult for many of us to explore our sexuality or gender. The claim is made that free exploration means exploring ‘without a predetermined purpose’ (p.A1). This of course is impossible. We all have a predetermined purpose to exploring our sexuality and gender. We all want to find the best way to respond to our experience of sexuality and gender so that we can live in the way that is best for us. That’s a common ground – or ‘predetermined purpose’ – for us all. As a Christian who believes that the Bible reveals God’s good plan for my sexuality, I believe that the best way for me to respond to my experience of same-sex attraction is to steward it into celibate singleness. In the process of exploring my sexuality I have been greatly helped by others who have taught me what the Bible says and who have helped me as I seek to live out that teaching. This ban would make that illegal. This ban would make it almost impossible for someone like me to freely explore my sexuality. And the report itself is very clear that there is a predetermined purpose to the exploration they want to see safeguarded. The practices to be allowed are those that ‘allow people to explore, better understand and/or affirm their gender identity or sexual orientation’ (p.A3). Practices to be allowed are those that fit the secular, affirming perspective on sexuality and gender. Other viewpoints can be held, they can even be expressed (if not directed at a specific person or group), but they can’t be put into practice. And this is what it all comes down to really. There are awful, abusive, harmful practices being conducted in an attempt to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These seem to be rare and are almost all already covered by existing legislation. We should be ensuring that such legislation is put into practice, along with good safeguarding and other measures to protect those who are victims of these terrible practices. But that isn’t really what this report is arguing for. This report is trying to get as close as possible to making it illegal to have a different view on sexuality and gender as it can while still claiming to fit within the parameters set by human rights. The recommendations in The Cooper Report would not be a good way of legislating effectively for a ban on conversion practices. We need a targeted ban that protects people from abusive, coercive, and genuinely harmful practices while protecting the right that we should all have to hold and express different beliefs on these key topics and to access the care and support we need to respond to our sexuality and gender in line with the beliefs that are most important to us. If we really care about the wellbeing of all LGBTQ+ people, this is the ban for which we must work.
- The Genius of Jesus’s Teachingsby Andrew Wilson on 11th October 2021
"The Gospels are close to nine hours long," begins Peter Williams in this excellent series of mini-lectures on the genius of Jesus. "About 47.5% of the Gospels is Jesus saying things. Therefore we have just over four hours of Jesus's teaching recorded in the Gospels. And I want to say that based on that, we can see that clearly he is incredibly clever and perceptive." Cue a bunch of remarkable insights on how Jesus interacted, seeing and hearing, parables as questions, the "Lesson on the Mount," echoes of the Old Testament, and much more. What a resource.
- Challenging Lawful Discriminationby Andrew Bunt on 1st October 2021
For those who care about protecting young lives, there have been a couple of disappointing court rulings recently. But even when the final outcomes aren’t what might be hoped, such court cases do at least raise the profile of the topics being considered in the cases.This has certainly been one of the outcomes of the recent High Court challenge to the UK’s abortion law. The case argued that the current law is unlawfully discriminatory since it allows abortion up to birth for babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, while most babies can only be aborted up until the 24th week of pregnancy. The campaigners who brought the case have rightly spotted that the moral logic behind such a law deems the lives of those with Down’s syndrome to be of less worth than the lives of others since the lives of those with Down’s syndrome are not afforded the same level of protection. By allowing such a distinction about lives in the womb, we, as a society, unavoidably make a statement about the worth of similar lives outside of the womb. The group who brought the case have done a good job of explaining their position in the media. One of my favourite interviews is below. Máire Lea-Wilson, one of those who brought the case to court and mother of Aidan, a 2-year-old with Down’s syndrome, does a great job of explaining why the law is discriminatory. It’s moving to hear her talk of how she was so strongly encouraged to abort Aidan, how he was born at an age when he could legally have been aborted, and how the law seems to place different levels of value on the lives of her two sons – one who has Down’s and one who doesn’t. Máire does a great job, but the real star of the show is Aidan. (Have a watch and you’ll see what I mean.) On this occasion, the court ruled that the Abortion Act does not unlawfully discriminate against people with Down’s syndrome. There is still a battle to be fought, both to protect babies in the womb and to affirm the full dignity and right to life of men and women who live alongside us day-by-day. The verdict is likely to be appealed. May we come to see that lives like those of Aidan are as valuable and as worthy of protection as any other. May we see that such discrimination should not be lawful. <