The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. (WCF 8:2)
25 June 2012
20 June 2012
A few days ago on the BBCs Today programme, Ben Summerskill (Chief Executive, Stonewall) again accused the church of an obsession with sex – and of being happy to turn a blind eye to poverty or to disease. This has become a mantra for those arguing in favour of a departure from traditional (biblical) sexual morality.
Now, it is true that the affluent, modern church in the west has, generally speaking, been woefully inadequate in addressing issues of poverty, social justice, disease, environmental issues etc. Mea culpa. The church ought to be obsessed with Jesus Christ and with his Kingdom – and these issues are part of this.
However, that does not endorse Mr Summerskill’s point. The church is right to be obsessed with sex, because personal, sexual relationships are at the heart of the fabric of society. Any objective assessment of the post-50s sexual revolution must acknowledge that in its wake have come vastly increased levels of family breakdown, social breakdown, sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy. The departure of British society from traditional (biblical) morality has not been a successful experiment.
That’s not to say that the church always gets it right on sex. The church’s traditional attitude to women needed reformation – and continues to do so, far too many chauvinist remarks are still heard in church, often as an attempt at humour. That’s unacceptable. And, the church’s generally negative attitude to heterosexual sex still needs reformation. The essential place of sex in a marriage as a God-given gift, and the fulfilling joy that comes from it – these aren’t the themes the church has been known for. These problems arise in the church because the church takes on the attitudes of The World.
But to come to the practice of homosexual sex and so-called gay marriage. Society in general may accept these, but the Church must be obsessed with what is a departure not simply from its own practices, but from the design of the Creator for stable and fulfilling expressions of human society. It’s not just the Scriptures that tell us that human society is designed with lifelong male-female relationship at its heart. Nature itself shows us – teleology is fundamental in this debate. Experience through long years of history shows us. And the statistics bear it all out in front of our eyes in Britain today.
1 June 2012
“How reluctantly we part with what we have for the good of others. How eager we are to hold on to every last penny.
“How jealous we are to guard our congregational nest eggs, and slow to pour our resources into the common purse of a Church that needs us all to play our part.”
The Free Church, in these times of austerity, is having to cut its suit according to its cloth – like everyone else. However, the fact that a proportion of congregational contributions has been changed in recent years from an automatic levy to a voluntary donation means that more money is being held and perhaps spent at a local, rather than national, level.
The local church is, quite rightly, a focus for renewal of mission in the denomination. But what about the denomination itself? A national vision, a public vision, a strategic vision for mission, both national and international – these can all only be realised in the Church as a denomination (and, through the denomination, in the wider catholic Church). If local congregations choose to only send the bare minimum to Edinburgh, then I’m afraid that there is a collapse in vision of the kind that attends small expressions of church. Thomas Chalmers and the fathers wouldn’t recognise that.
In the early Church, the more wealthy gave to the less wealthy (both in material and human resources). The apostles co-ordinated responses to both theological and practical challenges. The generosity of the Churches was commended by Paul:
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (2 Cor 8:1-4)
The Free Church is reforming. As it does so it must keep its anchor in our confession as a Reformed Church. In challenging times, Free Church people must hold their belief in the Church.