The Polite Misogynists are The Worst Kind

There has been a recent row concerning the treatment of Mary Beard, Cambridge Professor, after her appearance on BBC's Question Time. A discussion website called 'Dont Start Me Off' contained comments from contributors that were incredible offensive.
I support the idea of free speech and am reluctant to say that some things should be censored. The level of abuse seen here, however, that included comments about Mary's female body parts and suggestions of rape, were an affront to the gift of free speech that we long to protect.
Argue with Mary's opinions if you like but do not demean humanity by making it about things that really don't concern others.
The owner of website has since closed it down but not before suggesting that Mary hasn't got a sense of humour.
Then came an article by Rod Liddle in The Spectator suggesting that Mary wasn't blameless in the whole debacle. According to Rod we need to be a little more grown up about things. Thankfully Rod is grown up and to prove it says that he runs a competition on his website called 'The Most Stupid Woman to have appeared on Question Time in the last 12 months'.
Now before you look to make your nominations it's worth noting here that Rod is only looking for Stupid Women. It could be that Question Time doesn't allow stupid men to appear. Or it could be that Rod is revealing his own misogyny, albeit in a refined and humorous way.
It seems to me that whenever I see vile, misogynist, and aggressive people expressing their views they are quickly followed by eloquent and seemingly reasonable commentators who reinforce their objectionable opinions; often calling women "whiners" or "shrill" in order to undermine a woman's viewpoint.
The overtly vile are, in one sense, easier to dismiss; people like Rod are not because they have what looks like a legitimate voice on a legitimate platform.
This behaviour is not good enough; no matter how refined it appears.

Steve Chalk and the Silence of the Shepherds

I have been struck by the relative silence on the Internet and media in reaction to Steve's recent statement about reshaping the evangelical attitude to the LGBT community. The public reactions seem to a fallen into a number of camps:

1) There are those, including me, who have offered support to Steve and see his comments as both useful and brave.

2) There are those who have made a definitive stand against what he says; some of whom have questioned his evangelical status.

3) There are some who have expressed support for Steve at a personal level but have have critiqued his conclusions.

4) There are some who have remained silent.

It is this last group that interests me most as, understandably, we have no way of knowing what has motivated them to remain silent at a public level. There are some key Evangelical voices, shepherds, that are yet to be heard on this matter.

I propose that there could be two main reasons for this lack of public response:

One - It could well be true that some wish the subject would just go away. They are perhaps hoping not to add any fuel to the current fire of discussion so that it extinguishes itself.

Two - It could be that some are where Steve Chalk was a few years ago. They have legitimate concerns about the usual evangelical stance on homosexuality but have not yet found the place where they can speak openly. In fact to speak openly will cost them a great deal and so they remain silent.

Whatever causes these key voices to remain silent I would simply say the following:

To the first group - The subject is not going away, you will have to deal with it if you want to live in the real world.

To the second group - It is time for the kind of bravery shown by Steve.

Calvinism's Untrustworthy God

Those who know me will have little doubt of my dislike of Calvinism. I am not dispassionate about it because I believe it to be a dangerous belief system not least because of the way it suggests to its adherents that the value of some human beings is less than that of those who are elect.

Of course the theologians who support this version of reformed belief will give reasons why these un-favoured created beings are not of less value and that it is all to 'the glory of God', but I am not convinced.

I have theological reasons for disagreeing with them and can find significant scriptural support for saying that they have created a closed system that is wrong.

Here however I want to offer an emotional, and hopefully thoughtful, response to their view that God has favoured some people before they were even born.
I find no comfort in being loved by a God who, without explanation, chooses to include me and yet not others. You have to remember that, given the Calvinist's belief in total depravity there is nothing moral about the one elected that sets them apart from from the one damned. In this environment their can be no security. To counter this argument they offer the idea of the Perseverance of the saints (once saved always saved) in order to make sure that believers do not lose hope.

Of course they produce scriptures to prove their point but it is not hard to show that the weight of the New Testament in general, and the life and teaching of Christ in particular, shows a God who loves all that he has created.

The favoured child of dysfunctional parents will never be free from the neurosis caused by being surround by love that is selective. It is only unconditional love that is complete: it is only inclusive love that is able to satisfy.

My wife and I have just watched a television report about people, mainly women, being raped, killed, and burnt in Syria. The majority of those victims would never have had the opportunity of hearing, at least in any meaningful way, about God's answer in Christ. The Calvinist answer would be a mixture of 'none of us deserve salvation anyway', 'God is just', and 'we shouldn't question God'. Occasionally you will hear the real truth of their belief from a particularly devout commentator: 'God hates some people and loves others'.

I fail to be impressed by such ideas. I fail to be impressed by a God who would have no compassion on those who we witnessed being brutalised in Syria. How can God have less compassion than we have.

You may wonder at why I am so passionate in my objection to Calvinism. It's not as if Calvinists would perpetrate the kind of behaviour seen in Syria. It is difficult for me not to draw a comparison, however, with the wasteful acts of those who would do such things in this life and the suggested fate of those who are supposedly predestined to suffer condemnation without hope in the next. Holding a belief in a God who is so selective must influence one's view of the value of humanity: especially of those who are deemed to not be 'in' the elect.

In this regard I have no wish to be loved by a God who has favoured me whilst possibly damning those I love without offering them the opportunity of being included. I am pleased to say that they are wrong: God IS love and he is not a untrustworthy.

Now that is good news!

Steve Chalke: Brave or Foolish?

In light of Steve Chalke's statement on the evangelical response to homosexuality I am struck by a few thoughts regarding the reaction offered by some commentators. The following are three of the observations that I trust will be of use in the conversation.

1) I am concerned that some of those who oppose Steve Chalke's position wish to all too quickly suggest he can no longer be considered an Evangelical. This behaviour only serves to silence the conversation it does remove the need for it. It is a lazy form of debate to use this tactic.

2) I have noticed that some have suggested that Chalke's motives are questionable. I always find this a concern as no-one can really know what moves another person to act in the way that they do. It also serves to distract us from the discussion at hand. Take this tweet from Andrew Evans (@andysstudy)

RT @andysstudy: New on the blog: Steve Chalke's selective reading of Scripture lacks compassion and seeks to make himself God

I appreciate that Andy has a valid opinion but I am somewhat bemused that he would state that Steve 'seeks to make himself God'. There is nothing in Steve's original essay that suggests he is motivated by wanting to be God. In fact I see a certain humility in his writing as he looks for the very compassion that Andrew says he lacks.

3) In offering a defence some have tried to suggest that many evangelical churches are infact inclusive even if they don't share Steve's acceptance of homosexuality in a committed relationship. The difficulty here is that as soon as weight is placed on acceptance of the usual evangelical position it makes it almost impossible for people to have an open discussion about the subject. The fear that one may be perceived as unorthodox is likely to silence anyone who wants to ask deeper questions. This in itself raises questions about the type of inclusion that some are suggesting is already present.

In areas that have the potential to be controversial it is all too easy to speak to our own constituency. Steve expresses that this pressure was one reason he has struggled to speak out before. If we fear being rejected by other leaders, our denominations, and our congregations we will be less likely to engage in the level of honesty that such subjects warrant.

Where others have viewed Steve as foolish I have considered him brave. Where some have suggested he has been unbiblical I feel he has expressed a Christ-like compassion.