Why this Nation Needs Local Anglican Churches


The following is an address I was asked to give at the Reform National Conference 2009 in October. There seems to be a growing conviction that Christian people need to be taking more of a lead in our public life, not only for the good of the Church but also for the good of our wider society.

I hope these considerations will be of help in our thinking as we look towards the future (and, of course, a General Election, in 2010).



(By way of a preface may I make this comment. “Why this nation needs local Anglican churches” requires us to focus on the Christian faith and the State in general, before we focus on local Anglican churches. I trust, therefore, that much of what I say will be relevant to people in all denominations. With that said, I shall attempt to address our question.)

In the first place “why this nation needs local Anglican churches” must be because God is real and Jesus Christ is risen and reigning and the members of local churches are the primary agents for telling this nation these facts and then the world “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8). But there are other reasons which I need to elaborate.

WHY THIS NATION NEEDS … CHURCHES

Dostoyevsky once wrote these words:

“An ethical idea has always preceded the birth of a nation … and when with the passage of time a nation’s spiritual ideal is sapped, that nation falls, together with all its civil statutes and ideals.”

This was written after his Christian conversion and truly prophetic in respect of what later became the Soviet Union.

Liberal democracy and the Christian faith

In Western Europe, with this nation leading the way but influenced by its dialectical relationship with the United States, the ethical ideal has been “liberal democracy”. The spiritual ideal that gave birth to liberal democracy is the orthodox Christian faith. That means the apostolic faith centred on Jesus Christ and the teachings of his apostles which you have in the Christian canon of Holy Scripture. When that faith is “sapped” as happened in Germany through the theological modernism of the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries and which Karl Barth exposed (when it was too late), the nation falls (as it did under Hitler). It lost its civil statutes and ideals. It produced laws that not only changed the doctrines of the Christian faith among what were known as German Christians (in contrast to the Confessing Church). But it also legitimated genocide, inhuman human scientific experimentation and the most “unjust” of wars.

I submit that we are facing a similar situation at the moment - a creeping, resurgent fascism. Do not be mislead. Fascism can be of the right or of the left. Fascism comes (some will remember) from the Latin, fasces – a bundle of rods tied round an executioners axe in the middle and carried for a magistrate. They would be used for corporal or capital punishment. Fascism, therefore, is simply when power is the final arbiter in public life.

God and Caesar

The State is distinguished form other social cohesions by alone being able to employ force to achieve its goals (Rom 12 and 13). The Christian tradition going back to Jesus is, however, that the State is not alone. There is God as well as Caesar (or the State) and every individual is accountable to both (Mk 12.17). Over the centuries Christians have disagreed about the precise nature of the relationship between God and Caesar and how that in practice is to be spelt out. But what all orthodox Christians have believed is that when either God or Caesar is eliminated, you have disaster long term.

When God is eliminated and there are no transcendent standards by which the State can be judged and to whom appeal can be made you have the State having naked power. This is known as totalitarianism and with modern science and communications it can be absolutely terrible (witness, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot).

When the State is eliminated, you also have disaster. That is because those claiming to represent God can err in their exercise of “secular” power (i.e. power for this [Latin] saeculum [or the age] before the return of Christ). Such use of human power for promoting the faith is, of course, contrary to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles (Mat 26.52 – Gethsemane - and 2 Cor 10.4). Nor have the outcomes commended this use of power - witness 16th century Roman Catholic terror, the Reformation wars of religion (the Protestants were not all perfect) and modern extremist Islam, to say nothing of the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland and perhaps worst of all the so called “Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)”, now attacking Christians and others in the Sudan.

A creeping totalitarianism

So today we ought to expect, with the public elimination of God in the West, a creeping totalitarianism. We should expect it to start in a benign way but, if true to form, fear for the long term results. All that, of course, is unless we reverse what is happening which is my personal goal and I hope is the goal of all of us in Reform, of all the constituent groups in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans UK; and, indeed, of all Christians of good will in the UK and Western World. In this country because of the way social change happens, I would expect this “creeping totalitarianism” to be a slow process. But it clearly is happening. We are very much aware of this at the Christian Institute. As a Trustee I see many confidential reports. I am convinced something has to be done.

But some of you may be thinking I am being hysterical. Look at the following: www.christian.org.uk/issues/2009/freespeechclause/jhvideo_22jun09.htm. You have there the case of Julian Hurst, a Christian minister and police harassment for distributing an invitation card to Easter 2009 services!

A philosopher’s analysis

It is not only committed Christian believers that think like this about these things. Here is the analysis of someone who is not a Christian; he is, however, a distinguished academic and philosopher:

“It seems to me, we intellectuals have some genuine work to do. The loudest anti-Christian voices are among the intellectuals, and their arguments must be addressed. One of the tasks that I have set myself is to show, as best I can, that the liberal democratic tradition which we attribute to the European Enlightenment is a Christian product. It owes something to Moses Mendelssohn, of course, the father of the Jewish Enlightenment. But it owes far more to a tradition of thinking that goes right back to the beginning of the papacy, and which recognized secular government and freedom of conscience as the two pillars of social peace. Neither of those things is recognized by the Koran, which sees all law and all government as a matter for God’s regent on earth, and which allows free conversion to Islam but no free conversion in the other direction. The tension between Islam and democracy is not an accident of history. It reflects the deep opposition between Christian and Islamic views of the relation between man and God.

Now it seems to me that the secular liberties on which our cultural and intellectual life depends would not exist, but for the Christian inheritance. And they would disappear tomorrow if that inheritance were ever to be suppressed. Just look at 20th century history for the proof. As soon as the atheist creeds of Marxism-Leninism and Nazism triumphed, all the liberties that the intellectuals treasured were extinguished. Look at the Muslim world today, where writers and thinkers are censored and sometimes threatened, like Naguib Mafouz, with death. Search for the secular liberties that we value anywhere in the world, and you are likely to find a Christian culture or a culture heavily influenced by the Judaeo-Christian tradition.”

That is from the recent book of essays The Nation that Forgot God. And this extract is important for two reasons. First, this analysis, in much of what is being said, is so clearly right.

But, secondly, it is not right, I submit, in seeing the main problem as coming from anti-Christian intellectuals, presumably like Richard Dawkins. The writer probably has in mind books like the God Delusion, which is described by an Eastern Orthodox theologian as “an energetic attack on all religious belief,” with Dawkins as “the zoologist and tireless tractarian, who – despite his embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning – never fails to entrance his eager readers with his rhetorical recklessness.” Many, and again not just Christian believers, would agree that that is not just polemics in return but a fair description.

The retreat of reason and green New Ageism

The greater problem, I submit, comes from those at the other end of the spectrum. It is the “retreat of reason” that we especially need to fear and not just those people claiming too much for human reason and science like Dawkins. There are three significant areas where this retreat of reason is evident.

The first is the retreat from science as such and not least from the science that intellectuals like Richard Dawkins are trying to champion. Listen to Patrick West:

“The trust we had in science has … been corroded. Although its advances have helped us to live longer, healthier lives … many seem convinced that science is actually a malign force. Scientists are no longer people to look up to and admire, but to fear, through their unchecked ‘arrogance’, whether this be human cloning or genetically-modified ‘Frankenstein foods’. Nuclear energy is no longer regarded as the panacea, but, after the Chernobyl disaster in particular, as a pestilence. Acid rain, the Greenhouse Effect, the depletion of the ozone layer and the Brazilian rainforests: all are perceived either as the consequence of placing our misguided faith in science, or of our rapacious thirst for more consumer goods [which of course are the products of science and technology.]”

So now in place of the scientific “arrogance” of people like Dawkins and their suggestion that science is the solution to every human problem, you have a “retreat of reason”. And this is often spiritualized into green and other forms of New Ageism.

There is also the memory of two world wars, the bloodiest in history, employing science and technology as never before; and there is also the threat of a nuclear holocaust. So these environmental concerns have built on those previous worries and concerns. And out of frustration or anger they have brought a new irrationality into our culture. In turn that new irrationality provides fertile ground for a second and even more serious retreat from reason. It is called “political correctness”.

Political correctness

Political correctness is an ideology that classifies certain groups of people as victims. Then it says these people need not just physical protection from physical attack. They also need protection from every sort of criticism however true and necessary. Furthermore it allows absolutely no dissent from these beliefs as this is such a primary value. And this is serious.

Political Correctness is an attack both on reason and liberal democracy. It is against reason because it is not interested in the truth. It is only interested in conforming to what is Politically Correct. It is against liberal democracy because for the first time in this country to a degree unknown since the Act of Toleration at the end of the 17th century some people are now afraid of what they say. They fear having legal action taken or losing their jobs for saying what has become politically incorrect even though what they say is commonly judged morally right. So when they try to establish the truth about certain subjects they fear being branded as “bigot”, “homophobic”, “insensitive”, “judgmental”, “racist”, “sexist” or some other such term. This is frightening and foolish. For the fundamental text for a liberal democracy is Jesus’ statement in John 8.32, “the truth will set you free”.

Multiculturalism

However, a third retreat of reason is multiculturalism (and more serious still). This is another surrender to irrationality and forsaking a concern for truth. For here the primary value is to hold all cultures equal with none to be preferred or privileged over another, however corrupt some or some aspects of them may be.

The full force of this came home to me after the Ayatollah Khomeini had returned to Iran. I was asked to give a lecture in one of the departments in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne on church and state issues. In the question time following the lecture at one point in answer to a question I said you could evaluate cultures. To illustrate my point I said I would rather live in Newcastle, where there was freedom for Christian churches and for mosques, than in Tehran under the mullahs. This was received with horror. In fact one of the students threatened to report me to the Race Relations Board.

In terms of simple human survival to ignore the social reality of the inequality of cultures or parts of cultures is suicidal. But too few seem to understand the implications of reckoning all cultures to be morally equal. If you hold that all cultures and (as you soon do) all ideas are equally valid and to be encouraged (when they are clearly invalid and to be discouraged), you actually lose respect for the people with these different views. That, of course, is if you are without a belief grounded in transcendental reality as the basis for respect, namely that all men and women are created in the image of God (Gen 1.27).

Norman Dennis and the loss of respect

Norman Dennis, the former Reader in Social Science in the University of Newcastle writes as follows:

“Respect [for views] … is neither necessary nor possible; it is simply irrelevant, if all views of the world are equally valid. If all views of the world are equally true and equally good, then one set of people can feel only indifference if the effects on them of the world-view of another set of people are neutral; pleasure if they are beneficial; and defiance, hatred, fear or helplessness if they are oppressive.”

Without reasonable argument over the merits or demerits of claims to truth or value, what is left but emotions? Of course we want a genuine celebration of cultural difference. At Jesmond Parish Church we had on Sunday our International Welcome Service. The church was hung with flags from the nations of church members and visitors, who literally come from all over the world. We are a totally multicultural church. Our staff is multicultural. We have on it an Arab, a mainland Chinese, a Malaysian, a Nigerian and a Sri Lankan. We treat everyone the same and are generally unaware of national backgrounds. That is the culturalism I want – mono-culturalism on primary issues, because we are all singing from the same hymn sheet on basic beliefs, with multi-culturalism on secondary issues.

The BBC and Westminster

I heard a presenter on the BBC two Sundays ago suggesting that you could never talk about the superiority of one culture over another. Genuine asylum seekers would think he was mad! But the MP he was interviewing did not contradict him. No wonder there is disillusionment with the BBC and current Westminster Politics and Politicians. By talking like this ground is given to extreme racist groups.

Most in this country do not want as MPs those who think female circumcision, honour killings, sharia law in all its outworkings and the execution of adulterers, converts to Christianity and homosexuals should be celebrated. In the same way they do not want MPs to celebrate (as a number of TV producers do) all the British disgusting drunken and orgiastic behaviours you are now getting amongst the elites in universities; amongst the not so elite on Friday and Saturday nights in city centres and then in the ANE departments of major hospitals at huge cost to the public purse; and amongst all sorts when the British are on holiday in the Mediterranean. But by not having a genuinely open society where argument is once again possible, to be seen to be privileging one world-view is now the worst of crimes.

John Milton and John Locke

Under a truly liberal democracy all groups may be publicly tolerated so long as they are not seditious, grossly sexually immoral or violent. But toleration does not imply celebration. Toleration means disagreeing with something but not punishing it.

British and world-wide liberal democracy was forged, after the 17th century wars of religion, by men like John Milton who argued for a free press. And so in 1694 Parliament refused to renew the Licensing Act and prepublication censorship came to an end. Macaulay described this as a greater contribution to liberty and civilization than either the Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights. However, publications were still subject to the laws of the land regarding sedition, blasphemy, obscenity and libel. But ideas were free. That is the essence of liberalism. So men like John Locke, another Puritan or, rather, ex-Puritan, worked out these ideas of freedom for public political order. His famous Letters of Toleration beginning in 1689 were seminal. In essence he argued that the State must never use force to enforce ideas or beliefs. Ideas or beliefs must be free. However, not all behaviours could be free – sedition, certain sexual immorality (in those days it would have been the open sex of some Anabaptist groups) and violence had to be opposed.

All civilized societies have to have these limits. No society can cohere without attacking sedition, without some restraint on sexual behaviour and without the outlawing of the use of force except by the recognized statutory authority – the State. Currently in Britain the State follows that agenda of Locke by disciplining sedition; gross sexual immorality (but only rape and sex with the very young); and violence.

But how have we got to where we have got? There are two factors.

A weird theological process

There has been a weird theological process going on. First, there is a right concern for the marginal and minorities that is rooted in the Christian tradition. The Bible shows a concern for orphans, widows and “the alien within your gates” (Ex 20.10). Secondly, however, the result has been that terms such as “minorities” and “the marginal” have high moral status. But when this concern for the minorities and marginal gets into legislation these minorities claim to have a “right” not to be affected by the beliefs, symbols and rules of the majority Christian-influenced culture. That then gives further status to these divergent cultures which may, in some respects be contradictory to the majority culture. But once legally protected they then make the majority culture that worked for their protection seem like just “another culture”, even though it is a majority culture.

And because there is a retreat of reason, it is not possible to argue that the only way divergent cultures can possibly coexist long term is under a Christian canopy and with an acceptance of Lockean principles. For this alone can secure, long term, the true freedom they enjoy.

This freedom of ideas and beliefs, of course, is underwritten by the Christian doctrine of hell. If God allows humankind to reject him and his purposes, no man should force another to submit to God. So what you have had in Britain since John Locke, has been a subordinate pluralism, for it is under a Christian canopy. The same has been true in the United States though less visibly.

An open society, a Christian canopy and Francis Schaeffer

In an open society under a Christian canopy it is assumed that other people’s actions or the views they hold or promulgate are “open” to challenge by reasoned argument. That is the only permitted method of proposing or opposing them. They must never be imposed. Manipulation, coercion, intimidation and lies are ruled out. In an open society where there is no retreat of reason, people listen to an opponent’s case with a readiness to learn: there may be something to be learned. But they try to treat their opponent’s case as sufficiently important to want to correct it, where they believe it to be factually distorted, or morally or spiritually mistaken. They treat both their own view of the world and that of their opponent seriously - that is to say, with respect. So in a healthy democracy criticism should be a regular public activity. In the words of Michael Walzer, “The democratic rule is: criticize, and pay attention to the criticism of others.”

We are in critical times that need our criticism. However, we should not blame the Parliamentarians or even the biased journalists who are retreating from reason into varieties of political correctness and multiculturalism. So who is to blame? It is us! In 1984 Francis Schaeffer - an influential Christian leader - said this:

“It is my firm belief that when we stand before Jesus Christ, we will find that it has been the weakness and accommodation of the evangelical group on the issues of the day that has been largely responsible for the loss of the Christian ethos which has taken place in the area of culture in our own country over the last forty to sixty years.”

He was referring to America in the first half of the 20th century. I fear the same could be said about “the evangelical group” in this country, regarding the past forty to sixty years. We are talking about the sin of omission. We haven’t taught as we should; we haven’t organized as we should; and we haven’t acted as we should – all to which must return.

But first we must ask, why this nation needs Anglican churches.

WHY THIS NATION NEEDS … ANGLICAN CHURCHES

It should be clear now why the nation needs churches. Why, however, does it need Anglican churches?

Biblical balance

First, I think that the English Reformed tradition is biblically balanced. In this year of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Charles Simeon, I can say that at heart I am a Simeon Christian with a concern for this balance. I have argued “why?” at an earlier Reform Conference. The talks are recorded.

Simeon said that he went to the Bible basically to find out what the apostles taught rather than to teach them what they should have said. That is my essential theology along with the comment, from Bob Fyall, a Church of Scotland minister, “It is a pity Calvin didn’t write the Bible”. And that, as I understand it, is at the heart of true Anglicanism.

It is sufficiently systematic without being too systematic. At the end of the day the Bible has to trump systems. So Anglicanism has 39 Articles with gaps, rather than a Calvinistic Westminster Confession. Simeon believed you could be more systematic than the Bible. That, I believe, also is truly Anglican.

Moderate Calvinism

Anglicanism is moderate Calvinism which also recognizes that although Milton and Locke were wrong over a number of things, they were right in a number of their political judgments. So too were Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and Josephine Butler to name just three from the 19th century. But this has to be Anglicanism defined by Canon A5 and not by its bishops or institutional forms (i.e. synods). At law, of course, Canon A5 is the canon of canons as the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974 makes clear. Canon A5 says: the doctrine of the Church of England...

“... is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.”

So the answer to “why Anglican churches?” is that its established theology is sound.

The establishment

Secondly, the Anglican Church in England is particularly well suited to fulfilling a role in the nation. This is because of its establishment.

The words “by law established” were originally used to denote the statutory process by which the allegiance of the Church of England to the Sovereign (and not the Pope) and the forms of worship and doctrines of the church were imposed by law. The phrase distinguished the legality of the national church from other churches which were then unlawful, with their worship and doctrines being proscribed.

But now that distinction has disappeared, for all churches have legal status. A number began to have it following the Toleration Act of 1689 - the year of Lock’s first Letter. However, the Church of England is the national church because it is bound by more of the law and more of the national constitution than are other churches and, in return, has some privileges. That is a given. Until the country at large does not want that establishment, I judge it would be foolish to disengage.

Certainly the establishment can be reformed. Never forget that the Church of Scotland, without bishops, is established and still the national church in Scotland and also without the Queen as its supreme governor. Time forbids me to say what I think can, and should, be done to improve the establishment position, except to say that I quite agree with the Reform Covenant in its concern to see not a removal but a reform of the episcopate.

WHY THIS NATION NEEDS LOCAL ANGLICAN CHURCHES

But why does the nation need local Anglican churches. This is where the rubber really hits the road.

A peaceful Christian uprising

I believe that the situation in England is so serious that there needs to be something of a peaceful Christian uprising of the sort we witnessed in 1989 in Eastern Europe to end the terrible years of Soviet tyranny. Christians played a significant role in the “velvet” revolution in a number of countries.

I was privileged to be a British representative at the inauguration of the Evangelical Alliance of Romania immediately after the overthrow of Caucesceau. Many of the leaders of the movement for change in that country were Evangelical Christians. A number had suffered terrible persecution. Some will remember Pastor Wurmbrand. But an uprising is related to a revitalization movement. Such movements are not only movements like the great religious awakenings in America and the Wesleyan and Evangelical revivals in England. They also include uprisings such as these that resulted in 1989 in the demise of totalitarian Communism. Such movements require three things.

Revitalization movements

First, leaders who articulate clearly the crisis and embody the beliefs followers share. However, these leaders can be either transformatory or reactionary. I quote:

“Revitalization moves beyond reaction only when these movements include adherents who are willing to experiment with new cultural forms [we would say “new wine skins”].

For the Church of England that at least means seeing parishes in terms of duties rather than rights. So we recognize we have a duty thoroughly to evangelise our own parishes but without rights that exclude others. It involves both Church planting and developing mega-churches (or perhaps a better term for England, “minster churches”).

, there also need to be new patterns of communication. Certainly the internet has provided such new patterns. At Jesmond we now have established Christian TV (at www.clayton.tv). Our weekly Sunday Service programme is also broadcast on Sky channel 586 (the UCB channel) at 8.30 am on Sundays and repeated at 12.30 pm on Mondays.

And thirdly, there needs to be a transformation of consciousness; and this involves three distinct dimensions.

A transformation of consciousness

One, there have to be personal processes. In Christian terms this has to be conversion and Christian living. Two, there need to be, in the jargon, local communities of reference. These are people who see the way you see things. In Christian terms they are orthodox biblical churches. And three, there need to be more that are supportive of the new vision. This relates to the wider culture and community in which individual supporters find themselves. Both the wider church and, most importantly, the nation itself are such structures. That is why we cannot ignore either our wider connections or these political issues.

All this is common sense. If someone is converted to Christ, they need the support of a local fellowship of believers. But on Monday morning they do not want their work-place with its culture and mores hostile to their new found faith. In the light of this thinking on revitalization at Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle upon Tyne, we have a threefold vision statement of Godly Living, Church Growth and Changing Britain: Godly Living (trusting in Christ and obeying the word), Church Growth (telling the world and serving the church) and Changing Britain (caring for needs and contending for truth).

The need for the local

So that is why we, and the nation, need local Anglican churches. Unless the church is local, it is not real. The local church is where the relevant teaching has to take place – not in Synods; they help if they can. And the first teaching needs to be as ever on evangelism and evangelistic and calling the nation back to God and repentance. That of course involves individuals in the local churches repenting for the failure to get to grips with these wider issues. They need to understand these corporate implications of their faith as part of their discipleship. And we have to recover the Pauline conception of the State that it is not just negative, to restrain evil; it is also to encourage the good. So the use of force while the instrument of the State should not be the goal of the State. That should be to encourage the good (Romans 13.4).

We are in this current serious situation in the West partly because of a political philosophy introduced by Isaiah Berlin the first month I was an undergraduate at the University in 1958. But that was against this teaching of Paul. It was his inaugural lecture as a new professor and entitled Two Concepts of Liberty. He was referring to negative and positive liberty – “freedom from” and “freedom for”. He argued that to structure a society with “freedom for” was the way to an abuse of power and a curtailment of people’s negative liberties – their “freedom from” doing what they did not want to do. When a political leader believes his policies are the key to a better future, this end too often is used to justify brutal means. He had in mind Stalin. This was his argument.

Isaiah Berlin and Two Concepts of Liberty

Isaiah Berlin’s Political Philosophy wore well in the Cold War years. And other philosophers since have followed in Berlin’s footsteps, especially John Rawls, a very influential political philosopher. They have taught that no States should propose, or have a view about, a particular version of “the good life”. That would be on the side of positive “freedom for”.

So every one must be free to choose their own interpretation of the good life and so free to choose against any other person’s view – “freedom from”.

Hence the privatization of all religion and morality. That is the way, they taught, to live harmoniously in pluralistic societies where there are many versions of what is good. We, I hope, have now seen how wrong this is. The good news is that political philosophers are now arguing against Berlin and Rawls. In fact, both men changed their own ideas before they died (fairly recently). Political philosophers are now arguing we must have some “freedom for”. Otherwise dreadful philosophies will fill the vacuum; or States will find themselves at the whim of their leaders and you have, as here in the UK, creeping totalitarianism.

The Christian world-view and Christian responses

But what should be taught and encouraged in the local churches in addition to evangelizing and reminding people of Romans 13.4? There are seven things at least.

One, that the Church – which means people in the local church - needs to help maintain that sacred canopy, not necessarily by engaging in politics but by teaching relevantly and publicly the four cardinal truths as a grid for analyzing all social problems. These convictions are as follows.

First, that God is our creator and we are his creatures – so that is from where we gain our meaning, significance and rights – not from the State; secondly, that humankind is fallen and so needs redeeming; that is why the state is limited in what it can achieve (so how dreadful are all the utopian speeches you hear at political party conferences); thirdly, that Christ came as the redeemer and saviour through his cross and resurrection; and that truth is so essential for the good life – so say it more and more publicly; and, fourthly, that Christ will come again one day, this time to judge the world.

We should not be apologetic in communicating those truths.

Two, that church members need an engagement in public life, which must not be equated with political life. The Public Square is larger than Parliament Square and includes all those intermediate social cohesions, supreme among which are marriage and the family which the State needs to protect. At the lowest level this engagement means a simple love for your neighbour and the care for those who suffer.

Three, that when overtly moral and spiritual issues are being canvassed, the Christian should be seeking to steer things in accordance with Christian truth. So make use of the Christian Institute.

Four, that Christians should also live positively for Christ each day at work or at home and vote responsibly.

Politics and prayer

Five, that they should not dictate means to the politicians (unless some particularly wrong means are proposed). Rather they should seek to teach about ends. To illustrate this point the bridge analogy is helpful. A Christian can say it is right to build a really safe bridge; but the engineer has to come up with a safe design. In the same way Christians should seek to tell politicians what ends a social order should promote. They must leave the politicians to work out the means.

Six, that the three ends that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, advocated are fundamentally biblical and to be remembered. They are freedom, fellowship and service (and Temple wanted “freedom for”). He wanted freedom for countering a collectivist state; he wanted fellowship to counter a wrong individualism; and he wanted service to contribute to the common good, focusing on duties rather than rights..

But what should be taught and encouraged in the seventh place (and with this I conclude) is that before anything else the local church should be praying (1 Tim 2:1-2):

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Concluding question

It is black and white. This is the first duty for a local church – praying for the nation and all these issues, says Paul. But is that the priority for our praying in our local churches? I fear often the answer will be “No”. Surely that indicates where this peaceful uprising and revitalization has to begin.


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