In need of a new denomination

The Christian Church has been broadening its horizons over the past few decades, with both homosexual and female candidates now being considered for important religious appointments.

It has been a controversial development, however. For many, the inclusion of homosexual and female priests completely undermines their devout faith. Others rejoiced over Christianity’s step forward. The question to consider, though, is why the ‘solutions’ to these issues have been worked through painstakingly, when beforehand they seemed to conflict so deeply with doctrine.

Jeffrey John made headlines in 2003 when he was nominated to be a Church of England bishop – and then openly admitted to being in a gay relationship. After two months he was asked to withdraw his name, and complied. John has clearly since overcome the ‘peer pressure’ because he’s back again, nominated as Bishop of Southwark.

Fundamentally, the same Christian doctrine has been followed for nearly 2000 years. Yet it’s these ‘exceptions’ that generated such dispute which will make all the difference for the religion’s future.

Hardest to establish (and admittedly controversial) is whether the Churches are progressing because of social need, or because they’ve genuinely found a way for their doctrines – branded as ‘timeless’ – to remain contemporary; a ‘desirable’ ethos. If it were, at first, outrageous for the majority to consider, then the acceptance of homosexual priests surely represents something other than Anglicanism. Requiring followers to be convinced that something is in absolute accordance with their faith seems somewhat dubious.

In the realms of Catholicism, former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has recently been considered for the new British ambassador to the Vatican. Controversially, she converted from the Church of England in 1993, after the acceptance of female priests was voted through. In a way, Widdecombe’s case appears healthier: personally changing to a denomination or religion that better suits one’s own principles, rather than the creed itself undergoing a change.

In the United Kingdom, between 2004 and 2008 Church membership dropped by a hefty 2 million; 500,000 people losing faith in something they believed in, per year.

Are the Churches scared that they’re losing followers because their doctrines are (somehow, to their incredulity) outdated? Perhaps they should be. Christianity’s – Catholic, Protestant, Non-Trinitarian, Eastern alike – pull is clearly still strong, but this 17 year British trend of decline looks set to continue. Belief, it would seem, now comes hand in hand with double standards as set out by their structured communities.

An eagerness to demonstrate inclusivity may indicate a desperate attempt to gain members. If a Church appears to create new ‘rules’, it will evolve outside of the religion that the ‘original’ believers believed in. It would perhaps be far more credible to create an entirely new denomination.

In the future, maybe Christian communities could take a leaf out of John’s book. Inclusivity is excellent progress, but don’t succumb to ‘peer pressure’, even if the bully is a pious population of over 42.6 million. No-one wants their belief to be undermined.

28 comments

  1. Here’s the thing though, Camilla. An extra denomination causes more problems. Ever heard of the Great Schism? How about the Reformation? Or the Crusades?

    None of those is more recent than 500 years ago. AND YET, Christians across the globe continue to (much to the despair of the vast majority) argue and debate and antagonise across denominations. There’s so so so many denominations already, you forget Pentecostal [as in the Elim group]; Pentecostal [as in Assemblies of God]; other Pentecostal denominations or groups; Methodists; Presbytarian; Baptist; Lutheran; Calvinist; Adventist; Evangelical; Anabaptist; the four kinds of Catholocism; the two kinds of Eastern Orthodoxy; not to mention many many other subgroups.

    We have plenty of denominations. What we need is unification not more antagonism. This is the point – the church is supposed to be “one holy (catholic with a small ‘c’) church” – according to the Apostle’s Creed. And according to the Bible it is to be united too, [see Romans, 1 Corinthians etc]. To create another denomination would be against the beliefs, understandings and aims of the church (or aims of the church as they should be) as a whole. Denomination is one of the primary things that is wrong with the church.

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  2. If you are looking for an inclusive christian style faith group, Quakers pretty much fit the bill. The only religious group to perform gay marriage (as opposed to the purely legal term Civil Partnership), they campaign extensively for greater equality, as well as historically being at the fore of similar groups such as the anti slavery movement.

    You don’t need a new denomination, just to look a little into the ones we already have.

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  3. ‘The Kingdom is inside and all around’

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  4. “Denomination is one of the primary things that is wrong with the church.”

    I would say a much great problem is believing in something with absolutely no evidence to support it.

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  5. 9 Jul ’10 at 4:57 pm

    another Christian

    The problem of this article is the tone:

    “The Christian Church has been broadening its horizons over the past few decades”

    “Others rejoiced over Christianity’s step forward”

    Essentially what is being implied is that the Church is some kind of social club, something that needs to move with the times to keep up membership numbers. The words “step forward” suggesst that we are backward, and therefore wrong and in need of education to relieve us of our ignorance. What is being argued is that a new church is needed to allow for the ideals of modern society to be included in the core beliefs.

    The problem with this is that it wouldn’t be Christianity. Christians base all their beliefs (in essence and ideally) on Scripture. And as Scripture is the word of God, departing from this means departing from God. I seriously object to the fact that society essentially says “you can believe whatever you like… as long as it is what we believe. otherwise we have a problem”.

    Secondly, correct me if I am wrong, but are the figures on the decline in Church numbers focussed on Anglicanism. If they are, they miss out an important factor: that many of those dropping out of the Anglican Church are moving into other Protestant denominations or are converting to Catholocism.

    Oh and An Athiest: “I would say a much great problem is believing in something with absolutely no evidence to support it.” I find it funny that your point on lack of evidance has no logical cohrancy in argument… I have been a Christain for 5 years. Am yet to hear a logical or reasoned argument to stop me from being so, and the more I learn, the more I am convinced by a historical and real risen Christ. But I guess this isn’t the place for a long philosophical discussion on the reality of God…

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  6. 9 Jul ’10 at 5:29 pm

    another Christian

    ps. just to clarify. I am not suggessting in paragraph 3 that people who want women bishops aren’t Christians: that would be silly.

    What I am saying is that the Church can’t pander to the demands of society on its docterine, structure and morality, because we are led by Christ not by the world. This is where our ideals should come from.

    Essentially I agree with A Christian: unity is what we aim for, as we are all united by one thing, and that is by Christ

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  7. “Hardest to establish (and admittedly controversial) is whether the Churches are progressing because of social need, or because they’ve genuinely found a way for their doctrines – branded as ‘timeless’ – to remain contemporary; a ‘desirable’ ethos.” They’re not changing because of social need and they’re not changing because they have found a way to remain contemporary – they are changing because of a difference in belief. Only in the last 200 years has science been progressing to the point at which it is able to make social commentary scientific. Prior to that the only times that there were changes to doctrine were as a result of a radical pope, the rediscovery that the earth isn’t the centre of the universe or a new understanding of ancient hebrew.

    The Church isn’t led by world morality. And it’s just plain wrong to say that the same doctrine has been followed for 2,000 years. You seem to have a lack of knowledge of more than Church of England ideology – and even then there’s always been a broad spectrum of ideologies within that one denomination.

    But, whilst previously people have been content to stay within the rules of others, there is a recent surge in people fighting for women’s rights of equality in the church. I watched Big Questions on Sunday and a random atheist kept butting in with her opinion that it’s all sexism. It’s not – it’s the difference in belief over what “women shouldn’t speak in church” means. And whilst two people in the room felt strongly that it meant they shouldn’t have women priests or bishops, most applied it in different ways or pointed out the context in which it was written (to a specific church that had problems with women speaking) – and now we’ve got to the point at which those who disagree with women vicars have decided to fight hard for it and try to claw back respect and power. The outcome of this weekend, at the University of York, will be an important one for the largest denomination in the country.

    And that’s really the problem – as most of the world’s Christians are happy with Harry Potter, to take an easy example, the media focusses on the few who disagree and it is assumed to be a large group. So too have there been few people who disagree with homosexual or women’s rights within the church and they have seemed a larger group. But how to cater for two sides, without splitting into separate denominations (which is a stupid suggestion btw)? It’s a tricky one and we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess!

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  8. ” find it funny that your point on lack of evidance has no logical cohrancy in argument… I have been a Christain for 5 years. Am yet to hear a logical or reasoned argument to stop me from being so, and the more I learn, the more I am convinced by a historical and real risen Christ.”

    You’ve got this the wrong way round, I’m afraid.

    I think you’ll find that not believing in something because there is no evidence is quite a coherent and logical position. Believing in something on the basis of faith alone, without a shred of scientific evidence on the other hand, is not.

    And before you try the “you can’t prove God doesn’t exist” line of argument, let me suggest this: you can’t prove that the Egyptian sun god Rah doesn’t exist either. So why don’t we still pray to him?

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  9. 9 Jul ’10 at 10:24 pm

    another Christian

    @ An Athiest

    what kind of scientific evidance exactly were you looking for? a nice image of God waving at you? Jesus walking up to you in the street shaking your hand. You are missing any evidance that may be there because you don’t want to see it.

    Your definition of faith is entirely, totally wrong. Faith, from a Christian viewpoint is based entirely on evidance. Faith is based on something being trustworthy, and for something to be trustworthy, we must have evidence of this. I trust in God because I have evidance of his trustworthyness.

    There is plenty of evidance for God, many intellegent philosophical arguments for this. The most potent argument, and the one which debunks your last statement rests entirely in Jesus: a man which all serious scholars acknowledge was real, and who has written accounts of his life and deeds. The fact that Jesus was real, did the things attributed to him, said the things attributed with him, is one of the greatest evidances to the existance of God. But I can’t argue you into belief.

    It seems you are ignorant of any arguments for the existance of God. I have heard many from the other side. I am yet to be convinced.

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  10. “You are missing any evidance that may be there because you don’t want to see it.”

    What evidence?

    “There is plenty of evidance for God”

    What evidence?

    “I trust in God because I have evidance of his trustworthyness.”

    What evidence?

    And finally:

    “The fact that Jesus was real, did the things attributed to him, said the things attributed with him, is one of the greatest evidances to the existance of God. But I can’t argue you into belief.”

    What evidence is there to suggest he performed any miracles, or was the son of God?

    There simply isn’t any evidence whatsoever.

    Faith, by definition, is the belief in something without reference to reason or proof. But that doesn’t make it rational, logical, or most importantly, correct.

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  11. 9 Jul ’10 at 11:35 pm

    another Christian

    Again, what evidence are you looking for exactly? What would it be that would make you believe? I could probobly give you all the evidence in the world and you would still ask for more.

    Faith, as you have defined it, is not the definition of faith as understood by Christians (as I have already stated). By placing the definition of “belief in something without reference to reason or proof” is not the faith that I, as a Christian, know. Faith in the Christian God is based entirely on an understanding of what God has done.

    I don’t have the time, or the energy, to place every single argument for the existance of God here. Needless to say, some of the greatest philosophers have argued for God’s existance. The only argument I will give here and now is the recourse to the historical Christ.

    The evidance to suggest that he performed miricles and said he was the Son of God comes largely from the Gospels. These are as historically reliable as any other historical document (and this begs the question why do you believe any other historical document). Over 300 people saw the risen Christ, and the spread of the Gospel after this point is testament to the reliability of these claims. My faith is based of experience of God in my life: something that I can’t prove. You will just have to trust me.

    The only reason we know anything in this world is because we trust people who tell us stuff: I know that objects are made up of atoms because I trust that the people who proved this are telling the truth and are relable. The same applies for my faith.

    The truth is that I can’t argue you into belief in God. I can give you evidence and arguments, but the step into faith relies on a step into trusting in this evidence. Try reading some books on it, there are plenty out there. To not to would be to ignore evidance…

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  12. “Faith, from a Christian viewpoint is based entirely on evidance.”

    Under no viewpoint and under no definition is faith based on evidence. If a proposition can be supported by evidence then it is what we call knowledge. On the other hand, if a proposition can not be supported by evidence, then believing it to be true regardless is what we call faith.

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  13. What evidence am I after? ANY EVIDENCE. You’ve not given me any so far. Can you give me one shred of scientific evidence? Do it right now, and I’ll convert.

    “The evidance to suggest that he performed miricles and said he was the Son of God comes largely from the Gospels. These are as historically reliable as any other historical document”

    What utter rubbish. This statement implies, logically, that the ancient Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ is also just as reliable. Do you believe in that, too? Please answer this point, I can’t wait for your response.

    “The only reason we know anything in this world is because we trust people who tell us stuff”

    Again what utter rubbish. I know that potassium reacts with water, because I can watch it with my own eyes. This is a scientific method.

    I don’t have anything against you personally. But would you at least accept that your belief in religion is NOT rational or logical. It is based on faith. Which is something completely incommensurate with an evidence based approach.

    Also, what are you thoughts on sections of the Bible that state homosexuality is a sin, or that people can be stoned to death for touching the skin of a pig? If they appear in the Bible, surely they are of equal importance as any section on Jesus Christ?

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  14. Also:

    “The truth is that I can’t argue you into belief in God. I can give you evidence and arguments, but the step into faith relies on a step into trusting in this evidence. Try reading some books on it, there are plenty out there. To not to would be to ignore evidance…”

    You’ve not given me any evidence whatsoever.

    Try reading some books on it?! I’ve read Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’, does that count as evidence too?

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  15. 10 Jul ’10 at 1:08 am

    Curious Non-believer

    Religion does need to evolve in order to maintain a place in society, if that is what it wants. And Christianity has changed its stance in order to better appeal to the masses. Of course, it was much easier when the masses were illiterate and blindly following whoever was in charge, but whatever. There was a shift in the Middle Ages in the presentation of God- he was presented as a more benevolent, merciful figure, rather than all the hellfire and brimstone which had previously worked so well. Change does not mean abandoning your principles; but if you don’t change, it will just be you and your principles. And if there is no-one left to believe- because the views held are considered to be old fashioned, out of step, or simply unimaginable or wrong- then does God still exist? If change doesn’t happen, if believers dwindle to nothing, would you still have a God, if there was no-one left to believe in him? Just a thought.
    And if people are unsatisfied with existing different denominations, why shouldn’t more be formed? I understand that factionalism cannot help the organisation side of things, but what about belief? Isn’t that the point of religion? Belief over bureaucracy perhaps? The problem is that Christianity is not preaching to the same audience it was addressing 2,000 years ago. The audience today are (mostly) intelligent, questioning, experienced people who have the right to choose what they believe in. And unlike those Medieval peasants, shunted to the back of church, they are allowed to ask ‘why?’. Human beings are curious creatures, and religion- any religion- doesn’t provide all the answers for everyone in society today. It still does for some people, which is great for them, but for fewer and fewer people each year.
    And, ‘another Christian’, as for the gospels being evidence? They are very selective evidence indeed. There is a gospel according to Mary Magdalene, among many many others, which for some reason didn’t make the final cut to the Bible. Why? Because the Bible was written by men to create a certain image, a certain view. It was decided on by a committee. It is full of contradictions- highly moral, and yet sometimes brutally barbaric. So evidence? Highly biased and questionable. I wouldn’t rely on it.
    You will never unite everyone under any banner, religious or not, and so you should not try. Our right is to question everything around us. Question science, question religion, question everything. At least science leaves room for questions.

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  16. 10 Jul ’10 at 4:57 pm

    another Atheist

    @another Christian- “By placing the definition of “belief in something without reference to reason or proof” is not the faith that I, as a Christian, know. Faith in the Christian God is based entirely on an understanding of what God has done.” (not the best quote for the point I’m gonna make but you get the idea)

    You seem to have missed the reason behind ‘the Christian Faith’ being called such. Faith genuinely is just belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. This is why ‘have faith’ gets said more often than not when something bad happens- say, your cat gets run over and you think ‘hell, God’s meant to be a pretty nice guy and I have devoted my life to him thus far, so what the hell is he doing killing my cat?’ That’s when your mum jumps in going ‘have faith, God works in mysterious ways/is testing your FAITH’ etc. Having faith is believing in God and in the benevolence of God in spite of the fact that your cat being killed suggests that either he doesn’t exist, or he’s a bastard.

    Just to reiterate, I do not ‘have faith’ that the Earth is not the centre of the universe. There is scientific evidence for it. Thus, to ‘have faith’ in that would be redundant.

    You might want to start having this kind of faith because, as has been pointed out, you literally cannot believe in God solely because there is evidence of him. Because there isn’t.

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  17. 10 Jul ’10 at 5:18 pm

    another Atheist

    “The only reason we know anything in this world is because we trust people who tell us stuff: I know that objects are made up of atoms because I trust that the people who proved this are telling the truth and are relable.”

    Oh dear god. Is this genuinely how you think you know things?!

    I’m scared someone’s going to leave ‘1984’ in the non-fiction section and you’re gonna start ‘trusting’ that too..

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  18. 10 Jul ’10 at 10:56 pm

    another Christian

    So here we go again…

    I shall answer the points of Curious Non-Believer first. You have a point. The society we live in now is more literate and does answer more questions. But in many ways is still the same. We are all still people: lets not patronise the people of the past as ignorant fools bettered by our superior culture. The issue is what our faith in God is based on. Christians see the Bible as the word of God (i.e. devinely inspired words which work to guide and inform) and so this should be the basis of what we believe. If the world tells us we are wrong in our attitudes to power, money, family life e.t.c. the only place a Christian should look is scripture.

    On your point about the Gospel of Mary Magedelene. The reason that this “gospel” is not in Canon is because its authorship cannot be and could not be verified. The reason the 4 Gospels we have are there is because their authorship was known to the early Church who used them, and are known to us now. John was written by John, the son of Zebadee. Mark was written (it is believed by most scholars) to have been written by a man who knew St Peter. Luke was written by a scholar as a historical document, interviewing eyewitnesses (Luke is the Gospel most like a modern historical study rather than an individual eyewitness account). And Matthew was written by Matthew the Levite, again one of the 12 apostles. The early Church (i.e. around 100 AD) knew this and this is why these Gospels were kept and used. The other Gospels (e.g. Thomas and Mary Magdelane) were seen as forgeries and so were not uses).

    Also, the purpose of Christianity is not to be relevant, it is to be true. If we seperate what we believe with what is true, than the whole thing is pointless.

    And now onto Another Athiest… The difference between the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Gospels is this: The Book of the Dead was a collation of folk lore. The Gospels were written, as stated above, by people who were there. It is a record of what people saw. And this is what makes them trustworthy and reliable. What do we know about anything else in the History of 2000 years ago? We know it because of sources, and to reject the Gospels as sources is flawed, for the points mentioned above. Read “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel for a full run down of an Athiest who converted to Christianity when provided with the evidance.

    Secondly, about scientific evidance. I am afraid I can’t give you any. You want to be able to see God under a microscope, touch and feel him and I can’t provide you this. However, I would argue that this isn’t needed. Again, I point you back to a real Jesus, but I reckon you won’t accept this… But I will say this. If the Bible is to be believed, God sent 7 plagues to free his people from Egypt. He then provided a column of fire and of dust to guide their way. He also made a mountain burn with fire, and fed them bread of heaven. And they still built an idol and worshipped him. Humans don’t want to know God, even if he shows himself in power.

    On George’s point: faith is based on Knowledge. Knowledge provides basis to my faith (i.e. the knowledge of a real God allows me to have faith in his character). And yes, another Athiest, faith is based on trust, even when this is questioned. But faith isn’t entirely seperate from an evidance based approach. I have faith (i.e. trust) my friends because (thus far) they have been friendly to me. I would argue that the same applies to my relationship to God. The Christian understanding of faith is more like the trusting in a friend approach than to just believing in something a priori. And I this point, I must accept, I can’t prove this to you through any scientific experiment. But, having said that, I can’t prove that my friends actually like me either by this scientific method…

    another Athiest: on your questioning of my 1984 point: firstly, please do not sink to petty sniping: nobody else has yet. The point I was making was this: I am not suggesting you believe everything you read. If this was the case, I wouldn’t be a Christian would I, I would just be a confused mess in my head as confilcting ideas swirl around. What I am saying is that I have read the Bible, taken into account the evidance both for and against each aspect of it, and have weighed it up, and it still makes sense (avoiding a complex theological explanation of the Holy Spirit). And this applies to everything else that I know and believe as a person. Of course I am not going to read 1984 and believe it to be true: I am at this Uni same as you, so I must have at least some modicum of intellegence (but alas, an inability to spell…). And An Athiest, yes, like you say, we do learn things from individual experience, the point is not all we know (actually the quite a lot of what we learn) comes from what others tell us. To claim that only faith falls into this category is a flawed argument.

    People have written thousands of pages trying to explian how God exists. I cannot provide watertight evidance here, in a comment section on an article. Sorry. :)

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  19. “Secondly, about scientific evidance. I am afraid I can’t give you any.”

    This says it all. People are “innocent” until proven guilty. Why does the same logic not apply here?! Surely we shouldn’t believe in God until he/she/they are proven to exist?

    “Read “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel for a full run down of an Athiest who converted to Christianity when provided with the evidance”

    Ummm I thought you said you didn’t have any evidence (please note the correct spelling, it is driving me mad). Contradict yourself much?

    Also, please could you answer my question about archaic sections in the Bible such as sexuality?

    Finally:

    “But, having said that, I can’t prove that my friends actually like me either by this scientific method…”

    Yes you can. By asking them, and more importantly, the visible manifestation of their actions. The same cannot be said for the existence of God.

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  20. Also, answer this:

    Why does the Bible not mention Dinosaurs? Do you refute the evidence that they existed millions of years ago, in spite of the Bible talking about the Earth being 6000 years old etc?

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  21. 11 Jul ’10 at 1:31 am

    another Atheist

    I prefer to look at it as ‘playful mockery’ rather than sniping, but ok, I’ll rephrase: Why should the Bible be assumed to be anything other than fiction confused for fact? It’s just a collection of stories and anyone who could have proven it to be true/false is long dead.

    As a sidenote, nice as it is to think, it’s debatable whether everyone at this uni. has a modicum of intelligence.

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  22. “What evidence is there to suggest he performed any miracles, or was the son of God?

    There simply isn’t any evidence whatsoever.”

    There is more first-hand written evidence of Christ’s resurrection than of Julius Caesar. Whilst many things weren’t recorded properly at the time, that certainly was. But obviously there aren’t photos – it depends on what ‘evidence’ you look for… there’s not much that could be said more than the fact that, for example, St Paul was an influential Christian-hater who after converting created the world’s church movement and died for his faith. Why would he bother when he’s influential in Judaism and is killing Christians? But again, that’s a subjective comment.

    But why is this debate even here? The Bible could be taken to be figurative in Genesis – or it would under a creationist banner imply that dinosaurs are simply fossils placed in the ground – or it would suggest they died in the flood. It doesn’t name every animal. I, personally, take the former. But why are we debating the validity of religion when we’re talking about the rift within one church denomination in the context of the article?

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  23. Dear Debators,

    I tend to wince when I see arguments like these because I feel they’re generally fruitless – neither side will ever be convinced of something so life-shattering by mere dry human argument, nor perhaps should they.

    I think that maybe the misunderstanding in the article and in many of the comments posted above arises from the lack of comprehension of what Christianity really means – it is not simply a way of life whereby commands are used and adapted as society evolves – it is being transformed by Christ’s death on the cross, from our old selves where we followed our own wishes and the world’s commands, to a people set apart for God, made ‘holy’.

    This means that the desire of a Christian is no longer to serve themselves nor to conform to the patterns of the world, but to live entirely for God; he desires that we should be completely pure, and makes us more and more so, because only then will we be the amazing people he created us to be. At the moment we are less than that, but on the day of judgment we will be made completely pure, in his image, and will start living life to the full, as he intended.

    This means that we do not live our lives trying to just get away with as much illicit self-pleasure as possible, nor do we tell God to change with the times – we try our hardest, with the help of God’s holy spirit, to honour him in absolutely everything. This means pouring over his word and living by it. It is not up to us to question his ruling on sexuality – he created us and he created marriage between man and woman – anything else is less than perfect and thus not worthy of those who have been adopted into the family of the living God. No matter that society protests otherwise; society was created by God and will one day have to answer to him. He is unchanging, and we choose to follow him.

    Any church that feels the need to ‘change its doctrine’ to move with the times, is forgetting that the eternal God is their head, and that we are adjured to trust completely in Him, and never in this fickle and blinded world – so no, new denominations for the sake of world-pleasing would be preposterous – we present the truth; anything less would be a travesty. (to non-believers as well as God)

    Finally, for those of you seeking evidence, (good for you!), may I suggest that you go straight to the top – Try reading a gospel and finding out about the man we claim is the son of God, and see what you think he was. If you fancy it, I recommend going to http://www.biblegateway.com and reading the gospel (lit. ‘good news’) of Mark – enjoy:)

    ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.’ Hebrews 11: 1

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  24. “for those of you seeking evidence… Try reading a gospel and finding out about the man we claim is the son of God”

    Claims are very different from evidence. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that God exists. Don’t believe everything you read.

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  25. “It is not up to us to question his ruling on sexuality – he created us and he created marriage between man and woman – anything else is less than perfect and thus not worthy of those who have been adopted into the family of the living God. No matter that society protests otherwise; society was created by God and will one day have to answer to him. He is unchanging, and we choose to follow him.”

    Yes of course, an abstract all-knowing deity ‘ruled’ that he does not approve of men liking men and women liking women. Makes perfect sense, it doesn’t sound delusional at all. Though I have to say that it is rather funny how the same invisible deity thought that homosexual necrophilia is perfectly ok among ducks – http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/03/09/gay_duck_honour/

    Double standards, perhaps?

    This petty little thing that you call God disgusts me. I have no problem with faith per se, but only a short-sighted idiot could envision the supposed creator of the universe to be a judgemental anthropomorphic being who concerns ‘himself’ with petty human activities, such as what we do with our reproductive organs. These ideas are simply laughable, hardly worthy of Middle Age peasants.

    Anyway, believe whatever fairytale you want if it makes you feel better, but this holier-than-thou approach towards homosexuals (and presumably towards anyone else who does not buy into your moralistic bullshit) is simply disgraceful.

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  26. @Mary Wood, may I suggest that your controversial arguments – and, indeed, your potentially off-putting jargon – may not be the most effective means of convincing people of the validity or relevance of the Christian faith.

    As someone who would class themselves as a Christian, albeit distinctly less conservative/evangelical than yourself, I would take umbrage with much of what you wrote, not least your statement that “It is not up to us to question [God’s] ruling on sexuality”. Of course it is! It is our responsibility to question everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and to discard the bullshit.

    Regarding this issue, oh-so-beloved of the conservative Christian, have you ever questioned where you received your position from? Most likely 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9 – 10, plus some received wisdom from pastors or American Christian literature. The Bible – and Christ in particular – has remarkably little to say one the subject, but may I ask, have you ever looked at what the Bible itself meant to say, not what our English translations make the text say? Did you know that the word ‘homosexual’ did not even appear in English Biblical translation until 1957?

    I would argue that it is essential to compare, at the very least, alternative translations of controversial passages of the Bible – especially if you are going to follow it as an infallible text – and ideally return to the original language itself where possible. The NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 – 10, for example:

    “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Here there seems to be a fairly unyielding denouncement of homosexuality, pretty unarguable. But when one looks closer it is nowhere near so clear cut as traditional conservative Christians would like to make it out to be. The terms that the NIV translates as “male prostitutes” and “homosexual offenders” are “malakos” and “arsenokoitai” respectively. But the word that the NIV translates as male prostitutes – a term meant to mean a man selling himself to another man, not a man selling himself to a woman – has been interpreted very differently before. The KJV has translated it as ‘effeminate’: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God… neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor effeminate nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” The term “malakos” means ‘soft’ and appears 4 times in the Bible, three times referring to indulgent and luxurious clothes and once in this ambiguous context. The Net Bible translates it as “passive homosexual partners”, noting:

    “This term is sometimes rendered “effeminate,” although in contemporary English usage such a translation could be taken to refer to demeanor rather than behavior. BDAG 613 s.v. μαλακός 2 has “pert. to being passive in a same-sex relationship, effeminate esp. of catamites, of men and boys who are sodomized by other males in such a relationship.” L&N 88.281 states, “the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse – ‘homosexual.’ …As in Greek, a number of other languages also have entirely distinct terms for the active and passive roles in homosexual intercourse.”… A number of modern translations have adopted the phrase “male prostitutes” for μαλακοί in 1 Cor 6:9 (NIV, NRSV, NLT) but this could be misunderstood by the modern reader to mean “males who sell their services to women,” while the term in question appears, at least in context, to relate to homosexual activity between males. Furthermore, it is far from certain that prostitution as commonly understood (the selling of sexual favors) is specified here, as opposed to a consensual relationship.”

    The John Wesley commentary, however, places the emphasis not on sexual behaviour but stays close to the Greek implications of soft:

    1 Corinthians 6 v 9 – 10: Idolatry is here placed between fornication and adultery, because they generally accompanied it. Nor the effeminate – Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good-natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites!

    The term that Wesley interprets as sodomites, “arsenokoitai” is one of the most ambiguous in the Bible. It only appears twice in the whole Bible, here and in 1 Timothy, and never occurs elsewhere in the Greek language, in any Greek text that has been found, so this in itself is highly controversial.

    To conclude this unfortunately long thought, much of the lingering, but thankfully diminishing, Christian opposition to homosexuality stems from leftover cultural inheritance rather than any kind of clear cut divine ruling on human sexuality and I think it is worth acknowledging that it is at least possible that modern, more forthright condemnations of homosexuality involve an uncomfortable amount of licence by the translator. I hope that you might even consider the possibility that viewing the Bible as an anti-homosexual text is unwise if we bother to look at what the book itself is trying to say rather than what the agenda of modern interpreters tries to make it out to mean.

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  27. ‘Arsenokoitai’ (ἀρσενοκοῖται) means those who who lie with men. ‘Arseniko’ means male, ‘koitai’ means to lie with. To someone who speaks Greek, like myself, this translation is not at all controversial, in fact the meaning is pretty obvious.

    It is probably true that this word is never used elsewhere, but this is hardly noteworthy. Greek is an extremely flexible language – you can create new words that nobody has ever used before, but they will still make perfect sense. This is the reason why most scientific terms are Greek words. It is actually extremely common for Greek speakers to do that, especially among poets, writers, scientists, politicians and even comedians.

    In any case, I think the real problem here is that people attach so much importance to what is, at the end of the day, a piece of text written two thousand years ago. It is hardly surprising that some of its views will be a tiny bit outdated.

    If people are expected to take all their moral guidance from an ancient book (which was most certainly not written by the creator of the universe, as he was probably too busy not giving a shit), you shouldn’t be surprised if some take it a bit too seriously.

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