Defending the Faith

This is a follow up to Post-Kantian “Reality”, which in some ways, I found enormously disconcerting. Many Christians today find themselves overwhelmingly discouraged; they are not alone. Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham, (1692-1752) was quoted as saying,

It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons that Christianity is not so much a subject for enquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious.

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Unbeknownst to Bishop Butler a revival of rarely seen proportions was about to break out in Scotland and northern England (the location of the Diocese of Durham). The Cambuslang Revival resulted in such large-scale conversion that by 1751 in Glasgow, for example, one out of every three people was a regular participant in church life. Just when, as a contemporary of the Cambuslang Revival wrote:

Many Christians were tempted to think that the Holy Spirit’s mighty operations upon the souls of men, by the preaching of the gospel, belonged only to the first ages of Christianity.[1]

the Lord broke out amongst His people (maranatha!!!) and stayed the tide of Deism which had previously seemed to be inexorably advancing.

Just so, when it seems there is no hope of the Church embracing Christ’s truth as it often does these days, we must cling to the reality that God and His Church have been here before.

It is helpful to remember that this is not the first time the Church has faced a situation where people embraced a fluid view of gender. It was a key tenet of ancient Gnosticism—that mystical blending of ideas from various backgrounds into an aspiration for secret knowledge and enlightenment….

The response of Irenaeus in the second century was to write his book Against Heresies. In this he outlined different parts of Gnostic belief in detail, and countered them by laying out the big picture plot-line of the Bible….

Irenaeus was aware, more so than any of his predecessors, that the plot-line of the Bible has a cumulative weight of persuasiveness. All views of the universe which differ from the Bible are implicitly telling a different story—it just so happened that Gnostics were literally rewriting and editing versions of the Bible to fit their philosophies. A vital part of our response to Queer theory must be to take every opportunity to educate people in the plot-line of the Bible. This means not only giving people Bible overviews, but also helping them see how each part relates to the whole—and how the exercise of so understanding scripture actually has real life implications for issues such as gender, sexuality and identity.[2]

I find it exhilarating that there truly is no new heresy. God has responded to these same old attacks before. Their new dress is no obstacle for the Architect of the Cosmos.

What needs to be done? We must re-learn the narrative of the Bible; it is the meta-narrative of the world. We must be captured by and formed by the story that is God’s redemptive action in the world.

There is much that Christians ministers can learn from engaging with Queer writers. We ought to be humbled by the scale of their achievements in the face of considerable opposition. Queer writers have persistently campaigned politically and sacrificially for the furtherance of their visions. Foucault modeled this. When speaking to a homosexual group he returned the 2,000 Francs payment saying, ‘A gay man does not need payment to speak to other gays.’ The immense cultural impact of Queer theory is testimony to the practical and social changes that can be wrought by academic work. The insight of gay/lesbian activists in perceiving their need for intellectual underpinnings to their political ventures is one Christians would do well to learn from. We once had a similar tradition, which like Queer theory, saw all of life as a unified reality to be seen through a common lens.[3]

We must unlearn our idolatrous perceptions of God. We must be willing to face persecution to insist on the truth. We must be willing to lean on God’s sovereignty to direct the course of history. The resistance we will find most discouraging will come from within the Church itself.

…I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

– Matthew 16:18b

[1] Arthur Fawcett, The Cambusland Revival: The Scottish Evangelical Revival of the Eighteenth Century (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971)

[2] Peter Sanlon, Plastic People: How Queer Theory is Changing Us (London: The Latimer Trust, 2010), 36-37

[3] Ibid, 35.

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