NEW

We Wish You a Merry Saturnalia: Northern Churchman

We Wish You a Merry Saturnalia? The Northern Churchman There is a familiar feel to this time of year. The Christmas advertising on television, the darker evenings, the Carol Services – and the inevitable scoffers who call the Christmas story a myth. Not ‘Once in Royal...

Mark Pickles: The Story of Two Trampolines

Gospel-Driven Anglicanism By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles The Story of the Two Trampolines:  A passage that is frequently referred to during times of great revival is Isaiah 64:1-3:  “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your...

Ten Thousand Bibles for London’s Children

TBS Auxiliary Meets Ten Thousand Bibles For London’s Children The Greater London Auxiliary of the Trinitarian Bible Society was delighted to report at its Annual Meeting held on 15 November that over 10,000 Bibles have been distributed to London schools since the...

Good News for Egypt’s Christians

Barnabas Fund Reports Good News for Egypt’s Christians The government of Egypt licensed 125 churches and church-affiliated buildings on 14 November. It is the 24th batch of approvals made since the government committee overseeing the licensing process started work in...

Church Society’s Response to MP Ben Bradshaw

Church Society’s Response to MP Ben Bradshaw In the aftermath of Desmond Tutu’s daughter being refused permission to preside at a funeral in a Church of England parish, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told The Guardian that the “C of E must move swiftly to welcome lesbian...

Collins: Who’s Your Righteousness?

Who’s Your Righteousness? By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins Who’s your righteousness? "The Lord our Righteousness" was the sermon preached March 20, 1757 at St. Mary's Church in Oxford. It offended nearly everyone that day and William Romaine was invited to never preach...

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of 1963

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of 1963 Persons Against Whom Proceedings May be Instituted. Proceedings under this Measure may be instituted against an archbishop, any diocesan bishop or any suffragan bishop commissioned by a diocesan bishop or any other bishop or a...

Editorial: Joy to the World Cup

Editorial Joy to the World Cup The result of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is already in. And it appears the Church of England has lost. The latest advice from the Church of England’s Support Hub is for parishes to consider the timing of Christmas Carol Services to avoid...

Symes to Step Down from Anglican Mainstream Leadership

Symes to Step Down from Anglican Mainstream Leadership By Chris Sugden Andrew Symes is to stand down as Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream on January 1, 2023, after nearly ten years in post. Rev Symes, 56, who had earlier served with Crosslinks in South...

Retired Bishop Given Life Suspension

Retired Bishop Given Life Suspension By George Conger The former Bishop of Ramsbury has been suspended for life from the ordained ministry after he admitted to having sexually abused two women. The Daily Mail reported the Rt Rev. Peter Hullah had been the subject of...

“Of Frogs & Fish” Part 5

Of Frogs & Fish Part Five

“We Cannot Be Both Christians and Idolaters”

Of Fish’ 

A biologically truthful analogy for this situation would be that different species of fish are suited to different oxygen levels. All fish need oxygenated water (yes, even lungfish that can survive for periods of time out of water). A trout will die in water which the carp thrives in, yet all fish need oxygenated water. 

We cannot be both Christian and idolaters. We need the oxygenated water of worship of God through Jesus Christ rather than the deoxygenated putrid water of idolatry. However, just as different fish will have different capacities, different abilities to cope with low oxygen levels, so Christians in different situations will cope with different effects of false teaching. 

So, maybe some have left denominational structures, as they recognise the idolatry that rejection of the word of God has brought. This might be by their immediate leadership within the denomination, their minister or pastor, or lay leaders. Or maybe it is the practical rejection of the word of God within their congregation, a refusal to trust in God.

Some may be more sensitive to idolatries, which we all battle with, than others. But if we are ‘carp’, and we observe ‘trout’ gasping for oxygen, oxygen levels are falling. We may have different tolerances or different temptations to idolatry, just as in the early church Christians had different tolerances of eating meat sacrificed to idols and the idolatry that surrounded it, but idolatry itself is not neutral. What none of us can survive, just as no fish can survive deoxygenated water, is idolatry. 

So, if some of us observe others writhing in the agonies of conscience, we should take note. Maybe it is a greater sensitivity, but it is a sensitivity to something real, as Paul warns those whose consciences are not troubled by idolatry at all. He has to tell them, “I do not want you to be participants with demons.”[20] Idolatry is not neutral, even if idol meat was. Idolatry is not neutral, even if some of us can resist the temptations false teachers are presenting in our current situation. Maybe we need to hear the warning to “take heed lest he fall” and “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?”[21]  And whilst for others of us, we need to flee idolatry, that may not be weakness or oversensitive consciences, but obedience to that command of Paul’s, “Therefore my beloved, flee idolatry.”[22] This can be expressed in many different ways. 

We face different temptations to idolatry and will have different thresholds dependent on a wide variety of factors – our marriages, families, financial situations, freedoms on the ground, and sensitivities of conscience often due to our pre-Christian lives (which are to be respected in love according to Paul).[23] Surely this is the key question in the face of false teachers who peddle idolatry in the guise of Christianity. Surely this is the main concern in the face of heterodox teaching. Yes, the scriptures teach separation, as well as mercy, as we have seen. Maybe we adhere more to one set of scriptures than the other. But what is non-negotiable for us all? What should we be talking about? 

Keeping ourselves from idols and so continuing to love one another in obedience to Christ so showing that we are his disciples. Idolatry sucks the oxygen out of the water we swim in, it incurs the jealous judgment of God. What would be the early warning that idolatry is on the rise, the early warning that oxygen is being sucked out of the water we swim in? A lack of love. 

We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us. The mark of Christian maturity is love. The activity that assures us most that we are his children is not only the doctrine we believe – and certainly not our political strategy, however Biblical we believe it to be – but that we love with actions and in truth.[24] This is how people are to see that we are his disciples, that we love one another. If there is or has been a lack of love amongst us, is this not evidence of idolatries that are simmering below the surface and erupting? As James says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?… You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?’ But he gives more grace.”[25] How we need more grace in our current situation to rise above the idolatries of heart that are quenching our love for one another. How we need more grace. 

 

[21] 1 Corinthians 10:12b, 22a

[22] 1 Corinthians 10:14 

[23] Romans 14-15, 1 Corinthians 8 

[24] 1 John 3:16-18

[25] James 4:1, 4-6a 

[26] 1 John 5:21 (New International Version)

 

This Anglican Futures think-piece is actually signed.  The Revd John Parker at Cornerstone Church, Colchester is the author.  www.anglicanfutures.org

Previous

Next