Topical Tuesday: Faith in a Time of Crisis
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 3 Oct 2017
Lee Gatiss thinks we should all read 'Faith in a Time of Crisis' by Peter Jensen and Vaughan Roberts.
Vaughan Roberts and Peter Jensen have written a book together, and it’s on how we stand for the truth in a changing world. It’s something we should all read.
From the man who brought us the books True Friendship, True Worship, and True Spirituality it is no surprise that Vaughan’s chapters in this great new book are called “True gospel”, “True sex”, “True love”, and “True unity.”
The book begins with an outline of the recent story of Anglicanism worldwide. It is of course a sobering tale. Vaughan brings the gospel to bear upon some of the most prominent issues, and promotes the Reformed Anglicanism of the Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.
He helpfully looks in particular at the issues of sexuality which have torn the Anglican world apart. Homosexuality and marriage rightly receive much attention, along with transgender questions which are also now emerging. Much here is incorporated from the author’s booklet Transgender.
What is love? What are we, as humans? These are important questions for us to be asking and answering biblically. In the process, we must aim to win people, not arguments, and engage opponents with gentleness and prayerfulness. As Vaughan says, “It’s extremely unloving to give someone the impression that God doesn’t care about their sin and that they can carry on being a full member of the church when, in fact, ongoing, unrepentant sin excludes them from the kingdom of God.”
In his chapter, “True faith”, Peter Jensen looks more broadly at the Anglican Communion. As General Secretary of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) he is ideally placed to do so.
Peter brings a challenge to those who want to be faithful to the Scriptures at such a difficult time. “We may ourselves believe that the idea of the marriage of people of the same sex is wrong and against the mind of God,” he points out, “but if we continue to survive without a protest in a denomination which allows it, we can only do so by refraining from calling certain behaviours sinful.”
There is potential danger if we follow an “inside strategy” of trying to reform and renew a denomination which has drifted from the gospel. “If we are going to stay,” Peter says, “it must be in such a way that our protest is unambiguous and costly. There must be such robust walls built that anyone looking on can see that you are standing for the truth of the gospel and can preach repentance without fear. I am not sure this can be done.” Does he mean, can it be done by those who stay within the Church of England, for example? Or by those who stay within the Anglican Communion (since the author himself says that “Gafcon is committed to reforming our Communion from within”)?
The biggest question is whether it will be done, in diocesan, national, and international arenas. But speaking of the Church of England, those who understand what it is like on the ground in local churches must give it our best shot, and many of us are doing it well already. What will it mean? Well, as I say in the new Church Society book, Be Faithful: Remaining Steadfast in the Church of England Today:
“There may be times when, if we are to be faithful to the Lord Jesus, we will be forced to defend the truth of God’s word in public, even when it is uncomfortably counter-cultural. We will need to disassociate ourselves from false teaching and those who propagate it, however painful that may be—particularly today from those who would deceive us on issues of sexual conduct by trying to recalibrate our morality (Ephesians 5:3-7). We must disobey orders which contradict Christ’s or bless what God has not. We must enforce godly discipline, driving out those who are recalcitrantly immoral and leading others astray (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). We must peacefully disrupt and financially degrade the capabilities of those who scandalise the church and seek to undermine its foundations from within. And we must in every way deny the deadly doctrine underpinning such attempts to turn the grace of God into a license for immorality ( Jude 4).”
Archbishop Peter is right to warn us. Fellowship with others who deny the gospel in their life and doctrine is always dangerous — even if they can agree with us on much else. Those looking to build coalitions of any sort need constantly to keep this in mind. We must never lose sight of what is most important. As I say in Cornerstones of Salvation, “We may be losing our grip on the gospel if the name ‘orthodox’ becomes the label we use merely for those who happen to agree with us on, say, issues of human sexuality, while issues of human salvation are sidelined or neglected.”
In this 500th anniversary of Luther’s kickstarting of the Reformation, we must remember that what ultimately counts in eternity is not a renewal of “Anglicanism”, even “True Anglicanism” — but the proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. We stand for both the authority of Scripture and this gospel content in Scripture, because only that can give true health and hope to our desperately needy world.
Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society
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