Tag Archives: Church

The Bible (Letter 6)


Given our remit (to tackle the fundamentals of Christianity afresh, for the benefit of outsiders to the faith) this is one of the most vital discussions we need to have. I say this because ‘The Bible,’ itself often constitutes a stumbling block to would-be Christians. I have had at least three discussions with unbelieving friends over the years, in which they have effectively told me: “I would be a Christian if it wasn’t for the Bible.” Why is this? I would suggest three underlying reasons:

1.) In our Post-truth culture, people are extremely wary of absolutists and especially absolutists who hold to ancient Scriptures. I think the fear many people have is that Christians, Muslims or others hold to outdated teachings in an unthinking way, holding their emotions and intellects at arm’s length. In response, our reading of the Bible needs to engage emotions and intellect.

2.) Let’s be honest, the Bible is complex and at face value, its moral lessons are baffling. Examples include the perplexing Levitical code and the Apostle Paul’s apparent disdain for women. I say ‘at face value,’ because I think one of the lessons we need to learn is that it’s OK to read the Bible carefully and intelligently, rather than from a confrontational, simplistic, “this I know ‘cos the Bible tells me so,” stance. But nevertheless, I think people are interested in God, but sometimes put off by the Bible.

3.) Some Christians give the (misguiding) impression that the Bible ITSELF is God, rather than Jesus. You can’t put the cart before the horse: I only grew to love the Bible after my Christian conversion. Beforehand, I remember telling my Dad, “the Bible is dead to me,” because it was. You can only love God’s word when you first love God. So I think unbelievers are frankly baffled by Christians’ devotion for the good book. We need to push Jesus first, Bible second.

With all this in mind and turning to your two questions, I think we need to be upfront with believers that although the Bible is ‘reliable,’ and ‘trustworthy,’ it is also troublesome and you can still be a Christian while living and walking with uncertainty about the Scriptures. If you give people an ultimatum – it’s either completely perfect, easy and infallible or it’s not – you’ll likely put people off. In other words, as you have said, ‘the Bible is true, separate from inerrancy.’

So to your second question. I would be open to more radical voices in the Evangelical fold who are moving towards an altogether fresh approach to the question of ‘how we read the Bible.’ For example, if the Bible attributes an action to God which really seems to jar with the character of God as revealed in Christ, could we consider that the writers of the Bible falsely attributed that action. The best example are the so-called ‘genocide,’ passages where God apparently commands the Israelites to slaughter whole nations, ‘women and children,’ included. If you want to read more, Steve Chalke’s paper on the Scriptures (‘Restoring Confidence in the Bible’) is helpful and can be found on the ‘Oasis’ website. The drawback of this idea is clearly that it is subsequently difficult to define which accounts are reliable and which are not. But whatever the case, I agree that this is, as you say,’the big one.’ One approach as we move forward might be for you and I to target these so-called ‘difficult’ passages in our discussions.

Anyway, let me know what you think, great mate. SMASHY.

Sir Tom

Ep.12 The Milk Podcast (episode 1)

Not a normal episode from the guys this week; instead we’re highlighting our new, limited run, podcast, Milk. It’s taking a look at Christianity Basics from the same eyes as the ‘Stuff’ podcast, rooting around and seeing where we might have added our own traditions into the very basics of our religion.

New episodes won’t appear on this feed, but if you’re interested you can search up ‘Milk’ or ‘unspokenchurch’ on iTunes or wherever you get podcasts from and subscribe from there. And from our blog site, of course.

Episode 1 – What is Christianity?

In this first episode, ‘Dangerous’ Walker (from the ‘Stuff We Don’t Talk about in Church’ podcast) and Sir Tom talk about what Christianity is and what it isn’t. They try to strip away the traditions and interpretations and give an honest look that puts God front and centre. Something the Western church perhaps doesn’t do as much as it thinks…

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What is Christianity? (Letter 3)

Sir Tom,

I completely agree with everything you said. What makes me happy discussing this stuff with you is that you come at the topic from a different perspective than my own which helps to illuminate it.

Moving away from church and into the realms of new (or as yet) Christians I think your point about loving as we have loved etc is a good point. I cannot think of a verse in the Bible that tells us why we should be saved, rather it is taken as a given. You should have a relationship with God because you should. I think the reasons you gave are the closest to a eral reason. God has given should you too should give.

So here’s my thinking on what Christianity is (this comes straight from the script I was working on):

“So let’s refine the reason for becoming a Christian that puts God front and centre: it’s the belief that there is a God who created all things including us. He gave us free will and because of Satan’s influences we’ve used that free will to do our own thing and shun a relationship with God.

Think of life like a sport’s team, let’s say soccer. Everyone has their position and they work together to win. Then you have defenders deciding they want to be strikers and get the glory and midfielders who don’t trust the defenders and move up and down. Ultimately everyone is getting what they want, but they’re no longer working together to win the prize.

So, God came to Earth in the form of a man named Jesus and it was through His death and resurrection that we are reunited with God and fitted back into His excellent plan.”

See I think the point of Christianity comes back to purpose. God wanted something done so He created us with specific skills and talents to do that job. We’re only going to find true happiness and purpose in life when we get back into the machine, when we let go of our ego and accept we are a cog in a machine then we find purpose.

I disagree (slightly) with what you said about God having a plan to change the world, I think He knows it’s broken hence the New Heaven and New Earth. I think God has a good plan for them and wants us to get as many people into the Kingdom as possible. It’s not God’s intention that anyone should miss out, but by our own choice we deny the invitation. When we become Christians we accept entry into the Kingdom and God expects us to live like we will then. After all, if we can’t do it now (or at least try) how are we going to do it then?

A last thought: Verses like Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11 talk about God having a plan for us, but nowhere else does the Bible talk about plans in terms of something on the is Earth that is a blessing. Jesus constantly talks about being a servant and that the last will be first. I think that’s God’s plan, serve now in the Shadowlands and enjoy the Kingdom when the work is finished.



Ep.10 Women in Leadership

In this episode, Pauline Theology, ‘Dangerous’ and Lenae dissect the verses that are used to argue that women should not hold leadership roles, or only specific ones. Basically the idea that women can’t teach men as espoused in in 1 Timothy 2, but, as ever, they drift into other exciting topics such as Biblical inerrancy and comics.

You can shout at them at the Facebook page (unspokenchurch); on Twitter (@unspoken_church) or on email (unspokenchurch@gmail.com)

Produced by Debs

Ep.9 Women in the Bible

In this episode, ‘Wo Men, Wo Problems’, ‘Dangerous’ is joined by Lenae (while BeaTs is on holiday) to discuss some of the groovy women in the Bible and what they can teach us. Exploring such questions as why articles on Biblical women are aimed only at women; how these women tended not to screw things up as much as the men did and how one woman got her miracle by making Jesus laugh.

Produced by Debs

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Ep.8 Communion (part 2)

In this episode, ‘Holy Communion, Batman!’, the lads talk about their personal experiences of Communion. How do we do it? What do we think about? How do we use it as a spiritual milestone? Are we too sombre, or not sombre enough? Also is not taking Communion seriously bad for your health?

Contact us with your thoughts at:


Twitter: @unspoken_church

or unspokenchurch@gmail.com

Produced by Beanyman

Ep. 7 Communion (part 1)

Do you know why we do Communion? Did you know that Communion is linked to Passover? Or that, according to John, it’s not? Or the difference between Communion and the Eucharist? Also what exactly are snags and a tinny and are they heretical?

Contact us with your thoughts at:


Twitter: @unspoken_church

or unspokenchurch@gmail.com

Produced by Beanyman

Ep.5 Singing (part 1)

Just as widely accepted as prayer, but rarely discussed, the boys are back to ask: why do we sing in church? Is it Biblical? Is it weird? Also Moonbeard makes a return, so there’s that…

To Tarshish!


BT recently led a small ‘Chapel’ service where he talked about Jonah and it struck me again how much I am like Jonah, but also, considering my recent blogs, how Jonah is exemplary of the consumer church mentality.

Let me first paraphrase what BT said (as parsed through my own brain) as it’s well worth consideration. First he ran through the story and pointed out that though the beginning was a great story, it’s not the important bit. In fact this whole blog entry comes from the fact that BT shone his spotlight on the last chapter of the book, it was this chapter that held the important message not the fun story of the fish. I think that’s also true for Daniel (lion’s den versus prophecy) and is a pitfall we need to be wary of with any story we teach in Junior Church. It’s easy to remember the story from our youth and not reevaluate it as adults.

His main point was that Jonah didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and ultimately he is bitter that God chooses to be merciful. BT then challenged those assembled to consider if there are people we don’t reach out to because we don’t want them to be saved, or don’t think they could or should be. Now originally I didn’t think this applied to me as I can’t think of anyone I dislike that much (geez, I’m holy), but his message has continued to challenge me and, I realise, I didn’t get it. It’s not so much that I don’t want people to be saved, but that there are people that I don’t try to save because I don’t like them (so never bother to talk to them) or don’t think would be interested (so don’t try) and in fact there are obviously people I don’t want saved, anyone I don’t tell about Jesus! I can say I want to see people in my community saved, but if I don’t actually go out and try to spread the Gospel then, well, my actions speak louder than words.

I guess ‘to Tarshish!’ could be the clarion call for many of us when called to share the Gospel. Haven’t we all found excuses not to tell people about Jesus? Mainly from being shy or worried they would mock us. BT pointed out in his talk that Jonah, in telling the sailors to throw him overboard, was basically saying ‘I’d rather die than go to Nineveh!’. Throwing himself to death into a stormy sea seems a little extreme… until you ask me to go door-knocking with pamphlets and then ‘To Tarshish!’ you’ll here me cry.

But Jonah wasn’t shy and socially awkward so why was he so desperate to escape his calling? For that we need a quick history lesson (I heard that groan) and it might shed a slightly more sympathetic light on Jonah. You see Nineveh was an Assyrian city (and a more likely owner of the famed Hanging Gardens) and the Assyrians were a great (and brutal) power that invaded and controlled a lot of the region. Jonah would not have been a great fan of the Assyrians and would have been happy to hear that Nineveh was going to be destroyed.

Think of it this way: I’m not a huge fan of Donald Trump (as President) and if I heard he was going to be impeached I’d be pretty happy (as I think someone with political experience would be better in the role). If God then commanded me to go to Washington and explain a few things to Mr. Trump in order to stop that impeachment, well, I’d have a hard time. Especially if I knew that he would most likely continue with his policies such as dismantling universal healthcare and travel bans.

The issue is that Jonah was still working on his own agenda. It’s an extreme example, but perhaps a lesson to us about just how far we have to go in submission to God’s plans for ourselves and the World. It strikes me while writing that the story of Jonah is an embodiment of the command to love our enemies. A tale to show us what that looks like (or what it doesn’t look like) and how difficult that command can be. Also that there is no one who is exempt from that commandment, no one who is too much of an enemy.

Sorry, tangent.

After Jonah has done his duty and preached to Nineveh he goes and sits down in a little shelter to watch it burn. Which doesn’t happen. And he’s cross. He then complains to God that He’s too nice. “See?” he says. “I knew you’d save them, that’s why I didn’t want to go.” And again it’s an extreme example, but is it, at it’s core, any different from us deciding what or how something should be done and balking at the idea that God wants it differently?

Let’s take it to an extreme the other way. The church leadership decide that the church service needs to be re-jigged. Then there are cries (at least there used to be from some of the older generations) that ‘we’ve always done it this way’ as if the layout of the church or the service is somehow an integral, dare I say holy, part of being church. Yes we might attract new members, win new converts to Christ, but not if it means leaving my comfort zone.

While Jonah waits for Nineveh’s destruction God causes a plant to grow up and shade him and then sends a worm to eat it. Jonah is happy and then back to his default angry. God challenges him on it, pointing out that Jonah did nothing to make the plant grow nor tend it. God then points out that Jonah had great concern over the plant (which had nothing to do with him) so shouldn’t God have concern over a huge city?

In both cases Jonah felt he had a right to be angry, he felt he had a say, but in both cases it had nothing to do with him. He didn’t make the plant appear and he didn’t have a say in it’s death; in the same way he had no say over the destruction of Nineveh. He just thought he should have a say when God merely called Him to do God’s work, speak on behalf of Him.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever wished God’s destruction on a city? Do we get overly concerned, even angry, about how we do church or what, and how, others are doing? Jonah was so concerned with what he wanted, what he thought was right, that he ignored not only God’s wishes, but also His sovereignty. I don’t know if that’s you (probably not, you seem pretty awesome), but it’s definitely me. Even when I am doing Kingdom work I can do what I think the people need, or worse, what I think God wants rather than letting Him lead. And of course then there’s all those times that, at best, I haven’t considered God or His plan in my decisions and, at worst, deliberately done whatever I’ve wanted knowing it’s wrong. I guess that’s kind of taking a ship to Tarshish, isn’t it? Perhaps we don’t do it deliberately, but we’ve still been going in the opposite direction to the one God wants.

We talk about giving our life to Christ, but it’s not easy is it? If you’re anything like me then you assumed that having become a Christian you were supposed to carry on with normal life, going to school/work etc etc, but you were supposed to be a good witness while you are there. And we do, don’t we? Society is such that we can’t really escape it. We can’t wander around preaching like Paul or Isaiah, we just hope that God gives us some Kingdom work to within the structure of the lives we have chosen.

And that’s not wrong, but maybe we need to expect more from God and His plan. Again, I assumed God’s plan for my life was something about getting a job I enjoyed and falling in love; it was always couched within the societal norm.

So what do we do? I hardest of hard things: try and let go. It’s like that trust exercise where you fall back and trust the person to catch you. What if God doesn’t catch us? What if it all goes wrong? But God is big enough and close enough to catch us.

So maybe it’s time for a prayer. A prayer to check our course, are we going the right way? Are we heading to Nineveh or Tarshish?

I’ll finish with what I’ve learned looking at Jonah again. I think the real lesson is that it doesn’t matter what we think or want. Life is like the plant that grows up to shade him. We get it for free and it’s good and we have no right to think we have any control over it. We have no right to complain when it isn’t as we want it. Life is God’s not ours. And you know what? Life isn’t important, it isn’t the focus. Life with God in eternity is.

A final analogy: Eternity with God is Mount Everest and life on Earth is base camp. However exciting, fun, beautiful base camp is, however nice the people are, whatever the challenges and rewards of it, it’s not the point of the expedition. The point of base camp is to prepare people to reach the summit…