UPDATED 11th December 2018

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AUDIO SERMONS BY TONY & PATRICIA HIGTON:

Tony and Patricia met at theological college and have spoken together in many places around the world for many years.

RECENT SERMONS:

We must crucify the old nature Gal 5:1, 16-25 (Tony 26.06.16, 18 mins)

 New birth, living hope, eternal inheritance 1 Peter 1:3-9 (Tony 03.07.16, 18 mins)

 Getting to know God better Col 1:15-20 (Patricia, 17.07.16, 15 mins)

 God is in Christ, Christ is in us Col 2:6-15 (Tony 24.07.16, 22 mins)

 Listen to God, Submit to God then God will provide Psalm 81:1, 15-16 (Tony 28.08.16, 20 mins)

 How to be a true disciple Luke 14:25-35 (Tony 04.09.16, 18 mins)

 The Bible 01 – Inspiration 2 Tim 3:16-17 (Tony 25.09.16, 14 mins)

 The Spirit of power, love and self-discipline 2 Tim 1:1-14 (Tony 02.10.16, 17 mins)

 The Bible 02 – How to interpret Scripture – Different types of literature (Tony 09.10.16, 19 mins)

 The Bible 03 – A glimpse at the first five books of the Bible (Tony 23,10.16, 21 mins)

The Bible 04 – A brief look at the historical books in the OT (Tony 12.11.16, 25 mins)

The Bible 05 – A glimpse of the prophetic books in the OT (Tony 27.11.16, 24 mins)

The Bible 06 – An overview of Paul’s epistles (Tony 08.01.17 25 mins)

EARLIER SERMONS

“The vital importance of prayer” 1 Thess 5:17 etc (Tony 16 mins 11.10.15): A church must pray together other than in services.

“God’s plan for the universal church” (Tony 18.10.15 19 mins): God wants a united church not a conglomeration of individuals.

“God’s plan for the local church” Acts 2:42-47 (Tony 01.11.15 13 mins): God wants the local church to be a deeply committed fellowship

“The church as the Body of Christ” John 17:11-23 etc (Tony 01.11.15 17 mins): Jesus prayed that each church would experience deep unity in diversity.

“Baptism is not enough” 1 John 5:9-15 (Tony 06.12.15 11 mins): We must also invite Jesus into our lives.

“The church is the bride of Christ” Rev 21:1-14 (Tony 13.12.15 17 mins): The church must constantly prepare for the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb

“Gentiles are heirs together with Jews” Eph 3:1-12 (Tony 03.01.16) 17 mins)

The gifts of the Spirit are important for the church” 1 Cor 12:1-11 (Tony 17.01.16 19 mins): The gifts of the Spirit are available today.

“We have a glorious Lord” Luke 9:28-36 (Tony 07.02.16 15 mins): The Transfiguration shows how awesome Jesus is.

“The many ways Satan tempts us” Luke 4:1-13 (Tony 14.02.16 22 mins).

“As God’s chosen people put on love” Col 3:12-17 (Tony 16.03.16 19 mins)

“Knowing Christ” Php 3:4b-14 (Tony Mar 13th 18 mins)

“Taking sin, the Cross and Resurrection seriously Acts 10:34-43 (Tony Mar 27th 20 mins).

“Overcoming fear” John 20:19-31 (Tony 03.04.16 19 mins).

“St John’s understanding of Jesus as God” John 21:1-4; Rev 5 (Patricia 10.04.16 15 mins).

“The new heaven and new earth” Rev 21:1-6 (Tony 17.04.16 18 mins).

“Overcoming fear” John 20:19-31 (Tony 03.04.16 19 mins).

 “St John’s understanding of Jesus as God” John 21:1-4; Rev 5 (Patricia 10.04.16 15 mins).

 “The new heaven and new earth” Rev 21:1-6 (Tony 17.04.16 18 mins).

 “Longing for more of God” Psa 63 (Tony 01.05.16 13 mins).

“Living by faith” Luke 7:1-10 (Patricia 18 mins 29.05.16)

“The priority of loving God” Gal 2:15-21 (Tony 16 mins 18.06.16) There is a lot of loving neighbour in society but little loving God.

 Go to http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/sermons.html and click the appropriate link.


 

1. TO ENCOURAGE A SENSIBLE APPROACH TO ESCHATOLOGY (THE DOCTRINE OF THE END TIMES, THE RETURN OF CHRIST, ETC).

Many Christians (including Christian leaders) neglect this, either because they don’t feel competent to deal with it or because they are embarrassed by unbalanced extremists. I want to help rectify this by providing Christian teaching and also comment on current events and trends, with particular reference to anything relevant to Jesus’ teaching on the signs of the End Times. I try to take a constructively critical, extensively researched approach. I have completed the main (systematic) section with teaching on the subjects listed below. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/eschatology.html for both a Full (more detailed) Version and a Summary Version.

However you will find Updates on Eschatology on the blog below (which have also been incorporated into the main website above) and you are welcome to comment on them here.

2. TO INFORM PEOPLE ABOUT THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

For a number of years I lived and ministered in Jerusalem, leading an international organisation whose aim is to share the gospel sensitively with Jewish people and leading Christ Church, Jerusalem. Since then I have been seeking to inform Christians about the need, pain and fear on BOTH sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, because God loves both sides. See http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/index.html. My recent newsletter on the Israel-Gaza conflict is at http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/newsletter.html.

3. TO MAKE CONSIDERED PROPHETIC COMMENT ON CURRENT EVENTS AND TRENDS.

See below on the blog.

4. TO PROVIDE FREE, PRACTICAL, USER-FRIENDLY RESOURCES FOR CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS

These include apologetics (defence of the faith), biblical material, church development, church issues, devotional articles, doctrinal resources, evangelistic, interfaith and pastoral issues. Additions will be made to these materials. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/

ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES) SUBJECTS COVERED
The signs of the End
Will there be a sudden, secret “Rapture” of believers to heaven?
The ‘Great Tribulation’ and the Antichrist
Secular eschatology – What secular scholars are predicting about the future of the world
The Battle of Armageddon & Cosmic signs
Old Testament Eschatology
The return of Christ
Will there be a literal Millennium?
End times judgment
Approaching death
Resurrection
The destruction of world
The truth about Hell
The hope of Heaven
Appendix: Understanding the Book of Revelation
Appendix: The Place of Islam in the End Times

What about the Good News?

I am aware that, in focusing on eschatology and prophetic comment on the news, I frequently major on bad news rather than good news. Does that mean I’m only interesting in doom and gloom? No, not at all. However, there is a lot of doom and gloom in New Testament eschatology, and we must take it seriously alongside the love, joy, peace and eternal life which results from the gospel.

Jesus himself told us to watch for negative signs of the time: wars and rumours of wars, famine, disease, earthquakes, persecution, church decline and apostasy, false prophets and messiahs, great distress (tribulation) and worrying events in the heavens. The rest of the NT has a fair amount of doom and gloom about the End Times. After all, the Book of Revelation is hardly light-hearted

So I major on giving updates on some disturbing “signs of the times”: artificial intelligence, church decline, genetic engineering, global warming, Islam, oppression & persecution of Christians, secularisation & societal decline, matters of sexuality, significant political developments, terrorism and war, world poverty, etc.

We have to take note of such things if we are to obey Jesus who said: “Watch out that no one deceives you … keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt 24:4, 42-44).

Having said all this, I do come across Christians who take eschatology seriously but read almost everything in society and the church negatively – it’s all doom and gloom. And I don’t believe that is correct. There is a huge amount of good in the world (theologically-speaking, it is the result of God’s “common grace” or the “general work of the Holy Spirit”). We need to maintain the balance and I do seek to share some good news amidst my main emphasis of keeping watch and noting the “signs of the times.”

What is on this site?

NEW ON THE BLOG

Revival and the ‘End Times’ http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/revival-and-the-end-times/

The oppression of Christains in the West http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/oppression-of-christians-in-the-west/

The church desperately needs Revival http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchissues/the-church-desperately-needs-revival/

Issues of Morality (December 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/gender/issues-of-morality/

The Threat to the Family 1. The importance of the family (August 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-threat-to-the-family-part-1-the-importance-of-the-family/

The Threat to the Family 2. Attacks on marriage and the family (August 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-threat-to-the-family-part-2-attacks-on-marriage-and-the-family/

Update on Societal Decline (July 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/update-on-societal-decline-july-2017/

Update on World Government and Political Oppression (July 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/update-on-world-government-and-political-oppression-july-2017/

Update on Oppression of Christians (July 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/update-on-oppression-of-christians-july-2017/

Update on Secularisation (January 2017) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/update-on-secularisation-january-2017/

Update on Persecution (December 2016) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-persecution-december-2016/

Update on Church Decline (Nov 2016) http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-church-decline-nov-2016-2/

Update on Anti-Semitism http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/update-on-anti-semitism/

Update on World Government and Oppression http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/update-on-world-government-and-oppression/

Update on Global Warming  http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/disease/update-on-global-warming/

Update on war and terrorism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/war/update-on-war-and-terrorism/

Is the UK more Christian than the rest of Europe? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/european-union/is-the-uk-more-christian-than-the-rest-of-europe/

Is the UK more pro-Israel than the rest of Europe? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/anti-semitism/is-the-uk-more-pro-israel-than-the-rest-of-europe/

Update on the decline of Christian Belief. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-decline-of-christian-belief/

What should be our attitude to the European Union? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/what-should-be-our-attitude-to-the-european-union-2/ 

Update on Pandemics. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/update-on-the-danger-of-pandemics/

Update on Middle East tensions. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/update-on-middle-east-tensions/

I agree with Peter Tatchell over Ashers Bakery! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/i-agree-with-peter-tatchell-over-ashers-bakery/

An update on social decline. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/update-on-social-decline/

An update on Secularism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/update-on-secularism/

An update on anti-Semitism and some dangers in combatting it. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/an-update-on-anti-semitism-and-some-dangers-in-combatting-it/

World inequality. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/justice/world-inequality/

Richard Dawkins speaks positively about Christianity! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/apologetics/richard-dawkins-speaks-favourably-about-christianity/

Update on the Oppression of Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/update-on-oppression-of-christians/

Further update on terrorism and war. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/further-update-on-terrorism-and-war/

How do we recognise God’s judgment? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/how-do-we-recognise-gods-judgement/

Update on the serious implications of terrorism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-the-serious-implications-of-terrorism/

Update on the Church of England. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchdevelopment/update-on-the-church-of-england/

Update on homosexual issues. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchissues/update-on-homosexual-issues/

Update on trends towards world government. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-trends-towards-world-government/

Secularisation and non-religious spirituality. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/church-decline/secularisation-and-non-religious-spirituality/

Why the church fails to teach about eschatology. See
http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/why-the-church-fails-to-teach-about-eschatology/

Chair of the Islamic Society of Great Britain says the next coronation should be Christian. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/chair-of-the-islamic-society-of-great-britain-says-the-next-coronation-should-be-christian/

Good news: Palestinian rescues 5 Jewish students under attack in the West Bank. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/middle-east/good-news-palestinian-rescues-5-jewish-students-under-attack-in-the-west-bank/

“Jesus will return this month”. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/jesus-may-return-this-month/

Jesus preached the present and coming Rule of God. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/jesus-preached-the-present-and-coming-rule-of-god/

“Street preachers must not preach about morality”! See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/street-preachers-must-not-preach-about-morality/

Christians and others under antichrist rule. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/christians-and-others-under-antichrist-rule/

John the Baptist said Jesus would baptise in the Spirit AND judge the impenitent. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/john-the-baptist-said-jesus-would-baptise-in-the-spirit-and-judge-the-impenitent/

Update on war and the threat of war. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-war-and-the-threat-of-war/

Former imam who attacked churches converts to Christianity. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/former-imam-who-attacked-churches-converts-to-christianity/

Tory MP says use anti-terror laws against teachers who say gay marriage is sinful. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/tory-mp-says-use-anti-terror-laws-against-teachers-who-say-gay-marriage-is-sinful/

The Bible predicts Jesus will rule over Israel. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/biblical/the-bible-predicts-jesus-will-rule-over-israel/

Update on Secular Eschatology. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/update-on-secular-eschatology/

“Birth pangs of the Messiah”. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/birth-pangs-of-the-messiah/

Iraqi Christian leader refused entry to US to advocate for persecuted Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/iraqi-christian-leader-refused-entry-to-us-to-advocate-for-persecuted-christians/

Homosexual baker strongly disapproves of homosexuals bullying Christian bakers. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/homosexual-baker-strongly-disapproves-of-homosexuals-bullying-christian-bakers/

The Middle East situation and its effects on Christians and Israel. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/the-middle-east-situation-and-its-effects-on-christians-and-israel/

So the government wants to relax Sunday Trading laws. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/secularisation/so-the-government-wants-to-relax-the-sunday-trading-laws/

You personally can combat ‘Islamic State’. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/evangelistic/you-personally-can-combat-islamic-state/

Persecution is coming in the West. See
http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/sexual-morality/persecution-is-coming-in-the-west/

Church growth and decline. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/churchdevelopment/church-growth-and-decline/

Anti-Christian attitudes in Britain: Tim Farron. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/anti-christian-attitudes-in-britain-tim-farron/

Muslim imam raises money for church vandalised by young Muslim. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/muslim-imam-raises-money-for-church-vandalised-by-young-muslim/

Former MI5 boss says Counter-Extremism Bill could be used against Christians. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/ex-mi5-boss-warns-counter-extremism-bill-could-be-used-against-christians/

David Cameron doesn’t understand religion. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/secularisation/david-cameron-doesnt-understand-religion/

Thank God for this Muslim leader’s comment. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/interfaith/thank-god-for-this-muslim-leaders-comments/

Belfast Pastor to be prosecuted for saying Islam is Satanic. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/oppression-of-christians/belfast-pastor-to-be-prosecuted-for-saying-islam-is-satanic/

Bishop encouraged Osama bin Laden. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/bishop-encouraged-osama-bin-laden/

What about the Irish referendum on gay marriage? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/what-about-the-irish-referendum-on-gay-marriage/

The Belfast “gay cake” controversy. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/the-belfast-gay-cake-controversy/

Serious trends in the present situation. See  http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/serious-trends-in-the-present-situation/

Will Artificial Intelligence be the end of the human race? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/will-artificial-intelligence-be-the-end-of-the-human-race/

Why we should take note of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences? See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/why-we-should-take-note-of-wars-famines-earthquakes-pestilences/

Update on the Signs of the End: Anti-Semitism. See http://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/uncategorized/update-on-signs-of-the-end-anti-semitism/

Update on the Signs of the End: Pestilences. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=837

Update on the Signs of the End: Nuclear Terrorism & War.  See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=842

Update on Signs of the End 03 – Persecution & Oppression. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=871

Update on the Signs of the End 04 – Preparation for the End: Movements towards World Government.See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=875

Update on the Signs of the End 05 – Global Warming. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk.blog/?p=883

Update on the Signs of the End 06 – Turning away from the Faith. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk.blog/?p=886

INDEX OF RECENT ADDITIONS

ATHEISM (SCIENCE & RELIGION)

Why have atheists started their own church? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=263)

A response to Stephen Hawking’s atheism (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=172)

Has science squeezed God out? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=93)

Hawking finally disproves God – or does he? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=70)

BIBLE

The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/Inspiration&AuthorityOfScripture%2001.pdf)

The nature of God in the Old Testament (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/NatureOfGodInTheOldTestament.pdf)

An outline of the Old Testament (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/AnOutlineOftheOldTestament.pdf)

The wind could have parted Red Sea for Moses (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=79)

CHRISTIAN LIFE

·         BIBLE READING

Why read the Bible? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=46)

·          FEAR OF GOD

There is no fear of God http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=333

Miserable Sinners? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=36)

·         FORGIVENESS

God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive everyone (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=156)

·         LOVE

Love is complicated – but good for you! (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=91)

·         PRAYER
·         RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

What does it mean to “know” Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=154)

CHURCH GENERAL

What is the best form of worship? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=60)

Why join a prayer group? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=40)

CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Is the Church of England in terminal decline? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=164)

Should we have women bishops? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=56)

CREATION & EVOLUTION (GENESIS)

How does the Genesis account of the Fall of Man relate to Evolution? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=186)

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on Creation & Evolution (Genesis) http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=307

ESCHATOLOGY (END TIMES)

Should we be thinking frequently about the Return of Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=224)

Hastening the return of Christ (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=222)

Can we ignore what the New Testament says about signs of Jesus’ return? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/CanWeIgnoreSingsOfJesusReturn.pdf))

Some thoughts on the Book of Revelation (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/SomeThoughtsOnTheBookOfRevelation.pdf)

The meteor/asteroid coincidence – what does it mean? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=256)

GOD & THE WORLD

How God operates in the world (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=181)

HOMOSEXUALITY

What about ‘gay marriage’? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=237)

Church of Scotland approves Ministers in homosexual relationships (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=168)

ISRAEL & MIDDLE EAST

Is it right to divide the Promised Land? http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=284

My attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=277

The decline of Christianity in the Middle East (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=88)

World Council of Churches statement on the Middle East http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=398

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on Israel (and the Palestinians) http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=309

 

JUSTICE

Innocent until proved guilty (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=158)

OTHER FAITHS

Respecting Muslims (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=73)

Christian Unity and Other Faiths (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=34)

My attitude towards Islam and Muslims http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=389

RECONCILIATION

Listen to both sides (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=43)

SCIENCE & RELIGION (SEE ATHEISM)

SECULARISATION OF SOCIETY

Is Britain anti-Christian? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=95)

·         DISCRIMINATION v CHRISTIANS

Discrimination against British Christians (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/DiscriminationAgainstBritishChristians.pdf)

Discrimination against British Christians: Update 1 (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=179)

GENERAL TOPICS

 “Watching violent videos encourages violence” – fancy that! (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=86)

Recent Tweets/Facebook messages on General Religious Topics http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=305

 

The doctrine of the “End Times” (eschatology) is, sadly, controversial, with some Christians polarising over different views and (many) others avoiding the subject, perhaps regarding it as a happy hunting ground for extremists. Yet nearly 10% of the New Testament is about eschatology. It is not a fringe subject. We should not neglect it.

 

The problem is that some people have a natural tendency towards naivety – readily believing assumptions about what prophecies mean and how they relate to current events. Others have a natural tendency towards rationalism – being rather cynical about the subject. I am more like the latter group but because of the importance of the subject in Scripture I seek to overcome it. However we do need to be careful in our approach.

 

Yes, there are those who jump to naïve conclusions about the eschatological significance of current events. Nevertheless I do find an approach which regards prophecies as totally symbolical, rather than referring to literal events unconvincing in the light of the evidence. For example, it is difficult to see Jesus’ prophecy of the End Times return of the Jewish people to Israel as symbolical in view of the remarkable event which has happened 2000 years later. In addition, so many of the Old Testament prophecies have come to pass.

 

One of the main areas of disagreement is over the biblical prophecy of the millennium (the future thousand year reign of Christ on earth). Some believe that happens after Jesus returns, others before he returns and others that it is symbolical about the on-going influence of God in the world. Some years ago, we brought together 75 clergy, ministers and teachers from various denominations for three days of intensive discussion on eschatology. Initially, there was a good deal of tension and apprehension. But, as we listened to one another, that disappeared and, whereas there were respectful disagreements, the conference put out a united statement as to what it agreed over (we must avoid falling out over secondary disagreements over eschatology). You can find the statement on my Christian Teaching website at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/ChurchLeadersAgreeReturnofChrist.pdf. It ended with the words “We urge all Christians to recognize that eschatology is a vital context and incentive for growth in holiness and for evangelism.” I personally would now add “and as a motive for prayer for Revival” but that was before the Lord spoke to me about Revival.

 

We are called to live in the light of the Return of Jesus

 

On several occasions Jesus says this.

 

“Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matt 24:42; 25:13). “‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’(Mark 13:32-37).

 

“‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will make them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or towards daybreak. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’(Luke 12:35-40).

 

Similarly, Paul writes:

 

“The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober” (1 Thess 5:2-6).

 

Unfortunately many Christians seem to ignore this teaching. But, the Lord says we need to be eschatological in outlook.

 

We are called to take note of the “signs of the times.”

 

It is also clear that Jesus wants us to note the signs of the End Times.

The disciples askedWhat will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains” (Matt 24:3-8).

He is speaking here of long term, repeated signs pointing towards his return – false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution. They do not mean the End is imminent. They are like motorway signs repeatedly pointing towards a distant destination. But he goes on to refer to later signs which are closer to the destination – the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ antichrist, the great distress (often called “tribulation”), cosmic signs – and he adds “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [the End] is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33). He also speaks of the fall of Jerusalem, the exile of the Jewish people to the nations and their eventual return to Jerusalem. (See the footnote for comment on the controversies surrounding Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians).[i]

 

So Jesus wants us to take note of what is happening in society and the world and to understand its significance vis a vis the End. In other words, we have to be prophetic (although we need to be careful and properly critical, rather than jump to conclusions). But many of us never stand back to see the bigger picture. We have our eyes down on the details of everyday life, including church life.

 

The interesting thing is that some secular scholars do stand back to see the bigger picture in connection with the threats to the future of the world and they speak about it in the ways prophets should do. So there is a secular eschatology over such things as dangers from global warming, viruses, war (nuclear and cyber), genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.

 

Many Christians need to wake up to what is going on. And we need to be discerning because often something developed for good reasons can go wrong and have bad effects. Here are some concerns very briefly:

  • The dangers in globalisation in our ‘global village’ becoming oppressive. (The current moves against globalisation could misfire and are very likely to be reversed by the pressures of inevitable international interdependence in trade, security, etc).
  • The dangers of the development of dictatorships (including through the growth in populism, political leaders on the extremes of politics, surveillance etc).
  • The growing influence of a major world religion, Islam, which believes in a Christ who is not divine, didn’t die on the cross or rise from the dead but who will come to earth in power.
  • More widespread worldwide persecution of Christians than has ever happened previously (Jesus foretells an increase in persecution).
  • Huge problems with water sources, extreme weather, mass migration, starvation, conflict caused by global warming, pollution etc (which seems relevant to New Testament prophecies)
  • The possibility of sudden global economic collapse (foretold in the New Testament in the End Times).
  • Israel becoming more central to world affairs and the nations (particularly the UN) becoming more negative towards her (also prophesied in Scripture). There is also a growth in antisemitism.
  • (I might also refer to the serious concern that NASA etc., have about the possibility of a large asteroid or meteorite colliding with the earth which seems to relate to the prophecies about cosmic signs, even though some of the language may be symbolical).

 

See my Christian Teaching website for detailed teaching on eschatology in both a full version and a summary http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/eschatology.html.

 

I find no difficulty in seeing the relevance of all these issues to biblical prophecy about the End Times and I think this is justified by reasonable thinking, not naïve jumping to conclusions.

 

We are called to hasten the return of Christ by praying for revival

 

We have noted that the New Testament makes it clear that we are not to ignore the “signs of the End.” Nor are we, as some do, just to be excited by the subject. We are to “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:12). The apparent delay in the coming of the day of God is because God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Similarly, in Acts 3:19-20, Peter says: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.” Hence in the predominantly eschatological Book of Revelation Jesus called the church not just to take an interest in the End Times but to come to repentance (Rev 2-3).

 

So praying for Revival (alongside evangelism and living “holy and godly lives”) is a very important way of speeding the coming of the day of God, the return of Christ.

 

What Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost is very significant:

“This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:16-21).

 

He uses the term “the last days” and we need to remember that the last days began at the time of Jesus’ first coming. When we use the term we often mean “the end of the last days.” But Joel’s prophecy about the outpouring of the Spirit is definitely related to “the end of the last days” or what we call the End Times. It is associated with cosmic signs of the End e.g. by Jesus in Mark 13:25 and Luke 21:25. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there will be a major outpouring of the Spirit (Revival) in the End Times.

 

Some Christians who are interested in eschatology focus on doom and gloom and almost seem to be excited about it. Others are fascinated by eschatology but it doesn’t affect their lives or motivate them to greater obedience and witness. But if we are truly eschatological we will seek to do something positive in the light of the doom and gloom, including living holy lives, doing evangelism, but also praying and preparing for revival, which is much more far reaching, in terms of the numbers affected, than our evangelism. In that way, we will be speeding the return of Christ.

 

When the Lord spoke to Patricia (my wife) and me about Revival he seemed to be underlining Luke 1:17 “Make ready a people prepared for the Lord” which was John the Baptist’s calling. And that is an excellent motive for prayer and preparation for Revival. We are praying for the formation of a people prepared for the Lord – a more numerous people than can be achieved by evangelism (although evangelism remains an important priority).

 

So, by the grace of God, we are seeking to hasten the return of the Lord by making ready a people prepared for the Lord through Revival.

 

However we are also seeking to have a positive impact on society and the world by praying and preparing for Revival. It is a historical fact that the Wesleyan Revival had a profound positive effect on 18th century society which previously was described as a spiritual and moral quagmire. How we need that again.

Conclusion

 

Prayer and preparation for Revival is properly related to eschatology. We Christians are not only called by God to
live in the light of the End Times and to take note of the “signs of the times.” We are also called to pray and prepare for Revival in order to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” for his return and to seek to counteract the negative “signs” in society and the world.
Tony Higton

 

[i] I am very aware of the justice issues in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. I was General Director of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People and Rector of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem and had contact both with Jewish Israelis and Palestinians/Israeli Arabs. I have seen the conflict first hand (and heard the bombs going off). For years I have encouraged Christians (via a mailing list and website http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk) to pray about the needs, pain and fears of both Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides act wrongly at times. But we must not ignore Jesus’ prophecy about the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem (plus Old Testament prophecies on the issue) as a sign of the End Times.

I use the word “Oppression” rather than “Persecution” about the ways Christians are maltreated in the western world because Christians elsewhere are suffering in far worse ways. Nevertheless the trend in the west is a cause of real concern.

 

Good news

 

Of course, there is some good news. The police have apologised to a street preacher in Bath who was threatened with arrest in May 2018. Another Christian street preacher has been cleared of all charges after being falsely accused of making abusive comments towards a homosexual couple. A nurse in Kent who was dismissed for offering to pray with patients has been officially allowed to return to her job by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The Government has ruled that employers must allow staff to wear religious symbols at work as long as it does not interfere with their job. After widespread public opposition, Ofsted (the government’s the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) has abandoned plans to inspect Sunday Schools and other religious groups as to whether they promote extremism.

 

Then, of course, there is the Supreme Court’s reversal of the High Court’s conviction of the Christian Asher’s Baking Company for not making a cake with a pro-homosexual slogan. However we need to take note of the Equality Commission’s response: “There is a concern that this judgment may raise uncertainty about the application of equality law in the commercial sphere, both about what businesses can do and what customers may expect; and that the beliefs of business owners may take precedence over a customer’s equality rights, which in our view is contrary to what the legislature intended.” This case may be finished but that attitude shows there can be pressure for a different approach in the future.

 

Discrimination against Christians

 

However, the situation and trends are still serious. Tim Farron, who recently resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats, said recently “If you actively hold a faith that is more than an expression of cultural identity … you are deemed to be far worse than eccentric. You are dangerous. You are offensive.” A recent study by ComRes found that up to a million workers in Britain may have faced harassment, discrimination or bullying because of their religion or belief.

 

In the United States US a report, entitled ‘Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America’, indicated a 15% rise in cases threatening religious liberty between 2015 and 2016. It was based on research by the First Liberty Institute, a legal organisation dedicated to protecting religious liberty. Following complaints by residents, a US apartment complex implemented a zero-tolerance policy over any Bible studies being held in its community space, and sent letters to residents stating the faith-based meetings weren’t permitted there. First Liberty commented: “It’s frightening that a management company would use the threat of eviction to stop residents from meeting together to discuss any issue, let alone their faith.”

 

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said: “In recent years, the cultural climate in this country-and in the West more generally-has become less hospitable to people of faith. Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack.”

 

In Australia an Elim church in New South Wales paid for digital Easter signs to be displayed at the local shopping centre. But the authorities asked them to remove the word “Jesus” from the signs because it had been causing offence.

 

Discrimination and intolerance of Christianity in Europe was debated for the first time in the European Parliament in June 2018. Speakers, highlighted recent instances of violence, marginalisation, and discrimination against Christians across Europe. Nathan Gill, MEP, who hosted the debate, said: “It’s the first time that Christianophobia within Europe has been discussed in the EU Parliament. There has often been a focus on Christian persecution around the world, but seldom do we look at what is happening on our doorstep. It’s important to raise awareness that our rights as Christians are being eroded. We need to stand together as practising Christians to oppose religious intolerance.” Hendrik Storm, Chief Executive of the Barnabas Fund (which assists persecuted Christians), stated, “It’s easy to sit back and ignore the damage because like erosion, it’s not always immediately visible on the surface. But look a little closer and you can begin to see the cracks. You can’t pick and choose which types of freedom you want to defend. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, academic freedom or freedom of religion. You must defend all of them. Those freedoms are only one generation away from being lost.”

 

Undermining freedom of speech

 

South Yorkshire Police recently used Twitter to urge citizens to “put a stop” to hate, by reporting what it called “non-crime hate incidents.” They acknowledged that “police can only prosecute when the law is broken” but added that non-crime hate incidents like an insulting comment “can feel like a crime to those affected.” Someone responded

“Just to be clear: you want me to phone the police when there hasn’t been a crime but someone’s feelings have been hurt?”

 

Then reports are emerging from universities about speakers with what are considered as minority (but legal) views (e.g. pro-life) being banned because their views were considered insulting. In 2017 the Junior Common Room of Balliol College, Oxford banned the college Christian Union from attending its freshers’ (new students’) fair over concerns at the “potential for harm to freshers.” The vice-president said: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.” Eventually the CU was told that a single multi-faith stall would be allowed to display leaflets, though no representatives would be allowed to staff it.  Later a motion was passed unanimously at the college accusing the JCR committee of “a violation of free speech [and] a violation of religious freedom”. The motion prohibited the barring of official religious societies from future freshers’ fairs.

 

Christian MP Fiona Bruce commented: “University should a place where ideas can be explored and free speech is so important, it’s important from my perspective as a parliamentarian, to protect and preserve democracy, so we need to ensure students, very importantly, honour and respect the freedom of others … There is no legal right not to be offended, people can say things which might offend others but if they don’t, for example, go as far as to incite violence or terrorism under the Prevent legislation then that speech is lawful.”

 

One of the most worrying trends in western society is the extreme application of laws against extremism! This can easily lead to Christians being legally prevented from appropriately expressing some of the Bible’s more challenging truths.

 

Freedom of speech over sexuality

 

It is quite obvious that freedom to express biblical views on sexuality, including homosexual practice, are seriously threatened. There have been many examples of this trend. Here is a recent one.

 

Matthew Grech, a contestant in a Maltese talent show, described on TV how he left a homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian. He said: “I stopped following my passions to follow Jesus. There can be love between two men and two women, yes – but only friendship love. Everything else is a sin.”  Helena Dalli, The Maltese Equality Minister, commented: “That interview should never have been aired in the first place. It did untold damage to our efforts to change social attitudes towards minorities, including LGBTQ youths. Gay youths don’t need forgiveness or healing, they need understanding.”

 

One of the sad things is that some of the oppression of Christians in the West comes from fellow Christians. One example is about “gay conversion therapy.” This is, of course, a highly controversial practice and even the Church of England General Synod voted recently to disapprove of it as an insensitive, harmful, practice which should be avoided. But, as is often the case with such action against harmful extremism, it can be taken too far and hinder helpful action. Basically the effect of what the synod did was to vote to ban anyone praying for a homosexual to be transformed by the power of God into a heterosexual. Who does the synod think it is, voting to ban prayer for a healing miracle! There are claims that homosexuals have been transformed in this way. Other people will have been prayed for and not changed – but that is the case for all healing. Of course, people must be handled with great sensitivity and loving care. They must not be pressurised. But to say that no one is allowed to pray for a miracle for a homosexual person is extremely serious. Homosexual orientation is not a sin, and it shouldn’t be implied that it is. But the Bible teaches that God created humans “male and female.” He did not intend people to have a homosexual orientation. So why can’t Christians pray for it to be changed? The church is selling out to our secular society in this respect.

 

I have had a good deal to do with homosexuals and have always treated them with respect. They can be subject to major traumas which should be met with real compassion. But to allow the emotional pressure of such traumas to cause us to take the wrong approach to helping them is a serious error.

 

However, this trend is going further. There is a strong move against what is called “Spiritual Abuse.” Jayne Ozanne is an evangelical on the Church of England General Synod who recently ‘came out’ as a lesbian. She has become a campaigner against ‘spiritual abuse.’

 

Ozanne writes: “The most typical incidents involve those in leadership who have frequently achieved a ‘cult-like’ or ‘guru’ status due to their charismatic personality and strong leadership style. This is most evident in large

evangelical churches, particularly those with a Charismatic or Pentecostal background, where leaders exercise ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ and are therefore recognised by their congregations as being ‘chosen and anointed by God’. As a result, their word can become infallible and their authority unquestioned. For the purposes of this document this type of abuse will be called the ‘Individual Leader Model of Spiritual Abuse’” She goes on to speak of unhelpful pressure from charismatic worship and prayer ministry sessions, including teaching on the Baptism of the Spirit in contexts such as the Alpha Course, New Wine, Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, healing ministries and even the Lydia Prayer Movement, etc. My comment is that obviously there can be unhelpful extremes in anything, but such a blanket condemnation is appalling, set against the amount of good achieved.

 

She then begins to speak of the damage these experiences can (allegedly) do to homosexuals and says “It is imperative that professional organisations external to the religious institutions call for better safeguarding measures against spiritual abuse. Indeed, they should look to recognise it as a key form of abuse at a national level so as to ensure that some of the most vulnerable in our society are afforded the same protection as those facing other forms of abuse.”

 

She is calling on the government to recognise the alleged spiritual harm some churches can do to people and claims current church safeguarding procedures do not go far enough to protect them. Since she wrote a major article on the issue in the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Journal the government is likely to take her seriously despite the fact that she has no professional qualifications or experience in either psychiatry or statistical research

 

The potential serious damage this campaign could do is very clear. I’m not saying it is Jayne Ozanne’s intention but it could lead to real oppression of especially charismatic evangelicals in their worship, prayer ministry, etc. In fact, experience suggests it is highly likely to do so. The church is rightly concerned about safeguarding but it has become OTT in its procedures. The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service is accepting the sort of opinions Jane Ozanne is expressing so the denominations are likely to follow suit. It is another case of the modern practice: Take proper action against genuine extremism/abuse then go too far and restrict good practices.

 

Conclusion

 

We need to be alert to dangerous trends both outside and inside the church which are leading to serious oppression of Christians in the West and particularly to those who still believe the teaching of Scripture on what have become controversial issues. We should take whatever action is appropriate but also remember that these trends show how urgently we need to pray for and to see God bring Revival.

Christianity is growing around the world and some churches in Britain are growing. But one of the main motives for praying for Revival in Britain is the widespread decline of the church numerically, spiritually and morally.

Church attendance

 

Church attendance in Britain is declining but what does that tell us about religious belief? Dr Peter Brierley, an expert on religious statistics, pointed out recently that in 2000 72% of British people said they believed in God and 5% attended church. In 2015 the figures were 60% and 4% respectively and he estimated that, at this rate, in 2020 they would be 50% and 3% respectively. So, despite the decline in church attendance, many of those who have left the church still have religious beliefs. Some may be genuine Christians but disenchanted with the church. Some may be nominally Christian. Some may believe in God as creator. Some may be adherents of other religions.

 

Steve Aisthorpe, Mission Development Worker for the Church of Scotland, published a book in 2016 called “The Invisible Church.” He did a survey of people who no longer attend church and reported that, of the 2000+ people who leave churches each week, the majority remain committed to their faith. He added that many meet up with others informally or online.

 

The important question is how much Christian belief amongst those who have left the church is purely nominal and not a saving faith.

Digital religion

 

It is interesting that smart phones and social media are playing an increasing role in Christianity. The Rev Pete Phillips is director of the Codec Research Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University. He has said “A new kind of mutated Christianity for a digital age is appearing. One that follows many of the ethics of the secular world.” It is focused more on the charitable and moral side of the Bible – the underlying tenets of religion, rather than the notion that the Universe was created by an all-seeing, all-powerful leader. This very individualistic approach means that people can pick and choose what doctrine they believe and avoid doctrines they don’t like. Phillips wrote “Millennials prefer this generalised picture of God rather than an interventionist God, and they prefer God to Jesus, because he’s non-specific. He stands behind them and allows them to get on with their own lives rather than Jesus, who comes in and interferes with everything.” But this pick-and-mix religion is hardly Christianity. True Christians who have left the church are missing out on Christianity as essentially corporate, as the New Testament makes clear. For example, at the heart of the faith is meeting together for Communion.

Unbelief amongst those claiming to be Christians

 

A Com Res survey in 2017 found that 28% of people who identified as Christians (including 5% of those who identified as “active” Christians) did not believe in the resurrection. Yet a third of people who identified as non-Christians believed in the resurrection. 10% of “active” Christians didn’t believe in life after death.

 

A 2017 YouGov poll about the importance of the 10 Commandments found that less than one third of Christians believe in preserving Sunday as a day of rest, only 38% were against using the Lord’s name in vain and only 43% disapproved of the worshipping of idols.

 

So, again, although there are people claiming to be Christians who don’t attend church, their beliefs sometimes conflict with Christianity.

 

Then there was the 2017 Christian Greenbelt Festival which invited participants to “Experience dhikr (remembrance), meditation, and poetry, and witness the sacred movement of the whirling dervishes. Participants can learn basic universal Sufi chants that are rhythmic, healing and a unique form of mystical worship.” I am thoroughly in favour of interfaith dialogue and respect but such worship in a Christian context is unbiblical and conflicts with the fundamental belief that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

 

Also in 2017 there was a controversial reading from the Quran at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral Epiphany Service in Glasgow. A Muslim law student went beyond the reading included in the order of service and added verses explicitly denying Jesus was the son of God. The dean, Kelvin Holdsworth, commented “This same Quranic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is in a cathedral run by a gay man?” Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali commented “Christians should know what their fellow citizens believe and this can include reading the Qur’an for themselves, whether in the original or in translation. This is not, however, the same thing as having it read in Church in the context of public worship. It is particularly insensitive to have this passage read in Church on the Feast of the Epiphany when we celebrate not only Christ’s manifestation to the gentiles but also his baptism and the divine declaration, ‘You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’”

Distrust in the church and clergy

 

A survey in December 2016 by nfpsynergy found that 56% of the British population had very little or not much trust in the church. An Ipsos/Mori poll found that 25% of people did not trust clergy or priests. 69% said they did trust them compared with 93% trusting nurses, 91% doctors and 88% teachers.

 

One of the worst factors which has damaged the church is, of course, sexual abuse by clergy. This has seriously affected the Church of England. But more recently the Roman Catholic Church has been the focus of concern. In Ireland sexual abuse has seriously damaged the Catholic Church. Twenty years ago 90% of the population were regular attenders at mass. Now the figure is about 18%. In America, after a two-year investigation, Jos Shapiro, Attorney General of Pennsylvania discovered 1000 victims but said there are likely to be many more. He added that in some cases, “the cover up stretched all the way up to the Vatican” and that bishops “protected their institution at all costs”. His colleagues believe that, even today, bishops are working hard to protect themselves. All of this has done enormous damage to the church and to the cause of the gospel.

 

On a different level, the apparently uncritical support of American Evangelicals for Donald Trump has undermined their credibility and some are dropping the description “Evangelical” accordingly. In fact, there is a support group on Facebook called “Exvangelical”! Inevitably people in Britain will conclude that British Evangelicals are Trump supporters too, which is not helpful.

The situation in the Church of England

 

There are good things going on in the Church of England, for example various initiatives reaching out to local communities such as the new Advance 2020 initiative. The organisers hope it will mean “the gospel being taken to the nation on an unprecedented scale.” One of the organisers said “We’re dreaming of seeing the United Kingdom come back to relationship with Jesus.” Evangelistic initiatives like this are very good and should be fully supported. But we have to face up to experience. They have very limited effects and tend to influence only the minority of churches already into evangelism. Also we are dealing with a population which is very resistant to the gospel. It is very important to do evangelism but it will only scratch the surface. We need more. We need revival.
There are also prayer initiatives such as “Thy Kingdom Come” – an international, ecumenical call to 10 days of prayer around Pentecost which grew out of an initiative of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2016. It involves over 50 denominations in 85 countries. There is a lot of faithful work going on in parishes, although the overburdening of the reduced number of clergy is a growing problem (however a growing number of younger people want to become ordained). And some churches are growing. At its best the Church of England has a lot to offer.

 

However it is facing enormous problems. There is serious numerical decline in many churches and many have small elderly congregations which doesn’t bode well for the future. The number of people identifying with the Church of England has more than halved (from 31% to 14%) in the last 15 years according to a recent British Social Attitudes survey. One Christian commentator said: “The Church [of England] is becoming less and less embedded in the public consciousness as representative of their own spiritual identity. It has become strange.”

 

Controversy over sexuality

 

The main issue it is struggling with is controversy over sexuality. There has been extensive bad publicity over sexual abuse by clergy and even one bishop. The Church of England has been facing 3,300 allegations of sexual abuse. It has been made worse by the fact that the issue has not been handled well by some bishops – a fact which has hit the headlines.

 

The other prominent aspect of the sexuality controversy in the C of E is the issue of homosexual practice, gay marriage etc. Officially the church is committed to the biblical view that sex is a gift of God to be enjoyed only within the context of heterosexual marriage. Anglican Canon Law states: “the Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is a union permanent and life-long, of one man with one woman…”

 

However, in an interview in October 2017, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked “Is gay sex sinful?” He replied: “Because I don’t do blanket condemnation and I haven’t got a good answer to the question. I’ll be really honest about that. I know I haven’t got a good answer to the question. Inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships.” In just a few words the archbishop seriously undermined the biblical stance of the Church of England.

 

In addition Canon Giles Goddard, chair of the Human Sexuality Group of the Church of England’s General Synod, said the church could not maintain its traditional position. He wrote an open letter on behalf of 240 of the 483 synod members, saying: “Marriage between a man and a woman is the majority stance of the Anglican Communion, but just because so many people say something does not mean it is right.”

 

A recent British Social Attitudes survey found that 73% of Anglicans don’t think premarital sex is wrong, and 55% don’t think gay sex is wrong. 62% of Roman Catholics support same-sex relationships. In 1985 only 9% of Christians in Britain supported same-sex relationships.

 

Confusion in the House of Bishops and General Synod

 

There is huge controversy over the issue in the General Synod which has a strong pro-gay lobby led by such people as Jayne Ozanne, an Evangelical who recently ‘came out’ as a lesbian.

 

Hereford Diocesan Synod passed a motion calling for “official prayers and a dedication service for gay couples after their civil partnership or marriage.” This has not been discussed in General Synod but it does not take much imagination to see that the church is moving towards such a position.

 

One of the problems is the confusing messages coming particularly from the House of Bishops. On the one hand they say they are maintaining the biblical teaching on marriage. On the other they appear to be moving towards accepting homosexual practice.

 

A 2017 report from the House of Bishops supported the official definition of marriage but also backed a greater role for practising homosexuals in the Church. The archbishops have promised “radical new Christian inclusion” in the church. The bishops were accused of “looking both ways” in sexuality.  The house is working on a report on sexuality to be presented in 2020.

 

In August 2018 Ely Cathedral flew the “Pride flag” to support the local pro-gay organisation held its first festival. The bishop defended this and said it did not represent a shift away from traditional church teaching on sexuality and gender. But the festival was not just supporting the correct idea that homosexuals should be treated with full respect as people. It was affirming that homosexual practice is acceptable.

 

On the 50th Anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in the UK the archbishops made a public statement which included the words “Sin is not a characteristic of a particular group of people. Sin is the same for all of us. And the challenge to take onto ourselves the obligation to be yoked with Christ, to bear the load he gives us, is the same for all of us.” This statement is true but anyone who follows events in the Church of England knows that the intended implication is that the church should therefore tolerate homosexual practice. The correct implication is that the church should not accept any unbiblical behaviour – in any of us – but urge repentance on everyone. This is certainly not the message the church is giving.

 

Uncritical emotional reactions

 

Another serious problem is the tendency of the church to act on a purely emotional level. Take for example the tragic case of 14-year old Lizzie Lowe who committed suicide because she did not believe she would be accepted as a Christian because she believed she was gay. Who could not be deeply distressed at such a tragedy? It shows the importance of the church making it clear that it accepts and respect homosexuals as people just as much as heterosexuals. But, sadly, in addition to this, her traumatised church has radically changed to accept homosexual practice. For example, it invited the first Didsbury [Gay] Pride event to take place in its grounds. It has also joined with 11 other neighbouring churches to become the first “inclusive” Deanery in the Church of England. The area Dean is gay.

 

The church must warmly welcome all human beings but it should not necessarily welcome their behaviour.

Increasing support for homosexual practice in other churches

 

The Scottish Episcopal Church decided in 2017 to approve same-sex marriages taking place in their churches. One third of its clergy have asked to be licensed to take them. However St Thomas’ Edinburgh has left the Episcopal Church because of the decision. The rector, David McCarthy, said “We have not done it easily. We have had many tears and many sleepless nights. It is a tragic necessity. But it is the Episcopal Church who are leaving us. They are leaving orthodoxy.”

 

A few months later, in a meeting of Anglican Primates in Canterbury, a decision was made to exclude the Scottish Episcopal Church from ecumenical and leadership roles in the Anglican Communion.

 

In September 2018 the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange gave a presentation on same-sex marriage to the Church in Wales. Afterwards the governing body stated: “It is pastorally unsustainable for the Church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships.”

 

Meanwhile the Presbyterian Church in Ireland decided against allowing same-sex marriages and not to allow those in same-sex relationships to be full members. This resulted in 232 senior members of the church writing to express their “profound sense of hurt, dismay and anger” at those decisions.

 

In May 2018 the Anglican Church in New Zealand voted in favour of blessing couples in same-sex relationships. But it does not permit same sex marriages to take place in churches.

Serious division

 

In view of all this, it is hardly surprising that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion are facing serious division (and will face more in the future). The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is a new organisation which seeks to establish Anglican Churches in England outside the Church of England. However it also supports Church of England churches which are seriously struggling with the way the Church of England is going. AMiE grew out of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) which involved archbishops, bishops, clergy and lay leaders. The first conference happened in 2008 and its aim was to take a “united stand against the moral compromise, doctrinal error and the collapse of biblical witness that were becoming prevalent in parts of the Anglican Communion.” The conference said that the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Scottish Episcopal Church had departed from the Christian faith (over the issue of homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage). They called on the Archbishop of Canterbury not to invite representatives of these churches to the Lambeth Conference in 2020 and said if he didn’t the archbishops in GAFCON would not attend.

 

AMiE has recently taken the very controversial step of arranging the consecration of an English clergyman as a bishop outside the structure of the Church of England. He is Andy Lines and is legally the Missionary Bishop to Europe of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which is outside the Anglican Communion. He has ordained people as Anglican clergy (again outside the Church of England). In addition Jonathan Pryke, a senior minister at Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle, has been ordained bishop without Church of England authorisation.

 

If the Church of England approves of homosexual relationships and same-sex marriages the division is highly likely to spread.

What should be the attitude of biblical Christians to homosexual people?

 

As Christians and churches we should welcome sinners (there is no one else to welcome – we’re all sinners) but we should NOT welcome sin. So homosexual people should be warmly welcomed and respected as much as everyone else. But we should not welcome either their sins or anyone else’s, including our own. Jesus died bearing the penalty for their sins and ours. We all fall to temptation sometimes but if we repent, i.e. express sorrow and seek to mend our ways, God will forgive us. Christians should always forgive the penitent sinner. But if people persist in sin, we should treat them with love but we should in no way give them the impression we approve of their sin. Many people can fall to sexual temptation, which can be a powerful temptation for most of us, but we need to exercise self control. This is the conviction of “Living Out”, a Christian organisation run by same-sex attracted people committed to homosexual celibacy. It is run by three same-sex attracted Anglican Ministers who say “We experience same-sex attraction and yet are committed to what the Bible clearly says, and what the church has always taught, about marriage and sex. See http://www.livingout.org/

 

Tony Higton

Transexualism

 

I have for a long time objected to the superficial propaganda word “homophobe” which implies those who believe homosexual practice is wrong are afraid of homosexuals. But now we have the equally superficial propaganda word “transphobe” to describe those who have genuine concerns about aspects of the promotion of transexualism.

 

It is important to keep a sense of proportion about the number of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people. The Office for National Statistics discovered that 1.1% of people say they are homosexual or lesbian and 0.4% say they are bisexual. The Equality and Human Rights Commission research found that 1.3% of British people are in some way transgender or gender variant. In the US the Williams Institute found in 2011 that 0.3% of the population are transgender. Yet, the dominance of concern for the rights of transgender people as of homosexual people, seems to be seriously out of proportion.

 

Nevertheless, the fact these groups are a tiny minority of the population does not mean that their needs are unimportant. For example, in 2014 a survey showed that 48% of transgender people under 26 had attempted suicide compared with 6% of all 16-24 year olds. They can face discrimination, bullying and violence.

 

However, the cause of transsexualism is well-advanced. Justine Greening, UK Minister of State for Education has been criticised for appearing to believe that whether you are a man or a woman is merely a feeling, an inner essence, which transcends biology. Transgender men have given birth to babies in the UK and the US. Senior NHS doctors have said that male transsexuals should be given womb transplants so they can have children. The Scottish government are considering allowing people to identify as neither male nor female in the next census. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn thinks people should be able to self-identify their gender. The World Health Organisation has removed a page from its website which outlined the biological differences between men and women.

 

“Transgenderism is a mental disorder”

 

One serious area of concern is the way that the issue of transgender people is becoming very dominant in our schools.

Dr Joanna Williams, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Kent warns:  “In doing more than just supporting transgender children, and instead sowing confusion about gender identity, schools do neither boys nor girls any favours.” If a child is genuinely transgender then, of course, that child needs careful support. But the overemphasis on the problem raises serious concerns for the welfare of children.

 

Dr Paul McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland, states that transgenderism is a mental disorder. He says it has two aspects: “The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.” He continues “The transgendered suffer a disorder of ‘assumption’ like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists” such as “anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight. With body dysmorphic disorder, an often socially crippling condition, the individual is consumed by the assumption ‘I’m ugly.’”

 

He pointed out that “When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings.” He added that John Hopkins University was the first American medical centre to carry out “sex-reassignment surgery” – in the 1960s. Then in the 1970s it carried out a study “comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as ‘satisfied’ by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”

 

More significant, research carried out by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 2011 “revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

 

He concludes: “‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

 

Understandably, Dr McHugh is strongly criticised by the transgender lobby. He laments the fact that several America states have passed laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor.

 

We should support an understanding approach to the very small percentage of people struggling with their sexuality and disapprove of them being “persecuted.” But there are real dangers in the approach of the very dominant transgender lobby. It seems clear that people, especially children, can be seriously harmed by that approach.

 

Abortion

 

The important moral issue raised by abortion is when the embryo becomes fully human. I remain thoroughly unconvinced that an embryo suddenly becomes human at some stage after conception. I’ve not come across convincing evidence for this and I first addressed the issue publicly in 1980.

 

Of course, the lesser of two evils argument is relevant. So, for example, if an abortion would save a mother’s life it would be morally justified. But the 1967 Abortion Act has opened the floodgates to virtually abortion on demand up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Now there is a strong feeling – expressed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – that abortion should no longer be subject to legal sanctions. That would effectively open the way to abortion at any stage in pregnancy.

 

It is interesting that almost two-thirds of British people interviewed for a recent ComRes survey said the upper limit for abortion should be lowered from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks – with a fifth saying it should be reduced to 12 weeks.

 

Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy but recently a baby was born at 17 weeks, weighing just 1lb 1oz and 11 inches long, and survived. A baby’s heart and nervous system are forming at 5 weeks of pregnancy. At 6 weeks, sometimes the heart can be seen beating. At seven weeks the brain is growing rapidly. It is convenient to regard the embryo as a blob of jelly but at an early stage it looks remarkably human.

 

In the UK some 9 million babies have been aborted since 1967, and about 200,000 per annum currently. Most people tend not to think about it but, unless we are sure those babies were not fully human, that is an extremely serious issue. If they were fully human (even though tiny and out of sight) that would be mass killing.

 

Polygamy

 

Some people have been ridiculed for saying that same sex marriage and related liberal sexual attitudes would result in practices such as polygamy or group marriage. But three men (a “throuple”) were ‘married’ this year in Colombia. They have received legal support although not a full marriage certificate.

 

Hadar Aviram, Professor of Law at the University of California, said of group marriage “The movement is absolutely going to develop if the activists so choose.” She said she found little appetite for marriage among polyamorous groups when she first started her research in 2004 but she began to see a change around 2012. She added: “Perhaps in the 1970s, same-sex marriage was as unimaginable as group marriage is today.”

 

Development such as this are all part of an attack on marriage and the family which will lead to chaos and serious harm to individuals.

 

Divorce

 

The British divorce rate is the lowest for 45 years. In 2015 101,055 couples divorced, the lowest number since 1971. The number of couples divorcing fell by over a third between 2003 and 2015 and by 9.1% between 2014 and 2015, the biggest drop in more than 40 years.

 

However the major cause for this is that fewer couples marry. The number of couples cohabiting more than doubled  

from 1.5 million to 3.3 million between 1996 and 2016. The problem is that cohabitation is less secure than marriage.

Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, said Britain “continues to lead the developed world in family instability.” He added “Cohabiting parents now account for one in five parents yet more than half of all family breakdown.  The stability that marriage brings protects couples against splitting up, protects health and well-being, and supports children’s education.”

 

Baroness Hale, the new President of the Supreme Court has long been calling for the introduction of no-fault divorce. This would allow marriages to be ended quickly without fault, and without the consent of one spouse. However on average over 10,000 divorces are dropped every year in England and Wales. No fault divorce would mean that many more marriages would be irretrievably ended.

 

Gene-editing embryos

The production of designer babies is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Professor Hank Greely, the director of Stanford’s Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, believes that within 30 years parents will be choosing from a range of embryos created in a lab with their DNA. It can already take place but is very expensive.

Human Genetics Alert (HGA) is a secular group (which, incidentally, supports abortion rights) which warns of the dangers of genetic manipulation, sex-selective abortion, and the use of hybrid embryos for research. (A hybrid embryo is created artificially by combining human and animal DNA, in various proportions, for the purposes of medical research). It has called on the British Government not to legalise human genetic manipulation techniques for fear that it would “eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market.” They are not against genetic research but point out that it could lead to genetic discrimination (discrimination based on a person’s genetic make-up) and cloning (producing genetically identical individuals). They also warn of a possible resurgence of eugenics (although accept some danger of hysteria on the subject). Eugenics is the attempt to improve the human species by discouraging reproduction by people with genetic defects or undesirable traits and encouraging reproduction by people with desirable traits. The “three-parent IVF technique” has already been approved and used in the UK.

Jennifer Doudna is Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Moelcular Biology at The University of California. She pioneered CRISPR-Cas9, a technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence. However she has said: “I have to admit that I feel personally uncomfortable with the idea that there could eventually be factories pumping out lots of human embryos for the purposes of experimentation. I can’t put my finger on why but it feels like it cheapens something about human life.” It keeps her awake at night.

 

Conclusion

 

We live in a society where unborn human beings can be deliberately killed and where there are real dangers of the production of designer babies. Also marriage is being increasingly undermined which damages the family. Then there are serious dangers associated with the new ‘orthodoxy’ of transsexualism, which are not being taken seriously. The potential damage, including to children, is very serious.

 

The family is under serious threat today and we need to address this.

The biblical teaching

The Bible is quite clear in its teaching about the family:

God created humanity male and female

 “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Our society often focuses on people with a homosexual or bi-sexual orientation but, according to Scripture, these orientations are divergences from God’s intention. Obviously, we are called to love our homosexual or bi-sexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. There is no excuse for doing otherwise, whatever emotional reactions we may experience. We must show compassion. But loving our neighbour does not mean accepting his/her sexual orientation as normal or approving of his/her behaviour. The Bible clearly teaches that God intended humanity to be male and female and the Genesis passages teach:

  1. It is not ideal for a man to be solitary.
  2. The best companion is a woman.
  3. Woman can also be his sexual partner with whom he can form a new family unit and, if possible, reproduce.

 God intended heterosexual marriage

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The term ‘marriage, is not used at this early stage but it is clear that God intended the couple to form a new, stable family unit. Jesus quotes this in Matt 19:4-6. Nowhere does the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament) contemplate an approval of homosexual behaviour or marriage. Some people try to argue that the Bible only condemns homosexual promiscuity etc., but would accept a loving, faithful homosexual (sexually active) relationship. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/homosexualityandthechurch.pdf pages 5, 7 on my website which shows this is not the case.

The reasons God intended heterosexual marriage include the following:

A heterosexual marriage brings the benefit of sexual complementarity

 Genesis uses metaphorical descriptions but they are conveying important principles (just as Jesus did in his parables). Having created a male human, God says: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Man in isolation is not ideal. Genesis goes on to indicate that the only adequate partner for a man is a woman, not another man. (The same can be said for a woman. Woman in isolation is not ideal. Genesis indicates that the only adequate partner for a woman is a man, not another woman.). Obviously, same-sex companionship can be a deep relationship. But Genesis speaks of a search being made for a complementary partner and the only adequate partner is someone of the opposite sex. (Obviously someone with a homosexual orientation will not find fulfilment with a person of the opposite sex, which is a serious problem for them. However, although we must be compassionate, we have to face the fact that everyone has to practice self-control and self-denial in the area of sex, e.g. before finding the right partner in marriage or for couples where health problems make sexual relationships impossible. And, of course, significant numbers of heterosexuals remain single).

We might legitimately add that children need the benefits of sexual complementarity in their parents. One aspect of the family is educating children and they need to be educated in the differences between male and female. For this they need both a male and a female role model. Many single parents (divorced or otherwise) do an excellent job of providing parenthood but this does not alter the fact that children are missing out on the benefits of complementarity in parents. The current sexual revolution has not yet lasted long enough for psychological studies on the effects on children and grandchildren to show up all the damage contemporary society is inflicting on the young.

  1. A heterosexual marriage provides for reproduction

Having created male and female humans, “God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28).  God intends reproduction to be very important, where physically possible, in marriage because it guarantees the survival and growth of the human race. Same-sex couples may have children (by adoption, genetic donation, etc.,) but these children miss out on the benefits of sexual complementarity in parents.

God intended marriage to be regulated by society

The Old Testament law regulates marriage and divorce. The law restricts whom a man can have sexual relations with or marry (Lev 18:6-18; 20:11-12, 14, 17:19-21; Deut 22:30) and to whom he can will his property (Deut 21:15-17). If a man falsely accuses his wife of sexual immorality he is not allowed ever to divorce her (Deut 22:13-19). Adultery is forbidden (Ex 20:14). If a man commits adultery he must be punished (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). If a man marries a second wife he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights (Ex 21:10).  When a man dies his brother in law must marry his widow and this responsibility is governed by the elders of the town (Deut 25:5-10).

Jesus places restrictions on divorce, as does St Paul (Mt 5:32; 19:3-9; 1 Cor 7:10-15). So clearly God intended marriage to be regulated by society and not to be a purely private decision.

  1. God intended children to be brought up in the family

 This is clear throughout Scripture but is particularly so in the 5th commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). This is not to say that the nuclear family of two parents and children is the only pattern in the Old Testament. Often there was an extended family. There was also polygamy in the Old Testament but this was disapproved of in New Testament times. Always, however, the family was based on heterosexual marriage.

The universality of the family

It is easy to speak of the family being a universal norm but it is not quite as simple as that, especially nowadays. As we mentioned there are extended families as well as nuclear families. There are other variations in certain cultures. Then, of course, there are single-parent and, more recently, same sex households.

Professor G P Murdock surveyed the family in 250 different cultures in 1949 and concluded that the nuclear (or extended) family was definitely universal. He defined the family as “A social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children, own or adopted, of the socially cohabiting adults.”[1]

However some dispute Murdock’s view, referring, for example, to the Israeli kibbutz movement. A kibbutz is “a voluntary democratic community where people live and work together on a non-competitive basis.”[2] Others point out that, whereas the kibbutz has taken over some family roles e.g. education, the family still functions, protecting the children in the early stages of socialisation. Another exception is said to be the Nayar people in Kerala, India. They had extended families (based on the female line) which are run by the oldest male. Some have doubted the accuracy of this historical information.

Others point out that the typical family before the modern era was not the intimate, caring family many have imagined. Before the industrial revolution children in poorer families joined in the family trade. After the industrial revolution children as young as 6 or 7 worked in factories or coal mines. But this doesn’t alter the fact that the nuclear (or extended) family was the norm.

In fact some claim that the industrial revolution encouraged the nuclear family. As work became available in cities parents moved, leaving behind the wider family.

Since the 1970s the nuclear family has reduced by one third and other family models (such as single parent families) have increased threefold. Nevertheless the nuclear family is still very significantly present in British society.

The functions of the family

It is the context for procreation

It is obvious from Scripture, physiology and common sense that God intended marriage to be heterosexual in order to create the family. Arguments to the contrary, however popular, are special pleading.

The nuclear family provides the context for a stable, committed and permanent heterosexual relationship between an individual couple. If individuals are involved in temporary sexual relationships these relationships are inevitably comparatively shallow emotionally. Hence the depth of a loving commitment possible in heterosexual marriage is important for the production and raising of children.

It is a “cradle of love.”

The Roman Catholic Church has stated: “The human being is made for love and cannot live without love.”[3] This requires a small circle of intimate associates. Only the family can provide this love, the wider community would be unable to do so. It means that “Each person is recognized, accepted and respected.”[4]

It provides male and female role models

It is important that children experience these roles in the intimate setting of the family. The father-child relationship differs from the mother-child relationship. They complement one another and are important for the children to experience.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote[5]: “There are a number of different family bonds, such as those that hold together a father with his daughter, a mother with her son, a mother with her daughter, a man with his younger brother, a girl with her younger sister, a brother with his sister. These bonds are all different and also asymmetrical. The relationship of a father to his daughter, for instance, is very different from that of a daughter to her father.[6] The relationship of a father to his children differs even more noticeably from the mother’s relationship with her children.

It is important that children experience these complementary roles and learn from them. It will ensure they are better adjusted to life in the community. G.P. Murdock commented that adults gain fulfilment both from these heterosexual relationships and as a result of the strong emotional bonds with their children which are sustained most easily in the nuclear family. These strong emotional bonds are conducive to the efficient socialisation of the children.[7]

The Roman Catholic Church comments: “Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the good of marriage and the flourishing of family life.”[8] It adds that in homosexual relationships there is an “absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion”[9]

Linda J. Waite (Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago) writes that children raised by their own married biological parents experience less poverty, less drug and alcohol use and less crime and delinquency; they gain more education; they are more likely to marry; and they have better mental health compared with children from other family arrangements. They provide the best environment for raising children.[10]

It provides security

This is not just physical provision and security (food, clothing, shelter) but psychological security. This allows children to develop their personalities in safety. The family is also an economic unit which ensures that the members are protected financially.

It forms the basis of society

Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The family … is the universal basis of all human societies and social structures.”[11] Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski wrote that the typical family, a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities.

The Roman Catholic Church stated: “The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person.”[12]

Reasons why the family is the basis of society

It is the basic unit of social behaviour

It trains children in social attitudes, avoiding excessive individualism. As the Roman Catholic Church puts it, the family is “the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love.”[13]

It is the prime teacher of moral, spiritual and social values

As the Catholic Church puts it, “The family, in fact, constitutes ‘a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society’. By exercising its mission to educate, the family contributes to the common good and constitutes the first school of social virtue, which all societies need. In the family, persons are helped to grow in freedom and responsibility, indispensable prerequisites for any function in society. With education, certain fundamental values are communicated and assimilated … As well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love”[14] The child learns about love, cooperation, toleration, sacrifice, obedience and discipline in the family. These qualities enable him to grow into a good citizen.

It has to be acknowledged that many married couples fall short of providing a good example to children. But the failures of or within marriage do not invalidate the basic principle.

Professor Talcott Parsons (who was Professor of Sociology at Harvard) wrote of ‘basic and irreducible functions’ of the family:

  1. The ‘primary socialization of children’

This takes place largely in the family in early childhood. It involves ‘the internalization of society’s culture’ i.e. social values being absorbed and accepted by the child and ‘the structuring of the personality’ i.e. the culture of society becoming part of the child’s personality.  He added that ‘if culture were not internalized – that is, absorbed and

accepted – society would cease to exist, since without shared norms and values social life would not be possible.’

  1. The ‘secondary socialization of children’

This takes place when the child is older and the family is less involved. There is increasing influence from the child’s school and peer group.

  • The ‘stabilization of the adult personalities of the population of the society’.

When the primary and secondary socialization of children has taken place in the family, it needs to be kept stable in adult life. The emphasis is on the marriage relationship and the emotional security this can provide. So, again, the family is crucial. Parsons added: “This function is particularly important in Western industrial society, since the nuclear family is largely isolated from kin. It does not have the security once provided by the close-knit extended family. Thus the married couple increasingly look to each other for emotional support.”

Conclusion

The family, based on heterosexual marriage, is fundamentally important.  This is clearly taught in Scripture but it is also confirmed by logical examination. It regulates procreation, avoiding the chaos and damage of ‘free love.’ It provides a stable, loving secure environment for children (and also for adults). It affords children male and female role models. It is crucial to society as the primary context in which children can learn moral, social and spiritual values.

However, there is today an increasing attack on (heterosexual) marriage and the family which needs to be seen as leading to a very serious undermining of society and which will do enormous damage if left unchecked. I examine this in my next paper “Attack on marriage and the family.”

Tony Higton

 

[1] G.P.Murdock, Social Structure (1949), New York: Free Press.

[2] http://kibbutzprogramcenter.org/about-kibbutz/

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 223

[4] Ibid 221

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

[6] George Peter Murdock, Social Structure, The Free Press, New York 1965, quoted by Goldsmith.

[7] G.P. Murdock, Functionalism and the Family

[8] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 224

[9] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 504

[10] Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially (2000).

[11] The Ecologist, Vol. 6 No. 1 and Vol. 6 No. 2, 1976.

[12] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 467.

[13] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 493

[14] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 238-239

We live in an age when attitudes towards sex are changing radically with unprecedented speed. It is easy for Christians to become so taken up with what we see as sexual immorality or even depravity that we don’t discern the more serious effects of this revolution. The most serious effect is the destruction of the family in its biblical sense of a heterosexual couple committed for life, normally having children and bringing them up in their own home.  And this will lead to the undermining of society which will have very serious consequences.

The Bible makes it clear that the heterosexual family is fundamental to the welfare of society. Whatever symbolism is used in the Genesis account, the principle of marriage is clear. “It is not good for man to be alone” – he needs a suitable partner – a woman (Gen 2:18). There is an essential complementarity in the marriage relationship. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Obviously heterosexual marriage is fundamental to reproduction. It provides complementary role models for children (and they can learn from both parents, of opposite sexes). Parents must not act unreasonably towards their children but “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Children are urged to honour their parents (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20). Jesus confirms this understanding of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 as does Paul in Ephesians 5:25-33.

The fact that there are examples of polygamy in the Old Testament does not undermine the principle of heterosexual marriage, nor does it alter the fact that the fundamental biblical idea of marriage is of a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, as Genesis makes clear.

It is so obvious that heterosexuality is the norm since only 1.5-3% of the population is homosexual. (It could be lower if young people were not encouraged to think they might be homosexual). Only those who have been brainwashed by homosexual equality propaganda could think otherwise. It’s an “emperor’s new clothes” situation. Having said that, homosexuals as people are equal to heterosexuals and should be treated with respect. But that is quite different from saying that homosexual behaviour is equal to heterosexual behaviour within (heterosexual) marriage.

 

The biblical vision is that well-functioning heterosexual marriages and their associated families will add to and maintain communities, will stabilise and strengthen those communities and will train children to be good citizens.

Some people are deliberately aiming to destroy the heterosexual family. Others have different aims but will have the effect of furthering this destruction.

Those campaigning for the destruction of the family

MARXISTS

Many, but not all, socialists in the 19th and 20th centuries rejected the family in favour of “free love” – unrestricted sexual relationships based purely on mutual love. Marx and particularly Engels criticised the family. Marx argued that in early human history sexual promiscuity was the order of the day. There was complete sexual freedom including incest. He and Engels argued that the family brought about the idea of private property, inheritance of property together with the oppression of women and children. They held that the abolition of private property (in socialism) and the abolition of inheritance would lead to the dissolution of the family.  The absence of private property would mean everyone would benefit from the economic opportunities in society. There would be no need for the financial support provided by the family. Instead of (‘slave’) labour in the family, women would work in factories and there would be communal child care which would remove the fear of unwanted children. Thus women would be liberated.

Engels wrote in Principles of Communism that communism “will make the relations between the sexes a purely private affair, which concerns only the two persons involved; a relationship which is in no way the concern of society. This attitude is made possible because private property will have been abolished and the children will be educated communally.”

Charles Fourier, a 19th century socialist philosopher believed monogamy was contrary to human nature and consequently an impediment to human happiness. He also believed that children should be raised, not in family units, but communally. His vision was of society being one big happy family.

In the 1920s Leonid Sabsovich, the leading Soviet urban planner under Lenin and Stalin advocated that children should be the property of the state, not the family. Children should be moved to specially designed children’s towns at a distance from the family.

Other communists have said that a preference for one’s spouse and authority over one’s children violates the principle of equality, which proclaims that we must treat everyone exactly the same.

RADICAL FEMINISTS

In the pre-industrial era men and women tended to work together in farming, etc., (accompanied by their children) but after the industrial revolution women were expected to stay at home doing domestic jobs and looking after children, whilst men went out to work. This gave men more power and created a much more patriarchal society. Many radical feminists advise women to avoid heterosexual relationships because they involve patriarchal (male) dominance. They see family as facilitating power relationships very much in favour of men. They also object to the large amount of unpaid labour which stay-at-home wives undertake.

Some feminists are influenced by Marxism and believe the family supports capitalism. For example Margaret Benston wrote that “As an economic unit, the nuclear family is a valuable stabilizing force in capitalist society. Since the husband–father’s earnings pay for the production which is done in the home, his ability to withhold labour from the market is much reduced.”[1] Also, within the family, children learn to conform and to submit to authority. The foundation is therefore laid for the obedient and submissive workforce required by capitalism.

Germaine Greer is a radical feminist who believes that “it is men who need marriage more. Married men score much higher on all measures of psychological well-being than unmarried men, whereas single women tend to be more content than married women.” She believes the only answer is segregation – women doing without male partners. She has been criticised for not taking seriously the progress made by women in recent times.

Michèlle Barrett and Mary McIntosh (1982) were influenced by Marxist feminism. They believe the family undermines life in the community – “the family ideal makes everything else seem pale and unsatisfactory”. Family members are so taken up by their family relationships that they neglect other social contacts. For example, they claim that the family encourages people to view life in other institutions (such as children’s homes, old people’s homes and students’ residences) as shallow and lacking in meaning.

GAY LIBERATIONISTS

In 1971 the Gay Liberation Front published its Manifesto. Peter Tatchell, the well-known gay campaigner said in 2013 that this manifesto was almost “the LGBT equivalent of the Communist Manifesto.” It envisaged an alternative society. The LGBT struggle was “part of the broader anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement, striving for the emancipation of all humankind. It critiques homophobia, sexism, marriage, the nuclear family, monogamy, the cults of youth and beauty, patriarchy, the gay ghetto and rigid male and female gender roles.” “Erotic shame and guilt would be banished. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone.” “What’s required is a revolution in culture, to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination and the limitations of traditional gender roles.”

The Gay Liberation Front’s Manifesto stated: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” “Our entire society is built around the patriarchal family and its enshrinement of these masculine and feminine roles. … It is because of the patriarchal family that reforms are not enough. Freedom for gay people will never be permanently won until everyone is freed from sexist role-playing and the straightjacket of sexist rules about our sexuality. And we will not be freed from these so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

However, whereas lesbian and gay organisations in the 1970s were often very anti-family, since the 1980s the opposite has been the case and there has been the move towards same sex marriage.

Speaking of same sex marriage, Judith Stacey, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Sociology at New York University admits: “If we define the current ongoing effort to remake contemporary family life as the post-modern family … the term post-modern signals the end of a familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavour whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications are not yet well understood. Thus, the post-modern is characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.”[2]

She claims that by the late 1980s, 6–14 million children were being brought up in gay and lesbian families. She says that research indicates that gay and lesbian relationships are at least as suitable for raising children as heterosexual marriages, that there is virtually no difference in the psychological well-being and social development of children with gay or lesbian carers and those with heterosexual carers. She added: ‘The rare small differences reported tend to favour gay parents, portraying them as somewhat more nurturant and tolerant, and their children in turn, more tolerant and empathetic, and less aggressive than those raised by non-gay parents.’

She believes children raised in gay and lesbian families are more likely to try homosexual relationships for themselves. But she does not believe the development of the postmodern family has no disadvantages. She acknowledges that it creates a certain degree of unsettling instability.

However, same sex marriage is not just a different form of marriage (and family). It contradicts fundamental aspects of family. It undermines marital complementarity and the fact that children are intended to have both a mother and father. It undermines the obvious fact that marriage is heterosexual because it is intended to lead to procreation. In other words, it serious undermines the divine intention about marriage. It involves homosexual social values being absorbed and accepted by children. And, as Judith Stacey says, it encourages children to try homosexual relationships.

The Church’s failure

The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before much of the western church will accept (and celebrate) same sex marriage. Already some denominations have.

The Church of Scotland recently discussed a report which advocated allowing ministers to celebrate same sex marriage. It has been committed to the church’s Legal Questions Committee to check the practicalities of a move to allow same-sex marriage in church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland has just approved (by only a one vote majority) same sex marriages taking place in church. It was reported that several prominent evangelical pastors in the US back same sex marriage.

The Church of England is maintaining a conservative position but, to a significant extent, is giving the impression that it will eventually change. I firmly agree that we should treat homosexuals as people with respect and apologise when we don’t. But the church has so overdone the apologising that it has given the impression that it is insecure in its position over same sex marriage. We seem to be intimidated by gay propaganda, especially being called ‘homophobic.’ Homophobia literally means ‘fear of man’ or ‘fear of the same’ but recently it has come to mean ‘fear of homosexuals.’ The Christian disapproval of homosexual behaviour has nothing to do with the fear of homosexuals but ‘homophobic’ has become an effective ‘put-down’ word. It often makes the church weaken the biblical position on homosexual behaviour.

Gay propaganda

The media can, of course, be a power for good. But it also has the power to change public opinion in unbiblical ways ways. Ever since the 1960s society has been transformed in its view of sexuality. Heterosexual couples living together, childbirth outside marriage, sex before marriage have all become widely acceptable and one of the main influences has been indoctrination by the media. To question these practices nowadays would seem archaic. And the same thing has happened, especially in the last 25 years, with homosexual behaviour. Same sex marriage is not so established in public opinion but it will be.

Then there is sex education in schools. Inevitably this has changed in line with public opinion.  This year’s annual conference of the National Union of Teachers called for compulsory teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues “throughout all phases of state education”, including in nurseries.

Peter Tatchell comments: “The right to love a person of either sex, to engage in any mutually consensual sexual act, and to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life, is a fundamental human right. This right to sexual self-determination should be promoted in every school, to create a culture of sexual rights where every young person understands and asserts their right to determine what they, and others, do with their body. This ethos of ‘it’s my body, I’m in charge’ is the best possible protection against people who try to manipulate and pressure youngsters into having sex.” He says schools should not promote any particular sexual orientation and he advocates schools teaching children about the whole range of sexual activities.

Allen Young, a member of New York’s Gay Liberation Front says: “Only because our capitalist values and nuclear family structure coerce children into sex roles do they become limited in their sexuality.”

The danger is already present of young teenagers who formerly would have known little about homosexual practice, now experimenting or even asking for gender changes, who, but for modern propaganda, would have grown up to form a heterosexual relationship.

The way things are going it is inevitable that marriage and the family are going to be increasingly undermined by a society indoctrinated by the sort of view Tatchell is advocating.

Other undermining of marriage and the family

Single parenthood

I am aware that many are lone parents as a result of divorce or unplanned pregnancies and many of them make every effort to be good parents, caring for their children. However the British Social Attitudes Surveys also show an increase in the acceptance of parenthood outside marriage. In 1989, 70% agreed that ‘people who want children ought to get married.’ In 2000 it was 54%. In 1961 2% of the population lived in homes with children and a single parent. In 2005 it was 12%.[3] In 1972 7% of children lived in single parent families. In 2002 it was 23%.[4]

Sarah McLanahan and Karen Booth of the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1991)refer to various American studies claiming that children are harmed by single parenthood. They say that such children have lower earnings and experience more poverty as adults; that are more likely to become lone parents themselves; and that they are more likely to become delinquent and engage in drug abuse.

Sara Arber, Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey found that the children of single parents suffered more ill-health than other children unless their parent was fully employed.

Sociologist David Morgan says the evidence suggests the children of single parents fare less well than those from two-parent households. In addition, many such children will experience the confusion and insecurity of their mothers forming successive relationships with different men.

Divorce

Divorce rates have been rising and this has obvious ill effects on both parents and children. However the remarriage rate is also high.

Conclusion

The rate of marriage in the UK is still quite high but marriage is declining as an institution. Cohabitation outside of marriage is widespread and single parenthood is growing. Also the divorce rate has grown considerably. Then there is the issue of same-sex marriage which, however popular, undermines the nature of marriage and the family.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The institution of the family has decayed in modern times, so converting society into an alienated agglomeration of disconnected individuals, susceptible to arbitrary, remote and authoritarian governance.”[5]

We need to recognise and watch these trends because ultimately they will cause enormous damage to individuals, families and society. Marriage and the family are under serious threat and so is society.

Tony Higton

[1] Margaret Benston, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation”, Monthly Review, 21 (4), September 1969.

[2] J. Stacey, Brave New Families. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

[3] HMSO, 2002a; Social Trends 2006.

[4] Social Trends 1998, 2006.

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

The Sexual Revolution – a grave danger to society

 

We live in a time of sexual revolution but we seem to be largely unaware of its very serious implications. The main impact will be the undermining of (heterosexual) marriage and the family which the Bible teaches is fundamental to human society. Gender theory supports people (including children) choosing to identify as male, female, both or neither, whatever their biological gender. There are moves to undermine the idea of fidelity in marriage. Same sex marriage will undermine the complementarity of male and female which has undergirded the family. It implies that children do not need both a father and a mother. And all this is in addition to longer term problems such as the emotional effect (particularly on children) of widespread divorce.

 

One question is: what effect will this have on children in the long term? Pope Francis said recently that gender theory is part of “a global war out to destroy marriage.” This threat to marriage and the family has been around for 100 years but has accelerated remarkably in the last 20 years or so.

 

The Marxist attack on marriage and the family

 

The pope’s comment is appropriate to the aims of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, now the Institute for Social Research, which emerged from the Russian Revolution. It became clear to Lenin after World War I that there would not be a communist revolution in the West and so a different approach was required. He encouraged the undermining of the family as a means of undermining capitalist societies. Lenin is credited with saying: “Destroy the family and you destroy society.” Whether or not this is an actual quotation, it does sum up Lenin’s opinion that undermining the family would undermine Western culture and pave the way for alternative views of society. 

 

The Marxists saw the family as supporting capitalism and encouraging children to accept the authority of their parents unquestioningly. It promoted the idea of private property and so could be open to the pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses,” becoming even more capitalist. It facilitated passing on private property to descendants rather than sharing it with the wider community. Engels wrote in favour of the care and education of children being “a public affair”. That way children could be educated in communism rather than in religion and traditional family structure.

 

He also spoke in favour of “the gradual growth of unconstrained sexual intercourse and with it a more tolerant public opinion in regard to a maiden’s honour and a woman’s shame.” Instead of private relationships everyone should belong to everyone. So premarital and extramarital sex and adultery would cease to have the same meaning. In 1919 sex education for school children was introduced in Hungary, with the clear aim of undermining the traditional family and morality by destroying children’s innocence. The first Director of the Frankfurt School, Georg Lukacs, promoted sex education for young children (encouraging sexual experimentation), pornography, free love, easier divorce and access to contraception. Now all those things are widely accepted in our society.

 

Homosexuality was first decriminalized in the Soviet Union in 1922. No-fault divorce was introduced for the first time in the Soviet Union in 1918 and abortion was decriminalized for the first time by Lenin, in 1920.

 

Marxists clearly intended that sexual anarchy and social disorder would lead to demands for ‘strong’ government and the loss of democratic freedom.

 

What other factors are behind the modern sexual revolution?

 

There are, no doubt, many individuals who support gay liberation who have no ulterior motives. They simply want to see homosexuals treated with respect, like heterosexuals. I believe that homosexuals, as people, should be treated with the same respect as heterosexuals. But we would be very naïve to believe this is the whole story. The modern sexual revolution is bigger than both gay liberation and Marxism. As Christians we should recognise a demonic strategy which will do enormous damage to society and will open the way to oppressive political rule. The relevance of this to biblical prophecies about the End Times is clear.

 

It is instructive to examine the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto published in 1971 and revised in 1978.[i] It is very similar to the Marxist aim of undermining the family and, in the Marxist case, subsequently society, preparing the way for political oppression.

 

It states: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” It criticises schools which, at that time, reflected the pro-family, anti-homosexual values of society. It also criticises the church “whose archaic and irrational teachings support the family and marriage as the only permitted condition for sex.” It adds “The press, radio, television and advertising are used as reinforcements against us, and make possible the control of people’s thoughts on an unprecedented scale. Entering everyone’s home, affecting everyone’s life, the media controllers, all representatives of the rich, male-controlled world, can exaggerate or suppress whatever information suits them.”

 

The Manifesto then goes on to say: “Gay liberation does not just mean reforms. It means a revolutionary change in our whole society.” It describes society (in the 1970s) as sexist and built around the patriarchal family “in which one’s biological sex determines almost all of what one does and how one does it … we will not be freed … so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

 

It finally states its aim: “The long-term goal of Gay Liberation, which inevitably brings us into conflict with the institutionalised sexism of this society, is to rid society of the gender-role system which is at the root of our oppression. This can only be achieved by eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles. It is particularly important that children and young people be encouraged to develop their own talents and interests and to express their own individuality rather than act out stereotyped parts alien to their nature.”

 

Current events

Sex education

One of the most disturbing factors is sex education in schools. Children as young as 4 are to be given compulsory sex education in school about safe and healthy relationships. There are moves to require all pupils to “learn the importance of respect, tolerance and commitment in all types of healthy relationships.” This covers any kind of sexual relationship so long as there is no coercion. Tory MPs are pushing for all schools, including primary schools, to be compelled to endorse same sex marriage.

 

Children as young as 5 have been alleged to have carried out sexual offences at school. The youngest victims were 5 years old. The number of allegations of sex crimes in schools rose from 719 in 2011-12 to 1955 in 2014-5.

 

The Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC TV reported that since 2015 three pre-school children have been referred to the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. They are among 167 children under 10. The Tavistock Clinic is a gender identity clinic for under 18s. In 2009 there were 96 referrals (40 girls and 56 boys). In 2014 there were 697 and in 2015 1398 (913 girls and 485 boys). Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Bernadette Wren commented: “It’s not really for us to approve or disapprove. … in the end, we maybe have to see through this social revolution and see how it transpires.” In 2016 a Church of England primary school in Hartfield, Sussex held a ‘transgender day’ event to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people.” The head commented: “As part of the national curriculum, we spend time talking to the children about British values of tolerance, respect and celebrating differences.”  Schools have begun to introduce “gender neutral” uniform rules.

Other examples

Over 50% of teachers have become aware of incidents of children sexting (sending sexually explicit messages) at school, some of them as young as 7.

 

Nearly all Europeans accept premarital sex. Countries vary as to the percentage believing that adultery is morally wrong: US 84%, Greece 79%, UK 76%, Spain & Italy 64%, Germany 60%, France 47%.

 

In Italy the Senate and it Judiciary Committee have voted to remove the word “fidelity” from marriage contracts as faithfulness in marriage is seen as “outdated and obsolete.”

 

A recent survey by Grazia and Onepoll found that a quarter of heterosexual women have had sexual experience with another woman. The press commented: “young women are increasingly having more fluid attitudes towards gender and sexuality … women are increasingly breaking away from traditional attitudes about gender, sexuality, marriage and family life.”

 

Conclusion

 

It may take a generation before the very serious effects of the sexual revolution are recognised by society. But it is very instructive to look back at how things have changed in the last 20 years or so. Some early 20th century attitudes to sexual morality, namely that sexual intercourse should be confined to heterosexual marriage, are now are seen as antediluvian. The media have, of course, been a major factor – effectively brainwashing the population into a radically different approach to sexuality.
The sexual revolution is not the most important challenge facing us. The fact that most people ignore or marginalise God is more important. But the sexual revolution is a catalyst guaranteed to transform society in a way contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and the church.
The only hope for our society is another Revival on a level with that which happened in the time of the Wesleys.

 

OTHER ISSUES

 

Abortion

 

British MPs have voted by 172 to 142 in favour of totally decriminalising abortion up to 24 weeks. They were backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory service. Cathy Warwick, head of the Royal College of Midwives stated that abortion was never wrong but is a mother’s choice. In 2015 Fiona Bruce MP tried to make sex-selective abortion illegal but MPs rejected that by 292 to 201 votes.

 

The Global Life Campaign has researched over 100 nations, territories and regions up to 2015. They discovered that one billion babies have been aborted since the Soviet Union legalised abortion in 1920. It says that “current worldwide reported abortions are about 12.5 million per year”. One factor is the availability of on-line abortion pills.

 

The Evangelical Alliance commented: “Decriminalisation grants the unborn protection only in so far as it’s the property of its mother. Now, women holding the power of life or death over their children is framed as a victory for equality.”

 

Euthanasia

 

There have been moves to legalise euthanasia in the UK. It already is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. The number of Dutch people killed by medical euthanasia has more than doubled in the 10 years since it was legalised, rising 13% to 4,188 in 2016.

 

Dr. Robert G Twycross, emeritus Clinical Reader in Palliative Medicine at the University of Oxford commented: “Dutch journalist Gerbert van Loenen shows in his book ‘Do You Call This a Life? Blurred Boundaries in the Netherlands’ Right-to-Die Laws’ that, although euthanasia activism begins with the wish to help suffering people of sound mind to achieve control in ending their torment, it never stops there. In both the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium, once the barrier of legislation is passed, medically assisted dying takes on a dynamic of its own and extends beyond the original intent, despite earlier explicit assurances that this would not happen. As a disillusioned former member of a Dutch regional euthanasia review board has said: ‘Don’t go there!’”

 

Racism

 

Events such as Brexit and the rise of leaders like Donald Trump have raised the issue of national independence and control of immigration. Sadly, though, this has also encouraged racism. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recorded a sharp rise in Islamophobic, anti-semitic and xenophobic assaults in 2016 including in Britain. It condemned David Cameron for describing asylum seekers hoping to reach the UK as a “swarm.” Some of the British media, especially tabloid newspapers were condemned for “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology.” An article in The Sun likened refugees to “cockroaches.”

 

In the US Rick Tyler, standing as a candidate for Congress, designed a billboard stating “Make America white again.” He wanted America to be like it was (according to him) in the 1960s: “It was an America where you didn’t have to lock your doors. You didn’t have to worry about carjacking and home invasions. You didn’t have to worry about Muslim sleeper cells down the street. You didn’t have to worry about Islamic mosques radicalising people. It was an America that was far superior to the America that we live in today, and – not coincidentally – it was an America whose demographic was 85 per cent plus Caucasian.”

 

Lack of concern for Poverty and Human Rights

 

When the Archbishop of Canterbury last Christmas asked people to pray for the poor, hungry and homeless, Nigel Farage responded: “Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

 

UK government to cut sickness and disability benefits were condemned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which said the cuts will “exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities” as well as disproportionately affecting disabled people.

 

The UK has come in for criticism for its positive relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia which have a poor human rights record. S Arabia bombed various hospitals run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Yemen. They also destroyed schools. The UN criticised S Arabia for contributing to a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. A few days after the EU voted for an arms trade embargo on S Arabia, David Cameron praised British companies that have traded with that country. The UK government says it raises human rights issues with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain privately but that means it is not possible to assess if that approach is adequate. In 2015 the most senior Foreign Office civil servant told MPs that human rights was “not one of our top priorities” and that the “prosperity agenda is further up the list.”

 

 

Christians need to wake up to the radical and very damaging changes taking place in our society and to pray for the Lord to bring a powerful revival of the Christian faith.

 

[i] http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/glf-london.asp

We are living through a time of significant political change. I have in the past written about globalisation – its benefits and dangers. But now we are in the Trump-Brexit era which seems to be moving away from globalisation. How are we to understand what is going on relative to biblical predictions about the End Times? Does it mean that world trends are no longer moving in a direction which could ultimately facilitate the rise of the Antichrist as a global leader?

 

We are seeing how easy it is for extremists to gain power

 

In fact, the current reaction against globalisation shows how easy it is for extremists to come to power. I am aware that many US Evangelicals support Donald Trump. One of the main reasons is that, unlike Hilary Clinton, Trump takes a conservative line on abortion. Abortion is a big deal in the US but isn’t in the UK. I myself am conservative over abortion and many years ago mounted a local campaign against liberal views of abortion. But we need to realise that there are other very important moral issues as well as abortion and similar matters of personal morality. Trump may be conservative over abortion but many of us think that in other ways he is an extremist:

  • He is very self-promoting
  • He rubbishes anyone who disagrees with him (including the press)
  • He regards any news he disagrees with as “fake news.”
  • He says people who protest against him are being paid to do so
  • He claims that he alone represents the people against “the elite”
  • He thrives on divisiveness and claims his opponents are un-American.
  • He bullies, threatens and holds grudges
  • He acts hastily on important issues such as global warming and other international threats (e.g. N Korea, use of chemical weapons in Syria).

The Pope recently reminded people of what happened in Germany in 1933 and warned: “A people that was immersed in a crisis that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened.” This shows how a charismatic, extremist can gain power and go on to become a dictator.

Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN deputy general secretary, expressed deep concern about “the growing cult of the strong man.” He said: “In a range of countries there are very strong leaders, not always that respectful of the rules of the game.” He instanced the current leaders of China, India, Turkey together with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. They are a very powerful group on the G20 which is a major factor in globalisation. Malloch-Brown said that “democracy is being replaced by a generation of Caesars.”

 

Paul Mason, writing in the Guardian, said: “Putin has, at the cost of diplomatic isolation and the suppression of democratic rights, restored growth, order and national pride. Now all over the world there are mini-Putins.”

 

Tony Blair stated: “In a world of uncertainty, people want strength in their leaders. It’s our job to make sure that that does not bleed across into authoritarianism.”

A recent survey for The Independent discovered a fear of global fascism amongst British people. Contributory factors were the appointment of Trump, Brexit and the danger of far-right wing leaders coming to power in Europe. 53% of Britons said global fascism is growing. 46% said it was growing in Britain and 48% that it is growing in Europe.

Globalisation, one trend relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist as a global leader, may be partly in reverse in some places. But the trend towards the emergence of extreme world leaders, another trend relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist, is obvious.

 

Trump has a policy of rubbishing people who disagree with him. He does this with the media who, for all their faults, are crucial to freedom of speech and democracy. He is effectively supporting those who reject free speech and human rights. Human Rights Watch warned about the emergence of leaders who magnify their own authority. They “directly challenge the laws and institutions that promote dignity, tolerance, and equality.” They are “seeking to overturn the concept of human rights protections.”

 

Until recently it was assumed that the political extremes – left or right – would not be able to take over. That assumption has been shattered recently. Extremists can come to power and take over and that is just as relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist as globalisation.

 

Appreciation of the benefits of globalisation will return

 

Globalisation has brought about increasing interdependency and interaction between nations. It seems that nations are returning to protectionism and restrictions on overseas workers and refugees. Some think the apparent reaction against globalisation is merely a reaction against the inequalities caused by multinationalism which will ultimately lead to a fairer globalisation. Many feel that globalisation has to re-orientate in order to cope with inequalities and global warming.

 

Stephen Hawking argued for the importance of globalisation: “For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.”

 

In any case we live in an electronic global village. That cannot be reversed. It is a world dominated by the internet and social media. One very important factor in the move towards globalisation is technological change. Goods can easily be ordered across national boundaries if they are more suitable to the consumer. Politicians have little control over this.

 

Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organisation stated recently that tit-for-tat protectionism in the Great Depression of the 1930s led to world trade shrinking by two-thirds in three years. He added that if this were to happen today it “would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”

 

Globalisation promotes peace

 

Many people are already beginning to see the dangers in the reaction to globalisation. Take Donald Trump, for example. He has spoken of a nuclear arms race and has made aggressive statements about how America will deal with N Korea (a very dangerous nuclear power). He has also been provocative towards China including through his irresponsible tweets. However globalisation has been a movement towards word peace. The United Nations, NATO and the European Union which Trump tends to treat with contempt, have been powerful forces for peace. It is likely therefore that eventually people will react against the views propounded by Trump in favour of a fairer globalisation.

 

Boris Johnson commented: “We should never forget the old truism that when goods and services no longer cross borders then troops and tanks do instead. By rebelling against globalisation we endanger as system that has been associated with 70 years of post-war peace and prosperity and that has allowed billions to lift themselves out of penury by toil and enterprise.”

 

However Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said that the world is on the brink of a ‘post-Western age’ with European and American influence declining allowing other states, including Russia, to shape a new global order.  He asked: “Will this new era again be marked by greater tensions and, possibly, even outright conflict between the world’s major powers, not least between China and the US? Is this a post-order world in which the elements of the liberal international order are fading away because no one is there to protect them? The world is about to find out.”

 

Globalisation promotes free speech and human rights

 

We have noted that Trump is effectively supporting those who reject free speech and this is true of other extremists who have come to power. There will be a growing reaction against this and an appreciation of the support for free speech and human rights which globalisation provides.

 

The dangers of Surveillance

 

Since November 2016 the UK has had what is being called the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. Like the CIA, MI5 will be able to spy on citizens through their smart TVs, cars and cell phones. Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty, said: “Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the British state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. It now has the ability to indiscriminately hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population.”

 

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.” Lord Strasburger commented: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression.

 

GCHQ has warned the leaders of Britain’s political parties of the threat Russian hacking poses to democracy. They said: “This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts.”

 

It seems clear that globalisation will continue. But there is also the worrying emergence of extremist, authoritarian leaders and of very pervasive surveillance. All of these trends have relevance to the biblical predictions of the End Times about the ultimate rise of Antichrist etc.

 

The dangers in controlling extremists

 

One of the great dangers facing us in a free society is that seeking to control extremists will lead to control of those who are not extremists. This is a current issue in Britain today. In February Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said that some of the views of conservative Anglicans “differ little from ISIL” (or ISIS). The Archbishop of Canterbury commented that some modern politicians can’t see “the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church”.

 

Fabricant’s profoundly ignorant and offensive comment illustrates the danger very well. The implication seems to be we must control ISIS so we should control conservative Anglicans too! He added that the Church of England risked becoming “out of step with 21st century Western liberal values.” My response is that it should be out of step with some 21st century Western liberal values and long may that continue. Fabricant is so ignorant of the Christian Faith that he imagines the church must change its views to suit society. To be fair though, some church leaders seem to agree with him!

 

Sadly, Fabricant is not alone in his ignorance of Christianity. The government’s counter extremism policy suffers from the same weakness and theological illiteracy. Of course, we must respect people of other faiths but that does not mean we should accept or support their beliefs or avoid reasonable criticism of them. The government’s official definition is: “Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” This could mean that Christians may be penalised for expressing opposition to beliefs or practice we disagree with.

 

The Archbishop also reported a conversation with a ‘very senior politician’ who asked: “Are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?” The Archbishop responded: “Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you … We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.”

 

Speaking to the House of Lords in February 2016 he said: “It is widely agreed that all statements that tend towards causing hatred, contempt, violence, for other faiths should not be permitted. Nevertheless, it is not extremist in any way, and should be encouraged, that there are statements that are frank and categorical assertions of faith, or no faith, and that there is no right not to be offended, or to be hurt, by such statements.”

 

David Anderson QC said it was “dangerous” to introduce measures to silence people simply because they oppose certain Government-approved values. He added “the police are going to feel they have to investigate all sorts of people who are miles away from being terrorists but may just practise religion in a conservative way or may have eccentric political views … Silence coerced by law is a very dangerous business particularly when you’re looking at something as vague as extremism”.

 

The prime minister, speaking in the House of Commons in November 2016 stated that the ability to “speak freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion should be a jealously guarded principle” She added: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith.” However, the way the government’s anti-extremism policy is being interpreted threatens freedom of speech about one’s faith.

 

The indoctrination of children

 

We should be particularly concerned that children are a main target of the theologically illiterate counter-extremism activists. If they have their way these activists will gradually undermine Christianity much more seriously than it is undermined in current society.

 

In a particularly sinister development, despite earlier reports of it deciding not to do so, the government plans to register church groups and Sunday schools which involve children for a total of six hours a week and to make them open to OFSTED inspections. True, many church groups won’t qualify but not to see this as the thin end of the wedge of government interference in all church groups is naïve. The government arrogantly assumes that it is capable of defining mandatory “British values” whilst not informed about, respecting or understanding the centuries of Christian history in this country.

 

Simon McCrossan, Evangelical Alliance head of public policy, accused the government of treating religious freedom as “an after-thought at best” and added: “These plans could lead the way to a register of Sunday schools, and making the government the arbiter of what doctrine is or isn’t desirable.” Stephen Timms MP, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, accused the government of seeing religious faith as “a problem.” Sir Gerald Howarth MP said, “regulating groups such as Sunday schools is clearly absurd. It would place a huge administrative burden on such groups, would severely damage volunteering and would be a serious infringement of personal liberty and freedom of association.”

 

UN condemns compulsory school assemblies

 

A recent report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says that the fact that pupils are legally required to attend assemblies which are “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character” violates their human rights. They recommend that the UK government “repeal legal provisions for compulsory attendance at collective worship”. Parents can already withdraw their children from assemblies but the committee wants to give children the right to act independently of their parents.

 

Parents fear children will be rejected if they express faith

 

A recent ComRes survey commissioned by the Theos think tank found that 23% of parents didn’t pass on their faith to their children for fear the children would be alienated at school. 18% of parents said it was not their responsibility to pass on their beliefs to their children. Only 40% of parents said they had spoken to their children about their faith.

 

Moves towards enforcing support for gay marriage

 

UK Communities Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in the Sunday Times in December 2016 that people in public life should accept basic British values: “I’m talking about tolerating the views of others, even if you disagree with them. About believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse. I’m talking about a belief in equality, democracy and the democratic process. And about respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass. Because if you do disagree, you can change it. That’s what freedom and democracy are all about.”

 

This all sounds good but it all depends on how it is worked out. Of course, all human beings are equal, but equality is sometimes referring to equality, not of people but of behaviour. This is particularly the case with the whole gay marriage issue. The danger is illustrated by the comments of Dame Louise Casey who works for the British government and conducted a review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities, published in December 2016. She supports an “equality oath.” Shortly after her review was published she called church schools who supported traditional marriage “homophobic” and accused them of using “religious conservatism as a veil for anti-equality views.” And this is despite the official line that schools do not have to support and endorse same-sex marriage. On being criticised she backed off. The Department for Communities and Local Government stated: “Dame Louise is a supporter of the right to gay marriage now enshrined in law, however she does respect and understand the Catholic Church’s long-held view that marriage is between a man and a woman, even if that is not her own view.

She is not threatening the right of the Church or individuals of faith to hold that view, or to include it in teaching it as a fundamental tenet of faith. That is indeed an important aspect of a shared British value of freedom of religious expression.” But the dangerous trend continues.

 

In November a school in St. Austell issued an apology to a teaching assistant whom they had disciplined for saying to a pupil who asked her about the matter that she did not support gay marriage.

 

Former MP Ann Widdecombe wrote about the case of the Ashers Bakery Co (a Christian bakery prosecuted for refusing to make a cake with a slogan promoting gay marriage). She said that historically being forced to affirm beliefs contrary to conscience was “rightly recognised as the hallmark of totalitarianism itself.” She added: “In the Ashers case, the principle of not being allowed to express a view has been extended to being forced to affirm one – an infringement of individual liberty that would have been unthinkable not so very long ago.” She warned Christians not to “sleepwalk through this”, or they would risk seeing more of their civil liberties gradually removed.

 

Even Peter Tatchell, a long-term campaigner for gay rights, strongly disapproves of the judgment against the Ashers:

“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers’ opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea they oppose. Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: “Support gay marriage.”

Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a democratic society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

This judgment opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could also encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. What the court has decided sets a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that is open to serious abuse. Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.”

 

Queen’s chaplain urged to resign over defending Jesus as divine

 

The Rev Gavin Ashenden was clearly pressed to resign as a Queen’s chaplain after he opposed a reading from the Koran in Glasgow Cathedral which denied the deity of Jesus. The reading was about the birth of Jesus but denied that he is the Son of God and says he should not be worshipped. This is a very serious error and if the cathedral authorities were aware that this was going to be read they should resign. If they weren’t they should profoundly apologise. Here we have another ‘equality’ confusion. People of different faiths (or no faith) are equal as human beings and we must regard them as such. But we are not required to regard different religious beliefs as equally valid. So I will respect our Muslim friends but I regard their beliefs as seriously wrong, and have the right to say so publicly. Christian leaders who allow public contradiction of basic creedal beliefs in church services are incompetent and seriously failing in their duties. Gavin Ashenden said: “After a conversation instigated by officials at Buckingham Palace, I decided the most honourable course of action was to resign.” In other words he was pressed to resign.

 

It is obvious that the trend in society is moving towards serious oppression of Christians and we need to be alert to this without falling into paranoid overreaction. We need to pray and, where possible, act to oppose this trend.