The Free Church, The Secularists and ‘Equality and Fairness’ – Letter in Scotsman- 29th October 2014

To the Editor of the Scotsman:

I was a little surprised to discover a letter (28 October) from the Edinburgh Secular Society ­commenting on the Free Church’s submission to the Smith Commission, mainly because our submission had not been reported on in The Scotsman.

It is absurd to claim that we wish to abandon “equality and fairness”.

If anyone wishes to read our submission on the Free Church website (www.freechurch.org) they can see for themselves.

Our major point is that “equality” is a Christian value, which ­recognises that all human beings are equally made in the image of God and should be accorded due respect and care, whatever the race, gender, social class etc.

We include the child in the womb and the elderly. On the other hand, the Secular Society has an Orwellian concept of equality.

It believes we should all be equally free – to have secular schools and a secular society with their secular values.

We can have choice as long as we choose only what they want. Neil Barber says he will “fight fiercely” to allow us to have our “religious” beliefs, what he ­neglects to mention is that he will do so only as long as we are like the local knitting club and don’t let them interfere with anything in public life.

The militant secularists, whose numbers are tiny, actually believe that their philosophy is so absolutely true that they will brook no rival.

The Free Church believes that the people of Scotland (of all faiths and none) are better served by us maintaining our traditional Christian values and ethos, rather than handing everything over to an authoritarian state where we are governed by the values of whichever elites happen to be in power at the time.

David Robertson

St Peters Free Church

St Peter Street

Dundee

The original letter is here _

http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/letters/equality-above-all-1-3586633

And this is the one I was responding to –

http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/letters/religious-concern-1-3585374

And here is my blog on the NSS and their attack on the Free Church –

http://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/a-response-to-the-national-secular-societies-attack-on-the-free-church/

Incest in Germany, Adultery in Scotland, The Worlds Richest Pastors and more on Quantum of Solas 8

The one with incest in Germany and adultery in Scotland, a Christian school threatened with downgrading because it won’t have an Imam lead assembly, more details on the Solas Connect training week and Solas Conference, as well as the richest 1% in the world and the world’s richest pastors. After a week like this, only Leonard Cohen could get David Robertson singing! With apologies for some poor sound quality.

http://www.solas-cpc.org/wp/2014/10/quantum-of-solas-08/

A Response to the National Secular Societies Attack on the Free Church

The National Secular Society (NSS), that bastion of freethinking, fair-mindedness and tolerance, has taken the Free Church to task for our submission to the Smith Commission.

In an article on their website, the NSS communications officer, Ben Jones, manages to convey the impression that we are arguing for a theocratic State where churches receive particular privilege.

He implies we should not be arguing from numbers (the fact that the majority of Scots still profess some form of Christian identity) and then contradicts himself by arguing from numbers – “those professing “no religion” are actually the single largest census block of the Scottish population.”

More seriously he does not understand our position on pluralism. He quotes out of context the fact that we are not “arguing for a pluralistic society” but fails to point out that what we mean by that is that we are not arguing for the kind of pluralistic valueless society where anything goes.

We explicitly argue for the kind of pluralism which allows religious freedom for all (atheists included), however we maintain that any society will have values, and we are simply requesting that these values be based on the traditional Christianity on which Scotland was founded.

Without a shadow of irony the NSS tell us that they are arguing “for a separation of religion from the state specifically so that no minority or majority group, of any size or strength, can impose its philosophical, spiritual or religious beliefs on others.” The chutzpah of that is breath taking.

The NSS exists in order to impose its philosophical, spiritual and religious beliefs’ on us all. In fact they regard their beliefs (faith) as so self-evident that it should be illegal to have any other faith or value system practiced in public life.

If the NSS were simply arguing for a separation of Church and State then many Christians would have little difficulty with that. But that is not what they are arguing.

They are arguing that there should be no Christian influence in education, health care, politics or any form of public life. Christians, or for that matter any other group, are not allowed to challenge the values and beliefs of the secularists. This is not freedom but tyranny.

THe original NSS article can be read here – http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2014/10/free-church-of-scotland-attacks-secularism-and-sexual-equality-calls-for-biblical-principles-in-scottish-government

Do the secularists have values? Indeed they do. They believe for example that same sex marriage is right (but I assume they are still opposed to sibling marriage?).

They will argue for equality in education but insist that taxpayers money is only spent on schools which teach their values. The irony is that they think they are being tolerant when in reality they are expressing a form of extreme intolerance.

We do not object to secularists setting up schools and giving parents the right to choose to send their children to schools where their values are taught and are the main ethos.

But they object to Christians and others setting up schools where our values are taught and are the main ethos. They insist they have the right to indoctrinate our children into their faith. And then they have the nerve to accuse us of being intolerant for objecting to that!

Again here is another classic self-contradictory quote from Mr Jones: “Secularism, as the NSS sees it, is the neutral arbiter of state power, so that no religion or ethical doctrine is mandated or favoured by government.”

Is Mr Jones really saying that not stealing, not raping and not being racist is not, and should not be ‘mandated or favoured’ by government? Of course not. So his point is completely invalidated. The question is not whether any ethics are mandated or favoured by government, but which ones.

We prefer to go with the tried and tested values of Christianity (as Scotland has done for hundreds of years), rather than leave the people of Scotland to the tender mercies of the secularist elites who just know what is best for everyone!

The secular charter states, “public and publicly-funded service provision does not discriminate on grounds of religion, belief or non-belief.” That would be amusing if it were not so sad.

So let’s say that my religious belief means that I don’t want couples staying in my B&B who are not biblically married – will I be discriminated against?

What if I want to set up a school that teaches that God is the Creator and that his teaching about human sexuality is right – will I be discriminated against?

In the Brave New World of the NSS – of course. I will be discriminated against in the name of non-discrimination.

The sad thing is that the NSS ignored the major parts of our submission and instead concentrated on their own particular bête-noir, religion. You can read the report in full here – http://freechurch.org/news/new-political-settlement-must-recognise-the-strength-of-christianity

Let me issue a simple challenge to the NSS. If you really believe in tolerance, freedom, choice and pluralism; then stop arguing for an authoritarian secular State (the State as God), and instead return to the kind of society where a genuine pluralism allows freedom of religion, practice and expression.

We don’t object to you arguing for your values. We do object to you regarding them as so self-evident that any disagreement with them cannot be tolerated. Such intolerance is the very essence of the worst kind of fundamentalism.

We argue, and can demonstrate from history, that the most tolerant and free states have been those with Christian ethos and values. Please feel free to tell us your alternative. We are listening.

But we don’t want fantasyland – we want reality and reason. We want clear evidence that your position is one that has worked and will work.

Meanwhile we just simply ask that the tiny minority of the NSS and the other even smaller secular groups should not be allowed to have their elitist philosophy imposed upon those of us (majority or not), who do not want it.

The original article is here –

http://freechurch.org/news/a-response-to-the-national-secular-society

The Janet Parshall Show – Heaven and Hell

This was broadcast on Oct 20th – it was a difficult show to do because of the immensity of the subject and the fact that I was in Edinburgh at a friends flat and the phone line was not great – and I had just finished speaking at Edinburgh Uni CU…plus in the midst of a real spiritual battle….but they told me that the phone lines were full…and Janet was her usual superb self – she is a great interviewer and I very much enjoy working with her….

You can listen to it here – http://www.moodyradio.org/radioplayer.aspx?episode=143874&hour=2

Why Evangelical Tribalism Harms the Gospel

“My fear is that the decline of denominations, and the commercialisation of Christianity and the emergence of celebrity personality culture, have resulted in an increased atomisation of the evangelical world.”

This morning I woke up to a barrage of tweets and retweets from the US…of which one example – “Thank you for including @theweeflea in the tweet. He’s a prime example of unrelenting unrepentance despite loving calls for it.” Why Americans are tweeting one another telling each other not to go to St Peters is quite a puzzle! Anyway I had written this column before on the dangers of tribalism within the evangelical world.

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/david.robertson.why.evangelical.tribalism.harms.the.gospel/41955.htm

My View On LGBTI Rights – An Article in KaleidoScot

This one should set the cat amongst the pigeons!

Recently an article appeared in a gay magazine which was critical of my nomination as moderator-designate. I challenged it and asked for the right of reply. To the credit of the editor, Dan Littauer, I was given it. So here is my first (and hopefully not last) article in a gay magazine.

http://www.kaleidoscot.com/rev-david-robertson-views-lgbti-rights-1673

The original article is here – http://www.kaleidoscot.com/anti-gay-minister-named-free-church-moderator-1496

The Church in Post-Referendum Scotland

This article is published in Octobers ‘Record’ – the monthly magazine of the Free Church.

As I write this the result of the September referendum is unknown. All the polls indicate a ‘No’ win but polls have been wrong before. Who knows what may happen in the polling booth and as I have no desire to be stoned as a false prophet for making hasty predictions I will not hazard a guess. Rather my concern in this article is to reflect on a post-referendum Scotland, which whatever the result, will leave the church in general, and the Free Church in particular with some significant challenges and some great opportunities.

The Challenge of Militant Secularism.
In June of this year the Scottish government in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh issued their ‘Faith and Belief Scotland’ report. Apart from its showing a continued decline in those wishing to claim a connection with the Church of Scotland (down from 34% to 28%) and an increase in those who describe themselves as non-religious, the main item of interest was the finding that there was increasing polarisation between some who described themselves as ‘secular’ and the ‘religious’. This is indeed new territory for many people because of the misunderstanding of what secularism actually is and the way more militant atheists use it as a kind of Trojan horse in order to impose their faith on society.

On the service secularism is something that many Christians would agree with. At its most basic level it just simply means the separation of Church and State.
The Scottish Secular Society declares that it is working “to secure a secular future for Scotland, where all are free to follow their faith or convictions without fear or favour.” That all sounds wonderful. Until you actually discover what they mean. They are quite happy for Christians to believe what we want to believe, as long as we don’t seek to practice our beliefs in public life. For them a secular society means a society that is governed only according to their beliefs and faith. They of course deny that it is a faith – but that is precisely what it is. They have faith that human beings are fundamentally good, can do without God and need to be freed from the virus of religion. They also have faith that their way is the only way and anyone who disagrees should be excluded from civic society.

This type of atheist secularism is still very much a minority, but it is becoming increasingly vocal and militant. Whether it is seeking to get Christian teaching excluded from our Christian state education system or Gideon bibles banned from hotels, the Scottish Secularists will leave no stone unturned in their campaign to purge public Scotland of any remaining vestige of Christianity. Who in their right mind thinks that voluntary prayers at a council meeting is a breach of human rights?! As one comedian joked, that means that many schools are the equivalent of Stalinesque camps!

But it would be a mistake to see the more militant secularists as being the main danger. The bigger problem is that those who govern our society, lacking any coherent philosophy and belief system, tend to govern according to their own prejudices and instincts, which are informed by the dominant cultural narrative. That narrative is secular humanism.

The Challenge of Church Decline
Going hand in hand with a more militant atheistic secularism, and the adoption of secular humanism as the religion/philosophy of the State, has been the decline of the Christian church overall. Although the majority of people in Scotland (just) would still claim some kind of Christian faith, the fact is that the number of those attending church and engaging in any kind of Christian practice is declining. The Church reached a numerical peak in the 1950’s and it has been downhill ever since. Rather than that decline bottoming out (as for example in London), in Scotland it seems to be accelerating. The Church of Scotland has dropped below 400,000 members (it is doubtful whether more than 100,000 actually attend church each Sunday – meaning that less than 1% of Scotland’s population are actually in the Church of Scotland on any given Sunday) and is continuing to lose 20,000 members each year. It is facing a major financial crisis and above all a ministerial one, with only a handful of the required 30-40 ministers being trained each year. And its recent decisions on the shibboleth issue of our culture (homosexuality) mean that that situation is unlikely to be reversed. The picture is of a declining church in a declining culture. The Catholic Church is still struggling to recover from the child abuse scandals, and there is not much evidence that other Protestant churches are making much of an impact.

The Challenge of a Confused Culture
As a result of the new moralistic philosophy of secular humanism being adopted by the metro-elites and governors of our culture, and the lack of a coherent and strong ‘salt and light’ Christian church, our culture has become increasingly confused. Overall there has been a general dumbing down as politicians and others offer the ‘bread and circus’s’ mentality. Things that would have been unthinkable a decade ago (such as same sex ‘marriage’) have now become the norm of the new morality. Things that are unthinkable just now; infanticide, involuntary euthanasia, polygamy, paedophilia could easily become the new ‘norm/human right’ in a world where the rich and powerful determine what the moral values are. We are a society that has ‘equality’ as its mantra, but yet we are becoming more unequal. In one of the richest societies in the world we have tens of thousands who are relying on food banks. We say we value education yet we are dumbing down. Our politicians say they want to support ‘the family’ but are unable to define what that actually is, and as a result many of their actions end up undermining the family.

If Scotland has voted to remain in the United Kingdom we are faced with a society governed by leaders who talk about Christian values, but don’t know what they are. If Scotland has voted to become independent the Scottish government has already indicated that they are prepared to go down the somewhat fanciful, idealistic and dangerous route of the secular humanist Nirvana. The bottom line is that either way lies ruin and destruction. Our ‘progressives’ think that they ‘progressing’ towards a new utopia, whereas in reality they causing us to regress to the Greco/Roman/Pagan culture.

So is it all doom and gloom? Not at all. This is a day of opportunity.

The Opportunity of an Ignorant Culture
There are many people who are anti-Christian who just have no idea what Christianity teaches. To bring the living water of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to such spiritually thirsty people is a wonderful opportunity. Yes we can lament that most children in Scotland are today growing up without knowing the parable of the Good Samaritan or the Ten Commandments, but we should also do our best to tell them, the whole story of the Bible. We really can go to every person in Scotland and say ‘we have good news for you’, in the knowledge that for the vast majority it will indeed be news.

The Opportunity of Failed Secularism.
Where did the New Testament church flourish? In a Greco/Roman/Pagan culture! Why could we not flourish there again? As people discover that the values and practice of secular humanism lead to greater inequality, less social justice, more corruption, more sexual abuse and the decline of community and the family, there is a great opportunity for us in the church to proclaim and model a different way. The spiritual, material, emotional and social thirst of the people of Scotland will not be sated at the broken wells of secular humanistic atheism, nor at the poisoned wells of the new age or man made religions which are the cause of so much evil in the world. Like the New Testament church we can model a community based on the love of Christ which sets people free,creates new communities, feeds the poor, cares for the weak and turns the world upside down!

The Opportunity of a Renewed Church
Although overall the Church in Scotland is in decline, it is not all bad news. I see three areas where there is encouragement and renewal. Firstly in the independent evangelical churches associated with FIEC – eg. Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and the work of Twenty Schemes in Niddrie and elsewhere are beacons of light. Secondly there are other biblical churches who have Christ and his Word at the centre of their lives and message who are seeing growth and development – some will be in the Church of Scotland, others associated with CLAN or other charismatic and ex-Brethren networks and some in the Baptist and Anglican churches. And, as Prof Finlayson used to say, how can anyone who believes in a Sovereign God exclude the possibility of him yet working in and through the Catholic Church?

And then there is the Free Church. In my view at the end of the 20th Century we were tottering on the edge of the cliff, about to fall into extinction. But in these first couple of decades in the 21st Century, the Lord has been gracious to us. We are seeing the first signs of a renewed and reinvigorated Presbyterianism in Scotland. New churches are being planted, people are being converted, The Free Church College has been relaunched as Edinburgh Theological Seminary, and there is a new leadership rising. Of course there are still significant problems and hurdles to overcome (not least our own sinfulness) but there is a hope, a ‘buzz’, an enthusiasm about the Free Church that I have never experienced before. When I hear cynical colleagues enthusing about Presbytery meetings I know that the millennium is near!

When I came to Dundee in 1992, St Peters was about to close. There were hardly 40 people involved in the Free Church in the whole of Tayside. Now with a revitalised St Peters, a church plant in St Andrews and a redeveloping Perth there are more than 500. It is not an impossible dream to see within the next decade a Tayside Presbytery. The bottom line is that new and renewed churches mean new and renewed Christians, which will then have a ripple effect throughout Scottish society.

Conclusion
The worst place to be an atheist is in an atheist country. Conversely the best place is a country where a Christian tolerance and view of humanity is deeply rooted within the structures, institutions and psyche of the nation. The vision of a ‘benign secularism’ is at best a fantastical dream. The choice is not between a theocratic Presbyterian Taliban state run by evangelical rednecks, waffling wooly liberal clergy and authoritarian paedophile priests, or an absolutist state where religion is reduced to the status of a knitting club. Why can we not reinvent the traditional Scottish model of an open tolerant State founded upon and with the ethos of, a biblical Christianity which recognizes that neither the State nor the Church is Absolute? Our societies metro-elites want the fruits of Christianity, without the roots. That’s not how the universe works. If post –referendum Scotland is to flourish then we need to heed the mottos of our two greatest cities and make them the anthems for the renewed nation. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain”. “Let Scotland flourish by the preaching of the Word.”

The God TV Enigma – The Real Problem with God TV is not Rory’s Adultery

God TV has announced that Rory Alec has left his wife, Wendy, for another woman and has therefore stepped down as CEO and presenter. God TV are in damage control mood, ‘calm down and carry on’ is their new slogan. The Christian media is full of comments about adultery, marriage faithfulness, forgiveness etc. I think the problem is much deeper – here is my article I wrote on it for Christian Today. I am delighted that they have published such a ‘controversial’ article. The link is below and the full text follows afterwards. I regard this as one of the most important things I have written…it is really time for us to challenge the nonsense and blasphemy that is being done in the name of Christ.

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/david.robertson.the.real.problem.with.god.tv.is.not.rory.alecs.moral.failure/41462.htm

The God TV Enigma

The news that God TV co-founder Rory Alec has been suspended from his post as presenter and head of the organisation, because of ‘moral failure’ has come as a shock to some in the Christian world. Others have a ‘oh no, here we go again resignation’; whilst still others are quick to point out that we are all sinners and we should pray for and extend the grace of God to Rory and Wendy. All of these reactions are understandable but I would like to suggest that there is a danger that we won’t see the wood for the trees. The problem here is not primarily the adultery of one man, or the schadenfreude that critics of God TV might delight in. The problem goes much deeper and is something that the church in the West really needs to get hold of.

The Real Problem
I am not surprised at all by Rory’s ‘indiscretion’ – nor by the continual account of Christian CEO’s or celebrity Mega pastors being caught with either their hand in the till or their bodies in another’s bed. Why? Because whenever I have watched God TV, what comes across to me is that it is primarily about money and power. And when you have those two at the centre its not long before the third part of that particular unholy trinity, sex, rears its ugly head. Despite the fact that there were some occasional good things on it, I had to stop watching God TV because I used to get so depressed and angry. I have spent a great deal of time helping people whose faith, though initially boosted and encouraged by some of what they saw, eventually was battered, bruised and severely damaged by the theology and practices espoused on much of God TV. Take the example of so called ‘Missions’ weeks. They were nothing of the sort. They were purely and entirely about raising money. Now I realise that Rory and Wendy would tell us that it was about reaching one billion souls. That was hyperbolic sales talk, confusing the possibility that God TV ‘could’ be seen on several million TV sets, with the idea that they ‘would’ and that then all would believe. The manipulation, sales talk and constant pleading for money ‘for the work of the kingdom’ was nauseating.

Shiney Happy People
And the power. I have yet to see a God TV programme which extolled the virtues of weakness. Everything was about strength and power. Power-dressed shiny happy people beamed out of our TV screens a picture of wealth, health and success. Continually we were assured that somewhere out there was someone called Marge who had just been healed of cancer, or Tom whose marriage was about to be restored, or Dave whose business had just been boosted because of the cheque he wrote. There was nothing about Bill who had just lost his job, Susan whose daughter had just died, or Tim who went bankrupt after he mortgaged his house in order to give money to God TV. I even watched complete charlatans like Todd Bentley kick a woman in the face because ‘the Holy Spirit told him to’ and then pronounce that he had raised several people from the dead – however he could not name them because of ‘patient confidentiality’! He too of course fell into the money, power and sex trap – before GodTV, ‘graciously restored’ him and gave him yet another platform for his aberrations. And yet I know churches in the UK who were so desperate to ‘catch the anointing’ that they bought into all of this guff. This kind of TV is of more use to the New Atheist movement than it is to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Wendy Won’t Like It
After speaking at CLAN (the largest charismatic conference in Scotland), I was interviewed by God TV. The producer told me that he loved the interview but that there was no way it would ever be broadcast. When I asked why, his answer revealed a great deal about GodTV – ‘Wendy wouldn’t like it’. God TV was not about what God wanted, or what the Church needed. It was the Rory and Wendy show, and the show of all those tele-evangelists who were wealthy enough to buy into it. The language was always hyper spiritual, the onstage hysteria real, but behind the scenes there were the usual power games and struggles associated with secular corporations.

The Real Moral Failure
And therein lies the problem. The Church is not a corporation. Nor is it an entertainment or an advertising agency. Godliness is not a way to get wealthy. Or famous. Or to have your own ‘ministry’. The Church is to be the pillar and ground of the truth. Much of modern corporate Christianity has become pillarless and groundless. As a result it has also become brainless, banal and spiritually bankrupt. And it is certainly not harmless. I was visited this week by a friend who has just returned from six weeks real mission work amongst the poor in Africa. In some of these really poor countries, the world of corporate, commercialised Christianity, imported from the wealthy West, has taken root. There are mega pastors selling holy water for $1000, stealing money from the old, the sick and the poor, in order to pay for their mega mansions and luxury cars. The problem with God TV is not the moral failure of Rory’s adultery. It is the moral failure of associating the Good News of Jesus to the poor with the prosperity gospel and health and wealth blasphemy of Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer.

Keep Quiet
When I write like this the objection immediately comes. Don’t be so harsh and hard. Why are you speaking against a brother and sister like this? How is that like Christ? Well – did not Jesus call the religious hypocrites of his day ‘white-washed tombs, twice dead’? Did not Paul tell the Galatian false teachers to go the whole way and emasculate themselves?! I have a genuine concern for Wendy – as I watched the cruelty of her live ‘revival alert’ which was much more like a Dr Phil confessional, I was so saddened for that betrayed woman. And angry with the people who continue to feed the illusion that she is the anointed one to save a billion souls. At best it is delusional, at worst it is a horrible blasphemy to have an American ‘prophetess’ screaming down the phone at her that the Lord told her directly that the endtime harvest was coming through Wendy. And it is oh so cruel. Far crueller than my words.

But some will say – “It has helped me…God spoke to me through it.’ I don’t doubt that. Poison is always far more effective when coated in sugar.

Blaspheming the Spirit?
Some will warn me ‘Don’t criticise the work of the Holy Spirit’. I totally agree. But is it not a false assumption to declare that everything that claims to be of the Spirit is of the Spirit? Is it not wrong to attribute the work of the Spirit to the delusions and manipulations of man? We are to test the spirits. And how do we test? If they glorify Christ, speak according to the Word of God and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

Look at Christ
Rory Alec in his statement says that we should not look at him, but look at Christ. But TV says look at me. This is not to say that TV cannot be used as a medium to proclaim the Gospel. There are Christian TV stations that do a good job. But it is a medium that it is very difficult to use. The Christian evangelist, preacher, TV personality must be someone whose aim is to point away from themselves and towards Jesus Christ – and not just when we have a ‘moral failure’. We exist to serve Christ and His Church. They do not exist to serve us. Like John the Baptist we declare, “He must increase, I must decrease”. Ironically even as I type this I am listening to a preacher on God TV tell us ‘no, no, no – he wants us to increase!”

Basic Christianity
The simple truth that we need to grasp is this – The six billion souls will be reached, not through the slick marketing, self-promoting, mega powerful corporations; nor through the hysterical delusions and manipulation of self-appointed ‘apostolic-prophetic’ ministries, but rather through hundreds of thousands of local churches humbly and lovingly proclaiming and living Christ in local communities, with the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, through the people of God. Its basic Christianity!