The ‘virtue’ of tolerance

Alistair McKitterick

“The Bible is Right and the Qur’an is wrong.”

How do you respond to this provocative statement? Some might wholeheartedly agree (no doubt mainly Christians) and some would strongly disagree (no doubt mainly Muslims), and others might say they’re both equally wrong. But another group of people again are not interested in the rights and wrongs of this statement (they’d probably deny that there even could be a true answer to it), but rather object to the statement being said at all. The objection? ‘Intolerance’. In one of those delicious ironies, this group is intolerant of such a claim on the grounds of it being intolerant. They don’t so much object to the statement itself; they object to the statement being made.

A recent example of this intolerance was seen in the arrest last July in Bristol of three Street Preachers for preaching the Gospel and then responding to questions about Islam (and they are being prosecuted in court as I write). The police claimed, amongst other things, that these preachers were ‘challenging Muslims’, and it was the challenge itself (not the truth or otherwise of the challenge) that apparently could not be tolerated in our society. This is the ‘thought-Police’ in action. Society, it seems, must be protected from these kinds of truth-claims for its own sake.

There are so many problems with this abuse of power, but the one that seems most unnoticed is the poverty of the value that they are trying to protect. Tolerance is not a virtue, or if it is then it is the weakest and most unhappy of all the virtues. At its best, we leave each other alone to do and say what we want. At its worst, we persecute those who don’t conform to our standards. A society based on this kind of tolerance is always vigilant to stamp out critical views, leaving us anxious about expressing moral judgements for fear of being called intolerant. We daren’t even whisper that someone is wrong about matters of faith and morality. Those living in this kind of society are only free to the extent that they conform.

The society that Jesus envisaged has very different values. It encourages us to be self-critical before criticising others (think logs and specks) and to accept insults without retaliating (think turning the other cheek). It gives to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and loves its neighbour as it loves itself. And it insists on proclamation of the truth of God, and not just an abstract, distant kind of God that nobody would mind much about, but the God who loves the world and wouldn’t simply tolerate it but came right in amongst us and loved us even though those in power found him intolerable. A good society is based not on tolerance but on love and truth. And truth must be proclaimed as such, in love, and to hell with the consequences. Or, more hopefully, to Heaven.

Alistair McKitterick is a Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies at Moorlands College.

 


COMMENT

In response to yesterday’s news of the Court’s ruling: Court convicts street preachers in ‘modern-day heresy trial’

This is a turning point in our society. We have become used to being marginalized in the media, and in education, but this trend has now reached a very dangerous point where the secular voices in society have now received judicial backing in the courts.

It has been said in court that ‘To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth’.

This is simply wrong. The identity and claims of Jesus are precisely matters of truth, and in fact the central matter of truth. It is precisely here that our society has lost its way by denying the existence of truth. The irony is that at this very point the courts want to assert that their view is ‘true’.

Note this: the court was not denying that Jesus is God; they are not declaring it to be false. They are saying that such claims don’t qualify for being either true or false. They are declaring this to be an opinion, a preference, a prejudice, a value, a subjective feeling, or a matter of private faith. What we must declare back is that our belief in Jesus as God is not a private feeling but rather a matter of public fact, objective truth, and the kind of thing that depends on evidence and reason. If anything in public life is considered a matter of truth or falsehood, then this must also be considered a matter of truth or falsehood.

Now, if anyone wants to declare the belief in Jesus as God as false then fine: let them bring forward evidence for their position and we’ll bring forward our evidence for our position, and may the best evidence win the argument. But if anyone declares that this is not a matter of truth, then that is simply a matter of sheer ignorance or, more worryingly, an abuse of power and an attempt to silence the proclamation of the Gospel.

Alistair McKitterick, 2 March 2017

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Main menu: Finding nourishment on the net

Did you see that Vine of the cat scared by a cucumber? Or scrutinise who wore what to the Grammys and BAFTAs this year? Or find yourself addicted to Trumping Donald?

As well as chewing gum for the eyes, the internet’s also great for serving up food for the soul. Here, a handful of Moorlands College staff recommend their choice of theology blogs, websites and Twitter accounts worth chewing over.

At a time when social media polarises us further into doctrinal comfort zones, perhaps we could all benefit from sampling a larger menu.


Colin Bennett
@BarneyBenne101

Colin Bennett

Andrew Wilson’s Think Theology blog
thinktheology.co.uk/blog
Andrew is a leading light in writing and speaking about applied theological issues. As a church leader he speaks ministerially, pastorally and academically.

Andrew Wilson’s Think Theology blog

Timothy Keller’s blog
timothykeller.com/blog
From ‘across the pond’ Tim seeks to write in a lucid and balanced way, especially about having a theological vision.

Timothy Keller’s blog

Ian Paul’s blog
psephizo.com
My final favourite is Ian’s, who is the general editor of Grove Books. He writes well from a clearly evangelical viewpoint on some hot potatoes, such as gender and sexuality.

Ian Paul’s blog

Colin Bennett is Vice-Principal (Development) and Director of Training for the Community and Family Studies Course. He is a regular writer and speaks on family, youth and community issues.


Andy Du Feu
@andydufeu

Andy du Feu

I’d like to recommend Twitter lists and accounts to subscribe to. How do you find a list you might be interested in? Visit someone’s Twitter profile. Click “Lists” if it is there. Alternatively, just search for a list using key words, such as theology, reformed, charismatic, etc. There are some good accounts to follow, such as @TheologyNetwork.

You can also pick your favourite theologian—they might just be there. For example, @alisteremcgrath often shares his reflections.

Andy du Feu on Twitter

Andy du Feu is Director of Youth and Community Work, and BA Course Leader. He is a qualified youth worker, and has worked in local authority, voluntary, and church settings. Andy has contributed to various publications, and speaks at youth events and churches with his own high-octane and dynamic flavour. And, of course, he’s on Twitter.


Ian Kirby

Ian Kirby

Gailyn Van Rheenen’s website
missiology.org
Gailyn managed to corner the best website name for the personal blog of a missiologist; but he deserves it.

Gailyn Van Rheenen’s website

Eddie Arthur’s website
kouya.net
Always insightful and often provocative as he muses on mission and the state of the world.

Eddie Arthur’s website

Ian Kirby is Vice-Principal (Academic) and Director of Cross Cultural Training. Ian regularly speaks at churches and events and previously resided in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, for ten years.


Sharon Prior

Sharon Prior

Maggi Dawn’s blog
maggidawn.net
Maggie is currently based at Yale University, where she is Dean of Marquand Chapel and Associate Professor of Theology and Literature in the Divinity School.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 19.25.50

Paula Gooder’s website
gooder.me.uk
Working as Theologian in Residence for the Bible Society, Paula seeks to find creative and inspiring ways to help people to engage more with the Bible.

Paula Gooder’s website

Sharon Prior is Senior Tutor and Lecturer at our Midlands Regional Centre, and is fuelled by a passion to see people make a difference where they are.


Tony Thomson

Tony Thomson

Bethinking
bethinking.org
This site is run by UCCF and provides access to very informative articles which are a combination of reading, listening and watching! Areas covered include apologetics, worldviews, religions, suffering etc created by many different individuals such as N. T Wright, Douglas Groothuis, Alister McGrath, and Josh McDowell; they are classified into categories: introductory, intermediate and advanced—a really great resource.

Bethinking

Theology on the Web
theologyontheweb.org.uk
Devised and run by Rob Bradshaw, this site has everything! Over 32,000 free articles are now available on a wealth of different subjects: biblical, theological, historical and archaeological.

Theology on the Web

Best Commentaries
bestcommentaries.com
Includes reviews and ratings of biblical, theological and practical Christian works by the likes of Carl Trueman, Don Carson, Scot McKnight and Tremper Longman. Sponsored by Accordance and Logos it also provides handy direct links from the books to major retail suppliers as well – great for librarians!

Best Commentaries

Tony Thomson is the Librarian, and Director of Learning Support. With the Moorlands College library housing over 40,000 titles, Tony knows the best books and sites to recommend.


Neil Tinson

Neil Tinson

9Marks
9marks.org
@9Marks
Although relatively familiar with some of their books (Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence being a personal, well-thumbed favourite), I only recently discovered 9Marks on Twitter. In line with their general ethos to nurture healthy churches, their tweets are deeply practical. For example, in recent days they’ve explored why “belonging before believing” is a bad idea; outlined steps that churches can take to promote congregational singing, and asked what pastors should preach about hell.

9Marks

Gerard Kelly
@gerardk6
@twitturgies
I can’t think of anyone more quotable—or a contemporary writer and speaker more inspirational—than Gerard Kelly. His unique, poetic way with ideas and words results in popular theological books and talks that are challenging, eye-opening and moving in equal measure. Church Actually: Rediscovering the Brilliance in God’s Plan from 2012 never fails to sock me sideways every time I’m drawn back to reading it, over and over again. His tweets offer a brief glimpse into theological riches.

Gerard Kelly on Twitter

Steven Furtick, Elevation Church
elevationchurch.org
I’m stretching the goalposts of the brief, here, but Steven’s sermons from his Elevation Church network in Charlotte, USA, make for valuable listening (either online, or via the Elevation Church app). They’re also available as online videos, but towards the end of a sermon you might find yourself nudging down the volume as he gets increasingly excitable and energetic…

Elevation Church

 

Neil Tinson is Moorlands College’s Marketing Manager, occasionally teaches on a number of our courses, and is himself currently studying for an MA in Applied Theology with Moorlands. He spends much of his time trying to convince people that Comic Sans is theologically unsound.

Eyes on the prize: A crown for life

After a big weekend of sport—All Nations rugby, the US Superbowl, Davis Cup tennis, running Royals, and league hockey promotion—lecturer Helen Morris reflects back on ancient Corinthian sport during the era of Paul.

While first-century Greek athletes battled for a wreath of withered leaves, Paul urges faithful Christians to instead pursue a prize of much greater significance. But what is the “imperishable crown” to which Paul refers?

Student Council: Passions and Prayers for 2017

Above
Back, L-R: Daniel Brooks (Pastoral Team), Callum McKay (Vice Chair), Enoch Adekoya (Chair), Alice Fenning (Outreach Team Leader).
Front, L-R: Daniel Cooke (Outreach Team), Charlotte Adams (Community Team), Hope Clark (Community Team Leader), Jess Williamson (Outreach Team).
Absent: Naomi Rigdeon (Pastoral Team Leader), Owen Mudford (Community Team), Becca Hamilton (Community Team), Ben Holton (Pastoral Team).


“We ensure that there are always opportunities for students to nurture each other’s faith outside of lectures, with Bible studies, prayer meetings, worship evenings and such events readily available for students to participate in.”

At our Christchurch Campus, the Student Council are here to guide, support and aid community living here at Moorlands. Sarah White asks a few of the Council members what their prayers and passions are for the year ahead.


Enoch Adekoya

Enoch Adekoya
Chair of Student Council

I’m currently a second year student at Moorlands College. As Chair of the Student Council, I oversee its leadership, teams, and its diverse responsibilities. Our primary aim as a Council is to mobilise the student body toward Christ-centeredness for the cause of the Gospel to the glory of Christ. My role is to ensure this objective is pursued in all the Council’s endeavours. As Chair of the Council, I play a crucial role in utilising the gifts of each member to build a coherent, well-functioning team for the betterment and development of the student body. It’s been a thrilling journey so far, and we have an exciting year ahead!

When considering my future, I was certain I had a passion for theology, and knew what God was calling me into, but was unsure where. I eventually chose Moorlands because I became certain it was an institution that held a high view of Scripture, and is effective in equipping its students for practical, Biblical ministry; more so than most other theological institutions. I was sure I would leave knowing I’d been trained to be competent in handling the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)—and I am thankful so far I’ve made the right decision.

One of the preconceptions I had coming here was that my faith would grow very easily with little effort, that being around passionate believers in Christ would suffice. I was wrong. It’s become a bit of a truism but even within such an incredible environment, it’s just as crucial to make every effort to strive toward spiritual growth and development! The Student Council considers this essential. We ensure that there are always opportunities for students to nurture each other’s faith outside of lectures, with Bible studies, prayer meetings, worship evenings and such events readily available for students to participate in. We fix in place a biblical framework for students to be able to grow in their walk with God, that we wouldn’t merely strive for survival, but more so, thrive in the faith.

In regards to prayer requests, I’d appreciate prayers for the strength, wisdom and grace to excel in my role, and continue walking in line with God’s guidance throughout my studies, in my walk with God, and as Chair.


Calum McKay

Callum McKay
Vice Chair of Student Council

I’m a first year student here at Moorlands College, originally having done the Foundation here last academic year. This is my second year on Student Council, and this year I am Vice Chair of the council.

Student life here is great, but it can be tiring as any student life would be, so I feel it’s important that we as a Council can aim to provide our fellow students with activities throughout the year, to provide pastoral care and support as well as some organised outreach opportunities in our surrounding area.

My prayer requests for me in my role as Vice Chair for the rest of 2017 would be that I can stay in touch with the needs of my friends here on site, and provide the best activities and other support to all that I can!


Alice Fenning

Alice Fenning
Outreach Team Leader

I am currently in my second year of studying at Moorlands. I absolutely love living here on-site, being part of the community. One of my biggest passions is for people to come to understand and know how much God loves them. Here at Moorlands, I lead the Outreach Team where we get the opportunity to go into the local villages and the city of Bournemouth to offer help and support. This can be something as simple as doing a litter pick in the village, clearing the pub car park and even going into people’s gardens and houses helping them to clean. We can also spend the majority of the night in Bournemouth town centre spending time with the homeless and people coming out of night clubs offering water. These create great opportunities to speak to them about the God that we know and love.


Naomi Ridgeon

Naomi Ridgeon
Pastoral Team Leader

I’m in my second year on the Youth and Community track. I am head of the Pastoral Team and our vision, along with the rest of Student Council, is that we aim to cultivate a Christ-centred community. We recognise that there are various emotions and pastoral issues that can get in the way of us thriving in the life of college, so this year we aim to combat some of the things which are challenging for students within the college that have been brought up in the Pastoral Team’s survey.

We intend to support the student community by having a student ‘drop in,’ where a member of the Pastoral Team will be available to signpost and pray for students who want that 1-2-1 support whilst also being readily available around the site. I am passionate about ensuring we are a community, where relationally within the community, we are having honest and real communication. As a team, we aim to ensure that every student is heard, valued and knows who they are in the eyes of their Sovereign Father.

Please pray that we will be approachable and that God would give us wisdom, discernment and grace in all the things we encounter. Also pray that as a team, we will be receptive to the needs of those in the community; acting fairly and being proactive.


Hope Clark

Hope Clark
Community Team Leader

I’m a second year student and I am the Team Leader for the Community Team this year. Community is such a big part of life here at Moorlands and so this year we want to make sure that we have time to spend with each other, both having fun and spending time with God as well. I feel personally that a student’s time Moorlands is a chance to make lifelong friends with real deep connections and so we want to aim this year to create times where people can get to know fellow students and get closer to God as well.

There are many events that are at the centre of our calendar, such as Winter Variety in the first term and Summer Ball in the final term. These especially are a great opportunity for both staff and student’s to spend time with each other and celebrating talents or the end of another year. I find it my privilege to be able to serve in this community and to be a part of the planning for these events and more, along with working with the rest of the Community Team and Student Council.

Please pray that the Moorlands community grows in fellowship with God and each other.

The inauguration of a President, and that of a King

Chris Jack

As I write this piece, the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the USA has just taken place. What a remarkable turn of events! This rank outsider, given little chance by most observers, now finds himself one of the most powerful men in the world. To say that he is a controversial figure is a gross understatement. The unprecedented scenes of protest witnessed across the USA, and in other parts of the world, in the immediate aftermath of the inauguration speak for themselves. Evangelical Christians in the USA are strongly divided in their opinions about Trump. For many, his personal deficiencies—even flaws—are seemingly offset by stances on a range of moral and ethical issues which buck the trend of the rampant liberalism which has long held sway.

However you view it, this is set to be an eventful presidency. The new president, unconventional in so many respects, has already shown himself to be unpredictable and outspoken. His swashbuckling style and frequent explosive tweets show little regard for conventional politics or subtle diplomacy. Some welcome this more direct approach. For others, both at home and abroad, President Trump’s widely-reported outrageous personal remarks, coupled with his forthright, uncompromising declarations on such issues as climate change, immigration and trade agreements, are a source of deep concern and dismay. In truth, the USA, and the rest of the world, waits with somewhat bated breath to see just how the presidency of this marmite president (you either love him, or you hate him!) will unfold.

I am reminded of another inauguration which took place some 2,000 years ago. A strikingly different event: on the one hand, much more low-key and subdued, lacking outward pomp or ceremony; yet, unrivalled in its sheer magnitude and significance. In Mark 1:9–11 we read of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. As Jesus comes up out of the water, a voice from heaven declares, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (v11). This declaration does not make Jesus something that he was not already. Rather, it affirms and commissions him as he prepares to take up his earthly messianic ministry. It is his personal inauguration.

Jesus was not elected by a majority vote. He did not usurp his position by might or force. He was appointed by God, his Father, to be not merely the leader—whether president, or monarch—of a nation, but to be the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). His kingdom, the kingdom ushered in by his coming (Mark 1:15), is not a temporal but an eternal one (Luke 1:32–33; Revelation 11:15). His power is not great, but the greatest. He reigns supreme.

Jesus was not elected by a majority vote… His power is not great, but the greatest.

Whatever one’s view of the matter, Donald Trump is now the elected, inaugurated president of the USA. Few people in this world wield more power than he. Whether you find that fact reassuring or concerning, it is both sobering and comforting to remind ourselves that neither President Trump, nor any other world leader for that matter, is ultimately in control. Whatever qualms or fears we may have as we sail into the uncharted waters of this new era, not only in American politics but also in global affairs, we can rest secure in the knowledge that there is a greater power: the One inaugurated and affirmed by God himself. Jesus Christ is Lord!

Who knows, beyond all the hype, what kind of leader President Trump will prove to be? Time will tell. At this stage, we can only speculate, and hope. And pray. The common response all Christians should have—indeed it is our responsibility—is to pray for him (1 Timothy 2:1–2). We do so with the sure conviction that the One inaugurated two millennia ago, whose character is utterly beyond reproach, whose promises and purposes are sure, and whose treasured subjects we are, is working out his purposes, albeit in ways unseen, and will in due time usher in his kingdom in all its fullness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.” (Romans 15:13).

Chris Jack is the Director of Postgraduate Studies at Moorlands College.

Staff interview: Love is action

Above: Matt Mellor, with the sons of fellow traveller Gavin, in the Ugandan hills


Sarah White interviews Matt Mellor, Moorlands College graduate and the college’s Technical Support Manager, about his recent mission trip and his heart for Uganda.

In January 2017, representing Sunnyhill Church in Poole, Matt travelled to a town called Mbale in the Eastern Uganda. With him were fellow church member Gavin Millward, and Gavin’s two sons aged nine and 13. The six-day trip was organised as part of Sunnyhill’s commitment to world mission where they have two focuses; the first on training church leaders in China, and the second of which supports children in Uganda—a place that has been greatly on Matt’s heart for more than a decade.

“My main heart for Uganda is that there are so many people in so much need; it’s hard to sit in a nice office in Britain and think about this. Their need is so much greater than we can understand. Sunnyhill have done a variety of things over the years such as giving out medical supplies, Bible training for pastors, providing blankets for the cold nights in the mountain villages and for the last four years, we have been delivering Christmas presents to Uganda. This year, Sunnyhill were able to provide a water filter tank for the school and we also wanted to take something that the children didn’t have, which were shoes. At church, individuals donated £6 towards a pair of shoes and in total we managed to provide over 400 pairs of shoes for school children in Uganda.”

After three days of travelling to Mbale, and driving up the mountain to the village, the team supported the school’s Christmas Party.

Making 600 chapati

Above: Making 600 chapati


“It was nothing like you’d expect a Christmas party to be; it was in the open air and in the blazing heat! Eight hundred people turned up to the party; we fed all of the children boiled eggs and chapatis which are two foods that they wouldn’t usually eat. Eggs are commodities that farm owners sell on, so to give a child a boiled egg is a really special thing. The children all were fed, given a fizzy drink and joined together for games in all different age groups which worked really well. We then gave out the boots specifically to the children who were from the school in the village, so at the end of the party, we got the registers from the school and called more than 400 children up, one by one, and gave them their boots.”

460 boots squeezed into one van
Distributing 460 boots
Ugandan children show off their new boots

Above: The Christmas party was an ideal time to distribute 460 boots to the children


The day after the team had left the village to come back to England, Matt heard that someone came to the house they had been staying in to thank them for the shoes. The individual wanted to thank the team because their child was the first person in their family to wear a pair of shoes. “For someone in Uganda, something as simple as a meal or shoes is so important and yet we take for granted. It makes you realise what matters, and what doesn’t. On this particular trip, I really, really learnt that love is action; it’s not just a feeling.”

A real eye opener for Matt was having travelling companions in Gavin’s two children: “I’ve gone to Uganda ten times and you get accustomed to some stuff, but it was really cool to see Uganda through the eyes of children. Seeing the things that they noticed and watching them playing with kids their own age in Uganda struck me; they spoke on a universal language of ‘children’!”

His first interest for mission started just before he came to Moorlands College as a student (2004–2007). “I felt really called to take a gap year and go to Bible College, so I decided to work for Oasis where I led a global action team that went to Uganda for six months in 2004. When I planned to come to Moorlands, I had signed up for the Youth Work course, but while I was in Uganda, God led me in a different direction and I took the Cross Cultural course as a result. I’ve been going back to Uganda ever since and have taken four Moorlands College students with me over the years.”

It’s extremely important to note that you do not have to be on the payroll or the staff team of a church to do ministry, and Matt is a great example of that. He has a full time job as a Technical Support Manager, works so hard supporting the local church and also devotes time to going on mission. Discussing this thought with him, Matt said, “When I first finished at Moorlands as a student, I wrestled with the expectation of going straight into a church role, but actually in working life, I love my church involvement as well as my job because it’s a tentmaking role. At Moorlands, I feel like the tents I’m making are actually for the Kingdom as well! I am quite a high capacity person so I don’t expect people to operate the way I do, but if you put the right things in a week, as well as relaxing, you can cram a lot into it. You just have to put the right stones in first. I currently have time that I can use for God, church and Kingdom and so I’m going to use it!”

Ugandan children waiting for gifts

Above: The children wait patiently for food and presents


Thinking ahead, Matt is looking forward to going to Uganda again perhaps next year, and Sunnyhill Church are also looking to taking a bigger group in 2019. Matt wishes to encourage others to go on mission and urges people to “not let the practicalities ever stop you from doing it.”

If you would like to pray for the school in Uganda visited by the team , Matt asks if you could pray for the following:

  • For the hearts of the parents to want to send their children to school rather than helping on their local farms.
  • For the Ugandan government and teachers to provide good education.
  • For the children to have opportunities and that they’d be better than the generation before them.

Grateful recipients

Above: The gratitude from adults and children alike, for things we often take for granted, helped Matt realise “that love is action; it’s not just a feeling”