Tim Farron’s resignation – Christians are now the heretics

Tim Farron’s resignation – Christians are now the heretics

Why shouldn’t Christians be able to express a view on human sexuality they believe to be traditional and Biblical?

Why shouldn’t they be able to say they think the best environment for bringing up children is usually with a mum and a dad?

And why shouldn’t they be able to decline a request to bake a cake with a message supporting gay marriage?

What’s your opinion? (on second thoughts keep it to yourself)

Whatever your thoughts on any of these issues, (see news links below) we now live in a society where it is unacceptable to voice opinions that are traditional and Biblical. Views which just 20 years ago were regarded as normal are now abnormal. Moreover, you might lose your job or end up in court for expressing these views publicly.

Tim Farron has resigned from his very public role as leader of the UK Liberal Democrats. He makes the point that his Christian faith is in direct conflict with his role as a political leader in modern-day Britain. During our election campaign Tim Farron was repeatedly asked by journalists:

Is gay sex a sin?

Now “sin” is a word that has lost its meaning in society so the question is dubious. The idea of original sin or everyone being a sinner is absurd to the vast majority of people. So, the journalist asking the question was almost certainly - and successfully - using “sin” as a blunt instrument to generate headlines, rather than a serious question about faith or sexuality, or life in modern society.

And of course the irony here is that Tim Farron is far from a fundamentalist or even conservative Christian. He supports same sex marriage and his views are (unsurprisingly) liberal. Even so Farron felt forced to say:

“I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”

secret Christianity

Are we kidding ourselves? (isn’t this just a bit of “PC”)

Secular commentators like to point out that faith presents a dangerous threat to an open liberal society. “Faith” may be tolerable at times of national ceremony (a royal wedding) or personal ceremony (births, deaths, marriages) but otherwise needs to be kept locked away from real-life. It’s something you choose to do if you feel like it but in private please. They make the point that public faith is not only irrelevant but it is dangerous and intolerant. But they fail to see that their position is itself an intolerant faith position. It is a worldview, and it does not tolerate any other worldview. Some have remarked this is not so much secularism as “theophobia”.

 Secularism has become an intolerant faith position

A recent episode of the Premier Radio show Unbelievable featured a stormy debate between Canadian theologian Joe Boot and President of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson. With great insight and passion Boot reviews several recent cases where Christian opinion has been suppressed including those mentioned in this blog. Additionally, he describes the case of an (atheist!) Canadian academic being hounded for his refusal to use gender neutral pronouns such as Zir, Zim or Ne instead of the traditional him, her etc. Whereas we should honour the way people view their identity, the refusal to use these words doesn’t make you some kind of bigot.

Boot goes on to conclude:

  • Christians championing traditional Biblical views are now effectively regarded by society as heretics. They are stating views which do not conform to the politically correct agenda and they cannot be tolerated.
  • This criticism is directed at Christians who are regarded as “soft targets”. There do not appear to be similar complaints made against Muslims for example. Boot believes this is down to personal fear. Demanding that a Muslim baker bake a cake with a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed could put you in fear of your life.

 Christians with traditional Biblical views are now effectively regarded as heretics

faith in secret

How do we face the future? (rather than bemoaning a fading past)

We seem to be at a tipping point in public dialogue. Interestingly Tim Farron’s resignation may even help to alert our media and general public to this fact. In the meantime, a few remarks to end on:

  • Christians are in a minority and the church is on the margins of society. Get used to that. But it is not all negative. People are just as interested in “spirituality” as they ever were. They just don’t see that the church has relevant answers – and that’s down to us.
  • As Christians we need to learn to express our values and beliefs in ways that do not appear openly and overtly religious. With some humility, “more testimonial than dictatorial”.
  • And we need to defend the right of people of any faith and no faith to express their views sensitively, but without fear of immediate censure, in a climate of extreme political correctness.

keep your faith a secret

Cases referred to in this article: Ashers Bakery lose appeal; Christian parents told they are unsuitable because of views on parenting; and Tim Farron resigns.
If you enjoyed reading this, try Powers, Principalities, and the Internet.
This article also appears on The Baptist Times (edited) and Premier Christianity (edited) with feedback and comments.

Ashers Bakery – a quick summary

The Ashers are Christians and run a bakery in Northern Ireland. After consideration, they refused to fulfil an order from Gareth Lee. Lee is a member of Queerspace gay rights group and requested a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. The Ashers stated it was incompatible with their religious beliefs. They were found by a court to have acted unlawfully and to have discriminated against Mr Lee. The case is currently in appeal.

Of course the Ashers would have taken the same decision had a heterosexual requested this cake. Freedom of conscience – the right to politely refuse something that is against our conscience - must come into this at some point.

  • Jonathan Tallon

    A relatively full discussion of the Ashers Bakery case (including summaries of the legal arguments and judges’ reasonings on why the Ashers lost their appeal) can be found here:
    http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/10/24/the-gay-cake-case-ashers-baking-loses-its-appeal/

    • Thanks very much Jonathan – took a look at that.
      While one might agree that Ashers discriminated against Mr Lee according to the Equality Act, I really think in this regard the legislation on exactly what we mean by “equality” needs to be re-examined.

      • MelMenziesMerrilynWilliams

        Absolutely, Chris! If Ashers (for whom we’ve been praying regularly) have no *right* to decline to write a message which – let’s be honest – was designed as a deliberate test – then where is the *equality* for them?

  • Cathy Buntin

    Hi Chris I am proud to stand up and be called a heretic for Jesus. We are here for such a time as this and we need solidarity as we stand up together for Biblical rights and truth. I was so angry with Tim Farron that I felt that I had to email him and challenge him rethink his position. I told him that God may have placed him where he is for such a time as this and I reminded him of Esther in the Bible.
    I’m not ashamed to stand up and be counted for my Jesus. I am fed up of hearing that we may offend the Muslims most of whom do not have a problem with Christians standing up for what they believe to be true. Thanks for sharing and winding me up. I love your articles keep them coming. God bless Cathy

    • Good points – (didn’t mean to wind you up)
      Understand what you are saying – my main point here is not to try to answer the question of whether gay sex is a sin but to bring to attention the fact that we have to be able to have the discussion without fear of being censured.
      That is increasingly difficult as the debate has become so polarised, and the media undoubtedly so biased.

      • sallysuccess

        The debate has really become so polarised, and there’ll always be the censuring. Christians are attacked for saying gay sex is a sin. But, they fail to see that they’re attacking Christian views themselves. I wouldn’t want to call it two wrongs, but they’re doing just what they claim to be holding against Christians. If they think they’ve got freedom to be whatever and say whatever; they should allow Christians to say and be what they too want. As they say, they have a right to be gay and say gay rights must be protected; so too, I have the right not to be gay and say there shouldn’t be even any thing like gay rights in the first place, since it is all about rights, right?

        • I agree the “gay debate” has sadly become very polarised. In fact there are intermediate positions / other views besides either extreme, but they don’t appear in most discussions.

  • Paul ⠠⠇⠂⠅⠑

    ⠠⠺⠑ need to be rigorous in our striving to be good witnesses. Using phrases like political correctness as a weapon to support what is usually a “putjing down” of a disliked position is dishonest and unhelpful. An over zealousness to portray something conservative about your brand of Christianity has led to major discrimination against gay people and other minority groups in society! Out of a sense of bigotry, we have brought the current situation on ourselves. There is no perfect theology so why can’t we have a view that shows humility and compassion to those on the margins whoever they may be? But oh no, we need to bang drums instead. Let us ask ourselves “What would Jesus do” and let this inform how we struggle to be Christ-like in our society. Just my thoughts for now and I’m sure they won’t be static.
    Paul Leake.

    • Thank you Paul. I agree, in the end we might all be wrong about this! In the meantime we must take care of marginalised people and (I think) also make sure that people can have the discussion whatever their position, without censure or fear.
      I think we might be failing on both these grounds.

    • sallysuccess

      When I try to think of what Jesus would do, I’m tempted to say He’ll smilingly but bluntly tell them being gay is not His way, nor His father’s way. He’s tell them they can come back to His way, which is the right way, and that if they don’t, there’s another way they’d be choosing, which leads to eternal damnation.
      Jesus didn’t coax. He told them what He ought to tell them, irrespective of those around Him and of what they might think or say of Him. Only, He was led by compassion for the lost souls, and not out of condemnation.

  • Debbie Styles

    This one blog has literally given me a headache.
    While I’m all for free speech, “views 20 years ago” are just that, 20 year old views.
    We live in such a ever changing world, its scary how fast we are moving forward and even scarier to imagine how the world will be in years to come, therefore to hold on to views that were acceptable in society over 2000 years ago is ridiculous.
    Be gay and be happy ✌

    • Sorry about the head!
      Understand your point BUT this blog is not primarily about the answer to the question “is gay sex a sin”. Its really about the right for people to say “yes” or “no” without being picked on and ridiculed.

  • Duncan Curry

    Two key words in this piece”testimonial” and “dictatorial” – living by faith vs being religious impact those around us hugely – yes we live in an instantaneous world that blames just because one believes in something different to the secular ‘highly vocal and litigious society out there ‘ that’s ready to put us on media crosses and blast into damnatin because we dare To believe in a principle that goes against the World… but that’s the point here… Jesus said this would be the case John 15:19 ” If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” we should not judge others that is for God to do… however we must be able to speak our hearts and hope the world respects our faith…. although we know that’s sadly not the case…

    • Thanks Duncan – dont disagree with anything there

  • exit83

    As a Christian who believes in Biblical truth , the answer to the article title question is yes. But it doesn’t overshadow the fact that absolutely every one of us is a “sinner” and have turned our backs on God . These timeless acts , all of them, will continue until the end of ages whether we keep them swept under the rug or affirm them on social media in 2017 . Each person has a choice to make regarding lifestyle and morality and as long as absolutely zero of these “sins” are forced upon us, no matter the perspective , then we are not oppressed in our western culture, not one of us . The absolute answer will come on the day we meet our God and at that point , somebody else’s unbelief matters not .

    • I think the really hard thing is to distinguish between culture and truth. Of course “cultural norms” and “eternal truths” are not the same – we need wisdom to tell the difference. Thanks

  • Thank you Chris for handling this in a helpful and sensitive way. The issue seems in my mind to be that the mainstream media has a particular fixed view on sexuality and anyone who disagrees with these views is bigoted or out of touch. Currently it is on gay rights, but in the past it was sex before marriage, the irrelevance of marriage as a meaningless piece of paper and how it is normal and natural to have multiple sexual partners. Any evidence or news that contradicts this is conveniently ignored or ridiculed as biased. Then it is largely forgotten and we move on to the next thing. May be we should expect this, but our response as disciples of Christ is, as you are doing, is to keep showing the holes and inconsistencies in popular thinking. Another excellent example of that is Voddie Baucham in this lecture entitled Is Gay The New Black? It is an hour long, but very much worth the investment of time and thought: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkL3lT95vOU You are right we are very much on the fringe of what is popular, but our calling is to keep speaking the truth in love and that is what will eventually be vindicated.

    • Interesting – thanks Sunil. And thanks for the reminder that this is one in a series of culture shifts where anyone with the traditional Biblical view is sidelined.

    • MelMenziesMerrilynWilliams

      Your comment about the irrelevance of marriage is one of the issues raised in Glynn Harrison’s book, A Better Story (see my comments above) in which he says that marriage is now seen as a ‘wierd and irrelvant way of life.’ Glynn exhorts us to counter current culture with a positive take on traditional Christian belief.

  • Apologies Chris! The link I sent while helpful is not the one I wanted to send! This one shows the slides Voddie Baucham uses better https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uVezev5Tnw&feature=youtu.be

    • exit83

      Fantastic teaching !

  • MelMenziesMerrilynWilliams

    I have been horrified to see the way both Asher’s Bakery and Tim Farron have been hounded. We talk about tolerance in this country as if it were the god of our time, but the intolerance shown to those who disagree with popular minority opinion is dreadful. I’m currently reading Glynn Harrison’s book, A Better Story for the book club I lead, and it conveys such insight into today’s society, and in particular, the sexual revolution, that my notes are almost a book in themselves. It should be a ‘must read’ for us all. Brilliant!

    • Hi there and thanks. The book looks great (just checked the Amazon blurb). The power of stories in society had never diminished and if anything seems to be on the rise. Does this book say what “our better, Biblically rooted story” might be? I will put it on the reading list if so 🙂

      • MelMenziesMerrilynWilliams

        I think Amy Orr-Ewing says it best on her review of the book, Chris. She says the author “calls us to understand and contribute to culture and human flourishing in the light of rapidly changing world.”
        My understanding is that we should be more outspoken about our beliefs – in a positive manner. Sadly, as sallysuccess says above, we’ve been silenced. I think we’ve been shamed into believing that traditional views are bigotry, and are lacking in compassion and understanding.

    • sallysuccess

      Very true, the intolerance shown to those who disagree with these popular minority opinions is really dreadful, and terrible. And to make things worse, the Church is quiet about this. Christians fight their battles alone. But when its about the “popular opinions”, they’re backed.
      How I wish the Church could sit up as one. For only united can we stand!

      • MelMenziesMerrilynWilliams

        That, basically, is what this book is saying sallysuccess. The author shows how ‘radical individualism’, and the emotional support that should be the response of anyone with any compassion, shows those with traditional Christian beliefs to be bigots, and that the only way to combat this is not denounce this but to use *positive* stories to show the Way.

  • Peter

    Thanks. One criticism I have read is that there is a sense that Tim may have engineered his resignation by trying to make himself a victim or a rather modern martyr (after all the media interviewers were merely expressing their right to free speech to ask Tim questions). I do not agree with the this but I can see why the media are promoting it. We have a duty to argue a case in support of the Christian point of view and all Churches should get together to develop underlying principles on free speech and expressing Christian Faith. We always get caught on the back foot – let’s get on the front!!
    Also, this does raise one big issue and it is referred to by your respondees and that is the authority of the bible in a secular and multi faith society. Quoting scripture sounds archaic to many right now and the same must have applied in biblical times. I think we have not addressed sufficiently the evolution of knowledge from a 2000 year old society with no telescopes or microscopes, no real understanding of animal life form or function beyond the physical observable, no concept of DNA, no hint of astro physics, dark matter/energy, and certainly no comprehension of Higgs Boson! New knowledge must change our understanding and our interpretation of everything which has gone before. As Christians we look for the principles inherent in the bible as the inspired word of God but we too must realise that God gave us an intellect which has been magnificent in getting us to understand the world and our universe that He created, so much better!

    • I agree – we need to interpret scripture in the light of current knowledge and using our intellect. The difficulty is what aspects of the Bible are “eternally true” ie do not alter no matter what the culture, and what aspects are the cultural norms of the day? Its tough. My point here is to say that we need to hear all (non extremist) voices. Thanks Peter!

  • sallysuccess

    They shouldn’t do what they don’t want others to do. Rights are for all; if they be rights at all.

  • A. Farron was a poor leader had he been more capable he would have been able to be a Christian & a politician.
    B. In my view it’s a case of degrees , many middle road Christians are able to be inclusive to gays for example. And many other things. When people see ” Christian ” they read right wing extreme views, mainly through ignorance admittedly.
    If you portray your faith in a way that is true to your own beliefs and yet respectful of others you don’t need to be perceived as heretic to all.
    In the much discussed gay marriage cake ; a refusal politely and helpfully suggesting another baker might have avoid the confrontation that hasn’t helped anyone . Both sides appeared entrenched.
    Anyone wanting to make it in public life needs to be inclusive : what better example than J C himself ?

    • Thanks – agree with some of this, not all.
      Do you think a polite refusal and name of another baker would have prevented the gay-cake from being escalated? It depends on the ultimate motive of the customer.
      But the general point about exclusivity, respect …. yes agree. 🙂