‘Triggers’—a new threat to the preaching of the gospel

In a fascinating and alarming essay in a national newspaper, Professor Frank Furedi, (author of Power of Reading: From Socrates to Twitter, published by Bloomsbury) sets out a rising threat to academic freedom in British and American universities—a threat which may have strong implications for the preaching of gospel.

Professor Furedi draws attention to two particular areas of academic life where freedom of expression is being seriously challenged. First, there is the banning of speakers whose views are considered controversial. These are not necessarily directly related to the speaker’s present subject, but can relate to something they said or wrote many years ago. For example, the well-known academic and feminist Germaine Greer withdrew from giving a lecture at Cardiff University before she could be banned. Her offence was that she once expressed the opinion that a man trying to act like a woman, even one who has become a woman by surgical means, would not act, sound or behave like a woman. For this and similar opinions the Cardiff students branded her ‘transphobic’, and lobbied for her to be excluded. On this specific point, we as Christians must be very sympathetic towards Professor Greer, who surely expresses the biological and psychological facts of the case. But in any case, surely a university is meant to be a place where a great variety of opinions can be vigorously debated, not a place where speakers who fail to endorse the liberal consensus are banned, and further discussion is suppressed. We live in a very strange world, where feminists campaign to ban Germaine Greer; and she is not the only one who has suffered from this kind of bullying from the ‘trans’ community.

King under the Law

John,_Magna_CartaThe year 2015 was the year of Magna Carta, celebrating 800 years since the famous charter was sealed. There have been numerous books and at least two exhibitions commemorating the anniversary, some of which are reviewed in this issue. The great struggle of the barons who forced the charter on King John, and of many other rebels down through the centuries, was to make the king accept that he was not above the law, but was under it just as they were. The kings and queens of England and Scotland accepted the rule of law only reluctantly until the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the ability of Parliament to create a monarch and legitimate a dynasty finally shifted the balance of power.

Today it is not kings and queens but government ministers who try from time to time to act outside the law, and have to be reined in by the members of Parliament.

What Price Freedom of Conscience?

LutherWorms2

A lecture by a distinguished retired High Court judge in which he criticizes the present-day advance of secularism, and praises ‘Jesuits and puritans’ equally, has to be considered a truly extraordinary event. Just such a lecture was given by Sir Michael Tugendhat last May.

In recent years, the decisions of the courts have always favoured ‘equality’ at the expense of freedom of conscience to believe and practise the Christian—or indeed any—religion. One notorious judgment went so far as to describe legal protection for religious views as ‘irrational’.

Sinai-Living God’s Way

The dawn of a New Year provides a very natural opportunity for us as believers to pause and take stock. It is a time when we should both reflect on the year that is past and ask ourselves if in 2013 we truly lived to please and glorify God, and to look forward asking how can we live in 2014 in a way that will produce a greater likeness to Christ.

For many, even for many professing Christians, the solution to living a more holy life seems to be in making New Year resolutions that set a benchmark enable us to live better lives. The answer to living as God has called us to live in Christ is, of course, not in New Year resolutions however well-intentioned, but rather in setting before us the Word of God. Our guide for living is the moral law of God summarized in the Ten Commandments.