Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I'm on holiday

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers.

I am on blogging holiday for a while - till mid-January-ish - unless the world blows up, which is slightly more likely since You Know Who (USA) and You Know Who (Russia) reignited the arms race.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

2017 will be a big year, in my view. Even bigger than 2016 has turned out to be!

My final wisdom for the year, especially pertinent on Christmas Day, courtesy of something my son Tweeted a while back:

Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in the fruit salad!

Boxing Day Postscript:

At the Midnight Service at St Barnabas Fendalton I preached a sermon more or less according to the following text. (My actual text had a few mores scribbled words than this version, but I have lost that!)

"Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
It is not a very happy Christmas this year.

This year we are acutely aware that people in places such as Aleppo are in an especially unhappy situation. But closer to home we also find people in difficult situations illustrated by long queues of people outside the Auckland City Mission.

Isaiah knew about the threat of evil and oppression which stalks humanity. We heard his description of the situation using words such as “yoke,” “bar”, “rod,” and “boots.”

This year we have felt the rod of oppression and the trampling boots of the oppressors across our world and we end the year feeling next year could be worse rather than better.

It is not a very happy Christmas this year.

Yet here we are singing about light and life, greeting one another with “Merry Christmas,” and hearing readings about glad tidings of joy for all.
What is up with that?

What did Isaiah see in the midst of his dark day? He foresaw a child being born, a child full of hope and promise, serving Israel with powerful love rather than the love of power.

At the time Isaiah almost certainly thought this foresight was about the next royal baby to be born.

But for centuries no royal baby born in Israel quite matched the job description of the Prince of Peace given in that passage.

Then, and we know the story well, a baby was born, with royal lineage, in a very obscure way, placed in a feeding trough with no spare room anywhere else in a Bethlehem hostel.

And as people got to know that baby, as the baby grew to be a man, what Isaiah saw was determined to have come to pass.

Jesus was the Wonderful Counsellor or, as Paul wrote to Titus, “our great God and Saviour.”

All that is good. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the manifestation of our great God.

But there is this tiny challenge. When Christmas is not a happy Christmas for many people, has the promise of Isaiah’s prophecy been fulfilled?

Isaiah did not only foresee the coming of the Christ child, he foresaw a better world, talking of “endless peace” and the establishment of a just kingdom.

I think this challenge has to be met. We crave integrity. We want promises to match reality. 

That is why Trump won and Britain is leaving the EU. Voters in those places are tired of reality not matching politicians’ promises.

The shepherds give us a clue as to why we do not yet see Isaiah’s vision fulfilled. When told that Jesus is good news for the world they go to him.

Ever since some people, like the shepherds, have followed Jesus. But many have ignored Jesus, some have shunned him, a few have even gone further and persecuted his followers.

Even our beloved Press today [24 December 2016] has an editorial relegating Jesus to the sidelines and giving thanks for Santa Claus!

Isaiah’s vision will be fulfilled when we run towards Jesus rather than away from him. When we pay him homage, like the shepherds, rather than toss him to one side.

It is not a very happy Christmas this year. That is a challenge. At the least it is a challenge that we might help people discover or rediscover Jesus, the only way to endless peace and a just world.

Will we find our way to Jesus, like the shepherds?"

Friday, December 23, 2016

And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?

I promise you, that if you read this post on NZ productivity figures, you will get to Christmas, and the source of the lovely title to this post.

POSTSCRIPT: For something a little different, pointed and provocative about how we think about the spiritual dynamic of Christmas, read this post (H/T Josh Taylor, Spanky Moore)

POSTSCRIPT 2: Yes, terrorism is closer to home Down Under, once again, including a Melbourne church as a target.

Heading into 2017, this might help understand what will happen

The thing about 2016 and its tumults is they are of the kind which imply 2017 will be worse, not better. 2016 looks like it will be not an aberration but the deepening of a growing global crisis.

For which crisis we might have a better understanding if we read this.

It might be worth remembering that Jesus was born into the world not to found a civilisation to be later defended from the encroachment of other civilisations but to save the world, everyone in it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The very latest cathedral news

Stuff has this report up about no announcement before Christmas about the future of the Christchurch Cathedral.

Shortly I hope to be able to append here the official media statement on the matter by +Victoria (which staff were informed about a few minutes ago, as I write).


Bishop Victoria's letter to the Diocese about the non-announcement today is here.

The accompanying press release is here.

Love reaches out to all, including ...

It has been extremely refreshing in recent weeks on this blog to find that there is a topic or two other than You Know What which generates long strings of comments, to say nothing of strong arguments, robustly mounted against this blogwriter.

This "topic or two" is a bit of a mix of standing against Trumpism and standing for welcoming Muslim migration (with some obvious caveats).

Nothing I have read recently better captures the sense I have that a welcoming country like NZ should welcome Muslims along with other people groups than this Stuff article.

All people living in NZ at some point in a past of 1000-1200 years at the most have been or their forebears have been migrants moving from one land to another in search of a better life.

Long may it continue!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Full of Grace - The Sacred Truth about Christmas

As you are no doubt experiencing yourself, the path to a "happy" Christmas lies in securing the right presents for the right people in your life and that likely involves entering some shops which normally you would not enter.

Thus I found myself in a shop full of interest, theologically speaking, the other day. Full of interest because of the names given some products in that shop, as conveniently illustrated by these photos (Motto: Always carry your smartphone wherever you go):

So there it is folks, some 2000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ who came, according to John 1:17, "full of grace and truth," we have the faint residue of that revelation in a post-Christian consumerist society!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It is not a happy Christmas this year ...

There is too much to ponder that is terrifying, crazy or just generally alarming ... and as I write this the Russian Ambassador to Turkey has been assassinated ... didn't the trigger for the First World War involve something like that?

Read this (H/T Brian Kelly) to underline the challenges of finding genuine peace and harmony in a world beset by the divide between Islamic and Christian world views.

Of course, an unhappy Christmas this year does not mean it cannot be a joyful Christmas! But our joy this year is tempered more keenly than most years by the dark stain of strife and bitterness.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Simple rhymes

Last night I went to the Transitional Cathedral's Nine Lessons and Carols Service. Very good it was too.

One of the carols the choir sang is cited below. As they sang and I followed the words, I was struck by how simple the rhyming poetry was, yet profound the theology expressed in its simplicity.

What do you think?

The words ultimately are "traditional" but this version and its music were Arranged by George Whitehead (1848-1934).

Up Good Christian Folk

Ding dong, ding:
Up good Christian folk,
and listen how the merry church bells ring
and from steeple
bid good people
come adore the newborn King

Tell the story
how from glory
God came down at Christmastide.
Bringing gladness,
chasing sadness.
Show'ring blessings far and wide.

Born of mother,
blest o'er other,
Ex Maria Virgine.
In a stable
('tis no fable).
Christus natus hodie.

Postscript: with H/T to Brian Kelly, I send you to Ian Paul's fascinating sermon on (among other things) the "stable" is a fable (though see also my comment below).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trumpism, perfected child of Norman Vincent Pealeism

To be frank, the only thing I get about Christian support for Donald Trump is that it might turn out that some of his policies will be good for middle America. Otherwise I am at my wits end as to why Christians view Trump so favourably. (Yes, I know, some readers here are supportive and have explained their support. I remain a puzzled non-Trumper).

Anyhow, this article may be of interest to you, whether you love 'im or hate 'im or simply worry what he will do.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Anglican Apostolicity (3)

A great virtue of being Anglican is our embrace of breadth, our ability to accommodate, well, a lot of variety.

Sometimes that has meant for us a kind of "anything goes" approach, whether any theology is fine, any liturgy (or non-liturgy) will do, and all diversity is blessed, especially because it is, er, diverse. We have only feared, in such moods, monochromaticity. 

Those "anything goes" days are over, however, in my view, if the Anglican church wishes to survive the tsunami of 21st century secularism, Islamism and now Trumpism bearing down on it.

The only consequence for avant-garde Anglican theologising since the Enlightenment I can see is decline in church attendance. By contrast, new possibilities for restoring old fractures in the global church present themselves, and if we take them up we will need to focus on how we move together in theological harmony - drawn together by the teaching of the apostles - rather than difference.

Thus an apostolic Anglican church, seeking again to win the world to Jesus Christ, needs to tighten up theologically. 

I suggest we need to be quite conservative theologically, constantly asking ourselves whether what we are thinking and teaching is consistent with the faith once given, as understood by the vast majority of Christians around the world today. That is a necessary condition of being an apostolic church. 

The sufficient condition of being an apostolic church is that we combine that "defensive" role of preserving our faith with the "offensive" role of proclaiming our faith. It is in this offensive, advancing movement of the church that Anglican breadth becomes a new and welcome virtue. The other day Liturgy published a striking and very popular post. One takeaway from that post is that we should be very careful to avoid throwing out anything valuable to us about the way we do or the way we are church.

Our world is pluriform. There is no one size (i.e. type of) church fits all. If the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and the church is Christ's body in the world, then as the good news of Jesus Christ is embraced by different people at varying points of human need, then the body of that same Jesus Christ must be diverse: both to welcome a variety of people and to express the personalities of those same varied people. The Anglican church is well suited to this particular requirement of apostolicity in the 21st century.

We can do ritual. We can be charismatic. (Yes, to ward off a predictable comment: we can be both!) We can preach the gospel with words and in deeds. We can speak to the varied socio-economic classes of our society. We can connect with immigrants.

But sometimes we do these things better than other times and quite often we are patchy in our record of being a church suited to the pluriformity of life. To coin a phrase (!!), we can make the Anglican church great again ...

From an apostolic perspective we Anglicans need desperately to take a break from our sexuality wars. Here is one reason: we cannot be sure that the GAFCON approach to being Anglican is purely driven by theological issues in sexuality. If some or all the archbishops involved in GAFCON are "despotic", how does dancing to their tune serve the gospel of the Servant? There is another way: meeting of minds, continuing dialogue, mutuality in face to face conversations, well exemplified in this report.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Mashup

Yes, the third post on Anglican Apostolicity is coming ... meanwhile ...

Horrible news out of Cairo this morning about a bombing of a Coptic chapel complex. We must not diminish our political will and will to pray that Islamic (and all other forms of) terrorism would cease.

Bill English is all but signed in as our new Prime Minister. He is our first active Catholic Prime Minister since our last one, which actually means that between Jim Bolger (1990-99) and now we have had three Prime Ministers, two of whom were well known  for being at least agnostic if not atheistic, and the third, well, I cannot recall a strong declaration of active faith. BUT ...

... as Bill is being interviewed late this morning, we are learning that he was against but now is in favour of gay marriage, not least because he realises that it is not damaging to straight marriage. Also he is against voluntary euthanasia but for a conscience vote on it when and if it comes to parliament. I wonder what his bishop makes of these views coming as they now do from the highest profile Catholic layperson in the land!

I notice on Taonga today an item which closes and clarifies an awkward situation which arose in our church over the past year. (I mention this because not all is perfect in our church and from time to time I will notice that here. HOWEVER I will take no comments on this particular matter, and will not publish a comment on another matter which nevertheless mentions this one. You can always comment at Taonga if you choose).

Finally, an unashamed appeal for consideration of this fundraising venture by our darling daughter Leah as she seeks funding for two dance performances she and a small team are working on for 2017. This particular way of raising funds has just eleven days to go as they seek a further $4250 ... thanks for reading this paragraph!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Unlikely quarter?

My attention has been drawn to praise for the Pope's now controversial Amoris Laetitia document on marriage and the sacrament of the Mass. I imagine it is timely for Francis as he is under cardinal attack from four cardinals pressing him to clarify what he seemingly prefers not to clarify.

I am on the Pope's side, incidentally. Marriage and its many breakdowns, in my experience of meeting with many couples pastorally, are not neatly covered by "refusal of the sacrament" unless "annulment" has taken place. (Neither of which things, incidentally, are taught by Jesus as responses to divorce!) So a messy, lacking clarity document such as Amoria Laetitia is pleasingly adaptable to the vagaries of human circumstances, and fittingly coherent with the unceasing mercy of God.

So I am going to read with interest, and you may too, the following links to the Ecumenical Patriarch's remarks ...



The actual column the EP wrote is here, and, well, why not cite it in full ... (my bold)

"When speaking of God, the descriptive language that we adopt is love. And when speaking of love, the fundamental dimension that we attribute is divine. This is why the Apostle of Love defines God as love. (1 John 4.8) 
When our dear brother and Bishop of Rome, His Holiness Francis, issued his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia earlier this year, it was around the time that we jointly travelled to the island of Lesbos in Greece, in order to express our solidarity with persecuted refugees from the Middle East. Although the Papal Encyclical “on the joy of love” is concerned with issues pertaining to family life and love, we believe that it is not unrelated to that historical visit to the refugee camps. For what became immediately clear to both of us, as we gazed into the sorrowful faces of the wounded victims of war, was that all of these people were individual members of families -- of families broken and torn apart by hostility and violence. But, as our Lord explicitly told us about the relationship between power and service, it should not be so among us! (Matt. 20.26) Immigration is nothing but the other side of the same coin of integration, which is surely the responsibility of every sincere believer. 
Of course, Amoris Laetitia touches the very heart of love and family, just as it touches the heart of every living person born into this world. This is because the most sensitive issues of family life reflect the most vital questions of belonging and communion. Whether they concern the challenges of marriage and divorce, or even of sexuality and childrearing, they are all delicate and precious pieces of the sacred mystery that we call life. 
Over the last months, there have been many commentaries and evaluations on this significant document. People have wondered how specific doctrine has been developed or defended, whether pastoral questions have been reformed or resolved, and if particular rules have been either reinforced or mitigated. However, in light of the imminent feast of the Lord’s Incarnation -- a time when we commemorate and celebrate that the “divine word assumed human flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14) -- it is important to observe that Amoris Laetitia recalls first and foremost the mercy and compassion of God, rather than solely the moral rules and canonical regulations of men. 
What has undoubtedly smothered and hampered people in the past is the fear that a “heavenly father” somehow dictates human conduct and prescribes human custom. The truth is quite the opposite, and religious leaders are called themselves to remember and in turn to remind that God is life and love and light. Indeed, these are the terms repeatedly emphasized by Pope Francis in his encyclical, which discerns the experience and challenges of contemporary society in order to discern a spirituality of marriage and family for today’s world. 
The church fathers are not afraid to speak openly and honestly about the Christian life. Nonetheless, their starting point is always the loving and saving grace of God, which shines on all people without discrimination or disdain. The same fire of God, says Abba Isaac the Syrian in the seventh century, brings warmth and consolation to those who are accustomed to its energy, while searing and consuming those who have turned away from its fervor in their lives. The same light of God, says St. Symeon the New Theologian in the tenth century, serves as salvation for those who have desired it and enables them to see the divine glory, while bringing condemnation to those who have rejected it and preferred their own blindness. 
In the early months of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it was most fitting that Pope Francis both encountered the families of the despondent refugees in Greece and embraced the families under his pastoral care throughout the world. In so doing, not only did he invoke the infinite charity and unconditional compassion of the living God upon the most vulnerable souls, but he also evoked a personal response from the recipients-readers of his words as well as all people of good will. For he invited people to assume personal responsibility for their salvation by searching for ways in which they can follow the divine commandments and mature in spiritual love. 
The culmination of the papal exhortation is, therefore, also our own conclusion and meditation: “What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine. May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.”by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why can't life be boring, predictable, steady and stable?

The title is the great existential question of 2016.

Leicester City, Brexit, Trump, Ireland beating the ABs, Trump bringing Taiwan back into the fellowship of nations, John Key resigning. There is too much "the unexpected is the norm" going on. Change and decay in all around I see, with emphasis on "change"!

But things are changing.

Here is a pretty thoughtful post on what we could call the big change in the "governing" worldview across many nations.

And here is a post on one tiny but hugely significant change in one Western country ... the kind of change in attitude which exemplifies our post-whatever-used-to-be-common-to-us and now-confusing world.

Meantime. Yes, yes, yes. Post number three on Anglican Apostolicity, featuring the All Blacks, is coming along.

If only Prime Ministers would stop resigning ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Anglican Apostolicity (2)

Our church has a formal title, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which is, to be frank, a bit of a mouthful.

A great alternative (and used on the cover of our modern prayer book) is Te Haahi Mihinare (the missionary church).

Comments on my previous post on Anglican Apostolicity rightly reminded me that apostolicity is about preaching the gospel and founding new churches as much as it is about faithfulness to what the apostles taught.

This suggests that "Anglican Apostolicity" concerns both how we preserve and hand on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ (the Doctrine of Christ, according to our constitution) and how we grow and develop the church via proclamation of the gospel.

From this perspective we could argue that Anglican apostolicity has a lot going for it. The strengths of Eastern Orthodoxy as an apostolic church, for instance, have arguably not translated well into missionary work around the globe. (By contrast the Catholic and Anglican churches have good track records spreading the gospel and planting new churches in many lands beyond commencement points in Europe).

Of course some historians of Western Christian mission would say of both Anglican and Roman Catholic churches that bishops have often been an impediment to missionary work (e.g. resisting initiatives by laypersons and priests). Here in Te Haahi Mihinare, CMS missionaries and the fledgling Te Haahi Mihinare were trucking along pretty fine without a bishop and when one turned up, George Augustus Selwyn, there were plenty of awkward moments which followed.

We might further make a specifically Anglican self-critical point by observing that despite the English Reformation being a movement to renew the apostolic faith of the church by sheering off medieval accretions, there was absolutely no apostolic impulse to new missionary work. That would only come later with the likes of the Wesleys' preaching in America and the evangelical renewal of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries spawning the Church Missionary Society. Later still the Anglo-Catholic revival also led to new mission work outside of England.

So, with that very potted history in the above paragraphs, we see that apostolicity is a desirable quality in the church which in practice is not easy to achieve. Here is zeal to preserve the apostolic teaching but little concern for apostolic mission. There is motivated mission in the footsteps of the apostles with little concern to preserve and promote that mission via introduction of bishops as successors to the apostles. Over there are bishops with a profound sense of their continuity with the apostles but with little vision for preaching the gospel.

Anglican apostolicity, in other words, is a precious but often fragile treasure.

How might we strengthen our apostolicity for the rigours of the 21st century?

Another post is coming ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Anglican Apostolicity? (1)

I've been challenged to think about "apostolicity" recently (via an article that I am holding back for the time being).

I understand "apostolicity" to be the characteristic of the church in which

(1) it  is faithful to what the apostles taught

(2) it proclaims the gospel the apostles proclaimed

(3) it continues the ministry of the apostles, that is the ministries of teaching and preaching the truth of Jesus Christ and founding churches based on that truth.

Another way of putting this is that the church is apostolic when it continues what the apostles did and said in order to enlarge (through church planting) and maintain the church of Jesus Christ.

The question of "apostolicity" generally arises because when we think "church" we are invited to think what "church" means. Can it mean whatever we make of it? Is it bound to mean what it has always meant? (If so, why?) Is some kind of continuity (apostolicity), comprehensiveness (catholicity), constraint (holiness) and community (unity) critical to church being authentically church?

The question particularly arises when as church we consider making decisions which push against, if not break through the "unity, apostolicity, catholicity, holiness" of the church, or, if you prefer, break through the continuity, comprehensiveness, constraint and community of the church.

Alternatively the question of apostolicity might arise when a teaching pushes against the same boundaries of what it means to be the church. In the letter to the Ephesians in Revelation 2:1-7, we read:

"I know you that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. ... But ..." (2bc, 4a)

Even at the end of the first century, the question of a true or a false apostleship was encountered by the church. (I included the "but" at the beginning of verse 4 as a reminder that when a church has rounded up and shipped out false apostles it is not immune to the Lord's judgment as to it's true spiritual health!).

Now apostolicity has some variations in emphases as different Christians in different traditions have reflected on what apostolicity means. Some place emphasis on content of the faith and its continuity: we are apostolic when and only when we continue to the content of the faith of the apostles. Others emphasise the leadership aspect of apostolicity: we are apostolic when we continue the office of the apostles (i.e. via bishops). On this emphasis, the content of the faith also matters: bishops are chosen who will maintain the teaching the apostles and lead church's the proclamation of the gospel.

Naturally, Anglicans have the best of all apostolic worlds [ :) ].

Revved up by the Reformation we value the (re-formed) content of the faith once delivered and we refused to rid ourselves of bishops. But that claim (made slightly in jest, slightly in seriousness) is not likely to cut much ice with three major alternative views on apostolicity.

The Orthodox propose that they have the purest adherence to the apostles: bishops, strict adherence to (genuinely universal, undivided church) ecumenical councils' interpretation of the apostles' teaching, and continued use of the first Scripture of the apostles (the Old Testament in Greek).

Roman Catholics propose that they have the safest adherence to the apostles: bishops who teach what the apostles teach and a bishop of the bishops (pope) to secure that teaching by both preventing heresy gaining ground (e.g. ability to sack any bishop around the globe who steps out of theological line) and by only promulgating new teaching after a long, careful, well-tested process of review (possibly taking centuries), including an assurance that the whole (Roman) church is united behind the new teaching.

Reformed churches (in the sense of those churches formed during the Reformation and subsequently (e.g. Methodists) but who eschew bishops) propose that bishops are as often the problem as they are the solution to strengthening apostolicity. They would point out to Anglican and Lutheran churches that individual "rogue" bishops are not easily silenced; and ask of the Roman church, what if the Pope goes rogue?. It is happened. Some say it is happening. I digress!

Although I am not personally aware of what a "Reformed" critique of Orthodoxy might look like, I can imagine it might point to the divisions within Orthodoxy, including the division between Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox as signs that a claim to purity of adherence to the apostles is no guarantee of unity of adherence: patriarchs and bishops can get in the way. Instead, the Reformed approach to apostolicity, as I understand it, emphasises the content of apostolic teaching, and permits all and sundry to advance it, defend it and debate it in order that individual heretics are efficiently condemned and/or sidelined (with no need to pay respect to their episcopal office let alone to their professorial office) while other champions of apostolicity are widely praised and their writings propagated.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent = Coming? Yeah, nah.

Heaven meets earth. Three cricket tests being played around the world simultaneously. Advent celebrates heaven meeting earth as Jesus comes to dwell among us and comes again and again to live in his church through the Spirit and will come again as Lord and Judge in the Second Coming.

Yes, Advent = coming, in multivalent ways.

Nah, Advent should not be thought of in terms of "coming". A soft and gentle word which fails to do justice to what happens when Jesus enters our sphere.

Here is an arguably better word for understanding Advent: disruption.

I understand that "disruption" is a bit of vogue word these days, e.g. in commerce, if one wants to make money, one must "disrupt" the market with a new product. Trump and Brexit are disruptions to the "usual way of doing business."

Yesterday, preaching on the Advent 1 lectionary readings (Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44), I was drawn to the word "disruption." Jesus did not just come into the world, he disrupted it. The suddenness of the Second Coming will be a disruption.

Perhaps one question for the church to ponder this Advent is whether the Christ who comes and comes again in the church means the church is itself a disruption in the world?

Some would say we are blandly quiescent, passive without any aggression ...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trump is just another swamp dweller

Yes. Back to Trump. But sometimes Anglicanism takes back place to the future of the world.

So, just before you start writing your comment, there is some good news about Trump!

He is walking back a few positions and he is finding some reasonably good folk to fill his cabinet. Likely he will be a better president than some of us fear.

But this is what makes me mad about Trump.

It turns out that he is just another swamp dweller, i.e. politician doing what politicians do.

Read this verbatim interview in the New York Times. Put it together with the folk he is reaching out to (such as Governor Haley and Mitt Romney). Essentially Trump is admitting he said one thing on the campaign trail and now he is saying another thing after winning.

That is two-faced. That is lying in order to gain the prize.

He was very, very rude about Haley and Romney.

Yes, Romney was rude about Trump. But Romney is not claiming to be an "anti-politician."

Note also in that interview that Trump is claiming that as President he is beyond conflict of interest over his continuing business dealings.

If that is not swamp dwelling it is troughing.

Trump is just another politician and we should have expectations of him that are consistent with that.

The good news is that politicians do some good and we can expect that of Trump.

But let us not delude ourselves that everything is going to be just as he campaigned for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hui to change to the world?

On Monday I participated in a hui of local Christians, called by our local ecumenical network Te Raranga. Our focus was on bicultural relations. It was an absorbing day through powhiri, mihi and korero (personal welcome, personal speeches introducing ourselves, discussion). (A highlight was the mihi of our local Destiny Church pastor, who powerfully reminded us that, whatever we think of the recent Brian Tamaki statement connecting quakes with God's judgment, Destiny is having a powerful impact on the lives of Maori men.)

Our witness to the world as a city was a powerful theme of the day in the context of Maori and Pakeha speaking about what has broken in our Treaty-founded relationships in the past and what can be repaired. Christians in Christchurch are relating well together. Churches are working together. (Not perfectly, room for improvement!) Unity between churches and across cultures is a witness to the gospel of reconciliation.

Is this our time to speak to the heart of Aotearoa NZ in order to foster unity over division? Is this our nation's time to speak to the Trump/Brexit world about human unity rather than division?

Someone observed that we are not in an era of change but in a time of change of era. Will our world divide and fracture or reunite and heal? The gospel drives us in only one of those directions!

As a group we do not know what our next step will be but we are listening to Wairua Tapu (Holy Spirit).

A plea, to local Anglicans reading this. There was only one Anglican present at this hui ... could we find a little bit more energy for ecumenical engagement?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Church witness within Kaikoura itself

Lovely to read here of an open air, well-attended, ecumenical church service in Kaikoura yesterday.

Meanwhile too much happening in my life to post in depth. Lots of travelling and long - but worthwhile - meetings ...

Friday, November 18, 2016

This should be the NZ church story of the week [Updated]

Most Kiwis know by now that the biggest church news story of the week concerns Brian Tamaki/Leviticus/quakes/gyas/punishment. That is a pity for all sorts of reasons, including the petition to stop Destiny church being counted as a charity (think: flow on effects, if that happened). Sometimes it is best to fight back against this sort of thing with wit (thank you, Civilian). It can also be useful to write something (as I have been asked to do). Mark Keown (Laidlaw College) has already blogged here.*

No, not that story. I reckon the biggest church news story of this week should be this story, from the Awatere Valley (H/T Taonga). The church in that district has had an amazing "counter-secular" influence for many decades now, under a succession of cracker ministers (and I am not saying that just because they have been great mates!)

So, hats off to Rachel Westenra and the diligence with which she serves as a parish nurse in a genuinely ecumenical role.

Meanwhile many Christians are serving quietly and inauspiciously throughout Marlborough, Kaikoura and North Canterbury.

*UPDATE: This article reminds us of more serious matters in the religious sphere of public speech in NZ. It has been pointed out to me that BT made a connection between quakes and judgment but did not stir the quakes into action. This imam is stirring up something potentially serious ...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jesus on Trump?

So life is crazy busy this week, long story and I won't give the short version, save to mention that quakes are part of it. No progress on my "apostolicity" post. But here is a quick post. Reading Luke 19:11-28 the other day, I was struck by resonances in the story with the election of Donald Trump as US president AND the reports coming out of Washington/New York of who is in favour, out of favour, in favour then out of favour (etc) re forming the new government. Oh, and reports of people not wanting Trump as their king president!

Jesus, sort of, knew the story of Trump as a perennial story of royalty, grants of favour, expectations and days of reckoning and revenge. Yes, Jesus made it his story of the kingdom, but today, read it as a story resonating with the crazy reports coming out of the citadels of forthcoming US power ...

11 As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 
12 So he said, "A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 
13 He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, "Do business with these until I come back.' 

14 But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, "We do not want this man to rule over us.' 
15 When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 
16 The first came forward and said, "Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.' 
17 He said to him, "Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.' 
18 Then the second came, saying, "Lord, your pound has made five pounds.' 
19 He said to him, "And you, rule over five cities.' 

20 Then the other came, saying, "Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 
21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' 
22 He said to him, "I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 
23 Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.' 
24 He said to the bystanders, "Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.'
25 (And they said to him, "Lord, he has ten pounds!') 
26 "I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 

27 But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.' ""

Monday, November 14, 2016

Real earthquakes strike NZ, again

Much political comment around the globe about Trump and Brexit "earthquakes" but last night, 12.03 to 12.06 by my bedside clock, a major quake, 7.5, struck NZ, about 100kms north of Christchurch. Here the quake wasn't violent but it went on for a very long time.

The way the faultlines of our country work, the damage of the quake spread north and north-eastwards from its epicentre, devastating Kaikoura, damaging Wellington and many other places.

And, two people are dead. These are the real earthquakes of life!

Meanwhile, slightly distracted re my next post on apostolicity ...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

God has judged America [UPDATED]

Notwithstanding a priest's recent comment that the earthquakes in Italy recently are a judgment of God re The Issue, I think God's judgment on this world is best discerned in the course of human history. The decisions we make have consequences, and the consequences come to pass in the course of time. In Paul's repeated words in Romans 1:24, 26, 28, "God gave them up ..." we find that God does not so much visit us with punitive earthquakes as refuse to rescue us from what we have foolishly chosen to do.

For an America which has given itself over to the debauchery and quackery (reality TV) which passes for Hollywood entertainment, which has rorted the political and financial systems in favour of the 1%, and more recently doubled down its relentless critique of the Christian gospel, God has given them up in this election to the perfect expression of 21st century American culture.

The rest of the world is under this judgment too, the pain of it almost certainly to be felt in economic strife and stress, if not in many more wars or even one big WW3.

Yesterday, NZ time 9 November = US 8 November, our morning office OT reading was Daniel 5:13- the end, the memorable "writing on the wall" story. Within the writing on the wall is the word "MENE" meaning "God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end" (5:26). Are we seeing the end of America as a "kingdom"?

Even a secular approach to these matters has some coherence here, in the old political adage that we get the leaders we deserve!

POSTSCRIPT: There are thousands of blogs etc being written about the election and I have read a few of them. The best comes from friends in Uganda, offering a wry observation on all that we can celebrate about Trump's victory!

UPDATE: I have read widely, consulted with rocket scientists, and I suggest the wisdom of the wider world a few days after the election is this: Trump will not be as bad as some people fear and he will not be as good as other people hope. :)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Beatitudes and Best Fielding Ever, what more could one ...

The End is Nigh, or is it? Maureen Dowd sets the two candidates before us with her usual droll insights and sharp reporting.

Good things can come from dialogue. A few weeks back I reported on a story which suggested a banning of IVP from the annual SBL Conference. But now peace and light has broken out.

Moving beyond conflict, Pope Francis has announced six new beatitudes. I like the last one especially.

Then an interesting, thoughtful, non-religious argument for marriage!

Only to be matched by an interesting, thoughtful and, of course, religious argument for celebrating critical theology but not being nostalgic for the days of sceptical theology.

Great news for the All Blacks at the weekend. They received one of their occasional lessons in humility. Enough said. No doubt the best links to this dose of comeuppance are in Gaelic!

But the sporting moment of the weekend might just be the "Best Ever Fielding" ever, when Bavuma ran out Warner at the WACA, with an extraordinary feat of athleticism and accuracy.

Remember, when all else turns to custard in the world at large, there is always Test Cricket :)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Transformative teaching

Earlier this year the clergy of the Archdeaconry of South Canterbury requested that the theme of our annual retreat be 'the environment/care of creation' and we agreed that we would shift from a one day retreat to an overnight retreat. For a venue it was suggested that we go to the Eco Lodge at Peel Forest.

That was many months ago. Finally, Tuesday - Wednesday this week we actually had the retreat, at the lodge pictured above, with Paul Heard, a clerical colleague in the Diocese of Christchurch as our retreat leader.

The Eco Lodge is pretty cool - off the grid with solar powered batteries to provide lighting, gas burners and a wood-fired oven. Unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle you have a five minute bush walk in from the carpark.

Anyway, you are not reading here for a travelogue!

All retreats in my experience - no doubt in yours too - offer something, but some offer more than others. This retreat, through Paul's five talks, challenged my thinking about eco-theology, the importance of the environment, and care of creation as one of the five vital marks of mission.

I found myself reflecting on how little I offer about these matters in my own teaching and preaching.

Part of the challenge - arising out of a scriptural focus on God as Creator as well as Redeemer - I found was recognising that disrespect for this world, misusing the gift of creation is a grave sin. We are as much out of sorts with God, I found myself thinking, when we pollute (say) a stream as when we pollute ourselves through (say) sexual immorality.

In Canterbury currently, for instance, we are booming ahead through an agriculturally driven economy, but that economy, which we ALL benefit from, has created terrible pollution in some places. Yes, I am talking about Lake Forsyth and the valleys behind it from which toxic waste pours, and then Lake Ellesmere and the flatlands surrounding it. Colleagues at the retreat mentioned rivers in South Canterbury which once were swimmable but now you daren't let your dog lick the water.

This is WRONG!

However my main point is not to get into the details of dairy farming (and, yes, I know many if not most dairy farmers are trying their hardest to plant trees by waterways, fence their cows off from the same, and generally avoid polluting water tables with nitrates).

Rather, reflecting on what the Bible teaches, on who God is and what God has given us really got my mind thinking new and deeper thoughts about our (my) responsibility as Christians to treat God's gift well. To say nothing of reflecting also on the justice of situations in which our poor treatment of the land often means the poor are being treated unjustly, to say nothing of the heritage we are taking away (i.e. thieving) from our grandchildren.

I shall try to be both a better and a different person, and a provocative and challenging preacher and teacher in new ways.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


So, TH is in ordered chaos. Staff are connected to the internet and sit at desks, but our library shelves, due today will come tomorrow. Next week we might get some books reshelved. Etc.

Meantime my week has included a lovely two day retreat at the Eco Lodge at Peel Forest. More on that soon as it was a transformative experience ...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Wow! Key moves to change churches ... here and there

We are just about all packed up, at Theology House.

Meantime, the world keeps moving on. Even the church is producing news over the last 24 hours! Does no one consider blogs in far away places trying to have a wee rest?

Wow! A hostile takeover of the Anglican church in Egypt?

Key working group. I thought this was about our PM but no, finally we have an announced ACANZP working group on You Know What. I approve!

Superb, strategic, searching words from the ecclesiastical Go To Guy of our era, Pope Francis. I recommend reading this speech carefully with openness to reconsidering our tendencies to Pelagianism (I am looking at you, church strategists and structural changeists mea culpa) and Gnosticism (I am looking at you, theo-logicians and Here Is My Theology In A Neat Systematic and Watertight Package theologians mea culpa).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Angry God!

So the moving process for Theology House is, well, moving along. Messages yesterday to say the packers would come to start this afternoon rather than tomorrow. Then a message to say they might start this morning. Meantime the world moves along and not always in pleasant ways. Yes, I am looking at you "US election."

Speaking of the world in disarray, if we properly understand anger shouldn't we be angry if God is never angry? The link below kinda makes that point!

This on the angry God and our anger is very good, and sobering, on a number of levels (H/T Bryden Black).

Monday, October 24, 2016

Moving times!

For a couple of weeks this blog will likely be very light on posting ... Theology House (my workplace) along with the Anglican Centre of the Diocese of Christchurch are moving from current locations at St Peter's Upper Riccarton Christchurch to the first floor of a building at 10 Logistics Drive Harewood Christchurch. (It is a rather large first floor ... 1000 m sq).

For Theology House this will be our fourth move since the 2011 earthquake but we are grateful that we have been just over four years in our most recent location.

Various decisions need to be made in the next few days, the packers come Friday 28th October and unpacking takes place from Monday 31st October. With a library to move, IT to set up, who knows when life will feel "normal" again :). And I must be focused on the move and not on the blog ...

Anyway, here is one item that caught my eye over this weekend: two high profile Kiwis converted to Christ and baptised into one of our leading episcopal churches!

It is always good to hear the testimonies of those in whom God is working in particular ways.

Postscript: here is a quite different post, somewhat "terrifying"!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Orwellian or American?

The SBL (of which I am a member) is banning the IVP Press (of which books, I do read) from having a display at the annual SBL Conference in November this year (the largest Biblical studies conference in the world).

Rod Dreher has a go at what this means.

Is this Orwells' 1984 come upon us?

Or just the peculiarity of binary USA?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mike Hawke, Dean of Nelson

Possibly the best known (i.e. most widely known) priest in our church today is Mike Hawke, former Vicar of St Christopher's Avonhead (one of our largest parishes) and currently Church Support/Projects Officer for the Anglican Missions Board of our church. In this current role he has visited most of our parishes as well as many spheres of our overseas mission, especially in the Pacific region.

 Mike is on the move. He will be the next Dean of Nelson Cathedral, his first Sunday is 11 December 2016.

As a former member of that Diocese I am very pleased (as I know many people are) that Mike will have this role.

Life will have come full circle for Mike and his new Bishop, Richard Ellena: they were once curates together in Timaru!

Our greatest Anglican theologian?

Yeah, yeah, I know.

Ask the question in the title of this post and there are many contenders and no obvious Barth/Luther/Calvin/Augustine/Aquinas standout.

The contenders include: Hooker, Jewel, Ryle, Maurice, ++Ramsey, Sykes, Macquarrie, ++Williams. [Some might cheekily pop John Wesley or Cardinal Newman on the list :)].

The last name on my list would probably get the nod in a popular vote because very, very well known around Anglicanland as greatest ever theological ABC, etc.

But there is another name to consider, the late John Webster, and some reasons why are given in this obituary written by Kevin J. Vanhoozer (H/T Bryden Black).

Here is a sample paragraph, deliberately chosen because it mentions a "hot topic" here at ADU ...

"Like John, I too was searching for a way out of the desert of criticism–a way out of the methodological morass of modernity and into the Promised Land of dogmatics and doxology, where I could use language to speak well of, and praise, God. In particular, I came across John’s essay on “The Dogmatic Location of the Canon” (reprinted in Word and Church), in which he re-established the canon, and sola scriptura, in its magisterial place over the church, in contrast to postliberals who were in danger of collapsing Scripture into the tradition of its ecclesial use. I admired the boldness of the essay, its clear argumentation, and its thoroughly theological approach."

See also this excerpt from an article by Ivor Davidson (whole article behind paywall).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The power of the message

I am working on material for the next Theology House Lenten Studies book, Risk: Through Lent with Acts (January, 2017). In Acts 20:32, Paul farewelling the Ephesian elders says,

"And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace."

A first thought is that commending someone to God's grace is sufficient so the additional "and to the message of his grace" is unexpected. Why?

An implication is that God chooses both to work in the believer through his indwelling Spirit and also through the medium of his Word, the message of his grace, the gospel.

God can and does build us up through the Spirit working within each believer but also through the medium of the Word.

This message of grace, Paul continues in Acts 20:32, is

"a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified."

In the particular context of Paul's warning of savage wolves threatening to tear the flock of God apart in Ephesus, he is saying that a critical factor in preventing the savagery is attention to the message of God's grace.

This is an always pertinent message to the church in every era and every place.

In terms of some currents in the church today, it is also a message which reminds us that the power to nurture the soul does not lie solely in the "ministry of the Sacrament." Vital to Christian growth, steadfastness and liveliness is the "ministry of the Word."

Monday, October 17, 2016

World War Three, coming ready or not?

Just to set the scene for why Christians along with all humanity should be troubled by the way the world is this day in this year in this century, Archbishop Cranmer posts about horrible, terrible treatment of faithful Christians in Aleppo. (The post is here, it is disturbing, you may not want to read it and just rely on the preceding sentence). There is a reason why Assad is fighting so malevolently with Putin's aid against the rebels in Aleppo. It is not pretty. It is humanity at its second worst but there is a plausible argument that if the rebels win we will see humanity at its worst.

Who knows how this may all turn out. We have an election in America which may or may not significantly steer the geopolitical calculations. Europe is something of a powder keg. It is no longer rocket science to contemplate World War Three is either round the corner or even has just begun. Today, however, because talk of WW3 seems not to be in the central vocabulary of the MSM, I am intrigued to open our local Christchurch Press and read a reprinted article from the Washington Post, titled "Are the Russians really preparing for war?"

As a reader I am, to be honest, suspicious that the Press is printing the article as a slightly amusing insight into how a slightly deranged society is thinking, i.e. it is not printed for the good citizens of Christchurch/Canterbury to be in any way disturbed or terrified.

But shouldn't we be just a little bit worried (humanly speaking - God has everything in hand as Lord of history)?

Also in my reading this morning, an article about Terry Eagleton's take on the conflict between religion and the "new atheism." That is disturbing reading, IMHO! We are in the mess we are in, both politically and theologically/philosophically because we in the West have stuffed up!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

All Blacks can't win off the field!

OK, having caught your attention with the post title (called in the trade "clickbait", I am told), let me share a couple of items of news before getting to another AB loss off the field ... or is it?

News item one: I did not realise we had any current Kiwi vicars who have served 35 years in the one parish, but this report tells us about Graham Colley who is retiring after that period of time as Vicar of Thames (Auckland Diocese). Congratulations Graham!

New item two: the other day, journeying up the Peel Forest area to visit the Ecolodge I thought about seeing how progress was going with post-quake repairs to the Church of the Holy Innocents. Time was too short but not to worry as this report tells us both of progress and a snag.

Recently rugby players in NZ have incurred and/or received bad press re bad boy behaviour, notably one of our current All Blacks. Cue justified questions about whether the culture of rugby is getting out of hand. But there has also been some tut-tutting and harrumphing which may have gotten out of hand itself. Anyway, I read this morning about Our Best Ever All Black Coach, His Holiness Steve Hansen being invited to speak at a business conference arranged by the Exclusive Brethren.

The article is an interesting read, not least because it raises the question whether the EBs are changing! But here is the thing, the political tone of the article is critical because the EBs once supported the National Party in a slightly dodgy way. The implication seems to be that Steve Hansen should not be consorting with such folk.

So, here's the thing, as one wag identified on the internet, but in my own words: The All Blacks cannot win off the field. If it is not bad behaviour with women they are being criticised for, it is good behaviour with godly folk!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Testing the waters

In a week of some significant disagreements on this blog, I am wondering whether we might be able to agree that Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is a very good thing?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reaching the Under 40s: MIssion Impossible?

Ian Paul at Psephizo offers a brilliant report on a conference with a focus on reaching the "Under 40s"/"Millennials"/Generation Y and Generation Z. Brilliant because it is inspiring, challenging, empowering and enabling.

Here Down Under the challenge of reaching the Under 40s is as urgent and as challenging as it is Up Yonder.

But it is not, under God, Mission Impossible ...

Do not accommodate Pastoral Accommodation?

This week Andrew Goddard has published a stern critique of the possibility of "Pastoral Accommodation" in respect of SSB, with specific reference to the situation in the CofE. Effectively his critique strikes two important blows (at least from my perspective):

- against notions that hitherto accommodation of remarriage/blessing of marriage of divorcees is a straightline analogy to the possibility of accommodation of SSB

- (more or less) against proposals such as the submission I have recently made to our Archbishops (viz. that we might be a church that acknowledges its differences on these matters and neither offers an official liturgy for SSB nor prohibits liturgies for SSB being offered).

Two sites with a range of comments about Goddard's piece are Thinking Anglicans and Psephizo.

The last two paragraphs of Goddard's article are these:

"In summary, how the Church of England has responded to remarriage during the lifetime of a former spouse is the best example to consider in relation to forms of pastoral accommodation that might be extended to same-sex couples.  However, there are many serious problems in so doing.  In particular, the practical changes only occurred with official sanction once it had been shown how they were compatible with the church’s teaching on marriage and agreement reached on such compatibility.  The Church of England has not done this in relation to same-sex unions and it is difficult to see how it could do so given its current teaching.

The appeal to pastoral accommodation as a way forward has now been analysed both in principle and in relation to three examples.  This has shown there are major problems with appealing to pastoral accommodation to justify commonly proposed developments affirming of sexual same-sex unions without either changing the church’s teaching or demonstrating and getting agreement that the developments are in principle consistent with that teaching.  This does not rule out such developments as clergy in same-sex sexual unions (including marriages) or the liturgical recognition of such unions.  It does though mean that if they are to be proposed (by the bishops or anyone else) then some other justifications than simply an appeal to pastoral accommodation are needed and these other rationales will need to be developed and weighed by the church.  An appeal to pastoral accommodation properly understood and as we have used it in the past simply will not work."

In other words, Goddard is appealing for a better depth of justification than currently offered for where the CofE (and ACANZP) seem to be heading.

Now read my lips: 

I will NOT PUBLISH COMMENTS HERE on this thread which generally comment on "the issue" or on my submission or anyone else's submission or on the fate of ACANZP or the CofE of the Anglican Communion if such and such does or does not happen. (You can always go back a few posts to post a comment along those lines, but you will almost certainly be repeating comments already made). 

I WILL CONSIDER publishing comments which discuss specific point(s) Goddard makes. My consideration will be helped if you actually cite something Goddard writes!!! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On What Grounds Is Trump Wrong?

It is hard to find defenders of Donald Trump after recent revelations of lewd remarks he made some years back have been revealed, not realising they were being recorded, lewd remarks, by the way, which go well beyond the "locker room" talk guys do engage in, especially when aged about 15 and a 1/2, not 59! One of those few defenders is Nigel Farage. No wonder others are hard to find!

The revelations are so bad even Trump himself has apologised. Also he has quickly resorted to a playground tactic of saying Bill Clinton was worse. His defensiveness belies his guilt.

Whether Clinton was worse or not has nothing to do with Trump's disgraceful behaviour and the need to judge it clearly as making him unfit for an office he is unfit to hold on many other grounds as well. (Again, Hilary Clinton has grounds for not being considered fit for president, but those grounds don't make Trump a better candidate).

But here's the thing from a Christian point of view, neatly raised on PJ Media by D.C. McAllister (my bold):

"From the moment the tapes were made public, the drumbeat to Trump's personal walk of shame began. Politicians who formerly endorsed him fled in terror, not wanting the soiled stain of sexual stigma attached to them. NeverTrumpers descended in holier-than-thou glee as they declared how noble and right they've always been not to support such a despicable man. And the left has been howling like puritanical wolves, condemning him for his immorality and sexist treatment of women. 
I find this reaction to Trump's private conversation rather ironic. It's ironic coming from a secular culture that long ago declared objective morality dead. It's ironic coming from politicos and media bottom-feeders who defended the abusive and disgusting behavior of Bill Clinton, not when he was a private citizen but when he was a sitting president."

In other words, picking up my headline to this post, the easy thing here to do is to howl in outrage, to bask in reflected glory of never having endorsed Trump but the hard thing to do - by today's subjectivity re sexuality - is to define the grounds on which Trump is actually morally wrong (and not simply offensive to 21st century notions of decency).

McAllister continues, with a well made point about the way Christians are treated today when they attempt to advance objective morality:

"The creep of moral relativism in America has been steady for many decades, increasing in speed to the point that the "slouching toward Gomorrah" has become a sprint. The notion that there is objective truth or absolute morality has been universally panned to the point that everything is tolerated except standards of right and wrong. "Everyone decides for himself what is right, especially when it comes to sex" is the mantra of today's culture.
For years, Christians in particular have been attacked and silenced as they've tried to challenge the immorality that is pervasive in today's society. When they tell people casual sex is wrong, they get the inevitable, "You have no right to tell me what I can or can't do." If they oppose sexual immorality in any form, including adultery, they’re maligned as sanctimonious puritans by lovers of libertinism."
The punch is here:
"How ironic, then, that a culture which rejects moral standards has suddenly become so pure and pristine, sitting in judgment of someone they deem too immoral to become president because of something he said in private. As a logical person, I have to ask these paragons of newly found virtue where this standard by which they've judged Trump is found.If morality is relative to each individual—a purely subjective experience—by what standard are they judging Trump? Obviously, in such a secular climate, there can’t even be a “standard.”Why should anyone listen to people who out of one side of their mouths declare the death of objective moral standards yet out of the other condemn someone for violating objective moral standards?Those who are complaining about Trump today have no basis for their moral outrage. That's because their secular amoral worldview rejects any basis for that moral judgment. Any argument they make against the "immorality" of Trump is stolen, or at least borrowed for expediency, from a religious worldview they have soundly rejected."


The Western world reaps what it sows. Perhaps American voters are supporting Trump, even after this past weekend, because they do not buy into moral outrage anymore? Perhaps they support Trump because in a world of casualised sex without moral stigma (Yes, I'm looking at you Bill Clinton, the sitcom Friends, and many Hollywood films) any "preaching" about anything to do with sexual behaviour is now powerless to convict of wrongdoing.

Even here Down Under, this past week we have had our very own casual sex scandal involving a rugby god-and-apparently-a-role-model-also. Cue about two million opinions on radio talkback, social media and around water coolers. How many of those opinions involve objective assessment of the immorality of the deed? And has anyone other than a Christian or Muslim advanced such assessment? It is unlikely that any of the high priests of NZ culture will reflect on the irony of finding 100 ways to judge the scandalous action other than the immorality of fornication. McAllister is whistling in the wind as far as those high priests and their American counterparts are concerned. 

Trump is a deeply flawed candidate for President of the United States of America but it is not because he offends movers and shakers in the post-Christian, liberal, political elite which control American and hence most of Western culture.