Comments: Wycliffe Hall: Church Times report

If two people agree on everything apart from one thing (e.g., flowers in church), they can still be said to have different belief systems. That being the case, everyone in the world has a different belief system from everyone else. Some are more or less different from others, but how does one go about measuring that? I suppose the only way of seeing whether a given pair of people subscribe to the same general beleif system is for each individual to articulate their four or five most fundamental general beliefs, and see whether they agree on them all.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:00pm GMT

It doesn't matter how you measure belief systems.

Even if the only difference were whether you agreed with flowers in church, it would still be wrong to lose your job because you held that view and your employer didn't and because he wasn't prepared to tolerate your belief.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:16pm GMT

The only necessity, surely, is evidence that she was discriminated against. The basis of this, as far as I can see, is either something direct, that she was identified as having beliefs highlighted by someone like Richard Turnbull for her to be removed, or that there has been a pattern of removals that show this general pattern of which she was one (and replacements being distinctly conservative believers). However, there then has to be the issue of whether a theological college can regulate which sort of believer it can hire, or does it have to hire any sort of believer (Muslim, atheist, Pagan, Liberal Christian, Open Evangelical Christian) so long as they can teach the conservative evangelical decided syllabus.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:42pm GMT

To teach, say, Patristics to ordinands, is it necessary to subscribe to a particular belief system? Surely, one isn't so much trying to make people agree with one's own views, but rather wants to explain what a particular tradition has believed - believing in a particular way oneself doesn't have any bearing on the ability to do that, does it? When I was trained for ordination, I don't think the individual beliefs of my tutors had any relationship to how well they taught their subject areas.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 11 January 2008 at 4:51pm GMT


That is admirable, but it presumes honesty and integrity.

I've had enough of souls who purport to cherish love, patience, faith, trust and humility but actually embody accusations, intolerance, fear, selfishness and arrogance.

Also, even if someone honestly share their four or five most fundamental beliefs does not mean that we are alike or agree on everything. Someone doesn't have to agree with me for me to be obligated to be civil and respect their needs for nurturing and safety. I don't have to like someone to recognise that they a human being.

Luke 16:8 "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light."

Matthew 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Friday, 11 January 2008 at 9:25pm GMT

Pity this happens on the very day that Liverpool began as European city of culture. Not the image that brings glory on the internal goings on of the church. At least there is little prospect that the city of Hereford will one day inherit the same honour!

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 11:36am GMT

Granted - but none of that was the point I was making. I was simply making the point that if one proposed to examine whether Open Evangelicals and Conservative Evangelicals had different belief systems or the same belief system, this was a fruitless exercise, since however similar 2 belief systems are, they are always going to be different in at least one respect. Consequently, there are as many belief systems as there are people. One has therefore to find some other way to identify whether 2 people share the same belief system, and not only is that a very complex task, it is also a very subjective one.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 1:55pm GMT

"One has therefore to find some other way to identify whether 2 people share the same belief system, and not only is that a very complex task, it is also a very subjective one."

True, but might it be a matter of degree? So, in my Anglo-catholic parish, there are those who do not believe in invocation of the saints, for example, or veneration of images, or might be OK, even edified by these things, but aren't comfortable with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Next door, there is an Evangelical parish that repudiates Baptismal Regeneration, sacrificial elements in the Mass, veneration of images, invocation of the saints, prayers for the dead, ritual elements in worship, practices glossolalia, claims Penal Substitutionary Atonement is the core understanding of the Atonement, etc. Surely the differences between our two parishes are much greater than thoses between members of our parish. So, are the differences enough to call one a "belief system" and not the other? I don't know. It may not be possible to draw a line at precisely the point where one can speak of "different belief systems", but I am sure that I have a very different one from the aforementioned Evangelical parish. I base that on a very different understanding of authority, obedience to law, the meaning of redemption, the nature of the relationship between God and human beings, and numerous other factors. In short, it is easy to see different 'belief systems' in the extremes, not so much in those who are very near to each other. The bigger question would be at what point does the "different belief system" however defined preclude one from teaching theology at a particular theological college?

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 12 January 2008 at 4:49pm GMT


Exactly. There is an extent to which one can distinguish between minor and major differences. But the question then arises: Why do broadly definable 'types' arise at all (e.g., conservative, radical, institutional/establishment, broad etc)? The possible reasons that occur to me are: psychological (people go along with the system that suits their temperament - which is surely dishonest, as they cannot wish to universalise their own temperament at the expense of all others, nor can they be unaware of the existence of other temperaments); sociological (people go along with the majority of their own culture and/or subculture- which seems to lack integrity); or philosophical (which does have integrity: people have differing bases for their worldview, with the result that they end up with differing views on more minor points too). But if the only acceptable ground for difference is philosophical (difference of worldviews), then this whole thing seems to be a matter of truth and not of temperamental preference. We need to face the fact that either all groups are wrong, or all but one are wrong, in their general worldview/stance/position.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 14 January 2008 at 1:41pm GMT

Richard Turnbull's latest:

heading: We are hamstrung on the ever-widening definition of “evangelical.”

1. Need to recover sola Scriptura

Turnbull exhorted us that we need to reclaim the authority of the Holy Scriptures as our sole foundation of faith and life. It was encouraging to hear an Anglican brother admit heartily that the most important aspect of recovering the Word is recovering the preaching of the Word. Further, Turnbull admitted that this desire is a core value for his leadership at Wycliffe Hall.

2. Need to recover Reformed theology

Turnbull said he is not ashamed to admit that he is trying to call the Anglican church back to her Reformed heritage.

3. Need to recover spirituality

He speaks here of the “age old need to connect the head and the heart.” Again, it was encouraging to hear Turnbull’s pastoral heart for students to develop not just academic acumen, but spiritual piety as well.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 2:23pm GMT

"the most important aspect of recovering the Word is recovering the preaching of the Word."

To which my response is that the most important aspecyt of recovering the Word, as though the Word were somehow "lost" is recovering the worship of the Word made Flesh and uniting with Him and each other in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

"trying to call the Anglican church back to her Reformed heritage."

Away from Her Catholic heritage? Why should these be an either/or, can we not, are we not intended to be both?

"Need to recover spirituality"

Total agreement with this one.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 5:31pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.