nobody expects

I recognise that Monty Python’s Flying Circus is not everyone’s cup of tea, but they how many of you were expecting the Spanish Inquisition?


I thought that would be the case.

Personally I find that sketch (you can see it on YouTube if you are prepared for some silliness) rather amusing, especially when coupled with later unexpected visits from the Spanish Inquisition during the TV episode. But it does make light of one of the most troubling episodes of Christendom’s era – when people were tortured and killed in pursuit of establishing their orthodoxy as Christians – by the Church! How such a process could have evolved (and be defended at the time) by reference to the Bible I have no idea. The concept makes me shudder, and please don’t even mention witch-hunts in this country…

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And I shudder still when I see Christians conducting a neo-Inquisition today. Thankfully there is no physical torture involved (usually) but some Christians still engage in a fanatical approach to testing orthodoxy, and it almost looks like a witch hunt at times. It lacks love, grace and mercy and can be full of venom and vitriol that you never find on the lips or in the heart of Jesus.

What I find most upsetting is that, as with the Spanish Inquisition, neo-Inquisitors are not even using a Biblical ‘test’ to discern whether or not someone is ‘a proper Christian’. Which is ironic in the extreme because the neo-Inquisition is about whether or not you are biblically sound! The test is based on your ethics: ‘Proper Christians’ are those who interpret the Bible in exactly the same way that the neo-Inquisitors do (and they deem themselves to be the arbiters of what is ‘biblical’ so ‘proper Christians’ are those who hold to our particular approach to the many ethical conundrums that face us today. If you don’t prepare to be shunned, scorned, argued with, lambasted, ignored or (horror of horrors) deemed to be ‘unsound’.

The neo-Inquisition spends considerable time, effort, energy, resources (and space on the internet) denouncing and rooting out those who are unsound, based on their ‘test’. But surely there are far more important tasks facing the Church today than engaging in a neo-Inquisition based on a false ‘test’ of orthodoxy?

And if we do have to engage in testing orthodoxy (which surely is actually God’s job) let’s at least use a biblical test: Romans 10:9 – “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

That’s it.

Nothing about having to interpret the Bible in a particular way. Nothing about ethics. Indeed it may not even require that much when you consider what Jesus said to one of the thieves crucified next to him (Luke 23:39-43) based only on a minimal understanding of who Jesus was and what he said (and before his resurrection!).

Please, please, please let’s stop arguing about who’s right about what doesn’t make an eternal difference and spend that energy letting people know the amazing news that “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I’m not suggesting that how we interpret the Bible is unimportant, nor that we should not live ethically. But Jesus spent a lot of time trying to show the religious people of his day that their rigid rules, literalism and hypocrisy were getting in the way of people finding God and I have a horrible feeling that those words still resonate today.

And if that makes me unsound… so be it.

Be blessed, be a blessing.


Feedback form: excellentWhat is the test of orthodoxy for Churches and Christians? How do we know who is ‘kosher’*?

In the book of Acts it was quite simple. When people showed that they had been filled with the Spirit of Jesus it was obvious that they were believers. In Paul’s letters (Romans and 1 Corinthians) he seems to suggest that if you can say, “Jesus is Lord” you are ‘sound’.

In the days of persecution the Christians developed secret symbols to identify each other but they still remained simply profound and remained centred on Jesus – for example the ‘icthus’ fish is an acronym for ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour’.

So what has happened in Church history to get us to where we are today? Some Christian groups will not allow others to work with them unless they will sign up to a lengthy, detailed statement of faith that not only speak of Jesus but 101 other doctrines. In fact I am not sure Jesus could sign some of them! Others seem to determine orthodoxy on the basis of someone’s view of women in ministry, same sex marriages, or whatever the latest controversial theological issue is. Perhaps if we are honest the test of orthodoxy today is ‘do you agree with me (because I am right)?’

If that is the case, today I want to affirm my unorthodoxy and go back to the simply profound New Testament statements. Is Jesus is your Lord? Is his Spirit at work within you? Woohoo – me too!

End of story.

If we disagree about other issues, let’s have an honest conversation about that, perhaps even agreeing to disagree, but let’s resolve not to let it divide us. If we share Jesus as Lord, if we are filled with his Spirit, then that ought to be enough didn’t it?

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Yes, I am aware of the irony of using that word to talk about orthodoxy of Christians

I refer you to the funniest religious joke by Emo Phillips, quoted in this early bloggage.