At last, more news about Todd Bentley

It is more than two months since my last serious post about Todd Bentley. That post and my others about him continue to attract quite a bit of traffic to this blog, so people are still interested in him. But there has been no news to report, at least nothing I have seen, until now.

Just two days ago the Board of Directors of Fresh Fire Ministries, the group of which Todd Bentley was the main public face (not the founder, despite some false reports), issued a new statement about Todd. This is a long statement, and I will not attempt to give it an adequate summary here. So please read it for yourselves. I will simply note that they state clearly that Todd has done wrong and has not fully repented of this; they acknowledge their part in this by allowing him to become burned out; and they continue to “say that we know, without a shadow of doubt, that Lakeland was and is an authentic move of God”.

I should add one more thing here: my apologies to Shonnah Bentley for suggesting that she might have initiated a separation. I suggested this on the basis of Todd’s explanation to Rick Joyner, but it seems that that explanation was not the whole truth. Fresh Fire now writes:

It also needs to be clarified that Shonnah has in no way initiated this divorce and has no present intention to do so at any time in the future.

I welcome rational discussion here of this statement, but please remember that I did not write it and am not in a position to defend it. I will not tolerate comments which simply condemn Todd in ways which will not contribute towards his hoped for repentance and restoration.

(I note that Polycarp and Jim West, among a few others, have seen this before me, but I saw their posts only after I wrote this, and they seem to have got completely the wrong end of the stick.)

Obama: not a matter of "once evangelical, always evangelical"

The usually meticulously logical philosopher Jeremy Pierce (whose blog is very hard to comment on, so I am bringing the discussion back here) seems to have got his logic seriously confused, in his comments on my post about Barack Obama’s faith and in his own post on the matter. The problem came when I wrote that Obama

had a clear evangelical conversion experience

and Jeremy understood me to be claiming thereby that Obama is an evangelical. But Jeremy seems confused about how to define who is an evangelical.

In his post Jeremy offers an outline of what it means to be an evangelical based on a set of theological views, mentioning some doctrines held by conservative evangelicals but questioned by some who he would consider to be on the fringes of evangelicalism. I would not agree with all the details, but that is not my point in this post. But I note that the definition given is entirely in terms of views on theological and moral issues. There is nothing here about giving one’s life to Christ or having an ongoing relationship with him, nor even about faith except in the sense of intellectual assent. Well, perhaps that is a reasonable way to define “evangelical” as the word is generally understood.

The problem only arises when in a comment Jeremy implies a totally different definition:

Conversion experiences are nearly definitional for most evangelicals. A genuine conversion experience, to most evangelicals, means that God has initiated a work in your heart, replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh and transforming you into Christ’s likeness. A genuinely evangelical conversion experience produces a genuine evangelical.

So, Jeremy, which is it? Is an evangelical defined by intellectual assent to a set of doctrines, or by the fact that “God has initiated a work in your heart”? The only way to rescue any kind of consistency in your definitions is by making an assertion that any person in whose heart God has initiated a work therefore necessarily believes for all eternity in the full set of evangelical doctrines. It also implies concerning any person who has apparently undergone a conversion experience but after that even temporarily wavers in their intellectual assent to evangelical doctrines, that God has not even initiated a work in their heart. That would actually include myself as I went through a period of serious doubt after my conversion experience. It further denies the possibility that people like Obama, apparently, can undergo some kind of genuine conversion experience if they do not then become fully theologically committed evangelicals.

Jeremy, is this what you intend to teach? Should we believe “once evangelical, always evangelical”, which implies “if not now evangelical, then never has been evangelical”? Or are you just being completely inconsistent? Or have I somewhere missed the point?

Here is a fuller record of our conversation. Continue reading

Where turkeys may safely gobble

I went out for a short walk a couple of days ago and found myself walking through a farmyard, a mile or two from home, with three livestock pens, one of cows with calves, one of geese, and one of turkeys. The turkeys could probably look forward to nearly another month of safe gobbling, including gobbling up lots of food to make them fat. (According to, the verbs “gobble” meaning “eat greedily” and “gobble” for the sound made by a turkey are unrelated, so I suppose I am making a word play here.) And probably the same for the geese. It won’t be until four weeks from today that they will very likely find themselves the central attraction on a dining table.

But I understand that my American friends can’t wait for Christmas to come before killing the fatted bird, and serving it up with such strange accompaniments as pumpkin pie. So, to any of my readers celebrating today, happy Thanksgiving!

New home page

I haven’t disappeared! But I have been busy, also lacking inspiration to blog although I did post this at Better Bibles Blog.

I realised that my home page was woefully out of date, so I have replaced it with a redirect to a new page at this blog with an updated version of the same material. This includes links to various articles I have written, some of which (specifically the four most recent Baddow Life articles) are in the form of new pages on this blog.

Meanwhile here, largely as a test, is a widget which has been written to allow access to Better Bibles Blog, which doesn’t seem to work on that blog itself as it is hosted at, but is likely to work here as this is a self-hosted blog:

The oldest living fossils

Roll over, Coelacanth! You are no longer the world’s oldest living fossil, but a mere youngster, believed extinct 80 million years ago until discovered alive in 1938. Actually you weren’t the oldest such Lazarus taxon: that honour used to go to the Monoplacophora class of molluscs, thought to be extinct for 380 million years until discovered alive in 1952. But now an animal has been discovered which makes both of these seem young.

As the BBC reports, scientists have found an explanation for strange tracks made in rocks dated up to 1.8 billion years old. The old theory was that these tracks were made by primitive worms, but there was a problem in that this was more than a billion years before the first worms, or multi-celled creatures of any kind, appeared. The solution has now come to light on the sea bed near the Bahamas; I guess someone was enjoying the idyllic diving conditions when they spotted tracks just like the ancient ones. And they then discovered what was making them: “A single-celled ball about the size of a grape” which crawls slowly through the sea bed mud. Similar “globular or bulbous collapsible bodies” were found fossilised in the ancient rocks.

So here we have a creature which seems to have been crawling about the sea bed unnoticed, covered in mud, and little changed for billions of years, while above them continents have risen and fallen and the seas and the land have been ruled by a succession of different kinds of creatures which haven’t even noticed them. These little balls of jelly seem to be the ultimate survivors.

But even this unnamed creature is young compared to the blue-green algae which form stromatolites. The age given for the oldest stromatolites known to have been formed by living creatures is 2.7 billion years, and they are still being formed in the same way. In that ancient period stromatolites were common, but now they are very rare, and indeed one of the few places where they survive today is the sea bed near the Bahamas.

I'm a Thinker, says Typealyzer

Mike writes:

I think it was last week, or the week before that the Typalyzer went around for the analysis of personality types in the blogosphere.

Did it? I missed it. But I have taken the test now – that is, I have submitted my URL. And on the basis of this blog it classifies my (Myers-Briggs) personality type as INTP. That’s not bad at all for such a simple test – Language Log suggests how it might work.

A more sophisticated personality type test which I took last year classified me as ISTP, the same result as I obtained in about 2000. But last year I was only weakly S (sensing) rather than N (intuitive). And in the past year I have been quite deliberately working on developing the intuitive side of my personality. So it would not surprise me that if I took the full test again I would now come out as INTP.

So perhaps the Typealyzer is spot on, at least with its overall personality type. I don’t think it is right with its details, presented graphically (and in a way I can’t easily reproduce, but you can all repeat the test with, which suggest that my brain activity is very strongly N and hardly at all S. As for its description of what I am like, I think it does rather well:

INTP – The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

It’s amazing what can be deduced from a rather small sample of my writing! And, while I try to be gentle, I apologise if I ever “come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive”.

But what does Typealyzer have to say about some of my fellow bloggers? Mike also comes out as an INTP Thinker; so does Eddie Arthur. David Ker, according to his LIngamish blog, is an ISFP Artist. TC Robinson is INFP, an Idealist. Roger Mugs is ISTP, a Mechanic. I submitted several other blogs which all gave one of these four types. So I was beginning to wonder if the results would all be of the IXXP type – Typealyzer might simply assume that anyone who blogs is introverted and “perceiving”. But at last I found exceptions in Dave Walker: his (now dormant) Cartoon Blog classifies him as ISTJ, a Duty Fulfiller, but his Church Times blog has him as ESTP, a Doer. Well, unless Dave has multiple personalities, this appears to show that Typealyzer is not very consistent. Perhaps it was just a lucky guess that it pigeonholed me more or less right.

Why my theology is messy

Ben Byerly writes a perceptive post (thanks to Eddie Arthur for the link) about what messes up “good” theology. Ben writes, and Eddie quotes

Two things throw a monkey wrench in “good theology”

1. Reading the whole Bible carefully in light its original historical, social, and cultural contexts.

2. Trying to translate and to apply the Good News of Jesus in a totally different language and cultural way of thinking.

The first helps us come to grips with the fact that God has always revealed himself in ways that speak relevantly to a specific language and cultural way of thinking; God is contextual. The second helps us come to grips with how culturally bound our own ways of thinking about God are – even when we think we are being faithful to the Scriptures.

As Eddie suggests, this explains why Bible translators like him and me don’t have theologies which fit into anyone’s neatly defined system. Indeed, while I can’t speak for Eddie, this is why my own theology is, if not messed up, at least a bit messy. This is also I think why I struggle so much with the position of people like Adrian Warnock who seem so certain that their position is absolutely correct.

Do read the whole of Ben’s post, including the part he quotes from Ben Witherington.

Atonement: the Warnock wars

I am keeping up my resolution not to read Adrian Warnock’s blog. But that doesn’t stop me reading about his latest offerings at his unrelated namesake Dave’s blog. And what I read there doesn’t encourage me to start reading Adrian’s again. It seems that these two have restarted what Adrian has called the “Warnock wars”, and on most issues here I am firmly on Dave’s side.

In his latest series Adrian, as reported by Dave, returns to the issue of the atonement, and Steve Chalke’s view of it. The first of Dave’s new series of posts ends with:

Well thank-you very much Adrian, I am sure we are all grateful for your attempts to break up reconciliation between evangelical Christians.

Make sure you read several other posts and comments before moving on to Dave’s latest post, which ends as follows:

Near the start of his post Adrian writes:

One of my major concerns about this whole debate is what a rejection of PSA does to our view of the Bible.

Absolutely it challenges a simplisitic partial reading of Scripture in favour of a thorough and respectful dialogue with the whole of Scripture – a truely evangelical approach to scripture. What a wonderful idea that is, fopr me the wonder of opening up models of atonement and considering others besides Penal Substitution is that we find new ways of understanding God that are far more in tune with Jesus the Son of God as revealed in Scripture. Go on try it, I promise the view on this side of the fence is fantastic. What a wonderful loving God we serve!

Responding to biblical arguments for slavery, and for subordination of women

The somewhat mysterious* C Miller of Mustard Seed Kingdom has written an interesting and provocative post (or perhaps it’s just the subject matter which is provocative) summarising what Kevin Giles has written about the biblical argument for slavery, as put forward by many 19th century evangelicals, and how we should respond to it.

To summarise even more briefly, Giles wonders whether the evangelicals who supported slavery “were mistaken in their interpretation of the Scriptures”, or “were right”, or

were basically correct in their exegesis of the passages to which they referred but wrong in their doctrine of the Bible, in viewing it as a timeless set of oracles without historical conditioning.

If we presuppose that they were not right in supporting slavery, we have to conclude that either their exegesis was wrong or their doctrine of the Bible was. Giles writes about them:

These men appeared to the Bible as if it were a set of timeless oracles or propositions not recognising that in fact it reflected the culture of its authors and their presuppositions at least to some degree…failed to note that on most issues addressed by the Bible various answers are given to complex questions.

And he goes on to draw the lessons from this for the biblical argument for the subordination of women:

The biblical case for slavery is the counterpart of the case for the subordination of women, the only difference being that the case for slavery has far more weighty biblical support. …the internal biblical critique of slavery is less profound than that against the subordination of women.

And he concludes by suggesting that within a century the biblical argument for subordination of women will be rejected just as clearly as today the argument for slavery is rejected.

Any reactions?

* Actually I have discovered that she is called Clare and lives in or near Durham, for which her blog header photo is in fact a dead giveaway for those who can recognise a cathedral. And I think I have even found her brief resume with a picture. So much for Internet privacy!

The ruins of Babylon are still there …

… although damaged by Saddam Hussein’s reconstructions and by an American-build helicopter pad. The BBC has a report from the site, with a brief video and pictures. It seems there is plenty of the ancient city still in place, mostly unexcavated. Nebuchadnezzar’s palace can be seen alongside Saddam’s. There is work there for generations of archaeologists in uncovering a city which was already ancient in the time of the biblical Nebuchadnezzar.

See also this audio slideshow which is a trailer for an exhibition ‘Babylon: Myth and Reality’ at the British Museum in London, from now until March 2009. I’m not sure how many of the original tiles of the Ishtar Gate, now rebuilt by Saddam, are in London. But when I saw some of them in their regular museum home in Istanbul, I was stunned by their beauty and magnificence.

Right through the Bible Babylon (or Babel) is a symbol of evil, megalomania, and resistance to God. Saddam Hussein was perhaps consciously continuing this tradition. But in the New Testament Babylon is not just the physical city which was already in ruins. The lament over Babylon in Revelation 18 seems to be less for the city and more for the system of world trade which it symbolised. That system is now also in ruins, it seems – perhaps it will recover in part, but the time will surely come when God will put a final end to it.