Hell is making a comeback. Not in Anglican pulpits, but in the columns of secular commentators. While Archbishop Justin is pumping out hot air over the global warming apocalypse and Pope Francis has just banned fags in the Vatican (why worry about smoking tobacco if you’re damned to inhale sulphur in hell?) atheist Matthew Parris has been stoking the embers on this controversial topic in his column on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation last week.

The headline is sensational: ‘Heaven and Hell have no place in the Church’. The strapline is provocative: ‘Christianity needs a new reformation where belief in doing good for its own sake replaces ideas of salvation and damnation’. The results are remarkable. I have yet to see a newspaper column on religion written by an atheist trigger so many comments from readers.

In a post-Christian culture there is a ravenous appetite for God-talk. The irony is that people who deny the existence of God want to talk about God, while establishment clergy who are expected to talk about God are spouting post-Freudian psychobabble and post-Marxian social justice drivel. Parris has earned my respect as a ‘Protestant atheist’ – his rather charming description of himself!

He needs to be congratulated for so succinctly articulating Luther’s slogan of sola fide – faith alone saves us, not our good works. Parris puts it better than most preachers. ‘“Good works” might be a consequence of that personal faith, but the faith alone, not the good works, was the key to Heaven,’ he writes.

Parris misses Luther’s keyword ‘grace’ and Luther’s chief slogan sola gratia – by grace alone. Grace, unmerited favour, is a one-word summary of the gospel. Parris observes that Rome had perverted this gospel and was peddling indulgences as a ‘get-out-of-Hell-free card’. He is right and wrong. Rome lost the gospel plot but indulgences were a get-out-of-Purgatory-free (not Hell) card. In Catholic theology, Hell is permanent while Purgatory is a holding-place and you could buy your way out by enriching the papal coffers.

Parris recognises the profoundly liberating consequences of Reformation theology. The potential for any power-mongering on the part of the church and clergy is eliminated – ‘in the end, it’s between you and God, and a private affair’, he notes, although I would prefer the word ‘personal’ to ‘private’ since biblical Christianity is never a private affair.

Parris warms to his theme. ‘It frees people from fear. It elevates the individual as against the herd, the private conscience as against social or conventional morality.’ Spot on, Mr Parris! In fact, political philosopher Larry Siedentop in his book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism argues that it was the Christian moral revolution that made the ‘individual’ the organising principle of society in the West.

Luther made a direct leap to faith in God by circumventing the church. Parris now calls for a ‘second leap’. He argues that Luther failed to question ‘the need for any selfish reason to lead a moral life or to love God’. For Parris, the selfish reason Christians lead a moral life is a hope of the reward of Heaven or the fear of the punishment of Hell. ‘Reward, if such reward exists, is surely unnecessary as a reason to be good,’ he posits.

Can you see what Parris has done? He has filled his car with petrol and instead of sitting in the driver’s seat and turning on the ignition, he has walked to the back of the car and is trying push it with his own strength. That’s not how a car works and that’s not how the gospel works!

As Christians, we do not live a moral life because we are enticed by Heaven or repulsed by Hell. By grace through faith, we are already assured of Heaven and freed from the fear of Hell because on the cross Jesus made ‘a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world . . .’ in the splendidly eloquent words of Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.

Our incentive to love God and neighbour is what God has already done. If salvation is by grace, then good works are out of gratitude. Out of gratitude we obey the two greatest commandments to love God and neighbour – but we are not saved by obedience to the commandments. We don’t do good because of reward; we already have our reward even though we don’t deserve it – sola gratia! Why is Parris suddenly denying what he has been affirming all along?

Tragically, in proposing his new reformation, Parris backtracks on his excellent argument and slides back into the medieval Roman understanding of Heaven and Hell, reward and punishment. The Bible does not portray Heaven as reward. Heaven is God’s throne-room. Heaven is merely the penultimate dwelling place of sinners who are saved by grace through faith. Heaven is not the end of the world. In biblical eschatology, Heaven comes down to earth and a renewed creation is where God and his creation dwell together for eternity.

Hell is God’s greatest monument to freedom of choice and individual rights. ‘All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that?’ asks Timothy Keller. It would be the ultimate contradiction if a God of love forces people to love him when they have made a free and fully informed choice not to love him.

So what incentive does Parris offer for being good? ‘If we have a moral sense at all, and we do, being good feels good,’ he claims. Come again? Is that all you have to offer, Mr Parris? A wishy-washy feel-goodism – a motherhood-and-apple-pie Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? Does Matthew Parris lock his doors at night? Needless to say, you don’t need God to be good; but you cannot have an objective basis for being good without God.

Parris finally backslides into his incredibly naïve diagnosis of human nature. People are basically good. ‘From infancy mankind is imbued with a strong grasp of moral reasoning and an instinctive desire to find and cleave to what is right.’ This is the fallacy of the Enlightenment. Its roots are in Rousseau’s Èmile.

‘The epistemology of salvation and damnation degrades the moral life,’ Parris insists. No. It is the epistemology of liberalism and Leftism that degrades the moral life. If you believe human beings are basically good, you will attribute evil to external causes such as racism, poverty and government cutbacks, not to people who commit these acts. Or you will attribute evil to psychological dysfunction and call criminals sick, not bad. Or you will work on changing external social structures rather than inner moral character, and distribute condoms instead of teaching teenagers responsibility.

Parris ends with a plea for ‘original virtue’ rather than ‘original sin’. Original virtue is a fantasy. Original sin is reality. Chesterton once said that original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine in Christianity. Can Mr Parris produce evidence for original virtue? Apparently when The Times asked famous authors ‘What’s wrong with the world today?’ Chesterton responded simply, ‘Dear Sir, I am. Yours truly, G K Chesterton.’

Image By Nick MoyesOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link


  1. Excellent piece: I found myself agreeing with most of it. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone. But we also need to acknowledge our sins and repent of them. And being straight, male and patriotic are not sins.

        • You have me interested! I say that both ‘Original Sin’ and ‘Predestination’ are the sort of silly ideas that you get from ascetic religious thinkers with too much time on their hands.

          • Adam and Eve had everything they required, all the good fruits of the garden, there was just one tree that they could not eat from. This is a good description of sin as pointed out by St Paul when he said he always wanted to do what he knew he should not do. God offers life, but sin causes death. Jesus overcame death on the cross and offers eternal life.

          • Was there not another tree, the one giving eternal life? And the Demiurge forced them out of the garden before they could eat of it?

          • Once humanity knew evil, surely God knew that they would cause immeasurable harm to His universe forever. So they had to be kicked out of the Garden and made subject to death. “For the wages of sin is death..” (Romans 6:23). However, although God “knows evil,” He does not do it. By definition, God is good (even the word “good” originally meant “of God.”

            The plural use of God in referring to Himself may also be the “royal we” which of course involves God’s Trinitarian nature, but not some
            limited evil Demiurge god of the OT, of which there is no biblical evidence. Archangels and angels fell (a third of them) so they too knew the difference between good and evil.

            There is not a good God and a bad God. There is only the former. When asked, God revealed Himself to Moses as “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, . . . by no means clearing the guilty” (Exodus 34:5-7). He is good. He is also just. And Jesus made very clear this nature, even being willing to suffer and die as a human being for the sake of those made in His image.
            Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28)
            “I and the Father are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.“
            “Why…do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
            (John 10:30-38)

            CRSM, Gnosticism has been regarded as a virulent heresy by virtually all Christian churches for 2000 or so years. You cannot successfully resurrect it here.

          • I was referring to the second important tree in the garden. The one that YHWH positioned an angel with a flaming sword in the way to stop the expelled Adam and Eve from eating of it. (The tree of eternal life).

            Whether Jesus was coexistent with God from the beginning is another matter.

          • Yes, that is why Adam and Eve had to be expelled. Things would be bad enough without their living forever in sin.

            Regarding the other matter, just read John 1 and Colossians 1. Should remove all doubt about who Jesus really was… pre-existent as God the Word and God the Son.

          • The plural use of God in referring to Himself may also be the “royal we”

            Nope, in the plural it means, purely literally, divine beings — and so not only God and the Persons of the Trinity, but also the Angels and the Saints in Heaven.

            Only from a pagan polytheistic perspective, or a more deliberately ignorant atheist one, does the plural mean “gods”.

          • Gnosticism has been regarded as a virulent heresy by virtually all Christian churches for 2000 or so years. You cannot successfully resurrect it here.

            No matter how hard such men as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cromwell, and Welby may have tried …

          • Allah is a humanly created facsimile of God (who thus does not really exist.)

            I worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), the God who is also the Father of Jesus Christ. He is the only true God. The rest are idols made by man or are demons (fallen angels) who have deceived humans into thinking they are gods. This is the consistent biblical message.

      • I do not find it meaningless but very full of meaning. For me it explains mankind’s predicament as fallen into an estate of sin and misery.

    • We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone

      And yet Satan and the other rebel angels were expelled from Heaven, whilst Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, for their evil works.

      Protestant sola fide doctrine is nonsensical.

          • We will be dispelled if he takes His Holy Spirit from us. To believe in Christ is “to be born of the Spirit” – the gift given at Pentecost following his death, resurrection and ascension. “You are in me and I am in you”. He lives in us so that we may live for Him. The spirit is given to help us live our lives and do good to others as we would have them do to us. Without the Spirit we are incapable through original sin. The Law given through Moses failed – life is given through Christ as we are made new through the Spirit.

          • You have not answered my question about the theological absurdity of sola fide. If it is always and alone sufficient for salvation, then never should there have been a Fall.

      • Adam and Eve evil?
        They sinned before they became aware of the difference between good and evil.
        Shows just how capricious the tribal god of the semitic tribes really is.

          • Ah yes. So you create a pair of unblemished, naive and innocent humans, and place them in a garden with a fruit-bearing tree, telling them they must not eat the fruit.
            It seems like a TV game show. Is this the behaviour of a God worth respecting? No, it’s the behaviour of the sort of god who has has a bet with the other gods to see which one of the pair would succumb first. That’s minor-league gods for you.

      • Sinful works come from sinful motives (like that of Satan) and distrusting God’s words (like that of Adam and Eve). Distrusting God’s words means a lack of faith.

        Truly good works come from God-provided motives and faith. Without grace, there is no faith. Without faith, there is no good works. So salvation starts with God’s grace which leads to our faith in Him, which then leads to good works. Not too complicated. The use of “sola” is confusing to some, I agree. But without the grace of God we have nothing good, thus everything hinges on that one (sola) thing— grace.

      • Paul says that if righteousness comes by the law then Christ is dead in vain, Gal 2: 21. Your good deeds are full of sin and cannot save you, nor merit God’s righteousness.

        • if righteousness comes by the law

          Good jolly old strawman arguments, eh ?

          Meanwhile, Galatians 2:21} I do not reject the grace of God. For if justice is through the law, then Christ died in vain.

          hmmmmm, wow, what a difference in your Protestant Bible eh ?

          oooooh, and BTW, good jolly old pseudeo-priest BNP politicians, eh, promoting evil ideologies through warped teachings in their fake “churches” !!!

  2. Claiming his innate virtue instead of accepting God’s love.

    …the sin of pride is what Parris claims for his wages.

  3. See the Spectator, 19/9/2015 for the article “Some day soon we’ll all accept that useless lives have to be ended” by Parris.
    In this article he states that “useless” lives will have to be ended because of Darwinian economic pressure from countries such as China, which will be less “squeamish” about doing away with non-functioning units.

    • Quite likely – as the Nazis did with their own ethnic German physically and mentally disabled people, including children. But that is the way that the so-liberal West is heading.

      • The film “Good” starring Viggo Mortenson is well worth watching. In it a liberal academic is seduced into becoming a member of the SS. His support for “Euthanasia” is the mechanism by which the liberal is converted into a N @zi.

    • It would have been better if Parris had confined himself to useless careers. There must be plenty of those in politics and in the legacy media.

      • “Useless lives” seems to include people who may have worked all their lives until being incapacitated by injury, disease or old age.
        Personally – you may disagree – I would regard a large proportion of academics, media people, politicians and oily professionals as “useless” or worse than useless. I suspect that such people, being members of the Uebermensch, are exempt from Parris’s categorization.

  4. Well he would say that wouldn’t he? He has to justify his own abominable passions in some way I Corinthians 6:9.

  5. Grace, unmerited favour, is a one-word summary of the gospel

    a) No it jolly well isn’t. Instead : Mark : {12:29} And Jesus answered him: “For the first commandment of all is this: ‘Listen, O Israel. The Lord your God is one God.
    {12:30} And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole mind, and from your whole strength. This is the first commandment.’
    {12:31} But the second is similar to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    I cannot find in these words that “unmerited favour” provides Salvation.

    Instead, I find : John : {14:15} If you love me, keep my commandments.
    {14:16} And I will ask the Father, and he will give another Advocate to you, so that he may abide with you for eternity:
    {14:17} the Spirit of Truth, whom the world is not able to accept, because it neither perceives him nor knows him. But you shall know him. For he will remain with you, and he will be in you.
    {14:18} I will not leave you orphans. I will return to you.
    {14:19} Yet a little while and the world will not see me any longer. But you will see me. For I live, and you shall live.
    {14:20} In that day, you shall know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
    {14:21} Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them: it is he who loves me. And whoever loves me shall be loved by my Father. And I will love him, and I will manifest myself to him.”
    {14:22} Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him: “Lord, how does it happen that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?”
    {14:23} Jesus responded and said to him: “If anyone loves me, he shall keep my word. And my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our dwelling place with him.
    {14:24} Whoever does not love me, does not keep not my words. And the word that you have heard is not of me, but it is of the Father who sent me.

    and : John {5:29} And those who have done good shall go forth to the resurrection of life. Yet truly, those who have done evil shall go to the resurrection of judgment.

    b) “Grace, unmerited favour” is three words, not one.

    In Catholic theology, … Purgatory is a holding-place and you could buy your way out by enriching the papal coffers

    What nonsense — that the Mediaeval and Renaissance Church engaged in some direct abuses and occasional outright Simony does not somehow redefine Catholic Theology.

    The potential for any power-mongering on the part of the church and clergy is eliminated

    More utter nonsense, as is easily discovered by simply reading the History of the non-stop power-mongering abuses in the Protestant “churches” between the 16th and 19th Centuries.

    It elevates the individual as against the herd, the private conscience as against social or conventional morality.’ Spot on, Mr Parris!

    And here we see an illustration of how Protestantism tends to lead to atheism.

    The Catholic Church is not a “herd”, regardless of how much anti-Catholic sentiment that Protestants and atheists can invent and promote their agreements upon.

    As for Protestantism “elevating” the “private conscience” “against social or conventional morality” it’s actually quite nauseating to see a man pretending to the status of a priest of a church preaching so radically against not only Classical Ethics and Morals, as if these were simply outmoded nuisances to be gotten rid of, but far more importantly against every basic Law of God.

    No wonder your “church” is disintegrating, reverend, when even a “man of God” putting himself forward as a “conservative” dares to preach so overtly against the Revelation and the Word of God, against the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, against the very things that might save us from the damnation of the soul.

    By grace through faith, we are already assured of Heaven

    A direct contradiction of the words of our Lord — And those who have done good shall go forth to the resurrection of life. Yet truly, those who have done evil shall go to the resurrection of judgment..

    It is clear that evil works can lead to damnation ; it is absurd to propose that good works can play no part in the salvation of men, not when the Lord Himself teaches that they can and do.

    Epistle of James : {2:13} For judgment is without mercy toward him who has not shown mercy. But mercy exalts itself above judgment.
    {2:14} My brothers, what benefit is there if someone claims to have faith, but he does not have works? How would faith be able to save him?
    {2:15} So if a brother or sister is naked and daily in need of food,
    {2:16} and if anyone of you were to say to them: “Go in peace, keep warm and nourished,” and yet not give them the things that are necessary for the body, of what benefit is this?
    {2:17} Thus even faith, if it does not have works, is dead, in and of itself.
    {2:18} Now someone may say: “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works! But I will show you my faith by means of works.
    {2:19} You believe that there is one God. You do well. But the demons also believe, and they tremble greatly.
    {2:20} So then, are you willing to understand, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
    {2:21} Was not our father Abraham justified by means of works, by offering his son Isaac upon the altar?
    {2:22} Do you see that faith was cooperating with his works, and that by means of works faith was brought to fulfillment?

    • And the point about merit is not that it doesn’t apply, but that the merit is not ours but Christ’s.

        • And … nothing in us merits salvation. No works are sufficient. The merit of Jesus on the Cross is what gains any of us salvation, not any meritorious works of ours. That does not mean that God’s true believers will not do good works, they will and abundantly. This is why God will use works to judge, because all truly good works are motivated by faith, hope, and love. But no one has such faith without the grace of God imparting it. We have nothing good that God did not provide and no one will have any reason to boast.

          • nothing in us merits salvation

            If that were true, then Salvation would be impossible.

            You just carry on tying yourself into theological and logical knots, having little to do with Salvation as such.

            All of God’s creation is good in Nature, and there is no magic exception to that rule for mankind, no matter what some 16th Century heretics and apostates may have claimed, in imitation of their Gnostic forebears of Antiquity.

            What is sinful is the human condition, not our Created Nature ; notwithstanding that the condition of Original Sin taints that Nature by our own wrongs and our own tendency towards sins.

          • Thank you for your wonderful segue into what is really true about Salvation.

            Yes, Original Sin taints the original ‘image of God’ in Adam and Eve and their descendants.

            Yes! Salvation is in fact impossible for human beings… without total submission to the facts of the Cross. Nothing IN US merits salvation. That is what the Cross is all about. Without Christ and our faith in His redemptive work, we would all be headed for hell. All of us.
            Hebrews 2:1-4:. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

          • Yes, Original Sin taints the original ‘image of God’ in Adam and Eve and their descendants

            But it does not change the Nature of God’s Creation ; we have not the power to do that, not Satan nor his followers have that power.

            Sin is our rejection of the good of our own created Nature, as well as the rejection of God and His Law and His Revelation in Christ.

            I have learned to distrust the translations that you use, and there are indeed some of the typical errors that I have come to expect from them :

            Hebrews : {2:1} For this reason, it is necessary for us to observe more thoroughly the things that we have heard, lest we let them slip away.
            {2:2} For if a word that was spoken through the Angels has been made firm, and every transgression and disobedience has received the recompense of a just retribution,
            {2:3} in what way might we escape, if we neglect such a great salvation? For though initially it had begun to be described by the Lord, it was confirmed among us by those who heard him,
            {2:4} with God testifying to it by signs and wonders, and by various miracles, and by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, in accord with his own will.
            {2:5} For God did not subject the future world, about which we are speaking, to the Angels.

            In other words, Salvation is not through faith alone, but by abiding within the Law of God, and with Him in Love.

            Nothing IN US merits salvation

            Our Souls and our Love and our Created Nature do, if we do not pervert them in sin and in evil works and by turning away from the Lord and His Church.

      • You are right, Charitas. The mistaken works emphasis is exactly why the Reformation had to occur. What are the works which Jesus emphasized? “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) John 3:16 directly connected eternal life with believing in Jesus Christ. This is the amazing grace of the gospel. Obedience to the Law is impossible for fallen humanity; only the grace of God can redeem us. Here is the divine order of our transformation: grace yields faith yields works.

        • The mistaken works emphasis is

          … the Protestant one, for after all you lot are the ones who rant on about it constantly.

          Obedience to the Law is impossible for fallen humanity

          That’s a Heresy, and a pretty nasty one at that — to claim that God has put burdens on mankind that men are unable to follow is to claim that God knows not our limitations, just for starters — but really, the whole concept is just a smörgasbord of implicit Error …

        • You are right, Charitas

          I see, so direct quotes of the Holy Scripture are somehow magically “not the Gospel” whensoever and howsoever you might in your arrogance decide to describe those Biblical passages as “mistakes” …


  6. The rev always seems to have it in for someone – usually Justin Welby, but today, refreshingly, Matthew Parris (of course including a swipe at Justin Welby). His ire and bile are rather exhausting to read.

    • You seem to feel that to be a Reverend you should be “nice”. The Gospel is about truth and Jesus told the Pharisees they were a “brood of vipers”. The Church of England is in a dire state and the more people acknowledge this the quicker we will break off the rotten branch and re-form the Christian Church in this country.

        • That is what they said about all the prophets of God in the Old Testament– they were constantly reminding the Jewish leaders of their sins and of the judgment to come. The people also told Jesus and the Apostles to chill out, especially Paul. Why were they always stirring things up?

          • I am addressing you (a rather tiresome, angry, and monomaniac chap yourself) and your highly bigoted comments. Why don’t YOU chill out?

    • So why don’t you make some intellectual and theological arguments to challenge the actual arguments instead of indulging in ad hominem yourself?

      • I grew up in Northern Ireland and I’m horribly familiar with arguments about justification by faith, grace, good works and all the rest. My personal view is that scripture is like a box of Lego bricks. You can pick and choose and build anything you like, to justify almost any kind of anger, intolerance, or hatred. So as far as theology goes, count me out.

        • Projection?
          Yes, it is true that perhaps YOU can theologically pick and choose to justify your own extreme negativity as revealed here, but I will be privileged to count you out … 1…2…3.. 4…

          • You can prove anything by quoting the bible. And you have to pick and chose, because it is often opaque or self contradictory, especially the old testament which is full of sheer nonsense. For example give me your take on ‘you shall suffer not a witch to live’ vs ‘thou shalt not kill’? Both even in the same book I do believe.

          • In biblical Hebrew, as in English, killing (harag) and murder
            (ratzah) are two different words with two very different moral
            connotations, and the commandment uses the Hebrew word ratzah, which
            means that the proper translation of the commandment from Hebrew into
            English is, “Thou shalt not murder.” The difference is crucial.

            Killing is taking a life. Murder is taking a life with no moral
            justification. Murder is morally wrong, but there is wide moral
            agreement (not complete agreement) that some forms of killing are
            morally just, and killing an enemy combatant during wartime is one of
            them. You did not violate the commandment by serving in the American
            army and fighting the battles you were ordered to fight.

            Source http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-04-12/features/sns-201204101200–tms–godsqudctngs-a20120412apr12_1_commandment-killing-murder

          • lol excellent. So are saying it’s ok to kill (but not murder) a witch then? I think you perfectly illustrate that the whole business of exegesis is nonsense on stilts.

          • Who are you to look down on many thousands of years of JudeoChristian tradition? Such hubris. To have such strong judgmental opinions, you must be God! Or a total atheist (self-worshiping wannabe god).

          • For example: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

            See, no matter how often I point out to you that this translation is objectively wrong, you still carry on repeating it as if I’d said nothing at all.

            Ear plugs and blinkers indeed !!!

            How you might ever expect to arrive at the transcendental Truth of the Revelation Himself by such means of intellectual and spiritual self-mutilation and narrow-minded obsessions about man-made Protestant doctrines is beyond me …

          • Exegesis includes the more scientific and narrow scholarly task of discovering the meaning of the words and passages using linguistic, historical and other methods. It involves the analysis of grammatical and syntactical structure and other features of the text. Expert exegesis requires reference to the original written language (for example, Hebrew and Greek) as gleaned from the earliest manuscripts available. Such exegesis is important for the scholarly translation of passages accurately into other languages.

            That’s the poor man’s version known, from German scholarship, as “the historico-critical method”.

            It tends to be devoid of any manner of spirituality nor Belief in God whatsoever.

          • I am not saying anything except that according to this guy, who is a Rabbi and presumably knows his Torah Hebrew, the commanment is “Thou shalt not murder” – murder is unjustified killing.

            In Exodus 22:18 it says: “You shall not
            suffer a witch to live”. So under Mosaic law killing a witch did not contravene the commandment. Source: https://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/witches.html

            (NB his numbering seems to be different he calls it 22.17- I do not know why).

            No exegesis needed.

          • Wrong, but thing is no matter how often I might explain why, Bruce and so on will just stop their ears and blinker their eyes.

          • One can try to prove anything by quoting anything. Does not work. But when it comes to spiritual and moral issues, there is no higher authority than Holy Writ.

            The commandment was actually “thou shalt not murder.” Capital punishment was always a part of the Mosaic Law. Not contradictory. You must also believe that the New Testament is “full of sheer nonsense” including the words of Jesus, who taught (see Matthew 5:17-19): “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

          • there is no higher authority than Holy Writ


            God is a Higher Authority than Holy Writ — your attempts to deify your own personal interpretations of the Scripture are unjustifiable.

            The commandment was actually “thou shalt not murder.”

            Nope — where the Bible refers overtly to murder, a different Hebrew word is used.

            It’s Thou shalt not kill, because the verb used means kill (another person).

    • Exhausting to read? Rather, I would say energizing. Of course, no one coerces you to read any of his articles and thereby strain your brain.
      The words and ideas of Rev. Gomes are only experienced as bile by those who are the enemies of Christ. Note that Jesus Himself was quite critical of the official religious leaders in his own faith community (Matthew 23, for example).

      • The words and ideas of Rev. Gomes are only experienced as bile by those who are the enemies of

        … Protestantism.


  7. We live in an age of Biblical illiteracy, at least in this country anyway. Matthew Parris is a glaring example of that illiteracy. What people don’t know they tend to make up. So, like many others, including Anglican clergy, he does his own DIY style of Christianity. Like many DIY efforts, the result is botched and useless. Sadly, his column will only add to that illiteracy, and will not help anybody find the true freedom that comes from understanding what God has done for us. Excellent article Reverend Gomez. Thank You.

    • … but the reverend’s own DIY theology is perfectly OK though ?

      Such as his entirely dubious proposal that Heaven is merely the penultimate dwelling place of sinners ???

      • If you accept the idea of purgatory, then it may well be that there are very few souls indeed in Hell. It is just that some souls may require a long period of cleansing in the purgatorial flames before passing onward to Heaven.

  8. I can’t decide whether this is mostly inept or mostly ignorant. I suppose that, like Luther and Calvin, the Rev. Gomes considers himself totally depraved.

    • Yes, I believe he would agree with your comment. Even St Paul referred to himself as the ‘chief of sinners.’ It is only when we realize we are completely lost, we are desperate to seek the grace and forgiveness of God. As the great hymn Rock of Ages puts it:

      Nothing in my hand I bring,
      Simply to the cross I cling;
      Naked, come to Thee for dress;
      Helpless look to Thee for grace;
      Foul, I to the fountain fly;
      Wash me, Savior, or I die.

      This is orthodox, biblical Christianity. What you are referring to is Pelegianism.

      • Of course I haven’t referred to anything, other than the repugnant doctrines of Luther, Calvin and Gomes. Certainly I disapprove of Pelagianism. It seems you do so, too. Why?

        I hadn’t heard that verse before. But Luther, Calvin and, presumably, Gomes wouldn’t go along with “wash me Saviour, or I die”. “Cover me”, maybe. But “wash”? Not Luther, for sure!

        • Things can get distorted in translation, for evidence of that read any of the varying translations of the ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ by the same translator, Fitzgerald, or the ‘the Death of a Wolf’:

          1. The dark clouds sped across the orange moon
          As smoke trails streak across a fire
          And to the far horizon woods were black.

          and from another translator the first verse is thus:

          2. Across the large disk of the moon the clouds
          Ran like the smoke across a bonfire’s blaze;
          And to the farthest limits of the skyThe woods grew dark

          Ultimately, if there is a God, Luther, Calvin, any of them, don’t matter a damn, except to those experiencing earthly life.

          • Ultimately, if there is The God revealed in the Bible ……then for everyone who has ever lived there is an eternal destiny … but just not all in the same place. And as we speak, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, et al are highly likely to be on the good side of that forever separating chasm.

          • And as we speak, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, et al are highly likely to be on the good side of that forever separating chasm

            Luke : {6:26} Woe to you when men will have blessed you. For these same things their fathers did to the false prophets.

          • What’s translation got do do with it?

            Probably the fact that Bruce gets all his “Bible thinking” through the medium of whatever “translations” his dogmatists have spoon-fed him with …

    • “The biblical doctrine of ‘total depravity’ means neither that all humans are equally depraved, nor that nobody is capable of any good, but rather that no part of any human person (mind, emotions, conscience, will, etc.) has remained untainted by the fall.” (John R.W. Stott) The very ugly truth: None are worthy of heaven, all deserve hell— which is why the Cross is the very definition of mercy, grace, and love. John 3:16.

        • Glad you can pat yourself on the back. Truly worshiping the one true God (the Father of Jesus Christ) is always good. But only God knows what was in your mind and heart.

          • What an ungracious comment! It’s lucky I have a thick skin. It’s so thick, in fact, that I’ve given up patting myself on the back.

          • I don’t know you, so I cannot take your word for yourself or your worship. What you have commented so far has left me with doubts about your spirituality. Of course that will seem ungracious.

          • Sorry, you cannot help but reveal your spirituality. Just be yourself. If you try to look good, you will only be a Pharisee type. But none of us are fully qualified to be your judge because we do not know your heart and none of us are perfect. But we can see the fruit on the tree and make some logical conclusions.

          • What you have commented so far has left me with doubts about your spirituality

            … which destroys, in your own words, your silly idea that “Faith alone” is “sufficient”.

      • The biblical doctrine of ‘total depravity’

        This is a loathesome doctrine invented by evil men in the 16th Century, and certainly NOT “biblical” !!!

        The word “depravity” cannot even be FOUND in the Scriptures, let alone be accurately described as referring therein to the Nature of mankind !!!

        The Original Sin is NOT a “total depravity”, you dangerously extremist radical, for if it were — as his sin is with Satan — then no salvation could be possible.

        None are worthy of heaven, all deserve hell

        An utter and complete falsehood when considering the love and glory of God’s Angels and Saints.

    • Every single human being has imperfections.
      Compared with the persecution, including rape, torture & execution, religious
      enthusiasts so happily inflict on those who do not share their beliefs, homosexuality
      is a minor affair.
      Admittedly, if we were all 100% homosexual mankind would come to an abrupt end,
      but the same applies if we were all 100% celibate.

      • Since we are all human, we are all capable of doing bad things. This includes those of political as well as religious ideological beliefs. Political ideologies, being human-inspired, are prone to error. Religious beliefs inspired by God cannot be in error, but can be distorted and mis-represented by humans for their own ends. The problem for most of us is how to sort the wheat from the chaff.

  9. None of this matters at all if there is a God, He alone will decide what happens to you when you meet him, so perhaps it’s best to live one’s life in accordance with the Bible and Jesus’s words, or whaever the correct manner is. (I’m atheist, by the way).

    • I deliberately haven’t read anything by Matthew Parris for several years, now, and I don’t miss it at all.

      But, having got that obligatory anti-Parrisian dig out of the way, the quoted strapline “Christianity needs a new reformation where belief in doing good for its own sake replaces ideas of salvation and damnation” is onto something – and it does matter.

      Of course, “reformation” is entirely inappropriate, here. Not only are its implications unfortunate, what Parris is apparently asking for is almost-but-not-quite standard Catholicism as encapsulated by the ideas of perfect and imperfect contrition, of servile and filial fear of God.

      • It’s only ‘on to something’ if there is no God – don’t you see that? Or will God read Parris’s column and think: “That’s a good idea” and alter the rules?

        If the muppet clergy who think changing Christian tenets, or anything to do with the church, however repulsive or mystifying what they change is to the non-believers because they want it to be ‘inclusive’ or whatever barking idea they are currently indulging, then they are in for a big shock when their judgement comes. God IS the church, the church is not God.

        ‘Doing good for its own sake’ is also practiced by Christians and non-Christians alike, for the it is because they are good people that they do such, not primarily motivated by the fact they are Christians; where that latter aspect comes into it for Christians is when they are tested at a level that requires them to act according to their Christian faith to do good’, even if they are not entirely comfortable with it at a personal level.

        I agree with you about Parris – he and I are quite opposite in thinking.

  10. There is so much equivocation faux moralizing and extraneous hot air – none of it is of any use except for those who like the sound of their own voices.

    God said, keep it simple.

    Jesus said, follow me and do as I do…………… not as I say – in other words it’s up to you as an individual, nobody is telling you to do anything, the scriptures act as lessons, guides and parables, in metaphors.

    Man is given a conscience, he is asked, obliged to take responsilibity for his actions.

    If you ever do meet the maker, there are no corners to hide in.

    Hell is on earth, hell is man made, hell is where no heaven can be found.

    “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

    Matt 7:7.

    It’s all down to you – no one else can be responsible for you but you.

  11. I shall have to read Mr Parris’s article, something I’d usually avoid as I can reliably find myself on the opposite side of his arguments even if he writes well.
    Not surprisingly I back the Rev Gomez on this one too. To believe that humans are by nature inherently good is the pinnacle of naivety. Just look at this world even if you ignored sectarian conflict. Any parent or observer of a child’s behaviour could tell you that. Babies aren’t born with many of our prejudices which we so quickly acquire, but they’re perfectly OK with snatching a toy from another and need to be taught to share (at the risk of maternal opprobrium). As they grow they’re permanently testing the boundaries between good and bad to see how people react and what consequences this has for them too. Naturally good – piffle.
    What Mr Parris fails to realise is that our Christian-cultural sense of right and wrong cannot endure (and is clearly struggling) when un-hitched from Christian teaching.
    All that said, I find atheists serve a useful role if only by questioning my faith they invariably compel me to think through my beliefs, reinforcing and enriching them in the process.

  12. Whatever passes for political correctness is the equivalent of the Christian belief in justification by faith alone.

      • I believe that by your overt, ongoing, and active attempts to promote objective, formal, and condemned Heresies against the Christian Faith and the Christian Religion, you are putting your own soul in mortal peril.

  13. Parris has overlooked the fact that most good people are Pharisees.

    The Pharisees of the Gospels were the best sort of people: morally upright, experts in the moral law; some were responsible members of the leading council of the nation. They, as the missionary sect, wanted to convert everyone to their persuasion. That they were called hypocrites does not mean that they were evil or ignorant men.

    The politically correct today are out of the very same mould. They too will go twenty miles to make a convert. And in doing so will they make him likewise ‘twice a child of hell’?

    • No group got more harsh judgmental criticism from Jesus than the Pharisees and scribes. They were, as a group, evil. Some few became Christians (like Paul) but God never values appearances of good over the reality. Hypocrisy is evil because it is a sham, a lie; it is bad enough to be bad and admit it, but it is twice as bad to be bad and pretend to be good.

  14. “‘All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want … that?’ asks
    Timothy Keller.” – I’m sure C S Lewis said something very similar (1940s?). The (erroneous) idea of the basic goodness of humankind, is, in the end, the source of all our woes and evils. The Chesterton quote (“I am”), sadly, is said to be unable to be verified, but is very true and apt. “Original Sin” – I call it The Optimistic Doctrine in my blog, Affirming the Faith – is, actually, the one true source of hope – I’d not come across it being called the only verifiable doctrine, but thet’s true, it is.

  15. Thank you, brother Jules for bringing this issue to our attention, and I suppose we can thank
    Matthew Parris as well.

    Parris is a secular humanist but if he were a nominal Christian he would be a Pelagianist. The Pelagian heresy has been around for a long time. Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius (AD 354–430) — which disbelieves in the traditional Apostolic doctrine of “original sin.” Pelagius and his followers believed that original sin did NOT taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid. Thus, Adam’s sin was “to set a bad example” for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to ‘original sin.’ Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as “setting a good example” for the rest of humanity, thus counteracting Adam’s bad example. In short, Pelagianism holds that human beings are born good and have full control of their actions rather than being enslaved by sin as clearly taught by Jesus himself (John 8:32-34) and by Paul (Romans 6:6, 6:16-22, 7:4, Gal 4:9).

    Consequences of Pelagianism: Once the Church abandons the concept of our fallen nature, the need for a Savior is all but abandoned if one’s understanding of Christ is one of redemption (as opposed to the tragic Gnostic and narcissistic notion that God does not
    desire us to change— because are OK the way we are). The heretical Gnostic view of sin is that it is merely mistaken understanding and wrong knowledge. And among the mistaken beliefs they point to is the traditional Christian belief in “original sin,” the biblical notion that we cannot help but sin, having inherited the tendency (and therefore are in desperate need of a Savior).

    The modern Pelagian’s view of redemption does not require the Cross, only an acceptance of being created in the image of God (this much is true) plus a belief that we are already gods in the making. No real redemption is needed beyond that. Just believe in yourself, do your own thing and forget about it. No one has a right to judge you, not even God.

    Such people are necessarily still “in their sins” because they do not accept the need of radical forgiveness. If you do not believe you are a sinner in desperate need of God’s forgiveness, then you will never really ask for it. And if you do not ask, you will not receive; you therefore deprive yourself of salvation and sanctification. You must repent of being ‘a sinner at heart’ and believe Christ’s work on the Cross in order to receive the Holy Spirit and thus enter eternal life as a “born again” believer.

    Without repenting of your own sin and accepting Christ’s payment at the Cross, you remain “in Adam,” which means condemned, rather than being “in Christ”, which means redeemed and in the process of being transformed into the “image of Christ.” You can see that this Pelagian deception has grave consequences.

    The more subtle heresy that we are saved by our good deeds (works instead of faith) is a
    brother to Pelagianism. Because of the great human propensity toward pride, even taking that little bit of self-credit— that is, for making that personal choice to believe— opens the door to self-righteousness (not to mention semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism).

    John R.W. Stott: “It is difficult to understand those who cling to the doctrine of the fundamental goodness of human nature, and do so in a generation which has witnessed two devastating world wars and especially the horrors which occasioned and accompanied the second. It is even harder to understand those who attribute this belief to Jesus Christ. For he taught nothing of the kind. Jesus taught that within the soil of every man’s heart there lie buried the ugly seeds of every conceivable sin -‘evil thoughts, acts of fornication, of theft, murder, adultery, ruthless greed, and malice; fraud, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.’ All thirteen are ‘evil things’, and they come out of the heart of ‘the man’ or ‘the men’, every man. This is Jesus Christ’s estimate of fallen human nature.
    The biblical doctrine of ‘total depravity’ means neither that all humans are equally depraved, nor that nobody is capable of any good, but rather that no part of any human person (mind, emotions, conscience, will, etc.) has remained untainted by the fall.

    • ‘John R.W. Stott: “It is difficult to understand those who cling to the doctrine of the fundamental goodness of human nature’
      Good people do good. Bad people do bad.
      Only religion can make good people do bad.

          • People committed to these ideologies are rarely born-again Christians. Communists and Nazis are much more likely to be atheists or agnostics or Buddhists. Socialists are communist-lite and a few are actually Christians. Christians can do bad things, but non-Christians cannot help but do bad things (“slaves to sin” Jesus said).

          • Obviously I did that before making my comment (where I referenced Communists and Nazis). Reborn’s comment: “Only religion can make people do bad.” I am sympathizing with Daphne’s questions in response. Atheists are more likely to do bad things. What do you not understand about this?

          • Doesn’t work as an argument. Marx etc talked about the necessity for violence, as Did leading socialist voices. Therefore the writers of the ‘faiths’ of socialism and communism advocated this practise. Jesus certainly didn’t and as Christians are ‘religious’ that would show this argument is a nonsense.

          • We cannot possibly know everything one has done. But according to the scriptures:

            “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)

            As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who [fully] seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12; cf. Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20)

            “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)

            Pelagianism is truly a heresy.

    • quote : It is difficult to understand those who cling to the doctrine of the fundamental goodness of human nature, and do so in a generation which has witnessed two devastating world wars and especially the horrors which occasioned and accompanied the second. It is even harder to understand those who attribute this belief to Jesus Christ

      Oh, really ??????

      Not so.

      How about :

      Genesis {1:26} And he said: “Let us make Man to our image and likeness. And let him rule over the fish of the sea, and the flying creatures of the air, and the wild beasts, and the entire earth, and every animal that moves on the earth.”
      {1:27} And God created man to his own image; to the image of God he created him; male and female, he created them.
      {1:28} And God blessed them, and he said, “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the flying creatures of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
      {1:29} And God said: “Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing plant upon the earth, and all the trees that have in themselves the ability to sow their own kind, to be food for you,
      {1:30} and for all the animals of the land, and for all the flying things of the air, and for everything that moves upon the earth and in which there is a living soul, so that they may have these on which to feed.” And so it became.
      {1:31} And God saw everything that he had made. And they were very good. And it became evening and morning, the sixth day.

      Your ABSURD sola scriptura can’t even keep its own story straight — this is because this false doctrine is a man-made invention of the 16th Century against the Faith.

  16. If sola fide/sola gratia/sola my shoe were all that’s necessary for salvation, then why the exhortation to do kindnesses to one’s fellow humans? It MAY seem to some people that “works” is some sort of bribe to a capricious Deity, of a “See? I AM a good person!”-sort, and certainly sale of indulgences is the sort of thing JC would likely have overturned tables, and chased people with a knout in His hand, for doing.

    But the Gospel message DOES have many instances of Himself telling people it’s easy to talk the talk but that they must also walk the walk. I am put in mind of G.K. Chesterton (a RC, to be sure, but let’s not hold THAT against him), to the effect of: “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting– it’s been found too hard and not tried.”

    • It is a matter of the order of priorities– as well as cause and effect. No one does truly good works without having faith. No one has true faith without the grace of God providing it. Therefore, works must necessarily follow from faith, which follows only from grace. These three are all of a piece, but because there are no works without faith and no faith without the grace of God, one could rightly use the term “sola gratia.” And where the individual is concerned, there is no salvation without faith.

      • To some extent, it’s a Hillel “tales of the rabbis”-type “koan,” if you will– “If I have no faith, works will avail nought, but if ALL I have is faith, then where is the proof?” I suppose that you are saying, in effect, that one prays for God’s grace to tell one what one should do in a situation, and that God’s grace provides us with the guidance that bolsters faith and impels us to allow His grace to manifest in our actions– am I even close?

        • No good works are done by the doer only, you are right. Only through faith in Christ due to the power of the Holy Spirit are any of our works truly “good.” If our motives are impure (for selfish reasons such as for public applause or just make us feel good) then the works are not truly “good.” Without being “born again” from the Spirit, no truly good works are possible, for we are all tainted with sin. So Paul and John affirmed.
          But since only God knows our hearts, we are unable to judge which deeds are truly good and which only appear so. Humility is always appropriate. But ego always wants to pat itself on the back and take some credit.

          • No good works are done by the doer only

            An objectively insane (fr. Latin insanus, unhealthy ; to clarify) teaching.

    • I like that quote (and many others) of G.K. Chesterton. He was an Anglican (including when he wrote his famous “Orthodoxy” book at age 34) until he converted to RC at age 48.

  17. What a pleasure to read! Great work Dr. Gomes!

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

  18. One would have hoped that that the scores of millions killed by one means or another in the 20th Century would have disabused the likes of Parris of the fatuous idea of the natural goodness of human beings. Apparently not.

    I have always thought that our propensity to do evil is an inheritance from our animal ancestors. It is the selfishness of the brute. The more selfish, the more sinful. Not for nothing is the devil depicted with the horns and tail of a brute.

    • Yes, we have a choice, ultimately to be self-serving or to serve others. And love is selfless. Faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is…

      • even animals can be capable of love

        You confuse affection, desires, and needs with love.

        Love is a matter in the intellect, not in the brutal, changing, transient clinging of the mere flesh to this or that.

        • No I don’t confuse. There have been many examples of animals coming to the assistance of other animals, even those of other species; search the internet for examples. And love is not an intellectual quality; it’s well-spring is to be found deep within our souls, not our brains. And yes, animals too have their own souls. And all souls are capable of spiritual development.

          • animals coming to the assistance of other animals

            You don’t have to love someone (or even an animal) to come to his, her, or its assistance.

            And yes, animals too have their own souls

            Theologically, they have spirits rather than souls — we are made in the Image of God ; they are not. That’s more than just a quibble, though I generally agree with this sub-point of yours, or rather your general intention therein ; but this does not mean that animals are capable of love.

            Love does indeed proceed most deeply from the soul, but if it does not manifest principally therefrom in the intellect, then it risks degradation into nothing but a brutish transient attachment or desire and so on.

            The deeper spiritual love of the soul is given to God and to the souls of others in religion, rather than in love as the world understands it, though it is this love that is made manifest in the Sacrament of Marriage, which should not be devoid of a more worldly love either.

          • Methinks you (and the theology) confuse and conflate love with sex. I profoundly disagree with the theology here.
            Assistance (of which charity is a human example), whether from an animal or a human, is an expression of spiritual love, and the difference between spirit and soul is one of degree rather than kind, whereas the difference between love and sex is one of kind rather than degree. It is therefore impossible for spiritual love to degrade into more brutish attributes such as sexual activity. But that, you will gather, is simply my own belief.

  19. I wonder if the reverend will push his fake DIY theology so far in the direction of his ludicrousAll God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself” (FYI Love is not freedom from yourself, which is its direct opposite and antithesis : indifference), to go ahead and promote small boys parading about in public in tutus and high heels in the name of the similarly grotesque CoE and its continuing ongoing rejection of anything and everything actually Christian ?

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