God is outside as well as within the Church says theologian

God is outside

Believing that the Gospel of Christ is worth spreading means God is outside and within the Church.

It does not imply that God is nowhere outside the Church, Anglican priest and theologian Professor Nigel Biggar said in discussion with The Tablet in Dublin about the divine commission and colonialism.

Biggar is the emeritus Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford. He made the comment when he was in Dublin to deliver a talk on coping with the past and lessons from colonialism and cancel culture.

“God is outside the Church,” Biggar said.

He pointed out that the New Testament makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is not confined to the Church.

“The Holy Spirit is out there in the world. The world is God’s world and God was there first.”

He said the Christian gospel is relevant to people of other faiths.

“First of all it can illuminate things that people already intuit but are not quite sure of. Sometimes it does result in a radical change as well as a kind of clarification.”

He dismissed the assumption that “Christian missionaries were the lackeys of empire” and were “complicit in the abuses of colonial rule.”

Colonial rule was not always abusive, he said.

Colonial officials, on the whole, did not want missionaries in the colonies, he explained.

He went on to cite the East India Company’s ban on missionaries in India until the early part of the 19th century.

“It is often the case, whether, in New Zealand or Canada, missionaries were among humanitarians who lobbied the imperial Government to stop abuses.”

Cancel culture

In relation to the so-called ‘cancel culture’, Biggar said those who cancel do so “because they can’t answer.”

He asked why management in publishing houses and universities are “so willing to indulge the illiberal clamouring of woke junior members.

“It is fine for young colleagues or any colleagues to have progressive opinions. But I don’t quite understand why the adults in some publishing houses or universities yield so readily,” he said.

He blamed European post-modernist philosophies for encouraging people to regard all hierarchies and all social orders as “designed to entrench oppressive power” and which must be uprooted “by whatever means possible.”


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