Premier Christianity and acting in the interests of balance

A few times over the years I’ve had contact with Premier Christianity about their editorial policy and particularly about their decision to publish writers who are denying or attacking what the Bible says. The question has particularly arisen in relation to Steve Chalke but also people like Rob Bell.

Premier Christianity have held the line that they choose to publish a range of authors. This makes for varied and interesting reading because it gives their readership different perspectives. Now, there’s a place for discussion and debate, it can be a healthy way of sharpening the mind and some people may benefit from being challenged in their thinking. However, discussion and debate does not mean that we have to hand over time and space to those we sharply disagree with. For example, when we invite preachers to Bearwood Chapel, we do not expect them to come and say anything they like. We are clear that we expect speakers to be signed up to the same statement of faith. I do not publish different viewpoints on faithroots.net. This does not mean that I don’t engage with different opinions. My responsibility is to represent them accurately when I do and to provide links so readers can check out for themselves. Those who disagree are free to publish their own blogs, journals etc.

The problem with Premier Christianity’s editorial approach is that despite what they may think, it is not a neutral position. As soon as we treat two radically different positions as of equal value, we are taking a theological/pastoral position ourselves.  The result often is that we are providing anything but a balanced position. Take this example, last week, Steve Chalke and Peter Ould were invited to write about the government’s plans to ban gay conversion therapy. This was presented as acting  in the interests of balance. The problem is that a balanced approach was not taken. Peter took time to engage with the proposals and with research about the effects of conversion therapy. Steve Chalke did not engage with Peter’s arguments but simply used his article to launch another attack on evangelical churches with a series of unsubstantiated accusations. Those accusations were not challenged by the editor or an invited writer with a right of reply, they were just left to hang. The two articles are clearly not worthy of equal value. By the way, as far as I can tell, no serious mainstream evangelical is arguing that Gay Conversion Therapy works or is a good thing.

However, what it does do, is a kind of virtue signalling to young believers. Few of them Will have heard of Peter Ould but they will have heard of Steve Chalke, they will know that he is controversial and they will know that he holds views that align with the same messages they are getting in the media, at school and University etc, that the beliefs they hold to are barbaric and intolerant and that the Bible is a book full of contradictions and errors. Rather than help young believers live in a culture that is hostile to their faith and know how to counter attacks, a Christian magazine has instead chosen to give voice to someone who has sadly chosen to compromise with the World.  The message is clear, Steve  Chalke’s views are worth listening to and could be right. So too could all those people saying similar things and pressuring you to conform with the World around you.

It is as though a historical equivalent of the magazine might have said ” Okay, we’ve heard from Paul, Irenaeus,  Athanasius and Augustine. Now let’s see what the Circumcision Party, Marcion, Arius and Pelagius have to say for themselves.” To do that after their had been clear discernment by elders, pastors, bishops etc would be an arrogant statement that ” I know better.”

Finally, the approach misses the point that there is a rich diversity of things to write about that will make your magazine or website interesting without having to go looking too far. There are Christians wanting to share their faith with others in a world of secularism and other competing belief systems. There are young believers wanting to grow in their faith, to gain a good handling of the whole of Scripture,. There are followers of Jesus wanting to persevere through suffering and persecution and there are others struggling with temptation but wanting to resist. That’s plenty to write about and keep your readers engaged.

Nb

Steve Chalke’s article is available here https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/5-damaging-practices-that-churches-inflict-on-LGBT-people

Peter Ould writes here https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Why-the-Government-s-knee-jerk-ban-on-gay-conversion-therapy-fails-to-understand-the-real-issues

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