Seven Principles For
1. DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS TO WHAT OTHERS BELIEVE
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” (Ex 20:16)
We all hate having our beliefs misrepresented and then dismissed. Instead, we must try to be faithful to what Jesus taught us; “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt 7:12). If we want our beliefs fairly represented, we must fairly represent the beliefs of others.
2. LISTEN BEFORE JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
“He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.” (Prov 18:13)
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Prov 18:17)
We need to make the effort and listen and make sure we've understood the other person's position before we explain why we think they may be wrong and present them with what we hope will be a more better way of understanding the issue. We may even find out that it was us who misunderstood them and change our opinions.
3. RENOUNCE VIOLENCE AND ONLY USE REASON AND DEBATE
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3–5)
We want to live at peace with one another and engage in reasoned debate and discussion with anyone willing to engage with us.
4. BE RESPECTFUL, CONSIDERATE AND HUMBLE
“Slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:2)
If we misrepresent someone's beliefs, we slander them. If we start shouting “bigot” or “Nazi” or even worse, we are slandering them. If we speak in anger and assume that we already know what they believe and we know what their secret motives are, we are not being peaceable, considerate nor showing true humility to all men. The humble man seeks to learn, the arrogant man knows already that he has nothing to learn from anyone else. Especially from those who disagree with him!
This also means that we should always first try to assume the best motives in those we disagree with, unless there is compelling evidence for not doing so.
5. ALLOW LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE
“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” (Rom 14:4)
“Why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” (1 Cor 10:29)
No Christian has the right to take God's place as Judge and act as if the person we disagree with must ultimately give account to us.
It was through the shameful conflicts of our shared heritage that we discovered that it was wiser to live alongside one another and allow liberty of conscience in the other, even when when had principled disagreements. This brought us the culture of liberty we have enjoyed in England for the past 150 years. This liberty of conscience and freedom of speech is the very thing that we are loosing today and it is vital that Catholics and Protestants both do what we can to keep these freedoms and to live them out in our lives.
Without shame, we want to be able to speak out on behalf of the unborn. We want to lovingly support people struggling with same-sex attraction. We want support some of them as they seek to live a celibate life or even help others to find fulfilment in heterosexual marriage. We want to be able to support those struggling with gender dysphoria, who may struggle to accept the physical gender they were born with. We want to have the freedom to lovingly support them to accept the gender God gave them at birth. We want to defend the idea of marriage being a life long commitment between one man and one woman and that this union will give their own children and any children they may adopt the greatest chance to flourish throughout life.
We want to have the freedom to disagree with the idea an unborn child is the moral equivalent of an unwanted tumour. We want the freedom to disagree the the idea that same sex marriage is morally equivalent to heterosexual marriage. We want the freedom to disagree with the idea that sexual promiscuity is just harmless fun, or that sex and gender are interchangeable, or that adopted children are just as likely to flourish with same-sex partners for parents as they would with stable, heterosexual married parents.
We want the freedom to not be forced to use our time and our talents to promote things that we truly believe will lead to the increase of unhappiness in our culture.
The tragedy is, that in each of these areas we are being silenced, either by being labelled as hateful bigots or by being accused of using hate speech. As a result businesses are being destroyed and jobs are being lost.
We must continue to stand for liberty of conscience.
6. DO NOT BE SWIFT TO TAKE OFFENCE
Both Catholics and Protestants have a common commitment to our Suffering Saviour.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,” (Is 53:3)
“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
“Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults.” (Is 51:7)
Rather than this being a weakness, these teachings has brought great emotional resilience to both Protestants and Catholics alike. They also once deeply impacted our culture. The fact that someone has hurt our feelings or said something demeaning about our faith is something we are to expect. This emotional resilience directly produced England's tradition of freedom of speech.
Perhaps you have heard of the term, the “snowflake generation.” Many universities now have 'trigger warnings' for law students who may have to study a rape case, for fear they will be traumatised by it. Others have “save spaces” for students to flee to if they find the the ideas they are studying too disturbing. It seems that as our secular culture is emotionally crippling our young people. We want to offer them something better.
7. SEEK UNITY IN COMMON VALUES LIKE THESE ONES,
ALLOW DIFFERENCE ELSEWHERE
We can celebrate our common commitment to confessing and worshiping the Trinity. We worship one God and we worship three persons of the Godhead. We worship the Father as fully God, the Son as fully God and the Holy Spirit as fully God, yet we do not worship three Gods.
Throughout history religions and secular regimes have sought to better society by insisting on total unity: Either total unity under a god, or total unity under the state. On the other hand, both religions and states have also tried to insist on total diversity: Either total diversity under many gods, or a totalitarian insistence that since there can be no possibility of truth, all truth claims are equally valid and anyone who claims otherwise is a danger to the public good.
Our common Christian faith offers the only solution to these extremes. Our God is not an only, lonely God. He is not a monotonous uniformity. Nor is He a chaotic assembly of different parts. He is both One and He is Three. He is united and He is diverse. Our common Christian belief in the Trinity is a glorious foundation for our culture to become both more united and more comfortable with diversity.