Beyond Individualism

Jubilee Centre Events, May 2010

At our conference on 15th May, a variety of speakers helped us consider the search for relational hope in the 21st century.

The conference was opened by politics professor and pastor Dale Kuehne, for whom Perry Miller's phrase 'Standing on the threshold of an inconceivable age' encapsulates what it is to look out into a postmodern future. Noting that Christians are often reactionary in their engagement with social issues, he warned the Church against opposing the anarchic excesses of today's 'individual world' by wishing for a return to a 'traditional world'. Working on the basis that politics is 'what you're for, not what you're against', he urged us to move forward towards a 'relational world' in which we learn to have relationship with intimacy, to 'live love'. This, as John 13:34-35 makes clear, would amount to true evangelism, as ultimately people will be won over not by rational argument, but by love.

Next, Bristol University's Dr Jonathan Burnside proposed that since Jesus took Leviticus seriously - quoting from chapter 19 to explain that 'loving our neighbour' is central to living a fully functioning human life - then so too must we: even the passages with which we are less comfortable. Explaining that form is necessary for freedom to have meaning, he showed that Leviticus 20 reminds us how sex in a postmodern society is ultimately trivial and meaningless - that sexual intimacy is always a rival to spiritual intimacy. He concluded that in learning to love Leviticus, we learn what it is to love.

Later, Jubilee Centre senior researcher and Just Sex author Dr Guy Brandon ran two workshops exploring the problems associated with the consumerisation of sex and how the church could become a more welcoming, inclusive and intimate community.

Two guest speakers ran additional afternoon workshops: First, Rachel Gardner, the co-founder and Creative Director of Romance Academy, a relationships-positive project building youth self esteem. She explored how parents, teachers, youth workers, and church members can help transform the lives and core values of teenagers, who often have low self worth and limited understanding of how to think through the wider impact of their decisions in relation to sex.

Second, Dr David Instone-Brewer, a Baptist minister who researches early Jewish background to the New Testament and develops computer resources at Tyndale House. He explored the struggles faced over failed marriages ever since Christians interpreted Jesus as teaching 'Once married, always married'. He claimed that new findings in Jewish legal terminology suggest that Jesus didn't throw out the Old Testament laws allowing divorce for abuse but was simply rejecting a newly invented no-fault divorce called the 'Any Cause' divorce.

Videos of each of the speakers summarising their presentations can be viewed by following the following links:

Dr Dale Kuehne: Standing on the threshold of an inconceivable age

Dr Jonathan Burnside: Isn't Leviticus irrelevant in today's society?

Dr Guy Brandon: Is sexual freedom just?

Rachel Gardner: Intelligent choice - Holistic relationships education

Dr David Instone-Brewer: Biblical divorce

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