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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

God, Sex and Making Life Work

Having gone to the trouble of writing a 3500 word post graduate essay in applied theology I thought I may as well share it on my blog so more than three people can read it. With minor changes here 'tis. If this sort if thing isn't your cup of tea there's plenty of other interesting stuff on this blog.

Identify personal elements in your life and critically reflect on how they contribute to the formation of your theology of ministry


Graduate Certificate in Ministry



My three siblings are passionately opposed to aspects of Biblical Christianity. Their criticisms have forced me to develop a theology that works robustly in society not just in church.


From 14 to 24 I made it my task to develop a practical theology for the wider world, particularly in the context of the environmental challenge. In this, I succeeded but charismatic puritanism/Gnosticism (Peacock 2016) failed me and I was forced to re-examine the fundamentalist approach to life.


In this paper, I argue that the missio Dei is the outworking of God’s will and ways in each and every aspect of society, extending beyond individual soul salvation to the redemption and restoration of human society. In so doing I aim to provide a practical road map that can be used reverse the current catastrophic decline of Christianity in the Western World.


Personal Elements


Fundamentalism vs Practical Theology

I was born a Seventh Day Adventist and thus come from a legalistic faith tradition– the Bible is true, literal, and should be followed. My grandparents believed that ‘Sunday keepers’ were not saved since the ten commandments require a day of rest on Saturday. As a young person I rejected that kind of fundamentalism because of its patent absurdity and wild inconsistency e.g. tithing is mandatory but its OK to work on weekends. However I continued to believe in pacifism and celibacy before marriage. Two events forced me to reconsider. The first was my time in Ambon province in Indonesia where I lived for two months. Ambon is (or was) the only majority Christian province but was invaded my Jihadists who forced conversions and slaughtered Christians. The official death toll is around ten thousand (Schulze 2002, pp 57-69). In that context, pacifism results in genocide. The second was a relationship failure in which the church’s teaching was particularly unhelpful.


Inadequate Sexual Ethic

While the teaching I received in sexual matters was Biblical in a narrow puritan sense it was taught as a matter of geography rather than relationship or consequence, and there was no flexibility – the location of my private parts being the primary issue of concern. The inadequacy of this teaching is the primary reason why my generation rejected Christianity. It did me great harm.


Destroyed for lack of knowledge

After three decades of church attendance in traditional, charismatic and Pentecostal churches the only message I have heard that addressed apologetics was preached by me. I have heard no systematic world-view teaching, training in how to interpret the Bible, or systematic theology. For example, I was never told why I should not have sex with my girlfriend or why I should believe the Bible. Yet many Christians send their children to school for 12 years of indoctrination into anti-Biblical world view and expect them to be Christians.


Church vs Kingdom

Being in Tasmania the environmental conflict was unavoidable. This forced me to consider what the Bible had to say beyond soul salvation, which in turn expanded my theological horizons beyond church culture. I became an environmental activist (see further Gee 2001, and Peacock 2012), studied environmental thought at post-graduate level which included grappling with a well-developed anti-Christian critique (White, 1974 and Hay, 2002, pp. 100-106), and sought to bring the gospel to that movement. I was the only Christian in my city at that time who did. Many in the church saw my involvement as a distraction from ‘the gospel’. 


These inadequacies are writ large in the church. They are a core part of the secular/pagan polemic against Christianity which society and my siblings largely adopted, and are the main reason why we are currently losing the third generation since the 1950’s.


A workable theology of ministry therefore requires that evidence based policy sit alongside theology. This in fact is what the Bible does. Rather than hand down a set of rules God reveals Himself progressively to the cultures of Bible times first as creator (Elohim), as Holy and sovereign (to Job), then as the covenant keeping God (Jehovah), then as a husband to Israel, and on to the establishment of the tabernacle, to the law and the prophets, the establishment of Israel as a testimony and a blessing to ‘all nations’, then to the Messiah and the marriage of Christ to his bride the church.


In each context the practical outworking of God’s revelation was culturally specific to the practical situation, be it polygamy (Matt 22:24 TCRB NIV), gleanings (Leviticus 19:9 TCRB NIV), or ‘wives’ captured in war (Deut 21:11-13 TCRB NIV). While God will not change, the application of His character to our problems will change. This approach to ministry and mission does not require that we abandon the creeds, but rather that we navigate a passage between the twin errors of legalism and licence (Tyra, G 2014 pp. 40, 132). As the Bible puts it, ‘whoever fears God will avoid all extremes’ (Eccl 7:18 TCRB NIV) and ‘do not be over-righteous…why destroy yourself?’ (Eccl 7:16 TCRB NIV). For example, if the Sabbath were sexuality, what would Jesus say about it? 


Personal Understanding of Mission

My understanding of mission has grown mainly in detail since I was 17. The mission flows out of God’s delight in the world and in the lives of believers and unbelievers. Genesis declares the creation ‘good’, while the book of Jonah reveals that God is as passionately interested in unbelievers as in believers. John 3:16 affirms this in Christs mission to the ‘kosmos’ (Interlinear Greek – English New Testament, Authorised KJF), and Revelation 11:15 confirms it. The Lord’s prayer says: ‘your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. Since war, poverty, structural injustice, disease etc do not exist in heaven the mission Dei encompasses seeking to minimise them on earth. These are the ‘works of the Devil’ which Jesus came to eliminate (1 John 3:8 TCRB NIV) and which forms part of our mission (John 20:21 TCRB NIV). While this allows room for a separation of church and state at an institutional level it leaves no room for a separation of faith, values, and public policy. It is for this reason that Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English led to the world’s first documented socialist revolution, the ‘peasant’s revolt’ in 1381 on specifically theological grounds: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?’ (Alderman 1974). This took place because the notion that ultimate authority lies outside government and the church and places intrinsic and equal value on those at the bottom, was and is revolutionary (see further (Black Jr, G 2014, p.8). As Brown notes (2011 p. 6), when David and his descendants were appointed human kings over God’s people, they were subordinate kings under God and ruled as His “sons” over His kingdom.

So in the mission Dei the salvation of human souls, the transformation of human character, and the building of the church as an organism, works in parallel with the redemption of the public sphere. As theologian John Baille has said, ‘In proportion as a society relaxes its hold upon the eternal, it ensures the corruption of the temporal’. Thus ‘…we live in our temporal setting with a firm grasp of God’s eternal claims while we transform the culture he has entrusted to us’ (Solomon Undated, pp.2-3). In this I favour the fifth view in Richard Neibuhr’s classification being ‘Christ the transformer of culture’ (ibid, pp. 2-4), but in so doing I recognise that all elements of his classification will be relevant in different contexts. There will be times when Christ is against culture, for example ‘raunch culture’ (Levy 2005, p.74). There will be times when Christ will join with culture as the apostle Paul did, becoming ‘all things to all people’ (1 Cor 9:19-22 TCRB NIV). However Christ is ultimately above culture (Daniel 7:27 TCRB NIV) and calls his people to ‘come out and be separate’ (Rev 18:4 TCRB NIV), for example regarding homosexual indoctrination in schools; and there will be times when Christ and culture exist in tension, for example, during war time.

Hesselgrave and others (Shantz 2009, p. 10) have noted that culture is directed by those who influence the ‘seven mountains’ of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. Others add science and technology. I suggest that the environmental challenge presents another mountain. Hesselgrave notes:

‘It takes less than 3-5 per cent of those operating at the tops of a cultural mountain to actually shift the values represented on that mountain. Mountains are controlled by a small percentage of leaders and networks….In sum, between 150 and 3000 people (a tiny fraction of the roughly 23 billion people living between 600 B.C. and A.D. 1900) framed the major contours of all world civilisations. Clearly, the transformations were top-down’, (Hesselgrave 1995, pp. 7-8).

It is by capturing this high ground that we fulfil the great commission to ‘disciple all nations’ per Matt 28:18-20. This transformation of culture is part of the outflowing impetus of God’s grace (Arthur, E 2009 pp.3-5) since, as Linda Cope has observed (ibid p. 20) God is:

  • King of kings – the Lord of justice
  • Jehovah Jireh – Lord of economics
  • Father – Lord of the family
  • Creator God – Lord of science and technology
  • Living Word – Lord of communication
  • Potter – Lord of the arts and beauty
  • Great Teacher – Lord of education

In this way Jesus reconciles all things to himself (Col 1:19-20 TCRB NIV).

It will be the task of practical theologians to do the intellectual work in solving the real problems that confront all seven plus mountains because it is by solving those problems that the high ground will be taken (Johnson 2013, p.33). The change in my understanding of mission is that where I once saw changing culture as an uncompromising stand for righteousness in terms similar to the call of Samuel (Siqueira 2012, pp. 364-365 and 373) I now see that the practical application of the gospel usually requires a middle path between extremes. This has grown out of my professional experience as a policy analyst and my Christian experience.


Contribution to effective ministry in lived experience

In my experience the most effective ministry occurred in the developing world where I encountered easy conversation about spiritual things, rapid and sustained church growth, and openness to the gospel. The reason for this is because those cultures are closer to the cultures of Bible times, so the gospel naturally achieves comparable results.


In Australia I found effective ministry when it:

  1. focussed on genuine discipleship; and
  2. understood that it was engaged in cross cultural mission.

In the discipleship context this meant singles of the same sex living together in shared rental accommodation, and in YWAM people living on-base. It included daily corporate prayer, and regular group evangelistic activity. This aligned with the practice of the early church and with Jesus’ command and example to make disciples.


In the cultural context successful evangelism occurred when people were engaged at a point of connection or commonality, the gospel was contextualised, and then they were trained at the level of core values/worldview in a way that merged evangelism with discipleship. This reflected an intuitive understanding of the meaning of culture as a matrix of shared beliefs, values, assumptions, and patterns of behaviour (Kraft 1999, pp. 1-3) and the contextualisation of the gospel in the context of that matrix (Hesselgrave 1995, pp. 1-3). However, it also included acculturation into a Christian culture, the adoption of a new Christian identity, and a ‘leaving behind’ of parts of the old scene since it is necessary to divorce the world before marrying Christ.


This is the anthropological revelation of the Kingdom of God (unpublished lecture notes, 2017), which at an individual level is about forming a church ‘family culture’ where a person’s identity and beliefs will be distinct to varying degrees but within the boundaries of the shared core values and behaviours (Spencer-Oatey 2012, pp. 9-10) since ‘Ultimately beliefs lead to behaviour’ (Hollinger Undated, p. 3).


Effective ministry has thus involved three things:

  • contextualisation - evangelism
  • enculturation – discipleship
  • world view formation – growth and sanctification

This cross cultural approach to mission faces all the challenges identified of cross cultural mission but presents the only effective model I know.  It fairly closely resembles Hesselgrave’s three culture model (Hesselgrave 1995, pp. 116-117).



As “Director of Calling, Discernment and Achievement” (Black Jr, G 2014, p.12) it is the role of ordained ministers to equip the saints for ‘every good work’ (2 Tim 3:17). That necessarily includes a redemptive engagement with every aspect of culture (Wallnau & Johnson, 2013) by finding God’s remaining redemptive analogies within it (Richardson, 1981), and a constructive relationship with the natural world. This builds upon and does not replace the foundation truths of personal salvation and sanctification.


However, in reality, the contemporary Western culture, when understood as the ‘shared basic and learned assumptions and values of a people’ (Solomon J, Undated pp. 4, 13) has been more effective at evangelising the church than visa-versa. Consequently Western Christianity is dying a slow demographic death and has been since the 1950’s. According to respected research firm Ipsos Mori approximately 15 per cent of people in Britain hold definitional Christian beliefs

(MORI 2011, see also UK Office of National Statistics 2011). Significantly, many of those who do hold definitional beliefs are old. The next two decades will see a massive die-off of Christians as the ‘greatest generation’ and the ‘baby boomers’ pass and their children are not saved. Church attendance is on schedule to drop off a cliff (Dickerson JS 2013, pp.12 - 20) and with it our influence and our witness in society. Already in the United States for every 1000 churches that open 4000 close and even megachurches are in decline.  In a decades long survey of 1000 churches in the USA Dr Richard J. Krejcir identified a lack of genuine discipleship and Biblical teaching as the core reason for decline and conversely found that discipleship and Biblical teaching were keys to church growth (Dr Krejcir, 2007). This and his other findings correspond to my own experience over three decades but leave substantial gaps since he focuses only on church attendees not the children of church goers who reject the faith, or the unchurched.

In my experience the genuine reasons for rejecting Christianity are:

  • Christianity has nothing useful or helpful to say about sex and sexuality
  • Christianity is good on helping the poor but has nothing useful or helpful to say about the big issues – war, the economy, economic justice, and the environment
  • Christianity makes extraordinary truth claims that are not backed by anything other than tradition
  • Science and secularism provide better explanations about reality and solutions to real world problems than the church does


Effective mission cannot occur without effective ministry because without ministry you will not have people to conduct mission. Therefore if our mission is to succeed, our ministry must comprehensively address these objections, first to those who are still attending church, and then to the wider world. This will require a degree of training of both leaders and laity that is unprecedented in church history.


While I do not doubt Dr Krejcir’s observations, he does not address these issues, though I have elsewhere (Peacock 2017). Answering secular objections and solving the problems confronting the seven plus mountains is not impossibly difficult (I do it for fun), but it does require that we deal with the evidence then work back to our theology/ideology. In my experience this usually means charting a middle path on contentious issues such as economics, sustainability, immigration, sexual issues etc. (That said, the middle path can appear radical when society leans in a radically ungodly direction). This is, I believe, critically important if we are to engage, foster and promote future opportunities for ministry and mission.



Effective mission is founded on effective ministry. In the current context effective ministry builds on the foundational Christian disciplines of prayer, study, praise, discipleship, service, and corporate fellowship. As we connect with who God is, we are caught in the creative outflowing of His grace to rescue and redeem those and that which is lost. In doing so the church is divided between those who feel it imperative to be faithful to the literal word of God as we look forward to heaven, and those who seek a practical theology by applying Biblical principles to real world problems. In that context I note that neither David, Solomon, or any of the Patriarchs before Moses would have met the character requirements for this course, (see for example Genesis 38: 13-26) and many of the secular criticisms of the church (though not of God) are correct.


In the Bible, God’s progressive revelation always deals with the world as it is in all its messiness and confusion. God and the Bible are big enough to deal with, for example, war, terrorism, slavery, sexual confusion and environmental collapse. The principles are there, but there is no formula. The effectual application of God’s ways to our circumstances will require intellectual courage, Spirit led guidance and doctrinal flexibility, but it is the only way forward. Jehovah is big enough. Is the church?




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Black Jr, G 2014, Exploring the Life and Calling, Fortress Press, Minneapolis MN


Brown, R Spring 2011, The Kingdom of God and the Mission of God Part 1, International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 28:1


Dickerson J S, 2013, The Great Evangelical Recession, Baker Books


Dr Krejcir, RJ, 2007, Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline, A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=42346&columnid=4545

[Accessed November 2017]


Gee, H 2001, For the Forests: a history of the Tasmanian forest campaigns, The Wilderness Society, Australia


Hay, P 2002, Major Currents in Western Environmental Thought, UNSW Press


Hesselgrave, D 1995,  ‘Contextualisation that is Authentic and Relevant’, International Journal of Frontier Missions  Vol 12:3 Jul-Sep 1995


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[Accessed November 2017]



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[Accessed November 2017]


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