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Unbelievable – A Depressing Conversation with Jonathan Bartley


On Friday I had the privilege of doing another ‘Unbelievable’ programme with Justin Brierley.  The other guest was Jonathan Bartley, founder of Ecclesia and co-leader of the Green Party in England and Wales – another professing Christian.   We were there to discuss whether, in the light of the Tim Farron affair, Christians are being excluded from public life in the UK.   Although it was a good discussion I found the whole experience depressing and a warning about what is happening to the church across the UK. (You can hear the whole programme by clicking here 

 So why did I find it depressing?   Jonathan Bartley was lovely – intelligent, articulate and a delight to meet. Justin is still one of the best hosts and presenters you will ever come across.   I don’t think there was any real hostility and the discussion was interesting. However I went away with a feeling of real spiritual heaviness and sorrow. I have been trying to work out why. Perhaps if I highlight some of the things that were said it will help.

  • “I have no problem with gay sex. I do not think gay sex is a sin…my view is as biblical as his…the majority of people who listen to this programme will have a different view because they are Christians” This is a narrative that is becoming depressingly familiar. In direct contradiction of the teaching of Christ, people who profess to be Christians are saying black is white. The Christian teaching, that all sex outside marriage is wrong (and that marriage is between a man and a woman) is now dismissed as just one possible Christian teaching. We are left with smorgasbord Christianity.


  • “This is because of a massive history of oppression associated with those kind of views…” I’m getting fed up of people using the bullying/oppression card as a reason to bully others to accept their views. The world isn’t as black and white as saying that because some people who are associated with your view treated others badly in the past, then you are responsible and you have to accept our point of view now. I don’t believe in oppressing anyone…and I don’t agree that holding a biblical view of sex and sexuality is oppressive. In fact I would argue the opposite. I also don’t believe that those who hounded Tim Farron did so because they were concerned about making up for oppression from the past. The same people have kept remarkably silent about the real oppression of gays that is occurring in Muslim countries (after all they don’t want to be accused of homophobia).


  • “What about Jacob Rees-Moog? Mark Pritchard? Jonathan thought that simply because there were about 20 MPs (out of 650) (according to him) who openly held the traditional biblical view, this meant that there was no discrimination against Christians who actually hold to the teaching of Christ.   But of course it does nothing of the sort.   He would not accept that because there are black, gay, and women MPs there is no discrimination – so why make Christians the exception?


  • Policies set democratically by the members” – The problem with this is that you are not allowed to be a member if you disagree with the policies. And so the Greens, like many authoritarian parties, have become circular. Our members decide our policies but you are not allowed to be a member if you disagree.   It was explicitly made clear that for people with views like mine, even though we might be ‘Green’,   “The Green Party is not the place for them.”


  • “It’s about justice, looking after the planet, freedom and equality…other Christians may belong to different parties….their faith is different to mine”…. This disturbed me because it is about the politicization of Christianity. The identification of Christianity with the Green party is as wrong as the identification of Christianity with Right Wing Republicanism in the USA.   Apart from the sound bite truisms (who is really going to be against looking after the planet, freedom and equality?), it’s the arrogance and the exclusivity of it.


  • “Trying hard not to crack up laughing at the Green party being told it is establishment “ – Jonathan and his colleagues like to think they are ‘radical’ etc. but they are really the new establishment.   Wanting to get rid of bishops from the House of Lords, is not really all that radical. What would be really radical would be suggesting that the traditional Christian teaching concerning the family should be encouraged by government.   Its so easy to be radical about things in the past…what is much harder is to challenge the current zeitgeist.


  • “And then they say, this is persecution…my brothers and sisters this is not persecution. If you want to see persecution…you go to North Korea, you go to China”. It’s the double standard here that appalls me. On the one hand Christians are told to shut up about persecution because its far, far worse in North Korea and China (true)….but if anyone were to say to the MeToo women, ‘my sisters, this is not persecution….if you want to see persecution go to Saudi Arabia”, they would be laughed out of court. Why the double standards?


  • “Being the voice of the voiceless”… This is a phrase I am so tired of hearing……its usually said by powerful middle class people who have nothing to lose by speaking out (it doesn’t really affect them) and have a lot to gain by their virtue signaling. To be arrogantly asked ‘why don’t you do it?” was depressing. Not least because I think I do….but also because I don’t like the concept as it is used by todays politicians. Every bishop, trendy political leader and social commentator, says that this is what they are doing.   My question is why not give the voiceless, voices? Why not let people speak? Why do you have to speak for them?     And who is speaking out for the working victims of those devastated by the middle class social liberalism imposed on the whole of society?


  • “Eugenics abortion is abhorrent…when they are views that are abhorrent and will oppress” – The question is who gets to decide what views are abhorrent and oppressive?   I agree completely with Jonathan that eugenics abortion is abhorrent, but then I think that the killing of any child in the womb is abhorrent. I also think that much of current day abortion is effectively eugenics against the poor. Can’t afford to have a child, get rid of her!


But all the above does not explain my heaviness. Maybe I was tired? Maybe there were other factors?  I certainly sensed a sorrow and weariness in Jonathan. But I think the main reason is this. I am saddened that the devil is sowing such confusion amongst Christians, at a time when we need clarity and unity.   I am getting tired of being told that when you argue for a biblical position, its just one of many possible ‘biblical’ positions.   There are of course issues where there is genuine disagreement by brothers and sisters over interpretation of the Bible. But these are always over secondary issues. The Bible is absolutely clear about the main issues (although of course leaving room for many questions). Ironically I met with a Roman Catholic Archbishop last week who agreed with me on this. What our new evangelical Protestant liberals are doing is using evangelical language to promote the 19th Century Protestant liberalism that has destroyed many churches.

I regretted not challenging Jonathan more on his claim that his position was just as biblical. I was intimidated by fear that I would be accused (as often happens) of not being nice enough.   I had just been told that Steve Chalke, although he would be writing a response to my article, was not prepared to discuss or debate with me. He prefers to push the narrative that he is being ‘biblical’ and that I am just being nasty.  The Anti-Christ Message of Steve Chalke   The Chalke Response

That by the way is a narrative that gets picked up on the message boards and in the personal stuff that gets sent to me. Here are a couple of examples:

“Robertson is the voice of the church in decline; the voice of a generation that is dying off. He and people of a like mind speak out and then are dismayed that people treat them as oddities.” 

“You are feeling marginalized by the same Christian community that once embraced you. You are quickly becoming the ‘wee flea’ that most Christians wish to shake off. They distance themselves from many of the immoral views that you have chosen to cling to. Justin rarely hosts you anymore for that (ALL your ‘backward’ moral standards ) reason imo.

Maybe they are right? Maybe I am being ‘marginalised’ (although I was never aware of being particularly ‘embraced’)? And maybe it is deserved?  I could be wrong. But my conviction is that the real marginalised are those who seek to uphold the teachings of Christ and honour his Word. In todays society it costs the Chalkes and Bartleys of this world nothing to uphold the values of that society and morph them with Christianity. For those of us who refuse to do that,  we may be treated as ‘oddities’ and ‘immoral’, but then so were Christ and the disciples! Yesterday I preached His word to a packed church (so much for dying off!) and today I have to answer a string of e-mails from people seeking to become Christians, Christians who are confused by the teachings of Chalke et al, and those who have been damaged by legalism and authoritarianism…. I have nothing to give them except the Christ of the Bible. Here we stand we can do no other….but sometimes its wearisome!








  1. ‘ Why art thou then cast down?… what should discourage thee? Still trust in GOD for Him to praise good cause thou yet shall have. He of thy countenance is the help, thy GOD that doth thee save’

  2. I enjoyed your discussion with Jonathan Bartley. Just as a point of clarification, as I understood it, Bartley was listing MPs who oppose homosexuality to show that it was still possible to be an MP if you disagree with it, not to demonstrate that people with such views are not discriminated against.

    I’m confused by your message here – are you saying that you want a society where all views on homosexuality are equally welcome or a society where your own views are dominant (but others permitted)?

  3. David – You are the most encouraging Christian preacher in the public square. Let the false teachers eventually wither but you continue to stand firm on God’s true word. Thank you.

    1. I agree there are many throughout time who have twisted the Bible to fit their own standards, yet christ along with his first century followers adhered strictly to Previous Bible teachings often quoting from psalms,Isaiah etc.- In fact Jesus said that ‘they were no part of the world ‘and that his Kingdom which we pray for is something that God himself would reveal not through any manmade political establishment (see Matthew chapter 24 verses 3 onwards and many scriptures which cross reference this).

  4. It is difficult. It is especially difficult talking about christian ethics in essentially a secular meeting-place (whatever was claimed of it)

    The liberals who relativise and over-contextualise the bible can come up with anything. But we (and I’m not saying you were) need to be alert to us under-contextualising, ie remaining literalist when historico-grammatical is required. I think the bible is pretty clear on homosexual practices. They and homosexual inclination to be honest are sins, but then so is heterosexual lust.

    Somehow we slightly give the impression that homosexuality is the worst sin and thus heterosexuals come cross as condemning. Probably best to say ‘I for one think the bible is anti-homosexualtiy, but it is also anti-anger and I’m a pretty angry bloke’ and get the whole ethics issue back to the forgiveness issue.

    I would not be surprised if the gay lobby want the blessing of the straight lobby in some strange way.

  5. Say not the struggle naught availeth, David.
    A lot of people are helped by hearing the issues set out so clearly, and a lot of people are praying for you to be given continued boldness to speak the truth, grateful for your courageous stand.

    That’s courageous as in real, actual courage, not the kind it takes for someone like La Streep to stand up and say all the things her audience wants to hear.

  6. Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of Henry VIII, was pretty marginalised. For sticking to his ‘outdated’ views concerning Christianity and not embracing the novel idea that a monarch could be heard of a Church, he was first put in the Tower of London and then subjected to a rigged court and finally had his head chopped off. It’s not likely nowadays that anyone would have their head chopped off for sticking to their religious views, at least in this country, although lesser penalties may well be imposed.
    As the Duke of Norfolk said in ‘A Man for All Seasons’, “We’ve all given in. Why must you stand out? Goddamit man, it’s …. disproportionate.” (See it on YouTube.)
    But standing out and being ‘disproportionate’ is what we are sometimes asked to do.

  7. David it must be tiring but you should take heart from the unheard thousands that follow the bible and who all respect and honour your commitment to the one true word

  8. At times our ministry in “the world”, can cause weariness, but must never lose heart.

    2 Corinthians 4 v 1-6

  9. I was really inspired & encouraged by your contribution on unbelievable.Your rock-like solidity & clarity was so refreshing. Never apologise or hesitate to proclaim Godliness especially amongst charlatans. You have a big calling ahead brother.

  10. David,
    This Aussie reads your articles for exactly the same reason as John M states. As the paint advert. says,”Keep on keeping on!”

  11. Almost as soon as I started listening to the podcast, I similarly felt a spiritual heaviness. So I don’t find your comments here very surprising. My own evaluation expands upon your first bullet point:

    Perhaps in order not to lose a large proportion of its audience and income, much Christian media takes no clear stance on the subject of same-sex couplings. This sends out the message that Christians are simply in disagreement on whether God delights in it or detests the like.

    The desire for same-sex sexual relations pictured in Sodom & Gomorrah has much to say in how we should relate to those who disagree on this topic. The passage [Genesis 19] is sometimes set aside because it is argued that Ezekiel tells us what the sin of S&G is. Actually, Ezekiel doesn’t – and neither does Jude when that letter uses S&G as a picture of sexual sin. Both Ezekiel and Jude are merely defining a particular area of sin which is important to their later application of the S&G account. They are not seeking to set limits on what the original was about. So what WAS the original account about?…

    When Genesis 19’s picture is utilised in Isaiah 1 and Romans 1, it is to describe people who reject God’s commands. This interpretation aligns with the intended meaning of the author/redactor of Genesis: Those who seek to have sexual relationships which are not in line with the first command to God to his freshly made ‘male and female’ humanity [Genesis 1:28] become a picture of the utter rejection of God’s commands. The sin of Sodom is any and all disobedience to the commands of God. This picture of same-sex couplings is used subsequently in both Old and New Testament as a picture of that ‘obvious disobedience’. To present this picture as one of a debatable ‘grey area’ is just as wrong as presenting it as a picture of something in which God delights.

    So I’d encourage avoidance of situations like the particular discussion you ended up in, in which ones input looks like it supports the notion that this matter is a secondary issue, a matter of opinion or interpretation. I would encourage avoidance of situations that may look like they view somebody as a ‘teacher’ when they are evidently a ‘false teacher’ on this subject. But, on the other hand, I would encourage you to keep speaking truth on this subject.

    One point I’d like to end with on S&G is that the picture of disobedience is of seeking to have relationships which counter the one man one woman marriage relationship. Along with sexual relationships, this would include all relationships which act as alternative forms of ‘marriage’, such as when two people live together as an exclusive couple even if avoiding sex. That’s why I term them ‘same sex couplings’.

    While many seek not to show division, I believe this is a time when people actually need to see the ‘church’ divided- so that the true picture of obedience to God can be seen in contrast to disobedience.

  12. David, it’s not mere words that depress the spirit and soul, but the ‘spirit’ behind them. The Pharisee knew and quoted scripture, do not be surprised the liberal Christian makes biblical claims. Pin them down to their narrative, and the consequences of it.
    If there is no homosexual sin, there is no heterosexual sin, if there is no sin, there is no need for redemption or forgiveness. Christ died for naught. For there is nothing wrong with us! Alas! Why do liberals call themselves Christians? He who is not sick is in no need of a physician.
    I suggest the liberal declares how a sinner can be saved, when they have no sin to confess! If homosexual sex is not sin, nor is adultery, nor is fornication, nor is covetousness, nor is idolatory. And sin the liberal declares, we can just say it is not sin, it’s out dated, old fashioned, Victorian era.
    But then, why do people become Christian? They have not been saved of anything!

  13. You did as well as you could, David. You did seem weary. Jonathan was articulate and skilful in communicating the ideas of progressive Christianity. The concepts came thick and fast from him and you would have to have been Churchillian to counter them in the time-space you were allowed. Going back over them here has been helpful. Thanks.

  14. Please, please keep being bold for Biblical truth. We need to pray more for you. I can understand your weariness in the battle. God bless and strengthen you.

  15. “In todays society it costs the Chalkes and Bartleys of this world nothing to uphold the values of that society and morph them with Christianity.“ This is such a great statement. Its easy to plant your feet squarely on the presently established social justice and say “I will not be moved”. Its much more difficult to actually follow Christ.

  16. I occasionally dip into the Flea, finding it interesting, challenging and above all Biblical. My reflection on the above is that for a while in Western culture it has cost us relatively little to stand for the truth. That time is passing. This is not North Korea or Northern Nigeria (yet). But many of us are increasingly constrained as to the views we can express at work, and perhaps in cafés and pubs. We may soon have to decide what comes first. Jobs/careers (with implications for supporting our families) or standing on and by Scripture. Social acceptibility vs clear Biblical witness. Perhaps the time for arguing for Scripture is passing and we face returning to yalin our stand, attesting to the faith once delivered, and then accepting the unpleasant consequences that accrue in this life.

  17. Continue on David. Thank you for your clear Biblical analysis in the public square. May God continue to strengthen you.

  18. Bartley, near the beginning, set out with a very broad brush sweeping stroke in a matter of fact way that Christianity has changed it’s views down the years, giving an example of slavery among others.
    So while it was set as a discussion not fixed on sexuality, almost immediately it went on to discuss Farron and sexuality.
    Bartley, “my views are as biblical as his” (Farron) that is Bartley’s view that gay sex isn’t a sin.
    He then links it (Farron’s view) with general massive oppression by Christians, down the years.
    And to have a view that gay sex is a sin would prevent membership of the Green Party. To link this with what happened in the Evangelical Alliance is indirectly to put the Green Party into the realm of a faith party rather than a political party, so that to subscribe to the views of the Green Party on everything but sex would exclude, though they may have the right to say it.
    So it became circular, to return to sexuality, again linking it to, equate with, oppression (such as slavery and imperialism) and what he implied was Christendom that has passed on
    You held your own well.
    But the tactic used by Bartley was familar and brooked no counter within the fleeting time time constraints. This is a more than full topic in itself.
    In reallity it is setting up the bilble as being opposed to or out of kilter with the sexual mores of today, and we know better now.
    And just to give an intial response to some of this talk of “oppression” this may help from Peter J Williams:
    Sex and Gender – Peter J Williams, Principal Tyndale House, Cambridge

    Slavery and the Bible and Sex Gender

    There are two separate talks here, from a series of 5 : 1 Slavery 2 Sex Gender, but they are linked as the category of slavery is frequently used to undermine scripture on gender and marriage.

    Some (one) may find the notes of value from the talk by Peter Williams, Principal, Tyndale House from his series of talks at Keswick Convention 2017. They are mostly from the hand-out, with some of my scribbled notes. It is realised that this doesn’t fit into the category of comments, and is lengthy.

    PART 1
    1 The problem formally laid out Intro: The contention is that just as the Bible got it wrong about slavery and Christians and the Bible are getting it wrong today about sex(uality) and gender. Atheist Sam Harris and many in the church use this argument to support cultural sexual and gender mores of today. Harris quotes Leviticus 26 from the RSV, which uses words, buy, property, slaves, possession. That is, he sets up the bible as against morality . • Bible translations talk of slaves • In the OT no objection is made to having slaves • In the NT Christians are not commanded to free their slaves and slaves are told to submit • Therefore biblical texts approve of slavery • We know that slavery is wrong • Therefore biblical texts approve of something that is wrong BUT The use of the word “slave” has increased in translations: KJV used x2 NKJV used x46 NIV used x130 German Luther Bibel used x 0; revised Luther Bibel 1984 used x70 Spanish 1909 used x4; 1960 used x25; 1995 used x65
    After World War 2 society became less hierarchical and terms Master and Servant became archaic so the word slave was substituted (Comment by Geoff – in my study of a law degree the law relating to employment was known as law of Master and Servant)
    The Hebrew word “eved” can be translated “servant” or “slave”. It is not inherently negative. It is related to work, subservient.
    Israelites are “servants of the King. Everyone is a servant of the King. There is no class of “free” people. Importantly, all of this was before the North Atlantic Slave Trade
    OT culture , institutions based on debt servitude/slavery . Person B pledged future work to person C for food now and food in the future , or sell themselves , a future leasing of work.
    BUT this was a system of sub- ownership where EVERYTHING and EVERYONE BELONGED TO GOD. So the “Sub-Owner” was accountable to God and to treat as God would.
    JOB 31 Pre – Mosaic LAW appeals to unity of the human race UNDER GOD.
    In the OT patriarchal system: • work as herdsmen, domestic servants • However servants. could inherit (Genesis 15:3 – Eliezer of Damascus) children of Bilhah and Zilpah • Were trusted to travel with valuables (Genesis 24) and weapons Genesis 14:14 • No approved “selling” of people have to look after runaways (Deuteronomy 23:15-16
    The LAW Given to Moses was because of the HARDNESS Of HEART of the people, to regulate (Matthew 19:8.) Some things were allowed but not approved Have to go back to the beginning for the ideal . There was no servitude until Genesis 9. The Law of Moses is to be read in that light. The whole OT system is in contrast to all other empire systems throughout that period .
    2 New Testament does not endorse slavery • Christians could not change the legal systems • Slaves who rebelled would be executed under those systems • Under Rome there were limits emancipation of slaves and could rarely become a citizen • command to love others as Christ loved us • brotherhood, family of all believes. Kissing, holy kiss – you only kiss family, Jew and Gentile, master with servant and no hierarchy of believers (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1; Philemon15 • Jesus is LORD, Master, we are His servants slaves, with all gospel freedom and inheritance from Him. There IS only ONE worthy to own you.
    All of this is set against the backdrop, the underlying truth that GOD OWNS EVERYBODY,is Sovereign.
    There are 2 main classes of humanity 1 Those who gladly come under God’s ownership 2 Those who contest, rebel, ignore God’s ownership

    PART 2
    Sex Gender Sexuality Peter J Williams , Principal, Tyndale House Cambridge

    Some Notes posted on Alastair Robert’s site last year. Not sure whether any of the points have been considered in this post.

    You say (Alastair Roberts “…God’s intimate claim on each of . our bodies, manifested in the assurance of future resurrection”.

    Geoff :This is key. It is orthodoxy. It is thinking biblically. It is “sola scriptura” . It is beyond expansion, scripturally irrefutable.

    1 It was a pivotal point around which Peter J Williams, Principal, Tyndale House, Cambridge, built his talks at this months Keswick Convention 2017, under the overall heading “Answering Moral Objections to the Scriptures.”

    2 “Isn’t the bible sexist and Homophobic” was one talk.
    In it he set out
    2.1 two different views of men and women (mostly from his handout and my scribbled notes}
    a) Secular materialist view: mere chemicals; value is socially relative, is assigned to you; different only in reproduction
    b) Christian view: equal and of infinite value (in God’s image)divinely created variety
    Then he considered
    2.2“Inventing Sex”
    He displayed slides constructed from a search of Google Books using the Ngram viewer.
    The word “sex is rare
    “Gender “, use of as a category rockets from 1970’s
    “homophobia” – there is revealed a huge recent change in language
    a)Sex is a recently socially constructed category, grouping diverse physical actions and separating these actions from relational and social contexts in order to create a commodity,. The sex experience is the key thing. It stands alone, separate and apart from covenant and consequences. It become a self fulfilling function.
    b) Once “sex” (as an activity is invented you can invent sexual identity (according to activity) c)Once “gender” and “sex” (identity) are distinguished you can invent , make-up, imagine, gender identity
    d) Once “sexual identity” and “gender identity” are imagined you can make others recognise them
    The word gender has replaced the grammar male and female.
    The word transgender has replaced the word transexual (Ngram slide)

    3 Gender studies is a recent social construct. It imposes a lot. “Heteronormative” is being indoctrinated, imposed on other people. no binary male and female
    THEREFORE, THERE IS A NEED TO THINK BIBLICALLY, as there are no agreed neutral categories . To have a proper dialogue with the secular We NEED TO START FROM A SET OF Christian categories, which contradict secularism.

    That is we NEED TO THINK BIBLICALLY. (Geoff- Is this not “sola scriptura” in application ,that is , Orthodoxy??
    3.1 God’s Good Character and OWNERSHIP OF US.
    Two main categories of humans
    a) Those who contest or ignore it
    b) Those who want and welcome God’s ownership

    God owns all of us, so it not merely a disagreement on sexual activity, or what our bodies are. He decides how we should use them.
    God the Owner may give an identity (male or female) which it is wrong to change
    Some activities are forbidden by the Owner.
    Attraction and visual appreciation of own sex does not create identity. It may lead to temptation to activity forbidden by owner.
    Marriage involves giving sub-ownership, under God to someone else.
    There is only ONE worthy to own, to posses us. He who gave up everything for us Jesus Christ.

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