Dr Aaron Edwards was recently dismissed from Cliff College – the Methodist Bible college where he worked as a lecturer – after pro-LGBT advocates attacked him over his views on sexuality. Here he explains why his sacking should be a concern for all Christians
I was recently dismissed for misconduct by Cliff College, an evangelical Methodist Bible college where I had worked as a lecturer and programme lead for seven years. The misconduct referred to my now-infamous tweet: “Homosexuality is invading the Church. Evangelicals no longer see the severity of this b/c they’re busy apologising for their apparently barbaric homophobia, whether or not it’s true. This *is* a ‘Gospel issue’, by the way. If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour”.
A Twitterstorm quickly ensued. Aggressively pro-LGBT advocates attacked me as homophobic and hateful, pressurising the college to sack me. The college swiftly and publically denounced my tweet as “inappropriate” and “unacceptable”. They later asked me to remove it. When I said I couldn’t do that in good conscience, I was suspended and later dismissed for “bringing the college into disrepute”.
There are some Christian beliefs that Christians are no longer allowed to express, not even to other Christians
Whilst my situation remains difficult for me and my family, it is also a microcosm of the greater difficulties awaiting other Christians in the post-Christian West. The growing expectation is that we should keep quiet about our beliefs, especially if they may offend others. Many well-meaning evangelicals, who simply saw my tweet as clumsy or unwise, do not truly understand the ideological moment we are in. When religious convictions remain unexpressed and unapplied for too long, they erode. This often happens gradually and imperceptibly.
Rod Dreher’s excellent book, Live Not By Lies (Sentinel), interviews Christians who suffered under Soviet communism and who now see similar totalitarian patterns in Western progressivism. One woman, a Soviet-born émigré now teaching at a US university, said: “You have no idea what completely normal things you do today, or say today, will be used against you to destroy you. This is what people in the Soviet Union saw. We know how this works.”
Just yesterday, I received a message from a pastor in Eastern Europe who heard about my situation. He said: “I’m a Romanian that has lived under communism and I see it 1,000 times worse now in the ‘free’ country.” Western Christians should take note of such warnings.
I have lost count of the many hundreds of Christians contacting me from around the world recently, telling me how encouraged they are that someone has finally spoken out boldly on this issue. This indicates just how suppressed many Christians have felt by the encroaching LGBT+ ideology within the world and the failure of Christian leaders to challenge it in the Church.
Western progressive ideals of inclusivity no longer include many Christian beliefs. Indeed, the vociferous responses to my tweet demonstrate the problem my tweet was highlighting. There are some Christian beliefs that Christians are no longer allowed to express, not even to other Christians.
Silent on sin
Much of the evangelical tut-tutting over my tweet exemplifies the gulf that now exists between what many Christians claim to believe about the Bible and what they’re actually willing to say about it publically. Indeed, I often wonder whether many Western evangelicals think there was an eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not use inappropriate tone.
We must always be wise about what we say. But wise speech does not always mean soft speech. Sometimes, to be wise is to be bold. Our desire to speak more softly than the Biblical authors often stems more from a desire to protect our ever-cancellable reputations than a desire to love our neighbours truly and fiercely. We’ve been pressured into believing it is unloving to speak strongly about sin. It’s quite the opposite: if we’re not clear with unbelievers about sin’s severity, we undermine the very gospel that could save them. Sometimes “inappropriate tone” is the most appropriate tone.
I’ve never heard anyone in the West suffering persecution for saying: “Jesus loves you”. The trouble usually starts when you specify how Jesus loves us, by not wanting us to remain in our sin. This is love, even if it may cause a person to think you hate them. As Jesus himself said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).
Evangelicals often try to “sell” Jesus to the world, dressing-up the gospel in the nicest possible terms. But Jesus is not for sale. In fact, he often went out of his way to put people off, that they might truly know what it means to follow him.
Just weeks before my dismissal, I preached at the Cliff College chapel on Colossians 2, about not being “deluded” or “taken captive” by fine-sounding ideologies but rather being “rooted and built up” in Christ. I talked about building your house upon the rock of God’s word, even when people malign you for it.
Strangely, now that Christian free speech is increasingly threatened, the Western Church has more opportunity to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). But we must face the consequences of being that light – darkness does not like to be “exposed” (Eph. 5:11). As more Christians speak out, more must be prepared to lose their jobs – and worse. Jesus never promised the storm would be easy, but he did promise our house would stand at the end of it.
And stand it will, whatever anyone tells you on Twitter.