Self Criticism


Let me start with the conclusion. All Christians have a solemn and moral duty to engage in self criticism, to those who oppose our faith, and our forms of church. No matter how much we believe we are right, and like the beliefs and expressions we hold. For to long we have been unable to criticize ourselves, taking ourselves too seriously.

Whether involved in traditional forms of church, or engaged in new ones. Do we regularly stand back and take a critical look at ourselves, or do we continue to form ourselves our of the critique of others. And this critique is undertaken in dialogue with people who are other than us, outside of what we believe and do, to help us escape the endless journey of self reference.

To critique what I believe, and what I do, does not mean to give up my beliefs, and position. I'm convinced that one of the sign of an openness to self critique, is can we laugh at and lampoon ourselves.

Can there be a moral critique of Christianity?

Lots of people would say NO!: and regard this questioning as subversive and impossible, for some of the following reasons:

• 1. Christianity is faith, not ethics, and behaviour.

• 2. Christianity is a developing tradition, a long living tradition. What was justice in 1st century Palestine isn’t justice for Augustine and isn’t the same for us today. It’s a moving and organic thing and there is therefore no objective point of reference.

• 3. Christianity is necessarily morally diverse, a story out of which pluriform values emerge, even true in scripture with 4 gospels etc…there is no one image of Jesus and Christianity. Christianity has a variety of moral positions there is no one moral version of Christianity, to measure.

• 4. There is no independent vantage point, from which we can see to measure and make this assessment.

• 5. Jesus Christ’s teaching on Ethics are ambiguous. Matthew 5 to 7, are these duties, maxims, ideals, rules? It’s a combination of very extraordinary sayings of different types. Jesus is not a Law giver, and is ambiguous in that sense. The case for saying YES!

• 1. Christianity is a Moral Revelation. Torah = Jesus as embodiment of God’s Moral Will. Jesus is not a proposition, but a person, and embodiment.

• 2. Consistency & Credibility. There is the gap between what Christianity says it aspires to and what it does.

• 3. The Christian Church provides many of the categories of judgement e.g. Justice. It is hoisted on it’s own petard.


There is an absolute necessity for theological self criticism. How can we offer faith as an option unless we have undertaken the solemn duty to explore the opposition to it. There is an internal moral basis for criticism, ‘the paradigm of inclusive moral generosity disclosed in the life of Jesus Christ?’. Jesus championed those outside the normal boundaries of social concern and champions them.

Some last thoughts:

• Test of authenticity: Suffering and injustice are incompatible with the Holy Spirit. We should have known that torturing people over their faith could not have been the new life in the spirit in the crusades etc.

• Churches are divide between ‘conservatives and progressives’ on this issue or self critique.

• Maybe the answer is given in the triune God, God is source of past and the present.

• The truth is given in the present as the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth, and new truth is not a betrayal of the truth form the past, and this is a work of interpretation, that makes Christian ethics demanding.