Sunday, July 29, 2007

Not In God's Name (Crafton)

by the Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (I Corinthians 8:9)

We can do whatever we want and God will still love us. Nothing we do can set us outside that love. That's true. But it's still not a good idea just to do whatever you feel like doing at any given moment, and most of us have figured that out by the time we're halfway through our teens. We cause ourselves untold grief until we get that through our heads.

And we can hurt other people, too. I am free to do whatever I want. But not everything I want to do is a good idea. I have limits. I'll suffer if I don't observe them. And another thing: I might hurt someone else by my example. He might see me behaving irresponsibly and figure it's fine – if I can do it, he can, too. Wonderful – now both of us must suffer unnecessarily, reaping consequences we might have predicted and could have avoided.

Does this apply to the current impasse in the Anglican Communion? Do we have an obligation to maintain an institutionalized cruelty to fellow Anglicans of minority sexual orientations because others have not been able to move in the direction of recognizing this cruelty as the sin it is? I don't think so. It is one thing to join another in his weakness and quite another to join him in his sin. A hundred years from now, probably less, hatred and persecution of homosexuals will look exactly as chattel slavery looks to us now. People will be unable to understand how we could have called ourselves Christians and also reject them. What is done today with scriptural texts condemning same-sex love will look like what was done in slaveholding days with the many biblical texts condoning slavery in both the Hebrew scriptures and our own. The sooner we leave this unlovely behavior behind, the better for all of us.

Arrogant? Culturally insensitive? I don't think so. I must love and respect and pray for my brothers and sisters, but I can't help them marginalize or injure anyone in God's name.

About the Author: Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director and author. She was rector of St. Clement's Church in Manhattan's Theatre district. She was also a chaplain on the waterfront of New York, and served both historic Trinity Church, Wall Street and St. John's Church in Greenwich Village. She was a chaplain at Ground Zero during the recovery effort after the WTC bombing. She writes and gardens at The Geranium Farm.

31 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara Cawthorne Crafton said: .... Does this apply to the current impasse in the Anglican Communion? Do we have an obligation to maintain an institutionalized cruelty to fellow Anglicans of minority sexual orientations because others have not been able to move in the direction of recognizing this cruelty as the sin it is? I don't think so.

In what respect is it kind to tell people to continue to act in ways which God has told us are sinful? If one does not see their sin, they cannot repent of that sin. It is not cruelty to tell people that their actions are sinful. It is love. I am not saying that all who oppose homosexual acts do so out of love, but many Christians do so out of love.



Barbara Cawthorne Crafton said: .... A hundred years from now, probably less, hatred and persecution of homosexuals will look exactly as chattel slavery looks to us now.

A hundred years from now, people will look back and ask how a great movement became hostage to the heresy of Pelagius. It will ask how a whole generation could have been so cowardly in the face of open and non-repentant sin. I think they will trace it back to those who where not willing to fight for their country, and created a movement to hide their cowardliness. To confront sin, is not easy. Comforting people is not easy, when they want to engage in what God has said they should not. Nevertheless, it is not to care for people to tell them a lie.

Scott+

7/29/2007 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott+, I love the two postings that you so object to. I know that you will never agree with me or the writers of "not about sex, and "not in god's name". They express what many believe in a wonderful and though full way...I won't say you are wrong because you can't be wrong in your belief....but many disagree with you. Be careful of the narrow door.

7/29/2007 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Scripture and Tradition say by way of using reason, the way is narrow, I take the narrow way.

Scott+

7/29/2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Thomas B. Woodward said...

Scott, the witness of Jesus to Scripture and Tradition was subject both to the rule of a Divine love and inclusivity. He spent most of his time with people who had been rejected by the religious leaders of his time. Both Scripture and Tradition have been used to subjugate Blacks, Women, and even Christian minorities.

This is not about Pelagianism, it is about relying on Paul's own personal morality in discerning the will of God rather than the actions of Jesus Christ,whom we call the Word of God.
Thomas B. Woodward

7/29/2007 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott+ and others, please spend some time telling your congregation that if they have more than two or three rooms per family and more than a bicycle per family for transportation, they are wealthy, and ought to be giving more generously to world development goals. We (90%+ of TEC members) are all sinners that way. We can't even ensure a safe education for our neighbors' kids.

NancyP

7/30/2007 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas B. Woodward said... Scott, the witness of Jesus to Scripture and Tradition was subject both to the rule of a Divine love and inclusivity. He spent most of his time with people who had been rejected by the religious leaders of his time. Both Scripture and Tradition have been used to subjugate Blacks, Women, and even Christian minorities.

God loves all his creatures. Jesus’ ministry on earth did have a good deal of time with those who were outcast. The difference was that the ministry was to change people, where as what I see today is the Episcopal Church not doing the changing part. Jesus told the woman who was about to be stoned to go and sin no more.

There is Divine love and there is Divine justice. Both exist and both are factors in the present decision. One can not be used to the exclusion of the other.

There is no rule of inclusivity in the sense I think you mean it. Jesus came to people as they were. People came to Jesus as they were. Jesus changed people. The Church is to be a hospital for sinners, not a place for sin to go uncheck.

In my studies, before the later part of the last century, I have not seen the word inclusivity used as a theological term except, I think in some Universalist writing. Universalism to me is a form or derivative of Pelagianism. It was a movement where people could not understand how a loving God could fail to save one of his creations. This is clearly the application of a personal morality or a personal view of social justice to doctrine.

If by inclusivity you were to mean, inclusivity in welcome, I would agree. However, inclusivity in welcome is not to ignore a persons sickness (sin).

This is a comment not a posting, so I will not attempt to figure out what you mean by subjugation sentence. I am not going to comment on past problems at this time. Past improper appeals to scripture are not my concern.

Thomas B. Woodward said... This is not about Pelagianism, it is about relying on Paul's own personal morality in discerning the will of God rather than the actions of Jesus Christ,whom we call the Word of God.

I see no question that the Old Testament call homosexual acts sin. Jesus said nothing to change that in anyway. To say that this changed would be much akin to Marcionism. God is the same, yesterday, today, and will be forever.

Also, I must reject the idea that we are talking about Saint Paul’s personal morality. If this were not the mind of the Church, then they would not make the writing part of Holy Scripture.

Your in Christ,
Scott+

7/30/2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger DafKesher said...

Scott -
If you were Jewish, i'd understand your appeal to the OT (not agree, neccesarily, but understand). But you're not. So what difference is there between sleeping with a menstruant and sleeping with a man, Leviticus-18-wise? Why do christians obviously do one, and you won't let them do the other?

7/30/2007 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott and others are rehashing the same old same old. Yet they forget about Peter's dream in Acts and the subsequent comments by him that he is not to call profane what God has created. Of course we can all find dozens of passages of Scripture that will support a myriad of positions. However, when taken as a body and taken in the context of the time of their writing and the context of the larger story of which they are a part, we see very different pictures of what we are being taught. Bottom line: The Bible is still not a "handbook for human beings" or an "instructional manual." It is the witness of God's people to a variety of events told in ways that they understood. We can not take them literally...it's impossible to do so. By extension we should not be taking some literally either, because we then become dishonest with the others.

There is much too learn. Barbara has stated it well and we would do ourselves well to read mark, learn and inwardly digest it.

And by the way, what is this business of hiding behind "anonymous"? If we don't have the strength of conviction to own what we say, I have to ask how valuable it really is.

Bruce Garner
Atlanta
Member, Executive Council

7/30/2007 4:19 PM  
Blogger Chip Johnson+, cj said...

Uhoh!

"We can do whatever we want and God will still love us. Nothing we do can set us outside that love. That's true."

Oops! That's not the way I read the Word. True enough, Paul writes that 'nothing can separate me from the love of God'... however, he, Paul, in that setting, does not account for the fact that we, as individuals, have the power...yes, the POWER...within ourselves to 'dis' God and say, 'We do not need nor want you in our lives anymore!'

The problems that have arisen between us all of late stem from this lost concept...that WE can leave God...and He won't stop us! He will patiently wait for us to come to our senses, remember the story in Luke from several months ago about the Prodigal? Well, God waits. He waits for us to come to our senses, to recognize the fact that WE have sinned and cut ourselves off from his Love, and repent...turn from our wicked ways...His words, not mine, and come back to Him, where He promises to take us in again, as if we had never sinned!

But NOT that "We can do whatever we want and God will still love us. Nothing we do can set us outside that love."

When we take the presumption to leave God and His provision, we have ourselves to blame...no one else... and it is ALWAYS related to our sin against His Word.


Kyrie eleison.
Chip Johnson+
sdanglican.blogspot.com

7/30/2007 4:24 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

As a layperson, I have to say it gets increasingly discouraging to continue to come across clergy like Scott+ and Chip+ who pervert the Gospel, pitting individual scriptures against the Word of God.

It is amusing, however, to see Scott accusing Barbara Crafton of Pelagianism, when it's actually he and Chip who find salvation only follows our "good deeds," rather than being wholly due to God's grace -- as Sts. Augustine and Jerome said in refutation of Pelagius, and as Barbara is saying here.

And, yes, Jesus told the woman who was about to be stoned to go and sin no more -- after he had very pointedly made it clear that no one else had any religious or other authority to judge her behavior. Sin is real, but by Jesus' example, it doesn't occur in violating scriptural dictums, it comes in trying to refuse others and ourselves the love of God.

7/30/2007 5:37 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

There's much upon which to comment here. I must start by disagreeing most strongly (and most simply) with Chip Johnson. He takes exception to Crafton's three opening sentences, where she begins: "We can do whatever we want and God will still love us. Nothing we do can set us outside that love. That's true." Chip responds: "Oops! That's not the way I read the Word."

Then you're reading a different Bible than I am, Chip. Everything in Scripture tells me God loves us with a fierce, everlasting love no matter what. (In fact, I read somewhere that God is love.) Which is why our sin or -- worse yet -- rejection of God must break God's great heart so grievously. Do you think God quit loving Adam and Eve, even as he sent them out of the garden? As I read my Bible, Jesus even loved those who crucified him – those who rejected God incarnate – when he prayed for their forgiveness, pitying the fact that "they know not what they do."

Does God's love also mean that God wants to turn from our sin? Absolutely yes!!

And here's the funny part: That's exactly the point Crafton makes quite directly in her fourth sentence: "But it's still not a good idea just to do whatever you feel like doing . . . ." The fundamental message in her essay is that God will love us no matter what and that we must not deal profligately with that love, must not take that love for granted, but should seek to conform our wills and our actions with God's own.

But alas! Why I am not surprised that someone would cite "verses 1-3" of Crafton's essay and totally ignore "verse 4"? Could it be that someone is cherry-picking the author's text for his own purposes without looking at the whole text? Forfend the thought!

7/30/2007 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend much more learned than I advises that: "There are 613 Jewish mitzvot -- which of those and which Christian laws and morals are we supposed to follow?"

Again, picking and choosing misses the bigger picture: We are saved by grace not by works. Works may demonstrate in some ways what we have learned about the grace which saves us but works themselves are not the source of our salvation.

Bruce Garner

7/30/2007 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A reading of the comments here strongly suggest that Pelagianism is alive and well here. The Old Testament is clear, Saint Paul makes it clear, and the Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church makes it clear, homosexual acts are sin. The willingness to change doctrine to meet current social thinking is Pelagianism, pure and simple.

It is not my intent to engage in long debate. I will not fall into the trap of taking a conversation, where the conclusion is clear, into more and more detail about the underlying logic. Discussions about what Old Testament passages are applicable to Christians do not add to this debate. The New Testament is clear that the homosexual acts are sin.

What is most discouraging is that this debate is keeping the love of Christ from those with homosexual proclivities. Above it was said same old same old. To which I answer, same new, same new. In this case the old is correct and the new is wrong.

Yours in Christ,
Scott+

7/31/2007 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Pelagianism was about a denial of human fallenness, and then falling into the trap of "works righteousness."

I don't get it.

Plus, how can a Christian believer step outside the love of God? Doesn't TEC affirm the doctrine of "eternal security," the perseverance of the saints?

Can someone explain? :(

Grace.

7/31/2007 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Prior Aelred said...

I'd say it's a slam dunk for what derek said -- accusing your opponents of your own failings is a daring but apparently most effective ploy!

8/01/2007 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius. It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature (which, being created from God, was divine), and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid.

When it is said that something is good, because it is a natural attraction, this is a Pelagianist statement. In short this is what is said when overriding Holy Scripture to say that homosexual acts are not sin. This is the main trust of the claim of Pelagianism, which I have made. I am not making a claim of denial of original sin.

However and moreover, there is the root of the Pelagianism. Which is what I was thinking about when posting in this thread. Pelagius began with a notion of justice that he inherited from his culture. He brought this notion to Scripture and it blinded him to several important biblical notions. This is the same error that Doctor Schori, much of the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the United States, and most of the posters here, are making. They are making the substitution of the contemporary cultures idea of justice for the Christian ideas of sin and forgiveness.

Above it was said “Yet they forget about Peter's dream in Acts and the subsequent comments by him that he is not to call profane what God has created.” Where as Scripture says "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" or “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. It does not say that which is natural is good. The extension of this passage to in someway negate that Holy Scriptures call homosexual acts sin, is to fall into the same trap as did Pelagius, that being taking politically correct ideas of morals and justice and ignoring the whole of Holy Scripture.

I do not spent much time in writing comments especially when they are liberal web sites. So please understand that what I write here is more or less a brain dump and not much more. On the topic of Pelagianism, I have written a short paper Dr Schori and Pelagianism feel free to read and comment.

Scott+

URL = http://ecusa.wordpress.com/2006/12/30/dr-schori-and-pelagianism/#more-16

8/01/2007 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Scott+

I understand more now where you're at. I don't feel either that we should ignore the witness of Scripture, and have our thinking blindly shaped by the culture of the time. This is certainly not where I'm coming from, anyway. I think that the Scripture informed by reason and tradition is the authority of the faith and practice of the church.

But, I feel that a very strong argument can be made, that the Scripture is not really addressing the issue of sexual orientation, or committed, loving partnerships among gay people who love one another, and who love the Lord.

I realize that Biblical scholars, and equally sincere, committed Christians may disagree. But, I think it's a mistake to think that all people in the church who are GLBT affirming are rebellious, have bowed to the culture, or have deliberately ignored and rejected the word of God.

I can share with you, anyway, that this is not where I'm at, and I totally affirm all the creeds and confessions of the Christian church.

God bless, Scott+. (Also, even though we don't agree, I think it's awesome that you're here listening and sharing your thinking with everyone.)

Grace.

8/01/2007 2:27 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Pot text-messaging to the kettle: "ur blak!" Pelagius taught that we can choose Good by the exercise of free will and rational thought, and that God's grace is merely an aid to help individuals turn to him. And no one in this argument has been making that claim. Nor, in fact, does anyone claim that homosexuality is "good" -- although this seems to be the central point of Scott's argument, positing a Manichaean view: that whatever isn't sin must be "good" or in claiming that others are equating "natural" with "good." When, in fact, sexual orientation, whether gay or straight, is neither good nor bad, but neutral. Whatever sin surrounds it occurs in how it is practiced, not whether it is practiced.

However, Paul himself states his opposition to (what we have misinterpreted as) "homosexuality" in terms of its "unnatural" nature. He also says that these unnatural lusts were the result of "their" (contemporaneous Gentiles) worshipping idols and created things, rather than God the Creator. He does not address at all what we now know about human sexuality, nor especially those Christians who are homosexual who seek to serve the living God in their lives, including in their relationships. While in the secular/cultural realm, many people may be arguing from a perspective of what is "just" or "politically correct" -- and although one can certainly find common cause with those of us in Christ who are seeking to "do justice" and "love mercy" on this issue -- that is not what those in the church are arguing, much as talk-radio Christians would like it to be.

In the end, however, the discussion on these grounds can only go so far before it reaches a seeming impasse. The literalists contend that "Scripture says this," while the majority of the Episcopal Church is saying, "The Gospel is this." As long as the Bible idolators -- and that's what I think this is, given the ultimate appeal they make to particular Scripture verses -- continue to use proof-texting to dilute and subvert the Good News of God in Christ, I'm not sure how we are to get past this chasm.

8/01/2007 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He also says that these unnatural lusts were the result of "their" (contemporaneous Gentiles) worshipping idols and created things, rather than God the Creator."
Derek, he does not say that at all. He says that people's unrighteousness, rebellion against God and suppression of the truth caused God to give them over to vile affections, and expressed itself in idolatry among other things. In any case, people still can be said to practice idolatry today. Are you seriously suggesting that in order for Romans 1 to apply, one would have to prostrate oneself before a statue? People who have elevated their lusts to be the most important thing in their lives, above God's holiness, *have* changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, as much as any earth worshipping wiccan or greedy miser has made such an idol.

"He does not address at all what we now know about human sexuality"
You are fabricating an irrelevant distinction not found in the text in order to evade the text. Could a sniper today say the commandment not to murder does not apply to him since when Exodus was written they didn't have guns? What relevant detail do we know today that Paul did not take into account? He knew we are sinners by nature, and that that fact doesn't excuse sin. There is probably a genetic factor in every sin that an individual is predisposed towards, but to define away sin on this basis is immature and self indulgent. My guess is that if Paul were confronted with genetics, his reaction would be, "Yeah, so?"(read Romans 7).

I do agree about the Pelagian stuff, I'm not sure what that's all about- I think he meant antinomianism, which the article does not support. Although it does seem to support a pragmatic approach to behavior, rather than a moral one, which is troubling.

1 more point- "Scripture says" vs "Gospel is" is a false dichotomy. How do you know what the Gospel is without scripture? If "Gospel" is purely a subjective feeling and Paul was a sometimes inspired author (but we can't say definitively when), why bother with Christianity at all?

8/02/2007 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1 more note - to any who is interested, Reformed Baptist pastor Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega ministries debated Episcopal revionist +John Shelby Spong on this topic last October - I'll leave it to you to decide who won.

8/02/2007 1:37 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

Spong

8/02/2007 2:05 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

I think it was CS Lewis who observed that there is certain mentality of literalists, very much akin to the workings of a dog's mind.You point at something and he looks at your finger.

Furthermore dereck creates no false dichotomy concerning scripture vs gospel but from what I understand him to be saying is, if the "Word was made flesh" then why are you trying to turn the flesh back into a "word"?.
That seems very calvinistic of you. Does the holy catholic church consider that a heresy?

If you can only encounter Jesus in injunctions against "lust"(believe me, after lo these many years I need all the help I can get)and homosexuality and not in a self-identified and actualized gay person,,,you have utterly missed the point. and indeed why bother with Christianity at all?

8/02/2007 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek said... in fact, sexual orientation, whether gay or straight, is neither good nor bad, but neutral. Whatever sin surrounds it occurs in how it is practiced, not whether it is practiced.

I think all my comments here have said homosexual acts, if not, my mistake. Even Christ who was without sin, was tempted. A proclivity toward anything is not in itself sin.


Antinomianism was mentioned above. It is clear the Episcopal Church in the Untied States does not hold this view. It might be said they hold canon law above scripture, but not that they are lawless.

I am not saying that the problems of today are exactly the same errors as Pelagian . However, I do see some strong element of the denial of original sin in the current debate. It is masked but the denial is there.

I am saying there are elements of the heresy. I am saying the base error of Pelagian, that being taking non Christian social and moral views and making theology is being repeated.

Grace said
I realize that Biblical scholars, and equally sincere, committed Christians may disagree. But, I think it's a mistake to think that all people in the church who are GLBT affirming are rebellious, have bowed to the culture, or have deliberately ignored and rejected the word of God.


I would suggest that they are rebellious. They may have good motives but they are rebellious.

8/02/2007 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon,


I know you are sincere in thinking this, and you don't know me from, Adam. I can't speak for anyone else. But, truly, my heart is for our Lord, and His gospel. If I'm somehow rebellious, God has not revealed this to me.

I also have a very high view concerning the authority and inspiration of the Scripture. I personally feel that we should interpret the Scripture literally depending on the context, the natural sense of the text.

To me, this is truly a difference of opinion relating to the correct interpretation, and the right application of the Scripture.

Many very conservative Christian people will allow freedom of conscience in the interpretation of God's word relating to things such as divorce and remarriage, or the ordination of women.

Why does this issue seem so different, do you think?

Grace.

8/02/2007 4:23 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/02/2007 4:41 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

[My first time posting this assumed it was Scott who was the Anonymous poster above, but I don't think it was, it was someone else, so I've reposted it with that change to the first line.]

Anonymous (quoting me) said:
"He [Paul] also says that these unnatural lusts were the result of "their" (contemporaneous Gentiles) worshipping idols and created things, rather than God the Creator."
Derek, he does not say that at all. He says that people's unrighteousness, rebellion against God and suppression of the truth caused God to give them over to vile affections, and expressed itself in idolatry among other things.


What Paul said [emphasis added]: "Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. THEREFORE God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, BECAUSE they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." Clearly, the idolatry comes before the lusts here, not after -- and, most importantly, the lusts were a result of the idolatry, not the idolatry itself. I'm not making a case for lust, just pointing out that Paul doesn't equate lust with idolatry here, but sees it as a result.

In any case, people still can be said to practice idolatry today. Are you seriously suggesting that in order for Romans 1 to apply, one would have to prostrate oneself before a statue?

Oh, I see. Idolatry can take many forms, beyond that described by Paul here. But sexual expression between two people of the same gender can only ever be one thing: sinful, because that's how he describes it here? So he's not being comprehensive in the first instance, but he is being comprehensive in the second? Perhaps -- but I would say neither instance is comprehensive.

I say very clearly there can be many kinds of idolatry; I'm accusing you of it, in fact, in making an idol of the Bible and using individual verses in opposition to Jesus' two great commandments to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I don't see the context here of homosexual activity among the Gentile cultures as Paul describes them as being comprehensive for all same-gender sexual expression. I think to do so is to play games with the Bible.

You are fabricating an irrelevant distinction not found in the text in order to evade the text. Could a sniper today say the commandment not to murder does not apply to him since when Exodus was written they didn't have guns?

And I'm "fabricating an irrelevant distinction"? Wow.

I believe I've already said that I affirm the Ten Commandments every time I participate in a recitation of the Decalogue. So your example is moot. But the issue of whether homosexuality is natural or not is very relevant, given that Paul's claims about it are centered in what he consideres it unnaturalness.

Also not irrelevant is what Paul himself would have known about homosexuality, which would have been primarily in Greek, Roman, and other pagan societies: married men engaging in homosexuality on the side, pederasty and temple prostitution. To claim that Paul was not limited by his own experience in understanding what constitutes homosexuality is to accord Paul an omniscience only God can claim. Your reasoning otherwise is circular: homosexual activity is always a sin, whether its motivation is natural or not, because "the Bible says" it is. If the verses that appear to address homosexual activity are understood in the context of the time and place they were written and might lead us to believe that homosexual activity is not therefore always sinful, this is an error, becaues the Bible says that homosexual activity is a sin.

1 more point- "Scripture says" vs "Gospel is" is a false dichotomy. How do you know what the Gospel is without scripture?"

Well, I first learned the Good News before I could read, from my parents, who learned it from their parents. Similarly, the first Christians learned it from the apostles, not from texts that didn't yet exist. Christianity was a living, growing faith before the canon of New Testament scripture was established. It's supposed to be one still.

If "Gospel" is purely a subjective feeling and Paul was a sometimes inspired author (but we can't say definitively when), why bother with Christianity at all?

If the Gospel were a "purely subjective feeling," we wouldn't. But here again, you're using that Manichaean approach that if something is not A, it must therefore be "B" -- and making many more assumptions along the way. (I love C.S. Lewis, and count Mere Christianity among the major signposts in the journey of my faith, but he unfortunately engages in this kind of misuse of logic himself at times -- and compounds the error when imitators employ the same approach.) The Gospel is both objective (from God's point of view) and subjective (from my point of view). And if it isn't BOTH, then why bother with Christianity at all? Otherwise it's just a philosophy.

Regarding Paul: of course he was inspired, and of course his writings were included in the canon of the New Testament because we believe that. But to say he was inspired is not at all the same as saying that everything he wrote is applicable to all people in all situations in all times. And inspiration is not omniscience.

The Bible isn't a delicate record of God's revelation, saving acts through history, and humankind's experience of God; it's pretty robust. If one part of it becomes understood differently, it isn't as if the entire rest of it and all our faith falls apart. We have a faith once delivered to the saints -- but that must be a living faith, including revelations and insight in our own time, for us and for others. If all it does is confirm the exact details of every previous generation's revelation, then we aren't at work building God's kingdom, we're merely repointing the mortar in a mausoleum.

8/02/2007 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek, sorry about the 'anonymous' confusion.

"Also not irrelevant is what Paul himself would have known about homosexuality, which would have been primarily in Greek, Roman, and other pagan societies...
If the verses that appear to address homosexual activity are understood in the context of the time and place they were written and might lead us to believe that homosexual activity is not therefore always sinful, this is an error, becaues the Bible says that homosexual activity is a sin."

But the majority of Bible scholars would disagree (such as Gagnon). Only recently have a handful of radicals such as Virginia Mollenkott, or Spong come up with these theories that never existed before the '50s, and they usually have political/theological agendas (Mollenkott isn't really even a Christian anymore).
Why would you want to trust these recent innovations?

Examine yourself - are you are afraid of Lewis' lucid thinking because of the implications if it is true? He's influenced me a lot too, although I'd say he goes off the rails supporting Inclusivism, theistic evolution, and having a low view of inerrancy (in Reflections on the Psalms). The quote Jim was thinking of above is from the essay Transposition in Weight of Glory.

Peace to you,
SJSP

8/02/2007 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have signed everything, I have posted.

Scott+

8/02/2007 10:27 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

SJSP,

Sorry, I've never heard of Gagnon or Mollenkott. In looking them up, I assume Gagnon is the Catholic cardinal (and not the former ice hockey forward), and Mollenkott the woman who was part of the NIV translation -- which I've never heard much good in its favor, anyway. And I've never read Spong. What I've read in reference to him doesn't describe what I believe nor what I've heard other priests and bishops of the church preach, but I don't know his own writing.

[Mostly what I know about Spong is that bringing him up is considered the equivalent to Godwin's Law in online discussions about the Anglican Communion. Godwin's Law says that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." In general practice, it also means that whoever brings up Hitler/Spong forfeits the argument.]

As to Lewis, I'm not afraid of Lewis at all, nor his implications -- I was just citing the fact that he sometimes makes the same kind of "either/or," and "if A, then B must follow" logical mistakes and assumptions I saw above. And he can be even more culture-bound than Paul. But I still love to read Lewis. I obviously agree with his low view of inerrancy myself, but more than that, I love his engagement with the subjects and the texts, and above all his sense of humor.

Beyond that, however, you're right: I am afraid of the implications if the Bible is to be our ultimate, inerrant authority in all things rather than the Good News of God in Christ. Not just for the scientific and historical problems, which are obvious and "prove the fallibility" of inerrancy, but for the far more serious reasons that my faith isn't in the Bible, it's in Jesus Christ, and I can't transfer that, much as I might be told to. And because a faith in the Bible over a faith in Jesus Christ leads to a God that is capricious, arbitrary, and (far too often) unloving. The Bible can't love anyone. the Bible can't forgive anyone. But because I know that God is not capricious and arbitrary, I read and understand the Bible inspired by the Holy Spirit, because I believe the authors were inspired, and that same Spirit allows me to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the scriptures without turning them into an idol that replaces the love of God and the Holy Spirit in ordering my life.

Biblical literalists panic and see this view of the Bible as chaos; they want clear lines, rules, proscriptions and instructions. They want a return to the Law. By contrast, Christians understand the Bible as a nearly inexhaustible revelation of God, but that only in service of Christ is there perfect freedom.

Peace backatcha,
Derek

8/03/2007 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One does not need to be a Biblical Literalist to accept the moral teaching of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New, for in both the Old and New Testaments eternal life is offered to mankind through Christ. Hence he, being both God and man, is the only mediator between God and man. Those who pretend that the Patriarchs only looked for transitory promises must not be listened to. Although the law given by God through Moses is not binding on Christians as far as its forms of worship and ritual are concerned and the civil regulations are not binding on any nation state, nevertheless no Christian is free to disobey those commandments which may be classified as moral.


Scott+

8/03/2007 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

"A hundred years from now, probably less, hatred and persecution of homosexuals will look exactly as chattel slavery looks to us now. People will be unable to understand how we could have called ourselves Christians and also reject them."

With all due respect, progressives don't seem to be very good at forecasting the future in areas of sexuality. Of abortion, some said that contraception would eventually almost eliminate the need for abortion. That's not happened. Of contraception, some argued that out-of-wedlock births, sexual diseases, abortions, all would go down, and that women would finally experience the same sexual freedom as men. Unfortunately, none of that has happened, either, and as one of the generation of young women to inherit the new sexual standards, it hasn't worked out for us at all like what it was supposed to be. Just my two cents.

Jennifer

8/05/2007 7:51 PM  

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